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Simon had never in a million years thought that a day when his infinite clumsiness got him into some quite big trouble once again would ever lead to one of the best things that had ever happened in his life.

Being introverted and shy made it difficult enough to find small jobs to stock up his pocket money as a 16-year-old because either people didn’t want to hire an “untrustworthy youth” or they wanted someone with a little more backbone or they only offered the shittiest of work for the smallest amount of pay imaginable. Simon was neither interested in being exploited nor did he have the acting skills to at least pretend to be sure of himself.

Simon had started delivering leaflets for a nearby supermarket  every summer at the age of fourteen, done so for two years in a row, but the pay had been terrible—especially considering that he had to get up before sunrise for the entirety of his summer holidays only to get cursed at by several people on his route because they didn’t want these leaflets stuffing up their mailbox.

This summer, his mother had suggested a different approach which had led to him walking around the neighbourhood on the first days of the holidays, knocking at other’s doors to ask if there was any work he could take care of for a few dollars. And that was how he ended up mowing people’s lawn, cleaning their windows and walking Mrs Hall’s demon-dog. Simon generally loved animals, especially cats and dogs, but this...thing—He was convinced the scruffy little thing, that had more similarities with a mutated rat than an actual dog, had crawled its way onto this planet from some hellish alternate dimension!

By now, Simon had lost count of how many pant legs this creature had destroyed with its sharp little teeth and he swore that the high pitched barks would haunt him in his nightmares for the rest of his life. Ironically enough, the demon-dog was still less scary than Mrs Hall herself, which was the only reason Simon didn’t dare to quit because this woman would probably suck out his soul if she knew he would rather stick a fork in his eye than being close to this creature that she kept as a lapdog.

Walking this four-legged demon-creature was bad enough but having to spend half of his Saturday in Mrs. Hall’s creaky little house that reeked of mothballs and smoke to dog-sit while the old woman was out hunting children for dinner—Simon refused to believe that this creepy old lady was merely out playing bingo!—was an entirely different nightmare. Most of the day went surprisingly well but, of course, the demon-dog decided to attack him right before Mrs Hall returned home, causing him to jump back and bump into one of the ugly stone statues she had scattered around the house. The statue that was supposed to be a weeping angel but looked like a person whose face was slowly melting off wobbled dangerously and only his attempt at trying to grab it, his hands clumsily knocking against the rough surface of the stone in his panic instead of wrapping around it, threw it off balance completely.

The lock of the front door had clicked almost right after the statue had hit the floor, pieces of stone scattering everywhere while the demon-dog fled the room with a scared shrieking sound, followed by the eeriest silence Simon had ever experienced. The next shrieking sound came from Mrs Hall, her eyes bugging out at the sight of her statue destroyed in the foyer and Simon standing over it with his hands frozen in mid-air, cheeks colouring a splotchy red with rising anger before she started screaming at the startled teenager.

Long story short: Simon had broken the damn statue—rid the world of a piece of junk, as he decided later on—and was now expected to replace it with a new one that should look exactly like the one he had ruined. Which meant he couldn’t just walk into a store to buy another statue because—shocker!—this particular thing wasn’t sold anymore but he would have to commission someone to make the thing.

Simon didn’t even ask why Mrs. Hill had a photo of the damn statue when she handed it to him, merely promised to take care of it and thinking that the only good outcome of this was the fact that he now wasn’t allowed to show up at her house, only to deliver the statue, so he wouldn’t have to get near the demon-dog ever again.

 


 

Simon didn’t know what he had expected when he entered the rather small shop since he had never been to a stonecutter before but he definitely hadn’t expected to see someone even close to his own age behind the counter. He had spotted the person behind the counter through the glass of the front door before even opening it far enough for the bell above his head to make a sound and his mouth might have dropped open just a little bit.

Not only was this guy looking surprisingly young—probably not more than two years Simon’s senior—but he was also incredibly gorgeous. Simon resisted the urge to facepalm at this cheesy and cliched line of thought that sounded like one of the things right out of the dumb novels his mother loved to read but it had popped up in his mind before he could help it.

The guy had his elbows leant on the counter, sleeves of a dusty looking, slightly ratty grey sweater bunched up at his elbows and chin resting in the palm of his left hand while flipping through a magazine with the other one. His head was angled down, a strand of his curly hair falling over his forehead and eyes flickering over the pages with a bored expression but Simon was still able to see the soft edges of a perfect jawline, the arch of prominent eyebrows over dark eyes lined with thick lashes and a hint of front teeth dug into a plump looking bottom lip, absently nibbling at it.

Simon’s heart had already been pounding a little bit faster out of nervousness because he hated heading into unknown situations, it always made him feel anxious and awkward, but now it skipped a small beat only to bounce at a slightly quicker pace against his ribs. He was this close to turning around but before he was able to actually make a decision, he accidentally pushed the door forward by another inch, just enough to make it bump against the small bell and cause it to chime innocently, announcing his presence to the boy that looked like he himself had been chiselled out of stone.

