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A Life That We Share (I Owe It All to You)

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Harry keeps hopefully looking towards the door of the school every few seconds and then sighing once he realizes no one is walking out of it. He raises up on the balls of his feet to better see over the crowd as if his evident impatience will cause time to move quicker or for his son to come bounding out of the double doors.

 

He has gotten here too early again in an effort to keep his day on track, and as a result he’s had to endure listening to the dull exchanges of the other parents who are also there early waiting for the dismissal bell to go.

 

He reminds himself for the hundredth time that he needs to start leaving work later in order to avoid this. He tells himself that nearly every single day, and yet here he is again wishing he didn’t have to hear Charlotte’s mother go on and on about whatever it is this time that’s got her complaining.

 

The wind is cold as it picks up again, causing Harry to shudder and curse himself for not wearing something other than the thin shirt with the equally thin sleeves that he pulls tight over his knuckles. Oliver had tried to walk out of the house this morning with nothing on but a t-shirt as well. He had put up a strong, seven-year old fight about the coat that Harry made him wear in the end. The seasons have been playing tug-of-war for weeks. It’s obvious that winter is winning though, and also that Harry was right to make his son put something heavier on to keep him warm.

 

Harry ducks his face from the chilled breeze just as the bell rings. The inside of the building has been pretty quiet for the last few minutes, but now it’s bustling with the sounds of teachers and hundreds of pairs of small feet rushing towards the exit.

 

Oliver never makes it out first, so Harry doesn’t look for him as soon as the doors get propped open and the first wave of kids come out in search of their parents. The crowd starts to thin as teachers send their students home, so Harry steps forward, looking for his son along the group that’s just making it through the door. Harry spots his son coming towards him along with the coat that he mentally high-fives himself for making him wear.

 

He waves at Oliver and fondly shakes his head at the way he seems to always be straggling behind each day at pick-up. He’s quiet and a bit smaller compared to other boys in his class, so it’s not unusual for him to end up at the back of the line, but he’s never looked quite as small as he does today with the way he’s close and tucked into his teacher’s side as she walks him over.

 

Harry’s eyes do a quick sweep of his son’s body, making sure all of his essential limbs and appendages are still attached when Oliver glances up and his face is all pink like it always is whenever he’s been crying.

 

His teacher gives him a solemn yet understanding sort of grin when she sees the worry all over his face. Oliver leaves her side to go stand with him, turning his face away to watch everyone else leave rather than greeting his father with a smile like he does every other day.

 

“He was alright this morning, but he had a bit of a rough afternoon. I tried to find out what got him so upset, but he doesn’t seem to want to talk to me about it. Maybe he’ll talk to you?” she says with a hopeful lift in her voice before waving them goodbye.

 

Harry nods and offers her a thank you as an afterthought, still very much concerned about the little boy who hasn’t said a word where he’s trying to hide in the shadow that Harry casts along the ground.

 

“Do you want me to carry your backpack?” Harry asks. He feels better when Oliver nods and shrugs it off of his shoulders. Oliver sneaks his hand into Harry’s without a word.

 

They begin the five block walk home and get about a quarter of the way there before Harry can conjure up the courage to ask anything else.

 

“Do you have homework for tonight?” He gets a nod as an answer which is better than nothing. “Did you remember to wear your coat when you went out for recess?” He gets another affirmative nod, so Harry stops stalling with the easy questions and goes right for the kill. “Do you want to tell me what happened at school today to make you upset?” he asks quietly.

 

He feels Oliver’s grip tighten around his hand. He shakes his head ‘no’ and offers no explanation as to why his eyes are all puffy.

 

Harry can’t let them go home like this; not with Oliver refusing to speak and Harry losing his mind wondering what horrible thing has happened to his son. He racks his brain for a solution and comes up with none, so he asks the only other question he can think of that might make them both feel better.

 

“Would you like some hot chocolate?”

 

It takes a couple of seconds for him to respond, but soon Oliver’s head is nodding, his grip around his dad’s hand loosening a considerable amount as they head towards the warmth of the shop a couple of streets over.

*

Harry plies them both with large mugs full of pure sugar, grinning as he watches Oliver pour in more marshmallows than is probably necessary. They drink in silence for the most part, but eventually Oliver starts to act more like himself. He starts talking a bit, challenging his dad to see how many marshmallows they can fit into their mouths as well as trying to convince Harry to let him have a refill. He allows it, only because he looks so happy after he gets another steaming mug full of chocolate. Harry uses his son’s change in mood to his advantage, ambushing him when he least expects it.

 

“We’re having fun, right, Ollie?” Harry asks watching as Oliver stacks a column of marshmallows nearly twice the height of his mug.

 

“Yes. We always have fun,” he answers, carefully adding one more level to his tower. He smiles at his work when it remains standing despite the way it’s leaning to one side.

 

Harry’s heart warms hearing his son speak that way about the time they spend together. It makes him feel like even more of a dick for what he’s about to do.

 

“And you usually have fun at school too, yeah? You love school don’t you?” Oliver nods, trying his luck with adding another marshmallow to his structure. It comes toppling down when Harry pushes with, “Then, what happened to make school not so fun today, Ollie?”

 

Oliver looks down at his marshmallow tower, all broken and dismantled. He sinks back against his seat and looks every bit as sad as he had earlier when Harry picked him up. He shrugs when he meets Harry’s eyes again, but Harry isn’t letting him off that easy, pushing for his son to talk to him.

 

“I don’t want to get them in trouble,” he mumbles. “It’ll only make them hate me more,” he whispers.

 

Harry takes a deep breath, reminding himself to stay calm in the face of his child. He figured it had something to do with the other kids at school, but he’s still angry hearing it be confirmed.

 

“What happened?” Harry asks, minding his tone and the way he’s squeezing the handle of his mug.

 

“Nothing,” Oliver says. “They just don’t like me.”

 

“Love, that’s not true. Why do you think that?”

 

Oliver is a great kid. Harry can’t believe that anyone would think anything less of him. Harry can feel his stomach twisting around at the hurt in his son’s tiny voice when he shrugs and says, “Because they told me.”

 

It hurts; the realization that his son is having to go through the same thing he had to endure in school. He was never popular. He was never anyone’s first choice for teams whenever they played and Harry often had to entertain himself when they had recess, but he never thought that his child would end up sharing his fate. Oliver is amazing. He’s intelligent and funny and thoughtful and the absolute best person that Harry knows. He can’t believe that no one else sees it.

 

“Which kids? What are their names? Is it just the boys?” Harry demands, “I’m going to talk to your teacher tomorrow.”

 

Harry has half a mind to turn right back around and go talk to her today, but he figures she’ll have left by now. The fire in his chest dies out when Oliver softly asks him not to.

 

“Please don’t,” he begs with wide eyes that would ordinarily get him whatever he wants. Harry is very tempted to give in.

 

“Why not? You had an awful day because of them. You were unhappy at school and these kids made you cry, Ollie. I have to let her know,” Harry tries to reason with him. His son still shakes his head no to protest.

 

“They’ll just say I’m a baby.”

 

Harry cringes, remembering how the boys in his class used to call him the same name whenever he told someone about how mean they were. It’s hard to believe that after all these years that kids haven’t gotten any more original in the way they can hurt someone.

 

“I have to at least let her know what’s going on, love. I won’t go make a big deal, but I can’t just let it go either.”

 

Oliver sighs like his words are the worst news he’s ever heard. He doesn’t even want to finish the rest of his hot chocolate or rebuild his marshmallow tower afterwards, glancing up, barely even meeting his dad’s eyes when he quietly asks if they can go home.

 

*

Harry tries his best to keep his word to his son the next day when he walks Oliver into the building. He has to be at work soon, so he doesn’t have a lot of time to really discuss what’s going on with his teacher. He watches as Oliver gets started unpacking his things and then discreetly calls the teacher over to inform her that his son is being picked on by some of the boys in the class.

 

It feels just as immature and petty coming out of Harry’s mouth as it did when he said it for the first time nearly twenty years ago, but she assures him that she’ll keep an eye out for any signs of bullying from now on and put an end to it.

 

Harry doesn’t expect a miracle when he picks Oliver up later that day, but he didn’t think he’d still look so sad either. His eyes aren’t red so he doesn’t look as though he’s been crying today, but he still looks upset when he walks over to take Harry’s hand.

 

“How was today?” Harry asks when they’re a safe distance from the school and no one can overhear them. “Were those boys any nicer to you?”

 

“They didn’t say anything mean today.”

 

Harry feels a bit of relief from that, but it’s not enough to put him at ease. Not when his son looks this way.

 

“Then, what happened?” he asks, knowing that something must have.

 

“We played football at recess. Nobody wanted me on their team,” he admits after a few moments of silence.

 

It feels like someone has just punched Harry in the gut from how familiar it sounds.

 

“Did you tell the teacher?” Harry asks, not knowing if it’s better or worse to have him tattle-tale at this point.

 

“She saw and made them include everybody, but I told her I didn’t feel well, so I wouldn’t have to play. I know they didn’t want me to anyway.”

 

Harry’s feelings have never been hurt more than when kids used to point out how awful he was at sports and then made him feel even worse by refusing to let him even attempt to play.

 

He’s torn, knowing that forcing the boys to play with Oliver will only make it worse, but he can’t let his son come home upset everyday either.

 

He has no clue how to handle this. His parents never did either, so Harry just learned to ignore it. He doesn’t want to tell his son to do that, but for right now he’s out of other ideas.

 

“We can play football together after homework,” Harry tells him with a playful nudge that puts the shadow of a tiny grin on his son’s face. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit better,” he says, praying that it will.

 

 

Every day that passes during the next week is worse than the one before. One day the boys didn’t want him on their football team and the next day they just didn’t speak to him at all.

 

They aren’t technically bullying his son. They aren’t attacking him, but they are isolating him, and honestly, that’s just as bad. It hurts Oliver’s feelings and makes him think there’s something wrong with him even though Harry reminds him every day and night about how incredibly special he is.

 

Harry’s looking into switching him to another school one night when Oliver comes into the living room and quietly asks to have his hair cut. His question makes something tight clench around Harry’s heart as his eyes fall to the beautiful curls framing his son’s face.

 

Their hair is pretty much identical except for the fact that Harry keeps his pretty long. His son has never mentioned disliking his hair before, so Harry wastes no time trying to figure out what has changed all of a sudden. Anger boils up inside of Harry when Oliver says that the other boys were laughing at it, and that is the very last straw.

 

Harry goes into the school on Monday and informs the front office that today is going to be Oliver’s last. He tells Oliver too so he knows that today is the last time he’ll ever have to deal with these boys being awful to him. He looks as relieved as Harry had hoped he would, but also a bit sad when he waves his father goodbye.

 

 

It’s cold and windy again as Harry waits outside of the school for his son. The bell rings and the double doors are propped open just like they are every other day, but instead of Harry having to wait for the crowd to disperse to see him, Oliver comes running out of the building at full speed, barreling into his legs as he hugs Harry hello.

 

His sudden burst of energy, although refreshing, takes Harry by surprise as he staggers back. He laughs when he sees the bright, happy smile on Oliver’s face, knowing that they’ve made the right choice by moving him to another school.

 

“Well, hello there,” Harry chuckles, stepping back to see the way his son’s face is all lit up.

 

“Hi, daddy!” he says, happily placing his small hand in his like he hasn’t a care in the world.

 

“You’re excited because it’s your last day here, I guess?” Harry laughs. He stops when his son scoffs and shakes his head.

 

No,” he grins. “I made a new friend today!” he exclaims. Harry blinks down at his son to watch his eyebrows crinkle together. “Dad, do I really have to change schools?” he asks, sounding like that’s the last thing he wants to do.

 

Harry is at a loss as he starts them walking again.

 

“Er- I thought you wanted to move because of the other boys, Ollie. It’s great that you made a new friend, but aren’t those mean boys still giving you problems?” Just a couple of nights ago the child wanted to shave his head before having to face his peers again, and now he looks devastated at having to leave. “Who’s this new friend again?” Harry asks, intrigued at this complete transformation that has taken place in just one school day. Oliver is all too happy to tell him as he smiles.

 

“Daniel! He just moved here. He’s in my class and he’s so cool. He has a Star Wars lunch box and he’s really nice and he’s good at football, like really good, Dad. Everyone wanted him to be their friend today. The mean boys wanted him to be their friend too, but Daniel didn’t talk to them. He only talked to me,” Oliver beams, sounding so proud of his new friend already.

 

Harry is happy for his son, ecstatic even, but he’s wary all the same. This Daniel kid seems too good to be true; he even has a Star Wars lunch box for fuck’s sake. He’s glad that someone in his class has shown his son some kindness, but he’s still not sure about it all. He doesn’t know if seven year olds are capable of befriending someone as a cruel joke, but he really, really hopes not.

 

“Your new friend sounds amazing,” Harry smiles down at his son.

 

*

 

Oliver asks to stay at his current school, and although Harry is still skeptical about the whole thing, he allows it. Every day he picks his child up from school and every day Oliver entertains him with some new fact or cool thing that Daniel did or said.

 

Apparently he’s the best in art and always tells Ollie that he’s the best in music. He has a pair of white shoes that his father lets him draw on in Sharpie and he told the other boys that curly hair is the best because hardly anyone else has it.

 

The most impressive thing that Harry has heard was when the other boys formed football teams at recess again and wanted to leave Oliver out, so Daniel decided to make his own team and only let Oliver be on it.

 

Harry wouldn’t even have the balls to do that sort of thing now and he’s a grown man. He never would have been able to stand up to his classmates that way when he was younger, and sadly Oliver has followed in his footsteps. Harry didn’t have close mates until he was older. He’s glad that Oliver has someone looking out for him now.

 

Harry still gives it a couple of weeks just to see where this mysteriously magnificent child’s intentions lie before calling the school he was going to transfer Oliver to and telling them never mind.

 

It’s a Thursday when his son comes bounding out of school towards him with a piece of notebook paper clenched in his fist.

 

“Daniel asked his dad if I could come over one day after school and he said yes! This is his phone number. You’re supposed to call him and tell him that I can.”

 

His son all but shoves the piece of paper into his hand as he waits for an answer. The other kids in his class have never invited him anywhere, not even the girls, so Harry knows that he must be excited.

 

“Well, I guess I better call him up soon then,” Harry tells him before taking Oliver’s hand to start the journey home.

 

 

Harry has no idea why he’s feeling so nervous later that night as he dials the string of numbers that are so crinkled up and faded from how tight Oliver had been clinging to them that he has to squint to make some of them out.

 

Oliver has talked his new friend up so much that Harry is pretty much in awe of him too; he can only imagine what Daniel’s father must be like for him to have raised such a kid.

 

The phone starts ringing and Harry can’t decide on what exactly to say to the parent of the child that has essentially saved his son from the stress of starting over at a new school. He thinks a simple thank you would go a long way, but he decides against it at the last minute when someone finally answers.

 

“Hello?” the unfamiliar voice asks.

 

Harry can hear a show or a movie playing in the background and a muffled shifting sound like the man who answered has just wedged the phone between his ear and his shoulder to multitask. Harry hopes that he hasn’t called at a bad time.

 

“Hi. I’m Harry Styles. May I speak with, uh-?” Harry shakes his head when he realizes he doesn’t even know this man’s name. Their kids were so eager to hang out outside of school that neither child thought to give Harry the name of the person he was instructed to call as soon as possible. He chooses another approach. “I’m Harry. I got your number today from Oliver who got it from Daniel…They swear that they’re telling the truth, but I think you said it’d be okay for Ollie to come over sometime this week? I’m just checking to make sure before I say yes.”

 

Dishes continue to clang and clatter in the background, and Harry wonders if the man even heard him, but then, “Right, you’re Oliver’s dad.” Harry’s eyebrows shoot up from the tone of familiarity in his voice. “It’s nice to talk to you finally. My son thinks your son is like, the coolest person ever. It’s all he ever talks about.”

 

Harry grins a little, happy that Oliver has found such a good friend who thinks the world of him.

 

“I know what you mean. Ollie hasn’t stopped raving about Daniel’s shoes or his amazing football skills since you moved here,” he chuckles.

 

“Oh, God,” the man laughs. “Those shoes are awful; doodles and mud all over them, but the amazing football skills? Now those I’ll lay claim to. Those are all genetic,” he brags.

 

“The lack of coordination and overall clumsiness are all genetics too when it comes to Ollie,” Harry jokes back. He likes Daniel’s dad already. Harry can tell from his voice that he’s a young guy and from the sound of what’s going on over at their house, he’s a little on the frazzled side of things. Harry understands completely. He feels like a mess on most days too.

 

“So, how do you feel about Ollie coming over after school one day so Daniel and I can try to fix all of that lack of coordination?” the man asks. He sounds like he’d be delighted to have Oliver over.

 

Harry has never let Oliver go anywhere by himself unless it’s to his parent’s house or one of his close mates. He knows Oliver is getting older and could most likely handle his first play date alone, but still. It would make Harry feel better to be there at least the first time he goes over to Daniel’s house.

 

“Um, do you think think those football lessons could include me too?” Harry asks, hoping he doesn’t sound crazy for not letting his kid go over to their house without him. He feels less insane when the other man simply laughs into the phone and answers with, ‘the more the merrier and sweatier’.

 

Their conversation comes to an end shortly after their plans have been solidified. Harry is set to pick both boys up from school the next day and then walk them over to Daniel’s. Both men say goodbye as soon as Harry has been given the address. Harry is just about to hang up when he realizes that he’s been talking to this man for nearly twenty minutes and still doesn’t know his name. “H-Hey, wait!” Harry calls to get his attention before he goes.

 

“Need something else?” he asks, sounding a bit amused that Harry has just yelled down the phone at him.

 

“Yeah. Your name please?” Harry asks. A small grin tugs at his lips when he finds out that it’s Louis.

 

*

 

 

The clouds have been threatening rain for hours and look about ready to burst by the time Harry has collected both boys from school the next day.

 

Harry pulls the sleeves of his jacket over his knuckles to shelter them from the cold. Usually, Oliver’s small hand wrapped around his would be warmth enough to keep him from noticing the temperature, however today, Harry and his hands have been abandoned for the little boy with sandy-colored hair happily bouncing along ahead of him.

 

Harry has seen the child on several occasions, but they never officially met until today. He’s always near the teacher when Harry comes to the school, waiting with a couple of other students who get picked up a bit later than Oliver. His curious eyes always acknowledge him when he and Oliver say goodbye each day, often waving Harry goodbye like he’s known him for years.

 

The two of them have been caught up in their own world since they left the school, talking about some new game they played together with some of the boys and even some of the girls at recess. They’ve all been getting along a lot better lately, so it seems; the boys in their class quickly figuring out that if they want to be friends with the cool new kid then they have to play by his rules, which means including his son. Harry couldn’t be more grateful.

 

“We’re almost there!” Daniel informs them, pointing at a building of flats that are only a few blocks away from where he and Oliver live.

 

Harry feels the splatter of tiny raindrops falling against his face right when he says it. The drops only get larger as the seconds pass, so they speed up in order to make it before it starts to pour. Oliver and Daniel both scream and cackle when Harry yells for them to run, his long legs working to catch up with them before they reach the front entrance of the building.

 

Daniel leads the way, laughing along with Oliver at the sounds their shoes are all making as they follow him up the stairs to a door which Harry assumes is his. He knocks a quick beat against the wood, and within a few seconds it’s swinging open to reveal his father standing there in the doorway wearing a smile that immediately puts one on Harry’s face too.

 

“I told you to pick them up not take them swimming,” he says, taking in their appearance. He jumps back a step when Daniel lunges to attack him with a soppy hug, causing the little boy to laugh.

 

“But I missed you,” Daniel giggles as he sits down in the entranceway to start toeing off his shoes and taking off his backpack.

 

“Miss me in ten minutes when you’re dry,” Louis tells his son. Daniel sighs like going to change is a hardship he couldn’t possibly endure, but then he’s getting up to do as his father instructed. “And give your friend Oliver something to wear too so he isn’t cold,” Louis tells him when he notices the water dripping down from his hair.

 

Harry nods and gives an encouraging grin when Oliver glances back at him to make sure it’s okay to tag along when Daniel calls him. His son grins back when he gets the okay and then takes off through the living room to follow his friend.

 

Louis sighs at the trail of water that the boys left in their wake and then turns to Harry and the small puddle he’s currently standing in. His amused eyes zero in on the tight grip Harry has on the sleeves of his jacket and then to the water dripping down the length of his hair.

 

Harry hadn’t planned to be a dripping mess for their first meeting. He wipes his hand against the leg of his trousers in an attempt for it to be somewhat dry for when Louis shakes it, but the man only offers him a kind grin before turning and gesturing for Harry to follow him much like his son did to Oliver just seconds ago.

 

Louis glances over his shoulder at him still standing in his little puddle. “You coming?” he asks, grinning when Harry pushes himself away from the door to follow him.

 

"I’m sorry we’re getting your floors all wet,” Harry offers as they turn into what he guesses is Louis’ room.

 

“It’s just a bit of water. Don’t worry about it,” he says, waving off Harry’s apology as he throws Harry a fluffy towel. “I’m the one who should be saying sorry since you had the job of walking Dan home all by yourself, but I assume everything went well since you’re both alive and the city isn’t burning,” he jokes. “He’s cute, but he can be a handful,” Louis warns like Oliver can’t be just as much to handle when he wants to be.

 

Louis starts digging through his drawers after he does a quick assessment of Harry’s height. He tosses a long-sleeved shirt in his direction followed by a pair of joggers and a balled up pair of thick socks.

 

“Daniel was great,” Harry assures his dad. “He really is an amazing kid.”

 

Louis slides the drawers of the dresser back into place. When he turns around to thank Harry he’s wearing a soft grin full of pride like he already knows just how wonderful his son is.

 

Harry wants to let him know that Daniel has become the absolute best friend that Oliver has ever had, but he doesn’t know how exactly to voice his gratitude. “Thanks for letting Oliver come over today. I’m glad that he and Daniel get along so well. Oliver really needed a friend like him,” he settles on, deciding that it gets the point across without coming on too strong.

 

It’s obvious that Louis doesn’t share in his concern for decorum when he frowns and answers with, “Yeah, Dan told me most of the boys at school are fucking dickheads. Sorry that Oliver’s had to deal with them.” Louis chuckles when he notices the way Harry’s eyes go wide. “Fucking dickheads were my words, not Daniel’s,” Louis grins. “Dan just said that some of the boys weren’t very nice. I know that really means that they’re pricks.”

 

“Well, according to Ollie, Daniel hasn’t had any trouble with them at all. Puts them in their place from time to time too,” Harry smirks.

 

“Yeah, he’s definitely something. I never could bite my tongue as a kid either, but I was mostly just loud and annoying. Danny’s so much more mature and a million times smarter than I ever was.”

 

Daniel seems to be an exact copy of the assertive and self-confident man standing in front of him. Harry often thinks about the similarities between himself and Oliver when he was that age. Harry loves that Ollie is just like him, but he sometimes wishes that he had gotten some of the confidence and backbone that Harry ended up developing much later in his childhood.

 

“I think Oliver may have inherited the parts of me that always made me an easy target as a kid.”

 

Harry tries to smile about his little admission since it’s meant to be a joke, however he can’t help but feel like him and his gene pool are the ones to blame for Oliver having such a rough time in school.

 

“Nah, that’s not true,” Louis grins from where he’s backing out of the room to give him some privacy. “He’s sweet and intelligent, and everybody knows that curly hair is the best.”

 

Louis closes the door behind him and Harry knows that his words shouldn’t make him smile the way they do, but people generally don’t comment about how different his curls are, and whenever they do, they rarely mean it as a compliment like he’s pretty sure Louis just did.

 

 

Harry strips out of his clothes and changes into Louis’ dry ones. They’re a bit short for his long legs, but they’re comfortable and warm, so Harry doesn’t complain. When he makes his way to the kitchen he finds Louis busy at the stove.

 

“It’s too bad it rained, but at least now we have an excuse to drink hot chocolate,” Louis tells him.

 

Harry actually doesn’t mind the rain cancelling their football plans. He’d much rather stay in. He always has.

 

“Yeah, it sucks that we won’t get a chance to play,” Harry agrees, not at all upset about missing the chance to miss goals and end up flat on his ass from how pigeon toed he is.

 

“Don’t fret, mate. The sun’s supposed to be out tomorrow!” Louis says as he hands him a steaming mug, sounding even more enthusiastic than he did on the phone. Harry can’t tell whether or not that’s good or bad.

 

The boys come sprinting into the kitchen a few seconds later looking warm and dry with Daniel latching onto his dad’s waist the moment he spots him. Louis places his mug on the counter before bending down to hug him back just as he promised earlier and drops a few kisses on top of his drying hair.

 

“How was school, love?”

 

“Good,” Daniel answers reaching up to carefully take his mug when Louis has deemed it cool enough. Oliver gets one too, both boys walking at a snail’s pace towards the table so as not to drop them. “We’re learning about food chains and all the stuff animals eat. Did you know that snakes swallow stuff without even chewing it? They just swallow the whole thing. Like, a whole frog sometimes with it’s legs and everything!” he exclaims, greedily scooping his hand into the bowl of marshmallows that Louis sat on the table.

 

“That sounds yummy,” Louis deadpans with a grimace. Harry understands exactly where he’s coming from, the hot chocolate in his hands suddenly losing some of it’s appeal when he imagines what Daniel just described. “What about you, Oliver? How was school?” Louis asks with a kind, encouraging smile.

 

Harry’s pleasantly surprised when Oliver doesn’t even hesitate to answer. He doesn’t usually warm up to new people this quickly, which is why Harry was unsure about letting him come here alone. He guesses that his little boy really is growing up, because Oliver hasn’t actually needed him the whole time they’ve been here.

 

“It was good today,” he says brightly, launching into a further description of all of the animals that a snake could potentially swallow whole if given the chance. Harry really wishes they’d have been excited to share what they did in math today instead of science.

 

Louis sticks his tongue out in a silent gag when the boys lose interest talking to the adults in the room and start discuss who’d win in a battle between a snake and a poisonous spider.

 

“Their interests are gross and morbid as fuck, but the upside is that they love school and will probably end up being richer than we’ll ever be,” he says under his breath.

 

Harry chuckles into his mug, feeling the heat from it warming him from the inside out. He watches Louis for a moment as he starts cleaning up the mess he made in the kitchen.

 

Harry doesn’t know very much about him except the small pieces of information he’s been able to gain in the short amount of time they’ve been around each other. He’s around Harry’s age; possibly a few years older. He isn’t the tidiest person in the world, but he tries most likely for Daniel’s sake. He’s great with his son and from what Harry can tell, a single father like himself since he has never heard anyone mention Daniel’s mother. Harry had figured that Louis was a single parent, but confirmed it for himself when he was in Louis’ bedroom earlier and noticed only one bedside table. Both pillows were on one side of the bed as well, much like Harry’s pillows are at home.

 

“How do you like living here now that it’s been a few weeks?” Harry asks him.

 

Louis finishes up wiping the counter top before facing him with his hip leaned against the cabinets to give Harry his full attention.

 

“It’s good. I really like it. The place we were at before was small and only getting smaller every year with Daniel growing up, so it’s a nice change. I was kind of worried about him having to switch schools and make new friends, but he loved Oliver on day one, so he’s been really happy here too.”

 

That makes Harry feel so relieved to hear. Oliver was set to switch schools on the very day Louis is talking about which would’ve left Daniel to befriend the boys in their class who are so mean. He’s glad that everything ended up working out for the best.

 

He and Louis chat about general things like their jobs and where they grew up as they finish their hot chocolate. Harry doesn’t realize how invested he is in their conversation until his concentration is broken by a random marshmallow that comes flying in their direction to bop Louis on the side on the head.

 

The table across from them erupts in a fit of hushed giggles when Louis jumps out of surprise. Louis bites down on a grin but doesn’t say anything. Harry moves to turn and look at their sons, but Louis gives the slightest shake of his head to tell him to stay put as he keeps talking and starts digging through the cabinets.

 

He knows Daniel must’ve been the one to throw it. Oliver would never be able to aim that well so it had to be his friend. The same friend that Harry can hear whispering ‘Watch this,’ just before two more marshmallows go soaring through the air to hit Louis in the arm.

 

Louis smiles when his hands land on what he’s been searching for overhead.

 

“I know it’s raining outside, but I didn’t realize that it was raining marshmallows. Did you, Harry?” Louis shoves his hand inside to pull out a fistful of his own as the boys fall silent. Harry knows what Louis’ about to do, he can see it written all over his face with the mischievous grin he’s wearing, and Harry still can’t believe it when Louis turns and launches a dozen marshmallows across the room in retaliation.

 

The boys let out shrieks of laughter as they get bombarded with the soft sweets and all Daniel keeps telling Oliver over and over is that he told him so.

