Harry and Louis met long before either of them were ready. Louis was still bossy, used to being the oldest and in charge, and he hadn’t learned how to balance power and kindness, quiet yet. Harry was still emotionally clingy (though, really, he didn’t grow out of that completely) and too sensitive – not really ready for friends, quite.
They were in a play area at a McDonald’s, their mums both on the other side of the plexiglass, not knowing each other and not really paying much attention as they ate while their sons played.
Louis was the king of the play area, ordering all the other kids around and getting mad at the few who just said, “No” to him. He started stomping, and when that didn’t make the kids listen, he started jumping up and down and yelling at them. His glasses fell off his face, and he couldn’t find them as they bounced off. “Nobody step on my glasses!” he shrieked, knowing his mum would be cross if they broke.
He dropped to his hands and knees and started patting around, and someone came up to him and tugged on his shirt. “What?” he snapped.
“Here’s your glasses,” the blurry blob said, holding a hand out, and Louis snatched them up and put them on, not remembering to say ‘thank you’.
Once his glasses were on, Louis realized he was looking at a little boy, a bit younger than him, with bright eyes like the grass and white skin and stupid hair. “You have stupid hair,” he said, and the little boy’s shy smile slid off his face and he started to cry.
Louis felt bad and started flapping his hands about, patting the boy and saying, “No, I’m sorry – don’t cry!” When it didn’t work, and the little boy kept crying, Louis got frustrated and hit his arm and shouted, “Stop crying!”
It worked, if nothing else it was a shock to the little boy, who hiccupped and rubbed at his eyes, still sniffling a little bit as he looked at Louis.
“Your hair isn’t stupid,” Louis muttered sullenly. He lifted his hand to the little boy’s hair – the boy flinched only a little, but then closed his eyes when Louis started petting it. “What’s your name?” Louis asked, having never seen the boy before.
“’M Harry,” he said shyly, opening his giant eyes to look up at Louis. “Who’re you?”
“I’m Louis Tomlinson,” Louis said, proud he knew his second name. When Harry didn’t seem impressed, Louis scoffed and said, “That’s my second name – Tomlinson. I bet you’re still too little to know your second name, aren’t you? You’re just a baby.”
Harry bit his lip and defended, “I’m not a baby! I’m three!”
Louis rolled his eyes, seeing all the other children around them still playing, oblivious to them. “Yeah, but do you know your second name?”
Harry nodded. “Yes! It’s Styles. But my mummy’s is Cox. But my sister’s is Styles, too.”
Louis snorted. “You can’t have a different name than your mummy, stupid.” Harry started looking distressed. Louis didn’t want him to cry, so he folded his arms and said, “Prove it.”
Harry looked defiant and went to go get his shoes back on. Louis made fun of him for it, but Harry just said, “Mummy doesn’t want me walking on the dirty floor. Get yours on, too. I’ll take you to my mummy so she can tell you.”
Louis rolled his eyes again, but thought of what his own mum would say if she saw him out of the play area without shoes on, and he hastily sat down on the bench and took his shoes out of the cubbyhole.
Harry grabbed onto the sleeve of Louis’ jumper, and Louis had to help him open the door to the play area ‘cause he wasn’t strong enough to do it on his own. Harry tugged Louis over to a new mummy with almost black hair and straight teeth, who was talking to a little girl older than Harry with straight almost black hair, too. They both had eyes like Harry’s, but not the pretty grass Louis liked, like Harry’s were. Their eyes were more like…like other colors of grass.
“Mummy,” Harry whined, “What’s my second name?”
The new mum looked down at Harry and Louis, noticing Harry’s hand was still twisted in the sleeve of Louis’ jumper. “Edward?” she asked, and Louis snorted.
“No,” Harry whined, “That’s my secret name. I mean my second name!”
“Oh,” the mum said. “Styles.”
“Ha!” Harry said, tongue poking out at Louis, who crossed his arms, wrenching his sleeve from Harry’s grasp.
“Harry, don’t be rude,” the mummy said, and the little girl rolled her eyes at both of them.
“What’s your second name?” Harry plowed on, ignoring them.
“Cox,” she said with a confused smile. “Why?”
“She’s not your real mummy, then,” Louis said quickly, when Harry started looking triumphant. “Real mummies have the same last name as their babies.”
“Not always,” Harry’s mum said. “Harry’s got the second name of his daddy; I kept my last name. The same name as my daddy.”
Louis blushed. He hated being wrong. He turned to Harry and said, “Well, my second name and my mummy’s second name used to be Austin, and then it was Poulston, and now it’s Tomlinson, like my daddy. My mummy’s always had the same name as me. Probably your mum just doesn’t love you as much as my mum loves me.”
Louis turned around to see his mum coming over to them, looking at Harry’s mum apologetically. “I’m sorry,” she said, “He’s such a little instigator.” Louis’ mum grabbed Louis’ wrist and looked down at him. “Tell this little boy you’re sorry for being ugly to him, and then we’re leaving.”
“No!” Harry cried, looking upset. “He’s my friend!” Harry grabbed Louis’ other hand and looked over at his mum. “Mummy, you said you’d get me a friend when we moved here! I want Louis!” he cried.
