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in the middle of the night

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There’s a loud bang from outside that wakes Louis at half eight on Sunday evening.

He’d been dozing in his armchair, reclined to the perfect angle, a slightly crumpled newspaper lying forgotten on his stomach, when the crack of thunder wakes him up. Scrambling to his feet for no apparent reason, he stares around the room until he’s able to see through his sleepy haze.

It takes Louis thirty seconds to remember he had planned to finish his lesson plans this evening. Groaning, he drags himself to his kitchen where he heats up his forgotten cup of tea and stares down at the mishmash of papers waiting for him on the island. He was only going to close his eyes for a minute, or like, five, at most, not four bloody hours.

“Well,” Louis huffs himself, “that’s what you get when you pretend to be twenty again.” His mouth still tastes like tequila even 20 hours later. It’s mildly annoying.

Louis settles in on the stool and gets to planning his lesson – ecosystems – occasionally taking a sip of his tea.

 

The ecosystem lesson plan, complete with half-assed jotted notes on possible outdoor fun, takes him three hours and four cups of tea to finish. It’s still absolutely pissing outside, the thunder and lightning coming back every so often, which means Louis’ going to have a fantastic sleep tonight. He’ll be up early, fresh faced and ready to hang out with twenty-five eleven year olds.

Louis putters around his kitchen, putting his mug in the dishwasher, putting his papers in his bag, making sure he has food for breakfast – he doesn’t, he’ll have to stop in a café and also probably do some shopping after work – and closing the curtains that hang at his back door.

There’s a lumpy mass lying in his backyard and his initial thought is: dead body. After a flash of lightning, Louis can see it’s just a really big dog.

The dog is massive, but not overweight. It has chocolate brown fur that looks, if it wasn’t wet, to be very soft. Louis can’t see much else through the glass and the downpour, but he can tell the poor thing is freezing. He glances over his shoulder at his living room, where there’s a freshly vacuumed carpet and a bunch of breakable things, and he hesitates, he swears he does, but his fingers are already unlocking the door.

Louis slides it open and can see the dog’s ears perk up right away.

“Hey boy,” Louis calls over the rain, “do you want to come in?” Now, Louis knows that the dog can’t understand what he’s saying, but it looks like the dog nods. Shrugging, Louis steps aside and makes some sort of dog-calling-whistle-type-thing that has the dog trotting happily up the deck steps and into the house.

“Wait!” Louis says quickly, holding his hands up in the stop position. He’s talking to a dog. “You’re soaking wet, let me dry you, uh –”

The dog blinks at him.

“Sit?” Louis says weakly. The dog really is huge, and could probably demolish Louis if he wasn’t paying attention. Big dogs have big teeth, right? Thankfully, the dog doesn’t demolish Louis and instead sits. His tail thumps a few times.

Louis backs up slowly until he’s sure the dog isn’t going to attack him, and then turns and dashes to his linen closet. He grabs the largest towel he owns and heads back to the door where the dog is still sitting, nice and proper.

“I’m going to dry you off now,” Louis says for no reason in particular. There’s something about the dog’s eyes that makes him seem less animal than he is.

It’s late; Louis’ probably just overtired.

There’s no collar from what Louis can see when he’s drying the dog off, who pants happily throughout the whole thing.

“You’re very friendly,” Louis says conversationally. The dog barks once, a quick, quiet bark that has Louis staring at him in wonder. “Are you trained? Has someone trained you? Do you have an owner? Where’s your collar?”

 

The dog doesn’t do anything – too many questions, probably.

“You can sleep in front of the fire, I’ll keep it on low so you don’t get too hot,” Louis says as he folds up the towel and places it in front of the door, locking it and shutting the curtains. The dog and Louis go through another unblinking stare off where Louis contemplates his next sentence. (He’s talking to a dog.)

“I feel like I should name you,” he says thoughtfully, “I can’t keep calling you ‘the dog’, can I? You must have a name anyway, you look way too healthy to be a stray.”

The dog cocks his head and narrows it’s eyes as if to say, “are you calling me fat?”

“Not fat, though,” Louis says hurriedly, leading the dog into the living room where he clicks on the fireplace. “Just not starving.” The dog huffs a sigh and settles down on the carpet, resting his head on his paws.

“Your fur is quite curly,” Louis muses, “although I’m not sure if it’s because you’re still, you know, kind of soaking wet or if it’s just, like, you know, curly?”

The dog stares at him.

It’s in this particular stare-off that Louis realizes he’s spent the last ten minutes having a one-sided – the dog is kind of talking back, right? – conversation with a dog. It’s Sunday evening, he can’t be blamed for anything crazy he does.

“Well,” Louis says, even though he knows he’s acting a little crazy. “It’s almost midnight and I have to be up in six hours, so…” Louis trails off as he watches the dog shuffle around until he’s comfortable, his tail thumping heavily against the rug.

Louis awkwardly backs out of the room. His mother would be appalled if he knew he was letting a random dog sleep in his nicely furnished house.

“Goodnight, then. See you in the morning, Curly,” Louis says over his shoulder. The dog barks at him, a happy little sound that warms Louis’ heart.

 

Once Louis is in bed, his teeth brushed and clothes laid out for the morning, all tucked up under the covers with the storm raging outside does he finally settle down and think.

