Runaway Royality III: Summer Heat

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Crowley wiped the droplets from his forehead. It was far from ideal to chop wood in this heat. But for one, they got the room for free if he took this chore from the owner of the inn. For two, he did not like the thought of the old man doing it by himself during this weather.

Crowley’s shirt had long been discarded. Sweat-damp, it hung over the nearby fence, hopefully to dry without smelling too horrible later. But even with his torso bare, Crowley felt perspiration run down his back and front, the drops catching in his chest hair. Summers were even hotter in Avriburg than in Crowley’s homeland.

So Crowley tried to focus on his task. Again and again, he swung the hatchet over his head and brought it down to the log. Ever so often he had to stop to wipe his wet hands on his trousers and to catch his breath.

He sighed as he regarded the pile of wood. Though he had managed to work off a lot, there was enough left to fill the afternoon. But it was a worthy task. Aziraphale had saved quite a lot of money, but they did not know how long it would take before they could earn their own. So it was best they spent as little as possible.

Of course, Aziraphale had offered to help. But when Crowley had seen the soft hand clumsily circle around the handle, Crowley had told him that he’d do it alone. As adorable as Aziraphale looked, testing the weight of the weapon, while his little pink tongue was caught between his lips as he focused on the work, Crowley feared he might get hurt. Aziraphale had trained a bit with the sword during his life at the court of course. But while he was not completely without talent, his interests were more of the intellectual kind. Plus, a hatchet was not a sword, but still Aziraphale held it like one. Concerning. So Crowley had sent a slightly pouting Aziraphale to their shared room.

Crowley smiled. Once more breaking into sweat while protecting Aziraphale. The thought had him pick up the ardeous task again gladly.

“Mister Crowley?”

Surprised, Crowley looked up. At the gate stood the inn owner’s daughter, holding a towel and a waterskin. She was a pretty young thing, with unruly curls of black hair and a playful glint in her dark eyes.

Crowley put the hatchet aside for the moment.

“Ah, hello, erm…”

“Perdida. But my friends all say ‘Pearl’,” she said and almost purred when she added, “You may as well.”

“Alllll...right?” Crowley said. “Hello, Pearl, then.”

“I brought you something,” she said as she handed him the towel and the water. “Some refreshment and something to get rid of the sweat.” Digging perfect white teeth into her bottom lip she glanced over Crowley’s bare chest. “I mean… it’s all over you.”

“Thank you,” Crowley said as he accepted the items. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re very welcome,” she said. “I feel so bad that my father is making you chop all the wood in this scorching heat. Half of it should be more than enough to have you stay for free. We only need some for cooking - it’s not that we’ll freeze to death soon.”

She chuckled.

“No, that’s a fair bargain.” Crowley shook his head. “It’s for three days after all.”

“Oh, you are staying for three days?”

“Erm, yes. Why?”

“You know,” she said, stepping closer, again looking up and down his torso, “every first Windsday of the month there is a little festival at the market place. Food, music, dance and other...” she made a long pause, “ things.”

“Is that so?” Crowley smirked.

It was flattering. Though he was not interested. He was attracted to men and women - in theory. But he had always preferred the former and in the last years his days and dreams had been so full of Aziraphale that it hardly mattered anymore. Nevertheless, he appreciated the stroke for his ego by a pretty young lady.

“Indeed, it is,” Pearl said, her voice going low. “So I was wondering…”

“Oh, my poor dear!”

Both Crowley and Pearl’s heads snapped towards the gate. There stood Aziraphale with a waterskin in his hand. He was dressed in light linen clothes which hugged his generous curves in a mouthwatering manner. His flawless white skin was reddened around the cheeks from the heat and his curls clung to his damp forehead. But despite that, he was - as always - a picture of grace and composure. The tiny droplets of sweat running down his collarbone before venturing deeper, beckoned Crowley’s gaze to follow and it was hard to look into his face.


The name Aziraphale was widespread in their homeland so nobody would make connections between a missing prince in Mherondil and a stranger from Mherondil of the same name. So they had agreed that Aziraphale could use it so he would not need to get used to a new one. Which was indeed a good thing because Crowley was so caught up in the sight that he might have forgotten to use a fake name.

“Yes, Darling. Who else?” Aziraphale chuckled before he gracefully walked over to Crowley. “I came to bring you refreshments, love, because I saw you working so hard from our window. He gave Pearl a saccharine smile. “Though I see someone else was faster. Who is your new friend, dear?”

“This...ah… is Pearl,” Crowley said, befuddled. He swallowed as Aziraphale’s soft fingers began to caress his neck while his head leant against Crowley’s shoulders. All the while Aziraphale never took his eyes off Pearl nor stopped smiling that way too sweet smile at her. “Her… um… father owns the inn.”

“Oh, how lovely,” Aziraphale piped and told Pearl, “If you go back inside now, please thank him again for his generous offer.”

Pearl gulped. She had gone rather pale and gave a nervous nod. Quickly, she grabbed the towel and her waterskin and hurried out of the yard.

“What a nice girl,” Aziraphale said, unnecessarily loud. “Well, I’ll go back in as well, dear. Wouldn’t do to keep you from your work.”

He was about to leave. But Crowley grabbed his arm and held him back. Irritated, he leant down to hiss in Aziraphale’s ear.

“What was this about?” he demanded.

Aziraphale tilted his head. His pretty features took on the condescending expression Crowley found so irritating and adorable.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale began to lecture. “It was you who said our cover story is that we’re lovers, fleeing the intolerance towards same-sex couples in Mherondil.”

“So?” Crowley asked, confused.

“So?” Aziraphale put his hand on his hips. “How believable is this cover story if I let any harl...erm, person you lure in with your…,” he gestured wildly over Crowley’s upper body, “...bare chest start sparking with you?”

“Sparking?” Crowley repeated.

“I sure hope you would not watch in silence when someone starts to court me”, Aziraphale pontificated, unfazed by Crowley’s interruption. “We wouldn’t be taken for being much in love then, would we?”

With that he turned and walked back to the inn. The summer heat forgotten, Crowley stared after him. He could still feel the ghost of Aziraphale’s touch on his neck, remembering the sensation of the soft hair against his shoulder.

Nearby a dog barked, ripping Crowley out of his thoughts. Picking up the hatchet, Crowley shook his head and groaned.

“He’s gonna be the death of me.”

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