He’d never been good at the whole birthday thing.
After all, it wasn’t as if he had much of a scope of reference when it came to them - Mendez hadn’t exactly been the paternal type, and their birthdays had often gone unnoticed. Looking back on the number of birthdays that had come and gone through the course of their relationship, John wondered briefly why he hadn’t just broken down and asked Adrian every time what he’d wanted. Maybe it was out of stubborn pride, or maybe it was out of something akin to embarrassment at the fact that he’d have been all but admitting to not understanding such a simple, seemingly universal concept.
He’d given his share of bad presents, he wagered. Simple and generic cards, a few ordered items that had always garnered him the same gentle, bemused tone of voice that he’d come to associate with Adrian’s adoration of his tendency to be somewhat awkward in social situations. A few military teddy bears that still held places in Adrian’s quarters, but that he wagered must have been embarrassing to receive. Adrian would never refuse anything from him, nor would he ever look down on it - but all the same, John couldn’t help but feel like he was somehow missing the mark with his gifts and his attempts to show his affections on the other mans’ birthday.
So this year, he’d finally broken down, and found himself some recommendations from the unlikely sources of the IVs. And while no small number had joked with him about strippers and lap dances, the ones that had stuck out to him were the simple ones.
Dinner with their loved ones.
A nice back rub and a good bottle of liquor.
Time spent with their loved ones and no one else.
It still felt odd to dress down, after so long in armor, but the sight of him dressed in a simple A-shirt and BDU pants always seemed to make Adrian smile more. It was a pleasant change, he wagered, for the other man to see him trying to return to something akin to normalcy. Besides, while others in the hallways may have paused to stare briefly at his scars, their glances were fleeting, and Adrian certainly never minded them. If anything, the redhead seemed to enjoy sitting beside him, occasionally tracing slightly calloused fingertips over the strange linear patterns that the augmentations had left him. And in the end, he was beginning to find that the discomfort of their stares paled in comparison to the simple joy of Adrian’s delighted smiles and attentions.
The Chief paused briefly outside the door to Adrian’s quarters, shifting the bag and bottle he was carrying briefly in his arms before plucking a card from the bag and tucking it between the door and the doorframe carefully. After ensuring it was snugly in place and unlikely to fall, the Chief continued on his way, shifting the bottle of whiskey he carried into his free hand as he balanced their dinner in it’s bag, purchased at one of the restaurants on the recreational decks that he’d heard Adrian mention enjoying once, in the other hand. It wouldn’t do to drop anything, and John was enough of a perfectionist not to want the impromptu surprise spoiled in any way.
Maybe this year, he thought to himself as he set off towards the observation deck he’d decided on for their surprise dinner date, Maybe this year I’ll get it right.