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/bootleg/ Jacky Part Three

By BlondieAnon
Created: 2020-10-22 21:31:33
Updated: 2021-01-09 17:38:41
Expiry: Never

  1. >It's been a while since Sparks joined you and Jacky
  2. >While it was rocky at times, you've noticed that she's not so above it all when it comes to being goofy and having more... simplistic forms of fun
  3. "Hey Sparks."
  4. >"What."
  5. "Jack and I are zombies. What do you do?"
  6. >You're laying on your bed, flat on your back
  7. >Jacky's laying on her back at your side, her head resting on your upper arm
  8. >Sparks is laying on your other side, with her hind hooves on your other arm
  9. >All of you are just staring up at the ceiling
  10. >After replaying the first Resident Evil remake, their first forays into The Survival Horror, everyone has been spent when it comes to energy
  11. >"I don't know. I find your rifle and I use it."
  12. "But you don't know how to use it."
  13. >"And we're coming right for you."
  14. >Jacky's started sticking to her twin tails when it comes to her mane
  15. >It hasn't ever even been trimmed, and the style works to make it more manageable
  16. >Both you and her also know that it only improves her already stunning visage
  17. >They still argue over everything but any real frustration or animosity has been quelled
  18. >It's really just verbal shitposting now
  19. >"Well both of you are laying down so you need to take a few seconds to get up."
  20. "So are you though."
  21. >"And you're within reach."
  22. "And you're small."
  23. >"And you're weak."
  24. "And I'm hungry."
  25. >"And he eats ponies for dessert."
  26. >You stifle chortle
  27. >Sparks kicks one of her legs out in frustration
  28. >"Well that's not fair. If anything, both of you would probably be locked in different rooms."
  29. "I guess that's true."
  30. >"These doors ain't all that strong though, are they?"
  31. "Not really."
  32. >Sparks fidgets again
  33. >"How well does magic work on zombies?"
  34. "What type of magic?"
  35. >Sparks lets out a prolonged 'hmm'
  36. >"I could burn you."
  37. >"Zombies don't burn well, do they Anon?"
  38. "Well sure they do, but that means that they don't immediately die. And they can catch other stuff on fire. Or grab you and now you're on fire too."
  39. >Sparks grumbles something, frustrated
  40. >"I just leave you guys to rot then."
  41. >Jacky gasps
  42. >"And leave all of the cool stuff Anon has?"
  43. "Yeah, you might need a headlamp, or a big knife, or a rifle."
  44. >"Well if I have eight inventory slots, that's three right there, right?"
  45. >"Technically four for a stack of ammo."
  46. "Right you are, Jacken H'ghar. That's half an inventory right there, but it's good stuff."
  47. >"But I can make my own light."
  48. "It's not as good as a headlamp."
  49. >Sparks sighs
  50. >"Where would I even carry those things? Your rifle doesn't even have a sling."
  51. "Can you just levitate it all?"
  52. >"Yeah, can't you, like, fire all guns at once with that?"
  53. >"I can't do that. Magic isn't that easy."
  54. >She's never stopped popping those vitamins and fish oil pills, by the way
  55. >It seems like whenever she doesn't have them, she just can't use magic at all
  56. "Lame..."
  57. >"Totally..."
  58. >"Yeah well I can at least use magic. Jacky's screwed unless she can buck zombies to death."
  59. "No, she's like my familiar."
  60. >"Yeah."
  61. "Like my druid's pet."
  62. >"What?"
  63. "Like my Dogmeat."
  64. >"What in tarnation, Anon?"
  65. >Sparks giggles, only adding to Jacky's confusion
  66. >"I got it."
  67. >"You cheat, I don't get it."
  68. "It's from the Fallout games."
  69. >You nod sagely
  70. >Jacky follows your lead, still trying to figure out how she would compare to dog meat
  71. "Ok, new one. Say the end of the world happens. We still get electricity and water for a year, everyone else is gone. After the year, water and electricity shuts down but you can find generators, gas and batteries."
  72. >"Well, I guess we do everything we already do. Except you don't have work anymore."
  73. >"That would be cool."
  74. "What about other people?"
  75. >"Who cares?"
  76. >Sparks shrugs with her answer
  77. >"I mean, outside of you two... there's kinda no one I care about here."
  78. "That's heavy."
  79. >"She has a point, Anon. When we go out, everyone kinda looks at us funny and they don't really seem all that happy to talk to us."
  80. "Well people look at me funny all the time."
  81. >"Jacky's talking about us, dork. We look at you funny too but we're normal."
  82. >"Yeah, that's what I mean."
  83. "You guys are cruel..."
  84. >You stretch, your upper back and arms popping
  85. >Your arm curls around Jacky, giving her a tight hug
  86. "Alright... well, would you want to travel or just stay at home? No real dangers out there."
  87. >"What about animals?"
  88. >"Sparks is right, wolves and lions will still eat us."
  89. "Well we'll all be armed to the teeth."
  90. >"And you can shoot a dozen guns at once!"
  91. >"I told you I can't do that."
  92. >"Well that's because you're a quitter."
  93. "That's true. Spitters are quitters."
  94. >The random addition of your comment makes her spits out a laugh
  95. "See?"
  96. >"You lack discipline. I never--"
  97. >"I'm not letting you finish that sentence."
  98. >"Quit."
  99. >Everyone goes silent
  100. >"You suck."
  101. "See, you want us to stop making comments but you just leave yourself open to them."
  102. >The two ponies laugh in their own ways, either from amusement or defeat
  103. "I think it would be cool."
  104. >Jacky squirms a little, adjusting herself on your arm
  105. >"Hey... where would Dashie be?"
  106. >She sounds a little hopeful
  107. "Hopefully close by."
  108. >"We haven't searched for her a lot. I think we need to figure out where we can find her."
  109. "I've been waiting on you guys for that. I wouldn't have a clue where to start. Nona said she doesn't know of any pony named Dashie."
  110. >Jacky squirms again, frowning
  111. >"But... here's the thing. When we went there for Sparks, we didn't ask for Sparking Shine. We asked for Sparks. A nickname worked for her."
  112. >"Wait, really?"
  113. >Sparks flops over and sits up
  114. >Her mane is a mess
  115. >She brushes herself to keep it styled like Twilight's, partially because she doesn't seem to like randomly trying new styles
  116. >"You guys picked me up from that Nona woman and you didn't even use my full name?"
  117. >She shoots you a dirty look but you shrug
  118. "Hey, I didn't know."
  119. >Her look slides to Jacky
  120. >She gives an innocent smile
  121. >"Well... I mean it worked, right?"
  122. >Sparks grunts, laying down again
  123. >This time with her head on your stomach
  124. >"You guys are so lazy! Doesn't this make you think that Dashie is there, we just don't know it?"
  125. >Jacky looks at the ceiling like she didn't exactly consider it
  126. >You shrug
  127. >You really had no clue, but you did question it a little
  128. "Well... that's a good point. But Nona had a good point too. If we don't know Dashie's real name, we can't do a ton."
  129. >A dimly lit bulb goes off in your head
  130. >You blame the comfy setting for your slow mental reaction speed
  131. "You guys remember what she looks like at least?"
  132. >Neither of them answer you
  133. "...right?"
  134. >Sparks turns her head away from you, sighing
  135. >Jacky shrugs
  136. "...nice."
  137. >"Don't be mean, Anon. When it was just you and me, I didn't remember much. I remembered Sparks and Dashie but only vaguely. Like they were far off, muddled memories."
  138. "I guess that's true... since Sparks came back, you've recalled a lot more."
  139. >Sparks huffs
  140. >"I hate to admit it too but I really didn't remember a lot to start either. I remember a small selection of... character traits, almost. But being around and talking to Jacky again jogged my memory pretty well."
  141. "So... what does that mean? That you guys, when separated, don't remember much at all? What if that, in of itself, is some sort of magic?"
  142. >"Woah..."
  143. >That blows Jacky's mind
  144. >"Is that possible?"
  145. "Well we have two talking ponies. One of which is a real unicorn and can use honest to God magic."
  146. >"Is that so unnatural?"
  147. "Yes."
  148. >You and Jacky wait for Sparks to speak up but she doesn't
  149. "So... say Dashie is there. How do we get her?"
  150. >"Would Nona just give her to us?"
  151. "Maybe."
  152. >"What if she doesn't?"
  153. "I've been saving up. We could just grab her like I got you and that would be the end of it."
  154. >"I guess..."
  155. >Sparks finally speaks up
  156. >"We steal her if we need to."
  157. "Come again?"
  158. >"I said that we steal her if we need to."
  159. >"But how? She seems like a nice lady. And that Hanzel guy looks strong."
  160. "For a pony."
  161. >"Sure but stronger than both Sparky and I."
  162. >Sparks scoffs
  163. >"Please. We've dealt with worse. And we have Anon to keep one or both of them occupied."
  164. >Jacky looks at you for a moment before stumbling up into a sitting position
  165. >"...are you serious?"
  166. >"Well yeah. This is Dashie we're talking about. If that place disappears, how do we find her again? What if we wait too long and lose our chance? We aren't going to leave her alone."
  167. >You're the only one still laying down
  168. >Partially because your lower stomach is being used as a pillow
  169. "...ok. Say if we do plan to break into a warehouse and steal a pony."
  170. >"Pegasus."
  171. >"She's a pegasus, Anon."
  172. "Pegasus pony. What do we do if we have the cops called on us? Or something else happens?"
  173. >Jacky looks down and sighs
  174. >"He has a point... Anon has something to lose if that happens."
  175. >Sparks finally sits up, putting her hoof down
  176. >The sudden stomp on your stomach leads to a recoil and a sudden 'oof!'
  177. >"O-oh, er, sorry."
  178. >She puts her hoof down again
  179. >Which leads to nothing because the bed is soft
  180. >It isn't nearly as dramatic
  181. >"We need to get this figured out, whether or not it's risky. We all do, or have done, legally questionable things, right? This is important. It isn't for entertainment, and this isn't for food. This is for a friend."
  182. >You scoot back and sit up, finally able to defend your gut in the event of another stray stomp
  183. "Ok, we're stopping this conversation until we settle exactly one thing."
  184. >Both of the girls look at you
  185. "We need to be sure enough that she's either there... or we will know where to find her. We go there and botch it, our ass is going to get handed to us and worse. Depending on things, could be far worse."
  186. >Neither of them reply
  187. "So... if we're serious about this. Let's brainstorm. Who, exactly, is Dashie?"
  189. "So can I call you tonight? I'm trying to make up my mind."
  190. >After a rather fruitless Sunday of planning and scheming overly improbable things like pitfall traps, ancient evils and magical terror, you and your little ponies decide to just chill and drink a tiny bit
  191. >A tiny enough bit to make Sparkbug sprawl out on your bed, dead to the world for the next ten hours at least
  192. >A tiny bit enough for you and Jacky that both of you are comfortably in control of just enough of your physical faculties and loose enough mentally to not mind anything silly
  193. >You idly sing to her while she lays on your torso
  194. >You strum her side like a guitar
  195. >Both of your heads are bobbing to and fro to the song playing on your laptop
  196. "Just how I feel... could you tell me what's real? I hear your voice on the phone, now I'm no longer alone."
  197. >Jacky spurts out a laugh when you reach that part
  198. >"Could you imagine being stuck on the phone? It's just, how do you even hold one?"
  199. >The thought of it amuses her to no end
  200. "Psh, it's rough, but you do it if you're talking to someone who's worth it."
  201. >You keep strumming Jacky's side, though she's not convinced
  202. >"Yeah right. Have you ever been on the phone with someone you liked enough to bother with working one out?"
  203. "Sure I have."
  204. >You break tempo of the song and raise one of her front legs
  205. "WICKED SOLO!"
  206. >You tickle under her arm letting out a vaguely slurred 'weedlyweedlywee'
  207. >She evolves to full on guffawing
  208. >That dies down and you go back to strumming, only to the next song on the playlist
  209. "My bros. We used to talk for hours and hours over the phone, enough to drain three home phone batteries over the course of a weekend."
  210. >Jacky's laughter dies down to a pleasant sigh
  211. >"That's crazy, man. What is there to even talk about for so long?"
  212. "Well that's the funny thing. We didn't talk all the time. Sometimes we just had the phones on speaker and just... let it sit like that. We'd watch our own things or play our own games and sometimes say stuff but that was kinda it."
  213. >The strumming devolves into idle petting
  214. >"That sounds kinda lame."
  215. "Sure, but we do that too."
  216. >"Yeah, but we're not far enough to require phones."
  217. "True, but if we were, I'd want to be on the phone with you."
  218. >Jacky stretches out on you, one of her hind legs shaking
  219. >"I guess that would make it ok then..."
  220. "Hey Jack."
  221. >"What's up?"
  222. "You think Dashie would like being here? I know this place isn't all that big, and I kinda feel bad that we don't have more... grand adventures."
  223. >"You crazy? It snowed two days ago! I'm not going out in that when I could be right here."
  224. "That's true. But still. It must be boring cooped up in here all the time."
  225. >Jacky stretches again
  226. >You can feel her inhale and exhale
  227. >"You aren't bored though, are you? We barely go out and outside of work you're right here with me."
  228. >You give a single half-effort 'ha'
  229. "Yeah right. What's out there for me? I got a ton of vidya, movies and other stuff I haven't even begun to touch."
  230. >"And me."
  231. "Exactly."
  232. >It's a little late before you realize her point
  233. "Alright well... just because I'm ok with it doesn't mean I shouldn't ask. That's what..."
  234. >"Couples?"
  235. "...yeah. That's what couples do, I guess."
  236. >"You guess?"
  237. "Listen here, tiny yellow twintailed pony. I am too sober to admit these sort of things with a straight face."
  238. >Sensing weakness, she turns to lay on you, belly to belly
  239. >"So much for being bold, huh?"
  240. "Hey, we're talking about Dashie."
  241. >"You are."
  242. "Shouldn't I be? She's your longest known friend, right?"
  243. >That question finally broke her out of her flirtatious mood
  244. >And stopped her hind hooves from rubbing against you
  245. >"Can I really say she's my longest known friend if I can't even remember her name?"
  246. "Sure you can. No friends are perfect."
  247. >"I guess. What if she doesn't remember me?"
  248. "You remember more about Sparks now that she's been here compared to it just being you, right?"
  249. >"I guess. What if we can't find her?"
  250. "We will."
  251. >Jacky looks directly into your eyes
  252. >"How do you know?"
