Author's Note: Yet another AU because we all know that Sugar has not started enough of them as it is... I'm limiting myself to a five-shot for this one, though, since I just need to clear out some more ideas of mine.

That and the fact that Rick needs more love, yes?

My inspiration was, once again, the awesome Jean Cooper, and although the setting isn't quite as relevant now as it was when I first started writing this story, I'm still dedicating this whole story to her. After all, without her, I can never seem to get anything done any more. :)

Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon nor its characters. I also do not own or have any rights to the celebrities, movies, music, or any other cultural references in this story.

Part One

"Can you put that on my tab?"

"You know we don't keep tabs here, Rock," I replied dully, flipping yet another glossy page of my magazine. I wasn't usually one for reading People- too much celebrity bull shit if you asked me- but I still tried to make a good show of it. After all, if it meant I didn't have to look at that idiot's face, then Paris Hilton was the most fascinating woman alive as far as I was concerned.

And that was really saying something, too.

"Aw, come on, babe," he whined, pouting as he leaned on the counter. I didn't even have to glance up from my article to know the man was pleading with me with those big, brown eyes of his, but I chose to ignore him as best I could. Too bad he went right back to talking when it didn't work. "Hey, how's about you let me off easy this time, and I'll take you out this week? A girl like you shouldn't be working here on a night like this anyway."

"Rock..." I sighed, finally setting down my magazine long enough to look him straight in the eyes. "If you can't pay up front for a case of Milwaukee, what makes you think you could take me out anywhere other than the back of your car?"

He only stared at me for a moment as the words sank into his thick skull, but when they finally made it through to the little walnut, he just smiled. Of course, it would figure that he'd be too damn stupid to just take the hint and leave. "There's plenty of room..."

"Listen, are you going to pay for it or not?" The man actually jumped back when I snapped at him, but I just continued to glare a hole through his big forehead. "Because if you're not, I'm just going to ask you to leave." Then, with a heavy sigh, I tried to regain my patience and start again. "I'm sorry, Rock, but I have work to do. You know how it is..."

"Uh, yeah..." he agreed, scratching the back of his blonde head. Then, without any warning, he shoved the case right in front of me. "Hey, can you hold this for me? I've gotta get my wallet."

I simply watched as he disappeared out the door and around the corner, and when I was sure he was gone, I took the beer right back where he'd found it. After all, I knew he wouldn't be back that night and, God willing, probably not the next.

With him finally gone, I perched myself on the stool in front of the register once again, and not a minute later, I found myself yawning which didn't improve my mood much. Not when it was only eleven and I was stuck there for another six hours.

You know... when I left home, I never thought I'd be stuck working the night shift in some crummy gas station just off the interstate in some dumpy little town. I didn't think about sitting under flickering fluorescent lights, half of which were shut off to save a few extra dollars, and staring at CornNuts as they fossilized on the shelf. It just was never supposed to be a part of what was going to be my lifelong dream.

Of course, I'm pretty damn sure no one ever went to kindergarten and told their teacher they wanted to grow up and work minimum wage, either.

"Hey, are you guys still open?" I managed not to roll my eyes, but unfortunately for me and whoever happened to be walking through the door, my mouth just couldn't seem to stay shut after hearing such a stupid question.

"Nope. Just thought I'd sit here until someone came to see me rob the place." The person laughed, and it was then that I looked up. At first, I couldn't tell whether it was a man or a woman, given the unusually long hair, but I realized soon enough it was the former or the two. And it wasn't just because of his face or the fact he was so damn tall.

After all, hands that big couldn't belong to any woman... at least none that I knew of.

"Jeez, Karen..." he chuckled as he shook his head and came to lean against the counter. "Bad day today or something?" I was just about to tell him off, but before I could, he looked me straight in the eye for the first time since he'd walked in. The poor man turned red all the way up to his ears and the roots of his hair, and it was all I could do not to laugh right then and there to see him so embarrassed. "Sorry 'bout that. I thought you were-"

"Sorry to disappoint you, buddy, but she's workin' day shift now... Has been for the past month." He glanced down at the floor, his glasses reflecting the light and obscuring his eyes, but even though I was ready for some kind of quick comeback or at least another apology, once he lifted his gaze, he only offered me a faint smile.

"I was out of town for a while."

"No skin off my nose," I assured him before going back to my magazine. The man didn't seem to mind the apparent snub, going on about his own business as if nothing had been said to either one of us to begin with, but I still couldn't help watching him browse the aisles between pages fourteen and twenty-seven.

As I'd said when he first came in through the doors, he was a fairly tall individual, but while he was a little on the lean side as well, he wasn't lanky or awkward by any means. In fact, he moved rather gracefully... aside from his hands, that is. Which took out not only a bag of chips toppling onto the floor next to him but nearly tipped over a stack of styrofoam cups as well.

I still did my best to fight back a snicker or two, but it was hard doing. That is until he started to make his way back to the counter and my shirt suddenly seemed to become the most fascinating thing in the world... Even more so than Miss Paris Hilton.

