Another year, another mating season. Maybe this would be the year Master finally found a lady bird and truly joined the ranks of adulthood. Not that Master cared too much. He still had Junior to look after, after all.
Master had been a child himself when he started caring for Junior after the kid’s parents were killed by some stupid human sport. His own parents had disapproved, but something about the kid’s optimistic smile despite everything triggered some sort of need to protect him.
Since then, Junior had been faithfully following in the older boy’s footsteps. Master, in turn, took it upon himself to make sure Junior knew everything about being a blue-eyed satin bowerbird, and he took his position quite seriously. He took pride in knowing his teaching was behind every one of Junior’s successes, from his first flight to his first forage.
But this time, things would be different. This was Junior’s first mating season, and though Master could walk him through every step of the mating ritual beforehand (as he had already done multiple times), he could not go through it with him and watch over him as he always had. And this irked Master far more than he thought it should.
Why should he be so bothered anyway? Was it because he was worried Junior would fail? No. There was no way that would happen. He had done too good a job with the boy. Besides, Junior was a brilliant pupil. No, Master had no doubt this mating season would be a success.
Then why the dread? Was it the knowledge that once Junior found a mate, he’d not be by Master’s side anymore? Well, that was ridiculous. He should be happy the boy was off on his own. He couldn’t take care of him forever, now, could he? Well, he thought cynically, he actually could (and the prospect might not be that bad) but that just wasn’t how things worked. No, Junior needed to find a lady. And so did Master! Good god, did he need to get laid! That was the problem! He’s been taking care of Junior for so long he’d forgotten about his own needs now his brain was all weird!
With that, Master dove back into his preparations for mating season. He had already acquired plenty of the blue ornaments that the females love, which lay tastefully around the nest he was almost finished constructing. In a short time, a female, recently expelled from her childhood home, would chance by, see a strong structure built by a strong man capable of protecting her and her young, and decide to live with him. And Master would get laid.
He briefly debated the skull decoration. While he found it amusing, it might turn off a potential mate. Not that he really cared. The only reason he’d put so much effort into it this year was because he had to set a strong example for Junior.
Speaking of Junior, as Master fixed a stray twig on his house, he caught the younger boy spying on him, his sheepish face peeking out from behind a fallen log. Must be having a hard time with his nest. Master chuckled and pretended not to notice, but put significantly more flair in his steps to impress his onlooker. It wouldn’t be for much longer that the kid would look up to him like this, after all.
For God’s sake, the kid had bits of the black stain of adulthood on his feathers. Too damn soon, in Master’s opinion. But, small as those black spots were, Junior still looked young and innocent, just like one of the girls they’d be seeking out. Definitely cute like one. Damn, he needed to get laid, and fast, to get rid of all these weird thoughts!
Unfortunately, with his nest about done, there was little left to do but wait for the females to come along. He decided to check out Junior’s progress. When he made his way over to the shabby little area his ward had claimed, it was to find a spindly mess of twigs in a pathetic array that would not survive the slightest disturbance. Dear God, Master had definitely taught the boy better than this! His heart started to race with worry. How would the boy find a mate? Screw the mate, how would he even survive the rainy season?! He had known it was too soon! He should have listened to his instinct!
The boy would just have to live with him for another year, until he was fully darkened and ready to be on his own. Master already had a place prepared, after all. To be honest, he didn’t mind waiting a whole year to play the stupid “impress the female” game. And he didn’t mind having Junior by his side, all snug and warm on the coldest nights, that cute little smile on his face, like a little girl’s… And damn, he was having weird thoughts again. And was it just him, or was his heart racing more?
He shook his head and prepared for the task at hand, namely, dragging this fool back to his place before he hurt himself. But where was Junior, anyway? He was nowhere to be seen around his disaster of a nest. Had he gone and got himself snatched up by a predator? No way, Master would have heard something like that. He’d be fine; he’d be fine.
Master took a quick shuttle around the area, and when he did not find Junior, returned to his own nest to make preparations for a longer search. To his relief, he found Junior nestled into his nest. So apparently the lad had just gone to steal some nest-building tips again. Oh well, this saved Master the trouble of dragging him back. Yes, he was already right where he should be. The sight quickened Master’s heart once again. Right where he should be.
Master had a thought that made him shake with laughter even as his heart continued to pound. If Junior was going to live in that nest anyway, they may as well go through with the formalities, right? Before he fully knew what he was doing, he took flight and landed behind the shocked and embarrassed Junior, caught in the archway of his elder’s nest, and began to dance. Why not? Master had gone through all the trouble of practicing the damn mating dance, after all.
Junior looked up at him, eyes wide in confusion. Master couldn’t help but want to dance even harder after seeing such a cute little face. This was definitely the strangest joke he’d ever played. But was it really that strange? This dance must be stirring up some strange hormones, because he couldn’t stop thinking that he really wouldn’t mind living out the rest of his days with this cute boy by his side.
Even after Junior was fully grown and stained completely black, Master wouldn’t mind, if the boy kept looking at him with those wide, trusting eyes of his, as he had always done. Yes, he thought as he lost himself in his dance, as long as Junior could look up only at him like that, then he would still be pure and perfect in Master’s eyes.
As he leaned in to make this future come true, he was brought back into the present by Junior’s timid pitch. “Wh-what are you doing?”
He continued to lean toward Junior. God, now he was even wider-eyed and blushing, and he looked so damn cute! “Don’t worry about a nest. We can share mine.”
He hadn’t meant his voice to come out in such a husky whisper, but the shiver that went through Junior’s body was worth it. Wait, when did this become something that wasn’t a joke! He couldn’t think straight. He was hot and dizzy and the only thing that made sense was to dance until Junior drew him close, closer, closer….
He could barely hear Junior’s voice over the pounding of blood in his head. “C’mon, stop joking, hey…” But when he turned to face Junior, struggling to steady his vision, he felt drool escape his beak. Junior saw it, too, and he slowly backed away. “Y-you’re not joking, are you? Wha- I…don’t know, I-I need some air!” And the young man rushed awkwardly off into the forest, leaving Master in an interrupted reverie.
Master shook the remaining drool loose from his beak and gasped in the fresh, cool air. What the hell had just happened? It was just a joke, right? But his blood rushed in such a way that he knew he wanted Junior in a way he would never want a female. But he’d scared him, right? What would happen now? Junior couldn’t run off like this! He still had to make sure he survived, after all! Surely, everything wasn’t ruined, right? Surely, he’d come back, right?
Yes, Junior would come back, and he’d forgive Master when he realized that everything he did was for his own well-being. He’d once again look up at Master with those trusting eyes that saw only him. And so they would continue on forever.
As he continued trying to steady his thoughts, Master realized he’d stumbled into the clearing where Junior’s pathetic attempt at a nest lay. And he had another brilliant idea. He couldn’t let Junior delude himself into thinking he could make this ramshackle structure work, or he’d get hurt. To save him from this fate, Master swooped down and razed the nest to the ground.
When it was all done, Master stood surrounded by broken twigs, his blood boiling as he admired his handiwork. Yes, Junior would see this and come back to him. And he’d stay forever under his wing, in a nest snug and warm, looking only at him. He allowed the thought to warm his entire body. Yes, Junior would be his, forever and always.