  253. >You pat her sides with both of your hands
  254. "Because none of us are giving up on her. You three are a true blue group, and I'm honored to join in as the fourth party member. That means I'm in as much as you are, and as much as Sparks is."
  255. >You doubt you'll ever see your friends again
  256. >You're not even sure if they'll even want to see you again
  257. >But you know that Sparks and Jacky are your friends
  258. >That means Dashie's going to be your friend too
  259. >And friends don't abandon friends
  260. >Friends never abandon each other
  261. >Not if they're serious
  262. >Your thoughts must be playing on your face because she curls her front legs around your neck, giving you a tight hug
  263. >Maybe a little too tight
  264. "But once she's here... yeah, I'm done being a hero. That Hans guy seems neat but that Nona chick kinda worries me."
  265. >Jacky lets out a quick, short chuckle
  266. >"He seems nice."
  267. "For sure. I just hope he doesn't get in our way."
  268. >"What if he does?"
  269. "Then we go through him. Or around him."
  270. >"What if he takes it the wrong way?"
  271. "Then we tell him that it's for our friend and let him... come to his own conclusion."
  272. >"What if he comes to the wrong conclusion?"
  273. >You sigh and return her hug
  274. "Gonna have to take that chance, honestly. If he were our friend, he would probably feel the same way."
  275. >"Ffffffffffffffffor fffffffffffffffffffffffff-sake."
  276. >Sparks grumbles, weakly kicking the air in your general direction
  277. >"SSSSSSssssshaddip."
  278. >You purse your lips and lean your head to the side
  280. >Jacky snickers before joining in
  282. >The twin sources of aural torment cause Sparks to kick at the air with all of her legs
  283. >She lets out some pained, profane pony noises
  284. >It's more funny than anything else because the poor girl can't even open her eyes or lift her head off of the bed
  287. >Sparks lets out a frustrated, dazed scream and kicks out her legs all at once
  288. >Her horn sparks to life once or twice but doesn't last long enough to show that she's capable of doing anything about it
  289. >Sometimes friends just have to be their own worst enemies
  291. >It's been a lot slower than you thought when it comes to intel gathering
  292. >Neither Sparks or Jacky can really speak much on Dashie
  293. >Like she's a physical shadow that has distinct characteristics but everything else is a blur
  294. >You and Sparks are out on the patio
  295. >Jacky ate more than enough dinner to end up in a mini food coma
  296. >She's always so excited and thankful when it's dinner time
  297. >Sparks ate, but not nearly as much
  298. >She looks like she's been trying to say something, or maybe it's just you
  299. "Hey Sparky."
  300. >The unicorn glances at you before returning her gaze to the trees
  301. >"Yeah?"
  302. "Something you wanna talk about?"
  303. >"What? Why?"
  304. >You shrug
  305. "Well Iunno. You can read my mind and probably Jacky's too, but you have us at a disadvantage."
  306. >"I don't read her mind."
  307. >You scoff
  308. "Why, she too smart for you to handle?"
  309. >She returns the scoff
  310. >"I can tell what she's thinking by talking to her."
  311. "What, you can't with me?"
  312. >You lean back into the camping chair you recently bought
  313. >It's a better option than the white plastic lawn chairs that were out on the patio when you first moved in
  314. >"You keep too much secret."
  315. >The thought makes you laugh
  316. "Right."
  317. >You let the thought stew in your stomach for a few minutes
  318. "You really telling me that you don't have secrets too?"
  319. >"Well of course I do."
  320. "Wanna share? You tell me one, I'll tell you one."
  321. >Sparks chuckles
  322. >"Alright... you first."
  323. "Easy; I'm scared of you guys leaving. I've been happier with you two than I've been in the last seven years."
  324. >"It's more than seven years, Anon."
  325. "See? You cheat, and this is probably an obvious thing to you."
  326. >"Maybe."
  327. >The conversation dies down for a while
  328. >Sparks adjusts herself in her seat
  329. >She's gotten more used to jumping onto and off of chairs and tables now, but she's still just not there when it comes to sense of balance
  330. >"You know what secret I want to know? How can you admit your flaws and faults so openly like that? Don't you have any shame left?"
  331. "Should I? You wanna know a real secret, Sparkplug?"
  332. >You glance to her
  333. >The trees are starting to come in green again but most of them are still dead and brown
  334. >She gives a short nod
  335. "If I've learned how to be exactly one thing in my life. It's to be a failure."
  336. >The unicorn frowns at you
  337. >"Come on, don't be so--"
  338. "Let me finish."
  339. >You wave your hand at her
  340. "First off, what is a failure?"
  341. >She cocks an eyebrow and shrugs
  342. >"I don't know... someone who doesn't succeed?"
  343. "Exactly."
  344. >You wait for a snide remark or a comment but she doesn't make one
  345. "Sparks, every achievement I have is flanked by failures. Possibly overshadowed by botches, mistakes, missed chances and half-assed successes that tend to be a net zero in whether or not I mean anything in any greater sense."
  346. >You wait
  347. >Still no commentary
  348. "If I've learned one thing to make me anything resembling competent-not successful-but competent. Is that I've fucked up far more than I could ever hope to succeed. And because I know that, I'm not ashamed to admit it. If I screw up, I can gladly admit it. I won't not fix it, or attempt to. I could fail at that too, who knows. But. I don't have that fear either."
  349. >You smile at Sparky and shrug
  350. "So that's my secret. I can be shameless. I can be bold. Because the worst thing that can happen to me is yet another failure. If I'm used to that, I'm invincible."
  351. >You sound quite proud of yourself
  352. >But you're not smiling
  353. "So that's a pretty big secret. What do you got?"
  354. >Sparks doesn't answer you
  355. >She doesn't even want to look at you
  356. >"My secret... I keep a few."
  357. "I'm open if you want to share."
  358. >"I wish I were a little more like Jacky."
  359. >You didn't expect that
  360. "Alright... why's that?"
  361. >"Because she's... happy."
  362. "How's that a secret?"
  363. >"You know about what... how we were before, right?"
  364. "Sure, I guess. "
  365. >"She doesn't have a past or a home to care about or return to."
  366. >She sounds surprised
  367. >"I mean, I guess I don't either. I wanted to go back home and out of wherever this place is, but you know... I don't think anyone misses me? Why would they?"
  368. "What about your mom? I bet she misses you."
  369. >Sparks meanders before giving an answer
  370. >"Maybe she does... but I don't know for sure."
  371. "Why wouldn't she?"
  372. >"I don't know. Why doesn't your family care about you?"
  373. >She says that with far more of an edge than she thought, given she immediately shirks back
  374. >"Oh... sorry. I didn't mean anything by that."
  375. >You shrug, enjoying the chair
  376. >This is hardly the hardest topic for you
  377. "No, you got a good point. I guess they do, to an extent. But they have their own stuff to worry about too, you know? I can't be on their minds all the time. If they don't ever ask how I'm doing or what I've been up to, or want to have a conversation in which I do more than listen... well, that's just how it turns out, right?"
  378. >You smirk, sight focused on the treeline
  379. "This is about your secret, not mine. Right?"
  380. >"Right."
  381. >She inhales, as if it's taking genuine effort to come cleane
  382. >"I don't want to go back to where I came from. If I really came from another place. I... want to stay here. I want to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I want to... not feel like a failure."
  383. >She waits a few moments before speaking up again
  384. >"I used to not be able to use magic at all, you know. First time I really 'succeeded', I burnt something somewhere. It was bad. This was before I met Jacky or Dashie."
  385. >She clears her throat
  386. >"I hate vegetables. I love sleeping in. I like those dumb songs you play on your computer. I like rough housing without anyone judging me. Those vitamins make me feel stronger. I hate looking into the darkness. I get angry when I watch Twilight Sparkle because she's got a lot of friends, a big home, can do anything with her magic and it doesn't even look like she's trying most of the time."
  387. >That last one makes you laugh
  388. "Seriously, you're jealous of Twilight? Remember Lesson Zero?"
  389. >She stamps her hoof down on the chair
  390. >"Exactly my point! She can make anyone love her doll, like she could surely do with herself, and her issue is... what, exactly? That she's paranoid about homework? I've never had to do homework and it looks like it's just writing a letter!"
  391. >She brings up her hooves, speaking in a deep voice
  392. >"Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that if it's yellow, keep it mellow. Dear Princess Celestia, today I learned that what comes after the number two is 'electric boogaloo'."
  393. >She throws her hooves up in the air
  394. >"Freaking, get a clue! Learn something of value! Something that could save a life, not about how friends bicker and hate each other sometimes. Everyone knows that!"
  395. >Her normally cool, sarcastic persona melts away in impotent frustration
  396. >"She's... such a main character!"
  397. "Yeah, totally. NPC for life, right?"
  398. >You raise up a fist in solidarity
  399. >She gives you an evil eye but her normal ferocity is defanged
  400. >"You know what I mean. She's skilled but she's also given so much. I mean, who's to say that she would ever amount to anything if she had skill but no one to recognize it? Where's her montage of learning how to lift a cup? Where's her montage of screw ups?"
  401. "Well... that entire episode was about her causing a screw up that compounded onto itself. She was pretty damn paranoid about it too. I don't think that's a virtuous pony you're plinking at."
  402. >"I know! It's so..."
  403. >She huffs
  404. >"I'm jealous."
  405. "Why?"
  406. >"Because I look like and sound like her but I'm not. I'm... a discount version of what seems like some messiah."
  407. "Doesn't help that she gets wings later."
  408. >Sparks looks at you with the most disgusted look in her eye
  410. >She's escalated into a full scream
  411. >"How is that fair?! What the hell, why?!"
  412. >She slumps down in her seat
  413. >"Where are my wings? Where's my rewards? Where are my shiny trinkets that work off of the power of friendship and nebulous traits like... being honest?"
  414. >You shrug in your seat, having successfully melted into it
  415. "Let's be honest... would you be happier if you had that sort of stuff? Does it matter that much to you?"
  416. >"Well... no? But..."
  417. >She deflates, your question deflating her rage
  418. >"But why does she get to have all sorts of good stuff when I didn't?"
  419. >Her tone is that of a defeated unicorn
  420. >There are no tears, but there is one solitary sigh of resignation
  421. >"Why wasn't I good enough when I practiced?"
  422. >You lean over in one fluid, sliding motion and pat her shoulder
  423. >She flinches at first
  424. "Embrace the reality of it, Sparking. You don't deserve less than her. You don't deserve worse. But you don't deserve better either. A lot of that... we just can't control it. She has lifelong friends, a decently-sized family, she's only gotten more and more powerful like an RPG. And then there are... more normal ponies, like you. And more normal people. Like me."
  425. >You pause
  426. "I mean sure, you're a little abnormal, but that's not bad either."
  427. >Due to your nonplussed, neutral tone and how backhanded a compliment it is, she laughs
  428. >"You're one to talk. You talk about being a loser is some sort of hidden zen state."
  429. "Am I wrong?"
  430. >You hold your arms out, as if to show the fruits of your labor
  431. >She laughs again
  432. "I'm not saying to sit there and let yourself be stifled because you might not ever become as powerful or as popular as her. You've gotten better at magic lately because of those video games and cooking, right?"
  433. >She thinks about it for a bit before nodding
  434. >"Well I guess so, sure."
  435. "Then there you go."
  436. >She looks at you like she's not convinced
  437. >"I don't get it."
  438. "You're improving, Sparky. Whether or not you see it, you are. It might not look like a lot, it might feel like it's hardly worth it. But you are improving. That's enough. You can only move at the speed of yourself, you know?"
  439. >The hot pink pony takes your words in
  440. >Processes them
  441. >"It doesn't mean I like it..."
  442. "I know... trust me, I do. I'd kill to be anyone but myself. Not anymore, thanks to you and Jackolantern snoozing back there. But before? You butter believe it."
  443. >"Did... you say butter?"
  444. "You butter believe."
  445. >"Butter believe."
  446. >She repeats your words slowly, looking at you with a squint
  447. "Yeah."
  448. >She stares at you
  449. >You stare back at her
  450. >And smile
  451. >She laughs again
  452. >"You're stupid, you know that?"
  453. "Sure do. But I'm getting better."
  454. >"Right... and I guess I am too."
  455. >You snort
  456. "Barely. You're slipping on your Maxi game."
  457. >That cut her to the core
  458. >She erupts from the chair, her horn enflamed with red magical aura
  459. >"You wanna go a few rounds you wimp? I'll cremate you!"
  460. >You stand up and clap your hands together
  461. "Alright you little night light, let's fucking go. When I win, you can take care of tomorrow's dinner."
  462. >What better way to work off a dinner than a dozen rounds of Soul Calibur?
  463. >The best part?
  464. >Dear little Sparky skipped her vitamins today
  466. >Anon didn't go to work today
  467. >I didn't mind since I just slept in as usual, but after his shower he just crawled back into bed.
  468. >He was dried off but still just in a towel, muttered something about having texted his manager.
  469. >I was too sleepy to really tell what he was going on about but he went to sleep near me so that was enough.
  470. >Eventually, once the sun was up, I woke up.
  471. >Anon was still sleeping.
  472. >Sparks was up too, she was in another room or something.
  473. >I squirmed my way out from under the blanket and gently stepped off the mattress.
  474. >He slept like a rock under the best conditions, so he probably wouldn't miss me for a few minutes.
  475. >I arched my back and stretched, letting out a loud yawn.
  476. >Ever since I decided to keep the twintail hair style, it's been easier to keep track of my mane too.
  477. >Less bed head.
  478. >Practicing to sway my hips for a few steps, I hear someone go 'ohhhhm..."
  479. >I sway my hips again, too hard to the point that I go off balance and bump into the wall.
  480. >"Go back to bed Jacky. I'm not in the mood for distractions today."
  481. >It's Sparks.
  482. >She's sitting like normal, except she's leaning out with her front hooves cupped together.
  483. >It looks a little awkward.
  484. >She looks like she's close to tipping over.
  485. >"Ohhhm...."
  486. >"W...what are you doing?"
  487. >Sparky opens one of her eyes, frowning.
  488. >"I'm training."
  489. >"Training for what?"
  490. >"I'm training to hone my mastery of The Force."
  491. >You blink at her a few times.
  492. >"Say wut."
  493. >Rather than repeat herself, she increases her "OHHHHHHHHHHMMMM" in volume
  494. >The Force
  495. >As in... Star Wars?
  496. >We've all been watching more old movies and settled on Star Wars
  497. >"Sparky... you know... that's just a movie, right? It ain't real."
