"...Man...do you know how long it's been since I last celebrated Thanksgiving?"
"...Since I have no idea what you're talking about, I have to say no."
"...Oh. Right." Axel paused the game and set his controller down, leaning back against the bed. "Well...Thanksgiving is a holiday...I'm sure you've gathered that...it's sort of a harvest celebration, mostly about spending time with your family, and taking time to be grateful for the good things in your life. And to eat yourself into a coma." Roxas gave him a very strange look. "Um...not that I'd intend to do so literally. But having a gigantic family meal together is kind of the centerpoint of it."
Roxas looked thoughtful for a moment, then shrugged. "That seems like a perfectly sensible sort of holiday. So how long has it been since you last celebrated it?"
Axel couldn't help but sigh as he thought about it. "Well, not since before I lost my heart, since apparently it's not a universal enough holiday for it to still even sort of matter to us, in Xemnas's opinion...but properly, not since I was thirteen. We used to go to my mom's cousin's house to celebrate, because her cousin was a good cook and my mother could barely boil water...that was pretty much the only time of year I ever saw any relatives even close to my age. The kids, at least, had fun together. We ate, talked, played outside, watched football or movies...and then my mother had a big falling-out with her cousin, and we never went there again." He shook his head regretfully. "I'd like to say my mother tried her best to do Thanksgiving for just our immediate family after that, despite her inability to cook, but that would be much too generous. She always had it catered. And a catered Thanksgiving dinner is about as special as buying a bag of Halloween candy at a store and eating it yourself instead of trick-or-treating. It might taste good, but it's missing everything that should have made it special. Like the love." Then again, love had never been something his mother was good at, he reflected bitterly. She never even put forth the effort to create one simple side - not even the sort of thing even Axel could do, like stuffed celery or a relish tray. She just had a standing order with the catering company, called them on Thanksgiving morning to make sure they were coming, and spent the rest of the day being thankful for pinot grigio.
Roxas nodded very slowly, his controller hanging loose in his hands. "I see...is there a particular reason you mentioned it?"
"Not really," Axel sighed, reaching for his controller again. "Just started thinking about it, for some reason. It's about the right time of year, I guess."
"You weren't secretly hoping to make some kind of celebration happen or anything?"
Axel couldn't help but snort at that suggestion. "Like Xaldin would be willing to cook a six-course meal for fifteen for any occasion. Seriously, it must take, like...days just to get all the shopping and prep work done. Thanksgiving dinners are huge - I mean, there's the turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes, gravy, the green beans...fuck, I know I'm forgetting something...pie. There always has to be pie. But I'm forgetting something beyond that. Cranberry sauce...my mom's cousin always used to have a sweet potato casserole...I dunno. Every family does it a little different, I guess. But there is a dozen or so shit tons of food on the table, even for a relatively small bunch, and the amount of food that would be required for the whole Organization would be insane. Xaldin wouldn't do it unless Xemnas threatened him, and I really don't think Xemnas is gonna bother to threaten him into doing it. Besides, what the hell would I want a douchebag like Marluxia in my family for?"
Roxas shrugged casually. "I was just asking. Besides, I thought it was more for those people you already considered your family...and Xaldin isn't the only competent cook in the Organization..."
Axel had to think for several long moments about what the hell Roxas might be getting at, then smiled slowly and ruffled the younger Nobody's hair. "You sly little bastard! Is this your backhanded way of suggesting we talk Demyx into making Thanksgiving dinner for just the three of us or something?"
Roxas blushed and ducked away from Axel's hand, chuckling slightly. "Well...it probably wouldn't work anyway, considering Demyx's track record with Christmas. You know, it was just a thought. He probably wouldn't agree if we asked him anyway."
"...I don't know," Axel said slowly, rubbing his chin as realization dawned. "Thanksgiving does have a definite religious bent, but it's not really a religious holiday per se. It was a national holiday. And Demyx and I were from the same country, before we lost our hearts - granted, Demyx's Other was an immigrant, but he was all of four years old when he left India. Even if Demyx's Other never celebrated Thanksgiving, he's bound to at least know what it is, and I'm sure he won't object as strenuously to the thought of celebrating it as he does to celebrating Christmas. And he likes to cook. And it would be a hell of a lot easier to cook for three than for fifteen." He was starting to grin without realizing it - the idea was growing on him in a big hurry, now that Roxas had suggested it. "You know...we really ought to ask him. He just might be willing to do it."
