The buzzer for the gate sounds out through the open-plan living area, the soaring ceilings and double-height walls of glass doing nothing to absorb the harsh noise. Harry slings his messenger bag over his shoulder and hits the button to let Benny drive through into the courtyard, pocketing his keys and grabbing a banana from the fruit bowl as he passes by on his way to the door.
Silas is still relaying information through Harry’s AirPods as he steps outside, slamming his heavy, wooden front door behind him, the oddly chilled LA morning air biting at his face and sending a shiver through his body.
“It’s a fucking mess, Harry. How far away are you?” Silas asks down the line, the all too familiar sound of the LAX departures lounge in turmoil nearly drowning him out. The situation is chaotic, that much is clear, and while he can do some things remotely, he really just needs to get there.
Harry strides across his courtyard to Benny’s waiting vehicle. “I’m coming as fast as I can. Sadly, my magic carpet is in for repairs,” Harry replies, trying to keep the mood light as he pulls opens the front passenger door and dumps his bag onto the floor, sliding into the car. “It’ll be fine, just follow the protocols I’ve set up,” he instructs reassuringly as he puts on his seatbelt, not glancing up at his driver. Benny is used to these sorts of early morning calls and mad dash runs to the airport, their easy friendship having developed over the last few months that he’s been driving Harry. “Standard messaging at the agreed intervals over the internal comms. I’ll take over the socials and web and get the updates going from the car on my way in.”
The car drives off slowly and through the gate, turning out onto the street and Harry presses the remote on his keys through his suit pants, checking over his shoulder through his window to make sure the gate is closing before refocusing on the task at hand. He pops his phone in the little holder on his door, reaching down and taking his laptop out of his bag, setting it on his knees and lifting the lid. He connects to the hotspot on his phone and brings up the various browser tabs he’ll need to get the messaging going.
“Thanks, Harry, you’re a lifesaver,” Silas breathes down the line, a hint of relief apparent in his tone. Poor guy. He’s doing his best but this kind of situation is enough to rankle even the most cool and collected operators.
“Yeah, yeah. It’ll be alright, give me all the details you’ve got,” Harry says and starts typing up some basic notes as the car heads down the winding hills toward LAX.
Ten minutes later he’s gotten all the sites updated and drafted a plan of attack for when he arrives. His stomach grumbles and he remembers the banana in his bag. “Silas, I’m gonna jump off for a bit, okay? I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” he says as he picks up his phone.
“Yeah, okay. See you soon.”
Harry ends the call and pops the phone and pods in the breast pocket of his suit, digging into his bag to find the banana. He settles back, peeling it from the bottom as the car comes to a stop at a red light. The sun has barely made its way over the horizon and the subdued light is casting a soft, pink hue over the awakening city. It’s peaceful, unlike the situation that awaits him when he arrives at work.
“Sorry about that, Benny. Just another crazy morning. How are you?” Harry asks as he wraps his lips around the banana and turns in his seat. When he sees the man beside him he freezes.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to make eye contact with someone while eating a banana?”
Harry very nearly chokes. That’s not Benny.
“You-you’re not Benny!” Harry shrieks through a mouthful of food and backs himself into the car door, for what purpose he isn’t sure, it’s not like that extra three inches is going to make any difference at this point.
“Well spotted. Also, pretty sure you’re not supposed to talk with your mouth full. Tsk tsk. Your parents would be so disappointed.”
Harry just stares at the man before him. He’s smirking as he gives Harry a pointed once over. Thin pink lips and crystal blue eyes, sharp cheekbones, and whispers of hair sticking out from under the grey beanie on his head.
Harry swallows and tries to gather himself, tamping down the panic coursing through his veins as best he can. “Oh my god. Who are you?”
The man chuckles and turns his attention back to the road, taking off through the green light. “Well good morning to you too, sunshine.”
Harry waits for a beat, expecting some information to be forthcoming, but it isn’t. “No, I’m serious. Who the fuck are you? Where’s Benny?”
The man glances over, lips still curled in a smirk, eyebrow raised questioningly and the whole image it’s far too attractive for Harry to process in his current state. “I’m Louis. Did you not get Benny’s message?”
“Yup! That’s me. I’m filling in for Benny for a couple of weeks,” Louis says, chancing another quick glance as they drive along, a slightly perplexed look on his face. “Did you really not get his message?”
