Mashed Potatoes and Family Reunions
Axel got more than he bargained for when he was told to stay over at his best friend Sora's house for the weekend. Just how the hell was he supposed to know that the kid was having a huge family reunion dinner on Saturday night? Akuroku.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. Also, I have nothing against James Blunt's You're Beautiful.
My parents were gonna be away for the weekend. They gave me explicit permission to stay over at my best friend's place from Friday through to Sunday. And so they dropped me off at Sora's place, along with a whole damn box of sea-salt ice cream as an endowment fee to the Leonhart family for taking me in for the weekend.
The Leonharts were a nice bunch.
Sora, my awesome pal that I befriended since the beginning of time (which would be somewhere in the middle of grade two), had always been there for me. He could be one crazy kid, but dude, he was awesome. And he owned a Playstation 3. That in itself was one of the many reasons why I came to be goooood friends with him. Sora also had a brother named Leon. Leon was five years his senior. Leon liked fur and leather. Leon was kind of a pretty boy. 'Nuff said.
Anyways, yeah, back to the sleepover. It was to my utmost displeasure to find out on Friday night from my effervescent little friend that there was going to be somewhat of a family reunion dinner the following evening that the Leonhart family traditionally hosted on a bi-annual basis.
Thanks for such a short notice, Sora you jerk. If I'd have known, I wouldn't have decided to bunk in with you and your folks for the weekend. Not that I have anything against your immediate family. I reckon Leon's pretty cool (when he isn't ignoring me) and Mr and Mrs Leonhart were the best parents ever. But… I really didn't think I'd be signing up for dinner with a bunch of weird-ass strangers.
If you didn't already know, I, Axel Onér, hotshot of the twenty-first century, totally hated/despised/loathed/etc family reunions. Especially since I wasn't exactly considered 'family' in the first place and knew no one but the hosts of said reunion.
And then, being the huge idiot like I usually was, I had to open my big mouth and tell Mr and Mrs Leonhart that I was going to help cook the dinner for them.
Way to go Axel, you fucking douche.
But hey, I felt bad for staying over at their place and not offer some of my help and expertise. I proposed that I'd make my famous speciality: honey roasted chocobo. Yeah, I can totally cook a mean roast. A mean chocobo roast. Or maybe I just liked the roasting part of it. Either way, I knew Laguna and Raine were gonna be hella busy all night so I was right in guessing that they were grateful for me offering to take some of the load off their hands.
So anyway, Saturday came, and guests started arriving in bunches at a time. And it was only like, four in the afternoon. I found myself mingling with over twenty strangers, all somehow related to Sora. Mind you, twenty was just a rough figure here. There were people still streaming through the front door.
"It's only gonna be a small reunion!" Sora had assured me the night before, voice like a child high on crack.
Small reunion my ass.
Yeah, so about that mean chocobo roast? I didn't think it'd be enough to feed fifty at a reunion dinner – yeah, that number seemed about right – no matter how fat the chocobo.
"I think I'll make lots of mashed potatoes too," I decided.
Yeah. I made one hell of a good mash.
Sora just laughed when I said so.
I think he was giddy with happiness that night. Almost drunk. He started introducing me to everyone he could lay his eyes on. He liked people, that kid. I could so tell.
He pulled me over to a group of ladies first.
"These are my aunts!" he chirruped gaily. I think I wanted to punch him.
I shook hands with a Yuna, a Rikku and a Paine. And then he dragged me over to his uncles. And then his cousins. Followed closely by some of his young nephews and nieces. Wow. He had one massively huge extended family. I forgot more than half their names as soon as they'd introduced themselves to me.
There were just too many goddamn people! Now don't get me wrong. I loved crowds. But these were Sora's relatives! They all knew each other and I knew none of them. I felt like the odd black sheep out.
Well, some were familiar on sight – but that could've been because I've probably just briefly glimpsed them at some point whenever I came 'round to hang out at Sora's.
