JFK was a rude awakening the Saturday after Thanksgiving. All the flights were delayed and we were on the tarmac for over an hour before they finally found us a gate to unload. We walked through the terminal dodging all the people running so that they wouldn't miss their flights.
We took a cab and finally got back to my place around 6. When I got through my door I just wanted to lay down on the couch but Harry beat me to it. Instead I scrounged through the fridge to see if there was anything we could eat for dinner and put some leftover pasta sauce on the burner. I got out another pot to boil water for macaroni for a throw together dinner. Kaine set her things down in the corner of the room and then sat down at the island.
"So did Wisconsin do the trick for you? Clear your mind and all that?" she asked.
"I think so. I feel like my mind is at rest." I nodded.
"So no more drinking yourself asleep all weekend then, yeah?" Harry called from the other room.
"Yeah, I think I'm alright." I said once again.
I got a few beers out of the fridge and set them on the counter along with a few bowls. We ate dinner in front of the tv and eventually Kaine and Harry head to their places.
I set out a fresh set of pajamas and threw my clothes from my duffle into the laundry. I was in and out of the shower in a matter of minutes and got into the pajamas and back out into my front room. I checked my phone to see Kaine had already texted me.
From Kaine: Hey I forgot a bag at your house don't look in it though it has Christmas gifts.
To Kaine: Tempting but I won't. I'll bring it to work Monday.
I went over and placed my knapsack right near the bag so I wouldn't forget it. It was only nine but I was already yawning and ready for bed. I docked my phone and laid down turning the tv on to watch until I fell asleep.
I spent most of Sunday catching up on backed up projects for work and listening to Twenty One Pilots who I'd be seeing on Wednesday. It was going to be a busy week and I knew for a fact I'd have to work overtime to make up for the days I was going to miss. It was going to be an incredibly long week.
Monday morning I woke up early to shower and got into my navy suit because Los Angeles corporate was coming in today and I was giving a presentation to them. I texted Harry and Nate to remind them as well. I ran some product through my hair hoping for the best then filled my travel mug with coffee and grabbed my knapsack from the corner of the room and a coat out of the closet and left my apartment.
When I got to the office only a few cars were in the parking lot so I found a spot near the front. I rode the lift up to our floor and unlocked the office doors and set my stuff down in my cube. There was still more than a half hour before work actually started but I still had plenty of work to do from the day I took off last week.
I heard Harry clear his throat and I looked up from my screen. He put his arms out and crossed his legs to spin around to show off his crisp suit and winked at me when he turned all the way back around. I laughed at him and shook my head.
"How do I look?" he asked.
"Professional." I said nodding looking at the light grey, grid print suit.
"Not so bad yourself. We're gonna kill this presentation today." he said and sat down.
I worked on code for a few hours while Harry told Liam and Louis about the new redoes we had to do. Rhodes called me into his office for our weekly meeting and to prep for the presentation to corporate.
"You boys look spiffy today thank you for that." he lead with.
"Thank you sir. Harry and I have looked through the slides multiple times and we have notes ready to go." I said.
"Good I knew I could count on you." he said.
"Did he talk to you about the rebranding project we have lined up?" I asked.
"Just sent me a message about it, who's the client?" he asked.
"That little whiskey brand from upstate. We've got only three weeks to do everything for it so it's gotta be done before we leave for Christmas break. Louis can handle most of the creative stuff with some help from Liam but we were wondering if we could bring in a freelancer and an intern to help us out." I explained.
"Yeah I've got a fresh crop of them out there today. There's a bunch working at the window bar and more back in the annex. I'll bring you back this afternoon so you can have your pick." he said.
"Thank you." I nodded.
"I'll start calling everyone into the conference room in a little less than an hour, you can go get settled in there and run it through another time with Harry and Nate if you'd like." he said.
"We probably should." I said standing up.
"Some of the corporate guys are in the annex snooping around. There's probably ten of them but the important ones are Mr. Bailey and Mr. Reynolds. Best introduce yourselves to them before you get started." he added.
"Thank you sir." I said.
"Oh and Horan, you've gotta take three days off before the end of the year. You're already over your hours this year but I can't have too many clocked in on you." he kept me talking.
"Well I need Wednesday and Thursday for a concert so I guess I'll take another during the last week when things slow up a bit?" I asked.
"Yeah that's fine. Don't take anyone else essential with you to that show though, can't risk not getting design work done." he added.
