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First Birthday

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Kit didn’t have the opportunity to meet many kids his age at the Market, so seeing another head at his own height was enough to still him.

The kid stood out between the throngs of torsos and legs passing by his dad’s stall; his pale blonde hair reflected the bright July sun, his smile a thousand watts. He openly gawked at all the wares he could see at his level, barely contained by the grip a woman kept on his hand. It was open wonder; no doubt an expression Kit also shared the first time he stepped into the market with his dad. But that’s not necessarily what drew Kit’s eyes to the random kid, it was the large blue button pinned to his t-shirt with IT’S MY BIRTHDAY printed in large yellow letters. Kit was vaguely aware of birthdays, he’s seen birthday parties on tv—with all their bright balloons, sparkly presents, and tiered cakes—but wasn’t sure of their purpose. Everyone always seemed really happy during any scenes accented with standard birthday fare and Kit had really liked cake in the few times he’d eaten it.

The pair didn’t pause by Kit’s dad’s stall, his business contoured towards adults anyways. But Kit watched from behind the table as they continued down the street until they turned the corner and disappeared. He risked a quick glance at his dad, who was carefully watching the streams of people making their way between vendors. His dad was the one who taught Kit his ever-improving skill of assessment, and Kit recognized the sharp look in his eyes as they dragged across the crowd. Even in a crowd this large, with people only passing by the stall for a few seconds, Kit’s dad could pick out people who were more likely to listen to his well-practiced pitch. Los Angeles was full of way to wealthy people who were practically looking for places to throw their money away, and his dad offered that space under the guise of realty. Kit knew his dad noticed the same pair Kit did but didn’t share the same interest. But while he was looking for people to slowly con, Kit was sneaking out of the booth and down the street.

It took Kit a few minutes to find the pair again. The market was notoriously confusing in its design but Kit had spent years learning which stalls he could squeeze through and which streets led to dead ends. After several minutes of weaving between legs and poles alike, and getting momentarily distracted by the sweet-savory smell of isaw skewers, he found them standing in front of a stall selling small, pocket-sized crystals. Kit tucked himself behind a crate of vegetables to watch. Jess, the vendor, twirled a lock of pitch-black hair around her finger as they perused. Kit knew her practice through what his dad knew. All of her crystals were fake. Nothing more than cut and polished pieces of colored glass. She kept her stall open as the man who owned the market was easily swayed to look the other way for a cut of profits beneath the table. Kit’s dad stayed open in a similar way, though he had to give a smaller percent due to their ‘connections’. He never explained to Kit what these ‘connections’ were, but they were strong enough to reduce his dad’s payments to nearly nothing.

The boy was grinning wide, clutching a bright blue shard in his fist to watch the colored light it cast on the ground. His mother dragged just the tips of her fingers over some of the bigger pieces, though one of her hands was still wrapped around her son’s wrist to keep him from going far. Kit could see Jess impatiently tapping her fingers, her numerous rings glittering in the sunlight, waiting for them to eventually buy something or leave.

“Momma!” the boy cried, reaching up as far he could to show off the glass. “I want this one!”

The woman smiled. “Of course baby, anything for your birthday.” She plucked the glass from his hand and handed it off to Jess across the table. Kit was stunned. The boy had just asked for something and got it without question. All because it was his birthday? There was nothing that Kit could ask his father for without having to answer a dozen questions as to why he deserved it. Anything he wanted, that was deemed not a necessity, had to be explicitly earned or plucked from the pockets of someone who earned it.

Jess tapped a few buttons on her IPad screen. “Will that be everything?”

“Yes, that’s all.”

“That will be fifteen dollars.” The woman’s face pinched. The price was higher than Kit has ever heard Jess put on a piece that small. With her business, nearly everything on her table was selling at a high profit due to the cheap way she made them. It made it easier for her to keep prices low enough to not cause suspicion. But clearly, the woman was second-guessing. Kit knew the song-and-dance well. This was the time to add something, a fake discount or a free item at no cost to Jess, to make the deal seem like an offer that couldn’t be passed up.

Deep down, Kit felt a little bad that they were getting ripped off. Parents were the easiest to weasel a few extra dollars out of as exhausted ones would do anything to prevent their children from having a public tantrum and doting ones bent like flower stems to their kids every whim. Not everyone at the market knew the delicate in-and-outs of the con, but those weren’t people Kit’s dad associated with; and thus, they weren’t people Kit knew. But it was the only life Kit had ever known and any guilt he felt about watching his dad set up another appointment with a client was trumped by the knowledge that some people were just dumb enough to fall for the easiest traps.

