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Be Careful What You Wish For

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It started when everyone, too busy with adult life and work, sort of forgot Jack's birthday.  

Not his parents, of course. They always remembered. 

His friends forgot his birthday. Not forgotten, perhaps. More of mislaid. 

But Holster did forget the birthday candles. 

Maybe it started even before the forgetting. Probably. That's how these things work. 

Jack, divorced, lonely, sad and with his thirtieth birthday coming up, hadn't been looking forward to it, but he didn't feel he could keep it by himself.  Wallowing a bit in misery, figuring he'd never find anyone who would put up with him, with his silences and his anxiety, with his drive to play a perfect game of hockey.

 He knew what a challenge living with him could be, and he was hard to love.

 Bryan had told him.

 "You're so difficult to live with. And loving you is too hard." Bryan picked up the last box of his stuff and slammed the door behind him.

 The week of the imminent natal day, he mentioned being almost thirty to Shitty and Shitty mouthed to Lardo, "Operation Fuck Yeah, Birthday Boy!"

 Lardo, who rarely felt guilty about anything, felt terrible. She took matters into her hands and assigned the various jobs to the group of friends. That's how Holster ended up with the responsibility of the candles.
 Or not, as the case may be. 

 The cake, she gave to herself. She'd pick it up after work. Unfortunately, since it all happened last minute, it ended up just a grocery store cake. Some tired bakery staff had drizzled 'Happy Birthday, Jake!' on top.

 Lardo sighed. There wasn't time to get it fixed. At least the icing was purple. 

 But it boiled down to Holster forgetting to get candles.

Lards to Holster: You'd better have remembered candles.

Holster to Lardo: Of course I remembered candles! My honour has been besmirched

Holster to Ransom: Dude I forgot to pick up candles

Ransom to Holster: No judgement. I know a place.

 So perhaps Ransom held some blame. 

 He knew a place.

 The place turned out to be an occult bookstore not far from Jack's condo. Ransom had a deep fascination for the weird and mysterious.  

 Holster clapped his hands as if he were six and pointed to the sign outside the shop. The list of items on the sandwich board included candles. The smell of incense and books tickled their noses. Every shelf held promise and intrigue alongside the cards and trinkets. A massive glass display case glimmered with crystals and charms. Ransom didn't believe in the occult, but he didn't not believe either. A far cry from the study of science and medicine, but how else could he explain the two mysterious ("And transparent, Holtzy! See-through!") women who showed up in the Haus to torment him during college. 

 Holster stood near the door motioning to Ransom to get a move on. He held his arms close to his body, afraid if he moved, he'd knock something over and break it. 

 "May I help you?" A young woman sat behind a large counter in the middle of the shop. 

 Holster jumped, hit the overburdened table near the door with his hip and the tinkle of glass reverberated through the shop.

 The young woman narrowed her eyes.

 "Uh, yeah," said Ransom, "I hope so. It's my friend's birthday, and we forgot to pick up candles. You don't have anything we could use instead? I mean, sorry, I know you're not that kind of store, but we're kind of desperate." He smiled his most winning smile, the one that always guaranteed pussy.

 The woman smiled back but with a slight edge, not won over by masculine charm. Her tolerance of people coming in as a joke, not taking The Craft seriously, had reached its limit. That and the asshat friend had broken an expensive scrying sphere. The imp of the perverse whispered in her ear. Literally. The two men couldn't see it sitting on her shoulder. "I have the very thing." She rummaged around in a box on the floor behind the case. 
 "I haven't put these out yet. They're special."

 She handed him a package of candles in a plain black box, with the words Make A Wish on the cover in embossed lettering, slightly lighter in colour than the box. Ransom held them in his hand, and he could have sworn it vibrated slightly. He opened it and peered inside. There were ten candles in a rich purple. Smelling faintly of wax with an almost apple cinnamon scent, they were slightly fatter than the average birthday candle and taller.
 "Cool! Jack likes purple. So what makes them magic?"