 

 

It’s later after the rain has stopped and they’re both full from the pizza that Louis ordered when they start walking home.

 

“Their house is so much fun!” Oliver says as he hops along with his dad.

 

Harry laughs at how hyped up he is from the sugar, but also just getting to hang out with his friend for a few hours. Oliver hasn’t stopped smiling since he picked him up from school today, and oddly enough, Harry notices that there has also been a smile on his face for most of the night as well.

 

“Their house is very fun,” Harry agrees.

 

“Can we go there every day after school?” Oliver asks, his eyes hopeful.

 

Harry chuckles at his son where he’s bouncing on his toes at the thought of it.

 

“I don’t think Daniel’s father would want us there every day, but I’m sure he won’t mind you visiting again sometime.”

 

“Yes!” he cheers at his side making Harry laugh at him again. “And can Daniel come over to our house one day? Can he come over tomorrow?”

 

“That would be fine with me, but we’re already seeing them both tomorrow when we meet them for football, remember?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Oliver’s face lights up from being reminded. “Yes!” he cheers for a second time. Harry shakes his head like he’s ridiculous, but he doesn’t tell his son that having another play date kind of makes him feel like cheering too. 

Chapter Text

“That’s a good look for you. It really stands out. Makes a statement.”

 

“Yeah, it just screams, ‘don’t let me near a football pitch or anything football related in general,” Harry says. Harry glances down at the front of his clothes again as they walk up the stairs to the flat. He’s absolutely covered in mud, but he guesses that’s what’s to be expected when you spend most of the morning falling and tripping over your own feet.

 

He notices Louis appraising the dark streaks and patches of muck still clinging to him. “I think you did quite well today,” he offers.

 

Harry snorts a laugh at his attempt to make him feel like he’s actually good at playing sports. “It’s okay. I know I’m horrible. Football isn’t really for me, but Oliver and Daniel had fun, and that’s all that matters,” he says with his gaze falling on their sons who are still full of so much energy that they’re racing each other up the bloody stairs when Harry could go for a two-hour nap.

 

“So you’re saying you didn’t have fun rolling around in the mud?” Louis scoffs. “Those are some pretty high standards you’ve got there.”

 

The laugh that gets pulled out of him is unexpected even though laughing is all Harry seems to do when he’s around Louis. He recovers as they reach the door and he digs his key out of his back pocket. “I had fun too,” Harry clarifies. “Oliver and I both did. Thank you.”

 

Louis raises his chin as a sign of approval. “That’s more like it. I’m glad to hear it.”

 

The boys push past him and Louis as soon as the door swings open.

 

Freeze!” Harry shouts before they can get too far inside. “Shoes,” he reminds them, causing Oliver and Daniel to stop mid-run and plop down on the floor to start untying their laces.

 

Harry bites down on a large grin when Louis walks past him and drops down right beside them to start wedging his muddy shoes off as well.

 

“Are you boys hungry yet?” Louis asks.

 

“Always,” Daniel answers brightly causing his Dad to fondly roll his eyes.

 

“No one is surprised. I don’t even know why I asked that question,” he deadpans. “What would you two like for lunch? Harry and I are going to make something.”

 

Harry braces his hand against the door as he toes off his own shoes, his brow furrowed as he mentally goes through the groceries they have left in the kitchen. “I think we still have stuff for sandwiches. Is that alright?” he asks the group.

 

“Sandwiches are great! We have them all the time. Don’t we, Dan?”

 

“Yes. But it’s only because you hate real cooking,” Daniel smirks as he tugs on his damp socks. He tauntingly wiggles his bare toes at his dad when his feet are finally free. They have a silent stare off while Oliver finishes taking his socks off. Both boys hop up to their feet when he’s done. “Can we go play now, Dad? Please?”

 

Louis sighs at his son’s request. “Well, I guess so. Since you went through the trouble to say please and everything. What do you think, Harry? Should we let them go?” he teases, probably for Daniel calling him out on his hatred of stoves, ovens, and the like.

 

Both Oliver and Daniel turn their hopeful gazes in his direction.

 

“Go wild. We’ll call you when lunch is ready,” Harry grins at them, laughing as they run off in the direction of Oliver’s room.

 

Louis gravely shakes his head. “You’re going to regret that. My kid’s likely to set the place on fire.”

 

“No, he isn’t. He’s a sweetheart.”

 

Louis grins like he knows it’s true. “Yeah, he is. He’s also a little menace though.”

 

“Hmm. I think I read somewhere that it’s genetic.”

 

Louis laughs as he hops up to his feet in the same quick manner as his son to follow Harry into the kitchen. “My mother says I was just like that when I was his age. I now apologize profusely each time I see her.”

 

Harry smiles at the image of a young Louis running around causing mayhem. He’s kind of a handful now, so Harry can only imagine. He grew up to be an amazing father, though. Harry can see that just from the short amount of time they’ve known each other. The thought makes him wonder if Daniel’s mum was just as rambunctious when she was young. More importantly where his mum is to begin with.

 

Harry turns on the sink to wash his hands, glancing over his shoulder to where Louis has started rummaging through his refrigerator for ingredients. He tells himself that it’s none of his business, but Harry can’t help being curious, so he does it anyway.

 

“Where is Daniel’s mother, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

Louis’ hands pause where he’s moving things around in the fridge before clearing his throat and quickly resuming.

 

“No, it’s alright. I don’t mind.” Louis turns to face him with his hands full of sandwich meat and cheese. “I’m actually surprised you haven’t asked before now.” He places the food down on the table before going back to the fridge to find more ingredients for their lunch.

 

“I wondered, but I didn’t want to overstep or pry,” Harry tells him, feeling a bit guilty for doing those things right this very moment. Hopefully Louis won’t hate him for bringing it up.

 

“It’s not prying. It’s not a very long story either. We were young and I was still trying to figure out my sexuality. We had only been going out for about a month when she ended up pregnant. She was actually pretty set on not having him, but I asked her to reconsider. I was shocked when she did. Dan was born and we tried being a family for a little while, but she never wanted to be a mother. I couldn’t blame her for wanting her own life.”

 

“Does she ever see him?”

 

“No, not really. She calls to ask about him sometimes. She went back to school a few years ago, so she’s usually pretty busy with all of that.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Harry offers.

 

“Don’t be,” Louis grins. “Danny’s happy and I have this amazing son. I don’t think he even remembers a time when it wasn’t always just me and him, so I think it worked out for the best.”

 

He and Louis trade positions when Harry goes over to the table to start slicing their veggies and Louis heads to the sink to wash his hands to help.

 

“What about Ollie’s mum?” Louis asks when he comes back to stand next to him with the loaf of bread and four plates in his hands. “If you don’t mind me asking, of course,” he tacks on with a sheepish grin.

 

“No, I don’t mind. My story isn’t all that different from yours.”

 

“Really?” Louis asks, sounding surprised.

 

“Yeah, kind of. Except, Oliver’s mother didn’t really mind becoming a young parent. Her issue was mostly with me.”

 

“Why? What happened?”

 

Harry chuckles darkly to himself. “I realized a little too late that I’m not into women, and for some odd reason that didn’t go over too well.” It didn’t go over at all actually. Oliver’s mother was willing to play house and be a family for a little while, but she didn’t sign on for all of Harry’s extra shit. Harry can’t really blame her for wanting out.

 

“And where is she now?”

 

“She got married a few years ago. She and her husband have a daughter together. At least that’s what I’ve heard anyway.”

 

Louis stops his hands from preparing lunch to turn and meet his eyes. “I’m sorry, Harry.”

 

“You don’t have to be. It’s technically my fault why it could never work, and even so, it’s like you said. I have this wonderful son now and I can’t imagine my life without him.” Louis nods like he understands completely. “And until recently, he wasn’t very happy, but he is now and I have you and Daniel to thank for that,” Harry tells him, hoping Louis can feel just how grateful he is.

 

Harry doesn’t miss the small upturn of Louis’ lips as he resumes working. “Glad we could help.”

 

*

 

About a week later lands Harry outside of Louis’ door with Oliver barely containing his excitement where he’s waiting at Harry’s side to be let in.

 

“Make sure you behave yourself. Listen to Louis,” Harry reminds him when he hears two pairs of footsteps approaching.

 

“I know,” Oliver says.

 

“And you can always call if you need me,” Harry says, repeating the same thing he told Oliver on the way over.

 

“Yeah, I know,” he repeats.

 

“And it doesn’t matter how late it is, either. I’ll come and get you. I don’t mind,” he adds, causing Ollie to hang his head back in a long sigh.

 

“I know, Dad,” he drones. His face instantly brightens when the door is suddenly wrenched open. Daniel runs up to give Harry a hug when he sees him and then reaches out to pull Oliver into the flat with him.

 

“Dad bought the new Star Wars movie so now we have them all and he says we can stay up all night to have a marathon!” Daniel cheers. Oliver’s face breaks into a wide smile as he drops his backpack and immediately takes off after his friend. He stops when he’s about midway through the living room and doubles back to wrap Harry in a tight hug.

 

“Bye, Dad. Love you,” he whispers before quickly dashing off again.

 

Harry is just able to say it back before Daniel and his son have cleared the room.

 

“How are you holding up?” Louis chuckles.

 

Harry takes a deep breath. It’s his son’s first sleepover with a friend. He thought he’d be a nervous wreck leaving him somewhere overnight that isn’t his mother’s house, but surprisingly Harry feels alright. “I’m actually okay,” he grins. It goes a little awry when a couple of loud thumps and a chorus of excited cheers ring out from Daniel’s room.

 

Both boys come running out wielding matching green lightsabers. Harry can see the one in Oliver’s hand extended and glowing from across the room, but his son still comes up to wave it in his face.

 

“Dad, look what Louis got me! It’s just like the one Daniel has!” he exclaims.

 

Harry can’t believe the smile on his son’s face. “That’s awesome, love. What are you supposed to tell him for being so nice?”

 

Oliver runs over to Louis and wraps him a big hug. “Thank you! Thank You! Thank you!” he says before taking off after Daniel back to his room.

 

“Oh God,” Harry says pinching the bridge of his nose. “You bought him a lightsaber?” he laughs and Louis just shrugs.

 

“Well, I figured it’s only fair since Daniel got one a few months back. You can’t have a proper Star Wars marathon without one, can you?”

 

Harry can’t exactly argue with that logic, and plus, he hasn’t seen his son that excited about a toy since Christmas, so Harry’s not going to argue that point anymore either. Harry snorts a laugh when another loud shriek of laughter and a loud ruckus comes spilling from Daniel’s room.

 

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay with the two of them all by yourself? The walls may not be standing by the time I come and pick him up.”

 

Louis just waves him off. “We’ll be fine,” he insists. “Go home and relax. Put your feet up. Or you could always stay a while,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows. “I wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the intergalactic fun or worry too much,” he teases.

 

Staying appeals to Harry a lot more than leaving, but it has nothing to do with him worrying about Oliver. He doesn’t say that and he hopes Louis can’t tell what he’s thinking when he politely declines.

 

“I think I’ll let you handle them for a night. I told Oliver to call me if he needs anything, but that goes for you too. I’m just a few minutes away.” He picks Oliver’s bag up from the floor and hands it to Louis, along with the coat that his son shrugged out of without him even noticing.

 

Louis rolls his eyes the same way his son did not even ten minutes ago. “I know,” he smiles. “I appreciate that, although I think we’ll be fine.”

 

“Yeah,” Harry nods, mostly to convince himself. “I know you will. I trust you.”

 

“Well, you better,” Louis tells him before opening the door for Harry to step through. “See you in the morning.”

 

“Okay. Have a goodnight,” he says just as the boys burst out laughing again from inside the flat.

 

Louis sighs at the sound, already looking exhausted and the night has barely even begun. “I’ll do my best,” he smiles before closing the door.

 

Harry gets home and attempts to do exactly what Louis said which is to take it easy. He doesn’t really get many opportunities to do that these days, so he’s kind of lost on what relaxation without Oliver in the house looks like. In the end he fixes himself junk food for dinner that he’d never let Ollie near, takes a long shower, and curls up in his bed to catch up on all the episodes of his favorites shows that he never has time to watch.

 

He keeps telling himself not to call after it’s been almost two hours since he left Louis’. Oliver’s fine. He’s currently having the time of his life with his best friend. He’s even got a brand new lightsaber for the occasion. Harry should not call to check on him.

 

He pulls up Louis’ number without even realizing he’s doing it. It rings twice before Louis’ voice comes through on the other end.

 

“This had better be either a drunk call or a butt dial,” he says in greeting.

 

“It’s neither. I’m just calling to make sure you’re all alright,” Harry chuckles.

 

“So, you’re decidedly not relaxing, then,” he laughs. “Figures.”

 

“I’m lying in bed right now! I’ve got Netflix paused and everything,” Harry tells him.

 

“Mhmm. Sure you do, Curly.” The slight blush that Harry feels rising to his cheeks is unexpected, but also quite nice, he thinks. “Well, the last time I checked on them they were coating their buttery little fingerprints all over the screen of my IPad,” Louis chuckles. “That was about an hour ago. I’ll go see what they’re up to now.”

 

Harry waits as Louis walks to his son’s room. He expects for Louis to tell him that they’re still watching movies or acting out scenes with their toys. He sits up in a panic when Louis mumbles into the receiver, “Oh my God, I’m facetiming you. You’ve got to see this.”

 

The screen of his phone illuminates when Harry accepts Louis’ call. Louis comes into focus after a few seconds with his red hoodie and his hair all soft and feathery.

 

Look,” Louis smiles, flipping the camera to where Oliver and Daniel are lying passed out on the bed with their lightsabers aglow and Louis’ IPad still playing the film between them. There’s popcorn strewn all over the place and Harry’s pretty sure there’s a cluster of it caught in his son’s hair. Harry lets out the breath he was holding, realizing that his son is just fine. A light-weight when it comes to film marathon endurance, but fine nonetheless.

 

“They’re so precious when they’re sleeping,” Louis coos.

 

“It’s barely even past ten o’clock,” Harry shakes his head, still looking at the admittedly adorable scene before him.

 

“I know. That’s why I was so quick to agree when Daniel asked if they could have a marathon. I figured they’d crash early, but I thought they’d at least make it past the first film,” he laughs.

 

Harry smiles at the sweet image of his sleeping son and his friend once again before the camera moves and they’re no longer in view. At first he sees nothing except the floor and a few quick glimpses of Louis’ bare feet, but then he hears the soft click of Daniel’s door being closed as Louis presumably steps out of his room.

 

“Are you just going to leave them like that?” Harry laughs, watching as Louis’ face comes back into view.

 

“For now,” Louis says, making the trip down to his bedroom. When he gets there he crawls onto his bed and scoots back until he’s sitting up against his pillows to talk to him. “I’ll tuck them in later. Right now I’m more concerned about why you’re sitting in a childless flat on a Friday night, talking to me, the official babysitter of the evening.”

 

Louis raises an expectant eyebrow at him through his phone.

 

“I’m relaxing just like you said,” Harry argues. He angles the camera to give Louis a full view of just how chill he’s being. “Look. I ate junk food for dinner in bed, I took a shower that lasted longer than three minutes, I had a couple of beers…” he says showing Louis the empty bottles siting on his bedside table.

 

“You didn’t want to go out to have a couple of beers?” he asks.

 

Harry hasn’t been a part of that scene in ages. Not since his birthday earlier in the year when Niall got him so drunk that he spent nearly half an hour trying to unlock his neighbor’s door before he realized he didn’t live there.

 

“Maybe next weekend Oliver spends the night somewhere else,” Harry shrugs, knowing that he would still probably choose a night in over a night with his head in a toilet bowl any night of the week.

 

“What about you?” Harry asks, sliding down into his bed to get comfy. He leans his phone against his pillow and angles it towards his face so he doesn’t have to hold it. “What do you do when you don’t have Daniel?”

 

“Besides miss him? Not much,” Louis admits with a shrug and what Harry believes may be an actual blush. Harry had been sporting a smirk, expecting for Louis to spin some wild tale of the last time he went out. Harry thinks he enjoys hearing this quiet, candid side of Louis a lot more than some drunken story. “I usually feel weird admitting that to people. But you’re a dad too, so I know you get it. You get me,” he says as Harry watches him slide down into his bed as well and prop up his phone. It feels almost like they’re lying right beside each other.

 

“Yeah,” Harry nods, “I do. I get it.” Harry thinks he’s also starting to get Louis, but he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t think he has to.

 

Harry wakes up the next morning a lot groggier than he would’ve expected considering the relatively calm night that he had.

 

He reaches for his phone to check the time, frowning after a few tries when he realizes that it’s dead. It only takes a moment for his lips to turn up into a grin when he remembers who is responsible for that.

 

He takes his time getting dressed, another thing that he rarely gets to do when he’s got Oliver, especially on school days. He fixes himself some tea and lets his phone charge in the meantime, barking a loud laugh when he turns it back on to find a new text from Louis from two twenty-three last night.

 

Close your mouth, Curly. You’re drooling.’

 

Louis greets him with a big smile when he arrives to pick up his son. “Come on in, sleepy head.”

He’s in a loose fitting t-shirt this morning. Harry grins to himself noticing the collage of tattoos displayed along Louis’ arms. He can’t understand why they all look so familiar to him, that is until he remembers the seemingly random doodles covering Daniel’s shoes. Harry thinks it’s cute that Danny’s artistic muse is his father.

 

“Sorry about that last night. I didn’t mean to pass out on you.”

 

“It’s fine,” Louis grins. “I was going to scream through the phone to wake you, but you looked so peaceful that I just let you sleep instead.”

 

Harry is thankful, although he honestly wouldn’t have minded Louis waking him up if it means he would’ve gotten to talk to him some more.

 

“It smells amazing in here,” Harry says, noting the distinct scent of breakfast wafting through the air. “Where are the boys?”

 

Louis rolls his eyes. “There’s hot food in the kitchen. You already know where they are.”

 

Harry follows Louis to the next room and just as he hinted, Oliver and Daniel are sitting at the table shoving pancakes with too much syrup into their mouths. Harry can’t help but grin, noting the pair of lightsabers folded up and completely out of their reach on top of the refrigerator. He guesses Louis had to lay down some pretty harsh rules about the kitchen and intergalactic battling.

 

“Hi, Daddy!” Oliver greets him with a sticky smile. Harry comes over to drop a kiss to his sleep-mussed curls. He turns to give Daniel’s hair the same treatment, ruffling it a bit so that it sticks up some more before taking a seat at one of the empty chairs. Daniel grins up at Harry with a mouth just as sticky as his son’s.

 

“So boys, how was the sleep over?” Harry asks just as Louis places a large plate of pancakes before him. He comes back with silverware and a huge bottle of syrup and places them both on either side of the meal that Harry didn’t even know he was invited to join.

 

“It was so much fun!” Oliver says as he goes off on an explanation of all the cool things they squeezed into the few hours they were able to stay up past their bedtimes. Daniel helps, adding that they fell asleep way earlier than they wanted to.

 

“Dad says we’re weak,” he says, causing Harry to chuckle.

 

“I guess that means I’m weak too because I fell asleep on the phone. Don’t feel bad.”

 

“You’re all weak honestly,” Louis says, finally dropping into the last chair with a plate of his own. “The only strong one here is me,” he brags.

 

“You burned the first few pancakes you made,” Daniel kindly reminds him as he smiles at Louis with the face of pure innocence.

 

Harry has to hide his smirk in his hand when Louis turns his flat expression away from his son to face him instead with, “You wouldn’t by any chance be interested in buying a little boy named Daniel, would you? I’ll give him to you for free. You need only ask.”

 

“The unburnt ones were really good though, Dad. Those are my favorites.” Daniel adds, causing Louis to grin and retract his previous statement.

 

“Well, look at that. He’s no longer for sale, Harry. Sorry to disappoint you.”

 

“You’d never give me away anyway,” Daniel smirks after a beat.

 

“Because they’d give you back,” Louis quips.

 

“Nope. It’s because you love me and you’d miss me too much.”

 

Louis eyes turns soft as he swallows down the next playful comment he had ready at the tip of his tongue.

 

“Yep. That’s exactly right, love,” Louis agrees whole heartedly. Harry nods along knowing that it’s the truth.

 

*

 

Harry’s schedule has changed quite a bit since Daniel and Louis have become part of his and Oliver’s weekly, and most of the time, daily routine.

 

He used to pick Oliver up from school after he got off work and spend what felt like forever waiting with all the other parents until his child finally managed to squeeze his way through the crowd. The two of them would then walk home together, hand in hand, talking about their days and what Harry should cook for dinner that night.

 

These days Harry barely has to wait at the door for a whole five minutes before both boys come shooting out of it at top speed.

 

Daniel is always out first, his sandy-colored hair flying as the top of his head nearly eclipses his son who is always just a couple of steps behind his taller friend. Harry is the finish line for their race every single day, and greets them both with big hugs. They walk to Harry’s as a group for the boys to have their afterschool snack and then the rest of the afternoon is spent waiting for Louis to come over and pick Daniel up.

 

It’s a good system since Louis always used to take longer to get to the school than Harry. Daniel was always one of the last kids to get picked up, but now he and Oliver get to leave at the same time and spend even more time together; a perk that either of them has yet to complain about.

 

Harry expects the chaos each day when he comes to pick them up. He knows they’re going to run ahead of their teacher as well as the rest of their class in order to get to him. He also knows to brace himself for the initial blow of Daniel bounding out of the door to run up and tag him first so that he can declare himself the winner of the race that Oliver will probably never win. Not until his legs grow a couple of more inches anyway.

 

Harry knows it’s coming. That’s why he’s so confused today when the doors swing open and none of those things actually happen.

 

The students file out of the school and he spots his son somewhere in the middle of the horde. It’s so strange to see him alone again after so much time with him being Danny’s shadow. Harry immediately scans the crowd for the other boy, but he comes up short.

 

“Hi, love. Um… where’s Danny?” Harry asks, trying not to let the mild panic that he feels creeping up his spine seep into his words.

 

“He got sick this morning in art. He left early. Some other kids weren’t feeling well and left too.”

 

Oliver tucks his hand into Harry’s, looking a bit sad. Harry hates to see him like that.

 

“I’m sorry to hear that, sweetheart. How was the rest of your day? The other boys weren’t mean again, were they?” Harry really hopes that isn’t the case since things have been going so well for him at school lately. He knows that it’s all mostly thanks to Danny, which is why he fears the worst since the boy wasn’t even there for most of the day. Harry breathes a quiet sigh of relief when Oliver shakes his head.

 

“No, they were nice and still talked to me. They wanted me to play football with them at recess, but I didn’t want to.”

 

Harry is thankful that they didn’t isolate him again. He’s also thankful that Oliver didn’t catch whatever seems to be going around their classroom at the moment, but he can tell that something still feels off about him.

 

“Why didn’t you play, Ollie?”

 

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “I guess it’s just not as much fun without Daniel,” he says causing Harry’s heart to melt a little as they walk. He hopes Danny’s okay.

 

He sends Louis a text as soon as they get home.

 

‘Hey, Lou. Is Dan alright?’

 

It’s several minutes before he gets a reply. ‘Oh, shit! I forgot to call and tell you that I left work early to get him. I’m so sorry. Dan’s fine. Well, he’s puking up his guts and insides every hour on the hour. Apparently it’s a stomach bug, but the doctor said it’ll only last a couple of days at most.’

 

Harry is torn between sympathy and disgust as he pictures the scene that Louis so eloquently described for him. It’s always awful whenever Oliver is ill. Harry spends most of his time taking care of his son and the rest of it is generally spent worrying and hoping he’ll get better sooner rather than later.

 

Sorry he’s not feeling well. Do you guys need anything?

 

That’s okay,’ Louis sends. ‘Danny’s been sleeping most of the day and I’ve just been busy keeping an eye on him. We should be alright, but thanks for offering.’

 

Harry frowns at his phone. He knows Louis could probably use some help. He’s just too stubborn to admit it. ‘Well, let me know if there’s anything that either of you needs. I really don’t mind helping,’ he sends just so Louis knows that he’s got him as an option. Harry grins at the response that he sends back.

 

You’re a gem, Curly. Xx.’

 

Harry has never been very good at listening, which is probably why he’s standing barefoot in front of his stove at nine o’clock at night stirring a pot of soup for Daniel that Harry figures he’ll have to force through the crack of Louis’ door in order for him to accept it. He pours it into a large container when it’s finished and places it in the refrigerator so it’ll be ready to go in the morning when he and Ollie leave.

 

He’s just cleaning up his mess in the kitchen when he hears the sound of his son tiptoeing in with his arms full of items including the plush stormtrooper toy that he begged Harry to buy for him last week.

 

“Someone’s supposed to be in bed, isn’t he?” Harry asks, turning to face his son who looks only a little bit guilty for being up past his bedtime.

 

“I know,” Oliver says mostly to the floor. “I wanted to give you my stormtrooper and snake book to give to Daniel tomorrow when you go to his house. And I made him this,” he says, showing Harry the handmade card and picture that he drew for his friend. “Will you make sure he gets them?”

 

Harry had figured Oliver was asleep by now. As it turns out, he’s been up in his room all this time worrying.

 

A little crease forms between Oliver’s eyebrows when Harry quietly laughs to himself. He stoops down to wrap his son in a tight embrace and kiss his sweet little head because he’s just so damn cute.

 

“Of course I will,” Harry promises. “Daniel’s going to feel so much better knowing that you’re thinking of him.”

 

“I hope so. Do you think he’ll be better by the weekend?”

 

“Well, he may not be up to having a lightsaber war right away, but I’m sure he’ll be feeling much better by then.”

 

Oliver sighs and nods like that’s good news. “Okay. I guess I’ll go back to bed now.”

 

“That would be wonderful,” Harry grins, watching as he leaves. “I love you.”

 

“Love you too,” he answers back as he places his get-well-soon offerings on the kitchen table so they won’t be forgotten in the morning.

 

Harry drops Oliver off at school the next day and heads straight to Louis’. He sent him a quick text when he got up this morning to let him know that he’d be stopping by. Louis of course tried to talk him out of what he called, ‘walking straight into bloody Germville,’ and Harry of course didn’t listen at all.

 

He knocks on the door when he arrives, waiting patiently with his hands full of soup and the items that Oliver requested to have dropped off. The door swings open after only a few seconds to reveal Louis in black joggers and an old hoodie. His hair is a mess and there’s a couple of day’s worth of stubble along his jaw, but his eyes are what show most of his exhaustion. They’re heavy and slightly bagged underneath, however, they still light up when Louis grins at the sight of him.

 

“Enter at your own risk,” he warns as he widens the door to let him inside.

 

“I’ll be fine,” Harry assures him. “I come bearing gifts!” he smiles, handing Louis the container first. “Soup, because I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not really a fan of making it from scratch…or at all…”

 

“That suspicion is completely accurate, however, you didn’t have to do that.”

 

“I wanted to,” Harry shrugs. “I’m guessing that Dan doesn’t have much of an appetite at the moment, but he’ll be back to his old self soon enough and we both know-”

 

“That he’s going to eat me out of house and home?” he chuckles. “Again, your suspicions are completely correct. Thanks, Harry. I’m quite impressed with you right now, mate."

 

Harry beams, feeling the full weight of Louis’ praise. Harry gets so caught up with having all of Louis’ special attention on him that he almost forgets the other things in his hands.

 

“Oh, and Oliver sent these. He says the stormtrooper is his favorite, but he’d be okay if Dan wants to keep it for good.”

 

Louis’ eyebrows raise a couple of centimeters.

 

Wow. That’s quite a sacrifice,” he teases.

 

“Ugh, I know. You should’ve seen him. He was so cute last night being all worried and concerned.”

 

“Hmm. I wonder where in the world he got that from?” he smirks as he heads towards the kitchen to put away the soup. “Dan’s in his room by the way," he calls from over his shoulder. "He’s probably still awake. He’d love to see you.”

 

Harry heads in that direction, knocking on Daniel’s door before creaking it open. He looks like he’s sleeping when Harry steps in, but he notices his eyes open as he gets closer.

 

“Hi, Danny. How are you?” Harry asks, coming to sit on the side of his bed. He looks so pale causing the fever in his cheeks to glow a bright red.

 

“I don’t feel very good,” he mumbles, sounding like he may feel even worse than that. The Daniel that Harry knows is a wide open ball of energy and quickness. It’s a little heartbreaking to see him looking so frail and quiet. Harry doesn’t know why, but seeing him so poorly hits him almost as hard as it does to see his own son ill. He wishes he could wave a wand and instantly make him better.

 

“I know you don’t, love,” Harry tells him, brushing his hair off of his warm forehead. “I’m so sorry, but I brought you some things that might make you feel a bit better. Ollie sent them.” It’s just a small one, but Daniel cracks a grin when Harry hands him the book, toy, and the card that his son made. “He says you can borrow the stormtrooper until you get better, but you can keep it if you really want to.”

