Sebastian loved birthdays, especially in recent years. It was one of the only times everyone came together in her crowded household. The other times were mostly emergencies which were common but not exactly fun. She always found it disappointing that her birthday never got four times the celebration despite there being times four versions of her, times three now, but beggars can’t be choosers. A party was a party. She’d never turn that down.
While her celebration skills were far above average (party hats and bunting was something she'd never grow out of) she was no party planner She discovered this while attempting to organise a surprise party. It was her first and last attempt to do so. Brian, their nicely discovered android friend, was exactly one year ago. It had certainly been an interesting first year of existence. Possessions, long lost ‘family’, a near apocalypse experience. He was pretty sure most one-year-olds didn’t have to deal with that kind of stuff, human or not. So he was quite looking forward to moving into a new, slightly more predictable, new year, and Sebastian was determined to make the transition unforgettable.
Most people have no memory of their first birthday despite the amount of fuss parents make might make it feel. Brian, on the other hand, definitely would. This meant the obsession with perfection made a little more sense. She'd got versions of her working around the clock. Happy birthday banners were made for every room including the bathroom (Which would be funny at first but quickly lose its charm). Then she began to worry whether they were inappropriate. After all, Brian hadn't exactly been born; it might have been misinterpreted as a jab. So she went around with a black sharpie and started crossing it out, replacing the phrase with ‘Happy activation day’. Admittedly, less catchy.
Getting cake wasn’t really an option. Nobody had ever seen Brian eat and they weren't about to go testing the waters. Sebastian covered his charger in ribbons instead. Charging was pretty much simultaneous eating and sleeping, something she wished she could do, so it seemed like a good trade off. Unfortunately, this meant she had to hide the charger several days in advance. It was rather risky for what it was, but the unnecessary risk was par for the course in their lives. He could hold his charge for longer than the majority of phones, it would probably be fine. She shoved it in her bedside drawer, buried under piles of socks, and ignored his questions for a week.
There was a second problem with hiding his charger. How to surprise him? Most people set up birthday decorations while everyone is asleep. Of course, Brian didn’t sleep. If he had his charger she could wait for him to power down and sort the whole thing out then. Still, she was far too committed to the ribbon idea to back out now. So she had to expand the plan. She had to involve Donald.
“So you want me to take him out drinking?” Donald asked doubtfully he poured a glass of orange juice. The juice didn't belong to him. In fact, barely anything in the apartment was his. Crime fighting had become his full-time occupation and it didn't pay well (or at all for that matter). Technically, he'd been limited to meals and basic snacking, everything else was reserved for those with an income, but that had felt incredibly mean. In practice, he was allowed to take whatever he wanted. Everyone just pretended not to notice.
“I said I wanted you to get him out of the apartment. You added the drinking part” she corrected.
“It's the middle of the day” he continued, seemingly not hearing her at all “Besides if he can't eat what makes you think he can drink?”
“There's got to be some way you can distract him. Why don't you take him to that awesome arcade you were on about? You know the one you went to when you died that time”
“We agreed we weren't going to talk about that” very few people like discussing their own death. Especially, when said death was in the past. He supposed it wasn't really his death. It was an alternate version of him, one that was lying in a hole not bothering anyone. It didn't affect him. Still, it was a hard concept to wrap his head around and it wasn't one he particularly liked thinking about. The only time he brought it up was in arguments. Nothing settles a dispute faster than ‘you killed me once’.
“What we not talking about?” the pair jumped as Brian scrolled into the kitchen. He rummaged through the draws, dumping handfuls of cutlery onto the counter. Sebastian presumed he was looking for his charger and wondered if she should start feeling bad yet.
“Stuff that happened before we met you” Sebastian replied. Brian shrugged. He'd discovered that there were many things that happened before they met. He'd also learnt not to ask about them.
“Hey Brian, we were just thinking that Jonas might like some company”
“He's at work” he could tell from the fact he could get the internet without lag. Their broadband was supposed to be able to handle multiple computers at once. In reality, it managed whatever show Jonas was watching and maybe one Wikipedia article.
“Yeah which sucks you know. I mean he's probably bored”
“Plus, he's got a delivery coming and he could probably do with help carrying stuff” Donald lied.
