34: Calamities and Cookies

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C H A P T E R    T H I R T Y F O U R

Calamities and Cookies

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"THEY'RE VERY INTELLIGENT. My favorite people here, honestly, besides my family and Ed," Harry said, pulling the door to the hospital's front entrance open and stepping aside, letting Louis in first.

"I used to help them decorate the lobby," he continued, gesturing at the large, open room around them. "Haven't in recent years, but it used to be fun."

To be totally honest, Louis wasn't really letting himself look around, take it all in, like he had the first time they'd come here. He was afraid that if he did, he wouldn't be able to pay attention to what Harry was saying, would become tense or uncomfortable...well, more than he already was. It's not that he didn't believe H anymore. Clearly his entire life was a lie and he was going to have to relearn all that he thought he knew about this holiday and the world in general.

It was just that this was still a hard pill to swallow, and he felt like that was fair. He felt like he's been pretty open-minded and was pretty damn proud of himself.

So he'd keep his gaze laser focused on either the elevators or Harry's animated face and hand movements, and really that was the best he could do right now. He was trying.

"...and there was tinsel everywhere," Harry laughed, pushing the up arrow by the elevator doors. "They wouldn't let us use tinsel again for two years. It was awful."

When the heavy silver doors slid open, a woman Anne's age in an elf costume exited, offering first Harry and then Louis a friendly smile. Louis felt himself prickle, but it was the best he could do considering the entire time he had to fight a cringe.

Get it together, Tommo. It's just a costume.

Suddenly it occurred to him that the elf costumes much of the hospital staff wore may not be costumes at all. He opened his mouth to ask Harry about it but then decided he didn't particularly care to know as they stepped inside the elevator.

"You okay?"

Louis blinked over at the...the elf – half elf – by his side. The elf with human ears and a human smile and human eyes.

"Hm? I'm alright, yeah," Louis nodded too quickly. "Just have to get used to it, is all."

Harry's smile flattened just a little, enough to look dazed, and he stepped closer to Louis so that he could press a firm hand against the small of his back. He leaned down to press a kiss against Louis' forehead and then a little lower, near his temple. That one lasted longer, like he was worried he wasn't getting his point across. Louis let his eyes close until Harry's lips disappeared, and then he met his gaze.

"We don't have to stay here long," Harry said. "When I know Mum'll be alright, we can go."

Louis felt guilty instantly. "You don't have to rush on my behalf, H. I'll get used to it. Just might take me more time than the average nonbeliever. Have a little faith, yeah?"

"Nobody has more faith in you than I do."

The elevator arriving at their destination prevented Louis from having to respond, thank god. With the pot of stew safely tucked against him, he and Harry exited onto the third floor and immediately set out for Anne's door, mostly because Harry probably knew that this floor was worse than even the lobby for Louis.

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