0017: Happy N7 Day, Mr. Becket, 2013

Most mornings, those rare mornings when he could get up without shambling around, he could just roll out of the bed, shuffle down the stairs and wait in the kitchen until mom came back inside from a smoke. Lately, however, he found himself sandwiched between his younger siblings - in his own bed.

Respectfully, they were both at the age where this kind of thing was discouraged. Thirteen and twelve year olds usually found the self-resolve and independence to deal with their fears, old and new, it was an unspoken rule of young adulthood. However, he must've missed the sign he posted on his front door that said "safe haven here" because Raleigh and Jazmine took what appeared to be a permanent residence at the foot of his bed in sleeping bags.

He didn't mind it, he really didn't. He felt a thousand times better knowing that his brother and sister were somewhere he could see them and that he could find his parents with a simple text or venture to the other end of the hall. Disaster made them all clingy, no longer shy about how close they got to each other. When they weren't looking, the Becket siblings caught their parents whispering and holding each other like the world just ended or something.

Technically, it kinda did.

He, Jazmine and Raleigh weren't strangers to each other, but the day's following August thirteenth was probably full of more conversations about nothing than he cared to keep track of. They talked to each other until they fell asleep or drifted apart to do their own thing.

The otherworldly nature of their circumstances had yet to wear off. He was still wishing the Justice League and Avengers existed, that childish thoughts like wishing he was an actual superhero didn't tempt him to go running to a church to make a deal with God like something out of a Luc Besson film*.

Still, even while the world was one fire over one smoking corpse of a monster that drove half a populace out of three cities, their lives had to move on. And as such, waking up on his eighteenth birthday with one sibling on either side of him was just another facet of resuming life as he knew it now. He always found himself sliding out of the bed, hoisting himself up on the footboard and praying he didn't fall backward on his ass. This morning was no different.

He shuffled his way out of the bedroom and into the bathroom down the hall. Like clockwork, just as he finished using the toilet and began to wash his hands, Jazmine and Raleigh shuffled in behind him, ready to brush their teeth.

He suddenly missed his personal space.

Anyone his age likely had their entire day planned out; parties with friends and the like. He couldn't drink yet, that was another two or three years ahead of him, but maybe- "So, do you have anything planned for your birthday?"

Yancy looked up from his farina, spoon poised on the edge of his lips. His dad, Richard Becket, was watching him with his usual conversational smile, just a tad stressed from a lack of sleep.

He made a face. "Besides schoolwork?"

"Yeah, besides that," He said.

Yancy shook his head. "Probably come back here, do more work and hang out with you guys," He replied, prepared to eat.

"Sweetheart, you don't have to stay here if you want to," Dominique reached over and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "We'll be fine."

"Can we go to the mall? I haven't gotten you a present yet," Jazmine asked, sitting straighter in her chair. Her brothers gave her an exasperated look, neither looking forward to marching through the mall just to buy something. "What? I just got my allowance," Jazmine argued.

"I don't wanna go to the mall," Raleigh grumbled over the oatmeal in his mouth.

"I do," Jazmine said.

"I know I don't have to, but I want to," Yancy replied, eyes following Dominique as she rose from the table. "It doesn't feel right just to leave you guys."

"We'll be fine, just enjoy yourself," Richard said. "And when you come home, maybe there'll be cake and a happy birthday song waiting for you."

All three Becket siblings made a face at the mere thought of their father singing "Happy Birthday". Their mom could rock a melody, but dad? He killed every note he tried to master. They got up from the table with their bowls and dumped them into the sink. "I'll think about it," Yancy said before departing from the kitchen.

The best thing about having an older brother with a driver's license was that they never had to wait for the bus or ride their bikes. You got to school on time, you could catch up on a sleep for a total of twenty minutes or less depending on how fast he was driving (obeying the speed limit was something of a challenge, considering Yancy hasn't been caught the last two times he got lead foot).

The downside to having an older brother with a car was that he rarely complained about Jazmine's choice in music unless he really, really hated the artist (case in point: Carly Rae Jepsen or V V Brown). She wasn't listening to either. Instead it was Natalia Kills and one of her off brand singles. Judging by the crease that was slowly forming on Yancy's forehead, he was starting to develop a dislike the booming drums and poppy noises serving as background noise for her vocals.

Or maybe it was just line about "making his love grenade explode"* that made him uncomfortable. Like, where did Jazmine get her taste in her music? "You really shouldn't be listening to this," Yancy grumbled.

"Please. I know exactly what she's talking about," Jazmine argued, arms folded. Yeah, right, Raleigh thought.

