Louis is very pretty. He has sharp cheekbones and piercing blue eyes. The longest piece of his fringe curls just slightly; Harry wants to tug on it and see if it bounces.
He’s sitting across from Harry talking a mile a minute about the “bloody slow tube” and how he’s so sorry he’s late, and all Harry can think about is how goddamn pretty he is.
And how he’s absolutely not the man Harry is supposed to be on a date with.
Harry had realized instantly that the Louis introducing himself was not, in fact, the Louis he had been texting. They met on a blind-dating app, something Liam had double-dog dared Harry to do, and he went into it thinking he was going to abso-fucking-lutely hate it, but he was pleasantly surprised. He likes not knowing exactly what the man he’s talking to looks like, and he likes that nobody knows what he looks like. It takes so much pressure off of an impending date, that Harry is pretty sure he’ll never go back to “normal” dating.
But the problem is that people talk. And so while Louis is talking, Harry is thinking back to the conversations he had with him… The Louis he spoke to told him his name was pronounced “Lewis”, not Louis, like the king. But this Louis—this pretty, fast-talking angel—introduced himself as Louie.
Coupled with the fact that the Louis Harry was texting had blonde hair, not brown, he’s pretty fucking sure he’s on a date with the wrong guy.
He hears himself responding, nodding at everything Louis is saying, but his insides are battling.
Problem One: Morally, he should probably tell Louis they’re on the wrong date—obviously he’s not the one Louis is supposed to be meeting—so Louis can go find his real date.
Which leads Harry to problem two:
He doesn’t want to tell Louis, because, as previously mentioned, Louis is pretty, and his laugh is the cutest thing Harry has ever heard.
It seems like reason enough to not tell him, honestly, but then Harry’s conscience comes roaring back.
He holds up a hand and instantly hates himself.
Louis stops mid-sentence.
“Sorry, I just—” Harry starts. His hand drops dumbly to the table, Louis’ eyes tracking it the entire time.
“I don’t, like, want to do this,” he says, ignoring the way Louis’ eyebrows raise, “but I feel like, morally, I have to. My sister is a moral philosophy professor and—”
“You told me you didn’t have any siblings,” Louis cuts in. Harry cringes, swallows.
“Yes, right, well, the thing is.” God, he hopes Louis doesn’t leave. “I don’t think we’re… on the right date.”
“What do you mean?” Louis looks around the restaurant, his eyebrows knitted together, before turning back to Harry. “You told me you liked this place?”
Harry swallows again.
“It’s alright,” he says truthfully. He only said yes to this date because Louis, Lewis, said he loved it. “But what I mean is that I don’t think you’re the guy I’m supposed to be on a date with.”
Louis stares at him.
“Not, like, emotionally or spiritually or whatever,” Harry says quickly, waving his hand around. “But, like, physically?”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Louis says in a quiet voice. “Am I not—did you expect me to look like something else?”
The look in Louis’ eyes makes Harry want to physically disappear into the universe and never come back.
“No,” Harry says quickly, “but yes. No.”
The look in Louis’ eyes, which had been so hurt, turns to steel within a split second. Harry holds his hands up.
“Let me explain properly,” he pleads. “I’m just—nervous.”
Louis settles into his chair, his eyes still steely, but makes a gesture that says start talking.
“So I’ve been texting this guy named Louis”—he pronounces it Lewis and watches Louis’ eyebrows contract again—“and he’s blonde? With brown eyes. And I think he said he was over six feet tall, or something ridiculous like that, and I mean—you’re obviously not him, so yeah, I expected you to look different but I’m… not complaining.”
Louis watches him talk, never interrupting but Harry can see the twitch of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“Interesting,” Louis says, leaning forward. The steel in his eyes is gone. “I’m supposed to meet a brunette named Harry who’s wearing a red shirt.”
Harry looks down at his chest and his red floral shirt looks back.
“I guess my Harry isn’t wearing florals,” Louis muses.
Harry ignores the kick in his gut that says I want to be your Harry and hoists an easy smile onto his lips.
“Strange coincidence,” Harry says just as his phone buzzes. It’s been sitting on the table beside him since Louis got there—his date was late and he was waiting for a text about it, but once Louis started talking and Harry realized what happened, his phone was forgotten about.
