"And that should be all of it" TJ said proudly, loading the last bags into the truck.
"Oh sweetie, we're going to miss you so much" his mother said, a sadness dramatised, before hugging him.
No sooner did she release him than his father not only hugged him but dragged Sydney into it as well. The otter protested about having his spine crushed as usual but TJ knew just how much he enjoyed those moments, seeing as he never had a good father figure and craved for fatherly love a bit. It made TJ love his own parents a bit more and entertain the idea of hating his boyfriend's poor excuses for parents, before pushing the latter thought aside in good christian forgiveness. He knew for certain Sydney would be a good father when they began their own family, seeing as he was as different from Mr. Bronson as TJ was similar to his own father.
Except for the hockey obsession, which annoyed him sometimes. And the environmental studies, he wasn't interested in that.
"Okay boys, I trust you'll treat the truck like your lives depend on it" TJ's father said, "They don't, but I'll be disappointed if you ruin her."
"You got it dad-in-law!" Sydney hands-upped, "We'll treat it like a holy relic, and make a religion around it."
TJ's dad gave him a noggie, one of the five creatures alive that would be able to do so without Sydney pulverising the offender.
"Okay okay I wield!" Sydney said, "I'll worship your son instead."
An additional noggie informed him that wasn't the correct answer, but TJ shooed his father away so that the roadtrip could begin
A few hours passed, and the sun was still high on the sky. TJ's father had given them a classic rock menagerie which they were quite willing to try out, occasionally pausing it to see if the radio was up to speed (it wasn't). As well as so Sydney wouldn't get too comfortable and drive them off a cliff or something.
In one of said intervals Sydney came up with a good line in his head and couldn't help but try it. TJ was pretty relaxed and blissful, which he thought helped the mood much better.
"Are you feelin' okay Toby?" he asked in a concerned tone.
"Uh?" Tj snapped, "Yeah, why do you ask?"
"Its just that you seem to have the symptoms of a very deadly disease, adorebleitis. I hear the only cure is smoochin'."
TJ rolled his eyes and elbowed Sydney softly. Then the lynx bit his own lip, and had an idea of his own.
"I hear the cure is actually to have sex."
The truck stopped immediately.
"R-really Toby?" Sydney asked, lost for words, "Right here?"
"Y-yeah" TJ responded, "I think I want to try it here."
"You're such a bad kitty."
"No, I'm a good kitty, and I just want to share myself with you. Right now."
Sydney drove them to the side of the road, and quickly took off his seat belt. TJ just took his when he felt his boyfriend's lips and tongue on his neck, followed by gentle bites. The lynx purred loudly even as the otter's lips met his own, the kiss deepening as Sydney moved over to TJ's seat and stood above him. As the kiss parted TJ could see Sydney fully on top of him, a saliva strand falling off his tongue, and he felt like he was melting under two blue suns.
"Like what you see, Toby?"
"Wanna do a half-clothes thing? I know you love that."
"Y-yeah. N-no shirt on you and n-no shorts on m-me."
"You are right, Toby. You're a really, really good kitty."
The staring line between the pairs of blue eyes was interupted as Sydney took off his shirt and threw it to the back. He wasn't particularly sweaty due to the AC, but there was already a hint of a musk as he used a light deodorant, enough scent to make TJ's pants already incredibly tight. He admired his own muscles, flexing himself as much as he could inside the truck.
"Showed you mine, now show me yours" he said smugly.
"P-please do the honours" TJ said, raising his arms in a submissive way.
Seeing his boyfriend like that induced a massive dose of serotonin within the otter, so Sydney briefly broke his sexy charade to boop him affectionately. Before TJ could react to that, though, Sydney licked his lips and began unbuttoning TJ's shorts. He stared intensely at TJ, earning a spasm in the lynx's tent. Sydney tried to not enjoy his moments of dominance too much - if not for TJ's own fetishes, he'd simply have a very primal rut and then cuddle - but toying with his boyfriend like that was insanely hot. He broke eye contact again, his muzzle nuzzling against TJ's erection.
"Hey folks, are you looking for a hotel to stay in?" said a voice from the now opened window.
TJ screamed, and Sydney bolted upwards, his head and back colliding against the truck roof.
"Shit!" he groaned, "Have you never heard of privacy you fucking-"
As he looked at the source of the sound, however, cold chills run down his spine. There was a flat faced creature, though not like those in Echo that terrorised him and his friends. Rather, it had an olive skin and an odd, triangular nose, and eyes full of light and life, which unnerved him far more than just black holes. Essentially, it was like staring at a highly deformed ape.
