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Take-Out Night


by sois_sage

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"What do you guys want for dinner?"

     It was a simple question. A normal, everyday question. The type of question that doesn't cause a big ordeal in an ordinary household. So I should have known that there was going to be trouble.

     "Burgers!"

     "Pasties!"

     "Subs!"

     "Pizza!"

     "Candy!"

     "Burritos!"

     "Dung!"

     Ok, so that last one didn't count, and I wasn't about to let them consume more sugar, but still, there was a lot to chose from, and within seconds they were all arguing over what they wanted.

     "Guys, calm down!" I yelled over the din. Looking around, I added, "Eoere, let go of your brother."

     Slowly the Tyrannian Blumaroo released the Shadow Kyrii from the headlock he had him in.

     "But I don't want dung for dinner," he said plaintively.

      "Kale was just kidding," I told him, throwing a disapproving look in the Kyrii's direction.

     "Wait a minute," Wanderer said. "You're not going to be cooking, are you?"

     "What do you mean by that?" I asked sharply.

     "Well, it's just that... " the Yellow Kougra trailed off.

     "What he means is that the last time you tried to fry an egg, you nearly burned the house down, and even though the fire department made it here in record time, we really don't want to make them try to break that record," Stripes, a Skunk Bori, finished for him.

     "And they made us promised to keep you away from open flames in the future," added my Blue Kougra, Bash.

          "Plus, I've finally got the kitchen just the way I want it, and I don't want you going in there and messing up the spice rack arrangement," finished Clever, the Split Lenny. "No offense, Sage."

     "I had no intention of cooking," I said huffily, slightly offended, if truth be told. "I was thinking that we could have take-out tonight."

     This announcement was meet with enthusiasm. Of course seconds later, the guys were arguing about where we should order food. Again.

     "Pizzaroo!"

     "No, Hubert's!"

     "We should try something healthy food once. Let's get something from the Health Food store!"

     "Health Food? Gross! And I'm allergic to apples, anyway!"

     "Burgers!"

     "No, pizza!"

     "BE QUIET!" I yelled, fed up with all the, well, yelling. "You don't all have to get the same thing! Look, Pizzaroo doesn't deliver to Mystery Island on weekdays, so I'm going to have to go to Neopia Central. I can pick up food at more than one place. Now, who wants what?"

     They all started shouting out what they wanted.

     "HEY! One at a time, please. I only have two ears, you know. I'm not an Aisha."

      It took a while, but I finally got a list that would satisfy everybody. Two plain cheese pizzas, one chilli deluxe pizza, three ultimate burgers, one vegetarian cheeseburger, a flaming hot burger, five orders of fries, a tomato striped hot dog, two chilli and cheese hot dogs, and one healthy veggie deluxe sandwich. I sent in the orders via neomail to Pizzaroo, Neopian Fresh Foods, Hubert's Hot Dog Stand, and the Health Food Shop, respectively, saying that I would be there to pick them up in about half an hour.

     "So," I said after I sent the neomails. "Who wants to come with me? I can't carry all of this stuff by myself."

     There was a pause.

     "I'll go," volunteered Freeze, a Green Xweetok and the newest addition to the family.

     When no one else said anything, I shrugged. "Fine, but you guys better have the table set and all the petpets fed by the time we get back."

     They murmured in agreement, and we left.

     * * *

      The ferry ride to Neopia Central was peaceful enough. Freeze was quiet most of the way there, just taking in the scenery. We arrived in Neopia Central a little after six o'clock, and decided to stop at the Health Food Shop first, because the sandwich Clever wanted was supposed to be cold, so it wouldn't matter if it took us a while to pick up the rest of the food. Our order was waiting for us, and although the haggling took a while, we got to Hubert's by a quarter after six. Though it was dinnertime, we were lucky enough to arrive at the stand during a lull, and had a few minutes to chat with the shopkeeper.

     "Ahh, Sage, there you are," Hubert called over a few departing customers' heads from behind the counter. "I've got your order right here. And I put extra cheese on one of the chilli dogs, just the way Kale likes it."

     "Thanks, Hubert," I said as Freeze and I reached the counter. "I forgot to add that in the note. But how did you know it was for Kale?"

