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Absolutely Smitten

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The sun is barely up in the sky when Louis sets foot in the park, Clifford happily trailing next to him. He shivers a little as a breeze hits his face, making him hide his face furthermore in his scarf. While Louis usually isn’t a morning person, ever since he got Clifford a few months back, he much prefers going for a walk with his dog early in the morning while no one is in the park yet. It is silent, peaceful… easy to keep Clifford calm and prevent him from running around trying to play with every person he sees who might be unwilling to do so — as lovable as dogs are, Louis has come to realise that big dogs running to jump on you is a scary image for a lot of people.

They have a familiar path they always take, that Clifford is currently leading him on. Louis follows mindlessly, not really looking forward but rather looking up at the trees slowly getting their foliage back. Spring is slowly making its return, and though Louis fancies the winter atmosphere more — he is a Christmas baby after all — he cannot wait before he gets to admire the various colourful flowers always decorating the park.

They come across a bridge at some point, and that’s when Louis finally pays attention, but mostly because Clifford suddenly starts barking. Startled, Louis is about to reprimand his dog when instead, a few steps ahead of him, he meets gazes with an equally surprised stranger… with a cat walking by his side. And, Louis means to say something, just to break the kind of awkward silence happening right now, but then Clifford suddenly runs ahead, dragging Louis with him before he can even protest.

“Cliff Cliff, no, bad boy—” Louis tries but obviously fails.

It happens fast, then, because neither the stranger or his cat move despite the upcoming attack, though the guy does take a step back. Louis has half the mind to just straight up call him an idiot, but then, the stranger just… catches Clifford when the dog jumps on him and that stuns Louis for a moment, he almost drops his leash.

“Hello there,” the stranger speaks up as Clifford eagerly licks his face and fuck, his voice is deep, somehow Louis didn’t expect that. “Eager little thing you are.”

“Little?” Louis repeats incredulously. From the corner of his eyes, he notices the cat jump on the barrier, blue eyes locked on him and ears slightly forward. Louis tries to not flinch away — he is… not scared of cats, per se, but he isn’t used to them and doesn’t know how to handle them.

Then, the stranger looks down on him, amusement shining in his green eyes.

“Your dog is still a puppy, isn’t he? I’m guessing he’s only going to get even bigger.”

“Uh, smartass over here,” Louis mumbles, but the stranger clearly hears as he just laughs, setting Clifford back down.

“Do you make a habit out of insulting complete strangers?” the guy asks, but he sounds amused, even interested; Louis doesn’t miss the way his eyes quickly look him up and down all the while he is running a hand through his short hair in an obvious flirty manor. 

It gives him the right to check the stranger out too, Louis thinks, as he tilts his chin up a little in order to actually meet the guy’s gaze. He’s tall, and broad, and Louis would find him intimidating if he wasn’t smiling this hard, revealing dimples on his cheeks.

Okay. So, he’s a cute tall guy with a deep voice.

Totally not Louis’ type.

“Weirdos who walk their cats only,” Louis replies at last when his eyes catch the stranger’s cat sitting on the barrier just next to him, its feline blue eyes boring into Louis’ being.

The stranger gasps dramatically, a hand resting on his chest and — oh, he’s wearing rings. Lots of them. That guy is definitely weird, Louis concedes.

“It’s not weird, Princess loves being outside and she’s well trained, better than your dog it seems.”

It’s Louis’ turn to act offended, as he physically takes a step back. “How very dare you? Clifford is an angel!”

“That he is, but he doesn’t have manners. Princess doesn’t jump on—”

And of course, as if she wanted to particularly prove her owner wrong, Princess suddenly jumps towards Louis, landing perfectly on his shoulders as she rubs her face against Louis’ cheeks, purring. To his own surprise, Louis doesn’t panic or even startle, and just giggles at the tickling sensation the cat’s whiskers and purrs are giving to his clean shaved cheeks.

“Well, shit, that’s cute,” the stranger speaks up, blinking heavily. Surprise is clearly written on his face, intriguing Louis.

“Princess?” Louis asks, arching an eyebrow.

“You named your dog after a cartoon, are you sure you can judge me on pet names right now?”

And, okay, he has a point. Louis still huffs while he starts to lightly pet Princess under her chin. She seems to like it, Clifford not so much as the dog is now growling, causing Princess to stop purring, her tail now wagging rapidly. Louis thinks she’s pretty calm, but apparently the stranger thinks — knows — otherwise, as a look of panic goes through his face.

“Princess, do not—”

Of course, again, she doesn’t listen, jumping back down, landing perfectly just in front of Louis, tail upright and ears flattened. Clifford immediately stops growling and actually seems to be afraid, a small whine resonating in the air as he tries to hide behind the stranger’s legs. But Princess follows, Clifford then tries to go find comfort by Louis’ side, and it’s now just a constant chase around the two men, Louis trying to calm Clifford down, and the stranger trying to just catch Princess before she could harm anyone, all of that to only end up with both leashes tangled and forcing the two animals to give up the chase and just, sit down, suddenly calm and satisfied. Or tired. Probably tired.

Louis doesn’t even hesitate, and just drops down too, landing not very delicately on the solid wooden floor of the bridge. Somehow, Princess is close enough to make her way into his laps without tugging at her leash, so Louis finds himself with a fluffy cat in his arms again.

“Well, she really likes you,” the stranger comments as he lets go of the leash, at the same time Louis does the same, hoping to make it easier to disentangle them as the two pets are worn down now. “I’m Harry, by the way,” the guy continues as he sits down too.

They clearly don’t care about the possibility of other people passing by and wanting to cross the bridge. Eh, the bridge’s large enough.

“Louis,” he introduces himself, “sorry about all this though. I’m still in the training phase with Clifford, but clearly your Princess isn’t as well behaved as you thought she was either.”

“Well—” Harry coughs, “she usually… isn’t that affectionate with other people, so consider yourself one of the lucky ones.”

That’s odd, Louis thinks as he looks down, only to be met immediately with Princess’ eyes, blinking slowly at him. Hesitantly, he starts to pet her behind the ears, eliciting another purr from her.

Clifford whines again next to him, and Louis manages to reach him with his other hand, letting the dog lick it, leaving his scent on his owner again. It seems to appease him for a while.

“So, walking your cat?” Louis asks at last and Harry shrugs sheepishly. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

“If you haven’t noticed, Princess isn’t really afraid of dogs. Dogs are afraid of her.”

Louis laughs lightly. “Strong independent woman, huh,” he giggles, as she eagerly licks his fingers. “Must attract quite the attention, a cat in the wild but in a leash, not really common.”

“The attention of cute small boys yeah,” Harry shoots back, making Louis startle as he also shuffles a little closer. He takes both of the leashes in his hands, starting to untangle them. “It is a bonus to walking your cat.”

Louis hums, smiling lightly as he leans forward — careful to not squish the cat, though. “Is that so? You might need to check your eyes though, I’m not small, you’re just tall.”

“My bad, little one,” Harry replies with a big grin.

“You—” Yeah, Louis is blushing.

“Let me take you to a café to make it up to you?”

Louis narrows his eyes. “That was not smooth, let’s be clear, you just insulted me.”

“Lovingly. You called me a smartass earlier.”

And, touché .

“You are acting like one.”

“And you are little,” Harry retorts, as he places his hand just above Louis’ head, “you reach my neck, even sat down.”

Louis huffs. “Is this going to be a thing?”

“Probably.”

There’s a moment of silence before they just laugh. Harry finishes to untangle the leashes then gets up, offering Louis his hand. Princess chooses this rightful moment to stand up again, getting back by Harry’s side, so Louis just grabs the tall boy’s hand and gets up with his help.

Harry’s hand completely engulfs his own and for a moment Louis revels in the warmth of this simple touch — though Harry’s rings provide quite the contrast against his skin —, before he feels Clifford bump into his knees, leash in his mouth. Louis takes it back, but surprisingly, Harry still doesn’t let go of his hand, and he doesn’t complain as they make their way outside the park, Princess ahead, Clifford trailing behind.

—————————

Louis blows gently on his tea as he carefully wraps both his hands around the cup. He’s trying not to stare at Harry sat in front of him, as the boy removes his brown jacket, revealing a simple black t-shirt and showing off the countless tattoos on his arms and — isn’t he cold?! Louis is in a hoodie with a scarf and still is freezing right now.

Clifford is laying down next to Louis’ feet, while Princess found her place on the dog’s back, curled up in his black curls. She looks tiny, surrounded by Clifford’s massive fur. Seems like a simple walk from the park to this café was enough for the animals to get along.

“So,” Louis speaks up at last but it seems to startle Harry as he almost spills a bit of his coffee on the table. The guy might look cool and composed, damn is he actually clumsy and jumpy. “Oh sorry, should have waited for you to put down that cup, you’re a danger with that in your hand.”

“I’m a danger even with nothing in my hands,” Harry sighs, and he sounds tired of himself. “Yet I’m a chef.”

There’s a pause as Louis waits for Harry to tell him it was actually a joke, but Harry just stares.

“Oh, you’re serious,” Louis concludes.

“Only instance in which I am not a disaster on legs,” Harry laughs. “Princess loves watching me cook too, she usually sits on the kitchen isle and sniffs every ingredient. She’s like, my sous-chef.”

Louis can’t help but imagine the scene, and coos internally. Maybe also externally when Princess lifts her head as Harry feeds her a bit of a strawberry, indeed sniffing the fruit first, waiting in case Harry pulls back, then just takes a bite.

“And what about you? What do you do for a living?” Harry asks, bringing Louis back to reality.

“Oh, I’m a video editor. I work from home… I forget the outside world exists sometimes,” Louis laughs self-deprecatingly. “So, I got Clifford a few months ago to force me to go out and go on run sometimes.”

God, I sound pathetic.

“That is great then!” Harry exclaims, startling Louis. “It’s always good to take initiative and improve your life, kinda took a leap of faith when I quit my job in an office and bought a restaurant— it worked out in the end.”

Louis blinks, “I’m not sure getting a dog and making such a drastic career change is the same thing, but, I’m impressed.”

From what Louis can tell, Harry seems to be the carefree and fearless type when it comes to making decisions in life, and it wouldn’t surprise him if getting Princess was an impulsive action too. Louis wonders what that’s like, not overthinking stuff. Or maybe Harry is just pretending, or—

There. Overthinking again.

“But adopting a dog is a drastic change to improve your life, innit?” Harry casually points out after taking a sip of his own coffee. “Changing your whole schedule for him, and all that. Honestly, I don’t know if I could handle a dog, cats are pretty different and more laid back, you know?”

“I don’t, actually. I don’t understand cats,” Louis replies which earns him a loud meow from Princess. It startles both him and Harry and this time Harry does spill a bit of his drink on the table. He curses under his breath and Louis smiles a little. It is good to know Harry actually can get mad and is not just a creepy guy who is constantly happy for no reason at all. Those people scare Louis. They can’t be human, for sure.

“Laid back, you said?” Louis snorts as Princess still hasn’t stopped meowing and goddamn she might be tiny, but she is loud.

“She isn’t like that usually, I swear!” Harry laments as he picks her up just as Clifford starts to growl, annoyed by the noise. She settles down a little as she curls up in his laps, but her ears are still up. “Guess you’re really special…”

And though he knows Harry didn’t mean that as an actual compliment towards Louis, the latter still blushes because, fuck, he’s special. Well, to a cat. But a cat whose owner is really, really, really Louis’ type, so.

“I am flattered,” Louis supplies as he reaches forward to try to pet Princess from where he is but, well, his arm is too short to even begin to hope he can reach Harry’s laps, but he swiftly manages to divert his hand’s direction so he grabs the handle of Harry’s cup of coffee instead. He plays with it for a moment, as Harry watches him with curious eyes, and then continues, “I should stick around then, so I can steal— I mean give your cat the love she clearly isn’t getting from you.”

Harry rolls his eyes, and simply rests his fingers atop of Louis’ hand, making the latter internally squeal.

“Hope I can spare a little of that affection then, you probably fit perfectly in my arms.” Harry smiles, dimples popping out and Louis… definitely swoons.

He tries to stay composed however, as he intertwines their fingers, but his hand is shaky and cold while Harry’s is warm and reassuring.

