Harry found Louis sitting on the couch, staring at the small white envelope in his hand. He sat down carefully on the couch beside him.
Louis felt the cushion give under him and glanced up. “Hey,” he said. His voice sounded as spacey as he felt.
“Hey,” Harry repeated. “What’s up?”
Louis lifted the envelope an inch. “It’s from Lottie.”
“From – they picked a date?”
“Looks like.” Louis grimaced.
Harry frowned. “I thought you were happy about Lottie and Tommy getting married.”
“I was. I am.” Louis shook his head. “It’s not them I’m concerned about. It’s my other relatives.” He grimaced again. “Or, really, one in particular.”
Harry hummed in understanding, shifting closer on the couch. Louis felt their legs pressed against each other, Harry like a solid, comforting warmth beside him, grounding him. “Do you want to tell me about it?” Harry murmured.
Louis shrugged. “Not much to tell,” he said. “My aunt Martha likes trying to set me up with her friend’s daughters. Last time we saw each other I called her a stuck up old bitch, and she called me ungrateful and a disgrace to my family.” He chuckled humourlessly. “She doesn’t know the half of it. But needless to say we don’t get along.”
Harry winced. “I suppose every family has one of those,” he said. “You’re sure she’ll be there?”
“She’s family,” Louis said with a shrug. “She’d put up a huge stink if she wasn’t invited. Mom thinks it’s less hassle to deal with her at family events than to deal with her tantrums.” He smiled humourlessly. “And she’d never pass up an opportunity to try and coax me back to the magical world of heterosexuality.”
Harry laughed softly. “Truly, it is a wondrous place,” he said. “Or so I’ve heard. Never been there.”
“It’s full of miracles,” Louis said drily. “Where a five-month-old can be a ‘ladies man,’ but a five-year-old can’t possibly have a crush on someone of the same gender.”
“Where hugs and expressions of friendship have to be prefaced by ‘no homo,’” Harry agreed.
“Where Taylor Swift is dating any man who so much as stands near her, but Kristen Stewart and Alicia Cargile can move in together and hold hands in public and still be just ‘gal pals.’”
Harry sighed. “I wish I could make it easier for you,” he said softly.
“I’m fine,” Louis said, shaking his head.
Harry just looked at him. “Your hair is smoking,” he said. “You’re not fine with it.”
Louis raised a hand to the top of his head, as though that would somehow stop the smoking. It had been well over a decade, but his abilities still always flared up when his emotions did. He sighed. “You’re right,” he said aloud. “I’m not fine. But I don’t have a choice, do I?”
Harry ran his hand through Louis’ hair, smiling at the sizzle as the heat in Louis’ skin reacted with the water droplets that gathered along Harry’s fingers. “I’ll be there,” he said. “Always.”
Louis smiled. “That does help,” he said. “Just – don’t let me ruin Lottie’s wedding. It’s her special day. It should be perfect. Or as close as possible. I don’t want to be the one who fucks that up.”
“You won’t,” Harry assured him. Louis was sure he believed what he said. He only wished that he could believe it himself.
Louis hadn’t always had fire powers. He’d been – well, his mother would say he was always special, but he’d been a normal enough kid. He’d thought he just had a fever when he’d woken up on his sixteenth birthday, but he didn’t want to miss out on the celebrations so he hadn’t said a word to his mother. Besides, the warmth that was settled in his bones was much more pleasant than any fever he’d ever had before.
It had become suddenly, blazingly apparent that he did not in fact have a fever when he tried to blow out the birthday candles and accidentally breathed out a stream of fire that set the tablecloth alight. Only his mother’s quick reflexes with a nearby pitcher of lemonade had saved their table from being completely crisped.
At first Jay was angry, thinking that he’d done it on purpose, but the faintly singed handprints Louis left in the floor when he fell backwards in terror pulled her up short.
The next few weeks had been hectic to say the least. Louis had been terrified, and his new powers had flared up erratically with his emotions. He spent most of his time outside, for all that it was December in Canada, but he didn’t feel the cold the same way he used to. It was like a furnace had been built in his bones, heating him from the inside. He could melt snow or ice at a touch, and found his coat almost uncomfortably warm. The problem was reversing it – controlling the heat, keeping his hands cool, not letting sparks or flames burst to life anywhere. And so, outside where it was safe and cold and wet, and usually with one of his sisters watching and ready to call for help, he learned to manage his powers.
