Rolling back the rivers in time, can’t wait, gotta see his face somewh—
“Louis are you even listening?” Startled, Louis sits up from where he’s laying on the couch to see a slightly disgusted-looking Liam eyeing him from across the room. “’M sorry,” he mumbles in apology, running a hand through his hair and pulling his earphones out with the other. Out Of Control is running on repeat on his iPod, and the volume was clearly up a bit higher than he realized.
“Anyway,” Liam says without taking his eyes off of Louis, “we were planning on going to that new coffee shop on Brooks and Fourth Streets. They’re having a sale or summin, and I know you like a good cuppa.” Louis shrugs and nods. It’s true, caffeine is always a good idea this early in the morning. Which is like ten o’clock. Oh well, it’s early somewhere.
Niall stretches like a cat, huge yawn and limbs pushed all the way out before contracting back to his typical slouched posture. “Has anyone started the Mid-East Affairs homework yet?” He gets some muffled grunts in response and mutters a “bloody fucking hell” under his breath.
Zayn sighs and stands up, throwing his heavy jacket on and tying a scarf around his neck in one fluid motion. “All I know is Professor Tamber said ‘s due in two weeks or so and I sure as hell aren’t doing it before then.”
“Great grammar, Zayn,” Liam deadpans, standing up to get his sneakers from the other side of the room. Louis blinks sleep out of his eyes, feeling bleary as ever. He looks out the window and sees a wall of grey. Winter rain is the grossest type of weather, he’s decided. At least there’s something somewhat magical about summer rain. Downpours in winter just suck.
With as much strength as he can muster, he gets up and pads over to his room where he puts one hand on the brick wall and shucks off his slippers in favor of his trusty (and holey, ratty, and, even though he would never admit it, smelly) black Converse. Throwing on a sweatshirt, he grabs his keys and follows his friends out the door of their dorm.
Trailing behind Li, Zayn, and Niall, who are discussing the latest football match or something, Louis pops an earphone back in and hits shuffle on his iPod before settling into the pace of a walk through campus. Sure, he’s always felt like an outsider at uni. It’s never exactly been a walk in the park, what with the scholarship he had to get and all of the testing and the fact that he’s just naturally not that great at schoolwork. So he spends most of his time in the library with his text books and his five best friends.
Of course, he loves Liam and Niall and Zayn and they’re great and all that, but they don’t really come that high on the list. He’d never tell them so, but it’s true. Because every day, he puts in his earbuds and works alongside Cheryl Cole (neé Tweedy from when he first fell in love with them), Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh, Sarah Harding, and Nicola Roberts. They sing about heartbreak and sex and hard work and he studies and writes papers and then just goes back to the music and hangs out with them.
He hangs out with real people too, that’s what those three chaps in front of him are for. And they’re great, he loves them, like he said. But they’re not the girls.
As he steps off the corner into the street, he prepares for Nadine’s bridge and hums it along with her.
Whenever you’re gone, they wait at the door, and everything’s hurting like before, without any meaning, we’re just skin and bone, like beautiful robots dancing alone.
“What’d ya say, mate?” Zayn asks, turning back to see Louis. Louis smiles shyly and shakes his head. Zayn half smiles back and turns to finish his conversation with the other two.
So Louis goes back into his own head, where the girls are dancing with some ridiculously sexy men in his head and being spun around and Nadine is just killing that solo, and then just like that he bumps into Niall and apparently they’re at the coffee shop already.
Liam holds the door as they all file into the shop. It’s small, a brick building that’s almost too cozy for its own good, like every patron is smushed together, and there’s a tiny bar with a display case with all sorts of fresh pastries and only one person at the counter and Louis counts and realizes there are only two other people inside but it feels like two thousand and just by stepping inside the temperature has jumped like forty degrees.
“Hot enough in here, yeah?” Niall asks, stripping off his coat and setting it on a nearby chair. “Maybe I won’t need that frap anymore.” They all stand and survey the chalkboard menus suspended above the counter, with fancy drinks scrawled in pink and green chalk (along with slightly high prices, but Louis won’t complain), trying to decide what they want.