“Nervous? Am I being too forward?” Harry whispers softly and Louis almost wants to laugh. He’s had dudes flirting with him in a more straight-forward, most of the time rude, way, but everything about Harry just radiates gentleness and kindness. He just asked for cuddles, for fuck’s sake.

That’s adorable.

And Louis never says no to cuddles. Especially in this season where he shivers and sneezes every two seconds.

“No… no,” Louis reassures though his cheeks are probably as red as a tomato still. “I really do like your company, not just Princess’, for the record,” he continues. “I’m just bad at saying it I guess. Haven’t been on a date in a while, I don’t know how this works anymore. Like we’re on the same page, right? We both want… something out of this? Or…” Fucking hell shut up and stop embarrassing yourself.

“We are,” Harry confirms, smiling sheepishly. “You’re really cute, and my antisocial cat likes you too, so hopefully I’m your type too.”

You’re my dream guy, more like, Louis doesn’t say but thinks it so loudly he’s afraid for a second that he might actually have said it out loud. Instead, he brings Harry’s hand towards him, and starts playing with the rings there.

“We’ll just need to talk about your obsession with rings, could be a deal-breaker,” he comments.

Harry lets out a loud laugh and Louis can’t help but to smile pleased at the endearing sound.

“But what if I get you one?”

Louis drops Harry’s hand so abruptly, it rattles both of their cups that they hurry to grab before anything could be spilt again.

Now you’re being way too forward,” Louis informs, though a smile is threatening to tug at his lips.

“Not an engagement ring, of course,” Harry laughs, and only then does Louis realise Harry’s left ring finger is the only one without any jewellery decorating it.

“Aren’t those inconvenient when cooking, though?”

“They are…” Harry smiles nervously as if an embarrassing memory just came into his mind again and Louis wants to know all his embarrassing stories. “So, I don’t wear them often anyway, I just decided to take a day off today and ow —!”

Louis startles, just like Princess who hops on the table to go find refuge in Louis’ arms as Harry suddenly gets up with a yelp. Louis catches the cat swiftly then tilts his head to see Clifford has stood up again and was chewing Harry’s trousers fiercely while the taller man is really trying to get away.

“Clifford, sit!” Louis commands and the dog fortunately listens and turns around to look at Louis, tongue out and tail wagging. “Sorry, again,” he apologises to Harry who simply shakes his head.

“Don’t worry, he grew restless, let’s walk a little, yeah? Unless you’ve got somewhere to be?”

“Well…” Louis goes to look at his phone, only to realise Princess is still in his arms, strangely calm. “I’m supposed to have lunch with a friend, so I might have to leave before that, but, I still got time.”

“Wonderful! Let me put Princess’ harness back on, she looks very relaxed right now it should be easy, just hold her.”

Louis simply nods as Harry comes closer. Princess starts to softly purr when Harry buckles her up but he lingers a little, as his face is now just a few centimetres away from Louis’. Louis gulps, smiling sheepishly as he hands the cat back to him, which Harry welcomes, though he then just puts the pet down on the street — from the corner of his eye, Louis can see Clifford start to sniff her and give her a few affectionate licks.

Finally, Harry pulls back, allowing Louis to grab Clifford’s leash, and to also take a breath. He doesn’t expect Harry to grab his free hand again as they start to walk back towards the park, but he clearly isn’t against it.

—————

They resume their walk in the park while casually exchanging small talks for about an hour or so. The conversation flows surprisingly well, Louis realises as he stops being on the defensive or too quick to self-deprecate halfway through it.

Not completely, obviously, but Harry always gives him that simple look that made Louis stop and realise in what dark path his mind led him to. He does have a tendency of letting his thoughts run astray, and he’s always been afraid that people around him would be put off by them.

Harry doesn’t seem to mind.

“Let’s do that again!” Louis offers excitedly as they both come to the understanding that their time is running out. Also Louis got several texts from Liam asking why he was late for lunch. “Maybe not every day, I still do enjoy walking Clifford alone, but you know?”

“Gladly,” Harry agrees immediately, “But let me take you out too without our pets as a distraction one of these days?”

“Aw, you don’t enjoy Clifford wanting to literally eat your legs?”

Harry makes a face. “Not really, no.”

“You’ll get used to it.”

“Sounds like a threat.”

“Kinda is.”

“He’s a puppy still, he’ll outgrow those habits if you raise him well.”

“Don’t question my mummy skills now!”

Harry laughs. “I am not. But anyway, you didn’t answer me.”

Louis huffs. “I am a great mum— or dad, whatever, to Clifford. And yes, yes of course, I want that date, you need to make up for insulting me just now.”

“Right.” Harry playfully rolls his eyes at Louis’ accusation. “This sounds familiar.”

Louis doesn’t reply, fully aware of that predicament, so why even deny it.

“So, text me during the week so we, well, I, can organise something for this weekend?” Harry finally provides and Louis blinks at him for a second.

“Uh, first I kinda need your num—”

Harry doesn’t let him finish his sentence and swiftly takes Louis’ hand in his, kissing its back, while also slipping a piece of paper in Louis’ palm. As he pulls away with a charming smile and a wave, Louis slowly unfolds the paper to reveal a phone number, of course. He blinks, blush not leaving his cheeks.

“Who even is that guy,” Louis grumbles, “he’s in the wrong century.”

He’s smiling so hard, his cheeks hurt.

Only later does he wonder if Harry had all of this planned, when did he even have time to rip out a piece of paper and write down his number?

—————————

“Wait, he has a small tabby cat with fluffy white and brown fur as well as big blue eyes, and you have a giant curly dog,” Liam points out.

“Yeah, and?”

Liam only shrugs. “Nothing. Cute coincidence I guess.”

Louis sits there for a full minute, with squinted eyes, his friend’s words playing on a loop in his head before he finally gets it and dramatically gasps.

“Are you calling me a cat?” he exclaims, “I’ll physically fight you!”

“Right,” Liam laughs, completely unfazed as he mindlessly grabs Louis’ wrists with one single hand when Louis makes a move to hit him, “good luck with that.”

Louis only huffs.

It’s only a day after his encounter with Harry, and of course, he couldn’t help but gush about his date to his best friend, Liam, who, of course again, is taking the piss off him.

“But Liam… He’s perfect,” Louis swoons dramatically, as he lets himself fall forward on Liam’s chest since his best friend refuses to let go of his wrists now. “The love of my life!” he continues, voice muffled.

He feels, more than hears, Liam’s big inhale, basically meaning “oh here we go again”. Then Liam wraps his arms around him, pulling their bodies closer and Louis pleasantly hums.

He never says no to a good cuddle session.

“I’m happy for you, but this Harry guy will still need the Payno seal of approval.”

Louis snorts. “The Malik one too, as soon as Zaynie is back, I assume?”

Liam nods, smiling way too big for it to be normal. “You know he’s worse than me when it comes to keeping an eye on you.”

“I resent that, you both are equally too invading.”

“Saved you from a lot of trouble, from middle school to now, so you can’t complain.”

The Yorkshire lad huffs but shuffles a little closer to Liam as he can feel himself get cold. “You’d think I’m you two’s actual child.”

“You kinda are, to be fair.”

Louis doesn’t reply, only motions for Liam to hold him closer, which the younger boy does without a second thought. As Liam’s strong arms wrap him into a warmer embrace somehow, Louis closes his eyes and hums to himself, quietly wondering how Harry holding him would feel like.

From what Louis observed — yes, he checked Harry out a lot without any shame — Harry looks taller but slimmer than Liam’s build, but god his arms, Louis muses, his arms are huge and could possibly pick him up without any problem.

Now that’s a good thought to entertain before he falls asleep to Liam’s familiar humming.

——————

The next Saturday, as Louis left Clifford at Liam’s for the day, he finds himself with quite a surprise in his front yard.

“Not gonna lie, when you said a bike, I expected the motorcycle type one, but I shouldn’t have, knowing the few things I know about you,” Louis comments. “And you brought Princess, I thought you wanted us to be alone this time!” he chastises, even though he’s already reaching for the small cat poised in the front basket of the bicycle to pet her.

Princess keens and Louis can’t help but coo.

“She saw me take the bike out and started scratching the window and I didn’t have the heart to leave her alone,” Harry explains with a bit of an exasperated edge to his voice as he eyes his cat. “So I guess she’ll be coming with us.”

“I don’t mind,” Louis says when she starts licking his hand. “But she might steal the spotlight again.”

Harry smiles. “No she won’t,” he assures, taking one of Louis’ hands away from the cat and bringing it to his lips, “because I have the perfect first date planned for us.”

Louis tries to remain calm, but he can already feel his cheeks reddening. He raises an eyebrow in an attempt to appear unimpressed, though. “Is that so? Care telling me then?”

“Nope, it’s a surprise.” Harry’s smile only widens at Louis’ annoyed huff. “C’mon, hop on,” he continues, taking his place on the bicycle.

Louis doesn’t move for a moment, eyeing suspiciously the fragile vehicle and now aware of Harry’s natural clumsiness.

“Don’t think I can fit in your backseat there.”

“You perfectly can, trust me.”

“We’ve known each other for barely a week.”

“If I can’t convince you, Princess will. If I try to leave without you she’ll start meowing.”

“What the fuck.”

“Wanna see?”

Louis doesn’t reply, Harry simply and slowly tries to pedal away, however, almost instantly, Princess starts to get restless and meows. Before she tries to jump off — even though she is attached with a harness — Harry promptly turns around to face Louis again. Princess shuts up immediately, staring at Louis.

The editor feels just a tiny bit unsettled by this cat's obsession with him.

“Didn’t you say she was calm and laid back?” Louis asks incredulously.

“Not so much when it comes to you, you really left an impression,” Harry vaguely explains with a laugh. “C’mon we’re gonna be late.” He pats the backseat as he says so and Louis eyes that tiny thing worryingly again.

“My ass is too big for that shit,” he mutters as he reluctantly approaches the bike. Harry hears him, though.

“You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”

“It isn’t, but no way you’re getting near it anytime soon seeing how the first thing you do on our first official date is to make me uncomfortable,” Louis huffs as he, in the end, manages easily to fit into the small backseat of the bike, but promptly secures his arms around Harry’s waist.

He actually doesn’t mind that.

“Right, I can feel you smiling you know.”

Oh shit, Louis’ face is squished against his back.

“Don’t get cheeky and just bring us to wherever you planned your perfect date, alright?”

“Bossy bossy, got it, little one.”

Louis is too busy internally panicking to complain about the nickname when Harry starts pedalling in a surprisingly smooth and fast way as if Louis didn’t add extra weight to the bike.

And maybe along the way, Louis ends up enjoying it, letting his head rest on Harry’s back with a gentle breeze caressing his cheeks.

(It might have helped that the streets were pretty empty, the roads too, which meant near to no cars which also meant less risk of dying, though.)

They arrive at their destination in a little under ten minutes, and Louis wastes no time jumping off the bike as soon as he can. Then, he is met with the cute facade of a restaurant. It’s simple and quite endearing if Louis can say so. The structure is mostly white, with only two tables outside on the street surrounding a big glass entrance. The restaurant, despite being quite small, seems to have a second floor as a terrace decorated with various plants is displayed. From where he is, Louis can’t see if there are tables there too.

It is empty though.

“It’s your restaurant, innit?” Louis asks finally. During his observation, Harry was detaching Princess from the basket, the cat now resting on her owner’s shoulder proudly.

“It is.”

“Trying to impress me, huh? So will you be cooking for me too?”

“Well, change of plan, we will,” Harry announces proudly, pointing at Princess and it takes a few seconds for Louis to process that information.

“Oh— right, she’s your sous-chef.”

He doesn’t have the heart to comment that the cat isn’t technically cooking, but Harry looks delighted, so.

Smitten,” Louis reads on the glasses of the restaurant when they walk in once Harry opens the door. “Cute name.”

“I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic here.”

“I’m not!” Louis protests a bit too loudly. Has he been this sardonic with Harry already? Maybe he needs to tone it down, the guy isn’t as used to his jabs as Liam is… “I mean, I’m not, it is really cute.”

“I actually think it’s corny,” Harry admits with a laugh, at the same time Princess jumps down and seems to know her way in the restaurant as Harry simply follows her.

