Hey, here's a not sad story! Yay!
I still hate not being able to list more than four characters on this site. -_-
Yuliy is woken up abruptly by someone rapping on his door. His hand immediately goes to his weapon, although he knows no hostiles would be nice enough to knock first.
Before he can say anything, Dorothea swings open the door. "Oh, good, you're awake." She makes a 'come here' motion. "Get up. I need to talk to you for a sec."
Perplexed and too sleepy still to protest, Yuliy reluctantly drags himself out of bed and follows her down the hall, stifling a yawn and wishing he brought slippers, because the floor is freezing. His confusion doesn't abate when he sees Philip and Fallon, also in varying states of asleep, sprawled over the couch and armchair when he and Dorothea arrive. One lone candle provides illumination on the coffee table, just barely enough so that Yuliy doesn't trip and fall into the fireplace or something.
Just because they're all used to getting up in the middle of the night for clandestine missions (and sometimes sneak attacks by or on vampires) doesn't mean they have to like it.
Fallon lets out a loud snore, and with a roll of her eyes, Dorothea lightly hits the redhead in the ribs, causing him to fall off the couch with a THUD.
"Shhh! The professor just went to sleep!"
Yuliy thinks that's a bit contrary of her, since she was the one who woke Fallon up in the first place. Philip rubs his eyes, looking like he was dozing off too.
"What's the fuss?" he groans. For once, his hair looks like a bird's nest (and for some reason, slightly damp). "It's four in the morning."
"The professor's birthday is tomorrow. Well, today, actually."
They stare at her, all slightly more awake out of surprise at the revelation, although Yuliy just blinks slowly. "I knew that."
Dorothea stares at him. "Then why didn't you say anything?"
He shrugs, still half-asleep, and yawns.
She rubs her forehead, apparently resigned to the fact that she woke them all up too early in the morning for any kind of coherent answers. "Whatever. Anyways, we're throwing him a surprise party."
"Don't you guys have to go talk to the president of whatever company we're working with tomorrow? Today?" Fallon asks blearily from his seat on the floor, apparently too lazy to climb back onto the sofa.
"Exactly. While we're doing that, you guys prep for the party." She looks extremely pleased with her plan.
"Is it going to take that long?" Yuliy asks. "It's just a short meeting, right?"
"I'll keep him busy," she says with a confident wave of her hand. "We'll be back at around one. Have something decent put together by then, got it?"
Philip slouches lower in the armchair, burying his face in his arms until only his ruffled, damp blond hair is visible. "This is what you dumped a bucket of ice water on me for?"
"It was one cup! Okay, meeting over, go back to sleep."
"I hate you…"
"Yeah, yeah, sweet dreams."
Willard looks up from coffee and a newspaper as the others troop in.
"You're all awake bright and early today," he remarks, looking slightly suspicious. He has a right to be, honestly. Philip typically won't get out of bed until someone forces him to, which is a duty they rotate daily. Fallon's always the best at it because apparently, Philip can feel the 'deadly aura' of the incoming hair ruffle even in his sleep; unfortunately, the redhead is often almost as hard to wake up as Philip.
"Figured we should get a head start on the day," Dorothea declares over cheerfully. For an older sibling of three, one would think that she knows how to tell a convincing lie.
Evidently not. Willard raises his eyebrows disbelievingly at that, because not once in years have they ever all been awake at eight in the morning just to 'get a head start'.
"I just couldn't fall back asleep," Philip grumbles, dragging open the fridge and shooting a sleep-deprived glare at Dorothea, who pretends not to notice. His hair, while no longer a bird nest, is still clearly damp.
Willard's eyebrows crawl higher at the blonde's strange choice of words. He opens his mouth to ask, but Dorothea quickly cuts him off, launching into a review of their plan to talk to the company president with painfully obvious forced cheer.
Half an hour later, all of them have had multiple cups of coffee and are feeling marginally more alive. Willard's hand travels to his pocket before he pauses, frowning.