Half and hour into the shindig and I was getting a slight headache from all the noise and merrymaking. I was mildly amazed that the house was able to accommodate the whole throng of people. But then again, the place was packed. I stuck with Sora the whole way through in case I somehow managed to lose him in the swarm.
And then this silver-haired kid (he had that kind of strong-and-sexy-and-I-know-it aura about him, to tell you the truth) came strutting (strutting?) up to Sora to say hi. And Sora visibly paled. And I knew something was up. Hey, if I didn't know better, I believed he'd been trying to avoid mister sexy strutface so far.
"Hey, Sor! It's been awhile."
"H-Hey…! Umm…" Sora's eyes darted around, looking anywhere but at the dude (who was probably, obviously, a relative). Then he grinned a huge-ass grin that was so fake it was almost painful to look at. His voice cracked almost manically when he opened his mouth again. "How you beeeeen, man?"
If Strutty Silver Hair was amused, he didn't show it. "Not too bad. You?"
"Eh… Yeah, uh, pretty okay! Umm…" he looked around hastily, spotted me, and grabbed me by the arm, "ThisisAxel!" he blurted.
I have never seen Sora so flustered in the entire time that I've known him. "He's stayingthenight. Withmeinmyroom." And then Sora realised what he'd just said and looked kinda mortified.
The silver-haired kid blinked and gave Sora a strange look. Maybe he took what Sora said the wrong way or something. I know I would've. Stupid Sora.
"Hi. You Sora's friend or something?" he said to me.
I nodded just as Sora shook his head vigorously. I raised an eyebrow at Sora and his headshake became a mechanical nod. His face looked almost robotic. I rolled my eyes. What was with him?
Then, Strutty introduced himself (since Sora totally somehow forgot to).
"I'm Riku, Sora's cousin. Well, second cousin. But whatever. We're still related." He extended his hand to me. "Any friend of Sora's is a friend of mine."
And I couldn't help but gape in Sora's direction as I took his second cousin's hand and shook it meekly.
Fifty five seconds later, I pulled Sora aside.
"That was Riku?" I almost hissed.
Sora just nodded. Words seemed to have deserted him.
"Like, the Riku? Riku, as in the guy you've been talking about all year that you've harboured the hugest crush on since… forever?" I was incredulous. "That Riku?"
Sora nodded again, turning crimson.
"And just when exactly were you going to let me in on the fact that he's… I dunno… your second cousin?"
"Thought you wouldn't want to know… the… details."
"It's aaall about the details, man. But yeah… no, you're totally right about that. I so didn't want to know."
"He is real pretty to look at…"
The way his voice sounded so wistful made me want to shudder.
"He's related to you! He's your second cousin!"
"My very, very hot second cousin," he corrected pointedly, a finger in the air as though clarifying it with me.
Okaaaaay. I stared at him for a full five seconds before shaking my head. "Dude. That is just wrong on so many different levels that I don't even want to list them."
Twenty minutes more of mingling later, some time after five, Sora grabbed me and pulled me into the kitchen.
"Yeah, you offered to cook dinner, remember? I'll help you. But we need food on the table by seven. Cool?"
I nodded, glad to be away from the crowd at last. Breathing a sigh, I got to work on my chocobo and mashed potatoes.
I liked Sora's kitchen. It was like, artistically designed or something. It looked ultra-modern. Very high-tech. Very state-of-the-art. Very cool. Well, actually, the Leonhart's entire abode was high-tech, state-of-the-art and cool. Duh, they were pretty well-off in the financial department.
No, I didn't befriend Sora just because he was rich.
So, we got to work in the vast kitchen. There was a divider/partition thingy that kinda split the kitchen in half. I got to working with the ovens and the sinks and the stoves behind the divider, whilst Sora worked on the other side, pouring drinks (bubbly champagne for the adults, iced cordial for the kids) and preparing finger food (caviar on crackers, sushi platters, prawn cocktails, crispy breadsticks, salami slices, cheese and dips, etc, etc).
