‘Oh... the sewing machine, the sewing machine a girl’s best friend...’
The rich baritone rang out over the electrical clatter of the black enamelled Singer sewing machine as Jonathan Blake worked magic on fabric pieces.
‘If I didn’t have my sewing machine I’d have come to no good end...’
So loud was the combination of singing and Singer that the tap on the living room door went unheard. The door opened anyway, and a young woman called in.
‘Jonathan! Can hear you halfway down the street!’
‘Sorry!’ Jonathan broke off his song, but continued stitching to the end of his piece of fabric. ‘Come on in, Steph. What is it?’
‘Ten to one, that’s what it is, and Gethin will be back in a minute...’
‘That late already?’ Blake frowned for a moment before his face cleared and he beamed out his signature shining smile. ‘Time to get the kettle on, then.
Thanks, Steph. Don’t want to spoil the surprise...’
He folded away his project into a box and carried it off into a cupboard somewhere before filling the kettle and setting it on to boil.
‘What’s the big secret, anyway?’ Steph asked.
‘Gethin’s birthday,’ Jonathan said, fussing around with mugs and coming to pack away the sewing machine, lifting it from the table and carrying it from the sitting room. From somewhere upstairs his voice floated down. ‘I’m just finishing the bunting...’
‘When is it, then?’ Steph asked as Blake reappeared to turn his attention to brewing up.
‘I’ve no idea...’ Jonathan shrugged and smiled. ‘He won’t tell me. But I thought I’d make a start so I’m not caught on the hop... or I might have missed it, I suppose... could he be a Sagittarius? Does he look like a Sagittarius to you?’
‘Hadn’t thought... no. I’d have said Scorpio if I had to...’
‘Really? No, he’s much too cuddly to be a Scorpio. And I know he isn’t a Virgo... neither am I any more...’ He winked. ‘Here you go, one vegetarian coffee... ’
‘Jonathan!’ Steph shook her head. ‘Barking, you. Anyway, I thought Gethin wasn’t into that sort of thing, birthdays, crass materialism and all that?’
‘Crass materialism, socio-normative rituals... yes, if I understood what any of it meant I might listen...’ Jonathan grinned again. ‘All I know is, an excuse for cake and bunting, what’s not to love?’
Gethin walked into the shop with a scowl; May, and belting down it was, soaked just coming from the post office...
Steph behind the counter with a cup of coffee at her side grinned at him.
‘Told you to take your coat,’ she said. ‘Changeable, the weatherman said.’
‘Changeable?’ Gethin protested. ‘It’s been pissing down ever since I left, what’s changeable about that? Bloody weatherman...’
Steph raised her eyebrows and grinned at him.
‘Jonathan’s got a pot of tea brewing. And he was going to make you some toast, he said.’
‘Ah. A gourmet lunch.’
But Gethin found he no longer cared that he was soaked to the skin; in fact, with any luck, Jonathan would tell him to get out of his wet clothes at once...
The thought brightened him further, and he all but ran up the stairs to the flat.
Blake greeted him with a big smile and a plate of toasted cheese sandwiches.
‘Geth, love, you’re soaked! Is it raining?’
Gethin glanced pointedly towards the window, currently being battered by the sort of deluge that would have had Noah reaching for the hammer and nails...
‘Didn’t you take your coat? I asked Steph to tell you to take your coat... here, cup of tea. Go on, tuck in, I’ll get mine in a minute.’
A steaming mug pushed towards him. Ketchup for on the toasted sandwiches. Gethin sighed with grateful joy and fell on the food.
‘Wouldn’t have been so bad,’ he said presently, accepting a second mug of tea. ‘But Mrs Wallace – you know, owns that yappy Pekingese, got its collar caught on something and you helped free it?’
‘Ah, yes. That collar was the wrong sort for a little dog like that. Mrs Wallace...?’
‘Cornered me outside the paper shop. She was under the awning, all right for her...’
‘Let me guess; you were just at the edge, under the drips?’
Gethin nodded and went on. ‘Wanted me to thank you. And gave me this for you...’ He reached into his damp back pocket and pulled out an envelope.
