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"Liam thinks that we have a schedule planned for who tops and on what days," Harry tells Louis when he gets home, ducking down to plant a quick kiss on his lips.

Louis, in the middle of rinsing out one of Zoe's Ninja Turtle cups, bursts into laughter and drops the cup into the sink. He braces his hands against the counter as he cackles, head thrown back and the soft curve of his neck exposed. Harry grins.

"Oh my God, no, Harry, you're lying," he gasps, trying to get his laughter down.

Harry works on loosening his tie with one hand, the other still caught holding his briefcase. "Absolutely serious, I swear. He was all, 'when you and Louis shag, do you just... go with the flow, or do you, like... know ahead of time how you want it to go and who's doing what?' Baby, I must say that I didn't think my life would ever get to that point, but I was very much wrong."

Louis is still grinning, eyes bright and mouth twitching with barely suppressed giggles. "Prolly 'cause Sophia makes him do one with her."

"On Wednesdays," Harry says in his best falsetto, "she wears the pink peg." He pauses. "And Thursdays. And Fridays. And Mondays. Prolly Saturdays, as well."

"Savage," Louis wheezes, doubling over in laughter.

Zoe, their four year old daughter, finds them like this in the kitchen: slumped over each other and giggling, like the mature and serious blokes they are.

"What are you doing," she announces, much in the way she announces everything these days.

Louis tries to straighten up, quickly wiping away the tears from his eyes. "Laughing at Papa's friends for being weird," he answers.

Her eyes brighten. "Who?"

They both know better than to share secrets with either her or Jackie, so instead of answering, Harry leans down to pick her up and plant a thousand kisses across her face. "I can't even get a hullo now?" he asks, faking offence.

"'M not your friend," she mumbles, burrowing her face in his neck to get away from the kisses.

Harry makes a perplexed look at Louis over her hair, arching an eyebrow. Louis mouths tacos. Shit, that's right. Every Tuesday since she started reception, he's been taking his lunch right as she gets out of school so that he can bring her to their local chain of Westernised Mexican food and stuff her full of tacos and crisps before switching her off to Louis and going back to work. For someone who's only four years old, she sure has very set expectations of routine.

"Is it because I missed Taco Tuesday?" he asks, smoothing a hand down her back. It's 6:20 PM and she's still wearing a full kit. Harry is shocked and impressed that Louis has managed to keep her from throwing her clothes off for this long.

She makes a vague affirmative noise and shifts in his hold. Her braids are on their way to shoving into his mouth, so he tilts his head back a little to say, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm a bad Papa, aren't I?"

"Yes," she says immediately. Over her shoulder, Louis is rummaging around the cabinets and trying very hard not to laugh at Harry. Harry makes a face at him, but he's definitely trying not to either. Her brother will blow up but then forget about it the next day, but she can hold grudges like no other. The first time Harry missed Taco Tuesday, she let him remember for three weeks.

"If I make spaghetti will you love me again?" The big guns. Harry can't believe he has to pull out the big guns and they're not even halfway through the week yet. He hasn't even taken his boots off.

Like lightning, she leans her head back to look him in the eye. Their faces are pressed so close together that she's squinting against the proximity. "'Paghetti?"

"'Paghetti," Harry says solemnly.

She beams. It will never not be Harry's favourite thing in the entire world. "Okay. ‘M your friend again."

She squirms, ready to be put down, but he doesn't let her go until he gets his kiss and maybe an I love you.

“Will you at least give me more than one kiss?” Harry asks Louis, cornering him against the counter once Zoe has ran off to God knows where. Probably to tell her brother that they’ve got spaghetti coming up for dinner all because she’s an expert at guilting and manipulating Harry and he’s an expert at letting her. Maybe not in so many words.

Louis makes a face, like he’s thinking about it. “You’ve already got one for the night,” he finally says.

“I’m kiss deprived,” Harry complains, leaning in and making his saddest eyes at Louis.

His saddest eyes stopped working on Louis approximately five seconds after they met. He doesn’t know why he keeps trying. Louis graces him with a pat on the cheek and then a pat on the bum, and then he’s squirming out from between Harry and the counter and fucking off to wherever. “You need to undress so that you don’t dirty all your clothes with pasta sauce.”

“So you’ll get me out of all my clothes but I can’t get a little bit of snogging? That’s how it is?”

Louis wriggles his bum at Harry right before he fades from view. “That’s always how it’s been.”

 

He cooks in threadbare trackies that’re probably Lou’s, judging by where they stop on his legs, and the waist-length black floral patterned apron that Jackie bought for him on an excursion with Louis when he was six. He has an identical one, albeit significantly smaller; he got it on that same day and grinned so wide when he presented them to Harry that Harry thought his heart was going to burst right out of his chest.

Harry let him do all the measuring and icing for the cupcakes that next weekend, putting their new presents to work, and he got so excited that he almost dropped the milk everywhere. God. Harry loves his kids.

“That look on your face makes me think you’re not cooking me spaghetti fast enough,” Louis announces as he walks back into the kitchen. Harry knows exactly where Zoe gets her habits from.