 

“Really? It’s his favorite,” Daniel says after a moment.

 

“It is. But you’re his best mate.”

 

“Good,” he says with a weak grin. “Ollie’s mine too.”

 

Louis is still in the kitchen when Harry leaves Daniel’s room to let him get some rest.

 

“How was he?” he asks with his arms deep in a sink full of dishes that looks much too big to be from just this morning or even last night.

 

“He’s alright. I can tell that he still feels awful. I let him go back to sleep.”

 

“Yeah, he feels terrible. Can you believe he was worse before? He’s much better as of this morning, actually. He hasn’t gotten sick yet and his fever is going down. He’ll be alright soon.”

 

“What about you?” Harry asks, just as Louis accidentally lets a fork clatter to the floor. “How are you doing?”

 

“I’m fine,” he sighs as he bends down to pick it up. “Tired, but fine.”

 

Harry can believe it too. He can see the exhaustion etched into Louis’ face making him look much older than he really is. “Here, let me do this. You go,” Harry tells him, taking the fork and dish towel out of his hands.

 

“Go where?” Louis frowns as Harry hip-checks him out of the way to take over the washing.

 

“Go. Take a nap. Shower. Go do something you want to. Something that isn’t this.”

 

Louis laughs at him. “That sounds nice, but you have to go to work soon.”

 

“I called before I left this morning to say I’d be coming in late because I knew I’d have to stop by here. Go take a shower,” Harry orders, leaving no room for debate.

 

Louis dumbly stands there staring at him for a moment before a small grin graces his lips. “Okay fine,” he surrenders, “But only a really quick shower. I don’t want you getting in trouble over me.”

 

“Great. Now, get out.”

 

Harry thinks the man has run off to his room until he feels a pair of strong arms wrap around him from the back.

 

“Thank you, Haz.”

 

Harry feels Louis’ words warm and sincere where they seep through the fabric of his shirt just before he dashes off. Harry is glad that he’s turned away from him so Louis can’t see the way his cheeks flush just as bright as Daniel's.

 

Louis’ shower slash alone time ends up being about twenty minutes long, but Harry doesn’t complain. It gives him time to finish up the dishes as well as tidy up. Louis comes out looking clean, refreshed, and incredibly grateful when he notices the eggs and bacon frying on the stove.

 

“God, marry me already,” Louis begs from directly behind him, causing Harry’s stomach to flutter. He's joking. He’s only joking, he tells himself several times.

 

“Well, how could I refuse with a proposal like that?” Harry laughs.

 

Louis hums as he sniffs at the food cooking away on the stove. “I’d buy you the biggest diamond in the world if it means I’d get bacon every day,” he teases right before popping a stolen piece of it into his mouth. Harry smiles at his joke. Partly because it’s funny to imagine. Mostly because he realizes that he wouldn’t necessarily mind it.

 

*

 

Harry doesn’t know what’s wrong with him when he wakes up the next morning in a cold sweat and his head pounding. He rolls over onto his stomach and immediately regrets it when the contents inside of it move with him and threaten to spill out through his mouth.

 

He lies still and breathes in deep to settle his nausea, but it doesn’t help. He has just enough time to sprint from the bed and make it to the bathroom before his stomach rejects everything inside of it.

 

Harry crawls back to his room and immediately grabs his phone to call out of work. He types out a quick message to his mother asking her to pick Oliver up from school and then sends one to Louis asking him to get Oliver there since he can’t.

 

Harry calls for his son from the safety of his bed and instructs him to get dressed and pack a bag to go stay with his grandmother for a couple of days. He looks just as worried as he did a couple of days ago when it was Daniel who was sick, but he hurries to do what Harry asked after he assures him that he’ll be okay.

 

Louis arrives half an hour later. It’s the only time that Harry has ever allowed Oliver to answer the door by himself, and it’s only because Harry can’t move without running the risk of being sick again. Louis steps into his bedroom with sympathetic eyes, quickly calling out to the boys that he’ll be out in just a moment to go drop them off at school.

 

“I told you, you were walking straight into Germville the other day,” he whispers, coming over to feel Harry’s forehead. “God, you’re burning up, Haz.”

 

Harry shuts his eyes at the touch. He feels terrible and Louis seeing him like this only makes him feel worse.

 

“Thank you so much for taking Ollie to school. I owe you. And don’t worry about picking him up. My mum’s going to get him and watch him for the weekend so he doesn’t catch whatever this is.”

 

Louis shushes him and pulls the sheet tight around Harry’s shoulders to stop him from shivering. “Harry, you don’t owe me anything. You pick Danny up from school every day, and besides that, I’m glad to help you. Don’t worry about it.”

 

Harry nods, trying not to feel like shit for interrupting Louis’ morning, but he can’t help it.

 

He tries to sleep once they’re gone, but every position he tries makes his gut feel like it’s twisting in on itself. He holds off the inevitable for as long as possible, but eventually he has to stumble out of bed to drag himself to the toilet again. He hugs the porcelain bowl to his chest as his stomach coils and straightens, letting his cheek rest against the cool surface of it when he feels someone begin to rub deep circles into his back.

 

Harry jumps at the touch, but calms when he realizes it’s just Louis. He squeezes his shut again when he realizes he never locked the front door again.

 

“What are you doing here?” Harry groans. He hates the fact that Louis is looking at him right now when he’s so pitiful and gross. “You shouldn’t be here. You’re going to catch it too.” Harry frowns, but doesn’t have the energy to do much else when Louis rolls his eyes, effectively ignoring everything Harry just said.

 

“Alright, get up. Back to bed with you. I’ll clean up in here and then I’ll bring you some water.”

 

Harry allows himself to be moved from the floor, but shakes his head as Louis helps him get to his feet. “You’re going to be late for work.”

 

“No, I won’t, because I’m not going. I called in a few minutes ago.” Harry stops dead in his tracks with his argument already at the tip of his tongue when Louis gives him a look that says to save it. “I’ve already missed two days,” Louis says with a grin. “What’s one more for you?”

 

Harry holds his gaze and sees nothing but fondness and warmth radiating from their depths. He’s just able to tell Louis thank you before his stomach churns and he has to run back to the toilet.

 

Harry filters in and out of sleep all day. He’s exhausted even though he hasn’t done anything or left his bed except to have his throat feel like it’s being ripped out each time he dashes to the bathroom. Louis appears at his side each time to rub his back and hold his hair. He also keeps his fever from getting worse with cool towels and Harry is so thankful. The only time that he actually minds having Louis in his flat is when he comes in every few hours with fresh bottles of water and coaxes Harry to drink some.

 

“It’s just going to make me throw up again. I don’t want it,” Harry whines as Louis uncaps a new bottle anyway.

 

“You need to stay hydrated, Harry. Please?” he asks with big, hopeful eyes that make Harry feel bad not to drink it, and so he does, absolutely hating him the whole time he’s bent over and retching on the cold tile later on.

 

It’s late in the evening when Harry rolls over in his sleep to find something warm and heavy in bed with him.

 

“Hi, there. Sleep well?” Louis asks glancing away from the book in his hands where he’s sitting up against the headboard. He’s in a pair of Harry’s sweatpants and a t-shirt that’s so worn that it’s faded. It’s a nice image to wake up to.  A great one if Harry’s honest, but it’s all wrong Harry realizes as he frowns at the lack of sunshine coming through the window.

 

“It’s getting late. Where’s Danny?”

 

“With my mum. She’s keeping him for the weekend.”

 

Harry sighs, dropping his head to press it into the mattress. “Louis. You didn’t have to do that. You have better things to do than be here. I didn’t expect for you to stay here all night.” He didn’t expect for Louis to stay here at all really. He’s just finished nursing Daniel back to health and now he’s saddling himself with Harry and the beyond poorly state that he’s in.

 

“He hasn’t spent the night with her in a while. She missed him, so it wasn’t an inconvenience.”

 

Harry can’t accept that. “Louis, you shouldn’t have done that. You-”

 

“Hey,” he says, gently shushing him. “I’m taking care of you. Now go back to sleep. Yell at me when you’re better,” he smirks.

 

Harry wants to argue some more, but he doesn’t really have the energy to. “You’re so bloody stubborn,” Harry mumbles right before dropping back off into unconsciousness at Louis' side.

 

Harry wakes up the next morning still feeling like death, although a slightly less painful and nauseating version of it. He sits up and doesn’t immediately want to go vomit so he takes that as good progress and dares to stand up.

 

He wanders into his living room for the first time in over twenty-four hours and finds Louis there on the couch with his open book facing down on his chest. Harry smiles at the way his mouth is slightly hanging open as he comes over to gently lift the book and place it on the table next to him. He stirs as soon as Harry touches him, his eyes opening to squint up at Harry in the morning light.

 

“You’re up,” he says in a voice much deeper than Harry’s ever gotten to hear. It’s different and raspy and makes Harry’s stomach flip for an entirely new reason.

 

“You slept out here,” Harry comments, noting the stiff way that he stretches from fitting himself on the couch all night.

 

“Of course. I’m already here taking care of you against your wishes. I didn’t want to invade your bed for the night as well,” he teases. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Much better.”

 

“Good enough for french toast, sausage links, eggs, and a big cool glass of milk?”

 

Harry’s stomach rolls at the thought. “Um, no, not quite,” he admits. He’d probably be sick again if he smelled any of what Louis just listed. He really hopes he won’t cook that.

 

“Well, that’s good,” Louis smiles, “Because I don’t know how to make any of that. I was just testing you.”

 

Harry laughs for the first time in a long time. It feels good.

 

“I think I’ll take some water,” Harry grins. “And maybe a bit of soup if you can manage it? It doesn’t have to be from scratch of course. I think there’s some cans left in the cabinet.”

 

“I’ll get right on it,” Louis says, hopping up to head to the kitchen.

 

Harry eats as much as he dares which only amounts to a few spoonful’s worth. He focuses all of his energy on keeping it down and eventually sinks down into his bed to have a nap.

 

He hears Louis come in later on to collect the bowl which is still mostly full, but before he leaves the room he hears the tray being placed back on the table and the sound of Louis walking over towards him. Harry feels him gingerly tucking the blanket in around his neck and then place the back of his hand against his forehead and cheeks to gauge his temperature. His hand falls away after a moment, so he expects to hear Louis shuffling out of the room after that, but then he feels the surprise touch of something very soft and incredibly similar to a pair of lips just lightly brush against his temple.

 

Louis thinks he’s asleep. Harry is scared to open his eyes and shatter the illusion, so he holds onto the feeling of Louis kissing him for the short amount of time that it lasts. Harry knows that he shouldn’t, but he cracks his eyes open anyway. Just enough to catch the soft grin tugging at Louis’ lips when he pulls back to stand and take his dishes away. Harry’s heart flutters the entire time he watches Louis tiptoe out of his room.

 

Harry is actually awake for most of the day with him only napping for short intervals now that he’s feeling a bit better. He’s up talking to Louis a lot of time, enjoying the adult-age company that he never really gets to have anymore without Oliver around. They watch things on his laptop from the comfort of Harry’s bed and chat about absolutely nothing until Harry’s eyes start to feel heavy later in the night.

 

Louis glances over and notices him fighting the sleep pulling at him. He grins and pauses the movie they had both been watching and shifts to get up. He pauses when Harry’s fingers gently close around his wrist.

 

“Don’t sleep out there,” Harry whispers.

 

Louis looks a bit surprised at his words. He places the laptop down on the floor before coming back to sit beside Harry and brush his hair out of his face.

 

“I don’t mind the couch, Harry, honestly.”

 

Harry has let Louis have his way about everything from staying out of work an extra day to chugging down the bottles of water that felt like acid on the way back up his throat. He hasn’t argued. Well, he hasn’t argued much, but he is definitely putting his foot down about this.

 

“You’re sleeping in here or in Ollie’s room, but either way you’re going to sleep in a real bed,” he says with finality.

 

Louis’ eyebrows raise in surprise again at that. He seems to consider it for a moment before shaking his head. “Your son is sweet, but I don’t think he would appreciate me trying to squeeze my big arse into his bed.”

 

“I guess you better lie down and squeeze it into mine then, because being in here with me is your only other option,” Harry says as he burrows into his mattress to get comfortable.

 

“In here with you and all the germs,” Louis chuckles as he slides down beneath the covers to do the same.

 

“You’ve been in here all day taking care of me and you took care of Daniel without getting sick,” Harry points out. And besides, Harry didn’t see him complaining or overly concerned about catching germs earlier when he kissed him, so he knows Louis’ just being difficult for the sake of it. “If you somehow fall ill, I’ll take care of you. I promise.”

 

Louis sighs like lying down beside him is the hardest task he could undertake, but the playfulness in his eyes when he reaches over Harry to turn off the lamp gives him away. “You better, Curly,” he says just before settling down on his side of the bed.

*

By some miracle, Louis doesn't get sick and thankfully, neither does Oliver. By the next weekend, the four of them are all back to being visions of perfect health, which means of course that the boys are just itching to have another sleep over.

 

This time they’re determined to stay up and have a proper movie marathon, and since Louis had the honors of hosting the first one, Harry's flat is nominated to host the second.

 

Harry’s just putting away the groceries he bought for their homemade pizza in the fridge when he hears someone knocking at his front door. The smile he sports is instantaneous, just knowing that it's Daniel, and most importantly, Louis.

 

Oliver shoots out of his bedroom and runs to the door before Harry has even made it out of the kitchen. He already has his little hand fixed on the door handle, but doesn't dare turn it before Harry gets there. Apparently Harry’s taking too long based on the impatient little bounce that Oliver does on his toes.

 

"Dad, can I?" he asks.

 

Harry takes pity on his poor son and nods for him to open it. "Yeah. Go ahead," he says, laughing at how quickly he wrenches the door open to reveal their guests.

 

Harry finally catches up to stand beside his son and he's happy to see Daniel beaming up at him and for a moment, Harry feels just a tad bit selfish realizing that he’s just as excited to have Daniel’s father standing in his doorway, if not more so.

 

He looks as amazing as always wearing an apologetic grin and his son's backpack slung over one of his shoulders.

 

“Sorry we’re late. Daniel couldn’t decide between the two toys he wanted to bring with him tonight. Obviously, it was an existential life crisis kind of decision.”

 

“And which one did he choose in the end?” he asks as their boys run inside.

 

“Both,” Louis laughs, causing Harry to smile all big and dimply at the way Louis' eyes crinkle in the corners.

 

He realizes that he’s still smiling like that after a while when Louis is kind of just standing there on the other side of his door. “Oh, I’m sorry, Lou. Come in,” Harry apologizes as he steps aside. His smile fades when Louis politely declines his offer.

 

“Oh, no. It’s okay. I should probably get going anyway. I know you’re going to have your hands full as it is," Louis says over the sound of Oliver and Daniel’s very loud and enthusiastic conversation about the proper way to build a pillow fort in Harry’s living room. Harry shakes his head hearing their combined plan to pretty much destroy his beautiful, clean flat. Louis just hinted that he needs to go but his words are at odds with the way he's fondly peeking inside to watch them piling up Harry's couch cushions. It would be so amazing if he'd come in. Even just for a minute or two.

 

“The boys and I are going to be making pizza soon..." Harry comments which was clearly the wrong thing to do, because as soon as the words are out of his mouth the boys start whooping and hollering and he has to talk over their excitement. "I don’t know if you have other plans since you won't have Danny tonight, but you could always join us.”

 

Harry watches on hopefully as Louis bites down on his bottom lip to hide his grin. He’s been thinking about Louis and his mouth ever since that time he kissed him while he was sick, and it wasn’t even a real one. It was nothing really, just a quick press of his lips, but it was enough to send Harry’s imagination running wild about what a genuine kiss from him would be like.

 

“Stay for a while. Pizza night wouldn't be the same without you,” Harry gently pushes just in case Louis is still on the fence about hanging out.

 

Louis contemplates, holding Harry's gaze for a moment before peeking in at their kids again.

 

"...Well, I mean, I guess I could. If I wouldn't be too much added trouble for you, that is."

 

"You'd wouldn't be any trouble at all," Harry rushes to assure him. "You can help me with dinner and then afterwards you can help the boys with their pillow fort, because I definitely don't know the first thing about them,” he admits.

 

"Of course you don't," Louis mutters as he fondly rolls his eyes at him. "Honestly, Haz, what kind of mischief did you even get into as a kid if you've never even constructed a basic pillow fort?" Harry just shrugs as he steps aside to let Louis in and take the coat that he shrugs out of. Harry didn't have many opportunities to get into a lot of mischief as a child. He’s the youngest between him and his sister, and he didn't have close friends until he was older. Much too old to be doing things like building pillow forts anyway. Something tells Harry that things would have been different had he been lucky enough as a child to know someone like Louis. 

 

"Thanks for taking me under your wing," he smirks. "I can't wait to have my very first pillow fort experience."

 

"Well, better late than never," Louis laughs. "Thank God I found you in time, Curly. Any longer and you would've been too far gone," he teases.

 

"Yeah," Harry says, grinning to himself about all the extra time he'll get to spend in Louis' presence tonight. "Thank God," he echoes.

 

 

Pizza construction is a messy event, but it’s not like Harry really expected otherwise with two little boys who want to play chef. There’s more pepperoni on the table and the floor than on the actual crust, and the boys keep conveniently forgetting to add any of the ‘healthy’ ingredients to theirs so Harry is having to overcompensate on his and Louis’, but overall both pizzas are coming along nicely.

 

Harry’s at the counter where he’s supposed to be concentrating on keeping Louis’ half of the pizza onion and olive-free, but he can’t help stealing glances over his shoulder at him where he’s helping the boys at the table.

 

Harry has been impressed with Louis and how wonderful of a father he is since before he even met him. He’s the best encourager that Harry has ever seen and he’s always so incredibly patient and gentle with Daniel that he can just feel how much Louis cares for the boy. It’s strange, because lately Harry has been noticing that Louis treats his son with same amount of warmth and kind-heartedness as he does his own child.

 

He notices it whenever they’re all together, whether they’re having fun playing football or just hanging out watching tv for an afternoon in one of their flats. Oliver looks up to Louis and enjoys being around him just as much as he loves spending time with Daniel, and Louis seems equally as charmed by his son. Louis is often the recipient of random hugs and moments of affection from Ollie, much like Harry is now the recipient of giant bear hugs and bright smiles from Daniel, just because.

 

He overhears Louis patiently instructing the boys to put space between all of their ingredients and Harry’s eyes are drawn to the encouraging way he smiles at Daniel for sprinkling the cheese onto the pizza the correct way instead of just throwing clumps on top of it like he had been. That fondness is no different from the loud cackle he lets out when Ollie stops working to swipe his saucy fingers across Louis’ cheek for no other reason than to make him laugh.

 

It’s sweet and easy, and when the three of them are interacting this way it’s hard to tell that Louis is only a father to one of them. Aside from the fact that Oliver is the spitting image of Harry, an outsider would never be able to guess that they aren’t a family.

 

It’s a strange realization to have when you’re standing in your kitchen, wrists deep in pizza sauce; Harry knows that. But it’s also a realization that he doesn’t really know what to do with either. However it is very interesting to think about.

 

 

“How long?” Louis smirks just as Harry hits play, causing the boys to cheer from their little makeshift bed in front of the couch.

 

Harry glances down at them, calculating. “Mmm...two hours. No. Two hours and fifteen minutes,” Harry decides after a few moments of consideration.

 

What? No way,” Louis snorts. “I give them forty before they’re snoring and that’s me being optimistic,” he mumbles.

 

“We can hear you,” Ollie says over the sound of the intro music playing.

 

“Yeah. And we’re not falling asleep early,” Daniel says sounding quite serious about it. Harry thinks his and Ollie’s determination is admirable, cute, and terribly unrealistic considering he caught Daniel yawning during the deconstruction of their pillow fort. And that was only fifteen minutes ago.

 

“Oh, of course, boys,” Louis nods seriously. “Harry and I both know that you’re staying up forever. We were taking bets on how long it’ll take us to clean up after the marathon,” he lies.

 

The boys know it’s a lie too if their silence is anything to go by. The last thing either of them says before the movie begins is Daniel’s stubborn declaration of, “We’re staying up this time.”

 

It has only been an hour when Louis leans over to inspect their sleeping sons with a victorious smirk that Harry’s only seen when they’re playing football and Louis is beating all three of them on a team all by himself.

 

“I knew it,” he grins. “There was no way in hell they were going to be able to stay up. They’ve been running on high energy since Dan and I got here. You can only keep that up for so long before it’s lights out.”

 

“Poor things,” Harry laments with a chuckle as he shuts off their film. “Should we wake them?”

 

Louis’ face screws up into a horrified grimace. “God, no. They’re quiet for once. Let them sleep,” he laughs. And it is much quieter now that they aren't running around. Harry had been prepared to watch both boys by himself all night. It’s been so nice convincing Louis to stay for just a little while longer each time he claims that he should probably go. Harry's excuse has been that he could use the extra help entertaining them. The truth is that Harry just likes Louis being around.

 

“Thanks so much for helping tonight, Lou.”

 

“No, thank you for letting me crash their sleepover. It's the most fun I’ve had in ages. Making homemade pizza, building precarious pillow forts, watching less than one-third of a three-hour long film,” he jokes. “I had a blast, Curly.”

 

“I’m glad to hear it,” Harry smiles as he quietly stands, stretching out his back from being still on the couch for so long.

 

He shakes his head at the folded up positions the boys fell asleep in knowing that their necks are going to ache tomorrow if he leaves them there. He crouches down to discreetly wedge his hands beneath his sleeping son and lifts him up to cradle him against his chest. Harry silently asks Louis for his assistance with his eyes, causing Louis to crouch down to collect Daniel in the same manner and follow Harry to Oliver’s room.

 

They carefully place them in bed and drop kisses to their respective son's foreheads. Harry feels a strange sense of guilt for not doing the same for Daniel so he moves to his side of the bed and kisses him goodnight too. He instantly feels better once he does, but he guesses that Louis’ conscience must be giving him the same sort of issue because he soon moves to where Oliver is sleeping and quietly presses his lips to the side of his head.

 

They quietly back out of the bedroom once the boys are all tucked in and gently shut the door behind them. Harry leans back against it with a long sigh and the muscles of his arms feeling just a bit tired from carrying his son all the way from the living room.

 

“I don’t think I’ll be able to get away with doing that for much longer. He’s getting so big,” Harry grins, remembering the days when Ollie was so small that he could fit in the span of both of his hands.

 

“Yeah, he is...They both are,” Louis whispers distractedly.

 

Harry notices the slight delay in his response and finds it peculiar. When he looks up to see what on Earth has captured Louis' attention, Harry's surprised to find his gaze aimed right at him.

 

It’s a heavy, nervous sort of look. The likes of which Harry has never really seen from Louis before this moment. One that pierces him and makes the skin along his spine all tingly and warm. God, he hopes this is going where he thinks it is.

 

“Lou? What is it?"

 

Harry recognizes the tremble of excitement and nerves running though him when Louis' eyes immediately drop to his lips.

 

Harry freezes where he's leaned against the door, too scared to move and break the moment of whatever Louis' contemplating as he takes a deliberate step closer, bringing them nearly chest to chest.

 

Harry holds his breath in anticipation, but just as Louis reaches out for him he hesitates. He looks a bit torn about the way his fingers are just inches from Harry's skin, and in a moment, he lets his hand and all of his confidence fall away.

 

Harry feels himself frowning as he stands there reeling, and for whatever reason, not being kissed by Louis. Disappointment coats his words when he tries to meet his eyes. "Why'd you stop?"

 

Louis had seemed so certain in his movements a few seconds ago. Now he just looks unsure and maybe even slightly terrified by the brashness of what he was so obviously about to do.

 

Louis shrugs with a little crinkle between his eyebrows when he finally looks at Harry.

 

"It's never really been up to me and what I want. Things like this affect Daniel as much as they affect me, and this... It could change everything," he whispers.

 

Louis lets out a small sigh sounding almost frustrated with how difficult this has to be, but his eyes immediately soften when Harry repeats his original question with a small grin.

 

"I know. So, why'd you stop?"

 

Getting to kiss Louis could mean so much. Would mean so much. They're both currently standing outside of the door where their children are sleeping so peacefully right beside each other. Their kids who became mates so quickly that neither him or Louis had much choice in becoming close friends as well. They haven’t known each other for very long, but Harry's whole world has already been altered just from having Louis and Daniel in it. Unfortunately, it's not just Harry's life that he has to worry about, though.

 

He's got Oliver and Harry loves him more than anything, always putting him first. He could never rush into something that would hurt or harm his child. That's why he's so determined to have this moment with Louis play out the correct way because he and Daniel are wonderful and could be so, so good for them. For both of them.

 

It feels like they're standing at the edge of something huge when Louis steps up to him again with renewed confidence radiating from him.

 

Harry holds his breath again, feeling like he's diving headfirst into whatever that's sparking between them when Louis tilts his chin down to his height and finally presses their lips together.

 

The smile that blooms across Harry's face is instantaneous as Louis sighs into him, letting his hands firmly rest at Harry's waist and at the back of his neck as he pulls Harry down again. He kisses even better than Harry could have guessed, each slide of his lips tinged with the same energy and tenderness that Louis brings to everything he touches.

 

Louis' hand discreetly slides up into his hair and it's not much different from any other time that Louis has teased him by tugging on locks of it and telling Harry that curly hair's the best. It's such a familiar action that Harry accidentally laughs into his mouth, causing Louis to pull back with a nervous grin and a small blush coloring his cheeks.

 

"What? Is it too weird? Are you about to give me the, 'it's not you it's me,' or the, 'we're better off as just friends,’ speech?" He chuckles like he's joking, but the fear in his eyes from Harry potentially saying either of those things is very real, so Harry quickly dispels any worry that he could have.

 

"No, Louis. I don't usually spend weeks wishing for my friends to kiss me the way you just did," he admits. 

 

He watches as Louis sinks his teeth into his bottom lip, his cheeks turning an even deeper shade of pink under Harry's steady gaze. Louis doesn't get embarrassed easily, always teasing other people whenever he has the chance. Harry snakes his hand behind his neck to pull him in for another kiss for no other reason besides the fact that he looks so hot being shy.

 

Minutes pass with their mouths locked together. Harry misses the taste of him as soon as Louis breaks away to catch his breath. His eyes are bright and there's an excitement behind them that Harry's never seen when he pushes himself back to stand up straight.

 

"Alright," he grins. "I guess it's time for me to really go now. I feel like I've been saying that all night," he chuckles. And he has, but Harry's so glad that he didn't leave.

 

"You don't have to go, you know," Harry grins back. "You could always stay." Louis laughs when Harry pushes away from the door to capture his lips in another long kiss. Harry can't help it, not now that he's finally allowed.

 

"God, how am I supposed to refuse after that?" Louis asks once Harry regretfully lets him go.

 

"You're not," Harry says as he links their fingers together to lead him down the hall. He smiles when he isn't met with any resistance. Just Louis squeezing his hand and following close behind.

 

Louis quietly strips out of his jeans and t-shirt over near the closet while Harry closes the door behind them. Louis is already in the bed when Harry slides into it, the two of them lying side by side just like the last time they fell asleep together. That night was different though. One, because Harry felt like literal shit, and two, because they were technically just friends. Harry isn't too sure of what they are tonight, but it feels so much different this time around.

 

The feeling of everything slotting into place only grows when Louis slides over into his space and leaves a slow kiss on his lips. He lets his fingers tangle into Harry's hair again and presses him down into the pillow with it, causing Harry's stomach to flutter. The goodnight kisses that he's accustomed to receiving are usually very quick ones that Ollie presses to his cheek before getting tucked in. He loves those and wouldn’t trade them for anything, however getting to say goodnight like this with Louis is something else entirely. It’s something he could definitely get used to.

 

"I'll get up before the boys," Louis whispers once he pulls away. "We'll just tell them I got here early to get Dan."

 

Harry nods at his plan in the dark room, but they're lying so close that he knows Louis catches the motion of it.

 

"Okay. Since you’re getting up so early does that mean you're also cooking breakfast?" he jokes.

 

"If you want," Louis grins. "Breakfast isn't too much to ask in exchange for me tricking you into letting me stay over."

 

"I was the one who coerced you into staying," Harry corrects him. "I'm practically the mastermind behind this whole operation," he brags.

 

"Yeah, maybe," Louis concedes while wrapping his arms around Harry's waist to pull him closer. "But I'm the one who made the big first move, so technically this is all my brilliant plan unfolding." He presses another searing kiss onto Harry's lips that burns so good that he can't even argue with Louis anymore. He doesn't care who's really responsible for tonight. He's just glad that it happened.

 

Harry wakes up the next morning from the sound of someone moving around in his bedroom. He immediately thinks of Ollie, wondering what on Earth he's up to sneaking around so early, but then Harry grins, remembering that he spent last night quietly snogging his son's best friend's father and that he all but promised to get up first so they don't get caught.

