Louis doesn't understand why you're there.
Harry's explained to him three times now, that you're proper together, that it works, that it sounds confusing but it really isn't, and every time there's a moment where you think maybe Louis gets it, like maybe he even remembers, but then in the blink of an eye it's gone again and he's frowning at you and asking you if you've got better things to do than hover around in his hospital room looking like a kicked puppy, and you just can't do it a fourth time.
The doctors say the short term loss is temporary, just a sign his body is mending, that eventually Harry will fill in the holes of his life and he'll be able to keep those memories, but they're not sure about the long term. You're not sure which hurts worse, the repetitiveness of knowing Harry's taken on the burden of telling Louis why you're there or the fact that maybe he'll never actually truly remember why you're there, that he won't remember Thursday night dinners or the stupid way the three of you have to sleep together so he's the right amount of warm and you're the right amount of cool and Harry's the right amount of spread out all over the bed. It's all a lot to take in all at once and you feel like it hasn't let up since the moment your phone rang while you were attempting to be a gym rat for the nine hundredth time.
It's late in the evening when Niall hobbles up to you. You can tell it's him without looking by the scuffing sound of his trainers, the weariness of a day's worth of walking all caught up with him. You've been staring at the vending machine for probably ages, minutes, hours, maybe even days at this point, really, stuck in some sort of mind-numbing trance watching the rings spin and the crisps fall with a thud. You've not actually getting anything out of it yourself, just shuffling out of the way as people need to use it. You've not used it the whole time you've been at the hospital, don't really carry change around anymore. It's got one of those card reader things but you've always been hesitant to use them, like what if it screws up or you swipe it wrong or too much in your impatience and you get overcharged. (You can hear Louis laughing at you, gently mocking as he says "It's not exactly like you're strapped for the cash, Nick," just as Harry would say a bit morosely, "Some people really wouldn't be able to afford it if they were charged twice, we're lucky.") A doctor stops in front of it and swipes his card, shoe tapping impatiently on the ground as he waits for his card to process. The thud of his items hitting the door of the machine echoes in your ears and leaves you wondering if it's anything like the sound Louis's head made when he fell out of the car and crashed into the pavement.
The doctor hurries off, probably for what's left of his lunch break. Everyone around always seems in such a hurry to get somewhere but you're stuck in the same waiting room chair.
Niall clears his throat, like he's alerting you to his presence since maybe you're too out of it to pay attention to your surroundings. He's not altogether wrong. You have no idea what's happened in the world beyond the fact that there's two less candy bars and six less bags of crisps in the machine than there was when you sat down.
"Knee still bothering you?" you say, figuring it's polite to start some sort of conversation. You can't bring yourself to look at Niall, still unreasonably annoyed that his injuries are mostly superficial, bit of a beat-up face and probably half a dozen bruises in other places, and you know that's an awful thought, a selfish thought, but it's still there, that petulance that life is unfair and why did it happen to me. It just sucks that only your boys may have some sort of long term damage.
Niall startles when you speak, like maybe he was just content to stare at the vending machine with you after all. He sits down, taking your question as the tentative invite for company that it was, wincing all the way down. "Ah, yeah, but the doctors insist it's fine, just a little sore where it was smashed into the seat in front of me. Bruised but fine," he shrugs slightly, like it's not big deal that he almost died six days ago. You've come to appreciate Niall so much in the last few days, how he manages to just take it as it comes, how he can slip into any situation and make everything feel just a bit more comfortable. Just like he's doing right now, really. You don't really know what to say back to him, so you don't say anything, and you don't even feel like you should.
Three more people come and go to the machine as the two of you sit there in silence. Niall's leg with a good knee jiggles constantly, the only sign he's not quite comfortable, a nervous habit he's had since before you got to know him, and it shakes the whole row of chairs, the motion keeping you from getting lost in your thoughts, maybe just a bit keeps you from drifting off into that line of thought that involves you no longer being a part of Louis's life since he'll never remember you again.
