Black Feather by B.G. Thomas

January 28, 2015

Title: Black Feather

Author: B.G. Thomas

Pairing: Hound Dog and Bean from Hound Dog & Bean

Prompt: feather

Dean “Bean” Alexander thought about buying H.D. the ring. It was beautiful, Black Hills gold—all leaves and vines and clusters of grapes, and made with not only yellow gold, but green and pink as well. Not standard, not screaming “wedding ring!” It would look gorgeous on Hill’s hand, and every time Dean saw it, he would have a symbol of how generous the Universe had been to put the man in his life.

But then Dean would remember those horrible weeks that H.D. had left him. Left him in that big house alone, taking his love with him.

And it happened because Dean had made Hill feel trapped. Had scared his lover, and in the great decision of Nature—of fight versus flight—his beautiful man had chosen flight.

Dean hadn’t known what had made Hill come back to him—not for months and months. He’d only been deeply grateful.

So in the end, he’d left the ring where it was, in the glass case at the store.

The last thing he wanted to do was make Hill feel trapped. Would a ring do that?

No. Marriage, even though it was legal at last for two men to marry in Missouri, was not something for which he and Hound Dog would ever claim their right.

It was enough that Hill was in his life.

And wasn’t it enough that H.D. was taking him to meet the only person alive that he could call family, a mysterious old woman named Ezzie Borchardt?

 

 

“Stop!” cried Hillary “Hound Dog,” and Dean did. Slammed his foot down on the brake, too hard, and his Smart car slid on the gravel and close to the ditch. Luckily, close was as far as it got. It would be a bitch getting the car out. Who would they even ask for help out here in the country?

“H.D! What is it?” Dean looked over at his lover. He wasn’t saying anything, only staring out the passenger window at the small house at the end of the road. “Hill? What’s wrong?”

H.D. sighed and turned, his mane of blond dreadlocks shifting in a wave. “God, Dean. Suddenly I’m scared.”

“Of what, baby?”

He didn’t answer right away. Dean could only guess. “Of me meeting Ezzie?”

Dean watched as H.D. gave a single nod. It made his stomach flutter. “You don’t think she’ll like me?”

“Oh no!” H.D. bit his lower lip. “It’s not that. It’s just….” He looked back out the window. “I’m suddenly nervous. Ezzie… she’s the only family I’ve had since… Mom died. I never expected to be bringing a man to… to… I don’t know what!”

Dean smiled and reached out and touched H.D.’s cheek. “Home?”

H.D. gave a little shrug, making those beautiful locks shiver. “About the only home I ever had… until now.” He blushed.

H.D. blushed.

Wonders never ceased.

“You do have a home now. Now and forever.”

“My forever home,” whispered H.D.

 

 

They pulled in to the dirt driveway just as Ezzie walked out onto the porch, letting her old screen door bang shut behind her. She came to the top of the steps, hands on hips, and gazed down at H.D. through the windshield of the car. She looked pretty much the same as she did all those years ago when he’d lived with her that year as a teen—old enough to have known Moses personally.

H.D. took a deep breath and got out.

“Well, it’s about time you got here,” Ezzie said and leaned against the porch railing.

Yeah. Sure. Start that shit again, and right off. Pretending she knew they were coming. And she couldn’t know. Couldn’t. It wasn’t even like he could call and tell her. No phone. He’d even called the local town hall to see if anyone knew if she was okay.

“Well, I don’t know if anyone would call Ezzie Borchardt ‘okay,’” the woman on the other end of the line had told him this past week. “But she’s still kicking. I suspect she’ll be around when my grandchildren breathe their last.”

Ezzie started down the first step. “Oh, come here, you ol’ hound dog,” she said, reaching out with the hand that was not gripping the railing.

“Don’t!” H.D. said. “We’ll come up to you.”

She laughed. “I can still walk, don’t you worry none about that. She pointed past him. “Is this your man? Ha! Of course it is!”

“Dean Alexander, ma’am.” Dean went to her and held out a hand. “My friends call me Bean.”

