Electing Strange Perfections

Chapter 7

The conservatory is cold and humid when they enter it, so Louis runs back in to go get them blankets, handing one to Perrie before curling up in a chaise longue, watching her do the same. With September rolling in, it’s become too cold and windy on cloudy days to lounge outside and watch Harry work, so Louis has started doing so from inside the conservatory, making faces at Harry through the windows whenever he looks his way. At the moment, he’s making his way across the yard and pushing a wheelbarrow full of tools, his wellies sinking into the muddy grass with each step.

“I miss the days of shirtless Fit Gardener,” Perrie says with a sigh, pulling the blanket tighter around her shoulders. She winks at Louis, who rolls his eyes.

“I’m fine,” Louis replies airily, thinking back to the pictures they’d sent each other the night before on Snapchat, the best ones saved in his phone. He strokes it through his pocket, pondering whether he should text Harry to tell him to look over or not.

“Yeah, I bet you are,” she replies, laughing. “How was your weekend at his place, then? Do anything fun?”

“You could at least try and be subtle when you ask for details.”

“I’m not! I’m just saying, if you feel like telling me all about the things you got up to when you spent a whole weekend at your boyfriend’s, you can. I won’t mind. That’s what I’m here for.”

“To vicariously live through my sex life?”

Perrie perks up, grinning. “You’ve got one, now?”

“Have you seen who I’m dating?” Louis asks flippantly before giggling, pulling his knees up against his chest and wrapping the blanket around them. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve got one. We’ve done a couple of things.”

“Ignoring the fact that it’s super upsetting that I’m only learning about this now, go on. Tell me everything.”

“Sorry about that, by the way,” Louis says, genuinely sorry for having kept it silent. “It was just easier to tell Zayn about this, you know?”

“Are you referring to the fact that I’m dating a girl?” Perrie asks before laughing. “You’re forgiven, I’ve neglected you, too, this summer. We’re terrible at keeping in touch.”

Louis nods, reaching over to take Perrie’s hand and squeeze it. “Alright, so, hum, three weeks ago, Mum took the family out to the country for the weekend. I stayed here.”

From there, Louis tells her everything about the past three weeks, leaving no details out, including his own insecurities. He skips over his fight of the past weekend, though, deciding that it’s not his place to tell someone about Harry’s issues, especially not the monetary ones. He understands misplaced pride and respects it. Through the entire story, Perrie laughs and applauds at all the right places. It makes Louis realise that his life might actually be interesting, unlike what he’d always imagined. Take that, Zayn. Louis, too, can have crazy sex stories.

“So, yeah, that’s pretty much it. And right before I left his flat, on Sunday, he carried me to his room and gave me head one last time just because he could, he said,” Louis concludes with a giggle. He’s flustered and he knows his eyes are shining with all the love he feels for Harry, but he honestly doesn’t care. Talking about Harry makes him feel like he’s floating on cloud nine, like nothing bad can happen. He feels invincible.

From behind him, Louis hears the door click shut. He turns around fast enough to give himself whiplash, but no one is there. He lets out a chuckle, shaking his head. He’s turning into a crazy paranoiac, especially now that he and Harry are sending each other saucy pictures at night. He can never shake the feeling that everyone in the house knows what he’s doing behind his closed door. Well, his mother probably can, but technically, his sisters still don’t know. As for his stepfather, Louis would know if he knew, without a doubt.

“I’m so happy for you,” Perrie says when he’s done, smiling brightly. “But I have to ask: have you guys talked about next month? You’re moving back to Oxford soon, babe.”

“I know,” Louis says, sighing. His mood is plummeting almost instantly and he curls up more under the blanket, searching for Harry in the yard. He can’t see him and sighs even more. “We haven’t really talked about it, no. Like, we know it’ll happen, but we haven’t… we don’t know what we’ll do. But we’re in love, it means it’ll be alright, yeah?”

“I suppose,” Perrie says, sounding uncertain. Sometimes, Louis hates his friends for being honest with him. He wishes they’d lie from time to time. “Long-distance is never easy, though.”

“I’m not going to study in California, I’m going to Oxford. The buses are cheap. He could visit.”

“Would that be enough?”

“It’ll have to be,” Louis says, shrugging. He rests his chin on his knees and sighs, feeling his throat tighten.

