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Whipped Cream

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There's no real way for Harry to hear Gideon's copper dog tag clank against his collar while they walk. He can see it though. The dog tag itself is similar in shape and size to a second quarter as it dangles from the brown leather looped around his neck. Gideon's yellow fur still manages to poke out around the collar, and Harry notices small clumps on the back of the dog's ears as he sniffs at a patch of grass.

Harry shrugs the backpack off of his right shoulder and lets it fall to the ground between his feet as he sits down on the park bench. The three wooden planks dip with the sudden weight. He bends over and unclips the black plastic buckles that hold on a vest around Gideon's torso. The vest is mainly a bright red with black sewn around the seams, and there's a clear pocket on each side to help hold paperwork that proves he's a certified service dog.

As Harry leans away and folds the dog vest in half, before he sets it off to the side, he looks around at his surroundings. The park itself is too large for him to see everything, but from where he's sitting he can see a handful. There's a playground for younger children off to his right and beyond that is a long building that's supposed to be a cafe. Then, maybe a hundred feet in front of him, is a gravel path that loops around a lake. The lake itself is at the center of the park and everything else branches out from there.

Harry's noticed that Sunday morning tends to be the least busy during the weekends. He assumes it's due to early church services, or people jumping at the opportunity to sleep in before they go back to work. Either way, with the exception of a few people, he's left with the entire park.

He likes it that way.

It's not that Harry doesn't like being around other people, because he does, it's more or less the issues that arise when they're around (especially when you're with a service dog). No one ever seems to acknowledge the words sewn into the vest that reads: HEARING DOG. DO NOT PET. Even when someone does read it, they tend to ignore it as they'll immediately try to talk to Harry or start petting Gideon.

Like Harry's mother used to say, "I never understood just how stupid the human race could be, until I gave birth to a deaf child."

So he makes it a routine to come to the park when it's the least busy.

Harry unzips his backpack and pulls it open before he takes out a red rubber ball. The corners of his lips twitch upwards into a slight smirk as Gideon's tail wags side to side, his brown eyes look up to Harry's green ones in a pleading manner. He looks at the ball that fits easily into his palm then draws his arm back and throws it. A grin overtakes his face as the yellow lab bounds after it.

Gideon comes bouncing back with the rubber ball and drops it into Harry's large hand. He wraps the ball in his fist as he draws his arm back again, and does a quick glance around to see if anyone is nearby. Nope. He throws it twice as far as the first time.

As ridiculous as it is, Harry can already feel sweat start to collect along his widow's peak. April is about to grow into May in another week but the weather already feels like the middle of summer. Which is weird considering that England doesn't deal with anything extreme, whether it's seasons of the year or politics. If anything, Harry is supposed to be using the old umbrella that's shoved into his backpack.

Then again, sweat and rain are both equally bad for Harry's hearing aid. His hearing aid is one that connects to the side of his head behind his right ear as it's a cochlear implant. He had the surgery when he was only three-years-old and was forced to wear it every day as he grew up, but now that's he's twenty-two and lives on his own he can wear it whenever he likes. Which is almost never.

Harry only wears his hearing aid for certain occasions such as meeting with a client or visiting his friends. Otherwise, he doesn't like to wear them since they're uncomfortable, which he doesn't think that hearing people understand. To them, a hearing aid or cochlear implant is a cure for people with hearing loss and they should be jumping at the opportunity. In reality, they're uncomfortable to wear after a period of time and it's loud. Hearing aids don't have the luxury of zooming in on sounds in particular. Instead, they amplify everything from the person talking in front of you to the fan that's rotating in the back of the room.

Gideon nudges his nose against Harry's leg, bringing him away from his thoughts. He picks up the ball that's been left at his feet and looks over towards the round lake. The water is by no means a clear blue color like the ones at the Bahamas and probably has rubbish along the floor of it, but Harry still wishes for a brief moment that he could jump in. It's April, he shouldn't have to ask himself if he brought along any deodorant.

After Harry sets the ball down by Gideon's vest, he starts to search through his backpack. From the corner of his eyes, he can see the dog panting with his tongue hanging out. Harry connects the tips of his thumb and index finger as the other three fingers stand up, and moves his hand in a circular motion by his mouth. Water?

Gideon jumps up from his sitting position on the grass and barks.

Harry smiles to himself as he shakes his head. He pulls out an unopened water bottle and a stainless steel dog bowl before he places the latter down by his feet. Harry unscrews the cap and pours two-thirds of the water into the bowl for him, Gideon already starting to lap at the water as it flows out from the bottle.

From what Harry can see, as he searches through his backpack again, he didn't bring any deodorant with him. He knew he didn't, but he could hope. There aren't too many items in his bag as he only brought what he considered to be the essentials: water, dog bowl, dog treats, washcloth, hoodie, an umbrella, and a twenty-pound note in case of emergencies. All he's done since he got here is sit on a bench and throw a ball, how is the heat getting to him so quickly?

Harry brings the water bottle to his lips and drinks what's left. He crumples the empty bottle in his fist then swings his leg over Gideon as he continues to drink from his bowl, and walks the small distance to the litter bin. The bottle bounces off the rim and lands on the grass. Harry's shoulders drop as he lets out an exasperated sigh, then he bends over and snatches it off the ground before he drops it into the bin properly.

There's still half an inch of water left in the bowl when Harry sits back down on the bench. He grabs the rubber ball he had placed off to the side and wipes the dog slobber off onto the grass. Lucky for him, it's not dripping with the gross substance like it usually is. Gideon has the horrible habit of leaving a trail of it and that's why he always carries around a washcloth now.

Once the ball is successfully freed from dog slobber, Harry rolls it around in his palm. He screws his lips to the side in thought as he stares at it. Then, he throws the ball up into the air and attempts to catch it with one hand, only for the ball to miss his hand completely and bounce off of his forehead.

Gideon takes off after it.

Harry furrows his eyebrows and tries to look up at the forming read mark on his forehead. Unfortunately, he can't blame his clumsiness on his deafness.

When Harry stops pouting at the mark he can't even see, he looks in the direction the ball bounced off to. It managed to roll right to the edge of the playground, where the grass meets pavement, and get picked up by a little girl who doesn't look like she could be any older than five. She has the ball cupped in both of her small hands as she inspects it for a minute. Then, her doe-eyed gaze moves away only to lock on his own stare.

The little girl looks down at the ball in her hands, then to Gideon who's tail wags back and forth as he sits in front of her, and back to him. Harry can practically see the puzzle pieces sliding into place inside of her head as she puts it together: the ball belongs to him. Her lips are in a straight line as she nods her head once, determined, and pulls her arm back far enough that her whole body weight balances onto her back foot, then throws it towards him.

It lands three feet away from her.

Three feet or not, Gideon plucks it up from the ground and walks it back over to the little girl. Her eyes widen enough that Harry can see the blue color that surrounds her pupil from where he's sitting. It's a huge contrast to her fiery curls. A smile grows across her face as she hugs the ball to her chest and looks back over to him. It's like she's sharing her amazement at the fact his dog knows how to play fetch.

The little girl holds the ball out to him as she leaves the pavement and runs over to Harry's side. It gives him a minute to focus on her entire appearance. She's dressed how anyone should be during the spring months as she's wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. Her shirt isn't one Harry has ever seen before as it's light grey with different colored pom poms attached to it. He can't help but wonder if she's suffering from the heat too.

She drops the ball into Harry's palm and he can't help but grin. He outstretches his free hand so it's flat and presses the fingertips of his middle three fingers to his chin, then pulls his hand away downwards. Thank you.

Harry curls his fingers around the ball and flings it far enough for Gideon to run after. The dog retrieves it before he trots back over to him, his tail swaying in sync with his steps. It's once the ball is dropped into his palm again that Harry notices that the little girl hasn't left his side and it doesn't look like she's about to. Instead, she has her hands folded in front of her as she watches him.
Harry hunches forward and rests his elbows on his knees as he holds the ball out to her. As if she was waiting for her turn, the little girl grabs the ball and throws it in the same direction he had. It goes further than it did the last time she threw it. Gideon walks the few steps it takes him to grab the ball before he drops it at the feet of the little girl's pink boots.

The little girl crouches down to pick up the ball, her bum almost touching the grass, and stands back up with a smirk on her face. She waves the red ball around and Gideon's head follows it. Then, she swings her arm forward but keeps the ball in her grasp. Gideon stops after taking two steps in the direction the ball would've gone and tilts his head to the side when he looks up at the little girl.
From the way she's covering her mouth with both of her hands and her shoulders are shaking, it's obvious she's laughing.

He can't help but join in as his head drops and air escapes his nose in his own laughter.

Harry has always had a soft spot for children, even though he used to be tormented by them when he was younger, as there's such an innocence tied to them. When you take away what a parent teaches them, you learn how accepting they are of other people. Children never care about the color of your skin or why you can't hear. Instead, they want to know if you can still play with them. Sometimes he still finds himself wishing that adults were the same way.

Just when Harry doesn't think he can smile any wider, the little girl drops to her knees and throws her arms around Gideon's neck. It's clear how in love she is. Gideon starts to lick at her face as his tail thumps against the ground, and Harry's glad that he's responding so well to her. It's not that he wouldn't, but the dog doesn't spend a lot of time around children so there's always that small fragment of concern in the back of his mind.

Both Gideon and the little girl's head snap up in the direction of the playground, and Harry furrows his eyebrows before he looks over at whatever called their attention. There's a young man wearing a black hoodie and skinny jeans walking towards them, and he has a little boy holding onto his hand as he tries to keep up with the longer strides. The little boy looks to be around the same age as the girl but instead, he has blonde hair that curls inwards at the bottom. He's wearing the same boots as the little girl but in a grey color and it causes him to wonder if they're twins. They look like they could be.

The man's thin lips are moving and Harry can tell that he has a thick accent even if he can't hear it. His lips are almost pursed while he speaks. Along the man's sharp jaw is brown scruff that trails over his upper lip as well but it looks like it's growing out to become a proper beard. If it's by intention or laziness, Harry doesn't know. He likes it though. Then again, he's always been a bit too intrigued by facial hair since he can't grow any himself.

The little boy, who Harry notices is only about an inch taller than the girl now that they're standing side by side, is hesitant as he lets the girl guide his hand to the dog's nose. Gideon's nostrils contract as his sniffs at the pale hand. The little girl wraps her arms back around the dog's neck and rests her head on top of his, a grin plastered on her face as she shows off her new friend. The boy doesn't appear to be entirely convinced but he smiles when Gideon licks his hand.

Harry pulls his gaze away from the two children and looks up at the man who motions to the empty spot beside him. He grabs the items he had placed off to his side and slides closer to the arm of the bench, nodding. The man gives him a smile and sits down on the bench. Underneath them, the wooden planks shift and bend more with the added weight.

Now sitting to Harry's left, the man is looking at him as he speaks. His eyes are a similar shade of blue to the two children, but they come across softer as he smiles while talking. It makes his heart stutter for a beat. Then it dawns on him that the man is talking to him and he needs to say something back.

He picks up the service dog vest from his lap and unfolds it before pointing to the words sewn into the fabric.

The man's eyes scan left to right over the words and then he pauses. His lips are parted just enough for Harry to see from up close, and he can't predict what his next move will be. One time, a young lady had covered her children's ears and shouted that his deafness was the work of the devil. He probably would have cried, given how sensitive he can be if he hadn't been so dumbfounded. Most of the time he gets sympathetic smiles before they walk away.

Harry watches as the man gives a slow nod before he glares up at the sky in thought. Then, the man uses his index finger to point to the palm of his other hand. L. He points to the fingertip of his ring finger. O. Then to his pinky. U. To the tip of his middle finger. I. Then lastly, he lies his left palm out and hooks his pinkies together. S.

Louis.

Harry can't fight the huge grin that grows over his face.

He slides his right hand outwards over his left palm. H. Then points to his left thumb. A. He curls his right index finger against his left palm twice. R. R. Lastly, he points to the stretched skin between his thumb and index finger on his left hand. Y.

Harry ends up repeating himself two more times before Louis is able to sign it back and mouth his name correctly (he thinks). Fingerspelling isn't used often in sign language as it's only really used for names of people and places. Otherwise, there are actual signs for everything else. From the slow pace of Louis' signing, it's obvious to him that fingerspelling is the extent of his sign language knowledge.

There's a small hand that tugs on Harry's shorts and he looks over to see the little girl. The little boy is standing behind her as he looks over her shoulder at him, wide-eyed. She's pointing at the ball in his lap that he managed to grab when Louis had walked over to them. Harry nods his head and offers it to her, the ball cupped in his palm, and she takes it before holding it out for the boy to see. Then, she attempts to throw it in the direction of the playground but instead, it bounces off her head.

It's nice to know that he has the same coordination as a possible five-year-old.

Harry can see Louis' head tossed back as he laughs, his nose is all scrunched up and the corners of his eyes are crinkled. He brings his hand up to cover his mouth as he bites back a smile. He can't help it, Louis is as bright as the sun when he laughs.
Harry turns his attention away from the man sitting next to him and looks back over at Gideon. He's in the midst of jumping from side to side as he awaits the little boy to throw the ball. It manages to actually travel forward instead of falling by the boy's own feet or bounce off of his head like the girl.

