Harry Styles, believer in all things extraordinary, cannot believe his eyes. He is about eighty-five percent certain that he’s either hallucinating or dreaming. He’s certainly hoping for the latter, considering it would be much less embarrassing to wake up from this dream than to have to live down the mockery of materialising his well-known celebrity crush at the coffee shop where he works when that very celebrity crush is obviously not standing outside the door on the pavement in front of Harry’s place of work.
He shakes his head, trying to remove the vision of Louis Tomlinson from his mind so he can get back to work. On the off-chance this isn’t a dream, he’d rather not lose his job for ogling a famous model when he should be sweeping.
“Harry, love,” his colleague calls from the back. He wipes his hands on his apron and makes his way back.
“Yeah, babe?” he smiles at Jesy, taking in the strands of hair that have fallen from her messy bun and the flour streaked across her face.
“Would you be a dear and run next door for some blueberries? Nance only accounted for two trays of muffins when we’ll need at least six. I’d go, but... “ she gestures vaguely at herself.
“Sure thing. You’ll be good till I’m back?” he checks.
“‘Course, doll,” Harry can’t help but return Jesy’s smile. “It’s nearly always dead around now and you won’t be long.”
Harry nods in agreement before moving to take his apron off. He grabs the company card they keep in the safe for situations like this one before leaving through the back door and heading to the small fresh market right next to their shop.
He loads up on blueberries, humming to himself as he hunts down the best ones to bake, before checking out and heading back to the shop. He gets halfway there before he looks up and sees Louis fuckin’ Tomlinson still outside the front window.
“Oh, god,” he whispers to himself, “I wasn’t hallucinating.” He’s not sure if this is better, really. He’s so distracted by Louis’ presence in his city, let alone in front of his store, that he loses his footing. He manages to lock eyes with Louis himself before he’s flailing his way down to meet the pavement, scattering the blueberries everywhere.
“Fuck,” he mutters to himself, blinking up at the sky. Maybe if he stays here, he will be absorbed into the ground and never have to face his shame. “Fuck,” he says again, remembering the blueberries. Jesy’s gonna kill him.
“On the bright side, that can’t have hurt as badly as when you fell from Heaven,” a voice above him says. He squints one eye open to find Louis Tomlinson standing there.
“Did I hit my head?” he mumbles. “I don’t remember hitting my head, but that’s the only explanation for why I think Louis Tomlinson is hitting on me with possibly the worst pick-up line in the history of pick-up lines.”
“Oi,” maybe-a-hallucination-Louis laughs, extending his hand down to Harry, who takes it warily. “That’s not very nice. I’m using my best material on you here.”
Harry gets to his feet and studies Louis for a moment. “For your sake, I hope you’re being disingenuous.”
Louis’ brow wrinkles before he’s throwing his head back and laughing. A full-on, crinkled-eye Louis Tomlinson laugh that makes Harry’s heart stutter at the realisation that he managed to get it out of him.
“This may be the weirdest flirting I’ve ever done,” Louis points out, squeezing the hand Harry forgot he was holding.
Harry can feel his heart drop and pulls his hand out of Louis’, crouching down to recover the blueberries he can. He knows it’s dumb to be hurt over Louis’ jokes, considering being a fan of the guy doesn’t make his crush legitimate, but he still doesn’t love being poked fun at, however well-intentioned Louis thinks he’s being.
“Right,” he says, clearing his throat. “Flirting.” He straightens up with his blueberries in hand and smiles at Louis, knowing it probably looks as strained as it feels. “I’ve gotta—” he holds the berries up and gestures toward the door as a means of finishing his thought and rushes past Louis back into the shop.
“What took so long?” Jesy asks without glancing up when Harry gets close to the baker’s station.
“Uh, well...” Harry clears his throat and Jesy finally takes a look at him. It occurs to him belatedly that he’s probably a bit frumpled from his trip down to the pavement. “Louis Tomlinson watched me eat shit just now.”
