Crystal was getting dressed, and Ryan rolled over to look at her. “So…what was that?”
“That, love, was sex. Are you not familiar with the concept?” She gave him an impish grin, and he blushed.
“No, I know what sex is, but…why?”
She laughed, pulling her pants the rest of the way up. “Because we were both hungry, of course.”
Ryan blinked at that. “What…what do you mean?”
She sighed, though she still had a smile. “Better band-aid this then. Ryan, look at me.” She put her hands on her waist half dressed and cocked her hips slightly. She hadn’t gotten around to putting on a shirt yet. “Do you want to go for another round?”
“Shush. Wait. Really think about it. Don’t go with your first reaction, yeah? Really, really think about it. Do you want to go again?”
He did, looking at her. She was beautiful, but given what she’d told Ryan earlier was happening to him, that wasn’t surprising. He took a moment to admire that beauty…and realized he had as much desire for her as he would for the Venus de Milo.
“I…no, I don’t.”
She nodded, and finished getting dressed. “And while that was some very nice sex, especially given your inexperience, I don’t want you either. Any more than I want another sandwich, or to sleep some more. We’re gods, love. We don’t have mortal hungers anymore.”
He felt his brow furrow. “Mortal hungers?”
She looked up at the starscape above them as she finished buttoning her shirt. “Can’t you just roll with it?”
He let out a slight chuckle. “I did earlier.”
That got a laugh at least. “Cheeky bugger. Fine. Get dressed and I’ll give you a version you’ll understand.”
He got out of bed, looking for the hastily discarded clothes that were scattered around the planetarium. The idea should have excited him…but didn’t.
“So,” Crystal said, walking over to the control panel that had risen back out of the ground while he did. “Mortals are defined by five Hungers that separate them from us. Food, Drink, Air, Rest, and Company – the last of which includes sex. Every mortal hungers in one fashion for another for all of those”
Ryan nodded thoughtfully. “ I mean, the first four are biology. But not everyone wants Company – loners do exist.”
“Oh, of course. But they still get it, yeah?” Seeing the confusion on his face, she adopted what he was beginning to think of as her ‘patient voice.’ “What do loners usually do?”
He scratched his chin. “Uh…read, watch tv, play video games-”
The tone she used to interrupt him was still encouraging. “Art. It’s a passive interaction, sure, but they are getting that Hunger filled with the art of other humans. And when they don’t, they get it from nature or pets.”
“Okay,” he said, biting his cheek in thought as he did. “I’ll accept that. So we…don’t?”
“Not unless we burn a lot of power, become more mortal. Like we did against Enki. Then those desires come flooding back, and it’s best to fill them. Take a few deep breaths, have a bite or six, down a bottle of water, take a nap, and get some time with people – and the quickest way to satisfy that last one is a good old-fashioned boffing, yeah?” She grinned at him with the last line. “Always make sure once you burn through everything that hard that you fill each Hunger somehow. Otherwise, it’ll fester and grow and you’ll end up like Zeus.”
Ryan knew enough myths to shudder at the thought. If those were even half-true… “Okay, point taken. But…I’ll never again enjoy a good meal unless I burn through power? Or enjoy sex?”
“See, this is why I don’t like explaining things. You keep taking it worse. You can still enjoy a good meal, a good drink, get laid, love. You just don’t feel a need to. You’ll find new needs as you finish Apotheosis, new Hungers.”
“And they are-”
“Something for when you understand more.” She finished working the control panel. “Curators are coming up soon, and I’m bored with lesson time. That at least satisfy you?”
“Oh hell yes,” he said, grinning. She laughed, but he noticed with even the innuendo, he didn’t feel any stirring, any desire to take her back to bed. Academically it sounded fun, sure, and from what she said it would still feel good – but he didn’t feel an urge to do it. “One last question.” Crystal rolled her eyes good-naturedly as Ryan continued, “So you’re saying every time I burn through that much power, I’ll need to get laid?”
She shook her head. “Or go to a party, or have a good conversation, or read a book. The last one’s my favorite, love. Sex is just best when time is short, yeah?”
“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “I understand.”
“Good, because we’ve arrived. Officium Mundi, their home plane.” She began walking towards the door that appeared.
“Wait, what should I expect out there?”
She looked back over her shoulder, and didn’t stop walking as she did so, “What do you think I’m going to say, love?”
He sighed as she opened the door, rushing a bit to follow her. “Yeah, yeah. Roll with it.”
“Good lad.” She stepped out the door, and he followed. The world outside…well, it definitely wasn’t Earth, and it wasn’t the blasted wasteland and stained glass sky of Cipher Nullity. First of all, they were in a building – a building so large, the ceiling had clouds. Lining his vision were rows and rows of shelves that stretched so far he couldn’t see the end of them. On those shelves were books, and between them walked people. Men and women, all of them wearing suits. Sometimes they climbed ladders that stretched impossibly high, sometimes they walked along the shelves hand over hand or crossed bridges that had been built between them. Filing cabinets floated among them.
The whole thing was like the dullest, grayest version of Hogwarts possible.
“Welcome,” said Crystal, “to the where the universe makes its red tape. Try not to look too hard, love – I think it would give you a bloody terrible headache and probably cause another faint, and we’re on the clock, yeah?”
He didn’t answer directly, just followed her as she walked towards a door in the side of one of the shelves. Before they could open it, a man in a suit stepped out.
Ryan looked at him a second time, and his eyes widened. It wasn’t just any man in a suit. It was his man in a suit, his constant companion for most of his life.
“Ryan,” the man said, his voice still hoarse, “and Crystal. I don’t suppose you’re here to catch up on old times.”
It wasn’t a question, but a statement, yet Ryan still nodded. “We need help,” he glanced sideways a Crystal. “Your help, apparently. We need to contact the other gods before-”
“Not out here,” Crystal interrupted, and the man in a suit nodded.
“Agreed. Call me Nabu, Ryan. And please, step into my office.”
Not knowing what to expect in the office of the man who had followed him his entire life, and trying not to think too hard about how good it was to see him again, Ryan followed the other two inside.