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Through the Dark

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It was nearly three am when I was awoken by a pounding on my front door. I chambered a round in my pistol as I crept to the door, peeking silently through the peep hole. My mum had always said nothing good happened after two am. And my job had taught me to err on the side of caution, always. I refused to leave myself vulnerable to any kind of threat.

The silk blouse adorning the fidgeting man on my doorstep had my heart-rate skyrocketing. This man was definitely a threat.

“Haz?” I breathed. His gaze suddenly jumped to the peep hole and it was like he was staring straight into my soul. His eerie green eyes always had that effect.

“Please, Lou.” he begged, his deep voice rolling its way down my spine like a wave of ice water.

I flipped the deadbolt and swung the door open, only to come face to face with Harry Styles for the first time in four years. But the grinning, dimpled, carefree boy I’d loved for so many years had been replaced with… a ghost. A ghost of the boy I’d once known better than I knew myself.

“Harry.” I whispered, scanning the walkway and front yard behind him. “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

It was a stupid question. It was obvious something was terribly wrong. He was wringing his hands, shuffling his feet nervously, refusing to meet my eyes.

And it was three in the fucking morning.

“Um… do you think we could talk for a minute… without the gun?”

I glanced down and realized what his eyes were glued to. “Sorry.” I chuckled, pulling back the slide and ejecting the chambered bullet, catching it in the air before nodding for him to follow me inside.

I led the way to the kitchen and started the kettle. I didn’t have to look to know he’d followed. Harry was such a quiet guy, but his… presence? His aura? Jesus, I sound like him. Whatever it was, it was loud. Big.

I placed my gun on the countertop and poured two cups of tea before joining Harry at my kitchen table. “So… what brings you by? At three in the morning?” I added with a smirk.

“Sorry. I know it’s late--”

“I’m only kidding. I’d be getting up for work in an hour anyway. It’s fine. Early, granted, but really. Tell me what’s bothering you?” I requested gently.

“I… had a vision.” His eyes dropped to his hands where he was nervously spinning a familiar turquoise ring. I waited patiently for him to continue, and after a moment, he did. “It was a child. A little boy. He was… he was asking for help. I think he’s been killed.”

My heart dropped to my stomach. “Killed?”

“Murdered.” Harry nodded.

“Fuck, Haz.” I sighed, running a hand over my face. “Do you… I don’t know. Do you have any other information? A name? Age? Fuck, location, even?”

“He has red hair. Blue eyes. No freckles. He looked about… five? Maybe six?” He trailed off, clasping his hands together around his mug, his knuckles white with tension.

I reached out and laid a comforting hand over both of his and his eyes finally lifted to meet mine. “We’ll figure this out, I promise.”

His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard and he nodded. “Thank you, Lou. I know this is… I just didn’t know where else to go.”

“Let me shower... get dressed. And then we can head down to the station, yeah?”

“Thank you.” he gave me a weak smile and I gave his hand a reassuring squeeze before leaving him with his tea while I got ready.

 

I got several questioning looks as I walked through the station an hour early… with Harry in tow. I ignored them all. Once upon a time I’d been used to this kind of attention. Harry drew stares everywhere he went. Tall and beautiful with the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. His looks alone were enough to catch your eye. And then there were the scarves and the rings and the curls! Fuck, the curls.

I shook my head to rid myself of -- everything Harry related -- and focused on the task at hand.

“Any idea how long this boy has been… dead? Missing? Anything?” I asked, jiggling my mouse to wake up my computer as I gestured for Harry to take a seat beside me at my desk.

“I don’t know…” Harry sighed, dropping his head into his hands. His eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply. I gave him a moment as I signed into the Missing Child database and began typing in the physical attributes Harry had listed off earlier.

“I think he’s been gone for some time.” he finally murmured, sitting up and blinking tiredly at me.

“I’ve pulled up all the missing kids in the UK and Ireland with red hair and blue eyes under the age of ten.” I explained, scrolling through the first few rows of photos. “I didn’t put any time limit on it, so there’s… a lot. There’s about two hundred of them.” I sighed. “Do you want to look through them? See if anybody sticks out?”

Harry nodded, scooting forward.

“I’m going to go make a cuppa. Do you want anything?” I asked.

He shook his head, already engrossed in the photos, and I gave his shoulder a quick squeeze as I left him to it.

“Who’s the hippie?” A deep voice asked as I poured hot water into a cup of instant oatmeal.

I turned to find my Captain, Paul Riggins, leaning against the break room table sipping a cup of coffee. “Old friend. He may have some information on a missing child.”

“Who?” Paul frowned.

“Not sure yet.” I hedged.

“Tomlinson…” Paul warned.

“I’ll give you an update as soon as I have one. Promise.” I gave him a small smile and balanced a glazed donut on top of my teacup before dropping a spoon in the oatmeal and heading back to my desk.

“Made you some oatmeal.” I murmured, placing it in front of Harry.

He glanced up as I sat beside him with a donut and spared me a small smile before turning back to the computer screen.

I took a few minutes while he was scrolling through missing children to study him. His silk shirt sleeves were rolled up to the elbows to reveal several new tattoos. His hair was down past his shoulders now, and his jaw had squared out over the last few years. Jesus, he was a man now. The twenty year old boy I’d loved was a twenty-four year old man now.

My eyes fell to the turquoise ring on his right pointer finger. The one scrolling through photos. I remembered the day I gave it to him, and a small smile tugged at my lips knowing he still wore it. I’d read turquoise was used for protection and healing and I knew how he struggled with his abilities. How they sometimes scared him and made him feel like an outsider, different from everybody else. Protection and healing were things everybody could use from time to time.

“Lou.” he whispered.

I glanced up at him and found him staring wide-eyed at the computer screen.

“Louis, this is him.”

I turned to find an angelic young boy smiling back at me from a school photo on the screen.

“Connor O’Leary. Age five… two years ago, when he was reported missing. He would be seven… today.” I sighed.

“He’s from Ireland.” Harry frowned.

“Tomlinson?” We both looked up to find Paul staring expectantly at us. “Anything on that missing kid?”

“You told him?” Harry asked quietly.

“Just that you might have some information on one.” I assured him.

“So?” Paul pressed.

“His name is Connor O’Leary. He’s from… Mullingar, Ireland.” Harry explained, squinting at the computer screen.

“Went missing two years ago,” I added scanning the rest of the report. “Last seen by his teacher, leaving school. His parents said he never made it home.”

“And what is your new information?” Paul asked Harry.

“I believe he’s dead, sir.” Harry replied quietly.

Paul’s eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms over his broad chest. “What makes you think that, exactly?”

“Because he asked me for help. And the the only people who have ever contacted me in a dream… have been dead people.”

 

*****

 

I watched Captain Higgins’ -- according to his badge -- eyes widen almost comically. I was used to this. People didn’t generally take the whole “I’m a psychic” thing very well.

“He came to you… in a dream.”

“It’s not the first time someone has had a vision that ended up helping a case.” Louis pointed out. “There’s dozens of stories like this. Movies, even.”

“You believe him?” The man asked. He wasn’t… shocked or incredulous. More curious, like he was planning on taking Lou’s word for it.

“Hundred percent.” Louis nodded immediately. “Harry is one of my oldest friends. I’ve known him since we were kids. I’ve seen him… see things. I trust him completely, sir.”

My chest tightened and Louis’ hand dropped to my knee, giving it a reassuring squeeze under the desk. He always knew when I needed a bit of reassurance.

“Alright, then I’m putting you on this, Tomlinson. Harry, was it?” he asked.

“Harry Styles.” I nodded, standing to shake his hand.

“Harry Styles, stop by reception on your way out and fill out some paperwork. We’ll pay you for helping on the case.”

“You don’t have to--”

“Shut it, Haz, it’s standard procedure.” Louis smirked, pulling me down beside him.

“Daily updates, Tommo.” Riggins ordered before leaving to speak to another officer.

“Eat.” Louis ordered gently, nudging the cup of oatmeal toward me.

“Thank you.” I blushed, stirring it a bit before taking a bite.

“We’ve got about… twenty more minutes until my partner comes in.” he explained, leaning back in his chair. “We can give him an update, do some digging, make some calls and see what we can come up with, yeah?”

“Detective Tomlinson.” I pressed my lips together and did my best to suppress a smile, but I knew Louis could see right through me. “Has a nice ring to it.”

“You sound my me mum.” He rolled his eyes, pretending he wasn’t blushing.

“How’s she doing? How’s everybody?” I asked softly. I missed his family almost as much as I missed him. Us.

“She’s great.” he grinned. He always lit up when he talked about his family. “The twins start school next year. Lottie is like, some big makeup artist for the rich and famous, now. Fizz just moved to America for Uni and she’s absolutely loving it. She’s in LA and Lottie checks in on her when she’s in town for work. And Phoebe and Daisy are… fucking fourteen. They’re teenagers, Haz.”

I smirked and asked a question I knew he’d hate. “Boyfriends?”

“Ugh! Don’t even get me started!” he groaned, throwing his head back. “They’re smart girls, really they are. I trust them to make good decisions. But… they’re gorgeous, Haz. They’re all gorgeous. Why couldn’t I have had five mousy little sisters that the boys would ignore?”

“Don’t worry, their big brother answers the door with a loaded gun in his hand. Any boy brave enough to come near them is going to behave, trust me.”

Louis grinned somewhat sheepishly. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s not the first time,” I chuckled, “Just… Not used to it anymore, I guess.”

“What the fuck are you doing here so early?” A warm voice laughed behind us, causing us both to turn.

“You’re early too.” Louis pointed out. “It’s barely a quarter to five.”

“But I’m always early. You’re always late.”

I smirked at Louis and he rolled his eyes at the both of us. “Payno, this is Harry Styles. He’s going to be cooperating with us on a case. Harry, this is my partner, Liam Payne. He’s a twat and you shouldn’t listen to anything he says.”

“In other words, he knows too much about you and you’re worried he’ll spill all your secrets.” I chuckled.

“I like this one.” Liam grinned. “Where’d you find him?”

“Summer camp.” Louis laughed. “Behave yourselves while I go print this file.”

He ruffled my hair as he passed and I flipped it messily back into place. No point trying to control it, it always had a mind of its own.

“Summer camp, aye?” Liam asked as he sat at the desk across from Louis’.

“Yeah. We go pretty far back.” I shrugged.

“And what do you do now, that you’ll be helpful on this case? What is this case?” he added, seeming to only realize he hadn’t gotten any information on it as of yes..

I turned Lou’s screen as far as I could in Liam’s direction. “It’s a missing child, who I believe might be dead.” When he quirked a brow at me, I added. “I’m… clairvoyant.”

“Like… you can tell the future?” Liam asked skeptically.

“I can’t like, look into a crystal ball and tell you who you’ll marry or anything… but…” I trailed off with a shrug.

“So what can you do? Talk to the dead?”

“Payno. Have some tact.” Lou hissed, plopping down beside me.

“It’s alright.” I chuckled. And for once, it kind of was. I hated explaining my… ability to new people. There were very few people who understood and accepted it without thinking I was a freak. But I had a good feeling about Liam. He had a warm aura. Red, and bright, friendly and caring. “The dead have been known to communicate with me, on occasion. And I believe that’s what happened to me last night… or early this morning, I suppose. It’s not an exact science. I never really know what I’m being shown until it reveals itself to me at some point. Sometimes I just get a bad feeling in my gut before something bad happens, and sometimes I see a whole scene play out. Sometimes it’s nothing related to me and I see it on the news later on or something, or sometimes it’s directly tied to my life. And other times, it’s like a dream. Last night I dreamed a little boy was asking me for help. But… dreams feel different than -- than visions, or whatever you want to call them. I knew it was a real person. So I came to see Lou, and we looked through about a million missing child photos until I found him.”

“Now that you’re all caught up on Harry, would you like to learn about Connor?” Louis asked, slapping an open file down on the desk between Liam and me. “His teacher saw him leaving school the day he was reported missing. He lived about a kilometer from his school and he walked home every day. She waved him off, and four hours later his parents called the police saying he’d never made it home from school.”

“Why did it take them four hours to report him missing?” Liam frowned.

“They said they assumed he’d gone to a friends house to play, and when he didn’t come home for dinner, they called around and couldn’t find him anywhere.”

“He was five.” I frowned. “Do you know how my mum would’ve reacted if I’d just wandered off to a friends house without telling her at fifteen let alone five?”

“Not all mums are as great as Anne Twist, Haz.” Louis sighed sadly. “Unfortunately, things like this happen all too often.”

“So we talk to the family?” Liam asked.

Louis flipped through the file for a moment before tapping something near the back excitedly. “Looks like the parents divorced last year. The mother relocated to London. Let’s start there, shall we?”

“Am -- Am I supposed to…” I trailed off.

“You don’t have to come if you’re not comfortable.” Louis smiled reassuringly. “But you’re definitely welcome if you want to tag along.”

“I think I’d like to?” I asked. “I want to see if I can get a read on her. If I can see anything you might miss?”

“I think that’s a great idea.” he smiles.

 

An hour and a half later, we knocked on the door of a modest house on the outskirts of London and waited as shuffled footsteps made their way to the door.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Liam smiled politely at the sleepy ginger woman in a tattered robe. “I apologize about the early hour. I’m Detective Payne, and this is my partner, Detective Tomlinson. And our…”

“This is Harry Styles,” Louis cut in. “He’s a Child Psychologist from the University of London.”

“Right, erm, we’re here to speak to you about your son? Connor?” Liam continued.

She led us into the kitchen with a sad smile and offered us all tea and biscuits, which we politely declined.

“Ms. O’Leary--” Liam began, only to be cut off with a shake of her head.

“Please, call me Eva.” she sniffed. “Do you have any new information on Connor?” she asked in a thick Irish accent.

“We’re hoping to find your son,” Liam nodded with a sympathetic smile.

“Eva, can you tell us what happened the day your son disappeared?” If I wasn’t so sick over this whole situation, I might find Louis’ cop voice sexy. Okay I still did, in the back corners of my mind, who was I kidding?

Eva sniffed and wiped her nose on a napkin before beginning. “I came home from work and my husband -- ex-husband, now -- he was watching the football game on tv. I asked where Conn was and he said he never came home. He said he must’ve gone home with Theo--”

“I’m sorry, Theo?” Liam asked.

“The boy down the road.” she nodded.

“Did he often go home with Theo without telling you first?” I asked quietly.

“No… but they walked home together every day. Theo lived on the next farm down the lane. They walked together until our gate and then Theo went on from there.”

