Louis pushed his glasses up for probably the hundredth time that afternoon. He should have worn short sleeves today, but alas. Too late now.
It was still chilly outside, hence the long sleeves, but the library was burning today. Then again, it could just feel that way because Louis had been reshelving books for the past two hours. Honestly, he didn’t mind this particular task. It allowed him time to be amongst the books. Smell the paper. Find new treasures he hasn’t discovered himself just yet.
Louis adjusted his suspenders a bit and picked up the next book when someone cleared their throat behind him, making Louis jump. He spun quickly around, hand on his chest and just barely remembered to not drop Diana Gabaldon’s newest thousand page hardback that would definitely have done damage to Louis’ feet.
Standing in front of him was someone who looked like he had just walked out of a motorcycle commercial. He had his hair pulled up in a bun, was wearing what looked to be an expensive as fuck leather jacket over a ratty Rolling Stones t-shirt, and were those sparkly boots? Louis wasn’t quite sure how to take him, but he certainly had a presence. He was also likely confused about his location and was clearly about to ask where the DVD section was.
“Excuse me, do you work here?”
Oh God. Louis swallowed thickly as he pushed his fringe out of the way and pushed his glasses up for the hundred and first time. He should probably answer the man, but his voice was so deep, it practically vibrated through him.
“What gave it away? My suspenders, my glasses, or this massive cart of books and absolutely no one else around?”
Shit. He really needed to learn to stop trying to flirt with men he doesn’t know, particularly while at work. This beautiful model was most likely straight and if he wasn’t judging Louis’ striped shirt paired with suspenders and khaki slacks, he definitely had to be looking down on nerdy gay boy working in the library now.
To his surprise, the man laughed. Louis couldn’t help the smile that overcame his face. The man had dimples too. It’s like Louis’ wet dreams came to life or something.
“Well, I figured since you were the first person I came upon who looked like they knew where they were, there was a good chance you could help me even if you didn’t work here.” The man bit his lip and cocked his hip. “You can help me, right?”
Louis rolled his eyes and set down the thirty pound book he was holding. “Yes, I can help you. What are you looking for?”
“I was looking for a specific Charles Bukowski and I’m not finding it. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was in the wrong section, or if they were all checked out. It’s his book Ham on Rye. Because it is somewhat autobiographical, I wasn’t sure if it would be in the nonfiction section or if it would be in the fiction section with the rest, since it is after all not his own name that he uses for the protagonist.”
The man’s hands were starting to fly as he indicated the different sections of the library he had searched looking for this book. This not very popular book. This book that Louis had decidedly not expected him to be searching for.
There was a fizzle of excitement rising in Louis’ belly because of the fact that this man not only was familiar with Charles Bukowski, but he was specifically looking for this novel and he already knew something about it. Was it too early to propose?
“You’re right, it doesn’t really easily fit into either genre, but we do keep it shelved with his other fictional works,” Louis answered before walking to the next row. “Have you read Factotum then?”
As Louis scanned the shelves for where he knew the Bukowski selection to be, the man answered enthusiastically, “Yes! That’s what I just finished, actually. I’ve been a fan of his poems for years, but didn’t have a chance to look into his novels until now.”
“I’ve never met someone,” Louis mused as he checked for Ham on Rye, “at least not anyone around our age, who was as interested in Bukowski as me.” Louis put his hands on his hips and tapped his foot. “I know we have a copy here, because I just checked it back in earlier today and it isn’t that popular.”
“Oh look!” the man was suddenly right behind Louis and shit. He smelled so fucking good. “It’s on the shelf above where it should be.”
Louis felt the man’s jacket graze against his back, causing him to shiver a bit, as he reached up and grabbed the book in question. Having the book in his possession, the man pulled back and Louis turned to face him. Louis smelled leather and sandalwood on the breeze caused by their movement and allowed himself a moment to enjoy it before responding.
“Well, I’m not sure I helped any, but I’m glad we found it for you.”