"Oh, really? You know exactly what she means when she's talking about tying someone up with handcuffs?"

"Yup," Jazmine's expression remained defiant, Yancy and Raleigh remained unconvinced.

They dropped their sister off at the front of the school. Jazmine was halfway out of the car when she remembered to give her brother a kiss on the cheek. "Happy birthday, Yance," She said.

"Thanks, sparks. Be good in school," Yancy reached out to ruffle her hair. Jazmine dodged him like a pro, sandy brown ponytail flipping over her shoulder as she ran across the yard to catch up with the exodus of children heading for the school's front door. Raleigh was already climbing from the back as the jeep pulled out of the parking lot and fell back into the flow of traffic. Yancy drove responsibility until he was out of the school zone and back into the general traffic. Raleigh was surfing the channels of the radio, desperate to get away from the pop channel.

Trying to focus on his classes was hard, and he suspected it was the same for the rest of the class. Not even his teacher seemed all that invested in her lecture as she gave them an overview on the development between Hellenistic and Archaic period artwork in Greece (or was it Rome?). Everyone's eyes switched from the teacher, to the textbooks (when directed), toward the horizon of the city that lay beyond the campus.

No one was really expecting an attack, most people who were attacked weren't. What if the same thing happened here? What if he was stuck in the classroom, learning about stupid shit that didn't matter, and ended up squashed between a few tons of metal and concrete? He couldn't protect his family like that. Why was he even sitting in this room?

You could cut the tension in the classroom with a knife, and it didn't help matters when someone dropped their pencil and they all jumped like a bomb went off.

Their teacher let them out early, regulations be damned. Yancy spent his free hour studying for a test he should've been ready for two weeks ago. It had only been three months, but they were all still acting like it happened yesterday.

She's not a girl who missed much. Lucy Sengupta wasn't even a girl to be perfectly honest, most women weren't. She was the librarian and British by the sounds of her. When she caught him watching, he looked away, and if he did it too many times she'd look over her glasses and tap the book on the desk she sat at, a not so subtle way of telling him to get back to work.

He couldn't count how many times he used the excuse of not being able to find a book just so he could talk to her. The look that usually accompanied this, of course, was the same one his mother would give him when she knew he was lying. And to her credit, Miss Sengupta let him know she thought he was adorable, "Probably one of the cutest boys in the college, but you're under the belt of the age group I tend to date." She paused, shifting the books in her hand. "How old are you, anyway?"

"I'm eighteen," Yancy announced, perhaps a bit too proudly. "It's my birthday today."

"Oh, well, a happy birthday is in order, Innit?" She smiled. "Celebrating with family or friends?"

"With any luck, my family," He answered. "I don't like being far from them these days, you know?"

"Yeah, I know how that feels. I'm plan on visiting my parents and my fiancé in London this week, especially with everything that's happened." Oh, shit, a fiancé? Yancy felt a bit stupid for assuming she was single, but he took it with as much grace as anyone his age could take rejection above "not well". "If I was a little older, and not engaged, would I have a chance?"

Kalinda placed a hand on his shoulder, he shivered inwardly. "You'd have as much chance as any other man. In the meantime, I think you should behave yourself, Mr. Becket and find someone your age to date," Lucy told him before she moved on to reorganize more books on a shelf out of his line of sight. He went back to the table he was sitting at and slouched in the chair, disheartened.

There was a snort behind him. "She's right, you know."

Yancy cast a look over his shoulder. Raleigh seemed to appear from nowhere, hood over his head and looking just as out of place as any fourteen year old kid did in a community college.

"Why can't you be into girls your age, Yance?"

"Rals, what are you doing here?"

"Playin' hooky," Raleigh answered, joining him at the table. He sat his backpack on the table, the bag made enough noise to attract a couple glares from students studying. He ignored them.

"Mom and Dad are gonna kill you, you know that, right?" Yancy warned.

"Whatever. I couldn't stand it in that place, it was like a graveyard," Raleigh pulled the hood from his head.

"It's no better here," Yancy leaned back in his chair. "I got maybe half hour before I have get back to class, so what's up?"

Raleigh smiled. Unzipping his bag, he reached inside and pulled out a thick black hoodie. Yancy regarded the article of clothing with some suspicion until he saw the familiar red and white stripe down the right arm.

"I picked it up yesterday, I wanted to give this to you before tonight. Now as good a time as any," He grinned at the smile that struck his brother as he reached out to take the hoodie from him. "Where'd you get this?" Yancy gave the N7 logo a once over.