Roxas dropped his controller and sprang to his feet almost immediately, his face alight with enthusiasm. "He's right next door. We could ask him right now."
Axel jumped to his feet as well, suddenly eager to make this happen, even though it would never have crossed his mind five minutes ago. "You know what? Let's do this." He went into the bathroom and knocked on the opposite door, mentally rehearsing any argument he might be able to use to counter any reason Demyx might offer for not wanting to do it. There was no way he was going to let Demyx talk him out of this right now. When Demyx opened the door, it was all Axel could do not to jump on him and start explaining everything he and Roxas had been talking about and why he should go along with their plans, even though ninety-five percent of the workload would be dropped squarely on his shoulders. "Hey - Demyx - you doing anything right now?"
It wasn't until a moment later that Axel realized how preoccupied Demyx looked, maybe even a little troubled. "Not much...I've just been doing a little thinking...well, more like a lot of thinking, about a few different things, and, um..." Demyx scratched the back of his head nervously, as if not sure how to say what he wanted to say next. "...I've decided to become a vegetarian..."
...Well, if that didn't throw a massive monkey wrench into their half-formed Thanksgiving plans. Roxas didn't quite know what to say to that, other than "You could have had better timing," and he bit down on that. Demyx already seemed to be picking up on the fact that his decision wasn't meeting with their unmixed approval, probably because Axel's face was turning roughly the same shade as his hair and veins were popping out on his forehead like his head was going to explode. "Geez, Ax...I knew you were a carnivore to the core, but I didn't think you hated vegetarians that much," he said nervously, with an obviously forced smile. "I mean...I wasn't going to try to convert you two or anything. I wasn't even intending to go that extreme."
"It's all right," Axel said through clenched teeth, forcing a rictus smile. "I mean...it's your life. It's your body. You get to decide what should go into it, and whether that should include meat or not."
Demyx stared blankly at Axel; Roxas just glared at him. All right, tact and politeness weren't Axel's strong points, but he could try to tone down the emotional reaction a little and maybe make it less obvious that he was lying through his teeth. "Axel, you look like your head is going to explode from pure rage in a second," he felt compelled to point out. "And I'm sure Demyx can see that as well as I can." Demyx nodded emphatically, still looking a little nervous. "So, um, you might as well go ahead and admit your true feelings."
"True feelings?" Axel said, his face still set in that rictus grin. "What could you possibly be talking about, Roxas? Aside from the basic impossibility of us having any actual feelings, I do indeed sincerely believe that Demyx's dietary preferences are his own business and his own business exclusively. And if he's decided to become a vegetarian all of a sudden, well, more power to him."
"It's just that his timing...it could have been so much better..."
The blank, fearful look Demyx was giving Axel became mixed with a strong dose of "what the hell". "...My timing could have been better. So...that begs the question, what was wrong with my timing?"
Axel opened his mouth to answer, but nothing came out for several long moments, as he looked increasingly less enraged and more embarrassed. "Um...did your Other celebrate Thanksgiving? At all?" was what eventually came out. Roxas silently cheered at such a non-tactless, relevant, positively harmless response.
Demyx stared at him for a moment, then narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. "Ye-es...not exactly a traditional Thanksgiving celebration, but yes...why do you ask and what does that have to do with my timing?"
Axel shrugged, nonchalantly glancing off in some other direction. "No reason. Nothing. I was just curious."
Demyx reacted more-or-less exactly how Roxas expected. "Right. Right. Roxas, what does Thanksgiving have to do with it?"
"Oh, fine," Axel growled before Roxas could answer for him. "Before we go any further, though, what kind of things did you do for Thanksgiving?"
Roxas just hung back and listened, able to tell full well that Demyx was putting two and two together and would probably surprise Axel when he answered the question before the redhead got the nerve to ask. "Well...we had some of the regular stuff you'd expect. Turkey and potatoes and such. Except we cooked our turkey in a tandoor on the back porch. And we didn't have mashed potatoes, we usually had fried potatoes and sweet peppers. Pumpkin curry. Khichdi instead of stuffing. Not something your average American would associate with Thanksgiving. But as my grandmother used to remind me, if we were going to officially become Americans, we might as well learn to enjoy some American holidays, and just because we used some of their ingredients didn't mean we had to stick to their recipes." Demyx had started to look a little dreamy and nostalgic during that recitation, but a moment after he finished, he shook his head slightly and came back in line with the world around him, his gaze sharpening and locking on Axel again. "So, Axel...the point of all these questions? What does any of this have to do with anything?"