  498. >Even the ones that were based off of true stories.
  499. >Anon told me so.
  500. >Sparks opens her eye again, grimacing.
  501. >"Yes it is."
  502. >What?
  503. >How did she know?
  504. >"N-no it ain't... Josey Wales ain't real, what makes you think The Force is real?"
  505. >"Because my magic is real. And magic is just something that's only shown in movies too, right?"
  506. >She wasn't making much sense.
  507. >But she was making sense.
  508. >"But... The Force ain't magic."
  509. >"Yes it is."
  510. >I try to talk back to her but she sounds sure of herself.
  511. >"W-well... Anon says it's just a movie. So it ain't real."
  512. >"He also said that it never snows down where he came from but I checked and it snowed almost an inch once two years ago."
  513. >My ears flatten down as I try to think of a way to defend his word.
  514. >But she's just really sure of herself.
  515. >And she technically wasn't even wrong there.
  516. >"W... well alright. What can The Force do?"
  517. >"Anything. It's just magic."
  518. >"But... the guys who use it aren't unicorns."
  519. >"Exactly. So it should be easy for me. Ohmmm..."
  520. >Something about this doesn't sit right well with me but I just can't think of the proper way to refute it.
  521. >"I don't believe you... but. And a big but here, but what if it was?"
  522. >"Then you're interrupting me from getting it."
  523. >"Caaaaaaaaaaaan I learn how to use The Force too? Since I'm not a unicorn?"
  524. >"Sure."
  525. >Awesome!
  526. >If I could learn to use magic, I could do so much.
  527. >Not just things like opening and closing human-size doors, but things for Anon too.
  528. >I could finally surprise him with something big!
  529. >"Teach me, Sparks! How do I figure it out?"
  530. >Sparks opens her eyes and leans forward, dropping her posture.
  531. >"I don't know, I'm just trying out some meditative posing."
  532. >"I didn't see Luke doing that... he did wear that helmet though. Wait, we got any helmets?"
  533. >"For flying like he had? No."
  534. >"Dang. What else we got?"
  535. >I look around and see one of Anon's t-shirts from a few days ago, thrown to the side.
  536. >The living room didn't have a ton but it did make for a good laundry room.
  537. >"Hey, Sparky. Why not cover my eyes with his shirt?"
  538. >She gives me a wry look.
  539. >"Is this just an excuse to do something weird?"
  540. >I didn't think of it before but the excuse did sound solid.
  541. >I shake my head, clearing my throat.
  542. >"No, duh... it's because Luke was blinded. So I gotta do the same. You sitting there and going 'ohhhm' like a dork ain't gonna cut it."
  543. >I puff my chest out and wait to hear an argument.
  544. >Instead, she shrugs and nods.
  545. >"Alright, good point."
  546. >Though it's just a shirt, Sparks stares at it for a good solid minute.
  547. >I look around myself, expecting some sort of trick.
  548. >"Y... y'alright, Sparkie?"
  549. >"Shh."
  550. >I glance around again, my body tensing up.
  551. >Nothing's happening.
  552. >After another minute of solid silence I speak up.
  553. "Sparks... did you take your vitamins today or something? Normally you can just whisk that stuff around."
  554. >The unicorn glares at me.
  555. >"I'm stronger than I was before, you know. I don't need those nearly as much. Just watch."
  556. >I wait and watch.
  557. >A few more minutes pass.
  558. >Sparks went from a neutral expression to grimacing, to outright angry gawking.
  559. >Nothing.
  560. >Not even a spark from her horn.
  561. >I purse my lips, trying my best to smile despite the awkward feeling in the air.
  562. >"I think you just need your--"
  563. >"No! I don't need them!"
  564. >Sparks barked out at me, her frustration audible.
  565. >I don't remember a ton but I get the vague sense of deja vu with this.
  566. >"Sparks, it's ok if you can't. Why don't you just take a break?"
  567. >"I said I'm fine, just... give me a second."
  568. >I do.
  569. >I give her a lot of seconds.
  570. >The shirt still just lays there.
  571. >"It was working fine a few days ago... what the hell is the problem now? "
  572. >She was playing a lot of games a while back with Anon.
  573. >He told you about it and how he actually won the majority of the matches.
  574. >Eventually she stops glaring at the shirt and sighs, hanging her head.
  575. >"I can't believe it... how do I have problems after all this time? I can cook, I can play games, I can type way better than you, and I can even work the doors."
  576. >She's put down but I don't really see that big a deal of it.
  577. >I'm jealous of not being able to use magic but I don't get any joy of her lacking it either.
  578. >"Well... maybe it's based off of the moon? Like you're a magical werewolf? A were...mage?"
  579. >Sparks looks at me with a furrowed brow.
  580. "A... were-witch?"
  581. >I smile widely at her.
  582. >It doesn't really do anything.
  583. >I shrug, looking at the shirt.
  584. >"Maybe something's in it, making it heavy?"
  585. >You sure don't think that could be the case but she actually trots over to it.
  586. >She nudges it with her nose.
  587. >She turns to face me, shrugging.
  588. >"It looks fine to me, nothing's wrapped up in it."
  589. >I feel a cold chill go over me.
  590. >Ice cold.
  591. >"S-sp-Sparks..."
  592. >I look at her with a horrified expression
  593. >She doesn't seem to see the cause for alarm and looks at you with a dull look.
  594. >"What now?"
  595. >"Sp..sp...SPIDER!"
  596. >A tiny spider had crawled onto the tip of her nose and was sitting there, pleased as can be.
  597. >Spark's eyes dilate to pin pricks.
  598. >She lets out a terrified scream and her entire body erupts in red!
  599. >Covered in her blindingly red aura, all of her energies focus to her nose.
  600. >The tiny spider, at least big enough to be noticed, gets drowned in the light.
  601. >I don't know if she crushed it or not but the light blinks out after compressing into an astonishingly tiny red gleam.
  602. >I blink a few times.
  603. >"Whoa... you killed that spider. You sent that thing to another dimension!"
  604. >Sparks shivered hard, letting out a collection of disgusted, disturbed noises.
  605. >I hear something loud behind me and turn around.
  606. >Anon is standing in the hallway, wielding a large knife.
  607. >He still looks sick and the towel around his waist is still wrapped and folded over, but looks disheveled.
  608. >He sees me.
  609. >And he sees Sparks flailing about while crying to herself about how she's been poisoned.
  610. >He looks at me again, and sighs.
  611. >Without even commenting on the situation, he goes back to his room.
  612. >I can hear him literally fall onto the mattress.
  613. >"I'm... gonna go back to sleep with Anon.. you, uh... good luck on that Force stuff, ok?"
  614. >I back away from the manic unicorn, flinching and double checking every shadow in the corner of my sight.
  615. >If a spider were to get on me, I'd be finished.
  616. >Following Anon's example, I hop onto the mattress.
  617. >With him face down, I burrow under his arm until it's over me.
  618. >"My hero, you came to save me, didn't you?"
  619. >He mumbles something, his face full of pillow.
  620. >I chose to believe it was true.
  621. >Even if The Force does exist, I don't really need it.
  622. >But then again, magic can kill a spider.
  623. >With that thought in my head, I end up spending hours watching the corners of the bed and the walls.
  624. >Surely spiders know better than to invade a bedroom.
  625. >Right...?
  627. >It's day two of Anon being sick.
  628. >I'm not that worried since he doesn't seem like he's dying but he isn't doing anything beyond sleeping or drinking hot tea.
  629. >I helped guide him to the bathroom earlier.
  630. >I couldn't honestly do much but I did carry a towel for him.
  631. >Once he got out, I led him back to bed and promised him some oatmeal.
  632. >And by promising him, I knew just the unicorn for the job.
  633. >Sparks sighs, sitting on a bar stool.
  634. >She took her vitamins today, so she can use magic like normal again.
  635. >Ever since she gotten over being poisoned by that poor spider she crushed to oblivion, she put off her training.
  636. >I sit on the floor, watching her from below.
  637. >"Now not too hot, ok? I ain't gonna feed him something that's gonna lead to a burn."
  638. >"Jacky, it's on the stove. It has to burn to cook."
  639. >"You got that whole pyromaniac thing going on, I'm really not sure I believe you..."
  640. >I really don't like sitting around in a real time of need but there isn't much I can do.
  641. >"Sparky... Anon's actually sick. He's taking stuff and he doesn't look like he's all that bad off but..."
  642. >I sigh.
  643. >"What can I do about this? You get magic and you can make things. I can't."
  644. >Sparks shrugs, watching a large metal spoon go around and around in circles.
  645. >The red aura looks eerie, even after being so used to it.
  646. >"Honestly? I don't really know. This apartment really isn't made for ponies. This world isn't really built up for us. You haven't, we haven't, gotten sick too, so there's that. We're talking ponies in a world full of humans and the second Anon, our human, goes down for the count? We're... kinda useless."
  647. >She speaks plainly and with her eyes focused on the spoon.
  648. >She doesn't even really sound sad about it.
  649. >It does drag me down pretty hard though.
  650. >"But... there's gotta be something. There's never a situation where you can't just do nothing. Right?"
  651. >I really do hope that she has the answer.
  652. >The right answer.
  653. >But I think I know the answer too.
  654. >"Maybe. But things happen all the time without us being able to honestly do anything about it."
  655. >I give a heavy sigh.
  656. >Of course that was the right answer.
  657. >"Do you think we ended up here by fate or just by... accident?"
  658. >Out of nowhere, Sparks asks that.
  659. >Which is the right answer?
  660. >"Well. I don't know. But it's a good accident if it is one, right?"
  661. >I smile with my answer.
  662. >"Even if you end up in a world where you're incapable of most things?"
  663. >"Be honest with me, Sparks. Could we do much when we were home? We were bottom feeders. We both know this. Asking me if I'm happy to be here or not... it's kinda not a fair question."
  664. >She doesn't seem all that bothered either way.
  665. >She's just focusing on the spoon.
  666. >"Doesn't it bother you that we look similar to cartoon characters?"
  667. >I smirk.
  668. >"Should it? It means we're pretty popular. We could be famous if we ever went public."
  669. >"Or we could be hunted."
  670. >Such a pessimist.
  671. >"Think about it though. With you looking like Twilight and me looking like my ma, we-"
  672. >"She isn't your mom, cut it out."
  673. >I frown.
  674. >"She is if I say so. What if it's true?"
  675. >"It isn't true."
  676. >"Neither of us know that."
  677. >"But it sounds stupid."
  678. >"I think you sound stupid."
  679. >My retort finally causes a reaction.
  680. >Her face flinches into a scowl, but only for a moment.
  681. >"...Maybe I do. I don't really miss our world. I'm happy I'm here. But now that I am, I just can't find anything to care about. If this is heaven and we're both dead, what's the point of going on?"
  682. >The sentiment does bother me, but I know the answer for sure.
  683. >"The point? It's to enjoy ourselves, Sparking! To find Dashie and bring her here to us, our home! And after that... who cares? Who's judging or grading us? Who's going to punish us if this is heaven and we're long dead and gone? Should I be worried about that?"
  684. >That's right, Dashie is still our goal.
  685. >Even if I relax and take my time with pretty much everything, I haven't forgotten about her.
  686. >"Sparky, I get that you're smarter than me and you like to rub it in... but you said that maybe there are things that we can't control."
  687. >I fidget in place.
  688. >It feels kinda weird to go on the offensive with her.
  689. >This courage wasn't there before.
  690. >"If we can't honestly do anything about some stuff. Should you really focus so much tie on worrying? Have you spent even half this much effort thinking about Dashie?"
  691. >"Of course I have."
  692. >"Somehow I doubt it..."
  693. >"Think what you want."
  694. >The conversation more or less dies there.
  695. >Maybe it's the episodes of the cartoon, but this being the end of the conversation bothers me.
  696. >"Sparks... I'm sorry. You're my best friend."
  697. >No answer.
  698. >Until she does answer.
  699. >"I know, Jacky... you are too. I just wish things were a little different."
  700. >She sounds... not sad.
  701. >But not happy either.
  702. >The metal pot she cooked in starts to glow and sinks down to the floor.
  703. >"There you go. Be careful when you carry it, ok?"
  704. >The spoon's still in it too.
  705. >It seems a little on the chunky and dehydrated side.
  706. >But it looks like it's enough to feed all of us too.
  707. >"Thanks. Wanna give it to him with me?"
  708. >Sparky doesn't move from her seat.
  709. >"No. No... that's ok. He's gonna get you sick if you keep around him like that, you know."
  710. >I smirk and stand up, stretching.
  711. >"If I do, I'll trust you and Anon to take care of me. Just how Anon and I will take care of you."
  712. >I chomp down onto the handle of the pot and strut back to the sick human.
  713. >Maybe if he doesn't eat all of it I can have the rest.
  715. >You've felt sick for a few days but it was really nothing too terrible
  716. >Jacky and Sparks both kept you company, one more than other depending on the time
  717. >You've been sorta half up for a while now, your eyes glued shut
  718. >You are feeling better, but you just aren't all that up to moving around more than you absolutely have to
  719. >The towel you've been wearing more or less undid itself, but you've still been covered by a blanket
  720. >With the headache that you avoid by keeping your eyes closed, you've been doing a good job at playing Manbat and sensing everything around you through sound
  721. >Jacky's been curled up on your left side for a while now
  722. >She might be awake, you've felt her fidgeting or moving for a while now
  723. >You've been sorta half-petting her since that seems to be the limit of your motor functions
  724. >Sparks has been watching some sort of anime for a while now
  725. >You recognize some of the voice actors and you know that it has Steve Blum in it
  726. >You rotate to your left slightly to hug the shivering pony
  727. >And poke your forehead against something
  728. >A... horn?
  729. >Wait
  730. >Is this Sparks?
  731. >Your hand rubs over her backside again
  732. >Her skin, her fur, is different
  733. >You contemplate stopping or shifting back but before you do, you feel her lurch forward
  734. >She nuzzles her face against yours
  735. >Hard
  736. >You can hear her breathing
  737. >You give her a hard squeeze of a hug and relax yourself
  738. >You're not too sure of what to think, of what you should or shouldn't do
  739. >You've slept with her nearby, sure, but this is new
  740. >Is this alright?
  741. >Sparks stops mashing her face against yours long enough nod
  742. >That's spooky
  743. >Wait, she's read your mind before, right?
