Harry awoke to the chirp of the smoke detector and Louis’ swearing. He laughed as he pulled himself out of bed to go check on his boyfriend.
As he ambled down the hall, he caught sight of Louis frantically waving a towel at the offending noisemaker. Harry’s laughter grew until Louis turned around and shot him a snarky look. “And here I was trying to be a nice boyfriend and make you a delicious Christmas breakfast.” He put his hands on his hips, daring Harry to say something critical.
Harry’s smile only grew as he took in the mess of the kitchen just around the corner. There were utensils and plates everywhere, piled with food in various states of completion. Louis really was trying to make him breakfast, and not one of a simple caliber. His eyes softened as they landed back on Louis. He took a few more steps until they were both under the smoke detector together. Louis’ sassy façade faded as he looked up at the boy he loved. They’d been together three years now. People had warned them that the love they felt would fade a bit, but instead Harry only seemed to love the blue-eyed boy more with each day that passed. Harry brushed his thumb across Louis’ cheek. “I know that, Lou,” he said as he leaned down to kiss him. The smoke detector above them screeched its heart out, but the pair standing beneath it as though it were mistletoe couldn’t spare it a thought.
Harry drew back after a minute and glance up at the ceiling. “We should probably deal with that now, huh?”
“I’d say so. You take the towel and I’ll finish breakfast?” Louis said as he scampered off into the kitchen, handing his boyfriend the towel. Harry shook his head and fanned the towel at the smoke detector for a couple of minutes before it finally ceased its beeping.
When he walked into the kitchen, Louis was setting the table and pouring glasses of juice. Louis never doted on anyone, but when it came to Harry, he took better care of him than he did of himself. “Anything I can help with?”
Louis shook his head. “Just about done. Have a seat, love.”
Harry pulled out his chair and took his seat at the table, smiling. Watching his little boyfriend scramble around the kitchen as he tried to micromanage everything was the cutest thing he’d ever seen.
When Louis finally set their plates down at the table, Harry’s eyes widened as he took in the mound of food. “You sure went all out, babe. I’m not sure how I’m going to eat all of this.”
Louis folded his arms. “Well you’d better find a way, because I went through hell to make this lovely meal for my beautiful boyfriend on our third Christmas together. And I better see all of it go in your pretty mouth.”
Harry nearly spit his food out, but he covered his mouth to stop himself. “Nice choice of words, Lou. Not while I’m eating.”
Louis nodded while he stabbed at his food with his fork. “Well, yeah, that applied to later as well. Sorry,” he said with a wink.
They chatted lightly over breakfast, Harry praising his boyfriend’s cooking and never mentioning that some of it was burned. Louis wasn’t a great cook, but Harry had never seen him put this much effort in before, and he would be damned if Louis didn’t know how much he appreciated it.
When they were done eating, Harry rose and tried to take Louis’ empty plate. Louis swatted his hand away. “No, not now,” he said as he took Harry’s plate from him and set it back on the table. Harry shot him a confused look. “It’s time for your present,” Louis said brightly as he took Harry’s hand and led him into the next room. Louis led Harry to the sofa and sprinted across the room to grab up a big box from under the tree. When he turned around and walked back to Harry, he had the strangest look on his face that Harry couldn’t put his finger on. It was a mixture of love, longing, excitement, and…fear?
“What’s this all about, Lou? Why the big rush?” Harry asked as Louis sat down next to him with the present on his lap. Louis fiddled with the gold ribbon on top, staring at the box. “It’s just that I’m really excited to give this to you. I’ve been waiting for days. Please don’t make me wait any longer, Harry.” The room buzzed with Louis’ excitement as he placed the box in Harry’s hands.
“Whatever you say, love,” Harry said with a smile. “I’m sure I’ll love it.” Louis mumbled something that sounded a lot like you better.
Harry began to tear apart the wrapping on the box, wondering what could make Louis feel so anxious to give him. When he lifted the lid off of the box, he wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t what he saw. Firstly, there was another box inside, slightly smaller than the one he’d just opened. Secondly, there was a photograph taped to its lid. Harry smiled at the old picture as he carefully peeled it off of the next box’s top. The photo showed the two of them with a couple of their other friends at Harry’s birthday party when he turned thirteen. Harry looked up at his boyfriend. “Lou, what’s this about?” he asked.
Louis smiled and sat closer so he could see the picture as well. The fond look on his face made Harry’s heart melt. “Remember this day? You had just moved the year before and you thought we would all forget about you. But your mom had called us all to set up a surprise party for you,” he said, nudging Harry slightly. “And the look on your face when you walked in and saw us all. You were so happy that you cried. Then you came right over and hugged me and didn’t let go until your mom made you turn around so she could take this picture.”