"Still haven't found your pocket watch?" Dorothea asks sympathetically, and he shakes his head solemnly.
"I thought it broke a week ago," Philip mumbles through a mouthful of toast, only for Dorothea to kick him under the table. "Ow!" he yelps, then devolves into a coughing fit, going red in the face. Fallon thumps him hard on the back, causing him to nearly faceplant into his plate on the table.
Yuliy nibbles on his third piece of toast. The professor has had that pocket watch for longer than Yuliy has been alive, he's pretty sure. It's acquired its fair share of scuffs and scratches, but it kept on ticking, until a week ago. He still kept it for sentimentality, though, until it went missing.
"Anyways, let's get going!" Dorothea declares with uncharacteristic enthusiasm. "Don't burn down the house while we're gone, guys."
That warning, at least, is nothing out of the ordinary. And probably especially prudent for today.
After the two leave, Fallon yawns and asks, "So how are we doing this?"
A half hour of waffling about later, they have something of a plan.
"Wait, why are we baking a cake?" Yuliy asks with an amount of suspicion that seems more appropriate for espionage missions than baking.
"Because we're cheap," Philip declares as if this is something to be proud of. "And you're allowed nowhere near the kitchen."
Yuliy blinks slowly. Last he remembered, most of the mess caused by the 'gingerbread episode' involved Philip (and his perfect hair).
Still, he says, quite honestly, "That is fine by me." As long as they don't end up burning down the house.
"We still have to get gifts or something," Fallon muses, digging through the cupboards. "I guess it's gotta be something simple. Couldn't she have told us earlier?"
"Couldn't you have told us earlier?" Philip snipes at Yuliy, who shrugs.
"I forgot," he admits. "We just flew in a week ago. It's been busy."
"Don't worry about it! We'll improvise, right, Philip?" Fallon reaches over to ruffle Philip's hair, to the latter's chagrin.
"Stop messing with my hair!" he yelps, hopping away and trying to flatten his hair.
Laughing, Fallon nudges the cabinets shut with his foot. "Well, we're missing a few ingredients, so I guess we gotta go shopping. We can get the gifts while we're at it."
"And wrapping paper," Yuliy muses to himself.
Philip is already at the door, tugging his shoes and coat on at the same time (or trying to). "Then let's meet back here in an hour!"
By the time Yuliy and Fallon make it to the door, Philip is already hurrying down the street towards the downtown area. He soon disappears around the first corner, yellow coat flapping. Fallon shrugs and follows, going the other way, leaving Yuliy to lock up. He glances left and right as he's approaching downtown before shrugging and proceding straight down the street.
He shivers and tries to huddle further into his coat as the wind kicks up. What did he get for the professor's last birthday? Oh, right, a scarf. It got torn up a few weeks later in a fight with the vampires, though…
Hopefully, this one will be longer-lasting.
An hour later, they have returned to base with their loot, along with some wrapping paper that Yuliy found.
"Really, Yuliy?" Philip groans, holding up a tube of wrapping paper printed with lots of cheery snowmen. "We're celebrating a birthday here, not Christmas."
"I didn't have many options," he grumbles, fiddling with his gift in his pocket. "It was either that or hot pink unicorns."
Fallon chuckles absently to himself. "That might've been fun."
The blonde sighs, tossing the tube at Yuliy, who catches it deftly. "Well, whatever. Since you're not allowed in the kitchen, you can wrap all the gifts."
"Okay." As long as he's not in the kitchen when it burns down.
He sits down in the living room with the gifts scattered around him and the tubes (he got multiple, just in case he needs extra) sitting on the coffee table. Upon realizing he has nothing to cut the paper with, he stands up to go get some scissors from the kitchen.
"No, no, no, it says to sift the flour first! Don't just dump it in there all at once!"
"Okay, okay! Where's the sifter?"
"I don't know, don't ask me!"