“Of course they would.” She took his hand and gave it a single shake. Had she winced? Arthritis? “You’re the coffee man. Handsome fellow too. Ooooh, what you two must look like when you’re rolling around in the sheets!”

“Ezzie!” H.D. cried and watched as Dean turned red. Even his ears!

“And bald,” Ezzie continued. “Just like I said. Didn’t I say, Hillary?”

Had she? H.D. didn’t remember.

All he remembered was the old woman sitting down one afternoon and doing one of her crazy witchy readings. “Readings” like he’d seen her do countless times for people who came from far and wide, wanting her to tell their fortunes or work spells or cures.

Crazy!

Crazy, except….

….except sometimes she knew things she couldn’t know.

And here I am, bringing Dean to meet her….

For one second, H.D. wanted to jump into the car and shout for his lover to get him out of here and now.

But then she smiled and gave him a wink, and then she was somehow in his arms, and he was hit with a rush of nostalgia and good memories and echoes of the only real love he could remember while wandering the long roads between Losing His Mother and Finding Dean.

She pulled back and blinked at him. Were those tears in her no-nonsense eyes?

“I got a big roast ready to eat if you two are hungry. I even made leather jackets. Stink to high heaven when they’re a-cookin,’ but my oh my, aren’t they good to eat? Especially with a good old pork bone thrown in?” She shook her head. “Cornbread’s ready to go into the oven, and good thing I waited, huh? Been wonderin’ what was taking you two so long. Were you lollygagging? You should have been here at least an hour or more ago. Hope you didn’t stop to eat.”

There she goes again. Pretending to know things she can’t. H.D. turned to Dean and saw him gaping at her.

I warned you about her, H.D. thought. I warned you.

 

The meal was wonderful. The old woman—not even five foot five, with snow-white hair, wrinkles lining her face, and perhaps twice the weight of their Sheltie—had made enough food for a dozen people. The cornbread exceeded the expectations Hill had given Dean—perhaps the best he’d ever had in his life. Leather jackets turned out to be something that looked a lot like green beans but were brown and had so much flavor Dean’s salivary glands practically ached. And the roast! So tender it fell apart, it was laden with at least a dozen different herbs that had come, according to Ezzie, fresh from her garden. When they finally pushed back their plates, Dean was almost sick, he was so full.

“I guess we can wait on the cobbler?” Ezzie asked and chuckled delightfully.

“Please!” Dean leaned back in his chair and petted his extended tummy, trying to soothe it.

“Growing men need to eat,” she stated empirically.

“I just don’t want to grow in the wrong direction,” Dean said, pantomiming a growing belly.

Ezzie sat up straight and let out a long squeaking laugh. “I doubt that you have to worry about that. ‘Sides, do you think we eat like this all the time ’round here?” She pointed at Hill. “If we had’a, our old hound dog there wouldn’t be the sleek thing he is.”

“Ezzie!” H.D. sighed dramatically.

Dean could only smile. Sleek and more described him.

“Since you were coming, and I was going to meet Hillary’s forever lover-man, I wanted to fix something special. I knew Jimmy Garret had slaughtered a cow last week, and I also know his gout was acting up again. I made him some of my tart cherry remedy, and he gave me a roast.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. Ezzie was claiming she knew they’d been coming? Funny. How would she know that? Unless the lady from the courthouse had told her they’d called. But that wouldn’t have told her they were coming, and certainly not today. Nor to have a big meal waiting for them. He shook his head.

“By the way,” Ezzie said, getting up and walking over to an ancient china cabinet, with very little “china” inside. “Where are the children?”

“Children?” Dean asked.

She nodded and, standing on her tiptoes, started moving jars around on the top shelf. “Yeah. The shepherd dog—black, I think. And the little fur ball.”

Dean sat up. Rammstein, their Sheltie, and Sarah Jane, the dachshund-Yorkie mix? Now how did she know about them?

“We left them with their Aunt Elaine and Aunt Mara,” H.D. said, acting nonplussed. “Dean has a Smart car. There would have been room for Sarah Jane, maybe. But Rammie’s gotten big. It would have been way too crowded.”

