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I Don't Mean to Frustrate

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Prologue

 

Louis didn’t always feel like he had to hide. His family had known he would likely present as an omega from the time he was young and, despite the fact that male omegas were rare and had all the usual prejudices against them plus some, his loved ones were always caring and supportive.

His mother, also an omega, had taught him from the time he was young that being an omega was nothing to be ashamed of. That omegas were strong, could be independent, and lead fulfilling lives with or without an alpha. Seeing her happy marriage with his beta stepfather only solidified Louis’ stance on this. When things fell apart with Mark, she still kept it together and did what she needed to. Jay was everything Louis wanted to be but never could achieve. All because, to the world, Louis was a beta.

Looking back on it, Louis sees quite clearly that had things gone differently, had three very specific scenes in his past played out with even a slight adjustment, he would likely be living his life as a happy and out male omega. Dwelling on that too often wasn’t good for him, though, because the fact was, they had happened. The outcome had been what got him where he was today: in the middle of a world tour feeling absolutely exhausted and needy, but not being able to tell anyone, not even his bandmates. It left his inner omega neglected and unable to be taken care of in the way he desperately needed.

Louis curled up in his bunk and switched to laying on his left side as he cuddled the sweaty t-shirt of Harry’s that had been flung onto the floor as soon as they’d got on the bus. It was gross, but it was the closest Louis could get to the physical affection he desired. Harry’s strong alpha scent filled Louis’ small personal space and Louis let his eyes close and as he drifted off to sleep.

 

Scene One: March 2010

 

Louis rolled his shoulders and tried to focus. It was his last class of the day and then he’d be able to get home. He didn’t have to babysit today since his mum had somehow wrangled a weekday off, and Louis had plans. It wasn’t often he was able to do whatever he wanted on a Thursday. Thursdays were one of the evenings that Mark was always at work and with Johanna’s long hours that often meant that Louis was on dinner and bedtime duty with his sisters.

The thing was, Louis usually enjoyed this class. He loved literature and, even though he sometimes had a hard time getting through an entire book that didn’t captivate him, the lectures were always interesting. Today, though, was even worse than usual. Louis felt weird, like he wasn’t really at home in his own skin, and there was this strange prickling sensation all over that made it so he constantly was shifting around to get rid of it. He never quite succeeded, and that bothered him even more.

Finally class was dismissed and Louis jogged out of the room to meet with Stan and Nizam.

“Hey, lads!” Louis cheered. He threw on his coat and followed them out to Nizam’s car. “Get me home so I can enjoy my freedom.”

“I’m still mad I have to work tonight,” Calvin whined. “It’s been ages since we had a lad’s night.”

Nizam swatted at the back of Calvin’s head and laughed. “We just went to the Rovers match last weekend. What are you on about?”

They climbed into the car and, despite the fact that the other two were shaking and complaining about how shit the heating was, Louis was about to take off his coat he was so warm.

“Seriously? You two are cold? What is going on, I’m burning up,” Louis complained.

“You’re always cold. Sure you aren’t ill?” Nizam looked warily at Louis before pulling out of the car park. “What luck that would be, getting ill on the night you have free.”

“Fuck off,” Louis said before leaning forward to take control of the radio. “Don’t jinx me.”

They bantered the rest of the way to Louis’ house, and Louis didn’t mention it but he was starting to sweat he was so hot.

It was then Louis finally put the pieces together. The weird current running beneath his skin all day. His inability to focus. How hot he was when everyone else was cold. He sat in front of his house in his friend’s shitty car and realised he was likely presenting and what he was experiencing was his very first heat. Louis hastily grabbed his belongings and bid farewell before rushing into the house and slamming the door shut.

“Mum!” Louis dropped his rucksack where a large pile of various shoes sat by the door and rushed to the kitchen. Just as he expected, she was there, drinking tea whilst she flipped through her recipe book.

Jay glanced up with a smile before looking back down at her recipe book. “Hello, darling. Just looking at what to make for tea. I thought-”

Louis stood still, feeling a wave of heat rush through him right as his mum stopped talking. Her head snapped up and she studied Louis before a look of surprise settled in.

“You’ve started your first heat,” she said, blinking slowly. “I knew this would happen soon enough, but I’m still not quite sure I’m fully ready for this. It’s a big deal.”

Louis shifted again, his discomfort only growing. “Yeah. So, uhm…”

After that, she shook her head like she was physically throwing off her moment of surprise and got down to business. It was a rush as Jay helped Louis get the food and water he would need. She also took time to remind him (in the most awkward way possible) that toys help, so she hoped he still had his heat kit she had gifted him a few years ago. Louis wanted to die of embarrassment, but Jay soldiered on until finally he was left alone in his locked room with everything he could possibly need for the next several days.

That first heat was the worst. It was short, only lasting three days, and incredibly intense. When Louis awoke from the fog that felt like it had physically filled his head, he had a sore arse, an empty belly, and confusion regarding how much time had passed.

Louis took a nice, warm shower and after balling up his disgusting sheets, he made his way downstairs to feed his hunger. When he got down, he found only his mum in the kitchen. She gave him a strained smile and pushed a plate with Louis’ favorite ham and cheese toastie across the island.

“Thanks,” Louis murmured, taking a quick bite. “Where is everyone?”

Jay shuffled and went towards the fridge, opening and closing it without getting anything.

“I sent Mark out with the girls because I’ve been thinking about something and wanted us to have some privacy.”

Louis furrowed his brow in confusion. “Okayyy,” he drawled out. “What is it?” Louis took another bite of his toastie and almost choked when he heard what his mum had to say.

“I think you should go on suppressants.”

“What?” Louis said before coughing some more to clear his airway. “Why would I do that?”

Suppressants these days were mostly safe with  minimal side effects, but most people only took them as either birth control or when their jobs required pre-scheduled heat days. That wasn’t usually required anymore, the omega activists had finally got most employers to agree that it was not only unfair but unethical to require omegas to mess with their biology for the convenience of business.

Jay sighed and directed a focused look at Louis. “We are two weeks away from your X Factor audition, love. The first year of heats are notorious for being not only irregular, but also unpredictable. I’m only suggesting this as a temporary measure to help you ensure you’ll be able to make your auditions and any further chances you might have with the show.”

Louis considered what she was saying as she moved to stand beside him. She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tightly.

“You know that I believe these kinds of decisions should be made with care and only by the person whose body is in question, but I just wanted to suggest the option to you. Okay? Whether you decide to do it or not, I support you.”

Louis nodded and they were quiet as Louis considered what Jay had said through the rest of his toastie.

By the end of the week, Louis was on suppressants.

 

Scene Two: April 2010

 

Louis stood in line beside Hannah and Stan, still surprised his mum let him take the car. That morning she’d made him a packed lunch and sent him on his way.

Louis was glad for the food. Hannah and Stan had also had more forethought than Louis and brought their own, so they snacked on crisps while Louis nervously messed with his scarf. They were in a large room filled to the brim with X Factor hopefuls. He’d been here before, he only hoped he got further this time.

The queue shifted, moving up one by one as contestants took their turns singing for three producers. Louis had seen them walk in and knew the producers were everything he hated about the social system he lived in.

All three of the producers were obviously alphas, dressed to the nines in their suits, looking at their assistants like they were scum. It was alphas like those, the ones that would be deciding Louis’ future, that ran most of the entertainment industry. If Louis made it anywhere, he would have to deal with them. But he was ready. He was more than prepared to fight for his right as a male omega to have a place on that stage.

Louis finally was called into the room and he took a deep calming breath before stepping away from Stan and Hannah, their supportive words following him. Louis walked up to the table, handed them the paperwork he was instructed to bring with him, and then went to stand on the big X in the middle of the room.

Louis had been surprised when filling out the paperwork that only his primary gender had been asked about. He supposed since there were still younger contestants who may not have presented when trying out that they didn’t ask about secondary genders.

It wouldn’t have mattered if they asked, anyway. There were fans, all positioned in specific places around the room, and several were blowing past Louis towards the producers. He could see one of them visibly sniffing the air, trying to scent Louis. Fucking scumbags. Louis bit his tongue so he wouldn’t lose his chance at this because he scolded an alpha about how rude it was to scent people.

