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The first time Louis does it, he's tired. A bone aching exhaustion is racking through his body, and he just doesn't know how to cope anymore.

 

The infant in his arms is finally sleeping soundly. No longer impersonating some kind of shrieking demon/harpy hybrid.

 

In this moment, little Rory could almost be described as angelic. The lashes of his now (thankfully) closed eyes are long and delicately curved, fanning out onto the smooth rosy expanse of his cheeks. Wisps of his thin blond hair are catching the light of the bedside lamp, giving the false impression of a halo. His tiny chest is expanding and contracting in a slow, steady rhythm. His quiet breaths, creating an almost soothing accompaniment to the sounds more commonly heard in the streets of Manchester at 4:22 in the morning.

 

Louis looks down at his son, and hates him.

 

Louis gasps in shock when his exhausted brain eventually recognises and processes the emotion. The movement accidentally jolts the baby in his arms, who stirs and whimpers a little, but thankfully sleeps on. Slowly, Louis raises himself from where he’s propped up against the headboard of his bed, and walks to the other end of the bedroom, gently placing Rory in the crib pushed up against the wall.

 

It’s only once he’s ensured that his son is still fast asleep, that Louis allows himself to react. He makes sure that the baby monitor is on, picks up his phone, and walks, swiftly but silently, through the bedroom door, and into the living room. Once there, his legs seem to just give out under him. He crumples onto the floor, legs oddly stretched out in front of him, his back and head painfully thwacking against the wall. He feels tears stinging in the corner of his eyes, and a vice constricting his heart.

 

Louis is a terrible person.

 

What kind of psychopathic nut-job, looks at his peacefully sleeping 2 month old son, and feels hate? Even murderers, homophobes and racists have the goddamn decency to love their own children. Even people who go out into the world, and see nothing but hate and despair, are able to turn off that broken part of themselves in the face of an innocent fucking baby.

 

Louis may just be the worst parent in the world. God knows he’s a whole lot worse than his own sorry excuse for a father, who left when Louis was only two. Troy may have displayed disinterest and a total lack of personal responsibility in his abandonment, vices Louis could never forgive him for, but even Troy was never so callous a person as to actually actively hate his own son.

 

Oh God! What would his mother think if she could peer into her son’s brain right now? Would she wonder where she’d gone wrong? Wonder how she could have raised such an abhorrent human being, without ever catching on to just how twisted he was.

 

Fuck.

 

What would Aaron think?

 

Louis’ breath catches in his throat and the grip on his heart tightens. He’s sobbing in earnest now. The tears that have been collecting in the corners of his eyes finally spilling over, accompanied by great gulping moans. He just doesn’t know what to do!

 

He contemplates calling his mother, but it’s still so bloody early, and she’s got babies of her own to look after. She really should be getting all the sleep she can. Jay’s not as young as she used to be, and little Ernie in particular can be a right terror now that he’s finally figured out how to run.

 

The next person he thinks of is Zayn. Zayn has told Louis countless times to call anytime he needs to talk. Has reassured Louis that they’ll remain best friends, no matter what. Has promised to be there for Louis through absolutely anything. Louis envisions calling Zayn, and divulging the warped mess of his mind. He imagines telling his very best friend in the world, the only person he knows who loves those he lets into his heart with absolutely everything he’s got, that for a moment, Louis had felt a flash of hatred towards his own son.

 

Zayn would never look at him the same way again.

 

Louis can’t do this by himself. He’s so fucking tired.

 

So that’s the first time Louis does it. Louis picks up his phone, and engages in the most futile act possibly ever perpetrated in the history of mankind. He texts Aaron.

 

To Aaron: I looked at our son today, and for a moment, I hated him.

 

As soon as the message is sent, Louis feels himself relax, the tears stop, and his breathing calms. Ever since Louis was 15 years old, he has never kept a secret from Aaron. It’s the lightest Louis has felt since the last time he was able to confess one of the dark parts of his mind to the one person he could rely on to always listen. To always love him.

