It was well after 7 PM when Harry, Niall and Zayn had closed shop at the Farmer's Market and were walking back the Niall's house.

Harry had to admit, that while working over the summer was no fun, working with Zayn and Niall wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. He hadn't known it, but Zayn and Niall, when they weren't busy (or just wanted to get a crowd going) sang songs in the tent.

And Harry was incredibly impressed with the talent the boys' possessed—he never would have guessed such a thing would come from two boys who lived in such a small, deserted town.

"You know, Zayn," Harry commented as they walked down Main Street, "You've got a really decent voice on you."

Zayn chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck, shrugging, "Thanks…though, I think I'm better behind the scenes—you know, workin' karaoke night. It's a lot of fun doin' that."

"It does look that way," Harry pointed out, "But I think you're still a great singer. Your voice is really something I've never heard before, even in London! It's something special… you should consider singing for karaoke night!"

Zayn's eyes widened in surprise and he shook his hands frantically, "But—but what about Niall? Zayn asked, pointing to the blonde, "He plays guitar just as well as you think I can sing!"

Harry turned to Niall and gripped his shoulder excitedly, momentarily forgetting about Zayn (which eased him) and focusing his attention on his cousin, "Yeah mate, I didn't know you played guitar! When did that happen?"

Niall sighed and smiled lightly, "I've been playin' for a while now. But I play a bunch of other stuff too; guitar, piano, drums, triangle…"

Harry snorted, "The triangle?"

"It's an art, Harry!" Niall protested, and Harry laughed at his enthusiasm and continued,

"Guys, this is awesome! We could all perform at karaoke one of these nights!"

Zayn and Niall gave Harry a wayward glance and Zayn spoke, "You…you really think we're that good?"

"Of course I do, and I know what I'm talking-!" Harry said before stopping himself, almost spluttering out the fact that he knows what talent is, due to his fame back in London. But he remembered that no one was to know of his little secret. And he'd love to keep it that way, especially from Louis.

Speaking of the jockey, the three boys were now walking past Maple Street, and just about to be parallel with the railroad tracks. Harry's heart fluttered in his chest and his heart raced at the memory of him and Louis just the night before at the field. It was still so crazy to him how he had only spent a small amount of time with him, yet he couldn't get him off of his mind…

In that moment, he thought his feelings were splattered on his sleeve, but thankfully, Niall and Zayn were too transfixed in their own discussion about performing at karaoke night to notice the slightly flustered Harry.

Niall and Zayn gave each other looks, and Harry stared at them hopefully. Finally, Niall gave in,

"Oh, alright, fine! I'll do it!"

Harry shot an expectant glance to Zayn, who rolled his eyes, "Me too, then!" Zayn said, grinning from ear to ear.

Harry clapped his hands and wrapped his arms around the two boys' shoulders, "I'm telling you, it will be awesome. You guys have a hidden talent; I'd suggest you show it off!"

Niall and Zayn laughed, and Harry began talking with the two boys about possible song ideas for the next karaoke night, which was only in a few days.

After a few more minutes of walking, talking, laughing, and Zayn hitting Niall over the head ("For the last time, I will not sing I Feel Pretty from West Side Story!"), the three boys finally reached Niall's house, where Maura was anxiously awaiting them on the porch, with her hands on her hips and her eyes glaring at them as they walked up the wooden steps.

"Oh, there you boys are! Niall, it's almost 7:45, I know it only takes twenty minutes to get from the market and back to this house, and your shift ends at 7:00. You wanna explain to me what took y'all so long to get back? I was more than half worried sick about y'all!"

Niall went to open his mouth, but the haughty woman held her hand up, silencing him, "Don't you dare attempt to talk back to me young man!" She pointed a finger to the doorway, "Now in, all of you! There's dinner for you on the table."

The boys, seeing Maura's cheeks grow redder by the second, silently deciding not to argue and get her more upset, simply briskly walked past her and into the house, and Maura slammed the door behind her as she entered the house.

Harry walked into the kitchen following Niall and Zayn, and was greeted with an amused smile from his mother,

"What are you smirking at?" He asked playfully.