“I wonder if it’s Lewis,” Louis says. His mouth twists around the name like he tastes something sour. Harry fights back a grin.
“You should check it,” Louis urges. Harry looks into those blue eyes and makes a decision.
“No matter what he says I’d like to stay out with you,” Harry says in a rush. “If that’s something you’d be interested in…”
Louis smiles brightly; it takes Harry aback. God, he’s beautiful.
“Very interested,” Louis says. “As long as we can leave? I don’t love this place if I’m being honest.”
“God, yes,” Harry says, sighing. “I don’t want pasta and that’s all they have.” Louis nods vehemently and motions at Harry’s phone.
“Check that,” he says, “and I’ll pay our bill.” They both glance at the table where there’s a basket of untouched bread and two dripping with condensation water glasses.
“I love cheap dates,” Louis laughs, before waving their waiter over.
Harry flips his phone over. There’s a message from Lewis, and if he had gotten it ten minutes before he would have been annoyed. Now he’s just elated.
sorry, have to cancel. dont rly feel like dinner. maybe we can meet up tonight?
Harry types back a quick, No problem, have a great night. Please don’t text me again. He stows the phone in his pocket and waits for Louis.
“God, I love pub food,” Harry says, leaning back against the booth. Louis drains his beer and motions the bartender for another two, before reaching out to snag the last mozzarella stick.
“Right?” he says. “I love pasta just as much as the next lad, but a burger and chips are truly the only important food group.”
When the bartender brings their drinks, Louis thanks her, and Harry watches him.
Louis’ eyelashes cast a shadow on his cheeks when he blinks. Even in the low lighting of the bar, he’s the most beautiful man Harry has ever seen. And he’s not just beautiful—no, he’s a good man. Those are so few and far in-between that Harry is pretty sure some cosmic deity owes him a favor and delivered him Louis.
After their initial mix-up, once they got to the bar they started over. Hi, I’m Louis. Hi, I’m Harry. And now Harry feels like he’s known Louis for years. He’s twenty-eight, and he’s a teacher; he had wanted to be one since he was seven. He has six siblings and one dog and a cute laugh. He hates pickles—which made Harry threaten to leave the bar, because who the fuck doesn’t like pickles?—but loves a good curry. His birthday is the day before Christmas and instead of hating the holiday, it’s his favourite. He has tattoos all over, or so Harry imagines because he can see them sticking out of his sleeve and his collar.
Harry wants to know what they all look like.
It’s getting late, and they’re getting ready to leave, and Harry is nervous Louis is going to ask him to go back to his flat—nervous because he has to say no if he does.
But Louis doesn’t.
“I’d like to see you again,” Louis says as they walk towards the tube. Harry smiles into his scarf.
“I’d like that too,” Harry says. An understatement.
“I was going to ask you to come back to mine,” Louis says, grinning when Harry chokes and clears his throat. “But you said you were a baker and I assumed you have an early morning ahead of you.”
“I was supposed to be in bed two hours ago,” Harry agrees. His hand finds Louis’ and tangles their hands together—a big step, one he wasn’t sure he should take but the multiple beers have gone to his head—but Louis squeezes back.
“What days are you free?” Louis asks. The tube is in sight now and they’ve slowed until they’ve stopped.
“I’m done work by one most days,” Harry says. “And I have Friday’s off, and some Sunday’s.”
“That works for me,” Louis says. He smiles and Harry feels it in his chest.
Snow is falling. Tiny, soft flakes that land on Louis’ hair, on his eyelashes, all around them. It’s the perfect end to their perfect date—Harry doesn’t think he’s alone in thinking that it was perfect.
Harry is on the tube, rattling towards his stop, and he’s thinking of the way Louis’ lips pressed against his cheek. They were soft, dry but not chapped, and sent a spark down Harry’s spine. He had to force himself to not grab Louis’ waist and drag him into the shadows to snog him senseless.
Two stops left. His bed is calling him, as is his four a.m. wake-up call. It’s getting close to midnight, but the train is packed. Harry can hear teenagers laughing and men on their phones.
Harry’s eyes snap open.
He hadn’t given Louis his number—and Louis hadn’t given him his.