Ezzie continued to fumble with the jars, and for a second there, Dean was afraid one would fall. Or she would.

“Ezzie,” he said, standing. “Let me help you with that.”

She stopped and turned around. “I was hoping Hillary would get off his butt and give an old lady a hand.”

“Well, shit,” H.D. said, jumping up. “I didn’t know what you were doing.”

“Don’t swear,” she snapped. “You know I don’t like it.”

Dean laughed, and H.D. went to the cabinet.

“It’s there on the top,” Ezzie directed. “But a few jars back. Clear. Looks like water.” She winked. “It’s not.”

“This one?” H.D. held out a mason jar that indeed looked like it was filled with water.

Ezzie cackled—a genuine cackle. “That’s it!” She took it from him, sat down, and pointed to his seat. “Just wait till you try this.”

“What is it?” Dean asked.

“It’s my rheumatoid medicine,” she answered and cackled again. She sat down, unscrewed the lid, and took a sip. Her face scrunched up, and she crowed out a “Whoo-whee!”

Once more Dean was curious. What in the world?

“Moonshine,” H.D. explained and took the jar.

His brows shot up. “Moonshine?

“You bet your sweet bippy,” Ezzie exclaimed. “Every spring I put a charm on Gary Sutton’s still to keep the law from finding it, and he pays me in a few jars.”

“You do what?” asked Dean. Moonshine? A charm? He looked over at Hill, who only shrugged and then mouthed, “I told you.” And indeed he had.

What would his conservative parents—his father, a retired Missouri prosecuting attorney, and his mother, a bank president and socialite—think of this old lady? This woman who could have been anywhere from sixty to a hundred years old, with her wild white hair and her clothes that might have been older than she was. Her home, no bigger than his parents’ pool house. And her mason jar full of moonshine….

He swallowed hard and managed a smile. “A charm, huh?”

Ezzie nodded. “Yup.” She turned to Hill. “What do I put in it, boy?”

H.D. shrugged.

“Come on. You know. For protection. And to drive undesirables away?”

H.D. sighed. “Patchouli?”

Ezzie smiled. “And?”

“Sage?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “And basil and cloves. And what do I sprinkle around the whole thing?”

“Salt,” Hill replied and rolled his eyes.

Ezzie laughed and pushed the jar across the table to H.D., who grabbed it and took a good swig. He started to cough, and his eyes went wide, and she started to laugh all the harder. When he was finally able to stop coughing, he drank again but took a smaller helping this time.

Then he passed it to Dean.

Dean stared at it for a moment and then looked at the two sets of eyes that were focused on him expectantly.

What the hell, he thought. And took a drink.

It went down like fire, and when it hit his stomach, it rolled out in hot waves through seemingly every inch of his body.

Ezzie giggled, threw her head back, and her giggling turned into a loud guffaw. “Oh,” she cried and laughed some more. “I think the coffee man isn’t used to a drink like this!”

Indeed he wasn’t. But damn…. A nice warm feeling was filling his whole world.

He shook his head and watched as she took her turn with the mason jar. What a character, he thought. He’d read about people like her. Seen shows. They were experts on human nature. They somehow read expressions, body language, listened to every single word and studied every nuance—without appearing to—and then made you think they had powers and otherworldly insights. She’d make a hell of a subject for one of those shows. What would Houdini have made of her?

But somewhere along the line (­was it the fifth time the jar was passed to him? The sixth?) he quite suddenly realized something.

He didn’t care what his parents would think of Ezzie. He didn’t care she was so eccentric. He liked her. Weird as she was, he liked her a lot. For lots of reasons. But number one among them all was that she loved Hill. He didn’t need to be psychic to see that. So, so what if she was a little odd?

So what indeed.

 

Ezzie put them in Hill’s old room.

“Now don’t you two do anything I wouldn’t do,” she said, and snorted. Then before H.D. could say anything, she shocked him by leaning in and kissing his cheek. Then she blinked at Dean, touched his arm, nodded, and finally turned and headed down the hall to her own room.

H.D. closed the door and faced Dean, wondering what he would say. What was he thinking?

