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Darcy refuses to eat her vegetables that night.

“You can’t leave until you finish your broccoli.” Harry states with what he hopes was a tone of finality. He’s never been too good at holding his stand.

Darcy crosses her arms and slides lower into her seat, a look of defiance flashing in her eyes.

“Why should I?” Darcy huffs. In maybe just a few more years, she’ll start the eye roll. Harry tells himself to appreciate the present, in which arguments are devoid of hormone induced tears and slamming doors.

Ever the optimist, Harry is.

“Because I said so.” Harry argues weakly, crossing his arms as well to add superiority. Darcy raises an eyebrow. She looked just like her mother with that raised eyebrow. Her mother used to do that all the time, especially in the weeks leading up to their divorce.

“Well, I say no.” Darcy counters. She stares at Harry head on. Darcy was usually a lovely child, really. She used all her manners in public, helped Harry with chores around the house, and pretty much charmed all their apartment neighbors. She was beautiful as well, with thick hazel curls and glittering green eyes. Her face was just like her mother’s, all sharp yet kind and rosy. However, broccoli was the one thing that never seemed to smooth over. And, she looked a little bit too much like her mother for Harry’s liking whenever she got in a mood.

“Don’t talk to me like that, Darcy. I am your father.” Harry raises his voice. Either he sounds just as unconfident in taking superiority as he usually does, or Darcy is more like her mother than Harry expected, and is completely unfazed by Harry’s demands. Probably a mix of both.

“But Mr. Tomlinson says I should do what I believe in. I don’t have to listen to someone more powerful than me.” Darcy recites. Harry’s eyebrows shoot up.

“Mr. Tomlin-wah?” Harry splutters. His composure is lost.

“Mr. Tomlinson, as in my teacher?” Darcy stares disappointedly at Harry.

“Yeah, yeah, but what did he tell you?” Harry says, getting right to the point.

“He said that I should do what I believe in, and that I don’t have to listen-”

“Shh!” Harry shushes frantically. “You can’t say that in public!”

“We’re at home.”

“Don’t say it at all!” Harry exclaims. Darcy knits her eyebrows together, confused.

“Why not?” she purses her lips. Harry opens his mouth, and pauses. Why not? Harry has no idea.

“Just… just don’t say that in public, Darcy. It’s for your safety.” Harry reaches across the small table and pokes Darcy’s nose. She scrunches her face, giggling.

“Papa, I’m eight! You’ve got to stop doing that!” Darcy admonishes, although that had about as much effect as Harry’s attempts in enforcing broccoli.

“Alright, alright.” Harry agrees, and then bops her nose again. Darcy pouts. Darcy looks back down at her broccoli, shrugs, and stabs one with her fork. Victory.

Harry furrows his brows, thinking back to the conversation just moments before, as Darcy chews her broccoli thoughtfully.

“What did you say your teacher’s name was?” Harry asks. Darcy swallows.

“Mr. Tomlinson.”

Harry hums in thought. The sound of Darcy’s fork scraping the plate fills the air.

“Is there anything… peculiar about Mr. Tomlinson?” Harry asks in what he hopes is a settle way. Darcy looks up in thought.

“Uhh, I mean, he has a funny accent.” Darcy shrugs, and continues when Harry looks at her questioningly. “He always says ‘me’ instead of ‘my’, but when we say it wrong, he always corrects us.”

And, okay. That wasn’t the kind of answer Harry was looking for.

“Any else… strange?” Harry presses. Darcy thinks again, gazing down at her plate. She suddenly has a eureka moment, and whips her head up with a smile.

“Oh, oh! I know! He has a bunch of tattoos.”

“I have tattoos.” Harry deadpans.

“I know, and you’re strange.”

“Darcy.”

“Papa.”

Harry sighs. He watches as the last of Darcy’s broccoli is stabbed and plopped into her mouth.

“Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Harry grins. Darcy shakes her head.

“That was terrible. I only didn’t choke because I want dessert.”

Harry shakes his head, laughing.

“Sometimes I wonder where all that sass comes from.” Harry clears the plates. Darcy grabs the silverware and napkins.

After dinner, the two of them plop on the couch and flick on the TV. Some cartoon movie was on that Darcy insisted was the greatest ever and Harry went along with it. Halfway through the movie, when the main character suddenly found out that his best friend was in love with him (gasp) Harry’s mind began to wander to Darcy’s teacher again.

The last time Harry had heard someone speak what Darcy spoke, it was from the guy at work in the next cubicle over with the cat calendars: Niall Horan. He disappeared the following week. Now the cat calendar just hung on the cubical wall, still set on the September page with the creepy siamese cat; it is December now.

