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Humming a little song to yourself, you crack two homegrown eggs into a mixing bowl and turn on the electric beaters.  You’re not much of a gourmet cook, but you do like to make the effort during Christmas and your birthday to bake yourself a little festive something-or-other.  And since today is your birthday, you’re attempting a batch of chocolate cupcakes with rich, cream-cheese-based frosting.  You don’t have a lot of ties with your family - most of them are dead, and even when they were alive you rarely got together except for funerals - but you did manage to acquire a few recipes from your late grandmother, who was an excellent cook.  This recipe is one of them, and just as you’re pouring the batter into the cupcake tray Jason wanders into the kitchen with yet another sketch to present you with.

You tilt your cheek up towards him and he leans down and lifts up his mask so he can give you a little kiss.  “Hey sweetheart, what’ve you got there?” you ask as you set down the mixing bowl and wipe your hands on your apron.  He holds up a pencil drawing of this years kids - a boy and a girl - head-butting each other.  It’s extremely good, as are all of Jason’s drawings.  He’s captured the feel and the movement of playful baby goats in a way that can only come from hours and hours spent observing them firsthand.  You suddenly think that you should buy him some colored pencils to see if he’d like to expand his artistic repertoire… perhaps as a gift this Christmas.  “That’s so beautiful, Jason!  You’ve really got them down perfectly, it’s incredible.  You’re sooooo talented at drawing!”  He stands up taller and even puffs out his chest a little bit, and you can see him practically bursting with pride.  He looks like a child who’s just brought home a straight-A report card or won a blue ribbon for his artwork in the county fair, and your heart bubbles over with affection for him.  He’s just too damn adorable.

“Let me just put these in the oven and I’ll find a good spot to hang up your drawing.  It’s so cute, I want to put it somewhere I can see it all the time.” you say, and when you pick up the cupcake tray Jason tilts his head curiously and points at it.  You look down at it as well - surely Jason knows what cupcakes are?  You realize he died when he was quite young, but if he’d never eaten a cupcake in that brief time then that would be yet another tragedy in an already tragic life.  “Have you eaten a cupcake before?” you ask, and happily he nods.  He remembers his Mommy giving him a cupcake for one of his birthdays - it was so delicious, and the little rainbow sprinkles on top were his favorite part.  Thank god for small favors, at least, you think to yourself.  So what else could he be confused about right now?  You realize that this is probably the first time he’s seen you bake something like this, so perhaps he wonders why you’re making them.  “Today is my birthday, so I just felt like making something a little special to mark the occasion.” you explain, and Jason’s eyes go wide.  It’s your birthday!  He remembers enough about birthdays to know that there are two very important requirements: a cake and presents.  It looks like you’re taking care of the cake part, which is probably for the best since he can’t bake.  He supposes that it might be possible for him to go to town and break into a bakery to steal one (and maybe fit in a few more murders as well…) but leaving his territory is a sure-fire way to end up getting hurt way more than even he prefers.  He also knows by now how much it upsets you to see him hurt, so he tries to minimize the risks of that happening for your sake.

But that still leaves the presents part of having a birthday.  And while he can let slide the fact that you’re baking your own cake, he can’t tolerate the idea of you having to get yourself your own present.  What was the point of that?  That defeats the entire purpose of a present, in his opinion.  As you close the oven door and set the timer, he’s wracking his brain for something he can give you.  He brings you drawings all the time, but this time he wants to do something special… something he hasn’t given you before.  But what?  He suddenly feels extremely frustrated, but tries not to show it in case you misinterpret his frustration somehow.  So instead he slides his mask back down into place and nods before opening his arms in an invitation for a hug.  “Thank you, sweetie,” you smile as you accept his hug.  Being hugged by Jason is one of the best feelings in the whole wide world - his arms are so big and strong but wrap around you so gently, and he’s so thick that your fingertips can’t touch when you wrap your own arms around his torso.  Plus he smells fantastic, and you smoosh your face into his chest for a nice, deep inhale.  Now that the two of you are having some sort of sexual or otherwise intimate interaction every day, Jason has started taking showers as often as you do - and often at the same time as you, as well.  While he still smells of the forest and earth and lake (which is pleasant enough as it is), his own unique, masculine, more-human scent has become much more prominent - and much more attractive as well.