Dean smiled. “She’s a character, all right. You were right about that.”

“I’m sorry,” H.D. said but then wondered why. Ezzie was who she was. He’d warned Dean. Many times. But his lover had insisted he wanted to meet her.

Lover.

Wow.

Would he ever get used to that word?

“Why are you sorry?” Dean asked. “You don’t have anything to be sorry about. She is who she is. And she loves you. How can I not like her?”

H.D.’s heart skipped a beat. Oh, Dean, he thought and then pulled him into his arms. I love you. My God, I love you.

They undressed then. H.D. watched Dean’s every step as he removed each article of clothing. He never tired of seeing his lover’s body slowly revealed to him. Those muscles. His skin that begged to be touched, kissed. His cock, glorious, his ass more so. And Dean was watching him in that way of his. It always amused H.D. the way Dean seemed always caught up in some weird seesaw of timidity and boldness, which, impossibly, made H.D. shy and at the same time caused him to revel at Dean’s hungry eyes.

The two men were hard in seconds, and H.D. pulled Dean down to the floor.

“What are you doing?”

“The bed springs,” H.D. explained. “They squeak. A lot. I couldn’t even jerk off as a kid without her knowing.”

Dean smiled as H.D. pulled a tiny tube of lube from his discarded jeans. “You don’t think she knows what we’re up to? She knows everything else.” Then he gasped as H.D. applied the slick lubrication with a tight grip.

H.D. straddled him and, with a long sigh, took Dean deep into himself.

“Not everything,” H.D. whispered, and began lifting and lowering himself on Dean’s cock.

Then he wasn’t thinking of Ezzie. He was thinking only of the glory of being with Dean and how it never ceased to amaze him that he never tired of him. All his sexual life he’d made it a point to avoid having sex with a man more than once (and occasionally twice if it was very good sex). Now? He couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. Dean had asked him if he wanted an open relationship, and for a second he’d been startled that the question had actually hurt. But then Dean explained that he knew H.D. had enjoyed a life of men and had expressed never wanting to be tied down. “I don’t want you to be bored with me,” Dean had said. H.D. realized that Dean was just as afraid of losing him as he was afraid of losing Dean, and he loved him for the offer. And then he saw clearly and totally that he was through with being a sexual gypsy. Somehow, in some way, the impossible had happened. H.D. wanted to be with only one man.

Only Dean.

“I love you,” H.D. said, the words out of his mouth before he knew he was going to say them.

Dean’s eyes widened, just a bit. “You… you do?”

“I do,” H.D. replied. He watched Dean’s eyes fill with tears, and then he bent to kiss them away. There was fear in those eyes as well. He’s afraid I’ll leave. Still. Can I blame him?

But H.D. knew he wasn’t going anywhere. And how incredible was that? He’d been afraid for so many years of getting close to anyone. When you did that, they went away. They left you or fell out of love with you or denied you their love altogether.

Or they died.

“You don’t tie a hound dog down,” he’d been saying forever.

But now? Now the idea didn’t seem so frightening. Like it wasn’t being tied down but bound together. Forever? Hell! He’d accept gladly every day he was given with Dean.

Then H.D. sped up his rocking motions, letting them forget, for a moment, anything but pleasure.

After, when they were in bed together and the lights were out and Dean was softly snoring, H.D. thought once again of the wonder of it all. Of Dean. Of them.

Forever, he thought. I’m with you forever. Then he pushed away any fears he had, snuggled tightly against his man, and slipped into lovely dreams.

 

They stayed for two days, helping Ezzie around the house—fixing the back screen door, clearing the gutters for the rapidly approaching winter, harvesting the last of her garden: squash, a few stray cucumbers, and—damn!—tomatoes the size of grapefruit.

Dean found himself falling into a happy, comfortable timelessness. The chores weren’t difficult or boring. It was just time with Hillary and a funny old woman named Ezzie Borchardt.

That last night she fixed them another wonderful meal. Home cooking, she said. This time it was chicken (Dean had never seen one plucked before!) home-canned green beans, sweet potatoes, fried pickles (he’d never heard of those, and they were delicious), and of course tomatoes.