‘There you go.’
‘Oh, I wonder if it’s a love letter?’
‘Better not be, cariad.’
Jonathan grinned and opened the envelope.
In fact, it was a note: Thank you for saving me, love Tillywags, and a paw print, slightly fuzzy at the edges.
‘Oh, look at that!’ Blake said, showing the missive to Gethin. ‘I do hope she used non-toxic paint on Tillywags’ paw... well, another thing for my memento cabinet...’
‘You’ll need another one soon, at this rate.’ Gethin carried his empty plate to the sink. ‘Better change before I take over from Steph,’ he said. ‘Soaked to the skin.’
‘Oh, and you’ve been sat there in wet things... well, why don’t I help you out of them?’
Gethin grinned. ‘Thought you‘d never ask,’ he said.
The early part of the afternoon in the shop passed in a mellow post-coital glow for Gethin so that he answered Steph’s careful questions with no curiosity as to why she was asking.
‘No, not a big fan of birthdays... another year older, it can feel a bit grim. Or looking around these days, seeing those who aren’t likely to see another and know it might have been me... seems wrong to celebrate, perhaps... Me? Oh, not for ages yet... and no, I’m not saying when, you might let slip to Jonathan, he’d only try and make a big thing out of it...’
Steph laughed. ‘Remember what he was like at Christmas wanting a proper tree and everything?’
‘Oh, don’t remind me! And he never put the angel away from the top, sitting on the top of the wardrobe it is...’
The memory made Gethin grin. Blake had arrived with a cardboard box full of tat and a hopeful expression in the run up to Christmas, and somehow had ended up in Gethin’s spare room and, before too long, his bed. The fact that Blake wasn’t what he seemed had come as a bit of a shock, to say the least: Jonathan Blake was an angel, an actual metaphysical being, working on the world and assigned to helping the gay community with no idea what that meant until he was plunged into it... but Jonathan was happiest when he was helping, keen to learn, and even if he soon realised that ‘helping the gay community’ didn’t mean organising lifts home from parties for them, still, he threw himself into his work with gusto.
And just as Blake had got used to living amongst humans, so Gethin had got used to sharing his flat, and his life, with an angelic being...
He still wasn’t used to Blake’s wings, though.
Soft peach and barred blue, with white and grey and black pinions, Blake had Jay’s wings, carried somehow inside his back out of sight until he needed them, beautiful, bright, soft wings with feathers that rustled and swathed him softly in a duvet of gentle down, wings that emerged from Blake’s back at moments of extreme bliss, plumage that...
‘Gethin? Earth to Gethin, are you asleep on your feet?’
Steph’s voice penetrated, taking Gethin from his daydream.
‘Sorry, thinking of something... time you weren’t here, isn’t it?’
‘That’s what I’ve been telling you the last five minutes...’
‘Okay, off you go then. See you tomorrow, early mind – I’ve got that book fair I want a look at...’
Steph didn’t know Blake was an angel, of course. She thought he was kind, and helpful, and completely mad... which didn’t stop her from enthusiastically joining in with any of his daft ideas... suddenly, the fact that Steph had been asking about Gethin’s birthday took on new significance and once the shop was shut up for the day, in the odd hours before it was time to reopen for the evening support group that met in the back room, Gethin found time to cuddle in next to Blake on the sofa and looked for a way to broach the subject.
‘Jonathan... had an odd conversation with Steph today...’
‘Did you, really? She okay? I thought she looked okay, quite chipper, in fact...’
‘Yes, she’s fine... but she was asking questions... you didn’t suggest she ask me when my birthday is, did you?’
‘No,’ Blake said with such perfect innocence that Gethin was instantly suspicious.
‘They fascinate me, though. Birthdays. I suppose you’re used to them, everyone here seems to have them...’ Blake paused to lower his voice, let it become ever so slightly resigned. ‘I don’t. We don’t, that is.’
‘What are you on about now?’
‘Birthdays, Gethin... Angels, we don’t have them. The clue is in the name, you see... “ birth...day”. Angels aren’t born, we’re just created.’
