God it was fun to be a criminal. A lot easier, true, when one was incredibly hard to kill, but it would probably still be fun if Ratty could die. In her defence, she was getting more careful about not doing anything death defying. She only had two years until YouTube came into being, and something like “Possum Survives Falling Off Building” going the 2005 equivalent of viral would be very bad for her career.
So big drops turned into little drops, running head long at gunfire transformed into occasionally ducking when she could manage it, and mass prison breaks turned into… well actually that one didn’t transform, it just stopped. She did start stealing shit though, so that’s a bonus.
She was not technically here to steal as she circled a glass display case in the Royal Ontario Museum’s “Earth’s Treasures” section, but - with none of the museum staff that hired her actually willing to get close to the stone centerpiece - it was looking more and more like she might have to.
“You sure I can’t convince you to part with it?” Ratty asked, doing her best impression of a collector. She caught the curator’s disapproving glare as she huffed, never happy to work with the possum. Ratty wasn’t crazy about her, either.
“Isn't there something you could do? say, ‘enchanted glass’ or something of that tone...” The horse drawled. Ratty stopped circling, leaning in so her face was almost against the glass, staring into the sharp and reflective curves of the stone. She could feel it licking at her cheeks: a hungry energy that had already sent a few interns to an early progeria-addled retirement.
“I mean… it’s a rock.” Ratty stood, now content to stay away from the evil little thing. “The only thing that makes it special is that it occasionally kills people.”
“And it’s history.” The curator seemed incapable of not huffing every word she spoke.
“No, yeah-” Ratty peeled a white card off of the side of the displace case, showing it to the curator. “I read it. For sure. It’s just, like… woefully wrong.” She tossed the card aside, crossing the room to the drywall divider between this and storage and tapping along it until she found a decent gap between two studs.
“So… I mean… I would, but you guys kinda suck.” She crossed then to the entrance, knelt to go through the duffel bag she had left there, and slipped a pair of thick, black, elbow length gloves. “For one thing, you guys pay like shit and have no expertise. Do- Here’s a thing: did y’all know that the last time my wife was here, y’all made her fucking cry? You made a trillion year old- guh, nevermind.”
She slipped on the other glove as she fumed. “Oh, and that’s not to mention-” Ratty pushed past the curator, out into the stairwell, using her gloved hand to point out the massive black totem pole that ran up the center of the staircase. “-THAT is a near constant-barrage on like, the spiritual immune systems of everyone who comes near this building. I’m no expert in indigenous stuff, and this is definitely a tangent, but building your museum around a monument to like, an ongoing cultural genocide is…” Ratty sucked air through her teeth, trying to cool off with the breeze as she noticed some of the regular museum patrons staring.
“Anyway…” She stammered, returning to the cordoned off ‘Earth’s Treasures’ room. “...here's what I’m willing to do for you. Y’all are insured, right?” The curator’s impatience turned to frustration, glaring down the possum as she realized what Ratty was about to do.
“Yes.” She slipped through gritted teeth.
“Cool.” Ratty shoved the display case, toppling it and shattering the glass across the floor like a dropped bag of marbles. “I’m gonna steal this… and then, uh, leave.” Ratty said, deciding to skip the monologue of an explanation she had prepared. Silence hung in the air for just a moment as a few people gathered at the door to see what kind of glass was broken.
And then, as though responding to a starting pistol, everyone moved at once.
Ratty ducked, taking the stone in her gloved hand and linebackering directly into the spot she had scoped out in the drywall, sticking as she realized there was something on the other side. The curator’s personal guard cornered her for just a second, failing to keep Ratty down as she dug the toe of her boot into the remaining drywall and hopped up over the guard.
“You’re so right, my bag-” She quipped, realizing she forgot her duffel bag at the door as she backed out of the room. A cloud of curious museumgoers had blocked the way to the stairs, and the only other option was the adjacent hall, where she would have to try her luck with more drywall.
There was also a balcony,
And, I mean.
A careful person could survive a 20 foot drop onto marble. So Ratty hopped up over the stone walls of the rotunda, throwing up a quick pair of hand horns as she went, and attempting to make it look like the spring of her tail and her last second safety roll could excuse her pop-up from the drop.
She got up, limping as whatever she shook loose re-assembled itself. She tried the west exit, poking her head through the door and coming face to face with a pair of cops tending to a small fender bender. She ducked back into the museum, sprinting instead for the north exit. Her heart soared as she heard - for not the first time in her life - as someone behind her shouted “SOMEONE STOP THAT POSSUM” at the top of their lungs.