 

Everyone else in Louis’ life has only ever seen an edited version of his personality. At his best they see the funny, light-hearted Louis, manically whirling around, trying to make people laugh, and generally bring joy and mischievousness. At his worst, they see the sulky, moaning Louis, highly prone to bouts of severe pouting, and biting retorts. Only one person has ever been allowed to see the rough draft of Louis. The version that sometimes succumbs to the darker parts of his mind, the quiet Louis.

 

He texts Aaron again.

 

To Aaron: I don’t think I’m ever going to stop missing you.

 

Louis doesn’t get a reply.

 

 

*****

 

About three hours later, Louis wakes to the sound of Rory’s cries through the baby monitor. He’s still slumped against the wall. His neck is painfully cricked, and one of his legs is completely numb from being bent at an odd angle for such a prolonged period of time.

 

He’s momentarily confused as to what he could possibly be doing sleeping on the floor, when suddenly the events from earlier that morning come back to him.

 

Feeling like he's been body slammed a couple of times, Louis staggers to his feet and limps to the bedroom, his right leg now tingling unpleasantly with pins and needles.

 

He approaches Rory with caution. He’s not sure whether he’s more worried that his son is going to take one look at him, and somehow know precisely how his father felt towards him, only hours ago; or just terrified of looking down at Rory, and once again feeling that inexplicable fleeting stab of hate. Either way, Louis needs to grow a pair. His son is hungry, and it’s his job to feed him. Louis takes a deep breath, steeling himself, and picks up his baby.

 

Love.

 

Louis can’t detect a trace of the confusing vitriol from a few hours earlier. Rory immediately begins to calm at the familiar sensation of being in his father’s arms. Safe in the knowledge that he’s about to be fed, his sharp cries diminish to gentle whimpers. It’s such a profound relief that Louis begins to whimper a little too. He brings his son up to his chest, rocking both of their bodies lightly from side to side, and starts planting gentle kisses all over Rory’s soft hair and forehead.

 

“I’m so sorry baby,” he whispers. “I love you, I love you, I love you and I am so, so incredibly sorry.”

 

Rory looks up with confused eyes when Louis finally pulls away, and whimpers with a little more insistence.

 

Right. That’s what Louis’ supposed to be doing: growing a pair, and feeding his son. He can do that.

 

*****

 

The rest of Louis’ day is pretty standard.

 

He chats to his mum after lunch and catches up on all of the gossip from Doncaster. Phoebe’s in a bit of a strop after a trip to the dentist earlier in the week revealed that she needed braces. Apparently this is a life-altering tragedy, which will doom Phoebe to years of being a social outcast without any prospect of a boyfriend, and it’s just not fair, because Daisy’s supposed to be her identical twin, so why doesn’t she have to get braces too? Christ. Phoebe’s only, what? Eleven? Frankly, Louis can’t see anything even remotely tragic in his baby sister not being able to get a boyfriend in the immediate future. Also, Doris and Ernie have managed to pick up a pretty nasty cold from day care, and their blocked noses are making it difficult for them to sleep through the night.

 

All in all, Louis’ chat with Jay just confirms that it was the right call not to bother her with his little emotional breakdown in the early hours of the morning. She must be exhausted, what with multiple moody pre-teens and screaming toddlers to wrangle. It’s also why, when his mum asks him how he’s doing, concern laced through her voice, Louis plasters on the cheesy fake smile which manifests automatically every time he’s asked some variation of that question these days.

 

“You know what? I’m doing surprisingly well. Having Rory is such a plus. He’s really helping me keep my mind off everything. Y’know, keeping me busy and all that. Dunno what I’d do without him honestly.”

 

Jay hums in response, not sounding terribly convinced, but then Doris starts squealing in the background and Jay has to get off the phone.

 

Louis counts it as a win.

