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And That's The Tea

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I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please.

Louis had the phrase memorized, even though it had disappeared off its place on his upper arm over thirteen years ago now. It had determined so much of the life he thought he was going to lead, until it had, seemingly out of nowhere, faded from his arm before his very eyes.

At fourteen he didn’t understand. It was his soulmark. Those didn’t just disappear. Not unless you were old and gray and had found each other and lived long lives together and then… then…

One of them died.

There were others like Louis, of course. People whose marks had disappeared before they ever met their soulmate. Louis just didn’t personally know anyone like that and maybe it hurt. It hurt and Louis was quickly tired of constantly being asked the usual “getting to know you” questions, which were more questions leading into why he didn’t have a soulmark.

And he was really tired of drinking disgusting Earl Grey tea. But despite his cynical and bitter attitude regarding soulmates and his lack of one, he couldn’t stop drinking it anyway. He considered it a bit of a dedication to them.

“Earl Grey for Louis!”

Louis’ head snapped up towards the person calling his order. Louis spent a lot of time in this coffee shop and the baristas never pronounced his name correctly. From the time he started coming to the shop he was known as Lewis. It was the unfortunate common mistake that seemed to happen a lot more often in this city. Several visits later, Louis ended up advising them of the proper way to pronounce his name. By that time the employees knew Louis’ order and seemed determined to call him Lewis until he ordered a different kind of tea. Louis had to laugh at that and it was now a sort of inside joke. They made the best disgusting Earl Grey tea he had ever found so if he was going to drink it, Tea Time was the place to be. However, the person who just called his order was clearly not in on the inside joke.

By the time Louis got to the pick-up counter the person who seemed to have called his name was gone. He gave a small wave to Amber, the owner of the small shop, and proceeded to take his warm beverage back to the corner where he was setting up shop to work on marking papers for his music theory class. Thrilling work to do while drinking disgusting tea. As he took a sip of his tea he cringed at the taste. It had been about a week since he had it, which was probably a record, and unfortunately the taste hadn't gotten any better.

As he set his cup down to get to work his eyes caught on a man behind the counter. He must be the new employee who managed to pronounce names correctly. Bonus points to him. He wore the standard short sleeve black polo shirt that all the employees wore and, while Louis couldn’t be sure, he figured he also wore standard black pants.

The man quirked his eyebrow at Louis for an unknown reason before going back to work. Louis didn’t miss the bright pink armband wrapped around where his soulmark was. So he had found his soulmate then. Congratulations to him as the man was probably no more than twenty-five. Once people found their soulmate they tended to cover up their mark. As far as Louis figured it was to keep the soulmark private as a sort of intimacy between their soulmate. It seemed a bit backwards in Louis’ opinion. Why would you want to cover up the thing that had brought you together with your soulmate?

Louis glanced down at his green armband. He probably had hundreds of bands, but he’d been on a green kick lately. His family and close friends were well aware he didn’t have a soulmark and still talked about it every chance they got, but Louis had started to wear an armband several years ago. It at least helped control the curiosity of strangers. Now people saw his armband and figured he had found his soulmate. He should have started wearing one immediately after his mark had disappeared.

Louis briefly wondered how old the man across the room had been when he found his soulmate. He quickly cleared the thought. That was personal information between the man and his soulmate and is something Louis didn’t really want to know. While it was a depressing thought watching other people find their soulmate, Louis still couldn’t help but be curious. Especially when the armband was a hideous bright pink, taunting Louis with the knowledge that he would never have a soulmate. Louis took one last sip of his tea and put his full concentration into his work.

-----

“And where have you been?” Niall asked upon Louis entering the flat, not even bothering to lift his eyes from his phone.

Louis shrugged, not that Niall would see. “Getting caught up on some work at Tea Time.”

Niall looked up and stated, “You know, I will never understand why the fuck they named a coffee shop Tea Time. Because then I have to think, like, were you actually at someone’s house during tea time or were you at that stupid coffee shop.”

“They serve tea as well,” Louis said in defense as he toed off his shoes and flung them towards the pile already by the door.

“Aah, yes. The delicious Earl Grey that you continue to loath but drink anyway.”

Louis flopped down on the couch and propped his feet up on Niall’s lap. Once comfortable he asked, “Do you think I was meant to work in a coffee shop? Or a tea shop?”

Niall shrugged and placed his attention back on his phone. Technology these days. Always getting in the way of important conversations. This conversation was obviously important.

When Niall didn’t say anything Louis continued. “I mean, I have this phrase on my arm, or I used to have that phrase on my arm. What if I was meant to be a barista and those were the first words my soulmate would say to me? Maybe he was placing an order for his favorite tea?”

Niall looked over with an exasperated expression. “Lou, you do realize we’ve had this conversation far too many times, right? Or you’ve expressed that thought far too often. It’s not like you could have worked in a coffee shop when you were fourteen. And I ask again, would it really have made a difference? Things happen for a reason.”

“It could have,” Louis mumbled. Louis had had that thought stuck in his head on loop for the past thirteen years. He couldn’t just let it go, could he? He was never going to find someone to mate with if he was pretending to have someone already.

Niall let out a long sigh. “Stop thinking about it, Lou. You’ll find someone to mate with.”

Louis gave a non-commital grunt and moved to make dinner. Maybe someday he could let the thought go. Maybe.

----

Louis walked into Tea Time to find the new guy at the registar. The other employees in the store already knew his order by now but it looked like Louis would have to repeat the phrase out loud for a change. As Louis walked up to the counter he quickly glanced down to see another pink armband over the man’s soulmark. It was a soft shade of pink today. Louis brought his gaze up and ended up looking into beautiful green eyes. The man had a soft smile on his face as he patiently waited for Louis’ order.

“I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please.”

The guy nodded and asked, “Will you be staying here?”

Louis merely nodded and handed over his card. Just like the phrase that used to be on his arm, he knew the price of the shit tasting tea by heart too. They better never change the price either. It was expensive enough.

“Can I get your name?” The guy asked. “Or are you Louis?”

He remembered Louis’ name? The lad hadn’t even taken his order the day before. Louis looked to find that the employee wasn’t wearing a name tag. He was too pretty for Louis to not know his name.

“I am,” Louis acknowledged.

“Excellent,” the man stated as he held out his hand. Louis promptly took it and received a firm handshake. “I’m Harry. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Okay, who was this lad? Did he go about learning everyone’s name and giving personal greetings? The manager wasn’t in sight so why was this guy, Harry, being so pleasant? It’s not like he needed to make a good impression for the store did he? Or maybe he did? Either way, it seemed a bit odd, even if Louis was slightly endeared by it.

Louis’ eyes flicked down to Harry’s armband and then noticed Harry had a slight frown on his face. Louis was taking too long to reply. And why were they still holding hands?

Louis released Harry’s hand and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”

Louis’ senses perked up when a waft of pheromones washed over him. He couldn’t immediately find a feeling or word to go along with the scent though. Nothing. What was wrong with Louis’ nose? He never had that issue.

Louis put the thought to the side and quickly paid for his tea. Louis could feel an alpha behind him impatiently waiting for him to get out of the way. Louis could pick up the annoyance in their scent and he didn't even care about that alpha, so why couldn’t he get a read on Harry? Something was wrong with Louis’ nose.

Harry gave him a timid smile as Louis moved to the side toward the pick-up counter. Earl grey tea coming up. Yummy.

As Louis sat at his usual table he cringed at the first sip of the tea. He didn’t know why he still did that. He already knew he wouldn’t be enjoying the tea so why couldn't Louis just let it go and accept it? He drank it for his soulmate-he-would-never-know and he owed it to that person to enjoy it. Well, of course he didn’t owe them, but he felt he did. It made sense to Louis at least, even if no one else understood his dedication. So instead, Louis smiled down at his cup and proceeded to pull out his laptop to work on the week’s lesson.

“Excuse me, Louis?”

Louis looked up to find Harry holding out a cup of whatever was in it.

“Yes?” Louis asked in confusion.

Harry extended his arm and Louis took it as a cue to take the cup. Why was he taking it?

Harry gave the same timid smile he had earlier and ventured, “I thought maybe your tea was made incorrectly. I noticed how you made a funny face when you took a sip. It’s clearly not to your liking so I brought you another one, just in case.”

Seriously, who was this kid? Well, maybe Harry wasn’t a kid, per se. The black shirt he was wearing was a bit more snug than the other day and Louis may or may not have noticed. And he was English. Louis took a moment to revel in the familiar accent before turning his thoughts back to the tea. He wasn’t going to have to drink both cups was he? Louis took a sip of the cup Harry had offered. It had a bit more sugar which didn’t make it any better, but Louis wasn’t going to deny Harry any sort of disappointment in his tea making abilities.

Louis smiled and raised his cup as if he were about to give a toast and stated, “Better.”

Harry frowned and said, “You don’t like it.”

“I mean,” Louis replied. “It’s better than the first cup so I appreciate the gesture.”

“But you don’t like it?” Harry asked. And Louis was not about to explain his Earl Grey tea drinking habits to a stranger, no matter how pretty they were or how good they smelled.

“I’m not a fan of Earl Grey tea is all,” Louis stated as if that was a solid explanation.

Harry’s frown went a step further as he furrowed his brow in confusion.

“It’s a long story,” Louis continued. “But yeah, I do appreciate the gesture.”

Harry’s face cleared as he gave a small nod of understanding, despite Louis giving no information for Harry to understand.

“Do you want me to take the other cup for you?” Harry asked. And yes, absolutely.

“Sure,” Louis stated. “Thanks, Harry.”

With that Harry turned back to his job and Louis went back to outlining his lesson. He couldn’t help but glance over to Harry occasionally though. He was beautiful, and kind, and thoughtful, and Louis wanted to dig his hands into Harry’s curly locks. And he really wanted to nuzzle his nose into Harry’s neck. Louis let out a frustrated sigh and focused on his laptop after he noticed Harry adjusting his armband. Louis had barely spoken with him and he already knew Harry’s soulmate was fucking lucky.

----

“I’m in love with someone else’s soulmate,” Louis moaned as he crawled up to join Niall on his bed. He was watching something on his computer that Louis promptly disregarded. He had bigger issues.

“Okay,” Niall said as he continued watching his show. Louis gave it a second glance and it looked like the movie Princess Pride. Good choice.

“I’m serious, Niall,” Louis said as he jostled Niall’s leg causing his computer to fall from his lap.

Niall closed his laptop and pulled Louis into his side. Niall was a nice friend.

“Lucky for you,” Niall advised, “I haven’t found my soulmate yet, so it’s okay that you’re in love with me. If it’s okay with my actual soulmate, we can have a threesome once we’ve all met and all will be right in the world.”

Niall was a shit friend.

“Niall...” Louis groaned pathetically.

“Oh,” Niall said dejectedly. “So it’s not me you’re in love with?”

Louis let out a long sigh and laid his head on Niall’s shoulder. They were both silent for a few moments before Niall continued. “Okay, so who’s the person you’re in love with?”

“Harry.”

“Who’s Harry and where did you meet him?” Niall asked.

“He’s a new employee at Tea Time,” Louis explained.

“The coffee shop?” Niall interrupted.

“Oh, my God, Niall,” Louis said in frustration. “Of course I mean the coffee shop. How many people do you know have tea time? We’re in fucking New York City. The only people who have tea time in the United States are kids whose parents got them a tea set for Christmas or whatever.”

“Fair point,” Niall responded. “I won’t question it again. Now, proceed.”

“Anyway,” Louis continued. “He started yesterday, or at least that’s the first time I saw him working there. And he called my name, pronouncing it correctly. In an English accent.”

“Oh,” Niall again interrupted. “That practically screams soulmate.”

“Shut it, Niall,” Louis warned. “And he was there again today too. He must have been watching me because he noticed my dislike of my tea. I’m not sure if it’s creepy that he was staring but that doesn’t matter.”

“Yes, it does.”

Anyway ,” Louis spoke before Niall could say anything else. “He came over with a second cup of tea. He said he had noticed that I made a face, as though I didn’t like the first cup, so thought maybe it was made incorrectly.”

“That’s… interesting,” Niall said. “Should I just assume he’s an alpha? Or are you opening your preferences yet?”

“Niall,” Louis warned again.

Niall lightly punched Louis on the shoulder and continued. “Fine, I’ll just assume he’s an alpha. But you really should consider opening your options, Lou. Then what happened?”

“Yes, he’s an alpha,” Louis confirmed, becoming slightly sidetracked from the story. “An incredibly strange one, that’s for sure.”

“Strange?”

Louis shrugged. “He’s just very pleasant and attentive and nice. It’s weird.”

“Weird?”

“It’s refreshing,” Louis confirmed. “He didn’t treat me like a poor little omega who has no place in this city. Or anywhere for that matter.”

Niall sighed. “You really need to get over the few alphas that have treated you like that. Now, finish your story so I can finish my movie.”

“It’s not just a few alphas,” Louis mumbled before finishing his recount of his time at Tea Time. Louis hadn’t stayed much longer after he had seen Harry adjusting his armband. Louis knew he had left because of Harry’s action and Louis was determined he wasn’t going to allow the alpha to keep Louis from spending his time there. Marking papers and making lesson plans was much more enjoyable over a cup of Earl Grey tea. Or at least that’s what Louis had convinced himself of.

----

“Order for Louis!”

It was Harry. Why was Harry here? Obviously he worked here, but it was now the third day in a row and Louis had come in later than his weekend hours due to his job. Louis had been coming to the shop long enough to know that part-timers worked either morning or night on their assigned days to work. So was Harry a full time employee? That didn’t make sense. Not for an alpha at least.

Louis got up from the table, on which he would one day engrave his name, to get his cup of tea.

Harry was back at the register by the time Louis got up to the front to pick up his tea. Despite Tea Time making the best Earl Grey tea possible, the shop wasn’t extremely busy. Even so, Louis always had a lingering fear that his table would be taken if he didn’t grab it immediately upon placing his order. He might have to take a chance and wait for his tea at the counter if it gave Louis the chance to be personally greeted by Harry.

Louis shook his head at the unnecessary thought and moved back to his seat. Louis took a sip of his tea while waiting for his ancient laptop to start up. He nearly spit it out in horror. It was not Earl Grey. What the fuck was this? Louis checked the cup and verified his name was, in fact, written on the side. Except it was spelled Louis, not Lewis. Louis looked over to the front of the store and found Harry watching him with a furrowed brow. Louis had told him just yesterday that he drank Earl Grey. Sure, he said he didn’t necessarily like the taste but that didn’t mean he wanted to drink something else.

Louis sighed and got up to get the correct order. Harry seemed to have disappeared so was met by Amber.

“Hey, Amber,” Louis said, quickly catching her attention.

“Hi, Lewis,” Amber said as she wiggled her eyebrows.

Louis gave a soft laugh and continued, “I think my cup got mixed up with someone else’s.”

Amber frowned and took the cup Louis was extending to her.

“Have a seat,” Amber instructed. “I’ll have someone bring out your Earl Grey in a couple minutes. I’m sorry about that.”

“It’s no problem, love,” Louis assured. “I’m sure it was just a mistake.”

As Louis turned to head back to his table Amber asked, “Was it any better than Earl Grey? Don’t think I don’t notice your dislike of that tea.”

“What makes you think…” Louis started.

“I’ll bring it out in a minute, Lewis ,” Amber interrupted. She immediately turned and returned to her duties behind the counter.

Louis smelled Harry before he saw him coming towards the table. It’s like Harry’s scent was fucking calling out to him.

“You didn’t like the tea?” Harry asked as he set down a new cup on the end of the table.

From the small amount Louis had tasted it actually hadn’t been that bad. Better than Earl Grey.

“I prefer Earl Grey,” Louis advised. “I’m sorry you had to waste whatever you had put in my cup.”

Harry frowned. “I’m sorry for the mix up. I’ll be more careful in the future.”

Harry pushed the new cup of tea closer to Louis and he took it as a cue to try it to make sure it was okay.

It was gross.

“Much better,” Louis said with a satisfied grin. Or at least he hoped it looked satisfying.

Harry nodded and turned to make his exit.

“Thanks for the new cup, Harry,” Louis said before Harry got too far.

Harry turned, his face breaking into a smile as he replied, “Anytime.”

Louis took another sip of the tea and smiled. The mistake of tea had obviously been intentional and Louis couldn’t think of why. He also hadn’t thought this much about his damn tea in ages. He usually just drank it and moved on. He was going on three days of thinking about his life choice of drinking Earl Grey for his lost soulmate.

----

Louis didn’t usually go to the coffee shop four days in a row. Well, he did, but most of the time he just picked up and left. He would proudly admit that he was pining after an alpha that clearly already had someone. Not that anyone would know of his proud pining. Louis placed his order and unpacked his bag as he waited. An exciting afternoon of marking papers.

“Lewis, your Earl Grey!” Amber yelled.

Louis didn’t expect Harry to be here and he smiled to himself thinking of his ridiculousness toward the man that he didn’t know. And who he would never really know.

“Thanks, love,” Louis said, blowing a kiss to Amber before heading back to his table.

He got to work marking papers, letting his tea cool slightly before taking a sip.

