Friends and Family
It’s time for the wedding of the century! Or at least the year…
I’d only been home from Botswana for two weeks before we had another wedding – to listen to Hana’s fans and some of the entertainment media talk about it, the wedding of the century. Or maybe the decade. At least the year, anyway. It was, however, the first official marriage of two modded humans, and that was a big deal for some people. Not really so much for Hana and Barry, because they knew who the real first couple had been, but we still couldn’t tell anyone about that so the title and the notoriety that came with it went to them and everyone was okay with it.
Well, mostly. Hana’s parents hadn’t been happy about their daughter leaving college for show business, and they’d pretty much disowned her and gone back home to South Korea even before she became a bunnygirl – a reaction she’d known they might have before making her decision, even though she’d told me once that she’d been hoping they wouldn’t. As she’d gotten more famous some people had gotten curious about her family, but Kim is an extremely common name and South Korea is a long way from L.A., so not much ever came of that. And now nobody really seemed to care because they had so many other things to report on. Hana was going to be live-streaming her wedding to her newly-modded fiance on one of her most popular channels, five of her fans had won invitations to be there in person, she and Barry would be meeting two kids from Make-A-Wish during their honeymoon, and the two of them had been so mature and gracious about all of the hoopla that even people who disapproved of modding and mod-rights couldn’t help but give them props for handling the situation so well. Including several world leaders, one of which had been the president of South Korea. To our surprise, though, even he had never once mentioned Hana’s family in his statement; he’d expressed how proud the country was of Hana, wished she and Barry joy in their marriage, and extended an invitation for them to make an official visit to Seoul in the future.
Mrs. Hayes, Barry’s mother, was an entirely different issue. She’d seemed okay the first few times we’d encountered her, but it turned out that was just because we’d told her son to stay in college, where she’d been hoping that he’d eventually find a new, non-lolita, non-bunny girlfriend. She’d gone back to being unhappy again when Barry had started working for GenoMod, and steadily unhappier after that as Hana’s popularity had skyrocketed and the lab’s infamy had too. And now, of course…well, she’d been so passive-aggressively polite at Barry’s graduation from Central U that Dave hadn’t shut up about it for two days, and it was pretty obvious now that she’d never thought this wedding was going to happen.
Because Hana and Barry had been two different species, and those species were not biologically compatible. Barry had chosen not to tell her he was getting modded until after the fact – he swore she would have called the cops on us. As it was, she’d only held off trying to report us – mainly me – to someone because Barry had assured her that the mod was reversible any time. Which it was, at least up to a point. It is a genetic change, after all, you’re not ever going to go back to being 100% the way you were before. Those had been the conditions we’d given him, though – he had to finish college and there had to be a way to reverse the mod – and everyone involved had kept up their end of the bargain so at his request the mod had taken place and now Barry was a huge, active bunnyman who didn’t have to worry about his fiance killing him with sex. Which they’d been having a lot of, partly making up for lost time and partly just because they were both part rabbit, and thank goodness Hana was religious about taking her specially-formulated-by-Dave pills or they’d have already started a family right there in the lab before their house was even finished.
Which was another thing Barry’s mother was really unhappy about, of course, them planning to have a family. And then Barry had come to me for advice because she’d started making noises about how she was sure Hana’s family wouldn’t be okay with all of this either if they knew what was actually going on, so I had Agent Ben set up a video conference for me with a Korean interpreter who worked with the U.N. – perks of being on a U.N. task force, you know. Yoon Seong-Ho usually worked with diplomats and lawyers, but he was originally from Daegu so he’d heard all about the president’s statement not just from the news but also from his family. “Miss Kim’s parents just want to be left out of it,” he explained after I laid out our side of the situation for him. “It is a mark of respect for the family to do so – that is why the president did not mention them. Or at least, that is one reason. To the older generation, he will be seen as showing respect, but the younger ones will take the omission as a condemnation, as him saying the family does not deserve to share in the honor their daughter receives.”
The light bulb went on. “So that whole statement…”
“A carefully crafted political strategem,” Seong-Ho confirmed. “But it also points the way to what actions may or may not be acceptable at the family level in this situation. It would not be well for the young man’s mother to contact the family, not with her attitude as you have described it. His father?”
