Author's Note:This is my Secret Santa gift to Kuruk, and I have to say that this was an absolute delight to write. When I first found out that I had been given Kuruk (one of my favorite authors), I was beyond excited, and then once he requested this, I was completely ecstatic! XD
I'm not going to spoil anything, though, so I hope you enjoy this story, Kuruk!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harvest Moon which you should know already, anyway.
Love Thy Enemy
"Are you gonna keep drinkin' yourself dumb, or are you gonna take me home, Rick?" my drinking companion asked me sluggishly, turning her head to face me. She had been resting on the counter for a considerable amount of time, but I continued to drown myself in my bitterness long after she had had one too many that night. Usually she could easily out drink me, but... not tonight. My evening was one to be spent trying to wipe my mind clean of what would come the following day, and it didn't take much for her or anyone else who happened to know me to understand why since it had become something of local legend. Even the town's gossip felt it was unnecessary to explain the situation which was an impressive feat I must admit.
"Sure thing..." I agreed, my own tongue feeling thick and clumsy as I spoke. I tried my best to focus on the young woman sitting on the stool next to me, but although she was certainly beautiful, my eyes couldn't focus on her clearly enough to get a good look at her. Her normally vivid emerald eyes had faded, and the finely sculpted features of her face were blurred by my alcohol induced vision. The only part of her I could recognize was her honey colored hair which fell over her gently slopping shoulders and down her back. However, there wasn't anything else of her that I could describe or even recognize.
It was a shame, too, since she had quite a wonderful figure...
With that thought, I immediately brought myself out my drunken stupor, and I cursed my lack of awareness for letting my mind run away with me so carelessly. Karen's your friend... I scolded myself harshly. If you're not careful, you'll end up no better than him, you know. That realization made me grate my teeth in annoyance, and I bit my tongue until I could taste my own blood. I was more than willing to cause myself physical pain just to keep from becoming anything like my sworn enemy. I would never be able to forgive myself, otherwise.
I refused to act on my desires... like always.
Besides, I prided myself as a responsible individual which meant I was more than capable of resisting any primal urges I might've had towards her. It also meant that I had to be the one to bring her safely back home, and I wasn't about to shirk off that particular detail in our friendship. I was always the one to take her home after an entire evening spent at the Inn. However, although it was usually no trouble for me, I wasn't in the best condition to be escorting her down the cobbled streets of Mineral Town at this late hour. The wild dogs were sure to be out and scavenging for whatever morsel they could find, including a pair of tender, wine basted humans out after dark. Nevertheless, I didn't have a choice in the matter since I'd be damned if I'd keep her here over night. It didn't matter that it was in the name of pride that I did so, either.
Doug had long since retired to bed, and it was just Karen and I left lingering on the first floor at the bar counter. This wasn't an uncommon occurrence, but as I lifted my plastered companion over my shoulder, my legs began to feel like jelly under the extra weight, regardless of how meager it was. Even though I wasn't weak by any means, it seemed the liquor had taken it's toll on my physical state. I simply sighed heavily, making my way towards the door. There wasn't much I could do about the situation, so I decided to take things a step at a time towards the door before I had to shift her slumping form back into place.
"Come on, Karen," I urged after a few failed attempts to get her to walk. "Get on my back, alright?" At first, I didn't get a response while her eyes, glazed over with exhaustion, tried to focus on me, but soon enough she nodded in understanding. She slipped twice until she finally managed to scramble up onto me in a fairly comfortable position, and I opened the door, heading out into the uncertain darkness.
The balmy evening was the reminder that another spring had passed us by, and even with my thoughts few and far between, I still scowled at the realization that Summer had come into our midst. I wasn't eager to welcome the hot and humid days, but there was something more to fuel my distaste for the blasted season. By morning, I would be forced to accept that he had returned to disrupt the peaceful way of life in the small village I'd called home for my entire life. I guess it was easy for him to cause a ruckus without regret since he'd be off for another distant shore by fall in the wake of his destructive behavior. There wasn't any tangible damage for us to deal with but what he was capable of was far, far worse.
Breaking a woman's heart leaves inevitable scars, after all...
A building can be repaired, remodeled, or rebuilt while a farmer's field can be restored, replanted, and revived. However, a broken heart, a one-sided love, or a star-crossed affair can never be forgotten which was exactlywhy I couldn't forgive him. Whether it was real or imagined, I knew he was an unsavory character at best with his silver tongue and alluring chocolate brown eyes because I had no doubt his appearance, from his tanned skin to his charming smile, was nothing but a manufactured lure to reel in unsuspecting women. No one dressed in a suede jacket without the intention of catching someone's eye, and I was sure it was no accident that he just so 'happened' to look rather impressive in a pair of board shorts, too, which rested on his hips perfectly...