Roxas recognized that as a bad sign instantly. Demyx was no fool; he'd probably already figured out what Axel was meaning to ask. The fact that he hadn't said "yes" already was a little worrying. Maybe he was just stringing Axel along for a bit for his own amusement, or maybe he hadn't put it all together yet; given Demyx's unfailingly generous nature, it didn't seem likely that he would actually refuse, though Axel might change his mind if Demyx's proposed menu ended up too radical. Then again, if "no" was an option, it was always a possibility. Axel seemed totally oblivious to whatever might be going on in Demyx's head or in Roxas's. "Well...Roxas and I were talking about Thanksgiving, for some reason, and...we were thinking...we were wondering if..."
"If I'd be willing to cook it for you."
Axel stared blankly at Demyx for a moment, then chuckled a little nervously. "Yes, that's exactly it. I mean, you're the only competent cook among us. Competent - you're a hell of a cook. And an awesome guy, as a bonus. There's not a snowball's chance in hell Xaldin would be willing to help us out, but you - you're a nice guy. Always willing to help out...you wouldn't mind cooking a little more turkey in a good cause, right? You wouldn't have to eat it..."
Roxas could tell by the look on Demyx's face that Axel had shot himself in the foot, and was wishing his Thanksgiving daydream farewell before Demyx even opened his mouth. "Right. Now I know exactly what people mean when they say 'generous to a fault'," Demyx said, grinding his teeth slightly. "And since it seems about time I get to work on remedying that fault - no. I'm not cooking a huge-ass meal like that on request, by myself, against my beliefs, just because you decide you want it and want me to do it for you."
Axel looked like Demyx had called off not only Thanksgiving, but Christmas, New Year's, and his birthday. "Come on...Demyx..."
"If you'll excuse me, the doormat has other places to be right now." With that, Demyx turned on his heel and walked out, leaving Axel and Roxas alone in the hallway staring at each other.
Axel was the first to break the silence. "...Well. Handled that well, didn't I," he said, looking more than a little chagrined.
Roxas could only shake his head at where Demyx had disappeared. "Well...he certainly didn't seem to be in favor of the idea..." he said uncertainly, not sure what else he could say that wouldn't make Axel feel worse, or hit him.
Axel just sighed and shook his head, looking discouraged bordering on crushed. "Guess Thanksgiving isn't going to happen this year either," he muttered, apparently to the floor. "Not unless we get it catered..."
If any of what Axel had had to say about catered Thanksgiving dinner was true, Roxas would rather go without. But if what he'd had to say about Thanksgiving as it should be was true as well...no, he really, really had to find some way to make it happen. Neither he nor Axel was going to become even an acceptable cook in a few days, no way in hell would Xaldin accommodate them, Zexion would probably refuse to discuss it at all, and even Lexaeus would no doubt politely but firmly refuse. Demyx was really their only hope, except he'd just shot it down. But unless Demyx was willing to cooperate, it wasn't happening. Why had he refused? He'd said something about being generous to a fault, and he'd referred to himself as a doormat...he'd said he wasn't going to cook a huge meal on request, by himself, against his beliefs, just because Axel wanted it... "All right, Ax...wait here. I'm going to try talking to him." Maybe someone with a little tact could make more headway. If not, no harm done...except that if not, it wasn't happening. And Roxas had to make it happen somehow.
Demyx was sitting in a corner of the Hall of Empty Melodies, sitar in hand and mezrabs on fingers but nothing happening. He was trying to play something to get his mind off how angry he was, but it wasn't working - all he could think of was how arrogant that was of Axel. Of course, he'd be delighted to slave for hours over a huge meal like that just because Axel decided he wanted it all of a sudden. And establishing that neither he nor Roxas could cook was just code for saying Demyx wouldn't be getting any help. Of course, he'd be perfectly fine with making some helpless, overbred, inhumanely raised turkey die just so Axel could have his Thanksgiving dinner. After all, just because he'd said he was becoming a vegetarian didn't mean he had to mean it. What the hell kind of doormat did Axel think he was?
