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Heaven doesn't seem far away anymore

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   The room is nearly pitch black when Harry comes to his senses, the whipping of ice and wind against the window panes the only thing disturbing what would be complete silence. That and the slow puffs of air escaping Louis's mouth near his ear. Of course, those are ever present.

   He thinks for a moment that his husband was the one who woke him up, furrowing his brows at the mans blatant unconsciousness at his side, until there's a sharp jab deep within him somewhere behind his ribcage and it's then that he realises; it was their little girl.

   There's a foot, or a hand, pressing quite adamantly against his side and he feels a weak grimace tug at his lips. He loves when she's active like this, always has, but lately she's been causing a ruckus at the worst of hours and sometimes he'd just like to get a few hours of sleep before she actually arrives, because then he knows he won't be able to sleep at all.

   Harry pushes himself up slowly in the bed, sitting flush against the wooden headboard and stretches his arms above his head. He makes sure to tuck the blankets in around Louis's sleeping form a bit, as they were tugged down his shoulders slightly, before digging the heel of his palm into the spot that was giving him the most discomfort.

   This has been happening more often than not as he entered his third trimester, and it feels like he's never able to get any rest anymore. He's terrified to think how little he'll actually get to sleep once the baby finally arrives.

   She moves again as the pressure of her fathers hand rouses her, stretching the taught skin abnormally. Harry leans his head back against the headboard and breaths out a slightly frustrated breath, resting his palm flat against the top of his bulbous stomach where she currently sat.

   "I know, my girl," he whispers to her. "There's not much room for you in there anymore."

   He immediately bites his tongue, sitting stiff as a board as his daughter shifts again at the sound of his voice. His stomach ripples with her movements like angry ocean waves. He curls his toes beneath the sheets, fisting his hands in the fabric of his shirt and lets out a grunt from deep in his throat.

   He wouldn't want to have it any other way though; they went through so much to get pregnant, so there's really no room for complaining when he got exactly what they've been wanting since they were teenagers. Every little kick and nudge inside of him reminds him of that. But, still. He needs a bit of a break.

   Louis stirs from beside him slightly, making a small snuffling sound against his pillow and curling his body inwards against the evident winter chill in their bedroom.

   Harry immediately reaches out with a clenched fist and pushes his shoulder with enough force that Louis is awake almost instantly, shooting up in the bed and staring at Harry through slitted eyes.

   "Huh?" He mumbles nearly incoherently, lifting a lazy hand to swipe at the bangs that sat across his vision. "Har?"

   Harry cracked his eyes open, curling around the swell of his stomach. He grips Louis's bicep in his hand and lets out a small noise that could be translated however.

   Louis's sitting up on the mattress then, leaning on his knees next to Harry and removing his hand from his arm. His eyes are still clouded with sleep as he rubs Harry's shoulder with a slow thumb.

   "Baby?"

   Harry doesn't know if that was an inquiry to get his attention or if he was asking of the actual baby, so he just nods curtly and hopes he gets the message across.

   Louis reaches behind him and fumbles to grab his phone that sat on the mahogany nightstand. He clicks the screen on and sighs as he notices the time, scrubbing a hand down his face and mussing his hair even further. He sets the device back onto the table and turns towards his husband.

   "What's the matter, my love?" He says gently, adopting the same tone that he uses whenever Harry's feeling poorly.

   Harry takes a short, gasping breath before speaking. "She won't stop moving," he says it through a small laugh.

   Louis's face softens and he tucks Harry's hair behind his ears with nimble fingers. "Oh goodness," he leans down and lifts Harry's T-shirt up below his sternum, pressing his lips as light as a feather against the exposed skin above his belly button and a chill runs down his spine. He can always get a reaction out of him, no matter how innocent the touch. "The little one is acting up, hm?"

   There's a sharp jolt inside Harry that causes him to jump and he ends up shoving Louis off of him reflexively. He reaches towards him apologetically. "For the love of- I'm sorry, Lou," he sighs.

   Louis huffs out a small laugh and pulls Harry's shirt back down over his stomach, leaving a kiss against the soft fabric. "All is well, she just isn't tired tonight, it seems."

   "Or any night," Harry rubs soothing circles around his abdomen and breathes in a slow breath through his nose. She gives a couple little nudges against his palm. "I'm so bloody exhausted though and she just won't stop."

   He definitely didn't mean to cry, but he feels proper awful at the moment and all he wants is a few hours of sleep and his throat gets a little tight thinking about it. Louis is quick to console him, of course, pressing his lips to his cheek and holding him as close as he can.

   He hasn't cried in a while, not since the first few months of pregnancy probably, but lately he's just been so uncomfortable. He really can't help it.

   "Hazza baby, you're alright," Louis hasn't used that name in ages and it only causes Harry to cry just a bit harder. "Honey, please settle down or you're gonna make yourself sick. It's okay, shh."

   He's right; Harry always works himself up so much to the point of becoming physically ill, so he tries to regulate his breathing and quell the rapid pace of his heartbeat against his chest before he ends up throwing up. If he doesn't calm down he'll work the baby up even more and then he won't ever be able to get back to sleep.

   "It may be early, but why don't we get you in a nice warm tub, hm?" Louis asks in that same soft, child-like voice. He's going to be such a good father. "I'll even throw in one of those new bath bombs we picked up at the shops last week."

   Harry almost starts crying all over again at how good that actually sounds. Taking a bath always tends to settle the baby down when she's rowdy like this. "Yes, please, Lou. That sounds perfect."

   "Well let's get you up then, love," Louis jumps out of bed faster than Harry could ever hope to at this stage in his pregnancy and comes round to pull him up on to his feet. It takes a few tries to actually get him up out of the bed, and when he finally is standing on his feet, all he wants to do is sit right back down again. The smallest of things winds him these days, it seems. But they just laugh and hold on to each other and shuffle out of their room with bare feet.

   The hallway is near freezing when they step out of their semi-heated room and Harry's already sore muscles contract with each shiver that runs down his spine, making him want to get in a warm bath all the quicker.

   "Christ, Lou, did you only turn the heat on in the master bedroom?" He says, rubbing his hands up and down his bare arms.

   Louis squeezes past him into the bathroom and flicks on the light. They both squint against the brightness. "We have to start saving money somehow," he says, moving over to the bathtub and turning the spigot on. He plugged up the drain and held his fingers under the water for a few seconds to test the temperature. "Having a newborn around is really going to put a stint in our savings. We've discussed this many a time, Harry."

   Harry's throat tightens up a bit. Oh for fucks sakes, he's crying again. This must be some sort of record.

   Louis notices his husbands sudden silence and turns towards him. He sees the tears welling in his eyes and he wraps his arms around his slender frame. "Oh no, no, love. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound short with you, I'm just tired, is all. Come on then, let's pick out a bath bomb, yeah? Lord, what is this? Let's See How Many Times Louis Tomlinson Can Make His Poor Husband Cry In One Night? I'm sorry, bub."

   Harry blubbers out a little wet laugh and wipes the backs of his hands over his eyes like a scolded child. One thing he definitely won't miss about being pregnant is the elevated hormone levels. And the fatigue, can't forget the fatigue. And the sore everything. And-

   And his due date really cannot come fast enough.

   He plucks the first bath bomb he can get his fingers on from the little wire basket they keep on the countertop and drops it into the half-full tub.

   "Let's get your kit off, my love, while we're waiting on the bath," Louis helps Harry tug his sleep shirt over his head, followed by his pyjama pants and boxers until he's standing stark naked in the middle of the bathroom. Louis then pulls the fuzzy cotton robe off the hook on the back of the door and slips it over Harry's body. Harry tightens the belt over the swell of his stomach, causing his baby bump to become even more prominent than it already was.

   Louis immediately cracks a smile at the sight, placing his hands over the boys stomach and leaning up to press a kiss to his sleep-swollen lips. "My love, you look so gorgeous."

   Harry pulls his hair up off the back of his neck with an elastic band that sat on his wrist and dropped his arms to his sides with a huff. "Well I feel proper gross," he says in a scratchy tone. "I look like a beached whale, and there's a bloody foot stuck where it's not supposed to be," he dug his fingers into the space below his ribcage. "Move, dammit."

   He definitely wouldn't be speaking so harshly of their daughter like this if he weren't so tired. Hold that against him.

   "Unfortunately there's nowhere for her to go," Louis says, shutting the metal spout off and dragging his hand through the water to break apart the rest of the bath bomb. "And you do not look like a beached whale, Harry. You're full of life, literally, and you're positively glowing. I know it sounds cliché, but it's true. You're radiant, vibrant, ethereal. I could go on and on."

   Harry lets out a small laugh and simpers down at his feet. Well, down at his stomach. He hasn't been able to see his feet since his first trimester. "Well I wish I felt that way. At this point, all I wanna do is crawl out of my own skin."

   "Only two more weeks, baby," Louis unties the belt on his robe and slides the fabric down the boys body. "How about I carry our next one, hm?"

   At this, Harry actually laughs out loud, causing the baby to jump inside of him. "Yeah, like you'd actually be able to handle this," he presses his hands against his bare stomach. "Ooh, I think I scared her. Now she's kicking up a storm. If I laugh like that again my water might actually break."

   Louis bites back a smile and helps his very pregnant husband into the bathtub, lowering him into the shimmering pink water slowly. Harry all but moans when he's fully submerged, save for the very peak of his stomach. Louis finds it very endearing. "Like I said, only two more weeks until she makes her grand entrance, then you'll be comfortable again. Well, unless she decides to make her grand entrance sometime sooner, that is."

   Harry shuts his eyes and settles back against the tub, splaying his hands over his tummy. Their little girl seems to be calming down a bit, the natural buoyancy of the water lifting her weight off of his insides a bit. "Hm, I don't think she will. She seems quite content in there for now, despite kicking the crap out of me. She probably won't show until her due date."

   Louis tucks a few stray tendrils of hair behind Harry's ear. "Well that's good to hear, considering there's supposed to be this massive snowstorm that's gonna hit sometime tomorrow."

   "Tomorrow, as in…"

   "Oh. As in today, actually. I forgot it's morning since it's still so dark outside."

