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Mortified

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The year is 2008. Harry is 27 years old.

Not only that, but he’s 27 years old, and he still believes that his first love will be his only. December 23rd and he’s sitting in a club in downtown Gloucestershire watching this act called Mortified, drinking away any remains of a frown he was sporting when he walked in.

A woman named Brigid walks up to the stage and Harry claps for her along with the audience, eagerly anticipating her every word.

“By the time I turned nine I felt like my family was constantly picking on me. So, I turned to my diary, as the one place where I could mouth off without punishment.” Brigid takes a breath, eyeing the audience before turning her attention back to her diary. “August 14th, 1991. Dear diary, we were having pasta with clam sauce for dinner. It was gross, so I asked if I could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

The audience lets out a few chuckles, and Harry wonders if he was a brat like that when he was a kid.

“Dad said that this is what was for dinner, so either I eat that or nothing. I don’t understand that at all! I kept on asking him, saying, ‘if you don’t like something, why can’t you eat something you do like?’ He got mad and sent me to my room, right in front of Megan! Dad is a bitch.” The audience lets out a sudden burst of laughter so loud that Harry can barely hear the end of the sentence.

“Fucking asshole.” Brigid says defiantly, as if re-living the drama. “Butt-fucking bitch.”

Harry’s beer comes out of his nose at that one, a fact that he will later deny if asked.

“And butt-crust.” Brigid finishes off strongly, looking at the audience with a stern expression. “Some of these things are too bad for words so I’ll draw them.”

Images of middle fingers and other things Harry can’t identity come up on the projector, but Harry’s tears are blurring his vision and he lets out a loud guffaw when Brigid firmly says, “So there, you little asshole of a bitch!”

A moment of a recovery passes through the crowd, but it’s short-lived.

“Dear diary,” Brigid starts up again. “My mom told me to go to my room just because I told Brendan to shut up. I don’t know why she thinks it’s a bad word. Mom is a dork, a moron, and a geek.” She says each word with power, effectively adding humor. “I hate her so much.” She pauses for a second, waiting for the audience to catch up with her. “P.S., by the way I had a great new year.” She shakes her head at her diary as she closes it, taking one final bow before walking off the stage.

+

Harry goes in for his own Mortified ‘non-audition’ the following week. He makes it, obviously. He has the producers hooting and hollering in no time, all thanks to a bloke named Louis Tomlinson, and a hopeless romantic 16 year old Harry Styles.

A copious amount of Harry’s teenage years (1994-1999, years full of bad clothes and lots of angst) we’re spent pining over one of his classmates: Louis Tomlinson.

They weren’t friends, were barely even acquaintances, so what it was about Louis that had Harry strung up all these years were unbeknownst to him. Dave, the main producer, asks for his contact information and they set up a date for Harry to share his journal at Club Oberon the upcoming week.

In preparation for that week Harry spends his days going through his other journals and projects and wondering how a little boy who had ambitions of becoming an astronaut or a rock star ended up being a 27 year old man living alone in a flat with a cat who loves him very dearly he’s sure, but knocks a lot of shit onto the floor.

He also spends a lot of that time thinking about what Louis is up to these days, maybe he’s got a wife – kids, even. Harry even takes to looking up Louis online, to see if he’s got a Facebook profile or anything like that.

The only conclusion he draws from this is that Louis didn’t become a famous footie player, nor did he become a star actor. But he’s out there, somewhere, and Harry bets he’s still as great was he was 10 years ago.

+

“Don’t be nervous,” Scott says kindly, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”

“For you maybe,” Harry replies with a shake of his head. “You’re going to be reading about how in second grade you turned in a book report based off The Exorcist, not anything nearly as embarrassing as mine.”

Scott chuckles, “You’ll be fine,”

A bunch of the readers are gathered in the back room, waiting for the bouncers to let everyone in. Harry’s shaking in his boots, absolutely humiliated because his family had insisted on coming to watch him perform.

“I wouldn’t let my parents come,” Harry over-hears a conversation between two participants. “I’m too embarrassed.”

“Oh really?” Someone responds, “I wouldn’t let me sister come, most of what I wrote is about how much I hated her.”

The both laugh, and Harry walks away in search of bottled water.

“…1996 through 1997,” Harry hears a different conversation as he sidles up next to the buffet table, deciding whether to grab water or wine. “I’m very nervous.”

