Her First Birthday Party


des3_icon.gif kaylee2_icon.gif lynette_icon.gif mateo_icon.gif richard_icon.gif sera2_icon.gif valerie_icon.gif

Scene Title Her First Birthday Party
Synopsis Someone's never had a birthday party. This is rectified.
Date April 8, 2018

Raytech Branch Office

The email arrives in Des’s in-box in the early evening, tagged URGENT in the company’s intranet, bringing up a notification in the corner of her work computer immediately.

From: ten.hcetyar|yarr#ten.hcetyar|yarr
To: ten.hcetyar|snidrajsedd#ten.hcetyar|snidrajsedd
cc: ten.hcetyar|yark#ten.hcetyar|yark
Sub: URGENT - Action Needed Immediately

Good evening, Doctor Desjardins. As soon as you can reach a safe point in your work to stop, please come to the conference room, there is a very serious administrative matter that needs to be dealt with and I would like to have this handled as quickly as possible.

Richard Ray
Chief Executive Officer

From: ten.hcetyar|snidrajsedd#ten.hcetyar|snidrajsedd
To: ten.hcetyar|yarr#ten.hcetyar|yarr
cc: ten.hcetyar|yark#ten.hcetyar|yark
Sub: re: URGENT - Action Needed Immediately

I’ll be there in fifteen.

- Des

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Desdemona’s mind begins to race as she sends off her response. What could it be? Is there something wrong with one of her projects? Did he receive another tape? Did he find out more information about Dr. Luis? Is Wolfhound sniffing about? Is someone in danger? Is she just straight up getting let go? How armed should she be for this meeting?

Life is full of tough questions. Hers especially, but she’s biased against it.

The whisper of satin lining under wool and against nylons as she moves down the hall sounds too loud in her ears. When she arrives at the conference room, her stomach is in knots, but she’s the picture of poise, a notepad tucked under her arm, a neon yellow fountain pen held loosely in her hand.

“You wanted to see… me?” Des tilts her head to one side as she approaches the conference room, confused.

As she arrives, Richard’s standing outside the door; he’s in the full black suit, and he’s even wearing the tie, which he rarely does around the facility. A pair of sunglasses upon his face guard his eyes, hiding his true feelings in the process, which perhaps is the point. His expression is stone-serious as he looks down the hallway, chin lowering for a moment before he draws in a breath and straightened.

“Doctor,” he greets seriously, “Thank you for being prompt.” He glances to the door, then back to her, a single brow raising slightly over the shades, “I’ll explain inside. Just take a moment to steady yourself, let me know when you’re ready. Don’t be— shocked by what you see, please.”

Is it a funeral? Are they under attack? Is it her funeral? Shit.

Des shoots Richard an uncertain look, peppered with a hint of incredulity. She isn’t sure what she could see anymore that would shock her, honestly. Not for more than a moment or two, anyway. “I’m fine,” she insists, which isn’t quite true. She’s nervous as hell, especially with him looking like that. “Let’s just get this moving, yeah?”

The conference room is dark as the door opens, though of course it normally would be when nobody's within. Richard sweeps a hand to one side to encourage Des to precede him, even as his voice lifts in the familiar voice command, "Lights."

The indirect lightning around the borders of the room snap to life, and with them the glass-walled holographic display in the center of the room awakens as well, three words glowing in the center of the room hovering in the midst of the display with simulated fireworks bursting silently in myriad colors all around those words.


Streamers are draped around the room for a festive atmosphere, and on the side ledge where normally pens and clipboards are held there is a row of pointed party hats and noise-makers and a sheet cake still concealed beneath plastic. On the conference table around the holographic display, there are even a few brightly-wrapped presents. And of course, the room isn't empty of people either.

"Surprise," Richard offers from behind her, that stony facade cracking finally into a broad grin.

This may be the only time Lynette has ever worn a party hat, but she's doing it, by thunder.

When the lights come on, she stands from her hiding spot, arms wide. "Surprise!" She doesn't shout it, but it is projected. She'll say. Her smile is telling, though, that she's glad to be here and maybe excited about pulling it off. And, of course, once Richard pointed out that it was likely to be her first party, well, she decided to go full throttle.

She put up streamers, people. This is serious birthday business.

Totally serious birthday business. Mateo also wears one of those birthday hats and stands from his hiding spot beside Lynette. He’s got a big grin oh his face that wrinkles the skin next to his eyes and even touches his forehead with a crease. It doesn’t make him look older, or anything, just— happy.

The noise maker is spun around, cause his was a hand held one, but he’s ready to whip out a song, too. In a minute. For now he wants to see the surprise on her face.

A second form pops out of the desk because Valerie can do things like that. She couldn’t go in person because the wheelchair would have been a dead giveaway— and more difficult to hide, but she can simulate pretty much everything that she would be doing in person— and more. Like standing, and jumping. She claps happily, a bright party dress her projected attire, with said party hat on her head. It also looks as if it lights up a little, because, well, illusions let her do that.

Des stares around the room with wide eyes full of disbelief. One hand flies up to cover her mouth as tears start welling up. Then she turns around and smacks Richard in the arm three times in quick succession. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” One for each hit. Then she breaks into sobs and throws her arms around him in a tight hug.