 "That would be giving away secrets, now wouldn't it. It's important to place these particular candles in the formation of a pentagram. You'll only need half of the box. You could save the others for another time. The birthday person must make a clear and direct wish. They blow out the candles, and voila! Wish come true."


 She leaned forward, smiled and placed a hand on his arm, knowing what worked. "Would I lie to you?"

 Ransom shook his head, paid for the candles and the broken scrying sphere and asked her for her number.

 Holster scowled a bit but didn't say a word as he only had himself to blame. 

 "Why don't you come back sometime and tell me what happened at the party, and we'll see where things go?"



They arrived at Jack's only a few minutes late. On the kitchen counter sat the adequate birthday cake. 

 "Who the hell is 'Jake'?" Ransom asked.

 "Shut up, or I will smack you up the side of the head, I swear," threatened Lardo. 

 Ransom started to say she'd need to stand on a chair to do it but thought that might not be wise.

 Holster rummaged in the fridge and pulled out a spray can of whipped cream. It was just within the expiry date, leftover from that time they'd made shooters. He drew a neat pentagram overtop of the words, and Ransom placed the candles, one in each corner. 

 Shitty, standing nearby, snuck an errant finger and broke through one straight line, nothing significant, and no one could notice. He licked off the whipped cream, smacked his lips. Lardo lit the candles, turned out the dining room lights, and they all gathered to sing Happy Birthday. Holster sang 'Jake' overtop of everyone else when they got to the name part.

 "Make a wish, you beauteous mother fucker," Shitty said.

 Ransom and Holster forgot to mention the shopkeeper's instructions regarding clear, direct wishes.

 Jack sighed inwardly, for he loved his friends. He glared internally at the dubious cake. 'Jake' peeked out from under the whipped cream. 

 He thought about how much he disliked cake. No one ever asked him what he wanted.

 Pie. He liked pie.

 Mixed in, underneath his surface desires, sat an added layer of the pent-up longing of a thirty-year-old man who could use a little tenderness, a little cuddling, definitely some sex. Jack made his wish, silently.

 I wish I could meet someone, anyone, someone to touch and hold, someone to lie with, wake up to in the morning with neck nuzzles, someone to cherish, who might love me back.

 And, of course, underneath the wistful, forlorn primary wish, he also wished for pie.

 He blew out the candles.

 Everyone started to cheer but stopped almost immediately.

 A hot breeze whipped through the apartment, redolent with the odours of apple, cinnamon and a hint of brimstone. The lights in the kitchen and hallway flickered a bit. A puff of smoke and a shadow appeared, cast on the wall opposite Jack. 

 Everyone gasped. Holster turned the dining room lights back on.

 Someone had joined them. He stood a little taller than Lardo. His strawberry blond hair flopped over his eyes, and a pair of small, reddish horns peeked through. He wore very short shorts, red to match the horns and a sleeveless shirt. Over top, the hem lower than the shorts, a pink apron with the words Watch Me Whip emblazoned on the front. Like, with real flames.

 And in his hands, he held a pie.

 An honest to goodness pie. Steam rose from the perfectly latticed top, obviously fresh out of the oven, and he held the tin in bare, long-fingered hands, without oven mitts. Jack noticed the hands, perhaps right after the shorts and a bit before the horns. 

 "Uh," said Holster.

  "Who the hell are you?" Asked Lardo, always direct.

 The personage rolled his eyes, shifted the pie to one hand and placed the other on his hip. In a voice like Southern sunshine, thick like honey, he said, "Bless your heart, which one of you was the bright bulb who not only summoned a minor imp without proper wards and no clue as to my name but broke the pentagram for good measure? Lucky for you, I work in Hell's Kitchen and am not interested in harvesting souls." His reddish-brown eyes twinkled at Jack as he gave him a long sweep up and down. "At least, not normally." 

 Jack swallowed and wondered if he was coming down with something. His stomach felt fluttery and his mouth dry.

