Louis gets the news on Tuesday morning before his first and only class of the day.
Just wanting to let you know this TG will be our last before the move. It’s a big one!! Dinner won’t be ready until 5-5:30 but I know you’ll all show up much earlier to help, of course! Your nanna and gramps will be joining us for the festivities along with Greg. Please try to keep drinking to a minimum this year.
Big love and can’t wait to see you all soon!
your Mommy Xx
He swears he hears his screen crack under his thumb as he rereads the email over once, twice, and then a third time. Your nanna and gramps will be joining us for the festivities along with Greg. Your nanna and gramps will be joining us for the festivities along with Greg. Your nanna and gramps will be joining us for the festivities along with Greg.
Along with Greg.
A small—albeit delusional—part of Louis' brain believes for a good two minutes that he’s dreaming this up. He’s probably still in bed, tucked in tight under the covers, with Niall’s obnoxious snoring across the room his own personal lullaby.
He’s not in con law right now, at ten in the morning the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, staring at this ridiculous email from his mother, CC-ed to him and all of his siblings. (Which—why the fuck do Doris and Ernie even have email accounts? They’ve barely mastered the art of sitting up on their own or peeing in toilets. They don’t need to be involved in this ridiculous plan of ruining Thanksgiving for the rest of Louis’ life.)
No, of course not, because this is not real and his mother would never invite his ex-boyfriend over for their last Thanksgiving in Louis’ childhood home. She would never do something like that, no fucking way, because that would be so unlike the beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful woman that his mother is.
His mother would never invite Greg of all people to his fourth favorite holiday in the entire world.
Mother, Louis opens up his texts and quickly types out, Just got your email. Out of curiosity, how much did you have to drink before you wrote that? Or did you “accidentally” steal from Fizz’s stash again? Worried about your health, your favorite son, Louis x.
He reads over the text a few times—because nothing is more embarrassing than sending an angry text full of typos and misspellings, he’s had to learn that the hard way—before he presses the send button and locks his phone. He feels only the smallest bit better, now that he’s expressed a fraction of how infuriated he is, but it’s still not enough.
He’s still sitting in con law at ten in the morning on a Tuesday ready to set this entire university on fire.
Greg fucking James. Louis can feel the blood in his veins beginning to boil at just the thought of his name. Stupid Greg with this stupid face and his stupid name and those stupid fucking baseball t-shirts he always wears because—yeah, everyone gets it, Greg, you played baseball at Vanderbilt for a couple of years, feel free to shut up any time now—which he’ll probably be wearing at Thanksgiving dinner as well. Knowing him, he’ll go on some stupid spiel about how Vanderbilt is the best Division 1 school in the country for baseball, throw in a couple of pointless anecdotes about all his dude-y bro pal locker room experiences. Maybe sometime after his fifth or sixth story about a cliché game-winning homerun he’ll remind everyone that he’s starting spring training with the Cubs in a few months, because God forbid anyone forget for even a second.
Not that Louis cares, or anything. The last thing he needs is to care about is Greg James coming to Chicago just as he’s finishing up his second year of law school. One goddamn year left in a beautiful city ruined because Greg James needs to slide in grass and get a farmer’s tan while Louis is just trying to finish his education and make a living for himself in peace.
No, he doesn’t care that Greg is coming to Chicago. There are millions of people in Chicago, the large majority of whom Louis does not know nor interact with, and Greg will just become another one of those people.
No matter how often Louis' mother asks him if he’ll ask to meet up with Greg for drinks in the city some time.
He tries not to snap right then and there, as his professor walks into class and the seats around him begin to fill. He’s better than that, more collected than that. He’s in law school, he doesn’t need some stupid ex-boyfriend to make him crack and completely shatter any sense of stability and order in his life.
His professor begins to speak and Louis’ blood pressure slowly comes to level down again. He forces himself not to think of Greg or Thanksgiving or all the ways he can ruin the night for everyone else just as it’s already been ruined for him. He wipes his brain clean of all those toxic thoughts and listens to the lecture and takes notes vigilantly. It works for a little over an hour until his phone vibrates in his pocket. While normally he wouldn’t even think about checking it out, something about this Twilight Zone-esque morning of his forces him to pull his phone out and see what it is.
It’s a text from his mother, because that’s just how the universe feels like treating Louis today.
Greg’s parents are still on business in Nepal, I don't want him to be alone. Be nice. I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it. Your favorite mommy, Jay xxx
He stares at the text for five minutes before he decides to turn his phone off and set it on fire as soon as he gets home.
Niall is naked on the couch when Louis walks into the living room a few hours later. In his defense, his crotch is at least covered by a pizza box, but that doesn’t help the fact that it’s late November in Chicago and two in the afternoon. There is so much about Niall that Louis decidedly does not ask on for the sake of his own mental health.
And it doesn't help that his presence isn’t noticed until he’s slamming his textbooks on the coffee table and gently settling his bag on the loveseat. He’d toss it from across the room if he could, but it’s still got his laptop in there and Louis may be livid, but he’s not irrationally livid.
Niall’s head snaps toward his direction. “Woah, hey, what’s crawled up your butt and died?” he calls out, checking the watch on his wrist—because he won’t wear underpants, but he’ll wear a wristwatch—“Your class didn’t go long again did it?”
“No, Niall,” Louis grumbles, “That’s not what’s crawled up my butt and died today, thank you very much.”
“Did that girl who always sits in front of you ask for your number again?”
She did, but that’s beside the point. Redhead Claire is not the reason why Louis is grumpily tossing his socks at the tv screen. He flops down on the opposite end of the couch. “Do you remember that guy Greg I told you about once? From back home?”
Niall raises an eyebrow at him. “You mean the one who went to Vanderbilt? The most prestigious school in the country for men’s baseball? Black and gold ‘til we die?” He keeps a straight face, Louis glaring at him. “Doesn’t ring a bell, bro, no.”
Louis wishes he could say the same. He slumps in his seat, just barely containing the wail that’s ready to slip out of him. “My mom invited him to Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Because she’s doesn’t care about my emotional wellbeing,” he deadpans. “And ‘cos she’s always loved him more than me.”
“Aw, babe. I’m sure that’s not true. C’mere.” Niall opens his arms wide and motions for Louis to get in, like he truly believes for a hot minute that Louis would get anywhere near his naked, shamelessly greasy body (while sober). “Let’s cuddle that pout away, Tommo. You always look like you just bit into a horse shit sandwich when you’re pissed.”
Louis steals a slice of pizza and throws the pepperonis at Niall’s face instead. “Well you always look like you’ve just bitten into a horse shit sandwich so what’s that say about your ugly mug?”
“That you’d still rather spend all your time with my ugly mug complaining about your ex than trying to actually get over the bastard.”
Louis swallows a mouthful of gooey cheese and bread and flips Niall off, “I don’t need this from someone who once thought to use bacon grease to jack off.”
“That was one fucking time! We didn’t have any lube!”
“Mmm, yeah. Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
“You know, if I didn’t know you better I’d totally believe your little act, but you’re honestly so full of shit.”
Louis stops eating and narrows his eyes. “What the hell are you on about, Horan?” Niall’s tendency to talk some shit is seriously getting out of hand.
Niall pushes Louis’ feet off where he tries to prop them on his thighs and says, without humor, “You’ve thrown a fit about Greg like once a month for the last six years, but you’ve never actually talked about why you’re so hung up. You deflect,” he states simply, “probably because you’re so emotionally bruised and sensitive.”
“Is that what I am then, huh? ‘Emotionally bruised and sensitive,’” he air-quotes with greasy fingers.
“Like your life depends on it.”
Whether or not it’s true, Louis doesn’t care. (In all reality it is pretty true; Louis just doesn’t like telling him he’s right about this. It’s not good for his ego and he’s terrible enough as it is.) “He’s a complete dickwad. What else is there to know? A real friend would just take my word for it without having to think twice.”
“And I have,” Niall points out, “for six years, but Jay and all the girls still love him. They post on his wall like every other day—and I know because I’m a proud Facebook stalker of everyone and you know that already—so there’s obviously something you’re not telling me.”
Louis watches the tiny, blond, blue-eyed human bunny for a moment. He scoots over on the couch and pushes a wayward strand of hair behind Niall’s ear. “You’re so much prettier when you don’t talk, Nialler,” he whispers.
Niall doesn’t get much more out of him.
A few hours later the topic comes back up again when they’re at Liam’s house, helping him pack for his trip back home. It’s mostly just Liam packing, Niall messing about on Liam’s laptop, and Louis eating the remnants of Liam’s fridge. He’s got a sixpack of beer, a bowl of leftover ziti—Liam is such a Jersey fuckboy it’s disgusting—and half a bag of peanut M&M’s. Louis’ favorite part about being a desperately poor and hungry law student is having friends who aren’t desperately poor and hungry law students. People like Liam, who always keep full meals and snacks in their homes, are so important to Louis. They’re practically his number one means of sustenance.
“Greg just shared a recipe for sweet potatoes on your mom’s wall.”
Louis doesn’t tear his eyes away from Four Weddings. “No one cares, Niall.”
“Oh, Greg is coming to Thanksgiving dinner, isn’t he?” Liam perks up he’s crouched over his suitcase. The bastard rolls his t-shirts instead of folding them. He’s such a nerd.
“How the hell do you know about that?” Louis quips, eyebrow raised.
“Your mom texted me earlier and said to make sure I make you go.”
Honestly. Is there anyone his mother doesn’t have on speed dial? She needs to spend less time on her phone and more time doing things like… Not inviting Greg to Thanksgiving dinner, only Louis’ (fourth) favorite holiday of the year. How very dare she drag Liam into this, the suck-up that he is.
“What does she think I’m going to do?” Louis huffs. “Fake my death just to avoid the most cringe-worthy night of my life?”
He pointedly ignores the disappointed frown that settles on Liam’s face. “Don’t be so dramatic, Lou. Do it for Jay, it’s not going to kill you to be on your best behavior for one night.”
Louis barks a sharp, “Ha! The last thing I’m going to be is on my best behavior, thank you very much.”
They bicker at one another for a couple of minutes, loose M&M’s and boxer briefs being thrown across the room before Niall shuts them down and speaks up. “You know what you could do?” he asks, walking over and settling down beside Louis on the couch, Liam’s laptop opened up and the brightness up so high Louis’ eyes burn. “You could, like, get some douchebag to come with you just to piss of your mom—”
“Niall!” Liam shrieks, horrified.
“—Not that I think it’s a good idea,” he clarifies, “but it is an option.”
Louis picks his legs up and crosses them, digging his toes into the couch cushions and turns to face Niall. “So, what?” he asks, leaning against the arm, “I’m supposed to take you back home with me and pretend like we’re fucking all of a sudden?”
Niall chuckles drily. “As if you could ever make an honest man outta me, dickhead.”
Louis chooses not to bring up last spring on the last day of the semester when they’d gone out for drinks and Niall had gotten so sloshed he tried to take Louis’ pants off and blow him. Luckily Louis had enough sense at the time to turn down the offer, which only proved to be the right decision when Niall proceeded to throw up all over his brand new Vans ten seconds later.
Louis doesn’t bring it up. He’s a good friend like that, which is much more than he can say for Niall, who is nothing but a useless pile of garbage.
He says that last part aloud and it earns him a rough smack across the forehead before Niall jumps over and shoves the laptop in Louis’ face. “Look at this and tell me it’s not a completely viable option.”
“Swallowed a dictionary this morning, did we Horan?”
On the screen is their school website’s weak attempt at Craigslist, threads posted on the site about everything from textbooks and guitars to beat up ’96 Honda Civics and, well. The thread that Niall has open right now.
The subject reads, Alone on Thanksgiving? Mad at your dad?... Which isn’t sketchy at all, really. Louis hates himself for reading the rest of the post aloud, but he does for Liam’s sake (or just so he can get someone else to agree with how completely nuts Niall is).
I am a 22 year old felon with a high school degree and a dirty old van one year younger than me painted like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. I can play anywhere between the ages of 19 and 29 depending on if I shave. I’m a line cook and work nights at a bar. If you’d like to have me as your strictly platonic date for Thanksgiving, but have me pretend to be in a very long or serious relationship with you, to torment your family, I’m game.
“I really think you should stop reading,” Liam says, having moved to hover behind Louis’ back at some point. “I can already see the cogs turning in your head, Louis, and I don’t like this.”
“Shut up,” Louis waves him off and continues reading.
