Emo Cat

Valefor, Tokkastria, Skypad Gladad

Jaze was content to simply cuddle on the fluffy couch next to Toma. It was their third day in since they arrived and he was enjoying spending time inside without having to worry about being gawked at by everyone they passed on the street. Toma watched holovision with his arm draped around Jaze's shoulder. Jaze had already given up trying to understand Tokkastrian dramas. He was hesitant to conclude that tokki generally had short attention spans, but the impression was becoming inescapable watching the general public get excited over just about any shiny object that crossed their path and the hectic pace which seemed to accompany all holovision programming.

Just when Jaze was starting to think he was forgetting something, the doorbell rang.

Toma: Finally. Wouldn't kill him to show up on time for a change.

Toma stood up and went to the door just as Jaze realized what he was forgetting.

Jaze: Oh, right. You said your friend is stopping by, right? What's his name again?

Toma reached for the door handle.

Toma: Kazma.

Toma pushed the handle and opened the door as Jaze hastily switched on his universal translator.

Kazma: Toma!

Kazma embraced Toma right away and they kissed. Though it was not a deep kiss, Jaze still couldn't help but feel a momentary twinge of jealousy, but it soon passed. Kazma turned his sights on him but stopped approaching while he was still at a comfortable distance. Toma did a good job, it seemed, of making sure those he knew were aware that Jaze wasn't entirely comfortable with the usual Tokkastrian greeting.

Kazma: Jaze, right? You have the cutest little ears I've ever seen! Can I touch them?

He was polite, at least, Jaze thought. He was quite used to his ears getting pinched by strangers, but it was a bit rare that anyone actually asked permission before doing so.

Jaze: Sure.

Jaze had no idea what to expect. He'd been pinched so many times he could very easily tell the types of pinches, from the simply playful to the sleazy. He was relieved to find that when Kazma pinched his ears, he was genuinely curious in a simple, playful sort of way.

Kazma: Now I understand what the fuss is about. Pity I can't book a starliner to New Berengaria. Everything's full now for the next several months.

Toma: No surprise there.

Jaze: Full?

Kazma: You don't know?

Jaze: Know what?

Kazma: Ever since the media circus when you arrived, there's been a rush to book passage to New Carpathia for vacation.

Jaze was surprised and at the same time, he could also see a massive hole in this particular trend.

Jaze: Well, if you want to meet people like me, there are a lot more on Andrast than New Berengaria. There are actually very few of us where I'm from.

Kazma pitched a devious grin as one would upon receiving inside information.

Kazma: Really? Ha! Promise you won't tell anyone? At least, not until I get my ticket?

Jaze cringed, wondering what chaos he had just created. He could only imagine hoards of tokki wandering the streets of Starlight City on Andrast with nekomi fleeing in every direction. He had no problem agreeing to the promise. It wasn't the sort of information that he had any intention of broadcasting.

Jaze: Don't worry.

Kazma turned his attention back to Toma.

Kazma: It's been a long time, Toma. You must like New Berengaria. You seem cheerier than usual.

Kazma came too close to Toma for Jaze's comfort. Unfortunately for Jaze, things were about to get worse. Kazma kept inching closer to Toma and finally reached out and began rubbing his hand up his thigh. Jaze, in stunned disbelief, couldn't find it within him to make coherent words and instead babbled nonsense at the two of them.

Jaze: Uh... guh... buh...

Toma: Jaze, remember what I told you about what happens when two old friends who haven't seen each other in a long time finally meet again?

It took a moment for Jaze to remember. For the last several days, Toma had been filling his mind up with the various do's and don't's of Tokkastria and it was difficult to keep everything straight. However, it didn't take him long to recall the conversation since the context made it abundantly clear what he was talking about anyway.

Jaze: Oh... uh... right... I forgot all about that... Um... I'll just go for a walk then, alright?

Jaze started towards the door.

Kazma: You don't have to do that! I don't mind if he joins us. Don't you think that's a good idea, Toma?

Kazma looked to Toma for approval, but he was already shaking his head. Before either of them could say another word, Jaze hurried to the door. As he left, he turned back to them and smiled awkwardly.

Jaze: Back in a bit!

Jaze walked outside into the crisp, evening air and kept walking. He had intended to just have a seat at one of the chairs across the street, but he didn't want to stop walking. Eventually, he came to the elevator to the ground level.

It was a long ride in the elevator, as the skypad was at least two hundred floors tall. Thankfully, he thought, the large carriage was empty, owing to the late hour. When the doors opened, a gust of warm air hit him and he stepped out onto the street. He felt strange walking down the sidewalk by himself. It was his first time doing so on Tokkastria without Toma by his side.

There weren't many people or cars out. Nevertheless, Jaze seemed to be visible to everyone within a thousand feet as everyone stopped, pointed, and stared. As he crossed the avenue, Some of the cars slowed down as they passed him. He finally wandered into a vast park with well-tended brick trails criss-crossing in every imaginable direction.

Jaze found the small amphitheater to be mostly deserted and decided that it would be a good place to be alone. The only thing he could think about was how he could be so stupid as to imagine that this relationship could work. He'd been hopelessly optimistic to think he'd be able to make this bizarre situation work. He couldn't see how he could go through the rest of his life in a fit of jealousy. Not that it was Toma's fault, but perhaps, he thought, they were simply too culturally different to make this work. Jaze wondered if he could, perhaps, change over time and grow accustomed to the situation. What if he couldn't? Was it worth wasting the next several years with Toma on the chance that their relationship could work? A million thoughts and a million doubts raced through his head entertaining scenarios and options, some far more bizarre than others.