‘I see. So you’re wondering what you’re missing out on?’
‘Well... not really, but... Yuri was saying Jeff’s birthday is a couple of months away, and he’s already planning it...’
‘Well, that’s Jeff for you. I’ve never bothered much, myself. No real reason to, nobody really to share it with, so... Materialistic consumerism really, encouraging people to spend money on what doesn’t matter... Never mind me. Look, if you want, pick a day, and you can have an honorary birthday, if you like. Would you like that?’
‘I... it wasn’t what I was thinking, but... is it allowed?’
‘Could just be private, if you’re worried. The two of us.’
‘That sounds lovely,’ Jonathan said. ‘Tell me more; what do you think makes the perfect birthday...?’
While Gethin was out at his book fair, Jonathan assembled his troops in the bookshop, Steph keeping a watchful eye on the till as well as on Jonathan’s enthusiasms as he explained his ideas to his angel brothers Yuri and Roscoe, and to Yuri’s human boyfriend Jeff.
‘So; I’ve been asking around what makes the perfect birthday party... we’re looking at something genuine, jelly and ice cream... cake... no clowns, though, or magicians... maybe Mickey Mouse, or a stripper...’
‘Jonathan!’ Steph protested. ‘Just who did you ask about this?’
‘Oh, everyone... got Geth talking a bit last night, then when I went for the paper there was Mrs Wallace walking her grandchildren to school, Mr Armitage who runs the shop... Roscoe here had an idea or two as well...’
‘Did he suggest the stripper?’
‘No, he said, no clowns...’
‘Pretty sure a stripper’s a bad idea, Jonathan...’ Steph warned.
‘You could always give a private performance later for him yourself,’ Jeff suggested with a grin. ‘I can lend you a purple feather boa...’
‘OI, thank you for that image, won’t sleep tonight, Jeff!’ Steph protested.
‘Anyway...’ Jonathan drew attention back to the point. ‘I think if we make it like an ordinary party, but with bunting, and cake, and jelly and ice cream, that should do, shouldn’t it? Maybe not too many people... couple of dozen, perhaps?’
‘Just keep it to close friends?’ Steph suggested. ‘Us lot, Mike and Mark, Reggie and Ray... that lad Craig...’
‘And his mum.’
‘...and his mum. What about your other two brothers, cousins, whatever they are?’ Steph asked. ‘What are they called...? Mikey and Rafe. Them?’
‘Might be fun,’ Yuri said with a sly half smile. ‘I remember Craig’s mum got on quite well with Mikey...’
‘When’s it going to be, again?’ Steph asked.
‘But there’s a Pride March meeting that night...’
‘So keep the invitations to a minimum, have a word with the secretary to wind up half an hour early, and then the marchers can drop in too.’ Jeff said.
‘That way Gethin won’t be able to argue too much, not when it’s more than just his good friends...’
‘All right, that sounds like a plan, then.’ Jonathan grinned and rubbed his hands together. ‘Roscoe, you’re in charge of the booze and the snacks, I’ll do the cake... Steph, do you know about jelly and ice cream...? Brilliant, excellent! Now all we have to do is keep it secret for a week or so.’
Somehow, the secret was kept, although Gethin did wonder if something was going on; Jeff was in the shop more than usual, and talking to Steph rather than flirting with the customers... of course, Yuri was around a lot, too, which might explain Jeff’s not-flirting... but then to have Jonathan casually ask if Gethin was going to sit in on the Pride March meeting – when he already knew... it seemed a bit odd...
‘...and with that we’ll move on to the next order of business, banners or buckets?’ the Chair of the group asked. ‘There’s a lot to be said for... yes, do you want something?’
‘Sorry.’ Jonathan loomed in the doorway. ‘I want Gethin, please. I won’t keep him long.’
‘Jonathan?’ Gethin asked, scraping back his chair as he got to his feet. ‘What’s up?’
‘Nothing, just need a hand with something.’
‘Yes, now! Come on!’