“Fuck… no? Wait. Hang on.” Harry retrieves his phone from beside him and brings it to life, flicking into his iMsg app and quickly scrolling past all the messages from work.
“Okaaay… I’ll hang on. Not like I’m going anywhere, mate. Unless you want me to dump you on the side of the road or something?”
There’s a teasing lilt in Louis’ voice, clearly amused by the circumstance and Harry would like to be on the same page if only he wasn’t freaking out quite so much. He sees an unread message from Benny, sent late last night. Harry taps on Benny’s text and scans the message. Hey Harry. Really sorry to do this to you but an emergency has come up with Vera’s mum and we’ve had to jump a flight home. My mate Louis is going to take over my LYFT clients while I’m away. He’s got my car and my phone and everything else. Hope that’s okay. He’s a good guy and I think you two are going to get along brilliantly. Catch you soon, Benny.
“Louis…” Harry says flatly as his brain catches up.
“Shit,” Harry turns to him, finally regaining some semblance of decorum. “Is Vera’s mum going to be okay?”
Louis nods, eyes fixed on the road as he changes lanes. “Yeah. She had a fall. Broke her hip, poor love, but she should be fine. Just gonna take a while for her to get back on her feet. She lives on that damn farm up north and refuses to slow down but this might take the wind out of her sails for a bit.”
Harry chuckles, thinking back to a story Benny had once shared about a visit to Vera’s mum’s farm and him trying and failing, to wrangle a herd of goats into a pen and ending up on his arse in a literal pile of horse shit.
“Glad you’re amused there, Harold,” Louis chides fondly.
“No! Oh god. Sorry. That’s horrible. Of course, I’m glad she’s going to be okay. No, I was thinking about a story Benny told me one time.”
“The arse-over-tit-into-horse-shit story?” Louis asks as he rests his elbow on the console plucking a travel mug out of the other cup holder
“Yeah. That one. Oh, and it’s just Harry, not Harold.”
“Sure it is,” Louis acknowledges but in a way that gives Harry the impression he’s going to get called Harold again regardless.
“So you’re a mate of Benny’s?”
Louis takes a swig from his travel cup and smacks his lips, letting out a satisfied sigh as he sets it back into the cupholder. “Me and Benny go way back. Knew each other in uni. Lost touch for a bit but through the magic of social media we found each other again here in La La Land.”
Harry listens intently as Louis talks, the rasp and lilt of Louis’ voice is like nothing else he’s heard and it’s a bit mesmerizing.
“Been crashing at his place since the dickhead sperm donor did a runner to go and find himself at some fucking retreat in India. Screw him. We don’t need him, do we Thumbelina?” Louis coos and pats his belly. His very pregnant belly. Ohhhh .
“You’re pregnant.” Harry is an idiot. Good grief. He internally slaps himself upside the head.
Louis side-eyes him and grins. “You don’t, like, have a job where it’s important to be observant or good at communicating or anything, do you? ‘Cos I’m getting a bit concerned for your future job prospects if that’s the case.”
“God. Sorry.” Harry shakes his head. “I’m not… this is just a bit of a shock, is all. Do over?”
Louis laughs and raises his arm, covering his mouth with the back of his hand and it’s really quite adorable. “Only mucking. You’re doing just fine, mate.”
“Doesn’t feel like it. And this is kinda my thing. I talk to people for a living. I’m in PR.”
“Yeah,” Louis chuckles, “Benny mentioned something about that.”
“Oh yeah? What else did he mention then?”
“Oh… this and that. Anyway,” Louis says as Harry feels the car slow down, “I think this is your stop.”
Louis brings the car to a stop and Harry looks up to see they’ve arrived at the VIP valet area. It’s… disappointing? He doesn’t want to get out of the car, he didn’t even get to ask about the baby and Harry loves anything and everything to do with pregnancy and babies. He feels a pout bloom on his face and he slumps back in his seat.
“I’d much rather stay here and talk about Thumbelina, to be honest,” Harry grumbles.
“Nope. You’ve gotta get in there and make nice with all the grumpy people like a good PR person. Off you go!” Louis says haughtily, waving his hand toward the door.
“You’re no fun, but sadly, you’re also quite correct.” Harry unbuckles his seatbelt and gathers his things, opening the door and letting the cold air invade their little cocoon. “I’ll message you when I’m done, if you’ll be free, that is?”
