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still crazy (after all these years)

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The day started out absolutely horrible. It was freezing since morning, Louis woke up to cold floorboards greeting his poor feet and goosebumps coursing his skin as he changed clothing. It was a Wednesday, a Wednesday that, for some reason he can't recall now, he didn't have classes. Instead of lumbering around like a fat squirrel searching for food at Central Park, like he usually did, Louis decided to do something productive for a change. Or at least pretend to do something productive for a change. Why not carry around his Biology book with a spiral notebook hidden inside, so he could pretend to study for the upcoming winter final but instead actually doodle until his brain caught up with his inability to create art?

His mother recommended Gizmo's. It was a small café, located nearly fifteen minutes on foot from his house, and its reputation exceeded its size. "The best biscuits, I swear!", his mother had tried to lure him in months ago by biscuits, somehow not noticing that he kind of really hates biscuits. However, his sisters were all in school, his mother was working, and he didn't fancy spending the day all alone inside his cold, freezing house. The fact that he didn't know how to cook and therefore had no way to survive alone had nothing to do with his decision to go to Gizmo's. Neither did the call to his mother, saying that she'd recently transferred some cash to his deposit, have anything to do with him deciding to face the disheartening breeze that seemed to chill his soul and force him to shed glasses from his eyes.

The day continued to be absolutely horrible. Outside he tripped on maybe fourteen, fifteen holes, and bumped with three or so children. His foot at one point fell into a small puddle of dirty water, and it was like immersing his being into a bucket of ice. Louis felt static course and prickle his skin like shocks, and the unforgiving wind ran through him too often for him to truly be rattled. This day was one he absolutely dreaded to finish; if it was this cold at 7:52am, imagine at 7:52pm. Louis was going to die from either frostbite or pneumonia, he was sure.

Once he entered the café, though, it was like starting a clean slate. He's hit by a warm gust of sweet aroma as soon as he opens the door, and it envelops him like a parent does to their newborn. Louis feels his day brighten a bit, no longer taken over by the gloom and darkness of the clouds. Louis thinks it might be the biscuits after all, that smell so great.

He sits down on a chair that's possibly five feet away from the counter. It seems like a lovebooth, but Louis could care less; he has an intrinsically complicated relationship with his book, he's mesmerized by the designs his nimble hands mark on sheets, but most of all he's cloaked with an invisibility spell that he seems to have been born with in order to protect himself, and treasure himself. The busybodies, the noise, the constant chitchatting didn't deter Louis from pretending to study in the café. The table rotating from someone bumping into it, however, quickly captured his attention.

"Sorry, sorry," a lovely voice emerged from bow-shaped lips, and when emerald eyes met his own Louis's a goner. "'M a bit clumsy."

"Y'reckon?" Louis had a smirk on, full of mirth and eyes filled with mischief. "It's alright, if the noise doesn't annoy me you certainly don't."

The boy smiled with red-tinged cheeks and he looked even lovelier than before, if possible, with dimples and all. "Louis Tomlinson, right?"

At that Louis lifted his head to look at him, tilting his head a bit in confusion. "How'd you-?"

"We share five out of six classes, mate."

Louis's eyes widened at the fact and bit his lip. "'M sorry for not recognizing you, mate," Louis offered him the seat in front of his own with a hand gesture. "'M not used to noticing people. Or being noticed."

"Neither am I," the lovely boy confessed. "Maybe that's why I noticed you."

Louis looked down and now he's the one that's blushing. "What's your name, then, fellow freshman?"

"'M Harry, fellow freshman," Harry picked up the menu from the table. "Harry Styles."

"Harry Styles," Louis tested the name on his lips and, wow, he could get used to saying that every day. He closed his book and fixed his glasses. "That sounds rather posh."

"I'm anything but, I assure you," Harry's eyes sparkled and they glanced over the café. Louis hummed and smiled. "Who said being posh is a bad thing? Maybe then you'd be able to buy me a cuppa."

Harry laughed and stood up. With a "be right back!" he went to the counter and, for a moment, Louis believed the café all of a sudden quieted down until barely murmurs were heard. The once suffocating scene was now all a blur, and Louis's eyes couldn't see anything but Harry. At least that's what it felt like.

Harry came back with a cup in each of his hands. "Here you go, love," he handed one to Louis. Then, Harry raised his own as if he were about to make a toast. "Here here!" He smiled at Louis in a lovely manner and Louis felt utterly charmed. "For the first of many dates."

Louis stopped blowing the steam. "This is a date?"

"I'd like to think so."

++♥++

First Stage: Familiar Strangers

"You sure you're alright going by yourself?" There isn't much reception here at Tesco's but Louis manages to understand Zayn, despite his shitty phone and a screaming Colette. Louis feels a headache already forming; it's almost midnight, he's too tired for this. "I'm sure I could talk to my boss and-."

"No talking to your boss, love," Louis chastises while picking up a sleeping Jasper up from the backseat. "I'm doing just fine. I'm sure I can manage these two rascals by meself for fifteen minutes."

"Well, yeah, but one of 'em's sick," Zayn's voice is cut off a bit and Louis kicks the car door close to relieve some of his anger. Stupid phone. "And the other one's a menace."

"Hey!"

"Well, it's true!" He laughs and Louis can hear the busybodies ambling abound in the background. "I mean, I'm sure you've got Jasper in your arms, but where's Colette?"

"I'll have you know that Colette is-" Louis stops for a moment and looks around once, twice, thrice, and... he can't find her. "Fuck, I've lost Colette."

Zayn replies something but with his laughter and the shitty signal Louis can't understand anything except "love you Boo", so he murmurs "love you too, Zee" and hangs up. After arranging Jasper so that her head is on his shoulder he walks into the store, completely sure that Colette's in the chocolate aisle searching for a Cortés packet. The store is a bit warmer than outside, something Louis's extremely thankful for, and slightly lonely. He can hear the scratchy timbre from the cashier as he talks to a client, and can decipher a man with long hair and what appears to be a fedora talking on the phone, his back to Louis; but besides that there's no one else here. He makes a quick scan of every aisle and, sure enough, she's in the chocolate one. Louis takes a moment to look at her and he feels his heart fill with warmth. She has her arms crossed in front of her chest, teeth-bitten lips red and a bit bruised, and she's tapping her foot anxiously on the floor as her eyes assess what's in front of her. For a moment, she looks too much like him.

"Hey, darling," Louis murmurs as he nears her. "Find what you're looking for?"

She shakes her head and hunches her shoulders a bit. "No, I don't think there are any left," she groans a bit and turns around, her crystal eyes looking into his matching own. "How is J supposed to get better if she doesn't have hot chocolate?"

"Well," Louis licks his lips and shifts a squirming Jasper. "Considering what she has is the flu and not the blues, I think medicine's going to get her better."

She laughs unexpectedly and shakes her head, dauntingly. Louis looks at her bemusedly. "Oh, Louis," Louis? "You have so much to learn."

