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don't judge a book by its cover

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“Do you think they’re in a gang?”

 

The question comes as a surprise in the vague quietness of the library, pulling Magnus out of his little reverie. He puts down the book he was about to scan, turning on his heel to find Ragnor staring out of the open window, the edge of his tea cup resting against his chin and eyes focused on something, or rather someone, outside. With a sigh, Magnus leaves his place behind the counter to join him at the windowsill and before he even leans his elbows against it, he knows exactly who Ragnor is talking about.

 

The small campus courtyard is filled with sleepy students and trees covered in a multum of red and orange shades, but beyond the colorful crowd, just on the edge of the parking lot neighboring the cobbled square, there’s a spot of darkness. Two guys and a girl are talking, stood around their motorcycles - the machines are sleek, elegant and expensive-looking, while the trio themselves are clad in all-black outfits; what really goes with the gang aesthetic are the matching leather jackets with a symbol on the back that Magnus doesn’t recognize, since it doesn’t seem like anything present-day or even from this millennium.

 

Magnus watches the girl smile brightly at something said between them as the cold breeze plays with her long hair. He shrugs. “Maybe they just have an effortless style, unlike you.”

 

At that, Ragnor gives an overdramatic gasp, his hand positioned over his chest. “You’re hurting my heart, dear friend.”

 

“If only you had one.” Magnus quips back, wrinkling his nose at Ragnor, who makes an ugly face in return, eyes rolling at their antics. They share a quiet laugh and sip their respective teas, cardboard cups embellished with the university cafe’s logo.

 

A beat passes and Magnus pulls the sleeves of his burgundy sweater over his hands, eyes trained on the mysterious strangers. The academic year only started a week ago and it’s been six days since Magnus first noticed them, just after he picked up this side job at the library.

 

The trio are currently the hottest gossip, because no one really knows anything yet; where they’re from, what they’re studying or what’s with the jackets. Magnus doesn’t have any classes with them and he’s heard some people doubt whether they’re students at all.

 

“Anyway, which one of them is it you’re obsessed with, again?” Ragnor asks, mirroring Magnus’ position, bumping their shoulders together too playfully to make the question sound innocent.

 

“Tall, dark, and handsome. And I am not obsessed, just curious.” Magnus’ answer is tinted with exasperation - Ragnor seems to find immense pleasure in making fun of Magnus’ interests, but in his own loving way.

 

Speaking of interests; the blond-haired guy and the girl are laughing at something, with the Pretty Boy giving them a deeply unimpressed stare from where he’s seated atop his motorbike.

 

He looks ready for a photoshoot with his mussed up hair and long legs, bathed in the autumn sun. His fingers are playing absentmindedly with a strap on one of the jacket sleeves, as he listens to the ongoing conversation, mostly a quiet observer.

 

Magnus swears he’s not a stalker, but he always seems to find himself in the right place and time, having seen the boy pass through the courtyard more than a couple of times - always clad in heavy combat boots, torn jeans and a splash of color in the form of a flannel shirt beneath the jacket, an air of cool detachedness around him that makes people step out of his way.

 

The guy shifts in his spot, stretches his arms up towards the cloudy sky, body tensing and twisting like a cat that just woke up from a nap - Magnus has a beautiful view of the guy’s leather jacket stretching over his broad back, fabric fighting against his every movement, which makes Magnus think less than innocent thoughts, a small smirk curling along his lips.

 

“I’d ride that.”

 

Ragnor groans by his side. “Please tell me you’re talking about the motorcycle.”

The rest of Magnus’ shift goes by smoothly - not many people show up during the first few weeks, since there aren’t any exams to cram furiously for, nor homework that requires more than a cursory google search; Ragnor keeps him company a little while longer, but after that Magnus is left to his thoughts.

 

He doesn’t have any classes today, so he lets his mind drift through the list of things he’ll have to take care of when he gets home, from laundry to finishing that TV show Cat recommended him a week ago. Sleeves rolled up to his elbows, he carries a box of newly bought books over to the right bookcase, methodically setting them in their right places.

 

The library in itself is silent, only one or two people slowly turning pages over in the reading area, but the muted sounds of the campus living just outside the walls serve as pleasant white noise, the hum of car engines mixing with anonymous voices holding conversations in private little worlds.

 

The main door opens and shuts with an echoing click, followed by somewhat loud footsteps, meandering and stuttering as if the owner was unsure where to go. Magnus thinks he should check up on the newcomer, maybe direct them to the right section, so he quickly sets the last books in place and straightens up, one of his joints making an awfully satisfying sound in the process.

 

Yet before he can even round the corner, he hears a cacophony of falling books, followed by a heavy sigh. Magnus peeks his head around the row of bookshelves to find Pretty Boy down on one knee, picking up volume after volume, his eyebrows pulled together.

 

Magnus’ eyes flicker to the precariously stacked shelves at the very top of the bookcase - not many people can reach them comfortably, so the lazy librarian before Magnus has been keeping unsegregated books up there, tempting fate until the whole thing comes down onto someone’s head.

 

Maybe it’s just a coincidence or a sign from the universe. Either way, it’s Magnus’ chance to introduce himself, find out the name of the person he’s been subtly fawning over. He steps closer and crouches down, reaching for the last book left on the tiled floor.

 

Pretty Boy snaps his head up and Magnus is met with the most gorgeous pair of hazel eyes, cheekbones to die for and lips that Magnus would like to get closely acquainted with. From afar he was already looking like a model, but up close, Magnus is pretty sure he’s just met an angel.

 

Shaking off the initial surprise, Magnus feels himself smile before he even thinks about it.

 

“Hope you don’t have a concussion from all that knowledge.”

 

To Magnus’ pleasure, it takes a moment for the boy to answer, mouth parted and eyes roaming over Magnus’ face with something akin to a mix between attraction and fascination. The feeling’s mutual, he thinks.

 

He smiles as well, in that slow way that makes his whole face light up, nothing left of the brooding indifference Magnus has seen before. His hand flies up to rub at a spot buried underneath curls of unruly hair that Magnus wants to run his fingers through.

 

They both stand up simultaneously, holding each other’s eyes, even when Magnus puts away the book he was holding.

 

“I think I’ll be alright. After all,” He answers, his voice just as lovely as his grin. There is no way he’s in a gang. “I’ve only got myshelf to blame.”

 

Magnus feels the pun hurt deep in his chest, but laughter bubbles up and he can’t help it: he chuckles, watching that lopsided smile get even brighter, and it’s the most endearing thing Magnus has ever seen. They both end up snickering, shoulders shaking and eyes gleaming with mirth; Magnus presses his lips together in an attempt to calm himself down, but it takes a couple of deep breaths to escape the silly fit they’ve found themselves in.

 

“A man after my own heart,” Magnus says, offering a hand. “I’m Magnus, the librarian. I might be able to help you find what you need.”

 

Pretty Boy shakes his hand confidently - his palm is big and cold from the outside air, but it fits nicely in Magnus’ grasp; they both linger on the touch just a few seconds too long.

 

“I’m Alec.” He says, eyes flickering over to the bookshelf before he starts fidgeting with the edge of his jacket. “I was, uh, looking for the LGBT section?”

 

“We don’t have that specifically, but I can give you some personal recommendations,” Magnus answers, first glancing at the floor and then looking up at Alec with a coy smirk. He really wants to take this boy on a date, get to know him better, because the first impression has been almost too good to be real. “My shift ends in twenty minutes, so how about lunch?”

 

Alec hesitates for a split second before nodding, fighting down a smile.

 

“I’d love that.”