Harry Styles was running late and he was never going to make it to his mother’s house on time. It wasn’t his fault, though. He had to work and then he got caught trying to clean up a mess one of his coworkers had made. She was beside herself with grief at making him stay behind, so he couldn’t really complain about it. As much as he wanted to in his head.
The drive was about three hours on a good day, so when halfway through it had started to snow and sleet, traffic had come to a standstill. Wrapped presents sat in his back seat, gleaming in the highway lights and blinking at him in the rearview mirror.
At least once he got to the house he was there for good. He actually managed to get a whole week off to enjoy the holidays with his family this year. For the past several years, he had been scheduled to work both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day because he had been working retail.
Earlier that year he had gotten a new job that he loved with paid time off and coworkers he really enjoyed being around that seemed to be excited about their jobs, and everything was looking up.
His boyfriend—a coworker at his old job which was never a good idea—had broken up with him a few weeks before his job switch so he had been in a pretty low place at the beginning of the year. Their relationship lasted almost a year, and he had even come home with Harry for Christmas Day the year before, which had been a disaster. Gemma and his mom really didn’t like him, but Harry had been blindly in love with him at the time.
Their relationship had been unhealthy and tumultuous, and Harry barely even thought about him anymore, much less miss him. He had been single for more than six months now, and it was amazing. This was the longest he had ever been single before and he was loving it. He went out to eat by himself and listened to music while he walked around the city, saw his friends more and more; he had taken to being an independent person like a duck to water.
Looking back on it, he could see now that he had probably been depressed in some way, but things were much clearer in hindsight. Now, there was a lightness to his spirit, and he was beside himself excited for celebrating Christmas at home.
Except when he needed to drive through sleet and snow to get there.
His nerves were like a livewire so when he finally pulled up to his family home—or two blocks away from his family home—he closed his eyes and did some breathing exercises. Once he had calmed down, Harry checked the clock again, and he was only fifteen minutes late after all.
There were cars absolutely everywhere lining both sides of the quiet suburban street where he had lived most of his life. Their family usually did something special for Christmas, but this was on another level by design.
Harry’s mom Anne and his stepdad Robin had been earmarking money for quite some time to renovate their home. While they waited, Anne took some courses on interior design and planned everything that she wanted to do. Gemma and Harry left the “nest” a few years ago, and then once their parents got started, the whole process took about two years.
Now, they were done and it happened to coincide with the holidays. It was Robin’s idea initially to have a housewarming party, and as their finish date got closer and closer to winter, the idea morphed into a giant Christmas party where they invited everyone they had ever known ever.
Once the ball was rolling, there was no stopping his mother.
From what Harry could tell from his parked car two blocks away, the idea had been a success.
He made sure he was completely bundled up—given the still inclement weather and much farther walk than normal—and climbed out of the car. Everything was wet, but he watched his steps for black ice as he made his way around to the trunk.
Loading himself up with his duffle bag, and all of the presents from the back seat, he took a deep breath before picking his way around the snow banks and patches of ice to try and get to his parents’ house.
Because he only lived a few hours away he had been back quite a few times during the renovation process, and when both he and Gemma came back during Thanksgiving they helped put the house back together in preparation for the party.
Ideally, he would have made it back before the party so he could unpack in peace, but for now he would just have to deal with his luggage. Maybe he should sneak through the side door.
The closer he got to the front of the house, the larger the crowd looked. The side door was definitely the way to go.
He went with his instinct and changed direction, turning right instead of left and entering the house through the mud room instead. Immediately, he was accosted by a distant friend of his mom’s that he maybe sort of recognized.
“Harry! Hi!” she said with a bright smile, waving her wine glass around like it wasn’t filled with stain-happy Merlot.
“Hello,” he said with an awkward wave. “Just sneaking through,” he added.
The woman hugged him anyway.
Eventually, he managed to get free and escape upstairs to his room where he put the presents and his large duffle bag down. He had planned ahead and brought home at least three loads of laundry. Sue him, it was free.
Having hoped to get there ahead of time, he wasn’t quite dressed yet, so he put on a fresh pair of black cigarette trousers with a red and cream plaid pattern woven into them. They sat low on his hips as he walked around with them unfastened and pulled a black crepe blouse over his head. He tucked the blouse into the trousers and put on his favorite black boots.
He ruffled his hair a few times to try and fluff it back up after it had been in his beanie; it was getting long again, curling down under his ears and he would probably need to cut it soon.