“Yup! Benny said you’re one of his best clients and I needed to give you the VIP treatment, so I’ll be at your beck and call for the foreseeable future.”
Harry smiles and steps out of the car, popping his head back inside before he closes the door. “Bye Louis, have a good day.”
“You too… Harold,” Louis says with a wink.
Harry rolls his eyes fondly and shuts the door, watching Louis drive away.
“Thank god you’re here,” Silas says from behind him. Harry turns to find his breathless coworker standing before him looking frazzled.
“Alright,” Harry says, draping his messenger bag across his shoulder. “Let’s get this shit sorted.”
“Tough day at the office, dear?” Louis questions cheekily as Harry closes the door, the warmth of the car enhancing a lovely floral scent which permeates his senses.
“Yeah, you could say that. All sorted now though,” Harry says, settling into his seat and buckling up as Louis drives away from the kerb. “How was your day?”
“Pretty busy, actually. This LYFT caper is a good wicket. Lots of people to chat to and I get to do it all while sitting down. Should’ve gotten into it ages ago.”
“So you haven’t been doing it for long, then?”
Louis chuckles and shakes his head. “About ten hours, give or take. You will forever have the auspicious title of my first customer.”
Harry turns and watches as Louis eases out into the rush hour traffic, six lanes of speeding vehicles blurring into the setting sun. “Well, colour me honoured,” Harry says and tips his non-existent hat.
“As you should be, Harold.”
Harry can see the smirk pulling at Louis’ cheek in his side profile and smiles, a warmth spreading in his chest at the reuse of the nickname. “So, how long before Thumbelina makes a grand entrance into the world?”
“Four more weeks,” Louis says as he rubs his tummy. “They’re a she. Or so the scans say anyway.”
“Oh, nice!” Harry could honestly talk about pregnancy and babies until he’s hoarse. “How’s it going?”
“Well, I could reel off a list of complaints about sore muscles and sleepless nights and having to pee every hour, but really… I’m loving the whole experience.”
“Yeah? That’s awesome, Louis. I’m so happy for you, even if I’m a little jealous.”
Louis slows to a stop at the lights and turns his head. “You’re not a carrier then?”
“Nah. I wasn’t blessed with the gene. But that’s okay. I make up for it by being a kick-ass godfather.”
“Mhmmm… my mate Liam has two little rugrats, Bella and Oliver. I spoil them something rotten. I’m coooool Uncle Harry,” he says proudly. “Not sure Liam and Adrian appreciate that aspect but they don’t complain when they get free babysitting.”
“I bet they don’t,” Louis says with a wry smile before turning back to the road.
“So… got any names picked out or are you just gonna stick with Thumbelina?”
“Cheeky, and no, I wouldn’t saddle the poor little thing with that, as original as it might be. I’m leaning toward Milly... or maybe Lily? Not sure yet. Might wait until she’s out before I decide.”
“Oohhh they’re lovely names. Excellent choices.”
Louis smiles and nods as he slows, the brake lights of the cars ahead signalling the usual long slow crawl up into the hills. “Glad they meet with your approval.” Louis shifts in his seat, pressing down on his belly. “Damn, she’s doing somersaults in there tonight.”
“Maybe she likes the sound of my voice?”
“What, that monotone drawl? Reckon it’d be more likely to put her to sleep,” Louis says as he rests his arm on the centre console and winks at Harry.
“Case in point.”
“Ugh. Yeah, alright.”
“Nah. I like your voice. It’s soothing. She’s probably just trying to get a better listen.”
Harry feels a blush creep up his neck and turns to look out the window, hiding his pleased smile. Louis likes his voice. Point to Harry. “My ex-boyfriend said I sounded like a whale taking a shit.”
Louis snaps his head around and Harry turns back to meet his horrified gaze. “Your ex-boyfriend is an asshole.”
“Yeah,” Harry chuckles, a little self deprecatingly. “Hence the ex . Seems like we’ve both had a crap run of it, although all I ended up with was some smashed crockery and a hard-learned lesson on the pitfalls of dating someone you work with, you got a baby .”
“I did indeed,” Louis says as the traffic inches forward. “Sorry he was a prick, you’re well shot of him anyways. I gotta ask though, what does a whale taking a shit even sound like?”