The dog downstairs is huge. Like, so big that if he walked past someone walking the dog he would ask how their horse was doing. And the paws! Louis’ best friend in secondary had a dog that was a black lab whose paws were pretty big, but they were nothing compared to Curly’s. If Louis hadn’t wiped his paws down he’s positive there would be giant sized prints across the kitchen tiles.

If he didn’t know any better, he would think that he just took in a wolf for the night. England doesn’t have wolves, thankfully enough, so he isn’t that stupid.

Louis falls asleep thinking of what type of food he could give Curly come morning, because he’s nothing if not a good host.

++

 

When Louis walks downstairs the next morning there’s no dog anywhere to be seen.

Louis makes sure of this by walking throughout his entire house calling for the dog with different variations of “curly” and “hey, you”. Covering all his bases, really. He’s confused because he was sure he let a dog in and dried him off, talked to him a bit… Maybe he was really tired. He wanders into the living and stares at the rug where Curly had slept last night, and sees that there is in fact a disruption of the fabric. So there was definitely a dog and Louis isn’t crazy. Happy days.

Louis muses that Curly was able to nudge the back door open, as he had apparently forgotten to lock it last night. He flicks the lock on the door and goes about making his travel cup of coffee to tide him over until he can take the tube to the café and then walk the quick ten more minutes to work. Mondays are always a tizzy with his students, they’re always so hyped up from the weekend but bored as hell with class – even though Louis is a great teacher, thank you very much.

Louis spends too long trying to decide which shoes he should wear and thus has to hurry out of the house, barely noticing that the fireplace is turned off.

++

 

Louis has a rough day at work.

First, the lineup at the café is so long that it snakes out the door which has Louis turning on his heel and stalking to school. He doesn’t have time to wait – he’ll just get something in the cafeteria at school. Second, the school has an annual Walk to Cure Cancer that Louis completely forgot about so he has to shepherd his class into the indoor play space as it’s too wet and drizzly outside for any outdoor walking, so thirdly he has to spend an hour in a confined space with a few hundred children walking and running around.

He has a migraine by 11:00.

By the end of the day Louis is ready to rip out his hair. His class has been a bunch of little shits all day: not listening to him whatsoever while he teaches them about ecosystems, talking incessantly during the allotted reading time and not doing their maths at all... not to mention Cameron, who peed in a bag.

(Louis will never forget the look on Miss. Smith’s face when she knocked on his classroom door and had to tell him that one of her students found Cameron in the loo waving around a sandwich bag filled with his own urine. Louis will never forget, but he wishes he could.)

Yeah. Louis’ had a day.

Despite having one of the worst days, he still decides to go to Tesco because having a bad day means he definitely gets to treat himself tonight.

His basket is full of junk and fruit – balanced diet lends itself to a balanced life, his mum always told him – and he’s clutching a packet of throat lozenges because apparently between leaving school and getting to the store, he’s developed a slight cough and a sniffly nose.

All Louis’ problems go out the window when he sees the love of his life.

Or, well. Okay. He’s a stranger. Louis doesn’t know him, he doesn’t know Louis. They just happen to live near each other and shop at the same Tesco… but Louis is definitely in love.

Love of his life, AKA Cutie with the Curls as he’s dubbed him in his mind, is a few people ahead of him at the checkout. They only have one cashier open, which would be mildly annoying to Louis on any other day, but today, after his crap day, he’s content to just stare at Cutie with the Curls.

Today he’s wearing comfy looking joggers and an unbuttoned denim shirt that showed a nicely fitted white shirt underneath. Lazy day, then, Louis thinks, eyeing Cutie’s basket. He’s got some junk in there as well, lots of fruit, some frozen dinners… It looks like he’s gearing up for a winter storm, which is super unlikely to even happen in London.

When Cutie pays for his groceries and heads out of the store, he looks over his shoulder to presumably check to see if he’s forgotten any bags, and makes accidental eye contact with Louis. Louis, seeing and seizing his chance, smiles at him, a quick nod of a hello, as they always run into each other.

They’ve actually even spoken once. Louis reached out to grab a bag of salt and vinegar chips but before he could snag them, another hand darted in to grab there. The hey! was out of his mouth before he looked up to see who the chip stealer was, although he shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Sorry,” Cutie had said quickly, his voice deep and warm. He dropped the bag in Louis’ basket before he could protest with a, “I’ll just get another kind”. Cutie gave him a quick smile, grabbed a bag of sour cream and onion, and was gone. So, technically Cutie spoke, and Louis just stared. A solid start, but Louis wants to talk to him more.

Cutie with the Curls grins back. And winks.

He winked at Louis.

Louis feels like he may go into cardiac arrest at literally any second but he can’t possibly have a meltdown about a boy in the store, so he quickly pays for his food and heads home, walking quickly to avoid the oncoming rain.

++

 

He gets caught in rain.

Louis is literally three minutes away from entering his front door when the sky cracks and he’s instantly soaked. Cursing aloud, he brings his shopping bags and messenger bag closer to his body and half-runs to his house, dodging quickly filling puddles and other stragglers who are also trying to get out of the downpour.

 

Louis’ wrapped up in a blanket on his couch, flipping through channels a few hours later when he hears a bark.