Why was I analyzing all of this? After all, if I despised him so much, wouldn't it have been better to simply ignore him altogether? I wish it had been that simple, but he absolutely refused to be ignored since he was so confident in his ability to befriend anyone and everyone... I'd come to realize that I was probably the only person to remain unchanged by his presence among us. Some of the other men in town might have fallen to the wayside after being convinced by their wives that he 'wasn't all that bad' of a kid. Even Gray, the sullen blacksmith who worked across from my family's poultry farm, had befriended him despite my warnings. Although I couldn't really say one way or the other about their fellow roommate, Cliff, I wasn't hopeful that he might be able to remain unimpressed by the rogue's carefree charm.
There was no way that anyone could refuse him... except for me, of course.
Perhaps it was a result of having a younger sister to protect, or maybe I was immune to his charismatic nature? Either way, I was prepared to take him on this year...
It might have been rather smug of me, but I thought I had done quite well in deterring any possibility that he would be able to worm his way into my family again for the summer. Whenever he came to town, my house had always been filled with tension between my younger sibling and I, and I knew he was to blame. If it hadn't been for him filling her head with silly ideas of traveling to far off, exotic lands, then I wouldn't have to fight with my sister. My mother would finally have peace in her own home this year, though. All because of my efforts, I might add.
"Rick..." a weak voice murmured in my ear, bringing my attention back to what I had set out to do in the first place. "Are you gonna let me down or what?" Karen asked with a faint laugh, and I felt my face warm to realize that I hadn't noticed we'd arrived in front of her family's supermarket. I mumbled an apology, but she shrugged it off as she slipped back onto the ground. "Thanks... I'll be... goin' now..."
As I watched her drift away inside, I lingered just outside her door, and I was at a loss for what I should do right then. After all, I wasn't quite sure if I could find my way home, but I also knew I didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Even though I was usually able to hold my liquor well enough, it seemed that I had finally gone past my limit. Two bottles of wine and a couple vodka shots were enough to bowl over the most experienced drinker which put me at a bit of a disadvantage. I wasn't a light weight by any means, but it had been a little too much for me to handle at once. However, the large amount of booze I consumed still had accomplished what I'd been hoping for...
I sure as hell wouldn't be remembering much the next day, including his return.
Making my way back the way I'd come, I stumbled down the cobbled street, and although there was a couple of times I nearly lost consciousness, I thought I was faring rather well. Luckily for me, there were fences lining every road in our small town, so I could find my way back home with relative ease. I was still struggling, though, because I couldn't keep my stomach from turning in an unpleasant manner. With every step, I could taste the bile rising in my throat. There was only so much I could control, and that was one of the few things that were completely beyond me. That and standing upright, apparently.
"Hey, are you alright?" a gentle voice asked. It was vaguely familiar, but I couldn't put a name or a face to the person that had spoken to me though it was clear it was a man by his slightly deeper tone. Whoever it was stood over me, and I could clearly see his well worn boots directly under my gaze. However, I didn't have long to study them until I couldn't hold back any longer. When I lost the meager contents of my stomach all over him, mumbling an apology, but he merely laughed it off. "Feeling better?"
Even while I had to admit I did feel a bit relieved, my present condition wasn't close to being my best. My mind was foggy, and I had a strange sense of falling. I couldn't say for certain, but while I wasn't fully aware of it, I thought I felt myself being caught just before I laid myself in the street. That was the last thing I could remember as the darkness of oblivion overwhelmed me.
That and the faint smell of an ocean breeze...
By the next morning, I was totally unaware of where I was. However, I knew that I wasn't in my own bed because the sheets felt foreign against my bare skin, and the air itself was unfamiliar. Although I tried to focus on where I was and why, I was finding it difficult to put any ideas together. Every time I tried to form a coherent thought, I could feel my head begin to throb, and a sharp pain would pierce through my entire head. "Son of a bitch..." I muttered bitterly to myself. "It's like Satan's fire..."
"Hangovers have that effect on people, you know," the voice I recognized from the night before explained, chuckling at my unfortunate condition. A glass of water was thrust in front of me as well as a couple aspirin, but I only glared at them. Well, I guess it was more like I was studying the familiar, yet unwanted, hands that were offering them to me, and I cursed myself for getting myself into this situation. After all, I wasn't too eager to accept anything from this man, my rival, much less his sympathy. He seemed to notice my unwillingness to take it from him, so instead of giving them to me himself, he set them down on the end table next to me. "Fine..." he sighed in defeat. "If you want to be so stubborn, then I'll just have to let you suffer."