She took a sip of the tea she was holding in her hands and shrugged, "Nothing. You know how Maura is—just worried about you lot, is all. And you were late."

Harry mumbled something and sat down in front of his dinner. Anne shook it off, placing her cup on the table and picking up an envelope off of the counter,

"Harry, dear, this envelope came for you."

"For me?" Harry asked. He was sure he hadn't given anyone the address to where he was staying to anyone…so how could anyone possibly find him? And an even better question…who would want to contact Harry?

Sure, he had a lot of friends back in London, but he never got the indication that any of them would actually miss him. He was always under the impression, as his 'celebrity' friends were his only friends, that they would remain as strictly the 'friends' he hung out with for public attention. And nothing more than that.

So to see a letter from an address that was in London…well, one could say "shocked" was an understatement in Harry's case.

He looked up to his mother, who shot him a look—a look Harry knew meant that getting this letter wasn't particularly a pleasant thing.

Mother's instinct, he supposed.

"Well? Aren't you going to open it?" Anne asked.

Harry, still holding the envelope and staring into space, was snapped out of his gaze by his mother shaking his shoulder. He turned to Niall and Zayn, who were oblivious and were stuffing their faces with Maura's cooking. Harry sighed and looked at the return address,

The Coolest Dick On The Planet (aka Ed)

Harry snorted at the name, thinking of his red headed 'friend', and ripped open the back of the envelope. He pulled a single sheet of paper out of it and unfolded it, shaking his head with a smile as he recognized Ed's chicken scratch he liked to call handwriting:

Harry,

You're missing out on some fucking awesome shit, dude. I've gotten so much ass these past few days you've been gone, it's insane. Stay wherever you are for a while, yeah? Leaves more women for me.

Anyway, I got this address from your management. You sort of disappeared and I wanted to if you were abducted by some of your crazy fangirls and forced to join an orgy (and if you were invited, I'd be pissed off at you because you didn't invite me. Wanker.)

Where the fuck are you, anyway?

-Ed.

Harry frowned, but didn't have time to further his thoughts, for Niall was suddenly peering over his shoulder, looking questioningly at the letter,

"Who's that from?" He asked with his mouth stuffed with cornbread as he spoke.

Harry shook his head, folding up the letter and trying to rid his mind of the fact that his friends back home weren't really his friends at all. He turned to Niall,

"Someone from home. It's nothing, really." Harry said curtly.

"Don't seem like nothin'." Niall said falsely, "You miss your friends from home, don't you?"

Harry saw insecurity burn through Niall's eyes, and Harry suddenly felt oddly guilty.

"I…" He began, not really sure how to respond, "I guess so."

"I know this place ain't nothin' like it is in London," Niall began, "and that you're friends ain't nothin' like me and Zayn, but I hope you'll stick around for a little while longer."

Harry was taken aback by Niall, who was showing a side he had never seen before. Harry had always known Niall was shy and quiet, so it was different for him to see the blonde so open with him, even if it wasn't the biggest gesture.

But now that he thought about it, Zayn and Niall would probably always be way better friends than the friends he had back in London…and he had only really reconnected with Niall and become friends with Zayn in just the past few days. It was strange to Harry how so much had changed for him in such a short amount of time.

Harry's thoughts drifted off to Louis for a brief moment, until a loud clatter of silverware on the plates jolted him out of his thoughts.

His green eyes met Niall's, who was now sitting across from him, and Harry smiled,

"I do like it here, Niall. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I actually came back."

A grin broke out on Niall's face and Zayn smirked, "So, you're not leavin' anytime soon?" Niall asked.

"'Course not, why would I?"

Niall looked down sheepishly and shrugged, and Maura came bouncing into the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron,

"Well, boys, you will not believe what I heard today!"

Zayn smiled in appreciation, while Niall just rolled his eyes, completely immune to his mother's gossiping ways. Harry, however, perked up, hopeful that the things Maura heard had something to do with Louis.

…like they almost always did.

"What did you hear?" Harry asked as Anne took the seat next to him.

