Louis buries his fingers in Harry's hair and digs his heels into the mattress, struggling to keep his knees apart. And unmoving. And struggling to breathe, in general. Harry smirks up at him and closes his eyes, nuzzling his thigh. His cheeks are still flushed from Louis blowing him earlier, and his lips are ridiculous and his eyelashes are long, and nothing this angelic should be this close to his cock. Louis is sure of this. Maybe this is why arseholes think gays are going to hell. Harry Styles is single-handedly responsible for his future damnation.
He starts to say so, but all that comes out is this pathetic grunt because Harry attaches his mouth to his thigh, centimetres from his groin. Louis doesn't get a moment to prepare before Harry starts sucking the skin, occasionally sinking his teeth into it. Once he's done with the lovebite he actually pulls his head back to inspect it, and then looks at Louis with a huge, self-satisfied grin.
Louis would roll his eyes if he could function. A mere day after they signed the new and improved contract and went on their six month break, Harry became obsessed with covering Louis' entire body with lovebites. Louis doesn't normally mind him being a possessive twat, and it does give him a rush to walk around with an obvious mark on his neck or collarbone and not have to ring up Eleanor or call an emergency meeting. It's just that Harry's surprisingly tenacious when his mind is set on something, and Louis' never bruised yellow before.
Just to be a little shit, Harry trails his hand up Louis' thigh, causing the hairs to stand on end, then sticks his finger right at the centre of the bite mark. Louis nearly kicks him in the face. He settles for pulling his hair until Harry lets go, and then the bruise sort of tingles with a subtle ache, not altogether unpleasant. He's starting to get why Harry likes getting scratched so much.
"Quite finished?" Louis asks, proud that his voice doesn't crack.
Harry nods coyly and shuffles forward. He grabs Louis' knees and spreads them, looking down like he's calculating how to go about this. He keeps Louis in suspense for half a minute (which is fortunate, because that's how long Louis can hold his breath while turned on), then finally ducks his head and licks a stripe from base to tip. Louis moans outright, and can hear Harry make a pleased little sound before sucking the head of his cock into his mouth and tonguing at the foreskin.
Harry pushes Louis' calves down so that he stretches his legs out, because he knows Louis sometimes gets those annoying foot cramps. Then Harry's off – wrapping a big hand around the base of his cock and sinking down, pressing his tongue to the underside.
Even after three years, there's really no way to be bored of getting head from Harry. Louis finds himself still fascinated with giving head, simply because Harry's so fucking pretty and he lets out sounds no one but Louis hears, not the band, not the studio and definitely not the fans.
It's a bit weird to hear sounds right now, though, as Harry's mouth is stuffed with cock and Louis' got a few fingers in his. It takes him a few moments to even realise something's distracting him (he hates the word cocksucker, but he will say Harry's an accomplished blowjob-giver), and a few more to open his eyes and listen up.
He punches through the haze fogging up his brain only when Harry pulls off with a wet noise. Louis feels like crying. "What the fuck is that?" Louis whispers.
Harry looks around, as confused as Louis is, and some of his curls bounce over the head of Louis' hard cock, making him bite back a noise. Harry's eyes snap back to him. "D'you reckon it was you?"
"No, I was..." He holds up his hand so Harry will see his wet fingers. Which makes Harry crawl up his body and kiss him. Which makes his cock twitch with neglect. Which makes the infernal noise return.
It hits him suddenly. "Oh my god," he says, muffled by Harry's lips. "Haz, it's the bloody cats."
Harry looms over him on his elbows and shuts his eyes. They both listen. Yes, that was a soft mewl, and that was a scratch on the door. Harry smiles his cats those are my cats I love my cats smile, which is a bit indecent with puffy lips and spit on his chin, but still makes Louis' heart clench.
He sighs. "Get off."
"I already – oh, you mean off of you?" Harry asks, frowning down at him.
Louis nods, hoping to god Harry won't look down to see if he's already gone soft. Which he hasn't, making this chivalrous gesture really fucking difficult. "You wanna take care of them."
"I can take care of you first," Harry says, weirdly earnest.
"You think you can make me come before that cat destroys our door?"
Now there's the cheeky smile. "You think I've learned nothing in three years?"
Five minutes later Louis is basically shocked into an orgasm. Like, really, he is outraged even as Harry pulls out his fingers and cuddles him. "Mnh," he protests weakly.
Harry giggles and gets up to brush his teeth in their ensuite, then opens the door. "Oh, it's Sylvester," he says, probably going for excited but still ending up at throat-freshly-fucked.
He comes back into the room carrying the black kitten with the white spots around his mouth and paws. Harry's hands look even bigger when cupping the tiny mewling thing, and he slides a single finger along Sylvester's back.
"Good morning kitty," Harry says, lifting his hands to nuzzle the cat's head while climbing back into bed. "Did you want some attention? Yes?"
Louis carefully pulls the duvet up to his chin. Living with seventy cats has taught him some brutal life lessons. Harry can, of course, sit naked and cross-legged next to him, because the kittens have all recognised him as their mummy and won't go near his bollocks.
The kitten shoves his face into Harry's leg and starts mewling. Naturally, Harry giggles and picks him up, putting him on his leg and bouncing him. The cat hisses and scrambles away, jumping back to the mattress and making his brave way toward the pillows. When he gets close enough he climbs over Louis' shoulder and brushes his nose with Louis' nose. Harry makes a helpless noise and Louis isn't that far off. (The moment they learned cats greet each other with their noses was the moment Louis' mind was blown.)