It wasn’t Earl Grey. Louis looked around the shop and found Harry at the register. Where the fuck did he come from? And why the fuck was he given the incorrect tea again? Whatever he was given, and Louis was pretty sure it was Yorkshire, it was good. He set down the cup and unnecessarily glared at it. He didn’t want like it. But he didn’t let it go. He would consider it a nice hand warmer.

Louis subconsciously stared at his arm where his soulmark had been. He was wearing another green armband. What if he drank this other tea? Was his soulmate watching him from above as he drank it? Sure, Louis complained about having to drink Earl Grey, but he didn’t really have to drink it. Louis knew this but still felt an obligation. It was another thing he thought about occasionally. His link to Earl Grey was the closest he would ever come to having a soulmate.

“Here’s your tea, Louis.”

Louis looked up to find Harry setting a new cup in front of him.

“I’m sorry I tricked you into drinking something you didn’t want,” Harry continued. He looked sad. His pheromones radiated sad. What was wrong? It was only tea. Well, not only , but to Harry it should only be tea.

Louis’ hold remained on his original cup as he looked up at Harry.

“It’s, um, good?” Louis said slowly. He wasn’t sure he should have admitted that but, too late.

Harry’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “Yeah?”

Harry’s scent shifted into what it had been when Louis first faced him. Louis still couldn’t place it and Louis wondered what that meant. If anything.

“Keep it, yeah?” Harry asked. “It’s on the house.”

Louis nodded, unsure what to say. He also wasn’t sure if he should be accepting the Earl Grey Harry had just brought.

“Keep both,” Harry said, seemingly reading Louis’ thoughts.

Louis nodded again. Or was still nodding?

“Okay,” Louis finally spoke. He was definitely still nodding.

Harry pushed the Earl Grey closer and Louis exchanged the original tea for the Earl Grey.

“Anyway,” Harry said “Have a good night, Louis.”

“You too.”

Before Harry got too far, he turned. He had a bright smile on his face when he said, “It’s Yorkshire, by the way. If you weren’t sure.”

Louis watched him go, kicking himself for not giving him a proper thank you.

He was doing a shit job at marking papers and Louis knew he’d end up having to work on them when he got home. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of Harry though. Thankfully the shop had gotten busier so Harry had to focus on his work. Louis tried to ignore Harry’s purple armband as he watched his movements and interactions with the different genders. The longer Louis watched the more he saw a soft and gentle side when talking to omegas and betas, but there was clear shift in features when he was working with alphas. Although maybe the difference was just distinguishable to Louis since he couldn’t fucking stop watching him.

Louis let out a pathetic sigh. He and Harry could still be friends, right? It’d be up to Harry, wouldn’t it? An unknown omega couldn’t just go up and ask an alpha to be friends. Especially when Louis was attracted to him and they both had soulmates. Kind of. It was a recipe for disaster.

Louis set the Yorkshire tea to the side and finished the Earl Grey. He couldn’t not come to Tea Time anymore but he needed to figure out how to avoid Harry. Or something. Niall would know.

----

“I need you to be my soulmate,” Louis said as he met Niall in the kitchen once he returned home, only halfway through marking papers.

“Well, hello to you too, cupcake,” Niall responded.

“Cupcake?” Louis inquired. Niall had never called him that, and he certainly never would again.

“I’ll be your soulmate if I can call you cupcake,” Niall stated. “Assuming the reason for me being your soulmate is a good reason. Which I already know it’s not so I guess I’ll give up on the cupcake. Now, what is your stupid reason behind me being your fake soulmate, Buttercup?”

Louis rolled his eyes and followed Niall out into the living room, both sitting on the couch. Niall set the bag of crisps in between them and flipped the TV on.

“Okay,” Niall continued through a mouth full of crisps. “How am I not getting involved with you trying to get the attention of an alpha who already has a soulmate?”

“What makes you think this has anything to do with Harry?” Louis asked as he threw his feet onto the coffee table.

Niall laughed and said, “I didn’t say anything about Harry, but you just confirmed it so thanks for skipping that step in the conversation.”

Louis decided to ignore the comment and moved on. “What if he doesn’t have a soulmate? What if he just wears an armband like me?”

Niall was silent for a moment. “Are you serious, Lou? Like, what makes you think that?”

“I don’t know?”

“Lou…”

“I don’t know, he’s just nice. And he treats me different than other omegas?”

“How?”

Louis had no idea.

“He brought me a different tea?”

“Oh my God, Tommo,” Niall said as he shoved another handful of crisps in his mouth and turned his attention to finding something on the TV.

“What is the purpose of me pretending to be your soulmate again?”

Louis still had no idea. He hadn’t thought that far ahead but it seemed having a fake soulmate could gain Harry’s attention? Or not? Or maybe he definitely did not want a fake soulmate but Louis couldn’t back down now.

“If I find a good reason for you to be my soulmate, will you do it?” Louis inquired.

“Probably not, but good luck finding a reason.”

Louis was pretty positive there would be no reason. Maybe.

----

Louis walked into Tea Time to find Harry behind the counter chatting with an elderly couple. Harry’s eyes were bright and his smile radiant. So he worked full time then. Louis couldn’t help but wonder why he worked at a coffee shop.

Louis didn’t immediately place an order as he normally did but instead sat down and pulled out his work while he considered what to buy. He was actually considering his options today. The Yorkshire tea had been really good. Like, really good.

“Louis?”

Louis looked up to find Harry standing in front of him. Harry dropped his eyes down to where Louis had been subconsciously been rubbing over his soulmark. Louis immediately pulled his hand away and gave Harry a small wave.

“Hey, Harry,” Louis greeted. Harry was wearing a light blue armband today.

“Did you want to order anything?” Harry asked. And, oh. He still hadn’t thought of what to order.

“Yeah, of course,” Louis startled. “Um…”

“I mean,” Harry rushed on. “You don’t have to order now. It’s actually my break time, I thought maybe I could sit? With you?”

“Of course!” Louis exclaimed. Maybe a bit too enthusiastically. “Yeah, have a seat.”

Louis gestured to the chair across from him and Harry had a seat. Louis’ inner omega really wanted to be closer to Harry and his scent. Well, Louis wouldn’t mind being closer to Harry, period. Omega or not.

“So you liked the Yorkshire tea yesterday?” Harry asked. They were going to talk about tea? Could they talk about anything but tea?

“I did,” Louis agreed. “Thank you for making me try it.”

“Had you had it before?”

“It had been awhile but yes,” Louis replied.

Maybe they could talk about the weather instead? That was honestly a much more thrilling topic.

“Can I ask you a question, Lou?” Harry asked quietly. “And you don’t have to answer if you don’t want. Really, you don’t have to answer.”

Louis internally rolled his eyes. Harry was going to ask about his Earl Grey obsession, wasn’t he?

“Ask away,” Louis prompted.

“Why do you always drink Earl Grey tea?” Harry asked. Of course.

Louis shrugged. Would asking Harry what he thought about the weather be a good enough response?

He obviously took too long to respond and Harry continued, “Like I said, you don’t have to tell me but, I mean, I’ve only known you a few days. Well, not even known you. I just know your order and my coworkers mentioned how you never drank anything else when I asked why they called you Lewis.”

Louis put his hand up to stop Harry’s rambling. “It’s fine, Harry. I would be curious too.”

Harry nodded but said nothing else so Louis moved forward with his explanation.

Louis pointed to wear his soulmark was and said, “My soulmark used to say ‘ I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please. ’ It doesn’t anymore.”

“Oh.”

From the look on his face it seemed like Harry knew exactly where Louis was going with his explanation. It was one of the looks that had caused Louis to cover up his bare arm in the first place. Pity. Sadness. Regret that they had asked. Everyone knew a disappearing mark meant one's soulmate had died and no one wanted to talk about that with a young, single, male omega. Well, people wanted to talk about it, just not with the person who had a blank canvas on their arm.

“I’m sorry, Lou,” Harry said quietly.

“It’s okay,” Louis said on instinct. It was always the same response, whether it was okay or not.

“So you drink the Earl Grey for them?” Harry continued softly.

Louis shrugged once more. “Yeah, I mean, I never really knew them but still, it seems like the right thing to do.”

“Wait,” Harry said. His tone returning to normal volume. “You never knew them?”

“No.”

“But you still drink a tea you don’t like?” Harry asked. “What if they didn’t even like it?”

This was a stupid conversation. Louis was a fan of sunny skies, autumn leaves, warm air with no humidity. Talking about the weather was one of his favorite things ever. How about they talk about the weather instead?

Louis shrugged for the final time in this conversation. “I guess I’ll never know, will I?”

“Harry!” Amber called from across the room. Louis looked over to find a queue at the register. Louis gave a silent thank you for interrupting the conversation and made a mental note to get her something nice for her birthday. He made a second mental note to find out when Amber’s birthday was.

Harry looked at his phone that he had been holding and frowned.

“Well,” Harry said as he stood up. “It looks like my break is being cut short but maybe we can talk some other time? About whatever you want?”

Louis smiled up at him and said, “I’d love that, yeah.”

“Good,” Harry replied. “Stay here and I’ll bring you your tea when the queue dies down, yeah?”

Louis laughed and said, “I think you’ve given me enough free tea for the week, I’ll come up and pay for it. But thank you.”

“I’m going to bring you a cup of tea whether you pay or not,” Harry advised. “So you might as well stay at your favorite table and wait for it to come to you.”

“Harry…”

“I’ll talk to you later, Lou,” Harry interrupted as he hurried towards the front of the store.

Louis watched him go. He couldn’t help but smile at the fact that Harry called him Lou. His friends called him Lou so by default Harry had just established a friendship. Right?

Louis unpacked his laptop and poked at the display in the hopes that the action would make it wake up faster. He really needed a new laptop.

It had only been a few moments before a cup was set down next to him.

“Here you go, Louis, ” Amber said, hurrying away before Louis had a chance to thank her. Or, more likely, have her thank Harry.

Louis didn’t realize Amber had pronounced his name correctly until he was already taking his first sip. Yorkshire.

Louis eyes snapped up to Harry, who was already watching Louis, despite having a customer directly in front of him. Harry smiled softly at Louis before returning his attention to his job, giving no time for Louis to respond. He would have responded with a glare.

He looked at the cup in front of him. Amber pronounced his name correctly which led Louis to believe that she was under the impression that Louis had changed his tea. Except Louis most definitely had not placed this order.

Harry changing his tea like this was different than the previous days. Harry now knew the reason why Louis drank Earl Grey. Which really wasn’t much of an explanation but at least there was some sort of reason behind Louis’ dedication to the disgusting liquid substance.

Harry was actively avoiding eye contact with Louis and it was quickly pissing him off. It would be nice to be able to give some sort of notice of dissatisfaction of Harry’s actions. Louis ran his thumb over where his soulmark had been. Perhaps Louis had been considering getting something different today. He may have even gotten Yorkshire. But the choice had been taken away from him when Amber dropped off the cup. Sure, it was free and Louis could easily go place his own order. But could Harry look at him for fucks sake?

He watched as Harry slipped into the back room. Louis snapped his laptop closed with more force than necessary and packed it away. He would go get a cup of Earl Grey from some other store. Or maybe he’d just skip out on today’s tea and come back tomorrow. Surely Harry wouldn’t be working six days in a row.

Louis got up, taking the full cup of tea with him. He headed Amber’s way and caught her near the pick up counter.

“Hey, love,” Louis greeted her with a smile. He certainly wasn’t upset with her.

“Hi, Louis,” Amber said far too cheerily for Louis’ current liking. He would have preferred that she call him Lewis.

Louis set the cup down on the counter and said, “Could you please return this cup to Harry?”

Amber looked between Louis and the cup, frowning in confusion.

“You didn’t order that?” Amber asked.

“I considered it, but no, I did not.”

Louis could tell she wanted to apologize so he spoke before she could have a chance.

“No need to apologize, love,” Louis assured.

“I can get you Earl Grey if you want,” Amber rushed on.

“Honestly it’s fine. Something came up and I need to head out,” Louis lied. “If I’m going to try something new I’d like to stay and enjoy it, you know?”

Amber nodded, seeming unsure what to say.

“I need to get going,” Louis continued. “But give that to Harry, okay? I know he likes it so don’t let it go to waste.”

“Yeah, sure,” Amber agreed.

“Gotta run,” Louis said as he hitched his bag up on his shoulder. He blew Amber a kiss and headed for the door.

He was almost out of the door when he heard his name be called.

“Lou?” Harry asked, trying to gain Louis’ attention. “Louis?”

Louis ignored the inquiry and continued out of the door. Unless Harry wanted to talk about the weather, Louis was done for the day. He was finished talking about tea and soulmates for awhile.

----

“What’s wrong?” Niall asked from the living room. Louis honestly hadn’t meant to slam the flat’s door behind him but too late now.

“Nothing,” Louis said as he deflated on the couch. He laid down, resting his head in Niall’s lap.

“Lou,” Niall started. “The only time you say that nothing is wrong is if there actually is something wrong.”

Louis let out a deep sigh. “I told Harry about my soulmark.”

“Really?” Niall asked in astonishment. “I mean, that’s a good thing. I’m glad you told him. What did he say?”

“Nothing,” Louis said. “His break got cut short so our conversation did as well. But then he went and ordered me a fucking cup of Yorkshire tea. He didn’t even have the decency to give it to me himself either. He had Amber hand it off thinking that I was the one who ordered it.”

“Oh.”

“Exactly!” Louis exclaimed as he poked Niall in the nose. “I didn’t even get a full explanation out and he just assumes I want to switch teas?”

“He probably wasn’t thinking that, Lou,” Niall reasoned.

“Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t,” Louis said. “How was I supposed to know when he wouldn’t even make eye contact with me?”

“How was it?” Niall asked.

“How was what?”

“The Yorkshire tea,” Niall clarified. “It had to have been better than Earl Grey.”

“It is,” Louis confirmed. “But I didn’t drink it.”

“What?” Niall asked in confusion.

“I didn’t drink it. If I’m going to switch tea it’s going to be on my terms. I don’t want it just handed off to me. I’ll go get my Earl Grey tomorrow. He shouldn’t be there and I don’t want Amber or any of the other regular baristas thinking I’m upset with them.”

“I think you’re overreacting, Lou,” Niall said. “I’m sure he meant well.”

“I’m just saying. He shouldn’t go assuming things like that. I’m not switching teas now. I’m staying true to my soulmate, may they rest in peace.”

“Yeah, you’re definitely overreacting.” Niall said with a shake of his head. He didn’t say anything else though and the room fell silent, only the sound of the tv playing in the background.

“Pizza?” Niall eventually asked.

“Yeah.”

----

Amber was at the register when Louis walked into Tea Time the following day.

“Do you ever go home?” Louis asked. “Honestly, you are never not here.”

Amber let out a loud laugh before responding, “I just want to spend as much time with you as possible before I leave, Lewis.”

Wait, what?

“Leave?” Louis asked. “Like, leave, leave? You’re the owner. You can’t leave.”

“But you just told me to!” Amber countered.

Louis shook his head and said, “No, I didn’t. I asked if you ever go home. There’s a difference.”

“Mhmm,” Amber mumbled. “Earl Grey with milk and sugar?”

“Yes, please,” Louis confirmed. “But honestly, are you actually leaving?”

“I am,” Amber stated. “We’re opening another shop uptown so I’ll be working up there for the most part. I’ll still be around, of course, but Harry is going to take over managerial duties at this location.”

“Oh,” Louis responded. So that explained why Harry spent so much time in the shop.

“Are the two of you okay?” Amber asked. “He seemed kind of sad after you left yesterday. It’s like you had a fight without actually talking.”

Louis rolled his eyes. “He’s a good lad. He just seems to think I should be drinking different tea. I’m good with my Earl Grey.”

Amber giggled and said, “I won’t ask questions but I’m still fairly certain you don’t actually like it.”

“It’s an acquired taste,” Louis explained. “I’m still working on the acquiring part but I’m almost there.”

“So we’re still calling you Lewis then?” Amber asked as she took Louis’ card for payment.

Louis laughed. “It seems so. Feel free to pronounce it correctly at any time though. I promise I won’t mind.”

“I’m sure,” Amber replied, handing Louis’ card back. “Your tea will be ready in a few.”

Louis turned to head to his table. He stopped in his tracks when he found someone sitting there. When he found Harry sitting there. What the fuck? He wasn’t supposed to be here today. Not that Louis controlled the employees schedules, but Harry wasn’t supposed to be here today.

Louis briefly considered waiting for his order and taking it to go, but Harry was obviously there waiting for him. Louis didn’t have much of a choice but to face him at this point. Louis briefly turned back to Amber who was smirking at him. Louis made a mental note to find out when her birthday was but not get her any sort of present.

“Hey,” Harry greeted as Louis neared his table. As in Louis’ table. Not Harry’s table.

“Hi,” Louis stated. It really wasn’t necessary for him to be stroppy after yesterday’s incident but too late now.

“I’m sorry, Louis,” Harry said simply. Louis much preferred when Harry called him Lou.

“It’s fine,” Louis said instinctively.

It wasn’t fine. Stroppiness must continue for a little bit longer.