Harry barks out a laugh, slapping a hand over his mouth reflexively. “Me apparently,” he mumbles through his fingers.
“Awwwww… well, he’s clearly a moron. But that laugh…” Louis raises his eyebrow, half looking at Harry, half paying attention to the car in front.
“ Don’t… ” Harry groans. “I know I sound like a walrus.”
Louis giggles. “Really going hard on the sea mammal theme there, aren’t you?”
“Oh my god, stop ,” Harry pleads, shoulders shaking as he wipes his eyes.
The traffic abates and soon they’re high up in the mountains weaving in and out of parked cars and negotiating passage with oncoming vehicles heading down the mountain. At Louis’ urging, Harry tells him more about his job and Louis, in turn, regales him with hilarious snippets of the joys of pregnancy. Harry is in his element and can’t get enough, hanging off Louis’ every word.
In the darkening night, the lights of the city spread out below them and Louis’ voice washes over him, the stresses of the day ebbing away. He feels as though he’s known Louis for years, not mere hours, and he doesn’t want the trip to end.
The car jolts as a pothole takes Louis by surprise. “Ah shit.” Louis tightens his grip on the steering wheel, leaning forward and wincing.
Louis nods. “Yeah. She’s just resting on my bladder. Need to pee soon else I’ll make a mess of Benny’s lovely upholstery.”
“You can come in and use the loo at mine, we’re nearly there.”
“Really? Thanks, mate. Not sure I could hold it all the way home.”
They round the final bend and Harry pulls out his keys, opening the gate with the remote, the courtyard lights coming to life as they drive through. Louis parks to the side and they climb out. Harry rushes to the door and lets them both inside, turning on the hallway lights and standing out of the way for Louis to come through.
“Just to the left.” Harry points at the door to the downstairs bathroom.
Louis is clutching at his dick through his sweatpants, a slightly panicked look on his face as he shuffles forward and into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Harry clicks the button to close the gate and shuts the front door, flicking on the lights for the open plan living area. He dumps his things on the hall table and heads into the kitchen, grabbing the kettle and filling it from the tap. He takes his mug out of the cupboard and hesitates. Should he make Louis a cuppa? Louis had said he was heading home after dropping Harry off, so he’s presumably his last client for the day, but he doesn’t want to overstep. He shrugs, throwing caution to the wind and takes a second mug from the cupboard, setting them both on the granite benchtop and popping in two tea bags. He gets the milk from the fridge and the sugar bowl from the pantry, the kettle finishing boiling as he hears Louis come round the corner.
“Thanks for that. Little gremlin thinks my bladder is a bloody trampoline sometimes.”
“I can only imagine. Probably getting a bit cramped in there for her.”
“Mmmm… not long now. Anyway, I’d best be getting out of your hair. Looks like you’ve got company.”
Harry looks at him confusedly as Louis points to the two mugs on the bench. “I’ll let you get on with your evening.”
“Oh! No, no. Uhm… this was for you,” Harry says shyly. “I mean… I don’t know what you had planned. You probably want to get home. Sorry-“
“Tea would be lovely,” Louis interrupts. “Thank you.”
Harry smiles and finishes filling Louis’ mug, sliding it over. “Milk and sugar if you want them.”
Louis adds a dash of milk but begs off the sugar, clearly a man of good taste. “So... helluva place you’ve got here, Harry,” Louis says as he looks out across the main living area toward the large windows, reflecting the inside back at them.
Harry follows him to the top of the steps that flow down into the lounge. “Yeah, I love it here. Would you like the five-cent tour?”
Louis does a little bow and motions with his cup. “Lead on.”
They cover downstairs first, a guest bedroom, media room and study off to one side, a double garage and laundry to the other. Upstairs there are three more bedrooms, a bathroom and the main bedroom with walk-in closet and en-suite. Louis oohs and ahhs as they go, very taken with the decor and styling, and the artworks that adorn the walls. They make their way out onto the deck, walking around the plunge pool and fire pit, the garden laid out before them and the city beyond, buzzing with activity.
Louis drains the last of his tea and rests the mug on the metal railing. “Alright, I’ll bite. What the fuck is it that you do again? Cos I thought you were the PR guy for LAX and while I’m sure you’re ace and all that, I can’t fathom that it pays enough for this.”