Niall takes a deep breath like he's going to say something, then stops. You wait, knowing there's something he wants to fill the silence with. Niall and silence just don't seem to fit together, in your head. Like Louis and silence. Or stillness. You don't like it when Louis is still.
Finally he says, like it's the most important thing on his mind, like he wasn't just about to ask something you wouldn't have an answer for, "Have you eaten today?"
You frown. You don't really have an answer to that, either, not an easy one. There was a gross tuna sandwich - wait no that was yesterday - and a salad, and definitely three cups of coffee that weren't good, grounds in the bottom of the white paper cup, because you remember thinking 'i wonder if someone could read these and tell me that my life is well and truly fucked or that everything is gonna be okay'. You definitely don't say that out loud. "I don't remember," you settle on responding. You've been sitting in front of a literal food source for a good chunk of time and never once has it occurred to you that you might maybe need some sustenance.
Niall grunts as acknowledgement, then promptly stands up and pops a bunch of change into the machine. You both watch as the coils slowly dispense a bag of crisps. It never makes it to the bottom though, hanging precariously at the end of the coil. Like a metaphor for your relationship, you think, a choked off gasp slipping out at the thought. Niall, bless him, says nothing, just sits back down beside you, flops an arm over onto the chair arm in case you want human contact. He doesn't hug you or attempt to comfort you or tell you things are alright, he waits. It's nice. You breathe, doing some of those dumb yoga exercises Harry had forced you to practice shortly before Cora was born, and you'd thought that yeah, it was probably helpful for someone expecting a child but that you would never in a million years have a use for them. Eventually Niall gets up again, looks around a bit, and then just...shakes the machine. Hard, harder than you would expect a scrawny Irishman to be able to shake a vending machine taller than him, but he does it and down falls not one bag of crisps, but two, double thudding into the bottom of the machine.
Niall scoops them out and hobbles his way back over and flops down into the chair, shoving one of the bags into your hands. "Two for the price of one, nice," he says. You don't say anything in return, but you do tear open the bag.
"I should go see Harry," you finally say, Harry who somehow has always been a calming presence in your life, despite the chaos he always seems to bring into it, today just another long display of case in point.
Niall shakes his head and for a second you worry that something else has happened, that you've been wasting valuable time staring at absolutely nothing when you could've been staring at Harry for possibly the last time. It must show on your face because Niall rushes out, "No, no, he's fine. That's where I came from, though. He was getting ready to take a nap, is all. Made a big deal of having the nurse fluff his pillow and all that, thanking her profusely, his whole schtick, you know how it is." You do know how it is, how Harry just charms everyone like it's his job, how he doesn't even seem to know how to turn it off even has he's stuck immobile in a flimsy white gown. Niall says, "It's how I know he's feeling a bit better. Just still pretty tired from it all. He'll be fine. We're fine." He gestures towards Harry's room down the hallway as he speaks and you get stuck on his hands, can't look away from where his fingers all scratched up from where he'd had to claw his way out of the burning car.
"Are you though? Louis -"
Niall interrupts, grabbing one of your flailing hands and squeezing until both your hands are still in your lap, until everything is still except the whole world around you. You honestly can't remember a time you haven't seen some piece of Niall moving, jittery in every interview, every conversation he has.
Niall says, stern, "Fine. We have to be. He has to be. And even if he's not, we'll deal with it, okay. We're alive."
"You're handling this all well," you scoff.
Niall scoffs back. "Nah I'm not. I think you've probably had more sleep than me the last few days." You've slept exactly five hours in five days, know so because Aimee had come to get you from the hospital late yesterday and shoved you into her and Ian's bed and barred the door from the outside. After an hour of trying to get out you'd laid down and woke up to the phone ringing, Harry on the line just to check-in, like he'd promised you the moment he'd woken up after surgery. You'd rushed back to the hospital after that, phone conversation not enough, constant worry that some other part of Harry's body might betray him, that maybe today would be the day Louis wouldn't even remember how to wake up. That's all your life is now, really: one worry after another.