   "Well that sucks," Harry cups a handful of warm water in his palms and lets it trickle over his exposed stomach. "We're probably going to be stuck at home for your birthday then."

   Louis waves his hands dismissively as he sits down on the plastic edge of the bathtub. "Ah, I wouldn't want to go out anyway, love. All I want for my birthday is to celebrate it in front of the fire watching The Polar Express with my family."

   "But it's your twenty-fifth, Lou. That's big! You deserve to go somewhere nice. I want to spoil my husband in any way that I can with how pregnant I am at the moment," he pouts a bit and stares forward at his toes that stuck out of the glimmering water.

   Louis laughs and leans forward to kiss him on the forehead. "Oh baby, trust me. I'm perfectly content with spending a day in with the two people I love the most in the world. Now, I'm gonna let you be so you can relax a bit, okay?" He stands up just as Harry wraps a wet hand around his wrist.

   "Oh Lou, wait. Can you bring me my book that's sitting on the nightstand?"

   He wipes his arm on his pant leg and shoots him a fond smile. "Sure, be back in a mo'."

   Louis returns a moment later and sets Harry's worn copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray on the closed toilet lid, within arms reach from the tub. "There you are, darling. Anything else I can get you, your majesty?"

   "No thank you, hon," Harry shakes his head. "Are you going to go back to bed then?"

   "Oh no," Louis says. "It's already after seven, so I'm going to head downstairs and make meself some brekkie, maybe put on a bit of ABC Family. Just call me if you need me, yeah?"

   "Okay, love you."

   "Love you too."

   Louis shuts the bathroom door softly behind him and Harry sinks further down into the bathtub until the water is lapping up against his chin. Hopefully a few minutes in here will keep the baby content and settled for most of the day so he can actually enjoy it with his husband without being an uncomfortable mess.

   It's chilly enough in the house for a nice mug of hot cocoa, so that's exactly what he's going to have when he gets out of the bath. He's going to make a cuppa that, maybe even some banana and strawberry pancakes too if his pregnancy-sensitive stomach can handle it, and he's going to sit down on the couch and watch Love Actually with Louis. They haven't watched that movie once yet this wintertime and he's quite ashamed in himself for that. They watch it every year, but it's completely slipped their minds this time round with how much they've been fretting over the upcoming birth of their first child.

   Maybe some traditions are going to have to be broken now that they have a baby in the picture, and it saddens Harry a bit to think about that. But, they can always start new traditions with their daughter, better ones even, and that thought causes a flush of warmth to spread through his chest. This isn't an end, it's a beginning; a new chapter filled with new and better comings.

   Pushing himself up a bit in the water, Harry reaches for his book that sat upon the toilet and cracked it open to the first page with a small smile gracing his lips.

 

 

   He's halfway through chapter 10 when the irritating pain blooming in his lower spine becomes a bit too much to handle.

   It started up around chapter 6, beginning as a small tingling in his tailbone that grew gradually worse as time progressed. Harry guesses it's probably a combination of his already arthritic bones, and the weight of the almost full term baby sitting on his hips and, on top of all that, laying in a hard plastic bathtub.

   "Okay," he says to no one in particular. "I think it's about time we get out of here."

   Dog-earing the page he's on, Harry places his book on the closed toilet seat and braces his hands on the edge of the tub. As of lately, it's almost impossible to get out of the bath by himself, almost impossible to get anywhere by himself, and a few attempts at trying to get up onto his feet in the lukewarm water with no success just proves his theory correct.

   "Louis!" He calls exasperatedly. "Lou!"

   A few minutes pass and Harry lets out an annoyed huff when he receives no reply. "Guess we're doing this on our own then, peanut," he manages to lift himself onto the edge of the bathtub, taking a second to catch his breath before pushing himself up onto his feet steadily.

   Harry wipes his feet on the bathmat before shuffling over to the sink slowly, being careful not to slip on the damp floor.

   "Having a bath is supposed to make me feel better, not worse," he grips the edge of the counter to gather his bearings and he purses his lips.

   The pain in his back is slightly alarming; it's not like anything he's felt before, but it seems to be dissipating a bit the longer he's out of the tub. So maybe he was right, maybe the aching that's developed is just from sitting in the bathtub for too long. Sitting on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa is beginning to sound more tantalising by the minute. Maybe he can even get Louis to make it for him.

   Grabbing a towel from the rack on the wall, Harry starts to dry his body off with slow movements, finding it increasingly hard to reach his legs. Okay, honestly, he's dry enough.

   Fatigue is creeping back into his bones by the time he drains out the colourful water from the bathtub, and the baby seems to be getting restless again, so he just says fuck all and throws his pyjamas on again and tightens the elastic band around his hair.

   Leaving his copy of Oscar Wilde sitting on the toilet lid, Harry pulls open the bathroom door and makes his way downstairs into the cooler atmosphere of the house where he's met with the lively chatter of-

   Niall and Liam.

   And, okay. Judging from where he can see the clock sitting above the kitchen sink, it's not even 8:30 in the morning. A perfect time for guests, apparently.

   "There he is!" Louis calls over the back of the couch with a grand gesture of his arms. "The man of the hour!"

   He's married to an actual child.

   Harry walks into the living room with a hand supporting his back. The baby gives a few good kicks at the sound of her other fathers voice and he winces a bit with each step towards him. "Hi…everyone? What's going on here? I thought you weren't supposed to stop by until sometime tomorrow," he tried not to sound as displeased as he feels. He's always happy to see his friends, but. Maybe another day.

   "Well the weather is supposed to get quite bad later today," Liam is saying from the love seat. "So we thought we might stop by early just incase we aren't able to see you two for Lou's birthday."

   That's actually pretty…sweet. Doesn't change the fact that he feels like shit and just wants to spend the day in with his husband though.

   He also feels like a proper twat for thinking such rude things.

   "Yeah, but Zayn wasn't able to make it. He was visiting his girl and the snow got really bad there so he's stuck in London for the time being. Hopefully he'll make it back for Crimbo though," Niall kicks out the footrest on the recliner and leans back like he owns the place.

   "Well, thanks for stopping by, lads," Harry drops himself on the couch next to Louis with a grunt, a new wave of pain flaring up in his lower back. His breath catches in his throat momentarily.

   "You alright, H?" Liam asks earnestly. "Lou mentioned you were feeling poorly.

   He feels like proper shit, if he's being completely honest. He would probably start crying if his living room weren't full of guests.

   "Um," he says slowly, plastering on a smile that looks more like a grimace than anything. "My back actually hurts pretty bad at the moment, 'm not going to lie."

   "Oh love, really?" Louis coos at his side, touching between his shoulder blades gently. "The bath didn't do much for you then?"

   "Usually it does, but… I don't know," Harry sighs. "It's this awful ache near my tailbone that started up when I was still in there."

   "How about I rub it for you then, hm?" Louis suggests.

   Giving a small, relieved sigh, Harry turns around and folds his arms upon the arm of the couch. Louis's hands are cool to the touch, sending a chill across his body even through his T-shirt. He all but moans into his folded arms when his husbands fingers press into the base of his spine. He always knows the right spots to hit.

   "Well, while Harry's getting pampered over there, why don't we watch a Christmas classic?" Liam reaches for the remote controller that sat on the glass coffee table in the middle of them all, clicking the television screen on. "Oh hey, you already have the movie in."

  Harry lifts his head to see the title screen of Love Actually. He feels Louis let out a breathy laugh on the back of his neck. "Yeah, it's kind of tradition for Harry and I to watch it and I felt a bit bad that we haven't gotten around to it yet with this being his last month of the pregnancy and all," Louis's a mind reader, he's sure of it.

   Liam presses play and settles back into the sofa, tucking his feet under his body. Niall stretches his arms above his head and leans down further in the recliner. Harry shuts his eyes as Louis's hands continue to work their magic.

 

 

   They're not even 20 minutes into the movie when Harry starts to feel really ill.

   Louis eventually stopped rubbing his back and settled for leaning up against the opposite end of the couch, pressing his socked feet into Harry's thigh. Harry stayed curled against the armrest though, not moving an inch as the ache in his spine increased and gradually moved on to his hips.

   His hips, Jesus Christ, there's this awful throbbing pain spreading through his pelvis and his groin and he's trying so hard not to cry out with how bad it actually is. He keeps his face pressed into the arm of the couch, eyes closed, foot bouncing on the carpet. No ones paying attention to him though, they're all too focused on the movie playing. Harry wants to watch it too, oh does he want to watch it with them, but he is in so much pain he wants to jump right out of his own body.

   The baby is throwing a fit, Harry can feel her tossing and turning and positively having a romp inside of him. Every kick and punch she makes sends another sporadic twinge of pain through his body and he bites his fist hard enough to leave teeth marks in his flesh. He notices a slight tightening in his lower belly, an irritating pressure on his pelvis, and he pushes Louis's legs off the couch so he can sidle up beside him. Maybe changing positions will help.

   Harry tucks himself under Louis's arm and tries to sooth his uncomfortableness by rubbing a fervent hand over his belly, wincing every time the baby shifted beneath his palm. He tried to focus on the movie playing, laughing when he needed to, aw-ing at the appropriate times, but it's hard to pay attention to the characters on the screen, his favourite characters nonetheless, when his hips feel like they're about to proper split apart.

   There's a sudden, sharp jolt against the top of his stomach and Harry presses his fingers into the spot to feel a tiny foot beneath his fingers.

   Wait a minute. There should not be a foot all the way up near his ribs. Not unless-

   Oh shit.

   He presses a hand against his lower belly and jumps at the increase of pressure- down there. Oh fuck, he knew it. A tremble runs through his hands and up his arms. The baby fucking dropped into the birth position and he didn't even notice. He's in labour.

   "Hm?" Louis hums from beside him, not taking his eyes off the television before them.

   Okay, now it's time to panic.

   Sitting up on the edge of the couch, Harry grips Louis's knee as a ripple of pain passes through his belly. Okay, what the fuck was that. "I'm- I'm okay."

   "You sure?" Louis asks absently.

   "Oh yeah," he pushes himself onto his feet. Holy shit, yeah, the baby definitely dropped. The pressure on his pelvis is almost unbearable, and he just wants to fall right back down onto the couch again. "I just need something to drink."