 

*****

 

 

Zayn comes by at about 6:15pm after closing up the gallery for the day. It’s only a quick visit, (it’s his and Perrie’s date night) but he still manages to get through his daily routine of snuggling up with his “absolute favourite godson” whilst shooting concerned looks at Louis. Louis pretends not to notice the pleading edge in Zayn’s eyes. That’s part of the routine too.

 

“Y’know I’m here whenever you want to talk.” Zayn offers as he hands Rory back to his father, and heads towards the front door.

 

“Course I do mate,” the facsimile smile has returned. Louis fucking hates it.“M’fine though. Have fun with Pez tonight, yeah?”

 

Zayn sighs a little, and offers a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes, “Ok Lou, I’ll see you tomorrow. Love you both.” He strokes Rory’s cheek and kisses Louis’ forehead, before he leaves.

 

*****

 

At 8:02pm Mary calls. Louis ignores it.

 

*****

 

By 8:30pm, Rory’s actually asleep. Louis knows he should take advantage of this rare opportunity, and catch up on his own seriously lacking sleep, but he can’t seem to turn his brain off. Instead, he’s lying in bed. Thinking.

 

Fuck, he’s a mess. He has no clue why he bothers trying to hide it from anyone, particularly those who know and love him best. Why he tries to convince them that he’s fine. They must know. Must be acutely aware that there’s no way he could possibly be feeling anything even approaching ‘fine’.

 

The thing is, Louis wasn’t meant to exist without Aaron. They’d grown up together and into each other. Forged together by pain and trials they were too young to deal with. Forged by love too of course, an absolute fuckton of the stuff. Melded together until they were two halves of a whole. Now, Louis just feels like half a person.

 

How on earth is one half of a person supposed to raise a whole child?

 

Louis grabs his phone from where it’s charging on his bedside table. Mary’s left a voicemail he absolutely cannot deal with listening to right now. He contemplates keeping it for later, but it leaves this big red, circled 1 in the corner of the phone icon of his iPhone. It makes him anxious just looking at it, so Louis deletes the voicemail.

 

He opens up the texting app on his phone. It goes automatically to his most recent conversation, the one from the early hours of the morning, with Aaron. Before he can think better of it, Louis finds himself typing.

 

To Aaron: I’m sorry if I worried you earlier, you know I love Rory more than anything

 

To Aaron: That’s what I decided to call him by the way. Rory.

 

To Aaron: I know you were really set on Luke, but it’s such a harsh sounding name, and when I saw him, it just didn’t fit. He’s such a soft, sweet little boy. You’d understand why Luke was wrong if you saw him.

 

To Aaron: Aaron’s his middle name. Obviously.

 

Once again, the texts calm Louis down. His brain stops turning in on itself, and his muscles relax. He falls easily into the most restful sleep he’s had in over 3 months. He doesn’t wake up until Rory starts to cry at about 2am, in need of a nappy change and a feed.

 

Five consecutive hours of sleep leave Louis feeling more human than he has in ages. Once Rory’s settled down again, his breathing deep and even, Louis gets himself back into bed. He picks up his phone, and sends one more text before falling back to sleep.

 

 

To Aaron: I miss you.

 

*****

 

It becomes a thing after that. Louis texts Aaron every night, for as long as it takes for his brain to shut down. As long as it takes for Louis to feel human again.

 

Some nights he only sends one. Most nights it’s more.

 

*****

 

It’s only a week after Louis’ first text that his mother angrily calls, telling him that Mary’s just been over. Disappointment and accusation are laced in every fibre of her voice.

 

Louis has to text Aaron for well over an hour that night before he can even begin to think about sleep.

 

The texts are a long and repetitive series of nonsense. Lots of ‘I’m so sorrys’ and ‘I just don’t know what to say to hers’ and ‘I’m a terrible persons’ with one ‘I feel like I’m letting you down’ thrown in for luck.

