“Sensei, I think that’s enough for now…” Ukai tried to sneakily pull the sake cup away from Takeda, but the teacher swiped it up in enthusiasm and downed it in one. He was already pretty shit-faced, with red cheeks, his glasses on his forehead but squint, and hiccuping profusely, but that didn’t stop him from drinking more and more, under the encouragement of his companions.
Whatever had made Ukai think going out drinking with Shimada, Takinoue, Saeko, Akiteru and Takeda was a good idea, was seriously flawed. He would really regret this in the morning. Not because of what he was drinking, but because he was the designated sober friend for tonight.
And his car was broken. Which meant he had to walk. He had to walk five drunk people home in the early hours of the morning.
“... Alright, you hooligans, let’s stop there. If anyone passes out, I’m not carrying you.”
“I want Ukai to carry me…” Shimada’s drunk, slurred mumble has Ukai pinch the bridge of his nose, repressing the urge to leave them all here. Of all of them, Shimada and Akiteru are the worst. They look like they’ll manage about three steps before hitting the floor. At least Takinoue isn’t too bad, and Saeko is deceptively steady on her feet.
Takeda… Is going to be stumbling like a fool. Secretly, Ukai doesn’t mind that the teacher is going to be using him to stay standing. That’s only if his inhibitions aren’t completely impaired. Last time, he tried to go swimming in the canal. Not a good idea.
“I’ll get the tab. Saeko-san, can you make sure they don’t drink any more.”
“No problem~!” As Ukai goes up to the front to pay the tab for tonight’s session, Saeko promptly steals the drinks from everyone at the table and downs them in one go. Takinoue glares at her, and Takeda whines. Shimada barely notices, too fascinated with flipping his glasses up and down, and Akiteru is too close to passing out to realise the bottle of beer he’s nursing is now empty.
Ukai returns, staring at the table with a deadpan expression. His gaze slowly trails to a grinning Saeko, putting the pieces together.
“... You drunk it all, didn’t you?”
“Yup! In two minutes, I’m not gonna know up from down!”
“Why are you so hellbent on making this even harder?”
“Talent~.” Ukai takes a deep breath, readying himself for the most challenging part of the night.
“Alright, you five! Up and at ‘em, time to get your drunk asses home!” Takinoue and Saeko manage to stand up, and Saeko grabs the back of Akiteru’s shirt to drag him to his feet, the three of them almost collapsing over each other as they head into the street.
“Shimada, Takeda. Come on. We’re going home.”
“I don’t wannaaaaa…”
“Tough luuuuuck. You have to sleep and get sober before opening your shop tomorrow.” The mention of ShimadaMart seems to get through the drunken haze, and Shimada blinks blearily before putting his glasses on properly and trying to stand up.
“Crap, yeah… The- The shop… I gotta open tomorrow…” Those few seconds of sobriety last until he gets outside, crashing into Takinoue’s back and sending the four drunkards to the floor in fits of laughter. Ukai wonders why he didn’t try to pass off the “sober friend” duty tonight.
“Sensei, it’s time to go.” Stubbornly, Takedo folds his arms and huffs, refusing to move.
“Takeda-sensei.” No response.
“... Takeda Ittetsu.” Hazy, drunk eyes turn to him, and Ukai sternly points towards the door into the street. Groaning like a toddler and swaying on his feet, Takeda goes out to join the others, and Ukai dutifully collects any forgotten bags before he goes to be their adult supervision.
He wishes he brought those child reins with him.
“Saeko, stop pulling leaves off the bush! Takinoue, that’s enough spinning, you’ll make yourself sick! Akiteru, get off the floor!” Shimada and Takeda are vaguely under control, considering one of them is standing still mumbling about his shop, and the other is hiccuping as he gazes up at the stars.
