This takes place sometime after Daily Grind.
Birthday in July
(a Takeover Short Story)
“Happy birthday.” Those were the first two words Eli heard upon waking up on a bright, glorious July morning, whispered hotly into his ear by his very very annoying husband.
He loved Justin with every fiber of his being. Eli slung an arm over his eyes to blot out the daylight. They’d been up far too late last night, at yet another cookout for the Independence Day holiday. “It’s not my birthday.”
Justin’s lips pressed against Eli’s own. “’Tis. Because today’s your birthday party.”
…Party? Oh, hell. Eli moved his arm and stared up at Justin. Smug, beautiful Justin. “What party?
“The one I asked you if I could throw six months ago.” There was that cocky smile Eli never got enough of. Justin’s hair was mussed with sleep and stuck out in every direction, making him even more adorable.
Six months ago had been Eli’s actual birthday, the one he didn’t celebrate. Justin had asked and Eli had said yes to a party, as he pretty much did every year. But this year—Justin hadn’t mentioned it after that. Not once. That had disturbed Eli—because as much as he hated parties in his honor—he liked Justin remembering. Caring. Pulling him out and into the love of his friends and chosen family. “You remembered,” he murmured.
Another press of Justin’s lips against his. They lingered there, and Eli slid his hands into Justin’s hair, before kissing back and claiming the control Justin easily surrendered.
When Eli tightened his grip, he was rewarded with that soft moan he never tired of hearing. He broke the kiss, and savored Justin’s exhale and the heat of his body next to his.
“I would never forget.” Justin’s words were breathless and soft. “But I figured I’d surprise you this year.”
“So what are your plans?” He pulled Justin onto him and they fit together like they always did, two wholes that made an even greater whole—one that patched up all the broken bits in their collective lives.
And there was Justin’s snarky little grin. “Wait and see. You always say you’re the model of patience.”
Oh, so that was how it was going to be this year? He could work with that. Use it. Because for all Justin’s plans—Eli had his own, too. “What time is it?”
Justin craned his neck to read the clock Eli couldn’t see. “Seven-thirty.”
He slid his hands down Justin’s sides, enjoying the tremors he created when he stroked every ticklish point. “You woke me up at seven-thirty in the morning on my birthday?”
Such an adorable smile. “It’s not your birthday.”
Ah yes. Eli palmed both of Justin’s cheeks and Justin’s grin slipped to a groan. “It is if you’re throwing me a birthday party.” He rocked his hips.
Justin bit his lip, lowered his head, and answered with a thrust of his own.
They’d get to that. Eventually. “And what time to we need to be out of bed to start getting ready for this extravaganza you’ve planned?”
“Nine.” A moan followed when Eli pulled Justin’s ass down and thrust up at the same time. They were both hard. Ready. “Or nine-thirty.”
“Plenty of time.”
“Yeah?” The smile was back, plus those blue eyes that were so expressive when horny.
Lovely, lovely man. And his. “Yeah. Because someone’s getting birthday smacks, and it isn’t going to be me.”
Justin’s eyes widened, both with arousal and that tiny hint of fear that drove deep into Eli’s core. “But—it’s not my birthday.”
Eli rose into a sitting position, back against the headboard. “But it is mine, and I’m claiming my first present.” He patted his thigh.
Justin obeyed, and his moan when he stretched out over Eli was pure sex and lust. Hard cock, and that perfect ass, taut from plenty of bike rides.
Eli traced his fingers over Justin’s skin. No marks. A few lingering red lines on his shoulders from the last time they’d played with any real intent. Life had been so busy lately—and that ache knocked against Eli’s soul. Justin needed submission as much as Eli needed control—and they both wanted pain—to give—to receive. “I’ve neglected you.”
“Never,” Justin murmured. “Never ever ever.” Warmth there, Justin relaxed against him.
He drew circled on each of Justin’s cheeks. “I adore you, my heart, my soul.”
“Love you, too.”
Eli smacked him, then again and again. Not hard—because he knew exactly the count he had to reach—and even little taps would add up. He made it into the low teens before Justin shifted and sucked in a breath. By the time Eli reached twenty, Justin had curled the bed sheets into his fists and let out a curse than a whimper.
So good. Justin’s submission tasted of heaven and drove heat through Eli’s body.
Close to thirty, Justin let out honest sobs, his ass a delightful shade of dark red. “I can’t. Please.” Tears in his voice.
Eli loved that sound, that cracking voice. Loved that Justin let him do this. “You can. You’re beautiful and perfect and strong.” He delivered the last set of blows, ending with a blow harder than the rest, then rubbed Justin’s back as he twisted and cried and cursed.
Yes, Justin would be bruised, yes he’d remember this morning every time he sat. And with every one of Justin’s flinches, so would Eli. His whole body throbbed with need. His Justin, his husband, marked by his hand.