“Louis?” the large, blonde man on the right called without looking up from his papers. “What song will you be singing?”

Louis cleared his throat. “I’ll be singing Mr. Brightside.”

The man nodded and waved his hand indicating Louis could start, and from the moment he did, they stopped flipping their papers as much and listened a little closer. He had sung no more than thirty seconds before the one in the middle held up his hand.

“What do you think?” he asked. The other two leaned in and they whispered a little before sitting up.

“We’ll be in contact later about details, but we’ll be seeing you for the televised auditions in a few months.”

Louis’ jaw dropped. “Oh my God!” he said before jumping up and down and pumping his fist. “Thank you so much. You won’t regret it.”

Louis rushed forward for the paper the blonde on the right was holding out for him. As he was leaving the room, he heard murmurs start up behind him.

“I was so sure he was an omega, did you see him? We’re nearing our male O limit.”

“We’re nearing our overall omega limit as well. We don’t want the public thinking we have some sort of agenda by throwing all these Os at them.”

Louis froze so he could keep listening. Another voice, a deeper one, said, “Fucking unstable omegas. I couldn’t smell him, though, and you know how sensitive my nose is. Must just be a small beta.”

Louis pursed his lips, anger blazing white in his veins. Even so, he made sure to square his shoulders as he walked out of that room.

After all, the joke was on them. They just passed a male omega through to the next level without even knowing it.

 

Scene Three: July 2010

 

Louis stood on the stage, biting his nails. He glanced at the boys next to him as well as the group of girls on the other side of the stage. They’d already been cut, but when they’d been gathered together and his name had been called amongst a few others, he hadn’t been able to stop the hope that burst through his chest.

“We have decided to put you together as a group,” was all that Louis heard before his jaw dropped and ringing took over. All he knew was that he was suddenly jumping into Harry’s arms, almost as if it was the most natural thing to do despite the fact they’d only spoken to each other maybe twice.

Once they calmed down, they were given a chance to discuss it, but there was never a question. All five of them agreed they would definitely like to continue on to the judge’s houses as a group and give it a try from there.

Those on stage were all chattering in excitement as they tried to wrap their minds around how much had changed when some assistants came on stage with clipboards, paperwork, and instructions. Louis was trying to focus through the adrenaline, he really was, but when he heard his name being said by Louis Walsh, he turned his head a little more to listen in.

“Louis and Niall both in the same group, that seems quite the risk,” Walsh said, obviously not worried about how his voice carried. Nicole said something in response that Louis couldn’t clearly make out, but when Simon spoke, his voice was clear.

“The producers told me Louis is not an omega. None of them detected a scent on him.”

Louis was trying to keep his anger and the bile that was rising as Simon continued. “I was debating between a few of them for those two spots. Louis and Niall were my preferences, but I could barely afford one male O in the band, much less two. When speaking with those that worked Louis’ initial audition, all three said he would have given at least a slight scent. So, my choice was made.”

And so was Louis’. Because of his secondary gender, biology he had no control over, he had nearly lost the chance of a lifetime. There was no way he could let anyone begin to suspect he wasn’t a beta, not when his entire future rode on the fact that he was. With the help of suppressants, specialized products to help him mask his natural scent, and confidential heat centers whose entire existence was to protect the identity of those who visit them, it was possible. It wouldn’t be easy, but Louis was willing to do what he had to to pursue his dream.

 

June 2013

 

Harry walked back up to the tour bus after the half-week break they’d had so Liam could take care of his very first rut in peace.

Liam. An alpha. It made sense, if Harry thought about it, but they’d had no idea. He was definitely a late presenter, so between that and his blatant lack of the traditional alpha personality no one had suspected it could be the case. Not until after their first scheduled concert in Toronto anyway.

Liam had been acting a little off that day, more aggressive than usual and definitely more argumentative. After the concert, Harry had been about ready to punch him in frustration when he made another snide remark about Louis’ lack of energy on stage. Not that it was too unusual for Harry to get overly protective of Louis, but Liam was just so over the top that night, Harry had an even harder time holding back than usual. Then he’d caught a whiff of Liam.

Poor Liam was incredibly confused, but Paul and Harry quickly got to work calming Liam while arrangements were made to postpone the second concert and hope his first rut was a short one, otherwise they’d have to perform without him in Detroit.

Harry climbed onto the bus and could tell Liam hadn’t returned yet. He could hear someone shuffling around, though, and as he made his way to the back he found Louis shoving a bag of toiletries into his main duffel.

“Hey, Lou,” Harry said, smiling when the smaller beta turned to Harry.

The special smile he only seemed to show when Harry was around graced Louis’ face, and Harry tried not to let his legs turn to jelly. Harry also scolded himself internally. He shouldn’t be cataloguing his best friend’s smiles, but he also couldn’t help it. Each was so beautiful, it was only natural to do so.

Harry cleared his throat and asked, “How was the unexpected break for you?”

Louis shrugged. “Fine. Didn’t do much, just stuck to the bus mostly. Didn’t want to go much of anywhere when we have our break for Niall in a week, ya know?”

Harry nodded, but Louis looked exhausted. Why would he be so tired when they’d had a few days off? Usually Harry just holed up in a hotel room and slept those days away so he felt somewhat human again afterwards.

“Are you okay, Lou? You look-”

Harry was interrupted by the bus door opening and Niall screaming, “Whassup, bitches!” at the top of his lungs. The air was filled with Niall’s favourite aftershave as well as his signature citrus scent, and Harry couldn’t help but relax a little at having two of the boys back near him.

“Oh, I was hoping our new alpha would be back too.” Niall dropped his bag by the bench in the kitchen area before launching himself onto Harry’s back. “I guess I’ll take you instead. I need me a cuddle. The flight here was awful and there were people at the airport again.”

“Shit, I hate when they give away our travel arrangements,” Harry mumbled as he shuffled over to the lounge space so he could sit down.

Niall always needed the time after concerts to come down from the high and cuddle up to Harry in order to keep his anxiety at bay, but occasionally situations like being mobbed at the airport also ramped his natural need to be cared for by an alpha. Harry didn’t mind; he wasn’t Niall’s mate by any means, but it was part of his nature to take care of him just like it was Niall’s to seek Harry out.

Besides, Harry liked being with Niall and hearing everything he had to say. It was during these cuddle times that Niall was most likely to talk about what he’d been reading recently, and the conversation was always interesting. It was always very educational and helped Harry expand his thinking to better understand omegas and everything surrounding their situations that he might not understand simply from being an alpha. Ireland was incredibly liberal when it came to omega rights and legislation, and Niall had grown up with his mum carting him around to rallies and marches for better omega representation in government as well as improved workplace conditions for them, so he had great stories himself and always made sure to keep up to date on current omega justice pushes.

“Okay, while you two have your special time,” Louis said with the air-quotes easily inferred, “I’m going to take a nap. I’m sure everyone will be loud enough to wake me when it’s time for sound check.”

Harry smiled at Louis and watched him fold himself into his bunk. Harry wished he could wrap Louis up in his arms and let him nap there, but the beta would likely not appreciate it and Niall needed him anyway. Taking a deep breath, Harry turned back to where Niall grabbed one of his annoying hand-held fans and aimed it at himself before he started talking.

As Niall detailed some new antiquated anti-omega legislation that had just been passed somewhere in eastern Europe, Harry’s mind wandered to Louis. It often wandered to Louis, if Harry was being honest with himself. There were still people who held to the old ways and thought it wasn’t right for betas to have relationships with alphas or omegas, but Harry didn’t care about that. His sister was currently in a relationship with another alpha herself and his mum was engaged to a beta despite the fact she was an omega. He knew from personal experience how happy people could be in relationships that broke the boundaries others still wanted them to live by.

The problem was that Louis had never shown any interest in Harry. He’d flirted with alpha interviewers before, so Harry was fairly confident that he didn’t have an issue with Harry as an alpha, he just wasn’t sure that Louis liked him.

