Life wasn't just free-flowing when Harry had left for the war. Niall had told the stories about how he couldn't go outside for a lot of the times, since he'd get looked at like he had two-heads when he'd walk the streets. But there was more to that, how sometimes Anne would come to his home with flour and vegetables salvaged from her garden. That was what him and the kids had to live off of for a weeks, them always complaining they were hungry and whining to Niall on a daily basis. Niall had gotten used to it, the feeling of an empty stomach or the dizziness that would always expend upon him whenever he'd get up in the morning. Or when the German's had attacked England in the air by dropping bombs along the grounds, it sounded like hundred at first, but soon Niall could hear front doors and fences opening, people screaming and yelling outside.
He remembers everything that day, when sirens blared across the sky and women were running into their homes. They lived far from London, far enough that the bombs weren't hitting them straight-on, but he'd seen them drop from the kitchen window and didn't hesitate to scoop up the kids and rush them downstairs into the cellar. Eleven weeks total, Niall had counted. He had taken more than one chances, running back up the stairs to grab the last of their food and water. The kids had one piece of bread a day, as well as him, but some days he'd sacrifice his privilege to have food to give them more.
He remembers Winston Churchill's speech after everything was clear and all was quiet, "I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science." It didn't quite make sense to him at the start, all his words sounding so complex, but Niall understood it now, how their leader was saying they needed to fight or else their would be no future for them if Hitler won.
He couldn't believe it also, he had to pinch himself more than once in the realization of how him and his family were lucky by only a hair that they were far enough away to only feel the ground shake and the aftershocks. But after that, London was nothing but rubble, and it took years to rebuild, something that made everything ten times harder to do knowing half of their country was in ruins.
Niall remembers the days when he did walk down the streets, more closer to when Harry was coming home. He remembers looking around and seeing men with one leg or one arm, or no legs at all, or no arms at all. He'd refuse to let the kids go to school most days, worried they'd have to see the heartbreaking sights he had to see.
It was horrible, but Niall had dodged a lot of problems that could've come to a disastrous end. They didn't starve to death, his home didn't become some crater in the shape of a bomb's shell. So Niall didn't talk about it as much, didn't want to bring back the depressing memories to his kids, or to Harry. How were just one out of the millions of english men, women, and children who had to be forced down underground and listen to their city disintegrate into nothing.
Right now though, he didn't know what to do. Everything didn't feel like reality anymore, the slight pulse of pain in his bicep felt wrong and misplaced. The physical pain that was inflicted by his own loving husband was worse than anything that has ever happened to him combined in the six year span of war. When Niall looks into a mirror and sees the shine of purple flourished along his skin, that's when the tears sting his eyes and the disbelief he felt becomes reality.
His husband had done this too him. The love of his life, wanted him to feel pain.
What did he deserve in life? Well he deserved happiness, laughter, family, and love. He had all those things of course, but the person he needed that all the most from was some shadow to him now. He didn't know who Harry was anymore. Harry was home, he saw the mans face for a good couple weeks now, but it wasn't really Harry. The real Harry was still in the war zone with a riffle in his hands.
"My mom, dad, and sister want to come on over for a little bit, welcome me back. Mind making a nice dinner again for them?" Niall had to hold back the flinch when he heard Harry's voice from behind him. The blond was in the kitchen, trying to make lunch for the kids as they burned off their steam out in the backyard, but his thoughts were effecting his daily routine. Usually he'd be bouncing off the walls left and right to finish chores and get things done, but he was like a slug now with all these toxic flashbacks poisoning his brain cells.
"U-uhm yeah sure. When are they coming over?" His hands were shaking as he grabbed for the butter and starting to spread it onto the bread, trying to snap himself back into what he was doing. He could feel Harry's presence still lurking behind him, and he never thought he would've ever wanted the man to get away from him.
"Around evening time, they are going to a late church service and then they'll head over here." He sounded so controlled, he didn't sound like he knew there was a tension between the two. It scared Niall more, it was worse than anything to know that not only did Harry hurt him, but he didn't regret it at all.
"Alright, we have leftover meat that we can cook up." Niall started putting things onto the sandwich, hands still unsteady and even when he tried taking deep breaths, he still couldn't keep his hands from shaking like leaves.
"Thank you, darling." And Niall couldn't hold in the jolt in his muscles when he felt Harry's hand on his bicep, it being way looser and softer than last time, but it still gave him the chills that quaked down his spine. His breath hitched when Harry had moved forward and kissed his cheek, and Harry didn't even care that the blond looked so uneasy, he didn't even hesitate or look confused, just walked off and out into the backyard.
And when the curly lad had disappeared out into the yard, the door closing behind him, Niall had let out a deep breath, relaxation swarming over him. It was like a noose was released from a tight hold on his throat that was daring to lift him up and choke him from the ceiling. He dare say it, but he felt safe alone now.
He tried focusing on making the food, it taking him a good five minutes till he finally got them all nicely made and the crust cut for Thomas since the little one was picky with his bread. He settled the knife down onto the cutting board, walking off by the back door and opening it, he saw Harry playing with the kids, giggles erupting from everyone. Oh, how he wishes he could laugh everything off with them, be some mindless toddler that didn't know hate and violence existed.
"Lunch is ready! Everyone in!" He called, and everyone dropped what they were doing and rushed inside, Virginia giggling as Harry tried catching her at the back of her skirt while she ran.
"Daddy, father is being silly? Look at how silly he is!" She squealed when she finally came up to them, Harry right by her side, looking him right in the eyes with a smile on his face.
Niall was smirking, looking Harry right in the eyes and trying to look amused. But in his mind there was pure hell being unleashed like he couldn't handle this simple contact. He wanted to yell at his husband, 'why did you do this to me?!' but he knew he was now going to have to force a shell around himself and keep everything enclosed. None of the kids should know about this, he can't make things worse.
That's what parents did best though, right? He has seen it from his own, and from Harry's, as well as families he's known at Church services when he goes. The parents always mask the problems that they are faced with, and needed to especially be professional at putting on the mask during the war. He has seen it way too many times, and likes to think he has mastered it himself.
"I see, I see. Come on dumpling, inside and get to eating before your food goes bad." He patted lightly at her head of curls, watching as she grabbed Harry's hand and tugged him inside behind her to sit down at the kitchen table with the rest of the boys.
Niall watched from the doorway, watching his happy family eat. There was a thought in the back of his mind, he didn't like it, but it was just an effortless thought.
Maybe he should just forget about what Harry did, of course, he could never completely erase what happened out of his mind. But looking at the smiles on his own kids faces, on his husbands, maybe forgetting was the healthiest choice. He could forgive Harry, he could.
Could he? Really?
He needed to think a lot about that, he was soon biting at his nails in stress as his mind looped over and over again with the same question rolling through it. He could be happy again, or be all sour. And besides, Harry's family was coming over, he needed to present himself as a happy person with a happy new chapter in his life.
He moved to sit down beside Thomas, testing a genuine smile on his face as he settled himself down. Harry was across from him, eating his own sandwich, and it didn't take long for them to lock eyes, and the blond forced himself to keep on looking right at his husband, giving Harry a shaky smile that Harry had gladly returned. And he even felt Harry's ankle hook with his under the table.
His hands tightened together in his lap, the contact feeling like a shock going through his body, the bruise on his arm pulsing again like a phantom touch was brushing against it.
They had stayed like that for a good three minutes before the kids, one by one, had finished and asked to be excused. And soon the two were alone in the kitchen, Niall just staring down at his lap, letting his fringe go over his eyes. He felt small under his husbands gaze, he wasn't an incredibly small man of course, and yeah he wasn't the tallest or biggest man either. But in Harry's presence, he felt like a baby bird in the jaws of a hungry feral cat.
"I can do the dishes babe." Harry had said after a moment of silence, it wasn't the good kind of silence, it was still tense and it felt like gravity was gone whenever it was just the two of them, like the world was too fragile.
But that was just Niall's thought of course, because Harry was still smiling away and grabbing at the dirty plates and utensils, walking to the sink and placing them in it to start washing. Niall had stayed right where he was, staring at the seat that his husband had previously sat in.
He let all the noise consume him for a while, just listening to the clanking of the plates in the sink, the swish of the water moving along Harry's hands, the laughter of the kids from the living room. Yes, he should forgive and forget, he loved Harry too much to hold a grudge like this. He must be overreacting, he should understand his husband will have these problems, Harry just came back from war for god sakes, the man needs his time to become a father and a husband again, not a soldier.
He slowly got up from his seat, straightening his back and broadening his shoulders. He was a man, a brave man that needed to be for his family, so why should he break now when there was just a little bump in the road?
Harry didn't notice he had gotten up, and was still doing the dishes, brows furrowed as he grabbed a plate from the mucky water and wiped it off with the soapy cloth. He was so handsome, that Niall had no problem admiting, especially when the curly lad wasn't frustrated or mad.
Niall moved his hands out, wrapping them around his husbands waist to press his nose into the mans shoulder blades. Harry smelt like sweat, but it had the perfect ingredients of his distinct smell that Niall couldn't help but bury his nose even further into.
"You're lucky I saw you coming, I get spooked easy, love. Don't sneak up on me like that." Harry chuckled out, not sounding stern at all and showing off his dimples as he turned around to meet the blonds eyes.
Niall returned the smile, moving his nose off his husbands back and squishing his cheek into the cotton fabric of Harry's shirt, then taking his hands and sneaking them under it to rub the pads of his fingers along the hard core of Harry's skin.
"Sorry, I just really wanted to touch you. I love you." Niall whispered out the last three words, blinking out from the little window showing their backyard, the sky looked a little gloomy today, it might rain.
Harry slowly moved around in his arms, Niall's hands moving to caress at his back muscles now, both still tucked nicely under the shirt. "I love you too, always and forever." And that was something Niall needed more than anything, those words that came out of Harry's mouth. He sounded sincere too, not like he was just saying them to make the blond feel better. Harry's eyes were shining with deep devotion and Niall was easily sunk back into all this, this relationship can't end, not for a long time.
"When I'm done with these dishes, why don't we go have some fun with the kids before it rains? Maybe grab some desert downtown?" Harry had wrapped his arms around Niall also, tickling him slightly as his fingers tapped at his waist.
"Alright, yeah, I'd love that."
They walked downtown, leaving their car in the small parking spot at the end of the street and having all the kids close beside them. Virginia holding Niall's hand and James holding Harry's, Thomas and Lawrence being able to walk by themselves and knowing the consequences of getting too far. Niall had noticed Harry had his rings back on his fingers when the backs of their hands brushed together. He grabbed at Harry's hand in pure curiosity, moving the soldiers hand up towards his face to look at them.
They were all beautifully sculpted, the blacksmith a town over from here had done them as a gift for him when Harry had helped build his new work desk for his shop, and the curly lad never stopped wearing them before he had left for the war. But of course he couldn't bring them with him, and Niall had made sure to safely place them in his husbands bedside table for when he returned.
(Sometimes Niall would even slip them onto his own fingers in the middle of night when he was particularly hot and bothered and horny for his husband that wasn't there to fulfil his needs, feeling the rings against his entrance and making his imagination run wild, thinking it was Harry fingering him opened.)
He was a dirty boy, and a blush coated his cheeks, making him let go of Harry's hand a little too quick, also from the paranoia that people were going to start thinking things. But it was more because he wouldn't dare look at them again without getting-god forbid at this time-hard.
"You found your rings?" Niall asked, still trying to tame the red layer to his cheeks.
"Yeah, found em' in my bedside table. I'm surprised you kept them for that long." Harry moved the one hand Niall just touched to wiggle his fingers and stare down at them thoughtfully.
"Why would I not? They were apart of you and they kept the memory of you alive for me." Harry smiled fondly at that, lacing their hands together for only a split second so he could lightly tug Niall in to bump their shoulders, it was the simplest touch in public that they could do that meant 'I love you.'
"Daddy, can we go into the toy shop? Pleease?!" Thomas interrupted their moment, making them stop when he suddenly turned around with a begging look in his eyes like he was a dog. He was jumping also, his little sneakers clacking against the cement ground as he moved around the two trying to get their undivided attention.
"I don't know, we'll have to see at the end of our shopping trip. We want to get to the new bakery first to grab some desert for tonights dinner." Niall already was going to say yes to his sons pleads, but he knew if he agreed now, all the kids would get too impatient and stubborn and would want them to hurry up with their shopping to go to that darn toy shop at the other end of the little line of shops.
"Sweets daddy?" James asked with his sweet little voice, and Harry cooed down at him, eyes wrinkling up in love as he swung their hands together.
"Yes baby, sweets. We can have some apple pie, or maybe some fresh cookies if you guys are all really good." James was bubbling now, Virginia squealing in happiness also as she skipped along with their steps.
They got to the bakery, and Harry's whole face seemed to light up as they walked their way in, a bell above the door clinging to announce their entrance. The place smelt like heaven, and looked like it too.
Harry and Niall used to go there all the time, Harry even worked here for a while, just taking boxes from the delivery trucks and bringing them into the storage at the back. But this was hands down one of the couples favourite places to go to, before they even had all the kids they'd take the car down here and gawk at the new cupcakes and different cakes settled in the display window, most of the time they'd always have one or five free samples and a box of assorted sweets.
It got completely demolished in the bombings though, Niall was devastated when he saw the pile of bricks and what was barely left of the place he cherished so much. But it had gotten a thousand times better, built right back up off the ground again and looking exactly how it was before. It was one of the very few shops that was lucky enough to get a second chance, other businesses haven't gotten back up and running yet, and it's been years since they got bombed. Harry was looking to have noticed the changes that have been made while he was skimming along the area, but didn't seem to care.
"I missed this place, so, so much. I remember every memory from here, I remember freaking out about what to get you for our first valentines day and I just asked for half the store in worry you'd reject me if I didn't get you anything good. Or buying you little tarts from here every weekend because you'd crave them all the time when you were pregnant with Lawrence." Harry sighed out, doing a small twirl as he scanned the store.
It was so amusing to Niall, watching his husband take in the simplist things that was normal to him already. Niall had just been to the bakery a week ago, plus the many other times to buy comfort foods for his depressing lifestyle in trying to adjust to having no husband. But Harry hasn't been here in six full years, it was probably a whole new world for him.
"Oh, Mister Horan and...Harry?" The baker that owned the shop, named Patty, had come up to the register, a smile on his face seeing the little kids running around and pointing at the different sweets through the glass display cases. But it faltered in confusion for just a second when he saw Harry standing in the middle of the floor, trying to sink in the fact that the man was there right in front of him.
"Patty, lord it's been forever!" Harry moved to stand at the register with the man, immediately them both going into a full-on chat about their lives.
Niall had bussied himself with the food, looking along the almost endless amount of fresh breads, cakes, and tarts. His mouth was watering and he couldn't help but lick his lips when he got to the end of the line.
"Well now you can find yourself a woman now, huh?" Patty's voice was loud in laughter as he moved a hand out to pat at Harry's shoulder. Niall froze for just a second, but forced himself to act unfazed by the banter.
Because that was normal, no one knew they were together, just like at the church. Patty thought they were simply best friends, Niall taking full responsibilty for the kids and saying they were his from a previous marriage, Harry just being a helper for his stressful life.
It was a good plan, and people bought it a little too well. Now, Patty was getting into the girl chats.
"Uh yeah, yeah that'll be a ride I can tell you that. But I think I'm gonna stay low with the dating for right now, wanna help Niall get back on his feet and stuff from me being away cause of the war." Harry pointed his thumb back towards Niall, and at the blonds name, he walked over, inviting himself into the conversation.
"Oh of course. I came back 4 years ago from Russia, got bad frostbite all over my legs and almost had me paralyzed. Bad, bad stuff out there." Patty sighed out, and it seemed the couple could never really get away from the war talk.
"Sorry to hear that, but at least you're home, yeah?" Harry took in the new conversation very well. Giving the man a fake smile.
"I wouldn'tve had half of my thigh taken out and three of my toes amputated if the ol' weather man would've told the truth. Sunny and clear skies my arse." Patty grumbled out, and Niall could see how much Harry was restraining himself from saying anything else.
"Uhm, do you mind if we take two apple pies, some of your freshest bread and some biscuits?" Niall swerved into a new conversation, not wanting his husband to be tortured any longer with bad memories and and depressing stories.
"Of course, coming right up." Patty took the change-of-subject well, simply pushing himself off from leaning across the counter and moving to get the items Niall requested.
As Patty gathered the sweets, Niall had wormed his arms around Harry's bicep, squeezing his fingers along the stiff muscle until it relaxed under his hold.
"Okay?" He whispered up to Harry, the man just stared at the wall in front of him in thought.
"Yeah, he didn't push for any of my information on all this... So, I'm okay, yeah." And Harry's voice did sound very convincing, so the blond let it slide and focused back on grabbing for the money in his pocket to give to Patty.