He missed the first few days of school, Jay not quite trusting his control (she’d seriously considered pulling him out and homeschooling), but after the first week she gave in. And while he’d been practicing, she’d been thinking and doing research.
She hadn’t found any similar cases – though that was hardly surprising. She’d made a few exploratory calls to doctors and professors in the United States and gotten responses in three categories: those who didn’t believe a word she said, those who thought that Louis was a threat, and those who sounded so eager to learn more that Jay felt glad she was calling from a payphone.
So they would tell no one. Only their family would know. “I’m not ashamed of you,” she told Louis. “I think it’s incredible what you can do. I don’t know why or how, but I think it’s incredible. But there are those who would disagree, who would want to use you or study you or take advantage. And I don’t want that for you.”
Louis didn’t want it either, so he agreed. At home, he could use his powers, thought he had to be careful. And there were accidents from time to time – experiments gone wrong, emotional outbursts. But Jay was always understanding, and together they made it work.
Just over a year after Louis’ powers had first manifested, on a cold Tuesday in January, he’d been sitting with his friends eating lunch when he felt a sensation like a tug in his chest. He stood, following the feeling almost without realizing it.
“Where ya headed, Lou?” Stan asked, and Louis turned.
“I dunno,” he said. The tug in his chest grew stronger, almost painful. “Just restless. I’ll see you around.”
The moment he started moving again, the ache eased. He followed it to his car, then onto the highway. He didn’t know where he was going, but the pull didn’t let up even long enough to send a text to his mother.
After about forty minutes, the tug led him off the highway and into a quiet residential neighbourhood. He parked the car and walked down the block, wondering which house was the right one.
A moment later, a window shattered. The tree in front of the house swayed wildly, and Louis could hear angry voices speaking in a language he didn’t know. He quickened his stride, and a few moments later knocked on the front door.
The voices went silent. Several long seconds passed before the door cracked open a few centimeters, a woman peering out.
“This isn’t a good time,” she said. “I’m sorry, but-”
“I can help,” Louis blurted.
The woman paused. “I doubt that,” she said. “I’m not sure who you are, but we don’t need-”
“Is it someone’s birthday?” Louis interrupted. The woman said nothing, but her face froze, and Louis knew he was right. He pressed on. “For me it was my sixteenth, but – I mean, I don’t really know how it works.”
“You…” Her voice was quiet. “You’re…?”
Louis snapped his fingers, a small spark flashing from his hand before disappearing. “What happened?” he asked.
“It was… a windstorm,” she said, sounding half dazed. “When he blew out the candles, it – and then it just – we don’t know what to do.”
There was another crash from inside, and she and Louis both winced. “May I come in?” Louis asked.
The woman stepped back from the door, opening it wider. Louis followed the sound of the crash down the hall and entered a large dining room. It had probably been quite nicely decorated, but now the floor was covered in shattered dishes. There was cake on the walls, and the curtains were flapping madly in a wind that seemed to circle the room.
Three girls of varying ages stood cowering against one wall, an older man who was probably their father standing in front of them. He started when Louis entered the room and stepped towards him threateningly, but the woman who had entered behind Louis stopped him.
“It’s all right, Yaser,” she said. “He’s here to help.”
All six of them looked across the room at a skinny boy with dark hair who stood frozen against the opposite wall, his eyes wide with fear. Louis could see the white all around his eyes. As he stepped towards him, the wind seemed to speed up.
“Don’t,” the boy said, tight-lipped. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t,” Louis said. “It’s okay. I was afraid too.”
The boy’s eyes snapped to Louis’ face. “You-”
“Fire,” Louis said, nodding. “Bit catastrophic the first time.” A flicker of a smile flashed across the boy’s face, and Louis nodded again. “You have to calm down,” he said. “Emotion drives it.”
“I can’t,” the boy said. “I don’t know how.”
“You can,” Louis said. He kept his voice low and soft, like he would when his sisters had a nightmare. “What’s your name?”
“Zayn,” the boy said. Louis could swear the wind was softening, just a little. “Please, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t know how to control it.”
“I’m Louis,” Louis said. He glanced at Zayn’s family, who were watching wide-eyed. “Would it be possible for you to give us the room?” he asked them. “I think he’s more afraid of hurting you than of what’s happening to him. It might help.”
The woman who had first let him in nodded. “Of course,” she said. “Waliyha, Safaa, Doniya, come with me.”
“Trisha,” Yaser said, frowning. “I don’t think-”
“This boy can help our son,” Trisha said calmly. “Can you?”