Ratty quietly thanked the rapid decline of intellectual curiosity, and the ridiculous price of admission as she made it to the front hall. Guards had cut off the front entrance, but the glass-walled gift shop was completely empty, save for a terrified looking clerk.
Ratty once again forgot that she was practicing pretending to be mortal as she tossed herself through the glass, running through the piles of merch and blindly snatching a plush toy as a pile of them flew by her. She felt a pang of guilt as the soft tower toppled, turning to the clerk as she ran.
“Sorry!” She called, blindly bumping into the front door, throwing herself over the push-bar, through the glass, and over the hood of a taxi.
“Shit! Sorry!” Ratty said again, waving at the driver as she crossed the rest of the street and ducked into an alley.
She stripped off the gloves, turning it inside out over the rock as she stuffed them into her duffel. She then dropped the bag, reversed her jacket, then pulled a ball cap and sunglasses from the bag as she slung it back over her shoulder. She stuffed her hair through the hole in the back of her cap, and emerged cautiously on the other side of the alley.
Throat full of white-hot adrenaline.
Got away with it again, Vermington.
Sapphomet really hated TV studios. Performance had taken a leading role in their life ever since they first came to earth, it was hard to be a god and not perform, in fact. But the corporatization of it all… the mechanics of the machine, begging to be greased with the blood of the humble worker? It took the art out of the art, ESPECIALLY low effort chat-shows, the figurehead of which was a soulless icon of the hard work of other people.
No, Sapphomet thought, they would never appear on television if it were up to them. Small black boxes with hollow floors that boomed when her audience stomped were more than satisfying.
All this ran through the goat’s mind as they and Angel made their way backstage on the set of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. They had joined a tour-group, each sporting their own version of single-mother-at-Disneyland chique, and playing along as best they could until the tour brought them close enough to the stage.
They broke off during a photo-op, shedding their ball-caps and sunglasses and walking with the straight back of someone who - at the very least - looked like they were supposed to be there; a trick Sapphomet picked up from her wife, the former journalist.
A half-minute of weaving through a traffic jam of producers, various stagehands, and other TV etc., landed the pair at the precipice of Ellen’s dressing room. The door seemed just barely to dam a very familiar energy: hungry, dark, tendril’s licking at their cheeks, the whole nine yards. Sapphomet wondered quietly how many the elder god of decay, sitting comfortably on the other side, had killed.
The lesser demon gripped and ungripped the doorknob, trying to calm their nerves. They nearly jumped out of their fur as the star-marked door in front of them swung open, revealing the god’s grotesque, furless face, contorted into a wide, toothy smile. Sapphomet’s stomach turned further as they took in the odd, stump of a snout in the center of her face, the strange, monkey-like ear flaps, it’s brilliantly white soulless eyes.
The creature had called itself ‘human’ when it first manifested here: the first of its kind. For some reason, TV audiences really got a kick out of that.
“Well don’t just stand out there! Come in!”
Ugh. There was no trusting an elder god. In mortal realms they played a few steps ahead of everyone else. Still, Sapphomet was here to talk, and talking over the door frame wasn’t going to get them far, so - against their better judgement - Sapphomet followed Ellen back into her dressing room.
It was cushy, real in the same way that a third floor doctors office with no windows is real. That is to say, far too real.
Oh I know, isn’t it?
Ellen comes upon the instant realization that, if we were going to fight over control of this narrative, she would lose. She makes the decision, without coaxing, to stay within quotation marks for the time being, because she understands that this is my turf, motherfucker.
“Oh, I know, isn’t it?” Ellen’s peppy drawl cut through the silence of the dressing room, now isolated from the rest of the building. “Bland.” She rolled her eyes. “Very ‘earth’” She shrugged. “How is Hell, by the way?”
Sapphomet caught Ellen’s stylist’s eye for a moment, seemingly content to ignore everything said between the pair as they perfectly disheveled the god’s hair.
“I have uh- I left, actually.” Sapphomet said, now regretting going straight to the source for information on the artifact that Ratty had just lifted.
“Right, of course. You’ll have to forgive me, these kind of things just tend to slip my mind.” This was an outright lie, and Ellen made no attempt to cover it up. “Awfully boring though, last time you were there, wasn’t it?” This was really just cat and mouse for her.
“I’m here for a reason, Ellen.” Sapphomet said, their voice taking on a rare sharp edge.