"I bought it offline, where else where I would get it?" Raleigh replied. Yancy shrugged. Pushing away from the table he proceeded to unzip the jacket. He wasn't terribly partial to hoodies, but this one fit him nicely and was comfortable to boot. Raleigh leaned back in his chair and appraised his brother with an appreciative grin. "You look good," He said.

"That's a given," Yancy remarked, adjusting the sleeves. "Thanks, Rals." Raleigh stood from the chair and hugged his brother. He was slowly catching up to Yance in height, he no longer had to stand on his toes to make their hugs less awkward. "Happy birthday, brother," He says it into his shoulder, so it sounds more like "bruddah"* than anything phonically correct.

Jazmine wasn't at the school when they went to pick her up. When she doesn't answer her phone, naturally they freak out.

"Mom's gonna kills us both if we don't find her."

Yancy's led foot powered them through the afternoon traffic toward the mall, the first and only place he could think to look since it was on her "places to visit" mentioned earlier that morning. They rolled up toward the curb nearest to the entrance, Jazmine was standing just outside the mall doors, two bags hanging on her arms while her fingers were busy on her cell phone.

There's a pleasant ding on Raleigh's phone, he fishes the blue cell phone from his jacket and regards the text message with some ambiance. Not at school. Pick me up at the mall, plz? Yancy's angry face is comical, it makes him look about three years older than he should be when he yells, "Jazmine, get in the car!" And their little sister comes running.

"What were you thinking, leaving the school on your own?"

Raleigh climbs into the back when the car starts moving. He missed the chair, but no one paid him any attention as he recovered himself from the ground. Jazmine made herself comfortable in the front and deposited a box on her brother's lap.

"I wanted to get you stuff, and you weren't gonna take me to the mall, so I went by myself," Jazmine replied, pushing the box further on his lap. Yancy uses one hand to open the box as he navigates the streets. The top goes rolling off his lap onto the floor. He didn't pay it any mind. He fishes the plaid red scarf from the box and stops at the red light.

"I remember you were complaining about not having a scarf, so I got you one," Jazmine explained. "Sorry for not waiting."

"Just don't do it again, okay?" Yancy replied sourly.

"What else did you get?" Raleigh inquired, reasserting himself into the conversation.

"Not telling. It's for tonight," Jazmine remarked.

They got home without further incident. They filed through the door in a disorderly fashion, elbows and legs knocking into each other as they all vied for the front of the line. Yancy broke away from his siblings and entered the kitchen in time to catch his mother wiping her nose with a wet paper towel peppered with faint red spots.

"Hey, we're home," He announced with a smile, startling his parents. Dominique pulled away from her husband and pointed to the table. "I made your favorite." A three layer French vanilla cake sat in the center of the table, surrounded by birthday hats. Raleigh and Jazmine appear behind him, eyes wide at the size of the cake and the smell chocolate. Richard discarded the paper towel in the trash without anyone seeing him commit the crime, Yancy finds himself smiling regardless of what he suspects and gladly accepts his mother's hug. "Joyeux anniversaire, l'amour," She whispered.


Author's Note: And here we come to the end this series. Leave it to the birthday of a fictional character to get me to finish this.

Thanks: I wanna thank everyone who's followed, Favorited and reviewed this story. In particular, knightphoenix2, Master Li, .saxon, Garfield71, JM RAMOS and Guest. It really means a lot that you've enjoyed this story as much as you have and stuck with this during the hiatuses.


*The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) – Young Joan of Arc basically drinks what represents the blood of Christ and demands to be one with him (or God).

*Natalia Kills, "Mirrors"

*Lucy Sengupta is a character from FOX's canceled (and surprisingly interesting/good) series Alcatraz, starring Parminder Nagra and Sam Neill. Basically, I shameless ship any of Diego Klatenhoff's characters with Parminder Nagra's (with the exception of Shane Oman, maybe :D).

*I'm still laughing at the written pronunciation of "brother" by tumblr artist pocketaimee.

*Yancy's birthday happens to coincides with the BioWare sanctioned "N7 Day" that celebrates the Mass Effect fandom. Headcanon is that Yancy was a studious gamer on top of being a comic book fan. As a result, he tended to let his interests get in the way of his education and his mother was constantly pulling him up on that fact.

*It's to my understanding that the legal age of consent in Alaska is sixteen, the drinking age is twenty one and according to my parents, you're legally considered an adult at the age of eighteen (I'm not whether or not this applies in the entirety of the United States or Alaska in general).