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A Birthday Gift

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Gleeson wakes up because there's something warm and fidgety sprawling all over his chest. Or rather, someone. Even in his sleepy state he knows that can only be his overly cuddly, early-bird dork of a boyfriend.

 

"Bates," he groans and lets his head roll to the side, only to find that his nose is now buried in Bates's hair. Which is rather pleasant, Gleeson must admit – Bates already took a shower, his hair is still a bit damp and it smells flowery from that ridiculous shampoo and conditioner Bates uses. Gleeson could fall asleep like that again, with Bates as a heavy, warm weight on his chest and that lovely smell that Gleeson is so used to by now that he connects it to home – but Bates doesn't let him.

 

“Wake up, Gee, wake up!” Bates says excitedly and Gleeson can feel him move around – suddenly the nice smell of Bates's hair is gone. Gleeson is still too dazed to open his eyes, and talking is too much of an effort, so he just groans again and mumbles something that might slightly resemble “too early” and “more sleep”. Bates will get it, he's lived with Gleeson for long enough.

 

Sadly, Bates doesn't seem to have mercy today. “Nope, not happening, babe. It's your birthday, and I have lots of plans for us today, and it's already half past eight!”

 

Gleeson wants to tell him that half past eight is still way too early, and oh yeah, right, it's his birthday, so Gleeson should totally be entitled to sleep as long as he wants, thank you. But then again, arguing against Bates in moments like this is utterly pointless, because Bates has the advantage of a brain that's already wide awake. So Gleeson just sighs and accepts his fate.

 

When he opens his eyes, Bates is right there, his face only inches from Gleeson's, his chin resting on Gleeson's chest. It's one of Gleeson's favourite things to wake up to and one thing that always makes him smile, even when he's still tired and cranky.

 

“Hi there,” Bates grins and leans forward for a quick kiss.

 

Judging from the taste of the kiss, Bates already had chocolate this morning.

 

“Chocolate?” Gleeson asks, still unable to form full sentences.

 

Bates bites his lower lip and smirks. “I baked a chocolate cake for you. But I already had to try it to make sure that it was good enough for you.”

 

Gleeson knows that his boyfriend is the most ridiculous and the cheesiest person on the whole planet, but sometimes small stuff like that still catches him off-guard and makes him smile so much his face hurts. “When did you get up?” he asks. Must have been early if Bates had the time to bake a cake and take a shower.

 

“Five,” Bates says like it's no big deal.

 

And Gleeson knows that it isn't really for Bates, even though Gleeson will never understand. “You're insane,” Gleeson comments and wants to wrap his arms around Bates to cuddle a bit and maybe get away with dozing off for another twenty minutes – but Bates won't let him.

 

“No time for that now, I made you breakfast, and also, I want you to meet someone,” Bates explains, already up and halfway out of the door.

 

Gleeson is confused for a bunch of different reasons. For one, since when is there no time for cuddles in the morning on Bates's schedule? And secondly – “Meet someone?” Gleeson asks. “Now? I'm not wearing any legs or clothes.”

 

Bates is already out of the room, but shouts a reply from next door. “Oh, he won't mind.”

 

Whatever that's supposed to mean, Gleeson is pretty sure that it doesn't make sense and that he probably should get dressed if there's some stranger in their apartment. But when he looks around the room he realises that his legs are in the bathroom. Damn, so he has to get up.

 

But before he can actually do that, Bates is already back again and he's holding –

 

“A puppy?!” Gleeson exclaims and can't quite process what's going on. There's a big, fluffy Golden Retriever puppy in Bates's arms, wearing a big, pink ribbon around his neck, looking all adorable. All the facts are there for Gleeson to see, but it doesn't make sense yet.

 

Bates smiles his brightest smile and walks over to the bed. He sits down next to Gleeson and puts the dog into Gleeson's lap. “Happy Birthday, Gee,” Bates singsongs.

 

Gleeson is speechless.

 

The dog decides to use that moment of silence to bark happily, then he wags his tail and puts both his front paws against Gleeson's chest, as if he wants to climb him. Suddenly, Gleeson looks into the most adorable brown eyes he's ever seen. Okay, correction, the second most adorable ones, because Bates's are more adorable. Just a tiny bit, but still.

 

Gleeson is pretty sure his heart melts.

 

He rubs the dog’s ears gently while Bates moves closer to let the dog lick his hand. The dog feels so soft that it’s almost unreal, and his warm, clumsy paws are stumbling all over Gleeson, and for a moment right there he thinks that this is the best birthday present ever and Bates is the most perfect boyfriend in the entire universe.

 

But then he remembers something. “We’re not even allowed to have pets,” he mumbles gloomily, and his smile turns into a white, thin line of lips. How could he have forgotten about that? How could Bates have forgotten about that?

 

“What?” Bates just asks. His smile vanishes as well, and Gleeson instantly feels horrible for being the cause of that.

 

He swallows. “B, you know that. We’re not allowed to have pets in our apartment, it’s in our lease.”

