KNOCKOUT - A Harry Styles FanFiction

This is the sequel to Dark by H28 from onedirectionfanfictions.com

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2. Chapter 2

I was late. Thankfully it was only by a few minutes so I could slip into the back without most of the class noticing. Discussion on the set reading and enquiries about the essay due next week filled the session’s allotted time. I glance back and forth the clock for the last fifteen minutes, keen to escape the stuffy room and assignment questions that make my stomach churn. I haven’t started it, and the fact that some people are on their second draft weighs heavy on me and most of the other unwashed students.

I’m out and tripping over poorly placed legs to whom the owners decide the corridor floor is a marvellous place to wait for their seminar to start. I shouldn’t really complain as I’m the first one to slump down the wall and furiously read the assigned articles that should have been completed days before.

I’m just about to take the stairs down to the ground floor when a familiar laugh echoes in the dead-end where the vending machines are crowded by hungry students. He’s wearing the same navy bobble hat I’ve seen him in for the past week.

“James.”

The flush to his cheeks makes me smile because it means he was late in getting up too and the chocolate bar he’s midway unwrapping is his breakfast. Sandy hair is unkempt and escaping from his headwear, a “fashionable accessory”, rather than something he rushed to wear whilst jogging for class.

“Did you enjoy your run this morning?” I ask on approach.

My tone is mocking, but I’m in no position to doll out verbal gibes.

“It was more of a sprint,” he cheekily grins.

“Is your class now?” I ask

“In a few minutes, I got Kit to save me a seat though. I’m not sitting at the front again.”

He squashes me in a hug, making a point of munching his chocolate in my ear range. Regardless of the ponderings Tiff has placed in my mind, I’m happy to see him. I am. He’s sort of dorky, in a weird I-don’t-care-if-it’s-not-in-season-any-more-I-want-to-wear-my-Christmas-jumper kind of way. There’s an oddly shaped blemish just above the corner of his right eyebrow; a consequence of him succumbing to gravity when he was seven and falling from a tree. I’d gained this information whilst helping him collect dropped stationary up off the library floor. James’s words had run along with his mouth, filling any potential awkward silence before being shushed by irritated people nosing through books. He’s not what I’m used to, there’s no issues to work through, there’s no horrendous skeletons hiding in the closet; and that should come as a comfort to me. But there’s just something yet to click into place.

“Oh, while I’ve got you with me,” James continues, still locking us together. “Do you wanna go out on Saturday?”

He laughs as I squirm away, using his ticklish sides as leverage.

“I’m sorry, I can’t. I’m going home for the weekend. The manager of the music shop I used to work for phoned me the other day. He said they were desperately in need of someone.”

“That’s not your problem though,” he moans, pulling his hat down further.

“He’s a friend.”

One of James’s mates is beckoning him to hurry up from an open seminar door. The tutor isn’t there yet, but I guess he has about two minutes.

“When will you be back?”

The chocolate bar is finishes and I can feel him slyly slipping the empty wrapper into my back pocket.

“Either Sunday night or Monday morning.”

He heavily sighs, leaning against the wall and puckering his lips.

“What’s wrong?”

“My flatmates are out, thought we could spend the evening at mine.”

The glum expression he wears tells me he’s sincere in disappointment.

I kiss his cheek.

“You know I’m not –“

“Yeah, I know. I wasn’t..” he struggles for words. “I wasn’t thinking anything other than playing a few board games and possibly snogging for a bit.”

“Sure,” I laugh, lightly shoving at his shoulder.

It amuses him as I continue towards the stairs, joining other students and dodging the impatient ones. I feel him follow behind me, apologising for obstructing the route to other users.

“I promise,” James grins after catching up. “But I mean, if you want to play strip scrabble, then I won’t complain.”

I flick the bobble on his hat as he laughs. His tutor passes by on the stairs unnoticed by James, and I fight to keep from giggling. He’s more interested in lightly tugging on my pony tail.

“It’s that your lecturer?” I nod in the direction of the woman almost at the top of the stair well.

“Shit.”

He’s off like a rocket, speeding passed the lady I’d called to his attention. As I descend to the ground floor, I can hear him bellow, “I’m not late! I’m not late!”

***

It’s Friday afternoon and the train journey this morning gave me a much needed opportunity to look over my highlighted readings. I’d frantically gathered papers together before departing from the carriage and waiting for my mum to pick me up outside the station.

I expect to just bundle into the passenger side, but my mum vacates the vehicle before I reach it. She smothers me in a hug that’s been vastly overdue, kissing my forehead and repeatedly telling me how much she’s missed me. I wriggle free and usher her towards the car before the embarrassing tears can begin.