Louis and Liam exchanged a look before nodding for her to continue.

“So… I called Theo’s mum and she said Connor wasn’t there. So I called all of his other friends and none of them had seen him since school. That’s when I started to worry, so I called the police. They came out and spoke to us and we filed a missing child report and we spent… months. Searching.” she sniffed, dabbing at her eyes. “We searched the surrounding fields, the surrounding farms. The woods and everything between his school and home. We never found him.”

Louis and Liam asked a few more questions, but I kind of tuned them out. I sat back in my chair and let myself feel her aura. She was… dark. Sad. My stomach felt like a rock had settled in it. I felt the same way I did any time I entered a smoky bar where people reeked of misery and desperation.

 

“She’s sad.” I murmured from the back seat of Lou’s car.

“Her son is missing.” Louis pointed out, glancing at me in the rearview mirror.

I turned to stare out the window, shaking my head slowly. “It’s more than that.”

 

*****

 

“So. Harry.”

I rolled my eyes and took a drag of my cigarette. “What are you getting at, Payno?” I asked around a plume of smoke.

“What’s the story there?” he prodded.

“He’s an old friend.” I explained with a shrug. “We met at summer camp when I was like… thirteen. He was my best friend for a long time.”

“What happened?”

“Fell out of touch over the last few years.”

The best part about having a partner who knew me as well as Liam did, was that even when he knew I was bullshitting him, he didn’t press. He knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t talk about it if I didn’t want to. And he also knew that if I needed to talk, he’s the one I would come to.

“He seems like a good guy. Unique, of course. But… genuinely nice.”

I chuckled at his observation. “He is. One of the best I’ve ever known.”

“So this whole… psychic thing. How did you find out about it?”

I pressed my lips together in an attempt to hide my smile at the memory. “He saved my life.” When Liam stomped out his cigarette and turned to me with wide eyes I continued. “It was like… the second week of camp, out of six. He was already kind of known as the weird kid. He was pretty quiet and the couple of people who had tried to talk to him or include him had gotten kind of creeped out. We were in the same cabin, but there was like six of us in there and I was already hanging out with one of them, kid named Zayn. We were running round pulling pranks and being mischievous all the time, and one night, we got this idea to steal a canoe and take it out on the lake in the dark. After lights out.”

“This sounds like a terrible idea already.” Liam groaned.

“Most of mine are, aren’t they?” I smirked around another drag. “Anyway, we were creeping out of the cabin and as I passed Harry’s bunk on the end, his hand shot out and caught my wrist. I barely stopped myself from screaming, and I looked down and found his big green eyes staring at me through the dark and he just said, ‘Don’t do it. Please, don’t do it.’ And I shook him off and told him to mind his own business and we went on our way. We got the canoe into the water just fine, and we paddled round for a bit, and then got bored and headed back to the dock. Pretty anti-climactic prank, it turned out. So I held the canoe still while Zayn got out, and then I stood up to climb out and it tipped. I smacked me head on the edge of the dock, knocked meself out and went under.”

“Shit.” Liam gasped.

“And Zayn -- still to this day, I reckon -- can’t swim. And before he even had a chance to freak out, he sees this body dive in and a minute later, Harry pulls me up. Zayn helped him get me out and Harry happened to be the only eleven year old I’ve ever heard of who knew CPR and… the rest is history. The three of us were inseparable after that. Spent the whole summer together.”

“So how did he tell you he was psychic?”

“We sat on the dock for a minute like choking on water and catching our breath. And he was like, ‘I know I’m the weird kid. But next time I give you a piece of advice, you’d do well to follow it.’ And we kind of laughed it off for a minute and then I realized he’d told me not to go, even though nobody knew we were sneaking out that night. When he’d warned me, I assumed he was just trying to keep us from getting in trouble again, but then I realized he begged me not to go. And then showed up out of nowhere just in time to save my life. So I asked him how he knew. And he told me he had a vision I’d fallen into the lake. We spent a long time talking and asking questions. The whole summer, really. I sometimes think if I was any older when we met, I wouldn’t have been so accepting of it all, because it is weird. It’s incredible. But I was just young enough that it seemed like… magic. Like some Harry Potter shit, or something. So we looked out for him that summer. Beat up the boys who made fun of him or called him weird and… forged some of the deepest friendships I’ve ever had.”

“Do you still talk to Zayn?”

“Yeah, he and Harry live together. He’s an art teacher. We keep in touch.” I shrugged.

“You fell out of touch with Harry, but you keep in touch with his roommate?” Liam asked skeptically.

“I mean… we haven’t hung out in a couple of years. But we Facebook and… whatever.” I shrugged. “I’m still Facebook friends with Harry, too.” I added somewhat defensively.

“Okay.” he chuckled, sensing my unease on the topic and thankfully letting it drop. “So back to this whole psychic thing. He said he’s been… contacted by dead people before?”

“I don’t know about anything recent, obviously.” I shrugged, stomping out the end of my cigarette. “But, it happened a time or two when we were kids. The first time… he was like, fifteen. He was visiting his cousins and had a dream about a woman who asked him where her baby was. He didn’t think much of it until he had the same dream the next night, and the next. Said it didn’t feel quite like a dream, and the conversation was slightly different each time, like he was actually talking to a real person. He told his cousin, Matty and they looked into the history of his house. They found out a woman had died in a house fire there, in the sixties. Then his Aunt’s house was built where that one had burned down. The woman’s husband had gotten out with their baby, but they couldn’t save the wife. So the next night, when she visited him in his dream again, he told her that her son was alive and well, and in his fifties now. And his last night in the house, she didn’t visit him again. He thinks that the thing tying her to this world was worrying about her son. Not knowing if he’d survived. And when he gave her those answers, she was able to move on.”

“You know, it’s funny. You’ve always been, like, the most… down to earth, logical, pragmatic guy I’ve ever known. And then Harry shows up and I find out there’s this whole other side to you that believes in ghosts and afterlives and has a psychic best friend.”

“I’m full of surprises.” I smirked, nodding for him to follow me back inside.

Chapter Text

“You called Louis?” Zayn’s eyes widened as he lowered his fork to the table. “Out of all the cops in the city, you called your ex-boyfriend?”

“You know he’s more than that, Zayn.” I sighed. “He was my best friend. Our best friend.”

“Until he dumped you and moved out.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” I deadpanned.

“Just making sure you don’t forget.” he shrugged unapologetically.

“I know. And believe me, I haven’t forgotten. Every time look at him I’m reminded of the night he left. But at the same time, nothing has changed. The banter is still there and the… connection. Being with him is still just… it’s easy, Zayn. Even after four years, and even with a broken heart, being with him still feels like coming home. He made me oatmeal this morning. Without me asking. Just came over and dropped a cup of oatmeal in front of me like we were fucking 18 again.”

Zayn sighed and shook his head. “I get it, mate. You know I do. And I miss him, too. But I don’t want to see you get hurt again.”

“I know. I appreciate it.”

“So why didn’t you just go to another police station?” he pressed.

“You know how people are.” I sighed. “If I walked in and said ‘I think there’s a dead child somewhere’ they would just assume I’d done it. Tell me I’m crazy and throw me in an institution. Louis knows. He knows I’m not crazy. Whatever our own personal baggage, he trusts me when it comes to this. And when it was looking like his boss might not, he vouched for me without hesitation. We’re going to find this boy and I’m going to stay out of the looney bin.”

“So what’s going on with the case?” Zayn prodded.

“Lou and his partner Liam are looking into some things. Going over the files. I don’t know, whatever Detectives do. He said he’ll call me when he knows something.”

My phone began buzzing on the countertop and I pushed aside my plate of spaghetti to go and answer it.

“Speak of the devil.” I smirked into the phone. “I was just telling Zayn about… everything.”

“Tell that twat we should go for pints sometime. We all should.” Lou’s smile came across the line loud and clear.

“Will do.” I chuckled. “So what’s up? Did you find anything?”

“I -- erm -- no, not yet. This is actually not a… professional call.”

“Oh?” I arched an eyebrow at Zayn who sighed in resignation. We both knew I was going to get my heart broken again.

“I mentioned to Mum that you’re helping us on a case, and she asked if I’d bring you home for Sunday Roast tomorrow? Feel free to say no, if it’s weird. But I know she’d really love it if you came. And -- erm -- I would too?”

“Of course I’ll be there.” I nodded, glad he couldn’t see my fond smile. The cough at the table, though, reminded me that Zayn could. “You mind if I bring Zayn along? I know he’d love to see you. See everybody.”

“Of course! Please, bring him along.”

“Okay. What time shall we be there?”

“Eleven?”

“Eleven it is.” I nodded.

 

Even though Zayn did miss Louis, and he was eager to catch up with him and his family, he was also pretty apprehensive. He was worried enough when I was just working with Louis, now that I was spending time with him in a social setting with his family whom I’d always absolutely adored, we both knew I was a goner.

As we made our way up the front steps, screams and laughter came echoing from the back of the house. When nobody answered the door, it became obvious they were out back. We let ourselves in and weaved through the house, stepping over Barbie dolls and Big Wheels until we reached the back door.

“Harry! Zayn!” Jay beamed, lunging for us the moment she noticed us. She hugged Zayn first -- tight, in that motherly way she had -- before turning to me. “Oh, sweetheart, I’ve missed you so much!” she sighed, pulling me in.

I hugged her back, squeezing my eyes shut against the tears that pricked them. It felt like I’d come home for the first time in four years. “Missed you, Mum.” I whispered.

A shriek caught both our attention and we finally broke our hug to turn and find Louis consoling a crying child. And I call her a child because holy shit, Doris was not a six month old baby anymore. She was an actual child running round playing football and so was her twin brother who was standing off to the side with a guilty frown.

“It’s okay, love. You’ll be alright, I promise.” Louis cooed. When a trickle of blood dropped from Doris’ nose, Ernie immediately burst into tears.

“I didn’t mean to!” he wailed, dropping to his knees in the grass beside his forgotten football.

Louis took a deep calming breath and nodded. “I know, lad. It’s okay, it’s not your fault. Come on, I know just the cure.” He scooped both crying kids up in his arms and shot me a smile as he carried them to the patio table sitting them on the edge.

Jay -- who must’ve ducked inside without my notice -- appeared beside him with a box of tissues and an ice pack and she set to work cleaning up Doris while Lou waved Zayn and me over.

“These are my friends, Harry and Zayn. Do you remember them?” he asked Ernie, who was still clutching onto Lou’s neck, but had calmed to just a hiccuping mess of snot and tears.

I almost rolled my eyes at his question -- the twins were only six months old the last I’d seen them! -- until Ernie nodded his head. “Harry?”

“Yeah, that’s Harry. Wanna give him a hug? I know he really likes those.”

“And I’d really love one from you.” I agreed, holding my arms out for him.

He came to me willingly, burying his face in my neck and clutching me around my neck as tightly as his little arms would allow.

“Ernest Deakin, I think you just might be the best hugger in the whole wide world.” I proclaimed, rubbing a soothing hand up and down his back.

“You have me to thank for that.” Lou smirked. “Taught him everything he knows.”

I rolled my eyes and dropped carefully into the chair he offered me before looking up to find Zayn distracting Doris from her bloody nose with a couple of markers and a hello kitty coloring book. His go-to for cheering up kids was always coloring.

When Ernie pulled back and settled on my knees facing me, he frowned, reaching out to tug on one of my curls. “Your curlies are longer.” he observed.

“All my photos of him are old, from when you were a baby. His hair is growing as fast as you are, huh!” Lou grinned, taking the seat beside me.

“Yeah…” he nodded. “Where you been? We missed you.”

“You missed me?” I laughed, tickling his belly and causing him to squeal in delight. “I missed you too.” I admitted with a fond smile once we’d calmed down. “I thought you forgot about me.” I added, arching an eyebrow at Louis over his head.

“No, Uncle Harry!” he shook his head, sending his little curls bouncing. “Loulou talks about you.”

“He does, does he?” I smirked.

“We have pictures, wanna see?”

“I’d love to see.” I nodded emphatically as Louis groaned beside me.

Ernie lept off my lap and ran into the house before Louis could stop him and I smirked at his obvious discomfort. “Uncle Harry has every right to see his own photos.” I pointed out.

“Uncle Harry is a twat.” Lou pouted.

“Uncle Harry is playing a dangerous game.” Zayn sing songed from the other side of the table.

“Uncle Harry is truly impressed with Uncle Zayn’s Hello Kitty coloring abilities.” I shot back.

Before Uncle Zayn could come up with another snappy comeback, a voice behind us caught all our attention. “Whose car is -- Harry!” Daisy squealed, lunging for me from the back door. I had barely a second to stand up before her tall, skinny body barreled into mine and I spun her in a circle before her twin demanded a hug of her own.

“What are you doing here?” Phoebe asked.

“Why didn’t you tell us he was coming?” Daisy demanded of Louis.

“You didn’t ask.” he smirked, earning a pinched nipple.

“Don’t mind me, it’s only been four years since you saw me, either.” Zayn pouted, only to be tackled in a double hug a moment later.

“It’s good to see you boys.” A deep voice chuckled and I turned to find Louis’s stepfather, Dan Deakin emerging from the house.

I grinned and met him halfway for a hug. “It’s good to be back.” I agreed.

As it turned out, even though Lou had told us to be there around eleven, lunch wasn’t actually scheduled to be served until about one. He’d given us a bit of extra time to spend with his family and I loved him a little bit extra for that. Once Dan and the girls returned from their trip to Tesco’s, we all gathered round the long patio table and caught up while Jay got started on lunch -- refusing any help, of course.

Ernie returned nearly twenty minutes later wielding a photo album and a new outfit after he’d apparently spilled juice down the front of his old one and crawled back up into my lap. When Doris noticed he had the album, she came over to join us and before I knew it I had both twins in my lap arguing over who got to turn the pages.

Louis had pulled his chair over closer on my right, while Zayn pulled up on my left and they leaned in to point out photos and laugh at old haircuts as the kids flipped the pages.

A lump formed in my throat as the memories flooded me. Three summers of camp together, meeting for ManU games. Concerts and trips to London and camping trips and school plans. Our first time at Leeds. Our first flat together at Uni. The photos of the three of us through the years subtly changed until there were more of just Louis and me. Zayn was still in plenty, but there were more and more of Louis and me. Louis and me at the pub. Louis and me at Disneyland Paris. Louis and me at an art gallery. Louis and me kissing on New Year’s Eve.

He’d kept them all.

