This is a birthday present for the wonderful Absense, one of our fandom's very talented writers. One Duncan-centric oneshot coming up! (Apologies in advance for… everything. I've never made much of an attempt to write him, but I guess practice is good for me.) Also, that is seriously the dumbest cover I have ever put on a piece. I just Googed "angry silhouettes" and adjusted their heights in Paint and got that. So. We're goin' with it.
Also I accidentally started shipping Chaz/Tanisha while I was writing this. I'm very sorry.
Unrelated like whoa, but does anyone know how to add characters to the list of characters we've been provided to add to the fic descriptions? Because a ton of characters have been added since that list was out and this fic could do with a "Tanisha D." label.
Duncan received a laptop for his fourteenth birthday. Of course, he already had one, which had been provided by the government so he would be more easily accessible. He also had tablets of various levels of usefulness and multiple smart phones, all of which had been handed over by NERDS and the American government for the good of world peace.
This laptop was different because it was a gift from Tanisha.
The processor was junk and their neighborhood's lack of wi-fi made it impossible to use without allowing Benjamin to mess with it. It was very heavy and the fan was very loud, and the speakers had terrible sound quality. The coloring was off and the unit took close to fifteen minutes to boot up properly.
Upon its unwrapping at the kitchen table, Tanisha very quickly said, "I know it's not fancy like all your spy stuff, but I didn't know what else to get you. So. Yeah. Happy birthday."
"Thanks, sis," Duncan said, smiling sincerely at his older sister who was staring at the plate of her brother's birthday cake sitting in front of her. The two of them had always had problems seeing eye to eye, but her recent attempts to improve their relationship had not been lost on Duncan.
"That was very nice of you, Tanisha," Aiah said, and the surprise in her voice caught Duncan off-guard. She hadn't known that Tanisha was getting him a laptop? Did that mean Tanisha had paid for it all by herself? No, their dad must have-
"How did you manage to afford that, kiddo?" Avery asked, and Duncan blanched.
A few hours later, after cake, ice cream, and Tanisha managing to avoid every question about how she had come by Duncan's birthday present, they all gathered out in the living room for the evening news. It was something of a tradition, started on late nights at the old house while Aiah waited for her husband to get home. Tanisha would sit on the couch and do her homework, using a dinner tray as a backboard. Duncan would sit on the floor and tinker with one of his mom's broken cell phones or maybe a busted kitchen timer. Aiah would watch the news intently, silently praying that any of the neighborhood's crime had been kept far away from Avery's place of work. After years and a move, the tradition still stood, though now Tanisha sat on the couch texting and Duncan would type or tinker or read a machine magazine while Avery and Aiah sat in comfortable silence watching the news.
"How's the computer working, bud?" Avery asked, leaning forward to try and get a look at Duncan's screen.
"It's great, Dad," Duncan lied, as it still wasn't done turning on. He turned to his sister. "Thanks again!"
Tanisha shrugged and texted slightly more furiously.
The evening news ended around ten and Aiah got up and stretched. "I'm going to bed," she said. "Don't stay up too late."
"Wait for me," Avery grunted, pushing himself out of the dark hole of the sofa and its crushed backrest and following his wife down the hall to their bedroom. He turned about halfway down. "In bed by 11:30," he ordered, and both of his children made affirmative grunts before he vanished into his room.
Duncan restarted the laptop for the third time and then looked up at his sister, who very abruptly removed her eyes from him and back to her phone. Duncan smiled and Tanisha looked at him again and rolled her eyes.
"Don't look at me like that," she ordered. "Look, I know that that laptop is a piece of crud, but I couldn't think of anything else and I know how much you like geeky tech stuff and I thought you could pull it apart or something. I don't know."
Duncan grinned. "I appreciate it," he said. "It's really cool that you'd get me something this… well, big. It must have cost a lot."
He knew that sounded rude, but he was genuinely curious about how Tanisha had come by the money. The girl just rolled her eyes and fixed him with a look. "Alright, you little geek. Since I know you and Mom and Dad aren't going to stop bugging me until I tell one of you, I guess it doesn't matter. I got it for cheap. You know that scummy kid with the blond bowl cut in my Native American History class?"
"Yeah, he was selling it really cheap. $80 and I do his homework for the rest of the semester. For a laptop! I figured I wasn't going to get that good of a deal anywhere else."
Duncan sat up and closed the laptop, fixing his sister with a concerned stare. "Is that why you've been up so late every night? You're doing Trevor's homework?"
"Just copying it from mine," she said dismissively. "It's no big deal."
"You were saving that money for that beach trip you were taking with your boyfriend," Duncan added. "You were really excited!"
"I can work something else out," she shrugged, her eyes still glued to her phone screen.
Duncan sat on the floor, staring at his sister with a skeptical look and a very raised eyebrow. He sighed. "You didn't need to," he said flatly.
Tanisha sniffled and tossed her phone angrily onto the cushion next to her where it bounced a few inches and then onto the carpet. "Yes, I did!" she said, wiping stubbornly at the few tears on her face. "You got me a phone! A good phone! But then your birthday comes and I realize I can't get you anything cool like a phone or the e-reader you got for Mom and I'm just totally lame as an older sister, because what kind of big sister lets her little brother shower her with gifts when she can't give him anything that cool back?" She snagged the tissue box off the coffee table and blew her nose.
Duncan nodded at her quietly, and when she was dabbing at her eyes silently he said, "I got you that phone because I wanted to get it for you. I knew it would make you happy. I didn't want you to owe me."
Tanisha sniffled again. Duncan smiled at her and gave her a shrug. "I saw how upset you were that you were the only one at school without a nice phone. I knew it would make you happy. All I really wanted to give you for your birthday was… I dunno, us being friends? Or at least not beating up on each other anymore. I guess a phone was just easier."
"You're such a dork," she moaned, leaning forward and grabbing her phone off the floor. She unlocked it and stared at the wallpaper. It was a picture of her and her boyfriend, Chaz, wearing oversized sunglasses and ugly hats they had found at some kiosk in the mall. She opened her photo folder and flipped through it, and upon the discovery she expected to find, held the phone up to eye level. "Gimme a smile," she said, and Duncan gave her the cheesiest grin he could muster. She took the photo and patted the seat next to her. Her brother scrambled onto the couch and leaned over to watch her resize and edit the photo to make it clearer. "It's the only one I have of you," she said apologetically. She clicked "Set as Wallpaper" and minimized the screen to show Duncan his own face staring back at him. Chaz would understand.
Duncan grinned and leaned his head against his sister's shoulder playfully. She snorted and half-heartedly pushed him away before slumping backwards tiredly. "You exhaust me emotionally," she stated. Duncan laughed.
"Back at ya."
Duncan watched his sister click around on her phone for a little while before she turned her head to him. "I'll help you get into Dad's glue drawer if you help me copy out my homework for Trevor."
Duncan was on his feet the second she finished the sentence.
"Well, what are we still doing here?" he demanded.