Chapter 13 : Second best

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Being back was an amazing feeling for Charlie. Every time he returned back to work, he thanked Merlin that he had this job. He loved working with majestic dragons and getting to explore their volatile natures. The first week, he went home every night around five pm and started learning how to become a couple with his new wife. This peace was interrupted rather quickly, and Charlie found himself being thrown head first into work the next week.

Hun, a rogue Chinese Fireball had developed a fungus in his toes and became severely irritated. The only human he could tolerate was Charlie and this meant only he could try and treat the dragon. Charlie couldn't return home during the evenings, because Hun somehow cut himself trying to get away from the workers. This caused him to contract a fever of sorts and Charlie was on hand twenty-four seven.

A week of nursing the sulking, angry dragon, Charlie found himself lying on the grass near Hun. He stared up at the blue skies, the fluffy clouds and warm sun making his eyes droop. He hadn't had a decent night's sleep in a long time, it was getting harder and harder to concentrate around Hun. He may tolerate Charlie, but he was still a wild, huge and dangerous animal.

"Charlie, go home." The Irish lilt made him startle.

"Aoife, why are you here? You know Hun despises others, especially you." Charlie muttered, his eyes struggling to open.

"Be that as it may, you need sleep, you're a danger to yourself and your wife is waiting at home for you." Her voice went bitter at the end of the sentence.

"Charlotte is fine on her own, but I agree. I am going to get myself killed if I don't get some sleep." With this, he opened his eyes reluctantly and pushed himself up.

Aoife stood there, her arms around her waist. Her red hair blew in the wind, a scowl laying prettily across her face. Charlie frowned, too exhausted to deal with her.

"Thank you for coming to get me." Charlie said and started walking away.

"Why don't you ask your wife to do it next time?" Aoife spat, making him tense up.

"I am not doing this with you." He retorted.

A sniff made him pause in his steps. He cringed when the sniffs turned into sobs. He hated it when women cried and what was even worse, was when Aoife cried. He sighed and turned to face the woman. She was standing there, tears running down her face.

"Why are you crying?" He asked, his voice gentler than he thought it would be.

"You wanted me. You told me you wanted me before you went back and now, you're married. You hurt me, Charlie." Her voice was small.

The wind whipped the hurt around them, Charlie wanting to slowly die inside. Out of all the things in the world, hurting someone he cared about killed him. Especially since Fred passed away.

"I didn't know it was going to happen, Aoife. You know who Charlotte is and what she means to me. I didn't anticipate that I will ever see her again." Charlie said, now standing in front of her.

She flinched, pain crossing her face.

"I was always going to be second best, wasn't I?"

"I never said that." Charlie floundered.

"But it's the truth. You have never gotten over her and that's why you didn't want to commit to me. Now, she's your wife. Does she even know who I am?" She frowned, her tear stained face full of anger.

"No, she doesn't. Please, don't tell her about what we talked about before I left. She doesn't need that on her plate and it has no more impact on my life. Look, Aoife, I'm dead on my feet. I'm going to go sleep, but we need to talk this out. Okay?" He smiled half-heartedly and she nodded, although reluctantly.

With that, Charlie left the broken woman, not realising his words were going to fester in her mind like an open wound. Once he reached home, he opened the orange door with a heavy sigh.

"Charlotte?" He called through the little hut, the interior dark.

"Hey Charlie!" He heard her muffled voice call.

With a frown he popped his head around the kitchen door. It was clean, the dirty mugs and glasses all gone. The counters were shining in the sunlight, something he didn't think would be possible. She wasn't in the little kitchen so he went to the bedroom to see if she was there. Barging in, he was met with an empty, clean and organized room. The bed was made and there was a bouquet of bright flowers on the bedside table.

"Where are you?" He shouted, already knowing the answer but not wanting to barge into the bathroom and invade her privacy.

"In the bath. Come here!" His eyebrow shot up in surprise at her words.

"Okay, if you're sure." He went to the bathroom, opening the door slowly.

"Charlie, you've seen me naked before. There's mail for you on the coffee table." Charlotte rolled her eyes at him, her body covered by bubble bath bubbles.

Her one leg was out of the water, her skin glistening in the light. Her one hand held a razor. Her long hair was pulled up in a ponytail. Charlie gulped, his exhaustion vanishing. He hadn't seen her like this since their wedding night, and he couldn't even remember that properly.

"How did the toe fungus go?" She grinned at him, a joking tone in her voice.

"It went from a fungus to a cut to a fever. Hun is better now, but I need some sleep if I want to make sure he's fully recovered." Charlie yawned, his hand coming up to cover it.

"Charlie!" Charlotte gasped in alarm, and he gave her a startled look.

"What?"

She leaned forward, exposing herself slightly. He gulped and struggled to move his eyes from her curvy body. She mentioned for him to come closer and he followed her instructions.

"You have blood on your arm, did you get hurt?" The concern made a warm feeling spread through him.

"No, it's Hun's blood. I just need a bath." He shrugged and then wanted to slap himself in the face when he felt the strong tug on his arm.

He fell face first into the bath, Charlotte's giggles reaching him through the water. He pulled himself out of the water, his whole body now curled in the bath. He was sputtering in outrage, but this disappeared as he looked at his wife. Charlotte was laughing, her eyes closed and her smile wide showing her teeth. Her whole body shook in glee, making a smile spread across his face. Her mirth filled the room with it's warmth, eliminating the cold from the air.

She opened her eyes, rubbing some moisture away. He grinned at her, now leaning his body over her. He was on his knees, looking down at her.  She looked up at him, her eyes full of surprise and happiness.

"I've never told you how beautiful you are when you smile." He cradled her face in his left hand, the water from his hand dripping down her neck.

"You did," Her voice came out breathy, "In school." 

Her eyes were wide, dark with lust, and a shiver spread through her body as he trailed his thumb over her lower lip.

"I still mean it."

With this, he leaned forward and kissed her.


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