I can do these things, at your request: openly hit on other female guests while you act like you don’t notice; start instigative discussions about politics and/or religion; propose to you in front of everyone; pretend to be really drunk as the evening goes on (sorry I don’t drink, but I used to); start an actual, physical fight with a family member, either inside or on the front lawn for all the neighbors to see.
The final line reads, I require no pay but the free meal I will receive as a guest! Do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers.
For what it’s worth, Louis has to give this—he scrolls to the top of the page—Harry S. character props. This is by far the most ridiculous shit Louis has ever read, much less read on the internet. Who offers to basically be an escort just for a Thanksgiving meal?
As Liam drills Niall about what a terrible idea this is and how he seriously needs to spend less time on the internet, Louis clicks on Harry’s user info. He’s slightly relieved to see that Harry did actually graduate from their school last spring, double majoring in Sociology and “History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine,” which Louis wasn’t even aware was a major because it sounds like complete shit, but he can’t imagine someone would make that up and bother bragging about it. He’s still pretty sure it’s complete shit nonetheless, but he decides to let Harry S. slide. His degrees obviously didn’t do him any good if he’s working as a line cook and bartender right now.
He finally zones into Liam and Niall’s conversation in time to hear Liam’s mother hen cry of, “What if he’s a predator, Niall? You can’t just trust anyone these days.”
“It’s the school fucking website, Liam. You literally need to have a student ID and email to even look at posts.”
“Harry’s already graduated though,” Louis points out.
“Who’s Harry?” Niall and Liam ask at the same time.
Louis turns around so all three of them can look at the screen. “The guy who posted it. He graduated in the spring with two bogus degrees. Look,” he points to the generic gray-faced icon on Harry’s page that doesn’t show much more than his birthdate, degree, and previous posts. (The only other thing this idiot has attempted to sell is a self-proclaimed recipe for the world’s best green smoothie. Unsurprisingly, that post has a total of 11 views and a flat zero inquiries—which is still 9 more views than this Thanksgiving plea.)
“No one who majors in sociology ends up a killer, Liam.”
Liam screeches, “Are you kidding me? If any major is going to go straight into the serial killer industry, it’s sociology students.”
“Oh, that’s rich, coming from someone who went to business school.”
“You’re in the psych grad program, Niall, what the fuck are you talking about?”
Niall throws his arms in the air, “Which is how I know this dude is legit!”
Louis watches the two of them go back and forth, the little cartoons of a devil and an angel on his shoulders, except in this case they’re both the devil.
“Look,” Niall sighs, hands on his hips and mirroring Liam exactly. “We can at least send him an email and express our interest, can’t we? It’s not like he’s going to track down our IP address and kill us in our sleep.”
Louis chips in, “And if he does, we’re using your laptop anyway Liam, so you don’t have to worry about my wellbeing.”
Liam crosses his arms defiantly. “I’m still not happy about this.”
“Dude, I used to do this all the time, okay? Do you know how many desperate first years I’ve overcharged for intro-level bio classes because of this website? It checks out, is all I’m saying. No one at this school is gonna waste their time posting or inquiring about stuff if they aren’t serious about it.”
Niall does have a point, but Louis feels it necessary to point out Harry S.’ not-so-serious smoothie recipe. It at least gets a chuckle out of Liam who mutters something about having to check that out. Nerd.
“Then maybe your guy’s just quirky,” Niall tries. He shrugs his shoulder. “You won’t know unless you try. What do you have to lose anyway? The shittier a date he is, the better, right?”
Louis turns from Liam’s big, pleading brown eyes to Niall’s challenging blues.
How the hell did he end up in this situation? Why hasn’t he invested in new friends yet?
“And you brought your pepper spray, right? Did you tuck my switchblade into your boot like I showed you?”
Louis takes a sip of his tea and pretends he doesn’t hear Liam on the other end of the line.
“Jeez, yeah, alright, I’ve got the goddamn switchblade and everything, mom.”
Honestly. You’d think Louis was being sent to fight to the death with the tone Liam takes on him. It’s really not that serious, but Louis doesn’t understand how Liam can expect this Harry S. guy to be lunatic if he’d forced Louis himself to carry half an arsenal on him. It takes a psycho to know a psycho, obviously. God. Liam is so dirty-Jersey meets Chicago it’s not even funny.
“Okay, good,” Liam sighs on the other end of the line. “Just, like, text me when he shows up, okay? And then every half hour afterward when you guys get to your mom’s. You know I worry, Louis.”
Louis puts his mug down and digs his fingernails into his palm. “And I keep telling you not to, don’t I?”
“I’ve known you for five years. I know better than to listen to you at this point.”
It’s not a complete lie.
“Anyway, I have to go. Karen’s making me mash the potatoes. I’ll see you in a few days?”
“Yeah, bro. Send the 'rents my love.”
They hang up and Louis goes back to his tea, scrolling through his texts and Twitter, not really reading anything properly. It’s a bitter cold in suburban Illinois, much as it always is, and Louis is waiting inside a coffee shop a few streets over from his family’s house. It’s half past two and Harry S. is should be showing up any minute now.
Louis is nervous, despite all the bravado and nonchalance he’d just faked during his phone call with Liam—and every one since Tuesday night when they’d decided collectively to listen to Niall. (Collectively is a generous word; Niall and Louis had tag-teamed and told Liam to stop crying about it.) He hates how reasonable Liam is, almost as much as he hates how it always works its way into Louis’ conscience. He’d had to listen to a 15 minute lecture yesterday morning when they’d dropped Liam off at the airport and this last one hasn’t made things any better.
Liam is right though. Harry S. could be a proper fucking psycho for what it’s worth. It’s Chicago, anyway. Anyone who stays in the city willingly is probably certifiably out of their mind as it is. Louis should get Niall to look into it.
It’s already started snowing outside and the barista at the counter keeps glancing at Louis every few minutes. He’s been to this shop a thousand and one times, mostly during high school when the girls would get too loud and he’d needed a quieter environment to study. He’s glad he picked this place and hadn’t told his little escort to just meet him at his mom’s. Louis has enough common sense himself to know how terribly that screams danger.
Or, at least, he has Liam, who’d gone off on a tangent for twenty minutes about risking his entire family’s life.
He’s scrolling through one of Niall’s endless, typos galore text-rants about Futurama conspiracy theories when the door chimes sing through the shop, bringing a cold wind with it. Before Louis gets the chance to look up there’s a loud crashing noise and someone knocking the chair next to him.
“Oops, fuck, shit—Jesus!”
A mess of boy bumps into his table while whipping a bobble hat off his head as snow-dusted curls fly loose all over his face. Louis stares as what appears to be a giant human dressed as a marshmallow—a giant marshmallow dressed as a human, more like—and finds himself smirking. “Hi.” He puts his phone down.
The marshmallow unwraps the dark green scarf wrapped tight around his neck just enough to breathe and speak clearly. “Hi,” he exhales with a heavy breath, “are you Louis, by any chance?”
Oh, God. Of course this is how his story would play out. Louis puts his phone down and motions to the chair that’d just almost been sent to its death. “And you must be Harry.”
“Hi, yeah,” marshmallow Harry chirps. He sits down across from Louis and it isn’t until the dark navy marshmallow jacket of his comes off that Louis gets a proper look at the guy who’s meant to be his felon lover.
He notices deep green eyes before anything else, meeting Louis’ own blue easily as wayward curls are brushed aside. Harry S.’ cheeks are colored pink with what must be frostbite, if his chapped lips and pale fingertips are anything to go by. (Louis watches him pull his leather gloves off much more intently than he cares to admit). And once the ridiculous outerwear comes off, he’s met with broad shoulders and an endless torso hugged all around by a cream sweater that looks like it must be cashmere.
“You don’t look much like someone with a record,” Louis hums curiously before he can think better of it.
Harry’s just gathering his senses when he goes to respond, but ends up shutting his mouth quickly for some reason. He tries again, “Midwestern winters are no match for even the toughest of us,” with a helpless shrug.
“Wouldn’t describe you as very tough, I don’t think.”
And now that Harry’s finished trying to knock the entire damn shop down like the oversized yeti that he is, his full attention lands on Louis. He speaks with a slow, deep drawl that feels almost soothing on this dreary November afternoon. “Yeah? And how would you think to describe me, then?”
Louis doesn’t let himself pick up on what is definitely a hint of flirtation in Harry’s tone, because over his dead body will he be attracted to someone who supposedly drives a van dedicated to Eddie Van Halen and offers to be an escort for food. He has more sense than that; Liam taught him better. “I don’t exactly know you well enough to answer that fairly, do I?”
“But you don’t think I’m tough.”
“I don’t get the impression that you’re tough,” Louis corrects, “No, I don’t.”
Harry leans back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. He eyes Louis contemplatively, the smallest little upward tilt at the corner of his lip. Louis’ glad he’s wearing his glasses so he can see all of today’s hot mess unravel with perfect vision. “Do you wanna get something to drink? I wanna prep you a bit before we head over.”
One of Harry’s dark eyebrows raises suggestively.
“Prep you with some fucking information,” Louis is quick to clarify. “Platonic, remember?” he tries to remind Harry of the very specific word that he’d underlined and bolded in his original post.
Harry gives him mock salute and stands up, this time with more ease and without the need of a rescue team. “Ay ay, captain.”
Louis watches him walk away and—Jesus Christ in heaven. It’s no wonder this Harry character had lost all his wits out in the cold; his pants are basically painted on his legs like a second skin. And what are those? What kind of person hates themselves enough to wear Chelsea boots in the middle of Illinois in November?
Louis points both of these things out when Harry returns a few minutes later with a cappuccino in hand.
“They’re jeggings,” Harry says around a mouthful of foam. “They make my legs look nicer.”
Louis counts to ten in his head before speaking. “While I do appreciate the effort you must have gone through to get those on, I have to remind you that I’ve got five younger sisters, alright? You can be an asshole, but we’re not trying to get you arrested again tonight, okay? Keep it PG around them at least.” He adds in a quick afterthought, “For the most part.”
Harry nods his head fervently, like he’s taking mental notes as if he’s expecting to be quizzed on all of this later. Jesus. Louis really should have asked for a picture of Harry before he agreed to this. If he’d known his felon lover had curls that bounced every time he so much as moved his head he probably wouldn’t have let Niall talk him into this.
“Okay,” Louis sighs. He takes one last sip of his tea before moving his mug aside and setting his hands on the table between them. He stares at Harry sternly—at what he hopes appears as sternly. “Let’s go over the rules.”
Harry nods his head. Curls bounce. Louis’ squeezes his toes in his boots.
“No cursing around the girls. No nudity, foul behavior, hints of racism, homophobia, sexism, or general douchebaggery around the girls. That much should be common sense.”
“Got it,” Harry nods again.
Louis rolls his eyes, “Christ. Yeah, okay,” he clears his throat, “Lottie’s the eldest, but she’s still only 19 so the only chance of leeway you’ll get is with her. She and Fizzy are both too sharp for their own good, so expect a couple of innuendos here and there. Or, like, a couple dozen.”
He goes on for a few more minutes, detailing Harry in about the in’s and out’s of his family and which nerves to poke at specifically. He’s not there to give anyone a heart attack or anything, but he gets a vindictive sort of thrill letting Harry know how much his mom hates it when Louis shows any form of PDA, or how deeply it grinds her gears when people talk with their mouths full. They’re little things, but Louis points them out just in case Harry feels the need to put it all out of the bag at any point.
They’re going to be a fake-drunk, handsy, disgusting mess tonight and Louis is so excited.
He’s mid-sentence about how his mother is sensitive about people sprinkling extra salt on her food after the matter when Harry sits up straight and interrupts him.
“You know, you never actually told me why you emailed me about the offer in the first place.”
Louis stop abruptly. “I didn’t?”
“Nope,” Harry pops the p. “I can name all of your siblings and their birthdays and favorite colors and every dish to expect from your mom tonight, but I still don’t know why someone like you would need someone like me to ruin their Thanksgiving dinner for them.”
“Someone like me?”
“Someone who clearly adores their family,” Harry explains, like it's so completely obvious.
Louis feels himself go red in the face. It feels a like a pretty tough punch to the gut, actually, but he sags in his seat and tears his eyes away from Harry’s inquisitive greens. “It’s, uh.” He clears his throat and distracts himself by listening to the clinging and clanging of china around the shop, the only other people there a couple of young girls and two baristas. “It’s kind of a long story, to be honest, but it’s not—it’s not really about my family.”
“Then what is it about?” Harry asks, not missing a beat.