"Since when do you give a shit about me, Kai?" I demanded, the volume of my own voice resulting in another mental stab. However, I refused to flinch or show any signs of weakness in the presence of my rival, yet as soon as he turned his back, I quickly downed what he'd left for me. While I did so, I continued to study him from behind, and I had to admit I was actually impressed. He really was rather... graceful... when it came to his appearance at least.
I never doubted that he was athletic, given that he always managed to win the Beach Day's swimming contest without fail every year. Even so, I hadn't given his physique much thought before. His arms were well toned, and in his boxers, I could see he had a torso to match. The bronze, sun-kissed hue of his skin gave him a healthy glow which was reminiscent of long summer afternoons spent by the waves of the sea, but I reminded myself that it was just further evidence of his reckless lifestyle. He was always chasing the sun from place to place, so I wasn't about to admire him or his appearance as a result
If anything, I knew I should hate him all the more for it.
"You tell me," he replied, glancing back at me over his shoulder. I was sure the grin he was wearing was actually a rather confident smirk. Although most people described his smile as a charming one, I wasn't that easily deceived, and I knew it was just another sign of how little he thought of those around him. We were nothing more than a bunch of uncultured villagers living in a small, rural community in his mind which probably made him feel like he towered above us with his mere presence.
Luckily for me, I refused to be convinced otherwise by his seemingly good nature.
"Quit messing with me, Kai," I warned him. There was a bitter taste in my mouth as I uttered his name once again, and I cursed him for it under my breath. I was still sitting upright in the bed that I could only assume he'd laid me in, but I wasn't about to stay there any longer. However, when I whipped back the bedding, I immediately covered myself back up again, and I heard the other man begin to laugh. "Where did you put my clothes?" I asked through gritted teeth while trying to mask my embarrassment.
"I had to ask Ann to wash them for you," the traveler explained with a shrug, and I recalled the state I was in the night before. "You're welcome to borrow some of mine, though," he offered which I had to admit surprised me at first. I never would've expected him to be so charitable towards me of all people, but somehow... I still wasn't absolutely confident in the 'kindness' of his 'friendly' gesture.
"Don't make me laugh," I scoffed, turning away from him and crossing my arms over my bare chest defensively. "You just want to impress Popuri," I accused, and when he winced, I figured I'd hit the nail on the head. "Too bad she's seeing Jack now because of me." Really, I had been the one to steer the farmer towards my younger sister. He had befriended me the year before, and after a time, I began to notice the subtle signs of his interest in her. Maybe I observed this so quickly because I was looking for anything or, rather, anyone to draw my impressionable sibling's attention away from the traveler's clever snare.
Even so, I couldn't help noticing the sadness in Kai's warm, brown eyes, but it only proved to make me all the more bold. "You're nothing to her now, huh?"
Although it was unforgivably cruel of me, it was too late to take back my words, and I couldn't erase the smug grin I was wearing in the light of my apparent victory over him. My rival didn't seem very wounded by my brutal attack, though. He was still leaning casually against the table in the far corner of the room while his expression remained as serene as ever. He appeared to be mulling something over, but the smile ever present on his face kept me from knowing what it could be. I struggled to hide my frustration, and I despised him for being so composed under my scrutiny. As always, Kai was something other than human, or at least that's what it seemed like to me.
Did anything rattle him or grate his nerves?
"There's something I've been wondering, Rick," he began with his usual air of confidence. "Why were you against me and Popuri being together, anyway?" I blinked in surprise at first since I thought my reasoning was rather obvious. She was my baby sister, after all, and it was only natural that I didn't approve of their relationship. Because my father had left us with our mother in such a fragile condition, I had to be the one to take on the role of the family provider and the preventer of any hardships, but an older brother was also supposed to be protective of his younger siblings. Maybe I took that last responsibility a little too much to heart... but I felt it was for the best that Popuri have a careful eye kept on her at all times.
Where's the connection with him then? I had to wonder in spite of myself. It was a simple question to answer, though, and I knew that Kai was the one to blame for her being so indignant towards me lately. It was true she was a restless young woman from the start, but that wasn't enough of a reason to explain her rebellious behavior because it had died away once she'd joined up with Jack down the way. Therefore, I could only assume that he was the one at fault.