 Lardo hissed at Holster, "What did you do?"  

 "Me? Why me? Why does everyone-okay-yeah, it was me." He explained about the forgotten candles and the purchase from the occult shop. 

 The imp tsked. "Seeing as I am stuck here for the foreseeable future, we might as well have pie. Wouldn't want it to go to waste." He made his way into the kitchen and rummaged in the right drawer to produce a trivet and a pie server, neither of which Jack realized he owned. 

 The imp placed the pie on the trivet and neatly cut the correct number of slices for the number of people in the room. Jack received the first plate along with another smouldering look and a hand on his chest. 

 "Um, thank you, euh, I don't know your name?"  

 "Bitty," said the imp, with an air kiss in his direction.

  "Bitty. Okay, right."

  Bitty served the rest of the pie. No one touched the cake.

 Shitty made an obscene moan. "That is the best goddamn pie I have ever had in my life." 

 Bitty cringed a bit. "Do you mind not using the G-word? It's a bit like having hot ash thrown in your eyes."

 "Oh, sorry, man. I didn't think. So what's an imp like you doing at a birthday party like this?" 

 Bitty rolled his eyes. "Someone wished me here." All eyes flicked to Jack and then back to Bitty. Lucky for you," he nodded at Jack. "I'm not that threatening. You could've got something a lot more dangerous. I've seen demons chow down on mortal flesh. The things they'd do to you and my pie are felonious."

 "Haha," Jack cleared his throat. 

 Holster and Ransom looked at each other nervously.

 After the pie had been consumed (with many yummy noises), the group moved on to MarioKart and Apples to Apples. Bitty wandered around the condo, exclaiming over Jack's photography, his collection of winning pucks, pictures of his parents. Eventually, he asked if Jack minded if he made some snacks in the kitchen. Bemused, Jack told him to help himself. 

 In less time than Jack thought possible, Bitty came out of the kitchen with a selection of snacks and pastries that made his mouth water.

 Everyone asked Jack in a quiet aside if he would be okay, left alone with a demon. Bitty responded with "Imp!" a little more waspishly each time. His ears were sharp, it seemed. 

 The evening eventually wrapped up. Lardo marched Holster and Ransom out the door, followed by Shitty. Tomorrow, she would take them back to the occult shop and try to straighten out this mess.

 Jack stood awkwardly watching Bitty tidy up the kitchen and dispose of the sad and forgotten cake.

 "So now what?" He asked.

 Bitty pursed his lips in thought, swivelled toward Jack and said slow and low,"  I've got nowhere to be for the next little while." 

  "Aren't you, don't you have to-I mean, shouldn't you go back to where you came from?"

  Bitty took another step closer. "Don't you want me to stay?" He purred. 

 "Um, well, I wouldn't want to rush you out the door but don't you belong in Hell?" 

 Bitty bit his lip. Jack mirrored him. 

 "No one warded the room, and no one bound my name. A broken pentagram sealed the deal, and who uses canned whipped cream? You can't order me back. It seems to me you have a wish that hasn't totally, one hundred percent been fulfilled." He took several steps nearer, the last few words punctuated with caresses on Jack's chest. "And I, for one, am utterly delighted to fulfill your every desire." He leaned in close. "May I, Jack? May I fulfill your every desire?" 

 Jack cleared his throat, opened his mouth to speak and nodded. Bitty wrapped his strong arms around Jack's neck and kissed him.

 Hot. In every sense of the word.

 The kiss was hot. 

 Bitty's smooth, silk skin was hot. 
 His breath, sweet and cinnamon, like the apple pie, warm and moist, left Jack panting. The way Bitty pressed up against Jack. Most definitely hot. Jack's body responded with want and thirst and so much lust. 

 But Jack, well, Jack's mother had raised him to be a gentleman, so he broke off the kiss and stepped back. Bitty's arms, loosened from around Jack's neck, dropped to his side. Jack reached up and smoothed Bitty's hair, delicately touching one of his horn buds. Closer inspection revealed his hair seemed more like feathers, small and delicate.