Louis spares a last glance to the empty restaurant. Its decoration is very bucolic and Harry hasn’t turned the light on, only the sun shining through the glass offers a bit of clarity, as well as a few fairy lights here and there. It’s cute, really cute, and Louis can easily imagine himself end up… well, smitten with the place.

Or Harry.

Depends on the food.

When he turns around, he realises the kitchen, surprisingly small, is actually in plain sight, next to a few tables and Harry is already busying himself getting all the tools necessary. It strengthens the feeling of intimacy the place radiates, and Louis simply goes to lean against the kitchen counter. He sees Princess lazily resting in a cat bed on a chair next to him. She only ever lifts her head when Harry approaches with an ingredient, which she sniffs quickly before laying down again.

“The restaurant is small, and the menu is pretty restricted for now, if things take off, maybe it’ll change,” Harry explains, making Louis taste whatever he is making every once in a while, which the latter surely doesn’t complain about. “Not a lot of people come, so it’s usually pretty chill.”

“But you’re content?” Louis asks, mesmerised by the way Harry just moves around the kitchen effortlessly and swiftly.

“Yeah. This is all I ever wanted, you know? Nothing big or presumptuous, but, enough to make a living out of it and fulfil my childhood dream.”

Louis will forever deny the loving sigh that escaped his mouth when Harry reached forward to cradle his face for a second while smiling sweetly before making him taste his food.

Princess definitely didn’t steal the spotlight this time.

——————

Harry is lovely.

So fucking lovely.

And Louis wants to die.

“Clifford, he’s gonna kill me,” Louis whines to his dog. He’s lying on the floor, Clifford on top of him and looking at him curiously, obviously not understanding his owner’s dramatic antics. Louis usually would complain about how heavy this labradoodle is but the heater in his house is broken and he needs the extra warmth from his boyo.

He doesn’t exactly know how he ended up in this position — an hour ago he came back from his date with Harry, half an hour ago Liam brought Clifford back to him, and now, somehow, he’s blushing while staring at his ceiling, having trouble breathing because of the weight Clifford adds on his chest, yet not minding it.

The date was all sorts of perfect — Louis expected it to become a bit boring as they were alone in a small restaurant, but Harry really went all in, even quickly dressed up Princess so she would sport an adorable pink bow and act as their sort of waitress, of course, all she did was sit prettily on a chair next to them and pawing at her ribbon she tried multiple times to remove. The conversation kept flowing and when it died down a little, they just ate quietly while sharing smiles.

But it wasn’t all, once they were done — and Louis helped to do the dishes thank you very much he’s not rude — Harry brought him upstairs which was actually a whole empty room. Princess ran around, her little paws cutely making sounds on the wooden floor. Louis was confused before Harry explained that, for now, he kept this place for special occasions if people ever wanted to celebrate a birthday or something similar to that, and music started to play.

Immediately, Harry started to… gesticulate. Really, Louis couldn’t call that dancing, but then the chef grabbed him and made him twirl around the whole room. Louis found himself laughing and finally going along with it — but mostly because Harry just looked ridiculous and tripped at least twenty times in the small hour they spent simply dancing in the empty room.

They ended up laying down on the floor and staring at the ceiling while talking about everything and nothing at once. Princess also found her place between them, quickly falling asleep on Louis’ chest but tail wrapped around Harry’s hand.

It was lovely.

They still haven’t kissed though. They were close to when Harry brought him back home and they stood shyly for at least ten minutes at his doorstep, waiting for one of them to make a move. But then, when Harry actually leaned down, Princess started hissing, prompting the two men to startle. It just broke the mood as they both glared at the animal who just stared back innocently.

When Harry leaned down again, just to kiss Louis’ cheek, she hissed again, and he gave up, instead, he took Louis’ hand in his and kissed its knuckles. Louis did it back, and it was it.

Louis groans, burying his face in his hands.

Clifford tries to lick his face anyway.

“Cliff, mate, stop that,” he mumbles and the dog listens, surprisingly enough. He whines a little though and Louis sighs, removing his hands. “Sorry sorry, I just have a lot of feelings right now. Feel like a proper teenage girl with a crush right now.”

It feels good though, he hasn’t felt such a connection with another human being ever since he met Zayn — and that was four years ago now. He’s known Liam for a bit longer.

“Alright, should get some work done now,” he mumbles, prompting Clifford to get off him as he sits up to reach for his phone somewhere on the floor not far from him.

He means to check emails first, to make sure he hasn’t missed any deadlines yet, but at the exact moment he grabs the phone, the screen lights up with a happy little tune.

A text from Harry.

Let’s walk our pets together on Monday? :) 9am at the bridge?

“Huh.” Louis stares at it with a smile he doesn’t try to hide. No one’s watching anyway, except Clifford. “He's absolutely smitten.”

So, after that they set up a sort of coordinated schedule. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Harry and Louis just take Princess and Clifford on a walk early in the morning, meeting up at the bridge and sometimes eat breakfast together. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they decided to do their thing on their own. Finally, the weekend is for when they want to hang out without their pets as Harry can easily let Princess alone at his flat, while Louis can easily ask Liam — or Zayn — to dogsit Clifford when he’s afraid he would be out for too long (and also, Clifford still is a puppy, if he leaves him alone at home, he’ll come back to a destroyed place).

It feels weird, to be organised, Louis thinks. It shouldn’t, because he knows Zayn and Liam have something similar, Wednesdays being their date night for example since they both usually don’t work but Zayn and Liam have been together for years. He’s also pretty sure Zayn is planning on proposing soon.

Louis and Harry just met, and Louis already wants to change his whole schedule to be able to see Harry as much as possible.

Is that healthy?

He has no idea.

To be fair his life didn’t have much of an organisation before, most of his days spent at home working, alone, and only going out when Clifford needs to or when Liam drags him — and Zayn — outside. So, he guesses, this is a positive change.

But it also makes Louis realise how small his circle of friends is — his family obviously not being counted. He’s not sure if it’s the result of him cutting off people at the end of uni who only made him feel awful, or if it’s the result of him isolating himself in the past couple of years for personal reasons.

A mix of both, probably.

“You’re fucking gone for him mate,” Liam inevitably teases him one evening and Louis merely throws a cushion his way, which he dodges pretty easily. “D’you think I should meet him now?”

“Thought you wanted to wait for Zayn to come back to us. Like a double date.”

“Well yeah, but he might be stuck in New York for a bit longer and I’m getting way too curious to know who finally managed to grab your attention. Doesn’t look like a fleeting crush this time.”

“Thank the cat for that,” Louis snorts, not ready to admit out loud how attached to Harry he already is. “And you act as if I never had a serious relationship.”

“The last one was an asshole though.”

And, yeah okay, Louis can’t deny that.

“And it was ten years ago.”

Alright, that feels like a punch straight to the guts.

“Seven.”

“Same thing.”

They stare at each other, but for someone who usually constantly has puppy eyes and looks like he can’t hurt a fly, Liam sure knows how to look intimidating and not blink for long minutes, so Louis is the one who looks away first with a pout.

“T’was more of a friends with benefits thing anyway,” he mumbles, and maybe Louis actually hasn’t been in any serious relationship before, just meaningless hookups, and when he tried dating for a while a couple of years back, it just… didn’t work out at all. Louis kinda gave up along the way.

With Harry, every single piece they share of each other just fits perfectly.

“Anyway, let’s go to Harry’s restaurant then, Friday nights are usually pretty calm apparently,” Louis suggests, to which Liam raises an eyebrow.

“Wait, really? Friday nights?”

“There’s a bar on the opposite street, people go there instead I guess. So?”

“Sounds cool.”

So it’s settled and Louis feels oddly excited at the prospect of his best mate meeting… whatever Harry is to him.

——————

“Louis!” Liam exclaims, grasping the smaller man’s shoulders excitedly. “This place is adorable!”

“Yeah yeah I know, stop shaking me mate,” Louis complains, trying to get Liam’s hands off him, but to no avail. He has no idea why Liam is so ecstatic right now.

“Zayn would love it here too, well, he’s picky with the food so let’s see if your loverboy is as good as you make him sound. No offence, but it’s easy to please you.”

Louis only rolls his eyes as he drags a laughing Liam through the glass doors. As expected, the restaurant is rather calm, and Louis can only spot two or three tables where people are eating. He doesn’t see Harry at the kitchen though, however some other brunet guy with blue eyes is standing near the counter, focused on his phone, but, as soon as he heard the doors open, he looked up and something akin to recognition seems to flash in his eyes when they land on Louis, who only blinks in response.

“Hi I’m Niall,” the guy friendly introduces himself. “I should say ‘I am your waiter for today’ but, you’re here for Harry aren’t you?”

“How…”

“He won’t shut up about you, kept showing me pictures. Not that I mind.” Niall looks him over. “He’s right though, you’re really cuter in person.”

Before Louis has the actual time to reply — he is too busy processing the compliment and blushing at the moment — Liam clears his throat.

“And I’m Liam by the way,” he says pointedly. Niall looks at him with an amused smile. “So, we’re actually here to eat too? Haven’t had dinner yet.”

“Oh! Should have said that first!”

“Well you didn’t let—” Louis starts but cuts himself off when Niall just grabs his right forearm and starts dragging him towards the staircase.

Liam, confused as ever, just follows.

“Harry! I’ve got a surprise for ya!” the waiter yells as they climb the stairs and Louis is worried for a split second about perturbing clients but his worries are quickly put aside when they get upstairs and Harry is standing in the middle of the empty room with a tangled mess of colourful ribbons around him.

That’s a weird sight.

Harry is facing away from them though.

“What is it Niall, you’re supposed to check if any other client comes in,” the chef replies as he fumbles with the ribbons in his hands, his tone between amused and exhausted. Louis briefly wonders if that happens often.

He smiles wickedly as he quietly makes his way towards Harry just as Niall replies, “Yeah yeah, I’ll get back down in a second, but you’ll love my surprise, I’m sure.”

Louis can feel Harry roll his eyes somehow.

“Unless it’s a new client we gotta bribe into coming back as a regular, I’m not interested, I’m a bit busy here.”

“Well—”

At that exact moment, Louis goes on his tiptoes so he can manage to reach Harry’s eyes, covering them with his hands, finally letting out a delighted laugh. Harry, on the other hand, lets out a not so graceful squeak.

“So I’m not a good enough surprise for you? You wound me, Haz.”

Oh, yeah, a month in and they already are on nickname basis.

“Wh— Lou?” Harry immediately drops the ribbons in his hands to turn around and show his dazzling smile to the smaller boy. “Hi love, knew those tiny hands were familiar.”

“Oi, don’t insult me now,” he means to sound offended, but his voice falters as Harry wraps his arms around his waist to bring them together, the taller boy now nuzzling his cheek, lips hovering just so close to his own.

They still haven’t had that first kiss. At this rate Louis is pretty sure Harry is doing it on purpose to tease him because Louis refuses to go on his tiptoes and initiate anything and at the end of every single one of their “dates” he just gets a kiss on the cheek or the hand.

It’s cute, and still makes Louis’ heart grow ten times bigger, but he still wants his kiss on the lips.

“We’re still here, lovebirds,” Niall’s and Liam’s voice manage to say at the same time, though Niall sounds delighted and Liam sounds teasing.

Harry frowns as he looks over Louis’ head towards the two men still standing at the door, one he doesn’t recognise. He gently lets go of Louis.

“You must be Liam, or Zayn?” Harry starts, addressing Liam. He sounds confident, but Louis can hear a nervous edge in his voice. Liam seems to catch on that too as he raises an eyebrow in the way Louis knows he’s going to mess with someone, so Louis glares at him.

Liam rolls his eyes, and smiles friendly at Harry. “I’m Liam, it’s nice to finally meet the one who’s been stealing my best friend’s time for the past month.”

“Uh—”

“He’s kidding, Liam be nice!” Louis chastises, going to pinch Liam’s cheek but the latter grabs his wrist before he can do so, again.

“Don’t talk to me like I’m your pet, you little menace.”

Louis sticks his tongue out at him.

“Look Harry they’re exactly like us!” Niall coos and goes for a hug but Harry dodges him. Niall nearly falls, his feet tangled in the ribbons.

“Go back downstairs and check if no one needs anything or you won’t get paid,” Harry orders.

Niall pouts and turns towards Louis. “You’re my new favourite now.”

“Shoo,” Harry insists and Niall flips him off before going away.