   He doesn't think anyone noticed the strain in his voice, or the way he lingered at the side of the couch for a moment before shuffling into the kitchen.

   When he's out of earshot and eyesight of everyone, Harry grips the edge of the granite countertop, letting out a guttural moan under his breath. He doesn't feel right at all; there's tremors running down his limbs, a cold sweat breaking out on the back of his neck, and he kind of wants to throw up.

   He feels like something's about to happen.

   "Oh Christ," he whispers.

   His stomach contracts once, painfully, and releases, and then it's fucking happening. There's a nauseating amount of pressure in his lower abdomen and a pop, and his water breaks, trickling down his flannel pyjama bottoms and dampening the linoleum below his feet.

   Harry lets out a gasp at almost the same time there's one from behind him, and, hands pressed to his stomach, he turns round to see Liam standing in the doorway to the kitchen, completely frozen in place.

   "Li, oh fuck," he says in astonishment, staring down at the growing puddle near his feet.

   "Oh my god," Liam says, slowly making his way towards Harry with his hands outstretched before him like he's some sort of feral animal. "Lou- Louis!"

   "Yeah, mate?" Louis calls back a second later.

   "Babe!" Harry all but shouts, standing pigeon-toed with his hands on his thighs. Most of the pressure was relieved from his hips, and he's thankful for that, but he's in labour. The next thing to come out of him is a baby.

   He definitely did not expect this to happen today. He told Louis the baby wasn't going to arrive until his due date, but he really should've just kept his big mouth shut and not jinx it. Now he's standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid and there's a baby between his hips. Wonderful.

   Liam is at his side now, trying to steer him away from the slick white tiles when Louis comes bursting into the room like a madman.

   "What's the matter?" He rushes out.

   "M-my water broke," Harry says almost sheepishly through a light, shaky laugh.

   "The baby's coming?" Louis's eyes widen.

   Harry nods, small smile tugging at his lips. Liam rubs his back a few times. "She's coming."

   Louis grabs at his hair, mouth dropping open in the biggest smile Harry's seen him crack since their wedding day. "Oh my god, we're gonna be parents. Okay, okay, let's get you upstairs and changed into your hospital outfit. Li, can you start my car for me? The keys are hanging near the door."

   He kisses Harry hard on the mouth once, and wraps an arm gently, so gently, around his waist, walking him into the living room. Harry's chest swells with something that feels a lot like pride at seeing how collected his husband is. When he would think about this moment, he'd always imagine Louis being this frazzled mess when he went into labour, running around the house like a chicken with its head chopped off, but he's barely shaking. Seeing him so calm is actually helping to quell the nervous quakes running through Harry's own body. Everything's going to be fine.

   When the three of them emerge from the kitchen, Niall pauses the movie and sits up in his seat. "What goes on?"

   "Harry's in labour," Louis's saying. He sounds so professional. "Liam's handling the car so you just sit there and continue to look pretty. We'll be right back down."

   They make it upstairs and into their bedroom in complete silence and it's quite unnerving. Why does everything have to suddenly be so serious? Louis grabs the outfit that's been folded atop the dresser for more than a week, laying it on the bed and helping Harry out of his soaked pants.

   "These are going to need to be thrown out," he comments, chucking the flannel pyjama bottoms into the empty hamper across the room. He helps Harry slowly into a fresh pair of boxers and cotton sweatpants. "Can you get your shirt, love? I just want to grab the hospital bag from the hall closet and bring it downstairs real quick. And wipe up the kitchen floor as well."

   Harry nods and pulls his shirt over his head with minimal difficulty. When Louis leaves the bedroom he drops the T-shirt into the hamper and looks down at his belly. It most definitely is sitting lower on his hips now.

   "Bubby, you couldn't wait until your due date?" He whispers, hands cradling the sides of his stomach. The baby gives a few nudges against his palms and he lets out a wet laugh. "Now we're probably going to have to spend your daddy's birthday in the hospital."

   His chest tightens up a bit and hot tears cloud his vision. He's so, so excited, but he's also so scared. He's scared of the pain and the doctors and all the possibilities of what could go wrong. So many things can go wrong at the drop of a hat and it's hard not to worry himself sick over that. He's done all that he could to keep his and Louis's daughter safe and healthy these past nine months, and if something happens during labour or delivery, he'd never forgive himself. It'd be all his fault.

   Harry doesn't realise that he's crying until Louis's rushing over to him and placing his hands on his shoulders. "Harry, what's the matter? Are you having contractions?"

   Harry sniffles and clears his throat, swiping his fingers underneath his eyes. "No, I'm- I'm good. I'm just a little scared, I guess. What if something happens?"

   Louis visibly softens and moves his hands to his cheeks, rubbing his thumbs over the bumps of his cheekbones. "Darling, it's all going to go so well. We're going to be on our way to the hospital in a few seconds and the doctors there are going to take the best care of you, I'm sure of it. Nothing is going to go wrong, you and our daughter are going to be in perfect hands. Okay? Trust me, baby."

   Harry nods slowly and shivers under the cool temperature of their bedroom. Louis immediately reaches for the shirt that was still laying on the bed.

   "Alright, let's get this on you, yeah?" He pulls it over Harry's head and helps him get his arms through. The soft T-shirt falls past his thighs. "There we are. Now, how are we feeling? Anything yet?"

   Harry shakes his head slowly. "No, no, I'm okay. But I probably am going to start having contractions soon, so we should get going because I feel like this little lady isn't going to wait long," he taps his fingers against the side of his stomach.

   Louis nods and presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Alright. You ready?"

   "Yeah. Let's go have a baby."

   When they're halfway down the stairs, they can hear swearing coming from the living room and find Liam leaning up against the back of the couch facing them, hands sitting atop his head.

   Niall comes bustling through the front door with pink cheeks and rubs his hands together, blowing into his palms. "It's a bust too."

   "Fuck," Liam grumbles.

   "Everything okay, lads?" Louis asks, kneeling down to put Harry's shoes on for him.

   "Louis, none of the cars will start," he rushes out. "Not yours, Harry's, or mine. The snow is almost past the tires and everything is just fucking frozen over out there."

   Louis stands and Harry squeezes his shoulder. "What? But I thought the snow wasn't supposed to get bad until later?"

   "It just started a few minutes ago," Niall says, out of breath. "I can't fuckin' believe how quick it began building up, we're completely snowed in. The only reason we're able to get out of the house is because the awning is preventing any snow from getting in front of the door, thank God. We just aren't able to get anywhere."

   Louis rubs the back of his neck and leans against the wall. "Christ. Okay, this is fine. I'll just have to ring for an ambulance. H, are you alright with that?" He says, already reaching into his pocket.

   No, no, he doesn't want an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He wanted childbirth to be this calm, wonderful thing, not played out like some sort of medical emergency. He wanted to sit in the car holding Louis's hand and doing his breathing exercises while listening to the radio. Not strapped down to a gurney in the back of an ambulance going 100 miles an hour surrounded by EMT's. That's not what he wanted.

   He finds himself nodding anyway.

   Niall shuts the front door and stomps his boots on the welcome mat to shake the snow off. Liam passes a hand through his hair. Funny how he's the one to panic.

   "Nine-nine-nine, what is your emergency?" A tinny female voice says through the speaker on Louis's cellphone.

   Harry stomach starts to feel too heavy on his hips so he lowers himself down onto the bottom step of the staircase and leans back.

   This is not how this was supposed to go.

   "Hello, um, my husband is in labour and our car is unfortunately snowed in. I was wondering if you'd be able to send an ambulance our way," he leans down to rub a hand around Harry's shoulder blades reassuringly.

   "I'm terribly, terribly sorry, sir," the woman says through the line. "The storm is awfully bad up here as well so we aren't able to dispatch any emergency services at the time."

   Everyone in the room shares a glance with each other. Niall mouths "what the fuck?"

   "How early in the labour process is he?"

   Louis glances down at Harry. "His water broke about ten minutes ago."

   "Any contractions?"

   "No, not yet."

   "Sir, I'm going to call you through my personal cellphone. Is that alright with you?" She asks.

   Louis furrows his brows. "Yes, that's quite alright."

   The call disconnects and he looks down at his phone, then at Harry again.

   Harry looks up at him with tears swimming in his eyes. This is not how this was supposed to go at all.

   Louis leans down and presses a kiss to his forehead when his phone buzzes in his hand. He clicks Accept Call.

   "Hello, sir?"

   "Yes, hello."

   "I truly am sorry for such an inconvenience, but if I may, I'd like to help you and your husband through the early stages of labour before we can send out an ambulance for you."

   Louis's shoulders relax a bit. "That would be…fantastic, miss."

   "Oh please," she gives a light laugh. "Call me Mara."

   "Alright then, Mara. My name is Louis Tomlinson, and my husband is Harry. Might I ask how you're going to help us? Forgive me if I come off as rude."

   She laughs again. "It's quite alright, Louis. I'm actually a part-time midwife, alongside being an emergency operator. I'm just going to be instructing Harry, and you as well, what to do during labour without the help of doctors and nurses. And if it comes down to it, which hopefully it won't, how to have a safe home birth as well."

   No, hopefully it does not come down to that. So much could go wrong with a home birth.

   "Okay, okay, that sounds great. Thank you so much, Mara."

   "Please, don't mention it. Now, are you the only ones in the house?"

   "No, two of our mates are here as well."

   "Do you have any other children?"

   "No, this would be our first."

   "Alright, well everybody can just sit down and relax for the time being since it's still early. There's no use in worrying, that would cause too much stress for your husband and the baby. Could you put Harry on for a moment?"

   "You're on speaker," Louis says.

   "Hello, Harry, love?"

   "Hi, Mara," Harry says, rubbing a hand over his stomach.

   "Hello, sweetie. How are you feeling?" She asks in a gentle, motherly voice.

   "I'm doing well, though I am starting to feel very tired," the awful aches and pains he was feeling completely flushed away after his water broke, and his whole body became so relaxed. He kind of wants to take a nap.

   "That's normal," Mara says. "Have you had anything to eat this morning yet?"

