"Next Time" by Neverlong

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A lean man cloaked in green with a sword and shield hanging from his hip and back huddled over your table. You couldn't complain about that. He was nice on the eyes in a way that made you wonder if he even knew how gorgeous he was.

But either way, you were stuck with a broken door, piles of snow snagging on the broken ceramic scattered over your floor, and a weary thief at your kitchen table. You hoped to whatever was out there he didn't expect food. You might just give it to him.

His aesthetic appeal was the biggest reason why you hadn't forcibly kicked him out yet. His tangled hair made your heart stutter when he reached up to brush his pretty blond bangs behind his ear, and you knew you were hooked. If you had met him on the road before, you would have given him everything he asked for with a simpering "Can I get you anything else?"

Pathetic. Sure you were alone, and sure this was probably considered the boonies, but you didn't deserve to be robbed, albeit by a very handsome stranger, unwillingly or willingly!

And he didn't even say anything! His eyes shone apologetically, though. He didn't try to run when you scurried downstairs to catch your intruder. In fact, he gave you your rupees back with a sorry smile that said more than words before shivering at your table.

Which left you in your current predicament.

He glanced around your kitchen and the rotting steps behind you that led to a miserably cold and scratchy hayloft. There was no way you were going to get a fire started with your fingers so numb.

The intruder apparently found what he was searching for in a corner of your kitchen. Before you could protest, he stood and reached for it, taking—

Your broom? You got the idea and bent over to pick up the pieces of your old vases while he swept the snow and smaller shards outside. I'll need to wear some thick shoes when I walk out there again, you winced.

You murmured something about him knocking the next time he wanted to stop by, watching his eyes dart to the door. Was he...was he going to offer to pay for it? You felt some flutter of hope, that maybe this guy wasn't as bad as you'd thought despite your first impressions, until you saw his jaw clench in concern.

He opened his mouth to hollowly begin an apology, but cut himself short when he couldn't find the words. Oh, you had to suppress a shiver at the sound of his baritone voice. Was it even okay for you to fawn over someone who broke into your house?

No. You had to be tougher on him. That was a nice mahogany door, after all! And you had even stained it last autumn.

You felt ridiculous preparing to scold him when he appeared so innocuous. Nonetheless, it felt right to see his guilty glances at the piles of snow on your floor. It would leave stains, after all.

The air left you quickly, and you sighed, scratching the back of your head. How would you pay for this? The vases weren't much of an issue, but it was too cold to just leave yourself vulnerable to the cold. You'd be buried in snow up to your neck before the sun rose again.

Your new houseguest checked around your humble abode yet again, thoughtfully analyzing your stock. If worse came to worst, you could always pile up the firewood outside for something of a stockpile, but there were spiders and cobwebs in that pile so maybe you could convince your thief to do the work for you.

You explained it to him in a much more logical way, leaving out the bit about the spiders just in case he had some sort of phobia. After all, he still owed you.

And who was to say if you stared at his back to watch the muscles flex under his tunic when he reached down to pick up the pile? You watched his nice arms when he carried the chopped wood in, awed at his strength. While he stacked the wetter logs near your door, you took a few dry sticks and lit them in the central pit in your floor.

Once the fire caught and your guest was able to take the duty from you, you shuddered under the weight of the cold and stomped clumsily upstairs to grab your blanket. It was cold, but maybe it would warm quicker by the fire. Your fingers and toes hurt to move, but you offered the man some hospitality from the deep dredges of your heart.

"It's still cold, but uh," you stretched a corner of your blanket in his direction. His eyebrows raised, and you bit your lip.

If he weren't so adorable, you probably wouldn't have offered to share. What if he was a serial killer? They were supposed to be charming, after all.

His lips quirked a little at you, the slightest flicker of laughter on his face. Could he tell what you were thinking? You couldn't help a simpering grin when he slid closer to you and wrapped the other half around his shoulders.

"I'll repay you next time," he promised. You nodded, sticking your hands out to the flames. He followed suit, your blanket stretched over both of your shoulders and your arm just barely brushing against his if you squirmed enough. He didn't seem to mind, so you figured you wouldn't either. Just this once, you'd forgive him.

Next time, he wouldn't be so lucky, you told yourself. You wouldn't be so tired or cold then. You'd really give him a piece of your mind.

And if you felt giddy at the promise of next time?
Well, wasn't that just because it meant you were assured your revenge?

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