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As Strong as a Kitten

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“Here you are sweetie, safe and seated. You can release my hand now.”

 

Harry loosens his sweaty grip on the stewardess’ hand, which he clutched dutifully with his own chubby one all the way to his spot - just as he promised his mum.

 

“Thank you, lady” He mumbles, while he tries to get comfortable with his fluffy pillow. In his seat would probably fit two of him and his feet dangle in the air helplessly.

The stewardess lowers herself at eye level with him and buckles his seatbelt. “Just call me Caroline.” Harry nods well-behaved. Caroline. Harry can keep that. Even though that’s actually four letters longer than “lady”. But Harry is smart. He can remember Caroline’s name if she wants him to.

 

“Thank you, Caroline”, he repeats quietly. She smiles at him. Harry likes her smile. It doesn’t show as many teeth as his father’s wolfish grin and it’s not as tight as the frozen smile of the stewardess, who looked after him on his first flight. It’s a nice smile. Harry returns it shyly.

 

“Such a charmer.” She ruffles his hair and lifts his little suitcase in the tray, before she crouches down next to him again. “So Harry, if you need anything like crayons or food or if you for example feel sick just ask me, ok? And if I’m not around you can also ask one of the other ladies who are dressed like me. They are all very nice and helpful – no reason to be shy.” Harry hugs his fluffy pillow against his chest and nods sheepishly.

 

“Pinky promise?” She stretches her little finger out and looks at him expectantly. Harry slowly lets go of the soft fabric with one hand and wraps his pinky around hers. She nudges him gently before she untangles their fingers and gets up. “Okay sweetie, have fun.” She ruffles his hair once more, still smiling, and then she disappears down the aisle to help some other passengers.

 

Harry decides that he likes Caroline. Even though he wishes she would stop messing his curls. It took him like hours to comb them in the morning without his mummy’s help. His dad just suggested that he should leave his hair curly, that there was no need to brush it, but Harry didn’t listen to him. He doesn’t like the curls. Everybody always touches them. Like he is a dog or something. Not that Harry doesn’t like dogs, but their eagerness and their teeth always scare him. He kind of prefers cats to be honest.

 

Harry wiggles around a bit so he can look outside the little window. He mostly can only see the white wall of the huge plane on the runway next to them, because he’s so small. It’s kind of boring. He turns his head to the other side and watches the people that pass his seat on their way to their own. There is another stewardess holding the hand of a little girl, who is babbling excitedly and waves at him with a broad grin when they pass. Harry immediately hides behind his pillow.

 

When he dares to look up again they are long gone, instead a young mother with a boy and girl on each hand goes by. They are almost run over by another little boy, who tumbles briefly and rushes out a quick “sooorryyyy!” before he continues racing down the aisle. A stewardess follows him only seconds later, apologising to everyone around and shouting “Louis!” exasperatedly.

 

Harry tries to keep track of them, but his view is blocked by an impressive body soon after. It belongs to a woman, who is talking loudly to someone around and gives Harry a big smile when their eyes met. She looks like the kind of person to over you candy. Harry immediately dodges behind his pillow again.

 

This time he stays hidden until a nice female voice tells everyone to buckle their seatbelts and starts to explain something about emergencies and breathing. Harry can neither see what she seems to be showing everyone else nor does he really understand what it means, but Caroline promised him that it will be enough if he stays in his seat and waits for help if anything bad should happen. So Harry assumes he will be fine.

 

He turns to his little window again and watches the world rush past it in a blur of colours. Finally it dips to one side while the plane takes off the ground. Harry immediately feels his stomach sinking. Gemma always claims that this moment is her favourite of the whole journey, because of the tingling feeling that rushes through her body. Harry isn’t really sure if he knows what she means – he feels mostly sick.

 

Harry squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on this little trick his mum told him. In. One, two, three. Out. One, two, three. He repeats his breathing like that a few times until the queasy feeling lessens. When he looks outside the window again, the view has turned blue. He fishes a stick of gum out of his pocket which Gemma gave him specifically for the flight. Harry almost cried when she did. Although she loves her baby brother to death, it’s a rare thing for her to show it. Their mum actually did cry.

