Where a moment before there was nothing in a particularly uninteresting spot, two slightly more interesting figures now stood. Distracted passers-by, and even the few who had been looking in the general direction of the now-occupied patch of sidewalk, did not even notice that a man and a woman had materialized out of thin air.
"Phew." The man, who was the very definition of lanky, removed his embroidered tourist hat and used it to mop his brow. "Don't believe I'll be doing that again anytime soon. From this moment on, we use mortal transportation."
"Mortal everything," the woman purred back. "Those are the rules. Although we'll have to make an exception during regis
" She planted her hands on shapely hips and surveyed the bustling street before her; beneath candy-bright sunglasses, she narrowed her eyes. "Wait. Is this where we wanted to be? I don't see the hotel I picked out."
"Bast," the man sighed as he traded his hat for his glasses and began painstakingly cleaning them with a thumbful of his Hawaiian shirt, "must we stay there? Of all the
She was slowly turning to stare up at the God of Wisdom and Knowledge (and then some), her gaze palpable, if not visible. "Do you really want to disappoint me?" she challenged sweetly, laying every bit of catlike menace that she possessed into her spreading grin.
Thoth tried not to squirm, and pressed on: "We could stay anywhere, and yet you choose the mockery of our legacy that is the Luxor?"
He was, of course, wise enough not to argue any further, and replaced his glasses on his long, curved nose. "Right, then. Well, in an obviously shortsighted and ill-conceived attempt to dissuade you, I transported us closer to the center of" he arched an eyebrow as he recalled the proper term "erm, The Strip. I believe the Luxor is situated to the south."
Cheerful now that she was getting her way, Bast looped her arm around the taller god's elbow, ominous grin brightening. "Then we'd better start walking!"
The whole trip had been her idea. Every few decades or so, the fickle goddess would suddenly declare herself bored to tears with whatever it was that was going on at the time—which she was rarely involved in to begin with—and gallivant off to some far-flung corner of the Earth, seeking good times as a Goddess of Pleasure will. This time, however, she'd managed to convince her nigh-reclusive "brother" to join her (many of the gods and goddesses called Thoth whatever they damned well pleased, for none of them were certain how he was related to any of them; Bast usually opted for "brother", because she knew it ruffled his virtuous little feathers). They had, in a word, an interesting relationship that Bast hoped to refine in the most ironic sense of the word, which was why she had selected Las Vegas as their destination for the week.
Thoth, for his own part, was anxious. He was often anxious when Bast was around, although that had more to do with his instinct to fly away like a ninny if it meant he could avoid the cat's eviscerating claws than his deeply ingrained sense of propriety. Both reasons did come into play. He hadn't really meant to join her; normally she was off on her trips before anyone had even realized she'd left, so he'd been too surprised to think up a good excuse not to come when she'd abruptly turned up on his doorstep with the invitation. Fortunately, he'd read a little about this "Sin City" in all his studies, so at least fitting in wasn't difficult (even though the outfit he'd picked out made him look more like a parody of a tourist than the actual thing). Understanding what they were supposed to do with themselves for an entire week was what was stumping him.
That was Bast's territory.
She was currently bouncing in her sandals and pointing out as many landmarks to her companion that she could fit into a single breath, and with the landmark-to-square-mile ratio Vegas had going for it, she was on the brink of going blue in the face. "And-there's-the-Flamingo-I-stayed-there-back-in-the-forties-when-it-was-all-mob-run-did-you-know-it-was-named-after-the-guy's-girlfriend-she-was-a-redhead-like-Set-but-had-long-legs-like-you-so-he-called-her-Flamingo-and-have-you-ever-heard-of-Jimmy-Buffet-OOH-those-are-the-fountains-look-at-the-fountains-the-Bellagio-Fountains-are-right-there-look-do-you-see—?!"
"I see the fountains," he broke in hastily, eying her with some concern before obediently turning his head to squint across the street. "Yes, I read about Bellagio, and
er, I'm sure the fountains would be very impressive if they were on
Not to be deterred, Bast launched into the next acre of landmarks. Thankfully, she had somehow managed not to pass out from lack of oxygen by the time they crossed in front of Excalibur and approached the gleaming pyramid of the Luxor. "AGH, so cute!" the goddess squealed, shaking Thoth's limp arm for emphasis. "I've never seen it in person, it wasn't built until looong after I visited here. But look at it! That sphinx is precious!"
"It's uncanny." The god frowned up at it, his eyebrows skewed at skeptical angles. "And possibly depressed about something."
Bast rolled her eyes behind her dark lenses good-naturedly. "If you complain this entire trip," she warned him with another one of her grins, "I will find ways to punish you."
She tugged his sleeve. "C'mon, here, find something nice that you like about the place and just say it! No grumpy birds on my vacation."
He craned his neck. "The pyramid is shaped like a pyramid," he admitted after a moment.
"See? That's the spirit!"
They crossed the street and cut in front of the ziggurat towers, where a reconstruction of a temple stood looming over the pedestrians. Thoth winced at the hieroglyphs but bit his tongue, and soon the pair passed into the sheltered pick-up/drop-off zone, narrowly avoiding a wayward, swerving cab.
Bast stifled a laugh and pointed. "Look. Here's someone else who probably wouldn't like this place. A couple of Anubises. Anubisi? What is the plural of Anubis?"
