Note: It has come to my attention that Rick is rarely a main character in HM fanfiction, or he is bashed repeatedly. Why? There are so many facets to his character: an ill mother, a sister dating a player (or, at least, Rick thinks so), a father who has abandoned him, and the love of a girl totally out of his league. There is so much to work with, people! Let the plot bunnies multiply!
Disclaimer: Do you really think I own Harvest Moon? Well, I don't.
All That Remains
He hadn't expected it to hurt this much. Scratch that; he'd known how painful the truth would be from the beginning. But being the idiot that he was, Rick had dutifully ignored all the signs. The long conversations, the private jokes, the obnoxious flirting: they were all there. But still, those weren't the things that had upset him.
It had been that kiss.
Leaning against the wall of the chicken coop in despair, Rick let the horrible scene replay in his mind, forever imprinted in his memory. The more he tried to forget it, the more the memory refused to leave, and it became more vivid with each recollection.
He shouldn't have gone to the mountain that day. No matter how badly Popuri wanted some new flowers to decorate the house, Rick should have refused her. But no, he just had to play the part of the caring older brother and go pick them for her. How could he expect to find more than flowers there?
A silhouette of two figures could be seen on the bridge, holding hands and gazing into each other's eyes. Rick had assumed it would be Ann and Cliff; his mouth fell open in shock when the sunlight revealed their true identities. The soft blonde hair, the delicate figure in purple, the gentle laugh: it was her. It was Karen, inside the arms of the strong young farmer.
Rick strained his ears to hear the conversation going on between the two lovers, but he could only hear vague murmurings and an occasional laugh. Jack smiled, and Rick found he could somewhat hear what they were saying as the wind died down.
"Jack, you want to know something?" Karen told him, her grin broadening. "I've never been kissed."
"Never?" Jack exclaimed. "Someone as pretty as you?"
"Never," she repeated.
"Well, why don't we fix that?" Jack suggested, pulling her closer to him. Their lips met. Time slowed down as the two lovers embraced and shared the passion of that innocent morning kiss. Rick found himself frozen to the spot, a heart-wrenching sensation spreading throughout him. Then, just as suddenly, the trance shattered, and Rick ran home, dropping the forgotten flowers to the ground.
No. No. This wasn't happening. Karen hadn't been… She wouldn't… But she did, and that was what mattered. She had given her first kiss to that farmer, to Jack. Willingly, she had done it. And Rick could only watch, heartbroken and forgotten.
His eyes snapped open, seeing once again the chicken coop. Anger rekindled itself within him, and he wanted to hit something, to rip something apart, to kill that farmer. Damn him! That kiss didn't belong to him! Rick was supposed to be her first kiss, not some farmer. It was his right, wasn't it? He had known her first! Hell, he'd known her all his life. It wasn't fair! He was supposed to receive that kiss!
"Damn it, Jack, do you hear me? You stole that kiss!" Rick shouted, sending the chickens into a panic. "Don't you understand? I loved her first…damn it, I loved her first!"
His breathing intensified, and a few sobs escaped his throat. But he wasn't crying, was he? Yes, he realized in shock, there were tears falling down his cheeks. He cried out in exasperation as he wiped them from his face. The wetness of the tears seemed to prove that everything had truly happened, that this wasn't some hellish dream. This was real. This was life. This was love.
He sat down again, somewhat ashamed of his outburst and frightening the chickens. Closing his eyes, he took in a deep shaky breath. Ranting wouldn't do anything. Karen had kissed Jack, and that was that. As much as Rick hated to admit it, she loved Jack. And God, did he hate to admit it! But what hurt the most…was that Rick had been given so many chances. There were an infinite number of times he had almost confessed his feelings to her, that he had attempted to let his love show. But "almost" doesn't mean anything. A loser was a loser, no matter how close he was to winning. And Jack had won this round.
