When you wanted to familiarise yourself with someone else's family, you always were invited to a family dinner. The classics - ornate candles slotted into silver decorations at the centre of the large rectangular table, the pristine white cloth that covered the oak, some never-before-seen meals that had unpronounceable names.
Oh yes, the dull, formal family dinner where one of the parents says nothing more than 'what's your job' towards the partner of their child and then sneers or smiles accordingly.
Dedede was sitting closely to me and I heard his heartbeat all over the place, as if I had his ears. It was noticeable that he was shaking uncomfortably, probably from being stressed at making a bad first impression. Dedede was not the most polite or respectable man at first, but he promised that he wouldn't launch a nuclear weapon on my parents if there was a problem.
He was just trying to be a peaceful little boyfriend.
My mom turned her head towards us both, her warm smile relaxing our muscles a little more. Meanwhile, my grumpy father continued to eat, his spoon beating loudly against the bowl of soup he was slowly eating from. He didn't pay us any attention, and something inside me sank a little.
"So, my boys, how are you currently living?"
Apart from that, the house was devoid of any sound, and outside it was extremely quiet too. It's as if the ground, and the grass, and the trees and the roads were listening to our dinner conversations, trying to determine what was actually happening. No one knew whether it was all against my father or my father against all of us as he ignored everything that was happening around him and instead concentrated on his fascinating meal.
I shook Dedede's hand, which was under the table and away from prying eyes, in comfort without making eye contact whatsoever.
He felt slightly frightened, although I knew he didn't want to show it.
I took a bite of chicken that had been ceremoniously lying on the table like a sacrificial lamb.
"Well, I think me and Dedede are living quite well. We have a cozy house in the central district of Dreamland."
My father could be heard growling in annoyance, which made my heart writhe with guilt but I continued to face my mother with a grin.
"That's excellent! I'm sure your dad is proud of you."
She glanced at my father who hadn't as much as blinked at him being mentioned.
"No, I'm not proud of him."
That is all he muttered in response.
The rest of dinner was spent in utter silence, no one dared to chit-chat as we all observed my father from the corners of our eyes, watching out if the ticking bomb inside of his mind ever decides to explode. It did not, thank Nova.
That is, until I asked for something. A small, insignificant salt shaker was positioned quite far away from me, and it would have been impolite to stand up and stretch my hand over the table to reach for it - thus, I was forced to ask someone else to pick it up for me.
"Daddy, can you pass the salt?"
It took two seconds. Two goddamn seconds for this all to go rapidly downhill. In those two seconds, brain neurones of two people at the table managed to somehow pick up the word 'daddy' and the two aforementioned people stood up without realising. One of their hands each met at the adored salt shaker, and then their eyes met in a shock.
Both Dedede and my father stood up to pass me the salt.
It remained silent like after a tornado stormed over our home and nothing had been left in its midst - the two men stood bravely, just looking at each other in nothing but grave surprise. They were probably wondering 'so he calls you daddy too?' or 'which one of us did he really call?' Nothing mattered to me more than dignity, however, once my mother quickly glanced at my red face, to Dedede's wild blush to my father's rather concerned features and released a booming guffaw that bounced off every known wall in the room. None of us dared to move but her, and after a few minutes she was already breathless and literally scrambling to sit on the ornate chair she had just fallen off of. She'd been pointing out at all of us, one after another, trying to suppress her laugh.
'You, Escargon? And...and him, Dedede? And then you--HAHA!'
I couldn't look anyone in the eyes, so I promptly jumped out of my chair in a hurry and fled out of the room, my mother's laughter still continuing at the back of my mind. Luckily, I found the back door of our house and I dashed outside to sit on the garden stairs. They were a bit rusty and completely drenched, but I sat on them nonetheless and stared out into the gloomy grey sky.
This day couldn't get any worse.
Dedede always wanted to make the best possible impression on my parents. He wanted to show he was a caring partner, a man that would go to the ends of Earth for me if I needed to. Right now, all my parents had seen was that his 'blushy dork' cover was actually a lie and that deep inside, he was only there for sex and nothing else.
I felt disappointed in myself as I burrowed my face inside of my hands and quietly cried out, the rain hitting against the windows persistently like a drill. The sound was eroding my mind like a small forest path being walked on by all kinds of people, trying to impress but instead becoming everything but special.
I didn't hear the back door opening silently, nor did I feel Dedede's comforting embrace once he sat on the stairs next to me. I didn't want to feel anything - I shut out everything I could.
"Oh c'mon, Goonie..."
I sniffled, tears streaming down my face in a constant reminder of the event that transpired today.
"Dedede, you don't understand! I...I disappointed them. I made a grave mistake that cannot be repaired."
His grip on my feeble shoulders tightened, and I felt like his love and care was slowly helping me recover from the incident.
"Esky, it's fine...hell, I think we made a brilliant impression. Your mama loves us together."
"My mother has always been to liberal for her own good - on the other hand, my father..."
Dedede lightly pulled my head onto his lap and, since I received the message about this dinner from my mother, I felt like I could truly relax.
"Look, if you're so desperate to call me daddy, then maybe don't do it in public--"
I softly punched Dedede's arm in annoyance, but I couldn't wipe that sincere grin off of his face.
"Look, if you're so desperate to hear me call you daddy, then maybe you shouldn't react to that word in public for the sake of dignity."
Dedede looked out into the horizon, and affirmatively closed his eyes.
"Hm, good point."
A moment of calming silence was shared between us, the only sound being the desperate raindrops hitting the creaking stairs like bombs raining on defences. I didn't want this evening to end like this, and I think Dedede understood this message. In a few seconds, he was already up on his feet and standing next to the doors, looking at with those warm and caring eyes of his.
He knew it would be alright.
"So, do we want a rematch?"
"Rematch? So you treat this as nothing more than a weird mark of territory? As a way to prove that I'm yours?"
His eyes sized me up and down, from my head to my feet, his smug expression making this moment so much less serious than what it should be.
"Are you saying you're not mine?"
I released an embarrassed giggle and, before he had a chance to catch me and really prove that I am his, I opened the back doors and ran inside, my wet soles making black marks on the carpet one-by-one. It was a pleasant squishy sound, which made this evening so much more fun than what it could have been. I felt so young and free again.
Dedede closed the doors behind him, and pointedly looked at the rooms upstairs. Then he expectantly glanced at me. I couldn't keep my wild laugh in as I realised what he meant.
"What?! No, first we have to solve this! We have to talk to my parents--"
"Didn't you want to have a reason to call me daddy once again?"
I shook my head and dashed back into the dining room, Dedede hot on my tail. We chased each other through numerous sitting rooms and other unnamed living spaces, each type of decor coming and going as fast as a childhood memory. It was a one of a kind moment, which reminded me of all those cheery afternoons I used to spend with my father who would play tag with me every day. He'd always smile at me, read books with me, treat me like a son he is proud of...
Yes, this evening had turned out much better than I supposed.