Harry looked down at the picture of his younger self, seeing the tears in his eyes and the smile on his face as he squeezed Louis within an inch of his life. Louis didn’t even look bothered, and instead beamed at the camera as if he’d never been happier. The present Louis interrupted his reminiscing, placing a hand on his arm. Harry looked over at him, hoping he would say something to explain what was happening. “Do you remember what you said to me right then?” Louis asked him.
Harry nodded. “I told you that I was so scared you were going to move on without me.” He was hit again with that feeling of uncertainty, that hell that he’d been through when he thought he’d lose them all when he moved. He doesn’t know what he would have done if his worst fear had come true, but he was so very lucky that it hadn’t.
“And what did I say back to you?”
Harry looked at Louis and met his eyes. “You whispered to me that no matter how far I went, I would never get rid of you.” They both started laughing, knowing that Louis had meant it. And ever since then, Harry had never had to worry about losing Louis, because he was always there, even if he wasn’t standing right in front of him.
Louis put his arm around Harry, who settled back into the touch, setting the picture aside. He looked at Louis questioningly. “Open the next one, babe,” Louis told him. Harry nodded and pulled off the next lid.
This time, he wasn’t as shocked to find yet another smaller box nestled inside. Instead of a picture, though, Harry found a seashell taped to its lid. He recognized it immediately, with its shiny surface. It had been so perfect when he’d first seen it that he’d had to show Louis. “I remember this day,” he said, raising the seashell to his lips to kiss it.
“I sure hope so,” Louis said, “or I would be so pissed at you. You thought it was so stupid to take a day trip to the beach,” he continued, rolling his eyes. “But I knew why I wanted to take you there, and we were going if I had to drag you the whole way. I’d just gotten a car and I was so excited to take you somewhere. I knew exactly what I wanted that day to be like, and it was so fucking perfect,” he said, sighing happily.
That day had been overcast and a bit chilly, so by the time they reached their destination, there weren’t many people still on the beach. They’d laid out towels and eaten everything in the picnic basket Harry had insisted on packing. And then, the sun was setting and the crowds were heading home. Harry and Louis had decided to take a walk along the water before packing up as well. Harry was perusing the sand, looking for anything he could remember the day by, when it caught his eye. The seashell was perfectly smooth and sparkled in the setting sun. When he turned it over, he’d seen all of the beautiful colors inside and smiled. He’d called Louis over to show him.
“Do you remember when you gave it to me?” Louis asked.
“Yeah,” Harry said, smiling at the memory, “how could I ever forget? I handed it to you and told you to keep it for me. And then you said you had something for me as well, but you were worried that I wouldn’t like it. You told me that…if I didn’t want it, we could just pretend you’d never given it to me. That’s when you leaned in and kissed me for the first time.” Harry’s eyes were sparkling as he looked at his boyfriend. They’d come so far since that moment of uncertainty. He had never imagined that Louis would feel what he’d been feeling until that fateful moment, the moment that changed everything.
“I was so nervous that you wouldn’t want me to kiss you, that I’d been reading you wrong, and you would push me away. When you didn’t, you can’t imagine how relieved I felt.”
“So you decided to be extra and ask me out right there,” Harry said with a laugh.
“Exactly! Why miss the opportunity?” Louis squeezed Harry a little closer with the arm that he’d wrapped around him. “I’m so glad I got the guts to do that, or who knows where we’d both be right now.”
Harry rested his hand on Louis’ thigh. “I’d still be right here, you idiot. Did you forget that promise from my thirteenth already?” he joked.
“Of course not, love. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have tried to leave me behind.” And there was that vulnerability Harry had seen when Louis had brought him the present. He wanted so badly to know what was going on, but he knew Louis would never tell him.
“That wouldn’t have happened. And it still won’t,” Harry said, reassuring his boyfriend.
Louis smiled weakly. “Open the next one, babe,” he said.
Harry slowly shifted his attention back to the box in his lap. This time when he lifted the lid to reveal a fourth box, he wasn’t surprised at all. What shocked him was what he found taped to the next lid. It was a single red rose with baby’s breath, both dried, like they’d been kept years past their prime. Harry lifted the flowers delicately from where they were pinned. Then it dawned on him. His mouth dropped open. “Lou, are these from prom?” he asked the boy next to him, astounded that he’d kept them all this time.
Next to him, Louis nodded. “It’s the boutonniere you gave me. It was the first time anyone at school had seen us out as a couple. I was so damn terrified that somebody would say something insensitive and that you would be uncomfortable and break up with me.”
“So that’s why you wouldn’t kiss me all night,” Harry whispered. “You thought someone could convince me not to love you because they were too close-minded to understand?”