He turns the cat on his back and puts a hand on his face, so Sylvester clings to his palm with his little paws and squirms when Louis wriggles his hand. It's all fun and games until Louis annoys him enough that he sinks his claws into his hand. He curses and pulls his hand back quickly.
"No," Harry says as sternly as he can and picks up Sylvester by the scruff, getting off the bed. Not wanting to appear like he's bullshitting, he drops the cat off outside the bedroom and closes the door behind him.
Louis' still inspecting his hand (when the kittens scratch them it's more cute than painful, but they don't want them to fall into bad habits). It takes him a few minutes to notice that Harry's come back to bed, but he's sort of hanging off the side of it and staring at the door.
"What are you doing?" Louis asks, edging closer to Harry and putting a hand on his shoulder.
"I thought he'd at least struggle," Harry mutters.
Louis snorts. "Are you waiting for him to scratch the door again?"
"I, um." Harry slumps his shoulders. "I wanted to teach him a lesson, not hurt his feelings, y'know?"
Good grief. Louis wraps himself around Harry and cuddles him from behind. "I'm sure he'll forgive you. He probably just got bored, you know they only come in here to show us who's boss and then they go do cat things outside the house."
Harry leans into him and cranes his head back to catch his eye. "Yeah?"
"Yeah love," Louis assures him, petting Harry's stomach. Harry smiles and twists around to press their noses together.
Two seconds later there's more scratching at the door. At least Harry gives him a kiss before leaping off the bed and tearing the door open.
Louis used to think the scratching and biting and unwelcome wake-up calls would be the hardest to get used to. In reality, it's his boyfriend turning into a cat that's starting to be problematic.
The first cat is an accident. A spur-of-the-moment thing.
Liam started volunteering at an animal shelter, and asked Harry to join him for an adoption day. They were only allowed to be there for fifteen minutes, for security reasons, but Harry insisted on helping set up the place since he knew it would get trashed by One Direction fans come noon.
So Louis spends the morning sick with worry, and eventually lets Niall take him out to lunch. It's around the second serving of chips that Harry texts him. w/ r u?
Harry only uses textspeak when he has to. Louis' heart leaps to his throat. He still has nightmares about Harry getting mobbed in the States. He calls him immediately. "Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm okay love," Harry soothes him straight away. "I, um. Might've. Um. Are you still at lunch?"
So Louis cuts lunch short. Niall isn't bothered, having stolen Louis' bag of leftovers as well as his own. He doesn't even go to Louis and Harry's house with him, since, "Lunch was enough excitement for me, think I'm gonna nap if it's all the same."
At the house he finds Harry on the floor of the living room, which isn't unusual, patting a scrawny ginger cat, which is.
In retrospect, setting Harry loose at an animal shelter was a dumb idea. Harry is the guy that sniffles and donates thousands of pounds whenever an infomercial with dramatic music and black and white pictures asks him to. Of course Harry is the guy that gets dozens of people to an adoption day and then ends up adopting a skinny cat.
"There's a cat," Louis says. Harry jumps, making the cat jump, making Louis want to kick himself. "Sorry." He puts his keys on the counter and bends down to kiss the top of Harry's head, then folds himself next to him.
"There is," Harry says, twirling the cat's tail around his finger. It's skittish, but doesn't run away immediately.
"Is it ours?"
Harry turns a dazzling smile to him. "It might be."
Which Louis sort of expected, but. He rubs a hand over his face and sighs. "When we get back on the road –"
"Lou," Harry cuts him off, stiffening. Louis looks down and sees the cat nosing curiously at Harry's outstretched palm. When he looks up, Harry's face is an ocean of fondness. There's a disconcerting twinge in Louis' heart.
"What're we gonna call it?" he asks, since it seems to be the only question worth asking. The cat is here to stay.
"He's a he. And I dunno, I figured – oh god," he stops when the cat gingerly licks his rings. He's cute, Louis will give him that. "First I thought George, but he doesn't look very princely, so I figured we could call him Spot or Churchill or something."
"Those are dog names," Louis points out.
Harry cracks a half-smile. "How binary of you, Lewis."
So Louis sticks out his tongue, and Harry names the cat Garfield, despite it not exhibiting obvious signs of laziness or lasagne-craving.
Louis doesn't suspect anything until a week later, when he comes home to Harry unpacking three boxes of cat toys, cat food, cat furniture, cat books and cat clothes. Even then, he's so distracted by Harry trying to dress Garfield in a cat sweater that he doesn't really think about it.
That is until Harry comes home from Tesco's with two kittens and a sheepish smile.
Louis tries to frown for at least two seconds. "We didn't discuss this, Haz."
"I know, but I told Ed about Garfield and he rang and said his friend found two abandoned kittens and they're just so small and they need to feed from a bottle and I didn't know what to do?"
The kittens aren't doing much, just clinging to Harry's hands and barely blinking up at Louis.
It's enough to break his fucking heart. He gets to name these two (Felix and Jerry), which makes them feel more like – his, somehow. So does bottle-feeding them cat formula every four hours. Even Garfield takes to them, and he's a bit of an arsehole.
Harry doesn't even have an excuse for Sylvester. That's when Louis finally realises this is Harry's Thing. They're all coping with the break in their own way. Liam's learning new skills, Zayn's joined a charity that has him on another fucking continent, Niall started working out, Louis' growing a beard and Harry has cats.
Within two months their house is overrun by cats and kittens, Harry is transforming into a feline, and Louis can't get head without interruption.
The break is going great.
When he finally gets Zayn on Skype, the first thing he says is, "I need you to convince Harry he is not a cat."
