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Part One: February

 

Their feet tangle together as they stumble into the flat, bumping into walls and furniture, half muffled giggles occasionally interrupted by groans. It’s dark inside, and Harry is being shoved backwards, legs barely able to keep up. When he bumps into something solid bum-first, he lets out a bark of a laugh.

“Jesus, careful,” Louis hisses against his mouth as the table they stumbled against rattled. “An accident hazard, s’what you are.”

Harry doesn’t answer, mouth now otherwise occupied sucking bruises down Louis’ neck. He just- He tastes so good , sharp and a little bitter. Harry bumps into a chair and sends it tumbling on its side with a thud. He feels Louis’ laugh ruffle the hair at the top of his head.

“Hazard Hazza,” he mumbles, taking Harry’s face in his hands and tilting his head up. “S’what I should call you.”

“I’m the one going backwards,” Harry defends himself, cheeks squished between Louis’ hands so that his voice comes out muffled. “You’re supposed to be my eyes.”

Louis grins and kisses him again. Harry pushes against it, kissing back a bit messily. He doesn’t know what it is about this particular night that has him so desperate, itching and hot everywhere, but Louis doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, unlike their cabbie, who kicked them out of his taxi eight blocks away from the flat when they wouldn’t stop trying to climb into each other’s laps. They stopped to snog every few steps on the walk to Harry’s place - the longest, most wonderful eight blocks of Harry’s life. Now they’re inside and Harry can’t wait anymore. His clothes feel scratchy on his over-sensitive skin, Louis’ stubble burns in the most incredible way.

He moans when Louis sucks on his tongue, long and loud in the quiet of the room, and Louis curses into his mouth. He moves back with a slick sound as they part, eyes glassy.

“What’s gotten into you tonight, babe?”

Harry doesn’t know but he feels too good to stop and wonder.

“Jus’ want you,” he slurs against Louis’ chin, pressed to him from chest to thigh. His shirt is sticking to his back with sweat, his trousers are growing more uncomfortable every passing second. He just needs everything off . He pulls on Louis’ clothes instead, a little inefficiently as he’s pressed too close for his efforts to work. “Come on, Lou.”

“Fuck, Haz, you sure you’re not-” He cuts himself off with a gasp as Harry gets his teeth on the bit of shoulder he’s managed to uncover.

“Had it last week,” he says, tongue on Louis’ skin. He can see why Louis would wonder - the way Harry’s rubbing himself against him is a little desperate. And he is. Desperate. But he isn’t in heat, just indescribably horny and shameless with it.

“Yeah, but-” Louis sighs as Harry’s hand slips underneath his jumper and over his belly. “But you’re acting a little off, love.”

Harry shakes his head and presses his hot face on Louis’ neck. He can feel Louis’ pulse against the bridge of his nose, can smell how aroused he is. They both are. Maybe there was something in their food.

Without stepping back, he grabs Louis’ hands where they migrated to his waist and guides them down to his bum. Louis doesn’t need Harry’s instructions to squeeze, making Harry go up onto the tips of his toes hips first. He’s wet, can feel the slick gathering in his pants, and he wants Louis inside him so much he could cry.

“Louis,” he mumbles, but Louis is distracted, mouthing at the sliver of chest uncovered by the ripped buttons of Harry’s shirt, and he merely grunts in acknowledgement. Harry tangles his hands in Louis’ hair and forces him to look up at him. He looks so lovely, with his pink cheeks and pinker lips, tongue poking out from between them to lick at the corner of his mouth, that Harry forgets what he wanted to say for a moment, too mesmerized by the sight.

It takes Louis squeezing his arse again for Harry to snap out of it.

“Lou,” he begs, pushing back against Louis’ palms. “You’ll fuck me, yeah? You promised.”

Louis promised. They hadn’t seen each other in over two weeks, both their schedules too hectic to make the time. They spoke on the phone the night before, both finally free, and Louis rasped in Harry’s ear: “ We’ll go out with the lads and then I’ll take you home and fuck you for hours, how’s that sound?

It sounded wonderful to Harry.

“I did promise, didn’t I,” Louis says now, eyes flicking between Harry’s eyes and his mouth. “And you didn’t get it anywhere else in the meantime, did you?”

Harry shakes his head, his grip on Louis’ hair tightening. Harry isn’t the one who goes and gets it somewhere else when they can’t meet. If anything, he should be asking Louis, since he is the one going out, meeting people and dating around.

They have a system, Louis and him. They have sex until Louis starts getting serious about someone. They stop having sex. Harry waits like a sad, lovesick idiot until Louis splits with whatever girl or boy he’s been seeing and then they go back to fucking. It’s quite a reliable system, and quite timely as well. Louis never dates anyone more than a month, no girl or boy (alpha, beta or omega) managing to stick around for longer.

And as selfish as it makes Harry feel, he’s always happy when Louis calls him to whine about a break-up.

Harry isn’t sure if Louis is seeing someone now, but he either isn’t or it isn’t serious enough yet because here Louis is, pressing against him and murmuring about getting their clothes off before he rips more of Harry’s buttons loose.

Louis’ jumper goes first, landing in a heap on the floor, followed by Harry’s shirt and their shoes, which they forgot to take off when they came in, so lost in eachother Harry is only now realising they left wet track marks all over the hardwood.

He doesn’t care.

They have to pry themselves apart to unbutton their jeans. Louis shimmies out of his far more gracefully than Harry could ever manage, even not clumsy with lust as he is, and the sight of the tight fabric sliding down Louis’ thighs causes Harry to walk into the doorway. He staggers, legs getting tangled in his own trousers, bumps into Louis, and tumbles to the floor with a yelp.

Louis’ laughter fills the flat, the sound loud and dear, and Harry can’t even bring himself to feel embarrassed. He sits on the floor and struggles to kick his trousers all the way off, leaving him in his pants, wet at the back and stretching over his cock in the front. When he looks up, Louis is staring, laughter having died on his lips, although there is still the hint of a smile there at the corner of his mouth.

Feeling even bolder with Louis’ eyes on him, Harry lies back and stretches, curves his spine upwards, hands on his own belly and knees falling open. He can see a muscle in Louis’ cheek twitch.

“What’s gotten into you?” he asks and Harry’s eyes follow the motion of his hands as he adjusts himself. He looks just as hard as Harry is and Harry wants to feel it. “You’re shameless.”

“Maybe I’m just really happy to see you,” he says, still on the floor in the little hallway leading to his room. They are so close to the bed, and yet the only thing Harry wants is to pull Louis down on top of him right where he is. The thought sends a pang of heat down his belly and a fresh rush of slick coats the insides of his thighs. Louis’ nostrils flare as his gaze drops to Harry’s crotch and Harry’s hips jerk off the floor.

Harry is happy to see Louis. Nothing that comes out of his mouth when he’s this turned on is ever a lie. Even his body is painfully honest, opening up and getting hot all over even before Louis starts touching him for real. Just feeling Louis’ eyes on him has Harry shivering.

His mind feels a little foggy, his tongue too thick in his mouth. He feels a bit out of control, which isn’t new, not with Louis. Louis is the person who rattles him, who makes him feel unbalanced. Louis is the only one who can render Harry useless with a single touch, who can talk him into practically anything, no matter how silly or outrageous. Yes, he feels off. No, this isn’t how he usually behaves. But it’s Louis with him. Louis who pressed their thighs together all through dinner with their friends, Louis who looked at him with soft eyes and called him ‘love’ and let him take bites out of his food while all their friends complained. Louis who pushed back against Harry’s chest as they danced, bum rubbing against Harry’s dick until it was either stop or embarrass himself in the middle of a club.

Louis is his best friend and Harry wants him enough to start begging.

He doesn’t need to, though, because before Harry can open his mouth there Louis is, kneeling between his legs and leaning down to kiss along the elastic on his pants, chin dragging over Harry’s clothed cock.

Fuck , Lou- is ,” he whimpers, hands back in Louis’ hair. “Not that, not-”

“I know,” Louis whispers, pressing one more kiss right below Harry’s belly button before he sits back and pulls Harry’s briefs down. Being exposed makes him jolt with a gasp, and he watches, dazed, as Louis slips the pants off his legs, lifting them up so high Harry nearly kicks him in the face. His bum feels sticky against the hardwood, his shoulder blades ache, but if Louis offers to stop to move to the bed Harry will do something drastic.

He can’t remember ever feeling this needy.

“Haz,” Louis mumbles as he lies down along Harry’s body, their cocks brushing. Harry feels a hand go from the damp crease between his hip and thigh down to nudge behind his balls. “ Christ , you’re wet .”

Harry’s face burns and he curls his legs around the backs of Louis’.

“Are you sure-” He mouths at Harry’s collarbones. “Are you sure you’re not in heat, love?”

Again, Harry shakes his head. He would never lie about this, never. He couldn't even if he tried, Louis knows him too well.

“Last week, got it last week, I just-”

He just needs to get fucked, it isn’t that difficult to grasp. Louis is taking too long.

“Just, Louis, come on ,” he says, plaintive and whiny and any other time Louis might have teased him, but he can probably hear the real desperation creeping into Harry’s voice. He nods against Harry’s chest and wiggles as he pushes his own underwear down and off. The feel of Louis’ bare cock against his nearly makes Harry whimper out loud.

“Don’t even need lube tonight, do you?” Louis asks, fingers pushing in, curling, getting soaked. “You want it like this? On your back? Legs over my shoulders?”

Harry’s shaking his head before he can really think of the answer.

“On my knees,” he croaks out, a red haze in front of his eyes. He’s dizzy with need, Louis’ breathy questions only making it worse. “On my knees, Lou, I-”

“Alright, turn over, babe, come on.” Louis helps him roll onto his belly, bum unsticking from the floor with a soft squelch that would have made him laugh any other time. Harry rises onto his knees a little unsteadily, folding his arms in front of him, the perfect cushion where to hide his face. He feels lonely for a second before Louis’ hands are on his skin again, kneading and pulling him apart so that he feels wetness slide down the inside of his thigh.

“Could eat you out for a bit,” he hears Louis offer, thumbs pressing in and spreading. His voice has gone hoarse. “You look-”

Harry never finds out what he looks like, because Louis apparently gets distracted enough to trail off, and then there are teeth digging into one of his cheeks, sharp enough to make Harry yelp.

“No,” he calls, trying to wiggle free, cock hard and heavy hanging between his legs. “No, fuck me, Louis, you said -”

“Fuck, I know, I know,” Louis mumbles. He straightens and presses himself against Harry, cock sliding along his crack. “Need to find a condom.”

“I- No, the pill, I, no condom, Lou,” he babbles, pushing back, knees sliding apart, blood thrumming. “Want it like this.”

He doesn’t know what he’s saying, only knows this has gone on for long enough and if Louis isn’t inside him now he will surely break down.

“Fuck, this is stupid, don’t let anyone else do this, don’t-” Louis is babbling as well, speech almost as slurred and ininteligible as Harry’s. Harry wants to tell him that he isn’t doing this with anyone else, condom or not, but then Louis is lining himself up and pushing in and all that comes out of Harry’s mouth is a garbled moan. It burns a bit, even as loose and wet as he is, but the last thing he wants is for Louis to pull out.

Everything in him seems to shift to fit Louis, body opening up and skin warming all over. There is a lump in his throat and his breathing comes out in ragged pants. Harry presses his face against his folded arms and grits his teeth. When Louis bottoms out, fingers digging into Harry’s hips, forehead pressed against Harry’s back, Harry swallows and swallows until Louis starts moving.

It’s slow, thrusts so long Harry feels Louis goes on forever, deeper and deeper each time. Harry’s muscles cling on the pull, give way on the push and Louis kisses whatever skin he can reach as Harry tries to stop his head from spinning so he can use a hand to take ahold of himself without falling on his side.

“Alright?” Louis asks, leaning back on his heels and pulling Harry with him. Harry groans and nods, tongue too clumsy to form words. And a good thing that is, because otherwise Harry would be spouting all sorts of truths - like how he is more than alright, like how he wants to be like this all the time, how he hates that he is Louis’ consolation prize but would choose it over nothing over and over again.

Harry doesn’t believe in soulmates (except he does, he can’t even lie to himself) but he’s sure Louis is his. Has to be his. No one makes Harry feel as whole as Louis does.

Louis’ pace quickens, and Harry swears he has never felt as open and full as he does now, biting down on his lip and breathing hard through his nose, eyes screwed shut. Knees bruising on the floor, hips bruising under Louis’ fingers.

When Louis finally reaches around him and put his fingers, wet with Harry’s slick, around his cock, all of Harry goes stiff. It takes no more than half a dozen pulls to make him come, groaning and clenching around Louis so hard Louis stops thrusting and pushes in instead, in, in, in until Harry hears him cry out. He feels the tug of Louis’ knot swelling inside of him, feels the pulsing of his flesh down to his core. Harry’s vision goes white for a few seconds, pleasure exploding from his belly up to the top of his head and the tips of his toes.

He rides his orgasm out, torn between pushing back against Louis’ cock or up into his fist. He’s making noises, muffled against the inside of his own elbow, practically sitting back in Louis’ lap on the floor and shaking all over as Louis holds him, still filling Harry up.

After, they don’t move, both panting. Harry’s dick feels tender in Louis’ grip, his toes are still tingling, and Louis, jerking minutely, is still coming.

“Sorry,” he says, voice strained. “No condom, it’ll be a mess, gotta wait it out a bit. F-fuck .”

“S’what I get for shaggin’ n’alpha,” Harry mumbles, suddenly exhausted. He finds himself back on his stomach, pinned down by Louis’ weight and with no memory of moving. He’s sated, like he’s finally managed to scratch an itch that has been bothering him for too long, and Louis feels good on top of him, and around him, and inside him. Harry can just close his eyes and-

“Don’t go to sleep, you,” Louis warns him. His thighs spasm against the backs of Harry’s and he speaks to the nape of his sweaty neck. “Gotta clean u-up, and you can’t sleep on the f-floor, Jesus , don’t-” His hips jump before he presses them closer again as Harry clenches around him, ignoring Louis’ pinching fingers. “Evil,” he pants.

Harry rolls his hips and smiles when Louis follows the movement even as he complains. Harry is only slightly embarrassed when he gets on his feet later and nearly slips on the wet spot on the floor. Louis doesn’t even laugh at him, too distracted by the sight of Harry used and leaking in front of him.

