Title: And Then Hix Became a Man
Characters: Hix, Tengaar, Viktor, Flik, Kinnison, Shiro
Disclaimer: Suikoden II is Konami's.
Word Count: ~2,200
Summary: Tonight is Hix's twentieth birthday, meaning beer, beer, and more beer if you ask Viktor. Somehow this is supposed to be a good idea.
"Flik tells me you're a man now," said Viktor, parking himself beside Hix with a pint of draft beer in each hand.
"I guess," said Hix, staring absently at his half-eaten meat bun. This was a real nice kid if you asked Viktor, but he didn't have a funny bone in his body. He was always so serious, and if he did have anything to say it was usually about that little lady friend of his. It was so similar to Flik in his younger days that Viktor wasn't sure he could sit through all that again without breaking a table over his head. Beer was a vital weapon against such a depressing attitude, and it was an honor to treat Hix to what Viktor assumed to be his first beer.
"Quit guessing and start chugging."
Viktor slid the beer under Hix's nose, knocking aside the plate of unappetizing slop that all of Hix's picking and poking turned that meat bun into. Honestly, he was like a teenage girl. Tonight that would change.
"I'm not sure if I'm old enough," said Hix, who was also a bad liar.
"Bah! If you're born then you're old enough," said Viktor, chugging down half of his own pint like it were water.
Hix looked at Viktor as though he were some sort of stranger, but he wasn't drunk enough for that. Then he turned back to the beer. It might as well have been conspiring to kill him. All he did was look at it for the longest time. The nice bit of head on his draft had already bubbled away by the time he took his first sip, which he did just to be polite. He coughed and winced at the end of it. One might have thought he was swallowing an antitoxin with a reaction like that. This one was going to be an even bigger lightweight than Flik was, Viktor could already tell.
"Keep drinkin'! It's the only way you'll get used to it." Viktor slapped Hix on the back, almost with enough strength to knock his head into the table. Good thing the boy wasn't made fluff, though he sure did give that impression sometimes.
And that was where the trouble started. Given Viktor's tenacity, Hix knew that he'd be there all night as long as there was so much as one drop in his pint. He gulped, not at all fond of the taste that was still soaking his tongue. It was like licking coin potch, and though he could not quite place the smell, the first word to come to mind again was "trouble." His stomach was already starting to tighten at the thought. Could he really go through with this? He spent enough time with Viktor and the Liberation Army, not to mention the general outside world, to know what alcohol did to people.
"Hix, I've looked everywhere for you," said Tengaar, heading into the pub with Flik on tow. Hix suddenly felt the overwhelming desire to sink into the floor.
"I'm just trying to get your man here to man up, little lady," said Viktor, toasting to the air he breathed as though they were best pals.
"What?" It was then that Tengaar spotted and pointed toward Hix's pint of beer that was growing piss warm by the second. "Oh Hix! Is that beer you're drinking?"
"N-" was all he managed before Viktor got him in a headlock and ruffled his hair with his fist. It was like they were brothers.
"Hix, is he bothering you?" asked Flik, who was quite good at being a voice of reason when one was needed. If Hix could answer through Viktor's massive arm he would. "Mrrhgh" wasn't exactly an answer.
"Don't be silly," said Tengaar, clapping her palms together with delight. "Don't you see? Hix is a fully grown man now. To be among men, doing what men do. This is best possible thing for him!"
"I sincerely doubt that," said Flik, the only one who seemed to notice that Hix was turning blue in Viktor's restrictive grip. He didn't seem at all interested in shenanigans with Viktor. Then again, no one ever was really. They just let him think that. Especially Flik, for reasons that still eluded him.
"Shut up and order a cold one, blue boy. I'm tired of all this jaw flapping." He let Hix go and shoved his fist into the air. "It's a celebration!"
Hix seemed more interested in oxygen than celebrating at that moment in time, but only Flik noticed, which didn't do him much good anyway. Flik was far too easily drawn into pointless banter with Viktor, after all.
"I'll just leave you men to it," said Tengaar, chortling out the door and all too thrilled with what this evening had turned into.
Now Hix knew that if he didn't at least finish the one pint, Tengaar would know of it one way or another and it would upset her. It meant a lot to her to see him grow into a warrior and a man, which meant a lot to him in a strange way. Yes, Tengaar's happiness and well-being were his priority, and if a pint of beer was all it took to make her happy then he could manage. No, he would manage.
By the time Hix finished gulping down the first pint it was actually piss warm, which was less pleasant than the first sip. A very unexpected belch erupted from him, too, which buzzed through the table. It turned many heads, and they were surrounded mostly by giggles with a few disgusted murmurs mixed in. Flik nearly choked on his own beer, and Viktor guffawed like this was the greatest day of his life. It was hard to tell what exactly they were celebrating anymore, and who they were celebrating it for. That didn't seem to matter when it came to Viktor especially. Hix just got lost in the clinks and clanks of glasses and dishes, the rustling of bodies, the murmurs, and other such things he would normally be too lost in thought to notice. Nighttime had fallen at some point.