"Gods forbid there be more than one of him," Thoth interjected dryly, although he had to admit the statues were impressive, jet-black and erect and just as uncompromising as the real deal. He ground to a halt, however, just as they were about to push through the glass doors to the lobby (a gaggle of patrons nearly tripped and quickly swerved around him), staring at an illustration on the wall. "Oh good gad that's me!"
Bast did laugh this time. "Because you're the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to casinos and nightclubs! Hmm," she mused, "I do hope I'm represented somewhere. I mean, really. What an insult that would be."
Thoth's hair (or, from certain angles, feathers, although most of them were currently hidden by his hat) relaxed as he scanned the wall. "Ah. They've just plucked a few images from the Book of the Dead, namely the weighing. It fits with the 'tomb' motif, I suppose." He restrained himself from remarking upon the obvious repetition of said images, plastered monotonously on each wall as they were. "And you can represent yourself," he added with a crooked smile. "After all, it's difficult to beat the original model."
She removed her sunglasses, revealing green eyes sparkling with mischief. "Why, Brother, are you flirting with me?" (Another tourist snuck a double take as he passed.)
He blinked back. A tiny black feather drifted to the ground; he had a habit of moulting when he was nervous. "No. I
was merely stating a fact. What better represents a being or an object than the being or object itself?"
Bast sighed and seized his hand. "Yeah, let's just go get registered."
The lobby of the Luxor was as opulent as to be expected: two huge, seated figures and a smattering of palm trees flanked an enormous gate, statues of rams scattered at their feet and potted plants leading the way into the casino. Even though it was late afternoon, it was full of activity—much of it focused in the casino area—and people wearing anything from flip-flops and gym shorts to stilettos and LBDs jostled past the two deities. Thoth noticed decorative pools near the large statues, and peered closer to see a staggering amount of coins amassed underwater, from pennies to quarters. People really do throw their money away at casinos, he observed with silent sardonicism. He had already made it fairly clear to Bast that he was not interested in gambling during their stay—a foolhardy, mortal pursuit if ever he saw one.
They soon found an open registration counter, and Thoth, who was better versed in matters of mystical persuasion of this variety, took the reins. "We'd like to check in," he smiled at the receptionist.
She flashed back her well-trained smile, although it was partly genuine. It was a nice change to hear a posh English accent. "Name, please?"
"Oh, no," the God of Magic said pleasantly. "We don't have a reservation. But we'll take," he glanced at Bast, "what did you want again, the Pyramid Spa Suite?"
She nodded eagerly.
The receptionist's smile was frozen on her face, fingers hovering over the keyboard in paralyzed befuddlement. "I
you don't have
"No, we do not," he repeated, "but you must have a suite available, yes? Ah, and you'll be wanting a name, I suppose, just to cement it in your records, and to keep anyone from barging in during the week we'll be staying here—Skylar Toth ought to do."
Her fingers danced automatically over the keys. "Uhhhh."
"And let's pretend I'm paying right now, but instead, you're just going to hand me the keys to our Pyramid Spa Suite
" He squinted. "
Felicia. Yes, thank you, Felicia," he went on warmly when she numbly passed over a pamphlet with two keycards stuffed within. "Floor 19, eh? Quite. Thank you again, you've been a splendid good sport." He briefly patted the poor girl's hand, adjusted the straps on his travel bag, then joined Bast, who had already begun walking away whilst smushing her hand over her mouth to contain her giggles.
"Why don't you do things like that more often?" she demanded once they'd put more distance between themselves and the counter (Felicia, meanwhile, blinked herself out of the trance and returned to work as if nothing had happened). "It's brilliant."
"Because I don't enjoy it," was Thoth's clipped response, handing over one of the keycards.
"You sounded like you were enjoying it."
He sighed his mild vexation. "Because it doesn't work as well if I'm not friendly. Trust me, mortals are much quicker to catch on if I'm trying to pull one over on them with a sullen expression on my face and even a hint of reluctance in my bearing."
"The moral of this story is: lighten up, sweetie-bird."
He shot her a swift, calculating look. "Is that appellation necessary?"
Bast's eyes were wide with innocence. "Oh, but honey," she oozed, hugging his free arm, "we're sharing a room in Vegas. We need to keep up appearances, don't we?"
Another feather deserted his scalp while he stalled with peculiar noises, trying to think of something intelligible to say. "Uah. Echh. Erm
here, I believe we take this hallway
and the elevator we want should be around that corner. Do you know how many elevators this place has?"
Bast rolled her eyes. "And inclinators, yes, yes, whatever." Gods, maybe I should get him drunk.
Thoth's exceptional sense of direction led them straight to the row of elevators they needed, but when the doors opened to admit them, he didn't immediately follow Bast inside.
She turned just in time to notice this, and hit the button to keep the doors open. "Hey. What's up? Going to take the stairs?" She was 95% certain there were no stairs (there were stairs).
He reluctantly stepped in, clutching at the strap of his bag with both hands (the pamphlet tucked safely in his pocket). "I
you know. Not much room in here."
The cat-goddess doubtfully inserted her keycard and prodded the button for the 19th floor. "Thoth, you spend all your time cooped up inside with your books and spells and parchment and odds and ends."