"Because I didn't like seeing you with her, Kai!" I shot back at him. It certainly wasn't a lie, either. I hated hearing the two of them carrying on even the most innocent conversation, and every time I saw his arm brush against hers, I felt my entire face burn with something I couldn't even name. I couldn't call it something as simple as hate or resentment, but when I even thought about the idea of them being a couple, I couldn't seem to hold it together anymore. I would snap at Popuri, or I'd curse his name under my breath.
Nothing I did seemed to make me feel any better, though.
"Were you jealous?" the traveler offered, a coy smile playing on his lips. I just glared at him, yet his chocolate brown eyes were so warm as they met mine. Nearly enough so that something in me began to melt away. I was rendered speechless to hear his theory which seemed to be just nothing but another means of getting a rise out of me. Still... I had to believe he was being completely serious with me.
"She's my sister!" I protested, exasperated at the implications that flooded my mind. I wanted to hide the fact that he'd flustered me even though I could feel my cheeks flush with a deep scarlet. Yes, it was true that each time he touched her shoulder or shared a smile with her, an ugly emotion would begin to overwhelm me, but I was absolutely sure that it wasn't envy. "I would never-"
"I wasn't trying to put it that way," Kai explained, chuckling to himself at my misunderstanding. I wanted to demand that he make it clear what he was implying if it, but he beat me to it as he continued making his point. "What I was saying is... 'Were you jealous of her for being with me?'"
Yet again, I couldn't form a coherent reply, and my mouth fell slightly agape when I realized what he was getting at. Kai's gaze never wavered from my own, but I found I had to look away from him. My silky blond hair fell against my cheek which was burning from both shame and embarrassment. For the life of me, I couldn't wrap my mind around what he'd just said to me, and I felt as though my tongue was too thick and clumsy to speak. There was nothing I could do to defend myself, either.
Maybe that's what was troubled me the most.
"Kai, that's completely... You're just..." I took a deep breath and buried my face in my hands while I did my best to gather my thoughts into something I could make clear to both him and myself. However, I was at a loss for words. He didn't seem to have any further opinions on the matter, and he appeared to be amused by my inner conflict. I was frustrated with myself because I couldn't deny what he was saying, and the worst part was... he knew it...
Could it really be true, but then why would I push him away like I had for all those years? Although I felt there wasn't a simple answer, perhaps I was making it more complicated than it really was. Even so, I needed something more to prove his assumptions to myself.
"Do you want to why I think you do?" Kai asked as if he knew exactly what I'd been thinking. I nodded weakly, urging him to continue. "You've never told me that you hated me," he went on to say, toying with his signature headgear. I had never seen him without his ridiculous, purple bandanna, and I doubted I ever would. It might've been biased of me, but I had to admit it fueled some of my prejudice towards him. It was like he was hiding something from me... like a mask I could've take away.
"Are you sure about that?" I challenged although I knew he was right. Still, I was hoping he didn't know that for a fact.
"Of course," he insisted. The traveler peeled back his bandanna, and for the first time that I could remember, I could see his crop of dark, shaggy locks. He ran his nimble fingers through his hair with an amused smile, but I was too busy anticipating his further explanation to be distracted by his appearance any longer. "I mean... every time you caught me and Popuri hanging out together, you'd tell me you didn't want her to see me."
"So?" I countered a bit too quickly. A lump was beginning to form in my throat, and even when I tried to swallow it, it only seemed to grow larger. He'd found the truth hidden within all the lies. Every time I told myself that I loathed his very existence, I was just fooling myself, or at least that's what I was starting to accept.
"Well, if you hated me, you'd do a lot more than that, wouldn't you?" Kai pressed. I wanted to protest his claim by reminding him that maybe I was worried about losing her, but we both knew that wasn't the truth. He would've stayed for her sake... No matter what I had always made him out to be, I knew he'd understand if she asked him to stay. Even so, she had never asked him to, and I had to wonder about whether there had been a relationship in the first place.
"You two weren't together... were you?" I asked weakly, the words fell uselessly from my lips and onto the floor between us. To tell the truth, I'd never seen the pair exchange a meaningful gaze, let alone a kiss or anything of that nature, and I realized that everything I had ever brought against him was nothing more than conjecture. I'd made Kai out to be the bad guy, but all he had been to me... was someone I was afraid of losing.