The screen is blurry, and Louis' needed to change his glasses for ages, but Zayn's eyebrows are as expressive as ever when he frowns. "I think he knows that, mate."
"No you don't understand."
It takes him fifteen minutes to explain, and he actually uses up all of his private Zayn-time before Harry comes in with their teas and waves to Zayn excitedly. Still, the only thing Zayn has to say regarding the cat thing is, "You're both idiots."
"Why?" Harry asks, scrunching his nose while curling up in Louis' lap so the laptop's camera catches them both.
"Louis' convinced –"
"Oh my god," Louis cuts Zayn off, staring at Harry's mug. "Is that Hobbes in your teacup?"
Harry cranes his head back, staring at Louis with sparkly eyes. "You remembered her name?"
"Of course I – Harold, why is there a kitten in your teacup?"
"There's a kitten in his teacup?" Zayn asks, alarmed.
"Oh, there's no tea in it." Louis snakes his hand around Harry's middle to snatch his cup and bring it closer to the camera. Harry takes Louis' cup in return so he doesn't spill the tea.
"I was setting the cups and she got curious and stuck her head in one. She's still so tiny, you know, I thought it would be cute?" Harry explains.
It is disgustingly cute, it's a fucking tiny kitten in a fucking big mug, and Hobbes is not helping things by poking out her striped head and opening her tiny mouth, fascinated by Zayn on the screen. Even the kittens miss Zayn. "Zayn, meet Hobbes. She's the newest addition to the family." The rest Harry says to Hobbes in cat-speak.
Louis gives Zayn a see? look behind Harry's shoulder.
Zayn shrugs helplessly. Harry brings the cup closer to the screen and encourages Hobbes to poke her head out again. "Say hi to uncle Zayn!"
She mewls a bit. Louis can see the actual moment he loses Zayn to the cats. "Hi babes," Zayn says softly. Harry gently pulls her out of the cup and then waves her little paw at Zayn.
Louis has to excuse himself.
Cats are everywhere. Cats in drawers, cats in closets, cats in cupboards, cats in cups. The little ones follow the big ones, and all of them follow Harry and him like ducklings. They can be docile little shits and then something perks them up and in two seconds they zip across the house like they're possessed. They sometimes try to scare Louis and throw themselves at him, but then they scare themselves and end up skittering around with their fur standing on end. They like getting into the shower with Harry and Louis, but then when their tails get wet and heavy, they get confused and start chasing them.
The point is that cats are into some pretty weird shit, and Louis' thought he's seen the weirdest. That's before he hears Salem growl.
He's just sorting out the groceries, minding his own business, when Harry stumbles into the kitchen. "Lou, I think there's something wrong with Salem?"
"Have you tried turning him off and on – " When he looks up and sees how serious Harry looks, he drops the cheese and follows him to the yard. Then backs the fuck away. Salem's baring his teeth, black fur standing on end and tail ramrod straight. The sound he is making is unholy. It's not a hiss, not even a snarl – it's this weird, choked-off thing that immediately freaks Louis and Harry out.
"What is that?" Louis asks, looking on in horror as brave, idiot Harry steps towards the cat.
"He tried to scare some pigeons off, so I think that's why he's worked up, but I have no idea what that noise even is," Harry tries to explain. He gets down on his knees and shuffles forward, probably grazing his knees.
Louis' still staring at their demonic cat. "What if he swallowed something?"
Harry gasps. "Ring my mum, yeah?"
Louis pulls his phone out of his pocket and finds Anne's number, eyes still mostly trained on Harry's slow advance. He drops to his knees too and slides the phone toward Harry across the wood flooring, not before putting it on speaker.
"Hello love," Anne says after a few rings.
"Mum, it's me," Harry whispers quickly, probably afraid her voice would spook the already broken cat. "Salem is making weird noises and I'm afraid he's choking on something?"
"Are you babysitting for your older friends again?" she asks.
"Salem is a cat," Louis points out from his perch by the slide door.
"Right. Do not stick your hand in his mouth," she suggests. Harry pulls his hand back, like he was planning to do just that. "Now, tell me what sort of noises he's making."
Harry picks up the phone and brings it closer to Salem. By now the offending pigeons have all scurried off, and the cat's tail is posing less of a threat, but the noise. Anne hums over the line. "Oh, that's cute."
Harry looks over at Louis, just to make sure he's not the only one who thinks his mum is bonkers. He's not.
"Do you know a good exorcist?" Louis asks.
"Sweetheart, he's trying to roar. It's in his genes."
Mums are always right, but this is the one time Louis is doubtful. Harry seems instantly delighted. "He doesn't realise he's not a big cat?"
This is nonsense. "He sounds like a sick chicken." Well, sounded. By now Salem is primly licking his paws, like he hasn't just invoked Satan.
"No, Lou, he's trying to be intimidating, look at him." Harry's eyes are sparkling. "Like a Howler Monkey – did you know their howl can travel more than three kilometres?"
"You should tweet that."
"Yes," Harry agrees emphatically. "Mum, we need to go, I've gotta Vine."
She hangs up after barely an I love you. Louis figures if she'd raised him to be this weird, then she must be used to it. Louis' only excuse is being in love. He's pathetic. "What're you going to Vine? He stopped making the chicken noise."
"Then let's find some pigeons, obviously."
So Louis does. Because he's pathetic.
"You know the worst part about it?"
"Are you even listening to me?" Liam asks, rolling his eyes.