 

"I want pancakes," Harry mumbles into his pillow once he remembers the other half of Louis’ promise. Harry said it so low that he isn't even sure if Louis heard him, but then he feels a pair of lips on the side of his head with a quick, 'Sure thing, love,' being whispered against his curls. Harry is still grinning at the new endearment nearly half an hour later when he’s throwing his clothes from last night back on.

 

The smell of batter frying hits Harry’s nose as soon as he enters the kitchen. He peeks over Louis' shoulder to see how much progress he's made and is surprised to see a huge stack of fluffy pancakes already cooling on a large platter. There are a few suspiciously darker, crispy-looking pancakes off to the side that obviously didn't make the cut, but Harry kisses Louis on the temple for his hard work all the same. “The food looks great.”

 

“Shut up,” Louis laughs, before removing the burnt ones and throwing them away.

 

When Harry goes in to wake the boys he doesn't have to do much besides mention the word 'breakfast' before they're up and heading straight for the kitchen.

 

"Dad!"

 

Daniel's face breaks out into a huge smile when he sees Louis already sitting at the table.

 

"I thought you’d still be at home," he says as he drops down into the chair next to his father.

 

"I decided to get here a bit early. What? You didn't miss me?" Louis smirks, tickling his son in the side to make him laugh before pushing his plate closer to him. Oliver laughs so Louis pokes playfully pokes him in the stomach before handing over his food as well.

 

Harry sits down across from Louis and meets his eyes, silently wishing he could have a bit of his physical attention too. He'd accept a kiss from him in a heartbeat, but their kids are sitting right there with them and Harry really doesn’t want to explain to them why he’s got his tongue half-shoved down Louis’ throat.

 

Louis slides a plate in front of Harry and tells him to dig in, his lips quirking up in the corners when Harry thanks him for getting here early enough to help out.

 

The white lie sends a small thrill down Harry's spine, knowing that Louis didn't leave his side all night. This thing between them is new, but he and Louis seem to be on the same page about it without even having to discuss it. Their boys and their little friendship are the most important things to them. Whatever goes on between Harry and Louis’ changing relationship comes second and that's perfectly fine with Harry while they see where this thing is going.

 

There’s a mischievous glint in Louis’ eyes when he smirks at him before asking their sons about their night.

 

"So, boys, how long do you think you managed to stay up last night? It was pretty late after you finally fell asleep," he says, sounding highly impressed even though they were knocked out before eleven o’clock.

 

"I don’t know,” Oliver beams. “Probably a really long time though, because I don't remember falling asleep or going to my room.”

 

Harry tries to hide the way he fondly rolls his eyes, because while his son may not remember how he ‘mysteriously’ got to his bed last night, Harry and his arms distinctly remember carrying him there. Daniel seems to be stricken with the same case of selective memory when he pipes in.

 

"Told you we could do it," Daniel boasts with syrupy lips and fingers and a proud smile directed at his best friend.

 

Harry bites down on a grin when Louis lets out a defeated sigh. "Wow. I guess you two really showed us,” he murmurs into his mug.

Chapter Text

It’s been two solid months of him and Louis together and Harry has never felt happier.

 

Each time that Louis texts him cute things while they’re both at work or burns food on purpose so he and Dan have an excuse to come over for dinner is like a shot of joy directed straight into Harry’s heart. It filters through him and seeps into every bone in his body, pretty much making Louis the best boyfriend ever in Harry’s opinion even though he’s technically Harry’s first.

 

The two of them knew they had stumbled into something great when they decided to give this relationship a try, so they just went for it. They fell for each other right then and there and neither one of them has looked back since.

 

It’s fun when Louis steals kisses from him while the boys are playing in another room, and the two of them have become incredibly skilled at covering up their pet name slip-ups which now occur so often that Harry questions whether or not it’s even accidental at this point.

 

Oliver and Daniel still have no clue that anything has changed between them which is exactly what they intended. Harry never wants to be that parent who introduces his son to every new person who shows an interest in him, however Louis is different because he could never be just some fling to him. That much became obvious to Harry after the first week. They’re quiet about it, not even telling their families that something is going on between them and it’s fun getting to have Louis all to himself this way. Harry’s crazy about him and sneaking around is the best time he’s had in a long while, but frankly, it’s getting a little old. Harry’s getting tired of having to hide the bright light that always seems to emanate from him whenever he’s in Louis’ presence.

 

He wants to be able to hold Louis’ hand in front of everyone when they go to the zoo with the kids and he wants to kiss Louis whenever he cleans up the kitchen after the boys have all but destroyed it in their attempts to make snacks. Harry wants his son to be able to see the amazing man that has stolen his dad’s heart and who unintentionally shows Harry how to be a better father every single day. He doesn’t like lying to Ollie, which is essentially what it starts to feel like after a while, and so, Harry decides to bring it up to Louis to see how he feels.

 

*

 

It’s Tuesday evening when Harry feels something painfully jabbing at the skin of his neck just above his collarbone while he’s packing Ollie’s lunch for the next day. Harry frowns as he turns towards his son who is staring at him with a strange mixture of curiosity and mild concern.

 

“What happened there?” he asks with a small crease between his eyebrows. Harry rushes to slap a hand over the love bite that Louis put there a couple of nights ago when both of their kids had gone to stay with their grandparents for the weekend. Needless to say, he and Louis took full advantage of the rare alone time that they were given and ended up having a very good couple of days. They hardly even left Louis’ bedroom.

 

“Uh, it’s nothing,” Harry quickly lies. “I accidentally bumped into something.”

 

“Oh,” his son blinks at him, thankfully looking a lot less interested now that he knows his dad is just a klutz as per usual. “You should be more careful, dad. Does it hurt? It looks like it does,” he comments, watching on as Harry throws his favorite snacks into his lunchbox.

 

Harry’s first thought is of Louis and how deliciously painful his mouth can be whenever they’re alone. The bruise did sort of hurt when Louis sucked and bit it into his skin, but Harry didn’t mind Louis marking him up one bit. Now, obviously he can never share any of that with Oliver. Even if his son was a grown, married man, he’d never admit something like that out loud to him because it’d probably scar him for life, so Harry just shrugs at him and tells Oliver that his accidental bruise is fine and that it’s healing, so it looks much worse than it feels.

 

He texts Louis later that night after Oliver goes to bed.

 

‘So, guess what my brilliant and inquisitive son noticed a few minutes ago.’ He sends his message along with a picture of his love bite that takes him a whole five minutes to capture due to the angle and his unruly hair that Harry’s far too lazy to tie back.

 

Shit, babe. That thing is huge!’ Louis sends, not seeming the least bit apologetic that he put it there. Harry can’t say that he’s particularly sorry about it either.

 

‘I know. I had to tell him that I bumped into something. Felt like I was fifteen again trying to explain to my mum why I’m suddenly wearing a turtleneck in June.’

 

Harry has to stifle the laugh that very nearly escapes him when Louis texts back with, ‘You owned turtlenecks??’ and then, ‘Glad he didn’t see the ones on your thighs. Those would be super fun to explain away,’ he jokes.

 

Louis’ teasing him and Harry knows that, but something still makes him feel slightly guilty about it.

 

It bothers him that they’re sneaking around even though Harry would lie to his son and say that he bumped into something even if he and Louis had been married for thirty years. But the fact that he’s lying about other, lesser things like the fact that they are even together makes Harry feel strange. He’s keeping something amazing from the most important person in his life and Harry just wants Oliver to know how happy he is. He’s so sure about Louis and as far he knows, Louis is sure about him, so really it’s past time for them to take the next step.

 

I think we should talk about telling them soon,’ Harry bravely types out. He feels anxiety creep up his throat as he waits for Louis’ answer.

 

What? About your polka-dotted thighs?’ Louis jokes.

 

NO, definitely not,’ Harry smiles to himself. ‘About us, you idiot.’

 

The minute and a half it takes for Louis to text back feels like an eternity. Harry’s chest feels tight, hoping that Louis will be on the same page as him and is ready to let the rest of the world in. His ribcage loosens considerably when Louis sends back, ‘I couldn’t agree more, love Xx.’

 

Harry starts psyching himself up to tell his son that he’s seeing someone the very next day which is great, but also a completely wasted effort since Oliver catches tonsillitis before Harry’s worked up the courage to tell him.

 

The last time a member of their foursome fell ill, Danny and Harry were the unfortunate ones, but this time it’s his son who has the case of bad luck. Harry leaves work early to take him to the doctor and also to stay home the rest of the week to take care of him.

 

Seeing his child sick is always the worst thing imaginable. It breaks his heart and every time it happens Harry always worries so much that he very nearly causes himself to be sick as well. He just wants his son to feel better as quickly as possible and for him to not look as frail and weak as he always does whenever he’s feeling less than one-hundred percent.

 

Harry tells Louis- no; he orders Louis to stay far away from them and the germs, which of course means that he ignores everything Harry said and does the complete opposite.

 

He drops Daniel off at his parents’ and shows up that evening with an armful of get-well-soon offerings from Daniel and himself. His eyes are full of pained sympathy for Oliver when he hardly has the energy to stay awake during his brief visit. He holds his hand and presses kisses all over his fevered head, telling him that Daniel can’t wait to see him when he’s all better.

 

Louis leaves to go pick Daniel up after spending time reassuring Harry that everything will be okay and that Oliver will be back to his old self again in just a few days. Harry nods, appreciating Louis’ support, and knowing that his boyfriend is right. Oliver will be just fine; he still has a hard time with not worrying, though.

 

Harry gets a text from Louis early the next morning telling him that he isn’t feeling very well and that he’s headed over to the doctor after he drops Daniel off at school. He gets a new text a few hours later confirming Harry’s deepest fears when Louis says that he now has tonsillitis too.

 

Harry has to use all of his maturity to not tell Louis ‘I told you so,’ which is hard because Harry did tell him so.

 

Louis says that his mother will pick Daniel up from school and keep him for a couple of days while he’s sick, and Harry thinks that’s for the best, but it’s still a flawed plan because Daniel out of harm’s way still leaves Louis all alone in his flat to care for himself, and that is just unacceptable.

 

It takes about two hours of Louis claiming that he’s fine and Harry needling him over text message as well as facetime when he demands to physically see Louis and the state that he’s in before his boyfriend caves and agrees to come be sick at Harry’s.

 

Harry rushes to the door and lets out a long sigh when he takes in Louis’ appearance. He looks awful. Way worse than he did about half an hour ago with his face now flushed pink along with tiny droplets of moisture gathered across his forehead.

 

“Did you walk here?” Harry frowns.

 

Louis leans against the threshold of the door to rest his head and shut his eyes before answering. “No. I called a cab. It’s so hot out,” he complains, his voice so raspy that it sounds painful. Harry notices that he’s dressed in a t-shirt which is nowhere near thick enough for how cold it is outside, soon realizing that Louis’ sweating isn’t the result of the sun or exertion. His fever is just that high.

 

“Come on, Lou. Let’s get you to bed,” Harry says, taking him by the arm and leading him through his flat. He’d carry Louis if he thought he could, but he’s barely managing to cart his seven-year old around these days so Harry knows better than to try that.

 

No,” Louis groans at his side. “I’ll take the couch. You should get to sleep in your own bed.”

 

“I’m not the sick one here, Louis. You need all the rest you can get. I don’t mind the couch at all.”

 

His boyfriend lets out a frustrated groan and then immediately regrets it when he winces in pain. He looks like he may still want to argue but then he sighs in defeat and allows Harry to continue guiding him into his bedroom.

 

Taking care of Oliver yesterday was one thing when Harry only had one person to give antibiotics and keep a check on, but adding Louis to the equation is like having two sick children at once to monitor. He looks so pitiful. Almost as pitiful as Oliver does each time Harry wakes him up to take his temperature or forces him to drink some tea before taking his medicine. The pills work slowly to kill the infection lodged in their tonsils, so neither of them is in much better condition by that night.

 

Oliver is surprisingly awake the next morning when Harry stumbles out of the living room and tiptoes into his bedroom to check on him. His eyes are still weak and his voice is still a bit scratchy, but he looks a million times better. Harry makes him some soup in hopes that the smooth warmth of it will entice Ollie into eating some. Harry wants to cheer when he willingly eats a few spoonfuls.

 

Harry can see loads of improvement in his son and it makes him so happy to know that the worst is over for him. Louis on the other hand, isn’t quite there yet. His fever has reduced some, but he doesn’t feel much better. It’s so strange to see this quiet version of his boyfriend lying curled up and sleeping in his bed. He’s usually talking nonstop or smiling as wide as his lips will allow, but he has barely spoken a word since Harry put him to bed yesterday afternoon.

 

Harry quietly enters the room with a small cup of tea that he already knows Louis doesn’t want because it hurts him to swallow. He gingerly sits down on the side of the bed and rubs small circles into Louis’ back until he wakes up.

 

“I brought you some tea with honey. You need something in your stomach before you take your medicine.” Louis frowns before cracking his eyes open. He flips over onto his other side so Harry can see as well as hear him croak out that he isn’t thirsty.

 

Harry takes a deep breath, knowing it’s about to be a battle as he begins coaxing Louis to sit up. It takes a couple of minutes to get him to accept the tea and even longer for Louis to drink it all, but Harry feels victorious in the end. Louis swallows down his pill without much trouble when he’s all done before sliding back down between the sheets to go to sleep.

 

Harry gently presses his palm against Louis’ forehead to make sure his fever is still going down. He’s just about to pull his hand away and leave him to rest when Louis’ hand comes up to hold his wrist and keep him there.

 

He brings Harry’s hand down to his cheek and then to his mouth to press an appreciative kiss to the back of it with a quiet, “Love you so much,” whispered against his skin.

 

The rasp in his voice is so bad that Harry could’ve missed his words had he not been listening or paying attention, but Harry hears him and he repeats the words over and over in his head, determined to remember this moment and every inflection of Louis’ scratchy voice forever.

 

Harry knows that there are several reasons why he shouldn’t get into bed with Louis. His son is just starting to recover and Harry really can’t afford to miss any more days from work to name a couple, but he can’t help the way he feels pulled towards Louis where he’s curled up and slowly drifting off to sleep without him.

 

Harry knows it’s a stupid idea and he still lies down behind his boyfriend to cradle him in. “I love you too,” Harry whispers, hoping that Louis hasn’t fallen asleep yet and can hear him. Harry loves him and he loves Daniel more than he ever expected to this soon. It hasn’t been very long. He knows that, but the emotion is there and it’s real and Harry’s heart is full with it every day. He thinks a feeling like that may be worth the danger of cuddling his boyfriend who just so happens to be the current mayor of Germville.

 

*

 

Oliver and Louis make it out of their dreary tonsillitis haze with full recoveries by the end of the weekend. Harry is delighted in more ways than one. Mostly to no longer have to hear them whine and complain about being stuck in bed all day once they started feeling better, or that they’ve already watched all the good movies on Netflix so now only the boring ones are left. In the end, Harry just lumps them both together in his bed so they have someone to whine to besides him.

 

Everyone is beyond relieved when Daniel finally gets the okay to return to them from his grandparents’. Daniel is a vital piece of their puzzle no matter what, and he was terribly missed while he was gone. Being together without him didn't feel right even when Louis and Ollie were ill and mostly just sleeping the day away, so it feels wonderful to have their familiar dynamic back in place.

 

In fact, it feels so good to welcome him home to their little mix-matched family that Harry realizes now more than ever that the four of them really have grown into something strong. Something that kind of resembles a real family, and he has every intention of never letting that go.

 

Harry brings up telling the boys again one lazy afternoon while they have an impromptu lightsaber war in front of the movie they all agreed to sit still long enough for and watch. He whispers and asks Louis if he thinks now would be a good time to let the boys know. Louis smiles watching their kids pay zero attention to the film that they chose when he leans closer and says it's never felt more right.

 

It’s the next day when Harry adjusts his posture where he and Louis are sitting across the kitchen table from Oliver and Daniel.

 

He's nervous. More nervous than he was this morning when he called and let his mother and all of his friends know that they were actually right about the cute guy with the brilliant son that Harry just couldn't stop talking about after they met. No one was surprised to hear that they are now together. His mother had said she knew all along that the two of them would figure it out and realize they’re perfect for each other. Her words ultimately made Harry feel better about telling Oliver. Because if his mother and all of his friends already approve of his new relationship, then maybe his son will be on board with it as well.

 

"You’re fidgeting," Louis smirks with a quick elbow to into Harry’s arm. Harry immediately stills his feet when he notices that the quick tapping sound echoing through the room is coming from him.

 

Harry tries to calm his nerves by taking a very large gulp of his tea. God, he wishes it were something stronger.

 

He and Louis had the logistics of this all sorted out last night over the phone, but now that the big reveal is here, Harry isn’t so sure if they’ve got the best plan going in. He just wants their kids to be okay with this. Mostly he needs Oliver to be okay with this. With his dad seriously dating someone for the first time since he was born. He wants Oliver to be okay with Louis becoming more of a permanent fixture in both of their lives. His son already loves Daniel. They’re best friends, but Louis isn’t someone that Oliver chose to keep around. That was all Harry’s doing, and he just really needs his son to not hate the decisions he’s made for them.

 

"Hey, relax, babe. They're both going to be fine with it," Louis whispers, giving his knee a quick squeeze beneath the table where the boys can't see and not even trying to hide the fact that he just called Harry babe. Harry calms at his touch. His words however catch the attention of Oliver and Daniel who suspiciously narrow their eyes at the pair of them.

 

"We're both going to be fine with what?" Daniel asks.

 

Harry panics, seeing the curiosity on their faces. He shakes his head, already prepared to deny any and all things related to whatever they’re about to guess, but thankfully Louis speaks up to guide the conversation in the right direction.

 

"Dan. Ollie. There's something that Harry and I would like to talk to you about. Something very important."

 

Oliver and Daniel spare a dubious glance at one another before quickly meeting their dads’ eyes again.

 

"What's wrong?" Oliver asks with signs of anxiety already displayed on his face. Harry figures the two of them look like twins at the moment with how nervous they both are. Harry just really wants this to all work out. Oliver just doesn't want to hear bad news.

 

"Nothing's wrong, boys," Louis smiles. "What we have to tell you is a good thing. We promise."

 

Oliver's face visibly relaxes once he hears that. Daniel also seems less concerned about the severity of whatever this discussion is about, but he's still eyeing them suspiciously.

 

"Is it good for us or just for you?"

 

"Both. It's good for all of us," Louis beams.

 

“They’re announcing a new Star Wars film!" Dan shouts.

 

Louis' face scrunches up into a confused frown at the completely wrong conclusion that his son just drew. "What? Dan, no. They literally just released one a few months ago," he laughs. "That's not what we have to tell you."

 

“Oh,” he deflates. He perks right up again when Oliver tries his hand at guessing.

 

“Are we going to go to the zoo again?” he asks with wide eyes. “And this time can we see the snakes for longer than ten minutes?" Oliver smirks in Louis’ direction.

 

His boyfriend pales at the mention of the infamous trip that Oliver is referring to, however, Oliver is being generous saying he could only handle being around the snakes for ten minutes because Louis didn't even make it for five.

 

Harry squeezes Louis' leg beneath the table, to make some of the color return to his face. "No, we're not going to the zoo again right now. Maybe another time, though."

 

"Oh." Oliver’s eyes lose the glimmer of excitement shining in them when he realizes they won’t get to see Louis have another mini-panic attack from walking through all the snake exhibits. "That’s too bad." Louis rolls his eyes at him and then at Danny for laughing.

 

Anyway, back to the point please," Louis says over their giggles, "Harry and I would like to know what you two think happens when two people fall in love.”

 

“They like each other, share all their best stuff, and say I love you all the time,” Daniel lists off with ease, clearly offended that his father would even ask such a rudimentary question. Ollie seems to agree with his friend as he nods along.

 

“Ollie?” Harry says, “What do you think happens?”

 

“I know they always do nice things for each other and say nice things. People kiss if they really really like each other,” his son says with a faint pink tinging his cheeks.

 

Harry blushes at that too. His son unknowingly found the physical evidence of how much Louis really really likes him a few weeks ago. He smiles to himself, never having thought about kissing as something so innocent.

 

“You're both right," Harry smiles. "And do you two know anybody who’s in love?”

 

“Grandma and Grandpa,” Ollie answers with complete certainty. Daniel’s answer is pretty much identical, immediately naming Louis’ mother and step-father.

 

Harry thinks about his parents too and how he was just a few years older than Oliver when his mother remarried and brought his step-father into their lives forever. It was one of the best decisions that his mother could've made for them and their family. He hopes this day will turn out to be just as good and significant for his own family when he meets the boys' eyes.

 

“What would you two think if I said you both know two other people who are in love? And… what if I told you that the two people are your dads?”

 

Harry holds his breath as soon as the words leave his mouth, knowing that Louis is probably doing the same from the way he’s not even blinking as their sons stare at them.

 

At first, Oliver looks surprised to hear this information, but thankfully not devastated. Not yet anyway. Daniel doesn’t seem upset either, but he does look highly skeptical of this news.

 

“How?” he asks, turning to Louis.

 

There’s a faint blush on Louis’ cheeks as he shrugs. “I don’t know how, Danny. No one knows how love happens. It just does.”

 

Daniel seems to accept his father's answer after a few seconds and gives a little shrug of his own with a bored, “Oh, okay," and that's about it as far as Daniel's opinion on the matter goes.

 

Oliver hasn’t said much. He hasn't said anything really and it’s killing Harry. He needs his son on board with this, otherwise it’ll all have been for nothing.

 

“So…you like each other?” Oliver asks.

 

“Very much so,” Harry nods. "I like him better than anyone," he answers truthfully.

 

“And… you do really nice things for each other and smile a lot?”

 

Harry nods to answer those questions too. "We do."

 

Ollie considers all of this in silence. He seems to accept this, speaking up one final time after a long pause. “Do you say, ‘I love you’?”

 

Louis nods, taking Harry’s hand in his beneath the table. Harry’s heart feels like it’s about thump out of his chest when Louis rests their hands on top of it instead.

 

“I love your dad so very much, Ollie. And he loves me too, Dan,” he says with so much sincerity that Harry wishes he could have recorded him saying it just so he can hear it over and over again.

 

“Are you getting married? Then you’ll be just like Grandma and Grandpa!” Daniel blurts out, causing Harry and Louis to eye each other in slight shock.

 

“Er- maybe one day?” Louis tells the room with a big dopey smile that says he wouldn’t mind it if he and Harry ended up like their parents. “That’s something we might talk about later. Right now we just love each other very much,” Louis says very diplomatically.

 

“Okay, but if you two do get married,” Oliver begins, causing Harry to mentally roll his eyes. Leave it to their kids to get hung up on the one part of this that isn’t actually happening at the moment. “Does that mean me and Danny will have two dads?” he smiles.

 

Harry scratches his head. He really didn’t think they were going to be getting into this sort of talk today. He honestly just thought they’d explain that they’re in love and then that would be the end of it.

 

“Uh, yeah, I guess it kind of would mean that, but you could still just call us Harry and Louis. We'd be like your step-dad's but you wouldn't have to call us that. That’s up to you,” Harry decides on.

 

“But what if I want to call you step-dad?” Daniel fires back at him. “Ooh! Or what if I call you something cool like Second-dad!” Harry flounders for what to say. Thankfully Louis intervenes.

 

“Dan. You’re not calling Harry Second-dad, because we’re not even getting married right now, so-”

 

“Will that make Danny my brother?” Oliver gasps, seeming to be catching up to the whole ‘what if?’ game that his best friend is having so much fun playing.

 

“I’ve always wanted a brother,” Danny says matter-of-factly. “And Ollie would be a really good one! He’s so fun!” he beams.

 

“We could share a room and never go to sleep!” Ollie tells his friend, nearly jumping up out of his seat in anticipation of this never ending sleepover. “We could watch movies all the time! And do whatever we want on the weekends!”

 

Daniel excitedly nods along with him, but quickly changes the topic. “If we move to your house we’d have the big tv, but if you and Harry move to our house we’d have more room,” Daniel reasons. A crease forms between his eyebrows and he quickly turns to Louis. “Dad? Who’s moving to who’s flat when you and Harry get married?”

 

Louis just blinks at the two of them, mouth hanging open and face looking like he’s just been spun through the wash a few times too many. Harry knows the feeling because he's experiencing the same sort of phenomenon watching Oliver and Daniel paint the picture of all their entire lives together in under five minutes. He grins to himself because it sounds pretty wonderful.

 

Louis is still staring open mouthed at their kids when Daniel shoots up from his seat from a new idea striking him. Apparently it’s so big that he needs standing room.

 

“Dad, please say we can get a pet when you're married! Please!”

 

Harry sees the measured breath that Louis takes to inform their sons for the hundredth time that he and Harry are not thinking about marriage yet, but he must think better of it though because the next thing out of his mouth is, “Pets are a lot of responsibility and we’d have to live somewhere that allows them. If we do and you two take care of it then I guess you can have one.”

 

“YES!” they cheer in unison causing Harry to laugh at how excited they are about a hypothetical situation that may be ten years down the road from now. You'd think they were getting a pet tomorrow.

 

“We could keep it in our room!” Ollie suggests.

 

“Yeah! We could get a snake and keep the tank by the window so he gets heat from the sun!” Daniel shouts, and that’s where Louis brings their sparkling daydream to a screeching halt.

 

“Absolutely not. We are not having a snake slithering around in our house.”

 

“It’s not going be slithering around in our house, it’s going to be in it’s tank, in our room by the window,” Danny argues.

 

Louis’ vibrato falters as his face pales. He turns to Harry with pleading eyes, all but begging him to do something about this non-existent reptile living in their hypothetical home.

 

Harry takes pity on him and also takes advantage of his new privileges as Louis official boyfriend now that the boys know about them. He leans over to press a reassuring kiss to Louis’ temple, grinning when he hears Louis sigh in relief.

 

“Boys. You can have a pet, but not a snake. Whatever you get has to have fur.”

 

“Furry pets are boring,” Oliver sighs.

 

“Yeah, everyone has dogs and cats.”

 

“Well, if you two want a pet one day then that’s the rule,” Harry says, feeling all kinds of powerful as he lays down the law for two seven-year olds.

 

The three of them have a bit of a stare-off where he can tell Oliver has given up and Daniel looks like he may want to argue, but Daniel sighs in defeat after a few seconds and accepts Harry's rule. “Alright, Second-dad. No snakes," he smirks.

 

The boys only look a bit put out by this dent in their plans, but the relief on Louis’ face is worth bursting their little bubble. Louis' also smiling at Harry like he’s the best thing on the planet, so that definitely makes Harry feel better about having to reign in their sons.

 

Their only goal walking into this discussion was to tell their kids that they’re together. Something that should’ve taken five minutes somehow got hijacked by their sons and turned into a twenty-minute brainstorming event in which every detail of their future lives as a real family has come to life right before their eyes. The bits and pieces are blurry still and Harry doesn’t know when they’re going to get to see it all play out in real life, but he knows it’s going to be amazing whenever they finally do.

 

Louis squeezes his hand as they listen to the boys go on and on about the way they want their combined room decorated in Star Wars merchandise. The entire conversation makes Harry’s heart feel warm.

 

“Oh my God, can you believe them?” Louis laughs as he shakes his head. He’s so beautiful when he’s happy and right now he looks absolutely breathtaking.

 

He leans a bit closer to Harry after glancing at their boys still engrossed in conversation. He grins, silently asking Harry with his eyes if it’s okay for him to close the gap between them and Harry nods, his stomach fluttering out of control when their lips finally meet.

 

It’s a little surreal and over almost as soon as it even begins, but it’s a rush getting the chance to do this so openly without either of their sons caring one bit. Harry replays the moment in his head so he can keep it forever, laughing when he overhears one of the boys make what has to be the best compromise ever.

 

“Maybe we could name our furry pet, Snake. Then it’d be like we have one, but we’re not breaking the rules.”

Chapter Text

Nine years later

 

Oliver glances up from his laptop when he hears the distinct creaking sound of someone opening his bedroom door. Boa pops her head up from where she's lying at the foot of the bed, her ears perked up high as the two of them watch Daniel slip into the room.

 

"Hey, can I borrow a shirt?" he asks, after he’s already started rifling through the closet. Not that Ollie really minds at this point. His brother always takes his clothes without asking. He doubts that’s going to change anytime soon.

 

Oliver watches him sift through all of his things, noticing that his brother is already fully dressed wearing dark t-shirt and the pair of jeans he usually reserves for going out with their friends. His hair looks slightly different than it did at dinner too. It looks like he’s run something through it with the way it’s styled, but only just so. He always does his hair that way when he wants to look good, but not like he tried too hard to do so.

 

Daniel throws a couple of Ollie's hoodies over his shoulder when they’re blocking his way, causing Boa to snort when they land on her head. Daniel grins when she spends the next minute trying to shake them off.

