Part 14 - Best Friend's Birthday
10th of September, AC212
What birthday present do you get for your best friend?
The question had been haunting Solo for the last week. He was sitting on the couch in the living room, pondering what to give Mill. The blonde boy's birthday was just a week away and he still hadn't decided what present to give his friend. He was wondering why it was so hard to find a present for Mill this year. He usually found choosing present for Mill easy enough.
Solo smiled slightly as he remembered his first birthday present to Mill. A birthday cake as tall as his five year old self. It was a grand cake that could have fed Mill for a week.
Unfortunately, it was made of mud.
Mill didn't mind though. The blonde boy was very happy with his present and shared it with the other M-five.
It wasn't the same case with their parents though. Save for Marimeia, who was old enough to stay clean, the children had ended up wearing the cake all over their clothes. And when their parents called, they happily went to the table where the adults were sitting.
"Mill!" Noin stared at her son in horror.
"Midii! Your white dress!" screeched Quatre.
"Meiran!! Not again!" Sally looked exasperated.
"Meia, what happened to them?" inquired Une.
"Hey, Mill, Midii, Meiran and Meia. That's four M's. Add Maxwell, Solo and all our children have M as one of their initials," Duo pointed out unnecessarily. "They would make a good team. The Five Musketeers... Nah too cliché." Duo then snapped his fingers with a new insight. "I know, M-five!"
Thus the M-five was born.
Solo chuckled as he remembered fondly the contrite expression his father showed when the other four parents directed their death glares at him. While the parents chewed out his father for allowing Solo to bring the mud cake, Mill gave Solo a blinding smile and stated it was the best present he'd had.
If only giving Mill a present was as easy as the first time, Solo wished morosely.
Last year, he had collaborated with Midii, Meiran, and Marimeia for Mill's present. This year, however, Solo wanted to give Mill a present by himself. This wasn't the first time he'd given Mill a present by himself but this was the first time he'd ever had difficulty in choosing what to give his best friend.
What to give? Solo wracked his brain. Book? Did that on the tenth birthday. Shoes? Clothes? Did that last year. A pet? Solo brightened at the idea but then grimaced as he remembered a certain dark haired girl. The pet would have to wait until Gillian old enough. At her current age, a pet would not survive the girl's curiosity and bossiness.
What to give Mill? Solo sighed as he found every idea he came up with, inadequate.
"One thousand faces." The comment came from his right.
Solo jumped at the voice and turned his head to the right. He found amused blue eyes watching him. The eyes came from a face similar to his own. "Mum! Don't do that."
"Sorry, you look like you needed a break," Heero said and sat down next to his son. "What's causing you to change expressions every few seconds?"
Solo heaved a sigh and slumped back against the couch dejectedly. "I can't think of anything to give Mill for his birthday."
"When is his birthday?"
"Not long then."
"Exactly," Solo grumbled and glanced at his mum. "Any idea?"
Heero blinked. "I don't know him well enough to suggest a personal gift for him."
Solo waved his hand dismissively. "I know him better and still I'm at loss what to give him. Just throw me some ideas."
"....What does he like to do?"
Solo smiled slightly. "Riding and playing chess."
"A chess set then?"
"Did that on his ninth birthday."
"His twelfth birthday."
"....I guess a horse is out of question?"
Solo grimaced. "While I have enough money to buy an expensive gift, a horse is way too expensive for me."
"I can help you with the money if..."
Before Heero finished his sentence, Solo shook his head. "It won't be a present from me then."
"You can pay me back little by little."
It was tempting. Solo needed to think for a few seconds before deciding against it. "Thanks, mum, but I think he has enough horses already."
It was obvious Heero didn't know what else to say. They sat on the couch in silence until it became uncomfortable for Solo. He then blurted out the first question he could think of. "Say, what presents had you given dad on his birthday?"
Heero tensed up at the question.
Watching his mum's reaction, Solo inwardly cursed himself. It was obviously a wrong question to ask. "I'm sorry, mum," Solo quickly said, trying to remedy the situation. He didn't want to make his mum distressed at this stage of his pregnancy. "You don't have to answer the question..."
"It's okay, " Heero smiled weakly.
"It's definitely not okay, " Solo said and bowed his head in remorse. "I'm so sorry."
Heero tentatively patted Solo's nearest hand. "Don't. I'm okay. I just realized I haven't had a chance to give Duo a birthday present."
