The Apothecary & The Carpenter’s Son

A young carpenter becomes enchanted by the village apothecary. Romance & fantasy slice-of-life.

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The village rested on a three-way crossroads, with paths leading up toward the mountains and the other main road heading toward the capital, some hundred miles down the way.

Aidan had grown up in the village — he had always liked it very well, had spent his childhood paddling in the central pond that gathered in front of the temple, where two great stone dragons fountained water into the pool, climbing the flat rooves and laughing when tiles slipped under his feet, running through the streets.

He’d been away for nearly fifteen years now, serving as a carpenter in the capital itself, but his father was ailing in recent years, and he hated for the man to be alone.

“Nothing much has changed,” he said.

“You thought it would?” asked his father, working with a rule and chalk. “Make yourself useful, would you? Pick up the balm for my joints.”

“From Pellar Graham?”

“That’s changed,” said his father. “Pellar’s dead. Buried him winter before last.”

“Oh,” said Aidan. “You never said in your letters.”

“Wasn’t important. Never liked him. Man wanked himself off to the moon.”

Aidan sniggered, and his father gave him a small grin, then looked back to his work. “Apothecary serves as pellar, now. Lives in the old stone house on the mountain road.”

“Widow Gainsley’s house?”

“Widow Gainsley’s been dead since before you were born.”

“Still her house,” said Aidan.

“Not anymore. Apothecary’s been there seven years.”

“What’s his name?”

“Dunno.”

“He’s been here seven years and you don’t know his name?”

His father shrugged, and Aidan shook his head, taking up his cloak and buckling it over his neck, because it was a cool spring day, and the air had a bit of bite in it. It was probably, he thought, why his father’s joints were ailing him, and he looked carefully at the man for a moment, watching the way he held his scarred fingers, watched the way his shoulders hunched.

“Stop staring,” said the old man. “Get my balm.”

Aidan nodded, and walked out into the wan sun.

It was a dry day, and as he stepped from the paved road onto the dry dirt path that led up toward the mountain glades, where you could see the stone begin to gather taller and taller on each side, the path disappearing into the stone far ahead of you up the hill once you went far enough, it felt soft under his feet, and his boots left dry prints behind him.

He’d never seen a light in the Widow Gainsley’s window — she’d died ten years before he was born, but he remembered all of them had used to think the old house was haunted, and they’d tell one another stories about the Widow Gainsley still haunting it, that she’d appear in the windows.

He’d spent the night in it one year, with barely eight summers under his belt, and it hadn’t been haunted, but the snow had come through the patchy thatch, and he’d been laid up in bed for two weeks after.

The thatch looked the best it ever had, looking at it now, and pale lilac smoke curved up and out of the chimney, sweeping up toward the sky.

The door was open, and he knocked on the door with two knuckles, but when he heard no answer, he stepped inside. It had been three small rooms, when they’d used to play in here as children, hiding behind the walls: now there was just one large room with a ladder leading up to the bed, and the fireplace had been enlarged.

It was a huge, great hearth, the sort of thing he was used to seeing in blacksmiths, and three iron poles hung horizontal above the flames, with two cauldrons and a kettle hanging from them. To the left was a big, wooden table scattered over with glass jars and containers and plates and scales, and against all of the walls were more shelves filled with bottles and vials, and books, too.

Dried herbs hung from the ceilings, and as well as the fragrance of the herbs and flowers, he could smell the thick, sour-sweetness of lanolin on the air. He hadn’t seen sheep in the yard, but either way, the apothecary was washing fleece in a big bowl to the other side of the room.

“Hullo?” he asked the silent room, and the apothecary appeared beside him as if from nowhere.

He jumped half a foot in the air, leaning back and away from him, and the apothecary chuckled, giving him a funny look. He was a tall man, lean but not thin, and he wore dark grey robes, a silver belt around his waist, flowers and charms braided into his black hair.

“Hello,” said Aidan. “I, uh, sorry. I didn’t see you.”

The apothecary smiled and swept away from him, going to the other side of his long table and spreading his hands, gesturing to the jars and bottles there. He wore a lot of rings. There were two sorts of people who wore a lot of rings, it seemed to Aidan: rich women and sorcerers.

“My father sent me,” Aidan said. “Clint Farrier, the carpenter,” he added, stepping closer. “Not to be confused with Clint Carpenter, the blacksmith in Berrywell.”

The apothecary looked across the table at him, a queer look on his face.