Harry looks for the voice, knowing that there was going to be someone with whom he could indulge his nervousness with. Grabbing water, Harry clasps his journal close to him and looks around the room.

“…my parents are here too oh my god,” The same voice says, and Harry desperately wants to find this person now, wants to find someone to share the horror with.

Taking a step forward Harry’s eyes land on someone’s back. Someone not too tall, fairly curvy, without a strand of gray hair and no sigh of a bald spot. Harry makes his way around the strangers that are gathered around this figure, and all Harry has to see is the color of the man’s eyes before the wind is knocked out of him and his knees buckle and he’s reeling backwards like someone just shoved his chest.

Louis Tomlinson.

Harry’s breathing picks up as he stumbles away in shock, his eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar, wishing he had poured himself a glass of wine when he had the chance. Harry idly wonders what shitty thing he did in a past life to deserve this, because in about a half an hour he is going to be out on stage reading about that very boy in question.

Dave walks in then, calls for group A which Harry isn’t in, so he steps away from the door in a daze.

Louis parts with the ever-growing crowd that’s formed himself around him, reminding Harry much of high school. As Louis makes his way out of the door he passes by Harry, looks at him for a moment before making a face that’s somewhere between confusion and recognition, giddiness and humiliation.

Louis aged well, like fine wine, Harry notes as he slides out of the back room and makes his way out towards the entrance of the club, farthest away from the stage but still close enough to hear.

“Fuck me! Screw my parents! I’m never gonna be anything! I suck I suck I suck I suck I suck!” Some woman who Harry barely recognizes shouts to the crowd, reading from her diary with a grin on her face, a smile that is heightened by the booming laugh from the audience.

She begins to delve into how twelve year old her planned to move to Miami and do tons of horrendous things like sell her body and do drugs. “But first, before I do all of that, I have to fucking lose some weight.”

The audience laughs and applauds and Harry wonders how many twelve year old girls can relate to that, he hopes it’s not many.

Miami girl walks off the stage and then after a man named Greg talks about how his sister caught him jacking off, Harry’s breath catches in his throat when Louis walks up to the stage.

Harry is observant, takes extra care studying the man’s features. To make sure that isn’t some sick illusion from years of being alone – to make sure it really is Louis Tomlinson.

Louis has to lower the microphone when he gets there, and the audience lets out a small laugh.

“I seemingly have not grown since I wrote this journal,” Louis says as he clears his throat, and Harry smiles a bit, loving how his personality clearly didn’t change one bit. A picture of Louis comes up on the projector behind him of when Louis was about sixteen. He’s making the Westside symbol with one of his hands and is holding up a 2Pac CD with the other. Harry wonders if any member of his family recognizes him.

“Growing up I was fortunate enough to have a mom who was really sensitive and compassionate.” There’s a minimal amount of sarcasm in his voice, but it’s easily detected. Louis shakes his head with a smile, grabbing onto the microphone.

“Right when I started high school, she got me a journal. Which, turned out to be a place where I explored my inner gangster rap persona.”

The audience laughs out of anticipation, and Harry bits his thumb nail as he thinks Louis has not changed a bit.

“A gangster,” Louis continues, “who wanted nothing more than to find true love. I wanted a boyfriend,” The audience interrupts him with a mixture of ‘aw’ and ‘oh’, and Harry is briefly taken back to the time when they were both seventeen and Louis stood up on one of the cafeteria tables and announces that he had kissed a boy, and was sick of kissing girls. “I wanted a boyfriend,” Louis repeats. “But I was clueless as to how to go about it. The following entries reveal a love-sick sixteen year old who had the heart of a poet and the vocabulary of Flava Flav.”

Opening his journal, Louis looks down at the page and then back up at the audience. “Just a quick note, at the end of each entry I felt it necessary to notate what I wore and ate each day.” Louis swallows, pausing for a minute. “February 10th. Today was wack straight up, no doubt.”

Along with the rest of the viewers, Harry throws his head back in a laugh, loving the satisfied smirk that forms on Louis’ face.

“I have this weird feeling about Harry,”

Harry’s smile drops clean off his face, his heart falls down into his stomach, and he’s left standing there, thinking back to all the other Harry’s that were in their grade at the time that Louis could be referring to.

Harry Vettel, Harry Hercod, Harry… Styles.

“I l-l-love? Nah, man, he is my idol. What the fuck?” The audience laughs again but Harry can only find it in himself to swallow past the lump in his throat.

