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A Very Merry Unbirthday

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It was a perfect night for stargazing -- cool, clear, not an artificial light for miles. Enjolras had planned it that way. As nearly as one could plan such things, anyway. He'd found the perfect place for it, too. There was an old apple orchard near his family's home. They did all the clichéd fall things, too: hay rides, bonfires, mazes, traditional apple picking. They had a pumpkin patch, too. And he and Feuilly had done all of them.

They'd filled their baskets to bursting with apples. (In spite of Feuilly's protests, Enjolras had insisted on paying for the lion's share of them, plus a full basket of vegetables, and a few pies from the stands, for good measure, on the argument that most of it would be coming home with him for Courfeyrac to work his magic on.) They'd picked pumpkins out of the pumpkin patch and decorated them. (Feuilly's had looked far better, but he'd praised Enjolras' efforts just the same. And Enjolras really did appreciate him attempting to hide his smile; Enjolras had just painted his pumpkin red and glued sparkles on it. He had faith that, at least, Jehan would appreciate it.) They'd gone on a hay ride, too. And if Enjolras had felt tears coming to his eyes as he watched Feuilly stroke the old Percheron's nose and coo his thanks at him after the ride, well… hopefully he'd hidden it better than Feuilly had his amusement at Enjolras' efforts at painting.

They'd wandered the craft fair for a while as the day wound down, admiring the people displaying their skills, as well as the product of all that hard work. Feuilly had particularly admired a long, lush scarf, woven in yarns of warm oranges, golds, browns, and deep greens, but after a quick glance at the price, he'd sighed and moved away from the booth to look at something else. While Feuilly had been occupied talking to a young woman who was painting a series of ridged paper fans, Enjolras had had a quiet word with the weaver, eventually walking away with, not one, but many scarves secreted in his messenger bag -- one each for himself, Feuilly, and the rest of their friends.

As the sun finally slipped below the horizon in a blaze of brilliant pinks, oranges, and yellows, Enjolras had led Feuilly over to his chosen spot at the edge of the orchard. Back at the farm proper, they were gathering for the nightly bonfire and, if one listened closely, the teasing strains of music and laughter could be heard filtering through the trees, but Enjolras had other plans. As much as Feuilly enjoyed these traditional fall festivals, Enjolras knew that after an entire day spent exploring one, he'd have had enough of other people. He'd need time to recharge. Thus why this secluded spot. Enjolras spread out a blanket underneath one of the apple trees and set up the small, portable heater he'd brought. After that, it was all the picnic food -- mostly finger foods, things that were easy to eat and would keep well, and a thermos of a hearty barley soup that was one of Courfeyrac's autumn specialties.

With each item that Enjolras pulled out of his bag, Feuilly's eyes widened further and further. "Where on Earth have you been stowing all of that? Have you been carrying it all this time?"

Enjolras laughed. "No, I haven't been carrying it around all day. I made a quick dash to the car to fetch it all out of the trunk while you were off saying goodbye to the horse…?"

"Holly," Feuilly supplied. "Her name is Holly."

"Holly. Anyway… I thought you'd appreciate a quiet picnic after everything we did, today." Left unsaid was the worry that Enjolras had been wrong. Feuilly was a relatively new addition to their group and Enjolras was still figuring him out. He was a hard worker and passionate about so many things. He'd grown up in the foster system, and he didn't have much, but he was generous with what he had.

Feuilly had a healthy helping of pride, too. Enjolras had found that out the hard way when he'd suggested a scholarship fund might help put him the rest of the way through the degree he'd never finished. Since then, he'd been more subtle in his offerings of charity, disguising as many of them as gifts for occasions that couldn't be refused as he possibly could. So Feuilly couldn't object as easily, he'd started giving more presents to everyone else, too. Enjolras had the money to spare, and he'd quickly found that little pleased him more than seeing that moment of joy on a friend's face at those little, random, "I just love you, OK?" gifts. And seeing how happy the rest of their friends were and that he wasn't being especially singled out, Feuilly had finally, grudgingly stopped arguing with him about it.

That was what today was about, at least in part. Enjolras had known Feuilly for almost a year, now, and not once in all that time had he mentioned a birthday. Whether that was because he didn't enjoy celebrating it, or because he wasn't used to people wanting to, or for some other reason, entirely, Enjolras couldn't even begin to guess, but he'd decided that one way or another, Feuilly was going to have a birthday celebration… whether he knew it or not.