Niall had been a rather nice acquaintance at work. With a head of bleached hair and a jolly smile, no one could hate that guy. He somehow always finished his monthly quota yet managed to have a decent social life. The only thing that was… off about him had to be his occasional rants about the government, and how it was too “oppressive.” Well, that and the cat calendar.

Harry frowned, trying to remember what Niall had specifically told him one late night at the office. It was mid July, the AC was under construction, and the water cooler on their level had been out. With their backs clinging to their collared shirts and heads a bit delirious, Niall and Harry had both given up on doing anymore work and instead swiveled around in their seats to face the glass wall behind them. The glass wall overlooked the traffic of the city twenty-two floors down. In the darkness of the night, all they could see were the constant stream of headlights. Harry had pressed his forehead against the glass, finding relief in the cool surface. although there was a brief drop in his gut from the fear the glass would randomly give way and lead Harry to his untimely death. Sometimes Harry gets a little morbid.

While Harry was contemplating his death, Niall began rambling first on how, if it weren’t for the government’s set work hours, Niall would be home by then, slouched on his couch with his feet propped up. Harry had nodded along. Niall then continued on about how, because of the government’s “tyrannical totalitaristic” ways, he would never be able to fall in love like his great-great-great grandparents did. Niall was quick to add “no offense, but I’ll probably end up like you, filing a request for the single life.” Harry wasn’t sure what happened after that. Niall and continued with his rant. As far as he could remember, no one had been eavesdropping on their conversation. In fact, most people ditched their floor in search of a water source. All Harry knew was that Niall disappeared the next week. When Harry turned for what felt like the first time to his other office neighbor, the purple blonde haired Perrie, to ask of Niall’s whereabouts, she simply shrugged and said “heard he got transferred to sector B.

Harry’s heard things about sector B, as in a transfer there was a one way trip.

For the weeks afterwards and since, Harry can’t help but feel as if he is constantly watched. Sure, there are the usual security cameras, but Harry feels as if someone is breathing down his neck, and Harry cherishes his privacy very much.

Whoever, this “Mr. Tomlinson” is better watch out. Darcy was Harry’s world, and if keeping her safe meant tracking him down after school and having a long threatening talk over his teaching curriculum, then so be it.

By the time the movie finished, Darcy had long fallen asleep, her wispy quiet breaths filling the air. Harry scooped her up and tiptoed to her room. He tucked her in and smoothed back her hair. Whatever the means may be, Harry will keep Darcy safe.

Chapter Text

Harry waits for rings three times before a voice speaks up.

“Hello!” greets a cheery female voice.

“Hi! This is-”

“Welcome to the Sector C bureau line. To contact your local council member, dial 1. To locate your local federal building, diall 2…”

Harry blushes at having replied to a machine. He waits as the automated voice (that sounded much too happy given that it was the end of work hours on a Monday) listed number after number, all the while drumming his fingers along the heat whitened wood of the dining table. He always wondered who the voices on the machine recordings belonged to. The voices always sounded so generic, and Harry can’t conjure a face that would be so generic as well.

“... to notify an official of disorderly behavior presented in a citizen, dial 7…”

Harry dials seven.

“Please hold.”

Soft piano music flows into Harry’s ear. Sometimes Harry wonders if that music was legitimately made for the person waiting to enjoy, or simply made to fill awkward silences and tell the listener that the phone hadn’t hung up yet.

“Hello?”

Harry sighs in relief.

“Hi, this is Harry Styles-”

“Sorry, what complex are you from?” the gruff voice interrupts. Harry could imagine it belonging to a late forties man, with peaking white hair and a crisp collared shirt.

“I- uh, Complex 7B” Harry answers. The man made no sound, and Harry could only assume that he had nodded.

“Hmm, and what is it you would like to report, Mr. Styles?” the voice drones with no effort put in interest.

“I- uh, would like to report my daughter’s elementary school teacher.” Harry stutters nervously. The man was silent again.

“Go on.”

“He- uh, Louis Tomlinson, has been teaching my daughter some… unorthodox ideas.” Harry continues.

“And what are these ‘unorthodox ideas’?” the man asks, and Harry can hear the voice dripping with boredom.

Harry scratches the back of his head. His brown curls jangle.

“He has, uh, told my daughter… cynical things about the government.” Harry fumbles. This time the man lets out a hmm before Harry hears the creak of a chair leaning forward.

“Mr. Styles, is it?”

“Yes.”

“What did you say that man’s name was?”

“Uh, Tomlinson. Louis Tomlinson.”