Louis can't help but laugh loudly at that, his entire body shaking with laughter. He seems to forget for a bit that he's holding an eight year-old girl in his arms but remembers rather quickly, when she's lifting her head and staring at him. Although her long hair is in front of her face, Louis can see her eyes look tired, her skin is sickly pale, and her nose is terribly red. "Good morning, Rudolph," her mouth quirks up a bit and he smiles at her. "How're you feeling?"

"'M not sure," She replies softly, her scratchy voice immediately alarming Louis. "I don't feel like anything."

"Maybe some chips will help!" Colette yells and all of a sudden she's dragging Jasper behind her, screaming a "we'll be back whenever!" that clashes with Louis's "be careful, J's sick!"; then, she's turning the corner and going God knows where... probably the ice cream aisle, because neither of them is a big fan of chips.

Louis shakes his head fondly and stares down the hall with a smile on his face, sighing softly before looking at the chocolate aisle again. "No, no, no," Louis murmurs to himself as his eyes dance from packet to packet. Eventually, though, he manages to see a Cortés hot chocolate bar on top of the aisle; Colette probably didn't even look up, knowing it "hurts her eyes so much she feels like they're turning inside-out". Louis chuckles to himself at that and, standing on his tip toes and stretching his arm with all his might, manages to eventually reach the packet.

"Y'know," a voice, a voice he's long since heard but will always remember; the long, deep drawl that draws him in like honey does to a bear. "Back in the day you'd ask me to pick it for you."

Louis feels himself freeze and he drops the packet. He feels a hand ghost the small area o his lower back and out of pure instinct he swings his right fist behind him and manages to hit him right in the nose. "Ow, fuck!" The voice is muffled by hands quickly covering the area and Louis turns around, hands reciprocating the gesture but more in surprise than hurt, quick enough to give him whiplash but it doesn't matter because that's fucking Harry Styles right there. Harry Edward Styles in his full splendor, with hair long enough to reach his shoulders (Louis's not going to lie, he briefly wonders if it's just as smooth as it was before) and a damn Fedora that seems to go nicely with his cream trench coat and black skinny jeans. Harry is... well, he's beautiful, but he's always been beautiful. Even with his nose bleeding... because Louis just fucking punched him. "H-Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry breathes out, his wide eyes raking Louis just like Louis did before to him, seemingly forgetting about his wound, and Louis feels a tinge of satisfaction that he can impress Harry just as much as he impressed him. He doesn't know how or why, but suddenly he's overwhelmed by this need to tackle Harry; so he does. He runs the short distance between the both of them and jumps, Harry instinctively catching him and spinning him around a bit, holding him familiarly tight. Louis's hands are wrapped so tightly around Harry's neck it's like he's suffocating him, his head's buried into the juncture a bit awkwardly and he smells Harry deeply. He smells like a long forgotten antique, stuffed upstairs in a place where he tries to never forget.

"It's been so long."

Harry breathes deeply then, imitating Louis. "Yeah." There's a small pause. "Damn it, Lou, my nose hurts like a bitch."

"I imagine, you're still gushing like a sprinkler on the fourth of July," Louis giggles and untangles himself a little and leans back to look into Harry's eyes, not just looking at him but actually looking. "How've you been, what've you done?"

Harry chuckles and presses his forehead against Louis's too intimately, like nothing's changed. It burns. "I think you're a bit more aware of my doings than I am of yours."

"Just because you're some posh singer now doesn't mean everyone's following-"

"Papa?"

Louis immediately jumps out of Harry's arms and steps out of the embrace. He turns around slowly, so slowly and looks at his two beautiful, identical daughters staring straight at him, hands crossed in front of their chests. He hears Harry murmur Papa?, but he's too focused on his daughters to say anything but a simple "yeah" before walking to them, getting on his knees in front of Jasper. One of his hands quickly runs over her face to check her temperature while the other holds Colette's hand. "Y'okay?" Louis asks her but she's too entranced looking behind him, towards Harry. Of course.

Colette drops his hand and goes over to Harry, walking slowly, like in cheap scary movies. When she's in front of him, looking up at him in an almost ridiculous manner she says, "Harry Edward Styles, singer whose nose is redder than my sister's, who are you?"

Harry's flabbergasted for a moment, and so is Louis. "What? I'm Harry-".

"No, I know you're Harry, I called you Harry," Colette deadpans and Louis takes advantage of the small pause to carry Jasper, who immediately burrows her head in the junction of his neck as he stands up. "I mean, who are you to my Papa."

"Oh," Harry sighs softly and looks at Louis, wondering how to respond. He bites his lip for a moment and, when Louis mouths the response he repeats "I was an old friend."

"Hm," Colette murmurs and extends her arms upwards. "Carry me, Styles."

Louis looks just as confused as Harry at that but nods at Harry, giving him permission. He does, however, take the time to remind her of what she's supposed to do in situations like this. "Love, what have I told you about strangers?"

"Don't talk to people you don't know," Colette tries hard to imitate him and Harry's holding his laughter back. (So is Louis). "But you let him carry you, so I can let him carry me."

It's. It's a good argument, Louis'll give her that. It's such a good argument that Louis really doesn't know how to respond. He tells himself he doesn't out of love. "Alright, love."

First thing's first, though, and they go through check out before leaving. Harry's surprisingly quiet throughout the entire scene - and so is Jasper, but Jasper's sick and asleep so she's excused -, the only voice that's cutting the silence is Colette, who's absolutely fawning over Harry. Louis merely leads the way, knowing Harry's following him by the sound of his footsteps. He digs into his pocket, takes his beeper out and unlocks the car. He opens the left car door and places Jasper carefully inside, making sure to put her seat belt on correctly before closing the door softly. He sees Harry do the same with a cheery Colette and smiles a bit to himself, taking the time to pick some wipes he always carries around. Harry closes the door and only then does Louis walk up to him, knowing he must have questions. And even though Louis doesn't have to answer, he wants to.

Louis's in front of Harry now, cleaning the blood off his nose, and Harry's looking at him like he's never looked at him before. Like he's in a whole new light, which is not necessarily bad. "Papa?"

Louis chuckles softly and looks down, a smile gracing his lips. "Yeah, Papa," Louis looks up at him and shrugs softly. "Have been for eight years."

Harry draws in a quick breath and his wide eyes are looking at him, assessing yet again. "Eight years?" His voice is a bit higher than normal. "Wasn't that-?"

"Yes," Louis cuts him off. "Wasn't while with you, though."

"Oh," Harry takes his hands and caresses his thumbs. "With who?"

"Eleanor."

"Oh."

They're quiet once again and this time it's a bit awkward. Louis eventually takes his hands out of Harry's and wrings his wrists. "Well, 've got to take 'em home. Jasper's sick."

"Yeah, I've gathered," Harry chuckles. He looks at the car along with Louis and they can both see the two girls sleeping peacefully in the car. "They're beautiful."

"Thanks," Louis murmurs and goes to leave, stopping for a moment to kiss Harry's cheek softly. "Goodbye, Haz. 'T was good seeing you."