“That’s nice,” Jesy offers, clearly preoccupied with weaving the crust of a cherry pie. Harry watches her for a short moment, waiting for her to process his words. He can tell when she does: her hands stop abruptly and she turns sharply toward him. “Wait, what?”
Harry can’t help but let out a small giggle at the expression on her face. “I was walking back with the blueberries and I saw him and promptly… y’know… “
“Pulled a Harry?” Jesy laughs.
“Don’t be mean,” he pouts in response. He barely hides his sheepishness when he adds, “But yeah.”
“Oh, love. I’m sorry.”
“That’d be more believable if you weren’t laughing, Jes,” Harry points out.
“I know, I know,” she giggles out. “I’m sorry. It’s just… you’ve been fawning over this man for the better part of a decade and the one time you happen to run into him…” she trails off, wincing a bit.
“I pull a Harry,” he supplies with a sigh. “Yeah. I know.” He turns away to grab a handful of chocolate chips from their bin.
“Why’s he in Doncaster anyway?” Jesy asks after a pause.
Harry glances up with his mouth full of chocolate. “I’m not sure, actually. He hasn’t tweeted about any new lines he’s modelling, so maybe just free time? I know his family is here.”
Jesy gives him a look he can’t quite decipher before saying very confidently, “You’ve got him on twitter notifs, haven’t you?”
“Obviously,” Harry replies through another mouthful of chocolate.
“Obviously,” Jesy chuckles, shaking her head.
Jesy’s depositing freshly baked muffins onto a cooling rack when the bells on the door jingle. She pops her head out and makes her way toward the counter while Harry continues to scroll Instagram. He’s meant to be either taking inventory or doing his econ paper, technically, but Jesy won’t give him a hard time for slacking off.
“Harry, love?” he hears Jesy call from the front. “Come here a second, will you?”
Harry furrows his eyebrows, not sure what she could need him for, but makes his way to the front, tucking his phone in his back pocket as he does so.
“What’s up, Jes?” he asks her before his eyes travel to the man on the other side of the counter and widen. “Oh. Mr Tomlinson. Hello again,” he adds with a tight smile.
“Would you mi—” Jesy starts before a voice cuts in.
“You can call me Louis, mate. No one even calls my dad Mr Tomlinson.”
Harry acknowledges this information with a nod before turning back to Jesy.
“Would you mind taking a cake decoration order for Mr— Louis, dear?” she asks with a smile that tells him “no” isn’t an option.
“I’d love to,” he replies in his best saccharine voice. He grabs the ordering forms from under the counter and moving to a table with—sweet Jesus—Louis Tomlinson.
“All right,” he begins, settling into his chair. “Is it just the one cake?”
Louis nods. “I think so. I’m actually a bit torn. I worry that one cake makes them feel like they aren’t allowed any individuality.”
“Uh,” Harry blinks at him, not really sure what to say. “Come again?”
Louis laughs a bit. “Right. Sorry. It’s my littlest siblings’ birthday in a couple weeks. The cake is for them. I’m probably overthinking it.”
“Well, are they close?” Harry asks.
“Yeah, mate. They’re best friends.”
“Then we can definitely find a way to incorporate both of their styles into one big cake, if you want. Kind of best of both worlds?” he offers.
“That’d be great!” Louis agrees, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
“Okay, do you know what flavours they’d like?” Harry asks.
“Oh, they’re chocolate fiends,” Louis laughs. Harry laughs along with him and continues his way down the questions.
Louis describes the soon-to-be four-year-old twins with such love that Harry almost feels like they’re his little siblings. He talks about how Ernie avoids pants like the plague (“To be fair, “ Harry feels compelled to cut in, “I do, too.”) while Doris is much more prone to walking around shirtless and getting them ready for school is much like herding cats.