"Yes, Liam, you're still shit. Relax your fingers already." He hits Liam's fingers with the sheet music. Liam huffs, but does relax a bit and manages to get the right notes. Louis was born to be a stern piano teacher, obviously.
He gives Liam an Oreo, partly to reward him and partly to talk about the cat situation. Liam sees right through him. "Well? What's the worst part?"
"It's numbed me to the world," Louis deadpans.
Liam chokes a bit on his cookie. "What?"
"Yesterday Lou sent me a picture of Lux covered in spaghetti and I wrote 'LOL' without even laughing out loud. You know when Niall's hand was stuck in the Pringles container and he nearly cried? I felt nothing."
"So basically living with fifty cats has desensitised you to cuteness?"
(Liam's coping with the break by learning new things. How to drive a motorcycle, how to play the piano, how to use the Queen's English.)
"It's the cats and Harry Styles. You haven't seen cute until you've seen Harry with a kitten in his hair." He can't even say it without smiling. "My heart can't go on."
Liam blinks at him. "Sometimes I forget."
"What?" Louis asks, arching an eyebrow. "That I have a heart?"
"That even if the break thing turns out to be a flop and no one will care about our new album in four months, Harry will still have his biggest fan." Liam has a way of saying really profound things, rarely, decoyed by the shit that usually comes out of his mouth.
"It's true, his mum will still be there," Louis says automatically. Then he remembers Harry isn't even there to be mocked, so he bows his head and makes a noise that is nothing like a cat. "He calls me daddy."
Liam's nostrils flare. "Oh my god, did I need to know that?"
Louis flicks him again with the sheet music. "Not like – I mean, with the kittens. We're their daddies and they follow us around. Sometimes they lick us after they clean themselves, to do us too. They make little noises when they sleep, just like Haz."
"That's lovely, actually."
"It is not, you sap," he tell him off.
Liam hesitates. "Listen. Have you guys talked about – you know, after the break? If it isn't a flop, we'll go right back to the road."
"If Lou and Tom can handle a human baby, I think we can handle our cats." He's not actually sure of this, and Liam can probably tell.
"Alright, just maybe tell Harry to not get new ones?"
Louis actually says ha ha. The thought that he could tell Harry no is absurd. So he shoves Liam's hands away to bang his head on the keys. The noise is terrible, but not as terrible as Louis' instinct to check if the cats got scared. The cats are not here. The cats are at home with Harry.
Maybe the worst part about it isn't the adorableness at all.
"I am so telling Harry," Niall says as soon as he opens the door.
Louis groans for two minutes. This is why they sleep with the door closed. Niall keeps letting himself in the house. "You're a twat."
"You're getting soft, Tommo," Niall says, wholly unapologetic when he pulls out his phone and starts taking pictures. Or worse, a video. Louis would fight him – or at least flip him the bird – if he didn't have cats all over him. There are kittens on his belly, and Felix, who is basically a breathing fluffball, covers almost the entire length of his arm. Meowth is pawing at his face, endlessly fascinated by Louis' beard.
All Louis did was sit on the floor. He never intended to be the base of a cat pyramid. "This wasn't supposed to be my break."
"Really now?" Niall asks, crouching closer with his phone. He is definitely taking a video.
Louis makes sure to say it loud and clear: "I was supposed to play footie and grow a beard, not raise cats."
"How many do you have now?" Niall asks, as if he doesn't know. Just last week Louis caught him and Harry cuddling with the big cats, like he's doing right now.
"Eleven, last time I counted." (It's not true. They have eight. They are practical.)
"So the next one's gonna be Scottish?"
Louis' about to say something snarky, but then Meowth sticks a paw in his mouth. Niall snorts. "I like the rude one."
Louis picks the kitten up by the scruff and puts him on his belly with the others. They're destroying his shirt but he doesn't particularly mind. He likes the adventurous kittens the best, partly because they're hilarious, mostly because they are fascinated by him. Meowth clings to his finger.
Niall is not a person that coos, but he is definitely making faces at the cats. Louis can't not show him his best trick. He shoos the kittens from his stomach and then lifts his t-shirt. He waits for Hobbes to jump back on his belly and knead at his skin (which, ow), and then pulls his shirt over the kitten. Once Hobbes starts freaking out and making kitty noises, Louis lifts his shirt again and she looks like she's just discovered catnip.
"Shit mate, that's adorable," Niall says, sounding as disgusted as he should be. He'd probably be less impressed if he'd seen Louis try this trick with Azrael and get his stomach nearly ripped open.
"You should see them when they sleep on my face. Or when Haz –"
With unusually impeccable timing, Harry spills himself into the living room. He's still wearing a scarf and a beanie. "Are the cats –"
Then he looks from Niall to Louis. "Jesus Christ." His face is suddenly consumed by his Louis that is my Louis I love my Louis smile.
He falls to his knees fluidly and plants himself right in the middle of the kitty pile. Before he slides up to shoo the cats and kiss him, Louis whispers, "Ni's filming."
"But you're so cute," Harry complains, scooping the three kittens in his big palm and dumping them on Louis' chest. They all mewl and start flopping all over each other. If Harry is turning into a cat, the cats are turning into Harry.
"What are they even doing?" Niall asks, creeping closer.
"They're cats, they do cat things," Harry explains.
"Actually, when they're little they knead their mum's belly to nurse better." Harry gapes at him. "What, I can Google. Just because you had cats growing up doesn't mean I'm clueless."
"I know that much, you fed Jerry and Felix from a bottle when I brought them home."
"You did?" Niall asks, mildly surprised. He might genuinely be gobsmacked, but Niall just does things mildly.