Louis set his bag down and proceeded to sit across from Harry. It was then that Louis was overwhelmed by Harry’s pheromones. Okay, so yes, Harry was sorry. Pheromones don’t lie.

“No, it’s not,” Harry insisted. “You told me something personal and I practically went and made a joke out of it.”

“I’m sure you meant well,” Louis stated, repeating Niall’s words.

Harry shook his head. “To be honest, I think I just wanted to get your attention.”

“Earl Grey for Lewis!” Amber called from the counter.

Louis hopped up before Harry had a chance to offer to help. Louis walked slower than he normally would to give him a bit longer to process what Harry had just said. He wanted to get Louis’ attention? Why? Sure they could be friends but was Harry forgetting that he had a soulmate? And now Harry was fully aware that Louis did not have one. This wasn’t a pity friendship was it? He’d had plenty of those.

Louis grabbed his tea and headed back for Harry’s explanation.

“Earl Grey?” Harry asked, a small smile on his face.

Louis merely nodded and sat back down. He was going to have to talk about tea and soulmates again . This had become the longest week ever.

“What did you mean?” Harry began. “When you said you never met your soulmate?”

Louis rolled his eyes. Onward to soulmate talk.

“I mean I never met them.”

Harry frowned. “You also said your soulmark used to say ‘I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please.’ Your soulmark disappeared?”

Louis had to hand it to him. Unlike most people Harry had actually been fully listening to what Louis had said. And he remembered.

“It disappeared when I was fourteen,” Louis said. “And please don’t give me a look of pity. I’ve had enough of those.”

Harry nodded in understanding and continued. Unfortunately. “Why do you wear an armband if you don’t have a soulmark?”

Louis took a sip of his tea, making sure not to cringe at the taste.

“So I don’t get people continuously asking why I don’t have a soulmark,” Louis explained. “I’ve had enough of that too. I much prefer winter months when I can wear long sleeves.”

Harry dropped his eyes. “I’m sorry I asked. We don’t have to talk about it.”

“It’s fine, Harry,” Louis said. “You seem to be genuinely curious unlike most people who just want to know for the sake of gossip.”

Harry looked back up to Louis. “I would never…”

“I know,” Louis interrupted. “Which is why I’m allowing the continuation of the conversation.”

Harry bit his lip as if unsure if he should continue.

“So, you drink Earl Grey as, like, um, I guess a sort of dedication to them? Even though you never knew them?”

Louis looked down at his cup. “It’s stupid. I know. Everyone agrees that it is.”

“No, it’s not!” Harry exclaimed adamantly. “It’s not stupid. It’s kind of romantic actually.”

Louis couldn’t help his surprise. “The only person that has said that is my mum. And she was probably only agreeing with me because she’s my mum.”

“Well it is,” Harry stated. And he was serious. This whole conversation was actually serious for once.

Harry reached his hand across the table, brushing his index finger along Louis’ hand where he was holding onto his cup of tea. It was just a soft touch but it sent a zip of pleasure throughout Louis’ body.

“How long have you been drinking Earl Grey tea?” Harry asked as he repeated the action.

Louis managed to hold in the shiver of pleasure as he said, “Since I learned it was my soulmark and I would never have a soulmate. So, like, fourteen?”

“That’s beautiful, Louis,” Harry whispered. Louis wasn’t even sure if he was meant to hear Harry’s words.

Louis shrugged. “Thanks. I guess.”

As if to cue the end of the conversation, Harry’s phone vibrated against the table with an incoming text.

“Sorry,” Harry said. He seemed hesitant to check the text but picked up his phone, promptly letting out a groan.

“Everything okay?” Louis asked.

“Oh, sorry, yeah,” Harry explained. “It’s just I told my friend I would join him to see Avengers: Endgame today.”

“You’re not working?”

Had Harry come to the shop in the hopes that Louis would stop in? In which case how long had he been here?

“No,” Harry replied. “I, um, I hoped you would come in. I thought maybe you’d come in for Earl Grey to make up for yesterday.”

Louis thought back to when Louis first met Harry and how he had been so confused by Harry’s actions. Harry continued to surprise him by the difference in characteristics from other alphas. Louis repeated his first thought of how Harry’s soulmate was so fucking lucky as well.

“I know I already said sorry,” Harry continued, pulling Louis out of his thoughts. “But I truly am, Lou, I didn’t mean to upset you yesterday. It was selfish of me and I wasn’t thinking beyond…”

“Beyond?” Louis asked. Beyond what?

Harry pulled back into himself. Louis startled when he realized how close they had gravitated towards each other over the small table.

“Beyond trying to get your attention,” Harry said as he looked down at his hands. Despite Harry bowing his head down Louis saw a slight blush appearing on his cheeks.

Back to another question Louis had asked himself. Who was this kid? And why was he trying to get Louis’ attention? It didn’t make sense.

Harry’s phone buzzed again and he quickly checked the message.

“Do you maybe want to go see Avengers: Endgame with us?” Harry asked. “You can meet Liam, too. I think you’d like him.”

Louis managed to hold in his laughter. He most definitely did not want to meet Harry’s soulmate. Of course Harry had only said friend, but Louis had been tricked into being a third wheel of a soulmate date one too many times.

“Thanks for the offer, but I have things to catch up on,” Louis lied. He had spent more time marking papers and making lesson plans in the past week than he had in a long time. He was caught up and fully prepared for once.

“Do you have someone that would want to see it maybe?” Harry asked as if reading Louis’ thoughts. Harry was apparently quite good at that. Which probably wasn’t a good thing in Louis’ case.

Louis knew that Niall wanted to see it and Louis was ninety-nine percent sure he would be the one Niall would want to go with. Not that Louis had a problem with it since he wanted to see it as well. He also knew Niall had no plans tonight.

Harry looked so hopeful. Why? Why was Harry here on his day off to apologize about giving him the wrong tea? Why was he giving Louis the wrong tea to get his attention? And why the fuck had Harry been brushing his finger along his hand? If Louis concentrated he would probably still feel the tingle it had left behind.

Louis wanted to meet Harry’s soulmate. Maybe they didn’t get along and were only together because of their soulmark. Did people still do that? Plus spending a few hours in Harry’s scent wasn’t a bad idea either. Well, it definitely was but Louis would just ignore that thought.

Louis caved to Harry’s tender gaze. It would be so much more helpful if Harry would just act as an average alpha who didn’t look at Louis, the soulmark-less single omega, so tenderly.

Louis inwardly sighed and said, “Let me see what my friend Niall is up to.”

Harry’s face broke out into a large grin and Louis momentarily got distracted by the dimples that were nearly breaking his face in half. Louis loved it. No. Louis definitely didn’t love it.

Louis: Neil I’m going to go see Avengers: Endgame. You’re coming. Now.

Niall: What? Now? I’m busy.

Louis: No you’re not. It’s now or never.

Niall: Why now?

Louis: Do you want to see it or not? I’m not letting you go if you don’t see it now.

Niall: Fine. Are you coming to pick me up?

Louis rolled his eyes. Did Niall think he was a chauffeur? Neither of them even owned a car.

Louis turned his attention back to Harry who he found pretending not to have been watching him.

“Niall’s free,” Louis advised. “I know he wants to see it so it works. When and where?”

Harry clapped excitedly. Louis didn’t find it at all endearing. Nope.

“Lincoln center AMC theater in about a half an hour,” Harry advised. “I don’t remember the exact time the movie starts but that’s when Liam said to meet.”

Louis texted the information to Niall, unnecessarily reminding him that neither of them owned a car so he would have to make the journey on his own.

“Sorry for the short notice,” Harry said. “I honestly forgot it was today. No need to tell Liam that though.”

Louis let out a small laugh and merely nodded. He didn’t really have plans to engage Liam in much conversation. Louis was there to observe his relationship with Harry. And to watch a movie while throwing popcorn at Niall.

“Should we head out then?” Louis asked. He belatedly realized he was going to have to drag his damn laptop and books around the city and inwardly groaned. Not that they were particularly heavy just inconvenient to take to a movie theater.

Louis stood up before Harry could respond, pulling his bag from the floor to get it situated. Harry was immediately by Louis side, gently catching Louis’ wrist before he had a chance to throw the bag over his shoulder.

“I got it, Lou,” Harry said. “I’m sure you weren’t planning on carrying it around the city.”

Louis was about to object but a flash of alpha crossed Harry’s face and Louis knew it would be pointless to argue.

Louis handed it over and Harry promptly threw it over his shoulder, snagged Louis’ tea off of the table, handing it over to Louis with a small smile on his face.

“For you,” Harry said quietly. Louis looked up into Harry’s beautiful eyes. In this moment Louis honestly didn’t want to drink any of the Earl Grey. Had he even taken a sip?

Harry frowned when Louis didn’t immediately reach out for it. Harry nodded and kept his hold on the cup. Louis had no idea what that meant but turned to head out of the shop with Harry directing him with a hand on the small of Louis’ back. The only thing preventing Louis from dying at the tender touch was him noticing Amber’s smirk as she watched the pair cross the shop. Louis naturally took the mature action of sticking his tongue out at her.

They were only about a block from the subway and Louis realized he hadn’t told Niall that they were going to see the movie with someone else, let alone that the someone else was Harry. This could be bad.

“Congratulations, by the way,” Louis said, gaining Harry’s attention. “On the shop. Amber told me you’re going to be the store manager when they open the new store.”

Harry smiled brightly. “Yeah. Thanks, it’s should be fun.”

Louis couldn’t contain his curiosity and continued, “Why a coffee shop? Like, how did you get into that?”

Harry shrugged. “Working in a small coffee shop was my first job and I loved it. It was in a small town in England so everyone knew everyone. Obviously a shop in New York City is a lot different, but it’s no Starbucks. It’s a lot more laid back.”

Harry bumped Louis’ shoulder and said, “And we still get regulars. Amber told me you have been stopping in there for ages.”

“Tea Time has the best Earl Grey I could find in the city and it’s fairly close to my flat so it’s perfect.

“So you go for the tea then?” Harry asked with a smile. Louis couldn’t help but notice Harry still carrying his cup. He considered telling him to throw it away but maybe he should just drink it.

Louis was thankful for the easy train ride. There was no need to switch lines and while it was packed, Louis didn’t mind as it was only a few stops to the Lincoln Square exit. He couldn’t help but look over every once in a while at Harry who was holding Louis’ bag close. There really weren’t any valuables in the bag and Louis honestly wouldn’t mind someone stealing his laptop. It would give him an excuse to buy a new one.

“Tommo!”

Louis turned around to find Niall exiting the same stop. How had he managed to catch the same train? The odds of that were, like, slim. Louis didn’t feel like doing any sort of math to figure out what those odds might be.

“So what’s the rush to see the movie?” Niall asked after he had caught up to Louis.

He obviously hadn’t seen Harry yet. Or at least notice that he was walking closely alongside Louis, making it obvious that they were together. Well, not together together. Harry’s blue armband was an unfortunate constant reminder.

Louis gestured to Harry and said, “Harry meet Niall, my annoying flatmate slash best friend.”

“Hey!” Niall interrupted. “I’m not annoying.”

Louis would return to that later. “Niall meet Harry, my, um…”

Who the hell was Harry to him? Louis’ friend? Tea connoisseur? The best smelling alpha Louis had ever known? The man that would never be his soulmate because Harry was off limits? Someone who was trying to impress Louis for some unknown reason?

“Louis’ friend,” Harry finished. “We met at Tea Time.”

Harry held out his hand and Niall happily took it, the pair sharing a firm handshake as Louis sent up a prayer that Niall wouldn’t say anything stupid.

“Oh!” Niall exclaimed. “From the coffee shop with a stupid name. Yeah, I’m Louis’ backup soulmate. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

Prayers were hopeless when it came to Niall speaking.

Niall nudged Louis. “Why didn’t you tell me Harry was joining us, Cupcake?”

“Niall,” Louis warned. Speeding up their walk north towards the theater.

Harry broke out in laughter and Louis took the opportunity to glare at his best friend. Niall merely wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and looked forward toward their destination.

----

The trio was nearing the theater when Harry waved to a lad standing outside. He had a bigger build so clearly an alpha which made Louis question if him and Harry were actually just friends and not soulmates. Although it's not like an alpha and omega were destined to be paired together as soulmates.

"Lou?" Harry asked, pulling Louis from his thoughts. "Do you want your tea? I don't know if we can take it inside."

Louis looked up at Harry, unable to read the expression on his face. He honestly didn't want it. And not for his long standing reason of not liking it.

“I think maybe I’ll get an ICEE inside instead?” Louis said. Or questioned. Whatever.

Harry beamed. “Sounds good.”

“You brought friends,” the assumed Liam said as they headed into the theater.

“Oh! Sorry,” Harry said apologetically. He seemed just as bad at introductions as Louis was. He could definitely appreciate that.

“Hi, I’m Niall, nice to meet you… ?” Niall, on the other hand was the king of introductions. Whether you wanted to be introduced to him or not.

“Liam, good to meet you.”

Louis realized with a start that Liam wasn’t an alpha. Unless he was wearing scent neutralizers, which somehow seemed a lot more plausible than him not being an alpha. He also had his soulmark covered. He had a soulmate.

“Harry?” Liam continued.

Harry had clearly been lost in thought, literally shaking his head as if to return to the present.

“Liam, this is Louis,” Harry explained. “I met Louis at Tea Time. Louis, this is my friend slash roommate Liam. He’s not annoying though.”

“Wait,” Niall interrupted. “Did you just call me annoying? We’ve spoken for, like, twenty-eight seconds and I’m already being insulted.”

Harry giggled and shrugged innocently. Louis looked between Liam and Harry. Liam was wearing the same color blue armband as Harry. Fuck.

“Anyway,” Louis said with an outstretched hand. “Nice to meet you, Liam.”

Louis may or may not be lying. It was definitely up for debate. Maybe he shouldn’t have agreed to come after all.

“Do you guys have tickets already?” Liam asked. “I bought mine and Harry’s online so we’re set.”

“We’re good,” Niall stated. “Lou bought ours already, right, Lou?”

Louis rolled his eyes. “I’m not buying your ticket, Niall. Good try. Well, poor try, but whatever.”

“Not even as your backup soulmate?” Niall asked innocently. “Cupcake?”

Louis smacked Niall upside the head before turning towards the ticket kiosks.

“Backup soulmate?” Liam asked from behind him. Louis wasn’t sure he wanted to know who Liam was talking to.

“Buy your ticket, Neil,” Louis instructed after grabbing his own ticket from the kiosk.

Once everyone was set with tickets they headed to the concession stand. Usually Louis didn’t want to spend his entire paycheck on food from a movie theater but he was going to celebrate his terrible life decision to be a third wheel (despite his own roommate) to the two soulmates he had agreed to see this movie with. Louis wondered how many beers he could purchase without seeming suspicious. This could be much better endured drunk.

“ICEE, Lou?” Harry asked, nudging Louis in the shoulder.

Louis nodded in agreement. “Yep. It’s all about the white cherry.”

“It’s really not,” Niall chimed in. “What’s the point of drinking an ICEE if it doesn’t turn your mouth a disgusting shade of blue?”

“He has a point,” Liam agreed from his spot in line. Louis ignored them both. He also ignored the price of the beverage he ordered.

“Can I get a box of nachos with the ICEE please?”

Louis snapped his head to the right to find Harry adding something to Louis’ order. Nachos were practically a days worth of pay for fuck’s sake. Harry may be pretty and smell good but no nachos for him.  Louis was a teacher in New York City. How he came to be one was still a mystery to him. But either way it meant he was poor with no money for nachos.

Louis was also easily distracted by nacho eating alphas who are pretty and smell good because before he knew what was happening Harry was handing his card over to pay for the order.

“Wait, Harry,” Louis objected. “I got it. It’s my ICEE.”

“And they’re my nachos.” Harry challenged, taking both the nachos and ICEE cup from the cashier and heading over to the dispenser.

Louis looked over to Liam and Niall. By their lack of reaction, Louis couldn’t even tell if they had noticed the interaction.

Louis sighed in defeat and joined Harry by the dispenser.

“Why did you just pay for my ICEE?” Louis asked. “It’s not like this is a date. Well, not between the two of us it’s not.”

Louis looked over to Liam who was looking between him and Harry with mild interest. Was this any sort of date?

“Let’s go, Tommo,” Niall called. “You know how I feel about previews.”

Louis rolled his eyes as he took the full cup of ICEE from Harry. Sometimes Louis wondered if Niall cared more about the previews than the actual movie they paid to see.

“Thanks, Harry,” Louis belatedly said. “For the ICEE.”

“No problem,” Harry said. His eyes were bright and his smile radiant. God, his soulmate was lucky. Now if only Louis could figure out if Liam was the lucky person.

----

Louis lost the plot less than fifteen minutes into the movie. They could be watching Iron Man for all he knew. If nothing else he knew it was a Marvel movie. That narrowed things down. Slightly. Actually not at all.

Louis changed his mind. Sitting in Harry’s scent for a few hours was a bad idea. Only bad. There was no good in this at all. And he could not figure out if Harry and Liam’s matching armbands meant anything. Maybe it was just a coincidence? Because they didn’t seem very couple-y. But they were also watching an action film with people they had just met only minutes ago.