“Oh, I see. Guilt trip the android into doing the heavy lifting. Don't worry I'm on it” Brian exited the kitchen and grabbed his jacket off of the coat stand. Nobody was sure why he owned a jacket, hecouldn't feel the cold. Still, mild conformity helped avoid weird looks. Jackets in winter, shorts in summer. The system did its job at preventing suspicion.
Jonas place of work was less than a ten-minute walk away. Nobody could ever quite work out whether he took the job because he liked it or because it was convenient. Knowing Jonas it was probably a mixture of both. Without having to worry about the little things like exhaustion Brian could practically run it, arriving before Sebastian could call in about the plan. It would have been a coin toss whether he actually went along with it but still, it might have gone just a little bit smoother.
“Hey, Brian. Looking to buy?” Jonas peered up from his comic book. That was one of the biggest advantages of his job. He could read any comic of any genre at any time free of charge. Of course, he wasn't supposed to. He was supposed to pay for them like everyone. Still, nobody had ever actively told time not to so he presumed he was in the clear.
“No. I’m just here to help with the delivery” Brian explained. Jonas sighed. Brian had never really seemed like a comic book fan but it would have been nice to have someone new to discuss them with. Virginia tried her best, bless her, but she didn’t keep up to date. There was Mctryck but they never really got along and he seemed to be a bit weary of the store in recent months. Jonas reckoned it had something to do with the time him ‘mysteriously’ passing after they had an argued. It was his own fault really. Every good comic book fan knows you should be careful who you mess with. Then there was Spike. Spike was fun. He was a little strange but he offered good conversation and helpful if a little misguided advice. However, since he discovered their powers he was far more interested in Donald. Jonas sometimes wondered if he could get himself firmly back into the group by revealing his power but always decided against it. There was a price to pay for keeping his identity secret. Well, almost secret. Not very secret at all really.
“What delivery?” He asked. They did have one recently, a fresh delivery Pop vinyl figures which seemed to sell like wild fire. Other than that they had nothing scheduled. The place would be quiet for at least another week.
“Donald said you needed help carrying stuff”
“Pretty sure Donald lied” seemed like a weird thing to lie about. It almost seemed like he was trying to get Brian to leave. Apparently, Brian thought the exact same thing. He stormed out, confused and concerned; leaving Jonas to wonder what was going on. He tried to go back to his comic but couldn’t focus. He hated not knowing things. The store was empty, nobody would know if he left. He flicked the comic shut and ran out, quickly changing the sign to ‘closed’ as he went. It was a mild detour, for his friend's sake, that’s all.
Brian sprinted home with a fresh sense of urgency, much to Jonas dismay. He hadn't prepared for running that day. Neither of them particularly liked it when their flat mates went behind their backs, nobody does. For them, it always felt a little more dangerous The last time they all kept secrets from each other it spiralled wildly out of control and while they highly doubted things could get that bad again they could never be too careful.
They came to a halt just outside the door. Inside was an immeasurable amount of noise, clattering and banging, not the type of thing you’d expect to come home to. Jonas would have just read one of their minds to find out what was going on but he'd been told on several occasions that it was an invasion of privacy. Plus it was pretty hard to focus while panting for breath. Instead, he had to rely on the good old fashion method, bursting in through the door. He and Brian lined themselves up shoulder to shoulder, silently counted to three, a barged their way into the room.
“Freeze” they both shouted almost out of instinct.
Normal people would have used a step ladder to hang the banners. However, Donald and Sebastian weren't normal people and they didn't own a step ladder. Instead of Sebastian precariously balanced on her friend's shoulders trying to reach the high corners. The sudden noise of the door plus the rather threatening sounding shouting caused Donald to lose his grip. He, Sebastian, and the banner all tumbled backwards hitting the floor with a thump.
“Happy activation day” Sebastian sheepishly smiled.
“Happy what?” asked Brian. After a second of thought, it clicked what was going on. To everyone’s surprise, he burst out laughing. “Guys that's not until next week”
“Are you serious?” moaned Donald as he clicked his shoulder back into place.
“Afraid so. Nice banners. The black sharpie really brings it together. Oh, can I have my charger back please?” with a defeated sigh Sebastian returned the charger complete with neatly tied purple and pink ribbons. Brian decided to spare her feelings and leave them on. If he was totally honest with himself he actually rather liked them. That day they all agreed that birthday celebrations were perfectly fine as long as they never tried to surprise each other again.