He tries not to think about the future. Their present is already uncertain enough as it it, the secrecy making him feel like what they’re doing is somehow wrong. Whenever he’s not with Harry, he becomes filled with doubts and fears. What if Harry gets sick of him? What if they have a fight that they can’t fix? What if they fall out of love? He’s slowly begun to build his life around Harry over the summer, especially in the second half when he’d spend most of his afternoons either with him or watching him. He can’t go back to how lonely he was before, locked up in his room watching Netflix until his eyes burned, but he might have to once he’s back in Oxford. He won’t have Harry readily available to entertain him except through text messages and Skype and he already knows it won’t be enough. Just now, only two days after he came back from spending the weekend with him, he already misses him so much that it aches and he hates how much he’s built his life around Harry in such a short span of time. He’s always been able to be independent, not needing anyone by his side to go through life, but now even the idea of going one night without talking to Harry makes him feel queasy. Harry has filled a void that Louis didn’t even know he had, making him feel important and seen where he’d always felt second best and invisible. The fact that he might lose it all soon is unbearable.

Saying goodbye to Perrie a few hours later and skipping dinner to go straight to bed, Louis curls up under his blankets and pulls his laptop closer, watching the time compulsively until he knows Harry will be back home and logged on. He has two hours and they feel even longer than usual. On normal days, he manages to exchange at least a few words with Harry as he works, but Perrie had kept him too busy for that. This change, added to the thoughts that have been running through his mind all day, make him yearn for his boyfriend’s reassurance. He only wishes Harry could hold him, too, but a trip to London is out of the question. It’d raise suspicions.

Louis is about to call Harry on his phone just to hear his voicemail message when his stepfather walks into his room without knocking. Sitting up, Louis breathes in, ready to explode at the lack of privacy in this bloody house, when he notices the suitcase in his stepfather’s hands. He frowns.

“You’re going on holiday?” Louis asks, cautious.

“No, not at all. But you’re leaving,” he says. His voice cuts through the air like a winter wind, cold and unforgiving.

“In a month, yeah. You’re almost free of me!” Louis gives him a big, fake smile.

“You’re leaving now.”

“Have you lost your mind? We’re in September, the term begins in October,” Louis says slowly, talking like he would to a particularly daft child. Despite the act he’s putting on, his heart is hammering in his chest and he’s light-headed with fear. He feels like the floor dropped from under his feet.

Dropping the suitcase on the floor unceremoniously, his stepfather crosses the room and grabs Louis by the arm, forcing him out of bed. Louis yelps and tries to break free, but the man’s grip is vice-like.

“You’re done laughing in my face, you ungrateful twat,” he snaps, pulling Louis along. “You pack your things and leave my house.”

“And where do you expect me to go?” Louis says, trying his best to sound brave. “Just because Mum’s at Nan’s for the week doesn’t mean you get to kick her son out.”

“This isn’t your mother’s house and I will not have a fag living here. Especially not one who’s robbing me. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Louis freezes, the blood draining from his face. He must have heard it wrong, it can’t be right. This man has been his stepfather since the time he was two years old, it’s got to count for something, he can’t just call Louis a… that after eighteen years of begrudging parenthood. He just can’t. “What did you call me?”

“I won’t ask you again: pack your things and leave.”

“What did you call me?” Louis shouts, wrenching his arm free. He has to know even if the knowledge might destroy him.

“I called you a bloody fag,” his stepfather yells in return, losing his composure. “I heard you this afternoon telling that poor Edwards girl all the disgusting details of your perverted life. And as if it weren’t enough, I saw your credit card bill. Did you honestly think I’d let you rob me?!”

Shaking like a leaf, Louis swallows against the taste of bile that filled his mouth, paling even more when he sees his sisters peering into the room from the doorway. Pressing his lips together, he shakes his head. “You can’t kick me out.”

“Watch me,” he replies before heading for Louis’ closet and throwing clothes out. “Your room will make a wonderful nursery for my future son. My real son.”

“Lou, you’re gay?” Charlotte asks and Louis nods at her, swallowing back his tears. “Dad, come on. You can’t do that,” she then says, walking into the room.


“Stay out of this, Charlotte. It has nothing to do with you. Take the twins away, too. They don’t need to see this.”

“It does! It’s got something to do with all of us, you’re kicking out our brother for no reason!”

“Charlotte, I won’t say it twice.”