 

Something hard bumps against the back of his seat and makes his body bounce along with it. The gum slips out of his fingers. “Hey!” Harry can’t help but feel the tears start prickling in his eyes while he stares at the half-unwrapped sweet on the ground. It’s dump, but he really, really wants to eat it anyway. His backrest gets another push. Harry immediately snaps out of his sadness and wiggles about until he can press his face in the small space between the seats.

 

“Why did you do that?” He asks the person behind himself angrily without even checking whether he is dangerous or not. Luckily he is not staring right at a human giant, but at another little boy, who stops dead in his third kick. Harry is pretty sure it’s the same boy who ran over the mother with her two children before. The boy blinks a few times at him and Harry notices that his eyes are of an intense blue. It’s kind of irritating. Harry scrunches his nose.

 

“You look like a grumpy kitten” The other lad informs him. It’s Harry’s time to freeze now. He even forgets about the kicking. “I don’t!” He blushes furiously. The other one finally puts his foot down and leans in closer. “Yes you do. I bet if I run my finger through your hair you will actually start purring.” Before Harry knows what’s happening the boy pets his head. He lets out a surprised huff.

 

“Oh, who’s the little kitty cat?” The boy ruffles his hair delighted and wraps the curls around his fingers. It looks kind of ridicules how he must stretch himself since the seatbelt is holding him back. It also tickles. Harry can’t help but giggle. Grinning, the boy leans back. “I’m Louis.” Harry smiles at him, showing off his dimples. “Harry.”

 

Louis narrows his eyes. “Like Prince Harry?” Harry’s smile falls a bit. “No, just Harry.” The other boy is probably disappointed to hear that he isn’t some fancy royal. “Good” Louis actually looks pleased. “I can’t speak posh and bow and shit like that for my life.” Harry gasps in shock. Louis returns his gaze in confusion. “What?”

 

“You can’t just say stuff like that!” Harry hisses, looking around worriedly. Louis on the other hand is unimpressed. “Why? Because they’re royal?” Harry shakes his head. “No, because swearing is evil. Only bad boys do it.” “Who said that? Your mum?” Louis counters. Harry nods sheepishly. Louis smirks at him.

 

“Well, to bad she obviously doesn’t love you as much as mine loves me.” “Take that back! Of course my mum loves me!” Harry is verging on tears. Louis shrugs pitiless. “But only when you are a good boy.” “You’re so mean” Harry squeezes out weekly and turns around, seeking the comforting softness of his pillow.

 

He faintly hears Louis call his name in the background, but he ignores it, pressing his face deeper into the cushion. After a few minutes Louis stops. Harry doesn’t know whether he is disappointed or glad. Probably the first.

 

Harry tries to distract himself by looking outside the window and sleeping. It doesn’t work. He ends up sneaking glances at Louis through the crack between the seats. When Louis returns his gaze with a shy smile, Harry immediately flushes and avoids his eyes – only to watch him again mere seconds later. They carry on like that, but Harry doesn’t dare to say something again and Louis doesn’t either. There’s also a stick of gum on the floor in front of Harry – so that’s that.

 

After what feels like forever – even though it’s probably not even ten minutes later - the stewardesses start handing out sandwiches and water bottles. Harry’s stomach growls approvingly, so this time he must turn around for real to feed it. He’s kind of thankful for it.

 

The thing is only that Harry somehow forgot that, between running late in the morning because of his hair and stuff and rushing to the airport on time, he didn’t really have time to spend a penny the whole day.

 

Well, at least until he has drunk the whole bottle of water and feels it pressing on his full bladder. Then he actually remembers pretty badly.

 

He shifts around in his seat uncomfortably, silently begging the urge to just go away. It doesn’t. He looks around with fear filled eyes, hoping that nobody will notice his misery and that somebody actually might at the same time. They don’t.

 

Finally Harry spots a stewardess a few seats away and nearly shouts to her attention. “Caroline?!” The stewardess spins around, startled by the loud voice. So does everybody else. Somebody behind him chuckles. The woman is also not Caroline.

 

Harry’s cheeks turn a flaming red immediately. “I – um – sorry, um - I mean, lady, um… too much, um, I mean – can I?” The stewardess furrows her brow in confusion, trying to smile at him soothingly at the same time. “I’m sorry love, could you maybe repeat that?” Harry really can’t. “Um…I…um…” In the end he just ducks his head and mumbles “nothing”.