"I had to, they didn't have a mum." Louis hates blushing on camera. He buries his face in cats. "Harry's the ridiculous one! He got them all sweaters and personal pillows!"
"You're both idiots," Niall assures him. "Remember when you came to my flat and hid all the cats in my shoes?"
Harry high-fives him at the memory. Niall finally gives up the pretence and shoves Harry over for a cuddle on Louis' pillow pile. They find a comfortable position easily enough, after years of practice. The cats are overexcited, extending their claws and digging them into Niall's arms and legs, but he stays as chill as ever, petting them mildly. "I think your cats are weird."
"Excuse me?" Harry asks, petting three kittens at once.
"Like, I thought cats were all sassy and superior, but yours are just ridiculous." Garfield chooses that moment to sneeze. He is the most melodramatic cat in the universe, and makes four gasping noises before finally releasing an almighty sneeze that surprises him. Harry coos. Niall chortles like a wounded animal. "See?"
"Well, they are sassy until you get to know them. I guess I have a type," Harry says, poking Louis' belly.
"Oi! I am not a cat, Harold." He needs to stress this point. Harry gives him a look. Louis is struck with the memory of Garfield giving him a heart attack by jumping on top of their sturdy old bookcase. And then both Garfield and himself giving Harry a heart attack by perching on top of their sturdy old bookcase.
"We should make them our mascots," Niall says suddenly.
"Will they, like, cheer for us?" Harry asks.
"And be on the album cover and stuff. They'll be famous, even the scrawny one," Niall decides, scratching Jerry behind her ear like she could understand him.
Louis nods. "When Zayn inevitably forgets about the band and stays in Indonesia or Africa, we could have Sylvester replace him."
"True, he's quiet and hates going outside."
"But they can't leave the house," Louis clarifies. "And we need to keep their collars at all times."
Niall giggles. "You shit. You'll let them play in a muddy puddle but we can't give them a bath without supervision?"
"He's just overprotective. It's kinda hot," Harry comments, patting Garfield with one hand and Louis' thigh with the other. Louis smiles and kisses Harry's cheek.
"Gross." Niall picks Jerry up. "They're gross, innit, kitty cat?"
"He's just jealous," Harry stage-whispers.
"Yeah, he'd love to be our cat." Louis reaches up to pat Jerry's tummy, making her wriggle in Niall's hold. "We're the best parents ever."
"We are," Harry agrees. Louis expects a sort of half-hearted high five, but when he looks over, Harry's eyes are piercing him and his mouth is hanging open.
"This smells serious, I'm gonna..." Niall puts Jerry on Harry's chest and squirms out of the cat/human/pillow fortress. He takes one last picture with his phone and then strolls over to the kitchen.
Louis hasn't exactly signed up for serious when he put all the sofa cushions on the floor and amassed their herd on his person. He hasn't really thought of serious since they replaced their PR team and he and Eleanor went their separate ways. The break shouldn't be serious. He physically cannot make any life-altering decisions with Zayn out of the country.
So before Harry can say anything about adoption, Louis kisses him. They let cats be cats.
They don't have favourites. Except they totally do. Louis has a soft spot for the kittens (Hobbes, Meowth and Sylvester, sort of). He's still numb to cuteness, so he's convinced it's the taking care of them that does it for him. They follow him around everywhere, and they badger the older cats and can only climb half the tree and can't jump without flopping on their tiny little faces. Okay, it's a little because they're so fucking cute, but it's definitely also because they bring out the paternal side of him.
Harry's favourite is, surprisingly enough, Azrael. He's older than all of the other cats, but smaller, with bright orange fur, and he's a bit of an evil genius. He makes the other cats follow him around, and if they turn around for a second he leaps on their tails. He's got a flair for drama, and surprises them in weird places even though he knows he's not allowed to stay on top of the fridge. He's the one cat Harry hasn't been able to assert dominance over, because he keeps inexplicably fawning over him.
Azrael is, of course, the one that ultimately gets them in trouble.
Since they now have eight cats, it's often that they lose track of them some of the time. Cats are independent by nature, and they like being outside; there's nothing Harry or Louis can do about it. Only Harry absolutely hates it when the cats disappear at night. He puts insane amounts of cat food by the door, leaves their bedroom wide open, and is quite offended when the cats still slip out the yard and disappear for hours.
Jokingly, innocently (and stupidly), Louis says one night, "You should just get them leashes."
Leading to Harry buying eight cat harnesses and leashes in different sizes and colours. The things are absurd. Apparently they need to be wrapped around the cats' bodies because, unlike dogs, cats can wriggle out of their collars, they just choose not to. Cats are really quite brilliant.
(Not that they much fancy being harnessed and led. Half the cats just flop on their backs as soon as Harry straps them in, and he has to spend a fortnight just training them to walk. By laying a trail of treats for them all over the house. And slipping and falling on his arse twelve times in the process.)
Louis is so fascinated by the contraptions, he sort of doesn't make the leap until it's too late and Harry straps all the cats in. "I'm going to walk them. So they won't have to wander on their own. Brilliant, innit?"
Louis tells him he can't because then he'll be that crazy person that walks his cat. So somehow he finds himself freezing his nads off at a park after sundown, walking half his cats like a crazy person while his beaming boyfriend walks the other half.
It hadn't even occurred to him that they can't do it because they'll be the crazy celebrities that walk their cats.
They would have gotten away with it too, if Azrael hadn't tried to escape by walking faster than Harry and leaping into bushes, making it look like Harry was walking flora. Of course Louis was doubled over laughing and making far too much noise. It was enough to gain the attention of a girl with a Twitter account and an iPhone.
