Written for PW Kink Meme. What was the prompt? I think you can figure it out...
This is not a serious fic.
Scene set: Phoenix and Maya are not in a relationship.
It was nothing like the signboard.
Phoenix compared the picture (faded, unlike that glossy brochure Maya had pressed on him) to the decrepit, fading complex sprawled before them.
A waterfall tumbled in perfect arcal formation, a rainbow hue gently refracting from its shimmering spray, delicate ferns tumbled around a pristine pool in front of a luxurious mansion, someone reclined on an impeccably padded chair-bed, wreathed with a cloud of impossibly beautiful butterflies…
It was the butterflies which should have given it away. For some reason they always made Phoenix uneasy, though he couldn't quite remember why. In reality there were no ferns, pools, or mansions in sight, just an ugly blockish structure with a bit of weedy grass around it.
It had been okay until Trucy had gone away on an extended magic tour and hadn't been around to look after him. Ostensibly it had been so he'd have 'peace and quiet to study for the Bar Exam' but really, he'd opened one incomprehensible law book, panicked, and spent the next few days consuming grape juice, salty snacks, and procrastinating. After a week of this, Maya unearthed him amid the garbage on her 'surprise visit', declared herself his new 'life coach', and vowed to 'train' him "like how the Pink Princess tempered the Steel Samurai's shattered resolve after his defeat at the hands of the evil Foundry Clan on Season 5 Episode 68!"
She'd written a training schedule, which Phoenix had begged her not to carry out, so Maya had decided it would be just as fun to take a holiday to 'recharge'. Supposedly there was a schedule of 'personal growth' exercises here, to fit with its stated slogan 'A Spiritual Experience', but these, thankfully, were optional. Maya was now examining the flipside of the brochure, which depicted a lavish smorgasbord of food, and with predictable and mechanical precision followed the lopsided sign directing toward 'Dining Hall'.
Maya cried out in agony; there proved to be none but a few vats of self-serve slop. "Hey!" she accosted a kitchen-worker, "where's the buffet?"
"Close your eyes and visualize," purred the worker, untroubled, "and it will be so."
Phoenix, finally caught up, groaned internally as Maya closed her eyes as directed, opened them, and peered mournfully at the unchanged spread.
"At least give me a burger," demanded Maya, near tears, "or we're GOING HOME!"
"Certainly, madam," complied the worker, bored, selecting a non-descript box with 'Reconstituted burger: MEAT flavour' on it and briefly tossing it in the microwave. "Here you are" she replied, holding out the now-heated paper bag.
Maya tore open the bag and demolished the burger. Phoenix held his breath and took a step back in the hope he wouldn't be on the receiving end of Maya's instinctive negative reactions. But Maya merely slurred "Mmphhhh, well I've *gulp* had worse," and began departing the kitchen, seizing a few unopened cartons on her way out.
"Wait, that's.." began the worker, but Maya had already departed, and Phoenix hurried after her.
"For our midnight feast," Maya explained, "in our 'luxury apartments'."
"Y…you DID get us separate rooms, didn't you?" Phoenix cringed at remembrance of last year's 'bonding trip'; it had been a nice place (unlike this) but Maya had seemingly forgotten the need for separate rooms and they'd had to take turns changing in the closet…
"Of course! But they're right next to each other…"
Phoenix surveyed the room. So much for 'luxury', just a primitive bed, a chest of drawers (circa 1960), and a tiny TV. Where was the bathroom? Don't tell me, they expect us to share a bathroom, he mused cynically.
"Hey, Nick," Maya peered in, without knocking, "can we swap rooms?"
"Why?" challenged Phoenix.
"Um, n..no reason. I like to sleep on the left side of the room, and my bed is on the right side, and…" Phoenix didn't buy it. "Hey, where is your bathroom?" she continued, eyes floundering.
"Bet you don't want to swap now," he smirked, "but too late, because I'd be delighted…"
"I don't have one either," Maya admitted, forlorn. "What a rip off!" She looked so miserable. Phoenix, investigating for answers, examined the printout of instructions which had been left on the room's drawers'-top. "According to this, there are communal toilets and showers over in 'B block'."
"Hey!" complained Maya. "The TV ad had this huge luxury ensuite bathroom, and a spa pool, and…"
"Truth in advertising," smiled Phoenix wryly.
