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the chicken can stay (but you've gotta go)

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“Enjoy your chips and have a lovely day!” Louis says through a mouthful of clenched teeth. As soon as the woman leaves the counter with a half hearted smile in return, the fake smile slips from his face.

Lena, the mid twenties devil who has been working mornings with him since he’s started working at Fish & Chips cracks her bubble gum and licks at a stray pieces that gets stuck to her smirking lips. She’s leaning on the counter with eyes as dead as his own and a pen in one hand in a feigned show of doing any actual work.

Louis hates how alike they are.

“Who even eats chips at ten in the morning?” He complains. It’s not like they even serve coffee, which he gripes about constantly. Nope, they just open at nine in the morning, Monday through Saturday for those who wake up and thinks hmmm, fuck the eggs and bacon, where’s the fish?

Lena shrugs, most likely not even listening to his very plausible complaining, thank you. She scribbles on the notepad that is mostly for show and also to go orders, but like, how hard is it to remember different quantities of the same ten things on the menu?

The bell over the door jingles and Louis knuckles at the counter hard, a silent fuck you to every single person that wants to actually eat and have pleasant days.

There’s a commotion that follows the open door, which is surprising. There’s not many people that jump for joy at the establishment, even if he grudgingly admits that the chips are pretty delicious. It’s the oil and sea salt, he knows. He’s spent months licking it from his lips.

Lena apparently is thinking the same thing, since she rises up on her elbows and stops chewing for a second to inspect the incoming headache.

Said headache is flouncing into the shop with an easy smile, looking like he’s just tumbled gracefully out of bed and walked to the shop in pajamas and slippers, for fucks sake.

Oh, also. Also. He’s holding a chicken.

Louis stares. Stares hard because – what?

The universe is mocking him, as well as slapping his arm in glee. Oh no, wait, that’s Lena and her eyes are very much alive now and shining with, dare he say it – excitement.

“Harry Styles. Harry Styles. Harry Styles.” Lena chants. It means nothing but confusion to Louis.

“What the fuck is a Harry Styles?” He snaps.

And then there’s a chicken on the counter.

“I’m Harry Styles.” Headache says. Oh joy.

“Well, Harry Styles. I don’t know what fresh hell you’re trying to drown in grease soaked in grease, but this is not allowed. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” He sniffs, giving the chicken a cursory once over. She, because she holds herself too high and mighty to be anything but, seems unaffected by his request.

Headache Harry smiles this smile that says nothing but privilege and amusement. Louis matches it with a vindictive twist. So what if he doesn’t get tips off of this guy. The satisfaction of watching him leave with his slippers scuffing across the tiles may very well be worth it.

“I assure you, my manager has written permission for Gertrude to be in here.” He says all pleasant and charming. Ugh.

Louis lets his own smile stretch across his lips, leaning on the counter so he’s level with the chicken and has to look up to meet Harry's eyes.

“Oh, no. She can stay. You though, you can come back when you find respectable clothes and shoes that don’t clop when you walk out of my shop.” He shows his teeth for good measure. He just refrains from batting his eyelashes, if only because the chicken is staring at him with a very unimpressed look. Traitor.

Harry laughs and god dammit is there anything that’s not annoyingly beautiful about him? It’s annoying.

“I see.” Harry nods, smile never wavering. “I agree with you on that. I mean, who wakes up and wants chips at – what time is it?” He frowns suddenly, looking around as if the time is written in the air.

Louis frowns back, but before he can say time for you to leave, Lena is pushing up against him and practically shouting in his ear.

“Ten sixteen, Mr. Harry Styles.” It’s the most emotion Louis has ever heard from her. She keeps checking her phone like she’s keeping track of the minutes if Harry needs an update.

“Thank you –“ Harry trails off, waving a hand at Lena with that charming fucking smile. Louis cuts a look at the chicken as if to say, really?

“Lena! I’m uh, my name is Lena.” God, she’s basically drooling. Louis hands her a napkin and counters her smirk from earlier. Lena spits her gum in it and tucks it into Louis' apron.