     The Mynci pulled the bag of hot dogs out from behind the counter and grinned. "That's all he ever orders when he comes in here. When I saw your name on the neomail, I figured at least one of the dogs was for him. But I know you've got more than three pets. You don't expect to feed them all on three hot dogs, do you?"

     "Nope." I held up the Health Food shop bag that contained Clever's sandwich. "And we've still got two more stops to make after this one."

     "We?" Hubert looked at me quizzically, and then noticed the Xweetok standing beside me. He hadn't said a word since we entered the Bazaar. "Oh, and who's this little fellow?" Hubert asked, giving Freeze a kind smile.

     When Freeze didn't answer, I introduced him. "This is Freeze. He just came to live with us a couple of weeks ago."

     "Well, it's nice to meet you, Freeze," Hubert said, holding out a paw for the other pet to shake.

     "Hullo," Freeze said quietly, shaking Hubert's paw but not making eye contact.

     I looked down at my watch. "Wow, it's already six thirty. We'd better go get those burgers. The shop is gonna be completely packed."

     I paid Hubert and we left just as a large group of Cybunnies walked up talking about who could eat the most lentil and bean hot dogs in two minutes.

     We turned on to Main Street in silence, though I did wonder slightly at my new pet's odd behavior. He had barely even said 'hello' to Hubert. I knew the guy was shy, but that was going beyond shyness. It had seemed almost like fear.

     When we got to Neopian Fresh Foods, I hesitated for a moment or two, wondering just how mad Cosmic, Stripes, Bash, Freeze, and Eoere would be if I failed to get them their burgers and fries. The shop was full to bursting.

     "This has got to violate the zoning codes," I muttered to myself as I eyed the burger shaped building apprehensively.

     Next to me, Freeze was doing the same thing. He looked at me. "Do I have to go in there?" he asked in a small voice.

     "Definitely not," I said, shifting the bags I held. There was no way I was going to make the poor guy deal with that crowd. "Here, why don't you hold these bags for me, and go sit on that bench over there." I pointed towards a nearby bench that had a good view of both the shop doors and the Rainbow Pool. "I'll come get you when I'm done here, and then we can go pick up the pizzas and go home."

     Freeze went over to the bench, and I turned back to the shop. Taking a deep breath, I pulled open one of the double doors, and was immediately hit by a wave of noise. I winced, then started to push my way through the mass of people and pets.

     For those few of you who have never been to Neopian Fresh Foods, I should explain that it is a bit different from the other shops in the area. It's half grocery store, half fast food restaurant. There's a counter lining one wall, and behind it is a grill and a cash register so you don't have to get in the same line as the people who are buying groceries.

     Finally I made it to the grill, and after waiting in line for what felt like an eternity (even though it was probably only about twenty minutes) I was able to collect my order from a very hassled-looking Blue Chia. Because of both the expression on his face and the fact that I really wanted to get the heck out of there, I didn't even bother to haggle. I just paid the requested price, and ran for the door as fast as I could, which wasn't very fast, considering how little room there was to maneuver in the crammed shop.

     When I got out of the shop, I was gasping for breath a little bit. I don't consider myself to be claustrophobic, but those were the closest quarters I had been in for quite some time, and I can't say that it was fun. Freeze came up to me looking concerned.

     "Are you okay?" he asked.

     "Yeah," I said, straightening up. "Let's just make our last stop and get out of here."

     Pizzaroo was almost as crowded as the previous shop. From outside we could see that every booth in the pizza parlor was occupied, and there was a long wait to get a table. I was grateful that our order was to go.

     "Do want to wait out here?" I asked the Xweetok.

     He took a deep breath. "No, I'll go in with you."

     "Are you sure? It's a real zoo in there."

     "I'm sure." He gave me a small smile.

     "Okay. Let's go." I opened the door and pushed my way inside the restaurant, Freeze following close behind.

     We made our way up to the counter with difficulty. At one point, we were both nearly flattened into human and Xweetok pancakes by a rather large Mutant Elephante carrying a Meat Feast Pizza Block. You'd think that with three eyes he would have been able to see us. As it was, we narrowly escaped becoming rather flatter versions of ourselves.

     "Hi," I said to the Blumaroo behind the counter when we reached it. "I'm here to pick up an order for sois_sage. I sent in a neomail about an hour ago."