 Bitty sighed. "You're going to be noble or something." It wasn't a question. 

 "Um, yeah, I think so. We just met."  

 "But you want me." Again, not a question.

 "Yeah. So much."  

 "So have me." 
 Jack smiled. A lovely smile. "I have a guest room, and I can lend you some jammies. They might be a bit big." 

 Bitty scowled. "Fine." 

 Jack showed him the guest room and bathroom, got out towels and handed him a pair of track pants and a comfortable t-shirt. He leaned in and kissed Bitty on the cheek. "See you in the morning." He paused. "I mean if you're still here."  

 "Oh, I'll be here, Mister." 

 Jack went into his room and closed the bedroom door firmly. He leaned against it and took a deep breath, shaking his head slightly. And then he took a very long, icy shower.  

Jack woke the following day at his usual time. Sleep evaded him because every time he closed his eyes, he thought of Bitty's hard, compact body pressed up against him, whispering dirty things into his ear and doing unspeakable things to him. The cold shower had not helped, but a little old-fashioned masturbating had settled him, and he'd finally fallen asleep.

 He dressed quickly and quietly in his usual shorts and tee, put his runners on and crept out of his bedroom. He listened for a moment at the guest bedroom door, but all he heard were soft snores.

 Before he left for his run, he turned on the coffee maker and left a note for Bitty to help himself to anything in the kitchen.

 The day shone bright, and the breeze felt nice on his face. A less reflective Jack may have nodded at fellow early morning exercise masochists. He may also have been humming.

 When he got back and opened the door to the condo, he smelled coffee and cinnamon and apples. Music he didn't recognize but had an infectious beat filled the condo.

 In Jack's old track pants rolled up around the ankles and his tee, Bitty sang slightly off-key and stirred something in a bowl.

 Jack cleared his throat. Bitty jumped a little and gasped.

 He turned, his hand on his chest, "Do Not frighten me like that!"

 Jack chuckled. "I thought you were a big, scary demon."

 "Imp, I'll have you know. Imps are not scary. We are just a wee bit mischievous. Lucky for you. Hardcore demons would have smited your ass!" Bitty made a show of looking at Jack's ass and bit his lip.

 "Smited? I think it's smote."

 “Smited, smote, tomato, tomahto.”

 Jack grinned. The ease of Bitty, the humour and the banter did things to him. No not those things (maybe a little). It felt relaxing, being with him.


It felt-right.

 "You've just enough time to freshen up. I've got cinnamon rolls going into the oven."  

 "Cinnamon rolls? That's not very healthy. You should make something with more protein."  

 "Yeah, well I tried to give you some protein last night, but nooo, you had to be all chivalrous."

 Jack blushed and coughed. "Uh..."  

 "I'm beating eggs in this bowl for omelettes. Will that do, Mr. Protein?"

 "Sure. Can I help?"  

 "You can set the table, but after you shower! Shoo!"

 Jack shooed.

 They enjoyed an excellent breakfast of cinnamon rolls, omelettes and juice. Jack offered to tidy the kitchen, and Bitty took a shower.

 It all felt so marvellously domestic, and Jack had to keep reminding himself that a) it had to be temporary, b) Bitty was not human, and c), hmmm, c) well, there had to be a c).

 Bitty came out of the shower, wearing the shorts and shirt from yesterday. That funny, dry sensation hit Jack's mouth again, and he stumbled over a corner of the couch. Bitty just smirked. Jack asked him if he had any plans for the day. Bitty said he knew a thing or two about wasting time. Jack just smiled.

 Bitty crossed his arms. "What's the point of wishing for someone to canoodle with if you're gonna keep turning me down?"


 "You're not the only one who hasn't had sex in a while."

 "Hmm, well, yeah. But look," said Jack. "I'm not interested in a one-night stand sort of thing, and rebound sex seems trite, even with..." he waves his hand at Bitty.