Harry stays right where he is while Louis gets on the car and turns it on. He's backing up when Harry presses against his window, and Louis looks at him extremely confusedly and rolls it down. "Wha-?"

"Y'called me Haz," Harry states simply, so, so sweetly it reminds Louis of when he first met him, unruly curls and all.

"'Suppose I did."

They stare for a bit and Louis hits the gas peddle for a moment before Harry's screaming "Call me!"

Louis shifts the gear into drive. "I don't have your new number!"

As Louis drives away, a fond smile appears on his lips as he hears Harry respond "Never changed it!".

++♥++

Kali's eyes widened as she tried to make sense of what was going on. Her grip on the sword was infallible, firm and tight, so she twisted and turned it as she cornered her pray.

"Ĉu vi pretas?" (Are you ready?) Kali called out and walked painstakingly slow towards the beast.

"Fidas min , mi estis preta por tempo nun," (Trust me, I've been ready for a while now). Kali huffed, "Kial vi ne eliros , tiam?" (Why haven't you come out, then?).

The beast's eyes seemed to be red, and its mane moved with the wind. A rumble shook the earth beneath Kali's feet and she stumbled for a moment. She managed to regain her stability but when she looked again, the beast was nowhere to be found. "What-?"

The rumble sounded again but this time behind her. It was too sudden for Kali, though, and while she lifted her sword and managed to nick it, the beast attacked ferociously with its claws out and about; they glided across her right eyes and, with its body, it tackled her and sent her flying to the ground. She screamed in anguish as her body hit the cold floor, face immediately burrowed into the snow to alleviate her pain. "Love," Kali murmured and almost instantly her ears ringed in the most splendid way, and that along with the whimper that could have only come from the beast let her know that finally, finally, she arrived.

"Y'alright, babe?" Imani's hands ran across her back to check for wounds. When she found none, she helped Kali turn around. "Love," her tone was worried, now, and she took out a cloth from her bag to clean up the blood. Kali had a scar running across her eye; Imani still thought she was the most beautiful being.

"You said y'were ready, why didn't you come out?"

"I wasn't," Imani confessed. "I just wanted to lighten your worries."

"Why?" Kali stood up a bit, hissing in pain until she took Imani's hand. "I could've attacked instead of waiting for it to attack me!"

"Because," Imani gathered some snow from the floor and placed it onto Kali's wound. "I knew you'd do that, and you'd end up killed. That was a lion."

"Lion? Damn."

They looked at each other after that and they knew they were both thinking the same thing: if lions are roaming the earth once more, they definitely weren't going to survive this.

Louis sets the typewriter once again and sighs, stretching his arms and popping his bones. He looks at the girls sitting besides him and smiles. "So, girls, whaddaya think? Should they kiss here or not?"

"Hm," Jasper places her hand under her chin and takes on a pondering stance. Louis wishes he could take a picture of her; she's honest-to-deity adorable. "I think they should kiss. It'd be sweet."

"I don't know," Colette bangs the table softly. "Wouldn't that take away the serious?"

"But it'd be a sweet gesture!"

"There are no sweet gestures in war!"

They continue bickering and Louis's so in love with his daughters. He shakes his head fondly and adds: Kali's eyes were closing, probably from exhaustion; they both refused to think too ahead. So Imani placed her head on her lap and gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead, stroking Kali's hair softly as she, too, fell asleep, hoping that they would be safe for at least one more night.

"I like it!", "Yeah!"

Louis smiles at the two until there's a knock on the door. The girls immediately quiet down and hide behind Louis, taking cover for whatever is there. "Girls," Louis whispers and they both react immediately, looping fingers on Louis's belt as they all peer closely. When pressed against it, Louis yells "who is it?"

"Bro, seriously, it's been like four months get the fu- heck over it!" Zayn's voice comes bubbling from behind and Louis's murderous intentions lessen as the grip on his belt does. Louis opens the door and immediately finds comfort in Zayn's welcoming embrace. He tucks his head in Zayn's neck, revels in his scent, and Zayn caresses his hair softly while kissing his cheek as greeting. "Hey, bub, how've you been? It's been ages."

"You saw me yesterday," Louis deadpans, turning around while Zayn gets on his knees to give the girls a big bear hug.

"Uncle Zayn!" Colette and Jasper both gleefully yell while he has his arms around them.

"Hey, lovelies," Zayn kisses both of their cheeks. "Jasper, are you all better now?" They nod. "How's Papa been?"

The girls looked at each other before nodding. "Good, good," Colette starts and Jasper continues, "a bit stuck on his writing, though."

Zayn hums and follows Louis into the office, the girls close behind. "Where're you stuck?"

Louis makes a mumbling noise and signals to where he's left off. "Just can't figure out how to make them real, y'know?"

"Yeah," Zayn mumbles and sits on the desk chair. "Lemme take a look. Cuppa?"

"'f course, love," Louis goes into the kitchen and starts boiling water. He can hear the girls explaining to Zayn exactly what's going on and chuckles to himself when their voices overlap one another. He can hear Zayn trying to calm them down but, alas, it's unavoidable. At one point, though, the girls calm down a bit when Zayn mentions "let's call uncle Niall, yeah? I'm sure he'd love to speak with you, lovelies."

Jasper screams "yes, please!" while Colette just picks Louis's phone up and starts dialing. By then the water's boiled, so Louis's just putting the tea bags in. He goes to the office for a moment and sees them all speaking into the phone, that's on speaker, to Niall.

"Hey uncle Niall!" The girls yell and Niall laughs loudly and screams back, "oi, there, girls!"

Louis and Zayn chuckle. "Hey, bebz," Zayn says soflty, the kind of soft one achieves only when in love. Louis feels his heartstrings a-pulling.

"Hey," Niall says just as softly. "How was work?"

"Y'know, busy as usual," Zayn sees that Colette and Jasper have left to their rooms, clearly already bored, and includes, "'ve missed you."

"Miss you too-"

"Alright, I'm going to stop your lovey-dovey blubbering right there," Louis interrupts. "Hi, Niall, clandestine lover."

"Not in front of the fiancé, man," Niall plays along but quite suckishly; he's fucking laughing already. "He doesn't know anything."

Louis considers playing along, too, but. Niall's already ruined it, so. "Y'ruined it, man, I can't work under these conditions."

"Y'barely work at all, mate," both Niall and Zayn pipe in, and Louis's homicidal intentions suddenly increase. As they laugh Louis murmurs "yeah, yeah" before sitting down. "Guess who I ran into yesterday night."

He's met with silence from both parts, and he has the worst friends. "Ugh. You guys suck. Anyway, I saw Harry."

"Harry?!"

"Fucking arsehole!"

"Yo," Louis chides, looking around. "The children, Niall, the children." He's met with grumbling from the other side of the phone, but he ignores it and continues. "I saw him at Tesco's. Said he wants to meet up. He's looking good. Kind of punched his nose."