The rest of the night is less funny. Louis can already see one girl turn into fifty, and he has to redirect his urge to grab Harry by grabbing Felix and Jerry. They're quite big now, but Louis can hold them both and it's comforting once they stop struggling. Harry's cursing next to him, but pastes on a smile when the first girl approaches them.
It's rare that Louis is with Harry in this situation, mostly because in the past year it's been rare for Louis to be with Harry in public. He decides during the first wave of fans that he could either be terrified, or he could be a good buffer. So he gets up directly in front of Harry, covering for him while he picks up the kittens so they won't get trampled.
"Can we take a picture?" "I love you so much!" "Are those your cats?" "Can we pat them?" "Can we pat you?" "What are their names?" "Larry Stylinson!" "Can you say hi to my friend Leah?" "When are you coming back from the break?" "We miss you!"
Louis smiles at them all and starts taking pictures, though he gets distracted when Harry steps up and actually answers the questions. "Thanks love, we miss you too," he says smoothly, smiling wide when a girl hangs off his arm and takes a selfie.
"What's with the cats?" she asks, followed by a chorus of "yes" from the other ten curious girls surrounding them.
Harry shoots him a hesitant look, casually nuzzling Hobbes to buy more time. She purrs adorably and the girls are ready to faint. Louis should probably give it more thought. But Louis is tired and Harry is adorable and they're on a break. For a glorious second, he wants it to be a break from bullshit, too.
"They're ours," Louis says.
Harry's beam outshines every cute thing any kitten has ever done. He's about to hyperventilate like the girls in the back who haven't worked up the courage to say hi. An awkward silence from them would be far too telling at this point of the conversation, especially with the girls squealing, so thankfully Harry picks up the conversation. "The little ones are Hobbes, Meowth and Sylvester. The big ones are Azrael, Salem, Felix, Jerry and Garfield," he explains while expertly taking pictures with twelve girls at the same time.
"Original, right?" Louis cuts in, signing a few hands and giving some hugs, careful of the cats.
"You didn't like my first choices," Harry says, bumping shoulders with him.
"Please, if it were up to you they'd all be named Kitty just to make Nick happy."
"Are you shitting me? Kitty and Puppy would have been the best sitcom ever."
"So you named them?" a girl asks him with bright eyes, reminding him they probably shouldn't bicker right now. He hisses when Felix starts squirming and scratching his arm, and reluctantly lets him down. The girl looks like she's dangerously close to touching him. There's no security. The girls keep texting and the girls keep coming. Harry's still gushing about the cats.
"Hey guys, we're really sorry, but the cats need their beauty sleep," he says, signalling to Harry.
The chorus of awwws makes Harry giggle, and he gives a few more hugs before he lets Louis drag him to the car. At least they landed on a good bunch that doesn't follow them. (Or cry or faint or touch the cats or throw shit. They struck gold, basically.)
The very next morning there are headlines ranging from "Meow Direction" to "Harry Styles gets pussy". Harry ignores everything but the pictures, which he secretly cuts out and puts in a cupboard the cats can't reach (except for Garfield, because Garfield's a clever little shit). Louis' a lot more stressed out, obsessing over his Google alert and Twitter feed. The worldwide trends: "#Stylitter", "#LarryKittenLove" and "#TheyAdopted". Even weirder, all eight cats now have Twitters, and are discussing Harry's and his wedding plans. Louis' just waiting for the call.
At some point Harry texts him come to me and Louis nearly has a heart attack because for a second, he thought Harry had tweeted it. He might be going mental.
Harry's waiting for him in the yard with a fresh cuppa and a smile that makes him forget anything but how much he loves this boy. Louis collapses on the swing next to him and takes the cup, sighing when Harry immediately cuddles him.
"Lou, look," Harry says, gesturing to the grass. Felix and Jerry are playing there, completely ignoring their toys to annoy each other. She pulls his tail, he shoves her over, she launches herself at him, they roll around on the grass, Louis hides his face behind his mug to remain calm.
"You know what will be adorable?" he asks. Even though Harry nods, he continues. "If they fall in love and have kittens."
"Cat sex is kinda gross, actually. Like, they have these fishhook penises? And they bite down on the girl-cat's nape to make sure she cooperates? And if we hadn't spayed Jerry and Hobbes, the male cats would have destroyed our house?"
Louis smacks his own forehead. "I meant theoretically."
"Oh." Harry takes a long sip from his tea. "Well, theoretically it would have been the best thing ever. Remember when we first got them and they could barely see?"
Louis leans his head on Harry's shoulder and pulls his legs to his chest. "I was barely used to Garfield and you brought them home, you little bastard."
"Don't tell me you regret it."
"Eh." Harry pulls his hair until Louis sputters, "Fine, no, I love them, stop it."
He stops with the pulling, but keeps his hand there, sort of patting Louis. "Think you can stop freaking out over yesterday? They're not gonna call. We're on break."
Louis can totally blame feeling small on being wrapped by Harry Styles. "They might."
"If they didn't call when Niall was caught smoking his weed, they're not gonna call because we walked our cats. We're grownups now, remember?"
Louis does feel rather old, sitting on his porch swing and contemplating being a kitty grandfather at 22. Jerry and Felix roll over directly under the swing, and Harry, being a thrill-seeking idiot, tries to separate them with his bare foot. "They're gonna tear it off," Louis warns him.