"Karen…" he moaned. "Why? Why did it have to be this way? Why couldn't I have done something more…why couldn't I have told you…?" But it was too late. He'd wasted all his chances. And now, he didn't think heaven would bless him with any more. It was over. Karen wasn't his to love.
He'd be lying if he told himself he was happy for her. Yes, Rick wanted her to be happy, but what about his happiness? What about his feelings? Why couldn't she see how he felt inside?
The sound of the door to the chicken coop opening startled Rick out of his self-pitying lethargy.
"Hey," Popuri smiled at her brother, collecting the eggs. "You've been here awhile, huh?"
Rick managed a slow nod, praying that she couldn't see the tear stains on his face.
"Honestly, Rick, I don't know how you can stand it. It smells so stinky in here…you don't want to smell like chicken, do you?" The question was rhetorical; Popuri continued talking without even looking at her brother.
"So Summer's almost over, isn't it?" she spoke. "I'll miss it a lot."
"Yeah…" Rick spoke, his voice cracking.
"Hey, Rick…" Popuri's voice took on a more serious tone. "Um…what would you do if I left home?"
"Left?" Rick repeated, only mildly interested.
"Yeah, like what if I had to go somewhere…far away…and not see you or Mama for awhile," she asked softly. "Like, a few seasons."
"That's a long time, Popuri," Rick managed, his brain trying to soak in the information. "You haven't even left the village before."
"I-I know, but—What if I—Never mind," she blushed, turning away. "You wouldn't understand."
"Understand what?" Rick replied, his curiosity suddenly peaked.
"I…can't tell you. Mama doesn't even know," she whispered. "And if you knew…you'd hate me."
"Popuri," he insisted, "I could never hate you. You're my little sister. You can tell me anything." Hate was a strong word. That's why it was reserved for Jack.
"O-okay…" Popuri swallowed and placed her hand in her dress pocket. "Um, Rick, I'm going to leave Mineral Town. I've made up my mind. Don't worry, I'll come back during Summer, and I'll write you and Mama letters, and I'll be fine. I promise."
"That's crazy," Rick protested. "You can't travel the world alone—"
"I won't be alone," Popuri whispered, pulling her hand out of her pocket. Inside her palm was an azure feather, a pink bow tied around the bottom.
Rick found himself speechless. First Karen, and now this?
"I told Kai yes this morning," Popuri continued quietly. "I—I love him, Rick. And I know you don't like him, but I want to be with him. I want to live the rest of my life with him, and I don't want to lose him. This feeling, this love—I don't want him to take it with him when he leaves again. I want to be his wife, Rick. And so, I'm leaving."
Rick stared at her and a maniacal laugh erupted from him. The mirthless laugh echoed throughout the tiny chicken coop, and he forced back the tears again. It was one thing to cry alone; it was an entirely different matter to cry in front of someone.
"Are you alright, Rick?" Popuri exclaimed in concern. "Did something happen? You don't seem…yourself."
"Everything," he laughed, "everything is going wrong. Everyone's leaving."
"Stop talking like that, Rick," Popuri told him sharply. "Y-You're scaring me."
"You think you can just run off and marry that traveler? Well?"
"I love him!" Popuri shouted. "Can't you just accept that? Or do you want me to lose him? If I let him leave again…I couldn't take it. This is my life, and I'm leaving. So, you can't stop me!"
"Stop you?" Rick muttered softly as Popuri turned to go. "You think I want you to leave? No, I don't, but I won't stop you. Just because I'm alone doesn't mean you have to be, too."
Popuri paused. Rick looked away towards the chickens, and laughed again.
"If you stayed here, you'd be as useless as me," Rick sighed. "Moping about, complaining, your head full of empty passions and dreams; just take love while you can. Don't…take it for granted. Don't lose it. But don't expect me to be happy about it, either."
Popuri smiled and left. There was nothing, in truth, that she could say. Except, perhaps, thank you. But Rick didn't care. He stood up and began to walk towards the door. Dusk was coming on, and he had sat still long enough. He, too, would have to move on. Even if he was alone, he had to move on.