“Oh c’mon. Play with me.” The god whined.
“Okay, yes, fine. Let’s skip ahead: you and I banter a bit, you show me a photo on your PDA, I act surprised: ‘oh it’s my [whatever] of [whatever]! Wherever did you find it?’ as though I don’t know. Yes it’s mine, no it can’t be neutralized, put it in an arcane-proofed safe and hope nobody ever finds out about it.” Ellen lectured, annoyed enough with the goat’s impatience that she forgot to pretend to breathe.
She also did not get away with saying ‘[‘ or ‘]’ and therefore said ‘square bracket’ out loud like a fucking dolt.
Try me, bitch.
“Now, c’mon… How did you find Hell?” Ellen pressed. Sapphomet sighed, taking their hand out of their purse and abandoning the PDA they had been cradling next to the dusty tome that’d sent them here in the first place.
“Fine. Last time I was in hell it was-” Sapphomet started.
“Oh do please be specific.” Ellen cut them off.
“Yes. Fine. A prison in the middle, border camps, big wall.” The lesser demon rattled off, doing their best to keep the imagery out of their mind. Ellen’s toothy smile turned smug as she steepled her fingers, seemingly holding one string of Sapphomet’s soul tied around each.
In the metaphorical sense and not in the switchspace sense.
“What about John? How’s John?” She was just teasing now. Even with the god-like ability to warp reality, she couldn’t conceal the knowledge of John’s fate behind her eyes. Truely, she just liked watching the goat squirm.
“John is dead.” Sapphomet said, matter of fact.
“Oh yes! I know! Isn’t it fantastic? And they - I mean the sinners - they still don't suspect anything?” Ellen prodded.
Sapphomet was thrown from their punchy, short-sentence rhythm at this.
“Pardon me?” They stuttered.
“Oh- oh isn’t that rich.” Ellen’s voice crackled in her throat: the low, drawling tones of a predator seemingly catching their sharp edges on the smooth surface of reality. “No, nothing. I just thought - you of all demons would know what Hell really looked like.”
What Hell really looked like?
The latter portion of their stay was admittedly better than the first, but they had made a deal with the devil. That’s how it’s supposed to be: you compromise your morals in a way that makes you feel better in the short term, and worse in the long term.
What Hell really looked like?
It was primitive, sure. More sinners meant less time for each individual one. There was miles of blue sky between a really shitty prison and a No Exit, but John was never one to waste time on fancy torture. Pain worked.
Sapphomet felt an ache behind their eyes as they tried to push the poison out of their brain. Ellen could tell the little goat was aching not to cry in front of her, sucking up every moment as Sapphomet ran over this internal turmoil.
What Hell really looked like?
And then the door opened behind them.
“Boss?” A rabbit poked her head through, snapping the situation like the latex skin of a balloon. “Curtains in five, c’mon out for lighting.”
“Oh, yes, of course.” Ellen smiled, seeming to forget all about the previous conversation. “Emily, would you actually come in for just a moment? This is Sapphomet-” The elder god gestured. “-we used to work together.”
Emily nodded politely, but impatiently at the goat. “How’s it?”
“Never so bad it couldn’t be worse.” Sapphomet gave a weak smile, taking some comfort in the way their voice parrotted Ratty’s in this moment.
“Sapphomet and I were just talking about you, actually.” Ellen lied. It was pointless to argue: she had an agenda, and Emily seemed smart enough to avoid trusting a single thing her boss said. The four let the silence hang after that, Angel not at all breaking from form as she continued to stand, motionless in the corner.
“Okay… Well… Curtains in five.” Emily said, clearly trying to keep annoyance out of her voice.
“I look forward to seeing you then!” Ellen grinned, waving cheerfully as the rabbit left. That was fucking weird.
“Such a bright rising star, Sapph. You’re really going to want to watch that one.” Ellen smiled.
“I don’t watch your show.” Sapphomet snapped back, cold and curt.
“Oh no, I know, but I mean you’re really going to- eheh.” Ellen cut herself off, stifling a giggle as something jumped into her mind. “Don’t touch that dial, Sapphomet. You’re really going to want to see how this plays out.”
With that, the elder god stood, crossed the room, and started out the door.
“Was there anything you needed?” Ellen asked, one foot over the line already.
“What did you mean about Hell?” Sapphomet asked, dropping their pride for a shot at reassurance.