“You pointed me in the right direction for the next book in my to read list by one of my favorite authors, so yeah. I think you helped.”
Giving a small smile, Louis didn’t say anything, but continued staring into the stranger’s eyes. He looked somewhat familiar, almost like Louis had seen him walking down the street once and his brain registered the face, but Louis couldn’t place why.
Before the silence got awkward, the man held his hand out for a handshake while finally offering his name. “I’m Harry. Thank you for your help…”
Louis giggled a bit, covering his smile with the back of his hand, and placed the other into the man’s outstretched one. “It’s been awhile since someone’s asked for a handshake, Harry. But it’s very nice to meet you. I’m Louis.”
Harry smiled when he heard Louis’ name. “Louis,” he repeated as he gave Louis a lengthy lookover. Louis could feel his face grow warm under Harry’s eyes. Most people didn’t appreciate his nerdy chic style choices, but based on the dimples that had now resurfaced, Harry didn’t seem to mind them. “The pleasure is all mine.”
Finally withdrawing their hands, Harry looked like he was about to turn to go and Louis felt a desperate need to engage him in conversation, just a little longer at least.
“You said Chuck is one of your favorite authors. I’m a fan of his as well, so I’m just curious who some of your other favorites are. If you don’t mind my asking.” Biting his lip, Louis decided it couldn’t hurt to continue babbling at this point. “I just don’t meet many others interested in his works.”
Harry smirked like he knew what Louis was trying to do. Maybe he did, Louis didn’t claim to be subtle.
“Sometimes I want some lighter reading, and those days I’ll go more for Orson Scott Card or Harry Potter, but my favorites are closer to Thoreau and Emerson, Rilke, or for a more modern aspect Chuck, as you call him, or Jon Ronson.”
Louis was afraid he was drooling or making obvious heart eyes, but this man, Harry, might very well be his soulmate. Apparently Louis was silent for too long and Harry began to doubt himself.
“I know a lot of people find that collection of writers to be fairly depressing or overly introspective, but I really do enjoy reading them and getting their varying perspectives on life and meaning and motivations behind actions, and that’s not so crazy, right?”
Louis quickly shook his head. “No, definitely not. I wasn’t judging you, I was actually trying to keep from professing my love, because you named pretty much all of my favorites as well. I’ve been recently rereading all of Jon Ronson’s works lately, actually.” Louis was mortified he’d just said what he did. Mentioning love when he’d just met this man? Luckily, before he could consider running away and never returning, Harry seemed to overlook that lapse in judgement due to his excitement over finding someone else who was a fan of Jon Ronson.
“No way, really? Just last week I read his book on public shaming which caused me to look up his articles on internet mobs and twitter shaming. The way he presents the information from all sides and goes so deep into it so you don’t really know which side is up once you’re done is almost addictive! I find myself contemplating random paragraphs from things I read months ago because he sticks with you like that!”
Louis was getting more and more excited as this conversation went on, but he knew he needed to get back to reshelving the books or he’d never get out of here.
“Oh my God, yes! Do you mind if I shelve books while we talk?” Harry gestured for Louis to lead the way back to where he had been working, so Louis continued talking as he walked back and picked up the Gabaldon book to put away. “My best friend was so worried about me after I read The Psychopath Test because I was almost paranoid of everyone around me. The way he wrote about everyone and broke down what they did had me enthralled but disturbed as well. That was the first book of his I ever read and I never looked back.”
“God, that one hit close to home for me,” Harry said, laughing.
Louis looked over his shoulder at hearing that to find Harry’s eyes snapping up from his bum, an innocent smile on his face. If Louis had any doubts before as to whether Harry was interested, they were definitely gone.
“Hm?” Harry asked, his eyes drifting back down before he visibly shook himself and brought his eyes up again. Louis was quite proud of his bum, but he was even more pleased at the fact it was obviously distracting Harry.