 

"Where are you off to?" Oliver inquires even though he already knows.

 

"Out for a bit,” Daniel smiles. “I got a text from Sean. His parents are gone for the week and his older sister doesn't care if he has people over. The whole team’s going." Ollie knows that Sean’s parents are out of town. He also knows that he invited everyone over, because Oliver got the same text. "You should come too," Danny encourages him as he rips off his current shirt and trades it for the light blue one that may as well be his from how often he steals it.

 

"I can't. It's a school night. And I've got homework,” he says, giving his brother’s outfit a nod of approval.

 

Daniel comes over to flop back onto his bed giving him the flattest face ever. Boa gets up when she's jostled and hops off the bed to go find someplace quieter to nap. "Oh, come on, Ollie. Really? You're going to sit here and do work all night?"

 

Oliver just shakes his head at his brother.

 

"Dan, we have most of our classes together. If I have homework, then so do you."

 

"I'll do it in the morning," he shrugs, poking his brother in the foot where it's poking out beneath his leg. "Come on, Ollie," he pouts. “It’s not like you even need to study. You’re the top of the whole bloody class,” he teases with another poke at his foot.

 

He is the top of the class, but only because he takes school so seriously. He has to work hard to get the grades that he does, unlike Daniel who’s easily the smartest person that Ollie knows. Oliver may be the top of their class, but Daniel has always run a very close second, coming in just below him and without putting in half the effort. It’s kind of unfair for him to be so good at sports and school when both come so easily and naturally to him.

 

"You’re still grounded because of school, you know," Oliver points out in case he's forgotten. Daniel hasn’t been allowed to go much of anywhere for the past two weeks because he started letting his schoolwork slip to hang out with the boy that he likes. The same boy who’s definitely going to be at Sean’s if the tightness of Daniel’s jeans is anything to go by.

 

Daniel sighs and covers his face with one of the hoodies he still hasn’t returned to their rightful place. “Jesus, you’re worse than dad,” he groans before sitting up. “I’m only grounded until tomorrow. What difference does it make if I see my friends one day early?”

 

Oliver blinks at him. It’s ten o’clock on a Thursday night and his brilliant, slightly older brother who is banned from leaving the house wants to know what’s wrong with him leaving the house.

 

“He’s going to kill you if he catches you,” Oliver tells him.

 

“I guess I better not get caught then,” he smirks with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

 

The sound of someone knocking on the door makes them both jump. Daniel fixes his face into something that doesn’t look quite so mischievous when Louis pokes his head into the room.

 

His step-father’s eyes take inventory of the room, the dog now lying in the corner, and then of them, sitting on the bed together, grinning at him, and being very unusually quiet. Oliver thinks they’ve been caught when Louis steps in and narrows his eyes at the pair of them. Well, he looks pretty suspicious, but the majority of it is aimed at Daniel, as it should be.

 

“What are you two doing?” he asks casually.

 

“Homework,” Ollie answers, even going as far as to turn his laptop around to show him the essay he’s typing.

 

“Oh, okay. That sounds good,” he grins at Ollie. He turns his attention to Daniel next. “And what about you, Dan? If Ollie has homework, surely you do as well, right?”

 

Oliver goes back to typing so he doesn’t have to be involved. He knows it was a good decision on his part when Daniel answers their dad with, “I did it before football practice.”

 

He gives Louis an easy grin and his father looks skeptical. He stares at Dan for a long time, eyes roving over him like he may ask more questions, or even for proof of this completed work, but surprisingly, he does nothing.

 

“Oh, okay,” he shrugs. “Well, I guess I’ll let you two hang out then.” He comes and drops a kiss on both of their heads before walking over to the door. “Don’t stay up too late. Your dad and I are heading off to bed. Goodnight. Love you both.”

 

“Goodnight. Love you too,” they answer in unison just as the door shuts behind him.

 

Daniel immediately turns to him with bright eyes. “He’s been saying how tired he is since dinner. I didn’t think he’d be going to bed this soon, though!”

 

Yeah. Louis said he and his dad are going to bed, but Ollie knows that doesn’t really mean anything.

 

“Dan, both of them have been saying how tired they are since they got home. You know as well as I do that they never call it a night this early. If they’re in bed right now, they definitely aren’t sleeping,” he grimaces.

 

Daniel shudders and pulls the face of a man who has walked in on one too many of these instances and somehow lived to tell the tale. Oliver always knocks before going into their dads’ room and even then he stands at the door for a few extra seconds just to be safe.

 

“Okay, first of all, blegh,” Daniel gags. He throws one of the hoodies at him, grinning when Oliver isn’t quick enough to swat it away from his face. “And second of all, you’re wrong. He didn’t suspect a thing. I’m not going to get caught.”

 

“Danny, he came in here because he thinks you’re up to something. He wouldn’t have been all suspicious acting if he didn’t.”

 

Daniel laughs at that and waves off his theory. “Oh, please. He only did that to try and scare me. He doesn’t have a clue. I’m going.”

 

Oliver shakes his head. Daniel is the absolute smartest person that he knows, but he’s also the most stubborn at times.

 

“Do you remember the last time you got in trouble and you asked me to warn you the next time you’re about to do something dumb? Well, this is the next time. Don’t go to Sean’s. If you can just wait until tomorrow you can hang out with everybody then.”

 

Daniel scoffs at that idea. “Everybody won’t be at Sean’s tomorrow. They’re going to be there tonight, so is Luke, and so am I. I haven’t hung out with him outside of school in weeks.” Daniel complains as he crosses his arms over his chest. He’s set on going, but he still waits for Ollie’s stamp of approval.

 

Oliver sighs, knowing there’s no talking him out of it at this point. He wishes he could just sit on on him or tie him down and make him listen, but Daniel likes Luke so much that he’d probably still find a way to sneak out and go see him.

 

“Alright. Whatever. Go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Oliver tells him. He frowns when his brother flings himself at him all of a sudden and wraps him in a tight hug that’s more painful than cuddly. He smacks a loud kiss to both of Oliver’s cheeks.

 

“See! This is why I love you so much, Ollie. You’re just so supportive. The best friend I could ever ask for,” he laughs before walking out of the room and heading down to his own. Oliver fondly rolls his eyes. His brother is such an idiot.

 

-----

 

“You’re back,” Harry grins over his book at Louis when he walks in. “Satisfied after talking to them?”

 

Louis scoffs as he shuts the door.

 

“Satisfied that they’re bloody hiding something.” He comes over to the bed and flops down on it, wrapping his arms around Harry’s middle to bury his face in his stomach.

 

“He’s up to something. I just know it,” he mumbles, causing Harry to laugh from the way his words vibrate against him. Harry closes his book and lets his hand card through the back of Louis’ hair as he whines. “Why is it always Danny? God, he’s so…he’s so-”

 

“Precisely like you?” Harry smiles.

 

Louis pushes up to see him, wearing an offended expression. “I was nothing like that at his age!” Harry knows that to be untrue. His mother has given him enough pictures and stories of teenage Louis to last him a lifetime, and from what he gathers, Louis and Danny are pretty much identical. “Okay, fine,” Louis says after a while of Harry smirking at him. “Maybe I was kind of like him.” If by ‘kind of’, Louis means ‘exactly’, then yes, Harry agrees. Apparently Louis was just so Louis that he got away with practically everything. His mother said he just had to bat those blue eyes of his and people would fall all over themselves for him. Daniel looks just like his father, with blue eyes and a smile that are just as charismatic and charming. The only difference between them is that Daniel’s charm catches the attention of all the girls and the boys, so no one is safe.

 

“You said Dan’s up to no good, but what about Ollie? What’s he doing?”

 

Louis sighs, burrowing his head back into Harry’s stomach. “Homework,” he jealously grumbles. “He’s the unproblematic one. He never does anything,” he sighs.

 

It may seem that way, but Harry begs to differ.

 

“He was grounded for a week last month for skipping class,” he argues.

 

Louis sits up at that to give him a flat look. “Yeah, he skipped to go to the grand opening of the new wing of the science museum. He may as well have been at bloody school, what’s the difference?” he mutters, sitting back against the headboard with his arms crossed.

 

Harry hides his grin, watching his husband sulk. “Well, he skipped with his girlfriend. That’s pretty scandalous,” he tries, but Louis just rolls his eyes.

 

“Yeah, in the seventeenth century maybe. Face it, Curly. Your kid’s boring just like you,” he smirks.

 

Harry shuffles over to where Louis is still pouting to cuddle into his side. He’s been so worked up since he had to ground Daniel that he spends most of the time running around their house like a warden to make sure he actually carries out his two-week sentence. He’s so tense and stressed lately. Harry would love to help his husband relax a bit.

 

Harry nuzzles his face into Louis’ side and lightly bites at his skin through his t-shirt. He smiles when he feels Louis jerk from the assault. Harry leaves another mark beside it and then one just below Louis’ navel that causes him to suck in a sharp breath from the way Harry sinks his teeth into him.

 

Harry pushes his shirt up and his sweats down to get at his left hipbone. He sucks at the skin until it’s red and Louis’ breath is catching above him. Harry blinks up at his husband, loving the way the blue of his irises always look a few shades darker whenever Harry gets him this way.

 

Louis’ clothes are in the way, so Harry gets to work taking them off. His shirt is the least of his worries though, so he focuses on the drawstring tied below his hips. Harry is just able to get the bow untied and catch a quick glimpse of Louis’ beautiful cock before Louis sits up and stills.

 

Harry frowns from where his mouth was literally just seconds away from getting to taste him.

 

“Lou, what the hell are you-?”

 

“Shhh!” he swats at him. “Listen.”

 

Harry waits for the sound of whatever Louis thinks he hears, but nothing comes. “Louis, what are you doing?” he asks, but Louis is off the bed with his drawstring tied up again before Harry can even finish his sentence.

 

“Someone’s outside in the hall,” he whispers. “It’s Dan. I can feel it.”

 

“So, what? Maybe he’s just going to the kitchen.” Harry argues on Danny’s behalf, but Louis’ isn’t listening to a word he says.

 

“I’ll be right back. I’m just going to go check on him,” he says before quietly slipping out the door.

 

Harry sighs, flopping back onto the mattress without Louis’ dick in his mouth. He was so close.

 

-----

 

Oliver is just saving his essay when he jumps at the sound of two voices rising from the other side of the house. He strains his ears to hear what’s going on, but it doesn’t take too long for him to figure out that Dan didn’t listen to him and tried to sneak out. Tried being the key word there since he clearly didn’t make it too far.

 

He hears Louis’ voice first, yelling at Dan for trying to sneak out of the house right under his nose, but then he hears Dan firing back that Louis said he was going to bed and that he wouldn’t have even known he was gone had he actually done it instead of staying up to spy on him.

 

It was not a good move on his brother’s part because Louis goes off at that telling Daniel that he’s now grounded for two more weeks.

 

“Two more weeks?” Daniel squawks. “I was going to be ungrounded tomorrow night! How is that even fair?”

 

“It’s fair because I say it is. This is your own fault. No one told you to try and sneak off behind my back!”

 

Oliver shuts his eyes when Danny continues to argue his side of things. He should quit while he’s ahead and just shut up, but knowing him, he’s nowhere near finished. Oliver wishes he could reach out and slap a palm over his brother’s mouth when he keeps going on about how unfair Louis’ being.

 

“That’s it. Give me your phone. I’ll have that too since everything is so bloody unfair. Hand it over,” their dad demands.

 

“What?! No way! For how long?” he shrieks.

 

“I don’t know? How long are you going to keep arguing with me?”

 

“Alright, fine, Dad. God, I’m sorry. Two weeks is fair,” Daniel tries, but Oliver can tell that it’s too late for apologies.

 

“Hand it over,” is the last thing Oliver hears from either of them before the sound of Daniel’s angry footsteps against the hardwood. He passes by Oliver’s room to head straight for his own, but he doesn’t dare slam the door when he gets there. He shuts it normally having learned early on that door slamming is a quick way to get grounded for life.

 

Oliver waits until he hears his step-dad go back to his room before closing his laptop. He grabs his phone, noticing a text from his girlfriend, Emily asking if he’s going to be at Sean’s. He texts her back that he can’t come before heading to Daniel’s room.

 

He knocks their secret rhythm against his brother’s door before poking his head in. Oliver frowns when he walks inside, expecting to find Daniel lying in bed pissed off. Oliver’s shocked to find him at his desk of all places doing the homework he lied about earlier.

 

“You were right. I got caught,” he mumbles as he angrily punches at the keys of his laptop.

 

“I know. I heard,” Ollie says with a grin, but Daniel isn’t exactly in a joking mood.

 

There’s a hard line creased into the skin between his eyebrows and he’s hardly even meeting Oliver’s eyes. He’s mad, and Ollie gets that of course, but it’s not like he didn’t warn him that this would happen.

 

“You’re doing homework,” he comments.

 

Daniel laughs bitterly at the essay he’s writing without even glancing at his notes. He’s angry-typing it and just finished having a pretty bad fight with his father, and his essay will somehow still be a million times better than Oliver’s. “Might as well. It’s not like I have anything else to do,” he grumbles.

 

Oliver doesn’t actually think that’s a bad thing if it means he’ll get his work done. He knows better than to say that to Dan though.

 

“I’m sorry you can’t go tonight,” he says instead.

 

“No you’re not. You told me I was dumb for even trying.”

 

“Yeah, I did,” Ollie chuckles. This time Daniel cracks a bit of a smile too.

 

“I didn’t listen to you.”

 

“You rarely do,” Oliver grins.

 

His brother sighs, pushing his laptop away to give his fingers a rest for a while. Oliver marvels at the length of his document and how he already has close to an entire page. It took Oliver over an hour to get that far.

 

“Surely you’re done with homework by now,” he says. “Why aren’t you going to Sean’s? They’d probably let you if you ask.”

 

It’s true. Their dads probably would, but Ollie really doesn’t want to go anywhere this late on a Thursday. He really doesn’t want to go without his brother either.

 

“I’ll go next time. We both will,” he promises. “Here. Take this. I know they think you’re coming so I figured you want to let them know you can’t make it. You can text Luke too. I don’t mind,” he says as he places his phone on Daniel’s desk.

 

He smiles at Daniel before turning to leave, but before he makes it to the door he feels his brother’s arms wrap around him from behind.

 

“I love you. Thanks, Ollie. Why are you always so amazing to me?” he asks when Oliver turns around to face him.

 

“I don’t know? I guess I just don’t like seeing my older brother upset.”

 

Slightly older brother,” Daniel corrects him just like always, “Wiser and smarter in every way.”

 

“Yeah, says the person who’s just been grounded for two more weeks,” Oliver laughs before wishing his brother goodnight.

 

-----

 

When Louis comes back to the room he’s shaking. He shuts the door and throws Daniel’s phone on top of the dresser before coming to curl up at Harry’s side.

 

“He fucking hates me.”

 

Harry winces at how broken his husband sounds. “He doesn’t, babe. He loves you.”

 

Harry hates when any of them are upset with one another, but he knows it always hits Louis twice as hard to have to be firm. Louis lets out a long weary sigh when Harry starts carding through his hair without question.

 

“I’m sorry I ran out on you,” he apologizes. Harry thought he was crazy when his husband hopped up and claimed his son was up sneaking around. Turns out his instincts were actually right.

 

“It’s okay,” Harry assures him. “How’d you know he was going to try and leave? I didn’t think he’d try something like that so close to his punishment being over.” Dan was only supposed to be grounded for one more day. If he could make it for this long without messing up, Harry thought for sure he’d make it another twenty-four hours.

 

“How’d I know?” Louis laughs darkly. “Because I would’ve done the same stupid thing when I was sixteen.” He sits up and runs his hands through his hair a couple of times, causing it to stick up in some places. “I’m sorry I’ve been so crazy lately.”

 

“Stop apologizing. You’re not crazy. You’re just worried about Danny. We both are, so I understand how you feel.”

 

His husband nods, but he still looks a little upset. “I wish he was still a kid sometimes, you know? Back when he just wanted to have ice cream for dinner and stay up past his bedtime instead of wanting to sneak off in the middle of the night to go see some boy.”

 

Harry links their fingers together and squeezes his hand because knows that feeling as well.

 

“Or sneaking off to go see some girl,” Harry teases. “He’s partial to both, you know.”

 

Louis fondly rolls his eyes. “Don’t remind me. It’s hard enough just keeping track of the girls that Ollie likes. My brain hurts trying to keep all of Danny’s crushes straight because there’s twice as many.” There’s a small grin tugging at Louis’ lips that wasn’t there a few minutes ago when he stormed into their room. He looks so much more like his regular happy self now instead of the pained version of him that was so upset a few minutes ago. “I’ll give his phone back tomorrow,” he decides all of a sudden.

 

“Okay,” Harry says, knowing that his husband feels guilty so giving Dan back his phone is probably more for his benefit than their son’s. “I can be there when you do for like, backup or support or whatever you need. I don’t mind having a talk with him either if you want,” he offers.

 

“You’re amazing,” Louis tells him, letting his head rest against Harry’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome, love.” Harry takes his chin and pulls him in for a slow kiss that causes his stomach to flip from how eagerly Louis leans into it.

 

Their quick ‘thank you’ kiss turns into something more when Louis deepens it, letting one hand grip into Harry’s curls and the other pull at the hem of his shirt.

 

Harry’s heart rate kicks up a few notches when he realizes that Louis’ going to let them pick back up from where they left off earlier. Harry breaks their kiss to tug his shirt over his head and gets Louis out of his shirt as well.

 

He resumes his work on Louis’ drawstring afterwards, feeling so accomplished when Louis wiggles out of his sweats completely without his help.

 

They have enough time for one more kiss with too much tongue before Harry can’t wait any longer and positions himself between Louis’ thighs to suck him down. The immediate stretch of his lips around Louis feels so wonderful as he takes him into his mouth. He’s moving fast, already gagging a bit around the length of him when he sinks down too far on purpose. It’s sloppy on his part and he should probably slow down so Louis isn’t coming after ten seconds. He wonders if he should ease up a little, but he knows he’s doing a good job when Louis’ shaky hands settle into the layers of his curls to pull at them.

 

The weight and taste of Louis on his tongue is so perfect that Harry is throbbing from how hard he is and every gasp and sound that comes from his husband only makes him harder. He’s aching and Louis’ moaning isn’t helping in the slightest. He hadn’t really planned on having Louis fuck him earlier when he tried to suck him off, but now that they’re here, Harry doesn’t think he could sleep properly tonight without getting to feel Louis inside of him for at least a couple of blissful minutes.

 

The soft hum of approval that Louis releases when Harry uses his free hand to untie his own drawstring makes the decision for him. He lets Louis fall out of his mouth to hurry off of the bed and get the bottle of lube. Harry opens it while simultaneously stepping out of his bottoms. He settles down between Louis’ thighs again and opens the bottle to let the cool liquid pour out onto his fingers.

 

He raises up on his knees and presses his fingers inside of himself one by one. Louis holds his gaze where he’s lying back with one hand lightly stroking himself as he watches attentively. Louis’ fingers always feel the best whenever he’s being opened up, but there’s something about having Louis’ eyes on him instead while he touches himself that makes his own fingers feel just as good. Harry squeezes more lube onto his fingers and lets his eyes flutter shut when he hits the sensitive spot deep inside of himself. He releases a slow moan that has Louis scrambling to sit up and crawl towards him to press their open mouths together.

 

Harry lets his fingers ease out of himself as they kiss. He pours more lube into his hand, but uses it to coat Louis from base to tip where he’s hard and starting to leak between them.

 

Louis kisses him until they’re breathless and he can no longer handle Harry slicking him up with his hand. He whispers for Harry to lie down and Harry is quick to do so, settling down on his stomach near the foot of the bed.

 

His heart pounds with each dip of the mattress as Louis situates himself to hover over him, his knees bracketing his thighs. He feels Louis’ fingers against him first, checking to make sure that he’s ready. His fingers are gone in an instant though and replaced with something much thicker and longer, just waiting at the surface of his skin.

 

“Are you ready?” he asks, even though he should already know the answer to that question from the way Harry is struggling with not pushing back onto him.

 

Harry nods, feeling like he couldn’t be more ready than he is right this very moment with the amount of desperation curling in his belly. It’s the anticipation of it that always makes him so impatient. The knowledge that Louis is just seconds away from fucking him is almost too much to process with how achingly hard he is.

 

Louis takes his time positioning himself, but Harry doesn’t have wait too much longer before he pushes inside. The burn as he takes Louis in is a good one and he makes sure Louis knows about it with the choked off sound he makes when he’s flush against him. He waits a few seconds before rolling his hips and Harry can hear every ragged breath he draws from being squeezed so tightly inside of him.

He starts to move when Harry gives him the okay, lining their bodies up so that his breaths hit the base of Harry’s neck. He can feel Louis’ nose against his skin where he’s breathing him in, and the grip he has on Harry’s hand where it’s clenched in the sheets is like vice.

 

Louis tells him how good he feels and starts pushing in deeper. Harry tries to keep still and not push back, but he can’t help it. He never can.

 

He doesn’t know if Louis intended to find his spot again so early, but when he does Harry shudders into the mattress and bites the inside of his cheek to keep his moan from crawling out of his throat.

 

The boys are probably asleep by now, but there’s no guarantee so they have to be quiet. Harry tries to keep his sounds to a minimum, but a few always slip out without his permission. Louis hits his prostate again and he feels Louis grin as he shushes him.

 

“They’re going to hear you,” he teases, lips brushing just behind his ear.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time. He’s pretty sure their kids have been effectively scarred for life because of them. Daniel more so than Ollie because he never fucking knocks, but that’s his own fault.

 

“Shut up,” Harry whines just as another deep thrust from Louis has his stomach trembling. Louis chuckles at him, biting a wet mark into the side of his neck to make him gasp as his stomach coils.

 

“Are you close?” he asks, even though it’s obvious. Harry nods and has to bite the inside of his cheek again when Louis buries himself so deep that it momentarily steals his breath away. “Are you going to come quietly?” He starts rolling his hips at a faster pace and Harry already knows he’s fucked, so he shakes his head no. He can’t promise that he won’t cry out when Louis pulls him over the edge, so he doesn’t even say that he’ll try, knowing it’ll be a lie.

 

Harry’s only fisting at the sheets for a minute more before he’s coming, and hard. He bites down into his cheek until he tastes blood, but his own voice still fills his ears along with Louis’ when he jerks to a finish inside of him.

 

Louis gently pulls out to lie next to him and catch his breath with his chest sweaty and heaving. Harry doesn’t move as Louis enters his line of vision. He simply enjoys the view as he watches Louis flip onto his back, the cut of his jaw looking so sharp that Harry has to reach out and run his fingers over it. Louis grins at the touch and meets his gaze.

 

“You weren’t joking about not being quiet,” he says, poking at the dimple that forms in Harry’s cheek.

 

“Shut up” he grins. “It’s your all your fault.”

 

“Sure, blame the guy who just made you come,” he teases.

 

Harry rolls his eyes at him, causing Louis to poke his bottom lip out in a pout. It’s cute. He’s cute actually, and Harry can’t resist sliding over towards him to bring their mouths together.

 

He revels in the gentle slide of their lips and the feeling of Louis’ warm tongue sliding against his. Louis’ hand comes up to rest against Harry’s cheek to keep him close and in that moment he just feels so loved.

 

“Feeling any better?” Harry asks once they’ve cleaned up and gotten back in bed. They’re lying side by side, so close that Harry can see the way Louis’ eyelashes sweep across the apple of his cheeks when he lets out a small sigh.

 

“Much better,” he assures him. Harry figured as much. Louis can never stay angry or upset for too long.

 

“He doesn’t hate you, you know? I know it might feel like it when you’re mad at each other, but our kids love you so much. Neither of them could ever hate you, especially not Danny.”

 

Daniel is probably the only other person in this world who loves Louis more than him. He was so in awe of his father when he was a kid. Louis was his best friend besides Ollie and he wanted to be just like him. Harry’s pretty sure nothing has changed now that he’s older. He’s just growing up is all. Just like Ollie, and it’s hard for them.

 

“I know he doesn’t hate me,” Louis admits. “I don’t know why I even said that.”

 

“Because you were upset, but I knew you didn’t mean it, love.” Harry has made similar statements when it’s him and Danny or him and Ollie fighting. It sucks to have to be the bad guy all the time. “It won’t be like this forever, Lou. You won’t always have to fight with him.”

 

“Yeah, eventually I’ll end up murdering him. Or he’ll murder me,” he jokes, but his eyes are just a bit sad when he meets Harry’s gaze. “They’re both going to leave one day,” he whispers.

 

Harry nods, feeling his heart bleed inside of his chest the way it always does each time they talk about this. “They will,” he confirms. He’s been trying to wrap his head around that fact for the past year, but it still doesn’t feel real to him.

 

“It’ll be so weird not having them in the house. Like, what are we going to do with all the extra food we get to actually eat without them here to choke it all down in one sitting?” Harry laughs at that. He and Louis pick up groceries once, sometimes even twice a week. They used to joke that the two of them ate like teenagers when they were kids, but the joke’s on him and Louis because they’ve now graduated to eating like a pair of hippos.

 

“We can walk around the house naked. That’s what lots of couples do when their kids grow up,” Harry suggests.

 

“Boring. You do that now,” Louis laughs.

 

“Only when I know they’re asleep, and only for really quick trips to the kitchen.”

 

“Oh, like the one you just made five minutes ago?” Louis grins.

 

“Yep. Just like that one,” Harry smiles as Louis leans in to kiss him and whisper that he loves him. “I love you too,” Harry answers back, “And so do the boys.”

 

Louis nods where their foreheads are pressed together. “I know.”

 

*

 

Two Years Later

 

Louis nearly drops the stack of moving boxes in his hands as he pushes Daniel’s door open with his hip. That’s all he and Harry have been doing all morning is transporting boxes. Moving empty ones into Ollie and Dan’s rooms and then taking them out to the truck when they’re full. It feels like such a never-ending process.

 

“These are the last ones,” he says, dropping the empty boxes on his son’s bed.

 

“Okay. Thanks, Dad. I only have a little bit of stuff left anyway.”

 

Louis looks around the room noting the large collection of shirts and hoodies still hanging up in the closet as well as other miscellaneous items here and there that he’s pretty sure Dan is set on taking with him. There’s no fucking way in hell all of it is fitting in the three boxes he just brought him.

 

“Do you need any help?” Louis offers.

 

“I need to label those,” Daniel says, nodding at the stack of boxes near the door that are all taped up and ready for Louis to take to the truck with the others. Louis grabs the marker on his desk and heads over.

 

He starts with the largest one by writing Daniel’s name so that this box won’t be confused with any of Ollie’s. “Alright, Dan, what’s inside of this one?”

 

“Condoms.”

 

Louis cuts his eyes over at his son after he’s already written the ‘C’ and then realizes.

 

“Ha, Ha, Dan. You’re hilarious,” Louis smirks, “As well as highly optimistic,” he mutters. He shakes his head at his son, thanking him when Daniel stops joking around and admits that it’s just clothes.

 

Louis moves on to the rest of the boxes, repeating the process of writing Daniel’s name and then a short description of what’s inside. He stands to help Dan pack up the rest of his stuff when he’s finished with that.

 

Louis hands him different things from his dresser and desk, freezing when he touches the trophy that his son received for his first year of football. “Aw. You don’t want to take this with you, love?” Louis coos, holding it close to his chest. It’s got his little name engraved on the front with his position and year and everything.

 

“Dad, I’m going to uni to win titles and trophies a million times better than that one,” Daniel rolls his eyes. He’s been playing since he was five, only getting better as the years progressed. He always played alone until he met Ollie and taught him how to play as well. Ollie used to be as bad as Harry still is, but Daniel whipped him into shape enough that they even played on a team together for a couple of years when they were younger. Oliver’s good, but Dan’s always had a natural talent and love for the sport. He’s so good in fact that he was able to go to the school of his choice to play for whichever team he wanted.

 

“Dad. I’m not taking that with me,” he laughs when Louis tries to sneak it in one of the open boxes. Louis snatches it back when Daniel hands it to him. Fine if he doesn’t want to take it with him to uni, Louis will just keep it forever.

 

“Don’t come asking for it when you’re a famous professional one day and you want to show it off,” he warns, placing it back on Daniel’s desk where he guesses it’ll sit for the next four years.

 

The longer Louis stands in his son’s room, the more things he finds that take him down memory lane. It’s painful and heart-wrenching and he thinks he may be a slight masochist. He finds the old lightsaber he got him when he was seven stashed away at the top of his closet and smiles for a whole five minutes over how cute he and Ollie were. He wonders if Ollie kept his too. He finds the pair of vans that Louis bought him to doodle on so that he’d stop drawing on his skin. He smiles remembering that he wore these shoes every day until he eventually grew out of them. Louis also finds the little bow tie that his son wore to his and Harry’s wedding a year after they met, causing tears to spring up to his eyes as soon as he holds it.