"Can't we sue! Quick, Nick! Advertising law! What's the criteria of misleading advertisements? Hey! Where'd you hide that BOOK?"
Phoenix had tentatively peered in as he passed the shower block over the next day and a half, but it always seemed overfull and clouds of steam always poured out, blinding him. Sure he'd regularly gone two or three days without showering at home (he couldn't be bothered) but Maya had included 'Shower everyday' to his list of 'self improvement' criteria, and it was far better than studying, and preferable to most of the other items on his list, and all those hideous sounding 'activities' they ran here. He decided it would be much better to visit at a time when they were vacant, maybe while everyone was at one of those 'activities' he wanted to get out of. So, when everyone seemed to be otherwise occupied, he took his towel and took the arduous trek to Block B.
Were those supposed to be the male showers? It was hard to tell, all the signs seemed to have fallen off or faded away or something. Wait, that there was one of those pictograms. It was hard to tell what gender it represented as part had faded away, but someone had defaced it with some graffiti which led Phoenix to believe it was supposed to be male, so he entered. No screaming women, so he must be correct. In fact the place was blissfully deserted, its flooded puddles of water blissfully still.
What the hell… mused Phoenix, they were too cheap even to install doors? Thankfully, however, (unlike those showers at his high school which nobody was desperate enough to use) most of the showers still had an intact and non-transparent plastic curtain which could be pulled across the cubicle to preserve modesty.
Phoenix hung his towel then clothes on the rusty hook and tentatively turned on the freezing water. After a breath-holding minute, thankfully the hot water kicked in, along with clouds of billowing steam. The curtain wavered and flapped as in a gale, then blew ajar and opened halfway. Phoenix lurched out and closed it, but about ten seconds later it blew open again. Also, his clothes and towel, he observed, were becoming soaked, hastily he shut off the water. Strategy clearly had to be reconsidered.
Phoenix then noted the two tall locker-type cupboards at the side wall of the cramped cubicle - evidently these were to store such items - he creakily swung one open, then creakily slammed it closed. It closed with a resounding click which somehow triggered unease.
Instinctively he reached for the handle and pulled, producing a slight rattle but… no opening. And suddenly something else caught his attention… footsteps…
He hoped nobody could see him through that huge gap in the curtain, Phoenix had never quite understood the bravado of people who just blithely stripped naked in front of everyone in public changerooms and such. He cowered against the side wall, hopefully out of line of sight, slowly easing open the door of the other locker to further conceal himself behind it. Then, when the person was busy in their own shower, it would be safe to try again, he reasoned….
"Huh? Doesn't work!" fumed someone. "Look, that one's all wet, so it MUST WORK! Maya, you're a genius," the voice congratulated itself. "And open, so…"
The curtain was torn open and Phoenix flinched further back behind the metal door as the sudden burst of light threatened to assault his naked body.
Phoenix cowered. He should say something, but what? Any way you looked at it, this was going to be so embarrassing. And she'd notice him in a moment anyway, Phoenix procrastinated.
But Maya had her back to him, her thoughts evidently otherwise occupied.
In fact, the way she was now flinging off her clothes, he should definitely say something.
Phoenix opened his mouth, but sound died on the tip of his tongue. Why couldn't he move? Why couldn't he speak? Why couldn't he SHIFT HIS EYES?
Phoenix's life was low in gratification in this department, and he formerly hadn't noticed it troubling him, but something was now hindering his body from obeying his instructions. Maya's blissfully oblivious grin wasn't helping matters.
"Wait," she mused aloud, "if I leave the stuff there, it'll get all wet. So you must be supposed to put it in THERE!"
Maya gleefully hurled her items into the locker and swung the door… closed…
They stared in paralysis for a few moments. Then Maya screamed. Then she began hauling frantically on the locker door. This one, Phoenix observed, didn't seem to open either. After a moment she gave up and began tearing at the shower curtain, obviously hoping she could use it to conceal herself, but for a complex so shoddily designed, this installment was distressingly durable. Maya dived out of the cubicle, but just then a commotion signaled a throng of people entering the shower room. Maya dived back into the original cubicle.
Maya was staring again, apparently transfixed. And no, she wasn't starting at his face. Phoenix felt himself flush further in increasing mortification, as if he would melt soggily through the ill-tiled floor. Somehow he salvaged the forethought to cower on the floor and obscure parts of his body under others as best he could.