Just the simple act of pulling out his clothes had created a hurricane of stuff on his bed, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw his makeup bag poking out. He crossed over to the bed and his hand hovered over it for a second.
At home in the city Harry like to add a bit of mascara to his lashes and a bit of tint to his lips to make them stand out, but he had never tried it at home. He had always wanted to experiment with makeup prior to buying his first products, but his ex-boyfriend hated it. Harry’s features didn’t really need it per se, so going without hadn’t bothered him. Using them started as an act of defiance after the breakup, but now he quite liked it.
Without thinking any more of it, Harry took out his brown liner and tightlined under his top lashes, added a bit of tint to his actual lashes, then dotted on some chapstick with stain in it to bump up the rosy color of his lips.
Unless someone knew, they would never be able to tell he had makeup on, but he knew and he felt like a million bucks. There wasn’t ever anyone to impress at the smaller holiday parties they had held in past years, but considering his mother invited half the town tonight, he had no clue who would show up.
Finally ready, he opened up the door to his room to find two teenage girls standing outside of it staring at him. Normally that might be weird, but mildly understandable when the house was so full of people. Harry was only taken off guard this time because they were almost completely identical except for their clothes.
“Um. Hello?” he said.
They both blinked at him. “Hey,” the one on the left answered.
“Can I help you find something?”
The one on the left was clearly the spokesperson of the two. “Nah, that’s alright. We were told to tour the house and we’re looking for the most festive spot to put on our Instagram stories.”
Harry looked over his shoulder to the bed that was covered in his clothes. If his mom was telling people to just wander around the house on their own he should probably hide his stuff in the closet.
“Yeah, cool,” he nodded. “Not much in here. Downstairs is your best bet.”
The one on the right made a face, but the one on the left responded. “There are just lots of people down there.”
“I know,” Harry said, his tone laced with regret. It was clear absolutely no one had turned his mom down, despite the bad weather.
The girls turned to each other and had a silent, spooky twin conversation with their eyes before shrugging and heading back down the hall. “Thanks!” the one that was formerly the one on the left called out over her shoulder.
“Don’t mention it,” he answered as he watched them reach the end of the hall and head back down to the main level where the party only seemed to be growing in size.
That was odd.
Harry shook his head and went back to his bed to clean it off.
Again, he opened his bedroom door, but this time the hallway was clear. He followed their steps down the hall before descending the stairs into the din of relative strangers crowding around in bunches.
There was no sign of any of his family members in the living room, so he wound his way through the crowd greeting people in passing, but trying to stay on track.
Eventually, he spotted his mother where she was off to the side in the kitchen talking to a woman with medium brown hair swept to one side that Harry didn’t immediately recognize.
He began to zig-zag around the island when his path was obstructed by a body.
Hot guy. There was a hot guy right in front of him blocking Harry’s way to Anne. He had chiseled cheekbones and cute little scattered freckles. Beauty marks? They were pretty enough to be called beauty marks. And he was deftly squeezing a lemon into a cocktail shaker before setting the peel off to the side and capping the metal cup.
His strong, veiny hands lifted the shaker up to shoulder height and he began to shake it back and forth much to the delight of two young kids perched on the barstools next to him. He began shifting the shaker around his body in funny rhythms and their giggles reached new heights.
Harry stood frozen watching him entertain the little boy and girl for another few seconds before his mother called out his name.
“Harry!” Anne repeated, making it clear that this wasn’t the first time she had said something.
“Hi, mom,” he said leaning around the body of the guy doing his best Tom Cruise impersonation. Both Anne and the woman she was talking to were watching the scene with matching smirks. The guy had put the shaker down and pressed his hips closer to the counter so that Harry had enough room to pass.
“Sorry,” he said to Harry with a rueful smile.
“Not a problem, I was enjoying the show,” Harry teased. When his eyes flicked down to the empty space left for him to pass he caught a glimpse of the curve of the guy’s ass and his knees almost gave way right there.
The guy winked at Harry before he passed behind him, and picked up the shaker again to give the drinks one last toss before straining the bright pink liquid into the waiting glasses.
Harry must have made a noise when he then passed them to the kids, because the guy turned to him.
“They’re gin cocktails. Only clear liquors at their age,” he pointed at the little boy and girl who had picked up their glasses carefully with both hands and were taking big gulps of the vibrant juice.
The laugh that he startled out of Harry was loud and honking and he had to instinctively slap a hand over his mouth to try and keep himself from doing it again. This guy was hot and funny.
Harry was definitely glad he decided to dress to impress.
When he turned away from him to greet his mom properly, she and the woman she was talking to were sharing a loaded glance between them.
