Sharing a Drink Called Loneliness
Part of The Village Square forum's Secret Santa Project
This Story is For: Quaintly Modern
"I walked right in on them, Ann. And quite frankly, it was a sight I never want to see again."
Ann could understand this. Ever since Claire had started dating that... thing... that lurked in the local pond, she'd gotten... really kinky, to put it bluntly.
And when Karen had started joining in... ew. She did not want that image in her head, thank you very much!
At any rate, Rick had been going on about this for a full season now. The fact that Claire was now enjoying a very alternate lifestyle on her little farm was pretty old news. Even the town gossips had pretty much moved on to other topics. Of course, since one of those topics was how a little green water spirit could reproduce with human females, that wasn't really any consolation for Rick.
And of course, he wasn't exactly winning on the home front, either. His mom was starting to date the local shipper rather steadily, and his sister had run off with that Kai gentleman earlier that year. So Rick was basically left to sit at home and stew in the evenings, or else come to the inn and stew here while getting heavily drunk.
And it figures that Dad chooses this year to take his long-overdue vacation... Ann thought.
Well, Ann didn't really blame her father for the bad luck she was having. After all, she'd been the one who'd insisted that Mom would've wanted him to go back there. He deserved to have fun, she said. He needed to spend the winter someplace that didn'tharbor bad memories of the past, she'd said.
And somewhere, she knew she'd been right to push him onto that boat and send him off. Still, it wasn't much consolation when things were going so bad while he was gone.
And of course, there was also that one little fact that she'd overlooked. The one thing she could honestly blame entirely on her own actions.
The fact that, with her father gone, the inn got pretty empty come closing time.
Oh, they'd had a few people coming in and out during the day, of course. Regulars, mostly, people who either couldn't cook for themselves or didn't want to. Duke, Manna, Harris... but none of them ever stayed for the drinking hours anymore.
There'd been a few travelers, of course, but they'd all moved on now. Gray was living with his new in-laws while he and Mary saved up for their own house. Kai had run off with Popuri at the end of summer, and they really didn't get anyone else who ever stayed here for long. Mineral Town was a place to come from, and not really a place to go to.
Filling Rick's next order(and taking his wallet so she was sure he could cover the tab), she started thinking about that one man who'd passed through here about a year ago.
Cliff. If she remembered right, that'd been his name. He'd been the quiet sort, a bit awkward really, but she could tell that he was looking for some peace here.
She put some money in the register and drew a beer for herself as she remembered the good times. She'd liked Cliff, really. More than liked, if you wanted to be honest about it. Even if he wasn't the sort who talked much, or who ever said the right thing, she'd liked his earnest attitude, his honest approach, and yes, even the fact that he didn't want to talk much. She appreciated a good listener, and Cliff had been just that to her.
Of course, the reason he'd left was simple. He needed a job to survive, and there hadn't been any in town. He ran out of money, got frustrated with taking charity from her father and herself, and ran off to find someplace else to live his life in.
She still got a letter from him, sometimes. He'd found work on some distant island, and was settling down nicely. He even had a girlfriend, and had hinted in his last message that he was considering marrying her.
Ann finished her beer, picked up her mug and Rick's, and put them both in the sink for later.
Rick, not quite ready to stop, looked blearily up.
Ann took down some shot glasses and a bottle of something far stronger than the local microbrew.
"On the house, Rick. From one lonely soul to another."
Rick, not quite trusting his tongue, simply nodded and took the glass Ann offered him.
They raised their glasses in a silent toast, and downed their shots of firewater in silence.
8 Hours(and an entire bottle of Jack Daniels) later
The light was killing Rick's eyes. Rolling over in bed to try and shut it out, he reminded himself to kill his sister later for opening them so heartlessly.
Then he remembered that his sister wasn't anywhere near Mineral Town, and with that revelation a whole bunch more started flooding into his mind. Among them were a few hazy details on last night's drinking binge. After Ann had broken out the hard stuff... well, he'd already been drunk off his ass at the time... and then they'd started talking about how pathetic it was to be the only two people in town who had to spend the night alone... and then...
Rick didn't know, but he had a pretty good guess.
"Oh, you're up. Feeling alright?"
A careful look around confirmed that, yes, this was not his room at home. He hadn't spent enough time looking at the inn's rooms to recognize them on sight, but judging by the fact that Ann was sitting at a desk in a corner, without any clothing on, would indicate that-
Wait. Ann. Naked. In her room. Checking himself as discreetely as he could, he found that yes, he wasn't wearing anything either. And the article of furniture he was currently sitting bolt upright in was, in fact, a bed. Her bed.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Rick shouted, before wincing at the sound of his own voice. Damn it, but this was not a good time for a hangover!
