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is it by mistake or design?

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Louis shivers in his sleep as the sheets are pulled back from his bare frame, a pout settling onto his features. Nick sighs and smooths his fingers across the tan skin of his thigh when Louis whines.

"Lou, love," Louis hears in the depth of his subconscious, and he wills himself to open his eyes. When he does, he sees a fully dressed Nick standing at his side.

Before Louis can even voice his confusion, Nick starts, "I have to go in early, Louis. I have a meeting or summat, I don't really know, but I have to go."

"What-" Louis starts groggily, trying to roll over onto his back. He stops when the sheets rub across the tender skin of his bum.

He tenses as flashes of the night prior comes rushing back. The party, the nasty things he said there. The look of absolute disappointment and rage on Nick's face. Nick's hand on his bum, then the paddle.

"Nick, I-" Louis starts frantically, wincing as he sits up. But Nick's already picked up his jacket and is walking out the room, and Louis' shoulders slump.

The office party Nick had invited him to was stuffy and full of prats who were too concerned with making impressions than they were with having fun, and it had put Louis so far out of his comfort zone that he had started acting out. He'd been sulking and pouting for half the night, getting no real reaction from Nick other than stern glances and a firm hand around his wrist keeping him from losing himself in the crowd of suits. When Louis had gotten tired of been dragged along like a dog on a leash, he'd started mouthing off to Nick's associates, sassing them whenever he was addressed. When Nick had had enough of it, he'd grabbed Louis by the back of the neck, led him around a corner to where his personal office was, kicking the door shut before pushing him up against the wall beside it.

How fucking dare you, he had hissed, and Louis had cried out as Nick leaned his full weight against Louis' back. The hand on his neck made its way to his throat and Nick curled his fingers there, thumb pressed below his ear. Louis' pulse rabbited against his fingers as he squirmed, squeezing his eyes shut when Nick's fingers twitched.

I know you didn't want to come tonight, Louis, but you had no right to be such a brat about it. Nick's voice was a low drawl, his words seemingly chosen carefully, indicating that he was beyond infuriated and was trying not to hurt Louis' feelings by being too harsh.

Nick had had to pry himself off Louis then, the urge to throw Louis over his lap overwhelming him. He was just so angry: the way Louis acted was bound to cause problems in his work relationships. He would have to do damage control, apologise on Louis' behalf-

With a deep sigh Nick had let him go, stepping back and allowing Louis to turn slowly to face him, sighing again when the younger man kept his eyes down.

"We're going home." Nick had said, and Louis bit his lip at the lack of emotion in his voice.

Louis had stepped out of the way to allow Nick to open the door, flinching when Nick's hand settled heavily on the small of his back. He'd lead him back through the main office space where several people were still nursing their drinks and making polite conversation with each other. Louis had kept his head down, wincing when a woman had tried to initiate a conversation with them both and was met with a growl of not now from Nick. Everyone else who spoke to Nick was ignored, and he even left the valet's cheery greeting unanswered.

Not a word had been spoken in the car ride home and Louis allowed the weight of his actions to sink in. He'd been bratty before but, bloody Hell, he'd been an arse. If he'd been in Nick's position he would have flogged himself in the middle of the party. Louis had let himself out of the car when they got home and he fell to his knees as soon as he'd gotten inside the house. Once Nick had joined him inside, he wordlessly gestured for Louis to stand and he walked to the bedroom, expecting Louis to follow. Louis had tripped over his feet in his haste to keep up with Nick's long strides, so much so that he almost ran straight into him when he stopped at the closed bedroom door.

Nick had said, without looking at him, that he'd wanted Louis naked and face down, arse up on the bed as soon as they got inside the room. Louis had hurried to comply, shivering at the thought of the punishment that would have been meted out against him.  Nick left him to his thoughts as he shuffled around the room, heading to the bed with their heavy, black, wooden paddle. The damned thing would always leave Louis shaking from its weight and the subsequent sting it left, but it wasn't their most harsh toy and Louis shuddered out an almost grateful breath when he'd seen it.