“Lou-ess Tomlinson? Are you sure it isn’t Lou-ie Tomlinson?” the man questions.

Harry frowns.

“I-I don’t know. I guess that’s possible.”

The man hums again.

“Well, that’s interesting. We certainly know of a Lou-ie Tomlinson. Thank you for notifying us, uh, Mr. Styles. We need more citizens like you.”

For the first time in the call, Harry feels uplifted.

“Thank you, sir.”

******************************

A week passes before Darcy lifts her head up from her dinner of macaroni and cheese. She had been stabbing and unstabbing- torturing, essentially- her macaroni all night.

“Mr. Tomlinson wasn’t here today.” Darcy states.

“Really?” Harry hums, trying to keep his eyes low. Darcy nods.

“Yeah. He hasn’t been in class for a week. The new substitute doesn’t have a cool accent.”

Harry doesn’t respond, but he can feel Darcy’s eyes burn into his head. Another ability inherited from her mother.

Darcy goes back to scraping at her noodles, before speaking up again.

“I miss Mr. Tomlinson. I think you would have liked him.”

Harry pauses.

“What makes you think that?” he asks. Darcy shrugs.

“You both like tattoos. Mr. Tomlinson likes jokes too, although his are funnier-

“Hey!”

“-and you both have brown hair.”

There are times when Harry thinks Darcy is on to something, and there are times when he doesn’t.

“And why would we get along if we both have brown hair?” Harry asks, amused.

“Well, you and mommy didn’t get along, and she had blond hair.”

Harry is silent.

“Interesting observation, Dar Dar, but that isn’t always the case.” Harry bops Darcy’s nose, earning a slap to the wrist.

Conversation flowed much smoother and lighter after that. Before long, the plates were cleared, and Darcy and Harry went to settle themselves into the sofa cushions for movie night. Just before hitting play, though, Harry needed to use the bathroom. He had drank a lot of water at dinner.

“I’ll just be a sec, darling. Need to use the bathroom.” Harry explains, making his way toward his bedroom, which hooked up to his bathroom. As soon as he steps into his bedroom, a massive force slams the air out of him and his back hits the solid wall.

“Oof!”

Shhh!” a furious hush tickles Harry’s ear. Harry’s head throbs, and he tries to make out the figure holding him against the wall. It took a second to realize that a person holding him to the wall meant there was a stranger in his house.

Harry is about to open his mouth to scream bloody murder before a hand clamps over his mouth.

“Haven’t you done enough tattling on me life?” the voice, a rather light silky voice whispers angrily. Harry suddenly realizes the man said “me” instead of “my.” He remembers something about that from somewhere.

“Promise you won’t make a sound, and I’ll-”

“Mr. Tomlinson?”

The bedroom floods with light, and suddenly all forces that held Harry against the wall were relieved. Darcy stands in the doorway, gazing at the two people curiously

“Why, hello there Darcy!”

Harry stares at the man in front of him

The first thing Harry notices is that “Mr Tomlinson” is quite short and small considering his strength. True to Darcy’s word, he bares splatters of ink all over his body. His face reminded Harry of elves or something. The sharp cheekbones and icy blue eyes screamed mischief. The man’s hair seems ruffled, and looked rather soft and feathery. Harry wanted to reach out and touch it.

“Y-you’re my daughter’s teacher?” Harry is on the verge of shouting.

“Yes.”

Harry thinks he wants to laugh. Or cry. Preferably both, with a side of ice-cream.

For a second, Harry’s mouth is simply gaping open, unsure what to say. Darcy fills in for him.

“Mr. Tomlinson! I haven’t seen you in forever! Where have you been?” Darcy scrambles to Mr. Tomlinson’s legs, hugging them. And okay, Harry is not jealous. He’s not jealous at all that his own daughter is hugging her home perpetrator of a teacher instead of her own father that just experienced a life threatening event.

“Well, Dar Dar-” and hey, that is Harry’s nickname for her,”-I’ve been… rather preoccupied recently.” Mr. Tomlinson says, eyes trailing up to glare deathly stares into Harry’s head. It seems like everyone owned laser vision these days except Harry.

“Oh,” Darcy furrows her eyebrows, confused but not questioning further. Her eyes suddenly lit with a question.

“Why are you here?” she asks, and Harry couldn’t have thought of a better question. Mr. Tomlinson kneels to Darcy’s height- and Harry notices the guy still has his shoes on on Harry’s carpet- and puts a hand on her shoulder.

“Well, you see, your daddy doesn’t like what I’m teaching you at school, so I thought I’d drop by and remind him who is the one that has the degree in teaching. You like my lessons, don’t you, Darcy?” Mr. Tomlinson looks at Darcy innocently.