“Lena, lovely name.” Harry says her name like it tastes heavenly. Louis can’t relate since he’s only ever tasted bitterness and annoyance when he speaks her name. “And you are?” Harry prompts, looking at Louis with something dangerous in his eyes. Intent and intrigue.

“Thinking about quitting.” Louis deadpans. Not even a deadpan, actually. He really does want to quit and go home to his bed because this is so ridiculous, it can’t be real.

Harry laughs, fucking sings more like, it’s loud and barky and poor Gertrude twitches in alarm. Louis pokes her with a finger in sympathy.

“I’m going to be doing a shoot here for the next three days, I assumed they would have told the staff. My apologies for the inconvenience.” He says. Who the fuck talks like that? My apologies. Annoying.

Wonderful.” Louis snipes. “So, if you’re not here to actually order anything, would you mind making way for those who would?” He gestures a hand at the near empty shop and catches sight of a few dozen teenage girls pressed up against the glass window with their tongues hanging out of their mouths.

That is so unsanitary.” He mumbles. Harry laughs again and Louis startles, arm slipping off of the counter. He winces, jabs at the cash register for a lack of anything to do.

Harry retrieves the chicken from the counter, tucking her securely beneath his arm. The fabric of the robe nearly swallows her up and Louis just stares at the unbelievable picture before him.

“I would actually like to order.” Harry says, smile straightening out into a neutral line. “A round of iced tea for the workers outside, uhm twenty four should do it. Also, would you happen to have any lettuce around?” He asks. He’s serious.

“For the chicken?” Louis gives in. Fuck.

Harry smiles. “For the chicken.”

Louis shakes his head to scramble up his brain and try to make sense of whatever is happening. He looks up and, yup, there’s still a guy in pajamas holding a chicken. He rings up the drinks and, after considering how to ring up lettuce, just gives up and rattles off the total with a monotone voice.

Harry pays, leaves an annoyingly generous tip and then frowns at the four trays of plastic cups and then down at the chicken and back. He’s pushing a strip of lettuce in her face, which she ignores. Louis sighs.

“Just go, we’ll handle the drinks. I’m assuming your workers are not the gaggle of girls currently slobbering all over the windows, yes?” He drolls. It gets another laugh out of Harry, surprise, surprise. Louis' not counting but the number three has always been one of his lucky numbers.

Together, him and Lena carry the trays out to the sidewalk where there’s cameras and important looking people bustling about with makeup brushes and sunglasses perched on top of heads. It’s bright as fuck outside and they have sunglasses holding their hair back and hands framing their foreheads against the sun. Money makes people thoughtless, it seems.

They pass out the beverages and once the trays are empty, Louis books it back into the shop and flings his hands out in front of him to shoo away that entire situation.

As he’s ringing up a customer, Lena punches his arm, hard, and sneers at him. It’s not cute and he tells her as much.

“What is wrong with you? Do you know who that was?” She punches his arm again and flicks him on the forehead.

Ow! What is wrong with you? You were practically shoving all of your assets at that guy! And, no. I do not know who that was. Some rich boy straight off his daddy's farm? Seriously, a chicken, Lena. Also, slippers. And a robe.” He widens his eyes for emphasis. A fucking robe.

Lena goes to flick him again, but Louis bats her hand away with a glare. He smiles so fake at the customer, he almost feels like puking and hands her the receipt with eyes that say, save yourself.

Harry Styles, Louis! God, aren’t you gay? How do you not know who that is?” She asks and looks disappointed. “Up and coming model? Gucci's youngest to ever get a front page? Ugh, what do you even jerk off to?” Her lips curl in disgust. As if Louis is the one being vile.

“He barely looked eighteen. And plus, that chicken had more sex appeal than he did.” Which is a lie, obviously. But, well, Lena is looking at him like she can’t believe she has to associate with him so he’ll make her really regret her choice of employment.

“Just – go clean out the fryer.” She dismisses, throwing her hands and the air and huffing. Louis rolls his eyes and casts one last look outside before heading into the back.

Harry's smile is still as charming from the side and obstructed by chicken feathers. Ugh.


