She couldn't remember whose decision it was to celebrate both of their birthdays on the same day of the year. It was for convenience, she knew, since it was hard to plan a birthday party while trying to catch up with her mother and his girlfriend. No, ex-girlfriend. Girlfriend? Ex-girlfriend? She couldn't remember.
"So, where are they?" she questioned as Nick pulled an envelope out from underneath a table in a restaurant. It had been taped to the bottom of the table, a secret clue left by her mother to slowly lead them to their location.
Nick scanned the letter as Cassie stared at the hand holding the folded piece of paper. One finger had stitches running up the side, a reminder that they had recently had yet another near-death experience.
She reached across the table, snatching the paper away from him. He started to protest, but she put a finger up to silence him. "You were taking too long," she explained, reading the paper more quickly. "Crap. Mom and Kira aren't saying where they were."
Huh. A slight glare as she said Kira's name, one that only lasted for a second. Anyone but Cassie, who had spent the past six years with this man, would have missed it. She guessed that Kira was an ex-girlfriend again. Good. She didn't really like Kira all that much to begin with.
Cassie flung the letter onto the table, narrowly missing the plates that were staggered over it. Steak (hers rare, his nearly burnt into charcoal) and side dishes had barely been sampled. They both knew what they were waiting on: the chocolate, multi-layered dessert that they were sharing. It was nearly the same price as the steak, but oh so worth it. This whole meal was an annual splurge.
"Careful with that," Nick said, plucking the piece of paper from the table. He neatly folded it and stuck it back into its envelope. "Here." His eyes were boring into hers as he held the envelope out to her, expecting her to take it and put it into her bag.
They played a little game of Eye Showdown, seeing who would cave first. Cassie nearly always won, but Nick was getting better. "Oh, fine," she said after a moment, quickly taking the envelope from him and shoving it into her purse. "So, when are you giving me my present?"
He sighed, taking a drink from his glass. "Did you see what it was this year?" he questioned. She always saw what he was getting her. He hated that. For once, he would really, really like to surprise her. She was always surprising him, so it seemed fit. Like tonight, for instance. Instead of wearing that thigh-brushing black dress he knew was still nestled at the bottom of her suitcase, Cassie had decided to don a bright yellow dress that hit her just below the knee.
"Nah. I stopped looking," she said proudly. Recently she had been experimenting with her control over her visions. Sometimes she could prolong her glimpses into the future. Though they grew fuzzy and unfocused, she could sometimes make out details. Other times, if she saw something that wasn't crucial to their survival (like what shirt Nick was going to wear tomorrow or what present he was going to get her) she could cut her visions short. "But, hey, look on the bright side. It can't be worse than last year. No offense, but that present sucked ass."
He scowled at her, his leg bumping hers beneath the table playfully. "Hey, we were running low on money. I couldn't afford to buy you a pony, Princess." She shoved his leg away from hers, though the contact left both of their legs sizzling with heat.
"I got you a Rolex," she said, putting emphasis on the last word. "And you got me freaking markers. I mean, I know that I was running low and blah blah, but Jesus. Markers. And a Rolex. I got you a friggen Rolex."
"That you stole," he pointed out, laughing as their dessert was set in front of them.
Her cheeks turned pink as she flushed, kicking him swiftly beneath the table. "Hey. I Saw him putting it down. I just picked it up before he could, alright? He wasn't going to miss it. He had fifty others. Probably."
"Alright, alright, calm down," Nick ordered, handing her one of the chilled spoons that came with the giant slab of chocolate cake. "Here, Killer."
Cassie took the spoon, licking off the chocolate that had been drizzled over it by the chef. "I was Princess a second ago. Now I'm Killer?" she questioned, waiting for him to finish sucking off the syrup on his spoon.
They both paused, their eyes connecting. They both knew that presents came before cake, but it was always a sort of game to see who reminded the other first. Most years it was Nick, since Cassie always knew what he was getting her, anyway. This year, it was different.
"Present time," she said, setting her spoon down onto the edge of the plate. He grinned over at her and her eager expression. Obviously, she didn't like not being able to See what he was getting her.
"Nah, I think we can wait a – ow!" Her heel had ground into the tip of his shoe, causing a stab of pain to shoot up his leg. "Jesus!"
She smiled over at him, cocking her head to the side. "People are staring at you, cool it," she told him, before holding out her hand. "Hand the present over, Nick. You don't know how freaking hard it has been. For the past three weeks, all I've been able to see is you buying the present or you wrapping it or you giving it to me. Do you know how much self-control I have to block the rest of the vision out? Really hard. So give me the damn present already."
He laughed at her impatience, pulling a box from inside of his jacket. It was surprisingly large and she found herself wondering how she hadn't noticed it before. The package was transferred from one side of the table to the other. As soon as it crossed over into her territory, the paper was ripped from it in one fluid movement.
"It's a…" she trailed off, looking down at the silver charm that was on a thick black cord. Was it a necklace? No, it was too small to be a necklace. Maybe a choker necklace? An ankle bracelet? Just a bracelet? Cassie was about to ask, but he supplied the answer for her.
"Necklace," he said. "I laid it out by one of yours to make sure it would fit. It should. It'll be tight, but it'll fit."
"Cool," she said, peering down at the lettering on it. She couldn't quite make out what was etched onto the square piece of silver. It was pretty, in cursive, but unreadable in the dim atmosphere of the restaurant. "Help me put it on."