Both Louis and Harry jump when strong vibration courses through the wooden planks supporting them. Harry is quick to fish his phone out of his back pocket and shut it off. It reads 12:00 p.m. and is labeled as grocery shopping beneath it. He turns the screen towards Louis and points to the alarm in an attempt to explain the cause for the vibration they both felt.

Every week, Sunday is a busy day for Harry as that's when he plans out his important tasks. He'll wake up at sunrise and walk Gideon around the block before he returns to his apartment for breakfast. After that, he'll get ready for the day by brushing his teeth and showering like everyone else. Then he takes Gideon for a ten-minute walk to the park and let him run around freely to burn off most of his energy. Harry then takes Gideon to the grocery store to buy what he needs for meals that week and then they go home so his dog can sleep while he does a deep clean of the apartment.

Harry tugs his backpack onto his lap and unzips it before he bends down and grabs the dog bowl that's by his foot, and spills out the remaining water onto the grass. Aside from the ball, there's nothing else that needs to be packed up. He pats his thigh and Gideon rolls off of his back and onto his paws, then trots over to him. The little boy and girl form pouts so Harry tries his best to look apologetic. He picks the service vest up off of his lap and fastens it around the dog before ruffling his fur.

Louis appears to shout something and the little girl and boy come running over to them. It's the little boy who leans forward onto his toes and hands the ball back to Harry. He signs thank you and tucks the ball away into his bag before he zips it shut. He leans forward and clips the leash onto Gideon before he stands up and swings the backpack over his shoulders.

Before Harry can start walking away, the little girl throws herself onto Gideon as she wraps her arms around him in a hug. He can't help but tighten his lips into a thin line as he scrunches his nose by instinct.

There's a rule that you're never allowed to distract a service dog while they're working, and that includes the simple act of petting them. Harry has had people try to call Gideon over to them or try to feed him something they have on them. It's not exactly allowed and he wishes it were common knowledge, but it's not.

He doesn't blame the kids though. It's instinct for him to cringe, but he can accept the confusion since they were able to cuddle up to the dog not even five minutes ago.

Harry points a thumb over his shoulder as he looks over at Louis, who's already looking at him. A small blush seems to creep onto Louis' cheeks as they turn pink. He doesn't try to comment on it though and waves goodbye to all three of them, then starts to walk off in the direction of the entrance into the park.

Chapter Text

A whiff of coffee beans greets Harry when he steps foot into a Starbucks. The small shop is bustling with strangers to the point he can't even see an empty table, so he thinks he's left to find a seat outside. He doesn't mind though since the weather continues to be nothing but sunny. Harry keeps a tight hold on the worn out leash and takes his spot at the back of the line. From what he can see, there are only about five people ahead of him. It's hard to tell with the number of people passing through the middle of the line and the few standing around nearby.

Despite this Starbucks being ten miles away from the one Harry usually goes to, it doesn't look any different. The walls are a familiar cream color with various images hung along them, and brown tiles flow throughout. There's even the same amount of tables and chairs. To him, the only difference that he's noticed is the faces as he doesn't recognize a single employee or customer. Then again, he does live in a bigger city.

Harry takes a step forward before he looks down to see Gideon still standing by his side. He had been a bit conflicted this morning when he was in the midst of getting ready for the busy day, as he wasn't sure if he wanted to bring the dog with him or not. Most of his clients have been fond of his companion so that wasn't the issue. His problem is more or less related to the fact that it was a busy day for him and he always feels bad for dragging him along for hours on end (even though he's been trained to).

The line moves forward again and a young girl is quick to greet him, "Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get you?"

Harry reaches up to adjust his green beanie so it covers his hearing aid as he clears his throat. "Hi um- can I get a small caramel frappuccino and one of your puppuccinos?"

Rachel, the name he reads off her nametag, stops typing onto the cash register and peers over it to look at Gideon. "Sir, dogs aren't allowed in here."

"He's a service dog," Harry explains as he motions his hands towards the service vest his dog is wearing.

She twirls the end of her ponytail around her index finger as she shakes her head, "I'm sorry but I can't serve you."

An older man comes over to Rachel's side and rests a hand on her shoulder as he narrows his eyes at Harry. "What seems to be the problem?"

"You're illegally denying me service because I have a service dog." He states as he tries to square up his shoulders.

"Don't make this into a bigger deal than it is, kid. Just take the dog and go before I call the police."

Harry pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. There have been a few times when he's pushed that it's illegal for anyone to turn away someone with a service animal, but he needs to pick his battles. Right now he can't afford to be arrested or kicked out of a place where he's supposed to be meeting with a potential client.

Without saying anything, Harry turns on his heels and walks over to the double doors. He pushes his way out to the outdoor seating and peers around for the best-suited table. There's a square table with two chairs off to his left that's placed directly against the wall, and there's a circular table with five seats off to his right. Since he's scheduled to meet up with an engaged couple, he decides to sit at the latter.

Harry tilts the metal chair backward and slides the handle of Gideon's leash onto the front leg. He then plops down onto the chair and pulls his messenger bag onto his lap before digging through it for his portfolio. It's a white binder with an image of his business' logo on the front. He flips open the cover before starting to look through the various photographs he's collected from previous projects.

Photography hadn't always been Harry's career plan. He had studied the basic classes for sixth form while trying to find a part-time job like any other person his age but was turned down at each one. It wasn't until the fifth time of being turned away that he realized no one wanted to hire a deaf teenager as that would mean accommodating for the disability. Since then, he decided to take his knowledge from a photography class and build it into a business of his own. That way he wouldn't ever have to deal with being turned away.

Harry's older sister had been one of his first real clients. She had fallen pregnant with her long-term boyfriend and insisted that they got married before she started to show, so the wedding planning had been rushed. Both Gemma and her boyfriend, Daniel, were both full-time Uni students about to graduate so they didn't have a huge budget. Harry had offered to photograph her entire wedding for what he now charges per hour and with her permission, had added the pictures to his website.

From there, his business has pulled in enough customers for him to support himself full time.

Harry looks over the photograph of Gemma's first dance and smiles to himself before folding the binder closed. His physical portfolio doesn't have nearly as many photographs as his website does, but it still does its job as he has a good mixture of his favorites and best pictures.

As Harry starts to search through his bag again, he pulls out a black folder along with two felt tip pens. He places each of the items on top of his binder.

Gideon's wet nose nudges against Harry's brown boot, causing him to look down at him. He makes a fist with his right hand and rubs it in circles against his chest. Sorry. It's always a must for him to get Gideon a puppuccino, a cup of whipped cream, each time they go to Starbucks. The one near their apartment has never given them a problem. The employees there even take turns over who gets to feed it to him. He knows that Gideon secretly loves the attention.

"Hi! Harry, right?" a voice calls out as a woman with pink hair approaches him. She's dressed in an all-white cropped top with blue jeans that cut off above the ankle. "I'm Charlotte. You texted me to look for a guy with a service dog."

"Yes, that's me," Harry stands up from his chair and shakes her hand, "that's my service dog Gideon."

Charlotte coos as she clutches her black purse in one hand and crouches down to be eye-level with the dog. "He's so cute! Can I pet him?" She stands back up and looks over at Harry with a hand pressed against her chest, "I'm sorry! He's just so darn cute that I forgot he's a service dog for a moment."

"Thank you," he smiles, "a lot of people tend to forget and just automatically start petting him."

He watches as Charlotte unzips her purse and pull out a few pound coins, "is it okay if I go in and grab a coffee really quick?"

"Go ahead."

"Do you want anything? I don't mind!" She huffs out a breath once she zips her purse closed again. Charlotte then looks down at her phone and rolls her eyes, "my fiance is obviously running a bit late. My brother had this bright idea to take him shopping for a tux right before our appointment."

"It's okay, I don't have to be anywhere else for another hour and a half," he tries to reassure, "and you don't have to get me anything. I'm just going to go to a different Starbucks after this."

Charlotte furrows her eyebrows, "why not just get something from here? Do they have roaches or something?"

He shakes his head, "they refuse to serve me because of Gideon."

She drops her purse from her grasp, the chained strap saving it from hitting the ground, and her lips part. "Are you serious? That's so fucking stupid! Shit- sorry for my language. That's just to messed up! Tell me your order, I'll go get you something."

Harry starts to chew on his bottom lip, "are you sure?" She nods. "Um, a small caramel frappuccino and a puppuccino. If you don't mind." He pulls out a ten pound note and tries to hand it to Charlotte.

She waves her hand around as she shakes her head, "I offered." Before he can protest, she's already making her way into the building.

Harry slides the tenner back into his wallet and looks over to see Gideon already staring back at him. He points at himself before pinching together his thumb and middle finger as he pulls his hand away from his chest, then points towards the door Charlotte walked through. I like her. Gideon wags his tail in response.

It's people like Charlotte that always made school more bearable for Harry. An over the top outgoing and bubbly personality is almost a breath of fresh air for him as people like that always manage to make him feel included and no different from anyone else. Sometimes he wishes more people were like that.

Harry returns his attention to the items he has in front of him and opens the folder placed on top of his binder. His fingers push each page towards him as he scans them over one at a time. It's important that he has enough copies of his information for his clients to take with them. Even though everything is on his website, people tend to want a physical copy.

Charlotte comes through the door again but with a cup holder tray that's holding three different drinks. She places Harry's drink on the table in front of him before sitting down on the chair across from him. As Charlotte takes a sip of her own drink, he's left to assume that the third cup is for her fiance. "They're just down the road," she says and places her drink on the table. She then points to the small paper cup filled with whipped cream, "can I feed this to him? I'll literally pay you to let me."

His eyebrows raise at the extent of her begging, "you don't need to pay me. Go right ahead."

Without missing a beat, Charlotte lets out a squeal as she crouches down in front of Gideon. The dog instantly sits up from his laying position on the concrete and he wags his tail. She holds the paper cup towards him and he instantly darts his tongue in to lick up the delightful treat.

A car horn sounds from beside them and a man's head pops out of the window, a hand still on the steering wheel, "Lottie! You can't just go around feeding random strangers' dogs!"

"Oh fuck off!" Charlotte yells back as she stands up from her crouched position.

Harry looks over at the man and his eyes widen. It's Louis.

Just as Louis opens his mouth to speak again, their eyes lock and the words die in his throat.

Harry watches Louis pull the car forward and into a parking spot nearby before parking it. Louis, along with a man around the same height, steps out of the car before making their way over. The other man is handsome enough to be an Instagram model if he wanted to be. From what he can recall Charlotte telling him though, he's a welder. She, on the other hand, is a social media influencer of some kind.

"This is my obnoxious brother Louis," Charlotte says as she wraps an arm around his shoulders. Then she wraps her other arm around the second man, "and this is my fiance Leo." She kisses his cheek. "Leo and Louis, this is Harry and Gideon."

He moves his hand in a small wave, "hi."

"I thought you were deaf," Louis blurts out.

Shock is evident on everyone's face. Harry clears his throat before he nods his head, "I am." He then lifts up the bottom of his beanie to show off his hearing aid and points at it. "I only wear them when I know I'll be interacting with hearing people."

"Oh."

Charlotte smacks Louis upside the head.

Harry tugs his beanie back down over his ears and he sits in his chair. Charlotte and Leo follow suit as they sit down in the two chairs opposite him.

"Thank you," Leo says and presses a kiss to her cheek as he takes his own coffee. "You're the best."

"Where's my drink?" Louis asks as he plops down onto the chair beside Harry.

Charlotte shrugs her shoulders as she takes a long sip of her own coffee. "Why are you crashing my appointment?"

Louis shrugs his shoulders in return.

"That's what I thought."

Harry ignores the two of them as he slides the folder off to his side and opens the binder. He swerves it around so that Charlotte and Leo can look at it correctly. "This is a collection of my work from previous clients so you'll know what to expect," he says.

Charlotte cups her drink in both of her hands and sets it down in her lap. "Your work is amazing!" She reaches up and starts to flip through the pages. "My friend said you did her wedding and that you were worth the price."

The two of them flip through a few more pages, "how much do you charge?"

Harry scratches at his neck as he meets Leo's eyes, "um about five hundred pounds an hour. For a typical eight hour wedding it would be about four thousand."

From beside him, Louis lets out a disgruntled noise. "She fed your dog, that's gotta qualify for a discount. Right?"

Charlotte reaches across the table and smacks him upside the head again. "Stop being so rude! Why are you even here, Lou?"

Louis snatches her drink and takes a greedy sip, "I'm just making sure you don't get scammed! Think of it as financial support."

Harry finds himself frowning as he closes up the binder. He knows that his services are a bit pricey but he worked it out to match the quality of his product. If he was charging the same amount and had subpar quality photographs then he'd understand. That's not the case though.

"I need to take this," Charlotte says as she stands up with her eyes glued to the screen of her phone. "I'll be right back. I'm so sorry."
He turns his gaze away from the young woman walking off in the direction of a less crowded area.

"I wasn't trying to be rude or anything. I don't tend to have a filter and things come out wrong," Louis apologizes.

He shakes his head, "it's okay."

Harry has been doing this for almost four years now and he's had a handful of difficult clients, but he's never had a brother crash an appointment. He's had mothers-in-law and fathers, but never a brother. Then again, he supposes there's a time for everything.

