~*~

On an early April afternoon, Ernst woke with a start as something propelled him forward. A thought that had crossed his mind in a dream he had been somewhat enjoying. Hanschen was turning seventeen today! He looked around the room as sun shone in the window. He had nothing to give the other boy, his lover, for the love of God. No time to go into the city, and just a little time to browse the village stores for something. But what to give him?

The girls would know! Ernst thought, jumping off the chair he had been snoozing in and straightening his sleep-rumpled clothes. It was Saturday, and he knew the exact spot to find his little band of friends.

The meadow was all in bloom, and he knew that his friends would be picking flowers for friends, families, maybe even some of the boys. Maybe each other, as well.

"Hello, Ernst!" Anna called from her spot near some wild poppies, "Come join us! Here, have a wild rose… careful for the thorns!"

Ernst smiled as he took the delicate pink flower, "Anna! Girls! I come to bare my soul to you guys!"

"What is it, Ernst, dear?" Ilse asked.

"Hanschen… today is his birthday!" Ernst cried.

"Ja! Ja, it is!" Thea replied.

"I have no ideas for gifts, girls," Ernst told them sadly.

"Nein? I'm sorry, Ernst!" Anna replied, wrapping her arms around her dear, love-lost friend. She and the girls dropped their flowers and sat in a circle round Ernst, who joined the circle, sitting between Anna and Ilse.

"I'm afraid we won't be of much help," Martha said quietly, "I, at least, don't know Hanschen well enough…"

The others girls nodded, "He's become very mysterious since we were littler, and we hardly get to be with the boys anyway… except you, Ernst," Anna told him.

Ernst sighed sadly, "I want today to be special, though… our birthdays only come once a year…"

"I understand, dear," Ilse replied, rubbing the small boy's back, "But we're really not allowed to be near the boys anymore… or, they are," she added, whispering loud enough for the other girls to hear her anyway.

Thea tutted loudly at Ilse, and then said, "The best we can do is for you to give him flowers, that way, his parents might only think he has a secret admirer… anything more and they might wonder… you know how his parents can be…"

Ernst smiled, "Thea, you were the one who they saw holding hands with him, not me," getting another embarrassed/playful tut from the black-haired girl.

"We'll help!" Anna said, picking up her bouquet, "All right, girls! Ilse, you go get some bluebells, Martha, you get the pansies, Thea, you work more on the wild roses, and I'll get some poppies. Ernst, you get a few daisies. Report back here in fifteen minutes, and we'll see how the bouquet looks. We may have to raid the forest for some more… color!"

Ernst laughed as his friend took control of his lover's birthday present and went off to the edge of the meadow where the daisies were hiding.

Fifteen minutes went by, and the girls (and Ernst) came together once more. Anna put all the flowers together and looked at it from all angles (Ernst held them to his chest as if he were a bride getting married). "I think that would be nice. The Bride Ernst in the back is perfect too… Thea, you still have a veil from when we used to play dress-up?"

"Yes, Anna," Thea replied, giggling.

Ilse stepped in and saved Ernst from dying of embarrassment, "Yes, I think that's what all men want on their birthdays… commitment."

The girls whined wordlessly for a minute, before Ernst thanked them and took his (Hanschen's) bouquet to the place of meeting he and Hanschen had set up. The hayloft was stuffy, which was nice compared to the cold of early spring. Night was upon the sleepy German village, so the air had become considerably colder as the day wore on.

Ernst opened the door, expecting to be alone, as Hanschen might have a small party alone for just him and his parents. When Ernst got to the top of the ladder, though, he saw that Hanschen was waiting for him, a book placed delicately on his lap. The blonde boy looked up from the sentence he was reading, and slowly closed the book, "Hello, Ernst."

The silky voice of the other boy still sent shivers down the younger boy's back, but he ignored it briefly as he held out the sad looking bouquet, "Happy Birthday," he said quickly.

Hanschen took the flowers and chuckled, "Ernst… what did I tell you about your sentimentalism?"

"I… I forgot…" Ernst replied sheepishly, "About your birthday…"

Hanschen was silent as he stroked the flowers, "I see."

"Don't be angry, Hanschen, please. I remembered only this afternoon, and this is the best I could—" Hanschen stopped the younger boy's rambling with his lips.

"Ernst, darling, you're all I wanted this year," Hanschen replied, smiling that mysterious smile. It softened as he went in for another kiss, and Ernst wrapped his arms around the older boy after a few moments. Hanschen set the flowers down and pushed Ernst onto the hay behind them. They broke away for a minute, Hanschen's body in between Ernst's legs. Hanschen moved up so that their groins were touching, and Ernst gasped lightly as Hanschen began feverishly kissing his neck.

"Well then, Happy –Oh my God!- B-Birthday, Hanschen!" Ernst hissed after a few minutes.

~*~