To Louis (and his stepfather’s) surprise, the girls line up to block the doorway, shaking their heads.

“We’re not letting you throw him out, Dad,” Felicite adds, lifting her chin defiantly. On either side of her, the twins cross their arms over their chest, shaking their heads resolutely.

Louis forgets his panic temporarily as a surge of affection takes over him. He bites his lip, his eyes watering, and looks at the pile of clothes abandoned in the floor. For a moment, no one moves or says a word. It’s like time forgot to keep moving inside the four walls of the room.

Then, all at once, Louis sees his stepfather inflate with rage and he comes to a decision, one he knows he’ll regret in the future, but the only one he can take now. Acting on instinct as he feels like the man is about to take his anger out on the girls, Louis unzips the suitcase and begins packing it haphazardly, throwing in the first things he can put his hand on.

“You’re not kicking me out. I’m leaving,” he says, clearing his throat when his voice comes out rough. He pulls the power chord of his computer from the wall and throws it on top of the heap of clothes, placing the laptop over it after and then adding his mobile charger. Slipping into his loafers, he zips up the suitcase and places it upwards, swallowing around the knot in his throat. “I’m sorry, girls.”

“Where will you go?” Felicite asks.

“My boyfriend’s,” he replies, winking at her. He even manages to force a smile as he pulls her into a hug. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

Letting go of Felicite, he takes Charlotte in his arms. “Take care of them for me, yeah? Explain what happened to the twins, I don’t have time.”

“I will.” Charlotte hugs him tighter. “You’re totally shagging the gardener, aren’t you?” she whispers.

Louis laughs, squeezing her tightly. “I might be, yeah.”

She pinches his waist before taking a step back. “Lucky bastard.”

Taking a deep breath, Louis moves on to the twins, crouching down to be at their height. “I’m going, okay? But you can call me whenever you want. It’s just like when I go away for school,” he says softly, wiping his eyes before they notice he’s crying. “I love you.”

The twins nod and he hugs them tightly, burying his face in their hair for a moment before he lets go. He ruffles Daisy’s hair and grabs his suitcase, wheeling it out of the room without a look back at his stepfather. As far as he’s concerned, the man is dead. He walks swiftly, heading for the gates as he calls a cab. He wants to be out of sight of the house as he waits in case the wanker decides he hasn’t insulted Louis enough already and needs to do it some more. All things considered, Louis thinks, he’s surprisingly calm.

His calm melts away when he sits in the cab and watches his house recede in the distance. The tears he’s been holding back finally escape and he pulls his knees up, hugging them tightly and burying his face in them as he begins sobbing. He catches the driver’s worried glances in the rear-view mirror and every time he does, he shakes his head to try and tell him that he’s fine, nothing to worry about, he’ll be perfectly fine. Maybe. Or not. His money’s on ‘not at all’.

It takes nearly an hour to get to Harry’s flat, as usual, and by the time they get there Louis has stopped crying. Instead, he’s staring out of the window without really saying anything, the scene replaying over and over again in his head, feeling unreal. It’s like he watched himself living it. He tips the driver generously before he slips into the building after one of Harry’s neighbours left, hurrying before the door locks and he has to ring. He climbs the stairs as fast as he can, lifting his suitcase with difficulty and wiping at his eyes angrily when he starts crying again at the thought that this dingy building is his new home. He’s done crying over him, he’s done, he’s so fucking done, he’s not going to shed one more tear over that wanker, he’s not.

He’s out of breath when he reaches Harry’s floor and he waits for his breath to come back to normal, even if, in this case, ‘normal’ means ‘shuddery because of too much crying’. He can hear the sounds of a video game coming from the other side of the door and Harry’s laugh, and it makes his heart tighten and a fresh batch of tears pour from his eyes. Taking a deep breath, Louis knocks on the door, wiping his eyes and trying to look composed.

Harry is looking over his shoulder and telling Niall something when he opens the door. The simple sight of him is enough to make Louis start sobbing once more and the sound makes Harry whip his head around to look at him with a gasp.

“Lou? Are you alright?” he asks, pulling Louis in and shutting the door behind him. “What are you doing here, baby? Is something wrong? What happened?” Harry’s voice rises with panic with every question.

Louis tries to answer, but his voice catches in his throat and what comes out is a sob. He drops his suitcase on the floor and walks up to Harry, wrapping his arms around his waist and hiding in face against his chest. Harry immediately holds him tight, stroking his back and kissing his forehead.