"Ah, I thought so," Ann replied, far more gently. She handed him a small glass and a couple of pills. "As fun as the old hangover recipes are, I prefer pharmaceuticals. Those'll clear your head in about half an hour, assuming you take them now of course."
Rick complied, swallowing the hangover tablets and water with the ease of long practice.
"And now for the explanation," Ann continued, "since I'm pretty sure that you don't remember much of what happened last night."
Ann shrugged. "Bits and pieces. We got drunk, we started talking, we came up here, we blacked out. If you're wondering whether or not we had sex, I'd say the answer is no."
Rick blinked. "What?"
"I'm saying that we probably didn't have sex." At this, Ann blushed a little. "I, uh... checked. Chances are that we were too drunk for intercourse anyway, and just passed out after getting undressed."
Rick thought about this for a little while. Checked? How could she-
A visual image suddenly came to mind, and made Rick firmly wish it hadn't. He shook his head violently to try and clear it, and was rewarded with some fresh throbbing from his headache.
Ann got up from her desk, walked over to Rick, and applied some pressure to his temples. "Fortunately, I don't have to open today, so you've got a little time to recover."
Rick tried to get up anyway, but found himself firmly pinned to the bed. Ann was a lot stronger than she looked...
Suddenly Rick found himself thinking exactly about how she looked, and started trying to shake his head again. Unfortunately, a pair of very solid hands still had his skull firmly in their grip. Damn it, why hadn't she gotten dressed if she'd been up for so long, anyway?
As if reading his thoughts, Ann suddenly blushed and backed off of him. Rick shut his eyes and groped for his clothes. He didn't know where he'd taken them off, but he'd damn well find them before he-
With surprising speed, the sheet he was clutching to himself was ripped away from his grasp. Turning his head to glare at Ann, he then found his glasses crammed onto his face.
And what he saw was a vision most poets would trade their pencils for. Ann wasn't particularly curvy, it was true, but there was still a very... attractive... quality to her body. Most people who'd look at Ann would say that she had a cheerleader's figure... and that would be pretty accurate... but there was also a... poise. Yes, that was the word. She projected a confidence in her body stance that reminded him of a cat, almost... lean and agile, with a feral touch...
Rick clamped his eyes shut again and tried to think of the day he'd walked in on his former girlfriend and her current partners. It worked pretty well. Now he felt depressed instead of aroused.
Ann sighed, threw the sheet she'd stolen from Rick around herself, and tried to explain what she'd been arguing to herself about since she'd gotten up.
"Rick... I'm sorry, okay? We were drunk last night, and I won't excuse myself for being a part of that. But when I got up, as hung over as you are now... I started thinking."
Rick suddenly felt pressure on his lips as Ann kissed him. "About the two of us being alone. And about how it doesn't have to be that way."
This had his attention. "Ann... that's probably-"
"A bad idea, I know. And I'm not suggesting that we get together just because I'm lonely, and the only person available is you."
"Then what are you suggesting?"
Ann sat down again, this time next to him on the floor. "Just that we try it out. See if this could actually work. Last I checked, that's what dating's for, to find out more about someone, and to figure out how you feel about them."
Rick thought about this. Alright, Ann probably wasn't his first choice in girlfriend material. She was upbeat, assertive to the point of aggresion, and an obsessive neat freak. He was generally cynical, passive about his life as much as he could be, and tended to work with an 'Established Chaos' filing theory.
But when he thought of it, he just didn't feel like there was going to be another chance. Alright, it was probably stupid to give up on Ms Right in favor of Ms Right Now, but right now all he needed was someone who was there for him.
Ann was there for him now, and while this lasted he'd be there for her as well.
"Alright," he replied. "But I still don't think this'll last."
"I'm not expecting it to. But for now, let's just enjoy it while we can."
And that's exactly what they did, for a very long time afterwards.
Author's Note: Ok, that's officially broken my 'no M-rated material' rule. But that's just the way this story wanted to come out, and I wasn't one to get in the way this time.
To Quaintly Modern, I'm sorry that I didn't include Louis in this. Unfortunately, I've never really gotten a feel for Magical Melody's characters. I just hope this odd little crackfic isn't half as bad as I'm afraid it might be.