Niall hates winter, clings to warmer weather for as long as he can. But then he meets Harry in the winter.
“Oh, for fuck-” Niall curses, cutting himself off when an older woman – whom he recognizes as a professor; medium black, one sugar and a low fat blueberry muffin – glares at him from across the campus coffee shop, where she’s grading papers. He looks sheepish, mutters an apology as he continues to shovel snow and slush out of the doorway.
It’s mid-November and the city of London is already buried under five feet of snow. And Niall hates it.
He hates winter. He hates cold weather, tends to cling to the warmer weather of summer and fall by wearing vests and shorts until his skin turns pink from frostbite instead of the sun; he’s Irish, so his skin is sensitive in all seasons. He hates the snow and how cold and blinding it is, how it whips against his hair and gathers on the streets, how it turns into slush and ice. He hates grey skies and angry storm clouds – and he positively loathes how short the days become.
He hates how depressing the winter season is, how cold and dark it makes everything seem and not just the weather. It’s a proven fact that people get depressed in the winter time – and Niall is, admittedly, definitely one of those people.
The bell above the door jingles, calling out to Niall that someone has either left or come in just as the boy with dyed-blond tips and brown roots is putting the shovel back into the back room. He saunters, rather grumpily because the bloke who’s just walked in has trudged even more snow onto his already soaking wet carpets by the door, back in behind the counter to greet him with a fake smile.
The bloke’s blowing hot air into his hands with his mouth as he walks up to the cash and when he pulls his hands away from his face, Niall finds himself staring at, like, a model. The boy’s all dark hair tucked under a beanie with a few loose curls peeking out from underneath at his neck, bright green eyes, clear skin with a lovely spread of pink across his cheeks and sitting on the tip of his nose, full, dark pink lips and a dimple in each cheek. Niall’s gaze slips down to see the rest of him: long limbs beneath a brown, swede jacket and black skinny jeans. He’s all kinds of beautiful – and only when he greets Niall, with a deep, hoarse voice, does Niall realize he’s staring.
“Uh, sorry – hi,” Niall stutters, cursing himself inwardly for sounding like nervous teenager. He’s 20 years old for Christ’s sake. “What would you like?”
“Just a hot cocoa, please,” the boy says politely.
Niall nods, cashes him out and then serves him his hot cocoa all within five minutes and then the boy is gone. But Niall’s not-so-fake smile lingers.
Niall decides on Harry’s fifth visit in as many days (he learns Harry’s name on the third) that maybe this winter won’t be so bad this year. Yes, he hates winter, but it’s been winter for almost six days on Harry’s fifth visit and if that isn’t some kind of fate then Niall doesn’t know what is.
On Harry’s 12th visit, the lad curls up in a corner of the shop to study for the upcoming exam period and Niall winds up joining him an hour later because the shop is empty and he’s bored and Harry looks really cute, sitting cozied up in one of the plush arm chairs with his hair an unruly mess of curls and reading glasses and an over-sized jumper. Niall doesn’t study – because he didn’t even think to bring his notes, maybe he will tomorrow though - but he flips through a Rolling Stone magazine he found on the coffee table under Harry’s books and only gets up to serve the odd customer.
Niall’s shift ends a few hours later, just after 8 p.m. and Harry lingers before asking him if he wants to join Harry at his favourite diner, located just off campus, for dinner. He attributes Harry’s red cheeks to the wind that hits Harry’s face and pushes his curls back; he knows his own red cheeks have nothing to do with the weather.
“How can you hate winter?” Harry asks a couple days later, sounding appalled as he stares at Niall with wide eyes whilst propped atop the counter next to Niall’s cash register.
“How can you not?” Niall counters, folding his arms over his apron covered chest, raising one eyebrow at the British boy.
“Winter is lovely.”
“Winter is cold. And gloomy. And, like, dead – everything dies in the winter.”
“But…there’s so much to love about winter,” Harry insists, like he really, truly wants to convince Niall that he’s right.
“Oh yeah? What’s there to love?”
Harry looks thoughtful for a moment before grinning cheekily and hopping off the counter, his long, clumsy legs wobbling like they’re going to give out on him before he catches himself, just as another customer walks into the shop. “Hang out with me after your shift and I’ll show you,” he says quietly before walking back over to his arm chair in the corner to study once more.
(If Niall stutters and asks the girl to repeat her order three times because his brain has melted like snow in the spring time, then, well.)
Harry doesn’t have very much planned for when Niall’s shift does finish – though he promises to come up with something better next time – so he just takes Niall for a walk in the courtyard between res. buildings. And Niall finds himself listening to every passionate word that leaves Harry’s lips about snow and how beautiful and perfect it is before he grabs a fistful of it in his hands and tosses it at him. The snowball hits Niall with a smack in the chest and Harry takes off running the second Niall jerks to chase him down.
Three days later Harry takes Niall ice skating – and even though Harry claims to go skating every year, the boy is absolute rubbish at keeping his balance.
Two days after that they make snow angels in the courtyard which results in Niall getting a cold the following day – sniffles and a sore throat – so Harry brings him chicken noodle soup in a thermos in the middle of his music theory class.
(And when his roommate, Josh, teases him about it after, Niall just kind of lets him.)