"Well," Maura began, excited that someone had taken an interest, "I heard that Louis, the jockey, and his trainer, got into it over at the ranch this mornin'."

Harry almost spit out the tea he had just began to sip, and Nial and Zayn exchanged nervous glances at each other. Harry covered up easily by clearing his throat, and no one noticed his tiny slip up.

Were Liam and Louis fighting about…about him?

"What were they fighting about?" Harry asked as smoothly as he could.

Maura shrugged, "From what the owner of the ranch told me, Louis apparently was out last night and he was late to his training this morning."

Harry felt his heart drop, and his mind instantly went to the worst.

Shit, Liam knows Louis was with me last night.

I'm the reason he was late. It was me.

Liam is going to hate me.

And then the Mayor will hate me.

And then eventually, Louis will probably hate me too.

And after that, I'll end up leaving and never seeing Louis again.

Wow…

"…I swear that boy needs to get his head into the game if he wants to win that derby comin' up!" Maura's announcement made Harry jumped, and Niall kicked him under the table with a look that read, 'calm the fuck down.'

Harry nodded curtly and turned to Maura, who had started talking about the ranch owner ("I'm tellin' you boys, that man is surely spendin' more time at that ranch than with his own wife!"), and got her attention,

"Do…do you know who Louis was with?"

Maura's eyes gleamed but she shook her head, "No sugar, I don't know a thing about that. All I know is that Liam suspected he was drunk when he got there. Said he smelled of beer or somethin' like that. The kid can't be drinkin' when he should be trainin'! He's lucky the mayor ain't hear nothin' of this!"

Harry sucked in a breath at the mention of the mayor, praying to whatever God there was that nothing like that did happen. He saw Zayn give an apprehensive look at Niall and the blonde nodded in understanding, moving to get up with their plates.

"Hey ma, we'd love to chat more, but Harry, Zayn and I need to talk about the work for tomorrow."

Maura swallowed some of her chicken and pointed her fork at her son, "Alright boy. Don't be makin' too much noise up there now. And go to bed at a decent hour, will ya?"

Niall nodded, "Of course ma'. Good night." He said curtly, before grabbing Harry by the sleeve and dragging him out of the kitchen and up the stairs with Zayn following closely behind. When they reached Niall's room, he slammed the door behind them and Harry sat uneasily on the bed.

"Okay, so, do you want to explain to me what that was all about?" He demanded.

Zayn and Niall exchanged nervous glances again, and Harry called them out on it, "Could you two stop giving each other weird looks and just tell me what the hell is going on?"

"I've already warned you about this, Harry," Niall said slowly, "But now you really need to be careful. If my mother is starting to hear things about Louis and you—"

"But she hasn't! And she won't! I told you we'd be careful!" Harry turned to Zayn for back-up, "Zayn, you know I'll be careful, right?"

Zayn bit his lip and stuffed his hands in his pockets, "I—I don't know, Harry."

"That's bullshit!" Harry demanded, "I'm not doing anything with Louis! I don't see the harm in just talking to him! I still can't grasp why it's such a crime!"

"Because Harry!" Niall exclaimed in a hushed tone, "That's just how things are here!"

Harry eyed Niall, Louis' words from that morning about Niall springing back into his mind….

What does Niall have against Louis, and why does he need to keep warning me about him? Did Louis have a point when he said he had a problem with him?

Harry looked up at his cousin, whose ears were red and cheeks flushed. Harry took a deep breath,

"Niall…do…do you have a problem with Louis?"

Niall looked taken aback, and he stuffed his hands in his pockets, "No, of course not."

Harry went tight lipped, "Then why are you still lecturing me about him? I told you everything will be fine!"

"Apparently it won't be, Harry, if the Mayor finds out about it! You can't go past the tracks anymore—the Mayor lives right by them! He can hear you guys! Donnie Carson is a dangerous man, Harry. He can and will do bad things to you. He's threatened my father's shop multiple times for the dumbest shit. I can't imagine what he will do to you over this!" Niall cried.

"So you're worried I will fuck up everything for your family if I continue to see Louis?" Harry snapped.