Shaking his head, Gethin followed Blake from the back room and up to the flat, wondering just what the angel was up to; that he was up to something was obvious; he kept hugging his shoulders up with silent glee and trying not to smirk... okay, so whatever it was, he was going to have to pretend he loved it because Jonathan was as transparent in his disappointment as he was in his joy and Gethin was determined not to cause Blake any...
‘Sweet fuck, Blake, what have you done?’
‘Surprise!’ Blake said brightly.
A banner above the door to the flat proclaimed ‘Many Happy Returns’. Inside the doorway, Gethin could see the living room festooned and criss-crossed with bunting in a chaos of colours; one section, above the doorway to the kitchen, read ‘Happy Birthday Gethin’...
...from inside the kitchen, Steph’s head appeared, and a ragged chorus of Happy Birthday rang out; Gethin recognised the voices... Jeff, Roscoe, Yuri... Jonathan joining in, slightly changing the words...
‘Happy Birthday to you
‘Happy Birthday to you
‘Happy Birthday, eveninfitisn’t...
‘Happy Birthday too you...’
‘Um...’ Gethin managed as the singers emerged from the kitchen, Steph carrying a huge cake with a guesswork of candles on top. ‘Thank you, but... it’s not my birthday...’
‘I know,’ Jonathan said, really beaming now. ‘That’s why it’s a surprise... Come on, blow out your candles, make a wish...’
So there was nothing for it but to blow out the candles, wish he’d told Blake the actual date of his birthday to save all this fuss...
‘Come on, hurry up. Your ice-cream will be getting warm...’
In the kitchen, then, the cake carried reverently back in and set on the counter (and it looked amazing, all sugar frosting and blue iced letters between the candle holders, little silver balls dotted around the outside) gathering around the table with the rest of his friends, laughing as he saw bowls of strawberry jelly and vanilla ice cream set out for everyone.
‘This is like at a five-year-old’s party, but probably not the posh kid’s, the one nobody really liked but whose parties always had the food you never got at home...’ Except, no, this was just like the party of the kid in the next street, their mum doing their best for them. It was pretty much perfect, of its kind... ‘Thank you,’ he said, doing his best to play along. ‘Can’t remember the last time I had jelly and ice cream for my birthday, even if it isn’t...’
Jonathan beamed, but not only Jonathan; Roscoe and Yuri, too, were watching proceedings with an almost vicarious delight, and halfway through his second bowl of jelly and ice cream, Gethin realised this party wasn’t about him, not really, it was about Jonathan and the other angels wanting to share in something they could never have, never be a part of...
Angels weren’t born, Jonathan had said, they just came into existence. They couldn’t die, either, which sometimes sounded wonderful, when all around Gethin people were being wiped out of existence before they’d hardly started living, but at other times sounded really, really scary because the flip side of it was that eventually, everyone you ever loved would leave you, one way or another... so birthdays, celebrating another year, just one more year, was a mystery to them... but it didn’t stop them trying to understand, wanting to know.
‘Are you ready for cake now?’ Blake asked, as soon as Gethin’s dish was empty, eager as a puppy, and Gethin saw an opportunity for just a tiny, tiny tease...
‘I dunno. Full of ice cream now...’ He saw Jonathan’s eyes tighten, and hurried on before he could cause too much worry. ‘Where’d you buy it, anyway? None of this back-of-the-market rubbish, I hope...’
‘Gethin!’ Steph said, seeing Jonathan’s face begin to fall. ‘He made it himself.’
‘Of course I did!’
‘Of course you did. Well, then, give it here, and what’s everyone else going to have?’
Jonathan laughed, relieved, happy again as Gethin cut into the cake.
‘Wow. Wasn’t expecting that. Thought it was just pretty on the outside.’
Inside the icing, the sponge of the cake was a mixture of lilac and pink, yellow and green, blue and orange with a layer of butter cream and jam between the two.
‘Jonathan’s aunty left a recipe book behind in the flat,’ Steph said. ‘He got the recipe from there. Marble cake, it’s called.’
‘Thank you. Seems everyone’s had a hand in this. And it isn’t even my birthday, but...’
‘I shouldn’t worry about it,’ Steph said. ‘It’ll be someone’s birthday, somewhere.’