Maya visibly shook herself and turned her determined gaze to the sinister locker. "And a Samurai… SMASH!" she declared. "OWWW!" she cried, as the uninjured locker retaliated to her assault.
"Oh, you're bleeding," observed Phoenix sympathetically, his situation momentarily forgotten. Only momentarily. "Here, put that under the shower.." he suggested while taking care to defensively re-wrap himself tighter.
"Nick, can't you open the locker?" begged Maya. "Give me some of YOUR clothes!"
"I couldn't either. And they're in there," explained Phoenix.
"Wait… there's a sign…" mumbled Maya. "What? Insert money here? Nick, gimme a coin. QUICK!"
"I d…don't have one…"
"And stop LOOKING at me! Close your eyes!"
"I don't see you closing yours…"
"That's DIFFERENT! What were you doing hiding in a girls' shower, you sick old man?"
"Girls? This is the Mens' showers, why are you here? And walking in on me, couldn't you tell it was occupied?"
"Then why was it open? And it is TOO the girls' showers. It said so on the MAP!"
"Then why did that crowd of GUYS just come in?"
"I don't know," admitted Maya, for once the wind absent from her sails. "W…what are we going to do? I don't want them to see me. Nick! Go steal their clothes for me!"
"No! How do you expect me to sneak into their showers anyway?"
"I don't know! You managed to here.."
"I was already IN here!"
"Well you'll have to go steal a coin so you can save us! Because our rooms are sooo far away.."
"And where and how am I supposed to do that?"
"I don't know!" Maya gritted her teeth and began to shiver. Her repertoire of life experiences and TV scenarios had never included 'thefts during nudity'. "Maybe if you run around the camp naked yelling everyone to look at you I can sneak somewhere while they're all watching you?"
Maya had followed Phoenix's example and wilted into her own little ball in the opposite corner. She was doubly annoyed because this side was even more flooded than Nick's position.
"We could wait until 1am or so when nobody's around.." suggested Phoenix.
"But I'll freeze to death in the meantime! And we can't run the showers for twelve hours. So we'll just have to make a run for it. Gentlemen first!"
"Hey! Why me first!" Phoenix suspected a rort.
"So I can hide behind you. And so you can't see me."
"That's not fair! What makes you think I want anyone seeing me naked?"
"Like I don't suffer as well! What makes you think I want to have to look at your butt?"
"I dunno," teased Phoenix, "you didn't seem to be trying too hard to turn away before.."
"I.. I was transfixed with HORROR," defended Maya, averting her gaze (now, Phoenix observed wryly.)
"You face that wall, and I'll face that wall, then we won't see each other," she continued irritably. "Don't you dare peek!"
The silence was awkward, the sodden floor hard and cold. The time lagged. Especially when there was no way to measure how much time had passed.
With growing impatience and stiffness from her hunched stance, Maya cautiously peeked under the shower curtain.
"Well, sounds like everybody's inside showers. Maybe someone left a towel out there. Go check!"
"FINE! Better than freezing to death with you staring at me!" Maya had clearly reached some invisible limit. She huffed out.
Unfortunately, another cluster of males chose this exact moment to descend on the facility. They noticed Maya immediately.
"Hey! What's a girl doing in the mens' showers?"
"And naked too! You must be really desperate."
"Of course she is," jeered the other, "not exactly supermodel material, are we, sweetie.."
"Hey!" challenged Phoenix, stepping in front of Maya defensively, "leave her alone!"
"What? She's with you? What are you two doing in there?" queried the man. Phoenix glowered at him, then commanded, more politely, "I'd like to borrow a towel, please."
"Oh, fine," the man relented, "If it means you two will stop assaulting my eyes!"
It wasn't so bad. Phoenix hoped everyone would assume he was just returning from the swimming pool, or something, and would assume he had something on underneath that towel, and he hurried to and from the cabin, hoping no further incident had befallen Maya.
He dumped the set of clothes and coins over the curtain without comment, and, embarrassed, sidled away.
Phoenix couldn't bear the prospect of facing Maya, so he was secretly grateful she seemed to take a sudden and extreme interest in all the scheduled 'personal growth' activities, apart from him.
But his temporary relief began to degenerate into unease as every time they ran into each other, she distinctly and emphatically averted her gaze.