Having read the blue diary, Solo quickly realized the reason. With his father's birthday in December, Heero hardly had a chance to give Duo a birthday present. December AC 195 had been the end of war and the start of their relationship. December AC 196 saw the end of the second war and Solo winced, Duo had already been with Hilde at that time. Solo berated himself. People called him a genius but look how stupid he was. He wanted to bang his head on the nearest hard surface.
Solo looked up and saw Heero was looking at him in concern. "Don't be sad."
"Mum, " Solo started weakly but then straightened. It was him who was supposed to console his mum, not the other way around. He gave his mum's hand a firm squeeze. "You can give him a present this year. If he behaves well."
Solo was glad to see Heero chuckle at his weak attempt at a joke, but then became alarmed when a tear rolled down on his mom's cheek. "Mum, I'm sorry. I just..."
"It's okay." Heero squeezed Solo's hand back while he used his other hand to wipe the tear away. "It's just hormones. Pregnancy makes me emotional."
Well, his father had told him the same thing. But having seen and heard the tales of aunt Sally's and aunt Hilde's pregnancies, Solo knew his mum in emotional state was a saint compared to his aunts in the same state. Maybe it had something to do with Heero being a male? Solo guessed he would never know the answer.
"Let's return to our topic. I believe it's about Mill's present?"
"Maybe I'll just buy him a book on how to maintain a good relationship with your siblings," Solo replied. He willingly followed Heero's suggestion while he inwardly vowed to do anything in his power to make sure his father's upcoming birthday memorable for Heero.
"You might need that book as well," his mother pointed out.
Solo made a face. "I'm sure my sister won't be like Gillian."
His mum raised his eyebrows at the sentence but thankfully didn't say anything about it. "Well, how about giving him flowers?"
"Flowers??" Solo yelped. "Yuck! That's girl stuff!." His brain pointed out quickly he was offending his mum, who liked flowers and was a male. Solo quickly amended, "I mean, I'm giving a birthday present for my best friend, not my boyfriend."
His mum's eyebrows rose higher. "Boyfriend?"
"Girlfriend! I said girlfriend!" Solo blushed redder than tomato. "Not that I have any..."
There was a pause before Heero spoke again. "Flowers aren't for girlfriends only."
Feeling very relieved that his mum didn't comment on his slip, Solo replied eagerly. "How so?"
"Flowers have their own languages. You can say your intention with certain flowers. For example, red roses mean.... "
"Heero!" Came a muffled bellow from upper floor.
"Damn, he was quick." Heero muttered and stood up. "You can check the flowers meanings online if you want to."
"Heero! You better come here fast!"
Solo raised his eyebrows. "Come to think about it. I'm surprised dad wasn't glued to your side. What did you do to make him stay in the room?"
"I locked him in the bathroom," Heero said nonchalantly as he headed for the stairs.
Solo laughed out loud while his father's voice bellowed for his mum again. Five minutes later, he heard louder shouts which turned into whispered quarrels then silence. Another five minutes and the thumping sounds began.
Solo rolled his eyes and decided to find another place to ponder about Mill's present.
His mum's idea about flowers did have some merit.
17th of September, AC212
His aunt Relena had announced that Milliard was old enough to have a grand birthday party. She offered her castle's ballroom for the place then requested to be allowed to manage the whole party. Mill's parents of course protested at first but Relena was not a politician for nothing.
So here he was, standing in the middle of the ballroom and waiting for his friends to join his party. The ballroom was decorated with gold ribbons and colorful balloons. It was wide enough to accommodate two hundred people leisurely. There was a balcony on the second floor that looked down upon the ballroom.
Aunt Relena had invited her close acquaintances, which considering her position, were important people from around the world. She'd also invited their children to make the party merrier. Mill had rolled his eyes when she told him it would be good for Mill's future to introduce Mill early to these people.
If he wanted to be a politician, of course.
To be honest, Mill still hadn't decided on his future. Politics was a world full of deceit and formalities. It was also a world where he could do something to better the world. Mill was aware that as his aunt had no heir, he was the current heir to the Peacecraft family. He would inherit most of aunt Relena's assets, and possibly her political position too.
Politician, Mill thought about being one. He had the skills and position to be a good one, but would he like the life of a politician? Always in the lime light and rarely any private moments which stayed private....
Mill looked at the entrance to see Solo bouncing eagerly toward him. He smiled and took long stride toward Solo. His thought about politics was totally forgotten.
"Happy Birthday!" Solo shouted then hugged him.
Chuckling, Mill hugged back. "I see you are very happy about my party."
