I parked Latte along a curve near Adrian's apartment and nearly sprinted toward his door. To which I found him lounging around on the stairs that led to the upstairs unites of his complex. He watched me as I approached, a calmness in his eyes. Not what I expected. "Where's the emergency?" I asked him slightly out of breath. I had responded almost immediately to his text, and was now hit with a sense of confusion at his easeful state.
"There's no emergency," he responded easily.
I glanced around. The complex was nicely quiet. "Then why am I here?"
He gave me a patient look. "Because I called you, Sage."
I nearly groaned as the realization set in, but instead I gave out a heavy sigh. "You said it was important."
I waited, irritation making my hands rest on my hips. His tone had remained light and nonchalant while irritation was beginning to darken my mood. I had been working on a very crucial History paper that had actually swallowed my whole interest. That is until Adrian texted me and promised it'd be more important than that.
My posture only strengthened the hint of amusement on Adrian's face. "Belikov and Sonya have gone out to do . . . well, whatever. But the point is, they're not here."
"Okay . . ." I said warily, unsure where this was going. Did he want me to be some sort of lookout as he pulled a prank or something?
"So," he said, adjusting himself on the steps so that he could reach beside him. "I'm giving you this." I watched with my brows furrowed until what he wanted to give me came into view. It was a vanilla cupcake with bright yellow frosting, decorated with tiny sugar crystals. In the center of the cake was a lone cigarette, its end unlit. "We ran out of candles, so I had to improvise."
My first thought was that this was a joke. But the full epiphany of what had just occurred along with the confusion that still lingered, made me form my next words. As if phrasing out my thought could better clarify the event. "You had to wait until you were alone in your apartment, called me to rush all the way over here, just to give me,"—I couldn't help to stare back incredulously— "a pastry?"
He shrugged, seemingly unaffected by what had almost seemed like an accusation from me. "I figured you didn't want a big audience. You know, prevent it from becoming a big deal," he explained.
"A big audience for what?" I asked, still dumbfounded.
"For your birthday." He said it so easily it was as if it was the most obvious statement in the world. That there was nothing surprising or special about what he had done.
I paused. For only a second I was doubtful of the date. But no, my birthday was not today. Not even close. "It's not my birthday."
"Yes, but I couldn't find out your real one. And I figured you could use an excuse for a celebration." He smiled in that cocky way of his. When I didn't say anything, he continued, "You work too much, Sage. Always doing things for other people. Never benefiting yourself."
I still hesitated. Looking for anything that meant he was joking. But despite his natural easy manner, he looked serious.
"Come on. Ten minutes won't degrade you as an Alchemist," he argued lightly.
If only he knew, I thought. I took a seat beside him on the steps anyway. The steps were wide for an apartment complex, but despite our fairly narrow figures, the space between us was pretty limited. It didn't bother me as much I thought it should. This was Adrian after all. My friend. Or maybe the shock hadn't fully worn off yet.
Adrian held out the cupcake, as if appraising it, then brought it closer to me.
"Make a wish," he said, watching me. "Hell, skip the wish. Just take a bite."
My head shook, staring the treat. "I can't eat that."
Adrian gave me a knowing look. "I know. But you will. Because I made it."
I frowned at him, unsure how that was any reason to get me to swallow that giant sugar cube of calories. Well, at least, not a strong enough reason. Yet a tiny bit of guilt had managed to seep into my conscience.
"No you didn't." I met his eyes. That humor was still present on his face and it annoyed me how I couldn't really reciprocate. "You bought it. At some bakery. But you certainly didn't make it."
Adrian looked offended, leaning away from me. "How could you doubt my ever-improving skills?" He paused, getting rid of his mock hurt. "But I'm impressed by you calling me out on it."
I rolled my eyes, unwilling to tell him that it really wasn't that difficult to figure out. Eyeing the frilly design of the yellow frosting, I had a hard time imagining Adrian leaning over the counter with an icing tube in his hands. Art was one thing, culinary art was another.
"Bakeries make better cupcakes, anyway," Adrian pointed out. "But it is customized," he said, tapping the cigarette sticking out of it.
I couldn't help a laugh. He held the cupcake closer to me. My neck leaned back a bit. It's not that I wanted to insult Adrian, but the idea of taking even a single bite seemed . . . overbearing.
Adrian noticed this, but his humor didn't go away. "One cupcake isn't going to make your metabolism shut down."
Easy for you to say, I thought. But yes, he implanted that guilt in me. His voice almost sounded pleading, or eager. As if urging me to take the birthday treat was a personal matter. Clearly he had put thought into this fake birthday, even added his personal touch, but was it worth it? I finally glanced at his eyes.