Yaser didn’t stop frowning, but he followed the girls out of the room. He paused as he passed Louis. “If you do something to him…”
Louis shook his head. “I just want to help,” he said.
Yaser regarded him for a moment longer, then left the room.
“Sorry about him,” Zayn said. “He doesn’t like strangers. Or things he doesn’t understand.” His voice was still strained, but the wind had definitely slowed when his family left.
“I suppose I’m both,” Louis said. He picked up a chair that had toppled and sat down, a few meters away from Zayn. “What about you?”
Zayn shook his head. “Can you really… fire?”
Louis held out a hand, palm up, and a ball of fire erupted within it. “Took me a month to get that one right,” he said with a grin. “But it sure looks cool. Not that I can show many people.”
“Who knows?” Zayn asked. “About you?”
“Just my family,” Louis said. “Well, and now you and your mom. My mother thought it was best to keep it quiet.”
Zayn nodded. “I’m honoured to be let in on the secret,” he said, and Louis laughed aloud. Zayn was definitely smiling now, and the wind had dropped to just a gentle breeze. Louis wasn’t sure Zayn even realized it.
“How did you find me?” Zayn asked suddenly.
“I don’t know,” Louis said. “I just… had to come. I can’t explain. I’ve never even been here before. I just knew.” He frowned. “I wonder if there will be more.” He grimaced. “Hopefully not too often. My mother is going to kill me.”
“Don’t apologize,” Louis said. “I’m happy to help. I didn’t have anyone.”
Zayn let out a shaky breath. “Thanks,” he said. “I can’t imagine doing this on my own.”
“I had my family,” Louis said, smiling. “And you have yours. And it gets easier. You just have to learn to stay calm. See?”
He gestured to the curtains, which were now completely still. Zayn looked shocked, and a faint breeze started again. Louis held up a hand. “Calm,” he murmured.
Zayn took a deep breath and let it out. The breeze stopped. “Calm,” he repeated.
Zayn had adapted to his abilities much faster than Louis. They quickly became friends, talking frequently and meeting up at least once a month. When they were together was the only time they felt properly free to just be themselves, to let loose and try new things.
Of course that occasionally went terribly wrong, like the time Zayn tried to blow out a small fire that Louis had set and accidentally fanned it into greater life and spread it to several nearby trees. But on the other hand, that had been when they’d learned that Zayn’s air abilities extended to changing the ratios of molecules in the air – such as removing all the oxygen.
Six months after they met, they found Liam. Louis called Zayn as soon as he felt the familiar tug – he felt it too, but didn’t yet have his license. He talked Trisha into giving him a ride, and they both pulled up outside the house they would learn was Liam’s at nearly the same time.
He was earth. He’d made the dining room table start growing, sending roots through the floor and a tree up through the cake. Once Zayn and Louis explained, however, he was even faster at getting a handle on his powers, and managed to reverse the entire thing. Louis had been astonished, and a tiny bit jealous, but he hid it well.
Two weeks later, the tug came again. Louis couldn’t help being a bit annoyed at the timing, and he knew his mother would be more so (she’d threatened to ground him after Liam, and he hadn’t missed school for that). As he drove across the border into Quebec, he tried to console himself with the knowledge that this fourth person would probably be the last. Fire, air, earth, water – that was a complete set, right?
Except Niall wasn’t water. He was – Louis didn’t know what to call it. Zayn called it soul. Liam called it essence. Louis called it not-water. Niall could take the basic nature of something and make it more, make it realer. He could read emotions and change them. When he blew out the candles, the room suddenly filled with balloons. He took the news in stride, and when Liam, Louis, and Zayn headed out, it was with as many balloons as they could take.
And four months after that, Louis found himself sitting up straight in bed at 7 in the morning, following the tug in his gut to the car almost before he was fully awake. When he saw the small, curly haired boy, sitting with his mother and sister on top of their kitchen table in the middle of a small lake that refused to go past the kitchen door, he almost laughed. The look of dismay on the boy’s face was the only thing that stopped him.
“Ahoy, sailor,” he called from the hallway. “Can you dry this up or should I?”
The boy stared at him, eyes wide and lips trembling. “I – but – how?” he asked.
“Sink, window, whatever,” Louis said. “I can try to do it myself, but it’d take longer. My friend Liam can fix any wood damage, though.”
“Louis would know,” Liam said drily. “He set his bed on fire last month. While he was in it. I still don’t know why he thought that was a good idea.”
“It was an accident!” Louis protested.
“I thought it was an experiment.”
