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Neaten Up

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Tom hated the tube. He hated the public transport in this disgusting city. What seemed like hundreds of people were in one carriage, courtesy of the busy time of day. He understood that everybody had to go somewhere in the morning but that didn't mean that he liked it. Strangers pressed up against him, occasionally losing their footing and stumbling against him.

Not ideal. Particularly as Tom was someone who quite liked his personal space.

He took the same route every morning and evening to get to and from work. He'd been doing this for around a year. It was on one ordinary morning when Tom noticed him. He never brought a book or anything with him to pass time on the train, he preferred for it to be just him and his thoughts. He was guilty of people watching occasionally which is what he was doing one day when he saw him.

Through the crowd of people Tom could only see the top of the back of his head, most noticeably, his messy hair. He was very short, a teenager perhaps? He felt his lips twist into a frown at the sight of that mess. It looked as if he had never used a brush or a comb in his life. Tom half expected that if he were to go closer to the boy he would see twigs or perhaps the contents of an entire forest living in that bird's nest. He almost felt physical pain looking at the boy's hair, his own hand coming up to brush his own neatly combed hair. He just couldn't fathom how someone would walk out their front door like that. Perhaps the boy had woken up late for something and was just rushing? He hoped so.

Deciding to ignore it he looked away from the boy, hating the fact that he immediately wanted to look again. However he was stubborn and for the rest of the journey the boy and his messy hair were steadfastly ignored.

After that morning the boy became a near constant presence in Tom's travel to work in the morning. He wondered if there was someone above who was laughing at his predicament. It became apparent after the first few times that no the boy didn't wake up late every morning and rush out without brushing his hair, that was just what it normally looked like. Eventually Tom found himself in a position where he caught sight of the stranger's face and okay, it was unlikely they were a teenager — rather they were probably just a short adult. He did clench the handle of his briefcase very tightly when he saw the stranger's eyes - how do you have eyes that colour? a striking green he'd never seen anyone else have - but besides that, tried to show no reaction. The green-eyed stranger didn't seem to notice his sudden admirer, earphones playing music that Tom never could clearly discern the genre of.

The itch to tame the other man's hair never left, after a few weeks it only seemed to grow stronger! Unbelievable! Tom just couldn't get away from the stranger, it was as if magnets connected them. They almost always ended up on the same section of the train and Tom would find he'd somehow made his way across the entire carriage without realising it just to stand closer to the stranger.

It truly was maddening.

One week it was a Tuesday. Tom had barely slept the night before, wasn't feeling particularly well and to top it all off, had not had coffee this morning. To sum it up, Tom was barely coherent. Despite all this he was a diligent employee who was on the train on his way to work. Maybe later he may accidentally bite off his employer's head but at least he came into work, right?

He only vaguely noticed that he was somehow standing right behind the stranger, looking down at the bird's nest of hair. There were no twigs, unfortunately, just a massive cows lick. Dazed at the sight he barely registered his arm coming up and starting to smooth down the stranger's hair. The stranger's shoulders stiffened when they realised that yes, someone was touching their head. Tom's hand was slow to stop petting — petting? when did he start petting the stranger's head? god, how do you have hair this soft? — his hair but he paused eventually, hand resting awkwardly on the other's head. Tom's hand dropped back to his side when the stranger turned to face him, looking completely flummoxed.

The cows lick was rising again. Tom wanted to jump on to the train tracks.

"Ehm? Were you… petting my hair?" The stranger looked like he felt more awkward than what Tom should have been feeling. He was pulling out his earphones, giving his full attention to Tom. His voice was lovely, Tom noticed, slowly becoming alert.

He touched a stranger's hair. Why did he do that?

"Your hair is messy." He explained, as if that was a reason in itself. The stranger was looking at him with his lips parted, head tilted as if he wasn't quite sure what to make of Tom.

"That doesn't explain why you touched it."

"It was bothering me." Tom was getting annoyed, why should he have to explain himself? It was the stranger's fault for not owning a comb. Something in Tom's expression may have been petulant as the stranger looked vaguely amused now, corners of his lips twitching into a smile.

"Well, I guess that means I can do this then, right?" Before Tom realised what the stranger was doing he had reached up and mussed Tom's hair.

Tom's mouth dropped open in horror once he realised what the other man had done. The stranger cracked up at his expression, his laughter drawing attention from others.

"My name's Harry by the way." Harry said, once his laughter had died down. There was no hiding the amusement in his eyes though — like gemstones, Tom wanted to carve them out and keep them for himself — as he looked at Tom.

Tom took a deep breath.

"I'm Tom." He forced out reluctantly, hand coming up in vain to try to smooth out his now ruined hairstyle.

It was only later when they were having coffee together that—

"What do you mean you're one year older than me?!"

"Just because I'm short doesn't mean anything."

"I can't believe this. You can pay for my drink."