~Harry Edward Styles~
One New Message.
The sudden appearance of a tiny red ‘1’ pops up on the upperhand corner of the tiny mail icon resting lazily atop the screen, unassuming and beautiful and absolutely perfect. Though seemingly underwhelming, it’s enough to almost startle the espresso clean out of Harry’s previously frowning mouth.
One new message.
And it’s got to be from him.
Wiping the bitter droplets from his lips with the back of his hand (careful to avoid the fine satin of his shirt cuff—he’s not a Barbarian, after all) he clicks on the notification without hesitation, scooting his laptop closer and scattering the already haphazard piles of magazine clippings, hastily scribbled post-its, and piles of CDs atop his desk. Which is quite fine since chaos is poetic and artistic. It’s Harry’s aesthetic and he has no qualms admitting it to himself as he sets down his handcrafted clay mug that houses his (now) lukewarm Americano.
He works at an independent newspaper, for goodness sake. He’s allowed to have an aesthetic.
As the browser loads, Harry’s grin deepens, eyes washed aglow in the white light of his Macbook; little flecks of anticipation shoot through his impatient fingertips as they tap atop at his nicked wooden desk. He smiles to himself, recalling their last conversation; Harry had told him to watch his favorite movie of all time, Velvet Goldmine—the same movie that always makes everyone look at him a bit funny before they inconspicuously pull out their phones after only twenty minutes of watching, their attention spans long past their limit.
It was a test, see. It’s a test to see if Harry has found his soulmate, his heart’s companion. He smiles wider still at the thought, idly playing with his necklace, enjoying the way it clinks against the metal of his rings.
And then the page loads, revealing a message finally, finally, and yep—it’s him. It’s him!
Which, okay, isn’t really that surprising, considering Harry’s blog is essentially just a cyber notebook page filled with David Bowie pictures, bad poetry, black and white photos of rivers, and the occasional space post. He doesn’t get many visitors, doesn’t get anyone, really. So. Like. Yeah, obviously it was going to be him.
But you just never know, okay?
And, like, to be fair, there was that one time he actually made an original post—the same original post that had prompted him to message Harry in the first place. It’s sort of hard to remember the details of it all now, given that it was nearly a year ago… But Harry does know that it was around the time he started working here at the newspaper because his internal frustrations had caused him to scramble out some silly, errant text post complaining about the quality of music in the modern era and how only ‘brainless drones’ could possibly fool themselves into listening to such rubbish.
Like, okay. It probably was a little harsh. But Harry had had his reasons at the time. It was a dark era, a difficult time, alright?
Regardless, though. It happened, it was posted, it was (somehow) reblogged, and it lead to a very irate message appearing in Harry’s inbox. To this day, he still has it. It was by someone with the name ‘siuolwt’. Their icon was a pencil drawing of Pacman.
‘I find your text post very amusing, mercury-boy,’ it had read. (Yes, Harry’s URL is mercury-boy. It alludes to a higher plain of living, an artistic vision that he’s had since he was a youth…) ‘You seem to categorize music into ‘good quality’ and ‘bad quality’ when in actuality quality is a completely subjective term, much like good and bad. Best to step off that high horse while you’re still spouting this rubbish on the internet, best rethink some of your word choice before you present it to the real world.’
Harry remembers that, at the time, he was aghast. Completely insulted and annoyed and (maybe) mildly ashamed.
So he hadn’t answered immediately, instead scowled and stripped off his clothes and curled up in his bed, duvet wrapped tight around his body as he fell asleep to the flickering of his candles and the scratch of his Velvet Undergound record (his favorite one, the one that he always listens to every night before bed), determined to never return to the cold, unforgiving internet again.
But. Alas. The very next morning, he found himself rereading the message over his oatmeal and black coffee, sitting in his usual spot beneath the biggest window in his flat because it makes him feel brighter and more connected to the outside world. And there, with his crossed legs and his greasy ponytail high atop his head, with his white shorts and neon Andy Warhol t-shirt, the remnants of sleep still soaked into his eyeballs and languid limbs… He couldn’t quite connect with the anger he had felt the night before. Rather, he felt, like, sort of…thoughtful? It made him think.
This random person, this ‘siuolwt’, sort of… Dunno. Had a point, kind of. They were being a bit of a dick, but. But they had a point, which is always a disheartening prospect. And, despite Harry’s electric stubborn streak… He couldn’t really pretend otherwise.
And so, coffee mug nestled between his bare thighs, he typed out a response, determined to flex his intelligent, well-spoken poetic wings in the face of adversity. Because Harry leads a poetic, artistic life as an up-and-coming music journalist and he is always happy to prove as much.
‘Siuolwt, Thank you for your strong words, friend. While I don’t appreciate your tone very much, I can’t deny that you have a very good point. Sometimes I have strong opinions and I feel too much. I love my music and I guess everyone else’s is okay too. Maybe I shouldn’t be so mean. One mouse’s trash is another mouse’s treasure, as the old saying goes I guess. Yours sincerely, mercury-boy.’
Truth be told, Harry still isn’t sure if that’s an actual saying or if he just made it up at the time. But, regardless, he’d sent it, sniffed the clean air around him, took a sip of his coffee, and then promptly moved on with his life.
Cuz, like, Siuolwt messaged him back that same day, when Harry was getting ready for bed and had his laptop opened up on the top of his celestial duvet, Lou Reed’s velvety, cigarette lungs crooning into the empty space of his room. Suddenly, a tiny red notification appeared and, since Harry literally never receives messages, it didn’t take long to guess who it was from.
‘mercury-boy (still can’t quite get over that name to be honest hah) I gotta say I’m pleasantly surprised that you weren’t more of a dick about my message. Maybe there’s hope for you yet ;) I just looked at your blog and you’ve got some impressive Mick Jagger photos. Now just add some Beyonce in the mix and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly charmed boy on the other end of this correspondence. Yours sincerely, siuolwt’
Harry blinked at the message, mouth in a tiny ‘o’.
Okay, so arsehole from the internet was seemingly flirtatious. And apparently a boy. A boy who was charmed.
Interesting. How very interesting and unexpected.
So, naturally, Harry clicked on his name and devoured his blog until well past midnight. It was filled with football players, drawings of wolves, various musicians, and lots of snarky text posts. The entire thing was very chill, very humor-edged yet soulful, and the boy’s perpetual commentary was a pleasant mix of self-depreciating and endearingly self-loving.
Needless to say, Harry found himself a bit charmed as well. And there, amidst his tired eyes that were just a bit too dilated and his sheets that were begging him to just go to bed, he sent the boy about a thousand messages.
‘Siuolwt, how old are you? I’m 23 and I’m a majestic, mercury boy. Who are your favorite musicians? Do you like movies? What’s your favorite article of clothing in your possession? Will you listen to the song “Big Long Now” by Nirvana? Because if you do and you like it, then you’ll probably like me. Do you drink black coffee? Do you prefer tea? What do you read? Are you mean or nice? Why do you blog so many pictures of Beckham and sport things? Are you a sportsman? Why did you choose Nicki Minaj as your background? Why don’t you like Barry Manilow?’
And so on and so forth.
At first, Harry wondered if he went too hard too fast but, lieu and behold, the next afternoon came the response to every question asked, Harry reading each answer with an amused smile and a chin that rested happily in his palm.
Siuolwt was funny, he was witty. He sounded cute.
So, from there, it all just escalated. Escalated into mutual interests, recommendations, less hesitant inquiries, and then, eventually, the more mundane sort of things. Like asking for advice or inquiring about each other’s days, etc. And it’s funny, it really is, because Harry still doesn’t even know Siuolwt’s actual name (and has absolutely no idea what his URL even means—he’s searched every internet engine and dictionary he could find) and still doesn’t know that much about him—like where he lives or what he does for a living or what he even looks like. All he knows is that he’s a young man with odd music taste (some of it’s surprisingly good, actually) and a sharp tongue and a deep soul and an artistic mind and… And he’s clearly intelligent and a little lazy given his impressive, casual vocabulary and lack of structured grammar. He writes in short sentences mostly (unless he’s passionate about something) and… Harry doesn’t know him, is the thing, but it still feels like the love of his life. His secret soulmate.
And, for now, it’s enough. Actually, it’s more than enough as he sits here, in his small, unkempt office (aesthetic, remember), surrounded by several other small, unkempt offices, with walls that are paper thin and leave little to the imagination when, say, someone is talking about him. Rudely.
Like right now.
Even with his music flowing softly from the speakers of his laptop, Harry can still hear Louis’ voice wafting from Zayn’s office, insisting that Harry doesn’t have what it takes to be their music columnist. Which is pretty rich considering Harry’s been here, as the music columnist, for about a year now.
Then again, Louis Tomlinson is sort of a bitter bitch.
But, no matter. No point in wasting precious thought time on him. Harry has more important matters to attend to.
Smiling, he scans over the message now displayed on his screen.
‘Dear Mercury Boy, I watched Velvet Goldmine last night per your instructions. It’s exactly as weird and fucked up as you had made it sound. So. Obviously I loved it. Good job. ;) The soundtracks brilliant. I’d elaborate on the best bits but Im currently at work on mobile so I’ll save my brilliant commentary for later. Good luck at work. Hope your arch nemesis isn’t a prick for once today. (hah) If he is, remind him that you’re going to save the world and he’d best kiss your arse if he wants in. Yours sincerely, siuolwt’
God. Harry really shouldn’t be smiling this much for some random goon over the internet. He really, really shouldn’t.
But… But this goon is his romantic counterpart and their entire relationship, as intangible and untraditional as it is, is the singularly most enchanting and beautiful aspect of Harry’s very insubstantial life thus far. And, considering his high hopes of achieving ‘living, breathing art’ when he’d graduated uni, it’s the only thing that’s keeping him out of a mild identity crisis.
So he just lets himself smile as he begins to type out a response.
When Harry finally emerges from the cavernous depths of his room, blinking into the harsh fluorescent-meets-day light of the dated, chaotic expanse that is their newspaper’s head office, he yawns, loud and unabashed, the enormous hat atop his head nearly falling off in the process. He startles, quick to fix it—he can’t have that. His hat his part of his charm--that, coupled with his variously patterned shirts, that is. He likes to look on point—life’s about creating oneself, you know. And Harry is determined to create a life that involves lots of satin and flowers and headgear and excellent musical journalism.
“Harry, brilliant!” he suddenly hears Liam call, and he spins around, immediately shutting his yawning mouth and stilling his hand from where it’s scratching the exposed bit of his stomach.
Have to act professional, of course, for boss interaction time.
“Hullo, Liam, hi,” he greets amiably, lifting a lazy wave and drawing out the last word as he sidles up to him. The heels of his boots are clicking against the granite floors. He loves that sound, he always feels so powerful and chic whenever they echo in the corridors.
Grinning that Liam grin of his (which is fuzzy and completely un-intimidating, much like a stuffed animal or gap-toothed adolescent) he stands up from his desk. Being the Editor of their newspaper (it’s called The New Direction, did Harry ever mention that? It’s such a, like, really transcending name), he gets to have his desk in the middle of the main room, like some big, important head-honcho. Which, okay, sure—he is. But Harry still finds himself a little jealous, considering the rest of them are doomed to a life living in small, dark spaces; all of their offices surround Liam. It’s very celestial, very galactic, very orderly. Liam is the sun they rotate around. Zayn’s Mars. Niall’s Earth. Harry’s obviously Mercury. Louis wants to be Jupiter but he’s actually Pluto because he’s useless.
“How’s the article going, lad?” Liam asks, leaning on his desk and looking Harry directly in the eye. He’s big on eye contact which is either something you love or hate, Harry has come to discover. He doesn’t mind it one bit but Zayn’s always complaining about it in an undertone, his lips sour whenever he’s subjected to it. Louis hates it too but he’s more up front about it, constantly giving Liam hell for his unblinking gaze and always managing to make him break it, laughing begrudgingly. (Because that’s his pompous personality in a nut shell.) Niall likes it, though. Niall’s kind of like Harry—he’s one of the more sensitive souls. If he wasn’t so difficult to read and understand, Harry would probably try to fall in love with him because he seems complex and kind and at peace with himself. Well, that is, if Zayn wasn’t in the picture as well. Because, like, Niall and Zayn have a…thing. Harry’s pretty sure of it, at least.
“It’s going well. Really well, actually,” Harry beams, feeling a flicker of excitement. He’s writing an article about George Harrison and Albert Hammond Jr., discussing the commonalities of their guitar styles and the timelessness of their vibes. The idea in itself had Liam initially very hesitant, thus provoking even more of Louis’ unkind judgment (“Liam’ll never go for something like that,” he’d sniffed when Harry had mentioned it) but, given that Harry has yet to disappoint on his delivery, Liam had given the OK, the tension behind his eyes much less prominent than it has been months before. Harry counted it as a success, especially because it made Louis’ face turn a nice shade of salty, the mean-spirited fiend that he is.
“Good, good. I figured as much,” Liam grins, beginning to shuffle some papers atop his desk. He then pauses, clears his throat. “Have you, er, included Louis in this at all or…?” His tone is pitched to casual—a wonderful flavor of treacherous.
Smile wiped off his face, Harry immediately folds his arms on instinct, trying his best not to scowl because he’s a civil human being. “No,” he says curtly. Maybe a little stubbornly.
At that, Liam lifts his head, his eyes a touch sad, his mouth tilted in a frown. “Harry…” he starts, disapproving.
But Harry only sighs, letting his arms drop as he skims a hand across the surface of Liam’s pristine desk. “I know, I know,” he grumbles under his breath, but he can still feel the disappointed line of Liam’s lips so he swallows before finally meeting his superior’s gaze, firmly ignoring the appalled indignation and annoyance surging inside. “He doesn’t make it easy, though. Like, I tried. I found him and told him my idea and everything, just like I always do. And, as per usual, all he said was that you wouldn’t like it.” He shrugs, dropping his gaze again. “I’m not going to force him to collaborate with me.”
A pulse of silence follows and Harry can see Liam rubbing his forehead in his peripherals.
“Look. I know you two don’t get on. And I know Louis doesn’t make it easy for you. But both of you are my strongest writers and, before you came, he was doing both the sports and music sections, you know? And he was doing a brilliant job of it. And he likes it you know, he likes---“
“He just likes the attention he gets from it,” Harry glares before he can stop himself. And then he promptly shuts his mouth, sending an apologetic frown to Liam.
“Harry,” he reprimands softly, and Harry purses his lips. “Just… Keep trying, okay? It would only benefit you two to collaborate. It would only benefit the newspaper.”
“Yeah, sure, alright,” Harry sighs, longsuffering. “Fine. I’ll keep trying.”
And, just like that, Liam’s smile is back and he’s clapping a hand to Harry’s shoulder. “Brilliant,” he says, tone decisive and appeased. “Now, I’ll let you get back to work.” And with that, he settles back at his desk.
Harry stands there for only one self-pitying moment before he finally manages to drag himself to Louis’ office door, his body already zipped into an irate line. Stupid Louis. Is it possible to be this annoyed already?
He knocks twice. Hard.
“Why are you knocking?” comes the response.
Harry sighs, briefly closing his eyes. “It’s Harry,” is all he says.
“Oh,” he hears, before it’s accompanied by some shuffling, a few footsteps and—ah. An opened door revealing a Louis. He smirks when he meets Harry’s eye, looking scruffy and a little tired. “That’s why.” His tone drips with condescension.
“Right,” Harry clips, taking a deep breath. Louis is one of those overly confident attractive types that looks down his perfectly sculpted nose at everybody else. It’s a shame, too, because he’s got potential to be really brilliant, but. But he’s a dickhead, so. “Look, I was just coming by to ask if you wanted to look over the article I’m writing. See if you, like… Wanted to add something. Or something,” Harry mutters begrudgingly, avoiding Louis’ eye.
Instantly, Louis sours, the mischief in his eyes replaced by flat light. “No, thanks,” he says immediately, already making to shut the door which is just…
Honestly. Why is this guy such a prick?
“Jesus, I was just asking,” Harry mutters darkly, insult heavy in his frown.
At that, Louis pauses, finding Harry’s eye so he can glare actual daggers. “Well, I’m just saying no, thank you,” Louis snaps back. “Now run along and write your pretty articles.”
“They are pretty,” Harry defends, sending back his own glare. “Liam certainly thinks so.”
“Awweh. Teacher’s pet,” Louis snorts, knuckles white where they clutch the door. He makes a show of rolling his eyes.
Harry feels his glare deepen then, nails digging into his clenched palms.. “Which is exactly what you used to be. Before I came along and showed everyone what actual good writing looks like,” he adds, feeling spiteful, and yep—there’s that flash of indignance.
“Right,” Louis says icily, taking a step back. “I’ll just be leaving now.”
And the door shuts in Harry’s face.