“Cooking for my two beautiful and insanely intelligent children, not for the weird bloke that sleeps in my bed and eats all my food,” Harry answers, tilting his head and wondering if he should add more sauce. “Baby, should I add more sauce?”

“Oh, so one second I’m a weird bloke and the next I’m baby, is that right?” Louis asks, shoving up against Harry at the stove. He peers down into the pot, and then at the mostly empty glass jar. “Might as well. You’re showering Zoe, though. Think she lost her shirt sometime between hating you and hating Jackie, and I think it’s late enough that she’s gonna fight us before she puts it back on.”

“Wonder where she gets that from,” Harry muses, throwing the rest of the sauce in and turning the dialer to low. “You already got the plates set?”

“‘Course I’ve already got them set, what type of question is that,” Louis scoffs, probably genuinely offended. And then, because they’re nothing if not experts at holding multiple conversations at once, “Don’t know where you’re getting at with that, love, cause I’m not the one who spent my early twenties walking around our flat bare-arsed naked.”

“Y’are the one always prepped for a fight, though. And, I don’t know, maybe my memory’s acting up with old age, but it’s pretty hard to remember you with clothes on at any point before we got Jackie.”

He holds the spoon up to Louis’ mouth for a taste, unsanitary though it may be. Like always: “Needs more salt.” At this point, Louis’ just saying it out of routine. He’s surely used to how little salt Harry uses.

What’s also routine is Harry’s answer. “Your cholesterol doesn’t need more salt, not in your old age.”

Louis pouts. “The old age joke is less funny when I’m as close to fifty as I am to twenty, Harry.”

Harry pats his hip consolingly before moving around the kitchen to clean up, leaving the spaghetti to simmer. “You know I would love to spend the next hour telling you that you’re just as lovely as you were at twenty, since we all know that’s what you’re fishing for—”

“—not fishing—” Louis interjects, the same mild whine he had in his voice at twenty, too.

“—but I also really need you to get them downstairs so we can stuff them full before bedtime and I can pass out on my gorgeous and gigantic king-sized bed by nine PM UK time, baby, so if you could just… you know.”

Harry can physically feel Louis’ eye roll. He hates being dismissed, but sometimes it just has to be done, or they’d be stuck talking shite in this kitchen until midnight. “Don’t know why you say ‘UK time’ as if we don’t physically live in the sodding UK already,” he grumbles, but he goes off anyway. Harry has the loveliest and grumpiest husband in the world.

 

Part of Harry will always be hurt by Jackie not running downstairs to see him when he comes home. Sometimes, when it's late enough and he's had a challenging day, he wonders if it's because he's home less than Louis is and on weekdays it's only just enough for dinner or because he's uninteresting and a bore and it always feels like he's trying too hard.

It's not late now, though, and this day has been fairly manageable. When Jackie bounds downstairs, Louis having long since jet-planed Zoe into her seat, he makes sure to stop to give Harry a tight hug, muffling, "'lo, Pa," into Harry's torso.

Harry smiles and ruffles his hair. It's even curlier and blonder than the first time Harry saw him. "Hiya, pal. How was your day?"

He shrugs as he pulls back. "Fine. Had pepperoni pizza for lunch."

One day he will understand that Harry wants more than just vague adjectives and lunch descriptors, but today is not that day. "And spaghetti for supper? Full Italiano, eh?"

Jackie stares at him blankly. "I'm British, not Italian." He's been in London his entire life, and he generally speaks like it, too, but sometimes proximity to Louis threads Yorkshire sounds into his speech. They spent the majority of last summer in Doncaster, and by the end, Harry had to pay purposeful attention to understand half of his conversations with Louis. He's still positive Louis overdid it just to fuck with him, though.

Harry sighs. "You know exactly what I meant, Jackie. Can't play at three years old forever."

He smirks, a flash of Louis in his grey eyes. "Bet I can, though."

Louis, murmuring softly to Zoe up to this point as he dishes the pasta out onto plates, pauses. He leans across the table to high-five Jackie, letting out a cheer and an exclamation of, "that's my boy!" Jackie grins.

Louis glances over. "You just gonna take that, Harry?" he asks, although he certainly doesn't give Harry a chance to answer when he immediately tacks on, "usually pretty good at taking it, though."

Harry wouldn't have survived nine years of marriage to Louis Tomlinson if he didn't know how to get him right back. He quirks an eyebrow and very purposefully runs his tongue over his bottom lip, flexing his fingers subtly enough that Jackie or Zoe won't notice but so close to Louis' direct line of vision that he will. "Not as good as you are, baby." Or as often, he mouths.

Harry technically isn’t allowed to bring up sex past the two-week celibacy mark. It’s been three weeks. (It’s been three weeks. It’s been three weeks.) Louis levels him with a flat and deeply unimpressed look, but Harry can see the way the tips of his ears pink up.

It’s a good thing that Harry isn’t the one who brought it up.