“It’s okay, sunshine, you’re okay, I’ve got you.” Loud explosion noises come from the television and they both look at it for a second. Niall gives them a sheepish smile and pauses his game, downing his beer and looking like he wished he were a thousand miles away. “Let’s go to my room,” Harry whispers.

Louis nods and picks up his suitcase, following Harry to his bedroom and sniffling as tears run freely down his face. Harry pulls him on his bed once they’re in the room, gathering him up in his arms and rocking him softly. Louis buries his face in Harry’s neck and cries, hating himself because it seems it’s all he’s been doing for the past hour, and he keeps crying until it feels like he has no tears left.

“What happened?” Harry whispers once Louis has calmed down, stroking his hair soothingly.

Louis wipes his eyes and looks up at Harry, holding his gaze for a second before he looks down, feeling terrible for what he’s about to do.

They’ve been together for a month and it has been the best month of Louis’ life. He’s never felt this happy and fulfilled even if they don’t see each other as often as he wished they would. It’s been a month of giddy, puppy love, but now real life caught up with Louis and he feels like throwing up. He can’t put that burden on Harry, not after only five weeks, it’s not fair.

With a trembling chin, Louis shakes his head, burying his face in Harry’s neck once more. If he never says it, he’ll never have to face the consequences. As long as he hasn’t repeated the words to someone else, they remain intangible, just a bad thing to deal with later. Much, much later, but not now, not when he’s so comfortable in Harry’s arms, feeling like nothing will ever hurt him again.

“Lou, you’re scaring me,” Harry says, concern and worry lacing his voice, making it thicker.

Louis swallows and clings tighter to Harry, allowing himself a few more seconds of denial before he tells Harry. Sniffling, he looks up once more and takes a deep, steadying breath, willing himself to let the words out without crying.

“I was with Perrie earlier,” he begins, delaying the fatidic moment by telling Harry the whole story straight away, hoping it might give him some courage. “And I was telling her about what we’ve been doing, you know, in the past month…” Louis lets out a shaky breath. “And I didn’t know… he wasn’t supposed to be home, he shouldn’t… My stepfather heard me.”

Louis bites his lips and tries to breathe steadily as the horrifying memories bring back how he felt when it happened, like someone had dropped a bucket of ice water over his head before ripping his heart from his chest and setting it on fire, and that was just the shock. The mortification that had followed was even worse, and the shame, god, he wishes he never has to feel so ashamed again in his life, it was the worst feeling, and it won’t go away, it’s still there, what he has with Harry has been soiled by the shame that’s been forced on him by the words of his stepfather.

He continues, his voice choked by the tears he’s holding back: “He… he didn’t like what he heard. He said…” Louis shakes his head, choosing to cut the story short before his voice breaks, unable to repeat the word he used. “He kicked me out.”

Harry stays silent for a moment, frozen in place. “He kicked you out,” he repeats, a statement rather than a question.

Louis nods. “I’m homeless,” he says in a squeak. “The girls tried to defend me, but I got scared he was going to hit them so I left.”

“Oh, Lou,” Harry says, taking Louis’ face between his hands. “You’re not homeless, baby, you can stay here. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”

Louis shakes his head. “You don’t have to. I’ll go to Perrie’s or… or Zayn’s, or I’ll just move back to Oxford early, I’m not…” Louis gasps when he realises that his stepfather will probably cancel his credit card and bank account, leaving Louis homeless and dirt poor. He can’t even move back into his own flat, he won’t be able to afford it even if he gets a job; it’s not exactly the kind of flat you can pay with a part-time job in a shop. “I can’t go back to Oxford, he won’t… he’ll stop paying for my shit, I’m… I’ve got nothing, oh my god.”

“Shh, baby, don’t worry about anything, I’ve got you. You’ll live here with me until he calms down.” Harry puts his hand to the back of Louis’ head, pressing it down against him, cradling it to his chest and scratching his scalp soothingly. “I’ll take care of you until things go back to normal.”

“They’ll never go back to normal!” Louis says, pushing against Harry’s hand to sit up. “Don’t you get it? He kicked me out, he never wants to see me again because I’m a fag!”

“He said that?” Harry sounds angrier than Louis has ever heard him. “I’m quitting. Fuck his yard and his bloody miserable pay checks, I’m never setting foot there again.”

