Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Rune Lake, New Berengaria, Rune Lake High School

Adell, Jaze, Mitani, Toma and Artemis all remained at the table staring at Kaoru, still in the clutches of Johanna. Artemis was the only one smiling, still sitting cross-legged on the table while the others simply stared open-mouthed.

Johanna: We're leaving. Come, new boyfriend!

Johanna removed one hand from Kaoru's shirt. With the other, she yanked, pulling him away towards the sidewalk.

Kaoru: My name is Kaoru, by the way.

Johanna kept tugging Kaoru along, taking little notice.

Johanna: Whatever...

Artemis: Good luck! Don't forget the most important rule of all! Never, ever feed her after midnight!

Johanna: FREAK!!!

Artemis: Mwa ha ha ha ha!

They watched as Johanna dragged Kaoru towards the sidewalk and down the street. By the time they were out of sight, Kaoru appeared to resign himself to his fate and followed along willingly.

Toma: Strange life you have here.

Jaze: It was perfectly normal until Adell showed up.

Adell: Hey!

Jaze stood. As he got up, Toma followed suit.

Jaze: We should go now if we're going to meet his dad and then get to my parents' house for dinner. You three have fun!

Mitani: Yes, enjoy yourselves and leave us here with this crazy little stain.

Jaze: Yup, that's the plan!

Artemis looked back and forth between Mitani and Jaze with a look of genuine confusion on his face.

Artemis: Who are you talking about?

Tri-Rivers, New Berengaria, Tokkastrian Embassy

Jaze got more and more apprehensive during the monorail ride. As they got closer and closer to their destination, a few tokki got on the train, drawing stares from other riders. Jaze clutched Toma's arm tightly as he watched them but he couldn't help being fascinated at the same time. Some tokki looked much like Toma: generally human-like in appearance save for the big ears and tail. But others were positively furry and had more rabbit-like noses. All, at least, were dressed much the same, as though they were on their way to a rock concert.

Jaze: Wow, there really are a lot of different types of tokki, aren't there?

Toma: If you mean the fuzzy ones, yeah. I'm still not used to humans yet. They all look so similar.

The train came to a stop at the station, next to one of the embassy towers.

Together, they walked towards the entrance. Now it was Jaze who was attracting stares from the other tokki. Most had never seen a nekomi or a nekohuman before, since the majority of them lived one of New Carpathia's other planets.

Toma: Don't worry. They're harmless. Dad's place is on the top floor.

Jaze continued to clutch Toma's arm as they walked through the lobby. Jaze stared straight ahead, trying to pretend that he was somewhere else. They approached the receptionist's desk near the elevators.

Receptionist: Why hello, Toma! You're early today, aren't you? And you have a guest!

Toma: Hi, Cassidy. This is Jaze. I'm going to introduce him to Dad.

Cassidy leaned forward and scoped Jaze out from top to bottom. She reached out and tried to pinch his ears, but Jaze immediately cowered behind Toma when she did.

Cassidy: How cute! He's so shy! Well, I'm sure your father will be delighted to meet him. You go on ahead to the express elevator. I'll get the doors for you.

Cassidy reached down and pushed a button. A pair of elevator doors behind Cassidy opened. Upon seeing that it was empty, Jaze hurried in, dragging Toma along with him. Before the doors closed, he did his best to smile at Cassidy.

Jaze: Nice meeting you!

The ride up was swift owing to not having a need to stop. Jaze was stunned at what he saw when he reached top. Toma said that his home was on the top floor, but that wasn't entirely true. It was the top three floors.

It was beyond luxurious. The elevator doors opened to a vast lobby area large enough to host many guests. The floor was covered in thick, plush carpet with wide, colorful stripes. Each side of the room was decorated in a different aesthetic. The left side was more Carpathian, with plush, luxurious chairs with simple curves and designs along with lovely stone and glass coffee tables. The right side was Tokkastrian. There was little in the way of furniture, aside from some low tables. Surrounding those tables were pillowy cushions, each with its own unique and colorful design. Branching off from the lobby were long stretches of hallway serviced many doors.

Jaze didn't have much time to admire the decor. Kradik, Toma's father, emerged from one of the hallways in front of them smiling profusely. Jaze felt a bit more comfortable now. Though Kradik was another unfamiliar rabbit, at least he wasn't surrounded by them anymore.

Kradik: Well! You must be Jaze! It's great to meet you. Toma speaks of you quite often!

Out of habit, Kradik leaned forward towards Jaze's face. Jaze knew what was coming next and immediately, without thinking, slinked backwards, his ears folded behind his head as though hiding.

Kradik: Ah, indeed. Probably not the time for traditional greetings, yes? I can see you're nervous.

Jaze: I guess so. Sorry about that. I can't help myself.

Kradik: No worries! You did well just to come here. You are a brave boy, aren't you? I do wonder where that old myth with tokki as demons came from. You're the first nekomi, aside from Lord Lynx, to come visit me!

Jaze smiled a little. In spite of himself, he found that he liked Kradik. His carefree attitude was very comforting.

Kradik: I'm proud of you Toma! You picked a good one!

Toma: Thanks, Dad.

Kradik stepped forward and put his hand on Toma's shoulder.

Kradik: You two have already had sex, right?

Toma: Every night.

Kradik beamed with delight. Jaze's mouth flopped open like a rusty hangar door with broken hinges.

Kradik: Great! Good man. Glad to hear it. Now would you like something to drink? Tea, perhaps? I have some Carpathian drinks here too, like caffiene-free soda.

Toma: Tea's fine. Jaze?

Jaze: Um... Sure. Tea. Tea sounds good.

Kradik: Marvelous! First, let me take you to a more comfortable room and then I'll get the drinks. Follow me this way.

