Careful, meticulous hands straightened each pen until they were perfectly parallel, resting next to the laptop, a centimetre apart. Blue, red, black, pink, green, purple. No real order, but they were perfectly lined up now, and everything felt a little bit clearer. Harry blinked slowly, pushing his glasses up his nose as he yawned. He slouched down slightly in his chair, his head slowly falling back as he stretched his arms up, huffing when his shoulders popped slightly. He shifted his head slightly from side to side, frowning when he remembered his hair was wrapped up in a loose bun and couldn’t swish happily against the back of his chair. He sighed, annoyance in his tone as he sat back up and ran his fingers through the errant curls at his temple. Just as he’d settled, a voice from beside him made him jolt.
“Mate, you really need to finish that assignment.”
Harry shot a glare at Niall where he was chewing on the lid of his pen, his eyes glued to his own laptop.
“I know, I know. I just,” Harry sighed again, picking up a pen to twirl it between his fingers, “don’t want to.”
Niall let out a snort as he looked up, shifting the sheet music on the desk. “I don’t want to do my music theory assignment, but I’m fucking doing it. Write your weird essay, Haz.”
“It’s not weird!” Harry swatted at Niall when he laughed before laying the pen back down carefully in its place.
“What’s it about?”
“The shifting of language within the realm of social media and how that compares to Shakespeare’s impact on the English language in terms of slang.”
When he looked up from his screen, Niall was staring at him, the pen hanging loosely from his lips. He opened his mouth and let it fall onto the desk as Harry watched with a grimace. “See? Weird.” Harry let out a small oof as Niall scooted around to throw himself onto Harry’s lap, his arms coming up automatically to wrap around Niall’s waist with a tight squeeze. Niall wriggled and squinted at the screen. “What does that word even mean? Eminent?”
“Noteworthy, renowned, someone who’s well known in their field,” Harry explained, his tongue poking out in concentration as he tried to push his glasses up onto his face again using Niall’s shoulder. “Like you will be one day if you finish your fucking theory assignment. Now get off, ya great lump.”
Niall slowly slid to the ground, a heavy weight as Harry squawked into the stillness of the library. He saw movement out of the corner of his eye, a head turned towards him, and when he swung around with an apologetic look on his face, he was met with a small smirk, a raised eyebrow, and cheekbones that made his mouth drop open.
“Niall,” he hissed, nudging his friend with his foot as Niall heaved himself back up onto his chair, “who is that ?” He let his eyes wander over the unknown man, watching as he turned back to his computer, the smirk on his face widening and a slight blush racing to his cheeks. Harry’s fingers twitched with the need to brush the fringe out of the man’s eyes to see the colour.
“Oh! That’s Louis,” Niall replied easily, “and I’m pretty sure he takes the same English class as you. He lives with Zayn.” Niall started drumming on the table with his fingertips, and Harry mouthed an apology to the table next to them when they turned to glare. “He’s a good lad.”
“He’s gorgeous.” Harry’s voice was quiet, and he regretted the words immediately when Niall’s head snapped up and his fingers stopped their rapid movement.
“I could introduce you, ya know?” Niall’s voice was too casual.
“No way.” His voice was firm, but he couldn’t help but glance back at Louis, watching as he crossed his feet at his ankles. Cute little ankles. Harry shook his head quickly. “No. He’s way out of my league anyway,” he added with a mumble.
Niall’s eyebrows knitted together, but before he could respond, they both watched as a tall brunette man sauntered over to Louis’ table and sat down. Harry’s nose wrinkled. The stranger’s demeanour was arrogant, even from where Harry sat four tables away. He had his eyebrows raised, a smug look on his face as he leant across the table to touch Louis’ arm. Harry instantly noticed when Louis flinched back slightly from the touch, saw how the smile on his face didn’t seem genuine and didn’t crinkle the corners of his eyes. He shifted forward in his seat, taking his glasses off to give them a quick clean as Louis’ body tensed when the man let out a loud laugh.
“Who’s that with him? He seems pretty uncomfortable.” Harry tried to look away as he put his glasses back on.