Thus, today. Feuilly had been wistfully eyeing the ads for all the local fall festivals for at least a few weeks, now, and Enjolras could take a hint. He'd found out when Feuilly's next day off was and arranged matters with their friends so he could kidnap Feuilly for the day and bring him to his own favorite fall festival -- the one his parents had taken him to faithfully, every year, as child. And, apart from that one moment of sadness at the weaving stall, the day had gone every bit as perfectly as Enjolras could have hoped.

…except for the fact that it was getting rather colder than Enjolras remembered it had used to get. Maybe it was the fact that it was late October and his parents had always brought him at the beginning. Maybe it was just that they usually stayed by the bonfire in the evening. He'd thought that the little heater would have been enough, but his teeth were starting to chatter, just the same. In a last ditch effort to get warm, Enjolras scooted closer to the heater and wrapped his hands securely around his mug of soup. It helped, as did the feel of the soup going down his throat… but it didn't help enough.

Feuilly sprawled across from Enjolras on the blanket, an almost drowsy look of contentment on his face. In fact, laying back on his elbows, watching the stars come out and blowing out small breath rings into the cold night air, he looked more at ease, and more comfortable, than Enjolras could ever remember him looking before. It made Enjolras ache for a camera.

Eventually, though, the barley soup ran out, and the sandwiches were gone. Enjolras was loathe to bring the night to a close, but really… he hadn't dressed quite warmly enough to stay out here any longer. He cleared his throat.

Feuilly turned slowly towards him, for all the world like some content cat who'd just woken from a nap in a particularly cozy sunbeam. He said, softly, "You're ready to head back, then?"

Still loathe to answer "Yes" to that particular question, Enjolras instead reached into the depths of his bag and pulled out the scarf Feuilly had been eyeing earlier that day. He handed it over with a quiet, "Happy birthday…?"

Feuilly raised an eyebrow as he sat up. "First of all, no, it isn't. And second of all… Enjolras, you really shouldn't have. I know you like to give presents like you're the second coming of Santa Claus, but really… this is too much." Still, he couldn't quite stop himself from reaching for the scarf and running his hands over the thick, soft wool.

Fortunately, after a year of knowing him, Enjolras had the trick of handling Feuilly in a moment like this. He simply raised his own eyebrow and said, "So, you'd begrudge me an excuse to support an independent artist? Would you rather I have bought all those scarves for myself? How many do you think one person can wear?"

Feuilly shook his head, but even in the soft starlight, Enjolras could see the particular blend of embarrassment and pleasure on his face that meant Enjolras had won this round. Feuilly stroked his hands over the scarf a few more times, then with a small, sheepish grin, he ducked his head. Taking that as the invitation it was, Enjolras leaned over and carefully wrapped the scarf around Feuilly's neck. As soon as Enjolras' fingers brushed against Feuilly's bare skin, however, Feuilly shivered and looked straight up, eyes locking on Enjolras'. "Holy--! Enjolras, your hands are freezing. Here. Let me."

Before Enjolras could even think to stop him, Feuilly had both of Enjolras' hands trapped in his and was chafing as much warmth back into them with his own cold hands as he could. Which wasn't much. Eventually Feuilly gave that up as a lost cause and began rummaging in Enjolras' bag. When all he came up with was the scarf that Enjolras had bought for himself, he shook his head and started muttering something about people who plan to spend evenings outside in the fall and don't pack appropriately. He wrapped the scarf firmly around Enjolras' neck and shoulders -- and the one Enjolras had bought for himself was more than large enough to do so. It was practically a small blanket. He then took off his own scarf and made a kind of muff with it for Enjolras to tuck his hands into. He then pushed Enjolras closer to the heater and started packing up the remains of their picnic.

Enjolras voiced but one protest through his chattering teeth: "But you were having so much fun! We don't have to leave yet!"

Feuilly paused in his packing and turned to look at Enjolras. The small smile on his face and the shining happiness in his eyes was nearly enough to make Enjolras feel as if he weren't even cold. And if that hadn't been enough, Feuilly's next words would have been.

"Enjolras… this is the best unbirthday I've ever had. And it wasn't because of the stars, or the picnic, or the fair, or the scarf, or even the horse, even though I enjoyed them all. It was because of you. It was because you cared enough to try to make it the best birthday I'd ever had. We don't have to be out here for that. We just have to be together." Feuilly stopped then, his cheeks coloring brightly enough that Enjolras could even see his blush in the starlight. Softly, he added, "If… if that's OK, that is."