He should have spent the money to get popcorn. Throwing things at Niall would keep him distracted. He needed a distraction. One would think the movie would be doing that job but not with Harry next to him.

Louis put all of his effort into sitting still and watching the film. Or at least pretend as if he were watching the film. He had made the mistake of looking over at Harry a few times. His profile in the lights of the theater was practically ethereal.

Hands in his lap. Feet steady on the floor. Look straight ahead. Louis had this. This movie was fucking sick. Whatever it was.

He knew the moment he got caught. Harry’s pheromones shifted to concern and Louis could see him glance over at him. Right. Hands in his lap. Feet steady on the floor. Looking straight ahead.

“Lou?” Harry whispered, leaning into Louis’ personal space to avoid disrupting the other moviegoers.

“Hush, I’m enjoying this,” Louis replied putting full effort into looking like he was enjoying it.

Harry went silent but Louis’ words did nothing to appease him. Harry’s scent only grew stronger and Louis briefly considered holding his breath until he passed out.

Harry shifted and Louis suddenly found himself with Harry’s arm around the back of his chair. Harry gently brushed his thumb along the side of Louis’ neck and it was possible Louis was going to pass out for a whole other reason. It felt so good.

Louis soon found himself wrapped in calming pheromones. Which would have been helpful if it wasn’t causing Louis to want to crawl into Harry’s lap and shove his nose into the crook of his neck. It would only be slightly awkward as they were in a movie theater, sitting next to Harry’s potential soulmate.

Louis poked Niall in the shoulder to get his attention as Louis moved to stand up. He needed air. As Louis moved down the aisle he could practically feel Harry’s gaze following him. Louis exited the theater and breathed a sigh of relief, his body deflated all the way down to the floor. As Louis looked around he made a mental note to give the theater a five star rating for cleanliness.

He was just pulling out his phone when he saw Harry exit the theater. Of fucking course.

“Lou, what’s wrong?” Harry asked again. He didn’t seem to think twice before he was dropping to the floor to sit next to Louis.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Louis lied.

“It’s okay,” Harry eventually responded. “You don’t have to tell me. It’s not my business.”

Louis nodded in agreement. What was he supposed to say?

“However,” Harry continued. “I am going to help you.”

“What?” Louis questioned. He didn’t need help.

“You’re shaking, Lou,” Harry stated. “And I don’t need to know why, but I am going to help you.”

Harry didn’t give Louis a chance to respond before he was standing up and taking Louis with him.

“What?” Louis started. Harry grabbed Louis’ hand and held tight as they walked to the end of the hall. “Wait, where are we going, Harry?”

“Just out of the way,” Harry explained. “Now sit. Please?”

Louis merely nodded and did as instructed. He hadn’t even realized he was shaking in the first place.

“Remind me to get on Yelp and Google Reviews to give this theater five stars for cleanliness, will you?” Louis asked.

Harry let out a loud laugh before agreeing. “I’ll make sure of that, yeah.”

Harry was quickly back on the floor next to his side. Louis honestly had no idea why the fuck he was shaking but if Harry knew how to make it stop then he was certainly welcome to do so.

However. He was not expecting to be pulled sideways into Harry’s lap. It explains why Harry had moved them out of the way of foot traffic but any other explanation was lost on Louis.

Harry wrapped one arm around Louis’ waist, and the other around his shoulders, pulling Louis tightly into the warmth of Harry’s embrace.

“What are you doing?” Louis whispered. He looked down and found that his hands were still shaking. What the fuck had happened to cause this?

“Hush,” Harry instructed.

“Why am I hushing?” Louis asked. Because, what was happening and why was he sitting in Harry’s lap?

“I’m going to scent you, Lou,” Harry said. “If that’s okay. Is that okay?”

Not really, no. Why the fuck would Harry scent him? They were practically strangers. Of course, so were people in clubs who just went ahead and scented without permission. Louis always did a soulmark check before he would let the person scent him though. If they were wearing an armband they were off limits.

“Why?” Louis asked, almost whimpered. He was fairly positive it would calm him down but why ? This wasn’t Harry’s job. What would his soulmate think?

“Can I scent you, Lou? Please?”

Louis gave in. Damn the consequences. For now. Just fix the shaking.

Harry pulled him in tighter and Louis closed his eyes as Harry let out calming pheromones with the added bonus of him scent marking Louis. Harry nosed his way along Louis’ neck and behind his ear.

Louis simultaneously froze and let out a whine when he felt a bit of slick pass through his clenched cheeks.

“It’s fine,” Harry whispered into Louis’ ear.

Yeah, it really wasn’t fine. It was only a small amount and it likely wouldn’t show but the fact that it even happened wasn’t fine.

Harry continued to scent mark him as he ran his hand up and down Louis’ back.

“Relax, love,” Harry assured. “Drop if you need to. I’m here. I promise I’ll take care of you.”

Again, why was Harry here with him? This made absolutely zero sense and if they were still sitting in the hall like this after the movie ended Liam was going to chop either his cock or balls off. Or both.

“Louis you’re still shaking and I don’t know why,” Harry whispered as he continued to nose through Louis’ hair. “Drop, love. I’m here.”

Louis dropped. It was a stupid decision but it was possibly better than thinking about Liam chopping off his cock. And Harry was here, anchoring him to bring him back when he was ready.

Louis awoke in the same position he fell asleep in. Or dropped in. Falling asleep sounds better. Well, with one big difference from before he had fallen asleep. Harry was still scenting him but instead of nosing along his neck and into his hairline, he was now planting small kisses as he went. Louis didn’t dare move.

“God, you smell good,” Harry whispered.

Louis was going to die of happiness. Or by the hands of Harry’s soulmate. Or maybe a hitman if they didn’t want to get their own hands dirty. Thankfully Louis was still high on pheromones to react to that thought. He also realized he was no longer shaking. Louis waited a few more moments after Harry’s statement before stirring in his arms.

Harry gave one final kiss before turning his attention to Louis’ waking state.

“Hi there,” Harry whispered as he ran his index finger along Louis’ jawline.

“How long was I out? Why did I choose to drop? That was so stupid.”

“It’s not stupid when someone is here for you, knowing that it would help your inner omega rejuvenate.”

“That makes no sense,” Louis replied. Because it really made no sense. Inner omega rejuvenating? Where did Harry come up with that terminology?

“But yeah, how long was I out?” Louis asked again.

“Only about ten minutes,” Harry advised.

“Oh. That was… fast.”

“I told you I’d be here to pull you out,” Harry said. “You were ready.”

Which also made no sense. He had dropped before, thankfully when there was someone around. But he was out until his body decided to wake up and get out of the state. An alpha pulling him up though? Also something he hadn’t heard of. Was Harry unique in his ability or was it just something other people didn’t know about? Or maybe other alphas didn’t know they had a way to do that? Or just the alphas Louis knew. Whatever. He had lost his soulmark when he was fourteen. What was the point of learning about all of the a/b/o dynamics when his soulmate was gone? Either way, this was new and Louis had no idea what to think.

“Do you want to go back into the theater?” Harry asked. He didn’t sound particularly keen on the idea.

Fuck no. This was probably the one and only time he’d be able to spend time with Harry like this. And it shouldn’t have even happened.

“Um,” Louis began. “Maybe you could stay with me just a little bit longer?”

Or maybe Harry would be willing to ditch his soulmate and stay with Louis forever instead?

“I’d like that,” Harry whispered close to Louis’ ear.

Louis laid his head back down against Harry’s chest. He didn’t even care if Harry noticed Louis’ desire to scent him.

----

Louis’ phone vibrated from where it sat on the floor. Louis had eventually moved out of Harry’s lap and both were leaning against the wall. Louis had selfishly taken the opportunity to lean into Harry, lying his head on Harry’s shoulder as Harry gently ran his hand up and down Louis’ thigh. Louis wasn’t sure if it was just a continuation of Harry’s previously providing the comfort Louis had apparently needed but Louis was pretty sure it wasn’t necessary. He had no idea what that meant. Harry’s soulmate was sure to smell Louis’ pheromones after being so close like this. This shouldn’t have happened. Either way, Louis inwardly sighed that their moment was over and shifted to look at the message.

“It’s Niall,” Louis advised. “He and Liam are in the lobby.”

Harry squeezed Louis’ knee and said, “I guess that’s our cue to leave.”

Louis moved to stand up. “I guess so.”

Once Harry was up he stopped Louis with a slight tug on his arm, almost over the band of his soulmark.

“Lou, I don’t know if you want to talk about it out here but I need to know. Well, I don’t need to know so you don’t have to tell me. But I’d like to know. Honestly I don’t mind if you don’t want to say.”

Louis doubted that going by the concerned look Harry had on his face.

Harry momentarily kept silent but finally continued, “Does that happen often?”

Louis furrowed his brow. “Does what happen often? Or not happen often.”

“You, um…”

Harry was an eloquent speaker.

“Um,” Harry continued. Ish. He clearly didn’t want to ask. “You shaking like that. And dropping.”

Oh. It was a simple answer but for some reason Louis wasn’t sure if he should share. Did Harry really need to know?

“No,” Louis admitted. “If you mean the shaking like that I can’t even recall a time when that has happened. I’ve dropped before but not for, like, a reason to get out of a situation like this. I don’t see the point of why I would need to drop because I was shaking. So I guess I need to figure out what today was about.”

Harry had a frown on his face. That was absolute overshare. First Louis tells Harry about his soulmark issue and now this? In one day. It was just as well that Harry had his soulmate because no way would he want to be with Louis with all of his issues. Well, only two issues but handing them out in one day was a little much.

Niall must have turned into the impatient person he often was and Louis spotted him moving back from the direction of the lobby, clearly looking around for Louis and Harry. After sharing that information with Harry, Louis gladly welcomed Niall’s impatience.

“About time,” Niall said as he caught sight of Louis and Harry. “Where did you guys even go? You missed a fucking sick movie. Although it’s just as well because now I can see it a second time when you come with me, Tommo.”

Louis rolled his eyes. He should have seen that coming.

They caught up with Liam who went back to looking between Harry and Louis with mild interest. Louis would prefer no interest. Could he tell Liam to pretend this never happened? Louis looked down at Liam’s armband and wondered at what point Liam  was going to chop Louis’ balls off.

“Where’d you go, H?” Liam asked. “You missed a great movie.”

Harry immediately flushed and Louis ducked his head to avoid looking between the pair.

“I guess we’ll have to go see it again, too,” Harry said with a slight laugh. Even Louis could tell it was forced.

“We definitely will,” Liam agreed. “It really was amazing.”

“Maybe next week?” Harry asked hopefully.

Louis looked over to Niall who had a frown on his face as he looked to where Harry and Liam had started to pull away from the group. Wasn’t it Louis’ job to have a frown on his face? Why did Niall care?

Liam gave a soft pat on Harry’s back and pulled back to walk next to Niall. They quickly started a conversation about the movie and Louis immediately tuned them out in case he did end up seeing it. Louis hated spoilers. Unless he was telling the spoilers to other people, of course.

Louis was forced to drop behind the group as the sidewalk became too crowded to walk as a group. Louis couldn’t take his eyes off of Harry and wished that it was winter so his damn armband wasn’t taunting him.

Harry looked around and spotted Louis walking behind the group. Louis watched as he immediately dropped back to walk next to him.

They were already nearing the subway entrance and Harry asked, “You’re going downtown, right? You said you lived near Tea Time?

Louis nodded. “Yeah. You?”

Louis really hoped they were taking the same train. The more time spent with Harry the better.

“I live downtown as well,” Harry said. Louis inwardly rejoiced.

“However,” Harry continued. “I told Liam I’d go to his friend’s house to pick some things up and he lives uptown. I’m sorry I can’t carry your bag the rest of the way.”

Louis inwardly pouted and cried and hated everyone and everything and he threw virtual daggers in the direction of everyone named Liam. If one happened to land on the Liam walking in front of him then…. Oops? Not that Louis was wanting a death wish, but a flesh wound would be acceptable. Okay, maybe not. Harry probably wouldn’t appreciate that. Nor would Liam, but that was neither here nor there. Louis may or may not be overreacting.

“That’s okay, Harry,” Louis said. “It’s not like I expected you to walk me home or something. I’m sure you have plenty of other things to do. Like help Liam, obviously.”

Harry shrugged Louis bag off as they stopped outside of the downtown subway entrance.

“Thanks, Harry,” Louis said as he threw the bag over his shoulder. “And thanks for the invitation.”

“And the apology, hopefully? For the tea mishap?” Harry asked.

Louis gave a soft laugh. “Yes, that too. You more than made up for it at the theater. Thank you.”

Harry looked down at his hands. “Lou, do you think maybe we could, um…"

“You ready, Harry?” Liam interrupted. Louis really didn’t like the lad with the matching blue armband.

Harry looked over, startled by Liam’s inquiry. “Yeah, sorry, yeah we should be going.”

“Same, Lou,” Niall said. “The train’s going to be here any second.”

Louis glared. Since when did Niall think he knew the train schedule? The train didn’t even HAVE a schedule.

Harry reached down and squeezed Louis’ wrist and a zip of electricity ran through Louis’ whole body.

“We’ll talk later, yeah?” Harry asked quietly.

Louis could only look up and nod, not trusting the words that would come out of his mouth.

“Yep,” Niall said. “You’ll talk later. Let’s go, Lou.”

Harry looked over to see Liam already rushing towards the uptown entrance.

“It was nice to meet you, Niall,” Harry rushed to say. “I’ll see you later, Lou.”

Louis wasn’t even sure if his goodbye was heard before Harry was gone. Louis could only hope that they would see each other at Tea Time the following day. Because Louis would most definitely be there. Maybe. He needed Niall’s opinion.

----

Louis flopped onto the couch immediately upon entering the flat. He should probably eat but he was too drained to even bother making cheese on toast. He hadn’t wanted to talk to Niall about his theater breakdown on the way home. Not that anyone would be following them to listen but Louis wanted to keep it more private. It’s not like an omega drop was a foreign concept, it was part of their biology for fuck’s sake. But it didn’t matter. People still saw it as a sign of weakness and something that no omega should do.

“Okay, spill,” Niall said as he sat down next to Louis, throwing his feet up onto the coffee table. Niall seemed to have sensed Louis didn’t want to talk about it as they made their way home and had proceeded to give Louis an extensive amount of spoilers of the movie that Louis no longer needed to see.

“It’s Harry,’ Louis started.

“I figured.”

“What makes you say that?” Louis asked defensively.

Niall rolled his eyes. “Well, there’s the obvious explanation of you telling me you’re in love with someone else’s soulmate at the beginning of the week. And then you asked me to be your fake soulmate and related it back to Harry. And most notably you were both MIA for almost the entire movie.”

“We weren’t, like, making out or anything.”

Niall shrugged. “I didn’t think you were. But you were obviously doing something.”

“I dropped.”

Niall’s eyes widened in surprise and maybe confusion. “I’m sorry, what?”

“You heard me,” Louis said in exasperation.

“Right,” Niall replied. “I’m confused though. Or maybe not confused? But why? I mean, I’ve never known you to do that. That kind of freaks me out.”

For some reason that made Louis laugh. “It freaks you out?”

Niall ignored the question and continued, “Why did you drop?”

Louis shrugged. “Harry told me too? Or suggested it?”

“Excuse me?” Niall burst out with anger in his voice. “He told you to drop? That’s not safe, Lou!”

“Oh, my God, Niall, chill,” Louis said calmly, trying to appease his best friend.

“Start from the beginning,” Niall commanded. It had been awhile since Louis had seen this protective side of Niall come out.  Or whatever this was.

Louis sighed.

“From the very beginning,” Niall reiterated. “I need to know what happened.”

“You already know the beginning,” Louis countered.

“Fine. From after you telling him about your soulmark and him giving you the wrong tea. So from yesterday. Go.”

“Seriously, Niall, your lack of patience is showing. It’s scary,” Louis said in an attempt to lighten the mood.

It clearly didn’t work as Niall crossed his arms and glared. Moving on then.

“Okay,” Louis began. “Today I went to get my Earl Grey from Tea Time since I didn’t get it yesterday.”

Niall didn’t interrupt, which was surprising.

“Harry didn’t appear to be there, thank God, so I ordered and went to sit at my table. Except he was sitting there. At my table.”

“I don’t think public coffee shops have assigned seats, Lou,” Niall said. Louis knew he wouldn’t be able to stay silent for long.

“Well, they should,” Louis huffed. “That way rude alphas wouldn’t be sitting where I wanted to work in peace.”

“I thought you said he was nice?” Niall inquired.

“I did, he is, that’s not the point.”

“Right,” Niall said. “Then what?”

“Well, I was already headed towards the table so it’s not like I could leave without saying hi or something. Acknowledging him in some way. I’m not that heartless.”

“Mhmm.”

“Shut it, Ni,”

“I didn’t say anything!” Niall countered.

Anyway . Because I’m the kind, caring, and selfless person that I am, I went ahead and sat down.”

“Okay,” Niall interrupted. “I know I said to start from the beginning but feel free to skip some irrelevant parts of the story. Or shorten them. Or something.”

“Fine,” Louis agreed. “He apologized for yesterday. And said he had been selfish and was trying to get my attention. Which doesn’t make sense.”