Honestly, what a prick. What an utter prick. Louis Tomlinson, with his big mouth and sharp tongue and uncombed hair and sarcastic, crass, awful soul. Louis Tomlinson who, like, perpetually wears dorky t-shirts and too-tight skinny jeans and Vans, always kicking his feet up on desks and cackling way too loudly and swearing far too much and always seeming like he’s laughing at you. Louis, who’s relentless and aggressive and pretentious about tea (of all things!) and never admits when he’s wrong which is, like, all of the time? Louis, who doesn’t recycle and Louis who, back when Harry first came to apply, told him that they weren’t hiring when, in actuality, they were.
They were. He lied.
The New Direction had always been Harry’s dream job, ever since he’d first picked it up in his mates’ rooms at uni and read that article about The Velvet Underground, the same one that made him fall in love with that album, the same one that made him want to be a music journalist. It was so wonderfully written, so whimsical and tangible and real and just… It was like Harry felt the music through the words, somehow? And it opened his eyes and made him feel and think in ways far deeper than he ever had before. It was then that he started studying journalism and music, it was then that he started writing journals, practicing his hand, and going to local gigs to sip Amaretto and close his eyes, just to experience something. The same something that article made him feel. And, every time, he’d go back to his flat, drunk and impassioned as he wrote until he’d fall asleep, the Velvet Underground article taped to the wall behind his desk, watching over him with its beautiful language. It was probably written by some has-been that thrived in the seventies, some old creaky hippie with the most beautiful mind in the world...
And thus, it was with complete and utter elation that Harry discovered that The New Direction was looking for a new music columnist.
And thus, Harry hopped on the opportunity as soon as he could, his heart lodged in the safe confines of his throat.
And thus, his hopes where initially shattered by one such Louis Tomlinson.
Louis, who has always been that same arsehole he’d been that first day.
Liam wants Harry to collaborate with that? When Harry himself is made of substance and integrity and wit and allegory and literary allusions?
No. Absolutely not.
Enraged, Harry stomps back to his office, angry words sitting distastefully on his tongue. He needs to vent.
Thank fuck for Siuolwt. He’ll understand. He’ll make Harry feel better about his prison.
Thank god for people like him. Thank god.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
Louis Tomlinson is a decently happy guy. He’s got a good job, doing what he enjoys—spouting his bold, unabashed opinions through the brilliant medium of print and waltzing around the office like he owns the place. He’s got good mates, most who work at said job, and he’s got decently good looks, good prospects, a good flat, and good outlook on life. Hell, you’d probably even get away with saying that Louis’ a good person. Because he is, you know. He’s changed enough diapers and cleaned enough toilets to earn a badge for some humanitarian award somewhere.
It’s just that, sometimes, he would greatly enjoy punching Liam Payne in the face.
“You’re a piece of shit for being up our arses all the time,” Louis mumbles as he sits atop Liam’s desk, feet swinging like heavy pendulums. He scratches his beard, sending a half-attempted withering glare in the direction of Harry’s office. “I’m not going to collaborate with your new pet, Payne.”
Eyes firmly glued to the luminous blue screen of his laptop, Liam merely hums in response, clearly not even listening. His fingers fly atop the keypad, steady and a little too aggressive. Every time he presses the space bar Louis jumps, its merciless thwack resonating through the empty expanse of the office. The evening sun floods bloody orange through the large, paned windows. The atmosphere is calm. Smells a bit like coffee and ink. And cheap air freshener—probably something Niall bought because he insists that he can’t focus if things don’t smell right. Given that his grooming habits are more than questionable, it’s pretty amusing, actually. Louis laughs at him, laughs when Niall folds his arms grumpily. He can be such a sensitive lad. Which comes as no surprise, given that he is their advice columnist, often spouting solutions to broken feelings and lonely souls. Oh, Niall.
Another thwack of the space bar sends Louis’ limbs jolting. Fuck, Liam’s hand need to slow down.
A clock ticks on the opposite wall.
Louis wonders if Harry’s still here. Probably. Probably writing that fucking article, even. Probably making sure it’s perfect and adequately pretentious so that everybody can break their backs kissing his arse again.
It’s fucking ridiculous, is what it is.
He brings his nails up to his teeth, feeling a line form between his brows as he continues to stare out the large windows off the office, still on Liam’s desk, legs still swinging a little haphazardly.
Honestly, fuck Harry. He took what should’ve been Louis’—he took his dream job.
“Come on, Li, let me do it,” Louis had begged, all that time ago, back when the position first opened. Stan had left the paper, had gotten a job as some service representative at some suit-and-tie gig and it was quite the sell-out, considering how passionate he’d been about his independent labels and unsigned bands. But Louis never begrudged him for it, never gave him shit for throwing in the towel and finding himself a proper career to build a future for himself and the missus. He also never said shit because he wanted that job, wanted to write the music column because…. Well. Sports are great and all, but Louis’ evolved from the lad he’d been five years ago, back when Beckham was his one-and-only and football was still fresh in his limbs.
But now Louis is older, wiser, more bitter, and sort of fucking tired of flaunting unpopular opinions in regards to a bunch of men kicking a ball around. And he still loves football, he does. It’s just… He wants something different. He wants to write with the same passion he used to feel back when he had that shitty garage band in uni and he’d always go home on someone’s adoring arm.
Maybe he’s just having a quarter-life crisis.
In any case, he’d practically begged Liam for the job when it’d opened up.
Liam had only stared at him, purse-lipped and pitying. “Louis…” he’d begun gently, too gently, and Louis already felt the hope drain from his arteries. “You already know how brilliant you are with your column. A good chunk of our revenue comes from your brash opinions. And sports, well… It’s a big draw, Louis. I really think it’s best if you just…stay.”
And, yeah, it wasn’t a surprise or anything. The New Direction is Liam’s baby. It’s the very trendy and cult-adored independent newspaper that he’d started during his first year of university, back when he was an overachieving humanitarian with no outlets because nobody would listen to him beneath all of those sweater vests and ill-fitting jeans.
It’s no surprise that Liam wants his strongest players in their strongest positions.
But…still. Louis and Liam are friends. More than just business associates and…
And, okay. Louis had been naïve.
“But I’ve been writing all the bits since Stan’s left. And they’ve been well received, haven’t they?” He sighed at Liam’s unchanging face. “Alright, well… What if I did both?”
Immediately, Liam shook his head. “No, Louis,” he said firmly. “You can’t take on that much. I won’t let you. Not only because I’m your mate and I don’t want to see that kind of work load on you, but also because I’m your boss and that’s an excellent recipe for disaster. No.”
And that pretty much settled it.
Still, though, Louis harbored hope in his chest, even when Liam began interviewing the brainless hipsters that were tripping over themselves to apply. He harbored enough hope to keep writing articles, staying up till the wee hours of morning, tweaking every last word in hopes that one article, just one, would be good enough to change Liam’s mind.
And it was because of this that Louis had immediately narrowed his eyes the minute he’d first set eyes on Harry Styles.
“Hi!” the eager youth had grinned as he walked up to the rickety table they called the ‘front desk’, donned in an alarmingly large hat, suede boots, and a polka-dot blouse that, no doubt, once belong to someone’s nan. Just another wannabe in the sea.
“Hello,” Louis had replied icily, straightening up from where he’d been glaring at resumes. He eyed the bouncy youth before him. He wore a lot of rings. He was carrying a folder stuffed with papers. There was a tattoo poking out from his sleeve.
Louis hated him.
“I’m here to inquire about the position for the music section? Of your newspaper?” He’d sounded so young, so fresh out of university. So idealistic.
Louis wanted to scratch his eyes out.
He resisted though, instead primly clearing his throat and quirking a brow, staring unblinkingly into the youth’s eyes. “And?”
Harry had blinked, his smile slipping just barely. But then he’d gathered himself, quick as anything, and it made Louis’ eyes narrow further. “And I’m interested in applying. I was wondering if there was any certain way—“
“Position’s been filled,” Louis had clipped, already pushing himself away from the table and walking away. He could see Liam up ahead, staring out the window, clutching two revisions in each hand. “Thanks for stopping by, though. Have a nice life.”
And, with that, Louis left, leaving Harry gaping after him.
It wasn’t until a week later that he bumped into Harry again. In the office. Returning from Liam’s desk. The minute he saw Louis, he’d stopped in his tracks, his jovial smile freezing. He had a very kind face, very cherubic. But it turned positively sour then.
“You,” he said softly, accusingly. He frowned as Louis slowed his pace, stopping only a few feet away from him, an easy countenance to his shoulders, hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans.
“Me,” he’d remarked lazily, blinking deliberately slow.
Harry frowned deeper. “You told me the position had been filled.”
And then Louis frowned. “It is.”
A smirk formed on Harry’s lips. “Well, yeah, technically. Now it has.”
And that was all he said before he grinned smugly and walked away.
So, really, it’s no surprise that, ever since then, they haven’t exactly been the best of friends. Even despite Liam’s peace-making efforts.
“You can collaborate,” Liam had told them on Harry’s first day, calling both him and Louis to his desk. “If you so choose, of course. But you’ve both got extreme talent, there’s no denying that. Together, I think you two could be something special. The New Direction would only benefit from it.” He’d spoken so calmly, lacing his fingers together atop the table.
Louis remembers how tight his jaw had been, his fingers digging into his flesh as he crushed his arms across his chest, refusing to meet Liam’s eye for fear he would singe him with all the fire he felt inside.
Beside him, Harry remained quiet.
Silence stretched on.
“Er. Right…” Liam had then said, a little awkwardly, eyes flitting between them. “Well, it’s up to you both, of course. But, uh. Well. That’s all.. That’s all I had to say. So.”
He cleared his throat as the vein in Louis’ neck thumped. “You can, uh—you can go now.”
They both scattered like mice.
And Louis doesn’t even feel bad, is the thing. How can he? How can he feel guilty when Harry’s found his way into Liam’s proverbial lap, spewing out “brilliant” article after “brilliant” article, getting praise thrown at him every five fucking seconds, all just because he likes to wax a little poetic about his pretentious banjo music and Eric Clapton guitar solos. Louis used to be the best here, okay? He was the best and Liam looked up to him, watched him with mild wonder and pride whenever Louis spoke or handed him his outlines and rough drafts and proposals and… And he was the best, okay? Zayn may be brilliant, with his bordering-on-conspiricist political articles (that Liam often has to uncomfortably send back, begging for a tamed down version of his radical viewpoints) and Niall may be the unexpectedly eloquent Irish charmer with his advice column and Liam may be professionally graceful with all of occasional current event contributions and overall finish. But it was Louis that was the adored one, the special one—even despite the fact that all he did was write about fucking sports, of all things.
So. Now. It’s not just Louis anymore. It’s Louis and Harry. Because Harry is poetic, they say. Harry is witty and clever and unique and beautifully spoken and wise beyond his years, they say.
Well, fuck that. And fuck him. Because this is Louis’ place and… And, really, he has little else.
It’s a depressing thought, but it’s true.
Sighing, he hangs his head, feeling like Charlie fucking Brown. His legs stop swinging. Liam’s still typing. Harry’s door is still closed. Niall already went home, accompanied by Zayn. (They have a thing going on. It’s currently undefined, has been for a few years now actually, hah.) The sun’s falling down and everything’s getting dimmer and oranger and bluer and…
And Louis sighs again.
He stalls a bit on going home though, even as he looks over and realizes Liam hasn’t been paying a lick of attention to him. And probably won’t.
It’s just. He doesn’t always like going home. Sometimes it’s dark and smelly in his flat. It’s small and untidy and has too many dirty socks on the floor, too many wrinkled jeans in the bathroom that lie untouched for weeks upon weeks. The food in his fridge doesn’t make sense and he hates the way his shitty handsoap smells. It’s lonely, too. It’s lonely because he doesn’t have a flatmate or a pet or even a bloody plant—he killed his last one. It was a cactus. Apparently they need sun. Nobody told Louis that.
He chews his nails again, bites them down, down, down.
Maybe he’ll just go home after all. Check his messages on his blog.
At that, an actual smile pulls at his lips.
Maybe he’ll have gotten a response already. He’d only just sent his last message a few hours ago, just a quick little thing as he was puttering around Zayn’s office, and he knows his boy’s probably at work so it’s very unlikely that he’s even seen Louis’ message, but… But Louis can hope, eh? He’s got shit else to invest his emotions into. Might as well let his heart pick up a pace or two at the prospect of his Imaginary Boyfriend messaging him from across the sea. Or wherever he lives.
“Hey, Payne?” Louis hops off the desk, smile still echoing on his lips as rubs his bum, watching the way Liam’s lips move wordlessly as his eyes dart to and fro, fingers flying. “I’m heading out, alright?”
Liam nods, lips still moving.
Louis waits for something more (perhaps a glance?) but receives shit all, so he ends up just rolling his eyes. “Good talk,” he mumbles under his breath, heading back to his den of an office to pick up his shit.
Homeward bound, then. Where, hopefully, he’ll find a little bit of solace in a stranger.
Louis’ just about to step onto the elevator, which is fairly lazy in and of itself—their entire building consists of only two floors and it’s this tiny, dingy thing from the early 1900’s which, miraculously, has central heating and electricity. But, thing is, the stairwell always smells inexplicably like vomit and mothballs and the fluorescent lights always flicker and it’s sort of really terrifying, if Louis’ being honest. He’d rather just be a lazy piece of shit and tuck himself in this rickety matchbox that takes ten times longer to descend one floor than it would if Louis just climbed out the window. But whatever.
He’s just walking inside said rickety matchbox when, out of fucking nowhere, comes a large urban sombrero, legs, long undone curls, and hideous sunglasses, climbing inside right along with him.
Harry. Oh joy.
Attempting to school his annoyed grimace into indifference, Louis merely sighs, averting his gaze so he isn’t obligated to force out a greeting. Because, no thanks.
Naturally, Harry says hello anyway.
“Hi, Louis,” he all but glares, but he’s got his hands folded behind his back and he seems to be attempting good manners. How very generous.
“Hullo,” Louis grunts back, pulling out his phone. His bag is tugging on his shoulder and the groan of the elevator door sliding shut tugs at the hairs on the back of his neck. Everything is displeasing right now.
Firmly avoiding Harry’s glances, he opens his blog. Because, you know, he’d prefer a distraction right now and this seems more than suitable.
He’s delighted to find a new message.
‘Dear siuolwt, I’m so glad you liked the movie!!!!!! :) I can send you the soundtrack? It’s my favorite ever, I hope you feel the same. If not, that’s okay too. Thank you for always being so nice to me, even though you’re very far away and don’t know who I am. But like, I hesitate to say that because you probably know me better than anyone else in my life because you read my direct thoughts, the ones I’m not afraid to say because, well. It’s different this way. Anyway, I’m rambling! Thanks though and yeah, my arch nemesis was very prickish today but it’s okay. He’s just one of those people, you know? Likes to make me feel small because he’s small. One of those. Like, he’s dissatisfied with his job and life so he tries to make me feel dissatisfied too. I don’t understand why people want to make you feel like you don’t deserve something, it’s very mean. But…. I dunno, I just hope you had a better day. I imagine that you’re a painter somewhere, dipping your paintbrush in wine glasses and drinking absinthe in a Parisian hotel. :) Anyway, tell me about your thoughts on the movie later!!!!!!! Please!!!!!!! :) Yours sincerely, mercury-boy’
The elevator dings, signaling the end of the ride, startling Louis out of his thoughts. He frowns, the words staring up at him in boldface, etched quietly into the screen of his phone. His eyes flit over the sentences, again and again, charmed and warmed by the ridiculous sweetness of the stranger boy, but also… His eyes stop on that one sentence.
‘I don’t understand why people want to make you feel like you don’t deserve something.’
He frowns deeper.
“Have a good day,” a deep voice says suddenly from beside him, causing Louis to lift his head just in time to see Harry stalk away, back stiff and straight, head held high. It’s less than friendly. And, hell, he has more than enough reason to be as such, doesn’t he?
Lips tight, Louis looks back down at his phone, feet planted in the ground. The elevator doors will probably close soon.
‘I don’t understand why people want to make you feel like you don’t deserve something.’
Well, he wants to say in response, even as the words twist guiltily inside his brain. Maybe it’s because those people actually deserve it instead.
But he could never say that, could he? Not to him. Not to this…weird, mysterious, phantom friend he’s somehow managed to keep for nearly a damn year now. Not to the only person who seems to find him fascinating and deep and artistic and colorful and interesting… Not to, quite literally, the only person Louis acts like a fucking sap to. He’s sent this mystery soul poetry that he’s written at four in the morning before, drunk off his arse and lamenting the emptiness of his life, okay? This guy’s seen a lot, a lot, more than Louis feels comfortable admitting and he doesn’t just want to… Be a dick to him.
Even if his words hit a little too close to home.
The elevator doors begin to shut. Blinking, Louis stops them just in time, squeezes out of the matchbox with his phone in his hand, and walks out of the building, an odd ebb of guilt in his stomach.