Harry chuckles and shakes his head. “Well spotted. Nah, I do okay, and a good portion of my pay does, in fact, go to the upkeep here, but this is my dad’s place. Or, my place I guess? I mean, I own it, but I didn’t buy it. Dad’s in import and export back in the UK. He’s done very well for himself… bought this place as an investment about five years ago and when I got the job offer here, he set me up. I’m pretty lucky.”
“Fuck…” Louis says and whistles. “I’ll say.”
The chill of the night air sends them back inside seeking warmth. Harry lights the gas fire and they laze about in the plush lounges, the conversation flowing easily between them. A second cuppa turns into a third and they nibble on a share plate of bits and pieces from Harry’s fridge. Harry doesn’t realise how late it’s gotten until he sees Louis stifle a yawn behind his hand.
“I’m so sorry, you must be exhausted and I’m keeping you from your evening,” Harry says as he stands.
“S’alright,” Louis says, stretching his arms above his head and rolling his neck. “I can assure you you’re not keeping me from anything even remotely interesting. Just some TV and a microwave meal.” Louis swings his legs off the lounge, socked feet hitting the floor with a thud. He goes to get up but he’s pretty well sunk into the soft cushions. “Ugh,” he sighs and reaches up with his hands. “Little help?”
Harry moves to stand in front of Louis between his knees and looks down at him. He’s taken aback by how truly beautiful Louis is and sucks in a sharp breath of air. The firelight is bathing him in a golden hue, his eyes, like two precious crystals, gaze up into Harry’s own, soft pink lips slightly parted begging for Harry to kiss them.
Louis smiles and waves his hands. “Earth to Harold?”
Harry snaps himself out of his reverie and takes ahold of Louis’ hands. They’re soft and warm from where he’s had them tucked between his legs. He pulls him to his feet, but he’s too close and Louis’ round belly pushes into Harry’s stomach, so he slides one foot back to balance, but not far enough to separate them. Louis doesn’t move to separate them either, keeping a firm grasp on Harry’s hands. They’re so close that Harry can smell the hint of tea as his breath softly caresses Harry’s chest where his top shirt buttons are undone.
Then he feels it. A little tap, followed by another. Harry gasps and looks down at Louis’ belly and back up into his eyes. There’s a fondness in them and Harry knows in that instant that he could lose himself in them forever.
“I think she’s saying hello,” Louis whispers as he guides Harry’s hand over his bump to where Thumbelina is moving about. Harry feels a sharp jut of bone, maybe an elbow or a knee. The baby shifts and their hands follow the movement, sliding down underneath and then back up to the top. Their eyes are locked on each other and it’s one of the most intimate moments Harry has ever experienced.
“Oh my god, Louis,” he whispers, completely in awe at feeling Louis’ baby move inside him, responding to their touch with little taps and fluttering against Harry’s palm.
Louis smiles, eyes crinkling. “Pretty cool right?”
“This is… this is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever felt. She’s amazing. You’re amazing. You’re growing a whole other human in there.”
“Mhmmm…” Louis murmurs as Thumbelina settles, the movements stopping and Harry frowns. “Awwww… don’t be sad. You’ll get to feel her again. I mean… if you want to.”
“I want. Definitely,” Harry nods and smiles brightly at the possibility of this not being a once-off. Louis yawns again and lets their hands drop so he can cover his mouth. “God, sorry, okay. You should get going.”
“Yeah, I should.”
Harry walks him to the door and Louis leans on the wall to slip his shoes on before grabbing his keys and phone from the hall table.
The cold night air rushes in when Harry opens the door and the last thing he wants to do is send Louis out into the darkness and away from him. He’s being ridiculous. He barely knows the man but it’s as though something has shifted in the universe, something monumental, something is different and nothing will ever be the same again.
“Drive safe.” It’s lame and doesn’t seem to do justice to the situation but he can’t think of anything else to say that won’t seem absurdly intense for what this is supposed to be.
“Thanks, Harry. For the tea and for the chat. I had a really nice time.” Louis’ words are muted and Harry imagines, maybe, that he hears a sense of hope in his tone.
“You’re welcome. Anytime.” Every time, he wants to say, every day for the rest of our lives. He doesn’t, though, of course. He’s sure he’s just getting caught up in the moment and that come tomorrow, he’ll have regained some sense of normality. But he also has a sneaking suspicion that what’s happening to him left normal five towns back, stopped off for some jerky and a slurpy, and threw the map out the fucking window.
