All the praise/criticism this story earns should be split between me and ArmyOfOne1112.
This idea came straight from his mind. I am merely the one who put it together.
Don't forget to review. We both need it!
Chapter 1:A Special Night Out
There comes a time in every couple's existence when the day their lives were forever joined, their hearts fused together, and their spirits harmonized comes around again and must be celebrated studiously. That date has been forever immortalized in each of their minds, and for either party to forget those very special twenty-four hours is a grievous mistake.
For Blu and Jewel, the last surviving pair of Spix's Macaws, that day has just begun. The sun shone gloriously as it peeked its face above the horizon, silently acknowledging the special occasion with its heated rays.
They, alone in the cannonball tree that has been their home for one solid year, are painted by those luscious rays and lifted from their sleep.
Blu shifted in the nest beside his mate and yawned widely before saying, "That feels good. Good morning, Jewel."
The female parted her eyelids, but is promptly blinded by the influx of rays and flinches back.
"Here, let me block the sun for you."
Blu stepped from the nest and planted his body firmly in front of his mate, casting a cool shadow over her sleek form. She regained her composure and stared at Blu with her luscious pair of aurora-green irises.
"Thank you, Blu. And good morning to you as well."
"You are very welcome."
Blu dipped into a short bow before stepping forward and kissing her gently on the beak.
"I can't believe it's already been one year since you threw yourself from the plane and saved me, Blu. There's this warm feeling deep inside me," Jewel lifts her talon and taps the spot above her heart before continuing, "That I can't explain. It's so... enchanting. I never imagined I'd be feeling something so magical, but look at me now. I'm with the bird I love, and that's all that matters."
"I feel it too, honey. If I hadn't saved you from falling into a watery grave, then I wouldn't be standing here either. Now that we're together, our lives have real purpose. And trust me, this first anniversary, our first anniversary, is going to be the most splendid of them all."
Jewel extricated herself from the collection of twigs and vine and drew up to Blu, her chest lightly contacting his.
"I'll hold you to that, mister. I suppose you're not going to tell me what you have in store for me, are you?"
A mischievous glint flickered in his eyes, accompanied by a playful smile.
"Absolutely not! This is going to be as much as a surprise for me as it is for you, and I will not spoil it."
Jewel affected a serious expression and replied, "What do you mean? Didn't you plan the anniversary yourself?"
"Well, I pulled some strings here and there with some of Rafael's friends, but I don't know much about the specifics. All I know is where we're supposed to be and when we have to be there by."
"I see. Well, being as it's only just after sunrise, why don't we go grab a bite to eat? All of the anticipation and romantic talk has left me kind of hungry."
Blu ambled towards the hole in the trunk and stopped right on the lip. Jewel attempted to follow, but he stretched his wing out once more and held her back.
"Don't you want me to come with you?"
"I don't mean to leave you out, but no. I will search the jungle for a fitting breakfast and bring the food back here."
Jewel smiled her liquefying smile and replied, "Your courtesy just tickles me, Blu. No wonder I love you so much."
"I do all I can for you, my queen..."
Blu planted a quick kiss on her beak before leaping from the hollow.
Jewel sank down on her stomach, concealing her legs from view beneath her aquamarine feathers.
"He's so thoughtful and loving. He'll be the one to keep me happy, for as long as I live..."
As Blu cut his way across the clearing, he plainly heard the chants of the other avian species as they heralded the sunrise. The lyrics worked their way into his mind and flooded him with a sense of elation and wonder.
And this is why I live in the jungle. Everything is so cheery and uplifting. Jewel was right, the jungle is the most fascinating place to live in on this entire planet. One day, we'll be raising our children here and showing them what a perfect place this is...
This thought ran through Blu's head for a few seconds, but he pushed it away to make room for a more pressing matter: That lies in the future. But for now, I need to focus on the present, which means finding food for Jewel. What does she love to eat? Oh yes, mangoes! I'll bring her some-
Blu was so lost in his musings that he crossed the clearing and came upon the border quite quickly. He did not notice the banana tree that lay in his path, and so he struck it with reasonable force. The blow dazed him and caused him to tumble out of the air and landing roughly at the base of the offending plant.
Blu lay on the ground for several seconds before picking himself up and checking his body for damage. However, it was not what he saw that convinced him he was injured, but what he felt. A rivulet of blood trickled from his forehead and wound its way down the side of his beak before dripping onto the ground at his feet.
"Ouch! Now I'll have to explain this to Jewel and hope it heals before tonight! I may need to pay a visit to Tulio this afternoon..."
Blu ripped a leaf from a nearby ground-hugging vine and wiped away the blood as best he could, being as he had no way to observe his reflection.