Charlotte makes her way back over to the table and has her phone sandwiched between her ear and shoulder. "I'm so sorry Harry, but I need to go. The boutique has a problem with my wedding dress that needs to be sorted out."

"That's okay, we can always reschedule if you want." He slides his phone out of his pocket, then immediately goes to his calendar and searches for an opening in his schedule. "I can do next Tuesday at one o' clock or the Wednesday after at eleven."

"Wednesday will work perfectly for me," Charlotte says as she starts to type it into her phone.

"I'll be there," Louis chimes in as he appears to be typing it into his phone as well.

"No, you won't be." Charlotte scolds.

Harry lets the pending argument roll off his shoulders as he opens up the folder and pulls out a piece of paper. It has the important details of the different packages he does, his pricing, and so forth. There's even a section for potential questions they'll want to ask when they meet up again. Overall, it helps everyone to know what to expect.

"Take this with you," Harry urges as he hands the paper to Leo, "it'll show you what to expect for next time. You can find everything on my website as well if you lose it."

Leo nods his head as his eyes scan over the typed form. "Thank you." He then stands up from the chair and collects both his and Charlotte's belongings. "I'll see you in a couple of weeks."

Harry pulls his own personal items towards himself and starts to pack everything away into his messenger bag. Binder, check. Folder, check. Pens, check. He scratches at his head as he checks over everything again, then nods to himself. That's everything.

"Here you go," Louis says as he hands Harry's phone back to him.

He furrows his eyebrows. How did he get ahold of his phone?

"I put in my number and texted myself so I'd have yours," he goes on to explain.

Before Harry can ask why Charlotte's yelling causes both of their heads to turn. "You can't come with me! It's my wedding dress!"

Louis leans over and whispers to him, "he's still learning. Poor fella."

All he can do is nod.

Chapter Text

Harry keeps his eyes on the screen of his phone as his sister signs to him. I saw a couple of pictures on Pinterest of a pregnant woman lying in a bath of white water and there were different flowers floating around her. He believes that he's seen an image of that. From what he understands, you can use either one to two gallons of actual milk or powdered coffee creamer. He would need to look into it for sure though.

I'll read up on it.

The door to Harry's apartment pushes open with ease and he glances down at the carpet to see Gideon bolt inside. He always looks forward to being home, much like himself.

I'm seven months pregnant.

He rolls his eyes and shrugs off his backpack so it falls by his feet before he signs back, I know. I'll make time to get everything I need and get your pictures before my nephew is born. Gemma has always been a worrier. He does tend to worry a lot as well, but he's confident in his time management and photography skills. I can't wait to meet him.

Me either. I can hardly sleep through the night and I can't see my feet anymore. I just want him out.

He smirks, the beautiful process of pregnancy.

She rolls her eyes and signs at him to fuck off.

Gemma's first pregnancy had gone a lot smoother as she never even experienced morning sickness. The whole family joked that it was a telltale that the baby would be a right menace once they were born. Lillian was nothing like that though, as she almost always slept through the night and she had no trouble latching on when Gemma decided to breastfeed. She three-years-old now and is still one of the sweetest kids Harry's ever met.

There's been an increasing pressure from Harry's family for him to find someone to settle down with despite only being twenty-two. His mother claims you can never start too early, but he has other things to focus on. Dating has never been something he's good at anyways. People tend to flee once they learn that he's deaf and that he doesn't want to wear his hearing aid all the time for their convenience.

Harry glances down to see Gideon seated on the floor in front of him as he waits for the harness to be undone. He holds out a finger to him and looks back at the screen to see Gemma speaking to someone off the screen. He can only assume that it's directed at her husband or at Lillian.

Her chest heaves as she sighs, it's bedtime for Lillian. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Goodnight. Give kisses to Lillian for me.

Gemma waves to him, then the screen switches over to his Skype conversation between the two of them.

Harry locks his phone and slides into his back pocket. Hopefully, by the time he sits down, he'll remember to look up what they talked about. It's been a particularly long day and he's beyond exhausted. A milk bath actually sounds appealing at the moment.

He crouches down and clicks open the plastic buckles holding the vest onto Gideon, then tucks it away into his backpack.

Today, in particular, had been the roughest in comparison to the rest of Harry's week. He was shooting an outdoor wedding with a client he didn't like. It was a ten-hour wedding in the hot sun and the woman was reluctant to let him have a bottle of water, let alone a proper lunch break. Her new husband had been the one to step in and offer him the same meal that the guests were busy eating. Needless to say, he's more than happy to not be working with her anymore.

Harry pulls out his phone as he walks down the narrow hallway to his bedroom. He had taken an Uber home from the wedding and used a new app to order a pizza for himself. It's not common for him to eat takeout food, but he knew that there was no way that he would be in the mood to cook once he got home. He was often stuck having to go down to the pizza place to order something since he couldn't use a phone, so it's times like these when he's grateful for technology. That is if his order worked.

Why am I such a slob? Harry signs to himself. He bends over and snatches up the pair of pants he's left on the floor. The morning had been rushed since he forgot to set his alarm clock, so he was left to change clothes as he hopped towards the front door to leave. Gideon had given him a look that managed to convey that he thought his owner was not only an idiot but an unusually erratic human being that left him worrisome.

Harry picks up the laundry basket in his bedroom that he's left by the dresser and carries it back towards the door, making sure to toss the pajama pants into it. He knew he should've done his laundry yesterday when had hours to spare. Friday nights are usually when he does the laundry and changes the sheets for his bed, but there's no way he's doing it tonight.

He sets the laundry basket down by the door then tosses a shirt and single sock back into it. This way he'll remember to do his laundry tomorrow since he has Saturday free to himself. Sunday, on the other hand, is a whole different story that he doesn't want to think about.

Harry walks through the archway into the kitchen and starts to collect the various pieces of silverware off the counter. He tucks a couple of plates into his arm. Since when did he stop cleaning dishes after using them? Harry shakes his head to himself, then deposits the plates and other utensils into the sink.

He turns on the tap and waits for the water to fill up the sink halfway before shutting it off. The least he can do is let the dishes soak if he's not going to clean them right away.

With a sigh, Harry turns his back to the sink and rests his palms on the countertop. He's been on his feet all day and he's truly ready to go sit down and relax. His eyes then land on Gideon, who's laying on the floor with his head resting on the empty dog bowl. Harry pushes himself off the countertop and goes over to where the dog is. He then scoops out the dog food from a clear container and dumps it into the steel bowl. Gideon is quick to dig in.

Harry steps over Gideon and back over to the fridge to grab a water before going into the living room.

It's another archway that separates the living room from the kitchen. The living room itself doesn't consist of much as there's a small fireplace to the wall of his left, only one couch that faces it, and a wood coffee table between them. Aside from that, the room is barren. The off-white colored walls don't exactly help either, but he's not allowed to paint over it since it's an apartment. He's only been living in this place for four months, which he's been crazy busy during, so he knows the place will get a much-needed makeover once his work schedule slows down.

Harry plops down onto the couch and grabs the remote off the coffee table in front of him. Immediately, he turns on the TV and goes straight into his profile on Netflix to find something to watch. He scrolls through his recently watched before he remembers a movie that his sister recommended weeks ago. Bird Box. Thanks to what his sister had summarized and the countless memes on social media, he knows the gist of it. Plus, it has Sandra Bullock so it's obviously a great movie.

The Netflix logo grows across the black screen before fading into the opening scene of a river. Harry furrows his eyebrows and clicks on the subtitles. His hearing aid was currently tucked away into his backpack since he took them out as soon as he was able to. One main concern is that he hopefully didn't sweat too much to cause any damage, but he secretly wouldn't mind it if they broke. Not that he would tell anyone that.

Gideon rests a paw on Harry's thigh and he immediately pauses the movie before he gets up. He follows Gideon into the hallway and over to the front door, already pulling his wallet out of his pocket.

A young girl is standing on the other side of the door when Harry pulls it open, and she doesn't look like she's even eighteen-years-old. He hands her a twenty pound note and tells her to keep the change. He grimaces at having to talk since he can't hear himself. The large cheese pizza is handed to him and he shuts the door.

Harry makes his way back into the living room and places the pizza box on the coffee table, pulling open the lid. The strong aroma hits his face and his mouth is already starting to water. He has never been so grateful for pizza. He curls his hands into C's that face the ground. Stay.

Gideon lies down on the floor.

The great thing about having such a well-trained dog is knowing that they won't even attempt to snatch food.

Harry walks into the kitchen and grabs a paper plate out of the cupboard with ease then grabs a couple of napkins. He's not necessarily a messy eater but sometimes there's way too much grease on a slice of pizza. It shouldn't practically pour out onto a plate as you're eating it.

He goes back into the living room and places a piece of pizza onto his plate before sitting back into the couch once again. Now he won't be moving from this very spot for at least two hours. Well, two hours and four minutes.

Or longer.

He lets his head fall back against the couch as the movie starts to buffer. Why did he move into an apartment that has some of the worst internet connection he's ever witnessed? Stupid. He takes a bite out of his pizza and watches as the red curve circles around the 99% symbol.

Harry's eyes then fall to the dog at his feet. He reaches down with his left hand and rubs over Gideon's yellow fur as he tries to get in a quick nap. Not that he blames him. If it wasn't too early to check in for the night, he'd be crawling into bed ready for darkness to take him.

He takes another bite of his pizza. Should he have gotten half cheese and half pineapple? It seems almost monotone to only have cheese for an entire pizza for one person. Harry shrugs his shoulders and takes another bite.

The screen zooms in on Sandra Bullock giving a pep-talk with what appears to be a blanket over her head. "We are going on the trip now. It's going to be rough." His eyebrows knit together. This is no joke. From what the subtitles said, Harry can guess that she's taking the river to some place that's supposedly safer. Why does it feel like that's every dystopian movie lately? He shakes his head.

Harry brings a bottle of water to his lips as he watches as the woman tucks a bird into a shoebox with holes poked in it. He assumes that's where the title Bird Box comes into play.

Sandra Bullock as the main character or not, Harry has heard a lot of positive reviews of the movie so he doesn't expect to be disappointed. He's already quite intrigued by the intense introduction. There's nothing quite like telling two kids they'll die if they don't follow the rules to show just how deadly the world is.

Harry starts to chew on the crust of his pizza as he keeps his eyes glued to the screen. The one thing he looks forward to is being able to discuss the movie with his sister. The two of them had the habit of recommending movies to one another, since they seem to have the same taste, then having full discussions about it afterward. He thinks it could almost be mistaken as an English class given how thorough they are on the details.

He hates how long it's taken him to get around to this movie though. Spring and Summer always killed him when it came to his photography business so he doesn't get a lot of time to himself or to sit down and watch a movie. It also sucks since his sister is a freelance writer and appears to have all the time in the world to do whatever she pleases.

Harry pulls his phone from his pocket when it buzzes and he immediately rolls his eyes once he sees that it's a text from Louis. He has no issue with the man. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Louis is using any excuse he can find to text him. The first time it was Louis asking for his website even though he saw him type it into his notes. The second time, Louis had asked when he was meeting up with Charlotte again (he seriously could've asked her). Then the last time he asked if his navy blue suit would look good in pictures. It's not that he particularly minds talking to him, but it's only getting progressively more obvious to a point he wonders how slick Louis thinks he is.

To Harry: do u get involved in wedding planning?

To Louis: I'm a photographer, not a wedding planner
To Louis: p.s. you do know you're not subtle at all, right? you don't need to find excuses to talk to me.

To Harry: yikes! caught red handed

He rolls his eyes as he shakes his head to himself. At least Louis admits it. Harry takes another slice of pizza out of the box and takes a couple of bites out of it, moaning low in his throat at how good it tastes. He closes up the box with his free hand before carrying it into the kitchen and tucking it away on the bottom shelf of his fridge. A medium or small size probably would've been a better choice. Then again, he's been having a lot of days like the one today.

Harry sits back down on the couch and grabs his phone when it buzzes once again.

To Harry: ok ok so u wanna go to the park w me tomorrow
To Harry: i'm bringing the twins

Should he? Harry screws his lips to the side as his thumbs ghost over the screen.

To Louis: can I bring gideon?
To Harry: is that ur bf or somethin
To Louis: he's my dog, the same one from the park
To Harry: oh lol sure
To Harry: ill meet you there @ 1

Harry falls back onto the couch so his head is laying on the armrest and his legs are propped up the other. Should he have agreed to meet up with him? He is kind of technically a client, and he's not exactly the type of person who enjoys mixing his personal life in with his business. People tend to think they deserve massive discounts because they're a friend of a friend's second cousin.

Another problem with spending time together at the park tomorrow is that Saturday is his only free day. Sunday and the weekdays that followed would all have him out the door by six and home no earlier than nine o' clock in the evening. Why does he always insist on stretching himself so thin? Even if he only does two appointments a week he'll be able to afford the monthly rent.

To Louis: I'll meet you at the same bench we met at

Harry lets the phone rest against his chest as his eyes drift up towards the ceiling. It's no secret to him that Louis is at least a little bit interested in him, but he doesn't have the time to become romantically involved with someone. He's at this point in his life where's he's beyond focused on his career. Not only is he young, but he's also self-employed. He doesn't have the luxury of clocking out at the same time every day or getting to ask someone for a raise. It's all up to himself.