 

*****

 

The knot in my stomach tightened as the more coupley photos emerged and I couldn’t believe Ernie had found this thing. It had been hidden under the mattress in my old room for ages! But I pretended it wasn’t a big deal and when Daisy dropped onto my lap to see the photos too, I ignored her questioning smirk.

Lottie arrived around twelve thirty -- long after the album had been forgotten in favor of a gentler game of footie on the grass -- and I was biding my time until I could slip away and find a better hiding place for it. Harry spun Lottie in a circle the same way he’d done with the other girls and spent a good ten minutes catching up before Liam showed up and disrupted the gang all over again.

“Limo!” Ernie shouted, running at him and getting scooped up into airplane mode before being flipped upside down.

Doris hugged Harry’s legs and I had a feeling she wasn’t feeling up to being an airplane after taking a football to the nose.

“Come on, love. Let’s dance.” Harry cooed, picking her up and propping her on his hip before twirling in circles and swaying his hips to a beat that certainly was not the one coming through the kitchen window.

“You’re a terrible dancer, Haz.” I grinned, sipping on my beer.

“Doris doesn’t think so, do you Doris?!” He grinned, dipping her far enough her ginger curls brushed the grass before he righted her and went on shaking his hips as she giggled hysterically.

“The kids seem to love him.” Liam pointed out as he took a seat beside me and watched Ernie run circles round Harry and Doris.

“He’s always been pretty close with my family.” I nodded. “And he loves kids. It’s been a long time since he’s been over, though.”

Zayn finally emerged from the house after having followed Lottie inside for a bit and I introduced him to Liam.

“Zayn, this is my partner, Liam Payne. Payno, this is my mate Zayn.”

“From Summer Camp!” Liam exclaimed, shaking his hand with a happy smile.

“He told you about Camp?” Zayn asked.

“Not until Harry showed up yesterday, but yeah.” Liam chuckled. “I hear the two of you got into quite a bit of trouble back in the day.”

“Don’t let him fool you with the Detective bit,” Zayn smirked. “He’s still trouble.”

Liam didn’t catch the double meaning, but I did. He didn’t want me to fuck with Harry. That much was glaringly obvious. The problem was, I didn’t know if I could make that promise. I didn’t want to hurt Harry, of course. But now that he was back in my life, playing with my sisters and brother and knocking on my door at three am, I didn’t see how I could go back to living without him. He was such a huge part of my life, once. Surely there was a way we could stay in each other’s lives without hurting each other again?

Mum finally called us in for lunch and I ended up sat next to Harry at the big dining room table. The smirk on Lottie’s face told me it may have been premeditated, but I didn’t mind. I liked being near him. It felt like home.

As I pushed my carrots off to the side of my plate, I heard a low, rumbling chuckle just before Harry’s fork shot out and speared one of them. I glanced up to find him smirking at me.

“Still can’t eat carrots?” he asked before popping it into his mouth.

“Shut up.” I grumbled elbowing him in the ribs.

“Why can’t you eat carrots?” Liam narrowed his eyes. “You told me you were allergic!”

“I am.” I insisted, the same time Harry, Zayn and my mum all rolled their eyes with a chorus of “He’s not.”

“You really thought I loaded his plate with them every Sunday hoping he didn’t accidentally eat one?” Mum scoffed.

“Never thought about it, really.” Liam chuckled. “So why won’t you eat carrots, then?”

“Why won’t you use spoons?” I countered.

“Fair enough. How’s everybody?” he asked with a swift subject change. “Daisy, how did your science test go this week?”

“Aced it.” she announced, high fiving him across the table.

I knew Liam wouldn’t let me off the hook with the carrot thing, but he didn’t mention it again as Harry ate all the carrots off my plate and I stole the last roasted potato off his. And although Zayn started out the meal glaring daggers at me, he was soon completely distracted by Liam.

“Is Liam out?” Harry asked quietly as we did the dishes for mum.

“He’s straight.” I frowned, glancing out the window where he was seated back at the patio table, talking to Lottie and Zayn. “He has a girlfriend, Sophia.”

“Oh… um… He’s… nevermind.” Harry frowned, scrubbing a bit harder at the clean plate in his hand.

“What is it?”

“It’s nothing. Forget it.” she shook his head.

“Harold.” I sighed, taking the plate from him and drying it quickly before setting it on top of the stack in the cupboard.

“He’s...not straight.” he finally muttered.

“How do you know?”

“I can just feel it.” he sighed, turning to me.

“Maybe he’s bi?” I asked. “I mean, I’ve met his girlfriend. They grew up together.”

“Maybe…” he shrugged. But he didn’t seem confident. “All I know is, he’s very into Zayn. His whole aura changed when they started talking at the table. His aura is red, and it did that swirly thing with Zayn’s yellow.”

The swirly aura thing. Right. I remembered that. Sometimes when people were mutually attracted to each other, their auras swirled together, combining in the middle. Apparently my aura was blue. And when I was eighteen, Harry began seeing my blue mix with his green, swirling beautifully around us every time our eyes met… Or so he said.

“Interesting… Is Zayn seeing anyone lately?”

“He hooked up with one of his models a few weeks back... But he hasn’t dated anyone all summer.”

“Hmm.” I smirked.

“Don’t even go there, Lou. You’re a terrible matchmaker!”

“I beg your pardon!” I scoffed.

“No meddling.” He grinned, tossing an arm over my shoulders. “Come on. Doris wants me to watch Frozen with her.”

“You know she’s going to make you sing all the songs, don’t you?”

“You think I don’t know them?” he arched an eyebrow and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I know you do.”

We were halfway through the movie when I noticed Liam flipping through my photo album on the other couch. Zayn -- the traitor -- was looking on over his shoulder pointing things out and whispering in his ear and I knew I’d have some explaining to do at work tomorrow.

“Does Liam know… about us?” Harry murmured, his breath warm against my ear.

Just then, Liam glanced up with wide eyes and I knew Harry’s arm slung across the back of the couch behind me was suddenly looking much less friendly. “He does now.” I whispered, smiling as innocently as I could manage at Liam.

“I’m sorry.” he sighed, withdrawing his arm. “I would have put it away if I’d known he--”

“It’s alright.” I assured him, giving his knee a squeeze, my fingers lingering a little longer than they needed to. “I’m not ashamed. He knows I’m gay. I only didn’t tell him about us because of the case. I didn’t want him to think that was why I took it. For you.”

“Didn’t you?” Harry hummed.

I turned to find his bright green eyes staring down at me and pressed my lips together. “Maybe I did.”

 

The pounding on my door didn’t startle me quite as bad that night. It was just past midnight and I’d only been in bed trying to sleep for about half an hour. I did grab my gun, just in case, but I didn’t chamber a round. I glanced through the peephole and set it on the side table before opening the door to Harry.

“Hey, love.” I smiled softly. “Everything alright?”

“I had another vision.” he whispered, wringing his hands together nervously.

I stepped aside and he entered my home, rolling his eyes when he saw my gun on the side table. “Was it Connor?” I asked, taking my gun back into my bedroom and stowing it in the nightstand. I could feel Harry behind me and when I turned he was leaning on the doorframe, shaking his head.

“No, it was… a boat.”

“A boat?”

“But I know it had to do with Connor.” he sighed, running his hand through his curls, “I could feel him there, but I didn’t see him or talk to him. It was just… a boat. Tied up to a dock.”

“What kind of boat? Like a cruise ship? A diving boat?”

“I think it was a fishing boat. Like Deadliest Catch, you know?”

I smiled at Harry’s fondness for Discovery Channel and nodded. “You think he was on that boat ever? The fishing boat?”

“I don’t know. I think this is one of those things that’s not going to make sense until… after. Until it reveals itself.”

“Ah, one of the unhelpful ones.” I chuckled. “So… why did you come all the way over here to tell me, if you didn’t have anything urgent?”

Harry frowned and dropped his gaze to his feet. “Sorry, I know it’s late. You were probably sleeping.” he added, nodding at my joggers and bare chest. “I should probably get going.”

“I didn’t mean it that way.” I smiled, catching his wrist as he turned to go. “I just wondered why you came all the way over instead of calling. I mean, last night made sense because you were freaked out. But tonight you’re just… confused.”

Harry shrugged. “Zayn’s still out with Liam and--”

“Wait, Zayn went out with Liam?” I exclaimed.

“Not like out out. Just… out for a pint. Well, a few, looks like. They met at nine.” Harry shrugged.

“If he comes into work hungover I’m going to give him so much shit!” I shook my head.

“Be nice.” Harry smirked.

“Last time I came in hungover, he drove like a twat until I threw up.” I frowned.

“Okay, fine, be mean.” He laughed.

“So… do you want a cup of tea, or something? A beer?”

“Don’t you have to be up for work in like, four hours?”

“You came all this way, I might as well hang out with you.” I shrugged.

“You should go to sleep, Lou.” he sighed.

“So should you.” I replied.

We fell into a heavy silence, staring into each other’s eyes in the middle of my dark bedroom, lit only by the small bedside lamp.

“I should go.” he breathed after a few minutes.

“You can stay.” I countered so quietly I wondered if he’d heard it.

“I shouldn’t.” he shook his head slowly.

“But you want to.” I took a cautious step towards him, and when he didn’t run, I took another. I was standing right in front of him, looking up into those lovely green eyes, and suddenly I could smell him. He smelled the same as he always had. Like cedar and cinnamon. And home. “And I want you to.” I added softly.

“Lou…” he sighed.

“Just cuddle with me?” I begged. “I promise I won’t ruin it, Haz. Please?”

“I’ve missed you so much.” his voice cracked and I couldn’t stand the space between us any longer. I caught him by the waist and pulled him into a bone crushing hug. The first in four years.

Harry’s face fell to the crook of my neck and he inhaled deeply, squeezing me tight in his long muscular arms. “Don’t leave me again.” he pled.

“Stay with me tonight.” I repeated. I knew he didn’t want to hear me promise I wouldn’t leave him again. I’d promised that so many times when we were younger, and I knew I’d broken his heart the night I finally did. “Please?”

He nodded against my shoulder and I pulled away only to take his hand and lead him to the bed. When he tried to climb on, I caught him by the belt loop and rolled my eyes. “I’ll give you some joggers. You can’t sleep in those painted on jeans.”

He blushed and nodded, reaching for his button as I dug through a drawer.

I chuckled when I found a pair of yoga pants pushed to the back. “Imagine that, they won’t even be too short!” I grinned, tossing them at him.

He caught them with wide eyes and held them up in between us. “You stole my yoga pants?!” he exclaimed. “These were my favorite ones! They’re Lululemon!”

“I didn’t mean to!” I laughed, flopping back on the bed. “I never would have stolen those ones if I was going to take some. They cost you a fortune! I still can’t believe you’d spend that much on joggers. You could buy ten pairs from any other store for that price!”

“I seem to remember having this conversation a time or two…” he smirked, kicking his jeans into the corner and pulling the pants on quickly. I averted my eyes and pretended I wasn’t dying to see his bare bum. “If it makes you feel better, I haven’t bought anything else from them. Especially after these went missing, I didn’t want to waste the money again.”

“You can have them back.” I chuckled as he slid in beside me and turned out the bedside lamp.

He smiled, but didn’t respond.

“Do you still like to be the little spoon?” I asked, scooting a bit closer. “You promised you’d cuddle me.”

“I -- um -- yeah, I guess.”

“Haz, I’m joking. I can’t force you to cuddle with me.” I laughed, reaching out to pinch him in the ribs.

He swatted my hand away with a small giggle. “No, I mean, I guess I still like it. I haven’t… I haven’t really cuddled with anybody since...”

“Since me?” I finished for him when he trailed off. “You haven’t cuddled with anyone in four years?”

“Zayn hates cuddling, you know that. And I haven’t dated too much…” he shrugged.

“Too much… or at all?”

“I’ve, um. I’ve been on a few dates. Everybody’s always trying to set me up, you know. Because apparently being single is a bad thing. But. I don’t know. Never found the right one, I guess.”

I hummed in answer and he nudged me with his ice cold foot.

“What about you?” he asked, smirking when his icy feet made me squeak.

I caught them between my ankles and sandwiched them in an attempt at warming them up, and also so he’d stop trying to wiggle his toes up the bottom of my joggers in search of warmth. “Same. Liam’s girlfriend, Sophia knows like three gay guys and she’s tried to set me up with all of them at different times. And Lottie’s sent me a few. Never went very far, though. Haven’t done much cuddling either, I suppose. Never found the right one, I guess.” I repeated with a small smile.

“Do you think there’s more than one right one for everyone?” Harry asked quietly.

I shrugged. “I think there’s more than one person you can be happy with. But… no. I don’t think you get more than one soul mate.”

“That’s my biggest fear in life.” Harry whispered. He always whispered when he was telling a truth he didn’t want to admit. “That I found my one soulmate and fucked it up with him. And once you’ve had that -- and lost it -- any of those other people who might make you happy, just don’t compare.” His eyes were glossy in the dim light from the streetlamp.

I scooted forward, pulling him into my chest, and pressed a kiss to his curls. “Me too.”

 

When my alarm went off at four o’clock, I groaned and snuggled deeper into Harry’s broad back. His big hand was wrapped around my thumb under his pillow and my knees were tucked in under his bum. My free hand was resting gently over his heart and I took a second to enjoy this -- cuddled up the way we used to sleep every night -- before retracting my arms and rolling to shut off the alarm.

The mattress dipped behind me and a long arm reached over me to press the snooze button before I got a chance to shut it off. “Five more minutes.” he mumbled, draping himself over my chest.

“You know I can’t go back to sleep once I’m up.” I murmured, even as I wrapped my arms round him.

“I just want to cuddle a little longer.” he whispered sounding more awake this time. “Please?”

“Of course, love.” I hummed, lying my cheek against the top of his head.

His hand softly traced the tattoo on my chest for seven minutes until my alarm went off again and he sighed heavily. “Alright. You can go.” he pouted, rolling to the side.

I rolled onto my side after switching it off and grinned at him. “And what about you?”

“I don’t know. Do you need me today?”

“I need you everyday.” My mouth admitted without permission. I tried to play it off, but I knew Harry could see my cheeks burning redder and redder.

“Then I’ll be there.” he nodded after a moment.

 

I ignored the look Liam gave me when Harry and I came in together twenty minutes late. We’d swung by Harry’s flat so he could change, but I was no later than usual. The only difference today was Harry.

“How was your night?” Liam asked.

“Harry had another vision.” I explained casually.

“An ‘unhelpful one.’” he clarified with finger quotes and a smirk.