Justin lifted his head. “Oh fuck, that was good.” Tears dotted his face, and he squirmed, his hard cock rocking against Eli’s thigh.
Eli chuckled and drew Justin up, kissed away his tears, and took his mouth until those moans came back and Justin was gasping against him. He toyed with a nipple and spoke against Justin’s lips. “Get the lube.”
Always a thrill to hear those words spoken just that way. When they played, when they needed it.
Justin only had to to lean over a little to dig into the nightstand and claim what Eli had asked for. No condoms anymore. Didn’t need them. There was nothing better than being skin to skin with Justin. Nothing. Only lover he’d ever barebacked with. Only one he would now.
A nod was all Justin needed to know what to do. He slicked Eli’s cock with long slow strokes that stole Eli’s breath and had him hissing a warning—then Justin prepped himself.
They moved together—Eli lifting Justin and him sliding into position until he could sink down onto Eli’s cock.
Not so much Dom and sub anymore, but husband and husband, moving together, groaning and kissing, though Eli did relish the extra squirm and hiss when his thighs and Justin’s ass met.
He loved mornings like this. They needed more mornings like this. Eli dug his fingers into Justin’s hips and picked up speed. Every piece of him was fire. His love, his friend.
“Oh God, yeah.” Justin’s head fell forward.
“Harder?” Eli ground out the word.
Justin moaned. “Please.”
Today, he’d give Justin exactly what he wanted. He plowed up into Justin, not slowing nor being anything close to gentle. The cries Justin made were perfection. Pain and pleasure. Those tears were back, driving Eli’s desire to a new high. He wouldn’t last much longer—and didn’t want to.
He buried his face against Justin’s neck. “Want to see you come. Make yourself come for me.” He pulled back to watch.
Justin moaned, and frantically pumped his cock, his head thrown back. Long flushed neck. Lovely open mouth. Eli knew what every inch of his husband tasted like, breathed in his gasps like air. He pounded up until Justin broke with a long cry and spilled over his hand and their bodies, then Eli’s vision was gone, stolen by tightness and heat and Justin trembling in his arms.
As they came down, they stayed wrapped in each other, Eli inside Justin until he softened too much.
“Happy birthday.” Justin’s mutter was sex-soaked and lethargic.
Such a brat, sometimes. “Shush.” Eli nipped his skin. “It’s not my birthday.” He didn’t want it to be his birthday anymore. He pulled Justin tight against him. “But thank you. Thank you for today.”
“You don’t even know what I’ve done.”
“I don’t have to. I know you.”
Justin snuggled deeper into Eli’s embrace, despite the sweat and salt and semen. “I love you so much.”
“And I you.”
They didn’t get out of bed until nine-thirty, and even then, they moved slowly, touching and kissing and tasting, not out of lust, but out of love.
Eli leaned against one of the support post of his porch roof, cane in one hand, and stared out into his back yard. Earlier in the day, Justin, Sam, and Michael had hauled out the tables and chair Justin had rented. Now those same tables were covered with blue plastic table clothes, paper plates, food, and were surrounded by so many people that Eli’s heart ached. Co-workers. Neighbors. Friends from temple. Even Don Miller, both his and Justin’s MBA advisor from Carnegie Mellon.
It was heaven and hell. All the love was his to enjoy—but everything had been taken out of his hands, and judging from Justin’s little smile, his lovely, bratty husband knew the loss of control would annoy him.
He couldn’t even grill. That job had been commandeered by Brian’s fiancé Rob, who’d brought marinating steaks—an entire cooler’s worth of them. Brian had brought lasagna.
“It’s my dad’s. I tried to get him to show me how to make it, and in the process he—just made it for me.” A blush and a shrug. “I took notes, though, so I’ll try on my own sometime.”
“And you’ll call him in the middle of construction and he’ll march down and take over our kitchen,” Rob said, his grin wide and warm. “Again.”
Eli laughed, despite the pang. Things were better with his parents. So much better. But he doubted either of them would drop everything to come over to help him cook.
They’d come today though.
For the first time since he’d left, they came to celebrate his birthday and had brought his favorite dessert from childhood. Little almond cookies that were—somehow—without dairy so they’d be fine to eat with meat. A lifetime ago, he’d stuffed his face full of those things. Tasted wonderful now, too. He could, like Brian had with his family, ask for the recipe, but that might take the magic away.
He wanted to savor the magic.
And, though, he wouldn’t tell anyone but Justin, he’d loved how much his heart hurt when his mom handed him the tin of cookies. All the good he remembered, all the good of now, tamping down all the bad. Slowly, slowly. They’d get there. Someday soon, they’d get there.
He showed his folks around, introduced them to his friends, and let them know what had milk and what didn’t.