“Odd.”

“So then he invited me to the movie and you were there for all of that.”

“Skip to bailing on watching the movie,” Niall said impatiently.

“He smells really really good, Niall. Like the best smelling alpha on the planet and I’m not exaggerating. So I thought it would be nice to spend more time with him, and when he invited me to the movie it was the perfect opportunity for that. Except it definitely wasn’t because being wrapped in his scent like that was really overwhelming. Or maybe it wouldn’t have been if it was just the two of us. But Liam was there and both Harry and Liam obviously have soulmates. And they’re wearing matching armbands so they’re probably each other’s soulmate and agreeing to go to a movie with Harry and his soulmate was just stupid.”

“Pretty much,” Niall agreed. “Although wearing matching armbands doesn’t mean they’re soulmates, Lou. But continue to the dropping bit.”

“Okay, so I just got really overwhelmed and I think he was trying to help by releasing calming pheromones but it really didn’t help. It was just even more frustrating. Like, if Liam was an alpha I would probably be dead if he knew how Harry was affecting me.”

“Or Harry would be dead from flirting with you,” Niall countered.

“Good point,” Louis said. “Although he definitely wasn’t flirting.”

“Dropping?” Niall prompted.

“So I left the theater to get some air and Harry ended up following me, obviously. And I honestly don’t know what happened, Niall,” Louis said. “But Harry noticed that I was shaking so he directed me towards the end of the hall away from people. And he asked if he could scent me and…”

“Wait, what?” Niall interrupted. “I’m sorry, but what?!?!? He has a soulmate and he asked to scent you?”

“Yeah,” Louis continued. “To calm me down from whatever was causing my shaking. But when it didn’t immediately effect anything he told me to drop. Or that I could drop and he’d be there to help me out and he would be there to take care of me.”

Louis shrugged. “So I did.”

“Lou…”

“I was only out for like ten minutes,” Louis rushed on. “Harry said he knew that was a good enough time for me to rejuvenate so he pulled me out.”

Niall snorted. “Rejuvenate? Did he “drop” you off at like a spa or something?”

Louis let out a loud laugh before continuing. “He called it that, not me. So then we just sat there in the hall until you texted. We didn’t really talk much. I was thinking about what had just happened or whatever. Who knows what he was thinking.”

Upon Louis finishing his recount they both fell silent. Louis reached for the remote and flipped on the TV. He wasn’t even paying attention to what he was flipping through, too caught up in his thoughts.

“There’s no fucking way he has a soulmate,” Niall eventually said. “You’re right. He wears an armband like you so people won’t ask.”

“Right,” Louis bluntly stated. “Because what are the chances of that being true?”

“I’m serious, Louis,” Niall continued. “There’s no fucking way he has a soulmate. No alpha would do that if they had a soulmate. No alpha would do that if they were even with an omega in any way.”

“Don’t toy with my emotions like that, Ni,” Louis said hopelessly. “Besides, an alpha’s soulmate doesn’t have to be an omega.”

“You know what I mean,” Niall said as he twisted to get his phone out of his back pocket.

“What are you doing?” Louis asked as he noticed Niall pull up WhatsApp. Not that it was Louis’ business. But he was nosy.

“I’m texting Liam. We’re testing this theory of Harry also not having a soulmark.”

“What?” Louis exclaimed. “How did you even get Liam’s number?”

Niall rolled his eyes. “We just went to see a movie with him. Did you think I’d leave without someone’s number?”

“Fair point.” Niall had to make at least one friend when he went somewhere new.

Louis turned his attention to the TV. Well as much attention as he had in between thinking of the days events.

“They’re in,” Niall said shortly after. “They’re coming here tomorrow night.”

“Both Liam and Harry?”

Niall rolled his eyes. Louis really hoped Niall’s eyes got stuck mid roll one day.

“Yes,” Niall said. “They are both coming. So wear something besides joggers.”

There was absolutely nothing wrong with joggers thank you very much. Harry might even appreciate Louis not putting effort into changing into something nicer if they were just lounging around the house. Not that Louis was going to test that theory. Maybe.

“I’ll put it into consideration,” Louis said.

----

Louis decided to skip stopping into Tea Time. He normally wouldn’t go on a Sunday and the only reason why he had planned to go was to see Harry. Not that anyone needed to know that.

That meant that he wasn’t going anywhere and could stay in joggers all day. Except he couldn’t. Maybe Harry would appreciate Louis being his lazy self?

Louis let out a sigh and headed to the kitchen. He still had plenty of time before he had to get dressed.

“I support you being yourself, Tommo,” Niall said as he joined him in the kitchen. “But if you’re going to wear joggers and an old t-shirt at least wear a pair that doesn’t have five holes in them?”

Louis could settle for that. He really wasn’t going to get dressed up to lounge around the house. Or were they just lounging? This was Niall he was talking about, plans were always bound to change.

“Just to verify,” Louis began. “Are we actually going to stay in like you made it sound, or are you going to have us going to the pub ten minutes after Liam and Harry get here?”

Niall seemed to put consideration into the question before answering, “It depends how fast we get an answer. Maybe you should get dressed to go out just in case?”

“Niall,” Louis said slowly. “What do you mean by getting an answer? What are you planning on doing?”

Niall sighed dramatically. “We’re finding out if Harry has a soulmate. What did you think this was about?”

“No. No, Ni,” Louis said adamantly. “No. Please don’t get involved.”

“Lou, relax.” Niall said calmly. “I’m not going to ask about anyone’s soulmark if that’s what you’re thinking. I know better than that. I’m just going to observe.”

“Okay…”

“However,” Niall continued. “If Liam or Harry brings it up I’m not going to shut down the conversation. That will be up to you. Or whoever doesn’t want to talk about it the most.”

Louis nodded to himself decisively and advised, “I’ll get dressed and we can go to the pub. Or a club. It’s noiser there.”

“You do realize I’ve lived with you for a couple years now, right?” Niall asked. “I’m fairly certain I know how touchy you can be when talking about not having a soulmark.”

And well. Niall did have a point.

“Just don’t embarrass me or else I’m kicking you out,” Louis threatened.

“Friendly reminder, I’m the owner of the lease, Tommo,” Niall laughed. “Now this is your one hour warning to get dressed. And we’re not going to a club.”

Louis scoffed. They had far more than an hour. It was only two.

----

Louis was squeezing into his black skinny jeans when the the doorbell went off. What the fuck? It was only three. Niall had been serious about his one hour warning? Louis hadn’t even started on his hair yet.

Louis met Niall in the hallway, on his way to scold his roommate.

“Ooh, skin tight jeans and painted on white Adidas t-shirt,” Niall observed. “Excellent choice.”

“Niall,” Louis hissed. “Why are they here so early. And why didn’t you tell me they were going to be here so early?”

Niall shrugged as if it were nothing. “I was bored so I texted Liam. Thankfully he was also bored and Harry had gotten off work early. Plans changed.”

“And you didn't bother to tell me?” Louis asked frantically. Even if Harry had a soulmate, and it was Liam, he still needed hair product.

Niall raised an eyebrow at him. “I distinctly remember giving you an hour warning... an hour ago. Harry will be distracted by that shirt and won’t even care that you don’t have product in your hair. He might even like it better with no product.”

Louis went to argue but it was no use. Niall was already on the way to let their guests in.

“Welcome to our humble abode,” Niall was announcing as Louis met the group in the living room.

Harry’s eyes immediately met Louis’ and they shared a small smile. Louis wasn’t sure if Harry meant to be so obvious as he raked his eyes appreciatively up and down Louis’ body but he failed miserably if he was trying to be discreet. Louis couldn’t help the flush that took over his face.

Louis was about to say something, anything, when he noticed Harry zeroed in on Louis’ upper arm. Louis slapped his hand over where his soulmark would be. Fuck. He had been is such a hurry to get dressed he forgot an armband.

Louis immediately turned to head back to his room before Liam saw and started asking questions. He was not explaining his soulmark mishap twice this week. He covered it up for a reason.

“Wait, Lou!” Harry called before Louis had even made it out of the room. Louis internally groaned. He wasn’t sure why yet, but the reason was coming.

Harry was at Louis’ side immediately and any attempt to get out before Liam noticed was futile.

“Please leave it off,” Harry asked, quiet enough for only Louis to hear.

Harry took Louis’ hand in one of his own, preventing him from moving farther while simultaneously using his other hand to brush over where Louis’ soulmark used to be.

“Harry,” Louis started. He didn’t know what else to say.

“Liam knows better than to ask,” Harry explained. “Unlike me.”

Louis couldn’t help but smile at that. He looked up at Harry and saw a mixture of emotions crossing his face, appearing to settle on hopeful. Why?

Louis gave a decisive nod and turned back into the room. Louis barely contained his shiver as Harry ran his hand along the small of his back. As Louis sat next to Niall on the couch he saw Liam look over from where he was perched on the rooms arm chair. Louis knew Liam had noticed but he didn’t say anything. Louis momentarily liked him. At least until he noticed Liam and Harry were wearing matching blue armbands again .

“Speaking of armbands,” Niall started. And fuck no.

“We weren’t,” Louis immediately cut in.

“Okay, we weren’t,” Niall agreed. “And we’re not. I’ll just mention how I think it’s cute that Liam and Harry have worn matching armbands two days in a row.”

Both Liam and Harry looked down to their arms as if they had no idea what Niall was talking about.

“Oh, my God,” Harry whispered. He looked over to Liam who was already looking back at Harry with wide eyes.

“I swear I didn’t even notice,” Liam stated.

“Really?” Niall asked. “Because…”

“Niall!” Louis exclaimed.

Niall looked at Louis apologetically, as if he hadn’t remembered what he said about not talking about soulmarks. Louis looked down at his bare arm, refusing to look over to Harry.

“Anyway” Niall continued. “I propose we play a getting to know you game.”

Louis groaned. He absolutely despised getting to know you games. They could be awkward as fuck.

“Please, no,” Louis practically begged.

“I actually agree with Niall,” Liam stated. “It’s not like we learned much about each other while watching a movie.”

Louis glared at him. He was disliking Harry’s likely soulmate more and more. Louis considered playing sick and going to his room before a waft of pheromones invaded Louis’ nose. It was the same scent as when Louis first met him and Louis decided the scent was called Harry. That’s the best that Louis could come up with.

Louis looked over to find a fond expression on Harry’s face. Louis should have just drank the Yorkshire tea he was given the other day and found a different coffee shop. Louis couldn’t continue being next to Harry like this. Maybe Niall was right and Harry didn’t have a soulmate but at this point Louis didn’t want to think of it anymore. He wanted away from Harry and Liam and their covered soulmarks.

“Okay,” Niall proceeded. “We can play two truths and a lie, or put one fact about each other in a bowl and we have to figure out who’s it is. And then we’re playing Twister.”

“One fact in a bowl and we’re not playing Twister,” Louis immediately stated.

“Can we do the one where we put a fact in a bowl,” Harry asked tentatively. “I can never come up with a believable lie.”

Liam let out an amused laugh and agreed. “He really can’t. We should probably just do one fact to start out with.”

How often did Liam and Harry play getting to know you games? Had Louis even played this with Niall?

“You realize there are only four of us here, right?” Louis pointed out. “Don’t you think it’s going to be fairly easy to know who is who?”

“Aww, Tommo,” Niall cooed. “We’ve only known each other for two-ish years. I’m sure there’s still plenty I don’t know about you.”

Niall hopped off of the couch and headed toward the kitchen, presumably for a bowl and paper. Louis was left in the room silently regretting ever walking into Tea Time. Or at least continuing to go there after Harry showed up. He was also reveling in Harry’s scent. If Liam wasn’t here, Louis would have no reservations about sidling into Harry’s side.

Thankfully the game didn’t last long. Louis learned that Harry had a sister named Gemma. The surprise about that reveal was that Louis found that Gemma was also an alpha. Niall seemed to love that for some reason.

Harry rolled his eyes when Liam admitted that he had wanted to be a fireman when he was younger. Niall had put in that he was going to be buying a guitar shop next year.

“This isn’t two truths and a lie, Niall,” Louis stated. “There is no way you’re buying a guitar shop in the next year. Unless you have some rich relative that is going to be dying soon and you’re getting an inheritance?

Niall merely shrugged. “You never know.”

“You have six siblings, Lou?” Harry asked. Because of course Louis’ paper was the last in the bowl.

Louis couldn’t contain his smile as he looked at Harry’s face, his eyes bright.

“I would love to have six siblings,” Harry continued reverently.

Louis laughed. “Not when they’re all girls you wouldn’t. At least for most of my life. It was a blessed day when Ernest was born.”

“More about that later,” Niall interrupted. “Onwards to playing Twister.”

“We’re not playing Twister, Niall,” Louis stated flatly.

“Why not?” Liam asked. “I haven’t played in years. I probably forgot how.”

“You put your hands and feet where the spinning board thing tell you too,” Louis advised. Liam had happily agreed to two games now and Louis was not amused. “It’s really not that hard.”

“We’re definitely playing Twister,” Niall said as he got up to retrieve the game.

As soon as Niall got the box open, Louis snatched the piece of the game that is used to instruct people where to place their limbs.

“Sorry, Tommo, I’m the board spinner.” Niall said as he pushed the coffee table out of the way to make room to lay down the piece of plastic that would be used to test people’s ability to contort their body for the sake of staying upright to keep their hands and feet on colored circles. Who even invented this game?

They were probably about ten minutes into the game and Louis had been able to avoid having Harry and Liam’s limbs near him.  Not that Louis feared being surrounded by Harry’s scent or anything. Nope.

“Ow! Liam!” Harry shouted. “Did you just bite me?”

Somehow Louis had been able to stay upright as he watched in horror as Liam squeezed under Harry to reach a certain spot on the board. On his way, Liam had twisted and bit over Harry’s soulmark.

Even Niall seemed surprised and he sounded like he was choking on air before continuing. With the next move, Liam was out. Louis briefly wondered if Niall had made up a direction that Liam had no chance of reaching. Liam collapsed and Harry let out a cheer. Louis just watched from his space on the board. Liam had fucking bit Harry over his fucking soulmark. What the fuck? Friends didn’t do that. Louis needed out of here. On the other hand, he had never lost a game of Twister and did he really want to give up his lifelong streak because of the two idiot soulmates in the room? Louis would win the fucking game and get the fuck out of here.

“Niall,” Louis practically begged. “Please end the game quickly.”

Louis trusted Niall enough to know that he would make this as painless as possible. Except he didn’t. With Niall’s next direction Harry managed to rearrange his entire body with ease and was now leaning over Louis.

“Niall!” Louis yelled.

“Holy shit. Oh my God, Lou,” Niall said frantically. “I swear on my mother’s eventual grave that I did not do that on purpose.”

Louis couldn’t breath. He fucking couldn’t breath with Harry surrounding him like this.

“You’ve got this, H!” Liam cheered from the couch.

Louis collapsed on the floor. He didn’t even care that he lost the game for the first time in his life. He needed out. He disentangled himself from Harry and scrambled off of the floor as fast as possible.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Louis said as he rushed towards his bedroom. He considered leaving the flat entirely but figured that would be too much. He just needed out of the room. He needed away from Harry.

Louis flipped on the light and closed his bedroom door behind him immediately flopping down on his bed. He let out a groan of frustration when he realized he left his phone behind in the living room. He had nothing to distract him from his thoughts of Harry. Yes, Louis needed to be away from him. But he could also recognize that he didn’t want to be away from him. Or maybe couldn’t?

Louis lifted his hands and found that he was shaking. What the fuck? It was like movie theater freakout 2.0.

He needed his security blanket. Also known as his phone.

“Niall!” Louis shouted. Loud enough to be heard but not too loud to make is seem like Louis needed help. He just needed his phone.

“Niall, can you bring me my phone?” He yelled a little louder.

There was a soft knock at the door. Niall usually wouldn’t knock like that but whatever.

“You’re only allowed in if you brought my phone,” Louis advised.

The door slowly opened to reveal Harry poking his head in. Fuck.

“I brought your phone, Lou,” Harry said softly. “Can I come in?”

Louis internally sighed. Did he have a choice? Well, of course he did. But would he even want to deny Harry entrance. That would be a definite no.

“Come in, Harry,” Louis said softly.

Harry’s pheromones immediately filled the room as he closed the door behind him. Harry was concerned?

“Lou,” Harry said, furrowing his brow. “Shit. Louis, you’re shaking again, love. What has happened?”

Louis shrugged as if it were nothing. “It’s the first time in my life that I’ve lost a game of Twister. And I lost for a stupid reason.”

“A stupid reason?” Harry asked, gesturing to the edge of the bed.  

“Don’t worry about it,” Louis said. Waving his arm as if to brush the thought away.

Harry didn’t wait for a definitive answer before he sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Lou, why are you shaking?” Harry asked again. “I thought you said this hadn’t happened before. What can I do, love?”

“This hasn’t happened before,” Louis advised. “Until this week.”

“I…”

“Don’t worry about it, Harry,” Louis said again. He was pretty sure that wouldn’t work to appease the alpha but he could try?

Harry said nothing as he moved to lay next to Louis, quickly gathering him into his arms. Louis immediately felt better and his body relaxed.