"How about you let Harry out of this conference this week to go with me and then I'll do your end of the year time sheets without pay?" I offered on a long shot.
"Get him back for a half day on Thursday and I'll take you up on that." he said holding out his hand to shake.
"Really sir?" I asked.
"Yeah Nate can handle it alone, Harry's been here long enough that he doesn't have to be there." he said.
"Thank you." I smiled and shook his hand. "Can I go get the lads now?"
"Yes go ahead Niall, see you in there." he nodded.
I left the room and started walking over toward Nate's cube when I ran into Kaine the first time that day.
"Hey." I said in passing. I was going to continue walking on but I heard her whistle at me and then felt her hand grab my forearm.
"I'll take that as a compliment then." I said turning to face her.
"First Nate, now you? Why are you all dressed up today?" she asked.
"Just wait until you see Harry he's a total panty dropper." I joked and she rolled her eyes. "We're leading a meeting and presentation on our new style for corporate board today.
"That's pretty exciting." she said. "Hopefully it all goes well, I'll be in there silently cheering you on and trying not to doze off."
"Thank you I'll need the encouragement. I gotta go prep Nate though." I said motioning toward his cube.
"Yeah no problem, wanna go grab lunch with me today?" she asked.
"Yeah that'd be nice, I'll talk to you after." I nodded.
I grabbed Nate from his cube and swung by my desk to get Harry and a stack of notes. We set up in the bigger conference room with the glass walls. The main office was on one side and the annex was on the other so we could see the whole place at once. The people from corporate were sat in the annex ruffling through papers and peeking over the shoulders of the interns to see what they were working on. Our budget got increased back in August when I got my raise so they were checking in to see where the money was all going.
Harry, Nate and I ran through our presentation along with the rest of the meeting agenda. The employees started filing into the room with their rolling chairs. Everyone in the office was in the room and the corporate guys were front and center. Rhodes took the spot me and Harry normally were in right near the door.
The three of us went up and introduced ourselves to the men and women who were here and then made our way back to the front.
"Morning everyone, hope you had a nice holiday. We'd like to thank Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Bailey and the rest of the board from LA here today." I said opening the meeting.
I adjusted my tie out of nerves while Nate ran through his slides on copywriting. It was when Harry started talking about editing that all of the young women in the room started paying more attention and he knew it. He wasn't much of a flirt around the office normally but today he was playing it up. He even got Kaine entranced while he was running his hands through his long hair and licking his lips between sentences. Harry finished up his segment and passed the presentation off to me.
"As some of you know Harry, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and I have been put together as a team to work on projects as a well oiled machine. Mr. Rhodes and I have talked and since this method is working so well for our small group we plan on implementing this technique all through the office. Each team will consist of a creative designer, web designer, copy writer, and code writer and when extra hands are needed a freelancer and an intern will be added in." I explained.
I spoke more about the how the teams would work I noticed most of the girls were still looking behind me at Harry. All he was doing was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and chewing on his lip. I had the board's full attention though and they were nodding along agreeing with my ideas.
"Our team has been working together for going on four months now and we've been very efficient. In the time we've been together we've generated more profit for Wolfe than the four of us separately would have in a year. By utilizing the team method we will be able to increase our intake by at least 25 percent next year in this location." I continued.
I began talking about expanding the company with the extra profit and picking up more major clients in the long run. There was talk of taking the small office in Los Angeles that housed our corporate board and handled our finances and expanding it into a working branch to pick up more clients. It all depended on our Christmas seasons numbers whether or not we could open there for sure but I talked in full detail.
I passed off the presentation to Nate to talk about finances for a while. I fiddled with my watch and ran my hand through my hair while I assessed the board. They looked pleased with everything we had to say so far but they hadn't seen any of the work we've done yet. After Harry talked about our intern program we were supposed to conclude our presentation and turn to the weekly meeting topics.
Harry gave the run down of the agenda for the rest of the week and told us about our days off between Christmas and New Years. I changed the slides from the laptop to go on the websites we had created within the past couple weeks while Nate set up some of the more impressive projects we've come out with. After we went through these Harry introduced the rebranding project we would be working on until our break. It was one of the most work intensive projects that had come through Wolfe but not for the most important client. I flipped through the slides and we had Louis and Liam come up to talk about some of their prospective branding ideas and present their mockups.