Harry suddenly realizes where all of Darcy’s sass comes from.

Darcy nods, and all Harry could think was traitor!

Mr. Tomlinson nods, satisfied, before pushing himself back up to Harry’s height. Well, sort of Harry’s height. The guy was a good head shorter than Harry (but than again, Harry was a gangly mess of bones on stilts.)

“Are you going to stay over?” Darcy asks hopefully. Harry expects Mr. Tomlinson to shake his head, but instead, icy blue eyes glide up to him, smirking. Harry has a feeling he will be seeing that smirk a lot.

“Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss with your daddy. You see, your daddy really didn’t like my lessons, so he told some important people. Now these important people took away my home and my things, and they want to put me in jail.” Mr. Tomlinson says the last part through gritted teeth. Harry has a feeling that the jail Mr. Tomlinson spoke of wasn’t the local district prison.

“Oh,” Darcy frowns. Her face lights up. Harry feels his heart drop.

“Oh! You can just stay with us, Mr. Tomlinson!” Darcy cheers. Mr. Tomlinson smiles, and ruffles her hair.

“Isn’t that sweet of you! Why don’t you ask your daddy first, though?” Mr. Tomlinson says, as if he gives a damn about asking daddy first.

Darcy gazes up at Harry hopefully. Harry sighs, and looks at Mr. Tomlinson.

“You’re a criminal.” Harry states.

“A criminal in a land of despotic and punitive laws, yes.”

Harry wants a hole to just open in the ground and swallow him up.

“Okay, look. It’s movie night with my daughter, and I don’t have time for this. Go disappear for two hours and I’ll be back here after my daughter is tucked in to bed. Then we’ll talk.” Harry compromises. Mr. Tomlinson nods.

Harry frowns.

“I don’t know if I already asked this before, but how did you get in?”

Mr. Tomlinson shrugs.

“There’s a way in and out of everything if you’re desperate enough.”

Harry nods slowly. He needs to check if his windows are locked later.

“Okay, uh, Mr. Tomlinson-”

“Louis.” Louis pronounces like Lou-ie.

“Louis. Nice to meet you. Harry.”

They shake hands.

Chapter Text

Zayn sits criss crossed on the cold winter concrete outside of the thick glass of Sector C’s council building. It was the one federal building in the district without a murderous guard poised outside.

The wind was absolutely killer. Zayn’s old leather jacket did nothing to protect from the chill. Even with the sun peaking out for the first time in the week, Zayn was still freezing his ass off, literally. He is pretty sure the concrete is freezing his behind solid.

Nonetheless, Zayn stays put. He has a mission in mind, unlike most people.

Zayn hunches over, his tongue peeking out of his lips in concentration. He grasps a thin black chalk in his frozen hand, attempting to get the lines and curves just right. It was quite hard, considering his fingers felt like frozen sausages.

After a few more strokes and a few switches in color, Zayn leans back to appreciate his art work:

IT’S NOT THE VOTING THAT’S DEMOCRACY. IT’S THE COUNTING.

Zayn nods his head approvingly, but frowns when a shadow falls over work. Zayn looks up.

“Uhh, you-I, uh, I don’t think you should be doing that.” the man above him stutters. Zayn opens his mouth to reply, but the man looks oddly familiar. He has short brown hair, brown eyes, and tan skin. The man seems awfully tall, especially in his grey suit, although that could just be because Zayn is sitting on the ground. Zayn narrows his eyes in thought. Although the man looked awfully generic, there was just something that stood out about the eyebrows.

Zayn snaps his fingers. It hurt.

“You’re Liam Payne, aren’t you?” Zayn’s eyebrows raise.

“Oh, why yes! Do you know me?” Liam seems pleasantly shocked. Zayn nods.

“I hate you.”

Liam’s face drops.

“Oh-okay,” Liam scrunches his forehead in thought. “Uh, why?”

Zayn points to his writing on the cement.

“Partly because of that, but it’s also personal. I’m an artist. You suit people ruled that artistry isn’t a real occupation. Thus I am here, forced to express my thoughts while freezing my ass off.”

Liam still seems confused.

“Did you not ask the government for a job assignment?” Liam asks.

“I’d rather be here than in one of those glorified sweatshops.” Zayn points up to the sky, where the skyscrapers of office buildings reflect the clouds in their glass walls and almost seem to blend in with the sky. “Logical, innit?”

Liam hums. “I suppose so?”

Zayn springs up from the ground. His legs are wobbly.

“THEN WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?” Zayn jabs at Liam’s chest. It really hurts his finger.

