"I'm so sorry, princess Mabel…" Robbie told her, kneeling down in front of the girl, who was trying to say it wasn't needed, but the captain had commanded it. He was behind Robbie with his arms crossed, resisting the urge to step on the young man's back to keep him on the floor where he belonged for trying to hurt that kind and sweet princess.
"And…" The Captain said in an expectant tone for him to continue.
"And I promise it will never happen again."
"And I'm so very stupid I don't even know how to measure my stupidity…"
"And…" The Captain continued. Mabel was a bit embarrassed by that. Dipper was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed as he watched Robbie with anger boiling in his blood. He wanted to punch the man so hard for scaring him last night; he couldn't sleep at all after believing for a moment Mabel was deadly hurt.
"And I promise I won't get any closer than three meters from you if you don't wish me to."
"And I promise I won't touch a drop of alcohol as long as you're around…" He said shamelessly and sad, already knowing that the idea of ending his hangover with more alcohol was blown to pieces.
"And…" the captain's voice remained fierce and full of authority.
"And I'll sleep bound in the ship from now on if you wish me to."
"And you shall stab me if you want to. Is that all, sir?"
"Yeah. I guess so." The captain replied, a bit satisfied.
"Hum, look, this is really not necessary, Captain." She said a little embarrassed. "And Robbie, I always used to see you as a creepy jerk, like the human version of rat-poison, but when I saw you last night I realized you're not a bad guy, you're just a heart-broken soul that needs love. I won't hurt you, Robbie. You're already too hurt."
That took Robbie aback. He'd never expect such forgiveness, especially in so little time. Right behind the girl, Dipper's jaw fell as well, for a second, he thought she was joking, but he soon noticed she was serious.
"Are you out of you mind, Girl? I tried to kill you last night…"
"Yeah, but you weren't really you back then. I know if you were sober you wouldn't do that."
"Oh, yeah? Maybe I would." Crossing his arms as if to make a point, but he was still kneeled in front of her, he wouldn't dare stand up before the captain said so.
"No. You wouldn't." Roderick's voice was so imposing it made the young man clean his throat and correct himself.
"You're right, Captain. I wouldn't."
"And I heard something about him almost hitting you. Is that true, Mabel?"
"Look, Roderick, I think he was already punished enough and I'm not hurt, so it doesn't matter." The princess said. "Besides, we gotta go to work now. Am I right, Dipster?"
Dipper looked to the sides, confused and deciding what to do. Finally, he nodded.
"Very well, then. You all just go to work. Stan and I'll be back for dinner. And Robbie, if I hear you did something, anything, to Mabel again… Well, I don't even know what I'm gonna do yet, but you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Understood?"
Robbie stood up only after the captain left the living room. The three youngsters then went to the store to say farewell to Grunkle Stan and Roderick. Dipper made sure to stay between the rebellious pirate and the princess at all times, as if he was some sort of shield, glaring imaginary daggers at him. Thankfully, Wendy came to lighten up the mood. Or not, because she already heard what happened from Roderick and she was obviously mad at her boyfriend.
Mabel was eccentric, but she wasn't stupid, she soon noticed Robbie was uncomfortable by the glaring stares at him from both of his companions. So she decided to give him some activity to distract him. Since Grunkle Stan had so liked the cleaning and new organization in the shop, she decided to keep that up.
"Hey, Robbie, since you left work earlier yesterday, I think it's fair enough for you to wipe the window today. And I'll be supervising you. Get a bucket and a clean cloth, then meet me outside!"
The young man moaned, but complied. In less than five minutes, he was outside with her looking at the dirty glass right behind his shoulder as she instructed him on what to do.
He was far from being stupid and say anything that might disagree with her. He knew she had him in the palm of her hand if she wanted to. She could have made the captain hit him moments ago if she had confirmed he almost hit her. Yet, she didn't. He was flabbergasted at that.
"Hum… By the way… Why did you do that?" He managed to ask, truly curious.
"You know… The forgiveness thing. I wouldn't have forgiven me if I were you."
"Oh, Robbie, I told you. I don't resent what you did. It's not like you did it on purpose or something. Though I'd appreciate if you don't do much drinking anymore…" Her tone was a joking one, but she really meant it. "But I should ask for forgiveness too. I'm sorry for falling on you and then being the reason that your girlfriend got upset with you."
"Well, I guess you didn't really fall on purpose either, it was gravity. And I don't really need help to argue with Wendy, anyway…"
"You're right about that!"
"Hey!" He complained but with a joking tone hidden beneath his voice and there was a hint of a smile on his lips. Mabel was glad he was already sort of kidding near her; it meant he was at least a little bit comfortable in her company. "But I guess you're kinda right… I never know what I do wrong. Sometimes she just pulls away. Like when I kissed her yesterday when she arrived."