After you hang up his latest drawing he gives you another nod and squeezes your hand, then heads back outside.  “See you later, love!” you call after him before going back inside.  He’s probably off to visit his Mother’s grave as he does every day, so you sit down at the kitchen table with a book and your coffee to keep an eye on the cupcakes.  But when you open up the book you wind up just staring at the first page, lost in thought.  When is Jason’s birthday?  You now know the date of his drowning thanks to the newspaper archives at the local library, but those same articles never mentioned his birthdate.  Does he even remember himself?  And even if he does, how could he possibly communicate to you when it is considering he can’t read, write or speak?  Even if you showed him a calendar he couldn’t point to the date for those reasons.  You sit there thinking as you sip your coffee.  How much fun would it be to throw him a birthday party?  Despite being an absolute beast in the bedroom (in the best way possible) and an absolute brute to his victims, Jason is very childlike in many ways and you can’t help but think that having his birthday celebrated would make him very happy, indeed.  You could just randomly decide on a day and announce that is when you’ll be celebrating his birthday from here on out, but that just doesn’t feel authentic or satisfying.  Suddenly you figure out the solution: it might take some time, but you’ll just verbally run through every single date of the year, all 365 of them, until he nods.  You smile to yourself, already making plans for this future party.

 

Out in the forest, Jason is feeling incredibly frustrated as he paces along one of the paths, thinking so hard that it hurts his head.  What can he possibly give you as a birthday gift?  He has nothing to give you but his heart, soul and body, and he already gives you those things every day… plus you can’t wrap up a heart or soul in a box and put a ribbon on it.  He supposes he could put a ribbon on his body, but that just sounds weird.  And on top of that, he doesn’t even own any boxes or ribbons anyway.  He stops in front of a tree, closes his eyes and thuds his forehead once against the bark in frustration.  When he opens his eyes again he’s staring straight down at a little clump of pretty wildflowers growing at the base of the tree and it suddenly dawns on him - you love nature, both animals and plants, and when the two of you take walks together you often point out and tell him the names of many of the plants and flowers that you pass by.  And now that he’s thinking about it, he vaguely remembers his Mommy sometimes putting a vase of flowers in the windowsill or on the kitchen table.  Maybe he could bring you some flowers to put on your table or windowsill?  It’s not much, but at least it’s something.  Then he suddenly worries that maybe you would be sad if he killed flowers?  But you don’t seem to mind that he kills people… and besides that, his Mommy never did anything bad so if she picked flowers then clearly it was okay.  His mind made up, Jason bends to gently pluck the little clump of flowers from the ground and continues along the path to search for more, starting to feel excited and hopeful that perhaps this will make you happy, will help you realize how special you are to him.

 

He returns just before dinner like usual, and you smile when you hear the front door open and close.  Even though Jason doesn’t eat, he always sits at the table with you while you do so you can enjoy one another’s company.  “Hi, sweethe-“ you begin, but your word is cut off with a tiny surprised gasp.  Jason is standing in the kitchen doorway holding one of the five-gallon buckets that you use for various farm chores, only this one is filled to overflowing with wildflowers - and a few weeds as well.  He holds it out to you just as he does with his drawings, and the look in his eyes is equal parts affection and nervousness.  He’s not sure what you’re going to think of his present.  “Are those for me?” you exclaim, absolutely delighted.  Jason nods, a little bit shyly, and holds them out even closer to you.  “For my birthday?” you ask as you walk towards him to accept the bucket, and he nods again.  “Thank you so much, sweetheart, that’s so thoughtful of you!  They’re so beautiful, I absolutely love them!”  Relief washes through him and he lifts up his mask and bends down to kiss you as you take the bucket of flowers.  You can’t keep the big, stupid grin off of your face as you sit it squarely in the middle of the kitchen table.  It’s an absurdly large bouquet, and while the fact that it’s approximately 30% weeds and is in a big blue plastic bucket that most likely has some dried manure stuck to the bottom of it would probably put off a lot of people, to you it’s absolutely perfect.  It’s big and unrefined and slightly awkward like Jason himself, but just as lovely and sweet as well… and the feeling behind this simple offering is way more heartfelt than any cold, expensive, professionally-prepared dozen roses could ever be.  “What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful, loving, handsome man like you?” you say sweetly, and Jason stands up a little taller before walking over to you to wrap his arms around you and nuzzle his face into your hair.  He thinks you are the most wonderful, loveliest, most beautiful woman in the whole world - who isn’t his Mommy - and in his opinion you deserve the very best just by existing.  He doesn’t understand why someone as wonderful as you has chosen him, but he’s always striving to make sure that you don’t regret your choice.