Liam’s eyebrows raise in surprise, and he stumbles back a few steps. Zayn realizes he’s probably making a bad face for people like him, but what could he do?

“I’m sorry, man, but I’m just another politician trying to make his way up the ladder.”

Zayn is surprised at how genuinely sorry the man sounds.

“I-I just try to do what my superiors want. It’s the only way I can get more influence.” Liam admits. Zayn balls his fists.

“Listen, Mr. Politician Payno, we live in a ‘democracy’,”Zayn puts air quotes around the word. “Do you know what that means?”

“A government ruled by the people?” Liam responds meekly. Zayn couldn’t believe his ears. Liam sounded like a ten year old reciting a definition to his teacher.

“And do you know what that means?” Zayn leans in. Liam blushes.

“What?”

Zayn whispers to Liam’s ear. He can feel Liam shiver.

“It means your opinion GODDAMN COUNTS!” Zayn shouts the last part, startling Liam.

“Ouch.” Liam cups his ears.

“It means that you don’t need your superiors to get up the damn ladder. It means that you get up the ladder by voting for what’s popular with THE PEOPLE. We,” Zayn gestures to himself, “are supposed to have the power. But no, the power is all up in those high and mighty big pants-elbow rubbing autocrats!” Zayn takes in a lungfull of air. “You guys aren’t supposed to decide our fate for us. You guys are representatives so all of us don’t have to go become politicians just to get the basic rights we want.”

Liam seems impressed. He better be. His mouth is gaping open, searching for words to say. Partly because this conversation is about to get awkwardly silent and that Zayn is all about dramatic exits, Zayn sweepingly whips around and strolls away from the scene.

----------------

Harry wakes up with a smile. He turns over in his bed, hugging the sheets. Last night, once he had finished tucking Darcy in, Harry had gone back to his bedroom, only to find it empty of the mysterious Mr. Tomlinson. Now, it all seems like a dream to Harry. Perhaps it was a dream. Either that, or Mr. Tomlinson found his marbles and left.

“Mornin’ sleep’n beauty.”

“AAHHHHHH!”

“AAHHHHHH!”

Harry cocks straight up in bed. Sitting at the edge of his bed is Mr. Tomlinson, still in that big grey sweater and dark jeans he was in last night.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Harry’s arms wave wildly. He is suddenly aware that he is naked.

“Language!” Mr. Tomlinson scolds. Language, Harry scoffs. He can’t believe some psycho is teaching him about language.

“Wh-what-why,” Harry splutters, “why did you scream? I’m the goddamn one who’s waking up with a stranger in their bed!”

“On your bed.” Mr. Tomlinson corrects. “You scared me. I just wanted to say good morning.”

Harry wants to throttle the man in front of him. But then again, that wouldn’t be a good example for Darcy.

“Look, don’t worry. I haven’t been watching you all night.” Mr. Tomlinson assures.

“Where did you sleep?” Harry asks bewildered. If Mr. Tomlinson didn’t watch Harry, that could only mean he slept with Harry… in the innocent sense.

“I didn’t sleep.” Mr. Tomlinson says. True enough, Mr. Tomlinson had shadows of shadows beneath his eyes. Harry will let that slide. For now.

Harry rubs his eyes, flustered.

“Look, Mr. Tomlinson-”

“Louis.” Mr. Tomlinson, or Louis, whatever, corrects.

“-Louis, whatever. I know you’re upset over your home being taken away and all that-”

“Upset is a bit of an understatement.”

“-but that doesn’t mean you can barge into mine!” Harry finishes, crossing his arms.

Louis pouts, and well shit. It looks too much like Darcy’s.

“Please?”

“No.” Harry states firmly against his will.

“Please?”

“No!” Harry cries, then clasps his hands over his mouth. Darcy could still be asleep.

Louis seems to think along the same line, for he suddenly lowers his voice.

“I-please, Mr. Styles.” Louis pleads. Sometime in their madness, Louis had gotten closer. His shoes were almost on the bed. Harry could smell the faint scent of… honey on him. Louis looks up at him with big blue eyes. They still had that tricky elf-ish look to them, but nonetheless, they were big blue eyes. Harry gulps.

“Just for a while, Mr. Styles. I even know how to make a mean grilled cheese and tomato soup!”

Harry stiffened. “How do you know about that?”

Louis gave a wistful smile.

“Darcy wrote about it in class. It was a truly fine piece of writing, especially for an eight year old.”

Their eyes meet. For the first time, Harry sees Louis as a real human being and not some crazy anarchist.

“O-okay.” Harry gives in.