When the man had come back with three neatly closed boxes stacked on top of each other, Niall slapped the money onto the counter and dragged it towards Patty, both exchanging their things over the register.
"Come again more often. You boys are lovely company." Patty said warmly, smiling at Virginia and James who came walking up to them. Both young ones grabbed at Niall's hands, since Harry's were full with the food.
"Oh you know we will Pat, can't resist these deserts." Niall chuckled out as they rounded up Thomas and Lawrence and started making their way towards the store doors.
"I'd love to hear about your experiences also during this war! Both of yours!" Patty smiled, and of course he thought both of them went off to war, of course.
They both didn't answer the man though, not really knowing how to end a conversation like that. Harry had given him a very forced smile, so that was hopefully good enough to satisfy the man.
Lawrence grabbed for the door, opening it politely for Harry as they filed out into the downtown streets. There was more of a crowd now, the population growing rapidly with all the new soldiers in town. Couples and families complete walking down the street and doing their routine shopping.
"Now can we go to the toy shop? Please daddy?" Thomas whined out, hands pressed together in a pray as he jumped up and down in the middle of the sidewalk. Niall tried hiding his amused smile.
"Do you think we can, darlin'?" Niall looked towards Harry, raising a brow in question at his husband who still looked to be okay with holding all the pastries.
"I think so." As soon as Harry had said that, there was a chorus of yells in happiness from the kids, Virginia and James jumping up and down and making Niall's arms flail around while he still kept a hold on them.
"Alright, but don't beg for every single thing you see in the store like the other times, got it?" Niall chuckled out as they started to walk again. Having to more jog as Thomas and Lawrence picked up their speeds in excitement, pushing through the crowd and Niall having to apologize for them when one of the two boys would rudely bump into someone. He'd have to have a chat with them later about impatience and being gentlemen.
The toy shop was filled to the brim with people when they had finally gotten there, couples with their children all wanting to get little presents for their kids now that they were reunited. Niall had heard from rumours across the city and from newspapers that got thrown at his front porch every day that the shop had just opened, the windows having to be replaced from being shattered from the shockwave's, causing damage to the inside as well.
It was hard to keep the four of their own kids contained though, Lawrence and Thomas immediately rushing over to the toy trains that chugged along a wooden track in a display case. Those two loved their little trainset at home, and Niall was almost a hundred precent sure the two will beg on their knees for another car to add onto their growing collection.
Virginia had dragged him over to the doll section of course, her little hand held tight into his as she giggled and pointed frantically to a couple porcelain dolls she has been dying to have for the past two years since Anne had gotten her one for christmas.
James was by Harry, looking all shy with his fingernails between his teeth nervously-a habit he got from Niall himself-as he silently scanned the shop with big blue eyes.
"Can I have one daddy? Oh pleaaase?" Virginia was jumping along the tips of her toes, her little curls flopping around and having a mind of their own as they moved in front of her face. She didn't really seem to care though, just kept on pleading.
"I think that is a little too much money for us right now dumpling. Why don't we find a stuffed toy for now, wait till me and your father save up some money." He whispered the last part to her, since there was a straight couple in earshot from them with a young blond girl picking out her own porcelain doll. He'd rather not get the police called on him for being gay today.
"Awwh, okay daddy." Virginia grumbled, but had grabbed his hand again and walked with a little less excitement to the stuffed toy section.
And when Virginia had picked out a little pink teddy bear from the top shelf, her little hand making grabbing gestures towards the shelf and whining until Niall chuckled and moved up to grab it. It wasn't a bad price at all, and Virginia looked satisfied with her choice, already calling it "Pinky" as they made their way back to meet with Harry and James who were with Thomas and Lawrence.
But Niall had only seen Harry when he finally caught sight of the man, James wasn't beside him like before.
"Where is James?" He asked, Virginia letting go of his hand to skip over to Thomas and Lawrence who were playing around with one of the more expensive train sets, something he had to mentally tell himself in his head to let them down easy that they couldn't get that one just yet.
"He went over to one of the action figure isles. He's coming now I think." Harry was looking over behind Niall, and he turned around and squinted through the crowd to see the little toddler rushing back over to them, shouldering past legs and little 'excuse me's' passing his lips. In his chubby little hands was a plastic mini action figure, and he enthusiastically showed it to them once he was at their sides.
"Father! Father look! Its you!" James had shoved the action figure up into Harry's face, and Harry had just blinked dumbly at it for a second before he realized what it was. Niall held in a breath once he realized also.
It was a soldier, wearing the brown clothes and military hat, a riffle slung over his little shoulder and a pin on the front of its jacket that had the British Flag engraved on it.
Niall was looking straight at Harry, heartbeat thumping loud and fast in his chest in worry that his husband might flip. Harry wasn't even blinking now, was just staring at the little toy with no emotion.
"Baby?" Niall whispered out, had moved a hand out to his bicep as carefully as possible. His feet shuffled along the ground, letting their hips touch.
"That's right love." Harry had suddenly said, like a switch had turned back on in his mind and he had the courage to speak again. It was strange, so strange, and Niall had to step back for a minute to keep on searching his husbands face.
"Can I get it?" James asked, big cute eyes shimmering up at Harry trying to win him over. Niall was about to answer for Harry, almost completely sure he was going to say no also. But no.
"Of course, I'll pay for all the toys you guys want today." Harry smiled down at them, Virginia squealing as well as James.
Niall definitely wasn't so sure that was such a good idea, Harry didn't like soldiers, or more, didn't like to think about them or see them anymore. So why all of a sudden was he agreeing to his own son having a toy soldier in his possession?
But he didn't want to object to his husbands decision, of course not. Because maybe this was a sign that Harry was working to change his attitude and get better.
When they had finally gotten themselves home, they now not only had some desert for tonights big dinner, but four other new toys added into their kids already huge collection. All courtesy of Harry.
"Should I get dinner ready at least? Chop up some veggies and get the pig out of the ice box?" Niall asked when the kids had scrammed off to go play with their new belongings.
"I would rather cuddle you for a little bit, lay on the couch, take a nap." Harry sighed out, looking exauhsted already and it hasn't even been a full day yet.
"Oh, okay, of course." Niall didn't object, liking Harry's idea a lot. He hasn't had a proper cuddle with his husband in a while. "But not too long though, I have more mouths to feed tonight." Niall joked as they made their way into the living room.
Harry didn't answer him, had just slumped onto the couch with a big sigh passing his lips once he hit the cushions. All their furniture was really out-dated and warn, mostly from all the kids climbing on top of it and the amount of times they have all been used. Niall had thought a lot about getting new couches and chairs, but he never got around to it with all the weight on his shoulders being a single parent for a while.
But seeing Harry now, not being able to see the image of his husband sat on this very couch since they got the phonecall that he was being forced into the army. It warmed his heart, and maybe now they actually could come up with the money to make their home look more desireable.
His thoughts were broken off when he heard Harry's hand pat against the cushions, gesturing for him to come and lay down beside him. It was a tight fit, but soon Harry was snug against Niall's backside, both content in just laying in silence with no other sound heard but their calmed breaths.
"Its nice to just...lay here." Niall mumbled out after a minute of just staring at the record player across from them.
"Mhhhm." Harry had just simply let that out, and Niall had stretched to look over his shoulder, cooing at the sight of his husbands cheek smushed against the couch pillow, eyes closed and mouth slightly opened.
Harry needed the rest, more than anything, so he didn't bother trying to chat with him anymore and decided to take a nap himself.
He had come in and out of sleep, more because he could feel Harry's fingers twitched against his stomach where they were wrapped around from his arms. He could hear Harry's constant mumbling and small cries leaving his lips. It scared Niall a little bit, seeing how uncomfortable his husband looked in his sleep with his brows in a permanent furrow and lips pursed in a big pout.
He still didn't want to wake him, no matter how rough Harry got in his sleep, no matter how hard his arms would tighten along his waist making him lose his breath for a couple seconds. Because Harry needed his sleep, needed it more than anything in the world like he had said, and he kept on reminding himself that till he had finally fallen into a deep sleep.
And his sleep was so deep, he didn't hear the doorbell ringing till the fifth time. And Harry had shot up from where he laid behind him, scared at the sound, and had almost made him tumble right off the edge of it. His hands coming out to catch himself.
"Oh...shit!" Niall hissed out when he got himself up and dusted off the scratches from his hands hitting the wooden flooring. Harry was already rushing off towards the front door, the kids loud footsteps thumping down the stairs also.
He didn't even take the damned pig out of the ice box, nore make any food or put any plates out. Niall felt like hyperventilating as he battled with himself on which way he should go. He wanted to desperately run off into the kitchen to start preparing the long-overdue dinner, but he was a kind gentleman and greeting his guests was the most important thing.
When he had finally made his decision, he walked straight towards the front door where he saw Anne, Des, and Gemma all standing on the little mat by the front door looking more than happy to see their brother and son.
Anne had made a move first, grabbing Harry by the cheeks with both of her hands, her bottom lip sucked between her teeth and tears swimming in her eyes but not yet ready to fall. Anne was the kindest woman Niall ever knew, she cared for Niall so much since the blonds own mother couldn't. The six years of Harry being gone were a little more bearable when he had someone to grab groceries from the market for him and take Lawrence and Thomas to school when they needed to.
"My baby, you're okay." Her voice was wobbly, and Virginia was screaming "grandma! Grandma!" Trying to grab at the end of her dress, but Harry and his mom were in their own little shared world at the moment, looking into each others eyes with love and of course relief.
"Sorry about dinner everyone, wont be ready for another, lets say hour. Come and settle down for a bit." Niall said once he thought it was appropriate enough to finally speak once Harry and Anne had pulled apart.
"Oh that is perfectly fine love, we need time with our son and son in law anyways, yeah?" Anne said with a assuring smile across her face as she gave Des a chance to pull his son into a bone-crushing hug.
"Grandma! Grandma!" Virginia was still screeching, and finally Anne had let out a giggle and leaned down to grab Virginia under her armpits and hoist her up towards her. Virginia wrapped her little legs around Anne's waist, looking satisfied now.
They made their way into the living room, Gemma and Harry now having a full-blown conversation and laughing as they sat on the couch. Anne and Des were talking with the kids, all of them excited to see their grandma and grandpa.
But Niall couldn't stay and watch Harry bond with his family, no matter how much he wanted to. Dinner wasn't even halfway done, and he forced himself to spin on his heels and walk back off into the kitchen.
"Dinner is ready now, come and get it!" Niall chirped from the kitchen, a rag in his hands as he cleaned them off. He heard the loud footsteps of the kids, seeing Lawrence first and his long legs that he inherited from his father rushing into the kitchen and settling down at the table. Everyone came in all at once after that, sitting themselves down with small talk still floating in the air.
Harry had stayed behind from the group, walking up to Niall with the biggest smile the blond has ever seen on his face since they first locked eyes at the train station. It was nice to see, something he wished he could take a picture of and have it kept safely away in the pages of his bible that was inside his bedside table drawer, something he could easily roll over and grab and stare at till he got sick of it.
Harry looked like the Harry Edward Styles he knew and loved when he smiled like that.
"I can bring the pig onto the table, love." He said, a hand coming out to pat at Niall's hip, moving Niall out of the way to grab for the large pan filled with the left over meat from their last dinner. Bless Ed's heart for giving them the biggest one, or else they'd be having half-rotten vegetables and bread for dinner tonight.
"Oh, are you sure? Spend time with your family." Niall tried persuading his husband to sit down, but Harry was already grabbing at the pan and hoisting it off the counter, moving it towards the table and settling it down in the middle of it. The kids squealed in happiness, Virginia clapping and jumping along in her High Chair.
Niall had grabbed for the potatoes and bread, placing them by the pig and sitting himself down between Thomas and James, Harry sat beside Gemma and Virginia. But once everyone was fully seated, silence soon blanketed over them, Anne still holding her pearly white smile as she scanned over the table that barely fit everyone around it.
"Why don't we do our prier and then dig in, alright?" Anne said, moving her hands out for Des to take, then for James who was sat beside her. Everyone grabbed hands one by one, and soon they were all connected in a little circle around the table, watching each other before closing their eyes and mumbling their thanks to god for the feast they were about to enjoy.
"And thank you god, for bringing back my son safe and alive, thank you for bringing this family back together." Anne mumbled out for everyone to hear, and Niall couldn't help but open one eye, looking over the table to see how Harry was doing, and he looked perfectly fine, still smiling even.
Everything was getting better, and he was witnessing it all slowly unfold. Maybe that's all Harry needed, was his mothers strength to hold him up, his fathers encouraging words, and his sisters bickering and cheeky jokes to keep him above the water he was drowning himself in.
Niall never felt prouder.
"Niall, son are you alright? You spaced out for a minute, you can eat now." Des anchored Niall back down to reality, and he just blinked at the man for a few seconds, seeing Anne was looking up at him also with concern in her eyes.
"Oh, no I am fine, more than fine actually. Just...so happy to see my family together again. I love you all." A chorus of 'awhs' was held in the air, and Niall blushed deeply, looking down at his porcelain plate and letting out a chuckle.
"I love you a little more now, cause I forgot how good your food was." Gemma spoke up with food still stuffed in her mouth, earning a warning look from Anne across the table. Harry chuckled with his sister, elbowing her playfully.
The nicest part though, about this whole family dinner, was that there was no talk about war and fighting and killing. Even Harry's father, who was apart of World War One and has similar feelings and pain towards the war, didn't say anything. Harry didn't seem to notice, he was more just laughing loudly and cheekily stealing food off of Gemma and Virginias plates, plucking the meat in his mouth and easily munching on it by their ears.
"Oh stop it babe! You're gonna make the kids think they can do that now!" Niall yelled out with a chuckle, hearing Virginia screeching and batting at Harry's hand when he slowly tried to steal a pea off her plate.
They met eyes from across the table, and Harry smiled devilishly at him, raising his brows with a loud and throaty chuckle. Anne was ranting at him also, but he waved her off and told her he wouldn't do it again. "Give me a break tonight mom, can't I have some fun?" Harry pouted his bottom lip out, and Anne rolled her eyes and shook her head. Des was trying to hold in his amusement.
"You can have fun after dinner. I am sure you haven't forgotten how to eat nicely at the table. Is he always like this Niall?" Anne moved her gaze to Niall now, and Harry was focused back on chatting with Gemma.
"No, not at all. I think he is just a very happy man today." Anne smiled warmly at his answer, and Niall returned one back.
It was after the dinner when Harry went all out, he grabbed at James' waist and tugged the little one right up onto his shoulders when James had just finished washing his hands. And Niall had gasped at the sudden action, almost sure James would fall or Harry would drop him, but their son was giggling wildly as Harry rushed out of the back door-bending down so James didn't hit the top of the door frame-and into the backyard where Gemma and the kids followed. Des had gone out too, grabbing at one of the lawn chairs and fishing out a cigar to have.
Niall watched from the kitchen window like always, washing the dishes and placing them on the drying rack. He would chuckle from time to time when Harry would drag all the kids down with him as he'd fall to the ground, tickling them. Oh, the sound of children giggling was better than any swing or Jazz music Niall could ever listen to.
"How was he, when you first brought him home?" Anne asked, scaring him the slightest bit, not noticing she was still in the kitchen with him.
"Uhm, well he needed to adjust, a lot. Virginia didn't even know who he was of course, and Lawrence didn't really like him at first, but everything is getting a lot better now. I think you really brought him back tonight." Niall confessed, of course leaving out the dark parts. He was leaving them in the past anyways, let them fade out for no one to know. It wasn't Harry's fault anyways, Niall was pushing him too much that day, and should've let him relax.
"That is good, very good. I just-I worry a lot right now. Ever since he was forced to go I was worrying for when or if he ever came back. If he died it would be devastating to all of us, to the kids, but if he came back, would he ever be the same man I raised?" Niall had never seen his mother-in-law look so shaken up, the way her breath became choppy when she let it out beside him, her eyes focused on the window outside also.
"I was worried too, he has bit of a temper now, gets a little too angry at times. But he regrets it right after, gets really upset and cries and I have to calm him down." Niall could see something shade over Anne's eyes, and he forced himself to continue. "He also doesn't like when anyone talks about the war with him. When Dunkirk or D-Day is brought up or anything that even is a sliver connected with the war or battles he was in, he will get all emotionless and won't move an inch. It's...it's scary." He was washing the dishes a little more roughly now, remembering the bad times. He needed to remind himself to be selective in his stories, no more. He couldn't do that to Harry, expose him like that and make his husband look like an abuser. Not to mention his mother would be disgusted with her son for doing such a thing.
"Niall, baby, I need you to promise me something." Anne said, she was still not looking at him, still staring outside, squinting and watching Harry's every move. Niall forced himself to keep doing the dishes, trying to hide how much he was shaking.
"Yeah, anything Anne." He mumbled, and suddenly he felt her cold hand against his wrist, stopping his movements. He looked up towards her, seeing that she was now looking him right in the eye. Niall swore his heart stopped right then and there.