Muting the tv, Louis cranes his head towards the door and tries to hear over the rain. There’s another bark, and then a few more, and then suddenly he’s getting up and dragging himself to the door. He has his blanket wrapped around him like a cape, and four tissues in his sweater pocket. Five minutes in the rain and he gets sick, unbelievable. He pulls the curtain aside and sees Curly, the dog from last night, lying in the grass near his shed. The moonlight is hidden by clouds and the downpour, but in the faint grey mist he can see the dog is soaked and unhappy.

Like last night, Louis doesn’t think twice before unlocking the door and sliding it open, calling out for the dog. Curly lifts his head and jumps up quickly, bolting to the door, stopping right at the threshold while he looks up at Louis, his tail wagging steadily.

“You are so well trained,” Louis comments, stepping aside. “You must have an owner. Are you lost?”

The dog yips and goes to rub against Louis’ leg, but only hits air as Louis jumps back.

“Nuh-uh,” he says, putting his cape – blanket – on the dining room table. “You’re soaked.”

When Curly is dry he follows Louis into the living room and settles on the rug, exactly where he had slept last night, and rests his head on his paws.

“You’re a huge dog,” Louis comments, eyeing Curly’s paws. The dog is panting, his tongue lolling out, which helps Louis catch a glance of his teeth. Which are super sharp and super big, so Louis looks back at the tv and settles in to watch a new episode of America’s Next Top Model.

 

Louis stays up for another two or so hours, and in that time gets steadily more sick. Every time he sneezes Curly looks up from the floor at him, and Louis swears he can see pity in the dog’s eyes.

“’m fine,” Louis mumbles, coughing so hard his ribs hurt. He hopes this is just a chill his body got from the rain, and not full blown pneumonia because god knows he can’t afford to take time off but he also can’t teach with a contagious sickness. He jerks his thumb over his shoulder towards his kitchen and makes some weird half-shrug half-grimace thing that he supposes is meant to convey to the dog that he’s going to take some cough medicine and go to bed.

When Louis gets to the top of the stairs he looks down over his shoulder and watches as Curly puts his head on his paws, turning his face towards the fire. The dog sighs, heavily, and slowly his tail slows from a steady thump to curled up along his body.

Louis blinks out of his reverie and shuffles to the bathroom, upending his medicine cabinet until he finds a little bottle with purple liquid in it.

“I love you,” Louis says dreamily to the bottle before opening it and tipping the contents into his mouth. Disclaimer: there isn’t much left, so he’s totally safe. His mum’s a nurse, he would never take too much medicine. His liver is already mad at him from tequila night on Friday with Niall.

++

 

So maybe Louis took too much cough medicine.

He wakes up late. Super late. So late that he doesn’t have any time to do anything but wash his face and dress, cursing the rain the entire time. He’ll have to get food out of the vending machine at school which definitely isn’t healthy and which is super annoying since he just bought fresh groceries last night. Louis is a mess and he hates the rain.

He’s in and out of his kitchen in ten seconds flat, grabbing his messenger bag off the counter and skidding back through the living room to his front door when he notices a man in front of the fire.

Louis slows to a stop, keeping his eyes open as he rubs them individually, trying to comprehend why there’s a sleeping man on the rug his nan bought him.

And he’s naked.

There’s also no dog. The fireplace is still on, the back door is still locked… And Louis is going to be late.

(Years later, he sits down and contemplates the actions he made in this very moment, not in a way where he regrets them, but in a way that acknowledges how absolutely insane he was due to the cough medicine.)

So he leaves.

Louis goes through the motions: flicking off the front light, locking the door, skipping the last step of his porch as it’s wobbly and he has no time for sprained ankles, and half-jogs to the tube.

++

 

“It’s the full moon, you know.”

Louis pauses mid-story with hands frozen in the air.

“Excuse me?” he says, furrowing his brow and taking a bite of his granola bar. He’s had another crazy day at school and the vending machine only had chocolate bars and granola bars – he tried to pick the healthier option.

“It’s a full moon,” Niall, his co-worker, says. “That’s why the kids are off the wall. Tommy, I’ve told you about him, he’s insane, literally threw a basketball at my head today and looked shocked that it even left his hands.”

“Okay,” Louis says slowly, glancing from Niall to Perrie, who’s nodding along to Niall while she twirls her spaghetti. Louis wants spaghetti. Lous is hungry. “What does that have to do with insane kids?”

“Oh, c’mon, Lou,” Perrie sighs, “have you never heard the myth that all the crazies come out when it’s a full moon? It’s actually not a myth, I read this article that said people are more prone to having weird or strange dreams during the full moon –”

“Okay,” Louis says again, holding his hands up. “Enough. The full moon is not making my students act like monkeys, maybe it’s just their time of the month.”

Perrie looks at him with something akin to rage mixed with pity.

“Yeah,” she says, “the moon cycle.”

Louis rolls his eyes and shrugs before finishing off his bar.

“I’m gonna head back to class early, maybe throw some salt or something, see if that fixes things.” He winks at Perrie’s affronted sigh and tosses his wrapper in the garbage, before pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“It’s not salt,” Niall says, laughing, just as Louis’ about to leave, “it’s wolfsbane. There’s a shop near my house that sells it if ya wanna hit it up after work?”

Louis doesn’t dignify him with a response.

++

 

By the time Louis is on his way home, he seriously considers buying wolfsbane.