"It's a wonder either of us can even communicate then," you reply after a delay.
"Muscle memory, probably," Niall replies, and it almost makes you smile. "How's Cora?"
You think back to how you used to smile every time she was mentioned, and it seems so long ago despite being less than a week. You wonder if you'll ever get back to that point. "Alright, mostly, I think. Confused if anything. Wonders why her daddies aren't around. I know I should be spending more time with her, paying extra special attention to her but I just. What if he never remembers her?"
Niall shrugs and says, "then you make new memories," like it's as simple as that.
"Poppy," Cora shouts as you finally stumble your way into your house, the house you share with your boys, the house that maybe you've been avoiding as much as possible for the past five days. So much for a quiet entrance.
"Heya little love," you whisper, scooping her up into your arms. Your back does ache a bit from the hospital chairs, joints popping a bit as you stretch down to grab her. You can almost hear Louis jesting about your age, an "old man" comment or two, Harry piping up in your defense, the two of them play bickering over something that used to bother you quite a bit but no longer does, now that you've got them. What's left of them. You try to shake the moroseness out of your mind and end up blurring the world around the edges a bit. Maybe some rest will really do you good.
Daisy rounds the corner, her hands held awkwardly in the air, covered in flour and some other weird baking ingredients. You've never been so glad to have a giant pool of friends who love to babysit, glad that you didn't have to call your parents to see if they could come down and stay for a bit, or depend on Harry's or Louis's. You know that any of them would've done so in a heartbeat, but there's enough stress without the responsibility of a three year old as well. "We were working our way to bed, I swear. She's watching The Aristocats because she insisted it would help her fall asleep, and I think she may have been until you came in the door."
"And you're baking?"
"We were...experimenting earlier. It actually didn't work out so well, I was just cleaning up."
"So it is bedtime then."
"Bedtime, Poppy," Cora echoes, poking the side of his neck. "Duchess and O'Malley putting the kitties to bed. I go bed, too."
"Dunno that I've ever seen that bit, love." You've seen it. You've seen it probably fifteen times with Harry, can picture his goofy grin as he sings along. It's been ages since you've watched it start to finish, probably before Cora ever came along.
"It's Da's favorite." It's a struggle for you not to burst into tears on the spot.
Daisy's finished cleaning up when you come back down the stairs, brushing your hand along the artwork down the staircase, hodgepodge of things Harry has picked out in his travels mixed with random bits Louis has purchased on a whim. There's also the giant collage of Cora full of professional shots from not long after she was born mixed with a shot of each of you holding her on the day she was born, Louis looking completely calm and at home holding a baby, you looking absolutely terrified but already in love, and Harry still in his dressing gown beaming up at you and Louis as he holds her. Maternity gowns seemed a lot nicer than the flimsy thing he's wearing now, back at the hospital alone in his room.
"How are they?" Daisy asks softly, curling up on the couch next to you after you flop down next to her. The Aristocats has ended, but the menu screen is still up, Everybody Wants to be A Cat looping in the background, Daisy's foot swinging idly along to the beat.
"Harry's mobile now, standing up a bit. He'll have to use a chair to get around for a while though, his wrist's still too weak for crutches and they don't want him to pull his stitches."
"That's good," Daisy encourages.
"There's no change in Louis," you say flatly, trying to shut down her positiveness for some cruel unknown reason, letting the grief wave slowly begin to crash over you. "He still doesn't give a shit as to why I'm there." You're so tired of crying, tired of wiping your face off, definitely tired of the perpetual headache that comes with it all. You say as much to Daisy.
"Sleep would probably help," she says, quietly as possible after a minute, like she knows it's not a thing you can really do but it needs said anyway.
You change the subject instead. "How was she today, really?"