“They’re divorced, he works overseas.” In Japan, married to the secretary he’d banged his way into a divorce with, but that wasn’t pertinent to the current situation. “Barry doesn’t have much contact with him, so he’s not involved in this.”
Seong-Ho nodded. “In that case, they might meet with his mother if she requested it, but I have no doubt she would offend them by assuming they are on her ‘side’ regarding their daughter and after that they would simply refuse to speak with her. It would be an…uncomfortable encounter for all involved, and would not reflect well on their soon-to-be son-in-law, whether they are prepared to publicly acknowledge him as such or not. In fact, it could cause the rift already between the Kims and their daughter to widen further, without hope of mending.” He cleared his throat. “That said, it would be more than acceptable – and extremely polite – if you were to contact Miss Kim’s parents yourself.”
My ears went up in surprise. “Me?”
“You are, to all intents and purposes, her surrogate father,” he pointed out. “As such, for you to send a well-worded letter informing them of the marriage, perhaps expressing your approval of the young man and the match in general, and extending an invitation to attend while making it clear that should they not choose to be included their wishes will be respected…even if they do not respond, such a gesture will make a good impression.”
“And that good impression could end up paving the way for a reconciliation down the road?” He nodded. “Should Barry and Hana be part of this too?”
“The young man, certainly. Not their daughter, however, as you will be speaking for her.” He laughed at my expression. “I know, I know, but in traditional culture that is simply the way the thinking goes, and when there is any uncertainty it is usually best to err on the side of tradition. I would be happy to help you with the letter, so you will know it is correctly worded and accurately translated. I can even see it delivered, as I will be going back home for a visit next week.”
I took him up on that, and with Seong-Ho’s help Barry and I composed a suitable letter and sent it off with him to be delivered to Hana’s family. I had a feeling he was going to hand-deliver it, because he’d mentioned how refreshing it was to be dealing with such a simple issue that wouldn’t cause anyone to be threatened with death or have a missile pointed at them. It didn’t sound like he was kidding.
Anyway, nobody was more surprised than me to receive a very formal letter from Mr. Kim a month later which thanked me for looking after his daughter and said that although he and his wife could not attend they would be sending one of Hana’s uncles in their place. Hana’s squeal almost broke glass, and I got hold of Seong-Ho again and asked if there was anything we needed to know about hosting Hana’s uncle. He was more than a little surprised. “They are sending her uncle…and how many others?”
How had he known? “The letter said either three or four, apparently someone isn’t sure if they can get their visa in time.”
Seong-Ho was quiet for a long moment. “I think…Danny, if you like, I would be happy to come help you make the arrangements, and serve as a translator between yourself and the family. Something very strange is going on here. I did not expect them to offer more than a polite acknowledgment of the letter, and an equally polite refusal.”
Oh thank god – I hadn’t either. “I’ll send you a plane ticket, you can stay in the guest house.”
Things only got weirder from there. We were in and out a lot, but it wasn’t like anyone but Joey knew anything about making wedding arrangements anyway so they really didn’t need us until it was time for the rehearsal and the dinner to follow. And of course for the ceremony itself, because I was the one walking the bride down the aisle. We were going to have it at the new property, with Hana and Barry’s newly-finished house and garden as a backdrop. Mike was setting up the security, and Hana and the wedding planner were taking care of everything else. GenoMod was busy, which meant Barry was being kept busy, which was probably for the best. And Mrs. Hayes was sort of this looming cloud of passive-aggressive disapproval in the background – way in the background, when it got close enough to time that she had to come out we’d put her up in a hotel. And warned the manager in advance. Did I mention she’s a variation of the suburban-mom type? Did I need to? Didn’t think so.