His class was even worse than yesterday, if possible. There were no pee-bags (goddamnit, Cameron) but there were three separate tantrums – he teaches year 6, there shouldn’t be any tantrums – and the class’ pet goldfish went missing. Seriously. Louis and his class spent half an hour looking for it, but couldn’t find it before the day ended… He dreads tomorrow.

“Goddamn full moon, goddamn kids,” Louis mutters to himself. The mother across from him on the tube looks scandalized at his muttering, but her daughter grins at him. Louis loves kids, he really does. He just needs to get through this week – or just wait until the moon wanes. Or waxes? He should know this, he’s a teacher – and then his students will be back to normal.

 

Louis doesn’t think about the naked man in his living room until he’s at his front door.

He pauses with his hand on the doorknob, halfway through its turn. What if the naked man is still on his floor? Is he a homeless person who just needed somewhere warm to sleep? Was he attempted to burglarize Louis but instead… fell asleep? It is quite warm in front of the fire –

Louis let the dog sleep in his house last night.

Forgetting his nervousness at the fact there was a naked man in his living room this morning, Louis charges into the house and comes to a halt in front of the fireplace, which was turned off at some point during the day, because Louis knows it was on when he left. There’s no man anymore, but there’s a soft indent on the rug and some remains of dirt left over from the dog…

Louis sits down in his recliner and stares at the spot on the floor, trying to piece together something he’s pretty much already sure of. He compiles the list of things he knows and contemplates them as ticks them off his fingers, muttering them aloud.

1. Last night, and the night before, Louis let a stray dog sleep in his house as the thunderstorm was quite brutal
2. Yesterday morning, the dog was gone before Louis woke up, and Louis is sure he locked both doors before going to bed
3. This morning, instead of a dog on his living room floor, there was a naked man
4. There is currently a full moon

So either Louis is crazy or he housed a werewolf last night.

What’s funny though… Is what’s crazier than housing a werewolf, is the fact that Louis is 99% sure the sleeping, naked man on his floor this morning was Cutie with the Curls.

++

 

Louis is totally, definitely crazy, and the cough medicine he took last night needs to be thrown out ASAP.

Instead of throwing said medicine out, he goes to Tesco.

 

There’s nobody in the store when Louis gets there, as the weather has finally calmed down. There are still a few clouds lingering about but the rain is gone, the sun is still out, and people are taking advantage of it. Louis passed a couple of teenagers skateboarding up and down the street, some little kids kicking a football around… It’s nice. It’s calm. He loves the little neighbourhood he lives in, even if it might have a werewolf problem.

“Stop it,” Louis mutters to himself. “You’re not supposed to think about that.”

He finds himself in front of the ice cream without realizing it. He had bought junk food last night but nothing in his cupboards had been satisfying enough to help him with his supernatural problem. It’s not really a problem, he supposes, as nothing bad has happened. Regardless, a bag of crisps and some licorice just isn’t the right type of food to solve any type of problem.

Louis is holding two types of ice cream, considering his options, when there’s a slight cough behind him.

“Oops,” he says, darting sideways, out of the way of the freezer door. “Sorry, ice cream decision making is quite hard.” Louis’ voice falters when he turns around and comes eye to eye with Cutie with the Curls.

“Hi,” Cutie says, smiling at him, “it’s no problem. I’m not sure what flavour I’d like either.”

Louis just stares at him. He literally cannot think of anything to say to the guy – well, he can’t think of anything other than are you a werewolf? There were points earlier in the night that Louis had convinced himself that Cutie was a werewolf, but there were also moments where he understood that he was just having some weird mid-twenties crisis and there was absolutely no way the cute boy he sees at Tesco is a fictional animal.

Except.

Except Cutie has a slight blush high on his cheeks, and maybe it could be because Louis is attractive – he owns a mirror, okay? – or because Louis hasn’t responded to him in a socially acceptable amount of time, or because Cutie knows he’s a werewolf, obviously, and he knows Louis knows he knows.

Louis is going insane.

“Ha,” Louis chokes out in lieu of actually replying. Cutie raises an eyebrow and his mouth tilts, the blush disappearing into smooth milky skin. Cutie is really cute.

“So what kind are you going to get?” Cutie asks, smiling at Louis. He has a nice smile, thinks Louis, watching where Cutie’s lips curve up at the corners and where they bleed from shocking pink into his cheeks…

Focus, Louis.

“What?” Louis says, definitely not focusing. Cutie’s eyes are super green and super bright, and they’re boring right into Louis’. Cutie gestures at the two pints of ice cream in Louis’ hand, his smile growing bigger by the second.

“Oh, um,” Louis says, stumbling over his words. “I think I’m gonna get the mint chocolate as it’s my favourite and I haven’t had it in quite a while.” Louis almost curses at himself right then and there. Why on earth is he telling Cutie his life story? He’s a werewolf for godsake, he probably can’t be trusted with such important secrets as Louis’ favourite ice cream.

“Interesting,” Cutie muses, “my favourite is pralines and cream…”

Louis looks down at the pint in his left hand, a white container with PRALINES N’ CREAM scrawled across it, a dancing praline with a cute little smiling face drawn underneath it.

“Ha,” Louis says again, weakly and out of sorts. He needs to go home. He needs some sleep or some cough syrup, anything that makes him forget Cutie’s wide smile and sparkling eyes.