Then took a bite into the cupcake.
Its icing was softly sweet, tingling my taste bugs in a distantly familiar way. It's been a while since I've had anything this remotely sweet. Granted it wasn't a huge bite, but it was certainly enough for me to be overwhelmed by its flavor.
I chewed on the spongy cake, avoiding Adrian's eyes. He watched, nevertheless, expectantly.
I swallowed, and raised my eyes to his. "It's pretty good."
His face lit up at my admittance. "Well worth it?" He asked, swiping a finger across the cake and licking the frosting off it.
"Not nearly." I noted sourly. "Not the cupcake, at least. . ."
"Eh, you can have your pity party later," he said breezily, "But not during your birthday."
I gave him a sidelong glance, wondering what made him so happy about all this. Then a familiar phrase came to mind. "It's my party, I'll cry if I want to."
A sound burst out from Adrian at that moment. A sound that left me surprised and a little giddy. He laughed— a real one, genuine and happy. And it felt intoxicating being this close to him— which might have explained the warm tingling sensation that spread from where Adrian's knee touched mine, to the mere sound of his laughter. It was a short laugh, but the intensity from it, the same one that lingered in his eyes, made it more meaningful than a lot of the other things Adrian did.
My smile nearly turned into a giggle, but the short moment had ended, and Adrian was just grinning now.
"Okay, Sage," he said, humorously.
We looked at each other briefly, before sharing grins and looking away. The sky above us wasn't the most open view. The red rays of the sun were cut short by the roof of the apartment complex. But the length of sky we were able to see seemed enough. The Palm Springs' evening was warm, but I still managed to feel Adrian's heat radiating off from him. I had never sat this close to him for a long period of time. Taking a chance, I stole a glance at him. His head was tilted back, gazing up in way that caused the colors to reflect on his green eyes. Somehow, maybe it was the lighting, but he looked younger. I was surprisingly closer to him than I imagined, finding myself watching his mouth twitch into a carefree grin. It seemed like a free moment for the both of us.
And then it hit me.
A vampire had thrown me a birthday.
I shook my head with what started off as a scoff, but turned into a small chuckle.
Adrian caught it and slide his gaze to me. "What?"
"It's just—" I moved my eyes and looked at him. "Thank you." And I meant it.
Adrian beamed, but took this as an opportunity to add his usual snark. "Is that gratitude I hear from you, Sage?"
My eyes rolled. Despite the arrogance, his light expression was nice to watch. His words settled in, and I realized what he said. "Wait, did you only throw this fake birthday so you could earn my gratitude?"
"No, of course not!" he protested. "I did it to earn that."
"Earn what?" I asked, looking away. His voice had changed into a more serious tone.
"Happiness," he told me, keeping my eyes. "It's so rarely seen on your face. You're always serious, always working."
"There's a reason for that. And happiness isn't exactly common on your face either you know," I teased.
"What?" he grinned, but I saw it falter. "I smile all the time."
"Yes," I admitted, "But not without sarcasm, or some twisted sense of humor."
A sly smile took place on his mouth.
I pointed at him. "Like that."
The smile became warmer, but he looked away. After a moment he spoke up again. "Well played, Sage."
"I wasn't playing," I informed him.
He let out a laugh. "I know. You never play." It wasn't an insult, but a halfheartedly comment. And it didn't offend me or set me off, to my surprise.
I shrugged helplessly. "Only when forced."
"So is that what I had to do?" He glanced at him, boring into me with those green eyes. "I had to I force you to eat that cupcake?"
"It's not even my birthday" I countered. I chose not to point out that he had practically done so.
He looked away, but stared off with a look of ease. "You don't need a birthday to have fun once in a while. There are things called 'breaks.'"
"Not in the Alchemist world . . ." I commented, keeping my voice teasing.
There was some silence. Then, in my peripheral, Adrian shook his head in exasperation. "Man, I can't even believe what it'd be like if I lived in that world. Watching you work is hard enough."
There was nothing really special about his words, or even how he said them. But as he casually mentioned enduring life as an Alchemist, a ridiculous image of Adrian giving up his late night parties and incorrigible drinking habits to spend his days in a serious environment, triggered a laugh within me. I felt it bubble up my throat until the laughter continued, fringing on outright hysterics.
Adrian only stared at me oddly, a smile of amusement still on his face. I didn't think he knew what was so funny, but it didn't look like he cared. In fact, through his usual snark, there was a deeper admiration in his eyes as he watched me laugh my heart out.
"I think you're suffering from a sugar overdose, Sage," he commented.
My laughter died down a bit, "No…no," I tried to say, "It's just…what you said."
He met my eyes again, waiting.