Liam raised his eyebrow and Harry took a seat at my desk and started to explain as I went to the break room for a cup of tea. I whipped up one of those weird coffees he used to like and made him an oatmeal while I was at it, before carefully making my way back to my desk with three styrofoam cups in hand.

“Sean O’Leary is a fisherman.” Harry exclaimed with wide eyes when I reached him.

“Connor’s father?” I frowned. “I didn’t see that in the file. It said he worked for some company called--”

“Fiddler’s Green.” Harry nodded. “I thought it was a golf thing, but--”

“It’s the name of an Irish Fisherman’s song. The company is named after it.” Liam explained. “Mr. O’Leary is a deckhand on the boats.”

“Do you think he’s involved?” I asked Harry.

“From a clairvoyant perspective, I have no idea. Connor didn’t seem like, frightened or… angry when he showed me the boat last night. I could feel the connection to him, but I couldn’t get much of a read off of him. But from a Detective’s perspective--”

“Which is where your true experience lies.” I smirked.

“--I think it’s possible.” he continued, as if I hadn’t interrupted. “Think about it. Eva said she came home from work and her husband was home, and wasn’t bothered that their son never made it home. If he’s a fisherman, he probably works for an extended period of time out on the boat and then comes home for an extended period of time. That would explain why he was home that day. But when his kid didn’t come home from school hours after he should have, why wouldn’t he have worried?”

“It’s worth looking into.” I nodded.

“Shit.” Liam hissed, slamming his desk phone down in it’s cradle. “I just called the O’Leary house. His answer machine says he’s out on a boat until the 28th.”

“That’s three weeks from now!” I groaned.

“Did anybody ever interview the kid?” Harry suddenly asked. When Liam and I both frowned at him he clarified. “The neighbor. Theo?”

“His mum said they walked home together every day, didn’t she!” I exclaimed. “She said Theo lived past them. He would have known if he’d made it all the way home, wouldn’t he?”

“Did she give a surname?” Liam asked, pulling his keyboard towards him and typing away.

I began flipping through the file on my desk and found it towards the back. “Horan. H-O-R-A-N. It says here… they spoke to his parents. The kid was too upset to talk to police. But the mother said he walked home with him, same as every day.”

“Why wouldn’t anybody question the dad then?” Harry frowned. “If he made it home, then Mr. O’Leary was the last person to see him alive. Not his teacher, not even Theo.”

“He could have run away.” Liam pointed out. “If he made it to the gate, but his dad says he didn’t come home, there’s always the chance he didn’t go all the way home…”

“I want to talk to Theo.” I sighed. “Kids talk to each other. If Theo walked home with him every day, he would know him. He might notice if he seemed scared to go home or if he’d ever mentioned that his dad was mean.”

“I’ve got a phone number.” Liam announced, “Should we give them a call before we travel all the way to rural Ireland?”

“Yes. Definitely.” I nodded.

Liam dialed the number on his desk phone and turned on the speaker so we could all hear.

After three rings, a man picked up.

“Mr. Horan?” Liam asked, “My name is Detective Liam Payne, with the London Police Department. My partner and I have recently taken up Connor O’Leary’s case and I was hoping you’d allow us to speak with your son? We believe he might have been the last one to see Connor and--”

“I’m sorry, no.” The man sighed. “Theo lost his best friend. It took him nearly a year before things were starting to get back to normal. I can’t let you drudge up old memories. He’s just a little boy.”

“With all due respect, Mr. Horan, Connor was also just a little boy, and we want to figure out what happened to him. His family deserves that much, don’t you think?” I asked.

“I’m sorry. I can’t let you speak to him.” The line went dead before we could argue any further and I sank back in my chair with a sigh.

Harry was stirring his oatmeal lazily, frowning like he was deep in thought.

I nudged his foot to catch his attention. “What’s wrong?”

“I just wish they’d let us speak to him. I could do it gently, indirectly so he brings it up himself. If only they’d let us near him.” he groaned.

“Are you really a Child Psychologist?” Liam asked suddenly. “I thought that was just a lie to make Ms. O’Leary talk.”

“I have a degree in Child Psychology.” Harry smirked.

“And what do you do for a living now?” Liam narrowed his eyes.

“When I’m not solving mysteries, you mean?” he grinned. “I teach private singing lessons.”

“Why aren’t you working in the Psychology field?” he asked.

“I got a job right out of Uni, but I started having visions involving the kids I was working with, and I couldn’t handle that. I was working with troubled youth, and the things I was seeing were… troubling.”

The phone rang before Liam could do anymore prying and he jumped on it. “Payne.” he answered. He frowned and pushed the speaker button before continuing. “Say that again, please?”

“My name is Niall Horan. I’m Theo Horan’s uncle. His dad, Greg is my brother. I want to help with Connor’s case.”

“We’ll take all the help we can get.” Liam shrugged. “Do you think you can convince your brother to allow us to talk to Theo?”

“Absolutely not. But I can take Theo out to the park or something and run into some old friends if you like?”

“I don’t know how I feel about that…” I muttered. “If Greg found out?”

“If he found out, he’d kill me. But if it helps you find Connor I’m willing to risk it.” Niall explained.

“Why do you care so much?” Harry suddenly asked.

“I’ve been friends with his mum for years. I cared about him. Theo wasn’t the only one torn up when he disappeared.”

Liam and I exchanged a look. “This is asking for a lawsuit.” I shook my head.

“It’s our only hope.” Liam reasoned.

“If Paul found out?” I reminded him.

“I’ll do it.” Harry cut in. “Leave the department completely out of it. You can come with me, of course, but stay out of the conversation. I’ll do all the talking so you have plausible deniability. I’ll let Theo lead the conversation. I won’t push too hard. I’ll just talk to him and see what he has to say. If his dad finds out, the station isn’t liable and you can play the rogue collaborator card.”

“That’s… that’s actually genius.” Liam’s eyes widened.

“Fine.” I sighed in resignation, “But I won’t allow you to get thrown under the bus.” I added to Harry.

We made plans to meet Horan at a park in the small town of Mullingar after Theo got out of school the next afternoon and, even though I had a terrible feeling about this whole thing, I also had a feeling Theo might be the key to cracking this case. And I trusted Harry to put the kid’s well-being first.

Chapter Text

“Hey, you must be Niall.” Louis shook the blonde man’s hand as we met him on the lawn.

“That’s me.” he nodded.

“I’m Detective Louis Tomlinson, this is my partner, Liam Payne, and our Child Psychologist, Harry Styles. He’s the one who will be talking to Theo.”

We took turns shaking hands with the Irishman and he paused, clutching my hand and caught my eye. “Theo is my responsibility right now. If I bring him home this afternoon and he’s back to that dark place he was in two years ago, my brother will kill me. But more than that, I can’t stand to see him like that again.”

“I plan on keeping things light.” I agreed. “Kind of just leading the conversation that direction and hoping he brings Connor up himself.”

“He doesn’t talk about him much… I guess we don’t bring ‘im up much. But it’s worth a try.” Niall nodded. “Just… go easy on him, will ya?”

“I will.” I promised.

“Is there anything you can tell us about Connor that might help?” Liam asked.

“I work in London as a music producer, so I’m not around a whole lot. I come home between jobs and spend a week or two on the farm to get in some time with the family and help me stay grounded. Honestly, I didn’t know Connor as well as I wish I did.” he sighed. “I mean, I hung out with his mum from time to time. And he came over to play with Theo quite a bit, but I didn’t know him that well.”

“How well do you know his parents?” Lou asked.

“Grew up with ‘em both.” he shrugged. “I was good friends with his mum, Eva. She’s great.”

“And his dad?” he pressed, “What do you think of him?”

“Sean? He’s… gone a lot. Fishing, you know.”

“And when he’s home? How was he with Connor? Were they close?”

“I think so, yeah.” he shrugged. “Saw them out riding horses on the weekends. Feeding the sheep. Conn was on Theo’s football team. The kid had a wicked foot, which I’m sure his old man taught him. He came to the games when he was home.”

“Does Theo still play football?” I asked squinting across the playground at the blonde boy on the swings.

“Yeah. Loves it!” Niall nodded.

“You have a ball in the boot?” I asked, smirking at Louis.

Niall nodded.

“I think it would be good to break the ice with him a little bit first? Before we get down to it?”

“Good idea.” Niall nodded. He looked across the playground at his nephew and sighed.

“I know you’re nervous about this whole thing.” Liam spoke up.

“I know you guys could get in trouble if Greg finds out,” he nodded. “And I know he’ll kill me. But that’s not what I’m worried about. Theo was really fucked up after Connor disappeared. I just don’t want to see him back there.”

“I get it.” Louis nodded. “But Harry is great with kids. Not only is that his area of expertise, but I have six younger siblings ranging from four to twenty and they all absolutely adore him. There’s no man on the planet I would trust them to more. He’s in good hands.”

Niall blew out a puff of air and turned to get the ball from the boot of his car -- while I did my level best not to melt into a puddle at Lou’s feet. He returned a minute later spinning the football between his palms and gave us a nod before heading off towards the swings. “Yo! Theo! Come help me kick these boys butts at footie!” he called out with a big smile.

Theo immediately jumped off the swings and ran over and before we knew it we were playing a five-way game of keepie uppie.

When the inevitable happened and I tripped over my feet, I sprawled out on my back in the sunshine and groaned dramatically. “Theo you’ve killed me!”

“You’re a rubbish footballer!” he laughed loudly, collapsing down beside me in the grass.

“I am not! My best friend told me I’m the best.” I scoffed.

“He must’ve been lying.” He grinned.

I heard Louis’ warm laughter beside me as the other boys joined us and I rolled onto my stomach, propping myself up on my elbows. “How old are you, Theo, you seem way too smart for a five year old.”

“I’m seven!” he exclaimed, clearly offended.

“Ah! That explains it, then! What year are you in school?”

“I’m first class.” he grinned proudly.

“Oh yeah? All the way up in Primary school now? Do you have lots of friends?”

“Yeah. Charlie’s my favorite one. He has a dog that does tricks.”

“Does he live close to you?”

“No. He lives like… a hundred miles away?” he asked Niall.

“He lives across town.” Niall rolled his eyes, chuckling at his nephew.

“Not close like Connor.” he shrugged.

There it is. “Who’s Connor?”

“He’s my best friend.”

“I thought Charlie was your favorite?”

“Well… Connor is gone.” Theo sighed sadly.

“Where did he go?”

“I don’t know. Mum says he might not come back. They can’t find him.”

“Did he run away?” I asked carefully.

“Maybe.” he shrugged.

“Did he ever run away before?”

“No, he had the best dog. He could find you anywhere!”

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “You like dogs, yeah?”

“Yeah! We liked to hide in the yard and then his mum would let him outside and he’d come find us, like so fast!”

“What kind of dog was he?”

“A chocolate one!”

“A chocolate labrador?” I grinned.

“Yeah! He was called Tucker. I miss Tucker. He was fun.” he sighed, tossing the ball up in the air once and catching it.

“What happened to Tucker?”

“He got hit by a car.”

“When did that happen?”

Theo frowned, trying to remember. “After Conn left.”

“A long time after?”

He looked to Niall for help, who winced. “A week or two, maybe? It was a rough time.” he sighed.

“Yeah.” Theo nodded. “He was probably looking for Conn.”

I glanced at Louis and Liam who lifted their eyebrows in unison. “You think so?”

“Yeah. Conn was Tucker’s favorite. Followed him everywhere. Except when he wasn’t allowed outside. Sometimes we let him outside when we weren’t supposed to and Conn got in trouble. But we just wanted to play with him!” he added defensively.

“Did he get in trouble a lot?” I pried.

“Sometimes. When his daddy had to chase Tucker down and get him back in the house.”

“What did his daddy do when he was mad?”

“He grumbled a lot.”

“Did you ever see him mad at Connor like that?” I asked carefully.

“Yeah. He was like--” He crossed his arms over his chest and screwed up his face in a scowl before sighing heavily and rolling his eyes. “--Like that.”

“Was he scary?”

“No… He just made us go play outside when he was mad. And made sure Tucker stayed inside.”

“Was Connor scared of his daddy?”

“No. He just wanted him to stay home. He was always fishing.”

“Theo, do you remember the last time you saw Connor?”

“Yeah… We used to walk home from school every day.”

“Did you walk home together the last time you saw him?”

“Yeah, every day.” he sighed as if I was making him repeat himself.

“What was it like that day?”

“It was rainy and we ran home really fast. We raced to his farm and I won.”

“And he went home after that?”

“Yeah. It was too rainy to play outside.”

“You saw him go inside?”

“No, I was just running home.”

“They have a long driveway like us, huh, Theo?” Niall interjected.

“Yep.”

We all turned to Niall, who continued. “They have a farm. Ours is across the street and their gate is about a hundred meters before ours. Both our houses are set back off the road a bit down a long drive.”

In other words, Theo likely didn’t physically see Connor make it inside his house. But realistically, how much can happen between the gate and the front door? Even on a long drive.

 

“How much help was that?” Niall asked as the three of us watched Theo play with another boy on the swings.

“Well, he confirmed that Connor made it home from school.” Louis shrugged. “Even if he didn’t see him physically enter the house, I think we can pretty well rule out a kidnapping.”

“What other options are there?” Niall swallowed, wringing his hands nervously in his lap.

“I mean, there’s always the chance he ran away. He could have made a detour after he and Theo parted ways and ran off. But after two years, it’s likely he would have turned up by now. There was never any evidence of his running away that we’ve seen. Five year olds aren’t that good at hide and seek.”

“Which leaves…”

“We have reason to believe Connor was killed, yes.” Liam nodded with a sympathetic smile.

“And you think Sean done it.” he surmised.

“I mean, we don’t have any proof of that yet,” Louis shrugged, “But it’s definitely something we’re going to investigate…”

Niall paled.

 

“I think there’s something Niall isn’t telling us.” Liam offered from the driver’s seat as we headed back towards town.

“I think he’s Connor’s father.” I replied quietly.

Lou spun around in his seat with wide eyes. “You’re kidding?”

“I don’t know… but,” I shrugged. “I have a feeling. He was definitely keeping something from us. And he didn’t mind lying to his brother and exploiting his nephew in order to help us find out what happened to, what, his neighbor’s kid? He’s seems pretty invested.”

“So you don’t actually have anything to go off of?” Liam asked in the rearview mirror. “You didn’t have a vision or anything?”

“No. Just a good old fashioned gut feeling.”

“Well, obviously we can’t go on nothing but a gut feeling,” Louis smirked. “But we can look into it. O’Leary is a fisherman, right? If his wife was going to have an affair, it wouldn’t be hard to hide. Her husband’s gone for weeks on end, not only would she be lonely, but she would have the place to herself. No sense risking it when she might get caught.”