They manage to reach the bed (and the condoms) for round two.

 

Part two: April to August

 

It’s the 8th and Harry is beginning to worry. Today marks the second month since he went through his last heat and dread is making his stomach roll unpleasantly. He stares at the calendar on his phone and tries to think . Maybe he got it and didn’t notice. It’s rare, but it has happened once or twice before. Sometimes his heats are so mild all he feels is some discomfort for a couple of days, nothing that a few ice-packs and a couple of fresh pants can’t fix, but he can’t remember anything like that happening in a while. His last heat, the one last marked in his calendar, was a tame one, and he knows he spent it at home, eating crisps by himself and watching movies that made him cry more than usual.

He was still getting regular sex back then, though. An active sex life is conductive to less intense heats, he knows, which is why Harry has been dreading his next one for a while.

The last time Harry had sex was fifty-one days ago, a week after his last heat. He’s been expecting his organism to rebel at the loss, has been stocking up on junk food and tea. He even bought a new bottle of lube and got his trusty dildo out of the very back of his bedside table drawer. But his heat never came, and now it’s been two months and Harry is...worried.

Not panicking yet, but getting there.

Harry has always been quite organized and responsible with his body. He eats right, he exercises and he keeps a record of his heats on his phone. He has an alarm set for three pm every day to remind himself to take his birth control and he drinks nine glasses of water daily, at least.

He likes taking care of himself, likes keeping track of things and planning ahead. He’s got this five-year plan all drawn up - a plan that could fall to pieces with the slightest change in his routine. Or, well, actually he used to have a five-year plan, a plan so tight even Gemma was impressed, but most of his organization has admittedly gone to shit since he met Louis.

Louis wasn’t in the plan, not in the original one at least, but in the time Harry’s known him, he’s become an irreplaceable part of his life, sex or not. Louis is the one who takes Harry out to eat the greasiest hamburgers he can find. He’s the one who can convince Harry to skip a gym day, the one who takes him to see scary movies he wouldn’t see by himself. He’s the one who convinced Harry to quit his last job (causing a one-year setback on his carefully drawn schedule) when Harry admitted that it made him miserable. He’s also the only person Harry has had sex with bare.

He’s kind of regretting that one now.

He can only think of two reasons why his heat would be late: either he’s ill or he’s pregnant, and he cannot be pregnant.

Every reason why swirls through his head as he stares blankly at his phone. One, they only did it without a condom once (and a half) and not during his heat. Never during his heat. Two, he never once forgot to take his birth control (he’s almost sure). Three, his plan is to be married for a year before he even starts trying for a baby, and not only is he very, very single, him and Louis aren’t even sleeping together anymore. Which brings him to reason number four why this can’t be happening: Louis. Louis is happy. Louis is dating someone, has even gone past his one-month average. Harry was clearly never a real option for him, not for a romantic relationship anyway. Harry is a good fuck and a good laugh as long as they’re both single, which is not the case anymore.

Louis doesn’t want a baby with Harry.

And what if Louis thinks Harry did it on purpose ? That night is still hazy in his mind, a blur of laughter and heady touches and mumbled words he can’t really make out. Except Harry remembers, quite vividly, how Louis had started to pull away to search for condoms, and his own insistence that it was fine, that they didn’t need them, that it was safe. His own stupidity makes him so angry he feels sick. The thought of Louis thinking the worst of him has him fighting down a wave of tears.

So. He can’t be pregnant. He’s probably ill, he’s been feeling queasy for a few weeks now. He hopes it’s nothing too serious and tamps down on the little voice in his head telling him that being queasy for weeks at a time is a sign of something else besides being ill. He sets up an appointment with his doctor and puts the thought at the very back of his head.

.

Turns out Harry is the healthiest patient Dr. Crown’s ever treated. He’s also seven weeks pregnant. His baby is a little smudge on a little monitor, their heart a fluttering blur, and Harry feels like he’s watching all of this happen to him from outside his own body. He leaves the doctor’s office with a wobbly smile on his face and then locks himself in the bathroom to cry into his hands until the receptionist starts knocking on the door, asking if he’s okay.

.

That night, Harry sits on his bed and draws up a new plan. Telling Louis is out of the question for the moment, he decides. He does the math and figures out he’s seven weeks and four days along, which means he should be due around mid-November. He can probably hide it until June, maybe July. After that, he’s either going to have to talk to Louis or flee the city.

(He wonders if the baby will look like Louis and the thought is enough to make him start hyperventilating for the third time today.)

He probably needs to talk to someone at work, someone in HR or at least his supervisor, but the chances of the news getting out and finding its way to Louis are too great, he can’t risk it. He almost doesn’t want to tell anyone at all, but the need to share it with someone, anyone as long as they’re happy for him and help him look at the bright side, is stronger than his fear of telling the wrong person.

He calls his mum and hangs up on the second ring. He tries again after having a glass of water and a long look in the mirror. He hangs up after the first ring. He’s leaving finger tracks in his hair, making it go all greasy for how much he’s running his sweaty hands over it, and he’s starting to worry his stress is going to be bad for the baby, which makes him more stressed. He can’t go through seven more months of this, he thinks. It's been half a day and he can feel anxiety starting to gnaw at him, making him twitchy and fidgety and sick to his stomach. It feels like the first day of school plus a job interview plus a transatlantic flight all packed into one small lump lodged somewhere along his trachea, except doubled, because from now on, every little decision he makes is going to affect not only him, but this other little being that is half Louis’ and Jesus Christ , he needs to throw up.

He makes it to the toilet, and he’s still retching and wiping his cheeks dry when he hears his mobile ring from the other room.

He groans, knees shaking, and doesn’t even attempt to get up. The porcelain feels good against his warm forehead, even if pressing his face against a toilet (even his) makes him shudder. He feels rotten, eyes and throat burning, belly still all twisted up. Unthinking, he presses his palm against it, sliding his hand underneath his shirt. His skin feels clammy and a little too warm, and of course there’s no bump, not yet, but somehow the touch calms him, even if fresh tears squeeze out of his eyes and he has to bite his lip into his mouth to keep it from wobbling.

This is not how Harry planned this to happen.

Every time Harry let himself imagine this situation he never once pictured himself crying in the loo not out of happiness but of fear and regret, alone and too scared to tell anyone. He pictured himself celebrating, hugging Louis close (because of course Louis was part of his fantasy, of course he was) and kissing him and telling him and seeing his face split into one of those Louis smiles that crinkle his eyes and make his face go bright and soft.

Outside, his phone is ringing again. It’s probably his mum, calling back after Harry’s two failed attempts. He pushes himself up and rests his weight on the sink. It’s startling to see himself in the mirror - he looks pale underneath the red patches on his cheeks, eyes bloodshot and hair standing on end.

Maybe the baby will look like him, have his eyes and his dimples. Maybe Harry doesn’t have to tell Louis the truth at all.

He shakes the thought away as soon as it pops into his head, feeling selfish and horrible for entertaining the idea even for a second. He would never do that to Louis, would never lie to him about something like this, but he’s scared, feels desperately lonely in his empty flat, knowing Louis is out with his beta boyfriend, whom he can shag bare as much as he wants without having to worry about anyone getting accidentally knocked up.

Harry’s mum has been lecturing him about safety and consequences since his first day in year five. He’s the baby of the family, the only omega after a long line of betas, and it’s not like he never listened, it’s not like he didn’t understand , but it’s just now sinking in for the first time: he’s fucked up, and he’s gone a dragged Louis into it as well.

Harry has never been bitter about his gender (not counting when he was a teenager and his hormones were out of control and his heats were unpredictable and brutal) but he wishes now, at least a little bit, to have been born something, anything, else.

He washes his teeth twice, until his tongue in tingling and he can taste nothing but mint. He splashes water on his face and pushes his hair back, water dripping down the back of his neck.

When he goes back into his room, there’s a missed call from his mum on his phone and another one from Louis. Harry is pressing on Louis’ name before he can think better of it, suddenly desperate to hear his voice.

“Haz,” he answers on the first ring and Harry’s eyes well up instantly. “How’s it going? Miss me yet?”

“I always miss you,” he says, too earnest. It’s nothing he hasn’t said before, but even he can hear the honesty behind the words. It obviously gives him away, because instead of playing along, Louis’ tone turns serious.

“What’s wrong? You sound odd, something happen?”

“I’m fine,” Harry says, forcing a smile even though Louis can’t see him. “Just...just a bit ill.”

“Aw, poor baby,” Louis coos. “Want me to come cuddle you?”

God, yes , please , Harry thinks.

“Don’t you have a date?” he asks instead, hating himself for not taking up on Louis’ offer before he misses his chance.

“He’s got to work. I actually called to see if you wanted to go out, but not if you don’t feel well.” There’s noise on Louis’ side of the line, street noise. Probably already on the way to a pub, then. “I’m by your place, want me to go up? I’ll make you tea and rub your shoulders.”

He offers the last bit as if he’s dangling a treat just out of Harry’s reach, as if Harry would need convincing.

Five minutes later, Louis lets himself in.

Harry is curled into a ball on the sofa and he has one terrifying second of panic where he thinks Louis is going to be able to tell before he sees that Louis is not looking at him in despair and horror, but softly concerned.

“You were serious,” he says, voice hushed and eyes worried. He dumps his jacket and his bag by the door, kicking his shoes off as he approaches. When his fingers slip into Harry’s damp hair, Harry can’t help the whimper that escapes him. “Thought you were tricking me for cuddles, that you were angry with me ‘cause I’ve been so busy lately.”

Busy shagging your new boyfriend, Harry thinks, jealous and sad and turning bitter with it. He hates that about himself but he can’t help it. Louis’ hands should always be on him .

“You don’t feel warm,” Louis says, almost to himself. He takes Harry’s face in his hands and tilts it up and Harry is melting, his heart beating madly against his chest. “Have you been crying?”

Harry opens his mouth to deny it but it’s no use - Louis knows him too well and it’s not like it’s not obvious he’s spent most of the day bawling - his eyes are practically swollen into slits by now.

He shrugs instead, and shuffles to the edge of the seat so he can put his arms around Louis’ waist and hide his face in his tummy. Louis’ fingers don’t leave his hair, running through the damp strands as he hums.

“Bad day at work?” he asks gently. Harry can’t even remember what happened at work today. He shakes his head, rubbing his face against Louis’ jumper and inhaling the familiar scent. He knows Louis doesn’t mind, know that he scents Harry too, all the time. It’s just another unusual thing they do, like feeding each other and having sex sometimes, like they’re a real couple and not only really, really close friends.

Sighing, Harry pulls away.

“M’sick, I told you,” he says, keeping his eyes down. He has this urge all of a sudden, this need to put his hand on his belly, cover up or check he’s really not showing yet. But he’s scared of being too obvious, Louis’ eyes on him always too sharp. He brings his knees up instead, and hides his face against them. They’re bony, and his nose is kinda smushed to the side. He misses Louis’ body against his.

“Shall I call a doctor?” Louis asks, and now he sounds unsure and the lump in Harry’s throat grows, nearly choking him. “Want me to ring my mum?”

God, his mum , who has no idea she’s going to become a grandmother soon, who was so, so nice to Harry the times they met, invited him into her home and fed him and let him play with her younger kids. Harry swallows thickly before answering.

“Just tea’s fine,” he mumbles against his knees. “Sorry.”

“Don’t say sorry for being sick, babe,” Louis says, already retreating towards the kitchen. Harry wishes he wouldn’t call him babe , not when he has a real boyfriend to exchange endearments with. “How about some food? Toast?”

“Okay,” Harry rasps out. He’s sure that Louis can’t hear him, but he carries a plate of toast into the room a few minutes later anyway, along with Harry’s favourite mug, filled to the brim.

“Open up,” Louis says, and Harry could start crying again at the way Louis holds a piece of toast up to his mouth, eyes dancing. He takes a bite big enough to nearly get Louis’ fingers between his teeth along with the bread.

It goes like that, Harry curled into his sad little ball and Louis feeding him and being sweet and patronizing all at once, patting his head and praising him when he finishes his food. The tea is just the way Harry likes it, even though Louis normally makes it his way no matter who’s drinking it. Harry gulps half of it down before it even occurs to him to think that maybe he’s not allowed to have tea anymore.

He opens his mouth to ask Louis before his brain catches up to him and he clams right up, body jerking.

“Alright?” Louis asks, eyes narrowing slightly. He definitely knows Harry is not telling him something, is probably trying to soften him up before prying it out of him. Harry nods, lips against the rim of his cup. He doesn’t dare drink more, not until he goes online to check if it’s safe. “Are you feeling a little better?”

“Yeah,” Harry says, voice rough. He should just tell Louis the truth now. It’s the right thing to do, he knows. But Louis is looking at him so softly, he’s acting just like he usually does, gentle and caring and like nothing exists outside of their little bubble, and as confusing as it always is, Harry doesn’t want it to change. He doesn’t want them to change.

Because the thing is that Harry is sure that Louis only sees him as a friend. They have professed their love for each other loads of times in a million different ways, but Harry only meant to tell Louis he’s in love with him once. It was back when they first started sleeping together, back when the lines were still blurry and Harry didn’t know what he was doing but he wasn’t planning on stopping. Back when Louis having feelings for him still felt like something that could happen. He told Louis he loved him and meant it, naked and spent, head still spinning, breathing still ragged. Louis smiled, his head on Harry’s pillow and his face so close their noses brushed when they spoke. Louis smiled and told him he loved him, too.

Harry remembers feeling as if he was floating all of a sudden, elated, chest broad and full. But it took no more than a second for Louis to shoot him down with a hurried: “You’re my best friend, ‘course I love you. Best friend, best cock, best lay.”

Harry remembers feeling his heart breaking a bit. Not so much from Louis’ words - something in him still preened at being called the best anything, especially by Louis - but at the panic in Louis’ eyes, his haste to clarify that of course he didn’t mean he loved Harry more than the normal amount reserved for a friend you also occasionally fucked or let fuck you.

Harry laughed (or something like it) and hid his face against Louis’ chest.

“Nothing about my bum?” he forced out and felt Louis sigh.

“Best bum. Best everything, really.” He put his arms around Harry, their legs bumping together over the ruined covers. “Best Harry.”

Harry doesn’t want Louis to think the worst of him. He doesn’t want to stop being Louis’ best everything.

He keeps his mouth shut.

.