In spite of that, the rehearsal was a lot of fun. It was being filmed, of course, but only as a family keepsake so everyone – except Mrs. Hayes, of course – was relaxed there was a lot of playing around. It was a sunny day, the garden was beautiful, and two bunnies in love are just the cutest thing anyone could ever hope to see. There was even a puppy involved, because ZipLab had sent a custom designer rescue to Hana and Barry as a wedding gift. Did I also ever mention that we’d done some collaboration with Tim so ZipLab could take over the shelter requests on their end of the country? Yeah, it not only helped us, it helped ZipLab with the PR problem they’d been starting to have over the whole designer dog issue. They still do work for breeders – I guess Dr. Jones is really good at handling that type of client – but now they’re also becoming known for their work to get rescued dogs adopted into the kind of homes that don’t usually adopt anything without a pedigree. Some people still don’t like that, but it’s actually helping to make significant inroads for rescuing into the breed-snob circles so we think it’s a big win all the way around. The ASPCA and the Humane Society even did a series of public service ads promoting the program, one of which Hana had volunteered her time to be in.
So anyway, the rehearsal was all kinds of fun. And right in the middle of it, Hana’s uncle showed up with what I can only think of as an entourage – we’d known he was coming, of course, just not exactly when he would get there. He was a well-dressed older man who got out of the towncar, straightened his jacket and bowed to me. “Dr. Darling, it is a pleasure to meet you in person.”
I bowed back. “Mr. Kim, welcome to our home. We’re glad you were able to come.”
He smiled. “I would not miss my favorite niece’s wedding.” His scent said he was telling the truth, with a little overlay of something else I couldn’t identify. “Mr. Yoon, thank you again for delivering the invitation to our family.”
Seong-Ho inclined his head; he’d visibly and scent-wise gone into professional mode. “It was my pleasure, Mr. Kim. Dr. Darling is a great asset to the United Nations, I was honored to be asked to assist him in understanding the ways of our culture.”
I’d already been warned not to use the word ‘translator’ or even to refer to Seong-Ho in that capacity, since it would be beyond rude to assume the people coming couldn’t speak English well enough to get by without one – or that if they couldn’t, they wouldn’t think to bring along someone who could. “GenoMod is just pleased that we’re able to help the Security Council,” I said. Which is true, we are. “Hana and Barry had gone into the house right before you arrived, Mr. Kim. If you’d all like to come up with us, we can meet them in the garden.”
“Of course.” He ushered the other three people who were with him out of the towncar and briefly introduced them, and then we all went up to the quaint little house with its quaint little painted wooden sign that said ‘Bunholm Cottage’. Hana and Barry met us on the garden path, the clothes they were wearing for playtime-rehearsal fitting for the picture-book setting; Hana had on a black polka-dotted red pinafore dress decorated around the hem with ladybugs, a puff-sleeved white blouse underneath with ladybug buttons, and a black polka-dotted red bow in front of each ear, and Barry was wearing a red polo with a matching ladybug logo – courtesy of Hana’s magic sewing machine – and khaki cargo shorts. I expected another round of formality and maybe a little bit of awkwardness, and I could smell that the kids were nervous…but what actually happened was Mr. Kim pulling out his phone to take a picture. “Wait, I must send this to your mother,” he said, and once he’d done that he tucked the phone back into his pocket and held out his arms. “What, no hug?”
Hana squealed and almost jumped into his arms, and holy shit he actually swung her around in the air like a little girl. And then he shook Barry’s hand and hugged him too, and then the entourage got in on it and it was an honest-to-god Hallmark moment. The only person Mr. Kim was sort of cool toward was Mrs. Hayes, but nobody who wasn’t modded – or Korean, since Seong-Ho definitely caught it – probably would have noticed the difference. Being able to read scents is sort of like going from seeing people in two dimensions to seeing them in three, you catch so much that everyone else misses.
We went back to the rehearsal, and fun went back to being had. Hana’s relatives ooohed and clapped along with everyone else, and her cousin even made suggestions about camera angles and glare that resulted in half of the tripods getting moved followed by another quick round of rehearsal to tweak things. Celebrity weddings, I’m telling you. We even got to chase a paparazzi away, and he literally ran into Mike and we all laughed at him and Hana immediately put the video up on one of her channels where it went viral in under two hours and probably made Hana enough money to pay for their entire honeymoon. Or it would have if half the tab hadn’t already been picked up by Hawaiian Airlines, who were really eager to let modded humans know that everyone was welcome on their flights and in Hawaii, furry or not.