“There you go, love,” Harry said into Louis’ hair. He pulled back slightly but kept Louis close.

“You’re so beautiful, Lou,” Harry whispered. And this was so inappropriate with Liam in the other room.

“Harry,” Louis said. “Please don’t. I, just, please…”

Harry frowned slightly but didn’t release his hold on him. Louis ducked his head as Harry reached up to brush his fingers through Louis’ fringe.

It was then that Louis noticed Harry’s armband. It must have slipped when they were playing Twister. Maybe the lighting was off or shadows were in the way because from what Louis’ could tell Harry didn’t have a soulmark. He hadn’t been covering anything up?

Louis didn’t want to say anything yet so he shifted in Harry’s arms. Harry made the appropriate adjustments to his hold. And yeah, Harry didn’t have a soulmark. He didn’t have a fucking soulmark. What the fuck? Louis had gone and told Harry the story about his own soulmark and Harry hadn’t bothered to say anything in return?

Louis thought back to the previous couple of days. To be fair, Harry hadn’t had time to say anything. He was called away for his job the day Louis told him and they were pulled away from their talk at Tea Time to see a movie. The only time Harry could have told him was in the hallway of the movie theater.

“Harry…”

“Yes, love?”

“Harry, where is your soulmark?”

Harry froze and his hold loosened on Louis.

“I, um…” Harry stopped. He better keep going.

“I don’t have one,” Harry stated the obvious.

“You don’t say,” Louis said bluntly.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything,” Harry rushed on, “It’s just, um, really hard to explain? Or frustrating? I cover up my arm for a reason, Lou.”

Louis pulled out of Harry’s arms and sat up on the bed.

“And you think my soulmark story isn’t frustrating?” Louis bit out. “That mine is a simple explanation that I love sharing so I can get looks of pity?”

Harry sat up to face Louis and softly said, “You know that’s not what I meant.”

Louis rose an eyebrow and waited for Harry to continue.

Harry sighed and finally explained, “I’ve never had one.”

“What?” Louis asked. Because what? Everyone had a soulmark. Yeah, maybe they disappeared like Louis’ had but everyone had a soulmark.

“I don’t understand,” Louis continued. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“So you can see why I cover it up?” Harry asked. “And don’t really talk about it?”

Louis looked down at his hands, ashamed at his quick response.

Harry lifted Louis’ chin up to look at him in the eyes. “I was going to tell you, Lou. I was hoping to tonight. I thought maybe we could go somewhere and talk after Liam left.”

Oh, and yes. Liam. Who apparently isn’t Harry’s soulmate?

“Sooooo Liam isn’t your soulmate?” Louis asked. “Because you made it sound like he was.”

“I…. what?” Harry asked, a frown taking over his face.

Louis shrugged. “Maybe not in so many words, but you’re clearly friendly and wearing matching armbands and are roommates and….”

“Louis.”

“I’m just saying.”

“Let’s lay down, yeah?” Harry suggested. “I want to hold you. Let’s make sure all of this shaking is out of your system for good.”

Louis let out a small laugh and let Harry direct him back into a horizontal position so they were facing each other. Harry ran his hand up and down Louis’ side for a few moments before continuing.

“Me and Liam have been friends since childhood. He’s always known about my soulmark and suggested I wear an armband when I was young. I probably started wearing one when I was thirteen. Being born with no soulmark is even more controversial than having a mark disappear. People were so invasive and wanted to know everything about my life that may explain why I never had a soulmark. I grew up in a small town and it seemed like that’s what everyone talked about. At least that’s how I felt.”

Harry stopped for a moment, perhaps to let all of the information sink in.

“Anyway,” Harry continued. “When me and Liam moved away to start school in Manchester he said he was going to be my soulmate. It was probably a stupid idea but he insisted. I mean, it could prevent him from finding his soulmate right? But he didn’t want me to start the year with the endless soulmark questions. That was a time in people’s life that they were really hoping to find their soulmate, you know?”

Louis nodded along as Harry spoke because wow. Liam was a fucking good friend.

“And then we moved to New York City. Liam moved for a job and I moved so I still had a fake soulmate. At his suggestion, of course. Well, it was partly selfish on my end as well, I guess. But he only wore an armband if we were out together. I didn’t go out often with him at night to clubs or whatever so he wouldn’t have to wear the armband. I wanted to make sure that people he met knew he didn’t have a soulmate.”

“That’s amazing, Harry,” Louis interrupted.

“Hush, you,” Harry said with a small pinch to Louis’ side.

“And then I saw you at Tea Time,” Harry continued. “And I didn’t know what to think. I mean, I didn’t want to say anything because I saw you had a soulmate but I guess I couldn’t stay away? Which was obviously selfish, but you also didn’t seem to mind? Well, with the exception of me being stupid and switching your tea like that. And then the movie incident happened and of course I knew you didn’t have a soulmate by then, but even though you may have thought I had a soulmate, you seemed to trust me enough to drop.”

Harry stopped momentarily and brushed Louis fringe out of his eyes.

“And then I pulled you out, Lou. You came out of your drop when I wanted you to, when I thought you were out long enough. I started scenting you again and you came out of it.”

“Why are you making that seem so important?” Louis asked. “I mean, it was cool but…”

“Because the only time I’ve heard of that happening is if an alpha and omega are bonded.”

“What?” Louis asked, trying to keep the surprise out of his voice. “I’m not sure about that.”

“Alphas can always help an omega pull out quicker,” Harry continued. “An alpha’s comforting pheromones alone will help an omega who has dropped, no matter the reason.”

“Okay?” Louis asked. “Wasn’t that what happened? I mean, obviously I trusted you enough. Plus, you smell really good, Hazza.”

Harry giggled. “Thanks, love.”

The pair remained silent for a few moments.

“But that’s not what happened,” Harry said softer. “I don’t think so, at least. I could tell you were relaxed and whatever had happened to have the need to drop passed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull you out immediately but I figured I’d try? So I started to scent you again in the hopes that it would work.”

Harry proceeded to brush his thumb over Louis’ cheek. Louis was definitely not expecting this conversation when Harry entered the room. Or maybe it felt more like a confession?

“You pulled out immediately, Lou,” Harry said. “I definitely was not expecting you to hear me tell you that I thought you smelled good, but I know you did.”

Louis ducked his head. What did all of this mean?

“Soulmates or not, I’ve only heard of that happening between bonded alpha and omegas, Lou.”

Louis looked back up into Harry’s eyes. “And how often does that happen, Haz? Because I’ve never heard of that.”

Harry booped Louis on the nose. “I was born without a soulmark. I’ve done a lot of reading about soulmarks and alpha and omega relationships. It started with curiosity if I would ever find anyone to be with but I just kept reading.”

Louis realized with a start that he had his hand wrapped around where Harry’s soulmark would be. He released Harry’s arm and reached up to run his fingers through Harry’s curly locks. He had been wanting to do that for ages. Over a week, in fact.

“And do you?” Louis as softly. “Do you think you’ll ever find someone?”

Louis really wanted to glare at Harry in challenge. He had wanted Harry from the moment Louis saw him at Tea Time. Not that he could ever admit to that. Well, maybe he could now.

“I hope so,” Harry said. He pulled him in tight and kissed Louis’ forehead. “I hope I have. I think I have.”

Louis huffed. According to theater freakout 1.0 they were a fake bonded alpha and omega and all he got was a kiss on the forehead and a cryptic answer?

“Just out of curiosity,” Louis mumbled into Harry’s chest. “Are you here in my bed until you think I feel better with plans to leave and be with the person who you think is your someone? Or is there more to this?”

Harry let out an amused laugh as he rolled them over, leaving Louis to look up at the alpha. His alpha?

“I know I have,” Harry said as he ducked down to place a gentle kiss on Louis’ lips.

“You’d be my alpha?” Louis whispered as Harry pulled back.

“Only if you’d be my omega.”

Louis simultaneously rolled his eyes and preened. He never thought this would happen. Sure, Harry wasn’t his soulmate but the whole concept of soulmates is overrated anyway, right? Definitely.

----

“So, let me get this straight,” Niall began after they were congregated back in the living room.

Louis internally groaned. Who knows where Niall was going to go with this. In the meantime, Louis cuddled farther into Harry’s side as he brushed his fingers over Harry’s bare arm, having left his armband in Louis’ bedroom.

“You’ve known each other a week,” Niall continued. “There was that whole rejuvenation spa drop at the movie theater…”

“What?” Liam interrupted.

“You’re an idiot,” Louis stated at the same time.

“Rejuvenation spa?” Harry asked in confusion.

Niall waved the group away, ignoring all of their responses.

“You two spend two seconds in Lou’s bedroom after he pathetically lost his lifelong streak of winning at Twister and you’re like, what? Bondmates?”

“We didn’t say that,” Louis said defensively.

Sure, they had pretty much established they were mates, but bondmates was a talk for another day. Although Louis wouldn’t deny the butterflies in his stomach at the thought of bonding. Harry gave a soft squeeze to Louis’ side and the butterflies flew a little bit stronger.

“I’m confused as to what’s happening,” Liam said. “Or what happened?”

“Really?” Niall asked. “Don’t you smell the attraction in the room between those two?”

Niall stopped to consider before saying, “Scratch that. I forgot you’re beta and wouldn’t smell it. Lou told me, but you just look really alpha-y.”

“And you smell it? Beta Niall?” Louis asked with a raised eyebrow.

Niall shrugged. “Well, no. But the moment the two of you walked back into the room “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King popped into my head. Was that just me then?”

When he was met with three blank stares he continued. “Okay, well either way there’s obviously a switch in Louis’ room that turned them into mates. I’d say the question of most importance is whether I’m still going to have to listen to Louis talk about Earl Grey tea moving forward.”

Louis softly laughed and said, “I guess we’ll see.”

Harry pulled Louis impossibly closer and gave a kiss to the top of his head.

“Movie?” Liam asked. “Harry you will be filling me in later.”

Harry nodded. “Definitely.”

“In detail,” Liam reiterated.

Louis felt more than heard Harry laugh. “Yes, Liam dearest.”

“What are we watching?” Niall asked.

“Iron Man,” Liam said.

“Love Actually,” Harry stated.

“No, to both of those,” Louis said decisively. “Grease.”

Niall snatched the remote from the side today before saying, “Is everyone okay with starting a Harry Potter marathon? I just bought the set. Do you think we could stay friends that long?”

Harry giggled and said, “I looked it up one time and the full series is, like, twenty hours. You’re questioning if we could stay friends that long?”

“Harry can I talk to you for a moment?” Liam asked. “In private maybe.”

Niall looked up in confusion as Louis allowed room for Harry to get up.

As they exited the room Niall looked at Louis with a raised eyebrow. “Do you think Liam is questioning if we can stay friends that long?”

Louis couldn’t contain his laughter. “He’s probably wanting to know what’s happened with me and Harry you idiot. From his reaction it doesn’t seem like Harry said much.”

Niall gave a decisive nod. “Fair enough. In which case I’ll get the movie started since it seems like we’ll be the cool kids group for more than the amount of time it takes us to watch the entire series.”

“Cool kids group? What are we, back in grade school?”

Niall huffed. “There’s always a cool kids group, Lou. No matter what age you are.”

“Mhmm,” Louis responded as Niall got up and headed towards the kitchen.

It took definitely more than Liam’s requested moment for him and Harry to return. Niall had the popcorn ready and divided into four bowls with the movie ready by the time Liam and Harry emerged from what seemed to be Louis’ bedroom. If it were anyone but Harry (and Harry’s best friend) Louis would not appreciate the invasion of his private space but Louis didn’t give it much thought as he watched Harry’s cheeks flush when his eyes met Louis’.

Harry sat back down on the couch and Louis pulled his feet up to make cuddling into Harry side even more effective. Oddly Niall didn’t seem to mind Louis crowding into his space. He merely gave Louis a fond smile and turned to get the movie started. Niall was the best.

It seemed to be Harry’s turn to run his fingers along Louis’ bare upper arm and a zip of electricity ran through Louis’ arm at Harry’s first touch. Louis couldn’t help thinking about Niall’s comment about Louis and Harry being bondmates. They may not have soulmarks or a destined soulmate, but from the short time of knowing Harry he knew they were meant to be. Screw the worldly concept of soulmates.

Louis was able to concentrate on the movie this time around, wrapped in Harry’s arms and  knowing they were mates. That was the fastest turn of events that Louis had ever known.

With two others in the room being betas, Louis and Harry wasted no time in scenting each other. Louis had no doubt Harry’s scent was made for him and Louis quickly wondered if Harry felt the same way. It was obvious that Harry’s full focus was on Louis, the movie forgotten, and Louis revelled in Harry’s ministrations.

Louis wasn’t usually one to fall asleep during movies, but before he knew what was happening he was being carried in Harry’s arms towards his bedroom.

“Niall’s mad at you,” Harry advised as he set Louis down on his bed.

“What? Why?” Louis asked in confusion. “What did I do?”

Harry bent down and kissed Louis’ forehead. “You fell asleep.”

Louis rolled his eyes. “Obviously a completely valid reason to be mad at me.”

Harry reached down and lifted Louis chin up by his index finger, bending down to plant a small kiss on Louis’ lips. Louis immediately wanted more.

“We arrived sooner than you were expecting didn’t we?” Harry asked as he ran his fingers through Louis’ unstyled hair.

Louis huffed. “Yes. Niall never tells the accurate time of when people are arriving. Until today apparently.”

Harry let out a soft laugh as he sat down, taking Louis’ arm and brushing his thumb over Louis’ bare arm.

“Well, I’m glad,” Harry stated as he leaned over and kissed Louis behind the ear. No one had ever spent time kissing that spot and Louis loved it.

“You’re glad?”

“I’ve never seen you with your hair soft like this,” Harry said as he brushed Louis’ fringe across his forehead. “I like it.”

Louis ducked his head to hide his blush.

“I also like when you blush,” Harry said as he bumped Louis’ shoulder.

The pair were interrupted by Niall shouting from the other room. Because of course they were.

“H, are you leaving with Liam or are you staying? Or should I leave with Liam instead?”

“Oh, my God,” Louis mumbled as he buried his face in Harry’s shoulder in second hand embarrassment. Which was quickly forgotten as he breathed in Harry’s scent.

“Do you want me to stay?” Harry asked. Which was definitely one of the stupidest questions he had ever asked.

“Harry…” Louis nearly whined.

“I’ll be right back,” Harry said as he kissed the top of Louis’ head before exiting the bedroom.

With Harry out of the room Louis thought back on the day. Maybe even the week. It had been a fucking roller coaster. The guy that had grabbed Louis’ attention by pronouncing his name correctly on that first day at Tea Time was now his mate? Louis looked down at his bare arm. Maybe he’d keep it uncovered from now on. People could ask their intrusive questions if they wanted. He had Harry alongside him.

“What are you thinking about, love?” Harry asked as he closed the door behind him.

Louis looked up and smiled. “You.”

Harry’s face split into the widest smile Louis had ever seen.

Harry moved to stand in front of Louis. He wasn’t positive what Harry was thinking but according to his pheromones it was something to do with desire. Louis looked up into Harry’s eyes and lifted his arms.

“This shirt is absolutely sinful,” Harry said reverently as he slowly stripped it off of Louis, his fingers gently running along Louis’ side as he went. Louis didn’t bother to hold in the shiver of pleasure.

Louis stood and proceeded to strip Harry of his shirt as well.

“Holy fuck,” Louis said to himself. Because fuck his mate was the most gorgeous human being to walk the planet.

“Harry, these tattoos….”

“Do you like them?”

Louis almost snorted in amusement. “Yes. Fuck, yes.”

Louis gently ran his hands from the fern tattoos, gently traced his fingers along the butterfly and spread his hands across the two birds on his chest. Louis needed to find his planner immediately so he could schedule time to appreciate each and every one of Harry’s tattoos. He also needed out of these fucking trousers.

Harry seemed to have read Louis’ thought and looked at Louis with a questioning look. Louis gave a simple nod and Harry released the button. The little bit of friction from Harry unzipping his trousers was heavenly.

“Not tonight, Lou,” Harry said as he ducked down to connect their lips before Louis had a chance to respond. Louis whimpered into Harry’s mouth. Why the fuck were they stripping each other for then?

“I just want to see you,” Harry mumbled into Louis’ mouth. “I want you to see me.”

What the fuck did that even mean?

“Plus, I like to sleep naked,” Harry continued between kisses.

Louis reached down and placed his hand over Harry’s clothed cock, gently palming him. Maybe it was just Louis, but the attraction didn’t seem to be just one sided. Especially since Louis could easily feel Harry’s fucking knot.

“Alpha,” Louis whined. He didn’t want to seem desperate, but he also kind of was, so whatever.

“Yes, baby,” Harry said, kissing along his jaw while wiggling at Louis’ tight jeans. He should have gone with wearing joggers.

“Alpha…”

“Yes, love,” Harry mumbled as he kissed down Louis’ chest, finally managing to pull Louis free of his fucking trousers. “I want my omega just as much. But not tonight.”

“Nevermind,” Louis said as he ran his hands through Harry’s hair. “I want a different alpha.”