“Can we eat now?” Zoe asks, fork halfway up to her mouth before Harry’s even gotten comfortable in his seat. This is why Harry hasn’t had sex in three weeks. He minds a lot less than he thought he would at twenty-five.

Louis leans over to keep her plate from falling off the table. “Y’already ‘bout there, love, might as well. Bless your food,” he adds absently.

Harry guffaws—there’s no less embarrassing verb—hand going up to his mouth in amusement. “Look at that,” he drawls, waggling his eyebrows at Louis.

Harry and Gemma picked it up from Mum, even though she’s never been religious in anything other than name. She’s always claimed to have gotten it from their Dad, way back when, but then he says it’s from his Mum, but Harry’s maternal grandparents have always been more devout than his paternal—

The point is, obviously, that however it came about, Louis’ went off and adopted it from Harry, even though he spent the first few years of their relationship (Harry’s phrasing implies that he ever fully stopped, which is a complete lie) mocking whenever Harry did it. They’d be at some dingy pub, well on their way to arse over tit drunk with Niall, and Harry would be draining half a pint and suddenly say bless your food right before Niall took a bite out of his oil-saturated chips, and Louis would spend the next three hours cackling in his face.

And now he’s saying it. How the mighty fall.

Zoe and Jackie aren’t paying them even the mildest bit attention, shoveling food into their mouths—and onto the table—so quickly that part of him instinctively reaches a hand out to his left to steady Jackie from putting more in with an already full mouth.

“I have a lot of words for you that I can't say around people below the ages of twenty-one," Louis tells him after he's swallowed his bite of spaghetti.

"I've hallowed you, baby." Louis bares his teeth.

Jackie looks like he's winding down; half his food's still on the plate, and Harry is positive that Louis didn't put more than his fill.

Louis comments before he has to. "You gonna finish all that, Jack?"

Jackie shrugs and puts his fork down. "Dunno."

"That's what you call a rhetorical question," Louis says, curling Jackie's fingers back around the fork.

"Dunno what that means," he says with a sigh.

"'S'where your Dad asks you whether you're going to finish your spaghetti, except that he's not actually asking you because you're definitely one hundred percent going to finish all your spaghetti," says Harry, patting him lightly on the back. With the fakest resignation Harry has ever seen, he takes another bite. Harry would be insulted if he didn't know that his spaghetti is the best spaghetti in the universe (Zoe's words, not his) and that Jackie has just always been a difficult eater.

"I'm almost done," Zoe announces proudly. Her serving's smaller, and really all it is is that she's scattered her food so wildly around that it looks like she's cut into a substantial amount. Harry will have to start feeding her himself in five minutes.

Still, he leans over to blow a kiss onto her cheek. She is, objectively, black or white or otherwise, the cutest girl in Britain. And the world, probably. Definitely.

"How were your days?" Harry asks. He should be eating instead of doing all this talking, but today was filled with an appalling amount of paperwork done in endless silence, and he wants to hear their voices. Working with broken families all day can be a downer and it helps to have the reminder that his isn't.

"If you're making them talk then you can't complain when they're not eating," Louis reminds Harry. "And if you're not eating..."

Harry levels him with a deeply unimpressed glare, but he's right. It takes a lot for him not to sigh as dramatically as Jackie did when he really starts eating.

 

Harry hates giving his kids showers. He does. He has to admit it.

He avoids baths altogether, because they are gross and a vast waste of water and he does not see the glory in looking at coloured water while sitting in your own filth.

Louis loves baths. (He claims that Harry's dislike is because he's 'simple' and 'doesn't know how to understand the finer things in life', even though he still dresses like he's twenty-three sometimes and wears far more Adidas outside their home than any thirty-five year old should.) He's always putting the kids into the tub for half an hour and dropping in products he stole from Caroline and smirking in self satisfaction when they complain about Harry's shower preference.

Whatever. He's just trying to make sure their grandkids have water to drink.

So, yes, baths are disgusting, but least he can watch from a distance. To this day, Harry has not made it through a shower without getting soaped and soaked. It's just not possible. He almost falls on his arse at least three times a month.

Jackie resents showers, but thankfully he is old enough to do it himself in their second bathroom as Harry struggles with Zoe.

Harry's struggling with Zoe.

“Sweetheart, I promise the water is fine,” Harry sighs for the fifth time in the past five minutes.

“It’s too cold,” Zoe complains. How she can know the exact temperature without having made any contact is beyond Harry’s understanding.

“No, it’s not,” Harry says.

“I’ll freeze,” she continues. “I’ll die.”

Jesus bloody Christ. Harry really doesn’t need this much attitude from his four year old. “Zoe,” he says, pulling out the tone he rarely uses, the one that brooks no argument. “The water is fine. You need to take a shower and get into bed, and we’re not going to spend the rest of the night arguing. Alright? Get in, please.”

She looks like she wants to argue some more, but Harry arches an eyebrow and flattens his mouth. She gets away with more than she should—both of them do, Jackson isn’t excluded—but sometimes pure brattiness cannot pass, especially not over something as small as a shower.