Niall sighed heavily, "Yes, I'm sorry. But you're made of money, Harry. And we here aren't. We need my pop's shop if we wanna keep livin' here."

Harry took a moment to think about Bobby Horan, who, quite honestly, was never home enough for Harry to have taken notice. Bobby owned the local Gun and Pawn Shop, and believe it or not, he actually made quite a bit of money, even after hunting season was over. Harry remembered the summers he would spend with his cousins, and how Bobby would sometimes bring Niall and Harry to the shop and how many times the boys would get in trouble for even coming within 15 feet of the guns that lined the walls.

Harry smiled at the thought, and almost wished that Bobby had more time to spare at home—he knew Niall missed his dad when he was working, and Harry sort of missed him too, even though they had hardly exchanged words since he had arrived. Bobby worked late at the shop, and Harry understood that, but he also realized that the Horan's needed the shop to keep a roof over their head.

Harry shot Niall and apologetic look and frowned, "I'm sorry Niall. I didn't realize it was that big of a deal. But…but I don't know if I can just stop hanging out with Louis."

Niall groaned and gave him a pleading look, but Harry continued, "Niall, I promise we will be careful. It's not like I'm doing anything with him. Hell, I don't know if this is even going to go anywhere."

Niall rolled his eyes, "It doesn't matter—he's a target in this town! If the Mayor finds out you're associated with him, I swear, you will be slaughtered in this town."

Harry threw his hands up in the air, "It shouldn't matter! Why is this town so god damn outdated in its ways? This isn't the seventies! We are in the 21st century for crying out loud—people are breaking the norm every day, why should this place be any different?"

"It's just how things are here, Harry! I can't change it!" Niall exclaimed. Zayn rushed to his side and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder,

"Listen, Niall. I understand your problem, but Harry will be gone in four months to another country. He said he'd be careful. And Louis is careful too. Just…let them be, okay? Don't worry about your father. His shop will be fine."

Niall eased at Zayn's touch, and he sighed heavily, taking a seat in the chair next to his bed. Harry patted him on the shoulder and he smiled softly, "I'm sorry, Niall."

Niall shook his head and waved his hand, "It's fine. Just, this better be worth it."

Harry shrugged, "I think it will be."

Niall smiled slightly and Zayn spoke up, breaking the uneven tension in the room, "Pal, you should stop worrying about Harry and your old man, and focus on you and Mia."

Harry nodded enthusiastically while Niall's smile grew, and the curly haired boy shoved his shoulder playfully, "Yeah mate, what's going on with her, you never told me what happened, and all I've seen is that awkward conversation you two had at karaoke."

Zayn shot Niall a look, "You actually talked to her?"

Niall rolled his eyes and dragged a hand down his face, "Yes, I did. I thought you knew that, since you saw her at the club!"

"I saw her," Zayn pointed out, "Don't mean I saw you two talkin'! What did y'all talk about?"

Niall mumbled something incoherent and Harry patted his shoulder again, speaking for his cousin, "It wasn't anything special—just the generic 'hello,' 'how are you,' type of conversation."

Niall groaned and Zayn looked at him sympathetically, "Oh Niall…"

"What! I can't help but get nervous around her!"

"She's only been gone a few months-!"

"She's been gone for a full school year, Zayn," Niall snapped, "…at least one-hundred and eighty days—"

"You've been counting-?"

"I—Uh—"

"You've been counting the days since you last saw her? Oh Niall, that's so…so…"

"Pathetic?" Niall finished for him.

"No…it's adorable." Zayn said.

"I'm confused," Harry finally chimed in, "What happened with you and Mia?" Harry asked Niall.

Niall and Zayn looked at each other, and then Zayn looked to Harry,

"If you want to know that story, you'd have to go back to Prom of last year."

"I'm listening…" Harry urged Zayn on, but Niall spoke,

"I asked Mia to Prom last year. We had all been friends throughout high school, but I had always liked her—"

"Oh please," Zayn cut in and looked to Harry, "Niall's been in love with her since the seventh grade."

"Zayn!"

"What?" Zayn asked at Niall, "It's true!"