We had a few other groups come up to present the projects they were working on. I wasn't paying . so much attention at this point. I was scanning the room and caught Kaine sitting in the back of the room focused on the person talking.
She was leaning against the back of her chair with her big eyes staring past me. Her hands were playing with the hemline of her shirt and she was whispering to the person next to her and trying not to laugh.
I must have been zoning out for too long because Harry nudged me to bring me back. Nate was finishing up his segment and I would have to close the meeting next.
"So at the start of next year our team method will be used office wide. By the end of this week you will all know who you'll be working with for a while. If you have any questions you can talk to Harry or me or schedule a time to chat with Mr. Rhodes. That's all we have for you today, we'd like to thank the corporate board again for joining us here. Have a nice rest of your day all." I concluded.
Everyone started getting up and wheeling their chairs out of the room. The board came up and shook our hands again and complimented us on our presentation. We thanked them excessively and cleaned up our materials while Rhodes talked to them.
Harry and I head back to our cube to drop our notes off and to wait for Rhodes to finish talking with corporate. I sat down on my desk and looked around the room as everyone settled back into their places to begin working again.
"H, Niall, I've got a couple ideas on this branding wanna take a look for me?" Louis asked from across the aisle.
"Yeah, actually both of you come on over here we're gonna scope out the interns after Rhodes is done in there." Harry said.
Louis laid his sketchbook on my desk and started telling us all about how he wanted it to look. It was for a brand of whiskey that was trying to market to men in their thirties and Louis absolutely nailed it. He free handed what would be the label with a big, sophisticated but rustic font. He opted for a navy background and gold lettering that the company would be stupid not to love.
"This is so much better." I said.
"We need a graphic on the label for sure and I was thinking of getting inspiration from this one here." Louis said pointing to Harry.
"Is that a good or bad thing?" H asked confused.
"Just from a couple of your tattoos. I was thinking of taking inspiration from veterans from the Navy and getting a nautical theme but between me and you we have enough inspiration on our arms. This way too it'll be a permanent mark of our team." Lou continued. "I want to take your mermaid and put it on the front of the bottle and then use your anchor and my ropes and incorporate them somewhere in the label too."
"I think with the colors and everything it'll appeal well to the right age group. I mean I'd buy it after seeing it, we're late twenties that close enough right?" Liam added.
It was a truly ingenious idea giving our team a stamp by using their tattoos. Louis was writing all of his ideas down in the margins as he kept coming up with them. He was definitely pushing the envelope of what Wolfe normally put out as work. Most of the designers here never got the chance to develop a signature style with all the branding guidelines they received so Louis was very lucky with the projects he's been given so far. It was allowing his rustic side to show and slowly becoming his signature.
Rhodes stopped by the cube and looked on as Louis sketched out quick drawings of his ideas.
"Looks good son. Why don't you all come back with me to the annex so you can recruit a couple people to work with you." he said and motioned toward the door to the other room. "I am limiting you to only working with guys though, the girls are young and scarce back here and I can't have them or you getting distracted."
"Yes sir." I nodded.
"So the freelancers are in the cubes in the center and the interns are along the windows. There's also a bulletin board up on the far wall with some of their more impressive work. Louis look at those and see which one has a style you could collaborate with. And a lot of the interns have some coding knowledge, so Horan if you see strong potential don't be shy to turn them more into a coder than a designer." Rhodes continued.
"Alright give us a little while to talk to a few of them yeah?" Harry asked.
"Just tell me who you pick so that I can start assigning the rest of them." Rhodes said and walked back into the main room.
Louis was checking out the board already with Liam by his side seeing what kind of potential there was and Harry started peeking over people's shoulders trying to see what they were doing. A few of the girls had realized he was in here and after his little performance during the meeting today they started blushing and staring at him. I started walking along the wall of interns when one turned around to face me.
"Niall, right?" he asked.
"Yeah that's me." I said holding out my hand to shake his.
"I'm Van." he introduced himself.
"How long have you been here for Van?" I asked.
"I'm on my second month of six but I'm hoping they keep me around." he said.
"How's your java and html skills?" I asked
"Haven't done much code since my junior year but I could brush off my textbooks." he said.
"When'd you graduate?" I continued grilling him.
"Actually I'm graduating at the end of this semester. I had a shit ton of credits going into college so I get to graduate early." he said.
"Not bad then." I nodded.
"Just keep me in mind I know you're looking for solid people to work on your team and I think I can help you out there." he smiled.