"Of course, I finally manage to find the right present for you." Solo clapped Mill's shoulder. "Do you know how hard it is to find a suitable one and one you haven't had? You, Mr-have-it-all?"
Mill raised his eyebrows mockingly. "You could have just asked me what I wanted."
Solo waved his forefinger in disagreement. "Where's the challenge then?"
Mill rolled his eyes. He waited for a few seconds, but when Solo didn't say or do anything, Mill lost his cool and asked impatiently. "So where's my present?"
Solo laughed and took a small box from his shirt pocket. It was about five inches in height and two inches in width and length. It was wrapped with bright red paper with a colorful birthday cakes pattern. "Here, open it when you are in your room, okay?"
Mill took the gift and turned it around in his palm.
"Careful, it's fragile, " warned Solo.
"What is this?" Mill sniffed at the gift. "Smell sweet, like flowers."
Solo grinned. "You'll see when you open it."
Mill made to tear the gift open but Solo slapped his hand away. "I said to open it in your room. You are always impatient when it comes to your presents."
"Why should I open it there?"
Solo just smiled slyly. "You'll see."
"I'm starting to hate that answer."
"You need to learn patience," Solo grinned. "C'mon, let's try the snacks over at that table."
"You go there first. I want to put your present somewhere safe."
"I'll accompany you," Solo smiled. "You can tell me on the way what you want for your birthday next year."
"You said it wouldn't be a challenge?"
"It's better to have a safety net, just in case I fail to meet the challenge next year."
"You are just lazy," Mill said mockingly then went to give the fragile gift to his mother for safekeeping. The giver of the fragile present took off after him, protesting about his laziness.
Some guests, invited by his aunts, would see a Peacecraft heir crossing the ballroom gracefully with his close acquaintance. However, Mill's close family and friends saw what he really was. A fifteen year old boy who was eager for his grand birthday party.
"I don't see the birthday cake anywhere," Solo pointed out when the birthday party was well underway.
Mill smiled. "Midii said she would take care of it as her birthday present."
Meiran snorted. "She said she would make the cake herself."
"Well, I feel safe to eat the cake then," Marimeia drawled.
"Are you implying my cooking isn't safe?" Meiran put her hands on her hips. "I just made a mistake that one time between salt and sugar...."
Mill let his friends bicker, feeling very happy with his current situation.
It wasn't long until Midii came in. The ballroom gradually became quiet as its occupants noticed the big structure behind the blond girl. Mill blinked his eyes in disbelief at his birthday cake.
Midii cleared her throat, drawing attention to her.
"My name is Midii Winner. I hope you all don't mind me telling a story about Mill. One of my early memories was Mill's fifth birthday party. He unreservedly shared with us a big cake as tall as us. We were very happy with the cake but our parents were the opposite." Midii smiled fondly. Several guests looked puzzled while some certain guests, who knew the rest of her tale, grinned.
"I forgot to tell you that the cake was made by Solo here." Midi gestured to Solo who looked torn between strangling her and hiding behind Mill. "Considering he was also five years old at the time, I guess we can't blame him for giving Mill a cake made of mud."
Laughter filled the spacious room as the guests made the connection between angry parents and a mud cake. Midii gave it a few moments before raising her hand for silence. "Ten years from that day, I stand here to rectify that horrible situation."
"Horrible my ass, you enjoyed every moment of mud cake fight," muttered Meiran.
Midii chose not to hear that comment and went on with her speech. "Therefore, I present this giant cake, twice Milliard's height, as my birthday present to Milliard Marquise. I guarantee it's safe to be eaten and no mud included in its making."
Laughter rang out again while Midii gestured toward a big man which was, upon Mill's double take, Rashid in black suit. The big man pushed the big structure to the center of the room then retreated to a corner.
Mill studied his birthday cake. It was placed on a low round table and really twice as tall as him. It was thankfully not too wide. He would say it was like a thin tower, its doors were replaced with decoration in the shape of a yellow pastel colored flower. Its base was covered with chocolate coating and yellow transparent gel crisscrossing it here and there. Judging from its smell, Mill was sure it was lemon jam. Midii really knew his favorite.
Mill gave Midii a genuine smile and saw her smiling back in relief and joy.
"Happy Birthday, Milliard." Midii ended her tale with a bow then approached Mill.
"Midii o korosu."
Mill was amused to hear Solo's whisper from behind his back where his best friend was hiding. He stepped forward and hugged Midii. "Thanks for the cake, Midii. But you need not to be so formal, you know."
