Sometimes Nick found it hard to remember that Cassie was a child in the eyes of the law. There was an ancient wisdom in her when he had first met her, and somehow they had just never separated even after the debacle with Division in Hong Kong. He had never seen or heard from Kira again, though others with gifts had confirmed that Carver was dead and many Division head honchos had simply never been heard from again, either.
"Sometimes we have to sacrifice the ones we love to get things done," Cassie had said solemnly when he had ranted about the loss. Nick had merely stared at her with hollow eyes as she pushed a glass of whiskey toward him. "There are other opportunities to get even, Nick. Don't run now."
Of course she knew what she was talking about. She was a Watcher and Division still had her mother, who was trying to pull strings from the inside, right beneath their noses. The reminder was humbling, and Nick had never spoken of Kira again.
Today was different, however. Today was Cassie's fifteenth birthday, and she had just mentioned that she had never had a birthday party. There was no wistful note in her voice, no mourning innocence and childhood lost. She was a Watcher, after all; she had never truly been young and carefree. But underneath it all, Nick knew that she wanted to be.
For one day, he could give her something lighthearted. For one day, he could help her shake off her responsibilities.
Of course, it was difficult to plan something around a Watcher.
Pinky helped by putting the orders in at the bakery for a decadent chocolate layer cake and going into stores with him so he could buy her a present. It wasn't anything big or flashy; they were constantly on the run, and anything unwieldy would have to be left behind. Of course Pinky had smartass comments about the charm bracelet, but Nick simply ignored it. Part of dealing with Pinky was ignoring half of what he said, anyway.
Nick tucked the bracelet into his jacket pocket and went to get the cake. It wasn't going to be much of a party, since they had only a handful of contacts in Singapore, but they all agreed to come by and visit for Cassie's birthday.
She was doodling in a notebook when he arrived with Pinky and the cake, looking almost suspicious. "What have you been hiding?"
He merely grinned at her when there was a knock on the hotel room door. "Why don't you open that?"
Cassie was startled by the sight of their friends and contacts arriving, all wishing her a happy birthday and bearing a present. Some brought food and drinks, and one brought jaunty music to dance to. Delighted, Cassie swept everyone into a tight hug and pressed a kiss to Nick's cheek. "This is fantastic. I never expected something like this!"
Her grin made something shift inside of Nick's chest, and it was a fierce feeling that took him almost by surprise. He would do anything for her, he realized. No feat was too small to accomplish if it made her happy, and that gave him a sense of purpose. Division would fall eventually, after all. Once it did, his sole purpose would be making sure that she had days like this one.
The crowning glory of the party was the chocolate layer cake. Cassie got a huge slice, with half of the frosting smeared across her lips and fingers. She laughed, danced some more and got frosting in her hair. She ooh'ed and ah'ed over every present she got, no matter how tacky, and giggled like a schoolgirl. For a few hours, she was every inch the fifteen year old that she was, with no sign of preternatural knowledge clouding her vision.
Clearing the dresser to make room for her presents, Nick came across the sketchbook she had been drawing in when he had gotten back to the hotel room. There was the bracelet he had gotten for her, which was now clasped around her wrist. Next to it was that piece of cake she had eaten. He couldn't help but smile and wonder what she had thought while drawing it, and if this was the sort of thing she actually liked.
Cassie came up behind Nick and threw her arms around him. "This was the best birthday I've ever had," she told him with laughter in her voice. He hugged her back, pleased that he could do this for her.
Next year she turned sixteen. He would have to plan for something even bigger and better than a party with cake.