Harry sighed and Niall pinched his side, causing him to jump. “Heyyyy,” Harry said with a pout.

“Dude. I can smell your frustration. You obviously aren’t listening to me. What’s going on?”

Harry rolled his eyes and sat up a little from the reclined position they had fallen into. “Nothing, really. Just thinking.” There was no way Harry was going to go into further detail with Niall about his unrequited crush when Louis was sleeping less than four feet away.

Before Niall could refute what Harry had said, they both heard voices from outside the bus indicating Zayn and Liam had returned. Niall jumped up and smacked a quick kiss to the top of Harry’s head before running to the front of the bus.

Louis seemed to somehow have slept through all of Niall’s racket, so Harry allowed himself to take a quick piss before welcoming the other two lads back. As Harry turned to wash his hands in their tiny bathroom, he realized he smelled a bit rank. He loved the aftershave Louis used, and Louis was always willing to share his shit, so Harry went to dig through Louis’ duffel where it was sitting on the floor. A little of that would help tide Harry over until he could get a decent shower.

He dug in the side pocket where Louis usually kept his aftershave. When he reached deeper to find it, Harry accidentally knocked a can that looked like hairspray onto the floor. He reached down to pick it up, but then he read the label. All-Natural Scent Neutraliser. Maybe it was Niall’s and had somehow gotten into Louis’ bag, but Harry hadn’t thought Niall used neutralisers. Why would he need to? He was an out omega. Then again, maybe he used it when he got closer to his heat to help ward off unwanted alpha advances.

Harry zipped Louis’ duffel closed, aftershave entirely forgotten, and walked to the front of the bus. He saw Niall snuggled up between Liam and Zayn, the three of them all chatting happily. Rather than disturb them, Harry slipped the bottle into Louis’ bunk and pretended he didn’t hear the strangled gasp that Louis let slip despite the fact he should have been sleeping. Harry would talk about it with him later when they had a little more privacy.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Harry shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was incredibly difficult to find privacy for him and Louis when they had sound check, an interview, two meet and greets, and then a concert to put on. They were a little busy, which was, of course, probably why they hadn’t realised Liam’s very first rut had been coming on earlier in the tour until it was almost in full force.

Right before they went on stage, Harry was finally alone with Louis in the dressing room they all shared while the rest got their hair and makeup touched up.

“Louis, was that neutraliser yours?” Harry asked softly, almost like he thought Louis wouldn’t have as strong of a reaction if Harry kept his volume low.

Louis froze before he continued to pull his t-shirt on. “‘Course not,” he said, voice a little higher than usual. “It was left behind by Fizzy when she visited us a bit ago. I was using it as a deodorant since I ran out of mine.”

Harry narrowed his eyes, but Louis just raised his eyebrow at Harry. “Why would I be needing to use an scent neutraliser anyway, Harry?”

Harry shrugged. There wasn’t any reason, unless Louis was hiding being an omega, but that wouldn’t make any sense.

“Dunno. It’s why I was asking. Just curious.”

Louis rolled his eyes at Harry and reached out to pinch his nipple. Harry deflected and Louis laughed brightly.

“Get out of that head, Styles. It’s time to put on a show.”

Louis’ excuses didn’t leave Harry, though. Fizzy had visited them for only a couple of days a few months ago. It would make zero sense for Louis to have held onto her neutraliser for that long. Besides, Harry remembered having a conversation with her about her decision to go off neutralisers and suppressants because she felt it was a product of the alpha hierarchy and how are we ever supposed to make progress if we don’t put aside our fear and prove to them why they’re wrong? Harry didn’t disagree, but it did make him even more curious about Louis and what was really going on there.

As if Harry wasn’t already confused and concerned enough, Louis was not himself during the concert. He had been tired ever since Harry got to Detroit, but even when they’d been touring nonstop for a few weeks and exhaustion was a constant state of living, Louis always mustered up what he needed to put on a good show. His loud personality and joy he found in performing always overrode any energy deficits he was experiencing. But not tonight.

As they all left the stage, Louis told the rest of them to go on, but he wanted to shower at the arena before they left for the next city.

“Hey, Lou,” Harry called before heading to the buses. “Don’t go to Bus 1 tonight, yeah? Come to 2?”

Louis had a habit of making himself scarce from the so called quiet bus after concerts, but Harry really was concerned for him and would feel better if Louis was closeby rather than staying up far too late on the other bus.

Louis smirked and said, “Yes, Mum!” before ducking into the showers.

Harry got to the bus and found Niall tucked into Liam’s side again as they munched on crisps in the kitchen.

“Hey, Haz! I wanted to let you know that I still love you, but I feel it is my duty as a good omega to help our dear Liam learn the ropes as a new alpha.”

Liam scoffed. “I’m not completely clueless, you know,” he said with a pout. “But I guess you could help me learn some things.”

Niall patted Liam’s head and said, “Yes, I could.”

Harry chuckled and left them to it while he walked back to the lounge. He shuffled through the films they kept on tour with them and found one of his favourite romantic comedies. He popped it into the player and settled down before pulling up Twitter to keep him occupied until Louis got there. It was then he saw that Louis was trending. Harry clicked on the hashtag and began to scroll, but he was confused.

A lot of the tweets were about how tired Louis looked and people saying that “the alphas in the band needed to take care of him better” or that he looked like “a sadly neglected omega in need of some cuddles and love.” One even read, “I’m gonna track Harry down if he doesn’t take care of Louis better.”

Harry felt like he was tilted a little off his natural axis. First the neutraliser and now an entire group of fans--enough to get Louis trending--that believe him to be an omega?

Harry began clicking on links offered in some of the tweets. They all took him to Tumblr. The more he read, the more that made sense, really. Their arguments were sound. Louis was smaller than most betas and, while louder and more feisty than omegas were usually expected to be, Harry also had to look at Niall. In no universe would he be described as quiet, and yet he was definitely an omega.

Harry’s mind reeled as he considered the other points made in the posts he’d read. Could Louis possibly be an omega hiding himself as a beta? If so, why would he be? And what kinds of side effects could he be experiencing from the complete neglect of his emotional needs?

Harry hurried and put his phone in his pocket when he heard Louis climbing onto the bus. He wasn’t completely sold on the theories. After all, Louis had to  have felt safe enough to admit to Harry at least about his gender at some point in the past three years if that was the case. here was still that niggling seed of doubt the past twelve hours had planted, though.

“Hey, Haz. Why’d you want me here instead of with Zayn tonight?” Louis dropped his bag and kicked off his shoes. After everything Harry read, he wanted to cuddle Louis as much as he could. So, instead of shoving that desire to the side like he usually did, Harry decided to act on it.

“Come here, please,” Harry requested, arms open and reaching for Louis.

Louis arched his brow, too tired to even put his hands on his hips. “You do realise I’m not Niall, right? I don’t need to be soothed after a show or whatever.”

“Of course I know, Niall would never sass me for asking for some snuggle time,” Harry teased. “Niall is with Liam and I’m used to cuddles after a concert too. Please come sit with me?”

Louis smiled, his eyes soft with fondness even as his entire being radiated how tired he was. “Okay, fine. But only because you’re seriously the softest alpha I’ve ever met in my entire fucking life.”

Harry hummed in contentment as Louis sat down and easily curled up so he slotted perfectly into Harry’s side. Harry wrapped his arms around Louis and squeezed him tight as he angled them so they could also see the telly.

“Thanks, Lou,” Harry murmured. Louis simply nodded in response before focusing on the film. Harry nuzzled into Louis’ hair and smelled something surprising there beneath his shampoo and aftershave. Harry recognised it as that of an omega, but he had already succumbed to sleep far enough that he quickly forgot as he fell into a gentle dream.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Harry continued to play off the near constant cuddles he suddenly required of Louis as a withdrawal of sorts. He was only able to get away with that excuse thanks to Niall still doing what he felt was his part to “teach Liam his alpha duties.” Louis pushed back a little the first couple of times, but now that it had been several days, he just went with it.