Now, he swore mentally, I am going to find some plump, juicy and sweet mangoes for us before I knock myself silly! What do you know, plump, juicy, and sweet reminds me of Jewel...
Blu smiled at the comparison and used the burst of warmth that followed to chase away the stinging of his forehead. He walked past the border and rose into flight, keeping his eyes peeled for a mango tree that bore worthy fruit for him and his mate.
He scoured the local area while flying in a zigzag pattern, and it did not take him long to come upon a stately tree that sagged under the weight of dozens of healthy orange fruits. Blu alighted on one of the drooping upper branches and gripped the bough tightly.
Blu scanned his talon among the fruits and selected the two largest he could find.
These two are really big! They should fill our stomachs nicely...
Blu tore the first one off and held it in his left foot. He then fastened the other foot around the second mango's stem and dropped from the branch. The pull of gravity on his body cleanly separated the fruit from its parent tree, and as soon as Blu felt the stem snap, he spread his wings and flapped them to stop his fall and gain forward speed.
The mangoes were indeed quite large, but Blu had spent most of his life hoisting tomes around in Blue Macaw Books, and thus their weight was entirely manageable. On top of that, Blu's gift of flying only amplified the efficiency of his muscular prowess.
He coursed through the rainforest at a fair pace, and by the time he returned to the hollow he shared with Jewel, the jungle song had faded away. Blu hovered and let the mangoes fall to the floor before alighting on the sturdy wood floor and looking upon a shocked Jewel.
"Blu, why is there a red line on your forehead? Did you get hurt?"
"Yeah. I ran into a banana tree while thinking about what to bring you for breakfast. It still hurts, but it'll heal. I was planning on having Tulio check it over and clean it up this afternoon. I don't want to risk it getting infected."
Jewel stepped up to her brave mate and kissed the wound tenderly.
"I hope that makes it feel better."
"Your kisses heal everything, honey. I don't know how, but they do."
Jewel peered deep into his warm chocolate eyes and replied, "Let's hope that never changes, clumsy. Now come on, let's eat. I see you've brought back some pretty hefty mangoes."
Blu chuckled at her playful comment about his nature and held a mango right in front of Jewel's beak.
"Ladies first, my love."
She gave him a warm smile and took a welcome bite from the fruit before grabbing it with her foot. Blu then lifted the other to his beak and munched away on it in time with Jewel.
The silence they shared while they ate was a blissful one, and if being in the same hollow wasn't enough, they scooted together until they were side by side and consumed their meal.
Once the last chunks made their way into Blu and Jewel's stomachs, the macaws cleaned each others beaks with playful tongue-licks. It was not a seductive act – Blu and Jewel giggled the entire time, and adding to the innocence of the maneuver was the fact that the season was fall and their hormones were at an all-time low.
Once their laughter was stilled and their faces genuinely clean, Blu snuggled close to his mate and asked, "Why don't we take a little nap to pass the time? Once we wake up, we'll stop by Tulio's so I can get this cut cleaned."
"Sounds good to me, handsome. What should we do after that?"
"I don't really know. We have to be at our... secret place by eight o'clock in the evening, so we'll have to come up with some way to while away the hours. But we'll worry about that when we wake up."
"Alright, Blu. Whatever you... hey!" Blu squeezed her against his chest and lifted her off the ground before carrying her to the nest. He gently placed her back on her feet and climbed in beside her.
"That was... kind of exciting! You're stronger than you look, handsome..."
"Is that so? Well, thank you. A lifetime of lugging books around and flapping my wings constantly to stay balanced must have bestowed upon me a significant muscle mass."
"Nerd..." chided Jewel as she wrapped her left wing around Blu's warm body.
"Just one of my many positive qualities. See you soon, my temptress."
"Right back at you, my love-hawk..."
The sun's angle was high enough that direct sunlight no longer entered the hollow, allowing a comforting shadow to fill the space. A dreamy ambiance shrouded the two macaws, causing them to succumb to the allure of sleep, which was in itself a dream...
The sun rolled along the ecliptic like a marble rolling along a syrup-covered track as the hours crept by. Its angle relative to the horizon steadily increased in magnitude until it arrived at the zenith, its purely vertical rays beating down upon the land and heating it intensely.
It was this oven-like heat that forced the two macaws out of their slumber.
They realized the full effects of the heat once their senses had fully been restored, causing them both to leave the nest in flustered moods.
"Ugh. This heat is stifling! I thought today was going to be pleasant, but I guess the sun had other plans." remarked Blu irritably.
"I hope it cools off as evening approaches. This is hardly the weather for an anniversary! This really upsets me."
