Author's Note: I seriously need to stop writing about drunk characters! XD To be honest, one side of my family enjoys drinking together with friends whenever they can, so I guess this is where the ideas come from. Just figured I'd throw that out there. ;)
Back to this one-shot. I was always amused by Kai's comments on his brother-in-law when he and Popuri visited in summer. I guess dragging Rick home drunk every night can get tiring... Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't have any rights to Harvest Moon because there are already enough drunks in the series...
Here's to Family
Summer in Mineral Town had become something Kai began to dread these days. With his cheerful Popuri no longer waiting for him to return from distant shores, it wasn't as fun anymore. Yes, he had his own collection of friends, mostly girls, to welcome him back warmly, and the good-hearted farmer, Jack, would willingly share some of his stock of fresh pineapples. That in itself was something to hope for.
However, staying at the Inn would serve to be the most troubling part of visiting his wife's childhood home. Though his company with the reserved blacksmith and shy wanderer wasn't the most eventful, he had no quarrels with either of them, and Gray would even stop buy his restaurant every now and again for a taste of his former city home. No, the problem didn't lie in the rooming upstairs, but the Inn had another level to its purpose which bred his contempt.
While the Inn was upstairs, the bar was downstairs, and that happened to be the source of all Kai's grief. Before marrying Popuri, it hadn't been a problem in the least. In fact. he had sampled the local brew on the ground level more than once on a lazy Summer evening. Now he chose to drink it in his room or not at all. Otherwise, the taste was bitter, and that wasn't the proper way to enjoy a bottle of wine.
"Kai, you don't have to stay at the Inn if you really don't want to," Popuri offered. "Mama wouldn't mind if you didn't, you know. She might even be happy to have you staying with us!"
"No, that's all right," he assured her. "I don't think that would make the situation any better."
"Yeah..." she agreed wistfully as she held his dark hand in her pale fingers, "It might make it worse..."
Though she was normally bursting with energy, Popuri couldn't help but worry about her husband. He seemed so uneasy coming here year after year, but he kept his promise to take her home for the season. As for why he was so troubled...
"Kai, you'd better have taken good care of Popuri this year!"
The young man's body tensed. Rick... It had always been Rick...
"Oh, stop it, Rick," Popuri pouted. "Kai's always good to me. You'd think three years being married could prove that to you."
Her husband didn't bother defending himself. What was the use? Her older brother had never thought anything better of him, so he'd given up trying to play at getting along. Some things weren't meant to be, after all. Take oil and water for example...
"Anyway, Mom's waiting to see you and Kai, so you should hurry up. She's been worried since you guys haven't written in a while."
"Is she sick again?"
"Well, you know how it is. I-"
Kai plodded along behind, carrying both sets of luggage with him while Popuri bounced ahead with Rick sulking beside her. He could only hope his brother-in-law would stay home tonight talking with his sister and mother, so then maybe, just maybe, Kai could have a nice, quiet night at the Inn. One would be a marvelous blessing... He might even get the chance to enjoy a bit of the Aja Winery's specialty poisons.
Lillia appeared to be in relatively good health when they walked through the door, yet she noticed immediately all was not well with her son-in-law. "Kai, sweetie, you're a bit pale. Do you need anything?"
"Ah, no... no thank you," he replied shyly. She had a special way of treating him like her own child. He hadn't truly known that kind of tenderness before from his own mother, so it made him feel sort of a warming in his heart when she was so gentle. Of course, her real son didn't take this imagined favoritism too well, either.
"Mom, you shouldn't worry about his health seeing as how yours is so fragile," he lectured her curtly. He wasn't too keen on being subtle, yet he did slump muttering an apology as he realized he'd snapped at her.
"Yes, of course, dear. Don't worry, your mama is sturdy," she cooed with her ever present smile. Of course, no one felt certain on that, but no one was going to contradict her, not even herself.
"Kai, are we going to anything tonight?" Popuri asked with a yawn. She certainly looked exhausted after a couple nights at sea. "If not, I think I'm gonna go to bed."
"Really, sweetie?" her mother asked, concerned once again. "It's only 9:30."
"She misses her own bed," he explained gently. "Go ahead, babe. I haven't got any plans."
"Thanks, hun," she piped with a small kiss on his check. "Night." Her light feet skipped right past Rick which caused him to frown slightly. Seemed he hadn't adjusted to not having Popuri behave like a little sister, not that Kai really gave it much thought. He couldn't understand how her brother could treat her so much like a child. She was a woman now with her own passions and duties. She could handle herself.