I worry about her a lot, now that she’s on her own. However, I find that the distance makes visits more enjoyable, soaking up the few days a month we have together; there’s no time for the silly arguments that used to ensue when I was permanently at home. It’s nice to have a quiet weekend with my mum before returning to deadlines and presentations.

Yet, this weekend may be more work based than I’d previously thought. With only two other people working the shop floor, I’m stuck up front with pricing and occasionally dealing with tricky customers. My eyes shoot up from my current task of applying sale stickers, to find a man navigating the aisles whilst rummaging through the bag slung over his shoulder.

My attention deviates for a matter of two seconds, but it’s more than enough time for the man to unload the contents of the backpack.

“Hey! We don’t want these here!” I disapprovingly yell after the guy who has just dumped a pile of fliers on the cash desk.

I roll my eyes as he scampers out the door, cleverly avoiding any instance where I might impolitely hand them back to him. A couple of the printed advertisements have fluttered to the floor, carried by the breeze slipping through the open shop door. I sigh before walking around the desk to retrieve them.

Any other time I would have binned them. It’s a rare occurrence for trashy hand-outs to hold my attention. But these ones do. I unfold from bending down, placing the rogue papers with the rest of the pile. The black and white print is cheaper to produce in bulk, and I assume that’s why the colour is drained from the background image of two male fighters; both frozen in position, one about to take a right hook to the face. To the left hand-side a list of surnames are stamped neatly in a column, two per row with a “vs.” wedged between them.

It’s not until I scan the second to last pairing that my hands begin to prickle with sweat.

 “Styles vs. Simmons”

I double check and the letters scorch my mind as I read over it again. My body runs on autopilot as I take off in a sprint towards the door. He’s ready to swing his leg over the motorbike just as I call out.

“Wait!”

It’s with my heart thumping that I stand before the guy who sneakily left the duplicates of the flier I’m accidently crumpling in my hand. He’s not overly tall, with scruffy hair scraped back in an elastic band and a harsh looking beard.

“Look, you can chuck them away if you want, it…” he begins but soon wavers off as I shake my head.

“Is this Harry?”

The piece of paper is held between us, the man squinting as if he’s having trouble reading the bold lettering. When all I receive is a crinkled forehead my index prods at what I’m referring to. He takes the hand-out from me, indulging me in a quick glance.

 “Is his first name, Harry?” I confirm the question with a more encouraging tone.

“Look Love, I don’t know their first names, I just advertise..”

“Is he fighting tonight?” I rudely cut him off the second time in a matter of minutes.

“No.” He shakes his head with a condescending smirk. “What makes you so interested?”

I’m not playing this game with him, not giving him the satisfaction. The way he’s now casually leaning against the side of his bike, assures me of his desire to have me hanging on his every word.

I’m not a fool, and I repeat that to myself as I turn to walk away.

 “He’ll be fighting tomorrow,” he calls out. “You should come along and see if it’s the Styles you’re looking for. I’ll even buy you a drink,” he winks.

“Thanks, but I’m perfectly capable of buying my own drinks.

I watch in amusement as he dramatically clutches at his chest.

“Way to shoot me down, Beautiful.”

The undesired pet name hardens my exterior, taking quick strides back towards the shop.

***

“Mum, I’m going out,” I inform her, collecting my jacket from the rack.

She’s sat with a friend from work on the sofa. Another bottle of wine has magically appeared, the contents drained by half. A trashy rom-com plays unnoticed on the TV as they chat mindlessly about the new doctor on shift the previous evening.

“Where are you going?”

She smiles, cheeks pink with the alcohol and I know she’s very much settled for the night. There’s more than a good possibility the tin of chocolates hidden in the kitchen will come out after I’ve left. It’s my mum that will stuff the empty wrappers back in the container instead of putting them in the bin. And it’s also more than likely that she’ll deny the nuisance behaviour.

“I’m going to see a match.”

My coat is on, collecting the car keys from the side table. I push back the length of my fringe and collect the braid I’ve just plaited to sweep over my shoulder.

“A football match?”

I rush to the door before answering her question, using lateness as an excuse and calling my goodbyes, falling out the front door a few seconds later.

***

I give the folded flier another fretful glance, clutching the paper tighter. Night had descended upon my journey a little after I’d left the house. It was further than I’d thought, a good forty minute drive.  I’d parked the car across road, gathering my valour to exit the vehicle and walk to the opposite pavement.