“So… eight o’clock tomorrow morning?”
Harry snaps himself out of it. “Yeah, that'd be great.”
“Well… goodnight, Harry.”
“Goodnight, Lou,” the nickname falling from his lips before he can stop it.
Louis smiles and turns, taking a few steps and then pauses at the threshold. He spins back around and raises up on his toes, hands coming to rest on Harry’s shoulders. Harry reflexively brings his hands to Louis’ hips to steady him as Louis leans in and pecks a small kiss to Harry’s cheek. When he pulls back, Harry sees the light pink blush on his cheekbones and it’s the most endearing thing he’s ever witnessed.
“Night,” Louis rasps out and then drops back down, turning on his heel and stepping out into the courtyard with a wave of his hand.
Harry stands, mouth gaping and watches him sway his hips as he makes his way to the car. Louis stops and looks back when he gets to the boot, a giggle escaping his mouth.
“You’ll catch flies if you’re not careful, you know!” Louis shouts and Harry snaps his jaw closed, feeling his own cheeks heat at being caught-out staring so openly.
Louis cackles as he rounds the car and gets into the driver's seat, the engine coming to life as the headlights and brake lights light up the courtyard. Harry grabs his keys from the hall table and opens the gate, steam from the exhaust wafting up into the air as Louis drives out and onto the street.
Harry isn’t sure how long he stands there, desperately trying to take in what has transpired over the course of the evening. Eventually, the warmth of the house beckons him inside.
He floats around, feeling like he’s on cloud nine, cleaning up and getting ready for bed. When he slides in between his sheets he rolls on his side and pulls one of his pillows to his chest, wrapping his arms around it and snuggling it tightly. As he drifts off to sleep, images of Louis dance in his mind and he doesn’t even try to fool himself that he isn’t wishing the pillow he’s clutching in his arms was Louis instead.
The next two weeks seem to fly by. Harry finds himself categorizing his life as time spent with Louis, and time spent without Louis; relishing every moment in his presence and missing him terribly when they’re apart. Their weekday evenings are almost always spent together, the need to pee excuse a long distant memory. Harry cooks dinner for them more often than not after Louis picks him up from work. Louis perches himself at the end of the island bench, chatting away as Harry prepares their meal, or lays on the couch if his back is sore or his feet are swollen. Harry dotes on him, propping his legs up on cushions like he’s royalty, fetching him tea and biscuits. They eat their meals watching trashy TV in front of the fire or relaxing on the lounge chairs around the fire pit. It’s unabashedly domestic and Harry can’t remember a time when he was this happy in someone else’s company.
Vera’s mum is doing better, out of the hospital and back at home on the farm, but still not able to care for herself, so Benny and Vera will be staying for a while longer. Harry doesn’t mind, not one little bit.
Friday evening finds Harry in the kitchen making them a quick pesto pasta as Louis relaxes on the couch. His feet are particularly bad tonight, ankles throbbing and so swollen the bones have completely disappeared after a packed day with client after client and no time to rest in between. Thumbelina had been making herself known too, causing mischief prodding and poking Louis’ insides relentlessly. Added to that she’d had the hiccups on and off for most of the day, which sounds cuter than it actually was, Louis had assured him.
Harry serves up two bowls of pasta and takes them into the living room, finding Louis rubbing at his socked feet.
“Hey, Lou,” Harry says softly and Louis looks up.
“Hey, Haz.” The nickname is a relatively new thing and Harry loves it. No one had ever bothered to give him one before, and now Louis has given him two. He’s still pretty partial to Harold, but Haz is so familiar and Louis always says it so affectionately that he’s torn for which is his favourite.
Louis sighs straightening out his legs and setting them on the floor with a wince as Harry hands him his bowl before sitting down next to him. “They’re bad tonight?”
“Mmmm… I’ll be okay, just gotta get the fluids going back up with the help of some gravity. But that’s a problem for later, right now I just wanna get this scrumptious food into me, I’m bloody starving!”
Harry smiles, glad he can at least do this for him. “It’s just a simple pasta but it should hit the spot.”
“No ones hit my spot for quite some time…” Louis trails off, side-eyeing Harry with a cheeky smile as Harry tries valiantly not to swallow his tongue.
