in which harry is a child with an abusive father, and louis is the kid who lives down the hall and just wants to see him smile. inspired by this crazy little louis who lives to make people laugh, this (his lips, his eyelashes—it literally aches to look at him), and this.
rating: R (for rape/non-con, abuse, language, and sexual content)
Notes: title taken from the song C’est la Morte by the Civil Wars. this is complete fiction, overly angsty and romanticized, but also my baby that i worked really hard on so please be nice to it.
harry remembers the first glimpse he had of louis: head thrown back and eyes scrunched up so harry couldn’t see the color and a high little tinkle of a laugh bubbling out of his mouth.
harry is six and louis is eight. harry’s mum has been gone for so long and his daddy…well harry doesn’t like to think about him. but he lives with him in their cramped two-bedroom apartment, all plain white walls and whiskey in the fridge and soiled sheets and rickety furniture from the 1970’s. yes, harry hates the apartment, hates the tough bourbon carpeting that has burned his back numerous times; hates the overpowering onion-and egg-stench that engulfs the entire apartment when his dad cooks omelets.
but then louis and his family move into the apartment right down the hall from his and. and harry doesn’t want to stop looking at him ever, he thinks. he’s just so pretty, sliding up and down the slick cement hallway on his sweater as if it were a sled on snow, laughing and squealing and harry steps out of his apartment, shuts the door, stares, catches a glimpse of glittery blue irises and wow. he’s just glancing down to the boy’s tiny bare feet when—
"hello! who are you?" and harry realizes the boy is talking to him and for a second his mind blanks, because louis’ cute and he looks so fun to play with and maybe harry’s a little bit shy.
"i’m harry," he finally says, looking down at the floor and making circles with his foot.
"i’m louis!" and then there’s a small, tan hand right there under harry’s nose and he flinches, startled, before he looks up and smiles, reaching out to shake it. it’s soft and a little sweaty and slightly smaller than harrys.
"how old are you?" louis asks when harry’s still standing there examining their joined hands, not saying a word. "i’m eight-and-a-half," he tuts before harry can reply.
"well, I’m six and four months, almost six-and-a-half," harry says desperately, as if both of them being six months past their birthday is something massive they have in common.
louis looks at harry carefully, at his pale cheeks and dark-moss green eyes, shiny brown curls falling down over his eyes. as he watches, harry suddenly shakes his head and sweeps the fringe off his forehead then swipes his tongue over his bottom lip.
"how come you’re taller than me then?" louis asks, looking bewildered and a little annoyed.
"I don’t know. you’re not as skinny as me though," harry states obliviously, gesturing down to his own gangly legs hiding in a pair of khakis. they’re practically sliding off his bony hips entirely and harry tugs feebly at the waistband, as if to reinforce his point.
"i’m not chubby though," louis pouts. maybe he doesn’t like this curly-haired lad who’s taller than him and younger and—and skinnier.
"no, no you’re perfect!" harry stutters, pale cheeks turning pink with embarrassment. "please don’t be upset. you look…really nice." and harry smiles and then louis giggles because harry has dimples, deep ones that make him look like shirley temple or something. yes, he decides, he really likes harry.
"you wanna come see my train set? it cost twenty whole pounds and my dad got it for my birthday,” louis brags, picking his sweater up off the floor and swinging an arm around harry’s shoulders (he has to strain a little because harry’s taller) and practically dragging him down the hall to his apartment.
"okay," harry says, flushing again because this boy is asking him to his home already, and because he has an arm around him as if he’d known him for a long time. it almost feels that way.
the apartment is much brighter than harry’s, with one window overtaking nearly the entire west wall and beckoning in the late afternoon sun. there’s photographs scattered about the room, small flashes of what looks like a little girl in a pink tule frock, her baby sister perched on her lap; and another snapshot of toddler louis in an oversized football jersey, hand one one hip, striking a pose in the middle of a endless green field.
harry’s so busy studying them that at first he doesn’t notice louis tugging his hand until he begins to get more impatient, pleading a “c’mon harry i wanna show you my train!”
"louis? is that you?" a woman’s voice rings out from another room, moving closer as she walks towards the living room.
"yes mum, i brought harry home to show him something!" louis calls, a little too loudly and for some reason harry wants to laugh. he feels nervous and giddy as louis’ mum approaches them, face slightly curious but friendly. harry’s first thought is that she looks so motherly, brown hair swept back into a bun and wiping her hands on a dish towel.