An awesome guy. A nice guy. Always willing to help out. That kind of doormat.
Well, no more of that. Just because he liked being nice to people didn't mean he was going to let anyone order him around like that. What gave Axel the right, anyway? To just assume that Demyx would automatically do whatever he asked? Just because he liked being nice to people didn't make him a doormat. And he wasn't going to be a doormat. If he had been in the past, well, not anymore. Axel always said he should stand up to people more anyway. He sure looked surprised to learn he was included in those "people". It served him right - Demyx wasn't going to let him push him around either. Axel should have been careful what he wished for. And expecting him to still cook turkey for him even though he'd just told him he was going vegetarian...maybe, if he'd gone about it in a less obnoxious matter, he might have agreed, just for Thanksgiving, just for his best friends. But just assuming he would like he had, like just because that was how Axel wanted it, that meant his word was Demyx's command...now Axel couldn't get him to do it by pulling rank and making it an order. He'd have to get one of his superiors to order Demyx to do it. Demyx wished him worlds of luck with that.
He really must have had something better to do than sit in the Hall with his sitar doing nothing but fuming at Axel. He just couldn't think of anything right now.
"Demyx? You in here?"
Of course, maybe next time, he should hide somewhere less obvious. "Hello, Roxas," Demyx said in a monotone, not even turning around. "I take it Axel sent you to talk me into it."
"No, I came down here of my own accord."
"That's nice," Demyx said in the same flat tone, trying not to growl. "I have to tell you, though. You can call me the most awesome, helpful, generous guy in the worlds for days on end in a dozen different languages, and while I might be flattered eventually, I am still not doing it."
"Yeah, Captain Tactless was in really fine form back there, wasn't he..."
Demyx could hear Roxas sitting down somewhere in the general vicinity, but he still didn't turn around. "That he was. So, if you're not here to talk me into doing as Axel says, why are you here?"
A long pause, which Demyx interpreted as a desperate search for a new angle of attack, because Roxas was here to talk him into doing what Axel wanted, despite what he said. "I'm just really curious about something," Roxas said finally, and Demyx prepared himself to have to explain why he didn't appreciate being treated like a doormat by anyone. "...You never seem to do holidays at all. The only 'holiday' I've ever seen you get really excited about is birthdays, and you kind of get into New Year's and Halloween, but other than that...nothing. I mean, I know why you don't do Christmas and Easter, but...you don't do any of your own religious holidays either, or if you do, it's not so the rest of us would notice. Why is that?"
Now that was a question Demyx hadn't expected, and one he didn't know if he could answer. He did still celebrate some Hindu holidays, as best he could, but he always went about it like...like he was ashamed of himself. Like he was doing something wrong by honoring his own gods. Take Diwali, for instance - for Lakshmi Puja, which should have been the most sacred day of the five-day holiday, he'd stayed up until 1:00 in the morning cleaning his room until it was spotless enough to at least appease the goddess, drew a rangoli on the floor outside his room after he was sure everyone else was asleep, and performed the entire rite as silently as possible, even reciting all the mantras and prayers under his breath so he wouldn't wake Axel up and adding a little prayer that he wouldn't sense the flames from the oil lamps. Once the rite was over, he'd rushed to clean everything up so that his room was as spotless as before and there was no trace that he'd been doing anything but sleeping all night, besides the icons and statues that always had a place in his room. He hadn't had time for so much as an hour of sleep before the alarm clock went off, so he'd dragged himself through Halloween on no sleep, pretending he was perfectly fine and alert and absolutely fit to go to Halloween Town with everyone else and Halloween hadn't happened to coincide with one of his major religious festivals this year. That was more-or-less how he celebrated any holiday he still celebrated - offerings and prayers made late at night, as quietly as possible, all traces gone by morning, as if he was doing something shameful. Holi - the bonfires, the food, the songs, all the colorful powders and dyes everyone threw on each other until everyone looked tie-dyed - had been reduced to one joint, which he really didn't want to be caught with, holiday or no holiday. Pancha Ganapati was down to five days of apologizing to Lord Ganesha because he didn't have any family to celebrate with, which was the entire point of the festival; the fact that Pancha Ganapati so often coincided with Christmas only made it sting worse. "...This is ridiculous..." he said aloud without realizing it.
