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Once upon a cold, cold Norwegian winter night

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A snow blizzard takes me by surprise. Cold flashes of snow pass by and fall onto me, making my wings heavier. Some of my feathers freeze till they’re rendered useless. My body hesitates as it tries to hang in the air but unruly winds take me somewhere else. I easily get dragged around by nature like I’m a mere feather in a chaotic sky. I’m off my usual path for sure.

My wings beat too hard and it makes too less of a difference. Panicked I scream as the world around me are only dull colours of white and grey. It makes me dizzy. Before I know it my body hits snow covered rocks. It makes me dizzy and from there it only escalates. Panicked I feel myself tumble down.  

 I scream and my hands desperately grasp into the air for something to hold onto.

Finally my body stops falling and rolls down some hill. I keep my eyes shut and hope I’ll wake up in my warm nest. But alas, the cold keeps nagging at me so I keep my wings safely wrapped around me. They hurt. My whole body aches and stings. I jolt when I feel another presence. In a reflex I open my wings a bit when they’re touched. A sharp light shines in my face. A flash of dark eyes make contact with mine. That’s the first time I meet the human Bjørn.

 

--

 

Bjørn brings me into the station where he eventually prepares some food for himself which I end up eating. I kind of feel guilty for that but the human doesn’t seem to mind. Our first conversation is clunky and rusty but we get along for the brief time being anyway.

After Bjørn cleaned up the place he turns to me. “So… Thord, do you have a place to sleep?”

 I simply point upward.

“But my wings are damaged. I doubt I can fly. And then there’s the weather-”

 “Yeah, yeah. I get that,” Bjørn cuts me off and I hope I didn’t say something wrong. “What about… Are you alright with the idea of spending the night at my place then?”

 Almost too enthusiastically I exclaim: “For real?”

 “You don’t have else where to go and I live alone so… Space enough.” Bjørn avoids eye-contact. Then we go outside and get into his car. During my few visits to the humans Below, I only watched the cars. Never have I been in one of them before, let alone one that moves.

I sit next to Bjørn and try to adjust my position so I don’t damage my feathers even further.

 “Everything alright?”

“I’m fine. I’ve never been in a car before,” I confess nervously as I hold onto my belt. Bjørn laughs.

 “I’ll drive carefully. We all have to.”

Then he starts the engine and the car comes to life. The whole drive to the human’s house, I’m on edge.

 “Thord. Thord? You can open your eyes again.”

“Oh.” Apparently I had my eyes closed during the whole trip. Awkwardly I flop out of the car and follow the smaller man into his home. It’s a small house but it looks comfy. It kind of reminds me of my own little cabin in the mountains.

 

I follow Bjørn to his kitchen. He warms up some milk and asks if I want some. I nod.

 “So… Thord, what do you think?”

“Of what?”

 “This house. I know it’s not much but it can provide the two of us.”

“It’s nice. I don’t live more luxurious than you, to be honest.” Bjørn’s home looks like that of my own people. I start wondering if we’re not more similar than my parents keep telling me.

 “Good. You’ll have to get used to this place either way. I mean… How long are you planning to stay?”

“I don’t know.” I throw a look at my wings. They’re bruised.

 “Whatever. We’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m sleepy and I’m going to bed.” Bjørn finishes his glass of milk and leaves it on the kitchen tableau. Not sure if I should follow him already, I keep my distance until Bjørn calls me from another side of the house. It’s the living room. There’s a couch there and the human has taken out a blanket. I peer at it.

 “Not good enough? Or don’t you.. eh, sleep in a similar way?” the human questions. He raises a dark eyebrow and crosses his arms.

 “We sleep in beds too,” I stammer.

 “Oh. Well… I have an actual bed for two people but-,” Bjørn’s voice trails off and then I catch him looking at me intensively. He’s actually smaller than me. How funny.

And what’s also funny, is that Bjørn now takes me with him to his bedroom. I didn’t really intend to spend the night in the same bed but now I am. I’m not complaining nor telling him that I could also sleep on the couch anyway.

 “I hope you can sleep or do your wings hurt too much?”

“It’s alright,” I smile at him. Bjørn rolls his eyes before he rolls himself over, showing me his back. For a quick glance he turns back: “Oh, and it can be I snore. Don’t take it personal. Bad habit of mine.”