"hi harry!" she says, stepping closer and harry feels shy again, tries not to duck his head. "i’m jay, nice to meet you."
and harry smiles and reaches out to shake her hand but oh she’s pulling him into a hug and at first he freezes, wary and caught off guard. she’s an adult, what if she hurts him, what if he does something wrong and she gets angry and—
then he realizes how soft she is, like a fleece blanket, all warmth and small calloused hands and oversized jumper and her smell, like raspberry hairspray and coffee and she’s being so gentle and he feels so safe and-and no one’s hugged him or treated him this kindly in so long.
he melts into it, goes completely pliant as exhaustion from so many sleepless nights overwhelms him. he can feel where her fingers graze the bruises on his back, not very painful but enough of a reminder of the torture at home and he doesn’t ever want to go back there he just wants mummy and this woman feels like mummy.
"aww why are you crying love?"
is he crying? he is. oh no. there are hot tears spilling over onto her sweater and he’s sniffling a little and he can feel a mortifying sob building in his thin chest and suddenly he’s dizzy but the hug envelops him and it’s so nice.
"I-I-don’t know!" he whimpers through a sob, clinging tighter.
"oh, it’s okay sweetie just tell me what’s wrong?"
the concern in her voice makes him cry even harder. he’s so embarrassed. he’s six years old, he shouldn’t be crying in front of anyone; that’s something babies do. he doesn’t even understand why or what this feeling is. so he just blubbers into the soft wool of her jumper and sniffles back the snot running down his nose.
then he feels a little hand, smaller than louis’ mum’s, patting his back comfortingly, followed by louis’ distinct little voice saying “it’ll be okay harry, you can play with my toys and see my spaceship fort and you’ll feel a lot better yeah? and you can stay for dinner if it’s okay with your mum?”
harry nods, lifting his head and wiping at his wet cheeks. he doesn’t bother to correct louis’ last statement. “thanks louis, i-i’m sorry, i didn’t mean to start crying i’m so sorry.” he keeps his eyes planted firmly on the floor, even as he turns around to meet louis. a few more tears slip hotly from his cheeks and melt into the thick, soft carpet under his feet.
"it’s alright. you can leave now mum, we’re gonna go to my room," louis tells her, taking harry’s hand again and dragging him a little more gently down the hall. on the way they pass a closed doorway which louis says is his little sisters’ room, but that they are "taking a nap" because they’re "little kids still." harry nods quietly, glad louis doesn’t seem to think of him as a little kid.
louis’ room is painted dark blue with silver glitter on the ceiling, reminiscent of outer space and distant galaxies.
"wow," harry breaths, impressed.
"cool, isn’t it," louis states proudly and harry nods again eagerly. "c’mon, i have something you might like."
harry observes the tiny boy as he opens his closet (and a pile of toys spills over), climbing up onto the built-in shelving unit to fetch a little box out from behind a stack of picture books.
"agh," louis grunts a little, hopping down and teetering slightly before standing firmly and hurrying back over to harry’s side.
"mum says we aren’t allowed to have candy in our rooms," he murmurs in harry’s ear (even though the door’s closed), "but i have some that i trade my army men for from some kids at school."
harry can’t help feeling even more in awe at louis’ rebellion. “but what if you’re mum found it?”
"nah," louis protests, sweeping his hand nonchalantly through the air—almost as if he were a prince. "my mum’s not clever enough. plus it’s funner disobeying the rules sometimes, eh?"
harry just nods his his head in agreement. he doesn’t want louis to think he isn’t cool and decide not to play with him anymore—even though he’s too scared to disobey his own dad.
"so, what kind do you want? you can have three pieces." he holds up three fingers and wiggles his eyebrows as if he is being incredibly generous.
harry grins and peers into the box. there’s an awful lot of candy: turkish delight and jelly oranges and lemon drops and mars bars and licorice…it looks so good but he’d feel guilty eating it. it’s louis’ candy after all.
"it’s okay," harry says. "i don’t want to take your candy."
but instead of agreeing, louis pouts and nudges the box against harry’s chest and ouch it’s still sensitive from last night when his dad…well, from last night. he gasps a little and louis seems to forget what he was going to say, instead gripping harry’s shoulder so he doesn’t double-over and asking “what’s wrong? did i hurt you? i’m sorry haz.”
and harry flushes, suddenly a bit bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the nickname. “nah, i’m fine, just startled when you nudged me is all.”