The end credits eventually start to roll down the screen and Harry decides that it's time for bed. He swings his legs off the couch before pushing himself up to his feet and picks up the discarded plate and napkins. There's not a single bone in his body that's ready to protest at checking in for the night. He certainly would've done so earlier if it didn't mean messing up his sleep schedule.

Gideon is quick to get up from his spot on the carpet and trail after Harry as he does his nightly routine. He clicks off the TV with the remote before shutting off the light to both the living room and kitchen. He makes sure to do both the lock on the doorknob and the deadbolt. The light to the hallway is last before he walks into his bedroom to get ready for bed.

The bedroom is barely big enough to fit a queen sized mattress along with a nightstand on each side. Thanks to the double sized closet equipped with tall mirrors lining the door, it helps to make the room appear larger than it actually is. Harry tends to wonder if that's why they put mirrors in the first place. Personally, he would've gotten mirrors of his own to hang along the wall so it didn't come across as so tacky. It is an older building though.

Harry moves his hand upwards in the direction of the bed and Gideon instantly hops onto it. The dog then pads around in a circle before laying down on the right side at the foot of the bed. Harry always slept on the left side of the bed since that's where he'd charge his phone for the night and it's also where his alarm clock is plugged in.

The alarm clock appears like any other one that would be seen at the store, as it was rectangular and read the time across it in large letters. It stopped being an average alarm clock when someone took notice of the small disc that came attached to it by a thin cord. Harry simply sets the time for when he wants to wake up, then slides the disc under his pillow. Since deaf people often can't hear an alarm clock going off, they resort to using one that vibrates them awake.

Harry strips out of his white button-down before he kicks off his pants. Nothing feels better than getting out of such formal attire after wearing it for so long. He then turns off the light to the bedroom before he finally crawls into bed beside his dog.

Chapter Text

A piercing shrill sounds straight to Harry's eardrum as he tucks the hearing aid behind his ear. His eyes pinch shut until it disappears a couple of seconds later; it's another reminder for why he hates wearing them so much. Feedback is far from pleasant.

 

Harry walks out of his bedroom, Gideon in tow, and heads straight to the front door. Where is Gideon's vest? He signs to himself as he peers around. He pulls the two jackets that are originally hung but doesn't see anything else. It's routine for him to put it away alongside the leash, yet he's only missing one of them.

 

The backpack flops over as Gideon's muzzle snoops around inside of it. Then, he's walking backward as he pulls the service vest out.

 

Thank you, Harry signs as he mentally facepalms. He must have been so caught up in his conversation with Gemma last night that he put it in the wrong place. It's once he goes to put it on Gideon when he remembers that he doesn't need it today. He's only going to the park.

 

Harry tucks the vest away into the backpack before zipping it shut and throwing it over his shoulders. He pulls open the door to his apartment then follows Gideon out into the hallway and down a flight of stairs that leads to the first floor of the complex. There really isn't any point in taking an elevator down one floor. He makes sure to wave to the landlord as he passes through.

 

Both Harry and Gideon continue down the bustling pavement in the direction of the park. He had received a text from Louis before he got ready to leave that he would be at the park in ten or fifteen minutes. It didn't take him that long to walk there himself, but he needs to drop off a book at the library. The book is one he's read countless times as it is one of his favorites.

 

Thankfully, Harry's alarm hadn't failed him this morning so he had time to do what he needed before going out. He had gotten in a morning jog with Gideon before eating breakfast and cleaning up his apartment. He even got in a load of laundry.

 

A bell chimes over Harry's head and he glances up at it with pinched eyebrows. It's obvious that he doesn't ever come here with his hearing aids on. He shakes his head to himself and makes his way over the front desk where Barbara is busy stamping ink onto the inside cover of various books. He waves, causing her to look up in his direction and smile.

 

Barbara places her palms on her chest before pulling them forward into a sideways thumbs up, so they're pointing outward. How are you?

 

He grins as he gives her a thumbs up that pushes forward in her direction. Good! How are you? He asks in return and she signs that she's equally as good. A copy of Pride and Prejudice is placed down onto the wooden desk and he slides it over to her.

 

Are you going to check it out again? She signs to him as she folds it open to the last page.

 

He shakes his head, I'll be back later to look for something new to read. I'm meeting up with someone today.

 

A client? Her eyebrows furrow. She knows that he makes it a habit not to meet up with clients on the weekends unless it's an actual gig.

 

Friend. Harry then looks down at his phone as a new text appears across the screen. That's him. I'll see you later today! He slides the phone back into his pocket as it's nothing he needs to reply to urgently. It's only a photo of Louis making a silly face while he drives.

 

The bell chimes once again as Harry leaves the small building. He glances down at Gideon to make sure that he's still attached to the leash and continues to the corner of the street. Across the street is the park and Gideon notices as his tail starts to wag side to side at a faster pace.

 

A light changes and Harry is lead by Gideon to the other side of the road. The two of them then walk through an opening in the tall fence that circles around the entire park. He notices instantly that the park is far more busy than it usually is when he goes. He knows that Louis and he made sure to pick a place to meet, but it already feels too overwhelming. It's like he can hear every scream and conversation buzzing in his ear. It's only noise as he can't decipher any of it. He goes to the bench anyways.

 

To his luck, no one is using it.

 

Harry lets his backpack swing down in front of him and takes out a familiar red ball. He twirls it around in his palm so he can admire how clean it is before Gideon manages to slobber all over it. The dog is already perked up when he looks in his direction. He lets out a chuckle and throws it away from any of the kids playing at the nearby park. Gideon bounds after it, managing to faceplant into the grass.

 

The entire situation gives Harry a sense of dejavu. He's here again playing fetch with Gideon and Louis will be here any minute with his younger siblings.

 

A hand taps on Harry's shoulder and he whirls around to see Louis. "I tried calling your name a couple of times but you didn't hear me," Louis says and it comes out sounding more like a question.

 

He clears his throat, "I um- I struggle with hearing things my back is turned to. Even with hearing aids, I need someone to like face me when they're talking to me." Harry then waves to the twins that are holding each of Louis' hands.

 

Louis appears to be nodding at what he explained. "I'm glad you showed up. The twins can be a bit of a handful," they whine in protest and he rolls his eyes, "but I'm happy to know I won't be trying to fend them off myself. My mum is always trying to talk me into taking them out more anyways so it's a win-win situation."

 

Harry smiles up at him as he stands up from the bench. "You two can pet him if you want," he says as he motions towards Gideon. The twins automatically drop Louis' hand and lunge at the dog. Gideon seems happy though as he rolls over to show his stomach. He's an easily pleased dog, he likes to think.

 

"C'mon kiddos, let's go play," Louis says with a wave of his hand.

 

Harry signs for Gideon to come, and he rolls back over onto his legs. He then trots over to him as he leaves the twins behind with a pout.

 

Doris bounces back quickly as she rushes over to Louis' side and tugs on the hem of his shirt, "Achoo, can we go to the big kid park? You said we could if we behaved."

 

"That's right, I did say that," Louis hums as he rubs at his jaw then looks over at Harry, "would you mind?"

 

He shakes his head, "not at all."

 

The five of them start towards the only other playground in the park, Harry trailing after Louis since he's not entirely sure where it is. The park is huge. As soon as the playground comes into view, Doris and Ernest bolt towards it. Immediately, Harry can tell why most kids would prefer this one in comparison to the other. It's noticeably twice as big and is equipped with a couple of slides that descend from the highest level. There's even a rope bridge on the second level for them to cross.

 

Ernest turns around and runs back to both Harry and Louis with outstretched hands, "come play!"

 

"I um- I can't," Harry stammers out as he takes interest in his fingernails.

 

Louis tilts his head to the side as he looks over at him, "why not?"

 

"It's made out of plastic," He then starts to crack his knuckles one by one, "they cause a lot of static for my hearing aid."

Louis turns away from Harry and explains to Ernest that they'll hang back and watch them play for a little bit. For that, Harry is grateful. The two of them stay where they are and watch Ernest take off after his sister. "Thank you for like being so understanding," Harry murmurs from beside him.

 

"Don't be," Louis waves off, "if anything I'm annoyed that they'd make a plastic playground if they know kids with hearing aids can't just go play on them."

 

"Even though it doesn't affect you directly?" Harry asks, furrowing his eyebrows.

 

Louis shrugs, "of course."

 

Harry smiles to himself and looks down at his feet. It's not common to hear someone become upset or disappointed about things that don't directly affect them. It's all too common to see others simply turn their heads.

 

"So, what kind of tricks does he know?" Louis asks and motions towards Gideon.

 

"Gideon?" Harry checks, "well he knows all the basics like sit, stay, and come."

 

"And he's like a service dog, right?"

 

He nods.

 

"What kind of things does he do for that?"

 

"Well, it helps to kind of just visualize him as being my ears. He's trained to notify me when someone is at the door. He's also trained to make sure I wake up if a fire alarm is going off or even my alarm clock. All that kind of stuff."

 

Louis shakes his head to himself, "my sister got a dog like six months ago, right? She had been begging my mum for years to get one and finally did for her birthday, which was months ago, and the little brat still isn't potty trained. It's always pissing all over the floor."

 

"I definitely don't miss those days," he scrunches up his nose, "I suggest crate training though."

 

"I'll keep that in mind."

 

"Which sister is it again? You've got like ten of them."

 

Louis lets out a loud laugh as he throws his head back. He's absolutely stunning with the crinkles by his eyes. "Close, close. I've got five sisters and Ernest. It's Daisy, one of the other sets of twins."

 

"I don't know how you do it. I only have one older sister and she's enough to drive me crazy."

 

"Is she.." Louis trails off and makes a hand motion.

 

"Deaf?" Harry smirks as Louis' cheeks flush, "it's not a bad word. But no, she's not. I'm the only one in my entire family with less than perfect hearing and we're not entirely sure why. My mum's doctor thinks it might be because she had gotten a really bad flu or something while she was pregnant with me. It's obviously not that common but apparently, that's all it took."

 

Harry never really minds opening up about what he knows in regards to his deafness or hearing loss in general. Though, he hasn't always been like that. Before his parents had divorced, his father had been big on making sure Harry got surgery in order to get his cochlear implant and forcing him to speak instead of sign. To his father and most hearing people, deafness is something that needs to be fixed.

 

After his mother was left to raise him and Gemma alone, Harry had learned to love his deafness. It might look like a mutation and disability from an outsider's perspective. To him though, it's who he is.

 

"How did you know how to sign your name?" He finally asks.

 

Louis rolls his eyes to himself and lets out an exasperated sigh. "I might have been a bad student. I was never very good at paying attention during lectures and one of my classes had a poster of the alphabet. The one in like British Sign Language. So instead of memorizing stupid vocabulary words, I memorized the alphabet."

 

"The odds of that," Harry grins. "I had to learn sign language up until I got my cochlear implant, my hearing aid, and then my dad decided it would be best if I just talked like everyone else-" Louis grimaces. "-but I eventually decided to pick it up again and now my close family sign as well. It's easier on me that way."

 

There's still a part of Harry that wishes he had attended an all-deaf school or that his family never forced him to talk in the first place. Though he can understand where they were coming from, to a point. He does live in a world that relies heavily on hearing. He lives in a world that won't cater to him. In the end, he's glad that he's somehow managed to get the best of both sides. His parents did their best with something they had no previous experience with.

 

Harry and Louis are pulled from their conversation as the twins run over to them. "Can we go get ice cream?" Doris asks, pointing over at a small ice cream stand with a growing line.

 

They exchange a look before Louis lets out a dramatic sigh, "I guess. Only one scoop though, I don't need mom yelling at me later when you two are bouncing off the walls."

 

"Can I hold the leash?" Doris asks as she gives her best puppy eyes.

 

Before Harry can speak up, Louis cuts in, "I'm afraid not, little one. I don't want any accidents happening."

 

She doesn't attempt to throw a fit but instead nods like she understands.

 

Harry looks down to see Doris then slip her hand into his while Ernest holds Louis'. He smiles to himself and gives her small hand a slight squeeze before all of them cross the playground and over to the ice cream stand. The stand itself is something he feels like he's seen out of a movie as there's a blue and white striped awning and the man is wearing a bow tie to match his apron.

 

"Do you two know what you want?" Louis asks as he looks down between each of the twins.

 

"I want the spiderman flavor!" Ernest shouts.

 

"I want mint!" Doris pipes in before turning to look up at Harry, "it's my favorite. Achoo's too!"

 

Harry nods along to what she says before they all step forward as they're next to order. "I'll have a scoop of vanilla in a sugar cone, please." He usually gets a second scoop of chocolate, but he doesn't want to cause any possible tantrums.

 

"-and I'll have one scoop of mint chocolate chip in a bowl and one in a sugar cone. Then-" Louis crouches down to be eye level with Ernest before standing back up to his full height, "-and one scoop of chocolate in a bowl, please."

 

Harry slides his wallet out from his pocket and pays for everything, smirking over at Louis when he lets out a noise of protest.

 

"I was going to pay."

 

"Too late now," he grins.