Midii hugged him back then took a step back, grinning at him. "I need to maintain my cover as an elegant Winner daughter. If certain guests here see how well behaved I am, they will feel more reassured to make a deal with my dad."
"And make the Maxwell heir a clown." Solo glared half heartedly at her.
"You ARE a clown," Midii said dryly then took a step back. "No punching, jabbing, or elbowing for today. I have to be a well bred lady." She made a show of preening her clothes.
Solo lost his glare and fought not to smile. No one could stay mad at Midii, which was something she inherited from her dad, Quatre. Mill watched his friend try to look angry.
"You owe me for this," announced Solo.
"Yes, yes," Midii said dismissively then took Mill's arm. "Now let's cut the cake, birthday boy."
Mill followed readily, Solo, Meiran, and Marimeia one step behind him. He accepted the knife from Midii and looked up at the cake.
"How am I going to reach the top?"
"You won't. Just start cutting from here, " Midii pointed at the cake part at the same height as Mill's chest, "to the bottom. Rashid will help you cut the upper parts."
"Yes, your majesty, " Mill grinned and took his place before the cake. He was about to cut his cake when a commotion arose.
"What the...? " Mill heard his mother exclaim. "Oh no! Gillian, no!"
Mill turned toward the commotion, just in time to see a little boy in messed up suit appear from between a guest's legs. His eyes were full of tears as he ran blindly toward where Mill was standing. Gillian, Mill's hellion sister, was right behind the boy, chasing after him.
"Take it back, loser!" Gillian shouted angrily.
"Oh no, " Midii said in horror. "Don't come here..."
Gillian chose that moment to tackle the boy. Mill had a few seconds to note that his sister surely had a talent for football before the said sister, together with the tackled boy, bumped into the round table that hosted the tall birthday cake.
"My cake!!" Midii let out a screech as the impact caused the cake to wobble dangerously.
"Quick, steady the table!" Marimeia snapped the order.
Since the M-five were the only ones near the cake, all five of them rounded on the table and held onto it. The table thankfully stayed in place.
It was not the same case with the cake though. It was way taller than it was wider. Added with the gravity and the swinging force, it couldn't maintain its height.
Simple to say, it broke in half.
Screams, exclamations, and warnings reverberated in the ball room. Then it became silent.
There, in the center of fiasco, stood a lump that had been the upper part of the cake. In the lump, stood two pillars and two shorter ones, all covered in the cake cream. The two taller pillars were Mill and Solo. The shorter ones were Gillian and the boy she had tackled.
The upper part of the cake had chosen to fall on Mill's and Solo's side of the table.
No one knew what to say. The guests were all staring at the debacle, not knowing what to do. Should they laugh or should they offer sympathy?
Noin looked ready to have a breakdown while Zechs covered his eyes in resignation. Midii, spared from the falling cake, was mourning over her cake's destruction. Meiran and Marimeia, who had also been spared, were torn between giggling and rescuing their friends. The rest of the guests still didn't know how to react.
Gillian had already forgotten about the boy. She was happily helping herself to the cake all around her. The boy stared at his attacker for a few seconds before the temptation was too great. He then too followed Gillian, helping himself to the cake.
It was Mill who finally broke the silence.
The blonde boy wiped the ruined cake away from his eyes then laughed out loud.
"Why are you laughing, baka?" Solo snapped as he futilely tried to get rid of the cake.
Mill grinned. "Mud cake or real cake, we still ended up the same. Wearing it all over us."
"Well, you ended up the same, " Meiran grinned smugly. "We manage to stay clean this time."
"I can remedy that." After saying those words, Mill scooped a handful of the cake and quickly threw it toward Meiran. It landed right on Meiran's chest.
"Strike!" Mill crowed.
"My dress!! You will pay for this, blondie!!" Meiran's war shout rang loudly as the black haired girl ripped the still standing part of cake from the table. She then threw it to Mill.
Mill dodged the missile laughingly. "Cake fight!" He declared then attacked Meiran with another scoop of the cake.
Being the only adult among M-five, Marimeia had quickly removed herself from the battle.
"My cake! My grand creation!" Midii, however, was still mourning the loss of her cake.
Until a cake made projectile landed on the back of her head, that is.
"My hair!!" Cake forgotten, she turned around furiously and spotted the culprit. It was in the form of a grinning Solo.
"Stop moaning over the cake, Midii," Solo told her. "Join me over here!"
"You are so childish. I won't join you in this immature game." Midii was proud to say those words calmly while she inwardly seethed over her ruined hair. She turned her back on Solo and was determined to walk away from the fight.