Harry laughs at his description of their games of hide-and-go-seek in which the twin hiding tells the seeker where they’ll be. Louis tells him that they both love cars and butterflies, but Doris thinks football is “boring”—which clearly causes Louis great pain—and Ernie destroys any arts and crafts projects he comes into contact with.
“So what do you think they’d like on their cake?” Harry asks. Louis studies him for a moment before smiling softly.
“I think if there was someway to make it look like both sides were almost melting together?” Louis starts, sounding unsure. “Like… if each side was their favourite colours, almost? Dory’s could be orange and Ernie’s could be purple? And maybe things they both like could be closer to the middle and their individual interests further from it?”
“That’s a really cool idea, Louis,” Harry agrees, trying to assure him. “I already have a couple concepts I think would be interesting, but I can sketch them out for you in the next couple days and either e-mail you photos or you can come in to discuss them.”
Louis nods. “Sounds good! I can leave my info here?”
“Yep!” Harry agrees, gesturing to the area on the form for customer information. “You can just leave your e-mail, if that’s what you’re comfortable with. But we need at least one way to reach you.” Louis nods in agreement and takes the pen Harry offers.
Harry doesn’t pay much attention, already sifting through cake ideas in his head. Louis clears his throat when he’s done and Harry turns back to him. He smiles and stands, waiting for Louis to do the same before offering his hand.
“I’m really looking forward to making this cake, Louis,” he tells him as they shake hands.
“I’m really looking forward to eating it,” Louis counters, laughing. Harry giggles, squeezing Louis’ hand a bit before dropping it and waving him out the door.
He grabs the pad and drops it on the counter in the back of the house, making a note to transfer the information into the computer before he leaves this afternoon. He makes his way to a chair, stomping like a child, before dropping into it with a groan and putting his head into his hands.
“Haz?” Jesy says with a clear smile in her voice. Harry grunts in reply, not making any effort to look up. “I think you should see this,” she adds at his lack of response.
He lifts his head and glares warily at her. “What?” he asks suspiciously.
“Just… come look.” She’s pointing to the pad he just discarded, a small smirk playing on her face.
He sighs dramatically, but ultimately his curiosity gets the better of him and he crosses over to her. He follows where she points to the area of the form that Louis just filled out.
“What… the fuck,” he breathes. Jesy laughs at him and he can’t blame her when he’s sure his eyes are about to pop out of his skull.
There, where he had told Louis to put down a way to contact him, was Louis’ e-mail and not one but two phone numbers. The whole box was circled with little hearts and Louis had written beside it, “Fallen into any sugar lately? That would explain your sweet arse.”
“He… did he just… Another cheesy pick-up line?” Harry exclaims, torn between giggling and rolling his eyes.
“What d’you mean, another?” Jesy demands.
“When I fell earlier, he uh. Used a cheesy pick-up line on me,” he explains. “Obviously he was kidding!” he rushes to add. “Why would he… I mean, me? I just don’t know why he’s done it again.”
“Maybe he thinks you’re cute,” Jesy offers in a sing-song voice, bumping his shoulder with her own.
“Yeah, right,” he scoffs.
“But he’s gay, isn’t he?” she says. “So it’s not like it’s impossible.”
“Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean there’s a single universe in which I have a shot with a literal supermodel, Jes. Not that I don’t appreciate the vote of confidence,” he laughs.
“I dunno, babe. If I was a gay dude, I’d be all on that like white on rice,” she gives him a once-over and purses her lips. He can’t help but laugh again, his mood lightened.
“Are you saying you don’t wanna be all over this like white on rice now?” he teases.
“That’s gross, Haz. ‘D be like trying to get with my brother.”
“Ew! Why’d you have to say that?” he complains. He makes a face at her and she responds by flipping him off.
“I’m gonna go make myself useful, if you don’t mind,” Harry says, stepping around her to head to the front of the shop.
“That’s a first,” Jesy calls after him, laughing when he turns around to stick his tongue out. He simply rolls his eyes and carries on.