 

He glances over his shoulder at his son where he’s still packing things up, his heart tearing in two because Danny was his best man when he married the love of his life. He remembers how excited he was when Louis explained to him that being a best man really just means being a best mate in a suit. Dan has been his entire life for eighteen years. When it was nothing but just the two of them, and then when he befriended Oliver and changed all of their lives forever. Daniel’s his best friend, and today he’s leaving him.

 

Louis sniffs to keep the tears at bay even though they’re threatening to spill over any moment. He thought he could get through this day without any tears, but he realizes too late that he was a fool for thinking he could do this.

 

“Alright Dad, I think that’s it,” Daniel smiles. It dims when he catches sight of Louis’ face. “Dad,” he sighs coming over to wrap him in a hug. “You’re not supposed to be sad,” he grins. “This is a happy day! You don’t have to put up with me and Ollie anymore. You’re getting rid of us both in one go. That’s like, every parent’s dream,” he teases. Louis knows what he’s trying to do, but it isn’t helping.

 

“Maybe I like putting up with you and your brother,” Louis sniffs, still refusing to actually cry. He will not cry. He won’t. “And I’m not sad. I’m just…” Louis doesn’t know what he is.

 

He’s happy and proud that he’s raised such an amazing man and that he’s heading off to start his life, but at the same time he’s gutted. He doesn’t know how he could be feeling both things at once, but somehow he is.

 

“Are you going to be okay?” Dan smirks after Louis stubbornly rubs at his eyes, because he is not crying. Dan would tease him until he’s eighty.

 

“Yeah,” Louis nods, taking a deep breath and a couple of steps away from his son. “I’m uh, going to start taking these boxes out and check on your brother.” He needs a moment. He should never have tried to help Daniel pack.

 

“Okay, Dad. I’ll still be here when you get back,” Dan assures him. “I’m not leaving just yet.”

 

Louis wishes he weren’t leaving at all.

 

-----

 

Harry runs his fingers over the beige blanket of Boa’s fur where she has her head resting in his lap. He scratches her behind the ear, grinning to himself about the day they got her and Daniel wanted to dress her up like Darth Vader. She’s always preferred sleeping here in Ollie’s room because he’s always been the calmer of the two between him and Dan. Harry wonders where she’ll sleep now that Oliver is moving out.

 

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” Harry tries for the hundredth time only for Ollie to politely decline his offer.

 

“I’ve got it, Dad. I’m just labelling boxes. You can take them out for me in few minutes if you’d like.”

 

Oliver’s room has always been pretty clean and tidy, but now it looks so barren with most of his things packed away. He’s not taking everything of course. There’s still posters up on the walls and a few winter coats that he won’t be needing for a few months, but besides those few things the room is virtually bare.

 

Oliver didn’t need Harry or Louis’ help to pack. He got started organizing his belongings at the beginning of the week, which is about the time that Harry started feeling his heart break inside of his chest.

 

He’s been dreading this day for years. He and Louis both have. Their lives have been so intertwined for so long that neither of them could imagine what it’d be like to send half of their family away at the same time. They used to joke about how great it would be to be free of them when they were kids, running around the house wreaking havoc, but it isn’t. It hurts so much.

 

Boa lifts her head when Oliver finishes labeling his boxes and tosses the marker across the room to land on his desk. He makes a guilty face when he realizes he’s disturbed her and bends over to kiss her head and apologize.

 

“I’m going to miss her,” Oliver admits with a fond smile. The boys begged to have a pet every day until he and Louis got married. They moved into this house and then adopted Boa not even a week afterwards just to shut them up. He can’t believe how long ago that was when it feels like it was just yesterday.

 

“You’ll have to come back and visit her so she knows you still love her,” Harry tells him.

 

“Always,” Oliver says mostly to her and she leans into his touch.

 

“You have to come visit me as well, you know, and not just Boa. Your dad and I need to be reminded that you haven’t forgotten us too.”

 

Oliver rolls his eyes like Harry is being overdramatic, but it’s a very real fear that Harry has.

 

“I’ve already told you I’ll come visit at least once every month. Me and Dan both will.”

 

Harry smiles, wishing that his son could actually keep that promise. “Yeah, I know, Ollie, but things will get busy and you and Danny are going to have so much going on that you might not be able to make it back that often.”

 

Oliver’s grades were good enough to get him into any school of his choosing. Harry had been so proud of him for having the option of going anywhere he wanted, but he was also terrified for him to have that amount of freedom. He didn’t want his son to go to uni somewhere so far away that a quick weekend visit would be impossible, however he didn’t want Ollie to sell himself short and stay close to home just to appease him.

 

Danny had similar options in terms of school with his football offers and grades so Harry and Louis sat their boys down together one night and had them make lists of their top five choices to help narrow them down. Three of Oliver’s choices were so far away that it hurt Harry to even read them, but two of the schools were much, much closer. Daniel’s list was almost entirely complied of schools more than a few hours away except for one of them which just so happened to be one of the closer schools on Daniel’s list.

 

Harry has worried about his son since the day he was born and now that he’s a grown man, not much has changed. He didn’t want his son to have to leave home by himself, and now because he and Daniel chose the same uni he doesn’t have to. He and Louis still have no idea what made them choose to stay together, but they suspect that their sons aren’t quite ready to say goodbye just yet and that is just fine with Harry.

 

“I’ll come visit as often as I can and I’ll drag Dan with me whether he wants to come or not,” he smirks. “Even if we just come for dinner.”

 

“I can live with that. And phone calls once a week, or whenever you get the chance.” Harry has talked to his son everyday of his life. He doesn’t know how he’s now supposed to make it on a single phone call every seven days.

 

“I will,” Oliver promises.

 

Harry holds back the tears that start pooling in his eyes when Oliver gets up to wrap his arms around him and bury his face into his neck the way he used to when he was little. He’s too big to really fit the way he did back then, but Harry holds onto him just the same. He’s just pressing a kiss to the side of his head when Louis lightly knocks on the door and steps inside.

 

“What’s all this crying about?” he asks. “Ollie, I made your dad promise not to get too weepy today and now look at him,” he teases.

 

Harry takes a deep breath when his son lets him go. He hugs Louis next, whose eyes look suspiciously red and puffy for someone reminding others not to cry.

 

“Dan’s stuff is all loaded, so there’s just the stuff in here left,” Louis says. Harry nods and stands, feeling like if he doesn’t get out now he may do more than simply tearing up.

 

“Okay, let’s get finished up then,” he says, taking the first box he comes to and walking out the door.

 

*

 

They drop Daniel off at his dorm first when they arrive so he can check in with the rest of the football team and get his keys. They unload his boxes and help him get started unpacking them as much as they can before heading off to Oliver’s dorm a couple of buildings down. 

 

Oliver’s roommate is random; a boy who’s going to be studying in the engineering department too. Harry would be worried sick about leaving him with someone he doesn’t even know, but the knowledge that Danny will be just a few dorms over makes him feel incredibly relieved. Oliver hasn’t had any trouble making or keeping friends since he met Danny and came home raving about how spectacular he was. He hasn’t had issues with being bullied or isolated since then either, partly due to Daniel watching out for him and partly due to Oliver finding a voice of his own to take up for himself. He wants their sons to get to experience uni life as individuals, but he’s so, so grateful that they’ll have each other close by.

 

The three of them help Ollie start getting his things put away in his new room until they realize how late it’s getting. Harry just keeps taking stuff out of boxes even after Louis announces that they need to get on the road. In the end, Louis places a hand on his shoulder and gives it a light squeeze to let him know that it’s time.

 

It’s surreal and it feels like someone else’s life entirely when Dan wraps his arms around his neck and says that he loves him. Harry holds him close, unable to say much besides, “I love you too,” because if he starts telling Danny how grateful he is for him, has been for him and for his father coming into their lives, he’s going to lose it and Louis will have to carry him out of here.

 

Dan moves onto his father once Harry lets him go, but Harry’s arms are only empty for a moment before Oliver takes his place.

 

Harry doesn’t mean to hold Oliver longer than his brother, but he can’t help it. He sneaks a glance over at Louis and Dan where they’re still whispering and clinging to one another and he swears he feels his heart cracking and splintering off like tiny shards of glass being scraped away at the surface.

 

Harry makes the first move by patting his son on the back and telling him that he loves him for the fifth time in under five minutes. He hears Louis take a deep breath at his side when he and Dan finally let go as well. Louis smiles when Ollie comes to fit himself in his arms and tells his step-dad how much he’s going to miss him.

 

“I’ll miss you more,” Louis whispers. The room is silent as they cling to one another and then Louis’ voice comes out loud and a bit shaky. “You two need to get settled and we need to get back home, so we’re going to go,” Louis declares after Ollie steps back.

 

“Okay. Drive safe,” Ollie says.

 

“Yeah, drive safe,” Dan echoes, coming to stand next to his brother.

 

“We will. You boys stay out of trouble,” Louis warns. “Dan, I’m mostly talking to you. Ollie, please keep an eye on him. Or both. Keep both eyes on him.”

 

Oliver lightly elbows his brother in the side. “I promise to keep him straight.”

 

“Good luck with that,” Dan mumbles beneath his breath before waving them goodbye with a bright smile.  

 

Louis rolls his eyes at him before opening the door. “I heard that. See you later,” he calls before stepping out of the door and walking out.

 

Harry follows along behind his husband with a quick wave at the pair of them. He meets Oliver’s eyes who waves back with a small grin and then he looks at Danny who looks so much like his father that it’s scary.

 

“Look out for him,” Harry tells him, knowing Oliver really doesn’t need to be looked after anymore, but it makes him feel better to entrust Daniel with his son.

 

“I will, Second-dad. Sure thing.”

 

Harry laughs, having not heard that name in years except on very special occasions where Daniel is in a particularly playful mood.

 

“Bye,” Harry says one last time before shutting the door behind him and leaving his kids behind.

 

 

They’re home for ten whole minutes before the reality of their empty house hits them. Harry has been holding back his tears for the past week and every single one of them comes rushing down his face when he realizes that Oliver’s room will probably look this way forever. Louis tries to be strong, but he’s just as devastated when he finds a pair of Daniel’s earbuds on the kitchen table and yells for his son to come get them before realizing he’s no longer there.

 

Harry allows himself half an hour to get it all out. He can’t spend the rest of his life crying because his son did what he was supposed to and grew up.

 

Louis holds him in their bed that evening, lightly stroking through his curls while Boa sleeps at their feet. She had been in Ollie’s room just waiting for him to come back as always. It was so heartbreaking that Harry made her come into their room instead.

 

“What do you think they’re doing right now?” Harry asks, hoping that Ollie likes his roommate and that Dan is actually unpacking his things like they all told him to.

 

“Probably drinking and snorting coke at a rave,” Louis says, causing Harry to laugh for the first time in hours. “I have no clue what they could be up to now that they’re officially on their own. I guess we’ll get to spend the rest of forever wondering,” he grins.

 

Harry sighs, wishing there was a way he could always know that his son is okay. “I wish that mirror-thing from Beauty and the Beast was real. Someone should invent that.”

 

“You should tell Ollie. Maybe it can be his first engineering project,” Louis chuckles.

 

They fall asleep there without really meaning to, only to be woken up by the sound of Louis’ phone vibrating on the bedside table. He reaches for it and frowns when he accepts Daniel’s facetime call.

 

Harry sits ups and rubs at his eyes wondering what on Earth would cause Dan to call this late at night when they just dropped him off a few hours ago. Harry grins wide when the call connects and he sees both of their sons grinning back at them.

 

“Missed us already?” Louis laughs.

 

“Yeah right,” Daniel scoffs at his dad, “Me and Ollie were just taking bets on whether or not the two of you have stopped crying yet. I figured you’d sob at least until next month,” he grins.

 

“And why would we cry? We just got rid of two annoying teenagers at once. That’s cause for celebration, mate.”

 

“Mhhmm. Sure it is,” Oliver says, taking a bite of something that looks suspiciously sweet and gooey.

 

“What the hell are you two eating?” Louis asks, narrowing his eyes at the screen.

 

“Ice cream!” they smile in unison. “There’s a place that stays open twenty-four hours for students,” Oliver explains.

 

“Oh, God,” Harry laughs. “Please tell me you two had something resembling a vegetable for dinner.”

 

“We had tacos,” Daniel grins. “There was salsa on them, and salsa comes from tomatoes. They’re basically veggies.”

 

“Yeah, because that sounds super balanced and healthy,” Louis mutters.

 

The four of them talk for just a few minutes until the boys say they’re about to head back to their dorms for the night. It’s a four-way conversation that ends much too quickly however it does Harry’s conscience and heart a lot of good.

 

“Can you believe them? It’s their first night as adults away from home and they have tacos and ice cream for dinner,” Louis laughs. “They’re going to be enormous when they come home.” Harry isn’t worried. He’s sure the novelty and excitement of a twenty-four ice-cream shop will wear off eventually, or at least he hopes it will. “I’m glad they’re having such a good time already.”

 

“I’m just glad they’re together,” Harry admits.

 

Harry was worried that they’d get to uni and become so invested in their own lives that neither of them would have time for his brother, but that quick ten-minute phone call was enough to remind Harry that their sons aren’t merely siblings. They got that title later in life than most, and wore it proudly, but before they were brothers they were friends. Harry didn’t just send his son off to uni with anybody, he sent him with his best mate in the whole world. The person that understands him better than anybody else and he knows that they will always make time for each other no matter what.

 

Louis sighs happily when he meets Harry’s gaze. He looks just as relieved as him and with so much pride in his eyes. “We did such a good job, Haz.”

 

Harry doesn’t know if he means with making it through that phone call or with creating a life together, but either way, Harry agrees completely.

 

“Yeah we did,” he grins.

Chapter Text

When Oliver wakes up it's to the sound of his roommate loudly shutting the door on his way out of it, the sharp snap of it causing him to jerk into consciousness with his head pounding so hard that he has to keep his eyes squeezed shut for a whole minute before he even dares open them.

 

He reaches out for his phone on the bedside table to see how late it is, but it isn't there. He digs around beneath his pillow and sheets for it and still comes up short, groaning at himself when he realizes it's still wedged in the pocket of the jeans he apparently never took off from last night.

 

He's hoping for the best but expecting the worst when he chances a look at the time. He winces when he's sees that it's already past ten o'clock. He and his brother are supposed to be on the train home by noon.

 

Their dads are going to kill them.

 

Oliver shoots up from the bed to type out a quick text to his brother. 'Why didn't you wake me?' he sends before finding a fresh shirt and pair of jeans that don't smell like they've been soaked in beer that Ollie didn't even drink. He only had a few drinks. Three or four at most. Possibly five, and now his head feels like it's splitting open, and he overslept, and he and his brother are going to be late for their dads' anniversary; his brother who still hasn't answered his text.

 

Oliver checks his phone nearly a dozen times while he's rushing around his room getting dressed. He gets no answer from Daniel, so he switches to calling him instead, and still, nothing.

 

He grabs his keys and wallet and sprints out the door when it becomes apparent that Daniel is either ignoring him or is still in bed.

 

The morning sun blares down on Oliver as he heads to his brother's dorm. He gets to Daniel's door and knocks on it repeatedly until someone finally answers. He hears footsteps approaching, so Oliver gets his mouth ready to chastise his brother for not answering his phone, but it dies on his lips because the person that answers is unfortunately not Daniel.

 

"Adam... Hi. Er- Sorry for banging on your door like this. I'm looking for my-"

 

Adam cuts Oliver's speech short by widening the door enough for him to see into the room. "He's not here."

 

Oliver peeks inside, praying that Daniel's roommate is just joking, but his brother's bed is empty just like Adam said.

 

"He never came back home from that party last night so I don't know where he is," Adam says with an apologetic shrug, "I know he took his phone with him. You should call him," he suggests.

 

Oliver doesn't mention that he's already tried that. Multiple times.

 

He panics once he's back outside until he forces himself to think through his headache to remember the address of the house they were all at last night. He checks the clock on his phone again. He can probably make it there and get his brother in time for them to make their train at noon, but only if he goes right now and only if Daniel is, of course, there.

 

It’s a quick journey over and thankfully Oliver doesn't have to search long when he enters the house. It looks so different in the daylight than it did last night when Oliver drunkenly stumbled out of it. There are remnants from the party covering nearly every surface along with some of it's guests who apparently couldn't be bothered to go home and pass out in the comfort of their own beds. One such patron Oliver recognizes as his older brother in one of the rooms upstairs whom he finds lying stretched out between some girl he's never seen before and one of Dan's teammates. Oliver has no idea how the hell his brother ended up sharing a bed with two other people when he finally crashed. He just thanks God that everybody’s clothed.

 

"Dan," he whispers as he leans over to tap his arm. Oliver nudges him a few times before he finally groans into alertness.

 

He cracks his eyes after a second, looking like the physical embodiment of a hangover before his groggy gaze lands on him, causing a lopsided grin to stretch across his lips.

 

"Ollie, mate,” he croaks out. “I thought you left..."

 

"I did," Oliver rolls his eyes.

 

Somewhere between his brother and his entire football team convincing him to come out and the last tequila shot that someone messily poured him over the kitchen sink, Ollie realized that he was way more intoxicated than he meant to be on the Saturday before his parents' anniversary. He found Daniel dancing in a crowd of people to let him know that he was going home when the alcohol and music became too much for him. 'Sure, Ollie,' he had said. 'I'm right behind you. I'm leaving in just a few minutes,' he had smiled, which was clearly the biggest lie ever considering the state Oliver's just found him in.

 

"Dan, where’s your phone?" he asks, offering an outstretched hand to help his brother up.

 

"I don't know. It's gotta be here somewhere," he says, clearly unconcerned as he yawns and continues to lie there. He smirks when Oliver gives his response a flat look.

 

His brother’s phone could be anywhere.

 

They don't have time for this, and his face must show it because Daniel sits up after a while, careful not to jostle his sleeping partners as he stretches out his back and shoulders. Slowly but surely, Daniel scoots down the center off the bed to the foot of it and stands up. Usually, Oliver has about an inch over his brother in terms of height but Daniel's hair is such a mess right now that they look about equally matched. Daniel of course doesn’t seem concerned in the slightest based on the happy little quirk of his lips.

 

"Your hair is sticking up," Oliver points out when his brother digs into his back pocket and magically produces his dead phone from it. "Oh, look. You found it," Oliver mutters flatly, watching as Daniel runs his fingers through his fringe, achieving absolutely nothing except making it messier.

 

Oliver frowns when his brother reaches out all of a sudden to playfully tug on a few of his curls that have gone awry.

 

"Your hair isn't much better. You're just as hungover as I am," he chuckles, only laughing harder when Oliver swats his hands away from his hair and causes the two people sleeping in the bed to briefly stir.

 

"Stop it,” Oliver whispers with as much authority in his voice as he can manage. “We have to leave at twelve. We told them we'd be there by two, and shit. I left their anniversary card in my dorm room. We don't have time to get it and we're going to be so late. And-"

 

"And we'll get there on time, Ollie. Don’t worry," Danny reassures him with a squeeze to his shoulder that somehow does nothing and everything at the same time to make Oliver feel better. It’s funny how his brother has that ability. Somehow he’s been driving Oliver crazy as well as keeping him sane since they were kids. He’s glad to see that nothing has changed.

 

Their parents' anniversary has always been a big deal. Growing up, most kids his and Danny's age never really cared about their parent’s anniversary because it didn't directly pertain to them. Oliver learned very quickly that their family is different, because their parents' wedding date isn't just some yearly event to remember the day that the two of them got married. For them, it's a celebration of their decision to officially make the four of them a family forever. It was the single most important day of all of their lives and Oliver will never forget it as long as he lives. He got another father that day as well as a brother. Two people whom he loves with all of his heart, and their family has always taken the time to appreciate that, however, their parents may just take the time to murder him and Danny if they don't make it home on time.

 

"We've got the whole morning to get to the station," Dan reasons. “We’ll be fine.”

 

Oliver checks his phone for the hundredth time. "We have exactly forty minutes," Oliver tells him flatly.

 

"See, just like I said," Daniel beams up at him. "We've practically got the whole morning."

 

Daniel insists on stopping by his dorm to change since it’s on the way. A trip which Oliver wildly protests because Dan’s dorm is about as far out of the way as they can get, but Daniel is adamant about it so Oliver allows it. By some miracle, the train schedule is delayed fifteen minutes so they actually get to take their seats when they arrive.

 

Oliver slides in after his brother, dropping down in the aisle seat because Daniel ran ahead of him and took the one closest to the window.

 

"Told you we'd make it on time," he brags.

 

"We're fifteen minutes late."

 

"And lucky for us, today that means we were right on time," he beams.

 

Oliver fights his grin. Extremely lucky for them, more like. He glares at his brother for several seconds hoping he can feel the annoyance he’s trying to convey. It doesn't work because the next thing Oliver feels is his brother painfully jamming his finger into the side of his neck with a sharp, scandalized gasp.

 

"Oliver Tomlinson. Is that what I think it is?!"

 

Oliver hurries to pull the collar of his hoodie up around his neck. "Shut up!"

 

"Oh my God, it is what I think it is!” Dan exclaims with mirth dancing in his eyes. “Who gave you that? Ooh, I bet it was that girl from your class you were dancing with last night. God, what was her name again?" he frowns trying get his brain to work. Oliver's glad his brother can't remember her name. It's better that way. "Jessie!" Daniel shouts all of a sudden causing literally everyone to turn to look at them. "She was so beautiful, Ollie. She couldn't take her eyes off of you. Or her mouth, apparently," he adds causing Oliver's cheeks to burn as he grins so hard that his dimples pop out.

 

Daniel giggles, but immediately straightens his face out when Oliver begs him to stop through his stubborn smile. "Alright, alright," Dan smirks, fluffing up the arm of Oliver's hoodie before snuggling into it. "I'll behave. My head hurts anyway so I'm going to sleep."

 

"Thank God," Oliver mutters, earning himself another fond poke in the neck as the train pulls forward.

 

A couple of minutes pass before Dan is out cold against his shoulder. Oliver tries to keep still as he digs his phone out to text his father and let them know that they'll be a few minutes later than expected. Oliver pockets his phone with a small grin once his messages are sent.

 

He's so happy to finally be going home. Neither of them has seen their parents in the six weeks that have passed since they dropped them off at uni. It feels like the amount of time has flown by, but it's the longest either him or Dan has gone without seeing them so it's felt like an eternity too.

 

Oliver misses them, and their house, and his room, and his dog, and the way things were when they all still lived together. Uni is the most fun he's ever had and he's lucky enough to have his brother and best friend with him every step of the way, but he still sometimes misses the life they used to have as one family.

 

He peeks down at Daniel lightly snoring and most likely drooling all over him. His brother who has always been more independent and adventurous than him who is just as excited to be going back for a few hours. He pretends like it’s no big deal to be a couple hours away from their parents, but at times Oliver suspects he misses home more than him. That’s why Oliver thinks it's so nice that they each got to take such a huge piece of home with them when they left; no matter how annoying and hungover that piece may currently be as it snores into his sleeve, Ollie thinks.

 

*

 

"Ollie says they're going to be a few minutes late," Harry relays to his husband.

 

“Really? How late?” he asks where he’s carefully chopping the vegetables that Harry assigned him.

 

Harry’s phone vibrates against the counter again with a new message from his son. “He says fifteen minutes. Apparently the train was late leaving.”

 

“Oh.” Louis sighs in relief. “Well that’s not too bad,” Louis smiles over at him when he finishes cutting the broccoli.

 

Fifteen minutes isn’t bad at all, Harry thinks, especially after waiting six whole weeks just to see his kids again.

 

None of them meant for the separation to be this long. It was only supposed to be a month before the boys came back, but it seemed like overkill with his and Louis’ anniversary coming up two weeks later along with Daniel’s first football game immediately after that. He and Louis would much rather have their boys home for their anniversary than just some random weekend, so they told the boys to just wait. It had crushed Harry, because he’d been counting down the days until they’d come home, but the wait was so worth it because both of their sons will be here soon to spend the day with them.

 

They two of them work together to get dinner started and simmering in the slowcooker before cleaning up a bit and finally getting in the car to go meet the boys at the station. Harry’s knees bounce in anticipation the entire time they’re driving, causing Louis to giggle at how excited he is.

 

Louis tears his gaze away for road for a few seconds to press a kiss to the back of Harry’s hand, his eyes crinkling up from laughter when Harry checks the time yet again.

 

“Do you think they’ll be any different?” Louis grins with bright eyes that show all the excitement he’s holding in while he drives.

 

It’s a question that Harry has to really think about. There will always be some selfish part of his heart that wants his little boy to stay his little boy forever, but at the same time, Harry’s so interested to see the type of man he’ll become. The same goes for Daniel. He knows moving out of your parents’ house forces everyone to grow up a little bit. He just hopes they haven’t changed too much too fast. Not yet anyway.

 

The time that it takes for their train to arrive once they get to the station feels like an eternity. Harry can’t stop fidgeting even once the double doors of the front entrance open as passengers file out to meet their loved ones.

 

Harry scans the crowd for his sons feeling every bit as anxious and giddy as he did when he used to pick them up from school as boys, and just like all that time ago, Harry spots Daniel rushing forward towards him and his dad along with Oliver, who still manages to be his shadow despite the fact that he’s now taller.

 

Daniel crashes into his father’s arms looking sleepy and bit hungover if Harry had to guess, but he looks so happy and content with Louis hugging him close that all Harry’s sees is the same little boy that he used to be. He’s exactly the same, just like his brother who crashes into Harry with the same amount of force and tenderness as Harry holds him tight.

 

They stand there holding each other until the boys let go to switch dads and start the process all over again. Harry laughs, feeling Daniel sigh into his neck after squeezing him so tight that it’s almost painful.

 

“Missed you,” Danny says, causing Harry to smile.

 

“I’m sure we’ve missed both of you more,” Harry says when Oliver finally lets go of his stepdad.

 

Each of the boys wishes them a happy anniversary and apologizes for not having their card. “Not, it’s fine,” Louis waves them off. “The important thing is that you’re both home,” he says, lightly tugging on a lock of Oliver’s hair and raising an eyebrow at the state of Daniel’s. “Do I even want to know?” he asks with amusement dancing in his eyes as Daniel rushes to say that they look so rumpled because they were tired and slept the whole trip. “Right. If that’s what they’re calling it these days,” he mutters before pulling their sons in for another hug.

 

The car ride away from the station feels like any other trip they’ve all taken together with his and Louis’ hands linked on top of the middle console and both boys singing along to the radio while they simultaneously text and give them updates on life at school. It’s such a familiar scene that Harry finds himself smiling, having missed them talking his and Louis’ ears off.

 

They stop at each of their parent’s houses so that the can see their grandsons and spend a bit of time with them. His and Louis’ parents have been just as excited to get to see them as they have. Everybody is all smiles as they listen to the boys talk about life away from home, thankful that the boys have each other to rely on whenever they need someone to talk to.

 

Dinner is ready by the time they get home, and it’s a good thing too because the boys have been talking about how hungry they are since they arrived. It feels good to sit down as a family of four again. The dinners that he and Louis share each night are lovely and Harry wouldn’t trade them for anything, but a meal with both of their boys is hard to come by these days, so Harry makes sure to take it all in and appreciate it.

 

When everyone’s plate is clean, Louis stands to start clearing the dishes away. Oliver gets up too, following behind his stepdad to help put things in the sink since Harry did most of the cooking. It’s the same system they’ve always had, and the four of them fall back into it like the past six weeks never even happened. Harry cracks a grin when he feels Dan discreetly kick at his feet under the table to get his attention and makes a very subtle inquiry about dessert like always.

 

“We’re having ice cream, of course,” Harry tells him, laughing when Danny gets up to hug him around the neck.

 

“See, this is why I love you! I’m never leaving! I’m quitting uni to come back home,” he exclaims, already patting his stomach because ice cream is his and Oliver’s favorite thing in the entire world.

 

If only.

 

They have dessert in the living room. An anniversary tradition that goes hand in hand with them watching a Star Wars film of the boys’ choosing as they take their seats on the floor in front of the couch.

 

“You gonna stay awake this time, or are your hangovers going to take you down?” Louis teases as he scoots in close to Harry and sets up the movie. Neither of the boys says anything, both of them suddenly looking very interested in their ice cream.

 

“Who says we’re even hungover?” Danny asks with his big blue, innocent eyes that do nothing except make Louis roll his.

 

“Are you kidding me? I practically invented being off your face. I know hung over when I see it, and right now I’m seeing double,” Louis says eyeing them both with a knowing expression.

 

Daniel doesn’t say anything in response to that. He just shrugs and changes to subject with, “Ollie has a massive love bite on his neck. Let’s talk about that instead,” he suggests, smirking over at his brother whose cheeks turn bright red as he pulls the collar of his hoodie further up, glaring daggers at his older brother.

