While trying to tackle two "Five Times" ideas I have rolling around, I decided to just combine the first bit from each of them since the first in both was "Callie's Birthday" and revolved around the same happenings.
This is the result.
Sorry for any glaring inaccuracies- written in two sittings after watching each episode all of once, so hopefully I haven't mussed anything up.
Originally posted at AO3, under FictionalFaerie~
She has a tendency to blame herself for things. It's a long practiced habit, one she knows she should stop, but years of quietly blaming herself added to a couple of years in the system (which blamed her as loudly as possible, as often as possible) and you end up with a habit that's just about as hard to kick as any other vice you could think up to name off.
Because on one hand, she keeps telling herself that she didn't speak up. She didn't tell the other kids. She didn't remind Stef and Lena. She kept her mouth shut on the whole thing, so she's the only one to blame for the way the day goes.
But on the other hand… on the other hand, she knows that Stef and Lena have seen her file, know all that any actual parent would know (okay, not all- not the way she snuffled quietly in her sleep as an infant or the way she fell out of a tree while trying to save a kitten once or- but that's not what she meant). Stef and Lena, though, are busy. Not only do they have four other kids, they have four other kids who are loud and demanding of attention whether they mean to or not. It's easy for a just-a-temporary-thing girl who's made a habit of keeping her head down as long as her brother's happy and content.
And those other kids- she may not have mentioned it to them, but not a one of them- not even Brandon- asked her about it. Jude knows, probably, but he's a twelve year old boy who is spending a lot of time trying to understand not only the changes all boys his age have to understand, but a slew more as he realizes that he's not fitting the mold all the other kids in his class are fitting… plus, it's been so long since they celebrated things like that. Brandon's got his music and his lessons on top of school and his dad… the twins are involved in their own dramas with their feud and Lexi and all the various sneaking the two tend to get up to… so she might not tell them, but not a one of them think to ask her.
She tries not to be disappointed. There's no reason to be disappointed- no one mentioned anything on either end, and it's been a few years since it mattered in the first place… but the dangerous thing about this house is the way it tricks you into being comfortable. It tricks you into letting your guard down and thinking maybe you matter and- maybe she needs to quit telling Jude not to get too comfortable and start telling herself.
Sixteen… everyone always made out like it would be a big ordeal, the first in a handful of Big Birthdays. But today feels just like every other day… wake up and rush to the bathroom before Marianna can high jack it, grab some breakfast, head to school… after school comes with a bit of lazing around, picking at the guitar Brandon gave her (and really, that's so much more than anything she's gotten in ages- it shouldn't matter that no one really cares today, because there's always that low hum of caring, every day… it's just, today was supposed to be special, right?).
Jude doesn't even comment when he gets home, instead buzzing excitedly about some project he and Connor did and how Connor had complimented him on his new backpack and how Connor had really liked his ideas for the project and had bragged about him when the teacher praised them and how Connor…
Wyatt sends her a text in the middle of dinner, just a short and simple 'busy?' followed immediately by a 'meet me in your yard in 30'. She rolls her eyes and tries not to show how much his presumptuous nature is sometimes really endearing (sometimes, just sometimes). Lena raises an eyebrow and she tries not to blush, because she's not the type of girl who blushes and even if she was then Wyatt isn't the type of boy who makes girls blush like that, and instead she just asks if she can be excused from dinner, if she can get ready to go out with Wyatt for a bit.
Lena and Stef do that thing where they talk with their eyes, and she's a little bit worried she'll get shot down (not because they're planning anything, but because it's a little last minute and they usually like to know what the kids are getting up to when they go out and about like this, vague requests getting denied generally), and she's trying to decide if she should push the issue, point out that not a single person in this house has acknowledged her birthday so the least they can do is let her go out with- but Stef nods, asking her to tell Wyatt they say hello and to please remember that her curfew is at ten.
She grins out her relief and gratitude before she takes her plate to the kitchen. She barely ate, but her plate is clean because she barely got anything in the first place, her stomach torn up from all the stress and worry and frustration of the day. She makes a quick run upstairs, then bounds back down and waves goodbye to the family, her eyes avoiding Brandon's and the way his expression sours at her cheer (more, at the way Wyatt caused that cheer). She slides down onto the front steps, letting her head rest on her knees, breathing as deeply as she can to try and dispel the last of this mess that her emotions have caused today, breathing out all the frustration and disappointment she's tried not to let seep in. She's just evening herself out when Wyatt shows up.