“You sound like you’ve got some experience cheating.” Liam joked. “Is that why you two broke up?”

“I knew we wouldn’t get through this trip without an interrogation.” Lou sighed, dropping his head back against the seat.

“Hey, if you want to keep pretending the two of you are nothing but old friends who lost touch, by all means.” he chuckled.

“I never cheated on him.” Louis replied softly before glancing over his shoulder and meeting my eyes with his piercing blue ones. “I’d never do that.”

I gave him a small nod. I knew that.

“So then what happened?” Liam pressed.

Louis turned back around and shrugged. “It was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter anymore.”

Liam -- thankfully -- took the hint and let us spend the rest of the time in the car in peace. I sang softly along with the radio and tuned out their shop talk until we reached the local police station.

 

*****

 

“My name is Louis Tomlinson, we spoke on the phone yesterday?” I shook the hand of a large man with a bushy auburn beard and did my best not to wince when he nearly crushed my hand.

“Call me Patty.” He nodded. “From London, aye?”

“Liam Payne.” Liam nodded, shaking his hand next.

“And this is Harry Styles,” I introduced. “He’s helping us on this case.”

“I have to say, I’m a bit surprised you’re looking into this.” he replied, crossing his arms. “Did the missus contact you? I hear she moved out that way last year.”

“No, sir,” I shook my head. “We actually may have had a bit of new evidence come in… Sort of.”

“Sort of?” Patty asked.

I glanced at Harry for permission and he gave me a nod. “Harry here, has been having visions of Connor O’Leary for the last several days.”

“Visions, you say?”

“I’m clairvoyant.” Harry nodded. “Connor contacted me in a vision the other night, asking me for help. I believe he was killed, sir.”

Patty sighed, running a hand over his bushy beard as he leaned back in his chair. “It’s not the first I’ve heard of something like this… Never met anyone who claimed they could talk to the dead, though.”

“It’s a rather rare experience for me, as well, if I’m honest.” Harry smirked.

“So what have you found?” he asked.

“We spoke to Theo Horan today.” I began slowly.

Patty’s head whipped around at that. “Horan? His father let you speak to him?”

“Technically, no.” I winced. “But before you go technical on me, we didn’t actually question him.” I gestured between Liam and myself. “Harry did. On top of being a gifted clairvoyant, he also happens to be a Child Psychologist. He had a long conversation with Theo and allowed Theo to bring Connor up on his own, before asking him easy, gentle questions that might end up helping us out quite a bit.”

Patty closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You know nothing he said will be admissible in court?”

“We do.” Liam nodded. “But we also realize that Greg Horan probably wouldn’t let Theo testify either way, so it’s better we have the information that can hopefully lead us to something we can use in court, than not have it at all.”

“How’d you talk to him?”

“His uncle, Niall? He called us shortly after we spoke to Greg -- who refused to allow us to speak to Theo -- and offered to meet us in town. We met him at the park this morning.”

Patty nodded, thoughtfully.

“Theo Horan told us he and Connor walked home together that day. That he raced Connor to the O’Leary’s gate and won before running the rest of the way home, himself. He said it was raining that day.”

“He said Connor made it all the way home?” Patty asked. “Sean O’Leary said he never came home from school.”

“That’s right.” I nodded. “Do you have a copy of Sean’s statement? Or a transcript of his interview? It wasn’t included in the file.”

Patty laughed humorlessly. “This isn’t London, mate. We don’t have the resources you do. We interview people, we take notes, and we fill out a report. Eva O’Leary filled out the missing person report, and we questioned both of them on their whereabouts, but beyond that, we never had any reason to believe Sean was a suspect. We didn’t question him any further.”

“Who questioned him, then?” I asked.

“I did.” Patty nodded, sitting forward. “Said he’d been out in the barn splitting wood for a few hours, then came inside and turned on the football game at four. Connor wasn’t home from school yet, so he assumed he was playing with Theo down the street.”

“Eva O’Leary told us that Connor never went over there without telling them first.” Liam cut in. “Why would he automatically assume he was at a friend’s house if he’d never done that before? He was five and it was a rainy day. If it were me, I would have been worried sick if my kid hadn’t made it home from school. I wouldn’t have just switched on the telly and hoped for the best.”

Patty sighed and nodded. “You have a point.”

“What else did he say?” I pressed.

“That he wasn’t worried until Eva called the Horan’s and found out he wasn’t there. Then they called the school and his teacher told them she’d seen him leave. They called a few of his other friends and when they couldn’t find him they called us.”

“How did Sean seem during all of this?” Harry asked with a frown. “What was his body language like?”

“He looked like he’d been crying, actually. But when we spoke to him, he was calmer than Eva. She was hysterical, but Sean kept his cool and answered our questions. He definitely looked upset, though.”

“He doesn’t get back from sea for a couple more weeks, so we can’t talk to him.” I sighed.

“Have you ever spoken to Niall Horan?” Harry asked.

“About Connor? Never had reason to. Why?” Patty frowned.

“He seemed a bit like he was hiding something.” Harry shrugged. “Plus he was exceptionally eager to help us. Just wondering what you thought of him.”

“He’s a good guy...” Patty shrugged thoughtfully. “He grew up on that farm, got into music in high school and moved to London to pursue a career. He made it big as a producer and works with all kind of big stars. Does some work for the X-Factor, I think. But he comes back to visit a lot and stayed pretty grounded, even with all his success. That’s pretty rare.”

 

It was kind of ironic, knocking on the door of Harry’s room at three am. But I’d slept like shit, replaying Liam’s questions in my head over and over.

Patty had promised us everything he had on Connor’s case, including photos and evidence he’d taken from the O’Leary house the day he went missing, but he had to get it all collected and promised he’d have it ready first thing in the morning. We’d gotten rooms at a local inn for the night, and after a warm meal and a few pints in the pub downstairs, we’d retired to our rooms.

I could hear Harry stumbling to the door and he answered in just a small pair of briefs and a groggy frown. I took in his bare chest and long legs. He’d grown in the last four years, filled out more. He’d been working out, that much was obvious. His shoulders were broader, chest and arms more defined. He had added even more doodles to his collection and a couple of larger pieces as well.

“Hey. What’s wrong?” he asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

“What happened between us?” I breathed, cutting straight to the chase. Even though I was the one to call it quits, we’d been drifting apart for months, and I’d never known exactly, why. Liam had planted a seed in my mind this afternoon, and suddenly I wanted answers.

“You ended it.” Harry replied flatly, but rather warmer than I’d have expected.

“I didn’t want to.” I sighed, running a hand over my face.

A door opened down the hall, and Harry suddenly realized we were standing in the hallway in our pants having a discussion about our past relationship. He opened the door wider and gestured for me to join him inside.

We crawled onto the bed and sat across from each other without a word before he finally cleared his throat. “Why did you do it then?” he asked quietly. “Why did you end it, if you didn’t want to?”

“Because you didn’t love me anymore.” I whispered. It was the first time I’d said it out loud. All these years, I had let it eat away at my insides, but I’d never voiced my biggest fear.

“I never stopped, Lou.” his voice cracked and his eyes filled with moisture. As much as I wanted to reach out and comfort him, I knew we needed to do this. We needed to air our dirty laundry.

“You pulled away. You never came home, you shut me out. I tried to talk to you, figure out what was wrong, but you never let me in. I spent months trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, and in the end, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to fix it, but you wouldn’t let me. I didn’t have a choice.”

By the time I finished Harry was all out sobbing, burying his face in his hands, hunched over his lap.

“I hate this!” he wailed. “It’s all my fault. I hate this fucking thing! Why am I like this?”

“Harry...” I sniffed, fighting my own tears. “Please, love. Tell me what I did. Tell me what happened.”

“I’m a fucking psychic! That’s what happened!” he growled.

I frowned in confusion. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with everything!” he exclaimed, sitting up to shake his head at me. “I’m a freak who can’t have a normal life because this stupid fucking thing ruins everything good in my life!”

“Harry, please.” I begged, clutching his tear soaked hands between mine. “Tell me what you’re talking about, love. Explain it to me, please?”

“I gave up my job because I was having visions of these poor innocent kids being abused and neglected and I couldn’t stand witnessing it all the time. I couldn’t help them because it broke my heart seeing the reality of it first hand.” he sniffed, wiping his nose on his arm. He took a deep breath, attempting to compose himself a bit before meeting my eyes. “And I pushed you away because I had a vision of you leaving.”

“What?!” I exclaimed.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of it coming true.” I continued with a loud sniff, “I couldn’t sit around pretending everything was fine when I knew it was only a matter of time until you ended it and left me. And it turns out you only ended it because I pushed you away. This stupid ability drove a wedge between us and it’s ruined everything, Lou. It’s caused friends to leave and it’s caused my parents to look at me like I’m a fucking lunatic and it’s caused me to give up my dream job. But mostly, it cost me you, Lou. You’re all I ever wanted and I’ll never have you again.”

Without a moment's’ hesitation, I caught his tearstained face between my hands and pulled him in for a kiss that shut him up immediately.

“Shut up. I love you.” I mumbled against his lips.

He froze for a moment before his hands fisted in my shirt and he began kissing me back. I let my palms slide down his neck to his chest before looping under his arms and pressing our bodies closer. He nibbled my bottom lip before soothing the sting with his tongue and I gasped. Four years later and he still knew exactly how to get to me.

He took advantage of my open mouth and dipped his tongue in to taste me. There was nothing soft or slow about our kiss. It was hot and hungry and needy. It was four years of separation, regret and longing coming to a head in the most primal way.

I leaned back, pulling his body on top of mine as I fell to the mattress.

He caught his weight on his hands, hovering barely an inch above me and leaned down to capture my lips again, but I wanted more. I needed more. I reached blindly and knocked his hand out from under him, causing him to fall onto my chest with a grunt. Then I ran my hands up his bare back with a content sigh as I kissed a trail along his jaw.

He smelled like cedar and cinnamon and when I reached his neck I buried my face in it and inhaled deeply.

Harry looped his arms under my shoulders and pulled back enough to look down into my eyes. I could feel his length against my thigh, half hard already and his chest was heaving with each shallow breath. “Louis.” he whispered, searching my eyes uncertainly.

“Please, Haz.” I whispered, running my hands down his back to the curve of his perfect little bum. “Missed you so much. Need you.”

Harry pulled slowly back and climbed off the bed, leaving me hard and panting on the mattress. He backed away, eyes not leaving mine until he reached the bathroom and disappeared inside.

Before I could even form a question or protest in my mind, he was reemerging with a small bottle in his hand. His knees made the mattress sag as he crawled back onto the bed and straddled my hips, tossing the bottle onto the bed near my head.

He didn’t say a word as he leaned forward and pulled my bottom lip into his mouth and sucked until I was gasping, arching up into him, begging for contact. Begging for friction. I groaned, digging my fingers into his hips and pulling him down more firmly against my blatant arousal.

He let my lip go with a small wet pop and hummed as he buried his face in my neck and began kissing a trail down to my collarbone where he suddenly bit down hard.

I gasped and he pressed a kiss to the spot where I was sure to have a mark by morning. “Missed that sound.” he murmured, lips trailing lower. I arched up off the bed, helping as best I could as he lifted my shirt over my head and tossed it aside before continuing his trail of kisses down the middle of my chest.

My hips responded immediately to the downward momentum and I bucked up into him. His fingers hooked in the waistband of my briefs as his lips reached my belly button and he tugged them lower stripping me of the only thing separating his plump lips from my straining flesh.

“Harry…” I groaned as he tossed my pants on the floor and bent over me once more.

He looked up at me with those magical green eyes just as his lips wrapped round the tip of my cock and I shuddered in response. He always had been talented in this department.

After a couple gentle sucks, lips sliding a bit further down my shaft each time, Harry suddenly plunged downward, burying his nose in the fine hair at the base of my cock. I let out a gasp of surprise -- even though I should have expected it -- and a loud moan as his cheeks hollowed on his way back up.

He popped off the tip and licked his swollen lips with a smirk that told me he knew exactly what he was doing to me before crawling back up the mattress and straddling my thighs.

“Harry…” I whined, gripping his hips hard enough to bruise.

“You’re not going to last long enough to come inside me if I keep going.” he pointed out with a shake of his head, curls bouncing. “Getting too old for that shit.” he added with a smirk.

I let out an indignant cry that quickly turned to a moan as his hand gripped me tightly.

“Alright, alright, you little shit. Strip off, then, yeah?” I reached blindly for the bottle of lube he’d dropped nearby as he fumbled to get out of his pants. When his foot got stuck and he lost his precarious balance, landing on my chest with a grunt, I simply rolled, flipping him onto his back before he knew what happened. “There it is.” I grinned, reaching for the little bottle that had rolled landing next to Harry’s face.

“Sorry.” he mumbled, dropping his eyes bashfully.

“Wouldn’t have expected anything else.” I beamed, dropping a kiss to his nose as I slotted myself between his legs.

“Heeyyy,” he pouted.

“Remember when you nearly broke me nose ‘cause you lost balance riding me and elbowed me in the face?”

“Must’ve been your other boyfriend.” he replied, crossing his arms over his chest with a huff.

“Must’ve been.” I smiled fondly.

When he lifted his eyes to mine, they were no longer filled with that animalistic need we’d been running on just moments ago. They were filled with a soft fondness, tinged with amusement and the barest traces of embarrassment at the memories. I leaned down to press a kiss to the pink tinge across his cheekbone and his arms came up to circle me.

I caught his lips in mine and sank into a kiss that was sweeter than before. Slower. His tongue teased mine out of my mouth before chasing it back in, causing us both to smile into the kiss. My hand knotted his his hair, tugging gently until he tipped his head back with a breathy sigh and I sucked the spot just below his jaw that would have him panting and groaning in no time.

And when his fingertips dug into my hips, pulling me down to grind our hips together intimately, I finally popped the top on that little bottle of lube.

The sound that came from Harry’s plump, pink lips as I gently slid one slippery finger into him was part whine, part moan, and it was one that I’d spent the last four years believing I’d never hear again. My forehead dropped to his shoulder as I twisted my finger, pumping slowly in and out of him, until he began pushing back on my hand, silently begging for more. And more.

“Fuck, Lou, please!” he whined, pushing my hand away and pulling my hips closer, “Can’t wait any longer. Need to feel you.”

I caught his lips as I reached for the lube one more time before -- ”Wait!”

Harry let out a loud groan and dropped his head back on the mattress. “Whaaaat?”