 

The dog is suddenly very still as well, as if he knows that the next few moments decide about his whole future.

 

It breaks Gleeson’s heart, but he knows he’s right and there’s nothing he can do about it. “I’m sorry, but… anyway,” he starts as a weak attempt to console Bates, “it’s better that way, B. We don’t have time for a dog, we’re always at uni during the day, and we’re planning our trip to New York, remember? We’ve been saving up for that for ages. And…”

 

He’s sure that there are a million more reasons why having a dog is actually a bad idea, but somehow he forgot them all. And the reason for that is the fact that not only one, but two pairs of puppy dog eyes are looking at him so sadly that it makes his skin ache.

 

“But,” Bates begins, his voice so tiny, like Gleeson never heard it before, “We have to keep him. Look at him! Look at the amount of adorbs! And I already talked to Mrs. Flint from next door, she’s more than happy to take care of him when we’re both busy.”

 

Gleeson feels the voice of reason in his head crumble. “B, we can’t!” he replies and it comes out whiny. “It’s in our lease!”

 

But Bates just throws his hands in the air like the drama queen he is. “Bah, lease schmease! Nobody even cares about that! Mrs. Flint has a shitload of hamsters, and Joe and Rosie, you know, from upstairs, they have a parrot and three snakes! Gleeson, listen. This tiny ball of fluffy sunshine needs us. And we need him, it’s our destiny. Please say yes?”

 

The puppy dog eyes from both Bates and the dog only intensify and Gleeson knows that all resistance is futile. It’s not like he would be able to give that tiny fluff ball away again anyway – he doesn’t have the willpower for that. “Okay,” he sighs, and he’s sure that he will live to regret that.

 

Bates rewards him with a bone-crushing hug and another chocolate-flavoured kiss. “Happy Birthday, Gee,” Bates cheers again. And just like that, they suddenly have a dog.

 

“Guess what his name is,” Bates asks during breakfast – which isn’t just regular breakfast, but instead a picnic on their living room floor, where the dog continues to sit on Gleeson’s lap as if this is his rightful place now.

 

Gleeson raises his eyebrows. “Oh, so I don’t even get a say in the name?”

 

Bates grins at him, throws a grape in the air and catches it with his mouth. Show-off. “Nope,” Bates replies. “There’s only one true name for that dog.”

 

That doesn’t make sense to Gleeson at all. “But how should I guess?” he asks. “I have no idea.”

 

For a second there, Bates almost looks a bit offended. “Come on, Gee. The name is based on an inside joke of our past.”

 

Gleeson can’t hold back a burst of laughter that bubbles over his lips. “Are you kidding me?! We have thousands of inside jokes!” He racks his brain about what Bates might mean. They’ve repeatedly joked about how Thor is just a big Golden Retriever puppy in a human-looking vessel, so maybe Bates means that?

 

But before Gleeson can ask about that, Bates already says: “Okay, I’m going to give you a tip. Remember our sleepovers?”

 

That’s not really the greatest tip, Gleeson has to say. They have had a lot of sleepovers, especially as kids, and so often they had talked all night, about so many different things that it’s impossible to remember every single one of them.

 

Then again, there was this one ongoing conversation they had during a couple of sleepovers, Gleeson suddenly remembers. One where they were talking about getting a dog together one day, because a dolphin was sadly not an option, and where they were arguing about dog names…

 

“Oh no,” Gleeson realizes with horror. “You didn’t really call him Barkley, did you?”

 

Bates snickers. “It would’ve been undeniably genius, I’m still standing by that, but no.”

 

Gleeson sighs in relieve and pets the dog’s head. As cute as that little fella is, Gleeson thinks he wouldn’t be able to love him as much as he deserves it if his name was actually Barkley.

 

“Try again, you’re getting closer,” Bates grins and catches another grape with his mouth.

 

Gleeson tries to remember everything about those conversations properly. Did they ever come to a conclusion when they tried to find a name for their future dog?

 

And then he suddenly remembers, because yes, they did. “If anything,” he hears his eleven-year old self echo in his head, “the dog should be named Finn, just like my dolphin. You know, because we can’t have a real dolphin.”

 

“Finn!” Gleeson shouts excitedly, “we actually have a dog called Finn now!” A strange sort of happiness comes with this realization, that one of their impossible childhood dreams has become a reality.

 

Finn barks happily, like he already knows that’s his name, and Bates gives him the biggest smile.

 

“Isn’t that just the best?” Bates says and leans forward to ruffle the dog’s soft fur. And then, because he’s already close enough, he steals another kiss from Gleeson, just because he can.

 

And Gleeson must admit: Yes, it definitely is the best. And Bates definitely is the best boyfriend in the whole universe and this is the best birthday present ever.

 

“Thanks,” Gleeson finally manages, because words are suddenly hard and he has to work hard to not get too emotional. “Thank you so much.”

 

Bates’s eyes sparkle. “Oh, but this is just the beginning. Wait until you see the chocolate cake.“