"I need you to promise me if my son ever lays a hand on you or any of my grandkids, that you will call me." He wanted to get her hand off his wrist, so she wouldn't notice the bruises that Harry made, but she wasn't looking down at them, or have noticed them yet. Her eyes were glued onto his, looking glassy.
"Y-yes I promise. Of course." His voice was wavering, and he wanted to just close his eyes for a couple minutes and sit himself down along the tile ground of the kitchen, not caring how dirty it is since he hasn't washed it in a couple days. He hated all the lies held on his tongue right now, and wanted nothing more than to blurt them out to her.
But Anne didn't need this on her shoulders, she had enough weight on them from helping him out when Harry wasn't here. The poor woman needs a break from him.
"Good." Anne said simply after, nodding and moving her hand off of him and towards his back to rub once before stepping back. "I am gonna check on Des, see when he'd like to head home."
When Anne had finally left, Niall had just kept on staring down at the soapy water, asking himself how he got into this damned situation. He moved a stiff hand out to rub at his bicep, feeling it starting to throb now, his t-shirt hid it well, but not enough to make him feel comfortable around people yet.
It was about half an hour later, Niall still cleaning at the kitchen and dining room table when everyone started filing themselves back inside, all the kids and Harry and Gemma were covered in the dirt when they were play fighting. Niall was trying to hold back his chuckles seeing the smears of soil stained across Harry's cheek when he smiled at him.
"Daddy, we need baths!" Virginia screeched as she rushed full-speed towards him, and he grabbed her before she could ruin his pants, her giggles vibrating through her body as she tried to wiggle out of his hold.
"We can leave it to you all, then. I am sure Gemma needs to get home for a shower also." Anne said, side-eyeing Gemma who was still having giggle-fits with Harry. Niall didn't really want any of them to leave, the fun felt never-ending with them.
There was no fights when they were here, or hitting and crying.
"Alright, well come back soon, promise?" Harry looked towards his mom and dad, breaking his eye-contact with his sister to give a pleading stare towards his parents. They both chuckled, Des shaking his head and moving forward to pat at Harry's shoulder.
"Of course, son. We just want you to spend time with your family, your husband and kids." Harry smiled warmly at Des' words, nodding and then moving forward to pull his father into a tight hug, then his mom, and lastly Gemma.
The kids got their turns next, saying goodbye to them all a million times till Harry's family had finally made their way through the front door.
But Niall couldn't help but catch Anne's lingering look before she closed the door, that familiar shine in her eyes that was hidden with concern and determination to protect.
Why did there have to be a war in the first place? That's what Niall had asked himself the next day when he was sat in the living room on the couch with the radio on. There was a debate going on, or some kind of news conversation about the war. The people were spitting bullshit from their mouths, talking about how powerful Britain was now, how we won alongside the United States and many other allies. It had made an uncomfortable ripple run down his spine as he tried to reteach himself to knit.
He did have a knitting kit, back when he did remember how he used to bring it out and listen to the daily news all the time, quietly doing his own little hobby as the kids scrambled around the house. It wasn't the most boyish-like hobby, but when he was cooped up in the house all day during his definitely not-so-boy-like pregnancy, Anne would come over along with her own kit to help make small things like footies and socks for the new baby or scarves for Thomas and Lawrence on their walks to the bus stop that was a little walk down the street. He hasn't gotten to into the knitting in a while of course because of Harry being home, but his husband was asleep upstairs, taking a nap since he was still exhausted from yesterdays activities with his sister and the kids. So, he decided to sneak a listen now to the radio and might as well bring out the knitting while he's at it. Get back into the old times.
"Do we know the death count of soldiers yet?"
"I think that will be impossible, honestly. So many people died, Stalingrad had lost millions of men alone in that one city, plus the soldiers who were brought into the beaches of Normandy...oh, what were they called?"
"I think one of them was called Juno Beach...correct?"
"Yes, there was five. Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, and Juno."
It was kinda nice, if Niall pushed aside the fact of all the death they were talking about. Nice to know that he was getting a recap lesson on the details of World War Two. It was weird to wrap his head around, the fact that this wasn't just a small battle between countries, no this was the whole world clashing together in a deadly fight. He's heard the stories of World War One, has seen photos and read countless articles on the newspapers. It makes him mad how no one learned from the first world war, and now look how many people are suffering now.
"But I think, really, all that matters is we won. We beat the Germans, Italians, and Japs. We should celebrate those deaths, knowing they died for our freedom and helped stop the worst genocide this world has ever witnessed. " There it was, aside from the acknowledgement of the Jewish deaths, they just had to slip in their bragging rights that seemed to be unstoppable like a broken record. Niall had rolled his eyes so far into the back of his head he was almost worried they'd get stuck like that.
But he jumped so high off the couch he almost fell off, when suddenly the radio was being slammed to turn off and now it was just static.
Harry stood there, jaw tense as he clenched his teeth in anger. Niall didn't even notice that his husband had come into the living room, maybe it was because he was too deep inside his head at the moment.
This war was poisoning his own mind, and he hadn't even physically been there. Gosh, now what did Harry feel?
"Don't fucking listen to that bullshit." Harry's voice was a little too loud for Niall's liking, making him flinch slightly.
"Please, keep your voice down and do not use that kind of language. The kids are only upstairs. and Virginia is having her afternoon nap." Niall tried to use a soft tone, his knitting supplies slowly being moved to his side so his full attention was now on Harry.
"Cook lunch for your family. Don't come near the radio again or I will smash it to bloody pieces." Harry's expression was tight, and Niall wanted to fight for his own free-will. But the bruise on his arm pulsed in reminder to the results last time Harry got this mad, so he slowly nodded and got up off the couch to head into the kitchen.
He almost screeched when Harry had whipped his hand out to grab his wrist, and he knew Harry catched the terror in his expression when he looked over his shoulder and flickered his gaze down to the hand.
"Get some canned food out from the cabinet yeah? That would be nice for a lunch today." Harry acted like it was nothing, like the last past couple seconds were nothing but a dream. The mask of anger and demons were replaced with that angel face and dimpled smile.
Niall just blinked at him, nodding robotically and waiting for Harry to slowly loosen his grip and let him make the rest of the way to the kitchen.
The worst hadn't even started. It was after dinner as Niall cleaned the table, James and Virginia were sat in their chairs still, Virginia with a porcelain doll Anne had given her and James with his toy soldier Harry had bought him. Little noises came from their mouths, talking to each other as if they were in their own doll world. It was amusing to watch for Niall, and he'd pause at times in his wiping to blink down at them as they walked their dolls around the table.
"I am gonna have to move you two into the living room soon, daddy has to clean the rest of the kitchen." Virginia and James just gave him silent acknowledged looks, humming and then turning back to their dolls.
He will give them two more minutes, that was enough for him to take a short break before he went back to his cleaning duties. It would give him an excuse to also watch them more, have little flashbacks to when he was a young lad in Ireland with his stuffed bear collection.
Harry was leaning against the kitchen door though when Niall looked up, and he froze mid-stride to the sink, staring at his husband who had an unreadable expression on his face as he watched the two kids.
"Have a nice day today?" Niall's voice scared Harry a little bit, and he noticed him flinch and then snap his gaze to meet Niall's.
"Yeah, good. Full though." Harry didn't move from his spot, didn't make a move to enter the kitchen, he just gave Niall that simple answer before he was veering back into watching their two youngest kids play.
Niall didn't want to push, knowing the consequences of course, so he turned back to the sink and started washing off the leftover food that got smeared onto the cloth, re-cleaning it to use for the table next.
"Save me! Save me!" Virginia's petite voice rose from the silence, the slight clank of the porcelain dolls bare feet was echoing throughout the kitchen as she walked it across the table. No matter how many times Niall warned her, the little girl never understood how fragile porcelain dolls were, and Niall definitely couldn't afford to get a new one if it broke.
"I will save you pretty girl! I am a brave soldier, after all!" James made himself have a low voice, which really was even cuter making Niall chuckle softly to himself as he forced himself to keep washing his cloth. He wanted to let them have their own little privacy, bonding was good for the kids, after all.
"I am going to fall, help me!"
"Oh no, the Nazi's are gonna get us, better get my gun out, I will kill them for you pretty girl!" Niall's head whipped up at them, expression souring at the use of words his boy had just used. Nazi's, now how did his son get that name? He made sure to only listen to the radio when the kids were outside or upstairs, out of earshot so they didn't have to hear those kind of names that was like speaking of the devil at this time. People were fragile from the war, families lost sons, husbands, and brothers because of those Nazi's, so it really wasn't polite to use the name.
But before he could call James out, he heard loud foots barreling across the room, and everything happened at once in one big bang that had sent Niall to cover his ears in shock, letting out a surprised yell right after as he whipped himself around along his heels to see what had happened. The cloth he was washing fell from his hands with a wet splat against the kitchen floor.
Harry was holding James almost in a death grip by the arm, almost exactly how he held Niall when he got mad the last time. Harry was screaming loudly right in James' face, warning him to never use that word again. The crash was Virginia's porcelain doll, now laid on the tile ground of the kitchen, smashed to smithereens.
"Where did you fucking get that name from you little shit?!" Niall had snapped out of his shocked silence now, and had let out a gasp of rage as he rushed forward and shoved Harry back, protecting his son from the monster that had possessed his husband.
"How dare you put your hands on our kid! How dare you Harry!" Niall was too mad to think straight, and too mad to realize what was coming next until Harry had already shoved him back just as harder and sent him falling right into the empty chair beside Virginia, his cheek hitting the end of the table hard.
He didn't even cry or scream, he just laid there silently looking at the ground in his vision. He listened to the cries of his kids, how scared they sounded. It was probably the worst sound he could ever hear, like this was what hell would feel and sound like.
"Daddy! Daddy!" He got out of the fuzzy filter he had built around himself when he heard James, and slowly he got to his knees, stopped for a second to catch his breath, and then crawled shakily across the floor, not even caring that he was crawling through the shards of glass from the doll.
He just needed to get to his babies, protect them, save them.
"I'm here babies, come here, are you alright?" His arms were immediately consumed with the two youngest's. Both crying hard into his shoulder. It was the kind of cries where you had to remind your kids to take a breath, their faces red and sweaty, noses drenched with snot.
"I'm here, I'm here." Niall just repeated that, his mind not being able to find anything else to say. He could feel the pain in his cheek and from the cuts along his knees and palms, but it was like the pain from his own kids was inflicting on him more worse, and that's all he cared about was to make them feel better.
"Father hurt me, he hurt me!" James yelped, screaming that into Niall's ear making him cringe. But Niall kept on rubbing at their backs, shushing them. It was then that he slowly looked around the room, trying to find the familiar face of his husband, but instead meeting eyes with Lawrence and Thomas who looked on the verge of tears.
"W-what just happened Dad?" Lawrence was pale-faced and shaken, one hand loosely holding onto Thomas' wrist as he blinked down at Niall laid out of the floor with his little brother and sister. Niall felt horrible, felt sickness in his stomach looking at the terror in all his childrens faces.
They aren't in the middle of a warzone, not anymore at least, so he should never see the scrunched up pain in their expressions that he is witnessing at this very moment.
"Can you get your sister up and away from the glass? I need to see if James is okay." Niall had just been holding James the whole time after the event, not given a chance yet to inspect his baby for injuries.
Lawrence and Thomas both went straight into action as soon as he had said that though, and both boys came cautiously towards them and slowly moved Virginia away. It was a nice sight at least to see Virginia bury her little curly head into Lawrence's neck like she knew her big brother would protect her.
But the person she needed protecting from is what gets knots in Niall's gut and pulses of pain in his head.
"I am gonna put you on the counter okay? Set you there and see if you have any boo-boos." Niall had grabbed at James' head that was still burrowed right into his neck, making the young lad look him in the eyes as he explained.
James looked so confused, how he just looked at Niall like he had two heads and nodded with no real understanding of what he had just said. He hoped to every god above that was listening, that his son wasn't traumatized from this.
But he doubted that.
When Niall had plopped James on the counter, he himself had to catch himself against it to hold himself up. Niall still felt extremely shaky, everything still felt like a nightmare that he woke up from. He wished it was that simple.
"Dad? Why did Harry do that?" Lawrence was already asking questions, and using his fathers first name was a good sign he wasn't too proud to call Harry his father yet. Which again was another sting to Niall's heart.
"Not right now, love. Please go in the living room and relax for a bit." Niall sighed, trying to find the first aid kit in the mess of drawers along the kitchen.
"But father is in there!" Thomas yelled out a little too loudly, and Niall froze, scared again in worry that Harry might've heard that and got mad. He was surprised that Harry was even still in the house, let alone in the living room. He expected to not see his husband for a while, expected Harry to be off and running out the front door. Apparently he wanted to stay this time.
"O-okay than please head upstairs and try and distract Virginia for me." Niall gave Thomas and Lawrence his full attention for a split second, looking them both in the eyes with a sincere gloss over them that had the two nodding immediately and rushing off with their little sister.
He listened for the footsteps, waited for them to fade-out till he could slowly breath in and out and calm his heart that was beating out of his chest. Niall looked down at his hands with his bottom lip bitten between his teeth, watching as they shaked from stress and nervousness.
He was a god damn wreck, and now it wasn't just him, but now his whole family.
It was hard to finish up with James, the young one would flinch and wiggle under Niall's grasp as he tried to pat at the bruises or inspect his face and body. But thankfully James only had a hand-shaped bruise along his wrist, almost identical to the one Niall has.
"Am I okay now daddy?" James asked when Niall pulled away and helped him down onto the ground again.
"Yeah baby, just rest a bit now though alright? No rough-housing." Niall had kneeled down to press his pointerfinger to the bottom of James' chin, lifting it lightly to look the boy in the eyes.
"Okay daddy." Niall puckered his lips at the conclusion of James' words, an action that James knew well, the boy not even hesitating to lean forward to smack a wet smooch onto Niall's lips and than scamper off and up the stairs. The young one still had the skip in his step, even after being abused by his own father.
Niall kept himself kneeled on the ground for a few minutes after James had left, now just staring down at the tile flooring that he was meaning to wash a few hours ago. He twirled and fiddled with his fingers, trying to reevalute what the hell just happened.
No matter what way he looks at it, the same words pop into his mind. Harry hurt their kids, Harry. Hurt. Their. Kids.
He wanted-no needed-to talk to him. No matter how angry Harry is he needs to have a long and stern chat with his husband about this. Because Niall is more than done, this was the line that has finally been crossed.
Maybe he should actually take Anne's concerns into the forefront of his mind. Her words repeating themselves in a whisper in his mind as he grabbed at the edge of the table to hoist himself back up. He hated to do this to Harry, expose him so vulnerably to his own family that will probably look at him in disgust at what he has done. But what else is Niall supposed to do? Watch and wait like a bystander as the verbal and physical abuse starts piling up? No, that would make him worse than Harry, and he couldn't bare to see another bruise on his children's skin.
Niall made his way into the living room, feet shuffling across the tile ground, not even being able to get the strength to pick them up. He felt like he was getting smaller and smaller every centimetre he got to the door to the living room. Like when he'd turn the corner and lock eyes with his husband he'd immediately get struck down by lightning above.
That didn't happen, of course. Niall made his entrance silently and quietly, seeing Harry laid out on the couch with one arm flopped over his eyes. He wasn't sleeping, Niall could see that by how hard Harry was biting at the inside of his cheek and how his one foot jiggled wildly against the other end of the couch.
"Why did you do that?" Niall broke the silence but kept a good distance between them in case Harry lashed out again. But there was no shove coming next or a spew of curse words, it was just silence, Harry not even making a twitch of movement.
"I am speaking to you, why did you put your hands on our baby like that?" Niall got more braver, hands tightening into fists at his sides and voice growing lower and more demanding. Silence wasn't going to save Harry's ass now, the damage was already done.
"Not now, Niall." There, that was the answer Niall got. How pathetic.
"Of course, because I am sure you will talk about this tomorrow, or the day after that, or maybe next week?" Niall knew he was getting a little too edgy, sarcasm dripping so obviously from his words as he took another step forward, wanting to tower over Harry intimidatingly.
"I said, not now." Harry growled out, but now nothing was scaring Niall. It was like a mommy bear with her cubs, once you touch them or harm them, nothing matters anymore but them. Niall's worry for his own safety was thrown right out the window when Harry's cold and menacing fingers meaning nothing but harm, wrapped around James' arm.
"Is this what our new life is going to be like? You hurting your own husband and kids? You need help Harry, and I can get you that." Before Niall could even finish that sentence, Harry was already bouncing up from the couch and bolting off angrily across the house and away from Niall. He just followed Harry though, not letting him get out of his sight till he was done.
Now Harry was out of the house, front door slamming so hard the lamp sat on the front hallway table had tumbled off, but Niall jolted forward and grabbed it before it could be just like the porcelain doll that he still needed to clean.