He’s unsure whether he should call or e-mail, but it only takes Jesy about two seconds to tell him to “buck up and call him, Styles.”
He debates between Louis’ home and mobile phones before finally sucking it up and dialing his mobile.
“It’s Louis,” comes the answer after the second ring.
“Well, that’s a relief,” Harry responds. “It’d be a new low to get a wrong number when I’m calling for work purposes.”
“Ouch, Harry,” Louis says. “Is that all I am to you? A customer?”
Harry’s heart skips a beat before he can remind it that Louis is joking. “Of course not. You’re also Mr Tomlinson, teller of awful pick-up lines.”
“That’s not very nice, y’know. And it worked, didn’t it?”
“What worked?” Harry asks, genuinely confused.
“The pick-up lines. I’ve got your number now, “ Louis explains.
“Uh, well, not exactly. You’ve got my work number. Which you could’ve googled, honestly,” Harry counters.
“Ouch again, Styles. That’s rude. I thought you’d treat me batter than this.” Harry can hear the laughter in Louis’ voice.
“Was… was that a baking pun?” he asks incredulously. He might be in love.
“See? I’m a catch,” Louis responds.
“Nah, mate. You’ll need better yolks to charm me.”
Louis lets out a loud, genuine laugh and Harry can’t help but join in at the sound. It’s so endearing and lovely, Harry has a hard time containing his giddiness at the ability to make Louis laugh.
“You beat me at my own game. You’re too good for me,” Louis says, still giggling lightly.
“Never,” Harry argues without thinking. There’s a quick, almost tense pause before he clears his throat. “So I have a couple of composite sketches for the cake.”
“Oh, that was fast!” Louis commends. “Did you want me to come in and take a look?”
“That’d be fine,” Harry says, feeling vaguely terrified at the notion of being so close to Louis again. “Or I can, y’know, e-mail or text you photos, if you’d rather.”
“I’d never miss a chance to see you, love,” Louis argues and Harry is somehow sure he winks. His skin feels like it’s electrified and he’s perfectly torn between ecstasy and dread at the prospect. “Can I stop by later tonight?”
“Sure, that works,” Harry responds and hopes his voice stays steady, considering he can’t hear it over the rush of blood in his ears.
“Lovely! I’ll see you later, Harry.”
“See you,” is all Harry can manage before Louis hangs up.
“Sorry, sorry,” he answers before settling down across from her at the table where she’s sat. She reaches out and puts a hand on his arm, grounding him.
“It’s gonna be fine, love. He clearly likes you and even if he hated you, you’re a damn good baker. Your cake is gonna be amazing.”
Harry looks at her and exhales a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. “Right. This is a job. I can do this.”
“Attaboy!” Jesy agrees. “You got this!”
Not a moment later, Louis is walking through the door in all his glory. Harry can’t help but give him a once-over, taking in his dark jeans and fitted tee under an elegant peacoat. His hair is soft and his fringe is falling in his eyes just enough that Harry’s fingers itch with the urge to push it back.
“Hey, Louis!” he calls when he’s collected himself. “Come join us.”
Louis smiles at the pair as he makes his way over to the table. “Hello, lovelies,” he greets as he removes his jacket and sits down.
“Hello,” Jesy responds, smiling gently at him. “I’ve actually got things to do in the back,” she says with a look at Harry, “but I’ll be around if you need me.” She squeezes Harry’s arm before she’s up and out of the chair, heading to the back. Harry gets the feeling the “things” she needs to do are Instagram and Twitter, but he appreciates what she’s trying to do.
“All right, show me what you’ve got,” Louis demands excitedly, rubbing his hands together. Harry lets out a small laugh.
“I have a couple ideas, like I said, but I have a clear favourite. So no pressure, but if you choose a different one it will break my heart,” he jokes.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” Louis says. “Which one is your favourite?” he asks, gesturing to the sketches Harry has placed on the table.