 

*****

 

Another 2 weeks pass before Louis finally pulls himself together enough to drive over to Donny for the day.

 

He goes home first, carefully placing Rory’s carrier on the carpeted ground of the living room, before basically collapsing into his mother’s welcoming embrace. Tears sting at his eyes, as his mother rubs his back and whispers soothing nonsense into his ear. It's so good to be home.

 

The rest of the morning, Louis spends playing with Ernie and Doris. They're like proper little people now, babbling excitedly in nonsensical sentences with the odd discernible word thrown in, seemingly at random. It's all very endearing.

 

The older girls have taken full responsibility over Rory, passing him carefully amongst themselves and cooing occasionally. They take it in turns to gently stroke his hair and pepper kisses all over his face. They seem in awe of their little nephew, and Rory's positively basking in all the attention. It brings out Louis' genuine smile for the first time in quite a while.

 

Lunch is a frenetic, raucous affair, making Louis feel like a kid again. Rory is totally overwhelmed, never having been around so many noisy people at once before. He starts crying when it all got to be a bit too much, forcing Louis to take him upstairs and tuck him into Ernie’s crib for an early afternoon nap.

 

After lunch, without Rory to distract them, it's impossible for Louis to miss the careful way his sisters are looking at him. They watch him warily across the room as he chats with Dan about the football, seemingly worried that their brother's about to have some kind of mental breakdown in front of them. Louis ignores the anxiety twisting in his gut, and pulls stupid faces at his girls until Daisy and Phoebe start to giggle, and Lottie and Fizzy have cracked a smile.

 

By the time Rory wakes up at 2:20pm, Louis can’t put off the inevitable any longer. He's due at Mary’s for afternoon tea in 10 minutes, and he has to leave now if he wants to get there on time. He says goodbye to everyone, hugging each of his siblings and Dan, before being wrapped up once again in his mother’s crushing embrace.

 

“Don’t leave it so long to come around next time, ok Boo?” she whispers in his ear, “we miss you and Rory so much when you’re gone”.

 

Louis’ heart clenches, “I won’t, I promise.”

 

He straps Rory into his car seat and makes the short trip to Mary’s house 100% convinced he's about to be yelled at for a very long time. He can only hope he somehow manages to get Rory safely out of the room before the (completely justified) screaming begins.

 

The last thing Louis expects upon the front door being pulled open, is to be dragged into an embrace just as warm and loving as the one he’d received from his own mother. Mary buries her face into Louis’ neck, the moisture leaking steadily from her eyes wetting Louis’ skin.

 

“I’m so happy to see you, love,” she breathes into Louis’ shoulder, “I’ve missed you so much.”

 

“I’ve missed you too, Mary” Louis sighs, “I’m sorry I’ve been such a ridiculous shit these past few months.”

 

The older woman laughs wetly at that, choking a little, but refusing to let go of the man in her arms. Louis would happily stay in Mary’s arms for hours, but he's still awkwardly holding Rory’s carrier in one hand, and the baby's beginning to whimper lightly.

 

“Mary, love,” Louis whispers, reluctant to break the moment, “Let me just put your grandson down for a mo’, then I’ll be able to give you a proper cuddle.”

 

Grandson’s the magic word apparently. Mary immediately snaps out of her reverie, and pulls out of the hug.

 

“Screw cuddling you, Tomlinson,” she says, smile bright despite the red around her eyes, and the tears on her cheeks, “Give me the baby!”

 

The moment Mary has Rory in her arms, her entire body exhales. Her muscles relax, and her previously bright smile turns peaceful and content.

 

“He looks so much like you Lou, especially around the eyes and nose,” she pauses, taking a steadying breath before continuing, “I know it’s impossible, but I feel like there’s a little bit of Aaron in him too? Around the lips maybe? The hair’s the same colour too. It was so straight and blonde when Aaron was little, right up until the first time he…” She stops herself, shaking her head, a sad little smile playing on her lips.

