Chapter Six: Family
About an hour into the movie, the front door opened and a boy's voice called, "I'm home! Is Nat here?"
"I'm in the living room!" Natalie called back, putting the movie on pause.
"Nat?" Loki asked as a tall, lanky boy with blue eyes and short reddish brown hair the same shade as Natalie's came in.
"When Kevin was a baby, he wasn't able to say my full name, so he called me Nat, and it stuck," Natalie said, standing up.
"Nat, who's this?" Kevin asked.
"This is Loki, my boyfriend and new roommate," Natalie said.
"Loki? Cool name," Kevin said.
"Thank you," Loki said.
"Kevin, did you grow again?" Natalie asked.
"Two inches since you last saw me," Kevin said proudly.
"Be careful, soon you won't fit into the house," Natalie said teasingly. She ruffled her brother's hair and hugged him. He grimaced but hugged back. "Hey, are you watching Spirited Away?" he asked.
"Yup," Natalie said. "Loki doesn't know much about anime, so I'm going to convert him. Wanna help?"
"Sure!" Kevin said. "Miyazaki marathon tonight?"
"You bet!" Natalie said.
"Homework first, Kevin," Mrs. McKenzie said. "You can watch TV later."
"Mom, it's not just TV, it's ANIME," Kevin said indignantly.
"Your point?" Mrs. McKenzie asked.
"Anime goes beyond the parameters of mere 'TV'," Natalie said loftily. "TV is those sitcoms you and Dad like. Anime is MUCH better."
Mrs. McKenzie shook her head. "You two are addicted," she said. "Kevin, go work on your homework. Your father is taking us out for dinner since Natalie's home for a few days."
"Can we get Italian?" Natalie and Kevin chorused.
"I'm sure we can arrange that," Mrs. McKenzie said. "Homework. NOW."
"Oh, fine," Kevin said, and headed off sulkily.
"You two seem to have a good relationship," Loki commented.
"Anime creates bonding time, so yes, I suppose we do," Natalie said. "Wanna watch the rest of Spirited Away?"
"Sure," Loki said.
Just as the movie ended, the front door opened again, and this time Natalie turned off the TV, jumped up, and ran for the front door, followed by Loki. Loki got there to find Natalie hugging a tall man with the same warm brown eyes as her happily. "Dad, it's so good to see you!" Natalie said happily.
"It's great to see you again too, sweetheart," Mr. McKenzie said, hugging back. "How's school? And what's this I hear about a boyfriend? Did you finally decide not to die an old maid?"
"DAD!" Natalie shrieked. "That wasn't my plan in the first place! I never had a boyfriend before because I wanted to wait to find the right person! Do NOT compare me to the rest of the girls at my school."
"I thought you were busy mooning over cartoon characters," Mr. McKenzie said.
"They are NOT 'cartoon' characters, they're ANIME characters, and I thought you'd be GLAD I found someone who's real," Natalie said.
"I'm just teasing," Mr. McKenzie protested. "But your boyfriend and I will be having a chat later, got that?"
"I'll be there too, or no, you do not get to chat with Loki," Natalie said flatly. "I will not have you scaring him half to death because you're the overprotective type."
"Mmph," Mr. McKenzie said. "Are we going to the usual dinner place?"
"Yup!" Natalie said. "Loki and I just need to get shoes on."
She let go of her father, and he looked over at Loki. "I take it you're Loki?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Loki said.
"Loki says I inherited your overprotectiveness!" Natalie chirped cheerfully. "You should be proud, I threatened to castrate someone the other day!"
"We will be having a talk after dinner when we get home," Mr. McKenzie said. Natalie drooped and went to put shoes on, followed by Loki.
"That went well," Loki commented sarcastically.
"Oh well," Natalie said as Kevin and her parents came up to them.
"Let's get in the car," Mr. McKenzie said.