Yuliy, with one foot over the threshold, quickly backtracks. "I'll just find something else," he mutters to himself. His gaze alights on his weapon case, and he smiles to himself.
He's not smiling six papercuts later, though. Philip would probably throw a hissy fit if he got blood all over the gifts, but Yuliy can still hear his and Fallon's voices arguing in the kitchen, so he doesn't dare go interrupt them for the bandaids...Why is everything useful located in the kitchen anyways?
About half an hour later, Yuliy has two gifts messily wrapped with probably as much tape as there is wrapping paper. Philip comes trudging out of the kitchen, clothes stained with flour and sugar and some other miscellaneous ingredients that Yuliy isn't even sure if they're supposed to be in a cake.
"Don't," the blonde states bluntly before Yuliy can get a word out, and he goes to the door, pulling on his shoes.
"Decorations," he grumbles before slamming the door shut behind him.
Absently sucking on his new paper cut, Yuliy casts a doubtful look into the kitchen, wondering what possessed Philip to leave Fallon all alone in said kitchen.
"Hey, Yuliy!" the ginger's voice suddenly calls. "Can you run to the shop real quick and get some fruit or something? The cake might be kinda bland without it."
Yuliy sighs, finally deeming it safe to go into the kitchen to grab a few bandaids. The cake pan is in the oven, which is filled with a dull, warm glow.
"Couldn't you have told Philip that? He just left."
Fallon grins sheepishly, scratching the back of his head (and getting flour in his hair). "I forgot. Sorry."
Yuliy is extremely hesitant to leave Fallon alone in the house with something baking in the oven. But this is the first time they've celebrated a birthday together as a team, and it's the professor's, so he wants to get this right.
And they're already stressed enough, running back and forth, not knowing how long Dorothea's going to keep the professor stalled for, so why not pile more on top of everything?
Yeah, while they're at it, why not burn the house down too? Why not?
He needs to sleep.
"...I'll be back soon."
Some time later, he arrives back at the house, groceries in tow. He fumbles with the key to the house and has one hand on the doorknob before realizing that, surprisingly, he can't smell any smoke. His wariness decreases, but only by a fraction. Sadly, he doesn't doubt his teammates' ability to wreak havoc, fire-related or not, for even a second.
With a resigned shrug, he swings open the door, takes one step, and promptly trips hard on something.
"Ow," he groans, sitting up. "What…"
"Hey, pass me the tape, would you?" says Philip's voice from above.
Yuliy cranes his neck back to see Philip standing on a kitchen chair, hanging streamers up in front of the door. The blonde wiggles his hand pointedly, and Yuliy finds the tape roll, which was the thing he tripped over, and slaps it into his hand.
Philip goes back to hanging up the streamers, straining to reach them even with the help of the chair. "Why couldn't Fallon do this?" he grumbles under his breath. "The guy's like a human ladder…"
"Where is he?"
"Still watching the cake."
"...You left him in the kitchen by himself," Yuliy deadpans in disbelief.
"Well, he says he's done some baking for his siblings before, which is more than I can claim," Philip says with heavy sarcasm. "Besides, he's just watching the cake...I hope."
Suddenly, the phone rings, and Yuliy goes to pick it up. "Hello?"
"Hey, Yuliy! So, uh, how's it going?"
It's Dorothea. She sounds a bit flustered, to his immediate worry.
"Um…" Yuliy stares blankly at the general disarray of the house. "It's going."
"...That tone does not inspire confidence. Have you guys gotten anything done so far at all?"
He frowns, only mildly offended that Dorothea has so little faith in them (he has almost as little faith in them too). "Yes, we have. Gifts are wrapped. Philip's decorating. Fallon's watching the cake in the oven. Did you get your gift yet? Do you need us to pick it up?"
"No, no, I got it. It just won't be wrapped or—wait, you're baking a cake? And Fallon's watching it?"
"Yeah, I feel the same way. Apparently, we're just cheap."
