Preen Nuptial

Lovino had had some bad nights, but this one was by far, the worst. He had gone out at sunset knowing there was a bad storm coming, and his last-minute errand to get something he desperately needed had ended with him lying on the floor of his treehouse, a crumpled mess. The rough winds had battered his feathers, and they were still wet from the heavy rain. Lovino had tried to flap them dry, but he barely even had the energy to move anymore, much less shake the water from his damaged feathers. He panted, exhausted, as he tried to will himself to stand. At least his treasured item lay safely in the pouch tied to his belt. The storm hadn't managed to take that from him. Finally, Lovino just closed his eyes and fell asleep in that very spot.

The next time he woke up, it wasn't any more pleasant. Before he knew it, his arm was being shaken, a worried voice yelling next to his ear.

"LOVINO! Lovi, wake up!"

The man on the floor groaned and elbowed the other away.

"Goddammit, Toni...My head already hurts enough, you know!" he snapped, glaring at the other.

"I'm sorry, Lovi," the other said apologetically. He was Antonio- a cheerful man with dark brown wings and bright green eyes. He also happened to be Lovino's future mate. "I just wanted to make sure nothing had happened to my betrothed."

Lovino frowned at him. "I'm fine, just-"

"Drank too much?" Antonio butted in accusingly, though his tone was playful. "I told you not to drink and fly, Lovi!"

"I-I wasn't drinking, idiot!" Lovino protested. "It was a storm! You know? Rough winds? Brutal rainfall? Maybe a little lightening?"

Antonio's eyes went wide.

"You went out flying in that?!" he gasped, pointing outside, where it was a still slightly gloomy.

"Yeah," Lovino groaned, stretching out his aching wings. He managed to pull himself up onto his feet with a lot of difficulty and a little assistance from Antonio. His head throbbed, and he still barely felt awake. What had he been doing out there last night? Oh, right...the pouch. The pouch!

"T-the wedding!" Lovino stammered and fell right back on the floor again. Antonio was on him in an instant, wings agitated and flapping as he struggled to get him up off the floor again.

"Come on, Lovi...Let's get you to the nest."

"It's todaaay," Lovino moaned as his fiance hauled him towards the soft bed made of straw and feathers.

"Yes, amor," Antonio cooed soothingly, "and we have a lot to do to get you ready, so let your new mate help, si? Lie down and let me see your wings."

Lovino didn't stop his complaining, but at least he became more cooperative. Antonio got him in a comfortable position so that Lovino was lying on his belly. Lovino spread out his wings as Antonio asked him to do, and then his fiance went to work, examining each feather carefully.

"A lot of broken flights," he murmured. "Some of these are going to fall out. I'll fix the damaged ones that I can."

He started smoothing the feathers out between two fingers, rubbing lightly and arranging them neatly in the way a bird would preen itself. This was something the winged race often did for each other. Their own wings were difficult to reach, so they relied on their family members to groom them until they found mates of their own. Since Lovino's parents had died when he was young, he had always asked his brother, Feliciano, to do it.

"From now on, this will be a regular thing, huh?" Antonio mused as he continued to groom the other. "I preen you, you preen me. I used to wonder what it'd be like to have someone besides my family do it."

Lovino said nothing. He only lay there and blushed, his feathers ruffling slightly in embarrassment. You are my family now, bastard.

"Don't do that, Lovi," Antonio chided as he smoothed down the fluffed-out feathers again. "You'll make my job harder!"

"Are you done yet?" Lovino muttered. "I still have to get dressed and check the preparations, dammit."

"Your brother's taking care of those," Antonio replied. "And I can take care of the dressing," he chuckled, giving the cords that tied Lovino's shirt together in the back a teasing pull.

"Just finish the wings, bastard," Lovino demanded, spreading the brown feathery appendages wide and shoving them in Antonio's face.

"Okay, okay," Antonio chuckled, continuing his work.

As his lover continued neatening the feathers and removing the loose or badly-broken ones, Lovino smiled secretly to himself. It really felt nice to have someone take care of him, to fuss over him a little when he really did need help. Lovino acted embarrassed at the attention most of the time, but he still appreciated Antonio's attentiveness. The other had always been there for him, starting when they were both fledglings trying out their wings for the first time. Lovino had been so scared back then, wishing he had never gotten his flight feathers so that everyone would stop pressuring him to leave the safety of solid ground. It had only been with Antonio's encouragement and maybe a literal push in the right direction that he had ever been brave enough to soar through the sky as he was able to now. It still terrified him at times, but Lovino had become one of their clan's fastest fliers, and Antonio always told him how proud he was of him.

"There, all better," the man said finally, giving Lovino's wings one last stroke with the palms of his hands. "You look great, Lovi!"