Finally Louis just pushes past all of them, because he already knows what he wants and it’s not his fault that the rest of them are so indecisive. It is then, as the barista opens his mouth, that Louis feels his entire world fall out from underneath him.
“Hi, how can I help you?” Louis looks into those eyes, partially obscured by a mass of curly hair, one dimple and the best grin he’s ever seen in his entire life and can’t do anything except think in terms of his girls.
Funny how I could find love with you and no one else, it’s magic.
He stammers for a little bit and then manages to recover enough to squeak out an “Um, hi, just a cuppa, thanks.” The boy across the counter nods and smiles again, turning to pour the water into a cup and get whatever he needs to ready.
Louis can’t feel himself breathe and has trouble saying that he only takes two when the boy asks him how many sugars he wants. He knows what Cheryl would say, it’s a revolution in the head, and all that, but still. This is different. This is majorly weird.
“Alrighty, there ya go,” cute barista boy says, sliding a steaming mug of tea with two perfectly mixed sugars across the counter to Louis. His hands are shaking so bad Louis isn’t sure he can pick it up, but he even manages to count out the exact pound eighty when the guy asks for it.
On some horrible and slightly admirable burst of bravery, Louis asks, “I never got your name?” The guy across the table smiles shyly. “Harry, Harry Styles.” Louis extends a hand. “Louis Tomlinson. Thanks for the cuppa.”
As he walks to the table where Niall dropped his coat, Zayn whispers “Someone’s feeling a little sweet right now, yeh?”
* * * * *
For reasons he can’t quite explain, Louis treks the four blocks to the coffee shop the next day. He can barely keep his breathing under tabs when he opens the door, but is disappointed to see an older woman working behind the counter.
“Hi, doll, what can I getcha?” she asks, and Louis can’t help but like her, even if she’s not Harry. He orders the same, a cuppa with two sugars, and she smiles sweetly and prepares the order. Scanning the tiny space for a table where he can sit alone and study, his eyes light on someone in an apron hunched over a table reading fervently.
“That’s Harry,” the woman says as she places the tea down on the counter. “He works here, when he’s not at uni.” Louis smiles at her.
“Yeah, I saw him yesterday. I’m at uni too, studying to go to law school.” The lady looks impressed, and presses a few buttons on the register.
“Well, I know how hard you youngsters look. This one’s on me.” Louis isn’t sure what to say, so he tries to give her money but she won’t take it, so he just settles for a thank you and walks over to Harry.
“Hey, stranger,” he says, and Harry looks up from his spread of textbooks, confused at first, but eventually breaking into a grin.
“Oh hey there, Lou!” (Lou? They’re on a nickname basis already? Louis just wants to schedule the wedding for next Saturday already.) “Sorry it’s such a mess over here.”
Louis laughs and sits down, moving some books aside with some help from Harry. “Don’t worry mate, I’m in the same boat as you. Too much work and too little time to do any of it.” Harry nods sympathetically, pushing a pencil behind his ear.
“Yeah, Christina’s pretty nice about letting me study here,” he says, pointing to the friendly woman behind the counter, who’s wiping up. “She doesn’t put up too much of a fuss about it unless I take up too much room.”
“Which has happened before,” she calls from where she’s working, and Louis chuckles as he looks down into his mug. It’s awkward, sure, but it feels good. Something about it feels like it’s a proper beginning, and he likes that.
Louis decides to settle in a bit and takes his coat off, laying his iPod on the table. Harry peers at it upside down, his face lighting up when he sees the album Louis’ on. “Aw, Girls Aloud?”
With a sense of chagrin, Louis nods, avoiding his eyes. “Yeh, but it’s mostly from when I was—”
“I love them!” Harry interjects and Louis literally wants to lean over and kiss him. “They’re my absolute favorites. Which girl is your fave?” Before Louis can answer, Harry butts in with an “I mean, of course, you can’t really pick just one cause they’re all fantastic. But, you know, if you had to.”
Louis laughs and scratches his temple, leaning on his right arm to think. “Geez, that’s like an impossible question. I’d probably say Nicola. Something about her is just so different from all of the other girls. Plus that solo in ‘Whole Lotta History’ is just the best.”