 

“Oh, no. Nope. Nuh uh. No way.” Louis waves his hands at the sight before him. The sight being Harry in a charcoal suit with a – what, green plaid blanket thing draped over his shoulders. And, oh yeah, a fucking dog sitting at his feet.

“You do know we serve food here, right?” He asks, just to be sure. The dog blinks and straightens his front legs so he’s at height with the pocket of Harry's blazer. Seriously, where do they find such proper animals? It’s insane.

Harry laughs, though this one is lacking its usual delight, instead coming out choppy and nervous.

“They uh want this part of the shoot inside?” He poses it like a question. Louis raises an eyebrow. Is he supposed to answer? Because if so, the answer is a hard no.

Instead, a short man with an ill fitting suit trots in like he fucking owns the place, which he doesn’t because the owner is a very nice man with a goatee. Louis tries to glare his displeasure at the stumpy man, but he pays Louis not even a glance as he takes stock of the shop with hallow eyes. Louis' sure all he sees is green and dirty copper behind his dark eyes.

Harry keeps shooting these worried looks at Louis, like he cares that they’re intruding upon his place of employment. The dog looks like it fancies a nap.

Louis holds his breath in tight until all of his rage is locked securely between his ribs and goes about to fill a bowl with cold water. The stumpy man is gesturing around the place and Harry looks vaguely bored, fingers twisting around the lead in his hand. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself.

Louis ignores it all, carefully holding the bowl as he walks over to where they're standing and kneels in front of the dog.

“Hi.” He says with a small smile. The dog does not return the sentiment. Louis places the bowl before him and rests his hands palm up on his thighs. He waits until the dog gets over itself, like it really expect Louis to fetch it a straw or something and sniffs at the water suspiciously.

“Sorry if it’s not sparkling or whatever.” He says and the dog snickers in amusement. No – not the dog. Harry snickers, literally. Like a mouse that wants the cheese in those foolish cartoons. Louis looks up from where he’s still crouched and he wonders if the angle provides the same effect of his frown.

He looks back at the dog and brings a hand to his head, scritching at the wrinkles of his skin. It’s a very beautiful dog and even the way he laps at the water is dainty and self dignified. Ugh, what are they even doing here?

He wipes his palms on his apron as he stands, resolutely not looking at Harry and retreats back behind the counter.

Lena's off today – small miracles. Jeff is a middle aged man who usually mans the fryer and stays out of sight unless there’s an emergency, so Louis has no distractions from watching Harry being moved to different spots of the shop and directed to smolder a bit and stop running your hands through your hair!

It’s weird. Or, well, it’s also interesting. Harry looks as if he’s being tortured each time the stumpy man barks orders at him. But when he gets into position and it's nothing but him and the dog leaning against the wall next to the bathrooms, he fucking owns it. He seems to conjure up seventy different facial expressions that are pretty much identical but different in the way his eyebrow tics or his lip smirks.

Louis nearly jumps out of his skin when a customer coughs for his attention.

It goes on like this for hours – okay really it’s only two but still. How many shots of far away looks in immaculate suits does a magazine need? A lot. That’s how much.

Once It’s time for his break, Louis all but flings his apron at Jeff and skips out the door. He doesn’t have a destination, just some fresh air and a cigarette to counteract that fresh air. He leans against the brick wall on the side of the building, away from the sun's blinding glare. It smells like piss and garbage but it’s a nice change from oil and salt and people.

The first drag of nicotine has his body sagging against the way, chest filling tight with smoke instead of bitten off insults at rude ass customers.

“That's bad for you, you know.” Says a voice that has Louis smiling around the filter.

“Of course you’re one of those people.” He says. “And here I thought these were magic cancer sticks. Damn, guess I have to reclaim my youth somewhere else.” He takes a drag and closes his eyes.

“Your name is Louis.” Harry says. It’s such an odd thing to say that Louis chokes on his inhale of smoke.

“Uh, thank you? Is that a threat or summat'?” He stares at the blue tie hanging around his neck, instead of the inquiring look twisting Harry's flawless makeup. The dog is nowhere to be found, Louis hope it's somewhere in an air conditioned room with a comfy bed.