Harry sets his tea next to him and then reaches down with a long arm and picks Felix up. He holds him directly in front of his face and pulls his paws. "Daddy," he says, high-pitched, and waves Felix' paws into Louis' face. "Please get over it. You're making us feel bad for letting fans catch you walking us. When really it was Dad's smashing idea."
Louis bites his lip raw to keep a straight face. "Well," he tells Felix, who's mewing up a storm and struggling with Harry already. "You can tell your dad his idea was dumb but I actually loved being out and about with him. I just can't help being nervous."
Harry shakes Felix in a sort of nod, and then presses him to Louis' face for a kiss. Louis' laughing too hard for a man with a mouthful of cat. At least when Felix finally manages to escape and jumps back to the ground, he and Jerry scratch the fuck out of Harry's foot.
Needless to say the cats still disappear at night. Harry learns to get over it.
The intervention comes as a shock to no one. Niall lets himself into the house, completing the usual maze of cat toys and scratching posts, only to find Harry and Louis in towels, covering each other in plasters in the kitchen.
Harry looks up, startled. Louis uses his distraction to stick a plaster on his chest. When Harry snaps his head down to glare at him, Louis shrugs and smiles.
"I never know when you two are being kinky or just mental." At least Niall has this charming way of never sounding judgemental.
"Cheers," Louis says, then hisses when Harry puts a plaster on his bicep.
"What's the naked plaster party about?" Niall asks, making a beeline for the fridge. He pulls out three beers for the three of them, and makes three sandwiches for himself.
"We washed the kittens earlier," Harry explains.
"And got in the bath with them?"
Louis sighs. "Harry had this theory that they wouldn't want to kill us if he got in with them. It seemed to be working, too, until I started washing his hair and the cats tried to copy me. It was cute until it wasn't." He brandishes his arm, even though the million scratches are mostly covered by a million plasters now. "At least they're clean. We put them to bed."
"The cats," Niall states.
"Right, I'm gonna need Li for this."
Half an hour later Niall is making tacos and Liam is sitting in front of them, arms crossed over his chest. "How long has it been since either of you left the house?"
"I was with you!" Harry remembers. "You asked me to teach you how to make muffins."
"I don't mean at mine. Or Niall's." Before Harry opens his mouth he adds, "Or Nick's. Or Lou's. Or Gemma's."
Harry frowns. Louis tries to divert the attention. "Well, it's been a couple of weeks for me, but only because of the beard. I'm at the awkward fuzzy stage between five-o'clock shade and trimmed, you know I can't show my face."
"That's a beard? I thought it was Sylvester!"
Louis narrows his eyes while Niall chokes on laughter. "Very funny, Liam."
Liam's still smiling smugly when he says, "Look, I love you guys, but I can't let the band fall apart because two fifths of it became crazy cat people. Just go to a pub or a restaurant or, God forbid, a movie. Nobody will recognise Louis with that thing on his face."
Louis kicks him under the table. Harry strokes Louis' arm. "A pub could be nice."
"You can even go back to mine later," Niall adds brightly. "I know you've barely had time to shag."
"Wildly inappropriate, but yeah, see?" Liam says.
Louis' sold. Harry asks one last hesitant question, "But if we're at yours where will you be?"
"Catsitting with Liam. We'll teach 'em tricks, it'll be fun. Maybe I'll even remember their names."
While he and Liam discuss the possible differences between cats and dogs, Louis and Harry have a silent discussion and ultimately nod.
Two hours later Louis' fussing with his electric razor, trying to pick an angle. Harry's perched on the counter in front of him, already dressed and ready to go. He's swinging his legs back and forth, occasionally rubbing up Louis' calf.
"You don't look homeless, yeah? Let's just go already," Harry needles.
Louis steadfastly ignores him. "You really excited?"
Harry suddenly ducks his head and kisses Louis' bare chest, disregarding the very sharp electric object in Louis hand like he disregards 90% of the dangers around him. "Yeah," he mouths against the tattoo.
Louis drops the razor, if only to avoid beheading Harry. "Why'd you lie to Niall? I fucked you just this morning with minimum distractions."
With that smile Harry could get away with murder. "I've been sort of aiming for a night off? Does that make me a bad cat person?" (Harry is the kind of cat owner that refuses to call himself a cat owner because "they're our cats and we're their people, you know?")
"Nah, you're still good." He kisses Harry once. "We could stuff ourselves with beer and Italian food and then take a nap at his. What?" He asks when Harry starts giggling.
"A catnap." He covers his face like he knows just how much of a tit he is.
Louis can't help but play along. "Yes, a catnap sounds purrfect."
Harry makes a noise and kneads at Louis' stomach. "I can't think of a pun that won't be a catastrophe."
Louis pats his head. "No worries, you didn't hurt my felines. We'll have to tell Niall we shagged, though."
"Of course," he agrees immediately. "On his bed. I'll tell him you fucked my face and came on my chest. Did you know he's weirdly obsessed with, like, my boobs?"
Louis needs to get over "fuck my face" first. "There's nothing wrong with your pecs, they're sick."
"I know, I think it's because he and Zayn have that nipple thing? And he misses him? I miss him too."
He feels the now familiar pang in his chest whenever he thinks of Zayn. One more month. "I know. Let's go back to me fucking your face."
Harry brightens right up. "Right, so we'll say you fucked my face and came on my chest. Completely overwhelmed by my boobs, you pushed me on my back and went down on me. I knew you wanted to fuck me again, but you let me come down your throat anyway, and while I was catching my breath you started fingering me. Does that sound legit?"