Once I stare at his back, I hear him snigger.

 “Okay. Sleep well and thanks for letting me stay here.”

“It’s nothing. And good night.”

 

The following morning I wake up too early. It’s still four AM when I wake from a stressful dream. My heart’s still pounding loudly in my chest as I sit up in an unfamiliar but warm bed.

The pain in my wings is back, reminding me of my fall. Confused I look around in the dark to spot the human sleeping next to me. Somehow watching the human sleep, calms my mind and amuses me all the same. Bjørn. His hair looks almost as messy as before. The frown that he showed before is completely gone as he’s in a state of serenity.

 I have to admit that I almost jumped out of bed when he unexpectedly snored.

Keeping the giggle inside me, I lay down again and try to sleep some more. By the time I wake up, Bjørn has left the bed already. I go downstairs where I find him in his kitchen. He looks shocked when he sees me.

 “Good morning, Bjørn,” I put on an easy smile to reassure him.

“Oh, ehm.. Good morning, Thord. I hope you slept well?” he gestures me to join him at the table. I nod.

 “Your bed’s really soft.”

“Really, you think so? Good for you then. Here, you must be hungry.” Bjørn shoves a plate with crackers toward me. There’s some cheese on it and happily munch down the food.

 “You got some appetite. I like men who like food,” the human laughs out loud. Suddenly he goes quiet and I wonder if I did something wrong. From the looks of it, he said something wrong. I don’t know what, though.

 “I mean… It’s always good if you’re into food,” Bjørn rephrases himself before he stands up and walks out of the kitchen.

By the time he returns, he’s properly dressed.

 “Are you going to work?” I ask him. He nods.

“Yeah. Hate to break it to you, but I think it’s better for you to stay at my house for today.” Part of me is sad he doesn’t want me at his work but I also understand why. Also, I don’t know if I’d want attention of other humans at the moment. I still kind of have to get used to Bjørn and his habits.

 

--

 

While Bjørn’s away, I roam around in his house. I look at the way he has his kitchen organized. I see similarities in how we’ve arranged the living room. My eyes trail over a rack with music. CDs. In that regard, Bjørn lives modern as where I still have a record player and other old fashioned goods.

Then my attention comes to a halt on another shelf. There’s two framed photos there. A picture of a black, fuzzy dog is in the green frame. The other photo shows Bjørn himself and another man.

 Bjørn looks younger. I wonder how many years ago this picture was taken.

It gives me a nostalgic feel. I wish we had photo cameras but we only rely on our minds and memories.

 

By the time Bjørn comes back, I’m sitting on his couch watching TV. There’s not much interesting on but I didn’t want to get my nose too much into the human’s stuff. It would be inappropriate.

 “Glad to see you haven’t died from boredom,” Bjørn cackles when he walks in and thuds down next to me. He has two bottles of beer with him and gives me one.

While he is attentively watching TV, I observe the human. Something about him is interesting, alluring. He has rough looks, much like myself. Bjørn’s hands look bruised, calloused. I bet it’s from all the working. He has a slight worn-out face and I wonder how tired he really is.

 The way he lazily takes a sip from his beer, the slouched position he is in. When we make eye-contact, he looks like he got caught red handed. The flutter in his eyes and the way they quickly look somewhere else makes me feel things I shouldn’t feel.

 “Everything alright?” he stammers confused. I smile and nod innocently.

“The beer is tasty.”

 “Yeah, it is.”

 

--

 

When Bjørn shows me how the shower works, I could easily tell him to go away. But I don’t. Instead I come up with a lame excuse but Bjørn luckily buys it.

I quickly undress and try to ignore the fact that the human is desperately trying not to look down. It’s funny and kind of endearing. It makes me wish I can stay a bit longer at Bjørn’s home than necessary.

 

--

 

Which is exactly what happens. My wings have healed at a rapid pace. Too fast for me. Still, I pretend I can’t fly well enough to go home. And as long as Bjørn doesn’t show any signs of being tired of me, I can stay.

From what I learnt so far, is that the man is quite straight forward in his feelings and thoughts. He doesn’t cover his truths and opinions, doesn’t tone them down. I appreciate his honesty. It made me open up to him easier.

 I’m glad our relationship turned into a friendship real quick.

 

--

 

Everything is going fine and Bjørn and I are the last persons remaining in the gas station. We clean up the place like we usual do. Now, with the certainty of no one barging in, I can expose my wings.