“Usually I charge twenty, due to the clarity of that crystal being harder to find. But I cut the price down for the birthday boy.” Jess said, sending a tight-lipped smile down to the boy. Though he didn’t acknowledge her and kept his eyes on the crystals still on display. The woman’s shoulders relaxed slightly and she gave Jess a twenty. Jess didn’t put the crystal in a bag, instead just passed it around the table back to the boy. She gave back the change and the pair disappeared into the crowd again. Kit’s interest in them followed suit.

He took his time ducking beneath people’s arms and around people’s bags as he went back to his dad’s stall. He still couldn’t believe that that boy asked and received. So easily. It felt like Kit had to jump through hoops to even get his dad to notice him some days, let alone buy him a new game to keep him occupied once a year. On the way, Kit passed by a truck advertising homemade rock candy in an assortment of flavors, and he got an idea. Usually, he’d nick the needed amount from coat pockets or purses, or used the excuse that he had already used up his meager spending money on something for his mom and just wanted a snack so a susceptible stranger would fork over the change. Too many people were weak to a pair of big, blue eyes and a trembling bottom lip. Maybe he’d been missing out on the birthday trick.

Slipping back into the stall, Kit made sure there was no one at the table before asking his dad. “Johnny? Can I get some rock candy? It’s my birthday.”

Kit’s dad was never dad at the market. It was a shift Kit didn’t know why he had to stay conscious of, but he knew there were severe consequences if he slipped up. He never wanted to spend so much alone time in the basement ever again.

His dad only turned his head to give Kit a scathing look. It wasn’t necessarily angry, but definitely pointed.

“It’s not your birthday.” He said, before turning back to the crowd. Kit huffed.

“Yes, it is.” Kit protested. “I would know, wouldn’t I?”

“No, you wouldn’t. You don’t have a birthday.”

“I don’t? That boy had one.” Kit looked over the table as if the mother and son would materialize simply to prove his point.

"You are not that boy. Now get down.” His dad spat and despite Kit’s growing frustration, he obeyed without thought. The day was bright, like most summer days were in Los Angeles, so underneath the table was cast in a deep purple light from the cloth his dad used as a cover. Kit loved that a cloth could change the color of light but it never made any sense as to why, and he always forgot about his intrigue by the time they got home to actually look it up. Despite how pretty it was underneath the table, it was boring. Extended periods listening to his dad convince people to look through his zones and previous projects got old quickly when Kit knew the whole script by heart. It gave him time to think, though. How did that boy get a birthday when Kit didn’t? Was it another thing he had to earn? Kit didn’t really want to think about the things he’d have to do to earn a day where he could get whatever he wanted. There were a lot of lessons that his dad repeated frequently, hoping they’d nail into Kit’s skull, and the fact that there were things that were not worth the price to receive them was a major one.

As soon the customer was gone, his dad reshuffling papers on the table, he knew it was safe to poke his head out. Though he kept the majority of his body still underneath the table, just in case he needed to vanish quickly again.

“Why don’t I have a birthday?” Kit asked and he watched his dad let out a heavy sigh. If there was anyone who knew just about everything, it was Kit’s dad. He had an answer to just about every question Kit asked him but there was a limit. If Kit questioned things for too long, his dad would get that line between his eyebrows and he’d flex his fingers like he was working off tension. Kit knew to back off then and give his dad space because while he had never hit Kit, the sound of his palm against their wood dinner table could echo in Kit’s ears for hours.

And there were questions he refused to answer. Like why Kit had to hide in the basement anytime he had guests over, or why he didn’t get to go to school like kids did on tv, or just about anything regarding his mom. Those were questions that immediately brought his dad’s guard up and Kit learned to just stop asking them.

“You weren’t given one.” He ducked down to say firmly to Kit’s face, his voice still light enough that Kit wasn’t too worried. Though it wasn’t often that Kit’s dad would get down on his level to talk and a shallow crease was forming between his eyebrows.

“Do you have a birthday?”

“I do.”

“How did you get it?”

“My parents gave it to me.”

“Why did you not give me one?”