Louis chuckles at the exchange — they really do act like he and Liam.

“So, what were you doing exactly? This looks like a mess,” Liam asks. “No offence.”

“None taken,” Harry assures. “I plan on painting the walls, so for now I’m using ribbons to see how it could look like.”

“Smart, need help?” Liam offers, to which the chef blinks, clearly taken by surprise. “With the vibe you have going on, I’d say circles in the corner that go on the ceiling too and geometrical forms would be perfect.”

“Wait, really?”

“Oh yeah haven’t told you, Liam’s a designer,” Louis chuckles. “But also before I leave you two to bond over whatever aesthetic shit you’re gonna make, I’m hungry?”

And just like that, Harry rushes downstairs to cook them something. Both Louis and Liam try to protest when Harry says they won’t have to pay but Harry is stubborn.

As established, once they’ve done eating, Liam goes upstairs with Harry to help him with the decorating stuff, while Louis stays downstairs with Niall. Conversation flows easily, and later on, when it’s time to leave, Liam tells him he really likes both Harry and the restaurant.

Needless to say, Harry got the Payno seal of approval pretty fast.

So, going to Harry’s restaurant on Friday nights for free becomes a thing. Liam helping Harry rearrange his restaurant for free, also becomes a thing, just like Louis helping Niall in his waiter duties — and also just keeping him company.

Except for one Friday night.

Another month goes by, and even though Louis is living quite the ideal life right now and everything seems perfect, someone is still missing.

And that someone has decided he has been missing for way too long.

“Zayn what the fuck?” he sighs at his phone.

“I know I’m sorry!” his other best friend apologises and he does sound more than distraught. “Blame those rich people for never wanting to stop partying! God they have nothing else to do I swear.”

“You’re literally paid to go there and do nothing, and you are one of those rich people now, don’t go complaining on me,” Louis snorts. “But you couldn’t have told me sooner? You know I’m shit at packing.”

“I panicked! I’ve been here for way too long, it’s busy and annoying and I just wanna go home back to my art studio how did I end up with such a job that requires socialising Louis help.”

Louis sighs. In hindsight, he and Zayn should have switched jobs, despite Zayn knowing nothing about Photoshop or video editing. Louis isn’t exactly the social butterfly people expect him to be for his loud personality, but he’s more fit for that job than Zayn who is just a constant ball of anxiety, so it’s a wonder how perfectly he can fake being happy to be a socialite from time to time when Louis knows how deeply Zayn hates anything related to fame, money or… interacting with other human beings.

The issue with Zayn is that he’s too good looking and he doesn’t know how to say no, so he somehow ended up in that position. But also, who would say no to such an easy way to have money when all you have to do is smile and look pretty.

“Alright. I’m coming."

The victorious and relieved shout from the other side of the line nearly deafens him.

Zayn can be fucking loud too.

————————

It’s almost midday when Louis steps into Smitten with Clifford following him. Niall and Harry are both there to greet him, though Niall pays more attention to the labradoodle. He doesn’t waste any time when Louis faces Harry and drops some keys in his hand. Harry seems to freeze, which, okay maybe Louis should have explained before giving him his house’s keys.

“So, I need a favour.”

Harry only raises an eyebrow to prompt him to continue. He is still smiling and is now holding the keys firmly, so that’s a good sign.

“It’s a bit last minute I know, but Zayn needs my help for this weekend in New York so I gotta fly out tonight, except Liam is working during the weekend and I don’t wanna disturb my mum who already has six little monsters to take care of, but I also know you said your flat was too small to be able to have a dog in there, so um, you can bring Princess to my place and uh, take care of Clifford there for the weekend? Please? I trust you.”

And those last three words seem to do the trick, really, Harry’s eyes lighting up with an immense joy.

“Of course,” Harry agrees easily. “I’m honoured you trust me enough.”

Louis smiles warmly. This definitely was easier than he expected but he isn’t going to complain.

“Clifford might be a bit unsettled at first, but I think he grew familiar to you,” Louis says and upon hearing his name, Clifford comes back to Louis’ side, bumping his legs.

“So uh, I guess you already know… my house.” 

They have had several movie nights and cuddle sessions at Louis’ home, sometimes with Liam and Niall, but most of the time just the two of them — and Clifford. So, the dog has grown used to Harry’s presence, but Louis still has yet to wonder how he would react with Harry alone for an extended amount of time.

"Should I leave Cliff with you for the rest of the day so he gets used to you for several hours without me and we see each other tonight at my house before my flight?” Louis suggests.

“When do you leave? I might have to close the restaurant early then.”

“Not that we have a lot of clients outside of Lou and Li there during Friday evenings anyway,” Niall points out, waving at the emptiness of the restaurant right now.

Harry’s smile visibly falters before he fakes happiness again but Louis doesn’t miss it, frowning a little.

Well, he might have an idea to remedy this, but it will have to wait for a certain someone to come back home.

“People will come babe, don’t worry,” he says, pecking Harry’s cheek to regain his attention. “I leave for the airport around 9pm or so. Zayn’s sending a private jet, so I don’t really have to worry about being late.”

“He sent what?!” both Harry and Niall shout, which prompts Clifford to get excited too, suddenly barking loudly as well.

Louis only giggles at the scene and settles Clifford down with a few pets on his back. “Long story, I’ll tell you two later. Take care of my baby, okay?”

And, surprisingly, when Louis leaves, Clifford instinctively does try to follow but easily accepts to stay by Harry’s side when Louis simply gently tells him to behave and stay.

Louis is not gonna lie, he expected a bit of a tantrum, but this makes it easier. He needs to go pack now.

———————

“Where’s my boyo,” Louis whines at the screen, prompting Harry to roll his eyes and direct the camera towards a blurry black blob on the floor.

The quality truly isn’t the best. Harry also has only a small light illuminating him.

“Sleeping, gentle reminder that it’s very late here, Lou.”

“I know, but still,” Louis pouts as Harry brings the camera back to his face. He’s in Louis’ bed and Louis tries to not think too much about it.

“How was your flight babe?” Harry asks, voice all low and sleepy. Louis really should hang up and let him sleep but he doesn’t want to and Harry doesn’t seem to mind too much. It’s the weekend anyway.

“Good, and fast, you know private jet and all that pretentious stuff.” He hears Zayn huff in the distance and Louis flips him off.

As soon as Louis arrived at the hotel, Zayn jumped in his arms and refused to let go for at least a good ten minutes — which Louis didn't mind anyway. However, when Louis said he wanted to FaceTime Harry to check up on Clifford, Zayn insisted he should see Harry for the first time in real life instead of through a screen so he’s now sitting on the armchair at the literal opposite of Louis.

He wonders how long the socialite can keep his mouth shut though.

“That’s great, I’ve never been on a flight, think I’d just… freak out the whole time,” Harry admits with a chuckle. “Dunno how some people can do that like every two days.”

“You gotta get used to it, I guess, I might pretend right now, but in reality I’m fucking jetlagged.”

“And you look as lovely as ever, don’t worry.”

This shuts Louis up for a few seconds, blush overtaking his cheeks. Despite the low quality, he sees Harry smiling smugly and Louis groans, “Shut up.”

“You love it.”

“He does!” Zayn shouts in the distance and Louis startles then throws a pillow his way.

He changed his mind quickly then.

“Oh was that Zayn?” Harry asks, suddenly more awake and eyes wide with excitement. Louis would feel slightly offended if he didn’t look that cute. “Can’t see ya, but nice to meet ya mate!”

“Likewise!” Zayn replies with a laugh, getting up from where he is to sit next to Louis on the couch and wave at Harry. “We’re gonna have to do this whole introducing thing again in real life though.”

“Shit, can’t escape the best friend test huh? Not fair, Niall immediately liked Louis and I feel like Liam is still on the fence about me.”

“I’m the harsh one, believe me,” Zayn snickers. Somehow, Louis knows Harry already passed Zayn’s so-called “best friend test”.

“And Liam loves you, shut up you big whiny baby,” Louis adds with a roll of his eyes.

And it’s true, Liam has been the one asking to go to Harry’s restaurant as often as possible in the past month, and Louis knows for sure the designer goes there without him sometimes too.

“Where’s Princess, by the way?” Louis asks suddenly, and, perfect timing, a paw suddenly makes its presence known on the screen, followed by a gasp and a crash sound. “Ah, there she is.”

“She really likes to make her presence known in the most dramatic fashion,” comes Harry’s muffled voice. “Like a certain someone.”

“Y’all need to stop comparing me to a goddamn cat,” Louis groans, and Zayn simply rolls his eyes.

They continue talking for another hour before Zayn’s phone rings with a reminder of the party they are supposed to attend. It’s at that moment that Louis realises he still looks like he got off the plane and needs to actually look good, especially if he has to show up next to Zayn, of all people. He dismisses Harry sweetly telling him he looks just fine right now, and ends the call with a promise to FaceTime again later.

“You’re fucking gone for him, mate.” Zayn comments, snickering.

Louis has a déjà-vu. “You and Liam really are soulmates and a pain in the ass.”

——————

The weekend goes smoothly and in no time, he finds himself at his door after Liam has picked him and Zayn up from the airport — he really didn’t expect Harry to come pick him up with his bicycle, really.

As he drags his suitcase through the front door, Zayn’s words echo in his head.

They were at the fancy party, when Zayn just casually took out a small velvety box out of his pocket while Louis stared with wide eyes.

“I lied,” he said. “Took longer in New York because of this thing. But I did get invited to more parties in the meantime.”

“You’re…” Louis started but then didn’t know where he was going with the beginning of that sentence and shook his head as a huge smile took over his face. “I better be the best man!”

“Of which one of us?” Zayn laughed. “Of course you’ll be, I’m just… nervous.”

“Why so? He’s gonna say yes!”

“Yeah I know that we talked about this, obviously, it’s just… nerve-wracking anyway? At the end of the day, nothing will really change, will it? We already live together, and all that stuff."

“You’ve been unofficially married for about three years, yeah,” Louis commented, making Zayn smile fondly at the countless memories probably going through his head right now.

Louis used to be envious of that, not so much now, for obvious reasons.

“So, when are you planning to do it?” he asked, eyes fixed on the way Zayn keeps playing with the box in his hand, thoughtful, thankful. “Is this the real reason I’m here? To help you plan everything?”

“You can be smart when you want.”

“Hey! We’re having a touching moment don’t ruin it!”

“Exactly, it felt too soft for us.” Louis huffed at that. “But yeah, the fact you’re here at the party is a nice added bonus, I really can’t stand to fake smile anymore, but anyway. I don’t know— I don’t know exactly what to do yet. Keep it simple, or go all out? Liam would like both, but which one? Would he want people around, or would he want to be just the two of us? Has he told you anything?”

And so he and Zayn spent the rest of the party — and the weekend — perfectly plan a surprise for Liam. In two months time, it would be their anniversary, so they agreed for something pretty private and a little extra. Louis would help with some little details — and hide some surprises in his own home — but with how personal this whole ordeal was, Louis ended up just being emotional support while Zayn rambled about his ideas.

And then, as they were about to fall asleep in the private jet to go back home, Zayn whispered, so low, Louis wouldn’t have heard it if they weren’t wrapped in each other’s arms, “I’m just… excited, you know? To properly start a new chapter of our lives now. Nothing will change, but at the same time, it feels huge.”

And, Louis thinks, maybe he too is entering a new chapter of his life with Harry. Or, well, he’s already done so.

Maybe he should stop being an idiot and bring up the boyfriend question to the table himself, really. Make it official — because he really wants it to be.

In itself they already are what he would call boyfriends, but you never know, Louis might be imagining things, despite how they both agreed they wanted a sort of relationship out of this. They never specified what kind of relationship, truly.

With that thought in mind, he leaves his suitcase by the door and basically runs towards the living room but slows down once he hears familiar meows. Familiar meows that sound very frustrated though.

He finds Princess perched on the back of the couch, angrily pawing at the pretty blue ribbon wrapped delicately around her neck.

“Aww, Princess you look adorable!” Louis coos, prompting Princess to startle a little. She immediately stops pawing at the ribbon at his remark, as if understanding the compliment and now standing proudly. He ‘aww’s out loud again, lifting her in his arms to kiss her fluffy head. She barely struggles, Louis takes pride in that, when Harry tries to hug her, she always tries to run away. “Wonder why Haz got you so dressed up.” He knows for a fact Princess hates costumes, he wonders if he’ll find Harry with scratches all over his hands.