“I somehow became mesmerized with him. He rules. I wore a Houston Rockets hat, white turtleneck, ivory pants, and ate chili dogs. Peace! One love,” There’s a woman in the audience that goes absolutely crazy at that, her laugh bouncing across the room and easing Harry out of this mentality, if only just a little.

When the laughing mixed with applause dies down Louis starts up again. “February 25th. Today was ‘aight.” Louis begins, and the word sounds strange coming from the mouth of an adult. “Went to the best movie of ’97 – Titanic.”

Harry remembers the hype that went on about the Titanic when it first came out, remembers how Louis said he would love to date Leonardo DiCaprio. Harry remembers thinking that Louis was his Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Leonardo DiCaprio is so hot. Celine Dion’s song rules. I am madly in love with Harry Styles, I had a dream where he said, ‘you wanna suck my dick?’

Harry’s knees nearly give out, and he’s on the brink of heart failure. He feels his phone buzz twice in his pocket, no doubt his mother or sister. Or both. His throat becomes dry but his tongue is too wet, and Harry clumsily wipes at his mouth with his sleeve. The way Louis said it – it was joking, obviously, standing there up on stage. But he meant it at one point, and Harry really hopes what they say about ‘your first love stays with you forever’ is true for Louis like it is true for him. Harry slides down onto the floor, the strength keeping him up torn away from him at the thought.

Madly in love with Harry Styles. I am madly in love with Harry Styles.

“I wore a wu-tang shirt, wide-leg jeans, Georgetown hat, and ate Hamburger Helper. Peace! One love.”

I am madly in love with Harry Styles.

“February 28th. Today was Mega-hype, had bomb popsicles, watched NASCAR, and ate muffins. I spent the night at Brandon’s and fantasized about his brother. I like country music now it’s good.” Louis licks his lips as the audience laughs. “Wanna fuck Harry,” Louis sates looking out into the audience, and Harry bangs his head against the wall a couple of times. “I wore a Top Dog tee, Indiana Pacers shorts, Knicks hat, and ate Kid Cuisine. Peace! One love.”

Louis flips a page in his journal and Harry contemplates going to the bathroom and drowning himself in one of the urinals, or maybe he should stand up on one of the chairs and shout ‘me! I am Harry Styles! I have been waiting for you for ten years!’ which of course would end in Louis ditching the end of his routine to sweep Harry up off his feet, taking them to Vegas and getting hitched while they lick whipped cream off each other’s bodies.

Harry settles for slamming his head against the wall one more time, though.

“March 9th. Today sucked. Notorious B.I.G died today at 24. Left with a hole in my belly. Harry makes me fucking lovesick, I miss him. I’ve stopped looking at him as much because Stan threatened to tell him I liked him. What an idiot. It was straight up wack. I’ve got to keep pushing despite advised otherwise. Never let go of my dream.  I can’t. He’s too perfect to give up, and I will win him over. Watch me gain soldiers, and develop a fat army to win him.” The audience is loud and responsive and Louis is glowing up on stage, despite the fact that he’s desperately trying to remain serious. “Wore a Tommy polo, wide-leg jeans, Florida State hat, a mock neck, and ate lemon chicken. Peace! Sad love.”

The audience lets out a collective note of mocking sadness, and Louis continues.

“Ultimately I realized I had no chance with Harry,”

‘But you do have a chance!’ Harry once again pictures himself shouting, which continues much like the other daydream, except for whatever reason, in this particular fantasy, Louis is shirtless.

“But the good news was, when I finally landed my first real boyfriend a couple of months later, I was prepared. So much so that when we finally broke up, after a whirlwind romance of twelve days, I wasn’t devastated.”

Harry remembers Louis’ first boyfriend. Remembers how every time he say them holding hands he would wish death upon himself. Remembers how in dodge ball games, Harry’s only target was Greg.

“I was more seasoned, more sophisticated. More mature. November 17th 1997. Someone forgot to turn that charm button on, because now I find myself in a single guy stance. Bravely by myself, I sit and reminisce on the two weeks I spent with Greg. Yep, we’re through. Mutual breakup, no hard feelings. He wanted someone who was grounded, and I ain’t wit’ dat.” A roll of laughter passes through the crowd. “I wore a Charlotte Hornets jersey, U of O hat, ivory Dockers, and ate tuna melts. Peace! One love.” Louis raises his hand to the crowd and takes a bow. “Thank you!” He grins before walking off stage.