"I'll take the middle," Natalie said as she and Loki went out to the driveway. She slid into the backseat, and Loki sat next to her, Kevin getting in on the other side. Loki copied her as she put her seatbelt on, and then Mr. McKenzie drove them to a restaurant called Mama Rose's Italian Bistro. Natalie took Loki's hand as they went in, and they were seated fairly quickly.
"There are lots of people here," Loki commented.
"It's a really popular restaurant, and the food's not only very good, it's not too expensive," Natalie said. "So there's usually a lot of people here, and sometimes it's hard to get a table- especially on Fridays."
"Why Fridays?" Loki asked.
"It's the end of the work week, and a lot of people go out," Mrs. McKenzie said.
"I'm getting chicken parmesan," Natalie said. "Loki, do you know what you want?"
"I don't know what most of this is," Loki admitted.
"Did you like the pizza we had the other night?" Natalie asked.
"Yes," Loki said. "What is chicken parmesan, by the way?"
"It's breaded chicken with tomato sauce and pasta," Natalie said. "I love it."
"Nat gets that every single time we come here," Kevin said. "She's obsessed."
"I am not obsessed, and I got lasagna the last time I came here, so I do not get it every single time," Natalie said. "Besides, you get lasagna every time we come here, which means you shouldn't talk about obsessed."
"Kids…." Mr. McKenzie said warningly.
"I think I will try the chicken parmesan," Loki said.
"What would you like to drink?" Natalie asked.
"If they have the drink we had when we were eating pizza the other night, I'd like that," Loki replied.
"Sprite?" Natalie asked.
"I believe so," Loki said.
"Cool, I think I'll get Coke," Natalie said as the waitress came over.
"Do you need more time, or are you ready to order?" the woman asked.
"I think we're ready to order," Mrs. McKenzie said. "Natalie, why don't you go first?"
Natalie nodded and said, "I'd like chicken parmesan and a Coke, please."
"Soup or salad with that?" the waitress asked.
"Salad, please," Natalie said.
"Alright, and for you?" the waitress asked Loki.
"Chicken parmesan and Sprite, please," Loki said.
"Do you want soup or salad with that?" the waitress asked.
"Salad, please," Loki said.
"Sure," the waitress said. Mrs. McKenzie got chicken Piccata, Kevin got lasagna, and Mr. McKenzie got filet mignon. The waitress left, and Natalie said, "And now we wait."
"So Natalie, how's school going?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"It's going well," Natalie said. "I'll be done in two months, and then I can start looking for a job."
"That's wonderful," Mrs. McKenzie said. "Do you have any idea what you'll be looking for?"
"I want to try applying to a clinic before setting up my own business, since I have no formal experience," Natalie said. "I've gotten a lot of good recommendations, though, so hopefully I won't have too much trouble."
"I'm sure you'll do fine," Mr. McKenzie said. "So how are your friends?"
"Last I checked they were good; everyone went away for break except Marie, and she's swamped with her schoolwork," Natalie said. "I wasn't really expecting anyone to be around, so I had originally planned to just hang out watching anime and doing homework. Thankfully I got all my homework done already, so I get to relax for the rest of break."
"Miyazaki marathon?" Kevin asked hopefully.
"Yep," Natalie said. "And then we should do a Bleach marathon."
"Bleach?" Loki asked.
"It's an awesome anime and there are over three hundred episodes," Kevin said happily as the waitress came back with their orders.
"Three hundred is a lot; do you expect to watch all of them?" Loki asked.
"We'll space them out," Natalie said. "I learned my lesson about non-stop anime when I was twelve- ten straight hours doing nothing but watching Naruto can really tire you out. I managed to get through twenty-one episodes before I crashed."
"When was this, exactly?" Mrs. McKenzie asked sternly as they started eating.
"The summer before I started middle school," Natalie said. "At least it wasn't a school night."
"True," Mrs. McKenzie conceded.
"This is very good," Loki commented, looking at the chicken parmesan on his plate.
"I'm glad you like it," Natalie said. "I can probably find a recipe for it sometime if you want."
"Maybe you can show me how to cook," Loki said.
Natalie smiled. "I'd be happy to," she said.