 

“He’s absolutely lovely, Lou. Grown up so much since the last time I saw him, right after he was born. He must be almost 3 months old now, right?”

 

This is it then, the conversation Louis has been dreading ever since he’d organised his trip to Doncaster a few days ago.

 

“Look, Mary, there’s really no excuse for how I’ve behaved. I’ve been such a…”

 

“Stop.” There's a steely look in Mary’s eyes that Louis doesn’t dare defy. “There’s every excuse. You’ve been childish, and closed-off and difficult, but you have one of the best excuses in the world.”

 

“I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed being cut out of your life, and I’ve missed you and Rory terribly. But I do understand. I’ve been exactly where you are, and I get not knowing how to cope. So, it’s ok, I forgive you, water under the bridge, and all that. Plus, I love you too sodding much to stay angry at you.”

 

Tears spring to Louis’ eyes halfway through Mary’s speech. Why has he avoided this wonderful, kind, funny, compassionate woman for so long?

 

She's so much like Aaron.

 

Louis leaves Doncaster about two and a half hours later, with some scones in an old takeaway container, a thermos full of tea and Rory sleeping in his car seat. In exchange, he’s left several promises for their imminent return, and sincere assurances that he's definitely going to pick up the phone the next time Mary calls.

 

He only has to text Aaron for twenty minutes before going to sleep that night.

 

*****

 

It's only four months after Louis started his daily messages to Aaron that Zayn innocently suggests that it might be time for Louis to start dating again. Needless to say, it doesn’t go down well.

 

“What?” Louis gasps sharply.

 

“I dunno mate, just something to consider maybe? I mean, it’s been 7 months since it, um… happened, and Rory’s older now, and going to daycare. Plus you’ve been back at work for a couple of weeks and you’re totally killing it there… I just thought that, maybe going on a couple of dates could be the next thing on your agenda?” By the time he’s stuttered it all out, Zayn looks like he regrets ever saying a word in his life.

 

“Agenda?” Louis screeches, “Seriously Zayn, do you think about what you’re saying before you say it? Or do you just let the words shoot out your gob in any old order, and hope they form a coherent sentence instead of a gigantic pile of shit?”

 

“Ok! So what I’m getting from you right now, is that you don’t think you’re quite up to dating yet.”

 

“No, you bloody fucking wanker of a shitheaded dick. I’m not ‘up to dating’ yet, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be ‘up to dating’ again! You do realise that Aaron was my fucking soulmate, right? We weren’t just some highschool sweetheart bullshit, we were the real fucking deal. He was my fucking endgame, you cunt. And now he’s fucking gone, and you want me to just start dating again? After 7 months? Fuck you! Of course I’m not fucking ready!” Louis is fuming. His breath is coming out it sharp little bursts, and his body practically vibrating with rage.

 

Zayn just stares at him for a while, taken aback by the ferocity of Louis’ outburst. “You know, that’s the most I’ve heard you talk about him since the funeral, Lou.” Zayn’s tone is gentle and his eyes sympathetic. “So you’re not ready. That’s fine babe, there’s no rush. Obviously you shouldn’t get back out there when you’re still hurting this much. It’s just…” Zayn hesitates, worried that he might send Louis into another rage spiral, “It’s just… I don’t like hearing you say that you might never be ready. You’re only twenty-four, babe. You’ve got so much time, and you’re so bloody good at loving people. You just love so much and so well, and it would be such a pity to see all of that go to waste. You just shouldn’t be alone, babe. It’s not what I want for you, and it’s certainly not what Aaron would have wanted.”

 

The anger just seeps out of Louis’ pores leaving a deep well of sadness in its place. “M’not alone Zayn,” How did his voice become so small when it was so big and powerful only moments ago? “I’ve got Rory, and you, and mum, and Ernie and the girls, and Mary… I’ve still got so many people to love, m’not alone.” Louis can feel the frown on his face. Why does it feel like he’s trying to convince himself?