  744. >She nods again, huffing out an exhale into your ear
  745. >This was just eerie
  746. >But you're still tired and out of it enough to not really worry
  747. >This is Sparks, of course
  748. >You can trust her
  749. >You do trust her
  750. >But this is unusual for her
  751. >She's normally so aloof or distant, physically or otherwise
  752. >Where was Jacky? Was she really on the laptop?
  753. >Sparks nods again
  754. >You didn't really know that she was up that late
  755. >Maybe you sleeping all day and night hasn't been the most entertaining thing for her
  756. >They've been able to eat and all that normally with you out of commission, right?
  757. >Peering into you in a way you never thought possible, she nods again
  758. >That's good
  759. >That makes you happy
  760. >Your mental capacity has been almost completely filled by the two girls
  761. >You even got up when you hear Sparks scream, grabbing one of the old military blades you've been collecting
  762. >When you saw that it was just shenanigans, you dropped your happy ass back to bed
  763. >You don't remember much else
  764. >You remember Jacky bringing you oatmeal
  765. >A ton of it
  766. >But you know that she didn't make it either
  767. >It was Sparks
  768. >She nods again, shifting her attention to your neck and shoulder
  769. >What she's doing is undeniably affectionate
  770. >Your thoughts are so scattered that you aren't able to reliably parse it
  771. >You're thankful for Jacky
  772. >You're also very thankful for Sparks too
  773. >She really has livened up the place, and brought a lot to the table
  774. >Her magic is neat too
  775. >If you had magic, you probably could do stuff even while sick
  776. >What feels like an hour passes
  777. >During that entire time, Sparks never once stopped moving
  778. >She always shifted or adjusted or pushed herself against you, coming danger close to kissing the side of your neck
  779. >For a lot of it, you lost any capacity to move
  780. >Some of it, you blinked out with your only thoughts revolving around the anime
  781. >It wasn't quiet but it wasn't loud
  782. >To you it was loud but it wasn't really that loud
  783. "....mmph. Hey Jack."
  784. >Instantly, Sparks goes still as the grave, her face tucked into your neck
  785. >You hear a loud yawn and feel a hoof nudge against your side
  786. >"Anon, you up?"
  787. >You aren't able to answer immediately but you eventually nod
  788. "...anime good?"
  789. >"Sure is, yeah! I couldn't sleep all that much and I wanted to keep an eye on you so I've been watching this and I've been having that soda. You don't mind that I'm on my third bottle, right? I know they come in only four packs."
  790. >You take a second to comprehend all of her words and nod
  791. >"Alright! Do you need anything?"
  792. >You nudge your face left and right
  793. >You can hear her laugh a little
  794. >"You're super sleepy but don't you worry, I'll get you anything as soon as you want!"
  795. >You nod a few times longer than what you probably should have until your neck decides you're done and shuts down
  796. >She's a good girl
  797. >Does she wake up early?
  798. >You wake up early and she's taken to waking up with you
  799. >Man, you feel sorta bad because you'd want her to sleep in more
  800. >Your attention shifts back to Sparks again
  801. >Only now do you realize that she's been moving again
  802. >Kissing the side of your neck, no less
  803. >That's weird
  804. >Hey Sparks
  805. >Does Jacky get up early sometimes?
  806. >She nods
  807. >You can feel her mouth open against you
  808. >You shiver at the feeling of something warm and slick whip across your collar bone
  809. >Hey Sparks
  810. >You've been thinking about opening a store where everything is blueberry or blue or berries
  811. >What soda would go best with that?
  812. >She doesn't answer
  813. >Or if she does, you can't comprehend it
  814. >You feel like your thoughts are starting to space out further and further
  815. >Your body reacts to Sparks' attention
  816. >You feel that much more at peace
  817. >That much harder to shake off the fatigue
  818. >You just realized that you can breath through your right nostril but not your left
  819. >Fuck being sick sucks
  820. >If this were an RPG you'd be better by now because sleep always helps
  821. >Sparks would definitely be your high damage mage
  822. >Jacky would be a rogue for sure
  823. >Man they'd love D&D wouldn't they?
  824. >You gotta introduce that to them better
  825. >You haven't had pineapple in a long time now
  826. >What's with the warm massaging going on around your neck and rising?
  827. >Your mind spirals and spin cycles into mush
  828. >Sleep is coming over you again
  829. >Your arm is still around Sparks but you forget where she is
  830. >But you're happy she's here with you and Jacky
  831. >You could use a drink
  832. >You doze off with your mouth open, snoring in the first time in who knows how long
  834. >Morning
  835. >You wake up with a terribly dry mouth and immediately reach for a cup you left on your desk
  836. >Except you can't because your arm is occupied
  837. >Crap
  838. >You reach out with your other arm
  839. >You can't because it's also occupied
  840. >Double crap
  841. >This really sucks
  842. >You look to your left and see Sparks curled up, with her head on your arm
  843. >You look to your right and see Jacky more sprawled out, her head on your arm
  844. >You've had this conundrum before with cats
  845. >Your eyes have a hard time adjusting to everything
  846. >It's not the brightest setting in the room but any light stings
  847. >You can breath a bit better but you can feel congestion in your throat
  848. >It feels like you've been sleeping for days
  849. >Why were you thinking of blueberry soda?
  850. >You try to clear your throat and lay your head back down, closing your eyes
  851. >Entering something resembling a zen state, you recall a previous stage in your life
  852. >Feeling yourself loosen up, you start to slip your arms out from under the ponies
  853. >Slowly
  854. >Awkwardly
  855. >So awkwardly it actually kinda hurts
  856. >Over the course of a minute of snaking your limbs back, up, and out, until they are freed
  857. >You softly exhale and karate chop the air
  858. >You still got it
  859. >You begin to slide down the bed itself, going under your blanket
  860. >Another skill you had was leaving your bed without alerting any animals on it
  861. >Talking ponies surely count
  862. >After another minute of dragging yourself down, you're free
  863. >You drag yourself to your feet and stretch
  864. >Everything pops
  865. >Your knees, your upper back, your arms, your neck
  866. >Given you aren't even wearing a towel now, you are as free as humanly possible
  867. >You are invincible!
  868. >On the note of invincibility, you should really introduce the girls to James Bond
  869. >Stumbling only slightly, you make your way to the bathroom and bathroom
  870. >It's kinda nice, to see how well used everything is
  871. >Towels are laid out with your little sectional rugs
  872. >You can see hoof prints imprinted on the towels
  873. >You never put thought into it, but you're glad they can use the toilet
  874. >The tub, too
  875. >You forgot about it, but you're happy to see that they're always clean and cared for
  876. >Sparks can cook too, but you gotta figure out a better way for them to take care of themselves for hunger and all that
  877. >Especially because once you bring Dashie in, it'll be four total
  878. >You stop your morning routine, the realization hitting you
  879. >You got Jacky after mulling it over for weeks, months
  880. >And because you got her instead of Applejack, or an Applejack, everything just sorta fell into place
  881. >Where do you go from here?
  882. >How do you know you can take care of everyone adequately?
  883. >You aren't some caretaker but you know that without you, they might be in danger if something really bad ever happened
  884. >Not that you think that they're incapable either
  885. >But they are in an alien world
  886. >You never had time to sit down and contemplate all of it but they aren't just knock off toys
  887. >It would be insulting to call them toys
  888. >So then what are they?
  889. >How do they have such a connection between each other?
  890. >What if they're really from another world?
  891. >What if they want to go back?
  892. >What if you want to go with them?
  893. >You've gone from the bathroom to a steaming hot shower to clear your throat and nose, thinking the entire time
  894. >Maybe it isn't so bad
  895. >Nona wouldn't have any answers
  896. >Or she told you she didn't have any answers
  897. >What about that Hanzel guy?
  898. >He seemed happy to be around another guy for once
  899. >Is he from the same origin as them or is he from something else entirely?
  900. >Does it matter?
  901. >You finish your shower sooner than you thought, your mental faculties revving back up to normal
  902. >You still don't remember much of anything during your time of being sick outside of standing in the hallway with a knife
  903. >You recall Sparky crying about something regarding poison and thinking it was just a prank
  904. >You gotta ask about that eventually
  905. >With a new towel wrapped around your waist, you head to the kitchen
  906. >You know what's funny, you were never much of a cook before you got Jacky
  907. >You were a lot less focused in a number of things
  908. >But now?
  909. >It feels like you've improved a lot
  910. >Not in every way possible
  911. >But in enough avenues that your past self wouldn't recognize you
  912. >You still get sad sometimes
  913. >But ever since that day you kinda just came back and laid on the floor, you knew that you just couldn't do that again
  914. >No matter what, you couldn't put anyone else in that position again
  915. >You can deal with your issues on your own
  916. >No, that isn't the right way to think
  917. >You can count on your two friends to help you out
  918. >You just don't want to bother them
  919. >But that isn't right either, is it?
  920. >It isn't going to bother them
  921. >Not if they're real friends of yours
  922. >And they are
  923. >You feel confident in believing that
  924. >It hasn't been that long, though
  925. >And you've known people for much longer that mean far less to you
  926. >Or better to say that some people have known you for far longer and you didn't mean much to them
  927. >Before you realize it, you've chopped up and grilled potatoes, added a pack of bacon too all of it, and a tin of biscuits for the side
  928. >Damn you're good
  929. >You forgot you even had the biscuits
  930. >You strut back to your room, refocusing yourself so the present
  931. >Your little ponies are still where they were before, sleeping
  932. >You get the urge to autistically screech or something to wake them up but you really don't want to be that cruel
  933. >Instead, you step over to the opposite side of the bed and put a hand on each of their shoulders
  934. "Arise chicken. Chicken arise."
  935. >You shake them in a rhythm while deepening your voice
  936. "Chicken arise. Arise. Chicken."
  937. >Sparks wakes up first
  938. >She smiles when she sees you
  939. >"Oh Good morning, Anon."
  940. >She uncurls and stretches out
  941. >You haven't seen her happy like that in a while
  942. >"Are you feeling better?"
  943. "Yeah. Mostly better, anyway. I got breakfast up and ready. As a way to thank you two."
  944. >She nods
  945. >"You don't need to thank me. We're friends, right?"
  946. "Damn straight. You got any clue of what happened last night? She seems out of it."
  947. >You stopped rubbing and poking at her
  948. >You see that three soda bottles are empty too
  949. >What does sugar do to a pony, anyway?
  950. >"That anime, I think. Still hot, right? Let's eat, there will still be enough when she wakes up."
  952. >Sparks ate with Anon
  953. >He was much more skilled than her when it came to cooking, but she knew it was only because he had been cooking for longer than her
  954. >He tried to wake up Jacky but she stayed up really late to marathon the anime series
  955. >He really does care about her
  956. >Sparks contemplates this while eating, watching the corner, waiting for the man to appear once more
  957. >He cares for her too, but she knows that it isn't the same
  958. >Not to the exact extent
  959. >She's gotten better at reading his mind in more subtle ways
  960. >She is pretty empathetic, and while she doesn't invade Jacky's mind, she can't help but feel comfortable in the human's
  961. >He is to blame, of course, for challenging her to something without giving her a fair chance
  962. >The longer she's been around, the happier she's been to know him
  963. >She is happy to be reunited with Jacky
  964. >Of course she is
  965. >But a darker part of her mind wonders what might have happened if she had been first
  966. >If there would have been any suspiciously quiet moments
  967. >If there would have been any solo adventures and bonding time that she knows happened with Jacky
  968. >She knows because she's been told a lot about it
  969. >And she saw it from his side of things
  970. >She knows so much more about him than he or Jacky knows
  971. >He really is stronger than he appears
  972. >Far stronger than he acts
  973. >After a minute too long for it to be a minor checkup, he walks back out
  974. >He's carrying his phone, a handheld console, and a pair of cords
  975. >That explains how long it took
  976. >She goes back to eating
  977. >She's been happy since she woke up
  978. >She's been happy since last night too
  979. >She knew she was risking a lot, but he was deliriously tired and Jacky was completely absorbed
  980. >No one would know
  981. >Did that make it ok?
  982. >Was she bad if she never told anyone?
  983. >Anon shrugs at her and sets down his stuff
  984. "Guess she's not really feeling up to food. Said her stomach is a little 'gurgly', and not in the good way."
  985. >He shrugs
  986. "But she said she'll have some later, so we'll set aside what we don't eat for her and she'll just get more than a few shares. Sound good?"
  987. >He still sounds a little raspy
  988. >"Sure, that sounds fair. Last night she kinda just dove into it. Do you remember watching it with her or something?"
  989. >Anon shrugs, sighing
  990. "If I did, I wish I do. All I remember is... blueberry soda. Either I wanted to try making it or I wanted to drink some."
  991. >Sparks gives him a funny look
  992. >He did ask her something like that but she didn't pay it any mind since he wasn't doing anything to stop her
  993. >Besides, she didn't do anything bad
  994. >She was just a bit pent up
  995. >Emotionally
  996. >It's by and far not the worst thing she's ever done
  997. >By the time both of them finish eating, Sparks turns her attention to the outside
  998. >It seems like Spring is officially here, despite it still being every other day
  999. >"Hey Anon... wanna take a walk with me outside? It looks really nice out there. We can find a good place to bring Jacky since she's only used to outside looking dull and dreary and dead."
  1000. >He was in the middle of plugging in his phone when he looked at her
  1001. "Oh? Well yeah, it is kinda nice out, isn't it..."
  1002. >She tried not to but she could tell that he was thinking a thousand thinks at once
  1003. >Some of it about Jacky
  1004. >Of course
  1005. >But some of it about her
  1006. >And even some of it about Dashie
  1007. >He really was motivated when it came to them
  1008. "That sounds good. I could use the chance to kinda clear my head and my throat too."
  1009. >She smiles and nods to herself
  1010. >"I had a feeling you would like it."
  1011. "Lemme get dressed and I'll be good to go."
  1012. >He was still wearing only a towel
  1013. >A very firmly put in place towel, she had to note
  1014. >He didn't mind it
  1015. >Jacky didn't mind it
  1016. >Why should she?
  1017. >She watched him walk off and sat there, knowing that he really didn't have much sense of shame when it came to getting dressed or undressed
  1018. >This was his home, after all
  1019. >And both her and Jacky were technically naked at all times anyway
  1020. >He just made a good effort to not look anywhere particularly visceral
  1021. >But she knew he didn't dislike any views he may have been given
  1022. >When he came out, in a pair of old sweat pants and hoodie, she stretched and stood up
  1023. >The sleeves were halfway rolled up and there was a good few strands of long pony hair on his outfit but it was the type of comfywear that he usually wore during the winter
  1024. >"Alright, let's go check things out!"
