• Published 26th Apr 2016
  • 979 Views, 11 Comments

Roulette Night - Sharkrags



There's slots, cards, and dice galore, but the hottest action in town's going down at one little roulette table and everyone wants a piece of the action. Notable players include a cellist, a human, and a DJ, all betting far more than chips.

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The Fast and Hard Way

Octavia's hooves echoed on the well-polished floors of the hotel's grand lobby. She walked through knots of people with as much strained etiquette she could muster and as much speed as her evening dress allowed.

You thought of Octavia as a proud mare, and she thought of herself as one too, even if she considered explicitly saying so as bad form. But heaven knows she did not feel proud running through that hotel looking for someone she used to trust completely and trying hard not to call her name.

Even in her dress, you thought she moved incredibly fast. Probably because she used more legs, you reasoned. The wide spaces of the ground floor walkways and crowds of people shuffling between restaurants, clothing stores, and the gambling area meant it took effort just to keep her in sight.

She took a left and saw a hall split with one end leading to the pool, and the other to the waterfront and outside bar. Octavia ran through the exit door leading outside, tail flying behind her.

The wind blew strong that night. The moon only deigned to peek a corner out from behind the clouds sailing overhead. Octavia's hooves clattered over the wooden boardwalk. Hedges lined the walkway, separating it from the beach sand.

Octavia hopped on a bench and stood on her rear legs to look for Vinyl. She sat by an unlit fire pit surrounded by a circle of chairs.

You went outside just in time to see Octavia trot down a ramp leading towards the sand. Keeping close to the hedges, you moved down the boardwalk, planks creaking with each step. You slowed when you saw her heading towards Vinyl and decided that maybe the minotaur had the right idea.

The two clearly had some serious things to work out, things that you had no chance of improving by butting in.

You crossed your arms and prepared to wait it out, ready to be there for Octavia when the time came. She noticed you from the beach. You nodded to her, and she nodded back.

The cellist's dress dragged over the sand. She stopped on the other side of the fire pit when she noticed Vinyl's glasses laying by her side.

Her red eyes looked dull in the weak moonlight, but still glistened enough to catch a few highlights from the small waves that lapped against the shore. “It's hard not see or hear me if you follow me out here,” she muttered “Or is there something else you need?”

Octavia swallowed and took a deep breath before speaking. “Suppose I need to thank you for reminding me that I can act like an utter, utter shit.”

Vinyl's chest bounced in a silent laugh. “You returned the favor though. I was kind of acting like I crawled out of the toilet.”

Octavia sat down in a chair next to Vinyl and looked out at the black water. The smell of burnt wood in the fire pit was strong. “We're supposed to be better than this, right?”

“Yeah,” Vinyl nodded. “Remember when we laughed instead of clawing each other to ribbons?”

“I think I recall that.”

“If it means anything,” Vinyl said, looking hard at the pit, thinking of a long time ago and words she wished she never said. “I really don't blame you for leaving. And I don't blame you for not talking to me after clearing your CD's out of the apartment.” She rubbed her cheek, tilting her head but still not looking away. “It hurt like hell, but I don't blame you.”

“You did what you did,” Octavia said in a slow voice against the wind. “I wasn't the easiest person in the world to be with, I'm still not, clearly, but I could see why you'd...” Her lips drew tight at the thought of old pains. She shook her head. “I”m not saying I forgive you but,” she took a deep breath and tried to think of what she wanted to say. “I hurt you just as much as you hurt me,” was the closest she could manage and it still didn't feel close enough.

“I can't believe we cocked up that hard.”

“Me neither,” Octavia said.

Vinyl's voice sounded unsure. “Think we could've…if things were…?”

Octavia eyes locked with Vinyl's. “I don't know, Vinni. We had our time together, but-” The wind chilled her and she rubbed her forelegs together. “I'm not proud of what happened at the very end, but I don't regret what came before it. I don't know about you, but I can live with that.”

Vinyl lowered her head until the bangs spilled over her muzzle. “Fair enough,” she said.

The unicorn tucked her rear legs deep against her stomach and chest. “It's weird, it feels like it's been such a long time, and yet...” she shrugged. “I still think about you. Y'know, hoping that you're doing alright despite knowing better.”

Octavia looked at her and smiled a little. “I'm doing alright.”

“I dunno,” Vinyl shook her head. “We're both playing at this dump.”

The two laughed.

Octavia held her hooves to her forehead and said, “I cannot believe you still have pictures from that party.”

“Straight up, me neither. I never ever delete shit, it's crazy.” Her cheeks puffed out. “I don't even remember whose party that was.”

“We were so bad.”

“Fuckin' awful.”

They both giggled and tapered off into silence. Vinyl spoke first. “I'll admit it, I get jealous.”

“I had no idea.”

“But I'm glad you can be with whoever makes you happy. Hell, if you want to tongue a toaster, I'm game.”

“I'm pleased to have your approval, Vinni.” Octavia's eyes fluttered. “Are you happy, though?”

Vinyl pulled a wide, toothy grin that Octavia knew meant bad behavior. “I stay up 'til four thirty in the morning most nights of the week and blow out the windows, I'm doing awesome.”

“Sounds like it.”

The two mares smiled at each other.

They sat on the beach for another twenty minutes, maybe thirty. Laughing and whispering about new things that happened since old times. Eventually they grew quiet and stared at the water.

When she felt like the two of them said enough for the night, Octavia stood up, walked to Vinyl, and hugged her. She left the fire pit, leaving Vinyl behind to spend a little while longer staring at the beach.

You met Octavia by the ramp. Her bowtie bent in circles like a corkscrew and sand covered the bottom of her dress. She deflated like a balloon animal and looked at you with tired, violet eyes and said, “Want to go to the room, now?”