“Well… I don’t think this will hit that spot, but hopefully, it’ll satisfy your hunger.” Harry can totally play this innuendo game. It draws a hearty laugh from Louis and Harry feels like he’s won at life.
They dig in and watch some dreadful show about flipping houses that has two of the most annoying and condescending hosts in the history of reality television, which is saying something. Louis shouts at the screen and Harry makes woeful puns that draw welcome cackles from Louis.
Louis sets his empty bowl down on the coffee table and tries to get comfortable, but he can't find a position that doesn’t cause either his back to twinge or his ankles to throb.
“Haz,” Louis whines. The misery is written all over his face and it breaks Harry’s heart. He wants to make the pain and discomfort go away. Wants to always make anything bad go away. Forever, if Louis will let him.
An idea strikes and Harry stands. “Hang on. I’ll be right back.”
Harry heads upstairs, taking the stairs two at a time, and jogs down the hallway to his bedroom. He flicks on the light and strides into his en-suite, grabbing his foot spa, some lemon bath salts, his nail kit, and a bottle of massage oil. Back out in the hallway he pulls a stack of towels from the linen cupboard and makes his way back downstairs.
He dumps everything onto the kitchen bench and runs the tap, letting the water warm up as he rummages through the bottom drawer to find an extension lead. He fills the spa and adds some of the bath salts, the sharp tang of lemon wafting up into his nostrils.
He carries the spa, the lead, and a towel into the living room, setting it all on the coffee table as Louis eyes him curiously. “Whatcha got there, Haz?”
“Thought we could do a little spa treatment... might help with the swelling,” Harry says as he plugs the lead into the wall socket and runs it over to the couch.
“You don’t have to do that, Harry, I’ll be fine, really.”
“Nonsense,” Harry dismisses him. “This’ll be fun. But if you hate it we can stop anytime.”
“I highly doubt I’ll hate it. More worried that I’ll like it too much and want it every day.”
“Well, then, that’s easy, we’ll just do it every day. Alright, socks off.”
“Ugh. My feet stink,” Louis says with a cute little scrunch of his nose.
Harry shakes his head fondly. “I honestly don’t care, Lou, but these lemon bath salts will mask it if you’re feeling self-conscious.”
He lays a towel down on the floor and sets the spa on top as Louis takes off his socks. It’s a struggle to reach around his belly, but he manages in the end, curling his toes on the rug as he rolls his sweats up to his knees. Harry kneels down and tests the water to make sure it’s not too hot and nods to Louis once he’s satisfied it’s just the right temperature.
Louis slides his feet inside and groans. “Fuck, that’s nice.”
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” Harry says and switches the spa on, water bubbling as the vibrations intensify.
Louis slumps back onto the couch, head tilted back, eyes closed. “That’s it. I’m never leaving.”
Harry chuckles and pats Louis’ knee. “Alright, I’m just gonna grab the rest of the stuff. Sit tight.”
“Which bit of I’m never leaving wasn’t clear?” Louis opens one eye and grins, craning his neck to watch Harry as he stands and walks back into the kitchen.
Harry feels a little guilty. If only Louis knew how much he wished that was true. He never wants Louis to leave, wants to keep him here, wants to take care of him and the baby when she arrives. He wants so desperately to be allowed to love him, to love them both. But Louis has so much going on his life, the last thing he’s probably interested in is a relationship. Harry pushes the thoughts out of his head and focuses on the task at hand.
Harry is trying his best to remain calm, really he is, but Louis just won’t stop moaning and whimpering. The sounds are going straight to his cock and it’s becoming a problem. A physically noticeable problem.
Louis had soaked his feet until the water went cold and his toes were pruney. Harry had dried them off, clipped his nails and given them a file, much to Louis’ initial displeasure, gross he’d called it, but he’d let him do it anyway because of course he had. Harry hadn’t missed the shy smile under his blush as he pretended to squirm about, doth protesting a little too much perchance. When Louis said he’d never had anyone do something so nice for him before Harry had made a mental note to seek out every one of his ex-boyfriends to give them a piece of his mind for not treating Louis like the precious angel he is.
Louis is laying on his side on the couch, feet resting on a towel-covered cushion atop Harry’s knee. It’s not the easiest of positions for a foot massage, but being flat on his back puts too much pressure on his insides, so this is the compromise. If only Louis would stop making those sounds everything would be perfect.