"Inside," he repeated, emphasizing the word and backing into the corner as the elevator lurched to life with a sickening jolt. "Inside, with windows. And doors. And space. Not in a box."
Bast, for all her self-centeredness, noticed more feathers trickling to the floor. Actually concerned and not simply looking for an excuse for physical contact, she moved forward and gave him a gentle hug. "You're fine, Brother. This won't take long."
He went tense, but remained quiet for the rest of the brief trip to their floor. As soon as they arrived, however, he practically swooped out into the hallway. "Let's try and keep elevator travel to a minimum," he winced.
"So much for mortal transportation." She shook her head, smiling, and led the way down the hall, checking the number on her key with the doors. "Hmm
looks like it's at the very end."
Thoth grunted. He was starting to get tired of lugging the travel bag around; it was a useful device, able to compress the majority of their luggage into a relatively small space, but it was still quite heavy. He was only too happy to dump it next to the king-sized bed once they poured into their suite, massaging his too-human shoulder.
Bast raced about the room, gushing at every detail. "The colours! Ahaha, the wall, that's right, this is a pyramid! Exquisite, there's so much space—oh, the bathroom! Always judge a hotel room by the quality of its bathroom, I say!" She emerged and practically skipped over to the 27'' television. "Look, Thoth, the cabinet is decorated with hieroglyphs."
He took one look at it and blurted, "That is not how you spell Thutmose!"
The goddess threw her hands in the air. "Thoth!"
His own hands were spread in defense. "What? I'm terribly sorry, but you try inventing a bloody language and then watch as these modern hooligans tailor it into aesthetically-pleasing gibberish!"
She moaned in frustration and turned on her heel. "The beauty of staying at a hotel in Vegas, Thoth? You don't have to stay in your hotel all the time. Look," she headed into the bathroom, taking her own personal bag with her, "I'm going to shower and get dolled up. You find your suit. We can go out tonight, and stay out late. We only have to sleep here, after all. Minimize your exposure to
bad grammar or whatever."
Thoth cringed; it wasn't like him to get so worked up, even over such an important matter as language. Maybe spending so much time with Bast was fraying his nerves more quickly and thoroughly than he'd expected. He needed to relax. Taking a deep breath, he sat himself on the edge of the bed and began sifting through the bag for his evening suit—surely wearing something so much more comfortable than his current, ridiculous toggery would calm his mind and spirit. While he searched, he silently recited various spells from the Book of the Dead—not performing actual magic, mind, but soothing himself with familiar words.
Soon he had changed into his black suit and was seated on the bed once again, knees drawn together and hands folded in his lap, casting a somewhat weary gaze around the room. The sound of the shower had come and gone; nothing but silence from within the bathroom. "I say," he called hesitantly, not wanting to sound too impatient, "how long do you suppose you'll be?"
"You know there's a television out there." Bast did not sound especially indulgent.
Thoth bit back his opinion of television in general, and with a resigned sigh located the remote and began pointing it experimentally in the direction of the screen. It took several tries before he bothered to differentiate between the numerous buttons, and once the contraption switched on it was immediately apparent that the volume was set at ear-bleeding decibels. The remote and several feathers went flying.
Once he figured out how to turn it down, he watched with unsettled fascination as the channel cycled through multiple Vegas locations, highlighting the best shows, nightclubs and pools and featuring less clothing and more skin as it went.
Eventually, Bast sashayed out of the bathroom in a cloud of her own patented perfume, clad in a pristine white dress that she had chosen deliberately for the irony of it. She plopped down next to Thoth, who had been staring, somewhat slack-jawed, at the T.V. "See anything you like?"
He transferred his blank stare to her. "Not really, no."
The goddess took one glance at the images on the screen and patted his arm. "Culture shock, poor baby. Do you think you can handle a little dinner? Just dinner. Non-stripping dinner."
That seemed to snap him out of it, and he gave a polite cough. "Please don't patronize me, Bast. Yes, let's go for a walk and find a nice restaurant along The Strip. There's bound to be something relatively upscale."
"Definitely," Bast agreed, taking his elbow and rising to her feet with him. "Yeah, I can't really imagine you enjoying one of the infamous buffets. Not with your appetite."
"You know birds actually eat—"
"NO. Stop. It's an idiom. Let it be an idiom, it wants to be an idiom."
The pair navigated their way back downstairs (Thoth wrung his hands a bit in the elevator but was otherwise composed) and out the front of the Luxor. Late afternoon had crossed the equivocal line into evening, or was perhaps caught somewhere in between—The Strip was beginning to light up, even though the sky was hardly dark enough to warrant it. Bast began to get overstimulated again.
"Do you want to eat at Margaritaville? It may not exactly be upscale, but we can't not go at least one time this week and it'd be great to be at the Flamingo again and—"
"Bast," Thoth interrupted as civilly as he could, "what is Margaritaville?"
"It's a song," she replied enthusiastically, craning her neck to see over the crowds and wishing she had her companion's lanky stature. "Y'know
" She started to sing the chorus, but stopped herself short when she considered the likelihood of his having the slightest clue who Jimmy Buffet was. "
Okay, y'don't know, but then it became a restaurant chain and they've got one here. I think they're going to be adding a casino next to the café, as well."