 

Harry takes each of the ice creams as they're handed to him then he hands them to everyone else. They all then walk over to a nearby picnic table before sitting down so Doris and Ernest are sitting across from Louis and Harry.

 

The three siblings quickly fall into a conversation that Harry tries not to insert himself into, busy licking his ice cream. It's refreshing against May heat. He's still unsure as to why this spring, in particular, is so hot but there's nothing he can do about it.

 

"Taste!" Doris screams as she thrusts her ice cream out to Harry.

 

"No thank you, that's yours," Harry says.

 

She then turns to Ernest and urges him to taste it and he does. Louis then reaches over and steals a taste for himself, which erupts a mixture of giggles and squealing.

 

Harry finds himself smiling as he watches Louis dotes on them. It's as clear as day to him that Louis is a family man from the way he interacts with his siblings and it definitely causes his stomach to flutter. He's the same way towards his only niece and he finds that a part of him is missing his family. They don't live too far away as his parents are in Holmes Chapel and Gemma is in Liverpool.

 

Louis manages to chase Doris around the picnic table a couple of times before she clings to Harry as if he can somehow protect her. Doris squeals and buries her face into his thigh, and he pats her back gently, "he's gone. You're safe now."

 

She giggles and pulls away before looking up at him for a moment. Then, she points at his ear, "what's that?"

 

"Doris," Louis scolds, "that's not polite." He turns to Harry and apologizes.

 

He shakes his head, "it's really okay. It's a hearing aid, it helps me hear. Kind of like how some people wear glasses so they can see."

Doris nods, more to herself than  anyone else.

 

"I really don't mind the questions," Harry directs at Louis, "I get them a lot. It's not the most common thing to see someone with hearing aids. You all can ask me any kind of question, I won't be offended or anything."

 

Ernest immediately raises his hand.

 

Harry shares an amused look with Louis before he calls on him like they're all in a classroom.

"Can you drive a car?"

 

He chuckles softly and nods his head, it's oddly one of the more common questions he's been asked. "Of course I can. I have eyes to see the road and I can reach the pedals."

 

"Ooh! Do you like music?" Doris asks.

 

"I do, I love it!" Harry says with a smile. "If I'm wearing my hearing aid then I can hear music just like you can. If I'm not wearing them then I'll turn it up really loud so I can feel the vibrations."

 

Harry's eyes flicker over to catch Louis already looking at him and he can feel the heat as it blossoms through his cheeks.

 

Chapter Text

Harry let's out a dramatic breath as he reaches the top of the stairs. Part of him wonders if he should've actually checked to see if the lift was broken, instead of listening to the same man that tried to kick him out for having Gideon with him. He continues his way down the carpeted hallway and finds the door labeled D1 off to his right.

 

He knocks.

 

Someone shouts something from the other side of the door, but it's muffled. Harry looks down at Gideon, who's sat by his feet as he looks back at him, and smiles. This is the first time that he's been invited over to Louis' apartment and he's not entirely sure what to expect.

 

The door swings open to reveal Louis, and he's dressed up better in comparison to Harry. Tonight is supposed to be a relaxed Saturday evening with a cooked meal and a movie. Harry had dressed up for that as he's wearing grey sweatpants and a t-shirt. Louis, on the other hand, has on a pair of tight-fitting jeans and a red v-neck that shows off his collarbones. Maybe he misinterpreted this night.

 

"Come on in," Louis says as he steps out of the way to let him into the apartment, "did you find the place okay? I know it can get confusing since there are two buildings."

 

Harry nods his head, "you told me it would be the building with an arsehole at the front desk. The guy looked ready to throw me out because of Gideon and I might have threatened him with it being illegal to do so." He shrugs his shoulders with a sheepish look on his face.

 

"Fuck, I'm so sorry. I really fucking hate that ." Louis sighs as he closes the door. "Niall, my roommate, is out tonight and probably won't be back till like midnight. So, we have the entire place to ourselves tonight."

 

Part of Harry wants to put Louis on the spot by asking if he had his roommate leave on purpose. Instead, he crouches down and praises Gideon for waiting patiently before starting to unbuckle the service vest. He wouldn't have made him wear it just to visit a friend's house, but the apartment complex isn't pet-friendly. This way, he still gets to bring Gideon. Harry lets his backpack fall to the ground by the door and kicks off his shoes, then places them neatly off to the side. He doesn't believe his neatness is expected since the other pairs of shoes look like they've been tossed out of the way.

 

"Did you get all the ingredients?" Harry asks as he looks over to see Louis watching him.

 

Back when Louis and the twins were about to head home from their day at the park, Louis had suggested they eat and watch a movie at his place sometime. Harry had been a little hesitant but eventually came around and agreed. Given his busy schedule, it took them two weeks to find a night that he wasn't jammed pack with things to do. He had made sure to make it clear to Louis that it wasn't a date. Though, he thinks Louis isn't entirely convinced that it's not.

 

He won't correct him.

 

Louis waves a hand for Harry to follow him into the kitchen and he does. It's big enough to fit two people, maybe three, and the white counters form the shape of an L along the far side of the room. It's actually a lot of white now that he thinks about it. The backsplash is the same color but broken up into shapes of bricks and the cupboards are equally white. The only items of different color are the appliances and the wood flooring that flows throughout the entire apartment.

 

He makes his way over to the sink and starts to wash his hands.

 

Louis pulls open the fridge and starts to take out various ingredients for the meal they've planned to make. They had texted back and forth earlier in the day, Louis being cautious about any allergies or dislikes. Eventually, they had decided on some chicken wrapped in parma ham.

 

Harry finishes drying off his hands with a paper towel then points to a spot on the ground. Gideon plants his bottom on the ground.

"Did you train him yourself?" Louis asks, setting the last of the ingredients onto the countertop.

 

"Not quite," Harry states as he shakes his head, "I got him as a puppy for my sixteenth birthday and trained him to use the bathroom and to sit. Then, about a year or two later, I started getting assistance from a professional to help train him to be an actual service dog for me."

 

Louis nods along to his words, "well you did a good job regardless."

 

"Thank you," he smiles then motions towards the stove, "can you preheat the oven for me? I'll get the chicken cut and seasoned." Harry then takes two chicken breast fillets out of the packaging and places them onto the chopping board. He  makes sure to season them both before using the knife to slice into the middle of each one.

 

Louis leans up onto his toes and peers over Harry's shoulder. "It's good that you're here to help me out. I'm hopeless, so I'm always relying on Niall to feed both of us. I don't know what I'll do once he moves out."

 

 "I always liked helping my mum out in the kitchen," he shrugs. "I don't really find it to be that hard as all you're really doing is following a recipe."

 

"I burnt pasta noodles because I forgot to fill the pot with water."

 

Harry scrunches up his nose. "Do you have a timer for when we put this in the oven?"

 

Louis pats his pockets before eventually pulling out his phone, "I have a question if you don't mind me asking."

 

He nods for him to go ahead and ask.

 

"How do you use a timer when you can't hear them? Since you don't wear your hearing aids at home."

 

He points his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the dog, "he tells me when it goes off. He also tells me when someone's at the door or if the fire alarm in the apartment goes off. He's my ears, basically."

 

Harry turns away to face the cutting board and slices a couple of pieces of mozzarella before stuffing them into the pocket in the chicken breasts. He  grabs a slice of parma ham and wraps it around the chicken breast, repeating it for the second one. "Can you put some oil into a pan and put it on the stove, please?"

 

"What for? I thought this was going into the oven."

 

"It will, but first we need to sear these," he explains.

 

"What the hell is sear?"

 

Harry can't help it when he smacks the middle of his forehead with his palm. "Come on, I'll show you," he says as he lies the two chicken breasts onto the pan. "It's really not that difficult as all you're really doing is letting it cook til the chicken forms a brown crust around it." He eventually turns both of the chicken breasts over so they can equally reach the same temperature.

 

"Now we can put this into the oven," he says as he lies the pieces of meat onto the pan and puts it into the oven, "can you set a timer for twenty minutes?"

 

Louis nods as he appears to be setting a timer on his phone.

 

"Tell me about your roommate," Harry suggests.

 

"My roommate," he starts as he scratches at his neck, "is probably the most stress-free guy I've ever met. It's funny 'cause we actually met halfway through the first year of college in a History class. We were meant to take our exams that day and I had probably skipped about eighty percent of that class, so I was obviously waiting to fail. Then Niall walks into the room and sits down next to me, right? I hadn't seen him once in that class. He literally turns to me and asks if he's in the right room because he skipped out on every single fucking class from day one. I'm fucking floored. He's fucking chill as hell though. The fucker got the best score out of everyone."

 

"Wow-" Harry says with wide eyes, "did he study at all? Or is he just a genius?"

 

"He guessed."

 

Harry blinks a few times before shaking his head to himself. There's no possible way that he could've pulled that off himself.

 

"Did you go to uni at all?" Louis asks with a tilt of his head.

 

He shakes his head again, "I finished through sixth form but that's about it. I had taken a few photography classes and basically just turned it into a business since I figured that would be easiest for me. Considering it pays for the bills, I'd say I'm doing all right."

 

"What do you mean by easiest?"

 

"Well, when I was still in school, I had tried to apply for part-time jobs along with everyone else my age. No one even thought about hiring me though since they didn't want to deal with a deaf employee-"

 

Louis cuts in, "-is that legal?"

 

"Not at all," Harry answers. "So from there, I figured that it would be best to run a business of my own so I wouldn't have to deal with that. Photography made the most sense to me since it's been a passion of mine."

 

"Lottie does adore you a lot," Louis muses before adding on, "and Gideon." He moves to lean back against the countertop as he crosses his arms over his chest. "Like she genuinely thinks you're a talented photographer and great businessman considering how young you are. I mean she doesn't give a lot of shoutout and praise on her social media platforms but she did in regards to your business."

 

"I still need to thank her in person for that," he notes. Charlotte has close to three million followers on her Instagram alone and managed to bring in more business for him by mentioning his website.

 

For the most part, Harry has had fairly good experiences since he's gotten his business off the ground. A lot of his customers have come back for him to do their maternity shots or their friend's wedding. On the other hand, he has had quite a few bad experiences. There was even a lady who outright stated that she didn't like him and that his pricing was too high but only continued to work with him because he took good pictures. It was strange to say in the least.

 

Harry looks over at Louis to see him fumbling for his phone as a sound rings through the air. He then feels a paw resting on his foot and he smiles down at Gideon before signing thank you.

 

He crouches in front of the oven and makes sure the food is a golden brown, then takes the pan out and sets it onto it stove. "Plates?"

 

Louis scrambles to grab a couple of plates from the cabinets and sets them down on the countertop, "here you go! I'll grab some forks and knives." Metal clanks together as the drawer is pulled open and he pulls out two of both items. "Are you okay with eating on the couch? Niall and I are kind of procrastinators so we've yet to buy a dining table in the two years we've lived here."

 

"That's fine," Harry reassures as he finishes plating and hands one of the plates to Louis. He picks up his own plate then follows Louis through the archway into the living room. It's not exactly a big room by any means but it's enough to fit a TV and two couches that in total could fit five people. Aside from those things, there isn't any other piece of furniture. He wonders if they procrastinated in terms of this room too.

 

"Any suggestions?" Louis asks as he takes the remote off the arm of the couch and points it at the TV. The screen turns black with Netflix's logo spanning across the screen in red. Harry watches as Louis clicks on his own profile out of the three.

 

"Who's Liam?" 

 

"He was my other roommate but he moved out when his girlfriend got pregnant. They live a few streets away in an actual house now. Proper adult and all."

 

"That makes sense," Harry says and nods his head.

 

Louis filters out the shows before he turns to look at him, "what kind of movies do you like to watch? Horror? Romance?"

 

He hums to himself before pointing at the one he wants to watch, "Love Actually."

 

"We're past Christmas, babe."

 

Harry rolls his eyes and ignores the somersault his stomach does at the name. "It's one of my favorite movies so put it on."

 

"Fiesty, I love it," Louis comments as he clicks on the movie and turns on the subtitles.

 

He'd be lying if he said that didn't make his heart melt.

 

The two of them begin to dig into their food as the movie begins to play, and Harry pulls his feet up so he's sitting crisscrossed.

 

Despite the fact that this is only the fourth time Harry has spent time with Louis, he's already found that he pieces into Louis' world with ease. It's something he's never experienced before. For him, it takes him months to warm up to someone and be completely comfortable with them. With Louis, he finds that he's not all that self-conscious like he usually is. He can let out his obnoxious honk of a laugh and sign to himself without looking crazy.

 

Louis had originally hinted that he hoped this would be a date, but Harry had been quick to tell him that he wasn't ready for a relationship. He's not. It took him two weeks to even have a break in his schedule to come over for a movie. If he had the time and the confidence of not being a burden or charity case, he would jump at the opportunity in a heartbeat. Despite explaining everything to him, he can tell that Louis is still determined and hopeful.

 

Part of him wants Louis to be.

 

+     +     +     +     +

 

Harry blinks his eyes open to see Louis standing over him with a hand on his shoulder as he shakes him awake. "Hm?" He hums out as he stretches his arms up over his head. When did he even fall asleep? How long had he been sleeping for?

