Roulette Night

by Sharkrags

Care to Cash Out?

Octavia sat next to you. Vinyl sat directly across from her. Maybe it was the felt on the table, the carpet on the floor, or the magic-imbued plates directly beneath it, but something made the hair on your arms stand on end.

You watched Vinyl play with her chips. Her jolly rancher sunglasses made getting a read on her difficult. Was she looking at the table? The dealer? Octavia?

The cellist poked her own chips. She prodded your side and muttered “How do you play this again?”

“Two dollar bet minimum here, inside or outside bet, doesn't matter.” You pointed to the grid on the table table. “Outside bets give you better odds for winning, but don't have great payouts. They're kind of all the same, really. Inside bets pay better, but the odds don't really make them worth it.”

“It's all luck, this game,” Vinyl said. “There's no actual skill involved. That puts off a lot of the more serious dice rollers, the ones bent on prying every number in their favor. But a good time is a good time, if you ask me.”

Octavia's dimples popped as she grinned, brushing against you. “I'm glad to hear that, the two of us are all about good times. Good times, great times, wonderful times.”

“So many wonderful times,” you chimed.

“I can hardly keep track of them all!”

Vinyl titled her head and nodded. “Then you two've been together for a while then, if there's so many good times?”

“Of course, we've been together since...” Octavia looked to you. “What was it, August of-”

“At least two...” “Four...” “More than three-” “Are you sure?” “We watched all the Lord of the Rings since then, so,” “Director cuts at that.”

Vinyl whistled. “Damn, that's the real deal.”

The dealer asked if the table was ready to place their bets.

“Yeah, I'm ready.” Vinyl's hoof tapped the felt. “The little talk about how-many-years-what-have-you brings a number to mind.” Her head moved towards Octavia. “I'm putting ten on three.”

Octavia's mouth turned razor straight. Her nostrils flared and exhaled a quick, sharp breath that could leave a paper cut. “Sounds like a move with bad odds.”

“If that's how you look at it,” she leaned back in her seat and ran a hoof through her spiky hair. “Takes guts to commit, though.”

Octavia raised her chin. “Commit. That's a funny thing coming from you. Three on red,” she said in a level voice.

You pushed two chips forward. “Two on second dozen.”

“Hoh, one second, hold it up.” A massive minotaur took a seat. The chair's cushion deflated and steel legs whined in a slow panic. “Get me some chips, dealer, I'm on a winning streak almost as strong as me.”

The minotaur took a share of chips and nodded to the three of you. “Evening people. I got the smell of a damn fine round coming from this table. Damned fine round.” He jostled an elbow towards you. “Maybe some of my good luck'll rub off on ya.”

“I...erm...allergic to rubbing.”

“I bet that makes things tricky for her.” Vinyl snickered. Octavia put on a display of impressive restraint by not rolling her eyes. But you did notice her tail whip.

“We all bet already? Fantastic, dealer my friend, I'll take two on first dozen, two on red, and two on an eight-nine split.”

“Yes, sir.”

He gestured towards you and Octavia. “Play the field, win high yields,” he practically bellowed.

The dealer spun the wheel and dropped the ball. It danced and bounced around red and black pockets. He waved a hand over the betting table.

The ball stopped moving. “Nine,” he said, placing a glass marker onto the red square in the grid.

The minotaur almost flipped the table over as he jumped and fist pumped. His arm muscles bulged so much with each thrust you feared they'd rupture and spill whatever the hell he was jacked up on all over the table. “Yesh! Yeah-hah!”

“Congratulations, sir.” The dealer pulled away you and Vinyl's lost chips and paid out Octavia and the minotaur.

“No sir's necessary. Call me Will. Iron Will.” Three business cards appeared in his hands in a way that should've sent the thaumic rods in a fit. “Motivational speaker and Personal Initiative expert. Available for business meetings, trade shows, and one-on-one consultations by appointment. Results guaranteed.” He flung the cards in front of you, Octavia, and Vinyl with the casual expertise of someone's who hosted games for a long while.

“Wait, wait, one moment,” a decidedly rough mare in a heavy wool sweater hurried into a chair. “Ahem, hello. I'd like to play.”

Vinyl mouth scrunched tight. Her head ticked like a broken second hand between the newcomers and Octavia. You had to smile a little. “Sit down, too bad we can't fit ten people at this table.” You told the mare with the messy mane your name, “And this is my sweetest of hearts right here, Octavia. We're on a working vacation. Together.”

The red-headed pony closed her eyes, opened her eyes, and offered no further comment.

Octavia spoke up, “But we do so many things together it'd be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous. Speaking of,, bug? I think we should take a picture. Together. To show to others, and for posterity of course.” She titled her head back and laughed. “So many treasured memories my skull's bursting at the seams already.”

She dug into her purse and pulled out a phone. With a dexterity that still frightened you after thinking about it for too long, she held the phone out in front and nuzzled into your side. “Big bright smiles, now.” The camera light flashed. Octavia checked the picture and muttered something about her ears. “One more, time. Smile brighter. Cheese!”