Thoth considered all of this silently; he also took heed of Bast's struggling pace and slowed his long strides, never once trying to disengage his elbow from her grip. Ever the gentleman. "What sort of food do they have?"
"Typical American fare. And burgers," she added with a huge grin, going forward with the joke despite the fact that she knew it would be lost on him. "Heavenly cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers—"
"—In paradise." He seemed to enjoy her look of astonishment, quite pleased with himself. "Really, Bast. I may be out of touch, but I am not a complete fossil."
She beamed and shook his arm a bit. "There may be hope for you yet," she teased. "One day we'll even get you on a computer."
"Don't let's be too hasty
Both of the gods had much lighter hearts as they retraced their steps back up The Strip and found their way to the restaurant in question. After the expected wait, they were conducted to a table on the upstairs balcony, overlooking Caesar's Palace and the crowded street below. The friendly teasing and good-natured banter started to fall away as they both quietly examined the menu.
"I assume these are typical American portions?" Thoth submitted dubiously.
The cat-goddess folded her own menu and shrugged. "Probably. Are you going to get a margarita? I think it can be considered a sin if you don't or something."
He arched an eyebrow. "No, I wasn't planning on it. A nice water with lemon, perhaps. And then," he continued musing, flipping a page, "shrimp sounds nice. Do you know what you're getting?
What?" He shrank back, for Bast had turned her intense stare in his direction.
"You aren't getting a margarita?"
"No." He tried to sound as firm as possible about it; difficult to do when her very stare was making him moult. "I'm not interested."
It must have been convincing, for the goddess sighed and looked away. So much for getting him drunk. Maybe later we can hit up a bar. Out loud, she wondered, "How are we paying for this? Are we going to go the entire vacation tricking mortals into thinking we've paid for things? Not that I'm against the notion, it's delightfully wicked—"
"I," interrupted the other god, "have some funds. Not much, but if we ration it carefully, we should be able to make it last for our meals as the week progresses. As long as they don't all cost as much as this one," he added, eying the menu.
Bast blinked. "What about shows?"
"Will your 'funds' cover shows?" The stare returned, more challenging than ever.
Thoth was saved having to answer when the waitress showed up to take their orders, and friendly Bast became caught up in a conversation (strictly small talk, but very good small talk by small talk standards) that effectively distracted her from what she'd been saying just moments before.
Dinner was pleasant enough, although Thoth came no where close to finishing his plate, which led to more teasing from Bast about his ostensibly imploding waistline. Inwardly, though, the goddess was pleased—if she did manage to get a drink or two in him, it would be considerably more absorptive. Plus, she thought smugly as Thoth pulled a few bills out of his pocket and set about paying for their meal, he is so skinny, it probably won't take much.
Suddenly, she realized that this was her goal for the night. Never mind trying to convince the highbrow bird-god to see the sort of show she'd like to see; never mind dragging him up and down The Strip to see as many sights as they could cram into one evening; never mind coaxing him into the casino to increase their reserve of cash for the vacation—she was going to get him drunk and in bed if it was the last thing she did.
Thoth didn't seem very happy about her suggestion that they return to the Luxor already. "You said we were going to stay out late," he pointed out. "Surely there are other things to do. Is that not the point of this city?"
"Well, there's another way of looking at it," she informed him, tugging him along the sidewalk. "Either you're never in your hotel, or you never leave your hotel. They kind of design them like that, you know? Self-contained, entertainment, food, shopping, gambling, everything under one roof."
"I do wish you'd pick an angle and stick to it, Bast."
"I could never just stick with one angle, sweetie," she tittered back with a roguish smile, loving his flush. "I consider myself far too flexible for that."
They returned to the hotel, but when Thoth saw where Bast was escorting him, he ground his heels into the ground and looked like a deer faced down by a semi. "A nightclub? I
oh dear. I don't really think
"It does look a little intimidating," she admitted, regarding the bouncers standing with their arms folded forbiddingly across their well-tailored suit jackets, dark shadows against the glowing red backdrop of the entryway. "But that's just for show. I'm sure it's great fun inside! And hey, it's either this or the casino."
"Dancing," Thoth protested under his breath as she dragged him ever closer, "and loud music and dancing and flashing lights and salacious imagery and crude behaviour and dancing
"You'll be fine. I'll protect you from the ferocious dancers."
The nightclub's atmosphere matched Thoth's harried description to a fault, although to the Goddess of Pleasure it was a veritable playground. Even with her goal at the fore of her mind (although now she wondered if first taking him to the casino before taking him upstairs wasn't a bad idea; he might not be willing to gamble if he was sober), she couldn't help but desire a small diversion—just a little dancing, maybe a little harmless flirting with a patron here and there. But she would have to keep Thoth occupied while she did that, and, of course, she knew just the thing. "Let me buy you a drink," she declared.
His eyes were showing an awful lot of white in the gloom as he stared around at their boisterous surroundings. "No, thank you."
"Oh, you have to have a drink," Bast insisted, swinging him toward the bar. "You're not going to have any fun, otherwise!"
He grimaced. "I'm not really interested in mingling in this, ah, environment
Bast had already known that he was going to resist this sort of thing. While he was not a teetotaler in the strictest sense, having imbibed wine and champagne in trifling doses over the centuries, he might as well have been when it came to the interminable lifespans of the gods. It was time for a little cajoling. "Thoth, do you know what a mixer is?"