Harry loved this new physical affection that he and Louis were able to share. He’d always wanted an excuse for it, any reason to be close to Louis on a regular basis was a good thing in his mind, but now that he felt there was a need for him to be like that with Louis, to take care of him, Harry was thriving. Every time Louis smiled a little brighter because Harry placed his hand on the small of his back, every time Louis thanked him in surprise for Harry anticipating when he might be thirsty or hungry, every time he blushed when Harry complimented him felt like a gift and Harry was slowly rising to cloud nine because of it.

It was a travel day, and Harry was glad of it. They’d had four concerts in a row and he was exhausted. Add to that the fact that Harry could feel his rut getting closer--always prescheduled and medicated so as to keep him on the same schedule as Niall’s heats--and Harry was more than ready for a day off.

He was heading back to the lounge with a package of chocolate digestives for Louis when the bus went over a bump in the road. Harry fell against the wall that adjoined the toilet and it was like all hell broke loose.

The damn door had been broken for ages now, thanks to a game Harry, Zayn, and Louis had been playing a couple months back, and if you hit the wall just right the door would come open. As it flew open now, it made Louis lose his balance in such a way that he dropped his bottle of prescribed pills and they went flying everywhere.

“Fuck,” Harry muttered before kneeling down to help Louis clean up the mess.

“No, Harry,” Louis commanded as he fell to his hands and knees and began hurriedly scooping the pills toward himself. “I can do it, don’t worry about it.”

Harry pulled back, confused at Louis’ insistence, but found the empty bottle rolling beside him where Louis couldn’t see or reach it. He picked it up and saw the warnings on the side, which read, “May cause lengthened heats. Use care. Consult physician if suppressant causes dizziness or confusion.”

Harry whipped his head up and saw Louis, frozen, staring at the bottle in Harry’s hand.

“Lou?” Harry asked, almost scared to break the silence. He’d wondered and had almost come to the conclusion that at the very least Louis had some omega traits, but actually knowing that Louis was an omega came as more of a shock than Harry had expected.

Hearing his name caused Louis to take in a gasping breath and blink rapidly. His eyes darted over Harry’s shoulder to where Liam was currently drinking a bottled water and chatting with Mark in the dining area. He made eye contact with Harry and shook his head rapidly.

Harry offered the bottle over to Louis and soon the pills were cleared and back in whatever hiding place Louis had created for them.

“I think I’m just gonna…” Louis trailed off and nodded at his bunk.

“No,” Harry protested. “Louis, come on.” Thanking the gods of fate that everyone else was riding the other bus today, Harry reached out and gently grasped Louis’ forearm. He lowered his voice even further and said, “I think we both need the physical affection right now.”

Louis pursed his lips and lifted his eyes to Harry’s. They were filled with tears and fear, but Harry watched as his best friend physically wilted in front of him before finally nodding in agreement.

Harry shuffled to the lounge, remembering the chocolate digestives at the last moment. He turned around and, not taking his hand off of Louis, grabbed the package from the floor. Louis grabbed the remote and pressed play. Harry didn’t even care what film they put on, he doubted he would be paying much attention anyway.

Harry sat on the couch and made room so Louis could sit between his legs and lean back into his chest. Once they were comfortable, with a blanket covering them so Harry felt like it was a shroud of safety, Harry leaned down and whispered in Louis’ ear.

“You know we’re going to talk about this once we’re alone, right?”

Louis took in a deep breath and let it out again. “Yeah. I know. Now where are the chocolate digestives you promised?”

Harry snorted but handed them over and began counting to when they would reach the hotel where they’d be staying for the next eight days.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Harry paced his room until he heard a soft knock at the door. He rushed over and opened it to let Louis slip in before anyone noticed. Normally, no one cared what rooms the boys slept in, but this close to rut and heat, for everyone’s safety the boys were kept apart in individual rooms. Management didn’t want anything accidentally happening due to lowered inhibitions and the believed safety of night.

Harry often wondered what management thought would happen. Did they really think Harry, and now Liam, couldn’t control their inner alpha enough to keep them from attacking Niall? Did they think Niall would suddenly decide they were the alphas he wanted and come to their bed, begging them to knot and bond him? The idea was ludicrous, but they were a load of power hungry alphas who probably believed all the antiquated ideas and who was he to rock the boat?

Once Louis was in the room, he kept his eyes to the carpet as he pulled his sleeves into sweater paws and hugged himself.

“You can sit down if you want,” Harry reminded him before walking over to the desk chair so Louis could use the couch without Harry encroaching on his space and making him feel uncomfortable.

“Yeah, alright,” Louis conceded. He made his way over and curled up into a ball as he leaned into the corner of the couch. Only then did he make eye contact with Harry. “What I’m about to say is never to be repeated. To anyone. Not even my family knows most of what I’m going to tell you.”

Harry felt like he was being pinned into place with Louis’ icy stare. Louis always had been a strong beta with a captivating personality. Harry had always felt the desire to do as he requested, or, more often, demanded. Now he knew Louis was an omega, it was no different.

Nodding, Harry said, “Of course. I swear I won’t tell.”

Louis took a deep breath and looked at the painting hanging on the wall. “I don’t even know where to start. Shit.” Louis’ gaze had filled with uncertainty and fear when he looked back at Harry. “Where do I start?”

Harry stood up and motioned to the space beside Louis. Louis nodded quickly, so Harry sat down and gently wrapped his arm around Louis. Just as he had over the past few days, Louis relaxed into Harry’s touch, and it seemed that was all he needed to be able to begin.

“I got my first heat only a couple of weeks before my audition,” Louis started. “I think all of us knew I was an omega from the time I was young, but there was some doubt due to my troublemaking tendencies and the fact that male omegas are so rare.”

As Louis continued to tell Harry everything that he had been through during the most important parts of the X Factor process, Harry felt anger settle in the pit of his stomach. Anger, disgust, worry. He honestly couldn’t name everything that was building up inside of him when he realised exactly why Louis had not only hid that he was an omega from the world, but why he’d hid it from all of the lads as well.

“Louis,” Harry whispered. “That is blatant omega discrimination. I know the laws are still fuzzy, but you are essentially being forced to cover an important part of yourself and lie about it for fear of losing your livelihood.”

Louis stiffened against Harry’s side. “You think I don’t realise that? I do keep myself educated and informed when it comes to omega issues and I do hear all of the discussions you have with Niall.”

Shit. Harry hadn’t meant to piss Louis off, and that was exactly what he had done. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just...I feel like I need to do something and I have no idea what.”

Louis sighed. “There’s not really anything to do, Haz. Just don’t tell anyone and keep treating me like you always have and everything will be fine.”

Harry rolled his eyes and pulled his head back in an attempt to look Louis in the eye. It was difficult from the position they were in at the moment, but he could at least make out Louis’ forehead and nose this way. He thought the direction Louis gave was a given. Harry just felt so helpless not doing anything actively to help.

Sighing, Harry squeezed Louis a little tighter and said, “Sure thing, Lou.”

They sat in silence for awhile before Louis swore and sat up. “I didn’t realise it’s past one. Didn’t Helene say we’d be woken at five for vocal exercises before recording more and starting interviews?”

“Fuck, I’d forgotten.”

“I should get back to my room before they realise I snuck out.” Louis turned to Harry and wrapped him in a hug. “Thanks, Harry. I’m glad that if anyone had to find out about this, it was you.”

Harry chuckled. “You wouldn’t have preferred Niall?”

Louis snorted. “Hell, no. Can you imagine the kinds of omega empowerment speeches he would rope me into? No thanks.”

“Okay, true,” Harry said as he stretched and stood from the couch. “Thanks for telling me, Lou.”

Louis gave Harry a sleepy smile and slipped out the door leaving Harry alone with only his thoughts and dreams about towering alphas and self-important betas who believed they ruled the world.

 

*~~***~~*

 

“Liam,” the interviewer said with a smarmy smile. Harry had disliked the man from the moment they walked in. He wasn’t doing much to make Harry like him any better. It was exactly this kind of disgusting alpha that had riddled Harry’s dreams last night. “You are the man of the hour, it seems!”