He poked at his plastic platter of rehydrated potato starch miserably, recoiling from dinner's latest rebuff. She was definitely making a point of avoiding him, becoming immensely and intensely occupied in chatting to the other guests whenever she noticed him.
And even as the blinding flickers of the outdoor lights cut out to signal midnight, Phoenix and Maya had failed to exchange a word nor empathetic glance.
Maybe he shouldn't have stared at her so much, Phoenix mused mournfully as he tried and failed to digest Page 2 of 'Bar Exam for Dummies'. It was bad taste, no wonder she was mad at him. Why couldn't he help himself, anyway? He'd long ago decided and accepted he'd effectively taken a vow of eternal singledom and didn't care he was never expecting or getting any action in that department, particularly sick voyeurism on his unwitting best friend. Surely he wasn't that desperate? Even if things had been.. somewhat better than his assumptions... Phoenix cringed instinctively, awaiting the mental slap when Pearl caught him so much as thinking about a woman for any innocent reason.. wait.. this... wasn't the same.
No, this was worse. This was disturbing. What would Maya think if she knew? Their friendship would probably be on the rocks, heck, things were strained enough right now as it was. Besides, he wasn't even making sense, thinking of her this way. They were and always would be just friends, b..because... because they were!
He reached for the last of Maya's (pre-nudity) thoughtful gift to him, a crate of 'JUICE, 'Grape' Flavour', pilfered from the kitchen under cover of night. The after-effects of the previous ones had made him feel so sick that finishing these might actually turn him off grape juice so he could check off another item on his list! But this prospect wasn't as cheering as it may have been previously, his entire list descended into insignificance compared to current concerns. 5 bottles later, and no closer to solving his problems or distracting himself, Phoenix eased into fitful slumber.
Maya was tired. She tried to sleep. Tried. There was this hideous noise right next to her ear. It couldn't have been closer even if it was in the same bed. She shut her eyes tight and concentrated on something - anything - else- but it vibrated through every particle of her being. When had Nick started snoring? He hadn't last year, she was sure! That TV show had said snoring was caused by excess weight and lack of fitness, so she added 'Make Nick lose weight!' to her mental 'improvement' list.
But this wasn't solving her problem now. "NICK, SHUT UP!" she bawled, but he snored on. She bashed the wall as hard as she could but the sound didn't cease. In frustration she kicked out at it, hard.
There was a sudden cracking noise, and a loud creak (had Nick broken? Maya panicked in her sleep deprivation irrationality) and suddenly the feeble wall slid down, teetered, and shattered into fragile particley dust and jagged, useless shards. Nick awoke and screamed, white shards littering his pointy hair. Maya coughed, sinister dust assaulting her lungs.
Maya's features were filled with such obvious distress that when Phoenix finally regained orientation and unobstructed vision, he didn't have the heart to respond negatively. But rolling over and going back to sleep wouldn't solve or escape the disturbing situation either, as their beds were positioned close enough to brush each other.
He reared his full weight behind the bedframe, but the thing was alarmingly heavy and solid metal; in fact he began to suspect it was bolted to the floor. "Perhaps it's so no one will steal it?" suggested Maya.
"Why would anyone want to steal a BED?"
"I dunno." Maya was evidently deep in thought. "Bed racing!"
"Right," Phoenix yawned a sigh, "I'm going back to sleep."
Maya turned her back on Phoenix, rolled over and attempted to follow suit. But sleep wasn't complying. Since Nick had supposedly had his 'own' room, he hadn't been wearing much to sleep in, and it had reminded her of that earlier image burned in her brain, neatly filling in the gaps in a very unfortunate manner. Damn it, she thought, she was over this!
And just as she was finally drifting off...
"Hey! Don't kick me!"
"But you were crushing my ARM!"
"Well what was YOUR arm doing on MY bed?"
But eventually sheer exhaustion overtook the pair, and Phoenix had a dream.
It was a horrible dream. Maya was all over him. And actually it was a very nice horrible dream, which was even more troubling. And when he awoke, he saw what had helped provoke his lovely dream. Maya was indeed all over him, unwittingly he...assumed.
Phoenix managed to extract the lower half of his body and reel backwards to the farthest edge of the bed, but as he held her disentangled arm in intent of completing the process, he was forced to pause. She was so cute when she was asleep. Even when she murmured "Nick" in soporific oblivion and flailed her arm straight back toward his face, and as he thrashed aside in distress it then lodged messing up his hair. Phoenix flinched back defensively, and her arm ultimately ended up curled around him in distressingly similar manner to how it had been in the first place.
