Louis narrowed his eyes, momentarily distracted by the blue robed figure walking past the shop window. If he wasn’t mistaken, this was the second time the guy had walked by and both times Louis had followed him with his eyes, forgetting that he had a customer in front of him.
“He’s here again,” Louis hissed at Niall, his co-worker who was scraping chips into the tray and on top of the fish. Niall grunted at him, eyebrows furrowed as he handed the dish to the proper customer before he started making another one. Louis frowned at him, frustrated by his new friend’s lack of reaction for the second time. The guy passing by was distracting but according to Niall, he wasn’t an unusual sight for him. But he could indulge Louis, at least. “He’s just walked past the shop for the second time, probably on his second lap of the neighbourhood. What do you think he wants? What does it mean?”
“He’s looking for his lost farm?” Niall supplied before sniggering at his own joke, handing over the order. “Don’t make that face and just stop obsessing over him. He’s just a guy.”
“In old man clothes!” Louis exclaimed, trying to keep his voice low. He kept his eyes outside their window, spotting the guy walk past again, robe swishing behind him as he disappeared. It was the third time this hour itself and never before in the week had he spotted him walk by quite this often. It was just that the guy was a strange sight, dressed up like a certified weirdo, as Niall had said. He wasn’t far off, really. “What if he’s actually an old man and turned into a twenty something and doesn’t know how to dress ‘young’? I have questions, Niall, questions.”
“Stupid and dramatic ones at that,” Niall commented, shaking his head.
Louis had taken up a job as a cashier at The Fish Shop, a small traditionally English eatery. It was a small place with three of its four walls that allowed anyone the view of the street outside. There were no chairs for some reason, and people just stood inside as they ate their meals at counter in front of one bank of windows. Each of the dishes was named after a London landmark and served in a paper tray. Despite the small size of the place and the unoriginal name, The Fish Shop was actually popular in West London. In the evenings, it was usually crowded and Louis wanted to scream at that point, since it got too stuffy. He failed to understand what drew the people in but never questioned it. The place was owned by Niall’s family and Louis was the only non-family member working there. He thought he got the job by pure luck. He worked the cash counter in the mornings, when business was slow and luckily, didn’t have to step in the back and actually make anything else since he’d probably scald himself with the oil. He was a hazard like that.
Louis had started there just that week but he had seen the blue robed man on three consecutive days, walking down the other side of the street. And he never wore anything other than that one blue bathrobe, wrapped loosely around his waist. Of course he wore a dark green, cheap looking suit underneath but he also carried a grown hen in his arms. He walked far enough that Louis could never see his face but he knew that it was the same person due to his clothes. And to top off that look, he wore pale pink socks and mustard yellow ballet flats, of all things. Nothing on his body matched and neither did it make any sense. Which was why Louis found himself fixated on him, the mystery that surrounded him. And Niall kept trying to discourage him, telling him that ignoring the guy is the best way to go. So far, Niall was the only one who actually ignored the guy. The rest just gaped at him as he passed. Louis looked away from the door, reminding himself that he was supposed to be working.
“Um, excuse me?” the little girl in front of him said, clutching the hand of her mother. Louis immediately smiled at him, pushing the thoughts of the strange man aside as he took her order. It was the fifth child in the shop today, Louis thought. It was strange. It was also one of their crowded days, with at least ten people standing and eating their food inside. The girl was the last customer for now so he gave himself a break, taking out his phone to text Liam. Liam at least indulged his meaningless obsession over knowing why the strange guy dressed the way he did.
Louis: Blue Bathrobe guy is around! I found him walking past the shop trice today. I wonder what he wants.
Liam: ooh what does Chicken Little want? I really want to know!!
Louis rolled his eyes, looking up once to see if anyone new had entered. No one had.
First of all, I told you he can’t be Chicken Little because he’s tall. Secondly, don’t appreciate your sarcasm, Leemo.
So Giant Chicken?
No. That doesn’t even make sense ??
That's not the point. What is his purpose?
To look like he ran away from a farm?
Not you too, with the farm jokes!
Louis heard someone clearing their throat and delayed reading Liam’s response. He knew it would be another farm joke, like the previous times and he’d be tempted to reply. So better not. He pocketed his phone, pasting a smile on his lips before he looked up.
He was not prepared for the sight, widening his eyes as he stared at his latest customer for a few seconds. He moved his eyes up the blue robe and met green eyes.
It was him!