Harry grins and tilts his head back to crow out a “hello, did you call me” in a falsetto, which earns laughs from Louis and a wet rag from Christina. Chucking it back at her, he sits up and sighs contentedly.
“Your turn,” Louis says, and Harry looks up into that mop of curls as if it held the answer to such a burning question. “Oh geez,” he says after a while. “Mine would probably be Sarah,
‘cause she’s just so strong. Like all of her solos are fierce, and she always nails her stuff life. Also ‘walking primrose’ might just be my favorite verse in all of their records.” Louis grins and nods in enthusiastic agreement.
They stay there for three hours, talking and listening to Louis’ iPod and studying, once they figure out that they’re both taking multi-variable calculus that semester (and also both doing pitifully). Eventually Christina comes out from behind the counter with two plates of food, which they both gratefully accept, and then kindly kicks them out of the building so she can lock up.
“That was way more fun than the library ever would be,” Louis says once they’re walking back towards campus. Harry grins at him.
“Well, clearly my company does you a lot better than any old stack of books can,” he teases, elbowing Louis, who grins back.
“This is gonna sound really weird,” Louis says after a minute, “but this feels really easy.” Harry doesn’t say anything for a minute, just nods and smiles softly, looking up into the icy grey sky.
“You wanna hang out sometime?” he asks finally. Louis looks at him inquisitively.
“What, like on a date?” he chokes out. Harry looks back at him grinning like a Cheshire cat and nods fervently.
“Yeah, like on a date.” He sees Louis is hesitating and pokes him in the arm. “Come on, it’ll be fun! We don’t have to do anything fancy, just hang out or go to a light dinner or a movie or whatever.”
Louis nods, smiling. “Alright, that sounds nice. On one condition.” When Harry looks at him with wide eyes, Louis continues, “I get to plan the next one.”
When he comes into the common room, he finds Zayn, Niall, and Liam sitting on the couch eating crisps and watching telly, but they all turn to look at him as soon as he walks in like they’re the Golden Girls or something.
“Someone stayed at the library for quite a while,” Liam says, taking another handful of crisps. Louis rolls his eyes and goes over to hang his coat on the wall.
“Wasn’t at the library,” he says. The three ooh and aah like little children, poking each other and dropping their mouths open wide for dramatic effect.
“You weren’t at the library?” Zayn asks in a mockingly shocked voice. “Where else would Louis Tomlinson be if not at the library?”
“For your information,” Louis says, padding over to his room, “I was at that coffee shop.”
“Were you by chance with a certain curly-haired very sexy barista?” Niall asks, and receives a pillow and a door slam in response. Louis smiles in spite of himself as he hears the three break into laughter from outside his door.
* * * * *
Louis is incredibly nervous for his date. Not because it’s Harry, because at this point he’s gotten past being anxious over Harry. It feels natural. They’ve got the girls in common. It’s because he’s literally never been on a date before.
Yeah, I’m falling, I hit the floor running, keep calling, I feel my heart drumming, cause this time I’ll be doing okay.
“You almost ready? It’s coming up on twenty-one, you know,” Liam calls from outside. Louis switches off his stereo and calls out an “I’m coming, I’m coming” as he checks his outfit for the thousandth time and straightens the folds in his shirt.
“You look fine, mate,” Niall says comfortingly as Louis sits on the couch and tries not to piss himself. “By the way, who were you listening to in your room back there?”
“Girls Aloud,” Louis says, trying to say as little as possible lest he should vomit everything he’s ever eaten in his entire life all over the common room. Niall nods smugly.
“That one who has all those solos, who’s she?” he asks. Louis shrugs. “I mean, they all get all the solos, I know that, but she has the ones that sound like she’s shouting and she’s really good and whatever.”
“Cheryl?” Louis says and Niall’s face lights up.
“Yeah, that’s it. Cheryl Cole.” He turns to Liam. “How do I know that name, Li?”
Liam rolls his eyes and goes over the kitchenette where he begins dicing onions and putting them into a skillet. “She’s a judge on The X-Factor, remember?” Niall makes a noise of enlightenment and Louis feels his entire insides do a 360 degree rotation.