"oh. well, pleeeease take some candy? it’s all my favorite ones and i’m sure you’ll like it an awful lot. candy always helps me feel better when i’m sad."
and then harry’s smiling again, his dimple peeking out and biting his lip as he peeks into the box again and decides on the jelly oranges.
"thank you," he tells louis earnestly, looking louis right in the eyes and louis notices how red his eyes still are from crying. he doesn’t want harry to cry so he wraps both arms around his waist and leads him over to his twin bed, tucking them under the buzz-light year comforter with their candy and bending over to dig around under his bed. he comes up a moment later just as harry’s trying to sniff louis’ pillow subtly. it smells like the same shampoo that harry uses.
"want me to read you a story? this one’s my favorite." louis’ holding a book in front of harry’s face and looking at him expectantly. "it’s called ‘curious george goes to the zoo’ and it’s about a man’s monkey who’s always getting into mischief. i love monkeys," louis rambles. "someday i’m gonna have my very own monkey. do you like monkeys, haz?"
harry wants louis to keep talking, wants him to read the story so he decides on “i don’t know. if you read the story i’ll probably find out.”
louis nods somberly and opens the book. “can you read yet?”
"a little," harry shrugs, "but i just started primary school last year so i’m not very good yet."
louis looks satisfied and turns back to the book while harry struggles to unwrap his first piece of candy.
as louis begins reading, sounding out each word carefully (and maybe trying to show off a little), harry feels himself cuddling closer into louis’ side and nudging his head into the smaller boy’s arm until he lifts it up to curl under harry’s neck and scratch his soft curls. harry sighs happily and closes his eyes, feeling warm and safe and sleepy again. louis has such a nice voice he thinks, sweet and calming and comfortable—like hot cocoa after playing in the snow or ice on a burn.
"hey! don’t go to sleep!" louis pokes harry’s cheek and harry opens his eyes to louis’ stern expression, thin lips pursed into a frown and eyebrows squished together.
"i didn’t, i promise, i was just-just a little tired i’m sorry," harry pleads, fearful again and shrinking into himself. he doesn’t want louis to be mad at him. bad things happen when people get mad, hurtful things.
"okay, that’s good," louis says, relaxing and pulling harry in close again so that harry’s head rests on his chest. "look at this picture! george took over the whole bus and is driving it all by himself! that’s wicked, i want to do that someday…."
it’s getting dark outside when harry realizes he should go. in fact he should never have stayed long enough for his dad to notice his absence. he’s most likely home from work now, just letting his anger towards harry fester for not asking him if he could leave or telling him where he was. he doesn’t care about harry’s well-being; no, it’s always been the control, the tight strings he’s fastened to harry’s limbs and delights in yanking however he pleases. sometimes it isn’t too terrible: a slap across the cheek, a few shouted insults that still make harry curl up in a ball like a scared lady bug about to be squished. harry’s so scared, all the time. he’s never good enough.
"i should go," he murmurs to louis from where they lounge on his bedroom floor, re-arranging the black plastic train tracks.
"already?" louis frowns. maybe they could call his mum to ask if harry can stay for supper; he thought that was a normal thing to ask.
"yeah, i’ve been here awhile," harry says, standing up reluctantly and sucking his bottom lip into his mouth, suddenly uncertain. he’ s so frightened.
"are you sick?" louis suddenly blurts, resting his palm against harry’s clammy forehead.
"no," harry blurts, too fast, walking quickly out of louis’ room so he won’t notice him trembling. he doesn’t want louis to think he’s a coward.
”well do you wanna stay for dinner then?” he begs, catching onto harry’s arm and following him down the hall.
"i can’t, i have to go home. thanks louis though, i had loads of fun." he smiles weakly, glancing at louis’ face: the button nose, the baby blue eyes and oh he looks hurt. suddenly harry sweeps louis into a quick hug, feeling louis’ eyelashes brush softly against his neck, the small hands curling gently into his t-shirt and harry doesn’t understand why it’s so nice. but he thinks maybe this is how a fish might feel that’s been spending it’s whole life in a stagnant coy pond and then he’s released into the ocean and there’s so much water and there’s brilliant corral reefs blooming out of the sand and all kinds of food and he didn’t know how much he needed it until now.
"i’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?" louis asks, his whole face lifting hopefully and harry just smiles, all milky soft skin and innocent green eyes and fluffy hair and louis thinks that he looks sort of like a baby and he doesn’t want to be away from him for too long.
"yeah, see ya lou." and he smiles and gives a dejected little wave.