karen gillan as pandora | matt smith as bellerophon
off to the races: a pandora/bellerophon mythfic
it's been a year since they met, and bello feels like celebrating. (2,227 words)
“You do realize what Saturday is?”
“Well, yes, my old firework, if you must be appallingly literal. Think in more maudlin terms. As if you were the dreadfully romantic Kathy and I your laconic Heathcliff—”
“You? Laconic? Bello, if words were water I’d have to wear diving gear at all times.”
“While I greatly appreciate the diverting image of you in a perpetual swimsuit, Red, you’re not being at all cooperative.
“Where’s the fun in that? Thwarting expectations is an art—”
“And you’re a consummate artist, yes, jolly good, but back to my original point: does this impending weekend hold no further significance for you apart from any other?”
Her brow furrowed in thought. “…I’m sorry, Bello, but the importance escapes me. The weather promises to be fine, it’s the first weekend of the new month—”
“It’s our one year anniversary, you daft besom!”
“No, it’s not!” she countered with just as much exasperation. “We started dating in July, not May!”
“Well, yes, officially, but don’t you recall the first time we met? The races? Richard Davenport? The way our eyes locked and you knew I was the only creature in creation made expressly for you?”
She snorted. “I remember thinking you the queerest weirdo I’d ever seen, with your unfortunate bowler hat and wrinkled bow tie. Whatever happened to that hat?”
“You sat on it—crushed it flat—that evening after the theatre performance. Remember: the pumpkin vodka and your Dance of the Seven Veils?”
“Technically three—you hid the other four.”
“When it comes to some things, I’m a terribly impatient man.”
“Alright, you sentimental prat. So this weekend marks the anniversary of our eyes locking. What of it?”
“What say you to making an affair of it? It’s the Kentucky Derby this Saturday. What could be more fitting, to commemorate the budding of our Shakespearean romance?”
“Shakespearean in what way?” she demanded suspiciously. “His love affairs have notoriously bloody track records—”
“Oh, never a tragedy, perish the thought, how stodgy and depressing,” he said swiftly. “No, we’re definitely a comedy. Witty banter. Sexy shenanigans. Many costume changes and derring do. I find myself in a dress after one too many drinks. Someone inevitably ends up in a compromising position in the nude.”
“Yes, and much ado about nothing, half the time.”
“You would love me less if I were not quite so much.”
“You have me there.”
“I’ll have you anywhere you’ll let me, darling heart. So? What say you to my proposition?”
“What I say to most of your propositions, or at least the ones that don’t involve exhibitionism or buying a parrot: a smashing idea. Just let me pack a toothbrush.”
“I remember you saying you came to these races to feel sad,” she said. “Does that still hold true?”
“It’s awful hard to feel sad when you’re on my elbow looking like Christmas, Red.”
“The green dress is a bit much, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, completely. It’ll have to come off immediately.”
“Cheeky monkey. …I sometimes wish I could’ve seen you ride. Maybe I’ll Youtube you—there’ve got to be videos of your races online somewhere.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that. Heaven only knows what muck you’ll uncover from my past. Like that night at the Playboy Mansion with Natalia and Tatiana…”
“You never!” She smacked his arm. “Play the cad card all you like—I know you’re really only a joker.”
There was a wistful, nostalgic twist about his lips. “…Or the first time I medaled professionally, when I tripped over the podium step and took out the entire front row of journalists. Crushed two cameras and inadvertently punched the lovely man from ESPN right in the mouth. That video went viral for a while, under the title ‘The Drunk Giraffe on Roller Skates Wins Gold’. Hardly my finest hour.”
“Now that is utterly plausible. I can absolutely believe you a menace to polite society straight out of the gates. Not so much Legs McGee as Legs Akimbo. But then, given how you were back then—or how you were according to what you’ve told me—I’m sure you didn’t give a fig for coming across as a fool. Your ego weathered the mishap, didn’t it?”
