Cats and Rabbits
Image by Atomic-Clover
Rune Lake, New Berengaria, Jaze's house
The backyard of Jaze's house was bustling with friends and family. In just two days, Jaze and Toma would be leaving for a month to visit Tokkastria.
It was fortunate that the weather was so perfect as it allowed their grill-out to go ahead as planned. Jaze's dad, Tier, was working the grill while everyone else was enjoying themselves on the beach, relaxing and chatting. Jaze frequently checked on his father to make sure the grilled vegetables would be suitable for Toma.
Jaze: Dad, you're making sure that none of the meat comes in contact with the vegetables, right?
Tier: Yes, for the hundreth time. I even got two different sets of tongs.
Tier held up his two sets of tongs. Still not quite satisfied, Jaze continued to keep an occasional eye on his father as he turned and made his way back to his family and friends on the beach. Everyone else appeared to be involved in some conversation or another, except for Adell, who was by himself lounging in a beach chair.
Jaze: Hey, how's the new boyfriend?
Adell: Him? Oh, he's not my boyfriend. Just a date.
Jaze: Still on the rebound? It's been over a month already.
Adell: Yeah, you could say that.
Both of them looked over at Adell's date, who was chatting with Jaze's mother and sister, both of whom were doing their best to be polite to him, but were having difficulty concealing their shock at his appearance.
Jaze: You know, I don't think I've ever seen anyone wearing so little clothing and yet so much leather and metal all at the same time.
Adell: Hee hee. Well, he's not for the long term. Anyway, how is Toma?
Jaze: He'll be fine. The addiction was caught in the early stages and he's nearly done with his medicine. I'll just have to keep an eye on him.
As they watched, the group with Jaze's mom, sister, and Adell's date broke up and Jaze's sister started making her way towards the two of them.
Natalya: Hi guys!
Jaze: Adell, have you met my sister, Natalya? She's going to University of Berengaria.
Adell: Yup, we met when I got here.
Jaze: Natalya has been teaching Toma and I how to dance.
Natalya: And they're doing very well too!
Toma: It's an interesting concept, couples dancing. Nobody does that on Tokkastria.
Everyone turned around to see Toma coming up behind them. He reached up and scratched Jaze behind his ears before wrapping his arms around him.
Toma: It's fun, actually.
Natalya: I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Adell: I don't know how you two managed to convince the school to give you time off to go to Tokkastria for a "cultural exchange" but it must have been the most impressive load of bullshit ever dished out to a principal.
Jaze grinned devilishly.
Jaze: It helps that it wasn't all entirely untrue.
Everyone looked towards the water to see Artemis splashing his way towards them. Despite being waist-deep in the water, he moved surprisingly quickly, the water providing almost no resistance against his tiny frame.
Adell: I don't see why you had to invite him to the party.
Jaze: Oh, he's just all bark, you know. Besides, most nekomi are on Andrast and it's nice to have another one around.
Artemis finally managed to make his way out of the water. He sprinted towards the group and put his dripping wet arm around Jaze.
Artemis: Jaze, you are a brave, brave man.
Jaze: Huh? What are you talking about?
Artemis: Mwa ha ha ha! Well, if you don't know, then I'm certainly not going to reveal the surprise!
Suddenly, Artemis sniffed the air and turned his head with a jerk.
Artemis: Oo! I smell corn chips!
And suddenly, he was gone. Before any of them had a chance to comment on how strange he was, the sand at their feet began to stir. They watched as a small, furry head popped up at their feet.
Ryuu: Is he gone?
Adell: He's gone.
Ryuu wriggled his way out of the sand and shook the grains out of his fur.
Ryuu: I always get the feeling that guy wants to dissect me.
Ryuu leapt into Jaze's arms and made himself comfortable, sand still falling out of his fur.
Ryuu: You seem tense.
Jaze: I am a little nervous. I've never been outside of Carpathia and this is my first time being on anyone's homeworld.
Ryuu: You've been on my homeworld!
Jaze: I suppose that's true but I never went to a dragon city or anything, so it didn't feel like it.
Toma: I'm confused. Isn't this your homeworld?
Jaze: Well, I was born here, but this is neither the human nor nekomi homeworld. Humans are originally from Earth and it's technologically backward, nasty, polluted place full of greedy, selfish people.
Adell: What about Andrast? I thought that was the nekomi homeworld.