If the previous day's traumatic events weren't unsettling enough, now he had even more recent flashbacks to his dream to contend to, and with Maya in such close physical proximity, it was impossible to distract his mind away.
There was no way he was going to be able to sleep now. Phoenix gave up. Maya was stirring again, now, loosening her hold on him. It was approaching 4am anyway, he may as well cut his losses and make a premature start to the day.
"Right," he explained to the half-conscious Maya, "I'm going to take a shower..."
Maya's eyes bugged in panic.
"Don't SAY that!" she hissed, distraught.
And the next day proceded much like the previous, with Maya already absenting by the time Phoenix returned to the room, and scant interaction which wasn't formally distant, until they finally and forceably crawled into their beds.
"Wait!" Maya finally exclaimed, as Phoenix rolled over to prepare for an uneasy attempt to doze off. "Nick, I'm sorry! Are you still mad at me?"
"M-mad? I thought you were mad at me?"
"Well, I am. Kinda. But you did save me. And... Well anyway..."
Any rift clearly now forgotten, Maya was now embracing him enthusiastically, clearly in intent of one of her 'hug and make up' moments. The reciprocal swell of affection did not cheer Phoenix in the usual way; it merely caused him to feel increasingly guilty toward his hapless friend.
"I'm sorry Maya, but you should still be mad at me because.. b..because I can't stop thinking about it now!"
"You too? I thought there was something wrong with me! I mean..." Maya seemed confused over whether to chastise him or lunge forward in empathetic eagerness. "Wait... you meant in a b..bad way, didn't you." Her face fell.
"N..No, no, not all all." Phoenix's flails couldn't bear to see Maya's features so erroneously upset. "Oh. Guess... that's how you meant you felt about me, isn't it..."
But Maya still seemed fixated on his previous comment."Y..you mean in a good way?" Her face positively lit up in a manner wholly unanticipated by Phoenix, the ecstatic spark in her eyes sparking a confusing warmth that spread over his chest.
She was now eyeing him expecting an answer, and the prospect of countering her assertion having lost all palatability, Phoenix sighed and nodded.
"Really? Aww, Nick!" Maya seemed touched. "I was lying when I said you looked hideous. Actually, I kind of used to have a thing for you.."
"Hey! You meant what you said, right?"
Maya's wordless and affectionate lurching response had an overbearing effect disproportionate to her small stature.
"W..wait, I didn't s-say.." Phoenix protested as his spine caved and impaled back into the jarring bedsprings, but his heart leapt into his throat, somehow evaporating all objections with it.
"I like you too!" she grinned breathily into his ear.
Why fight it?
Maya yelped amusement as Phoenix's own clutches flattened her, as she half-indignantly fought her eyes out of his chest and against his pupils, she found in them the answer which they'd found so hard to relate aloud, and his playful grin showing to her amazed excitement she'd so easily kicked Nick out of his fuddy duddy comfort zone...
"What a con!" Maya's eyes spat futile daggers back in the direction of the owner-manager's office shack. "I pointed out how we have at least 2 nights remaining, but they still wouldn't give me a refund! Even when I asked soooo charmingly! I mean it! Can't we sue?"
"No use," recited Phoenix as he teetered under their half-expired week's luggage. "According to Hostels and Establishments Act 2013 By-Law 69, we broke their 'rules' in a 'public' area, which they have a legal right to set on their private property."
"But 'indecent public activities'? What do they EXPECT in a shower? It's their fault they're too cheap to install doors!"
See, I told you we should have stayed in our room, reflected Phoenix. But of course Maya had goaded and pleaded about how he had 'no sense of adventure', and he hadn't wanted her to think he was turning into 'such a boring guy'...
Anyway, the bed/s probably would have collapsed, or fatally skewered us, or something, he justified.
"And it was that same jerk as before," continued Maya, clenching her fists and puffing out her cheeks indignantly. "I don't buy it just 'happened' to blow open!"
"W..well, he was certainly out to get us anyway," agreed Phoenix. "But I don't think we'd have enough to make a case."
"Damn. And here I am trying to motivate you, Nick," conceded Maya sadly - suddenly cowering as a thunderous scream sliced the nearby air.
"WAIT! Willful damage to hotel property!"