~Harry Edward Styles~
‘Dear mercury-boy, it’s late here. I should probably go to bed tbqh. But just. I have a question, ok? Maybe it’s advice I need I don’t know. But Ive been thinking a lot. I have a coworker who I can be very patronizing to. Mostly because he took the job that I wanted and he has this incredible knack to undermine my uniqueness. :) But seriously, he’s better than I am and I used to be really good... I don’t know. I can be a little mean sometimes. So like. I guess I’m just wondering. Is that wrong? Am I a bad person? Asking the real questions here haha Yours sincerely siuolwt’
Harry blinks, clutching his steaming mug of green tea as he frowns at the screen of his laptop, reading the paragraph over and over, the words cutting tiny incisions into the more tender bits of his heart.
Oh, Siuolwt. Oh, dearest Siuolwt. It’s… It’s such a sad message.
Not for the first time, Harry wishes he knew more about this boy. Wishes he had a face to pin all the self-doubting tragedy to, wishes he could illustrate up eyes that were filled with that delicate sadness he so beautifully envisions with this lost, wonderful soul. Like… Like, maybe he’s idealizing him a bit, yeah, but the thing is, is that Siuolwt (and isn’t it just so funny that he doesn’t even know his name??) is the constant presence that Harry carries with him, like the sun hanging above his head in the day, the moon at night, and they know each other and they’ve always gotten along and read each other’s words and laughed. They’ve always understood each other’s humor, even through the dry medium of text, and now… Now it’s like they’re here for each other’s lives. Not just for the frivolities of online friendship but, like, for the real stuff.
And he wants Harry’s opinion. His advice.
It’s a perfect stranger and yet Harry feels the warmth spread across his skin.
His fingers begin typing.
‘Dear Siuolwt, While I cannot say that I know enough about your situation to adequately respond in an unbiased way (I’m always on your side!!) I will say this: Though it’s never useful to be mean, I do trust that you have your reasons. Given that we met because you privately messaged me the error of my ways in reference to a judgmental text post I’d made, I think it’s safe to say you’re a good person. :) Even though we don’t know each other in the physical sense, I feel that I know you very well through your thoughts; they’ve opened up a lot of my own. So. I guess my advice is that you should maybe take your own advice if you feel like you’re being unfair? Respect life, etc :) It’s late here, too. But if you want to keep talking, if like you have a lot on your mind or something, I don’t mind! I’ll be up for awhile. Yours sincerely, mercury-boy’
It doesn’t take ten minutes until a new alert appears. One New Message.
‘My dear little mercury-boy you’re far too generous to me. You’re right of course. I don’t really know what else to say on the matter but I appreciate your offer. Should probably go to bed actually, stew in me thoughts for a bit longer haha. Am just a sad little man living beneath a gloomy London sky hah. Yours sincerely, siuolwt.’
Harry almost drops his mug.
“Wait,” he says aloud, to nobody except his houseplants and his poster of Keith Richards. “Wait, wait, wait.” He sets down his mug, eyes zeroing in on the message as he blinks, just to be sure he’s not imagining it, just to be sure that it’s really there.
‘Am just a sad little man living beneath a gloomy London sky hah.’
‘living beneath a gloomy London sky’
Harry clutches his knitted afghan. “London,” he whispers out loud, the breath whooshing out of him.
London, London, London, Siuolwt lives in LONDON, fuck he lives here, he lives in the same city as Harry, he lives here.
Shit shit shit. Oh god, oh dear god!
“He lives here,” he whispers faintly, heart picking up pace. “Here. In the same city as me.”
Harry carries his gaze over to the tiny figurine he keeps on his bedside table—it’s a frog lounging beneath a parasol that it’s clutching very dramatically. He named it Barnabus. His sister Gemma bought it for him because she said it reminded her of him… Harry likes to think of himself as more a bird than a frog, though. Frogs are lumpy.
“I thought he lived in another country, Barnabus,” he whispers in awe, lips slow to form the words.
Barnabus stares back dramatically.
A rush of blood flows to Harry’s head, rendering him dizzy and limbless. Oh god.
“What if he lives nearby? What if he lives in the same building?”
Still, Barnabus stares.
What if? What if?
There are too many heart-beating questions to ask. And part of Harry…
Well, part of him hesitates to rip the blanket of mystery off of this…whatever-you-call-it. Friendship? Yeah, friendship. He hesitates to shove this very special friendship out of the beautiful, enigmatic confines of unreality and force it into the spotlight but, like, it’s Siuolwt. And he’s… He gets Harry, okay? He’s funny and witty and opinionated and real and artistic and beautiful and he understands why The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground is Harry’s favorite record of all time and he once told Harry that he probably smells like violets and, out of all the fucking places in the world, he lives here. In Harry’s same city.
So, forget everything else. This is fate, it has to be.
Harry types back, fingers quick and fleeting.
‘My dearest Siuolwt…. You live in London??? Yours sincerely, mercury-boy.’
The response is quick.
And now Harry’s heartbeat is in his throat. His fingers are shaky when he types the next words.
‘I live in London, too.’
He sends it. And thirty seconds later, after twirling a curl manically around his finger, he sends another.
‘It’s 11:37pm and you can’t see the moon because it’s cloudy and cold.’
That’s all he sends. And then he waits.
It’s just when he’s about to get up and brush his teeth as a distraction, the time dragging by, his heart beating in his throat, when he receives the next message.
‘It’s almost midnight now. Look, a little bit of the moon’s slipped through a cloud! Go look, quick!’
Grinning, pulse thumping excitedly, Harry leaps out of bed with all the grace of a well-practiced ballerina, skidding over to his bedroom window and peeling back the curtains. There, above the uneven points of the rooftops, is a sliver of the moon, its struggling, wavering light illuminating the thick clusters of clouds threatening to swallow it back up.
It sorta truly hits him then—him and Siuolwt. They’re looking at the same moon. In the same city. Right here, right now.
Nothing will ever be this beautiful ever again.
Enormous smile still in place, Harry jumps back onto his bed, the afghan scratching his knees a bit as he folds his legs beneath him, licking his lips with nervous excitement and tapping against the cold keys, cheeks warm. The smell of his cinnamon candle suddenly seems more pungent, the dim lights seem more golden. Maybe the world just became more beautiful?
‘Saw it :) Thank you :) It’s funny…. We’ve been here the whole time. Yours sincerely, mercury-boy.’
He flicks off the lights then, lets the room fall into darkness, lit up only by his lone candle and the glow of his laptop. He tugs his legs up, rests his chin upon his knee as he smiles, hands poised above the keyboard as he waits.
One New Message.
‘Wonder if we’ve ever seen each other ! haha :) Yours sincerely, siuolwt’
It’s enough to send Harry’s heart upwards, clear through the roof of the building.
God. But just imagine. What if Harry’s bumped into him on the street? What if he’s stared longingly at him in the produce aisle at the shop? What if he’s rode his bike next to him or held the door open for him or… God.
It seems so silly to think up all these ‘What If’s… It seems silly when… When, really…
They could just meet.
Another surge of palpitations assault him, the palms of his hands quickly growing clammy as he sucks in a breath, determined not to lose his burst of brilliance as his fingers began peppering out the words.
‘Maybe we should meet.’
He sends it, feels his esophagus shrink to the size of a noodle.
He waits. He waits and waits and waits, tapping his hands to an uneven beat on his bed as he nibbles on the cushion of his lip and considers going for a midnight run, just to let out some of this pent-up, manic energy. Maybe he should make a pot of tea and study Hemingway’s manuscripts?
But then the notification appears and Harry holds his breath without realizing it, sinking anticipatory teeth into his finger because he doesn’t have anything to bite out his nerves on. God, this is so stressful, what was he thinking?
The message is short. It consists of one word.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
“I’m going to actually vomit,” Louis deadpans, slamming his fist atop Zayn’s desk.
It takes a moment for Zayn to look up from his phone, Buddy Holly glasses slipping down his nose. He sniffs when he finally meets Louis’ eye, pushing them up with his forefinger. He’s got some Russian novel opened on his desk next to a notebook filled with scratched out aggressions and various political cartoons. It’s all written in black Sharpie and there are ink stains covering his hands. In the corner of his desk sits his laptop, closed and turned off, little scatterings of dust atop its surface. Zayn’s one of those types who insists he doesn’t need technology, often claims that, one day, he’s going to live off the grid. Considering his penchant for cartoons and texting Niall though, Louis can’t quiet envision it.
Still though, it makes him a bit of a self-important arsehole and it makes him look at Louis the way he is now: witheringly. Louis really adores him.
“If you clean it up, I guess that’s alright,” he replies calmly, tone dead from the inside-out. He looks half awake, his hair messy and pushed to the side. He recently got a haircut; the sides are short and the top is messy and longish and it makes him looks like an avant-garde androgynous model.
Louis glares. “Aren’t you going to ask why? Are you not compelled at all?”
Zayn merely blinks in response, slow and syrupy, phone still lying loosely in his hand.
“Okay, so not taking the bait, alright. Cool,” Louis huffs, standing up straighter and folding his arms. “I just wanted to share my news, is all.
This, however, is enough to pique Zayn’s interest. And one of his eyebrows. “News?” he grunts, setting down his phone. He leans on his desk, resting his elbows atop the marked wood, his elbow knocking a Sharpie to the floor. He makes no move to pick it up, doesn’t even bat an eye. Louis’ never quite sure if Zayn is drugged or if he’s just that unimpressed with the world.
“Yeah,” Louis smirks, but it’s not nearly as confident as he wishes it were. It’s mostly just terrified, actually. He’s caught between anticipation and mortification. “Yeah, uh… So you know the blog guy, right? The one—“
“The one you’ve been covertly messaging, via the internet, for a year?”
“Almost a year,” Louis corrects, refusing to feel shame.
They stare at each other. Zayn’s lips are the first to quirk. “Alright, so Blog Guy? What about him.”
What about him…
Louis clears his throat, shuffling from one foot to the next. When he’d woken up this morning, the messages from the night before still fresh in his mind, he’d been filled with jubilation and adrenaline at the prospect of meeting his potential soulmate. Now though, the whole thing seems a bit pathetic and childish, a far cry from an ideal love story. They know shit all about each other—not their names or their occupations or, hell, even what they look like. Only just last night did they discover that they’ve been living in the same fucking city this whole damn time and…
And what if it’s the most disappointing, awkward mess of Louis’ life?
Grimacing just a little, just a bit, Louis picks at a loose thread in the sleeve of his jumper.
“So. Funny thing.” He pauses, feeling oddly self-aware.
Zayn makes an impatient noise, offers a flick of his hand, urging Louis to continue. He raises his eyebrows when Louis meets his eye.
“Well, funny thing,” Louis continues. “We’re going to meet.”
“You’re going to meet,” Zayn repeats, tone flat.
“Well, yeah, that’s what I said,” Louis responds, a bit defensively as he hardens his chin. “He lives in London. Just found out last night. So… We’re gonna meet.” He shrugs self-consciously.
“And what? That’s my news.”
Zayn smirks, lifts his Coke and lets the lukewarm aluminum rest against his mouth. “Alright. Cool. So when’s it happening?”
Zayn’s smirk widens. “Well, then. Looks like you did have news after all.”
It’s a surprisingly generous reaction.
So Louis attempts a smile, shoulders just barely loosening. “Yeah,” he sighs, leaning on the edge of the desk just as Niall comes ambling in, wearing an easy smile and carrying lunch.
Zayn’s eyes immediately light up, his face relaxing into a genuine smile as he beckons him over, Louis long forgotten.
Louis watches them, a small smile threatening to curve his lips. “Yeah, I suppose I did,” he says quietly, but nobody’s listening.
It’s five o’clock. The office is stuffy, edging on too warm, and Louis keeps tugging at the collar of his t-shirt, neck damp with barely-budded sweat. He thought he would be home by three. However, he did not foresee Liam’s hesitant entrance into his office and his polite inquiry of “Hey, Lou? Do you think you could write a piece about the student protests they’re doing? For this month’s issue? I know it’s last minute but I don’t trust anybody else to do a good job at such short notice.” He asked with an expectant smile and trusting eyes so, really, there was no way Louis could’ve refused him.
And so here he is, another evening rolling around, and his arse has been sat in a chair for almost ten hours.
He’s almost done, too. Almost. But not.
He groans at the reality of it all, finally allowing himself to avert his eyes away from the sickly light of his word document and bury his head in the safe crook of his arms. Just for a moment. Just rest his head for one moment.
It’s exactly in this position that Harry finds him.
“Ahem,” he suddenly hears, loud and purposeful, and it sends him shooting upwards, his back straightening immediately.
“Sorry—“ he fumbles quickly, remorse on the tip of his tongue---that is, until he sees Harry standing in his doorway, hands folded in front of him, a neutral (albeit smug) look upon his face. “Oh,” Louis amends, all apology gone. “It’s just you.”
“Indeed. Just me,” Harry smoothes back, eyeing Louis carefully.
He merely purses his lips in response.
“So,” Harry continues after a moment’s tense pause. He takes a step further into the room, eyeing the messy surfaces and spilt piles of books and magazines that lie along the perimeters with distaste. Slowly, he walks to the window, peering past the thick dusty curtains that Louis rarely tends to open—sunlight can be distracting. He tugs them open, just a fraction, sending a slice of light through the room, right across Louis’ tired eyes.
Damn. Louis squints harshly before he ducks his head, offering up his best glare. Harry bites back a laugh. Bastard.
“Sorry,” he says, not sounding sorry at all, before he continues, walking up to Louis’ desk with ease. “I noticed you were still here.”
“That’s correct, Harry, good insight,” he deadpans, leaning back in his chair, more to stretch out his back than anything else. He hears a few clicks as he does so. God, he’s old. Twenty-four is a tough age.
Harry’s lips are tight as he peers down at Louis, his hair long and messy, framing his face. It somehow manages to look elegant, though. Of course it does. “Busy working?”
Louis rolls his eyes. “Well, yeah. I don’t just kick about here, believe it or not. I know I don’t always exactly rush home to my pleasant life of nothing or anything, but really. I have some semblance of a life.”
It sounds more depressing than he meant it to. Harry looks at him weirdly, a dent in his forehead, and Louis rubs his eyes, wishing he could just be alone.
“Uhm. Well. I just wanted to see if you wanted to, you know, talk about maybe writing an article. Or something. In the future.” Harry shrugs one shoulder, not-quite meeting Louis’ eye. He has all the surrendered air of a child who’s just been told what to do by mummy.
Louis’ mouth flattens into a thin line. “You been talking to Liam, then?”
Innocently, Harry lets his gaze wonder around the room, his hands re-clasping behind his back. His feet shuffle, in a guilty way, and the stubborn jut of his jaw indicates everything Louis needs to know.
“So that’s a yes.”
A brief glare is shot his way.
Louis can’t help but chuckle. “Oh, Liam,” he sighs, shaking his head, his limbs tired. It feels like dust pours out of his mouth every time he speaks, little puffs of dead particles billowing out from his lips because his throat is dry and he’s exhausted and uninspired and this room is suffocating and small and dark. “Always trying to play nice, isn’t he?”
Pursing his lips, Harry still doesn’t meet Louis’ eye, instead choosing to stare at the anarchist poem framed on the wall; Zayn wrote it. Next to it is a dead flower duct-taped into place. That’s from Niall. He gave it to Louis the day he came into work after his great-grandmother died. It was sweet.
“I think Liam just wants to see our writing styles meld together,” Harry explains evenly, but despite the rationale of his words, his face suggests that he’d just sucked a lemon. “He’s just looking out for what’s best for the paper.”
“Hm. I’m sure you’re keeping its best interests at heart as well,” Louis mumbles dryly, returning his gaze back to his laptop and hoping that it will end the conversation.
“What does that mean?” Harry asks, wounded, his frowning face whipping around to meet Louis’.
He sighs, rubbing palms over his forehead. He has a headache. “It means you’re kissing Liam’s bloody arse, have been ever since you got here.”
“That’s not true!” Harry protests, appalled, and his cheeks are coloring a bit at the words.
The boy is obviously offended, genuinely so. Guilt dances within Louis, enough to urge him to break eye contact, instead focusing on the notebook that lies open next to his stale tea. He spilled some on the page—it’s off-colored and crinkly now, its corner beginning to curl up.
“Everything I do here, I do for the benefit of my writing and for the paper, okay?” Harry continues, impassioned. He’s a mixture between indignant and wounded, his eyebrows pulled together in an impressive line as he stares intently at him without so much as a blink or twitch of the eye. “I’ve been wanting to write here ever since I graduated uni. Like, I was studying journalism and music and I knew, Louis, I knew that it wasn’t a guaranteed success story but I still went for it and I always, always dreamed of working here because I love this newspaper, alright? It’s like the only thing I used to read because I thought it was so cool how it was so, like…” He gestures his hands awkwardly in the air, face flushed as he scrambles for words. “It was just, like, so down to earth and relatable and real, you know? And it was independent and cool and forward-thinking. And I’d read this incredibly written article, alright? I read this one that just, like, inspired me completely—“ He cuts off then, dropping his gaze and turning his head away, a deep frown settled on his mouth. He shakes his head once, lightly. “You know what? Forget it. I shouldn’t have to constantly defend myself to you.”
Louis swallows, feels a sting in his spine.
‘you should maybe take your own advice if you feel like you’re being unfair? Respect life, etc :)’
He sighs, looks down at his hands.