This wasn't the end of this discussion though, Harry thought it would be, leaving the house and from his problems. But Niall knew better than that, he wasn't going to sit pretty and smile like Harry wanted him too, he was a man after all, not some slave.
When Niall had gotten the glass cleaned from the floor, he had immediately grabbed for the toy soldier laid out on the floor that had fallen from James' grasp. He inspected it when it was now cupped in his hands, feeling over the soft and cheap fabric of the little army uniform it had on, grabbing the toy gun that was strapped around it shoulders and feeling the bumps along the plastic where the trigger would be. James would probably be upset if he threw it out, but the thing was nothing but bad memories now, for Harry and for the family as a whole.
So, Niall moved towards the garbage and dumped it inside, closing the lid before he could regret his decision. He would just have to take the kids to the toy store again, get them something small to get them to forget about what had happened. He knew it would be much harder to get Lawrence and Thomas to forget, and the two probably will never get the image of him, James, and Virginia crying in a heap on the ground. But Niall could at least soften the memory, make better ones.
It was almost midnight, the kids were asleep, so Niall didn't want to think anymore about all that. It was healthier to get some rest and kick his feet up now, and hopefully he won't have any of little bare feet padding along the wood flooring to his room telling him they had a nightmare.
He did take a small peek outside from the front door as he made his way to the stairs, to maybe see Harry walking down the street and driving up in the car. But he knew he'd find nothing but his bare lawn and a deserted road.
Niall would wait though, even if it was 4am, he'd lay in bed silently till the sound of the front door opening would give his queue to strike.
It wasn't as late as 4am, more 2 o'clock in the morning when the sound of the door to Niall and Harry's room opened. Niall had fallen asleep despite his words swearing to do the opposite, but had slowly fluttered his eyes opened once he heard the door click close again.
He wasn't fully awake yet, still in the middle of the dreaming and reality state, but noticed the shuffling of Harry's movements around the room. There was a ruffle of clothes probably being taken off, and then the slow and cautious dip of the mattress beside Niall as Harry laid down.
He'd wait, let Harry get comfortable. Niall was biting his lip raw, and hadn't even noticed his actions for a few seconds. He couldn't blame himself though, this was confronting the devil inside Harry once again, and hopefully this time Niall didn't get slapped into another world.
Shifting slowly so Niall was now facing his husband, he noticed Harry's back was towards him, the man's body crumpled up and shoved right to the edge of the bed so there was no possible way Niall could brush his skin against Harry's. But he shifted the pang of hurt of the observation to the back of his head and slowly leaned over, keeping his breath caught in his lungs as his lips got closer and closer to Harry's ear.
He could see Harry shifting, head twitching in realization of Niall's awaken presence behind him. But his eyes were still shut tight, expression looking relaxed as he tried to let sleep overtake him.
How could a man like Harry let himself sleep? With all those wrongs weighed down on his shoulders, Niall would expect him up all night. But Harry wasn't thinking about all that, something was missing in his head that was left in the battle of Dunkirk and D-Day, sunken down to the bottom of the ocean to never be found again. Basically, Harry had no regret left in him, no realization between wrong and right because his body and soul was blinded by nothing but war.
Niall will change that, soon he hopes. Grab Harry's hand and drag him out of the gutter. But for now, he needs to state the grounds of how this is all going to go. The rules will need to be laid out before Harry starts playing these games once again.
His lips brushed along Harry's earlobe now, breath let out like a damn being broken down from a lake. It flowed out of his mouth and grazed along Harry's face, making his husbands lashes flutter and brows furrow.
"You can hit me all you want, but as soon as you touch my children again, you will be gone." Niall's voice sounded like a snake, the words spat at him before he was moving back over to his side of the bed, silence taking over the atmosphere once again. It was that quick, no pause for an answer back, that was all Niall needed to say and all Harry needed to hear.
It took Harry longer to talk to Niall after what he had said last night. Longer than when he had first laid his hands on him. It was past morning and close to lunch time when Harry came up from behind Niall who was working on packing more seeds into the soil in the back garden. The kids were playing outside, but kept their distance far from their father of course.
"Ed called from the telephone line, had even come here last night and left a note. He wants me to go and meet up with him at his house for a chat, get back into things ya know?" Harry mumbled with his chin hooked over Niall's shoulder. Niall held back from stiffening, just kept on picking at the seeds in his hands.
"Alright, go have fun." Niall nodded at his husbands words, hoping that he would go away, but Harry was now swinging them from side to side in his grip, humming a short tune Niall couldn't recall.
"Can I have a kiss first? I'd love one from my handsome husband." Harry leaned a little more forward against Niall so his lips could press against his temple. It was a nice feeling, those soft plump lips against Niall's skin, but there was still the sense of wrongness at the back of his mind.
He turned his head anyways, another fight not on Niall's agenda today, letting his and Harry's lips lock together in a long smooch before they pulled apart and finally Harry had pulled back to leave.
"Come back before dinner though, please?" Niall spoke out over his shoulder as Harry moved off their property. He turned around, now walking backwards, but gave Niall a thumbs up and warm smile before disappearing around the corner of the house.
Now, now was the time for Niall to call Anne, and he didn't even hesitate to rush inside and grab for the telephone. The seeds he had were settled on the kitchen table, forgotten.
There was a couple long rings, Niall chewing his lip till he could feel it split and the iron taste of blood coating along his tongue. He had almost lost hope at the fifth ring till it chopped to a stop midway and a breathless 'hello' came from the other end.
"Hi, Anne? It's Niall here." His hands twirled with the cord connected to the phone in a nervous action. Niall's eyes trained on the back door of the house, like Harry would walk in any second and catch him red-handed.
"My goodness, Niall! How are you love?" She sounds happy and surprised to hear his voice, and Niall honestly has no idea how he will break this horrible form of news to her. There is still a whisper going around in the back of his head, telling him to not put such a heavy weight on Anne's shoulders. But he forces to ignore that, builds a thick wall between that thought and the words he is going to spew from his mouth.
"I-I could be better." He decides to go with that first, moving so he can sit on one of the chairs in the kitchen, not being able to hold himself up anymore from the vigorous shaking of his legs.
"Oh," Anne speaks quietly now, a pause growing along the other end and Niall feels like his breath is slowly being sucked out of him. "What is the matter dear?" Anne finishes, but her voice is guarded in a way, worry in her tone and making sure he feels somewhat protected by her.
"It's Harry uhm..." He trails off, goes through the words again in his head and tries desperately to control himself. "He uh, he hit me and hurt James yesterday."
A gasp was immediately heard through the other line, and it was sharp and loud in Niall's ear making him flinch. Anne sounded like she was in a frenzy, the phone crackling and making banging sounds as she moved around too much.
"H-he touched you? O-oh my good gosh, he-and James?" She wasn't making much sense, probably trying to take-in everything in one big gush. What he said was short and to the point, but probably had so much questions behind it. He felt bad.
"I shouldn't have let Harry buy him the toy soldier, because he gets so...what's the word, triggered by soldiers or anyone in uniform. So mad and angry and gosh, violent. But I ignored it all and the next day James had been playing with Virginia at the kitchen table while I was cleaning and it was just an innocent play-date but then he said...fuck." Niall whispered the curse, not being able to hold his tongue. But the word he would've said instead was just as much as a swear word at this time, he just couldn't bring himself to say it.
"Niall," Anne's voice sounded wobbly, like she was on the verge of tears now. "Don't you dare say this is your fault, don't you dare take the blame for Harry's actions. My son...my son should have never put his hands on you and gosh...put his hands on your children. They don't deserve that, and you don't either." Anne let out a small sob through the phone, and it was so heart-wrenching Niall had to hold the phone away from his ear so he wouldn't cave in and start crying also.
"I-I know I shouldn't but Harry can't control himself, he just went through so much during this war. He's been through things no human being could ever imagine, I can't be too harsh." Niall refused to put the full wrong-doing on his husband. There was understandable reasons for Harry's actions, Harry needed help and therapy.
Putting all the blame on Harry, would make Niall feel like a terrible husband.
"You can't be harsh, but I can. I am his mother and there should be no damned bruises on my grandchildren and son in law. Where is he now?" Niall felt anxiety squeeze at his heart at how determined Anne sounded all of a sudden, and he cringed.
"He went to a friends, Ed Sheeran if you remember him. The lad invited him over for a couple beers." Anne sighed on the other end, and there was a small pause that had made Niall start fidgeting nervously with random things around him. He would still frantically look around, scared if Harry was somehow listening or watching him.
"So he isn't even there to spend time with his family after all the garbage he put you through? Niall, I am coming over and I will wait for as long as it takes till I see him again." Niall wanted to so badly to object to that, wanted to brush off her words and shrug out a 'it's alright, don't worry about it!' But he knew Anne wasn't going to let this go now, this was more than serious.
"O-okay, just please don't make him really angry. If he can hit his own children during one of his rage-fits, I am sure he won't hesitate to hit you also." He warned.
"I gave birth to him and gave him a life, if he hits me there is no way in hell that he will ever forgive himself. I promise you honey he won't." At that, she had said a quick goodbye before the line went dead, Niall just hooked up the phone again and than moved to the hallway to slide himself slowly down the wall till his bum hit the floor.
He let himself cry a few tears in the sliver of time he had alone, knowing he needed to let it out.
Niall felt numb for a while, had just sat their on the hardwood floor with his hands at his sides and knees tucked into his chest. Anne was now all tangled in this messy situation, and he is sure she told Gemma and Des. So now he had the whole family involved with Harry's unacceptable behaviour, and all Niall could think about was how mad and disappointed Harry was going to be, finding out that Niall had revealed him like this.
Harry was going to be looked down upon by his parents and sister, seen as some stranger and monster like Niall had seen him. And, god help them all if this got out to their church. They would be almost certainly be kicked out for Harry's sins.
There was a knock at the door, and Niall had only gotten onto his feet when it had opened itself and Anne was walking in. She was silent, her face completely shadowed over in some uncertain dark expression. Niall felt himself shrink back, seeing how her eyes barred into his with her purse slung over his shoulder.
But then her bottom lip wobbled, and her expression cracked into sadness as she sobbed and dropped her bag onto the ground with a big clunk. Niall let her rush over and pull him into her arms, her hands moving to his face a second later to check the damage that was done.
"Oh my lord, what has he done?" Anne said that under her breath, a whisper that made Niall gulp and blink away the tears that were threatening to fall again. He couldn't really figure out anything to day to her, all the words he was planning on speaking out was now clogged in his throat. Her thumb lightly rubbed along the bruise and cut that was on his cheekbone, making him flinch away from the touch.
It was easier on the phone, she couldn't see how broken he was by just his voice. But now she was looking right at him, inches apart as she inspected his injuries. He couldn't escape and if he opened his mouth he was almost sure the only thing that would come out would be a sob or a wail.
"Where is James? Where are all the kids?" She moved away from him just enough to shrug off her jacket and place it on the hook that was screwed onto the wall.
"Upstairs." He said quickly and Anne didn't even wait for him to follow, her feet quick as she bolted up the stairs and called the kids names.
Niall didn't really want to go upstairs, he didn't want to face his children right now and see how traumatized they probably were. Once was enough, but he knew there was more sad eyes and frowns to come. They were too cute to not look at though, their chubby and youthful faces should be giggling and smiling. If not-which was probably what he was going to see now-Niall would feel like he failed as a parent.
They came down after a few minutes though, Niall stayed by the last step, giving a strained smile up the stairs at them as they all descended. Anne was carrying James in her arms, cooing at him and brushing his fringe out of his eyes as she looked near tears again.
"No other boo-boos on you my love?" Anne asked when she got off the stairs, she didn't stop walking, her full attention on the young lad who was looking at her with handsome eyes, they reminded Niall of Harry.
"No grandma!" James had said happily, giving her a grin and wiggling to get set free halfway through her walk down the hallway. Niall was still watching silently in amusement, seeing her set James back down onto the ground and then grabbing his little hand to walk into the kitchen together.
When Niall had felt eyes on him though, that's when he turned back to the stairs. Lawrence was stood there, Thomas sat on the step beside him staring down at his socked feet. Virginia gone and off to follow Anne and probably tugging at the poor woman's dress again to get her attention.
Lawrence looked troubled, his eyes were clouded over in doubt and worry as he looked at Niall right in the eyes. Niall didn't really know what to say to his two oldest sons, but took in a deep breath and gave them a shaky smile as he walked up the two steps where they were at and then sat down between them. Thomas had immediately shuffled to his side, tucking himself in and resting his head into his lap. Lawrence wasn't looking so sure yet, and didn't make a move to sit beside Niall, he just kept on standing there.
"I am so sorry you boys had to see that, your father is just...having a hard time getting used to things again around here." Niall definitely didn't want to get into detail about it all, and even talking about it still made his throat collapse and eyes water. His kids didn't need to know the harsh information, that was just going to cause more problems than Niall didn't really need at all.
"He hurt you, Harry hurt you." Lawrence spoke up, and Thomas had silently squeezed Niall tighter towards him at the words that came from his older brothers mouth. Niall didn't like it either, but he expected this from his son, Lawrence wasn't as young and naive as James and Virginia, he knew what was wrong and what was good.
"I-I know Lawrence baby but please I don't think we should talk about this right now." Niall sighed and slung his arm over Thomas' body, almost like he was protecting his other son from the words being said.
"Well when are we gonna talk about this Dad?! Harry hurt you and James and you actually want me to call him my father?!" Niall flinched harshly at that, and he could feel a whimper come out from Thomas as he smushed his face into his side.
Niall didn't really know how to answer that, and he was feeling the tears coming and devastation start to flow into his mind but then he could hear footsteps coming closer and closer to the front hallway. And from the kitchen was Anne who had a deep frown across her face as she met eyes with an angry looking Lawrence.
"Lawrence, hun please don't speak to your Dad like that. He did nothing to deserve your yelling, apologize." Anne huffed out, moving her hands to settle on her hips as she looked at him disapprovingly. But Lawrence didn't look fazed at all, actually, he looked even more angry. His hard gaze was flickering back from Anne to Niall, nostrils flared and lips curled in a snarl as he thought of something to say next.
Niall held his breath, keeping his hand across Thomas' back like an anchor for his aching heart.
"I will when I have just one dad again." Lawrence's voice was low and threatening and Niall never felt more heartbreak in his life hearing that, and he forced himself to shut his eyes as the tears started to sneak down his cheeks. He couldn't hold them in anymore, and he could hear a gasp come from Anne at his oldest sons words.
"Lawrence!" Anne yelled so loudly it made Niall's ears ring, and Thomas had flinched beside him, letting out a small cry when Lawrence ran past him and up the stairs, taking two steps at a time till they could only hear the stomps of his socked feet across the flooring.
Anne came rushing towards them, and Niall had put in enough strength to hold his arm out, blocking her from going up the stairs after him. Anne looked confused at first, but her face softened at the glimmer of his tears across his cheeks.
"Leave him be, just, leave him." Niall's voice was more than shaky, and Thomas had looked up from his side with a big frown across his face. It was a rule Niall made for himself to not show his pain in front of his kids, it was more a secret rule for every parent. Showing sadness just made your kids ten times more sad, but everything was falling on top of him at once, and he couldn't hold it in any longer.
All Niall could do was lightly push Thomas away, guiding the boy into Anne's arms who whimpered at their loss of touch. "I need to lay down, if that is alright Anne." He said softly, taking in a deep breath through his nose and hoisting himself back up to stand on the step he sat on.
Anne had a permanent furrow in her brows, her one arm hugging Thomas to her hip. She just nodded silently, giving him the smallest of a smile. Niall didn't return it back, just turned around and slowly made his way up the stairs where Lawrence had run off to, passing his sons room and not being able to help it when he quietly put his ear to his closed door.
There was sniffles, a sign Lawrence was probably crying into his pillow. That just made the concrete feeling in Niall's stomach weigh more, and he had to close his eyes and rest his forehead against the door, forcing himself to not knock on the door.
Lawrence said a lot of bad things, and Niall knew his son realized what he said was wrong. So, he'd just have to wait for the apology, it may be in a couple days, or a couple minutes, but patience was something he needed to keep at this very moment.
He pushed himself off the door and started to walk towards his room, his mind fuzzing into nothing when he saw his bed, looking too comfy now. He had face-planted on top of it, humming at the softness across his body, enveloping himself in the blanket.
It wasn't going to be a very pleasant sleep of course, he knew that. But closing his eyes felt too good right now, something he needed more than ever.
He had woke up to yelling, and it sounded like a booming and authoritative voice that shook the house hold. It was something he used to force Niall into submission with, the voice used to break Niall down into nothing before he hit him.
It belonged to Harry, and he sounded more angry than ever before, like all the anger he ever showed Niall mixed into one part of his head. Niall felt himself shiver in his spot on the bed, and he had to use the tips of his toes so the house didn't creak when he got up to make his way downstairs, too scared to be heard.