“No, no, oh my god, you can’t quit!” Louis replies, his voice rising with panic. “If you quit, we’ll have to live on Niall’s wages only! We can’t do that!”

The very idea of being poor petrifies Louis with fear. He doesn’t know how to approach it. It looms in his mind like a threatening beast, its shadow covering everything else with darkness. Bitterly, he thinks that picturing poverty as a sleeping dragon might not exactly be the best image.

“I’ll find another job. There’s always social welfare.” Harry doesn’t say it, but Louis knows that there’s also the option of Louis finding a job.

He’s never worked in his entire life. Panic and anxiety grip him at the simple thought of having to take on a minimum wage job now that he can’t go to college anymore. He pulls Harry’s shirt in his fists, burying his face against it.

“I can’t work for a homophobe, Lou. I have principles.”

“But we need the income,” Louis says miserably, shaking his head over and over again. “The summer is almost over and then you can get unemployment benefits, right? It’s just one more month, you can’t quit. We can’t be poor.”

“We’re already poor, Lou.” Harry sighs. “Before we panic, we’ll wait, yeah? Your mum will do something, she won’t just let him kick you out like that.”

Louis hadn’t thought about it. “You’re right. My mum will talk to him, it’ll be fine.” He breathes out a sigh of relief, melting against Harry. “We’ll be okay, Mum won’t let me starve.”

“Of course not,” Harry says soothingly, stroking Louis’ back. “You’ll be fine, I promise. And in the meantime, I’m quitting. I’m thinking about making a scene, like, I’ll storm into his office and tell him I’m fucking his son or something.”

Louis snorts and rolls his eyes. “Don’t quit. You can make a scene at the end of the last day of your contract. Just not now. Please.” He swallows, sniffles. “You’ll be my only link with my family. You’ll have to keep an eye on my sisters for me.”

Harry is silent for a moment before he kisses the top of Louis’ head. “Okay. I’ll do this for you. Do you want to stay here? Or we could go watch Niall get his arse kicked at Halo by fourteen year olds? It’d change your mind,” Harry asks softly, stroking Louis’ back. “Or we can cuddle in bed.”

“We can go see Niall. You’re right, it’d change my mind. I need it,” Louis replies, sniffling.

Before Louis can get off the bed, Harry grips him tighter and lifts him up, carrying him bridal style to the living and installing him comfortably on the couch, fetching a blanket from a closet in the hallway to wrap Louis in.

“Hey, Lou,” Niall says distractedly. “You okay, mate?”

Louis shrugs. “Not really.”

“Do you want to play?” Niall offers, pausing the game and handing the controller to Louis.

Louis looks up at Harry, who’s placing biscuits on a plate. Harry gives him an encouraging smile and a nod.

“I’ve never played. I’m not in the mood. I…” Louis swallows thickly, figuring that Niall might as well know that he’s got a new flatmate. “I’ve been kicked out. I live here, now. My stepfather called me a fag, too,” Louis adds, wiping his nose on the blanket.

“He what?!” Niall snaps, gripping the controller tightly. “Fuck him, Lou. I know what you need.” Getting off the armchair, Niall kneels by the console, changing the game that’s in it. The load screen appears and Louis frowns when he reads Left 4 Dead 2. “You need to violently kill zombies.”

An hour later, Louis’s cursing at the screen as he furiously presses buttons, swinging a katana at the horde of zombies charging at him. Harry is playing a game on his mobile, his legs stretched on Louis’ lap, and for a brief moment, as Louis takes in the scene, he can almost believe he’ll be alright.

---

Louis learns quickly that he isn’t cut out for cohabitation with more than one flatmate.

The cohabitation with Harry is going splendidly, that’s not the problem. It’s only been a week and already, Louis can’t imagine a life in which he doesn’t go to sleep next to Harry and wake up with a mouthful of hair and his big oaf of a boyfriend lying half on top of him. He’d prefer if those mornings didn’t start at 5, when Harry’s alarm for work rings, but at the same time, Louis loves the kisses Harry gives him before telling him to go back to sleep. He loves greeting Harry at the door after a long day of work and seeing the flowers he brought him that day, different species that say ‘I love you’ every day, and he loves cuddling with him all evening before they go to bed together and fool around. Louis loves having sex every day. That’s probably the best part of it all.