Nick had hit him until he'd cried, until he was sobbing out apologies, but the physical pain of it wasn't what had overwhelmed him. He'd felt embarrassed and disappointed in himself, had felt so bad that he’d let Nick down, that he’d ruined his night. When Nick had pulled him up against his chest, setting him on his knees to keep him off his bum, he’d been sobbing too hard to get words out. Nick had told him that it was okay, but Louis knew it wasn’t.

He’d said then that he’d apologise in the morning. Even as Nick carefully rubbed cream into the bruised skin of Louis’ bum, whispering that he wasn’t upset anymore and that everything was forgiven, Louis knew he had to properly apologise.

Nick never even gave him the fucking chance, though. Louis hears the front door slam shut and cringes.

He just sits there, after that. The weight on his bum hurts like hell but he can't be fucked to even move. He sort of feels like he deserves it, too, so he sits there, even after his arse starts throbbing.

His phone alarm goes off and that's when he realises actually how long he's sat there, warm sunlight streaming in through the windows by the bed. It takes him a while longer to get up, and when he finally finds the strength to stand, his left foot drops straight on something propped up against the foot of the bed. It cracks under his weight and Louis jumps, pulling his foot back in surprise. He curses when he sees the dark wood of the paddle Nick used on him last night, broken to reveal the lighter colour on the inside.

"No," Louis' voice cracks as he drops to his knees, cradling to pieces of wood to his naked chest. "No, no, oh God." he whimpers, squeezing his eyes shut.

Nick loves this paddle. It’s one of the first ones they bought together, picked out from a store at the beginning of the BDSM aspect of their relationship. And now Louis’ gone and broke it.

And, on top of that, Nick's probably going to think that he broke it on purpose. Which he'd never do, no matter what the circumstances were. The paddle was theirs and he fucking broke it and God, Nick's going to hate him.

If he doesn't already.

Louis chokes on a sob and throws the broken paddle under the bed, pulling his legs tight against his body. He knows that he has work in half an hour and it would make him feel even worse to disappoint his boss, but he doesn't really see himself moving from where he is any time soon.

He sniffles, lifting a hand to wipe at the tears rolling down his cheeks. He pulls himself up off the floor, holding on to the mattress as he stands. His knees are wobbling, and his heart is hammering away in his chest. He can't hear himself think over the rush of blood in his ears but he thinks that maybe that's a good thing, that his thoughts would make his state worse.

By the time Louis finds a way to get himself ready, he's on the brink of tears once more. His tea burned him twice, the fry up he was attempting to make fell on the floor, his glasses fell off his face and one of the lenses got fucked so he had to put in contacts, and he couldn't find the watch Nick bought him for his birthday.

He does start crying, though, once he realises that Nick isn't there to drive him to work and that he'll have to take this bus. On his own. His bum still hurts; he's been limping since he stood up. He can't fathom how he's gonna be able to sit in a hard plastic seat for an hour or more, and he's just so frustrated at this point that he has to stop for a few minutes just to bawl his eyes out.

By the time he leaves the house, he sees that he's already more than ten minutes late. He spends another two minutes walking to the bus stop, then ten more ontop of that fidgeting, checking his phone for the time and waiting for the bleeding bus get there.

By the time it does, Louis' completely irritated. Not just with the situation, not with the couple sitting on the benches snogging each other silly, not with the dog that keeps barking at him from the house behind him. He gets irritated with himself, for upsetting Nick, and for getting himself in the mess that he's in.

Louis' contemplating going back home when the bus comes to a stop ahead of him, and now he really doesn't see the point in turning back- his day can't get any worse, right? So he steps in and heads for the last empty row of seats, near the back of the bus. He tries to sit carefully, but of course it still hurts. He whines defeatedly and rests his head against the window, the cool glass soothing his flushed cheek.


He undoubtedly falls asleep and only rouses when he feels someone's presence beside him. He doesn't look at who it is, though. He doesn't even open his eyes.

The only thing he really focuses on is how cold he is despite the fact that he’s dressed in a scarf, a blazer and two layers of clothing below it. He doesn't worry about it, though, neither does he worry about the fact that he's breathing way quicker than he should be.

He sighs heavily and tries to curl in on himself, squeezing his eyes shut.

He shudders and wraps his arms tighter around himself, trying to quiet his own thoughts. His little nap did nothing to stop them, and they're driving him crazy.

