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The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 6)

“I don’t know.”

“I do. You’re ready.”

“But-”

“Trust me, you can do it. You’re healed.”

The Owl hesitated. “Now? Here?”

“Why not? There’s no one around.” They were strolling around the reservoir near the Wolf’s place, dusk falling rapidly and as the Wolf had pointed out, no one about.

“Okay.” The Owl stopped and at first turned to look directly at the Wolf but then changed his mind and turned away. One moment there was a man with brown hair and a reddish beard, the next there was an Owl whose feathers looked blood red in the fading sun.

“Good.” The Wolf watched the Owl ruffle his feathers and spread his wings. “Go on, you can do it.”

The Owl turned to face the Wolf and twisted his head one way and then the other like he was cracking his neck. Then he opened his surprisingly expansive wings, beat once, twice, and was off into the trees. When he could no longer see him the Wolf closed his eyes and tracked his progress with other senses. The Owl circled the reservoir twice and then dropped down below the tree line, landing and changing in one fluid motion onto the gravel pathway in front of the Wolf.

“I did it!” He laughed and hugged the Wolf.

“Yeah ya did.”

“I fucking did it.”

“Told you, you’re fine.”

The Owl kissed the Wolf on the cheek. “Thank you. C’mon!”

The Owl was healed. He took on even more work, he played more gigs, worked on an album, spent less time with the Wolf, Whose job was done. For his part the Wolf was glad for the other boy, happy to have had a part in the Owl’s recovery, understanding of the need to seclude himself and lay to rest some of the demons that had been haunting him. The Owl gave the Wolf a copy of his new album, signed with love and gratitude. He listened to it surrounded by the scent of nag champa incense, face buried in the t-shirt that the Owl had worn when he first became the boy amongst the feathers on the Wolf’s bedroom floor.

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The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 5)

“I hate him. I mean, I don’t hate him, but I hate him. You know?”

“I know.”

“I just… I can’t…” The Owl put down his guitar; the Wolf put down his book.

“I know.”

“I didn’t tell him.”

“Tell him what?”

“About me. What I can do.”

“Oh.”

“And there was stuff he didn’t talk about, too. Stupid things, inconsequential things.”

“It seems odd that you would keep things from each other.”

“Yeah.” He sighed, picked his guitar back up and continued to play, singing softly under his breath. The Wolf watched him a few seconds longer then followed the other boy’s lead.

The Owl felt well enough to take a gig at a local bar filled with boys with fresh beards and glasses they didn’t need and girls with dreadlocks and festival bands crawling up their arms. The Wolf had a tendency to avoid large crowds and loud noise, but he was there, tasting the Owl’s sweat on the air even over all the body spray and the spilt beer. His scent had undergone a subtle but significant change.

The Owl stepped onto the stage, sat at the piano, cleared his throat and then began to play.

“At night the demons crawl from my head,

I’m memories of a long lost man,

I am the feelings that you had,

All of the love and damage done.”

That night the Owl performed like a warrior; that night witnessed those demons crawling from shattered minds wrestled and slain. The Wolf smiled and cheered with the rest of the crowd, though a solitary tear escaped the corner of his eye.


The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 4)

“I want to go home.”

“Okay. You’re not a prisoner, you know; you are allowed to leave.”

“I know.” The Owl cleared his throat. He stared unblinking into the Wolf’s green gold eyes. “Will you come with me?”

The Wolf blinked, marked the page and closed the book. “Of course.”

The Owl’s home was spacious yet cozy, filled with treasures and CDs and vinyls and movie paraphernalia.

“Do you want a cup of tea or something?”

“Please.” On a small table next to the sofa was a framed picture of the Owl with his arm around a young man with blond hair. “Have you got biscuits?”

“So what happened?”

“He didn’t love me. I gave him everything and he let me. He didn’t bother to tell me not to plan my life with him.”

The Wolf stroked the Owl’s arm. “He’s an idiot.”

“I know. I just… no one’s ever fulfilled me on so many levels before.”

The Wolf made a sound. A breath or a snort. “Love is blind, you’ll see.”

The Wolf and the Owl spent their time between both houses, talking into the early hours or reading to each other or listening to music or watching movies or building dens out of blankets and chairs or staring at the stars with steaming mugs of hot chocolate. The Owl went back to work teaching music and his arm continued to heal. The nights he spent alone the Owl wore one of the Wolf’s t-shirt’s, “I sleep better in your scent.”