Blue Bathrobe guy had actually entered the shop this time, eyes wide and earnest. He had short, curly hair that sat atop his head in an unsettled mess with a jawline that anyone would kill to have. He had flawless porcelain skin that was just a little rosy on his cheeks and full, bow shaped pink lips. The shade was unreal really. Actually, the whole guy was unreal up close, beautiful and distracting for a whole other reason. His ringed hand was stroking the hen’s feathers softly and the hen’s cluck made Louis snap out of his thoughts and pick up his jaw. He pinched the inside of his thigh, taking a step back as he collected himself. It shouldn’t matter to him that the weirdo guy was also beautiful, it didn’t change the fact that he was weird. And he was also a customer so Louis had to attend to him without gawking at the chicken in his hands. That would be impolite. So Louis fell into his routine, smiling just enough to make it look polite.
“Welcome to The Fish shop, what can I get you, sir?” Louis asked, mentally patting himself on the back for keeping his voice level and not staring at the hen. He tried his best to ignore the fact there was a live chicken in the shop that was currently staring at him as if plotting to kill him. Maybe she wouldn’t but then, Louis never understood chicks so (okay that was a bad joke).
“Um hello,” the boy (yes he was young enough) drawled, in a deep voice as he gave Louis a small smile. His eyes scanned the menu on the counter, completely unbothered by the fact that everyone in the shop was giving him strange looks, probably judging him too. Louis blinked at him patiently, wondering what was up with this boy. He looked like an eighty year old man trapped in a twenty year old’s body and Louis might not know him but he would bet. He felt like he was trapped in an alternate universe, where nothing made sense. “I think I’m going to have a Big Ben today?”
“Are you asking me?” Louis teased, in spite of himself but didn’t smile. He watched the boy fluster and duck his head.
“No I want,” he hurriedly replied, nodding to himself grimly.
“Is that all, sir?”
The boy frowned, looking seriously at the hen in his arms. “Geraldine, what are in the mood for? Do you want anything else, dear?”
Louis gaped at him, eyes bugging out as he looked at the hen and up again to the boy’s eyes. He could see several children who had heard him give the boy a similar wide-eyed look while their parents muttered among themselves. Niall was the only one who laughed, making Louis realise that he was supposed to be more professional. So he picked up his jaw and moulded his face into something more impassive as he fiddled with his apron.
The boy looked at him for a few seconds, eyes twinkling before he burst into laughter and resembled a wounded hyena. He bent over slightly, cradling the hen closer to his chest as his face turned red due to all the laughing. “I was just pulling your leg. Relax, I’m not completely insane. But your face! Oh god no. Geraldine doesn’t answer back I know that. Besides, I raised her vegan so she can’t eat anything anyway. But only a Big Ben for me, please. Takeaway.”
“Coming right up,” Louis said feebly, trying to laugh along and failed, inching closer towards his co-worker. He couldn’t look away from the hen, which seemed to be assessing him while she clucked and burrowed herself into the boy’s bathrobe. Louis nudged Niall, as he looked up at the grinning weirdo. God the boy had dimples now. Oh no. “Niall, what's going on here?”
“You’re embarrassing yourself,” Niall whispered back, equally as low and sniggered. Loudly, he said, “And a Big Ben for...?”
“Harry,” the boy finished, grinning at Louis before taking his order from Niall. Louis looked at him up and down, thinking that Harold would be a more appropriate name. He could easily go as Grandpa Harold, Louis could see.
“Salt and vinegar?” Niall asked.
“Um I’ll just,” he started as he placed the hen on the counter gently. Louis took a step away from her, fearing that the hen would sense his fear and attack him. He had heard about violent chickens before. Harry picked up the ketchup bottle, squeezing more than a generous amount on his chips until they were soaked in it. Louis watched the food with displeasure, lips twisting down as he saw the ketchup drenched chips and wondering how anyone could subject their taste buds to that. Harry seemed satisfied with the amount, finally placing the bottle back on the counter with a wide grin. He then rummaged in his pockets with his free hands, reminding Louis that he had forgotten to ask him for the money. He felt momentary chagrin at forgetting his job before he cast one glance at Geraldine and went back to being scared and confused of Harry and her presence. Her presence was daunting, her beady eyes focused on only him. Why was there a live chicken on his counter? Why was this his life? No one answered his questions but Harry had fetched the exact amount of change, placing it on the counter with a grin. “Here. And thank you. I’ll be flying the coop, now.”