"Oh, Silly. Girls want guys that like them for who they are, not because the guys like to show her around. The way you kissed her was like 'hey she's my girl' kind of kiss instead of a 'hey there, sweetie' type. She probably just doesn't like when you kiss her like that in front of people."
"And how can you say that?"
"Oh, pu-leeeze, Robbie. I'm a dating expert. And I'm a girl, so I obviously know more about how a girl's brain works than you do."
"Oh, yeah? And if you're such an expert, what else did you see I've been doing wrong?" He asked in disbelief.
"Well, let me see… You contradict one another far too often; try to agree with her a bit more or at least don't make a big deal out of the things you disagree about unless it's absolutely necessary. But if that still happens, don't take it personally. Don't go drinking and then denying it or lie about equally obvious things that aren't true; be truthful as much as you can. Pay attention to what she says, I've seen you pretending to listen to her just to be asking her the same thing some time later. Those are just a few things I've noticed for now.
"Oh, come on, it's not like that. I don't do those things."
"You know you do." She said smiling and kinda ignoring him. Robbie huffed.
"Okay… I yield… I guess you're right…" he mumbled, ashamed.
"Well, anyway, if you ever want help with relationships, you can always ask me. But now, we gotta get inside, you're going to start cleaning the other side of the window."
Getting the bucket, he stood up and entered the shop again so he could do as she said. When he was almost finished cleaning it, a customer entered. He was a nice looking boy, probably 17 years old, light brown hair and beautiful greenish eyes that were soon set on the pretty girl by the window.
"Wow, hello, Beautiful. Are you new around here? 'Cause I'm sure I'd remember some angel like you." Dipper's eyebrows frowned at that, he was still behind the counter and now all his imaginary daggers found a new target to glare at.
"Thank you. Yeah, I am new, and I'm working here for a while."
"Lucky me!" the boy replied.
"And what brings you to our shop?"
"Well, I'm in need of some… Candles." Dipper felt his hands losing in a tight fist as he realized the boy just made that up. He didn't need anything; he just entered to see the pretty girl closer. Well, at least he was going to buy something, Grunkle Stan would be happy to hear that.
The young pirate kept watching them without saying anything, just following the annoying guy with his eyes. The costumer was so focused on Mabel that he didn't even notice the deathly glares at him. But even if he had noticed, he'd probably just ignore them.
Finally, the guy paid for two thin candles and slowly walked away saying he'd want to be back soon. From behind the counter, Wendy congratulated Mabel for doing so well and the princess just jumped in excitement before she went back to see Robbie almost finished wiping the window.
Dipper humphed, leaning on the counter and resting his chin on his left hand, while the other just tapped its fingers on the wood in an irritated way. Then, he mumbled to himself.
"That guy was so stupid; I thought I'd have to go in the back to get a cloth to clean up his drool from the floor…"
"Do my eyes and ears deceive me or is it real jealousy that I see?" Dipper suddenly turned redder than an apple. He wasn't supposed to be heard.
"Shut up, Wendy!"
"What? No denying this time?"
Dipper opened his mouth to complain, but froze instead. She was right. Damn, she was right again. He wasn't denying it this time. And it kinda scared him. Sure, he accepted that he liked Mabel, really liked Mabel. Come on, he had known her for less than a week. He couldn't really be in love, could it? Logic said there was no way it could happen. And Dipper was a logical guy. So he couldn't just accept it. Yet, sometimes he felt he had known her his whole life even though he met her so recently.
He felt like such a fool. Being jealous over Mabel when he was so sure she didn't like him or that she'd never like him the way he wanted. It was stupid and ridiculous the way he wanted so much to just touch her, to feel her close, to want to brush her pretty long hair with his hands and be the only one to get that close. It was pathetic how he wanted to embrace her just like he did the previous night and then kiss her soft sweet lips like he once did.
If there was any doubt of his feelings for her, they vanished from existence that moment. There was only one reason for him to be feeling so stupidly pathetic like that.
Suddenly he saw Wendy's hands waving in front of his face.
"Hey, Dipper, are you in there? I'm talking to you."
"What did you say?"
"I was asking what happened that made you stop denying."
"Nothing happened I don't know what you're saying, there's nothing to deny here…"
"Come on, Dipper. We know each other for years now. I know you."
"It doesn't matter what happened or what didn't." He hissed looking at Mabel and Robbie talking on the other side of the shop; he lowered his voice even more so they really wouldn't hear him. "It doesn't matter because nothing will happen anyway."
"What are you saying?"