 

He’s been uselessly tugging on that hoodie all day. Harry doesn’t know why because he noticed the bruise the second his son got off the train. Harry guesses it must’ve been one hell of a party.

 

“Let’s not talk about that,” Ollie says, still trying in vain to cover his neck.

 

Harry bites down on a smile. It’s so like Oliver to be bashful over something so small and it’s just like Danny to tease him for it. God, he misses this so much.

 

“Your dad I don’t care, you know,” Harry assures him. “You two are adults.”

 

“Adults who fight over which bowl has the most ice cream in it and who can’t stay awake through the entirety of a movie to save their lives,” his husband adds.

 

“We’re not gonna fall asleep, Dad. We aren’t kids anymore,” Danny drones, which ends up being a completely false statement an hour later when Louis peeks down at them slumped over and snoring over the sound of the movie.

 

We aren’t kids anymore,” Louis mocks, grinning at the way Oliver’s bowl is about two seconds from falling onto the floor with the way he’s hunched over. “Yeah, right,” he laughs before stealing the kiss Harry owes him for thinking they’d make it at least three-fourths of the way through. Louis’ lips are so sweet and sugary from dessert that Harry doesn’t even mind losing.

 

They let them sleep through the movie, gently nudging them awake when it ends. They apologize for falling asleep on their anniversary, claiming that studying so much at school all the time is what made them so tired tonight. Harry just nods along with his husband and lets them believe that.

 

*

 

His dad gets up to collect their bowls and heads to the kitchen. He grins when he looks over his shoulder and sees Oliver walking with him.

 

“Do you need any help?” he asks, already pushing up his sleeves to assist with whatever his father may need.

 

“You can wipe off the table and the counters while I do the dishes,” Harry suggests, fondly watching on as Oliver yawns before moving to do just that.

 

They work in silence for a little while with Oliver simply enjoying the familiarity of what they’re doing. He remembers how he used to beg his dad to let him help out in the kitchen when he was younger. He grins, realizing that time hasn't changed very much about them.

 

“So, how are your classes really going?”

 

Oliver grins, having expected for his dad to ask that since he and Daniel have been giving the same routine response of ‘good’ all day.

 

“They’re okay. Pretty easy for right now, though I have to study all the time,” he answers truthfully. He was studying last night too before his brother talked him into going to that party. He feels the slight sting of his love bite as he recalls the memory and grins, not at all regretting getting to spend time with Jessie. Maybe he’ll see if she wants to have dinner with him one night when he gets back.

 

His dad nods and grins like he expected that response since Oliver has always stayed on top of his school work. “And your brother? I hope you’re looking out for each other. Is he doing alright balancing football and his classes? He is actually going, right?”

 

“Er- yeah, I think so,” Oliver answers. “He says he is and he talks about his study group for bio a lot, but I can’t exactly follow him around campus to make sure or anything.” He tries his best to keep tabs on Dan, but it’s hard. His parents should know that better than anyone. They raised him.

 

“I’m sorry.” Harry sighs with an apologetic grin when he glances over at him. “I promised myself I wouldn’t interrogate you and now look at me.”

 

“You’re not. You’re just checking to make sure we’re okay, and we are, Dad. I promise. Danny and I miss you both and it’s hard being away from home, but we’re doing alright.” he swears. He looks around the kitchen and wonders if his father misses their late night chats as much as he does. “Are- Are you two doing alright with us gone?” Oliver asks after a beat.

 

He expects his father to say that it’s been really hard without them. Oliver’s surprised and slightly offended when his dad says the opposite.

 

“We’re doing really well, actually. Your dad and I are handling things a lot better than I thought we would. We’re great.”

 

“Oh,” Oliver frowns. “Well, that’s good, I guess,” he mumbles. Oliver didn’t think anything about that was funny, but his father laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

 

“I didn’t mean it like that, Ollie. I just meant that we’re coping very well considering. We miss you and your brother every second of every day, I can assure you. Your absence is nearly unbearable,” he smirks.

 

“That sounds much better,” he teases, glad that his parents really are doing okay.

 

Oliver moves over to the where the microwave sits and starts wiping the counter space around it. The bills and papers that have always seemed to collect there are a mess, so Oliver takes it upon himself to stack the envelops more neatly. He thumbs through them as he organizes pausing when he comes across a huge, heavy envelope with the emblem of an adoption agency stamped on the front of it.

 

Oliver blinks down at it feeling a million things at once, but confusion is the most prominent, so that’s the one he goes with when he turns to his father.

 

“I thought you said you were doing alright?”

 

There’s a crease between his father’s eyebrows when he meets his eyes. “We are, Ollie. What are you talking about?” he asks before his gaze falls to the envelope Oliver is holding.

 

“You’re adopting a baby?” Oliver asks, wondering if this sinking, floating feeling currently going on in his stomach is normal.

 

His dad takes a deep, steady breath, letting his face relax as he carefully approaches him. “We’re thinking about it. We wanted to know more about the process so we asked the agency to send us some information,” he explains. “We haven’t decided on anything yet. We weren’t even going to say anything to you boys until we talked more about it.” Oliver takes a few minutes to absorb all of that. His dad is watching him very closely with worried eyes as if afraid of his reaction. “What are you thinking?” he asks.

 

“I don’t know. A lot of things… I- I know you both had Daniel and I when you were young and all. I just, I never really thought about you two having more kids since we weren’t even planned.”

 

“No, you and your brother weren’t planned,” he sighs, leaning against the counter. “But that doesn’t mean that your dad and I didn’t love every second of getting to raise you. We were practically kids when you were born and it was tough, but it was also the best time of our lives. It got even better when we all became a family. We kind of miss having a child around the house.”

 

Their dads were two of the youngest looking parents at uni when they dropped him and his brother off. They were young when they each ended up with a son, and they’re both still relatively young now that he and Daniel are grown. He guesses the whole empty nest slash retirement thing goes a bit differently when your parents aren’t even forty.

 

“When would the new baby be here?”

 

“Um, it’s hard to say. Approval can take years or it can happen within a matter of months. It just depends, but like I said, we haven’t decided on anything yet. We’re still just thinking about it.”

 

Oliver nods, trying picture their family as a group of five. It’s hard because it’s been nothing but the four of them for so long. He can’t really imagine a baby crawling around the living room or their fathers heating up bottles all through the night. It’s such a crazy thing to envision, but Oliver likes the image the more he thinks about it. They’d be wonderful with a baby.

 

“You and Louis are the best parents in the entire world. Any baby would be lucky to have you,” Oliver grins, causing his dad to sigh in relief. He steps forward to wrap Oliver in a tight embrace and presses a kiss to the side of his head.

 

“Thank you for understanding,” he whispers as he pulls back.

 

“Of course, Dad,” he smirks. “You two have been bloody miserable since Dan and I busted out of here. You need something to keep you going at your age.” His dad doesn’t respond, he just rolls his eyes and playfully jabs his finger into the bruise on his neck in retaliation.

 

He can’t believe that there might be a new member of their family.

 

 

This goodbye isn’t nearly as painful or as scary as the one they all shared six weeks ago. They feel better about parting this time because they’ll all be together again in a couple of weeks for Daniel’s game and then again for Oliver’s birthday a couple of weeks after that.

 

Their parents send them off with tight hugs and requests for them to have fun but not too much fun, most of their words pertaining more to Daniel, but Oliver nods along and promises to be on his best behavior all the same.

 

Oliver gets the window seat this time which is nice because he didn’t even have to run and beat Danny for it. His older brother insisted on him having it, sighing as they pull away from the station and head back to their new home.

 

“I wish we could’ve stayed longer. I’d kill to sleep in my old bed again,” Danny says before going off on a tangent about how the bed in his dorm pales in comparison.

 

Oliver tries to listen to his brother, but his mind is still on the conversation he had with his father and all he can imagine is Daniel’s bed at home being traded for a crib.

 

Oliver turns to him after he decides he can’t keep this information to himself anymore. “If I tell you something, will you swear not to say anything?”

 

“You know I love secrets,” Danny smirks. “Who’s it about? Is it about your new girlfriend?” he says with a quick waggle of his eyebrows.

 

“What? No. Jessie isn’t my girlfriend.”

 

“Mmmm, yet,” his brother laughs as he attempts to poke at his love bite again.

 

“No, it’s not about Jessie. It’s about our dads,” Oliver explains through swatting his brother’s hands away. Daniel stops teasing him immediately, his face turning serious when he sees that Oliver’s is.

 

“What’s wrong?” he asks, looking fearful of what he may say. “Is it- Are they okay? They aren’t having problems are they? They aren’t getting a divorce or anything, right?”

 

Oliver actually laughs at that, causing Danny to frown.

 

Their parents are the last two people on Earth that he’d ever suspect to be getting a divorce. They’re so bloody in love that it’s sickening. He can’t believe Danny even thought it was a possibility.

 

“They kept kicking me at dinner because they were playing footsie under the table and I’m about one-hundred percent sure that they snogged through the entire movie tonight. I’m pretty sure I saw tongue at one point too, so I think it’s safe to assume that they aren’t getting a divorce.”

 

“Oh thank God,” Dan breathes. “That’s literally disgusting,” he clarifies, “But good to hear. If it’s not that, then what’s the secret?”

 

Oliver takes a deep breath. This is the first time he’s had to say the words out loud.

 

“They’re thinking about adopting a baby,” he says all in one go, wincing as he waits for his brother to react.

 

Daniel narrows his eyes at him looking doubtful. “How do you know?”

 

“I found the envelope with all of the information about it. My dad said they haven’t decided on anything yet. That’s why they haven’t told us.”

 

Daniel seems to consider this news in the same fashion as Oliver did when he found out, however he comes to terms with it in less than half the time.

 

“Good. That would be so great for them. Oh my God, can you imagine them up at the crack of dawn to change diapers and heat up bottles? They’d fucking love it,” he chuckles. “Do they just want one?”

 

“I didn’t ask. Anytime I tried fishing for more details dad kept reminding me that they’re just thinking about it.”

 

Dan rolls his eyes at that. “Bullshit. If they’re serious enough to read up on it then they’ve already made their decision. We’re getting a new brother!” he beams.

 

“Or sister,” Oliver says, finding the word to feel odd coming from his mouth, considering he’s never really had to say it before. None of them know the first thing about little girls. He hopes they do adopt a baby boy like Dan thinks.

 

“I’m calling it right now. They’re going to adopt a boy,” his brother says with absolute certainty.

 

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Oliver shrugs, knowing they’d both love their new sibling regardless.

Chapter Text

The grip that Harry has around his hand over the middle console is so tight that Louis suspects the tingly feeling at the tips of his fingers are more due to lack of blood flow than excitement. However, his husband looks so happy right now that Louis wouldn’t dare ask him to let go.

 

Louis peeks in the rearview mirror at the boys, each of them mysteriously and uncharacteristically quiet as they all drive to the agency. The two of them had been bursting with energy this morning when he and Harry picked them up from the station. Actually, they’ve been that way through this entire process. Full of positivity and support as he and Harry made the decision to expand their family. At times, Ollie and Danny seem just as excited about the things happening as he and Harry are, if not more so. That’s why it’s so eerie with the boys hardly even breathing in the back seat, let alone chattering his and Harry’s ears off like normal.

 

“You alright back there, boys?”

 

Oliver and Daniel meet his eyes in the reflection of the mirror and give him a small nod, each of them wearing matching grins of reassurance.

 

“We’re fantastic. Aren’t we, Ollie?” Dan says with a nudge to Oliver’s ribs, forcing his brother to agree with his statement. Oliver’s eyebrows scrunch up when his brother elbows him, but he agrees wholeheartedly.

 

“Yeah, Dad. We’re fine. You don’t have to worry about us.”

 

“Well, we’ve had the pleasure of listening to four whole songs without you or your brother chatting, singing, dancing, or making sound-effects through them. Forgive us for being slightly concerned,” Harry quips from the passenger’s side with his dimples popped out from the sound of offense that Dan makes.

 

“Okay, we aren’t that annoying during car rides.”

 

“Oh, yes, you are,” Louis and Harry answer in unison. Louis bites down on a grin. He loves it when he and husband do that. Daniel doesn’t seem quite as impressed with their spousal telepathy.

 

“Remind me why Ollie and I let you two sit up front again?” Daniel mumbles.

 

“Uh, because we’re on the way to meet your new brother and sister as a family for the first time, and we’d like to actually make it there in one piece,” Louis answers, causing his son to roll his eyes again. Both of their sons are brilliant, but driving isn’t a strength of either of them. It’s not really a strength of Harry’s either, though so he treads lightly.

 

Louis waits for it, expects it even, but Danny has no witty comeback this time. The four of them fall into another lull that Louis knows is the result of their collective anxiety about what’s to come. He just wants this day to go well for everyone involved. Louis isn’t so sure that can happen if their two sons are being so weird about this that they’re actually being quiet for once.

 

Almost like Oliver can hear the thoughts going on inside of his head, he leans forward to lightly squeeze Louis’ shoulder with a soft, ‘It’s okay. We’re just a bit nervous.’ Louis nods because he can understand that. Meeting Amelia and Jacob for the first time was one of the most nerve-wracking things he’s ever experienced, even with Harry right by his side, feeling just as anxious about meeting them. The boys have seen pictures of their new siblings, but they’ve yet to physically meet them, so Louis is sure they’re both nervous wrecks. He and Harry definitely are.

 

The four of them are welcomed inside by Mrs. Williams when they arrive, the staff of the agency greeting them with kind smiles as they’re escorted to a sitting room on the top floor of the building. The people at the adoption agency have been nothing but helpful and kind this past year. From the moment they called to request information when they were merely thinking about doing this to a couple of weeks later after Dan’s first football game when he and Harry had happily announced to the boys that they’d decided to go for it.

 

“They’ve been excited for your visit. I’ll be right back with them,” Mrs. Williams smiles before exiting the room. She shuts the door behind her, leaving the four of them alone in silence once again.

 

Louis’ far too excited to sit down like his husband. He’s been buzzing since he woke up this morning, knowing that today is the day that they finally get to see it all come together. All four of their children together in one room. They met Amelia and Jacob nearly a month ago and fell in love within seconds. They had been set on adopting a child, one child, actually. An infant preferably, but then they met four-year-old Amelia and knew in an instant that she was meant to come home with them. The feeling only grew when it was later revealed that she had a younger brother called Jacob who was also left with no one when their mother died unexpectedly. He and Harry knew they were both perfect even though they were the complete opposite from what they had originally thought they needed.

 

A few minutes pass as they wait for Mrs. Williams to return. Louis glances over at his sons squished together on the couch. He tries to gauge their moods, but it’s hard with them being so quiet. He doesn’t want to badger them by asking if they’re alright again like he’s done all day, but thankfully he doesn’t have to, because Harry does it for him.

 

“Dan? Ollie? You alright?”

 

“Yeah, I’m great. Scared, but great,” Daniel smiles. “We can’t wait to meet them,” he adds when he looks over at his little brother who is busy worrying his bottom lip with his teeth rather than answering their father.

 

Harry grins at Danny for his honest answer, but he doesn’t let Oliver get away with hiding behind his older brother’s confidence.

 

“…Ollie? How are you, love? Tell me the truth.”

 

Oliver hasn’t said much today. What he has shared has pretty much been just an echo of his brother’s words, so Louis definitely doesn’t expect what comes out of his mouth.

 

“What if they don’t like us?”

 

His question hollows the room, making Louis’ heart clench uncomfortably. Louis knows that they’re all terrified here, but he didn’t realize that Amelia and Jacob hating them was a legitimate fear that either of his sons had. Louis’ fear had been for his two eldest children having to adjust to the two youngest and feeling out of place. He should’ve known that Oliver’s concern would be for the two people he hasn’t even met yet.

 

“Ollie, why wouldn’t they like you? They’re going to love you,” Harry assures him in a way that Louis hasn’t seen him do since Oliver was a kid. He used to be so shy, so unsure of himself and the way others perceived him. Luckily, Daniel changed all of that. He gave Oliver confidence when he had none and helped make him the person that he is today. Ollie still has tiny moments of self-doubt left over from the hard parts of his childhood, but Louis guesses everybody does in some way.

 

Louis moves to go over and wrap his son in a hug, but Daniel beats him to it.

 

“We’re going to be the best big brothers that they’ve ever had,” Dan tells him with a quick tug on one of his curls after they let go. Oliver’s grin is stubborn and instantaneous.

 

“We’re going to be the only big brothers they’ve ever had,” he says after a beat.

 

“Exactly! That means we’re already awesome at it, because they have nothing else to compare us to,” Dan smirks causing Oliver to roll his eyes.

 

Their kids are brought in by Mrs. Williams a few minutes later. Amelia’s little hand curled around her fingers as she walks by her side with tiny Jacob and all of his messy hair perched on Mrs. Williams’ right hip, the toddler clearly not in the mood for tottering along today behind his big sister.

 

Mrs. Williams walks them in, handing Jacob off to Louis first. Louis can feel the way his smile grows when the little boy is placed in his arms. It reminds him so much of the days when Daniel was this small and cute. Louis still thinks Dan is cute now…he just can’t carry him anymore.

 

“Hi there, little man. How are you?” he asks, causing Jacob to laugh when Louis bounces him on his hip and blows a kiss against one of his chubby cheeks. He squeals and Louis loves the sound, glad that his new son is so happy in his arms.

 

Louis’ smile gets even wider when Amelia detaches herself from Mrs. Williams’ side. She passes by him with a shy smile in his direction to walk over to Harry for a big hug. She almost always goes to Harry first, probably because Harry is patient enough to let her come to him when she’s ready.

 

Jacob is the youngest of the two of them and appreciates Louis’ bright enthusiasm. The little boy is always up for a laugh. Giggling whenever Louis makes funny faces or tickles him in the side. Louis gets so excited each time they get to come visit them that Amelia can probably feel the surplus of energy radiating off of him. She chooses to wait until Louis has calmed down, and Louis honestly can’t blame her.

 

Mrs. Williams leaves once she sees that the two children are settled with their new family for the time being.

 

Amelia eventually makes her way over to Louis once he’s handed Jacob to his husband for him to get a chance to say hi too. Their four-year-old daughter approaches him with a familiar grin.

 

“Hello darling,” Louis says, bending down to offer her a hug. She doesn’t hesitate to step forward into the open circle of his arms and bury her face in his chest. It used to take her a few minutes to work up the courage to do that, but she feels so much more comfortable around him and Harry now after weeks of getting to know them. Louis lets go when she does, delightfully surprised when his new daughter quickly kisses him on the cheek. He’s never gotten one of those before, and it makes his chest feel unbelievably warm.

 

“How have you been, sweetheart?” he asks from where he’s still kneeling down to her level. Her wavy, blonde hair framing her face and her smile.

 

“Good,” she answers brightly.

 

“Good. And have you been staying out of trouble?” Louis teases. 

 

“Yes,” Amelia giggles and nods at him. She never says much whenever he and Harry first get there. It takes her a while to warm up to them again after being away for almost a week, but after a few minutes in their presence she talks almost as much as Ollie and Danny, which is pretty impressive when you stop and think about it.

 

Her gaze moves around the room during their conversation and falls on the couch that Ollie and Danny are still sitting on, both of them wearing matching expressions of awe as they watch on.

 

“Who are they?” Amelia whispers, looking at his sons with curiosity.

 

Louis meets Harry’s eyes, taking a deep breath when he gives Louis a small smile of encouragement. Their new son, happily sitting his lap.

 

Their eldest children have been nothing but supportive of their decision to expand their family. Louis knows that today will be no different. He knows, but it doesn’t make him any less nervous to have them all meet for the first time.

 

“Those people on the couch are the two people that Harry and I have been telling you and Jacob about,” he grins. “Their names are Ollie and Danny, and they’re your older brothers,” Louis explains. He holds his breath as soon as the words are out of his mouth.

 

The boys stand up upon their introduction, both of them looking incredibly unsure of what they’re supposed to do. Even Daniel looks hesitant as he stands glued to his younger brother’s side. To Louis’ surprise, it’s actually Oliver who moves first, going to stand by his father and say hello to Jacob.

 

Harry stands and slowly hands Jacob over to their son. He places the two-year old in Ollie’s arms, beaming from ear to ear when Jacob starts babbling and playfully tugging on his curls the same way that he does when Harry’s holding him.

 

“See, he likes you already,” Harry laughs. The smile Oliver wears as he holds his baby brother for the first time is one of the brightest that Louis has ever witnessed. He hopes Daniel’s reaction will be just as wonderful when it’s his turn. Louis doesn’t get to find out just yet though, because Daniel doesn’t wait in line to hold Jacob. He lets Oliver have his moment with him, choosing instead to come over to where Louis and Amelia are.

 

He looks terrified, Louis notices, watching his son crouch down next to him. It’s an interesting emotion to pick out from his son’s face. His son, who Louis is sure has never been afraid of anything in his entire life. He watches Dan take a shaky breath as he prepares to speak to his little sister. Louis gives his shoulder a squeeze to encourage him.

 

“Go ahead,” he grins, but it’s useless, because Amelia decides to speak first.

 

“What’s your name?” she asks his with those big brown eyes that melted Louis’ heart the moment he met her.

 

Louis can tell that she’s having the same effect on Danny when his cheeks pinken from the shy grin now stretching across his face.

 

“I’m Daniel. What’s your name?” he asks, already looking a million times more at ease.

 

“Amelia,” she answers, not all as shy as Louis expected for her to be.

 

“Well, Amelia. It’s so very nice to meet you,” Danny says with a huge smile. It turns soft and sentimental along with the quality of his eyes when Amelia speaks up again.

 

“That’s my brother,” she informs him with a quick look over at Jacob, still completely fascinated by Ollie’s hair and the fact that it looks and feels just like Harry’s. “Are you going to be my brother too?” she asks.

 

Danny nods with a soft chuckle, looking so enchanted and in love with her already and it has only been about a minute.

 

“Yeah, Amelia. I am. Me and Ollie both,” he answers, causing their new little sister to smile back at him.

 

“Okay. That’s good,” she decides after a moment. And Louis, he couldn’t agree with his daughter more. 

 

 

*

 

Oliver grins as he tosses what’s left of his things shoved at the top of his closet into the open box at his feet. He moved out and left these few items behind. The ones he couldn’t quite part with, but had no place in his dorm room. Things like the team jersey he wore for the summer that he and Dan played football together, or the lightsaber that Louis bought for him only a couple of weeks after having met him. He and Daniel played with those things until they were so dinged up from clashing them together that the sound effects no longer worked after a few months. He never did have the heart to throw it out though. He still doesn’t, which is why it’s going in the box. Maybe Jacob can have it once he’s older. Maybe Dan can give his to Amelia. Ollie’s sure his older brother’s lightsaber is probably somewhere around the house.

 

The very person Oliver is thinking of comes strolling into his room- well, their room now, he guesses- carrying a box of his own keepsakes. Danny sets it down on his bed which is now shoved onto the opposite side of the room. He digs around in the box for a moment before pulling his toy lightsaber from it’s depths with a huge smirk.

 

“Want to battle it out, little bro?”

 

Oliver knew his brother would’ve kept his.

 

“I would accept that challenge, but I think we’ve reached the age limit for that sort of thing,” he laughs.

 

Dan rolls his eyes at him. “You’re never too old for saving the galaxy.”

 

Yes, you can be,” Ollie laughs, causing Dan to sigh dejectedly as he holds the toy he probably hasn’t seen in years. “…I was thinking we’d save them for Amelia and Jacob. They’re bound to become Star Wars fans,” Ollie reasons. “You can’t really live in this house and not be.”

 

“Yeah, alright. I guess so,” Dan nods after a while. “I think you’re mostly turning me down because you know I’d win, but whatever. We’ll just pass them on to the smaller Tomlinsons.”

 

Danny brings over his box of things that were left in his closet. Oliver shoves both of their boxes in the back of their new shared one for safe keeping until they want to revisit the memories.

 

“Is that everything out of your room?” Oliver asks.

 

“Yep,” his brother grins. “All that’s in there now is little kid paradise. Amelia’s got her bed and Jacob’s got his fancy crib. I never thought I see my room with a bloody crib in it,” he laughs.

 

Their parents have been preparing for their brother and sister for the past few weeks. He and Danny have come home from uni every chance they’ve had in order to help them out. Classes stopped for the summer about a few days ago and instead of Danny going off to travel with his new boyfriend and Ollie going off to visit with his friends and girlfriend, they’ve both chosen to stay here for a couple of weeks to welcome their siblings. It was the easiest choice either of them has ever made.

 

Oliver closes the closet door and takes a look around his and Dan’s new room. He can’t believe this is where they are right now. That their family is so great and their parents love each other so much that they want to raise more children together. He’s so excited he can hardly stand it.

 

“What do you think it’ll be like tomorrow when they get here?” he asks, hoping they’ll love growing up here as much as he did.

 

“I have no idea. I think it’ll definitely be weird at first. There hasn’t been a child in this house since we were kids. It’ll probably be total chaos with our dads running around trying to remember what’s it’s like,” Danny grins.

 

Oliver doesn’t doubt that it’ll be different, but he doesn’t think mayhem is the proper word for it. Their parents tease them about how energetic they used to be as kids, but it’s only because they loved every second of it. “It won’t be chaos. The only menace in this family is you,” Oliver teases, poking his older brother in the side.

 

Daniel scoffs at his accusation. “And little Amelia. She’s quiet right now, but I saw a small twinkle in her eye when we met. I’m telling you.”

 

Oliver grins thinking about their little sister. “She’s too sweet to be a nuisance like you.”

 

“Nah, I think she’s just biding her time,” Dan smirks. “We’ll be amazing together. I can’t wait,” he says like he can just see how much trouble they’ll get up to as a pair. Oliver can’t wait to sit back and laugh with Jacob, the calm, sensible one much like himself when Amelia and Danny get yelled at.

 

 

The next day isn’t mayhem like Danny predicted. It’s the compete opposite really when their fathers come in with Amelia and Jacob and their few belongings from the agency. Everyone is nervous, that’s obvious, but it’s only because each of them wants this day to be perfect.

 

Oliver has never really seen their dads around kids before that weren’t him and his brother. It’s such an interesting experience watching them hold Jacob so close and protectively to their chests and speak so soft and kindly to Amelia as they’re showing them around the house that both children immediately feel right at home.

 

They all go out shopping for more toys and clothes that afternoon, with their fathers letting Jacob and Amelia choose whatever they like just so they can have a say in some of their new belongings. They go out for dinner after that. The first family dinner ever where it isn’t just the four of them shoved into a small booth. There’s six of them now, so they get a big table in the back of the restaurant. Oliver grins when Danny discreetly nudges him in the arm after they get settled in their seats and their dads hop up and scurry off in search of a highchair for their youngest son when they realize he’s too small to see over the table.

 

“God, they’re so bloody cute I can’t stand it,” Dan whispers, watching as they carefully place Jacob into the chair and then they both sit down wearing proud grins. Oliver has never witnessed his parents like this. He thinks it’s the best thing he’s ever seen.

 

They leave the restaurant and go out for ice cream afterwards to seal their first family dinner with a longstanding Tomlinson tradition. Ollie’s heart warms when they walk into their usual shop, a shop that they haven’t been to in ages with him and Dan away at uni, and the owner greets them with a huge smile, saying how amazing their family looks as a group of six.

 

Everything still sort of feels like a dream to Oliver that evening when the six of them carry on introducing the new members of their family to all of their traditions as they all set up camp in the living room.

Strangely enough, they don’t watch Star Wars this time. It’s some cartoon movie instead where the animals talk and randomly start singing, but it’s worth it to see the way it makes Jacob and Amelia laugh and smile. Their dads had sat down on the couch behind them as always, but this time with their youngest children sat between them. Jacob’s toes keep brushing the back of Danny’s head each time he laughs and Amelia is so wrapped up in the movie that her eyes never leave the screen. That’s why Oliver is surprised when his little sister climbs down from the couch half-way through the film to come sit with him.

 

She smiles up at him and cuddles into his side, her long, wavy hair tickling his arm where her head is resting against it. It causes his heart to melt, much the way that it did earlier when he watched Danny help her get over her initial fear of Boa. Dan had sat with her patiently, speaking so quietly with her about how Boa gets scared of loud noises and how she likes it when you lightly scratch through her fur. Oliver had laughed to himself at Dan giving their little sister tips on interacting with their dog, when Ollie used to coach Dan on those very same things when they were kids.

 

Bed time is a new experience as well when the movie is over.

 

Their dads spring into action to get their young siblings dressed and ready for their first night of sleep in their new home. They work as a team to get Jacob all tucked into his crib and then get Amelia cuddled into her new sheets in the child-sized bed they bought and placed on the opposite side of the room so that the two of them are just across the room from each other.