Harry nodded at him with twinkling eyes as he scooped Geraldine into his arms. With the hen tucked in one arm and food held in another, he walked out the door. Louis was left staring after him, until Niall slid up beside him.
“Strange guy, huh?” Niall mused, giving Louis a wink before sliding away again. Safe to say, Louis was distracted and a little lost for the rest of the day.
Harry came in the next week, roaming outside the shop twice before he actually entered. Louis had seen him both times, smiling involuntarily at his hands. It wasn’t as if he was looking forward to him but he’d be flat out lying if he said he didn’t want him back.
‘Seems like that chicken guy likes you’, Liam had sent in a reply to Louis’ message when he predicted he’d be back now that he had walked by twice. ‘And you like him too. So you should stop being the chicken and ask him out.’
Louis shook his head, not bothering to answer him. But he did wonder if Liam was right. Surely not. Right?
“Slow day, huh,” Niall commented, leaning his hip against the counter as he stared at Louis expectantly. He had removed his hairnet and was running his fingers through his hair. In the little time of one week that Louis had known the guy, he never seemed to want to talk to him willingly. Except for now, which puzzled Louis. “It happens. And we’ve seen your blue robed farmhand pass by twice. Any thoughts?”
“I thought you didn’t care,” Louis said flippantly as he raised his eyebrows, mirroring Niall’s position. Niall laughed, the strange expression™ over taking him. It was the expression that Louis noticed overtook his face whenever he talked about Harry and he never understood the reason for said expression. “I thought you said, and I quote that ‘he’s just some neighbourhood loony why would I care’. What changed?”
Louis narrowed his eyes, assessing his co-worker’s face and expression for a few seconds before shrugging. “Okay I have a lot of thoughts. But mostly, questions. Firstly, what's with the chicken? And he’s named it too? Where is he from? Did he just walk off a farm dressed in a bathrobe of all things and arrive in the middle of London? Or does he run a farm in the middle of London that no one knows about? Or is he weird for the sake of it? He did speak like a mostly sane person the other day but I’m so confused.”
Niall laughed, throwing his head back. “Oh man you do have lots of thoughts. And questions.”
“Obviously,” Louis scoffed, shaking his head. “I also think he’s going to walk right in.”
And the most surprising (unsurprising) thing happened. The door opened and in walked the guy they were talking about, wearing the blue robe with his head ducked. Louis banged his leg in a hurry to turn, muffling his scream in his fist and winced. Niall just laughed harder, clutching his stomach as he almost bent over completely. Louis shot him a glare as he rubbed his knee, knowing he didn’t have the time to kick his co-worker in the shin as he wanted to. Harry was already on the other side of the counter now, robe done up this time while carrying Geraldine in his arms. He gave Louis a bright, cheery smile and attracted the attention of the five other patrons who were eating. Louis couldn’t tell if they were awed by his beauty or stupefied by his attire. He guessed both at the same time.
“This is hilarious, I can’t-” Niall said between spurts of laughter, pulling himself up as he disappeared through the door in the back. Louis stared at the closed door in betrayal, cursing the guy. How was he supposed to get Harry to leave quickly with his hen now? It was also unprofessional of Niall.
“Hey!” Harry drawled, punctuating his word with a tiny wave. In spite of himself, Louis was endeared, smiling back. But the next moment he was scared since Harry had placed Geraldine on the counter and she had eyes only for him. “Geraldine seemed to be cooped up today so I thought I’d take her for a walk. She was in the mood for chips.”
“Again, huh?” Louis asked as he laughed nervously, eyeing the hen with distrust. “Is that supposed to mean you?”
“No, of course not, but I was feeling peckish” Harry said as he laughed, cheeks colouring even if he tried to hide it. Louis laughed along, feeling the awkwardness between them growing by about forty percent. He glanced at the hen and then at the back door, willing Niall to appear now. The door remained unopened and Louis sighed, smiling at the customer ahead of him. He couldn’t be trusted to hold a conversation with a guy who made chicken puns every other second. And also a guy who looked like that and wore clothes like that. It made him lose all resemblance of communications skills, due to both Harry and Geraldine’s presence. Louis was itching to run behind the door as well, just like Niall had. Just he would get fired for that. Probably. “So maybe I was feeling like eating chips again, sue me. What do you recommend I have?”
