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The fact remains that every single time you go drinking with your employees, something terrible always happens, but you are very good at disregarding the facts in favor of alcohol. What's the worst that could happen anyway?
...Well. A lot, actually. The question brews ill thought, so you dismiss it and instead shrug at Lily.
“Eh, what the hell, why not?”
“...Huh?” Lily turns—though it is more of a spin—to face you. The girl wears a quizzical frown that asks a lot of unanswered questions. “You're actually going?”
“Yeah. I mean, you asked me to come. What's wrong with saying yes?”
“Well,” Cassie says, “it just seems like you don't like drinking too much. Or us, for that matter!”
“I don't hate you all. I just don't like it here. Plus, I do enjoy alcohol—in moderation, of course. So let's not get too carried away today unlike every fucking time we drink. I think my liver is going to explode at any given moment. Also, I'd prefer not to carry everyone home again. I'm your boss, not your babysitter.”
Momiji puts a hand to her mouth in mock-surprise. “Wait, you're not?”
“You don't get to talk, Cook,” you snap. “You give the most trouble out of everyone here. Anyway, I'll go lock up.”
“Where are we headed?” asks Momiji.
“Angel Pub and Grill,” says Cassie. “It's the only place I really know. They're, um, not bad, per se, if you disregard the quality, the atmosphere, the service and—”
“Vetoed. And I'm not saying that as your boss, I'm saying that as a human with standards. If we're going anywhere, then we're going to Louise's. Despite how shitty it looks on the outside, the place is outstanding. Any objections?”
Momiji laughs at the mention of Louise's, but everybody else looks around and shrugs.
“Great. We're heading out in five.”
The air outside reeks of forthcoming rain. It has a mustiness unique to springtime. But for once, nature is merciful enough to wait until everybody is inside the bar before unloading a full downpour onto the city.
Louise's is abuzz with customers—something you're not actually used to. You expect sullen and desolate, not bustling, not alive, and certainly not cheerful. Most of the time you come to the bar, it's well past busy hours. Today though, is the exception. Sam waves you over, so you bring your employees over and steal five seats in front of the bartender.
Sam takes a long look over the girls. “Free drinks for five is pushing it, Gallagher.”
“Relax, they're all paying. You should be happy that I got you customers for the night, by the way.”
“Oh, I'm ecstatic,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Now if only you could find some more customers for your own bar, right?”
“Customer turnout is none of my fault, thank you."
“So, do you need something to drink or are you just going to flirt with me all night?”
You shoot him a nasty look. “I'll pass on both. I'm taking it easy tonight.”
“Don't worry, I'll be drinking for him!” laughs Momiji. “Give me tequila neat!”
Rylee shakes her head in disgust. “You're insane, Cook.”
“I'd like a strawberry mojito!” says Lily, laughing alongside Momiji.
Their laughter must be straight infectious, because Cassie starts giggling with them too. “Give me the same, please!”
“So, in all seriousness,” Sam says, sliding the tequila over to Momiji. He starts working on the mojito next. “How goes business? I heard Mr. Hansen's been missing for a while.”
“Yeah, the owner's been MIA for so fucking long. It's driving me nuts because I need him to look over reports and some statements. I don't have the authority to do shit, so all I can do is twiddle my thumbs and wait until he shows up.”
Sam hands Lily and Cassie their drinks. “Tough shit. Maybe it's time to abandon ship and come work for us?”
You scoff. “Like I can. Who else is going to run Morning Spirits? Lily? Impossible, it'd never work out.”
At the mention of her name, Lily frowns. “Hey, that's rude! I could do it after some training. Maybe.”
“Funny you say that, Gallagher.” Sam smiles. “Jasmine said the same exact thing about you right before she left.”
Rylee blinks. “Jasmine?”
“Our old manager,” Lily explains. “Back when Boss was just a senior employee and not in charge of literally everything.”
“Well,” you sigh, “she was right. The whole bar is an even bigger mess now than when she was around and she was a royal fuckup.”
“Need a drink, dontcha? And I ain't saying that just because they aren't free tonight.”
“Fine. But just one for tonight, please.”
You manage to keep it at one. The temptations almost gets to the best of you, but you will it out. The rest of your employees, however, decidedly do not.