  1025. >She is letting herself be happy today
  1026. >Like Jacky said, there are just some things she can't help herself on
  1027. >So she isn't going to
  1028. "Oh yeah, grab my phone since you're near it? That way if Jack wakes up or needs anything we'll know."
  1029. >Ever the conscientious type
  1030. >She focuses on it and it drowns in red, sparkly aura
  1031. >She trots up to him and raises the phone up until it lands in his hand
  1032. "I tell you, that's some pretty neat stuff. How's those vitamins and stuff been treating you?"
  1033. >She follows Anon out of the apartment, watching him close the door
  1034. >And lock it
  1035. >She feels a bit sorry for Jacky being stuck in there
  1036. >She wouldn't let a locked door stop her
  1037. >"Good, thank you. Do you... happen to remember yesterday?"
  1038. >He scoffs
  1039. "Yeah, when you were being poisoned by something?"
  1040. >She blushes and averts her gaze from him
  1041. >Not that he was looking at her to begin with
  1042. >"It was nothing. I was... trying a new way to meditate. And... a spider ended up on me."
  1043. >She shivers hard, hard enough to stop walking for a moment
  1044. >"Spiders are seriously dangerous."
  1045. "Well whenever we all go camping, there will be a lot of spiders out there. Not enough bug spray in the world to stop all of them, you know?"
  1046. >Sparks let out an awkward laugh
  1047. >She knew that, to an extent
  1048. >But now that she came close to death to such an extent, she wasn't so eager to fight nature
  1049. >She still had no clue what she even did with that spider
  1050. >She smiles, chuckling
  1051. >"My hero. I guess I can let you shine once and a while, right?"
  1052. "Once and a while? I'm a spider pro. I still got a bb handgun in one of my old bags in the closet. One time, down south? I saw a spider and bam."
  1053. >His hand turns into a finger gun and juts forward to hit the elevator button
  1054. "Jelly."
  1055. >"Well you'll have to give me that later. I learn how to use it, and I can be your backup gunner in a pinch."
  1056. "Alright, now we're talking!"
  1057. >He seems in high spirits, happy to not be so put out of action
  1058. >They take the elevator down to the ground floor and step out
  1059. >Sparks looks around, unsure of where to start
  1060. >Anon just starts walking to the left, toward the street
  1061. >She quickly follows
  1062. "So, Sparkplug. Can you tell me more about Dashie? Did you two think of any real plans or remember anything about her?"
  1063. >Sparks internally sighs
  1064. >A chance to be out and alone with him for a real conversation or experience and he's already focused on something else
  1065. >But she doesn't see that as a bad thing
  1066. >"Well... kinda. Not really, but kinda."
  1067. "That's... comforting. What do you got?"
  1068. >Sparks keeps up, sticking to his left side
  1069. >She just kinda defaults to that side
  1070. >Also means that she's walking on grass and not on asphalt
  1071. >"Well, we all know that she's a pegasus. I tried thinking of the color of her mane and coat and... you know Rarity?"
  1072. "Yeah?"
  1073. >"She's white, like her. Rarity doesn't have wings but she just kinda looks like her regarding color."
  1074. >It was a start
  1075. >She can feel the gears in Anon's head turning
  1076. "Alright... who does she sound like?"
  1077. >"Excuse me?"
  1078. "Well, I mean there's no getting around it. You sound pretty similar to Twilight. And Jacky sounds pretty similar to AppleJack. This means that she has to sound like someone, right?"
  1079. >She can tell that he's not trying to offend
  1080. >He has a point too, as unsettling as it is
  1081. >"Well... I don't remember. But she wasn't rowdy like Rainbow Dash. But she also wasn't really cowardly like Fluttershy either. I don't know what to make of that."
  1082. "Makes sense. Jacky really isn't like Applejack, when you look at how they are and what they prefer."
  1083. >He shrugs, chuckling
  1084. "And you're no Twilight."
  1085. >She was about to take that as an insult but mental imagery in his head tells her that he thinks she's pretty
  1086. >He's pretty happy about how she and Jacky look, due to how they're different
  1087. >While Sparks does feel a little inferior, Anon likes her more than Twilight
  1088. >Because she's real and Twilight is just a cartoon
  1089. >Obviously
  1090. >She wouldn't be jealous of a cartoon
  1091. >"No, I'm better than her."
  1092. >That makes him laugh
  1093. "Yeah, sure are. But come on, don't tell me you wouldn't want to sleep with a Smarty Pants doll."
  1094. "As if!"
  1095. >Things feel normal between them
  1096. >She likes that
  1097. >It isn't a heavy conversation or anything important
  1098. >It's just a man and a mare waltzing around the block
  1099. "So... got any thoughts on how we can grab her and make out like bandits?"
  1100. >That phrasing makes her flinch
  1101. >"W-what?"
  1102. "How're we gonna get away with it, Sparks? You're the seasoned thief, right? How would you do it?"
  1103. >Obviously his thoughts show that he wasn't talking about anything else weird
  1104. >"Oh, well, we only have two people to worry about."
  1105. "That we know of."
  1106. >"Right, that we know of."
  1107. "And one is a pony, the other is a human."
  1108. >"Right."
  1109. "And we can't just fight them. We can't turn to violence, especially toward someone that's been really friendly and helpful to us. We owe Nona for letting Jacky and I make off with you."
  1110. >Though she wasn't there, she could see through Anon's eyes that he was happy to see her in that humiliating little box
  1111. >It didn't even look like it was a finished box, there were decals and letting missing
  1112. >He called her 'firefly' too
  1113. >She remembered that word when she was in the box
  1114. >When she was dreaming
  1115. >She wasn't dreaming anything in particular but she was sort of aware of what was going on in the outside world
  1116. >Anon's voice stuck out the most
  1117. >She could hear Jacky too
  1118. >She remembered being so angry when she first woke up, too
  1119. >Maybe it was good that she wasn't good with magic, otherwise she might have hurt both of them before even knowing who they were or where she was
  1120. "Your thoughts?"
  1121. >"Huh?"
  1122. >She nodded
  1123. >"Yeah, we can't hurt them. But if they can't help us, we can't let that stop us either... right?"
  1124. "Right. We got to focus on our goal."
  1125. >He doesn't speak the rest but she can tell that he's worried
  1126. >He's worried for them
  1127. >And for himself, if only because if he's put out of action, they'll be stuck too
  1128. >He thinks more of himself now, she's noticed
  1129. >If only because he feels responsible for everything
  1130. >She isn't sure of what to say to him
  1131. >A distraction will probably help
  1132. >"Hey, you know that Jacky's been watching over you a lot. You mean a lot to us, her especially."
  1133. >He smiles, stretching in stride
  1134. "I'm glad. It's nice to be wanted, you know?"
  1135. >She wants to be wanted
  1136. >But then again he does want her
  1137. >Just not in the same way he wants Jacky
  1138. >This doesn't not bother her, but she doesn't let it show
  1139. >"Yeah, it is... when it was just three, I don't think anyone cared about us beyond us. Did Jacky tell you that she and Dashie had a scheme to find a guy and tagteam him? Dashie's charisma, Jacky's skills and bravery. They were convinced that they could find someone if they put their heads together."
  1140. >This makes Anon chuckle
  1141. "Yeah, she told me about that alright... she told me to keep that a secret, in the event Dashie doesn't remember."
  1142. >She laughs too
  1143. >Being only barely invasive, she pokes into his mind until she can find a tiny crumb of him wondering if she was going to be a part of that or not
  1144. >"But you know, I never agreed to such a shameful plan."
  1145. "Is that so. What was your plan then?"
  1146. >They completed one lap so far
  1147. >Most of the grass is still more yellow than green
  1148. >Most of the seasonal trees are still dead
  1149. >But she doesn't particularly care all too strongly for the scenery
  1150. >"Well, I was the biggest thief out of all of us. I liked taking more than what I needed. Because... I guess I thought I deserved it. Those two liked stealing just what they needed but I liked going for more than just food or lame stuff like that."
  1151. >She puffs out her chest
  1152. >"I thought that if I ever found someone... I would steal him."
  1153. "Ha!"
  1154. >Anon laughs
  1155. >He imagines her swooping in and stealing some sort of limp-legged blueblood
  1156. >He laughs harder suddenly
  1157. >Something called "The Redfield Bloodline" pops up
  1158. >What was the Redfield Bloodline and what did it have to do with some asian woman?
  1159. "Ahh... that's funny. I guess you'd use rope and a ransom note or something?"
  1160. >Though amused by his mindset, she only smirks
  1161. >"No no, nothing that silly. I would just... steal him like how I would steal anything else. Timing, effort, knowledge, and a little luck."
  1162. >She sounds confident
  1163. >He doesn't suspect anything
  1164. >Of course, why would he?
  1165. "Well, I guess you have a new cast of rich saps to aim for. I suppose it'll work, but you gotta be careful about that sort of thing, you know?"
  1166. >As if she would go for someone who was rich and useless
  1167. >She wanted someone strong and capable more than someone weak and in need of protecting
  1168. "Well, for now, let's focus on stealing Dashie. And then after that... I don't know. We can kinda just enjoy life. That's the point of all of it, in the end, isn't it?"
  1169. >Was it the point?
  1170. >"Would you be interested in stealing anyone else from there?"
  1171. >Anon furrows his brow and shrugs
  1172. "Not really. It's just you three together, right?"
  1173. >She prods, paying attention to his face as much as his mind
  1174. >"Well yeah but... are there any other types of ponies that you would want to see? I bet you could even find Celestia at the warehouse. Or a pony that looks like her."
  1175. "Why would I want that? I have Jacky as a friend. I have you as a friend. I'll have Dashie as a friend. All you three guys will be together again. That sounds better than I deserve already."
  1176. >He means it too
  1177. >She wasn't surprised
  1178. >But she is happy
  1179. >A passing thought he has that she can grip onto is that his bed isn't big enough to hold much more than himself and a third pony
  1180. >Another passing thought she can tell is that he still enjoys his privacy and would prefer a smaller group
  1181. >"I'm glad. I guess we can burn bridges over there then and it'll be ok."
  1182. "I hope..."
  1183. >She walks another two laps with Anon, talking about some of the games and movies that he introduced to them
  1184. >He smiles when he talks about that sort of stuff
  1185. >She can tell that he's used to talking to that sort of stuff, especially to his old friends
  1186. >She's happy that memories of her and of Jacky have been usurping the memories of his old friends
  1187. >She wants him to only have happy memories moving forward
  1188. >She wants to be a big reason for it
  1189. >As she thinks, her face remains a little less expressive
  1190. >A little more calm
  1191. >She's a very cerebral pony, and a very detailed planner
  1192. >She isn't going to fail
  1194. >Be a sleepy you
  1195. >You feel far better today than you did yesterday
  1196. >You even left the window uncovered, letting in some natural light for once
  1197. >But it's snowing now
  1198. >Again
  1199. >Good thing you had that walk yesterday
  1200. >You move your arms to cover your yawn, only to find yourself struggling
  1201. >Again
  1202. >As before, Jacky is on your right side
  1203. >...Sparks is on your left?
  1204. >Well she is under the blanket
  1205. >And the apartment has been cold, you can tell because of how dry your throat is
  1206. >She looks like she's having a nice sleep at least
  1207. >But now you're stuck
  1208. >You nudge your head to the right, your hair going against Jacky's nose
  1209. >She inhales and sputters for a moment, her head jerking up
  1210. >"Ahm up, mom grab the pie fo..."
  1211. >She looks around, perplexed
  1212. >And sees you
  1213. >"Ooh.. hey, Anon. Good morning! I was, uh... er..."
  1214. >She looks around again
  1215. >"I thought I was making a pie for you with ma..."
  1216. >She sounds a little let down
  1217. "A pie, huh... you know what we should do today?"
  1218. >You pull your head back, only for her to move her head forward
  1219. >"What's that?"
  1220. "Make an Easter pie."
  1221. >Her eyebrow raises
  1222. >"What's an Easter?"
  1223. "It's a holiday where we celebrate by making a pie and eating peanut-butter chocolates that are in the shape of eggs. And other things chocolate-themed."
  1224. >Your explanation leads to Jacky's pupils constricting
  1225. >Then dilating
  1226. >"Do... we have... chocolate eggs?"
  1227. "Yup. I stashed them in my car. We got a few cases."
  1228. >Slowly, she starts to vibrate
  1229. >In an instant, she leaps up and flies across your chest to land next to Sparks
  1231. >Her hooves thunder down on the bed faster than the God Hand can punch, leading to an ungodly earthquake
  1232. >You forget that this pony is the reason why your fridge has a sizable dent in it
  1233. >After the third second of excitement, Sparks jolts upright
  1234. >Another second of master level DDR stomping leads to her screaming
  1235. >The unicorn tackles Jacky, launching herself from a laying position
  1239. >You watch in amazement at the two ponies barking at each other
  1240. >Over each other
  1241. >Seeing your chance, you start to slide out of bed
  1242. >You successfully do so, and start to turn to walk out
  1243. >"HOLD IT"
  1244. >Both of them shout at you
  1245. >Aw shit
  1246. >"Hand over those eggs, Anon!"
  1247. >Jacky points at you with her right hoof, a look of manic determination on her face
  1248. >"You better have enough or you're in trouble."
  1249. >Sparks points at you with her left hoof, grimacing with a major case of bed head
  1250. >Oh no
  1251. >You take a step backward
  1252. "Y-yeah... they're just in my car... so I'm going to go get them..."
  1253. >You are not at all dressed enough to go outside
  1254. >The fact that you're wearing anything at all on a Sunday morning is a miracle in of itself
  1255. >"Eggs."
  1256. >"Now."
  1257. >They are unified at long last
  1258. >Two pairs of eyes glaring at you; one with excitement and one with irritation
  1259. >Not like this
  1260. "S-seriously, I'll take the stairs down and... you know..."
  1261. >"Jacky?"
  1262. >"Yes, Sparky?"
  1263. >"Go for the legs."
  1264. >"Only if you go for the keys."
  1265. >"He isn't holding his keys."
  1266. >"We'll get him to tell us where the keys are."