He doesn’t want to tell this complete stranger all the things he’s never even told Niall or Liam or even his own mother. Certain things are too mortifying, too touchy and gross and stupid to bring up, and Louis doesn’t like to for a reason. He’s 24 years old, but he’s still as petulant and stubborn as he was when he was 12, and that’s probably not going to change any time soon, especially no thanks to some Adonis-looking, sociology-majoring motherfucker.
He doesn’t tell Harry everything—tells him practically nothing—but he does tell him about Greg and how he’s the real reason dinner this year is a shit show. Harry asks, but Louis tells him not to worry about it and that he prefers not to go into detail. Surprisingly enough, Harry respects him enough to pry no further. Louis is thankful for that much.
“Now,” Louis coughs into his fist when they finally get to the nitty gritty. “About the PDA.”
This is easily the most awkward conversation Louis’ ever had to have, but it’s probably the first of so many for today. Dread is already pooling up in his belly. He wishes he were back in his apartment at school, drowning in refugee law and listening to Niall yell at 10 year olds across the globe on their xbox. Life was so much simpler before this moment.
“I know…you mentioned, um,” Louis fumbles over his words, “the strictly platonic thing, but you said in your email you’d be okay with a bit of it, right?”
Harry lets him off the hook generously. “That was mostly just a precautionary thing, to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect if someone did actually get back to me about it.”
He looks up just in time to see a wide grin take over Harry’s face, a dimple suddenly cratered deep in his cheek. “I’ll grab your ass in front of your mom a couple of time, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Louis lets out a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank fucking God, honestly. You don’t have to get too handsy and I promise you there won’t be any kissing, but if you could just play up the whole douchey, south-side thing I think we could really sell this.”
“You want me to act like I’m from the south side of Chicago?” Harry asks incredulously, eyebrows raised and disbelieving. “As your official douchebag, felon boyfriend of the day, I have to let you know how not-believable that sounds.”
Louis’ eyes roam over the cream sweater and bouncy curls, the deep jawline and pouty lips. Yeah, seriously. What the fuck was he thinking? Maybe if he’d had a photo of Harry beforehand he could have planned for a better backstory. Harry couldn’t pass for felon if his life depended on it. Louis can’t imagine what he even got in trouble for? Probably some white-collar fancy posh boy shit.
“Why can’t I just be your average middle-class douchebag boyfriend?”
Louis’ thoughts come to a stop. “Is that what you want, then?” he asks, “You wanna be my average, middle-class boyfriend?”
“Your average middle-class douchebag boyfriend,” Harry corrects with a wide smile.
He pretends that doesn’t make a weird flutter in his belly commence. “You say that like it’s something to be proud of.”
Harry shrugs and finishes the last of his cappuccino, never once taking his eyes off Louis. “There are worse things to be.”
“Deep,” Louis hums, faux-philosophically. “I see where your degree came in.”
“You looked me up?”
He shuts Harry down quickly, “Don’t get an ego about it, pal. I needed to know who I was getting into bed with, metaphorically speaking.”
Harry places his elbows on the table and folds his hands together, leaning close. Louis gets a whiff of the same Hugo Boss perfume Liam’s ex-boyfriend used to wear, the one that would always give Louis a headache, but on Harry is so subtle and warm. Harry probably puts on the column of his neck every morning, a tiny little spritz that he dabs behind his ear.
Louis doesn’t think about it.
“You said yourself that you don’t actually know anything about me,” Harry reminds him softly, head tilted to the side and amused.
“The less I know, Harry, the better. You’re just in it for the food anyway.” At the mention of food Harry perks up excitedly, green eyes going wide. “You could spend the entire dinner not saying a single word to anyone and it’d still get the job done. We’re not trying to win a newlywed game or something.”
“God, you’re bossy,” but Harry’s words are without bite.
“And as my average, middle-class, douchebag felon lover you’re going to go to my family’s house, look pretty, treat me like shit, and get paid in the world’s best turkey and mashed potatoes.”
“You drive a hard bargain.”
Louis waves him off and stands to his feet, pulling his coat on. “Now come on, you wanna go practice fondling each other in my car or what?”
Harry chokes on nothing, nearly knocking the table over as he gets up. Louis catches his mug before it falls to the floor, his reflexes on extra time thanks to his felon lover. Harry is a flushed mess of a marshmallow once again by the time Louis straightens up and apologizes to the baristas. “This isn’t high school, Harold. We’re not going to dry hump in the back of my car like a couple of teenagers,” he hisses in a hushed whisper, reaching out and grabbing Harry by the ends of his scarf and dragging him out of the coffee shop. “I just need to get used to your grubby felon hands touching me.”
They’re met with a bitter cold as soon as they step outside, the skies barely visible. Rough winds hit viciously at their bodies, fat chunks of pale snow falling all over. Louis tightens his hold on Harry, quivering underneath all his layers and chilled deep into his bones. He leads them to his car, a little beat up truck Mark had passed onto him during his senior year of high school, and Harry stays close behind him the entire walk across the street. His coat is pretty thick and he can’t hear whatever Harry says over the sound of the wind howling, but he faintly registers a hand on his hip, the back of his thighs a little warmer than the rest of his body as Harry hovers close.
His car isn’t much warmer when they jump inside. Louis rushes to turn the car on and blast the heat, even though he knows how terrible that is and that it doesn’t do much but blow even more cold air at them for the first two minutes.
He turns to Harry in his passenger seat and smiles winningly at him. “Good ole’ Midwest, huh?” Harry looks like he’d just trekked through the arctic, shivering and pale already. They’d been outside for, like, 17 seconds, and the poor boy is ready to be hospitalized for hypothermia. (Louis thinks belatedly that that’s what he gets for wearing those jeggings.) “Why do I get the feeling you’re not really from around here?” Louis asks suspiciously, despite himself. The less we know about each other the better, he has to remind himself mentally.
Harry pulls his scarf down. “My family’s from Arizona,” he mumbles, little chiclet teeth chittering. “Came here for school and haven’t left yet.”
That makes so much more sense. “Explains the jeggings, then.”
“They’re a good look,” Harry whines petulantly. “Fashion is pain. All beauty comes with a price.”
“That’s not beauty, Harold, that’s asking for your death.”
Once the cold air finally turns warm and some of the fog against his windows starts to clear up, Harry stops shaking in his boots and sags into his seat with a relieved sigh. “You do know that’s not my name, right? It’s just Harry.”
Harry cuts him off quickly, “Don’t make one of those stupid ‘Just Harry’ jokes.”
Louis finds himself laughing, clutching onto the steering wheel as some of the dread and tension bubbling out of his system.
“It’s just Harry Styles,” Harry’s petulant tone informs him, “And your friends Liam and Niall added me on Facebook, by the way.”
“What?” Louis stops laughing. His head snaps to the endless Bambi legs and marshmallow fluff sitting in his car, nothing funny about this situation all that funny anymore. “You’re not serious, are you?”
“Nope,” he says with a pop of the last consonant, and Louis gets a bad feeling like Harry does that a lot. “They added me to a group message to make sure I wasn’t really a serial killer. Oh!” He snaps his leather-covered fingers like he’s just remembered something. “And you should really get them to un-tag you in some of the photos they’ve posted over the years. You wanna be a lawyer, right? I don’t think the American Bar Association is fond of drunk music festival nudists.”
Louis knows exactly which photo Harry’s talking about and he wants to die. His barely legal ass (at the time) cannot be blamed for how real shit got at Lollapalooza the summer after his third year of college. That was, like, two years ago anyway. He’s grown and matured and there are tons of lawyers out there who’ve made bigger idiots out of themselves.
“You stalked me on Facebook,” Louis huffs incredulously. “Oh, my God. You are actually certifiably out of your mind, Styles.”
Harry shrugs a shoulder nonchalantly and pulls his seatbelt over his chest. “What can I say? I had to know who I was getting into bed with.” And god dammit, if Louis does not catch Harry’s little wink at him. “Metaphorically, of course.”
Louis fishmouths for a good five minutes before Harry has to close his jaw for him, reminding him about the family they’re supposed to be driving crazy. Louis has no fucking clue what he’s gotten himself into.
“This feels weird.”
“What the hell are you on about Harold, honestly, you do talk some shit.”
“If you weren’t crushing my hand right now I would pinch you so hard, oh my—” Harry yelps, jumping mid-air when Louis crushes his hand with his own even tighter.
“Get your shit together,” Louis huffs, a cold breath of air clouding in between them. “You’re supposed to want to ravish me at all times. It’s not very believable if you flinch every time I look at you.”
“Well you’re scaring me!” Harry yells in his defense. “And it’s cold outside!”
Louis takes a step closer, crowding Harry against the side of his truck. Unfortunately for them Harry is a walking giant and the top of his head can probably still be seen over Louis’ car. Louis frees Harry’s hand, but only to grab the collar of his ridiculous coat and force him to hunch over. “Listen up, Harold,” he hisses in his most demanding voice, “You are going to hold my hand tonight and you are going to like it.”
“It’s not that I don’t like—I mean. You’re just—you’re so.” Harry flusters hopelessly and Louis kind of wants to pull Harry’s stupid bobble hat off his head and whack him in the face with it. “You’re supposed to want to ravish me too, you know. This is a two-way street.”
Harry brings up a good point. Louis would have appreciated this point much more if Harry’d brought it up during their drive over. Like, preferably when they were still in a warm and heated vehicle, and not hiding behind said vehicle while across the street from his mother’s house. Louis’d wasted fifteen minutes trying not to laugh or plan his death every time Harry had held his hand or nuzzled in his neck during their practice session, but that was all a complete waste, apparently. (Probably like the rest of this night will be.)
So he got a little flushed with Harry’s too-large, too-warm yeti paws all over him earlier. He can just use that in his favor now. He did four years’ of drama club in high school, he’s pretty sure he can act completely smitten for his fake boyfriend-type thing.
“I can totally act like I wanna ravish you,” Louis squawks in his own defense.
One of Harry’s leathered index fingers pokes him in the forehead, right above his right eye. “You seriously can’t, though. Your eye twitches every time I even open my mouth to speak.”
“That’s not true,” he tries. Like clockwork he feels his eye twitch and god-fucking-dammit he was so close. “It’s not you, I promise. I’m just—” He takes a deep breath and puts some distance between them. A snowflake lands on the top of his nose, Harry brushes it off with the tip of his finger before his arms drop to his side. “I’m just stressed, okay? I’m not in the mood to be dealing with all of this,” he gestures nonsensically to their general surroundings, “right now, and I really just don’t wanna look like an idiot in front of someone who made me look like an idiot.”
Louis digs his shoes into the concrete, his toes cold and numb inside them. It may be freezing out, but his insides go warm with the admission. He needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. He needs to learn to keep himself if check, especially when Harry suddenly pulls him in for a tight embrace.
To say that Louis is surprised is an understatement. He stills in Harry’s arms, eyes going wide and chest warm where it’s pressed against Harry’s.
“Niall mentioned something about an ex-boyfriend,” Harry mumbles quietly, head ducked down and words pressed close to the skin of Louis’ neck.
Louis gets a mouth full of curls and beanie, but his arms wrap around Harry’s small torso on their own accord. The Tomlinsons are never one to turn down a good hug, everything be damned.
“Niall talks too much for his own good,” Louis grumbles.
“Because he obviously loves you very much a lot.”
Louis chuckles dryly, “Those two fancy degrees of yours didn’t do you any good, did they?”
“Not one fucking bit. But hey,” Harry pulls away and holds him at arm’s length, “I’m on your side, okay? I promise to be the best worst Thanksgiving date you’ve ever had.”
It’s the most ridiculous plan Louis’ ever gotten himself involved in—and that’s saying a lot—but he has no room to judge or be picky right now. He pats Harry on the shoulder and nods his head. Some things are out of his hands right now. He’s just going to have to put his trust in Harry and hope he doesn’t end up in a ditch somewhere with his body all chopped up into pieces.
“You know I can tell when you’re thinking about me turning out to be a serial killer, right? You and your little twitches,” Harry throws his fluffy head back in a giggle, “God you’re a mess. C’mon.” He laces their gloved hands together and tugs them away from hiding, quickly falling into step together. “You’re like a tiny ball of hot energy. It’s so cute.”
Louis flushes. “I am not neither tiny nor cute.”
“Oh, shut up and just show me your house already.”
Louis squeezes their hands maybe a little too tightly as they trudge through the thin layer of snow dusting the street. Two lamp posts down, Louis guides them to the large house on the corner with the dark maroon door. There’s a wall of thick green bushes around the yard, but as they step closer Louis catches telltale signs of a Tomlinson Thanksgiving; a giant plastic turkey on the front porch, pumpkins on the sides of all the steps leading to the door, a giant orange and gold wreath hanging up that reads Give Thanks! in bold, festive lettering.