"You, working as an Alchemist. . ." I explained through my little chuckles. "It's difficult . . . impossible to imagine."
"I don't know, Sage." He gave me a sly smile. "I think one of those Lily tattoos would look pretty good on me."
I glanced at his face. The planes and angles of his cheekbones would no doubt compliment a gold tattoo. Then again, I had little doubt his looks couldn't pull off anything.
I shook my head and let it go. My stomach ached slightly from my sudden happy outburst, but I took a few deep breaths to replenish the ones I'd lost.
It was comfortable silence after that. I refused to think more deeply about what Adrian had said. A tattoo on his face would mean more than what he thought. It'd carry a burden in him he hadn't the slightest idea of understanding. Instead I flicked my tongue in my mouth, feeling it thickly coated in the remains of the icing I had consumed. Despite the consequences I would have to face later, the warmth of the gesture seemed to overwhelm me even more. To have someone else do something for me— I wasn't used to it. But coming from Adrian, it felt nice. As if I really could take a break and not worry about the world. It was only after I sighed and glanced at the darkening sky I realized feelings like this, no matter how great or warm, couldn't last.
I looked at Adrian, finding him already looking at me. Pointedly my eyes flickered above us. "It's almost curfew."
He nodded, understanding. A smile still lighting up his face in a way I haven't seen before.
Seeing that widened my own smile, and before I got up, I pulled the hair away from my face and leaned toward the cupcake. Though thankfully the cigarette wasn't lit, I pretended to blow it out. I felt Adrian watch me, as I leaned back and got to my feet. He did the same, and I took the cigarette out of its sugary fortress and handed it to him.
"Here," I said, "Save this for your stash."
"Sure thing," he said absentmindedly, taking it from me.
I grinned and got down the step, starting my way on the sidewalk.
"Wait a minute, Sage," Adrian called.
I turned around, startled to find him right behind me, holding out the treat.
"You forgot something." He handed it out to me.
I shook my head instantly. "No, I can't take that."
Adrian gave me a stern look over his previously humorous one. "Sage, if you don't take it now, I have other ways of getting it to you."
I stared at him for a moment, trying to call his bluff. But despite his careless attitude, his green eyes met mine firmly. I sighed and took the cupcake.
His smile returned. "See you later."
I walked to my car and placed the cupcake in Latte's cup holder, praying the icing wouldn't make a mess all over the edges. Suddenly, through the noise of the engine, I heard a knock on my window with a call. "Hey, Sage!"
I nearly jumped before I stupidly realized it was Adrian. Rolling down my window, Adrian leaned in slightly, making my breath halt.
A grin toyed with his lips, the lights on the dashboard casting a colorful glow across his face, illuminating the green of his eyes. "Happy birthday," he wished softly.
I could only nod. He seemed satisfied with that and leaned back, heading toward his door. My window rolled back up as I made my way toward Amberwood.
The cupcake had almost been forgotten when I pulled into a parking space, until it came about time to get out. I paused, turning off Latte and stared at it. The frosting was still perfectly placed, except for the small dent I had made with my teeth and the hole from Adrian's "candle."
Touching the roof of my mouth with the tip of my tongue, I realized that sugary feeling had vanished for quite some time. And a part of me felt a pang of longing. Not necessarily for the taste, but for the memory of having it there. Glancing around, the parking lot was mostly empty. I eyed the cupcake yet again, suddenly remembering the feel of the stone steps of Adrian's apartment complex, while his laugher echoed around me.
I sighed heavily and lifted the pastry out of its holder, fully intent on getting out of my car and finding some other way to get rid of it.
Then, the feel of the evening heat came rushing back at me. The peaceful silence as I imagined a careless state, the green eyes that could see mine with such a knowing look, it scared me and comforted me at the same time.
I felt the cake weigh down my hand. Glancing down, I raised it to my lips. Then, almost reluctantly, took another bite.
Haven't been back in a while. Okay, so this was supposed to be a short chapter…but it came out longer than I thought :) anyway, no this isn't an after-the-fight make-up chapter, it's is as usual UNRELATED or in ANY PARTICULAR ORDER to the pervious chapters :)
I hope you enjoyed it! Thought it was just something cute.
Also, I had NOT read Golden Lily the day I came up with this idea and wrote it. So I did just finish the book, but even though I've already read it, I'd appreciate it if none of you give any spoilers in your reviews/comments/etc, because I'd hate it if I indirectly spoiled such a FANTASTIC novel to a loyal reader :)
Anyway, I do have several more little fics, keep in mind that these were created without the influence of Golden Lily when I first started writing, and most likely my chapters are after Bloodlines, without any of the events of Golden Lily. Sorry, but yeah. Hope You enjoyed it!