Harry’s body follows his movement, sliding to the right until he’s lying on the ground like a proper moron, face pressed against the wood and arms outstretched around him.

He crawls a few paces before standing up, his defeated groan being drowned out by the applause of someone new stepping onto the stage. Harry makes the decision to use the bathroom before going to the backroom. If he’s going to see Louis, he might as well try to look decent.

He feels drunk, almost. His feet hitting the ground to the overrated beat of fate fate fate fate.

Pushing open the door Harry runs a hand over his face, walking over to the sink and cupping water in his hands. Splashing himself, Harry sighs and closes his eyes as he straightens back out and shakes his arms around, trying to calm his nerves.

When he opens his eyes, there’s a figure standing behind him, a small smile on their face.

“Hi Harry,” Louis says.

I am madly in love with Harry Styles.

Louis scratches his next awkwardly, “I just wanted to apologize about my journal. I’m sorry if it made you feel uncomfortable -”

“No,” Harry cuts him off, thinking about what he’ll be sharing soon. “It was, fine – funny. You were brilliant.” Harry turns to face Louis, and Louis flushes under his gaze.

“Can’t wait to watch you up there,” Louis says, and there’s a lull in the conversation for a moment. “So what have you been up to for all these years, Harry Styles?”

Harry wonders what Louis reaction would be if he said, waiting for you. “Nothing, actually. I have a cat. Her names Lily.” Harry immediately wants to take it back.

“I have a cat too,” Louis laughs. “Her names Millie.”

Harry and Louis, Lily and Millie. The word really likes to see Harry defeated doesn’t it? “What a coincidence,”

Louis shakes his head. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

Harry doesn’t either. “Some would call it fate, I think.” His voice comes out shy and soft, like he’s testing the waters.

“Some would,” Louis agrees, crossing his arms over his chest. “I can’t believe you’re actually here,” Louis says with disbelief, shaking his head. “I always thought I’d never see you again,”

“I had,” Harry swallows, stepping forward and crowding into Louis’ space. “It was always in the back of my mind, that I’d run into you again.” He smiles, his fingers ghosting over Louis’ shoulders. “I never, though, imagined it would be here, listening to you say you wanted to fuck me.”

Louis’ cheeks heat up as he uncrosses his arms and places his thumb in the pad of Harry’s palm. Harry closes his hand around it.

“Is there a reason you never talked to me in high school?” Louis asks with a small smile.

“I was so awkward,” Harry mumbles in a low voice.

“You were gorgeous,” Louis tells him.

You were gorgeous,” Harry replies, and then he corrects himself. “Are gorgeous.” 

Louis laughs and tips his head into Harry’s chest softly, as if he doesn’t know if he’s allowed to touch. To further comfort him, Harry places his empty hand on Louis’ shoulder, his thumb rubbing behind Louis’ ear. 

“I missed you,” Harry says softly, and Louis puts more pressure on his chest.

“I missed you too,” Patting Harry’s stomach, Louis pulls away, retracting his thumb from Harry’s grip. “We should go,”

“Out,” Harry tries, “On a date.”

“I was going to say ‘backstage’, but, yeah, maybe that will work too.” Louis turns around and holds the door open. “You’ve got to hurry up, wouldn’t want to miss your name being called.”

Harry completely forgot why he was here in the first place. “You can’t listen!” Harry begs, not stepping out of the restroom. “You can’t!”

“You got to listen to mine!” Louis replies.

“Yours was cute and endearing!”

 “Today was wack straight up no doubt is the opposite of cute and endearing.” Louis deadpans.

Harry pouts, slumping his shoulders. “You’re going to listen no matter what aren’t you,”

Louis tips his head up and give him a close-lipped smile. “Yeah,” He says smugly, “I am.”

They spend the next fifteen minutes sitting on the couch backstage discussing high school to now and everything in between. It’s surreal, seeing Louis, talking to Louis, knowing that Louis likes him too. Harry thinks it’s a miracle that Louis has stayed single all these years. He’d like to personally thank destiny and all that.

“Group D, you guys are up next,” Dave says quietly as he pokes his head backstage.

“That’s me.” Harry says, turning back to Louis.

“Can’t wait,” Louis says cheekily.

Harry doesn’t get up to move, and Louis doesn’t encourage him.

“I really should -”

“Yeah,” Harry breathes.

