Split Check   Rating: PG
Diana DeRiggs

"It's my birthday," announced Elassar Targon at breakfast, "and I'm having a party at The Golden Elixabeth!"

The others around the table looked up from their dreary commissary fare and cheered up immediately. Any event involving food and Elassar was good, and a party meant plenty to eat and drink! "Hooray!" they shouted, "When?"

"I booked for the five of us at 1800, I got a table in front!" Elassar beamed, knowing how special a front table at the expensive, exclusive restaurant could be. He was rewarded with a gasp of astonishment, and Tyria Sarkin managed to shriek, too, "But ... wow ... that's amazing!"

"Five of us?" Voort saBinring, nicknamed "Piggy" by his unit mates, "but there are eight of us Wraiths, aren't there?"

"Yes," Elassar nodded vigorously, in his energetic way, "but the Lieutenants and the Captain are busy tonight, so I figure us lower order recruits could hang out and have enough fun for them, too?"

"What a lovely idea," Dia Passik had abandoned her efforts to eat her breakfast, "about time we had some fun without them!" She had been dating Garrik Loran, the leader of the group, but he'd been so busy with training that she hadn't seen much of him. "I'm glad I didn't eat this slop yet, I've heard the Golden Elixabeth's food is divine!"

"Ooh, yes," exclaimed Tyria, "good thinking! Save room for it!"

"Then it's set," Elassar was very happy, and he got up to leave, "see you there, be prompt, don't want to lose the table!" He was referring to the restaurant's low tolerance for no-shows.

Hohass Ekwesh -- called Runt for his relatively small stature compared to others in his species -- hoped that he'd enjoy the food, too. Sometimes his Thakwaashi metabolism didn't allow him to eat some, but when he voiced his concern, Piggy assured him that the restaurant was reknown for their sensitivity to different cultural and biological considerations, and would recommend and serve to suit. "So we should make sure we are not late," Piggy's mechanically modulated voice still conveyed excitement, "They have long waiting lists, and they could give away Elassar's table if all members of the party are not on time."

They were excited at the generous invitation -- a restaurant of the Golden Elixabeth's calibre was well beyond their means, even if they saved their money for ages. But they didn't question how Elassar could afford to treat them there for his birthday. Several of the Wraiths had independent fortunes, and they didn't want to be rude and question him.

* * * * *

Elassar was unconscious in the MedCenter, and his unit mates had been arrested by the local civilian police, then turned over to the military police. This was a more serious issue than simply being taken in my the MPs, as now a report had to be submitted to satisfy the civilian constabulatory as well as the military one.

There had been a fight reported at The Golden Elixabeth -- a rare occurance. It was a high-class establishment, and the guests respected decorum; any arguements were reserved for after the patrons had left the restaurant. It was unusual for a fistfight to break out right in the restaurant itself, and at the front table, right by the front window for all of Coruscant to see.

The police report delivered to the MPs stated that the four arrested soldiers had been invited to the birthday party of the soldier now in the MedCenter. He'd ordered expensive foods and drinks, then handed his friends the bill to split between themselves. The four friends had not expected to have to pay for the party, and the confrontation ended up in fisticuffs.

The management had called in the police immediately, which was fortunate as Targon was nearly unconscious when they got to him. His eyes were swollen shut, his lip was split open, his jaw was broken, joints dislocated, cheekbone split ... It was a wonder he had not been permanently damaged.

Commander Face Loran was aghast at this behavior. He asked his fellow officers, Kell Tainer and Shalla Nelprin, to back him up when speaking to the four detained soldiers. "I don't understand it," Shalla was shaking her head, "Did we not all get along?"

Kell knitted his brows, "I thought we did ... but maybe since Antilles turned us over to Intelligence ... do you think the strain is getting to them?"

"Maybe, but maybe we should ask them?" Face still couldn't fathom how Tyria, Dia, Runt and Piggy could suddenly turn on Elassar so violently, and in such a proper public place. "What were they doing at the Golden Elixabeth anyway? They can't afford that place, I know what they get paid!"

Kell tapped through the datapad files, "Says they were at a birthday party for Elassar and he told them they have to pay for it, and it seems they hadn't expected that. And, as you say, they don't have that kind of money. I guess they panicked ..."

Shalla giggled, "Maybe they thought beating up Elassar would get them out of paying the check?"

"Oh, they'll pay," grumbled Face, "the whole base is banned from going there now, and the higher ups are slightly miffed at the bad publicity, too. I just got a reaming for their behavior. They'll pay for the new anus I now have as a result ..."

* * * * *

"I might have understood if he just stuck with the food, but he kept ordering this bubbly stuff. It was really nice, and he kept ordering it, bottle after bottle ... I can understand, he wants to enjoy himself, but he expected us to pay for it!" Dia had been crying hard, and her face was all puffy from her night in the hoosegow, "I mean, if I'm paying for it, shouldn't I be told in advance? Or at least have the say in what's coming?"

"But Dia," Shalla was trying to keep calm, "did that justify beating Elassar almost to death??"

"No," sniffed the Twi'lek, miserable. "But we were so shocked, and I guess we were kind of drunk ..."

"The food was good," offered Piggy.