She doesn’t answer, obviously, only blinks slowly while basically staring into his soul. She does that often, Louis still has to ask Harry what it means in cat language. He pets her, earning a few licks on his hands.

“Anyway, where is he…” he wonders next but then nearly falls forward when Clifford appears out of nowhere and bumps him in the knees.

Strong arms catch him before his face could meet the floor, fortunately.

“Needless to say, he missed you,” Harry’s voice laughs above him and Louis smiles. “I did too.”

“It was only two days,” Louis replies.

“Excuse you, after two months of seeing each other basically every day, two days is a lot,” Harry insists, mouthing at his neck, for some reason. It makes Louis shiver.

“Right right, anyway just got off a flight and I’m starving.”

“Knew you only like me for my cooking.”

“And Princess.” Louis smiles innocently before patting Harry’s cheek. “Now c’mon for real, I’m this close to passing out.”

Except Harry doesn’t let him go though, still peppering his neck with little kisses, making Louis squirm. It’s not like he doesn’t like it— but it’s a bit out of nowhere. Did Harry miss him that much?

“Haz?”

“I had a question first, and Clifford was supposed to give you a paper, but he chewed it to pieces. Just give me a few minutes to gather the courage now.”

“Wait did he eat the paper?! Harry—”

“Be my boyfriend?”

This shuts Louis up who pulls back a little to see Harry anxiously chewing his lower lip. Louis frowns — that’s a bad habit of the chef so he gently tugs at Harry’s chin, prompting him to stop biting, then goes on his tiptoes, bringing their lips together in a soft kiss.

Technically their first one.

And Louis ended up initiating it. Goddammit.

He can’t seem to find the heart to be upset about it as his heart swells when Harry properly leans down, a hand now cradling his left cheek, and kisses back.

“To be honest, I thought we already were, boyfriends, I mean, just not sure either like since we didn’t— anyway,” Louis chuckles when he pulls back. Also, he’s getting tired of being on his tiptoes.

“Well, it’s official, official now,” Harry replies, smile the brightest on his face. “If you thought I was cheesy before, you’ve got a big storm coming now.”

“Oh god,” Louis playfully groans. “What did I get myself into?”

“No taking it back now!” Harry grins as he suddenly lifts Louis up bridal style in his arms, causing the latter to let out a very embarrassing squeak that made both Princess and Clifford turn around and respectively meow and bark worryingly.

Louis doesn’t have the time to be endeared by their two animals as Harry just carries him towards the bedroom.

Which was a stupid idea because ten minutes later, despite how much he enjoyed Harry peppering his face and neck with kisses, Louis’ stomach decided to just scream for help and down to the kitchen they went again.

——————

Introducing Zayn back to their daily life goes smoother than Louis expected — as it is, the socialite and artist quickly falls in love with Harry’s restaurant and offers to paint the walls of the second floor himself as inspiration apparently struck him immediately. Harry, being too good for his own self, insisted he should pay him, but Zayn refused over and over again — he also doesn’t need more money than he already has anyway.

Zayn’s presence unknowingly brought some publicity to the place too. Roughly a week after Zayn’s return, Louis got a call from Harry, in an oddly happy panic, as he explained how the restaurant was overflowing for the number of people they usually get. In the distance, he could hear Niall shouting and running around. Louis ended up having to come by and help with waiter duties. Harry was over the moon — exhausted, but incredibly proud and happy. Louis wanted to kiss him and never stop.

If only that tall fucker could lean down for him at least once in his life, and also not wear heels. Fucking hell, he’s tall enough.

Anyway, that night Louis crashed at Zayn’s house to thank him for his service and Zayn only shrugged, pretending he didn’t care but Louis could see the smile tugging at his lips.

In the end, both Liam and Zayn helped painting and redecorating the second floor of the restaurant, not really for free really, but in exchange for food and Smitten as their new favourite destination for Wednesday date nights — as weird as having a date where two of your friends work was, they didn’t particularly care.

Niall had been a surprisingly strong rock in his life too. He is the first friend Louis has made in almost a decade — how sad is that — and a good and fresh addition to his routine, a ray of sunshine that made Louis want to just… be a little bit more open about his feelings, allowing himself to just, well, feel, and be happy. Niall always texts, and not in an annoying kind of way, but to ask him how he’s doing, how Clifford is growing, or to share random facts or anecdotes that happened to him that day.

He is a very good listener too, and always ready for a good laugh. It’s nice. Louis decided he really likes him.

And as for himself, well, he feels on a happy little cloud with Harry, Princess and Clifford.

Like a happy little family.

How weird is that, huh, Louis now goes out more and finds himself more motivated to get work done so he can spend more time with his boyfriend and his friends again.

But maybe it felt too good to be true.

One day, Harry randomly shows up at his door. It’s a bit hectic, Louis barely is awake, only wearing a large sweater that reaches his knees — he may or may not have stolen it from Liam — and hair a goddamn mess when he opens the door, expecting Liam or Zayn to come to make him breakfast — because yes, that is a thing that they do sometimes, these two truly consider Louis their child — only to be met with a frantic looking Harry holding Princess in her carriage, and a bag full of what Louis guesses is cat stuff in his other hand. Harry looks ready to say something, but then stops to look at Louis up and down, and Louis usually would be just a little embarrassed but he’s too tired right now and only tilts his head on the side while Harry seems to glitch.

Up until Princess meows loudly as her blue eyes recognise Louis.

“Oh! Right,” Harry mumbles, “um sorry to disturb you—”

“You aren’t,” Louis replies immediately. “Just took me by surprise.”

“I just… need to ask you a big favour, and it’s a bit last minute. Could you keep Princess for a week?”

Louis blinks, stopping himself from nodding immediately. He does need a bit of context here.

“Last minute family emergency,” at that Louis immediately perks up, suddenly more awake. He heard family. Family is important. “and I need to leave in like, um, thirty minutes or so if I want to be there as soon as possible and Niall is in a family trip so you’re my only option, sorry to drop this on you.”

“’s okay,” Louis reassures as he reaches for Princess’ cage, stumbling a little when Harry lets go and Louis wasn’t prepared for how heavy it actually was and holy shit why is it so heavy when Princess feels so light in his arms? “But you really can’t take her with you?”

Harry shakes his head as he makes his way inside.

“It’s a two hours long trip, and she gets restless after thirty minutes on the train, or well, on a car. I’d rather know she’s somewhere where she feels relaxed.”

“Makes sense…” Louis closes the door, then walks towards the living room, Harry following suit — though isn’t he supposed to be in a hurry? Clifford is somehow still asleep in his bed next to the fireplace so he sets the cage on the couch, then opens it. Almost immediately Princess comes out and rushes towards him, curling up in a ball as soon as she finds her place in Louis’ laps.

Harry smiles softly from where he stands.

“She’s easy to satisfy and is very independent,” he informs. “I’ll just text you through the week, or however long it takes for me to sort things out, what you can feed her outside of the cat food I brought.”

“Nothing to cook I hope.”

“No, don’t worry, mostly fruits she loves” Harry laughs. “Thank you again, baby.”

Louis can’t help the light blush appearing on his cheeks at the endearing pet name. “Don’t sweat it,” he replies. He sounds oddly calm for someone who just got thrown a cat to look after for a whole week or more. 

Which means he’s gonna need to walk both Princess and Clifford at the same time in the near future.

God, how did Harry do that a few weeks back? Even for just two days?

He’ll worry about that later.

“Okay, I really need to hurry now.” Harry looks distressed and gloomy. Louis can only sadly imagine what this emergency entails.

Louis manages to reach for him and make him bend down enough so he can place a chaste kiss on Harry’s lips then his cheek. “Take care, yeah? If you need someone to talk to I’m one call away.”

The taller boy smiles softly, though Louis can see tears shining in his eyes. “Thank you, I’m gonna miss you.”

Louis doesn’t reply, just accepts the hug Harry engulfs him in, not saying a word about how when Harry pulls back, there’s a wet spot on his right shoulder.

———————

It’s not hard to understand that this family emergency involves the death of a loved one, and the constant stream of distressed and sad messages from Harry only confirm what Louis thinks.

Well.

Receiving one text in particular from a hungover Harry basically telling him the funeral was too emotional and awful gave that away too.

Louis is walking both Princess and Clifford when he receives it, and he has to stop to sit down on a bench to reply.

While Clifford starts to play with a fallen leaf on the floor, Princess, on the other hand, seems to understand something is wrong and sits next to Louis, paw on his arm and eyes fixed on the screen of his phone, as if she could read or understand. She can’t, Louis guesses she’s just intrigued by the light and the colours of the phone, but she can also probably sense his own worries and sadness.

That’s why he was kind of afraid of cats for a long while — they always seem to know more than you.

He smiles at her gently, before petting her head. He earns a delighted purr as a reward.

“You know… I lost my dad too.” She meows curiously, and he rubs her chin. It is therapeutic while thinking back to unpleasant memories. “I thought it wouldn’t affect me — he abandoned me when I was three, after all, why should I feel bad? And then the rare times he would come by, he would yell, at me and mum, but mostly me when mum wasn’t looking…” he sighs. “I shouldn’t have felt anything — yet I was so… empty and sad at the news.”

She meows again, quieter and softer, at the same time Clifford gets bored of the leaf he was playing with and starts bumping Louis’ legs instead. Louis laughs and pats his thigh, Clifford resting his head on it immediately.

“It was weird then, hearing all those stories about him being this honourable man during the funeral when he’s always just been a monster in my eyes. I almost felt pity. I was conflicted during the whole of it and kept silent when even mum was crying. I only broke down later when I went to bed.” This time, a curious meow and a low whine answer him. Louis pets both their heads with a small chuckle. “Can’t even begin to imagine what Harry feels right now.”

Therapeutic, it really is.

————————

A week goes by, and sometimes Liam or Zayn go on walks with him. This time, it’s Niall, freshly back from his trip, who is happily holding Princess in his arms as they walk across a pond. It’s for security, mostly, as the cat tends to want to play in the water and catch the fishes who dare come near them.

“How are you doing?” Niall asks at some point.

Louis frowns, confused.

“You know, between Harry away and your best friends being engaged as of yesterday, must be a mess of emotions in your head right now.”

“Oh.” Louis blinks, remembering the events that took place the previous day. “Yeah.”

He kind of feels bad for the lack of enthusiasm he is displaying for his friends, but he’s felt kind of numb ever since Harry went away — this whole mess opened up old wounds he wasn’t quite ready to deal with himself but he also couldn’t tell Zayn and Liam to shut up about their happiness so he could focus on not letting grief overtake him.

In a way, his friends’ engagement should be the perfect distraction but… Harry.

He just kind of feels hopeless telling his boyfriend everything is going to be alright through a screen despite Harry insisting he shouldn’t worry too much and focus on happy things too. The thing with Louis is that he feels deeply for others — maybe he’s too empathetic, but if anyone around him feels down, he just needs to make them feel better or it downs on his own mood.

Said like that it sounds selfish now.

“We don’t know each other as much,” Niall complies with a little shrug, “but I do know you don’t want to bother Zayn or Liam with your thoughts, so know that I’m here if you need someone to talk to, yeah?”

Louis smiles a little at that.

“Besides, it must get tiring to only talk to a cat or a dog when they can’t reply.”

This gets a laugh out of Louis.

“You make me sound crazy. But… but know I do consider you a friend,” the editor says simply. “It’s just, you're right, it's a mess in my head, can’t really explain it.”

“I mean, feelings aren’t supposed to make sense, y’know.”

“Guess so.”

Silence.

It’s not awkward, it’s comfortable even, but Louis itches to say something else, to ask about Harry or something because at the end of the day, he still has a lot to learn about him and he doesn’t even know how he and Niall met. But he doesn’t want to bother, or seem nosy, or seem like he can only talk about Harry because fuck, that’s obsessive.

“He’s happy, as weird as it sounds, right now,” Niall speaks up suddenly.

“Uh?”