“Booooooooooss.” Lily grabs at your shoulder for an armrest. You politely shy away from the girl, but in her drunken stupor she leans too forward and almost tackles you to the ground. You reluctantly catch her and then nudge her off of you immediately
“What do you want, Lily?”
“I'm. Very drunknrgh. Prob'bly obnoxiously drunkgh. Am I drunk, boss? Gallagher?”
“Yes, you're really drunk. So you don't get to drink for the rest of the night, alright?”
“Fiiiiine. But only 'cause you're the boss and the boss gets to say stuff and boss people around and—wooow.” Lily frowns, then hiccups once. “I really am drunk. I cannot words.”
“At least you're aware, unlike Cassie.”
“I am nnnot drink—drunk. Not drunk,” slurs Cassie, gripping the table fiercely. She's trying her best—and failing—to keep her balance. “Not drunk and will neeveeeer be drunk. I'm just tipsy, like, really really really tipsy.”
“Sit down,” you command. “And keep a firm grip on the table. Don't fall off the chair now.”
“Okaaaay.” Cassie hesitantly lowers herself back onto the chair. She yelps as she almost slips off but somehow manages to catch herself and secure her butt on the seat. “I did it,” she says, with a triumphant grin.
“Thanks!” she says, beaming.
“Booooooss,” whines Lily, “heeeeeelp.”
“I'd rather not.”
“You're being awfully patient today,” says Rylee, finally chiming in. Amazingly, she's one of two who are still sober.
“Lily and Cassie are both drunk and I'm not,” you point out. “I have to be patient with them. That's my job.”
Lily snakes a hand around your shoulder, leaning straight into you. “Heeey,” she starts, but before she can do anything else, Momiji wriggles in-between, draping a loose arm over the both of you.
“Hey friends, just thought I'd pop in.” The wolf tengu takes a deep breath. “By the way, Lily, did you know that we're getting gay married? Because we're both super gay. Dick lovers, even.”
“Oh, not this shit again.” You scowl at the wolf but she ignores your glares. You can faintly hear Cassie laugh in the background.
“You think I'm joking?” Momiji says, shouting over to your other employee. She turns to you and inches a little closer. “Well—”
“Hold it right there, Cook. You should stop before you do anything stupid. Again.” This time, you have both the sobriety and peace of mind to prevent her from drunkenly forcing herself onto you.
“Yeaaaah, I know, I know. Don't worry. This time it was actually just a joke. I'm not that drunk. Promise. It's just that.. y'know. Um.” Momiji blinks and looks around. You, plus all the rest of your employees, are looking at her. “Fuck, I'll, uh, talk about it later.”
Rylee turns her head to Momiji. “Wait, so the dude who tried to make out with you was—?”
You sigh. “It's a long story.”
The drinking winds down just before midnight. Cassie is sleeping—but not competely passed out—using her arms as a cushion. Lily has more or less sobered up mentally. Only the slightly unsteady waddling gives away that she's been drinking. You throw Momiji an anxious look her way, but she returns a reassuring smile. Rylee, thankfully, did not drink at all tonight.
“Boss, I'll go take Cassie and Lily back to their homes. You can manage taking care of Cook, right?”
“Yeah, easily. Nobody's too drunk anymore, so I think we'll all be fine. Thanks for your help, Rylee.”
“Mmhm.” A rare smile is planted across her lips. Rylee leaves to go round up the rest of the girls.
“Alright.” You wave Momiji on over. “Come on, Cook. Let's head out.”
The wolf follows, eager to get outside. Though, once she's out, all the two of you do is glance at each other uneasily for about a block, when Momiji, head hung low, bashfully reaches for you. You extend your arm out to her. She takes it immediately.
“Hey,” she says.
“Hey,” you say.
“Did I, um, go a little overboard earlier tonight?”
“No. I didn't really mind. It's just that—well.” You fumble across your words, struggling to get your mouth working the way you want it to. “It's just that I'd like to do that kinda stuff privately and not, y'know, there. 'There' being in front of everyone. So... you don't have to do the gay act. I'm not looking anywhere else because you're... uh. You're special to me and stuff. Or something like that. Fuck man, this is fucking embarrassing to say.”
You half-expect her to laugh and ask you to repeat it again, to which you'll scowl and tell her to go eat a dick. Instead, she leans close into your shoulder and squeezes your hand. All you can muster is a blush, hidden away in the night.