“Your friends love you,” his mom said. “They’re good for you.”
His throat threatened to choke up, but he breathed through the unexpected welling of happiness. “Yeah, they do.”
It wasn’t until later, when he went to say something to Justin and it came out wrong, that he realized he’d spent much of the time talking to them in Ladino.
That made him blink away the tears all the harder.
He really hated his not-birthday. It was always the best day of the year, but on exactly the wrong day of the year.
God, there was so much food everywhere. Hot dogs. Cole slaw. Potato salad. Chips. Dips. All the picnic foods he could think of, plus a table groaning with dessert, including baklava. Which, apparently, Fazil and Todd had made. All the brought desserts surrounded a small cake that read “Happy Birthday Eli” in green icing.
Today was his birthday, even if it wasn’t his birthday. Justin threw him a party to rival the last and surrounded him with laughter and light and his friends in a food-infused bash that stretched until the fireflies came out and people started yawning.
He was loved, as his mother had said. Deeply.
And all his friends were here. From his vantage on the porch, he scanned the yard. All except the tallest one. The hairs on the back of Eli’s neck rose, and he turned to find Michael leaning against the back door, obviously watching him, a smile on his face that nearly rivaled the one Justin had worn the entire day.
Michael didn’t say anything, but he did straighten up to his full height—which was ever so slightly taller than Eli’s own.
Eli chucked and shook his head. Always the little games of control, even if they hadn’t been lovers in years and years. He let it go, because he knew, deep in his bones, that Michael had won. “You did this.” He nodded out into the yard.
Michael crossed the space between them to stand next to Eli. “Your husband did this.”
He waved out into the yard again. “Oh, I know. Justin does this every year. Because he knows I won’t. Because it hurts and reminds me I’m alive. Because I hate it and I love it.” He eyed Michael. “But you did this.” He gestured wider.
The glint in Michael’s brown eyes hadn’t changed. Not in those same years and years. “I don’t think I follow.”
Which meant he did, but would make Eli voice it anyway. Once that had chaffed. Now it felt like joy. “You’re the reason every single person in my back yard is actually in my back yard. You were the catalyst.”
Without Michael, there never would have been Sam. Without Sam, no Justin. Without Justin—well. He didn’t want to contemplate that.
Michael exhaled and grunted. “I took so much from you and gave so little back. And yet you remained, even when I was at my very worst.”
“Michael…” They’d been so young. He’d been so broken. Michael had been so sure of himself. The perfect setup for the disaster of a relationship that had been theirs—though in retrospect, it hadn’t been that horrible.
“I know what I did to you, E. The shit with Rasheed. All the stuff after.”
Yes, that had been painful, and yes, he still had a hard knot of anger at the unfairness of it all. But he’d also learned to let go much of it. In the end Michael, in his own way, had come back to Eli. So maybe he’d won after all.
Maybe they both had. He shook his head again. “It’s in the past.”
“I know, but I am sorry, E.” Soft, contrite words. “If introducing you to Sam made up for some of that, then I am utterly grateful.”
Eli studied the gathering in the yard. “It did. Any you know it.”
Another grunt, this one more amused. “If it helps, I had to endure several months of Sam telling me how brilliant you are.”
Eli laughed because he couldn’t help it. The image was too clear and too fucking good. “Oh, that must have driven you up a tree.” He clapped Michael on the shoulder. “And it does make me feel a hell of a lot better.”
“Brat,” Michael murmured.
“That would be Justin.”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “You two deserve each other, you know that?”
Eli chuckled and nudged Michael forward. “Come on, they’re going to make me cut the damn cake soon.
He gripped his cane and headed down into the yard to take his place by the love of his life. He ended up surrounded by friends and family and endured them singing Happy Birthday at him, each in their own damn key. It was awful and wonderful.
When they were done and he’d sliced a piece of cake, he gathered Justin into his arms and pressed his lips against his ear. “I love you so damn much.”
“Does this mean I can do this again next year?” Justin spoke against Eli’s neck, loving. Expectant.
“No.” Eli felt Justin flinch, but didn’t let him pull away. He did let his cane fall to the grass and gathered Justin tight into his arms, running his fingers through his hair. “Next year, we celebrate the 4th of July like this, with friends and family.” He pulled back and cupped Justin’s face. “And next year, we have my birthday party on January 6th, right where it belongs.”
Justin’s eyes went wide, and he threw his arms around Eli, nearly knocking him over. Tears, yes, and laughter because that was how his life was now. Full of joy and happiness.
The loss he’d endured that fateful night was still there, and the memory, but it was the past. The last scar had finally healed enough to show.
His future was in his arms and in his yard and there was no reason not to have two parties in one year.
Copyright © 2017 Anna Zabo
All rights reserved.