Louis' facing an uphill battle against the entire lower half of his body. "Yeah. And I told you how hot and lovely you were, and I asked you if I could fuck you again even though I gave it to you pretty hard this morning. And you said yes, because you love saying yes to me, right? You love being good."
Harry squirms on the countertop, skin-tight jeans leaving absolutely no room to the imagination. "Yeah," Harry whispers.
Louis steps forward so he's between Harry's legs. "What if we just go to Niall's?"
"We said we'd go out, though," Harry points out, completely unconvincing as he wraps his long legs around Louis' waist. "C'mon, we'll get a few pints and talk about something other than cats."
"Right." He licks up the column of Harry's throat. Maybe he does need to go out more, if only to not feel like a cat all the time.
Leaving the house takes much longer than they thought, since the cats keep following them out and getting into the car, and when they get two out, three more jump in. Eventually Niall and Liam's arms are full of cats and they struggle to wave them off.
They manage to not talk about cats for a couple of hours, forcing themselves to only check in once. They don't even need to call Niall, since their Twitter feeds are full of nothing but Liam and Niall fucking around with the cats. (Cats with guitars, cats taking selfies with Niall, cats dangerously close to Louis' Vans, cats on Louis' skateboard, cats wearing Harry's headbands, cats on Louis' skateboard while wearing Harry's headbands.) Of course, they get like three million retweets. Louis and Harry's cats are brilliant.
When they finally get back home, it's 3 a.m. and Niall and Liam are asleep on the sofas with cat-shaped blankets. Louis and Harry spend twenty minutes sticking fruit in their mouths, drawing on them with sharpies and sending fifty pictures to Zayn before waking them up.
They can't even seek revenge, since Harry and Louis are immediately cuddling all the cats and kittens as a feline shield. "You are twats," Liam says, inspecting the penises on his biceps. He still hasn't seen the bollocks on the back of his neck. Hopefully he won't.
"You're the ones who fell asleep," Louis says.
"Yeah, it's bloody late."
"Oh, Niall, we totally shagged," Harry remembers to say. "Lou fucked my face –"
"Oh Christ, I believe you, Louis' got – " he gestures all over, which is a pretty good indication of all of Louis' new lovebites. Harry's totally smirking.
"Right, well, I'm knackered," Louis announces, stretching not at all like Azrael does when he's making a point. Harry's staring might disprove that, but. He shuffles into the bedroom to get undressed, casually eavesdropping on Harry assuring Liam the sharpie isn't permanent. Niall tells him Zayn texted about missing out on the cat party and they nearly cried. "I told him not to worry, since the cats will still be our whole world in three weeks," Liam says.
"And when we're on tour everyone will get a chance to catsit," Harry adds. "Have you seen how cute they are with Lux?"
"Yes," Niall and Liam say simultaneously. "Us and everyone who follows you on every social media site ever."
"So cute. Like, the kittens were so confused by tails and they tried to grab Garfield and Salem's tails like they were blades of grass or something, and then there Lux was, grabbing the kittens' tails."
"Yeah, yeah, and then the cats were staring down the kittens and the kittens were staring down Lux and then they all rolled around together," Liam snaps. They were all there.
Harry makes a helpless noise. "Like, they scratched the fuck out of us today, and yesterday both Garfield and Jerry gave us dead things, but you can forget how disgusting they are when they're so cute, right? You're so cute, aren't you?"
"Put her down, Christ, I can't see this shit so late."
"Fine," Harry says, sounding suspiciously like there's a paw in his mouth.
"You can bunk in the spare bedroom," Louis yells. Then, a light bulb above his head. "Just leave the door open, we don't want the cats to scratch it."
Harry's known him for long enough not to say anything to the contrary. When he sneaks into their bedroom, he shuts the door silently.
"They're gonna wake up with eight cats on their heads."
"And I'll be there to congratulate Niall for finally having something sit on his face. Or maybe something involving the word pussy, I haven't decided yet."
Harry draws things on people and pelts them with fruit. Louis prefers to play the long game.
"Sorted," Harry agrees, sniggering as he undresses and slips into bed. He wraps himself around Louis and sighs contentedly. "Tonight was fun."
"Definitely. We're not actually crazy cat people, are we?"
"I don't think we are. I mean, we are cat people, but we're not crazy. I just like having something that's – ours, y'know? Something that's not a secret. That doesn't need managing." And having the cats on tour will be like being surrounded by constant proof of their devotion to each other, even if they can't come out of the closet until winter. Louis gets that.
"I don't think we're crazy either," Louis reassures him, maybe clinging a bit. "I think we'd have to give the little ones up, just 'cause it'll be dangerous for them to go on tour with us. And who wouldn't want to adopt a kitten? You know the girls have been begging my mum for a cat ever since they came here to play with them."
Harry sighs. "My mum and Robin could take Meowth, and Gemma should get Hobbes once she moves into the new flat. Your sisters should get Sylvester, he's chill."
It's horrible how much Louis' heart sinks at the thought of giving any of them up. "Sometimes..." he starts, then hesitates. Fuck it. "Don't you think we've sacrificed enough?" he asks in a small voice.
Harry climbs over Louis so that he's still in his arms but facing him. Louis closes his eyes even before Harry kisses him. "Till winter."
Louis is terrified of winter. He has no idea what will happen when they come out, no matter how much they strategise and research and calculate, no matter how much support they're getting. He doesn't know what it'll mean for the band, or his family, or Harry, or himself.
But he does know they'll stick it out together. And they'll have spring.
It's not that they name their first child after a cartoon kitten. Marie is a pretty standard name. Definitely.