The two of put enough cheese into one picture to stock a grocery store for a week.

“I feel bad for hogging all this joy to ourselves.” You said, feeling dazed by the endless camera flashes. “Anyone else want in on this?”

Vinyl's lips closed like an allergic who opened a door and saw a bee. It opened again like an allergic that grabbed the bug spray. “Don't forget I've already been in that,” Octavia's smile froze and her eyelid twitched. The camera flashed one more time. “I've still got plenty of pictures stashed away. Let me see what I can find. Go ahead and deal, um...” she waved at the be-sweatered mare.



Vinyl pulled out a phone with the glitziest case you've ever seen. Octavia's tongue tripped, trying to tell her that she really, really shouldn't go through the trouble of digging through her phone.

Moondancer adjusted her thick rimmed glasses and stared at the wheel. “I could take a split bet. Second best payout in the game, but seventeen-to-one odds. Too bad the ways to stack your chances are less than exemplary.” She closed her mouth, thinking. “Tell me dealer, what year was this roulette wheel produced?

“Four years ago, when the casino was first under construction. All equipment was built to custom specifications.”

“Fascinating.” Moondancer pulled out a dog-eared notebook and scribbled into the margins. “Don't mind me, I'm on something of a working trip myself. Research, you understand.”

“Would you care to make a bet as part of your research?” the dealer asked.

She looked up, looking lost for a moment. Her eyes shifted left and right behind her glasses. “Four on red?”


“One to one odds,” she whispered like she was sharing a well-kept secret.

Iron Will uttered a flurry of numbers that left his chips colonizing most of the grid. Vinyl took another shot at red. Octavia took a street bet.

“Dealer,” you said in a voice a little louder than needed, “I'll take three on eleven and three on twenty-five.”

Octavia's hand flew to her cheeks, “Ohhh, that's my birthday!”

You stared right into her eyes and grabbed her hooves. “That pair of numbers brought me so much happiness. I could lose right now and still not care because I owe that date so much.”

Octavia awwww'd and muttered out the side of her mouth not to push it too hard.

“This feels so gross,” you whispered through a love-lost gaze.

“Be strong,” she replied, nothing but adoration in her eyes and distaste in the back of her throat.

The dealer spun the wheel. Vinyl held her phone out.

“Speaking of birthdays, Octavia, remember this picture?”

Octavia inhaled and put a hoof to her chin. “I don't remember a camera being there that night.”

“Surprised you remember anything from that night.”

“You used to have your hair like that?”

“I don't get why she did that either.”

“You told me you liked it that way!”

“Because you'd freak otherwise.”

“Thirty four.”

“I told you, one to one odds.”

“Yeah! Iron solid victory!”

“I still like your birthday. I mean love, I love you birthday so much. And you.”

“Such a sweetie...” Octavia wanted to gag.

Vinyl set her phone down on the table, balancing it on its corner with her hoof holding steady at the top. The wild, wild birthday picture swiveled back and forth in your face. “Dealer, I'll take five on the second line.”

You noticed the second line held both number's to Octavia's birthday.

Octavia's ears swirled and you felt she also noticed. “Ten on seven, ten on fifteen.” Her voice slid into far off whimsy. “That's my beloved's birthday.”

“Adjoining sentimental value to numbers doesn't grant a demonstrable advantage.” “Or at least that's how it should work, because I've seen it work,” she sounded suspicious. “Although I can't tell if it's coincident or what, it's strange...dangerous way of thinking.” Moondancer looked at the cameras. “Definitely not magic...” She wrote a note on her pad. “Two on second dozen, by the way.”

“I don't need magic, just good old willpower. I bet, therefore I win! Dealer, twenty on black, five on odds.”

Once again, the wheel spun and the ball bounced and clacked against its wood and plastic. “Fifteen,” the dealer announced.

“Oh wow,” Octavia giggled. “If I knew I would've bet more...”

“See, like that. Just like that.” Moondancer shook her head, worrying about unforeseen forces at play in the casino.

“Yeah, just like that,” Vinyl muttered. Her hoof brushed over her phone screen, sliding to the next picture in line, one of her kissing Octavia. The foreground of the two mares looked blurry, overwhelmed by blooms and intricate sparkles of lights dancing behind them. But definitely, definitely Vinyl and Octavia kissing, eyes closed and smiling. Blue and black hair swung over each other in digital smears.

Octavia nearly fell out of her seat.

Your mind and face ran the gamut of contortions of a guy staring at a photo of his current girlfriend kissing another girl. Some unflattering noises followed.

Cadance half-laughed, half-shrieked from across the room.

“Oop.” Vinyl checked her phone and then set it back on the table, screen still facing the two of you. “Didn't know that was still there. I'm such a pack rat, I swear I need to clean up the memory on this old thing.”

Moondancer's red eyebrows hardly moved. Iron Will crossed his arms. “Reminds me of a string of college shows I did a few years back.”

“Oh, it wasn't just college.”

Octavia's voice wound tight. “Vinyl, what are you trying to do?”

She put her hooves behind her head. “Having fun with a friend,”

“What part of this is meant to be fun?”