 It’s nicer that way when I can move them freely.

My wings may have healed but I still feel light bruises here and there. I’m using a broom and when some tasteful music comes on, I dance along. I fluff my feathers and higher the wings.

All of a sudden I hear the back door open. I stiffen and keep the broom in front of me as defence. Bjørn is the closest to the threat. Even though he eventually relaxes his stance, I’m still standing still like a stick.

 A man smaller than Bjørn has entered the gas station. From the brief conversation the two have, it’s Bjørn’s brother. In a reflex my wings rise and cover me partly. Not that it’s hiding the wings. The intruder throws a confused look. He has brown but greying hair, longer than Bjørn’s. I wouldn’t have guessed they were brothers.

 When Bjørn’s brother calls me an ‘it’, I’m slightly offended. I remain quiet about it and Bjørn makes a clumsy introduction. The brother makes eye-contact and I now nod to be polite.

I hold my breath when the man steps toward me. He walks circles around me, almost like a predator, and inspects me.

 “Is this some funky costume or what?” Again, I feel offended in my pride. Still, I don’t call him out on it but when the stranger is about to touch my feathers I jump away and pull my wings close to my back.

 “Oh my god, they’re real!” Bjørn’s brother has big eyes. If I weren’t in this uncomfortable situation, I would’ve laughed.

 

During the awkward conversation between Bjørn, his brother and me I’m glad my friend chooses my side. Quite literally, we sit next to each other. It makes me feel safer.

Bjørn defends me at one point and I try to read his brother’s face for any signs of threat. There’s none to be found. My friend’s sibling has a slimmer face and bigger eye bags. His eyes are almost grey, unlike Bjørn’s dark blue ones. He looks tired. But somehow friendly. Slowly the initial unease seeps away.

 When I tell my friend’s brother that I’m planning to leave after my wings have healed, I feel an ache in my chest I didn’t feel before.

 

When we go outside I’m taken by surprise. A large red vehicle stands parked, almost taking up the whole parking place. I gawk at it in awe.

 The smaller man explains it’s for rescuing people. My view on these red trucks has totally changed. I always thought they were harmful but they’re actually serve a noble cause.

Without hesitation I jump onto the vehicle, using my wings to lift me higher. Bjørn is in shock and yells at me for being reckless. I kind of feel sorry for him because he thinks I’m still severely hurt.

 

--

 

It’s fun getting some attention of customers now that I no longer have to hide my wings. I proudly show them off. At least most humans seem to appreciate the colours. Or just the whole fact that I’m a guy with freaking wings that can make him fly.

 Throwing side-glares at Bjørn, tells me he isn’t that happy about the customers staying longer because of me. Good for him, a few days later the hype is over and I can work in peace again.

 

--

 

Time goes on and sometimes I get the feeling my friend’s ignoring me. He acts more coldly at some moments and I wonder if he’s finally getting tired of me. Just thinking about it, makes me sad.

 The next wing shower feels uneasy. But I’m glad I get out the bathroom with a lightened heart. Bjørn told me he didn’t mean to look so distant. And it was kind of cute when he blushed after I grinned at him. I barely see him blush. Most of the time he keeps that frown on his face all day.

But when we’re at his house, that façade almost melts. And it’s always a delight to see my friend light up and smile and laugh. And blush.

 

--

 

I awake from my slumber. I’m thirsty and need something to drink. The first thing that pops up in my mind, is the kitchen. I yawn, get out of the bed and almost sleepwalk through the house.

There are voices coming from the kitchen so I stop in my tracks. I hold my breath and listen. My chest falls and I exhale when I hear it’s Bjørn and Tor.

 

“… date… interest as well.”

 “What? How?”

“… romantic type, are you?” I hear Tor chuckling. I wonder what’s it all about. Are they talking about dating? The thought of Bjørn going on a date with someone (it certainly isn’t me) makes my heart jump. Just imagining him and someone (not me) together makes me all warm and I swear I could fly but then I’d bump into the ceiling and expose my, probably forbidden presence.

 Instead, I play it cool and pretend I just walk in.

The slight shock in their faces betray they were talking about some secret.

 “Nothing, really. Don’t’ worry about it,” Bjørn smiles a forced smile. I nod. Ha, as if I’d believe him now.