"Well, there's nothing we can do to change it, Jewel, so I guess we'll just have to deal. I'll bet you my tail-feathers that Tulio and Linda have the air conditioners inside the sanctuary on full blast. We might as well get some relief there."
Jewel nodded sincerely and replied, "Good point. Let's go..."
Jewel fled the hollow first and wheeled about in the direction of the sanctuary, but once she had reached a fair distance from the tree, Blu drifted in beside her.
The two macaws powered on towards the safe haven as fast as they dared, for their flight speed had to be maintained in a sort of limbo with the heat.
If they flew too fast, the extra activity of their muscles would only serve to raise their body temperature and could prove dangerous. On the other hand, if they flew too slow, the bright sun high above would bake their bodies and merit the same effect.
They used the canopy for cover, which gave them just enough relief from the sun's direct rays to ease their flight.
Once the ivory walls flashed between the foliage, Blu and Jewel blasted ahead for the final stretch and landed right at the threshold of the mahogany front door. A series of needy taps by Blu's beak were answered by a pleasantly surprised Linda, who ushered them in with a sweep of her hand and a warm greeting.
Just as Blu had predicted, the air was saturated with a welcoming chill, reminding him of his former life in Moose Lake. He shivered with delight as he and Jewel perched on Linda's left arm, but her smile immediately faded upon seeing Blu's head wound.
"What did you do to your head, Blu? Are you alright?"
Blu shrugged his shoulders in indecision and then performed a wiping motion with his wing, running it over his face several times.
"Do you want Tulio to clean it? Is that what you mean?"
Blu nodded his head gently and issued a restrained squawk.
Her powers of understanding were remarkable to Jewel, as if they had some sort of silent vocabulary unique to just them alone.
"You know Blu, I wonder if there's a way for you to teach me how to speak without words, the way you just did with Linda."
"I don't think such a thing can be taught, Jewel. It took a long time to develop, and being as there's a language barrier between us, it was the only way I could tell her things. It's really not as exciting as it seems."
Jewel let out a short sigh and replied, "I understand. It's just... strange, that's all. It makes me curious."
As Linda tromped down the hall, poking her head into each lab in the search for Tulio, Jewel carefully eased her way towards Blu. Granted, the air was refreshingly cold, but it had managed to seep past Jewel's feathers and lower her body temperature to an uncomfortable level.
She pressed herself up against Blu and muttered, "I'm cold."
Blu extended his right wing and wrapped it around his mate, just as eager to share the warmth in their bodies as she.
Linda eventually found Tulio upon entering the fourth lab, spying him bent over a Military Macaw and conversing with one of his assistants.
Linda stopped just inside the door of the exam room and said, "Tulio, dear, I need your help. Or rather, Blu needs your help."
Tulio turned away from his colleague walked up to his wife, adjusting his glasses and removing Blu from his wife's arm.
"I see what you mean. You've got a pretty good laceration on your head, Blu. Let's get that disinfected and bandaged up right away."
Tulio walked over to the counter and set Blu down before scrounging around in a drawer for several seconds. He withdrew a small paper square and a short strip of gauze, along with some surgical tape.
Linda came and stood beside her husband, leaving Jewel close enough to the linoleum to hop down and sidle up to Blu.
"This is going to sting Blu, but that's how you know it's working."
Tulio tore open the paper packaging and withdrew a square-shaped antiseptic towel. Blu closed his eyes and tensed his muscles as Tulio rubbed the cut. It did indeed sting, but Jewel's embrace allowed him to fight the pain and not cry out.
Tulio then ripped off a small section of gauze and held it over the wound before taping it in place. The strip of white tape began just above Blu's beak, crossed over the gauze, and then terminated just below Blu's sprig of head feathers.
Tulio drew back, crossed his arms, and studied his handiwork.
"That should do it, Blu! Just remember to keep that on for at least another eight hours. It has to have time to heal, or it will get infected and then I'll have to perform more serious treatment on you."
Blu nodded in agreement, but internally, he was not pleased. He turned away from the humans and locked eyes with his mate, a scowl on his face.
"I look like an idiot, don't I?"
"Well... you... sort of. Regardless, you're still handsome. That has to count for something."
Blu huffed in halfhearted agreement and replied, "I guess so. I don't care what Tulio tells me, I am not going out with this stuck to my head."
"If you feel that strongly about it, I won't force you to leave it on when we leave for our anniversary trip. But until then, I don't want to see you trying to take it off."
Her tone was serious, but carried the undertones of female instinct.
She'll make a wonderful mother once we decide to have children, that's for sure. Tough love may seem harsh to them, but they'll learn it's for the best...
Blu cut off his aspiring train of thought as Linda scooped him up and planted him on her right shoulder.
