It was always so quiet in the mornings, Alex thought. The only sounds were the faint chink of dishes in the kitchen, and a distant mumble of people outside. Of course, the lack of paying guests at the moment contributed to the near silence. When they had people staying in the upstairs rooms, there was usually some thumping and conversation as they got up, packed if they were leaving that day, and headed down for breakfast. He enjoyed having guests, for the company and the stories they shared more than any income, but it was also nice to have quiet mornings sometimes. It gave him a chance to get all the tables polished in peace, and spend some time with Dan.

"Lex, honey, did you want your eggs fried or scrambled today?" Dan called through from the kitchen.

"Scrambled please," he replied. Dan made the best scrambled eggs, with a sprinkle of grated cheese and some spices mixed in. They'd talked about opening for breakfast a few times before, serving some simple meals and hot drinks early in the day, but always decided against it. The first couple of hours of the day were their own, and neither of them was willing to share that time with anyone else.

He had just finished the second last table when Dan pushed the rickety breakfast trolley through, loaded with steaming plates, crumbling pastries, chilled juices and the morning's papers. "Here we are. A good breakfast for a good day," said Dan, setting things on the last unpolished table.

Alex smiled and put the cleaning things aside. This was their little ritual, Alex cleaned while Dan cooked, and once it was ready they sat together to enjoy each other's company in peace before opening to the rest of the village. "It looks delicious. Did you try something different with the bread? It looks a bit more golden around the crust than your usual recipe."

"It's a new glaze, just a thin coating of spiced honey brushed over the top before baking. I thought it might make nice toast," Dan replied as he cut off a few slices. "Let me know what you think, I might add it to the menu."

"Mm. It's good, reminds me of that mead they make over in the next village," Alex said. "Sweet enough for flavour without being over sweet, and just right on the spice. Clove and cinnamon?"

"With a tiny hint of ginger for warmth. I'm thinking it might work nicely on some cakes for the winter, too," said Dan, opening one of the papers then immediately closing it. "Nope. No bad news for me today, thanks."

Alex looked over. "What is it?" They had newspapers delivered from both Aglendale and Oakshire, via a small courier service that worked along the border.

"Looks like King Francis is being a bastard again," Dan replied. "Have a read if you like, I'm not going to make myself upset with the details."

One of the Aglendale papers, the Apex Gazette, was closest to Alex. "Foolish Frankie Forfeits Friendships? Nice alliteration there," he said, pulling it over to scan the article. "Apparently he's insulted one of Nakata's Imperial Princes. 'Lard-bellied snot goblin', they've quoted here, that's an interesting phrase."

Dan snorted into his tea. "Which Prince? I know a few of them are slightly portly, but I wouldn't say lard-bellied. Or snot goblin, whatever one of those is supposed to be."

"The one who was engaged to Princess Alicia, according to this. Nice looking guy, at least in this picture." Alex turned the image towards Dan.

"Not bad. Little skinny for me personally, but I can see the appeal. Oakshire's papers are a bit less flattering of him, though." Dan nodded towards the paper he had first picked up, its headline screaming 'Princess Engaged to Deviant Foreigner'. "Not sure if that's a smear campaign of if he's really bi or something, but it looks like they're pushing the whole pervert angle again."

Alex dropped the Gazette on top of it, covering the headline. "Nice. I'm so glad we got out of there when we did."

"Same here. I do miss the bustle of Falridge, though. Maybe we could take a break sometime, close up for a week or so and go visit some of the elves' cities?"

"That's not a bad idea. It's usually quiet in late spring, maybe then? Sapphire Falls is supposed to have some amazing views, or there's Agate Cove on the south coast, if you'd rather go for a seaside trip."

Dan nodded thoughtfully. "Either is good. Maybe both, if you feel like a bit of a road trip. We could hire a car, spend some time sightseeing along the way as well. Or we could go mad and take a whole month, travel the length of the country. I hear there are some great hiking trails in Points' End," he said.

"Now there's a plan I can get behind. We could get someone to take care of the inn if we're going for that long, too," Alex said. "I'll ask around, see if anyone could step in temporarily. Or just close the place and hire someone to keep the rats away. It's not like we do a roaring trade at the best of times, little village like this. I'm sure the locals can feed themselves for a month."

They finished breakfast, and Dan disappeared back into the kitchen to start on the day's prep work. Alex cleared away the plates and polished the last table, hanging the assorted papers on the rack beside the bar. Most of the Oakshire papers tucked towards the back, folded so that the headlines screeching about 'deviants' were not immediately visible. Neither of them needed to be looking at those words all day, having heard them more than enough throughout their lives. Hopefully tomorrow the press would have found something else to be outraged about.