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Urban Fantasy Romance Fiction

"That one looks like a dragon." Rupert pointed to the lazily drifting cloud.

"I don't see a dragon," Steven responded. "I see a rabbit right there." His finger intersected Rupert's.

"What are you talking about? That is clearly a dragon." Rupert scooted over closer to his friend and started tracing the shape. "See, there is the body, the open mouth, and it’s even breathing fire."

Steven squinted, "OK, I guess I can see that." He started tracing the same shape at a different angle. "See? Here's the body and the ears, and he's eating a little carrot."

"OK," Rupert conceded. "That proves that you're crazy."

"Says the guys seeing dragons," Steven retorted.

"Oh, look at that one! It's a turtle!" Rupert poked at another cloud drifting by.

It started contorting immediately.

"And now it's a sandwich." Said Steven. "It even has the toothpick and olive."

"I guess it is just about lunchtime, huh?" Rupert observed as his belly gurgled.

"I told you to pack a picnic." Steven stretched in a sunbeam. “But, nooo, you couldn’t find napkins.” He mocked.

"You’re an idiot," Rupert muttered, then, "Where do you want to go to lunch?"

"How about that deli with the patio? Their rye bread is amazing." Steven said longingly.

"Oh yeah," Rupert's eyes sparkled. "Maybe that girl will be working the counter."

"You mean the one you can never talk to?" Steven chided. "You can barely give her your order."

"Shut up." Rupert pushed up from his belly. "It's right over there," he pointed down to the ground far below. "Let's go eat."

Rupert grabbed his things and fell into a dive from their perch above the clouds.

"Hey! Wait up!" Steven crawled to the edge and threw himself out into the sky.

They tucked their bodies tight like bullets. The wind slashed and buffeted them. It was exhilarating every time. Once below the clouds, they arched their backs to angle themselves toward the target.

The deli was under them now. Locking eyes, they nodded to one another. Simultaneously, the two friends flared their wings and swooped by one another. Rupert, with his white wings, and Steven, with his brown ones. They banked back to one another and started spiraling down to the deli in a tight formation.

"Damn it!" Steven called now that the wind shear was lessened, and they could talk.

"What's up?" Asked Rupert.

"I left my shirt up there."

"I bet you left your whole bag up there, didn't you?" Rupert asked suspiciously.

"You left so suddenly, I had to catch up," Steven said with wide, innocent eyes.

"How many lunches do you owe me now?"

"Come on! You wound me.”- Steven held his hands to his chest, gripping the emotional injury- “Friends shouldn't keep tallies like that."

"Easy to say when you never pay," Rupert grumbled.

Their spiral ended in an alley behind the deli. A shirt hit Steven's face hard.

"Hey! I wasn't ready."

"You should be happy that I had an extra, and I'm not leaving you out here like a leashed dog," Rupert said as he retracted his wings into his shoulders. He covered his impressive pecs and abs with a shirt that, if anything, accented them more.

Steven put his wings away as well. "You carry a gay pride shirt around just for me, don't you?" He asked as he put on an equally form-fitting rainbow shirt.

"Makes you a better wingman." Rupert smiled at his friend.

They rounded the corner out of the alley onto the sidewalk. The lunch rush was in full swing. The line was to the door. They had to stand there, holding it open.

The deli was a neat little shop with bare red brick walls. A few black and white family photos hung. According to the sign above the counter, the place had been family-owned for five generations. The floor was mop-water-colored linoleum.

The counter had a quarter dome of glass that showed various meats, cheeses, and bread. All were labeled simplistically. "Ham," "Turkey," "Salami," and so on. There were no complicated subcategories for people to try to wade through.

Rupert was less interested in the contents of the counter than the attendant behind it. She was tall, about five-eight. Her red hair blazed and refused to be tamed in the ponytail it had been wrangled into. Strands still wisped about in a halo around her freckled, heart-shaped face. She had deep green eyes, like a forest. She wore an apron that still revealed some curves beneath the grease and flour. She was dazzling.

They made it to the front of the line.

Those eyes were so close.

"What can I get you guys?" Her voice was cheery but brisk. Customer service meets efficiency.

Rupert looked like a deer in a headlight. He had just been staring at her and forgotten to be sentient. "Um- Uh. I'd like-"

"I'd like a ham and swiss on rye, please." Interrupted Steven. "He usually gets a club on wheat."

"I thought I'd seen you guys before." The sandwich girl said, her smile turned genuine. "Do you work together? Is that how you can get lunches at the same time? It’s nice to see couples get lunches together during the week."

"Oh," Steven smiled shyly. "We're not a couple." He looked coyly over at Rupert, "He's not into me like that, ya know?"