"Now that you're all fixed up, what do you want to do? It's really hot outside, and to be honest, I was hoping you'd stay here for awhile. That is if you and Jewel want to."
Blu nodded his head carefully before inviting Jewel over with a sweep of his wing. Jewel perched on Linda's right arm and squawked happily.
Linda craned her head towards her husband and asked, "I guess I'm going to go watch TV and spend some quality time with these two. Are you coming too?"
Tulio shook his head and replied, "Sorry Linda, but I'm busy teaching Javier over there how to treat a fever, among other things. He's new here, you know how it goes."
Linda merely patted Tulio on his shoulder and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Okay then. I'll leave you to your ornithologist duties."
Linda walked towards the exam room door, and just before it slid shut, she heard Tulio's mellow voice say, "Bye, Linda. I love you!"
She shuffled back down the hall until coming upon the quite-large living room that took up some of the space on the right side of the building. Linda eased herself down onto the firm leather couch and grabbed the remote that had been laying next to her.
Blu and Jewel climbed down from their respective perches and settled themselves next to Linda's right leg as she flicked on the TV. Linda recognized it as the one o'clock news session and peered intently at the screen while the reporter droned on.
The Portuguese streaming from the speakers was easily decoded by Blu and Linda, for they had been taught the language over the past year by their respective mentors, Jewel and Tulio.
"How long should we stay here, Blu? I think we should go visit Rafael and Eva before evening comes, and maybe even Nico and Pedro."
Blu shifted into a more comfortable position and replied, "I say we stay here until about... five o'clock, and then we can go talk with them."
Blu and Jewel turned back to the TV and immersed themselves in the news broadcast, their minds buzzing with anticipation. For some reason, time seemed to pass more slowly to Blu and Jewel while in the company of Linda.
The news session ended at two o'clock, only to be replaced by an enticing cooking show. The effect it had on Blu and Jewel was immediate, and so the male macaw asked his owner to bring them some food. They munched happily on small crackers and shared a large glass of mango juice while the show progressed.
That was how Blu and Jewel enjoyed their stay at the aviary: engrossed in cooking shows while snuggled up with each other, and receiving gentle pats courtesy of Linda from time to time.
As content as he was, Blu was no fool, and so he routinely checked the time by glancing at the clock mounted above the front door. Although he willed for the hands of the clock to move faster, they showed no signs of being affected, and so the hours dragged on at a sluggish pace.
By the time the clock showed four forty-five in the afternoon, Blu was growing agitated and had to be calmed down by his mate.
As soon as the clock struck five and another news session bloomed to life on the TV, Blu conveyed his wish to write something to Linda, who left her spot and went on the search for a pencil and paper. Once she returned and handed him the supplies, he told her the significance of this very day and how he planned to celebrate it with his beloved.
Linda – who had not known about Blu and Jewel's special date until now – was surprised by the suddenness of the announcement, but still managed to praise Blu for his commitment. After a bout of hugging and lathering Blu with pride, she placed him back on the couch, regained her composure, and congratulated Jewel with equal praise.
Once the flurry of emotion in the room had settled down, Blu and Jewel bid goodbye to Linda, who returned the farewells and peeled the front door open for them. They burst from the sanctuary and were met by the lingering afternoon heat, but they steeled their will and powered off towards the home of their dear toucan friends.
After a good ten minute flight, they landed on the ground a few feet away from a slightly deformed tree and checked their surroundings for Rafael and Eva.
"I... don't think they're here, Jewel. There's no sign of them or their eighteen crazed children."
"Well, why don't we wait and see if they show up?"
"I don't see why not. Let's take shelter in their hollow..."
Blu and Jewel lofted up to the hollow and tucked themselves far towards the rear of the sizable space. A deep shadow allowed them to lower their abnormally high body temperatures while they waited.
Not long after their arrival, a flurry of competitive shouts filtered into their ears, growing rapidly louder by the second. Blu and Jewel shuddered at the noise, fearing that they were about to experience the wrath of eighteen feisty chicks.
"Blu, I think they're coming!" whispered Jewel.
"I know. It's too late for us to escape. I just hope Rafael and Eva come to our rescue before we get pulverized..."
The endless stream of voices grew very close, and as the macaws fixed their eyes on the opening just ahead, their worst fears were realized. One by one, a large group of toucan chicks crowded their way into the hollow, extinguishing their voices as they spied Blu and Jewel huddled in the far corner.
Blu clamped his eyes shut and cried, "Looks like we won't be leaving without a few bruises and cuts, Jewel!"
"I am telling you right now, we will never have this many children!"
After a tense silence, Blu and Jewel never felt the pinch of their feathers being ripped out or the ache as their stomachs were used as living trampolines. They hesitantly opened their eyes and saw the crowd of comparatively tiny toucans clustered around them.