Anne's voice was echoing now, and she sounded just as angry. But her voice was calmer, probably trying to burn out the fire that was Harry seething throughout their home.
"Harry, please you need to calm the hell down! You're lucky I shooed the kids outside!" That was what she said, and she was repeating 'calm down' over and over again.
Niall looked towards the clock on the wall when he got to the last step, seeing that it was past dinner time now, and he could see through the window of their front door that it was slowly dulling down into night.
He wondered how long Harry had been home for, if his husband had just gotten home from wherever he had fucked off to in his state of rage.
"He fucking told you all this?! Making me look like some monster eh? What a bitch!" Niall's eyes widened at what Harry had called him. He could see the light from the kitchen illuminating the darkness of the front hallway, and he kept his eyes on it like it was a beacon of hope at the end of a long tunnel, trying not to focus on the hurtful words the love of his life was calling him.
"Do you even hear yourself right now Harry Edward Styles?! You are calling the man you married and had kids with such vulgar words, because he had told me you were hitting him and your children!" Anne's voice was getting angrier, and Niall could see a tall shadow casting from where he was stood by the entrance to the kitchen. He didn't want to go in, not yet.
"They are making me do it mom! They don't listen, I-I can't help myself when they disrespect me like this!" At Harry's stupid answer, Niall had stepped forward to show himself in the kitchen, eyes focusing in on his husband who was standing in the middle of the room with his hands stiffly balled up into fists, the fringe from his short hair falling across his face.
"Who are you?" Niall spoke softly, but his voice cracked at the end as he asked that question that usually would be asked to a complete stranger, not the man he's known for years upon years.
Harry spun on his heels, and Anne was standing by the back door, blocking it in case the kids tried to come inside. She looked shocked to see him show himself so suddenly, and worry flashed in her eyes when she flickered her gaze up to scan Harry's reaction.
"Why the fuck did you tell her?! The real fucking question is who are you?! I thought you were my husband, not some snitch!" Harry made a move towards Niall with a stiff finger pointing at him, and Niall flinched only the slightest bit, holding his ground.
"So what was I gonna do then? Huh? Was I going to sit pretty like some little bitch and watch you beat my kids and myself?! Huh?!" Niall's voice rose with each word, and Harry had stepped right into his personal space, towering over him to try and get him to shrink back.
Niall was done though, numb.
"I touched you and James because you weren't listening, you were disrespecting me and forcing me to do what was needed. I don't appreciate your tone of voice with me." Now he was acting like Niall's mother, and he scoffed and veered away from Harry's form to walk towards the kitchen table. Anne was looking unsure with everything, her bottom lip bitten raw with her teeth as she looked towards her son who was probably ready to burst any second.
Niall had kept a long pause in the room, and Anne had kept all the words she wanted to say back, like she just knew he wanted to speak.
"You need help, Harry." Niall said it in a whisper, but it was loud through the tension in the room, and he knew Harry had heard him.
"No, you need help." Harry growled out, and Niall had to admit he did look scary when he turned back around to stare at Harry from a distance. With his hair shorter his shoulders looked broader, veins from his arms pulsing from his tense he was. He looked like some crazy ape right now.
"If you don't get help," Niall stopped and looked towards Anne, seeing her not even meeting his eyes, her's focused completely on Harry like his own personal guard dog in case the brunet made a move to hurt him again. "I will take the kids and leave, move back to Ireland, do anything possible to get away from you till you never see us again."
He knew Anne was going to be hurt by his confession as well, but Niall was going to be true to his word, and knew it was a soft spot for Harry, being left behind.
It worked, and he could see Harry's angered expression drop slowly like an avalanche, now becoming a deep frown and his breath quickening in panic.
"You can't, you won't leave me! You need me!" Niall laughed at that, and he just tried to pretend Anne wasn't there, crossing his arms over his chest to show how unfazed he was by Harry's begging. How selfish was he, saying that Niall and the kids needed him like they would die without him.
"I spent six years away from you, I can surely spend a lifetime away as well." It came out before Niall could really stop himself, and Harry's face became some wall of stone, his eyes glossing over with tears.
"Now that is enough, from both of you!" Anne was back into the argument again, and she was looking at Niall and Harry equally with disgust across her face. Her form moved between them so now they both had no choice but to look her right in the eye, and Niall's breath hitched in his throat.
"You both need help! This is not a damned relationship anymore, there is nothing left of you two from the past. You need couple therapy and someone who can get you the hell through this mess!" Anne's voice trembled at the end and she sucked in a deep breath, a hand shakily coming up to cover her mouth. It made Niall sick to his stomach, to see his mother-in-law like this, how he was half the problem that made her like this.
Harry looked to have cooled down also, and he took in a deep breath before walking over to her and embracing him in his long arms. She didn't break down, although she looked close to, Anne just settled her forehead against his chest and kept her eyes squeezed shut, enjoying the feeling of her son holding her.
"You two were so in love before this god awful war, the kids were happy too and now it's all falling to pieces." A sob came up past her lips and it surprised all of them, making Niall have to look away and stare down at his feet in shame. "And I refuse to see my family, my son, fall to pieces into nothing." Anne sounded more determined now, had lifted herself off Harry's chest with her hands balled up into fists along his shirt.
Niall agreed with Anne though, this family was falling apart, and they needed to fix things before there was nothing left to salvage. There could still be hope, and maybe Harry's mind could be saved and changed into the old Harry, or an even better Harry.
"Okay," Niall sighed out and moved his hand out to rub across his face. "Okay, yeah we will take couple therapy." He looked up at Harry after he finished, and his husband locked eyes with him, still a big frown across his face. Niall's heart clenched so tightly he thought it might squeeze right out of his chest, he hated seeing Harry like this, so broken.
"Yeah mom, we can do that." Niall smiled shakily at Harry's answer, and Anne looked content too, showing off a happy smile now with a couple stray tears sneaking down her cheeks. It was a start, all this, and soon hopefully they would get back to all smiles and love.
"I am making you both come with me to the city hall and churches to see if there is any flyers for therapy sessions, right in the morning you hear me?" Anne was stern now, and Niall and Harry were all ears listening to every word that came out of her mouth. "I will get Gemma to come over and she will gladly watch the children, understood?" They both nodded, and Anne sighed loudly before releasing Harry's shirt and stepping back from his embrace.
"Now I want to see a hug from you two, to start this off fresh. I want forgiveness and to leave knowing everything is settled down." Anne had moved away so they were both looking at each other now, and Niall could feel the anxiety building up inside him again.
But he pushed it back, just like he did for most of his feelings at this time, and he didn't even think twice before he was walking forward and tugging Harry into a warm embrace, arms circling around his husbands neck and face burying into his shoulder.
Harry was holding Niall tightly, it was the kind of hug that silently screamed 'don't ever let me go' and it hurt Niall even more, made the blond feel even more guilty. He hid it though, letting out a small hum as they rocked back and forth.
When they pulled apart, Harry even added a small peck to his cheek, making Niall blush scarlet.
"Beautiful." Anne sighed like she was in a dream, and Niall kept his fingertips brushing against Harry's hip, just the slightest contact like he needed it to keep himself collected.
Anne was very true to her word of course, Niall was still asleep when he heard the front door open and the sound of light chatter coming from down the stairs. It wasn't long before the kids started to act up, yelling 'grandma!' and 'aunt Gemma!' down the stairs as they ran full speed towards them.
He managed to get himself onto his back, and he blinked his eyes opened, looking up at the ceiling for a three second count before he lifted himself into a sitting position.
Harry wasn't beside him, probably didn't come into their room all night. That wasn't surprising to Niall, of course. The last time Harry slept in their bed Niall had threatened him.
"Niall, Harry!" Anne yelled, and she let out a surprised 'oh' sound, probably finding Harry on the couch downstairs. Niall knew he was going to get an earful when he'd eventually get downstairs, so he spent a couple more minutes in the comfortable heat of his bed and calm silence that blanketed over the room.
He knew he'd have to show himself sometime though, Anne wasn't afraid to come upstairs and barge into his room. So, he got up and got dressed in some comfy clothes, taking in a breath before he opened the bedroom door and walked towards the steps, descending down them slowly.
"Good morning." Anne said with one raised brow as she leaned against the counter of the kitchen, Niall gave her a smile when he entered, shuffling towards the table where all the kids were sat. Lawrence wasn't there, and Niall frowned.
"Lawrence didn't come down?" He asked, and Anne shrugged sadly. "No, but I think you both should have a good chat with him, alone." Niall didn't even notice Harry was present in the room, and he looked over his shoulder behind him to see his husband leaning against the door frame going into the living room with a thinking pout on his face.
"Lawrence completely isolates himself when he gets angry with me, I think we should give him some time still." Anne still looked unsure at his words, arms folding across her chest as she looked at him skeptically.
"When we get back you boys need to talk to him. Because soon every time you two think about talking to him, you will make the excuse that he needs time. Lawrence is older, more wiser than all your babies, you both need to realize he won't just forgive and forget." Anne made a lot of sense, and both Niall and Harry nodded at her orders.
"Where are you going daddy?" Virginia spoke up cutely from her seat, little legs swinging from where they were dangling from the chair, only the tips of her toes could touch the ground now without the High Chair she had.
"Just on a little shopping trip with your father and grandma, we will be back soon dumpling." He walked towards her, cupping her cheek and leaning down to kiss it. She giggled and gave him a big smile before he moved onto Thomas and then James.
Harry didn't move to say his goodbyes, once again acting like a stranger in his own household, standing silently in the back where no one would notice him. He still had the thinking face on too, and Niall didn't really want to know what was swirling around in his husbands head at the moment.
"Take care of the kids Gemma, we will be back." Anne gave Gemma a smooch on the cheek and did the same to the kids, waving goodbye before they walked towards the front door and got their shoes and coats on.
They didn't talk for the whole drive to the city hall, and Niall was surprised at Anne's loss of conversation. He expected her to fly out question after question as to why they didn't sleep together last night, but her face was holding something in thought, staring at the road in front of her as Niall drove beside her.
When they stopped though, that's when Anne let out a long sigh and leaned back against her seat, looking towards Harry and Niall.
"If we find anything, I will sign you both up immediately. Am I clear?" She sounded motherly to both of them now, and Niall knew the last straw of her silence in this was last night when they argued right in front of her. Anne was done with watching them fight, and he didn't have one problem with Harry's mother coming in to burn out the fuse between them that sparked more troubles than they ever had to deal with.
She got out before they could answer, and Niall didn't spare Harry a glance, just got out and walked alongside Anne as they made their way up the cement steps and into the front foyer of the building. He could feel Harry's presence behind them, probably not wanting to get too close to him.
There was flyer upon flyer stuck to a bulletin board right when they walked in, and Anne made her way over towards it with a sharp turn, Niall now jogging to keep up with her frantic steps. She was lightly shoving past a couple people that were stood in front of it, and Niall let her go in front of him, giving a couple people a stiff smile when he brushed past them.
He didn't even bother looking when they stood in front of the mass of papers, his eyes casted down to the polished floor that looked too nice against his dirty sneakers. He didn't know if Harry was still behind him, the curly lad was probably lost in the crowd somewhere, but Niall could still feel the burn on his back like his husband was breathing along his neck like an itch he that was impossible to scratch.
"Ahah!" He looked up at Anne's voice, seeing her going onto the tips of her toes to grab a paper at the very top of the board, it ripping off the pin that was pierced into it to keep it there. That probably wasn't a good idea to rip it down, but Anne was completely focused on the paper, and Niall looked over her shoulder to read the print that was slightly obscured by the large tear in the middle of the title.
"FREE GROUP THERAPY SESSIONS, STARTING MONDAY."
He read on, looking at the less bolded words under the title. "A therapy session put together specifically for soldiers. Please sign up and send in a letter to 3476 ThornBerry Street to the Tomlinson residence. Doctor Tomlinson will be looking forward to seeing you."
It sounded nice, the letters looked printed out neatly from someone with beautiful handwriting, the 'g's' and 'y's' had large and elegant little swooshes at the end of them. Niall was impressed, and Anne was too based on the content smile that appeared across her face.
"This looks perfect, not a couple therapy though." Niall blinked down at her, watching silently as Anne folded the page and stuffed it in her coat pocket, continuing to look around the board. Niall was sure they had found the right place, but apparently it wasn't to her taste.
"Why can't we do that? It seems promising." Niall shrugged and stepped beside her, Anne giving him a quick glance before focusing back on scanning the board. "Because you are not a soldier darling, Harry is. That therapy session was only for men that went through combat."
Niall knew that, he could read of course. But he was too desperate to get this all over with, and what was so bad at going in with a room full of soldiers? He was a man just like Harry was, he would easily blend in.
"I can just act like I am a soldier, you know how me and Harry had hidden our relationship from the public eye. It won't be any different at the therapy session." He whispered that to her, leaning in to make sure the people around them didn't listen-in.
"Of course it will, you don't know half of what I have been through." Harry's voice rose behind them, and Niall flinched, not expecting his husband to be so close. He dared to look over his shoulder, and Harry had a blank expression, looking to be biting the inside of his cheek as he stared ahead of him and refused to meet Niall's gaze. Harry was always sneaking up at him at just the right time. Whenever Niall said something that wasn't to his liking, Harry was right there and ready to fight for what he believed in. Or maybe Harry was behind them all this time, silently listening-in till he felt like he needed to butt into the conversation.
"But what other choice do we have? I don't see any other therapy sessions here." Niall moved his hands around, gesturing to the large board in front of them. Anne had stopped looking to turn around and stare at the two, still looking disappointed in them. But she looked to understand what Niall was saying, and grabbed at both their arms to tug them away from the crowd to talk in peace.
They moved to the corner of the foyer, Niall and Harry's sides pressed together as Anne stood in front of them intimidatingly. Her arms were stiff at her sides, and she wasn't saying anything as she slowly brought the flyer back out of her pocket to look over it again.
"This is the best chance we have, this may not be couple therapy but I know Harry needs this more than anything in the world. And Niall if you are there with him through all this, you both can understand each other better." Niall sighed in relief at Anne's conclusion, but he could tell Harry wasn't happy at all with her choice.
"I am not doing this, I agreed to couple therapy." Harry growled out under his breath, trying to keep his cool in public. Niall shuffled a little bit away from him, feeling unsure around him once again. The aura that was radiating off Harry still felt threatening to him, Niall couldn't help it.
Anne stepped forward, and Niall was surprised at her actions when she shoved the flyer into Harry's chest, making him struggle to catch the paper before it floated onto the ground. Harry still showed no emotion, glaring at his mother as he held the paper in his hands.
"Harry Edward, you know that couple therapy will not work when you two are together as a gay couple. People do not appreciate you two yet and won't for a long time. You need to realize this is your best chance to get better, and I refuse to go home empty-handed and give up on you. I am your mother for god sakes." She was wagging her pointer finger at him with each sentence she spoke out to him, and there was a small pause before Harry nodded, his jaw clenching in silent distaste.
Anne deflated at that, closing her eyes and taking in a deep breath before opening them again to get a good look at both of them. "I want nothing more than to see you two happy again, to see my grandchildren happy again. Alright?"
Niall had heard Anne say that before, but he nodded anyways, Harry doing the same. He admired his mother-in-laws determination, how much she wanted this all to work out. He was determined also of course, but it made warmth flood his heart knowing he wasn't alone in this. Hopefully Harry felt the same way.
"Now why don't I grab a letter for one pound from the front desk and we can head straight to the address?" She had already started walking towards the front desk, and had left Niall and Harry to stand still and watch her silently. He knew Anne had already made up her mind and had this little layout of their plans sketched into her brain already, so he kept his lips sealed.
Harry looked a little skeptical still, his lips jutted out in a pout as watched her thank the receptionist and then spin on her heels to walk back towards them. Niall knew if Anne wasn't the one to tell him off for all this, he'd be purple and blue all over again. Harry was holding in so much anger, it's been clogged up inside his body since this morning.
"Let's head out, come on lovelies." Anne had stopped for only a second before she sped off towards the front doors of the hall, Niall knew it was going to be a shot in the dark, but he took in a deep breath and held it as he grabbed for Harry's wrist and kept it locked in his hold as they moved to catch up with her.
This was close to holding hands, sure they didn't do it all the time in public, but it was the simplest gesture that could be seen in so many ways, hopefully people were unfazed. But right now Niall needed to feel the contact of his husband, just the skin-on-skin feeling that screamed 'it's okay, we will get through this.'
Harry didn't pull away till they got to the car, and Niall had loosened his grip to get into the drivers seat, Harry moving to go to the passenger seat. Anne was already sat comfortable with her hands in her lap, the letter settled held loosely in them. She looked a little better now, the redness of anger that blossomed across her cheeks died down into her normal skin tone. That was a good sign, at least.