Once the rehearsal was over everyone went back to home or hotel or wherever to clean up and get ready for the pre-wedding dinner. Hana and Barry had reserved a private dining room at a nice restaurant in downtown L.A. which didn’t have a problem with hosting modded humans or catering to some very specific dietary restrictions. The restaurant even had a little club with a dance floor that our party was welcome to move to if we felt like it after dinner. And they had a bouncer who knew all the local paparazzi by name and didn’t like any of them, and who had shared the viral video with the entire staff. Which we knew about because our part of the party had gotten there first to make sure everything was set up, and the bouncer had come in to talk to Mike about any last-minute issues that might have come up. Poor Mike, he was dateless for this one. He and Maria were still hitting it off pretty well, but Primera Genética had just gotten involved with a couple of new mod cases at once so she hadn’t been able to come up for the wedding. She and Ramon had both said one of the cases was something really sensitive they were going to need to collaborate with us on, but their second case had been something of an emergency so the slightly less urgent caso uno had been put on the back burner until caso dos was either resolved or everyone was dead – Ramon’s words. He’d also said not to worry, though, because they apparently had another scientist on hand to help make sure that second option wasn’t the one we all ended up with, so we’d told him to just call if they needed more hands on deck and left it at that.
Mr. Kim showed up not too long after we did, but this time he and Hana’s other relatives came bearing gifts. A lot of gifts. And a table to put them on, which the two aunts did with a lot of fussing because apparently everything had to be placed just so. Mr. Kim had a large basket of treats for Hana; he teased her about having to share with Barry, and pointed out several that had been made in different ways so they would be safe for the two of them to eat. And then one of the aunts – Hana called her keun eemo, which Seong-Ho had told me meant she was Hana’s mother’s older sister – brought over a large, flat box wrapped in yellow- and red-striped paper, which was presented to Hana with a very deep bow. “I promised I would watch you receive this gift,” her aunt told her. “I told her she was being silly, but yeodongsaeng wished to know your reaction.”
Hana looked and smelled mystified by this, and even started to smell a little nervous when her cousin whipped out his phone and started filming her, but she outwardly maintained near-perfect composure as she carefully removed the striped paper from the box, lifted off the lid and opened the flaps of tissue paper inside. And then she squealed, scent spiking so sharply that my fur stood up and my tail started to bristle instinctively. She touched the folded red and white cloth gingerly. “Keun eemo…”
Her aunt shook her head. “She knows you already have a wedding dress, and hers would not fit you now without alteration. She sent it to be passed down, in hope that perhaps one of your daughters will wish to wear it.”
I thought Seong-Ho was going to fall off his chair. Hana nodded and very carefully closed the box back up…and then she threw herself into her aunt’s arms and cried. This was apparently the reaction her family had been hoping for, because they all looked and smelled really pleased – if they’d been Americans, they’d have been high-fiving each other. And then she wiped her eyes with the back of her handpaws and took the phone her uncle was holding out to her. She started the call a little bit hesitantly, but then I heard a squeal in a different key from the other end of the line and after a few minutes she put the call on speaker and everyone started speaking Korean pretty much at once – although they switched back to English a few times to include Barry, who was apparently being formally introduced to Hana’s parents. Angela was crying on Joey’s shoulder – to be fair, he was crying too and so were the rest of us, and it was pretty much a given that Hallmark now had grounds to sue all of us.
Dinner was kind of anticlimactic, after that. It was a really good dinner, though, and the evening wrapped up with everyone pretty much too full to move. Which didn’t stop Hana and Barry from taking the cousin out to the club to dance, Joey and Angela going with them. The rest of us stayed where we were at and made small-talk until Mr. Kim’s sister, the other aunt, started yawning and the Korean part of the party left. The remaining Geno-Mod part of the party was considering heading back home too, but Seong-Ho said we couldn’t just yet and then went out to the club and brought Joey and Angela back. “You must open your gifts,” he insisted, which was pretty much a surprise to everyone because we’d thought the artfully arranged pile on the table were all wedding presents. “Or at least take them with you to be opened at home. I did not mention it earlier because it is considered rude to open a gift in the presence of the giver – unless requested to do so, of course.”