Louis let out a yelp as he was picked up by Harry and tossed onto his bed. Well, more like gently placed on his back in a very swift move that was immediately followed by Harry crawling on top of him.

“Or maybe not?” Louis squeaked as he looked into Harry’s glistening eyes.

The soft light of the room made his eyes darker than normal. Either that or his pupils were blown wide. Louis unnecessarily squinted and found that, yes, Harry’s pupils were blown out in arousal. So what was stopping Harry?

“I want to take care of you, Lou,” Harry said softly as he brushed Louis fringe off his forehead. “I want to take care of my omega.”

He wanted to what? What the fuck was Harry on about?

“I want to take care of my omega,” Harry repeated. “I mean, if you’ll let me. If you’d like me too.”

Louis brain clearly wasn’t keeping pace with what Harry was talking about. He was too close and too beautiful and had too many clothes on.

Harry remained planked over Louis’ body but he pulled back slightly so they could keep better eye contact.

Louis blinked and tried to make his brain think. Harry had a questioning look in his eyes.

And, oh. Holy fuck. Did Harry want to bond? Did Louis just translate Harry wanting to take care of him as wanting to bond? Somewhere in his mind Louis knew that’s what Harry meant.

Louis nodded. “I want you to take care of me. Harry. My alpha. Please make me yours.”

Harry pulled even farther back and Louis grabbed onto Harry’s shoulders to keep him close.

“Come lay down with me, Harry,” Louis instructed. “Take your trousers off and come lay down.”

Louis was still hard but he didn’t want sex anymore. He just wanted Harry by his side.

Harry was quick to remove everything but his boxers and rejoined Louis on the bed. They settled facing each other, sharing fond looks and adoration.

“You want to bond?” Louis finally asked. He didn’t just make that whole idea up, right?

“I… I mean,” Harry started. “It’s just… fuck.”

Louis reached up and brushed his hand through Harry’s lovely locks.

“Tell me, Curly,” Louis prompted.

“Earlier tonight, when Liam asked to speak with me,” Harry began with full sentences. “He had stayed with Zayn last night and I hadn’t gotten the chance to tell him about the movie theater incident and such. And just, everything . And as I was recounting it, the short version of course since we were about to watch the movie, it just clicked. For me. It just. You’re it for me, Lou. Always. And of course we can wait. It’s only been a week. We just settled on mates only hours ago. But I’ll wait however long you want.”

And fuck, no. He was ready to bond this second. Could he take heat inducers to make his heat come, like, now?

Harry didn’t seem to be in a hurry for Louis to respond, waiting with patient eyes as he continued to weave his fingers through Louis’ soft hair.

“It’s been quite a night, hasn’t it?” Louis finally whispered.

Harry silently shook his head and Louis continued. “I find out you don’t have a soulmark, and we quickly move on to determining mate status. Or whatever you would call it. But let’s just keep the night full of surprises and realize that we’re bondmates.”

Harry laughed softly before saying, “It has been quite a night hasn’t it? Quite a week, actually.”

“People are going to think we’re crazy,” Louis stated. “Which I’m totally fine with, just for clarification.”

Harry leaned in for a kiss, which Louis happily returned.

Louis pulled back and looked into Harry’s’ eyes. There was something in there that wasn’t there at the beginning of the night.

Louis thoughts were confirmed when Harry quietly asked, “Is it too early to say I love you? I mean, we were practically just arguing about tea so it seems like a really quick jump.”

Louis giggled. “Say it, Harry. Or say it again?”

“I love you, Louis…. Um,” Harry stopped and scrunched his eyebrows together. It didn’t look like a pleasant thought.

“Lou,” Harry slowly continued. “I don’t even know your last name.”

Louis let out a full body laugh. “We kind of missed a few steps didn’t we?”

Harry remained silent and Louis finally realized he was waiting on his last name.

“Tomlinson. Louis William Tomlinson.”

Harry maneuvered their bodies so he could grab ahold of Louis’ right hand. He gave it a firm squeeze in what Louis assumed to be some foreign concept of a handshake.

“Good to know your name, Louis Tomlinson. My full name is Harry Edward Styles.”

“Excellent,” Louis replied. “With that out of the way, my heat is in three weeks.”

Harry pulled Louis in close and kissed him behind the ear. “I can’t wait.”

----

Louis glared at the omega flirting with Harry at the register. Louis was supposed to be marking papers but the omega was taking fucking forever to order. Harry, being the kind, charming alpha that he was, patiently continued to answer the attention hungry omega as they went through practically the entire menu. Couldn’t another patron come in to move the omega along in ordering?

Harry’s eyes flicked over to where Louis was sitting and Harry provided a reassuring smile before the idiot omega asked him another question. Not that Louis worried about Harry changing his mind about bonding but still. Louis sighed. Two more weeks.

Louis looked down to try to focus on his job. His attempt to focus was cut short when he heard the omega let out a loud giggle. Louis’ eyes snapped up to find Harry already looking at him, a small frown on his face. Thankfully the bell on the door jingled to signal the entrance of another customer. Louis was fairly certain Harry let out a sigh of relief and Louis couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

Louis returned to marking papers. At least until someone was sliding a cup onto his table. Louis looked up to find Amber providing him the beverage.

“A Yorkshire tea,” Amber said with a smile. “Harry says it’s on the house.”

Louis looked up to find Harry busy with a group of patrons that had just entered.

Louis gave a grateful smile and said, “Thanks, Amber. Are you sure you don’t want to keep working here? You’re my favorite employee afterall.”

Amber laughed before saying, “I highly doubt that, Louis. Well, maybe a couple weeks ago but you’re definitely lying now.”

Louis put a hand to his chest in mock innocence. “I would never…”

Amber shook her head fondly and pushed the cup of tea closer to Louis. “Congratulations, Lewis. I hope you don’t mind that Harry shared the news. There was obviously something different when he came in last week and I guess he gave up trying to keep it from me.”

Louis looked down to the offered tea to hide his blush.

“It’s funny, you know,” Amber continued. “You’re both hiding soulmarks you apparently don’t have only to find each other in my tea shop.”

“Your tea shop?” Louis inquired. “Isn’t Harry here because he’s taking over?”

Amber cocked her hip and said sternly, “Excuse you. I’m still the owner, he’s merely the store manager.”

“Oh, my bad.”

Amber rolled her eyes. “So, no more Earl Grey then?”

Louis smiled softly. “Probably not, no. That period in life seems to have passed.”

“Good,” Amber said with a decisive nod. “I was getting really tired of you making that scrunched up face every time you drank it.”

“Hey!” Louis protested as Amber retreated back to the front of the store, giving no response beyond a friendly wave over her shoulder.

----

Harry Potter number four. Whichever that one was. Louis was snuggled into Harry’s side as Niall popped the movie into the player. Louis smiled thinking about how Niall had originally questioned if the group could stay friends long enough to watch the series. So far so good. Well, minus the fact that Louis was catching a cold.

“Popcorn?” Louis asked before Niall could hit play. He may be coming down with something but that wasn’t going to stop him from eating popcorn thank you very much.

Niall rolled his eyes. “Of course, Buttercup. Harry was about to make it.”

“I was?”

Niall scoffed. “You’re going to deny your omega popcorn?”

Harry spluttered. “What? No! Why would you think that?”

Nial shrugged. “I don’t smell popcorn being made.”

Louis giggled into Harry’s chest but shifted back as Harry went to stand up.

“You’re a menace, Niall,” Liam advised.

Niall moved and sat back on the couch on the other side of Louis.

“Perhaps,” Niall said. “But Harry’s the one making the popcorn this time around.”

Niall was looking towards the TV so missed Louis’ glare. He was left with no other choice but to kick him instead.

“The fuck?!” Niall cried out, providing his own glare at Louis.

“Oops?” Louis said innocently as he looked down at his bare arm.

It was weird not wearing an armband full time. Not that he had to before, but having the spot always covered seemed to take away the constant reminder that his soulmate had disappeared from his life.

Harry shortly returned with three bowls of fresh popcorn, keeping the largest bowl to share. Harry handed the bowls out and flipped off the lights as Niall finally got the movie started.

Louis was curled back into his alpha’s side the moment Harry was sat on the couch. Harry let out a soft chuckle as he wrapped his arm around Louis’ waist to pull him in closer.

Midway through the movie Harry gently placed his hand over Louis’ upper arm. Louis looked up with questioning eyes. It was dark in the room but he was still able to notice the concerned look on Harry’s face.

“Why do you keep scratching your arm, love?” Harry whispered close to Louis’ ear.

“I’m not?” Louis questioned. “I wasn’t.”

What was Harry on about? Harry brushed his thumb along Louis’ arm and he let out a shiver as a zip of electricity ran through his body. Okay?

They returned to watching the movie as Harry continued running his hand gently along Louis’ arm, keeping a sort of focus where his soulmark used to be.

“Alpha,” Louis softly whimpered at a point when Harry had placed a bit a pressure on his arm.

Niall and Liam gave no response but Harry squished Louis against his body and ran his fingers through Louis’ soft hair.

“What’s wrong, love?” Harry quietly asked.

Louis was pretty sure he was going into heat is what was wrong. He still had a week and a half. He internally rolled his eyes. He wasn’t getting a fucking cold, he was going into heat early. It made no sense since his heat never came early. Or late for that matter. Although he did have an almost bondmate now. Obviously Louis’ omega was in a hurry to bond.

“Harry…” Louis began, stopping abruptly when he felt slick.

Harry momentarily stiffened before removing his arm from around Louis’ waist.

“Right,” Harry stated as he stood up. “Movie night is ending early. Niall you can join Liam in leaving and sleep in my bed if you want. Or Liam’s bed for that matter.”

“Wait, what?” Niall asked as he paused the movie. Niall looked from Harry and Louis and back again, not recognizing what was happening.

“I’m going into heat, Ni,” Louis advised as he took Harry’s outstretched hand and stood up.

Niall frowned. “But you never go into heat early.”

“Well, I’m guessing Louis hasn’t had a mate to share his heat with before either,” Liam said as he gathered the empty bowls of popcorn.

“Good point,” Niall said. “In which case I’ll get some stuff together and prepare to snuggle with Liam.”

“Absolutely not,” Liam firmly stated.

“We’ll see,” Niall called behind him as he headed towards his bedroom.

Louis released Harry’s hand in order to scratch his arm. Harry followed Louis’ movements with his eyes and his face shifted to yet another look of concern.

“Do you think we could lay down, H?” Louis asked quietly.

“Yes, go lay down with Lou,” Niall announced as he re-entered the room at record speed. “Me and Liam are going to go cuddle too.”

“I’m texting Zayn,” Liam announced.

Niall scoffed. “Fine, suit yourself.”

The room turned serious again as Harry draped his arms over Louis’ shoulders and held him tight.

“How long are you expected to be out?” Liam asked. And oh fuck. Louis’ substitute teacher who wasn’t scheduled to take over for another week and a half. And Harry’s job.

Harry seemed to sense Louis’ internal battle and held him tighter.

“I’ll text you in a bit, yeah?” Harry asked Liam.

Liam gave a decisive nod and both he and Niall headed towards the door.

“Have fun, kids!” Niall announced as they exited the flat.

Once left alone Louis mused, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Niall move so fast before. That was weird.”

Harry kissed Louis’ cheek and led him towards the bedroom. “He’s a good friend.”

Louis silently nodded. His heat would start in a bit and he couldn’t help the thoughts going on inside him. His job, Harry’s job, preparations for his heat. Despite knowing he was going to turn into a disgusting come covered mess, he always had to shower beforehand. It was some stupid mentality that started when he was younger and Louis never bothered to change it.

“I need to shower, Harry,” Louis stated. Apparently his body felt that was first priority on the list of things to do. It definitely wasn’t.

Harry didn’t even question Louis before he was redirecting them towards the bathroom.

“I’ll take care of you, Lou,” Harry said softly. “Your alpha is here. Don’t worry about other things that need to be done okay? I’ll arrange everything and work it out.”

“Do you think you were meant to have an actual soulmate, Harry?” Louis unexpectedly asked as Harry stripped him of his shirt.

Harry bent and planted a soft kiss onto Louis’ lips. “I think I was meant to have you.”

Louis ducked down to hide his warming cheeks. Why was he blushing? Louis elected to blame it on his heat.

Harry proceeded to strip Louis of his clothes and for some reason it was one of the most intimate moments of Louis’ life. Harry’s hands were gentle and tender as they ran along Louis’ body and Harry planted soft kisses down Louis’ chest as he helped Louis step out of his joggers.

As Harry adjusted the shower settings Louis felt Harry’s need to ask him a question. He also looked determined not to ask said question.

“You’re getting in there with me right?” Louis asked to a fully clothed Harry.

“Nope,” Harry stated, turning back to Louis. “The shower is too small for the both of us, love.”

“Like hell it is!”

Harry giggled as he removed his shirt. Those fucking tattoos. Louis was never going to be able to build up a tolerance to them. Not even when they were old and wrinkled.

“Get in, love,” Harry instructed. “I’m right behind you.”

Louis nodded and stepped into the shower. Harry had set the water temperature to the perfect setting and Louis revelled in the fact that Harry knew what to choose. Either that or it was a lucky guess but was neither here nor there.

Harry wasted no time in massaging Niall’s shampoo into Louis’ hair. Niall had the more expensive shampoo so it was another perfect choice made by Harry.

Harry was thinking again as he washed the shampoo out and continued his tender ministrations to condition and clean the rest of him. The questioning look was back in Harry’s eyes.

“What is it, Harry?” Louis asked as he ran his hands through Harry’s curls.

“What? What do you mean?”

Louis rolled his eyes. “You want to ask me something but you also don’t want to ask. What’s wrong?.”

Harry broke eye contact and looked down to the floor. “It’s nothing. Or it’s stupid so it’s no big deal.”

Louis pulled on Harry’s curls and his head shot back up to once again to look at Louis. Harry had such beautiful eyes. How did he possibly get so lucky?

“Oh my God. Either ask the question or I’m un-mating.”

Harry spluttered and Louis could tell he would ask. Louis patiently waited for him to continue as he grabbed the loofah to change positions so Louis could clean Harry.

“Honestly Lou. It’s not a big deal. I’m just curious is all.”

“Un-mating,” Louis threatened. “We’re un-mating in 10 seconds if…”

“Do you have an alpha help you with your heats?” Harry rushed on.

That was not the question Louis was expecting. Although it kind of was? It would make sense that Harry would be curious.

“No. Well yes. But no. Kinda?”

“So that’s not confusing at all.” Harry said. “Maybe a little clarification?”

“I mean, if I was in a relationship and I happened to have a heat during that time, yes. So there was that. Knowing that we weren’t soulmates kind of put a damper on long term relationships anyway, so only a few times. But also we both know that it’s not safe for an omega to go through a heat without an alpha, Harry, so you know I have. I was always matched through an agency and of course always safe. It was just to get the job done with no feelings attached. I don’t like to count that as being with an alpha for heats.”

Harry nodded and replied, “I’ve helped two omegas through their heat. Not having a soulmark at all definitely dampened long term relationships.”

“That’s so stupid,” Louis responded. “How people don’t want to stay in a relationship because of mismatched soulmarks. All of my breakups were mutual and civil but still. Although it was probably more mutual because of the alpha wanting out but I understood. Mostly.”

Harry gently ran his fingers through Louis’ clean hair and bent down for a tender kiss. Louis both wanted more, but at the same time didn’t. It was confusing. His heat was going to break any moment but Harry was distracting him so that Louis didn’t give it a thought.

“You’re burning up, love,” Harry said. “Let’s get you to bed and I’ll make some phone calls.”

“But…”

“I’ll stay in the bedroom with you. I’ll be there to take care of you.”

Louis simply nodded as he allowed Harry to dry him off with Louis’ favorite fluffy towel. They didn’t bother with clothes. There was no point in it.

----

“Fuck! Harry it hurts,” Louis cried out. Apparently his body was taking a moment to become lucid during the height of his heat. Louis definitely had no complaints with that. Especially with the way Harry was slamming into him and hitting his spot every fucking time.

Harry stopped his movements and Louis wondered how long he had been fucking him. He could tell that Harry was tired but also determined to keep his omega satisfied no matter how much it took.

“You’re the best alpha anyone could ever have,” Louis said sincerely. “Except you’ve stopped fucking me which means you’re also the worst alpha anyone could ever have.”

Harry let out a full body laugh and ducked down for a kiss. It was sloppy but also perfect for the moment.

Harry continued his movements but slowed down his pace from before Louis awoke.

“You said it hurts, baby,” Harry said with concern. “What hurts, love? What do you need? I have to take care of you no matter what. What can I do?”

“I… don’t know?”

“What hurts baby?”

“The fact that you’re not knotting me when I’m awake. That’s what I need. I really really need that. Please.”

“Lou, does it hurt?”

“Knot me or I swear to God we’re un-mating.”

“You say that a lot, you know,” Harry panted as he pick up his rhythm and speed. Again managing to hit Louis’ spot with unimaginable accuracy.

It didn’t take long for Louis’ need to come. Which was unfortunate with how good it felt. Couldn’t he have become lucid when Harry first started?