 “Oh, okay. Just getting up to drink some water,” I say instead and do as I say.

When Tor asks me about plans next week I’m glad to say if have spare time.

 

--

 

Tor and I sit together in his truck. We’re on our way to an accident. According to the reports, no people got injured and the road should be relatively safe.

 I’m hyped but have to contain some excitement. That’s wings included. I’ve folded them against my back and they’re hidden behind a big jumpsuit. Tor laughed when he saw me in it.

 “Maybe it’s a bit too big but the wings fill it up.”

The suit fits surprisingly comfortable though. It’s baggy yet firm around the arms. It keeps me warm too. The drive is one hour and a half.

 “So… How’s my brother doing? Is he treating you well, I hope?” Tor asks.

“Yes. He’s friendly to me. He may not admit it, but he’s very friendly. Despite how he sometimes acts.”

That makes Tor chuckle. “Yeah, Bjørn isn’t a people person. He’d rather keeps his distance from everybody. That makes me wonder why he even works at the gas station.”

 I shrug my shoulders.

“I’m also surprised the way he behaves around you. If you ask me, he’s become softer.”

 “Is that a bad thing?” I wonder but Tor shakes his head.

“No, it’s good. I’m glad someone has come around to soften his edges.”

 

We finally arrive at the scene and I can’t wait to help out. Or at least, watch carefully.

 Tor immediately judges the situation and opens a door in the truck. He takes out some chains and asks me to carry some of them to the stranded car.

 “These things will help the tires get a better grip on the car,” he explains.

The next few steps look like magic to me. At one point he has taken out this large hook which he puts onto the car. Then Tor holds a box device with lots of buttons. I wonder how long it took him to memorize the function of each button. He also has to control a few levers on the truck itself.

 I watch the car get pulled on the road in slow-motion. It makes some screeching sounds but Tor manages to save the vehicle from being damaged any further. I help him store things back and then we’re on the road for another rescue already.

 It’s fun. And during the time in-between I have some fun banter with him. But the closer we get to noon, the more I think of my lunch with Bjørn. What if my suspicions are wrong?

Then I can still have a fun afternoon with my friend, I think.

 

--

 

As soon as Bjørn mutters a silent ‘date’ I feel like my heart wants to escape my chest. But right after, comes the disbelief of course.

 “A date?” I stammer. Did I hear it correct or am I just chasing empty dreams? “Like… like between lovers or something?” I clarify my question.

Then Bjørn bursts out: “Yes!” A lower sentence follows. “Well… Not exactly lovers. I mean, we obviously are not and- but this is meant to- shit. You know what I mean, Thord!”

That makes me warm again. Bjørn means it. Else he wouldn’t act as exaggerated like this.

 “So… So you want to say you like me?” I ask again. I have to get a clearer answer.

“Yes,” Bjørn’s posture stiffens and there’s a frown on his face. He even crosses his arms, making me feel tense as well now.

  “Yeah. I do kind of like you in more ways than one and-, you know. I thought that we could get to know each other better on these eh, dates.”

 Before I can stop myself, I jokingly add: “Well, I hate to break it to you but we’re living together for a few weeks now and-”

 Bjørn cuts me off with a harsh “As friends.” His face is red and he almost looks angry. I’m afraid I fucked up, as my friend would phrase it. I don’t know what to say. I can only hear my heart beating in my ears. Very loud. I’m nervous.

 “As friends but not as more. And I hoped to see if something could grow out of this. If maybe you’d return this shit I’m feeling.”

The fact that Bjørn is using strong language, means he’s serious about it. There’s hope after all.

 

I can’t properly say what I’m feeling now. My wings move on their own, nervous as well;

 Then my friend speaks up again: “You know what? Let’s make this easier for the both of us. Just say if you like me too or not?”

I couldn’t respond faster this time around: “It’s actually easy. I like you too, Bjørn.” Then I want him to know another truth. “But I also have to confess something else.”

Bjørn, unfazed by my love confession to him wants to know about the other confession immediately.

 I tell him about my wings and how they’ve healed quite some time ago.

It’s met with confusion and shock and surprise. It’s great hearing Bjørn reassure me I haven’t been an annoyance to him at all.

When the food arrives, I call him my partner for the first time. It feels so good to hear it explicitly.