“I thought something was wrong,” she all but wails against his chest, thoroughly embarrassed with herself. After a moment of indulgence in her overwhelming emotions, she finally pulls away and looks at the others gathered again, wiping the tears from her face, even though fresh ones just replace them as fast she can manage to sweep them away. “Thank you. I… Thank you.

There’s cake and streamers and family. This is everything Odessa ever wanted, but never thought she could have. “Val, that is just— So cool.” She popped out of a desk!! Lynette’s got a hat and Mateo is wearing the biggest smile and everything is perfect.

“Look,” Richard laughs softly, even as he playfully cringes away from the smacking— reaching out then to wrap his arms around her and pull her in against his chest, “It wouldn’t be a very good surprise party if you weren’t surprised, Des…”

He smiles down to her then, gently, one hand coming up to brush a few tears from her cheek - and then he lets her turn, stepping in after her and offering, “Kaylee’s running a little late, we didn’t expect you to get up here quite this fast…”

“I’m here… I’m here,” is huffed out from the telepath as Kaylee finally sweeps into the room, with the loud tap of heels, dressed in a red power suit, blonde curls swept up into a messy, yet stylish bun. She really hates heels, so the telepath was probably with a client. “I never thought I was ever going to get out of that meeting. Some people just talk and talk…”

By time the telepath is done talking herself, she is close enough to slide up alongside her brother, bump him out of the way with her hip so that she can throw an arm over Des’ shoulder. “Some people.. Right?” Her other hand is occupied by a small brightly wrap package, which she holds up to her friend when a mischievous glint and plants a quick kiss to her temple. “Happy birthday.”

"She was fast because you traumatized her," Lynette says with a chuckle and a crooked smile. But she comes over to Des, too, to plant her own kiss on the woman's cheek. "Happy birthday," she adds before pivoting back because she has a suspicion that Mateo will be right behind her. "There's cake and everything," she points out, because that's sort of a big deal. It has her name on it! No candles, though, because Lynette didn't want anyone checking her age. It's not polite, after all.

“This year is just chock full of birthdays,” Mateo responds with a grin, remembering his own birthday celebration. That had been the first of it’s kind for him in— well— since his mom. And definitely was the first one that had involved other people in a long time. Mostly because he didn’t have a birthday most years and had just forgotten to mention it and— well— he hadn’t had a real family again until now.

Valerie points towards something that had been used to cover up the small pile of presents. “There’s presents too!” She would have gone over and dramatically unveiled it, but she couldn’t. And well, it was better she does it herself, possibly.

Valerie’s present is in a small box. Mateo’s is in one a little bit bigger, but not much. Both were wrapped. One more meticulously than the other one. Valerie had a lot of time to work on hers, after all. She might have tore it off and let Geiger play with the crushed pieces of failed wrapping.

Kaylee gets a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek when she arrives. “I can’t believe you guys did this for me.” She sniffles wetly and digs a tissue out of her pocket, turning away quick to blow her nose. She’s in time to receive Lynette, who also gets her kiss returned.

“No one’s ever given me presents before.” Not that she really remembers anyway. “Abby took me to the salon once…” That had been nice, but it also stirs up a pang of guilt, because it had been Raquelle’s salon.

She hasn’t made it this far without learning how to push guilt down, though. And nothing’s going to dampen this day. She can get melancholy later, after all the excitement. Or maybe she’ll surprise herself and she won’t. That’d be a nice birthday gift to herself.

“Everything looks amazing. You guys are the best.”

Des glances around the room for a moment before she grins broadly and scurries over to admire the presents. “Look how shiny some of this paper is,” she admires. It’s almost a shame to rip it up. Almost. She will definitely tear all this paper up, when the time comes. She understands there’s some kind of order to things, but she still lifts each box up one by one to examine them, see what’s from whom, and mentally guess at what might be inside.

“I… kind of figured you’d never had a birthday party before,” admits Richard, grinning as he’s bumped out of the way and reaching over to playfully mess up his sister’s hair, “And you’re just in time.”

A motion of his hand through the room, inviting the choice of the guest of honor at this party, “So! You’re the birthday girl, what do you want to do first, cake? There’ll be singing. I warn you. I’m a terrible singer. Presents? It’s up to you, although we’re all going to want to dig in to the cake eventually.”

He points at Valerie, “And don’t think I’m not gonna send you some.” She may have shown up incorporeally, but she’s not that far!

“He really is,” a terrible singer that is. “Ask any of my kids and the trauma inflicted upon them on their birthdays,” Kaylee points out brightly, with an mildly mischievous grin leveled at Richard.

The telepath follows after the excited birthday girl, but only so that she can add her small gift to the others. “I personally, think she should be mildly tortured and made to wait for the presents.”

"Actually, if Richard will forgive us upstaging him," Lynette says with a crooked smile, "Mateo and I thought we'd sing something just a little different." Only a little different. But. She looks over at him, eyebrows lifted, because she's not doing this without him. Heaven knows how he got her to agree to singing in the first place.