She stood, motioning for him to stand, too. He did. Cassie pressed the necklace into his warm palm, turning. Nick's hands faltered as he swept her long hair off of her neck and over her shoulder. When had it gotten so long? How was her skin so warm as his fingers brushed across it?
"Nick," she said after a moment, clearing her throat loudly. "The necklace."
He clasped it swiftly, hoping to recover some of his dignity. "Happy birthday," he said as they sat down into their respective chairs. Her cheeks were flushed again and he guessed his probably matched.
"Thanks," she said. "You, too. Do you want your present now? Or can I keep it?"
Nick smiled, holding out his hand expectantly. Vaguely, as she pressed a package into his hand, she thought she had it easy. She was always going to surprise him, no matter what she got him. "I lied before," she said as he ripped the paper off of the package.
He opened the black box, his eyebrows shooting up as he caught sight of what was in the box. "It's a – "
"Bracelet," she finished, choosing to direct her gaze at the chocolate cake instead of him. Cake was easier to look at. It didn't have blue eyes. "Matches my necklace. I saw what you had bought me, but it took me freaking ages to find the store where you bought it at."
He quietly fastened it around his wrist, studying it. "It says the same thing as yours," he observed. "Do you know what it means?"
"Nah. I only caught a few words when I Saw it, so it was hard asking the man where the bracelets were that said… whatever it said," Cassie said, finally lifting her gaze from the cake. As soon as she did, she almost wished that she hadn't. His eyes were boring into hers. It wasn't a glare, more of a 'what are you doing' look. She didn't understand it. "So what does it mean?"
"What does what mean?" he asked, his eyes flickering down to the bracelet around his wrist. "This?"
He shifted for a moment, shrugging. "I don't know. I thought it was cool looking. Like that shirt you have that has Spanish curse words splashed over it. You wore that for a week before someone told you what it meant."
She smiled, lifting her spoon. "Yeah, yeah. Happy birthday, Nick. How old are you now? Fifty?" He snorted as he lifted his own spoon, touching it gently to hers in their attempt at a toast.
"Happy twenty-ninth birthday," she said, grinning as she shoveled her spoon into the gigantic chocolate cake. She lifted it to her mouth, the warm frosting melting over her tongue. It was rich, dark, heavenly sweet. Too sweet, almost.
"Happy eighteenth birthday, Cassie," he said quietly. Eighteen. That was all she was. Though he was technically twenty-eight for a few more months, he still felt old compared to her. He kept his gaze on his empty spoon for a moment.
"Are you alright?" Cassie questioned, making him lift his head to face her. He started laughing, looking at the thick frosting that touched the side of her mouth. She set her face in one of annoyance, not appreciating not knowing the joke. "What? Care to share the joke with the rest of the class, Nicky?"
He shook his head, leaning over the table to touch her mouth with his fingertip gently. Halfway to her lips, he realized how odd this was, but to turn back now would surely make it even more awkward. So he pressed on. Nick wiped the frosting from the corner of her damp lips, pulling away from her when there was no mess remaining.
Silence fell over them. He couldn't decide who looked more shocked. Her face was flushed again, her eyes unable to fall away from him. Nick studied her face for a moment, before standing. "I need to go wash my hand," he said slowly. "From the frosting."
"Yeah, you do that," she called, trying to sound nonchalant. She, too, stood after a second. "Me, too. I mean. Not because I got frosting on my hand, but because it's just good hygiene skills."
She was always a cruddy liar.
He had never appreciated it so much as he did now.
The pair stood to make the trip to the restrooms across the restaurant. They had to wind their way between tables and booths, their hands touching at one point. Nick thought he would die – he wanted so badly to kiss her at that moment. That was his birthday wish. Fake birthday. Whichever.
A moment later, his wish came true. Cassie turned at the last moment – instead of heading into her restroom, she went out a back door to the alleyway. He followed her casually, trying not to look like he was skipping out on paying the check. The last thing he needed was an angry waitress to interrupt him when he was –
Kissing her. No, wait, she kissed him. He had barely closed the door when she had pressed him against the wall, her warm mouth molding to his. It was hot and sticky outside, the humidity killing him as his hands touched her shoulders. He spun in the alleyway, pressing her back against the wall as they changed positions.
"Hey," she breathed after a moment, her hands dancing over his chest in a way that made him want to groan. "Can I ask you a question?"
He nodded, his nose skimming along her jaw as he touched her skin with his lips gently. Cassie smiled, one of her hands lifting to his hair as he continued to kiss her.
"Do you have a tattoo?"
Nick stopped, looking at her for a moment. "What? No," he said, shaking his head at her. "Why? Did you See something?"
Cassie already had this lie set up, in case he didn't have the tattoo. Yet. "No," she said, pressing herself to him briefly. "I Saw a man running that had a tattoo. I didn't see his face. I guess it wasn't you."
Lies, lies, lies. In reality, she had Seen herself and Nick, standing near a body of water that was so vast… she assumed it was the ocean. He was hugging her to him, whispering into her ear that he loved her. This was the vision that she wanted to come true the most.
"Oh," he said, completely believing her. In that moment, he didn't even think about the possibility that she might be lying. He really didn't care. She was there, smelling sweet and she was warm and he didn't even think about how true her words were. "Can I ask you something?"
"Shoot," she said, her eyes sliding shut as his mouth pressed to her neck, just above her new necklace.
"Did you See this?"
That made her grin. Cassie laughed a little bit, her palm reaching up to touch his cheek. "You will never know."