CALISTO: Y’all drinkin’ hard or hardly drinkin’??
TOR: Calisto!! My boy!!!
Tor and Calisto hug each other, both equally loud and effusive about it, and suddenly I feel like I’m at a family gathering watching the adults shout at each other to the backdrop of sports forgotten on the TV and younger cousins screeching in the backyard. Weird train of thought, I know, but it serves to contrast how much more integrated into this particular experience I feel.
JUN: Is the counter gonna be okay without you, Calisto?
CALISTO: I’m on my ten. Though you guys look like you could use refills already.
TOR: I’m not opposed!
CALISTO: What were you drinking, Sharma? Was that our wheat beer?
TOR: Sure was! Good crispness to that one, goes down easy.
CALISTO: Right? Hey, Ophelia, can we get another elderflower collins and wheat beer over here? Oh, and a strawberry lemonade!
He grins toothily at me.
CALISTO: You’ll like our strawberry lemonade, Jun. Our supplier’s strawberries are soooo good this time of year.
JUN: Ah, thanks!
CALISTO: And gin’s still your poison of choice even after all this time, eh, Krystoff?
KRYSTOFF: No reason to change up something that works.
CALISTO: Oh, it’ll work alright, especially after you get another one of those in you.
Come to think of it, Krystoff already looks sorta buzzed, which is a sight to behold. His face is flushed, and he’s leaning heavily on the table, probably more for support than for an air of unaffectedness now.
Tor’s only had a beer, but he starts laughing a little louder and patting everyone a little more powerfully, so it’s safe to say he’s feeling it, too. And alcohol must be loosening Krystoff up because he doesn’t look nearly so irritated when Tor nudges at him.
By the time another round or two of drinks make it around the table, Tor’s volume increases and Krystoff’s reserved body language completely topples into graceless swaying and nervous laughter. Calisto has a drink with them too, despite being on the clock, but I assume he’s around alcohol enough to know his limits.
He pals around with us for a bit before flitting off to attend to his duties, still a perfect picture of composure.
I think I’m the only one at our table to pay any attention to the set that Cassius plays, but that’s okay. It still makes for a pleasant backdrop to the din. The night burns on, and the threshold of activity in the bar never wanes. Thankfully, at some point it stops being excess stimulation to me as I acclimate and find myself more able to ignore it as white noise.
KRYSTOFF: Jun… lemme have one of your strawberries.
JUN: Huh? Are you sure??
KRYSTOFF: Do I joke!
JUN: Literally unstoppably. But fine, here.
I stab one of the strawberries that was garnishing my lemonade and hold the fork over to Krystoff. I expect him to take it for himself, but no, he just eats off my fork and leans back into his seat. He chews, makes a face, and swallows anyway. Why’d he ask if he knows he doesn’t like to eat??
JUN: Are you sure about that…?
The dragon waitress shows up again with a tray full of goods.
WAITRESS: Here’s another round of drinks and food. On Calisto’s tab.
TOR: Gahaha! The devil. Thanks, Ophelia.
KRYSTOFF: Th’eciv, I didn’t want another one.
KRYSTOFF: Sorry. Drunk. Meant to say “fuck.”
Tor laughs at that. I never thought I’d enjoy being around drunk people, but I guess there’s a pretty huge difference between stupid sophomores breaking into someone’s mom’s wine stash at a shitty house party, and working adults blowing off some steam responsibly on a Friday night.