Harry’s mum looked up at Louis’ mum and laughed awkwardly, and she looked back down to Harry, who was now hugging Louis tightly. Louis hugged him back as she said, “Harry, Mummy meant a bunny, or a guinea pig, or something…”
“But I want Louis!” Harry said, and started crying. Louis hugged him and, on the verge of tears himself, looked at his mum.
“Mum, you’re not gonna let her mum take him away, are you?!”
Louis’ mum looked to Harry’s mum and she scratched the back of her neck. “I’m sorry,” she apologized again. “He doesn’t – he doesn’t usually get so attached so quickly…”
But Harry’s mum was looking a bit excited. “No, no that’s fine,” she said quickly. “We’re actually new to the area; do you live here?”
Louis and his mum both brightened up. “Yes!” Louis shouted. “We live at six-hundred thirty-seven, Olde Doncaster Road, in Donny,” he recited. Louis’ mum looked only marginally horrified, because Harry’s mum clapped her hands.
“Are you serious?” She asked excitedly. “We’ve just moved in down your street, then! We’re six-forty-three!”
Louis and Harry had play-dates two or three times a week, always lasting an entire day, nearly, and they quickly became best friends. At the end of the summer, Harry cried when Louis started school, but Louis would always run past his own house from the bus stop, straight to Harry’s to see him, and Harry would always hug him tight and exclaim over how much he’d missed Louis that day.
When Harry started school, he and Louis got to ride the same bus to school, and ride the same bus back home. They were happy, because the Donny primary school skipped grades and let them eat and have recess together, so Louis and Harry were allowed to see each other during the day.
Harry and Louis went through all the phases together – PokeMon, superheroes, Power Rangers…even a brief Barbie doll phase Louis would afterwards deny to his dying day – and boy, did they fight often for the first few years.
When Louis was twelve, and Harry was just turning ten, Louis realized, as Harry opened his present – a paper airplane necklace – that Harry was sort of beautiful. His hair had gone straight over the years, but was slowly starting to wave again.
When Harry was twelve, and Louis was turning fifteen, Harry noticed he’d never liked any girls as much as he liked Louis. Louis had lips that tickled Harry’s when they touched, and Louis loved to kiss Harry, and Harry always felt important because Louis was older and Harry’s mum had always said kisses means someone thinks you’re wonderful. Louis thought Harry was wonderful an awful lot.
The summer when Louis was sixteen and Harry was fourteen, Louis and Harry started dating. When Louis went off to uni two years later, he and Harry stayed together, and Harry went to the same uni, and lived together in a shitty flat right next to the campus so they could be together and have their music loud and have sex as much as they wanted and fight as often as they wanted and make-up as loud as they wanted.
When Louis was twenty-three and Harry was twenty-one, Louis got a job as a drama teacher while Harry finished up his degree as quickly as he could.
When Harry was twenty-four and Louis was twenty-six, Harry came home from a long Friday at his law firm to see Louis grabbing the keys to his car, insisting McDonald’s for dinner. Harry sighed and gave in, turning right back around, and Louis took them to the car. Harry started bickering with Louis once they got lost, because Louis refused – eyes flashing behind his glasses – to pull over and ask directions, and Harry was hungry.
After two hours, Harry rolled his eyes when he saw the Welcome to Doncaster! sign because honestly, Louis could’ve just said he wanted to go see his mum for the weekend. Louis kept his word and stopped at McDonald’s, and went to pick a seat as Harry ordered. When Harry turned around and glanced around the restaurant, he saw his twenty-six-year-old boyfriend in the play area, banging on the glass and motioning for Harry to come in with him while two young children ran around him.
Harry sighed and set down the tray of food, rolling his eyes with a reluctant smile as he walked into the playroom. Louis started jumping up and down and shouting with the children – Harry didn’t really like the noise, but Louis was excited, so he let it happen.
When Louis’ glasses fell off his nose, he stopped jumping and dropped down to his knees, patting around for it. Harry bent down and picked them up, tapping Louis’ shoulder. “Here, babe,” he said, handing the glasses over.
Louis grabbed them and didn’t say ‘thank you’, but when he looked up at Harry, he said, “You have stupid hair.”
Harry had a déjà vu moment, seeing a fuzzy-around-the-edges memory flashback of a bossy little boy with spikey hair making him cry. He grinned down at Louis and said, “’S not stupid,” defensively, but Louis wasn’t listening; too busy reaching into the pocket of his coat.
Louis pulled out a black velvet box and opened it just as another child came into the playroom. Harry gasped and coughed, covering his mouth as he saw the ring glinting, nestled against the velvet.
“Harry,” Louis said calmly, “I met you here twenty-one years ago, today. I don’t remember being a tit to other little kids, but Mum says you were the first kid I cared about making cry, so I think – I think even at five years old, I knew you were important. It’s probably really stupid to propose at McDonald’s, but this is where my whole life changed, so you can make fun of me all you want, because if it weren’t for this place, I wouldn’t have you around to make fun of me, anyway. …Will you marry me?”
Harry sank to his knees in front of Louis and grabbed his face. “I would love to marry you, Louis Tomlinson.”