"...Fair. Okay, but I think the professor's onto us."
Yuliy picks at one of his bandaids. "Maybe we should've sent someone else to keep him distracted."
"It's not my fault," Dorothea protests, sounding disgruntled at herself. "We've been working together for too long. He can see right through me!"
"Don't worry about it," he advises. "Even if he knows you're hiding something, he probably doesn't even realize it's his birthday."
"Yeah, I guess you're right about that...Crap, I gotta go. He'll just get more suspicious. Try to finish up soon, bye!"
Yuliy hangs up with a sigh. Somewhere behind him, Philip falls off his chair with a yelp and a litany of curses.
"This is going to be a long day…"
He did not get enough sleep for this.
"I thought you were watching it!"
"I was! The mail just came in, and I had a letter from my family! My little sister just got first place at her school's spelling b-"
"Great, I don't care," Philip snaps, causing Fallon to pout in dismay, "'cause now we have to figure out what we're going to do about the cake!"
"We definitely should've bought something from the store," Yuliy says aloud, staring hollowly at the blackened, charred mess in the oven with a distinct sense of dread.
"Thanks for your opinion, genius," the blonde snarks, starting to pace around the island counter in the kitchen, which really isn't helping matters. "It's a quarter to one. Dorothea and the professor are going to be back any minute now!"
Fallon goes to grab his coat. "I'll go run and get something from the market. Be back soon!"
With no desire to be around Philip and his caged tiger pacing at the moment, Yuliy quickly clambers up to the roof to keep a lookout. Shivering at the brisk winds that come gusting by every so often, he settles into a mildly comfortable position against the chimney and keeps an eye on the town. His fingers brush against the awkwardly wrapped gift in his pocket.
He misses the parties that they used to have back home, in Dogville. The whole tribe would gather in Gustav's home, and despite the chief's waffling and complaining about his house constantly being taken over for festivities, they all knew he loved the company anyways. He never did hesitate to drink up when one of the other villagers brought sake.
Yuliy was just a little kid back then, and little kids can go from bouncing off the walls to dead as a doorknob in mere minutes. He'd often find himself curled up on Mother's lap or against Mikhail's shoulder before the night was out. The conversational babble of trusted friends and family, and the lingering aromas of dinner, and the warmth of his mother or brother were things that could never be replicated.
But what he has right now isn't half bad, really. The chattering small talk of his village elders has been replaced by friendly bickering between his teammates. He hasn't tasted his village's traditional food and drink ever since Dogville fell, but he's been all over the world, tried dozens of different cultures' food—loved some and hated others—and he's gotten to watch Philip chug four glasses of milk after being dared to order the spiciest food on the menu in a restaurant in Thailand.
The warmth of his teammates is different from the warmth that he felt when he was with his birth family. But his teammates are family nonetheless. And when things become a little too heavy to bear, they're there. They've always been there.
Suddenly, Yuliy catches a flicker of red in the distance, and he scrambles back down to the backyard and into the house.
"Fallon's coming back," he tells Philip, who has been playing balloon volleyball by himself, apparently.
Philip glances at him, frowning, and punches the balloon his way. "Yeah, I know, I just saw him from the window."
Yuliy catches the balloon absently, wondering what exactly is wrong with that statement. The ginger just left the downtown area, from what Yuliy just saw. How could Philip have-
The door bursts open. "Hey, I'm back!"
Fallon comes in brandishing a box of cupcakes, and Philip groans. "Really?!"
"Okay, in my defense, I couldn't find any cakes, and I saw Dorothea and the professor walking up the street, so I had to leg it! Come on, we gotta get ready-"
"Wait," Yuliy says slowly. "I saw Fallon leaving the downtown area ten seconds ago. He couldn't have gotten here from there in that time."