Niall pinched the bridge of his nose and directed his attention to Harry, "Anyway…I had always liked Mia, and asking her to Prom was a pretty big deal, ya know?"

Harry nodded and he continued, "So when she said yes, I was really excited, because I didn't think she actually would.

"So then the night of Prom came, and we danced a few times, and, I don't know Harry, that spark had always been there for me, and that night, I knew it suddenly came to her too. Like, she knew, just like I did, that we were supposed to be together—it just felt so right."

"Gag me." Zayn snorted.

"Shut up, Z. Just because all you do is 'hump and dump'—"

"I don't appreciate that term, I look at it as—'I sleep with them and then set them free of my troubled ways."

"Oh shut up."

"Whatever."

Harry laughed at this exchange, finding Zayn to be a bit like his friend Ed in his womanizing ways, and Niall continued, "So after the Prom, there were a few after parties, but Mia told me she wanted me and her to be alone. So I went with her to her Daddy's farm."

"It's pretty big," Zayn chimed in, "One of the bigger ones in the county."

Niall nodded, "Yeah, it is. Anyway, we went there in my pick up, and we ended up going out to the bed of it and laying down there. And it was really nice; we were just talkin' and laughin' and stuff. And then it got really quiet, and then all of the sudden, I kissed her."

"Way to go, Niall!" Harry said, clapping his cousin on the back.

"Well…we ended up doing more than just kiss, Harry."

He gave Harry a knowing look, and it took Harry a few moments to get the hint, "Oh…oh! So you two…" Harry made a gesture with his hands and Niall nodded, his cheeks flushing red,

"Yeah, we did. She…we were each other's firsts." He grinned at the memory and looked down at his hands, and Harry squeezed his shoulder,

"Awwwwwwww, that's so cute!" He said teasingly, and Niall smiled up at him,

"Yeah, well, it was all fine and dandy—I was ready to ask this girl to you know, be my girlfriend and whatnot, and then all of the sudden, she tells me she has to move—"

"Yeah, why did she have to leave?" Harry asked, already knowing Mia moved from eavesdropping on her and Niall's conversation at the club.

Niall sighed, "Her parents got divorced, and her Mom works a lot with her job or somethin', so her Dad took her north to live with him. And I guess she's back to visit her mom."

Harry grinned, "Do you think anything will happen with her?"

Niall shrugged, "Don't know. It's the summer—lots of crazy shit goes down during the summer, especially in the south." He turned to Harry, "You ain't seen nothin' till you've been to a derby."

Harry's thoughts instantly were drawn to Louis at the mention of a derby, and he nodded, "Oh yeah? Guess I'll have to go to one, then."

"You sure will," Zayn said, "They're crazy. Especially when people start bettin' on other horses—most bets from Palmer go to Louis, though. Actually, almost everyone's bets go to Louis," He turned to Harry, "He's good at what he does."

"I bet." Harry said, suddenly turning crimson.

Niall and Zayn laughed, but were interrupted by Maura yelling from downstairs,

"Zayn! Your mama's been callin' you for the past twenty minutes! I suggest you get your butt down here and ease her nerves before she pulls her hair out!"

Zayn rolled his eyes and stood up, "That's my cue, y'all. I'll see you tomorrow at work."

Zayn left the room and it was only a few more minutes later that Maura was calling after the other two boys, forcing them to clean up the kitchen and then head off to bed.

The two boys looked at each other and groaned before standing up and walking downstairs, waiting to see what kinds of crazy chores Maura had in store for them.


At half past 11 o' clock, one would find Harry lying on his bed about to drift off to sleep. He knew everyone else in the house was always in a deep slumber, and he knew Niall passed out immediately after he and Harry finished their chores just an hour ago.

The chores Maura had him and Niall doing were absolutely nuts, in Harry's opinion. Harry had to give Niall some credit—if he had to pull weeds and scrub the floors every day after dinner like they just did, Niall was most definitely the definition of a saint.

Just as Harry's eyes were about to droop closed from exhaustion, he heard a tapping at his window.

Tap tap!

"What the-?"

Tap tap!

Harry stood up from his bed and looked out the window, and his heart leapt at what he saw on the lawn.