Liam gave a strained smile, his media training coming into play, but not enough to mask his true emotions from Harry. Beside Liam, Louis shifted in his seat. Again. He hadn’t been able to sit still all day, which had Harry worried.

Usually Louis woke slowly, soft and gentle until his tea kicked in, at which time he was loud and funny and always plotting something, but today he’d not been able to stop fidgeting. He was constantly jiggling his leg, not paying attention to any of the directions Helene or their handlers had given, and now he kept shifting in his seat during the interview.

“Yeah, apparently a guy who always thought he was a beta finding out he’s an alpha in the middle of a worldwide tour is big news,” Liam responded.

“Don’t see why,” Zayn mumbled. “It’s just his secondary gender. Doesn’t change who he is.”

Harry snorted quietly and nudged Zayn in the side. They had to be careful the microphones didn’t pick up comments like that or they could be in big trouble.

“Has this revelation changed anything for you, Liam? Do you feel like you have to find a new role for yourself in the band now?”

Liam’s eyebrows furrowed. This wasn’t a question they had been told about beforehand. It seemed the interviewer was going off script.

“No,” Liam said slowly. “Being an alpha doesn’t change how I sing my solos or my harmonies. It doesn’t change my performance.”

“Okay, but Niall.” The man’s greasy head turned to look at the blonde omega sitting dead centre on the couch. He looked distinctly unhappy about being singled out. “What is it like being the only omega and now having two alphas in the band?”

Harry was getting annoyed quickly with this line of questioning and Louis looked to be getting even more uncomfortable. He was plucking at his shirt and Harry could see from his facial expressions how much he was biting his tongue.

“It’s the same as it always was. These lads are my brothers and we all know we have each other’s backs, no matter what.”

Harry saw one of their handlers make a signal to the interviewer to wrap up, and Harry was relieved. He couldn’t take his eyes off Louis for the rest of their time on camera, though, worry filling him about what might be causing Louis to be so off his usual game. Interviews were always Louis’ thing. He was at ease, loved the attention, and could be counted on to have a funny quip for every question asked. That was the opposite of the man sitting in front of Harry now.

The interview wrapped up and all five of them barely said thank you before they walked to the van that would take them to the arena. The other interviews they had scheduled were only phone interviews with radio stations, thank goodness, so Harry had at least a small hope of being able to get Louis alone before the concert.

For the time being, Harry was happy to have Louis beside him in the van. Louis had begun to overcompensate by this point, which meant he was now teasing the boys more than usual, louder than usual, and being somehow even more obnoxious than usual. Harry did his best to ignore what Louis was saying, sure it had at least in part to do with Harry finding out his deepest secret last night followed by an entire interview focused on personal issues that Louis happened to be lying about on a daily basis. That didn’t mean the other guys understood why he was acting how he was.

“Oh my God, Louis, stop being such a bitch,” Zayn complained, smacking Louis upside the head.

Zayn was the one that Louis was most likely to wrestle with, and it seemed being in a moving vehicle wasn’t a deterrent. Louis turned around and lunged over the seat in an attempt to put the other lad in a headlock.

“Shit, man,” Zayn said as he shoved Louis back. Harry wrapped his arm around Louis in an attempt to keep him beside Harry instead of a second attempt at Zayn. “Get your tings off of me!”

“Oh my God, I’m surrounded by children,” Niall complained. “Stay in your fucking seats. We don’t want the driver to kill us all because you two are being idiots.”

“Did anyone else hate that guy?” Liam asked. Harry turned to look at him, and saw Liam rubbing the back of his head. “He made me feel like such a bad alpha for not feeling like finding out I am one changed anything for me when it came to you guys.”

“Of course we hated him,” Zayn confirmed.

“Yeah,” Harry said with a smirk. “We’re lucky the mics were turned down so Zayn’s comments weren’t heard or we’d be in massive shit right now.”

Zayn rolled his eyes but leaned into Liam like he always did. Harry had thought something was starting to blossom between those two, but it had looked like it was put to the side with Liam’s surprise rut. Maybe things weren’t paused like Harry had thought.

“Oh, Liam,” Niall cooed as he unbuckled his seatbelt to sit in his lap. So much for caring about safety. “You are a perfect alpha. Look at Harry. He’s gentle and tender, but he also looks out for all of us like we’re his pack, right? Do you think he’s a bad alpha because he’s not a dick?”

Liam’s eyes went wide. “Of course not.”

“Then why would you let some wanker interviewer make you feel like you are a bad alpha?”

Liam shrugged.

After that, everyone stayed quiet for the first time since they were woken up over eight hours earlier, content to ride in silence the rest of the way to the venue. Only then did Harry realise Louis had melted into him and fallen asleep.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Harry didn’t end up being able to get Louis alone until after their scheduled days off for heat and rut. It was probably for the better. Harry had been more keyed up than usual having another alpha in the space his inner alpha had always considered to be his own. He hoped he would get over that territorial bit quickly or his ruts were going to be awful. He might even require additional time off prior to his rut in the future.

Harry was also worried about Louis and how he was handling everything. He didn’t know why. Louis had handled all of this for years on his own, but now that Harry knew, it felt different. Like he should be helping Louis somehow, even though he was already doing what Louis had asked him to.

What it all ended up coming down to was Harry maybe pampered Louis a little too much in an attempt to take care of him and therefore annoyed him. Louis had gotten progressively more snappy with him when all he was trying to do was give him the physical affection he needed. And keep him hydrated. And well fed. So essentially, in trying to not overstep his bounds and do too much, that was exactly what Harry had done.

And then with that weighing on Harry even more than the secret already was, he couldn’t stop staring. The fans had taken to calling his “serial killer stare”, and he wasn’t very appreciative of that name. Neither, it seemed, was Louis, even if he agreed with how the stare looked. Harry really wasn’t trying to be possessive, he wasn’t. It was just his damn rut and how much he cared and was concerned about Louis. He thought.

Harry growled as he finished the bicep curls that Mark had given him to finish his workout. It felt great to get some of his pent up frustration out with Mark, but it also allowed him too much time to think on the fact that he may have been imagining Louis the entire time he was in rut.

But really, no alpha in their right mind would blame him. Louis was so perfectly shaped and just the thought his arse was enough to get Harry groaning if he wasn’t careful. His hair was always so soft and the way it would brush across his forehead when he wore it down without product made Harry long to be able to run his fingers through it more.

In addition to Louis’ physical qualities, he was also so incredibly sassy, never letting Harry relax too much or he’d find something to tease him about. Not to mention he was also loud and funny and caring and just...everything Harry loved in a person. It really made complete sense that while he was knotting his fist and fucking toys, what he saw in his mind was blue eyes and a round arse. Hell, he practically had been able to taste the sweat and underlying vanilla mint scent Harry had found when he nosed deep into Louis’ neck during cuddles.

Fuck. He really was in too deep and he didn’t have a clue how to get out.

“Harry?”

Harry put the weights down and closed his eyes in an attempt to regulate his breathing. This was really the worst timing Louis could have had. Harry was fresh off his rut and he knew Louis had just finished his heat, even if he couldn’t smell it, and combined with the fact that Harry was shirtless and sweaty and still trying to figure out why he felt so territorial and possessive lately...it was simply really bad timing.

“Harry. The fuck. Why are you ignoring me?”

Harry opened his eyes and looked at Louis. Louis had stopped in the middle of the hotel gym, hands on his hips, as he glared at Harry. Shit.

“I’m not ignoring you, I’m trying to catch my breath after Mark had his way with me.”

Mark laughed loudly, which brought a smile to Harry’s face. “You wish, man. Do cool down and stretches. I’m going to go grab a bite before it’s Niall’s turn.”

Mark patted Harry on the shoulder before leaving the gym.

“Okay, great. We’re alone. Now what the fuck are you doing, Harry?”

Harry widened his eyes and held his arms out. “What the hell? What do you mean what am I doing? I haven’t seen you in days and that’s what you start with?”