Demyx nearly jumped - he'd all but forgotten there was anyone else in the room. Once he settled, he was stuck for an answer that might make sense to Roxas. "Just...the way I celebrate holidays...I act like I'm doing something horribly shameful. Doing everything late at night, behind closed doors, as quietly as possible. Well, apparently that's been successful, if you had no idea whether I ever did anything or not, but...that's not how you're supposed to do it. They're freaking holidays. They're supposed to be celebrated. Not kept secret."
Roxas nodded, with a thoughtful expression that Demyx knew meant that he was up to something, but he didn't much care. He was too ashamed of himself over how he'd been "celebrating" his holidays. "So...why do you celebrate like that?" he prompted.
"Because I don't have anyone to celebrate with," Demyx groaned, covering his face with one hand and trying not to poke himself in the eye with a mezrab. "I mean...major Christian holidays, Christmas, Easter...or things like Halloween...worlds-wide phenomena. Everyone knows about them. But...Axel's from the same world I am, and I'm pretty sure he's never even heard of any of the holidays I celebrate. Or try to celebrate. Let alone know what any of them are about, let alone celebrate any of them himself. Before you ask, Christians aren't known for being ready and willing to participate in other religions' celebrations, especially polytheistic religions. Which is why I've never mentioned this to Axel."
Roxas nodded, leaning down to fiddle with a bootlace. "Well, the whole religion thing is a little over my head. Any holidays I know of, religious or not, I've learned about since coming here, including Christmas and Easter. I'd never even heard of Thanksgiving until this afternoon, when Axel randomly mentioned that he hadn't celebrated it properly since he was thirteen. And then he had to explain it to me..." Demyx was pretty sure that Roxas's bootlace had been tied to begin with, but Roxas had apparently decided that it really needed untying and retying, for reasons of his own. "It did seem like a pretty good holiday to have. I mean, it's all about taking time to celebrate with your family and all that, with a meal where the most important ingredient was the love. Even if it's not your biological family. Of course, if you used to celebrate it too, you already know that..."
So that was it. Demyx knew or could guess Roxas's entire train of thought now, and how he'd intended to talk him into making Thanksgiving dinner all along. The worst part was...it was working. Demyx hadn't celebrated Thanksgiving since he was ten...which, if he was doing the math right, would have been when Axel was thirteen, so they both would have celebrated their last real Thanksgiving on the same day. And when was the last time he'd celebrated a holiday, any holiday besides a birthday, with anyone? Not just going to a party with people, celebrating alongside them, but really celebrating with them? And Axel and Roxas were the closest he had to family...even if they weren't blood brothers...
He sighed and stood up, setting the sitar down and raising his hands in defeat - or was it defeat? Maybe he was just coming to his senses a little. "All right. You can go back and tell Axel that I'm willing to do it, on two conditions. First, I cook, I choose the menu. I'm open to suggestions, but the final decision rests with me. Don't worry; even if I don't do turkey, I won't try to inflict Tofurky on you or anything," he added in response to Roxas's suddenly very worried look. "I don't want to touch that stuff myself; I mean, tofu has its uses, but that's not a good one. Second, I want help."
Roxas nodded warily as he finished retying his boot. "All right...both of those make perfect sense...what kind of help, though? Because you know Axel and I can't cook..."
Demyx sighed, perfectly prepared to back out again if he couldn't get help. Just because he was willing to celebrate didn't mean he was willing to do all the work now any more than he had been earlier. "You can chop vegetables and peel potatoes, right? Simple enough, but just having someone to do that would be a big help. I assume Axel told you just how big a meal this is? I am not taking all that on alone."
Roxas nodded quickly and stood up. "All right, that we can handle. I just have to go tell Axel. Though he's probably going to have a bigger problem with you dictating the whole menu..."
"If he doesn't like it, he can lump it," Demyx growled, with more malice than he actually felt. Once he got the mezrabs off his fingers - dammit, they were good and stuck now - the first thing he had to do was go down to the kitchen and check on what he had and what he'd need to buy.
"...How many potatoes did you really need peeled for just three of us, again? Honestly?"