“How did The Psychopath Test hit close to home for you? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Louis pushed the cart a bit further down the row before he found the placement for the next several books on the cart. Harry was taking his time answering, but he eventually took an audible breath and spoke.
“I just...have to work with a lot of very influential people on a regular basis and I’ll just say that I recognized pieces of them in what I read.”
Louis nodded and continued to shelve. “Fair enough.”
“Listen.” Louis felt a soft touch of his upper arm, so he turned to look at Harry who was closer than he’d anticipated. “I’m actually only in town for a few days and I have to get going for a meeting, but I would love to be able to continue our discussion tonight if you don’t mind. Maybe over a late dinner?”
Louis could hardly believe his luck. He’d never imagined he would nab a date with a guy like Harry while at work at the library.
“Yeah, that would be great. I have a night class that gets out at 8, but I’m free after that.”
“Perfect. Can I get your number? I really do have to go before I’m late. We can work out the details over text.”
Harry held out his phone and Louis quickly punched in his name and number before texting himself. “I already sent myself a text so I have your number as well.”
Shooting Louis a wide smile, Harry pocketed the phone and began to walk backwards. Damn, the man was stunning.
“Perfect. I’ll see you tonight, Louis. Thanks again for your help.”
Louis offered a small wave and once Harry was out of sight, Louis gave a quiet squeal and jumped around a little bit. He had a date with the most beautiful man he may have ever seen and he knew books. He was sure there had to be a character flaw in this man somewhere, but Louis was perfectly happy in his dream world until he learned what it was.
Louis’ alarm blared and he flung his arm out to reach for where it should be on his nightstand. His arm flopped onto the mattress though, and it was only at that point that Louis realized that he was still wearing clothes when usually he only slept in his boxers.
His alarm kept playing, and as he opened his eyes, his surroundings came into focus. Namely, the sleepy and irritated face of Harry. Whoops.
“Why’s your phone making so much noise?” Harry croaked before pouting, all without even opening his eyes.
“Probably because I really need to get going so I’m not late for my morning class.”
Harry already had his arm slung over Louis’ waist, but he pulled Louis closer to him in order to give his lips a soft, closed peck. Fuck, they might not have done more than kiss last night, but just that one act of intimacy after waking up was enough for Louis’ brain to go a bit haywire.
“For the first time in ages, I get to sleep in a little. I hope you don’t mind my not walking you out?”
Louis giggled a little before kissing Harry’s forehead and pulling back so he could climb out of the bed.
“I’ll be fine. Besides, hotels are pretty good about marking their exits.” Louis yawned and found his phone plugged into a charger beside the TV. Right, his phone had almost died and Harry had an extra one he traveled with. That was convenient.
Harry hummed a bit in pleasure once Louis finally turned off his ringtone.
“If I end up with Ed stuck in my head all day today, I’m blaming you,” Harry mumbled from the bed before flopping over onto his stomach.
“There are worse things,” Louis teased. He hummed a bit of Castle on the Hill before kissing Harry’s cheek. A dimple formed beneath Louis’ lips, and his chest warmed from within. “Thanks for such a great night. Talk to you later?”
“Yeah, definitely. A bit busy today, but I promise I’ll text.”
“Kay. Bye,” Louis whispered, before turning and stepping into his shoes by the door. He took one last look around the ridiculously fancy room, and walked out.
He felt oddly like he was doing a walk of shame, despite the fact they didn’t actually do anything. He didn’t focus on it for long, Louis was on a bit of a high after last night.
He walked back to his apartment just off campus and considered how last night had felt so different from his other first dates. Granted, he’d not had many; most people didn’t care to look past his nerdy fashion choices, but that was okay. He liked his suspenders and stripes and glasses, even if most people didn’t. The few first dates he’d been on though had all been awkward and stilted with hardly any conversation.
Last night, Louis had felt comfortable from the moment he sat down in the dark dingy booth Harry had saved for them at Hounddogs. They’d talked the entire time they ate pizza and stayed late enough for the live music to start up at the adjacent bar before they’d finally left.