 "Careful, there, Mister. Why don't we go for a walk or something? Show me the sights. Woo me."

 "Woo you?"

 "Well yeah, that seems like something you'd enjoy doing."

 Jack nodded. Bitty certainly seemed to understand him. So he put his shoes on and a ball cap and took Bitty's hand.

 Now Jack knew many people (Bryan) thought the things he was interested in were dull and tame. Some people (Bryan) liked excitement and loud music and drinking and partying. Jack liked history, museums and parks and walks along the river. He hesitated for a minute, overthinking. Surely a demon (IMP!) would prefer the kind of things other people (Bryan) liked better. They stood on the sidewalk outside of Jack's building while he hesitated, unsure of where to take Bitty.

 Bitty reached up and laid a hand on Jack's cheek. "You appear to be in something of a dilemma. What's the matter?"

 "I'm not sure where to take you. I like museums and walks and looking at birds. I don't want to disappoint you."

 Bitty bit his lip again in that utterly compelling way. "Well, let's think about this. I've been stuck in Hell for millennia. Mil-Len-Ni-A! I'm just happy to be out and wandering around with you, enjoying the sun. There isn't any in Hell, you know. All of that sounds rather pleasant. I think it would be right and proper to consider it an extension of your birthday. You choose and I promise it won't disappoint." The corner of his mouth titled up. "Besides, I get to hang out with you."

 Jack looked at Bitty, his eyes shifting back and forth, really studying his face. He was an Imp (thank you), so he could be lying, but Jack didn't think so. He cleared his throat. "What about you? Is there anything you'd like to do today?" Jack, ever polite, felt the need to ask, and it gave him time to process and think.

  "Honestly? If we could stop by a kitchen store so I can gaze longingly at what's new in baking, I would be beyond thrilled. Also, could you take me to lunch? It would be nice not to cook." 

 Jack smiled slowly and with much delight. He nodded. "That sounds great." 

 They strolled hand in hand, stopped at a museum, walked in the park and along the river. Jack pointed to buildings and statues and art he thought might interest Bitty, and Bitty asked questions, and it seemed as if he listened to Jack and not belittle him or made fun of him for being an 'old man' with 'old man tastes.' 

 When they watched a group of Canada geese troop their way across a park, Bitty smiled softly and said, "They make great guards in Hell." Jack felt his heart, which had lain dormant in a small, encapsulated lump, the shell around it protected it from hurt and pain, that might have been the moment he fell head over heel. He couldn't have said why, just knew it made sense. "Really?" He asked, bemusement and a smidgen of adoration glowing upon his face.


 He nodded and said, "They say the reason Canadians are so nice is we spend one night a year casting off all of our hate and anger and placing it into those geese."  

 "Also true." 

 Jack laughed. An honest, freeing and delighted laugh. One he hadn't had in a long, long, long time.

 They ate lunch on the patio of a small cafe, and Bitty chatted to the waitress about the pastry and suggested they add certain spices to the sausage rolls to make them even more of a trend-setting hot button sale item.

 The owner came out and, after talking with Bitty about tartlets and muffins and how to slow bake something or other with a glaze or whatever, offered Bitty a job on the spot. Bitty demurred, saying he would probably be in town for only a few days. 
 Jack's heart sank. He thought he could fall hard for Bitty. But here lay the truth of the matter. Bitty couldn't stay. He belonged in Hell. Not by Jack's side and not in Jack's bed and not there every morning for Jack to smile at and kiss and shower with love.

 After lunch, Jack more subdued and introspective, they window-shopped along a street with cute little shops full of needful and unnecessary items. The kitchen store window held a display of colourful stand mixers. Bitty pressed his nose and forehead against the glass, and a soft sound of want escaped from his mouth. 