He’s still sad, obviously he’s still sad, but Harry is taking such good care of him that he can almost forget it at times, the hurt turning into a dull ache rather than the sparkling, burning white hot knife in his guts feeling of the first days. It’s harder when he’s alone all day, whenever Niall is out and Harry is working and he has the flat to himself. On those days, he feels trapped within the four walls, like a caged animal, and he often finds himself pacing back and forth, wringing his hands as he waits for the tightness in his chest to recede and for his thoughts to slow down, to stop going at three thousand miles an hour.

He’s been in contact with his mother and sisters, the phone call with his mother particularly painful. He cried the entire time, clutching a pillow to his chest as he listened to his mother comforting him in a soothing voice laced with anger. He’d hated himself after it for making her angry when she’s due to give birth any time, now, but he hadn’t been able to keep quiet what her husband had called him. Anyway, he imagines Charlotte must have told her. The girls, he’s been texting, especially Felicite, who seems to have been the one most shaken by the events. He wishes he could hug her and tell her everything will be all right like he used to when she got nightmares when she was younger, but the distance between his house and the flat seems insurmountable. The twins don’t understand to what extent the situation is bad, only thinking that Louis moved out because he was going away to school early. He doesn’t have the heart to tell them that their father is the hugest, most disgusting arsehole to ever walk the Earth. He can’t ruin their childhood; they’ll find out soon enough on their own.

The hardest part of the situation is living with Niall. Not that Niall isn’t a good flatmate: he’s funny and does his part of the chores – the inclusion of Louis in the chores chart had almost made him cry, making his move there too permanent for what he could handle at the moment – and often cooks at night when Harry is too tired from work. He’s a good cook, although Louis is already getting tired of eating potatoes.

No, the problem is that Niall has no understanding of privacy and closed doors mean nothing to him. Louis had already gotten a taste of it the morning Niall jumped in bed with them to panic about having slept with Zayn – and Louis makes sure to remind him whenever he can – but he gets the confirmation that he might need to start moving furniture in front of the door if he wants privacy on his fifth night in the flat.

Harry had a particularly gruelling day and came home with a backache, wincing whenever he moved. After dinner, Louis offered to run him a bath and massage his back. Harry agreed immediately, but once in the water, he changed his mind and asked Louis to join him. Louis complied immediately, stripping off his clothes and climbing in with Harry, clumsily settling himself on top of him and in between his legs. Comfortable, quiet cuddling had turned steamy rather fast when Louis moved the slow, lazy kisses he was planting on Harry’s neck to his lips, and before long Harry’s long legs were raised up and bracketing Louis’ hips as they snogged, Louis’ bum jutting out of the water as he kneeled between Harry’s legs.

That was the moment Niall chose to enter the bathroom without knocking and take a piss like they weren’t there.

“Oh my god, get out!” Louis screeched, trying to move away, but slipping on the porcelain and falling on top of Harry, who let out a huff as water sloshed out of the tub.

“I won’t be long, don’t mind me,” Niall said like it was completely normal to take a piss while your flatmates were hooking up in the bathtub a foot away.

“You forgot to lock the door!” Louis turned his attention to Harry, frowning angrily.

“It doesn’t lock.” Harry shrugged, moving his hand down Louis’ back, trying to kiss him again.

Louis pushed him away, hoping with all his might that the foam was hiding his bum from view. “You could have knocked!” Louis protested.

“It couldn’t wait,” Niall replied, glancing at them. “Nice bum, Lou.”

With a squawk, Louis tried to get lower under the water. He was blushing all the way down to his chest and hiding his face in Harry’s neck as a feeling of profound mortification was sinking on him. He refused to move until Niall had left the room and then immediately got out of the bath, ignoring Harry’s protestations and pout.

After this incident, Louis always made sure to be quick in the bathroom. If he could afford it, he’d buy a new lock for the bathroom, but, well, that’s another problem: his stepfather cancelled his credit card 48 hours after kicking him out. Louis had the time to fill the flat with food, but he knows their reserves won’t last forever. That’s not to mention that he and Harry had an argument in the supermarket when it became glaringly obvious that Louis has luxury tastes that they won’t be able to afford. In his defence, Louis never had to think about the price of what he was buying, before. The learning curve is steep. He doesn’t even want to think about his and Harry’s mobile bills, yet. The mere thought of them gives him spikes of anxiety that take hours to go away.