Louis let himself into his apartment and rushed to his bedroom when he realized it was late enough that Niall had already left for their morning lecture. He’d just quickly change his shirt, put on some deodorant, swish some mouthwash, and throw a beanie on to ensure he was at least a little put together before running to class.
He hurried through his tasks, but kept thinking about the night before. After pizza, they’d walked around town a little, Louis showing Harry some of his favorite parts of campus, which was all but dead at near midnight on a Wednesday. By the end of it they’d even been holding hands and Louis couldn’t believe how well his hand fit in Harry’s.
When he’d held hands before, their knuckles always hit Louis’ in the wrong places, or their fingers were too wide and they hurt Louis’ hands. Not Harry’s. They perfectly enveloped Louis’ hands but still allowed Louis to feel strong in how he held onto Harry as well. And if their hands were that well suited, it was nothing to speak of their mouths.
They’d ended up at Harry’s swanky hotel, and while they had talked for many of those early morning hours, they’d also kissed a fair amount as well. Louis crossed campus as quickly as he could, thinking nonstop of Harry and his amazingly talented lips. Louis swore he could still feel the tingles Harry had evoked hours ago.
Louis turned onto the quad where there were far more people, and finally couldn’t ignore what he’d noticed happening earlier. People were taking double takes of him and then whispering. It had happened once or twice when he’d passed some students by the union, but now it was nearly every grouping of people he saw.
He checked the front of his shirt to make sure it was clean and he hadn’t spilled anything on it. He rubbed self consciously at his face. He didn’t remember seeing any marks or anything when he had used the mouthwash, but he wasn’t paying very close attention either. What was going on? Why were people actually paying attention to him?
Luckily, he reached Hayes Hall and found the way to the second floor classroom was mostly deserted. When he walked into the mostly full classroom, though, he felt like every pair of eyes was on him. At least the professor wasn’t there yet. That would have been embarrassing.
He walked over to where Niall was saving him a seat and sat down only to have Niall lean over and whisper, “You could have told me, you know?”
Confused, Louis leaned over towards the brunet and asked, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“You said you had a date last night, but you didn’t tell me who it was with. Fuck, Louis! There’s blurry photos everywhere!”
Louis searched Niall’s bright blue eyes and finally said, “I still don’t understand. Why does it matter who the date was with?”
“Oh, come on, Lou,” Niall scoffed as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Even you know who Harry Styles is.”
“Harry Styles? The dude who has all those crazy popular songs on the radio?” Louis was way too busy with work and school to pay much attention to the celebrity gossip that everyone else seemed to, but he did listen to the radio often enough to be fairly familiar with names at least.
“Yeah, and the dude you were photographed all over town with last night.” Niall handed over his phone and on the screen was Twitter’s trending topics. Number four was Harry Styles. Clicking on it, Louis scrolled and saw that Niall was right, all of the photos were of Harry and Louis last night. And. Holy fucking shit.
“Oh my God,” Louis squeaked out. “That’s seriously Harry Styles? Like, the dude who wins all those awards, and I think one was a Grammy, Harry Styles? Like, you’re telling me that the guy I’m with in this photo right here is actually Harry Styles?”
Niall took the phone back and pulled up google. Handing the phone back to show a screen full of photos, Niall asked, “Is this the guy you were with last night?”
Dumbfounded, Louis nodded his head.
“Then, yes. You had a date with Harry fucking Styles. Which, by the way, how did it go?”
Louis had taken the phone back and was scrolling through the Twitter photos again. There weren’t all that many, but there were enough from throughout the night to show they’d been together for quite a bit. They were all really grainy from a combination of the darkness at night and the distance, but it was clear enough, especially from the one someone had gotten of them at Hounddogs.
Before Louis could answer, the professor walked in. He gave the phone back to his best friend and tried to focus on the discussion about Elizabeth Gaskell, but his mind was reeling.
