35: Fear and Fathers

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"Yes, today. Soon. Under an hour."

He moved his hands from Louis' upper arms to his jaw, both sides of his face, to brush his thumbs along Louis' cheekbones. He loved to do this, loved the way it tended to help calm Louis down.

The lad in question let his eyes close, and eventually he said softly, "I'm sorry for interrupting you. And for following you guys into the hallway. It was none of my business, technically."

Harry shook his head. "I was interrupting you too. So I'm sorry. I'm also sorry if you felt like I was trying to keep this a secret from you. I'm not, I just... I didn't think you wanted to hear any of it anymore. Didn't want to upset you. You're always welcome to follow me wherever I go. Including and especially the janitor's closet down the hall."

At this, Louis cracked a smile. Harry could feel his silent chuckle through his hands, and witnessing the irritation give way to this expression felt like Harry had released a breath he'd been holding since Louis followed him out here. Harry dipped his head to kiss him, and to his surprise, Louis gripped his sweater with both hands and pulled him impossibly closer. It was...it was far more than Harry planned for in this hallway.

When he pulled away, he was smirking, removing a hand from Louis' face in order to wipe at his bottom lip with his fingertips. "But also, who needs a closet?"

"This is the children's floor," Louis reminded him, pushing him away as if it was Harry's fault all along that the kiss became a little more than just that.

And then Louis's hand was around his, and he was pulling him back toward his mum's room, a half-smile aimed at him over a dainty shoulder.


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Harry knew this was ridiculous, but he was certain even the air in the third sector settled differently in his lungs, more comfortably than the crisp air anywhere else here. And it was ridiculous, because the smell was rancid and for some reason everything was dirty, but god, he loved it here.

He hoped Louis would as well, hoped seeing the yearling reindeer would soften him a little. He was upset. The pleasant mood Harry had managed to get him in before they rejoined his family in his mum's hospital room only lasted so long, and now he's back to brooding. But this has got to do the trick. Nobody can resist the charms of clumsy baby reindeer.

The carriage came to a stop outside the arena, and Harry was beside himself with glee, unable to help it. He hasn't been here in what felt like years (truthfully, it must be at least one full year since the last time). He had to stop himself from staring out the carriage window at the arena like a child on Christmas morning glimpsing the gifts under their tree for the first time, had to remind himself to lead the way because his companion certainly wasn't going to do it.

As he led Louis out of the carriage and onto the frozen ground, he said, "I want to show you something."

Louis looked up at the booming structure before them and said nothing, his probably numb fingers stuffed deep into his pockets – too deep for Harry to easily dig one out to hold without the action seeming more awkward than comforting. So he didn't let them linger outside long and eventually just gestured for Louis to follow him rather than continue waiting for any other response.

They entered through the front of the arena, and Harry figured that compared to arenas Louis was used to, this one was strangely unoccupied and lifeless. No one of authority waited out front to prevent them from going inside, no one directed them where to go. There was hardly anyone there save the two of them, and they walked side by side through the small lobby and to the first set of stairs in total silence apart from the echoes of what was happening inside the actual training ring, which was still out of sight.

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