On day nine of Louis’ new life, a dreary rainy day, the door buzzer goes off. Looking up from his laptop, Louis frowns at Harry. Rain means that he gets to have Harry with him all day. He loves rainy days, now.

“Are we expecting someone?”

Harry shrugs, getting up to buzz their guest in. “Might be they rang the wrong door.” He walks out of the flat to peer down the stairs and seconds later, he hears Harry exclaim ‘oh my god!’ loudly before running down the steps.

Curious, Louis follows him out, only to have the breath knocked out of him when he sees Harry slowly helping his mother up the stairs.

“Mum?” he asks, breathless, his hands over his mouth.

“Hi, boo,” she says, smiling despite the visible efforts it asks of her to walk up the four floors.

Louis runs down to help her, taking her arm and looking at her, not quite able to believe she’s really there. He waits until she’s seated on their couch and has had a tall glass of water before hugging her, holding her as tightly as he can and burying his nose in her neck, breathing in her familiar scent.

“What are you doing here?” Louis asks after he’s curled up into her side, his head on her shoulder. He strokes her belly and returns the smile she gives him.

“I’m here to see you, baby. And to apologise to you.”

“You don’t have to—”

“I’m sorry I married an imbecile for his money and that he’s been giving you hell since you were a kid. I’m sorry it came to this, I’m sorry I couldn’t stop it. And I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do. He won’t take you back in.”

“I didn’t expect him to,” Louis says darkly, smiling when he feels one of the twins kick. “But it’s not your fault, Mum. You did what you thought was best.”

“Still,” she says, sighing. “I’m bloody angry at him.”

Harry coughs, smiling timidly when they look at him. “I’m going to run to the shop, yeah? I’ll give you a moment. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

“Harry, come here,” Johannah says, motioning for Harry to come nearer. “I don’t think I can get out of this couch on my own, but I’ve got a hug to give you.”

Harry approaches, bending down carefully to let Johannah hug him. She whispers something to him that Louis can’t hear, but it makes Harry smile and nod. Getting back up, Harry presses a kiss to Louis’ forehead, stroking his hair at the same time.

“Do you need anything, love?”

“No, I’m good,” Louis answers, smiling up at Harry.

“Lou, baby,” Johannah says, motioning at her purse. “Give my card to Harry. You get whatever you guys need, yeah? It’s on me.”

“No, honestly, I can’t…” Harry begins, but a glare from Louis shuts him up. He takes the card Louis hands him and pockets it, biting his lip. “Thank you, Mrs Tomlinson. I really appreciate it.”

“Don’t mention it. And call me Jay, please. Everyone does.”

“Okay, thank you, Jay,” Harry corrects himself, kissing Louis one last time before he leaves, grabbing an umbrella on his way out.

Louis’ mother waits until Harry has left to smile at Louis. “He’s lovely.”

Pressing his lips together against a smile, Louis nods. “He is. I’m in good hands, Mum. He takes really good care of me.”

“I can see that. I expected to find you in tears, but you look fine. Should I be insulted?” she teases, laughing when Louis groans and rolls his eyes.

“Well, I’m upset about what he did, but… I get to spend all of my time with my boyfriend, now.” Louis lowers his voice, shy. “I get laid every night and all.”

Johannah barks out a laugh, putting a hand on her belly. “Oh, baby. I really didn’t need to know this, but I’m happy for you.”

Louis giggles, nodding. “But it’s still hard,” he continues once they’ve both calmed down. “I don’t know how to be poor. Haz and I had a fight in the middle of Tesco’s a few days ago because I got offended that he wanted to buy generic brands.”

“Yeah, I saw that bill pass. He wasn’t happy.”

“Good,” Louis says. “That was the goal.” After that, he sighs. “I miss the girls.”

“They miss you, too. The twins, especially. They’re confused. But don’t worry, Lottie, Fizzy and I explained to them that the word their father used was a very, very bad one and that it wasn’t a bad thing that you liked boys and that they might like girls and it’d be okay, too.”

“How did they take it?” Louis asks, getting emotional to hear about the twins. He tightens his grip around his mother’s arm.

“They nodded and then asked if they could go play. They’re too young to really understand what happened. They did say that Harry was nice and let them help him, sometimes, so it was okay that you loved him.”