“You don’t need one.” His tone was dipping into scolding territory, a place Kit never liked to be. “Birthdays are pointless, just a marker for how much time has passed since you were born that people make into bigger deals than they are.”

Kit looked down. He knew it was time to stop lest he wanted to be reprimanded. The last thing he wanted was to be banned from his only chance at getting out of the house. When another person approached the stall, Kit ducked back down without his dad’s prompt. He couldn’t help that unworthy feeling from creeping up his chest. What did that boy have that let him overcome the conceived ‘pointlessness’ of birthdays that Kit didn’t? Kit carefully scooted hed knees up to his chest and rested his forehead in the divot they created. There wasn’t much Kit could do without making his presence known; his dad was continuously conscious of how much space Kit took up and made Kit very anxious about every minute movement he made. Though with all of the things he was teaching Kit to do, it was probably best for Kit to be extra aware of his body at all times.

He wasn’t expecting his dad to talk to him again and Kit didn’t exactly plan on coming out from underneath the table until it was time to leave. But, after a few minutes of silence passed, Kit’s dad lifted the table covering to look at him. “I put a quarter in my jacket. I want you to get it out without me noticing.”

Kit beamed at the chance to impress. There was nothing that made his dad as clearly proud as Kit improving on the skills he was being taught. Each time Kit could pick a lock faster, or pickpocket a coin in fewer tries, his dad would get that brief warmth in his eyes that Kit would tuck away when he needed to convince himself that his dad did like him the same way the parents on tv did. Sometimes, if Kit was doing especially well, his dad would rub an affectionate hand in Kit’s hair that would leave his scalp tingling for hours. It didn’t matter that that was really some of the only times Kit could get affection from his dad, what mattered was that they were there and Kit knew how to pull them out.

It took Kit only four tries to find and take the quarter; two fewer tries than the last practice.

 

It honestly wasn’t an issue while Kit was a kid. There was a period when all Kit could think about was what he would do if he had a birthday, and what kind of things he’d want. But from a young age Kit knew about the futility of wishes without action so he gave it up. Though, even as he got older, sometimes he’d pause and think about his birthday. Had it already passed? Or was he still waiting to age another year? He did agree with his dad that using a single day to mark how long you’d been alive seemed pretty pointless, but that didn’t stop him from staying up each year to watch the fireworks that cemented each incoming year and whisper his new age into the rainbow-lit sky.

But outside of his few moments of weakness, it wasn’t an issue. He still went through each year, getting older without celebration, and was fine. Not much changed as he got older, though he eventually got big enough that he couldn’t hide under the table anymore. But what came with that was his dad now trusting him to wander the market without supervision. So, while his dad was hustling people at his stall, Kit could slip his fingers into people’s coats. As he got older, he didn’t even need to ask his dad for things he wanted. He could pay for them himself with bills he filched or from the money he earned by his dad pawning anything else he could get his hands on.

It didn’t become a problem until his dad died, he was put into foster care, and the workers there didn’t have any proof Kit existed. Other than the fact that Kit was sitting in front of them, there was nothing that said that Kit was a person. No birth certificate, no social security, no school records. At first, they assumed he was an illegal immigrant that his father had taken under his wing, but there was no trace of Kit anywhere outside the U.S. either. So his file ended up being the name Kit gave them, trusting it was right—even though it technically didn’t matter as the only person who ever called him by his name was now dead so Kit could really call himself whatever he wanted—and his physical description.

The home Kit was placed into tried to get him to just pick a day to celebrate, even if it wasn’t accurate. He protested enough that they eventually gave up completely. He didn’t end up staying long enough for it to matter anyway.
It really became a problem when Tessa and Jem eventually adopted him and were met with closed door after closed door when they tried to enroll him in school. Without proper proof of citizenship, he wasn’t allowed to attend public school. Even though Kit insisted that he would be fine, he’s taught himself enough to get by, both Tessa and Jem were adamant that Kit get to socialize with other teenagers and experience at least a little bit of normal teenage life. Kit had no idea how they did it, but they eventually were able to convince officials of Kit’s ‘unique circumstance’ and he was given an identity as Christopher Johnathan Gray-Carstairs. It was like Christopher Rook didn’t exist at all.