Lost in thought as he was, he eventually became entirely oblivious to the passage of time until he heard a familiar voice behind him.

Toma: There you are.

Before Jaze could say anything, Toma laid down next to where Jaze was sitting and put his head on his lap. Jaze grimaced at him in befuddlement at his uncharacteristic behavior as Toma smiled back up at him.

Jaze: You sure found me easily enough.

Toma: It wasn't hard really. Just ask anyone where the nekoboy went and they all point in this direction.

Jaze rolled his eyes. Yet another conversation about his fame was yet another thing he didn't want to think of right now.

Jaze: I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with your head on my lap like that.

Toma scooted slightly to the side, pressing his head even closer to Jaze's body.

Toma: You can't deny that you like it.

Toma was right. With Toma's head in that position, it would be impossible to deny. It was equally impossible to deny that Toma was acting strange. The only thing Jaze was sure of is that he was up to something, but to what, he could not guess.

Toma: Can you scratch behind my ears?

Jaze: Do what?

Toma: My ears could use a scratch.

Jaze thought for a moment before deciding to simply play along with Toma's madness if for no other reason than to just see where it was leading. He reached down and gently scratched behind Toma's ears.

Toma: Mmmmm... That's good.

Jaze kept quiet and kept scratching, wondering what was to come next.

Toma: I have decided that I'm only going to let you scratch behind my ears from now on.

Jaze continued to scratch as he pondered on what Toma just said. There must be some significance to this, he thought and then he realized that wherever they went in Tokkastria, bunnies were constantly scratching behind each others' ears. For all intents and purposes, it was every bit as common as a handshake in Carpathia.

Jaze: That would make you a bit weird, wouldn't it?

Suddenly, Toma was no longer smiling.

Toma: I'm already weird. Do you remember that conversation we had after we met each other's parents? About tokki who stay with one partner for life?

Jaze: I think so. You said they were called "mono?"

Toma: That's right. If that's what I am, and I think I am, then I'd be weird anyway. It's important that we share something just between the two of us, right?

Jaze's doubts were starting to melt away like an ice cube in a warm skillet.

Jaze: Something for just us. Interesting idea. What about the sex between friends?

Toma: I could give that up, if you really want me to, but that would mean losing Kazma, who's the only real friend I've ever had. I'd be crossing a line that would be too much for any tokki.

Jaze didn't have to think long about that scenario.

Jaze: No, I don't think I could ask you to do that. An ear scratching ban is fine.

Toma reached into his pocket.

Toma: I bought you something.

Jaze held out the hand that wasn't scratching behind Toma's ears. Toma dropped something small into it. Jaze held it up to the light so he could see better. It was a silver ring encrusted with two pale green gemstones.

Toma: I've noticed that couples in Carpathia often give each other rings.

Jaze looked at the ring as he struggled to figure how how he could break the truth to Toma, eventually settling on a direct but gentle approach.

Jaze: Well, this is really nice, Toma. You're right that couples often give each other rings, but I hate to tell you this, but it's usually when one asks the other to get married or at the wedding ceremony.

Toma reached up to Jaze's hand again.

Toma: Oh, I'm sorry. I can take it back then.

Jaze pulled his hand away from Toma's.

Jaze: Actually... If it's alright with you, I can keep it as a gift. No enagement right now, okay?

Toma smiled again.

Toma:That sounds fine. Have you ever heard of the Tokki Reproduction Registry?

Jaze: I don't think so.

Toma: You know that male/female relationships are forbidden here, so if you want to have children, you have to get your name on the registry. The waiting list is usually about 5 years long, participants are drawn randomly, and then, if your name is drawn, you're tested for any genetic defects and paired with a female. I got on the list right before I came to New Berengaria. If you want to be on the list too, I'm sure Dad can pull some strings.

Jaze: But I'm not tokki. Is that okay?

Toma: I don't know. You'd probably be the first non-tokki on the list. You can try to get on the list though, if you're interested. You can change your mind later if you like. It's not unusual for that to happen.

Jaze: Well, I think I'd like to have a family someday, but still, I'll have to think about that. You know, between the ring and this stuff about the registry, I get the feeling that you understand more about Carpathian marriage than you say you do.

Toma: Oh, would this be related to the marriage thing too?

Jaze: The registry, no. But having kids, most definitely.

Jaze smiled in amusement. He couldn't tell if Toma was being coy or if he really did unwittingly create this coincidence, but either way, he found it cute.

Jaze: Is Kazma still at the house?

Toma: He's still there. After we finished, I asked him to wait while I came to fetch you.

Jaze: We shouldn't leave him up there all alone then. First though, I know we're going to be figuring out the rules of this relationship as we go along, so I'd like to point out this situation with Kazma and say that you are going to scrub yourself squeaky clean before any of your bits and pieces touch me again, alright?

Toma: Hee hee. Fair enough.

Toma sat up and was about to stand, but before he had a chance, Jaze put his hand on the back of Toma's head and pulled him in. For a long time, they kissed. Long enough for several late-night strollers to stop and take notice. When they finished, Jaze took the ring Toma gave him and slipped it on his finger. To his surprise, it was a perfect fit.

Jaze: Wow. How did you know my ring size?

Toma: I measured while you were sleeping.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city images from SimCity 4.

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