Chapter 10 ~ Lately

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"We're here."

Mm.  Sleep.

"Oi.  Mr. Tomlinson?"

So tired...

"Louis?"

A sharp, gravelly voice cut through the thick, impenetrable fog clouding Louis's mind, and his dry, pinched eyes slowly creaked open.  He squinted against the stark, smoky light seeming to filter through the windows of the familiar van.  

"Wha..." He mumbled not-so-attractively, blinking blearily at his surroundings, a small frown creasing his forehead as he leaned forward to peer through the glass looming before him.  They were parked silently, stilly outside what looked like an enormous, desolate condo.  The structure seemed to consist mostly of small porches, patios, balconies, and faded, creamy arches and pillars of plaster.  Lonely patches of tall, thick wheat swayed beside the house, brushing the white panels of wood and tossing themselves back and forth in the wind.  "Is..." Louis cleared his throat, coughing slightly.  "Is this the house?"

"Sure is," his escort, a middle-aged man named Mitchell, smiled tiredly, hiding a massive yawn behind his palm as he opened the door of the black SUV and hopped carefully down onto the dirt lot.  He had fetched Louis from the London international aeroport mere minutes before, but Louis had been so completely exhausted by the flight and by the strenuous activities and goodbyes of his sisters he had experienced earlier that he had slipped into unconsciousness the moment his neck had lulled back against the headrest of the van.

"Wow," Louis murmured quietly, a small smile slowly curling the corners of his mouth.  He ejected his seatbelt and slid out of the van, his feet hitting the ground with a thud and sending a minuscule cloud of dust enveloping his brand new Toms.  He cringed slightly, noting to himself that he would need to run them through a delicate cycle later on, and walked round the van to help Mitchell with his many bags.  

He had grinned sheepishly with embarrassment when the older man had caught sight of the enormous load of luggage surrounding Lou beside the baggage claim of the aeroport, blinking slightly in surprise.  Ordinarily, it would have been expected that the female contestants pack so heavily (and indeed, they had) but Louis? He had priorities.  He had packed one enormous suitcase dedicated to his clothing, a duffel bag containing his towel, robe, and toiletries, a second duffel bag carrying his bedding, pillows, and night light, and a smaller, carry-on suitcase devoted exclusively to the task of transporting his shoes; most of which were obviously Toms.  Louis had gone on a hearty shopping spree once he had returned from Marbella, and he had expanded his closet to include a set of new, fitted tee-shirts, a number of pairs of tough, colourful chinos, quite a few scarves, and of course, four new pairs of his favourite espadrilles.  

"Look, mum," He had gushed excitedly to Jay once he had arrived home, laiden with shopping bags.  "Now, not only do I have twill, houndstooth, corduroy, canvas, denim, stripes, and camouflage, but also Holdens, burlaps, and two pairs of the newly introduced Botas!" he had beamed, smiling like a child on Christmas day as he proudly displayed his new purchases.  

"Oh, Louis," Jay had laughed, rolling her eyes.  "What are we going to do with you?"  

"Um, admire my new shoes, duh," Louis had retorted with a strange look, speaking as if this were the most obvious thing on the planet.  

"All right, if we get started now, we may be able to get all this inside by nightfall," Mitchell grinned as he wrapped his arms firmly around the carry-on containing Louis's babies and started for the large patio sitting before the front door of the house.  

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