She sloughed and swung a foreleg over the back of her chair. “If you weren't acting like such a well-bred bitch, maybe you'd have a good time.”

The fur on Octavia's back rippled and stood up like pine needles. Her cheeks turned crimson beneath her fur.

“Oh,” you said thoughtfully. “So that's where it comes from.”

“Please, not right now,” Octavia uttered like someone whose car just broke through a cliff side railing.

“I just wondered why you always ask me to call you that whenever we're-”

“Not. Now,” she said through clamped teeth.

The dealer coughed a well-trained, polite cough. “Perhaps you'd prefer to reminisce in the café?”

“No!” shouted Vinyl and Octavia, shoulders bunched like a pair of tigers in a cage.

“Check out the energy these kids'r packing! I knew this'd be a good table!” The minotaur thumped the felt and the table almost broke. “Hot damn, I love this place!”

Moondancer looked up from her notepad. “It's a microcosm. I'll give it that much.”

The noise drew the attention of a pile of bricks in a nice suit. “Is everyone here enjoying themselves?” he asked, not intending to accept anything less than complete and above all orderly enjoyment.

“Yes, we're fine. Excellent, thank you.” You put a hand on the small of Octavia's back. Your palm met surprisingly hard tension. “Come on, this is enough.”

Octavia pawed through her purse and pulled out a cigarette. “No. I'm peachy.”

“Octavia, please.”

“She said she's fine.” Vinyl waved her foreleg as if it cleared the air of all problems.

The guard raised his voice. “If there's a problem going on here, I have to insist that-” a phone clipped to his belt jingled. He checked the ID and answered.

“Jay here.” He stepped and turned away from the table. “What? They're in the pipes again?” He scowled. “Dammit, what the hell do we pay that wall-eyed exterminator for? Fine, fine, calm down. I'll be right over.” He put the phone back on the clip and groaned, rubbing the bridge of his noise.

The guard motioned to the dealer. “Clarence, you got this?”

“Don't worry, Jay. Go do what you need to.”

The man nodded and went to deal with one of the casino's long list of persistent, ridiculous problems.

The air crackled as Octavia pulled a breath on her cigarette. She wished for a short glass of something fiery. The waitress hadn't come by with so much as a how-do-you-do, so much for award winning service. “I knew I should've took the gig at that opera house in Bridlesview.”

Vinyl looked disappointed. “Don't tell me you still rattle that easy. Tavi, Tavi, Tavi-”

“Stop calling me Tavi.”

“You really need to smile. The sourpuss look never suited you.”

“Forgive me for not being a sugary little tart. Maybe that's why you trotted off to taste something sweeter when you thought I wasn't looking.”

“I told you that-”

“You told me a lot of things, Vinyl, and I got sick of it.”

“If you'd listen for a minute instead of cracking that righteous whip of yours-”

Smoke billowed from Octavia's mouth. The orange glow from the tip cast sharp specks of ember around her eyes. “And why? Why the hell would I listen to you?” She tapped the ashes hard into the tray. “Moreso, when I left what makes you think I'd ever want to see you again?”

Vinyl's forelegs slacked. Her face turned hard and inscrutable, but the light shook on her glasses. “I'm not sure,” she answered.

“So why are you still here, then? No, don't answer that,” Octavia waved her cigarette and left a trace of smoke in the air. “Just get out of here, Scratch.”

Iron Will placed an elbow on the table, leaned towards you and whispered, “You got a hot one there, champ.” Moondancer took the time to organize her chips.

You could only assume what kind of glare the unicorn gave her. She said nothing and stepped to the floor, legs shaking. Blue hair fell over her forehead and she did not brush it aside as she walked away from the table..

The Platinum Horsehose casino still rang with slot machine jingles and laughter of other guests. Candied lights winked in hypnotizing blitzes across every square yard. Chips clacked and dozens of dice pairs flew through the air at any given moment. People, ponies, and the things in between felt the highs and lows of cash flowing, wild tides deprived of gravity's control.

The roulette table was silent. Octavia looked around the table, looked around the room, and it all looked dimmer than when she first walked in.

“Dammit,” Octavia half-hissed. She put out her cigarette and sniffled.

The dealer spoke in a soft, clean tone. “Would the lady care to cash out?”

“Yes, please. I'm done for the night. Give it to him,” she nodded at you. She hopped off the table and walked at a brisk pace in Vinyl's direction before you could say anything.

Suffice to say you felt like a super-sized ass for letting things spiral so far. You stood to go after Octavia when a strong hand took hold of your shoulder.

Iron Will's face looked serious as rock. “Avoid a heart attack. Know when to hang back.” He let go then snapped his finger and pointed. “That one's for free, don't lose my card, kid.”

“Yeah, sure.” You took off.

Moondancer stared and didn't pretend that she could parse what happened into any kind of sense. “I still don't know if using internet gambling would've been more conducive to research.”

Iron Will settled back into his chair. “Computer's stuff never good as getting down and dirty on the ground.” He laughed and asked the dealer, “Good show tonight, yeah?”

“About on par for a Friday,” Clarence said plainly.