 The chicken and fries are delicious and I thank my lover for choosing the right dish.

 

--

 

Bjørn just doesn’t’ wake up. No matter how much I poke him. Slightly frustrated with that I jump out of bed alone. I’m not giving up, though. I go to the bathroom and return with three plastic cups filled to the brim with cold water. I snigger already and before the tremble of my cackling spills the water, I throw the liquid into Bjørn’s face.

 Finally, a reaction. And what kind of reaction. His eyes basically shoot open. It takes my partner one look before he’s out of bed, chasing me out of the bedroom.

 “Thord! You’ll fucking regret that shit!”

I’m faster however and dodge his attacks that consist of books and other material that gets thrown my way. I laugh throughout the whole chase. After I’m running out of breath, so is Bjørn. I ‘surrender’ and fall into the mattress. My friend joins me and outs a loud sigh.

 “No regrets,” I pout.

Bjørn rolls his eyes and is about to sleep again. That’s where I Bjørn pulls a surprise attack. A tickle attack. The bastard has learnt over the past few days that my feathers are also tickle sensitive.

 I laugh until my belly hurts and we have to take a rest.

“Oh, come here, you oddball!” Bjørn gestures and he doesn’t have to ask twice or I’m already cuddled up against him. I let one of my wings fall over him like a blanket. He always looks so pleased when I do that.

 “I’m too tired to be truly mad at you,” Bjørn snorts and I grin.

“I know.” That earns me a playful push before he holds me tighter in his embrace.

Now, morning cuddles is something I could never grow tired of. That means I don’t care if I wake up earlier just to steal one early hour to lay with my favourite human.

 

--

 

“Thord! Oh my god, I thought we fucking lost you!” my mom runs over to me and wraps her arms and wings around me. At one moment my dad has to pull her off me or I might’ve choked in her strong hold. She gives me a concerned but also judgemental look.

 “Where have you been all these weeks?”

“Down. Where the humans live,” I reply in all honesty. Both parents look shocked and mom even turns pale.

 “How did you even survive? I hope those bastards didn’t beat you up or locked you up.”

I reassure her they didn’t. “No mom, in fact, I’ve befriended a human.” My dad swallows and mom turns to me with a grimace.

 “He saved me, mom! During that snowstorm I got hit and fell off the mountain. Then Bjørn found me and took me in. He’s been everything but cruel or mean to me.”

 “A human,” my dad shakes his head. My mom frowns and sighs. She’s obviously disappointed. I sigh. I already feared as much. My parents aren’t the most open minded couple on this world.

 “He’s okay. And he taught me that we have a lot of wrong prejudices about humans,” I counter, getting in the defensive mode.

 “Oh my, alright, I’ll try to calm down.” It’s followed by a few ancient swear words that make me chuckle.

 “So… Thord, good to see you made it home safely. But… but did you stay with those humans the whole time during your absence?” my dad wants to know.

 “Yes.”

“Okay, I-, dear Odin, we should be happy to have our son back.”

 “Besides, mom and dad, I’d like to introduce you to a special friend of mine. Bjørn.”

“You took a human with you all the way up?” Mom almost shrieks and I take a step back.

 “M-Mom, please,” I stammer. Luckily dad manages to soothe her a little.

“Please, I’d like it if you were to be respectful towards my friend. He’s a true hero to me, okay,”

My parents nod but I see their unease int heir postures and eyes.

 “So no stupid remarks or anything?”

“We’ll try,” mom bitterly says. I sigh, try to smile and walk outside to bring my partner with me.

Sadly Bjørn’s meeting doesn’t turn out as wanted but that doesn’t mean I turn him down. Instead we decide to go back to my own little cabin to rest.

The let-down gets slightly uplifted by my dad having second thoughts. I decide to give mom some more time to process the fact that her only son now brings a man home, a human of all species.

 Still, I don’t care much about what my parents think about Bjørn. After all, I’m secretly thinking of just living with him in his world instead of the cold upper mountains.

We lay together in my nest made bed. Bjørn’s already sleeping. He looks at peace. His chest raises and falls in a steady pace. There’s a bit of red on his face. It’s cute and I kiss his cheek.

 I cuddle up against him and close my eyes.

It’s easy to fall in sleep here and soon I drift of to the land of sweet dreams where Bjørn and I have both wings and fly around in the sky all day.