"As many as I had you peel, Axel," Demyx answered with a smug smile. "Seeing as you eat like a furnace, and your insulin pump allows you to do so safely, and there's room in the fridge for a reasonable amount of leftovers." He poked one of the cooking potatoes one more time with a fork and nodded in satisfaction. "All right. Those are done. Roxas, where are those bowls I asked you to get? Since Axel's hands apparently hurt too much for him to do anything else?"
Axel scowled at them both, but kept his mouth shut. His hands were kind of cramping up a little, more from chopping onions and celery than from peeling potatoes, though the potatoes didn't help. And he still didn't know what the final product of all this work would be - well, Demyx had just finished the potatoes and sweet peppers he'd mentioned the first time they'd talked about this, but so far, it seemed to be the only thing that was in a bowl and ready to serve. He didn't even know what the main protein was going to be; Demyx had something in the oven that involved oysters, among other things, but he doubted that was the main event. At least, he seriously hoped it wouldn't be. Demyx hadn't shared the full menu, and was instead doling out information on a need-to-know basis. At least he seemed to be enjoying himself, and Axel had to admit he was doing the bulk of the work.
He stopped staring at his sore hands for a moment and looked up to see what was going on - Roxas was carefully shifting pieces of cornbread from the pan it had baked in onto a decorative plate, while Demyx was reaching into the oven after something or other. Whatever it was, he looked so pleased with it that Axel couldn't help but stand up and take a look. He had to admit that, whatever it was, it didn't look particularly exotic; if anything, it looked like... "The stuffing is done," Demyx announced cheerfully, and Axel sighed in relief to see that something reasonably familiar had made the menu. Well, there was the cornbread too, but still. The next thing Demyx checked on was a strange...casserole-ish thing that had been cooking on the stove, that smelled better than it looked; he poked something in it and frowned slightly. "That better go for another couple minutes..." The next pot he checked, he turned the burner off. "All right. The yellow rice looks done. Rox...we're out of bowls, aren't we. At least reasonably sized bowls...eh, fuck it. I can serve that in the pot it cooked in." He stepped back, looking over the current spread and frowning slightly, and was about to say something when a timer went off. "Dammit. Roxas, get the...no, keep an eye on the pumpkin curry, since you're already there. When the pumpkin chunks are soft as baked potato, turn the burner off. Axel, you get the kheer out of the fridge. If the other timer goes off before I get back, one of you check on the pie in the oven." With that, he grabbed an empty platter and a bag of something from the fridge, then disappeared out the door and down the hall to parts unknown.
Axel and Roxas stood there blinking at each other for a few moments, then shrugged as one before Roxas went to keep an eye on the curry and Axel went to find...whatever it was that Demyx had wanted him to get out of the fridge. Eventually, he decided it had to be the rice pudding-like thing in the fancy crystal bowl. What had Demyx called it? Kheer? Just then, another timer went off, and Axel had to set the kheer down in a hurry to get the pie out of the oven like Demyx said, while Roxas tried to figure out how to turn off the annoying buzzer...and as far as Axel could tell, the pie was just an ordinary apple pie. He would have preferred pumpkin, but apple was good too. So along with the pumpkin curry and yellow rice and kheer, Demyx had found space for ordinary stuffing and cornbread and apple pie. The man was good, and no mistake. He'd also been moving at a hundred miles an hour all morning, or so Axel guessed - he'd kept him and Roxas moving at a good clip too, though hardly the breakneck pace he required of himself. And that was including having to hide all his work-in-progress in the fridge for an hour so Xaldin could have the kitchen back for everyone else's lunch, and then digging it back out once they were all gone and getting right back to work. Now everything was done, except the pumpkin curry, and Roxas was just turning off the burner under that, except...well, where was the main course? Not that what there was here didn't look good, just...it all looked like side dishes. There was no main event. Axel couldn't imagine that Demyx hadn't done anything bigger or better than this...even if this was an all-vegetarian meal, there had to be something bigger... "Roxas, do you have any idea what the main course is?"
"...I was just about to ask you if you knew. Demyx has been keeping this menu as secret as humanly possible, given that we were helping him put it together. I'm just hoping he didn't go back on his promise not to serve up Tofurky."