 

The stewardess watches him worriedly while he barricades himself behind his pillow, but then she seems to decide to let it pass. “If you change your mind, you can of course still ask me later on.” Harry doesn’t react. The stewardess sighs and addresses the other passengers instead. “I apologize for the disturbance.” Harry feels tears flooding his eyes.

 

Something pokes into his arm. “Harry?” There’s also something wet and hot trickling down his thighs. He silently sobs into his pillow. “Hey Harry, are you crying?” Louis asks again with concern. Another sob makes Harry’s shoulders shudder. His pillow is already soaked with tears. And his pants with pee.

 

Harry is so busy with keeping his juices inside of him that he doesn’t even notice that Louis is gone. Or squeezing through the row of people. But suddenly his face is lifted from his pillow and he is staring straight at bright blue eyes. Harry blinks confused.

 

Louis offers him a shy smile and wipes away his tears with his thumbs. “What’s wrong, kitten?” Before he can stop himself Harry glances down. Louis follows his look. Harry immediately tries to cover his lap with his pillow, but Louis can still see his soaked pants sticking out at the end. Harry’s cheeks burn like they are on fire.

 

Louis however just tugs at his pillow. Harry immediately flinches away. “Come on, just get up.” Harry shakes his head furiously. “Can’t.” “Why?” Harry looks at him with big puppy-eyes and sniffles. “Have to stay in my seat?” Louis rolls his eyes, but can’t help smiling at the little boy. “How about: This is an emergency and I have come to your rescue, princess?”

 

Harry doesn’t even have time to answer, before Louis grabs his hand and drags him out of his seat. The wet cloth is rubbing against his skin nastily and Harry awkwardly tries to hide his soggy pants, but Louis just ignores all the others. He pushes past the passengers without listening to their complaints and slalom races around the stewardesses, his grip around Harry always firm and warm. Harry just holds on to it and tumbles after him until they reach the queue for the loo.

 

Luckily a young man opens the door in that exact moment and Louis slips through his legs with Harry in tow before anybody can stop them. Once inside, Louis immediately locks the door and shuts out all the angry voices. Despite his miserable getup, Harry giggles. Louis grins at him. “Well, well, Harold, who would have thought you are such a badass.” And even though it’s cheeky, he also seems absolutely joyful to have wormed out that sound from Harry. So Harry lets him get away with it.

 

It still doesn’t change the fact that he just wet his pants and they are sticking icky to his legs. His shoulders slump forward. He is an embarrassing big baby. “Hey” Louis’ voice softens immediately and he crowds into Harry’s space, “Why don’t we get you out of this stuff?” Harry nods defeated and Louis helps him out of his clothes. Together they scrub Harry’s legs with toilet paper and paper towels until his skin is dry and they are giggling like mad and somehow Harry thinks that this should be awkward, but somehow it isn’t.

 

When they are done, Louis shrugs off his pullover and tells Harry to do the same. At this point Harry doesn’t even question him and just does it. He shivers a bit, but Louis immediately pulls his own jumper over Harry’s head and grabs Harry’s for himself. Since Louis is a little taller than Harry, the sweater doesn’t quite cover his waistband. Harry whereas is drowning in Louis’ jumper, his hem reaching down mid-thigh. It’s also very cosy.

 

Louis smiles at him proudly. “See? No need for sticky pants.” He pulls of his shoes and socks as well and slips the socks over Harry’s feet. Harry watches Louis bustle about like a busy bee, picking up papers and soggy pants and socks, stuffing them in the bin and tying his shoe laces, and he knows he must be staring like some crazy frog, but somehow he can’t help it.

 

When they are finally done, Harry wraps his arms around his midriff and buries his face in Louis’ sweater. “Thank you for rescuing me, Lou.” Louis breath hitches in surprise. For once he is standing completely still.

 

Harry pulls back and glances up at him worriedly. Was that too much? But Louis is beaming. He buries his fingers in Harry’s curls and tucks him back in. “Any time, Curly.” It’s Harry’s turn to beam now.