“I can’t just tell you, can I?” he argues. “That defeats the whole purpose.”
“What whole purpose?” Louis challenges.
“If you pass the test, maybe I’ll take you out sometime,” Harry replies, sounding much smoother than he anticipated, especially given that his heart is beating its way up his throat.
Louis’ head whips up from the sketches and his eyes meet Harry’s, mouth slightly agape. He seems to catch himself and visibly pulls himself together. “You mean that?” he asks with a brow quirked.
“Scout’s honour,” Harry promises, crossing his heart with one finger.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had so much riding on a cake before,” Louis says with a smile.
“Don’t fuck it up,” Harry jokes, wincing internally at his awkwardness. Louis gives him a nervous look, worrying his bottom lip between his thumb and forefinger as he studies the drawings.
“I think I like this one,” Louis finally decides. He points to the one Harry was hoping he would: it’s big and bright, with purple and orange butterflies exploding from the middle of the cake out into the two sides.
Doris’ orange side has a yellow Jeep on it, as well as some paints in one corner and puppies in the other. Ernie’s side is a beautiful purple that Harry hopes he’ll be able to make with food colouring, complete with a couple of footballs, a tricycle, and a few monkeys. Overall, it looks like a mesh of random things—because it is—but Harry is proud of the way the butterflies tie it together, with some orange on the purple side and some purple on the orange side to show that they’re still part of each other. He’s excited to work with the three-dimensional aspects of the cake. He doesn’t think he’s been this excited for a cake project in a long time, really.
And not just because, “You chose well.” He grins at Louis as his face dawns with the understanding.
“You weren’t fucking around?” Louis asks, his eyes narrowed in Harry’s direction.
“If you’re willing to be taken out, I wasn’t fucking around,” Harry agrees hesitantly.
“I’d love to be taken out by you,” Louis agrees, small smirk on his face.
Harry throws his head back and laughs. “All right, all right. One step at a time. I’m not some floozy.”
“Fair enough,” Louis agrees with a laugh. “But can I at least get your number this time?”
“I suppose that can be arranged,” Harry agrees with a dramatic sigh. He locks eyes with Louis and can’t help but let his smile stretch across his face.
“Pick me up tomorrow at seven, Styles,” Louis says with a wink, getting out of his chair and slipping his coat on. “Don’t be late.”
Even though Jesy will gloat with I-told-you-sos until the end of time, Harry can’t care when his face hurts from smiling so hard.
He opens his phone to see if Louis’ texts are still there, blinking a few times at the sight of them and feeling a smile spread over his face. He doesn’t know what the universe thinks he did to deserve this, but he’s not going to fuck it up.
He anxiously mills about for most of his shift at the bakery, half-excited and half-terrified. He finally leaves a couple hours early when he realises that he’s useless and they’re slow enough that Jesy and their part-timer, Siobhan, can handle it.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Jesy calls after him as he leaves. He laughs and gives her a look in response.
“That gives me far too many options, love,” he teases, waving and seeing himself out.
He spends the rest of the day faffing about, trying not to let himself become too nervous but unable to stop his mind from imagining worst case scenarios.
It’s almost a relief when it comes time to leave to pick Louis up. He grabs his keys and a coat and makes his way to Louis.
He knocks on the door, all nervous energy, and nearly forgets to breathe when Louis opens it. He’s wearing black jeans with his usual black Vans, a cosy-looking cream sweater on his torso, somehow managing to be both fitted and drool-worthy and long enough to give Louis sweater paws.
“Hey!” Louis greets with a bright smile as Harry attempts to reassemble his face into something less… gawking.
“Wow, you look…” he trails off, meeting Louis’ eyes sheepishly. He clears his throat to try again. “You look gorgeous, Lou.”
Louis beams. “You mean it?”
“How could I not?” Harry asks genuinely, reaching across the threshold to grab the edge of Louis’ sleeve. “This is lovely,” he adds as he feels the fabric.