"Look, I know I should've come at a later time" it said, "but I couldn't help but notice that you two were looking for a place to stay during your little not-honeymoon. So here's the address to a hotel not far from here. You'll love it. Byyyeeee!!!"
And just like that the stranger was gone, leaving only a pamphlet of a "Minotaur Hotel".
"What the fu-frick just happened!?" TJ asked.
After properly alleviating their blueballs and comfort cuddling, Sydney and TJ decided to follow the coordinates. The drive to the hotel only took a few minutes; it was as if the desert became blanker than ever before and a hotel appeared on the horizon. As they parked they could hear party sounds and people talking, but even then they remained aprehensive.
"You sure you want to go?" Sydney asked.
"Like I said, I don't think that was anything monstruous" TJ said, "Just probably a chimp that struggled through years of self-hatred and mockery and thus needs our support."
"Yeah but mutant or not it could still be a trap. An appealing trap, I'll grant you that."
"We have to give the benefit of the doubt" TJ said, "And honestly I'm a bit curious. And I have a big, strong boyfriend to protect me, so I'm not too scared."
"Damn right you do!" Sydney said proudly, "Though you're getting pretty fit yourself. Your kindness is your only liability, otherwise I can see you kick the shit out of even Flynn."
"My kindness is my greatest strength you mean" TJ winked, putting his tongue out, "Now lets hurry up, I need to use the bathroom."
As they went to reception they were met by a tall, white bull. He was wearing a black shirt with orange waves on it and had a gold laurel wreath on his bicep.
"Welcome to this establishment" he said, "My name is Asterion, and I am the keeper of this hotel. Regretably its owner is not currently present, but he will arrive on short notice. Since we recently opened our services are free for now."
"Sweet" Sydney said, "What's the catch?"
"The 'catch' as you put it is that you're allowed to stay for as long as you like" Asterion replied, semi-coyly.
"That's not a catch, that only makes this set up more suspicious" Sydney grunted.
"I would like to think our reputation is decent" Asterion said, "Would you like to look around before deciding if you're staying?"
"I really need to go to the bathroom right now" TJ said.
"Sure, right over there" Asterion said, pointing to a nearby corridor.
TJ then bolted away, leaving Sydney to eye Asterion. The bull seemed somewhat amused by the otter's suspicion.
"We wouldn't be having a party right now if this was a dubious establishment" Asterion said.
"Paid actors" Sydney responded.
"I understand your suspicions, but I can assure you we mean no harm. This is a safe haven for all."
"Oh really?" Sydney asked smugly, "There are many charities that say that but then turn away gay people."
"Then you will be happy to know that, under our current management, this hotel is very LGBT friendly" Asterion reassured gladly, "Here, let me display some reviews."
Asterion took out a phone and clumsily dragged his fingers on the screen, showing a site with several five stars reviews. Sydney didn't recognise the site, but given the pride flag he just accepted what he saw. Just then TJ joined them, seeing the reviews himself.
"I guess we could stay here?" TJ suggested, "At least isn't hostile towards us."
"Fine, but I'm keeping an eye on you" Sydney said, pointing two fingers at Asterion.
"Naturally. Would you like to give me your passports for safe keeping?"
"We don't have passports" TJ said, "Will our ID's do?"
"That is is strange, but sure" Asterion replied, "Would you like to register them into our system?"
"Alright, but we're keeping them" Sydney said, "I still can't believe this isn't a scam."
"Naturally" Asterion said, "Would you like me to help unpack your luggage?"
After yet another passionate encounter Sydney and TJ made their way downstairs to the party. It was in a room that appeared to be a very trashy club with rave music and a pole stage, which intimidated TJ at first before the pleasant company made itself known. They met quite few people: some were like themselves, anthropomorphic animals, while others were the strange mishapen apes, and others still were bizarre hybrids like a lion with an eagle head and wings and a reptile with the antlers of a stag, the head of the camel, the eyes of a demon, the neck of a snake, the belly of a clam, the scales of a carp, the talons of an eagle, the soles of a tiger and the ears of a cow, wearing blue clothes. Sydney wondered if he was having a fever dream and TJ whereas they were still in Echo having hallucinations, but both decided that this was decidedly more pleasant than either option, so they might as well go along.
"Mm, quite the hot couple you make" said the bird-lion person, "Open for a three way?"
"I'm flattered" Sydney said, "But you're making the love of my life uncomfortable, so fuck off or I'll make chicken nuggets out of your ass."
"Geeze, just kiddin'... OR WAS I!?"
"For your face's sake I hope you are."