   "No, I haven't gotten the chance to," he wants those pancakes still.

   "Okay, well I highly advise you to eat something light to keep up your energy. You're definitely going to need it when those contractions start," she pauses for a moment and Harry murmurs an acknowledgement. "Hon, is your husband there? Louis?"

   "Yes, ma'am," Louis says.

   "Fellows, I need to get back to my station and take some calls but I want you to let me know via text message when Harry's contractions start, okay? Harry, sweetie, I need you to go have a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit or something, alright? I'll talk to you both in a bit."

   The boys thank Mara and Louis ends the call, pocketing his phone. The room is quiet for a moment, each person stealing a glance at the other.

   So this is actually happening then.

   A sob tears through Harry's throat, breaking the silence, and he hides his face in his hands. "Oh God, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry everyone."

   Louis drops to his knees in front of him, placing his hands on his husbands jaw. "Harry, Harry, look at me. Look at me, hey."

   Harry looks at him through his lashes with a quivering lip. "I'm putting all of this on you guys just because I couldn't fucking wait until my due date."

   "No, no, this is not your fault," he is quick to reassure him in a stern tone. "Our little girl just wanted to meet us sooner than expected, that's all. It's perfectly fine, there's no way we could've helped this. Please don't cry, baby, it's all going to be okay. No one's mad at you."

   Harry rubs his eyes on the collar of his shirt. The baby starts to kick again. "I'm sorry."

   "Harry," Louis sighs, tone becoming softer. "Honey, it's okay. There's nothing we can do right but take the next few hours in stride if, God help us, it takes that long to send out an ambulance. Alright? You're going to be much more comfortable here at home anyway."

   He does have a point. Their bedroom would be better than a hospital room that smells of antiseptic. But there's no professional medical practitioners here.

   "We're all here for you too," Liam's saying, walking towards them and resting a hand on Louis's shoulder. "And I doubt they'd let this many people in a hospital room with you."

   True, it's all true. He's just complaining too much.

   Taking a deep breath, Harry grabs onto the railing near his head and Louis scrambles up into a standing position to help his husband on to his feet. "Okay, you're right. Thank you," he says quietly.

   "Of course, always," Louis places a hand on the small of his back and kisses his forehead. "Now, how about some breakfast, hm?"

   The four of them remove their shoes and Niall and Liam hang up their jackets before heading towards the kitchen. Louis helps Harry to sit in one of the wooden chairs at the table and claps his hands together lightly.

   "What are we having then?" He asks Harry brightly. "Something light, like the woman said, alright?"

   Harry slides his gaze around the kitchen, pointing to the open box of cocoa pops sitting on the countertop. "Cereal?"

   Louis spins on his heel and smiles. He walks towards the counter. "Fantastic choice, my love. One bowl of cocoa pops coming up."

   Harry finds himself cracking a smile at his husband, rubbing the gold band around his finger with his thumb. He watches as he fixes a bowl of cereal up for him, laughing lightly at his animated movements. He always turns into such a character when trying to cheer Harry up. It always works, too.

   Louis sets the bowl down on the table in front of him and hands him a spoon. "There you are, darling. This should pick your mood up a bit. I know sugary breakfast foods always do it for me," he sits down in the chair next to him.

   Harry's four spoons of cocoa pops in when the pairs of eyes burning holes into him gets to be too much to handle. He sighs, swallowing. "Why are you all staring at me like that? I'm not going to give birth on the kitchen floor or summat. Go on then, go watch the telly, I'll be fine."

   "We just wanna be here for you incase something happens," Niall says. Liam nods in agreement. He really couldn't ask for better friends.

   "He's right, lads," Louis is saying. "Go on and relax, I've got this."

   When the two boys leave the room reluctantly, Harry grins at his husband. "That means you too, love. I don't need to be watched like a hawk."

   Louis laughs and nudges his foot under the table a couple of times. "Ah, you can't get rid of me that easily, Styles."

   "Hey," Harry pouts. "That's Tomlinson, bucko. Has been for the past two years."

   "Well, Tomlinson, eat your breakfast before it gets soggy."

   He sticks his tongue out before shoving the spoon between his lips. Louis rolls his eyes at him and leans back in the chair, eyes sparkling with such a fondness that Harry just wanted to climb onto his lap and snog the daylights out of him.

   But no, he can't do that, because his stomach suddenly tightens in the most uncomfortable way possible and he has to hold his breath for a few agonising moments before his abdominal muscles unclench a moment later.

   Louis leans forward, resting a hand on Harry's leg. "Honey?" He says somewhat urgently.

   The contraction leaves an unkind ache deep in his muscles and he groans before dropping his spoon into the bowl and deflating against the back of his chair. A wave of nausea rises in his throat as the baby twists and turns inside of him. "Contraction, that was definitely a contraction."

   That fucking hurt, and he's fucking terrified, but holy hell, he's having a baby. Their baby. This is real, and it's actually happening.

   Louis's got his phone out almost immediately, fingers flying over the keyboard. "I'll let Mara know."

   Keeping a hand spread over the top of his stomach, Harry spoons another small bite of cereal into his mouth and chews slowly, leg bouncing on the white tile of the kitchen floor. His heart is thumping against his chest and his palms start to prickle but he is so excited.

   "Okay?" Louis asks, setting his phone before him.

   Harry gives a curt nod. "That wasn't too, too bad. It just caught me off guard, mostly."

   "I hate to say it, love, but they're just gonna get worse. Mara said to time them, and when they get to ten minutes apart, if an ambulance hasn't been sent out for us yet, then to call her."

   Harry pushes the bowl away from him. "Alright, we'll wait until the next one hits then."

   Louis nodded, picking up the bowl of cereal and setting it in the sink. He squeezes Harry's shoulders once and leans down to press a kiss to his cheek. "So what do you want to do, my love? Sit out with the lads and finish the movie? Go up and lay down?"

   "Oh I don't want to just go upstairs and leave everyone," Harry waves his hand dismissively.

   "I'm sure they'll understand," Louis says with a small laugh. "You're in bloody labour, after all."

   Harry braces his hands on the tabletop and stands. Louis is right there to help him up. "I wanna sit out in the living room for a bit, I think."

   "Alright then," he starts to guide Harry out of the kitchen.

   "Lou, I'm not incompetent," Harry says, nudging him away a bit with a laugh. "I have legs, I can make it myself."

   Louis snorts. "Then how come you're walking like you're about to piss yourself?"

   Harry sighs, resting his fists on his waist. "Well sorr-y for being uncomfortable when there's a baby between my hips," he all but waddles over to the couch and lowers himself down onto the cushions. Louis comes and sits beside him a moment later, leaning in to kiss him on the cheek. Harry pushes him away. "No, don't touch me. You're mean."

   Louis bites the inside of his cheek and leans against the opposite arm of the couch. "I'm sorry, H."

   Harry crosses his arms over his stomach and stares hard at the television. "No."

   Of course a mood swing hits when he's literally in labour. Of course.

   Liam and Niall are watching them carefully. Louis shrugs his shoulders helplessly at them.

   They all sit in an awkward, tense silence for a few minutes, half focusing on the movie, half on Harry who keeps fidgeting where he sat. He can feel another contraction starting up in his lower spine so he uses his hands to rub fervently at his back. Though the pain hits his stomach suddenly and he cries out in surprise, sitting up on the couch. He can feel his abdomen clenching harshly and the baby moving lower and lower against his pelvis.

   "Harry," Louis says softly, kneeling on the cushion next to him and rubbing his back. "Honey, breathe like we learned in Lamaze class."

   Harry nods, taking a few gasping breaths before inhaling and exhaling slowly at a regular pace. He digs his hands into his thighs, clenching his eyes shut before the contraction finally subsides. He leans against Louis with a whimper as his whole body relaxes again.

  "That felt really bad," Harry says thickly, burrowing his face into Louis's collarbone.

   Louis pulls out his cellphone from the pocket of his sweatpants and checks the time. "Those were barely fifteen minutes apart. I think we should call Mara."

   Liam pauses the movie and shares a glance with Niall from across the living room. They both continue to stay silent. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife.

   Louis's phone rings twice before the woman picks up.

"Hello?" She says.

   "Hi, Mara. Harry just had another contraction, but it was only about…thirteen minutes since the last one," Louis rubs his hand up and down Harry's arm in a comforting manner.

   "Okay, okay," she's saying. "There hasn't even been a single plow on the road yet, goodness. Alright, this is what I want you to do. I need you to check Harry's dilation for me, okay? This is very important."

  "Dilation…okay, I can do that. Give us a second," he stands from the couch and pulls Harry up with him, keeping the phone tucked between his ear and shoulder. He glances at the other two boys. "Lads, I'll be down in a bit."

   He guides Harry up the stairs and into their bedroom, sitting him down on the bed. Harry leans back against the pillows with a sigh.

   He's had a grand total of two contractions and he's already beyond exhausted. The next hours will be hell, he knows it.

   "Miss, you there?" Louis asks, placing the cellphone on the bedside table.

   "I'm here, hon," Mara says.

   "Alright, hold on," he lays his hands on Harry's hips who looks up at him with a small furrow to his brow. "Love, let's pull these down, okay? Is that okay?" He asks gently.

  Harry nods his head and murmurs a small "yeah".

   Louis pulls his sweatpants and boxers down to his knees and Harry immediately shivers. "I'm sorry, baby. Okay, Mara. What am I going to do?"

   "Alright", she says through the phone. "All you're going to do is stick the tips of your fingers up-"

   "Okay," Louis interrupts when he sees Harry covering his face. "I got you."

   "Go slow, and tell me how many you can get in there."

   Louis hums an acknowledgment and reaches forward to pull Harry's hands away from his face. "Sweetheart, it's just me. No need to be embarrassed. Now, bend your legs for me, love? I'll be gentle, I always am. You can trust me."

   Harry nods and slides his feet up on the bed until his legs are bent. Louis does as he's told, keeping his eyes locked on his husbands the whole time. A few seconds later Harry's face twists up in apparent pain and he's fisting the blankets in his hands.

   "Shit," he curses. He's had Louis's fingers up his arse plenty of times, trust him, but goddamn. This is completely different, and it hurts.