Viktor announced that he had to use the men's room. A few silent moments between Hix and Flik passed before Viktor's return with two more pints. Somehow the belch from earlier told Viktor "more please!" because otherwise more would not have happened. More did not bother Hix, though. Beer was an acquired taste, and where Hix wasn't too sure that he had yet acquired it, they were at least on better terms this time around. It was less like licking coin potch and more like sipping the breeze now, whatever that meant.
Conscious thought abandoned Hix by the time he was done with his third. Limbs had also abandoned Hix, because those required a functioning mind. They seemed to grow a life of their own. The arm that brought the beer to his lips did anyway.
Then out of the blue Viktor said, "Look around you, Hix! Now, don't all the ladies look so much prettier?"
"Uhh," said Hix, not quite sure about what he was looking for, but was fairly certain he should be looking for something. Or someone. "Who?"
"Take this one, for example," said Viktor, making an open-handed gesture toward Flik, as though this joke were new. "Ain't she a doll?"
"You're not drunk enough to think that and you know it," said Flik, frowning deeply at his companion.
"Umm, sure," said Hix, though it was obvious that he wasn't quite sure what he had agreed to. All he saw was Viktor, Flik, bar patrons, and then he heard the sound of dice off in the distance. "I need to go... do something."
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" said Viktor, who then turned his attention toward Flik. Now, under normal circumstances Flik would have been worried about Hix. He would have at least helped the poor guy find his room. However, he too was in a haze. The first thing to go was his protective instinct, which only stayed intact for Odessa when she was still among them. He could feel frost at the pit of his heart just thinking about it, so he drank a little more, pretended to listen to Viktor, and forgot all about Hix. They both did.
Hix was going to go to the bathroom, wherever that was, but he followed the sound of dice rather than the hall that would take him to the coveted toilet. He then tripped over Shilo's Chinchirorin bowl. After almost being punched in the face, he instead had cigarette smoke blown into his face. Then he was roped into gambling away what little potch he had. It wouldn't have mattered if he won anyway, because he wouldn't have been able to tell. He wasn't very assertive sober, but drunk he was basically a slave to the spontaneous sway of his body.
He then went in the direction opposite of the closest bathroom, stopping at the lone table near the castle exit where Hanna sat across from Oulan. Both women looked at him like he was a maggot, just ready to be squashed underneath someone's boot. Hix wasn't terribly social, so most of the people who actually knew him spent a good two years with him in the Liberation Army. Neither of these women were those people.
"Could you... ummmmmm... " Hix hiccuped, and made an effort to find Hanna's eyes. His eyes got as far as her breasts before he forgot what he was going to say.
His silence earned him a tall glass of water being dumped over his head.
"Goodbye," was all Hanna said. Hix stumbled away, not quite sure what had happened there, other than it made him want to urinate on the spot. Tengaar would be upset if he did that, though. Not even he was drunk enough to incur the wrath of his beloved.
So he wound up outside and peed on a tree, because the bathroom seemed like it was a million miles away by now, just like the stars.
Stars were the last thing he saw that night.
The following morning he awoke with one wet cheek and the worst headache ever. He was certain that whatever he was lying on wasn't his bed. It was damp and cold, and when he turned himself onto his back he regretted it immediately. The sun. Why was the sun so bright? The universe was trying to make his head explode, of this he was certain.
Then he felt a tongue upon his cheek, and his eyes flew open. There was no reason for there to be a tongue upon his cheek. His hazy gaze fell upon Shiro, the wolf companion of... of... that guy. The one who tended to baby animals and practiced archery. When he turned just the slightest bit that guy was there, too, but he was hard to see. Hix didn't want to open his eyes all the way. Someone turned the sun on too bright and it bloody hurt. He wasn't entirely sure he could even stand without dying.
"Good, you're awake," said Kinnison, kneeling down beside him. Hix returned his kind concern by vomiting all over his tunic. It happened so fast that what he did hadn't even occurred to him until Kinnison lifted him from the ground, clothes dripping. He was completely unfazed. Perhaps this sort of thing happened often.
"You'll have to tell me where your room is."
Kinnison wound up having to bring him to the inn. It was closer, and Hilda was more than happy to look after him. She brought them both a fresh change of clothes and everything, though Hix only managed to get his shirt and boots off before crashing back into blissful unconsciousness. Once he saw bed, sleep was his priority.
He was roused a few hours later by Tengaar, who sat at his bedside with a pitcher of water and medicine ready for him. His head was still throbbing, and he didn't trust his stomach one bit. If Tengaar raised her voice at him, he just might die on the spot.
"What in the world happened, Hix? Why did Kinnison find you asleep outside? I'll bet it's because you drank too much. You're supposed to be careful, you know. That's part of being a man. You were just stupid."
"Uh-" he uttered pathetically.
"You'll learn someday, though. I have faith in you." She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. Somehow he doubted that a kiss was supposed to sound like tearing parchment, but that was hangover hearing for you. "Happy birthday."
He eventually made an effort to sit vertically enough to take his medicine and drink his water. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was until that glass reached his lips. Even so, after a few sips he was done for. He rolled over and went right back to his precious sleep. Becoming a man was even more difficult than becoming a warrior it seemed, but Tengaar seemed happy that he at least tried. Mission accomplished, he supposed.