"We don't know what you're talking about, everything in the room was fine when we left."
The incredulous owner was eventually forced to turn away and flail in confusion as he lost Phoenix's poker-face staring contest, his newfound doubt buying precious moments.
"Oh look, here's our bus! Nice to meet you!" Maya waved cheerily as they soon sped into the distance. She then collapsed against Phoenix in relief as they piled together in their seat.
Phoenix's reciprocal sigh was less appeased as his cynical mind poured over potential scams. "They could still charge you something on your credit card to 'pay' for damages."
"Nah, I used cash. ...But what if they still send me a bill or send out debt collectors or something?"
"Don't worry, I'm sure a paper wall doesn't cost much. It's not even worth it to chase up." He locked hands in rather tender reassurance. "...Hey, where exactly is this bus going?"
"I'm not sure," conceded Maya. "And they didn't make us pay for tickets either." But she cuddled up to Phoenix companionably with apparent unconcern and Phoenix could just sense her mind was ticking over with imaginations they were on some magical mystery tour or similar craziness. Well, this caused him to reflect with increased calm, the bus would surely imminently arrive at some destination anyway... and it soon was revealed - to be the courtesy one-way shuttle bus to the casino.
"'Million Dollar Poker Tournament'," observed Maya on the flashing frontal signs. "Didn't you say you were '7 years undefeated'?"
"Do you need me to channel someone to distract your opponent?"
Poker... bad taste...Maya... Phoenix hadn't played poker again since a certain night, and while they meandered through the entry and into the opening maze of rooms, his mind weighted and wrested through the options.
"No, I don't want to play poker," he finally decided to the air next to him.
No answers or rebutting insistences came.
Phoenix's eyes trawled the rooms, but she was no longer in visible range. Now, mused Phoenix, attempting not to panic, if he was Maya, where would he go exactly? She didn't seem to be at that food outlet, and beyond that it was slightly incomprehensible. Still, he scanned for strange and exhausting things that might capture one's attention, and was eventually drawn to a nearby glassed area from which poured intense flashes of crazed light and jarring noise. As well as a cacophony of diametrically opposed musics, there were frequent bursts of pouring coins - since nobody camped in front of the rows of machines appeared to have hit the jackpot, this contradiction seemed to be a 'jackpot of coins' sound-effect from a nearby partially hidden speaker..
"Oh, there you are! Nick, try keeping up next time. Look, isn't this game CUTE? Steel Samurai Burger Time®!"
Hypnotic cutscenes assailed Phoenix's eyeballs of CGI renditions of six Steel Samurai stars, each with their nominally favoured incarnation of Samurai Burger. Insidious music seeped and pounded out of the machine, little reels of virtual burger icons cascaded next to each other.
"All I have to do is make it stop with 3 matching burgers to win, and if I get 6, I hit the jackpot! See! I already won $50!"
"Great! ...Where is it?"
"I put it back in, OF COURSE! You can win a million bucks here, so it's only a matter of time. It's only 6 burgers the same, what are the odds?"
"I don't know," admitted Phoenix "but.."
"I don't know either, but with so few burgers, they must be really small!"
Yes Maya, they are really small, and I fear you meant to say 'large', but they didn't teach chance at Spirit Medium School...
"See! $20!" Maya gestured to a stream of coins pouring out, immediately ramming them back in. "Not much longer!"
"Maya," Phoenix attempted reasonably, "I don't think they could even fit a million dollars in there..."
"Oh cool," responded Maya, "imagine, a flood of money!"
"And they make the odds of the 6 burgers a billion times less than the 3 showing up. It's not..."
"Nick! Stop being so dismal," she dismissed easily, "I saw this on TV. I just have to get in sync to commune with the ghost in the machine!" Her focus snapped back entirely to the game, dead to him.
A slight drool emerged on the tip of her lips as the Jackpot Burger expanded tauntingly over the screen, Maya's captivated pupils actually expanding and contracting in time with the musical flashes.
"Maya! Get away from there!"
A distraction. A distraction...
In desperation Phoenix's searching eyes hit on the garish adjacent advertising wall across the hall.
"Maya, LOOK! The resort here is exactly all the things they didn't have at that dump! A private spa pool! And a 24-hour burger machine!"
"Ooh, thanks for the encouragement, Nick! Cause after I win the jackpot, we can afford to pay for it!