“Quite. I think it rather endeared me to certain crowds, in fact. Something about looking like an uncoordinated flamingo on stilts in front of thousands of people makes you adorable in some eyes. But enough about my ridiculous past—”
“Yes, let’s focus on your ridiculous present. Did you have to wear that blazer?”
“So dashing it looks like it’s about to run off. Did you skin the cheetah yourself?”
“The yellow goes well with your dress—and anyway I’m the perfect accessory.”
“Oh? And how is that?”
“Next to me, in comparison, you look even more resplendent and elegant. Anyway, why are we suddenly so concerned with my sartorial choices? We’re here to watch the ponies, m’girl. Who should we be cheering for in this round?”
“Matthew Mayhew Magillicutty’s Mayhem,” she replied promptly.
“A fine figure of a beast, to be sure, with some very pretty markings. But he’s performed in an underwhelming fashion in his last three races. You’re not just picking him because you like the cut of his jockey, are you?”
“Did you not hear me? Matthew Mayhew Magillicutty’s Mayhem? I’ve heard my fair share of incredible names—” She made a point of nudging him pointedly in the ribs. “But that one takes the cake, the pie, and the rest of the bake case. How can I not root for him?”
“Are you confident enough to put some money where your luscious mouth is?”
“A little flutter now and then doesn’t hurt. I’m game. And who are you backing?”
“Sausage and Biscuits—because not only does that sound perfick right now, but I happen to know that her jockey is a certifiable snake in the grass, who has more than likely stacked the odds in his favor today. There are all sorts of little tricks an unscrupulous jockey can get away with, even in the big leagues, and I’m sure Darien Bradshaw will try every one of them.”
“Insider knowledge gives you an unfair advantage—they sent Martha Stewart to prison for that.”
“Well, you can throw away the key if, and only if, I win the bet. I don’t see how the law can prosecute if I don’t benefit from such knowledge in the first place.”
The bang of the starter pistol. The surge of sleek horseflesh. The cacophony of the crowd. It was nothing like it had been when he was out there in the thick of it: surrounded by flashing muscles and dust, watching the ground blur as it was devoured by pounding hooves, feeling the sweat trickle down along the straps of his helmet, savoring the rapid rise and fall of the back beneath his thighs. As he watched the riders streak past, the garish colors of their vests half-obscured by the cloud of dirt kicked up from their mounts, a part of him yearned to feel it again. He realized he was unconsciously leaning forward, as if he was balancing in a rocking saddle, and he could feel his heartbeat leaping into a sympathetic rhythm with the lead horse’s stride.
But then he looked over at Pandora and saw that she was leaning forward too, one hand tight around the railing, the first two fingers of her right hand stuck in her mouth as she unleashed a furious, ear-splitting whistle. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks were flushed, her hair was wild. She was altogether blowsy, regardless of how elegant the cut of her dress was and how slim her six-inch heels were, and she was fully, brilliantly, enthusiastically alive. More excited to just be there, watching, than he had probably ever felt while participating.
As Matthew Mayhew Magillicutty’s Mayhem crossed the finish line, a nose and a whisker ahead of Baudelaire’s Sausage and Biscuits, Bellerophon stretched out a long arm, hooked it around Pandora’s waist, and pulled her into one helluva congratulatory kiss.
“Cor,” she said appreciatively when he let her up for air again. “Wish everyone could be that sore of a loser. What next, guvnor?”
“I’m thinking… pub?”
“Fabulous. And you can cover the first round, seeing as how all of my money has moved to your pocketbook and failed to leave a forwarding address.”
The other teams were glowering at them.
It may have had something to do with the fact that they were wildly overdressed for such an establishment, standing apart as ‘nobs’ amidst rough and tumble drinkers and blue-collar co-eds. Or it could have been because four rounds of beer and two interludes for shots had made them both rather strident and more than a little unconcerned with how their hands flew through the air as they gesticulated, often to the detriment of passing glasses or anyone unlucky enough to stand too close to their table.