The way people seemed to stare at Harry a bit longer than usual when they’d walk past others on the sidewalk. The way Harry almost seemed to shy away from details about his work. The man who was in the hallway on his phone when they’d gone up to his room at the hotel that he’d said hi to, but the most he would say was that he was a co-worker traveling with him before he changed the subject. Louis hadn’t found any of these things strange at the time, but looking back, it all clicked to make sense. It was because Harry was a fucking rockstar and he’d for some reason decided Louis was worth spending his time with.
Really, thinking back on it, they were lucky he hadn’t been approached for a photo or autograph or something. Louis wasn’t sure how they’d managed that considering everyone was able to tell from some shitty photos that it was Harry in the first place.
Before Louis even realized it, the lecture was over and Niall was pinching his arm so he would pack his shit up and get going. Luckily, Louis had over an hour until his next lecture, so he found a bench in the back of the English building where he could be left alone and called up Harry, hoping he’d have a minute to chat.
Louis chewed on his lip as his eyes followed the mortar between the bricks and was almost startled when he heard Harry’s voice answer.
“Hey, Louis. Wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon.” Harry did sound surprised, but not disappointed, so that was good. He obviously didn’t seem to know about the photos yet though.
Chuckling a little, Louis said, “Yeah, well I didn’t expect to have my face plastered all over social media this morning either. So that was a bit of a shock.”
Silence rang loudly and Louis was almost worried he’d lost the connection, but he realized he could still hear the background noise from Harry’s end. Wherever he was, it was busy.
“Harry?” Louis asked. “Are you there?”
“Yeah, uh, so how long have you known? About me?” Harry sounded timid. Cautious. Tired. Louis didn’t like him sounding like that. He was supposed to sound vibrant and full of life and passion like he had all night last night.
“Just about an hour ago when my best friend showed me the reason everyone was staring at me and whispering,” Louis answered quietly. He felt like if he spoke too loud right now, he’d spook Harry and never hear from him again. He definitely didn’t want that. “I’d heard of your name before, I just didn’t know the face to go with it.”
“So what do you think now?”
Louis looked up at the ceiling and sighed a long exhale to buy time and gather his thoughts.
“Well, I feel like a bit of an idiot for not knowing who you are, but it doesn’t change much. Except I probably have to sign some things, right? Or is that just if we are going to continue to…” Louis cut himself off because he wasn’t sure how to end the sentence. Be friends? They definitely were more than friends, but they still hardly knew each other. They also weren’t really dating. Not officially.
“Uh, yeah. I mean, if we were to keep...going in the direction I was hoping we’d go in, a non-disclosure would probably need to be signed. But I don’t think we need to worry about last night. Would you, like, is that something you’re still interested in? Even though you know what all that entails now?”
“Well, if you are. At least you know I’m not here because of your fame or money or anything,” Louis joked. “But wouldn’t dating a nerdy English major from Nowhere USA put a bit of a damper on your image?”
“Management would probably love that, actually. It would finally hopefully reverse the womanizing image my previous team created for me that we’ve been trying to dismantle ever since.” Harry was quiet again before there was some talking and Harry was mumbling something quietly before coming back to Louis. “Hey, I’ve gotta go for this interview now. But we’ll talk more later, yeah? We can figure something out that can work for us, at least for now. Right?”
“Yeah. One step at a time. Just ‘cause you’re famous doesn’t mean this works all that differently.” Louis smiled. “And thanks. For taking a chance on me even though I’m me and you’re you.”
“That’s exactly why I took a chance on you. And really, same. Talk to you later, Lou.”
Louis locked his phone and just sat on the bench, digesting what had happened for a few minutes before his phone vibrated with a text.
Harry: Are you busy tonight? Cause you might as well get a free concert out of this deal. I’m not in town for very long, anyway.
Biting his lip and smiling, Louis quickly responded.
Louis: I’ll be there.