He was ridiculously confident and not afraid to fight for a spot. I respected him as soon as he turned around to face me. Everyone else shied away when we walked into the room but this kid introduced himself practically automatically. Louis broke me from my thoughts and called me over.
"This guy, he's the one I want to work with me." he said pointing to a poster while Harry wandered over.
"That one's cool." Harry said simply.
"Oh, it's more than cool. It's brilliant." Louis said. "The name's Arlo, I've gotta have a chat with him."
Louis took a lap around the cubes and stopped at one of them before waving us over.
"You are a brilliant designer, just based off that one poster for the Gov Ball I can tell. You'd be a great asset to us." Louis said as we approached the cube.
"Hi guys, I'm Arlo." he said holding out his hand to shake.
We introduced ourselves to him and I was immediately impressed with what he was working on up on his computer screen. His style was similar to Louis' but his illustrations were top notch and had so much depth to them.
"How long have you been freelancing for us?" I asked.
"About three months now on and off. I just keep hoping I get a call back every week." he said.
"How have you not been hired full time yet?" Harry asked.
"Is that rhetorical because I don't know." he laughed. "Put in a good word for me."
"Well, I think we'd be lucky to work with you." H said.
"Thank you." Arlo said graciously.
He seemed to be a little older than us but definitely would still get along. I'd say his mid thirties, which would actually work out perfectly for the product we were branding.
"Have you worked at all with any of the interns?" I asked.
"Uh yeah a little. They're pretty good, but don't have much experience yet. I've been between jobs for a while so that's why I'm just freelancing but most of these kids are fresh out of school." he said.
"Where were you before this?" Harry asked.
"I was with the Halo Group for 2 years, then Barker for a 4 years, then Makeable for 7 years and now here I am." he answered.
"Did you leave Makeable or were you let go?" Louis asked.
"I couldn't really advance any further in my job and they weren't giving me any promotions so I left." he explained.
"Completely understandable. I'll be putting in a good word with Rhodes for you to finally get you hired. We can't risk losing so much talent here." I said.
"Thank you, I'm excited to get going with you all." Arlo smiled.
We let him get back to his work and the guys went and walked around scoping out the rest of the interns. A lot of them were girls which narrowed down the pickings quite a lot. I could understand why Rhodes wouldn't want girls working with us. Not to sound self absorbed but we were all good looking guys who were at least five years older than the interns and based off of the looks Harry was getting during our meeting today the girls would be all over him and the rest of us. It wasn't worth distracting them from their work and the tremendous opportunity of working in our company.
"Who were you thinking of for our second spot?" Harry asked when he got back from walking around.
"I think we need someone the opposite of Arlo, someone young and smart that I can get on the technological side of things." I said.
"I like Van." I said motioning toward him.
"Really?" Harry said taken aback.
"Yeah, why do you say it like that?" I asked while looking over at the kid.
Sure he looked a little scraggly but most interns who come through here do. His long fringy bangs nearly hid his eyes if he didn't push it back and his all black clothing aesthetic was different but it worked for him. The leather jacket on the back of his chair just added to his whole mood. Despite his dark vibes he was sending off he seemed to be determined and confident enough to introduce himself to me right off the bat.
"He just seems a touch off putting." Harry shrugged.
"I'll introduce you guys to him." I said. "Go grab Arlo and bring him back to the other room."
I grabbed the other two guys who weren't so interested in talking to any of the other interns but instead flirting with the girls and told them to head off to see Rhodes.
"Hey, Van, wanna come with me for a second?" I called to him.
"Yeah, let me just save this." he said.
"Do you have a portfolio by any chance?" I asked.
"In my bag, wanna see some stuff?" he asked.
"Yeah definitely, bring it with us." I nodded.
I brought Van into the main room and to the cubes where Kaine was sitting on my desk doing something on her phone while the guys walked off to Rhodes' office.
"Hey, sorry, give me like another five minutes." I said to her.
"No problem I've started eating the pretzels out of your top drawer anyway." she said.
"Pick out where we're going so we can cut down on time." I suggested.
"Who's hiding behind you?" Kaine asked.
"Oh, this is Van. I want him working on our team." I said.
"I'm Kaine, nice to meet you." she smiled and waved.
"Van, nice to meet you." he said.
"Alright, be right back just gotta convince the guys." I said.
"Take your time Niall it's no problem."