“Good luck,” Louis says. “And remember, the bond between you and the audience will make it all easier. Look at them, talk to them, not at them.”

“Right,” Harry says.

“Right,” Louis echoes.

Everyone in Group D has already left and is standing in the wings, the crowd’s applause emanating from the stage as the first person steps out and begins reading.

Harry turns his head as if looking towards the door, but his eyes never leave Louis. “I’ll just -” As Harry makes a move to finally leave, Louis grabs him by his shoulders and kisses him.

“You’ll do great,” Louis whispers, and Harry steps out into the wings with a dopey grin on his face.

After about 3 acts, a producer steps up on stage and announces that it’s his turn to go up. “Please welcome, Harry!”

A few people pat him on the back and Harry smiles at them, jogging out on stage and immediately looking for Louis when reaches the microphone. He spots him easily enough, standing by the door where Harry was when their places were reversed.

Harry clearing his throat and waving to the audience. “Hello everyone,” He says with a smile. “This relic here,” He holds up his journal, “is my actually diary from 1998. I was 16 years old and during this time, I set my sights on the most amazing boy in my high school.” He lets out a dreamy sigh, remember how he practiced it with Dave. “Louis.”

He’s not embarrassed anymore, he can feel Louis’ lips on his and he can feel the way he has the audience on the edge of their seats already. He wants to make Louis proud, if anything.

“I figured that if I got him, everything in my life would just fall into place. All of my problems would go away, and all of my dreams would come true.” He figures he wasn’t that far off back then, because he didn’t get Louis and now he’s nearly thirty with nothing to show for it, but he catches Louis beaming in the back of the and knows that he has him now, even if it only lasts until the end of the show.

“Dear Diary, well, I would like very much to have Louis be the first one. You know for what,” He swears he can picture Anne in his mind with a shocked yet gleeful expression on her face, Gemma looking much of the same. He casts his eyes across the room quickly but the people are too packed together for them to be picked out. “Right now, if we had a ruthagubathagur, or something,” Harry pauses. “Side note, ‘ruthagubathagur’ was a word I made up just in case my mother should read my diary and figure out that ‘ruthagubathagur’ meant rubber.”

The audience laughs and Harry makes a quick note to apologize to his mother later. “I wouldn’t want to get an STD. I don’t want to have herpes at 16, I’m sure.” The audience laughs and Harry pauses, getting the laser pointer out of his pocket that Dave handed him a few minutes back.

“So this was my first stab at um, depicting our future happiness.” Oh Lord deliver me, Harry think silently as he gets ready to explain each picture, knowing that no one’s going to let him live this down. “I had imagined Louis to be straight at the time so I gave myself a very uh… feminine persona.” The audience lets out a collective note of sympathy but Harry knows there nothing sympathetic about drawing yourself wearing a dress and making out with the boy you like.

The first picture shows up on the projector screen and Harry looks up at it, cheeks flaming as he points to each frame with the laser.

“Here I am innocently getting a book out of my locker. ‘Harry?’ ‘Huh? Louis?’ Slam! ‘I’ve been a fool!’ And then we both say, ‘I love you!’”

The picture changes again, very briefly, to show a drawing of the two of them in bed together. “I can’t believe it. So, of course we consummate the relationship. Right away,” The audience lets out booming laughter and Harry can’t believe he’s doing this.

The picture changes again.

 “Oh, there’s his nipple. I’m looking right at it.” He moves the point over to the next picture. “’I love you,’” he reads. “That is making love, right there.”

The picture changes again.

“Oh. Uh, he, has to get up to use the restroom. And now here he is, coming back naked and ready for more, and I have to laugh. ‘Ha ha ha!’” Harry lets out a long “Oh, Louis.” He points to the picture in the lower right hand corner.

“Here’s an aerial view,”

The crowd absolutely loses it, their laughter growing louder as the picture changes again.

Harry gives the crowd a smug grin, aiming it towards Louis. “There we are, swimming in open water. Very Blue Lagoon.”

The picture changes again.

“Uh, here we are-” Harry has trouble getting the words out, his laughter making him feel the need to start over again. “Here we are,” He lets out a booming laugh, stepping back from the microphone before running a hand over his face and straightening out his laser pointer. “Here we are dancing. And this is a very complicated lift – with a drop.”

The picture changes again.

 “Here we are horseback riding on the beach,”

The picture changes again.

“What montage is complete without trying on wacky hats?”