“You just need to embrace it,” Harry’s saying a few days after Niall’s cold has finally gone away. They’re sitting on Niall’s bed, Niall’s back against the headboard with a sound engineering textbook in his lap whilst Harry’s back is pressed against the wall, his own law textbook left forgotten between his legs. “Every season has something to be embraced.”
“Oh yeah?” Niall asks, cocking an eyebrow.
“Enlighten me.” It’s not that Niall doesn’t believe him – or that he doesn’t like any of the other seasons, he just kind of wants to see what Harry sees. He wants to understand how Harry thinks.
Harry leans forward, then, his long fingers wrapping around his ankles, which are intertwined with Niall’s at the foot of the bed. His eyes are wide with excitement and the look on his face is that of pure admiration. It makes Niall’s heart swell. “Spring is all fresh showers and blooming flowers and budding trees, like everything is coming to life again. Summer’s a bit obvious, yeah? Sunshine and beaches and warm weather and ice cream melting all down your arm. Fall’s got that first, rich taste of a pumpkin spice latte and the delicious smell of fires in the fireplace and orange and yellow and red leaves on the trees. Winter’s a little bit harder to understand because it’s dark and gloomy a lot but when it is bright the snow literally sparkles and, yeah, it’s cold but it means comfy sweaters and hot cocoa and ice skating and snow angel making.”
Niall finds himself grinning, watching Harry fondly. It’s times like this, when Harry gets so passionate about winter that Niall finds that he likes the way winter – even just the thought of it – seems to bring Harry to life.
Niall sighs as he looks out the window of the Addison-Lee, which is futile because he can hardly see any further than the glass anyway. He was supposed to be on a flight back home for the holidays right now but a combination of bad weather and poor visibility due to the worst snowstorm of the season has grounded all planes at Heathrow Airport. Now he’ll be playing a waiting game to see when he’ll be able to fly out and until then he’s stuck in London; stuck in res. whilst everyone else has gone home as well.
He glances down at his phone, sees that his mum has replied to his planes are grounded, won’t be home anytime soon with a series of sad emojis. (He never should’ve shown her those emojis.) His best friend Sean has responded to a similar text with a friendly threat of flying out there on his own and kidnapping him if he doesn’t get his arse back to Ireland soon. Harry, however, has yet to answer.
Harry had left for his own home town, Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, just after dropping Niall off at the airport about two ago. Which means, in short, that Harry is still driving which is probably why he hasn’t responded.
Niall doesn’t want to admit it but he misses Harry already. If he’s being honest, he started to miss Harry before they’d even said goodbye because all of a sudden three weeks away from him had been starting to feel like an eternity. It’s only been about a month that Niall’s known him and it already feels like Niall’s always known him. The concept of not seeing him for three whole weeks is unsettling and bittersweet in the sense that he also can’t wait to get home and see his family.
The driver pulls up against the curb outside his res. building and he pockets his phone in his jacket before handing the man just enough money for the drive and a small tip. He’s only a Uni student, after all.
He clambers, then, out of the back seat of the car, struggling to shield his face from the snow blowing about in the wind. He reaches for his luggage in the already opened trunk and when a hand lands next to his on the handle of his suitcase he looks up to thank the driver for his help, though it really isn’t-
His gaze meets Harry’s. Harry, who’s grinning at him over the scarf wrapped around his neck. Niall blinks, unable to look away and unable to speak; he’s quite literally frozen. Harry gathers the rest of Niall’s things before patting his hand down hard on the back of the car; the driver pulls away from the curb almost immediately, leaving both Niall and Harry standing on the sidewalk in the middle of the snowstorm.
“What are you doing here?” Niall asks, finally managing to find his voice. “I thought you were on your way home…”
“Well I was, but I got your message,” Harry replies with a shrug of his shoulders. “I didn’t want you to be alone so I called my mum and told her I’d be up in a few days, once you’re safe and sound on a plane.”
Niall rolls his eyes, shaking his head. “Y-you didn’t have to do that.”
“I wanted to.”
Niall smiles fondly. “Thanks,” he murmurs, before turning to head inside.
Harry’s hand curls around his wrist, then, and he’s tugged backwards and spun around – and then a pair of soft, warm lips are upon his own. Niall is frozen in shock once more but then Harry deepens the kiss, curling both arms around Niall’s waist to pull him even closer which pulls a moan out of Niall’s throat. He kisses back, wrapping his arms around Harry’s neck.
(And it’s fitting, isn’t it, that their first kiss is in the middle of a snowstorm?)
Niall hates winter. With a passion. He hates the snow and the cold, bitter air and the fact that he has to layer his clothing. Hates the ice that tries to make him slip and fall and the snow he has to shovel out of the doorway at the coffee shop.
But he meets Harry in the winter and he likes the way the snow gets caught in the curls that peak out from under his beanie, and the way his nose turns pink in the cold, bitter air and the way he looks in an over-sized sweater – sometimes two – and he adores the fact that Harry wears long-johns under his skinny jeans. He also likes the way Harry likes to go ice skating even though he isn’t very good and he likes Harry’s ridiculously childish need to start a snowball fight completely out of now where and he thinks it’s kind of cute that Harry still makes snow angels.
(And, maybe, he’s starting to warm up to winter after all.)