“It was both.”
Liam sighed, though they both knew that his exasperation was mostly for show. “You’d never know he’s the oldest,” he told the three strangers, who were still staring at them silently. “I’m Liam, as Louis said.”
The older woman recovered first. “Anne,” she said, her voice calmer than Louis had expected. “These are my children, Gemma and Harry.”
“Well, happy birthday, Harry,” Louis said. “Do you think you can get this water into the sink?”
“I – I don’t – I’m not-”
Louis turned to glance behind him. “Ni, get up here, would you?”
Liam stepped back as Niall moved to the front, giving Harry a friendly smile. “You don’t need to be afraid,” he said. “We’ve all been there, and we all turned out all right. The first time is a bit frightening, I know.”
“Easy for you to say,” Louis muttered, his voice only loud enough for Niall to hear. “You just got fucking balloons.”
Niall’s lips twitched, but he didn’t react. Harry’s expression softened, colour returning to his face as he unwrapped his arms from his knees. He guided most of the water out the front door and into the garden, and Louis steamed the rest away. Liam checked the wood, as promised, and made sure the garden wasn’t flooded.
When they left, Harry had given each of them a hug and thanked them for their help. He waved from the door, his eyes still slightly damp but his smile almost blinding, and Louis wasn’t the only one who waved back.
And that had been that. Harry had joined their “elemental unit,” as Niall had taken to calling it. They lived pretty far away from each other, but met up when they could. For university, they all gathered in Toronto – Louis and Harry at Ryerson, Zayn at York, and Niall and Liam at the University of Toronto. They rented a place together, and it was hectic, but it felt like home. Plants grew in every windowsill providing fresh herbs and vegetables; when the power went out (or they forgot to pay the electricity bill), Louis could provide heat and light; and Niall was an absolute godsend for finals season.
Louis suspected Niall had also had a hand in getting him and Harry together, though he’d never been entirely certain. Niall had been tactful enough to never mention the crush that Louis had slowly developed, though he had to know. But one night in early February, when Harry and Louis had been hanging out in Louis’ room (supposedly studying, or watching a movie, except they were ignoring both homework and television in favour of talking about nothing), Louis had found himself staring at Harry’s mouth. That happened fairly often – it was a nice mouth, and Harry’s face always lit up when he was excited about something – but what didn’t often happen was the rush of confidence that suddenly surged through Louis, giving him the balls to finally lean forward and kiss Harry.
Harry had been smiling when Louis pulled back. “What was that for?” he asked, though he didn’t sound displeased.
Louis had shrugged, his heart pounding. “Just felt like it,” he said. “Been wanting to for a while.”
Harry’s smile had widened. “Good,” he’d said. “Me too.”
Before Louis could formulate a response, Harry was kissing him again, and before they parted ways that night, they had plans for Valentine’s Day.
Six years later, Louis was still in love, still grateful every single day. Sitting in the audience as Lottie and Tommy made their vows to each other (and pretending his eyes weren’t damp), he hoped she’d be just as lucky.
After the ceremony (and an absurd number of photos – Louis’ feet ached something fierce, and he wasn’t wearing three inch heels) was the reception (and more photos). There were greetings, kisses, speeches, dinner, dancing, and Louis felt like his mind was in one of Zayn’s whirlwinds. It was worth it, though; he thought it every time he saw the radiant smile on Lottie’s face.
When all the formalities were over, he found himself sitting at a table just off of the dance floor, Harry beside him as they watched the crowd ebb and flow. Some people were dancing, others nibbling on the fruit and cheese platters scattered around the room and chatting with friends and family.
“I’m going to go get some more champagne,” Harry murmured in Louis’ ear, pushing himself to his feet. Louis smiled up at him, catching hold of his hand.
“Bring me a glass?” he asked.
Harry leaned down to press a kiss to Louis’ cheek. “Course, babe.”
Louis watched him walk away, a sight he’d always been fond of, and Harry knew it judging by the way he was swinging his cute little butt from side to side. As much as he was enjoying the wedding, he could hardly wait until it was over, and he could take Harry home and –
In an instant, Louis felt his entire body go rigid at the sound of the overly cheery voice. It was so saccharine sweet he felt nauseated already, but Aunt Martha didn’t seem to notice as she plowed right ahead.
“I haven’t seen you in ages,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder and tugging him around to face her. “And such a lovely wedding – your sister makes a gorgeous bride, and she and her husband look so happy together.”