"Yeah, I know, I have Google, mate," there's a bit of static now but he still hears Niall. It's a bit surprising that he doesn't comment on the punching. "Don't think it'd be such a good idea to meet up."

"Have to agree with the beau, love," Zayn adds, wringing his wrists. "Y'know what happened last time, how it ended."

"Yeah, but that was eight years ago, Zayn-"

"And that was before he was famous, imagine now," Niall contributes and Louis bashes his head against the desk.

Zayn looks concerned for a moment but runs his hands in circle on his back comfortingly. "Look, bebz, you do what you gotta do, but. Just. Be careful, yeah?"

"I wanna meet the butthole this time, too," Niall's eating now, and with the static it isn't really helping his case. He seriously needs better friends. "In fact, ring him up. Now."

"Now?"

"Yes, now!" Niall exclaims. "Keep it on speaker, and merge the call with me. I'll be quiet, I promise."

Louis looks at Zayn and pelads him to protest, but the idiot just crosses his arms and shrugs, a smile gracing his lips. Traitor.

Louis simply sighs and says "okay". He clicks on the "add call" option and dials his number. He's nervous and jittery and fuck, this seems like the call conference from Hell. On the second ring Harry answers a bit breathless, and Louis merges the calls. "Hi."

"Hi," Louis says back, blushing already. Zayn elbows him and hits his head, which makes him clear his throat before mumbling, "h-hi, um, how-how are you?"

"Good, Lou," Harry chuckles and Louis feels the nervousness inside him flutter because this situation isn't new but rather familiar. "Y'up for that coffee?"

Louis looks at Zayn and the tattoo-inked man just scribbles furiously on his notepad. His idea notepad, fucking twat. "Sure!" Louis says enthusiastically while glaring at Zayn. He fucking wrote over his notes. "When and where?"

"You tell me, darling," Louis shivers a bit and fuck, he's not supposed to have this effect on him still. He must look pathetic, hell, he feels pathetic. "I'm available whenever you are."

Louis says "how about seven today, at Gizmo's, the one we used to go to?" at the same time Niall, who's been a perfect angel until then, yells "oi, those're my nuggets, you blubber!".

"What, who was that?" Harry murmurs worriedly. "Lou, is everything alright?"

"Yes, of course!" His voice is higher than normal, and he really wants to kill Niall. Zayn's just laughing, and Louis really wants to kill him too. "Just my mate fighting over crisps and chips because the waiter, and the staff, and inflation- anyway! How about it?"

Harry laughs and his voice sounds so lovely. So melodic. "Sure, of course. See you then! Bye."

"Okay, bye!"

Harry ends the call and Zayn's still laughing in the corner, but Louis's fucking blushing. There's a silence suddenly, and Louis's just counting his sins while getting up to check on the girls, who must be asleep, when Niall ruins it all.

"He sounds like a right twat."

"Niall!"

 

++♥++


Second Stage: Estranged Friends

Louis's been at Gizmo's since the clock struck six and a half because he's too jittery and Zayn's no help at all. Well, he is, in a way, considering that he's stayed home to take care of the girls for the night, but when Louis asked for fashion advice he just offered, "I could paint your body so that you'll look like you have clothes but you won't, so that you guys can start fucking right away". Fuking twat. He arrived without pneumonia. The weather is absolutely horrid, and Louis fears that the relentless rain drowning the poor people of London has not only dampened his new GAP jacket but also his soul. Meh, he figures that once Harry arrives his mood will lighten, like in the movies. That is, if Harry's not one of the drowning victims. He hopes not; he spent four minutes.
walking.

"Hey, Lou," Ed greets from behind the bar. "Usual?"

"Nngh," Louis replies, sitting down on a lovebooth (forward thinking, eh?). He placed his jacket beside him and looks at Ed's soul. Hard. "If I drink the usual I won't remember my name."

"That's why it's your usual," the tender passes down his usual anyway. The bastard. "'Sides, you said it "inspires" you, lets the juices flow."

"No juices should flow until the third date at least, I reckon," the drink is right in front of him, tempting. Louis's stronger, he's sure he is. He grins wickedly at Ed, baring full canines and all. "Oh, yeah! Sheeran, I'm on a date. With a guy. A hot guy. Date with a hot guy."

"Tomlinson on a date, never thought I'd see the day!"

"Hush your piehole, you ginger." Louis's glaring now. Gizmo's solitary, but Louis feels a bit crowded. Not in a bad way, though.

"So the girls are with Zayn, I imagine?"

"Yeah. Niall's heading down there after work as well, though. Plans on playing dress up or some shit like that."

"That Irish menace," Ed grins and starts cleaning. "Maybe I'll head down there a bit meself. He owes me a song, and I haven't seen the girls in a while."

"They're crazy 'bout you, y'know," Louis smiles, like he usually does when he talks about hi daughters. The both hear the door jingle open and stare openly at a walking Harry Styles, all handsome and rugged with a trench coat and his hair in a bun. Ed openly gawks while Louis's heart eyes basically scream DO ME. He's still pissed about his jacket, though.

"Hey, love, y'okay?" Harry greets and leans down to hug Louis, parting with a peck on the cheek. Love. Heart eyes increase.

"Good, popstar, 'm good."

Ed's still gawking, though. "You're-"

"Yes, yes, save your fanboying for after," Louis remarks and Harry laughs loudly then blushes. Illegal, it should be illegal, really. "Don't wanna scare 'im off."

With that said, Louis drags Harry onto his lovebooth, found merely five feet away from the bar.

"I never asked you back, how are you?" Louis questions once Harry's sat down.

"I'm swell, thanks for asking," Harry smiles charmingly. "Where are the girls?"

"Back home with uncle Zayn and uncle Niall."

"They're lovely," he says and smiles again, this time showing his pearly whites, dimples and all. "Okay, so I don't know about you, but I really wanna catch up."

"Yeah," Louis breathes out. "Let's exchange life stories. Louis, twenty-six, and I'm an author."

"Author?" Harry's perked up at that. "Anything I've read?"

"Possibly," Louis wrings his wrists, a nervous habit. "'ve you read the series, The Fall of the New Age?"

Harry's eyebrows are knitted as he struggles to remember, but soon enough it comes to mind. "Of course! Those are the books about these two women who are the only warriors in the southeastern area of a world where much of our history and environment, like animals and stuff, never existed, right? Something like that?"

"Spot on, actually!"

"Oh my-" Harry smiles. "So you go by the pen name C. Rosalie J.?"

Louis shrugs and smiles back. "Didn't want to be in the public light, so I figured why not?" He chuckles and pokes Harry's shoulder. "Anyway, enough about me. Tell me about your life story!"

"Please, you already know my story. Everyone does," Harry scoffs and, yeah, he's got a point. Louis spent a bit of time that week watching videos of Harry, from his rise in fame six years ago to now. Two hundred more videos and he'll know his fucking social security number, he's sure. "Tell me everything about you. From these last eight years."