"What the?" said a confused Blu. "Aren't you going to attack Jewel and I?"
One of the chicks shook his head and replied sweetly, "No way, Uncle Blu! That thing you have on your head makes you look too cute and funny to attack."
Jewel adopted a curious expression and asked, "Then why aren't you all piling onto me? I don't have anything on my head."
Another chick looked up at Jewel with tender eyes and replied, "Daddy told us it was your any-ver-ser-sary... or something..."
Jewel chuckled and picked up the chick with her wings.
"It's anniversary, little one. And thank you for being so kind. I thought we were goners!"
Blu stared directly at the chick Jewel was holding and asked, "Where are Rafael and Eva?"
"Oh, they're coming! They took all every one of us to a river for our weekly baths."
Jewel released the chick and cuddled with another, and being as the chicks looked so adorable – and quite clean from their recent baths – Blu mimicked her.
Moments later, a powerful gust of wind swept through the hollow and announced the entry of the toucan parents.
"Blu! Jewel! How have you been today?" queried Rafael as he waded through the pool of toucans and hugged the two macaws.
"Pretty well, except for the scorching heat outside, and the cut I got this morning while searching for breakfast. What about you and Eva?"
"Not bad, Blu. The heat is pretty bad, but we've gotten used to it. Right now, we're just excited for you and Jewel. Tonight is going to be one of the most charming nights you'll ever experience! I can still remember the first anniversary I shared with Eva..."
The female toucan walked up beside Rafael and wrapped a wing around him.
"So can I. You'll wish for your anniversary to last forever. I know I did."
"Well, it may not last forever, but as long as I'm with Jewel, I'll be happy."
Blu leaned over and kissed Jewel on the beak lightly.
"Have you told her where you are going?"
"No way, Eva! Besides, I don't know very many details."
Eva locked Jewel in a proud gaze and said, "If what Rafael told me is true, you are going to have the surprise of your lifetime. Blu is taking you to one of the-"
Blu's jovial expression morphed into one of horror as Eva droned on, causing Rafael to wrap his great black wings around his wife's beak.
"Okay, that's enough, Eva! No more anniversary talk around Blu and Jewel."
After his words sank in, he lowered his wings from Eva's beak cautiously. She caught sight of Blu's pained expression and hung her head in shame. Blu gave a long sigh of relief, but an irritated bite had buried itself within his voice.
"Be more careful next time, Eva! You are my friend and all, but you shouldn't talk about these things so lightly."
"I'm sorry, Blu. I came really close to spoiling your surprise, and I would never forgive myself. It's just that... I am so proud of you both..."
An awkward silence ensued, with Rafael trying to perk up his mate and Jewel trying to dispel Blu's agitation. She leaned in close to him and whispered, "You know how her emotions can get the better of her sometimes, Blu. It's how she is."
"That's no excuse! She was a just few words away from irrevocably ruining everything. I want this day to be perfect for you, my love, and having my surprise exposed prematurely... I don't want to even think about that..."
Blu shivered with despair at the thought, but Jewel's touch helped him chase it away.
"But she didn't ruin it, so everything's okay. Trust me. I still have no clue about what's going to happen tonight."
"If you say so."
"So, what should we talk about, everyone?" asked Rafael with unnecessary volume.
A new alertness flooded the hollow in the wake of the outburst. Jewel cleared her throat and replied, "Want to know how Blu got his head wound and why that white stuff is on his head?"
Both Rafael and Eva inched closer to Jewel, their gazes expectant, while the throng of toucan chicks pressed themselves closer to her as well.
"We do! We do!" chanted the chicks.
"I'll bet it has something to do with his clumsiness!" said Eva with a chuckle.
"If this is going to turn into one big point-and-laugh party, I won't stick around and be ridiculed."
Jewel ignored her husband's serious tone and punched him playfully in the chest.
"You can't just ditch me like that. It's our anniversary."
After a heavy pause, Blu grumbled and replied, "Fine. You win... for now."
Jewel lowered herself onto her stomach and assumed a comfortable pose.
"So, this morning, after we woke up..."
Jewel recounted the painful tale of her mate from beginning to end, and instead of giving a reason for the toucans to scorn him, they sympathized with the macaw and let out bursts of innocent laughter. Blu's mood softened considerably during the course of Jewel's speech, and he even laughed along with them at times.
Being as that was the richest conversation Jewel could think of – along with the fact that the anniversary topic was now taboo – the group of neighbors started up bouts of small talk and engaged in light play with the toucan chicks.