   "Three," Louis says, pulling his hand away and wiping his fingers on his jeans. "I got three in."

   "Three centimetres dilated then," Mara says. "Things are probably going to pick up soon; first pregnancies always have the quickest labours. I'll let you know when we're able to send out an ambulance, okay? Just continue to stay calm and time those contractions. Harry, did you have something to eat?"

   "Yeah, I had a bowl of cereal," he answers her, pulling his pants back up with shaky hands.

   "That's good. I have a call coming in, so keep me updated, boys. Talk to you soon."

  Louis stands from the bed and ends the call. Taking a deep breath, he turns to find Harry curling in on himself on his side. "Lovely? You okay?" He sits down behind him and rubs his stomach through his T-shirt.

   Harry presses his face into the pillow without a word. Ice and snow continue to beat against the windows outside, filling the gap of silence.

   Louis just huddles closer and moulds himself around his boy. Leaving a kiss behind his ear, he says, "penny for your thoughts?"

   Harry turns around and tucks himself under Louis's chin, being mindful of his large belly. "This wasn't supposed to happen like this, Lou. I wanted to go through this at the hospital where there's doctors in case something goes wrong. Now all we have to rely on is a stranger over the phone. I'm so nervous," the last words get stuck in his throat and he burrows his face deeper into Louis's chest.

   Louis coos and slides his fingers under the hem of Harry's shirt, scratching lightly at the warm skin of his back. "Baby, I told you before that it's all gonna be okay. You and our daughter are going to be perfectly fine. Soon the snow will slow down a bit and the plows will come through and then we'll be on our way to the hospital in no time-"

   "I'm going to have her here," he interrupts quietly, shaking his head slowly.

   "How do you know that, darling?"

   "Mothers intuition, I guess. And besides, Mara said that labour will probably go by fast since this is my first pregnancy. I'm gonna end up having her at home and that kind of terrifies me."

   "Harry, if you do end up giving birth here, then I will do everything in my power to keep both of you safe and healthy. I promise you that nothing, not a single thing, will go wrong," he says firmly against Harry's forehead.

   "Thank you, Lou," Harry whispers after a few moments. "I love you."

   "I love you too, honey. So very much."

   They lay there intertwined in each other, slow breaths puffing out against the others lips. Harry breaths in deeply the soft scent of Louis and slides his head down so it rests against his chest, heart beating against his ear and calming his never-ending apprehension. They're both about to drift off when another contraction tears through him like wildfire, instantly jolting him awake. He can't help but cry out at the severity of the pain this time.

  Louis jumps at his sudden outburst, immediately going to rub at his lower back and murmur encouragements into the warm space between their faces. Harry tenses in his arms, letting out small whimpers between stilted breaths as the pain radiates throughout his whole body. A few awful seconds later his stomach relaxes and he's left almost gasping for breath and trembling against the bedsheets.

   "F-fuck," Harry whispers, rolling onto his back and shutting his eyes. His shirt feels sticky with sweat against his warm skin, and his heart pounds in his ears.

  "I didn't pay attention to the time on that one," Louis swears under his breath and sits back on his haunches next to him. "Can I do anything for you, love?"

   Harry keeps his hands splayed over his stomach as he continues to breath in deeply. "No, I'm okay. I'm-" he swallows thickly. "-fine. Is it still snowing?"

   Louis cranes his neck to look out the window. "Unfortunately."

   Harry sighs.

   "Are you sure there's nothing I can do, baby?"

   "No. Do you think Liam and Niall will mind if I stay up here for a bit? I'm quite tired. And sore. Very-" he shifts on the bed. "sore."

   Louis shakes his head. "No, they'll be perfectly fine down there, I'm sure. Would you like me to stay up here with you, darling? Or would you like some time to yourself?"

   Harry rubs a hand down his face. "I'm just going to try and catch some sleep, hon. You can go sit with the boys if you want, I'll be fine on my own."

   "You're sure?"

   "Mhm."

   "Okay, just time the contractions on your phone then and call me if you need me," Louis stayed seated and watched him with furrowed brows.

   Harry gives a little huff of laughter and reaches up to poke his nose. "What are you looking at me like that for? I'll be fine, I said."

   Louis smiles and grabs Harry's hand before he could pull it away, leaving a kiss on his palm. "I know, sweetie. I'm just- I'm very-" he sighs. "I'm so happy. But I'm also nervous for you because I know how much this is going to hurt. I wish I could help you somehow."

   Harry runs his fingers along Louis's stubbled jawline. "You've already helped me so much though, babe. You've been helping me these past nine months, don't you recall? The four a.m. cravings and the spontaneous mood swings and the relentless morning sickness. I couldn't have done all of that on my own and you know it. And now here we are, the moment we've been waiting for, and I can't thank you enough for how lovely you've been today so far."

   Louis simpers and leans in to kiss him gently. "Oh hush, you. I love you."

   "I know," Harry giggles softly.

   Louis can't help but roll his eyes, pressing the tip of his thumb into the dimple that dented his left cheek. "You're a right nerd, aren't you? Pulling Star Wars references and thinking I won't notice. Silly boy, I've probably seen the saga twice as many times as you have."

   Harry's mouth drops open in faux offence and he reaches up to tweak one of Louis's nipples through his shirt. "Hey hey hey, you didn't even know who Lando Calrissian was until you met me!"

   Louis throws his head back in laughter and swats his hand away playfully. "Lies, I tell you."

   "Oh yeah?" Harry quirked a brow, lips stretching over his large teeth in a smile. "If you're such a huge Star Wars fan, then in what episode did Leia wear the golden bikini?"

   Louis's whole face lights up. He knows this. "Return of the Jedi, of course!" He all but squawks.

   Harry nods his head approvingly, smile never leaving his lips.

   Louis leaned in suddenly, pressing his lips close to his ear. "And I also remember you telling me the first time we watched the movie together how much you wanted one of those bikinis for yourself."

   Harry suppresses a shudder and shifts a bit on the bed. Louis's warm breath sends shivers down his spine. "Mhm," is all he could manage.

   "Maybe I could get you one of them then, yeah? Would you like that? Maybe buy you one for your birthday?"

   Oh would he like that.

   Harry's about to nod yes, maybe bring Louis in for a quick snog, but the baby does something that feels a lot like a somersault and a wave of nausea rises up his throat. He pushes Louis off him and pats at his sternum with his hand to will the feeling away.

   "Alright?" Louis asks, all traces of sensuality gone from his voice and protective husband and father-to-be mode kicking in almost instantly.

   Harry nods a few times, rubbing his hands over his stomach. "Got quite nauseas there. Sorry to ruin the moment, Lou."

   Louis shakes his head, tucking a curl behind Harry's ear that sprung free from the elastic hair tie. "It's okay, love. Are you going to be ill?"

   "No, no, I'm alright," Harry swallows the feeling down.

   "I shouldn't have tried to make a move on you while you're in labour," Louis rubs the back of his neck with a hiccup of laughter. "I just couldn't help myself, it was the perfect moment."

   Harry keeps one hand on his belly and uses the other one to grip Louis's hand. He smiles up at him. "It really was. Maybe you can try again sometime next week though."

   Louis leans down to peck him on the lips. "Mm, I'll mark my calendar. Is there anything I can get you before I go downstairs?"

   Harry gazes over Louis's shoulder. "Could you plug in the record player for me? I remember reading that it helps to have music playing while in labour. Supposed to distract me or summat."

   Louis nods and gets up from the bed. He walks over to where their little Crosley Cruiser sat on the dresser and lifts the lid, turning the dial so the red light blinks on. "Do you want Christmas music?" He asks, kneeling down to sift through their eclectic vinyl collection that was tucked into one of the bottom drawers.

   "Yeah, put on that old Bing Crosby album we have. That'll work," Harry says from the bed.

   Louis pulls the record from its sleeve and sets it on the turntable gently, dropping the needle onto the surface. Bing's sultry voice croons through the speakers and Louis adjusts the volume a bit before turning back to Harry. "Want your book as well? I saw you left it on the bathroom counter."

   Harry nods and Louis makes his way down the hallway to grab the novel. A few of the pages were wilted and curled from where they got wet from Harry's fingers. He hands it to him with a kiss on the forehead.

   "There you are, darling. Just yell for me if you need me, okay? Or even text me if that works better."

   Harry nods again. "Love you, Lou."

   "I love you too, my baby," with one last peck on the lips, Louis shuffles out of the room, leaving the door ajar and jogging down the steps to rejoin his friends in the living room.

   "Oi, there you are," Niall shouts, leaning forward in his chair. "Thought you buggers went up to have the kid without telling us!"

   Louis laughs and sits down on the couch, lifting his feet up on to the coffee table. "Ah, I wouldn't do that to you guys. Jus' had to check how far Harry's dilated, is all."

   "How's he doing?" Liam interjects before Niall could ask any inappropriate questions.

   "Well he's three centimetres as of right now, so we still have a bit to go. He's just resting for a little bit; the last contraction really wore him out," he relaxes into the cushions and shuts his eyes.

   "How are you doing?" Liam asks him.

   Louis looks at him and smiles. "I'm grand, yeah. I really am. I'm quite nervous for him though. I remember how painful it was for me mum when she had the girls, so I'm a bit worried."

   "Harry's a strong lad, he should be fine," Niall says, reaching to scratch the bottom of his foot casually.

   Louis snorts at him. "Wish I could be as laid back as you, Nialler. You never seem to have a care in the world."

   "Nah, it's not that," he says. "I'm just very optimistic; I have a lot of faith in things. Sometimes too much faith, but I truly believe Harry'll be alright."

   Louis flashes a grin at him. Sometimes Niall can be an immature twat, but his heart is honestly as big as those goddamn feet of his. "You're a good lad, you know that? You as well, Li. I couldn't have asked for two better mates."

   Liam and Niall share a look, a mischievous smirk, and then they're jumping from their seats and tackling Louis back into the couch, laughing their asses off. The three of them squish each other in a giant group hug for a moment and then they're pulling away with bright eyes and red cheeks.

   "How does a game of Cards Against Humanity sound, boys?" Louis asks when they've all settled down a bit.