“Yes,” he said, trying to force himself to relax. “They’re very happy together.” Louis tried to force himself to relax. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe they could have a civil discussion for five minutes. Maybe –
“Your mother must be so excited to finally have in-laws,” she said, beaming at him. “She must have been pestering you to find a wife.”
Or maybe not.
“She hasn’t, actually,” he said, his voice calmer than he felt. “She hasn’t done so since I told her I was gay thirteen years ago.”
Martha’s lips pursed, her expression growing as sour, though she tried to maintain that falsely polite façade. She looked like Harry had the time Louis had tried to make lemon meringue pie but had forgotten the sugar. Well, except more evil. “So you’re still doing that,” she said.
Louis toyed with the idea of telling her the only ‘that’ he was doing was Harry, but decided that wouldn’t help matters. “Yes,” he said. “So much for ‘growing out of that phase of mine,’ eh?”
“Hmm,” was all she said.
Louis sighed and stood, planning to go find Harry, or Lottie, or anyone really that wasn’t Martha. She had other plans, however, her hand snaking out quickly to grasp his arm and try to tug him back into the chair. He didn’t move, but she didn’t let go.
“I just want to see you safe and happy,” she said. “And this… lifestyle… is so dangerous-”
“I am happy,” Louis tried to cut in, just barely biting back the added quip, “at least I was until you sat down next to me.”
“My friend Cynthia has a lovely daughter just your age,” Martha continued, like he hadn’t spoken. “I told her all about you, and she’d love to meet you.”
“Did you tell her that I’m gay?” Louis asked. His voice was rising, and he could feel his body temperature rising with it. He clenched his fists, hoping the sparks he could feel buzzing at his fingertips were the only manifestation of his abilities. “I’m not interested, Martha. I’m not interested in your friend’s daughter, or your coworker’s daughter, or your neighbour’s daughter, or anyone’s daughter. I never will be, because I’m fucking gay.”
Martha straightened, her eyebrows pulling together in disapproval. “Well I never,” she said. “I’m trying to help you; the least you could do is be grateful.”
“I don’t want your help!” Louis pulled his arm from her grasp before it could burn her. “You always do this, Aunt Martha, and it never works.”
“But if you’d just meet a nice girl-”
“I’ve met plenty of nice girls,” Louis interrupted. “But I don’t want to date them, I don’t want to fuck them, I don’t want to marry them.”
“Hey,” said a soft voice in his ear, and he turned instinctively, immediately recognizing Harry’s voice. “It’s okay, babe.”
“Harry,” Louis breathed, his anger immediately cooling slightly. He glanced around, realizing that the occupants of several of the nearest tables were staring in their direction. He winced. “I told you,” he said. “I told you this would happen. I told you I would fuck everything up.”
“You’re fine, babe,” Harry said, squeezing his hand. “Is this… the aunt?”
Only Harry could manage to be that polite, yet still manage to convey that much disdain. Louis turned back to Martha, who was frowning at both of them, and gave her a smile that mirrored the false sweetness of her own. “Aunt Martha, this is Harry,” he said. “My boyfriend for the past five years. As you can see, I think he’d have some objections to my finding a nice girl, or a wife. Harry, this is my aunt Martha.”
“Charmed, I'm sure,” Harry said, making no motion to shake her hand. Louis bit back a laugh – from Harry, that was almost equivalent to flipping someone off. “And I don’t know about that, babe,” Harry continued, looking thoughtfully at Louis. “I’ve always kind of wanted to try a threesome.”
Louis wasn’t sure who was the most startled – him, Martha, or the other guests. He was going to put his money on the man at the next table who spat his wine all over the white tablecloth (served him right for eavesdropping) but he suspected that Martha would have reacted similarly if she’d had wine.
“Good point, love,” he said, burying his surprise behind a lewd smile. He glanced at Martha. “Think Cynthia’s daughter would be interested?”
Martha spluttered incoherently for several seconds before Louis couldn’t contain himself. He started giggling almost hysterically. Harry’s shoulders started shaking a moment later, strangled half-laughs slipping out.
“Well I never!” Martha repeated. She stood. “I hope you two are ashamed of yourselves.”
Louis was laughing to hard to respond, and a moment later she stomped off.
Louis wiped the tears from his eyes. “She’s probably telling my mommy on me,” he said, still giggling.
“Are you scared?” Harry asked teasingly.
Louis shook his head. “Jay’s always been incredible, nothing but supportive.” He leaned his head against Harry’s shoulder. “I couldn’t ask for better from her.”