"Then we can do cake and presents, I promise."

She takes a moment, brushing down her blouse even though it doesn't need straightening. "Hoy por ser día de tus cumpleaños, te las cantamos a tí," she says— and really, her accent is very good these days. A lot of practice in Mexico. And at home, probably. The queue has her putting a hand on Mateo's arm, signalling him to start. But she joins in with him once he's going. And really, she has quite a nice voice, just not one that gets shown off very often. Or ever. Except today.


They are going to be singing in Spanish. (And not only because the American birthday song is trademarked.)

Mateo had taught her the song on the way over. He bends down to pick up the tiny guitar made out of wood, a charango, not a guitar, but close enough. With a strum of his fingers across the strings, he begins to sing, leading the way in case Lynette doesn’t remember all the lyrics. And also because— well— he’s actually a really good singer.

Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David.
hoy por ser día de tu santo te las cantamos aqui

Despierta Desdemona, despierta, mira que ya amaneció
ya los pajaritos cantan la luna ya se metió.

Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte
venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
y en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio.
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

With a final strum, he puts the tiny Andean guitar down and grins.

Des is caught between hiding her face behind her hands again as she starts to cry anew at the presents and the beautiful song sang to her by her brother and sister-in-law, and letting them witness her reaction. Because they deserve to understand just how much this means to her and how moved she is by it. She’s wiping at her eyes again, unashamed if still slightly embarrassed, and claps happily when the song ends.

Tete.” With the guitar out of the way, he gets a big hug before Lynette’s pulled in too, to make it a group hug. “You guys are… I’m so glad. I just— am so glad.” To know them. To have them. That extends to everyone in the room, and it shows in the way she lets her shining eyes linger on each face, smile trembling.

“All right, all right! I know what we’re all really here for,” she teases, gesturing to the table. “Let’s dig into this cake!” Des is just as eager to find out what flavor it is under that icing as she is to discover what’s under the wrapping of each gift. She takes a seat at the table and continues to wipe at her face while she lets the others settle in around her.

“Please make sure we save a slice for Sera. It’s her birthday today, too.”

Oh, thank God. Richard doesn’t need to sing, which saves everyone from the terribly musical stylings of the adopted member of the Ray family. It’s a mercy, really.

As they start to sing, and Mateo produces a guitar even, he leans against the conference table and listens with a smile - watching Des’s reaction to it all as the song goes on. As it trails off and there’s applause, he offers warmly, “Happy birthday, Des.”

Then, there’s a request for cake! He sweeps over to lift the cake’s cover off and step to set it in front of her, a dark cake with white frosting trim and the letters ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DES!’ writ across it in frosting. It’s devil’s food cake, as she’ll discover once she cuts into it - a knife offered out for her to do the honors.

“Is it?” A moment’s surprise, then a wry smile, “Of course it is. I should’ve invited her up…”

“You didn’t…..?” Kaylee looks exasperated by the fact her brother hadn’t invited Sera. She shakes a finger at him as she states decisively, “That is it… I’m going to have Alia go in and put all the employee’s birthdays, the kids’ birthdays, and all your siblings’ birthdays into your calendar.” See if he forgets then.

Stepping away, as Richard moves towards the cake, Kaylee moves to greet Lynette and Mateo warmly. “You both sing so lovely.” She gives them a wink, “Hire you guys to sing for my kids’ birthdays… much cheaper than the therapy bill.” Her smile is a bit impish. “Either way, I’m glad you all could make it.”

Hopefully the crying is because she likes it and not because it is horrible. Lynette keeps the joke to herself, though, because there are hugs to be had. She returns it warmly and runs her hand over Des' hair, like she might need straightening up, but it comes with affection. The look she gives her is distinctly like and older sibling looking at a younger, although Lynette has no idea if that's the actual case. It is in her mind and that's what matters.

"Cake," she agrees, "And then presents."

She turns back to the others, chuckling at Kaylee's words. "He promised me homemade chilaquiles for this," she notes in an overly serious tone, "if you can convince him to do that again, we'll see."

This is a joke. Although she might be able to convince Mateo to play the parties.

Would this be a good time for Valerie to mention her birthday was on St. Patrick’s Day last month? No? Probably not. Not everyone forgot about it, thankfully, and she had taken the time to make sure anyone remembered, either. They all had jobs, after all.

She claps enthusiastically at the music, though she does not know Spanish herself. She could possibly try to sing it in Japanese if she wanted to, but— this man saved them from having to sing. So that’s good.

“You’ll have to tell me how the cake is, before you send me up a slice,” Valerie offers with a wink, not minding that the cake is going first. “I could always go get Sera, if you want, too.” It wouldn’t take too long. No one would need to make a phone call. She is the phone.

Mateo puts the charango away, resting it back where it had been safe and out of the way, so that she can have her cake first. “It looks delicious.” As delicious as his had been.

“I bought Sera a cinnamon roll this morning, so she knows she’s not forgotten,” Des tells Richard with a small smile. “I bet if you gave her a card and an extra day of PTO…” It’s just a suggestion, but people who aren’t married to their jobs love PTO, right?