Louis rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes. Sorry. Sensitive alpha, right. How was your rut? Unsatisfying, I hope, since you weren’t able to get an omega in to help you out this time, right? So sad. Okay, now tell me why you’re going all dominant alpha on me.”

Harry knew his eyebrows had likely reached his hairline by now he was so surprised. Territorial, sure. Taking care of him to the point of almost being smothering, yeah all right. He’d give Louis both of those. But dominant alpha?

“I truly don’t have a clue what you're talking about.”

“From the moment you found out about me, you haven’t been able to leave me alone. Why did that suddenly change?”

Harry opened his mouth to dispute what Louis was accusing him of, but Louis continued on with his rant.

“No, seriously,” Louis said, his voice steely and gaining volume as he kept talking. “You’ve been practically glueing yourself to my side and constantly feeding me to the point where I’m gaining weight and won’t fit into my trousers for much longer. You can’t take your fucking eyes off of me and I’m so over it, Harry!” Louis’ chest was rising and falling rapidly as he sucked in air to feed the flame of his anger.

“Over what, Louis? I don’t feel like that’s me being a so called dominant alpha? That’s just me taking care of you and worrying about you!”

“Yeah, exactly!” Louis cried. “Just because you found out I’m an omega doesn’t mean you have to do everything for me. I can take care of myself just like I have been the past three fucking years.”

“You’re an omega?”

Harry and Louis’ heads both whipped to the door of the gym where Niall was standing, face unreadable.

“What the fuck, Louis. Why would you hide that?”

“Fucking hell. I keep this thing under wraps for this long and then it’s two in two weeks,” Louis mumbled as he lifted his hands to his face. “Listen, it’s not what you think. I’m not ashamed or anything-”

“That’s exactly what it fucking looks like.” Niall’s face was starting to go red and his eyes were an icy shade of blue that Harry rarely saw from him. “Why else would you be lying to not only the world but also your supposed best friends about this?”

“Niall, take it easy, man. It’s complicated,” Harry said in an attempt to appease him.

“Shut up, Harry. I don’t need your overprotective alpha self to do this for me. I’m not a weak omega.”

“I never said you were!” Harry yelled in frustration, his hands going to his hair. He was tired of Louis spewing all these false accusations at him. “Holy shit, Lou. All I’ve ever wanted to do from the moment I met you was take care of you, but I was afraid that you wouldn’t want it because you were a beta. You never showed any interest in me and I wasn’t sure how you felt about alpha/beta relationships, and since we had hardly any time on our hands as it was I never bothered to learn!”

Louis looked like he was about to say something so Harry shook his head and continued.

“Then, suddenly, I find out you actually are an omega and you’ve been denying yourself everything your inner omega needs, and Louis, needing something isn’t a weakness. It’s just biology, alright? So yeah, I could tell it was draining you. I tried to give you that, and maybe I went a bit overboard. But it was only because I care about you, okay? I never wanted to take away your autonomy or claim you or any of that shit you’re implying I wanted by calling me a fucking dominant alpha, alright? So, sorry. Sorry for trying to take care of you in a way that you hadn’t allowed yourself to be cared for. I’ll do my best to withhold just like I have been for the past fucking three years.”

Harry finished yelling and as he caught his breath, the room stayed silent, both Niall and Louis forgoing speaking to stare at him. It made him itch and feel like he’d admitted even more than he’d ever meant to, and he was so frustrated he could feel tears building up. For the first time since he’d met them, Harry wanted nothing more than to be as far away from them as possible.

“Enjoy your workout, Niall. I’ll see you guys tonight.” Harry avoided eye contact as he slammed out of the room and rushed to the lift. The faster he could be alone in his room, the faster he could be under a burning hot shower where he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between his tears and the water pounding down on him.

 

*~~***~~*

 

The concert that night was tense, to say the least. Niall and Louis looked to still be having a battle of wills, and Harry was steering well clear of Louis himself. Liam and Zayn were doing what they could to bridge the gaps and Harry was trying to put all of that aside and perform to the best of his abilities. It didn’t really help when Louis slid down the stairs because he was trying a stupid balancing stunt with a football, because Harry only became more angry.

It was irrational, he knew, but the fact that Louis was out there putting his safety on the line when he didn’t want Harry to be there looking out for him at all stung. Maybe Liam knew the truth now, too. And Zayn. They could all try their best not to smother him as they saw to his needs, then. Harry probably wouldn’t be let anywhere near Louis anytime soon.

Harry went on autopilot and the rest of the concert was a blur. As soon as it was over, he rushed back to the bus, showered as fast as he could, and holed himself away in his bunk. He really wasn’t up for hanging out, tonight. He needed to be alone and pout in what little solitude he could find.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Harry was trying not to be a whining alpha, but he knew that was exactly what he was being. He couldn’t help it. Niall had finally come back to snuggle Harry, which was great, because he needed it as much as Niall did. Harry hated how that was often a misconception about alphas. People seemed to think it was only the omegas that needed that time to physically connect, but alphas, or at least Harry, needed that too. After being without since before his rut, he was glad Niall came to him that afternoon as they were nearing their next destination.

“You wanna talk about it?” Niall asked after they’d sat in silence for ten minutes.

“Not really,” Harry mumbled. “It’s depressing enough without saying it out loud.”

Niall sighed, but ultimately kept quiet. For a few minutes, anyway.

“You don’t have to pretend you don’t love him, Harry. We’ve known you do for ages.”

Harry tensed. “I don’t...what do you mean? That’s not…” Harry closed his mouth instead of continuing to stumble through his words.

“Yes you do, Harry.” Niall said it so matter of factly Harry knew it was pointless denying it. “So the question is, when are you going to finish your strop and go after him?”

Harry let out a laugh that was anything but amused. “Yeah, that’s exactly the opposite of what needs to happen right now.”

Niall snuggled into Harry further so his nose was right at Harry’s pulse point. His spicy orange scent grew stronger the more he burrowed into Harry, and the familiar comfort of it washed over him. For the first time in what felt like ages but he knew to be only about twenty-four hours, Harry felt himself relax.

“He’ll get over it, Haz,” Niall said softly, his words slightly muted by his mouth being so close to Harry’s neck. “He’ll know he was wrong about you and your intentions.”

“You don’t know that,” Harry whispered. “He thought I was going after him because he was an omega. After knowing me for three years, Niall. It’s like he doesn’t know me at all.”

“He’s scared,” Niall responded. “Give him time. He’ll figure it out. Just make sure you’re there for him when he does.”

Harry didn’t say anything to that. Instead he allowed the silence to gently cover them like a comforting blanket as he hoped that Niall was right, and sooner rather than later.

 

*~~***~~*

 

Two interviews filled with awkwardness, a meet and greet where it felt like none of them were in sync, and another concert where tension and frustration were running high later, and Harry was wishing they had another night in the city so they could sleep in a hotel, but instead he headed back to the bus. He’d never minded their close quarters before, but Harry didn’t feel like being surrounded by the scents of the other boys tonight. Not when he wanted to cuddle the one who didn’t even want Harry looking at him while they were on stage. God, this entire situation sucked so bad.

Harry rushed back to the bus again, but he had barely got out of the shower before the bus began to move.

“Joe! Is anyone joining us tonight?” Harry asked as he made his way forward. Harry had never spent a night alone on one of the buses before, but he hadn’t heard anyone else come on. That didn’t mean they hadn’t snuck on while he was lost in his thoughts during his shower.

“Just you and Louis tonight,” Joe confirmed as he signalled his left turn. “Everyone else decided to stay on the other buses.”

Harry froze. Louis? Harry wondered if this was Louis’ choice or if they’d been forced into this time alone. If Louis was already hiding in his bunk, Harry supposed that was answer enough.

Hoping for the best, but also doing what he could to prepare for the worst, Harry slowly made his way back to the lounge where the separation was closed like it had been when he’d left the bus before the concert.

Harry slowly opened the divider and couldn’t help his gasp when he realised Louis really was there.

Louis’ head snapped up and he gave a weak smile before patting the seat beside him. “Sit down, Harry.”