Harry fiddled with the hair at the base of Louis’ neck. “I love you,” he said. “It doesn’t change your aunt, but it’s the truth.”
Louis smiled. “I know,” he said. “I love you too. And it helps.”
“Yeah?” Harry said.
Louis nodded, looking up at him. “It helps more than you know,” he said. “I get – it’s like I’m stuck in my own head sometimes. You bring me back.”
Harry cupped Louis’ cheek in his hand, brushing his thumb over Louis’ cheekbone. “You mean everything to me,” he murmured.
Louis’ smile widened, his eyebrows rising just slightly. “Mmm,” he said. “Prove it.”
Harry laughed but didn’t argue, leaning forward and brushing their lips together. The kiss was soft and chaste, but it still took Louis’ breath away. Kissing Harry always did. He smiled against Harry’s lips, one hand rising to curl under Harry’s chin.
Harry pulled away first, far too soon (It was always too soon). Louis kept his eyes closed a few seconds longer, savouring the warmth and softness. He licked his lips, searching for the taste of Harry’s mouth on his, before finally, slowly opening his eyes.
Harry was smiling at him, a softness in his gaze that made Louis’ newly regained breath catch.
“Hey,” Louis said, his voice barely above a whisper.
Harry’s smile widened a fraction of an inch. “Hey.”
“You’re staring at me.”
Louis laughed. “I am, aren’t I?”
“Mhm.” Harry stood. “Modest too. Want to dance?” He held out a hand.
“Are you beset with other offers?” Harry teased.
Louis held his hand to his chest, just out of Harry’s reach. “I could be,” he said. “For all you know. If I wanted to be.”
Harry laughed. “Playing hard to get?” he asked. “I have to woo you?”
“Might be nice,” Louis said with a shrug.
Harry laughed again. “All right, then,” he said. He bowed deeply. “My beloved Mr. Tomlinson, would you do me the great honour of joining me for a dance?”
Louis couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “Well,” he said, taking Harry’s proffered hand and allowing him to raise him to his feet. “Since you asked so politely.”
Harry was a terrible dancer. They both knew it, though Harry always denied it and pretended to be offended when Louis teased him, but he positively glowed at the affectionate jibes Louis tossed his way.
Some kind of slow, classical music full of violins was playing – Harry probably knew what it was; heck, Liam, Zayn, and Niall might even have known, but Louis had no idea. But the result was that instead of swaying or jumping or making stupid gestures, Harry was trying to attempt ballroom dance moves – spins, sashays, fancy shit Louis had no name for. It looked absurd, he was sure, but he was laughing too hard to care.
As the song drew to a close, fading into the opening strains of Hunter Hayes’ “Still Fallin,” Louis pulled Harry close to him, laying his head on his shoulder.
“Thanks for being here,” he murmured, closing his eyes as they swayed gently back and forth.
Louis could feel Harry’s huffed chuckle on his back. “Nowhere else I’d rather be,” he said. “You ever gonna let me do this with you? Make a proper husband of you?”
Louis laughed too. “Think you could?” he teased. “I’m a wild thing.”
Louis could hear the smile in Harry’s voice as he spoke again. “You’re my wildfire,” he said, his fingers brushing along Louis’ back. “But I think I could tame you.”
“You would know,” Louis said, sighing happily. “You’re my anchor.” He pulled back, catching Harry’s hand in his own and tracing over the design inked on his left wrist. He traced up Harry’s arm, fingers lingering on the spot where he knew a ship tattoo lurked under his shirt. “And you keep me afloat.”
Harry pulled him back in, their foreheads pressed together. “You’re my home,” he said, thumb pressing gently into Louis’ forearm. “And you keep me warm.”
Louis laughed softly. “We’re just a pair of hopeless romantics, aren’t we?”
Harry smiled. “I hope so,” he said.
They leaned in at the same moment, perfectly in sync as always, their lips meeting already in rhythm. Louis had to remind himself to control the heat growing inside him, pulling it back from his hands and his head so he wouldn’t burn Harry or start smoking. Harry’s mouth tasted like the chocolate mousse they’d had for dessert – Louis’ favourite, and it tasted even better on Harry’s tongue.
A disgusted sound from behind them made Louis pull away. He glanced behind him and sighed.
“Don’t look now,” he murmured in Harry’s ear, “but my lovely cousin Ethan is probably about to pick up where his mother left off.”
“Let him try,” Harry murmured back. “Why don’t we give him a show first?” He leaned in to kiss Louis again, but Louis stopped him (a rare event).
