They knew from an early age that birthdays weren’t like they were on TV. Birthdays were a marker that you’d survived another year, and that survival was the only present you got. That’s how it worked.
They only received a present once when they were young. Mother made cake, three weeks late because she never remembered the right date. It was soggy and burnt, and the watery green icing was marked by paw prints where Sasha had attempted to help. She surprised them with it when they came home that evening, even managed to scrounge up a couple of birthday candles which she lit with trembling hands while Sasha hurried them over to the table to sit down. They all sang Happy Birthday, off key and ludicrous, and Jason blew out the candles, grinning so wide his face might have cracked.
Amy licked his tears away when Mother busied herself with cutting the cake, Sasha bouncing around her ankles like the puppy she hadn’t been in years.
Their next birthday they were on their own. Mother and Sasha were two months gone, an overdose after nearly a lifetime of careful measurement. Amy had her suspicions about that, after too many nights curled up next to an increasingly skinny Sasha trying to keep the shivering terrier warm. She didn’t say anything to Jason though, because she knew he suspected the same thing, and it was too fresh to confront just yet. Not when he was still so quiet. Not when she knew he tried not to cry in front of her anymore.
Instead, she changed to the biggest form she had and dragged him out the house with her half grown Rottweiler’s teeth lodged his sleeve.
“What are you doing, Mimi?” he said, trying to wrench his arm free.
“It’s our birthday,” she growled between her clenched teeth, refusing to let go. “We are going to celebrate because we’re still here. We made another year, Jay.”
“And how are we going to do that?” he scoffed. “We’re on our own and we have no money, as usual.”
“Then we make some,” she said. “Like we always do. And then we can go have cake and put a candle in it and it can be like it was with Mother and Sasha for just a moment!”
“Just for that moment, Jay,” she whined. “Please.”
He sighed and tugged his arm free of her slackened mouth, then dropped to his knees and hugged her tight. She changed to a bear cub so she could hug him back properly.
“Ok,” he finally said. “We’ll do it.”
He leaned back and smirked at her, looking like himself again.
“Think anyone’s stupid enough to have parked around here?”
Amy shifted to her favoured weasel form and climbed up to his shoulder.
“One way to find out.”
While they lived in the Manor the fuss over their birthday had Jason and Amy completely stumped. There were decorations put up by Mashka and Bella, presents from everyone, and a huge argument in the kitchen between Alfred and Dick over what flavour of cupcake was best. Apparently chocolate came in more than one flavour. It was news to them.
(Alfred won the argument, to no one’s surprise.)
The day was all about them, as birthdays were meant to be, and Jason positively thrived on the attention he got, despite his initial bewilderment, particularly when it came from Bruce. Waking up to hugs and enthusiasm from Dick was practically expected. Actually getting a hug from Bruce and a quiet “Happy Birthday” was to be cherished, and held onto until it got awkward and Bruce tried to wriggle free.
Amy found it all a little overwhelming though, and curled around Jason’s neck and hid her face when she was addressed. This led to hours of Mashka attempting to extricate her for “birthday cuddles”- the only difference between birthday cuddles and normal cuddles were the quantity- during the festivities until she finally relented and let the squirrel latch on.
Since it was their first birthday at the Manor, it was a rare day off for them, though Dick and Mashka slipped out at some point- incredibly quietly for them- to take care of patrol. They ended up watching movies while curled up on the sofa, Jason sandwiched between Bruce and Alfred, Amy perched on Sterling’s head, with Bella hanging from the ceiling above them. It was cosy. It was safe.
They fell asleep like that, and neither stirred when Bruce carried them to bed.
On their first birthday after he’d returned, Jason barricaded himself in his safe house with a bottle of vodka and drank his memory of the date away. He vowed never to do it again after the evening ended in tearful singing.
“Happy birthday, dear Amy...”
Halfway across the world, Amy curled up in the burrow she’d made for herself and tried to remember how it felt to be warm.
“I’m still here. So is Jay,” she murmured to herself in the dark. “I’m still here. So is Jay.”
Jason woke first and for that first split second he thought he was alone. Then Amy stirred and he felt the slide of her fur against his neck as she snuggled closer.
“You ok?” she murmured, muffled with sleep.
He freed a hand from the blankets and reached up to touch her, to reassure himself that she was there. Her fur was cotton soft against his palm.
“I am now.”
“Good. Now sleep. It’s too early.”
He chuckled, and wondered when it became such a rare thing to do. “Not a morning bunny?”
“Never,” Amy grumbled. “’m a night bunny. Now go to sleep.”
“Yes, ma’am.” They settled into silence again, Amy tucked under Jason’s chin with his hand covering her, as close as they could get to a hug with Amy as small as she was.
“We did it. We made another year,” she whispered, when he thought she’d fallen asleep again. “Happy birthday, Jay.”
“Happy birthday, Mimi.”