‘Maybe there’s, oh, I don’t know, a child somewhere,’ Jonathan said. ‘Six or seven today, perhaps. Maybe eight. Having a party, like this. Jelly and ice cream.’
‘Unless they’re in America,’ Steph said. ‘Then it’d be... what do they call it? Jell-o?’
‘Never understood why, myself. What about Canada? What do they call it there?’
‘Why?’ Jeff asked.
‘Just in case I’m ever in Canada on my birthday,’ Gethin said with a grin. ‘You never know, do you?’
‘More cake?’ Jonathan asked. ‘No? Just as well, you might want to get changed...’
‘Why?’ Gethin tried not to sound too suspicious. ‘This is everything, isn’t it?’
‘Actually, no. There’s a real party with beer and stuff for us grown-ups,’ Steph said. ‘They’re coming for eight.’
‘Bloody hell, Jonathan...’
Jonathan smiled. ‘You’re welcome,’ he said.
As parties went, it was great, not too many people, mostly the usual faces. Craig’s mother had brought him a present and a card, which made Roscoe’s face fall.
‘Presents!’ he said, raising his voice over the techno beat music that was pumping the party along. ‘Jonathan, we forgot birthday presents!’
‘Don’t worry,’ Gethin said. ‘I’ll think of something for Jonathan to give me later.’
‘Way ahead of you, Geth-love,’ Jonathan said with a grin. ‘I have something in mind...’
With that he swept Gethin into his arms and swirled him into a dance just as the techno softened to something more suited to public cuddling...
Dancing, drinking, laughing and talking, explaining no, not his actual birthday, but Jonathan wanted an excuse for a party, the soft, mellow buzz of alcohol flowing the evening along, and always Jonathan there, looking over, or arm round his shoulders, or handing him a glass, and the eyes of the other angels, bright, curious, trying to understand the mystery of celebrating a birthday...
...the end of the evening, Steph accepting the offer of the spare bedroom gratefully as everyone else said their goodbyes and called for taxis, and suddenly alone with Jonathan in the living room, Steph gone up already to the guest room.
‘Happy birthday, even if it isn’t,’ Jonathan said softly.
‘Thank you, cariad. Although why you picked today, it’d make me a Taurus, do I look like a Taurus? Not that...’
‘Not that you believe in that sort of thing. I don’t know, love, what does a Taurus look like? Although I’m sure you wouldn’t look like a Taurus, just on principle, even if you were one...’
Gethin’s smile was perhaps a little shamefaced.
‘Suppose I do go on a bit, sometimes. Spikey, p’rhaps.’
‘You’re principled, that’s all. And I love that in you. Love everything about you, Geth-love. These last few months here, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t taken me in... and everything...’
‘Works both ways, cariad. Stopped me being bored, if nothing else... always up to something mad, something daft. Love you too, so, when do you want your birthday, then?’
Jonathan thought for a moment, and then his blinding smile beamed out.
‘I’ll share yours, I think... that way you’ll have to tell me...’
‘Well,’ Jonathan went on. ‘What sign would I be, if you believed in all that, of course?’
‘Don’t be daft, there isn’t a sign for golden puppy...’
Jonathan opened his mouth to speak, but a knock at the window interrupted.
‘Better see who that is,’ he said, crossing to pull back the curtains.
‘We’re on the first floor...’
‘Yes, so it won’t be Jeff, then...’
Rosco, dark-flecked starling’s wings extended, hovered outside while Blake slid up the window.
‘All set, Jonathan,’ he said. ‘You’ve got until about an hour after daybreak, don’t be late home or you’ll be in all sorts of trouble...’
With that, the angel pushed away from the window and flapped off into the sky.
‘Birthday surprise, Geth,’ Jonathan said, stripping off his bright blue silk shirt to reveal his powerful chest. ‘Grab your coat, we’re off out for a bit.’
‘You can get out through this window, can’t you? Just make sure you’ve got keys for the return trip. I promised I’d take you flying one day, remember?’