"Her usual self, mostly. Really excited about our baking project and not even that disappointed when it turned out rubbish, demanding but polite about in that way that only she and Harry can be, I know you know what I'm talking about," Nick does. "She asked about her dads a few times though, and she's definitely figured out something's wrong by how much they're not here, so I may have introduced the idea to her that they'd had a bad day of it. I hope that's okay."
Nick nods, hugely grateful that at least the seed has been planted, so to speak. "Yeah, yeah. I need to tell her. Harry asked about her today. I think he's been too in pain to worry about her up until then, which is just. Something I don't want to think about," you laugh unsteadily, "Really I don't think he was even ready to see her either, really, until he knew he would be stable enough to not like, need surgery in the middle of a conversation." You've added a lot of terrifying and unforgettable images to your memory in the last week but one of the worst is definitely Harry, mid-sentence and then suddenly vomiting up blood as his insides gave out on him, the vivid redness of his blood splatter on white sheets instantly stored in your mind in Technicolor forever as you stood there gaping like a fish while nurses and the doctor who had told you barely hours earlier that Harry was doing fine and would make a full recovery rushed him into surgery.
Daisy says, "Well I've got that thing tomorrow but I think Collette was planning to be here, so she could bring Cora to the hospital at some point. I can call her and ask right now?"
"No, I'll do it." You're not even sure when you last charged your phone, it might be dead for all you know, all the texts and voicemails of people wanting to know what's going on, what's happening.
"No you won't, you'll go stare at your lovely daughter for a few more minutes and then you'll go right to bed. Even if you don't sleep much, your body will thank you for the horizontal immobility."
"Ooh, big words, you." You sigh heavily, trying to let the exhaustion take over. "I can't just turn off my brain, Daisy."
"It doesn't hurt to try."
"Hurts me that Louis isn't trying." It slips out and sounds silly, you know it does, but it's the truth.
"Oh, Nick. He is, his brain is, you said that it's repairing itself. It's all in there."
"But what if it's not, what if some of it got left behind on that pavement?"
She shakes her head sternly and picks up a hand, squeezes it tightly. "Can't think like that, plain and simple."
"Yeah. Thanks, Daisy."
"Anytime, you know it. Love you. Go to bed."
She pulls you up off the couch and you see her out the door in return before carefully climbing back up the stairs. Cora is sound asleep when you check in on her, and you watch her sleep for a few minutes before realizing the door frame is literally propping you up, so you finally stagger your way into the bedroom and crash land into a bed that feels far too empty without Harry and Louis.
Harry's looking tons better when you arrive the next morning, sitting up in bed and everything. There's still a gash on his forehead from a piece of windshield, one that might leave a scar and set up tons of future ruined beauty queen jokes, maybe, in a hypothetical future where you can joke about this sort of thing. As it is you don't think you need any more possibly permanent reminders.
"Hello Nicholas Grimshaw," Harry says.
"Hello Harold," you reply, pulling the standard hospital chair back up to the bed from where the nurses have shoved it out of their way. The scrape of it along the floor is startlingly loud in the mostly empty room. Harry's filled it best he could with cards and flowers and this ridiculous stuffed unicorn that almost matches one Cora has, but it's still a hospital room and there's an echo that won't ever go away. "How's it?"
"Well the morphine is still nice," Harry grins, lopsided, and you can see it then how his eyes aren't quite as sharp as they’d normally be, the way the corners of his mouth pinch up when he reaches for a drink of water. "They've told me I'm getting cut off soon, though. Something about dependency and all that."
If he can joke about it you can joke about it to, you think. You can. "Yes I have heard that that's a thing," you say.
"I am better, though. Look!" Harry raises his right arm, wrist still bandaged from the sprain, and manages only the slightest wince. "Almost full range of motion again! Pulls the stitches a little bit, so they told me not to do it very much. But that's temporary."