"Hi there, love. It seems like we fell asleep," Louis explains in a whisper. It's easy to tell that he had fallen asleep too as his hair is a tousled mess.

 

At least he wasn't the only one that fell asleep.

 

"What time is it?" Harry asks and rubs at his eyes. He knows it was close to eight when they started watching the first movie. Then Louis had insisted that he stick around for a second movie since the night was still young (as he put it). He had agreed with ease because he wasn't ready to leave him yet. It was only after chucking a pillow at Louis' head then being tickled into submission that they came to an agreement on a movie. He can only assume that he fell asleep somewhere after Tracy auditioned for The Corny Collins Show.

 

Harry slides his phone from his pocket and flinches at the brightness. Why does he always have it up all the way? His eyes eventually adjust and it reads a quarter past midnight above the image of Gideon wearing his service vest for the first time. He loves that picture.

 

"Do you want to stay the night? I don't mind fetching you a blanket and some pillows."

 

He shakes his head, "I really should take Gideon home. Thank you for the offer though."

 

Harry follows Louis' and Gideon's line of sight when their heads whip around to look at the door. A man wearing skinny jeans and a patterned button-down steps through the door. He can only assume that it's Louis' roommate. "Hi Tommo," an Irish accent greets as he closes the door behind himself, "hi Tommo's date."

 

Louis has a sheepish smile on his face when Harry looks at him, "he's drunk."

 

"Continue on," Niall says with a wave of his hand as he starts towards his room, "pretend I wasn't even here."

 

"I was just leaving," Harry says as he stands up from the couch and smoothes his hands over his thighs.

 

"Do you want to take home the leftovers at least?"

 

He shakes his head with a slight smirk on his lips, "I think you'll need it more than me."

 

Louis huffs as he rolls his eyes but ultimately lets the comment go. It's true.

 

Harry walks over to the front door with Gideon and Louis trailing behind him, "thank you for inviting me over. I had a lot of fun." He feels the heat rushing to his cheeks when he sees Louis already smiling at him. Gideon plants his butt on the floor and Harry buckles the vest around him. It feels like he's always putting it on and taking it off.

 

"Thank you," he says as he takes the leash from Louis and clips it onto Gideon's collar.

 

"What kind of rules are there regarding service dogs anyways?" Louis asks with a tilt of his head. His hands are slid into his front pockets as he leans against the wall.

 

He stands back up to his full height and cards his fingers through his curls. "Well, basically if Gideon is wearing his service vest then that means he's working. So that means no one should try to pet him, feed him treats, or distract him in anyway shape or form. It's illegal for anyone to deny Gideon to come into a restaurant or store of any kind. If an apartment doesn't allow pets they don't apply to us because Gideon is a service dog and not just another pet like other people have. I think that pretty much covers the basics."

 

Louis nods along for another moment, "seems simple enough. Of course, idiots are going to be idiots though."

 

"They always are," Harry chuckles as he shrugs the backpack onto his shoulders. "I deal with them on a daily basis so I've learned to just state the facts and continue on with my day."

 

"I guess that's the only thing you can do, huh?" Louis shakes his head to himself, "text me when you get home, okay? I'll sleep better knowing you got home safe and everything."

 

"I will," Harry says as he rolls his eyes. He then leans forward and wraps Louis up into a tight hug.


Chapter Text

"Okay, I need you to tilt your head up a smidge-" Harry directs as he peers over his camera, "yes! Don't move!" He snaps two photos then pulls the camera away from him to look down at the image. Perfect. "Let's do one more then we'll be all set. Look to the window and keep your face neutral!" He rests his index finger on the button and snaps one last picture. If only all of his clients were this easy.

Then again, the woman was making up for the fact that she was nearly half an hour late.

Harry pulls his phone out from his pocket and screws his lips to the side. He's running late. If he should've made the woman reschedule or not was still a question on his mind, especially now that he's supposed to be at a restaurant in five minutes when it's a ten minute walk from here. Harry doesn't think Charlotte will give him any trouble, if anything she'd be understanding, but he doesn't like to be late. If anything, he's the type of person to show up five minutes early.

"You did beautifully, Olivia," Harry says before he turns to her mother, "I plan to have the pictures mailed you by the end of the week." He snaps the cap over the lens and slides his camera into the case. Gideon drags the backpack across the sidewalk and Harry picks it up before he swings it over his shoulder. "I really have to get going now," he wraps Gideon's leash around his hand twice and rushes out through the gate.

A person or two bump into Harry and he's quick to apologize, but they continue past him in a rush. He supposes everyone's on their lunch break considering how crowded the streets are. Then again, he should've assumed as much since Leo planned their meeting during his. When you work for yourself and have such a flexible schedule it's easy to forget how the majority don't.

He glances each direction before he hurries across the street, a tight grip on the leash.

This will be the third time in three months that Harry's met up with Charlotte and Leo (and Louis). He's never been one to meet up with his clients more than he's needed to, as he doesn't find it to be that professional. Plus, they're only really there for him to be paid while they get their timeless photographs. There isn't more to it.

Then again, the Tomlinson family has somehow managed to wiggle its way into his life. Outside of the fact that Harry and Louis are in this weird limbo of being too close to be just friends but not sexual enough to be romantic partners, he'll get texts from Charlotte just ranting about her day or asking for an opinion on something. It's different, but it makes him feel at home when his only family is a decent drive away.

Harry's weekends have also been altered to accommodate for a particular Tomlinson. Every Saturday has become an unspoken routine for them to spend time together whether it's staying in with a new episode of Friends or going to a club with Niall and Liam on the off chance he gets time away from the newborn. An adorable little boy named Bear, he's already tasked with shooting pictures at his first birthday even though it's nearly eight months away. He likes how everyone in Louis' circle assumes he's here to stay though.

The restaurant comes into view as the red and yellow striped awning is blinding from how bright it is. It's hard to miss. Harry flashes a polite smile at the few families sitting outside in a fenced off area before making his way inside. "Tomlinson?" He asks and clears his throat, looking at the woman standing at a podium. She nods and starts to flip through a couple of pages.

From what Harry can tell, there's easily fifty tables. It's nearly overflowing with the amount of people squished into the building and he's concerned he'll step on someone's foot or bump into a table. He sees a familiar smile as Louis waves at him to make sure he's caught his gaze. "Found them," he says before making his way over.

The table is set for four people by the window as Harry seats himself next to Louis, "I'm sorry for being late. My client over-ran, which obviously lead to me running late. I'm here though!" He smiles a bit and peers around the table to see Gideon take his spot by his feet. Should he be worried that someone will step on his tail? He doesn't want him to get hurt.

A menu is placed down on the table in front of Harry and he picks it up, automatically opening it. He has no idea what they serve, let alone what he's in the mood for. Anything heavy is out of the question though, since he thought it'd be a bright idea to schedule his appointments in the same small area so he could walk to each one. Stupid.

"So how did your appointment go?" Charlotte asks.

Harry shrugs his shoulders, "aside from them showing up half an hour late it went smoothly. The mom was a bit on my tail but it was okay. They got prom photos they can look back on fifty years from now."

"Do you do like baby pictures?" Louis asks as he tilts his head, "Like Liam's son is going to be turning one in a few months and he’s thinking about doing a photoshoot for it."

Harry nods, "I do actually. I did Gemma's when she had my niece. You can just give my number to Liam and have him contact me."

"You're a life saver," Louis says as he starts to type it into his phone.

A glass of water is placed down in front of him, along with everyone else's drinks, and Harry is quick to take a sip. He always brings water with him but he tends to split it with Gideon. It's so much of a habit to only bring one, but he's been trying his best to remember a second.

"Can we focus on the real task at hand here, please?" Charlotte interjects as she sets her own drink down. "Can we confirm the arrival time on the day of the wedding?"

"You said you wanted some pictures of you getting ready for the big day, so I figured I'd arrive when you do. I might even show up thirty minutes early to set up my cameras and all."

Charlotte nods as she pulls out a piece of paper and looks down at it.

"I've done countless weddings," Harry reassures as he peers down at the paper, "you just need to trust that I know what I'm doing." He looks over the typed out schedule before picking up the pen and scribbling a few corrections. "I'll be showing up half an hour earlier there. It takes time to set up my things."

"Your future girlfriend will be lucky to have you," Louis murmurs from around his glass of Coke.

Harry hesitates as he twirls the pen in a circle, "or boyfriend." He's identified as bisexual for about half of his life now as he does feel sexually attracted to both sexes. Though, it usually has more to do with the personality. He falls in love with the person first, then he's equally satisfied with whichever sex. "I'm bisexual."

The second time Harry had met up with Louis, he had learned that Louis was gay. Somewhere after a couple of beers and in the middle of a movie that Louis commented on how attractive an actor was. It was from there that Harry had got a run down on all of Louis' experiences with guys and his ex boyfriends. Not that he minded. He could tell that Louis, in his drunken haze, was gauging a reaction from him.

Harry isn't an idiot, as it's obvious to him that Louis is into him. He's aware that Louis had been dropping hints and carefully trying to find out if he was into men too. He is. It's fun to let Louis try to be sneaky about it all, though. He can't help but secretly admit to himself that he too is interested in Louis.

Harry has only ever had one proper boyfriend, which was back in middle school. It lasted for a few months and Harry got his first kiss and hand holding from a boy, which he enjoyed, and lead to him accepting his sexuality. Dating isn't easy though when idiots think deaf means you're mentally slow.

Harry leans back in his chair as the waiter sets everyone's food down in front of them. He had gone for a simple salad and soup, while everyone else went with some form of meat or another. He can practically taste the saliva building up as he looks at his food. He didn't realize just how hungry he was.

Just as Harry is about to dig into his lunch, a spoon scoops up some of the soup. He turns to look at Louis with a pout. "That's mine."

"Mine now," Louis says with a smirk.

Harry rolls his eyes and takes the spoon from Louis once he eats the spoonful, then starts to eat his food. It's almost routine for them to eat off of each other's plates but he manages to pout every time.

The conversation dies in everyone's throat as a woman approaches the table. She's a bit of a curvier woman as her double chin is prominent around her red face. She bends over at the waist and holds a small piece of bread out to Gideon. The dog looks up to her but doesn't make any move to eat it or even sniff the woman trying to feed him.

"Ma'am," Harry says as he tries to get her attention, "you can't do that. He's a service dog and you can't distract him while he's working."

"No need to get your panties in a twist, darling," she waves him off and tries to feed Gideon again.

"Ma'am, you really can't do that."

The woman rolls her eyes but nods her head anyways, then makes her way back to her table.

Harry huffs out a breath and stabs into his salad, "I'm sorry for that. It happens more often than I like to admit."

"It's not your fault that people are idiots, Haz," Louis says and rests a head on his shoulder.

Everyone seems to murmur their agreements.

Harry chews around a mouthful of lettuce and other vegetables when he sees something out of the corner of his eye. It's the same woman again. She's sitting a few tables away as she's looking over at Gideon, snapping her fingers together for the dog to come over to her. This is more extreme. Gideon only looks at her then back up at Harry, a confused look on his face. He's confused too.

"Please stop," Harry directs at the woman and she appears to stop. He sighs and looks down at Gideon. "Good boy," he praises.

Harry turns back to his food and tries to ignore the looks the rest of his table are giving him. A part of him wishes he had left Gideon at home so this entire situation hadn't happened in the first place. A part of him just wants to cancel all of his appointments and go home for the day. The situation is both embarrassing and frustrating.

He thinks he's going to start crying when he hears a familiar voice yelling to someone he can only assume to be the manager.

Harry sighs and places his hands onto the table, pushing himself to his feet. A hand on his shoulder stops him from walking away and sees Louis cross the room to the manager and woman.

His cheeks flush as everyone's attention in the restaurant seems to fall onto him. If only a hole in the floor could appear and suck him in. He can hear Louis making an argument and he knows the manager is on his side, otherwise he would've been kicked out by now. The woman seems to be furious that they're allowing him to stay.

Harry frowns and takes out his wallet before throwing down a few bills onto the table. He's over this.

"Harry, please don't go," Charlotte pleads.

"Yeah, don't let that lady get to you." Leo chimes in.

He shakes his head and adjusts his backpack over his shoulders, then makes a beeline for the door with Gideon by his side.

Harry wipes at the forming tears as they roll down his cheeks. It's moments like these that make him wish he didn't bring Gideon or didn't have a service dog in the first place.

"Hey, hey," Louis says as he catches up to him, "Haz, why did you leave? I sorted everything out for you."

"That's just it, Louis." He sighs and stops his walking as Louis stands in front of him. "I didn't need your help or pity. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I'm not some disabled guy you can use as a charity case to make yourself feel better."

Louis' eyebrows knit together as his mouth drops open.

Harry shakes his head to himself and pushes past Louis, continuing down the pavement.

Louis catches up to him again after a moment and rests a hand on his shoulder, "Haz, I wasn't trying to pity you! You have trouble following conversations so I thought I'd try to help-"

"See?" Harry exasperates and shakes his head. "I can take care of myself! I don't need you trying to step in!" He shouts then pushes past Louis once more and keeps walking.

Louis doesn't continue after him.