At once, the doorbell rings, and everyone’s moving at once, Niall to get the door and Liam to light the stove and not drop the pan but still get to Louis and Zayn to fix little blemishes in Louis’ appearance (namely his hair which has a reputation for being completely unruly) and Louis to get up and not explode all over the room which is more difficult than he imagined it to be.
“Harry, hi!” Niall says, swinging the door open. Except it’s not Harry, it’s some younger kid with a couple of parcels that were delivered to the wrong room and everyone groans and the kid looks very confused, especially when Niall shuts the door in his face without a thank you and everyone resumes their default positions.
Everyone sits idly for what seems like ages, until Liam remembers he’s cooking and goes back to putting things in a skillet for dinner and even though it smells delicious Louis can’t think of food without thinking of what happens to food after you eat it and that makes him nauseous and so he has to close his eyes and think of lyrics from his girls.
Got so close to love, I can almost taste the kill, barely close enough, but I could not make the deal.
So it hits twenty-one and Harry’s still not there and then it hits half past twenty-one and Harry is also still not there and Liam’s meal is done so they all sit at the table and eat in complete silence, not daring to say a word, Louis especially because he’s afraid he might just burst into tears or something embarrassing like that.
Twenty-two passes, and then twenty-three, and Louis just gives up and goes to bed on the couch, still hoping that maybe Harry will show up or something even though he knows it’s never going to happen.
Oh, why you look so sad? Tears are in your eyes, come on and come to me now, don’t be ashamed to cry.
Louis feels like if this were a bad channel four movie he’d be singing karaoke or eating ice cream or breaking things in slow motion or something but instead he just kind of lays there and keeps singing “I’ll Stand By You” in his head over and over and over and over again until he feels himself fall down into sleep.
* * * * *
The next morning, he goes to the coffee shop. Harry’s not there, Christine hasn’t seen him since the day before. She gives Louis his cuppa for free cause he looks so down, and Louis thanks her sadly and then puts a pound eighty-seven on the counter when she has her back turned and heads back to the dorm.
When he gets back, he gathers up his books and treks over to the library. It’s started snowing lightly, just enough to be annoying but not enough to be pretty. He feels his Converse sink into the same patches of snow and his feet start to get wet and cold but he just keeps walking until he’s in the relative warmth of the library.
He says hello to Joanne, the librarian, who says she hasn’t seen him for a while, and Louis says he was distracted, which isn’t exactly a lie, and heads to his favorite spot in the back, by the huge windows where he can just sit and study or do whatever he needs to do to not think about Harry.
He shouldn’t be surprised, not really. But he can’t help but feel disappointed.
“Hello, did you call me?”
His head shoots up from where he’s sitting. Frowning, he goes back to his books, making a mental note to get his hearing checked for random Nicola solos in the middle of a library.
“I know, end of story.”
He looks up again, determined to find out where the hell these random Girls Aloud lines are coming from. Peeking around several shelves, he finds no culprit. Resigned that it was nobody, he heads back to his work and walks straight into Harry.
“Louis, I’m so—”
“Save it,” Louis says, pushing past him and taking a seat on the floor where he’s gotten himself set up. Harry follows him and sits next to him, but Louis deliberately ignores him.
“Look, Louis, I’m—”
“Didn’t you get the hint, Styles? I don’t want to hear it,” Louis snaps. He ignores Harry for as long as humanly possible, which is not very long when he keeps poking his head in between Louis and whatever textbook he’s pretending to read. Eventually Louis just gives up and glares at Harry with his arms crossed. “What do you want?”
“To apologize,” Harry says, looking him dead in the eyes. His honesty disarms Louis, and he just sits still and listens. “I’m so sorry for missing our date last night, I really am. Christina was in the caff yesterday and she left early for her grandson’s piano recital and the guy that was supposed to show up and close never did, so I had to jump in and take that shift at the last minute. I tried texting you, but then I remembered I don’t have your number, so.”
Louis softens and sighs, letting Harry take his hands and rub his thumbs gently over the tops. “I know you’re upset Lou, and I can’t blame you. It was really jerky of me, and I should have said something.”
“I went to see you today, and Christina said she hadn’t seen you since yesterday,” Louis says in some effort to discredit what Harry’s saying for some unknown reason.