Like herding cats, Ukai somehow manages to get them all going in the right direction. Despite his earlier threat, he ends up carrying Shimada on his back whilst Takeda clings to his arm. Saeko, in a remarkable display of alcohol tolerance, gives Akiteru a piggy-back and still walks in a straight line. Takinoue ends up trailing behind them, only focused on staying with them because Ukai confiscated his phone.
As they walk through the town square towards the residential area, that’s where things go to shit.
“That’s a bigass tree!”
“Hm? Oh, they already put the tree up… Must be doing the lights tomorrow.”
“I wanna climb it.”
“Saeko, no-!” The woman has already ditched Akiteru in a bush and raced off towards the giant Christmas tree before Ukai can react. As if it can’t get any worse, whilst Ukai is trying to pull Akiteru out of the bush, Takeda lets go of his arm and stumbles after Saeko, who’s bribed Takinoue into giving her a boost up into the first branches of the tree.
“Takinoue, put her down! Takeda, no, no don’t go with them! Get back here! Saeko!” Kicking off her heels, Saeko quite happily clambers up into the tree, swinging from one of the branches upside down.
“This is so awesome!!! Quick, get a photo, I need to brag to Ryuu!”
“I don’t- I don’t have my phone… Ukai, gimme my phone back…” Takinoue stands up, apparently forgetting that Takeda is using him as a stepping stool to get into the tree, and the teacher is thrown into the soft fake snow around the bottom of the tree.
“It’s snow…” Drunkenly, he starts making ‘snow’ angels in the woolly material. Takinoue ambles towards Ukai, though he seems to forget why when he stops to tie his laces and goes back to the Christmas tree, trying to shimmy up the trunk. Ukai stares.
“Wha’s go’ng on?” Akiteru’s drunken mumble has the Coach roll his eyes, walking over to a bench on the other side of the town square and dropping Akiteru there and letting Shimada slide off his back - passed out - to the floor.
“You’re going to sit here and stay. I’m going to collect the children.”
“Okaaaaaay.” Whilst Ukai marches over to try and round up the three hooligans attempting to climb the Christmas tree, Takeda finally getting into the tree thanks to Takinoue, Akiteru fishes his phone out of his pocket. He’s not the most sober, but even he knows something extraordinary is happening and starts to record it.
“Aki, Aki, look! I’m a monkey! I’m a squirrel! I’m a- I’m a squirrel monkey!!!!” Saeko’s excited cry is followed by her attempting a backflip, but she slips down one branch. Luckily, the alcohol in her system stops her from feeling pain.
“Wai- Where’s my fucking tail?! I’m a monkey, where’s my tail?!” She starts to scramble up the tree, and Ukai sighs as he drags Takinoue to the bench.
“Same place as my current will to live…” He ditches Takinoue next to Akiteru, ordering him to stay, and goes to collect the other two. Which… Might be harder than he thought. Saeko climbs around the tree like she lives there, some kind of mountain cryptid swinging through forests of giant pine trees.
Takeda… Is clumsy, but apparently seems to understand the subject of climbing trees is to go up. That’s not a good thing when he’s drunk as hell.
“Both of you come down here now, carefully.”
“You’ll have to come get me!” Ukai scowls, waving a middle finger in Saeko’s direction as she sticks her tongue out at him from between two branches. Ukai looks around for anything he can use to help, but perhaps the best thing he can use is something of his own possession. He pulls his phone out of his pocket and pretends to make a phone call.
“Hello, Police? Yes, I’d like to report a vandal in the giant Christmas Tree. You’ll come and arrest her? That’s great, thank-” He doesn’t get to finish as a screeching Saeko launches herself from the tree and crashes into him, stealing his phone, still screeching, running towards Akiteru and Takinoue, turning on her heel to grab her shoes again, and finally stops screeching when she reaches the bench.
“Fucker! Let’s see the police get me now! … Oh. Oh, you- you weren’t actually ringing them. Oops?” She laughs nervously, throwing a meek apology Ukai’s way. He simply stares up at the stars above, questioning his existence. Maybe he should have gone to the Coaches drinking outing instead. Mizoguchi had been kind enough to invite him. Next time, he would accept.