Chapter Text

A two story high building sits in front of Harry. It's made entirely out of bricks as far as he can tell and there's accents of blue that are painted over the door frames and windows. The school he had gone to was far smaller as there were only five hundred students in total. He looks down at the brown paper bag clutched in his grip and chews on his bottom lip. Sweat continues to collect in the palm of his hands. 

 

Harry takes a deep breath and walks through the entrance of the building. To his right, encased in walls of glass, is what he can only assume to be the office. There’s a large counter space that spans across the room and a hallway on each side that leads further into the building. 

 

He walks up to one of the two women sitting at the counter, “um hi. I’m here to meet Mr. Tomlinson for lunch?” Harry clears his throat and tacks on, “he’s expecting me.” Lie.  

 

The woman types away at her computer as she nods, then reaches over and slides a sticker towards him. It’s a rectangle that says he’s a visitor. 

 

Harry nods in return and sticks the sticker onto his chest. He turns to leave before turning back to the woman, “can you give me directions?” 

 

She peers over her glasses and gives him a bored look, “you’re going to go to your left and walk to the end of the building. The drama room is the last door on the right.” 

 

He nods and leaves the office. 

 

Harry and Louis have discussed their personal lives a lot over the course of three months, but he’s never gotten to visit him at work. All he really knows is that he’s a drama teacher at the local high school. They haven’t ever discussed meeting up for lunch and Harry can only hope that he’s not thrown out on his arse in front of a thousand students. 

 

As luck would have it, the bell rings. 

 

Students swarm out of classrooms and into the hallway. Harry tries his best to get through the crowd without elbowing anyone or tripping over someone’s feet. If that’s not bad enough, he can see the pairs of eyes not only staring at him in confusion but also eyeing his hearing aid. Oh how badly he wishes he could rip it off. 

 

Harry walks up to the last classroom on the right to see that the door is left open. There’s a small sign off to the side that reads Louis’ name so he’s certain he’s in the right place. It doesn’t exactly calm his nerves though. If anything, they only increase. Harry holds his breath and knocks on the door. 

 

Louis’ head shoots up from what he’s doing, and they lock eyes. 

 

He reckons it’s too late to turn back now. 

 

“I brought you lunch,” Harry tries with a sheepish smile. He steps into the classroom with caution and sets the paper bag down onto the large oak desk, “I um, I didn’t have a proper lunchbox.” 

 

Louis stares at him for a minute. 

 

“I was hoping that we could talk. I shouldn’t have acted how I did and I kind of wanted to explain myself.” 

 

Louis sighs and pulls a chair over to his desk before motioning for him to sit. 

 

Harry sits down in the chair as Louis sits down in his own. The chair looks far more comfortable as it’s a black leather and it has wheels on the bottom for him to move the chair around with ease. The other chairs are a grey plastic with metal legs to hold them up, and he can see that there are three rows of them that face Louis’ desk. Behind his desk is a large white board that takes up half of the wall. 

 

“I was born deaf as you know…” Harry trails off as he rubs his bottom lip between his fingers, “and it wasn’t exactly the norm where I grew up. My dad had been the once to really push for me to act like any other hearing child, but everyone else saw me as broken or disabled. And because of that, people have always undermined me and what I can do. I mean, I started my own business because employers didn’t think I was capable of holding down a real job. There were teachers who pitied me, thinking that I’d never be able to do anything significant because I was deaf. My mom would sometimes stop me from doing certain things in life because she didn’t think I’d be able to do it. 

 

I don’t blame her or anyone else, I really don’t. They didn’t understand. It’s because of all those things that I became dead set on being as independent as anyone else in this world. I moved out and live alone with Gideon. I started my own business. I get myself from point A to point B just like others. Sure, there might be more obstacles but I still get through them. And when you stepped in at the restaurant, I felt like you didn’t think I could stand up for myself or that I was just another disabled person that needed help. I realize now that that wasn’t the case, but that’s how it felt in the moment.” 

 

Silence falls between them, and Harry crosses his arms over his chest. He can’t gauge what Louis is possibly thinking, but he knows that he’s just dumped a lot of information on the man. Louis’ face is completely neutral as he leans back in his chair and continues to stare at him. It’s a little unnerving. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Louis starts and puts a hand up to keep Harry from cutting him off, “I’m sorry that I hurt you that way. I’ve always been the type of person to stand up for my friends and family whenever issues like that come up. I didn’t even think twice about calling out that woman on her bullshit. It had nothing to do with you being deaf and thinking you aren’t capable of handling yourself. Hell, I still live with Niall and we’re incompetent compared to you. Out of everyone I know, you’re definitely the strongest and most independent and I’m not just saying that. I was very confused about what I could’ve done to offend you so much, but I understand now and I’m sorry. This is just a little bump in the road, yeah?” 

 

Harry flings himself onto Louis, wrapping his arms around the man’s neck in a hug. “Thank you for forgiving me. This past week without you had been so miserable.” 

 

Louis pats him on the back and presses a kiss to his curls. “That’s the bell, Love. Meet me out in the car park at three?” 

 

He nearly topples over from nodding his head so vigorously. 

 

+     +     +     +     +

 

It’s ten to three in the afternoon and Harry is currently standing by the double doors that lead into the school. He forces a polite smile when a pair of teenage boys bump into him without apologizing. A wave of more students flood out the doors and Harry tries his best to maneuver his way over to a patch of grass that’s off to the side. He guesses that school only ended now instead of an hour earlier, like his old school. 

 

Despite being outside, Harry still finds himself wincing at the amount of noise going on. There’s two rows of cars that are lined up against the sidewalk and what looks to be about five hundred students all concentrated in one spot. There’s a honk from a car and Harry pulls his hearing aid off in one swift motion. This much noise only gives him a headache. He can always put it back on when Louis meets up with him. 

 

Harry rolls his eyes as a small group of students manage to push him out of the place he claimed. It doesn’t take a genius to see that he was standing there. He wraps his hearing aid into a loose fist and starts to walk a small distance from the school. Being around teenagers that remind him of his years in school isn’t a pleasant feeling. 

 

Someone taps on Harry’s shoulder and he spins around to see Louis grinning at him. 

 

Harry slips the earmold of his hearing aid into his ear and attaches the coil to the side of his head. “It’s really loud with the kids and cars,” he tries to explain. 

 

“No kidding,” Louis laughs and swings an arm over Harry’s shoulder. The two of them descend a steep flight of stairs that leads to a second car park that’s reserved for staff members. 

 

Harry had taken a twenty minute long bus ride here since he knew that they would be taking Louis’ car. It’s nothing spectacular as it used to belong to a college friend of Louis’ and there’s a scratch here and there. All in all it works fine. 

 

“Tommo!” Niall shouts as he jogs over to them, “you didn’t really think you’d get away without saying goodbye, did you?” 

 

Louis is pulled into a tight hug just as Harry’s hearing aid dies. He curses to himself and slips it out of his ear, then fumbles through his backpack for batteries. Due to the fact that he only wears them for certain occasions, he doesn’t think he packed any. He’s right. 

 

Harry slips his bag back onto his shoulders and keeps his hearing aid in his hand. What is he going to do now? Louis obviously had something planned for the two of them and now their means of communication are shot. 

 

A hand grips onto Harry’s shoulder, and he looks up to see Louis talking between him and Niall. There’s no way he can understand what the two of them are saying and he’s starting to feel a bit stranded. He forces a smile and nods when it appears that Niall is saying something to him. It’s a common bluff for people with hearing loss. 

 

There’s always the assumption that deaf people can read lips. That’s not the case. Harry has lost count of the amount of times people have asked or assumed he lip reads.The reality is that it’s something learned through classes and a lot of practice. Even with attending a class, there’s the struggle of accents and people that he hasn’t met so he doesn’t know how they speak. Plus, a lot of words look similar on the lips since it’s only about thirty percent of English sounds are visible on the lips. The words stupid and show me look identical. 

 

Harry chews on his lip and slides his hearing aid into his pocket. He really should put it away into a case, but he’s not feeling it at the moment. There’s a tap on his shoulder and he looks up to see Louis trying to sign to him, he holds a thumb up as he moves his hand in a downward motion. Good? 

 

The man only knows about a handful of signs, so there’s no possible way that Louis would understand the situation. 

 

Harry starts to scratch at his throat as he contemplates trying to speak. It’s awful enough when he can hear himself. “Hear-hearing aid died,” he scrunches up his nose and shakes his head to himself. He despises it. 

 

Louis appears to understand though as he waves goodbye to Niall before ushering him into the car. 

 

Harry pulls the seatbelt across his chest and buckles himself in. Then he looks up to see Louis holding his phone out to him with a message, reading that they’ll swing by his apartment for batteries. 

 

+     +     +     +     +

 

It’s a ten minute drive and two flights of stairs to reach Harry’s apartment. He pushes open the door and Gideon is sitting there waiting for them as he thumps his tail against the carpet. He points in the direction of his bedroom then curls his index finger over his ear, signing for the dog to fetch his hearing aid case that he keeps at home. It’s easier for him to keep his batteries in the same place as his hearing aids most of the time.  

 

Gideon trots back over to him and drops a rectangular case into his hand. 

 

Thank you , Harry signs before placing the batteries into his hearing aid before putting it back into his ear. He turns to Louis, “I can hear now. Welcome to my humble abode.” Both Harry and Gideon shuffle out of the way to let Louis properly walk into the apartment and take in the living room that’s presented in front of them. Thankfully, he tidied up his apartment this morning. 

 

“I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but definitely not this. It’s so simple.” 

 

“Were you expecting some BSL posters along the walls and weird lights to signal when a door opens, stuff like that?” 

 

Louis gives a sheepish smile and shrugs his shoulders, “maybe… is that bad? It sounds bad.” 

 

He waves him off, “I get it, but no, my apartment isn’t anything fancy. I mean there’s no real decor or anything that marks that it’s my place. Spring and Summer are just crazy seasons for my business.” He looks around the apartment then back at Louis, “some people do have those lights that tell a deaf person when someone’s at the door, but I have Gideon for that.” 

 

“That makes sense,” Louis murmurs with a nod. As if he’s letting the information and his surroundings sink in. 

 

“I do have one piece of… I don’t know, deaf technology?” Harry says as he shrugs. He then motions for Louis to follow him down the hallway and they walk into his bedroom together, Harry flicking on the light. “It’s an alarm clock for deaf people,” He says as he walks over to his side of the bed and points to the regular looking clock on his night stand. 

 

Louis’ eyebrows pinch together, “what makes it a deaf alarm clock? It looks like the one I have.” 

 

“Let me show you,” Harry says with a smirk and pats his bed for Louis to lie down. He then starts to fiddle with the buttons on his alarm clock and sets it for a minute from the current time. 

 

“Is it like extremely loud or something?” Louis asks, and folds his hands over his stomach as he stares up at the ceiling. Then, his eyes widen as he screams and jerks himself up to his feet, “holy shit! What the fuck?” He clutches his chest and stares at the small disk Harry pulls out from under the pillow. “Anyone would fucking wake up to that! You wake up to that every morning? Shit, man.” 

 

Harry chuckles and lies down on the bed before sprawling out. 

 

“Move aside,” Louis grumbles as he crawls in beside him, “give me a cuddle, love.” 

 

Harry instantly buries himself into Louis’ side and nuzzles his face into his shirt, inhaling his scent of cigarette smoke and apple scented laundry detergent. His fingers start to toy with the button of Louis’ shirt and he looks up to see him already staring back at him, “I missed you.” 

 

“It’s mutual,” Louis says back and starts to card his fingers through Harry’s brown curls. “Do you ever wish that you weren’t deaf?” 

 

Harry hums in thought as he really tries to think it through. Does he? “Sometimes,” he admits, “but that’s usually when it’s been a bad day and I get frustrated. Like it’s hard when you’re in a group setting and you can’t follow along with the conversation. You miss out on the jokes. Most days, I love being deaf. It’s helped me become who I am today. I have no idea what kind of person I’d be if I hadn’t been born deaf, and I quite like who I am now. Any other questions?” 

 

“Yeah,” Louis nods, “what’s one of the biggest misconceptions about being deaf? In your opinion.” 

 

“I’m not an idiot,” Harry blurts out. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone that I’m deaf, whether it’s a dentist or construction worker, they’re automatically assume I’m mentally slow. They’ll legit talk to me like I’m dumb. Like, I can drive a car and hold down a job just like everyone else.” He sighs and hides his face into Louis’ chest for a moment. “Do you ever wish I wasn’t deaf?” 

 

“Never.” Louis rubs a hand over Harry’s back and looks down to meet his eyes, “it’s a little different and I wish the world wasn’t such an obstacle for you, but I never wish for you to change. If anything, I just wish society wasn’t so ignorant. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met, and you just so happen to be deaf. That’s it. You’re Harry to me, not deaf Harry.” 

 

Harry lunges forward and cups Louis’ cheeks as he connects their lips in a hard kiss. It takes a few seconds before Louis registers what’s happening and he kisses back. Their lips start to move in sync and it’s like Harry has come up to the surface and can breathe again. His lips are soft and he can taste a hint of smoke, but it’s Louis. He’s really kissing Louis. 

 

After what feels like a second, Louis and Harry pull away for air. They pant softly through their ear-splitting grins. 

 

“Be my plus one to Lottie’s wedding,” Louis murmurs as he rests his forehead against Harry’s. 