Harry smiles sadly. “Well, she would never forgive herself if she knew her few hours off meant that I had to step in and take over. She’s real sensitive to that kind of thing.” Louis nods and swallows, looking down at his hands.
“Let me make it up to you?” Harry asks, pulling Louis’ chin up so he meets his gaze. Louis smiles softly and nods. Harry grins and gives him a playful cuff on the shoulder. “That’s the Louis Tomlinson I know and love,” he says, pulling Louis to his feet. “C’mon, I’ve got a date to atone for.”
The whole way out of the library Louis can’t get the word love out of his head.
* * * * *
“Can I open my eyes yet?” Louis asks, feeling Harry guide him through the dark space. He hears Harry chuckle and gets a soft “Not yet” for an answer. They walk a few more paces until Harry guides him gently to a stop.
“Okay, you can open your eyes now,” he says and Louis takes a deep breath and opens them. Immediately his mouth drops open. “Whaddaya think?” Harry asks with a grin.
Louis is completely speechless. They’re in the coffee shop, that part isn’t unexpected, but it’s what Harry did to it which is shocking. There are fairly lights draped over the timber beams supporting the ceiling, and the entire floor is cleared out except for a table for two covered by a white tablecloth and a simple vase of irises.
“These are my favorites,” Louis says, fingering their petals gently. Harry smiles.
“I had a little help from some friends of yours,” he admits. Louis surveys the rest of the joint with astonishment. The brick walls, normally covered by pictures from local artists, are instead blanketed with small Polaroid photographs of life around campus. Louis walks over to look at them, and sees pieces of life captured in each of them. He recognizes his own face in some of them too.
“Did you take these?” he asks, and Harry nods. Louis just shakes his head in wonder and walks over to the table. Harry beats him to it, pulling the chair out so Louis can sit in it and then pushes him in to the table. Christina, in a tasteful black dress, comes out from the kitchen bearing two plates of salad and two glasses of champagne for starters.
“I feel hideously underdressed,” Louis chokes out as Christina gives him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder. Harry just laughs and lifts his glass for a toast.
“To missed opportunities and rain dates,” he says, and Louis raises his glass to that gladly. They spend the rest of the time drinking and eating an amazing fish dish Christina learned from a cooking show and then some leftover cupcakes from that day’s rounds at the shop. Harry and Louis sit and talk about everything under the sun, from favorite movies to the best singles the girls ever put out, and stuff they want to do before they die.
“Oh that’s easy,” Harry says, taking a bite of the red velvet cupcake on his plate. “Go see the girls in concert. Always wanted to, I even had tickets to their last tour but it fell through. How about you?”
Louis pauses and thinks for a minute. “Well, I don’t know,” he says. “I have a lot of things. I want to ride down the Great Wall of China and kiss under the Eiffel Tower and go see the sights at Rome and stay up all night and dance in a rainstorm and see the sunrise every day of the year.”
“Geez, what is this, a Nicholas Sparks novel?” Harry asks, chuckling before taking a sip of his champagne.
I never thought I’d be lost in your eyes, living out this fantasy
“Seriously,” Louis says, chasing a rebellious cake ball around his plate with a fork. “I just want to be happy and live and love and everything that poets and dreamers say you should do.” Harry looks at him for a minute, just smiling. Louis doesn’t know what to do, so he just kind of giggles and goes back to fishing for a cake ball.
“I want to do that for you,” Harry says suddenly. Louis looks up at him, eyes wide. “I want to make you happy. I want to sit behind you on the Great Wall, see the sights of Rome with you, stay up all night talking and dance in every rainstorm. Plus kiss you under the Eiffel Tower,” he finishes with a laugh.
Louis feels his heart melt into a million pieces. “Would here be okay?” he asks softly.
Harry leans into him, his breath catching in his throat. “Here will most certainly be okay,” he murmers and then they’re kissing and it’s everything Louis thought it would be and more, sparklers on a summer’s night and fireflies and barefeet in grass and snowmen in winter and Christmas parties and leaf piles and the first bird you see in the Spring. It’s hope, and possibility, and everything that is and will be and can be.
You are so beautiful, I need your love, I’ll take it all
“I really like you, Harry Styles,” Louis says, breaking away from the kiss.