“I don’t have any… you know…” I trailed off awkwardly.

“Condoms?” he asked, arching an eyebrow up at me.

I nodded sheepishly. I hadn’t been laid in months, and certainly hadn’t expected for it to happen on this trip. I was unprepared.

“Fuck, I hate you so much.” he sighed.

“I’m sorry.” I groaned, burying my face in his neck. “I mean, I can still, I won’t just leave you like--”

“Front zipper in my bag.”

“What?” I asked, leaning back to frown down at him.

“There’s some in the front zipper of my bag.” he sighed.

My lips curved into a slow smug, smile. “You brought condoms on this trip?”

“If you’re not back by the time I reach three you’re not going to use them.” he warned. “One…”

“Shit!” I hissed, diving off the bed and rummaging through his bag on the floor by the wall.

“Two…”

“Front pocket!” I remembered, spinning the bag round and struggling with the zip until it finally gave way.

“Two and a half…”

“Found them!” I announced, raising a strip of four in the air over my head.

“Two and three quarters…” Harry warned, causing me to yelp and leap back up onto the bad, slotting myself between his legs and catching is whisper of three between my lips.

I fumbled with the package until Harry took them from me and tore one open without breaking our kiss. He rolled it onto me in a practiced move and nipped at my lip as he popped the top on the bottle of lube.

For someone who was begging to be fucked just moments before, he took his sweet time making sure I was suitably slicked before pulling his knees to his chest and guiding me home.

Because that’s what it felt like. Sliding slowly into Harry’s hot little body felt like coming home.

 

I groaned and blinked my eyes open when I heard Harry’s phone chime with a text message. Then there was a body rolling over me to reach for it on the nightstand.

“S’Liam.” he mumbled, squinting at the bright light of the screen. “Patty called. Has the files ready. Says he’ll meet us at the car in twenty.”

I grumbled in response and Harry tossed his phone aside as he settled down on top of me. “Are we going to talk about this?” he asked, lying his head on my shoulder.

“Mhmm.”

“Promise?”

“When we get home. I promise.” I nodded, cupping his cheek and leaning down to press a kiss to his forehead.

“I meant what I said.” he offered quietly. “I never stopped loving you.”

“I never stopped either.” I whispered.

 

I found a text from Liam on my phone when I got back to my room telling me the exact same thing he’d told Harry. After freshening up and getting dressed, I headed down to the car and found Harry crossing the parking lot with two cups from the cafe across the street.

He handed me one wordlessly and I smiled my thanks, sipping at the perfectly made Yorkshire tea, just as Liam joined us.

“Ready boys?” he asked, not making eye contact as he unlocked the car.

It occurred to me as we climbed in that waking people up with a text message was unreliable. Especially someone like me, who keeps his phone on vibrate most of the time. Liam was staying the the room next door, it would’ve been easier to just knock on the door and wake me up… Unless he had and hadn’t received a response. I glanced sideways at him and when his ears turned pink, I had my answer. Liam knew.

“Patty says he’s got everything from evidence ready for us.” he rambled nervously.

“Let’s get to it then, shall we?” I nodded.

Chapter Text

Patty had four boxes of files on missing children in the area that we wanted to pour through before assuming Mr. O’Leary had anything to do with the disappearance and possible death of his own son. He also had more material on Connor’s actual case that included all the physical evidence and we’d been at it all day when Liam and Patty finally decided they’d make a dinner run.

“He knows, doesn’t he?” I sighed as soon as the door shut behind them. “He’s been awkward all day. Blushing every time he looks at either of us, rambling anytime he opens his mouth.”

“He probably came to knock on my door this morning and found I wasn’t there.” Lou nodded.

“I mean, he knows you’re gay, right? What’s the big deal if he found you shared a room with your ex-boyfriend?” I frowned. “It’s not like he walked in on us actually doing it.”

“He knows, yeah. But like, we haven’t talked much about it. Other than his girlfriend trying to set me up a couple of times, I don’t really talk to him about any of the guys I’ve dated. And it’s not like I’ve dated much to begin with. He hasn’t really had to think about it, I guess.”

“I guess.” I sighed. “Plus if he’s hiding his own homosexual feelings, it might add to his sense of discomfort.”

“You really think he’s gay?” Louis asked.

“I don’t think he’s entirely straight, at least.” I shrugged.

“Well whatever it is, don’t let him get to you. He’ll get used to it, or he’ll get over it.”

I smiled shyly at that statement. He made it sound like he planned on keeping me around.

“Hand me that box over there, will you?” I asked, pointing to the one containing the photos and evidence they’d collected from the O’Leary house. Liam and Louis had both looked through it earlier, but I hadn’t had a chance yet.

Lou slid it down the length of the table in the conference room we’d taken over and I caught it easily, lifting the lid off. On top were a stack of photos and fliers that they’d used to try and find Connor when he first went missing. I flipped through until I saw a photo of the whole family and that feeling in my gut returned.

Ava O’Leary was a short woman with fiery red hair and dark brown eyes. She had freckles up and down her arms and sprinkled across her cheeks and nose.

Sean was a big man, broad in the chest and tall -- well over six feet. He had thick, dark hair and a bushy Hagrid beard. And he had small, dark, beady eyes. Almost black.

Then there was little Connor. Soft strawberry blonde curls that surely came from his mum. But then those crystal blue eyes caught my attention. I glanced at Eva again. Dark brown eyes, tons of freckles, flaming orange hair. Then Connor, light reddish blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and not a freckle to be seen.

“It’s weird, isn’t it?” I mumbled, “How Connor doesn’t look like either of his parents, apart from the ginger hair?”

I passed the stack of photos across the table to Lou. “You’re not still on about Niall being the father, are you?”

“It’s possible, isn’t it?”

“I guess so,” Louis shrugged. “I mean--”

I looked up at him when he trailed off and found him staring wide-eyed at a second photo. “What is it?”

“It’s Theo.” he breathed, flipping the photo over to show me the two boys grinning up at the camera together.

“Jesus Christ.” I gasped, reaching for it. “Same smile, same blue eyes. How did nobody put this together?”

“Sean might have.” Louis breathed.

“That’s a motive, isn’t it?” I asked.

Lou pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s a shit motive, but yeah. I mean, lad finds out his kid isn’t his, can’t stand to look at him anymore. But… Why couldn’t he have been like every other deadbeat dad and just skipped town? Why’d he have to kill him?”

“It’s not often your dad looks like a nice guy, aye?” I sighed.

“Happens more than you’d think with this job, unfortunately.” he shrugged. “I wish he was the worst of them.”

We were interrupted by a loud rumble of lightning and I looked at my watch. “Shit, it’s after nine. We’ve been at this all day. Didn’t even realize it was raining.”

“Glamorous job, innit?” Louis smirked, “Cooped up in windowless rooms all day.”

“Shut up,” I laughed, reaching back into the box “You love it.”

Whatever he said next was completely lost on me, as my mind filled with fog. Images of rain clouds and thunder filled my vision and a twisted, gnarled tree in the middle of a field. A bloody axe leaned against the trunk.

“Haz? Haz!” Louis’ voice brought me back to the present and I shook my head to clear it. “What is it? What did you see?”

I looked down to find a small green ballcap in my hand. “I… I think I know where Connor is buried.”

“What? Where? What did you see?” he repeated.

My chest tightened and pulled me up out of my seat.

“Where are you going?” Lou asked as I grabbed the keys to the rental car off the table and snatched my coat from the back of my chair.

“To find Connor.”

Louis’ voice echoed down the hallways as he called out for me to wait up, but I was being driven by something bigger than me. I pulled my hood up over my head as I stepped out into the rain and Lou’s hurried footsteps caught up to me just as I reached the car.

“Where is it? Where are we going?” he asked.

“I don’t know… I can’t just -- I can feel him. He’s leading me to his body.” I explained as I buckled in and started the car.

“Jesus Christ, I forgot how weird you are.” He laughed, snapping his buckle in and pulling out his phone. “Liam? Harry’s had a vision, we’re going looking for the body. We’re headed down Main Street now, if you can catch us.”

I ignored his conversation and focused on the feeling in my chest, pulling me toward my destination. It wasn’t like a navigation unit, telling me when to make a left. It was more like… I don’t know. A tug, pulling me in the right direction. The closer I got the stronger it pulled and I tried my best to just head towards the pull.

We were getting farther and farther outside city limits and the roads were getting bumpier and more hazardous in the rain, but I didn’t let that slow me down.

“I think he used an axe.” I finally told Louis. The words tasted acidic in my mouth and I took a deep breath, willing away the sick feeling. “I saw a bloody axe, leaned up against this… like twisted creepy tree. You know, like the ones in Snow White? The scary ones that grab her in the forest?”

“Jesus.” Lou murmured, clearly as disturbed as I was at the thought. “Didn’t Patty say O’Leary was splitting wood that day?”

I swallowed hard. “I think so, yeah.”

We turned down a muddy, pothole ridden country lane and I could see Patty’s cruiser bumping along behind us, but I ignored it. My chest was getting steadily tighter as we splashed through the puddles and mud. “I think we’re getting--” I cut off when a bolt of lightning cut across the sky, illuminating the fields around us.

“Harry?” Lou turned to me with wide eyes.

“That’s it.” I breathed, pulling the car to a stop in the middle of the road. Before he could stop me, I jumped out, vaulting over the wire fence and slip-sliding my way across the muddy field to the tree.

I could hear their shouts and squelching footsteps behind me, but I didn’t stop. My hair was soaked and my feet were buried to the ankle in mud, but I didn’t slow down. Even when my boot stuck in the mud and I stumbled, falling on my hands and knees, I picked myself back up and kept going.

“He’s here.” I breathed, dropping to my knees under the tree. Louis appeared next to me, quickly followed by Liam and Patty and they all stared at me incredulously. “He’s here.” I repeated, louder so they’d hear me over the wind and howling rain. “He’s right here.” I pressed my hands to the mud in front of me and knew for certain I was right. The tightness in my chest was pulsating, almost like a heartbeat and I knew I was kneeling on top of Connor’s body.

I began to dig, tossing mud aside without any conscious thought of what I was doing, when Patty’s deep voice cut through the din of rain and wind. “There’s shovels and lanterns in the back of my car, go get them.” He tossed his keys to Liam who yanked Louis by the arm leaving Patty and me alone in the dark.

His big hands joined mine and we dug like animals until Louis and Liam reappeared with shovels. I took a shovel from Liam and Patty pulled himself up off his knees. They lit the clearing and popped umbrellas to shield us from the rain as Louis and I dug. Time seemed frozen. I don’t know if we dug for three minutes or three hours, before my shovel collided with something hard and I dropped back to my knees in the mud.

“Harry...” Louis’ voice was apprehensive, and somewhere in the back of my mind I was able to acknowledge that I was about to find something truly disturbing, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop. I was a man possessed, and until my finger brushed bone, uncovering a small, child-sized hand, I couldn’t bring myself to stop.

“Jesus Christ.” Patty’s deep voice breathed as I fell back on my bum in the mud and collapsed into shaking sobs. I pressed the backs of my muddy hands to my eyes as I hyperventilated, lying on my back in the middle of an Irish field in a thunderstorm.

Part of my mind registered Patty on the phone with the station, requesting a coroner and a team, but mostly, all I could focus on was Louis. His strong arms enveloped me, pulling me up and moving my head to rest on his shoulder as I cried for the boy who’d begged me for help.

Somehow, they got me back to the car where they wrapped me in a blanket and propped me up in the front seat with the heater on full blast. Patty and Louis were outside speaking to the other officers who’d arrived, and Liam was directing the coroner to the body.

When the door opened, Louis crawled in and sighed deeply. “This is O’Leary’s land.”

I blinked out of my daze and turned to look at him through tired eyes. He was holding out a rain spattered map drawing a square with his finger.

“He’s got all this land, and this parcel is the farthest from his house… It’s on the other side of that hill. ” He trailed off, nodding out the window and I knew there was more.

“What else is there?”

He took a deep breath, steeling himself. “We found an axe, buried with the body.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means they’re sending a boat out to pick Sean up. We’re going to bring Niall in for questioning and find out if he had an affair with Eva. And we’re going to let Eva put her son to rest the way she never could. You did it, Haz. You helped him.” His cold, damp hand found mine in my lap and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Come on, I’m gonna get you back to the inn.”

“Don’t you have to stay?” I frowned.

“Nah, they’ve got it under control. It’s their case now. Liam’s going to stay and make sure everything gets handled correctly, and then they don’t need us until we question Niall tomorrow. In the meantime, I need to get you to bed.”

We drove in silence back to the inn, and when we reached our rooms, Louis followed me into mine without discussion. He led me to the bathroom and stripped me from my damp, muddy clothes. He turned on the shower and the room quickly filled with steam.

“In you go then,” he smiled softly.

I stepped into the shower and dropped my head under the warm spray. I heard the sound of his clothes hitting the floor just before he joined me, wrapping his arms round me from behind and pressing his body to mine. He wasn’t hard, it wasn’t sexual. It was comforting.

I spun in his arms and buried my face in his neck and let the tears roll down my cheeks. I couldn’t stop picturing that little boy coming home from school only to be killed by his own father -- the one person who was supposed to protect him from everything bad in the world.

“I can’t believe you do this all the time.” I sighed once I’d calmed down enough to speak. “How do you do it?”

I pulled back to look into Lou’s eyes, only to find them red and swollen like mine. “It’s not easy.” he admitted with a sniff. “The ones like this? They never get easier. But it’s nice having someone to cry with for once.” he smiled sadly and brushed a tear from my cheek. “Even if I do wish I could have protected you from all this. I guess your magical mind had other ideas.”

“My magical mind has other ideas for everything.” I frowned. “It ruined us, Lou. We were perfect together. We had it all, until it came along and ruined it all.”

Louis stared at me silently for a long moment, and I let him. He traced my lower lip with his thumb before dropping his hand to my waist and pulling me into his chest. “Maybe it wasn’t the right time.” he whispered. “Maybe we weren’t ready to be together forever. Maybe we needed the time apart to get to know ourselves without each other.”

“That’s a lot of maybes.” I frowned. I didn’t want to consider that we might not have been as perfect as I’d thought we were.

“Maybe now is the right time?” he suggested with a hopeful smile. “Maybe your magical mind decided we were ready to make it work. And maybe it sent you a random missing child, knowing you’d come to me.”

“Are you saying you’re ready to try again?” I asked, ignoring the maybes and the magical mind and getting down to the point. “Are you saying--”

“I’m saying I love you, and for whatever reason, our lives have brought us back together. Our paths have crossed again and I don’t think it was by accident. I’ve always known you were the only one for me, Haz. I want to try again. I want to make it work this time.”