His shoulders slump, and just as he starts thinking that he can fall asleep again, the bus jolts. The front wheel on his side falls into a pothole, then the back wheel. It takes all he has not to scream out, his body flying up out of the seat and plopping unforgivingly back down. And. He just can't anymore.

His bum hurts and his neck hurts from keeping his head against the window and his hands are numb and Nick fucking left this morning without kissing him goodbye and he always kisses him goodbye, no matter what, and that simply means that he fucked up even more than he thought and that he isn't good, he isn't good enough for Nick, he isn't good enough for anyone and he just wants to go back home and snuggle down in Nick's duvet and fuck, does Nick even want him in his home anymore?

Louis starts crying for the third time that morning, then, ripping the scarf from around his neck with all the might he can muster like it’s burning him.

His elbow jams the guy sitting next to him but he doesn't care, he just needs to get off this bus and get Nick to love him again.

Louis can see out the corner of his eye that the bloke is saying something to him but he can't really hear him, can't hear the sounds of the busy city just outside the bus window, can't hear anything except his own thoughts of you fucked up, you always fuck up, why are you like this?

Louis' chest heaves twice before he cries out, and if anyone looks back at him he isn't able to see them. His vision is blurred completely by unshed tears, so he squeezes them shut and tries to blink them away.

He re-opens them when a hand grips his thigh, right above his knee, and stares at it. He looks up slowly at the sound of a distorted voice, the words sinking slow into his system.

"Yeah, that's it, just focus on me, yeah?" Louis makes out, and blinks once, lashes sticking to his cheeks with his tears.

He picks up a subtle command in the statement, and blinks again, looking down at the hand on his thigh. The fingers of that hand extend almost all the way across it like spider webs.

Louis knows he's whimpering, is aware that he's shivering uncontrollably, but he can't stop. His bum hurts and he wouldn't have been hurting if he had just stayed at Nick's side at his party instead of being a shit, instead of being bad. Nick wouldn't have left him while he was still a little spacey, wouldn't have left without telling him that he loved him, wouldn't have left Louis to take the bus, wouldn't have left overall, if Louis had just been good for him.

He starts pinching at his thighs, then hitting them with closed fists when that's no longer enough, and he doesn't stop until the boy grabs a hold of his wrists in one of his palms, keeping them suspended in the air between them.

He's saying something to him again as Louis tries to pull away, but he doesn't make an effort to listen. The lad is so strong, though; the mere fact that he's keeping both of Louis’ hands still in just one of his is overwhelming him. He doesn't fight for long once he realises how pointless it is and collapses onto the guy's chest. He feels him tense underneath him, but then strong arms are draping themselves across his back and welcomes it.

He lets out a few strained sobs, and the boy hikes him up further in his lap until he's almost fully sitting on him. Louis hides his face in his neck. He smells lovely, and Louis presses his nose below his ear without thinking. He knows he's probably smearing tears and snot and whatever else that's on his face into the man’s neck but this is the most comfortable he’s been since today, and he’ll be fucked if he moves.

Louis can feel the column of the boy's neck rumbling against the damp skin of his cheek with each word that he's whispering into his ear. His cries turn into quiet whimpers, but he's still shivering. He feels the boy rubbing patterns across his lower back, and he swears he can feel the warmth if his touch through the jackets.

”Listen to me, you’re good, you’re so perfect, you’re okay. It would be lovely if you calmed down a little more though, I’m right here.” And that last bit makes Louis whine, makes him move closer to him and plaster his body further across his chest. The boy cards his fingers through his hair, pulling the roots gently as he combs the knots out of the damp locks.

He feels so much safer around him, and it should worry Louis even a little bit that he’s all but mounted this stranger, but it doesn’t.

Louis knows that the bus has probably passed his stop by now and he doesn’t even make the effort to look up and through the window. “God,” he croaks out, clearing his throat. He notices that the man is still holding onto him and he coughs awkwardly, and he feels his grip loosen enough that he can move back a little. “Are you okay, now?” he’s being asked, and only then does he look up at him.