Cause I don’t need nobody but you
“I really like you too, Louis Tomlinson,” Harry answers with a grin and then they’re kissing again and everything is perfect.
* * * * *
“You what?” Harry screams. Louis nods, grinning, and holds up a pair of tickets.
“Harry Styles, you are going to see Girls Aloud live in concert!” he crows, and Harry screams even louder than he thought humanly possible and attracts more than a few stares from other concertgoers.
“Wait, so you brought me all the way to the arena and then tell me this now?” Harry asks, and Louis just laughs.
“I mean, I had to outdo that last one somehow,” he says with a shrug. Harry just grins even wider and goes to plant a kiss on Louis, but he holds him back. “Ah, I’m not done yet,” Louis says and Harry’s eyes go wide.
“Lou, what else could you possibly have?” he asks. “You got me tickets, like that’s my entire bucket list right there?”
From behind his back, Louis produces two lanyards. “How about backstage passes to meet the fab five?”
If Louis thought Harry screamed loud before, well.
And then they’re there, fourth row, screaming like little girls as Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Kimberley, and Nicola parade before them, busting out moves like it’s nobody’s business.
Why don’t you fool me, feed me, say you need me, without wicked games?
Louis is dancing up a storm and he swears Nicola waves to him and he quite possibly cries several times during the concert and Harry is doing the monkey at one point which makes Louis laugh like an idiot and Sarah complements him on his dance moves from the stage and Harry nearly passes out.
You can’t mistake my biology, it’s the way that we walk, the way that we talk
Of course, as much as Louis loves the concert he’s almost more excited for it to be over because that means they get to go backstage and meet the girls and before they know it, they’re there, and they, the girls, are there too, and Harry and Louis can barely stand up let alone walk and/or form coherent sentences, so all that they manage to squeak out is a “hi”.
“Hi, boys!” Cheryl says with a grin. “Enjoy the show?”
Louis nods with a smile so wide it hurts his face. “It was absolutely insane! You guys killed it up there, it was amazing.” They all thank him at once, smiles and bright eyes.
“His roommate’s obsessed with you,” Harry blurts out, a little bit out of character for the normally verbose Mr. Styles.
Cheryl laughs pleasantly, and holds out her hand. “Well aren’t you going to give me his number then?” she asks. All that Louis can think is that Niall will positively absolutely die. Just die. And Louis will love every second of it.
“You two are so cute together,” Nadine says, eliciting a chorus of agreement from the girls. Harry and Louis both blush and look down at their feet awkwardly.
“Aw, they’re adorable!” Kimberley echoes. “How’d you meet?”
“Actually because of you,” Louis explains. “We both go to uni together and we bonded over how much we’re absolutely obsessed with you and your music. You literally made us possible.”
“That’s literally the most perfect thing I’ve ever heard,” Sarah says with a laugh. Finally, Nicola walks over to face Louis and he swears he just died and went to heaven.
“What’s your name?” she asks, and Louis squeaks it out. She takes his hand, cooing “Louis, that’s a beautiful name.” Looking him dead in the eye, she smiles at him. “Look, Louis, you’ve found something amazing. Don’t forget that. Fate brings people together for a reason, and you two belong with each other. I know that for a fact.”
Louis feels like his heart is going to explode.
They take a picture together, and hug goodbye, and Cheryl promises to call Niall before the night’s over and then Harry and Louis walk out into the crisp night air.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Louis asks. Harry looks over at him and grins.
“Best second date EVER.” Louis’ phone vibrates; it’s a text from Niall consisting of incoherent gibberish and picture of Cheryl on Facetime. Louis laughs and types back a quick reply.
“I think Nicola’s right, you know,” Harry says, “that we belong together. And fate put us in the same place for a reason.”
Louis nods. “I mean, she has that solo for a reason, right?”
Harry grabs Louis and pulls him close, wrapping his arms around his waist. “You know, Louis Tomlinson, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say there was a small-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower right behind us at this very moment.” Louis looks over his shoulder and confirms this with a laugh. “Is that alright?”
Louis takes Harry’s face in his hands. “That is most certainly alright.”
“God bless Girls Aloud,” Harry murmurs and leans in for the kiss.