“This is it,” Louis exhales nervously. He means to ring the doorbell or knock on the door, but he can’t seem to get his limbs to cooperate any longer.
Luckily, Harry leans over and pushes the doorbell for him. “Shit,” he turns to Louis with a wide, pleased grin. “Your doorbell plays Greensleeves? That’s fancy as shit, dude.”
Louis listens to the short little melody he’d grown up with and something like nostalgia begins in his belly. (There’s a reason why Thanksgiving is only his fourth favorite holiday.) “My mom’s dad was a composer,” he explains, “he used to play the song for her every night before bed and she did the same for us. I don’t know.” Louis shrugs, like falling asleep to the soft sound of violins before bed isn’t still one of his most cherished memories from childhood. He doesn’t need be feeling inexplicably fond for his mother right now; this isn’t the time for that. “Gets kinda old after a few years. Whatever”
“Pft, ‘whatever,’” Harry mocks him teasingly. “And you tried to give me shit for being such a—what did you call it again? ‘Posh little west coast fuckboy’, I believe is the term you used?”
Louis doesn’t get a chance to respond before Greensleeves cuts off and is replaced with the sound of little girls shrieking and giggling. He’s up in Harry’s space, finger digging in his chest and on his tip-toes ready to yell when the twins finally open the door to find them just like that.
“Louis!” Four little people cry at once, each of them louder than the last. It snaps Louis out of his train of (very angry) thoughts. He knew he’d be attacked by half a football team’s worth of children, but knowing something and being prepared for something are two very different concepts, especially where kids are involved.
It must be the same for Harry, because while Louis waltzes into big brother mode and steps into the house just in time to be ceremoniously attacked by his siblings, Harry stands outside the door like a wax figure, unmoving.
“Louis! Louis! Daisy and I painted our room, you have to come see!”
“No, Lou—look, Lottie took me to get my ears pierced. Look, look!”
It isn’t until Louis’ got Ernie on his right hip and Doris on his left hip and his coat thrown at Phoebe’s head that he notices the sudden lack of gangly limbs attached to his side. “Harry?” he calls over his shoulder.
He hears what sounds like a barely-there squeak, but he fails to register it over a booming voice from down the foyer. “Girls! Close the door! You’re letting all the cold air in! Your father and I don’t pay all this money to keep the house warm just for you to—” His mother’s head pops up from around the corner. “Oh,” she says, stopping suddenly. “He-llo. What do we have here?”
She stalks toward them; her hair up in a messy bun, cheekbones sharp and eyes warm with a certain softness she only has for Louis (no matter what Lottie says). She’s wearing the same ratty old mom jeans Louis’ pretty sure she came out of the womb in and her favorite polka dot apron, the one with the World’s Best Mommy! written in a cute cursive font with a completely irrelevant cartoon lamb below it.
She’s up in Louis’ space and pinching his cheeks like he’s still the same chubby four year old before he can even muster a hello in response.
Honestly, what’s with everyone and all the pinching today?
Once she’s finished abusing his face, she spins him around and motions to the person who’s turned all those heating bills to waste. “And what do we have here, hm? Care to introduce us to anyone, Lewis?”
With six pairs of Tomlinson-Deakin eyes on him, Harry’s complexion goes from windswept pink to an ashen, pale color, all the blood draining from his face. Louis feels bad for him—his family isn’t exactly the easiest to meet for the first time, especially with their tendency to attack in herds.
They’re a very pack-like family, Louis’.
Even he notices how soft and undeniably careful he sounds when he says, “Could you close the door and come over, babe,” not missing his mother mouthing a curious babe? in the corner of his eye.
It takes a minute for Harry to gather his senses, probably having something to do with Daisy tugging on his sleeve asking him if he’s okay, dude. Harry closes the door behind him and the twins stop shivering in Louis’ arms. “Hi,” he breathes, clapping his hands together in the most awkward attempt at being smooth that Louis' has ever seen. “I’m Harry.”
No one says anything. Harry stands there on their worn out welcome mat, snow melting on his curls and making them shiny and wet, his skin returning to its flushed rosy color. He looks like an idiot with his leather gloves and bright pink bobble hat and puffy winter coat and—Jesus, Louis’d almost forgotten about those jeggings. What a truly hot mess Louis has graced his family with this Thanksgiving. He’s really outdone himself this time.
“Are you Louis’ boyfriend?” Daisy asks with awe in her voice, head tilted far back because she has to look so high up to meet Harry’s eyes. “You’re very tall.”
Green eyes flash to his in a quick, stricken panic as his mom mumbles a shocked boyfriend? under her breath. Harry waits for Louis’ small nod of permission before he crouches down to be eye level with Daisy, Phoebe right behind her in all twin-y false bravado. Louis almost misses Harry telling his sisters that he is in fact Louis’ boyfriend, he’s so distracted by the sight of Harry’s thighs in his jeggings, the thick muscle wrapped in black and flexing under Harry’s weight.
“Would that be okay, Lou?”
Louis tears his eyes away from Harry’s legs. “Huh?” he asks confusedly. “Would what be okay? What did I miss?”
“Your lovely new boyfriend offered to teach the girls how to fishtail braid their hair,” his mom informs him with both of her meticulously plucked eyebrows raised high. “Isn’t that something?”
“Oh.” No no no no no no nooooooo. There is absolutely not to be any braiding of hairs at all. No! Louis will not let this felon heathen touch his precious little sisters’ heads and teach them to fishtail braid.
“I guess that’s fine, yeah,” he answers instead, the picture of nonchalance and coolness. “That’s cool.”
That’s cool? That’s cool? That is so not fucking cool, is what is actually is. Louis is practically sending his sisters to the death. His mother’s going to kill him when she finds their mangled limbs hopelessly torn apart on their sweet, innocent, beds.
He needs to end this right now, but he doesn’t quite fancy risking his own life by telling his family about the complete stranger that’s also been to prison who is now inside their home and being led by Daisy and Pheebs to their bedroom.
Oh, they're so young. So precious. So pre-pubescent; they don’t even know what’s waiting for them. He hopes Harry is one of those serial maniacs that lets his victims go painlessly. He wouldn’t want his little girls to die in agony.
“You okay, honey?” Jay snaps her fingers in his face, tearing his eyes away from the stairwell. “You don’t look too well. C’mon, let’s get some food in you so you can tell me all about this Harry character you’ve brought into my house.”
Life. It is so fleeting, Louis thinks.
“So you met at a club? When Harry spilled his drink on you and then tried to dance on your lap?” His mom stares at him from the other side of the kitchen island with narrow, brown eyes scrutinizing. She speaks slowly, like she’s just trying to wrap her head around this burst of newfound information.
“Yup,” Louis nods, totally honest and not at all suspicious. “Harry’s just a very handsy kind of guy. Not too good with his hand-eye coordination or anything, but we make it work.”
At least that part isn’t a complete lie. They did have the messy encounter in the coffee shop earlier. Louis isn't pulling all of this out his very well-endowed ass.
“He doesn’t really look like the clubbing type,” Lottie hums, perched atop the countertop and licking an empty bowl of cranberry sauce.
“You’ve spoken like two and a half words to him,” Louis bites, “what would you know?”
She flips her hair over her shoulder coolly, not bothering to meet Louis' volume. “I’m just saying. He looks more like the type to get recipes off Martha Stewart and post gardening tips on his blog.”
If only Lottie knew what Harry was actually posting on the internet.
“Well, he’s not, so I don’t know what to—”
“But didn’t you say he was a line cook?” Lottie quips back far too sharply. “You can’t tell me someone like Harry cooks for a living and doesn’t watch Martha Stewart.”
Louis’ getting flustered, feels like Lottie and his mom and even Fizzy who’s on her phone silently across the table from him are all sniffing his fear, their eyes boring deep into soul like they’re trying to pry every little fib out of him. “Martha Stewart hasn't been on TV in like six hundred years, Lottie, shut up,” he responds poorly.
“Wow,” Lottie says, rolling her eyes and hopping off the counter. “You’re remarkably well-spoken for someone in their second year of law school. I’m so impressed. The University of Chicago is really doing some great work.”
Louis doesn’t get his chance to fight back before he gets thrown a green bean at his face, Lottie getting pelted with an identical one if the haughty yelp that follows is anything to go by.
“Can’t you two ever just behave like the mature, polite adults I raised you to be?” His mother huffs, cutting their argument short. “Dan and Greg are on their way with your grandparents right now so please,” she turns to speak to Louis specifically, “if you could try not to bite everyone’s head off for the next five to eight hours, I would be eternally grateful.”
Louis stares at her like she’s grown a second—and third—head, but she isn’t asking for much, is she? All his mother wants is a nice, formidable Thanksgiving dinner with the people she loves and is thankful for, because that's what this whole day is about, isn't it?
Although. Realizing all of this probably would have been better if Louis had done so before bringing his hair-braiding convict into the house.
“I still don’t see why Greg has to be here,” he takes the spotlight off himself, distracting himself by tearing a tissue apart.
“Because Greg is basically family,” Jay says, the same way she has a thousand times before and all throughout Louis’ childhood. “I already told you his parents are out the country, didn’t I? It’d be a shame to have to see him spending the holidays on his own. That’s not how you treat those close to you, Louis, I taught you better than that.”
Okay, yeah, but Louis hasn't been ‘close’ to Greg since he was eighteen, and he doesn’t exactly plan on rekindling any of their previous ‘closeness’ any time soon.
Not that Greg is worth being in his life at all, anyway. And in Louis’ defense, it’s not like Greg has shown a single sign over the last six years of wanting to rehash anything between them. The guy doesn’t even have the balls to add Louis on Facebook. Louis can’t be blamed for wanting absolute nothing to do with him.
“I still don’t know what happened between you two, but I just wish I could get you to be like you used to,” his mother says sadly.
Louis plucks another tissue to rip apart just so he doesn’t have to look into her sad, guilt-dragging eyes. “We’re never going to be like we used to,” he mumbles under his breath. “I just wish you could see that.”
There’s nothing Louis hates more than being a cliché and being upset with his mother. He knows that holidays are typically a trying time for families, everyone grating each other’s nerves and drinking just to keep from fighting, but the thing is—this isn’t Louis’ norm. He doesn’t fight with his family; he doesn’t want to bite his family members’ heads off; he doesn’t ever want to not be around his favorite people in the world, but apparently there’s a first for everything and Louis’ life is slowly becoming a textbook cliché.
He has to get out the room before he says any of this aloud. He’s not paying attention to where he’s going, but he’s not entirely surprised when he finds himself in the twins’ new bedroom.
The last time Louis was here over Labor Day weekend the bedsheets were pink and the girls were really into stripes. Now everything is pale jade and creamy white, a few stripes still around, but mostly replaced with simpler aesthetics and a bit of floral.
Louis hates that the first thing he realizes is how perfectly this new décor matches Harry’s eyes, compliments his milky skin and brown ringlets.
He watches Harry, who is—thank God—not in the process of killing Louis’ younger sisters, but instead sprawled out on the rug in the middle of the room. He lies on his belly in between Ernest and Doris, both of whom mimic his position perfectly; the three of them dangling their bare feet back and forth in the air as Daisy and Phoebe paint their nails. Harry’s got one hand flaunting to the side, glamorously waiting for it to dry while he flips through one of the twin’s Scholastic magazines with the toddlers.
He looks completely ridiculous. It doesn’t help that when Louis finally steps into the room he notices the halo of braids around his head, only soft wisps of hair slipping out and cascading across his forehead and down his temple. He almost looks serene, like something out of a movie or Louis’ wildest fantasy.
He clears his throat just as Phoebe finishes up with Harry’s pinky. “Having fun then, aren’t we?”
Harry looks up at him from underneath thick eyelashes, green eyes like bright Christmas lights from his position on the floor. A wide smile warms his features and yeah, there are those dimples again. (Louis absolutely did not ask for this.)
“Hiya,” Harry chirps, like it’s no big deal that he’s sitting in Louis’ little sisters’ room and getting pampered. “What’s up?”
Louis stares at him disbelievingly. This boy really is something else. “Care to explain what exactly’s going on here, Curly?”
Harry’s grin goes loopy at the new nickname, but he doesn’t move a limb other than to motion to the empty space beside Daisy for him to sit down. “We’re getting our nails done and I’m helping the girls pick out some books for the book fair next week. Wanna help?”
Does Louis wanna—
Has Harry actually lost all his wits?
“You’re telling me you’ve been up here this entire time braiding each other’s hair and doing your nails?”