Once Harry comes to terms with the fact that he is, indeed, pregnant, he starts actually noticing it. Suddenly, his jeans don’t quite fit anymore. Not only do they not close around his hips, but he has to struggle to get them over his thighs. He flops about in bed every morning while he gets dressed, cursing and whining and sometimes getting a little teary, pulling his trousers up by the belt loops and refusing to dig into his closet for looser ones until he absolutely has to.

At the four month mark, he absolutely has to.

There’s also the fact that he’s sick for a month straight, in the mornings and in the evenings, which apparently is something that happens to some lucky people like him. He gets horrible migraines, so strong he calls in sick to work three days in a row one week and stays in the dark of his flat, only getting up to eat and then puke his guts out in the toilet. The little space between the sink and the tub has become almost like a second home to him by the time he slips into the second trimester, he even keeps a folded up towel there as a cushion.

It doesn’t feel magical or wonderful, not when he has to divide his food in ‘makes me sick’ and ‘makes me a little less sick’ groups, or when he stares at the ever-growing pudge of his belly, soft and spilling over his waistband. It doesn’t feel miraculous when he has to sit by himself and re-budget his life because babies are expensive and he needs to prepare for it, has to look for a bigger flat, has to buy furniture and clothes and nappies. So many bloody nappies.

It doesn’t feel like the most precious moments of his life when he spends hours at a time holding his phone in his hands and talking himself out of calling Louis.

A month after Harry’s first doctor appointment, Louis is still dating his beta, is still busy with work, texting Harry more than they see each other, calling him on nights when he stays in, too tired to make plans. A part of Harry is glad Louis is a little distant, it takes the temptation of telling him away. But Harry also knows that every week that goes by is another centimeter added to his waistline.

(They run into each other once, walking home from work, and Harry panics. He drops the grocery bags he’s carrying and then has to kneel on the sidewalk and pick everything up, Louis laughing and helping him as he calls him a disaster. Later, when he goes in for hug, Harry recoils, all too aware of how different his body feels to the touch, of the scent that must be starting to make itself apparent. Louis looks hurt and Harry tries to laugh it off.

“I’m just, um, really sweaty.”

“It’s ten degrees, lad,” Louis tells him, a put off frown on his face. Harry is not one to refuse cuddles.

“Yeah, well, you know me. With my...sweat.”)

Harry knows that there will come a time when Louis will be able to tell the truth at a glance, and he wants to get as much Louis time as he can while he can still hide it, even if it’s through text. Before things change for good. Before Louis finds out Harry’s been hiding this from him and realises Harry’s a horrible person.

God, what is he doing ?

He asks himself that question nearly every day, phone trembling in his hand, stomach all cramped up. And every time his thumb hovers over the call button, his own voice comes to mind, no condom, Lou, want it like this , and his resolve to come clean crumbles.

So, weeks pass, and Harry’s belly grows and one day he goes in for a check-up and an ultrasound and when the doctor shows him the screen, there’s a baby there. Not a smudge, or a pixelated little blot, but an actual baby with two hands and one visible leg and a heart that beats loud for Harry to hear when the doctor presses the wand just right.

It’s not like Harry didn’t know he was a having a baby, of course. He’s just been trying so hard not to think about it - about the fact that he made a person - that he’s taken by surprise, tears springing to his eyes as soon as he looks at the screen. Guilt and joy warr inside him. He’s been so wrapped up in his own crisis that he’s forgotten to think of all the wonderful things a baby means, all the things he used to fantasize about, dreamy and short of writing his and Louis’ names all over his notebooks, surrounded by little hearts.

There’s a baby in his belly. A baby with wee little fingers and toes. A baby who’s going to look up to him, who’s going to call him Dad , who’s going to laugh and cry and call Harry’s dingy flat their home.

Harry stares at the baby’s profile on the monitor, swallowing down tears. He wants his mum there with him, but he still hasn’t told her, afraid of her judging him. Of her being disappointed of the mess he’s made. Of her pushing him to tell Louis, like Harry doesn’t know it’s the right thing to do. He just wants someone to hold his hand and tell him it’s going to be fine .

But it’s just him and the doctor in the room, and it’s all Harry’s fault.

That night, when he’s home and cooking supper with the TV on for company, Louis texts him about going out. They haven’t seen each other in weeks.

Having dinner with Gemma! Harry replies, and lying is so much easier when no one’s there to listen to his voice or see his face. Have fun!

But I haven’t seen u in forever !

Harry smiles to himself, almost caving before he reminds himself why he can’t. If he sees Louis he’ll either have to tell him or straight up lie. With words he’ll have to say out loud. Louis won’t buy anything Harry says for a second. Besides, he’s finally taken his clothes off, and he’s feeling comfortable for the first time today.

He replies, You’re the one who got himself a bf

Louis sends him a sad smiley and an emoji of a middle finger and doesn’t text Harry again. Harry tries not to let it bother him. If this were any other time, and he really were having dinner with his sister, he would tell Louis to bugger off and not think about it again.

Instead, it stings and he feels so fucking lonely his throat goes tight.

He blames the hormones.

Later, when he’s already in bed and has pushed all the bedding to the floor because he’s overheating like a furnace, he decides he’s glad he doesn’t have to share with anyone. Just thinking about another body crowded close to his while he’s sweating through the sheets makes him want to squirm in discomfort.

He’s in the looser pair of pants he owns - a pair of boxers he can’t remember ever buying. He wants to open the window but he’s scared of getting a cold in his sleep, scared of too many things really, some more rational than others. He can’t fall asleep, keeps tossing and turning trying to find a position that works for everyone involved. The clock on his bedside reads three in the morning.

Harry wants to cry, kick his feet against the mattress and fling his pillows against the wall. Instead he lies on his back and stretches his limbs as far as they go. The movement makes his belly twinge and pull in the weirdest way, like something is tugging on his belly button from the inside. He’s still not used to the feeling.

When he looks down, eyes long since adjusted to the darkness, there’s a bump. There wasn’t a bump there yesterday. Not that Harry saw, at least. It sits low, skin stretched taut over it, and when Harry sucks in his stomach as much as he can, it’s still there.

He touches two fingers to it and presses down gently. It’s firm, and fuck, Harry is crying after all. He just- He wishes he could roll over and share this with someone. Because that’s his kid, he can see them.

Swallowing, Harry opens his mouth.

“Hey,” he tells the bump, softly because the baby can probably hear his quietest whisper and is probably sleeping. “I see you.”

He’s not sure how long he stays awake after that, but by the time the sun is starting to rise he’s changed his mind about sharing the bed. Who wouldn’t, with bedmates as lovely as his?

.

Every day Harry wakes up a little bigger and every day he regrets not telling Louis the truth the day before. It becomes part of his routine - get up, asses how sick he feels, touch his belly with his hands splayed wide and think: yesterday would have been okay, but I’m too big today, it’s too late.

At work, some of the alphas have started looking at him a little askance. Harry knows they can probably smell it on him, that he’s pregnant and not mated. He knows he smells sweet and fertile and that he’s putting on weight in places he can’t hide. He knows that everyone can tell he’s single because there’s not a hint of Louis’ scent left on any of his clothes, not a trace on his skin. He hasn’t seen Louis in over two months now, since they bumped into each other that time. They talk nearly every day, and Harry has an excuse ready everytime Louis asks to see him.

Going to a film!

Stayed late at work, wont be done for hours :(

Got a headache Lou sorry I miss u

Louis doesn’t call him out, but he does stop suggesting meeting up. He’s probably angry and Harry hates it but it’s nothing compared to the kind of angry he’d be if he knew the real reason Harry won’t see him.

Harry bites his lip into his mouth and sends Louis a picture he found online of a kitten with pink and yellow ribbons on its head. Eight long minutes pass before he gets a reply:

Why are you sending me pictures of yourself?

It makes Harry grin down at his mobile like an idiot. He’s thinking of what to say next when he hears someone clear their throat and he looks up to see Eric from IT standing by his desk.

Harry is not surprised - Eric’s been wandering up and down the corridor outside Harry’s cubicle for days - but he’s still annoyed. He can see the bloke’s nostrils flare and the unsubtle way he tries to hide it. Harry resists the urge to lean away.

“Hello,” he says, because it doesn’t hurt to be polite. “Having a good day?”

“Good, yeah, long. You?” Harry’s almost sure he’s never had a conversation with Eric before that wasn’t about setting up a printer or restoring one of his passwords. Then again, some alphas have a problem with approaching omegas who smell too strongly of someone else, as if that means they have been claimed and not worth talking to anymore. Harry doesn’t even know Eric, but he grabs onto this thought and clings to it, happy for an excuse to let himself be irritated.

Smelling like someone else hasn’t been an issue for Harry for a while and he hates it.

He also hates the way Eric’s eyes keep drifting down to Harry’s stomach. He’s wearing a jumper a size too big and he knows he’s not showing enough to draw the eye yet, but he still wants to curl in on himself and shield his body from view.

“So,” Eric draws out, hands in his trouser pockets. “What’s new?”

“Same old,” Harry says, strained. He’s got his body turned away, eyes barely leaving his computer screen. It couldn’t be more obvious that he’s not interested in any kind of conversation. Still Eric stands just inside Harry’s cubicle, the scent of his cologne and that bitter something that all alphas seem to carry with them drifting into Harry’s space and turning his stomach. It’s nothing like Louis’ scent, which always feels comforting and familiar.

“Yeah,” Eric says, apropos of nothing. When Harry chances a quick look at him he can see that his eyes are still trained to Harry’s middle. “So...who’s the father?”

Harry blanches, dropping his hand to his lap and tugging on his jumper before he can think better of it.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, is it supposed to be a secret? ‘cause you’ve got half the floor wondering.”

“That- That isn’t anyone’s business,” he says, peering over the walls and catching a few people looking away.

“You know they can write you up for showing up like that unmated.”

“What d’you mean ‘showing up like that’?” Harry is bristling. There aren’t many omegas working on his floor. The whole place is mostly beta-dominated, except for a couple of alphas like Eric who walk around like they own the place.

“I mean everyone can smell you’re up the spout, love.” Harry grits his teeth. “And everyone knows you’re unclaimed.”

Harry whirls his chair towards Eric and gets on his feet, pleased to notice he’s a little taller than the other man. Alphas never like it when Harry is taller than them.

“Unclaimed?” he asks. “Are we back in the middle ages?”

Eric rolls his eyes, arms crossed over his chest.

“It’s just a word, sweetheart. Don’t make a scene.”

“Can you stop with the pet names? I don’t even know you.”

“Doesn’t seem to be a problem for you.”

The words are a slap, harsh and dismissive and unsurprising, but still hurtful. On instinct, he reaches for his stomach again, but he stops halfway there, hands hovering. Eric raises his eyebrows, a smile on his face. When he takes a step closer Harry can’t help but flinch. He shakes himself out of it and stands straighter.

“I need to go.” He grabs his phone from his desk without turning his back on the other man and waits for Eric to move. Eric smiles wider and stays put.

“I’m not stopping you.”

Biting his lip and trying to keep infuriated tears at bay, Harry slips between Eric and the opening left between his desk and the wall. He brushes against Eric’s side and shudders, nose filling with the strange scent he knows is going to be stinking up his cubicle when he returns.

He can feel people looking at him as he makes his way down the corridor towards the restrooms, silently praying no one is following him.

This is what his mum always warned him about. This is what being single and pregnant is going to be like - it’s only going to get worse the further along he gets. And he knows he can’t even report it because it’ll get shrugged off as alphas following their instincts and Harry should know better anyway, there are scent-blockers he can use, after all. Nevermind that the pills make him ill and the spray version seems dangerous for the baby.

He reaches the loo and goes into a stall. There are so few omegas working at this place that it always feels like he’s got his own personal restroom. He still closes the stall door and locks it, breathing hard through his nose to keep himself from crying.

It shouldn’t be like this. If things were like they’re supposed to, no one would dare to do what Eric just did. If he was mated and drenched in Louis’ scent like he’s meant to, every alpha in the city would keep their distance and wouldn’t even dare to look at him for a second too long.

(If things were like they’re supposed to, no one would do what Eric did regardless of anyone’s relationship status, everyone would be respectful and kind and Harry would be proud to show off his bump, alpha by his side or not.)

He lifts his phone and opens up a new text.

Hi Lou :)

It takes Louis less than a minute to reply.

Hey hazza, u already said hi before

Right, they’d been texting before.

Haha ur right :), he sends and for some reason that’s what makes him start crying. He wants to call Louis and tell him about Eric and listen to him yell about entitlement and about how some alphas should be neutered and then ask Harry if he’s okay and offer to buy him ice-cream “ on behalf of all of us twats. ” It’s not the first time Harry has felt appalled and powerless in front of an alpha at work, but it is the first time he can’t - won’t - tell Louis the whole story if he asks.

Of course Louis asks.

Whats wrong? Louis sends, as if he can sense Harry’s upset even though Harry said ‘haha and added a smiley face. You’ve been acting weird..

Harry is in the middle of trying to think of a reply when his phone starts buzzing in his hand. He panics for a second when he sees Louis is calling him, and then takes a breath and answers.

“Hey,” he says, a little stuffy with tears but he’s willing to pretend he sounds alright if Louis does, too.

“Are you crying in the loo? I can hear the echo,” is what Louis opens with and Harry has to laugh. Of course Louis is not going to pretend - he’s not a liar like Harry. He’s honest and to-the-point and fierce. Harry doesn’t deserve him and he misses him like crazy. “Was someone a prick to you?”

“M’not crying,” Harry argues as he wipes his cheeks dry, like making the tears disappear is going to make what he’s saying true. “I’ve got a cold.”

“Yeah, a cold,” Louis says and Harry can picture him rolling his eyes, can hear the bitterness underlying his words. He tangles his fingers in his hair and pulls a little, elbows on his knees. “Been ill a lot lately, have you?”

“I guess,” Harry says, swallowing around another sob, pushing everything he knows he has to tell Louis down . “Been working.”

“Yeah, been quite busy as well,” Louis says, and Harry’s heart hurts because now Louis sounds sad and unsure instead of angry and Harry can’t handle that. “I haven’t seen you in months, H. Did I- did I do something?”

“No!” Harry cries out, a little too loud, a little too fast, but he can’t let Louis think for one second that he’s the one who messed up here. “No, you haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been busy, and I haven’t been feeling well. And you’ve been going out with-”

“I haven’t been going out with anyone. Not for weeks. And what? D’you only want to see me when I’m single so we can fuck?” Louis is hissing the words into Harry’s ear, low like he’s sitting at work and trying not to be heard by anyone around him.

