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Cobra obediently checked in his appointment book for the mentioned day (clear) before Lilo told him why.

"That's my birthday," Lilo said. "I'm having a party, and everyone is giving me bricks. That's the theme."

The cheerful desire for bricks was pure Lilo. The rest, from her regaling him with the planned details, to party hat colours, to when Nani and David were to bring what from the other room, to which games she had decided were the best, was more-typical exuberance. Cobra let it wash around him, until Lilo's insistence that the party was for family concluded with an order he hadn't expected. He should have, perhaps, from being told the date.

"You have to come too. You're family." Lilo frowned a little. She had that sometimes rather terrifying Lilo-in-deep-thought expression that so often preceded mention of schemes, weaponry and/or alien technology. This time, what she added was, "Or you almost are. You're here a lot."

Children can accept nearly anything if it's presented matter-of-factly, without age-inappropriate detail, and most importantly without shame.

Lilo nodded, apparently pleased with her reckoning. "You're not an alien. But you're here less than Stitch and more than Jumba and Pleakley. So you fit right in between."

 

Of course Lilo had noticed Cobra visits a lot, and that doing so is now without the excuse of official role he had towards this family not so long ago. Cobra is convinced that Stitch is aware as well, quite possibly far more aware than Lilo, but the small blue alien doesn't talk much. Or he doesn't talk much to Cobra, at any rate.

 

The idea of baking Lilo's birthday cake at home had been quickly vetoed by Nani. She best knew the impossibility of getting something made in the kitchen with Lilo determined to help. Keeping Lilo out of the kitchen wouldn't work, she declared, but keeping Lilo away from the baker she could do.

Cobra only heard about the baking conversation, but was present for David's followup in which he gave himself charge of the cake, with a wry comment about juggling and how at least when he picked the cake up it wouldn't be on fire. Nani laughed, clearly having caught some reference that Cobra had not, and leaned toward David to lightly kiss his cheek.

Cobra didn't have time to feel more than a twinge of the background worry that he was intruding before David smiled right at him. "I'll tell you about the fire later."

Cobra would rather have heard about the fire right then. In his moods where he doesn't feel sure of fitting in what he wants is to hear everything, know everything, about David and Nani both. To have them both let him further in.

But right then there was an elaborate party to plan (because Lilo's party plans, being Lilo's, are elaborate by definition). So he let Nani steer the conversation back to the long list of other preparations.

Almost before he was conscious of deciding that he wanted to be involved, Cobra volunteered to pick up some of the needed items from town.

"I hope Lilo won't mind you helping," Nani told him, perhaps closer to thinking aloud. Her thoughtful frown is similar, though significantly less worrying, to her younger sister's. "I think it's okay. Lilo invited you herself, and she hasn't said she wants you surprised..."

So Cobra helped by picking up decorations. As Lilo's "bricks" theme did not apparently extend to a set of colours, he got streamers in blues and purples and reds, with balloons in an assortment. After more time looking at the possibilities than was probably strictly necessary, Cobra decided on the requisite party hats not only in different colours but with polka dots.

When in doubt, go for variety.

Of course, variety is very often a good thing even when not in doubt.

 

The three of them have not yet put a name to what they are. The half-spoken consensus is that this is, not fragile, but still being woven. "Still being pieced," Nani said once, with a simile about skirt-making that had her wildly waving her hands. David set one of his own hands on her arm, not to quiet her but to make a connection. Soon after that, Cobra leaned in from the other side.

Eventually, David said something laughing about a many-armed sea star.

 

The party was upon them quickly, and Cobra there in the middle of it all, anxious and happy, feeling a mixture of welcomed and presuming-upon, to be counted among family.

He was surprised Lilo didn't insist he wear one of the hats. Perhaps she was busy with all the other details.

Not a terribly imaginative present, Cobra admitted to himself, but Lilo still seemed to enjoy building, from what he's glimpsed of her projects in her room, and the scattered blocks left elsewhere in the house. His ready excuse was that the individual Lego pieces are properly referred to as bricks. That and the small spaceship included in the set. He hoped the inevitable alien critique of the toy's design would be a bonus (some sort of conversation point) rather than a point of disfavour.

David or Nani will likely tell him about the outcome of that, if he doesn't happen to be around to hear. For now, Lilo and even Stitch seemed far too excited to take in details.

David's present to Lilo was an ordinary looking brick, but he folded himself to match her level as Lilo was on a small chair, and told her about how coral grows around things, until small fish swim through the gaps.

 

After presents was the time Lilo had assigned for cake.

The cake was huge, with red and dark blue stripes of icing that Cobra thought worked rather well with the streamers he chose.

Lilo, up on a stepladder at her own insistence, had a good vantage point to blow out the candles. Which she did, after quelling Stitch with the declaration that it would be his turn some other time.

Cobra made a mental note to add "Investigate how to determine an alien's birthday" to his appointment book.