 

Zayn sighs, “Course you do babe. You’ve got all of us, and we love you, and we’re not going anywhere. I just think you might have room to love someone new too. Maybe you won’t love them the same way you loved Aaron, but… I dunno… I reckon you’re too young to give up on it altogether.”

 

Louis could feel the frown on his face deepening, “M’not ready, Zayn.”

 

“Ok Lou, nobody’s gonna force you to do something you’re not ready for. Just think about it, yeah?” Zayn sighs again at the perturbed expression etched on Louis’ face, “I’m gonna get us some pizza for dinner. You go check on Rory while I order, alright?”

 

Louis can only nod distractedly as he moves off the sofa, and into the bedroom to check on his son.

 

That night, when he gets into bed, he finds he only needs to send one text.

 

To Aaron: I’m not ready yet.

 

*****

 

It’s not until 8 months after that first text that Louis does feel up to thinking about getting back into the dating world.

 

It’s Rory that ends up convincing him. He’s 10-months old now, crawling around the place and babbling away. Blissfully unaware that he’s being parented by one half of a person. Rory deserves more. He deserves at least one, whole undamaged parental figure. Louis can’t be that for him, so he’ll have to find him one instead.

 

Also, Louis is really fucking horny. It’s been almost a year since he's last fucked, or was fucked by a real, human person, and he’s kind of losing his mind.

 

Anything worth doing is worth doing well, so Louis decides to devise a game plan. He’s working at an event-planning company these days, and his organisational and list making skills have improved exponentially as a result. His bastard of a history teacher from college would be positively shaken by his proficiency.

 

He quickly decides that there are only two kinds of men he should really be looking out for: 1- Potential future father figures for Rory, or 2- Men Louis can fuck. Obviously, Type 1 guys are the priority, the end goal of this whole dating ordeal. However, in the mean time, a couple of Type 2s certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Louis is really horny.

 

After a few minutes of deliberation, Louis determines which basic qualities a man would have to possess, in order to even be considered a potential father figure for Rory:

  • Steady job and income (successful)
  • Likes children
  • Serious, but not in an intimidating way
  • Committed
  • Emotionally available
  • At least two years older
  • Hopefully somewhat sexually attractive?

 

Louis’ list of requirements for a Type 2 guy is much more straightforward:

  • Hot
  • STD free (how do people check that these days?)

 

Pleased with his plan of attack, Louis only sends two texts that night.

 

To Aaron: I know I’m never going to find someone I love as much as I loved you, but I’m going to try and find someone for Rory. I know you’d understand.

 

 

To Aaron: I hope you know that whatever happens, Rory's always going to know that you're his father too.

 

*****

 

It happens a couple of weeks later on a normal day of little perceived importance. Rory’s almost 11 months old, and Louis’ bracing himself for the 1 year anniversary of Aaron’s death next weekend.

 

Rory’s been asleep for about an hour, and Louis’ just organising some last minute details before heading to bed himself.

 

First, he texts Zayn back confirming that, yes, he’s definitely got the go ahead to give the 30-something year old lawyer who bought a painting at the gallery today Louis’ number. Hopefully, this one will be more successful than the last ‘perfect on paper’ guy Louis had gone a date with. He’d fit every single one of the criteria, but he’d been so rude to the poor waiter who’d had the misfortune of being assigned to their table. Louis refuses to allow his son to be raised by the kind of person who can’t be decent to waiters.

 

Next he sends a quick text to Mary, confirming that he and Rory should be arriving in Doncaster mid-morning next Saturday. They’ve decided they want to spend that weekend together, plus it’s been a while since Rory’s had the opportunity to be absolutely spoilt rotten by his doting aunts and grandmothers.

 

Business for the day completed, Louis sends his now customary bedtime text to Aaron.