She huffs and gets in. Harry smiles, “thank you, baby.”

 

“Why does Zoe get mad at me so often?” Harry asks Louis into the dark silence of their room. They’ve both stripped down to their pants; Harry is lying flat on his back with his limbs stretched across the bed, waiting for Louis to join so he can pull the duvet up and shield from the cold air. He hopes Jackie doesn’t kick off his blanket in the middle of the night.

Louis climbs onto Harry’s body, curling up over it and pressing his freezing toes against Harry’s calves. He pulls the comforter up over their bodies. “She’s four, Harry. Don’t you remember how volatile Jackie was?”

“Jackie threw temper tantrums every once in a while, which was fine because the books predicted them.” Louis snorts. “Zoe doesn’t throw fits, she just calmly tells me that she’s never going to be my friend ever again because I made her put on a nappy for bed.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have missed Taco Tuesday,” Louis yawns into Harry’s neck. “Shoulda known what ya had coming.”

Harry doesn’t say anything in response. He looks up at the ceiling in passive quiet until Louis yawns again, sighs, and adds, “she very rarely gets upset with you, babe. You should see how much she lights up when we drive past your firm or when it’s close to time for you to get home. You’re hyper aware of every time she’s snappy with you, so that makes you amp them up and add extra weight, but all it is, other than wrong, is proof of how brilliant and responsive you are to them. You notice ‘cause you’re a good parent.”

Harry feels his face heat up. “I love you, baby."

Louis pats his side. He sounds mostly asleep when he murmurs, "love you and your weird insecurities too, love." Harry is so lucky.

 

When Harry wakes up the next morning, Louis is neither in bed nor anywhere in their house.

The reason he's able to get off before Harry does is because he starts earlier. Harry could not have gotten a job as a lawyer where he starts at six AM, not when most firms don't open until eight, but getting a slot as a physical therapist was simple. The children's clinic Louis interned at had the right mind to have an opening right before he was getting his diploma, and he did so well the year before—naturally, Harry always preens when he's telling someone else—that they personally called him to offer the job. They've both been very lucky in this regard.

He should stop dawdling about and get out of bed.

His cock's half hard in his pants, and he sleepily palms it over the material, wondering with a half formed thought if he has time to do anything about it. He hasn't gotten off in what feels like decades.

Then he hears the alarm go off in Jackie's room, and then the alarm being thrown on the floor in Jackie's room, and he quickly moves his hand away. He's most likely not going to have time to wank off until Zoe is eighteen and off the uni.

One day Zoe will be eighteen and off to uni. He cringes. He's sure it's too early to be worrying about this, but university boys and girls are...

Well. He was one himself. Louis was one. God. Louis spent the entirety of his junior year either pissed or high. It's probably not too early for Harry to worry.

He slips into his en suite and quickly showers before Zoe's alarm goes off and Jackie accepts that his already did. By the time he's done and thrown clean briefs and a pair of trousers on, Jackie—or Zoe, more realistically, considering that Jackie has never been a morning person and takes ten extra minutes to wake up than everyone else—has taken aim and hobbled the two of them into their loo for their morning routine.

"Morning, Papa," Zoe garbles with a mouth full of toothpaste, standing on her Doc McStuffins footstool. Jackie grunts in mild acknowledgement.

"Morning, darling." He ruffles Jackie's hair in reciprocal wordless greeting. Louis used to be just as bad as he is, but adulthood and the need for a steady income paved that aside. Now he handles it with gallons of caffeinated tea and many pastry and sweets stops. He's still just as irritable if he has to get up before eleven on the weekends. "Can you guys finish getting ready while I get breakfast set, please?"

Zoe thumbs up in response. Jackie grunts out something that sounds vaguely enough like pancakes, but it has to be blind, sleep-addled hope. Pancakes are too time consuming for Wednesday mornings, and he knows this best of all.

“Fantastic. Trousers today, both of you,” he adds, thumbing on the loops on his and trying to remember if he or Louis put his belt away last night. He wonders if it’d be inconvenient for him to call Louis at work about it. "It's chilly out."

“Always wear trousers,” Jackie mumbles disgruntledly, his first real English of the day. “Zoe’s the one with issues.”

Harry pauses a moment to see if his sister takes offense, but thankfully, too busy sticking her fingers in her mouth and inspecting her gums, she doesn’t. “Yes,” he agrees with Jackie, “but I don’t want you to feel obligated or restricted.”

“‘M only eight, don’t know those big words,” he replies, rinsing out his brush and placing it in its holder. It’s a plain purple spare; he hit the three-month replacement mark on Sunday, and neither Louis nor Harry himself have had the time to bring him to choose another at the store. Lou should have the time for a quick Tesco stop on his day off tomorrow.

Harry gently flicks Jackie on the ear, his mouth twitching up at how delightfully passive aggressive he can be. He remembers the anecdotes revolving around how challenging it can be when your children inherit your personality, and while he knows they were mostly referencing biological factors and Harry is obviously more of a nurture believer than he is a nature one, there are definitive truths. Harry dreads some traits that they’ll pick up from him, but others inspire curiosity in how they’ll manifest. Children have the best learning curves.