“Is anyone else going to tackle me from the tree, or do I have to come up there and get you?” A hiccup is his answer, and Ukai sighs as he gets back on his feet. There’s a good chance that despite getting up there, a drunk Takeda doesn’t know how to get down.
“Sensei, I’m going to count to three! If you’re not here by the time I get to three, I’m coming to get you!”
“Ooooh, Take-chan’s in trouble!”
“So are we…” Damn right you are, Ukai thinks from overhearing Takinoue and Akiteru.
“1!... 2!... 3!...” He waits, tapping his toe, but there’s just the sound of Takeda trying to sing, not aware of how tone deaf he is when drunk. Ukai has no other choice. He grabs a nearby wheelie-bin, clambering on top of it, and standing up nervously. He wishes he’d had a single shot at least, for Dutch Courage.
“Here we go…” He jumps up onto the first branch, scrambling awkwardly up the evergreen. How on earth had Saeko done this so easily?! How had Takeda gotten near the top so quickly?!
“If I die doing this, just know you are all to blame!” Akiteru tittered as he panned the phone camera to follow Ukai as he ascended, Takinoue and Saeko shouting their encouragement. Shimada woke up at their hollering, but was too preoccupied trying not to vomit to do anything else.
By some grace of god, or an act of mercy, Ukai found himself finally reaching Takeda. He breathed out in relief and settled him on the branch next to him.
“You coming down?”
“In a- In a minute.” Ukai sighed, fed up.
“You’re drunk, Sensei. You shouldn’t be up here.” Takeda didn’t seem to acknowledge the words, staring out of the tree, peering through the pines. When Ukai followed his gaze, he found himself breathing out in awe.
The view from the tree was stunning. He could see across the rest of the town for miles, the lights standing out in the darkness, some colourful Christmas displays in the residential area flashing.
“Our kids are out there.”
“Huh?!” He snapped his gaze back to Takeda, but the teacher seemed almost… Sober. He sat there, peacefully, hands folded in his lap as he smiled.
“Somewhere in that little village below… All of our kids are sleeping, or- or playing games, or doing homework…” Ukai catches on quickly. Takeda means the volleyball club, the kids that attend and learn from them both. He looks back out to the lights, the Christmas Tree giving them the perfect vantage point, and smiles.
“Mhm. I bet you Hinata is still practicing in the garden~.”
“Noya would be playing video games…”
“Daichi is responsible enough to be in bed by now. It is 2am.” Taking his chance, Ukai knows the perfect way to convince the teacher to come down.
“Tanaka and Tsukishima are probably waiting for Saeko and Akiteru.”
“Well… Tsukishima would wait for Akiteru because he’s very, uh, clumsy. And Tanaka is protective of his sister, you know that.”
“I know that…” Takeda’s eyes phaze out for a minute, but when they come back into focus, there’s still a drunken haze over them.
“Okay. Going down.”
“Going down, wha-? SENSEI?!” Apparently, Takeda’s idea of getting down the Christmas tree was to to simply go limp and flop from one branch to another. Ukai growls and starts sensibly climbing down after him.
“That’s it! I’m done! I’m never drinking with any of you again!” He reaches the bottom, dropping down onto the fake snow, and grabs Takeda by the back of his collar to stop him running off again. He storms back over to the bench, tugging Shimada to his feet, and making Saeko hold hands with Akiteru - who finally puts his phone away - and Takinoue.
Still bubbly and happy, with copious alcohol in her system, Saeko holds both hands up in the air, pulling the men with her and screams into the night.
“Bye-Bye Christmas Tree!!! Keep my monkey squirrel tail safe, I know you fuckin’ stole it!!!”
Ukai vows to never go drinking with this bunch again. Ever.