He’d added that last bit just to shut down Mrs. Hayes, I was sure of it. “Wait, those are for us?” Dave asked. “Should we have gotten something for them?”
Seong-Ho shook his head. “The invitation and your hospitality, along with the welcoming gifts of fruit and tea left in their suite, were enough. These are gifts from guest to host, and to welcome you to the family.” He quickly passed out the gifts, mostly smaller boxes wrapped in yellow- and green-striped paper. “If the gift is something which may be worn, and it is appropriate, it would of course be well to wear it to the wedding,” he explained. “It would be rude to call attention to it, however, and notes of gratitude are also not required.”
Nobody wanted to wait, so we all ended up opening the gifts right there. Mrs. Hayes smelled strangely nervous opening hers, but once she had it open that shaded into surprise and confusion so I left it alone – not that I wouldn’t have anyway, because she’d been smelling disapproving and looking vaguely constipated all through dinner. Seong-Ho had been a little bit surprised himself that he also had a gift, but it turned out to be a very nice pen with his name engraved on it and his scent had reflected warm pleasure after that. It’s always nice to be appreciated.
I couldn’t imagine what they would have given me, and I was blown away when the paper came off the box and it turned out to be a Swiss-made expedition watch with four time zones set into its engraved face. And the band…I took the watch out of the box and put it on, flexed my wrist and smiled; the band had apparently been custom-made so it wouldn’t catch and pull fur. Pete leaned over to look, and whistled. “Wow, that’s a nice one. Is that the Kim family crest?”
That got Seong-Ho over there. “It is,” he confirmed, smelling even more pleased. “It is to show the respect the family accords you, and your unique position as a surrogate father-figure to their daughter.” The guys had also been given expedition-style watches, although theirs had the GenoMod logo engraved on the face instead of the crest, and Angela had been given a really fancy diver’s watch. Mike, much to his surprise, had also received a gift; it was a pen made of black oxidized steel with an inscription he had to ask Seong-Ho to translate for him. “I do not understand. It says Swiun Gil, ‘The Easy Way’. This has meaning for you?”
Mike frowned, taking the pen back and looking it over. He clicked it…and then he started to laugh. “Someone in the family watches Hana’s videos,” he said, holding it up. It wasn’t a pen, the part that had come out was long and thin and narrow and had a blunt tip. “This is a lockpick.”
That got a round of laughs. “When Danny and Hana were kidnapped, Mike went with us to rescue them,” Pete explained for Seong-Ho’s benefit. “Mike got impatient with me trying to get the digital lock on Hana’s cage door open…so he just ripped the door apart.”
Seong-Ho’s mouth dropped open. “You can do that?”
Mike blushed. “Um…not all the time. I mean, I don’t do it often. I don’t have to do it often. Actually only that one time.”
Mrs. Hayes had been ignoring the conversation in favor of putting on her coat, smelling vaguely annoyed and still somewhat confused – which was better than the disapproval from earlier, even though she still looked kind of constipated – and she held out her box to Seong-Ho. “Mr. Yoon, could you explain the significance of this to me? I’m not familiar with Korean culture either.”
Seong-Ho obligingly took the box and lifted out the bracelet that was inside, looked at it from all angles, then put it back in the box and back into her hand. “It is significant,” he told her. “You contacted them prior to the wedding?” She nodded hesitantly, and my ears went up. Figuratively speaking, so did everyone else’s. “Did they respond to you?” She shook her head. “My advice would be to learn what you can of our culture, Mrs. Hayes. Your son is marrying into a Korean family; that knowledge could be useful to you in the future should you ever have contact with the family again.”
I could tell she wasn’t happy with that answer – she’d wanted him to explain it to her – but something in his expression must have told her that he wasn’t going to play ball so she just nodded, thanked him, and left. I raised an eyebrow once she was fully gone, and he shook his head. “I understand now,” he said, and I realized he was trying not to laugh. “She must have made quite a bad impression, as well as insulting their daughter. Your gifts were tailored to you as well as personalized, and Mr. Kim showered his niece with favor and affection. But her gift…it was nice enough, but purchased ready-made; basically, it is a high-quality tchotchke.”
