Not for Everyone (Part 3)

Roy suddenly found himself at a loss for what to do. He stared at Miko, dumbfounded, mouth hanging open in shock. Slowly, painstakingly, he peeled his eyes from the crying woman and turned his head towards Smilin' Pete. The kindhearted proprietor seemed equally at a loss, and spread his arms in a gesture of helplessness when his gaze met Roy's.

Roy sighed and climbed to his feet. "I suppose you expect me to fix this?" He grumbled, gesturing dismissively towards Miko.

Pete coughed a little nervously. "Weellll, it'd be nice of you not to leave a girl crying on my floor after completely trashing my bar."

"It would be the good thing to do." Roy's Archon added dryly.

Roy let out another long-suffering sigh. "Fine. But I'm writing a complaint to whoever's in charge. My version of paradise does not include Miko Miyazaki." With that, he took three quick strides to the still prone and weeping woman and very pointedly kicked her short sword away from her. He cleared his throat. "Hey, Miko, knock it off. Your whining is completely killing the atmosphere here."

His remark simply redoubled the force of her bawling. "L-leave me alone, G-Greenhilt," She sobbed. "Y-you've already h-hurt me enough."

Remembering how her sword cleaved through Lord Shojo, Roy was having a hard time drumming up any sympathy. "Yeah, well, the bartender wants you out, and he thinks I owe it to him to do it. So don't make me drag your ass out of here."

"Why must you continue to torture me so?!" Miko wailed, punctuating it by slamming a fist onto the ground and splintering a floorboard. "You are worse than your despicable halfling!"

The reply took Roy aback. He suddenly realized what he was doing. Here was a person who, for whatever reason, was now at her worst. Instead of being the grownup he claimed to be, he had continued to needle her, and why? Because she was Miko, and he hated her? How petty could he get? Not thirty seconds ago he had declared that he was done playing games with her, but as soon as he saw an opening he just went right back to clawing at her. She had just compared him unfavorably to Belkar. "Oh my Gods, I'm turning into some horrible cross between Belkar and my father." He breathed, aghast. He had to do something about this.

"Miko, I can't believe I'm saying this, but you're right. I'm behaving worse than Belkar." His only response was more wracking sobs. "In fact, I think I owe you an apology." She let out a startled sniffle, continuing to cry. "I'm sorry for doing this to you. Let me fix it." He offered her his hand as he spoke.

Miko spread her fingers slightly and glared at him through red-rimmed eyes. He could see tearstains covering her cheeks. She sniffled again.

"Come on, Miko, I'm trying to trust you here, but that has to go both ways. Will you admit that you didn't trust me enough to take my hand after I trusted you enough to offer it?" He asked, extending his hand just a little closer to her. A part of him hoped she would simply spurn his attempts to make amends, so he could just walk away secure in the knowledge that he had at least tried to be the bigger person.

To his disappointment, Miko simply sniffled loudly and grabbed his hand. He helped her get to her feet, and she quickly let go of his hand as if burned. "There." He said, trying to force a smile but not nearly managing to pull it off.

Miko wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve in a decidedly undignified manner. "So what happens now?" She asked sullenly.

Roy bit his lip, nervously scratching the back of his head. "To be honest, I hadn't thought this far ahead yet."

"How about a table and some drinks?" Pete interjected. "You two look like you have a lot to talk about."

"I…" Roy glanced at Miko, who glanced back at Roy. He couldn't say no. That would make him look like a hypocrite. He realized that she couldn't say no either, because that would make her look like she was too weak to take the high road, at least in her own mind. Roy had to force the next words through his teeth. "Yes… Pete, that sounds… wonderful. Miko?"

"Of course, Greenhilt. I would be… hon - no - deli - er - I'd like to stay." Miko replied, stumbling lamely over her words.

"Great. Everything is great." Roy said, mentally kicking himself. Why did he have to be the bigger person? Why did the barkeep have to open his mouth? "How about we sit at this table?" He gestured at one that had remained relatively untouched throughout the fight. Miko nodded at him, and he walked over to it, feet dragging. At the last second he remembered he was supposed to be a gentleman and pulled out Miko's chair for her.

Miko stared at the offered chair as if it might leap up and bite her, eyes flickering wildly from the chair to Roy. Eventually, she seemed to come to a decision and sat in the chair as carefully and slowly as she could manage, as if she were afraid that Roy was going to yank it out from under her at the last second. It was a fair precaution. Roy had been sorely tempted to do it.