"Well," Louis straightens up in his seat, clears his throat a bit and looks at the shot glass that's still on the table. "What d'you wanna know, specifically?"

"How, um, the girls, how-,"

"The night of the, erm, conception?" Harry rubs the back of his neck with a blush and nods slightly.

And Louis does. He tells him how it was one of these days where you just want to drown your sorrows - even if you didn't have any - and drink until you forget your own name. It was a Wednesday, Louis had classes the next morning yet his mind wasn't really clear that day. He still remembers how fogged and lost it was, how blurry everything seemed; he doesn't even remember getting to the party. It was just a hard day.

"Why?"

"I, uh, I don't remember."

Once he got there, he remembers seeing the usuals; Zayn grinding on Perrie, Jessy and Leigh-Ann getting it on against the wall, Stan making out with some girl he's never seen... he felt like he had some catching up to do.

"High school party?"

"Yeah."

In a matter of two minutes and about twenty drinks, no lie (half from guys and girls who bought 'em for him, half from Perrie's open tab), Louis was absolutely smashed. His tongue was heavy in his mouth, his words came out slurred, his eyes were aching and dripping, and he felt like his life was the party. From that point on, there isn't much he quite remembers well, just some of the basics. Louis eventually took off his shirt and danced on top of a table, he felt like he was shining, and his shoes were missing. A pretty girl came up to him and, in a warbled voice, yelled "Louis, get off the stage!". It was Eleanor.

Louis laughs as he's reminded of how he really threw himself onto Eleanor, and she caught him and carried him to one of the tables. One thing led to another, and somehow they ended up snogging. Then, after quite a while of getting worked up, she breathed onto his neck "wreck me". And, well-

"Okay, okay!" Harry interrupts him, blushing wildly. "Don't really need to, um, know the deets. About that."

"Yeah, well," Louis laughed nervously. "We did it. But, y'know, did'you expect any less from a party by Perrie, 'member?"

"Perrie? It was Perrie's party?"

"Yeah, why?"

Harry's eyes are wide, now, and Louis's close to panicking, what the fuck. "Lou, I went to every single party she threw. So that means... that," his voice breaks a bit, "d-did you do it with her, while with me?"

"What? No-"

"Louis, I went to every single party," Harry's a bit furious now, Louis can see, but he doesn't let him explain. "What the fuck, Louis. Which party was it?"

"I-"

"Which party, Louis?"

"June 18!" Louis screamed finally, face red from embarrassment. His hands were closing in on themselves and his eyes were downcast. "The party on June 18, the party that was held the day you left me."

Silence. There is a total silence between them. Louis doesn't remember ever having a quiet moment with Harry, not without intimacy and care involved, but Harry and him never really fought. This silence, really, is a bit overwhelming. He feels suffocated for a bit, like the silence is sucking the air and replacing it with unstable, irregular tension particles. He should be considerate, Louis guesses, since he's just dropped a bombshell. But. He wasn't the one who left, so.

After what seems like minutes, Harry responds. "Oh."

"Yeah, oh," Louis's snarky now. "Anyway, that night created m'girls. So," Louis licks his lips and sighs softly. "'M not mad."

"Yo-You're not?"

Louis reaches out his hand and grabs onto Harry's. "No, not anymore," Louis's soft, and he feels Harry's grip tighten. "I was, that night. And when I found out four months after because, at that point, I was in my first year of uni and it was basically a call that said "well, you're screwed - no future for you"." Louis laughs bitterly at that. "But, then, El told me she wanted to abort."

"What? W-Why-"

"She was too young," Louis replies, and now he's wringing his wrists. "I was too young, too. So, I understand. It was up to her, it was her decision. I was going to support whatever she decided," Harry's grip is tightening by the second; Louis fears his hand might turn purple. "After all, I'm not the one who had to carry the baby. But, I convinced her to have the babies and give them to me.
I would take absolute care of them."

Harry's eyes are shining and, fuck, is he crying? He's crying a bit, yeah. He continues, still, "Zayn at first didn't agree, but once I had them in my arms he, with absolute conviction, agreed to help me raise 'em."

"So you and Zayn-?"

"No, no, god, no," Louis laughs at that. "Well, we considered it, but after a snog felt too much like incest, we both backed off."

"Oh."

They're looking at each other now; Harry seeing Louis in a new light, Louis watching Harry see him. It's a moment Louis treasures. "I need a drink," Harry murmurs and chuckles softly. He looks at the shot glass on the table and looks at Louis strangely. "What the fuck is that?"

Louis starts blushing, a bit embarrassed. "It's, uh, it's milk."

"Milk?"

"It knocks me out," he shrugs and he's so, so red, he feels like a ripe tomato about to be harvested for winter. But Harry laughs; he laughs, he laughs and he laughs, and there's a spark in his eyes that leaves him breathless. After that, they stayed, sharing jokes, anecdotes, lives, until Ed kicked them out. They both retreated to their cars, but not after Harry kissed Louis's cheek softly and thanked him for sharing that moment, sharing these moments, with him. Little does he know, that these moments are moments, to Louis, because he's there.

++♥++

"Skip trig."

Louis laughed as he closed his locker, pressing the books against his chest. Turning around, he glanced bemusedly at a smirking Harry, whose arms were crossed and eyes were hidden behind ray-bans. Typical cool kid. "And why would I do that?"

"Because," Harry closed in on him and kissed him quickly. "I'm awesome, you're pretty, and life's too short."

"You're right, life's too short," Louis taunted and started walking, positive that Harry's following him. He turned his head a little to look at Harry and continued, "too short to waste it all on an idiot highschooler who's leading me into a bad path."

Harry laughed loudly and Louis stopped walking, knowing he's stopped walking to do so. The bell rang and everyone started busting around and entering their respective classrooms. Harry too the opportunity of them being practically invisible to the public eye to press himself against Louis's back, lips mouthing every word against the juncture of Louis's neck. "Yeah, but I'm your idiot highschooler. C'mon, you'll love it."

Louis simply sighed and finally give up. "Fine, the bell's already rung anyway," he tossed his books to Harry begrudgingly. "What've you got in mind?"

"A lot of things, but I can't do them to you now," Louis hit him at that but Harry just laughed and smiled. He led them to his car, parked right outside the school. Louis scoffs. "If you made me miss trig for a snog, I swear I'll-"

"It's not that," Harry interrupted sweetly and unlocked the car. "Get in, darling."

Louis did so and looked at Harry, who suddenly seemed way too nervous. "Haz, y'alright, babe?"

"Yeah, yeah, I-" Harry gulped and ran his sweaty hands over his jeans repeatedly. Louis took his hands in his own. "Haz, what's going on?"

Harry licked his lips and looked at Louis. "We've been together for almost two years now, and-"

"Oh, god," Louis murmured, eyes widening. "You're breaking up with me, aren't you."

"What? No, I-"

"Is it because I haven't said... you know?" Louis asked concernedly. "I know I haven't said anything but that doesn't make my feelings any less real."