“I’m glad we’re agreed that pictures of me are a terrible idea,” jokes the birthday girl. “I’m sure I look like a hot mess right now.” She laughs and turns to admire the cake a moment before she finally starts cutting into it. Once she starts, she cuts the whole thing into slices, because that’s just how she does. She plates enough for those gathered as she goes, with plates set aside for Sera and Valerie. Corner pieces, because Des plays favorites.

She shakes her head and takes a quick glance around the room before taking off her glasses, setting them aside on the table. “I wish I could sing like that. Caged nightingales don’t sing, though.” Des flickers another quick look in Richard’s direction, then Kaylee’s. “Not that I’m caged these days.” Which she is exceptionally grateful for.

“That’s not a bad idea, Val, go ahead and invite her up,” Richard offers with an easy tip of his head over to his youngest sibling. She may not say yes, but, the thought’s the thing, right?

“If she doesn’t show up, though, definitely getting her a card and an extra day of PTO, though, like you said,” he chuckles, sliding into a chair and reaching out for one of the plates offered to set it in front of himself, a plastic fork taken from a box of more of the same.

“Cages are for birds,” he says, pointing the fork at Des, “You’re a person. And a quite intelligent, pleasant, and lovely one as well, so no cages for you.” Hopefully. Those charges against her… well, it’s not the occasion to think about those.

While Des cuts the cake, Kaylee adds forks and passes them out. “Not even birds really deserve their cages either.” A crooked smile tugs at the corner of her mouth, as she picks up a piece for herself.

As for the card and PTO, Kaylee gives a short nod of her head. “PTO was already added… for both.” She is way ahead of you, Richard.

"You look happy," Lynette says, because this is what's important. A hot mess is okay so long as it's a happy hot mess. She steps over to Mateo, sliding her arm through his. There's a certain warm buzz about her that only used to come with a few drinks.

There's also a touch of static electricity, which she will blame on the carpet later.

She doesn't seem to be gunning for the cake, although there is one person here who knows she has a weakness for these kinds of things, perhaps to make sure everyone else has a piece first. Or perhaps to maintain some portion of her image.

“On it!” Valerie says, before she vanishes back to her body to restart the projection by finding Sera and inviting her up to the party. It’s likely she’ll return with the woman, assuming she’s even in the building. She usually tries not to pop in on people unexpected but. It’s her birthday too, apparently.

Which means she won’t even bother to remove the light up birthday hat from her head when she does pop in.

“You play the piano beautifully— you don’t need to sing,” Mateo responds with a grin on his face, offering it to his sister. He hadn’t known she would recognized the ruiseñore within his song, or if that she considered herself one. A coincidence, that. After all his song had been a traditional Mexican birthday song. One he’d sung to Silvia a couple times, as well.

“Let me get you a piece, Nette,” he offers, removing himself from her arm to go and get them both off a piece, so she doesn’t wait til everyone has gotten one.

Cause he does know of her sweet tooth. And her tendency to wait til everyone else gets a bite.

“I am.” Happy, that is. Des can’t honestly recall the last time she felt this kind of happiness. Contentment, sure, but this is a whole new level of… Well, everything. The last time she came close was when she was given the clinic in the basement of Gun Hill. More bittersweet memories, but that one’s sweeter than it is bitter for now.

Valerie earns a quick round of applause. “Go, go, go!” She says with a clap of her hands for each one, like she’s cheering her on. She wants her mother — no, not her mother, but as close as she may ever get — to be here if she can. To be included. “Thanks for looking out, Kaylee.”

Sera was nervous about imposing. Maybe if Valerie invites her, she won’t feel like she is. “We’re all going to say I accidentally took the and Sera piece, okay?” She tells the room seriously as she pushes her fork into the piece she chose for herself. One of the inner pieces, because she doesn’t need too much frosting to overwhelm the devil’s food. She likes the chocolate.

Des lets Mateo pick which pieces he and his wife would like, flashing him a smile. “You play piano beautifully, too.” And has the voice to match. “You’ll have to teach me more pieces sometime.” Things have been too uncertain for Des to allow herself to sneak down to Benchmark to play more. It’s a public place, after all, and she’s meant to be laying low. “Maybe I’ll manage to get my own piano one of these days and you can come over and check it out, too.” That clearly would make her day.

“Thanks, Kay. A piano, mm…? I can see what we can do,” Richard muses aloud as his fork carves off a piece of cake and spears it onto the tines, bringing it up to take a bite of it. He chews and swallows, motioning with the fork, “I mean, we could probably fit one in somewhere - one of the rec rooms, or something….”

The departure of Valerie’s watched with a smile, and he takes another bite of cake, “So how is everyone doing, anyway, I mean - outside of business?” God knows he’s usually talking business of some sort these days.

“Mmm… excellent cake.” Kaylee takes another bite, before she adds, “Remind me to take a piece to Luther when we are done.” She comments lightly to Richard. If anything she has learned the guy likes his food. Grabbing a napkin, she makes sure to place one next to her brother, too. Once a mom, always a mom.

Pointing at the pair, Kaylee asks conversationally, “Lynette.. Mateo… What about you guys? I know I haven’t seen you in a few days.” Last time being deep in his head. “Anything new?”