 

“Yes.”

 

Chapter Text

Snap . Harry pulls the camera away and looks down to examine the picture he took. It’s of Lottie using the mirror to help aid her in applying her eyeliner, her hair already pulled up into a fancy hairstyle with a veil cascading down behind her. Despite being a social media influence due to her makeup tutorials and fashion, Harry had thought she would hire someone. Her makeup is stunning and beyond anything he’s capable of so he thinks that’s what counts. 

 

Harry stretches out his back as he lets out a yawn, his thumb wiping away the unwanted tears. There’s no way he’ll be able to find the time for a nap. He looks down at the watch strapped around his wrist and a part of him wonders if Louis is in just as bad of shape from the bachelor party. Even though he’s steadily reaching six feet, he still manages to be a lightweight when it comes to his alcohol. 

 

He glances down to see Gideon sat upright and on the lookout. The dog tends to be on high-alert, more than usual, when they’re around a big group of people. There’s more sounds to be aware of. 

 

Originally, Harry hadn’t planned on bringing Gideon with him to the wedding. The last thing he wanted to do was draw attention away from the bride and groom on their special day. Lottie found out and threatened not to attend if Gideon wouldn’t. Her words being that he was family just as much as Harry was. He certainly wasn’t going to argue with the bride. 

 

Harry raises the camera and peers through the viewfinder. He’s faced with the image of Lottie standing in front of a body-length mirror and four bridesmaids surrounding her, as she finally takes in the moment of seeing herself completely dressed up. The dress itself is a classic white and it’s covered in nothing but lace to tie into the vintage theme of her wedding. Clutched in her hands is a large bouquet of dusty pink and purple flowers. 

 

Snap. 

 

Johannah, Lottie’s mother, walks up behind her daughter and latches a necklace around her neck. It’s a real pearl necklace that originally belonged to Lottie’s great great grandmother. It’s tradition to wear it on their wedding day and to pass it down to their child. The necklace would have gone to Louis’ future wife but given that he’s strictly gay, it’s to be given to the next person in line for it. Since Lottie is the second oldest, she gets it. 

 

Harry quickly brings his camera up to his face and rest his finger on the shutter button. 

 

The room erupts into a chorus of aww’s as Johannah pulls Lottie into a tight hug. Snap . It’s a touching moment as both of them try their best to hold back their tears. Snap . Lottie’s eyes screw shut as Johannah murmurs something into her ear. He can imagine that it’s a stream of words she’ll never forget. Snap . They pull away from one another wipe at the tears collecting in the corner of their eyes. Snap

 

“Good thing I put on waterproof mascara,” Lottie says with a lighthearted chuckle. 

 

Everyone turns their head in the direction of the door to see it push open to reveal Doris, Ernest, and Louis. A common trio in Harry’s life. Louis and Ernest are dressed up in identical tuxes while Doris is in a flowy dress that falls just above her ankles. It’s all white and has champagne colored lace around the chest and sleeves. There’s a woven basket hanging off her elbow but everyone had decided it would be best to give her the flower petals closer to the ceremony. She had managed to dump them earlier when she insisted that she could be responsible with them. 

 

“Puppy!” Doris squeals as she runs over with Ernest and kneels down in front of Gideon. 

 

Louis is quick to stop the twins from petting him, “see his vest? He’s working so we can’t play with him right now.”

 

Both Ernest and Doris give a somber nod as they rise to their feet. Harry tries his best to convey his apologies in a slight smile, “how about the two of you pose for me? I haven’t gotten any pictures of the flower girl and ring bearer.” 

 

They let out an ear piercing squeal and immediately start to do different poses while Harry snaps a few pictures of them.  

 

“That’s enough,” Louis says as he waves Ernest and Doris off to go see their older sisters. They’re all bridesmaids. He then turns his head and pecks Harry’s cheek, “I feel like I haven’t seen you all morning.” 

 

“Because you haven’t,” Harry states with a small smile, “are you feeling just as bad as I am? I don’t know what we were thinking drinking that much alcohol.” 

 

Louis snakes his arms around Harry’s hips and starts to sway the two of them from side to side. 

 

The relationship between Harry and Louis had been made official a week after their first kiss. Louis had insisted on taking him on a proper date which consisted of a romantic dinner at an Italian restaurant, then a calming walk through a nearby park. He still isn’t sure how he missed the fact that Louis could be such a hopeless romantic. Then again, he certainly doesn’t mind since he’s one as well. 

 

“M’trying to take pictures,” Harry whines as Louis presses small kisses along his shoulder. 

 

Louis lifts the camera out of his hands and peers through the viewfinder at him. Snap . “You can’t forget that you’re a guest here too and need pictures just as much as the rest of us.” 

 

He rolls his eyes and takes the camera back, “you can’t forget that I’m also the photographer for your sister’s wedding. I have a job to do.” 

 

They seal their lips together in a quick peck before Louis makes his way over to the bride. He rests a hand on her lower back, causing her to turn away from a conversation. They come together in a tight hug, Louis making sure not to mess up her hair or makeup, and he murmurs a few words of encouragement. 

 

It’s going to be Louis and Lottie’s father that walk her down the aisle today. They’re the most important male figures in her life and it only made sense that they both did it together instead of trying to choose between the two. Harry doesn’t know much about Lottie’s father aside from the fact that despite being Louis’ step-father, he still raised him as if he were his own blood. He believes that fact alone is enough to look up to the man. 

 

Harry brings his camera up to his face again and snaps a couple of pictures. He thinks they’ll be some of Louis’ favorites as the photographs manage to truly convey their close bond and love for one another. “Are we all set for the ceremony?” He asks as his eyes flick over at the clock hung on the wall. It’s seven minutes until everyone is supposed to start walking down the aisle. 

 

+     +     +     +     +

 

Doris reaches into the woven basket and tosses the flower petals onto the grass. The wind manages to make her dress even more flowy and dream-like than Harry thought it could. She’s slow as she takes her time to drop the petals one at a time, but he doesn’t think anyone minds if the grins and chuckles are anything to go by. He certainly doesn’t mind as he records everything. Doris discards the basket onto the ground and runs into her mother’s arms. 

 

Thankfully, someone sitting in the front row takes the abandoned basket out of the aisle. 

 

The first pair of bridesmaids and groomsmen start down the aisle with their arms hooked together. There’s a difference in age and height as all of the groomsmen are close in age of the groom since they’re mainly friends from college or coworkers. On the other hand, the bridesmaids range in age. Three of them are Lottie’s younger sisters, then the maid of honor is her best friend. From Harry’s understanding, Lottie didn’t want there to be any drama in trying to pick one of her sisters to be her maid of honor. 

 

Since Harry has worked at so many weddings, he can say with confidence that he knows how crazy bridesmaids can be when it comes to fighting for the maid of honor title. He’s seen how they’ll try to outdo one another in trying to give a massage to the bride or try to set up centerpieces faster. He’s also seen brides that enable it, almost like they’re trying to pin the bridesmaids against one another for her own amusement. 

 

The wedding business is no joke. Harry is grateful that he’s only a photographer and not a wedding planner or florist. He’s heard of future mother-in-laws going behind the bride’s back to buy different flowers and have two sets of flower arrangements arrive at the same time of the wedding day. Sometimes he wonders why he puts up with the awful clients he gets. Then he’ll remember why when it comes to clients like Lottie and Leo. 

 

Everyone stands up from their seats and Harry’s breath catches in his throat. Lottie’s veil is falling behind her as she holds her head up high. Louis is to her right and her father is to her left. The three of them start their way down the aisle at a slow pace, violin playing just above a whisper. The entire moment is everything Lottie had hoped for, Harry thinks. He doesn’t think it could get more perfect. 

 

Harry fights back his grin as he watches all three of them start walking down the aisle. It’s seamless as they pass five long rows of painted benches and come up to the wooden stage at the end. Louis is the first to press a kiss to Lottie’s cheek before taking his place among the groomsmen. Lottie’s dad follows suit with the kiss before giving her away to Leo, then taking his seat in the front row.  

 

We are gathered here today to celebrate with Charlotte Tomlinson and Leo Brown as they proclaim their love and commitment to the world. We are gathered to rejoice, with and for them, in the new life they now undertake together.

 

Charlotte and Leo, the relationship you enter into today must be grounded in the strength of your love and the power of your faith in each other. To make your relationship succeed it will take unending love. It will take trust, to know in your hearts that you truly want what is best for one another and to learn and grow together. It will take faith, to go forward together without knowing what the future holds. If you both come freely, and understand the responsibility and work involved to make your relationship thrive, and are committed to not only each other but your family, please take each other by the hands and reply 'we do.'”

 

“We do,” Lottie and Leo chorus. 

 

“May I have the rings?” The minister asks. 

 

Everyone turns their heads to see Ernest rush down the aisle, his blond hair bouncing with each step. In his hands is an all white colored pillow that has the same lace wrapped around it as Lottie’s dress. Given how young Ernest is, it had been decided to loosely tie the rings onto the pillow to be on the safe side. 

 

Leo and Lottie take their respectful rings before turning to face one another. 

 

“Leo, repeat after me:

 

Charlotte, you are my best friend and everlasting companion. You have brought me the truest happiness I have ever known. I take joy today in committing my life to yours.

 

Now place the ring on her hand and repeat after me... with this ring, I promise to stand with you as we share this life, and cherish the memories we make together.

 

Charlotte, repeat after me:

 

Leo, you are my best friend and everlasting companion. You have brought me the truest happiness I have ever known. I take joy today in committing my life to yours.

 

Now place the ring on his hand and repeat after me.... with this ring, I promise to stand with you as we share this life and cherish the memories we make together.”

 

A moment of silence passes as Lottie tries to wipe away at her tears. 

 

“Leo and Charlotte, prior to this moment you each walked a separate path. Now, you embark together on a shared path. Yet the journey is not yours alone, for you have already been blessed with beautiful children. It is the strength of your love that shall nourish you all together as a family.

 

Leo and Charlotte, today you have stood before these witnesses and declared your intent to commit your lives to each other in marriage. You have made promises to each other and your family. Your road to this moment has not always been smooth, but you continued to fight for one another. I hope you will never forget the fight and perseverance it has taken to get to this moment. And I hope you will never forget the love and joy you feel today, because these are the values that will keep your marriage, family and bond to one another strong.

 

And so, by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife.

 

Leo, you may kiss your bride.” 

 

Leo wastes no time in leaning down to connect his lips with Lottie’s and leans her back so she kicks her leg up. Everyone in the crowd erupts into cheers and clapping. It’s in the midst of the moment that Harry’s eyes glance over his camera to meet Louis’, and his stomach does a somersault. 

 

+     +     +     +     +

 

“This way everyone,” Lottie says as she holds her dress up from collecting grass stains, and walks down the incline.

 

It’s only the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family from both parties that are being photographed. The location that they decided on is by the lake and has a rustic dock that reaches out into the water. Harry is certain that it’ll make beautiful pictures. The rest of the guests have already started making their way over to the reception. 

 

Harry fidgets with his tripod so it’ll be the right height, peering over the dock that’s meant to hold everyone once he’s setup. The sun appears to be on his side today, which he’s grateful for. He clicks his camera in place onto the tripod and looks at the image transferred from the surroundings into the screen. Perfect. 

 

“On a dock, really?” Louis’ voice rings out. 

 

He lifts his head up, ready to defend his and Lottie’s decision, and finds that Louis is talking to Lottie. As he predicted, she smacks her brother upside the head without hesitation. “It’s cute! You’re just jealous that you didn’t think of it first.” 

 

Louis crosses his arms over his chest, “I’m really not.” 

 

With a roll of his eyes and shake of his head, Harry turns his attention back to his camera. He’s fully aware that Louis is poking fun at his sister just because he can. No one can really expect anything less. 

 

Harry waves Lottie over to himself and Louis follows after her, “I’m all set, can you-” 

 

“Pictures! Everyone go to the dock!” Lottie shouts, her hands cupped around her mouth. 

 

He flinches as the yelling caused feedback from his hearing aid. The thing could really be a pain sometimes. “I need your family to the left and Leo’s to the right,” he tells her. 

 

Lottie nods firmly and goes straight to directing everyone into their spots. She makes sure to position herself and Leo in the middle of the two families, then has everyone else line up tallest to shortest. The younger kids stand in front of the others though. Harry isn’t sure why he thought he’d need to be more nitpicky when Lottie is all about social media. She knows how to arrange herself and other things in a way that is the most flattering on camera. 

 

“Ready?” Harry asks as he adjusts his camera a smidge. He stares through the viewfinder and a wave of warmth spreads throughout his entire body. The people to the left are all such familiar faces that have found a permanent place in his life. Sure, Louis is his boyfriend, but he’s managed to bond with the rest of the family as well. Johannah has practically become a second mother to him, and Lottie is like his sister. 

 

He takes a deep breath and tells everyone to smile, snapping multiple pictures. 

 

It’s then that there’s a loud cracking sound and the dock breaks underneath all of the weight. Everyone falls into the water and thankfully it’s only up to the adults’ thighs. Louis and Johannah are the ones who manage to pick up one twin each, which gives everyone the security in knowing it’s okay to laugh. 

 

Harry bites back his grin and snaps one last photograph.