“Thank you,” Louis replies quietly, a small blush on his cheeks. Harry can hardly believe this man would blush at a compliment he must receive every day of his life, but pink cheeks only make Louis prettier so he has no qualms.
“So I wasn’t sure what you’d want to do tonight,” Harry starts after a long moment of quiet shared between the two of them. “I know some nice restaurants we could go to and there’s an old-school film night at the cinema, if you want. Or we can keep it more casual and do coffee or just drinks or… “ he trails off as he realises he’s babbling.
“Would it be too forward of me to invite you in?” Louis offers. “We can have a drink here, order take-away. I know it’s casual but my job means lots of wining and dining and I’d much rather be able to spend time with you here.”
Harry bites his lip, his own blush on his face. “That sounds lovely. We won’t be in the way of your family or anything, will we?” he adds.
“How’d you know my family is here?” Louis laughs. “Was it the Lego decorating the hall? The two tiny bicycles out front?”
“Nah, it was the array of baby pictures behind you,” Harry responds with a laugh. "I assumed the Lego and tiny bikes belonged to you.”
“Oi!” Louis laughs, pushing his shoulder indignantly before grabbing Harry’s elbow to lead him inside. Harry is giggling so hard he has tears in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he gets out. “Just… your face. I can’t handle it.”
Louis sighs dramatically. “Are we done here?”
“I hope not,” Harry says somberly.
Louis smiles and hangs Harry’s coat on the coat stand, taking Harry’s hand and leading him to a room on one end of the house, which seems to be some sort of lounge. It’s clearly meant to be more private and there’s a small bar on one side of the room with an astonishing number of wines, a fire in the seating area is already roaring and creating a comfortable and toasty atmosphere.
“This is so nice, Louis,” Harry says, twirling slowly to take it all in. One corner of the high-ceilinged room is a small library, with full bookshelves floor to ceiling. In front of the fireplace is a plush-looking suede couch and two matching armchairs, a beautiful glass table in the centre.
Louis comes up from behind Harry and hands him a glass of red wine. Sparks shoot up Harry’s spine when Louis’ hand comes to rest on the small of his back, but he manages to take the wine without disaster and smiles gratefully at Louis.
They spend the first glass of wine talking quietly; Harry tells Louis about his lifelong dream of being a baker and his family, Louis talks about his many siblings and his mum, tells Harry that if he could have any other job in the world he’d be a footballer.
They share stories of growing up in between soft touches and softer glances, their hands constantly landing on each other like little butterflies. It’s simple, yet so overwhelming. Harry places his nearly-empty wine glass on the table, somehow finding the nerve to lace his fingers with Louis’. Louis smiles brightly, moving to discard his glass as well before interlocking their ankles. It’s quiet for a moment.
“Can I—” Louis starts right as Harry begins speaking.
“Are you—” he laughs. “You go.”
“Can I kiss you?” Louis asks, the only sign of his nerves in the way he tightens his grip on Harry’s hand.
“I—” Harry almost laughs that he’s the one being asked. “Please,” he whispers.
Louis’ grip tightens again before he's leaning further into their shared space and pressing his lips against Harry’s. Harry exhales into it, tilting his head to kiss Louis again. Louis’ lips are soft, like his hands, and sure against Harry’s own. His stubble brushes Harry’s face and makes him shudder.
Suddenly, it's like a dam breaks: Louis is sliding his hand into Harry’s hair and shifting so their thighs are flush, Harry moves his hand to settle on Louis’ jaw, relishing in the rough stubble under his fingers. Their tongues find each other, skipping past hesitant and straight to greedy. Harry pants into Louis’ mouth as they separate, their hands staying on each other.
“Fuck,” he laughs quietly. Louis squeezes his hand and beams in response.
“So are you hungry?” he finally asks and Louis’ bright laugh is the only response he gets before Louis is recapturing his lips.