The car roared to life, and they got to a stop sign at the end of the street when Anne had grabbed for the letter on her lap and threw it back to Niall. It landed on the ground by his feet, and he cursed under his breath in surprise. "There is a inked pen in my purse, you might have to shake it for a second but it will work."
She fished for the pen in her purse and then handed it to him also, Niall found it and shook at it before placing the letter on his right thigh for a decently hard surface to write on. His writing wasn't the neatest, when Harry had left for the war Niall had completely lost all contact to the outside world, mostly during his pregnancy, but even after the simplest things like writing a letter, adding up the amount he has to pay for groceries, left his mind. All his thoughts were zeroed in on his children, and he's lost a lot of his childhood knowledge since then. But he tried his hardest, and it wasn't half-bad once he started, keeping the smooth cursive lines as he wrote word for word what he thought was the kindest way to write for a therapist. He was also in a rush since he knew he couldn't wait long before he'd need to press on the gas pedal again.
He got stumped at the middle section to his letter, and he looked up from his thigh to blink through the front windshield of the car. Anne noticed, her eyes moving off the road for just second to flicker back at him. "What should I say?" He asked.
"Write that you and your friend have just come back from the war and that you'd both like to come along to his or her therapy sessions to get some help." Niall caught the grimace on Harry's face, but Niall wrote down what Anne had suggested, getting to the very bottom of the page and then signing it off with his very messy signature. He handed the page over to Harry next, tapping it against his husbands knee when he didn't notice.
Harry looked up from where he was fiddling with his rings and blinked at the paper in front of him, confused at first but then slowly taking ahold of the pen and paper. He placed it on his thigh as well, looking down with a lot of determination in his face as he wrote his signature.
Niall noticed how shaky his hand was as he looked through the rearview mirror, how much it looked like Harry was struggling. His husband was the same as him, and when Harry handed the paper back to Anne, he winced at the scribbles along the bottom of the page when he side-eyed it. The person surely won't be able to read both of their names, but he hoped when they show up for the first session, they can at least tell he/her they were the ones to send it in.
"Daddy! You're back!" Virginia screamed a little too loudly for Niall's liking as she stomped down the hallway with her little socked feet, jumping enthusiastically into his arms when he opened them welcomingly. Niall let out a grunt at the abrupt force, but like out a long sigh feeling her warmth against his. Her happy giggles were a angelic ring to his ears when she hooked her chin over his shoulder as he hoisted her up so he could stand straighter.
"How is my dumpling doing?" He asked, hearing other footsteps coming down the hallway towards him also. The door was closing behind him, a sign that Anne and Harry had come in.
"Aunt Gemma played some board games with us! She can stay for a little longer right? Just for a little bit?" Virginia asked, her eyes were wide when Niall set her back down onto the floor, her heels lightly bouncing off the ground and showing the amount of energy her little body had stuffed into her.
"I-I don't know darling you will have to ask grandma Anne and aunt Gemma herself, they might have to get going." Niall gave Virginia a twitch of a smile at the frown that dropped across her tiny face, but she whipped her head towards her grandma, smiling wildly to try and win her over.
Anne chuckled at the face Virginia gave her, breaking her gaze with the little girl to look up and meet eyes with Gemma who was leaning against the wall at the other end of the hallway, she looked exhausted already and Niall felt a small bit bad for keeping her cooped up in their house with four children to take care of.
"I think we should head home my dear, but we will for sure come back soon. Don't you worry about that." Anne gave Niall and Harry a knowing glance and Niall nodded stiffly at her words, watching as Gemma made her way towards them and grabbed for her coat to shrug on.
Niall didn't even really notice though, only when Anne and Gemma left, that Virginia was the only one to wave goodbye to the two. And he scanned their household, looking up the stairs and down the hallway, seeing no sign of the other three.
"Where are your brothers?" He asked, and Virginia looked up at him, her small shoulders going up and down in a short shrug. Niall looked behind him, seeing Harry still standing at the door, leaning against it with an unreadable expression across his face. Harry still looked like this was some strangers house, the way he was so stiff and alert like nothing was familiar. Niall, a few weeks ago would've surely thought that Harry would be back to normal in just a few days, but he was completely wrong.
He ignored it though, focusing back on his sons as he took off his jacket and hung it on the coat rack. He walked down the hallway and turned on the oil lamps as he went, stopping at the living room entrance when he heard the small static of the record player playing.
James, Thomas, and surprisingly Lawrence were all sat quietly on the couch. Thomas was playing with his toy wooden truck, driving it along his crossed legs and making little zooming noises with his mouth. James sat beside him, giggling and holding one of Virginia's dolls in his hands, pretending it was walking along the couch cushions. It was an adorable sight, but Niall was frowning at Lawrence who still looked angry as he sat glaring at the wall in front of him, not even paying attention or joining in to play with his brothers.
"Not even polite enough to greet your parents at the door?" Niall joked, and both James and Thomas whipped their heads up at the sound of his voice, James being first to snap into action as he rushed full-speed into Niall's legs, his short little arms trying to wrap themselves fully around Niall's waist.
Thomas came second, a loud scream of happiness rushing through him as he dropped his toy truck onto the couch. As he stood up though, the toy caught at his leg, making it fly off the couch as he made his way to run towards Niall, a loud bang echoing throughout their home making Niall flinch but chuckle when Thomas had moved to hug Niall behind James, both young boys giggling as they kept Niall hostage in their grip.
But Niall let out a cry of surprise when he heard a sound of pain coming from the hallway, then right after that, the sound of something smashing against the ground and loud yells piercing through his ears. James and Thomas immediately let go of him, both looking around with wide confused eyes trying to figure out who was making those terrifying noises.
Niall checked for Lawrence first, but his oldest son looked just as confused and scared. He was going to call out Virginia's name next, but as the forth yell ripped through the air, it sounded more manlier, more like his husband.
He rushed into the hallway, almost slipping right onto his arse when he flew around the door frame. His whole body had become numb at the sight, seeing Harry laid out on the floor, eyes and mouth open as wide as they could go, screams retching through his throat and his hands hitting at his chest like he was in excruciating pain.
"Harry?! Oh my god!" Niall yelped, the gears in his brain slowly starting to turn again as he rushed forward and tried to help him. "Harry, please what is wrong? Where are you hurt, Harry!" Niall felt the sting of his own tears coming to his ears, feeling helpless looking at his husband going through some kind of weird convulsions on the ground.
He could do nothing, every time he made a move to comfort Harry, his husband would roar out a scream, hands coming out to push or punch which made Niall shuffle back along the floor and hit his back against the opposite wall, far enough so Harry couldn't reach him.
Niall weirdly knew though that Harry wouldn't come at him or try to hurt him, it was just the look in Harry's eyes, how they were far off into the distance, almost like he was going through another world in his head as his hands went straight back to clawing at his chest. It reminded Niall of the panic attacks he used to have, how he'd shove Harry away and close his eyes, curling up into a little ball to block out all the dangers around him. His hands would rake at his chest also, like he was trying to dig air back into his lungs while his breath get shorter and shorter till black spots blossomed along his eyes.
It kind of looked like a panic attack, but something was more sinister to it, something that showed Niall a glimpse of the solider Harry that was back in war, getting shot at and bombed at and forced to kill.
He had to close his eyes now, Niall could feel himself starting to panic also, just seeing his husband go through this felt like a squeeze to his heart.
It was four minutes later, four agonizing minutes of sitting against the wall and helplessly watching before Harry's body went limp and his eyes squished shut. He took in a long deep breath like he was just begging for air to consume itself back into his lungs, hands stopping their pounding along his chest and now resting softly against it. The paleness and terror across his face lessoned also, the pink tint to his face coming back slowly.
"Harry." Niall said the name as warmly as possible, not wanting to scare his husband any more than he already was. He waited patiently, his eyes only focused on Harry as he watched glassy green eyes slowly blink up to meet his own, finally.
"Harry..." That was all Niall could really think to say, shock hitting his body and mind hard, his head trying to wrap around what the hell just happened. It was all fine today, sure Harry was angry, but all this anger had suddenly flipped over into terror and pain. All in the span of hours, everything was too much for Niall to take in. "You should go lay down, I-I think you should rest."
Harry nodded at Niall's suggestion, and Niall got up on shaky legs, helping Harry up and getting them slowly towards the stairs. It was hard, since Harry was putting most of his weight on Niall, the blond helping him by his waist and Harry's arm slung over his shoulder. It took a lot of time, but Niall sighed in relief when Harry slumped into bed, snuggling under the bed sheets but still looking alert and scared.
Niall leaned down so his eyes were levelled with Harry's, one hand coming out slowly to comb his fingers through the sweaty hair, pushing it back away from his husbands face. Harry sighed in content, squishing his cheek further in his pillow.
"You're okay yeah? You're safe." Niall needed to say that, and his voice cracked at the end. He tried holding his cries back, biting at his bottom lip hard. Harry noticed though, his arm coming out from the covers to move and brush his knuckles along Niall's cheek.
It was a beautiful moment, something Niall hasn't experienced yet since Harry came back. They both stared into each others, Niall's hand running through Harry's hair and Harry's hand brushing along Niall's cheek. They were both comforting each other, like silent assurances that they were going to be okay, in the end.
Monday came too fast for Niall's liking, although Harry was back to his normal self since the incident, Niall still was watching his husband like a hawk through hours on end. Harry never left his sight.
He kept on telling himself that, right till the last minute when Anne came through their front door with Gemma in toe once again. He kept quiet for only a couple minutes as Anne said hello to the kids and let them climb all over her in happiness.
"Anne, can I have a chat with you for a second? Before we leave?" He asked pointing his thumb towards the dining room and already making his way towards it. He noticed Anne give Gemma a worried glance, but he forced himself to ignore it as he sat himself down on one of the chairs by the table, trying to figure out the words to explain the dilemma.
"What is it darling?" Anne asked once she got beside him, she kept herself standing, hands clasped in front of her as she stared down at him.
"Harry uhm...Harry had this problem a day or so ago. I-I honestly don't know what happened or what caused it but...but I just heard a loud bang and then Harry was slumped against our hallway wall letting out these horrible, horrible screams. God Anne it was the worst thing I ever had to witness." Niall tried to keep his voice calm, tried not to waver in his tone as he explained the whole situation to her.
Anne looked shocked, like Niall had expected, her eyes widened and her brows furrowed in thought, probably imagining what had happened that day. "He-he just fell?" She asked, and Niall immediately shook his head at her question.
"No, no he had this far away look in his eyes, like he was somewhere else. He wouldn't let me touch him, he'd try and hit me. But it wasn't like when he hit me that other time, or when he grabbed James...This time he looked more vulnerable than ever, like he was trying to protect himself from me hurting him." Niall tightened his hands along his dress pants, his mind replaying the scene over and over again, a fresh bad memory in his mind.
"Where were the children when he was going through this? They must've been terrified..." Niall didn't want to tell Anne off, but the kids weren't the problem in this, they weren't concerning. Harry had just had some demon climb into his brain a few days ago, he needed to be cared for, not the kids.
"They had seen him, yes. But it was okay, they were all pretty shaken up but okay." Niall met Anne's eyes, and she had the same look that Harry had that day, looking scared and worried. It was like looking into the past, and Niall felt it hit him hard, the pain he had felt that day.
"We will help him out, alright? Whoever this Doctor Tomlinson is, they will save Harry from the aftermath of war." Anne didn't sound very sure, with the way her voice shook and how her hands ran quickly through her dark hair. Niall hated seeing her so stressed, now more than she was before, but he needed to let this all out, what he had witnessed was something that definitely shouldn't be kept secret.
"Let's get going now, I don't want you two late." Anne spoke, realizing that Niall wasn't going to answer her. She walked back out into the hallway, putting on a smile across her face as the kids called her name once again. Niall could see Virginia bouncing around Anne from where he still sat in the dining room. He smiled slightly, thankful his daughter still had a sense of humour and happiness even when her family was going to shit.
Positive thoughts, he needs to think positive. He bit the inside of his cheek harshly in self punishment and then slowly raised himself up to walk back into the hallway. James immediately latched onto his legs, trying to crawl up them. Niall chuckled and lightly pushed his son off, not wanting to get his freshly cleaned pants dirty with probably dusty little footprints along them.
"Harry!" Anne called, they waited for a minute, Harry finally stomping down the stairs with the same look Niall had on. He wore a cozy looking knitted sweater and black dress pants, the sweater had grown on him though like Niall had thought, the sleeves too far up along his wrists and the neckline looked suffocating along his throat.
"We have to go now my dears, Gemma is taking care of you till grandma gets back." Anne managed to unlatch Virginia from her waist, Thomas getting playfully shooed off when he tried to grab onto her next. Lawrence was still out of sight, Niall noticed when he scanned the room.
He still hasn't talked to the young lad, he had completely lost all thought across the subject since Harry had his incident. What a horrible parent he was.
"Why isn't daddy and father coming back with you grandma?" Virginia whined, her bottom lip sticking out into a pout as she got pulled into Gemma's arms so she wouldn't run back off to hug Anne again.
"They have to do some errands around town. I will pick them up once they are done, I promise." Virginia still held her sour look, but Anne had leaned forward to pinch at the dimple along her cheek, making the little one crack a giggle.
They left after that, the kids and Gemma waving goodbye as they stepped off the front porch and down to the car. Niall waved at them once they got into the car till he couldn't see them any longer, and once they had disappeared onto the next street, he sighed deeply, having to close his eyes and rest his head back against the passenger seat.
Niall's nerves were kicking in more and more the closer they got to the house, and he had to squeeze his hands together to force himself to stop shaking. Harry didn't look any better though, his husband had his forehead pressed against the window of the car, his brows furrowed and eyes trained on something in the distance the whole ride there.
"Alright you two, please be good." Anne sounded like a mother talking to two little boys when she said that, and Niall couldn't hold back the light chuckle passing his lips, trying to break the tension in the car when he hoisted himself out of it.
"We will, take care of our babies for us, yeah?" Niall knew the answer already, but Anne still nodded in assurance before she pulled away from the curb and turned the car around to go back home. They watched her go silently, and now Niall didn't want to move from his spot on the sidewalk.
"What do I even say Harry? I-I know nothing about war." Niall mumbled when he felt his husbands presence beside him. There was a pause, and he heard Harry sigh lowly before looking up at him.
"Just do what we did at the church, you say what I say. We were friends throughout the whole war, went through everything together. That's why we are so close." Harry had a pretty smart plan, so Niall nodded in understanding.
"O-okay." Niall stuttered out, turning around to look at the house before taking the first step towards it. Harry followed behind the whole way, and soon they were right on the doorstep.
Niall was about to knock, his fist was out and everything, but the door had suddenly swung opened, revealing a woman dressed in a pretty blue flower print summer dress that went down to her ankles. She smiled widely at them, looking equally from Niall to Harry.
"You two must be here for the session, I saw you standing on the sidewalk from the window." Niall gave her a soft smile at that, letting her move away from the door so he could step into the house, Harry followed and they both stared around the house as she closed the door behind them.
"Everyone is in the living room, we can get started once you two settle down." She said, waiting alongside them and watching as they took off their coats and hung them along the hooks. When Niall turned back around from doing so, he was surprised at the hand that was already out for him to shake.
"My name is Johannah Tomlinson, I will be your therapist for as long as you will need me." Niall took her hand in his, shaking it thoughtfully and then watching as she moved over to Harry to do the same.
"Now come along, come along, meet the other boys!" She waved them over towards two wooden french doors that probably lead into the living room. Niall looked towards Harry, seeing how unsure his husband looked. He gave Harry a smile though, tried to reassure him that everything was going to be okay and having to restrain to not come up and hold his hand.
When they walked inside, five men sat around the room. They all reminded Niall of Harry, not because they looked alike, but because they had the same emotionless scowl across their faces, a permanent disproval.
"We will tell each others names and about each other once you two get settled, here, two seats with your names on em!" Johannah gestured towards two wooden seats, small cushions settled on top of them engraved with little silk flowers on top of them. Niall took the seat immediately, but had to lightly tap at the seat beside him to encourage Harry to move and sit beside him.
Once they sat, Johannah moved to her seat, right beside one of the men that had big dark blue eyes and a long brown-haired fringe that flopped over his face, shielding the way he scanned over the group with uncertainty.
"Alright, why don't we get started. I just wanted to say before I pass the reins off to Louis, that not many men have the guts to come along and admit they have something wrong with them, most of them assume their is no hope, and decide to suffer. You boys made the right choice in coming here." Johannah's voice was so warm and welcoming, Niall liked her already. But when he looked over to see the other boys' reactions, they still had the same expressions as they did when he first walked in.
It was different for them though, he knew in the inside. Because he didn't step a foot onto the battlefields of World War Two. They did, they have seen hell, not him.
"Come on now darling, please we talked about this." Niall whipped his head back to focus on the woman again, not realizing someone was already about to speak. He saw the man with the dark blue eyes look strained and stressed, lips curled down into a deep frown as he stared at the woman.