Blu would periodically stride over to the hollow and peer out to gauge the position of the sun. He decided that they would depart once that fiery orb touched the canopy of the jungle to the west of them. He did not know exactly what time that would be, but it would leave just enough time left for them to conduct a short chat with Nico and Pedro.
Eventually, hunger pangs seized every one of the twenty two feathered creatures, and they simply could not resist the allure of eating a late afternoon meal. Blu – for fear of having Jewel discover the specifics of their late-night getaway – heartily agreed to dine with them.
Jewel also accepted the offer, causing Blu to sigh inwardly with momentous relief.
I just dodged another bullet! Although we should be saving room for the restaurant's food, I have to play it cool. Had I refused to eat, it wouldn't have taken Jewel very long to uncover the hidden truth, and that is a risk I will not take. Hopefully I'll be able to work off some of the food before the sun sets...
"Blu? Blu!" Blu was torn from his mental reverie by the sound of Jewel's voice, and when he took in his surroundings, he noticed just he and his mate were present on the hollow.
"Hey, easy! Where did the others go?"
"They left to search for some food. Now come on, or we're going to lose them!"
Jewel grabbed hold of his wing and pulled him towards the entrance, causing him to trip right as he neared the edge and tumble through the air. He spread his wings moments before hitting the ground and steadied his flight. The weaving black mass of toucans was visible a fair distance away, while Jewel was much closer in comparison.
The enthusiasm! The energy! I wonder where she gets it...
Blu raced to catch up with his splendid mate, and after throwing her a quick nod, they flew even faster in an effort to catch up with the bodies of their toucan friends.
The combined visual field of the party of birds was stunning, and nearly two minutes into the flight, they located a plentiful grove of starfruit trees that seemed to beckon to their growling stomachs. They all alighted in their own trees and began to munch with delight upon the tangy yellow fruits.
Blu expertly masked his disdain at prematurely filling his stomach by consuming three of the fruits before calling it quits. His charade convinced Jewel that he was truly full, and she sensed that nothing was amiss.
She herself ate two of the yellow morsels, and when the band of toucans weren't paying attention, allowed her mate to lick the tangy residue from her beak. She reciprocated the action, swearing to herself that now wasn't the only time she would savor Blu's intimacy.
The love-drunk macaws patiently waited until the toucans had had their fill, at which point Blu flew up above the grove to check on the sun. When he landed, he informed her that it was now scraping the canopy, meaning that now would be a good time to depart.
"Rafael? Eva?" asked the macaws simultaneously.
Their striking orange beaks pointed towards the macaws like ornate daggers.
"Jewel and I are going to leave now. We want to pay a quick visit to Nico and Pedro before... you know..."
"Of course, my blue buddy! I hope you two have a wonderful time."
"Remember," cut in Eva, "This is a time to celebrate the journey that got you here in the first place. You will have each others undivided attention, and do not be afraid to show the depth of love you both share, even if it means getting a little intimate."
Jewel nodded and replied, "Thanks for the advice, Eva. We'll keep that in mind."
"If you feel up to it, stop by tomorrow and tell us how it went, okay?"
"Sure thing, Rafael! Bye!" shouted Blu as he took off into the sky.
Jewel paused and added, "Goodbye, little ones!" before blasting off and chasing after her mate.
In the deep orange light of the Rio sky, created by the setting sun, Blu and Jewel plowed through the air in the direction of Nico and Pedro's residence.
The once-scorching atmosphere had cooled reasonably over the past few hours, almost as if the sun was setting the mood for Blu and Jewel's coming celebration: a laid-back yet amorous escapade.
Blu no longer felt any residual ache from his forehead, so Blu hovered in flight and asked his mate to peel the gauze away. Being careful not to strip any of his feathers away, she removed the healing bandages and let them plummet to the jungle floor.
All that could be seen was a tiny patch of matted feathers; the cut had healed itself completely, and no traces of blood or debris had been left behind. Now that Blu's offending bandage had been removed, the pair of amacaws resumed their journey.
It did not take them long to find their destination, at which point they glided downwards and entered the hollow with a flourish. Much to their dismay, the gust of wind that resulted awoke the sleeping pair of birds, who promptly jumped from their nests and bounced up to Blu and Jewel.
"What's crackin', you two?" queried Pedro.
"We haven't seen either of you for a long time! What's up?" added Nico.
"Well, tonight is the night that Jewel and I have officially been together for one whole year. Rafael helped me organize a special event for us both!"
Nico and Pedro's disheartened expressions shocked the pair of macaws deeply.
"Hey guys, what's wrong? Is it something Blu said?"
"Tonight's the big night for Love-Hawk and Hot Wings and you didn't tell us? That's messed up! Pedro and I got connections too! We woulda hooked you up..."