“Fuck,” Harry exclaims. He ignores the scandalized look from one of the men near him and jumps up, striding to the door. He stares out, the brick tunnel flying past his mirrored reflection, his heart and stomach sinking low.
How had they forgotten to exchange numbers? They had spent so much time talking about themselves, discussing their lives… They hadn’t even exchanged last names; that’s how easy their conversation had been. They had forgotten that they weren’t on their original dates.
It had felt right.
He slumps against the rail. The happiness he had, the light bounce in his step, was seeping out of him. How was he supposed to find Louis in London?
He walks in a daze to his flat. The snow’s stopped falling and now sits prettily on branches and benches, and the only sound Harry can hear is the quiet crunch of his boots. His flat is dark when he gets there, Liam having gone to bed promptly at eleven, as he always does, so Harry lets himself in as quietly as possible. He locks the door and then for a moment he just stands in the dark.
He sees his evening in snapshots that fly by him in a blur. Louis’ blue eyes peering at him as he introduces himself, the waiter laughing as they explain why they’re leaving without ordering, the pub down the road that neither of them had visited but both loved instantly, the collection of empty glasses they left on the table, the flush in Louis’ cheeks when Harry held the door open for him. The snowflake on Louis’ eyelash when he reached up to kiss him.
Harry opens his eyes. The disappointment in his chest aches and stays with him as he makes his way to his room and undresses, robotically and clinically getting ready for bed.
When he’s lying in bed, his covers up to his chin to combat the chill, he finally lets out the breath that had been stuck in his lungs.
Harry was in a meet-cute, and it had ended.
Harry is wiping down the counter mindlessly three weeks later when the door jingles. He looks up quickly, as he always does, hoping that the person walking through is Louis.
It’s not. Again. He goes back to wiping.
The counter is clean, and all Harry is doing is wasting time.
“Go take your break,” Jade says, snatching the rag from him. “Your sad eyes are really killing my vibe.”
Harry just shrugs and pulls his coat off the hook. Any other day he would have sniped back, but he can’t muster the energy. Jade, his ever lovely friend, backs off. She pats his back and hands him a croissant.
“Take some extra time,” she says. Harry starts to protest—it’s nearing the morning rush, he shouldn’t even be taking a break, he has pastries to bake—but she shushes him.
“Go,” she demands. There’s a sadness in her eyes that Harry thinks is pity, and maybe love, but mostly pity, so he puts on his jacket.
He pulls open the door, side-stepping a woman, and smacks directly into another human being.
“Oof,” Harry says, doubling over; the man’s elbow had jabbed him right in the kidneys.
“Oh, no, shit, I’m so sorry mate—” The man’s apology cuts off as Harry looks up.
“Holy shit,” he says.
There, in the doorway, staring at him with the same incredulous look that he knows is on his own face, is Louis.
“Oh my god,” Louis says. Harry nods but doesn’t know why.
“Oh my god,” Louis says again, and then he’s hugging Harry and Harry’s hugging him back. And god. They barely know each other, but Harry can feel the tremble in Louis’ arms where they’re wrapped around his waist, and he can feel his own throat working to fight down the urge to cry.
“I can’t believe this,” Louis says, pulling back. His eyes are suspiciously wet, but Harry pretends not to notice. His are too.
“+44 7492 817894”, Harry rattles off. Louis stares at him for a second before he starts to laugh.
“Can you say that again, but slower, and wait until I have my own phone out?”
“Yes,” Harry says breathlessly. He hears the door jingle and guides himself and Louis out of the way.
“+44 7492 817894,” Harry repeats. “And my last name is Styles.”
Louis’ mouth quirks up, his eyes sparkling. “Mine is Tomlinson.”
Harry nods. He reaches out and tangles his hand in Louis’ scarf. Something to ground him, to tell him that what’s happening is real.
Louis smiles at him, his eyes shining. The sunlight slates in through the window and bounces off his cheekbone.
“You’re so pretty,” Harry murmurs. Louis blushes. He looks down and grabs Harry’s hands with his own. He doesn’t say anything, just rubs his thumb across Harry’s skin.
Sometimes the best things are found when you’re not looking for them, Harry thinks. Or when you’re looking for something, or someone, completely different.
And sometimes it’s perfect.