“I’m Harry,” Cutie says, plucking the pralines and cream out of Louis hand before offering his other hand. Louis shakes it dumbly, feeling the way Cutie’s hands are strong and a little rough, but not yet calloused.

“Louis,” Louis replies, extracting his hand as quickly as possible. He really needs to get home. The dull light of Tesco is hurting his eyes and causing him to think of never-will-happen scenarios where he and Harry fall madly in love and adopt three babies and a cat.

Do werewolves eat cats?

“I gotta go,” Louis says, with what he hopes is a smile but is probably more of a grimace. There have been times in his life where he’s felt embarrassed or humiliated for whatever reason, but he’s quite sure nothing will ever surpass this moment. He runs to the checkout, hearing a faint, Louis, wait!, tosses a bill onto the belt knowing it’ll be enough, and books it out of the store, his feet barely hitting the ground as he runs home.

Louis gets home in record time, his ice cream slightly melted, and his heart-rate up. Putting the ice cream in the freezer before commencing with his breakdown, Louis also takes the time to clean up the living room a bit and wipe down the island counter. Just in case his mum or his sister pops by, not at all because he may or may not have a visitor in the form of a dog.

Although, Louis muses, it’s not raining outside, so it may just be that he won’t have any canine visitors once the sun finally sets.

Louis chances a glance out the kitchen window and sees the dusk settling in. The sun has dipped below the top of the fence in Louis’ backyard and the sky has started to darken, the blues and blacks seeping in as the sunshine disappears.

Soon, Louis finds himself sitting at his island in a dark house. He has no idea how long he’s been there, just staring numbly at the counter, idly flipping through the grocery advertisements that come in the mail. He’s not really comprehending anything he’s reading, as he’s only thinking about the possibility that werewolves exist.

He’s been on the earth for a good amount of years. He’s gone to school, he takes out his trash, he calls his mum at least once a week, he pays his taxes, yet for some reason he feels like the world is trying to play a trick on him.

The one boy he’s even been marginally interested in romantically, since uni, and he’s possibly a supernatural creature. And possibly not into Louis, but he doubts that. He’s not blind, he can see how Cutie – Harry – raked his eyes over Louis’ face earlier or the other day when he winked at him… He’s not blind, but he may be crazy.

Werewolves..

There’s a sudden scratching at his door that has Louis up and moving.

He stands by the back door, hidden by the floor length curtain and tries to stare through it. He can see the dog’s large mass sitting there, poised and perfect, every so often raising his paw to scratch. It’s not raining, which means Curly just wants a friend instead of a home to be warm in.

Louis pulls back the curtain and Curly drops his paw. He cocks his head as if to say, well, aren’t you going to let me in?

“I don’t know,” Louis says.

(Louis is kidding himself if he thinks he won’t let the dog/werewolf/cute boy in.)

Before Louis can unlock and open the door, Curly jumps up and wanders out of his sight. Louis waits for a few seconds before he sees the dog come trotting back around the house, a dandelion stuck in his mouth.

“You’re fucking kidding me,” he groans. Curly puts his paw against the glass again. “Alright, alright,” Louis says, opening the door. “Come on in, stop whining.”

Curly wanders into Louis’ kitchen and places the dandelion at Louis’ feet, looking up at him while his tail wags steadily.

“You’re totally a wolf, aren’t you?” Louis asks rhetorically. “Or a werewolf, sorry. I’m not sure what the decorum is when talking to an animal that may or may not understand you.”

Curly barks.

“Or,” Louis muses, “you are a dog and I’m just having a stroke!” Louis picks up the dandelion and takes it into his kitchen where he fills a glass with water and sticks the weed in there. He’s done stranger things.

“Ooh,” Louis continues, heading into the living room while Curly trots along behind him. “Maybe after drinking all that tequila on Friday I tripped and hit my head, and this is all a dream. A super weird, detailed, and kind of boring dream.”

Curly barks and fixes Louis with the most pitiful look he’s ever seen.

“Sorry, sorry, not boring at all,” Louis says, “but if it’s a dream and I’ve still been going to work, it’s something I need to take up with my awake-self.”

Curly sighs loudly and flops down on the floor, curling right up by Louis’ feet.

“You’re adorable, you know that?” Louis says. He switches on the tv and starts playing an episode of a show he recorded last week. He and Curly sit in companionable silence – probably because one of them can’t even speak – for the duration of the episode, and for most of the next. At some point during the second episode Curly flips over onto his back and stares at Louis until Louis sticks his foot out and rub his belly.

Louis Tomlinson, teacher and lover of romantic comedies extraordinaire, is rubbing the belly of a stray dog that he’s basically adopted. Or, actually, he’s rubbing the belly of a grown man who just happens to be in his werewolf form.

“This is insane,” Louis mutters. “Is it even possible that you’re the cute boy who I see at Tesco and hopes asks me on a date one day?”

There’s a pause where Curly looks at him, and where Louis processes what he said.

“Wait –” Louis says but then Curly is barking and jumping up, tongue hanging out trying to lick Louis’ hand, arm, anything he can get near.

“Okay, okay,” Louis says, laughing, “stop, I surrender!”

Curly huffs and yips again, nudging his nose against Louis’ leg until Louis pats the space beside him. Curly jumps up on the couch and rests his hand in Louis’ lap, his breaths evening out until they settle into a soft snore.