“Hm! So sorry, that’s all the time we have for today.” Ellen laughed, staying stock still in the doorway as if to emphasize: I have plenty of time, I just want to keep fucking with you. “Oh! and thank you so much for the whole - I mean i know its been YEARS at this point but the Angelcorp breakout has been really good for me.” Ellen winked. “See you around.”
And with that, she was gone, leaving Sapphomet to contemplate in stunned silence.
They jumped for the second time in a quarter hour as Angel set a gentle hand on them from behind. “Jesus Christ, Angie.” Sapphomet snapped, trying to slow their heart with their hand.
“Would you like to go home now?” The drone asked, unphased.
“Wh- where’s Ratty?” Sapphomet asked.
“She’s at T35, talking to Pokey about your shared anni-” Angel stopped herself, a white progress bar flashing across her visor. Angel had been several hundred years out of date when she had travelled back from the 2900s. She was several hundred years older now, and had started to get a little slow. “They aren’t talking about anything.” She corrected.
“Can you- Can you call her?” Sapphomet stammered.
Ratty fished her phone out of her pocket as Pokey finished explaining her plans. She hated to be rude, but Sapphomet had said they would call if there was an emergency, and the possum couldn’t afford the anxiety of letting it go to voicemail.
“One sec- Sap-” She explained.
“Oh, yeah. For sure. No problem.” Pokey nodded, backing off.
“Ratty speaking” The possum spoke curtly, just in case it was not her wife. Caller ID was one of the things she missed most about the future, but it was just around the corner.
“Ratty.” It was Sapphomet, a clear note of slow-burning panic in their voice drenching Ratty with an immediate wave of concern.
“What’s up, hun?” Ratty asked.
“If we were still in Hell, you would tell me.” Sapphomet said, saying instead of asking, and in so doing willing it to be true.
“Sap- What?” Ratty stammered, caught completely off guard.
“I mean- I know you love me, like I know. And, I’ve been a really good wife to you, and this is a really long con if-” The goat’s breath hitched in her throat as panic overtook them. “Are we still in Hell?” They begged.
Ratty turned it over in her mind for just a second, stopping short of a quick ‘no’
It wouldn’t be convincing, she immediately overthought. And it wasn’t like Ratty had any proof to the contrary. Earth was hell in its own way, even outside of the paranormal sector. Bush was president, Harper was coming up as PM, Angelcorp was coming up in the public sector under ‘Angel Computers’, effectively putting a surveillance device in every home. They were also making bank off of the global war on terror, despite having flown those planes into them buildings in the first place.
Yeah, that’s right.
To be honest, earth might just be Hell. But that wasn’t what Sapphomet wanted to hear.
“I mean, are you-” Sapphomet snapped Ratty out of her - well, actually, does memory lane count if it’s memories of the future? Nevermind.
“No, Sapphomet. I’m your wife. I was born in Toronto General Hospital in 1998. I grew up just south of Etobicoke and spent almost every summer in a small town outside Bobcaygeon, hating every second of it. On top of it all, I have never loved anyone like I love you.” Ratty said, her voice firm and caring as it spilled out of her mouth. “If you are in Hell, then we are in Hell together, and I am as willing as ever to bust out with you.”
“I-” Sapphomet paused, steadying themselves again as they came back down ever-so-slowly from their panic attack. Deep breaths, they thought, deep breaths. Of course Ratty wasn’t a demon, of course she wasn’t a double agent from Hell. Their marriage had not been perfect, but then again, wouldn’t a demon want to make it perfect and save themselves the trouble?
“Decay got in your head, I’m guessing?” Ratty asked.
“Yeah, sorry.” Sapphomet said.
“It’s cool. You still want to do date night?”
“Can I pick the spot?”
“Yeah, as long as it’s not the ROM.”
“Didn’t go well, huh?”
“Wiretap.” Ratty said, an effective ‘I’ll tell you about it later.”
“Right, of course, see you soon.”
Sapphomet struggled to hang up, spending most of their energy on anxiety-quelling breathing exercises. They had forgotten where they were for just a moment: Angel, the dressing room, the stylist: desperately trying not to look at the little goat in the eyes.
“I- I’m sorry about that.” Sapphomet stammered, clutching their cell-phone like the single free pole on a packed subway, no less anxious than if they were at risk of being tossed to the floor and trampled at the next station.
The stylist waved their hand, still not meeting Sapphomet’s gaze. “Not the worst thing I’ve been privy to.” They shrugged.