"No," Kai agreed with a smile, "there never could be because I-"
"Don't say it," I interrupted him, covering my ears childishly to shut out his words. I closed my eyes tightly, but I could feel his warm, reassuring gaze settling on me without having to see it for myself. The only way I could protect myself from getting hurt by him was to remain oblivious to everything. It didn't matter how he was going to finish his statement because whatever it was... it would just make it harder for me to let him go again. Even if he was simply stating the fact that he was unable to love a woman, that would give me hope. The hope that I might have a chance, the hope that I might not be left on my own, and the hope that there might be someone who could feel something for me of all people... It was all too much for me to conceive as a possibility, so although it was meant to heal me, there was too much pain associated with it altogether.
After all, I knew what it was like to be abandoned, and I had my father to thank for that experience.
Just because the young man would've been willing to stay in Mineral Town for someone like Popuri, that didn't mean he'd hang around for me, but I couldn't leave my family behind for the world beyond our shore. Although Jack would certainly take care of my sister in my absence, I wouldn't trust my mother's care with anyone else other than me. Kai was a drifter by nature, and I had a sinking feeling that he would travel with or without me. I'd spent most of my life waiting for my dad to return... only to be met with disappointment. I could never put myself through it again which was precisely why I chose to convince myself that I hated him from the beginning.
"What are you afraid of?" His voice was nothing more than a murmuring echo, but as he sat on the bed and gently lifted my hands away from my ears, everything he had been trying to say all this time became perfectly clear. "Do you really think I'd run off and leave you here?"
"Why wouldn't you?" I demanded in a last attempt to deny the transformation within me. His hands were surprisingly soft while they held onto my own, and I knew that I couldn't pull away from him. He was so close, yet it was anything but uncomfortable. I could even feel his warm breath caressing my face... However, it was his tender gaze that held me captive and stilled my heart. I lost myself in his reassuring, chocolate brown eyes, and it was there that I saw the sincerity of his words. The smile that I'd once questioned so readily was now something pure and comforting.
"Do you want to know the truth?" he asked quietly, and I nodded slightly. "There's just no where I'd rather be right than here with you," Kai confessed with a warm smile. If my cheeks weren't burning before, they certainly were then, and I was rendered absolutely speechless. Not that I would've had a chance to respond, anyway, since his lips met mine almost immediately after he'd uttered those words. Although there was a distinct taste of pineapple, I was too stunned to form a single, coherent thought. They say that the first kiss fills a person's mind with complete bliss, and there are fireworks to be heard, seen, and felt. However, mine was lost in absolute silence.
Nothing moved and neither one of us seemed to breathe as we remained suspended in both time and space. I knew it was too much to hope that this was Kai's first as well, but I had a feeling it was nothing like anything he had experienced prior to that moment, either. When we finally broke apart, my eyes were still wide with shock although my glasses were fogged over from his hot breath, and he simply continued to smile knowingly at me.
How could I have convinced myself that I hated him? Was it jealously like he had suggested, or could it be my own self doubt that kept me trapped in oblivion to these new, yet strangely familiar, feelings I was having? Only one question could hope to embody the conflicting emotions that were sorting themselves out inside of me, and even that wasn't enough to describe what I was going through. However, it would have to do.
"Am I really enough to keep you here?" I managed to ask breathlessly. At first, my entire chest tightened when his eyes glazed over, but his smile never faded. I thought the anxiety of possibly being rejected was almost overwhelming as the fear tore at me from the inside out. I should've known he wouldn't be the kind of guy to lead me on, though, regardless of my former opinions of him. Still, I waited in anticipation for his answer, the one that would define our relationship from then on.
"More than enough," Kai assured me. With that, I felt the last of my resistance crumble away from what had once been a hard shell over my heart. How could it be that I had spent the night prior to this eventful morning, and even in the early part of it, convinced that I loathed this man and everything he seemed to stand for? "And if you'd given me a chance," he added, chuckling to himself, "I would've told you that from the beginning."
"I didn't know that was an option," I explained sheepishly as the heat rose to my cheeks once again. I didn't bother to delve into further reasoning because I didn't truly understand it myself. How do make sense of an irrational hatred of a person that you've never really known? It's very simple... No one can justify it, and I should've realized that I wouldn't be able to, either.
"There's always an option if you let one come along," Kai continued, bringing me into another kiss, this one more passionate than the last. The very thing that made it possible was something so simple that it was almost genius. I came to love enemy for one reason alone...
I let it happen.
Author's Note: Yep, a Kai x Rick story that's serious! I hope that this was satisfactory, Kuruk!
Has anyone else noticed that he never says he absolutely hates Kai? I was playing my copy of MoFo, and I realized he never said it even once. The worst he said was "I don't like him." Denial perhaps? X3
Anyway, I hope this didn't read too slow. I tend to get wrapped up in the thoughts and feelings of the character I'm speaking through...