“No, Lou, that’s not-”

“Because that’s a bit shit of you, Harry. We were friends before we started with all that, yeah? We’re friends first, right?”

“Yeah, Lou, we’re friends,” Harry is blubbering, he can’t help it. He feels sick again, anxious and shaky. He pulls on his hair and wipes his nose on his shoulder. Hunched over as he is, he can feel the curve of his belly pressing up against his ribs. “M’sorry, I miss you, I don’t-” He gasps a little, eyes squeezing shut and nose burning. He’s a mess and he still has the rest of the workday to go through. He has to go out onto the floor again and walk past the low walls of all the cubicles lining the corridor and pretend he didn’t run away to the loo to have a cry.

“Hey,” Louis calls, soft again. “Hey, it’s okay. Haz, I don’t really think that. I mean, you made me wonder but...I know you. I know that’s not you. Don’t cry, love.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry whimpers again. “Sorry.”

“I’m sorry for making you cry,” Louis says. “I’m just worried about you. No one’s seen you in a while. I…I know you haven’t seen your sister, either. I asked her.”

Harry whines, hiding his face behind his free hand.

“Are you in trouble?” Louis asks and Harry bites his lip into his mouth because he’s very close to blurting everything out and he. He can’t. He doesn’t want to hear Louis’ voice go hard again. He doesn’t want to say it over the phone, sitting on a plastic toilet lid.

“No,” he mumbles. “No, not in trouble.”

“Can I see you, then? Tonight?”

Yes. Yesyesyes . Harry wants to say yes so badly, yet the thought of confronting Louis so soon, with his belly bulging and his scent all sweet and obvious, sends a spike of fear through him. He’s not ready. He’s not ready, he’ll never be ready, it’s too late, he waited too long and now he’s ruined everything.

“I-” He starts, and has no idea how to follow. Lying is already hard enough when he has a plan. Lying on the spot is nearly impossible for him. “I...can’t.”

Why ?”

Louis sounds hurt and a little angry and Harry doesn’t know what to say.

“I just can’t,” he says weakly, heart racing, sweat breaking out along his hairline. He’s about to have a panic attack and he’s afraid he might pass out. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” Louis says and Harry is not sure if he sounds distant or he’s just starting to go faint. “Yeah, me, too.”

.

Harry doesn’t pass out, but he does stay in the loo for another thirty minutes after Louis hangs up, until one of the omega girls from payroll comes to check on him. After crying on her for a little bit, he goes upstairs to HR. After a long meeting, forwarding them the results he got from his doctor on his last check-up, and ignoring the curious glances he gets from everyone within hearing distance, Harry is allowed to take his work laptop home for what’s left of the week.

There are people in his office who know people who know Louis, and he prays with all his might the news doesn’t reach him. It’s going to be bad enough when Louis hears it from him - Harry can’t even imagine what it would be like if Louis heard it out of the rumour mill that goes between his and Harry’s office.

.

Louis doesn’t text. He doesn’t call, he doesn’t tag him in any silly Instagram post he comes across. Harry tries not to think too much about it, but everytime his mind wanders, his thoughts immediately go to Louis, and his hands to his belly.

He’s big, nearly six months along now, bloated and awkward but not sick anymore, and not nearly as exhausted as he was at the beginning. He works from home three days a week, mostly to avoid people, in his pants and with his feet up on the arm of the sofa more often than not. It’s a nice arrangement - he even got himself a small tray with foldable legs that fits over his belly so he can rest his laptop without feeling like he’s crushing the baby.

The baby - Peanut, Duckie, Wilson the Volleyball, depending on the day - is the best company Harry could ask for. They’re always close by, for one, and always cuddly. They’re good listeners, and haven’t had any weird cravings so far. Also, they’ve started to move sometimes. Harry hasn’t been able to feel it against his palms yet, but he feels the fluttering and the squirming inside and every time he freezes and waits it out, not wanting to interrupt.

He’s at home one Friday night, slumped on his sofa and texting Niall that, no, he’s not going out with him and the lads, when his front door bursts open.

Or maybe it doesn’t burst open, but Harry’s so immersed in typing his latest excuse that he doesn’t hear the click of the lock coming undone. Instead he hears a voice, sudden and loud and inside , and he jumps with a yelp, phone flying out of his hands.

“Don’t make me have to drag you outside, Styles!” Niall shouts, standing in Harry’s flat with red cheeks and furrowed brows. “You’re being a twat, you-” He cuts himself off, of course, because Harry is sitting there, shirtless and huge and caught .

Harry watches Niall fishmouth for a few seconds, eyes wide and trained on Harry’s belly and Harry can’t move. All of a sudden, he hears blood rushing in his ears, his heart thumping against his temples as his face grows hot and his eyes well up and his chest goes really tight. Just before his vision blurs, he sees Niall’s face smooth out in realisation.

“Fuck,” Harry hears him mutter, and then there’s a thump as the front door closes again but Harry doesn’t know which side of it Niall is because his face is in his hands and he’s heaving. When he feels a touch on his shoulder, his first instinct is to move away. He flinches, swallowing big, wet breaths, but then Niall grabs his arm and pulls, and Harry goes limp.

Niall puts both arms around Harry’s shoulders and lets him hide his face in his shoulder and he’s warm, and solid, and it feels so nice to be close to another person after so long that Harry claws at Niall’s shirt and holds on, not wanting the hug to end.

“What the fuck, Harry?” Niall asks, squeezing him so tight Harry’s belly presses against him. “Are you really-”

Harry nods, burrowing in even closer, ashamed and relieved and too scared to look up.

“Why didn’t you say something? Who-” He feels Niall go tense and whimpers, knowing what’s coming. “Shit, it’s Louis’, isn’t it? Harry, why-”

“I don’t know,” he mumbles and Niall says nothing for a moment.

“You don’t know if it’s Louis’?” He asks eventually and it shocks Harry enough that he pulls away to look him in the eye.

“No, of course Louis is- Of course they’re Louis’. I just,” he swallows, “I don’t know...why I haven’t said anything.”

It’s a lie, his millionth one at this point, and Niall squints at him before scowling.

“That’s bullshit, mate. He’s worried sick about you, you git. He sent me to check on you, what am I supposed to tell him now?”

In a second, Harry’s back to panicking.

“You can’t say anything,” he says in a rush. He feels exposed, and big, and he can’t remember where he left his shirt but he needs to cover up. He puts his arms around himself, but it only draws Niall’s eyes back down to his belly and he gawks all over again.

“Jesus fuck,” he says. “You’re huge. How long- No, no, I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me anything.”

“Why- why not?” Harry asks, and suddenly wants to tell Niall absolutely everything.

“Because Tommo doesn’t know,” Niall says. “Does he?”

Harry shakes his head no. With a sigh, Niall falls back against the sofa, fingers running through his hair.

“This is insane,” he says to the ceiling before looking at Harry again. There’s something hard in his gaze, disapproving, but it melts away a moment later, and Harry feels himself relax slightly. Niall nods towards Harry’s middle with a resigned curl to his mouth. “Am I getting a niece or a nephew, then?”

Harry smiles, fresh tears running down his cheeks.

“It’s supposed to be a surprise,” he says, voice wobbly.

Niall throws his arms up with a huff before reaching out. “Can I?”

He waits for Harry to nod before poking a finger on the top of Harry’s belly.

“That’s fuckin’ weird,” he mutters, pressing down until Harry squirms. “I thought it’d be softer. Does it move?”

“They’re not an ‘it’,” Harry says, drying his face with the heel of his hand. “And not yet.”

Niall splays his hand wide. His palm is warm and he’s the only person besides Harry and his doctor who’s touched his belly like this. It’s nice, friendly and comforting, and Harry hopes the baby can feel it.

“I’m sorry, I’m still...processing,” Niall says a few seconds later, withdrawing. “Your sister doesn’t know.”

It’s not a question. Harry shakes his head.

“Have you told anyone ? What are you, like, five months along?”

“Six,” Harry says and Niall winces and drags his hands down his face. “People at work know.”

“And?”

“And...my doctor.”

“Jesus Christ, Harry. What, are you... are you giving it away?”

“What?! No !”

“Well, I don’t know what to think, mate! You look about to burst and you’re keeping it secret and making up all these reasons why you can’t meet with us, I-” Niall huffs, deflating. “We all thought you were shagging someone and didn’t want Tommo to know.”

Harry lets out a laugh at that, bitter and dry.

“He’s the one- He’s-” The words get tangled up on the way out. Harry doesn’t even know what he wants to say. It’s not like Louis ever promised anything other than what they did. He always made it perfectly clear that they would never be more than friends, shagging Harry but still looking for someone else, someone better. “He doesn’t want a kid with me.” Louis’ had plenty of chances to choose Harry and he’s never taken any.

Niall makes an incredulous face, eyes dipping down to Harry’s belly again like he can’t help himself.

“You two really need to have a talk,” he says.

“Niall-”

“Look, I’m not gonna say anything but...I’m not gonna lie to him if he asks. Talk to him before he goes mad or one of the lads kills him, alright? He’s a right twat when he’s sad.”

“He’s sad?” Harry asks, a lump forming in his throat again. Niall looks at him like he’s stupid, and yes, Harry feels stupid all the time lately. Pregnant and stupid and a second away from a breakdown.

“You disappeared and he misses you,” Niall tells him, touching the tip of his fingers to Harry’s belly again. “Guess you’ve been by yourselves all this time, huh?”

Harry wants to say that it’s okay, he isolated himself, he made the choice, but he’s so relieved to see Niall, to talk to him, so relieved that someone knows , that he can’t do more than nod. Niall groans and drops his head back against the headrest.

“You’re a sorry sight, Styles.”

“Hey,” Harry complains, but he’s smiling, a little.

“Guess I’ll stay in and keep you company, since you’re in no condition to be drinking.”

“Really?” Harry asks, ridiculously glad. He’s missed people. He’s missed company that he can actually see, that he can have a two-way conversation with. In the last few months, Harry’s come to realise he’s not built to be by himself for too long. Niall is no Louis - he doesn’t fill every little sliver of space the way Louis does, doesn’t make Harry’s skin break out in goosebumps when he laughs - but Harry loves him all the same.

“Don’t sound so happy, it’s making me sad,” Niall says. “Let’s order a pizza. Can you...still eat pizza? Does it- Do they like it?”

“Dunno,” Harry says. “We can try it.”

“Go put some clothes on, then.” Niall waves him off. “I’ve already seen too much tonight.”

Harry goes, laughing and a little unsteady on his feet with relief. Once safe in his room, he rests his forehead against the door and takes a breath. He can feel the baby squirming inside him, probably over-excited after Harry’s emotional rollercoaster, and he smooths his hands down the sides of his belly, up and down, over and over until they both calm down.

He finds a shirt and a pair of joggers to slip over his pants, the elastic worn enough not to pinch even though he knows he’s going to overheat before the pizza arrives, and when he goes back into the living room, Niall’s on his phone.

Harry’s stomach drops. He stands, frozen in place, absolutely certain Niall’s speaking to Louis. His face must be showing his panic, because as soon as he sees him, Niall puts a placating hand up.

“He’s staying in,” he’s saying into the reciever, eyes on Harry. “I’m gonna hang out for a bit and then head home. Nah, m’knackered. I’m serious.” He pauses as Louis says something Harry can’t hear. “Listen,” Niall says, and he’s talking to both of them, “talk to him, yeah? I don’t want to play messenger.”

Harry twists his shirt in his hands and looks away.

.

Two weeks later, Niall shows up unannounced again, this time laden with bags. He lets himself into Harry’s flat just as Harry is thinking about maybe getting up from the sofa to take a shower. As soon as Niall sets his things down on the coffee table, he wrinkles his nose.

“You gotta reek for me to be able to smell it, mate,” he says. As a beta, Niall’s nose is not very sensitive. Harry knows that his scent is going to keep turning sweeter and stronger the further along he is, though, which is why he’s started to do his shopping online. In a traditional situation, the scent of an alpha would be strong enough to tamp down his own. Louis’- An alpha’s scent would keep people from staring when Harry waddles into a shop, it would keep other alphas from approaching him on the street, or older omegas from pursing their lips at him in disapproval.

Harry doesn’t want to care what anyone thinks about him, but there’s a limit to his nonchalance. He can feel himself cracking more and more every time someone gives him a pointed look or whispers about him the few times a week he ventures into his office. It was a little easier when he could at least talk to Louis to distract himself, but since their last phone call Harry hasn’t had the courage, not even with Niall pushing him to reach out every day. They haven’t so much as texted each other, and it hurts, even if Harry knows Louis asks Niall for updates that Niall can only half-provide.

“Aren’t there scent blockers you can use?” Niall asks as he rummages through his bags. Harry is slumped in a corner of the sofa - it took him half and hour to find the perfect position and he doesn’t want to move unless he absolutely has to.

“They make me ill,” he says. He never tried again after the first couple of months when everything made him ill, but he’s indoors and by himself most of the time, who cares if he smells? It’s not like he wants to go out when his ankles are swollen to twice their usual size and ache with every step he takes. “What’s all this?” Harry asks, fighting the bitterness down, and points at the heaps on bags in front of him.

“Gifts!” Niall announces and plucks a package out of a colourful bag and drops it in Harry’s lap. “This place needs to start looking baby-ready.”

Harry has been dipping into his savings for a couple of months, stocking up on nappies and formula and all the essentials. He found a cot and a buggy that miraculously didn’t empty his bank account and put them in the storage space in his building’s basement (meaning he tipped his building caretaker very, very generously to help him and ignored every filthy comment the man murmured under his breath as he wrangled the boxes down the stairs). He even cleared a drawer in his dresser and filled it with wee little bodysuits, hats and socks in every colour he could find.

Niall gives him toys. Stuffed animals in different sizes and a mobile for the cot, rubber ducks and boats for the bath, and a tiny plastic guitar that the baby won’t see until they are at least four. Harry sits on the sofa, surrounded by wrapping paper and a little overwhelmed while Niall shows him toy after toy, speaking half to Harry and half to his bump.

“Niall,” Harry says when he finally finds his voice. “You didn’t have to.”

“You’re the first one of us with a little one,” Niall says with a roll of his eyes and a shrug. “You’re obviously gonna get spoiled.”