"Ew. Yeah, that would be more inhumane than I think Demyx is capable of being. I mean, there's oysters in the stuffing, and he was making use of that liquid butter stuff, so I guess he hasn't gone totally vegan...I'd like turkey, but I really wouldn't mind fish, compared to some of the vegan alternatives." Axel rubbed his head with one hand, trying to count up all the ingredients he'd seen Demyx using over the course of the morning and trying to match them all to final products. "I wonder where all this stuff lands on the glycemic index," he mused aloud.
"You'll have to try asking Demyx when he comes back," Roxas said, flopping into the seat next to Axel's. "Though you can probably guess from the carb content of everything, which is...high. Your insulin pump is going to get a workout."
Axel looked over the selection - rice, potatoes, stuffing, cornbread, pie - and winced to think what that might do to his blood glucose without insulin. "Yeah. Not exactly diabetes-friendly. Something to add to the list of things I'm thankful for - insulin pumps." There was a prolonged silence. "...So where is he, anyway?"
"I don't know. Maybe he's cooking something elsewhere..."
"Like what, where?"
"I dunno. Something that requires cooking equipment he's not allowed to use inside. He did take a platter with him."
"Pfft." Axel stood up, stretched, and checked his insulin pump. "All right, then, I'm going to check my blood glucose, and hope it's not so high already I have to give myself a bolus and wait before I can eat. Don't eat everything before Demyx and I get back." Roxas only grunted in response as Axel portaled back down to his room to get that dealt with. By the time he got back, Roxas was standing up again, staring at the serving platters and bowls that had been dug out but never used. "Yeah, you might want to put those away eventually. We'll have enough dishes to do after dinner, because Xaldin would skin us all if the kitchen was still a mess by 5:00, and we can't force it all off on Demyx."
"Oh, now that would be cruel...I was just looking at all the food. And thinking."
"Thinking about what?"
"How Demyx really busted his ass to pull this off. Even if we did do a lot of the grunt work for him."
"Yeah...now I have a much better idea of exactly how much work goes into Thanksgiving dinner than I used to. We can also be thankful for a competent, cooperative cook - that's worth a vegetarian menu."
"No...I was thinking...it would be nice if we could have done one thing by ourselves, just so it would be one thing he didn't have to do. Except neither of us can cook."
"Oh...yeah...you're right...it would be nice..." Once he got over feeling mildly ashamed that Roxas was more selfless than he was, Axel started thinking over the very limited list of vegetarian dishes he could actually cook and that might be welcome at Thanksgiving. Sandwiches would be pointless, and mac and cheese from a box had no place at the holiday table. There was basic stuff any dipshit could throw together, like a relish tray, but...
...Well. Why wouldn't a tray of artistically arranged raw vegetables and dip be allowed at the table? And God knew he and Roxas could handle that...
"You know what, Rox...?"
Right then, Demyx was mostly thankful that he could and had figured out a tandoor on the first try. He'd bought and marinated just enough fish for the three of them, and he really couldn't have afforded to burn any of it. Sure, it hadn't been particularly expensive, but if he'd burned it, he couldn't just go out and buy more and cook it right away without letting it marinate for hours; it just wouldn't taste right. And he'd never tried to cook with a tandoor before. He'd only bought it a couple weeks ago; Xemnas made him keep it in his garden because it was a potential fire hazard. But - he had somehow mastered this semi-familiar equipment on instinct and memory alone. The fish was beautifully done and smelled awesome.
...Could he, in his right mind, serve these to his friends? Axel was expecting turkey. Granted, he'd made it clear from the outset that he had the final say over the menu, and just because Axel wanted turkey didn't mean Axel would get turkey, but...still. Whole fish? For Thanksgiving?
Well, why the hell not? He decided the menu, not Axel, and wild-caught cod from sustainable fisheries were not only more humane sources of protein than some overbred barnyard fowl who spent its life in a tiny cage being force-fed antibiotics, despite the fact that he'd had to search a dozen worlds to get it, it was better for you and cooked a hell of a lot faster. And he hadn't made nearly enough diabetic-healthy food today; Axel should thank him. And Roxas, thankfully, was much more open-minded about food. He wouldn't see a problem with fish for Thanksgiving. As long as it tasted good, they should have nothing to complain about.