“Harry! Holy fuck! I have to come. Can I come? Can we bond? I’m awake Harry. I want to bond. I want to be yours. Please? Now?”

“I think you’re awake for a reason,” Harry struggled to say. “It’s time, love. It’s time.”

“Please,” Louis practically begged. “You’ll complete the bond, right?”

Holding a conversation was absolutely impossible in the state they were in but Louis was going to prevail. They were fucking bonding when he was awake.

“Come for me, baby,” Harry instructed. “Come for your alpha. Now.”

With Harry’s instruction, Louis shot out with the hardest orgasm he had ever had. At the exact same moment Harry’s knot locked into place and he was also coming. With a quick peck on Louis’ lips Harry was clamping down on his neck. With the first bite Louis knew Harry wanted to bond just as much as he did. Pain coursed through his body with lightning speed and he knew Harry had broken the skin for the bond on the first attempt.

Louis had stopped coming, but the sensation was still there. Harry was still biting, licking and kissing his neck as Louis yelled out in pain. He hadn’t counted on this being so painful. Bloody hell. Couldn’t someone have warned him? Bonding with an alpha should be the most pleasurable moment in your entire life, right? Apparently not. Actually it seemed like it was the most painful moment.

“Harry!” Louis screamed. “Why does it hurt? Why does it hurt?”

Harry’s knot was still firmly locked inside him and it seemed his full concentration was on Louis’ neck, creating the bond mark that would be there for the rest of his life. But was Harry in pain as well? Despite him running his hands along Louis’ body to help calm him, Harry’s entire body was seizing.

“Harry what’s wrong?” Louis whimpered.

He let out an involuntary whine and Harry planted one final kiss onto Louis’ neck, lingering for a few moments before pulling back. The moment Harry locked eyes with him, Louis’ pain subsided and turned into intense pleasure. Harry’s body calmed as well and he smiled down at Louis, his eyes shining bright with love. The bond was complete.

Harry gathered Louis into his arms, spooning him as they waited for his knot to deflate. Louis was never conscious for long during heats and he knew he would be out any moment.

“I love you Harry Styles,” Louis whispered although he knew Harry would hear him loud and clear.

“I love you Louis,” Harry replied as he planted a kiss on his shoulder. “So much.”

-----

Louis was being held tight in Harry’s arms when he finally came out of his heat. Their limbs were tangled as they faced each other. Louis smiled when he realized Harry had his face buried in the side of Louis’ neck where his bondmark was. Louis had no concept of what day or time it was but he could tell his heat was over.

Louis kissed his chest and Harry immediately pulled back enough so the pair could see each other properly.

“Are you with me, love?” Harry asked softly.

Louis shifted so he could get Harry a proper kiss. “I am.”

Harry let out a sigh of relief and said, “Good, because I have a surprise that I’ve had to keep to myself for about thirteen hours. That’s worn me out more than anything.”

Louis frowned. What could Harry possibly have? They’ve been in each others company for however long Louis was out. Or maybe Harry hadn’t been there the entire time?

“Did you go somewhere?” Louis asked, unsure. He wasn’t certain he wanted to know the answer.

Harry leaned in for another kiss before proceeding. “No, love. I’d never leave you. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”

Louis nodded in satisfaction and asked, “What then? What’s the surprise?”

Harry provided a blinding smile and leaned over to turn the side lamp on. He then softly tugged on Louis’ arm and brushed his thumb over where his soulmark used to be. Except…

He had writing on his arm. Permanent writing. It was a soulmark.

“What the fuck?” Louis whispered. “What the actual fuck?”

Harry adjusted the pair so he could free his arm as well.

Louis’ eyes widened. Because what the fuck?

“Harry?”

“Yes, baby?”

“I’m confused. What has happened?”

Harry shrugged as if this development was no big deal. “Apparently we’re soulmates.”

Louis playfully smacked Harry’s shoulder and continued, “I don’t understand. And why are you so calm? How are you so calm?”

Harry ran his fingers through Louis’ hair and said, “I don’t understand either, love. But I’ve had thirteen hours to process the information.”

Louis glared in challenge. “And the explanation is?”

Harry booped Louis’ nose. “I have no idea.”

Harry went silent presumedly to let Louis process the information. People are born with soulmarks, they don’t just appear out of nowhere in their twenties. That wasn’t possible. Except was it?

Louis looked down at his arm. He internally groaned. Was he going to have to start drinking Earl Grey tea again?

Harry responded before Louis could fully inspect the writing. “It says ‘ Will you be staying?

“What?” Louis questioned. “That makes zero sense.”

Harry twisted his arm around so Louis could better see the writing. Louis immediately cackled as he read the marking.

‘I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please.’

“The first thing we said to each other,” Harry stated.

Louis barely heard Harry over his own laughter.

“Oh my God,” Louis wheezed. “I can’t believe this. I honestly can’t believe this.”

Without warning Harry pulled Louis on top of him so Louis was looking down at him. It was a different angle than normal and Harry was beautiful with his mussed up hair splayed across the pillow. As Harry smiled up at him, Louis had no doubt he truly loved him. It had not been the heat talking previously.

Louis blinked down at his alpha and asked, “Do you suppose that’s why the bonding hurt so much?”

“Probably, but I think that’s something we’ll never know the answer to.”

“Mhmm,” Louis mumbled as he leaned down and nuzzled into Harry’s neck.

“You smell so good,” Louis muffled into Harry’s neck. Without warning Louis shifted and bit onto Harry’s neck.

“Lou!” Harry yelled in surprise as he took purchase onto Louis’ bum.

“Yes?” Louis asked innocently after he had perfected his love bite.

Harry merely shook his head before seamlessly flipping positions so Louis was once again laying on his back.

“You’re a menace, Louis Tomlinson.”

“But I’m your menace,” Louis said sincerely.

“That you are,” Harry whispered as he hovered over Louis’ lips. “My beautiful, lovely omega.”

Louis leaned up to close the gap between them.

“You have morning breath,” Louis mumbled between kisses. Not that he cared.

Louis let out a squeak as Harry sat up, pulling Louis with him.

“No more kisses for you,” Harry joked as he climbed out of the bed.

“Wait! Harry!”

“Nope,” Harry responded, leaving Louis behind as he headed to the bathroom.

Louis scrambled off of the bed to follow Harry out of the room.

“Harry, your omega really wants kisses with morning breath. With a cherry on top?”

Harry chuckled as he turned and lifted Louis up and onto the bathroom counter. Harry grabbed Louis’ hands and held them above Louis’ head against the mirror with both of his. Who knew that one simple action could be such a fucking turn on.

“If you cause me to get slick on the countertop you’re the one who will be informing Niall,” Louis groaned.

“You’re cute,” Harry said before connecting his lips with Louis’ before he had a chance to protest.

-----

Despite it being Harry’s day off they decided to make the trip to where it all started. Harry definitely needed to have at least one drink of Earl Grey tea, right? Definitely.

“Should we invite Niall and Liam?” Louis asked as he pulled on his shirt. “Or just the two of us?”

Harry smiled and said, “It would be kind of appropriate to reveal our soulmarks there, don’t you think?”

Louis looked around the room for his phone to text Niall. Where the fuck did his phone go?

“Due to the fact that I’ve lost my phone, I nominate you to do the texting.”

Harry shook his head fondly and pulled out his phone.

Harry: Meet at Tea Time. We have something to share.

Niall: We?

Harry: Me and Louis

Niall: It’s not tea time. Or is it tea time? What time is tea time?

Louis rolled his eyes as he read alongside Harry before snatching the phone out of his hands.

Harry: It’s Louis. Be at Tea Time in a half hour or you don’t get to know the news.

Niall: What news? The coffee shop?

Harry: It’s still Louis. You’re an idiot. Bring Liam if he’s free.

Niall: I like Harry’s text messages better. He’s nicer.

Harry: ……

Niall: Fine. See you at the COFFEE shop in a half hour.

“I don’t know why I’m friends with him,” Louis stated. “Honestly.”

“He’s a good friend,” Harry assured. “I obviously don’t know him very well yet, but I know he is.”

“Mhmm,” Louis mumbled as they headed towards the door.

----

“Something’s different,” Amber mused as she looked between Harry and Louis.

“What?” Louis asked defensively. “Why do you say that?”

“Wait. Oh my God did you two already bond?” Amber whisper-yelled.

“No?” Louis lied. Harry pulled Louis in by his waist as they waited for Amber to let them place their order.

“Oh my God you did,” Amber continued enthusiastically. “This was all because of me, I’ll have you know. Since you met in my shop.”

“I’m not sure that’s accurate,” Harry said with laughter in his voice.

“Whatever, we’re pretending it is,” Amber insisted. “Now what can I get you two?”

“I’d like an Earl Grey with milk and sugar, please,” Harry requested.

“Yorkshire for me,” Louis said.

“Seriously?” Amber asked as she squinted her eyes at Harry.

Louis couldn’t contain his laughter and Harry squeezed him tight around the waist as if that would stop Louis’ amusement.

“Harry’s never had it,” Louis explained when he could talk properly. “He made me drink other teas and he hasn’t even tried Earl Grey before.”

Amber slowly nodded but still looked skeptical as she placed the order.

“It’s on the house,” Amber stated. “In celebration of my matchmaking skills.”

“I’m not…”

Amber held up her hand to cut Harry off. “No, no. It’s fine.”

Louis let out a small giggle and Amber gave him a wink before addressing Harry again. “So you’ll be back at work tomorrow, right?

Harry nodded in acknowledgement. “I will. Thanks for covering during the short notice Amber.”

“No problem,” Amber said as she waved them out of the way. “Enjoy the rest of the day, you two.”

Once their tea was ready Harry took Louis’ hand and walked in the direction of Louis’ table. Perhaps Louis could consider it Harry’s table as well. Maybe. He’d put it into consideration.

Making sure the tea was cool enough to drink Louis silently gestured for Harry to take a sip.

“That’s… not bad,” Harry said, taking another sip. Did he really like the shit tea?

“You’re kidding,” Louis said bluntly.

Harry let out a full body laugh causing a few patrons to turn their way.

“I’m really not, Lou,” Harry assured. “I might switch out my Yorkshire for this.”

Louis stared at him in disbelief as Harry took yet another sip.

“We’re un-soulmating,” Louis stated as he pushed his tea to the side and moved to stand up.

Harry burst out in another fit of laughter as he grabbed Louis’ hand before he could get very far. Louis moved back to sit across from Harry, making sure his best glare was in place. Harry gave Louis a private smile as he ran his finger up Louis’ arm before encircling where Louis’ new soulmark was.

“You have a new soulmark, Lou.”

Louis cocked his head to the side and waited for Harry’s point.

Harry gently squeezed Louis’ arm. “Will you be staying?”

Louis sighed dramatically. “I think the wording of my soulmark is a mistake. I mean, sure, you asked if I would be staying but what I really meant when I responded was that I wanted my tea in a cup holder to go.”

Whatever Harry was about to say was cut off by an Irish cackle walking into the shop. Also known as Niall. He could always be counted on to make his presence known.

Upon spotting the pair at Louis’ table, Niall weaved his way through the room and pulled up a chair to join the conversation.

“So what’s the news?” Niall immediately asked.

“No Liam?” Harry inquired with a frown.

Niall shrugged. “I texted him but he was still stuck at work. I regret to inform you that the two of you were dissed and dismissed.”

Harry still had a frown on his face and Louis brushed his foot along Harry’s ankle under the table. It seemed to relieve some of the dissatisfaction in Harry’s demeanor.

Niall poked at Louis’ tea cup. “Earl Grey?”

“No,” Louis stated before jabbing a finger towards Harry. “ Harry’s drinking it though.”

Niall furrowed his brow in confusion. “I thought we were past the point in life where people were drinking Earl Grey.”

Louis glared at Harry who merely rolled his eyes. Louis quickly returned his attention to Niall and advised, “He likes it, Niall. He likes it!”

“I’m right here, you know,” Harry said as he took another sip of his tea.

“Is Harry liking Earl Grey tea the news?” Niall asked. “I was in the middle of something really important.”

“No, you weren’t,” Louis stated.

“Fine,” Niall huffed. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Louis said I had to try Earl Grey tea,” Harry interrupted. “So I did. And it’s good.”

For some reason Harry blushed and Louis became momentarily entranced by the alpha sitting across from him.

“Oh my God,” Niall quietly said. “You bonded. I mean, I figured you would obviously, but you did. Is that the news?”

“Yes and no,” Louis explained in a very cryptic explanation.

“Yeah, that’s not an answer,” Niall advised.

Louis looked over to Harry who smiled and gave a slight nod. Louis proceeded to pull his armband down to reveal his soulmark.

“What the fuck?” Niall asked in astonishment. “Is that permanent marker? Will you be staying? What the fuck does that even mean?”

Louis disentangled his lower limbs from Harry and proceeded to kick Niall in the shin.

“What the fuck was that for?” Niall yelled out, once again drawing attention to their table.

Louis shrugged. “I haven’t kicked you in awhile. And it’s not permanent marker, Niall.”

“And?” Niall prompted when no one said anything.

“Go ahead, Lou,” Harry said softly.

“Right,” Louis proceeded. “So yes, we bonded. But when we bonded we also kind of, like, soul-mated as well.”

“Soul-mated,” Niall repeated.

Harry pulled his armband down to reveal his new soulmark and Niall proceeded to poke it.

“I don’t understand,” Niall stated as he continued to poke Harry’s arm until he yanked it out of Niall’s reach.

“Neither do we,” Harry said. “But it seems that we’re soulmates.”

Niall crossed his arms and frowned. Shouldn’t he be happy? Or curious? Or anything but unhappy?

“Now I don’t understand why you’re telling me this in a coffee shop,” Niall grumbled.

“We wanted you to be the first to know,” Louis said. “Or something like that. Maybe it was just that we wanted to come get tea so this was the place where we would be for you to know sooner rather than later.”

“Should we not have told you here?” Harry asked quietly.

Niall huffed and sent a glare to both Harry and Louis before standing up. Before Louis knew what was happening, Niall was climbing on top of the chair, grabbing Louis’ cup of tea.

“Dear patrons of the coffee shop named Tea Time!” Niall shouted. “Which is a really silly name for a coffee shop FYI. But I’d just like to publicly say how honored I am to be here to celebrate that my best friend found his soulmate!”

“Niall!” Louis hissed.

“I’m embarrassing him right now,” Niall continued loudly. “So I’ll cut my speech short, but I’m just really happy and needed to share! Thank you for your attention! Cheers!”

Niall held Louis’ tea in the air before climbing down. Once seated he gave a blinding smile and said, “Maybe next time you magically find a soulmate you’ll tell me when we’re not in public?”

“Next time?” Harry chuckled. “I only want one soulmate. And I’ve already found him. Thanks for the congratulatory speech though.”

“No problem,” Niall said. “Now let’s go meet Liam when he gets back. If I knew it was something as important as this I would have waited, you know. I have no problem celebrating twice though and will give the honors of breaking the news to Harry.”

“How very kind of you,” Harry said with pure joy written on his face. Louis loved him.

“Right,” Niall said as he slapped the table. “I’m not going to be a third wheel so I’m leaving now and you can get on the next train.”

Louis laughed before saying, “ You’re not a third wheel, Niall. We’ll go together.”

Niall looked between Harry and Louis with a thoughtful expression.

“Okay, I’m not a third wheel. But Liam isn’t meant to be home for another couple hours and I want you to spend the time together while you’re both off work.”

Niall was the best.

“Thanks for coming, Ni,” Louis said in sincerity. “You’re right in that we shouldn’t have had you come all the way over here to tell you something that could waited a few more hours. But you also got to see where I hang out and where Harry is soon to become manager.”

“True,” Niall agreed. “Plus now I know that this is definitely a coffee shop so my argument about the name of the store is completely valid.”

Louis shook his head fondly. “Okay, we’ll see you in a bit.”

Niall bent down to give both Louis and Harry a hug. It was an awkward angle but that didn’t matter.

“I’m so happy for you guys,” Niall said sincerely. “I would ask more questions but I think I’d like Liam to be there considering he’s Harry’s best friend.”

“Thanks Niall,” Harry said. He was blushing again and Louis was endeared. His alpha was so unique and lovely. He couldn’t have found a better soulmate.

Once Niall had exited the shop the pair remained silent. Harry reached out for Louis’ hand and they both held on tight.

As an omega Louis automatically felt that he should not take the first step in confessing his feelings but it was becoming more and more difficult the longer they sat there in silence.

“Harry, I need you to know it wasn’t the heat talking.”

Louis could say that right? If Harry didn’t understand what Louis was referring to then no harm done. It was impossible to stay silent though.

“I know,” Harry said. “I felt it. Strongly.”

Louis squeezed Harry’s hand in the hope that he would continue.

Unfortunately he didn’t. Harry gestured towards the exit and asked, “Do you want to go talk? In private? I want to know absolutely everything there is to know about you, love.”

Louis could only nod, slight disappointment running through him. Harry gently grabbed Louis’ hand before they could get very far and stopped them in their tracks.

Louis was shrouded by calming pheromones as Harry leaned down and kissed Louis’ new bondmark.

“I love you, too,” Harry whispered in his ear. He wrapped Louis in his arms for a tight hug. Always.”