 "Oh, you beauties, look at you! You are all so pretty and shiny. Wouldn't you look so nice sitting on the counter just waiting for some attention and a nice batch of dough. I promise I would wipe you down so carefully and clean your parts. And the attachments! No more hand mixing. Oh. My heart hurts a little." 

 Just like Jack's. "You know, I don't have a stand mixer. I think I could use one." 

 Bitty turned around and stared hard at Jack.

  "What?" Jack asked. "Have I got something on my face?" 

 "Yes, you do, Mister. Me." And Bitty jumped up into Jack's arms and wrapped his legs around his waist, and kissed him. Not just a 'you are wonderful to think of me' kiss, or a 'you shouldn't' kiss or 'wow my boyfriend is hot' kiss. It was a kiss that laid claim to Jack. That marked Jack as Bitty's, but not in a Satanic way. Jack's hands cupped Bitty's pert and firm ass, kissed him back just the same. As much as he belonged to Hell, Bitty belonged to Jack, heart and soul and perhaps, this afternoon, body as well. 

 Jack pulled back a little. "What colour?" 

 Bitty kissed him again, softly. "Red, of course."

 "Of course."  

 "Of course." And Bitty kissed him some more, deep and long and so incredibly tender.


Later, back in Jack's apartment, after unpacking the mixer and admiring all of the extra attachments, Jack took Bitty's hand, kissed the palm and knuckles and led him to the bedroom.

 He stood Bitty beside the bed and kissed him. He slowly pulled off Bitty's tee shirt and kissed him. Then Jack took off his shirt and kissed him. He lay Bitty on the bed and climbed above him, one arm down on the bed and the other brushing the hair out of Bitty's eyes. It felt soft and feathery. He kissed him and kissed him and kissed him. He slowly pulled Bitty's shorts down. Bare, glowing skin, blush-painted a rosy glow. Heat flowed under Jack's fingers and pooled beneath his stomach as he traced the curve of face and shoulder, of hip and buttocks. Jack looked up into the chocolate brown eyes. He cupped his face and kissed him again and again and again, each time harder, more pressure, more taste, more touch, more want. He kissed Bitty's neck and his chest. He traced and lit butterfly-like and worshipped more kisses down and down with gentle hands until Bitty gasped. And then he heard yeses and pleases, and I need yous.

 Jack, even though it had been so, so long and the last time, there had been bitterness and neglect in the pleasures of the body, took his time and brought Bitty to the edge and cooled him and took him back.

 When they came, one and then the other, it felt so good, so right, so soul-lifting. 

 He collapsed, half on Bitty, half next to him. Bitty's free hand stirred into Jack's hair, stroking and petting. There were murmurs and whispers. They drifted into sleep. The buzzer to his condo went off.

 They both groaned.

 "I will kill whoever that is," Bitty said into Jack's shoulder. The joy and laughter in his voice told Jack the unlikelihood of that happening.

 Jack groaned again. "I'll hold them for you." 

 The buzzer buzzed again, and he rolled off of the bed, slipped on some shorts and trotted down the hall. 

 "What," he all but barked.

 "Dude, it's me, Lardo. Who crawled up your ass?"

 There was a distinct snicker that must be Shitty. 

 "I have news." 

 Jack remembered that Lardo had planned on going back to the occult store. Did he want to know what she'd found out? His stomach roiled. He thought no, he did not. "Okay," he said and let them in. They'd have just kept buzzing if ignored.

 Bitty came out of the bedroom, dressed again, hair rumpled and looking thoroughly sexed-up and out.

 Jack walked to him, wrapped his arms around him, put his face into the short blond hair, smelled deep, and made a memory. They rocked back and forth until a knock on the door broke them apart.

 Jack opened the door and let in Lardo, Shitty, Ransom and Holster.

 Shitty high fives Jack. "Bro, you did!"  

 "Shut up." Lardo held out her fist, but Jack ran his hand through his hair instead. She shrugged and waved to Bitty.

 "We have news," Ransom said.