Well, that was good at least. That really was all there was to be done here. As shitty as Ellen was, “It's my [whatever] of [whatever]!” and “Yes it’s mine, no it can’t be neutralized, put it in an arcane-proofed safe and hope nobody ever finds out about it.” was really all Sapphomet had come to California for. They really hated the weather, too. The dry desert heat was a constant reminder of the arrogance of plastic capitalism.
“So… Angel…” Sapphomet started, turning to their mechanical friend. “Portal? Uh, my bedroom, if you could.” They wanted to have some time alone to think, and Ratty would be working for another half hour trying to find a place in their safe where the stone wouldn’t react with anything else, and they wanted to be comfortable.
Angel nodded, pulling a shaky gate from the wall and having to physically hold it open with her shaking arms as Sapphomet stepped through. She saluted semi-sarcastically as the portal closed, leaving Angel to fly back on her own.
It was a shame, somewhere around 20 years before she would need to ‘retire’ she had finally started to develop a personality beyond ‘I’m a robot.’
Sapphomet sat on the edge of their bed, staring at the aging carpet as their mind continued to race. Time had kept speeding along, kept them busy, kept them tired. There was a new kind of anguish in their eyes: they had rarely kept up with earth affairs, but they had been through eternity enough times to know how this world played out. What they were doing to help was miniscule.
They threw themselves back onto the unmade bed. Ratty never made the bed, Sapphomet didn’t see the point in it either. They picked up Ratty’s pillow, burying their snout in the soft fabric and taking a deep inhale of her scent. Demons did not smell like Ratty smelled. Demons, Sapphomet thought, smelled like sulfur, fire and brimstone, all that bullshit. Ratty - or at least her pillow - smelled like… oily hair… mostly.
Sapphomet rolled over, looking at themselves in the mirror. They wondered if they smelled like fire and brimstone and sulfur, and whether they had just gotten too used to it to be able to tell. Ratty would have told her. She could be mean like that, without thinking. A demon wouldn’t accidentally blurt out the kinds of things Ratty blurted out.
The goat avoided moving anything but their eyes as Ratty poked her head into the room.
“Hey! There you are.” She smiled, same as ever. “Sorry, is it alone time?”
Would a demon ask? Would a demon, knowing that they were on the verge of being found out, pretend to be nicer than they actually were. Would a possum, understanding that her wife was in a shitty place, turn up all of the things they loved about her?
She didn’t look like a demon. Sapphomet’s eyes flitted back to the mirror, just to remind them of what a demon looked like.
“No, I think Im done.” Sapphomet said, a solemn note creeping into their voice. They relinquished Ratty’s pillow as the possum plopped down on the bed next to them, diving into her purse and coming up with a plush dinosaur as she rested her tail against her wife’s leg.
“I brought you a friend.” Ratty smiled, ducking behind the faux creature and wiggling its arms with her fingers.
“Hello.” Sapphomet smiled, a mix of embarrassed, pedantic, delighted, and still trailing melancholy. “What’s your name?” They asked.
“I dunno!” Ratty said, the falsetto she put on completely unbefitting of what was no doubt one the jurassic era’s top predators. “Ratty didn’t think of one while she was stealing me!”
Ratty sat up, twisting her wrists so she could still puppet the plush and look it in the eyes. She glared down at the creature, miming a little bit of shame into the felt. “We said we weren't going to tell them about the stealing.” Ratty scolded the black plastic eyes. Sapphomet snatched the dinosaur from Ratty, taking on a faux protective stance as they plopped it into their lap.
Sapphomet looked down at the gift in their lap as they stroked its spikes.
This… probably wasn’t Hell.
They smiled up at Ratty, their eyes damp from the stress of the day. Ratty smiled back.
“What do you want to do for dinner tonight?” She asked. Sapphomet took a deep breath.
“Can we order in, actually? You know how anxious I get about eating in public, and-”
“Yeah,” God, she was so warm. “For sure.”
“For sure.” Sapphomet parrotted.
There’s a bar in Oakville, just outside of Toronto, and there's no telling if it existed in 2004, but they had this deal where you can get 60 wings for 30 bucks, and Sapphomet eats roughly once a month, and while they very rarely feel actually ‘hungry’ in the way a mortal would define it, when the flood gates are open they eat a whole fucking lot.
That was date night. And it was comfortable, too. Sapphomet, lacking lips, struggled to chew with their mouth closed, their mouth bled profusely, tingeing everything they swallowed with a stinging edge of copper. It made it hard to go out for dinner, waiters would pass them over, kitchen staff would huddle at the door, just watching.