"Something that mixes, I imagine."
"A drink," she clarified patiently. "Alcohol mixed with a non-alcoholic beverage. I think you'd like that. Tones it all down, usually very tasty stuff."
He still looked more wary than intrigued. "Oh?"
Nothing for it, she thought. "There's this one drink called a Long Island Iced Tea."
Funny thing about mortal guises: you spend enough time immersed in a particular culture, and it starts to rub off on you. Thoth perked up. "Tea?"
Bast grinned back, all charm and no menace. "Yes, tea! I can order you one, if you want."
"I love tea."
The goddess flagged down the bartender. "Long Island Iced Tea," she simpered, knowing it would come faster that way. "Oh, and extra long," she added on a sudden whim. It wouldn't hurt to increase their chances, now, would it?
The drink did arrive quickly, and Bast slid it across the counter into Thoth's waiting, incredulous hands. The ice clinked in its highball glass.
The wisdom god took a tentative sip of the honey-coloured concoction, and his face instantly twisted. "Bluhh. This does not taste like tea." He set the glass firmly back on the counter, eying it like it had personally insulted him.
"I didn't say it would taste like tea. It's mixed with other things, what did you expect? Do you not like it at all?"
He had to take another drink in order to answer that question. "Well, it isn't horrible," he confessed, even though he had punctuated the swallow with another "bluhh". "It's just not what I was expecting. It's
tart. Sour, even. Lemon?"
"Maybe," she shrugged, watching him closely. "So are you going to drink it? I don't want to waste it if you aren't."
Another exploratory sip, this one devoid of bluhh-ing. He blinked once, twice. "Erm. What? Oh. I suppose I'll drink it." He gestured to their dimly lit surroundings. "See if it remotely colours my perception of this
place. But don't let me bog you down," he added considerately. "You get back to your song and dance, and perhaps I'll be joining you if this, er, helps."
She kissed his cheek, and she could feel the warmth of his flush before she pulled away. "That's very sweet of you! Enjoy your drink, you know where to find me!" She danced across the room, confident that her scheme was bound to work. He's thin as a rail, she assured herself. It won't be long before he's feeling it, if he isn't already.
Still, she forced herself not to watch him while she climbed back on the platform and took her position by the DJ booth (she was welcomed exuberantly). He was right, she ought to have some fun, and besides, a watched pot never boils, and a watched drinker never drunks. So she ignored him for a good half-hour, enjoying her spot in the center of many mortals' attention, dancing as well as a Goddess of Pleasure can dance (very well).
When she finally dared to peek back at the bar, Thoth was gone.
She quickly scanned the crowd; he didn't stand out as much in this day and age, but he was still on the taller side of average, and even the taller side of tall. She couldn't spot his feathery pate anywhere in the reddish haze of the nightclub.
Bast had to imagine that the god had returned to their suite, since he had, after all, been clearly uninterested in this scene. Maybe he hadn't even finished his drink. But just to be certain, she lifted her dainty nose and scented the air. She might have been outwardly human, but her senses were as sharp as they'd ever been in any form, and she could easily trace his distinct, delectable scent (unsurprisingly, he smelled a bit like chicken) and quickly ascertained that his trail led outside.
slightly odd. Incredulous, she padded out through the front entrance, sniffing all the way. However, her sensitive ears took over once she stepped into the warm night air: his voice was raised, but she couldn't quite make out what was being said. Thoth never raised his voice, and Bast was beginning to wonder if she should be worried.
Then she found him, standing out in front of the mock temple by the towers, pointing up at its walls and loudly addressing anyone who dared to pass within his sight. It was immediately apparent that he wasn't yelling—he was simply drunk enough that he'd stopped regulating the volume of his voice.
Bast grinned and approached.
"See thozh cartouches??" Thoth gesticulated expansively toward the temple wall, dogging the footsteps of two nervous-looking girls of approximately college age. "Look, you aren' even looking a'them
!" He abandoned his attempt to follow them—they departed gratefully and hastily—and turned back toward the wall in question, still pointing with both hands. "Wha' does that even say?? It
isslike they jus' picked the prettiest pictures they coul'find an'
an' jusSLAPPED them right up there all willy-nilly
It's funny, the cat-goddess mused as she stopped a few feet away and listened to the pedantic scholar slur his grievances, he's still complaining, but he does seem to be having more fun. Also, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she wasn't bothered any longer. He could complain all he wanted; he was also clearly not in a state to make sound decisions, and that was what mattered to Bast. "Hey, birdy."
The gangling god looked over his shoulder, startled, then turned a bit too quickly to greet his companion. "Bast, hellooo," he exclaimed while she calmly stepped forward and steadied him. He squinted down at her and frowned. "Euh, you're fuzzy. Where're my gl
She pointed. "On your face, hun."
Thoth splayed his fingers over the frames, needing tactile confirmation, then abruptly giggled (a sound that Bast somehow found simultaneously endearing and hair-raising). "But you aren' fuzzy. Because you're human. But not uz
usually, you're usually a fuzzy
"Mm-hm. Thoth, how much have you had to drink?"
He pulled his arm free and held his hands apart, indicating the general height of a highball glass. "Rhode Island Iced Tea," he said happily, managing to transform it into a single word.