Kradik strolled merrily off down the hall with Toma and Jaze following him. Jaze, still stunned by the suddenness and awkwardness of the question, turned to Toma and whispered in his ear.

Jaze: But we haven't done anything yet.

Toma: Oh, I know. But don't tell that to Dad. He'd disown me.

Jaze: Well, if my parents ask anything like that, and they won't, for the love of Ra, say no!

Kradik lead them to a much smaller room, decorated similarly to the lobby. There was space for a table and eight more uniquely designed cushions. Toma picked a cushion and sat down immediately.

Kradik: Have a seat.

Jaze picked a cushion and sat. It was as plush and soft as it looked. To his surprise, Kradik didn't sit right away. Instead, he went to what appeared to be a minibar and took three cups from a cabinet. After that, he opened a canister and started scooping tea leaves into the cups.

Jaze: Do you need some help with that?

Kradik paused, unsure of what to say. He turned towards Jaze and thought for a moment.

Kradik: Oh, you surprised me. Thank you for asking, but no. For us, it's considered rather impolite for anyone other than the host to make and serve drinks.

Jaze's ears drooped as he looked down at the table. Kradik started running water into a teapot.

Jaze: I'm sorry.

Preoccupied with feeling embarrassed, Jaze wasn't expecting Toma to wrap his hands around Jaze's arm. Jaze looked at him just in time to see Toma lean his head on Jaze's shoulder with a smile on his face. Kradik placed the teapot of water on its base and turned it on. Almost immediately, he could hear the sound of the water heating up.

Kradik: Aren't you cute. Don't worry. It's my fault, really. I'm used to dealing with diplomats who already know these sorts of things.

With Kradik's good nature and Toma's touch, Jaze felt more relaxed right away.

Kradik: I'm glad you and Toma met. I think you're the first friend he's ever had. Bringing you here was a good idea after all, wasn't it, Toma?

Toma: You forgot about Kazma.

Kradik: Ah, true. Still, it was a good idea, right?

Toma: Yeah, yeah. You were right.

At that moment, the water in the teapot started to boil. Kradik took it from its base and poured the hot water into the cups. He took two and placed them in front of Jaze and Toma. After retrieving his own cup, he took a seat on one of the cushions.

Kradik took a keen interest in Jaze, asking him many questions, all the while maintaining his cheerful demeanor. It was easy to see, Jaze thought, that such a person could become an ambassador. They spoke for several hours.

As dinnertime approached, it was time for them to take their leave and go to Jaze's house. He was starting to feel guilty about earlier gleeful anticipation of scaring the hell out of his own father.

However, something else occupied his mind. Jaze waited until they were on a less-utilized subway line and they had a bit of privacy before he asked Toma about something Kradik asked earlier.

Jaze: Why did your dad ask you if we've had sex before?

Toma: Oh right. Sorry, I forgot to warn you about that. Dad is good in dealing with other cultures, but he does forget things sometimes.

Jaze: So... I don't know what to say. There's a lot about tokki I don't know, I think.

Toma: Well, that's true, but I know that it's different here. I'm fine to wait until you're ready.

Jaze didn't say any more. All this talk on the subject made him more than ready, but now was not the time to say so. He had dinner with his parents to get through first. He decided he'd wait until they were alone again to mention it.

Jaze's house was just a short walk from the subway station, a distinctly old-fashioned, stately home on the banks of the lake.

Toma: This is different.

Jaze: My great-great grandfather built it. I've heard that he was a bit unusual. That would explain my mother. I guess I should warn you right now. She's likely to do something strange tonight, like try to tie your ears into a bow or something.

Toma: I guess parents being embarrassing is pretty much universal.

Jaze: Heh.

Jaze opened the front door and walked inside with Toma behind him. The old, wooden floors creaked as they stepped on through on the ornate rug. Ahead of them was a set of steep, wooden stairs. The dining room on the left was already set, with ornate, flowery china set atop the old, delicately carved table.

Jaze: Not only the house, but most of the furniture and tableware is from my great-great grandfather too. There's not much in here that's new.

They heard a voice calling from behind the stairs. It was Elektra, Jaze's mother.

Elektra: Is that you, Jaze? Dinner will be ready soon! Plenty of vegetarian, just like you asked!

Elektra emerged from the kitchen behind the stairs.

Elektra: Hello Jaze! Right on time. Oh, you must be Toma!

Elektra suddenly stopped and gasped, holding both of her hands in front of her mouth.

Elektra: Oh my goodness gracious, don't you just have the prettiest ears! I simply must get my ribbons!

Though perhaps futile, Jaze tried to implore his mother not retrieve her ribbons.

Jaze: Mom, that isn't really necessary.

Elektra: Nonsense, sweetie. It will only take a minute.

Elektra peered around the corner, looking past the dining room, and called out.

Elektra: Dear! Jaze is here!

She turned back to Jaze and Toma.

Elektra: I'm sure he'll be along soon.

Very soon, it turned out. Tier, Jaze's father, came through the doorway at the back of the dining room just as Elektra trotted merrily towards the back of the house. Tier had on his best smile for a good first impression as he rounded the dining room table. Suddenly, he stopped so abruptly everyone could hear his claws scrape against the oriental rug. His expression instantly turned to one of shock.

Tier: RABBIT!!!

And he dove behind the table. Jaze smiled guiltily as his mother returned carrying a veritable rainbow of ribbons. From behind the table, Jaze's father slowly emerged. Little more could be seen of him but a pair of wide eyes and two trembly ears.

Elektra put her hands on her hips, still clutching the ribbons as they swayed rapidly from the sudden movement.

Elektra: Now honey, stop being silly. Come on over here and say hello!

Toma smiled and whispered into Jaze's ears.

Toma: I like your parents.

Jaze: This... is going to be a long night.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city images from SimCity 4.

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