"I'm told it's all temporary," you say, trying to sound upbeat about it, more jokes and all that, but failing apparently, as Harry frowns. He keeps frowning as he struggles one-armed to eat the meal a nurse brings in for him, waving you off when you try to help. The telly isn't on and the sound of sterilized air being pumped into the room grows more maddening by the minute, Harry's intermediate chewing barely covering the consistent whirr of it. Yesterday he said his throat was sore from all the screaming he did after they crashed and you wonder how much it still hurts to swallow.
"Hey so, I was told I could see him in about an hour. Are you gonna come with me today?" He's stopped frowning when you look up. You hadn't realized you'd stopped watching him eat.
"Harry, I don't know if I can."
"What if today's the day, though?"
"Okay. Just think about it." He finishes the last of his JELLO, disgusting slurping sound at the end of the cup. "How's our princess?"
A safe change of subject and you appreciate it, smiling as much as you can muster. "She's wonderful, as usual. Collette's gonna bring her by around three, if that's alright?"
"Yes. I've missed her. And I'm ready to see her now. Have you told her?"
"No," you sigh, "I'm not sure how to? Slash I don't wanna. Daisy introduced the idea that you weren't quite okay to her yesterday, so I'm kinda hoping she starts asking Collette questions and I don't have to do any explaining? Mature of me, I know."
"I don't love you for your maturity, it's true."
"Heyyyyyyyyy." You grasp at your chest in mock wounded pride, and Harry laughs, then immediately coughs and winces. You try not to feel too badly for making him laugh. Laughter is good. Means he's alive. "Sorry," you say, just in case, but he waves the apology away, tapping on his medicine button, relaxing back down into the bed as it pumps through his IV.
"It's okay, Nick. I want to laugh. Even if it hurts."
You sit in comfortable silence for a little while, until Harry says, "Just glad I'm still around to tell you I love you, you know."
"Me too, popstar. Me too."
You're sitting on the side with his injured arm and wrist, so you can't quote hold hands without worry of hurting him, but he nudges you with his elbow best he can. "He'll remember, you know."
You don't know but you hang on Harry's hope.
You don't go with Harry to see Louis. You just can't deal with it, you can't. Maybe later with Cora. Maybe not until tomorrow. Maybe miraculously you won't ever have to deal with it ever again, because when you take your daughter, the daughter you share with Harry and Louis to visit Louis maybe he'll remember you, maybe he'll remember how she sounds when she sees him and shouts "Daddalou!!" and jumps up on his bed, probably causing him to cringe in pain. You'll shout at her and admonish her, but he will say "Hiya Cora love," like you all do when you greet her, and everything will be okay.
You're sitting out in the waiting room stuck in a memory, nurses walking past you. You're in your regular chair, the same chair you spoke to Niall in yesterday, because now you have a regular chair. That's a thing you've started calling it.
It wasn't even Harry's first time away from Cora and you and Louis could handle it 100%, but it was the longest so far, and the first time you could tell Cora truly understood that her Daddy was missing, that he didn't just pop down to the shops to bring her back a toy or he wasn't out at the studio making money to buy her more pressies. That he'd been gone for a few days. She'd been mopey and crying nearly constantly by the time your Skype date with Harry finally rolled around, and Louis had tried all his secret big brother tricks on top of both yours and his not so secret dad tricks, and nothing seemed to settle her down.
"Da!" She had shout-cried once Skype managed to connect (after three tries) and Harry's face appeared on the screen, looking slightly tired and far away but also brilliant in a way that he only seemed to look when he was in LA. He had beamed immediately at the sound of her voice and Louis had made a choked off noise when Cora tried to climb off his lap into the laptop screen, struggling not to drop her as her weight shifted as her little hand punched the screen with the dexterity of an 18-month-old. You cringed at the noise the collision made.
Harry just laughed and you remember thinking how much you'd missed hearing the sound. "Hiya, Cora love. I see you're behaving very well for your daddies."