"You're very fisty. I like that. Name's Luke."
"You can call me TJ. Or Teej."
"Well, Sydney and TeeJ, what are you gonna order? We mostly serve deep fried 'murican pride, but apparently some guests are too commie for that, so we also have salads and stuff."
He said the latter staring at the camel-headed, demon-eyed reptile - Kota - who simply rolled his eyes.
"Well, I'll have the 'salads and stuff'" TJ said, "I'm on a diet, I need to keep my body healthy and fit."
"I'll have also what he's having but with some fries and calamari rings" Sydney said, "I'm also workin' out, but I can handle the good filth."
"Sure thing!" Luke said.
The lights flickered, and much to Sydney and TJ's amazement two plates filled with chicken and tomato salad materialised, one with three side dishes of nuggets, fries and a thick oily sauce.
"How did you do that?" TJ said, astonished.
"Its a quirk of the hotel" Kota interjected quickly, "If you want you can ask Asterion or the owner about it, though I must caution that it is a sensitive topic for either of them."
"We're probably just high" Sydney said, "Or at least I am. TJ's a good kitty."
"He is indeed" Luke said licking his beak, inciting Sydney's ire.
"We come from a town with... strange occurrences" TJ said, "So I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised about all of this."
"Oh really?" Kota asked curiously, "Care to cite where it is? I might have to pay it a visit in the future."
"Echo" Sydney said, "in the Pueblo state."
"Boy, there's no such thing as a 'Pueblo state'" Luke said, "I should know, I'm 'murican."
"Yeah, I was wondering what that is" TJ said.
Luke and Kota looked at each other.
"Do you think it is possible that you may come from another world?" Kota asked.
"Sure, why not" Sydney responded.
"Well, I did find an Echo on my phone, but its in Utah" Luke said, showing a map and a few pictures on his phone.
"Mm, close but way too cold and not enough 'completely fucked up'" Sydney said.
An ad for Vulture City, Arizona, showed up on the phone. Sydney pointed to it.
"That's closer but people still live there. Honestly your states seem to be all mixed up."
"So that confirms it" TJ said, "That probably explains why Asterion thought it was odd for us to not have passports. This world must use passports over ID cards, correct?"
"Not quite" Kota said, "People mostly use IDs, but we non-humans - that's the creatures over there - conceal ourselves in their society using magical passports and other items."
"So normal people infiltrating freaks" Sydney said, "Truly this world is upside down."
"Eh, those 'freaks' can be pretty hot" Luke said, "See those hunks over there? Wish I could just have them cum on me right now."
"I concede that point, but they are miles below my good kitty" Sydney said, kissing TJ tenderly on the forehead, leaving behind a sauce stain on the poor lynx's fur.
Just as Sydney apologised and Kota materialised some soap infused tissues to remove the stain, Asterion joined the club, sitting down next to them.
"I see you've already made friends with our staff" Asterion said, "The owner should arrive in an hour. I just texted him, he is very pleased that you're here."
"Was he expecting us?" TJ said, feeling his now fragrant and clean fur.
"Yes" Asterion said, "Apparently he deliberately set out an invitation. He is a big fan of yours apparently."
"Ugh, we met him" Sydney said, "He was such a creep."
"Oh, not that one" Asterion clarified, "That's... actually, I don't know who that is, but I suspect it might be our lord Hermes."
"T-there is only one god!" TJ said.
"Well" Asterion continued, "regardless, the owner of this hotel is, to put it simply, radiant. Like a living sun."
"Oh, someone's got a crush" Luke teased.
"I was about to say that" Sydney, adding to his list of resentments against Luke.
Asterion let out a small moo, looking lovestruck.
"Yes, actually. He confessed his feelings for me this morning, and I reciprocated them."
"Hell yeah!" Luke said, "Now those bands of yours really are like wedding rings."
"I'm a bit concerned" Kota said, "Given your position can you truly consent to this?"
Now it was TJ and Sydney's turn to look at each other.
"Yes" Asterion said, "It is my choice. He insists on being my equal, he would have accepted any answer. And I chose him."
"Daww" Luke said, and TJ couldn't help but agree, except he voiced it as a whisper.
"Alright" Kota said, "I trust your judgement. Truth be told, you do make a cute couple."
"Yeah" Asterion said, staring at nothing lovingly, before a more mischievous smile manifested on his face, "You two have experience with this, do you agree?"
"Eh, we don't even know the guy" Sydney said.
"But I'm sure he must be very lovely, if you love him so much" TJ said, "Though what was that talk about consent?"