The rest of dinner was pleasant, and when they finished, Kevin asked, "Can we get dessert?"
"I made an ice cream cake for Natalie, so no," Mrs. McKenzie said. "One dessert per day."
"How do you survive on one dessert only?" Loki asked.
Natalie giggled as her parents looked at him. "Loki, not everyone has a massive sweet tooth like you do, and eating too much dessert is bad for your health," she said. "Besides, fruit is sweet too."
"Fruit does not taste like chocolate," Loki said.
"Another chocoholic?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"He's worse than I ever was," Natalie said. "I have absolutely no chocolate left in the house- though it was highly amusing when Loki mistook my baking cocoa for some kind of dessert."
"I still don't understand how that bitter powder becomes things like chocolate cake," Loki muttered.
"You add sugar to it, and lots of other things, so it takes the bitterness away," Natalie replied.
They left the restaurant after paying, and on the way home, Mr. McKenzie said, "Natalie, after cake we will be having a talk. I may approve of you protecting someone important to you, but castrating people is going a bit far."
"Who did you threaten, anyways?" Kevin asked as they pulled into the driveway.
"I think his name was Fury, or something," Natalie said. "I didn't get his first name."
Mr. McKenzie choked. "You threatened to castrate Nicholas Fury!?" he shrieked.
"Is that his first name?" Natalie asked.
"Bald man with an eye-patch?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"That's him," Natalie said. "He was trying to intimidate me, so I told him if he laid a finger on Loki, I would use him as a dummy to practice castration on, since I was also planning on castrating Loki's abusive adoptive father," Natalie said.
"Nat, what is it with you and castration?" Kevin asked.
"From what I've heard it's seriously painful, and therefore I figured it would scare that Fury guy off- which kind of worked," Natalie said. "Uh, Dad? Why do you look like you're having a nervous breakdown?"
"Fury is the director of SHIELD!" Mr. McKenzie said- more like wailed. "You're lucky he didn't throw you in jail!"
"Can we go inside to discuss this?" Natalie asked. "You'll irritate the neighbors with all that wailing."
Mr. McKenzie went into the house, and the others followed him. The minute the door was closed, Mr. McKenzie said, "Kevin, go watch TV or something; your mother and I need to chat with Natalie and Loki."
"Can't I stay?" Kevin pleaded.
"If you agree not to eavesdrop, you can pick the order in which we watch the movies," Natalie said.
Kevin sighed and left, and Mr. McKenzie said, "Kitchen. NOW."
Natalie sighed and pulled Loki into the kitchen, followed by her parents, who closed the door. "I think you're overreacting, Dad," Natalie said bluntly. "The only thing Mr. Fury said in response was that I'm responsible for Loki's actions now. He didn't threaten to throw me in jail, and he didn't hurt me. Can you just drop it? I promise not to do it again. And I'm a grown woman, I can handle myself."
Mr. McKenzie deflated, and Mrs. McKenzie said, "Natalie's right. As long as she doesn't do it again, things should be fine. I thought you wanted to talk with Loki, not scold Natalie."
"Oh, fine," Mr. McKenzie said grouchily. He looked at Loki, and asked gruffly, "What are your intentions towards my daughter?"
"I love her," Loki replied calmly.
"You're not just using her or leading her on?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"I am not a shallow man, Mr. McKenzie," Loki replied. "I would not have come here if that was my true purpose for courting Natalie."
"Mmph," Mr. McKenzie said. "You promise not to hurt her?"
"I give you my word I will never willingly hurt Natalie," Loki said.
"How old are you, exactly?" Mr. McKenzie asked.
"Twenty-two, I believe," Loki said. "I have long since stopped keeping track of birthdays."
"Why is that?" Mrs. McKenzie asked.
"I had no one to celebrate with," Loki replied simply.
"Can we have ice cream cake now?" Natalie asked hopefully.
"Fine- but no more threatening to castrate people," Mr. McKenzie said.
"Oh, fine," Natalie said.