A fresh wave of tears hit me and I sank into his arms, clinging to him desperately. “Yes. Please, yes.” I sobbed. “I won’t let it fall apart again, I promise. I’ll talk to you. I know it was my fault, I--”

“Shhh…” Lou’s hands slid up and down my back comfortingly. “It doesn’t matter what happened back then. We can’t change it. All we can do is try again. We can be honest with each other and we can work on our problems together. We can make it work, Haz. We will make it work. I won’t take any other option.”

He pulled me down for a soft kiss, then, and it felt like a new beginning. “I love you.” I whispered against his lips.

He kissed me again, before smiling and turning me around. He reached for the shampoo and poured some in his hand before lathering it into my hair the way he used to. “Your hair’s gotten so long since I did this last.” he commented softly.

“I’ve been thinking about cutting it…” I sighed, letting my eyes slide shut as my head tipped back into his touch.

“Don’t. I love it.” he smiled.

Chapter Text

“How did you know you were gay?” Liam asked quietly over breakfast the next morning.

We didn’t have to be at the station for another hour and the car bringing Sean in wouldn’t be here for another two. Eva was due to arrive back in town this afternoon, and we were taking advantage of the morning off with a nice fryup at a cafe in town.

I choked on a bite of scrambled egg and took a sip of tea to wash it down before turning wide eyes on him. “Excuse me?”

Liam’s face was burning redder than I’d ever seen it, and he looked like he might be sick. “I -- I know we’ve never really talked about it, much… I just… wondered. How -- how you knew?”

He looked back and forth between Harry and me and I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to say.

“I mean, I know it’s none of my business.” Liam hurried on, “You don’t have to--”

“For me,” Harry began very seriously. “I think I first realized when I started getting boners every time Louis and I cuddled during a movie.”

For the second time in as many minutes, I choked, this time on nothing but my own laughter. “Christ, Haz.” I shook my head.

“Just being honest.” he shrugged with a smirk. “What about you?”

“When you started getting boners every time we cuddled during a movie.” I smirked, squealing when he pinched my ribs before adding, “And thinking how much I wanted to see it. Or touch it.”

Harry beamed and his hand dropped to my knee under the table, eyes glittering jade.

Liam cleared his throat awkwardly and we drug our eyes away from each other to meet his across the booth again.

“Is everything alright, Liam?” I asked more seriously.

“Yeah, it’s fine.” he nodded, eyes on his plate as he pushed around a bit of egg.

“You know I love you, right?” I asked, “And I’m here for you, if you ever need to talk.”

“Even if it happens to be…?” he trailed off.

“In case you hadn’t noticed,” Harry spoke up, “He’s kind of an expert on the subject.”

“Speak for yourself.” I chuckled, elbowing him in the ribs before turning back to Liam. “But he’s right. If you want to talk about… that. We can. And if you don’t? I’m here, if you ever change your mind.”

Liam nodded and shot us a small smile before changing the subject.

 

Niall’s Range Rover pulled into the parking lot of the station just behind us and he pulled his jacket tighter around himself as he approached us in the parking lot.

“I know I’m early,” he frowned, “But I was getting anxious waiting around. What’s this about? Have you found anything?”

“Come on inside,” I nodded towards the door. “We’ll talk where it’s warmer.”

We met Patty in the conference room we’d spent most of yesterday in and he didn’t seem too surprised to see Niall tagging along with us.

After offering us all tea and coffee, Patty joined us at the table and got right down to it. “Niall, I’ve known you a long time. Watched you grow up, make a big name for yourself. I never took you for the dishonest type. I’ve always admired the way you stayed so grounded in that crazy world you live in.” He paused for a moment and Niall swallowed nervously, anticipating the but. “But I think you’ve been a little bit dishonest with us, haven’t you?”

“Ab-about what? Sir?” he stuttered.

“Connor was your son, wasn’t he?” I asked quietly.

All the air seemed to leave Niall’s lungs at once. He crumpled, dropping his head into his hands and shaking it. When he looked up at us, there were tears brimming in his heyes. “I don’t know.” he sighed, “I never knew for sure, but… I think so, yeah.”

“You had an affair with Eva O’Leary?” I asked.

“Not -- not an affair, really. It was just once. I swear it was. It was Christmas. She’d only been married a year or so and Sean was gone on a fishing trip over Christmas and she was home alone. We grew up together, the lot of us, I’d known her forever. And she was down the lane all alone, so we invited her out with us. My family, we have this game we play every Christmas Eve. The Twelve Pubs of Christmas. We go to a pub and order a round of pints, and you have five minutes to drink it before we leave for the next one. She came out with us, and we all got hammered, and took a cab back to me house. I woke up the next morning and she was there, beside me. I didn’t remember sleeping with her, but we were both naked. I knew we had. I was freaking out, thinking she’d tell her husband and he’d kill me. But when she woke up, she just like… smiled at me. And we…” he trailed off with a shrug. “We never spoke about it again. That fall, she had Connor, and we never talked about it. But the older he got, the more he looked like me. I knew he was mine, but she blew me off any time I tried to confront her about it. So I contented myself with getting to know him through Theo. I came home as much as I could to spend time with him. Went to as many football games as I could. Encouraged Theo to invite him over all the time. I loved him. He was my son, as much as he could be, given the circumstances.”

There was a stretch of silence before Patty finally sighed. “We found his body last night.”

Niall let out a choked sob and buried his face in his hands.

“We have reason to believe Sean O’Leary killed him. Did he ever find out about your affair with his wife? Did he have any reason to believe that you might be Connor’s biological father?”

“I don’t know… I never saw him, really, I…” Niall trailed off, eyes slowly widening until they were bugging. “I saw him… the weekend before Conn went missing. I saw him at the boys’ football match. I was in town for the weekend and went to watch ‘em play. They won and Theo came running over after the game and gave me a big hug. Connor had followed him over and I gave him a high five and told him he played really good… And then Eva and Sean wandered over. I hadn’t run into Sean in years. The boys started telling us this really long winded story about the game… even though we were all there, watching. And… I just stood there smiling at them. I was so happy.”

“Do you think Sean might have seen that you were happy listening to his son tell stupid stories?” Patty asked, “His son that looked quite a lot like you? And who… if he thought about it hard enough, he might be able to calculate was conceived while he was away?”

“I don’t know...” Niall trailed off with a frown.

There was a knock at the door and an officer stuck his head in. “O’Leary just arrived. We’ve got him in Interrogation Room Two.”

“Thanks.” Patty nodded before turning back to Niall. “If you don’t mind staying here, Niall. We’re going to go have a word with Sean.”

“Niall nodded before reaching out and catching Patty’s sleeve as he moved to stand. “Wait. Is… Is there a way to do a DNA test? Find out once and for all if he’s really my son? I mean… It wouldn’t change anything. But… Peace of mind, and all?”

Patty nodded sympathetically. “Yeah. I’ll send someone over to take a sample.”

“Thanks.” Niall sighed, sinking low in his chair.

 

Sean O’Leary was a big man. It was obvious in the photos we’d seen, but in real life, even sitting across a table from a bear of a man like Patty, the man was a giant.

“He’s like Hagrid.” Harry murmured beside me. “Connor didn’t stand a chance.”

I sighed and caught his hand in mine, giving it a small squeeze. We were on the other side of a double sided mirror, watching in as Patty questioned the man.

Without a word, Patty opened a file on the table and slid out three photos printed on full sheets of paper. I knew they were photos of the body we’d unburied on his property.

Sean closed his eyes on a grimace and pushed them away.

“We found a body on your property last night. DNA tests this morning confirmed it belonged to your son.”

“Not if you tested them against mine.” he replied quietly.

“Excuse me?”

“I killed him.” he nodded. His voice was emotionless. Like getting caught was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

“Why?” Patty asked.

“My wife cheated on me. She admitted it once, when she was drunk. She told me she got drunk and fucked a stranger in a pub once. Hell, maybe that’s true too. I couldn’t really blame her. I’m always gone… The guys on the boat, we’ve all been through it. They’ve all had their wives step out a time or two. If it’s real love, they understand. If it’s not, they chuck ‘em and find a new one. Eva… I loved her. More than anything. I understood. I hated it, but I understood. She got drunk and she had a moment of weakness. I get that. We had some rough patches, but we worked through them. Except… then I saw Horan.”

“Horan?” Patty pressed when it seemed Sean had lost himself in a memory.

“Niall Horan, from down the lane. He and Eva were always friends. Think he had a crush on her in school, but never had the balls to act on it. Then he went off and became some hot shot in London. Must’ve grown those balls.” Sean sighed deeply and shook his head. “Hadn’t seen him in years. I knew Eva hung out with the Horans from time to time while I was away. We ran into Niall at Connor’s football match. Connor ran right up to him after the game and high fived him. And then he turned around and smiled at me, the same time Niall did. And… Jesus, he was the spitting image.”

“Can you tell me what happened, the day Connor was reported missing?” Patty asked gently.

Sean wiped a tear from his cheek and gave a loud sniff before continuing in a shaky voice. “I spent the rest of the weekend stewing on it, and Monday afternoon rolled around and it was rainin’ and I went out to the barn to split wood. Clear me head. I don’t even know how long I was out there. Next thing I know, Conn comes runnin’ in. He yells, ‘Hey Daddy!’ and I turned around and all I could see was Niall.”

“What did you do, Sean?” Patty pressed.

“I… I brought the blunt end of the axe down on top of his head.”

I heard a loud sniff beside me and turned to find Harry staring at the man in the other room with tears flowing freely down his cheeks. I dropped his hand and weaved my arm round his waist, pulling him into my side, and when his arm looped around my shoulders, I leaned up and pressed a kiss to his tear soaked cheek.

“I don’t know what came over me.” Patty continued. “I just… I couldn’t look at him without my heart breaking. He dropped to the ground in the barn and I just stared at him for a minute before I realized what I’d done. I rushed to him, but it was too late. He was dead instantly. I hid him under a few hay bales until I could bury him that night.”

“Where did you bury him?” Patty pressed. Always need confirmation.

“Under the tree on the back forty. It was his favorite spot on the farm.” he sniffed, allowing his tears to fall freely now. “Buried the axe with him. And buried the dog round the other side of the tree a week later, after he tried to dig ‘im up. Told Eva he got hit by a car.”

Patty nodded to the officer at the door, and he moved forward to cuff Sean and take him away.

We moved to the door and stepped into the hallway as they led him away, but just as they reached the end, the door to the conference room opened and Niall stepped into the doorway coming face to face with Sean O’Leary.

Everybody in the hallway froze for a moment as Niall and Sean just stared at each other. Niall took in Sean’s tearstained face and handcuffs, and I knew he knew the truth. With a strangled cry, Niall leaned against the door jam clutching his chest, and slid to the floor in a heap of wailing sobs and hiccups.

Sean was rushed away as Niall shrugged off both the officers who tried to help him back to his feet. I was just about to step forward and try to speak to him myself, when the door that came from the lobby opened and an officer led Eva O’Leary through.

“Shit.” Patty sighed, stepping forward to intercept her as she looked around bewilderedly. “Ms. O’Leary, if you’ll follow me, please.” he suggested, pulling her in the opposite direction from Niall.

“What’s going on?” she asked, following him reluctantly. “You said you had a break in Conn’s case?”

“This way, love. We’ll talk in here.” he insisted, nodding for Liam and me to follow.

“Coming?” I asked Harry, quietly.

He hummed in answer and followed me into the interrogation room Sean had just been led out of.

“What’s going on?” Eva asked as she took the seat her ex-husband had just vacated.

Harry, Liam and I leaned against the wall behind Patty and observed the exchange in silence.

“We found Connor last night.” Patty began slowly. “We found his body.”

Eva let out a gasp and began sobbing quietly as he continued.

“He was buried under a tree on your property. Your husband’s property, now, I suppose.”

Eva cried harder, then.

Harry shifted beside me and I glanced over to find him frowning intently at Eva.

“Eva, do you have any reason to believe Sean might not have been Connor’s father?”

“What?” she asked with wide eyes. “No! Of course not! Why would you ask me that?”

“Because when Sean admitted to killing your son, he said he did so because when he looked at him, all he could see was Niall Horan.”

“Niall?” Eva frowned. “Of course not. Niall’s just a friend. We’ve been friends since we were kids.”

“She’s lying.” Harry murmured.

Patty glanced over his shoulder the same time Eva’s eyes narrowed on Harry.

“She’s pretty good at it,” he reasoned, standing up straighter now. “But she’s picturing it. The night she cheated on her husband.”

“You’re insane!” she exclaimed. “What are you talking about?”

“Stumbling up the stairs to Niall’s bedroom. Waking up naked beside him and doing it all over again. Sober, this time. Staring at a poster of Robbie Keane on the wall as you climaxed together.” Harry continued calmly. “You knew Connor was Niall’s child.”

Eva moved to get up. “This is absurd. This is harassment! I’m--”

“Sit down, Ms. O’Leary.” Patty commanded. “Mr. Styles is right, isn’t he?”

Eva fish mouthed a few times, shaking her head in bewilderment as she stared at Harry.

“I’m a psychic.” he shrugged nonchalantly.

“You’re out of your bloody mind!” she exclaimed.

“He led us to your son’s body last night, actually.” Patty countered. “Drove straight to it and dug it right up.”

“So why don’t you try the truth this time?” Harry encouraged cooly.

Eva stared wide-eyed between the lot of us for a moment before slouching in defeat. “Okay. I cheated on Sean. I slept with Niall. Once! Eight years ago.”

“Did you have any reason to believe that Niall could be Connor’s father? Was that a possibility?” Patty asked again.

“I don’t know.” she sighed. “I never had a pat test done. Sean was my husband, he was going to be my baby’s father, regardless of genetics.”

“Well, not to worry, Niall has requested a DNA test. We should know in the next 24 hours whether or not he lost his son.”

Eva let out a sob.

“Did you ever worry that Sean would find out? Did you worry about what he might do if he did?”

“No!” she shook her head violently. “No! He was a sweet man. He loved me.”

“Was?” I frowned. “He was a sweet man?”

“You knew he did it.” Harry murmured beside me. “You knew he killed Connor.”

Eva crumbled, then, covering her face with both hands. “I didn’t know! I didn’t! I -- I hoped I was wrong. I prayed!”

“But you thought he could have?” Patty pressed.