"No, of course babe, that's not-"

"But seriously, if you're breaking up with me because of that you're a fucking prick. I can't force myself to say-"

"Louis, stop!" Harry yelled all of a sudden and Louis obeys. "You're making this harder than it should be."

"What did you expect, an easy fight? You know that's not-"

"How you roll, I know," Harry smiled softly at their still-entwined hands and ran his thumb absentmindedly over Louis's own. "I know you're stubborn, and brash, and impulsive, and fucking feisty."

Louis blinked. "Not feeling the love here, Haz."

At that Harry chuckled. "And you're so sassy, fuck's sake. You're genuine, and kind, and sweet, and so, so beautiful inside out. Which is why I want to give you this." Harry took out a silver key, with the initial "H" in emerald green, out of his pocket and gave it to a lovely Louis, who was staring at his every move with unnatural scrutiny and admiration. He dropped it on Louis's open palm, but the older lad only stares at it. "Haz."

"Everyone gives out a ring," Harry licked his lips. "Or necklaces. But I gave you instead a promise key that's an exact replica of your car's. And then, you'll always notice it when you get in, and you'll notice that you need me to go places... but I need you to give me a purpose." Louis's still shocked, but his eyes are teary. Harry's already kissing his cheeks. "We'll always be going forward."

"What happens if I get in an accident then, asshole?" Louis grumbled but he's already sniffling, so the insult's mild on his tongue.

"There will be times when things'll get hard," Harry pressed their foreheads together. "Times when you or I, or both, will fight and end up beaten up and in horrible conditions. But there is no irreparable damage that isn't when the system's dead." Harry smiled, his dimples making him seem jovial, and Louis's so in love. "So we'll keep fixing ourselves, until our systems are dead."

Louis literally throws himself onto Harry and kisses him silly. "I love you, I love you, I love you," Louis said between every breath, every kiss, and his chest's heavy. They looked into each other's eyes, then, and say two things: love, and admiration.

Louis still has that key.

 

++♥++

 

Third Stage: Modest More-Than-Friends

The doorbell rings and Louis's immediately there, steps unfaltering. "Hi," Louis breathes, breathlessly.

"Hey, darling," Harry greets and kisses Louis sweetly. It makes him melt a bit on the inside. Then, with a shit-eating grin, "something smells good!". Now, Louis doesn't cook shit, really, but there is one dish that he's learned to master

They've been casually going on, very casually, for three months. And Louis's totally okay with that. Like, it's casual enough to not worry about what's going on but not casual enough to not know what's going on... it's a confusing thing, really, but Louis's okay with that. They've gone on many, many dates; just last week Louis took Harry to this beautiful ice skating rink, where the manager had to almost kick Harry out because he was "falling too much, and if Harry has an accident they'll have to file out a report, and she's out of paper". Anyway, it's been wonderful, and being with Harry makes Louis feel young again. They have so much history together, it's like he was an incomplete puzzle, in a way, and Harry's one of the pieces that were missing.

Today Liam, Louis's next-door neighbor, is taking care of Jasper and Colette for a few hours because Louis's invited Harry his flat for a date. A date that involves fine wine and dining, like proper adults, and Louis's already cooked. The table's set already, there are fucking petals on the floor and all, and Louis's just thoroughly impressed with his mating skills.

"Shall we sit?"

"Of course," Harry plays along and lets Louis take his trench coat off before sitting down. When he looks at Louis sitting down still wearing his own trench coat, a long one that's completely buttoned, he asks "aren't you gonna take yours off?"

"Not yet, love, not yet."

Harry laughs and takes off the cover of the silver plates and his eyes widen as a smile adorns his lips. "No, don't tell me this is-"

"Yep, the one and only," Louis giggles and clears his throat in order to make his voice deeper. "Chicken stuffed with mozzarella wrapped in parmaham with a side of homemade mash."

"Such a cliché."

"I know, right?"

They both laugh but start eating, giving one another tender looks and sweet smiles. They talk about a lot of things, from Louis's upcoming book to Harry's upcoming album, until Harry can't take it anymore. "Seriously, Lou, why don't you just take your trench coat off? It must be like a heating vent there."

Louis smiles. "A bit, yeah, but I can't. Not now."

"Why?"

"It's a surprise."

The way his eyes are gleaming, though, tells Harry everything he needs to know. Harry fucking scarfs down his food as quickly as possible, practically choking on it once or twice, all the while Louis laughs. Eventually, though, they both finish their meals, drink their wines, and Louis stands up to place himself a few feet in front of Harry.

"Y'ready?"

It's a stupid question, because Harry feels like he'll never be ready. He never was ready for Louis, really. However, he nods, licking his lips, his imagination running wild. Louis drops the trench coat then, and... fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"Fuck."

Louis's blushing and he giggles. "So? Y'like it?"

Harry, just like an awkward teenager, giggles as well as he fully takes in Louis's beauty and sexiness. "Fuck."

Louis's wearing a pink, satin baby doll. The ruffles fall beautifully on his thighs, and the corset-like top enhances his figure beautifully. Beautiful. (Beautiful). And then...

Harry stands up and walks up to a blushing Louis, whose hand is still on his hip, showcasing his lovely curves. When he's reached him, he pulls him by the waist and caresses his face. "This looks oddly familiar."

"Just like the one I bought you back in sixth form," Louis tilts his head up and shadows his lips over Harry's. "Y'looked so pretty with that on, wanted to try it for meself."

"Never looked quite as pretty, as beautiful as you," Harry noses the column of Louis's neck and marks a few lovebites, earning soft mewls from the older lad. "'Sides, I still fucked you good that night, 'member?"

"Of course I remember," Louis moans as Harry's hands roam his body. "How does wearing lingerie exempt you from wrecking me?"

"True," Harry laughs and has had enough of dilly-dawdling. He lifts Louis suddenly, making him squeak, and prompts him to lock his ankles behind him. Then, Harry presses Louis against the wall and Louis quickly takes his shirt off, slamming his head against the wall as Harry presses fleeting kisses down to his collarbones once he's shirtless. Louis's whining "more, more" and Harry obeys, moving one of his hands over the bulge on Louis's satin panties and pressing its heel against the soft material.

"Ah," he mewls, shifting his hips forward to prolong and force Harry's touch on him. Harry presses harder then, and starts rubbing Louis's cock through the soft material of the lingerie. Louis's cock is already leaking and throbbing, from the mere touch. It's been so long, and it's Harry. "Harry, Harry."

"Bed?"

"Bed."

Harry wastes no time and carries Louis just like that to the bed. Knowing how much Louis loves to be manhandled, he throws him onto the bed and turns him around, roaming his hands once more and tapping twice, slightly, on his hips. Louis understood immediately and propped his arse high, whining at not having Harry's hand on his throbbing cock; as he gets into position, Harry takes the rest of his clothes off. Louis looks at him from between his thighs and groans at his beautifully crafted physique. "Haz, touch me, please-"

"Shh, baby, I will," Harry unties Louis's baby doll and kisses the skin as it's exposed. "Let me take care of you."