While Dean was contemplating getting up and packing for home—luckily it would take but a few moments, but God, he was so full—Ezzie announced it was time for their reading.

Reading? Did that mean Ezzie was going to tell his fortune? No, their fortune? Something with chicken bones and arrowheads?

He smiled. He couldn’t help it. Hill had warned him about this too. And before they got here, he’d vowed to be polite and nod and keep his mouth (mostly) shut. But now? Now he was curious. Why, maybe even a bit excited. Because he’d come to find the old woman fascinating. She did seem to know things. He knew it was a trick. But just because she didn’t have “the sight” didn’t mean that she wasn’t insightful. And she was doing this reading for them—for him and Hill.

Funny….

The idea made his heart race.

So he and H.D. cleared the table, and just as they were wiping it all down, she came back and sat down, laying a brown leather pouch on the table in front of her. It was about eight inches by eight inches and extremely worn—it looked to be as old as she was. Ezzie was humming a tuneless little tune, no rhyme or reason that he could see to the notes, as sharp and flat as they were. She looked up at him and pointed to one of the seats across from her. He sat.

“Hillary?” she called, and with a sigh, H.D. sat beside him.

Ezzie closed her eyes and rocked in her chair for a moment, the tune forgotten and then remembered. Then she gave a little shudder, opened her bag, and dumped the contents onto the table between them.

What Dean saw was an eclectic collection of objects. An old bottle cap, a thin and frayed piece of rope—not much thicker than twine—what looked like a chicken bone. A tarnished ring of undetermined metal, a piece of glass that must have been smoothed by a river or ocean waves, a piece of gnarled wood. There he saw a little fossil with the imprint of a fern, and a buffalo-head nickel (his father would love that; he collected coins). Look, there was the arrowhead Hill had told him about, and there a bolt with a nut screwed on about halfway. He also saw what he thought was probably a piece of antler, and was that a bear claw? There were several other objects as well, including an acorn, a cowrie shell, and a single black feather.

“That’s new,” H.D. said, pointing to the feather Dean had noted.

“It is. It was left by your spirit guide before she left and went to the Other World.”

H.D. scoffed. “Other world. Sure.”

“Don’t be rude,” Ezzie replied. She looked up at Dean. “One of his guides is a blackbird,” she said. “And a dog, of course. But then, so is one of yours—a dog.”

“Guides?” Dean asked.

“Animal guides, from the Great Mother. To help you find the way.” She closed her eyes. “Most people have seven, and some nine. I think you have at least that many.” She opened her eyes, studied him. “And a ram…. Or a goat. Hmmmmm…. Do you know why that would be?”

“Don’t you know?” H.D. said with a sarcastic tone.

“I told you not to be rude,” she snapped.

H.D. sighed.

A goat, huh? Interesting. “I suppose because of my coffee,” Dean said, humoring her. “Legend says goats discovered coffee.”

Dancing goats,” she added.

Which was true. How did she know that? But then the story wasn’t that uncommon. A woman her age could easily have heard it and filed it away.

“Hermit crab was one of your guides, because he carries his home on his back. Home was wherever he went.” She nodded. “Yes. But not anymore. You have made a permanent home now.”

He raised an eyebrow despite himself and looked over at H.D., who only shrugged. Did you tell her that? he wondered.

“Spider too. Because—well, in your case—because she creates. Are you an artist, Dean?”

That one got him. He was. He’d painted a series of pictures telling the story of the goats discovering coffee and then dancing when they were filled with caffeine. He’d painted them all along the ceiling of The Shepherd’s Bean, his coffee shop.

Ezzie closed her eyes again. Just when Dean wondered if she’d slipped off to sleep, she began to speak.

“I see two men. Two who have been separate and alone. For too long. For miles and miles they have wandered and finally found what they didn’t even know they were looking for.” Her eyes popped open wide, showing her faded blue irises. “You two.”

Dean glanced over at Hill and saw his lover’s Adam’s apple bob hard. They locked eyes. H.D. bit his lower lip.