It’s a pretty rundown area, police sirens on continuous loop in the background. The building looks unassuming from the outside; all on ground level, flashing signs hammered to the external wall advertising free pool. It’s not somewhere my friends and I would frequent as the company lingering around three parked up motorcycles look like they could eat me for breakfast. I’m on my own and out of my depth.

Nevertheless, I proceed to make headway and bravely walk straight towards the solid looking bouncer on the door. I’m jeered at by the line of people waiting to give an admission fee, a line I’ve ignored, which possibly wasn’t the best idea.

“Excuse me.”

My politeness holds no concern to him as he stamps another woman’s hand. I stand taller in hope that he’ll commend me for remaining persistent.

“Are you sure you’re in the right place, love?”

I briefly scan the queue and it only confirms just how out of place I must look to him. My plan was to ask him about the ‘Styles’ on the list of names I’m still in possession of. But it’s clear I’m going to have to use a different approach.

“Is this legal?”

My question definitely catches his attention, the safety of his job and the future of the establishment could be in jeopardy for all he knows. I have no intention of reporting the place, but he’s not going to take that chance. I have to suppress the grin forming as he quietly converses with another man on the inside of the door, holding up the line and gesturing rather rudely to me.

“Go in,” he cuttingly instructs.

“Don’t I need to pay?” I ask sweetly.

“It’s fine,” he almost spits. “Mack will take you inside.”

I offer him a cheerful “thank you”, to which he snarls and allows me passed. A man in ripped jeans and plaid shirt greets me, smiling unconvincingly, the nerves bubbling to the surface.

“I have all the paperwork,” he says, moving with me as I walk. “This business is completely legit.”

“Sure,” I smile.

“I mean, there’s a couple of bets placed on the matches, but that’s nothing to do with us.”

I have no doubt that what they do here is something they’d rather not have the police sniffing at. They’ve taken a risk with advertising, but by the amount of people waiting outside to get in, it’s a risk that’s paid off.

“Would you like a drink? On the house. I can get you a good spot to watch, right down the front,” he rambles at me, nodding his head in encouragement.

I’d rejected Mack’s offer of a drink, and somewhat difficultly convinced him that a stool at the back would suit me just fine. He’d ceased in his attempts of buttering me up, becoming aware that I wasn’t really interested in the perks. “Just let me sit in on a match or two”, I’d asked, a request he was more than willing to grant me in hopes that I’d keep my mouth shut about the illegality of club’s business.  

Mack takes up residence on the seat beside me, the atmosphere a little stifling as more people continue to crowd in. There’s a makeshift ring in the centre of the vast floor, raised slightly and roped off. It seems a little armature to me, having witnessed other boxing matches in proper regulation rings. This place doesn’t compare, but I’m pretty sure people aren’t here for refined entertainment; and most of them won’t know the difference by the way alcohol is being necked back.

The lighting makes the place look even dirtier, gloomy in corners where light bulbs have failed to be replaced. I stretch back, hanging my coat over the back of my high stool and turning around before Mack excitedly grins, leaning in.

“The next match is about to start,” he voices over the noise.

His next words are carried away with the vigorous cheering. It doesn’t seem to matter though, because Mack has jumped up beside me, his shouted support accompanied by a fist pump that I have to laugh at. It’s not until I’m up and peering over people’s heads that the scene settles. Harry’s here. Well, at least I think he’s here, and I feel almost ashamed that he’s ignorant to my presence. I’m prying into his life, ripping the veil away and meddling in something that I’m clearly not supposed to be a part of. I shouldn’t be here.

My reasoning forces me to begin collecting my things in order to slip away unnoticed. It’s with my heart in my mouth, and fingers gripping my coat that the back door by the bar opens. The action of rising upon my toes is easy and apparently automatic. My mind is in a frenzy of conflicting thoughts, but it appears my body knows exactly what it wants. And it’s disappointment that overcomes my being as an unfamiliar man steps out first.

I draw away from the idea of a quick escape, instead watching as excitement washes the room, pumping the fighter up to spring on his feet. He’s clapped on the back by thirsty onlookers, moving towards the dilapidated ring to be introduced properly. Simmons.

He rolls his broad shoulders, stretching out the defined muscles in his back. Clad only in a pair of shorts, bare foot and grinning, he’s the prime example of over eager youngster. Bets are continuously being placed right up until the announcer gestures for quiet over the mic.

 “Be upstanding for our reigning, undefeated champion…Styles!”

I capture breath, willing my composure not to disintegrate before I even get a chance to confirm the identity of the “champion”. Seconds tick and I try to remind myself that it might not be him, don’t build this up, don’t push it.