Jonathan eased himself through the window so he was kneeling on the frame, facing Gethin in the flat still. He shrugged his shoulders and his wings deployed in a flurry of glorious plumage that made Gethin’s breath catch in his throat. Beautiful soft peach downy feathers made delicate contrast with the bright blue and black barring of Jonathan’s secondaries and the monochrome black white grey of his pinions. Using his wings for balance, he reached in through the open window.
‘Come on, then. Arms round my neck, sit on the sill... that’s it... not scared of heights, are you?’
‘Not scared of anything, when I’m with you.’
Still, Gethin held tight and was grateful for the snuggle of Jonathan’s arms around him as the angel pushed backwards and upwards, his wings hissing and beating the air as they ascended in a shimmering, golden glow of angelic power.
Gethin’s head swam, a combination of alcohol and sudden altitude, but he felt warm and safe, encompassed by Blake’s golden shimmer. There was no pull on his arms; he could have been weightless, as far as gravity was concerned, holding Jonathan and being held by him.
The glorious wings angled and finessed the air, taking the line of flight from almost horizontal to practically vertical; they were standing in the sky far above the bookshop, and Gethin felt almost as if he could reach out and touch the stars so bright and clear they shone. A big, fat moon silvered the sky, huge and bright and Jonathan smiled down into his face before cuddling closer to kiss him.
Warm mouth and cool breath, the still-tentative brush of lips to start, as if Jonathan couldn’t believe, even now, that this was allowed, possible, permitted...
Gethin leaned into the kiss, his tongue exploring with slow urgency, feeling the response of Jonathan’s body against his, the deepening of the kiss. His head began to spin – no, they were turning in the air, revolving slowly around the perfect point of their matched mouths in exquisite lust...
Finally, the kiss slowed and ended. Jonathan smiled, eyes hungry.
‘Ever heard of the Mile High Club?’ he asked.
‘Yes, but I’m not quite sure this is what they had in mind...’
The angel laughed. ‘Well, it’s probably not practical up here; I might lose my concentration, and how embarrassing to crash-land in the middle of something... Never mind. Come on, next stop, paradise. Or as near as I can get to it for you.’
They flew on for twenty minutes or so before Blake began to lose altitude. Below, open countryside, dark except for the occasional line of street lamps limning a major road or motorway here and there. Presently, the dark, sliding glimmer of open water, and Jonathan brought them in to land on an island in the middle of it.
‘Welcome to paradise. Or at least a little bit of space where we won’t be disturbed...’
‘Looks nice,’ Gethin said, not quite sure why this was meant to be special...
...and then Jonathan led him between two trees and clapped his hands.
Illuminations sprang out amongst the trees, bringing soft, intermittent lights and revealing an awning spread beneath the branches, and inside what looked like a double mattress spread with soft bedding. In front of the awning, a picnic blanket had been laid out and on it a bottle of champagne and two glasses were set next to a picnic basket. A portable tape deck was at the side of the canopy and Jonathan pressed buttons until it began to play soft mood music.
Gethin began to laugh.
‘It’s wonderful,’ he said. ‘It’s just like you – completely over the top, utterly bonkers, and irresistible.’
‘Dance with me?’ Jonathan said, stretching to pull his wings into his back.
His skin was silk under Gethin’s hands, cooling now after the flight, and the twin openings into which Blake’s wings had slid were strangely warm by contrast when Gethin’s fingers brushed them.
‘I love it when you do that...’
He pulled Gethin closer against his chest, burying his face into his neck, snuggling and cuddling, his hips contacting Gethin’s groin with breath-taking hardness.
‘Can we dance later, Gethin-love, I... fuck, I need you. Your birthday treat, though, so if you don’t want...’
Gethin bumped his hips forward, causing Jonathan to take a sharp breath in.
‘What part of that feels like ‘don’t want’?’ he asked, pulling his angel towards the canopy. ‘Hope you remembered...’
‘Under the pillows. Strawberry scented.'
Jonathan busied his mouth kissing Gethin while he undid his lover’s shirt buttons.
‘Thought it would go with the jelly,’ he said, breaking mouth-contact to shove the shirt off Gethin’s back and fumble him out of his Levi’s.