The other boy’s head snapped up at the sound of the doorbell, fingers closing the magazine on the countertop while he shifted into a straightened position, eyebrows relaxing a little and lips quirking into the faintest smile as soon as he spotted Simon awkwardly shuffling into the store because he couldn’t not enter now.

“Uh, hi. Hello,” Simon uttered, his words barely above a mumble and cheeks heating up for no reason. He absently noticed his right hand curling into the hem of his shirt while the left one went up, the side of his index finger pressing against the bridge of his glasses to push them back up even though they hadn’t even slipped down very much yet.

“Hi yourself,” the other boy replied, the melody of a barely suppressed chuckle accompanying the smooth sound of his voice—of course, the guy didn’t only look incredible, he also had a voice that Simon could imagine himself listening to for hours, even after these two words.

“Not to be rude but you don’t exactly look like this is the right shop for you,” the boy said, dark eyes scrutinising Simon from head to toe in one swift movement while tilting his head to the left side, right eyebrow twitching upwards as well to give his features an expression of curious amusement.

“It is, though. Well, not for me, really, but I’m still in the right place—I think.” Simon swore he was usually better with words and with making sense in general but he was even better with embarrassing himself in front of strangers and pretty people. Especially when they were both at the same time. His eyes flickered to the nameplate on the counter, right next to the register, and a soft “huh” escaped his lips before he could help it.

The boy’s eyes followed his line of sight at this noise and he made an amused sound in the back of his throat. “That’s not my name, in case you were wondering.”

Simon blinked and was interrupted in his attempt to connect the other’s boyishly handsome features with the name “Gilbert J. Simmons” and felt ridiculous for the relief washing over him because it would be incredibly rude to think of the other’s name as terribly unfitting if it actually was his name.

“Do I look old enough to have my own store?” The boy asked and Simon felt incredibly stupid when he remembered that the shop was called “Simmons’ stone cottage” so that he should have recognised the name on the plate as the name of the owner, not of the boy behind the counter who definitely didn’t look like a shop owner. Even though Simon wasn’t too sure that anyone looked like a shop owner.

“My name’s Raphael,” the boy interrupted his thoughts once more, leaning one elbow on the counter while reaching over it with the other hand, offering it for Simon to shake. Only when his fingers carefully curled around the unexpectedly rough feeling hand of Raphael did he notice that his own was a little bit sweaty and he almost pulled his arm back right away but Raphael’s warm hand closed around his in a firm yet gentle grip and Simon could only stare at the contact of their bodies.

“Pretty sure this is the part where you should introduce yourself,” Raphael mentioned with a chuckle that had Simon’s flush even more.

“Sorry, yes! I’m Lewis. Simon Lewis.”

“Two first names or was that supposed to be a terrible Bond imitation?” Raphael’s cheeky little smirk distracted Simon from the fact that their hands were connected for several seconds longer than probably socially acceptable but he wouldn’t have minded holding Raphael’s hand for a tad longer.

“Only one first name,” he muttered with bright red cheeks but the embarrassment was almost worth it when he was rewarded with another laugh from the other boy, this one a little deeper than the chuckle from before.

“Well then, Simon Lewis, what can I help you with?”

The question reminded Simon of the reason of his visit to this shop and he grimaced a little, not too fond of the memory of the enraged Mrs Hill screeching his name.

“I need a statue made. I kind of might have broken one and the woman who owned it wants the exact same one again,” Simon admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck with the fingers that still tingled from the skin-on-skin contact with Raphael’s hand.

“It was ugly, anyway,” he added after a brief pause, not even sure why he felt the need to say that out loud and biting his bottom lip.

“No statue is ugly,” Raphael disagreed and then it was his turn to pause when Simon tugged the photo out of the pocket of his jeans, unfolding and slapping it onto the counter, “except for this one.”

Now it was Simon’s turn to laugh and he was weirdly glad that Raphael thought of this statue as ugly as well.

“The boss isn’t in right now and I dunno when he will be back but you could leave the photo and your contact information —I’ll talk to him and get back to you when I know a time span and price,” Raphael offered with a sweet little smile and Simon’s heart flipped in his chest because the other boy had asked for his number, even if it was just for business reasons.

“Y—yeah, sure.” Simon cursed himself for stumbling over the simplest words but Raphael didn’t seem to mind, his smile actually brightening some more.

He watched the other boy grabbing a notepad and a pen from a drawer, pushing it across the counter for Simon to scribble his name and number on in his embarrassingly sloppy writing. When he was done and handed the notepad back to Raphael, a feeling of disappointment welling up in his chest at the thought that this meant he should leave now, seeing as there was no reason for him to stick around longer since Raphael clearly wasn’t allowed to take on commissions.

“Now, I’d really like to hear the story of how you managed to break this statue,” Raphael mentioned before Simon had the chance to say goodbye and this certainly wasn’t the opportunity to stay for a little longer that he had wished for just a second ago but he still decided to take it—maybe his embarrassing story of clumsiness would at least reward him with the sound of Raphael’s laughter again.