It was embarrassing.
So, 60 chicken wings, a half-pound of weed, whatever was cheap and microwaveable at the nearest convenience store, sweat-pants, and a ‘nothing movie’ was as close to a perfect date as Sapphomet ever felt like they needed.
They sat, fascinatedly picking chicken from a bone as though performing brain surgery, a near-dead blunt hanging off their lip.
“I think they changed the recipe.” Ratty said, scrutinizing her own wing.
“You think?” Sapphomet turned, barely noticing as her weed went tumbling down the front of her chest between the couch cushions.
“Yeah, it tastes more like ketchup this time.” Ratty nodded, the clear and clinical tone of a non-partisan third party taking over from wherever in her brain her journalism training was stored.
“Ketchup…” Sapphomet turned back to their own wing. “Huh. I didn’t actually taste any ketchup at all.” They shrugged, tossing the now completely clean bone into a pile with its siblings and wiping their claws on their cheap, light gray sweatpants. They froze half way through, realizing what they had done.
“Aw fuck, your pants.” Ratty pointed, her paw formed into a weird spider-claw to keep three of her five fingers clean.
“It’s uh, fine.” Sapphomet shrugged, slipping them off and pulling the last remains of sauce off with the ball of fabric. “I was done with them anyway.” They stared down at the remaining stains. “God, how do my hands end up green from red sauce?”
“Nice butt, babe.” Ratty ignored the question, snatching the pants and tossing them directly into their shared laundry pile.
“Yes, thank you.” Sapphomet gave a mock bow, forgetting the question themselves. “I grew it myself.”
“Well, excellent work.” Ratty teased. Sapphomet’s bow deepened until the tip of their elbow touched the floor, where they tipped right over it and fell.
“You’re all the way out there, huh, kid?” Ratty asked, eliciting a short eruption of giggles from her wife’s crumpled form.
“Yeah…” They nodded, staring at the possum’s feet. “Can you… turn off the movie?”
“Sure.” Ratty stepped over Sapphomet, hitting the red light on the power-bar that powered everything in their TV cabinet. Sapphomet stood behind them, crossing to the kitchen and flicking on the radio that hung from the bottom of the cabinets.
“Rrrrrradio time.” Sapphomet grumbled, dragging out the ‘R’. “It’s time for radio.” They wandered dizzily back to the living room and tripping over a folded piece of carpet directly into her wife’s arms.
“Woah there.” Ratty said, suddenly taking on her wife’s entire weight. They looked up into Ratty’s eyes, their own massive and quivering like a pair of half-moons.
“Ratty Vermin, you’re my hero.” They said, injecting as much faux-reverence into their voice as possible.
“Okay, buddy.” Ratty smiled, doing their best not to laugh.
“You need to get more high so I'm not- I'm not being a silly goat.” Sapphomet said, pressing their face into Ratty’s chest.
“I would, but if I take my hands off of you you're gonna fall.” Ratty said.
“Easy solution.” Sapphomet slumped over, just barely able to reach Ratty’s almost untouched joint with the tips of their claws. They came back up, honestly astonished when Ratty stood firm. “You’re strong.” They said, perching the joint on her lips and lighting it with a bundle of threads.
Ratty sucked it back, still not quite sure how to properly smoke weed after something like 80 years of experience, and came up coughing.
“Wow, fuck.” She started, shimmying a free hand away from her wife and plucking the cigarette from her lips, taking a second to try and read whatever she had written on the filter.
“Go on, Ratty.” Sapphomet teased, trying to nudge Ratty along.
“‘Go on’ what?” Ratty asked.
“Make some of them cute noises you make when weed hits you good.” Sapphomet said, gently nudging the possum’s wrist with their fist.
“What are you talking about, miss?”
“Y’know, like-” Sapphomet stood up to their full height, clearing their throat like a true thespian, her weak vocal chords preparing to make the loudest sound they had ever attempted before. “Ahem.”
“SEEEEEWIE!” Sapphomet hog-called, throwing their head back before snapping to attention in time to finish: “I’ll tell you what, that’s some good- some good- pfft.” They broke down laughing mid-sentence.
“Like uh-” Ratty started. “Jeez Louise! That’ll knock you right over and put you back up with your head on the floor.” She rambled, the curvature of the sentence resting perfectly in her northern drawl. Sapphomet choked on their laughter, burying their face back in Ratty’s chest.