   Niall is already grabbing the black box where he knows it's stored below the television and setting it on the coffee table before anyone can answer.

   "Is this alright though, Lou?" Liam asks somewhat hesitantly, watching Niall pull the lid off of the box. "I mean, Harry's upstairs in labour and we're down here playing games."

   Louis peers over his shoulder at the staircase where he can faintly hear Christmas music coming from their bedroom. "He said he didn't want to be watched like a hawk, and that he needed some alone time to relax. I'm probably just making him anxious with all my fretting anyway," he grabs the white cards Niall hands him. "And besides, I told him to yell if he needs me. I won't be down here long though; I'll go on up and check on him after a couple games."

   Liam nods a few times and reaches for his cards. The three boys spread out a bit and start their game.

 

 

   "Oh my fucking God!" Louis shouts, taking a swig of his tea. He throws his cards down face up onto the glass table where the rest of the deck is spread out messily. "You've got all the good ones!"

   Liam shrugs and tucks his legs underneath him where he's kneeling on a small throw pillow on the floor. "Not my fault, Tommo," he says calmly, smirk tugging at his lips. "Niall dealt them again this time."

   Louis sticks his tongue out at Niall and stands from the floor, stretching his arms above his head. "We're getting a bit unfair here, it seems. Things were more honest between us a mere three games ago. Now we're all cheaters!" He yells melodramatically, reaching for his mug. "I'm gonna go dump the rest of this. Do you boys want anything?"

   The other two shake their heads, still smiling into their hand of cards. Louis carries his half empty mug of Yorkshire into the kitchen and spills it out into the sink, watching the liquid swirl down the drain. He washes the polka dot cup while gazing out the kitchen window at the snowfall. Everything outside is so bright and white, and it's beautiful, really, but he can tell by how the sky is a slat of grey, and how the snowflakes are small and falling in a plethora of flurries, that this storm isn't going to let up anytime soon. He only hopes that the snow plows will come around within the next hour, hopefully less.

   Liam's shuffling the cards when he walks back out into the living room, and he's about to pop a squat on the pillow he was sitting on when his cellphone chimes from the floor next to it.

   Louis reaches for it and sees two text messages from Harry lighting up his lockscreen.

Baby
Lou come up here

Baby
Help

   He doesn't even think twice before he's dropping his phone to the floor and racing up the stairs, stumbling into their bedroom and leaving the other two sitting on the living room carpet completely wide eyed. Louis's heart is in his throat when he reaches their room, and he immediately finds Harry out of bed, gripping the edges of the desk where his phone and book sat next to his hand. His eyes are shut tight, brows scrunched together, and he's puffing out small, regulated breaths.

   Louis walks over to him and places a gentle hand in the centre of his back. "Honey, what's the matter?" He asks him somewhat calmly, though his wavering voice betrays him.

   Harry lets out a low moan before answering, dropping his head between his shoulders and letting his loose hair curtain his face. He starts to sway his hips slowly side to side, digging his nails harder into the wooden surface until the tips of his fingers turn white. "Mm, they're getting really bad, Lou. I can barely- I can't- I'm in so much pain."

   Louis's heart completely breaks seeing his boy like this. "Lovely, why are you up then? How far apart are the contractions?" He asks, rubbing his hand around in soothing circles on Harry's damp shoulder blades.

   Harry stands up straight, resting his hands on his lower back and tipping his face towards the ceiling. "God, I just needed to move around a bit, thought that would help some. They're, um- seven minutes apart? I don't even know, I stopped timing them and decided to pace around the room."

   Louis watched with his hands hovering mid air, unsure where to place them, as Harry continued to sway lightly on his feet. "I- okay, what can I do? Do you want to lay down? C'mon, baby, come sit down. I should probably check you again."

   He feels like he's going to be sick; everything is just moving so fast. He could've sworn just a few minutes ago he was inviting Liam and Niall in.

   Harry sits on the edge of the bed as slow as he can, wincing with each small movement. He bounces his foot on the carpet for a few seconds, hands holding on to his stomach, before he scoots back against the pillows and relaxes. "Christ, Lou, it feels like she's between my legs," he groans, bending his knees.

   Louis sucks his bottom lip between his teeth and pulls his sweatpants down for him, shooting him a sympathetic look before reaching in and doing as he did before.

   Harry lets out a shout this time, squirming on the bed and kicking Louis's arm away, crying out, "stop, fuck, stop."

   Louis squeezes his knee comfortingly. He feels proper awful. He wishes he was in Harry's place right now, going through these contractions and everything. He just feels so helpless sitting here like this.

   Harry's full on crying now, fat tears rolling down his cheeks and dripping onto his shirt. He's got his head pressed back against the wooden headboard, hands gripping his lower stomach in a way that looks nothing but uncomfortable, and he's shaking. Louis notices his legs trembling and his teeth chattering together in the slightest bit and he hurries to pull his pants back up.

   "Okay, okay, six centimetres. We're almost there, baby," he says with a weak smile. "Come on, now. Let's get you under these covers, yeah? Let's relax a bit."

   Harry shuffles under the duvet and curls onto his side, tears continuing to stain his skin and the pillow beneath his head. Louis realises that there's no longer music playing, so he gets up from the bed on weak legs and lifts the record from the turntable and slips it back into its sleeve. "What do you want to listen to now, baby? More Christmas music? Or how about something else?" He crouched down and slides the record back into the drawer. "How about some Billie Holiday? Oh, I know," he picks out a record and pulls it from its cardboard sleeve. "Nat King Cole sounds good, yeah? I know this album is your favourite."

   Louis gets the music playing and sets it to a low volume, then he walks back over to where Harry's still sniffling into the sheets and he brushes his hair out of his face with nimble fingers. "I'm just gonna go grab my cellphone and let Miss Mara know what's going on, okay darling?" He says quietly, leaning down to press a kiss to Harry's moist cheek.

   Harry mumbles an affirmation and Louis returns to the living room with a hand gripping the back of his neck, massaging the tense muscles with tight fingers. Blowing out a slow breath, he reaches for his cellphone that was now sitting on the glass coffee table.

   The cards were all put away, and Niall and Liam jump up from the couch when he reentered the room.

   "Christ, Lou, is everything alright?" Liam asked, distress clear in his voice.

   Louis's eyes gloss over as he hovers his thumb over the woman's number and looks up at them. "I feel so awful for him, God, I hate seeing him like this."

   "Well, what happened? You just stormed out of here like a fuckin' madman!" Niall exclaims, throwing his hands in the air exaggeratedly.

   Louis swipes his fingers under his eyes and snuffed back any tears that threatened to fall. "He texted me 'help', and I went up there to find him in tears. These contractions are so fucking hard on him and it's tearing my heart out," the last word comes out in a whimper and he drops his body into the couch. Niall and Liam immediately come to sit at his sides. "Hold on, I need to ring Mara."

   The woman picks up on the fourth ring, and her voice is as warm as ever. "Hello, love. How are things going?"

   Louis bites his lip. "Um, Harry's six centimetres."

   "Oh, that's good to hear! Are you alright? Your voice is shaking, hon."

   Louis lets out a pitiful little laugh. "Harry's in a tremendous amount of pain and I feel so fucking useless."

   Mara sighs. "I'm sure you're doing absolutely everything you can for him, Louis. Just keep him comfortable, alright? Rub his back and his stomach, and even his legs a bit. Tuck him into bed, play some music. Keep him calm and relaxed right now, that's the most you can do. He's going to get cranky and short with you the closer to the birth he gets, but don't take it personally, sweetie. He's going to be very uncomfortable, so it's not your fault."

   Her voice was so gentle and soothing, like his mums, and he just wanted to cry.

   "Thank you so much, Mara. You're our silver lining here."

   She laughs a bit. "Oh my, don't mention it. Now, we were just notified that the snow plows will be out on the streets in the next hour or so, okay? Then we'll be able to dispatch an ambulance for you."

   Louis breaths out a sigh of relief. Finally. "Oh thank god," he'll most likely have his daughter within the next hour, but at least she won't be without medical attention for long.

   There's a faint, "Louis" coming from upstairs, so he hurries to thank Mara and end the call.

   "We're gonna go up with you," Liam says, standing from the couch.

   Louis hums in agreement and the three boys make their way up into the master bedroom.

   Harry's burrowed down into the blankets with his face pressed to the pillows, hands clenching and unclenching around the sheets on the mattress around him. Louis kneels beside him and brushes his hair away away from his face. He seems to have stopped crying, though his nose and cheeks are still tinged with pink.

   "Is everything alright, my love?" Louis asks quietly, voice still quivering in the slightest.

   Harry turns onto his back, features twisted up, and shucks the blankets from his body. "Lay with me?" He asks meekly.

   Louis looks over his shoulder to where Niall and Liam are lingering in the doorway awkwardly. "Lads, I'm going to stay up here for a bit, okay?"

   Harry lets out a soft whimper next to him and he looks down to see the boy writhing where he lay, pushing himself up on the bed into a sitting position. His breathing starts to pick up and Louis grabs his hand for him to squeeze.

   "Holy shite," Niall says in astonishment, watching Harry's swollen stomach ripple with the contraction. "It's like fucking Alien."

   Harry glares at him. "Shut the fuck up," he moans.

   Niall holds his hands up in mock surrender and Liam grabs his shoulder. "C'mon, Ni. Let's go downstairs."

   Louis watches the two boys exit down the hallway and turns back towards Harry. "How are we doing, baby?"

   Harry shakes his head slowly and Louis can practically feel the exhaustion radiating off of him. "This is so hard," he says through a dry sob. "I knew it was going to hurt but God, I was planning on getting an epidural, you know?"

   "I know, love," Louis leans down to press a kiss to his forehead. "But we're so close, yeah? Our little girl is almost here," he rests a hand on Harry's stomach, the skin taught beneath his palm. "How about we both try to nap a little bit? It'll be good to save some energy for when the big moment arrives."

   Harry looks up at him with glossy eyes. He looks so young like this, so vulnerable. "Do you really think I'll be able to get some sleep? These contractions are nearly on top of each other."

   Louis nods, rubbing his belly gently. "You should be fine, just relax, hon. I'll be right here."