"Thanks," Lovino murmured, sitting up and trying to get a look at his wings. Antonio had done a good job. It was hard to tell he had ever been in a storm, save for the crumpled feathers that now lined his nest. He gave his wings an experimental flap, blowing most of the fallen feathers a good distance.

"We should get you dressed now," Antonio suggested. "If you have the energy?"

"I'm fine, dammit," Lovino insisted, not wanting to look weak. "Bring me the tunic."

Antonio did so and helped untie Lovino's shirt from the back. He helped the slighter man into the new light blue garment. Once he was wearing the tunic, Antonio brought him a white cloth with gold lining, draping it over his shoulder and arranging it so it fell diagonally across his chest like a sash. This toga-like cloth was part of their traditional wedding attire. They would get matching gold wreaths at the end of the ceremony to show everyone they were now a bonded couple. The wreaths were only meant to be worn on their wedding day. After that, the symbol of their union would be-

"The bangles!" Antonio squeaked suddenly, fumbling with Lovino's sash. "We didn't get the bangles!"

Lovino let out a tired sigh and removed the pouch from his side, handing it to Antonio.

"Relax, idiot. Did you think I would forget? Why do you think I went out in that fucking storm?"

Antonio blinked and opened the pouch Lovino had handed him, taking out two golden bangles that shown in the light from the window. There was a line of silver going through the middle of each one and the shape of wings engraved for each side of the wrist. They were a little worn, but of impressive quality. Antonio had never seen anything like them.

"Where...did you get these?"

Lovino turned his eyes away, face red.

"They were my parents'. After my mother died, my father gave them to me and told me to save them for when I found my own mate. I've been hiding them away until now. They're very valuable, so I was afraid someone might try to take them. I hid them in a place far away from here, and almost forgot to get them in time..."

It made him feel so stupid to admit this, but at least everything was fine now. It had all worked out. He had the bangles and there was still going to be a wedding, even if he had to rush a bit to get ready.

"They're beautiful, Lovi," Antonio said with a smile as he held them up admiringly. "I'll be proud to wear one."

"Don't put it on now," Lovino told him as he rose shakily off the nest. "It's bad luck."

Antonio chuckled. "Of course..." He placed the bangles carefully back in the pouch and helped Lovino change into the long white silk skirt that matched his sash. Lovino had always thought the garment looked too effeminate for his tastes, but it was part of the tradition, and it made him feel a little better knowing that Antonio would be wearing one too. Once the other had secured another pure gold sash around his waist, Lovino was finally fully dressed. The last thing Antonio did was take a comb and run it through the other's hair until there was not a strand out of place.

"Perfect," Antonio commented, stroking Lovino's hot cheek. "You look amazing, amor."

"Y-you better hurry up and get ready too, bastard!" Lovino stammered, trying to cover up his embarrassment.

"I know," his fiance responded. "I brought everything I need."

He went back to his pack and brought out his own wedding garments. They were exactly like Lovino's, only in reverse colors. He put on a long white tunic with a blue skirt and sash. The lining of his sash and the other sash around his waist were both gold like Lovino's, however. He dressed himself quickly, doing his best to straighten the garments while looking at himself in Lovino's small mirror.

"Here, let me do that," Lovino said suddenly, taking Antonio by surprise as he adjusted his sashes. "Your wings are messy too. It's your turn to be preened, bastard."

Antonio smiled to himself. It was really cute when Lovino fussed over him despite his embarrassment.

"Alright, Lovi," he chuckled. "Make me decent."

He sat on the bed and spread his wings, letting Lovino groom him as he had been groomed. The other took care of his hair as well, but it was hard to think too much about how he must look when Antonio could only stare at Lovino. His fiance was so careful and attentive, taking his time arranging Antonio's feathers and making sure he looked perfect down to the last detail. Lovino's fingers lingered on his cheek as he stroked the last hair away from his face.

" look good," he said finally, his face redder than before. Antonio didn't miss the subtle smirk the other tried to hide as Lovino admired his work.

"We're both ready, then!" Antonio chirped, leaping to his feet and giving Lovino a crushing hug.

"T-take it easy, stupid!" Lovino protested. "You're going to ruin all our work!"

"You always look amazing to me," the other chuckled, giving him a kiss.

Lovino couldn't help giving a small laugh of his own. He really was marrying a crazy bastard- a crazy, wonderful bastard who loved him unconditionally, who was always looking out for him. Of course, he still had his insecurities, but something about today caused them all to melt away. How could anything else matter? Antonio had chosen him and no one else to be his mate. He loved him so deeply that he was willing to commit and bond himself to him forever, and Lovino almost couldn't believe it was happening. Antonio and him- about to start their life together. The thought alone made him feel like he was already flying.

"Hey, let's get going already," he told him softly.

"Yes, let's go!"

Antonio walked with him towards the door, and then, hand-in-hand, the two flew off to where all their friends and family were gathered, waiting to hear them make their vows.

The End