Harry bites his lip to keep himself from blurting out something stupid, like how he won’t be the only one, Louis is going to be having a little one as well, but Niall already looks like he knows everything Harry is not saying. He stares at Harry, mouth set and eyebrows pulled in at the middle until Harry looks away.

“Talked to Louis yet?” he asks, plucking the guitar’s plastic strings at random. When Harry shakes his head, Niall sighs and starts going through another bag. “You should make a list of the stuff you need. Got a crib yet?”

“I, yeah, I’ve got one. S’downstairs.”

Niall nods.

“I think that’s it,” he says, sitting next to Harry and putting a plush rabbit with a tag still attached to its ear on Harry’s belly. “What do you say, squirt?”

Harry rests his head back and tries really hard not to start crying. He’s not what anyone would call stoic and composed on a regular day, but ever since his first doctor appointment he’s been on the verge of tears almost constantly. Just before Niall arrived, Harry teared up when he couldn’t reach the AC remote without rolling over. He wants to blame the hormones wreaking havoc on his body, but deep down he knows that’s not the real reason.

“They say thank you,” he says, meeting Niall’s eye and managing a smile. “You’re their favourite uncle.”

“The only uncle they’ve met, you mean.”

Harry winces. Over the last weeks Niall has been giving Harry little jabs - reminders that he thinks what Harry’s doing is wrong, that he is not happy about being in on the secret, that there are other people in Harry’s life who deserve to know what’s happening. He’s given Harry a talk about what his mum will feel when she finds out so late in the game, what Gemma will do to both of them as soon as she knows what they’ve been hiding. He’s brought Harry printouts of studies made to prove that affection and human contact are very important for the baby’s development and that basically say Harry is ruining their life by being a recluse and not getting hugged on a regular basis.

He knows Niall has noble intentions, but every time he leaves, Harry has to sit and collect himself. He’s lost control of what he’s doing a long time ago and has no idea how to get it back. Nothing Niall tells him is news to him and having it said out loud doesn’t make it easier to handle.

“I don’t know how long I can keep this going,” Niall tells him now, taking the rabbit and fiddling with it instead of looking up at Harry. “It’s not okay, this. He should know. He’s hurting, too.”

Sometimes Harry looks down at his stomach and can’t believe he’s gotten to this point. Not once in his life he’s been able to lie and get away with it, not even for a full day. Growing up, he confessed to his mum about skipping school more than once, unprompted and unthinking. He has ruined surprises by forgetting it was supposed to he a secret. He has disappointed people by being very obviously not into something they were into, not being able to even pretend to have liked a film or a song for the sake of someone else. It’s not like he didn’t try, he always smiled and nodded along and said whatever he thought people wanted to hear. It never worked, not with anyone, but Louis has always been the quickest to call Harry out on his bullshit.

Now Louis knows Harry is lying, and it’s hurting him, but the full truth still belongs to Harry and it weighs on him. He chose a very heavy secret to keep, a wrong time to become a liar.

“I know,” he says, voice gone hoarse. The baby squirms and kicks and Harry looks at his belly, picturing their little feet stretching, their arms spreading. It makes him feel weird when he thinks of everything that’s happening inside his body. It keeps him up some nights, alone and a bit creeped out with the thought of a whole entire person swimming around in his stomach, with hair on their head and nails on their fingers and toes. Sometimes Harry wants to hold someone’s hand and say these things out loud without feeling like they’re going to think he’s horrible for thinking them. He needs someone to convince him that he’s not a bad person.

“Harry,” Niall calls and Harry snaps out of his trance. God, he’s tired. He’s not been sleeping well, unable to find a position that doesn’t get uncomfortable five minutes in, getting up every twenty minutes to have a wee. He’s been getting hard at random moments, too, blood rushing down between his legs and slick coating the insides of his thighs at an alarming speed when he’s cooking, or trying to work, or some mornings when he’s still in bed and clinging to sleep. He can still reach around his belly for his cock but he knows he won’t be able to soon. The idea depresses him. “You okay?”

Harry’s eyes well up and it irritates him. But then, everything does these days. He’s tired and fat and hot all the time. His nipples hurt when he wears a shirt and his skin is awful and dry no matter how much he bloody moisturizes, itchy and cracking all over. He doesn’t have the energy to shower most days and he feels disgusting . He wants to complain. He wants to kick up a fuss, whinge like a little boy and then put his feet up and have someone cook for him and clean his flat and rub his shoulders. He hates Louis not being there, hates that it’s his fault. He hates that Niall is trying to guilt trip him into telling the truth when everyone’s going to hate Harry as soon as he says anything.

He wants to sleep until it’s time for the baby to come.

“Thanks for the presents, Ni,” he says, voice wavering. “But I’m gonna kip for a bit, you can go home if you want.”

“H,” Niall sighs. “You know I want you all to be happy, right? All three of you. I just don’t understand how you think this is helping.”

Harry shakes his head and straightens up, gripping the arm of the couch to hoist himself to his feet. He’s unsteady, his center of gravity all wonky what with the way his belly protrudes out of him, heavy and uncomfortable.

“Harry,” Niall tries again, and Harry feels a bit bad when he hears the worried pitch of his voice. But he really is knackered and not good company at all. He’d rather put on some music and take a bath other than keep listening to all the things he knows he ought to do. “Don’t pout, mate.”

Harry tamps down on the flare of anger that rises up in him. He can pout all he bloody wants to.

“I’m not,” he says. “I’m tired and it’s Friday. You should go out, have one on me.”

He wants to ask if Louis is going out, if Louis has started to see anyone else since his last beta, if he’s asked about Harry today. But he doesn’t. Talking about Louis is the fastest way for Harry to get a headache, the best way to keep him from sleeping later.

Niall goes, but not before giving Harry a long hug. He disappears out the door with one last troubled look over his shoulder and, when he’s gone, Harry’s shoulders sag.

He sets about preparing his bath, slamming cupboard doors and stomping his feet, mouth set in a line. He’s in a strop, but at least he doesn’t have to be embarrassed if he’s by himself.

He’s angry. Angry at Niall for meddling, at his bath salts for being at the back of the lowest cabinet in the bathroom and then at himself when he has to drain the water and start again when he remembers he’s not allowed to use salts anymore. Angry at Louis for listening when Harry told him he couldn’t see him instead of barging into the flat the way Niall did. He’s angry for being too scared to tell the truth back when he still had time, for still being scared now. He’s angry at the baby for pressing down on his bladder all the time and for making him hate olives. Harry stumbles turning the corner, little toe connecting with the wall, and then he’s angry at his flat for having walls with pointy corners. His toe throbs and of course Harry is crying - any spike of emotion sets him off lately.

He hates that he can’t fucking stop crying.

The bath, when he finally slips in, is perfect. Harry settles back, the top of his belly sticking out of the water, and tries to relax. He’s still wound up, mind still reeling, eyes still wet, but gradually his muscles loosen, his chin dips, and his knees fall open.

He forgot to put music on, so it’s quiet around him, and he can hear his own heart beating when he lowers his head low enough. He wonders if this is how his baby feels, floaty and contained, every noise amplified but still muffled enough to be calming. Harry puts his hands on his belly over the water. When he’s in a mood, when he’s sad and angry and at his very worst, Harry regrets that night with Louis with all his heart. He resents Louis for agreeing to skip the condoms, wants to kick himself for being so desperate to feel Louis inside of him that he begged like an omega in heat out of a cheap porno. But then the moment passes, and maybe the baby moves, and Harry is hit by so much love that he can’t breathe. He wouldn’t trade the feeling for anything, even if the baby makes him sick sometimes, even if they kick his kidneys and are making his fingers bloat so bad he can’t wear his rings anymore.

When the bad moment passes, Harry always puts his hands on his belly and tells the baby he didn’t mean a thing he thought while he was angry, stomach twisting with the worry of hurting them by being miserable all the time. He does it now, submerged in the warm water of his bath, barely able to fit, knees getting cold. He closes his eyes and thinks of how much he loves them and how much he can’t wait to meet them.

When he feels a little bump against his palm, Harry goes very still. He rubs his thumb on the spot until he feels it again, and then laughs and doesn’t think of the way the sound echoes in the empty flat, where there’s no one to call to share the moment.

The water goes cold some time later and Harry stands. He’s a little lightheaded, eyes drooping and limbs loose. He doesn’t even feel like getting dressed, he thinks he’s just going to dry off and go lay in bed as he is. London summers are no joke.

He’s stepping out of the tub, considering making a detour into the kitchen for some ice cream, when his foot slips. It happens quickly - his foot slides off the edge and back into the water with a splash, his knee buckles and he loses his balance, tilts to the side as he falls. He scrambles to hold on to something- the shower curtain, the wall - but before he can fully process that he’s going down, his belly glances off the edge of the tub and he lands on his side, back in the water with a gasp, barely managing to keep himself from hitting his head on the faucet.

He’s very still at first, breathing hard, holding himself up on his elbow. He can feel his heart pounding, can hear the rush of his blood in his ears, and then his throat is closing up like a fist, panic taking hold of him.

He heaves himself up as carefully as he can, trembling all over and gasping for breath as he sits in the tub. He curls over his belly with his hands splayed over the wet, stretched skin, and waits.

There’s nothing. Nothing is moving. No one is moving.

It’s okay, he thinks. He’s built to withstand a fall. There’s plenty of cushioning around the baby, and he didn’t even fall very hard. It should be okay. But Harry still sits, hands on his belly, and feels nothing.

There’s a terrified whine stuck somewhere in his chest, and Harry swallows it down as he climbs back onto his knees. He’s shaking so hard he has to crawl out of the tub, terrified of stumbling if he tries to get up all the way. He grabs his towel and walks out into his room, holding onto the doorway for balance.

His phone is on his bed, and Harry takes it with wet hands, nearly drops it trying to unlock it, and then goes to his recent calls and taps on Niall’s name.

He sits on the towel, naked and dripping wet, and waits for Niall to answer. It takes seven rings, and as soon as he hears the click on the other side, he starts speaking.

“I need to go to the hospital,” he says. He’s surprised, quite distantly, of how calm he sounds when he feels like he’s about to shake out of his skin. “I, I fell,” his voice cracks a little, “I need someone to drive me.”

There’s rustling from the other side, a shout, and then music and loud voices blending together into the worst kind of white noise. A second later Niall is speaking in Harry’s ear.

“Harry? That was Louis, he just lifted my keys and ran out of here like the place’s on fire. What’s going on?”

Harry feels the ground shift, his stomach swoop. He sits, stunned, numb, mouth open. Louis is on his way. Louis is on his way and Harry is naked and big with his baby and he can’t even speak because what he feels over the terrible dread is relief . Relief so great he goes boneless and his mobile nearly slips from his hand. Relief at Louis finally being there with him soon, even if he’s going to see -

He remembers why he called in the first place and the worry comes back in a rush. His belly feels fine, it doesn’t even hurt where he bumped it, but he can’t feel any movement inside, not even the smallest little tug, and he needs to see a doctor and have them check and reassure him if he’s ever going to feel calm again.

He’s not sure what he tells Niall but somehow he ends up disconnecting. He finds a pair of joggers tangled in his sheets and puts them on over his damp skin without getting up, does the same with the shirt he keeps under his pillow. It used to be Louis’, and while it fit Harry back when his belly was mostly flat, it stretches wide now, the logo on the front unrecognizable. His arm smarts, his hip, one of his knees. His mind is still mostly blank with shock, so Harry just sits there, cradling his bump and waiting for a kick.

When he hears the front door open, he doesn’t move, not even to look up from the spot on the floor where he’s been staring for who knows how long, eyes unfocused as he waits. He doesn’t move but his breathing speeds up, and his nose starts to burn, his throat to contract.

“Harry?” he hears Louis call from the other room, sounding worried. There are footsteps, hurried, moving about, towards the kitchen first before starting to head to Harry’s bedroom. Harry swallows but doesn’t trust himself to speak, doesn’t think he’ll be able to utter a word. Instead he hunches over his middle and closes his eyes.

The floor creaks as Louis steps through the doorway.

“Haz, are you-”  His voice dies in a squeak. Harry doesn’t dare look, face hot and turned away. He knows what he looks like. He knows what Louis is seeing, what he can smell. “What-”

Harry can taste blood where he’s biting the inside of his mouth, he can feel Louis’ eyes boring into him, and then, pointed and sudden, a kick against his palm.

He can’t suppress a small gasp, can’t keep his fingers from digging in.

Louis is by him before Harry can open his eyes.

“You said you fell,” he says softly, gentle and concerned. “Does it hurt?”

Harry can’t speak, and when he glances over through the tears clinging to his eyes, he sees the pinched look on Louis’s face. Angry and confused but still worried. It fills Harry with shame and he averts his eyes again. When Louis grabs him by the elbows, Harry goes pliant in an instant.

“Let’s go, love. We’ll go to A&E.”

Harry hasn’t felt Louis hands on him since the day he found out he was pregnant and Louis came over and gave him cuddles and toast. They’re warm and only a little shaky. He leans on them, his legs barely holding him up, but still refuses to raise his head. He keeps his eyes trained on his own belly, still holding it in his hands.

“Fucking hell,” Louis mutters once they’re both standing, Harry’s stomach between them, so close together that Harry can feel Louis’ warmth seeping through his t-shirt. “Harry-”

He doesn't finish, and Harry doesn’t move. Silence stretches for a moment before Louis takes a breath and says, strained, “Come on,” and walks Harry out of his room.

Harry feels clumsy, his knees keep knocking together and his shirt rides up as he moves. They make their way into the living room and Louis guides Harry to the sofa and helps him sit down. Harry doesn’t open his mouth to ask. He watches as Louis goes over to the mat by the door and finds Harry’s shoes - a pair of old trainers that are worn and stretched enough to still be comfortable. Louis brings them over and kneels at Harry’s feet and that’s when Harry finally starts crying in earnest.

He sniffles and leans his head back against the sofa as Louis slips his shoes on, not saying a word about how swollen and puffy his ankles are. Harry rubs his cheeks dry with the back of his hand and feels the baby kick again, once, as if to remind Harry they’re still there. Harry gulps and touches where he felt the kick, Louis following his every move.

“Did you hurt yourself?” he asks and Harry doesn’t know , that’s the problem. “Does it hurt?”

Harry shakes his head no.