My pulse thunders in anticipation, vision not straying from the back door.

Harry.

It’s him. The seat catches me as I duck down, terrified of being spotted, but he hasn’t charged his way through the crowd at me so I deem it safe to have another peek above heads in front. He’s parted the ropes and climbed into the ring. It doesn’t surprise me to find Harry’s not taken in by the roar of the audience, unlike his competitor, who had socked up the applause. Instead, he plays with a smug smile, the expression visible to me even under the questionable lighting and distance between us.

Mack’s still whooping beside me and it’s clear to see some of the female spectators give Harry more than a quick glance over as he drops his hood and unzips the black clothing. The material falls over his wide shoulders and skirts down his arms. I’m unconcerned about where he chooses to discard it because there’s more pressing matters widening my eyes.

I was primed to see him, that thought had kept me awake most of the previous night. But I was completely unprepared for the harsh, black print of tattoos hugging down the entire expanse of his left arm. I swallow back my disbelief, tracing my eyes over the intimate script on his cut hip. I’m too far away to identify singular tattoos, they all lace together into an abrasive combination. He doesn’t look like my Harry any more.

My scrutiny is cut short as the beginning of the fight is counted down and his opponent launches at Harry. I’ve been in this position before, worried sick and forced to watch as two men battle it out for victory. The volume of the crowd ceases to let up as Harry blocks a fist before retaliating with a swing of his own.

I frown, puzzlement setting in as I track the movement of blurry arms. There’s no gloves, and I swiftly come to the conclusion that this is far from the strictness of boxing as Harry’s knee juts up and impacts the man’s ribs. The only support given is the black strapping wrapped around his knuckles.

“This isn’t boxing!” I yell at Mack.

The thumping of my heart seems to keep time with the blows Harry’s fists produce.

 “It’s a dirty fight, there aren’t any rules. It makes for better entertainment.”

He beams in exhilaration, gesturing to the audience who are thriving on the beat down they’ve most likely betted on. I know Harry’s well accustomed to fighting without gloves, he’s just as lethal, if not more, without them. The knowledge doesn’t stop me from wincing as Harry takes a sharp kick to his right hip.

“You rooting for Styles? Don’t worry, he knows he has to make it last,” Mack nods in reassurance. “Entertainment. And maybe there’s some extra money in it for him.”

He’s laughing as attention turns back to where Harry’s dodged another left hook. He’s just as fast, just as well versed and comfortable in this setting as he’d been when watching him box. It’s the power and ferocity behind every well timed move that makes him look almost animalistic now. Harry, but with a sprinkle more recklessness.

His challenger is left wheezing in the ring as Harry suddenly moves away and towards the side. I fret for a horrifying moment that he’s seen me, fear draining as he climbs down and shoves a path through the front row. Mack’s presence has vanished until I spot him desperately trying to reach Harry and a man who I presume has shouted something particularly unkind to the fighter. Whatever it was, he won’t repeat it now that Harry is stood looming over him in threat.

“Say it again and see what happens!” Harry goads in a roar.  

The crowd is becoming restless with the undesired intermission, eager to get back to the fight, but none of them are brave enough to jostle Harry back to the ring. I’m struggling for a good view, using the chair to support my endeavour as anxious perspiration beads my forehead. It’s none of my business, I know that, I’m not going to interfere. The pint glass once held by the man is roughly knocked to the floor, its contents spilling over people standing too close.

“Styles, leave it.”

He ignores Mack’s warning, pressing the man further into the corner. There’s no physical contact, just complete intimidation.

“You need to shut the fuck up,” Harry spits.

Cowardice overcomes the defenceless male, unable to hold Harry’s eye contact.

“Don’t hit a punter, Styles. It’s bad for business.”

The bare foot fighter inches back, allowing Mack to step between and place his hands on Harry’s shoulders. He’s encouraged further away, much to my relief, and now the huge room trades its bellowing support for almost complete silence.

“Turn around and finish the fight.”

Harry cantankerously bats Mack’s hands away. I’m not close enough to see his face properly, but people more than willingly part for him to journey back to the ring, so I presume it’s more than just a scowl.

Back between the ropes, my hand clamps over my mouth, hiding my frightful inhale of sympathy for the other young fighter. He’s clutching his abdomen and staring at Harry in horror as he chillingly approaches. The entire room can predict what’s coming next, and with a sickening crack of Harry’s fist to the poor boy’s face, I know he’s not the Harry I left behind.

“KNOCKOUT!”

 

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