"You know what? I kinda blame you for that. If you hadn't insisted I liked her so much, maybe I'd never even notice."
"Hey, I just opened your eyes, you're the one who started liking her. Don't blame me, blame your heart."
"I blame that stupid thing too. Anyway. Nothing can happen between us, Wendy. She's a princess, remember? She'll want to go back to the life in the palace. And she'll never even know I liked her. It'll be better this way. She'll like her normal royal life and be happy while I find my way." The frustrated boy replied.
"Come on, Dipper, that's ridiculous. You told me she didn't want to go back to the palace. Who knows? Maybe we can find another way to get enough money for the crew and she can stay. Maybe she likes you and that could just be another reason for her to stay."
"It's not that simple! She had a life there, family, friends. Don't you think she'd want to get back to them eventually?"
"Okay, I didn't think about that… But you're overthinking it too much, Dipper."
"Well, you know me. Overthinking is my thing. But it's true nonetheless. Now stop it. There's nothing we can do about it, okay?" And I should have known better than falling into needless romantic drama… He added to himself.
Wendy's heart felt weirdly heavy. There was so much hurt in her childhood friend's eyes and voice. It wasn't like she meant for him to feel miserable, she was just being truthful and honest with the obvious thing she saw in front of her. Besides, she wanted him to be happy, to find someone to like, just like she found. Especially because she knew she was his first crush as a kid.
But her plan kind of backfired, apparently.
"Okay…" There was nothing else she could say.
Dipper went down the stairs, wiping his drenched short hair with a cloth, already in his pajamas, as he neared the kitchen, Robbie's and Roderick's voice could be heard. At the moment the teenager pirate reached the entrance, he saw his father impaling a knife on the table between Robbie's hand and a bottle of rum.
"You're not drinking a drop of alcohol until I say so, do you hear me? If Mabel wasn't so nice, you'd be sleeping in your room back in the ship and I'd have personally bound you there if she asked me. What you did was inexcusable." Roderick's voice was full of authority.
The captain liked the young man. He even considered him part of the family. Not as a son, though he took him in when Robbie was just a kid. He was more like a nephew for Roderick. Still, he was very important. However, he disobeyed the leader's strict orders and almost got an innocent, young and sweet girl killed. Roderick was having a hard time forgiving Robbie.
"Now go sleep on the mattress in the living room. Soos will be coming soon too. We should all get some rest."
"Aye, Captain…" The shameful man replied. He was doing his best to obey every single thing Roderick said now. He knew very well that a random member of the crew that did something like that would either be kicked out of the group or be killed for provoking the captain one tiny bit more.
Robbie stood up and walked out of the kitchen without even looking at Dipper who was walking the opposite direction.
"So, where is Soos?"
"He was taking Melody back to her home after she cleaned everything up for us. I told her it was okay, she already did a lot by cooking for us, but you know her, she's always trying to help too much."
"Indeed… By the way, where's Grunkle Stan?" Dipper said sitting at the table with a few grapes in a bowl and started eating some.
"He went to sleep already. You were probably in our room. And I thought you'd be sleeping. You look exhausted."
"A bit tired. Yeah. But I didn't want to go to sleep just yet." Saying that, he reached for the bottle of rum in front of his father, but the captain took it out before he could reach it.
"You're too young for that, yet."
"Geez, you're so annoying…" He humphed with a joking tone. His father grinned, but then there was silence for a few moments, until Dipper asked after chewing another grape. "What do you and Stan do when you're out the entire day, after all? You only come back like super late."
"You know, just old man stuff."
"You talk like you're already a 100 years old. Come on, Dad, you're still very young."
"Just a matter of speaking. We usually just sit and talk with drinks. We go to the harbor to see how the ship is, we go to taverns and play some card games betting money, obviously. Sometimes we train against each other. It's basically just to get him out of the shop for a while; he works a lot around here without much help, he deserves some rest and I like the company of my uncle. Speaking of it, good job cleaning and organizing the merchandise."
"It was Mabel's idea."
"She's a good girl."
"Yeah… She is…" His tone was so sad and almost defeated that made his father raise his eyes from the drink in his hands to watch his son spitting out a seed.
"You know she won't stay, Son. Don't get too attached. She's a good girl, yes; and you're basically the one taking care of her, yes; but keep your distance. Even if she wants to stay now, she'll miss her family and friends." Too little too late for that now, Dad… The boy thought to himself.