“Alright, that’s good. My mum slipped on some ice when she was eight months along with me, fell flat on her belly and I came out more or less fine, didn’t I? But we’ll go just in case. Come on, I’ve got Niall’s car downstairs.”

This time, Louis takes Harry’s hands.

 

Part 3: August and September

 

The drive to the hospital is short and quiet. Louis sits in the driver's seat in silence, his knuckles white as he clutches the wheel, and Harry sits beside him and tries to stop crying. He can’t. There’s no ending to the tears, even after the sobbing stops. They keep blurring his vision and rolling down his cheeks. His t-shirt has a wet patch near the collar and the skin around his eyes feels rubbed raw. They don’t talk, not a word. Louis drives and eventually turns into the hospital parking lot with a squeal of tires.

Harry’s doctor from the Clinic is not on call, so they wait for someone Harry doesn’t know, sitting in blue plastic chairs, Harry biting at his knuckles and Louis curling and uncurling his fingers on his lap. It’s awful. Between Louis’ almost cold presence by his side and the worry still eating at him, Harry can’t speak. He wouldn’t know what to say even if he could. Maybe he'd ask Louis to hold his hand.

When Harry’s name is finally called, Louis gets up with him and they walk towards the examination room like strangers who happen to be going in the same direction. The doctor ushers them in and points Harry over to a table. She asks what happened and Harry tells her in a low voice, embarrassed about the whole thing and not sure why, eyes flicking over to Louis every once in awhile. Louis stands close by and listens, his face unreadable.

“Have you felt any cramping? Any unusual pain since the fall?” The doctor asks, looking at her tablet. She seems distracted and tired, and Harry, already feeling wrung out, has to keep the irritation at having to speak to the top of her head from his voice.

“No,” he says. He can feel bruises forming on his thigh and his upper arm, but that’s it.

“It should be okay, then. Have you felt the baby mov- I’m sorry, how far along are you? I can’t find your chart here.”

“I’m, um, I usually go to the Omega Clinic near Kentish. With Dr. Crown.”

“Oh,” the doctor says, blinking up at him. “He’s not on call tonight.”

“No, I know-”

“Listen,” Louis cuts in, speaking up for the first time since they got in the car. “He doesn’t need his own bloody doctor, just someone who can run a test and tell him everything’s fine, okay?”

“Sir-”

“You heard, he fell and bumped his belly. So hook him up to a monitor and check everything’s fine. Please.”

So she does. Harry isn’t sure if it's the alpha timbre that snuck into Louis’ voice or the ‘please’ he tacked on at the end to soften his tone, but the doctor puts her tablet down and turns on the monitor to Harry’s left. Harry keeps his eyes down as he lifts his shirt out of the way, hands still shaking. Louis is close, just at the edge of Harry’s vision, probably staring. Harry has never felt bigger. He stares at his belly while the doctor squirts a dollop of gel on it and wonders what Louis is seeing. Is he looking at Harry’s belly button sticking out? At the thin stretch lines adorning the underside of his bump? Please, he thinks, let the baby be okay.

The monitor lights up when the doctor places the wand on him and Harry stops breathing. He watches the familiar image, his baby’s shape slowly revealing itself as the wand moves. There’s their heart, loud and strong, their feet, their head.

“Everything seems okay,” the doctor says, moving the wand again. “Fluid looks good and I don’t see any bruising on you. You said you haven’t felt any pain or cramping?”

“No,” Harry says as relief floods into him, leaving him limp.

“And you’ve felt movement since the fall?” Harry nods. “Well, you should stay alert the next couple of days, but she looks perfectly healthy.”

Harry’s heart skips a beat, and a second later there’s a rattle and a thump, and Harry looks over in time to see Louis dropping into a chair, face ashen.

“Sentimental, is he?” the doctor says as she wipes Harry’s belly clean. “Not used to it yet?”

“No, I- We...didn’t know it was a girl,” he says, even though for Louis the baby being a girl is probably the smallest shock he’s gotten today. Maybe seeing her picture on a screen is what drove the whole thing home, just like it was for Harry all those months ago.

The doctor looks up, face all scrunched up in embarrassment

“Oh. Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought...a pregnancy this far along-”

“It’s fine, it’s, it’s nice to know.” A girl. It doesn’t make any difference to Harry, it’s not exactly a surprise, either - with all the girls in Louis’ family, Harry’s been half expecting, half hoping for a girl - but it’s still something he wanted to save for when he met her and could look at her for the first time and fall in love for the millionth time.

Harry looks at Louis again, slumped in his chair. He’s having a girl with Louis’ eyes and his nose and his laugh. And now Louis knows.

“Make sure to rest. Stay in for a couple of days, eat well, drink water,” the doctor says after a pause, picking her tablet up. “If you’re uneasy in any way, you should make an appointment with Dr. Crown, since he’s been following your case. Ask for help with household chores, even if they’re simple ones. Think Dad over there can step up?”

Harry glances behind him just in time to see Louis look at him, his eyes an electric blue under the hospital lights. He looks suddenly exhausted, dark circles under his eyes, his mouth turned down at the corners. He’s dressed to go out, Harry notices for the first time, but his hair is unstyled, pointing every which way, as if he spent a long time running his hands through it and tugging on the ends. He’s lovely, so lovely, and Harry missed him.

Harry takes a breath, lets out a shuddery exhale, and says, “Yes.”

Louis’ nostrils flare in surprise, eyebrows jumping before his face, still pale, smooths out. Harry turns his eyes towards the doctor, who is looking between them with a curious frown on her face.

“Of course I can,” Louis mutters from his chair a second later and Harry wants to curl into a ball and disappear because he sounds terrible, his voice unsteady, his tone questioning as if he still can’t quite believe what’s happening. Harry doesn’t blame him.

.

The flat is just as they left it when they return - the lights are on and Niall’s presents are still on the coffee table, bags and wrapping paper littered over the floor and the sofa. Harry enters first, walking over to the middle of the room and then stopping, unsure of where to go. Behind him, Louis lets himself in and closes the door. There’s the sound of the lock turning.

Harry’s head is slightly floaty, so tired he feels like he’s swaying in place. His feet are throbbing and his hands are shaky and he wants to go to bed more than anything. He can’t even think about turning to face Louis now that they’re alone. The events of the day feel far away, as if they happened a hundred years ago instead of a couple of hours, and Louis hasn’t spoken since the hospital.

Harry hears Louis moving into the room, hears him walking closer and closer until he can feel the warmth of him against his side, and then a hand, softly resting on the small of his back.

“You should go to bed,” Louis says, quiet and awful. “Rest. We can talk in the morning.”

Harry has been keeping everything to himself for over four months and, all of a sudden, the thought of waiting one more night fills him with dread. He can’t stand the idea of Louis going home now that he knows, not without attempting to explain, even though he knows no explanation will ever be enough.

He digs his heels in.

“No,” he says, wobbly. “We should talk now.”

“You’re dead on your feet, Harry,” Louis argues, still trying to steer Harry forward. “And I’m not much better.”

He looks miserable, cross, but his hand is still gentle, the press of his thumb comforting and familiar.

Harry steps away and turns so they’re facing each other. Louis’ eyes immediately fall to Harry’s belly, but they don’t widen in shock like they did before, only tighten in the corners as Louis looks away, crossing his arms over his front and bringing his shoulders up. Harry wants to start crying again, he’s never seen Louis get so defensive with him before, but he swallows the tears down, for once.

“We need to talk now,” he says again. “I’ve got to explain. I-”

“Is she really mine?” Louis cuts him off sharply, eyes flashing as they meet Harry’s.

Harry is taken aback by the question, by the almost vicious tone, and he splutters a little before finding his voice again.

“I- O-of course, yes,” he manages. To his dismay, he sees Louis’ lip quiver before he traps it between his teeth, his eyes going glassy. “Lou-”

“Were you going to tell me?” Louis asks. “If I didn’t take Niall’s phone, would you’ve told me?”

Fuck, Harry can’t see Louis cry. Can’t stand the sight, never could. He’s never seen Louis look quite like this - hurt and furious and all aimed at Harry. Harry is blubbering before he knows what’s happening, hating himself for it but unable to stop.

“Of course I was, I w-wanted- I wanted to tell you, b-but-”

Niall knows,” Louis shoots back. “You told him.”

“No, I didn’t,” Harry answers truthfully, wiping his wet face with the stretched collar of his t-shirt. “He, he knows. But I didn’t tell him.”

“Who else?”

“No one else, Lou.”

“Why?”

Harry doesn’t know anymore - it all seems so stupid now that Louis is here, now that he found out in the worst possible way. He should have told everyone the moment he found out. He should have gone to stay with his mum for a while, should have been honest with Louis about his feelings years ago. Hindsight is a stupid, useless thing.

“Your mum? Your sister, they don’t know?” At this, Louis looks less angry and more incredulous. Harry feels his face burn in shame as he shakes his head no. “Harry, what the fuck…”

“I just, I didn’t want them to make me tell you,” he confesses quietly. It hurts to say out loud, the words coming out slow.

Louis looks at him for a moment.

“Why, Harry?”

“‘Cause,” Harry sniffs. “Because I didn’t want you to think I was trying to, like, um, trap you.”

“What?”

“Because I didn’t want you to wear a c-condom and you thought I was lying about not being in heat-”

Something in Louis’ face clears, as if he’s remembering that night for the first time. “I know you weren’t lying, Harry,” he says after a moment. “I've got a nose. I know what you smell like in heat.”

“We’ve never-”

“No, we’ve never. But it clings. It drives me mad to come over right after. It was probably still around your place that night, your scent.”

Harry fiddles with his own fingers over his belly, chest heaving nearly with every breath. His body is screaming at him to rest, but he can’t. Not before this is over.

“And with the condom,” Louis goes on, “it’s not like you forced me. I was there, too. I made a choice, too, didn’t I?”

“But I told you I was on the pill.”

“Weren't you?” Again, Louis frowns, eyes fixed on Harry’s.

“I, yes, I was, but-”

“But these things are not a hundred percent safe, right? It might even have happened with the condom on.” At Harry’s dubious look, Louis rolls his eyes. A tear slips out and he rubs it away with the back of his hand. “It probably didn’t help that I knotted you. You didn’t tell me to do that, did you?”

No, the knotting probably didn’t help. Louis has only knotted Harry a handful of times in the few years they’ve been sleeping together. Admittedly, they weren’t the most traditional people, but knotting was still something mated couples did to secure their bond, a ritual of sorts, and it felt wrong to do it because of a kink, no matter how good it felt for both of them. Louis normally asked before doing it, always in the middle of things, both already incoherent. Otherwise, he always pulled out before he started swelling. Neither of them was thinking straight that night - not Harry begging they go bare and not Louis knotting him without warning - but it still doesn’t erase the fact that Harry kept the truth from Louis for months and months.

Silence falls around them again. Harry doesn’t move, shifting his weight as subtly as he can on his swollen feet.

“Jesus, Harry, sit down, at least,” Louis says and then strides over to the sofa and starts clearing all the wrapping paper away. Harry sees him pause with the plush rabbit in his hand, the one Harry abandoned there earlier that night, and then gently place the toy on the coffee table with the rest of Niall’s gifts. “Come on.”

Sitting down, Harry feels like he’s sinking into the cushions. He lets out a breath as he takes his weight off his feet, hands immediately going to his belly. Louis watches him for a moment before sitting on the edge of the coffee table in front of him, elbows on his knees.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asks and now that he’s closer, Harry can see how wet his eyelashes are, dark with tears. Harry takes a breath and inhales Louis’ familiar scent. It warms something in his blood and settles him, somehow. There’s a tiny kick on his side and he moves one of his hands over the spot.

“I don’t know,” he says, unable and unwilling to lie. He’s done with lies.

Louis keeps looking at him, studying him, and what if now he never trusts Harry again? Harry wouldn’t be able to blame him.

“When did you find out?”

“Early April,” Harry replies. “The last time you came over and I told you I was ill I- I’d just found out.”

Louis nods, looking down at Harry’s belly like he can’t help himself.

“Um, d’you wanna, um, feel it?” Harry asks, moving his hands away, but Louis shakes his head and looks away.

“Not right now.” His voice is soft, careful, but it still feels like a blow. Harry tries not to let it show. “I just- I still don’t...understand.”

Harry says nothing. They sit like that for quite some time, Harry chewing on his lip and staring at his hands. He sinks a little further into the sofa cushions with each passing minute.

“You should sleep.” Louis says suddenly. He rubs his thighs before standing up. “Did you have dinner, before….”

He had a bowl of fruit salad before Niall showed up. He should eat something else, but he has absolutely no appetite. He’s almost sure nothing he ate would stay down right now, anyway. Nodding, Harry pushes himself back onto his feet. When he stumbles a little, Louis puts a hand on his elbow to steady him. He lets go a second later.

Harry hesitates. He wants nothing more than to curl up in bed for two days, but he doesn’t want Louis to leave. What if he doesn’t come back? They haven’t finished talking yet. Harry can’t think of a way to defend himself, doesn’t even want to, but he thinks there are still too many things that need saying.

Louis trails after him as Harry walks over to his room. The lights are on here as well, his damp towel still on the bed. Harry can see through the open bathroom door, half a bathtub worth of water on the floor, his own wet footprints leading out. A shudder goes through him thinking of what would’ve happened if he’d hit his head, or fell fully on his stomach. Maybe he’d still be there, hurt and so isolated that no one would wonder where he is.

He shakes the thought away. He grabs the towel from the bed and drapes it over the chair by the corner. Louis moves across the room and peeks into the bathroom.

“I’ll tidy up here,” he says. “Want your toothbrush?”

“No,” Harry rasps out. “Thank you.”

He sits on the bed as Louis goes into the bathroom to drain the tub, and keeps sitting as Louis gets a mop from the kitchen. Harry’s eyes are dropping, his body slouched over and begging him to lie down. He must zone out, because suddenly Louis is in front of him, talking.

“Huh?” Harry manages, blinking up at him. The reluctant smile he sees appear in Louis’ face is almost enough to wake him up.

“I said most people sleep lying down,” Louis repeats and then taps a finger to Harry’s shoulder, telling him to get on the bed properly.

Harry drags himself to his side of the bed and gets on his back. Lately, he lasts no more than a few minutes in this position, but he doesn't want Louis out of his sight.

