“...I don’t do birthdays.”
“Nonsense!” Charles exclaims, sliding a paper hat onto Erik’s head without preamble, his own brightly coloured cone tilting precariously over one ear. “If anything, do it for the children, Erik. You know how much they need to let their hair down.”
With how Sean is gyrating to the Beatles on the radio... no, just. No.
Such images are best left to the deepest, darkest depths of the inner psyche, never to grace the light of day.
On the other hand, there’s Charles. Sweet, unassuming, naive Charles, who’s slicing through a ridiculously gaudy-looking cake and smearing vanilla frosting over his fingers in the process, eyes bright with a kind of paternal joy that’s akin to a fist gripping Erik’s heart. Sean, who is now doing a rather impressive impersonation of a fish, jostles a giggling Raven as she balances on Hank’s knee, and Alex whispers secretively with Darwin in the far corner; each and every one of them donning party hats and smiles.
“Smile, Erik! You’re a year older! A few more and you’ll have saggy jowls,” Sean yells – Erik wonders if he’s been smoking something illegal, he’s much too high-spirited for only having consumed soda – and Erik grimaces in an attempt to do so.
Raven pulls a face, mutters something about sharks, and tries to brush crumbs out of Hank’s fur.
Hank, on the other hand, blushes an intriguing shade of purple.
“You’re insane,” Erik says to Charles. Charles merely deposits a plate onto Erik’s lap, shrugs genially, and leans in for a kiss. It’s sweet, and beneath the sugary tang of frosting and mint humbugs is something uniquely Charles, something warm that feels strangely like home.
When Charles pulls away the children are staring, slack-jawed. Raven is the first to break form, and her whoop of joy is accompanied by a look so perverse and salacious that Erik clears his throat, face heating; embarrassed.
“I take it back,” he mutters. “You’re not insane, just despicable.”
Charles hums softly, a comforting weight as his side. “Happy Birthday, love.”
Maybe birthdays aren’t so bad after all.