“No,” Louis says firmly, trying to sound simpler than he feels. “No, you shouldn’t. I’m sorry.”
He can practically feel the breeze caused from Harry’s head shooting up, surprise writ across his brow.
“Oh,” he says, surprised, and Louis wants to roll his eyes, wants to pick at his nails with his teeth, but instead he just keeps his mouth shut as he watches the blinking line on the word document, awaiting its next word. Expectant little fuck.
Silence rolls on through.
Louis never meets Harry’s eye, arms folded across his chest.
And then Harry shuffles, stirring up the nothing.
“Thank you,” he says at last. “For, uhm. Apologizing.”
It prickles the back of Louis’ scalp. He doesn’t know why.
“Yup,” Louis grunts with a casual shrug. Because it’s whatever. This isn’t a moment, or anything. “I’m a right arsehole sometimes. I can admit that. No big deal. It’s fine, it’s whatever.”
He wants Harry to leave.
“Oh. Well… That’s good?”
“Okay,” Harry says, a little doubtfully, shifting his weight as he stands here. “Uhm. I guess if you ever want to, like, look over the article then, you can. If you want to, I dunno, add something?”
It’s then that Louis lifts his gaze, steady and unimpressed. “Oh? You’re referencing to the piece about Harrison and Albert whatshisname, yeah?” Harry nods, earnest. “Right, so you wouldn’t mind if I also throw in a few references to major pop artists? Just to expand the audience to farther corners and make comparisons between the two mortal enemies of genres?”
As expected, Harry mouths the air like a fish for a few seconds before he finally finds his voice. “What? No! You can’t—it’s about guitar styles, Louis! They don’t—god, pop artists rarely even write their own music, you can’t honestly expect—“
“No? No Bruno Mars praises for you? No Jay-Z and Beyonce?” Louis asks sweetly, batting his eyes. “Nothing that’s ‘beneath’ you?”
Harry merely stares, closing his mouth.
Snorting, Louis shakes his head, looks back at the screen. “Thought so.”
He hears a discontented noise in response. “Yeah, but. Louis. It’s a music column. You can’t honestly expect—“
“Expect what? People to like different music than you? Then you’ll be surprised Harry—because yes, I do.”
“Okay, fair, but that’s not real music—“
“Stop throwing around that bullshit, please?”
And Harry falls silent. Something flickers through his eyes, alters the tilt of his mouth.
“Look,” Louis sighs, uncrossing his arms. “it’s very apparent that your opinion of me and my music is less than ‘worthy’”—he air-quotes it—“of your standards. Just like your opinion of others’ opinions of music are below mine. I never wish to collaborate with you, I never wish to share ideas with you, and I never wish to help you in any way. So, Harry Styles, if you could kindly escort yourself out of my office, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
“No, thanks. Don’t want to hear it. Your pretentious arrogance isn’t welcome in here. Please leave.”
“I’m not pretentiou—“
It doesn’t take long for Harry to leave after that.
~Harry Edward Styles~
He drank a bottle of red wine because he wanted to feel like Hemingway, all timeless, and he almost, seriously, looked into purchasing a cat, just to complete the image, you know? But then he thought about the litterbox and, like, all that stuff, and all possibility was promptly thrown out the window.
Now he’s just curled up in a blanket, naked, on his bed. His laptop’s open and he’s reading through all of his and Siuolwt’s messages because he’s a sad sack, clutching a bottle of Amaretto in his curled fingers. His eyes are tired but his heart feels sort of sick? Like, it’s just… It’s so horrible because he’s in this shit mood because of work, because of that bastard Louis, because of… Because of a lot. And he feels alone and self-pitying but at least Siuolwt cares about him, right?
Like. It’s sort of terrifying to think that he won’t anymore, after they meet. Should it go wrong. But… Whatever. Life is about risks. All major artists suffered through the game of chance, no?
Ugh, what is he even talking about.
Frowning and sniffling an unshed tear away, Harry pulls up a new message, eyes bleary and fingers sloppy.
‘Want to meet you’ he sends without thinking, hiccupping a burp. He pulls up another message. ‘Think I might be pretentious? Think I might’ve been mean to someone today? I think a lot of things but I also think that I’m super excited to meet you yay! Friday! You’re so important to me, yours sincerely, Harold’
And he sends it, proud and bold because he wrote his name, his actual name. He smiles, warm and fuzzy and a little less sad.
With that, he shuts his computer and collapses back onto his pillows, listening as Lou Reed croons about Jesus and pale blue eyes.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
“I changed my mind.”
Without another word, Louis digs his heels into the pavement, heart rabbiting in his chest, his skin paling and turning unpleasantly clammy.
Beside him, Niall offers a sympathetic, amused smile, resting a hand upon his arm. “Chill, mate,” he instructs with a smile but he walks a bit closer to Louis and it’s comforting. There’s a reason Niall hands out advice for a living—he’s good at reading people, good at understanding. “You haven’t changed your mind, you’re just scared. And you’re allowed to be, that’s more than fine, Lou.”
Louis stares at him like he has five heads, begrudgingly letting himself be pulled along towards the café that rests so innocently on the street, all glowy and warm in the cold dark chill of the winter night. Very deceiving.
“What Niall’s too sweet to say,” Zayn adds, reaching over to swipe a soft finger down Niall’s cheek, his eyes amused. “Is that you need to grow some balls and just shut the fuck up cuz, mate, you’re going.” Zayn’s always been very eloquent.
“Thanks, mates,” Louis replies dryly, an unflattering sheen of sweat lying across his brow. God, he’s a mess. And all for a stranger, no less. Some sweet little self-doubting angel who goes by the name of Harold—which, really, is too precious. Louis hadn’t given his name when he’d written back. There seems to be something more romantic about the idea of telling it to him in person, letting it fall from his own lips, curled into the sound of his voice. Hopefully, Harold will appreciate the sentiment.
It isn’t long before they reach the café.
“Alright,” Zayn grins, cigarette dangling from his lips as he claps a hand to Louis’ back. He’s wearing a grey corduroy jacket that’s at least three sizes too big and, still, he looks better than Louis does. Despite Louis having actually put on proper trousers and clean socks. “Here you are, kid. Show time.” And his encouraging smack quickly turns into a forceful shove.
Stumbling, Louis throws back a halfhearted glare, smoothing down flyaway bits of hair as he stares at the clusters of people chatting inside the building before him. God, there are so many. And he needs to find just one. One. One boy sitting at a table with a single violet and a Velvet Underground record—that’s what Harold said he’d bring. To prove it’s him.
How cute is that? Louis is endeared.
“Good luck,” he hears Niall say as he takes his first shaky step forward, swallowing an enormous influx of spit, his hands tapping nervously against his thighs—
Fuck. He can’t do this.
“I can’t do this,” he spills out, immediately turning on his heel and making a beeline for the nearby bench. He barely has time to process Zayn’s unimpressed blink and Niall’s empathetic frown. He sits down, sinks his head into his hands, pressing palms into his eye sockets. “Definitely can’t do this.”
“You definitely can do this,” Zayn’s voice says.
“You’ll definitely be thankful you did this,” Niall’s voice adds helpfully. “You’ve been talking about this for months, mate. You’ll regret it if you just walk away.”
“He’s not going to walk away,” Zayn replies in a mumble. “Won’t fuckin’ let him, will I?”
“Zayn… He’s nervous.”
“He’s a little bitch.”
Niall’s cackle of delight is less than comforting.
Okay then. Louis swallows.
“Hey, do you think, uh… Do you think you guys could like… Just check it out? For me? Just check out what’s going on in there?” He peers through the cage of his fingers.
Zayn merely stares while Niall lifts one quizzical brow. “Check out what?”
Zayn glances at him, shakes his head as he billows out smoke, tapping ash off his cigarette. “He wants us to check out Internet Boy. See if he’s worth his time.” He takes another drag and Louis lowers his hands, positively glaring because no. No, not exactly.
“I already know he’s worth my time, you insensitive roach. I’m just… I’m just curious, is all. And I’m about to fucking burst, mates, I’m a wreck. So, just—could you just spot him? Tell me if he’s there? Tell me he doesn’t look like he could kill me and just… Kick my arse a bit?”
As one, both Zayn and Niall sigh, exchanging a glance.
“Alright,” Niall says first, and Zayn rolls his eyes but he doesn’t protest it. “Me and Z will look. Come on, babe.”
Louis quirks a brow at the pet name but doesn’t comment, just watches as Niall tugs Zayn up the stairs to the entrance, crowding up against the glass to peer inside the depths of the café. Together they point, muttering between themselves and occasionally chuckling. At one point, Louis swears he sees Zayn pinch Niall’s bum but, whatever. Kids these days, you know.
After awhile, though, he sees them squinting, almost painfully hard, before falling into silence. A few more mumbles are exchanged, a few more glances. But other than that—nothing more is said.
“Well?” he calls eventually, nerves finally beginning to slow a bit, impatience making its way forth. “Do you see him?”
“Oi!” he calls, verging on irritated as he stands, making his way towards them. “Do you see him?”
Niall is the first to speak. “Uhm. Yeah. Yeah, we—we think so. Possibly. Yeah.”
His voice sounds…odd.
“What?” Louis panics, picking up his pace. “What’s wrong? Zayn? Why’s your boyfriend being cagey?”
But Zayn’s carefully neutral expression doesn’t change, save for a brief amused twitch of his lips as he glances at Niall, who just looks very careful. Almost like he’s holding back laughter or fear. Great. Fuckin’ great.
“He’s eighty years old, isn’t he?” Louis deadpans, all hope seeping out of his butt. “He’s an old man. He’s a suspicious looking old man.”
“Nope,” Zayn says, and it’s almost cheerful sounding. “Not even close. Though, to be fair, he does act a bit like an old man. Wouldn’t you say, Niall?”
Niall, who is also uncomfortably chipper, nods, catching Louis eye and throwing him a beam of mischief. “Yes, on some mental and emotional levels, absolutely. Especially with some of those shirts he wears at the office, bloody hell.”
“What on earth are you even talking about?” Louis asks, once again picking up his pace as he takes the steps. Up close, Zayn and Niall look like two kids who’ve been caught with their hands in the pie. Something is going on. “Why are you acting like you know him? Do you know him?”
They shift a bit, smiles just barely suppressed. “We all know him, Louis.”
We all know—oh, god.
Oh dear god.
“It’s Liam, isn’t it,” Louis frowns, blood draining from his face and, fuck—this could honestly not be any more horrible—
But Niall’s shaking his head, hands in the pockets of his puffy jacket. “Nope.” Beside him, Zayn smirks but remains silent, merely observing Louis’ face. “Nope, not Liam.”
They both point in response.
Brow furrowed, Louis leans in, presses his face close enough to the glass for the tip of his nose to smudge it. He searches the silent bustle of the room, sees the clusters of uni students and middle-aged professors and young couples and some teens and, oh, of course, there’s Harry of all people, hah, but other than that—
Louis’ heart pauses.
Louis stares. Harry. Harry is in there.
And is that…? Could that be… No. Is that? He squints, his heart still suspended, squints until he can make out the thing on Harry’s table, that thing that looks suspiciously like a Velvet Underground record and—
Holy fucking shit.
Stiff as a board, Louis pulls his face back from the glass, turning stiffly to Zayn and Niall—they look like squirrels with nuts stuffed in their cheeks, their smiles are so enormous.
“It’s Harry,” Louis says uselessly, feeling like he’s been a balloon all of his life and he’s only just been popped. Fucking popped.
They both nod.
“It’s Harry Styles,” he says again, voice hollow, and they both nod, a little slower. Their smiles fade the tiniest bit.
Once again, Louis looks back into the café. He watches Harry. Harry.
Fuck, it’s been Harry the whole time.
‘I think I might be pretentious.’
God. God… And, shit—his arch nemesis? At work? Fuck, that’s been Louis this whole goddamn, ironic time, hasn’t it?
And, shit, it sorta fits doesn’t it? Because the reason Louis first messaged the guy was because of that bullshit, pretentious text post he’d made all that time ago, pretentious like only Harry Styles could be and—and, god.
It really is Harry, isn’t it? It’s Harry. Internet boy is Harry, Harry is internet boy and mercury-boy is Harry.
And it was never meant to work.
“Right,” Louis clips, blood drained from his limbs. “Well, then. I guess I’ll be on my way.” With that, Louis turns on his heel, descending the steps with a heart that is squished painfully in the pit of his stomach. He feels like a used tissue. A crumpled piece of paper from a shitty rough draft. The sentimental part of him sorta wants to cry.
“Wait, you’re just leaving?” Zayn or Niall calls back—he can’t tell which one, isn’t really listening. They blend together sometimes, anyway.
“Yup,” he calls back, loud and defiant and ignoring the crack in his voice as he walks against the night breeze, his hair ruffling, his hands deep in his pockets, and his heart somewhere in the cracks of the pavement.
~Harry Edward Styles~
It’s about an hour after eight—an hour after their scheduled time. And Harry’s just finished his third soy chai tea latte and things are looking awfully grim.
He’s been gnawing on his lip relentlessly and now they’re sore and have begun to taste like pennies so, like, he’s probably definitely bleeding. When Siuolwt shows up, he’s going to look a mess, an absolute blood-drenched mess. Ugh.
He shuffles in his seat, sending polite but self-conscious smiles to all the servers as they pass him.
Where could he be?
Swallowing, Harry adjusts the record on the table. Maybe if he points the words towards the entrance, Siuolwt will be able to see it better? So he knows it’s Harry? Yes, that will help.
He taps his fingers on the table. Fiona Apple is playing on the radio and it’s doing nothing for Harry’s good humor. He adjusts the violet, tilts it to a very artistic angle.
Five minutes pass.
He looks down at himself, tugs at his sheer, velvet-patterned shirt. Nervous fingers tuck a few errant curls behind his ears. Ankles cross and uncross.
Two minutes pass.
It’s just as he’s about to order yet another beverage (he’s going to be up all night at this rate) that the door to the café opens. Heart soaring up into his throat, Harry straightens, eyes piercing as the newcomer walks inside, all smooth movements and lithe limbs and—
Oh. It’s Louis Tomlinson.
Shrinking, Harry leans back in his seat, heart dropping to the floorboards. This isn’t at all going like he’d dreamt. Not at all.
Where is he?
Determined not to turn his already abysmal night into one of complete and total suffering, he averts his gaze, dropping his head low to inspect the hem of his shirt, praying, praying, praying that Louis doesn’t see him,
Please please please please plea—
“Well, hello,” an amused and oddly tilted voice says.
Sighing, Harry looks up, begrudgingly meets Louis’ eye. “Louis,” he greets with pursed lips.
His obvious displeasure seems to delight Louis, however, for the guy actually laughs, his lips twisted up in a rude smile. “Harry,” he intones back.
This entire night sucks.
“And what are you doing on this fine night?” he asks, leaning on the back of the opposite chair, eyes full of overly confident bravado and untrustworthy promises. His hair is mussed and choppy beneath the golden lights of the room, his scruff darkened and scratchy-looking. He looks mean.
Sighing, Harry sniffs and looks away, hands neatly folded in his lap. “Waiting for someone,” he clips, no humor in his tone. He refuses to meet Louis’ eye.
“Oh? What kind of someone?”
Out of his peripherals he sees Louis pick up the record.
“Hey!” he protests, snatching it immediately back. Louis’ grin grows as Harry glares. “Don’t touch, please.”
Both eyebrows rise. “Oh? Why not? Is that for your special someone?”
“Well, yes,” Harry sniffs. “If you must know. I’m meeting up with… Someone. I’m not sure what he looks like, though, so he could come in at any moment. And I would really appreciate if he didn’t see me with you, thank you.”
Louis’ face undergoes a current of unexplained emotion before it settles into amusement. “Why? Worried my good looks and charm will make him jealous? Or are you worried that he’ll prefer me?”
Honestly, what a prick! Harry glares harder than he ever thought capable. “Could you please leave?”
Grinning, Louis sits down instead.
And for one brief and wild moment, Harry has to fight the urge to cry. “Stop it! That’s his seat!”
“Oh? Is it? I don’t see him! Or—maybe—“ Louis makes a show of lifting his bum, checking beneath it. “Are you under there, Mystery Man?” he asks the empty space, pocking at the soft wood of the chair, and Harry feels his face heat, both in anger and humiliation.
“He’ll come,” he protests, but it’s quiet as he stares at the record in his hands. It’s The Velvet Underground—the special one. He’d carefully selected it for this very occasion in some silly, fanciful hope that… That it would’ve mattered, or something.
He was so looking forward to discussing it with Siuolwt, in person. He so wanted to hear all of his opinions first hand.
After a few moments of silence, Harry lifts his head and finds Louis looking at him, an odd expression to his face.
“What?” Harry asks defensively, pulling the record that much closer to his chest.
“That’s one of my favorite albums of all time, you know,” he says softly, something far away in his eyes as he stares at it. The humor seems momentarily gone, replaced by wistfulness or…something. Harry isn’t sure what but it makes him feel suspicious, weary.
He shifts in his seat. “I thought you didn’t like my pretentious music,” he says, eyebrows still pulled together.