“Alright,” Louis says with a sigh and a hand buried in his hair and his eyes averted. “I’m gonna-”

“Don’t leave,” Harry says over him. He has no right to make any sort of demand, he knows, but still. He doesn’t want to be by himself again.

“I wasn’t going to,” Louis says, slowly. “I should- we shou-" He sighs. "I’m gonna keep an eye on you, just in case you start feeling off or something, alright?”

Harry nods.

“Alright,” Louis says. “I’ll be out here. I’ll hear if you call.”

With that, he turns on his heel and goes back into the living room. Harry feels abandoned, which is ridiculous, but here he is, already close to crying again. His bed feels too big and the flat too still, somehow even more so than when he’s alone. Maybe it's because Louis is there and he’s almost never completely quiet. The silence is unnatural.

Harry turns on his side and curls up into himself. He breathes with his arms around his middle, hugging his belly. He’s having a girl, and he nearly hurt her. What would he had done if he had? He can’t even imagine, can’t think about Louis coming to get him, finding out about everything only for it to be taken away immediately.

Harry makes himself as small as he can, taking a shaky breath and closing his eyes. It’s okay. Louis said he’s staying. He drifts off hoping to feel the baby kick him goodnight.

.

It’s still dark when he wakes up later, still on his side. He’s about to go back to sleep, wondering vaguely what woke him, when he feels the mattress dip behind him and he freezes, suddenly alert.

Louis, his scent sharp and close, lies down behind him, not touching him but still close enough Harry can feel his warmth radiating into his back. Harry can hear him breathing, swallowing, rustling the sheets. A few minutes pass, and Harry doesn’t dare move.

Then there’s a creak of the bed frame and Louis is pressing against him, careful, unsure. His chest touches Harry’s back and his knees slot themselves in the backs of Harry’s. Harry bites his lip into his mouth not to make a noise and rubs his face on his pillow, overwhelmed. A second later he feels Louis shift and one of his hands grazes his side.

Harry holds his breath.

Louis’ fingers skim his hip, his ribs, before slipping under Harry’s arm and sliding over his stomach. Louis’ palm is warm, his touch firm even if Harry can feel him trembling behind him. He wants to put his own hand over Louis’ but he’s afraid to move. When he feels lips on the back of his neck, he nearly jumps.

“When were you going to tell me?” Louis asks against Harry’s skin, his voice a wet rasp.

When he replies, Harry’s voice is just as hoarse.

“Should’ve told you the moment I found out,” he mumbles, muffled by his pillow and a little choked up. “I’m sorry, Lou. I- I should’ve-”

Louis doesn’t say anything back, but he tightens his grip around Harry and buries his face in his shoulder.

“D’you...not want a baby with me?”

At first Harry thinks he's heard wrong, since he’s never heard anything so ridiculous in his life. But no, no matter how many times he goes through the words in his head, they stay the same. He laughs into his pillow.

“Me? I don’t want a baby with you?”

“You’re doing everything by yourself, you-”

“Not because I want to,” Harry says. “I just kept thinking I had to tell, you and everyone and- Then I didn’t and I kept getting bigger and it was just too late.”

Louis is slowly rubbing Harry’s belly, hand going up and down and around, everywhere he can reach. Harry lets him, even if it’s hot, even if he’s not used to someone else touching him like this when he's this size. He’s going limp, slumping back against Louis, inhaling his scent and feeling Louis do the same, scenting Harry’s neck even as he talks.

“Fuck, I missed you,” Louis says with something that sounds close to a whine. “You didn’t have to hide. I would’ve been there.”

“You were seeing someone,” Harry argues. Louis shakes his head, forehead pressed against the top of Harry’s spine.

“You know you’re the most important, you know I-”

He cuts himself off and presses his mouth to Harry's back through his t-shirt.

Harry doesn’t say anything, convinced Louis is getting drunk on their scents mixing together, on Harry smelling different now, sweeter and carrying a part of Louis inside of him. He half-expects to feel Louis getting hard against his thigh, but when he shifts back, he feels nothing.

“When I saw you today,” Louis says, “I, I didn’t think it was mine. I thought you- But I was still gonna be there. No matter what.”

Harry closes his eyes tight and grabs Louis’ hand, both now holding the underside of his belly.

“I’m sorry,” he chokes out, pushing himself further into Louis’ arms, wanting them to melt into each other, wanting to turn around and bury his face in Louis’s neck and live there. “Lou, I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Louis mumbles in Harry’s ear. “We’ll talk more tomorrow. You’ll call your mum and I’ll talk to mine, yeah?”

“Okay,” Harry whispers. Every word Louis says has been taking a weight off of him until suddenly it doesn’t feel like he’s being crushed anymore, like he can’t breathe properly no matter how much he tries. When he feels Louis placing a kiss on the back of his head, the sigh that escapes his mouth leaves him weak.

He falls asleep again with Louis’ stubble scratching the side of his neck and their hands clasped together, resting right below his belly button.

.

Calling his mum is not as terrible as he was expecting. She cries, surprised but happy, and when Harry tells her how far along he is (twenty-eight weeks tomorrow) she doesn’t ask why Harry waited to tell her.

“I had to tell the father first,” Harry informs her anyway.

“And that would be Louis?” she asks. When Harry says yes, she adds, “I’m glad. That boy loves you, baby. Couldn’t have picked a better one.”

Louis has been on the phone with his own mum for over half an hour now, and Harry can see him pace the living room from his perch on the edge of his bed. At least he doesn’t look upset, even if he still won’t quite look Harry in the eye and hasn’t really spoken to him since the night before.

Harry knows it won’t be easy, that they can’t just fall back to being the way they were. He knows it’s going to take time, but he can still feel his stomach tightening with nerves every time Louis avoids him. He pets his belly as his mum talks, already planning to visit, asking for pictures. Because she’s Harry’s mum and knows him better than anyone, she doesn’t ask if him and Louis are going to officially mate. Harry loves her.

On his twentieth turn of the living room, Louis happens to look up and see Harry looking at him. Harry gives him a sad little thumbs-up and Louis smiles at him, nodding before turning back around, mobile still pressed to his ear.

“Darling, have you rung your sister yet?”

“You’re the first one I’ve called, Mum,” Harry says. “I’ll do it now.”

Gemma is not as easy as their mother. She’s happy, and she’s excited, but when Harry tells her he’s over six months along, she goes quiet.

“You’re nearly through,” she says. “Why am I only now finding out?”

Harry doesn’t know what to say.

“Mum knows?”

“I only just called her.”

“Does Louis know?”

“Yeah.”

“Since when?”

She knows Harry too well.

“I’m coming over tomorrow and we’ll talk,” she decides when Harry says nothing. “No excuses.”

It takes Louis another forty minutes to get off the phone. By the time he’s finally hanging up, Harry’s in the kitchen preparing their lunch.

“I can do that,” Louis says from the door. “You’re supposed to be resting.”

“It’s just shredding carrots, I can do it.”

Louis doesn’t argue. He comes into the kitchen and pulls out a chair, “At least sit to do it. You’re making me nervous.”

Harry is not even as big as he’s going to get. He knows he’ll get more awkward and will need more help in a month or two. He wants to enjoy what mobility he still has, but he also wants to get spoiled. He grabs the knife and chopping board and moves everything to the table.

“Good boy,” Louis says, patting his shoulder.

Harry cooks, and they eat, and then Niall shows up. He flushes up to his ears when he sees Louis there, and then shuffles over and puts his arms around him and squeezes.

“Sorry, Tommo,” he says.

Louis hesitates only for a second before returning the hug.

“Suppose I should thank you for the presents,” Louis mutters, his smile small but there.

Harry watches from the sofa, on his back and sweating through his clothes because being shirtless around Louis right now feels wrong. If it weren’t for the fact that Louis was still wrapped around him when they woke up, Harry would think last night was dream. Harry can only remember one time since they've met when Louis wasn’t somehow initiating physical contact and it was when Harry had the flu last year. Even then, at least Louis had put his palm on Harry’s forehead from time to time and tutted like an old lady.

Niall notices the distance right away, and gives him a look Harry has no idea how to interpret when, after sitting in his living room for two hours, Louis doesn’t approach Harry once. He sits on one of the small armchairs across the coffee table instead, nursing a cup of tea. Harry gives Niall a wry smile - Louis being there is more than he deserves.

But that night, after Niall has gone home and Harry has let Louis cook them dinner, they go to bed together without saying a word. Louis curls himself around Harry and puts his hand on his belly, rubbing circles over Harry’s shirt. There’s a little thump and Harry guides Louis’ fingers and presses down until he feels it again, two, three times in the same spot. Louis crowds in closer.

.

A week later, Harry has to go in to the office for a staff meeting. Louis drops him off downstairs and tells him to call when he’s finished. He’s barely left Harry’s side, except for a couple of trips to his own flat to fetch clothes and his laptop. He’s been working from Harry’s place and occasionally leaving for appointments with clients when he didn’t have another choice. Harry loves it, even if they don’t talk a lot and only touch at night, when they spoon in Harry’s bed and pretend nothing but the three of them exists.

Louis seems reluctant to leave him but they part ways by the revolving doors of Harry’s office building with a short wave goodbye and Louis looking over his shoulder at him one last time before Harry goes in. Harry would have liked a kiss, he thinks.

He’s wearing loose linen trousers and an oversized button up, the sleeves rolled up. He stands out like a sore thumb entering the lift, where most of the other people going up are dressed in smart suits and ties. The only thought of putting a tie around his neck feels stifling in the humid heat of the day. Harry’s hot even inside the AC-cooled building.

The lift doors are about to close when someone shouts for them to wait. Harry puts his hand out to stop the doors and regrets it a second later when Eric’s smug face appears in front of him.

“Nice of you to show up,” he says and then the smile falls off his face. Harry sees his nostrils flare and then Eric moves back, out of the lift. The doors close on him and neither of them try to stop them. Harry thinks that the only person who understands what happened is the only other omega among the six or seven betas around then with confused expressions on their faces. She doesn’t look at Harry, though. She works on his floor and knows Harry is not mated, no matter how pregnant he is and much he smells like an alpha right now.

Bigots come in all sexes and genders, he supposes.

.

The staff meeting drags on. Harry has to get up to piss six times. Each time he has to walk across the room and excuse himself, since people have to move out of the way for him. Eventually, he stays standing by the door. If Louis could see him he would kick up a storm. No matter how much he doesn’t like Harry these days, he would never let a bunch of alphas and betas sit in their comfy chairs while a pregnant omega stays on their feet. It’s the omega from the lift who notices him and offers him her chair to drag to the back of the room, and Harry accepts it with a smile he can tell is too big.

When the meeting is finally over, Harry texts Louis to let him know.

Be there in 10 , Louis sends back a second later.

Harry rides the lift back to the ground floor, exhausted, his shoes pinching his puffy ankles. He decides to wait in the lobby, since it’s cooler, and leans against a pillar where he has a good view of the doors. Less than a minute later, Eric materializes next to him.

“I knew you wouldn’t last long without a good knot to ride,” he says and then goes, leaving Harry standing there, stunned.

Louis arrives five minutes later.

.

Eric’s words stay with Harry for a long time. Not because of how much they shocked him - it’s not exactly the worse Harry has had thrown at him by entitled alphas with wounded egos. But because he hasn’t gotten off since before Louis found out and basically moved into his flat and now, thanks to Eric, Harry can’t stop thinking about riding him. Harry was already a horny mess before he started living surrounded by Louis’ scent, being held by Louis every night. Now, he’s wet all the time. He can’t see his cock anymore with his belly in the way, but it’s at least partially hard most of the time, demanding attention Harry can’t give it. Not with Louis in the flat, hyper-aware of Harry at all times.

He knows Louis can smell him because Harry can smell Louis right back, responding to Harry’s heady scent with his own.

Harry’s glad both their families visited them before it got too out of control. Now, weeks after Louis found out and with Harry bigger and more awkward than ever, they’ve stopped having people over.

Harry is well into his thirty-first week and he’s tired all the time. The baby sleeps all day and wakes up at night when him and Louis are cuddled together in bed, both pretending Harry can’t feel the hard line of Louis’ cock against his bum. Her kicks are not as precious or gentle as they used to be, now startling Harry awake and keeping him up, making him feel nauseous sometimes when she catches some poor organ not meant to receive abuse from the inside. Louis has started talking to her lately, soft and sweet as he pets Harry’s belly and tries to get her to settle down.

Harry loves how tender his voice gets so much that he doesn’t have the heart to tell him that it only makes her rowdier.

She barely moves during the day, and Harry, who has to be up to sit in front of his laptop and at least pretend to be working, scolds her gently for her inconvenient sleeping habits.

As the days pass and the tension between them grows, Louis starts leaving the flat more often. His scent lingers everywhere, but it’s stronger in Harry’s room, in his sheets, on his pillows. Which is why trying to take a nap in the middle of the day is a big mistake.

Harry wakes up hot. His hair is plastered to his forehead and his clothes are sticking to his skin. Groaning, he pulls his t-shirt over his head and struggles out of his shorts, leaving his pants on only because he’s not completely sure Louis is still gone. He left after lunch, saying he was going shopping, and Harry assumed he’d be gone at least two hours, maybe more considering it’s Saturday and sunny out. Harry doesn’t know how long he slept for.

“Louis?” He calls, only once. Nothing happens. Harry doesn’t need to call twice - Louis has been so on top of him when he’s home that Harry’s only had to think about needing something to have Louis coming to check on him.

He lies back on his side and reaches down.

The angle is awkward and uncomfortable and his wrist starts cramping even before he manages to slips his fingers past the elastic. He’s already chubbed up a bit, and his pants are sticky with sweat and slick. He feels disgusting, but he doesn’t dare to take a shower without Louis in the flat, his fall still fresh in his mind.

He manages a grip, his thumb pointing out and rubbing the head of his cock. Closing his eyes, he strokes himself as he hasn’t done in weeks, slow and tight, and he gets fully hard in seconds. Heat starts gathering in his groin alarmingly fast, and Harry gasps as he twist his hand, arm straining. But his other arm is going numb underneath him, and his legs are restless, unable to find a comfortable position. It quickly stops feeling good and starts to feel like a burden instead. He needs to get off. He’s quite sure he hasn’t gone so long without since he hit puberty, but he also wants to enjoy it, not do it just so his bollocks won’t burst.

He lets go of himself with a scowl and muffles a groan in his pillow, already feeling a mood coming. Right at the same moment, he hears the front door close.