Bast snorted in disbelief. "Long Island, and—please tell me you had another. I mean
c'mon, I only ordered you the one!"
"You did, an' it was very good, but I'm also ver', very drunk an' I didn'
wait." He derailed for a moment. "Not wise to hav'nother," he concluded with a decisive nod.
"Oh, good, so there is still a wisdom god in there." But Bast was absolutely tickled to see Thoth like this, even if it was a little startling (and pathetic) that he'd gotten to this state on only one drink
albeit a particularly potent drink. Lucky her. She hooked one arm around his narrow waist. "Yeesh, you lightweight! This is what you get for being so damn skinny! If you had a bit more meat on your bones—"
"—Then I wouldn' be able t' fly," he retorted, "you
The goddess smiled, transferring her arm to his elbow. "Oh, this is too fun," she purred up at him as she leaned into his side (not enough to push him off-balance, fortunately). "You are a very amusing drunk, sweetie-bird. Much less violent than, say, Sekhmet when she's had a few."
"I'm a paficist," Thoth slurred. "Getting plastered isn' going t' change that."
"Duly noted. Let's get gambling."
The pair made their way back inside and were soon immersed in the restless, oppressive environment of the casino, smoke drifting over the flashing lights and spinning reels and alternately excited and frustrated patrons. Bast made a bee line for a Blackjack table. "No slots for us."
"But the odds at tha' machine are—"
"It's too unreliable," she cut in impatiently, steering him away from the bright and colourful screen he'd paused to inspect. "Let's get you in on something a bit more logic-based. Blackjack ought to be a cinch for you, sober or not." With that said, she pushed his long-legged form into an open seat and draped herself artfully over his shoulder. "Sweetie," she coaxed, fluttering eyelashes at the dealer, "pay the good man for some chips."
"Blackjack," Thoth repeated, a questioning lilt to the word, fumbling in his pockets until he unearthed a rumpled ten dollar bill. "Ugly currency," he added, eying it with distaste as he set it on the table. "An' it all looks th'same
what American in
ignoramus thought it'd be a bright idea to shtandardize this monochromatic eyesore?"
The dealer arched an eyebrow at Bast (who shrugged) as he passed over two $5 chips. "Minimum bet is five dollars," he added by way of explanation.
"And nevermind count
fittering. Counterfritters." He was absolutely not getting his mouth around that word, and moved on. "I 'ppreciate a good ink more than most humans, but this is just an aethsthetic nightmare—"
"Honey?" Bast squeezed his shoulder, teeth bared in a pained grin. "Can we focus here?" Her eyes flitted around the table; the other players appeared uneasy.
"Oh, yes." The spectacled god folded his arms on the table and leaned forward, watching the dealer shuffle the deck with great interest. Bast breathed the rules of the game in his ear, now thankful that he hadn't in fact had a second drink. Hopefully that clever brain of his, soaked as it was in Long Island Iced Tea, would hone in on numbers and probability when she needed it to. She was betting it would. (But if this didn't work, she was just going to drag him upstairs for a good shag. And, well, she mused with a smirk, I'll do that if this does work.)
The other players placed their bets, and Thoth gamely followed suit, setting one of his red chips in the circle. The cards were dealt, and the dealer finished by upturning one of his cards with a deft gesture—eight.
Bast eyed Thoth's hand. Ace and seven. Either seventeen or eight, she thought, pursing her lips. Definitely a hit. Right?
They'd perched themselves to the right of the dealer, so Thoth was last. When it was finally his turn, he twisted his head and murmured into Bast's cheek: "Aren' there hand geshtures
She discreetly mimed them in the air, whispering, "Knock for hit, sweepy-thing for stand."
"Ah, thankss." He executed the latter. "Stand."
Bast dug her nails into his shoulder as only a cat can.
The dealer was now able to flip over his other card, which turned out to be a six. He hit and received a Jack for a total of twenty-four. "Bust." He slumped a bit (he'd been on such a hot streak, damnit).
"Ouch." Thoth finally realized that there were little claw marks in his suit jacket, not to mention holes in his skin. "Did he say your name?"
Bast, meanwhile, had relaxed her grip, and her green eyes were wide and sparkling with excitement. "You won! How," she continued in a lower tone as he collected his winnings and stacked his chips meticulously, "could you have known he was going to bust, though? Why did you stick with your two cards when you could have easily gotten more than seventeen?"
"Are you stupid?" the other god scoffed, and she blinked at his bravado. "Come on, issuch a simple game
I barely even need t' think about it."
One eyebrow quirked, she tucked a stray feather behind his ear. "Well, that's good, considering how damn drunk you are, and might I add that a little ego goes a long way? It's almost as much a turn on as all your flustered bleating."
"S'not egotizhm if I am amazing."
"I so need to get you wasted more often."
They remained at the table for several more hands, Thoth calculating the odds and lazily winning each time, the dealer growing more and more sullen. Finally, the god was dealt a Blackjack.
"I didn' do that," he told Bast.
"I believe you. Maybe we should call it quits here," she suggested mildly, eying his respectable pile of chips. "After all, don't want to press your luck."