Daisy’s blue doe eyes blink up at her older brother. “Do you want me to paint yours also? Hazza said I’m even better than him.”
“Hazza?” Louis repeats, suddenly much more amused. He plops down beside her and crosses his legs. “Tell me more, little miss.”
Daisy picks up Harry’s left hand, the one she’d just been painting, apparently, and holds it for Louis to see. “See,” he urges him like it’s the most important thing in the world, “Lottie got Pheebs and me a nail art set for our birthday and we’ve been practicing loads. Harry likes the glittery polishes best, he told us so.”
And why doesn’t that surprise Louis in the least bit?
“He wears it more at home, but his boss is really strict about the cooks having clean nails so he’s not allowed to paint them that much.”
Admittedly, it makes sense. If Harry’s whole story about being a line cook checks out, that is. (But Louis’ not about to tell Daisy that.) Harry’s nails are a glittery gold color, his ring finger on both hands with little white polka dots. It very cute, and also very Harry. Louis wouldn’t be surprised if this was the exact pattern Harry’d asked for himself.
“You want us to do yours?” Phoebe offers, a little bit of nail polish all over her face and hands. She’s clearly not the neater painter between the two of them, but Louis doesn’t mind much.
“Sure,” he puts his fingers in her little hands, “paint me like one of your French girls.”
She doesn’t catch on to the reference, but Harry does and he lets out the most ridiculous bark of laughter. It sounds like a dying horse laughing at a dying goat and it’s so absurd that Louis finds himself laughing as well, even know he didn’t find his own joke that great at all.
“Hazza laughs like hyena,” Doris' monotone voice points out, interrupting the two of them. She looks so bored about everything, head held up carefully in one hand as she skims through the magazine with the other. Every time he sees her, Louis is amazed at how advanced her speech and vocabulary is for her age. Usually in moments like this, when she speaks like an unimpressed 30-something wine mom, though she’s barely four years old.
It only makes Harry laugh harder, rolling onto his back until Louis can see in the inside of his mouth and the red flush all the way down the column of his neck. He blinks up at Louis with watery eyes once he’s stopped and it’s so terrifyingly soft and beautiful, Louis almost forgets for a moment that he only just learned this boy’s last name an hour or two ago.
“Y’alright there, Hazza?”
Harry rests a glittery hand on his chest and sighs. “M’great.”
Louis runs his fingertips across the knotted braids that hold most of Harry’s locks back, his touch light and curious. He doesn’t even notice Phoebe picking up his other hand to start painting or Ernie bickering with Daisy about the color scheme he wants for his left hand. Harry lays there on the fuzzy green rug of Louis’ little sisters’ room, his sweater matching the color of the walls and his eyes the color of their bedsheets. Louis would never admit how pretty Harry’s features are, even upside down as they may be currently, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever need to, considering that they’ll be out of each other’s lives in five to eight hours.
Louis blames his stupid train of thought on the nail polish fumes.
They’ve finished painting their nails and have moved on to watching Snow White when it’s finally time to face the music. In the living room, Louis sits pressed up next to Harry on the couch, Doris on his lap and Ernest on Harry’s, the twins on either side of them. They’re barely ten minutes into the movie with the fireplace crackling to keep them warm when Louis hears the sounds of the front door being opened and boots being kicked off. He tenses up and Harry notices immediately.
“You okay?” he asks, knocking their knees together to get Louis’ attention.
He’s not okay. He’s more annoyed than anything, but it helps to have Harry's full attention and sincerity. “I’m fine, yeah.”
Louis turns to look Harry in the eyes and he hates that he’s met with such genuine worry. “You know the drill, Harry. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?”
And because the universe revolves around torturing Louis, it’s that very moment that the rest of his family chooses then to walk into the room, turning all of the lights on and speaking loudly over one another. Louis gets to his feet, a sleepy Doris on his hip, and walks over reluctantly to where Dan and his grandparents are saying their hellos to Fizzy and Lottie.
His grandpa pinches his cheek too hard and his nan steals Doris from him and Dan gives him a full on embrace and through it all Louis pretends like he doesn’t see the six foot tall giant looming in the back by his mother. The room is so loud all of sudden, but it’s clear that everyone—those that know, at least—is pointedly ignoring the elephant in the room.
Fake it ‘til you make it, right?
He’s halfway through a proper scolding from his nan for not calling home enough when a warm palm settles around his hip. He watches his grandmother’s gaze drift away from him, her words coming to a stop. “And who is this?” she asks, an eyebrow quirked the same way Louis’ own mother did just earlier.
This time around Harry is less silent, bumbling idiot, and more six-feet-something of smoothness. “Hi. I’m Harry,” he sticks his hand out, “Louis’ boyfriend.”
With Doris in her arms, she shakes Harry's hand with her free one. “Louis’ never mentioned anything about a boyfriend. Lewis?” She turns to him expectantly. “Care to explain?”
“We, uh, we’re—”
It’s Louis’ turn to have his words tumble out poorly and look like a huge idiot under his grandma’s intense eyes. It’s seriously not fair how intimidating all the women in this family are. Louis doesn't even stand a chance.
“We’re still pretty new,” Harry chimes, coming to his rescue. “We just kinda happened, so.”
And yeah, that’s kind of putting it lightly.
Louis doesn’t know what it is, but the unofficial maternal head of their family doesn’t have any bite in her when she speaks to Harry, her voice going soft and her tone welcoming as she gives her full attention to Harry and Harry gives it right back. Louis feels like he’s stepped into the Twilight Zone, watching the two of them exchange niceties, Harry even promising to make sure Louis calls home more often.
He has to wait for their conversation to end on its own—because Tomlinson women do not respond well to being interrupted. Much to his surprise, his nan leaves, pulling Harry in for a hug and a kiss to his cheek.
And then completely ignores Louis. Who is standing right beside him.
“Did my nan seriously just welcome you to the family while low-key telling me to fuck off?”
Harry giggles proudly, one arm still loose around Louis as the other comes to boop the tip of his nose. “Aww, come off it,” he teases. “And she totally wasn’t low-key about that at all, by the way. I’d make sure I get on her good side, if I were you, or you'll most likely end up at the kids’ table.”
Louis checks and double-checks the area around them to make sure no one is listening before he grabs a fistful of Harry’s too-large sweater and drags him toward the fireplace where no one else will be able to hear them. “What the hell are you trying at, Styles?” he hisses when they’re out of earshot. “You’re supposed to be a dick, not stealing my place in the family portrait—”
“—I so knew you guys were the type to have a family portrait. That is totally like Jay to—”
“Pay attention, Harold!” Louis snaps his fingers in his face.
He’s not any calmer when Harry chooses instead to place both of his yeti palms against his chest, stepping closer and crowding into Louis’ very personal space and trying to quiet him down.
“I will absolutely not quiet down!” Louis huffs as soon as Harry requests him to calmly do so.
What he doesn’t expect is for Harry to slap a hand over his mouth and forcefully shut him up. Louis’ eyes go wide with rage and disbelief and maybe even a little bit of fear because of course Harry really is a serial killer. Louis wouldn’t put it past the sociopath in him to have been faking his whole Martha-Stewart-meets-fairy-prince-Lolita image this entire time.
Fucking sociology students, honestly. Louis really wishes he hadn’t lied to Liam about the switchblade and pepper spray thing right about now. He could really use both at the moment.
“Your eye is twitching again,” Harry’s warm breath fans his face, they’re so close together.
Louis hates him so much. He will burns this entire house down with Harry Styles in it the second this monster lets him go.
Harry must read his mind because takes a negligible step back and drops his hand from Louis’ mouth. “It’s really starting to hurt my feelings that you keep thinking I’m going to kill your family,” he says instead. Louis doesn’t appreciate how Harry deadpans right after, “You know I would never risk getting blood on a fresh manicure.”
Louis’ thoughts race with a thousand I hate you I hate you I hate you so fucking muchs a minute. He can feel himself going ten shades too red and he may be a breath away from being twenty-four but that does not stop him from stomping feet and delivery a mercilessly rough punch to Harry’s arm. “That’s not funny, asshole!”
Harry laughs through the pain, rubbing his arm consolingly. “I feel like you make the better psycho fake boyfriend, to be honest. I know I offered to start a fight with anyone of your choosing, but you’re the one who keeps getting violent with me.”
Louis brushes some hair off his forehead. He is absolutely not flustered, thank you very much. “That’s only because you’re such an idiot,” he bites.
“And you’re shit at pretending like you’re not planning my death at every chance you get.”
Louis’ internal mantra of fuck sociology students, fuck sociology student, fuck sociology students only continues with full force in his head.
“What did we say about pretending we we’re gone for each other? Huh?” Harry nudges Louis’ chin up with the rough pad of his thumb, forcing them to meet eyes. “I know you’re just taking your anger out on me and that’s totally fine because I agreed to be your date and I knew what I was getting myself into—sorta,” he corrects quickly with a blush, “—but can you please not flinch every time I touch you? I swore I wasn’t just some random psycho, didn’t I?”
“You let me add you on Facebook,” Louis says. “That’s not exactly the most full-proof lie detector out on the market right now.”
“I let you add my mom on Facebook too.”
“Could be a fake,” he tries weakly, sounding so fucking stupid even to his own ears. Anne Cox is not only quick to respond to friend requests but also posts lots of lengthy, sappy statuses with smiley faces, and has an affinity for throwback Thursdays featuring a very tiny, chubby-cheeked Harry. “Like a catfish, or something. Probably like you are.”
“Louis, could you help me in the kitchen for a mo’?”
Louis’ eyes drift past Harry’s broad shoulder to where his mom is standing by the entrance, her features wound tight in an off combination of stressed meets impatience meets confusion meets—worst of all—inexplicable endearment.
“Be there in a sec,” he calls out. He waits for her to nod and head back into the kitchen before turning to Harry, who’d apparently watched the entire exchange. “What?” Louis asks defensively.
“Nothing.” Harry’s shoulders droop and he takes a bigger step back this time, giving Louis much more room to breathe. “Your mom just clearly loves you a lot, is all.”
Louis is, in every fact of the matter, a textbook mama’s boy. It’s not something he’s ever bothered trying to deny because it’s so fucking obvious to anyone with eyes and ears and common sense, but he’s not in a place right now where he feels the need to explain all of this to the stranger that he’s let into his house—and into his family, apparently.
He decides not to comment on Harry’s little observation, sidestepping him instead to walk away. He makes it about half a step before Harry tugs on his wrist and stops him. “Hey,” Harry squeezes, like he’s trying to reassure Louis’ of his touch and of his presence. Louis won’t admit that it’s comforting. “Let me know if you need any help in there, okay?”
Louis’ too overwhelmed currently to say much of anything. He hums a noise of acknowledgement and pulls his wrist out of Harry’s hold.
God, he feels like he’s suffocating and the day has barely started.
He’s elbows-deep in soap water an hour later, scrubbing through dishes as his chore for the day. They haven’t even started eating yet and his mom’s already made a mess of 30 different bowls and pans and spoons and whisks. Louis doesn’t get it and he doesn’t want to ask, mostly because he knows better than to question her in the kitchen.
At least he knows where he got his messy streak from.
That’s how Harry finds him not much later. He knows it’s Harry because no one else would come and cling onto his back like a koala, arms coming to tighten around his waist and burying his face into Louis’ neck.
Louis doesn’t know where Harry got the idea that this was okay with him, but his fingers are too pruney and his lower back aches from standing in the same position for this long, so he’s not quite in the fighting spirit. Harry will forgive him, surely.
“Can I help you?” Louis says with a long-suffering sigh.
Harry brushes the tip of his nose along the underside of his jaw, like it’s something they’ve done a million times before, and hums, “No, just missed you, is all. Wanted to see if you were lonely too.”
“You mean the girls aren’t nearly as fascinated with you when you aren’t offering to be all done up to their liking?” Louis rinses a handful of forks. “Shocking,” he deadpans.
Harry only squeezes closer and—is he trying to sway them together? In Louis’ mother’s kitchen? With Louis as the little spoon?
What the hell is this shit?
“Nah, Greg just took them outside for a snowball fight.”
Louis forces himself to bite his tongue at the mention of Greg’s name. “You didn’t wanna join?”
“Not really. Thought you could use some company instead.”
That’s oddly...nice of Harry to do so, considering Louis still has two giant pots to wash and the gravy to check up on.
He says this aloud and Harry pries himself off reluctantly, jumping to the stove in two quick steps. “Want me to do it for you? I used to help my mom make the gravy back at home all the time when I was younger.”