“Harry, I mean. The restaurant is going well at last even if he pretended for a long time that the lack of client didn't bother him, he finally isn’t just talking to his cat, he somehow managed to get a wonderful boyfriend.” Louis blushes at that. “His dad had been sick for a while, he was prepared for it, maybe not this soon though. He wasn’t exactly in a bad place before that, but I did worry a lot. I don’t anymore, ever since he opened Smitten and, well, adopted Princess from the shelter near his flat.” Niall smiles. “You came along too at some point.”

“Didn’t do much…”

“Not saying you did, I’m not attributing all the merits to you,” Niall half-jokes.

“Ouch,” Louis pouts but he isn’t really hurt.

“It’s just— things will be alright, you know,” the Irish lad continues with his signature sunshine-y smile. “Don’t you worry your little head, little one.”

And just like that, something switches.

“We’re the same height, fucker.”

“Yeah keep telling yourself that Lou.”

“We are!” Louis protests, not so subtly standing straighter now. Niall notices and snorts, standing straighter as well and towering over Louis by a small centimetre or two.

“Try again.”

Sensing the now playful atmosphere, Princess’ ears suddenly perk up while Clifford turns around as if to watch the scene. Louis eyes the cat in Niall’s arms with a smile, and somehow Niall understands and gulps.

“Princess, attack.”

She doesn’t, of course she doesn’t she’s not a fucking Pokémon, but she does start to meow a lot and then nibble on Niall’s arms, prompting the latter to let her go, so she finds her place on Clifford’s back.

She stays there as the two men look at the odd duo of pets.

“So is that how you and Harry look like when cuddling and you say you’re the big spoon.”

“Stop comparing me to a fucking cat!”

Louis takes it back, he hates Niall, he’s not a friend.

—————————

Harry shows up again at his doorstep a few days later, Princess’ harness in hand and a small smile on his face. Louis doesn’t question it, and wordlessly kisses him then fetches their two pets to get ready for their usual morning walk as if nothing happened.

It’s what Harry seems to want to do. Pretend nothing happened, or at least for now.

Everything is calm, and the air is getting warmer. Summer is basically at their door and Harry is only in a t-shirt while Louis still is wearing one of his favourite hoodies. They’re holding hands while slowly walking alongside their pets who seem just as oddly relaxed as everything else around them.

The park is empty, the birds are silent, the cars are far away.

Doesn’t feel like real life.

They don’t talk a lot, and Louis knows he shouldn’t push Harry to speak if he doesn’t feel like it. He squeezes gently Harry’s hand every once in a while when he notices Harry’s gaze getting lost in the distance. Harry always reacts with a small smile and then a kiss to his knuckles.

The walk is shorter than usual and in no time they are back to Louis’ house and Harry still hasn’t said a word. They free Clifford and Princess from their leashes, and they run away, paws making their own melodies on the wooden floor. Harry chuckles a little, watching them before slowly turning to look at Louis again.

“Hey,” Louis says softly as he closes the door. First words they've spoken to each other in about a week and a half. “Everything alright?”

“Frankly, no,” Harry admits at last and Louis nods, simply walking forward to hold him. It is a good change of pace, he thinks quietly. So far he’s only seen Harry plastering a smile on his face even when uncomfortable or upset and Louis worried that pretending like this would eat him up someday. Obviously it doesn’t mean he enjoys seeing Harry in such pain right now, but everyone needs a good cry every once in a while in his book.

“It’s gonna be okay. It will take time but, you know, with the right people around you, it won’t feel so difficult to overcome grief as it feels right now.” Louis gently holds Harry’s face in his hands. “Trust me.”

Harry laughs wetly, resting their foreheads together. “What did I do to deserve you again?”

“You are you,” Louis states confidently, pushing away that little voice in his head telling him he isn’t that special, Harry shouldn’t put him in such a high horse. “It’s more than enough.”

Harry doesn’t reply, only pecks his lips.

They move to Louis’ — their, really — bedroom and stay cuddled like that for the rest of the evening, even when Princess and Clifford come snuggling with them too later as the sun sets.

——————

Life goes on, as they say, and things slowly come back to normal. It’s always been an odd feeling to Louis. Something life-changing just happened and yet a few days later you just… go on, because there is nothing else to do.

“We’ve been dating for almost five months and you’ve never seen my apartment,” Harry says one day as they are walking past the pond in the park. Louis wonders how they always manage to end up here. 

It’s still sunny and bright, despite being almost dinner’s time.

Summer is at its peak. 

“Oh,” Louis realises. “I haven’t.”

“I live next to the park, we can eat dinner at mine? I can surely cook something for Clifford too.”

Louis simply nods, curious.

Harry’s apartment is small but pretty. The place is drenched in white and warm colours contrasting each other, kitchen and lounge just juxtaposed together. Louis immediately sits on one of the two chairs in the kitchen isle, as Harry gets to preparing the food.

Louis giggles as Princess finds her place in his laps almost as soon as he sits down, pawing his thighs for a while before curling up into a ball. It feels all too familiar when he ends up completely entranced by her.

While Louis is having his little cat party, Harry busies himself in the kitchen, trying very hard not to just keep looking at the duo… and not to trip over Clifford currently following his every step. He goes around collecting the ingredients, grabbing an onion first.

“Princess,” he calls lightly.

Louis, before he can even think about it, looks up with a small “yes?” leaving his mouth. As he meets Harry’s wide eyes he suddenly realises what he’s just done and blushes furiously as Princess, the cat, hops on the counter to sniff the onion, then goes back into Louis’ laps, but is now looking at her owner, understanding Harry was cooking.

“Um…” Harry starts, cheeks a little red too. “We’re gonna talk about what just happened, or…?”

Louis laughs nervously, distracting himself by petting Princess’ head. “It was nothing,” he dismisses. “Just confusion.”

“Right…” Harry replies as he takes a carrot, leaning forward for his cat to sniff it, but also allowing him to get closer to Louis. “I don’t really like liars, little one.”

Louis blinks, as Harry only pulls back with a sweet smile on his face, going back to cooking.

Well, that was weird.

Later on, Louis keeps fidgeting as they eat, struggling to ignore Harry’s not so subtle stare. Harry is way too smug, as the taller boy just randomly says “princess” at times, even when his cat is out of the room, in the simple hope of Louis reacting like he did a few moments ago. Except, Louis expects it now, and just glares at Harry.

Once they’ve finished eating and cleaning up, Louis finds himself cornered against the kitchen isle, giggling as Harry just peppers his face with kisses.

“C’mon princess,” the taller boy mumbles as he makes his way towards Louis’ lips, pecking them before he could get an answer.

“Stop calling me that, Harry, it’s weird, it’s your cat’s name” Louis somehow manages to whine, yet he doesn’t try to get away from Harry, arms wrapped gleefully around his boyfriend’s waist.

“But you like it,” Harry muses, utter joy and pleasure in his voice when Louis only blushes in response, “and it suits you, you are my sweet second princess.”

And of course, at that right moment, a loud meow echoes through the flat, quickly followed by a bark, and then it’s a back and forth between the two animals as if they were having a conversation. Louis and Harry freeze for a second, before simultaneously letting out a breathy laugh.

“I think…” Louis starts to say, looking at the darkness overtaking the city through the window, “that I should go, before it is too late.”

He doesn’t move though, and hums when Harry leans down, nuzzling his cheek, both completely oblivious to the cacophony from their pets echoing in the distance.

“Or…” Harry whispers, “you could stay the night.”

Louis slightly lifts his head to meet Harry’s eyes. The intensity in them is enough to tell him everything he needs to know about the offer — this was clearly planned.

“Yeah?” he replies, voice just as low and with the hint of a smile.

“Yeah.”

————

“You’ve got a cat hoodie?!” Louis can’t help but squeal when Harry presents him his collection of sweaters he could lend him for the night. “It’s mine now, I’m sleeping in it.” He decides, grabbing the grey sweater.

“You’re really making it difficult for me to not want to call you “princess” or “kitten” really,” Harry mumbles as Louis doesn’t pay him any attention as he switches his current sweater for the cat one, immediately putting the hood on. It’s too big, and the cat ears are a little floppy, falling on the side, but it’s still cute, Louis concedes. He can’t see himself but he knows he’s cute.

“I’m going to start thinking you’re a furry,” Louis mocks as he makes himself some sweater paws then jokingly meows in Harry’s direction. “Bet that turns you on.”

If it was anyone else, he’d probably want to just go die from embarrassment in a ditch somewhere. Liam and Zayn would never stop making fun of him.

As it is, Harry only huffs and rolls his eyes with a dimpled smile. “Aren’t you just the cutest,” the chef chuckles, making his way towards Louis who just opens his arms then laughs wholeheartedly when his boyfriend easily lifts him up.

Louis wraps his legs around Harry’s waist as their lips find each other. Like all their kisses, it starts slow and sweet, until Harry’s hands start getting… restless. Though one arm stays safely wrapped around Louis’ waist as to not let him fall, Harry’s other hand just keeps stroking his ass, back and then nape and Louis mewls at the sensation, feeling that fire inside him ignite again and he suddenly needs more.

He doesn’t have to ask though, as he feels Harry walking them towards the bed and in no time his back gently hits the mattress, Harry falling on top of him.

“Cute, cute, cute, cute,” Harry chants and Louis rolls his eyes, reaching to hold Harry’s face.

“Says the one with the dimples and the curls,” Louis muses as he manages to kiss Harry’s dimples, making the latter smile the more harder. “Well, soon to be actual curls.” Yeah he’s still bitter Harry cut his hair just before they met and it’s now taking forever for the curls to come back. He wants to play with Harry’s hair.

“So…”

“So.”

They stare for a while as they seem to only now coming back to earth and realise what they were about to do. Louis starts to blush as Harry looks down to realise his hand is at the sweater’s hem, fingers barely stroking the skin underneath.

“Is this okay?” Harry softly asks. “Still on the same page?”

“Yeah… c’mon.”

Louis giggles as Harry nuzzles his neck, hands now brushing his sides in almost a ticklish manner. It is so different from all the times he’s slept with someone before. Those times were rushed, lustful, intense, and yet short, but with Harry, the lust is still there, but the overall easy-going, calming atmosphere overweighs everything else. With Harry it is… gentle, loving, and Louis really can’t bring himself to get this more heated no matter how much he usually loves rough sex.

“Lou…” Harry mumbles, breath hitting Louis’ somehow exposed collarbones.

Louis represses a shiver. “Mmh?”

“Thank you.” Louis blinks, a little confused. What is Harry thanking him for? “For being there when I needed someone the most, I just wanted to show you how grateful I am again.”

“Wh— Haz you don’t have to—” But of course Louis doesn’t get to finish his sentence, being cut off by Harry brushing a hand under the hoodie, fingers finding his nipples immediately. Louis lets out a small whine that he quickly covers, both hands clasping his mouth shut as he can feel himself redden by the seconds.

Harry chuckles above him. “Sensitive, should have guessed.”

Louis glares at him. “You took me by surprise!”

“I apparently do so often, princess.”

Instead of replying — ok Louis does huff a little — Louis grabs Harry’s necklace that has been dangling in front of his face for a while, forcing Harry to lean down and capture his lips in his again.

This time it’s rushed and messy now that they both know where it’s properly heading, Harry’s tongue diving into his mouth right away, making Louis’ toes curl as hands also find their way to his nipples again, leaving goosebumps in their trail.

He feels Harry smile against him when he pathetically whines again, both trying to get away from Harry’s hands, and bucking his hips up searching friction elsewhere. His dick has been getting excited in the meantime, alright?

“Patience,” Harry whispers. “Wanna see you properly and as much as it kills me because you look ravishingly cute right now, let’s remove that hoodie, shall we?”

“What a very gentlemanly way to ask,” Louis replies, though he mindlessly removes the hoodie then tosses it away. “Kinda breaking the vibe we had going on there.”

“Does it?” Harry wonders, and then he just straights up grabs Louis’ crotch, making the latter squeak then moan as he starts to stroke it. “You’re still pretty happy.”

“Shut up, you are too,” Louis says, voice shaking just a tiny bit. He eyes Harry’s bulge and can’t help but lick his lips, which Harry clearly doesn’t miss. “Wanna—”

“Another time, I wanna get my hands on you for now,” Harry cuts him off, prompting Louis to properly lay back down with a small “oof” leaving his lips.

True to his words, Harry keeps a hand on Louis’ crotch, while his other hand continues to play with his nipples. Louis keens into it, letting out a breathy moan at the feeling of Harry’s lips on his neck.