“Since I’ve had nothing on this menu up to now, everything sounds good,” Louis intoned without thinking it through and was surprised by Harry’s bark of laughter. Even Geraldine seemed to be startled, moving a little away from Harry as she clucked in distrust. Louis was worried she’d fall off, even if she was a bird and was capable of flying. He was also worried for Harry, who was still laughing as if Louis had said the funniest thing. “So what can I get you?”
“Okay Geraldine, you choose,” he said to the bird, eyes wide and earnest. He hummed when she made a sound which sounded no different from any of the others she had made. Harry looked up at Louis, smirking. “So she’s telling me to wing it. So I think I’ll go with the Big Ben again. Liked it the last time.”
“Alright, alright,” Louis muttered to himself, as he accepted Harry’s money. He looked at the chips and fish which looked easy enough to scoop into the tray. But he didn’t want to and looked at the door one final time, lips parting to call out. But Niall appeared, without being summoned and immediately began preparing the thing. Louis sighed, smiling at Harry and wondering if he had special powers to conjure someone today. He looked at the shop door, wishing David Beckham would walk in. Louis waited for a few beats before giving up, knowing he would never conjure the good people to him. He found Harry looking at him, head tilted to the side and a strange smile playing on his lips. There was something about him, Louis thought, something that didn’t make him want to run when it should. Anyone who dressed like that would be a turn off for Louis but with Harry it was... different.
“Anything else?” Louis asked when the silence between the three of them stretched too long, fiddling with his uniform.
“No, I’m alright.” He widened his smile, pushing away one curly strand of hair. “I’ll be going then.”
Louis nodded, flustered by Harry’s intense gaze and looked away. He watched Geraldine instead as Harry pulled her into his arms and held the food in the other and waved at Louis specifically before he disappeared. Once again, he seemed unaware and unbothered by the looks people were giving him, looking merry in his strange, mismatched clothes. Oh Louis wished he would be that carefree and confident.
“He’s an odd one, yeah?” Niall prompted, eyes taking that strange look again. Louis nodded mutely, thankful that he was spared having to answer due to the arrival of the next customer. He handled it with a lot more skill, feeling proud of himself. It was only Harry that threw him off. It might be the fault of his... fortunately or unfortunately, the bird he held was a female. The sentence would end up being creepy if it was the male species.
“I take it you’ll take the Big Ben again?” Louis asked with a smile as soon as Harry walked in with his hen. He hadn’t even walked past two times, just walked in on the first try. Louis was proud of him and was just about to say such when he happened to glance down and found bare knees.
Harry was wearing his blue robe as usual just without the dark suit inside. His robe ended a little over his knee, a fact that Louis hadn’t noticed until right then, when he could see his bare knees peeking along with his calves. Just when Louis had managed to be able to hold a conversation with Harry without gawking at him, he had to not wear his suit. He had to get weirder, throwing Louis off his game again. He was left gaping at Harry again, after a week of not doing the same. This was embarrassing.
“How did you guess?” Harry asked with fake gusto as he placed Geraldine on the counter. She had become a familiar sight to Louis now and he was deterred when she moved towards him. It also might be since he wasn’t actually looking at her. He pinched the inside of his thigh to calm himself, nodding as he accepted Harry’s money. Niall had already begun laughing as he prepared Harry’s order.
“So, Louis, how are you this fine day?”
“Fine,” Louis croaked, grimacing at the squeaky quality to his voice. He felt like Ross Geller for a second there as he cleared his throat. “I’m fine. Geraldine seems to be in a good mood today.
“She loves when she gets a chance to spread her wings.” Harry laughed at his joke as he petted his hen. “She is also excited to see you.”
“I wonder what your cock thinks,” Louis replied without a filter, turning red once he realised he had said it all wrong. Harry seemed flustered too even if he was grinning while Niall had almost collapsed to the floor due to laughing.
“Oh shut up, Niall.”
“You shut up,” he retorted like a five year old as he collected himself and stood up again. He handed Harry his order with red cheeks, a result of his incessant laughter. “And Harry, wears some pants, mate. Don’t wanna see your skinny chicken legs.”
“Making puns is my thing,” Harry protested before he winked. “But that was a good one.”
“It wasn’t intended.”
Harry hummed, picking up Geraldine.
“Wearing no pants is quite freeing though. No regrets there. Goodbye Louis!”
“Oh god your face is priceless,” Niall exclaimed once Harry had left, making Louis shush him in vain. A few others had taken to stare at them and Louis dropped his head in his hands.
