Ruben wasn't normally a bar-hopper. At least, not in the Muggle style. If he was going to travel between venues, why waste his time walking up and down a couple streets of different bars selling the exact same stuff when he could instead be apparating between the official breweries for every type of beer in Germany? (Some would argue that walking was more responsible, but apparating was really safer. Ja, sure, you might lose your knee in the Rhine - a hypothetical example that had not ever happened to him - but that didn't cause any lasting damage to you or anyone else, unlike when idiot Muggle pedestrians decided to cross the road in front of your siren-blaring firetruck - another hypothetical example.)
Anyways. This wasn't his usual Friday night, but when he saw the end-of-semester pub crawl posters taped all over Kaye's residence building, he'd insisted they go. It was clearly a rite of passage for American students. And he never turned down rites of passage that specifically involved alcohol. He also never turned down alcohol, period, and by their third pub Ruben had skipped over Drunk Stages 1 to 3, which were very much just normal Ruben with the volume up, and entered Stage 4, which currently meant that he was obsessed with Kaye's shoes.
"It’s like you matched them to your hair," he exclaimed, grinning widely. "Even the, the pointy things, it is basically just eyebrows." He arched his own bushier brows at her, but didn't manage to hold the expression long before cracking up.
Kaye wobbled only slightly as she lifted her foot to inspect the shoes she’d thrown on. It was hard to pair heels with the bar crawl’s mandatory dress code, but she felt like her flying squirrel onesie was complemented by her deep purple stilettos. “What pointy things?” She frowned. There weren’t any pointy extras on these shoes. She came to a conclusion and poked Ruben square in the chest. “You’re drunk.”
He took an exaggerated step back and held up a hand in surrender. (The other hand was holding his beer. It wasn’t a good beer, but it was cheap, thanks to the cow onesie that had earned him a discount tonight, so it was worthy enough.) “Fine, but you are more drunk. Drunker.”
She gasped, clearly insulted. So far, Kaye’s drunk stages had gone from giggly to loud to, now, declaring, “I am not drunk!” Nevermind that her words slurred just a tiny bit. “I can touch my nose, see?” She brought her free hand, the same one she’d used to poke her boyfriend since her other held a blue rum punch, dramatically to her nose.
Already inhaling the rest of his shitty beer, Ruben shrugged dismissively. “That proves nothing. I mean, you can’t touch my nose.” He took another taunting step back.
“That’s not how the test goes!” She laughed. Kaye took a swipe at Ruben, coming nowhere close to the Swede. Dismissing the failure as if she meant to do that, she brought her drink to her lips and grinned. “At the next bar, the one we have to do next - Duke’s? Yeah, that one. There’s a mechanical bull.”
“Ja, really?” He’d seen them before, but never in person. The prospect of besting such a strange Muggle invention made him grin, and he reached over to slam his glass down on the bar beside them, blue eyes never leaving Kaye’s face. “One more for the road!”
When they reached the next bar, there was a lineup at the mechanical bull. Queueing was part of the Swedish national identity, but not Ruben’s personal identity, and so after taking a brief make-out-with-Kaye break (the scattered attention of Ruben’s Drunk Stage 4 was slowly taking on the excessive PDA of Stage 4.5 which thankfully matched Kaye’s own Drunk Stage 4) he marched right up to the front of the line. The man who had previously been at the front tried to start an argument, failing miserably when the blonde turned a withering glare onto him. Only Ruben could look this intimidating wearing a hood with fuzzy ears - and he knew it. “My turn.”
Vaulting onto the bull’s back, Ruben noted that there was a handle and scoffed. He wasn’t going to need that. Instead he got a good grip with his knees, core tensed, and waited for the fun to start. As it turned out, the start wasn’t fun. Boring, really. He might be drunk, but it took a lot more than this for him to be physically impaired, and he was able to adapt easily to the bull’s movements. But then the machine started thrusting back and forth, his own body moving with it, and there was a moment where Stage 4.5 really came to the front - he made eye contact with a cheering Kaye in the crowd at one point, smirking, certain she could tell how his muscles were flexing under the cow print - and then it started spinning and okej, now it was fun.
There came a point where apparently he’d reached the end of the mechanical loop, as the bull started slowing down. Not one to settle for an easy victory, Ruben got his feet under him, swung himself up, and leapt off the bull’s back. His idea to do a proper roll landing was interrupted by the rubbery plastic barriers around the side of the bullpit, but he still finished off his crash with a fistpump. “Fick dig, din jävla steksmörgås!” he shouted at the bull, flipping it off with a grin, and turned to look for Kaye.
She was nearby, holding two shot glasses in her hands. In the time it took for Ruben to conquer the mechanical bull, Kaye had gone from Drunkenness Stage 4 to Stage ??? and couldn’t figure out how to control the volume of her voice. “Ruben! That guy,” she pointed towards an entire group of college aged boys in onesies, “He got us shots! They taste like candy.” She paused. Ruben waited. “I want candy. Ruben, we should go find candy!”
“...Some guy got you shots?” He considered this, then nodded. “Finish those. One minute.” Ruben held up a finger in a misplaced attempt to enforce that she should stay there, and then set off in the direction of the pack of idiots, unzipping his onesie while he broadly addressed them as one. “Fick dig nästa, din jävla kuksmörgåser!” It was time for Stage 5.
Despite being dumb enough to buy Ruben’s girlfriend shots, the college boys were apparently still smart enough to know that a Viking-esque man wearing a cow onesie shouting at them in a foreign language was not a situation to stick around for. As the first one noticed, and got the attention of his friends, the whole group started getting restless, much like cattle. Ironically.