“Harry?” Louis calls from the living room. “You okay?”

Harry sits up, legs splayed wide and cock still hanging out of his pants. He hurries to tuck himself back in and hisses when his fingers make contact with damp,warm skin, still rock hard - maybe even more so after hearing Louis' voice. It doesn’t feel like it’ll go down anytime soon and Louis appears in the doorway before Harry can remove his hand.

The way Louis’ face goes slack at the sight of him would have made Harry preen seven months ago. Now, it only makes him flush down his chest, even as his prick twitches in his grip. He lets go quickly.

Louis’ wide eyes roam down Harry’s body. They trail over his chest, his round belly. He looks at Harry’s legs, at his splayed thighs, and stops at his crotch.

“Um,” Louis mumbles, eyes on Harry’s cock straining in his tiny pair of briefs, “sorry, I- I interrupted. Carry on.” With that he turns and walks back to the living room.

Harry sits.

He’s sweating, breathing hard, still needy as hell. No one ever told him being pregnant would make him like this. The gaining weight, the swollen feet, the vomiting - he expected all that. The incessant horniness he did not.

When he dares to leave the bedroom -clothes back on, cock hidden away - he finds Louis brewing tea in the kitchen. It smells like peppermint and Harry smiles even if Louis being Louis doesn’t help his problem at all. They’re still off around each other. Harry doesn’t know if Louis has forgiven him and he doesn’t know how to act around him anymore. They don’t tease each other like they used to, they don’t tell each other stories about their days. When Louis’ mum calls to talk to Harry about his progress, Louis doesn’t ask Harry to put the call on speakerphone like perhaps he would have done if everything had played out differently. He hasn’t mentioned his siblings’ reactions at finding out they’re going to be aunts and uncle.

Niall is always telling Harry to talk to Louis, but Louis always shies away from conversation. Every time Harry finds the courage to start, it’s like Louis can sense what’s coming and he always makes up an excuse to leave. Thinking the baby is going to be born to parents who don’t talk to each other terrifies Harry. Especially because they were supposed to be best friends before Harry ruined it.

Louis hands Harry a cup and Harry takes it with a small, sheepish smile. It’s not like Louis saw anything he hadn’t before, but it is the first time he walks in on Harry nearly naked while over seven months pregnant. Not to mention hard and with a hand stuck down the front of his pants.

He’s lowering himself onto a chair with his tea when Louis speaks up.

“We should talk,” he says and Harry fumbles with his cup and spills half its content onto the table. “Jumpy, H?” Louis teases him from where he’s leaning against the counter and Harry looks at him sharply. That almost sounded like the normal Louis.

Louis coughs and looks down.

“I...wanted to apologise,” he says and what ? “I know I’ve been a bit overbearing lately, what with being here all day and, um, sleeping in your bed and stuff. I know this isn’t what you want, me all over you- I’ve not been giving you any privacy.”

Harry doesn’t quite know what to say. Having Louis here with him is all he really wants, he just wishes they were their old selves. Still, Harry would choose a cold, distant Louis before being on his own a missing him again a million times over.

“I know,” Louis sighs, “that you don’t like alphas.”

“What?”

Louis clenches his jaw - Harry can see it from all the way across the kitchen.

“You probably don't want an alpha taking over your flat, I just, you’re all….it’s hard to step back, when you’re-”

“Wait, why don’t I like alphas?” Harry asks, confused. His belly is in the way, so big lately that Harry can never find a position he can stay in for long. He shuffles in his seat and watches Louis watch him carefully, as if he’s ready to leap forward if Harry stumbles.

“It was one of the first things you said to me, when we met,” he says. His face is more open than Harry has seen it in a long time, the tense pull of his mouth replaced with something a little vulnerable.

Harry remembers when they met. A pub after work, both of them out drinking with their respective colleagues, Louis ordering at the bar and Harry hiding from a wanker from his old job that liked to touch him all the time. Put his dry alpha hand on the back of his neck as if it made Harry submit to him or something.

Alright, mate? Louis asked and Harry barely spared him a glance, too busy keeping his guard up. Looking for someone?

Just hiding from a prick, Harry said, not looking at Louis yet. Bloody fucking alphas.

Well, Louis laughed. When Harry finally looked at him, he instantly got lost in the crinkles by Louis’ eyes, the scrunched up nose, the close-mouthed smile that made his cheekbones stand out. As a bloody fucking alpha meself, I feel I should protect you from my kind. Or at least help you hide.

Harry remembers being surprised Louis was an alpha. His voice was high and sweet, soft. He was narrow, compact, his demeanour was somewhat shy, hands in his pockets and body always swaying. Harry wasn’t without his prejudices, he could admit, but he wasn’t a closed-minded bigot. He was surprised Louis was an alpha when he met him, but the fact that he was never once affected how he felt about him. Except maybe that they were so much more together as opposites, compatible and electric. Perhaps it was only Louis and Harry and not Alpha and Omega, but still Harry never wished Louis were any different.

“I don’t like twats,” he says now. “Most twats I’ve met happen to be alphas but that doesn’t mean I don’t- I like you, Lou. I love you, you know that. Right?”

Louis not knowing how much Harry loves him is terrifying to him.

“I love you, too, Haz.” Louis smiles a little. “You’re my best friend, but I know you weren't planning on settling down with me.”

“What?”

“Not that I’m saying we’re settling down," Louis says quickly. "Not when you don’t want to, of course, but I want to be part of my kid’s life. Both of your lives.”

“Why...do you keep saying I don’t want that?”

“Because you don't ? Not with an alpha. It’s alright for sex, but it’s always only that, isn’t it? Because you’re going to go off and meet a beta or another omega and-”

“Why am i meeting a beta or another omega?”

“Because you-”

“Stop saying I don’t want an alpha. I’ve never said that.”

“You have. Plenty of times. Every time you complained about the arseholes at work.”

“But that was because they were arseholes, not because they’re alphas. I don’t care about that, you know I don’t.”

Louis shrugs and runs his fingers through his hair, looking up at the ceiling.

“I can’t think of another reason you’d do what you did unless you didn’t want me involved," he says. "I keep trying to understand but...but you kept texting, and you kept pretending everything was fine. I sat at home and thought you’d finally found someone you could be with for real.”

Harry’s head is spinning. For the first time in weeks, his cock is soft and the furthest thing from his mind. Louis is standing there, flustered and upset and a whole room away, saying crazy, ridiculous things.

“I thought you’d beaten me to it.”

“Beaten you?”

“I’ve been trying to find the next best thing since the first time we had sex and I realised how good- It’d never felt like it did with you before. Never has with anyone else. Even other omegas, I-”

Oh, no, Harry doesn’t want to hear about all the omegas Louis’ shagged. He scowls down at his hands, folded on the table near his spilt tea.

“Alphas are not the only traditionalists out there, you know,” Louis says. “The bloke I was seeing last had a problem with me wanting to bottom. Said he wouldn’t be able to take me seriously after. And I dunno, maybe it’s weird, but I do like it when you shag me.”

“Love shagging you,” Harry mutters with what he knows is a pout. “And it’s not weird.”

Louis makes a sound not unlike a groan and Harry looks at him out of the corner of his eye. He looks miserable, a defeated slump on his shoulders, toes curling on the floor.

“You’re perfect for me,” he says and Harry’s heart twists. “I’ve known that for a long time. I wish I were something else instead of a bloody knot-head who can’t keep his hands to himself, I do-”

“Lou-”

“-but you don’t know what seeing you like this does to me, Harry. If you were in my head half the time you’d run the other way.”

“Not true.”

“And it sucks because I’m still so bloody angry at you.” Harry flinches and looks down again. “Like, I’ve never been angrier, I think. At anyone.”

Harry feels tears burning behind his eyes even though he knows he deserves every bit of Louis’ anger. Louis is the one that should’ve run the other way. There’s no chance he’ll ever trust Harry again.

“Guess I must really love you a lot ‘cause I still want to snog you every minute of the day.”

Harry chokes on air, coughing and glad for the excuse to let some tears roll down his warm cheeks.

“You w-wanna snog me?” Still, he doesn't ask.

“I wanna kiss every fucking inch of you,” Louis says with a roll of his eyes that looks more deflecting than annoyed. “You’re all plump, you-”

“I haven’t been with anyone else since we started having sex,” Harry blurts out. Louis looks at him properly for the first time, unblinking. “I haven’t been looking for someone else, I don’t hate alphas, I don’t want you just because of, of your knot or anything like that. God, I’ve loved you for years. Loved you more than a friend is supposed to.”

He talks as slow as ever but Louis doesn’t interrupt, apparently mesmerized.

“I didn’t tell you 'cause I love you, and I didn’t mean for, for it, for her to be an accident or for you to think that I planned it. I thought it’d drive you away.”

Harry stops and swallows. He realises that he’s been curving over his belly as he talked. The baby was his only company and his only comfort for months before Louis found out, and Harry needs to be close to someone as he bares his fucking soul to Louis in his kitchen.

“Every time I’ve thought about starting a family since I met you I pictured you. I hope she looks just like you. I want you to stay here and sleep next to me and be overbearing and careful with me but I also need you to touch me. During the day, when we sit in the living room, while we cook. I know I don’t deserve it but I miss it. A lot. You say you want to snog me-”

Louis is on him before Harry knows what’s happening. He sees a flash of movement and then there are hands on his shoulders, on his neck, tilting his face up. There are lips on his, the brush of Louis’s nose against his cheek, the swipe of his tongue. Harry nearly whimpers as he opens his mouth, hands flying up to Louis’ chest and clutching at his jersey. The kiss is heady and messy and Harry can’t really twist into it, can barely move in fact, but he pushes his head forward and kisses back like a starved man.

Louis pulls away and drags his lips to Harry’s cheek, over to his temple as Harry fish-mouths up at the ceiling.

“You smell-” Louis mutters, “-so good .”

Harry's cock is awake again, hard and throbbing. Harry rolls his hips as much as he can, wants to get up but his legs are not working. He wants to pull Louis close but his belly is between them, making Louis have to bend in half to kiss all over Harry’s face.

“And I swear you’re glowing, don’t care if it’s cheesy. You’re gorgeous, all fucking round -” He cuts himself off to kiss Harry again and Harry kisses back just as forcefully. He’s too hot, wearing too many clothes, but he’s still not sure how far- “Did you finish? Earlier, when I walked in?”

“N-no,” Harry manages, gasping when Louis’ mouth latches to the hinge of his jaw and sucks. “Haven’t in weeks. Lou-”

“‘m gonna get you off. Yeah? Can I?”

Harry clutches at Louis’ jersey and nods wildly, hair falling into his eyes.

“You want me to?”

Yes. Please, Louis. I promise I really, really…” he trails off into a high pitched groan when Louis bites softly at his shoulder.

“In bed, yeah? Let’s get you off your feet, yeah?”

Harry’s not on his feet right now but he doesn't argue - the kitchen chair is killing his back, anyway. He allows Louis to help him up and then they hurry to the bedroom, Harry’s waddle even more pronounced than usual with how hard he is.

It reeks of them in the room, and it spurs them on, Louis’ hands everywhere, on his belly and his shoulders and his bum. He squeezes until Harry squeaks, standing by the bed.

“All plump,” Louis mumbles against Harry’s neck, fingers digging in. “And your thighs, Haz-”

“Lou, s’too hot,” Harry complains and lifts his arms over his head so that Louis can pull his shirt off. His joggers go next, and then his pants, damp and gross. Louis kneels on the floor and lifts each of Harry’s feet up to rid him of his clothes, and then there Harry is, starkers in the middle of the room while Louis kneels at his feet, fully clothed but smelling like he’s as hard and desperate as Harry.

Harry can’t see over his belly, but he feels Louis’ lips on his thigh, slowing making their way up before he stands.

“Lie down, love.”

“I can’t be on my back,” Harry warns. “Jus’ my side.”

“Perfect,” Louis says and helps him get on the bed. He slots himself behind Harry just as he does when they settle to sleep at night, except he’s not shy about pressing his hips forward this time. His hand goes to Harry belly but it doesn’t linger. Instead it slides down the heavy curve of it, rubs the underside before groping for Harry’s cock.

Harry jerks, letting out a strangled cry, and Louis presses even closer, as if to ground him. Blood pools in his groin, making it go tight, and Louis curls behind him and over him and all around him and murmurs into his skin as he pulls.

“There you go, feels nice?” he asks with his familiar rasp, his voice rough as it always gets when they’re like this. He’s rubbing himself against Harry’s bum, probably getting his trackies tacky with Harry’s slick but it’s not like he ever cared before. Harry pushes back and, mind reeling, wishes Louis had taken his clothes off so he could really feel him. “Needy as usual, are you?”

Harry comes two seconds later, so hard and for so long it hurts a little and his vision goes white around the edges. He tenses and arches into Louis as much as he can, gulping for air when he’s done. Louis doesn’t let go, keeps stroking as he mouths at Harry’s bare shoulder, and Harry doesn't want him to stop, no matter how oversensitive he is. He grits his teeth and pushes into Louis’ grip with loud whimpers, body begging for more.

Louis lets go when Harry is fully hard again, grabbing at his hip with a sticky hand.

“Felt good?” He asks and Harry nods, still trying to catch his breath. Louis squeezes his hip. “Wish I’d done this from the start, before you were showing.”

Harry rolls over with some effort, letting Louis help him until they’re facing each other and Harry can kiss him. Louis lets him, kissing back. He has to strain his neck a bit to reach, Harry’s belly between them.

“‘m sorry,” he says, for what feel like the hundredth time but certainly not the last. “I wish that, too. Wish I’d let you.”

“You’ll have to tell me everything,” Louis says into Harry’s mouth. “Everything I missed.”

Nodding, Harry kisses him again, as deep as he can. He’s hard and leaking against his own belly, the sheets a mess of slick and come. He wants Louis inside of him but he’s not sure they’re quite there. He definitely hasn’t apologized enough yet. And he doesn’t want Louis still angry with him when they finally fuck again, honest with each other for the first time.

“Lou,” he mumbles and leans back to look into Louis’ blown eyes. “I meant everything I said before. I’ve loved you a long time. You believe me, don’t you?”

“Haz,” Louis says with one of his teasing smiles, the kind that Harry loves the best. His eyes twinkle with humour and his face is nothing but fond. “Of course I believe you. You can’t lie for shit.”