Maya tried to speak to Phoenix, but all her attempts at sound evaporated in her captivation as beef-studded letters formed across the screen.
But in panic Phoenix had already dived behind the machine.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Maya clutched the suddenly dead screen in utter distress. Phoenix dropped the limp power cord and extended his hand invitingly in clear and sincere clueless oblivion.
Maya's drooped features suddenly brightened as she swallowed then clasped his hand in indulgent and forgiving accommodation. "Never mind, we'll stay in this resort anyway! Then you'll HAVE to pass the Bar Exam so you can earn back the money to pay for it!"
"Now, this is nice," Phoenix observed of their room appreciatively.
But for some reason, he noticed, Maya seemed a little down. She must have really been enjoying that hideous 'game'. When she realised he was watching her she faked a smile. Yes, he'd definitely have to cheer her up somehow.
And since the other day, he had a better idea of ways and methods to achieve this.
How to begin? It was so long since he'd had a female, er, romantic partner, and he'd blanked his mind from that one too, so he really had no idea about these things.
But as his condolent eyes considered her, these insecurities were displaced by that memory and accompanying assurance from the other day, overriding the overthinking that usually came here.
He crept up behind his targeted companion and seized her small frame in affectionate fervour.
Jerked from her slightly despondent focus on the floor, Maya took a disbalanced second to adjust to Nick's newfound spontaneity. She still was unused to the exuberance that sometimes sparked in Nick's eyes and actions ever since that conversation where she'd admitted she liked him; it was reminiscent of (as she mused later) those times he used to go crazy emotional while defending clients in court, or when he'd freaked out when she was accused of murdering Dr Grey.
Nor was she yet quite used to the force and weight he could exert in his enthusiasm. Phoenix's chin flattening her head was comforting. The blanket of his warm embrace fired desire to throw herself both literally and figuratively into his advances. But the constriction was also somewhat crushing her. So after a moment, she thrashed good-naturedly, and with a few well-directed pushes and well timed exertions of force, caused them to sag down against the oversize bed.
Still in his clutches, but now freed to face him as desired, Maya observed that Nick's doting pupils were now rather agitated. Perhaps he'd interpreted her reaction as more negative than a desire for air? She nestled further back into his embrace to diffuse his fears, but Nick's eyes continued to spill unarticulated but well-intentioned concern.
With a sinking feeling, Maya realised he must have noticed her vestiges of distress over the disappointment earlier, despite her best efforts to obscure them from him.
Trapped in the sincerity of his eyes and embrace, Maya couldn't possibly hold on to Nick's unwitting limitations. She flung her arms around him and buried her face in his chest.
Some erratic sensation coursed through Phoenix's chest appreciatively. Still concerned, he began caressing her back in the way she'd seemed to like, with acute awareness of the sensation of Maya's arms encircling his back and neck. His eyes were drawn to her face as she shuffled slightly against him and he was suddenly starkly attentive to the thrashing of his pulse beneath her head and its strange leap of gratification as her saw a genuine smile of contentment slowly cross her lips.
Phoenix noticed himself compelled to smile in a similar manner by a haze of elation lurching through him. Perhaps Maya had noticed the shift in his demeanour as she suddenly lifted her head to watch him.
They froze for a moment, trapped as Phoenix saw his emotion mirrored back at him from Maya's dark eyes, as Maya's mind permanently erased all blank screens with positive imagery and was moved to tender feeling in place of regret.
A seriousness creased her lips as her eyes dove into his pupils searchingly. She must have found what she was looking for as her eyes sparkled delight and then energy as Phoenix felt his head dragged to her and soft lips against his.
Now this was really interesting. They exchanged a slightly bashful smile as if sharing a deep secret, and further inspired by this, met several more times with greater intensity.
Maya was pleased that Nick seemed to be so enthusiastic.
But just as the dust and lint of the previous evening's bedroom setting had somehow lacked from the remembered desire burned into her brain, so too did this plush bedroom lack core facets of the more enjoyable memories and imagined potentials from their previous experience. It seemed a bit of a waste, she decided, heart leaps of endearment and desire jolting as her captive eyes considered him.
Nick was now giving her a (clothed) massage of back and sides with dogged devotion.
Nick seemed to her to be the kind of guy who wanted a few hints, so whist messing with a hair spike thoughtfully, she leaned up into his ear and whispered "Do you remember last night?"