 

Suddenly a sharp knock makes them jump. “Guys, this is really not funny. Could you please come out again?” A firm voice tells them from outside. “Oops” Harry giggles and blushes at the same time. “I totally forgot they all wanted to wee.” Louis shakes his head mock offended and laughs, before he holds out his hand. “Let’s do our walk of shame then?” Harry scrunches his nose, but grabs his hand anyway. “What’s that?” Louis links their fingers and smiles. “Actually, I have no idea. I think that’s what grown-ups do.”

 

He unlocks the door and beams widely at the crowd outside. “Hi.” The waiting people look both confused and annoyed. Louis doesn’t seem to mind. “My apology, but this was urgent.” Harry also smiles at them, but more timidly and he only gulps out a sheepish “sorry”. None of them replies. Well, except for a stewardess. This time it is Caroline, of course.

 

She grabs both of them, before they can squeeze past her and holds them back. “Where do you think, you are going, little men?” Harry looks down at his shoes. They are a bit damp and he would like to get them off quickly, so he won’t ruin Louis’ socks. “To our seats?” Louis suggest sweetly, batting his eyelashes. Caroline is unimpressed. “And why aren’t you in your seats right now like you pinky promised?” Louis huffs annoyed. “Pinky promises are for babies.” Harry presses closer to Louis’ side. “It’s my fault.” He whispers almost noiseless.

 

Caroline sighs and crouches down next to them. “Look, I know you don’t need somebody to look after you all the time, but people are complaining, because you caused so much hustle and bustle. So if you need something to do or want to get up, then please tell one of us stewardesses, ok?” They nod seriously. She smiles at them and gets up again.

 

“You know Harry, I don’t remember you wearing that before. It looks a bit reckless.” She says while she shoos them back to their seats. Harry blushes and Louis smiles. “Yeah, I spilled juice on Harry’s pants. A blanket would be great.” Harry tries to hide his face in his jumper. “Aha.” “There might also be a bit on his seat.” Harry is sure that by now all his body-blood is in his head. “I see.”

 

Caroline allows them to both squeeze into Louis’ seat and lets them stay there even after she has cleaned up Harry’s seat. She neither questions the “juice” nor where Louis got it (or at least she pretends) and Harry thinks that Louis might actually be his hero. She also brings them a blanket and Louis makes it his duty to keep Harry warm, wrapping him completely with it and his body just to be sure. He is enjoying this way too much. But so is Harry.

 

They entertain themselves with keeping Caroline busy for the rest of the flight, telling her various silly things they definitely need to stay in their seats happy and quietly. Or at least Louis does. Harry just watches fondly with his crazy-frog stare, snuggled up in his human-blanket-cocoon.

 

Even though Caroline rolls her eyes at every new request, she can’t really be mad at the blue-eyed boy, when he looks like the Godfather, petting his very own cat. Especially not when the cat is clutching the Godfather’s teddy on top of all, because its pillow is also a bit affected by the “juice”-accident.

 

When Louis is not getting on Caroline’s nerves he whispers all kind of crazy things about his life into Harry’s ear. Half of it probably only happened in Louis’ head but Harry giggles in all the right places nevertheless. It makes Louis’ face light up proudly every single time and he always presses his thumb into Harry’s dimple like his finger is glued to his cheek.

 

And Harry loves the attention. It makes him blush and giddy at the same time and not at all scared and awkward as usual. He even says some things about his own life, when Louis asks. He tells him about Gemma and his mummy and his cat Dusty and his dolls and his stepdad.

 

His words are slow and he struggles to get them out in the right way, but Louis never once loses interest. His bright eyes are completely focused on Harry’s and he gasps and smiles whenever Harry hopes him to. All the while his hand is in Harry’s hair scratching lightly over his scalp and toying with his curls. It feels so nice that Harry leans into the touch and purrs happily.

 

Louis immediately coos at him. “I knew you were actually a kitten! You are such a cat person!”

 

Harry blinks at him with big green eyes and rosy cheeks. “You like that?” He asks hopefully. Louis nods eagerly and tugs at his curls even more. It hurts a bit, but well, Louis.

 

“Yes! Yes, of course, Hazza!”

 

Harry beams relieved and wriggles his arms out of his blanket to put them around Louis’ neck. “Maybe you can meet Dusty some day! He is so nice! Do you have pets?”