"Just for that, I'm giving you my gross healthy cereal," Harry tells him, heading for the stairs before Jackie can whine and suddenly recall all the times Harry has defined those words for him.

He calls Louis while he prepares their lunches. Breakfast is a simple Lucky Charms/fruit salad combo, the quickest meal he can get in front of them that isn't frozen and/or packed with a thousand calories. On Thursdays, Louis gets them ready and brings them to school, and without fail, every single time, he buys them McDonald’s for breakfast. And Mondays after school, too. He claims they need the pick me up for an unfortunate start to the week. Harry has no issue with McDonald’s every once in a while, but twice a week every week is pushing it.

One time, he overheard Louis telling them not to tell Harry that they’d had it. Initially, Jackie said, very scandalised, “I can’t lie to my father,” and Harry was so touched he physically laid a hand over his chest. And then Louis suggested McNuggets the next day as well, and Jackie was quick to switch positions and declare, “I can lie to my father. I can.” Harry packed three Oreos instead of five in his lunch the next day.

“Baby,” he starts when Louis answers the phone, balancing his mobile with his shoulder as he fills their lunch bowls with leftover spaghetti. “Do you know where my belt is?”

“Harry Styles, I’m with a patient,” Louis answers.

“That’s Harry Tomlinson-Styles to you,” he says. He knows Louis is fighting a grin at that. “But really, where’s it at?”

“You literally have a thousand belts, Harold,” he sighs. It’s quiet enough in the background for Harry to know that he’s stepped away from his patient.

“Louis. Baby. I can’t wear either of my three other belts with this patterned shirt. It’ll look tacky.”

“Right, of course,” he says amusedly. “So bloody posh, honestly. You put it in your sock drawer.”

Harry hums. He must have dropped it in accidentally. “If you don’t like it then you shouldn’t have put a ring on it,” he drawls, wincing when he sees their biscuit stash is done. They get very squinty and pouty when there’s no lunch biscuit, especially considering they’re only allowed dessert on weekends. “Get the kids something sweet after school, biscuits are done. Mildly sweet. Under 500.”

“Shit, yeah, okay. Love you,” and then he hangs up. The second Harry puts the phone down, Zoe is screeching from upstairs: “Papa, Jackie won’t button my shirt!”

Harry sighs. He’s heard those string of words too often. What it is is that Jackie believes that at almost-five-years-old, Zoe should be able to do up her own buttons, and that she ‘can’t learn if she’s never challenged’. Harry has the most smartarsed son this side of Germany. He just doesn’t want to do it.

“Jackson, be nice to your sister!” he calls up.

“I am!” he yells back. “She’s not a baby!”

Harry sighs again. He’ll just do it himself when he goes back up.

He finishes bagging the sliced tangerines for Zoe, apples for Jackie, and throws them into their lunch bags. Right now, Zoe is using a Peppa Pig lunchbox, much to Harry’s disgruntlement. (He doesn’t get Peppa. Louis patted Harry on the back the first time he saw it, when Jackie was still a toddler, and asked with confusion what the point of them jumping in mud for fifteen minutes was. He can tolerate most children’s shows, and he even likes Thomas by now, but Peppa does not—Peppa frustrates him. Sometimes he thinks he’s okay with it, and then they rerun the mud episode, and he’s filled with intensely repressed frustration. Louis says that Peppa is an acquired taste, and that by the time they have their third [their third], he’ll be rooting for her just as hard as he and Zoe are. Harry doesn’t see that happening, but to each their own.) Jackie has a purple paisley that he chose himself that Louis claims is breaking down his vision quicker than necessary, but 1) Harry, of all people, surely knows Louis doesn’t mind paisley, and 2) Louis’ vision is already completely broken down.

Lunches done, he bounds upstairs to finish getting dressed and check that Zoe and Jackie haven't gorged each other's eyes out over a handful of buttons.

When he opens the door to the pale sea green of their walls, he is glad to find two fully intact pairs of eyes staring back at him. Jackie is about done, just slipping his socks on, but as Harry expected, Zoe remains unbuttoned. And she doesn't have a vest underneath.

"Why doesn't Zoe have a vest on?" he directs at Jackie, walking in and grabbing a clean one from her drawer. He squats down in front of her so he can shrug her button down off her shoulders.

"She didn't want one," he says, curls falling into his face as he tries at tying his own laces.

Harry slips the vest over her hair, waiting expectantly as she prods her arms through the holes. "Zoe never wants to wear anything," Harry reminds him, getting her plain white uniform shirt back on and quickly doing it all up. His mouth twitches in the hint of a smile when aforementioned girl beams self-satisfactorily. "Do you, sweetheart?"