“Are you sure antagonizing him is a good idea?”
Harry considered it. “Maybe not,” he admitted. “Sounds fun, though.”
Louis laughed. “You’re supposed to be the levelheaded one,” he teased.
Harry grinned sheepishly. “All I can think about right now is kissing you,” he admitted. “Little things like diplomacy kind of fall by the wayside.”
“Your kingdom for a kiss?”
“Something like that.”
Louis smiled, dropping one more soft peck onto Harry’s mouth before turning to face the oncoming storm.
Ethan was glaring daggers in their direction. When Louis met his eyes with a smile that tried not to be condescending, Ethan seemed inflamed rather than assuaged. “Do you mind?” he spat. “Some people don’t want to see that.”
Louis sighed. “I don’t want to see you, Ethan,” he said. “I guess we don’t always get what we want, do we?”
Ethan’s eyes narrowed. If they narrowed any further, Louis thought he might not be able to see at all. “It’s indecent,” he hissed. “It’s unnatural. It’s disgusting. There are children here, for God’s sake.”
“Indeed,” Louis said. “Some of them are even openminded enough to know that there's nothing wrong with homosexuality."
“Bad enough that you’re a fucking queer,” Ethan said. “You have to pervert those poor kids too. What do you even do to them? I bet Doris and-”
“Don’t you fucking dare.” The intensity in Louis’ voice was white hot as he cut off Ethan’s words. “Don’t you even think about finishing that sentence the way we both know you were going to. I would willingly kill to protect Doris and Ernie, and you are not excluded from the potential hit list.”
Rather than looking afraid, Ethan’s mouth curved upwards into a twisted smile. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” he said. “Emphasis on the lady. Did I hit a nerve?”
“I’ll do more than hit your nerves,” Louis said between gritted teeth, striding towards Ethan.
Harry’s hand wrapped around his arm, tugging him back. “Louis.” His voice was calm, though there was an edge in it that said he was almost as angry as Louis was. “Don’t let him get to you.”
Louis looked down. The intellectual part of his brain (or what little of it was still working) knew Harry was right. Ethan wasn’t worth it. Wasn’t worth his hate or his anger. Wasn’t worth causing a scene at his little sister’s wedding. But it was hard to see that part through the heat of his anger. He could take Ethan insulting him. He could take Ethan’s pathetic homophobic jabs. But when Ethan brought up his sisters –
“Louis,” Harry repeated. “Let’s go sit down.”
Louis bit his tongue, counted to ten, took a deep breath. All that jazz. Still, there was a buzzing in his ears like a swarm of angry bees had built their hive in his brain, but he forced himself to turn away from Ethan. “You’re lucky my boyfriend has a cooler head than I do,” he said as Harry wrapped an arm around his waist to lead him back to their table.
Ethan laughed cruelly. “Coupla cowards, more like,” he said. “Faggots like you usually are. Where did you find this one, anyway? A back alley? Behind a dumpster?”
Louis spun on a dime, livid. Fireballs sparked in both his hands and there was murder in his eyes.
Fortunately, Harry was faster. He was in front of Louis almost before he’d turned around, slamming his hands down on top of Louis’. The flames went out, and Harry hissed in pain. “Stop,” he told Louis through gritted teeth. “You’re better than this. You’re better than him.”
Harry’s words barely registered through the fog in Louis’ mind, but the pain in his expression cut through it like icy rain. “You’re hurt,” he whispered. “You’re – I hurt you, shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“It’s fine,” Harry said. “Let’s just get out of here.”
“Right,” Louis said. “Right, of course.”
This time it was he who wrapped an arm around Harry’s waist as they moved off of the floor. Harry headed for the bathrooms, and Louis followed.
“I’m sorry,” Louis said as Harry ran cold water over his hands. “I shouldn’t have let him get to me. It’s just – hard.”
Harry shook his head. “He was trying to get under your skin,” he said. “You’re protective. It’s part of what I love about you.”
Louis smiled weakly. “Thanks,” he said. “I still feel terrible.”
“I’m fine,” Harry said with a smile. “And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Louis said, wincing.
Harry laughed. “It’s what we do,” he pointed out. “Remember that time when I was seventeen and I tried to wash the windows but wound up flooding my entire bedroom?”
Louis laughed. “It took a whole day to dry out.”
“Would’ve taken longer without you,” Harry said. “You helped me then – helped me calm down, helped me figure out how to get rid of the water, helped dry out my things. You even got Liam to fix the damage to the wood.”