"My name is Louis Tomlinson, Johannah, is my mother." He finally found his voice, and now the man had a name. He still had an unsure look to his face, fingers curled under his knees to stop them from jiggling too hard against the chair he was sitting on. Niall watched on, giving this soldier named Louis his full attention.
"I had started in the battle of France, stayed for a few weeks but got pulled out as soon as the British Army realized France was being taken over by Germany. After that, I went to help in Moscow but got shot in the thigh so I was bed-ridden for months. Got myself a limp for the rest of my life now." Louis looked down from the group after he said that, his cheeks sucking in like he was trying to hold back the tears.
Niall's heart ached, but he kept his composure and watched as Johannah also had to keep herself together, masking her worries with a shining smile as she nodded towards the man beside Louis. His brown eyes were always casted down to look at his feet, never meeting anyones eyes as he spoke to everyone.
"My name is Benjamin Riley, I was in Poland for a little while, trying to stop some Nazi troops from getting too far into the land. Nothing really happened, got pulled out a few weeks later, mostly all of the civilians and half the men in my squad were taken to concentration camps." Niall's breath hitched in his throat, of course he has heard about the concentration camps. Or, a more sinister word to that, would be the extermination camps. The radio would talk about it all the time, have discussions that lasted hours on how the Germans were like animals, caging people up and torturing them to their deaths.
The only reason Niall kept up on all that, was the worry in the back of his head throughout those six years, that Harry would be amongst the extremely unlucky men that got taken. It wasn't just Jewish people they took, it was anyone that didn't follow under their leaders rules. The leaders name was too much a poison to Niall's tongue, he didn't even want to say it or think about it right now.
"After Poland, I got taken to the Normandy beaches. Horrible, horrible thing. We got slaughtered. My leg got shattered from above my knee down, I am lucky to be alive today." Benjamin lifted his pants up just the smallest bit, it was a strange looking thing on his leg, that definitely didn't look good enough to hold him up. It was a wooden stick with a small cushioned black knob on the end, probably something to keep him up-right. It was a sight that caused Niall's eyes to close, him needing to count to ten before he could feel his heart beat slow down again.
When he reopened his eyes, Johannah was looking right at him, seeing how he looked a little agitated with the situation. Her eyes then moved towards Harry, and Niall caught a look also, frowning down at his husbands lap that had his hands squeezing onto his pant leg as tightly as possible.
'this was a very bad idea' he said to himself, but before he could take Harry's hand in his and run right out of the house. The woman spoke again, moving onto the next person.
This man had dark and gloomy eyes, Niall's couldn't really find his pupils they were that dark. The brown in them held too many bad things. It was like he was a criminal more than a soldier, with the amount of scars that littered around his body, and the one that was unmistakable that crossed from his hairline past his left eye and stopping right above his cheekbone, it was pink and sore-looking, and Niall pondered on the story behind it to take his mind off how menacing the man looked.
"My name is Zayn Malik, I was a soldier in this war since 1941. I went to the British raids of Norway, got ambushed by a group of Nazi's and one of them slashed a knife in my face. I am blind in my left eye because of that. I stayed in the hospital for two weeks until I got a gun shoved back into my hands and was moved to do a secret operation to get scientific documents made by the Germans." This man, Zayn, had put everything into detail for them all. Niall didn't realize how many operations there were, and his mind wondered off in thought as to why this young strong looking man didn't join the war sooner.
"Thank you Zayn, next?" Johannah still held a smooth tone, blinking towards the man sat beside Zayn on the couch. He looked jittery, how his eyes met everyones too fast, and the way his knee bounced along the flooring, the heels of his dress-shoes taping lightly against the wood.
"My name is Liam Payne. I was one of the lead private enforcements for my squad. We were sent to Russia to fight in Stalingrad..." Liam trailed off to clear his throat, and Niall could see how everyone in the room but him stiffened in fear, like that word was something that came from the devils mouth.
Niall has heard it before of course, Stalingrad was one of the most deadly battles of this war, the Germans against Russian's mostly. The radio never brought it justice though of course, and guessing by the looks on all the mens faces, Stalingrad was something that needed to be censured.
He pretended to look scared too, not wanting to bring attention to himself.
"But when we were only a mile away from the location, half my group got split up because we crossed paths with a Nazi group. After we fought them we were forced to hold back from Stalingrad." He took in a deep breath, his eyes watering. "When we finally did get to Stalingrad, all we saw was bodies piled upon bodies, we couldn't open doors to the shops there because there would be three or more men laid against it dead. They were up to my knees, the bodies, that how many there was. And the smell, fuck."
"Liam, why don't you tell us about your second mission? You told me you were at D-Day weren't you?" Johannah brought Liam out of whatever trance he was going through, everyone sitting silently with tension radiating off them all.
"I-I was brought to the beaches to attack the Nazi's and saw my best friend get his limbs shredded off his body from a machine gun." Johannah flinched in her seat, as well as all the other boys sat around in the circle. Niall felt this lump grow in his throat, hearing those devastating words come from that poor mans lips.
What the hell was he supposed to say now? He had no feelings towards this war, sure they were emotional, but there was not a sliver of physical pain anywhere in his body caused from it. But he couldn't just leave now, that would be cowardly at this point.
"Uhm...Harry? It's your turn now love." She forced her gaze to land on Harry, who looked immediately pressured by the eyes that zeroed in upon him. Niall kept his hands to himself though, waiting to see if Harry could bring up the courage inside him to speak.
"I was in Dunkirk, where most of us survived...but I can't count the amount of times I was shoved under water by another soldier who couldn't swim and was trying to use me as some lifejacket. Or when I was forced to hold my breath for minutes on end as the Luftwaffe bombed the hell out of our boats that held all our ammunition and weaponry. After Dunkirk I was sent to D-day as well, got shot twice, once in the back and once on in my chest that barely missed my heart and shattered two of my ribs." Niall held back the whimper at the new information that suddenly came up. Sure he saw one of the wounds on Harry the first night they had sex, but he didn't know the excessive damage that was hidden behind it.
See, these were the things Harry could've sent him in a letter, could've told him and gave him peace that he was still okay and alive. It gave Niall a headache.
He felt too small for this room now, the walls were closing around him and he needed to count his breaths, taking in one deep one, then letting it out just as deep. It was his turn now, and he felt his palms grow sweaty and mouth shrivel into dryness as everyones eyes now turned to him, watching and waiting.
"I-I was with Harry through the whole war, we signed up together and-and we both were stationed in Dunkirk." They all looked pretty skeptical, the creepy guy Zayn had his dark eyes shooting into his own, Liam had his brows furrowed as he looked at Niall slowly from head to toe. But maybe it was Niall's own nervousness and paranoia that thought that.
"You didn't get injured, like, at all?" Louis' voice rose from the silence, and Niall looked like a fish out of water, staring at Louis who had one brow raised patiently waiting for an answer to his question.
"Louis, I think that is something Niall can answer when he is ready." Johannah's hand came down lightly on Louis' knee, saving Niall from embarrassing himself even more than he already was. Niall didn't even want to look at any of the boys anymore, his head just moving down to look at his hands.
"Now let's get out of all this war-talk. Why don't you all tell me about your personal lives?" It was a smart tactic that Johannah had, to veer off track from the sadness that hung in the air to block their minds with something that was happy. But that was just another obstacle for him, he has been thinking about how to answer this damned question all night, where are their children in all this?
"Mom, what do I even say?" Louis mumbled, looking nervous now that he was put on the spot. Johannah looked at her son, smiling comfortingly at him and giving Louis a shrug. It didn't look to help him very much, and Louis just blinked back to scan his eyes over the awaiting looks of all the men.
"I have five sisters and one brother, we were all brought up in this house. I usually would go out to get things for my family, in the evenings I'd go to a farm I worked at to get money for us all. I haven't gone to University yet, cause I wanted to help support my siblings cause my father decided to be a dick and leave us behind for another woman." The ending of all that wasn't so nice, and Johannah kept her head held high even when he said that. She looked a little taken back though, it was impossible to hide the shock that flashed in her eyes at her sons outburst.
"Thank you Louis, Benjamin?"
Benjamin shifted very uncomfortably in his seat, and Niall couldn't help but cringe along with him. The pain was probably unimaginable for the lad with one leg.
"I don't really have anything fancy about my family life, but I met this beautiful young lady named Evelyn when I was seventeen and she was sixteen. We have been together since the start of the war. Got married in the church a block away from here and then had the second love of my life Angela, who is eight now." It was a heart-warming story that had Niall thinking of his own life with Harry. He wondered if Benjamin hit his kid and wife like Harry did to him, maybe she had dragged him here like Anne did to them.
"What a lovely family you most have, Zayn?" It was the scary guys turn, and he still held the same expression he had since Niall first laid eyes on him.
"I have three sisters, all of them helped my mom around the house so when me and my dad came home from the shoe factory, we'd get food on the table and clean house to relax in. Our house was blown to pieces during the London bombings though, so we now have to live in a shelter until we can rebuild it." Niall could see Johannah twitch in discomfort, probably not liking that he was going down the dark path of war again, but she kept her mouth shut, letting him keep on speaking.
"I never wanted to join the war, I would've rather had stayed with my family and help support them with the job I already had. I didn't like the thought of war, it angered me actually. Even when my dad enlisted and got sent to work in the submarine warfare, I still didn't go. But-" Johannah held her hand out for him to stop, and Zayn looked angered at her interruption, his hands curling into fists at his sides.
Louis noticed his agitation and leaned over in his chair, glaring hotly at Zayn. "Don't get all pissy now, she said your personal life not the war ya dickhead!" Now everything was getting a little out of hand, Johannah's hand came down across Louis' chest, lightly shoving him back against the chair and standing between the two. Her dress flowed quickly with her movements, and Niall admired the different colour flowers to ignore the shit that was about to hit the fan.
"I don't want any violence or cursing in this household! Louis please relax as well as you, Zayn. You don't need to explain yourself to all these men. All these five men here have gone through the same similar problems as you did, we need to embrace that and help each other out. As friends."
"You're acting like the war was all so similar, like every soldier just because they were in the battlefield had the same pain and experience. We were all different." Harry's voice rose surprisingly past the bickering, and Niall whipped his head towards his husband, feeling anxiety squeeze at his chest in worry Johannah was going to get even more mad now.
But her agitation from the other two had faded once she heard Harry, she actually started to smile now, a short nod being given to Harry as she moved back towards her seat and slowly sat back down.
"That is a very, very good point Harry. Thank you for opening my eyes a little more." She paused, letting her words sink into everyones heads before speaking again. "Now can we have Liam speak next please? No interruptions this time, I promise you." Liam perks up a little when hearing his name, and he seems a little more looser in his seat now that he had heard the individual stories. Maybe he doesn't feel like the only problematic soldier here anymore.
"I have two sisters that are older than me, so they both mostly took care of me while I was growing up, taught me some things that usually a girl would teach a younger girl. I didn't mind though, but when I turned sixteen my father didn't like me hanging out so much with them, he said he wanted me to be more of a man...so I kinda just, went off to work with him at the butcher shop we owned downtown. But uh, as soon as the second world war started, he wanted nothing more for me to do than become a soldier, since he uh, since he was in world war one." It seems all these boys could really talk about was war, the battles of it all had consumed them until that was all they knew.
Johannah didn't even try to stop him, had just smiled stiffly and nodded in content as his lips thinned into a line and his back slumped into his chair again. A sign he was done talking.
"What about you Harry?" It was now Harry's turn again, and Niall tried to prepare himself a little more for his husbands answer, realizing this might just be something completely knew to his mind like the last speech Harry told.
"I was born and raised in Cheshire at first, but when my father got a job to work as a doctor in one of the London hospitals we moved there to have a better life. We got more money cause of it, I went to a great school and got decent grades. I was sixteen when I met Niall, and we hit it off from there, became best friends and have never left each others side since, even during the war." Harry had looked up and even gave Niall a smile after his words, and Niall had to repeat all the stuff he just said in his head, not wanting to screw it all up once it was his turn. Which was right now.
Johannah called his name, giving him the usual welcoming smile with her dainty hands settled on her floral print dress. He sunk everything into his system, all the men's stories, Harry's stories, and finally found his voice and didn't stop till he was out of breath.
"I grew up in Ireland, but there was nothing there for me and my family, and instead of all of us moving to England, my parents decided to move just me and my brother Greg over here to England, to work in a kitchen owned by a cousin of ours. We would send money in little envelopes over to them, since London gave us better pay than Ireland, and we had time on our own hands to go to school which is where I met Harry, my best friend."
No one even blinked at the end of what he said, and there was too long of a silence before Johannah stood back up from her chair to get everyones attention on her.
"Well, that was a lovely, lovely first session. All of your stories are truly very interesting and I really do hope you come back next week to have another chat. This was just the introduction, I promise you boys you will be as good as new in a few months."
When they both got outside with their coats slung over their shoulders, Anne was leaning against her car a few houses down. The curbs in front of the Tomlinson's house being already filled by three other cars, that looked to be the families of the other lads.
She pushed herself off the car's hood once she saw them come into view, she looked happy to see them now, less agitated than before.
"How was it? Was it worth going to?" She looked really hopeful, and Niall had smiled, nodding. He really did think the session was worth it, sure there was that creepy guy named Zayn Malik who was close to having a fist fight with Louis, Johannah's son. But hearing the different stories that blended into his headspace, it opened his mind to what Harry was really going through, or close to what his husband was going through, at least.
"It was bullshit, all the guys in there were just trying to see who had the manliest personality. I-I hated lying, hated talking like my own kids didn't even exist." Harry was showing the love for their children, which surprised Niall as he watched Harry lean against the car and stare into his reflection in the drivers side window.
"Well maybe it will be better the second time, you need to be there more than once to understand if it really isn't worth going back to." Anne was trying to reassure her son, but Harry scowled at her attempt.
"You just asked us if it was worth going to? I answered." It was a snide comment back that had Anne red in the face once again, so Niall decided to step forward and defuse the situation before it got just as worse as the last time.
"I want to get home and see my kids now, Gemma deserves a break from all her hard work from going to work and babysitting." He tried to make a valid point, and Anne seemed to take it, nodding stiffly and then walking to the drivers side to start the car up.
Niall looked at Harry, both still standing on the sidewalk by the car. He knew his husband had doubts, of course he would, they just walked into this strangers home to get him help from the toxins in his mind. They were basically giving themselves over to that women.
"Just give it a few more sessions, okay Harry? As soon as you get too uncomfortable, we will leave." He took his chances and moved a hand out to lightly caress at Harry's shoulder, and had deflated in relief when his husband let him comfort him for once. It wasn't a big hug or a kiss on the lips, but it was something.
"Daddy! Look what Gemma drew me!" That was the first thing Niall heard when he opened the door to their home, and he never felt more eager to pick Virginia up and spin her in his arms. Her chubby little arm wrapped around his neck as the other stuffed a piece of paper in his face.
It was a really good drawing, something Niall didn't know Gemma was so talented with. It was of Virginia holding her doll, her cute curly hair tied up in pigtails and the background of their house. Niall smiled down at it, moving his head to rest against Virginia's in satisfaction.
When he looked back up, Gemma was standing with her shoulder settled against the wall of the hallway, smiling faintly at them as Anne grabbed her coat and gave it to her. James and Thomas were no where to be seen, again.
"Thank you Gem's, really I am so happy you could do this for us." He settled Virginia down onto the ground, and when he made a move to pull her into a warm hug, Gemma stepped back towards the dining room.
"Can we talk please? You and Harry?" Niall was surprised at that, and the tired look she had across her face disintegrated into concern. It made Niall's heart stop in his chest, and he gave Harry a look as his husband past him to get into the room, Anne looking confused but staying with Virginia.
"Have you noticed Lawrence is a little distant lately?" She asked when Harry and Niall settled in the room, Gemma looked anxious as she tapped her foot against the ground and folded her arms over her chest, waiting for an answer.
Niall cursed in his mind, he knew the question was going to bite him in the arse some day, but he didn't want it to be today. They needed to talk to Lawrence, maybe try and patch things up. But how could he possibly do that? He didn't want to lie and say Harry was all better again, that Harry isn't sick in the head. His husband was still healing, or still trying to get back to normal again. The worst thing that could possibly happen would be telling Lawrence everything was fine, and then have Harry go into one of his rage-fits again. That would completely break his sons trust with Harry.
"Y-yeah he's been like that for a while. It started with the incident with James and me, Lawrence doesn't really trust Harry right now." He could see the way Harry's expression soured when he reminded him of that day.
"Well then why haven't you talked to him about it?" Gemma rolled her eyes and it looked like she had been bottling up her frustration on this topic for a while, the way she immediately buffed up her shoulders and let her top lip curl up in a snarl. "Lawrence hasn't come down from his room at all, barely, maybe even once since you two left. Whenever I try to talk to him, he just glares at me or won't let me open his bedroom door. If you don't do something soon, it won't be just your marriage that will need to be fixed."