“Harry, this is Jay Deakin,” Anne said. “You probably don’t remember her but their family used to live in this area when you were younger.”
“Nice to meet you again, Jay,” Harry answered, holding out his hand.
“You as well, honey,” Jay answered smiling warmly. Harry liked her immediately, definitely better than that lady who had accosted him in the hallway earlier.
“And these,” Anne said pointing the hot guy and two little kids, “are some of her children.”
Harry turned around quickly enough to catch the guy giving him a onceover.
“This is Doris and Ernie,” Jay introduced the young juice drinkers as Harry greeted them in turn. “And this is Louis, you two used to play together when you were both little.”
Louis raised his eyebrows in surprise. “We did, did we?” he asked, managing to make it a bit suggestive. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.
“Yes you did.”
Harry caught his mom’s eye and she looked like the cat who got the canary. He sent her a confused glance, silently asking her why she seemed to be pleased as punch.
She and Jay shared another glance clearly unable to hold onto their secret a moment longer. “You got married,” they both said at the same time before doubling over with laughter, clinging to each other.
Louis let out a scoff, meanwhile Harry was just confused. They caught each other’s stares and both shrugged as they watched their mothers try—and fail—to contain themselves.
“We’re married?” Harry asked once their giggles had started to trail off.
Anne clasped her hands to her chest. “Oh, it was so cute. Harry didn’t have an imaginary friend, he just sort of imagined that Louis came with us everywhere. We had to set an extra place for him and everything.”
Harry felt the blush rising in his cheeks. “Mom, oh my God.”
“Had a bit of a thing for me, did you Harold?” Louis teased.
“Not so fast, BooBear, you were just as bad,” Jay cried pointing at him accusingly. “If we went more than two days without seeing Harry you wanted to go try and find him. You asked after him almost every day for the first few months after we moved.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Louis make a slashing motion with his hand as he tried to get Jay to stop talking. As they were both equally embarrassed now, Harry decided to go with it. Louis certainly seemed puckish enough to take a joke.
He turned to Louis with a sly grin. “It’s all well to not to let her mention it, honey, but where are my twenty-two years of alimony payments? Hmm?” Harry asked as he held his hand out flat in front of him.
Louis pressed a hand to his chest, scandalized. “Is that all our love meant to you, baby? What you could get out of it? I gave you all my best nap times.”
For all that the joke was put-upon, Harry couldn’t help the little thrill that went through him when Louis called him baby. His ex-boyfriend never used terms of endearment like that when they were together.
As their whole cluster of people was laughing two girls came over—one with a shock of light pink hair, the other slightly taller with dark hair—with Gemma in tow.
“This seems to be where the party is,” Gemma said, sipping what looked like mulled wine.
“Apparently,” Harry replied. “Our mother was just introducing me to my first husband here.”
Gemma snorted into her drink. “What?”
Louis butt in; “That’s comforting from a sister-in-law, geeze. I know we’re not together any more, but I thought you might at least stay in touch.”
Gemma and the other two girls looked at them like they had three heads. “What did we miss?” she asked warily.
“Louis, we have to go potty!” Doris whined as she pushed her curly red hair out of her eyes with her juice-stained hands.
Louis’ entire demeanor changed as he reached over and tucked his hand under her arms to lift her up until she was perched on his hip. She wrapped her arms around his neck and tucked her face into his shoulder. “Alrighty, let’s go get potty taken care of, then.”
He reached his hand out and Ernie took it as he hopped down off the tall barstool. “Which way to the potty, Harold?” he asked.
“I’ll take you,” Harry said as he pushed himself off the counter where he was leaning.
“No, no, don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine, just point us in the right direction,” Louis said.
“Around the stairs and to the left,” Harry pointed toward the growing crowd in the living room.
Louis nodded in acknowledgment and headed off with the twins.
“So you’re married, huh?” Gemma asked wryly.
“It was so cute, he wore the veil from your old bridal Halloween costume and everything!” Anne added, just to make it worse. At least Louis wasn’t there to hear that part.
“Mom,” Harry said through his gritted teeth.
“He’s single, you know,” Jay said as she nudged Harry with her elbow.
He slapped his hands over his hot cheeks. “Oh, God.”
Jay officially introduced her other daughters Lottie and Felicite who had come over with Gemma and mentioned two other twins that Harry suspected he had already met earlier that evening. By the time they were off and chatting about much less embarrassing things, Louis came back with two very sleepy looking four-year-olds hanging onto him like koalas.