-

Octavia walked into the hotel room whose AC she set to 'arctic' before leaving. “I'm never playing a casino again,” she announced to the universe at large.

“I told you things get weird when I play at tables.”

“Which I learned the fast and hard way.,” she said, opening the balcony door. “Look, I know I'm far, far past my limit for the day, but I really need one mo-”

“Go ahead,” you waved her off. “As much as you need.” Octavia groaned in pleasure and stepped outside for one last cigarette. She didn't smoke daily, and normally reserved them for social occasions, panic attacks, and to put a cap on particularly demanding performances. Tonight seemed to count as all three.

You flopped down on the bed and felt ready to sleep for a million years, too tired to worry about skipping dinner. Knowing that Octavia ended the night without flipping tables made you more than content.

The balcony door slid open and closed. Octavia's evening gown ruffled as she slid out of it and laid it over a chair. she stepped on the bed and walked towards you, mattress dipping with every step. She undid her collar and tossed it on the night dresser. She collapsed over your chest and kissed you, slow and deep. It felt like kissing the fanciest ashtray in the world.

Your hand ran through her hair and over her ear. Her eyes closed and she sighed. “I didn't mean for you to learn that I can be an evil lunatic tonight,” she said.

“Oh no,” you said, still rubbing her ear, “and I was still convinced you were a pure, faultless angel after you asked if I wanted to be assholes with you.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” She laid her head against your chest.

Your arm wrapped around her soft back. “I'll manage.”

“Hey,” she said, “I want you to know something.”

“You've decided not to play Styx tomorrow.”

“Still debating on that. No, it's just,” she straightened her head to look up at you, “I mess up sometimes. More than sometimes, actually. Odds are I'll mess up again, but I at least hope they'll be new mistakes instead of just stumbling over old ones. I try to be better,” she said. “I want to be better, for myself. For you. Just that sometimes I worry the best version of me may not be so great.”

You looked into her tired eyes and saw the hearth behind them. A peek into the fire inside that made her practice over taught strings who's every intonation she knew by heart. That candle under her butt that got her out of bed in the morning when she didn't want to. The ruthless conflagration that can and has burned people when it grew too strong.

But she knew how to look at those wounds and had the warmth to own up to them.

“I've messed up too, Bowtie. I know, oh my God, I know the best version of me is not good enough,” you said. “No one's ever gonna mistake us for perfect after knowing us for more than ten minutes. I'm not asking for perfect, but I hope we can keep this going for as long as we can.”

“Alright then, long as we can.” Her eyes closed and nuzzled against your chin. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

The room filled with the steady noise of the air conditioner and her breathing. You nearly drifted to sleep when something in the bathroom rattled.

“What was that?” Octavia mumbled.

“Gremlins, or gnomes or something.”

“Oh.” Her small mouth yawned. “How awful.”

-

The entirety of the next day was spent at the Platinum Horsehose's truly magnificent pool. You sat on a cushioned poolside recliner. Octavia floated in lazy circles nearby on an innertube.

Bon-Bon baked on a chair next to you. Her glamor still wasn't restored, but she at least managed to get her mane back. Lyra's green head popped out of the water, wearing goggles. She blinked at the Changeling and disappeared into the pool depths once more.

Cadance strolled by, holding a frosty glass of something filled with oranges and who knows what else.

“Still alive,” she observed.

“Against all odds,” you said.

The princess settled in a nearby chair. “Lovely day.”

“Sure is.”

“I never want to come here again.” She smiled.

“Not even for free,” you said.

“I'd rather die,” Bon-bon added.

“I don't think it's so bad,” Octavia called from the water. “Long as you steer clear of the roulette table, mind.”

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Comments ( 10 )

Geez, this piece. It was utterly enthralling. I couldn't stop reading until I hit the end. It's full of tension and friction, and manages to show a wonderful world-building piece.

I do have to wonder if the magic runes used in construction bring out everyone's full emotional reactions (even a Changelings!) to the surface, or not. Did anyone have a good time, besides Iron Will, who seems to drink up drama and tension like a fine wine? The Changeling and Cadance could barely function, considering their empathy senses.

I haven't read the story yet... Is the romance between Cadence and Applejack, Octavia and Vinyl, or both?

Wonderful work, my fishy, fabulous friend.

I lift my green thumb in your honour.

7162776
Glad you liked it. All the hoodoo going on in the casino probably gives the more magically attuned a little buzzing in their ears, but management's first and foremost concern is stopping cheating. If it has a little side effect of making people behave a little more -pronounced- maybe they're more likely to bet, and maybe management wouldn't mind. WHO CAN SAY?!

Did anyone have a good time, besides Iron Will

I think Applejack reasonably enjoyed herself, it'll take more than little weirdness to throw her off.

7163123
I shake your green thumb in appreciation.

7167168
I PUT IN A WOLF AMONG US REFERENCE?!?

Haven't read the story yet, but the casino is named the "Platinum Horsehose" in the summary. Are you sure you didn't mean "Horseshoe"? :rainbowlaugh:

7168688
That gets addressed. The casino's construction was very hectic.

It took me a while, but I get the sense that a major theme of what you do is "broken people doing the best they can". Protagonist and Octavia more or less state that outright, but I think it generalises to basically every character, named or not. Everyone is terrible in their own way, and the casino just brings out the worst of it.

Viewed through that lens, it makes you wonder what awfulness Celestia is into. Like that time in the desert...

I think Moondancer was my favourite this time.

7169827

I think Moondancer was my favourite this time.

She's one of the characters that almost didn't make the cut because I wasn't sure if she -quite- fit. But I like the idea of her only wanting to see how the place works but weird stuff keeps happening. I had a really fun time writing grumpalupagus Bon-Bon breakdown

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