Louis tears his eyes away from the soapy sink of water to glance at Harry leaning over the pot, turning the ladle around and around before he brings it up and dips a glittery gold pinky in. His mouth is an obscene vision when he wraps it around the head of his pinky and sucks it dry, his jaw moving as his tongue laps over it. Harry pulls the digit out with a pop and Louis’ knees nearly buckle.
“This is delicious,” Harry says, entirely unaware of what he’s just (very pornographically) done.
Louis blinks at him once, twice, and he doesn’t think he’s going to be able to focus on washing the dishes anymore. “Harry?”
“Hmm?” the other boy asks, putting the lid back on the pot and turning the burner down.
He isn’t sure if he really wants to know the answer to this, but he feels like he needs to ask anyway, just for his own mental health and emotional wellbeing. “Are you really, actually a line cook?” Louis doesn’t meet green eyes as he continues nervously, “Like, how much of your post was actually true?”
There is a quiet moment when neither of them talk and the only sound in the kitchen is Louis scrubbing the baking utensils. It’s a short moment and then before Louis nearly bursts from anxiety, he hears Harry’s sock-clad feet against the kitchen tiles walking toward him. He stops beside the dish rack, leaning against the counter and crossing his arms. “Most of it was true,” he answers quietly, “in one way or another.”
“And what's that supposed to mean?”
Louis may not be a lawyer yet, but he knows when someone is playing him; loop-holing their way to safer grounds.
“I am a line cook and I do bartend at night.”
“Why?” Louis asks, because he’s nosey and despite his previous remarks, he doesn't think Harry’s degrees aren’t actually useless. His profile had said he's graduated Summa Cum Laude and that isn’t an easy task, no matter what the area of study is.
From the corner of his eye he sees Harry’s cheeks go pink. He digs his painted nails into his forearms—a nervous habit that Louis notices because he so often does it too. Harry’s voice sounds hesitant when he confesses, “I took a year off to study for the MCAT and save up some money. I, um, start at Pritzker next fall, actually.”
Pritzker? Like the Pritzker School of Medicine, Pritzker? “You’re going to med school?”
Harry is even redder when Louis rinses off his hands and turns the water off so he can face him. “Yeah,” he says, biting the corner of his mouth, “I got the, uh—the letter on Monday. I just…haven’t told anyone yet, so.”
“You’re going to med school?” Louis repeats, still wholly dumbfounded. “Like, to be a doctor. You’re going to med school to be a doctor.”
“That’s kinda the plan.”
And if that isn’t the plot twist of the fucking century, then Louis doesn’t know what is. He can’t seem to tear his eyes away from Harry, much less wrap his head around this newfound information.
Harry Styles. A doctor. What else did he forget to mention in his aggressive little internet post?
“You didn’t actually go to jail either, did you?”
Harry shakes his head. “Not technically.”
“So you’re only technically a felon with a record? Because that makes sense?”
“Well, okay, look,” Harry flusters, standing up straight and hands beginning to fly all over the place as he speaks quickly in his own defense. “When I was in high school the football team was trying to expand their field, okay? They had this huge project together and I was in the gardening club at the time and, like, the school was basically planning on taking over our garden to build the new equipment rooms on that plot of land. So I kinda…” Harry stops for a second, biting his thumbnail and not meeting Louis’ eyes. “I snuck into the school one night and planted flowers all over the football field. Tore it apart. Technically it was, like, trespassing. Kind of? Or vandalism? I don’t know, I was barely a freshmen then, I just remember my parents talking the principal out of filing charges. I still had to get a lawyer, though, and do a ton of community service and stuff. They didn’t make me wear any orange, thankfully. S’not really my color.”
Louis’ brain completely shuts down on him. As if Harry’s med school confession wasn’t enough, he apparently also has a green thumb and a knack for going against the law. Jesus. Lottie really was right about Harry secretly being Martha Stewart.
Louis is fake dating Martha Stewart.
He doesn’t know if he finds this kind of funny or extremely frustrating. He didn’t inquire about some whiz-kid-brainiac-gardener. If he’d wanted someone to make an honest man out of him, he would’ve signed up for eharmony instead, not his school website's shoddy Craigslist-equivalent.
What he does know is that he hasn’t spoken in long enough that it’s making Harry worry. Wide green eyes bore into his, a downward tilt at the corner of pouty lips. Harry looks like a sad puppy, one who’s just peed on the new carpets and knows he’s in store for a good telling off.
Except he looks so sorry about lying—kind of; sort of; not technically, he’d probably argue for himself—that Louis doesn’t want to tell him off. This, Harry headed toward medical school and being passionate about flowers, is better than him actually being a murderous sociopath. It’s, like, the lesser of two evils. Louis is willing to make some sacrifices if it means he gets to live to eat the most long-awaited Thanksgiving meal ever.
“I have to ask,” Louis finally speaks up, “since you’re on such an honesty streak.” Some of the tension in him has left and he’s awfully calm right now, dare he say a bit toying. “Please tell me that the van thing is a lie too.”
Harry looks up at him, the cogs in his brain slowly catching on. His features loosen up, a smile warming his cheeks and eyes hopeful. “Nah, that’s actually totally true. My best friend and I bought it a few years ago when we were super drunk. He helped me drive it up from Phoenix and everything.”
“Oh, God,” Louis buries his face in his pruney hands, “of all the things, I was really hoping that one was gonna be the lie. Shit, dude.”
“You have to see it in person though, she’s so sick, I swear!”
Louis shakes his head, “She’s a van painted like Eddie Van Halen's guitar, Harry. I don’t know which I’m supposed to disown you for first; your choice in musicians or your taste in awful puns.”
He feels gentle hands at his hipbones, asking permission. Louis peeks through his closed fingers as crisp white socks coming into view against the beige kitchen tiles, his forehead bumping into Harry’s chest. “How am I ever supposed to win you back, then?”
This isn’t what Louis asked for. This isn’t how Thanksgiving dinner at his family’s house was supposed to play out. This isn’t what Harry was supposed to be like.
“Wash the rest of the dishes for me and maybe I’ll reconsider.”
He feels it all over his forehead and temples and down his spine to the tip of this toes when Harry laughs and it shakes through his body from deep within his chest. “You got a deal, Tomlinson,” he says.
Louis really should know better than to continue getting into deals with Harry Styles.
Maybe one day he’ll know better, but it probably won’t be today.
“You know this is all your fault, right?”
Harry nearly trips over his feet scoffing so hard. “Are you kidding me?” he grumbles, struggling to put his boots on. “How is this my fault?”
With one hand on his hip and the other on the doorknob, Louis waits for Harry to get ready, rolling his eyes. “Remember how I promised you a kickass Thanksgiving dinner and you promised you were going to be a total nightmare and ruin the night?”
Harry blinks up at him owlishly. “Well. When you say it like that, yes, I can see how one would think I’m the one at fault here.”
“Well that’s a pretty way of saying you totally fucked me over, Styles.”
“I didn’t fuck you over,” Harry sighs, standing up to his full height and zipping his coat up. Louis tries his best not to vomit all over the thing.
“You’re just no good at keeping your word,” Louis finishes for him.
“No,” Harry argues, “there was just…a change in plans. Had to improvise.” Standing out in the foyer, Louis’ sisters outside with Greg and the rest of the adults watching football in the living room, Harry keeps his embarrassed voice down. “I wasn’t prepared for babies, Louis,” he hisses, “you’re supposed to warn a man when babies are involved.”
“What are you ta—” And then it dawns on Louis, a lightbulb flashing in his head. “Are you talking about Doris and Ernie?” he asks with disbelief. “Harry, they’re like three years old, dude.”
Harry squirms under his gaze. “Can we just go, already? I’m not having this conversation with you.”
He doesn’t wait for Louis to respond—or pick his jaw up off the floor—before he opens the front door himself and steps out into the cold. The sudden gush of frosty air and snow is enough to snap Louis back into focus, his brain whirling with too many thoughts all at once.
He’s a couple of steps behind Harry now, but he watches the other boy walk off the porch and down the steps to where Daisy, Phoebe, Doris, and Ernie are frolicking without a care alongside Greg. It’s too windy and the snow is coming down too fast to see clearly. The skies are their useless November gloomy, a shade that Louis can never decide if he really loves or hates; this time of year always making him feel…different.
He doesn’t feel like getting his hair and boots wet again so he stands on the porch instead. Phoebe and Ernie are chasing after Greg’s gawky figure while over by the giant turkey in the yard, Harry is crouched down in all his bobble hat glory helping Daisy and Doris build what looks like the very weak beginnings of a snowman companion for the turkey. Harry keeps one hand on Doris’ back, making sure she doesn’t fall over.
They’re supposed to be getting the kids inside, but of course Harry has trouble listening to directions. Louis doesn’t feel like interrupting them just yet, and he has a feeling Harry knows what he’s doing, the realization of which is only slightly terrifying. If they were playing good cop/bad cop (good dad/bad dad?), Louis figures Harry would be the good cop ten times out of ten. He seems to have a natural skill with kids, one that Louis isn’t used to seeing in a lot of people his age.
And then there’s Greg, who… Well, Greg, too, has admittedly always been good with the girls as well, but that’s mostly because they’ve grown up around him—except for the four years he went away to college and never came home to visit, Louis has to remind himself. He’s still a shiny new figure in Doris and Ernie’s life, but it’s unsurprising that they’ve warmed up to him so quickly and smoothly. Greg was always good with kids.
He was just shit with boyfriends and best friends, apparently.
Louis stands there watching all six of them mess about and giggle over the howls of the wind until he starts to get too cold just standing there. It only takes a single shout of Harry’s name to catch his attention and then, just as Louis would have guessed, Harry gathers all the kids around and starts walking them to the porch.
Louis’ never been able to get his siblings to listen to them that readily. It didn’t even look like Harry had to say anything to get them to listen up. How does he even—
There isn’t much time to stand there in the cold dumbfounded by Harry’s magic before one by one a cluster of little children start pushing past him to get inside, boots stomping and scarves being ripped off, everything in a blur of tiny limbs and puffy coats.
Greg comes up last of all, right after Harry who carries Doris in his arms and squeezes Louis’ pinky on his way inside.
Louis knows he has to do this, because not doing so would only make it so much more obviously awkward. He doesn’t have to have what he used to with Greg, but he at least has to acknowledge his existence and force himself to be the bigger person—because Lord knows Greg hasn’t tried to these last few years.
This is absolutely not how today was supposed to play out. He’s been thinking that a lot these last two or three hours, but the day is going by much slower than he expected and certain things...are not how he’d originally perceived them to be.
“Hey,” he waves when Greg has finally reached him.
For a moment he looked surprised, kind of, like he was really expecting Louis to continue ignoring him all day, the way he has every other time they’ve been in the same general area over the years. “Hi,” Greg says, a puff of air visible as he exhales, panting a little from all the running around. His coat isn’t nearly as ridiculous as Harry’s and his pants not nearly as tight, but he’s just as tall and awkward. “Your boyfriend’s really good with the kids, you know.”
There’s a pause on Louis’ behalf where he doesn’t immediately catch on to who Greg’s talking about before he remembers the jeggings-wearing, hair-braiding, gardening-enthusiast who’s apparently ready to have his own dozen babies at 22. “Oh,” he says a breath too late to be considered normal, “Harry—yeah, he’s brilliant.”
“The girls have really taken on to him too. Pheebs was bragging about her braids the entire time just now.”
Louis stares at him, not really sure what to say. He can’t be positive, but he’s pretty sure this is the most they’ve said to each other in…six years?
Greg must pick up on the slight discomfort radiating very clearly off of Louis because he coughs into his fist nervously and motions to the door. “We should, uh, probably go inside before we get sick.”
“Yeah—yeah, we should.”
Louis follows him into the house, assuming their conversation is over—short and painless, just how Louis likes it—until Greg turns to him while they’re peeling off their coats and says, “So you two are pretty serious then, huh?”
Louis wants to ask him where he gets the nerve to probe into his (nonexistent) love life, but he’s working on that whole being-the-bigger-person-thing so he just hums and nods instead. The bigger person usually isn’t supposed to be a liar, unfortunately.
“That’s really great to hear, Louis. You guys seem so good for each other. I’m happy for you,” he says, and fuck him if he doesn’t sound like he genuinely means it.
Which only makes it a tad disheartening that all of this is really nothing more than one pathetic, failed ruse.
“Thanks?” Louis chokes out, the surprise in his voice masked very poorly.
Because Harry isn’t his boyfriend and Louis isn’t really in any type of relationship with him at all and they’re just a sham, the two of them.