"This is downright delightful compared to what she has been, actually," you said over Louis's scoff, gently helping him pull Cora back into his lap. "Harry's still an ocean away, little love, we just get his pretty face through the screen right now."
"He'll be back soon," Louis rushed out as Cora's face dropped immediately when Nick finished talking.
"Da," she repeated, pointing at the screen and sounding sadder already.
Harry had cooed, "Don't worry, little love, I'll be home soon. I'm sorry I've had to be away for so long. I promise it won't happen again any time soon."
Harry was gone for two weeks then. He hasn't broken his promise yet, and you're so very grateful for that, even the smallest of things. Even if it's doubtful Cora even remembers, if Harry himself even remembers. There is a lot of forgetting going around, after all.
Collette arrives promptly at three with Cora while Nick's sitting outside Harry's room waiting. Always waiting. It's Harry's first physical therapy appointment, a very light amount, just to help his shoulder not lock up. Her stuffed unicorn, aptly named Miss Unicorn, is dangling from her hand and she's clearly a mixture of scared and excited to be at the hospital, her little eyes huge taking in all the nurses rushing around and the bright sterileness of everything. She hasn't been terribly sick much so far in her short life, a fact you're unbelievably grateful for, and the hospital and doctors in general are still very much an abstract concept for her. It's a horribly sobering thought to think that maybe one of her first memories of a hospital will be of her daddies all banged up, surrounded by machines and dressed in hospital gowns. You've put this off long enough, though.
"Hiya Cora love," you say, crouching down to her level and hugging her gently. "You doing alright with Miss Collette today?" Collette hadn't minded being called 'Auntie Collete' despite some hemming and hawing about how it made her feel far older than she felt, but Cora hadn't liked the word 'Aunt' much when she first started speaking, so Auntie Collete had gone by the wayside.
"She says we're here to see Daddalou and he's really sick and I need be gentle," Cora rushes out. "I miss him. I be gentle!"
You smile and poke her in the cheek in her little dimple before standing back up creakily, an idle passing thought to the bad back that she hopefully hasn't inherited from Harry and apparently you. "Okay, good. He's hurt his head a lot and he's really confused, so just remember."
Harry comes wheeling out of his room then, pushed by his PT nurse, his face pale and sweaty from the exertion of PT but so very much alive. So very alive, you keep thinking as you watch Cora take in the wheelchair and hug her unicorn just a little bit tighter. You almost cry when she says in a tiny voice, "Do I need be gentle with you too, Da?"
Harry smiles big, his dimples popping out for the first time since he woke up, you think. "Just a little bit banged up, yeah, gentle would probably be good."
"It's the word of the day," you manage out.
"That's exactly what I said," Collette says, and you make an embarrassingly started noise in the back of your throat and immediately hope no one heard. You'd forgotten she was here, and you feel terrible. She's done so much, all your friends have done so much, but you're just. So tired. "It's okay," she says, clearly having noticed your surprise. She puts a hand on your arm gently, handling you like a startled child, like you expected Cora to be more like, honestly. "It's okay. I'm gonna go now though, if that's alright? If you need me to come get her or anything, you just call me, darling. Okay?" You nod, because there's too much happening in your head for words to come out. Collette turns to Harry and says, "It's good to see you. Good to see you alive and smiling."
Cora's handing Harry Miss Unicorn and quietly explaining that she too is sick to Harry, and maybe the two of them can help each other get better together, and you just can't believe the three of you have raised such a little darling, honestly. She looks to you, then Harry, and then back to Collette before saying, "I stay with daddies today? No more other people?"
You can't answer her. You should've been home with her more, should've brought her to the hospital earlier, should've done. Something. "Yeah, love," you finally manage out. "Just us today."
"Just the three of us," Harry adds on, looking at you pointedly.
"Just the three of us, for better or worse," you repeat, locking eyes with him. His widen and he nods sharply.