We worked in silence. Okay, not exactly. We were occasionally speaking with each other through the big, square hole in the partition, or just calling out to each other in conversation. We had to raise our voices though. The chattering outside the kitchen was getting worse by the minute. Man, talk about noise pollution.
Ten minutes of preparing my awesome chocobo (stuffing it with stuffing, glazing it with honey and garnishing it with spices), I stuck the masterpiece in the pre-heated oven (which I probably set on a temperature that was a bit too high). Then finally got to work on the mashed potatoes.
"Sora?" I called, a few moments later.
"Just how many relatives do you actually have?"
There was silence for a few moments.
"Uh… I dunno. A lot?"
Thirty-five minutes passed. The chocobo should be ready aaaany time now.
The mash was more or less done. Buttered and salted to flawless perfection.
I went out to visit the loo to relieve myself. I was bursting. Even the downstairs bathroom of the Leonhart house had like, mini overhanging chandeliers for lights and a damn musical fountain for a sink. It was kinda extraordinary.
On the way back to the kitchen, I ran into some girly girl who was looking for Sora. She was dressed in all pink and had red hair that almost coulda given me a run for my money.
"Oh hello!" she said to me brightly with a beaming smile. "Are you a new addition to the family?" Her blue eyes twinkled like the fourth of july.
"Uh. No." Now, before you say anything, I really really couldn't think of a better come back.
She laughed. Giggled, actually. "Okay then. I'm Kairi!" she all but sang. "You must be Sora's friend! Or so I've heard. Axel, right?"
I nodded. Now who the heck told this crazy teenage schoolgirl my name?
"I'm actually looking for him," she twittered, looking almost over-enthusiastically eager to see this 'him'.
"Huh," I blinked, "Well, he's busy making dinner at the moment. But I think he'll be almost done."
Somewhere at the back of my mind, I was thinking 'whatthefuck. Sora has a like, some other relative who's in love with him this time. Wow. This family's so screwed up. Goddamn incestuous love triangles of doom!' Or something along those lines.
"Oh. Hmm, well, if you don't mind, tell him I'm looking for him. I'll be with Riku. Once he's done with preparing dinner, tell him to look for us!"
And she bounded off in a random direction.
Oh. Yeah. Strutty probably told her that I, that stupid redheaded Axel guy, was probably sleeping with Sora or something. I scratched my head, kinda confounded for a few moments. Then shook it uncaringly and returned back to the kitchen. I didn't want to involve myself in the love politics of people I didn't even know.
Upon stepping into the kitchen, the first thing I noticed was Sora. He was just lounging in a chair, sipping a coke and listening to his overloud iPod (I could hear it from where I stood by the doorway). Just where did he pull that out of? I didn't even know he had one of them.
Then I smelt something.
I cursed wildly and ran behind the divider just as Sora glanced at me, an eyebrow raised.
I dashed to the oven. My dumbass yellow chocobo was starting to char. It looked black for crying out loud!
I put on the mittens, yanked the oven door open and took the tray out. Yeah, the thing looked burnt alright. It was even smoking. Oh crap. Great, Axel… You're one amaaaaaazing fuck up. Sora and the Leonharts were going to kill me. I hastily tried to scrape off the burnt bits into the sink, seeing if there was a possibility of salvaging anything from the carcass.
In the midst of my efforts, somebody must've entered the kitchen because a few seconds later, I heard Sora exclaim from somewhere behind me just around the divider in such a high voice I thought he might've been a soprano on crack.
"HEY! Oh gosh! Roxas! You made it! Man, I've so tooootally missed you!"
Soprano on crack indeed.
I think Sora hugged the newcomer. Probably crushed this Roxas guy in a huge bear hug, by the sound of it.
"Hey, Sor. Great to see you again. Sorry we got here a little late."
Roxas sounded like a teenager. Another cousin or something, I guessed. But that wasn't really what I was thinking at the moment. What I was thinking was that Roxas had a very, very sexy voice.
"Nah, don't worry about it!" Sora was saying energetically. "You got here just in time for the dinner. How was the trip up here? Good? Not too taxing?" Sora was positively bouncing on his feet. Not that I could actually see him. But I could imagine.