 

To Aaron: I still miss you so much sometimes I can barely breathe, but I feel like I’m doing better. I may only be half a person, but at least I’m a functioning half now.

 

Satisfied, Louis plugs in his phone, and turns off his bedside lamp. He’s just beginning to nod off, when he’s jolted back into consciousness by the sound of his phone buzzing beside him. It’s almost certainly Zayn texting him back with more details about lawyer-guy. It’s probably a little too late at night to be Mary, but stranger things have happened.

 

The absolute last thing Louis expects to see when he wakes up his phone, just so happens to be the very thing that flashes across the screen:

 

 

Text Message From: Aaron

 

Louis immediately drops his phone in shock. It falls onto the duvet, landing facedown, next to Louis’ right thigh. What? Just… What? How could…? There must be some kind of mistake.

 

Completely awake now, Louis picks up his phone with the care one would usually reserve for some kind of explosive. Holding the device facedown and about a metre in front of his body, Louis moves out of the bedroom as silently as he can on his now shaking legs, before collapsing against a wall in the living room.

 

For a brief, horrifying moment he’s starkly reminded of the night all those months ago when he’d sent that first text to Aaron. The night he’d engaged in that first act of futility. Louis doesn’t know whether he wants to laugh, or cry at the irony of it all. Probably both.

 

After one deep steadying breath, Louis turns over the phone and switches it back on. The message on the home screen remains the same.

 

 

Text Message From: Aaron

 

The thing is, Louis’ always been a jump right in, ask questions later kind of guy, and this is no exception. Before he can think twice, Louis swipes at the text message notification on his screen and unlocks his phone.

 

From Aaron: Hey mate. Just wanted to let you know that you’ve sent this to the wrong number. Obviously, that message was really personal, and I feel kind of awful for reading it. The thing is I’ve literally just gotten this new phone and number today so I’ve been getting all of my friends to send me their details. So, like there was nothing unusual about one more text from an unknown number. And I read through the whole message just in case it was a joke from somebody, and they left their name at the end? Anyway, sorry again, and I’m sure the person you were trying to send that text to will give you their new number soon xx.

 

From Aaron: Also, if this is a joke, I will get you back Niall. You may think you’re funny but you are sadly mistaken.

 

Ok. That made sense. Phone contracts expire if you don’t use them for a while, it must have been more than a year since Aaron had last recharged his credit. Numbers get reassigned; it’s not the end of the world. Louis can breathe again.

 

To Aaron: Promise I’m not some bloke called Niall, or taking the piss. Just a regular guy making an honest, highly embarrassing, mistake. Thanks for letting me know mate. Won’t bother you again.

 

It’s all going to be alright. So Louis isn’t going to be able to send texts to Aaron anymore, maybe that’s a good thing. Louis’ been doing so much better recently, maybe he doesn’t need to use the illusion of talking to Aaron as a crutch anymore. Maybe this is as clear a sign as any that it’s time for Louis to move on to more productive ways of dealing with his grief.

 

Louis’ almost so lost in his own thoughts that he doesn’t notice his phone buzzing back to life. Of course, it’s not-Aaron again.

 

From Aaron: Mate, please don’t feel embarrassed, this is all on me for not being able to keep my big nose out text messages clearly intended for other people. So in keeping with my sticky-beak reputation, I just wanted to say: I’m so glad you’re doing better, but based on the rest of your message, you still don’t seem to be doing that great? I realise I’m overstepping a major personal line here, but if you ever need someone to talk to I’m totally here for you. Just send me a text and I’ll do my best to help, it’d never be a bother xx.

 

Louis stares at the message for a long time, confused. What on earth is this guy playing at? Why is he so concerned with the problems of some random person he knows literally nothing about? He’s either a complete weirdo, or caring to a fault. What other explanation could there be for someone getting so rapidly invested in the, rather vague, problems of a stranger?

 

The phone buzzes again.

 

From Aaron: My name’s Harry btw xx.