Niall sighed, shooting a withering glare at Harry as he sat down in his chair. “Ya know, you said you want me to finish this, but you keep interrupting me.” Niall’s gaze drifted across to Louis and Harry watched as his eyes tightened. “Ah, no wonder. That’s Jacob, his ex. A real piece of work, if Liam knows his shit. Keeps houndin’ him apparently, even though Tommo keeps lying and saying he has a boyfriend.” Niall shook his head as he scoffed in disgust, his lip curling as he looked at the scene in front of him. “Doesn’t stop him though. It’s been a year, but he won’t fuck off.”
“Ah, last name’s Tomlinson.”
Harry had a vague recollection of a Northern accent calling out from behind him in class. “Makes sense. So he doesn’t have a boyfriend?” He tried to keep his tone light, but when he looked up and saw the grin on Niall’s face, he felt the blush that rushed to his cheeks.
“Nah,” Niall replied, typing on his computer and gracefully ignoring Harry’s embarrassment. The grin remained though. “He has a pretty specific...type. You could go help him out, you know. Pretend to be his boyfriend.”
Harry choked on the water he’d just swigged, his face brighter red still when everyone in the library turned to stare at him. Well, everyone except Jacob, who seemed too focused on getting Louis’ attention. Niall jumped up, slapping him on the back until Harry twisted away.
“You can’t be fucking serious,” Harry hissed, pushing the bottle away as if it’d personally offended him. “You just told me has a type! Also I’m not gonna just go force him to pretend I’m his boyfriend.”
“I didn’t say what his type was,” Niall replied defensively, “and trust me, he wouldn’t fucking mind if you went over.” He stared Harry straight in the eyes. “Trust me, Haz.”
Harry squirmed in his seat. He wanted to go over there, to protect Louis from this obvious arsehole , help him escape a situation he clearly was uncomfortable in. Harry could see Louis’ expression growing stormier as he moved to avoid Jacob’s outstretched hands. On the other hand, he shouldn’t be assuming that Louis needed help from someone he didn’t know. Maybe it’d just piss him off more, a stranger inserting themselves into his personal business. He was ripped out of his thoughts when Niall spoke again.
“C’mon Haz, look at him - he needs saving, he’s obviously uncomfortable.”
When Harry let his eyes travel back to him, he could only see strength; the physical strength laying in his arms where the polo he was wearing pulled tight (which created too many mental images that weren’t appropriate for the library), the confidence he carried in the lift of his chin as he stared down his ex across the table. “He doesn’t seem like the type that needs saving, ” Harry mumbled. He didn’t mention the almost crippling shyness that was the main reason he hadn’t strode ever and told Jacob, kindly, to fuck off. Niall saw through him anyway.
“Harry,” Niall’s voice was soft as Harry glanced up, “just go talk to him, yeah? Then he could decide for himself if maybe he wants to pretend.” Niall smirked at Harry, shooing him away with a flick of his wrist. “I’m sure he’ll want to.”
Harry tried to weigh up the pros and cons in his head but when it all became too much, he pushed out a breath and stood up. Fuck it. He ignored the shocked laughter from Niall until he’d made it halfway to Louis and turned back for motivation. He needed something to carry him through, something to let him know that he could do this, could go over to a beautiful man, sit next to him, and pretend like they’d already known each other for months. Niall shot him a thumbs up, face filled with excitement so Harry took a deep breath, ignored Niall’s raised eyebrow, and promptly fell to the floor.
He heard a soft gasp from where he was sprawled, letting his head falling forward to hit the carpet with a soft thud . He could hear Niall cackling in the background and could just picture the tears welling in his eyes. Fuck, he’d never been so embarrassed. There was no way Louis hadn’t seen that, no way that he’d even want to talk to Harry after -
“Fuck, are you okay mate?”
Harry froze from where he was slightly flailing on the floor. Okay, everything was fine, that could be anyone’s voice. He pushed himself up onto his elbows and finally lifted his head.
That’s what colour his eyes were.
So blue that it didn’t matter that his fringe was in his face.
“Like the ocean.” It slipped out before he could stop it, and he groaned, his eyes slipping closed as he pulled himself up to sit with his back against a table leg. When he was settled and he didn’t feel like he was going to throw up from nerves, he slowly opened his eyes.
Louis was looking at him fondly, his eyes warm like the sky on a spring day, a small smile on his face. “So I’ve been told. What were you doing, love?”