"Get yourself one, I'll steal some," Lynette says, smirking over at Mateo as he moves to the cake. She gives Des a curious look, too, because she also didn't know she considered herself a nightingale. But, there's no comment made on it. Instead, she chuckles as Des points out Mateo's various talents. "He really does. It's disgusting, isn't it?" she teases. He's handsome, too. What a jerk.

Her attention turns to Kaylee and Richard, eyebrows lifting. "Actually, I have something coming up. I'm going on a discussion panel next weekend. Louise Campbell's show. SLC-Expressives' effects on society, things like that. I'm torn between asking you all to watch and not," she says with a crooked smile, "in case I say something stupid."

Since Kaylee arrived, one thing she would have noticed is the soft sound of waves hitting the beach being the only sound going on inside Mateo’s head besides his own whispered thoughts. That soft sound is soothing, really, just a soft background noise that doesn’t sound as dangerous or horrible as the sounds that often laid underneath. Perhaps those sounds still hide under the white noise of a beach, but— who knows with him.

With an extra big piece of cake, so half of it can go to his wife, he returns, two forks laid aside and he grins as she mentions her plans. “I’m going to watch.” Not just listen, but watch. He intends to be outside the glass if it were allowed, somewhere he can physically watch her speak, where he will likely spend the whole time glowing with pride. Because really.

From the looks of things, he won’t start taking his forkfulls until others have started, but he knows better than to wait on his wife— But that doesn’t mean he can’t try to offer her his forkfull. Which he does.

Exceptionally disgusting. And, I don’t think you’re capable of saying something stupid,” Des says to Lynette, pointing her fork in her direction only after she’s sure she’s not going to fling crumbs and specks of frosting everywhere. “Okay, I mean, if you tried you could. You’re capable of anything.” She grins and stuff another forkful of cake into her mouth, eyes lidding for a moment of bliss.

She sighs happily. “I’m great, thanks for asking.” She may not have been before that e-mail came in. But she’s feeling it now. “If you got a piano for one of the employee common areas, you’d always know where to find me when I’m not in the lab,” she points out, amusement and excitement dancing in her eyes in equal measures.

For a moment, it looks like she might get overwhelmed again, so pleased to be surrounded by the family she chose (thanks to Kaylee and Richard’s insistence), but she keeps it to a wide smile as she savors her birthday cake. Her very own. Not the first one she’s ever had, but the first one in a long while. Even the dark and ugly whispers in her own mind are quieter than usual.

“I’ve got to back up the ladies on this, Mateo, you have altogether too many talents for your own good. You’re like if Monica dressed up in drag and watched a documentary on ‘the perfect man’,” Richard jokes as he leans back in his seat, pointing a chocolate-stained fork at the man, a grin crooked on his expression, “Stop it, you’re making the rest of us look bad.”

Brows go up, then, at Lynette, “You’re going on the air? Shit, I can’t miss that. I’ll be listening and rooting for you all the way.”

“As if you can keep me and Joseph away from it. We’ll be watching for sure.” Kaylee waves away her friends worry with a flick of fingers and a bright smile. “You’ll do just fine.” The statement is firm and she will hear no argument there.

The description of Mateo gets a roll of eyes upward. “Seriously?” She huffs out under her breath, but does give him an affectionate smile. “Don’t stop it, Mateo… Make these lazy bums look bad, maybe they will up their game for the rest of us.”

"I'd appreciate the support. There's some… controversial panelists, let's say. And I have homework for the first time in several decades. I might actually do it this time." Lynette looks between them all, her smile grateful. "Thank you."

Her attention turns back to Mateo, the perfect man descriptor getting a grin out of her. She certainly thinks so. The bite offered gets him a look, but she takes it, so it's unlikely she's that upset about it. Or upset at all.

"He can't dance, Richard. If that makes you feel better. We're working on it, though, so." Beware.

Sera comes jogging in, literally.

She’s in track pants, running sneakers, and a zippered hoodie. There’s a wild-eyed look that she gives to the room, and it isn’t immediately clear what door she even came in from. She just jogs out from behind Richard and slouches over, hands on her knees, breathing heavily.

Party?” Sera exhales, sweat beading off of her brows. Face flushed from exertion, she looks up and around. “Cake?” Breathlessly exhaled again, smiling, panting, pointing at herself. “Cake for me?” More heavy breathing.

Did she run here for cake?

At all the compliments and demands to stop being so perfect, Mateo just grins a little, “The lady who matters already married me, thankfully.” So he could downplay his perfection a little, even if he finds the very idea to be— humorous. “And I’m sure there’s other things I can’t do— including the dancing.” They were working on that. And besides those little flaws, he’s sure that he’s not really that perfect.

A moment after Sera runs into the room, Valerie reappears with a soft laugh. “I mentioned cake and she came running.” I mean, obviously that is exactly what happened. Considering the state of Sera when she arrived. It seems to have her amused. This better be the best cake in the world.

At the sudden arrivals, and re-arrivals, Mateo stops mid-cake fork full and grins. Someone really wanted their cake, and after one bite he can confirm, “It is a good cake.”