Louis reaches a hand out from under the throw draped over his upper body and over to the coffee table, grabbing the remote for the fire and turning it up a few notches before snuggling back under his blanket. “Mmmmmm… feels so good, Haz.”
The smell of the lavender oil is heady in the warmth of the room, soft music filtering through the speakers of the sound system as the firelight flickers and dances across them both. From this position, Harry can study Louis without the fear of him seeing and thinking he’s too creepy. He drags his fingers over Louis’ ankles and up and down his calves, digging into his heels and sliding between his toes.
“The swelling is almost gone now. Can nearly see your dainty ankles again.”
“Dainty,” Louis scoffs. “I wouldn’t know, haven’t seen them properly in a while.”
“Well, I can assure you they’re very pretty.” Maybe the oil is getting into his brain but he can’t stop himself. “Delicate little toes too,” Harry says as he threads his fingers between them, stretching them out. He digs his thumbs into the balls of Louis’ feet eliciting a long moan. Harry does it again and watches as Louis shifts his hips. Clearly Harry’s not the only one affected by this. The blanket strains as Louis lifts his knee, shoulder dipping as though he’s reaching down between his legs. And really, Harry deserves a medal for only momentarily stilling his hands, but the desire to give Louis even the smallest amount of relief and pleasure overrides everything else. But he also realizes how completely inappropriate this is and kind of unfair. It’s not like he can get himself off on Harry’s couch, no matter how much cover Louis might think the blanket is providing him. The last thing Harry wants is for Louis to feel embarrassed so he eases off, walking his fingers away from Louis’ pressure points.
Louis’ breathing starts to even out, features relaxing as Harry gently massages his calves, lengthening his strokes from heel to knee and making them more rhythmical. He’s so peaceful, cheeks rosy from his little cocoon and the warmth from the fire. His breaths turn into snuffles and it’s possibly the most adorable noise Harry has ever heard.
Harry pulls down the legs of Louis’ sweats to his ankles and covers his feet with the throw blanket, resting his head back on the couch and closing his eyes. The sounds of Louis’ breathing lulling him to sleep.
Harry opens his eyes, bringing his hands up to rub at them as he yawns. Louis is still fast asleep beside him, hands pillowed under his head. He allows himself a moment to admire his beauty, his soft feathery fringe across his eyes, pink lips slightly parted, a light dusting of scruff on his face. Harry lifts the cushion off his lap and scoots out from underneath, laying it on the couch careful not to dislodge Louis’ feet. He gets up and wanders into the kitchen, stretching out his back. The clock on the microwave tells him it’s just gone midnight; too late for Louis to go home now.
He grabs a bottle of water from the fridge and Louis’ phone from the hall table, retrieving his spare charger from his messenger bag before padding down the corridor and into the guest bedroom. He sets the water on the bedside table and plugs in the charger, flicking on the lamp, pulling the covers back. The curtains are open so he closes them and picks up the extra blanket from the chair in the corner, laying it at the bottom of the bed. He checks the en-suite to make sure there are fresh towels and takes a spare toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste from the drawer, popping them on the sink.
Heading back out into the living room, he turns off the lights and lets the firelight guide him. Standing before Louis he wonders what it would be like if Louis was his, how it would be if instead of taking him to the guest bedroom, he could carry him upstairs to their bedroom, tuck him in and curl around him. He’s overwhelmed with how much this man truly means to him, how in such a short space of time he’s become Harry’s entire world.
He leans down and scoops Louis up in his arms, the throw blanket falling to the floor as he stands to full height. Louis burrows into his neck and steeples his hands against Harry’s chest, a small, contented sigh escaping his lips, and Harry doesn’t know whether to smile or cry.
He carries him into the guest bedroom and lays him on the bed, pulling up the covers and turning off the lamp. He steps back, even though everything molecule in his body is telling him to climb into bed beside him, keep him safe and warm and protected.
Harry smiles and steps forward. “S’alright, Lou, go back to sleep. It’s late. You’re in the guest bedroom. Your phone is right here charging and there’s a bottle of water in case you get thirsty. The en-suite has everything you need for the morning.”
“Mmmm… thank you,” Louis murmurs and snuggles deeper into the mattress.
Harry turns and walks to the door, allowing himself one last look at the man he now knows he wants, more than anything, to be a part of his life forever.