Joey raised an eyebrow. “It was an insult?”
He nodded. “One that I believe Mrs. Hayes is too ignorant to comprehend the subtle nature of, but that I have no doubt she deserved.” His scent pulled back on that statement just a little, like he was afraid he might have overstepped himself, and he qualified, “It is not difficult to research the customs of another culture, or even to seek out knowledgeable assistance, as you did. I suspect Mrs. Hayes addressed them as she would have addressed another American family, quite possibly without even having the letter professionally translated and thereby compounding the insult.”
The lightbulb came on. “Wait, so they decided to respond to my letter, and repair their relationship with their daughter…because she pissed them off?”
Seong-Ho shook his head, although his scent was saying ‘yes, sort of.’ “Not entirely. But it did give them a way to do so which left everyone’s pride intact.” He smiled. “We Koreans are fiercely protective of family. An insult to one is an insult to all, and it will be responded to tenfold – although as I said, the subtleties of the response are lost on the young man’s mother, which I have no doubt that Mr. Kim and the others will express much satisfaction and amusement over once they have returned to the privacy of their hotel suite.”
I was personally amused by that thought all the way back home. Not that I hadn’t been in a good mood for the past few days anyway, and not because of the wedding. Well, not just because of the wedding.
You see, my awesome new non fur-pulling watch wasn’t the only present I’d gotten recently because of Hana’s wedding. Maria and Ramon had sent Hana and Barry a wedding present earlier in the week, and inside that package had been a carefully concealed note from Maria to me. The silence from the cold North is not by the choice of tu leñador, she wrote. Be patient, it will be fixed.
I’d showed the note to the guys, of course, and Pete had rolled his eyes. “Well crap – now we’re in a spy movie instead of a creature feature. I’m officially out of my depth here.”
“I think all of us probably are, at this point,” Dave had countered. “Ivor included.”
Nobody had been able to disagree with him about that.
Hana’s wedding went off without a hitch, the livestream had so many people watching it broke a record, and the garden party reception afterward was like something out of one of the Bunny books – not that it wasn’t going to be in one of the Bunny books, because the author was an invited guest, she had her own photographer with her to capture scenes she wanted to illustrate, and she’d told me that she thought A Bunny’s Wedding in the Country was probably going to be the biggest hit of them all. Wonderland Market already had tiny limited-edition wedding ensembles ready to go for the Bunny dolls, and I’d seen Rick talking animatedly to their representative about the inevitable design copycats that were going to crop up and what the best response would be. I’d also seen the representative eyeing up the Kim family, who were all dressed in formal traditional clothing, so it was possible the Bunny doll was going to get a deluxe international wardrobe too at some point in the future. Hana’s fan-guests were in heaven, of course. Randy Beckman and his wife were there, as was the reporter who’d originally put Hana in touch with the people at Wonderland Market, and so were Detective Angelo and his wife, who kept shooting funny looks at Mrs. Hayes.
I was going to go over there to solve that problem myself – after our happy bunny couple had been whisked away to the airport in Hawaiian Air’s white limo, of course – but Dave’s mom beat me to it and Dave’s dad came over to where I was standing and ruffled the fur between my ears. “Let Marie take care of it,” he said. “She knows what this is.”
I cocked an ear at him. “I wish I did, other than the crudely obvious.”
He smiled. “Soccer-mom society can be pretty brutal, let’s put it that way. Any deviation from the norm is a shunning offense, and all of this,” he waved his hand at the garden party, “is pretty far off from that norm. So, she makes sure everyone knows she disapproves, to keep her place in the herd.” He winked at me. “Either that, or she just doesn’t like rabbits.”
Holy crap I love Dave’s dad. I laughed and took his arm. “I’ll leave Marie to it, then. Come on, let’s get some more cake. And I still need to introduce you to Randy, he’s the photojournalist we added to the squad down in Cancún…”