Louis runs his hands over Curly’s ears thoughtfully, fingers rubbing in between the tuffs of fur. Now that Louis’ a bit calmer, with a clearer mind, he can look at Curly and say, without abandon, that there’s a wolf sleeping on his lap. He’s also, like, 99% sure that the wolf is a werewolf, and that the werewolf’s human form is the cute boy he sees at Tesco, who he’s halfway in love with.

Louis is surprisingly okay with it all.

++

 

Louis wakes up to the sound of bacon sizzling.

Disoriented, he looks around through slightly blurry eyes and comes to the conclusion he fell asleep on the couch. The sun is barely up, going off the soft light streaming into the living room, and the birds outside are chirping something fierce. The blanket that usually lays against the back of the couch is draped over Louis, and his neck is sore from leaning back for so long. The fireplace is still on, crackling softly and giving Louis the warmest feeling inside his belly.

The sizzling stops.

Louis hears the cupboard door open and close, a plate being placed on the island and probably being filled with bacon. He could turn around and look over the back of the couch, see who the intruder in his house is, but he’s positive he already knows. He just continues to watch the tv where it’s been muted on a news channel. Werewolves like being caught up on the news, who knew?

“Hi.” A voice that Louis could pick out anywhere, even only after a handful of interactions, comes wafting around the corner. His stomach drops, then picks back up with a tumbling anxiety he hasn’t felt in a very long time.

Louis watches as a body comes into view with two plates in their hand. The body hands Louis a plate, which he takes robotically, and then sits down on the other end of the couch.

“Are you wearing a towel?” Louis blurts out, resting the plate on his lap. There are four pieces of bacon, which is a goddamn steal, scrambled eggs, and perfectly browned toast.

“Yeah,” Harry says, scratching his head awkwardly. He has tattoos all over his chest and his left arm, which sends Louis’ heart hammering, and his muscles ripple as he settles into the couch. “I figured that a stranger in your house would be enough cause for alarm, not to mention if I had been naked.”

Louis stares at him.

“Totally naked,” Harry amends, wincing. “I realize that I’m barely wearing anything and it’s your towel and I’m definitely overstepping –”

“I saw you naked.” Louis really needs to have a conversation with his mind and figure out the concept of “brain to mouth” filter.

“Um,” Harry says, his hand stilling halfway to his mouth, a piece of bacon hanging. “What? Were you awake earlier?”

 

“No,” Louis says. He starts eating so he doesn’t have to answer Harry – how embarrassing is it to admit that you left a naked stranger in your house?

“Yesterday morning,” Louis says after swallowing his eggs. “You were still here when I left for work.”

Harry drops the piece of bacon.

“What?” he yelps, covering his face with his hands. “That’s so embarrassing, I’m so sorry. I thought, hey, I’ll just fall asleep and leave in the morning like last time –”

Louis interrupts him. “You planned it? Coming here and falling asleep in front of the fire?”

Harry goes bright red, his face shining through the gaps between his fingers. “No?” he squeaks, peering at Louis, who just raises an eyebrow at him.

“Okay,” Harry sighs, dropping his hands. “The first night, no, I didn’t plan it. I’m in and out of consciousness sometimes, especially when there’s a really bad storm because the thunder scares me, and I just woke up here and remembered pieces of the night before, and how nice you were to a stray… dog, and then I saw you at Tesco…”

Harry trails off, avoiding Louis’ eyes, pushing his eggs around with his fork. Louis continues to eat while he processes what Harry said.

“So after you saw me at Tesco?” Louis prompts.

“You’re not gonna let me off the hook, are you?” Harry says, laughing. Louis takes a deep breath and steels himself for what he’s about to say.

“All I’m saying is that I’d like to know the motives a werewolf has in coming back to my house night after night.”

Harry is dead silent; Louis doesn’t look at him, but can’t even hear him breathing. Do werewolves breathe?

“Do werewolves breathe?” Louis asks casually, picking up his last piece of bacon.

“Yes,” Harry answers automatically, “we’re living, breathing beings. Not vampires.”

“Holy shit,” Louis says, “are vampires real?” Harry smiles softly, avoiding Louis’ eyes, but Louis can see Harry let out a really long breath.

“Are you nervous?” Louis asks, trying not to laugh. “You’re the one who could kill me, why are you nervous?”

“I would never kill you,” Harry says, in an extremely serious voice. “I’d never even hurt you, my wolfsbane potion is really good… You saw me. I’m a trained dog to most eyes.”

He says this last part sadly, almost as if he doesn’t want to be a trained dog, but knows he has to be.

“Are you dangerous without the potion?” Louis asks. He puts his plate on the coffee table and turns towards Harry, crossing his legs underneath him. He still has two hours before he has to leave for work; he has some time to get some answers.

“Personally, no,” Harry says, “but my family was never dangerous. There are werewolves who are definitely dangerous if they don’t take anything. The potion just helps me transform easier.”

“Does it hurt?” Louis is so unbelievably interested in the actual science of becoming a wolf from a human form, but he reminds himself he needs more pressing answers first. “No, wait, tell me why you came back.”

“Oh,” Harry says, light pink blooming on the tips of his cheeks. “I always see you around Tesco, and when I realized I was at your house when I was transformed, and then I saw you that same night at the store… I don’t know, it felt like fate.”