The birth certificate was a blank slate for a while as Tessa and Jem wanted Kit to pick a day himself. But Kit remembered how his dad said that parents pick birthdays for their kids; though of course, he knows that’s not how it works now, it still felt like a bit of sentimentality that Kit could afford. If his biological parents weren’t going to give him a birthday, then his adoptive parents could. Tessa and Jem tried to take it mildly, but Kit could see Tessa’s eyes grow misty when he insisted they choose something.

So, according to the U.S. government, Kit’s birthday was April 8th, 1997. A few weeks after the official paperwork came in, Kit was enrolled in incoming freshman year at Venice Senior High School.

Finally going to school, was a cacophony of things he didn’t understand. People shouting in the hallways, couples standing way too close at their lockers, and even the occasional fight between periods. It was exactly and nothing like what Kit saw in the movie and tv shows he learned from. Sure, people stuck to their little groups of safety. But it wasn’t unheard of for people to break off and talk to other sects. And there weren’t a few girls that were so popular that they practically ran everything. The closest thing his school had to that was Addison Taylor and her two friends Abby and Maddison, who were all cheerleaders but also on the honor roll. From what Kit heard they were pretty, smart, and actually nice. It was kind of a disappointment.

What did translate though, was how people revered birthdays. Kids walked down the cramped hallways with balloons attached to their backpacks, carrying numerous gift bags from their friends, and blasting music from speakers shoved in their backpacks despite how teachers demanded them to turn it down. Once, Kit saw a girl hauling around a bear nearly the size of her torso. It was all so incredibly performative. Though Kit has no idea how they can balance the desperate need for attention with all the work they have to get done each night. He might be the outlier struggling with classwork as most kids probably get through the new concepts easily, while Kit has to spend hours researching preliminary topics he would have learned in elementary and middle school if he had attended. All the work he had to do to even be allowed to enroll seemed to be for not; why was there so much intermediate math from elementary school to high school?

In almost a direct contrast to Kit’s rapidly decreasing opinion of birthdays, Livvy loves them. If her near-constant discussion of her little sister’s surprise birthday party is anything to go by.

Livvy was the first actual friend Kit made. She was in his English class and practically shot her hand in the air when Mrs. Mitchell asked if anyone would volunteer to be his seat partner. She didn’t flinch at Kit’s carefully worded barbs to get her to leave him alone, because Kit was not used to being the center of attention for so long, and she helped Kit with certain math problems beneath their desks during independent reading when she saw Kit struggling. It didn’t take long for Kit to warm up to her, and after a few weeks, she introduced him to Ty. And then two became three.

Indirectly, Kit has been involved in every detail of a party for a girl he doesn’t know from the decorations to the invitation list. Though Kit hasn’t put his actual opinion in anything, just allowing himself to be a neutral party for Livvy to bounce ideas off of until something sticks out. He doesn’t actually mind as long as he’s able to stay laying down in the small bit of shade provided by the tree they’ve claimed as their after-school spot.

Livvy and Ty actually live close enough to school that they walk, but once Livvy learned that Kit waits around twenty minutes after the final bell for either Jem or Tessa to pick him up, she said they’d all wait together. Kit was a little hesitant, not used to friends simply for friend's sake, but acquiesced once Livvy insisted that it wasn’t out of the way. Ty ended up being relatively easy to convince as well.

That’s their formation as Livvy is talking into the open air about her plans. Kit is propped against the base of the tree, eyes closed to steal some semblance of rest before he has to slave over algebra, and Ty is sat crisscrossed on the grass reading in the receding daylight. It’s honestly surprising how Ty listens with his headphones on and clearly immersed in any of the eight novels Kit’s seen him cycle through. But he replies to every question Livvy directs at him and knows every time someone calls his name.

“Kit. I need to ask you your opinion.” Livvy says, the sound of grass shifting indication she’s turned towards him. Though Kit can’t find the energy to open his eyes, he lifts his eyebrows to show he’s listening. “If you were really into classic horror, would you want zombie or bat decorations?”

It’s a futile question. Kit knows that Livvy has already cut out bat shapes from black construction paper and threaded them through equally black string. She had FaceTimed him while she did it because she wanted company and Kit wanted a distraction from his English essay about Of Mice and Men.

“Bats. Can’t have horror without bats. Zombies are too limited to specific movies.”

“Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Good point.” Kit can practically hear Livvy’s smile in her voice. Sometimes, she just needed to be reassured that she was doing a good job, and Kit was happy to supply some encouragement even though he knows literally nothing about Livvy’s sister aside from the fact that she loves horror movies and wears a lot of black. Two traits he can’t fault someone on.