Thoth seemed amenable to this; he had grown slightly more subdued throughout the game, but as soon as they had traipsed over to the cashier and collected their winnings, he seemed energized (and talkative) once again. "Now what? Maybe I coul' give th' slotss a go, they aren' as daunting as you probably think, an' now we have more money to sstart with—"
Bast had been watching him throughout this, staring with positively catlike and unblinking intensity at the god she'd teased for so many decades—centuries, possibly—flirting, testing, goading, playfully molesting, and damnit she was getting him into bed. "How about I buy you another drink?"
"Oh, I don' think I can
"Nonsense," she uttered in a tone that brooked no argument. "We need to celebrate your staggering victory! Look, I'll even share it with you. That all right?"
The inebriated god, judgment already thrown off-kilter, gave in without much more of a fight. They found themselves a bar in the middle of the casino, not interested in finding their way back to the nightclub, and Bast, determined to make this as easy for herself as possible, ordered yet another Long Island Iced Tea. The tangy drink arrived, and while a few sips left Bast comfortably buzzed, each swallow drove Thoth further from coherency and any semblance of rationality. Plus, it wreaked havoc on his motor functions.
When he practically toppled off his stool with a belated wind-milling of his long limbs, giggling like a loon all the while, the Goddess of Pleasure only a smidgen guilty about rendering him such a wreck decided that it was time to call it a night (so to speak, considering her further plans). She finished the last sip and hopped off her own stool; the floor barely rolled under her feet, betraying slight intoxication, but nothing she couldn't handle. Thoth, on the other hand
She shook her head, seized his arm and hauled him away from the bar, marching in the direction of their elevator corridor. With their dramatic height difference (a foot and some change), keeping the wisdom god steady was a chore. Worth it. And besides, he's hilarious.
"Why're we walkinng?? Wha
we're ssooo high up, why don' I jus'
jus' fly??" Apparently this struck him as the best idea in the long history of ideas. "I
oh! Basht, I—hic—I'm gonna fly up th' pyramid, is'so nice ousside, i'll be eazhy, I'll jus'
"Don't you dare change," she told him sharply, yanking him into the elevator corridor. She palmed the "up" button and added, more gently, "For both our sakes."
He was already distracted, twining his long fingers into her wavy locks and clumsily bumping his nose against the crown of her head. "Mmm
I missh your earss
Her heart pounded in her breast, but she managed to say, "Human-only vacation, hun" before turning around, gripping his tie and pulling him down for a deep kiss. Never mind his level of intoxication; never mind how laughably inexperienced he was, for all his years; he tasted fantastic, and that was more than enough to hold Bast over until they made it back up to their room.
Another couple exited the newly-arrived elevator and gave the god and goddess an amused, knowing look as they passed. Oblivious, silent chuckles at the expense of two beings that were older than their mortal minds could fathom.
Bast broke off the kiss and guided Thoth into the elevator, making sure to keep hold of his hand when the doors closed. If he'd been anxious about the confined space while sober
but maybe the booze had anesthetized him beyond the point of caring. She could hope, at least. She slipped in the keycard, pressed the button for their floor, and the elevator lurched.
So did Thoth—with a decidedly inhuman squawk, he broke free of Bast's grip and went careening into the nearest wall. Feathers scattered every which way.
"Thoth!" his companion yelped, not certain whether to feel worried, angry, or amused beyond belief. She managed all three. "You idiot! Are you all right?!" she laughed.
"Urgh," he replied, flattened against the wall, gripping the handrail for dear life. He was still moulting, feathers drifting from his hair to his shoulders, and his glasses sat askew on his face.
They spilled out of the elevator once they reached the 19th floor and made it to their room without incident. Thoth leaned against the wall while Bast negotiated the keycard, then wove his way in the direction of the bed as soon as he was able, shouldering off his jacket and letting it drop unceremoniously to the floor.
"Shoes," he mumbled, an enigmatic statement had he not been lifting one long leg in an effort to reach the foot—and the shoe—at the end of it.
"Yes, shoes," Bast echoed as she closed and bolted the door. "The Master Wordsmith at his articulate finest."
Trying to remove his shoes while standing was a mistake. Luckily, Thoth landed on the bed when he lost his battle with gravity, and from there he sprawled backwards, giving no indication that he was interested in sitting back up.
Bast, naturally, had no objection to this. With one appropriately catlike spring, she was straddling him and calmly unbuttoning his shirt. "Clothes," she purred.
Thoth did not struggle, but he looked a bit green. "Basst
Already bored with the busy work of feeding buttons back out of holes, the goddess yanked. Rrrrip! "Thaaat's better."
Hearing the urgency in his voice, but taking it for protest of her actions, she pushed her palm over his mouth. "Shh," she breathed. "Just relax. I know you want this." What she planned to do next required both hands, however, so she was forced to release his face.
The moment she did, Thoth bucked, and it was so unexpected that Bast hissed and jumped a good five feet in the air. He rolled off the bed, staggered to his feet, blundered a few paces, tripped, and then actually crawled—into the bathroom.
The sound of vomiting quickly assured Bast that he had not, in fact, been fleeing their imminent intimate encounter.
She sat back on the bed, chagrined and cringing. Birds really were so delicate; she ought to have realized that, as sensitive as he'd been to the alcohol, he was going to be sensitive to everything that being drunk entailed. She was finally feeling more than moderately guilty for pressing those drinks on him—something about listening to someone lose his dinner, and then some, tended to have that effect on her.