Jaze: The truth about that is that we don't know where the nekomi homeworld is. We don't remember why we left either. When the nekomi came to Andrast, long ago, all the computers were erased and repurposed. All records from that time were lost.
Adell: Oh, a mystery. I wonder if we'll ever solve it.
Jaze: I doubt it. Not in our lifetimes, anyway.
They were interrupted by a sound that Jaze was not looking forward to hearing. It wasn't difficult to hear the uneven sound of the engine of the battered, red sports car pull up into the driveway. Jaze's ears drooped down on the sides of his head as they heard the door open and slam shut with a clatter.
Jaze: Oh god, that's my older brother, Dominic. I was not looking forward to this.
As though on cue, Jaze's brother strutted up from around the side of the house and approached them with all the macho swagger he could muster. Though Jaze hadn't seen him in many months, nothing had changed. Same battered car. Same old clothes. Same ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips. Same smell of motor oil and burned cordite detectable from surprising distances. The only thing different was the eye-patch. Jaze could only surmise that he had been in yet another bar fight.
Dominic: Hey there, little bro.
Dominic reached up and ruffled the top of Jaze's head with his grimy, oily hand. Jaze squirmed away from him.
Dominic: And this must be the bunny boyfriend.
Dominic began to reach out and do the same to Toma as he did to Jaze.
Toma: Touch me and die.
Dominic stopped dead and adopted a menacing sneer at the same time.
Dominic: What did you say to me?!?
Jaze jumped between Toma and Dominic and started gently pushing Toma away.
Jaze: Ha ha! He was just kidding! Really! Ha ha! Let's go, Toma!
Ryuu jumped out of Jaze's arms and into Adell's. Jaze tugged Toma away from his brother, while the both of them maintained malicious eye contact with each other. As they moved away, they could hear Natalya starting to argue with Dominic.
Natalya: Now listen to me. You be nice to Jaze or I'll knock you right on your tail!
Jaze turned his attention to Toma.
Jaze: Toma, it's not a good idea to talk like that to my brother.
Toma: I don't like him.
Jaze: Neither do I, but still...
Jaze was interrupted by a voice behind him.
Kaoru: Hi Jaze... Oh, Dominic is here, I see.
Kaoru: Anyway, your mom sent me to fetch you. She's in the house.
Jaze turned his attention back to Toma.
Jaze: I'll be back in a minute. Now, promise me you'll stay away from my brother. He won't think twice about hitting you.
Toma: Alright, I promise. For you.
Jaze gave his boyfriend a quick kiss and turned towards the house.
Jaze trotted up the lawn to the back door. Jaze opened the door and went inside and found his mother right away, leaning up against the wet bar holding a paper bag.
Elektra: Ah, good. I wanted to have a minute alone with you and this might be the last chance before you leave.
Jaze: It's alright. What's in the bag?
Elektra: We'll get to that in a minute. It's just that... well, you know, you and your boyfriend are going away for a month. Together. Alone. And... well, it's only natural that certain urges will happen...
Jaze's eyes widened. If his mother was bringing up the topic he thought she was, his only hope was to find someplace to flee if he couldn't deflect her.
Jaze: Mom! I'm 19 years old! I already know how... that... works!
Elektra: I know, dear.
Jaze was confused. If she knew that, then why did she call him in there?
Elektra rooted around in the paper bag.
Elektra: I'm sorry, but I didn't ask you before I went to the store, so I just bought one of each. You can choose. I just wanted to make sure you had some protection for your long trip!
Elektra held up three small boxes.
Elektra: So, what size did you need? Regular, large, or titanic?
Jaze stared in horror. He was wrong. Fleeing wouldn't be enough. Now he wanted to crawl somewhere and die.
Toma: He'll take titanic
Jaze whipped around and was shocked to find Toma standing just inside the doorway.
Elektra: That's wonderful! Your father will be so proud!
Jaze whipped around again. This conversation was getting worse and worse by the second.
Jaze: Mom! You're not going to tell Dad about this!
Elektra didn't listen and instead rooted around in the paper bag once again and pulled out four more boxes.
Elektra: So, do you want apple, banana, cherry, or grape?
Toma: How about all four?
Jaze: Mom! I...
Jaze suddenly stopped and his ears perked up on the sides of his head.
Jaze: They come in flavors?
All city images from SimCity 4.