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Unimaginably, Laughably, Absurdly Soft Birthday

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It's early enough that there's still mist coming off the field when Daryl gets to the barn.

"How're you now?"

"Good, and you?'

"Not so bad." Wayne offers him a cigarette. "Happy birthday, Dary."

"Thanks. Party still on?"

"You bet."

Daryl had long since given up on hopes of skipping the yearly tradition. It was more for Wayne and Katy anyway, but god, some of the ideas they came up with. As it is, there's some light banging from inside the barn, and a string of curse words that even makes Wayne give a sideways glance.

Squirrely Dan comes out the man door, without his ball cap, covered in stray bits of hay and sweating like a whore in church. "Missions accomplished," he says. He helps himself to a beer.

"Ten-four."

Daryl frowns before he asks, "should I ask?"

Wayne considers it carefully for a moment. "I wouldn't. Pitter patter, there's things to do."

"I hopes you're ready for this afternoons," Squirrely Dan warns before draining his beer.

Darryl thought he was, but now he's rethinking it. "Sure," Daryl says, instead of voicing anything else. His birthday party is not about him and he's amiable enough to remember that.


It's not the usual horse dressed like the unicorn, but that's probably because of how they spooked it last year with all the chickens in the tutus getting loose like they did. Old farmer Hancock said the poor horse didn't piss straight for a week after that scare.

This year, it's one of them tall, white ones from the stable up past town line. No idea how they got the tough as nails lesbian horse ranchers to agree to that, and Wayne could expect quite the scrap when they brought it back in the morning dyed pink. Matched the glittery sunglasses everyone was wearing though.

"It's just beet juice, boys, figure it out." Katy's assuring and reassuring Riley and Jonesy, who look way too worried about the horse. The dumbasses.

They've been passing a mini-watermelon with a curly straw in it back-and-forth and both of them have mouths stained blue to show for it, but neither of them have noticed yet. Dumbasses.

Daryl pushes his sunglasses back up his nose and accepts his sixth Sex on the Beach from someone he doesn't recognize. Seems like the party attracts more and more every year, but everyone seems cool. They know to keep the fights past the property line.

"You readys for the llama?" Squirrely Dan asks, carrying three beer bottles in each hand. He lets Daryl stick yet another paper umbrella into his beard. It looks magnificent.

"Sure. Wait, llama?"

"'Course we gots a llama; it's your birthday! We'se wanted an alpaca because, y'knows, soft, but theys don't likes crowds."

That's a commonly known fact about alpacas, so Daryl has no more questions. He awaits the llama.

He's a grumpy looking creature, but he's wearing someone's granny's floppy sun hat and a pair of those stupid colourful leggins that every girl he knew in high school sells now. The overall impression, from outfit to sour disposition, to the fluffiest llama mullet Daryl's ever seen, is pretty profound.

The llama looks at the horse in a way that only animals wearing clothes not designed for them can, like they have an understanding never to speak of it again. Daryl gets it. That kind of thing happens at least once or twice a year around here.

"Thank guys, I'm having a good time," Daryl says when Katy and Wayne saunter up to flank him. Katy presses another drink into his hand, something light purple this time. It smells a little like flowers and rock candy and distinctly like cheap gin.

"Happy birthday, bud," she says. She slings an arm around him and leans up on her toes to peck him on the cheek. In spite of himself, Daryl blushes. Her boobs are brushing his exposed forearm. Heh, boobs are nice.

"Here," Wayne says, thrusting his arm forward in that weird, robotic way he does sometimes, right between them. He hands Daryl the cookie in the shape of a kitten that Wayne has definitely decorated himself. Icing smiley face on the top, penis outlined in green sugar stars on the bottom, a classic birthday snack.

"Good party?" Wayne asks.

"Best year yet."