Van and I walked down the rows of cubes while I flipped through his book.
"So is she your girlfriend?" he asked.
"Kaine? Nope, just a friend." I said. "She's got a boyfriend." I added for good measure.
"Damn, it's too bad."
"I know it." I sighed. "In other news you've got some good stuff in here."
"A lot of it was from my internship over the summer but most was from sophomore and junior year." he explained while I nodded.
He was skilled in Photoshop and InDesign without a doubt. He also had some cool all vector work from Illustrator as well. It didn't use gradient or anything, just all flat color work. It was different than what most designers did but in the best way. He also had a bunch of web layouts in his book so I knew he would be qualified to work in the programs I used to make websites.
"Nice of you to join us Horan." Rhodes said. "And McCann, I'm interested to see that." he said motioning to his book.
"I'm Van." he said introducing himself to the rest of the room and handed over his book. "I think I've got a lot to offer to add to your team."
"I've seen what this kid can do and he's right," Arlo nodded. "I've helped him out a couple times and he's got a lot of knowledge."
"Thanks Arlo." Van said with a half smile. "I'm willing to learn too. I'm ready for anything you throw my way."
Louis, Harry and Liam were looking over Rhodes' shoulder at Van's book trying to get a feel for his style.
"Well, can you all start working together tomorrow?" Rhodes asked.
"Fine by me." Harry nodded.
"Excellent, alright go take lunch and then Arlo and Van come back by here after that and we'll get some extended contracts written up." he said.
"Thank you sir." Van said and shook his hand with Arlo following him.
I wrapped things up with Rhodes and then got back over to my desk where Kaine had moved into my chair looking at my screen.
"Ready?" I asked.
"How do you even understand this?" she asked.
"Years of experience." I laughed. "Ready though? I'm starved."
"Yeah, you think Rhodes will be mad if we're back a little late?" she asked.
"Nah, he'll be fine."
"Alright let's go to Penelope then." she said and grabbed her coat from the back of my chair.
I put mine on and grabbed my wallet before we left my cube.
"You know," she began when we were on the elevator. "When you said Harry looked good today I thought, eh, he's an attractive guy but really how much better could he look. Then looking at him during that meeting I couldn't believe how well he really cleans up. That suit was a total knockout. A little tight but in all the right places."
"Okay please stop talking about my best friend that way." I laughed.
"Really, I thought Nate and you looked great but then Harry totally blew you both out of the water, sorry it's the truth." she teased.
"Don't tell him that it'll just inflate his ego more than it needs to be." I said.
She laughed at me and teased me further and I could feel my cheeks getting redder and redder. We walked through the cold December air just a couple blocks to the little café we were having lunch. We got seated and served rather quickly so that we wouldn't be late back to work. When the bill came I reached for my wallet out of my pocket but she grabbed the bill from me.
"I'm paying, back in the first week I was here we got lunch and you paid then and I haven't forgotten. It's my turn." she said.
"Kaine, it's no big deal don't worry about it. Just split the check." I said.
"Nope, no arguing. You had your big presentation today and you formed your new little team up plus I owe you still. I'm treating don't fight me on this." she said grabbing her card from her purse.
"Thank you." I smiled accepting defeat.
"Any time." she said back.
Our walk back to work seemed shorter but it probably helped that we had coffee in our hands to keep us warm. We got back into the office and saw Van and Arlo sitting in Rhodes' office talking with him again. Kaine sat back up with Helen at her desk and I thanked her again for lunch before heading back off to my cube. Harry was sat back in his chair looking at his computer and smiling.
"What's got you so happy?" I asked.
"The whiskey company just sent me another email and they're trying to get in wider circulation. I think that maybe this project is going to get us places, Niall. I think it's gonna generate a shit ton of money and good publicity for Wolfe and Louis. And since we're project managers our names are gonna be on it as well, I think everyone's going to want our team as theirs." he said.
"I hope you're right. Maybe we're meant for greater things that building websites and making sure fonts are the right sizes." I said with a light laugh.
"We'll see before this year is up." he nodded.
I opened up Dreamweaver and finished off some code for other brands for the rest of the afternoon. I had four websites completed by the end of the day and was happy I could get going on the whiskey work.
"Forgot to mention I got you out of the copywriters meeting so brush up on your Twenty One Pilots we have a concert this Wednesday." I said casually.
"Have I ever mentioned you are my favorite person on earth?" Harry said.