“He needs balm,” said Aidan. “For his joints, they ail him.”

The apothecary inclined his head, and Aidan expected him to reach for a vial or a jar from the stacked shelves behind him, but he didn’t. As Aidan stood there, watching, he took a tightly packed poultice in red cloth and soaked it in a little cauldron over a small burner on the table, mixing in thickened lanolin to make it into an ointment.

It couldn’t have taken longer than ten minutes, but Aidan felt as though hours had gone by, he was so mesmerised by the way the apothecary worked. is long, handsome fingers catching the light, his movements certain and practised, his robes held up around his upper forearms with bands of silver, to keep them out of the way of the flames and the ingredients.

He scraped the ointment into a little cannister as Aidan watched, and then held it out to him.

“Don’t I owe you money?” Aidan asked.

The apothecary tilted his head, and then shook it.

“I’d have to pay,” said Aidan. “If I was in the city.”

The apothecary shrugged his shoulders and gestured around them, as if to say, This isn’t the city.

“Thank you,” Aidan said, and the apothecary inclined his head. He didn’t wave or give Aidan any sort of farewell, even silently. There was a piece of parchment rolled out on the counter behind him, covered all over with little ink-scrawled symbols, and after consulting it, his finger tracing down the page, he began work on something else.

Aidan walked home.

“He doesn’t talk?” he asked as he crossed the threshold of his father’s workshop, tossing the old man the tin and watching him catch it out of the air.

“Nope,” his father said.

“Huh,” said Aidan, and joined his father at his work.

A few days later, Aidan walked out to the apothecary’s again.

It wasn’t a long walk, only twenty minutes or so, and although the Widow Gainsley’s house was apart from the village proper, it wasn’t very far up the hill, and the path didn’t begin to get steeper until you went further up the valley side.

A few sheep were grazing on the grass around the house but not inside the yard as Aidan approached, and when he crossed the threshold, this time, he saw the apothecary immediately. He was sitting in a chair beside the fire, a tray in his lap. It was a rocking chair, and he was rocking slowly back and forth, taking red flower heads from a bowl and separating them with quick, delicate movements.

The petals were torn away and dropped into two jars pinned between his hip and the arm of the chair, the stamens into a little dish, the stems piled on the tray beside it.

His fingers were yellow with pollen.

He looked up when Aidan hovered in the doorway.

“Hi,” said Aidan. “You have a remedy for dandruff?”

The apothecary’s dark eyes flitted up to Aidan’s hair.

“Not for me,” said Aidan.

The eyes flitted down to his face again, and Aidan watched as he leaned forward, sliding the tray into a space carved into the stone around the fire, so that it stuck out like a shelf. He wiped his hands on a cloth before he moved to work, and Aidan almost wished he hadn’t interrupted.

“You have a very fine workspace,” said Aidan as the apothecary took a few vials from the shelf. “It’s neatly organised — I love to see all of the colours. Do you have to sort all of the flowers like that, separate them into their pieces?”

The apothecary, predictably, said nothing.

“I’ve never seen those flowers before,” said Aidan. “But I don’t know much about flowers — my mother used to pick them on the trail up through the mountain glades, on the way to Hallow, and she used to make dyes, but that was years ago. She died when I was a teenager, of a lung illness — some sort of cancer, the pellar thought, nothing infectious, so my father and I could look after her. Did you ever meet the pellar? He was a funny man — he used to bleach his hair with vinegar in the summer, but it was already white as snow, so I don’t know why he bothered. It would lighten his eyebrows, though.”

The apothecary, who had not looked up before now, smiled slightly, and stirred the bottle he’d made with a glass rod, then held it up for Aidan’s attention. He tilted it to the side and curved it upward again, performing this motion twice before holding up two fingers.

“Two drops?”

A nod, and then he held up one finger.

“Once a day.”

Another nod, and then the apothecary leaned his head forward, and Aidan held his breath at the way he carded his hand in his own thick hair, squeezing it — it looked tremendously thick, and very soft.

“Lather it in,” said Aidan.

A final nod, and the bottle was held out to him.

“Thanks,” he said.

The apothecary regarded him expectantly.

“Er,” said Aidan. “I’ll go.”

He didn’t ask for anything, the third time he walked to the Widow Gainsley’s house.