"Piggy, Runt, did you hit Elassar?" Kell shuddered to think of the violence the two bigger members of the unit could do.

"No, they didn't," Tyria interjected.

Piggy spoke for himself, not willing to shift the blame on the women, "But we were all under the impression that Elassar was treating. He just handed us the bill and we were looking at two years' pay handed over for one meal! Each! That's eight years' worth!"

Runt looked sad, "I will never do that again. I didn't even drink any of the bubbly, and I had mostly vegetables. I did not see why we needed to split the check evenly, either."

"So let me get this straight," Face rubbed his head, and realized he was replicating the maneuver he'd often seen Wedge Antilles make when talking to his errant staff, "you lot owe 8 years salary to the Golden Elixabeth??"

"Yes," Dia was still sniffing, "we lost our heads ..."

There was a long, shocked silence. Face couldn't blame them, he would have beaten up Elassar, too.

Kell thought they did have a good point, "What if you're not a big eater, a big drinker, a big spender, like Runt here -- or you prefer to spend your money in other ways, like I know Tyria does? She sends money to Toprawa, it's a matter of priorities, right?"

"So why didn't you ask about the bill in advance," queried Face, "What made you think he was treating? You must know how much the Golden Elixabeth costs!"

"I don't know," Tyria blinked back tears, "it just seemed like an invitation, and you don't get guests to pay at your party, do you?"

"It seems to me," Piggy had his characteristically pensive look, "that if you go out to dinner frequently with the same group of friends, then it makes sense to split the check evenly. One night you have a salad, the next you have gornt -- eventually it evens out. But this was a different occasion, and Elassar had never mentioned payment at any point before the bill came."

"Well," Face couldn't see his way out of this problem, "you might have said, 'Let's each pay what we owe,' but I'll admit it feels ignoble. But let's get back to the subject at hand ... Targon is in the MedCenter in a bacta tank, and this unit is in hock to a very expensive restaurant. So, what do we do?"

One of Runt's many brains took over, the "polite brain" -- his species had multiple personalities as part of their development, and the unit had learned this was not considered a mental illness. "Always offer to pay the check," he said, "But always accede to what your guests want. If you are gracious, your guest will likely insist of paying a share. If they don't, the money lost is likely worth the friendship." He smiled at his solution.

Dia hiccuped, "So we were wrong to beat up Elassar."

"Do you all agree to this?" Face knew that were likely still hungover, but he needed to know his staff was at least contrite about their behavior before deciding on a punishment.

"Yes," they all mumbled. "Although I did not hit him," said Piggy, "I should not have held him down for Dia to hit him, either."

Face shot a look at Shalla and Kell when the two snorted, trying to hold in a giggle. "Next time, you figure out a way to pay the check, and beat him up when you get back to base, so the civvies don't have to get involved, do you understand?"

There was another mumbled affirmative, and Face continued, "So what do we do about paying off this debt? We need to do it, so that the whole base isn't blacklisted forever. It's bad enough your behavior got you arrested, you will repay the cost of the party. Yes, Elassar, too. But we will decide how to do it, all of us. Even if it means you five are on extra shifts and KP for the next two years!"

* * * * *

When Elassar had recovered and had been returned to the unit, he apologized to them all. While convalescing, he'd realized what had happened. "While I was floating in bacta, I realized it was grossly unfair of me to presume you knew the rules." He kept his distance from his mates, just in case they grabbed him again to administer another beating. "And I'm mortified about the arrest, what must the Golden Elixabeth think of me?"

"What do you mean about you?" Face looked very stern, "Your incident reflects on the whole base!"

Elassar hung his head, and they all noticed that one of his horns was chipped. He'd have to have reconstructive surgery to even them up again. Devaronians were very proud of the appearance of their horns, and Targon had made a big deal of covering them when he traveled back to base from the MedCenter.

"I'm so sorry, but I realized that I had forgotten to tell you ... close friends own the Golden Elixabeth. I had simply shown you the bill so we could pay the tip. They wouldn't have charged me for the food and bevvies, but I always leave a tip ..."

Dia burst out into tears, "I didn't realize that! Ohmigosh, I'm so sorry I punched you!"

"Me too," whispered Tyria, "but Elassar, I can't even afford the tip. I have those charity obligations, that would still be like a month's wages!"

Elassar smiled, "You might have just told me that, you know. With your mouth, not with your fist!" He touched his lip, where Tyria had split it with a punch. "But don't worry, I've talked to my friends, and they say the publicity has caused a surge in reservations requests. So they were mad, but they have forgiven me."

"But what about paying the tip?" Piggy urged, "We still need to figure out how?"

Elassar waved the protest off, "I've sent them some rare jewelry left to me by my mother, they were delighted to receive it. They'd told me they'd always admired it on her. The owner bought the piece and paid the service people their tips and gratuities."

The others were stunned at this turn. "So it's all taken care of, Elassar?" Face wanted to make sure, "I have to tell you, the people above me were furious."

"Well, I can't do anything about that," Elassar rubbed the broken stump of his horn, "but I don't think we're banned anymore. Isn't anyone going to thank me and wish me a happy birthday?"

"We will," said Runt, his comedic brain working now, "but next time you want us to split a check or gratuities, please say so before you invite us. Or we'll have to split your lip again!"

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