"Never," she agrees. Harry needs to send her over to Caroline or Lydia so she can get her hair fixed up. Between the two of them, he and Louis have watched at least four dozen How To Handle Black Girl Hair videos, but so far it’s all seemed fruitless. Every time Harry tries to comb out her hair she bursts into tears. For obvious reasons, they gladly transfer her over to Harry’s friends or, when they’re not available, a salon. The stylist at their usual one alternates between calling them adorable and laughing at their uselessness. "I'm hungry, Papa.”

“I would imagine,” Harry nods, wiggling her navy jumper on over her head. “We can put your shoes on later, you two go ahead and eat before your food gets soggy, yeah?”

“Pancakes soggy with syrup?” Jackie asks faux-innocently, giving up on his trainers and standing up.

“Your old people cereal will sog up faster than Zoe’s Lucky Charms will, might wanna get a headstart,” he suggests, smiling at the pouty glare Jackie aims his way. He gets that one directly from Louis. Harry’s lovely and grumpy boys.

 

Harry finishes getting dressed around seven thirty, almost forty, as he usually does. It doesn’t take him long, contrary to popular belief and the lies that Louis loves to spread. Very often, Louis takes longer than he does, if only because he spends ten minutes staring at himself in the mirror and contemplating whether he wants to shave or not.

His belt is, in fact, in his sock drawer. This is his oldest and simplest belt, but it’s his favourite. The leather is the most durable he’s ever come across, it only cost five pounds, and he once tied Louis’ hands up with it and spent an hour eating him out.

God. Harry misses sex so much.

He makes a quick stop into their room to grab their rucksacks from the hook on their door. Jackie is plain and green, and Zoe’s is Ninja Turtles paraphernalia. She likes so many different things that it’s impossible to focus on one theme. One time, Louis bought her a TMNT blanket, and all she asked was where Peppa was.

Downstairs, Jackie and Zoe are almost done with breakfast.

Zoe lifts a spoonful up at him in offering after he good jobs them, and he gratefully takes it, humming in thanks at the two marshmallow pieces she’s graced him with.

“How come Daddy gets to eat Coco Pops and we can’t?” Jackie asks, popping a slice of banana into his mouth.

“Because Daddy is thirty-five and can destroy his body however he wants,” Harry replies easily, grabbing a protein shake from the kitchen cupboard. To some extent, anyway. Harry refused to bring a child into the mix until he stopped smoking, but getting cereal thrown at him whenever he tries to read out Coco Pops’ nutrition information isn’t something he needs to keep going through. "You guys done? Gotta get going."

"You didn't eat anything," Zoe accuses. “You’re not hungry?”

“Got me a shake, baby, see,” he motions, waving the bottle. “Think I’m gonna get a banana, as well.”

Zoe squints. She reminds Harry of Louis so much sometimes that he can’t believe it. “That’s not enough, that’s not a full brekkie. You gotta buy something. Okay?”

“Yes, Princess Zoe,” Harry drawls, amused.

“Thank you,” she says primly.

Jackie pops the last strawberry from their shared fruit bowl into his mouth, and Harry takes that as cue to announce that it’s time to go. It's 7:47. They always cut it so close, and one of these days Harry will take his own advice and wake them up ten minutes earlier, but they've only been tardy a handful of times between the two of them, and Harry hasn't been late to work once in the past few months, so he figures the pressure keeps them steady. Louis was like, "I say that all the time! And you never believe me!" but the difference in Harry cutting it close and Louis cutting it close is that Louis has been late to every single doctor appointment he's ever had and Zoe and Jackie received Perfect Attendance certificates last month.

"Okay," Harry starts in front of the door. "What are we missing?"

"Lunch?" Check, they parrot back at him. "Coats? Keys? Wallet? Do you have your umbrellas in your bags?"

"Check, check, check, and yes," they say. Jackie adds, "homework is in, too, I checked last night. Do you have your phone?"

"I could not make it through the day without my phone," Harry says seriously as he unlocks the door and leads them to his Range. Leasing it has been his only big lawyer's salary splurge.

“Whataya do on your phone, Papa?” Zoe asks curiously as he attaches her into her booster seat. “Seatbelt, Jackie.” I know, Jackie tells her, but he hadn’t touched it before she said.

“Well,” Harry finally answers as he backs out of their driveway, taking the familiar path to their school, “I text, I read, I spend hours on hours looking at weird pictures of your Daddy I have saved on there…” For a broad definition of weird, anyway.

“Why hours? ‘S’just Daddy.”

Their school is absurdly close to their home. It was one of the main selling factors to he and Louis deciding to rent it all those years ago.

Just Daddy. Louis’ going to gawk in offense when Harry tells him. “He’s so pretty, though. The prettiest, innit?”

Zoe makes a considering noise. “I guess.”

“You guys are gross,” Jackie says when Harry pulls up to their drop off area. Harry waves to Zoe’s teacher, Ms. Garcia, where she’s waiting with the other reception students. She waves back, smiling. She’s very nice, even though she likes Louis more than she likes Harry. Harry gets it. Louis is pretty great.

“I love you, too,” Harry assures him, leaning over the console before they get down so he can get kisses, one on each cheek. “Both of you.”