Louis looked down, seeming ashamed. “Looking back, it was stupid of me. I just wanted to make sure you had a good time. I figured it didn’t matter that I didn’t kiss you while we were there, as long as I did it before we went in and when I dropped you off at home. Now I wish that hadn’t stopped me. Sorry, babe.”
Harry shook his head. “It makes sense now, though. You never know what someone will say to try to hurt you, and we were so young. You were just trying to protect us.” He reached out and touched Louis’ chin, forcing his boyfriend to look at him. “I didn’t know then what was going on, but I knew there was something wrong. That’s why I chose that night to tell you I loved you. I wanted to make sure that you knew.”
Louis’ face lit up at that. “I already knew that by then, Harry. It’s just that neither of us had the guts to say it yet.”
Harry held the flowers in his hand, thinking. That night seemed so long ago, and yet it felt like yesterday. He remembered the way his heart had pounded as those three words left his lips. Not because he was nervous about how Louis would respond, but because he couldn’t wait to see the way Louis would look at him when he heard them or the way Louis’ voice would sound when he said them back. He’d known back then that Louis would be his forever, and he’d never doubted the strength of their bond since their first kiss. The words were just his chance to tell Louis what they both already knew in their hearts.
Louis cleared his throat, bringing Harry back from his daydream. Harry blushed a little. “Sorry. I was just thinking about us and everything it took to get where we are now.” His hand searched for Louis’. When their fingers intertwined, Harry squeezed Louis’ hand. “I love you, Lou.”
Louis lifted their clasped hands and pressed a kiss to the back of Harry’s. “You have no idea, Harry.” He smiled at him lovingly. “Next box, babe.”
“How many more, Lou?” he asked.
“You’re getting close,” Louis answered, nodding for him to keep going.
The boxes were getting smaller, and this one was getting suspiciously small. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, though, in case this wasn’t going where he thought. But he secretly hoped to god that the next box held something truly life-changing inside. When Harry lifted the lid, his heart stuttered. The next box was the perfect size for jewelry. Sitting atop it was a picture of them from earlier that year. They were standing in front of the Trevi Fountain, arms around each other and grinning like crazy.
“I’m sure you remember this, right?” Louis prompted.
Harry smiled and nodded down at the photo. It was one of his favorites of them. Louis had planned the trip spur of the moment for Harry’s last birthday. He’d known that Harry couldn’t afford to be gone long because of school, so they had to rush through all of the tourist sights. They were on the way to the hotel when Louis took them on the detour to the fountain. Their luggage was on the ground next to them, and they each had carry-ons on their shoulders, but they were so thrilled to be experiencing it together that it hadn’t mattered.
At the fountain, Louis had drawn a couple of coins from his pocket and handed one to Harry. “Make it a good one, babe,” he’d whispered in Harry’s ear. Then they’d clasped hands and tossed their coins in together. Each had refused to tell the other what they had wished for, but Harry had a feeling they’d made the same wish. He figured it made the wish more powerful that way anyhow.
“You were so stressed at school and I knew I had to do something to help you feel better,” Louis said. “So I planned the trip two weeks before and prayed to god you wouldn’t kill me for stealing you away from your classes in your final semester.”
Harry smiled and shook his head. “I could never be mad at you for that, Lou. Even I could admit I needed a break. Besides, those memories were the things that got me through those last few months when I barely got to see you because I was holed up working on papers. I might have died without them.”
Louis chuckled at his boyfriend’s exaggeration. “I doubt that, but I’m glad I made you take that trip with me.”
“You’re the perfect boyfriend, Lou. You always know just what I need.” Harry smiled at the blue-eyed boy adoringly.
“Yes, I do, Harold. And I know exactly what you need to do right now, too,” Louis said, a hint of sass in his words.
“What’s that, Lou?” Harry asked curiously. He was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
“You need to open that last damn box already before I die,” Louis moaned. “Please, Harry. I can’t take it another fucking second.”
“Okay, babe, I will,” Harry responded. He patted Louis’ knee to calm him down before letting his gaze settle on the final box. He lifted the whole box out, without removing the lid, and set in in his lap, staring at it. This was it. He could feel it in the air, see it in the way that Louis looked at the box as if it held all of his hopes and dreams inside, as if it contained the very fate of his soul within it. And in a way, maybe it did. Harry sure hoped so.
Harry’s hands trembled and his heart fluttered as his long fingers came to rest on the lid. He could hear Louis breathing a bit harder next to him. It was now or never, and never wasn’t an option for either of them. So Harry took a deep breath…and lifted the lid.
He gasped, bringing his hand up to cover his mouth. It was a ring box. Harry felt so many things in that moment that he didn’t know what to do. He could barely think through all of his emotions. Just when he was about to turn to Louis to ask him why the hell he hadn’t asked the question yet, he was met with a sight he had been waiting for so long.