Kaye appeared at his side, holding one of the shots out to Ruben. She put on a pout. “No punching. You finish one!” The whine in her voice made it evident that she was about to reach her next level of drunk: hangry. “And then we can go find candy! Any food. All of the food.”
He took the shot and quickly inhaled it, holding eye contact the entire time with a boy dressed as a tiger, whom he had decided was the most likely culprit (and/or just the closest to being within arms’ range). “One punch? Then we can get a whole candy store, if you want.” The tiger began to squirm under Kaye’s gaze. For a moment, it seemed like she’d let go of her Swede and let him go wild. But then she shook her head.
“No punching. We can’t get food if you get arrested.”
“Where is your spirit of adventure?” Ruben lamented, begrudgingly unclenching his fist and wrapping it around Kaye’s hand instead. He glared at the tiger one last time and then let her lead him out of the bar.
It turned out that Kaye’s spirit of adventure was at the grocery store. They crossed Washington Avenue a couple of blocks, made a pit stop at a ridiculously decadent donut shop, and walked into the parking garage for HEB. Kaye sucked the rest of the frosting from her Coco Puffs donut from her index finger and pointed at the automatic doors. They had to go inside, and then up an escalator to get to the actual grocery store. Next to the escalator was an even tinier escalator just for shopping carts, which they were able to grab once they were on the second floor. Kaye said that the two story store had something to do with flooding, but she was drunk and her explanation was not great, as Ruben informed her. They went through another set of automatic doors, and then they were inside.
“Texas doesn’t do much right,” Kaye commented from her place inside of the shopping cart, “But they know how to do a grocery store.”
From behind her, Ruben grunted in agreement, words impossible around the chili pepper from his Ring of Fire donut. Spicy and alcohol was a weird mix, but he was always up for a challenge. Speaking of alcohol - “Is dat a bar?” he made out around the pepper, automatically turning their shopping cart towards the display of wine bottles.
“It is!” Kaye squinted as if that would help her see better. “But I don’t think the bar part is open. It’s too late. But let’s buy some stuff to take home!” She would murder a man for a case of White Claw right about now. When Ruben wheeled her by one of the towers of alcoholic seltzer, she managed to snag one to place in the cart with her without knocking any of the other cases over.
The blonde observed this feat with amusement, reaching over to grab a six-pack along the way. “Such coordination,” he teased, and set the beer on top of her case. “Okej, what next? I vote… those cheesy pasta bowls.” Without waiting for her confirmation, he spun the cart around a corner on a mission.
Before they knew it, the cart was full of the best drunk snacks. Kaye grabbed Doritos that were way too orange and queso, a fresh pizza, and vegetable sushi (to be healthy), as well as a cheesecake. She stopped Ruben from literally diving into the tank that held the lobsters and pointed him to the frozen section instead, where he picked up samosas, two shrimp rings, and a box of chocolate chip waffles, while simultaneously describing how he could make better ones any day.
On their way out of the freezer, he again tried to convince Kaye that they needed a lobster. She disagreed. Ruben retaliated by throwing his hands up dramatically and walking away, leaving her alone in the cart; but quickly turned back around when hearing the telltale sounds of his items getting dumped onto the floor. “How could you?” He scooped up a bag of rainbow goldfish crackers and held it up accusingly. “What did they do?”
Kaye cackled gleefully and grabbed onto Ruben’s wrist, pulling him close enough for a triumphant and sloppy kiss. “Nothing. They were bait to get you to come back. Worthwhile sacrifices.” She grinned. “Let’s check out and go back to my place.”
Tossing the goldfish into her lap, Ruben cracked his knuckles and grabbed the shopping cart handle. “Hang on!” he warned with a maniacal grin back before taking off at a full run, weaving around the aisles.
On the way home, Kaye made sure to tip their Uber driver a whole lot. The two threw the groceries in the trunk - minus the goldfish and a box of Oreos that Ruben insisted on bringing with him - and they half snacked, half enthusiastically made out the whole drive back to Kaye’s tiny studio in Rice Village. Somewhere along the way, the Swede lost half his onesie, and left the car with cow arms and a horned hood looped around his very bare waist. This meant he had no choice but to carry all the bags up to her dorm with his muscles out. A tragedy, really.
Her studio was the same as her college dorm and as her room at RMI: lots of wigs, dark and expensive bedspread, and unfinished homework scattered across her desk. There was a chair pushed in, sporting the smoking jacket she’d taken from Pretty Boy, and a few doses of hangover potion on her bedside table. The biggest change was the fact that she had her own little kitchen space she rarely used. Takeout was better than whatever she could cook up.
Or whatever Ruben could cook her. That was better, too. As soon as they got in the door, the blonde was in the kitchen corner, skillfully piling his collection of frozen goods in the tiny freezer - minus one box. “I am making samosas,” he announced over his shoulder. Shaking the entire contents of the box onto a tray, he slid it into the oven and pushed the preheat button. “Then I am seducing you. Then we can eat samosas. In bed. Ja?” With a smirk, he turned to grab her hand.
“Wait, hold on.” Kaye unbuttoned her onesie, and it turned out that she didn’t just have a bra and panties on underneath. She pulled out a watch, several wallets, a necklace, a keychain, and other random items she’d pocketed throughout a night. “Okay, I think that’s everything.”
Ruben blinked, and then laughed loudly. “Have I said recently that I love you?” He took a wallet off the pile and flipped through it curiously for a moment before catching himself and tossing it aside. “Stop distracting me and get over here.”
He didn’t need to tell her twice. Kaye threw her arms around Ruben’s neck and kissed him, barely breaking apart enough to say she loved him too.
Co-written with Cassie