“What are we going to do on Saturday?”
Jake looked up at Gael. The question had been casual, but he knew it was anything but. Saturday was Derrick’s birthday party. The first birthday since Derrick had come to live with Gael and Jake. Jake eyed his lover knowing this was important to him. “I think we have to work out what Derrick would enjoy.”
“That’s what worries me,” Gael rushed out. “I know all our friends would come but you know he hates being with more than two or three people at a time.” Like Gael, thought Jake.
It was true. Derrick would be fourteen, but he wasn’t what anyone would call a regular fourteen-year-old. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and immediately taken into care. His mother had died sometime later. Add that to his enhanced abilities and Derrick was definitely a challenge.
Not that Jake would have it any other way. Derrick was partially deaf and blind and the doctors considered him somewhere on the autism spectrum but no one really knew. Add the communication challenges to his abilities and it was an amazing mix.
“Why don’t you ask him?” Jake brightened. Gael could communicate with him through a child’s version of an I-Pad, but only when it had no visible power source. Derrick would make the tablet work somehow on its own.
“I did,” Gael admitted.
“And?” he didn’t see the problem.
“I tried to explain what a party was and I don’t think he understood.”
“We can ask the team? He knows them.”
“The team is a party all on its own,” Gael cautioned. “I think it will be too much for him. I think we just get him a cake and maybe grill some chicken outside. We’ll explain to everyone it will be too much for him.”
Which was all very good and a plan until they got to work the next day and the first words out of Finn’s mouth were, “What’s Derrick doing for his birthday?” and Vance’s ears pricked up.
“It’s Derrick’s birthday?”
Jake hushed him hoping Gael hadn’t heard.
“What’s the matter?” Finn whispered which was totally a waste with enhanced hearing but luckily Gael had just stepped outside with Doc Natalie.
And of course, everyone crowded around.
Jake squirmed. “It’s Derrick’s birthday on Saturday.”
“Great,” Talon said. “I saw this electric powered race car I bet he’d love.”
Adam chuckled. “You’d have to take the batteries out.”
“That would be amazing,” Sawyer said. Jake sighed. It would be. Derrick could only work his tablet with the battery out. They’d never tried it on anything else though.
“Maybe you can call in for five minutes?” Jake said weakly hoping Gael would talk to him afterward.
Of course, it was rarely that simple. The phone call he got later gave him the first clue. “Jake,” Connie’s voice came through loud and clear. Connie was officially Vance’s mom but she had taken them all under her wing. “I understand it’s a special birthday on Saturday, what can I bring?”
Jake stifled the groan. His life would not be worth living if he upset Connie. “A cake?” he asked weakly. He’d told Gael he would order the cake so technically…
“Jake,” Pete’s voice rang out from the phone later that afternoon. Jake did groan out loud that time. The chuckle he got back was sympathetic.
“You messed up buddy, didn’t you? Finn was here an hour ago and he kind of let the cat out of the bag.”
“Who to?” If it was just Terry he might have a chance.
“Everyone,” Pete supplied the humor loud in his voice. “I’m bringing them all around for five.”
Jake bashed his cell phone against his forehead. Pete ran a foster home for enhanced kids. Everyone meant seven of them. He swallowed. He’d better get Connie to build a bigger cake.
“Jake?” Michael Ramsay’s voice on the end of the phone made him smile. But this time he’d made the call. Michael was the principle of the special school Derrick attended and he and his wife had three special needs children themselves. Above all else, he had taught Jake to sign when he asked Gael and Derrick to be his forever family. Jake blurted out what he’d done. That instead of there just being three for Derrick’s birthday it was twenty and counting. “What am I going to do?” he wailed.
He heard the chuckle down the line. “Thanks for asking,” Michael laughed. “The kids, Emma and I will be around for five. I’ll bring sausages and you know Emma will bring her special dip.”
“Nooo,” Jake laughed despite himself. Add five more.
In the end, Jake decided to just go big and it seemed like he invited everyone on the planet. He bought a ton of food and he was outside on their deck counting chicken breasts when Gael came downstairs with Derrick after his bath.
Gael took one look at the mountain of food and narrowed his eyes. “What did you do?”
Two hours later when nearly forty people had consumed enough food to feed an army, Derrick opened his presents. Or Gael did it for him. Jake had watched the pair of them get quieter. Derrick had withdrawn into himself and Gael had beaten himself up because of it. Jake had spent the last thirty minutes trying to frame an apology, but he felt shit. Gael had been right. Derrick had been overwhelmed and miserable which made Gael miserable. Talon stepped up. “I think we should open mine next.”
Jake waved a defeated hand. If he was lucky, he would just get relegated to the couch tonight.
But Talon didn’t give the toy to Derrick. He gave it to Liam. He gave it to their fifteen-year-old enhanced superstar because despite Derrick’s challenges he was still a child and it was still a fast car.
Liam unwrapped the car, all the while telling Derrick he had brought his Mustang GT because it was better than Derrick’s Pontiac Firebird and that he really had better concede now. Derrick tilted his head and watched Liam make sure the batteries were out of the Firebird. He placed the controller in Derrick’s lap and put the two cars side by side. “To the fence line and back.”
Everyone was quiet. Jake wanted to die. It was going to be awful when Derrick didn’t even look at Liam’s car or even his own. Gael would kill him. Jake would probably save him the bother and do it himself.
“Are you ready?” Liam yelled and all the kids crowded around them. Liam’s car sped off hurtling towards the fence. Derrick’s never moved. Gael shot Jake a look of utter sadness and Jake wanted to cry.
“Come on Derrick. Or are you afraid your lousy car has no engine?”
Jake bristled. That wasn’t like Liam. Liam was normally the kindest— The Firebird jerked and seemed to lift off the ground. Gael stared at Jake his eyes round in surprise, and then the little car was off.
Screaming, cheering. Everyone joined in to yell their favorite home. Jake was completely convinced he saw dollar bills change hands at one point when the Firebird zoomed past the GT. The entire yard erupted in laughter when the Firebird beat the GT. Gael was laughing along with everyone else when Liam solemnly picked up both cars and bent down to where Derrick was sat.
“That was awesome.” He pronounced solemnly and looked expectantly at Derrick’s screen. Gael opened his mouth. Jake knew he was going to explain that Derrick wouldn’t understand. That he could only talk to Gael and Jake through Gael’s ability and he’d never communicated with anyone else.
But then the screen lit up.
“Derrick wants to go again.”
Everyone agreed it was the best birthday party ever.