Louis was standing at the bottom of his window, pebbles in hand, and waving at him. Harry smiled and opened his window, and he poked his head out,

"What are you doing?" He called out in a hushed tone, careful not to wake the neighbors or his family inside.

Louis simply grinned childishly, "I told you I would find you, didn't I?"

Harry felt heat rise in his cheeks, and was thankful it was dark so that Louis didn't see his blush. However, he laughed,

"Do you want me to come down then?"

Louis nodded, "Yeah, hurry!"

Harry went back inside to turn the light off in his room, and then went back to the window to make sure the child lock was popped off. When he made sure it was, he climbed out of the window just as he done the last time, and landed on the ground with ease.

He and Louis walked to each other, and when they met, Louis smiled breathlessly,

"Hi."

"Hey." Harry returned.

"You said you wanted to know about me, right?" Louis asked softly.

"Yes," Harry returned, and Louis turned towards the street and to his truck.

"Well then follow me!" He said cheekily, and as he began to walk towards the main road, Harry followed closely behind him,

"Where are we going?" He asked hurriedly.

"To the field!" Louis said simply as he reached his car and opened the door for Harry to get in. Harry sighed but climbed into the truck, very nervous about having to drive past the Mayor's house.

"You alright?" Louis asked as he put the car into drive and drove away from the Horan's house.

"Yeah, m'fine. I just don't get why this has to happen at night…" Harry said, crossing his arms.

Louis sighed and let his hand rest on the back of Harry's seat, "You'll know more when I tell you."

Harry nodded and the rest of the ride to the field was relatively quiet. When Louis drove past the Mayor's house (which Harry was now able to identify) he prayed the truck didn't make any sudden loud noises or something that would wake the house and cause a scene.

Thankfully, nothing like that happened, and Louis finally drove the truck onto the field they were at just the night before.

Louis climbed out of the truck and so did Harry, and the two boys met in front of the truck. Louis was the first to speak,

"I figured this would be the safest place to explain things to ya."

Harry nodded, "Okay, I'm listening." He had a small smile placed on his lips and Louis sighed heavily,

"Okay, well, there's a reason people in this town don't particularly like me. Maura's probably already told you, but, I wanted to tell you myself."

"Why?" Harry asked suddenly. Sure, he felt a connection to Louis that even he couldn't explain, but he didn't expect Louis to feel the same thing. Especially with the logic of their situation—they hardly knew each other.

Louis, however, shrugged and couldn't help but smile, "I don't know. I want to tell you. Is that a bad thing?"

"No," Harry said quickly, "I was just curious."

Louis nodded and cleared his throat, "So, I wanted to tell you what happened last season."

Harry blinked and Louis continued, "Well, to start…I'm gay, Harry."

Though Harry knew this fact since he had first arrived in Palmer, to actually hear it from Louis himself almost scared Harry. Hearing it from Louis made it absolutely real. And while this only furthered gave Harry hope that he and Louis could be more than friends, that fact also really scared him—because being with Louis, apparently, came with a lot of consequences.

Louis was looking at him with wide eyes, and a sense of fear that Harry had never seen from him before. The jockey swallowed thickly, and Harry smiled slightly at how adorable Louis was when he was nervous,

"I know." A pause, "Me too."

Louis looked up at Harry and the jockey gave him a look, "You knew?"

Harry nodded, "Yes, among the many things Maura told me, you being gay were one of them. And it's okay if you are. I mean, there's nothing wrong with being gay."

Louis shook his head in disappointment, "But you don't know the whole story."

"I know enough," Harry said, "The whole story is just details to me."

"It can't be that way—not in this town. Here, details are everything…people hold onto them and use them against you."

Harry ran a hand through his hair, "Okay, fine, that may be true—this town is small and ridiculous. But with me it's different. It doesn't have to be that way."

Louis laughed sarcastically and looked up at the stars, shaking his head, "Will you just…indulge me? Let me tell you the story?"

Harry gave Louis a look, but saw the instilling fear in his eyes, and nodded anyway, just because he had asked,

"Okay, fine, you can tell me."