“I hate my life. I hate the day I decided to work here. I’m going insane.”
Louis wasn’t even surprised when Harry popped in three days later as he cradled Geraldine in his arms. He liked to think the hen had warmed up to him since she no longer stared menacingly at him. He even looked forward to seeing her. Or it might just be the owner’s effect on him. It was strange. Harry wasn’t as weird as he thought he would be two weeks ago.
“I was thinking I will put salt, vinegar, mustard and lots of ketchup on my chips today,” Harry was saying five minutes later, gesturing with his hands as he squeezed in the ingredients in his imaginary tray. Louis’ eyebrows rose higher with each word, a smile tugged at the corner of his lips as he exchanged a look with Geraldine. She clucked back at him in agreement. “And put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I bet that would taste amazing.”
Okay Harry was that weird, Louis wasn’t wrong. Harry was also a complete idiot, with no taste buds and rubbish food choices. But he was also cute so it was forgiven. Louis was also thankful he was wearing his suit underneath today since he wasn’t sure he could handle it again. Probably have a heart attack or something. He had Niall to thank for planting that image in his head. It wasn’t as if it would be worst thing if Harry had been naked under there but also, it would be creepy as fuck. He had taken a liking to Harry didn’t mean everyone would too. Louis would be insane to actually hook up with a person who roamed around in just a bathrobe and pink socks. Right?
“Your way of mixing flavours is shit,” Louis said, resting his elbows on the counter. Harry kept ordering the same thing, despite exclaiming he’d buy something different the next time. “The recipe you just described would ruin taste buds. Everyone’s. It’s shit.”
“You haven’t even had it yet!”
“I don’t have to have it to know it would be a bad combination. Ketchup and vanilla ice cream? I barely tolerate with your ketchup obsession, I cannot tolerate that. It would make the next dish taste good, since everyone will taste like shit anyway.”
“So you’re saying shit tastes good?”
“I’m not –” Louis pursed his lips shaking his head. “You know what, I’m not answering that. I know it’s a trap when you smile like that. Stop smiling like that.”
Harry hummed, smiling widely as he ducked his head. Louis pretended to be frustrated, crossing his arms over his chest. Niall had clearly prepared Harry’s meal yet wasn’t serving him, instead watching the two of them with barely contained glee. Louis rolled his eyes, knowing the implication and turned back to Harry. He was smiling softly now, eyes twinkling and bright. It was cute.
“I see you’ve taken Niall’s advice then,” Louis remarked. He was alright with Harry not leaving nowadays, confident enough to chat with him and tease him without embarrassing himself. And he was feeling quite brave, which might be why he was going down that lane, looking at Harry’s clothed legs. Harry did the same, just with confusion. “I mean, you’ve worn pants again today, unlike the other day.”
“Oh,” Harry sighed, lips forming a perfect ‘o’ as he nodded and pulled on his robe. “I wasn’t actually naked the other day I was just joking. I was wearing short shorts the other day and they got covered by the robe. I’m not completely insane, you know.”
“Not yet,” Niall muttered to himself, clearly audible.
“Aren’t you?” Louis teased, ignoring Niall spoke at all. He was enjoying the light pink dusting on Harry’s cheek, his blush steadily rising. Louis propped his head on his palm, getting closer to Harry and Geraldine, who was beside him on the counter and he didn’t even mind her. “So usually you just walk around the neighbourhood in a bathrobe for fun? That's interesting.”
“Something like that,” Harry mumbled, twisting a wayward strand of hair on his finger as he turned a darker shade of red. It was cute, again.
“So you just come in here to see me?” Louis asked, testing his limit. His heart was pounding in his chest, probably wondering why he was saying what he said. If he was being honest, he didn’t know. His tongue sometimes had a mind of its own. “Or is it just Geraldine who likes to see me.”
“Well she,” he started, eyes darting to the bird before they widened. He squeaked as he reached for the bird who had somehow managed to walk to the edge of the counter. It wasn’t as if she’d fall but Harry grabbed her anyway, holding the bird securely in his arms to change the topic before placing her back on the counter, now right beside Louis. “Sorry, she tends to do that. But I’ll just...”