The three of them stare at each other for a minute, having forgotten about the party. Their sixth senses are tingling in that particular way…
Yuliy voices his thoughts aloud. "If that wasn't Fallon-"
A vampire slave crashes through the back door at that instant—and is promptly clotheslined by all the streamers Philip hung up. Without hesitation, Fallon grabs a cleaver knife and chops his head off in one swing, instantly ready for combat.
"Philip!" he roars, and the blonde takes off upstairs like a bullet.
More slaves come charging in through the front door and the sliding door to the backyard. Yuliy grabs another kitchen knife, wishing he could get to his weapon in the living room, but there are vampires coming from there too.
Handfuls of confetti and sparkles and rainbow glitter shower down on the vampires from the party poppers in Fallon's hands, and they reel back, probably out of pure shock and disbelief (Yuliy is just as surprised as they are). With no time to question it, Yuliy darts in to hack them to pieces, scattering glowing ash everywhere.
"Hey!" he hears Fallon yelp, and Yuliy turns to see the redhead trying to defend the box of cupcakes while fending off vampires with a broken table leg. "Bad vampires! These are our cupcakes, you fiends!"
The front door flies open again, and Yuliy hears the sound of actual gunshots this time, from a familiar gun—Willard's.
In a flash of purple and black, Dorothea punches a vampire in the jaw, and Yuliy stabs it through the chest. A fine dusting of glowing ash has covered the floor by this point.
"What's that in the oven, huh?" she asks breathlessly, grabbing another knife.
Philip comes flying back down the stairs. "Guys—woah!"
A vampire Royal leaps through the wreckage of the sliding door, nails outstretched. Her rust red hair is slicked back into a ponytail, and her nails gleam wickedly as she lunges for the nearest Jaeger—Fallon.
Dorothea, meanwhile, is fighting her way through the slaves, kitchen knives in hand. "Philip, throw them!"
Philip, who's firing a gun in each hand with another one between his teeth, chucks a rifle at Dorothea. She catches it, loads the cartridge with a click, and fires, grinning as a slave washes past her in a shower of dust.
Willard, meanwhile, is clearing out the slaves with his own pistol, which he keeps on him at all times—handy, that. Yuliy has reached the living room, and he sprints back into the kitchen, his staff whirling. A slave takes a tumble on a spot of frosting spilled on the floor, and he hacks it to pieces with one clean swipe. Really, the kitchen is quite a dangerous place.
His instincts scream, and he throws up his staff in time to block the Royal's claws. With a grunt, he throws her back, using his staff to hit random objects at her—a coffee mug, a box of tea, a few bananas. The mixing bowl gets thrown in there too, and she screeches extremely inappropriate expletives at him as she tosses it aside, remnants of the batter in her hair.
Unexpectedly, she grabs hold of his staff and knees him in the stomach, wrenching the weapon out of his grip. He stumbles back, the back of his head colliding painfully with the oven, and she lunges.
Without a second thought, he flings open the oven and throws the burnt cake in her face.
She stumbles back with a horrendous wail, the pan clattering loudly to the floor, bits of cake mashed into her clothes and hair.
"You hideous, accursed wretches!" she screams as Yuliy staggers to his feet, cradling his burnt hand.
"Come on, does it really taste that bad?!" Philip exclaims indignantly from somewhere in the living room.
Yuliy's unburnt hand finds his weapon, and he plunges the business end into the Royal's chest. With one final howl of indignation and ruined dignity, she bursts into ash.
Without the Royal, the slaves fall into disarray, and the Jaegers clean them up easily. What's left is a wreck of a house—streamers torn, balloons in tatters, the remnants of party poppers scattered in piles of confetti. The table is in pieces, barely any of the chairs made it through intact, and they'll probably never find some of those kitchen knives. Meanwhile, the ruined cake is sitting in a heap of ashes, a slightly dented cake pan resting next to it.
Yuliy pats himself down quickly, breathing a sigh of relief when the wrapped gift in his pocket is still there. They can do without the rest.
Everyone looks up, and Willard blinks as Fallon pops the last party popper by accident.