The apothecary was working intently, grinding poppy seeds into a very fine powder. Aidan put his kettle over the fire, and when he finally looked up from his work, he seemed surprised to see Aidan: he was even more surprised to have a cup of tea offered to him, but it made that little smile tug at his lips.

“Is that an analgesic?” Aidan asked. “The pellar used to make one from poppies — is that what that’s for?”

The apothecary sipped at his tea, holding the mug between his elegantly beringed hands, and Aidan said, idly looking around at the full shelves, “It must be really difficult, to be an apothecary — I expect you must have studied for a long time. I’ve never studied anything but carpentry, and I found that hard enough, so it must be much harder for you, remembering all these leaves and flowers and mushrooms and whatnot, and having to remember how to combine them together, and use spells, too. It’s very impressive. The pellar couldn’t do much magic, but Mother Melody used to be able to, in the church — I don’t think she does anymore, being as she’s mostly bedridden these days, but I think some of the priestesses can.”

He looked to the apothecary, who was saying nothing, but he was listening.

“Have you ever lived in a city?” Aidan asked. “I’ve been working in the capital, these past years — I learned a lot of different techniques, but most of it was for big rooves and things. Won’t be using it much here, unless they want to rebuild the temple from scratch — here, we fix furniture and redo people’s thatch, and I already knew my straw and my joinery since I was thirteen. You keep up much with what’s happening in the village?”

The apothecary shook his head, and Aidan grinned.

“You know that the Mrs Foundling’s daughter, Gretel, is taking after the tavernmaster’s girl?” he asked. “Mr Praim was telling me that Dog Hill’s brother saw them at it in his barn after dark.”

The apothecary raised his eyebrows.

Aidan grinned. “I know, right?”

A few weeks went by of this, and then, in short order, a few months.

It wasn’t that Aidan didn’t have other people to talk to in the village. Certainly, he did — he went into the tavern a few nights a week, and he tended to be friendly with whomever he spoke to. He was naturally a friendly man, extroverted by his nature, and he liked all sorts of people, liked to meet them, to hear how they thought of life, to see their reactions to a story he told.

The apothecary was different.

It wasn’t only owing to his not speaking — Aidan knew well that he liked the sound of his own voice, but it wasn’t the case that he liked the apothecary only because of the absence of his own voice.

He liked —

He liked finding the things to say that made the apothecary laugh, or look up, or raise his eyebrows, or smile, or frown.

It didn’t matter that he didn’t talk. Him not talking didn’t mean he didn’t listen, and it seemed to Aidan that no one else spoke to him at all, if it could be avoided. Sometimes, when he was lingering in the Widow Gainsley’s house, leaning back in the apothecary’s rocking chair or sitting on one of his benches, people would come in and quietly say what they were looking for, or drop off vegetables or cuts of meat or fabric.

They paid him the same way they’d used to pay the pellar — in exchange for his remedies, his wisdom, the village would feed him and clothe him, do the work needed on his house or fix his furniture.

He sold things, of course — he sold potions and remedies to travellers as they made their way through, and Aidan knew that when some of them came to town, they’d always stop off at his to sell their books. Once a year, his father had told him, a priest of Oghma would come through, and they’d always stop off at the apothecary’s and make copies of any of the books he had that they didn’t yet own in their library.

He had a little statuette of Oghma in his yard, next to the house he kept the doves in, Aidan had seen it, and he wore Oghma’s symbol around his neck, too. His people never lingered much in the village, but Aidan had seen them in the city — the Oghmians taught people to read, he’d heard, but he’d never had the chance to go along and see.

He wondered if that was why people in the village were frightened of the apothecary, because he worshiped Oghma. He doubted it — it was the magic that intimidated them, not the books, although Aidan thought they had their priorities mixed up.

It was late one morning after temple services that he walked up to the Widow Gainsley’s house and saw the apothecary on his hands and knees on the stone floor, letting out distressed sounds as he picked through the glass on the floor, his hands shaking.

They were bleeding, the apothecary’s lovely, graceful hands, and the carpenter pulled him up from the floor, dragging him over to the basin to rinse his hands.

“Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Aidan said softly as he rinsed the apothecary’s hands in the warm water, rifling through one of his drawers for the balm that he knew kept wounds clean when they were fresh, and the apothecary stood there as he took a little of it and daubed it over the fresh cuts, turning them over for pieces of glass, but he couldn’t see them.

“Your hands are shaking too badly,” he said. “Must have given you a fright, when the shelves came down, yeah?”

