Louis has only half an hour left of his shift. Thirty minutes, and he’s free. All he needs is Niall to get here so he can go home and finish bingeing The Office with his cat. And if he's also got some 250 words left on his essay, well, that can wait until he's not so exhausted.
The store is pretty much empty anyway, as not many people are lining up and eager to buy the latest bestsellers at 10 pm on a Tuesday, but because Ben, his manager, had wanted to expand their hours to get more customers, here Louis was, manning the register in a empty bookshop.
His phone pings, and he's rescued from checking that the new releases are ready for unveiling tomorrow again out of pure boredom by Niall texting him.
“sozz might be latee tommo , leemo' s already past out and i deleted my uber app for storage space -" Louis stops reading. (Also, fuck iOS 10 for letting Niall send that all in invisible ink. Fuck having to swipe just to see that long ass message).
He exits the messages app, resigned to playing Tiny Wings until Niall decides to show up. it’s not like he's mad at Niall - despite all his groaning, he doesn't think it's actually possible to get mad at Niall - but he's a bit peeved that his Office marathon and procrastinating are going to have to be pushed back.
He's just about to get his get to the pink mountains with the swirls, the level he'd been trying to beat since Saturday, when the bell on the door dings, and he's forced to hide his phone and plaster a fake smile on his face, to welcome whatever idiot gets books at 10 on a Tuesday.
And god, but just from two seconds of looking at the guy who just walked in, Louis just knows he hates him.
The bloke who strolls in, tripping slightly on the shopping baskets - oh yes, Louis hates him for sure - approaches the front desk slowly, and in the lowest voice he's ever heard goes, "Hello, I'm Harry," there’s a pause, "do you happen to know where i can find The Picture of Dorian Gray ? it’s by Oscar Wilde."
Yes, Louis does know that The Picture of Dorian Gray is by Oscar Wilde. yes actually, Louis does know where Harry can find The Picture of Dorian Gray , and yes indeed, the answer is up his arse.
“Well, that’s a bit rude,” and shit, Louis might’ve just spoken out loud, judging by the clear offense written on Harry's face. He’d promised Ben he’d stop doing that.
"Sorry, sorry," Louis rushes out before he even notices, "I've had a bit of a shit day to be honest, I honestly didn't mean that. ‘T just slipped out."
"It’s alright." Harry says, but his voice is considerably cooler when he asks again, "so do you know where the book is, or..."
Never mind, Louis still hates him.
"It’s over by the Popular Classics section, I think right next to Pride and Prejudice .” he pauses, unable to resist, cause he’s always been an asshole who couldn't bite his tongue, “That's by Jane Austen."
Harry's eyes narrow, but he thanks him anyway, and goes to where Louis directed him. Louis breathes a sigh of relief, and picks up his phone again.
However, something about the customer, Harry or whatever his name was, is still bothering him. He'd come in with a strut, pigeon-toed in boots that looked like they'd seen better days, and looked around the store as if it were a haven. He'd run a hand through his hair too, Louis remembers, as if he'd expected it to be longer than the short crop that it was, touching the nape of his neck in a millisecond of surprise. Louis finds himself wondering how long Harry's hair used to be; and then he starts wondering about a little more.
His phone pings on the counter again, and Louis looks to see that Niall had texted with the balloon effect, “eyy lew, ed just started his set ! !might ask u to cover foirst half hour of my shift , ? pls . ”
Louis is going to kill everyone, he decides. starting with Oscar Wilde over there in the corner, who seems to be taking longer than the average person who knows what book they want already. It’s been what, ten minutes now?
A slow realisation creeps up on him then, and if Louis didn't already want to melt into the cheap carpet of the store today, this really seals the deal. He should have known from the second he saw the non-prescription glasses on Harry's head that he'd be one of those hipster shits, the type of person who thought it'd be deep or grunge or whatever the fuck to write in books and then never buy them, leaving unwanted annotations for the next customer, because of the tragedy of life or some bullshit. Louis really doesn’t need this, today of all days.