Louis had slid onto the floor and was kneeling next to Harry, gazing up at him like he was so hopeful, and also beyond terrified. Louis plucked the ring box from Harry with one hand and reached out to hold Harry’s hand with the other while he spoke.
And that’s when Harry started to tear up. “Lou…”
“Not yet, Haz,” he whispered. “You have to at least let me ask you the question before you can say no.” Louis smirked at him, and Harry thought for sure the boy in front of him had hung the moon.
Harry took his cue, though, and only gave a nervous laugh before Louis continued. “Harry, I have known you almost all of my life. And I knew from the second I saw you that you would be the most important person I’d ever meet. I loved you before I understood what love was.” Louis shook his head. “I was just a kid, but I knew exactly what I wanted out of life: you.”
The tears had begun to spill out of Harry’s eyes now as he listened to his boyfriend and nodded along. Louis squeezed his hand, comforting him. “Harry, I’ve never been able to picture my life without you in it—your laugh, your smile, everything about you is what makes my heart beat. I don’t know what I’d do or who I’d be if I didn’t have you by my side, and I never want to find out.” Louis took a deep breath. “I once told you that no matter how far you went, you’d never get rid of me,” he told his boyfriend. They both laughed, eyes sparkling. “All I have to say is…Harry Styles, wherever you go and whatever you do, I’ll always be right there with you.” His eyes locked with Harry’s, and they both knew what the next words would be. Harry bit his lip in anticipation. His heart was beating hard and fast, and his eyes glistened with tears. Louis looked up at him like he’d never seen anything more beautiful. He opened the lid to the box and lifted up the glistening ring for Harry to see. “Harry, will you please make my wish come true? Will you be mine forever?”
Harry was pretty sure he had stopped breathing, thinking, feeling—everything. He wanted to freeze time and live in this little moment of perfection for the rest of his life. Louis cleared his throat, and Harry blushed, remembering that his boyfriend (fiancé) was still waiting for his answer. Harry looked at the man kneeling in front of him and remembered the boy Louis had been, the way he had loved and taken care of Harry always. Harry had watched that sweet boy turn into the young man kneeling in front of him, eyes so hopeful and filled with longing. Then Harry saw their future together, as he had always imagined it. He saw their home, their kids running around, the messes Louis would make that Harry would never stop cleaning. And it just seemed so perfect that Harry’s eyes welled up again. He looked at Louis as he knelt before him now and leaned in closer. “Louis Tomlinson, I’ve been waiting my whole life for you to ask me that question…because there’s nothing I’ve ever wanted more than you. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
Louis let out the breath he’d been holding and the happiness and relief on his face made Harry’s heart swell. Harry practically threw himself off the couch and tackled Louis to the ground, wrapping his arms around his fiancé tightly.
“You just knocked the wind out of me,” Louis said breathlessly.
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled into his neck. “I just—normally, when something good happens, you’re the first person I think to tell. And then I realized that you already know I’m getting married, because you’re the one who asked me.” Louis started laughing heartily. “Sorry your new fiancé is such a dork, Lou.”
Louis hummed happily and kissed at Harry’s curls. “I’m more than okay with that.”
Harry pulled back to look at Louis better. “Yeah, so am I.”
Louis leaned in again to rest his forehead against Harry’s. “So how about we get this ring on your finger now? Can’t have anyone else trying to ask for your hand in marriage.”
Harry nodded eagerly. When Louis pulled the ring from the box, Harry caught sight of something on the inside of the band. He caught Louis’ wrist lightly. “Lou, did you…have this engraved?” Harry asked incredulously.
“Oh, um…yeah, I did.” Louis said, smirking confidently. “I was pretty sure you were saying yes, so…it’s ready to go. Unless you want to add the wedding date later or something.” Louis held the ring up so Harry could inspect it. Surely enough, their initials were carved into the band as if it were a tree trunk.
“You cocky bastard,” Harry said, shaking his head and laughing. “It’s beautiful. Thank you, Louis,” he added sincerely.
“You’re welcome, love,” Louis said, snatching the ring back. “May I?” he asked, reaching for Harry’s left hand.
“Yes, yes!” Harry nodded excitedly.
Louis looked at Harry for a moment, letting the gravity of the moment sink in. As he slid the ring onto Harry’s ring finger, nothing had ever felt more right. Louis brought Harry’s hand up to his mouth to kiss it. “You’re mine now, Styles. Forever and ever,” Louis warned.
As Harry leaned forward to kiss the love of his life, he was struck by a feeling of completeness, like the last piece of the puzzle was snapping into place. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And then their lips met. As they kissed, the world stood still around them. Their whispered words were little tokens of their love, passed between the two of them. Every touch was a promise. And as they melted into each other, they knew all they’d ever need was right there.