The apothecary inhaled thinly, but gave a stout nod of his head.

Aidan could see where the shelves had come down — most of them were pieces of wood stuck fast into gaps in the brick, precariously balanced with a mix of light and heavy containers, and once the one at the top had come loose, they probably all dropped down at once.

Glass was scattered all across the stone floor, and luckily — or at least, Aidan thought luckily, he didn’t know enough about what ingredients were rare to know for certain — it was all dry ingredients that had come down, stuff that he was able to start picking out of the mess once the apothecary put himself to healing his hands.

“Careful,” he said when the apothecary came back over, and with a bowl of mixed dried ingredients in his hands, he rose to his feet. “I think I’ve pulled out all the stuff that hasn’t glass in it — is it all contaminated though, now? I mean, I know its all dried, but the pollen mixed in with different petals, does that mean you can’t — ”

The apothecary took the bowl out of his hands, sitting it down on the table behind them.

“Don’t worry about the shelves,” said Aidan. “I’ll build you some new ones.”

The apothecary looked down at his face, his brow knitting together.

“Something studier,” said Aidan. “With a big frame, and I’ll pin them to the wall, but have more space — do you like having the shelves all the way up there? I know you’re tall, but I know you have to stand on a crate for the highest of them.”

The apothecary was studying Aidan’s face as though he were reading something there, and Aidan hesitated, unsure if he’d said something wrong, and glanced back to the gaps in the wall, at the glass scattered on the ground at their feet.

“Well,” he explained, “you’ve to reach all the way up, right? But if I build you a full unit, you can have it lower down — and I can make a wider shelf, too, with more space, all of it easier to reach.”

The apothecary was nodding slowly.

“I’ll do that, then,” said Aidan. “On me.”

The apothecary’s brows knitted further, and he started to shake his head, but Aidan interrupted him.

“No, no, it’s a gift for a friend,” said Aidan. “You’ve done a good deal gratis for me, haven’t you, and for my father? And for the village — same for everyone.”

He started to sweep up the glass as the apothecary took the bowl over to the table. It was difficult to get all of the pieces, what with how the littlest ones fell into the gaps in the brick, but the apothecary would be able to get them, he expected, and he wasn’t the sort to walk barefoot on his floors, anyway.

“You know, Kathy Farrier’s talking about joining the army,” said Aidan idly. “Apparently her da is furious, because they called on her about joining the smithy in the city, but she says she wants to be wearing the armour, not making…”

The apothecary was standing very close to him.

“Oh,” said Aidan.

The apothecary, stood this close to him, smelt sweetly chemical, and Aidan inhaled, looking at him.

“Are —

The apothecary kissed him roughly, possessively, and before Aidan could even say anything, could even think, he was being pushed back toward the ladder up to the bedroom. The apothecary kissed him as though he was trying to bruise his lips and it was wonderful, beautiful, and Aidan gasped as he was shoved against the ladder.

The apothecary shoved him by his hips, and Aidan went up it as quickly as he dared, kicking off his boots to the edge of the space and falling back into the apothecary’s bed — he had a real bed, a feather stuffed mattress on the floor instead of a straw pallet — before beginning to shimmy out of his clothes.

The apothecary fell on top of him and kissed him with abandon.

He was tired, afterward — he was exhausted, actually, and the fatigue was laid into his muscles so that he felt stiff as he always did after a few hours’ hard work. The apothecary was lying beside him, his beautiful hair bouncing on the pillow.

“I didn’t know you were going to do that,” said Aidan softly.

The apothecary smirked and shrugged his naked shoulders. He made to get up, but Aidan grabbed his wrist and pulled him down again, felt the cold drop of the silver scroll around his neck fall against his own chest.

“Let’s just lie here a while, together,” Aidan said. “Please? Do you mind?”

The apothecary sat up, glancing down toward the door, but then he nodded his head and curled closer.

He had tattoos on his body, but they were too smooth and too finely inked to be the sort of tattoos that sailors had — some of them were finely written text that Aidan couldn’t read, and he had symbols of Oghma and Halloran and other gods Aidan couldn’t even name.

They dozed together in the afternoon warmth.

“Sleeping at that witch’s again tonight?” asked his father a few months later, and Aidan stopped short with his hand on his cloak, looking back to the other man.

“You want me to stay?”

His father shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t bother me none. Seems to me all the lads in the village are frightened of him but you.”

“Are you frightened of him?”