Louis sighs and moans at his words. He's rutting against the bed as much as he can to get some kind of attention to his cock, and says once Harry's taken off his lingerie "no teasing.

"Y'sure?"

"Of course I'm fucking su- holy shit."

Harry immediately licks over Louis's hole, slowly dragging his tongue over it. Louis's response is instant; his back arches mesmerizingly, his fists clench and tighten their grip on the sheets, and he pushes his arse against the tongue. Harry's hands start kneading Louis's arse cheeks, and he drags his tongue faster and faster over the rim, nipping at it from time to time. "Nngh," Louis babbles and smudges his face against the bed, mewling at how good it feels. At one point Louis relaxes a bit, his bum no longer moving as Louis just takes what Harry's willing to give, running out of breath. Harry's not okay with that.

"Don't just take what's being given to you, demand it," Harry grows and delves his tongue into Louis's hole, fucking him with his tongue. Louis all but screams, yelling "yeah, fuck me, keep doing that". He starts grinding against Harry's tongue once more but this time with more conviction; like he's riding Harry's tongue.

That sparks an idea, and Harry suddenly pulls away, which makes Louis groan. "What the hell?"

"Ride my face."

"Okay."

Louis literally didn't think twice. He just pulls Harry onto the bed, waits until he's propped his head on the pillows resting on the head of the mattress, and promptly sits on it. Harry's hands caress Louis's hips, bum and thighs as Harry fucks Louis with his tongue right from the start. Louis moves in sync with Harry's tongue thrusts, placing his hands besides Harry's hips as his own move in figures of eight, maximizing his pleasure.

"Harry, yeah, just like that," Louis slurs out, feeling completely inebriated by Harry. He spits on his hand and takes Harry's throbbing cock in his hands, jerking him off in a steady pace that matches his own. Harry falters for a moment and moans, the vibrations going directly into Louis. Louis falls on top of Harry's endless torso but his hand is relentless moving up and down in a cynical way. It's only when Harry actually starts thrusting into his hand that he actually takes hold of it and licks the head and base, moving his tongue up and down leisurely. Harry's tongue falters once more, but then it's fucking Louis unforgivably, mercilessly. Louis's chanting "fuck, fuck, fuck," before he takes the head in his mouth and sucks at it softly.

That's all it took for Harry to groan and come in his mouth, which made him come as well with a shriek, painting Harry's body. He swallows Harry's come and rests his head on his pelvis, burrowing his face in Harry's crotch. Harry fucking giggles.

"Well," Louis starts out, voice raspy from screaming earlier. "That was fun."

"Damn right it was," Harry huffs and bites one of Louis's arse cheeks. "D'you think I can fuck you now?"

"Now?" Louis exhales, the sweat making his fringe stick. "You have it in ya?"

"Been waiting a while for this," Harry admits. "I want it all."

Louis lets out a satisfied noise from deep within his throat and he stands up, puts on a ratty tee and joggers, befuddling Harry.

"Where're you going?"

"To fucking Walgreen's to buy lube," Louis grumbles. "We can't fuck unless we have lube."

"The moment has seriously been ruined," Harry laughs. "Imagine if we were like literally about to fuck. We would have to stop all of a sudden, because you don't have lube."

"Shut it," Louis snaps and leaves, leaving Harry alone for a moment.

+

Louis's been gone for around fifteen minutes now, and Harry's a bit nervous. Almost immediately after Louis left, Liam came and dropped the girls off (talk about an awkward encounter - Harry's sweats were riding too low and his shirt is practically see-through). So now he's sitting with the girls on the floor, the Teen Titans are on and they're braiding his long hair, giggling every time Harry winces at a harsh pull. Jasper and Colette have asked him a lot of questions, naturally, including one that said "while we were at Liam's there was a lot of screaming that didn't stop. Uncle Liam said it must be a horror movie". Harry had no other option but to include "or a cat", just for laughs, but deep inside he wanted to coil up in a fetal position and disappear for a while. They just laughed.

"You're funny, Harry," Jasper pulls at a strand for emphasis. "I like you."

"You do?"

"Yeah," she shrugs and leans down a little to murmur "Papa likes you a lot."

Colette scoffs. "Of course he does, it's Harry Styles," she clearly hasn't gotten over his popstar-status. But she's eight, so Harry can't really blame her. "Louis was always a big fan."

Harry perks up at that. "Yeah?"

"Mhm," both of them consent. Harry yells out because they drag his hair with their tiny fists, but they only giggle even more. Menace, the both of 'em. Colette continues, "Papa used to buy your CDs and cry."

Now that shatters Harry. He knows, has known right from the start, that he made a horrible decision just leaving Louis like that. He'd be lying if he said he regretted pursuing his dream; however, he does regret not telling Louis beforehand. At first he was too busy working out the details of his upcoming fame to even think about it, but then came their anniversary and... and for a moment Harry thought he felt like an airplane falling from the sky. Yet when his thoughts went to Louis and how he should be feeling, and the airplane was shit. He felt like an ant being stepped on for stealing food, punished for satisfying a need by stealing something of someone. And in this case, he did steal something from Louis, and from himself: their happiness. At least the happiness that they achieved together.

Before Harry can formally reply to the girls, who've already accomplished in forming a loose braid, the doorbell rings. The fists that have been on his hair for almost ten minutes suddenly disappear, brazenly standing up and pulling him upwards. Harry stands up and feels hands quickly attaching themselves to his belt so looks back, confused and trying to check the girls, but what he sees baffles him even more. Jasper and Colette are in a defensive stance, heads burrowed into Harry's lower back as if to shield themselves. They're shaking a bit, hair falling down their faces, and Harry's paralyzed; he doesn't know what to do.

Suddenly the door opens to its own accord and they both instinctively tighten their grips, hiding themselves even more, and Harry can feel their trembling hands quaking mercilessly. He immediately straightens up and stretches both of his hands to guard the girls, looking carefully at who enters the door. What he can call, maybe, "big brother" instincts (stronger, though, much stronger than he's willing to admit so fast) kick in, and he's ready to kick ass but it's only Louis who walks in, looking flustered with a bag in his hand. "Sorry, loves, kind of forgot I had the key in- oh."

His eyes are wide, twinkling, as they asses what's in front of them, and a soft smile breaks. He wrings his wrists in his hands and takes steps forward. Jasper and Colette scream "Papa!" and they run to Louis's side, instantly hugging him and kissing his tummy. It's one of the most adorable things Harry has ever seen.

"Papa, Papa, you're home!"

"Papa, we thought you were another-"

"Yeah, love, I know," Louis smiles softly at them and then looks at Harry, a loving expression adorning his countenance. "But Harry was here, just in case anything happened."

Harry's so, so fucking confused. He has no idea why the girls were so afraid, why they shielded themselves so quickly in what seemed like a practiced maneuver, and... another? Another what?