"Trip was alright. My brother handled most of the drive. I took over for a bit towards the end, but we made it in one piece. Er, my parents send their apologies for not being here. You know them."
"That's okay. Yeah, you and your bro and sis are staying the night though, right? You three must be exhausted from the journey. How long was it? A five-hour trip?"
"Yeah. Yeah, we're staying."
"Cloud doing okay?"
"Kinda. At the moment, I'm feeling real sorry for him. He got fired from his job at Seventh Heaven last week."
"Yeah… I think it was cuz he got accused of staring at his co-worker's… assets. They kicked him out. He left the bar screaming that he wasn't even into women."
"Woah. Man. That's gotta suck… And, uh, your sis?"
"Naminé's the same as ever. She just hooked up with my best friend recently. Not that I really approve… He's such a moron."
"Right. Don't let him hear you say that. It'll make his already-overlarge head explode… Anyways, you should go say hi to Nam and Cloud. They've missed you."
"Yeah, I will. Just gotta' set up the reunion dinner banquet first."
I slammed the oven shut and peered around the hole in the divider, clearing my throat to get their attention. Screw the fat chicken thing. I didn't like being left out of conversations. Really.
Sora jumped when he heard me.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, and dragged the newcomer towards me. "Rox, this is my best friend Axel Onér. He's staying the night. Ax, meet my cousin, Roxas Strife." And Sora beamed like a star.
Roxas Strife. . I think my brain stopped working when I finally got a good look at him.
White untucked t-shirt (with the first two buttons undone), stylish black pants, dirty blond hair, crystal blue eyes, one hell of a cool, deadpan, don't-fuck-with-me face. NJjwbdsj8349keyfrigginbladeFTWdfhw8!!11!1oneoneeleven21!
Roxas Strife looked fucking gorgeous.
"Hey," I managed to choke out. And I extended a hand through the partition in greeting.
The kid stared at me for like, more than a full second, then scowled down at my hand like it seriously offended him somehow.
Okay. I was beginning to suspect that the boy didn't like it that I interrupted his little chat with his cousin. That wasn't to say that he didn't accept it. He took my hand and shook it briefly in what I thought was the most pathetically feeble handshake I'd ever received. And then he let go in the span of half a second.
Maybe he really didn't like interruptions. But I didn't care.
His hand was so soft.
The kid glanced at Sora, grounded out something like "I'm gonna go catch up with the others", ignored me totally, and then he turned to leave the kitchen.
I blinked. Wow. That was attitude right there.
"By the way," the hot blond threw over his shoulder as he paused by the doorway, looking directly into my eyes with a great deal of solemnity. "I think something's burning."
Sora blinked and then turned to me. "Sorry about him. He gets like that sometimes." He sounded almost embarrassed. "He doesn't really like strangers. But he's an awesome guy. Really!"
I watched as Roxas finally disappeared around the corner and into the crowd beyond the kitchen.
I think I really didn't mind that he was an angry kid who hated strangers.
He did have a cute butt.
"So, anyway Ax… What're we having for dinner? Seeing as you seem to have practically killed the chocobo. Again." The kid peered through the hole in the divider and spotted the black carcass next to the sink. "Yeah. Totally."
Brought back to earth, I think I just gave him a short bark of nervous laughter.
Well, Mrs Leonhart, how would you like your roast? Medium well? Well done? Over done? Completely charred black to perfection?
Damn, I was so screwed.
We ended up having to call the local pizza place and ordered ten large pizzas for all the guests, seeing as how my speciality roast chocobo seemed to have gone through all seven levels of hell. Well. Needless to say, I was embarrassed as hell and Leon totally wasn't happy (he was looking forward to roast chocobo – he liked his chocobo, I learnt) but Laguna and Raine were forgiving. Hey, we still had the mashed potatoes!
I made the best mashed potatoes on the planet!
Well, okay, maybe not.
But hey, who could resist the compelling scrumptiousness of goddamn mashed potatoes?