Eva sobbed quietly for a few long moments before nodding. “He… He brought Niall up, once. Last Spring. I ran into Niall in town and he invited me out with a bunch of people from school for pints that night. It was a big group thing. He told me to bring Sean along. But when I mentioned it to Sean, he said he was tired and didn’t want to go. Before I left the house… he made a little comment. Just a little snarky, ‘Don’t fall into his bed.’ Or something. And… I knew he knew.”

“He mentioned you’d admitted to cheating once.” Patty prodded. “He said you told him you’d got drunk and slept with a stranger from a pub, once.”

“I… that was before we were married. He had been away for two weeks and had another three before he’d be home. My mum had passed recently and I was having a hard time coping with it. I went out for a pint and met a guy. Never even knew his name. Never saw him again.”

“Why admit to it years later? After Niall and all?”

“Because the older Conn got, the more he looked like Niall. I knew in my gut he was his. And I felt so guilty about it. Sean was great with him. Loved him so much. And every time I saw them together, I was just sick over it. So I admitted to cheating the once. I wanted to work through it together, I knew he loved me enough. He’d want to work past it. So we did. We had a big fight the night I told him, took a few days to cool off, then did some marital counseling to get through it. It relieved my guilt a bit and let him deal with it as well.”

“What happened after he made that comment? About falling into Niall’s bed?” Patty asked, circling back to the matter at hand.

“He left on a fishing trip a couple days later. He started taking more jobs, staying away longer. When he was home, he’d go down to the pub and get piss drunk every night, then pass out on the couch. Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left him. He wasn’t in it anymore.”

“He admitted to killing Connor, and burying him under the tree on the back forty. He’ll go to jail to await trial. You’re free to go, but stay in touch. We’ll probably have more questions for you as the case progresses.”

Eva nodded and got to her feet. I opened the door for her, and the four of us filed out behind her. Niall was still sitting on the floor at the end of the hall, hugging his knees as he cried into them.

He looked up when he heard us approaching and Eva stopped with a gasp.

“You took him from me.” Niall sobbed brokenly. “He was my son, and I never got the chance...” he trailed off on a choked sob, and Eva darted out the door without a backward glance.

 

*****

 

“I feel bad for Niall.” Louis murmured as we lie in bed at the Inn that night. “He had a son who he never got to know properly, and then he lost him. I would be heartbroken.”

“Me too.” I nodded. “I guess it’s one of the benefits of being gay, huh? No surprise kids running round?”

“Harder to get a deliberate one, though.” He sighed.

I knew Louis had always wanted kids. Growing up with so many siblings, he wanted a big family. And I was the same way. I loved kids and I couldn’t wait to reach the point in my life where I was ready to settle down and start a proper family. We had talked about it often when we were younger. Named our future children and everything.

“Someday you’ll get your Darcy.” I assured him with a smile.

“Darcy was yours!” he laughed. “I wanted Amelia!”

“Right, like Princess Diaries.” I nodded with a little chuckle. “My mistake. Someday you’ll get your Princess Amelia.”

Louis curled onto his side and draped an arm over my chest. “Promise?” he whispered.

It was just one word, but it held so much weight. So much… promise for our future together. “Yeah, Lou. I promise.” I nodded, inching closer until our lips were pressed together.

 

The next two weeks flew by. Louis and I were trying to take things slow, but I found myself constantly reminding myself that we couldn’t just jump back in where we’d left off. We couldn’t just move back in together and pretend the last four years of separation hadn’t happened.

Which is why I had turned him down when he asked if I’d like to come over after we went out to a movie together. Instead, I’d kissed him goodnight on his doorstep and headed home to my cold, empty flat.

Zayn had been gone more nights than not, as of late and with my work schedule and spending so much time with Louis, I hadn’t had time to catch up with him. I didn’t know if he was seeing someone new, or if he was just spending a lot of time at his studio. Having a full-time day job often interfered with his creativity and he sometimes ended up spending odd hours in the studio, but he usually let me know when he was going to be out late so I didn’t worry.

When I reached the door to the flat though, I was surprised to see a light on underneath. I was even more surprised, however, when the person sitting on the couch watching Gilmore Girls, was not Zayn.

“Gem? What are you doing here?”

“Netflixing, obviously.” she smirked, eyes still plastered to the screen. “I was thinking of having ice cream. Got any?”

“Uh, yeah, probably.” I shrugged, heading to the kitchen. I pulled a carton of White Chocolate Raspberry swirl from the freezer and grabbed two spoons before joining her on the couch, wiggling in underneath her (my) blanket.

“So, what brings you by?” I asked, rephrasing my earlier question in the hopes of getting a different answer out of my cheeky big sister.

“Came to see you. We haven’t had a proper conversation in weeks. But you weren’t here, and Zayn was heading out, so he told me I could stay and wait for you.”

“Why didn’t you call? What if I hadn’t come home tonight?” I asked bewilderedly.

“Why wouldn’t you have come home?” she arched an eyebrow at me over the pint of ice cream. “Where else would you be?”

“Um.” I hadn’t told her -- or anyone beside Zayn, really -- that Louis and I were back together. I hadn’t told them about the case I’d helped him with, or any of it.

“You’re seeing somebody, H. I know it, just spill!”

It was no use lying to Gemma. She knew me too well. I took a deep breath before blowing it out in a puff and laying it all out there. “I’ve been seeing Louis.”

“Louis.” She deadpanned. “Louis I-can’t-do-this-any-more Tomlinson, who left you bound and broken on the floor?”

“Jesus, can we let the Torn references rest, at least?” I groaned. “I get it. I overplayed it after we broke up. I’m sorry.”

“You slept on my couch for two weeks until he found a new flat and I heard that song more times than Radio1 has probably ever played it.” she reminded me.

“I remember.” I sighed.

“So you also remember how absolutely broken you were after he left.” she nodded.

“It’s different this time.” I mumbled.

“How?” Where I expected to hear exasperation or challenge, I merely heard… curiosity. She was genuinely asking me.

“We talked about what happened.” I shrugged. “We had the conversation we didn’t have four years ago.”

“And what conversation was that?”

I hadn’t ever really told my family -- or anyone else -- what happened between us. I’d just told them that Louis had said he couldn’t do it anymore and that he thought it would be best if we took a break. But our “break” was actually a break up, and we both knew it.

“I didn’t exactly tell you everything, when we broke up…” I began slowly. “I… about three months before, I had a vision. We were stood in our kitchen over morning tea and I was cooking eggs. And he told me he couldn’t do it anymore. That we needed a break.”

“You had a vision of it?” Gem frowned.

I nodded. “I never told him. I was afraid that if he wasn’t already thinking it, I’d put ideas in his head. So I tried to just act normal, pretend everything was the same. Except it wasn’t, because every morning as I made breakfast I wondered if today was the day he was going to do it. It got so bad that I couldn’t get through a day. I couldn’t have a normal conversation with him because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing -- the thing that made him hate me. I couldn’t sleep, could barely eat. I was miserable. I stayed out late and slept on the couch half the time because I couldn’t face him. I couldn’t go on pretending everything was fine when I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m not that good a liar.” I trailed off, remembering those heartbreaking days with too much clarity.

“That’s why he broke up with you.” Gemma eventually finished for me. “Because you checked out.”

I nodded. “Mhmm. He tried talking to me. Tried fixing things. But I kept blowing him off, waiting for him to just do it, already. And then he did, and it hurt so much more than I ever anticipated. Especially since nothing ever happened. When I had the vision, I kept expecting something big to happen that would tear us apart. One of us would cheat or lie or we’d have a huge fight. But nothing ever happened. I checked out and he tried to talk to me. And when I didn’t respond, eventually he gave up. He couldn’t keep trying when I wasn’t. And I wasn’t, Gem.”

“That’s what you two talked about?” she asked gently.

“He came to my hotel room in the middle of the night and--”

“What hotel room?” Gemma frowned.

“Oh.” I ran my hand over my face with a sigh. “Shit. I had a vision of a missing kid a couple of weeks ago and it freaked me out. So I went to Louis and he did his detective thing and found out the kid was missing for like two years. So we went to Ireland to see if we could solve the mystery and found out his dad figured out he wasn’t actually his kid and killed him. The mum had an affair. We dug up his body in a field. It was… heavy.”

Gem stared at me for a minute -- the way my parents often did when I explained a vision I’d had to them. The way everybody did, really. Everybody except Louis. And Zayn. “So… he came to your room in the middle of the night?” she asked, avoiding the larger topic and getting back to the one she could understand.

“Yeah. The first night we were there. He came knocking in the middle of the night and wanted to know what happened between us. And I told him he left. That’s what happened. And he just… started crying and said that he only left because he thought I didn’t love him anymore. Because I fucked everything up after that vision. And he said he didn’t have a choice. He wanted to fix things, but I wouldn’t let him. And then I started crying and said this stupid psychic shit is ruining my life and he kissed me and we kind of… waited to talk about things until things with the case had settled down. But… I never stopped loving him, Gem.”

“I know.” she nodded sadly.

“And he never stopped loving me. It’s been four years and neither of us has had a proper relationship since. We were made for each other, Gem. I’ve always known it. Since I was eleven and saved him from drowning, I’ve known he was meant to be in my life.”

Before she could answer, there was a knock at the front door. It was nearly eleven o’clock. I couldn’t think of a single person who would be stopping by this late. Probably someone for Zayn, I reasoned as I got up to answer it.

As I shuffled down the hallway to the door, the person knocked again, a bit louder, and I paused to peek out the peep hole. Louis.

“Lou?” I asked, opening the door to reveal a smol, fidgety man shuffling his feet over my Welcome mat.

“Haz…” he sighed in relief. “I know you said you thought it’d be best if you went home tonight, and I totally get it if you want me to leave, but… I hate sleeping without you. I did it for four years and I can’t keep doing it. I love you and I’ve missed you so much. I know we can’t just pick up where we left off, but… I don’t want to start from scratch either. We can’t, there’s too much history. Can we just… try and find some middle ground? Please?”

He didn’t even give me a chance to process that he was standing at my door at eleven o’clock at night before he launched into his speech, and it took me a minute to catch up. “You want to stay the night?” I finally asked with a small smile. “You came all the way over here at eleven o’clock to tell me that you want to spend the night?”

“I miss you, Haz.” he chuckled, blushing at the silliness of it all.

“Come on, we can have a slumber party.” I grinned, pulling him through the door by the hand. I pressed a kiss to his temple before leading him round the corner to the living room where Gemma sat smiling smugly at the pair of us.

“Gemma!” Lou exclaimed, halting suddenly in the doorway.

“Louis.” She smirked. “Good to hear you love my brother as much as you used to.”

Louis was blushing crimson, but he did a good job pretending to be cool. “More, I reckon. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all.”

“Is that why you’re here? For a bit of absence?” she grinned.

“Think we’ve had enough of all that, actually. Think I’ll just move in.”

“Oi!” I interrupted their banter -- just as cheeky as it always had been -- “You are not moving in here.” Louis’ face sank and I hurried on with a smirk. “Your house is way nicer than this dump. If anyone’s moving in, it’s me.”

I pulled him in for a hug and he buried his face in my neck with an adorable chuckle.

“Come on Lovebirds, Gilmore Girls revival starts next month and we need to brush up!”

Lou laughed and curled up next to Gemma in the spot I’d just vacated, pulling the blanket over his lap and resting his head on her shoulder. “Missed you, Gem.” he murmured, giving her knee a squeeze.

“Even though I spent the last four years hating you for breaking my baby brother’s heart,” she sighed, giving his hand a squeeze as I curled in beside him. “I’ve missed you, too. Don’t go anywhere this time, yeah? I’ll have to kill you and then H will never recover.”

Lou lifted his head to grin at her. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

It was almost one in the morning, and we were between episodes of Gilmore Girls, making tea in the kitchen when the front door squeaked open. There were whispers and quiet giggles exchanged for a few moments before Zayn came round the corner into the living room with Liam attached to his hand.

Both boys froze when their hazy eyes finally found the three of us staring back at them. Well, to be fair, Gemma was just smirking in amusement. Louis and I though?

“Liam?” Lou finally broke the silence.

“Louis!” his eyes bugged out of his head. “I can explain.”

“You don’t have to.” Zayn murmured, pulling him into his side and draping a protective arm round his shoulders. “It’s nobody’s business but yours.”

“Soph and I broke up.” he explained in a rush, ignoring Zayn’s words while simultaneously sinking into his side. “Two months ago.”

“What?” Louis exclaimed. “Why didn’t you say?”

“I broke up with her because I was confused with some things. I was having some… doubts. I don’t know if I’m… g-gay or, or bi or what. But… I knew I couldn’t stay with her while I figured it out. It wasn’t fair.”

“So you and Zayn?” Louis lifted an eyebrow.

“I know I should have told you, because he’s your friend. I just…”

“Liam, it’s fine. Really.” Louis smiled softly. “I want you to be happy. And I know what it’s like to be with a woman and wonder if it’s right. I get it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just… I’m here if you need anything. If you want to talk or anything.”

“Thanks.” he smiled softly.

“You couldn’t have picked a better lad, though. Zayn’s the best.” He added with a smile. “Take care of him, Z.”

“You know I will.” Zayn smirked.

As they shuffled down the hall to Zayn’s bedroom, we dropped back down onto the couch with our cups of tea and Gemma pressed play on the next episode.

But instead of singing along with them to the theme song, I was bombarded with a fog that shifted to reveal two men wrapped in an embrace under a flower covered archway. I was wiping away tears as Zayn pulled out of the kiss and turned to grin at me before taking Liam by the hand and running down the aisle to cheers and applause from all his family and friends. When I turned back, Louis reached out with his left hand where a black titanium wedding band sparkled on his finger. I took his hand with a grin and we followed Zayn and Liam down the aisle towards their reception and towards our future.

Together.

 

“Harry?”

I shook my head and blinked away the fog before turning to smile softly at Louis.

“Alright?” he asked, threading his fingers between mine and giving my hand a squeeze. “Did you have a vision?”

“Yeah… I did.” I nodded slowly.

“What was it?”

I leaned in and pressed a kiss to the sensitive spot under his ear, before whispering. “Zayn and Liam’s wedding.”

His head dropped back on a laugh and my heart fluttered at the sight. Any trace of doubt or hesitation was lost from my mind. I had always known, in my heart, that Louis was it for me. He was the other half of my heart and I’d never love anybody as much as I loved him.

But seeing our future together that way -- as opposed to the last time I’d seen our future -- filled me with a warmth and certainty that I couldn’t describe. No matter what happened between us, I was confident that we would find our way back to each other. We were each other’s home, after all.