“I never said that,” Louis amends, and his energy’s back now, the quietness of his eyes gone. He winks, easily meeting Harry’s gaze. “I said you were pretentious. Not the music.”
“’M not pretentious,” Harry mumbles. “He even told me so.”
Once again, the tilt to Louis’ mouth alters. But only a fraction. It’s very curious, but Harry doesn’t trust it enough to probe. “Did he, now.”
“Yep. He tells me lots of wonderful things. Unlike you, he’s a very sensitive, brilliant soul. He’s poetic and interesting and intelligent. He understands me and he respects me and he has a beautiful outlook on life. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t?”
“No,” Harry replies hotly, feeling all the disappointment and anger rush to the surface. His skin heats, his muscles tighten as he continues, spurred on by his horrible, awful emotions. “Because you’re just an insecure mess that’s constantly trying to make others feel inferior to you because all you have is your tiny job with your subpar sports column and you know that nobody will remember you, Louis. You know that you are insubstantial and aren’t talented enough, not nearly, and you know that all you have is your bravado because you don’t have any other weapon to wield. You’re a tiny, forgettable person, Louis Tomlinson, in a sea of anonymity.” He says the entire thing in one breath, head a bit dizzy, pulse rabbiting.
And then Harry closes his mouth, startled as himself because… Where exactly did that come from, again?
Silence settles between them.
The cocky smile that had been soaked into Louis’ features slowly ebbs away. His eyes, blue and smooth as they are, diminish, their light shaded and muted and dull, seeming very distant. He looks…hurt. Sad. Small.
Something sharp hits Harry’s insides. He swallows, clutching the record across his chest as he drops his gaze.
Maybe he shouldn’t have said that.
He frowns, mostly to himself, but doesn’t apologize. Instead, he glances up at Louis, caught between guilt and shame.
Then, at long last, Louis clears his throat.
“Well, uh. I guess that says everything then, doesn’t it?” His voice sounds frail, a pale imitation of the real thing.
His eyes fall to the record again. They look shaded and tired, a little sunken, the skin beneath them delicate, bruised, and thin. Harry wonders if it’s soft like flower petals. It’d probably scrape his skin if he touched, though.
Then Louis lifts his eyes again, a cutting blue that Harry feels in his throat.
“Goodbye, Harry.” It’s spoken quietly, sadly…
It makes Harry’s heart hurt. And he did that, he made Louis sound that way. He did that.
It’s because of this that Harry can’t meet his eye when Louis rises from the chair, pulling his jacket tight around his body as he walks slowly out of the café, leaving a flower, a record, a lonely table, and a very broken Harry Styles.
By the time he gets home, Harry feels like he’s been scraped raw, his entire body a hollowed out shell. He’d finally given up waiting for Siuolwt at 11:30pm. Since the café closes at midnight, it was a pretty safe assumption that he wasn’t going to come.
It’s the most disappointment Harry’s felt in years.
Resisting the urge to shed a tear, he unlocks his flat, stumbling inside and throwing the violet into the bin with as much force as he can muster. He sets The Velvet Underground record unceremoniously on his kitchen table, refusing to spare it a second’s glance, refusing to put it on his turntable, and instead ambles to his room, kicking off his boots as he walks. As soon as he enters his room, he collapses on the bed, facedown in a pile of pillows that smell like cinnamon.
This is what complete and utter sadness feels like.
And, oh god. He will not cry. He’s an adult, he is full of potential and promise and plenty of love, he will not cry. He will not cry for a stranger.
Blinking back the incessant moisture from his eyes, he straightens up, immediately flicking on his laptop. Because, he may not allow himself to cry… But he will allow himself to have his say.
It isn’t long before the taps of his keyboard fill the silent room.
‘My dear Siuolwt, I hope everything’s okay? I waited for you tonight. I’m guessing something must’ve happened because I don’t think you’re the sort of person to just stand someone up for no good reason. I hope you get back to me because I do worry, sometimes. I’m not mad, either, so please don’t think that. I am disappointed, but I also just feel… Well. I feel really bad.’
Harry pauses, bites his lip. He feels yet another threat of tears but he ignores them, swallows and keeps typing.
‘Tonight I bumped into my arch nemesis. Of all people, he was the one I bumped into as I was waiting for you, feeling very stupid and exposed. Of course, he was very rude, making me feel small and silly again, as he always does. But, the thing is… Siuolwt, I was so mean to him. I was so unfairly cruel. And I know we don’t get on and I know that he would probably do the same to me and just laugh about it, but… But I can’t stop thinking about it and I just feel so horrible. He didn’t deserve one word of what I said. And the thing is, it wasn’t even true. I didn’t mean it, any of it, and I feel like I’m becoming someone I don’t like. I know I tend to idealize things… I know I’m sort of strange and don’t really live in reality… But I don’t want to change, especially not in that way. I hope I’m never cruel again. And, in some ways, I’m glad you weren’t there. I would never want you to see that side of me. Perhaps you are better than I am. Perhaps it’s for the best that we didn’t meet. Yours sincerely, Harold’
He hits send, closes his laptop, and crawls beneath his blankets, his heart beating pathetically off-kilter.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
He reads the message four times, his fist pressed against his lips. He’s wearing nothing but his boxers and a stained grey t-shirt as he sits as his desk, one lone lamp on. The screen of his laptop is bright, too bright, but he doesn’t care as squints into it and repeats the words in his mind over and over and over.
Fuck. He doesn’t even know what to say. Harry had been right, is the thing. He’d been right.
And there’s just… There’s no way Louis can tell him the truth right now. He just can’t. Harry thinks of Siuolwt as this idealized creature and he positively loathes Louis. Even if he didn’t mean what he’d said…
Louis frowns, pressing the reply button to stop the waterfall of his leaking thoughts.
‘Dear Harry’---he backspaces.
‘My Dearest Harold, I am sorry I wasn’t there tonight’—he backspaces.
He sighs, cracks his knuckles. Tries again.
‘My Dearest Harold, I am sorry for what happened tonight. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that. I’m sorry that you were pushed to be so out of character and that you now feel guilt from it… I assure you it wasn’t your fault. He had it coming to him. I hope that in the future I can show you the kind of respect you deserve. I do still wish to meet someday. I hope youre not too sad or upset. You don’t deserve it Harold. Yours sincerely, Siuolwt’
He hits send.
~Harry Edward Styles~
“The article almost finished, Harry?” Liam asks with a lovely white smile. He’s standing in Harry’s office doorway, his knuckle still raised in a gentle knock.
Harry nods eagerly, beaming. “Yeah, Liam! I’ll have it on your desk by three, okay? I just want to, like, go over some things. Details, you know.”
“I know,” Liam chuckles, already turning away. “It’s what separates you from the herd.” He pauses. “Well, it’s what separates you and Louis both, actually.” He pauses, regarding Harry with a patient glimmer. “You know, I really do you think you’d be great together. Your writing styles—“
“Liam,” Harry sighs, exhausted and still feeling the pangs of guilt at Louis’ name. He hasn’t seen him since Friday night and he just... He still feels like a prick, despite Siuolwt’s assurances. “We’ve been over this a hundred times. He’ll never go for it.”
“I know.” Sighing, Liam turns. “I’ll talk to you later. Let me know if you need anything.”
And he’s gone.
“Will do,” Harry mumbles, staring at the screen of his document. It’s all finished, all proofread and fine-tuned. Still though, he hesitates to turn it in. There’s always something so final about surrendering it over, something very terrifying, so Harry resorts to rereading and rereading as he chews on his knuckle and shifts enough in his chair to make it squeak, refusing to let his thoughts wander.
He wonders if Louis’ here yet.
He wonders if he should apologize.
It’s just as he’s rereading page two (why can’t he focus?) and resolutely vowing to apologize only after he’s turned in his article, that there’s a knock on his door. Liam, no doubt.
“Still doing good, Liam, thanks,” he calls, not bothering to lift his eyes or remove the knuckle from his mouth.
“As much as I’d love to be your boss, I’d like to think I’m a bit more fun than Liam Payne.”
Harry’s head shoots up.
“Louis,” he greets, and he tries not to frown, immediately sitting up straighter and adjusting his hat. He feels the pout of his eyes, the guilt of his lips as he watches Louis in the doorway, leaning on it like it were he his second home. He’s wearing a Wolverine t-shirt and black skinny jeans, his hands behind his back.
And he’s…smiling. Like, properly.
Why on earth…?
This is instantly suspicious.
“The one and only,” Louis nods, but he’s still smiling.
“So,” Louis continues, undeterred. “Pretty Boy. I want to talk to you about something.”
Blinking, Harry splutters a little bit because did he just say…?
“You find me pretty?” he asks, bewildered, as Louis pushes off the doorframe and begins walking inside, gently shutting the door behind him.
His smile morphs into that of a smirk, a glint in his eye as he takes the seat across from Harry’s desk. He leans back comfortably, kicking his feet up on the surface of it. Harry almost scolds him, almost. But he’s too caught up in being completely taken off guard.
“I find you pretentious,” Louis amends, and he grins with all of his teeth, hands splayed on the armrests.
Harry narrows his eyes. “Oh. Thanks.”
“Anytime, Pretty,” he replies easily and, ugh. It’s so Louis.
“Why are you here?” Harry sighs, shutting his laptop in defeat. “If this is about the café the other night—“
Louis holds up his hand. “No. No, it’s not. Though, I regret to say, you were perfectly, maybe, possibly right-ish. But it’s not about that.”
Wait, did he just say Harry was right? Did Louis, Louis Tomlinson just… Did he make a self-depreciating comment?
“This is actually about Liam,” he continues breezily, waving a hand. “And the paper. And me. And you.”
“Okay… Well. What about…all that?” Harry asks, doubtfully.
“Well, as you know, he’s very keen on us collaborating.”
“We both know that, yes,” Harry sighs, impatient.
“So. I think we should.”
Wait. What did he just say? Did Harry fall asleep or something? What is happening?
Harry’s mouth opens, closes, then opens again. “I’m sorry?” he splutters. “You think we should—“
“Collaborate, yes,” Louis repeats, with a half-roll of the eyes. “On an article—any article! Your choice.” He smiles.
What on earth?
“Why?” Harry asks, now completely bewildered. “Why now? Louis, I’ve been offering for months, Liam’s been pestering us relentlessly this whole time… Why—what made you change your mind?”
Louis merely shrugs, casual as anything as he picks a bit of lint off of his knee. “I don’t know. I suppose I think you’re right about me—I’m a lot of talk and little work. And I think it’s time I start…trying more. You know. Branching out.”
It feels like a plop of thick paint lands in Harry’s stomach. He squirms a bit under Louis’ gaze, guilty and small because, oh goodness, this is his fault! He’s horrible, he’s awful.
“Look, Louis,” he begins, frowning. “I really didn’t mean any of that. I was just upset—“
“Well, whether you meant it or not, it’s all very true. So.” He shrugs, seemingly unbothered. “I just think… Maybe I’ve been a bit unfair to you.”
Snorting, Harry folds his arms over his chest, looking off to the opposite corner of the room, guilt quickly morphing into something else. Maybe indignation? Justification? Something? “You think?” he snorts. It’s an unpleasant sound. He probably shouldn’t snort.
“Yes, I just said that, didn’t I?” Louis replies, but it’s with a teasing edge and he’s still smiling, his hands a little fidgety. “Look. I feel badly, alright? I won’t repeat this outside of this room, but I feel badly. I’ve been a bit of a prick to you, ever since we met. I can admit that. So…” He clears his throat, meeting Harry’s gaze with a level one of his own. “I think it’s time to set all that aside and start a better professional relationship.”
Well, it makes sense. It’s not wrong, or anything. In fact, being friendly will make things a lot less stressful around here…. Perhaps they will write really well together as well? Harry’s never been one to hold grudges. Kids are too angry these days.
“Okay,” he nods at last, watching Louis carefully. “Okay, I’ll, uhm, do a piece with you. I actually am turning in this one today, so. So tomorrow I’ll have a new bit and, uhm, well. Obviously, you’re welcome to work on it with me.”
Beaming, Louis nods. “Perfect,” he says joyously, hopping out of the chair with little to no effort. “I look forward to it.” He extends his hand, waits for Harry to shake it.
Dumbfounded, Harry grasps it, shakes Louis’ hand because he doesn’t know what else to do.
“Thanks, Harry,” Louis says, heartfelt. Which is weird. “But I best get back to work now. So Until later, then?”
The whole thing is entirely bizarre.
“Uhm. Yes? Until later,” Harry confirms, releasing his hand and blinking past his dazed confusion.
Once more, Louis smiles before he finally leaves, shutting the door quietly behind him with a snick.
And Harry sits there, wondering what the hell just happened.
It’s just as bizarre the next day.
Despite having woken up with the belief that yesterday was merely a fever dream and today with Louis will prove to be just as disastrous as per usual, things at work go…surprisingly well.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” Harry asks suspiciously after Louis has repeated, for the fifth time, that he’s fine with giving Harry free reign over the subject for their article together. “You never support my choices. Why are you… Being weird?”
At that, a smile perks on Louis’ lips. He’s crouched in the floor amongst a heap of various music magazines, resting on his haunches. He looks up at Harry, his hair messy. He’s wearing his glasses today and they’re a bit askew, his forehead a bit shiny. He sort of resembles a mad scientist or something and it’s kind of funny and a little endearing but that right there is why this whole thing is so strange.
Louis Tomlinson has never been kind of funny or a little endearing before. Something’s different. Something has changed.
“What, because I’m not being a colossal prick for once, I’m suddenly weird?”
Harry nods firmly. “Yes, that’s exactly why.”
He receives a snort in response. “You’re just being dramatic. Anyway,” he emphasizes, popping up off the ground and slapping his thighs with finality. “Throw me some ideas. What shall our grand debut be about, Pretty Boy?”
“You know, I almost might prefer it if you just starting referring to me, full-out, as ‘Pretentious Boy’ rather than ‘Pretty Boy,’” Harry says dryly, crossing his arms and ankles as he stands before him.
“But it’s quite funnier this way.”
“Hm. Quite,” Harry says through pursed lips.
At that, Louis laughs, genuinely, and Harry startles a bit, feeling surprise lighten his limbs and eyebrows because… He just realized. He’s never actually heard Louis laugh at him before. Well, in a positive way, at least.
“Alright, Pretty Boy. So. Ideas?”
“Uhm.” Harry coughs, averting his gaze because Louis laughed and that’s, like, a thing now. Weird. It feels like it’s echoing in the room, sticking to Harry’s limbs. “Uhm, yeah. Well I actually was thinking about how you, uh, said you liked The Velvet Underground? The album I had the other night in particular?” Louis nods, listening. “And, er, well, we could incorporate that somehow? Since we both love it, you know.”
A faint smile whispers across Louis’ face. He tilts his head, regarding Harry with calm eyes. “I’ve written an article about them, you know. Before.”
Harry blinks. His heart slows in its thud, listening for a moment.
“What do you mean…?” he questions slowly, brows furrowing, because surely...
“I wrote an article all about that album and why it’s the most underrated album of its time,” Louis continues, calm as anything, very unaware that he’s currently turning Harry’s entire bloody world upside down. Because what?! “Because it’s both the most hopeful and depressing slab of music, isn’t it? I wrote it the week Lou Reed died as a sort of tribute to him.” He laughs, shrugs a shoulder. “It was basically just me kissing his arse and throwing every praising hyperbole out there, though. Not that great.”
Not that great.
Holy mother of god.
That was…Louis? That article? The same one that Harry had read way back in his beginning years of uni (hell, it must’ve been, what?—five years ago at least?) and it’d inspired him to pursue music journalism and it made him always dream to work here…
And here, he’d always imagined it was just some wisened old owl who’d been, like, a roadie for the band or something, back in the day
But it was actually Louis Tomlinson. It was a young Louis Tomlinson. God, he’s must’ve been only about nineteen or twenty. And he wrote that article? Louis?
“But—“ Harry splutters, eyes wide as saucers. “I thought you’ve always done the sports—“
“Stan,” he says by way of explanation, easy as anything as he begins puttering around Harry’s desk, nosing about and picking up pencils curiously. “He knew I was a big fan of Reed so he offered to let me write it. Liam sure as hell didn’t care”—He glances up at Harry, smirks in a familiar way. “I was the favorite, you know.”
But Harry doesn’t respond, the wheels turning inside.
Louis wrote the article. This whole time. It was Louis, of all the bloody people.
“That was the article,” Harry finally says, a bit dumbly, as he watches Louis rifle through his things. “The article that made me want to work here. The reason I wanted to start writing about music… It was that one.” He swallows, watches Louis pause and meet his eye, surprise writ clear across his face. “It’s my favorite album, too.”
Silence settles as they stare at each other, both still as stone.
“You wrote that better than I ever could have,” Harry half-laughs, reaching for light but falling short. He just feels a bit overwhelmed, is all. He just needs a glass of water and chaise longue, that’s all. Some fruit. Maybe a hard candy. “You did really good. Uhm. Thank you. For—for writing it. I mean,” he laughs, “I’m sure you’re kicking yourself for it now but you really did lead me here so, like, I feel like I should thank you.”