   Harry slides down in the bed, back against Louis, and shuts his eyes. Louis lays down as well, pulling the blankets over their bodies. He kisses Harry's shoulder and wraps a gentle arm around his waist. The two boys drift off to Nat King Cole's L-O-V-E playing softly through the turntables speakers.

 

 

   He's not sure how long he was asleep for, but when Louis comes to his senses, the music has stopped, and Harry's sitting on the edge of the bed, back facing him.

   He reaches forward to tug on the hem of his shirt. "Love?" He asks, voice scratchy with sleep.

   Harry turns towards him, and he looks much more relaxed than he did before. He sticks out his bottom lip in the most adorable pout and Louis can't help but to laugh a little. He sits up in the bed and rubs his eyes. Through a yawn, he asks, "what time is it?"

   Harry stands and rounds the bed with a hand glued to his lower back. His steps are slow as he makes his way over to the desk where their phones sat, and Louis regrets not getting up to check it himself.

   "Almost eleven-thirty. You've been asleep for about an hour."

   "Did you get any sleep, babe?" Louis sidles up behind him and wraps his hands around his belly.

   Harry's head drops back onto his shoulder with a sigh. "Off and on, I slept a little, Lou. These contractions are just brutal."

   "I know, I know," Louis says softly into the side of his neck. "Want me to check you again?"

   Harry shakes his head. "No, no."

   Louis kisses the top of his head, resting his cheek in the nest of curly hair. "She's going to be here so soon."

   "I know," Harry says just as quietly.

   Louis wraps his arms around the boys waist and locks his fingers at the base of his spine while Harry snakes his arms around his neck and kisses him on the lips.

   Louis starts to hum an incoherent melody against Harry's mouth and sways them side to side slowly. Harry giggles, actually fucking giggles, and hides his face in the nape of Louis's neck.

   "Such a romantic, you are," he says.

   "Wait, hold on," Louis pulls away suddenly and turns towards the record player. He lifts the vinyl off the turntable and puts it away in one swift movement.

   "You never listen to both sides, do you?" Harry asks, hands on his hips.

   Louis laughs. "Nah, it's a problem I have," he places a new record on and drops the needle.

   Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love fills the room and Harry's whole face lights up like the Christmas tree that was set up in the living room downstairs.

   "You sly dog," he laughs, thumping Louis on the chest lightly.

   Louis just grins and holds out his hand. "May I have this dance, Mr. Tomlinson?"

   Harry rolls his eyes and grabs his hand. Louis pulls him close and they return to their previous positions.

   "Just like our wedding night," Louis whispers into the boys shoulder.

   Although, this is nothing like their wedding night. This time they're both barefoot and in their pyjamas, slow dancing in their bedroom while a storm goes on outside and their daughter is about to make her grand entrance into the world.

   This time, it's better than their wedding night.

   The song is halfway through when Harry stiffens up, and Louis tightens his hold on the boy. He himself can practically feel the contraction this time from where Harry's stomach is pressed to his own, and he murmurs sweet encouragements into his ear.

   "Okay, baby. You're okay," he says, rubbing his back. "Talk to me. Tell me about the book you're reading, yeah? Tell me what's happening. You're alright, just relax, sweetheart."

   Harry takes a few deep breaths, gripping the back of Louis's shoulders in his hands and leaning his forehead on his collarbone. "Spoilers, Lou. Don't wanna- spoil it for you," he ends the sentence in a pained groan.

   "It's okay, just talk. I just want you to talk through it, love."

   "Um," he grunts. "Uh, Dorian is gonna show Basil the-the room where he's been keeping the painting of himself, but Bas- oh."

   Louis pulls away and looks down at him. Harry's got his his nose scrunched up and looks completely overwhelmed.

   "H? Alright?"

   "Oh God, there's a lotta pressure," he says, hunching over a bit and squeezing his thighs together. "Holy fucking hell."

   Louis places his hands on his shoulders. "Pressure, how?"

   "Down there, fuck. Oh my god, I think she's coming. Holy shit," Harry sits down on the edge of the bed, puffing out the familiar patterned breaths he learned in Lamaze class months ago and cradling his stomach carefully in both of his hands.

   Louis stands there like a deer in headlights, fish-mouthing a few times before he's able to utter any words. "Wow, alright, I'm gonna go get some towels. I'm just going to- yeah. And…yeah," he jogs down the hallway and opens up the closet door, grabbing an armful of clean white towels fervently and carrying them back into the bedroom. He sets them down next to Harry haphazardly and runs out again. He stomps down the stairs and yells to Liam and Niall, "I'm having a baby, lads!" then clambers back upstairs again. He may or may not have slipped a few times on the carpet on his way up.

   Harry's on his feet when he comes back into the room, with his hands on his knees and moaning like some wounded animal.

   "Ah, Lou…" he whimpers.

   "I know, baby, I know," Louis says, heart in his throat. "Let me just set things up here."

   He pulls the duvet and sheet off the bed, pushing them onto the floor in a heap and leaving only the fitted sheet on the mattress. He unfolds one of the towels and lays it vertically up near the pillows with quick movements.

   "Come on," Louis guides Harry onto the bed and doubles up the pillows behind his back. "Comfortable?"

   Harry nods and moans again. "Mm, I think I gotta push, Lou."

   "I know, honey," he tugs Harry's pants down and throws them to the side, draping another towel over his lap. "Now, I'll just ring Mara," his voice is calm, but as he types out the woman's number, his fingers shake horridly.

   "Hello?" She says.

   "Mara, we're ready. Harry's ready to push."

   "Oh, he is!"

   Harry groans loudly and throws his head back onto the headboard where it knocks against the wood. "Louis!"

   "Yeah, hold on," Louis puts the call on speaker and places the cellphone on the nightstand. "Honey, I remember a while ago you said you wanted classical music playing in the delivery room, yeah? Is that right?"

   "Yes," Harry grits, face contorting as he resisted against his urges to push.

   "Okay, what do you want then? Bach, Chopin-"

   "Tchaikovsky! Tchaikovsky, oh my god."

   Louis replaces the vinyl record and shuts the door to their room. Then he kneels on the edge of the bed near Harry's legs, placing his hands on his knees.

   "Are we ready?" Mara asks patiently through the phone.

   "Mhm," Harry hums, spreading and bending his legs. His toes curl into the fabric of the towel. "Oh god, oh god, oh fuck. She's coming, she's right there."

   "Okay, love. On your next contraction, I want you to start pushing. Press your chin to your chest and grab ahold of the backs of your thighs for some leverage, alright?"

   Harry hums again, his chest rising and falling at a rapid pace, on the verge of hyperventilation. Louis watches as his face contorts with pain and a gasp leaves his mouth.

   "Holy fuck!" He shouts, lifting his body off of the bed a bit.

   "Push, Harry!" Louis encourages him, gripping his ankles and rubbing his thumbs over the bones that jutted out.

   Harry shouts again and bears down. His face flushes a deep rouge as he pushes, curling around his stomach and all but screaming into his teeth. His nails dig into the thin skin behind his knees and Louis watches the whole time through a wince.

   Mara counts to ten, quite slowly, and then tells Harry to stop. He almost immediately drops his body back against the pillows with a groan.

   "Alright, how are we looking, Louis?" She asks.

   Louis puts his hands on Harry's knees and peers between his legs. "Ah, nothing much yet."

   Harry swears at the top of his lungs, followed by a pitiful whimper. "Needa push again," he practically whines.

   "Then go ahead, sweetheart. Do what your body tells you to do," Mara says calmly. Louis wants to kiss her for being so collected when he's over here sweating bullets.

   The next twenty minutes or so go by in a blur of classical music, yelling, counting, and then suddenly Louis can see it and it's like stars are bursting behind his eyes.

   "There's a head! Holy shit, I can see my daughter," he can feel his chest tighten up and he bites his lip harder than necessary.

   "Okay, that's wonderful, just let me know when the head is fully out, alright?"

   "Okay, yeah, alright-"

   He's cut off by Harry screaming again, and Louis swears the boy is going to pop a blood vessel any minute now.

   "Oh god," Harry groans just as the baby's head slips out. His fingers inch around the underside of his thighs until he's touching it. "Hair! She's got hair, Lou," he cries, eyes squeezed shut.

   Louis stifles his own sob into the back of his hand. "I know, baby. I can see," he can feel his heartbeat in the tips of his fingers as Harry's legs tremble beneath his soft touch.

   "Harry? Honey, don't push too hard now that the head is out, okay?" Mara says. "Give a few little ones so you can get her shoulders out without tearing anything."

   Harry nods frantically, though the woman isn't able to see him, and starts to push again. Louis watches as his face doesn't turn as bright a shade of red this time, watches as the vein in his forehead and neck isn't as prominent, and rubs his kneecaps.

   "You're doing so great, baby," he praises. "Oh my goodness, you're doing amazing."

   Harry hisses as he continues to bear down and Louis reaches forward to grab ahold of one of his hands, lacing their fingers on top of Harry's stomach.

   "Shoulders are out, darling. They're out," he says, eyes going wide as he stares at their daughter, so close to being here.

   "Louis, hon, you're going to need to help guide the baby out now, okay? Gently tug her out while Harry's pushing. Go slow," Mara instructs in her motherly voice.

   "Alright, okay," he says, shifting on the bed so he's sitting up on his knees more. "Push whenever, love," he tells Harry.

   Harry nods and grimaces, mouth hanging open as he pushes again. Louis's hands are between his legs, holding on to their daughter's tiny form and guiding her until she's fully out and in his arms.

   And it's as if the sun starts to shine brighter through the window panes, and the music playing behind him crescendos, and she's here.

   She immediately starts to cry, and so does Harry, and so does Louis. Harry's leaning against the headboard with his hands covering his face, blubbering incoherently into his palms while Louis stares in awe at the tiny creature in his hold.

   "Oh, beautiful!" Mara exclaims, and they can hear that she too is choked up a bit. "She's definitely got a set of lungs on her, but Louis, you need to take your first two fingers and swab them around her mouth and throat and nose to get any gunk out of her airways, okay? Do that now."