“Fate,” Louis hums, “or I just like stray dogs.”

Harry smiles, ruefully. “It’s fate that you like stray dogs, and…” Harry pauses, seemingly choosing his words carefully. “It’s fate that you obviously have no respect for your own home if you left a naked stranger lying on the floor.”

A laugh startles out of Louis, and he shakes his head while chuckling.

“You need to thank my expired cough medicine,” he says, “I thought I was hallucinating you at first. I’m glad I didn’t.”

Harry smiles then, properly, like he did at Tesco the night before, and it lights up his face like Louis can’t believe. He wants to tell Harry that he doesn’t care about his monthly problem, because he doesn’t, but he also deserves some answers.

“So, fate,” Louis repeats. He starts braiding the frays of the blanket on his lap while Harry chews slowly and swallows his food, again choosing his words carefully.

“The second night I was just going to sleep outside, maybe in your backyard, I wasn’t trying to get in or anything…” Harry makes a face at himself. “Way to sound like a massive creep. I really do apologize, I’ve caused you so much… unnecessary stress.”

“No stress,” Louis says, “I promise. I’m just trying to understand.”

“I know,” Harry smiles, “but I’m still sorry.”

They sit in silence for a few more minutes until Harry’s plate is clean and placed on top of Louis’.

“I was just going to sleep outside,” Harry repeats, “because my wolf form just followed your scent home, and when I came into consciousness I realized where I was and felt massively stalkerish. But then I lost it again and I was just a dog looking for a ear scratch, I guess.”

“I don’t think you’re every just a dog looking for an ear scratch,” Louis says, grinning. “If you’re so into ‘fate’, then I think maybe your wolf form – that is so weird to say in a serious conversation, does it get easier? – just… helped you along.”

Harry laughs, a loud unabashed sound that echoes throughout the room and settles itself into Louis’ chest. He feels warm in his belly again, his head conjuring up a life with Harry where he gets to hear that laugh every day.

“Probably,” Harry admits, “he really likes companionship.”

“Just him, huh?” Louis laughs, clearing up the plates and heading into the kitchen. Harry follows behind him and slides onto a stool. His bare chest is really distracting to Louis, but he thinks he’s done a pretty bang up job of not staring.

“And then last night?” Louis asks as he fills the sink with his dirty dishes that litter the counters. He’s usually much cleaner than this, especially when he has a guest, but alas… He didn’t know he was going to have one.

“I kind of… took a chance?” Harry says, covering his face again. “I’m usually a lot more aware on the last night of transforming, so I was just playing it by ear. If you had let me in, if you were going to talk to me again like you did the previous nights…”

Louis opens his mouth to say something along the lines of how he usually doesn’t speak to dogs as much and as enthusiastically as he did to Curly, which means he must’ve known he was human, when Harry speaks first.

“And then I saw how you looked at me at Tesco, so, that helped a lot.”

Louis splutters at him for so long that Harry breaks down into laughter.

“What do you mean, looked at you?!” Louis exclaims, knowing his face is bright red and hearing how high his voice has gotten.

“You totally checked me out,” Harry says, grinning at him. “You always check me out when we see each other at Tesco.”

Louis is affronted. He totally does. “I do not,” Louis says, resisting the urge to stick his tongue out.

“It’s alright,” Harry says, smiling in a way that has Louis melting. “I check you out too.”

What is Louis even supposed to say to that?

“Let me take you on a date,” is what he comes up with.

Harry’s mouth drops open in shock.

“What?” he says, leaning his elbows on the counter to lean forward. “Seriously?”

“Come on,” Louis laughs, mostly just to hide his blush. “Why else would you show up here three nights in a row?”

Harry’s face falls but Louis powers through it,

“I’ve been thinking about asking you out for ages,” he says honestly, “but could never, like, bring myself to do it.”

The frown on Harry’s face edges away to reveal that bright smile Louis was looking for.

“If you’re sure,” he says, face open and honest. “I’ve wanted to ask you for a while, too.”

“Perfect!” Louis says, grinning. “And we don’t even need to get through the awkward stage where we discuss our weird habits or quirks.”

Harry laughs and rolls his eyes, running his hand through his hair. “That’s only true on my end, you know most of my ‘quirks’ already. I’m sure I need to help you brush up on your werewolf education. And I also know almost next to nothing about you.”

“True,” Louis muses. “How about we discuss more on Friday? Say, half six at the restaurant across from Tesco?”

“Sounds great,” Harry says, and Louis knows he means it.

++

 

The week drags and drags until suddenly it’s Friday and it’s the end of the school day before Louis knows it.

Niall and Perrie bug him about his date all day, and by the end of it he’s contemplating duct taping their mouths and stuffing them in a dumpster.

“But how did you ask him out?” Perrie says as she follows him to the tube, her elbow bumping into his in what he thinks is on purpose.

“I just asked him!” Louis exclaims. “I said, let me take you on a date, and he said okay. Boom, date.” He’s not technically lying; he just didn’t tell his friends that his date also happened to be a werewolf. They’d probably believe him, is the thing, and that’s almost worse than them thinking he’s off his rocker.

“Ugh,” Perrie says as they stand waiting for the train. “You’re so skimpy on details. You better not be like this on Monday.”