"Oh," Her face reddened like the tomatoes she placed on the sandwiches. "I'm sorry to imply-"

"Yes, we do work together.” Rupert spewed out quickly. “We're just good, platonic friends. Not that it would be wrong to be-”

"No need to be sorry, dear," Steven cooed. "I wish you were right." He winked. “But I can’t convince him.”

Rupert felt his face flush as he stared, gobsmacked, at Steven.

The girl smiled a bit awkwardly. “What do you guys do?"

"We work with climate control systems," Steven said before Rupert entered the conversation. “It isn't all that glamourous, and we don't get to see nearly as many interesting people as you do."

"Yeah, interesting. Like two guys that should be models coming in, but they actually fix A/C units." A crooked smile split her lips as she finished wrapping the sandwiches.

“See that?” Steven nudged Rupert with his elbow. “She thinks we’re interesting, isn’t that great?”

“I think she’s great,” Rupert said suddenly.

The girl’s eyes widened. “Oh?”

“She’s great at making sandwiches and conversation, so obviously, she must be great in general.” Steven tried to recover. “I’m Steven, by the way. This is-”

“I’m Rupert,” he blurted, awkwardly shooting his hand out at her.

She leaned back from the abrupt gesture and scrunched her face, “Mmm, sorry, I can’t.” She held up her hands and wiggled her fingers. “I have the gloves on.”

"It's understandable." Said Rupert. He scratched behind his head, embarrassed.

Her eyes lingered on the scratching arm and traveled down to where the tail lifted slightly to reveal the last line of his abs. Her brows rose slightly. "My name is Cat.” Her smile returned. “I don't normally do this, but you seem like a nice guy."-she scribbled on a napkin- "Give me a call sometime. I get off at 7:30 every night."

Rupert's mouth opened slightly as his arm moved from his head, and he grabbed the napkin.

"He means to say thank you, and he'll do that," Steven said as he grabbed his friend by the shoulders and steered him onto the patio.

"Thank you," Rupert called back as he put the number in his pocket, too embarrassed to look back at Cat.

"You really needed a wingman. I’d say that was worth the lunch." Steven said as he unwrapped his sandwich.

They sat and enjoyed their lunch, delighting in the view of the clouds from the ground.

"See? Another dragon!" Rupert pointed.

"You mean the kitty cat?"

Their sandwiches vanished. They both looked at the wrappers with a sense of loss, wishing they had enjoyed the last bite more.

"I guess we better get going before they decide to stampede," Rupert said, looking skyward.

"Yeah," Steven groaned.

They went through the deli to dispose of the refuse and leave a tip in the jar. To Rupert's relief and dismay, Cat was not at the counter. The shop had cleared out. She was probably attending to things in the kitchen or something.

They left and turned back into the alley.

"You gonna call her?" Steven asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

"No."

"What?! Why not?"

Rupert inhaled deeply, let it out, and then did it again. "Say I call her. We go out and hit it off. I can't marry this girl. ‘'Til death' would only be a thing for her. Or say we go out, and it turns into an all-nighter."

"That's the spirit!" Steven encouraged.

"We have sex, and I lose my self-control. I could shatter her pelvis!”

“That seems a bit unlikely,” Steven retorted.

“True,” Rupert allowed. “Or let’s think a little longer term. Something goes wrong, and we end up being the point one percent that birth control fails on; would she have an angel baby?”

“You’re catastrophizing.”

Rupert takes off his shirt and stows it in his bag.

Steven doffs his shirt and hands it to Rupert. "I'm just saying you've coveted her for a while now. Would it be so bad to go to a movie?"

Rupert jammed the shirts into his bag, then slung it over his shoulder. "Drop it."

"OK, sorry."

"We have to go." Rupert rolled his shoulders, and his great white wings extended.

"Oh my God!" A gasp slipped from behind him.

Rupert turned, casting a gale through the alley, hurling trash, and pinning the interloper to the wall. It was Cat.

"Well, shitballs," Steven said eloquently.

Rupert rushed closer to block any escape and stood face-to-face with the beautiful woman.

"What are you?" She squeaked through wheezes.

Rupert gritted his teeth, frustrated with himself. "Angels," he mumbled.

"Angels? W-what?! That's impossible."

“But it’s true,” Rupert said, his wings flexing.

"Yeah, it is," Steven said as he strode over to them. "Except you aren't supposed to know about us."

"Why are you here?" She asked, not grasping the gravity of Steven’s comment.

"It was a lunch break," Steven explained.

"Break from what?"

"We are cloud shepherds," said Rupert grim-faced.

"What does that mean?"

"We heard the clouds around." Steven provided. "If they gather in places they aren't supposed to, we move them. If they need to gather someplace, we get them there."

"The wind does that," Cat said. Worry started creeping into her voice as she noticed Rupert’s stony expression.