   Louis nods to himself and does as he's told, and the newborn screams even louder. Her little face is twisted up in absolute agony and as red as a tomato and she's got her tiny fists waving all about. She's all slimy and proper gross, but she's finally here. Louis uses an extra towel at his side to wipe her up a bit, all the while blinking back relentless tears.

   "Place her on Harry's chest now, Louis. And cover her with a towel or blanket, whichever you have there."

   Louis brings the crying newborn up between Harry's legs and places her on his T-shirt clad chest carefully. Harry promptly brings her up closer to his face, kissing the top of her head with tears streaming down his face and bundles her up in the towel that was draped over his legs.

   "Oh my goodness," he coos, tears streaking his flushed cheeks. "Oh baby, oh my sweet little darling, you're here. You're finally here."

   Louis uses the collar of his shirt to wipe at his eyes and sniffles. "What- what should I do with the umbilical cord?" He asks, voice scratchy.

   "Nothing, love," Mara says gently. "Because we just sent out an ambulance and it should be there in a few minutes. The EMT's will take care of everything else. You boys just sit tight, okay?"

   "Thank God," Louis blows out the most relieved breath he could muster and sits down softly next to Harry who's got their naked daughter tucked under his chin protectively.

   "Oh, Lou," he whimpers. "Oh, Louis, look at her. We made her."

   Louis's eyes well up with tears once again and he leans down to kiss his husband on the forehead, then his daughter. "I know, my love. Oh, you did such a magnificent job. Absolutely beautiful, you were. I'm so proud, baby. So proud."

   The record slows to a stop, and the room is left in silence. The tiny baby on Harry's chest continues to let out little mewls as she squirms around a bit.

   Louis hums and places his hand over Harry's on her back. "Goodness, is she tiny. Just a tiny little bug."

   "Louis, Harry?" Mara says through the phone. "I'm going to let you boys go now, okay? I'm very proud of the both of you."

   Harry snuffs back his tears and says, "thank you so much, miss. We can never repay you."

   She laughs. "Oh hush, now. I'm happy to have helped you. Bye-bye, loves. And congratulations."

   Louis reaches behind him to end the call and turns back to Harry. His body is tingling all over like he just jumped into the never-ending snow outside, his skin prickling with excitement and radiating with pure happiness that he feels as if he may combust. Looking down at his husband cradling this tiny newborn to his bosom, this baby that they made together, makes him want to shout from the highest of rooftops, the tallest of mountains; he has a family.

   Harry breathes out a deep sigh and lets his legs slide down on the bed, relaxing his body against the pillows stuffed behind his back. He's positively glowing. He may be as flushed as a tomato, and his skin may have a pasty pallor to it, but he looks so goddamn beautiful right now and Louis is so goddamn proud of him.

   "Lou," the boy whispers in astonishment, eyes glued on their baby that was sleeping soundly on his chest. His lip starts to quiver and Louis presses a gentle kiss to his sweaty temple.

   "I know, gorgeous," he whispers back. "She's stunning. An absolute peach."

   There's a curt knock on the bedroom door and before the couple can answer, Liam is shoving his way into the room and stepping to the side. He stares at the scene before him with wide eyes. Louis's about to get off the bed and scold him, tell him he can't just barge into their room when such a private moment is unfolding, especially when Harry is so exposed like this, but suddenly a gurney is being pushed through the door and two EMT's are making their way in.

   "Thank you, sir," one of the young men say, and Liam nods at him and walks out. He walks over to Harry and Louis and smiles warmly at them. "Hello, lads. I'm just going to take this little one from you and get them into the ambulance, alright?"

   "Steve, cord's still attached," the other man says from the end of the bed.

"Ah, okay then. Sir, would you like to do the honours?" Steve asks Louis, handing him a pair of surgical clippers he pulled from the duffel bag at his feet.

   Louis nods dumbly and grabs them from him, standing from the bed and making his way next to the other man.

   "Right here, lad," he points to a section of the umbilical cord that was tied off in two places and snips in between it. His fingers tremble as he hands the clippers back to the first EMT.

   "Lovely," Steve says, grabbing a blanket that looked almost as if it were made of tinfoil from his bag and reaching for the baby that still say upon Harry's chest.

   Harry immediately tenses up and covers his daughter with his hands protectively. "What are you going to do with her?" He asks sternly.

   Steve just smiles and removes Harry's hands from her carefully. "It's alright, sir. I'm just going to wrap her up in this to keep her warm and bring her down into the ambulance. Is that okay?"

   Harry furrows his brows, but nods nonetheless and let's the EMT take their baby from him and carry her downstairs. He turns to Louis with panic swimming in his emerald eyes. "She'll be okay, yeah? He'll be careful with her? She's so small, Lou."

   Louis smiles and kisses the bridge of his nose, kneeling with one knee on the mattress next to him. "Of course, my love. They're trained for this. She'll be alright, we'll be with her in just a moment."

   Harry relaxes some, and after a bit of cleaning up and dressing, he's being tucked under a plethora of cotton blankets and strapped down onto the gurney, and with the help of Louis and the other EMT, they carry him down the stairs carefully.

   Niall and Liam are waiting near the door anxiously.

   Harry flashes them a smile and reaches out for a hug, and without delay the two boys press themselves against his chest.

   "Oh Harry," Liam breathes into the nape of his neck. "We saw her, she is gorgeous."

   "Yeah, she really is," Niall says, throwing him and Louis a smile. "So happy for you two."

   "Thank you, lads," Louis says, patting them each on the shoulder. "But if you'll excuse us, Harry and I have to get on to the hospital now. Are your cars still out of order?"

   Liam sighs. "Unfortunately. But that's okay, Ni and I can hold down the fort for you two until you come back. Or until the snow melts a bit in the driveway, either one. Now go on, we'll talk to you later."

   Louis smiles again and slips on his shoes and jacket, picking up Harry's hospital bag that sat on the floor near the front door and slinging it over his shoulder. Him and the young EMT push Harry out into the flurry of snow and into the back of the ambulance.

 

 

   "Ten fingers and ten toes," Louis whispers, holding his daughters tiny fist in his palm.

   Harry smiles and tugs the little pink beanie down over her ears. "She's perfect."

   They've been there for around two hours now, just sitting together in the small hospital bed wrapped up in each other and admiring their new baby. She fell asleep not long after they arrived, crying almost the whole way over in the bumpy ambulance ride. Harry napped a bit after being professionally checked over, giving Louis some time with his daughter and sat in the chair next to his husband singing softly to her.

   Liam called him during that time, telling him that he and Niall were able to start their car and were going to come visit. Louis told them that it's alright, that they can just go home since they'll be leaving the hospital in the morning anyway.

   While Harry was still sleeping, he rang their parents and told them of the good news, and he spent a good half an hour crying with them over the phone. He also made plans for their families to come over tomorrow as well to celebrate.

   Harry immediately looked for their daughter when he awoke a few minutes ago, making grabby hands towards Louis when he spotted her in his lap. Louis slipped off his shoes and slid in next to him under the covers, passing the bundled up baby over to him.

   "We haven't thought of any names yet, can you believe?" Louis said, brushing his thumb over her silky cheeks.

   Harry was about to answer him when there was a soft knock at the door.

   "Come in," he called quietly.

   A woman of about thirty with auburn hair and kind eyes peeked into the room at the two boys, smiling. "Harry and Louis Tomlinson?" She asked.

   "Yes?" Louis said. He couldn't place where he's heard the woman's voice before.

   She stepped further into the room and shut the door behind her. She stood at the foot of the bed with her hands folded before her. "Hi loves, I'm Mara Collins. I-"

   Louis immediately jumped out of the bed and wrapped the woman up in a hug, catching her off guard. "Mara," he practically sobbed into her shoulder. "Oh God, thank you so, so much for everything you did for us today. We wouldn't have been able to do anything without your help."

   Mara pulled away and wiped at her eyes. "Goodness gracious, I'm so glad to have been able to help you lads."

   "I don't think my labour and delivery would have gone as smoothly as it did without you," Harry said from the bed, smiling at the woman.

   Mara rounded the bed with her arms outstretched and hugged Harry carefully. Louis watched on fondly. "Oh Harry, everything went well? You're both healthy?"

   Harry nodded, looking down at the baby in his arms. "Yeah, we're good. She's good."

   "She's a little darling," she said, reaching out to tickle the newborns cheek.

   There was another knock on the door and a young nurse walked in, holding a clipboard to her chest. "Mr. and Mr. Tomlinson, I'm here to get the baby's name and your signatures for the birth certificate."

   Louis signed the paper and handed it to Harry, who handed it back to the woman.

   "Alright, full name?"

   The two boys shared a look and smiled.

   "Mara Tomlinson," Louis said.

   "Middle name is Rose."

   The nurse recorded the name down and left the room.

   Mara looked at them with her hands over her mouth. "I'm- oh, lads. You didn't have to do that."

   "No, no, we wanted to," Harry smiled at her. "You were a big part in her journey here, so she deserves to have a name that means something. Is that okay?"

   "Oh, it's more than okay," she said. "I'm honoured. Absolutely honoured. Thank you so much."

   "No, thank you."

 

 

   Louis's birthday was spent at home, just as he wanted it to be.

   The fire was blazing, warming the room, the Christmas tree was sparkling with multicoloured lights, and the record player was carried downstairs so everyone can enjoy some holiday Sinatra music.

   The Styles family was mingling with the Horan family, and the Tomlinson's with the Payne's. Everyone was having a grand old time, laughing and singing and exchanging birthday and early Christmas gifts. And marvelling over little Mara, of course.

   Louis sat next to Harry on the sofa with a glass of wine in his hand, watching from across the room as Gemma braided Lottie and Félicité's hair near the fireplace and Liam's sisters joked around with Greg and Denise near the tree. Theo, Earnie, and Doris were sitting on the floor, playing with some toys that Phoebe and Daisy brought over. All of the parents migrated to the kitchen some minutes ago and Louis can hear them gossiping over the cheese platter.

   The house is warm and the atmosphere is jovial, filled with the scent of food and mixed perfumes. And as Louis looks over to see Harry curled up next to him in a sweater and his hair up, cooing down at their tiny daughter in his lap who stared back at him with wide blue eyes, he realised he wouldn't want to spend his birthday any other way.