Harry blinked for a minute before his body finally got with the programme. He nearly tripped over his legs, he was in such a hurry to get into the space Louis had offered to him. Shit, he was such a mess.

Louis chuckled. “Your damn Bambi legs.”

Harry shrugged and gave a weak smile. It seemed like they were okay, but it could be Louis trying to ease him into the fact that he also knows Harry loves him and he wants him to keep away. Fuck, that would be horrible.

“Harry, I need to apologise. I’m really sorry for how I reacted yesterday.”

Harry nodded and looked at his knees. He was already overwhelmed by being close to Louis again, and now with Louis speaking so kindly to him, Harry didn’t think he could handle actually making eye contact just yet.

“I was being a dickhead, and you definitely didn’t deserve it. I’m so sorry, Harry.”

Harry couldn’t hold back any longer, he lifted his eyes and finally found Louis’. They were sad, a little watery, but also bright with something Harry thought might possibly be... hope.

“I just,” Harry could tell he was about to ramble, but he couldn’t help it. He would never be able to feel completely at ease if he didn’t put everything forward. He took a deep breath and decided to go for it. “I want you to know I never was doing all of that because I found out you were an omega. I’m not like that, and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to domesticate you or hold you back or anything like that. I would never want that. I wanted you when I thought you were a beta, and I still want you now that I know you’re an omega. If anything changed, it was just that you might push away my attempts to care for you not because you as a beta weren’t interested in that form of affection from an alpha, but because you as a person are not interested in me.”

Harry waited, but Louis only sat and studied his face. His heart began to race in panic and his stomach began to fall as his mind whirled over the fact that he was going to have to run away and hide to recover after dying what had to be fourteen deaths in those few seconds of silence before finally Louis set Harry’s entire being at ease.

Louis lunged forward and looped his arms around Harry’s neck. “Harry, no. I will do my best to make sure you never feel that way. I will always be interested in you. I always have been, I just didn’t think it would ever be possible. I knew if I ever allowed us to get anywhere close to being intimate, you would find out my secret and I worried if you did, the cat would be out of the bag and that would be it. Career over.”

Harry shook his head. “No. Not ever. God, Louis, This band wouldn’t be the same without you just like it wouldn’t be the same without any of us. It’s the five of us together that make us what we are.”

“I know,” Louis said softly. “I’m still scared of someone finding out who shouldn’t, but the others have helped me a lot the last day or so to feel a little better about them knowing.” Louis bit his lip. “But now that you know, and now that I know you’re okay with it, what’s going to happen, Harry? Can we go back to you practically smothering me? Because if I’m being honest, I kind of loved that.”

Harry closed his eyes and gave a soft chuckle. “Thank fuck, because that was me holding back.”

Louis softly laughed along with Harry, and their breath mingled together, puffs of warm air hitting Harry’s cheek and alerting him to the fact that Louis had drawn closer. He opened his eyes slightly, and saw Louis studying his lips before his eyes darted back up to Harry’s. The blue shone clear and bright, and Harry did the best he could to commit the exact shade of blue to memory.

“Can I kiss you?” Louis asked. Harry nodded and tilted his chin forward allowing their lips to finally meet. When Louis pulled back a moment later, Louis asked, “Can I call you my alpha?”

Harry’s breath hitched and his eyes flew open to make sure Louis was being sincere. “Yes, please. God, yes.”

Harry leaned into another kiss before pulling back and resting his forehead against Louis’. He held the words back he really wanted to say, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to for long. Soon enough, Louis would know just how much he cared. For now, he let his lips press against Louis’ and express everything he couldn’t allow himself to say.

 

Epilogue

 

Louis wasn’t always in love with Harry. Or at least he didn’t think he was. Sure, he smiled and greeted Harry with “Hi” when he peed on him the first time they met instead of getting angry. Yeah, when they were put together in the band, Louis immediately jumped into Harry’s arms despite having barely known him. And, okay, maybe some of the lines he sang in their songs made him think of the guy he thought of as his best friend, but he didn’t think any of that would have changed if it weren’t for three particular instances playing out how they did.

He sometimes looked back at the last month and wondered how everything could have changed so wholly, so completely, as to make his life now almost unrecognisable. What it came down to was always these three scenes. If their timing had been different, or if even the smallest thing had played out differently, then Louis didn’t think he would be as happy as he was now.

 

Scene One: The Suppressants

 

Harry had already got the blankets ready for their little film nest -- as he ridiculously called it -- before he went back to the cupboards to see what snacks they might have. While he was otherwise occupied, Louis snuck to his bunk where he had a bottle of suppressants hidden away and slipped into the toilet to take them.

The road was fairly bumpy, which made things a little complicated. Louis didn’t know if it was due to construction or shit roads, but either way it meant that he had to wedge himself between the sink and the door. He finally was able to steady himself enough to even get a pill out without spilling the rest and had just tossed one in his mouth when suddenly the bus hit a massive bump and the door to the toilet popped open.

Louis felt like everything was happening in slow-motion. The open bottle of suppressants sailed through the air and the small white pills, so innocuous on their own, sprayed about like some strange medical version of confetti. It rained down with little pitter-patters, but Louis could only register all of that thanks to the look of surprise and shock on Harry’s face.

Harry. Right there. Witnessing the pills and the container and Louis and fuck. Harry could absolutely not figure out what these pills were. As long as Louis could get ahold of the container before Harry, it would be fine. He just needed to get Harry out of the way and Louis could clean this all up himself and voila. Crisis averted.

“Fuck,” Harry muttered, but then he did the opposite of what Louis wanted him to do. Of course he did. He was the kindest, most selfless alpha Louis had ever met. Well, Liam might give him a run for his money now, but either way, it meant that of course Harry would help clean up the pills. Louis could not have that happen.

“No, Harry,” Louis spewed with more force than he meant. He couldn’t worry about that right now, though, because he needed to clean these up before Harry figured out exactly what they were. Shit, shit, shit. Bloody fucking hell and shit! Louis used his hands to drag as many of the pills towards himself as he could. “I can do it, don’t worry about it.”

Harry stopped messing with the pills on the floor, and Louis was relieved. Louis kept gathering the small white pills and became more frantic as he realised he didn’t know where the bottle had gone. Shit. He couldn’t just leave that lying about, or anyone could find it and see a bottle of suppressants prescribed for him.

Louis started gathering the pills that were closer to Harry when Louis noticed he was holding something. The blood pumping through Louis suddenly ran cold and he had never experienced such a jolt of fear as he did when he realised Harry was reading the label on his suppressants bottle.

This was the end of everything, wasn’t it? Harry knew. After so many years, Harry knew Louis’ deepest, darkest secret. Holy shit.

“Lou?”

Hearing Harry’s deep voice say Louis’ name was like a shot of adrenaline to Louis’ system. He felt himself gasping for breath, as if that would save him, and he did his best to blink away the tears that were so close to falling.

Except...Harry knew. He would have questions, and they definitely were not alone on the bus. Louis was going to do everything in his power to make sure that this information stopped with Harry and Harry alone. He shouldn’t have to bear the weight of the secret, but it was too late for that now.

Louis’ eyes glanced over to the kitchen area and found Liam and Mark acting like nothing had happened at all. Of course. Nothing had changed. Just Louis’ entire life and future. Louis immediately looked back at Harry, knowing he was still waiting for a response, and only gave a firm and maybe somewhat desperate shake of his head.

Harry offered the bottle over and Louis let Harry help this time. The pills were picked up, lid replaced, and hidden away in their special hiding spot as soon as Louis could possibly get them there.

Still trying to calm his rapidly beating heartbeat, Louis took in a deep breath through his nose. He should have known better. He really should have. He could smell the concern and worry coming off of Harry in waves, and it was doing nothing to calm him down.

Louis swallowed harshly and said, “I think I’m just gonna…” He nodded at his bunk and what was essentially his freedom from this entire horrifying situation, but of course Harry wouldn’t allow that.

“No, Louis, come on.” Louis looked down when Harry’s hand wrapped around his arm. God, his touch felt better than it should. It made sense, though. In a moment of terror, Louis wanted an alpha to soothe and calm him. “I think we both need the physical affection right now.”