She pointed at the green piece of glass. “See? This was once sharp. It had edges that could cut you. But it has been worn smooth. Like the two of you. What was once sharp is now ready to be something beautiful and new. See how something so common can be so lovely?”

She touched the bone. “This points to your future. It says, ‘walk away from each other at thy peril.’”

“Peril?” H.D. said, his voice breaking like a teenaged boy’s. “Peril? Really, Ezzie? Peril?

“The peril that you will both walk the world alone. You two are meant to be.” She indicated the bolt and nut. “You fit.”

“I thought you always say that that means something halfway done or half still to do,” H.D. said.

Ezzie raised a thin white brow. “Are you the reader, or am I?”

H.D. sighed, and Dean reached out and took his hand. “I think we fit, Hill.” He interlocked his fingers with H.D.’s, liking the sameness and differences of their hands. His were thicker, blunter. Hill’s were thinner and longer. Yet both were obviously men’s hands.

Dean looked into H.D.’s eyes and smiled. Let her have her say, he thought at H.D. I like that she says we fit.

Now Ezzie was running her finger along the black feather. “See how it goes through the ring? And how the ring touches the horn?”

“Horn?” asked Dean. Not an antler?

“Bird and goat. And the bird is Hill’s mother. She watched over him for years but pointed him to you. It’s your job to watch over him now.”

A warmth spread throughout Dean’s chest. “I can do that.” I would love to do that.

“And this….” Ezzie picked up the piece of rope. “Frayed and done. A fear of being tied down can now be set aside.”

H.D. gasped, and Dean looked over at him again. Hill’s face was unreadable. A host of emotions seemed to be swirling in those eyes.

“The leash is broken,” Ezzie said. “This man will not tie you down. You can chose to walk by his side or go your own way, like any hound dog.” She looked over at Dean. “You want to ask him an important question. One asking him to be yours forever. But you’re afraid he will leave you.”

An important question. A ring. He wanted to ask Hill to marry him. And yes. He’d been too afraid….

Wait! Was he finding himself believing that this woman knew things?

She reached out a hand and laid it on theirs. “Of course I know things, Dean Alexander. I know all kinds of things. I’m as old as Moses, right? How could I not?” She chuckled.

“My advice is to take on the handfasting.”

“Handfasting?” they both chorused.

She nodded. “The old way. To be bound together for a year and a day. And then at the end of that time, the lovers decide whether to stay forever bound—”

“Bound,” H.D. whispered.

“—or to go their separate ways.”

And then she stood and left the room, leaving them alone. Together.

 

 

They were halfway home when they decided to turn around and go back.

“You’re sure?” Dean asked.

“I…. Damn.” H.D. smiled. “I am.”

“You know she can’t possibly know the things she says she knows, right?” Dean asked, hoping to convince himself more than Hillary.

H.D. laughed. “I guess I really don’t care.”

Dean realized that neither did he.

So they went back and found her on the porch, and of course she said, “I was wondering when you’d get back.”

She took them out into the remnants of her garden under the light of a brilliant and full moon. There she called on those that have no names, who came before there were names. She called on the North and East, South and West. She called on Dog and Ram, on Spider and Black Bird. She called on Love to be their witness.

She took their hands and tied them with a gold cord, and she said, “Do you take each other in heart? In mind. In life and love?”

“I do,” said Hill, before Dean could even answer.

Dean repeated the words, feeling his heart race and tremble in wonder.

“Know then that you both do this willingly, and you go forth from this place as two men, and one man, at the same time.”

The nodded, waited….

“Kiss, you fools!” she cried.

And they did.

Then she had them jump over a broom, telling them that they had left separate halls and now lived together in one home.

They hugged her then and decided to stay one more night.

What the hell.

They decided they didn’t care that the bed springs squeaked.

Did you enjoy B.G. Thomas’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code BGThomasFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 28, 2015.

2 Responses to “Black Feather by B.G. Thomas”

  1. MaryMary says:

    Love it!

    When will the code by active? Tried to place an order and it says coupon not available yet.

    Thank you :)

  2. danielle says:

    Awww fantastic Ben I absolutely loved this piece
    <3 Dani

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