Harry wasn’t sure if he should concentrate on the way Louis so expertly handled the little ones and their needs, how much they so clearly loved him and admired him, how well that would translate when Louis became a father in turn, or how strong he must be to be holding two kids that were definitely not toddlers anymore.
“Anne, if you really don’t mind, it might be time to take you up on that offer of a guest room for these guys,” Jay said gesturing to the soft sleepy children and their steadily drooping eyelids.
“Of course!” Anne said as she moved toward the food. “Listen, why don’t you all make yourself a big plate of food and head up to your room, Harry. You can put the twins down and then hang out up there away from us old folks.”
Never mind that Harry, Louis, and their sisters were much too old to care about those sort of distinctions. Still, it might be nice to get some time to relax and chat away from their mothers.
Harry looked at Louis who gave him a brief little shrug—burdened as he was with the kids.
“Yeah, okay,” Harry replied.
“Why don’t you guys go up, Harry,” Gemma said. “We’ll get the food and meet you up there.”
Louis stepped aside to let Harry lead the way, and they both headed back upstairs. Harry had only been down at the party for about thirty minutes, definitely no more than an hour. And now he was doubly grateful he had stuffed his dirty clothes in the closet before he came down.
The trek up the stairs was slow going, but when they got to the guest bedroom the twins were practically asleep already.
Louis and Harry helped them under the covers and Harry watched on as Louis read pulled up ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on his phone to read to them. When they were both lulled to sleep and dead to the world, Louis stood up and pressed a kiss to each of their foreheads.
Honestly, Harry was being tested in the worst way and he didn’t much appreciate it. If he had ovaries, they would be singing right about now.
Silently, Harry motioned to the hallway and Louis followed him out, making sure the only light left in the room was the soft glow from the candles in the window. They didn’t speak until they crossed over to Harry’s room and left the door cracked so they could hear if one of the kids got up again.
“Thanks for letting us use the room,” Louis said at a normal volume. As if he was just realizing that they were in Harry’s room, he immediately started looking around and snooping.
“Of course, yeah. They’re very cute,” Harry replied before his eye caught the clock at his bedside table. “That’s weird, Gemma and your sisters should be up here by now with the food.”
Louis shrugged as he leaned over to read the titles on Harry’s bookshelf. “They probably got waylaid by someone.”
Silence fell as Louis continued to scrutinize Harry’s stuff. “So…” Harry said. “You guys moved away? But now you’re back?”
“No, we’re just in town for the holidays to see my grandparents.” Harry’s hopes shattered in his chest as he watched the muscles in Louis’ ass bunch and release and tried not to get too distracted.
“Oh?” He said, hoping his voice wouldn’t give anything away.
“Yeah. Though, I’m moving to the city soon,” he commented absentmindedly as he looked through Harry’s CD collection from middle school.
Louis looked up at him and smiled sweetly. “I’m starting a new job there soon teaching at a private school. One of the teachers is going on maternity leave and has told them she probably won’t be coming back.”
“What do you teach?” Harry asked clearing his throat trying not to squirm when Louis got a little too close to his old diaries.
“Drama,” he replied before turning to lean against Harry’s dresser. “Nice room you got here, Harold.”
His tone was too sweet and Harry was starting to get suspicious. “Thanks?”
“I don’t know why you’re bugging me for alimony payments when you have so clearly got it made here.”
That startled a laugh out of Harry. “I don’t live here, I live in the city.”
“Ooh,” Louis said smacking himself on the forehead for show. “So that’s why this room looks like it’s stuck in the mid-2000s.”
Harry giggled as he played with the wooden spindles on the footboard of his bed.
“Here’s the thing, Harold—”
“Harry,” he pointed out.
“We were married, Harold, I think I know what your name is,” Louis said flatly.
Harry rolled his lips in on themselves to try and keep himself from laughing.
“Here’s the thing Harold. About this whole alimony mess, yada yada yada.”
“Yes?” Harry prompted crossing his arms over his chest, listening with comical levels of intent.
“Well, I think that’s all a load of bullshit. I don’t remember the divorce proceedings. Do you?”
Harry brought his hand up and tapped his chin. “Now that you mention it, no I don’t.”
Louis pushed off the dresser moving slowly towards Harry, making his heart rate spike. “I think that probably means any and all contracts—probably made under the influence of apple juice if we’re being honest—null and void.”
Louis was only standing about a foot away now and Harry could barely think over the meltdown he was having at being so close to someone this hot who he was pretty sure was into him in some way.