“Sera!” Des pushes up from her seat and grabs one of those corner pieces and a fork, hurrying - carefully - over to the jogging-suited blonde. If she acts like what just happened is totally normal, maybe no one else will question it. “I made sure you get the best piece. Happy birthday!”

Normally she’d shift things to one hand so she could give the taller woman a hug, but Des is reasonably certain that Sera really, really just wants the cake right now. So, with a bright smile, she holds it out to her. “It’s the best birthday cake I’ve ever had.” She may be able to count on one hand the number of birthday cakes she’s had, but that makes her statement no less true.

Tap tap tap tap — Richard may not be the best with technology but he can edit a text field so as Sera arrives, the holographic display in the middle of the room now reads HAPPY BIRTHDAY DES & SERA.

“Happy birthday,” he calls out cheerfully as the woman arrives, pausing only briefly to glance to the door. Did it open? He’s not sure— ah, doesn’t matter.

“It’s devil’s food, so I hope you like chocolate,” he offers affably, and then looks to Kaylee to tease, “Hey, us bachelors don’t need to up their game. My apartment is full of empty pizza boxes and I can’t dance worth shit.”

Neither of those are true, for the record.

Having a blip suddenly appear on one’s mental radar is a little strange, which is why Kaylee gives Sera a strange look, but only for the briefest of moments. She probably just missed her coming into the room. “Hello Sera… Happy Birthday,” she offers pleasantly while offering a napkin out to her, to go with cake that Des is handing over.

Her brother gets a rather searching look, before she declares, “You’re just being lazy.” As much as, Kaylee would like to see him happy, she holds her tongue on making certain comments. Things like ‘this is why you are still single’ that still seem like a low blow after this many years.

"Porque eres perfecto para mí," Lynette says to Mateo's comment, just quietly. She's not trying to gross anyone out with their affection or anything. And luckily, Sera's entrance takes most of the attention of the room. Lynette is a beat late to catch her appearing, but there is a glance toward the door because she's pretty sure she would have heard it. But she isn't commenting on it. There are weirder things that someone who can get into a room without opening a door.

"Happy birthday," she adds, to the others, her smile friendly, even though she has only seen the woman in passing. There's a glance toward Des, her head tilting curiously, before she turns her attention back to the group. "Sorry, we seem to have interrupted your workout for cake, that's probably the worst timing we could have had. Or the best, maybe," she adds, her smile tilting crooked.

“Gives her more energy for the work out, right?” Valerie responds to the mention of cake interrupting the desk jockey’s exercise. She finds her ability to get places quite amusing, like Sera is some kind of living projection. It interests her, especially since sometimes when she’s tried to project to her the tether seemed to just slide right off something. Like it was there one moment and gone the next.

Kind of like the other birthday girl.

At his wife’s words, Mateo grins around the fork in his mouth, before carefully making sure he got all of the frosting off the little metal prongs. Once he’s sure he’s enjoyed all of it, he uses the fork to gesture with, instead, toward Ray. “You only need to up the game if you have someone to up it for.” Until then, pizza boxes and no dancing is perfectly understandable.

Still breathing heavily and sweeping sweat-slicked locks of blonde hair from her face, Sera looks around with an awkward smile at all of the Raytech personnel on show. She adjusts the zipper of her running jacket to be just a little higher, then walks backwards for a few steps, pointedly waving with a waggle of her fingers at Des.

“This is nice,” Sera notes with a look at the banner, “thoughtful in a weird kind of Blade Runner way!” She sidles up to Valerie, resting her hands on the back of the young woman’s chair. “We should guilt that fine man over there who is opposed to dancing into dancing,” she notes conspiratorially to the top of Valerie’s head.

“Would you much kindly like to dance with me?” Sera asks, looking down to Valerie, then up to Mateo. “Brave people dance,” she says with an impish quirk of her lips to one side, pointedly calling him out.

Des' smile pulls into a grin. A flash of fang before biting her lower lip half in thought and half… Well, it's wolfish. "She's right, you know," she opines. Then, she turns and looks squarely at Richard. "You aren't chicken shit, are you?"

Thank you, Sera. If she gets nothing else for her birthday (demonstrably false, given the stack of gifts), this will have been a great one. "Someone should put on I Put a Spell On You. Annie Lennox version, because it's amaze." She will dance by herself if she has to. It's a good song.

“I can absolutely think of worse timings than interrupting a workout,” Richard quips, leaning back in his chair and brandishing his fork, “And I can’t dance, bu-u-u-u-ut— “ He drops a hand back to the console, tapping at it a bit, “I think I can get this to play music, hold on.” Tap. Tap tap. Tap tap tap.

The display flickers for a moment and then changes to—

— a newsfeed from the BBC, covering the recent football matches and a recent scandal about a Manchester United player being arrested for having been hiding their Evolved nature. The room is filled abruptly with British-accented chatter.

“Fuck. Um. Kaylee make the table work, it’s Alia’s day off and I’m terrible at this.”