Roy walked around the table and sat in the chair opposite of Miko. She was staring rather pointedly at her hands, blinking away the last of her tears. Roy swallowed, unsure of what to say or do next. Fortunately, Pete came to the rescue. "Mr. Greenhilt? What will you be drinking this evening?" The barkeep called, his cheerful voice sounding the slightest bit forced.

"Ah, Dwarven Ale, please." Roy called back.

"Of course. And for the lady?"

"S-sake." Miko answered.

In short order Pete had produced a foaming tankard for Roy, and a wine glass full of clear liquid for Miko. Roy took a long gulp of the brew as Pete scurried off behind the bar and through a door, trying to stave off talking for as long as possible. As he set the drink down, Miko picked hers up, apparently trying not to be the first one to talk. She took a dainty sip and blanched. "Ugh, that is foul." She said. "The barkeep must have screwed up again."

Roy reached over for her glass. "Mind if I try?" He asked, trying to maintain at least a veneer of courtesy. She shrugged and offered it to him. He took a quick sip of the bitter rice alcohol. He set the glass down, shrugged, and slid the drink back across the table to Miko. "Tastes like sake. Really dry, kind of bitter. What's wrong with it?"

Miko's eyes flashed dangerously. "What is wrong with it?" She asked incredulously. "It is Azure City's national drink! It cannot taste like that! It is an affront to my beloved homeland!"

Roy looked back at her quizzically. "Well, it's not my favorite or anything, but you Azurites seem to suck it down pretty fast. But this stuff tastes just like all the other sake I've drank, so I don't see what you find wrong with it."

Roy saw red creeping up Miko's neck and into her cheeks. He feared that she might be nearing another explosion. "I - you - you're wrong, Greenhilt!" She declared indignantly. "It's - that is to say, there is something wrong with it. Your palette is simply not refined enough to understand the nuances of this… beverage." She folded her arms and turned her head away from him.

Roy's eyes narrowed as suspicion began tickling in the back of his head. "Now hold on just a second." He said. "You thought Sake came from a barrel. From your actions, it seems like you didn't even know what it was supposed to taste like. Which makes me wonder… You've never even had sake before in your life, have you?"

Miko turned her eyes briefly back to Roy, keeping her head facing away. "That's ridiculous." She declared.

Roy burst into laughter. "I knew it! You're not flushing in anger, you're blushing! You've never drank sake in your life! You just thought it would taste better, and clearly you couldn't dislike your national drink, so it there must be something wrong with the freakin' heavenly batch!" He broke down into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

"This is not funny, Greenhilt!" Miko declared, full of wounded pride.

Roy snorted, trying to contain his giggles. "No, no, you see, this right here? This whole situation? This is precisely the kind of thing you do that gets you into trouble. It's like it doesn't even occur to you that you could have a flaw, so there must be something wrong with the universe at large."

"Disliking sake is not a flaw!" Miko declared vehemently. Suddenly, she realized what she had just said and her hands flew to cover her mouth.

Roy continued to fight with the last tremors of his earthshaking laughter. "No, you're absolutely right. So you don't like your national drink. So what? It doesn't somehow make you less of an Azurite."

Miko slowly lowered he hands, blinking as if she were having an epiphany. "I… do not like sake." She declared almost reverently.

"You don't have to. There's plenty of stuff from my homeland that I don't like." Roy said encouragingly. "I mean look, I'm drinking a dwarven ale. My country didn't come up with that."

Slowly, Miko pushed her glass away. "Barkeep!" She called. Smilin' Pete dutifully appeared behind the bar a few moments later. "Bring me something else. I do not like sake!" She declared.

Seeing Pete's confusion, Roy stepped in. "Just roll with it. Grab her something sweet, I don't think she's much of a drinker."

"Elven Strawberry Wine coming right up!" Pete said, disappearing through another door into what Roy assumed was a pantry.

As they sat in silence, Roy thought about his situation. So maybe making Miko realize that she didn't like her national drink was a far cry from making her realize that she didn't have to be the ridiculous caricature of a paladin she thought she had to be. Maybe it was still to much to hope that she'd apologize to either the barkeep or him for her previous behavior. But it was a start. And maybe that was worth putting up with her for just a bit longer.

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