“Nope.”

“He’s not scary,” Aidan said. “Just quiet. Just because he doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean he intends harm.”

“Fixed that door for him yet?”

“I’m going to rehang it tomorrow.”

The carpenter nodded his head, and gave Aidan a wave as he took his leave for the evening.

He’d been making a few adjustments to the Widow Gainsley’s — the apothecary’s — house of recent. Tomorrow, he would rehang the door so that there was no longer a gap underneath; he’d stopped up a few gaps in the stone walls where drafts were coming through; he’d built him shelves.

He’d realised that unless there were folded bits of leather shoved under the legs of his table, it wobbled, and he had made a new table entirely. It was a handsome one with drawers underneath, and when the apothecary had laid eyes on it he had stroked his hands over the surface and thought to break it in by laying back on it and pulling Aidan in toward him.

That evening, he stood naked in the apothecary’s bedchamber, looking with interest at all the books he had on his shelves — hundreds and hundreds of them, thousands, it seemed to him, all of them beautifully bound in cloth or in leather or just in paper, and there were scrolls, too, and folded pages with no covers.

How many words were here, all bound up in paper, that the carpenter could not make sense of them? How many million?

“Does it bother you?” he asked.

The apothecary was lounging on the bed, putting dried flowers onto a string, and while he worked, he was watching Aidan. Aidan liked it, the way the apothecary studied his body sometimes, the way he looked at him as though he were a work of art or a page of text.

The apothecary gestured with one hand, drawing a circle with two fingers on the air and making his rings and bracelets glitter in the candlelight: Go on.

“Not talking, I mean,” said Aidan.

The apothecary shook his head.

“Never?”

Another shake.

“Did you used to talk? When you were a kid?”

Another shake of the head. The apothecary was smiling idly at him, as though he were something sweet and worth smiling at, and for all he wore no clothes, the apothecary felt warm and tightly embraced.

“Can you?”

The apothecary thought for a moment, and then shrugged. He shook his head again.

“Well, you moan,” said Aidan thoughtfully, stepping closer. “Your tongue definitely seems to be in good working order.”

That got him a chuckle, and Aidan fell onto the bed, letting himself land between the apothecary’s legs. He rested his chin on the apothecary’s thigh, and the apothecary immediately took a lock of Aidan’s hair between his fingers, curling it around them and tugging on it lightly.

“You can read very well, can’t you?” asked Aidan. “And you can write?”

The apothecary looked at him, and then he looked to the rows of books on the shelves, on the little table beside his bed. He took a few moments before he answered, as though he were scared of hurting Aidan’s feelings, but then he nodded his head.

“That’s amazing,” Aidan murmured, laying his cheek on the pillow of the apothecary’s inner thigh. “They look so small for everything they have in them.”

Some nights, Aidan sprawled over the carpenter’s lap or curl into his belly and dozen as the apothecary read. It was incredible, the concentrated expression on his handsome face as he works, studying the little black symbols before he turned the pages, and he liked it very much.

Now and then, the carpenter would lean up against the pillows to lean against him, his head on the apothecary’s shoulder so that he could see the pages too. He’d tried to make sense of the tiny letters and symbols, but they were as foreign to him as the stores — sometimes, though, he’d examine the carefully penned illustrations and etchings, and he’d recognise some of the flowers and herbs, or recognise the brewing processes from things the apothecary himself had done in front of him.

Sometimes, the apothecary would tap the page.

It wasn’t as though enchantment was foreign to him — he had never been good as a child, had never had the patience to learn the symbols that his mother could use for her work — but the apothecary did magic, real, subtle, complicated magic, and this? This was beautiful.

He was left in wonder, utterly breathless, whenever the apothecary brought a page to life, so that the herbs would shift in an invisible breeze, so that a cauldron bubbled, so that a potion was stirred in one direction and then the other.

“You make beauty seem so easy,” he said softly that night.

The apothecary turned to kiss him, slowly, as potions brewed on the page beside them.

The apothecary was nervous when Aidan invited him to come to the tavern with him.

He had only set foot in it, in seven years, twice: he had set the ankle of the tavernmaster’s youngest after she’d fallen off the roof, and she’d attended to their dog when she was sick a few years back.

The dog wagged her tail when she saw them, and immediately — albeit slowly, for she was getting on in years — approached the apothecary, nosing against his knees to that he would lean to scratch and stroke her ears.