Louis shrugged. “I had enough trouble figuring out my abilities,” he said. “Of course I was going to help you guys. I did the same thing for Liam the time he turned his backyard into a jungle.”
“Exactly,” Harry said. “You help us. You do it willingly and you never think twice about it. It’s only right that we should return the favour.” He turned off the water and held his hands up to the light to inspect them. “It’s not so bad,” he said, twisting them around. “I just didn’t have time to pull quite enough water out of the air.”
“Let me,” Louis said, taking Harry’s hands gently in his own. His palms were faintly pink, and still warm to the touch beneath the cool droplets of water. Harry winced slightly when Louis touched them, though he tried to hide it.
“I’m going to try something,” he said, letting go of Harry’s hands. “Hold your hands out and don’t move.”
Harry looked slightly nervous. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Pretty sure,” Louis said. “I don’t know if it’ll help, but it won’t hurt. I promise.”
Harry nodded and held out his hands, palm up. Louis placed his hands over Harry’s just barely touching them. He shut his eyes and concentrated. He could feel the heat lingering in Harry’s skin, cooler but still not cool enough. He felt the heat and he called to it, drawing it into his own hands and dispersing it.
He heard Harry’s quiet gasp as the temperature in his hands dropped. Louis pulled his hands away before it could grow too cold, and smiled at Harry. “How’s that?”
“Incredible,” Harry said, inspecting his palms. “That helped a lot. Thanks.”
“Least I could do,” Louis said.
“Louis, you don’t-”
“I know,” Louis said. “C’mon. Let’s rejoin the party.”
He took Harry gently by the elbow and guided him back towards the main room. They both paused as they left the bathrooms – Lottie stood in the hallway, still resplendent in her white dress. When she saw them, she left off pacing and moved to stand in front of them. Louis looked down at the floor, prepared for a scolding. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Lottie blinked. “You – you’re – what? Why are you sorry?”
“Today should have been perfect for you,” Louis said. He couldn’t meet her eyes. “But it wasn’t. Because of me. I’m sorry.”
“Because of-” Lottie cut herself off, shaking her head. “Oh, Lou, I should have known you’d think – I’m sorry.”
Louis’ head jerked up. “What do you have to apologize for?”
“Inviting those shitheads, for one thing.” Lottie jerked her head back towards the main room, her carefully sculpted hair trembling slightly. “I thought they might have changed, or that they would be able to be civilized and polite for one day. Apparently not.” She shook her head. “I’ve talked to Mom, and she agrees. They’re off the guest list. Any guest list. Weddings, birthdays, holidays – they’re gone. You’ll never have to deal with them again, if I have anything to say with it.”
She stepped closer, cupping Louis’ cheek in her hand. “You didn’t ruin my wedding, Louis,” she said. “I can’t imagine getting married without my favourite big brother at my side, watching over me.”
“I’ll always watch over you,” Louis said, his throat suddenly thick. “And I’m your only big brother.”
Lottie laughed. “I know,” she said. “But I think you’d still be my favourite.” She pulled him into a tight hug, and Louis hugged her back, careful of her dress and her hair. After a moment she pulled back, holding him at arms length. “You didn’t ruin my wedding,” she told him again. “You couldn’t. They could, but I’m not going to let them.” She squeezed his arm. “Don’t you let them either.”
Louis nodded. “Okay,” he said. He didn’t sound very convinced, and Lottie glared at him. Louis laughed. “Okay,” he said, his voice stronger this time. “I won’t let them.”
“Good.” Lottie let go of his arms and stepped back. “Now, I want you to smile, and I want to walk back out there with you by my side.”
Louis’ smile grew a little bigger, and a little more confident. “Okay,” he said again.
Lottie looped her arm around his elbow, and tugged Harry to Louis’ other side. Harry offered Louis his arm, and Louis took it with another laugh.
“Ready?” Lottie asked.
“Ready,” Harry said.
Louis looked from his sister on one side to his boyfriend on the other and knew either one of them would willingly fight for him. Or they would stand at his side and help him to fight for himself. He loved them for it, loved them more than he could express. Warmth bloomed in his chest, not the warmth of his powers, but the warmth of knowing that he was surrounded by the best friends and family he could possibly ask for.
Including a friend who he just might be able to persuade to tip a full glass of water into a certain someone’s lap.
He realized that Lottie and Harry were still waiting for his reply, and he smiled at both of them. “I’m ready,” he said. “Let’s do this.”