And he fully expects Louis to huff or laugh or roll his eyes or say some witty remark that’s going to make Harry feel stupid but. But instead, he blushes. Louis Tomlinson blushes and looks away, focusing on organizing the stacks of post-its on Harry’s desk.
“Er. You’re welcome,” he mumbles awkwardly, and his cheeks are red. They’re actually red. “Thank you.”
Everything is bizarre.
“You know, I think I’m going to pick up some food,” Louis suddenly says, after the silence once again settles and he’s cleared his throat one too many times. He looks up, cheeks still warm. “It’s lunch time right? You’re hungry?”
It’s ten AM. And he’s not.
“Yeah,” Harry nods enthusiastically. “Totally hungry. It’s, like, basically noon, yeah.”
“Okay, cool,” Louis nods as well, energy bordering on nervous. And it should be enough to make Harry laugh but he feels the same sort of itchy jolt and he wants nothing more than just a few precious moments alone to collect his thoughts and maybe catch his breath. He doesn’t even know why, he just feels… Nervous? “I’ll go, uh, fetch us some food. And then I’ll be back. And then we’ll write.”
He sounds remarkably awkward and it’s wildly out of character.
Harry can’t help but smile though, just a little bit, as he watches him fumble his way to the door. “Thank you,” he says sincerely, to which Louis nods. “I’ll, uhm. I’ll prepare the space.”
There’s a beat where they just look at each other, Louis in his jacket, framed by the door, Harry on the other side of the messy office, hands limp at his sides, hair a bit frizzy and his shirt wrinkled because he didn’t have time to iron it this morning. (He’s a right mess, he’s losing his inner poetry.)
“Bye, then,” Louis suddenly says and he’s gone in a flash. Just like that.
The second he’s out of sight, Harry slumps into his office chair, shoulders relaxing on an exhale.
“Dear lord,” he sighs, shaking his head to himself. In the distance he can hear Zayn and Niall bickering. “What is going on?”
But nobody answers him and so he just begins rifling through magazines.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
Overall, it’s a very successful, efficient day.
Except for the part when Louis had discovered that his article (the one he wrote) was good enough to change Harry’s life. Which, in turn, caused him to act like a complete tit for the rest of the day. That part wasn’t all that special.
He’d managed to trip over himself trying to be overly nice to Harry, attempting charm and subtleness. Of course, he’d somehow managed to make a fool of himself but Harry didn’t seem repelled or anything. Just. Confused, maybe. And hesitant. But some of his smiles were real and he did manage to him laugh and it wasn’t so bad.
They’re writing an article about the Arctic Monkeys and how their appeal spans age groups. That part was, sort of, Louis’ idea.
“I don’t want to write about a bunch of teens who only like them because they’re popular,” Harry had said, stubborn little brat that he is. He’d been sitting in his office chair, legs crossed and leaned back like a mystical villain with Rapunzel hair and a farmer hat. He certainly was a vision. “I’m not interested, Louis.”
Louis had sighed from his spot on the floor, leaned against the wall with his legs pulled up. He rolled his eyes, rolling a pen in his hand. “Stuff it, Pretty Boy. Teens are allowed to like music because they’re exposed to it. Not everybody’s part of the secret underground club. Some people don’t have indie connections, you know. Some people don’t hang about in record shops, in the Bright Eyes section, all day.”
Harry had scowled. “I don’t do that.”
“I didn’t say you did that.”
He rolled his eyes. Louis smirked.
“Stop being mean to the kids. I think it’s brilliant that they’re exposed to brilliant tunes. And it’s even more brilliant that everybody can connect with what’s going on without having to fit into the preconceived mould. Because music’s about happiness and you’ve got to listen to what makes you happy, yeah? It’s about expression, is it not? We like what we like and it’s as simple as that? No point in boxing ourselves in with arbitrary rules that we correlate to our self worth, now.”
And, okay. Maybe Louis was rambling and being a bit of a dick but he was proud of what he said and he meant it and it made all the difference to see Harry’s face soften in contemplation.
“Yeah…” he said eventually, all slow. “You have a point.”
“So,” Louis grinned, catching his begrudging eye. “Can we please discuss how fun this band is then? And be absolute arse-kissing witty assholes about it? I’ll be on the kids’ team and you can be on the washed-out, golden oldies’ team.”
It made Harry laugh as much as it made him scowl but he agreed, so. Win.
The rest of the day was spent tossing ideas back and forth and getting a feel for each other. They weren’t used to the other’s way of speaking, weren’t accustomed to the others’ language or humor and mannerisms or anything. And it was kinda fun. Nice.
Harry’s…nice. Harry is mercury-boy. How Louis had never seen it, he’s not sure. Maybe he didn’t want to see it. But it’s definitely him and Louis’ definitely growing fonder and… And he wants to be better at this, okay? He wants to try. He wants to see if he and Harry click (which is why he’s biting the bullet and doing this collaboration business—it’s not so bad, either) and he wants to see if, maybe, Harry will figure it out without having to be told. It’s sort of a pipe dream.
“You really aren’t going to tell him,” Zayn deadpans, long after Harry’s left the building and everybody else is finishing up. He’s sitting on the edge of Louis’ desk, peering at him from beneath unimpressed eyebrows. Niall’s on the other side of the room, scribbling away in a notebook, a crease between his brows. Probably giving very serious advice to a very forlorn teen.
“Nope,” Louis replies primly. “No point. It would send him running for the hills.”
“It almost sent you running for the hills,” he points out.
“Exactly. So nope.”
“And you really think this collaboration thing will work? That you’ll just, what—end up fucking, or something?” He asks it calmly, without a blink, his hair slicked back. Zayn thinks he’s so cool.
“Or something,” Louis replies flatly, leveling him with a look. It makes Zayn smile. “I just wanna see, okay? I think it could be good. Today went well.”
“So you’re wooing him,” Niall suddenly pipes up from across the way.
Both Louis and Zayn turn to him. Zayn’s eyes soften, amused.
“Well, I mean. I guess, yeah,” Louis shrugs, self-conscious.
And Niall merely beams, flashes a thumbs up and exchanges a silently communicative glance with Zayn before returning to his notebook.
“Well, I best get going, lads,” Louis says, cutting up the weird silence as he stands and stretches. Zayn merely watches him, unmoving. “I’ll text you, yeah?”
He nods, obviously not listening. “So are you still gonna talk to him online, then?”
“Of course. He doesn’t know it’s me, does he? Can’t just leave him hanging like that.”
“Aw,” Zayn purrs, and it sounds heartfelt but Louis knows it’s not. Not even close. “That’s precious.”
“Yes, Zayn, I’m precious. Now fuck off and have a good night, you little egotistical toad.”
“’m not a toad,” is all he says in response, just as Niall’s head pops up and adds, “He’s not egotistical.”
Hah. Might as well be husbands.
“Alright, alright, saps. Don’t fuck in my office. Shut the door when you leave. I’ll see you.”
“Bye,” they croon as one, and Louis heads towards the elevator, a smile on his lips.
~Harry Edwards Styles~
Okay, so, life is really…weird. Like, supremely bizarre.
Because, here’s the thing: it’s been about a week since they’ve started this article. And it’s going really, really well. Like, super well.
‘Dear Siuolwt, In a strange twist of events, I’m working with arch nemesis! Isn’t life crazy? I really like it, though… He’s not so bad, I guess. He’s fun, at least. And really, really good at writing. Really talented. I think we could be great if we start doing this regularly… I hope you’re well! :) Yours sincerely, Harold’
He smiles at the message before he exits out of his browser. And just time, too, because Louis is now waltzing into the room, a paper bag in his hands.
“Breakfast!” he beams brightly, holding up the bag under the dated ceiling light. The milky glass fixture is dusty and collected with insect carcasses. It’s been driving Harry nuts, he keeps meaning to look into cleaning it. Louis looks like he couldn’t care less. “I hope you like nourishment, Pretty Boy.”
“I do,” Harry says slowly, eyeing him suspiciously. “Unless it’s laced with something…”
Louis merely rolls his eyes. “I may have hated you because you took my dream job, mate. But I’m not about to poison you. This isn’t a Hawthorne short story, don’t fret.” He begins unpacking various delicious baked goods then, unceremoniously laying them out on crinkled napkins atop Harry’s desk.
But. But Harry’s too busy examining his face closely, his eyebrows popped up because what did he just say?
“Wait, what?” he asks, confused. He ignores Louis’ full cheeks as he takes a bite from a cheesy bagel, ignores his attempts at shoving it in his face. “What do you mean I took your dream job?”
He feels genuine concern, okay? Those are heavy words.
For a moment, Louis just stares, apparently unaware of how to proceed. But then he swallows, setting down the bag with a shrug, countenance casual. “It’s no big deal. In the past now.”
“What dream job, Louis?” Harry presses, stomach heavy.
He wipes the grease off his chin with his hand as he meets Harry’s eye. “Just, like.” He picks his teeth with his tongue, shrugs again. “I wanted that music column more than just about anything for awhile. Sick of writing about sports for a cheap laugh.” He takes another, smaller bite. “Felt like I was very forgettable and I wanted to do something that felt a bit more significant, I suppose. People love music. I love music. I don’t play much footie these days, I’m an old man now.” He grins, still chewing.
But Harry feels awful. He feels horrible.
“You wanted that job?”
“Yeah. At the time I did, yeah.”
“Do you still?”
Louis pauses. “Not really, I guess. I like collaborating so far. Feels like I can do a bit of both now, yeah? Both the light and the serious. And that’s nice, I think. I think I like it that way.”
God, Harry’s a piece of shit. He never knew this! He’s an arsehole. A career homewrecker.
“I’m so sorry, Louis,” he frowns, appetite gone. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t know this. It explains so much, though. Like, why you were always so mean… God. Why you never wanted to encourage me or write with me...” He pauses, wracked with guilt and questions. “And then when I said that—that bullshit at the café that night…” Oh god. He really is a piece of shit. “That’s what made you collaborate. Because I reinforced all your fears and self-doubts. All the ones you harbored and never spoke of.” Harry’s voice is tearful by this point but he doesn’t care, doesn’t even mind if he cries because he feels horrendous. He’s a monster.
At the words, Louis shifts uncomfortably, face scrunching up. “Well, I dunno if I would’ve phrased it quite like that but, uh, yeah, I guess. But don’t even waste your breath on it, yeah?” he rushes, the second Harry opens his mouth. He holds up his hands, placating. “We’re good, alright? We’re working on this new piece and it’s fun and it’s fine and I don’t want to make it a thing. Okay?”
Harry shuts his mouth. He swallows and nods.
(He’s a monster.)
“Good,” Louis nods, and he appears far more settled. “Now. Eat the spoils I gathered for you before we bust out some truly incredible journalism.”
And Harry smiles, just a little, as he nods once more, before full-out grinning when Harry toasts his bagel against his own with a grin and blue, squinty eyes.
After two weeks, their collaboration is complete. It’s been a steady flow of late nights at the office, lots of snacks, lots of withering jokes, and lots of laughs.
It’s been…nice, actually. Really nice.
“We’ll present it to Liam tomorrow?” Harry asks with a yawn, sprawled out on the floor of his office. Louis’ is somewhere to his left, similarly positioned.
“Uh huh,” he grunts, half asleep.
“We should go home now. It’s been proofread, like, forty-seven times. And our brains don’t even work anymore.”
“That’s because you keep trying to sing Janis Joplin. Which, by the way, you can’t.”
“But me and Bobbie McGee!”
“You really, really can’t, Harold.”
Harold. It sparks a warm familiarity in him. He’s always wanted to go by Harold because it makes him feel more intelligent and mature and odd but he’s never said that out loud. The only person he’s ever called himself that to is Siuolwt.
It’s nice from Louis’ mouth, though. It sounds nice in his voice.
He smiles to himself, eyes closed, hands folded atop his chest. “Well, I wouldn’t have started singing it if you hadn’t been singing ABBA as I was trying to rework that last sentence. You absolute child.”
He hears a rustle, a shuffle, the kicking of a few stray sheets of paper. He feels a warmth suddenly appear beside him. He quirks open one eye, sees Louis rolled over onto his stomach next to him, propped upon his elbows. His eyes are tired, weighed down with bags, and his hair is messy and askew, a strand in every direction. He’s clearly addled with exhaustion, a sloppy grin on his stubbled lips. He meets Harry’s eye for one brief second.
“YOU CAN DANCE,” he bellows, making Harry jolt into the air, “YOU CAN DAA-AAANCE, HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE!”
“Not again, Louis,” Harry groans, covering his ears, but he can’t help but smile, trying to hold back his laughter. Louis’ hands are on his arms now, trying to pull away his hands, still singing so damn loud, loud enough to split eardrums and slice glass.
“SEE THAT GIRL, WATCH THAT SCENE, DIGGING THE DANCING QUEEN”
At long, long last, Louis stops.
Harry opens his eyes, smile bitten between his teeth, trying his best to muster a withering glare. Louis’ still perched above him, hands gently holding onto his arms. He’s looking down, sleepy and lazy and smiley, appearing very pleased with himself.
“Time for bed.”
“Yeah. Time for bed.”
And they both grin as Louis rolls off of him, offering his hand to help Harry stand.
Together, they walk slowly to the elevator, all their things gathered up in slack hands, hiding yawns with the backs of their hands. They descend the elevator in silence, save for a few bars of ABBA hummed under Louis’ breath (it prompts Harry to smack at his stomach, too tired for much else, and Louis giggles like a school child which makes Harry beam for no discernible reason, it’s just a very nice sound paired with a very nice feeling, okay?) and when they emerge from the building into the night, the wind is cold but they still manage to stop, just a moment, before they part ways.
“Tomorrow’s a big day,” Louis grins, looking a bit more awake amidst the shock of cold. His colic is sticking up and Harry would smooth it down if he wasn’t so dead-limbed. “But, rest assured, Liam’s going to love it. We’re his favorites, you know.”
Harry smiles. He feels accepted, somehow. Like, he’s always felt good at the paper, he has, but somehow, being accepted by Louis makes him feel successful and like he’s really on the right path. He’s doing good. And it all looks promising, really promising. Hell, it’s only been a week since their truce of sorts and it’s already this comfortable, this compatible. This good.
And, no, Harry’s not just talking about the writing.
“Don’t be nervous,” Harry says, quietly enough to be carried in the wind. Louis hears him, though. He can tell by the way his eyes soften and quiet, the playful joviality of his features pausing. It’s how he looks when he’s really listening. “I know you act like the universe is resting in your palm but I can read you like an open book, sir.” Harry enunciates each word with a meaningful point of the finger which, in turn, makes Louis roll his eyes, but he smiles. “So don’t be nervous, okay? You’re brilliant. Like, honestly. Way better than me.”
“You’re just fishing for compliments,” Louis grumbles, but he’s smiling.
Harry shakes his head. “Nah. I don’t need compliments. I know I’m brilliant.”
It earns him a smack but it makes him laugh. So it’s okay.
“Goodnight, Pretty Boy.”
And they part ways.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
Predictably, the article is positively eaten up by good, ol’ Liam.
“This is exactly what The New Direction needs,” he gushes and, if Louis didn’t know any better, he would swear that he was a little misty-eyed. Liam’s a very sensitive sort, but he’s also the kind that lives with the belief of ‘why shed tears when you can spend time focusing and working hard instead?’ so, it’s all quite amusing. He beams, eyes bright and warm. “You two are just as brilliant as I’d predicted. Positively made for each other, you are. Er,” he adds, glancing up as Louis and Harry shuffle awkwardly next to each other, Harry avoiding Louis’ eye. “I mean, in the writing aspect. Of course.” He seems mildly unsure of himself, surprisingly awkward.
“Of course,” Louis tacks on easily, just for good measure. He offers a sideways wink to Harry who flashes a lovely smile before he schools his features back into professional indifference.
“Will there be more in the future?” Liam asks hopefully, eyes penetrating.
Oh. That. Well…
“Absolutely,” Harry says, sure, and he glances at Louis before he continues, looking quite the vision in his striped trousers and heeled boots. Louis makes a mental note to tease him about them later. “I think, independently, we’re good. And, like, we should still do segments on our own and everything. But I think we should seriously consider making a collaboration for every monthly issue. I mean—if Louis agrees, that is.”
Harry turns to him, licking his lips and looking a fraction worried that he overstepped his boundaries.
Hah! As if. Louis would quite like Harry to move in with him, collaborate on many, many things.
“I agree,” he chirps, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Happy birthday and Merry Christmas Liam. Your newspaper darlings have joined forces.”
He hears Harry chuckle as Liam smirks, shaking his head but making a point of not arguing. “Oh great,” he mutters, returning to his laptop. “What have I created…”
“Monsters,” Louis sing-songs, nudging Harry to follow him out; he does, wordlessly, his smile growing more genuine.