When the noises died down, reduced to the occasional spit, cough or groan, she got up and peeked around the corner of the doorway. Poor Thoth sat by the toilet, his limbs strewn haphazardly around him, looking ashen and dizzy and blinking up at her with glazed eyes (his glasses were on the floor nearby).
abjectopologiezh," he (sort of) managed to get out.
"No, it's okay," she said, humility and her powerful sense of smell keeping her from entering. "I'm the sorry one. Just
just flush the toilet, will you?"
"Ew," he commented astutely as he did so.
Bast deigned to enter, treading daintily and carefully, grimacing at the state of the seat of and floor around the toilet. With a great sigh, she hauled the god to his feet, doing her best to guide his stockinged feet out of the mess he'd made. "Look, um
here, let's get you to bed." There was no veiled double meaning. She was resigned to the fact that, in this state, Thoth was hardly up for a night of passion. The one drink would have been enough, she berated herself gloomily. You got greedy.
" Thoth passively allowed himself to be pushed back to the waiting bed; all that retching had exhausted him, his energy well and truly spent. He essentially toppled back onto the bed before Bast had even got the covers pulled back.
"Hey." She bent over him, looking to see if he was still conscious.
"You probably shouldn't be wearing your nice clothes in bed. Can you get undressed yourself? Uh, can you even sit up
?" But he was woozily upright a few moments later, swaying in place while the goddess untangled his shirt from his arms. She had only just tossed the shirt aside when those arms wound their way around her shoulders and pulled her in for a sloppy kiss. "Mph!"
Bast started to push him away (the taste had soured), but instinct kicked in and she shoved, driving him onto his back and headfirst into the pillow, then crawled after him. "Sure you're up for this?" she purred so heavily it was nearly a growl.
"Almost." A surprisingly dirty joke, coming from him in any state of mind.
The cat-goddess giggled wickedly. "Let me help you out with that."
Light streamed in through the crack in the curtains, the warm beam crawling leisurely across the length of the room as the sun rose higher in the sky. Soon it illuminated the shapely goddess, sprawled with her arms and legs flung in impossible directions across the rumpled covers and sheets, breathing deeply and enjoying her last few minutes of sleep. The light also fell upon the cabinet with its misspelled cartouchesand perched atop was a black and white ibis, moon-shaped beak tucked under one wing, feathers fluffed comfortably.
Bast awoke slowly, peeling open eyes gummy from sleep, and automatically felt around on the bed for Thoth. Finding nothing, she sat up quickly, looking about the room, then stared at the bird on the cabinet. "You jerk," she exclaimed, voice piercing the pleasant morning atmosphere.
The sacred ibis twitched, then lifted his feathery head (Thoth was a unique ibis in this respect; most ibises had bald, scaly heads, but he wouldn't have any of that). Tiny spectacles sat crookedly at the base of his beak. "Muh?"
She clambered to her feet, miffed but amused. "The best part about the morning after is waking up next to the freaking person you slept with!" She planted her hands on her hips and gave him her best catlike glare. "And didn't we agree this was a human-only vacation?"
Thoth straightened, still not completely awake and registering what the goddess was saying, stretching his wings and shaking out his head rapidly. "I beg your pardon? I—oh." He blinked down at his snowy breast. "
I appear to be a bird."
Bast's annoyance evaporated, a smile writhing on her lips. "Did you mean to be a bird?"
The long beak turned left and right, as if searching for an answer. "I don't know," the god admitted after a minute of this. "I
don't exactly remember."
With a helpless giggle, Bast reached up and plucked him from the cabinet and set him on the floor (he flapped his wings as soon as she released him, shaking out his feathers and strutting almost indignantly several paces away). "What do you remember about last night?"
Thoth tilted his head. "Very little." He sounded embarrassed. "I may have had too much to drink
although no hangover, so I wonder if perhaps I automatically reverted to this form in order to alleviate the symptoms
Bast herself couldn't remember him changing, but it was true that the gods had that convenient reset button built in if they had taxed themselves or somehow become injured—take another form, and the injury would not last nearly as long. "So
" She sat on the bed and crossed her legs; he still hadn't chosen to mention her distinct lack of clothing, but then, he was used to her nudity in her other form. "You don't remember anything
Was that a little black feather moulting away? "Not as such, no."
She grinned and narrowed her eyes. "Liar."
"I can't remember!" he protested, perhaps too adamantly, but then he twisted his long neck and appeared to bow his head, heat practically radiating off of his humiliated little body. "
But I can postulate."
"I love it when you postulate." The word was couched in such a way that it was rendered nearly pornographic.
Just hearing it was enough to make the other god shudder. "My
feels dirty. I
daresay I need a shower after that," he added, his attempted levity tinged with hysteria.
Bast cocked an eyebrow as he fled to the bathroom, smirking. "In case you were wondering," she called after the bird, "I had a fantastic time, and it's perfectly fine to admit that you did, as well."
The goddess rolled her eyes and flopped backwards on the bed, writhing around a bit until she had assumed a boneless position that only cats or the goddess of would find remotely comfortable. It could have gone worse. He could have feigned complete oblivion; he at least seemed to be acknowledging that something, nothing he wanted to speak of, but something had happened. No need to rush him.
After all, she thought to herself with a devilish smile, we have six more days.