The apothecary was visibly nervous, it seemed to Aidan, and others in the tavern were nervous too — the apothecary’s head was bowed low, but people still turned to stare at him, and the normal noise of conversation had dropped down to almost nothing.

In defiant good spirits, Aidan slapped the top of the bar, and grinned at the tavernmaster.

He ordered for both himself and his companion, and they sat down at a table together; he did his best to pretend he didn’t notice how wary the tavernfolk were of the apothecary, and vice versa.

He talked at his usual volume as they sipped at their drinks, the apothecary concentrating on the dog and her muzzle rested on the bench beside him as he continued to stroke the top of her head, gently scratching her ears.

“I ever tell you how I sprained my ankle?” Aidan asked, and the apothecary thought for a moment, but then shook his head.

“It was thick with snow, so deep it was up to my waist in parts of the village — I was only nine, I think, maybe a little bit younger. We’d never had such a heavy snow before, and I was excited to make my first sled. I told my father to get the fuck out of the workshop while I was doing it, because I didn’t want him interfering, and I wanted to it all myself — I’d seen him make a hundred sleds before, I said, and I didn’t need his help.”

The apothecary watched him, interested.

“So I have my sled together, and he says, “You sure you don’t want me to have a look at that?” and I said, yes, Father dear, I am certain, I am a greater carpenter than you or any man has ever been, and I do not require your approval to go sledding. So I took my sled, and I walked out past the Widow Gainsley’s house — your house — and I walked up and up and up the hill, and I put my sled down, and I sat my arse on it, and I readied myself to go.”

The apothecary leaned forward slightly, eyebrows raised.

“Shattered under me. Fell into about nine separate pieces of wood — but I was already going down the hill. Couldn’t stop. Went arse over tit about nine times and then into a ditch.”

The apothecary held up his own wrist, touching it, and Aidan shook his head.

“No, I didn’t hurt my wrist doing that — I was fine. I sprained my wrist when I ran up the hill to try to collect my broken bits of sled, so my father couldn’t see how badly I’d fucked it, and I tripped and landed on it.”

The apothecary laughed so loudly, so merrily, that it even surprised Aidan, and he tried to stifle his laughter behind his hand, but his eyes were shining with mirth, and it was wonderful, tremendous, to see him laugh like that.

The people in the tavern thought so too, it seemed to Aidan.

The tension in the room eased like calm air after a storm.

Argh!” groaned the apothecary one morning, the sound sharp and angry, and Aidan pulled himself to the edge of the bedding area, looking down at the apothecary at the window. There was a puddle of water soaked into the counter, and he frowned.

“I can — ”

The apothecary’s hand flared white-hot for a moment, and he shoved a thick putty over the crack to seal it, heating it so that it stuck fast in place. It was a temporary measure, but an immediate one.

“ — fix that,” he finished lamely, and the apothecary sighed, closing his eyes for a moment, and then gestured defeatedly at the house at large. “It’s just a few cracks here and there,” said Aidan, thinking that someone had to take the house’s side. “It was the Widow Gainsley’s house before it was yours, and she was a hundred and two when she died — it was built before my father’s father was born, before that, even. You’ve just inherited the wear and tear.”

The apothecary looked up at him wryly, his arms crossing over his chest.

“I’ll build you a new one,” offered Aidan.

For a moment, the apothecary didn’t react, and then he hopped up the ladder, pulling Aidan to kiss him. He was smiling, but when they broke apart, he tugged disapprovingly at the beard he’d been growing for the winter.

“You love it,” said Aidan.

The apothecary clucked his tongue, and dropped down from the ladder.

He clapped his hands impatiently, glaring up at him.

“Yes, yes, I’ll get up,” said Aidan, and reached for his shirt. “Anything for you.”

“You’re going to take up with that witch, then,” said his father as they worked together on new pews for the temple. It was raining outside, and the sound of the rain was a familiar, comforting rhythm.

“You think I’m neglecting my work?” asked Aidan.

“Think you’re neglecting him, going between one house and t’other. Don’t mind you helping me, but I don’t need you in the house with me. I’m in no need of that just yet.”

“Want rid of me?”

“You snore.”

Aidan laughed, and across the pew between them, they shared a grin before they went back to work together.

They start the new house come spring.

FIN.

Adapted from my .

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He/him. Welsh author living in Ireland. Love comedy, photography, and fae. If you like 18th-century slowburn gay romance, I have a book:

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