  1267. "THE KEYS ARE ON T--"
  1268. >Both of them launch themselves at you
  1269. >You have learned this day, the true power of their cooperation
  1270. >Trampled in both body and spirit, you could only watch as Jacky struggle snuggles you while Sparks steals your keys and makes off
  1271. >She returned later with three cases of peanut butter and chocolate eggs
  1272. >They were supposed to last for months
  1273. >Instead, with a face full of yellow pony, you were powerless to stop them from devouring two thirds of it in minutes
  1274. >By the time they finished, you actually didn't mind Jacky laying on your face
  1275. >You get the idea she didn't mind it either
  1276. >By the time she left your head, both of them looked so pleased with themselves
  1277. >Over two dozen eggs
  1278. >Gone
  1279. >Just like that
  1280. >You sat up, staring in disbelief
  1281. >The third egg carton is at least untouched
  1282. >Sparks gave you a smug, yet pleased smile
  1283. >Jacky was on cloud nine, presumably due to either you or the chocolate eggs
  1284. " two are unbelievable. Truly."
  1285. >"Ooh... Anon. I love you so much right now. They were so good..."
  1286. >Jacky swooned, unable to imagine the belly ache she might dive head-first into when three sodas did her in
  1287. >"You really are something, that's true... better take your share before we get them."
  1288. >Sparks sounded so smug it was painful, like she really would devour your share if you didn't protect them
  1289. >Defeated, you took the last carton and hugged it close
  1290. >Your stockpiling ways, defeated by a pair of mares, one of which who wasn't even afraid to use herself as a deadly weapon
  1291. "Monstrous..."
  1293. >Revenge is sweet
  1294. >Revenge also takes time
  1295. >It took most of Easter day before the two little rapscallions realized that eating an entire carton of eggs was bad news
  1296. >Sparky was the first to feel the wrath of a chocolate coma
  1297. >Jacky had poked her to see if she was still alive and only got the most painful of groans
  1298. >You'd be lying if you didn't feel a tiny bit of sadistic glee since she's the one who grabbed your keys
  1299. >Jacky wasn't laughing for long
  1300. >Swearing that death was coming for her, she clung to you as hard as possible
  1301. >You didn't feel as smug about her being in pain
  1302. >But
  1303. >She did cause the initial panic
  1304. >You spent the rest of your Sunday petting Jacky's belly, telling her that she wasn't going to die
  1305. >It took a good few days for them to recover
  1306. >By the time Friday came, you had only had three eggs
  1307. >After watching them, you didn't really want to overindulge
  1308. >Besides, you only had one third of your initial hoard to deal with
  1309. >Work was pretty light, which was nice
  1310. >Your little ponies were stuck in recovery mode so almost no talk was had about Dashie
  1311. >You've been getting antsy
  1312. >Not only was there the anticipation that something might go wrong, but you keep thinking that the longer you wait, the worse it will be
  1313. >Maybe she won't even be there
  1314. >Maybe she'll be worse than what Jacky was like
  1315. >Maybe she's waiting for someone to save her and you're the only one still focusing on getting her
  1316. >All throughout your day, you've been thinking of possibilities in the form of risks, costs and what to say
  1317. >Sparks could use magic too
  1318. >That might bring up additional questions
  1319. >By the time you clocked out for the day, your mind was made up
  1320. >Now was time to bust her out of that warehouse, or find out where she was
  1321. >You didn't have a name but you had a description
  1322. >A white pegasus
  1323. >That had to narrow things down given how many color schemes there are of technicolor ponies
  1324. >How was it that you were able to get Sparks, anyway?
  1325. >You did mention that she was a reddish unicorn
  1326. >Was that really enough to go off of?
  1327. >You didn't know anything resembling her real name but that worked enough for that buff guy, Hanzel
  1328. >Now that you're more used to the girls, along with how wonderfully Jacky has grown and how Sparks has acclimated, it should be far easier
  1329. >There are still questions you would like answers for
  1330. >Questions they would want to ask too
  1331. >But you're no longer so fixated on answers
  1332. >To an extent, you've found your own answers
  1333. >You enter your apartment, kicking off your boots to their designated mat
  1334. >You haven't gotten any noise complaints in months now
  1335. >Could be that the person under you finally moved out
  1336. >Good thing, given you hear Sparks swearing up a storm
  1337. >You sneak to the archway of your room and poke your head in
  1338. >She's playing God Hand
  1339. >You remember telling Jacky about that game
  1340. >"You're still not Alexander."
  1341. >"SHUT UP!"
  1342. >"You can beg for mercy if you want. It makes the game easier."
  1344. >"You've been dying on this spot for almost an hour now..."
  1346. >"Sounds like you're relying on random chance..."
  1348. >Jacky doesn't even sound smug anymore
  1349. >She just sounds bored
  1350. "Psst. PSSSST."
  1351. >Jacky looks at you, needing a double take before realizing it's you
  1352. >"Hey Sparks, quit sucking, Anon's back!"
  1353. >"I DON'T SUCK, YOU SUCK!"
  1354. >You purse your lips and widen your eyes, darting back from the screen to Jacky
  1355. "So... did she reach the gorilla yet?"
  1356. >Jacky sighs, shaking her head
  1357. >"She keeps forcing herself to play on Level Die. She was fine until I told her that you can play on it for some of the levels."
  1358. "You mean Level DIE."
  1359. >You belch out the 'DIE' with a demonic, guttural rasp
  1360. >You even bring up your hand, clenching it into a claw as you speak
  1361. >"Level DAH."
  1362. >Jacky brings up her hoof and shakes it, making more of a...raspy whisper
  1363. "DIE."
  1364. >"DAH."
  1365. "DIE!"
  1366. >"DAH!"
  1368. >You throw your head back and bring up your hands, rending your throat for the sake of sounding properly monstrous
  1370. >Given the intense red aura drowning the controller, you're a little worried she may do it
  1371. >You look at Jacky and tilt your head back
  1372. >Picking up on your cue, she stands up from her lazy sitting position and trots off
  1373. >You close the bedroom door behind her, leaving Sparks to fume and git gud
  1375. >Poor creature
  1376. >You share a chuckle with your fellow dork
  1377. "Gotta give her credit, she's a diehard."
  1378. >"No, she dies easy. She just likes retrying."
  1379. "Sounds about right."
  1380. >You find a blank spot in the living room and sit down
  1381. >Jacky immediately hops between your legs, facing you with her hooves on your stomach
  1382. >"Welcome home."
  1383. "I'm glad to be home, Jack."
  1384. >You lean slightly to give her a hug
  1385. >You're grateful for her
  1386. >You really are
  1387. "So Jack, I've been thinking."
  1388. >"What's up, Anon?"
  1389. "How about this... you remember where that warehouse is, right?"
  1390. >"Too well. What about it?"
  1391. >You muster your courage, nodding to yourself
  1392. "It's about damned time we go get her and be done with that place."
  1393. >Jack's ears fold back, her face turning to a concerned frown
  1394. >Was she always this easy to read or have you just gotten used to her face?
  1395. >"W-well hold on now... shouldn't we be planning things out more? What about escape routes? How we deal with if we can't get her?"
  1396. >You lean back, shrugging
  1397. "If those are things to be concerned about... we'll figure it out on the fly."
  1398. >"Anon, this is a serious thing, we can't just go up and do it!"
  1399. "I know it's a serious thing. That's why I'm not comfortable just... sitting here and waiting. We don't even discuss it like it's a priority every day like we should. We get too distracted or just get preoccupied."
  1400. >Jacky meanders like she wants to make an excuse but nothing comes to mind
  1401. >"I know but..."
  1402. "But nothing, Jack. We're going to get her and we're going tomorrow morning. If this was for your sake, I'd already be down there raining hell down."
  1403. >"I know... I wanna see her again too..."
  1404. "Then what's the worry?"
  1405. >"If she ain't there... I might not ever see her again."
  1406. "And if she is there, she's waiting for us. Waiting for you, her friend. You said that you've known her longer than anyone else, right?"
  1407. >"Yeah... I just got a bad feeling is all, ok?"
  1408. "You're not the only one..."
  1409. >You pull her in for another hug until she's almost completely vertically against you
  1411. >You hear a muffled screech from your bedroom
  1412. "And that... is where I worry."
  1413. >Jacky giggles at the timing
  1414. >"Worst comes to worst, she can just burn the place down, right?"
  1415. "That... is attempted murder, arson, and would possibly burn a lot of ponies."
  1416. >"Ew. Ok, nevermind then."
  1417. >You tighten your hug on her
  1418. "We got the address, we got each other, and I've been saving up if we need cash. We'll be fine."
  1419. >The two of you share a quiet, comfortable moment
  1420. >"...hey Anon?"
  1421. "Mm?"
  1422. >"I forget... did we go there during the week or on the weekend? They got business hours or something, right?"
  1423. >Well fuck
  1424. "Yeah... yeah, I suppose they do."
  1425. >"Do you remember?"
  1426. "The longest lived memory I have is of you telling me that if you die from chocolate overdose that I can have your hat."
  1427. >Jacky goes silent
  1428. >"I... I didn't say that."
  1429. "Oh yes you did."
  1430. >"But... it's my hat."
  1431. "Only until you die. Then it's my hat."
  1432. >Jacky whimpers
  1433. >"Stupid eggs..."
  1434. >You shush her and stroke her twintails
  1435. "Shhh... it's ok... it's what you get for eating all of them at once..."
  1437. >While Sparky wasn't too keen on quitting anytime soon despite her screeches descending into hoarse groans and grunts, you were able to grab your laptop and bring it into the living room
  1438. >You decided to just watch videos on YouTube
  1439. >Or have it as a decent source of background noise
  1440. >With three pillows and a blanket spread out, you and Jacky lay on your sides, her back to your front
  1441. >With your hand on her lower belly, idly stroking a specific patch of skin, you get a slow, growing sense of dread
  1442. "Hey Jack... with our place getting more full, do you think we'll be able to still have privacy?"
  1443. >She shrugs, absorbed into the video
  1444. >It's about some guy in shorts digging out an entire pool and covering it with some sort of grass and dirt roof
  1445. >"Do... we really need it?"
  1446. "I suppose not."
  1447. >She inhales, stretching
  1448. >"Don't tell me you're getting shy now..."
  1449. "Me? No... not at all. But I wouldn't want to weird anyone out."
  1450. >"Pft. You weird out everyone whenever we go out."
  1451. "Sure, because I have a goofy looking pony at my side that snarls at anything female and human."
  1452. >"Hey."
  1453. >Jacky bucks her hind end against your lap
  1454. >"That's a low blow."
  1455. "What's weird is how you could get jealous yet when Dashie comes here, she may still think that you want to share."
  1456. >Jacky fidgets
  1457. >"Well that was then."
  1458. "How would that even work, anyway?"
  1459. >"What do you mean?"
  1460. "I mean you can only date one person at a time. Is she skilled at... things?"
  1461. >"Not... really? I mean, she's a lot better than I am when it comes to talking. She's a lot more charismatic and attractive."
  1462. "So she isn't some domestic goddess?"
  1463. >"Dashie? Ha... ahhh... no. She's as useful as I am. She at least has a better sense of beauty."
  1464. "You're pretty hard on yourself and her."
  1465. >"Well I mean... sure."
  1466. >She lolls her head back and forth, eyes glued to the monitor
  1467. >"I look up to her, you know. She's like an older sister to me. I always took the brunt of the aggro but when it came to distractions? She was on top of it all. She could talk her way into anything. Of course, she didn't steal or take anything. She had a really good sense about keeping up appearances, even when we both lived... as we did."
  1468. >Were these new memories, or just something she only now wanted to open up to?
  1469. >"I'd buy extra food to squirrel away. She would buy soaps and oils. There was some overlap on what we would share, if the need arose, but she made sure that I had food before she had soap."
  1470. "Good thing you got both now, huh. How did you two guys meet, anyhow?"
  1471. >Your little pony lets out an elongated 'hmmmm'
  1472. >"I don't know."
  1473. "Really?"
  1474. >"Really. I guess we were together for so long that I don't remember a time before her."
  1475. >You get the feeling that it would be silly to ask
  1476. >But you ask anyway
  1477. "Do you have any... memories of anything like your family?"
  1478. >"Well... I guess the only right way I can answer that is to say that I'm with my family now."
  1479. "Yeah... that's fair enough."
  1480. >"It's kinda weird, that you ask that. Not to offend but you have... an entire life's worth of experiences and memories. I don't think I do."
  1481. "I was worried that might be the case."
  1482. >"Anon."
  1483. >She sounds calm despite the heavy topic
  1484. >Must help that you've been petting her through all of this and she's effectively pushed herself as hard against you as she can
  1485. >"Should I be worried if my memories of Sparks and Dashie are fake?"
  1486. "Honestly? I wouldn't be. It's only been... what, five-six months? And I like to think that we've shared a lot of positive memories."
  1487. >She lets out a pleased sigh
  1488. >"Oh big time."
  1489. "And, once we got Dashie back, you can all discuss things and... I suppose go from there. It isn't perfect, but it's a start."
  1490. >"That's true. I didn't think I had so much baggage to worry about..."
  1491. >You give her a squeeze with both arms until she lets out a squeaky exhale
  1492. "Everyone has their own stuff going on. What's important... and I guess, rare, is that you can still enjoy being around someone regardless."
  1493. >"And you enjoy being around me."
  1494. "Damn straight I do. I don't miss being alone, you know. There's absolutely nothing I miss from being in a place that's so painfully quiet that you can hear dust settle."
  1496. >Sounds like Sparks is doing better
  1497. "See what I mean?"
  1498. >Jacky nods
  1499. >"I... may have egged her on a little too hard. Do you think so?"
  1500. "Naaaah, not at all. She could use a good distraction."
  1501. >Jacky kicks out her hooves, curling her neck to the side before going limp
  1502. >"Ahh... it really does feel like home here. It was nice with just you, we didn't really need to be sneaky with anything. But when you went to work I just felt lonely. Even if we messaged each other. Or when I... tried to message you."
  1503. "Tell me about it. Even back then, I was worried about how you would adjust. I know I would be driven up the walls if I was surrounded by stuff I couldn't reliably use. I don't remember a single thing I did by myself, since I could instead do it with you."
  1504. >Jacky giggles and squirms against you
  1505. >"Well when you put it like that it sounds almost romantic..."
  1506. "Almost. Why'd you start laying on and next to me, anyway? You were a good pillow."
  1507. >You nod as you speak
  1508. >You enjoyed hearing her heartbeat
  1509. >But you never mentioned that particular detail
  1510. >"I wanted to. I liked hugging you and I wanted to hug you more. And I didn't like waking up and not knowing when you woke up. So by doing that I made it impossible for you to sneak off."