And a shockingly believable one at it too, apparently, if Greg’s word are anything to go by. Louis doesn’t really feel like him and Harry have done much of anything today and it is kind of…weird that no one has properly interrogated Louis about his new beau. He doesn’t think the incident in the kitchen with his mom and Lottie counts, necessarily. That’d mostly just been Louis spouting some bullshit story about how they’d met and fallen in love immediately like a couple of douchebags and Lottie swearing on Harry’s inner Martha Stewart instead.
Louis probably should not have chosen a holiday about being grateful for those around you to fuck about with his family. Clearly he’s still not matured past his teenage idiocy.
“You wanna go watch the game with everyone?” Greg asks him once they’ve taken off all their outerwear and placed everything in the right spots. “Harry mentioned earlier that he was a big Packers fan and Dan nearly lost it.”
Louis doesn’t give a single fuck about football, but, “Harry’s a Packers fan?”
Greg looks at him oddly. “You didn’t know that?”
There’s a lot that Louis doesn’t know about Harry. He probably really only knows about 2% of who Harry Styles actually is, and that 2% he only just learned in the last hour or so.
“My bad, sorry. Forgot you only keep up with soccer. United's your team, right?”
“Um—yeah,” Louis thanks the heavens for Greg’s half-decent memory. “Harry and I kinda just keep to our respective sports, so.”
“You should come watch anyway. They’re playing the Bears and I think Dan and Harry are gonna place bets on their dinner.”
He walks off toward the living room and leaves Louis alone in the foyer on a soggy welcome mat and without a clue as to what the hell is going on in this house.
Harry is walking out of the kitchen with a steaming mug in his hands at the same time that Louis walks into the living room. He spots Louis sitting on the loveseat beside Lottie and doesn’t think twice about plopping down on the floor by his feet and squeezing in between in his legs. Louis scratches at the base of his scalp, fingers sliding their way into the haloed braid, thin wisps coming loose at his touch. “Getting comfy there, Harold?”
Harry brushes the tip of his nose against his knee, but doesn’t respond.
It makes Louis laugh anyway. He feels Lottie flick his thigh, but he ignores that.
Anything she could possibly say goes unheard as Dan and Harry and Greg suddenly start screaming at the television all at once, Harry having to put his mug down as he shoots up. Louis checks out the screen and catches sight of someone on the field running at lightning speed, other grown men jumping and throwing themselves at him in an attempt to stop him.
He’s not even blinked before he hears cries of a touchdown, the commentator’s voice booming through the tv speakers. Somewhere in the midst of things Greg and Dan bump chests, Harry cries out in agony, and both pairs of twins come running into the room newly dried off and just eager to join the chaos. Louis doesn’t know who to stare at first, but he hears his mom and nan cackling for their lives and his grandpa’s snoring on the recliner, oblivious to everything as always, and he's slightly overwhelmed in the best way.
There are ten people too many in this house right now and despite all the noise and cluster, a warm feeling bubbles inside Louis. Goosebumps erupt all down his arms, his thick red sweater doing nothing to keep them at bay. He has to bite down on his lip to keep his cheeks from splitting.
Louis never really goes more than a couple of weeks without visiting his family, but he spent this last summer working with his school in Capetown right before he had to jump back into the fall semester. His previous trip home during Labor Day weekend wasn’t anything like this; Lottie couldn’t come home from school, Fizzy wouldn’t put her phone down for more than half a conversation; and Dan was sick with the flu. It hadn’t been the warmest family get-together, and it certainly wasn’t anything like this.
Louis is used to chaos; is used to too many kids and too much noise; used to having to fight to be heard, despite being the eldest of seven. And right now, as everyone around him screams and shouts and laughs, he feels like he’s sitting quietly in the eye of the storm, watching it all unravel. He welcomes it. He loves it. This is his family.
And somehow Harry has found himself in the middle of it all, laughing with a wide grin on his face as he shouts across the room at Dan and Greg, refusing to accept the touchdown. The two of them don’t even care enough to listen to him as they gloat and replay the touchdown, breaking out into a cheer after the third time.
“You’re still down fourteen points,” Harry points out, sitting down again and picking up his now cold cocoa. (Louis may have stolen a sip or two during all of this.)
Louis doesn’t know much about football, but he’s pretty sure that’s not a good sign.
“Still got two and a half quarters left to play, buddy,” Dan chuckles in return. “Wouldn’t count us out just yet.”
“Hey, you know, it’s been a couple of minutes already, maybe we should—” Greg is cut off the second he reaches for the remote during commercial break, Harry tossing a pillow at face and knocking him over.
When Harry had offered to get in a physical fight on Louis’ behalf as his fake, felon lover, Louis didn’t really expect it to involve pillows, men in tights, and a giggling like schoolboys.
He waits for everyone to get distracted by another first down to nudge Harry’s shoulder with his knee. “Hey,” he leans over and ducks close to his face, “I didn’t know you were a Packers fan?” Louis knows well enough that that’s basically like asking for a fight in Chicago. How the hell has Harry made it out alive for this long?
Harry tips his head back to look Louis in the eyes, a dopey grin on his face. “When my mom was working on her PhD we had to move to Milwaukee for a couple of years,” he explains with a fond glow in his eyes. “It was a really good part of my childhood and I still keep in touch with some of my friends from there, so I don't know.”
“How old were you?”
“Hmm,” Louis hums, sitting back in his seat. Interesting. “What was your mom studying?”
“Economics. That’s where she met my stepdad.”
Louis quirks an eyebrow, “Your stepdad was working on his PhD too?” Isn't that some posh shit.
“No no no,” Harry giggles, “He owned a gardening lot by our house and my mom would go there whenever she was stressed. E hyyverything else just kind of…fell into place.”
“Cute,” Louis quips, a faux deep look on his face like he’s thinking about something. “A family of nerdy gardening geniuses with bad taste in sports. I can appreciate it.”
He can’t say he’s taken by surprise when Harry puts his drink down to slap his leg. It’s not the first time someone has resorted to violence today. God. He’s really spending Thanksgiving with a bunch of barbaric heathens. How did this become his life?
“You know we can literally all hear you now, right?”
Louis glances at Lottie and Fizzy, now perched atop the loveseat’s arm. “I stand by every word of what I have apparently expressed aloud.”
The two of them roll their eyes and go back to the game, so Louis doesn’t feel like that’s much of a loss on his part.
Unlike everyone else, Louis returns his attention to Harry sitting peacefully in between his legs, completely unfazed by the lack of space. It’s surprisingly intimate. And easy. And comfortable. And no one even bats an eye at their direction; the two of them going completely unnoticed by Louis’ family—who’ve only known Harry for a few hours.
Louis’ only known Harry for a few hours.
He wants to ask Harry what he’s doing posting requests for Thanksgiving company when he’s got his own family he speaks so fondly off. Normally he would, but it feels like maybe that’s a little too personal for two strangers brought together by the holiday. It’s okay when Harry continues to drop giant truth bombs here and there all on his own, but it’s not in Louis’ place to pry it out of him.
If Harry wants to explain what he’s doing in suburban Illinois with Louis’ family instead of his own back in Arizona, then Louis is sure that he will. For now, he's just going to watch the broad stretch of Harry's shoulders under his cream sweater and absolutely not play with his hair just so he can undo the braids and get his fingertips lost in bouncy curls.
No. Fuck no. Louis is above this. Louis is above all of this.
“Where do you wanna sit?”
Louis tugs the end of his sweater, watching everyone else walk into the dining room and take their places. He steps out of Daisy’s way and closer to Harry, their bare forearms brushing together. “Next to you.”
From the corner of his eye he sees Harry’s giant chiclet teeth biting down on his bottom lip, fighting back a smile. “Really working up this whole lovesick boyfriends thing, huh?”
Boyfriends. Right. “If this is your way of sweet talking me into giving you my rolls, you’re out of your mind, Styles,” Louis scoffs, elbowing him. “It’s not my fault your shitty team lost to ours.”
“By one point!” Harry cries, clutching at Louis’ sweater in agony, the shame from his loss still far from over. “And they’re not even your team, Louis. You accidentally cheered when the Packers scored at one point.”
“Only because you’re so cute when you get all bratty and gloat in everyone’s face, baby.” He squeezes both of Harry’s pouty cheeks when they get settled in their seats, cooing jokingly.
Harry slaps his hands away. “Don’t be so patronizing, Lewis. I’m suffering here.”
“Then it’s a good thing you came over today,” Louis claps his hands together, “you’ll be able to eat your feelings for the next hour and a half straight and then again in a few hours when you wake up from your food coma. Doesn’t that sound amazing?”
Beside him Harry plays with his nails, refusing to look Louis in the eyes. “…Won’t have any rolls to eat, though.”
“You can have mine.”
“Yeah… About that.” Harry clears his throat, takes a sip of his water. Coughs again. Takes a second sip. “I may have. Um. Bet on your rolls, too. Maybe. By chance. In the heat of the moment and stuff, you know.”
Louis spins around in his chair, draping an arm over the back of Harry’s and pouncing far too close to his face. “Maybe like I may be liable to punch you in the face if you’re being serious right now or maybe like you may be out of your mind, Harold?” He can feel himself breathing heavily and his face going red, but in his defense those flakey, buttery rolls are handmade by his arthritic grandmother who only makes them twice a year, specifically for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, and Louis is not about to let some pretty boy from Arizona take this away from him. “Answer me Styles, or so help me God I will castrate you right on this table.”
“What does castrate mean?” Doris asks curiously from across the table, swinging her legs and speaking around a mouthful of mashed potato.
His mother chooses that moment to walk into the room with the turkey. “Louis!”
Louis looks up at her with pleading, whiny eyes. “Mom! Harry bet on the Bears’ game with nan’s rolls!”
“Only because they weren’t supposed to win! They haven't beaten us in, like, five years, Louis. They haven't beaten anyone in five years!”
“Oh, they came up from being down 14 points to win, Harold. I’d say they were a little more than just supposed to win!”
“You’re choosing right now to care about football? Really?”
“This isn’t about football, you idiot, this is about my nan’s rolls which you've stolen right out of my hand without my permission like the gambling little thief that you are.”
Harry huffs petulantly. “Honestly, this is just defamation at this point. I don't have to stand for this.”
Louis is ready to strangle him when suddenly his mother comes around the table and pulsl at his ear until he’s crying in pain and sitting back in his seat properly. She drops two flakey rolls onto his plate from the center of the table while still holding down on his ear. “There, now will you calm down? Jesus. It’s like you’ve never been fed before.”
“Niall’s not a very good cook, mom.”
“Then don’t take that out on poor Harry here.” She leans over to pat Harry’s head, her features softening at the blink of an eye.
Louis feels so betrayed for the hundredth time today. He needs to change his last name and start going back to Jersey with Liam for all of his holiday breaks. Even America’s toilet would be better than this.
He’s still fuming five minutes later when he has to hold Harry’s hand through grace and pointedly ignore him bumping their knees together underneath the table. “You are the worst person I have ever known,” he hisses afterward, pulling his hand grumpily out of Harry's tight hold. “Now pass me the sweet potatoes.”
His train of thought is cut short when Harry presses a thumb to his temple, brushing hair behind his ear. “Aw, baby. You’re already sweet enough, though.”
Louis pretends like he doesn’t hear Lottie’s fake vomiting noise at the end of the table. “Just pass the potatoes—baby.” He rolls his eyes and holds his hands out expectantly.
The rest of the dinner goes on more or less like that; Louis grumbling at Harry and Harry saying some stupid, lovesick shit that makes Louis want to vomit. The whole footsie-under-the-table and occasional thigh squeeze on both their parts is totally irrelevant. Louis is too distracted inhaling his food and watching all the adults slowly get wine-tipsy and giggly, over-sharing stories from over the years to care about anything that goes on underneath the table.
He’s glad his family doesn’t discuss things like religion or politics, when they could obviously choose instead to squirt wine from their nostrils laughing so hard about the time Louis slipped on stage and fell on his ass after his high school graduation speech.
Because, like, his family is cultured. And civilized. And obviously not above tormenting Louis in front of his fake boyfriend.
Harry seems to be enjoying all of it, though. He giggles through his peas and the story about Louis’ screamo phase in middle school and through his turkey breast and how Louis has cried through every screening of Lilo and Stitch ever. Carrots and Louis’ bright red jeans circa sophomore year of high school. A third glass of wine and the pool Louis turned blue from “accidentally” peeing during a swim meet.