“Oh!” Steven threw up his hands and spun in a slow, dramatic circle. “The wind does that?” His voice cracked. “I guess we can relax, Rupert. The wind does our job. I guess it makes storms too?”

“So, like lightning and thunder? That’s you guys, too?” Cat said slowly.

“It is,” Rupert said calmly. “The wind is one of our tools.”

"I guess that makes sense," Cat repeatedly nodded, fixating on the enormous wings. "As much sense as angels being real. So, what happens now?"

"Now," Rupert sighed, stepping back. "We make you forget about all of this."

"How?" Her head stopped bobbing, and she looked right at him.

"We make your memory foggy." Steven provided cheerily.

Cat’s confused expression whipped to Steven, who nodded and wiggled his eyebrows.

"Yeah," Rupert slumped, dejected. "We use fog."

“Are you fuckin’ serious?” Cat looked between them as a bank of gray fog started boiling in from the back end of the alley. It looked like a wall of smoke but heavier somehow. “What the hell is that?” she stepped away from the menacing mist. Then she looked at Rupert’s solemn face, "Is it going to hurt?"

Rupert looked into her eyes softly. "No. You won't feel a thing."

"How much am I going to forget?"

"Just here in the alley. You'll keep the rest of the day. You'll even remember us in the deli earlier. You'll just think you zoned out while taking out the trash."

"So, I'll forget how the hot guy I gave my number to is an angel?" Cat asked tersely.

"Yes,” Rupert said, ashamed. “Wait, you think I’m hot?"

"Why do you think you got my number? Your wit? Now I'm going to get ghosted."

"Holy ghosted,” Steven offered. “If you like."

"You are NOT helping," Rupert said with a glare.

"Sorry," Steven said, retreating into the background.

"Well, I guess if things are going to go that way-" Cat threw her arms around Rupert's neck and kissed him.

The kiss was warm and gentle but charged like the hours before a summer storm. Promise and passion were ready to burst in that kiss. Then it burst. Her lips started to part to let her tongue swipe his lips. He sucked in her bottom lip, nibbling a little. His arms pulled her in tightly, conforming her body to his. She tangled her fingers into his dark hair, her leg riding up his.

“Ahem,” Steven coughed. “My virgin eyes.”

They broke apart, both panting and flushed, floating in mid-air.

"Wow," Cat said. "We're missing out."

"Yeah," Rupert said, catching his breath and his thoughts. "We are." He looked deep into those gorgeous green eyes and gave her another slow, soft kiss. "Good luck." He said as they lowered into the fog bank.

The fog rolled away, leaving a bewildered Cat alone and wondering what she had been doing in the alley. Then she found the trash bag that she had sitting next to her.

"I'd lose my head if it weren't attached." She muttered to herself, discarding the refuse.

Rupert and Steven had made it back to the perch at that time. Steven punched Rupert's shoulder hard. The thunder was loud enough to scare away some of the closer clouds.

"Ow!" Rupert rubbed at his shoulder and glared at his friend. "What the hell was that for?"

"Now I can't go back there," Steven grumbled. "She makes the best sandwiches ever. And now, we can't ever go back because you flashed her."

Rupert started rolling his now stiff shoulder. "Yes, that’s the big issue here. We memory wiped an innocent girl, but it's a big deal because you miss out on her sandwiches." He rolled his eyes.

"She doesn't even know she's missing anything!" Steven cried, throwing his arms up. “What does it hurt her?”

Rupert sighed. "That's the whole idea." He stared down toward the deli.

Months after forgetting about Rupert and Steven, Cat started researching flight schools. Her father came to join her on the deli patio.

"Why are you looking at that, Kitty Cat?" He was the only one allowed to call her that. "Wouldn't you rather put all of that money into a car? Or business college?"

"I started thinking, Pop," She looked up from her laptop. "I want to know what it is like to be in the clouds. It looks so peaceful and happy up there all the time. Don’t you wonder what that’s like?"

"The clouds? You can see the clouds down here just fine."

"I know, Pop, and I still love doing that, but wouldn't flying be exhilarating?" Her eyes were sparkling.

The furrow of concern and confusion smoothed from his brow as he looked into her eyes. "If that's what you really want, Kitty Cat, that is what you should do." He took her hand across the table. "But, for now, will you watch the clouds with your old man? From down here?"

Cat smiled and sat beside her dad, setting her head on his shoulder. She pointed up in the summer sky. "Doesn't that one look like a dragon?"

September 23, 2023 20:04

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1 comment

AnneMarie Miles
04:13 Oct 02, 2023

Aw this was such a magical and sweet story. Like a dream. It appears Cat still has a little connection to her angels, huh? I wonder if they'll meet again one day, up in those dragon-filled skies. Nice way to bring the dragon prompt into this one, too.

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