Resigned to his fate, Louis jumps over the counter and treads lightly as he makes his way over to the Classics section deep in the store. As suspected, Harry is tucked into one of the sofas, and scribbling something undoubtedly somber and meaningful into the book.
It's a very cozy look overall, and despite his irritation, Louis feels endeared and maybe a little curious as to what Harry’s writing that makes his face a cross between focus and a unguarded smile. Louis’ll buy his book one day, after he’s done kicking him out of his shop.
Perhaps that's why when he goes to begin his yelling, his voice comes out a bit soft instead. "Mate, you're going to have to pay for the book if you're writing in it."
Harry's head snaps up in a way that must have been painful, and he hastily goes to tuck away his pencil - a stub of a ticonderoga, probably held onto for sentimental reasons - "I'm not writing in it."
Louis shoots him an unimpressed look as he steps closer. Harry is the picture of innocence, even with his fingers clutched tight enough around the book to maybe wrinkle some pages forever, showing traces of effects that shouldn't have made an impact at all. Louis thinks, or maybe he hopes, that that could happen to him.
Damn. Take that Hipster Harry.
"It's only 10 quid mate, that's a discount, especially for a book that you've obviously interested in." it sounds like Louis is pleading, but then, maybe he is.
"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing ." Harry states, a lilt to his voice and oh, that little shit, quoting the same book he'd just vandalized.
Judging by the tilt to his mouth - was that a fucking dimple? - he knew exactly what he was doing. Louis gave a long suffering sigh. "Give the book here, Harry."
Surprisingly, Harry gave in easily, stepping closer into Louis' space to hand him the book, page still turned to where his pencil marks lay. he seemed to be shocked at Louis' use of his name. If he hadn't been caught up by a whirlwind of other feelings right now, Louis might have smirked.
Louis takes the book and snorts. "Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives," he quips, and thoroughly enjoys the look of wonder Harry bestows on him at quoting the book. He does smirk then, as he opens to the page Harry had been on.
“She is all the great heroines of the world in one. She is more than an individual. I love her, and I must make her love me. I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain.”
Dark lines underlined the words, emboldening them on the page. underneath, in an unfamiliar scrawl, and Louis felt his breath hitch out of its own volition.
"how early is it to feel this way? to want to capture someone you do not yet know, but who you know to be so so much? hs” And then, much smaller than that, almost uncertainly, was Louis' own name, followed by a question mark.
Louis snaps back to reality, his heart thudding already. "How...?"
"Uh, your erm, name tag. sorry. This is really creepy, and that’s like, the shittiest of shit poetry too, oh my god. I’m so sorry." Harry stutters out, his cheeks glowing pink.
Louis feels like his stomach has risen to his chest. Hadn't he hated this guy, just five to ten minutes to go? Stuck in this empty store, in front a blushing man who'd written about him in the most beautiful way, Louis felt like he was in an alternate reality.
As it all came down on him, he cleared his throat. "I'll pay for it then," he declared, his voice loud all of a sudden. He coughed, clearing his throat."I'll ring you up at the counter." he made his way almost robotically to the counter, and jumped over, conscious of Harry following him wordlessly. Now where was that extra pen when he needed it?
Harry looks a tad disappointed, bless him, as he watches Louis get out his wallet and work the money into the register. His hands reach for the book once Louis is finished, but Louis smiles. "Give me a second would you?” he smiles, and he knows it must be one of his bright smiles that lift his stomach with his cheeks, as Harry blushes once again. "Can I see your pencil, love?"
Harry hands him the stub pencil immediately, and in the clearest handwriting he's had since primary, Louis prints his number out underneath the “Louis " Harry had written into the The Picture of Dorian Gray (by Oscar Wilde).
"Goodnight Harry," Louis smiles again, and this time Harry smiles back, a large thing with dimples the size of craters and cherub cheeks, that shouldn't have worked with his jawline but did. Louis kind of wants to melt again, but for different reasons this time.
"Goodnight Louis." and it's just lovely hearing his own name isn't it? especially in the low voice that sends a shiver down Louis' back.
A minute after Harry leaves, Louis' phone pings once again. And this time, it’s not Niall.