“C’mon, off off,” he hears Harry mumble as Harry’s large hands seem to have trouble unbuttoning Louis’ jeans. This makes Louis giggle softly as he helps him. He’s about to make another remark when he starts to take his trousers off himself but he doesn’t get to when Harry wastes no time into slipping his hand in his pants, hand engulfing his length.

Louis hisses at the feeling of Harry’s cold rings yet warm hand against his dick and he feels Harry freeze above him and sees him open his mouth, probably to apologise but Louis shakes his head and kisses him before he could say anything.

The kiss is slow but deep, Harry’s tongue stroking Louis’ in rhythm with his hand pleasuring the smaller man. In one swift motion, Harry gets rid off Louis’ boxer and Louis shivers a little as the cool air hits his private parts.

“Harry, Hazzy, Haz, please— ” Harry hums, lips travelling down Louis’ neck, busying himself with love bites there. “Get your pants off too.”

“No, let me take care of you first,” Harry insists, a bottle of lube now magically in his hands. Has Louis been so out of it already that he didn't notice? 

“But—”

“Baby, ssh.”

Louis huffs because the endearment just renders him speechless once again and he doesn’t know how to properly protest because he doesn’t really want to just lay there and let Harry do all the work but then yelps when he feels a cool finger at his entrance. It slips in easily and Louis shudders at the mere feeling.

“Oh god, oh god—” Louis moans as Harry easily slips in a second finger and the familiar stretch and drag yet unfamiliar long fingers make his mind goes delirious already.

“You can call me Harry, you know.”

“Oh fuck off.”

Louis sees him bite his lips before he can reply something equally as stupid, like “I’d rather fuck you instead”, and drops his eyes to Louis’ hole, eyebrows frowning in concentration suddenly. Louis can’t help but giggle and pokes Harry’s forehead, before cupping his cheeks and kissing him again.

Harry nearly falls at the abrupt action, his chest brushing against Louis’ cock and making Louis moan louder, his legs parting then wrapping themselves around Harry’s waist to keep him there. From there, he rolls his hips, both meeting Harry’s fingers and trying to find some friction. Harry notices however and pulls back a little, smirking when Louis whines again, arms sliding around the chef’s shoulder and holding him as tightly as possible.

Harry tsks, a hand settling on Louis’ waist, gently holding him down.

With just one hand. Louis… doesn’t even try to not think about it. God, the things Harry could so easily do to him. But he’s gentle, oh so gentle, yet Louis is rendered helpless with just one touch or one look.

He really is fucking gone for Harry.

A loud moan escapes his lips once again when Harry’s finger finally brush his prostate. This seems to light a fire in Harry’s eyes as he looks up in an amusing surprise, before smiling, pecking Louis’ lips, and continuing his ministrations, aiming for that sweet spot over and over again.

“Oh god, oh god, I’m gonna—” Louis whines, meaning to actually tell Harry to stop because he doesn’t want to come just yet , but then they hear a crash that startles Harry so much he somehow loses balance, effectively falling forward right on top of Louis and squishing him into the bed.

They are about to laugh it off and get back to business, Harry’s fingers still moving carefully, trying to get a rhythm back and find Louis’ prostate again as they lazily kiss, but then another crash happens, quickly followed by loud barks.

Only then do they actually and abruptly separate to see the bedroom’s door somehow on the floor and Clifford stood on it, growling at Harry, for some reason.

A look of realisation goes through the chef’s face while Louis wraps himself in the blankets, embarrassed by his own pet.

“Oh god he heard you and thought you were hurt,” Harry groans, and Louis’ only reaction is to blush even more.

What a way to ruin the mood. Quick look under the cover and yeah, he’s soft. Same goes for Harry, probably. Though the other man still hasn’t gotten rid off his jeans.

Must be uncomfortable, the editor thinks off-handedly.

“Clifford!” Louis whines, prompting the dog to trot towards Louis’ side of the bed. “Bad boy, you broke the door! Harry’s door!”

Clifford whimpers a little, nuzzling Louis’ hands as if in search for forgiveness, and honestly, Louis doesn’t have the heart to be actually mad, just a tiny bit frustrated. The poor thing only wanted to protect him and in a way, it is kind of reassuring to know Clifford would break literal walls down to come save him if he thinks he’s hurt.

But still.

Once Clifford has settled down, Harry lies down next to Louis again, not even trying to take a bit of the blanket Louis has firmly wrapped around him.

“Well, we can’t fuck now,” Louis bluntly says, which makes Harry laugh a bit too loudly in the dead of the night.

“Eh, we have all the time in the world, don’t we?” Harry chuckles after kissing Louis’ forehead and the latter grumpily nods with a pout.

It’s not like they’ve taken their relationship slowly since the very beginning.

But yeah, he guesses they have all the time in the world.

But then... it happens, again and again. Whether at Harry’s flat or at Louis’ house, if it’s not Princess suddenly wanting to be in the room just as Harry is about to enter him — only to walk back out, the little shit — it’s Clifford that feels the sudden need to bark loudly and almost crash down Louis’ bedroom door like he did with Harry’s.

Every. Single. Time.

And listen, Louis loves the gentle sex they’ve been having, worshipping each other’s body and exchanging blowjobs, but the farthest they’ve gone is Harry fingering him until he sees stars — and even so, he didn’t have time to collect his thoughts before they heard scratches on the door and meows — and while it is more than wonderful too, he needs to be fucked for real now, goddammit.

“Wait, why are you giving me Cliff for the weekend again?” Zayn asks, though he sure doesn’t seem to mind the lapful of huge labradoodle he now has on him.

Clifford still doesn’t understand he’s not small.

“I need the house for myself so Harry and I don’t have any distraction, and I trust you with Clifford.”

“You want Harry to fuck you,” Zayn deadpans.

And Louis doesn’t even try to deny it. “Yeah, basically. It’s been impossible with both our clingy pets, swear it’s like having children.”

“Oh, thinking about kids already?” His best friend teases, making Louis blush. “Must really be going well.”

“Well,” Louis coughs when his voice cracks under his embarrassment, “it is. It really is.” His voice has gone soft, and Zayn is smiling fondly at him.

“I’m happy for you, mate.”

“So am I…” Louis whispers to himself. “So, the wedding plans?”

It is Zayn’s turn to go all soft.

————————

Ultimately, just asking Harry to come over and fuck would be… weird. They’re never blunt about sexual intercourse, and it’s not like they’re shy about it, but it just happens, no matter how cliché that sounds, and there’s a possibility really that at the end of the weekend they won’t even have done anything.

Though, judging by Harry’s reaction when he realises the house is empty, Louis can throw that worry out of the window. Despite that, Harry is trying really hard to make it look like he isn’t thinking anything nasty when he brings Louis closer, making the latter basically climb on his laps.

The movie in the background is immediately forgotten.

“So, alone huh?” Harry asks with a little teasing smile. Louis pecks it away.

“Pretty much so.”

There has been a bit of an issue in Louis’ plan — see, Harry recently decided that Smitten would be open on Saturdays too, even though he wouldn’t be the one cooking that day, except the restaurant got overwhelmed by too many clients at once during dinner time and they had to open up the second floor exceptionally. So, Harry and Louis dropped by to help until closing hours, saving a distressed Niall and staff — honestly, Louis is basically working part-time there at this point, if Harry wasn’t his boyfriend he’d ask to be paid.

But anyway, they separated, too tired to even hang out more at one of their homes and Louis invited Harry again at his the next day.

Which is now. They originally settled on the couch to watch a movie when Harry noticed how silent the whole house oddly was.

“You planned this, didn’t you?” Harry asks again. “Getting rid of the kids so we can have fun?”

“Harry that’s weird,” Louis deadpans. “Remember the thing about taking it too fast? Kids, really?” he laughs.

“Hey you’ve been the one complaining about how slow we’ve taken everything else.”

“Yeah, speaking of which, your dick’s getting happy to have me sit on it.”

“You keep fidgeting and rubbing your ass over it, not like I can help it,” Harry retorts. “You really can’t keep still when excited, can you.”

“I can’t,” Louis smiles innocently, rolling his hips, making Harry groan deep in his throat. “Mm. Wanna ride you.”

“Right here? Do you have anything?” Harry asks incredulously and Louis blushes suddenly. So maybe he hasn’t planned that ahead.

“No…”

“So to the bedroom we go,” Harry announces simply and then just. Stands up.

Louis yelps, tightening his hold around Harry’s shoulders and waist, as Harry takes his sweet time to secure an arm around Louis’ waist and under his ass. Louis glares at him for the small heart attack, but Harry dismisses it by kissing him while guiding them towards the bedroom blindly.

Louis would be worried about them falling down the stairs if they haven’t done this already several times in the past. Or if he didn’t know that if they ever fell, Harry would somehow manage to hit the ground first so Louis can safely land on him. Same thing.

They land on his bed quite quickly, and clothes get discarded between kisses and caresses, now both familiar with each other’s bodies. They roll a few times in the sheets while stupidly laughing and kissing, until Louis ends up sitting on Harry’s laps again, feeling Harry’s precome coating his ass already. He licks his lips and starts stroking Harry’s dick from behind at the same time Harry props himself in his elbows, so Louis can easily bend down too for their lips to meet. Louis would be slightly offended that Harry doesn’t seem really affected by his handjob right now, but gets easily distracted by Harry’s tongue just completely taking over his mouth.

Louis hums at some point, removing his hand and pulling back a little to take a breath, which Harry doesn’t let him do because the latter suddenly reverses their positions. Louis’ back gently — always gentle, seriously how does Harry even do that — hits the bed and he doesn’t have time to think before he feels Harry kissing his inner thigh.

Louis squirms at the sensation, feeling Harry’s breath so close to his hole, but Harry stills him, both hands resting on his thighs, keeping his legs open for him to settle between.

"No wait, wanted to ride you!" Louis complains.

“Ssh,” Harry whispers, sending shivers down Louis’ spine and lips slowly making their way towards Louis’ hole, “Let me take all the time in the world to taste you properly.”

Louis really can’t help himself and snorts. “I know you’re a chef, but that’s creepy.”

“Louis!” Harry groans, now fully and genuinely annoyed.

He laughs. “Just messing with ya, that’s sweet.”

“I really don’t feel like you’re taking this seriously when you went out of your way to have the house to ourselves.”

“And you say that as if it’s new,” the smaller man grins teasingly. “Do you even know me at all, big guy?”

“I know enough to know how to shut you up gently, princess,” Harry replies, smiling just as sweetly.

That does shut Louis up.

“Not fair!” he pouts and Harry only chuckles, only moving an inch forward and then licking a long stripe over Louis’ hole, making the latter moan probably louder than he ever did before, the feeling so new and intense at once.

Harry has mentioned in the past his desire to eat Louis out, a few times, and Louis was never opposed to it — he was curious, even, as he never let anyone do those sort of things to him in the past, just contenting himself with, well, someone fucking him. It was more than enough to satisfy him but holy fuck, now he’s regretting never doing it before.

Harry dives right in as if he’s been starved for months, tongue sometimes poking inside, and thrusting slowly in and out and Louis tries to conceal everything in him to not just squirm and thrash about and accidentally hit Harry in the head in the process. A long string of whines and small moans escape him though, and it obviously affects Harry who just groans against him, the sound vibrating inside Louis’ whole being. Harry continues, finding particular pleasure in lightly kissing the skin around his entrance and making Louis just go delirious and wanting for more.

He can feel himself get closer and closer to release, and Louis opens his mouth, trying to just say something to tell him to stop but then two of Harry’s fingers just slip in without any warning.

“Harry!” he squeaks out. It comes out breathless and a little broken and Harry looks up, climbing over Louis’ body again while he starts pumping his fingers in and out, scissoring them, then kisses Louis quiet.

Louis tastes himself on Harry’s tongue and— it’s a fucking weird feeling, but he obviously doesn’t say anything against it, just trying to hold off his orgasm. Harry seems to know what he’s doing, as he purposely avoids Louis’ prostate, even as he adds a third finger.

The stretch hurts just a little, and it must somehow shows on his face because Harry starts playing with his nipples to get him distracted and just on the verge again.

“Okay, okay,” Louis whispers in Harry’s ear, “think I’m ready.”