Louis couldn’t take it anymore. He allowed himself to finally deflate a little in exhaustion and he followed his best friend, the only bearer of his secret outside of his family, to the lounge.

 

Scene Two: The Fight

 

Louis had been trying to tamp down his annoyance, but it had come to a reluctant height right as Harry’s rut was starting. Unfortunate timing for Louis, though fortunate perhaps for Harry. Because of that Harry was able to avoid Louis’ wrath, at least for a few more days.

As soon as Louis’ heat was done and he could safely and sufficiently cover his natural scent, Louis left the private heat quarters he had checked himself into for confidentiality purposes and got back to the hotel. He dropped his things with security and immediately went to the gym.

It felt like Louis was floating on his anger and frustration. Years of feeling pushed down with the secret of being an omega and the fear that someone would find out, and as soon as Harry found out, it felt like Harry was trying to out him. Well, not really, but kind of. If people bothered to look closely enough. And really, with his situation, that was dangerous.

Louis barged into the gym and only took minimal notice of Harry’s sweaty, shirtless, and delicious smelling self (was that some cinnamon undercurrents with the chocolate that Louis always recognised as specifically Harry?) before he took note of Mark leaving them to themselves.

Then, as if having to wait for over a week to have this conversation wasn’t bad enough, they weren’t alone for long. Niall with his ever impeccable timing entered the fray just in time to hear Louis was an omega, but even his presence wasn’t enough for Louis’ frustration and anger to ebb. No, if anything, Louis just got more angry. If Harry had just been able to think with something other than his fucking alpha dick, none of this would have happened.

Then, naturally, Harry had to try to take matters into his own hands. Because of course he did. He was an alpha and there was no way two omegas could ever handle a barbed situation such as this on their own. Of course not.

Harry held his hands out towards Niall, like Niall was going to attack Louis or something equally ridiculous, as he said, “Niall, take it easy, man. It’s complicated.”

And then, that one little phrase and accompanying action was enough for Louis’ anger to elevate Louis to a higher sphere, the next plane of existence even.

And then, finally, Louis found the words that apparently were the right ones to push Harry over the edge as well.

“Shut up, Harry. I don’t need your overprotective alpha self to do this for me. I’m not a weak omega.”

Okay. So maybe it wasn’t the best barb against Harry, but Louis knew it would piss him off, and that was exactly what he wanted. He wanted Harry to feel as angry, as helpless, as lost over what to do to fix things as Louis did.

And it seemed Harry had finally got there. Harry yelled. He practically threw words at Louis, words that probably should have meant more than they did in the moment, but Louis stood there and took it. This was what he wanted, he was going to enjoy it.

Harry had smothered him and tried taking away his independent status as soon as he’d heard Louis was an omega! Sure, he’d supposedly liked Louis before, but as soon as he knew Louis could take his knot it was like everything started to escalate, and he was pretty much admitting it as he yelled passionately.

Louis no longer felt energised as Harry said, “Sorry for trying to take care of you in a way that you hadn’t allowed yourself to be cared for. I’ll do my best to withhold just like I have been for the past fucking three years,” but damn if he did feel some kind of pleasure at getting Harry as riled up as he did. He just also felt maybe a little bit of confusion. And surprise.

Wait. Had Harry really admitted he had thought about them being together even when he thought Louis was a beta? Or had his emotions been so wild still that he misunderstood what Harry had said?

Soon enough, Harry offered a quick, “Enjoy your workout, Niall. I’ll see you guys tonight,” on his way out of the gym, and only then did Louis begin to realise what the fight meant.

Niall now knew about Louis’ secondary gender too. Not only that, but he was nowhere near pleased about it for social justice reasons as well as personal betrayal, Louis was sure. Harry was well pissed if the way he fled the gym was any indicator. And Louis honestly didn’t know what to do with himself now.

“You might want to go think about what just happened and how you’re gonna fix it, mate,” Niall said in a clipped tone before walking to the yoga mats to start his stretches. “We’ve got a concert to put on tonight.”

Louis rolled his eyes and tried to exit the gym with as much gusto as he’d entered it, but this time it fell a bit flat with the words he’d thrown at Harry starting to be tinged with regret already.

 

Scene Three: Liam (and Zayn) Being Fucking Nosey

 

Louis took another swig of Zayn’s beer before handing it back. He always got heartburn when he drank too much beer right before bed, but he deserved a sip or two after the day he’d had.

Harry hadn’t even looked Louis’ direction on stage tonight, which was fine. It was. His damn alpha pride just couldn’t handle being called out by Louis.

“Hey, Lou,” Liam said as he flopped down beside Louis on the couch.

Louis looked at Zayn in surprise. Zayn’s eyebrows were raised as he watched on in amusement. Usually the two of them had Bus 2 to themselves after concerts since the other lads prefered the quiet of Bus 1. Harry occasionally would join them, as would Niall, but Liam? No.

“Erm, hey, Li,” Louis said slowly. Liam kicked off his shoes and propped his feet up on Zayn’s knees. “What brings you to grace us with your presence this lovely evening?”

Liam turned to Louis and said, “You need to talk to Harry.”

Louis choked in surprise. Liam patted him on the back gently while Louis tried to get his breath back.

“Jumping right into it then, are we?” Zayn said with a smirk.

Louis turned to him, eyes wide. “You knew he was going to do this?”

Zayn shrugged. “Knew it would happen eventually. He broke earlier than I expected.”

“Lou, you know that Harry’s actions towards you had nothing to do with him learning you’re an omega.”

“What the fuck,” Louis said, face slack with equal parts betrayal, rage, and fear. “You can’t just say it out in the open like that and how the hell do you know about that?”

Zayn and Liam both said, “Niall,” at the same time and Louis dropped his head into his hands. Of fucking course.

“He cares about you,” Liam said gently. “He didn’t do it to be malicious.”

“He hoped we could help. And you know it’s just us on here, mate,” Zayn said.

Louis gestured towards the front of the bus. “And Hank!”

Liam rolled his eyes but pulled Louis closer into his side as he said, “Hank is basically deaf. He’s never going to be able to hear what we’re saying all the way back here.”

Louis pouted but allowed himself to sink into Liam. If they all knew, he might as well allow his inner omega to bask in the affection the alpha was offering him.

“Fine,” Louis huffed in fake annoyance. He didn’t really want to hear what Liam had to say, but he knew Liam was doing it out of love. “If you’re here and determined to do this, then talk already.”

“Niall told us what happened and you need to fix things with Harry. You were wrong about him and I think you know that, you just don’t want to admit it.”

Zayn nodded along and continued sipping on his beer. Worthless, he was.

“What exactly are you telling me I was wrong about.”

Louis could feel a puff of air hit his forehead as Liam tried to keep his laugh quiet.

“How about we start at everything?”

Louis squawked in indignation, but before he could say anything, Liam covered his mouth with his hand and said, “Especially the bit about him being a dominant alpha and thinking you’re a weak omega. He would never try to own you, Lou. Not like some of those backwards alphas out there.”

Louis pulled Liam’s hand away from his mouth and said, “I’m a male omega, Liam.” Louis paused to make sure his point was understood. “A male omega hiding as a beta in the fucking entertainment industry. You see the kinds of alphas we are surrounded by every day, and yet you really expect me to not suspect an alpha to act that way towards me as soon as he finds out what I am?”

Liam sat up and pulled away from Louis so they were looking at each other, face to face. “Are you saying that you’d expect me to act that way towards you?”

Louis snorted. “Yeah, right. You wouldn’t hurt a fly, Li. You’d never treat me that way.”

“Then why the hell do you think Harry would?”

Louis was quiet after that, and soon Zayn and Liam both said goodnight in order to leave Louis with his thoughts.

So really, he should be grateful, he supposed. Thanks to these three fateful moments, he’d finally found his love. His bondmate. His alpha. He also was finally able to be truthful with the four most important people in his life outside of his mum and sisters. And really, he couldn’t regret that at all.