The macaws were dragged down by the weight of of true shame and disrespect, as evidenced by their slumped postures and downcast voices.
"We're really sorry. It's just that Rafael was so eager to help Blu that he couldn't refuse." muttered Jewel.
"And on top of that, we know how attracted you both are to our relationship, if you know what I mean. We just didn't want you to... spoil our evening by showing up uninvited and trying to 'set the mood.' " added Blu.
A deadly silence hammered home the grievousness of Blu and Jewel's act, and although they put up a strong defense, their spirits were not lifted.
"Hey, don't be sad. We see what you mean." Pedro's mellow voice caused Blu and Jewel to look up at him. "We do like to get crazy sometimes, and you were some smart birds to not tell us until now."
"Of course, Blu. Still, if you didn't want us to interfere, all you had to do was let us know."
"I guess I was too wrapped up with Rafael to think of that. Once again, I'm sorry for letting you down."
The canary and cardinal lifted Blu's head with a few pushes from their wings, and then did the same with Jewel.
"We're still happy that you made it this far. Looks like our love lessons really did work, ain't that right, Nico?"
"Heck yeah! You guys are one year in, so I guess we did a pretty sweet job!"
"Well, if you say so..." replied the female casually.
Blu broke away from the others and peeked out of the hollow for a few seconds. The sky had faded to a strange bluish-orange hue, and as Blu peered off towards the west, he could just make out the limb of the sun sinking below the edge of the canopy.
He scurried up beside Jewel and said, "Jewel, I'm sorry to interrupt, but we have to go. We can't afford to be late! My attempt at perfection is still untarnished, and I don't want to damage it now!"
Jewel was surprised by the intensity in his normally calm voice.
He's trying so hard to make this night feel special. It really means that much to him. Sometimes I wonder if he's just a little too good for me...
"Oh, okay Blu."
"If you need to leave, we won't hold you back. You better make sure to spread the love!" exclaimed the canary.
"We'll see you two 'round. Keep it spicy!" added the cardinal.
Blu led Jewel to the lip of the hollow and motioned for her to fly out first, but she shook her head.
"No. You lead the way this time."
"Very well, my love..."
Blu glided away from the hollow on an easterly course, the dying rays of the sun painting his back a menagerie of hues. Jewel obediently followed, and she felt her heart flutter from the mystery of what Blu had in store for her.
I don't know what to expect! Whatever it is, I know it'll be so lovely. Blu's put so much planning and effort into this that I know it'll be nothing short of spectacular...
The city of lights that was Rio began to glow on the horizon, but as the pair of macaws left the jungle and drifted above the city, the light was neither too bright nor too dim.
The sun had nearly set, but not totally, creating an eclectic mix of natural and artificial lighting that pleased the senses.
Jewel followed her mate as he made a beeline for the bay, noticing they were substantially high above the ground, and basically the whole of Rio could be seen from their vantage point. Blu swept his head from left to right, scanning the buildings below in his search for the rooftop that was his destination.
Where is it? Rafael said to look for a really tall hotel with a dark green covering. It should be right beside the bay...
Blu heard a burst of wing-flaps behind him, and within moments, Jewel was drifting along beside him.
"Is everything okay, honey?"
"Yeah. I'm just having trouble finding our destination."
"Then everything's not okay. Just be honest, Blu. Then I won't have a reason to get upset."
The male merely sighed and continued searching, unable to find a way to counter Jewel's logic.
After another minute of silent searching, Blu exclaimed, "Yes! There it is! Come on Jewel, our place of celebration awaits..."
Blu dove at a steep angle towards the massive building, and Jewel recognized it as one of the largest hotels in Rio. However, the fact that he was leading her towards the rooftop utterly confused her. As they plummeted ever closer to the rooftop, Blu veered to the left and skidded to a stop on a patch of asphalt that ran the length of the building on the eastern side.
Only a small wall stood between them and a sheer drop to the distant street below.
As Jewel turned to her left, she was instantly stunned by what she saw: a deep green, cloth-like material was hanging over what seemed to be the entire top of the hotel, save for the patch of gravel that served as a landing strip.
What appeared to be regularly spaced rods of some sort ran down the sides of the massive sheet and supported it.
"Jewel, come over here. This is where we go in..."
Blu was stationed about halfway down the eastern side of the cloth, waving his wing in the air gently.
Once Jewel took her place beside Blu, she noticed a partition in the sheet that seemed to be leaking soft golden light. Blu moved the material aside and allowed Jewel to enter. They came upon a small space that harbored yet another sheet of material, as if an inner curtain was nested inside the outer curtain.
The soft chatter of voices could be heard from just a few feet ahead, but the dividing curtain concealed their origins.