“That'll- ooo-ee. That'll put your therapist out of a job.” The goat’s laughter turned into a wordless scream, just barely broken up by hitches of delight as they stomped their hooves.
“You gotta stop. I’m gonna pee.” Sapphomet managed, out of breath between fits.
“That’ll-” Ratty started, barely able to contain her own laughter at this point. “That’ll make your wife pee.”
“RATTY!” The goat’s voice snapped, leaving them with a silent guffaw as their psychic voice took over once again. The pair let the laughter die naturally, Ratty seemingly trying to wave it out of their face while Sapphomet shuddered quietly into her chest.
The radio returned gently as Ratty’s voice died, something slow-dance-y seemingly accepting the silence like a gift as the possum began to rock, guiding the goat in a simple waltz.
“This is nice.” Sapphomet said, listening more to their wife’s heartbeat than the music going on behind them. Sapphomet had always had poor circulation: an odd thing for a creature constructed to perfection, and Ratty was only barely different. The two of them were cold, but Ratty was just barely warmer. She was incredibly comfortable to slow dance with.
“I’m glad this is like… a thing.” Ratty mumbled into the top of Sapphomet’s head.
“We could just do this.” Sapphomet ventured. “We have savings.”
“You want to retire?” Ratty asked, watching the idea turn in her head.
“I want you to retire.”
It was true. There was no telling exactly how unkillable the possum was, it was irresponsible to keep putting herself in harm's way, any one of the near-death experiences they had gone through together could have been the last. The fall that caught her neck exactly right, the randomly enchanted artifact that overwrote whatever power she had gained from her connection to Sapphomet, not to mention fates worse than death. There had been times where Ratty became trapped in a body of water, drowning and coming back to life over and over again until she was found. She would sometimes refuse to shower because of it.
Ratty, Sapphomet thought, had been through enough. In the less-than-humble opinion of one lower caste demon, Ratty had ‘made good’. Ratty disagreed. Something akin to guilt shot through Sapphomet as they felt Ratty tense up in their arms.
“Sorry.” They offered meekly.
“No, it’s okay. I want you to talk to me when-” Ratty started, realizing too late that she was doing her diplomat voice. “I- do you think we would be happy like that?” She asked.
“I would be happy if I knew you were safe.”
“Is that all?” Ratty pulled back, flashing her overconfident grin. “Sap, hun, it takes a hell of a lot to kill Ratty Vermington. It took a bomb going off in my chest the first time, and that was before I was soul-bound to the whole… whatever keeps you alive.”
It wasn’t about the fall really. It was the sudden stop that changed Sapphomet’s mood. It just felt bad. That’s the only word for it. Their options came down to: continuing to worry about Ratty every time she was out of sight, or ask her to stop doing what she had essentially spent her life working towards. It would be the same regardless. The undead spent a surprising amount of time thinking about death, and it sat in Sapphomet’s gut like a curling stone.
“I don’t-” Ratty choked on her words, bringing Sapphomet back from their thoughts, realizing only now that their wife had started to shudder. “I don’t feel good when I slow down.” She croaked, clearly fighting back tears. She had clearly gone through the same thought process in reverse. Her options were to give up or leave Sapphomet in a constant state of panic. That didn’t sit too well either.
“We can- let’s talk about this when we’re sober.” Sapphomet said.
“Yeah.” Ratty sighed, a weight lifted off their chest for the time being. “Sorry. This- this is the only difference I-”
“It’s okay, I am also sorry.”
“When we’re sober.”
“When we’re sober.”
They re-embraced, each content to forget about it for the time being and just sway as the drug in their system pulled their thoughts along the current. Soon enough, it had slipped completely from either of their minds, now only present in the memories of the walls around them.
Sapphomet dropped slowly, their exhaustion getting the better of them as they decided suddenly to sit on the ground. They snatched the little card that had come with the weed off the coffee table, turning it over in their claws.
“This is supposed to be a sativa?” They asked, their head rolling around on the limits of their neck.
“Apparently.” Ratty smiled down at the blasted little goat, “You’re really in and out of it here, huh Sappy?”
“Heh. Sappy.” Sapphomet repeated, reaching up to play with the hem of Ratty’s boxers. “Why are you still wearing pants?”
“I- these are my boxers.” Ratty said, suddenly flustered.
“Take ‘em off.” Sapphomet commanded, her usual godly-domme tone replaced with the tight growl of an inebriated pervert.