Love . It was an update from ‘mate’, and Harry felt warmth flow through him. “Coming over to pretend to be your boyfriend so that creep would leave you alone. I think I got caught on a chair though.” He snapped his mouth shut with a click. Being this close to Louis seemed to have gotten rid of his filter.
Louis’ eyes widened as he let out a startled laugh, happiness seeping through as his smile widened. “Was it Niall’s idea?” Louis’ voice was a whisper now, and Harry couldn’t help but smile back as he nodded. Louis grinned, his hand coming up to gently push Harry’s glasses back up his nose, making him go cross eyed as he tried to follow the movement. “Do you think you’d still be happy to pretend to be my boyfriend?”
Harry blinked rapidly. “What?”
“Do you think you’d still wanna pretend to be my boyfriend? He won’t leave me alone,” Louis repeated, relaxing into the squat he was perched in, resting on his toes. “Can I touch you? If that’s okay?”
“Please,” Harry breathed out. Oh for fucks sake. “I mean,” he sighed heavily, his face heating up as he wondered if there’d ever be a time where he wouldn’t blush around Louis, “yes, you can touch me.”
Louis’ grin softened back into a gentle smile. Harry startled slightly at the first touch of Louis’ fingertips on his cheek, a whisper of a touch as he tucked the hair that had escaped Harry’s bun behind his ear. Harry trembled as Louis’ fingers trailed across to his cheek, brushing a gentle path across his heated skin. Before he could even comprehend anything about the situation, and just as he was figuring out what to buy Niall as a thank you, Louis darted forward to press his lips to his cheek. Harry’s hand was already warm when Louis gripped it, pushing up off the floor in an easy motion and pulling Harry up with him. In a move that felt too natural considering they’d just met, Louis linked their fingers together and dragged Harry back to his table.
“Here baby, sit down.” Louis’ voice was clear and solid and his hand strong as it slid down Harry’s back. “I’m just going to go grab your stuff from Niall, okay?”
Harry nodded at him, slightly dazed when Louis walked away with a fleeting touch to the nape of Harry’s neck. He watched him gather up his things and hiss something at Niall, heard Niall cackle again and chance a glance at him. Harry whipped his head back around when Niall winked at him, and then he was face to face with Jacob.
“Who are you?” Jacob’s eyes narrowed as he glared at Harry.
“His boyfriend, who are you?” Harry shot back, surprised at himself when the words came out confident and strong.
Jacob grunted as he sat back. “I thought he was lying.”
Harry was suddenly so frustrated that had no choice but to blurt out whatever he was thinking. “He wasn’t, and even if he was it shouldn’t matter. He clearly isn’t interested in you anymore, what gives you the right to harass someone until they’re obviously uncomfortable? Maybe you should just leave him alone.”
“Be nice love, how was he supposed to know that I had you waiting at home for me?” Louis’ featherlight touch was back, ghosting over his neck as he shuffled past, all of Harry’s belongings bundled up under one arm. Harry let his eyes fall closed as he pressed backwards into the touch. Louis awkwardly put everything down, opening Harry’s laptop and placing it in front of him before throwing himself into his chair, pressing his hand against the back of Harry’s neck as he smiled. His thumb rubbed small circles into Harry’s skin as his right hand fiddled with something in front of them, and it wasn’t until Harry heard the scrape of a chair that he realised Jacob had left in a huff. Before Harry could apologise for, well, everything, Louis was distracting him with a warm palm cupping his cheek.
“Thank you, honestly,” Louis said quietly, his eyes seeming to study every detail of Harry’s face. “He won’t leave me alone, and he won’t listen to me. It’s been,” Louis paused, and Harry’s heart broke slightly, “an incredibly uncomfortable time.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry murmured, letting himself move slightly into Louis’ touch just before Louis dropped his hand. “I can be your fake boyfriend for as long as you need.”
Louis laughed as he swivelled around to run his fingers over the trackpad of his laptop to wake it up. “How about tonight, then?”
Harry turned to his own computer but before he could start to formulate any kind of response to whatever Louis had just said, he froze.
“You organised my pens.”