Zoe pulls on a strand of his hair before they both jump down and run off, right as the first warning bell rings. Harry won’t ever not miss them, even if it’s just a little.

 

Louis calls Harry a quarter til two, right as Harry is settling down to start in on the sandwich he and Liam picked up from the shop across the street, Liam and Lydia sat across from him. He sighs and puts it down.

“Yeah, baby?” he answers.

“Love of my life, apple of my eye, big dicked angel of my heart,” Louis starts.

Harry interrupts him. “Alright, what do you want?”

“I need you to get the kids from school today. Please.”

Ah. “Lou, I still have four hours left of work, remember? Why?”

“Niall has an appointment today about his knee, at two, and he needs me to take his afternoon appointments for him.”

Niall’s a physical therapist, why can’t he check himself up. “Yeah, but where am I meant to put them? I can’t bring them here, I work with divorcing parents and five year olds with abandonment issues, and as the adoption book tells us—” Again with that bloody book, Liam mumbles. Harry flips him off. “They don’t need to be around this environment—” Jackie threw a horrible fit last month because Harry and Louis went out to dinner and returned ten minutes later than they’d promised, and by the end of it they were all crying. Harry is definitely not bringing him by the firm.

“Have you finished?” Louis cuts off exasperatedly.

Harry twirls a curl around his index finger. “I have finished.”

“Thank you for the speech, Dr. Freud,” Louis says. “But I already called Caroline and she says she can take them until we’re ready.”

“Oh.” Harry clears his throat, chagrined. “That was smart of you.”

“Someone has to have the brains in this marriage, love. Bye, yeah?”

 

"Where's Daddy? Why are you picking us up?" Zoe asks as she climbs into Harry's car, Jackie following.

"Daddy had to deal with some work stuff," Harry answers, twisting his body over so he can help her get buckled in. "So if it's okay with you guys, I'm going to bring you to Caroline's for a while, just until Daddy or I are free and can pick you up."

"Yes," Zoe exclaims. "That's okay."

"Brooklyn should be there," Harry says faux-casually, glancing up to see Jackie flush bright red and keep his gaze locked on his lunchbox. Brooklyn is only a year older than he is, and even though they've known each other since they got Jackie, he has recently developed the cutest crush on her. He literally fell over himself last week trying to hand her a crayon, from what Louis tells Harry. It's so lovely.

When Harry has started en route to Caroline's, right as the colour in Jackie's cheeks have started to fade away and they're stuck under a red light, Zoe adds, "Jackie's in love with Brooklyn," almost as an afterthought. The way she pokes her tongue out when Jackie's blush flares back up says otherwise.

"Stop talking," Jackie hisses, covering his face with his jacket.

Zoe giggles. She's a menace.

 

Are u off work yet, Louis texts him, 5:30 on the dot.

Yeah, I'm walking out now. Gonna go get the kids. You?

I'm at home
You should stop by before you get them
Just for a little

Oh? Is that so?

I miss ur cock:(
And I have 2 fingers in me arse

Fuck, Harry replies, transmitting as much emotion as he can as he presses send.

 

"Baby?" Harry is calling out as soon as he steps inside, locking and slamming the door shut behind him at the same time that he's already working on unbuttoning his shirt.

"Up here!" Louis calls back. His voice sounds higher than it normally is, and—fuck. God. It's been three weeks. Harry is always telling the kids not to run inside the house, but he figures everyone should break some of their own rules sometimes.

"Hey," he rushes out as he skids into their room, not caring whether or not it closes behind him because it doesn't matter, because they're home alone, because Harry can have Louis make as much noise as he wants without worrying that Zoe is going to burst in because she needs to wee.

God.

"Hey," Louis grins. He's stripped down and spread out on their bed, lithe and lovely and prepping himself with three fingers for Harry's cock. "Caroline says 6:15."

Harry makes a noise in the back of his throat as he hurriedly sheds off every article of clothing restricting his body. He needs to wear fewer buttons, fuck. "Definitely won't take that long."

"Dunno if I've missed your stamina as much as I've missed your cock," Louis tells him, removing the fingers and spreading his thighs that much more as Harry, finally naked, climbs onto the bed and in between his legs.

"Three weeks," Harry replies simply. That's explanation enough. He grabs at Louis’ inner thigh and presses it down, eyes fixated on where his hole is slick and stretched for Harry. “God, Lou, I wanna go down on you so bad.” He uses his other hand to ease the tip of his thumb in, swearing at the heat.

“Which way?” Louis asks, hips bearing down like he’s trying to get more. Harry huffs out a breath and removes his thumb, leaning down until his chest is pressing Louis’ into the mattress. He’s going to give him more. He wishes he could have opened Louis up himself, but as he lines up and starts to push into the soft give of Louis’ arse, he’s just glad that he gets to get his cock in there as soon as possible.

“Both ways,” he answers breathlessly, balls snug on Louis’ bum. He braces his forearm besides Louis’ head, holding as much weight as he can on his own upper body as he starts to move. “Fuck, baby, I’ve missed you so much.”