"...Surprise?" he says awkwardly, with a sheepish grin.
Dorothea facepalms spectacularly.
Luckily, the first-aid kit went untouched, and they dress up a few wounds on themselves before starting to clean up the house. Philip and Fallon bicker about the party poppers and the mess they made while cleaning up said mess. Dorothea and Willard are getting rid of the broken furniture, and Yuliy is left trying to scrape the cake off the floor, wrinkling his nose at the smell of charred food.
A few hours later, the house looks somewhat presentable, if one ignores the bullet holes and the claw marks on the walls, and the doors hanging off their hinges, and the scratched up floors from where the vampires' claws dug into the boards, amongst other collateral damages. It isn't until they've been sitting around on the floor in the kitchen or on the island counter (because there are no chairs left) that Willard suddenly says:
"What and why were you all baking?"
Philip and Fallon let out annoyed groans at that. Dorothea rolls her eyes and explains, "The boys thought it'd be a good idea to bake a cake instead of just buying one from the store, like any sane person would after the last time they tried baking anything."
"We were planning a surprise party," Fallon sighs morosely. He sounds more upset about the party failing than about the vampire invasion.
Philip sighs, lying flat on his back on the floor with an arm thrown over his eyes. "Yeah. And guess how well that went."
Willard looks extremely confused, a rare expression on him. "...A party? For what?"
Yuliy sits up from where he was flopped over on the island counter. "It's your birthday."
Willard stares. Everyone stares back. Crickets chirp outside somewhere (or maybe that's just Yuliy's imagination; they were probably scared off by all the screaming and gunfire earlier).
"...Right?" Yuliy asks, suddenly seized by indeterminable doubt.
The professor opens his mouth. Then he closes it, looking totally bewildered.
It's Dorothea who breaks the silence, laughing softly. "I guess at the end of the day, it was still a surprise," she comments in a dry tone, shaking her head warmly at the professor. "Leave it to you to forget your own birthday...Come on, let's go find the gifts we got, if the vampires didn't ruin them."
And it turns out that Fallon actually managed to save the cupcakes he got. Even if they turned out a bit smushed, food never tastes as good as it does after a mostly successful vampire fight.
They probably could've done without the singing, though.
As for the gifts, Dorothea got him a book on the language and culture of the country they'll be going to next.
"We'll work on it together, and I'd better not catch you reading that thing at two in the morning," she warns him, to which he just smiles ruefully.
Philip somehow managed to find a phonograph music record from the professor's favorite musical artist. When asked how, he shrugs and says airily, "I have my ways," with a proud, satisfied gleam in his eyes.
Fallon, meanwhile, went out and bought several pairs of socks. When everyone stares at him in confusion, he just shrugs.
"Listen, if there's one thing I've learned from hiking through really bad weather and rough terrain and everything else in between, it's that you can never have too many socks."
Which is a fair point.
Yuliy goes last. He slinks forward and hands the professor a small box, then scampers off to perch on the island counter again, swinging his feet shyly while staring at his knees.
When the tearing of wrapping paper stops, he hears a soft gasp from the professor and glances up. In the professor's hand is his missing pocket watch, still with all the dents and scuff marks it's acquired throughout the years, but now back in full working order.
Philip and Fallon start chanting, "Are you one, are you two, are you three, are you…" Dorothea rolls her eyes at them with an amused smirk and sneakily grabs the leftover cupcake from the box of six. Willard just shakes his head, the well-spoken professor seemingly at a loss for words for once, and Yuliy nibbles at his cupcake.
It was a whole ordeal—slipping the pocket watch away, finding a reputable place to get it fixed, and getting the money for it, all without tipping anyone else off. Plus, he did feel kind of bad for making the professor worry so much while it was being fixed.
But the small, grateful smile he gets makes it all worth it.
I've been wanting to write at least a small action scene in this fandom for a while. Thought I might as well do it here, and add in a dash of their silliness. :)