But it was probably, mostly, because the two of them were soundly thrashing everyone else in the quiz. Even while four sheets to the wind, the combined force of Bellerophon and Pandora was a textbook example of the phrase ‘overly competitive’.
“Falafel!” Bellerophon shouted, nearly falling from his stool. “And I could go for one right now, I don’t mind sayin’—isn’t there a takeaway place just down the street?”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Pandora said, smushing her hand across his face, flattening his large nose in her clumsy attempt to silence him. “Only one more round an’ we get a trophy.”
“Itsa disco ball. Onna stick,” he pointed out. “An’ it’s blue. It’ll clash somethin’ awful with the decoupage—décolleté—the style of the things at the place where we live. Yanno?”
“Don’t care. I want it,” Pandora retorted stubbornly. “Hedone always says reality TV and pop culture trivia is pointless and this is proof that it’s good for somethin’. Imma shove that award right up her nose.”
“I think you mean ‘shove it unner her nose’. That other way would call for surgery.”
“Shhhhh,” Pandora yanked desperately at his sleeve. “Listen to the question! It’s the last one!”
“…what year did Aphrodite Venus win her first Oscar? Hint: her character was femme fatale Colette Klausberg.”
“I know it!” Pandora shouted, standing and throwing her arms over her head. “1998! It was The Golden Canary! Ooh, what a sexy movie! ‘Course, it’s a bit different watchin’ it now, after meetin’ Miss Venus an’—some of the stories Hedone’s told me, ooooh! Her aunt’s such a minx!”
“The winners, by a landslide: Team Drunken Giraffe. Congrats,” the quizmaster said bemusedly, grinning as the two lurched up to claim the homemade monstrosity of a trophy. “And you get these coupons for free appetizers, too. No expiration, so feel free to come back whenever you like.”
“Whoooo!” Pandora cheered, swaying slightly. “Weeee are the champions, my friiiiiends,” she started singing, miraculously in key.
“We’d like to thank Bunty, and Millicent, and all the rest at Pinewood Studios,” Bellerophon said solemnly. “Without them this achievement would’ve ne’er been possible. And we’d like to dedicate this award to all of you, for turnin’ out tonight. God bless you and to all a good night!”
A handful of minutes later they had collapsed into the back of a taxi in a rubbery tangle of limbs.
“Careful!” Pandora chastised, unearthing the now dented disco ball. “This is a major award!”
“Don’t need awards when I’ve got you, me old firework,” he slurred, leaning heavily on her. “Ahh, your breasts are magic, have I said? Best pillows known to man.”
“To the hotel, my good sir!” Bellerophon told the cabbie. “Lickety splits, if you please. Splits. Banana splits. Mmmh, I wunner if the room service does a bananananana split.”
“Didja have a good time?” she asked after they had rearranged themselves into a more comfortable slump.
“The nicest,” he said sincerely. “Always have a good time with you, m’girl. Happy anniversary.”
“Happy anniversary, Bello. I got you a thing, you know.”
“I ordered it special. But it hasn’t come yet.”
“Oh, you know I hate hearing those words from you.”
“‘Haven’t come yet.’ Makes me feel like I’ve let you down.”
“You are drunk,” she said through her laughter.
“The pot calling the kettle! Or should I say the pan calling the kettle—didja see what I did there? That would be what they call a pun, since your name—”
“You are very drunk. But I was sayin’ it should be waiting for us when we get back. And you had better like it.”
“And why is that?”
“Because the Italian monks that made it have taken a vow of silence and there’ll be no talkin’ to ‘em about returning it.”
“Oh. Well, you had better like what I got you.”
“Because the lady at the aquarium said she won’t take them back.”
They rode in boozy, comfortable silence for a few blocks.
“Maybe this could be a thing,” Pandora finally suggested, feeling wonderfully warm and tingly and half-asleep. She combed her fingers through his hair. “Do this every year.”
“Well, we have to come back,” he agreed, smooshing his nose against her cheek.
“Yeah, we got free appetizers that need eating up.”