Cora doesn't hear you, doesn’t notice the sudden emotional charge of it all. She just chirps out, "Bye, Miss Collette! See you!" and goes back to explaining Miss Unicorn's dramatic life to Harry. Kids, honestly.
It's been nearly three days since you've seen Louis, at this point. You push Harry into the room slowly, Cora quietly walking beside the wheelchair with her hand in his good one, clearly unsure of what's about to happen. She hasn't cried the whole week, at least not while you've been around and not that anyone's told you, and you can't help but wait for the other shoe to drop, for the moment she realizes Something Is Horribly Wrong to happen and the waterworks to start. But maybe they won't. You've already cried enough for the both of you, probably.
Louis is reading a book when the three of you get into the room, which might be the most bizarre thing you've seen today on a scale of pretty out there things. You wonder if he'll remember what the book even says in five minutes. He obviously doesn't remember that he hates reading books, hates sitting still for more than five minutes.
You're the last one in, so you close the door gently behind you, hoping that someone will knock first if they need to interrupt. He looks at Harry, then at you, then at Cora, smiling slightly at her. You want to hope she sparks his memory, that it all comes rushing back, but the logical part of you also knows that Louis smiles at literally every child whose full attention he garners.
"Hello, Daddalou," Cora says bravely before you or even Harry manages to get anything out.
"Hello...Cora," Louis starts slowly. Your heart falls just a little bit further inside your chest, the lack of your traditional Cora greeting a clear testament to his continued lack of memory.
"You remember," Harry says, though, a bit wondrously, and you're confused. He clearly doesn't remember, can't remember Cora love little love baby love, the little rhyme/greeting/song combo you’ve had for her since practically the moment Harry started singing it to her before she was ever born.
Louis cocks his head in a very un-Louis-like way. It's a better reaction than the angry yelling Louis you'd experienced the last time you'd tried to speak to him with Harry but it is still very surreal for you. "I remember what you told me two hours ago, yeah. That's new, I take it?"
Harry makes a cut-off little noise, almost in pain, and you still don't get it, you think did Cora do something to hurt him, is Cora hurt, did he just remember he forgot to pay one of his many gym fees, all the things you normally think of before it finally clicks, before it sinks in. Louis doesn't remember you, but he remembers the /story/ of you. He doesn't remember the insanity of the day that was Cora's birth, but he remembers the fact that she exists. It's not a lot, but it's a start. It's a start.
"You kept a memory," you whisper. It's the first words you've said to Louis since he yelled at you to get out and never come back.
Louis's attention turns to you, focuses on you, and the rest of the world goes underwater. His eyes are so blue and a little red and bleary around the edges, but the same bright and slightly inquiring blue you see when you close your eyes. You can tell there's still so much missing behind them, almost a decade of memories not there, but there's a curiosity there that replaces the terrible uneasiness that was there three days ago. "Harry gave me the crash course. And then told me he's been giving me the crash course for several days. I'm really sorry I don't remember you."
Cora whispers frantically to Harry and he whispers back, nodding as she takes Miss Unicorn from him and slowly, gently, places her on Louis's chest. "Miss Unicorn's been sick, too. She gonna get better with you and Da." She says it like a statement, like there should be an 'or else' attached to the end of it, really, like she's a force of nature and Louis would do well not to disobey her.
"You're a frightful child," Louis says, then smiles. "What would happen if I didn't get better with...Miss Unicorn, did you say her name was?" He looks to you like he knows you're the one with the preference for simple names. Like maybe some part of him remembers that. You can't take the credit for Miss Unicorn though, that's all Harry's slow thinking to come up with something better.
"I'd be sad, of course." Cora replies.
Harry swallows down a sob and you step forward to squeeze one of his shoulders in reassurance, bumping against the back of his wheelchair. The movement pulls Louis's focus off of Cora and back up to you.
"It's Nick," you finally croak out once you realize he's waiting on you to say something. "My name is Nick."
"Nick," Louis repeats. "I'll remember it this time. Promise."