 

Louis smiles. It’s probably the fastest and most excited the smaller boy has spoken all day.

 

“I do actually! I have a puppy – his name is Ted and he is sooo clumsy. You would love him! Our pets should meet each other!”

 

Harry bites his lips and slumps a little. “I-I...” He stutters and drops his gaze. Louis hugs him around the middle, but his voice sounds confused and a tiny bit hurt. “Don’t you like the idea?”

 

Hastily, Harry shakes his head. “No! I do! But…I’m scared of dogs.” He looks at Louis with wide and timid eyes. “I don’t want them to bite me and I’m afraid of their teeth when they, like, lick my face. Sorry, Lou-Lou…” With that, he ducks his head into Louis neck and hugs him closer hoping that Louis will forgive him. Instead he feels Louis hand on his hips pushing him away.

 

But before the tears well up in his eyes, something wet and slippery touches his cheek. Harry squeaks surprised. “Like this?” Louis asks with a mischievous smile. “Are you afraid of my teeth?” Without waiting for Harry’s answer he leaps at him again and licks all over his face.

 

“Stop! Louiiiis!” Harry squeals and giggles uncontrollably. “Wuff! Are you afraid I will bite you?” Louis huffs and starts tickling him as well. Harry tries to push him off and give him kitten licks in return until they nearly fall out of their seats.

 

It takes about ten seconds before Caroline is by their side. When she grabs Harry around the middle to pry them apart the man next to them seems to be more than willing to help her.

 

“Noooo!” Harry wraps his arms around Louis’ neck and Louis wraps his arms around Harry’s waist and they cling to each other like their life depends on it.

 

“Boys!” Caroline sighs, but she does not sound all that annoyed. “Come on, you are making racket again and you each need your own seat for the touchdown anyway.”

 

She lets Harry go when the too big sweater almost slips over his bum and Louis immediately puts the blanket around him again. The look he gives Caroline is possibly murderous.

 

She puts her hands on her hips and sighs again. “Look, it’s just the landing – afterwards you can cuddle as long as your parents have time to wait.”

 

Harry bites his lips. He is still seated on Louis’ lap and can feel his comforting hug. “Can we hold hands for the exit?”

 

Two pairs of eyes look up at Caroline hopefully. She smiles weakening. “Yes, if you are as good as gold…” Louis immediately tightens his hold, but Harry nods seriously. “Okay” He turns to Louis and gives him a soft kiss on the cheek. “It’s okay, Lou, don’t worry.”

 

Louis gives him a sad smile and tucks one of Harry’s curls behind his ears. “See you later, kitten.” He whispers quietly and lets him hop to the ground.

 

Caroline already holds out a hand for him and Harry takes it dutifully. With the other hand he grabs the blanket around his hips so it won’t fall off. He already feels giddy knowing that soon it will be Louis’ hand in his, but he keeps quiet like he promised.

 

Caroline seems to be happy with him, because she tells him that he behaves properly like a big boy. She buckles his seatbelt and ruffles through his hair before she leaves again. As soon as she is gone Harry grumpily fixes his hair. It’s just not the same when it isn’t Louis.

 

When he is done, he turns towards his window for entertainment. He realizes that he hasn’t looked since the beginning of the flight. Excited he realizes that the world beneath him looks like a picture from his “Where is Wally?”-books. He presses his nose against the cold window trying to see even more.

 

Harry loves the cuddly clouds that cover the city like fluffy cotton-balls. The streets remind him of the long earthworms in his backyard and the cars look like little ants. Somewhere down there among them is his family on the way to pick him up. Harry tries to figure out which little ant is their car.

 

A stewardess announces over the loudspeaker that the plane will land on Manchester Airport soon and they are supposed to stay safely in their seats. Harry leans back in his seat and grips the armrests. It doesn’t take long before the plane gets louder and shakier. When Harry sneaks a glance outside again the pictures are hurrying past. He whimpers quietly because the fast landing approach makes his ears hurt a bit.

 

For a short moment he thinks of Gemma’s gum.

 

But then something hard bumps against the back of his seat and makes his body bounce along with it. A smile stretches across his lips.

 

And this time, the feeling in his tummy might not be that queasy after all.