"I know. I just… Dunno, I just wish she wasn't so nice sometimes. It would be easier to let her go." Dipper sighed but tried not to sound so depressed. The truth was that he was desperately trying to find a way to make her stay. At that moment, Soos entered the house, waved to both of them and then told them goodnight before he went to sleep. "Changing the subject, I've been wondering how you and mom met. You never talk much about her…"
"Why do you ask that all of a sudden?" in response, Dipper just shrugged, lifting his both hands in the air with his palms up as if there was no reason in particular.
But the thing was that Dipper just wanted to know if he was so different from his father or not, he wanted to know if his father started loving his mother as fast as he started loving Mabel. Even though the answer was different than his reality, it wouldn't change the way he felt. He just needed to know, though.
Roderick raised an eyebrow. He didn't believe that people just got curious. But then again, this was Dipper and he was probably the most curious kid in the entire kingdom. He probably wanted to ask that for a long time and just got enough courage now. Dipper watched as his father moved, a bit uncomfortable, in his seat and then took a long sip of rum.
"Well, you know, my father used to travel a lot to find new stuff to put in the shop, when I was young, he took me to some of those travels. One of them was the capitol, Alyoth. Turns out I really liked it there. In fact, my own father and his brother were born and raised there. So when I turned 17, I told my father I wanted to go live in Alyoth for a while. He contacted some people he knew so I could stay in their house until I managed to live by myself or decide to come back to Salus City."
"Yeah, you told me you lived in the capitol for a while…"
"So, a few days after I got there, a very beautiful girl who was visiting some cousin or cousin's friends showed up. She was staying for only one month. She was charming, gracious, and intelligent… To me she was God's most beautiful creature in the world. Nothing could have prepared me for her beauty, not even my dreams. A beauty that comes from the inside."
Dipper looked at him with full attention, but his father had his eyes and mind way lost in the past while he absentmindedly drank his rum. Dipper wouldn't dare interrupt him.
"She worked as a waitress in a tavern, I think they earned a lot of costumers that month because of her. She was quite organized and liked to plan everything out, I think you inherited it from her, though you take your organization to a whole new level. However, she was a klutz."
"An organized klutz? She was like a walking contradiction or something?"
"Indeed. And that's what was very charming about her. She used to break bottles and let stuff fall on a daily basis, a walking disaster, but nothing could break her cheerful smile. No matter what, she was always positive and happy. There's no one in the world like her... I guess that's why I never got to love anyone else. I mean, I had other women, slept with some and stuff. But none of them were her."
"Dad, I'm so sorry..."
"It wasn't your fault, Son..." Roderick replied with a ghost of smile trying to grace his lips, but failing miserable. "You know, the owners of the tavern got a bit angry at her for breaking so many things. So she started also working selling vegetables in a nearby store and working at the night in the tavern, though a lot of people came to see her, she did gave the owners of the tavern some loss in their finances. She worked a lot that month… You know, she couldn't cook to save her life. Geez, everything she cooked was just… Horrible. But she never gave up trying. If she were alive she'd probably still trying, she'd only stop when she succeed."
"I'd have liked to meet her…"
"Definitely. You know, she had this super power of always seeing the bright side of the worst situations. She could make anyone smile somehow even passing through hard times." Roderick managed to smile just a little bit. "I think I fell for her the first time I laid eyes on her. I only realized it like one week later. Even though she was beautiful, she was the kind of woman that didn't really stand out in a crowd at first glance. You have to look at her the same time to really look at her. Pretty face, good-looking body, dark brown hair and eyes. She looked common, but her heart was worth more than any treasure in the world. I'd give anything to see her again for one day… And you, Kid," He said pointing to Dipper who looked like his eyes were already a bit wet, his father was never the emotional kind of guy, but it was like Roderick just couldn't stop himself. "You are all I've got that's left of her."
His son gulped; suddenly it was too hard to swallow any more grapes. Now he knew why his father never talked about his mother. It was just too painful. Roderick really loved her. And now Dipper knew why his father was just so overprotective of him, even though he tried hard not to show it.
"You know, I remember her face, I remember the way she smiled, the way she blinked playfully, the way she looked at the horizon in reverie, the way she looked when she slept. But I can't really remember her laugh. Or her voice. They say the voice is the first thing you forget. I do remember her calling me or saying something funny, but the truth is that I don't know if her voice was really the way I remember." There was a moment of silence and Roderick closed his bottle of rum before he stood up. "Now clean up this mess and go to bed." Ruffling his son's hair, he left the kitchen.
Dipper stood there for a moment, sitting at the table with the bowl of grapes in front of him and a lot of seeds by its side. Just blinking and taking it all in. He discovered what he wanted. He was more like his father than he knew; he indeed fell for his mother very quickly. And it lasted a lifetime. Could it be that he was so like his father to love someone so intensely like that? At first he doubted that, now he wasn't so sure. And it kind of scared him.