Kit starts to drift off as Livvy continues discussing details with Ty. The afternoon is warm even though with each passing day Kit can feel the air getting colder as winter approaches. This might be one of the last days where they can comfortably sit outside in short-sleeved shirts until Spring and Kit plans to revel in it. Maybe he’ll put off his homework until after dinner and convince Jem and Tessa to spend some time at the beach. Kit knows that Tessa has been dealing with a little bit of cabin fever as she’s in the later stages of her pregnancy and is out on maternity leave.

“Hey, I know I’ve been talking about birthdays for the past two weeks, but it’s made me realize we don’t know your birthday Kit,” Livvy says. He almost smiles at Livvy’s use of ‘we’, as if it was a topic she and Ty had actually discussed. Then his face warms at the thought of Ty finding him interesting enough to talk about when he wasn’t around. But the need to actually answer drains all feelings of content right out of Kit’s body. He purposefully avoided any and all conversation about his life before Jem and Tessa because it was private and he hasn’t been sure if he can trust Ty and Livvy yet. Though in their time together, Kit can say he feels more comfortable around them than any of the acquaintances he ever made at the market.

So, he lets a little bit of truth out. “I don’t know either.”

Livvy is silent and Kit doesn’t dare open his eyes now. He wouldn’t be able to stand to see the same pitying look on her face that he’s seen on social workers and police officers since his dad died. It’s like all the excitement gets sucked out of the air. Kit hates that he’s just brought the mood down by answering honestly. He should have just lied.

“How do you not know?” Livvy asks.

“My parents never signed a birth certificate and I’ve never celebrated my birthday so I don’t know when I was born.” The assumption was that somehow Kit’s mom was able to give birth with a midwife who didn’t care that she and his dad didn’t want to sign a piece of paper tying their son to them. It’s a flimsy explanation, filled with holes and basically see-through. But it’s probably the best Kit will ever get.

“Is that legal?” Ty asks, which Kit is internally thankful for because he doesn’t want to have to explain this twice.

“Nope." Kit pops the p, hoping it will convey indifference. "It’s a felony. But my dad wasn’t a straight-and-narrow guy to begin with and my mom took off before it was ever really her problem. By the time the police learned about it, my dad was dead and my mom’s in the wind.”

Kit lets them stew in it. He’s had years to come to terms with the fact that he’s missed out on a pretty fundamental part of growing up for fifteen years; he’ll give them a few minutes. It does still feel weird to admit it though. It had always been a conversation that he and his dad never really talked about, like all of the other things he robbed Kit of experiencing. Some kids know the exact minute they were born, and Kit doesn’t even know the season. It must be difficult for the twins to wrap their heads around.

Luckily, it’s at this moment that his phone vibrates. Tessa. Kit thanks any deity can for the excuse to get the fuck out of here.

“That’s Tessa. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” Kit slings his backpack over his shoulder, only huffing slightly at the strain, and speed walks towards the pick-up line.

“Wait! Jesus Kit, you can’t just say something like that and leave!” Livvy calls from behind him. Kit contemplates turning around and ultimately decides to be brave and face her.

“It’s not that big of a deal. Please don’t make it one.” Kit pleads. He really can’t deal with the twins feelings bad for him as they’re the only people who have ever made him feel like a normal teenager. Like he can forget he knows how to pick his way through dozens of brands of locks and that most of the video games he’s collected were paid for with stolen money. Kit will never be normal but sometimes he wants to pretend he is. And he can do that around Livvy and Ty.

It’s like Livvy can hear everything he leaves unsaid and takes a cautious step back. Behind her, still sitting, Ty watches the both of them with his book closed in his lap. Kit gives Livvy a weak smile and scurries off to Tessa’s car to finally get out of this situation.

It’s late into the night when Kit gets a text from Ty. He’s been working on his English essay, progressively getting more stressed about getting it done in time, and is grateful for the excuse to do something else.

Ty: If you don’t have a birth certificate, how are you enrolled in school?

Kit can’t help the smile that creeps up his face. Of course, Ty would look into the legalities of Kit’s predicament.

You: When Tessa and Jem adopted me, I think the foster system helped them arrange to get me a birth certificate. It was a really long process but I do have one now. Social security number too

You: I’m officially a U.S. citizen :)

Ty: How did you choose your birthday?