"That gonna be all?" I asked, glancing down at his selection.

Boxed wine, a lighter, and a pack of double-A's...

By the looks of it, I had a feeling pretty boy was in for one hell of a fun night.

"Got any pipe tobacco?" he asked, not even bothering to look up from the counter. I still couldn't see his eyes because of the reflection on those glasses of his, but I did take notice of just how thick his lenses were. Not that the heavy black frames helped all that much. "I ran out the other day, and I haven't been able to find any since."

"Sorry, that's not something we usually carry..."

"Half 'n' Half is fine." I studied the man for a moment, but he didn't even seem to notice as he dug around his back pocket to find his wallet. I never really understood how men had so much trouble finding the damn things in their own jeans, but he was having the exact same problem as the rest of them. Except for, of course, his situation with those clumsy hands of his which were more than a little stubborn about doing their job.

"You don't look like the kind of guy who'd smoke..." I don't really know why I said it. Maybe it was because of the way he was just so calm compared to most of the jittery types that came in around that time of night, but whatever it was, he still flinched when I asked the question. "So you didn't used to, I take it?" He only shrugged. "Well, that would explain why you didn't ask Karen about it earlier. She could get it for you just as easily as I can, just so you know."

"I guess so..." he replied with a smile. "She'd be pissed to find out about it, though. I can promise you that."

"Then I guess I'll have to keep my mouth shut, won't I?" He chuckled then and shook his head, but he didn't say a word as he laid his money on the counter. However, before I could give him back his change, he was already headed out the door and into the street. "Hey! Hold on a second!"

But it was too late...

He had already gone.

--

"It was just so weird. I kind of just stood there, you know? I mean, it's not like he could really go anywhere that quick..."

"Knowing Rick, he probably just went through the field." I stared at the woman, my magazine and Lindsay Lohan suddenly all but forgotten, but she only smiled knowingly at me with that look in her eye. The one that made me wonder if I was just chewing gum or even something worse stuck to the bottom of her high heel pumps. "It's the shortest way to his apartment."

"How would you know, Karen?" She just laughed and brushed back her long blonde hair before lighting her a cigarette. Even with that nasty habit, she really was a beautiful woman... From the way her bleached bangs framed her elegant features and high cheekbones to her stunning emerald eyes, she was any man's dream. All she needed was a big, red bow and a card that said, All Yours, and she would be gone. "Is he your boyfriend or something?"

She laughed, crossing her legs while she did so, and as always, I couldn't help but notice how long and graceful they were. Of course, that was probably what she wanted me and everyone else to notice since she was wearing yet another one of her miniskirts. The one that went so perfectly with her shirt that was just like all her other shirts that were cut just a little too low and a size just a little too small.

"We grew up together," she explained. "He still likes to hang around, though."

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing..."

"It's not that I mind..." she assured me, running her nimble fingers through her hair once again. "But I don't think he needs to see me every damn day, either."

Well, that made sense to me. What with me feeling the exact same way about Rock and all...

Except for Rick was a lot less aggravating.

--

"Hey, you working late again, babe?"

"Yes, Rock... I work late every night." You'd think even that idiot could figure that out for himself being as he always showed up just to see me. Most women probably would be just tickled to death to have all the attention, but when it came right down to it, I guess I wasn't like most women. At least not any that would even think twice about taking him up on a date. "If you're not going to buy anything, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

For once, the young man didn't say a word or even try to make an excuse. He only stared at me for a moment, and like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs, he slunk off towards the door. On his way out, though, he happened to brush against another, and it was one I just so happened to recognize.

I knew it was kind of strange for me to watch the man come in and browse the shelves, but same as always, he didn't pay any attention to me. At least not until he came up to the counter, that is, when he would smile and try to make some small talk.

"So... does that guy come in every night?"

"Unfortunately."

My reply must've struck the man as funny since he actually laughed instead of cracking his usual smile. It was a pleasant sound, rich and deep. It was just like velvet, the way it came so easily to him...

I shook my head then to rid myself of the thought as I had never been one for reading poetry. And I sure as hell wasn't about to start writing my own. After all, it wasn't like I knew anything about him aside from his name, and even then I only knew the first half of it. If that.

"Feelin' alright?"

"Just tired is all, Rick." As soon as I said it, my face flushed, but it was too late for me to take it back. He'd heard it just as sure as I did, but of course, being his usual self, he was more amused by my comment than anything.

"How'd you know my name?" he asked with a soft, teasing smile. "I don't think I ever told you what it was."

"Karen mentioned you the other day is all." Even though my explanation was simple enough, I saw the reflection in his glasses flash just to hear me mention the sensuous woman, and I had to wonder just what it was about her that caught his interest. "She said you were a good buddy of hers."

The man's face fell after I said it, leaving me with a stab of guilt in my chest. He recovered quickly enough, though, and soon his expression went back to its usual laid-back appearance. "Yeah... we go way back," he agreed with a chuckle. "Give her my best, will ya?"