The first time Harry fucked Louis was the first time he fucked anyone bareback. They realised after that this wasn't the safest option, but they'd already been best friends and Louis was graduating and they didn't know if he would stay in London for grad school (he did, although it was a different university) and they were high and Louis was still the most beautiful person Harry had ever seen. Louis is still the most beautiful person Harry's ever seen.

He also still has the nicest and tightest body Harry's ever been in. All bias aside.

He works his hips at a steady pace, trying to work in at the right angle, make it easier for Louis to get there. Harry knows that he himself could just mindlessly hump away into Louis' body and he'd get there in less than ten minutes, tricks and positions and well-learned trade secrets aside; that's just how desperate and up for it he feels.

The only people who claim married-with-kids sex is always calm and soothing are people who evidently never had as great and frequent shags as he and Louis used to. Those people also didn't masturbate as often as teenaged Harry did. They don't know anything.

"Wait, fuck," Louis gasps. "Harry, like—" He twists his body, grinding up into Harry's movements. His leg comes up to wrap around Harry's waist, digging his toes into the small of Harry's back in a way that's almost painful. Harry follows his wordless instructions, until—"God, yeah, babe. Fuck."

Harry gets lost in it, panting and moaning into the crook of his husband's neck. Everything builds up so quickly. He's not entirely sure when Louis starts wanking off, but he is aware of when he shoves his grip away and wraps his own hand around, getting him off at a faster speed than his body is grinding in.

Louis' fingers thread through the sweaty curls at the back of his neck, pulling him up for a kiss, tongue slipping in and riling Harry up. God. He's such a fantastic kisser, Louis is. They used to waste afternoons away fucking around on Netflix and snogging until their lips were hot to the touch and as sensitive as they appeared.

In some ways, Harry's orgasm sneaks up on him, but the dual nature of humanity reminds him that he's also been ready to shoot off since he walked in and saw Louis naked and fingering himself. So.

Regardless, it's fucking brilliant. It feels like it goes on forever, only extended further when Louis' arse clenches around him as he comes, too, groaning and spilling across Harry's fingers.

Harry has two seconds of post-coital bliss, and then—

"Did you put an alarm on for this?" he asks Louis in disbelief, lifting his head and gawking at him through the curls plastered to the sweat on his face.

Louis hums. "Aren't you the one always saying I need to be more timely?"

"Louis Tomlinson," Harry says.

"That's Louis Tomlinson-Styles to you," he murmurs in reply, eyes closed and lips quirking up.

They still end up being a little late, because of course Harry has to kiss him for at least five more minutes with that cheek.

 

Harry goes to get Zoe and Jackie himself ("I have come inside my fucking bum and you're asking me if I wanna tag along? Tell Liam I want divorce papers right now."), body pleasantly achy with sex. He never used to get achy. If he wasn't born to be a middle class married dad, he'd be complaining about old age as much as Louis does. As it is.

"You took too long," Caroline tells him at the door. "Zoe! Jackie! Your daddy's here!"

"I'm Papa, not Daddy, come on, Caroline. Keep up," he jokes, engulfing her in a tight hug in thanks until she pinches his side as sign of enough.

"How'd that come around, anyway? Is there some deeper meaning to it?" Harry can hear the familiar patter of feet as they round the corner, and he braces himself for the inevitable barreling into his body.

"Not really," he admits. "We rock paper scissored for Dad the week before we could officially pick up Jackie and Louis won. He cheated."

"At rock paper scissors?" Caroline asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Absolutely." He leans down so he can hurl Zoe up with an exaggerated grunt, smiling at her shriek and giggle. Jackie is trying to look cool and collected, but Harry's sure that's only because Brooklyn is right there. "Jackie, doesn't your Dad cheat at games all the time?"

Jackie shrugs. " I guess."

"Alright, stud," Harry laughs. "Hiiii, Brooklyn."

"Hiiiii, Uncle Haz," she beams. "Mummy and I did Zoe's hair, so make sure you take good care of it.”

“I see, and would like to offer my sincerest thanks,” he says very seriously.

“Cool. Can I have a tenner?”

Caroline sighs and rolls her eyes, patting Harry and his kids on the cheek before turning away. “Lock the car behind you, honey.”

“What it is,” Harry answers as he balances Zoe onto his left arm so he can squeeze his wallet out from the back pocket of his denims, “is that I’m going to start a trust fund for you, and put tenners in for every time I would have seen you. Uni’ll be completely paid off by the time you’re twelve.”

He’s dismissed two minutes later. Harry can’t believe the amount of disrespect he receives. Maybe he should be tougher.

“Papa,” Zoe asks once they’re in the car and driving away, “why’d you take so long?”

“Yeah, and why’s your hair look like that?” Jackie adds. “All mad, and stuff. You look weird.”

Harry will not blush in front of his own children.

“Do you guys want pizza? I think you deserve pizza. Let’s get pizza.”

Harry’s not going to get tougher, not when it comes to his kids. He’s okay with that. He’s definitely okay with that.