You: I had Jem and Tessa just pick a date

Ty: What did they choose?

You: April 8th. Why?

Ty: Livvy still wants to know.

Kit taps his pencil against his desk. Livvy was a schemer and combined with Ty’s attention to detail, they could be kind of dangerous. He doesn’t want to think about what exactly she wants his birthday for. But then Kit has to remind himself that this is just something friends know about each other, no hidden objectives.

You: What’s your and Livvy’s birthday?

Ty: June 11th.

Twins born under the twin sign, classic. Ty doesn’t send another message and Kit doesn’t feel compelled to keep the conversation going either. It was one of the nicer things about talking with Ty, he never felt like had to fill any silences with pointless chatter because he knew that Ty didn’t mind the spaces that form naturally. Kit feels comfortable just existing in the same space as Ty sometimes, which is a luxury he’s never felt with someone before. He’s a little nervous about how quickly he’s become so attached but it can likely be attributed to him actually having friends for the first time. Sure he’ll latch on fast. Ty’s pretty wonderful anyway.

Kit pushes that thought aside before it can pick up steam. He has to focus on his essay if he wants to get this section done before midnight. An unrealistic goal, but one he’ll stick to for the time being.

🎈

Eventually, Kit’s ‘birthday’ comes around. Kit made Tessa and Jem promise that any celebration they wanted to do would stay small and just between them. He still felt the day approaching like a thunderstorm on the horizon. The night before he couldn’t sleep. Is this how people always feel before their birthdays? Or is this just another thing he’s needlessly fucked up about?

Per his request, Kit’s morning is just about the same as it always is. Aside from a slightly longer hug from Jem as he’s leaving and Tessa whispering happy birthday into Kit’s scalp after her kiss goodbye, nothing changes. There’s no big exclamation when he gets to school. Kit goes through his classes without a second glance from any of his peers. Blessedly, even Livvy doesn’t give him any extra attention excluding the knowing elbow she poked into his side during class. It feels nice, normal. The last thing Kit wants is the people in his life trying to make this birthday the best as it’s his first.

The days have shifted from the mellow Spring warmth to the beginnings of oppressive Summer heat in April. All three of them seek refuge in the shade of their tree because while there is a light breeze, the sun beats down on anything brave enough to stay in direct sight. Even though final exams creep closer day by day, Kit appreciates the little pocket of peace he’s in.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Ty leans over to Livvy. He can hardly hear what they’re saying to each other but keeps himself out of it in case it’s familial and not his business. But then, Ty taps his knee gently.

When Kit looks up, Ty has a fairly large, wrapped gift on the ground in front of him, and Livvy’s holding a smaller bag.

“What the fuck?” He whispers.

“I know you said to not do anything big for your birthday, but you never said anything about gifts. And I think you should be happy that I was able to hold out until now.” Livvy grins, plopping the bag down by Kit’s feet. It feels like something dislodges in Kit’s chest and rattles down his ribs.

“Livvy-” Kit protests but she cuts him off with a hand.

“You’re our friend, and friends give gifts on birthdays. Don’t make it bigger than it needs to be.”

Kit doesn’t appreciate her throwing his own words back at him, but he picks up the bag anyways. It’s light and easy to see where the actual gift is wrapped with tissue paper underneath the simply decorative bunches. Livvy stops him from reaching inside.

“Okay, I’ll give you a pass this one time. But, when you get a gift you have to read the card first.” Kit sends her a bored look, but she just shrugs. “Hey, I don’t make the rules. I just follow them. And now as a member of society with a birthday, you have to as well.”

Kit rolls his eyes but digs around the bag for the card. The envelope is the same deep blue as the bag and luckily Livvy just folded the flap inside the pocket instead of sealing it and requiring Kit to tear it all open. Actually reading the card inside, Kit lets out an exasperated breath.

Printed in cartoonish letters across the top is HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY with a picture of a baby boy. There’s a small blurb about many more to come but Kit just skims over it. He is barely restraining himself from flinging at Livvy’s face like a throwing star.

“Happy first birthday!” She snickers. Ty chuckles and Kit tries really hard on keeping up the charade of being angry.

“Get out, it’s not even a funny joke.” But Kit’s already laughing. Which sets Livvy off fully and Ty isn’t far behind. They all crack up until Kit’s struggling to breathe and tears are streaking down Livvy’s cheeks. It’s really not funny and yet Kit feels like he might asphyxiate.