 

Their dad’s come into his and Danny’s new room afterwards with faces resembling pure sunshine as they tuck them in as well. They’re so blissfully happy already, and it’s only been a day. Oliver is so glad that he gets to see his parents like this.

 

He and Danny are alone once their fathers leave. It’s quiet at first, though it doesn’t stay that way for long with Dan’s soft chuckles coming from the other side of the room.

 

“What on Earth are you laughing at?” Oliver asks, already smiling because whatever it is, it’s sure to make him laugh too.

 

“Do you remember when we wanted to share a room so badly when we were kids. We thought we were getting bunk beds for sure when they finally got married, and then we moved into this house and they shut down our entire master plan because we got our own rooms instead. We were so pissed,” Danny says, laughing harder now at the memory.

 

Oliver laughs too, remembering how devastated they had been even though his and Danny’s room were right next to each other. You’d have thought the world ended that day.

 

“Yeah. That’s too bad about the bunk beds,” Oliver sighs sadly.

 

“We can have them now. It’s never too late, you know.”

 

Oliver snorts at his brother’s joke. “It is definitely too late. Our feet would hang off the ends. That ship has definitely sailed.”

 

“You’re an engineer. Do something useful and draw up some plans to make bunk beds for adults.”

 

“No, thank you,” Oliver smiles. He doesn’t bother telling his brother that adult-sized bunk beds already exist.

 

“Ugh. You never want to do anything fun with me,” Danny complains, though Oliver can hear the grin in his voice. Oliver’s been having fun with Danny since he was seven years old. He suspects nothing will change anytime soon. He hopes it never does.

 

*

 

Louis walks in behind his husband, gently shutting the door to their bedroom after putting their kids to bed.

 

He can’t believe that today has turned out so perfect. He knew that their family would fit together with ease, but he was expecting that sort of thing to happen slowly and without them even noticing it. He didn’t think it’d happen within the first twenty-four hours of Jacob and Amelia being theirs.

 

Harry smiles over at him where he’s turning back their sheets and already crawling into bed. He’s been wearing different versions of that smile all day long and Louis thinks it’s the most beautiful his husband has ever looked.

 

“What?” Harry laughs when he notices Louis watching him as he pulls his hair back and takes off his rings to place them on the bedside table.

 

“Nothing. I love you.”

 

Harry’s face brightens, but he rolls his eyes to hide the fact that he’s blushing. “Well I should hope so. We only have four children together,” he teases. He means it as a joke, but Louis feels his words like a streak of lightening straight to his heart that warms him from the inside out.

 

Harry has no idea how much he does for him every single day; just how much he’s given Louis. He wishes phrases like ‘I love you’ were enough to show Harry how much he means to him, but it never feels like it is, even after all of these years. He wishes Harry could feel even half of what’s in his heart when he looks at him, just so Harry can know. Louis would give him the world if it were possible.

 

Louis walks over to their bed and crawls on top of it to cuddle into his husband’s embrace. Harry fondly shakes his head at him before leaning in to kiss him. He sighs and breathes Louis in when they part, the happy grin that was on his lips returning in an instant when he rests their foreheads together.

 

“Our eldest two children are here for two weeks to spend time with us, our youngest two children had the best first day at home that we could give them, and now every single one of them is asleep in their beds, exhausted after watching an animated movie that none of us know the actual plot to,” he laughs, causing Louis to smile with him.

 

“Jacob and Amelia laughed the whole time, and Danny and Ollie managed to stay awake through it, so I’d say we picked a winner,” he jokes back. "We did a good job overall, Haz."

 

He enjoys the way Harry’s eyes light up when he leans back in to kiss him, his touches so light that Harry’s eyelids flutter closed. He also enjoys the quiet sigh that his husband makes when he lets his arm wrap around his waist to pull him closer.

 

Their lips slide together in a slow tempo that has Harry’s breath catching and Louis’ skin burning with how badly he just wants to be near him within minutes. Harry’s face is disappointed when Louis gets up to lock the door and shut off the lights. He looks much happier about Louis leaving him when he stops by their bedside table on the way back to grab the lube and then quietly crawls back onto the bed.

 

Harry grins when Louis settles his weight on top of him. “You aren’t too tired?” he asks.

 

“Is that even a real question?” Louis smiles. He’s never too anything for Harry. “Are you too tired?” Louis checks with his husband, stopping his hands from where they were just about to get the two of them undressed.

 

Harry fondly rolls his eyes at him with a quickly murmured, “Never,” before pulling Louis down into another deep kiss.

 

Louis takes great pleasure in slowly peeling off Harry’s clothes piece by piece until he’s naked beneath the sheets. He goes to get himself undressed as well until Harry stops him because he wants to do it for him. Louis lays back as Harry returns the favor, leaving soft kisses along his bare skin as he removes everything from his body with patient hands.

 

He and Harry have had all kinds of sex over the years. The kind that’s left him breathless. The kind that’s quick and dirty and over so fast that Louis was certain they were heard fucking wherever it is that they probably shouldn’t have been. It's this kind that he loves the best though. He craves the slow tempo of it, how much he just wants Harry close to him in any way that he can have him. How he can feel how much his husband wants the very same thing in return.

 

Louis opens Harry up at a pace that he sets all on his own. His arm stretching down between them where Harry’s legs are lax and opened wide around his hips. He feels Harry everywhere. His fingers light and soothing where he traces them over Louis’ flushed skin. He listens to every shaky breath that his lungs push out and tries to give Harry exactly what he needs.

 

It’s feels like they’ve been lying there tangled up with each other for hours when Harry whispers that he’s ready. Louis hurries to give Harry what he wants, reaching down to grab ahold of himself and push into Harry's body with ease, both of them sighing when he locks himself into place, flush against Harry’s body.

 

They begin with a rhythm that has Louis’ skin tingling with every roll of his hips. Harry is all worked up within minutes, his chest heaving and fingers gripping into Louis' flesh as he pushes into him. It doesn’t take long for his husband to start quietly moaning into his mouth, most of the sounds getting absorbed by Louis’ lips as he kisses Harry through the shudders he's causing. He doesn’t shush Harry like he sometimes does when Harry gets so lost in him that he forgets that they aren’t alone. Their kids are all asleep by now, or at least he hopes they are. He doesn’t want to ruin this by telling his husband to be quieter. Louis wants every sound, every touch and reaction that Harry is willing to give him, and he takes it all with his heart full and overflowing.

 

Harry doesn’t tell him when he’s about to come. He doesn’t have to, because Louis can feel it the way his grip tightens around his arms and his kisses become so uncoordinated that their mouths end up merely brushing against one another as Louis rocks into him. Louis watches as the pair of green eyes beneath him flutter closed and then he feels Harry coming between them in long hot streams that only push Louis to keep going.

 

He comes only a minute after his husband, his chest rising and falling in full, deep breaths that leave him reeling where he and Harry lie intertwined. Harry softly kisses at his neck and jawline as he comes down; the best feeling in the world when he’s as spent as he is. Louis captures Harry’s lips after a few moments, hoping that Harry can feel how much he loves him as he whispers it.

 

His declaration makes Harry's lips stretch into a lazy grin, so Louis says it again. Harry's cheeks are a soft shade of pink and his hair is sweaty, when he cups Louis' cheek with his hand. “I love you too. I love you more," he says.

 

Louis doesn’t tell him that it’s impossible.

 

 

 

Three Years Later

 

 

Louis’ pulse spikes when he hears the front door of the house open and slam against the wall coupled with his daughter’s voice as she laughs and happily welcomes someone into their home. Louis moves quickly from where he was just digging around in the refrigerator. He turns the corner, not sure what to expect, or rather whom, but it definitely isn’t his eldest son who currently has his seven-year-old sister turned upside down as he tickles her hello.

 

"I didn't know you were visiting today!" Amelia giggles. She stops squealing once her big brother places her down on both feet again. Louis’ heart stops slamming against his chest around the same time.

 

“Dan, not that I’m not incredibly happy to see you, but what the hell are you doing here?” he asks, finally able to breathe now that he knows his daughter hasn’t invited a serial killer into their house.

 

Daniel kisses his sister on both cheeks and promises to come find her in a little bit before coming over to Louis and giving him a tight hug hello.

 

“I was in the neighborhood,” he grins, flashing his set of car keys at him. Louis shudders, still terrified after the few months that he’s had that ratty car that Daniel Tomlinson is legally allowed to operate a moving vehicle.

 

“You’re supposed to be at school,” Louis points out. “Why are you here? Where’s Ollie?” In all of the years that their two eldest boys have been away at uni, neither of them has ever showed up on his own without warning. Something is strange here and Louis doesn’t like it.

 

“Oh, he was busy with school stuff. He said to tell you and and dad hi. Er- where is Dad, anyway?” he asks walking past Louis and further into the house.

 

“Uh- He went out with your brother. He’ll back in just a minute.” Louis is just able to explain his husband’s whereabouts before Daniel rounds the corner that leads to the kitchen and disappears.

 

Amelia raises an eyebrow at the perplexed look that Louis is currently wearing. He has no idea what the hell is going on here. Louis steps forward to lock the front door and then follow his son, but not before instructing his daughter to never open the door like that without either him or Harry there.

 

“Okay, I won’t. Sorry, Daddy," she apologizes.

 

“It’s okay, love. You just scared me a little,” Louis assures her with a grin before hurrying off to see what his son is up to.

 

He finds Danny in the spot that he just left, rummaging through the fridge like he lives here. And he does live here from time to time, like when he comes home for visits or holidays with his brother. Not at all like right now on a random Sunday afternoon, alone.

 

Dan smiles at him with a mouth full of food when he hears Louis enter the kitchen. Louis would laugh if he weren’t so skeptical of him right now.

 

“To what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

“Can’t I just miss my Dad?” he asks sweetly once he’s swallowed whatever the hell he just dug from the back of the fridge.

 

Louis scoffs at his son. “No. You never have before.”

 

“Well, maybe today I did,” Daniel grins, batting his blue eyes at him.

 

Louis thinks that maybe today he bloody wants something. Either that or something has happened that he didn’t want to tell him over the phone, or in the presence of his stepfather and brother. Louis knows he won’t get a straight answer, not right away, so he plays along, wrapping his son in a proper hug and kissing the side of his head.

 

“I've missed you, love,” he whispers before going back to preparing lunch for everybody.

 

Louis starts small. “So. How’s school?” God, he hopes everything is fine. He doesn’t think his heart could take it if his son has done something to get him kicked out the same year that he’s supposed to bloody graduate.

 

“School’s good. Nothing new,” he shrugs telling him about some big paper he’s yet to start on. His procrastination doesn't surprise Louis in the slightest.

 

“How’s football?” Louis tries next, hoping whatever Daniel is here to say doesn’t relate to his future in sports either. He's been working his whole life to play for the team that he wants. It’d be a shame for his dream to crumble around him just months before he’s meant to join it.

 

“The team is great. You and dad are still coming to my game next week, right?”

 

“Yes, of course. We go to all of your games.” They fall into a strange silence after that so Louis continues with the game. “Is everything alright with Ollie? He's good, right?"

 

“Yep,” Daniel smiles. "He’s great. He and Jessie are good. They’ve got some group project thing that they’ve been working on, so naturally they’ve taken over and no one else in the group gets to have any say because they’re the two smartest people in the bloody world,” he teases.

 

Louis cracks a grin hearing about his son and his girlfriend. Dan’s story sounds about right knowing the two of them.

 

"Okay," Louis sighs after that, not knowing where else to go with his round of one-sided twenty questions. “…And Dylan? How’s he?” he asks carefully, not wanting to upset his son if he’s here to tell him about their horrible break up or something like that.

 

He turns to where his son is sitting at the kitchen table, his features turning soft and fond when his boyfriend is mentioned. “He’s great. Amazing,” he says before finishing with what he's really here for. “Dad, I actually did want to talk to you about something.”

 

Louis turns to face the counter again to start slicing vegetables for the sandwiches he’s still determined to make regardless of how this conversation ends.

 

“Oh?” Louis says nonchalantly. “What about?”

 

“About things. About someone...about Dylan.”

 

Dylan and his son have been together since the end of his first year at uni. Dylan was part of the biology study group that Daniel always made time to attend and always called home raving about. It didn’t take long for Louis to realize that his son’s love of his biology class stemmed from his crush on Dylan and not the actual coursework. They’ve been together ever since and Louis has loved each opportunity that he and Harry have had to meet him. He’s even come to the house a couple of times over holidays because apparently he and Danny have a hard time with being away from each other more than one hour at a bloody time.

 

“What did you drive home for two hours, unexpectedly, on a Sunday, without your brother to come and tell me about Dylan that I don’t already know?”

 

“That I love him," Daniel answers matter-of-factly.

 

“I already knew that,” Louis rolls his eyes. “Try again.”

 

“That we love each other so much that we talk about the future. We talk about getting married one day, Dad.”

 

Louis definitely didn’t know that, and Daniel can probably tell by the way his fingers slip on the tomato he was just slicing. His hands still before him as he gets his brain to catch up to the very serious conversation Daniel is trying to have with him. Louis tries not to let his emotions show, letting his son carry on about how the two of them talk about their lives together. Louis' only thought is that they’re too young.

 

“Well, if you two talk about it so much and he wants to marry you, then why isn’t Dylan the one showing up at my door?”

 

“Because I’m going to ask him, Dad. That’s what I came to talk to you about. I want you to tell me what you think and tell me that it’s okay, because I love him. I love him more than anything, but I can’t do this if it’s not something you’d approve of.”

 

Louis turns to face him again when he's brave enough, swallowing down the lump of nerves caught up in his throat as he stares at his son. Daniel’s putting on a brave face too, but Louis can see that he’s terrified as well. “Do you want the truth?” he asks.

 

Danny inhales deeply before nodding at him. “Yes, Dad. Please.”

 

Louis shrugs at him in apology. “I think you’re both too young.”

 

Daniel frowns like he expected for him to say that.

 

"We’re not that young,” he argues. “We're both almost twenty-two. And it’s not like we’d get married tomorrow or anything. We can wait for all of that. I just want to propose to him now is all.”

 

“Dan, almost twenty-two is still incredibly young. You haven’t even graduated yet,” he says trying to keep any judgment out of his voice, because when he was Dan’s age he was raising an infant with a girl who didn’t want anything to do with them. Daniel was the best thing that’s ever happened to him, but that doesn't change the fact that Louis was too young too.

 

“So what?” his son scoffs, “Should I wait until I am twenty-two? Maybe after I have a degree in four months will be better timing for you?"

 

Louis is at a loss, because no, it wouldn't be. Louis doesn't know when he'd be able to hear his son out about this and think that he's ready for such a life changing commitment.

 

“You have this big plan to propose to Dylan, but have you even thought this through, Dan? Do you have a ring? Have you even spoken to his parents about this?”

 

Daniel’s eyes turn cold at the mention of them.

 

“I don’t care what they have to say on the matter. They don’t get to have an opinion,” he spits.

 

Louis should've expected that. Daniel has met Dylan’s parents exactly twice in his life. His first visit ended so horribly that Danny called home in tears over the derogatory way they were treated and spoken to. The next time Daniel went to their house he went alone and with one goal in mind, and that was to tell Dylan's parents to fuck off and that their son was better off without them.

 

Louis shuts his eyes once he realizes that Dylan’s family, or his lack of one is precisely what this is all about. His son is the first boy that Dylan has ever loved and the first person he ever brought home. His parents won’t accept him anymore. They’ve cast him aside because he and Daniel are in love, and Daniel has never been able to turn a blind eye when someone is hurting.

 

“Dan, tell me why you really think you want to marry him. What’s the rush?”

 

Danny huffs like the question is absurd. Louis doesn’t budge though, waiting patiently until Daniel sighs in defeat and starts talking.

 

“I love him. And I tell him that all the time, Dad, but it never feels like enough, because he’s just so amazing. I never saw him coming when I thought about my life because I’m such a mess all the time that I didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to fall in love with someone at such a young age, but I did and it’s him and I just want to be with him forever. I want to be able to call him mine and say that he’s my family, because it’s not fair that he doesn’t get to have one. He’s the best person in the entire world and he should have a place to call home. Even if it’s just our home. It’s all I have and I want to be able to give that to him,” he finishes quietly.

 

He looks so small sitting at the same table he’s been sitting at since he was a child. Louis looks around their kitchen and hears Amelia laughing at the movie she’s watching in the living room. He thinks about Ollie, and Harry and their other son who are probably on their way back right now to very place that Daniel just described. Louis realizes in an instant that they wouldn’t have any of it if it weren’t for him. His beautiful son and his heart that is so incredibly big that he befriended Oliver when he didn’t have anybody and unintentionally brought him and his father, two of the most special people in the world, into their lives. His son has always been this way. This kind-hearted, wonderful man who’s now sitting before him and practically begging Louis for his blessing. How could Louis not give it?

 

Louis shakes his head, grinning and hardly believing this conversation he’s a part of when he finally meets Danny’s hopeful gaze again.

 

“Well, I’ve already got three amazing sons,” he grins, “What’s one more?” he shrugs, chuckling when Daniel jumps to his feet and runs to crash into him. He buries his face into the crook of Louis' neck like he hasn’t done in years. Probably not since the day he moved out.

 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dad! I love you so much! Thank you!”

 

“I love you too,” Louis whispers. So much that his son will never be able to comprehend it. Both of their eyes are watery when they part, but they’re happy tears. “When are you going to tell Harry? You know I can’t keep anything secret from him for very long before he pulls it out of me,” Louis chuckles as he wipes at his eyes, already imagining the look of pure joy on his husband's face when he finds out they’re going to be someone’s father-in-laws.

 

“As soon as he gets back. I would’ve told him when I told you, but I just wanted to see what you thought first... Do you- do you think he’ll be upset that I’m telling him second?” Danny frowns, looking guilty all of a sudden.

 

“Of course not. He’s going to be so happy for you, love. Just like me,” he promises. Harry would be nothing but supportive of whatever decision that any of their children made when it comes to something like this.

 

“Yeah,” Dan grins after a beat. “I think you’re right,” he says hugging Louis one more time before taking off in the direction of the kitchen door.

 

“Where are you going?” Louis laughs, wondering where on Earth his son could be heading now after a confession like the one he just gave.

 

“To my room for just a minute. I’m gonna call Ollie. I promised him I’d let him know as soon as we talked.”

 

“Your brother knew you wanted to get married before me. I think I’m offended,” he teases.

 

Daniel rolls his eyes at him, unimpressed. “I don’t know why. I tell Ollie everything before you and dad. He’s my best mate, remember?” he smirks.

 

And, oh yeah, Louis thinks. How could he forget?

 

 

 

One Year Later

 

Harry grins when his son spots him sitting at the one of the tables in the room full of their friends and family. Mostly because he wants to tell Ollie how wonderful of a job he did as best man today, and also because Louis is off socializing somewhere, conveniently leaving Harry here to battle with Jacob to try to keep his bowtie from being covered in icing.

 

“Ollie! You came to help,” Harry smiles as his son weaves through the tables to approach them.

 

“Yeah, no. Nice try, though,” his son smirks before dipping down to kiss the top of Jacob’s head and wrap Harry in a tight embrace. “Hi, Dad,” he says, his hold tightening around Harry’s torso before he straitens up.

 

“You were so great, love. I mean, I know your brother was one of the grooms so technically I’m supposed to say he looked the best out of everyone, but I love you both equally, so I’m just going to say it was a tie.”

 

“A tie? Oh, well thanks,” Ollie rolls his eyes. “Keep the compliments coming,” he grins before helpfully tucking a napkin under his little brother’s chin. Harry knew he’d be unable to resist. “Hey, Jake, the cake is supposed to go in your mouth, not around it,” his son laughs, poking his brother in the cheek to make him giggle as he happily eats another couple of spoonfuls.

 

“Speaking of your brother, where is the happy couple anyway?” Harry asks. He hasn’t seen much of them since they said I do over an hour ago.

 

Oliver shrugs his shoulders. “I have no clue and something tells me that I don’t want to know,” he grimaces. His expression of disgust gets the point across enough for Harry to know that he shouldn’t ask anymore questions. “Where’s Dad?” Ollie asks instead, thankfully changing the subject. He picks up an extra fork after kindly asking Jake if he’d be willing to share his cake. Harry watches on as his boys eat nothing but pure sugar from the same plate.

 

Harry grins to himself at Ollie’s question about his stepfather. “Oh, you know how he is. Somewhere socializing more than likely. Either that or crying. Still.”

 

“I heard that,” comes a voice from behind him. A soft familiar voice that speaks up again, right at the shell of Harry’s ear. “Are you over here telling lies about me?”

 

Louis presses a warm kiss to the skin behind his ear. A kiss that causes Harry to bite down on his bottom lip from how nice it feels.

 

His husband steps around to take his seat with Amelia following along right behind him. The pair of them surely up to no good as per usual. They both look so lovely. Louis in his suit jacket and his jawline clean shaven, and their daughter looking so sweet in her pink flower girl dress that she picked out entirely on her own. They were all actually surprised by her choice considering she’s never really been into that sort of thing. She’s been surrounded by boys most of her life, the poor thing, so it’s not like she has many opportunities for playing dress up unless it involves Halloween or Star Wars. Harry suspects she’d be that way even she were raised in a house full of sisters, though he still can’t believe how beautiful and grown up she looks with her hair all curled and pinned up.

 

“What lies? Harry asks innocently. “I was simply commenting to Ollie that you were understandably emotional during your son’s wedding,” he smirks. Harry catches the look of interest that his husband gives him as his eyes rake over him and his smug expression. He’s been the recipient of several subtle and heated looks like that ever since he put this suit on this morning. Harry hasn’t minded one bit.

 

“Okay, we all know that I was crying like a baby. Everyone saw and if they didn’t see, they probably heard, so go on and get it out now boys. Go on and tease me for being a sap,” he says, taking an angry sip of Harry’s champagne.

 

“Oh, no, Daddy,” Amelia frowns. “I didn’t know that you cried.” She looks up at him with those big brown eyes that usually melt all of their hearts, but right now they’re just full of mischief. Louis doesn’t fall for it for one second.

 

“Alright, that’s quite enough out of you too,” he says, lunging for her waist and tickling her until she’s laughing so hard that she’s gasping for air.

 

Louis is a little breathless too after that, taking a couple of deep breaths before turning to Ollie. “Where is your brother, anyway?” he asks. He stops asking questions when Ollie gives him a look that says he should stop while he’s ahead.

 

“I guess we’ll just have to wait until the newlyweds deign to come back and rejoin us,” Harry sighs.

 

“Yeah,” his husband smirks, “I’m sure they’ll come soon enough,” earning a kick from Harry beneath the table and a look of complete mortification from Oliver as he checks to make sure his girlfriend wasn’t close enough to hear that.

 

The newlyweds do make it back to the party a few minutes later, hand in hand with huge smiles like the entire room full of people there to celebrate them didn’t notice their absence.

 

Daniel and Dylan are both pink in the face and giggly as they cross the room, waving to each person who congratulates them as they pass. They finally end up at the family table, looking deliriously happy where they’re tucked into each other’s sides.

 

“Hello there, boys. We’ve missed you. We couldn’t figure out where on Earth you two disappeared for so long. It was the strangest thing,” Louis comments.

 

Daniel isn’t intimidated at all, shrugging off his father’s accusation with a cool, “Whatever. Like you’re one to talk. You and Dad have mysteriously ‘disappeared’ from plenty of family functions and events,” he quips back.

 

Louis doesn’t look bothered as he shrugs. He looks proud more than anything else, but Harry feels his face heating up now that he’s been dragged into their little game. He didn’t ask for this.

 

“I beg of you to change the subject,” Oliver pleads, his eyes fixed on Jessie who is slowly but surely making her way over to them but their relatives keep stopping her to chat. Harry quickly nods to agree with his son, wanting nothing more than a topic change so that they aren’t cryptically discussing his and Louis’ bloody quickies.

 

“So, Dylan, how does it feel to officially be part of the Tomlinson clan?” Louis beams at his son-in-law.

 

Harry watches as Dylan’s face brightens almost as if Louis’ words have flipped a switch in him. He looks at Daniel like he’s the only person in the room and Harry can feel how much he loves his son.

 

“I’m so proud to belong to your family, Mr. Tomlinson,” he smiles.

 

Daniel beams at his new husband, leaning in to kiss him softly, looking just as proud to be able to call Dylan his. It’s all his son has wanted since the day they met. He looks just like his father, an exact replica of the happy man that Harry married fifteen years ago.

 

“I’ve told you a million times to call me Louis,” his husband reminds Dylan. “You’re Mr. Tomlinson now too. Just like Daniel, Oliver, Harry, and of course, our little Jacob,” Louis says softly, his gaze falling to their youngest son who has cake between every one of his fingers. Amelia’s name is left out of the group, but she doesn’t seem to actually care, focused more on the dessert in front of her than anything else.

 

She’s the only Miss among them. Hopefully Oliver will give her a sister-in-law one day (Jessie, more than likely) who will share her name, but that will only last until Amelia grows up and finds someone to marry as well. Harry’s throat feels tight at the thought of his little girl growing up so quickly when he and Louis are still very much enjoying her as a child. He wills his mind think of literally anything else.

 

“What time are you planning to leave for your honeymoon?” Harry asks instead of obsessing about one day having to walk his little girl down the aisle.

 

“We don’t have a set time. Probably sometime tonight,” Dan answers. They’re only road tripping through Europe for two weeks, but you’d think they were flying halfway across the world from how excited they both look. They’ll be together, so Harry guesses it’s all the same to them.

 

“Dylan, whatever you do, do not let my son drive through foreign countries. I don’t think he ever learned where the bloody brake pedal is here in London let alone as he’s careening through Italy somewhere,” Louis mutters under his breath.

 

“I think Dan’s an excellent driver,” their son-in-law grins at Daniel with stars in his eyes. Stars are the only reasonable explanation for how deluded the poor boy clearly is. Dylan has convinced himself that Danny is a good driver just like Harry has convinced himself that Louis can cook. He guesses love can make you believe almost anything.

 

“So, you’ll tour Europe, finish out the rest of the summer, and then Dylan starts classes again for his second degree in the fall, and Dan will start playing for his dream team soon after that,” Louis summarizes. “It sounds like it’s all perfectly planned out, boys.”

 

“It is! It’s going to be perfect,” Daniel smiles at his husband.

 

It sounds like it’s going to be hard work, but Harry’s sure they must know that on some level. Marriage is hard for everyone especially with all the extra things Dan and Dylan are planning to throw into the mix.

 

Oliver and Jessie haven’t said anything about wanting to get married yet. They’re both going on to further their education, but Harry is sure it’s only a matter of time before they’re headed down the aisle too. After all, Oliver has always looked up to his older brother more than anybody else; always his little shadow no matter what. He wouldn’t be surprised if Oliver came to him and Louis about it within the next year or so. Harry can’t really imagine his little boy being so grown up that he’s ready to get down on one knee and propose to someone, but he guesses it’s going to happen one day whether he and Louis are ready for it or not.

 

“I’m so happy for you two. Congratulations again,” Harry tells them for the hundredth time because he can’t help but want to see his kids succeed in everything they set out to do and that now includes his new son-in-law.

 

He doesn’t expect the crushing hug that he gets from Dan after he says that. Daniel whispers a quiet ‘thank you,’ into his neck before straightening up and kissing Dylan once more just because he can.

 

He excuses himself and his new husband away from the group to go dance when a song comes on that they love. His smile stretches across his face when they reach the middle of the dance floor and Dylan holds him close. Ollie excuses himself as well, going to rescue his girlfriend from his grandparents and escorting her to the dance floor too. She thanks him with a kiss to his lips before resting her head against his chest and allowing Oliver to guide them.

 

“They’re so cute,” Harry comments as he watches their sons swaying back and forth with the people they love wrapped up in their arms.

 

“Yeah they are, but not as cute as us,” Louis winks. He pushes his chair back from the table to take Harry’s hand in his. Harry tells Amelia and Jacob to stay put and out of trouble for a few minutes, praying that they’ll actually listen before allowing his husband to lead him to the dance floor.

 

They find an open spot near the edge of the crowd, not wanting to smother their sons and their partners by dancing next to them. He and Louis are in their own little world over on the outskirts of the dance floor, but they can still see their boys, grinning and swaying in the middle of the room.

 

Harry still has trouble believing that they aren’t little boys anymore. That he and Louis raised these two outstanding men. He looks over at Jacob and Amelia, so grateful that he and Louis have been given the opportunity to be able to raise them as well. With any luck they’ll turn out to be just as unfailingly good and warmhearted.

 

He and Louis have accomplished so much together already. They’ve got each other and their children and so much love between them that it almost seems unfair with how blessed they were to have this life. How blessed they still are. Things like weddings and honeymoons are still a long way off for their youngest children, and that’s just fine with Harry. He’ll take it, because that means they’ve still got plenty of time.

 

 

 

The End