"I should probably go to bed, too, then," Lillia sighed. She was looking a tad worn from all the excitement. "Rick, why don't you and Kai go to the bar together? You're both headed in that direction anyway. Besides, it'll be nice for you to talk for a while, right?"
Unlikely at best... Kai thought with some resentment. It was the one thing he was trying to avoid at any and all costs, but now he didn't have a choice in the matter. Saying no to Popuri was hard enough, yet he couldn't let the most pleasant woman down. Gritting his teeth and forcing a smile, he agreed, "I would like that..."
She merely smiled back and headed wearily upstairs. Rick shot him a nasty glare, but relented. He wouldn't say no to her, either. And so, they grudgingly stormed out the door neither one willing to so much as glance at the other. It was going to be a long, long night for the brother-in-laws...
Why is it that people drink? he wondered. Kai always did so out of something so simple he felt it was genius... pleasure. Other people simply had other opinions. For Sabria it was a way to cope with being old, for Basil it was a study, for Duke... it was a profession. As for Rick, he wasn't quite sure on that one although the young man certainly drank enough. Who knew better than the one forced to join him that evening?
His brother-in-law was plowing through glasses right after another until an exasperated Ann just left the bottle there for him to serve himself. Her bouncing braid shook from side to side as she mumbled something or other about whether it's a sin to sell liquor to so many people without questions or worry. At least he only had to think about the drinking habits of these people during a single season. She lived it nearly every day.
"So..." he began, drumming his thin fingers on the bar, "how are things with Karen?"
Rick scoffed, "As well as they can be... Why? You wan' her?" His eyes gazed passively through his thin lenses. He seemed a little flushed after a bottle and a half.
Kai thought on this for a moment before replying a flat, "No." Karen was a lovely, vibrant young lady, but he never had a taste for her. She could be fun or down right mean when she got to drinking, so it was a toss-up between moods on Sundays and Tuesdays. Her boyfriend was here every single night, drowning in the stuff. Was drinking the staple of the relationship these days?
"Good. Popuri would be upset, I'm sure." Another glass was tossed back without anger... or concern.
"And you wouldn't?" he asked, eyebrow raised. This wasn't like Rick at all. By now, he'd be furious with the even the imaginary notion that he might have competition for the love of his childhood sweetheart. With all the alcohol in his system, he didn't even flinch, shrug, or move for that matter.
"Well... I already think you're a worthless skirt chaser..." the young man reasoned. "But... if Pup is happy..."
"Pup?" Kai had never heard that before, and although he had a slight inkling of what was said, he wasn't sure anymore. He didn't talk well with people when they were plastered. It's hard to communicate with someone with a mind saturated with booze, let alone if that someone was Rick.
"Yeah... Pupuri..." was the reply.
"Oh, Popuri," he agreed, spinning his finger around the rim of his glass. He hadn't finished so much as his first. His companion had taken care of the rest, and apparently, the mentioned fellow took notice.
"Hey... you better drink up... Mum told me to give you a good time tonight..."
Please don't say it that way again... Kai thought sickly. Being sober clearly wasn't going to work tonight, with obvious uncertainty he peered into the full glass. Ah, hell... I might as well go for it, eh?
By closing time, neither one was feeling much of anything. Kai was barely aware of his thoughts as he walked along the road, Rick slouched over his shoulder. He felt numb to everything except the dull thudding in the back of his head, and he tried to question whether his brother-in-law would be okay. It hadn't been an eventful evening, to tell the truth. Perhaps that was a good thing in hindsight because it would've spoiled something mighty rare.
Since first meeting one another, Kai and Rick never would've considered talking to one another as an option. One was a carefree traveler with no ties to anyone, the other an over-protective brother responsible for an entire business. Oil and water was all they felt they could be to each other. Tonight had been different.
Tonight, Kai didn't have to pull Rick out of a fist fight. Tonight, he didn't have to take insults out of a brother's jealousy. Tonight, he didn't have to play the better person. Tonight, he just had to chum with his brother-in-law, and for what it was worth, he had had a good night.
It was peaceful. There were no arguments or hard feelings, only bottles to waste away with... together. He certainly couldn't hope (or handle) every night to be like this one, but for now, he was happy with how things stood. Even if those things were at an odd angle as he found he was leaning far to the left.
Dragging his brother-in-law up the stairs to bed, he wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to get him there. Once Rick was tossed onto the mattress, all that mattered was the woman with the soft pink cloud of hair across the room. He couldn't stumble back to the Inn, but certainly his wife wouldn't object to him crawling into her surprisingly large bed at her side. Drifting off to sleep, he smiled, and that content expression remained...
...until a shrill scream came from Lillia... right into his ear.