All right. He'd put out the fire under the tandoor. The fish was out of the tandoor and on the platter. Now he just had to work up the nerve to go back to the kitchen with them. What was the worst that could happen, seriously? Axel and Roxas could question his judgment and eat the rest of the meal. They already questioned his judgment on a regular basis, and he knew the rest of the food was good. So worst-case scenario - not that bad. He still had to stop and take a few deep breaths before he made the portal.
Once he actually set foot in the kitchen, he set the platter of fish down on the table as quickly as he could without rushing, then heaved a sigh of relief. There; the main course was done, the side dishes and desserts should all be done, mission accomplished except for getting everything on the table. The burner under the pumpkin curry was off; the pie was out of the oven; the kheer was out of the fridge. Everything was...um...everything looked good, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out where the relish tray had come from. Though the shit-eating grins Axel and Roxas were wearing did kind of give him a hint. "...Did you guys do that?" he had to ask, looking pointedly at the relish tray.
"We couldn't let you take all the credit for everything, and it was something we didn't have to cook," Roxas replied, still grinning, as he went to grab plates. "If you like it, I thought of it. If you don't, it was Axel's idea."
Demyx snorted and leaned back against the table, folding his arms across his chest and giving them both his best so-not-impressed look. It lasted about twenty seconds, during which they both began to look very worried, before he cracked up and started laughing. "Ah, you guys are priceless. Now I know why I keep you around. Now let's get this shit on the table - it's time for Thanksgiving dinner."
As Roxas went back to getting plates and glasses, and Demyx started moving everything from the stove or counter to the table and finding serving spoons, Axel paused to take a really close look at the fish. The bottom dropped out of Demyx's stomach for a moment, until Axel said "It smells good. And it's a hell of a lot better than Tofurky."
Demyx sat down in the handiest chair, sighing with relief. "Thanks...I was afraid you'd throw a fit over getting whole fish."
"Well...it's not exactly traditional, but, well, you made it. I'm willing to trust you. And it's not Tofurky."
"Besides, if you objected that strenuously to whole fish, you could always get your Thanksgiving catered!"
"Bite me, Rox," Axel said politely, something only he could or would want to do. "I suppose you're just standing there because you're expecting me to get the silverware, aren't you?"
"The more pressing question is, why are you just standing there? I already got the dishes and stuff."
"That means yes." Axel yanked the appropriate drawer open and pulled out enough silverware for the three of them, grumbling slightly. "All right...meal here, dishes here, people here. Let's eat."
"Blessed Gods, yes, let's. I'm starving. Been smelling all this food all day and not eating it." Before he served himself, though, Demyx stood up and carefully put a baked fish on each of his friends' plates. "Careful, there are still bones in there, but they shouldn't be too hard to pick out..." Once his fish was on the plate, he kept himself to a single helping of pumpkin curry and one of the stuffing, at least for now. Oyster stuffing was something else he'd never taken on before, but he had faith in his ability to follow a recipe, and it smelled good. It tasted good, too, when he tried it. He could see Roxas digging into the pumpkin curry like he hadn't eaten yet that week, and Axel was busily taking on the fish and winning. "So...what do you think, guys?" he had to ask.
Axel had to swallow before he could answer, and flashed a quick grin. "Thanksgiving as cooked by an Indian vegetarian? Well...definitely not traditional. It's something else entirely, but I could get used to it in a hurry."
Demyx couldn't help but chuckle at that not-entirely-useful answer. "Thanks, but what I meant was, how's it taste?"
Roxas grinned and raised a forkful of curry, as if toasting him with it. "It tastes like love. And that's the important part."
AN: Written for a contest on deviantART, squeaking in just ahead of the submission deadline. Yes, I submitted it there before I did here. By about ten minutes.
Anyway. I was watching "Food Network Thanksgiving Challenge" last week, and the family that won the challenge had a strongly Middle Eastern-inspired menu (the mother was Egyptian). So I got to thinking...Axel and Demyx (or at least my Axel- and Demyx-muses) are/were both American citizens, but they had very different cultural backgrounds. Axel is one hundred percent Irish-American; Demyx is a half-Indian and half-Australian immigrant who was raised as entirely Indian as his grandmother could manage. And Axel can't cook, but Demyx can. So imagine what would happen if Axel asked Demyx to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I'd been toying with having Demyx become a vegetarian for a while anyway, and now just seemed like the right time to do it.
Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts and all associated characters belong to Square Enix and Disney.