With a heavy sigh, Kaylee sets down her piece of cake, steps up behind her brother’s chair. “I am not going to do this for you…” She leans over his shoulder and points to a button…. And quietly launches into instructions, much like she would do her own kids, guiding him through the steps with an insane amount of patience.

Though he might have to smack his shoulder once, with Kaylee sighing out, “That isn’t what I said and you know it.” She gives him a mock glare. “Now do it right, before I make sure you never ever forget. You will live, eat, and sleep it…” Not an idle threat coming from a telepath.

Lynette smirks at Mateo, but when Sera asks him to dance, she reaches over to take the plate from his hands as if she might want to have the rest. Not at all to free him of ready excuses to not dance. She can't help with Richard's similar reluctance, but she does what she can.

She watches as Kaylee attempts to teach her brother how to use the device in his hand, her expression amused as she idly digs her fork into the cake. "This is a tech company, isn't it? I could have sworn…"

“Oh he’s terrible at all things newer than an old radio,” Valerie teases her big brother with a grin. She’d offer to help, but she can’t exactly touch the buttons, or even use anything voice operated in this projected form. And Warren had tried to come up with ways for the machines to hear or see her— alas. It had never worked out when she was in projected form, just as she can’t actually take Sera’s hand and dance with her, but she grins and makes a little dance motion. Cause she’s brave.

If the comment had been meant to make Mateo get all macho and prove he could dance, it didn’t seem to work, as he raised an eyebrow and notices his cake is cleaned off of his plate, leaving him bereft of his planned reasoning for why he’s not going to be brave. He didn't want to get cake everywhere. At least that was the plan. “It’s your toes on the line,” he offers to Sera as she insinuates herself into his field of vision, one hand held palm up and a charmed smile on her lips.

He’s never actually danced with anyone not his wife, so— She’ll see him falling back on his old trick of looking at his feet while he moves.

“I hope Lynette doesn't mind if I steal you for one dance,” Sera chirps with mirth as she glances over toward Ray, who just so happened how to get the music playing. He hadn't planned on playing something from his classics selection, but when the first clarinet notes from Glenn Miller Orchestra’s Moonlight Serenade come on, it feels a little like the joint is classed up.

Mister Mateo,” Sera whispers with a fond smile. “Show the birthday girl you're not all left feet?”

There’s a secret smile that Des flashes in Sera’s direction as the music starts. It may not be her request, but who cares? It’s music, and it’s playing, and that means Richard can’t use technical difficulties as an excuse to dodge her now.

“I love this song,” she confides in a quiet voice. Des has always been a fan of the classics. She holds her hands out to her chosen partner and watches him expectantly. “C’mere and prove your bravery!” That sounded better in her head.


Or, you know… two or three times. But that’s not near as catchy.

“The company makes tech,” Richard replies in wry tones, “Not me.” Fingers move, with Kaylee’s guidance and his own memories reminding him here and there, and — oh, hey, classical music. Well, that works, he supposes.

He leans back in his chair to watch as Sera goes to dance, and then — oh, Des wants to dance. There’s a very long pause as he considers her, and then with a smile that holds a hint of nostalgia in it he pushes up himself, admitting, “It’s… been a long time since I danced, but— alright, alright.”

Not since Liz had died. He only danced with her on special occasions, alone in their apartment.

He reaches out to take the birthday girl’s hands, stepping closer and offering her a faint smile as he does so, “We’ll see if I remember how.”

Once the music starts playing, Kaylee gives a playful and affectionate ruffle of her brothers hair, before stepping away. Chuckling as Des asks him to dance, though she turns a touch sad watching everyone.

A glance goes to a cake, a thoughtful moment. Making a decision, Kaylee moves to cut a generous slice of cake, managing to get it on the plate. Adding a folk and a napkin, she skirts the group, pausing by her sister’s projection so that she can softly say, “I’ve got a meeting in a few. Let them know for me?” She looks at the plate of cake and adds, “However, first I’m going to take our Head of Security a slice. He finds out, he might get a little jealous.” Ever since the trip North, Kaylee has had a fondness for the former janitor. “See you around, Sis.”

With that, the company COO slips out of the room, hopefully with little notice of her leaving.

By all accounts, Lynette doesn't seem to mind letting Sera have a dance with her husband. Really, she doesn't see it as her choice if he does or doesn't, but his. She comes over to sit in a chair near Val's projection, apparently keeping herself out of the dancing altogether.

"I feel bad," she says as an aside to Valerie, "I didn't bring Sera a present."

Not that she and Mateo would have known it was also the receptionist's birthday, but she still feels bad.

"Do you think this counts?" she says, her lips curving into a smirk and her hand gesturing to where Sera is asking Mateo to dance. This is a joke, of course, but the way she looks across the room at him, it's pretty clear that she sees him as a gift. Two left feet and all.

When Lynette joins her at a chair nearby, Valerie grins over at her, even though her eyes end up following Kaylee who’s departed with some of the cake. One of that might end up being meant for her. If she felt a nudge on her physical self, she’d probably leave, but for the moment she stays. Cause she has a present she still wants Des to open when she gets the chance.