“You are in a state where I don’t think that would be right.” Ratty said, gently nudging Sapphomet’s hand away from her genitals.
“Fair.” Sapphomet waved the thought away. “Then, my banjo, and a tall black coffee, Hanrattyline.”
“Oh, yes ma’am.” The possum curseyed sarcastically as she made her way to the bedroom. “We gonna get soul-of-the-south-Sapphomet tonight?” She called, struggling with the clasp that held Sapphomet’s banjo to its stand.
“You know it, baby!” Sapphomet shouted, their tone more fitting for the lead singer of a hair-metal band than a tiny goat about to pluck out some melancholy about the real devil being capitalism. They brought the instrument to their lap like a mother cradling their baby, starting clumsily as they found their rhythm. “Can you- can you make me a tea too?”
“Sure, hun.” Ratty went straight to the kitchen, setting the coffee maker going filling the kettle. Watching the near-black fluid swirl around the cloudy pot, she suddenly finding herself absent from her surroundings.
Sapphomet didn’t get it. Ratty wasn’t going to tell them that, but giving up now… that was quitters talk. It was fatalist, even. This - protecting people from the paranormal and the paranormal from people - that was it, for the rest of her life, until it killed her. The idea that she had 'made good' already, the idea that she would EVER unless she devoted every available second of her life, it was stupid.
Not to mention terrifying. At least she had a purpose: throw herself in front of the next train, over and over again. A lack of purpose had put Sapphomet into a coma when they had first escaped Hell, Ratty wasn't about to give up what she had and dive head first into aimless depression.
God, she thought, poor Sapphomet. They just didn't understand this time. Ratty never thought she would make good. Ratty had never felt good enough. It was hard to blame her. She had very little experience in 'having done enough.' She wasn't so chauvinistic as to believe Sapphomet needed protection, but Ratty knew she would die one day, she planned on dying one day, and before that happened the world needed to be better. For Sapphomet, and for everyone...
...and, to a degree, for Ratty. She ended up in Hell for a reason. She was a bad person. Despite everything she had done before being nabbed by Angelcorp, she was at least firm in the knowledge that her good deeds - her activism, her reporting, every single thing that ran her fingers raw, that put her life on the line - were buried under 16 feet of dead bodies.
It wasn't fair. But then again, that's life.
Ratty returned to the kitchen as the kettle began to whistle. In the living room, she set the kettle down on a coaster next to a strainer full of dried green tea. Pot and straw in the other hand, she raised it to Sapphomet's lips, still hanging open, still with a little wing-sauce in one corner. They took a deep sip of coffee, relishing in the way it tore at their throat.
"Are you still hungry?" Ratty asked, setting the coffee down on the coffee table - thus fulfilling its purpose - when Sapphomet had finished.
"Little bit, but I want to play right now." They said, a sudden stride of confidence taking over their hands.
"Mind if I vamp?" Lyrics to the tune had begun to bubble in the back of Ratty's mind.
"Sing, my angel, sing." Sapphomet replied.
Ratty began to rock with the tempo, every gritty folk song she had ever heard bubbling to the front of her mind as words began to assemble themselves in her mouth:
I lived… my life...
Under the devil's thumb,
Working every evening 'til my fingers were numb.
Finally set me free and oh boy did I run,
But my mind still feels the shackles, and the work isn't done."
"Keep going. Keep going." Sapphomet pushed.
"Hold on, hold on. I gotta find a spot to jump back in."
"Here… here." Sapphomet punctuated the start of each bar.
"Babe if you're saying 'here', then I can't jump in."
"Okay well then… I will be quiet, I guess."
"Don't stop playing, though…
I saw a dead woman come back to life.
They took me by the heart and took me for a ride.
I aint never, seen, a mouth so wide
Couldn't believe it when I saw the demon actually smile."
Sapphomet's head began to bounce as they drummed out a supporting beat on the body of their banjo between strums.
"Keep it going." They muttered.
"Oh you couldn't stop me with a cement wall right now…
Now I settled down with that demon belle,
Got to know the way to love so terribly well
But with the devil just behind me you could hardly tell
That me and my girl ever escaped from Hell."
They kept on like this for hours, weaving a genre-diverse folk ballad of each of their lives as the radio - now overpowered - just sat and listened, playing for noone.
And at some point, after it had been cleared for broadcast, the midnight DJ announced that, in distant, sunny California, a stagehand by the name of Emily Sloth-Bunny Jr. had been crushed to death on the set of the Ellen DeGeneres Show.