Most of the adults and older kids sat inside. Us teenagers… well, those of us who didn't want to engage in serious chitchat with the parents took our food and congregated outside in the back yard veranda. Here, there was a nice, big, rectangular table where we all sat around and looked out towards the garden.
Bright spotlights from the veranda roof lit the shadowy grass before us. The inky night sky above was littered with glimmering stars.
Out here, it was just me with most of Sora's cousins and adolescent relatives. I felt kinda out of place but not unwelcome. The kids were of varying ages. Strutty was there, and that redhead girl too. And yes, so was Sora's hot blond cousin. And his sister Naminé. Like her brother, she didn't look short of anything in terms of good-looks. Then there was some kid called Demyx. He was a weird dude. Brought out his guitar and started strumming and belting out the lyrics to You're Beautiful by James Blunt whilst we ate. God, that song annoyed me.
When nearly everyone out here was done with the food, we all ended up playing rounds of poker and blackjack with Uncle Luxord. Apparently, the man was kind of a compulsive gambler. Sora's bro Leon, Roxas' bro Cloud (who looked like an older, less-hot version of Roxas), some wacky chick named Yuffie, and some dude named Reno (whom I, Axel Onér, one of the most unique individuals on the planet, swear could somehow be related to me in some way), all came out to join in.
I was wedged in a seat between Sora and Demyx. And I sat right across from Roxas. Woohoo! Lucky me.
But blondie kept glaring at me all night. Actually, nearly everyone was. Might have to do with the fact that I was constantly winning. Even Uncle Luxord claimed I was cheating. Naw, I wasn't. I was just unbeatable, that's all. There's a difference.
As the night dwindled on, we could hear some of the adults inside starting to get tipsy from drinking too much bubbly. We adjourned our gambling streak and decided to start singing (screaming) songs into the night air like we were sitting around a bloody campfire.
"Weeeeeeeee are the champions, mah friendssss," Sora was screeching, rocking back and forth, arms around Kairi and Riku. I think he was high on red cordial. Honestly.
"Weeeeeee'll keep on fiiiighting till the enddddd, duh duh duh DUUUUHMMMM," Demyx chimed in loudly.
"Weeee are the CHAMPIONS. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONSSSSSSS. NUUUU TIME FER LOOOOSERRRS, CUZ WEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIONS," we all chorused.
"OF THE WORLD!"
"WHOO!" Sora shrieked randomly. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEE!"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SORAAA," Yuffie continued, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO-"
"HIIIIIIIIIM!" Reno and Kairi finished in unison.
In the midst of all this, I spotted Roxas somewhere off side, sitting in the company of Naminé. They were in deep conversation about something. No idea what. But they looked pretty nonchalant about the fact that their bunch of kith and kin had just turned into a massive choir. Then, as though realising they were being watched, the two suddenly looked up towards me. Roxas promptly narrowed his eyes. Naminé blinked and gave me a strange look. I shrugged apologetically. Cloud and Leon started a duet.
Huh? What? I tore my eyes away from the sibling duo (I had a weird momentary impression that they could maybe be twins) to look over at the eldest Strife and the Leonhart. Oh yeah, definitely a duet. I think they were doing the Pokemon theme song. What the fuck? And I always believed Leon to be an unenthusiastic, cool, aloof, fun-hating guy. Guess I was wrong.
The song (if you could call it that) went on and on and on and finally concluded with:
"GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL, POKEH-MOOOON!"
"ENCORE, ENCORE!" Sora cheered, then not missing a beat, he launched into his own song.
"I'VE GOT A LO-VE-LY BUNCH OF COCONUUUUUTS! HERE THEY ARE STANDING IN A ROOOW!"
No alcohol for us. But we were all shit-face insane by the time twelve midnight came around.
Author's Note: Go spell Axel's last name backwards. I implore you, dear child. Go!
And then leave a review. Because reviewers are lovely cookie-deserving people and reviews are awesome. Long, constructive reviews are even better. They make me crazy-happy like Sora on crack.