 Lardo looked at him and rolled her eyes, "I dragged their sorry asses to the occult shop and talked to the owner. You can use the remaining candles and wish Bitty back to Hell if that's what you want."

 Nodding, Jack glanced at Bitty. Bitty looked downcast. "Thanks. I guess. Euh, do you want to stay?" Politeness and manners overtook his need for them to leave so he and Bitty could talk.

 Lardo looked at Jack and then at Bitty and back to Shitty. "No. We're going to head out and let you two talk."  

 "But," Ransom started to say. 

 "No, we're going to be sensitive and let them talk."  

 "I thought we were going to play MarioKart," Holster whined.

 "Honestly!" Lardo patted Jack on the arm and led the others out of the condo. The door shut.

 Jack looked at Bitty, who held his arms around himself. He walked to him and wrapped around him again. "I don't want you to go."

 "I don't want to go."  

 "I want you. I think I could very easily love you."

 "I know I love you."

 "Can you stay?"

 "Theoretically? I guess. You have to dismiss me back into Hell for me to go, so if you don't do that, I can stay."  

 "Won't you get in trouble?" 

 Bitty shook his head. "It's not like in the movies or on TV. We even have a union. I can take an extended unpaid leave." 

 Jack smiled. "Seriously?" 

 Bitty shrugged. "I mean, eventually, I'll go back. Someday. But for now? I want you." 

 Jack took his hand, kissed the knuckles again and led him into the kitchen. He picked up the half-empty box of candles and held them out. "What do you want, Bitty? What would you wish for if it were up to you?" 

 Bitty looked down at the outstretched hand and back at Jack. He covered the box and Jack's hand with his and stood up on tiptoes to kiss Jack's cheek. "You," he said. "I'd wish for you."

 "I'm yours. I want you to stay. Should you wish? Just to make it permanent?" 

 Bitty took the box from Jack's hand and went to the fridge, rummaged around until he found a can of cheese spray. He quirked an eyebrow at Jack. "Cheese spray?"

 "I'm pretty sure that was Holster."  

 "I'm going to talk with him about his food choices." 

 In a cupboard, he found some crackers, sprayed them with the cheese and placed a candle on each one. Then he laid them out on the counter and sprayed more cheese to connect them in a pentagram. 

 Jack handed him the lighter, and Bitty lit each candle. He smiled, and Jack could almost read the wish on his face, the way the love sparkled out of Bitty's eyes. Bitty blew out the candles.

 The scent of cinnamon and apple strengthened with the wafting smoke from the extinguished candles. The lights didn't flicker this time, but Bitty gasped. He squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed at his head before he fell to his knees.


 Bitty shook his head, still clutching at his head. Light bathed him, and he glowed. Jack reached out, but Bitty shook his head and, through gritted teeth, said, "wait!" 

 After a minute or two, the glow faded, and Jack reached out again to touch Bitty on the shoulder. He helped him up to his feet, and Bitty swayed in his arms. 


 "I'm okay. Just dizzy." 

 "Bitty," Jack gasped, "your horns, they're gone."

  Bitty reached up and felt his head. The feathery hair had disappeared, and regular human hair was in its place, and the horns were gone. Bitty was still warm in his arms but not the baking heat of an imp, the normal warmth of a human. "I guess I got my wish."  

 "What did you wish for?"

 "To stay here with you, but just before I blew out the candles, a thought popped in my head. I wished I were human." 

 Jack kissed him. He kissed him and kissed him and kissed him. 

 As the years went by, Jack and Bitty pretty much lived happily ever after. They fell deeper in love and got married. They adopted some kids and moved to a house. Jack eventually retired from hockey and puttered around with different hobbies. Bitty opened a bakery and wrote several cookbooks. Whenever they went to friends' birthdays or when they had children and then grandchildren, Jack always pulled Bitty close, tucked him into his side and said to the person whose birthday celebration required the cake and the candles, "think long and hard about what you truly want and what you truly desire." He'd kiss Bitty on the head. "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it."