Louis smiles, resting his head on his mother’s shoulder once more. Without realising that he does it, he places his hand back on her belly, stroking it and giggling when he feels another kick.

“There’s another reason why I came,” Johannah says, breaking the silence. “I’m bringing the offer of a compromise.”

“I’m not going to law school,” Louis says immediately.

“If you do, he’ll pay your tuition and your rent for the duration of your studies. He regrets what he said, you know.” She sighs. “Think about it, boo. I know you don’t want to, but sometimes we must do things we hate for the greater good.”

“Like you married him so I’d never be hungry again?” Louis says, forlorn.

“Exactly. You’ve got to think long-term, baby. If you want to stay with Harry, you’ll have to be the one to bring in money.” Louis tenses and she eases him with a kiss on the cheek. “I know you don’t want to hear it, but your boy will never make you live. You have the opportunity to give the two of you a comfortable life. It’s not the job you want, I know, but it’s a job. It can be just that: a job. It doesn’t have to define who you are. But believe me, it’s easier to have a happy life when you don’t worry about what’ll be on your plate tomorrow, even if you don’t like some parts of it. Don’t underestimate financial stability.”

Louis sighs, but says nothing for a moment, letting his mother’s words sink in. He hates that she’s convincing him. “Let me think about it.”

“That’s all I ask, love. Don’t completely close the door.” Kissing his cheek once more, she straightens up. “Now, if you go to my car, I’ve brought you some more clothes. You left in a hurry, I figured you left most of everything behind.”

Louis grins, happy that she changed the subject. “I’ve been wearing Harry’s clothes way too much. He’s too tall, they look ridiculous on me.”

It takes Louis three trips to get all the bags up to the fourth floor and he collapses into Niall’s armchair when he’s done, feeling like his arms have turned to jelly. “You could have said you brought my entire wardrobe.”

“Surprise!” his mother says, laughing.

Harry comes back with two full bags of all the extras they didn’t buy the last time, biscuits and ice cream and junk food they couldn’t justify buying. At the bottom, Louis finds a lot of utility things he wouldn’t have thought of, like tile cleaner and light bulbs, and he stops Harry on his way to the pantry to kiss him in an attempt to show him just how grateful he is that Harry’s there to keep him alive.

Johannah stays for dinner and she and Harry split their time between teasing Louis and talking about her pregnancy. Louis stays quiet and watches them, charmed and amazed by the way Harry is so enthusiastic about it, asking timidly if he can touch her belly before giggling with delight when he feels a kick, calling Louis over to do the same and watching him with a grin until he, too, feels one.

Later that night, after she left and they got in bed, Louis hesitates for a while to tell Harry about the terms his stepfather offered. He glances at Harry, looking back at his laptop when he gets caught, and it’s only when Harry shuts the lid on Louis’ hands that Louis sighs and decides to tell him.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asks, putting down his book.

“Just… something my mum told me. A message from my stepfather.” Harry hums, prompting Louis on. “If I go to law school, he’ll support me financially until I graduate. I can’t come back home, but… there’s that. I could go back to school.”

Harry nods. “And what will you do?”

Louis shrugs. “I don’t know. I really don’t want to be a lawyer,” he says, clearing his throat so his voice doesn’t break.

“It’s your decision. I won’t mind whatever you choose, okay?”

Louis swallows. “But what do you think I should do?”

Harry shakes his head. “I’m not telling you. It’s your choice and I don’t want to influence it.”

“What would you do if you were me?”

“Lou,” Harry says with a sigh. “I’m not going to tell you. You need to make that decision on your own.”

“But it affects the both of us! If I don’t go to law school, we’ll be poor for the rest of our lives. We don’t have degrees, we’ll live in shit flats forever.”

“Does it matter? You have to decide if it matters to you.”

Louis rolls his eyes. “You know it matters. It’s the difference between living with Niall ten years from now or having our own house where to raise our kids.” He bites his lip, realising he’s said too much. He pales.

“Okay, we’re not having the kids conversation right now, but yes, before you panic, I want to have children. This being said, I think your choice is already made.”

With a groan, Louis places his laptop on the floor and turns his back to Harry, pulling the duvet to his chin. “Good night.”

Harry leans over to kiss his cheek. “Good night. I love you.”

Louis only hums in reply, sinking deeper under the duvet, feeling childish and ashamed of his reaction. He just hates being wrong.
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