Louis shifted and wrung his hands, "Okay, so, I only admitted to myself I was gay two years ago, right in the middle of high school. And I only told four other people: my two parents, Liam, and Sam Carson."

Harry nodded and Louis continued, "Sam and Liam were fine with it, and so was my Pop. But my Mom wasn't. She…" Louis paused to collect himself, and it took everything in Harry's power not to reach out and touch him, "My Mom hated me for it—called me an abomination and all that. So basically, she took my four sisters and moved to the other side of the state. And…and we haven't really heard from her since.

"My dad stuck with me through and through, though, and he still has. And I love him for that. Liam stuck by me too, but Sam," Louis smiled thoughtfully, "Sam knew exactly what I was goin' through, 'cause he came out to me a few days later. And then, soon enough, I started datin' him.

"It was all in secret, 'course. No one besides Liam knew we were seein' each other. Donnie Carson sorta has the same mindset as my Mom when it comes to that stuff. Don't matter if we're their children; they'll leave us high to dry should we embarrass them with our sexuality and what not.

"So eventually, me and Sam got caught kissin' out in public. It was stupid, but the Mayor caught us, and me and him got into in the town square, in front of everyone. He called me a faggot, I called him some other things, and then he almost banned me and my Pop from the town. But then Sam stepped in—he said he'd rather leave the town, 'cause he was goin' to college up north anyway, and he said I should be allowed to stay, to make a name for this town with my racin'.

"Donnie agreed, sayin' he never wanted to see his gay son again, and this was the perfect way for that to happen. So the next day, Donnie made a few calls, and Sam was shipped off to NYU."

Harry breathed deeply, taking in the entire story. He hadn't known about Louis' mother, and he felt horribly for him. No mother, Harry had concluded, should ever abandon their child, especially in their time of need.

Harry made a mental note to thank Louis' father for never leaving his side. At least there were some tolerable people in this damn town.

Louis was now looking at the ground, and Harry cleared his throat, which made the jockey look up,

"I'm sorry all of that happened to you, Louis. You don't deserve it." Harry said softly.

Louis shrugged and smiled sadly, "I know. It's okay, I just…thought you should know all of this 'bout me…'cause I like you, Harry."

"I like you too, Louis." Harry said seriously, his heart fluttering from his chest and into his brain, which he was pretty sure had turned into mush at this point.

Louis grinned for a moment, but then his smile faltered, as did Harry's when he saw Louis,

"But I'm pretty sure that's why your cousin doesn't like me—I'm a bad person to be friends with. I'm like poison in this town. One look at me and Donnie will have you written off like it's nothing."

Harry shook his head in defense, "Niall does like you! He's just…worried!"

Louis rolled his eyes, "So you told him about last night, didn't you?"

Harry nodded, "He caught me sneaking out, and wouldn't let me leave until I told him where I was going."

Louis sucked in a nervous breath, "And he won't tell anyone?"

"No," Harry said quickly and reassuringly, "He won't. I promise you. I swear."

Louis' let his shoulders relax at Harry's words, and Harry continued, "And you know, I still don't care about what happened to you in the past. It doesn't change the fact that I like you."

Louis sighed, "I understand that, but I know Niall doesn't approve of…whatever this is. And…and…it's so weird we are even having a conversation like this, because we just met, but I can't help it."

"Well, I think it's stupid that I'm new to this town yet I have to abide to all of these rules. It's a free country. And you shouldn't have to be confined to something that isn't you. You are who you are. And I like that we're having this conversation…it shows that we care."

Louis shook his head, "It doesn't matter who I am. It doesn't matter to Donnie, so it doesn't matter to anyone else in this town, because people follow him like he is the freakin' President." He paused, "The only two people that care about me in this town are my dad and Liam."

Harry nodded in understanding, and risked the movement of putting his hand on Louis' shoulder. Louis flinched at his touch, but relaxed when Harry's fingers dug comfortably into his skin—in almost a relieving way. The two boys locked eyes, and Harry's were dancing with care for the older boy, and a smile was plastered onto his good features,

"Well," He said softly, "now you have one more person in this town who cares about you."


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-RAY x