Luke and Kota looked at Asterion, who gave them a reassuring nod.
"You see, my friends, I am the minotaur of legend."
"Never heard of that" Sydney said.
"They're from a different world" Luke said.
"Oh" Asterion pondered, "This is quite odd, though not completely unprecedented. I must have a talk with the owner about this. If you don't know me then I'm truly relieved, since I have been the target of intense and unfair defamation."
"I know the feeling" Sydney said somberly, prompting TJ to hold his paw reassuringly.
"Anyways, I was sentenced here for thousands of years, masters chosen to act as my tormentors."
"That's horrifying!" TJ said, "No one deserves that!"
"I can think of someone" Sydney said, eyeing Luke.
"The current master agrees" Asterion said, "So he built upon the meager kindness of prevous masters and has essentially made me his equal. We've known each other for a month, and I feel truly blissed. Honestly, today has been quite dreary without him around."
"Me and Sydney have been together for several years" TJ said, holding Sydney's hand strongly, "And we've faced moments like this. He truly feels like a part of you, doesn't he?"
"Yes" Asterion conceded, "He's the spark that has been missing from my life for so damn long."
"We should toast to that" Sydney said, "Water, of course, since TJ doesn't drink."
The lights flickered again and a bottle of child-friendly grape juice appeared.
"That will do too" TJ said, pouring himself a glass, "How does this happen?"
"It is a quirk of the hotel" Asterion said, "Through magical contracts we are able to summon food and drink, as well as almost anything that isn't currency or too complex for the maze to handle."
"Magical contracts that summon food, eh?" Sydney said, "Sure are fuck ain't Echo, so its either real or some real good Ketamine."
"How would you even get drugs Sid?" TJ said, booping Sydney's nose, "You're always with me and I'd like to think I've done a good job getting you clean."
"Who's to say everything isn't an illusion" Sydney said jokingly, but stopped as TJ looked at him concernedly.
Just then, a brilliant golden light like the sunrise engulfed the room. Its source was blinding, so Sydney and TJ shielded their eyes, but managed to make out a vaguely anthropomorphic form. Asterion rose from his seat, and both him and the owner of the hotel sang a cover of "Yours Forever" except with Minoan lyrics instead of Mandarin. Asterion hugged his beloved, his form eclipsing the light as they shared a deep kiss.
"I missed you so much" Asterion said.
"Silly, I've only been away for a few hours" I- I mean the owner of the hotel said, "I got you something."
He presented Asterion with a bracelelt belonging to queen Pasiphae, and the teary eyed minotaur hugged his lover, whispering a "thank you" softly in his solar ears.
"Oh my, seems like the Echo characters have arrived" the owner said, "I take it you're liking it here?"
"Yes, but could you please tone down the lightshow?" Sydney asked.
"No. Anyways, you must have quite the questions."
"Like why you're being an asshole?" Sydney retorted.
The owner shrugged, and sunglasses manifested on Sydney's and TJ's faces. They still couldn't figure out the owner's shape in the light storm, but at least they didn't lieve in fear of becoming blind.
"What are you?" TJ asked.
"The light of this world."
"Well, I'd advise you to not be so blasphemous" TJ said, "Though to be certain it does appear that we are on a different world."
"Yes, you are" the owner said, "Though technically our location is beyond time and space. So sending an invitation to your world wasn't terribly difficult."
"So apparently you've been spying on us like a creep" Sydney said.
"In a manner of speaking, yes. I have seen your struggles, and I felt guilty about not being able to do anything about your suffering, so I hope that a vacation here will help. You can leave any time you want, just wanting to leave is enough to propell you out of this world."
"I hope you didn't spy on us having sex" Sydney growled.
"I purposefully left that vague to keep your privacy."
"What?" Tj and Sydney both asked.
"Nevermind that. Enjoy yourselves, me and my beloved have to make up for the hours we've been apart."
He stroke Asterion's face gently, the minotaur leaning into the glowing hand. They kissed each other a few times, before they both excused themselves and went upstairs. TJ and Sydney were quite touched by that display, and began nuzzling against each other, blessed by each other's company.
Outside, P and Storm hid in the bushes.
"We shall kill everyone and take over the hotel" P suggested logically.
Unfortunately for them, TJ's parents truck run over them as Sydney drove it.
"Did you feel anything?" TJ asked.
"Probably a groundhog" Sydney shrugged.
Their stay at Minotaur Hotel was quite surreal, but they made good friends they hoped to reuinite with once more. For now, they returned to Echo with joy in their hearts, unaware that a sinister sister presence had been lurking underneath the hotel the entire time.