     "Yeah, I remember that order," he said, fidgeting a little bit. He looked young, and probably wasn't used to dealing with customers. "But you said you would be here thirty minutes ago, and you weren't, so we had to sell those pizzas while they were still warm."

     "What are you talking about?" I demanded.

     "It's our policy," he said, pointing to a sign that hung on the wall. 'If it's not hot when it reaches you, your pie is on us,' it read.

     "Great. Just perfect," I grumbled.

     "How long will it take to get a new order?" asked Freeze.

     The Blumaroo gestured to the packed restaurant. "Normally about forty minutes, with this crowd. But I can put in a good word for you with the chef, since you did order ahead and all."

     We thanked him and retreated to a bench in a corner that was, mercifully, unoccupied.

     With a sigh, I leaned back against the wall and closed my eyes. "Remind me why we're doing this again?"

     "Because you can't be trusted around an open flame," said Freeze.

     "Oh. Right. So, how do you like Neopia Central? You've been here before, right?"

     "Just once."

     Then it hit me. The last time Freeze was in Neopia Central was when he was in the pound. We had hurried home when he had been adopted, so the last time he really had a chance to take in the sights... was right before he was abandoned. I mentally kicked myself for being so stupid. No wonder the poor guy was so skittish. I turned to apologize, but was interrupted by the young Blumaroo manning the pick up counter.

     "Hey, sois_sage, your order's ready," he called.

     We collected the pizza boxes and left the shop. It wasn't until we were on the ferry that Freeze spoke.

     "We had hot dogs," he said suddenly.

     "What?" I said, snapped out of my thoughts.

     "Right before I went to the pound. My owner and I had hot dogs at Hubert's. So that's why I was acting kind of weird earlier."

     "Look, Freeze, I'm sorry. I should've thought, and I shouldn't have brought you-"

     "No," he disrupted my apology. "I volunteered to go, remember? It was just a little harder than I thought it would be, that's all."

     "So you're okay with Neopia Central?" I asked.

     He nodded. "Yeah. I think I am."

      * * *

      We arrived home a little later, and were greeted by cheers as we walked in the front door.

     "Alright, the food's here!"

     "Excellent! I'm starving."

     "Woohoo, chow time!"

     "Took you long enough, Sage."

     What, you didn't think that they were happy to see me, did you?

     I was quickly relieved of the packages I carried, and went into the kitchen to get a soda.

     "You guys better leave some pizza for me," I called as I opened the refrigerator.

     After I had grabbed a can of neocola, I went into the dinning room, and slumped into my seat.

     "'Scuse me, Sage," said Stripes, reaching across to get another slice of pizza.

     "Dude, that's your second slice, and you had a burger, too!" said Mat, a Blue Usul, as he popped open a can of Apple flavored neocola.

     The Skunk Bori shrugged. "I've never really been into the whole starving artist thing."

     After dinner I retired to the living room and flopped down on one of the sofas. I was exhausted. Freeze came in to lie across a large beanbag chair. He looked wiped, too.

     I had closed my eyes and was drifting in that space between consciousness and sleep when I heard someone clear their throat nearby. I opened my eyes. Stripes, Kale, Bash, Clever, and Thiebos stood there, looking expectant.

     "Yes?" I said in a tone that clearly stated that I wished they would let me sleep in peace.

     "Well, we were just talking..." Stripes began.

     "And?" I grunted, sitting up.

     "And we thought that since tonight was such a success, that maybe we could do this every Friday. You know, like have a weekly Take-Out Night," said Kale.

     "It would be a little easier on me," Clever said. "I do like to cook, but doing it every night can be tough."

     I was about to protest and ask them if they knew what Freeze and I had gone through to get dinner that night, when I looked through into the kitchen behind them. I smiled. "Okay, guys. We can do that. On one condition."

     "Sure," Bash said enthusiastically. "Name it."

     "You guys have to do the dishes."

     They turned around to face the kitchen, speechless. The sink was piled high with dirty plates and cutlery. After all, it takes a lot of dishes to feed thirteen guys.

The End

  Author's note: Hope you enjoyed the story. Constructive criticism is welcomed. - Sage     

 
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