Louis’d suppressed half these sweet, innocent childhood memories of his so deep that he doesn’t even remember half of them, but he’s really grateful for his family’s impeccable memory and ability to recall every little thing in precise detail. With sound effects.
It’s not all bad, to be fair. At some point Harry moves his chair closer to Louis’ and drapes an arm around him. Louis simply takes advantage of the body heat and free shoulder to cry on once all the fight is beaten out of him and his food baby starts kicking.
“Your family is really great,” Harry whispers against his temple, quiet enough that only Louis can hear him.
Harry’s voice is deep and slow, the opposite of everything this day has been. It makes Louis melt even further, nosing deep into the crook of Harry’s neck and closing his eyes for just a moment. If he tries hard enough he can almost pretend that this is real and not just some creepy online setup that worked in his favor; like maybe Harry is his, and maybe it’s okay that Louis likes hearing his voice and feeling it vibrate through him all the way down to his toes. Like maybe it’s perfectly normal for him to want to wrap himself all around Harry and just cuddle him through his food coma, only to wake up after and have him there to kiss him awake.
“Thank you, Hazza,” he pats Harry’s chest with lazy, slow hands, “means a lot to me.”
And he knows that he’s slurring his words and half asleep, but Harry laughs and Louis feels it against his fingertips and God, he’s going to dream so hard about kissing Harry.
They’re only able to pry themselves away from each other when Louis’ mom asks him to go and bring the pies from the kitchen. It takes him ten minutes and Harry poking incessantly at his belly to finally get up, but only because Louis needs to give himself some more time before he inhales half a pie entirely on his own.
Let no one say that Louis is nothing is nothing if not goal-oriented, determined, and hardworking.
Louis trudges to the kitchen sluggishly, barely noticing it when Greg gets up to follow him. He’s pulling the trays off the cooling rack when he hears someone clearing their throat behind him. He turns around and finds Greg standing by the door, looking nervous and still. “Oh. Greg, hey. I’m totally cool carrying these on my own if—”
“Can we talk, for a second?” Greg interrupts him.
Louis puts the pumpkin pie down on the counter and drops his arms to his side. “Um. Yeah, sure. What’s up?”
Greg takes a few moments to gather his thoughts together, it seems, because he can’t meet Louis’ eyes. He starts pacing, tugging at his sleeves and toying with the brim of his baseball cap over and over. At any other time Louis would steal that hat right out of Greg’s hands and set it on fire, but today Louis just lets Greg take his time.
“I’m really sorry for the way I left after high school.”
Louis’ had two and a half glasses wine so he’s not really sure he just heard that correctly, but. “What?”
“When I left for Vanderbilt and just—totally fucked off and told you that I couldn’t be with you anymore. That was so terrible, Louis, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done and I’m so sorry, you don’t know even know how sorry I am.”
Greg’s words come out lightning fast, all of it one short breath; the fastest Louis’ ever heard him speak.
“We were best friends our entire lives, you know? We grew up together and we lived right across the street from each other and you just—you were there for me through everything, my entire life. And when I needed to experiment and figure out some things about myself you were there and I…took advantage of that.”
Louis suddenly feels much more awake. “What are you…what are you talking about?” he asks, stomach churning and unsure he wants to have this conversation right now, years and years after the matter.
Greg stops pacing. His brown eyes go wide, hands shaking at his sides. “The fact that I broke up with you and fell off the face of the planet. I was supposed to be your best friend and I just…ran away, all so I could experiment some more.”
“But why are you telling me this?” Louis asks, understandably a little flustered. “Why are you telling me this six years later, Greg?”
Greg looks almost too nervous to speak
“Because I see the way Harry looks at you and I’m sorry I never looked at you like that.”
Louis’ heart races against his chest. He can't tell his anger apart from his shock; can’t tell his surprise apart from the butterflies in his belly.
“And I’m sorry I never tried to reach out to you,” Greg continues, his voice slower and quiet now. “I figured you’d never want to speak to me again after what I did to you but that’s—that’s not really a good enough reason for being such a dick all these years. It’s just a shitty excuse, right?”
“It is,” Louis nods, not really in the mood for sugarcoating right now.
Greg agrees fervently, “It is, I know it is.” He takes a few steps closer to Louis, cutting off the distance but not getting close enough that Louis feels quite as overwhelmed. “I’m sorry that we never loved each other in the way that everyone always thought we would.”
And that kind of hurts, like, a fucking ton, but mostly because Louis knows it’s true. Greg was his first boyfriend—his first friend, period, and Louis’ known him since before he can even remember. For as far back as his memories can go, he recalls comments from everyone in their lives about how cute him and Greg were; how they were meant for each other and so goddamn codependent and besotted.
It took him a few years to realize that the only reason they started dating was because they were seventeen and felt like they had to at least give themselves a try; before they got too old and separated for college. Greg wasn’t even sure about his sexuality at the time, and Louis still for some reason can't really hate that what they had was really just an experiment for Greg, even after all these years.
Because kissing Greg sometimes felt like kissing his nan and his palms would always getting super clammy and gross when they held hands and despite all their talk of experimentation, they never even made it to a handjob. Maybe that’s why Greg felt the need to run off to Tennessee and try his hands with girls—Louis kind of sucks at just being someone’s experiment.
But he doesn't really regret it because he made him realize what a relationship that wasn't meant to be felt like, what losing someone you thought you loved would hurt like.
“How come you never told my mom the truth?” Louis has to ask, because this, more than anything, has bugged him to no end.
“I didn’t want her to hate me for breaking your heart,” Greg whispers. “The day I flew out to VU I nearly missed my flight because I was having a panic attack in the bathroom. I was so scared you were going to tell her truth and she’d never speak to me again. That’s why I—I barely visited during college.”
“Until you realized I kept my mouth shut.”
Louis puts his hand up, cutting him off. “No, I get it. You’re sorry; it’s fine, I understand.” Louis can’t believe he’s saying any of this right now, but he honestly does understands where Greg is coming from. Having parents who are constantly out of the country doing research and dropping you off at the neighbors across the street can be trying for a kid. Latching on to Louis' mom was probably unavoidable. “She’s been like a second mom to you so I… I get it, why you never told her.”
“I completely understand if you never want to speak to me again, I just couldn’t really let myself off so easily when you…obviously deserve so much more.”
It’s too much too soon for Louis to have anything comprehensible to say. He’s not ready just yet to forgive Greg and jump back into his life and catch up over a coffee like nothing has changed over the last six years. A lot has. Too much has, in fact. Louis’ in law school and Greg’s a breath away from being a professional baseball player and.
And there’s also the matter of Louis’ fake boyfriend of six hours in the dining room right now.
“I should probably leave now,” Greg says after a drawn out silence “I’m sorry for barging in on you like that.”
“It’s fine,” Louis repeats again, and even he has to admit that the more he says it the more believable it begins to sound.
“It’s not really, but. Um. Thanks for just being so…you, through all of this.”
Louis’ not really sure what that means. He doesn’t get a chance to ask because Greg leaves the kitchen then with a final head nod and wave.
It’s such a giant, overwhelming wave of truth, and Louis barely gets out one deep breath before the door swings open again. Louis tips his head down from staring at the ceiling to find Harry walking toward him. “Hi,” he whispers, voice soft, so soothing after what Louis’ just had to deal with. “Greg came back to the table so I thought I’d check on you.”
Harry is so sweet, Louis kind of wants to cry. “Why aren’t you in Arizona, Harry?” he asks instead.
Harry shrugs. The front of his toes touch Louis’; it sends a shiver down Louis’ spine that he does his best not to think about. “Could only get the money together for one plane ticket this year,” he answers easily. “Just thought I’d save it for Christmas holidays instead.”
“And I just didn’t…wanna be alone on Thanksgiving. It, uh, kinda makes me miss home a lot, so...”
“So you posted an offer on the school website to be someone’s fake boyfriend.”
Harry’s small frown slowly starts to pick itself up, his eyes glued to their feet touching on the kitchen tiles. Louis’ never seen anyone so amused by socks. “When you say it like that…”
“Almost makes it seem like you were just using me for my family, hmm?”
Louis’ terrified for a second that Harry might actually take him seriously.
He lets out a mental sigh of relief when instead Harry nudges their feet apart and steps closer, until the bottom of Louis’ spine is pressed against the countertop and Harry can fit himself between his legs. It makes Louis think of earlier, on the couch during the football game. Except this time they’re upright and Harry’s hands come to grip his hips and the touch is—
Nice. So nice.
“Yes,” Harry hums. “You finally figured it all out.” His mouth splits into a wide, toothy grin. “That’s what this has all been; just one big scheme to get into your family.”
Louis’ hands dance their way up Harry’s arms, coming to link around his shoulders and pull him in. “And you haven’t even had the pie yet…”
Harry’s breath fans against Louis’ lips when he speaks, “Didn’t I already tell you you were sweet enough?”
Louis’ heart is beating so fast he can feel it in his throat. “You’re such a fucking tool,” he breathes out right before closing his eyes and pressing his mouth to Harry’s.
Despite all his height and broad shoulders and bouncy curls, Harry melts like butter when Louis kisses him, knees going weak as he lets Louis slide his fingers into his hair and pull closer. He tastes like cranberry sauce and wine under Louis’ tongue, hesitant at first until he tightens his grip around Louis’ waist and their chests bump together. Louis kisses him and kisses him and he can’t remember the last time someone made his toes curls or tummy flip. He can’t even remember the last time someone kissed him and he'd forgotten how to think straight all together.
He slides his tongue into Harry’s mouth and a sound so inappropriate escapes his mouth that Louis has to pull away before he passes out. “What the fuck was that?” he pants against Harry’s shiny, red lips, barely able to keep his eyes open. “This isn’t a porno, Styles. You don’t have to be so dramatic.”
“Sorry,” Harry pecks his mouth, dragging it out and sucking Louis’ top lip into his mouth. “You don’t know how hard it’s been to not do that all day.”
“What? Kiss me or make pornstar noises around my family?”
“Both,” Harry answers, “they go hand-in-hand.”
Louis laughs into his mouth. He squeezes closer into Harry's chest and kisses him again, deep and slow and only slightly giddy and giggly. (Harry’s hands feel like a wonder holding him.) (Louis can’t believe he’s lived almost 24 years without this.)
“You have—to—catch your train—back to Chicago—in a few hours. Right?” Louis asks between kisses.
“At 9:30,” he hums. “Yeah. Why?”
Louis has to stop kissing this giant, wonderful mess of boy because he really wants to look him in the eyes when he says, “Would you wanna stay here for the rest of the weekend, maybe? I packed a duffle for myself and you could like… borrow some of my clothes. Or something.”
Harry’s big green eyes blink owlishly at him. “You want me to stay for the weekend? With you and your family?” he clarifies. “As your fake boyfriend?”
“Well, since I’m, like, 91.5 percent sure now that you’re not a serial killer, I think… Um. Yeah. I’d really like for you to stick around.”
Harry brushes their lips together, eyes closed already. “And when we do go back to Chicago?”
“Maybe we could…” The soft plush of Harry’s lips ghosting over his makes it impossible for Louis to think straight. “Maybe we could continue fake dating some more.”
“You asking me out on a fake date, Tomlinson?”
“Fuck, yeah,” Louis gulps, “Can’t wait to fake date the shit outta you.”
In between all the kissing and giggling and fake boyfriend-y nonsense, Louis somehow forgets about the fact that all he’d really wanted this Thanksgiving was to drive his family crazy.
This November Louis is mostly thankful that the universe chose to grace him with Harry Styles instead.
Later, when Greg takes his grandparents home and his mom is putting the twins to bed and Dan takes the girls to watch all the Black Friday madness, Louis drags Harry to the couch. He lights the fireplace back up, turns on the DVR recording of the parade from this morning, and pulls out the Scrabble board. No man who can’t battle Louis fairly in Scrabble deserves in a place in his heart. (He ends up winning on vibey; Harry only accepts this defeat after they make out for half an hour.)
“I’m really glad it was you who posted a creepy Thanksgiving boyfriend ad online,” Louis mumbles sleepily around a yawn. He nuzzles into the curls at the base of Harry’s neck and squeezes his arm around his waist, snuggling back-to-chest on the couch with no space in between them. “If I had to get anyone as a fake Thanksgiving boyfriend, I’m glad it was you.”
Harry rests his arm over Louis’, lacing their fingers together and bring them to rest beneath his sleep-warm cheek. “You’re so good at sweet talk, baby.”
Louis kisses the back of his neck. “You don’t even know what you’re in for, pal.”
“Can’t wait to find out,” Harry says around a sleepy giggle, right before he promptly falls asleep in Louis’ arms.