"Which part?" Phoenix shuddered darkly.
Oh well, so much for seduction. Maya, thankfully, was not offended and shuddered empathetically. "Yeah, you have a point. But... you're so adorable when you look like a drowned puppy!"
But this train of thought did successfully trigger remembrance of the more intoxicating moments of last night, and an increasing desire to return to the scene and scenario so crudely cut short. Phoenix switched his focus to stroking his fingers through her hair appreciatively, leaned into her ear, and took the opportunity to nibble on it tenderly, causing her to shudder in an altogether different way. Apparently not to be outdone, Maya took HIS ear between her teeth experimentally, then evidently decided his hair would still provoke a better reaction. But her eyes and manner had assumed that possessive spark associated with the more memorable highlights of the previous evening's adventure, and she'd begun increasingly enthusiastically sneaking her hands under his shirt.
So when Maya declared that it was definitely 'bathtime', Phoenix was eager with anticipation.
This proved not to be a euphemism. The spa bath was identical to the advertised photo and Maya exclaimed in delirium at the largest and most impressive bath she'd ever encountered as she began eagerly flinging on and fussing with the water controls.
"I don't know, I really don't think this'll work like it does on TV." This wasn't quite the assumed shared fantasy Phoenix himself had had in mind, in fact it triggered remembrance of that B-movie they'd seen last year, Bubbles From Hell. "There's a shower here too, you know..." he continued hopefully. The way Maya had upended that entire bottle of complimentary [?] bubblebath, this was probably dangerous. In any event, it was certainly dangerous to his hair. And already the overpower of fake 'nature identical' scents was making his eyes water. Maya, no doubt immune to such concerns via a lifetime of spiritual incense (or maybe artificial burger aromas) was still emptying that bottle... no wait, don't tell him she was onto a second...?
"From that dispenser over there," she related to his horror-dilated eyes. "It's like a bar fridge for bath snacks!" She tossed in something labelled a 'bath bomb' with wonton abandon as Phoenix winced in anticipation, but eventually he was forced to release his breath, nothing seeming to have happened.
"No," she explained with reference to his shower suggestion, "that ugly guy interrupting us killed that one for me. I had to mentally erase everything past you being all wet. Come on and get in, Nick! Don't be shy - there's PLENTY of foam!"
Apparently she'd already nimbly slipped into the froth, thwarting his opportunity to enjoy the observation whilst he was distracted by that pinkish bubble tidepool being regurgitated by the overwhelmed drain. Having no recourse now but to follow after her, he gingerly sank into the cauldron of foam, taking great pains to keep his head well clear and pristine.
"I said 'all wet'," pressed Maya.
"Not my h..."
Maya launched herself on top of him and he sank underwater with a considerable splat. A tidal wave coursed over the walls and a foam tornado adhered to the bathroom ceiling.
Phoenix, fighting to draw bedraggled breath amidst the deep clouds of froth, wondered how the much smaller Maya would cope or even keep her head above water, his question was soon felt with answer and it was not an unpleasant sensation her clambering all over him, even as her personal Island of Nick. A faraway part of Phoenix's mind soon conceded that the bubbles weren't entirely a bad idea; the security of the foam seemed to have a considerable emboldening effect on both of them, also the water level had decreased marginally to the point they were no longer in danger of drowning, though he was unable to make the logical connection this was because it had gradually spilled out somehow. Having flicked off the ceiling's extraction device without him noticing, Maya had replicated the previous steamy situation quite well, and they had by now mentally and physically returned to that delirious little place and moment they'd been together last night.
"Oh, I almost... forgot!" belatedly gasped Maya. "About the spa!"
"...Hey, what do you think this button does?"
Phoenix wasn't sure how Maya had managed to destroy a luxury bathroom. But nothing had dampened his enjoyment and subsequent recollection of their memorable night.
And 'destroy' was an overstatement, fumed Phoenix defensively. The hotel was grossly overreacting. So there was a little water on the walls. Bathrooms are supposed to get a bit wet! And I've never even heard of 'bath product staining'!
But never mind, they, uh, he, had six months to pay the bill (with interest). He glanced to the comforting presence of Maya's linked arm, her head against his shoulder adoringly. He now knew far more about property law, and Maya had indeed successfully motivated him in myriad ways to the point law study and re-passing the Bar was now imperative, so things were certainly looking up.