You grab the largest measuring cup you have to fill up the bucket with water - Jason’s forgotten that little detail - before sitting down together while you eat your pasta with homemade goat meatballs.  You eat with one hand tonight, because Jason can’t seem to let go of your other one and keeps gazing at you with soft, completely-infatuated eyes behind his hockey mask.  He takes it off when you’re in the shower together or making love, but beyond that he keeps it on.  So far you haven’t questioned him about it, assuming (correctly) that he still feels self-conscious about his deformities.  But despite the fact that he’s quite conventionally ugly, you wish he felt comfortable enough with you to keep it off all the time… or at least when he’s not out hunting.  You feel a little bad about this potential abuse of your power, but right now he seems so exceptionally enthralled by you - and therefore perhaps more susceptible to suggestion - that you decide to make a request: “How would you feel about taking off your mask when we eat and watch T.V. together, sweetie?”  His eyes immediately dart down to the table, but then back up to yours as he shrugs.  While it’s true he takes it off when in the shower and bedroom, that’s only because he wants to be able to kiss you and feel your hair and skin directly against his face… and while he knows by now that you love him, it’s still hard for him to be seen without that protective fiberglass shield.  Why would you want to look at him?  No matter how much you may love him, that doesn’t make him any less ugly.  His uneasiness is palpable, so you try to talk him down: “I love you.  And that means every part of you.  Every single part of you is handsome to me, and every single part of you makes me feel good.”  He shrugs and looks back at the table again, but you can tell his resistance is breaking down a bit.  You give him a mischievous little smile and add, “Some parts of you make me feel especially good, but I’m not going to ask you to walk around with no pants on.  So how about you take off your mask for me instead?  That would make me so happy, sweetheart.”  It takes Jason a second to realize your innuendo, but when he does his face feels like it’s been lit on fire.  He thinks he’d actually rather walk around with no pants instead of his mask, but he’s incapable of refusing what he interprets as a direct order from you - even though that wasn’t your intention - so at last he nods.  He doesn’t understand why this would make you happy, but making you happy is the most important thing in the world to him, outside of punishing bad people for his Mommy.  He lets go of your hand so he can reach up to unbuckle and remove the mask, and you smile reassuringly at him.  “Thank you, Jason, I love looking at you even more than I love these beautiful flowers you brought me.  You’re so handsome to me.  This is the best birthday present ever, thank you.”  He gives you a self-conscious little smile and you beam at him.  “See, I love being able to see you smile at me.  I love to see you happy.”  He smiles even more at that, then takes your hand in his again while you finish your meal.

 

Jason always helps with the dishes now, so as you stand at the sink together - you washing, him drying - you enact Operation Birthday Date Discovery:  “Jason, love, do you know when your birthday is?” you ask, and happily he nods.  “Great!  Can I ask you and you tell me when I get it right?”  He nods again, starting to feel a little excited.  He can’t believe you asked, can’t remember the last time anyone cared about his birthday, and right at this moment he loves you so much that he would throw his mask right into the fireplace if you asked him to… though he hopes you won’t.  You start on January first, and it actually doesn’t take as long as you’d anticipated for you to run through the dates until you reach the correct day.  “June thirteenth?” you ask at last, and Jason nods.  “That’s only in about two months!  I’d better get started on planning your party right now.” you smile at him, and Jason actually gives you a genuine big, toothy grin at that.  He suddenly looks about ten years old again, just like that child in the blurry old photograph on his dresser shrine.  You laugh affectionately and pop open the container where you’d stored the cupcakes, and suddenly you’re both sharing the same thought: can he eat one of them with you?  Jason has been wondering this about himself ever since you made your lunch in front of him for the very first time, but back then he was too shy to take off his mask.  But now… maybe he could try it?  You see him looking at them with an odd, pondering sort of expression, so you ask, “Do you want to try one?”  He hesitates for only a second, then nods.  You hand him one before taking one for yourself, then look each other right in the eyes as you both take a bite at the same time.  You watch him chew for a moment and then swallow, and his eyes close in what you hope is bliss.  “How is it?  Does it taste okay?” you ask a little sheepishly.  You like to think that you’re at least competent in the kitchen, but you recognize that you’re no professional.  And if Jason’s mother worked as a cook at Camp Crystal Lake, perhaps she was an amazing chef… so what if your efforts don’t match up to Jason’s memories or expectations of food?  But your worries are needless, because Jason is indeed in bliss.  The feel and taste of the cupcake is sending him flashing right back to that birthday cupcake he’d had so, so long ago, and yours just as delicious as the one his Mommy gave him.  All it’s missing is the sprinkles, but that doesn’t matter.  Just the fact that he’s eating anything is amazing on it’s own - he’d forgotten how pleasurable it is to eat something delicious.  And on top of that, to be eating something made by the person he loves is better than all of the sprinkles in the world.

He opens his eyes again and nods enthusiastically, then takes another giant bite.  You grin and grab a plate and pile it up high with the cupcakes, then lead him to the living room to watch a movie and eat your birthday goodies together.  Something tells you that these cupcakes aren’t going to last very long between the two of you, and that’s just fine.  It’s more than fine.  It’s wonderful.