“They’re not two left feet,” Mateo responds with a shake of his head as he moves to start dancing with one of the two birthday girls, while the other approaches Ray instead. “They’re just two feet that doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing.” However, he might find himself dancing well against all odds, who knows. Even if he does watch his feet to start out.

“Good song choice. You wouldn’t happen to have Fly Me To The Moon in there too, would you? For another dance.”

Not this one. He cast a glance away from his feet toward his wife as he said that. Cause yes. He knows what her favorite song is without her even having to tell him.

Enjoying the casual pace of their dance, Sera briefly catches Mateo’s eye and winks. In that moment there is a brief sensation of vertigo and of the dimensions of the room feeling wrong. It stretches out behind Sera, then draws back in. There's a tingling feeling in the bones of his hand where she holds it, and Mateo and Des are the only ones who notice.

The music changed, somewhere between here and there. Somewhere between then and now. Sera casts a quick look up to Des, then over to Mateo.

Fly me to the moon

Let me play among the stars

For the others, there was a natural transition to Moonlight Serenade from Moonlight Serenade. For Des and Mateo, that isn't the case. It's sudden, like a film reel spliced in. Worse, the room around Des and Mateo isn't what it is for everyone else.

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and Mars

It's a house, somewhere else. It's unfamiliar to Des, but vaguely familiar to Ruiz in the way that Deja Vu can be. Sera’s smile up at him is a sad one, and behind her Mateo can see He and Lynette dancing, but he's never owned those clothes, and she doesn't wear her hair like that.

In other words, hold my hand

In other words, baby, kiss me

“Somehow,” Sera says in a whisper up to Mateo, “you two always manage to find each other.” Her blonde brows scrunch together, a smile spread across her lips. “Somehow,” the depiction of them behind her disappears like colorful smoke, “it never lasts…”

Fill my heart with song

And let me sing forever more

Sera’s smiles slowly sinks, and she lifts up a hand to his cheek. This close, he can see her eyes have an internal green-hued light in their irises. “You both deserve to be happy…” her hand slowly falls away, and the building around them has changed again, back to the Raytech building, back to normal.

You are all I long for

All I worship, and adore

Sera slips out of the dance, looking to Lynette with a brow raised. “Would you like to cut in?” Her smile is difficult to read, tempered by something more than just mischief.

In other words, please be true

In other words, I love you.

“She does this,” Des says quickly to Mateo as the world kind of lurches and snaps back like a rubber band. “You get used to it.” Or you don’t.

Her eyes are sad when Sera says her brother and his love find each other, but never seem to make it very long, and she still looks it when she takes Richard’s hands to dance. “I’m just overwhelmed,” she offers before he can ask, stepping close and resting her head against his shoulder as they sway to the music. “Thanks for all of this. I’ve… I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy before in my whole life. I love you. All of you.” She’ll have to remember to give Kaylee another big hug and a thank you later.

At the request for her favorite song, Lynette's smile gives away that she's touched that he remembers. Probably every time he remembers. It's a dreamy expression that goes well with the gentle sigh she exhales. Valerie is the only one close enough to hear it, although the rest of the room could probably guess at it.

"Oh my god, I love him," she says a moment later, just barely above a whisper, like she hadn't quite meant to say it out loud.

When Sera looks her way, Lynette lifts her eyebrows, looking amused at the question. "You bet your ass I do," she says before she makes her way over. "Thank you," she adds to Sera, her smile warm there. But her attention isn't long from Mateo, especially once she slips into place in his arms.

Yes. Mateo could use the computer probably. At least enough to do what needed to be done. He could also take it apart and check the power systems, but that was neither here nor there. He’s too busy feeling the world around him change just a little bit. It feels so strange, so startling, but thankfully Des says it is normal so he nods, realizing that this somehow must he part of the woman he danced with’s ability.

Another him. Another her. And they had found each other there. Loved each other— he could see that in their eyes as they moved. And he danced better, too. He noticed that, as well. They danced to the same song, her favorite one.

But it never lasts.

He could feel his heart drop, the warmth fill his eyes. By the time he turns away and slips into his smiling wife’s arms. She might be smiling, but he looks stunned. And as he looks at her, she’ll notice the tears forming. Before she can ask what’s wrong, he leans forward and kisses her, right there in front of everyone, eyes closing and the tears slowly sliding down his stubbly cheeks.

He’ll tell her later. When the music stops, when they go home, and she sees it in his eyes when the kiss breaks and he offers her a nod and a small smile. Cause this is supposed to be a happy event.

There’s a sudden tension in Richard as she takes his hands and steps close, and then it spills out of him in a sigh that stirs through her hair. One more step taken to the acceptance of something that happened six years ago. A hand slides to the small of her back as they sway to the music, a slow circular step since it’s not like there’s a lot of dance floor in the conference room.

“It’s the least we could do,” he says quietly to Des, his lips close to her ear, “Everyone deserves at least one birthday party in their lives.” He remembers one, at the orphanage, with Izzy. But he’s not so sure that even ever happened. He remembers it, though, so it’s enough.

“Whatever may happen, you’ll always have this, Des. And us.”

The future will bring what it will, but they’ll always have this night, and this party, to remember when they were all happy together.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License