  1511. >Quite sneaky
  1512. "You have my approval. Of course, you don't have to stop doing that."
  1513. >"Wouldn't even if you told me."
  1514. >It feels alien
  1515. >It feels downright... weird
  1516. >But she's attracted to you
  1517. >As attracted as you are to her
  1518. >Rather than be pessimistic, you just accept it without question
  1519. >You can't bring yourself to question her
  1520. >You have no reason to question her too
  1521. >And that kinda freaks you out just a little bit
  1522. >More than just a little bit
  1523. >As you've always done, you speak before thinking through your words
  1524. "You know I still find it hard to believe that you like me sometimes. That you'd want to chill with me instead of..."
  1525. >What else could she do, she can't exactly go out and be social
  1526. "...anything I guess."
  1527. >"Is it supposed to be weird?"
  1528. "No, not at all. Just... well, you know. You got baggage. I do too. It's not great."
  1529. >"I couldn't tell. I thought the man who would buy a talking pony to cuddle with and make kissy faces at would be a well-balanced productive member of society."
  1530. >She curls her head up and grins at you
  1531. "Hey, I am productive! I pay taxes. But... I guess I did look like a complete wreck for a while, huh..."
  1532. >"You needed me, I knew that much."
  1533. "Yeah I did."
  1534. >You cling to her and give her another hug, burying your face into her neck
  1535. "Tomorrow's gonna be a big deal. You gonna be ready?"
  1536. >"Sure. We did it once already, and we got Sparks now."
  1537. "Good. You know what usually happens before a big event in movies, right?"
  1538. >Jacky wiggles against you, keeping a poker face
  1539. >"I don't knooow... which ones?"
  1540. "Lemme remind you..."
  1542. >You wake up before everyone else
  1543. >As usual
  1544. >You didn't expect to doze off on the floor, blanket or no under you
  1545. >But Jacky didn't leave you much choice, by the time you finished everything
  1546. >As usual, she was laying on top of you
  1547. >Poor thing got tuckered out before you
  1548. >You fight gravity to bring your hand up to her side
  1549. "Jack... Jack...! The eco! The dark eco, Jack!"
  1550. >The pony mumbles something, yawning in between incomprehensible explanation
  1551. "Boy, you can sure say that again."
  1552. >"Mmm?"
  1553. >She's definitely slow on the draw today
  1554. >Until she remembers to remember
  1555. >Her head bolts upright
  1556. >"Dashie!"
  1557. >Thrown out of balance from her head whipping up, and a little dizzy from the action, she loses balance and flops off of you
  1558. >You sit up, popping all of your joints and bits
  1559. "Exactly. I'm gonna go shower, then you can take a bath, then Sparks, then we haul ass."
  1560. >The idea doesn't sound too good to her
  1561. >"That will take all morning! We gotta hurry up or we'll get there too late! What if we get there and they close?"
  1562. "Then we better hurry."
  1563. >You stumble to your feet
  1564. >Evidently YouTube deigned that the situation called for a Dino Crisis speedrun within the last hour
  1565. "Wake up Sparks for me, will ya?"
  1566. >You hurry off to the bathroom, noticing that Sparks still has the game on
  1567. >Evidently she fell asleep in the game's training arena
  1568. >Well she can sleep in the car
  1569. >You shower as if you're late for work, taking less than ten minute to go through every avenue, every angle, and to cleanse from everything
  1570. >Including pony residue
  1571. >Sometimes Jacky just drools in her sleep
  1572. >You can only imagine what types of dreams she has
  1573. >You finish up and step out with a towel wrapped around your waist
  1574. >The shower's still going too
  1575. "Alright, nerds and nerdettes, shower's going!"
  1576. >Jacky and Sparks trot up
  1577. >The unicorn looks rough
  1578. >"Are we really going today? Do we gotta?"
  1579. >She sounds wiped out
  1580. "Yes."
  1581. >"Can't we do it..."
  1582. >She lets out a loud yawn that almost sounds like the first few chords from the God Hand theme song
  1583. >"Tomorrow? Next weekend? She's fine."
  1584. >Jacky, displeased with the idea, knocks the side of her head into Sparky's
  1585. >That lady really does have a head of stone, doesn't she
  1586. >"OW! Freaking... chunkhead!"
  1587. >"If you ain't going with us, we'll leave without you. And then you can explain to Dashie why you were too tired to save her.
  1588. >"I wasn't serious... damn..."
  1589. >Sparks, head hanging low, sighs and makes for the shower first
  1590. "I'll grab a few bottles of water and some breakfast stuff. When she gets out, get a quick wash in. We can worry about your mane later since we'll have time in the car."
  1591. >"Aye-aye, cap'n."
  1592. >Jacky gives a hard salute, eyes straight ahead
  1593. "Atta girl."
  1594. >You get dressed in a flash, using the same shirt and pants you've used for the last day
  1595. >Light work so it's not like you particularly smell like any sort of chemical fume
  1596. >With a plastic bag set up, you grab a trio of bottles of water and a few handfuls of oatmeal and grain bars
  1597. >They may not be the most balanced sources of food but they work
  1598. >Better you use them outside of work too since your desk is stocked up with the shit to the point of bursting
  1599. >After a small check and close of the laptop, a reminder from the holy traveler's guide that is Google Maps and a small damage report on why you may have to wash your blanket again, everyone is ready
  1600. >Mostly ready
  1601. >Sparks looks like she's in hell with a drippy, uncombed mane and reddened eyes
  1602. >"If she's not there I'm blowing up everyone and then myself."
  1603. "Yeah well you should blow yourself up first so you get neat ghost powers."
  1604. >Jacky trots out, still dripping wet all over
  1605. >"Alright, I'm ready, let's go!"
  1606. >Like a dog of all creatures she whips herself every which way
  1607. >One of her wet, heavy twintails slaps Sparks on the face
  1608. >Multiple times
  1609. >When she finishes, Sparks just looks defeated
  1610. >"I love you both, I would NEVER think about wearing your heads as a horn warmer..."
  1611. >"Good! I would never do that either because I'm not a psychopath."
  1612. "And I would never do that because I'm not a unicorn."
  1613. >"Yeah, imagine being stuck with a toothpick on your head."
  1614. >The grimace she gives you is one in a million
  1615. >"Can we please go already? We're in a rush but not so much of one that you guys can't shut up"
  1616. "Talking's a free action, Sparkplug."
  1617. >Choosing to ignore the amount of water that Jacky threw everywhere by her shenanigans, the three of you leave
  1618. >You really hope the place isn't closed
  1620. >A half hour out and things aren't so bad
  1621. >After sticking her head out the window for a half mile, Jacky's mane seems far more normal
  1622. >If a little fluffy due to you gunning it for that duration
  1623. >Sparks chose to remain vaguely soggy, still trying to fume as silently but as obviously as possible
  1624. >"So do you we even have a plan?"
  1625. "Sure do. We go in, we get her, we leave."
  1626. >"Wonderful."
  1627. >Jacky leans back in her seat
  1628. >You pulled the seat back pretty far, enough that she could lean and lay on her back
  1629. >"Aw don't be so critical! We kinda had the same plan when we got you. We thought a lot of stuff and... overthought it I guess. It really wasn't so bad!"
  1630. >"You SAY that..."
  1631. "Think about it this way. If something bad happens, you can hold me accountable and I'll do exactly one, and only one, thing for you. Regardless of context or cost. Ok, small restriction on cost."
  1632. >You're pretty confident in things, despite the smoldering ball of concern you have in your gut
  1633. >There's no answer from the unicorn for a moment
  1634. >"...promise and deal."
  1635. "Well then there we go."
  1636. >You didn't think she'd go for it but you suppose a blank check is a blank check
  1637. ...
  1638. "Slicing through thugs with my shockwave!"
  1639. >"Shockwave!"
  1640. "More beheadings than a guillotine, headslicer!"
  1641. >"Headslicer!"
  1642. "My arm,"
  1643. >"My arm,"
  1644. >My arm,"
  1645. "MY ARM,"
  1646. >"MY ARM,"
  1647. >"MY ARM,"
  1649. >All three of you screech the last line of the song
  1650. >With windows rolled down and volume maxed out, you punch forward with your right arm
  1651. >Jacky punches out with her left front leg
  1652. >Sparks punches both of the front seats with both of her upper legs
  1653. >Now that the music started up, excitement and energy levels topped the charts
  1654. >Emboldened by everything, the idea of waltzing in and coming out with a pegasus seems like cake
  1655. ...
  1656. "Doin' ballet like West Side Story in your matchin' outfits, oh look it's Jacky and Sparky the Double Faggoty Twins!"
  1657. >"Well listen up Anono, you fuckin' homo! Fat-headed, pencil-leaded, I'll stab your ass bro! You're goin' down in the hole, you don't even know. Jump, blast to the face, takin' you down with one blow!"
  1658. >Keeping up the theme of aggression, you've been cycling through a variety of songs
  1659. >Some of which more appropriate than others
  1660. >Sparks seems to like it though
  1661. >She sounds like she could murder someone
  1662. >Jacky, on the other hand, is enjoying the more smug, toned down parts
  1663. >"Oh no little foal you killed Anono! There's somethin' that I think you should know before we go: I am the SHADOW MARE."
  1664. >"No!"
  1665. >"Yeah sure, why not."
  1666. >Jacky turns her head back to look at Sparks
  1667. >"And while I'm at it, your human thinks I'm totally hot."
  1668. >You can see a familiar red aura start to form from her horn
  1669. >"Well if that's how it's gotta be then I'mma take you down too! I thought you were my sister, now you're dead, fuck you!"
  1670. >"Fuck me?"
  1671. >Jacky's smug tone goes beyond perfect with the song
  1672. >"Haha bitch, fuck me? Let's take it outside girl, then we'll see."
  1673. ...
  1674. >After a few more choice songs, you default to a little Summer Love for more comfy driving music
  1675. >Not like you want to show up ready to fight
  1676. >The windows were rolled back up and the heat was put on
  1677. >Reclining so back in the seat did Jacky in, given how she was sleeping
  1678. >At least her seat belt was on
  1679. >"Hey Anon."
  1680. >It was Sparks
  1681. >She definitely looked more like her usual self, if not a little ruffled from the wind
  1682. "What's up?"
  1683. >"Are you really ok with Dashie being here?"
  1684. "Why wouldn't I be?"
  1685. >You can't really look at her directly but you can see her in the mirror
  1686. >She's sitting in the center of the back seat area, leaning her head against the headrest of the front seat
  1687. >Even she can't resist the chance to lean against something
  1688. >Must be tiring to just sit there too
  1689. >"Well I know the apartment isn't all that big... and we're going to be eating more than you at this point."
  1690. "So? You're my friends. Well, she isn't my friend yet but I hope that she will be."
  1691. >"Yeah but... shouldn't we be bringing something to the table? Like... a job or something?"
  1692. "Why?"
  1693. >"Because you already gave us a ton, and you are giving us more. Without even asking for anything."
  1694. "Why would I ask for something that I want to do anyway? I'm not the sort to help you out then expect a prize."
  1695. >"Well I know, but... there's gotta be something."
  1696. >Though you look at her through the mirror, her eyes are focused on the back of your head
  1697. >Good thing the rural roads up north are so barren
  1698. >The greenery is still mostly dead
  1699. >But it looks far nicer than the winter wasteland it was months prior
  1700. >If only slightly
  1701. "Well, if you really wanna go above and beyond, you can help out with cooking. I'm really not much of a cooker. I'm not exactly eating healthy but I am eating better just because I make things that I want to make surer are good for you and Jack. Being a unicorn is pretty neat, it lets you do a whole lot of things."
  1702. >"I guess... is that all you would want from me?"
  1703. >That's an odd thing to ask
  1704. "Well... I guess you can watch out for Jack and Dash when I'm at work. If anything bad happens, your magic can do the most to get them out or whatever the situation may be."
  1705. >An apartment fire with them trapped would kill you
  1706. >You wouldn't even want to think of what you would do if you came home to find them gone like that
  1707. >Whatever you owned wouldn't matter that much
  1708. >It would suck but it wouldn't ever compare to losing your friends
  1709. "Can I rely on you to have my back, and theirs too?"
  1710. >Whether or not it was the music, Sparks looked forlorn
  1711. >At your question, you see a faint smile spread on her face
  1712. >"Yeah. Of course you can. I wouldn't let you down on something big like that."
  1713. >You smile too
  1714. "Then there we go. Be like a lion in a pride. A lot of the time they don't do much but when push comes to shove? They're the vanguard and don't let a single thing stop them."
  1715. >It felt good to know that she would have your back
  1716. >For whatever reasons outside of her having magic, she is by and far the most serious of the two
  1717. >You get the idea that she has a lot to prove, but she doesn't need to prove much to you
  1718. >You've seen how fierce and dedicated she is to a cause she cares about
  1719. >To break the atmosphere, Jacky cacks up something and rolls to her side, breathing deeply before
  1720. >"Jesus... what a chunkhead."
  1721. >You scoff
  1722. "Right? But she's our chunkhead. Gotta be thankful she thinks so highly of you. Without her, I would've never known about you."
  1723. >"And I... would've never known you either."
  1724. >The way she says it sounds like it's almost a revelation
  1725. "Exactly. What a goofy network we have..."
  1726. ...
  1727. >With a new song playing, you see that you're nearly there
  1728. >Maybe another half hour
  1729. >You've long since let your foot off of the pedal, allowing cruise control to do it's thing
  1730. >Hard to believe that you drove all the way from the southern border to the north without once realizing that this existed for your car
  1731. >Better late than never, supposedly
  1732. >Sparks, lulled to sleep by the song, remained in a sitting position with her head against the front passenger seat's headrest
  1733. >You're used to waking up before the sun but you keep forgetting that they aren't
  1734. >Jacky is, if only to wake up enough to bid you a good morning
  1735. >Sparks certainly isn't
  1736. >Especially after last night
  1737. >You gotta check out the controller and make sure she didn't crush it or something
  1738. ...
  1739. >Having slowed considerably, you turn your way into the parking light of the ominous building
  1740. >It's kinda what you remember
  1741. >No signage
  1742. >Only one car
  1743. >Might be Nona's, you don't recall what her car was like
  1744. >Though only for a glimpse, you see what looks like Hanzel walk by
  1745. >Seems he didn't notice you driving up
  1746. >You park a few spots away from the only other car there, in front of the door you entered last time
  1747. >You feel an ice cold chill down your spine
  1748. >It's probably your imagination but something about this place just makes you freak out a tiny bit
  1749. >Not Darkest Dungeon levels of unsettling
  1750. >But you would not want to be here every day
  1751. "Alright girls... we're here. Time to get up and get ready."