‘You are completely bonkers, you do know that?’
‘Well, we’ll both be completely starkers in a minute, so that’s all right, isn’t it?’
Jonathan’s body hot now on top of him, hot and heavy, his mouth hungry across Gethin’s nipples, against his neck, on his cock, back up to his mouth.
The mad strawberry scent of lube on Gethin’s fingers, the gasp from Jonathan as he breached his body slowly, preparing the way, Jonathan’s erection huge and hard between them as the angel sat back and guided Gethin into the wonder of his body, slowly lowering himself, impaling himself on Gethin’s erection, gasping and closing his eyes in bliss as Gethins’ hands slid up his thighs to hold him in place while he pushed with his hips, finding the rhythm, finding the angle, watching as Jonathan’s head fell back, his glorious tousled hair tumbling madly, his throat exposed and vulnerable.
‘Kiss me,’ Gethin said, ‘cariad, I need...’
Folding over onto Gethin, Jonathan found his mouth, sliding his hands under his head to raise him to the kiss, moaning into his mouth as Gethin growled and thrust, the dynamics changing with the position, their bodies moving in perfect abandon, Gethin reaching to grasp Jonathan’s cock, to hold him firm as the angel gasped and whimpered and was pulled away, up and back, his wings exploding from his back, his climax shattering out of him and the pulse of his body grasping at Gethin’s erection, pulling tight against him until he cried out and spasmed into Jonathan’s body, and over them both the huge mantle of plumage a resplendent duvet as they clung together in the perfect afterglow.
Cuddling, champagne, more strawberry lube adventures, Gethin falling asleep in a cocoon of feathers, Jonathan keeping secret the tears of joy on his face, grateful his gift had been accepted, that the crazy idea of an unbirthday had gone so well...
He held Gethin close while he slept, wiped his face dry of yet more tears, wondered about humans... why did they celebrate birthdays, when they had so few years, really? Or was that why? There was a creature, a Mayfly, it lived its whole life in one day, just one day...! But that was normal, for a Mayfly, so they never knew that in the river were fish that could live for years, that the fisherman on the bank would live for scores of years... perhaps it was all right.
‘Come on, sweetheart,’ he said, brushing Gethin’s nose with his lips. ‘Time to go.’
But Gethin simply turned in towards him, throwing an arm across Jonathan’s middle. Ah, well. Jonathan could come back and clear up later. Or send Roscoe...
He eased free and dressed quickly, found Gethin’s clothes and wrapped them in one of the pillow cases, tying the top and slinging it over his shoulder before cocooning his lover in the bedding and lifting him, still sleeping, into his arms before leaping into the air, spreading his wings to catch the pre-dawn breeze and lift into the skies, circling over the impromptu camp site before heading off towards London and the little flat above the book shop.
Gethin stirred muzzily and opened his eyes to the over-bright light of morning in his bedroom. He caught sight of Jonathan in the doorway, mug of tea in his hand, heading towards the bed.
‘Morning, cariad,’ he said. ‘Just had the strangest dream... we were on an island... and we didn’t have any lube, so you found some strawberries... and I turned into a giant cloud and flew home...with you singing Happy Birthday to me...’
Jonathan laughed and set down the mug.
‘It isn’t your birthday, though, is it? Not for ages yet.’
‘Not until... oh, no. You’re not catching me out that easily...!’ He reached for the mug and saw what was on the cupboard next to it; strawberry scented lube. ‘Fuck, it wasn’t a dream, was it? Did we really...?’
‘Not actual strawberries, you see. You slept all the way home, too.’ He leaned in for a kiss. ‘Now, if you remember, Steph stayed over, so you’d better put some clothes on before you go to the bathroom...’
‘Thank you,’ Gethin said suddenly. ‘Thanks, cariad, it was the best unbirthday ever. Could we try it again, sometime?’
‘When were you thinking?’
‘August. For you, you should have an August birthday. Best of the weather, golden sunshine, gold like the shimmer on your wings.’
‘Sounds perfect. We can do it every year, if you like. After all, isn’t that what it means, ‘Many Happy Returns’?’