For the rest of the day, they take it easy, opting to crash on the floor of Niall’s office as he reads his “Dear Niall,” letters aloud, taking care to scold the boys whenever they misbehave or judge unfairly. Since each scolding is followed up by a kiss from Zayn (for being an absolute prick, he’s quite the softie around Niall, go figure), it makes Louis roll his eyes and Harry smile.
“You guys are lovely together,” Harry simpers, all soft and sincere.
It’s such a picturesque, genuine sight—with Harry sprawled artistically on the ground, hat lying beside him, his long fingers folded together so artfully—that Louis throws a crumpled ball of paper at Harry’s forehead.
“Hey!” he protests, brow squishing as he raises up a hand to the wound, but Louis cackles, throwing his feet atop Harry’s lap. “What was that for?”
Louis smirks, laughter quieting as he settles his gaze on Harry. “You were posing. I could tell.”
For a moment, it looks as if Harry’s going to protest, still rubbing his forehead. But then he smiles, lopsidedly. “Life is art, Louis. I am merely one of its—“
“Oh, shut up,” Zayn and Louis both say, rolling their eyes in synchrony.
Harry looks appalled, turning to Niall for support.
He merely shrugs, apologetic. “You do sound like a bit of a prat, mate. Over-thinking things a bit, I think.”
Hah! Louis always knew he loved Niall best. They exchange air high-fives (they revert to teenagers when they’re together, no big deal) as Harry grumbles, crossing his arms and pouting.
“Don’t feel put out, Harold,” Louis smiles, poking him in the stomach with his toe.
Harry refuses to look at him. But his mouth does quirk—Louis sees it instantly.
“You need to pose to be art, baby cakes. Just come as you are.”
At that, Harry grins, loosening and turning fully to Louis. “As you were?”
“As I want you to be,” Louis grins back.
There’s a pause then, filled only with their smiles as Harry rests his hands atop Louis’ ankles, all soft-faced and relaxed.
How did Louis ever begrudge him, again? Why did he despise his existence? And how the actual fuck did he not know he was his mercury-boy?
“You can stay,” Louis says definitively as he settles further. “I’ve just decided. We shall keep you.”
Harry’s only response is to send the world into a beautiful mess as he smiles bright enough to power lighthouses. Yes, Louis definitely wants to keep him. It’s been a good fourteen days of seeing his proper smile and Louis already fucking knows that he wants to keep it. Slip it into the pockets of his jeans and lace it up with his shoes and wind it around the scarves he ties on his neck when it’s cold. Keep.
“We’re not going to keep you if you two start being sappy little fucks, making eyes at each other and flirtin’ like pre-pubescents.”
Without breaking eye contact with Harry, Louis throws out a charming, “Fuck off, honey,” which makes Harry laugh like a surprised kitten.
Yes, yes. Definitely keep.
The months’ issue of The New Direction comes out roughly a week later.
When Louis wakes up that morning, smiling and fuzzy, earbuds still in his ears (he’d fallen asleep listening to Karen O, at blog-Harry’s insistence) the first thing he does is pull up his own blog on his laptop, sending a quick response.
‘Dearest lovely Harold, brilliant song !!! Fell asleep listening to it haha Today’s a beautiful day. I hope wonderful things come your way. Listen to ‘Julia Dream’ by Pink Floyd :) It will make it even more beautiful. Yours sincerely, Siuolwt’
The second thing he does, is text real-Harry.
‘Today’s the day!’ he taps out on his iPhone. ‘We’re the new Lennon-McCartney! Sort of.’
And then he hops out of bed, hauls his arse into the shower, and begins his day.
When he comes back, dripping wet and clutching a towel around his waist, he finds that he has no new messages. None. Which, considering how much he and Harry text (they’d finally exchanged numbers, the day after Liam had drooled over their article, and it felt like a momentous occasion, one that Louis was tempted to write on his calendar), it’s rather odd that he hasn’t said anything. He’s usually up by now, doing yoga. (Yeah.)
Shrugging, he leaves his phone to charge as he gets dressed and makes breakfast.
Still no new messages. It’s eleven in the morning.
Maybe Louis will just pay him a visit, then.
He’s been to Harry’s flat once—after they’d all gotten drinks one night after they left the office late. Even Liam came, insisting he needed hard liquor after the phone calls he’d fielded earlier in regards to one of Zayn’s more, erm, expressive articles that he’d somehow managed to slip past Liam’s nose.
“People just don’t like hearing the truth,” Zayn had protested at the time, arm slung around Niall as he guzzled a beer AND smoked a cigarette, all in the same mouth, same breath. He’s a living cliché. It’s wonderful.
“Zayn says the shit that everybody else is thinking!” Niall had pointed out, all pink-cheeked and grinning. He always gets so merry and loud when he drinks. It probably has something to do with being Irish. “He’s an artist, Liam! You’ve got to let him do his thing! The pen is his chisel!”
Liam, Louis, and Harry stared. Zayn, meanwhile, turned his full attention to Niall, clearly touched.
Pulling the cigarette out of his mouth, he leaned in, shouted, “Do you really mean that?” and pulled back to look him in the eye. Amidst the blaring notes of Katy Perry, mass chatter, and smoke, it was quite the moment.
Niall had nodded, easy and confident as anything. “Very much so,” he nodded heartily. He makes everything sound so simple.
Stars erupted in Zayn’s eyes. “That’s…deep, man. That’s beautiful.” He couldn’t look away.
Louis snorted behind his pint. Harry elbowed him in the ribs consequently, but he flashed him a private grin. Liam had lost interest by this point, texting someone on his phone. Or playing Trivia Crack. Whichever.
After a good five minutes of Zayn and Niall staring into each other’s eyes soulfully, swaying as they huddled together, Zayn finally spoke again. “Can I take you on a walk?”
Louis suppressed the urge to laugh. Zayn. Honestly.
“Of course,” Niall nodded, sounding just as sure as ever. He set down his beer, hopped up, and tugged Zayn along without another word, Zayn crowding him from behind like a lovesick puppy.
“They’re so unexpectedly perfect,” Louis laughed, glass pressed to his lips. “It’s so brilliant.”
Harry hummed his agreement. “They really are.”
Liam laughed then, looking up from his phone. He stood up, pointing a crooked finger at them. “Like you two!” he said joyously, before stumbling off towards the toilets and, okay, yeah, he was obviously talking about the whole writing thing, but.
But Louis still glanced at Harry to see his reaction.
Luckily, it was very unbothered. Sweet relief.
“It’s funny,” Harry grinned, looking down at Louis with this smile. This thing of a smile that was the fondest he’d looked at Louis thus far. Like they were finally proper mates, proper somethings.
“What’s funny?” Louis asked, loose-limbed and jelly-like as he tilted his head and let his own fondness show. “Tell me now, Pretty Boy.”
Harry’s grin widened at the name. “It’s funny because we’ve hated each other for a whole year. And now we’re friends! And it’s only been, like, a month? Or something?”
“Not even,” Louis corrected, grinning.
“Exactly! And it’s funny. You like me, you want to be my friend.” It sounded so smug and pleased that Louis had to argue it.
“No, I’m afraid that’s not true. I only like Niall, he’s my only friend.”
“What about Zayn?”
“He’s a piece of shit, a total prick. Only Niall—he’s the genuine one.” He smiled when Harry laughed.
“But, like, what’s the story with them? They’re together, yeah? I’ve always been too afraid to ask…” He took a sip of his beer, eyes on Louis.
It made Louis feel warm and full of electrons. He let his arm press against Harry’s arm. “Yeah, they are. It’s funny because we’ve all been mates through uni—Liam was the one who single-handedly put together the paper, you know. He’s bloody brilliant, a proper nerd. And we were all studying English and writing and journalism, the like, and we sort of just banded together for this thing, you know? Well, back in the day, Zayn was this lost soul with a really shitty attitude. He’s a had a bit of a difficult life, to be fair, but still. He was a bastard. I fucking love the guy, I’d die for him, but I can admit it, you know?”
Harry nodded, enraptured.
“And Niall was sort of the same… But the opposite. Cuz he was all messed up too, you know? He was like, super loud and obnoxious and fun and—like he was that guy that you always thought was just perpetually happy, you know? You always thought he was having a good time. But, in reality, he was like super depressed I guess. Didn’t find out till later, but I guess he just likes to be really private and he’s got few things to deal with. Like, emotionally. But, anyway, they were always close and all, but it wasn’t until Niall got, like, really low and began to cut us off and stop hanging about that him and Zayn really…bonded, or whatever. Cuz Zayn quit uni, almost ditched us with the newspaper, even, and just, like…lost himself a bit. Until Niall. I’m not really sure what all happened, but I know that they sort of leaned on each other and just…” He shrugged, gesturing the empty air. “Fit. Like, Zayn’s still a dick, but he’s got a proper sensitive side now. He’s got the confidence to actually stick with something he cares about, you know? And Niall’s finally sorted himself out so that he’s not trying to be the life of the party all the time. He’s just himself. And Zayn loves him and vice versa, so.” He shrugged again, smiling as he turned to Harry. “So it’s pretty brilliant. I can’t wait until their wedding, even if they pretend like they’re not serious, or whatever.”
Harry had had a soft look in his eyes, his chin resting on his hand as he listened. When he opened his mouth to speak, his lips were slow, dragging out the words. “I like the way you talk,” he’d said.
Which was the last thing Louis was expecting, given the context of what they’d just talked about.
“What?” he laughed.
“I like the way you talk,” Harry repeated, grinning now. “I’m glad we’re friends. I’m glad Zayn and Niall found each other. I’m glad Liam’s our boss. I’m glad you’re not mean anymore.”
“I’m glad I’m not mean anymore, too,” Louis smiled, knocking his shoulder with Harry’s as he smiled genuinely, his neck hot. “I’m glad we hired you. And I’m sorry for being the biggest prick for such a long time. You’ve no reason to be kind to me so, I’m sorry again. And thank you.”
“I’m sorry, too. And thank you, too,” Harry had responded, all shiny-eyed and heartfelt, and it was so drunken and sappy.
Then Liam came back and they all did shots and sang The Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend The Night Together”. Ever since then, it’s been like a bond has been forged.
So it seemed very natural when Harry invited them over afterwards.
“I have sushi in my fridge,” he’d said as they all stumbled out of the pub, reeking of sweat and smoke. “And I made homemade bread! With cranberries.”
Louis fell in love. “Yes to all of those things,” he deadpanned immediately.
But Liam swayed no his feet, yawning and checking time. “I should’ve been asleep four hours ago,” he’d mumbled, scrubbing a hand over his eyes. “I’m gonna pass, mate. Next time.”
“Next time,” Harry solemnly promised, then shook his hand and off they went.
It was no big deal. They walked to Harry’s flat, drunk and laughing about what animal Harry’s most like.
“You’re such a giraffe,” Louis’d guffawed as they climbed the stairwell, hiccupping at intervals. “All loooong and awkward and tall and—eyelashes!”
Harry’d pouted as they entered the corridor of his floor, walked with purpose. “I’m a jellyfish,” he protested.
“A jelly—what? I don’t—stop, Harold, shush.” He smeared his fingers over Harry’s lips, blinking in the too-bright lights.
Harry grinned, licked his palm. Oh, the joys of alcohol.
They entered the flat then, immediately kicking off their shoes and bee-lining to the fridge.
“I want to eat forever,” Louis said, his mouth stuffed with bread and cheese. “I don’t care if I lose my fine figure—I’m going to eat always. That’s it. No sex, no activities, no concerts. Just eating.”
Harry hummed his agreement, tossing sushi effortlessly into his mouth. His hair was pulled back in a makeshift bun. They were both still wearing their jackets, their eyes red and bleary.
They ended the night side by side, sitting on the floor of Harry’s kitchen.
“You know I have a blog,” Harry’d mumbled, tired and sleepy.
Louis felt his limbs jump a bit, startled even though his drunken haze. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. That guy I was waiting for the other night… We talk on my blog.”
“Oh,” Louis said carefully, not quite sober enough for this. “Okay.”
“I think he’s my soulmate.”
His stomach hopped into his throat.
“I think we’re gonna get married, Lou.”
For one wild moment, he thought Harry meant them. And, while he technically did, it eventually registered that he was referencing Siuolwt, not Louis.
He sighed, shoulder pressed against Harry’s shoulder. “Hopefully…”
“Yeah,” Harry’d mumbled, dozing off. “Hopefully.”
After that, Louis forced him up, lead him to what he assumed was his room, deposited him gently in his bed and tucked him in, then left, turning off all the lights and whispering goodnight.
That was the last time Louis was at this flat.
Now, he stands at the door, clutching a bouquet of violets and their issue of The New Direction as he presses the buzzer, tapping his toe on the step.
It takes a moment for Harry to answer.
“Yeah?” comes a scratchy voice.
Louis blinks. “Harry? You alright?”
“No. Please come upstairs.”
With that, he buzzes him up.
When Harry opens the door, he doesn’t expect to find the mess that is Harry Styles.
“I’m sorry,” he says pitifully through a stuffed nose, holding a box of tissues under his arm, dabbing at his leaking face. “I’m sick.”
“Oh,” Louis blinks, feeling like a bit of an idiot. “Did you want me to leave you alone, or—“
“No,” Harry shakes his head. “No, I’m lonely and I feel horrible. Please stay?”
Louis smiles, already nodding his head. He sees a flicker of hope in Harry’s exhausted, droopy eyes. “I’ll stay.”
He shuts the door behind them.
The rest of the day is spent as Harry’s nurse. Which is surprisingly nice, actually.
After their mini celebration over their article (they took a very unappealing selfie with it, but poor Harry kept sneezing), Louis sent Harry to bed, with promises to ease his every pain.
“You don’t have to do this, honestly,” Harry had said for the tenth time as Louis ushered him into his bedroom. It was very reminiscent of the last time he’d been here.
“I know I don’t. But we’re friends now, remember? And I take my friendship very, very seriously, Harold. So let me tuck you in your bed and set up your TV—you want to watch something?”
Harry nodded, sniffing pitifully as he obediently crawled beneath the covers, sinking into his large pillows with a thankful sigh. “Yes, please. Could you put on Velvet Goldmine, please? It’s on the shelf over there.”
Louis grinned, tucked the duvet beneath Harry’s feet. “Of course, why am I not surprised? Brilliant movie, though. Did I tell you I went out and bought it?”
The look he received in response momentarily made him question whether he had several heads.
“You know that movie?” Harry questioned, clearly surprised beneath the weight of his illness.
Oh shit. That was Siuolwt and blog-Harry’s thing wasn’t it? That never happened between the real Harry and Louis.
“Uhm. Yeah, yeah I thought—uh. Never mind. I love that movie, though. I’ve watched it for years! Decades, even. Anyway. Let’s pop that in,” Louis hastened, firmly ignoring Harry’s furrowed eyebrows.
Of course though, about an hour later (after Louis made them both a nice lunch of soup and tea) he found himself lying beside Harry (at his insistence—he’s a whiny, needy patient, that’s for damn sure) and watching the movie, enraptured as he clutched his mug of tea.
“I want this life. But with a happy ending,” Harry murmured, half asleep.
Louis smiled as he took a quiet sip of tea.
“Maybe my blog boy will be my Curt Wild.”
Momentarily, Louis’ smile faltered. Which was stupid, considering he’s ‘blog boy’. He can’t exactly be jealous of himself, can he? Then again, stranger things have happened.
“Maybe,” he’d agreed quietly.
When he looked over, Harry was fast asleep.
“Let me make you dinner.”
“But you’ve been taking care of me all day! On your day off! You sacrificed all your time to clean up my used tissues and make me food—and you barely even know me—“
“Not true. We’ve had a year-long relationship of mutual hatred, Harold. Don’t erase our history, please. Don’t cheapen that down to nothing.”
Harry giggled, all warm-skinned and red-nosed, his chest glimmering with Vick’s Vapor Rub, his feet tapping beneath the heavy layers of quilts and duvets that Louis’d piled on him. He might’ve taken too much Dayquil.
“I can’t believe such a prick turned into someone so wonderful,” he beamed, innocent as a ladybug.
“Your flattery is truly overwhelming,” Louis deadpanned as he finished spritzing the bedroom doorknob with sanitizer. “There,” he finished, swiping a cloth over it. “Now everything is sanitized, you nasty pile of germs.”
Harry only smiles in response. “You’re probably going to get sick now. Isn’t that cute? It can be like our friendship bracelet.”
“You’re giving the flu to me as a friendship bracelet?”
He nodded, cheeks soft. “Because it’s personal to me and I’m giving it to nobody else but you. And now it’s, like, in us. I wonder if I should try writing beatnik poetry, Louis? About our friendship flu?”
“No more medicine, Harry.”
“I’ll take care of you when you have Friendship Flu. I promise. I’m really good at massages. And making meatloaf.”
“You’re going to make a wonderful spouse, you know.”
“I know. I’m amazing, Louis. I was born for great things.”
“Sure you were. Now go to sleep, Harry.”
“I’m going to sleep now, Louis.”
“Okay, Harry. Sweet dreams.”
“Okay.” Pause. “Thank you.”
“Can we watch another movie?”