Harry simply nods, pulling his fingers away and then mindlessly grabbing a condom on the bedside table — yes Louis purposely left it out in the open to make it easier. He grabs Harry’s arm though before he can open it.

“Wait, let me do it,” he mumbles, now sitting.

“Alright baby,” Harry simply replies in a sickeningly sweet voice.

Louis doesn’t reply, and just opens the condom with one swift rip. He reaches forward to stroke Harry’s dick a few times, then suddenly leans down to lick the head, making Harry groans and hiss at the same time. It only encourages him to wrap his lips around his cock, bobbing his head up and down a few times, enjoying Harry’s deep and quick moans, before pulling away just as fast as he started. He then licks his lips while slowly putting the condom on Harry. He reaches for the lube too and dribbles some on Harry, stroking him again a few times. Anything to get him even more worked up.

“Sorry, I wanted a taste before babe,” Louis cheekily informs but Harry doesn’t seem pleased now, lust and frustration dancing in his green eyes. Ah, Louis got him that close to orgasm, then. He wants to make a joke, to see how much he can get away with before Harry snaps but turns out he doesn’t even need to because Harry quickly manhandles him so he’s laying back again, legs up on Harry’s shoulders while the latter lines himself up with his entrance.

“Oh fuck—” Harry swears when the head pops in and he is already overwhelmed. “You’re tight. I’m not hurting you, right?” he suddenly worries. The contrast between his sweet words and his previous quite abrupt action — well, for Harry that is — is quite funny really.

Louis almost wants to laugh. On the contrary, he loves the stretch. So, he shakes his head.

“Okay good,” Harry mumbles. He seems lost in his own world as he sinks in slowly but surely, until he bottoms out, balls safely resting against Louis’ ass. Louis sighs in pleasure at the feeling, wiggling a little his hips to properly feel Harry’s girth inside him, eliciting a moan from the man above him. Their foreheads are resting against each other and they are breathing heavily, yet still smiling so big at each other, his cheeks almost hurt more than the stretch in his asshole right now.

After what feels like forever, Louis finally tells Harry he can move and well, fuck, Harry doesn’t hesitate one bit. As all things, Louis expected him to take it slow and gentle, and for the first few thrusts he is, but his rhythm quickly builds up and Louis soon sees stars as Harry just starts fucking him as if his life depended on it, alternating between long and deep thrusts right into his sweet spot to quick and brutal ones that make Louis’ toes curl and his hands search for something to hang on to — which end up being the hairs behind Harry’s head.

Little “uh uh uh”’s escape his mouth every time he finds himself propped up on the bed by Harry’s relentless momentum, his moans only accompanied by Harry's small grunts and the sound of their skins meeting each other and he knows he is close, but he needs something else and when he tries to reach forward to touch himself, Harry slaps his hand away, and wrap his own hand around Louis’ neglected cock.

“C’mon,” he groans. “Together yeah?”

Louis lost his ability to speak at this point and can only nod as Harry’s thrusts somehow speed up, Harry clearly chasing his orgasm. Louis’ hits him just as Harry drags his thumb over his slit and he moans loudly as he spills come all over his and Harry’s chests. Harry follows soon after, Louis’ walls clenching deliciously around him and he stills as he reaches his climax, no sound coming out of him, but Louis can properly admire the utter look of pleasure on his face, lips slightly parted and eyebrows furrowed in intense bliss.

Harry pulls back to tie the condom and then throw it over his shoulder, which, gross, but Louis can’t be bothered to complain just yet.

“Fuck,” Louis can only say, waiting for his heart rate to stabilise.

“Yeah we just did that,” Harry points out, now back to hovering over him, elbows still caging him under him.

“Oh don’t be a smartass now.”

Harry doesn’t point out his hypocrisy and only kisses him. They lay there for another five to ten minutes, just lazily kissing before Harry finally gets up and goes towards the bathroom.

He comes back with a clean towel and he quickly cleans the both of them then they simply fall asleep in each other’s arms.

————————

Louis wakes up to the sun refusing to let him sleep any longer. He groans and tries to turn around but bumps into a fluffy ball of curls that immediately jumps excitedly, licking Louis’ face. Louis yelps in surprise.

“Cliff, Cliff, I love you and I missed you too but stop—”

Clifford settles down, plopping on his stomach and Louis huffs at the sudden weight. He can’t find it in himself to complain however, and he just decides to pet the dog’s head, when he notices the other side of the bed is vacant. He frowns, wondering where Harry could be, then his eyes catch the time on his clock and he gasps.

1pm.

Half a day already went by and he just slept through it. Now that also explains how Clifford is there too, he did tell Zayn to bring him back on Monday morning.

Damn, yesterday night really… tired him, in the best way possible. A dopey smile forms on his lips before he shakes his head because he needs to get going with his day now and tells Clifford to get down so he can get dressed and join Harry who he knows should be in the kitchen. Unless he’s left without warning him with even just a note, but Harry isn’t an asshole so he is sure it isn’t the case.

He gets up, puts on a random boxer and his cat hoodie only before heading downstairs, Clifford on his tail. As soon as he goes down the last step, he hears some pitter-patter approaching quickly and Princess appears around the corridor’s corner and immediately jumps in his arms once she’s close enough. Louis catches her with ease, laughing at his — his? When did he get so attached? — overly affectionate cat.

So, Harry had the time to go back to his flat just to bring Princess too.

This feels so oddly domestic.

“Hello to you too Princess,” he coos and she purrs in response, rubbing her face against his chest. Guess she missed him too during this weekend. Louis then lowers her in the cat pouch of the hoodie and she simply curls up in there.

He’ll never get tired of this, probably.

Without any surprise, Louis finds Harry in the kitchen, a whole lunch already ready on the kitchen table and a pie in the oven. Louis is pretty much about to cry at the sight and the delicious smells blessing his nose.

“Hi,” his boyfriend greets him, kissing his forehead. He really knows how to melt Louis’ heart.

“Hey, could have woken me up,” Louis replies, nuzzling Harry’s neck and leaving a few kisses there. He’s clingy in the morning.

“You looked too peaceful, was planning on having breakfast in bed— well, lunch in bed, but I guess we can just here now.”

Louis only smiles and nods.

Harry sets up the table while Louis feeds both Princess and Clifford. They then eat quietly, Harry shares his plans for Smitten , on how he is considering expanding while knowing it would change the original vibe of his restaurant being a small, quiet and humble abode where the staff and clients grow closer together. He also subtly mentions his family and how things are getting better and better, how time is healing slowly but surely the wounds left by someone’s departure from this plane of existence.

Louis has no idea why Harry needs to make it sound so dramatic and poetic, but he guesses it is a way to not… name his sorrow directly.

On his part, the editor doesn’t have much to share about his job or life — video editor isn’t really a career where he can evolve a lot once he’s found his foot in the industry and different creators pay for his help because he managed to create a name for himself behind the cameras. So, he talks more about Liam and Zayn’s upcoming wedding, which Harry is more than happy to hear about anyway. He mentions also his family wanting to meet him finally, and Harry lights up at that, particularly excited at the prospect of meeting the little ones since he’s got a huge soft spot for babies.

Life is going well.

The pie has done baking when they finish eating. They do the dishes first while it cools down. When Harry cuts him a slice of the pie and feeds it himself to him, Louis nearly moans out loud at the sweet taste meeting his tongue. Harry fondly laughs at the reaction.

Louis waves him off, turning his full attention to the pie and turning his back on him.

“You know what the secret ingredient is?” Harry asks quietly, voice close to Louis’ ear.

Louis rolls his eyes. “Love?” he snorts taking another bite of the pie, but then Harry smiles softly, the taller boy’s arms gently wrapping themselves around his waist.

“Yeah, love.” Harry’s voice is so low, and soft, just a gentle whisper against his cheek and then, it dawns on Louis — love . This isn’t a joke. Harry loves him.

And so he melts in Harry’s arms, turning around as he buries his face into the other boy’s neck. “Love you too, baby.”

He feels more than see Harry’s radiant smile.

“Also the secret ingredient was actually a bit of honey,” Harry says offhandedly.

“I knew it.”

“Honey for my baby honey,” Harry coos.

“Isn’t that technically cannibalism then?”

“Lou I’m trying to be sweet here.”

Louis only sticks his tongue out. Harry kisses it. 

It's gross. They're gross.

Louis is already thinking of future ways to get the house to themselves again. Harry still owes him a ride.

————————

Harry moves in about two months later, as fall starts to make its presence known. Leaves are turning orange, the air is getting slightly chilly again and Louis can sport his — well, Harry’s — sweaters outside without feeling like he would melt at every step he takes.

He’s alone this time, walking around the streets. Actually alone. No Harry, no Clifford and no Princess. He doesn’t really need them to buy groceries… but also he got kicked out of his own house by Liam when he was being a nuisance while he and Harry were trying to build some fancy dresser so he had to go busy himself and turns out their fridge was almost empty — a perks and disadvantage of having a chef as a boyfriend, guaranteed good meals every day, but a shit ton of dishes and leftovers there when he wants to experiment new recipes.

He thought Harry would be content just moving in, but he really had to bring his aesthetic obsessed mind with him and make Louis cave in about buying a bunch of furniture with the compromise that Louis wouldn’t help at all — which really, was better for everyone.

He is nearing his street when he hears a tiny yet somehow loud meow on his right — leading to a dark alley. Frowning, Louis engages in the narrow alley, only to spot immediately a moving box next to a bin.

“Oh my,” he whispers as he opens the box to be met with the gorgeous blue eyes of a small kitten with pale orange fur. “Poor little guy, who left you there?”

He reaches forward and the kitten flinches at first before carefully sniffing Louis’ fingers. In no time, the editor finds himself with a handful of meowing fluff. The small animal even cages one of his fingers in its little paws.

“I’m keeping you,” he decides.

————————

Ok, that was a bold statement now that he shares his household with someone. But Harry loves cat — surely he won’t mind, right?

Louis spent the whole way back home gushing about the kitten who rested on his shoulder and enjoyed rubbing himself against Louis’ slight stubble. As soon as he arrived home, however, Louis hid the kitten in the huge pocket of his sweater while he put the groceries away.

The house is silent and Louis spots the new dresser in his — their, gosh he still needs to get used to that — room when he walks past it, so Liam must have gone away already, but he still needs to find Harry. Or not. Maybe he can hide a little and play with the kitten as much as he can before he has to give him away because adding a new life in the house would maybe be too soon and there may be financial issues as well—

“Lou, what are you doing?” Harry’s voice comes behind him when he subtly tries to look inside the office.

Louis immediately turns around, hands in the air.

“I promise you won’t be mad!” Louis replies a bit too quickly in a panic.

“Calm down, princess, I wasn’t suspecting anything until now. You—” Harry gets cut off when a tiny meow resonates through Louis’ sweater. There’s a minute of silence as they both just, stare at each other, Louis smiling sheepishly and Harry just silently judging him with wide eyes, up until the smaller one of the two finally sighs and reveals the tiny kitten he was hiding in his huge pocket.

“He was abandoned in a box in a dirty alley, but he was a loud little one,” Louis explains with a small voice of his own. “Haz we should—”

“Keep him!” Harry finishes for him, reaching forward to cup Louis’ hands in his. Somehow the kitten looks even smaller in Harry’s larger hands. He meows loudly again, going to bite Harry’s thumb. “Poor little thing, let’s go feed him.”

“Yeah,” Louis dumbly agrees, letting Harry guide him towards the kitchen since he doesn’t let go of his hands.

That’s how they somehow end up with a third fur baby, that both Princess and Clifford accept as well, though Clifford seemed afraid to hurt such a tiny thing, only watching from a distance as Princess decided she was a mother now almost immediately. Instincts, probably.

Louis spends the whole day filming the animals' interactions, from Princess wrapping her whole self around the tiny creature at any sudden sound to protect him, to Clifford keeping it calm as the kitten tries to climb his snout then his ears, only to fail and fall on the dog's paw instead. 

And, as he lays down that night on top of Harry in bed, Princess resting on his back with the small unnamed kitten wrapped around her protective tail, and Clifford sleeping next to them, Louis… wonders how he got so fond of cats he initially thought of as spawns of evil.

But, he's also looking forward to each day now, he can't wait to get out of bed the next day and share yet another new day with his comforting little family of his own.