The picture changes again.

“Marriage proposal at my 17th birthday?” He moves onto the picture beside it. “Of course we’re the prom king and queen. Notice the cape I’m wearing there. I’m the queen.” The picture changes again. “Then when we we're 19,” He gestures to the drawn up wedding pictures. “Look at that beautiful bride.”

The picture changes one last time. “A honeymoon in Hawaii!"

"There he is admiring my hula skills.” The audience roars with laughter, and Harry gives them a smug look as he pockets the laser pointer and the projector is shut off.

Looking at his diary, Harry begins reading. “Dear Diary, apparently Louis likes someone. It’s all anyone can seem to talk about. Liam thinks it’s this girl named Stephanie that starred in the school play with him. All I have to is, wow, one day, when were married, he’ll read this diary with me in his arms and he’ll say, ‘Gosh, Harry. I love you so much now. How could I have been so blind?’ Then he’ll kiss me. And then, who knows? Maybe we’ll go make love or something.”

The audience erupts into cheers and applause and Harry bows, looking out in the front row and seeing everyone nod their head because we’ve all been there.

When Harry steps back into the wing he gets congratulated by everyone there, a few of them still grinning and a few wiping tears off their cheeks.

Louis is waiting for him in the back room when Harry steps in the backroom and they’re not alone, and that’s part of the problem. Harry nods his head and Louis gets up and follows him, the smile never falling off his face.

“I had no idea you wanted a honeymoon in Hawaii.” Louis says when they’re by themselves. “I also didn’t know you drew pictures of us having sex. Including and aerial view. The only thing I would change though, is the fact that you drew yourself as a girl. I ain’t wit dat,” Louis quotes himself from earlier and Harry chuckles.

“Told you mine were embarrassing,”

“Cute,” Louis corrects. “It was endearing. Plus, you had the audience in stitches out there!”

“My mum’s gonna kill me,” Harry groans and Louis laughs. Sliding his back down the wall, Louis sits with his legs outstretched in front of him, Harry soon joining him.

They stay silent, the sound of someone reading, “My shoplifting diary,” can barely be heard due to how far away they are.

“So what now?” Harry asks.

Louis exhales as he shifts, tucking a leg under his bum as he turns towards Harry. “Where do you live?”

“Bristol,” Harry answers, anxiously awaiting Louis’ response.

“Saltford,” Louis says, and Harry’s chest expands with relief.

“That’s only ten kilometers away,” Harry says with a smile.

“Eleven,” Louis rectifies, and Harry reaches over and punches his shoulder.

“You’re a dolt,”

Louis just laughs, grabbing Harry’s hand and playing with his fingers.

When all the participants are called up for the final bow, they line up in the wings of the stage by order of appearance. There’s barely any chatter as Dave makes his final speech.

“You know, every kid has a slightly different relationship with their childhood. One of the things that doing Mortified has taught me is that, no matter who we were as kids, whether we were the bully, or the captain of the football team, or the nerd, or the girl who didn’t make the cheerleading squad, we all went through the same pains and struggles. I think, what adolescents need, is to be heard. Not necessarily understood, but heard. Just to say, ‘yeah, we have a voice, and here it is.’ I think sharing your stories, and hearing other people’s stories, really conjures up that shy and scared teenager that you were once and kind of tell them, ‘you’re okay, you’re okay and we all love you.’ So give one more round of applause for everyone who shared tonight! Thank you for coming, and before you go, we would just like to share some things we have learned as an audience today,”

As Dave steps offstage, two women from front row take front and center, sharing a microphone.

“We always learn some really important lessons from our Mortified readers during every show, so let’s recount some of the important things that we learned tonight, yeah?”

The audience cheers and everyone in the wings becomes silent. “We learned that you are never too young to read The Exorcist,”

Scott steps out onstage in a flurry of cheers and whistles, taking his place at the far right of the stage. A couple of more people exit the wings and then Louis’ lesson comes up.

“We have learned that he’s rocking ivory pants, a white turtle neck, and will have no idea what he ate for dinner tonight. Peace! One love.”

Harry claps as Louis steps out onstage, even though he’s one of the farthest back in the wings.

“We learned that love is something you may never learn, but it is something you can apparently draw,” Harry makes his way out with a smile on his face, immediately leaning forward and looking to his right to catch Louis’ nod of approval.