“Okay, okay, but you can actually open it now.” Livvy somehow gets out between her heaving breaths. He gets through the tissue paper with much less fanfare. It’s a DVD box set. All of the Superman movies from Superman to Superman Returns. All packaged in a sturdy tin with the Superman logo pressed into the front.

“Livvy.” Kit starts, but he can’t get himself to finish. He can’t believe she remembered the times he told her about loving Superman. When he was still living with Johnny, they didn’t have any streaming subscriptions so Kit could really only watch the movies on cable. Which ended up being a lot of old superhero movies, including the original Superman from 1978.

“You don’t have to say thank you. I know.”

“Were these a lot?”

“One, you don’t have to worry about it because they’re a gift. Two, no because they’re all super old movies.” Kit traces his finger over the outside of the Superman diamond. He feels like he could cry.

“And we’ll have to watch The Man of Steel when it comes out next year!” Livvy says, causing Kit to laugh again.

“Sure. But we’ll have to watch all of these first.”

“Movie marathon then.”

Never before being adopted did Kit ever expect to get a gift, let alone one that feels so personal. Johnny did give him things, but never with extra fanfare of wrapping paper and ribbons. It was always practicality first and he never really got Kit something unless it was explicitly requested. Surprises weren’t an occurrence. Most of the time, Kit tries not to think about all of the little things he missed out on with Johnny keeping him hidden for so long. It can usually send Kit into a spiral that’s hard to recover from. So he just tucks the box back into its bag and sets it aside before it can reduce him to tears.

Ty, of course, is sitting patiently for Kit and Livvy to finish. Something about Ty’s gift makes Kit’s inside squirm relentlessly in his stomach. It’s definitely bigger than Livvy’s but the main problem is that Kit’s mind whirs with all of the things Ty could possibly attribute to a good gift. Slowly, Ty pushes the package across the grass for Kit to take.

When Kit still hesitates, Ty speaks. “You can open it at home if you want.”

“You got it for me. I should open it in front of you, right?”

Ty looks up for a moment, considering. “Only if you want. It might be best anyway because I don’t want it to get dirty.”

Kit nods and pushes it off to the side to open later. Ty doesn’t look offended.

“Thank you, you really didn’t have to.” Kit says, finding his words thickening with emotion.

“Yeah, but we wanted to. Happy birthday, Kit.” Livvy grins brightly.

“Happy birthday.” Ty echos, already going back to the book he set at his side. It feels like Kit’s heart is too big for his chest, threatening to burst through his ribs and spray red all across the grass. There was so much he’s got to do in the short time that he’s been under Jem and Tessa's care. He has real friends now, parents who ask him about his day even when it doesn’t really matter, and the chance to be a big brother. That was the biggest change, but also what Kit treasures the most. He loves to just hold Mina because he’s never actually carried another human being before, let alone one so small. The day she was born Kit was a nervous wreck but getting to see her wrapped in pink and cradled against Tessa’s chest was like an otherworldly experience. Never in his life has he immediately fallen in love with someone. She’s not even six months old and yet Kit knows that will do anything and everything to protect her.

The three of them stay silent after that; Ty reading, Livvy taking out some of her history homework, and Kit just sitting there, reveling. It all felt too good sometimes like he’ll wake up one morning and find himself in his old basement again.

His phone buzzes as a text from Jem comes through; he’s here. Kit collects his things and tried to pick up Ty’s gift, but can’t. It’s heavy, like really heavy.

“Ty, what the fuck is this?” He asks, setting Livvy’s gift back on the ground to try to commit all his efforts to picking up Ty’s.

“You have to open it,” Ty replies, only looking up from his book when he hears Kit struggling.

“Why is it so heavy?” Kit gets it off the ground, but the strain in his biceps is fierce. He doesn’t know how he’ll get it to the car.

“I can’t tell you that either.” Ty pauses, just watching Kit try to get a comfortable grip. “Do you want help?”

“You know what, yes please.”

Ty gets up and easily takes the gift from Kit’s arms. He doesn’t even flinch. Kit has never been so envious. But instead of dwelling on it, Kit snatches Livvy’s gift off the ground, bids her a quick goodbye, and walks to Jem’s car trusting Ty is just behind him. Since Kit is not petty enough to let Ty struggle, he opens the back door for him to set in the backseat without strain.