She hears him before she sees him, hears him laughing, "So excited you could vomit?"
She peeks up at him and laughs, "More like I realized that hanging out with you means I have to look at you…"
He pretends to wipe away some tears and holds a hand out to her after, "Come on, up, up. Things to do; places to go."
"As long as we aren't breaking and entering…" she responds, grabbing his hand and letting him pull her up, settling against his side and joining him in pretending that neither of them really notice.
"Geez, one time, and she'll never let you live it down…" he sighs, but they both laugh a bit over it as he leads her to his car. "Nah, nothing like that this time."
She's content to fiddle with his radio for most of the ride, not bothering to ask where he's taking her. She's found that, for all of his bravado, he's actually pretty considerate once he figures out boundaries. Callie trusts that he won't risk her parole again. They've come to a pretty good understanding of each other and hit a new level in this- whatever it is- since the whole Liam thing. He knows not to push at certain things and she knows that (whether he wants her to know or not) he kind of really cares about her (and she's kind of really okay with that, maybe even kind of really cares right back). She knows wherever he's going will end up being a good time.
They end up at the beach, and he grabs a blanket and a backpack from the back seat before grabbing her hand and leading her away from everyone else. They spread it out and flop down, looking up at the sky. It's just starting to get dark and the first stars are beginning to peak out and it's really kind of perfect, considering how they day has gone so far.
"So, uh," he finally says, breaking the silence as he laughs a little at himself, "There's not really an easy way to phrase this… I was flipping through your Instagram-"
"You seem to do that a lot. Should I be worried? Are you some sort of creep-"
"Oh, hush. Anyway, uh, I saw where you'd posted that picture of your horoscope? And how it said something about those born 'on or near the 20th' were going to have a rough time, and you'd made commentary about how promising it is when they call you out that specifically? So, I figured that meant your birthday was probably on the 20th… am I totally wrong?"
She can't really find the words to answer him, a little bit shell shocked that this boy laying next to her has figured it out. This boy, who spends so much time pretending that he doesn't care about anything and laughing off anything that gets to serious, has bothered to not only piece together this information off of an Instagram comment, but to remember it and ask her to spend time with him on the right day… no one in the house she lives in has noticed, the information overshadowed to two who know by worries about their twins' impending war and overshadowed by self worry and past wave offs to the other one who knows, and it never having been important enough for the others to even ask… and yet, this ridiculous boy has figured it out and remembered and brought her here to look at the stars on the beach…
"I am totally wrong. Shit. I just kind of-"
"Not wrong. You aren't wrong. It's today."
She isn't looking at him, but she can feel the smugness rolling off of him and can just imagine the grin he's giving her- self satisfied and proud. "Cool. I wasn't sure when you agreed to hang out- I figured they'd have plans or something for you…"
"Nope. No plans." She doesn't tell him that to plan things, you have to care. She tries not to even let herself think that, partially because she isn't sure she's ready to think about what that means in relation to this boy whose arm is now pressed against hers, even though she hasn't moved.
He helps her wave the thought away, along with a lot of other ones, as he leans over her, dipping down to press his lips to hers, murmuring, "Good."
When curfew begins to approach, she's stretched out with her head in his lap, his hands threading through her hair as he rambles about the stars they can see, the ones his mom taught him when he was younger and the ones he never learned so he made up his own names for, and she can't help thinking that this night- the sand and the blanket and the kisses and the cuddling neither will ever admit to and the stars and this boy- is just the best birthday present she's ever gotten.
When they get back to the house, after he's lifted her spirits and made everything so much better, she almost lets herself hope that maybe they're still up, maybe they've realized, maybe they're just waiting- but, while they are up, it's just the last bits of getting ready and shooing the others to their rooms and to bed.
She goes to bed with the shadows of her earlier thoughts beginning to edge in, but manages to hold on to the feeling of Wyatt's fingers threading through her hair and the way his laugh felt against her neck, and she thinks that even though this place doesn't want to be her home, it's certainly closer to it than anything has been up until now…