They were exactly where he’d left them at the desk with Niall, as if Louis had picked it up perfectly and transferred it, the same order and spacing and everything.
Louis looked slightly worried. “Ah fuck, did I do it wrong? It just looked like it was important to you and purposeful so I tried to do it but I’m sorry if I fucked it up, honestly and - ”
Harry stared at Louis as he kept ranting before he finally interrupted with a hand to Louis’ knee. “Louis,” he said firmly, squeezing gently until Louis trailed off, “honestly, it’s perfect. Thank you.” He grinned and when Louis moved forward to poke his dimple, he giggled and ducked away. “I actually really do need to finish this though.”
Louis shifted over to rest his chin on his shoulder. “Oh, you’ve used my favourite word!”
Harry suppressed a shiver as Louis’ breath ghosted over his ear, and he was vaguely aware that Louis made him feel like he’d never even kissed anyone, like no one had ever touched him before. “What’s your favourite word?”
Harry let out a startled laugh, turning his head slightly to look Louis in the eyes. So close. “Why eminent?”
“Because it sounds like imminent and everyone always gets confused,” Louis replied, voice no louder than a whisper, and Harry swallowed heavily. They were close enough that they’re noses brushed. “What’s something that you stand out at, Harry?”
“Charades,” he answered quickly, regretting his answer when Louis shifted back slightly to laugh. No, come back, closer. “How about you?”
Louis seemed to be staying where he was, but disappointment didn’t have time to settle in Harry’s stomach before Louis’ hand came up to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. “I don’t think mine’s appropriate for the library,” Louis said cheerfully before winking at Harry as he blushed. Again. Fucking hell. “
The smile slid off Louis’ face as he shifted forward again, a firmer grip on Harry’s neck gently encouraging him forward as Louis’ eyes flickered down to Harry’s lips. Two things slammed into Harry’s brain, and he cursed inwardly when words flew out of his mouth.
“Wait, you called me Harry.”
“It’s your name, yeah?” Louis murmured, staying close and keeping his solid grip.
“Yeah,” Harry sighed, moving forward to brush their noses together again before pulling back, “but I didn’t introduce myself.”
Louis froze and went to move back, but Harry let out a noise of protest, humming when Louis just grinned. “Cats out of the bag, huh.” Louis sounded resigned, but his expression was still open and hopeful. At Harry’s questioning glance, he groaned and pulled back completely, his hand falling back to his own lap. “I’ve wanted to talk to you for ages , but I kept panicking because you’re so fucking gorgeous, you know? I told Niall, but I didn’t know he knew you, that you were so close, and then he never stopped teasing me about it,” Louis snorted, but Harry couldn’t seem to move or talk or breathe , “and then you were here and you wanted to help me and now I like you even more.” He finished his little speech with a boop right in the centre of Harry’s glasses.
They sat in silence for a few seconds. “Wait, you think I’m gorgeous?”
Louis laughed, throwing his head back. Harry greedily drank in the sight and had to stop himself from latching his lips onto the skin at the base of his neck. “Yeah, absolutely.” His thumb was suddenly brushing over Harry’s bottom lip. “So fucking beautiful,” he murmured, and Harry let out a small whine that made Louis’ eyes widen before he shifted back into Harry’s space.
“Wait, sorry,” Harry blurted out, “you said something about wanting me to be your fake boyfriend again tonight. Is the uh - offer still available?”
“For you? It doesn’t even need to be fake.” Louis grinned, his voice a faux whisper, and Harry jumped when his phone vibrated on the table.
It was a text from Niall, and all it said was ‘ You’re in the library Haz, fucking hell. Control yourself mate.’
His head snapped up but Niall wasn’t looking at him, so he shrugged and pocketed his phone; he didn’t need any more distractions from the fucking revelation that Louis somehow knew who he was, wanted to go out with him tonight, and, if Harry could judge body language the way he thought, was almost desperate to kiss him.
It filled him with a strange type of confidence that only Louis seemed to pull from him, and he let himself nuzzle into the warmth of Louis’ hand.
It wasn’t until after their third date, Harry pressed tightly between Louis and a wall, long legs wrapped around Louis’ waist, that Harry finally got to learn everything that made Louis... excel .
It earned him a slap on the chest where they’d collapsed on the floor after, though.