One night the Wolf let himself into the Owl’s house after knocking a few times to no answer. The now-familiar scent of nag champa incense wrapped around him like a favourite jumper.

From above came a thud and a crash. The Wolf leapt up the stairs, covering half of them in a single bound. As he came up into the living room he barely had time to duck, narrowly avoiding a red glass lantern to the head.

“Shit.” The Owl jumped to his feet. “Are you okay?” He wiped at the tears on his cheeks and delicately picked his way through the carnage that was the living room floor.

“I’m fine.” He took the Owl into his arms, assessing the destruction at their feet. The coffee table was upturned, there were bits of broken glass and reddish brown feathers all over the carpet, DVDs and CDs and books and records were strewn across the room, a lamp was on its side and a plant had been divorced from its pot.

The picture of the Owl and the blond boy was face up on the sofa along with the Owl’s phone and an open notepad.

“Do you feel any better?” The Wolf asked, stroking the back of the other boy’s head.

“A little. Mostly I feel stupid.”

The Wolf held him tighter. “Don’t. You’re not.” He kissed the Owl softly on his temple and moved away. “Stick the kettle on and I’ll start tidying.”


The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 3)

“Try not to use your arm too much. The magic is… delicate.” The Wolf handed him a mug of tea, humming under his breath.

“Okay.” The Owl stared at his arm. “It looks well enough.”

“The bones are still mending.”

“Oh.” The Owl poked his arm, stretched the skin a little. “Where did you learn to heal?”

The Wolf hesitated. “From a witch.”

“Your lover?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Is that where you got the mark on your back from?”

“… Yes. It’s… complicated.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means, little Owl,” he said, tickling the Owl’s ribs. “That I have an angry demon caged in my soul.”

The Owl stopped laughing. “Oh.”

“Don’t worry, I’m kidding. It’s… It’s a curse. There are charms in place to keep it contained.”

“Okay.” The Owl smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“The spells that keep it are strong magics.” The Wolf swallowed. “Death magics.”

“Oh.” The Owl held the other man’s gaze. “I’m sorry,” he said eventually. He took the Wolf’s hand and squeezed it before going back to poking his arm.

The Wolf woke one night to find the bed next to him empty. For a moment his heart throttled his throat, but the soft sound of singing stayed his pulse. He crept from his bed like a shadow. The Owl had built a fire in the living room and was singing quietly into the flames.

“I have a thousand score words,

And an infinity in which to arrange them all,

But not one of them can adequately describe

The feelings you stir.”

The Owl’s voice was surprisingly high and sweet. The slight hitch in it broke the Wolf’s heart. He stood and listened for a little while longer, still as a painting, to songs of love and loss and bitterness and rage and regret, then made his way back to bed before the call to howl grew too great for him to suppress.

“I just want to love you, that’s all.”


The Boy Amongst the Feathers (part 2)

“You reek of pain.”

“What?” The Owl blinked at him through the steam rising from his mug. His sharp green eyes caught the Wolf like a gorgon’s gaze.

“That’s how I found you. I could sense your pain.”

“Oh.”

“I can still sense it.”

The Owl looked down into his tea. “I… lost something. Some one.” A wave of pain rocked them both.

“Me too,” whispered the Wolf.

“Can you get them back?” The Owl asked quietly.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

“Be thankful I found you then.” He raised his mug. “To misery, and good company.”

The Owl stared unblinking for a few moments and then lifted his mug and clinked.

“Now let me look at your arm.”

“Why are you helping me?”

The Owl’s voice tumbled into the dark, plaintive and forlorn, like pebbles into a pool of tears. He lay rigid with his back against the Wolf’s front. The Wolf knew the intimacy bothered the Owl, but he also knew the healing that could be had from being held, especially by someone like the Wolf.

“I told you, I sensed your pain. I could smell it. It buzzed in my head and my nose and my ears.”

“Still, you could’ve left me.”

“You know me well enough by now to know that’s not true.”

The Owl lay in silence for a while. The Wolf shuffled his legs closer to the other boy, and the Owl curled his toes around the Wolf’s.

“What happened to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said you lost someone.”

“He… he died.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” The Wolf’s voice cracked. “You didn’t do it.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Thanks.”

The Owl took the Wolf’s hand and drew it over his own chest, tucking it into his armpit next to his heart. The Wolf buried his nose in the nape of the other boy’s neck and eventually slept.