He made vague aborted motions, grabbing the takeaway back and laughing nervously to himself. He abruptly started towards the door, the expanse of his back tense before he turned around the corner and disappeared. Louis frowned, confused by his awkward exit and turned to his side to find Geraldine looking right at him. Louis leaned back, looking at the door and back at the hen before it clucked... no clicked. He made an impromptu decision to pick up the chicken like he had seen Harry do, never having thought he’d ever do that. Geraldine didn’t protest to his hold, settling in his arms comfortably and he smiled at her. He was almost out the door when he told Niall that he’d be back. He jogged down the street he’d seen Harry go before finding the telltale blue bathrobe swishing behind him.
“Harry!” he yelled, watching said man freeze before he turned, eyes widening at the sight. “Hey, you forgot Geraldine.”
Harry stood there motionless and Louis huffed as he jogged up to him. “Oh.”
“Yes oh.” Louis rolled his eyes fondly, offering him the hen. “You forgot your lover, the only bird you’ll ever love. How could you. You have ruffled her feathers.”
“You made a bird pun!” Harry gushed, grinning like a loon as he cradled Geraldine to his chest. “That's so beautiful!”
“To me it is.” Harry nodded, biting his lower lip shyly. “I left her because I was too distracted by you. You’re so beautiful, Louis, will you go out with me?”
“Um.” Louis furrowed his eyebrows, thrown aback by the question. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t thought Harry was coming in to talk to him but he hadn’t taken the possibility seriously. He hadn’t taken it seriously when Niall and Liam had suggested either, both with suggestive winks. It was strange how two people who hadn’t met each other had the same reactions. Maybe they were soulmates and in need to be united by Louis. He would do that. But for now, he had a thing to ponder on. Louis hadn’t exactly considered it mainly because he wasn’t sure if he found Harry still weird or not. He gave him an onceover, from his yellow granny shoes to his earnest green eyes. His clothing style and food choices may be shit but he wasn’t bad as a person. Besides, Louis had dated some serious losers so Harry would be an upgrade. “Yeah sure, why not. I just have one condition.”
“Yeah sure what is it?”
“You can’t wear that ugly robe to our date.” Louis gave the robe a disgusted look. “Geraldine can come though.”
Harry squawked (ha), eyes widening in surprise before he hid his face behind the bag in his hands. His anxious green eyes were staring back at him and Louis felt endeared, shaking his head. “Sure. I won’t wear the robe. But you’re sure you’ll go out with me?”
“Don’t make me change my mind,” Louis said, lips quirking up. He spun on his heel, walking back to the shop well aware that Harry was staring at him. He swung his hips a little, smiling to himself wondering if it was the right choice. Well, he didn’t care, Harry seemed like a nice guy. A nice weirdo.
So Louis was having second thoughts.
He wasn’t having second thoughts about agreeing to date. But he was having second thoughts about the person Harry was. And he was certainly confused.
“Is he wearing an expensive suit?” Louis hissed in Niall’s direction, unable to take his eyes off the guy that had just walked in. He seemed very much like his Harry, rosy cheeked and glinting eyes but he was not wearing his usual blue robe and that was oddly strange. He was wearing a charcoal suit that looked expensive with a striped blue shirt underneath. He looked handsome as always and also as if he had walked out of 1920s. Or some likewise old era since Louis was not knowledgeable about fashion eras. Geraldine was absent too and Louis was about to call him out on him when he realised he had pushed the door open behind him. He frowned at the door, smiling when he saw Geraldine walk in followed by two other hens and a rooster. They had probably walked down the street that way, like baby chicks following their mother hen. He smiled at the picture it painted in his head, forgetting all his questions about the difference in outfits. He overwhelmed by the cuteness, almost wanting to jump over the counter and pull the birds to his chest. It was a huge character development for him. Louis nudged Niall instead, unable to look away from the hens. “Look, Geraldine brought her friends as well.”
“The two of you are weirdos and deserve each other,” Niall muttered fondly, shaking his head before letting out a long-suffering sigh. Louis narrowed his eyes, about to call his bluff when he realised Harry had reached the counter, grinning at them. Niall’s took over the same mysterious expression at the sight of Harry. “You found the only guy who would be charmed by that ugly bathrobe, Hazza. I thought you would never.”
Louis frowned, eyes flitting between a pleased looking Niall and a panicked Harry, feeling confused. “Um what are you talking about?”
“Um, he’s um.” Harry huffed, running his fingers through his perfectly set hair and sighed. “Okay, you see. That ugly blue bathrobe? That's not my dressing style at all. Well neither is this but I definitely don’t dress like that. You see Niall sort of challenged me?”