“Definitely will be,” he says cheekily, winking at her as his trains pulls into the station. Hers pulls in a second later, and they wave at each other until their trains disappear from sight.

Louis doesn’t bother sitting down, he’s too keyed up with excitement. He’s nervous to see Harry and find out more about him, but he also doesn’t want anything more than to talk to him and get to know him. He’s possibly in way too deep, but he supposes that supernatural forces are at work, so he lets himself off the hook.

(Louis is almost late to the restaurant because he can’t decide on something to wear, only finally leaving because a) their first serious talk featured Harry half naked in a towel and b) Harry saw Louis sleeping, probably drooling, so deciding between tshirt colours doesn’t compare.)

 

“Hi, Cutie,” Louis says, without thinking, when they meet in front of the restaurant door. He inwardly curses himself until he sees Harry’s bright smile.

“Hi yourself,” Harry says, smiling warmly at Louis. “Cutie? I thought you were saying ‘curly’.”

Oh shit.

“I might’ve… given you a nickname as a human,” Louis says, wincing. “That’s creepy, I’m sorry.” Harry laughs then, pulling the door open and allowing Louis to go first.

“I gave you a nickname too,” he laughs, “yours was Cheekbones.” Louis ducks his head, embarrassed with how pleased he is at the nickname, but he’s sure Harry sees his smile.

 

Louis thoroughly enjoys his evening.

He and Harry share a plate of nachos and each drink a pint or three of beer, and it’s just. Nice. It’s really nice. Louis can feel it in his stomach and in his chest – there’s something in there that he hasn’t had in a very long time, possibly ever.

Harry’s just so great. He’s funny, he’s smart, he’s interested in what Louis has to say, he’s polite to waiters – this was a huge problem with Louis’ last boyfriend – and he’s excruciatingly beautiful.

They spend hours at the restaurant, just talking and drinking, getting to know each other. Louis doesn’t want the night to end, and apparently Harry doesn’t either.

“Let me take you to my favourite place,” Harry says once they’re back outside, the night air refreshing on their flushed cheeks. “And don’t make some joke about it being my secret lair.”

Louis, about to make that exact joke, closes his mouth and mimes zipping it shut.

Harry leads him towards the river near the restaurant, every so often looking up at the night sky. It’s bright for nighttime, no clouds littering the sky and a soft breeze ruffling through the trees.

“I’m sorry I’m a werewolf,” Harry says into their comfortable silence. “I know it’s not exactly ideal for a relationship.”

“This is a relationship?” Louis says, smiling. Harry shrugs and stuffs his hands in his pockets, embarrassed, until Louis tugs at his arm so they can hold hands. Harry looks at him, his face open and honest.

“I’d like it to be,” Harry says quietly. “I know my life is… loony.”

Louis stares at him.

“Did you just –”

“Loony,” Harry says, giggling. “Like L-U-N-E-Y? Get it?”

“No,” Louis deadpans, rolling his eyes. “Terrible.” Harry just laughs again and drags Louis through a bush with the tiniest clearing in it – ow – and when they come out on the other side they’re on the top of a hill.

“What?” Louis gasps. “Where are we? Has this always been here?”

The river is below them, trickling down the slope, and the grass is plush and rich. Louis’ been living in his current house for a few years by now and he’s never known this was here. There are gardens filled with flowers, shrubs, and trees, and everything is bloomed so beautifully Louis feels like never leaving.

“All the flowers are going to die soon,” Harry says softly, “when the air gets colder. But even in the winter it’s my favourite place. It’s where I usually come when I’m… a wolf.”

Harry trails off, sighing heavily. He sits down and pats the grass beside him. When Louis sits he finds Harry’s hand and holds it, revelling in the way Harry tightens his grip.

“I’m not ashamed,” Harry says, twisting his mouth. He runs his hand through his hair before letting it fall in his lap where it finds their entwined hands. “It’s just hard sometimes, especially when I find a cute boy but my nerves win out over anything else.”

“How come the nerves didn’t win out with me?” Louis asks. “You weren’t even that nervous the other morning, you just, like, went with it. You could’ve left before I woke up, but you stayed and made breakfast.”

Harry shrugs and ducks his head, but even in the dark Louis can see him blushing.

“You’re different,” Harry says quietly. “I could just tell that you wouldn’t freak out over it and like, once you knew everything, you’d be able to see past it.”

Louis feels his heart swell and his tummy gets that warm feeling against. He’s not sure it’s left since the morning he and Harry spent together, but it’s definitely heightened now.

“I don’t see how people can’t see past it,” Louis says honestly, “you’re great, in all ways. And sometimes you’re a cuddly furball. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Harry laughs with him and shuffles closer to him, pointing up at the stars.

“That cluster there is my favourite,” Harry says. There are five stars grouped together in the night sky, almost directly over their heads. Two of them are brighter and closer together than the others, with the other three framing them. “I don’t know what it’s called or what their mythology is, but they make me feel safe when I’m here alone on those nights.”

“Harry,” Louis says, seriously and firmly, “I think it’s safe to say that you never have to be alone during the full moon again.”

Harry looks up at him from where he’s laid his head on Louis’ shoulder, and the stars are reflected in his eyes.

Louis has never been more glad that he has a soft spot for animals. Especially huge, soaking wet, stray dogs.

 

//