Louis shoots him a stern look as he unloads the dishwasher. “It’s nearly midnight, Harry. You’re already staying up too late. After I put these dishes away, I’m leaving you to rest.”
“But I feel so much better!” Harry pouted from the couch, swaddled up in his quilt. “I’m enjoying the company. Stay the night? Please?”
“You need your rest!”
“I’ll only rest if you’re here, though. Otherwise I’m lonely.”
“We’re going to buy you a cat, okay? A nice cat.”
“If I put a collar on you, does that count as having a cat?”
No, he will not make this situation sexual. He will not.
“No, Harry,” he says calmly, ignoring every urge in his body. “That does not count. Now hush. I’ll stay. But just for tonight.”
When Harry finally falls asleep, Louis watches him, feeling an uncomfortably insistent digging in his stomach.
He’s very beautiful, isn’t he?
Louis’ quite smitten, isn’t he?
He brushes a hand over Harry’s forehead, the tips of his fingers catching on the curls. The glow of the streetlights is pouring in from his bedroom window, painting him in various slices of orange. Very beautiful, indeed.
With a sigh, he stands, setting the note on Harry’s beside table before he leaves.
‘My dearest Harold, I’ve gone home because YOU NEED YOUR REST !! ALONE !!!!!!! :) Text me when you’re awake. I’ll bring you breakfast and Rihanna—your favorite. ;) Yours sincerely, Louis’
~Harry Edward Styles~
It’s been a little over two months since Harry and Louis Tomlinson have been friends.
And, somehow, in that short expanse of time, Harry has found himself well and truly fucked.
It’s just… He loves his job, okay? He really, really does. And he loves writing. And music. And laughter. And beauty. And poetry. And individuality. And intelligence. And strength. And soul.
And, somehow, Louis sort of… Sort of encompasses all of that. Harry’s not sure if his irrational hatred for him had been blinding him this entire or if he’s just not getting enough sleep lately.
Either way, Harry is well and truly fucked.
He bites his lip as he stares at the message on his blog. His head and heart are equal parts guilt, hesitation, sadness, and longing. It would make for a wonderful Shakespearian soliloquy.
‘My Dearest Harold, I want to meet you. Would tomorrow work? I know it’s last minute but let me know ok? Yours sincerely, siuolwt’
Harry gulps, the words sitting heavily in his skull.
Because… Okay, because Siuolwt is wonderful, is great, is lovely. But…
But Louis. That’s a thing now, okay? Louis.
There’s another boy now, another boy who calls him Harold and leaves him notes and that first time he’d read ‘Yours sincerely, Louis’ it had somehow just clicked inside of him, just felt right somehow. So unlike all of the unmomentous times he’s read these empty, pixilated messages. And he cares about Siuolwt, he does, truly. It’s just…
Sucking his lip into his mouth further, he begins to type.
‘My Dearest Siuolwt, I would love to meet you tomorrow. I have a lot on my mind that I really need to sort through… See, I think I may have feelings for someone. I think I might have a lot of feelings for them. If you still want to meet up, let me know. Yours sincerely, Harold’
He sends it with his eyes closed.
~Louis William Tomlinson~
“It’s going to happen tomorrow,” is all Louis says as he shoves his phone in Zayn’s face.
Zayn couldn’t be less fazed though, his eyes following the words easily. “Oh,” he says when he’s finished reading. “Cool. ‘Bout time. You guys are getting into that annoying stage where you’re about five minutes away from a fucking tickle fight.” And then he goes back to his writing in his bent spiral notebook.
“I hate your lack of emotions.”
“Love you too, mate.”
Louis sighs, rolling his eyes. “No, but seriously. I think he’s talking about me. I think he has feelings for me.”
Zayn pauses, only long enough to give Louis a condescending look. “Of course he’s talking about you. Don’t be an idiot.”
“But what if he’s not?” Louis reasons, shifting his weight, and it makes Zayn sigh, setting down his pen.
“Okay, listen up. Alright?” Louis nods. “Alright. I will only say this once, got it? Once.” Louis nods again before Zayn continues, sighing. “Look, Lou. You’re brilliant, mate. Intelligent and dam gifted and you’ve got a big heart, alright? You’re the best man I know and I look up to you. You’re one of the few people in my life who’s gotten my back and made me want to be better for it. So I’m not about to bullshit you. Harry’s gone for you. Alright? And he’d be a fuckin’ idiot not to be. He’s lucky you even speak to him—and I say this with all the affection that I have for the kid. But you’re not just ordinary, Lou—you’re better than the norm. So stop doubting yourself and just be thankful that you love someone as much as they love you. Got it?”
It takes every last ounce of power within Louis not to let his eyes well. And he is not a crier. But then again, Zayn rarely speak more than two sentences at a time, and they’re almost always peppered with expletives and blatant dislike. So, like.
This is kind of a big deal.
“Zayn,” is all he manages, heartfelt, before Zayn clears his throat awkwardly and returns to write in his notebook, a little more manic and determined than usual.
“I’m not going to hug you,” is all he says, but it makes Louis smile to himself.
There’s an ensuing silence, filled only with the sound of Zayn’s pen scratching along before Louis finally speaks.
Zayn grunts. “Yup.”
“Love you, man.”
And he plants one kiss on the top of his head before he darts out of the room, laughing as he hears Zayn curse.
~Harry Edward Styles~
So, it’s today. Today is the day. Today Harry is going to meet Siuolwt. He really should start preparing. He should start picking out his outfit and planning on what to bring and he should probably start trying to tame some his wilder curls down and make sure he’s wearing his best pair of unmentionables. He should do laundry.
Instead, he calls Louis.
“Do you want lunch? I don’t want any of the food in my flat,” he whines, glaring into his closet. He can’t find a shirt to wear. Maybe he’ll go shirtless because he’s a free spirit. It would make a very nice statement.
Louis would laugh in his face. He chuckles a bit at the thought.
“What kind of lunch?” Louis asks, but Harry can hear his smile. “I don’t want that bird food again. There’s only so much lettuce and raw pumpkin seeds that I can handle, Harold.”
“Whatever you want,” Harry promises, picking out a nice ruffled blouse. It’ll go wonderfully with his sunglasses. “Your choice. And I will eat whatever.”
He hears an exaggerated gasp over the line. He rolls his eyes at it—a horrific trait he’s begun to pick up from spending an average of eighteen hours out of the day with Louis.
“You’re going to eat something that hasn’t been shit out of a bird?”
Harry balks out a laugh, shouldering the phone as he slides on the blouse, fingers finding the buttons. “Yes. I solemnly swear. I’ll sign a contract and everything.”
“What a time to be alive,” Louis remarks with a smirk and Harry closes his eyes at the sound, letting himself smile, unguarded.
“So. You’ll come?”
“Of course I’ll come,” Louis says warmly. “I’ll wear my best velvet tracksuit and everything.”
Another laugh is startled out of Harry—he can’t help it. Louis just says the weirdest things at the most random times! He’s so unpredictable and unexpected. Harry loves it.
“Good,” he says. “But let’s not go back to that one Mexican place where you got in the fight with the waiter, alright? I’m still upset with them.”
“Because of that arsehole?”
“No, because they forget to give me my guacamole. I asked for it three times!” he says in defense when Louis begins laughing heartily.
“Oh, Harold. What am I going to do with you?” It sounds warm and crackly like popcorn.
Harry beams. “Take me to lunch, that’s what you’ll do. And maybe later tonight we can go to that gig at Maggie’s? Those one guys with the fiddle are gonna be there and I know Niall’s been wanting to see them.”
There’s a brief pause over the line.
“Don’t you have that meeting today, though? With, uh, that blog guy?”
Oh. He remembered.
“Well, yeah. I mean, like… It’s just in the day, though. Or evening. Whatever. It probably won’t take long.”
“No?” Louis sounds amused.
“Yeah, I mean. It’s only the first meeting. So.” He shrugs, even though Louis can’t see it. “Whatever.”
Louis chuckles lightly. “Alright. Sounds good. I’ll come to your flat, then?”
“Sounds good,” Harry grins, already zipping up his boots. “See you soon, Lou. Unless you want to stay on the phone with me until you’re at my door. That’s fine with me, too.”
“You clingy mess,” Louis chastises with a delighted laugh. “I would never. I’d much rather text you the entire time—that way you can’t hear me when I’m out of breath as I’m climbing the Great Pyramid that is your stairwell.”
“Lou, I’m on the third floor.”
“Details. Bye, Harold!”
“See you in a sec, Louis.”
Now today seems much more manageable.
The sun is high up in the sky when Harry checks the time next, strolling down the street with Louis, debating whether Magneto or Professor X is more powerful. (Professor X, obviously. Louis demands that it’s Magneto.)
It’s nearly three PM.
Siuolwt and him planned to meet at three. Outside the same café where they had originally planned.
Maybe he’ll stand up Harry again? That would awful, obviously.
But then he could at least spend the day with Louis, so. If it happens, it happens.
With a sigh, he slows his pace, staring at his phone before he brings an apologetic frown up to Louis. “It’s nearly three,” he says by way of explanation. “I should probably…” He drifts, gesturing randomly. “The blog guy. Gotta meet up with him.”
“Ohhhh,” Louis nods, understanding, but there’s something in his face. Harry can’t quite read it but he hopes it’s jealousy. Is that selfish? That’s probably selfish. But it’s a major human emotion and Harry feels it all of the time, so. “Right, right. The blog guy.”
“Yeah.” Harry drops his gaze, staring at their toes as the stand in the middle of the sidewalk. “I, uhm… Will you be, like, around at all today? I mean, after I meet up with him?”
Louis smirks, staring off into the distance. “Yeah, probably.”
Louis nods, still looking away.
“I, uh…” Harry clears his throat. His heart’s beating a little too quick at the words on the tip of his tongue. But… But he feel like he needs to say something. It feels weird right now, with Harry’s life so entwined with Louis’ and yet here he is going off to meet up with some guy. It doesn’t feel right. “I’m not really…” He stops, unsure of what to say. He kicks at the pavement, hands in his pockets. “Like, if it doesn’t go well, I won’t be that upset.”
“No?” Louis still won’t look at him.
It makes Harry frown deeper. “No,” he continues, staring at his profile. Which is so very lovely, so very much like everything else about him. “I’ll probably just be wishing you were there the whole time, actually.” He laughs awkwardly, just a short burst of breath, but he watches Louis’ face closely.
It’s then that Louis meets his eye, an unreadable expression on his face. “Really?” he questions and though his mannerisms are a mystery, his tone is soft.
Harry loosens a bit, smiles. “Yeah,” he replies, just as softly. “Part of me doesn’t even want to go, actually. Part of me just wants to stay right here.” And, oh goodness, now Harry’s heart is really beating, his nerves jumping up and down. A small line forms between Louis’ eyebrows. Swallowing, he takes a step closer to Louis, pitching his voice low and earnest because he wants Louis to understand, wants him to know he’s thought about this. “He’s not my Curt Wild, Louis.”
“He didn’t write the article that changed my life—“
“He’s not the one who turned out to be the most unexpectedly complex, wonderful, poetic soul that I’ve ever had the privilege to meet—“
“Harry,” Louis interrupts one last time, this time with enough emphasis for Harry to pause. He looks like he’s caught between saying something and not, his entire expression at war.
Harry waits, breath suspended.
At last, Louis exhales, shaking his head. “Harold. Just go.”
Harry’s heart stops. “What?” he asks, the blood draining from his body.
Louis purses his lips, pressing his fingers over Harry’s mouth. “Go. Go to him. Just… Don’t say anything more, okay? Trust me and just go.” He looks pitying, looks beautiful and monstrous beneath the warm wintry sun, and Harry can only take a horrified step back, cheeks flushed with humiliation.
“You want me to go?” he asks, small.
Louis’ face crumples a bit at that as he falls silent. But he doesn’t even attempt to say anything.
Swallowing and feeling every ounce of happiness evaporate, Harry begins to walk backwards, eyes stuck on Louis because he can’t seem to look away. “Fine. I get it. Fine.”
And, before he can let his voice break, he turns and walks away, leaving his heart somewhere on the pavement.
He doesn’t even bother sparing a glance to passerby when he arrives at the café, instead opting to slump onto the bench outside.
God. He just humiliated himself. Louis’ probably laughing at him right now. This very moment. He’s probably calling up Zayn and Niall and laughing and… Oh goodness.
Will he have to quit his job now?
This isn’t what Harry dreamt of at all. Here he’d been, thinking his life was finally on the right track…
He sighs, sniffling back the half-shed tears as he finally lifts his head and inspects the area. It’s filled with a few individuals, all walking, nobody looking as though they’re trying to meet their potential-soulmate.
God. And here he thought Louis was his… Ugh.
It’s just as he’s about to give up and walk home to lie in his bed for the rest of his life that he notices someone walking towards him with purpose. Instantly, his heart picks up pace as he turns his head in the direction of—
“Louis?” he croaks out, both horrified and relieved to see him. He shoots up off the bench. “What are you doing here? I’m supposed to be—“
But Louis’ still walking towards him, an enormous smile on his face. “Hey, you,” he says, a little breathless, as he reaches him.
When Harry just stares at him, he chuckles a bit, but he looks a little…terrified, maybe?
“My little mercury boy,” he continues, voice quivering just slightly on the ends. “I honestly can’t imagine how you would think that the person that you’ve been talking to on your blog could be anybody but me.”
And, suddenly, time stops, the entire world freezes.
Wait… No. There’s no way. It couldn’t… Could it?
Harry stares, jaw fully dropped as Louis’ eyes flick over his face, his grin growing more sure by the second. “I mean, really, Harold. Didn’t you realize that my username is literally ‘Louis’ spelled backwards? With my initials tacked on at the end? No?”
Oh dear god.
Louis William Tomlinson. Siuolwt.
Oh holy mother of god.
Harry continues to stare, mouth frozen open, eyes threatening to pop out and roll away.
“And then when I called you Harold, I definitely thought you’d start suspecting me…”
God, why didn’t he ever make a connection?
“And then I even went as far as to leave you a note that was in the exact format of our online messages and yet you still were oblivious. How is that? How can that be? The most intelligent, witty, lovely boy on Earth couldn’t string together a simple riddle?”
“It’s you,” Harry finally says, words swept up in an exhale. He can’t blink, his eyes so wide, but he brings up shaky hands, lets them rest against Louis’ cheekbones because he’s just not sure if he’s imagining this or not. “It’s you,” he repeats, stronger, because yes.
It’s Louis. Of all the fucking people in this universe, it’s been Louis this whole time. Louis.
It’s always been Louis.
Heart thumping, Harry finally smiles, a laugh escaping his lips as he stares at Louis, who stares back, laughing as well. “I was hoping it would be you,” he says, the words breathless and lifted in his lips. “I’m so happy it’s you. I don’t want anyone else, I just want you,” he rushes and gushes, pressing himself against Louis as his hands pet and stroke, just touching—almost manically—before they finally settle in an embrace around Louis’ neck.
Louis holds him, arms secure, no trace of hesitation.
“I knew it was you since the night at the café. When I went to meet you and I saw. Both Zayn and Niall know, too,” he mumbles words lost in Harry’s hair.
Harry laughs in Louis’ neck, wild and jolted with adrenaline and pure joy. He’s never been happier his entire life.
He pulls back though, meeting Louis eye with a frown. “That was the night I was so mean to you,” he says sadly, apologetically, hand rested over Louis’ heart.
Without a blink, Louis slides his own hand atop Harry’s, as natural as if they’ve been doing this for their entire lives. “I deserved it,” he remarks quietly. And his eyes are smiling, calm. “It opened my eyes a bit. I needed it, I think. From you.”
Well. Guilt is still weighing heavy within Harry, but.
But they’ll deal with that later.
For now, Harry can only laugh, over and over, pressing his palms to Louis’ skin. “It’s you,” he says again, this time with a giggle, and Louis laughs too (he’ll never admit it later), pressing his forehead against Harry’s and staring at his mouth with those beautiful blue eyes.
And then Louis’ eyes find Harry’s.
“Hello,” he says, soft and smiley. “You’re my very special one.”
Harry actually has to close his eyes, he’s so overcome with emotions. God, this couldn’t be better if he wrote it out this way.
“But if you close the door, I’d never have to see the day again,” he sings along, the words warped in his stretched lips.
They fall silent then, only interrupted by the bustle of pedestrians, the occasional car horn, and the sound of birds scuttling around them.
“So… Does this mean we can go to that gig tonight?” Harry asks, soft as petals as he feels Louis’ fingers brush the nape of his neck.
“Mmhm. Right after this.”
Blinking, Harry looks up, questioning. “Right after what?”
Louis smiles, just barely more than he had been. “This,” he says, before his lips catch Harry’s own, spiraling him into the far corners of the galaxy as he holds him with all the reverence of delicate china and presses against him with the all the insistence of a storm.
It’s him, it’s him, it’s always been Louis.
“Always in my heart, Louis Tomlinson,” he mumbles when they finally break apart, lips tingling and red. Louis’ eyes crinkle with a smile as Harry presses words into his mouth, trading them for oxygen. “Yours sincerely, Harry.”