Seeing the way Feuilly hunched down with those words, the way he turned his face away and curled in on himself -- as though preparing for a blow, Enjolras' mind supplied -- Enjolras couldn't help but unwind his hands from Feuilly's scarf and reach out. And though his heart clenched when Feuilly flinched at the first touch on his shoulder, it warmed right back up when Feuilly immediately clutched at him in return once he'd figured out what Enjolras was about. They stayed locked together in that almost desperate embrace long enough for the sounds of the distant bonfire to fade into silence, and the sounds of people starting their cars and driving away to begin. They separated then, but only long enough to stand up and gather their belongings. As they walked back to the car, silent once more, it was with Feuilly's arm wrapped snugly about Enjolras' shoulders, and Enjolras' wrapped securely about Feuilly's waist. It was all the warmth Enjolras could ever need, and he couldn't stop smiling.

It wasn't until they were back in the car and Feuilly had turned up the heat so he could properly chafe some warmth back into Enjolras now almost painfully cold hands that he broke that silence. Quietly, almost as though to himself, Feuilly said, "I never mentioned my birthday because… Enjolras, I don't know when it is." When Enjolras' breath caught at that admission, Feuilly looked up, eyes wide. "It's not really as bad as it sounds. I… most foster homes I was in we just celebrated the anniversary of the day I came to live with them… if I was there long enough. It was fine. Really. It wasn't as though I never had a party."

Contrary to Feuilly's clear expectation that his words be reassuring, Enjolras found them anything but. In a hoarse whisper, he said, "And I just did the same thing to you." When Feuilly's eyes widened further and he started to shake his head, Enjolras shook his own. "No. I did. I mean… I'd thought since it had been about a year since we'd met you and you hadn't mentioned a birthday yet that it must be around now, but… isn't it the same thing? It's the anniversary of the day you came to us. Feuilly, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to--"


This time, when Feuilly interrupted him, his tone was firm, brooking no nonsense… but there was a smile accompanying the tone. Enjolras shut up.

"I'd be honored to count the day I met you as one to celebrate every year for the rest of my life. After all… two years running now, it's been the happiest day I've had all year." When Feuilly looked up, his eyes were shining, and his smile wider than it had been all day.

Enjolras swallowed hard and said, "You really mean that?"

Feuilly let go of Enjolras' hands long enough to reach out and embrace him once more. "I really mean that."

When they finally let go of each other, Enjolras surreptitiously reached up to wipe a tear from his eye… and did his best to ignore it when he caught Feuilly doing the same. When they turned back towards each other, it was hard to say whose grin was wider or sappier, but Enjolras would have laid bets on it being his own. "So… given that this is now officially your birthday… are you up for a further adventure?"

Feuilly raised an eyebrow and his voice deepened with suspicion when he answered, "There's more?"

Enjolras nodded, talking rapidly to get it all out before Feuilly could object. "Courfeyrac and Bossuet planned a surprise party for when we get back. Just a small thing. At my place." As Feuilly's other eyebrow started to climb up to join the first, Enjolras hastily added, "I warned them you might not be up for it after a long day like today and, if you're not, I can just call them and they'll clean up and go home. But there will be a fire in the fireplace, and Courfeyrac promised he'd make mulled cider -- and have you ever had his mulled cider? Because it's really good and you should if you haven't -- and Bahorel's bringing his Cards Against Humanity game and I know you like to play, and I'm pretty sure Joly said something about bringing his guitar, and--"

Feuilly cut Enjolras off with a loud burst of laughter. "OK, OK, I'm convinced! It all sounds wonderful. Let's go have a party."

At that, Enjolras smiled and reached out to clasp Feuilly's hand. "Happy birthday, Feuilly."

And Feuilly smiled back as he squeezed Enjolras' hand in his own. "No. I think… I think I like 'Happy Friends Day' better."

"'Happy Friends Day'…" Enjolras' smile widened. "It has a nice ring to it. Happy Friends Day, Feuilly."

"Happy Friends Day, Enjolras." And the smile Feuilly turned on Enjolras before putting the car into gear to drive back into town was so wide that it could have encompassed the whole world with the joy it represented.