“You know Niall?” Louis asked, feeling more confused at the development in this situation before looking at his co-worker who shrugged noncommittally. It did explain the strange expression. “Niall, you know Harry then. But why did you say he was the neighbourhood loony?”
“Because he is the neighbourhood loony,” Niall stated, shrugging again while Harry huffed. “If you think about it, I didn’t lie to you. He is a familiar sight and he is weirdo.”
“You just happened to omit facts, then,” Louis mused, humming grimly. He glanced at Harry from the corner of his eyes, finding him worrying his lower lip and looking pale. Louis pursed his lips to stop himself from smiling, crossing his arms over his chest to maintain the ‘upset’ act. He wasn’t upset about the revelation in the least. “So then, Harold, you don’t walk the neighbourhood in a blue robe?”
“Afraid not,” he replied, chuckling nervously as he rubbed his nose. “Niall challenged me to wear those clothes and walk around this place for a month, or until I manage to woo someone like that. His words, not mine. And at first, I wasn’t going to deceive someone by pretending to be someone I’m not. But then I saw you.”
Louis cocked his eyebrows, stomach fluttering. “So I was your special target?”
“No!” Harry exclaimed, shaking his head furiously. One of the hens was pecking at Harry’s foot and he momentarily glanced at it before picking it up, cradling her in his arms. “I wasn’t planning to. I came in to meet Niall and show him that I kept my end of the challenge. But you were here and I didn’t know if I should reveal the challenge to you or not so I pretended at first. But then I also wanted to see you? So it kinda... just happened? I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for wooing me?”
“Sorry for tricking you,” he mumbled, looking at his hen forlornly. Louis smiled in spite of himself, shaking his head fondly.
“Oh you foolish boy.” Louis untied his apron and handed it over to Niall with a wide grin. Niall looked curious but also like he was about to burst into raucous laughter. He walked over to Harry’s side without him noticing and tapped on his shoulder. It made him jump and Louis chuckled. “You’re cute. And it was your charm that won me over, not the robe so I wasn’t wooed by the pretence. The robe put me off actually.”
“Obviously,” Harry whispered, biting on his smile. “So you’re alright with knowing?”
“I’m a little peeved at Niall, of course.” He shot Niall a glare and got a suggestive wink in return, that actually weird guy. “But no, I’m not upset. Besides, I like Geraldine.”
Harry smiled, shaking his head. “This is not Geraldine, this is Margaret.” He pointed to one of the chicken on the floor, the one looking at Louis imploringly. “That is Geraldine. She’s the smallest one but feisty. But she likes you a lot.”
“I like her too,” Louis said as he bent down to pick her, cooing at her. “I like her best.” He turned towards Harry, who was sporting the fondest smile at him and didn’t even try to contain it. “So are we going for our date then?”
“Yes!” Harry exclaimed, letting out a small cheer. Louis laughed, pushing open the door to let Harry out first. The other two birds followed him out and Louis grinned at them before walking behind them. “You look great, by the way. I like that shirt.”
“Thanks,” Louis said with a blush, pulling on his maroon shirt. “And I didn’t have the chance to tell you before but you look dapper without that hideous robe. Just like one of those models straight off the covers of Vogue, or some other fashion magazine. I don’t really keep up.”
Harry hummed, smiling at Margaret in his arms. “I figured. Else you would have known that this outfit is the one I’ve recently modelled for Gucci. And the bathrobe ensemble too.”
“No way!” Louis exclaimed before bursting into laughter, stopping in the middle of the pavement. The passersby behind him grumbled and cursed but Louis didn’t care, laughing along with Harry. “I don’t get their fashion ensembles, really. That bathrobe thing was terrible. It didn’t make sense!”
Harry shrugged, as he started walking again, cheeks turned red due to laughter. “It’s a job, right. But I’m glad it amused you.”
Louis nodded, knowing he was grinning like an absolute fool. “So where are we headed to? Your chicken farm?”
Harry didn’t join in Louis’ laughter this time, confusing him into stopping. Harry looked sheepish, biting his lip. “Actually my mother owns a farm up north. These hens are from her farm. I’m going to return them next week, if you want to join.”
“You’re unreal.” Louis laughed loudly, attracting everyone’s attention. “I can’t believe this.”
Harry shrugged before he joined in with Louis, the two of them looking like weirdos walking down the street and surrounded by hens. Louis didn’t mind it one bit.