And- wow. He’s gorgeous. No, he's fucking stunning. Louis can see that he’s younger than him, and so he’s astounded at how much bigger he is than him. His shoulders are set broader than his own and his torso and legs extend way beyond Louis'. He's fascinated by the bloke’s face: pale skin dotted with moles, and full of sharp lines, soft-looking, pink lips and clear, shinning, emerald eyes. Louis can see a little bun perched on the top of his head, curly hair falling out of it and hanging by his temples, framing his angular face.

Louis bites at the inside of his cheek instead of telling him how beautiful he thinks he is. Thick eyelashes are waving carelessly at him, hooded eyes staring him down, and that’s when he remembers that he was asked a question.

“Yeah, uh-” he mumbles, blushing as he stutters. He groans inwardly when the boy chuckles and, oh, he has dimples. His smile reveals a row of perfect, white teeth and fucking dimples, as deep as the Grand Canyon.

”M’name’s Harry,” he speaks in a low grumble, and Louis tests the name in his head. Harry. He decides that he quite likes it, and smiles sheepishly up at him.

“Louis,” he says, fighting the urge to curl back into the man’s chest- Harry, he corrects himself. His body is still sort of lying across his lap, though, so he’ll allow himself to revel in that.

He tenses a little, however when he notices Harry’s smile slowly fading, and soon enough being replaced by a frown, his eyebrows pulling together. Louis whines and tries to sit up fully, but Harry only grabs his waist and pulls him back against him, even closer that they were before.

”Um,” Harry starts, and Louis holds his breath.

“I hate to intrude- even though I’m not sure what counts as an intrusion at this point when I have your spit on his shirt collar, but, it’s- kinda important that I know.” He stops his rambling with a sigh. ”Are you a submissive?”

Louis cringes, but he doesn’t really know why. He is, that’s what Nick told him he was, and that’s what he’s known himself as for months.

”I- Yeah,” he stammers again, and tries to move away again. This time Harry lets him, and he scoots back all the way over to his seat. He feels cold without Harry's bigger body enveloping him but he stays where he is.

”Look, I’m so sorry that I put you in that position, but you don’t have to feel sorry for me. I’m fine.” which is a lie, because even as he says it, tears are threatening to fall.

Harry reaches over tentatively and touches his arm, and Louis blinks away the wetness clinging to his eyelashes. “Do you even know what’s happening to you right now?” Harry asks, slowly, carefully, and Louis presses his lips into a thin line as he shakes his head.

"You’re dropping.” Harry licks his lips, pauses. “Have you and your dominant done a scene recently?”

For some reason, Harry seems more composed now, more at ease talking about this. And with his rising comfort, Louis’ falls.

He stutters twice before he ends up just nodding, and Harry’s frown deepens more. “Where the hell is he, then?” he asks, his voice steady despite the heat in his words.

”He had to go into work early,” Louis says quietly, looking down. He hears Harry sigh and huffs, wringing his hands together instead of looking up.

”Where are you headed to?” Harry asks, sounding slightly exasperated. Louis finally looks through the window and he sees that they’re in the downtown part of Yorkshire. He’s passed his stop about half-hour ago, and he groans. “I was headed to work. I’ve passed my stop already, though,” Louis trails off, slumping against the back of his seat.

Harry sighs again, but this time it’s relieved instead of aggravated. “Good, you wouldn't have been able to work either way.”

Harry doesn’t speak again for a little while after that, and Louis uses the time to shut his eyes and breathe.

God, he feels numb all over. He pulls his legs up into the seat with him and curls himself into a little ball.

He's physical drained at this point and all he wants to do is sleep, but then he hears Harry's voice again and his eyes fly open. "Louis?" comes his raspy murmur. "Would you mind coming to my house for lunch? It's the next stop,"

Louis casts a careful glance over at the taller man. He would love to, honestly, but he doesn't think Nick would be very pleased if he found out that he was at some bloke's house while he thought he was at work.

But at the same time, Nick left, didn't he? Nick left first. Maybe, this way, Nick will feel as overwhelmed as Louis did when he calls Louis' boss and hears that he isn't there.

Louis looks back through the window and sighs.

"I would love to, Harry." he smiles, ignoring the way his heart flutters when he smiles back.