“You gave June water.” Harry says. June? Oh, the dog. How unfortunate.

Louis flicks his wrist, at a loss of anything to say. Should he clap for excellent observation skills? Bow? Does Harry want a bowl of water?

“You poked the chicken!” Harry shouts. Literally shouts. In an alleyway. In a Gucci suit.

“Is that a euphemism?” Louis asks. He stubs the cigarette out on the wall and stands before Harry. He feels very small amongst Harry's hulking shoulders and very large hair.

Harry laughs helplessly like he’s in pain. Well, it is hot as fuck and he’s wearing a very tight suit. Also, the plaid blanket thing draped over his shoulders. What the fuck is up with that?

“We’re doing a shoot for Gucci and you’re – you’re tending to the animals. You don’t even care who I am and make it known whenever we interact. Yet you’re still so kind, in a round about sort of way.” Harry frowns. “Actually, I think you’re being nice but maybe I’m just projecting. You have nice eyes.”

Wait. What?

“Was that a line? Did you just insult me and then pull a line on me?” He’s confused, and also a little scared. He’s used to having the upper hand in situations like this. Well, not like this, obviously. But, usually he can wrap someone around his finger and keep himself firmly unwrapped from around anyone else’s fingers.

Harry has a lot of rings on his fingers. How does he even have room for Louis?

“You’re ridiculous.” Harry states. But he’s smiling, teeth beaming bright at him. “And also very, very attractive.” He takes a step closer. Louis' eyebrows join together in unison against the approach.

“What are you doing?” He asks. “Don’t you have some walls to lean against and clouds to gaze dreamily at?” He wants to put a hand out against Harry's chest to keep him where he is, or to feel if that suit really is worth melting under the sun for.

“You told me to leave yesterday, yet you watched me the entire time I was outside. Either you really liked the chicken, or,” And he takes another step closer, until the toe of his designer shoe is nudging against Louis' worn Adidas sneakers.

“Or you really like me.” He beams, giant front teeth practically smacking Louis in the face. He can’t take his eyes off of them. It’s like they have a personality of their own.

“Put those things away, god. They look like they want to bite my nose.” He grumbles. Harry's lips stretch over the two front teeth and oh goodie the rest of his teeth are just as in for the fun.

I kind of want to bite your nose.” Harry counters and then scrunches his nose. He laughs breathy and out through his mouth so that it hits Louis in his face. He blinks and swallows. It tastes like mint.

“Who even are you? That was awful.” But it really wasn’t. He kind of wants to bite his nose, off and away from his face so that he can stop smelling that alluring cologne wafting off of Harry's suit. God, did he pay extra to have that suit drenched in holy water or something? Louis has a few confessions he needs to make at the moment.

“I’m not really used to flirting with someone as challenging as you.” He admits. It’s kind of rude, except, yeah no, Louis is pretty snarky, he can give him that. “And never as gorgeous as you.”

“Oh my god, just shut up.” He says and then smushes his face against Harry's. Their lips meet with a wet smack and then part for realignment, the second kiss sliding into place with tongue and spit joining in harmony. It’s kind of beautiful, and also ridiculous because neither of them can stop smiling or laughing against the other’s mouth.

“Thought you only liked me for my chicken.” Harry teases. He brings a hand around to grab at Louis' ass and he’s so going to be late back from his break, but fuck it.

“Gertrude is a very lovely lady.” He agrees. “But she’s too high maintenance for me.” He grips hold of either side of the blanket monstrosity like it’s a lead and tries to climb up on all that. Harry contributes by the helpful hold he has on Louis' ass cheeks. He can appreciate the team work.

When he finally makes it back into the shop, twenty minutes too late, his hair is fucked all to hell and the seat of his of his pants have been truly violated.

Harry walks into the shop with the same grace as the first time, sans chicken and flounces to the counter with a wide smile.

“Tomorrow, I’m bringing in a piglet.” He says.

He really needs to work on his dirty talk.