General disclaimer: I don't own these characters. They belong to Cyrus Voris and Ethan Rieff. I'm just borrowing them for a little bit and there is no money being made for this.bdaygift
Birthday Gift
By: Dawn Powell

Max slid the small plate across the counter until it came to a rest in front of Ezekiel Stone. Next to it she plopped down an unwrapped box. It's only deceration was a light bloe ribbon tied around it. At the noise Zeke looked up from the coffee he'd been nursing for the last 15 minutes. His eyes wondered from the plate to the box and back again. On the plate he saw a cupcake with a tiny burning candle. He turned to the person who placed it there, and with a slight tremble to his voice he asked, "Max, what's this?" He gestered at the plate and box. Looking into his eyes though you could see that he really wanted to ask, 'Why did you do this?'

The person in question remained unaware of the hidden question, though. "It's a cupcake, silly. Haven't you ever seen one before?"

Zeke sighed. He would get his chance at asking the question he wanted to after all. "I know it's a cupcake, but why are you giving it to me? And what's with the box?" This came out harsher then he intended it to be, but he wans't in the mood for games. Not today.

But Max being Max just went on with her efforts at cheering Zeke up. Zeke knew very well what she was trying to do but damnit he wasn't going to give up his bad mood that easily. He had every right to be upset. Today would have been his 54th birthday. And he should have been at home with his wife celebrating, not here with Max, even if she was his friend, and dead. It wasn't fair. But that's life or in his case life after death. This day was just yet another remider of all the things that he had lost when those five bullets ripped through his face, killing him.

"I'm giving it to you because I heard from a little bird that today is your birthday. Did I hear that right or did they lie to me?" Max asked with a teasing smile. Zeke knew exactly who that little bird was and he looked up at the sky and mumbled something about, "....having to talk to that guy about respecting the dead." Max didn't have the slightest clue as to what he was talking about. Why was Zeke complaining about some guy not respecting the dead? Max shrugged it of and picked up the box for Zeke to open. Zeke on the other hand was too busy planning revenge on his boss to pay any attention to what Max was saying. Then he noticed that she was looking at him like she was expecting an answer.

"Did you say something?"

This time it was Max who sighed and with the patience of a parent she said. "I asked if you were going to open the box. It is your gift after all. It wouldn't look good if I did it for you." He nodded his understanding and began to slowly open the box. Once the lid was off he saw a stack of typed papers nessled in tissue paper. His eyes showed the confusion that he felt. "It's the first novel that I wrote. When I was trying to think of things to get you the only thing that stood out was this. I remebered the day I told you about it. You looked so disappointed when I told you that you couldn't buy it in a store. Now I owe a friend of mine big time for printing it up for me."

Zeke took a closer look at the pages before him and saw that they were indeed the book by Max. On the top just under the title was Max's name. He remembered that day well. It was one of the first days of this new life and he had just met a spirited young women. Those were days that were not easily forgotten. Like she said, when he found out that she was a writer he wanted to read the book she had done. Then she told him this wierd sort of code on how to find it. And she just looked at him when he asked where he could pick it up from. He had been disappointed when she said that he couldn't buy it.

While Zeke was taking a walk down memory lane, Max stood by patiently. When she saw how low the candle had burned she leaned over the counter and blew it out. Zeke never knew the difference.

When he looked back up at Max his eyes were misty. Running through him were emotions that he hadn't felt for a long time, gratitude, friendship, and caring. There was also confusion. He couldn't understand why someone would go to all this trouble from him. All of this took turns at controlling his features.

Finally he got to say something that he's wanted to for a while now. "Thanks, Max. For everything." 'For being my friend.'

"Well, your welcome, Stone. That's what friends are for. Now as for this age thing. Just how old are you really?"

"You really want to know?" Max nodded. "I thought it was impolite to as that?"

"That's only in women and your avoiding the question."

For a brief moment Zeke considered telling her the age he would have been but dismissed the idea. With a grin he said in a semi-stern voice, "I'm 39, ok? Are you happy now?"

"Yes I am. Now eat your cupcake like a good boy so we can get going."

"Go? Go where?"

"You'll see. Now come on."

"Yes, Mom." Max laughed. "I'm almost ready. So where are we going?"

"It's a surprise. Come on, I don't want to be late." Max thought she would take Zeke out to see a movie and then they would go to a bar, get a couple drinks and spend the rest of the night playing pool or talking. Just a night out on the town.

"Should I go change into something clean?" Max shook her head, they weren't going anywhere fancy. Zeke grabbed his jacket and was ready to go. He snatched the cake off the plate and stuffed it into his mouth or at least tried to. He ended up having to bite off part of it and eat that next. Max grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the door. As he turned to shut it completely Zeke saw a figure in white standing in the corner. It was then that he knew who had told Max it was his birthday. Zeke smiled and said, "Thank you." The angel in the corner just smiled and waved, but as Zeke walked down the stairs towards Max he heard a faint, "Happy birthday."


Copyright 1999 Dawn Powell