Out of reflex, Midii glanced over her shoulder.
And received a face full of cake.
"We are still teenagers. We are allowed to be childish," Solo laughed then bounced away.
Midii tried to count until ten, but before she managed to reach the fifth count, a stray cake lump from Meiran's and Mill's direction, hit her.
It was the last straw for her.
With a loud roar, the Winner daughter shed her elegance and joined the battle field.
Watching the four of them having fun, the other children didn't want to be left out. Some joined in voluntarily and some joined in rage because they were being hit by stray cake bullets.
The adults, knowing better than to try stopping their children, had retreated to the second floor and watched their children's antics from the balcony.
Solo's parents and Mill's aunts had already taken up residence on the second balcony since the start of the party. Duo was looking at the bemoaning Relena in amusement. "Isn't it a nice party, dear Relena?"
Dorothy, who was trying to console her spouse, glared at Duo. "Don't start."
Duo grinned, unrepentant. He didn't say anything though, aware of the warning jab from his pregnant spouse next to him.
"It's totally ruined," bemoaned Relena.
Quatre and Trowa had stood on the other side of Dorothy. The blond man looked at Relena in sympathy. "It's not totally ruined." At Relena's disbelieving look, Quatre gestured downstairs. "Our children are having fun, are they?"
"A certain parent is also having fun " Trowa commented. He then pointed at the balcony across them. Wufei was occupying it. The Chinese man was cheering on his daughter, oblivious of the glare he received from his wife.
Duo couldn't help but chuckle. "Wufei is no doubt in his element. He detests a formal party after all." All of sudden, Duo pointed down and shouted. "Watch out behind you, Solo!"
The others around could only watch the long haired man in exasperation.
All in all, it had been a very memorable birthday party for Milliard Marquise.
18th of September, AC212
Mill grunted and rolled in his bed, getting away from the blaring sound.
BEEP BEEP BEEP
Another grunt and Mill buried his head beneath his pillow.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
"Alright, alright, " Mill groaned and reached for the videophone remote blindly. He needed almost a minute to locate the remote which he then used to turn on his videophone. The equipment was located across from his bed where it showed the caller.
"Morning kiddo, " Duo grinned on the screen, looking very pleased with himself.
"Morning, uncle, " Mill glared sleepily at the cheery adult. "Any particular reason for this early call?"
"I'm sending you something to read." A hand suddenly appeared and tugged Duo's bound hair. "Ouch, I'm coming, I'm coming. Sorry kid, gotta go. His highness demands his omelets. Ouch, no need for the violence, Heero."
With that, Duo stepped away from the screen, leaving Mill befuddled. Still half awake, Mill had quickly forgotten about what his uncle Duo was saying. He turned around, planning to continue his sleep, but a loud ping from the vidphone distracted him. He turned back to the screen to see what it was and caught the bold familiar letters of a certain online newspaper.
EXTRAORDINARY BIRTHDAY PARTY OF PEACECRAFT'S HEIR.
Below the big letters was a picture of him and his friends having the cake fight.
Mill groaned and turned off the screen, not wanting to read the article. He was on the front page of the news! How humiliating! Mill buried his head beneath his pillow.
His nose caught an unusual but sweet smell. Remembering about last night, Mill glanced at his nightstand. He smiled upon seeing his birthday present perched on it. Last night, when it was all over and they had returned to their house, Mill had retrieved Solo's gift from his mother. He eagerly settled in his room, in the very bed he was sleeping in at the moment, and opened the present.
Solo's present turned out to be a bottle of cologne. The bottle was made of violet colored glass and contained light violet liquid.
Mill smiled as he remembered the small card tucked inside the cologne's box. He had committed the content in his memory. By itself, the cologne was a common gift for him. The card, however, had made it priceless. He had sprayed a little of the cologne on his bed before he went to sleep last night.
This morning, surrounded by the cologne and remembering the content of the card, Mill was too happy to feel humiliated with the article. Oh well, there was time later to be totally humiliated, Mill told himself and continued his sleep. The sweet distinctive smell of the cologne followed him into his dream.
On his nightstand, next to the cologne bottle was a small, light purple card. It was laid open, revealing Solo's neat handwriting.
Yo, Mill. Mum suggested flowers for you. But
I don't think you can keep a mere cactus alive,
so I thought this present would suit you better.
Iris is the main essence of this cologne. It
signifies what a great deal your friendship means
to me. I hope you also found mine as much.
Happy Birthday, Mill.
Your best friend,