Just ahead of them was yet another partition that leaked the same golden light as before, but this time, a very handsome Scarlet Macaw guarded the slit.
A small sheet of paper could be seen sticking out from under his folded left wing.
"May I have your names?"asked the male macaw while drawing out the slip of paper.
"Blu and Jewel..." replied Blu smoothly.
The macaw rang a wingtip down the slip for a few seconds, and once it reached the end, he lowered it and looked up at the pair of guests sullenly.
Blu's incredible anticipation was murdered as the Scarlet Macaw tucked the slip away and declared, "I don't see your names on the list. Did you make a reservation?"
Jewel suddenly turned towards Blu with a sallow expression, but he was too busy staring at the macaw angrily to notice.
What! Rafael personally brought me here, and we talked to the manager face-to-face! There must be a mistake. Please let there be a mistake...
"Well, no, but-"
"Then I can't allow you in. Reservations only..."
The macaw walked around behind them and held open the outer partition, but Blu exclaimed, "Wait! A friend of mine introduced me to the manager here about nine days ago. He assured us that we'd have a spot. This is our anniversary! You have to double-check!"
Blu's voice was unnaturally loud, but the macaw somehow stayed calm.
"Does this 'friend' have a name?"
The macaw fixed Blu with a questioning gaze, as if contemplating the validity of his statement, before replying, "Wait here."
The macaw turned to the left and ambled down the walkway between the two less-than-solid walls, disappearing around the corner seconds later.
"Are you sure this is the right place?"
"Of course it is! Me and Rafael talked to Benito, the manager, nine days ago. Why aren't our names on the list? If he doesn't let us in, it's all over..."
Blu hung his head with despair, causing Jewel to wrap her wings around him reassuringly.
"It's probably just a miscommunication, Blu. Will you please calm down... for me?"
Blu was momentarily torn between his frustration over the atrocity and Jewel's honey-like voice, but he relented.
"For you, I'll do anything. But I just don't see how our names weren't written down..."
Blu's voice was placated, but the spark of agitation still burned in his soft brown eyes.
One tense minute later, the macaw appeared from around the corner and walked up to them.
"I am terribly sorry, Sir, Ma'am. Your reservation was accounted for, but I forgot to write it down. I apologize sincerely for my error."
"It's all right," countered Jewel softly. "No one is perfect. What is your name?"
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Emilio." replied Jewel.
"Likewise, Ma'am. You two certainly make a fine couple. Now, I welcome you both to Benito's Golden Gallery, home of the finest dining and most enriching atmosphere of any restaurant in Rio..."
The macaw pulled aside the partition and revealed the secret that Blu had hidden from Jewel for so long. Blu found his wife's wing and pulled her slowly forward, passing by the smiling form of Emilio and stepping lightly into the main room.
A beige ceiling – supported by regularly-spaced steel rods painted a deep green – hovered over the entire area at a height of five feet.
Three burgundy walls framed the perimeter, adorned with delicate landscape paintings and what appeared to be real vines harvested from the jungle.
The floor was a rich cinnamon color, polished enough that the rows of deep golden lights embedded in the ceiling could be seen reflected in it.
Lastly, nearly two dozen fairly-large tables were arranged neatly throughout the room, and all but one of them were occupied by various pairs of feathered creatures.
This restaurant simply screamed opulence and affection, the likes of which neither Blu nor Jewel had ever seen before. An impressive smile formed on Blu's face, and as he turned to look at his wife, he noticed her eyes wide open in astonishment.
"It's... I... oh, I love it!" she muttered hotly. "I've never seen such a magnificent place..."
"And you deserve it completely, my love. This is my way of showing you how much you mean to me, and how much I love you."
Jewel turned her gaze to Blu and melted him with the most endearing expression she could muster.
"I... don't know what to say... except for the fact that I love you too. I'll bury these precious hours in my heart, and make sure they're never to be forgotten."
"And I will do the same..."
Moments later, a young-looking Military Macaw strode up them, two small black books tucked under his right wing.
"Would you like to be seated, Sir, Ma'am?"
"Yes, please," replied Jewel dreamily.
"Right this way..."
As the macaw led them to their table, their insides were bathed in a fireworks display of emotion. Blu was overcome with a sense of accomplishment and pride due to the fact that his mate seemed infinitely pleased by his choice of venue.
Jewel, on the other hand, was bathed in a sense of amazement and elation so deep that she could hardly think.
Blu... did this all for me. He really does love me, and he'll never stop loving me. And despite all of his flaws and shortcomings, I'll never stop loving him, either. This night will go down as the most unforgettable night of our entire lives! Tonight, it's just me and him, two macaws spending quality time with each other and sharing their love. As long as we're together, everything will be just perfect...