Louis kisses Jasper and Colette's cheeks and shoves them to the living room softly. "Why don't you girls put on whichever movie you'd like to see today, while Harry and I prepare the popcorn and stuff, yeah?"

They stand straight and give him a mock salute. "Yes, Papa Tomlinson, sir!"

They leave giggling and both Louis and Harry chuckle at their adorable tactics, and adorable being. Louis walks up to Harry and unexpectedly hugs him, pressing his slightly larger body against his own in an intimate embrace. "Thanks, love," Louis murmurs against his neck and then heads off to the kitchen. Harry's frozen now, for a moment, and when he finally reacts Louis's already hidden the bag, popped the popcorn in the microwave and is serving the drinks.

"Least I could do, darling," Harry responds and stands behind Louis, placing a warm hand on his lower back before helping him serve. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"What did Colette mean when she said "another"?"

Harry feels Louis stiffen besides him. He finished serving the drinks and turns to look at Louis, but Louis doesn't look back. He is, however, broken out of his repertoire by the microwave's ding.

"Oh, um," he opens the microwave and gets the popcorn open, quickly tossing into the empty container. "Don't worry about that."

"But-"

"Shh, don't worry. I'll tell you eventually, yeah? Just not now," Louis pecks Harry's lips chastely then, sweetly. "Now c'mon, big boy, let's go watch a movie."

He leaves, then, and Harry can't help but follow. The girls choose Jurassic Park, an apparent favorite of them and Harry's never seen it before, so he's interested. Louis snuggles up besides him on the couch while the girls lie on the floor, looking like starfishes. Not even halfway through the movie, they're all completely knackered and they fall asleep right where they are.

It's the first time Harry's stayed at Louis's for the night, but it definitely isn't the last.

++♥++

 

Fourth Stage: Something, Everything

Harry gets his explanation. They're all on a green area called a "park". It's the first time Louis has taken the girls to that "park", because he'd never been interested in it; everything that made a park, a park, isn't there. There are no big, beautiful trees surrounded by lovely aroma-emitting flowers; no squirrels roaming around the area, no parents yelling at their children. Overall, it's very bleak and dim. But, Harry insisted.

"Papa, Harry, look at our kites! Look at our kites!" Jasper calls our from a few feet away, where she and Colette are flying kites Harry bought them for the occasion. Jasper's was one of the Tyrannosaurus Rex while Colette's was one of the Avengers. Kids these days, really.

"I see, you're doing it marvelously, loves!" Louis tells them and they both scream gleefully, running around the empty "park". That's one of the perks, he guesses; the park is so stupid that nobody even thinks of coming here, so they've got the place to themselves.

He's lying besides Harry, arms crossed behind their heads, and they're looking at the sky. "D'you ever think that, things happen for a reason?"

"Yeah," Harry replies, smiling at the ecstatic girls. "I do."

"I think that we were meant to break up."

"What?"

Harry turns his head to look at Louis, who's still looking upwards. "I mean, if we hadn't broken up I wouldn't have them. And you wouldn't have your career. Who knows where we'd be." He takes a deep breath and looks at Harry, and searches for his hand. "So yeah, I think that we were meant to break up."

"And get back together?"

Louis only smiles. They stay like that, idle, in serene silence and intimate calmness until the girls throw themselves on top of the two and whine. "Papa, I want ice cream."

"Harry, I want chips!"

They both laugh and start standing up but Louis puts his hand on Harry's shoulder, stopping him softly. "I'll take it, you stay with 'em." It was a trial, they both know this, but they pretend that it's a normal thing.

"We're glad Papa's happy," Jasper whispers to Harry as she looks at Louis's retreating form. "He's normal again."

"What do you mean, love?"

Colette sighs. "Harry Styles, my Papa changed a year ago."

"Why?" She still doesn't call him just Harry. It'll take some time, he supposes. "What happened?"

"Someone broke into our home," Jasper whispers and Harry's heart stopped. "The strange girl just rang the doorbell and when Papa opened the door, she pushed him against the wall and ran inside."

"Papa was unmoving," Colette adds. "We just hid behind the couch while the strange girl took some of our things. We couldn't do anything else."

"It was scary," Jasper casts her eyes to the grass and strokes it. "Because after she left, Papa didn't move. We were crying, but Uncle Zayn came and he called the police and the ambulance."

"That's why Papa has a scar," Colette moves Harry's trembling hand to the back of his head. "Right here. The strange girl created that scar."

"That's why we always hide behind someone when the doorbell rings."

"In case she comes back."

Harry's sobbing. He can only imagine Louis, soft, genuine Louis, opening the door with the best intentions and getting hit so hard, hard enough to create a scar Harry hadn't noticed in all of this time. He can only imagine the terror Jasper and Colette must have felt at that time, hiding behind the couch to guard themselves from the unknown. He can only imagine that terror intensifying at the sight of their unresponsive father.

He can only imagine the horribleness, of living in fear of it occurring again every day.

"I'll be right back," his voice broke in almost every word, the tears making them heavy. The girls, though, they're cleaning their kites, their attention no longer on him. He takes advantage of this and runs to the concession stand, where Louis's just walking away from.

When Louis takes a look at Harry's crying face the items he had in his hands are dropped as he, too, rushes towards him. His hands place themselves on Harry's face as the caress his cheeks. "Haz, love, y'alright? What's wrong?"

"I should have been there."

Louis's eyebrows furrow. "Should have been where?"

"There," Harry hiccups. "With you, when she broke in."

"Oh," Louis responds softly. "Haz-"

"No, look," Harry takes Louis's hands in his own and forces him to look at him. "Louis, I want to be there if another one breaks in. I want to be there, in case a tornado comes and destroys us all. I want to be there if Jasper and Colette get in a fight at school. Or get sick, or wounded, or just need a hug. I wanna be there to cook and clean, and take turns at washing the dishes with you. I wanna be there to help you sort story ideas, and to provide moral support." He kisses Louis's hands softly and can hear him sniffling too. "i want to be there, to hold you, to kiss you, to please you, to love you, Louis. I wanna be there to love you."

And suddenly, there is nothing else there but themselves. The world stopped spinning for them, and this moment right here is everlasting. Louis feels his insecurities shatter away, his doubts flee, his determination grow, and his hope increase.

"Harry, are you sure?" Louis asks. "I have two children, and I'm not eighteen anymore. I'm an adult, with responsibilities. And shit. I'm a bit of a mess."

"Your daughters are beautiful, and I can't wait for the day where I, too, can say I have two beautiful daughters. I'm not eighteen anymore, either. I'm an adult with responsibilities, too. I'm a bit of a mess as well," he laughs wetly and presses their foreheads together. "Let's be a mess together."

"That doesn't sound very appealing," Louis smiles against Harry's lips.

"Let's make it appealing."

They kiss, then, but it's not like any of the others they've shared before. While they kiss there are hands tugging at their shirts, demanding time and attention and love, and they both embrace them, because this... This kiss seals a commitment, a promise, a new beginning. The way they hold each other tight, and walk away together holding two other hands, marks their new lives.