“I could barely carry that thing. How did you lug it around all day?”

“It’s not that heavy. It’s fifteen pounds.”

“That can’t be fifteen pounds.” Kit looks into the car at the package. “Can I not lift fifteen pounds?”

“I guess not.” Kit goes to give Ty a glare but can’t when he sees Ty has the smallest smile on his face. All of Kit’s organs melt into a warm slush, sending a hot flush up his body. He doesn’t even want to begin to dissect it.

“You know what, it’s my birthday and I don’t deserve this.” Kit opens the passenger door to throw his back on the leg space. Fully ignoring Jem for the moment, who is very patiently waiting for Kit to stop talking to Ty so they can go home. He turns back to Ty briefly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye.” Ty gives him a small wave close to his torso and walks back to Livvy. Who he can see whip around to pretend like she wasn’t just watching them. Kit rolls his eyes and slides into the passenger seat.

“Did they get you gifts for your birthday?” Jem asks, pulling out once Kit got his seatbelt on. The warm and gushy feeling fills Kit’s chest again as he sinks down into his seat.

“Yes.” He says, not even trying to contain his smile. Jem doesn’t say anything else, allowing Kit to stew in the fact that he has friends that really care about him, enough to give him nice gifts on his very first birthday.

Kit doesn’t get a chance to open Ty’s gift until later at night.

As soon as he got home, he saw the banner put above the entrance to the kitchen and the balloons tied to his chair. It was small, just like asked, but more than he expected. They eat pizza for dinner and Kit gets to blow out birthday candles on the cake Tessa made for the first time in his life. He didn’t know what to wish for, and how serious birthday wishes have to be, so just asks for a lot more birthdays.

After, Kit gets to open a few more presents from Jem and Tessa. The next three issues of Spiderman comics from the “Brand New Day” storyline and a scratch-off movie poster. Kit did his best not to cry and just barely managed to succeed. Though both Jem and Tessa saw right through him and hugged him so tight Kit was worried they cracked a rib or two.

But eventually, Mina had to be put to bed, and Kit needed to see if he could get some homework done. Though, as soon as Kit saw Ty’s gift sitting on his bed, all thoughts of homework go right out the window.
Despite its size, it has quite some give when Kit presses his palms against the wrapping paper. It crinkles pleasantly but Kit has no idea what it could be. He flips it over and carefully pulls off the tape securing the flaps, allowing him to undo all of Ty’s careful folding without ripping any of the paper. The gift practically glows in Kit’s dark bedroom.

A blanket. It’s a blanket covered in bright, yellow sunflowers. Kit runs his hand over the fabric and is astounded at how soft it is. He unfolds the blanket from the packaging, nearly forgetting how heavy it is. The other side is completely yellow, the same yellow at the petals practically covering the entire white background on the front. All out, it’s much easier to hold than when it was tightly packed in the paper. Kit pulls out his phone to text Ty.

You: You got me a weighted blanket?

While he waits for Ty to reply, which can usually range between a few minutes to a few days, Kit strips his bed of its comforter and lays Ty’s blanket out. It’s the perfect size, which Kit has no idea how Ty managed as he’s never been in Kit’s room and Kit’s pretty he never told either of the twins his mattress size. He runs his hands across the fabric again. His phone vibrates.

Ty: I made it. You said that you sometimes have trouble falling asleep and I have a weighted blanket to help me with the same issue.

You: You made it????

Kit flops back onto his bed, staring at his phone. Ty made him a birthday present. Ty made him a gift to help with Kit’s insomnia. His heart starts to beat wildly in his chest. And embarrassingly he has the urge to burrow his face into his pillows and scream.

Ty: It wasn’t hard, I just had to find the right fabric and buy filling. Learning how to sew wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Emma’s friend Christina knows to sew too so I asked for her help when I needed it.

You: It’s so hard to convey this with text, but Ty, thank you so much. This is so thoughtful.

Ty: You’re welcome.

Kit barely resists the to resist the urge to take a picture of it draped over his comforter. There is no way he is going to get any work done tonight, with all the butterflies that have taken up residence in his stomach and the way his hands are shaking as he types. As a whole, he’s been keeping up well with his homework so one night of nothing won’t ruin everything.

So Kit gets ready for bed, practically buzzing to get to see how Ty’s blanket works.