That was a punch to Niall's gut, and he stepped back so his back hit the wall, taking in a deep breath to his lungs to calm himself from crying. There was too much stress in his life, and right now all he wanted to do was have a fit like he did when he was younger, stomp his feet and yell 'I just want everything to be easier!'
He kept that in though, because he wasn't a child, he was a grown man that needed to face his problems head-on. So, he simply turned his head to look at Harry, who was thinking with his eyes staring out the window.
"Y-you are right, Gemma." He found his voice and licked his lips, still watching Harry with careful eyes as his husband still didn't look like he was in reality yet. He was still blinking robotically down at the ground, looking to still be processing Gemma's rant.
A chair raked across the wood flooring and it was a loud cut through the air that gripped Harry's attention as well as Niall's. Gemma was standing now, looking at them with a hot glare that shifted between the two equally. "Saying I am right isn't going to do anything for you, go up there, talk to him. Kick down his door for goodness sakes I don't care." She flailed her arms up at the last words, frustration leaking from her voice as she paused and gave them one last glare before she was stomping off out of the room.
There was some rustling in the front hallway, and then the sound of the front door opening and soft muffled voices before the slam of the door shutting echoed throughout the household. Niall had to close his eyes after hearing that, trying to regenerate his brain to function right again, this was all too much, like a tsunami of a wave washing down upon him with all its force.
Harry was moving quicker than he was though, and Niall looked up to watch his husband walk towards the door of the dining room, hands shoved deep into his trouser pockets. He stopped though, and Niall almost flinched when he looked over his shoulder and looked right at him with piercing eyes that even in the dull lighting of the room, shone as clear as day right into Niall's.
"Are you coming?" He asked, sounding patient with his back still turned towards him. Niall moved a little too quickly now, everything coming back to him and the little voice in his mind saying 'go, go, go!'
Harry was moving as slow as possible even when Niall had settled a hand on his upper-arm to help guide him towards the steps. He knew this was going to be harder for Harry than him, Niall wasn't the one who grabbed their second youngest kid right in front of the whole families eyes. Lawrence isn't just going to forgive and forget, he was older and more mature and things just stuck. Not like Virginia or Jamie who let everything just breeze over their heads and let the days go by like nothing ever happened. Thomas was in-between them all, he was at the age where he looked up to his older brother like he was some god, but he was still at the youthful age where something could easily swerve him off track to something totally different.
He kept a hand held on Harry's forearm, never let it go even when they made their way up the stairs, hip to hip once they got upstairs and were staring right at the closed door to Lawrence's room. It was more Lawrence and Thomas's room since the two boys shared it, but Thomas wasn't so keen on staying cooped up in a room all day like Lawrence was at the moment, he was out probably back to playing around in the living room.
Niall made the move first, stepping forward and knocking, never trying to open the door because he knew he needed to let his son know his room could be his little home in a home, somewhere he can cool down and let his thoughts keep him sane. But of course it has been too long now, and it was time to talk now before Lawrence was the one he needed to go to therapy sessions or see a doctor for the problems Niall and Harry ignored.
Niall shivered just at the thought that could be in his future, and slowly moved his fist back onto the door, knocking on it once again since he didn't get an answer the last time.
"Lawrence, can me and your fa-me and Harry talk to you?" Lawrence refused to call Harry his father, so he kept it like the boy wanted, even though it pained him when he said it out loud. He knew Harry was cringing behind him as well.
There was no answer, but a shift of the bed springs was heard from the other side of the door. Lawrence was in there, listening to every word they were saying to him.
"Gemma has told us you have been in your room a lot, and have been in a bad mood for the last couple days. Is there anything you'd like to talk to us about?" He went with that first, picked his words carefully and let them come out of his mouth as warmly as possible. Lawrence was only mad at Harry, sure he was probably frustrated at Niall, but the boy was a lot less sour with him.
A pause again, no sounds of shifting springs or bedsheets. Harry was getting antsy beside Niall, his hands coming together in front of him to fidget with.
"No." That was the one word they got out of him, a rough and abrupt 'no' that came through the door. Niall frowned immediately after hearing it, hand dropping back to his side like a dead weight in defeat. He almost turned around to give Harry a sad smile to show they should try again in an hour or so, but Gemma's words were suddenly echoing at the back of his mind, loud and bouncing off the walls in his head.
"We would like to talk to you though, Lawrence. Staying in your room all the time won't do you or us any good. We should have a mature discussion, like big boys." He used the big boy card, that would always make Lawrence want to do whatever Niall asked so he could feel like an adult. Hopefully it will work.
"I don't want to talk to you or him, he ruined my life once he came back!" It hit Niall hard like a brick was thrown at his chest, and he couldn't imagine what Harry felt with those words thrown at him. Niall looked back, his lip sucking between his teeth to hold back the whimper of pain just looking at Harry who looked breathless and confused with his brows furrowed and mouth slightly opening and closing like he was trying to speak. Nothing was coming out, and Niall had to grab onto his husbands hand before he ran off again.
"It's okay, please he didn't mean it. We are fixing this yeah? Going to those sessions?" Niall sounded desperate, whispering to Harry as he moved in as close as possible. Harry was looking into Lawrence's door, not paying any attention to Niall who had both his hands across his face now, petting at Harry's cheekbones and jawline to try and get him to focus on him. Niall's pale hands then moved to comb through his short curly hair, breaking off the knots in it with a sensible tug.
Harry's hands were moving out and Niall didn't know what his husband was doing with them till they were resting across his hips. It was a contact that was a sign Harry was back on earth again, but his hands were tightening like a compressor, and Niall frantically moved a hand to cup Harry's chin. Forcing him to focus on him.
"Hey, you're okay can you-" But Niall didn't get the rest out before he was being manhandled to the side, just one little lift where his feet were barely off the ground. He stumbled a little bit, surprised at Harry's sudden strength. But he looked on silently, watching his husband move towards Lawrence's door.
At first, he got worried. Harry was a ticking time bomb, and his mood could easily become some raging gorilla and he didn't want to imagine his husband kicking down their kids door to get ready to strangle him. But he breathed out a sigh of relief when Harry just slumped against the door, forehead rested on it as he stared down at the floor and the light that shone through the crack at the bottom of the door.
"Lawrence...I will always be your father and I always was. I thought of you and your siblings throughout the whole war, the whole six years. I thought of your father, admiring how hard-working he must've been while I was gone. But I knew you were the oldest, and that you'd help your father through all the hard times, right? While I was gone, did you help him with chores and with your sister and brothers?" This was the most Harry talked the whole day, more than the therapy session. Niall just stared on, not wanting to interrupt the moment.
"Y-yeah, of course I did." Lawrence answered quicker than Niall thought he would, and Harry looked a little surprised also, with the way his eyes seemed to widen in alert a little bit more.
"And did you feel like you needed to help him when I was hurting him? Or when I was hurting your brother?" Harry's voice didn't even stutter when he said that, like he already consumed the realization he did that into him. Maybe he was immune to bad things happening now, the man did go through six years of bad things.
"Yes..." Lawrence's voice was barely heard now, like a whisper as he answered Harry's question sheepishly.
"You're such a good son for doing that, I want to tell you that right now. And I want to let you know we are getting help, getting someone to make me not do any of that anymore. And soon you won't have to feel like doing that anymore, okay?" Niall was beyond shocked at what Harry was saying, surprised his husband was just spewing the words out like it was nothing. He wanted to keep the sessions a secret, but the cat was out of the bag now.
He didn't really mind though, their was no anger anywhere inside him at Harry's confession to Lawrence. It was probably a good thing they told Lawrence, maybe now their son felt like he knew something no one else knew, like he was getting a connection with his parents once again.
"O-okay." It was a weird answer, but Niall knew Lawrence was probably just as shocked as Niall was. Their son was in deep thought on the other side of that door, thinking through everything that was just said to him.
Harry stepped away from the door now, his eyes still glistened over with something Niall couldn't read. There was silence again, just like when they first got up the stairs, and Niall really didn't know what to do now with the words that were said he thought would never come out of his husbands mouth.
He thought Harry was completely clueless towards the abuse, Niall thought Harry had locked the little voice that was supposed to tell him what was right and wrong in a box at the back of his mind. Causing him to never see reality in the right way, or what he was doing and who he was hurting. But maybe he has changed now, or those walls that blocked his views were kicked down and the locks on the box were smashed into smithereens once he realized just how affected his oldest son was towards his behaviour. Maybe Harry could see now, look with the eyes the real Harry Styles had, not what the soldier version of Harry Styles could see.
Niall was broken out of his head once Harry started to move again, his pace was fast all of a sudden, not sluggish like when Niall was pushing him up the stairs before all this. Niall tried to catch up to him, seeing his husband moving quickly towards their bedroom. He hoped Harry wasn't going to slam the door in his face, or worse, hurt him again out of some unknown rage.
"Harry?" He kept his voice low and calm, addressing Harry's name as he walked into their bedroom and thankful that his husband didn't close the door in his face. Niall walked in slowly now, this time not trying to catch at Harry's heels. He was carefully watching now, trying to see what was wrong now and what he could do to help.
Harry moved two of his fingers up to lightly push at the curtains that were closed, looking outside the window with his brows still in that permanent furrow like he was in some kind of other universe in thought. Niall waited though, he didn't want to push him to speak yet.
"My son is scared of me, so scared he doesn't even see me as a father to him anymore." Harry mumbled, but his tone was vicious with the way he spoke through his clenched teeth. But still his actions remained calm, the two fingers still pulling back the fabric of the curtain to blink outside the window and down at their lawn.
"Harry, you need to understand you have been gone for years. They need to get to know you again, you have only been here for a couple weeks, almost a month." Niall tried to push what he was saying into Harry's brain. He couldn't quite understand, no matter how much Niall told him. Harry doesn't realize that their kids can't just immediately remember him again, hell, Virginia wasn't even born and James was just an infant when he left for war, they only knew what Harry looked like from grainy looking photos Niall had in a family photo album.
"And in just that little span of time, they have all grown to despise me." Harry was wagging a finger at Niall now, his hand dropping from the curtain. The daylight that was shining across Harry had now fallen from his face, and the room was back to it's dull lighting that was barely lit by the lamp on the bedside table that Niall forgot to shut off in the morning.
"You have threatened to take them away from me, my mother and sister look at me disgusted with who I have become. My life is in ruin, nothing is left from my past that loves me back." Harry was crying now, and a hard sob hit the air that came from his throat. Niall couldn't help the tears slipping down his own cheeks also, hearing his husband say such a depressing thing.
"I will never leave you Harry, I-I know I said that but I was just so mad. You can't hurt any of us like that, you can't do any of that to our family anymore. The safety of our children comes first." Niall explained immediately, almost desperately as he moved forward to grab at Harry's wrists. "But we are getting help, you said it yourself to Lawrence. Yeah? We can fix this, and I think we are already moving in the right direction based on how you handled Lawrence." Niall gave Harry a proud smile when he was done talking, and tugged lightly on his wrists to guide him towards their bed to sit down on.
Harry still looked unsure though, with the way his eyes casted down to the floor, but he looked less tense, his eyebrows not so knotted across his forehead anymore, and lips not in a permanent frown.
Niall kept looking at him, and saw an opportunity to ease the tension when Harry met his eyes finally. He leaned forward, pressing their lips together in a kiss they both desperately needed for a long time now. It got needy fast, with the way Harry's hands landed across Niall's hips and how Niall's arms wrapped tightly around Harry's neck, desperate for no space between them.
They both laid themselves down on their sides across the bed, one of Harry's hands moving to Niall's hair to grip at it tightly. Their was tongues mixing together and poking at the inside of each others cheeks, wet sounds and moans lifting into the air. They didn't want to go all the way, the walls were thin in their old house, and Lawrence was only a door down from them. It was the kind of snog that felt like a necessity to mend their relationship back together, or at least temporary fix it. The two just held onto each other so tightly it was like they wanted to morph into one being.
That snog session only lasted a few minutes before little steps were bounding up the stairs. Virginia rushing into their room whining that James wasn't sharing, the normal kid attitude that sent Niall right back into parent mode.
The rest of the day was perfectly fine though, Harry felt a lot more spirited after their time together and talking to Lawrence. The kids were still wary about him, but Niall could tell the words he assured Harry with a few hours ago stuck with him, and he'd silently go off alone sometimes when Niall would be sitting in the living room, cleaning the house or making food. Harry had a lot to think about of course, and Niall was perfectly fine with letting him go into his own world right now.
Now it's night time where the moon is hung high in the sky with the stars dancing around it, like little dots that cover the darkness and bring peace to Niall when he looks up as soon as he is done getting his night clothes on. Harry is still in the washroom, having to wait a little longer to get in since Thomas and James were fighting over who got the sink first to brush their teeth. The kids were all in bed now, the lights in the house all shut off except for the bathroom.
He kept his eyes on the window till he heard the water shut off, Harry's feet padding into the bedroom and the door closing behind him.
"You coming to bed love?" Harry's voice was already thick with exhaustion, and Niall turned his focus towards his husband who was now pushing away the covers and getting under them, looking at him with one brow raised in question. Niall didn't answer, he just gave Harry a smile before he hopped onto the bed and crawled towards him, one hand coming down across Harry's bare chest to rub between his pecks.
"I love you." He said those three words slowly, trying to sound as genuine as possible and looking right into Harry's eyes through the faint darkness. Harry smiled, a small breath of a laugh coming from his nose as he leaned forward and captured their lips in a short kiss.
"Love you too." Harry said back, shuffling so he was laying on his side, a hand patting down in front of him. It was an invitation for Niall to slot his body into Harry's, and the blond didn't hesitate to slip into Harry's side and lock their bodies together, spooning. No words were said after the exchange of 'I love you's,' that was all that was needed before Niall could feel Harry's breath even-out into a peaceful sleep.
He didn't sleep very well, too much had happened for him to just close his eyes and fall into a deep sleep. Niall wondered how Harry or any soldiers did it, how could they possibly get a wink of sleep when they were in the middle of a battleground? Niall wasn't even in such an unbearable situation, but still he was staring at the bedsheets laid out beside him with Harry's arms wrapped around his waist. Those soldiers didn't even have their loved ones warmth radiating off them when they slept, nor a comfy bed to lay their head on.
Niall had no choice but to turn over onto his back, making Harry grunt at the sudden movement but slowly he calmed back down again till he was fully asleep. Niall needed to distract himself from something he knew would be impossible to wrap his head around. He still felt the burn of tears at the back of his eyes and the clog of his throat ready for him to sob. He wanted to just cut his ribcage opened and hide Harry away inside of it, so no one could hurt him ever again, or so no one could ever take him away from Niall again.
There was also the therapy session that was swirling around in his head like a pesky bee. All those boys surrounding him in a deadly circle of emotions, all of them fearing so many things. Louis, the man who had a short temper and looked like he hadn't ate a day in his life when he came back from wherever he had gone and with the permeant limp. Benjamin, the poor, poor lad that lost his leg in the war and had some blanket of depression across his face even though he had such a good life at home with a new child and probably a beautiful wife. There was Liam Payne, the soldier who seemed to not have anything else in his life but war, like that was the only thing he lived for, and the only thing he wants to die for in the end. Then Zayn, the scary and mysterious looking man with dark hair and dark eyes, just the way he looked around the room made Niall feel like a thick fog had coated the air, the man looked toxic, like things happened to him that no one ever wanted to experience. All those men were just like Harry but different also, and it made Niall's chest tight in worry and sadness even more. It was like he was on the brink of a panic attack thinking about what all those men had to deal with, what their families had to deal with just like Niall had to when Harry came home. He felt mad also, almost wanting to shake his fist up at the sky in anger at god for creating hell on earth that was called World War 2 where no man came back unscathed
Maybe shutting his eyes would help him relax again, so he squeezed them as tightly shut as possible. He counted the deep breaths he let in and out, finally feeling tranquillity wash over him. His muscles grew less stiff, and even Harry seemed to sigh happily in his sleep, like he could just feel the stress radiating off Niall throughout his slumber.
He remembers someone that had said one time on the radio, 'my husband didn't come back. The real one was left in the battlefields, he is just a shell of the man I used to know, now.' And he completely agreed, Harry was there, he could look at him every second of every day, but it was just a shell of his husband. This war had carved him out from the inside, left nothing left of Harry to come back to. There was nothing there for Harry to grab, the control he had before all this being slipped right through his fingers. Everything he thought about now brought him back to the memories of war, watching his children play, war, hugging his husband, war, walking along the streets of London, war. Harry was just a hollow being with gunshots in his mind and aftershocks of bombs going off in his body.
But he was changing, there is signs of change already. Niall can see the cracks forming around Harry already. He could see the old Harry coming back, right through the cracks were a beacon of light was shining. Niall held onto that as tightly as possible, he knew with the help they were getting right now, he'd see that Harry once again.