“Sounds legitimate to me. That apple juice is powerful stuff,” he croaked out.
“Mmm,” Louis replied, his gaze jumping down to Harry’s lips and back up. “That’s good, because,” he put his hand to his heart, “I still love you, baby, and I think we should give it another shot.”
Harry snorted. “I worry for your new students.”
Louis gasped and leaned his torso away from Harry. “How could you say such a thing? You wound me!”
On instinct, Harry reached out a hand to draw him back. “I’m only kidding, I promise.”
Louis dropped his hands and the act with it before glancing at Harry’s mouth again.
“Are you going to kiss me?” Harry blurt out. He was taking the honest approach, now, the way he had promised himself after the lying and mind games of his last relationship.
Louis tilted his head back slightly. “Was thinking about it,” he answered as Harry held his breath. “But there’s no mistletoe.”
Harry gave him a nudge. “You’re such a tease. And you wanted me to take you back? With no kissing? What does that say about our attempt to rekindle the magic?”
Louis threw his head back and laughed before reaching a hand up to cup Harry’s jaw to draw him forward.
Their lips pressed together and Harry saw stars. “Mmph,” he felt himself moan from deep in his throat as Louis pressed their chests together. Gaining control of his limbs, Harry brought his hands up to rest lightly at Louis’ hips.
He quickly became addicted to the taste of Louis’ mouth and the curve of his hips under his palms. When Louis dipped his tongue between Harry’s lips, Harry took that as an invitation to go exploring. He let his hands drift around to Louis’ lower back and he was just about to keep going when—
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” Gemma asked from the doorway as Louis pulled his face back and turned his head around to get a better view of the door. If he had sprung all the way back, Harry might have matched the gesture (however reluctantly) but Louis kept his hands gripped on Harry’s shoulders, so Harry didn’t let go either.
“Um—” Louis replied.
“Ooh, nice try. Harry? You want to give it a go?” his sister prompted like the evil mustache-twirling villain she was.
“Er—” he said. “Hey, Gems.”
“Close!” she cried out, “but not very believable. Let go of each other so we can all come in and sit down.”
Louis turned back to press a brief kiss to Harry’s lips before stepping out of his grip. “Later,” he mouthed.
Lottie brought in the food and Gemma carried the bottle of wine while Harry sat himself up at the head of the bed with his back against his headboard. Louis folded his feet up under himself a safe distance away against the footboard.
The girls kept chatting as they placed the platter on the mattress and began digging in and popping the cork on the bottle.
Harry was hot and bothered from just the one kiss, and kept shifting in his seat. It was even worse because every time he looked up at Louis, he was watching him with barely contained heat in his gaze.
Five minutes went by but it felt like an hour before Harry saw Lottie shake her head out of the corner of his eye.
“Alright!” Gemma threw her hands up. “We’re leaving,” she said as she picked up the tray and Lottie and Felicite quickly gathered their drinks.
After a brief flurry of activity, the door shut behind them and he and Louis were left in silence once again. There was one beat before Harry and Louis made eye contact, and then another right before Louis launched himself down the bed.
Their noses bumped together as they got used to the new angle, but Harry’s head was quickly being pressed into the mattress as Louis kissed him again.
They had only been back at it again for a few seconds before Gemma opened the door again. “Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!”
It took both Louis and Harry a minute to realize what she said before they burst into giggles while still attached at the lips.
“I hate to say it,” Louis said sitting up a bit perching on Harry’s thighs to give him some breathing room. “But we should probably slow down.”
He was right. Harry huffed out a breath. “Yeah, I know.”
“I’m coming back in a month. Can I take you out on a date?” Louis asked as he pushed a lock of Harry’s hair back off his forehead.
“Yeah,” Harry nodded. “I’d like that.”
They both got their breathing under control as they stared at each other. Harry took in the sight of Louis’ kiss-bitten lips and slightly mussed hair, felt the plush mattress underneath him, and couldn’t help himself. “We can still make out right now, though, right?”
“Obviously,” Louis scoffed, already moving back up the bed to hover over Harry. “Best Christmas party ever,” he whispered.
“I don’t know,” Harry shrugged in fake disgust.
Louis let out an affronted noise. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, getting back together with my ex-husband?” Harry rolled his eyes. “What a drag.”
Louis threw his head back and laughed the same way he had earlier and Harry got to see a close up this time of the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when his smile spread as wide as it could go.
“I never stopped loving you, baby. Give me a chance?”
Harry couldn’t tamp down his smile for long. “I guess.”
They didn’t make it back downstairs for a very long time.