“But most of all, we learned, as we do in every edition of Mortified: we are freaks, and we are fragile, and we all survived. Thank you so much have a good night.”

Everyone grabs each other’s hands as they take one final bow together, the band behind them starting to sing as everyone packs up and leaves.

I wish that I knew what I know now,

When I was younger.

Harry grins because he feels so elated and all that he can think about is, I’m madly in love with Louis Tomlinson but to be fair, that’s probably what he’ll be thinking about for the rest of his life.

As everyone heads off the stage with a rush of adrenaline, Harry is reminded of senior graduation when everyone was backstage and talking about whose party they were going to where. Harry remembers how he planned to tell Louis how he felt, how he had been feeling all these years, but couldn’t find it in him to just grab Louis and kiss him.

He does know though, he has the courage, and so he walks right up to Louis and fits their mouths together, reveling in the way Louis’ laughs into his mouth, his small hands gripping Harry’s shoulders as he makes an excited noise in the back of his throat.

Harry makes a note to take Louis horseback riding on the beach someday.

+

“All I have to is, wow, one day, when were married, he’ll read this diary with me in his arms and he’ll say, ‘Gosh, Harry. I love you so much now. How could I have been so blind?’ Then he’ll kiss me. And then, who knows? Maybe we’ll go make love or something.”

The year is 2014. Harry is now 33 years old, and he was recently contacted by Dave and asked if he could perform for Mortified one last time. He agreed easily, after all, if it weren’t for Mortified, Harry wouldn’t be where he is today.

“Now,” Harry starts, locking eyes with a couple people in the crowd. “This club is quite special to me, because I performed here about 6 years ago, and this is where I re-met my husband of 4 years now. Louis.”

The shouts from the crowd are empowering, and Harry’s grin nearly splits his own cheeks. “I’d bring in some new drawings, but yikes. And you thought those were explicit.”

The crowd laughs and Harry refrains from telling them about their whole story. About how they were shy with each other at first, and somehow the kisses and hand holding led to moving in together, which led to their two cats Lily and Millie finding a best friend in each other, much like Louis and Harry had.

He has to remind himself that showing the audience their wedding pictures isn’t a part of the show, and that reading their vows to each other aren’t a part of his act tonight – even they both ended them with Peace! One love.

When Harry arrives home that night Louis is waiting for him with a cup of tea and a kiss, both of which Harry take gratefully.

“How was it?”

“It was great.” Harry smiles. “I wish you could’ve been there.”

“It’s not ethical to leave three children in the care of a sitter this close to Christmas.” Louis tells him.

“It’s not ethical to leave your husband performing alone and once again making a fool of himself in front of a group of strangers.”

Louis just steals a sip of Harry’s tea with a giddy expression and Harry can’t help leaning over and kissing him again.

“Is everyone asleep?”

Louis shrugs. “Tucker wanted to wait up for you, but Parker and Holly are asleep. The last I checked, Tucker fell asleep with his book in his lap, so I put him back to bed, but he may have woken up when he heard you get in.”

Out of all their kids, Tucker was the most persistent on getting the attention from his dads. He was a right attention hog, which is easy to get away with then you’re four. That being said, it’s hard to share the attention equally when you have a two year old brother who seems incapable of going a month without an ear infection, and an eleven month old baby sister who requires lots of care.

But they try their hardest, and when Christmas rolls around Harry and Louis invite their families over for the afternoon after opening presents and watching A Christmas Story on repeat for about 6 hours.

Lily and Millie chase their catnip bell toys throughout the house as Harry and Gemma bustle around to get a nice Christmas dinner served, and from the living room Harry can hear Parker talking to Anne about how he’s so thankful he got the toy truck he wanted.

Louis walks in with Tucker placed on his shoulders and steals a Christmas cookie from the platter, popping it into his mouth whole.

“I want one too!” Tucker squeals, and Harry gives Louis a mock disapproving look as Louis hands their son a cookie.

“It’s Christmas,” Louis says with a shrug.

It hits Harry later that evening, as he plays outside with the remote control airplane Tucker got, as Louis bounces Holly on his knee on a deck chair, as Parker gets hissed at by Lily for trying to sneak up on Millie, that he’s always wanted this. He’s always wanted a boisterous family with a large house that smells a little too strongly of cinnamon and baby wipes. But most importantly, he’s always wanted it with Louis.

And when Tucker’s airplane gets stuck up on the roof, Harry makes a quick note to get him a journal next Christmas.