  1752. >You reach over and shake Jack's side while your words were enough to make Sparks stir
  1753. >"Already, huh..."
  1754. >The unicorn grimaces, picking up the same vibes you are
  1755. >"This must be what it feels like to enter a real dungeon..."
  1756. "Except we don't want to have a boss fight."
  1757. >"I'm up, I'm up."
  1758. >Jacky flails around a bit, forgetting for the moment that she's constrained by the seatbelt
  1759. >Sparks had one on too but it was only going over her lap rather than her lap and chest
  1760. >You reach over and press down on the belt release, eyes focused forward
  1761. "Rule one, don't get separated. If I gotta talk to Nona or something alone, you two keep together as if your life depends on it. Don't go somewhere you shouldn't, don't pick a fight... and if something happens, call for me."
  1762. >Your tone is deathly serious
  1763. >It may be your imagination
  1764. >Or your collective worries all bundled up into a paranoid mess
  1765. >But you really can not afford to mess up anything or lose anyone
  1767. >"Way to inspire confidence, fearless leader..."
  1768. >She's being sarcastic but it doesn't sound like normal vitriolic Sparks
  1769. >She knows you mean it
  1770. >"You got it. But let's try to not get separated at all, ok?"
  1771. "An even better plan."
  1772. >You get out first, shaking all of the nerves out
  1773. >You did this once before and all was good
  1774. >What do you have to worry about?
  1775. >You wait to hear the other doors open
  1776. >Two sets of hooves meet concrete
  1777. >Almost like an RPG Jacky, and then Sparks, follow you into the building
  1778. >It's as quiet as it always was
  1779. >You've worked spookier places, frankly
  1780. >Neither of your little ponies know what to say or do so you clear your throat and call out
  1781. "Hey, Hanz, you around? Jacky and I came back for a few things!"
  1782. >"Who's Hanz?"
  1783. >You could just barely hear Sparks whisper
  1784. >"Oh, he's the guy who man-handled you into the car along with Anon."
  1785. >"Wait, he what?!"
  1786. >You hear some heavy trotting coming toward you
  1787. >Enter Hanzel, stage left
  1788. >Or maybe stage right since he's coming from your right side
  1789. >You were never a drama club type guy anyway
  1790. >He sees you first and his somewhat bored face lightens up
  1791. >He rears up, front legs kicking out
  1792. >"Herr Anon, it is you! I knew that a friend of Hanzel Gruber would return!"
  1793. >He doesn't even seem to notice the two ponies at first
  1794. "Hanz Gruber, eh? What is it that the cowboys always say?"
  1795. >"Ah, yes, it is the 'yippee ki yay'!"
  1796. >You share a laugh
  1797. "Ahh... nice to see you again my guy. Is the Gruber part new?"
  1798. >"Ja, Frau Nona has been watching movies with me lately and I decided zat his last name would fit me well."
  1799. >It did but Hans Gruber was a villain
  1800. >"Hey Hanzy, remember me too?"
  1801. >Jacky finally pokes out from behind you, sensing an opening
  1802. >He gasps enthusiastically
  1803. >"Und Jacky too! Tell me how you have been, fellow pony friend!"
  1804. >He really seems happy to see you again
  1805. >"Super! It's been a blast these last few months! Wow, listen to me, it has been months, hasn't it!"
  1806. >"Und yet it feels like it was merely yesterday and a few hours! You must tell me what you've been up to! How has your friend been, the sparky one?"
  1807. >Sparks takes her cue and reveals herself
  1808. >Though she's a little incredulous of the stallion's sheer size and muscle mass
  1809. >The accent must be a little weird too
  1810. >He has gotten better at it though
  1811. >"Hey, uh... Frands. Why do you sound so funny?"
  1812. >In a flash, Hanz charges her, leading into a pony-sized bear hug
  1813. >"You are awake and well, zis is magnificent news! Herr Anon has cried tears over your state last he was here!"
  1814. >Sparks lets out a panicked yelp, struggling to get away from him
  1815. >"OkokokgetoffmeIgetit!"
  1816. >Hanzel releases her, guffawing with a proud smile
  1817. >"You talk much more now than you did before! This is good, ja!"
  1818. >Sparks gives you this queer look
  1819. >A look that says 'is this guy fucking serious'
  1820. >You merely nod sympathetically
  1821. "So, where's Nona? I admit, we did come here for something but if you guys aren't too busy, we'd love to hang out for a bit too."
  1822. >Jacky seems happy to talk to the buff pone but Sparks just seems unfamiliar with the entire affair
  1823. >Or maybe she's just being cautious
  1824. >"Yes yes, she is here. I couldn't be here if it was merely me, after all!"
  1825. >"Where is she, if you know? I gotta thank her for finding Sparks for us."
  1826. >Hanz taps his hoof on the floor, as if deep in thought
  1827. >"Ja... what a good question."
  1828. "You don't know?"
  1829. >He shrugs
  1830. >"She goes many places around here, I don't know them all. But I can send you to... what is it, the reception area?"
  1831. "Well last time we were here, we just used one of those empty conference rooms. Is that still around?"
  1832. >"Ja! I almost forgot!"
  1833. >Hanz gives a hearty chuckle
  1834. >"I remember so much but not the minor details, no? I recall where it was, I think. Follow and I will find Frau Nona after!"
  1835. >Your party of three look among themselves and shrug
  1836. "Sure, sounds good to me. Lead the way."
  1837. >You take the lead and follow Hanzel into a hallway, glancing around every few steps
  1838. >Your girls do the same, keeping less than three steps behind
  1839. >Maybe those old-school RPGs had the right idea
  1840. >The hallway is as memorable as last time you were here
  1841. >Which is to say that it looks mostly empty
  1842. >No shrubbery or posters
  1843. >At least it still looks clean
  1844. >He stops four doors down, and to the left
  1845. >Was this the same room you went into last time?
  1846. >"In here will be nice, has enough seats for everyone."
  1847. >He walks in without hesitation
  1848. >You glance back at the pair
  1849. >They're still there
  1850. >"So... do we go for it?"
  1851. >Sparks whispers at you, expecting leadership
  1852. "Sure, he's been good to us so far."
  1853. >That seems to be enough for her, though she isn't particularly calmed down
  1854. >It's ok
  1855. >You're still a little on edge too
  1856. >You enter, stepping to the side for the yellow and red duo
  1857. >Sure enough, it looks like a conference room
  1858. >More than enough chairs for five visitors
  1859. >Hanz smiles and nods at everyone
  1860. >"Good, ja? This room hasn't been used since you were here last, if memory recalls. Please, sit! I will find Frau Nona and bring her immediately."
  1861. >He begins to trot out before stopping in place
  1862. >"Unless, that is, she is busy. Then I will bring her immediately."
  1863. >He takes two steps and stops again
  1864. >"Unless, that is, she isn't that busy. Then I will ask if she can put it on hold."
  1865. >He nods to each of you
  1866. >"On that note, relax! Speak freely, you are among friends!"
  1867. >He trots out, thankfully not stopping for another last minute note
  1868. >Everyone waits for a few seconds before you close the door
  1869. >In a secured room, Sparks exhales
  1870. >"Geeze... does he really have to keep that accent up?
  1871. >She heads to one of the chairs
  1872. >Given the practice she's had, she's able to scamper onto it without too much issue
  1873. >You take a seat near her, so that she's on your left
  1874. >You turn a chair around and watch Jacky pounce up onto it like a cat
  1875. >She even stuck the landing
  1876. >With everyone seated, you sigh a breath of relief
  1877. "Well that's not too bad so far."
  1878. >"I guess. Can we trust that guy?"
  1879. >"Well I think so. He was nice last time, why wouldn't he be now?"
  1880. >They both rotate to scan over the room while you stay focused on the door
  1881. "It's good to see he's doing fine, in either case. He seems like a real cool guy."
  1882. >"That accent though."
  1883. >"Come on, don't be mean. He works hard on it."
  1884. >"He sounds like you when you force that French accent."
  1885. >"Hey! Anon happens to like that accent, thank you very much!"
  1886. >"Exactly, he has shit taste!"
  1887. >"You have shit taste!"
  1888. >They sure are bickering like usual
  1889. >You lean back, yawning
  1890. "I wonder if they got security cameras everywhere..."
  1891. >Jacky stops arguing, her ears perking up at your voice
  1892. >"Well why wouldn't they? We're pretty valuable."
  1893. "Sure. And... not completely natural to most people or places."
  1894. >"Oh... right. Well still, why wouldn't they?"
  1895. >Sparks verbally fumes for a while longer, refusing to let it go
  1896. "I guess it's none of our business, all the same."
  1897. >"I guess so..."
  1898. >What feels like minutes pass
  1899. >With no Hanz
  1900. >And no Nona
  1901. >Sparks has been spinning herself in her chair using her magic
  1902. >Jacky nudged and headbutted the air until she managed to sit closer to you
  1903. >You just wait there, right leg folded with your ankle on your left knee
  1904. >Given how this place is, how busy could she really be?
  1905. >What would she even be busy with?
  1906. >Would you really want to know?
  1907. >Without warning, the door knob turns
  1908. >Sparks stops the chair, lurching forward from the momentum
  1909. >Her eyes unfocused and slightly derped out, she tries to focus on the door
  1910. >"Finally!"
  1911. >The door opens and in steps a woman
  1912. >She looks kinda like the Nona you spoke with
  1913. >"Oh hey, Anon and... Jacky! And is that your friend too? Hi there!"
  1914. >The voice seals it, it definitely is Nona
  1915. >But the color of her eyes and her hairstyle is completely different
  1916. "Hey there... hi again."
  1917. >Hanz steps in after her, beaming
  1918. >"You wouldn't believe where I found her!"
  1919. >You kinda don't wanna know
  1920. >You spin your chair, along with Sparks' and Jacky's to face Nona once she sits down at a chair opposite of you
  1921. >Hanz gives an impressive grunt and leaps up onto the chair
  1922. >Or tries to
  1923. >After two more strenuous efforts he manages it
  1924. >You can't imagine that solid bulk muscle helps all that much
  1925. >"So, guys... what's up? What brought you over here?"
  1926. "Well, I--"
  1927. >"Why do you look different?"
  1928. >Jacky blurts out without forethought
  1929. >Your eyebrows raise and then lower
  1930. >Smooth move
  1931. >Nona laughs at the question, posing her hand as if to show off
  1932. >"Contacts and a vintage style, you like? Can't be too careful these days, am I right?"
  1933. >You aren't sure
  1934. >Is she?
  1935. >Jacky seems a little unsettled by her answer but does her best to just nod with an open mouth
  1936. >"Oh, uh... right."
  1937. "Aside from that... I guess we just wanted to check up on you guys. We had a few questions about--"
  1938. >"Dashie, right? Or what was her name?"
  1939. "Well that's the thing... we aren't sure of her real name. But we know that she's a white pegasus."
  1940. >"Really, you don't? Are you sure?"
  1941. >Jacky nods
  1942. "Yeah, I ain't got a clue. With Sparky with me, I've been remembering a whole ton about stuff but nothing about Dashie."
  1943. >Sparks speaks up
  1944. >The tone of her voice is very iffy
  1945. >"Y-yeah... hi there..."
  1946. >Nona's gaze fixes onto Sparks, making her visibly flinch
  1947. >"Oh my, aren't you looking far better these days! I remember when you were still in your box, you looked a little... underfinished?"
  1948. >Sparks looks proper unnerved
  1949. >Her ears flatten against her head
  1950. >She squints
  1951. >You don't hear a drop of anger in her voice
  1952. >Or even irritation
  1953. >Just pure cautious, carefully chosen words
  1954. >"Yeah... lucky me, heheh..."
  1955. >Something isn't right about this
  1956. >As far as you know Sparky, she really isn't the type to get spooked
  1957. "Anyway, Nona, Hanz. Jacky's been far happier lately now that she's been reunited with Sparks. But they aren't... complete, I guess. They're missing their last friend, Dashie. I remember us talking to you before about her, I think."
  1958. >Nona only nods
  1959. "I know before was special circumstances but... well, I can't ask for something like that again. But we gotta have Dashie. They gotta have their friend again."
  1960. >She leans forward, putting her elbows on the desk
  1961. >Out of the corner of your eye you can see Sparks flinch
  1962. >Jacky's more stoic, but you haven't seen her stare at something so hard before
  1963. >"I see... you know, I won't want to be a jerk, but I can't honestly say that we're a charity."
  1964. "No, I know. I wouldn't ever ask you for that. I didn't before, either."
  1965. >The woman smiles
  1966. >Hanz seems to just be enjoying the company
  1967. >He's the only one who doesn't seem to have any form of ulterior mindset going on
  1968. >"That is true... but my, how unique is it that you have two ponies already that seem to be doing so well but you want a third too?"
  1969. "Well it isn't for me."
  1970. >"Yes, you said something like that."
  1971. >Sparks speaks up, her throat audibly dry
  1972. >"M-miss Nona... she's important to me and Jacky. Far more than we need anyone else. She's the glue that keeps us together."
  1973. >Jacky chimes in
  1974. >"She's the gunpowder in our bullets."
  1975. >"The peanut butter in our sandwich."
  1976. >"The punchline to our jokes."
  1977. >Sparks manages to ease up just enough to glare over at Jack
  1978. >"You're the only punchline here to come up with that..."
  1979. >Jacky points her hoof at Sparks
  1980. >"S-see what I mean? Our shtick gets old if it's just us!"
  1981. >Whether or not they're doing this on purpose, they're doing beautifully
  1982. >Nona chuckles
  1983. >"I get you, I do. Well, I guess you've made your case."
  1984. >No one speaks for a few moments
  1985. >What does that mean, exactly?
  1986. "So... what do you think?"
  1987. >"Well it seems to me like you guys just want to have her and have a few formalities with us to be diplomatic."
  1988. >Well shit, she's not exactly wrong
  1989. "Well... yeah, I guess so."
  1990. >Hanz deflates a little
  1991. >"This is such a serious talk... I thought we would have more friendly topics by now."
  1992. >Almost as if that triggered a change, Nona giggles and ruffles his short mane
  1993. >"You're as friendly as it gets, you know!"
  1994. >"Oh stop, you know what I say, that my memory is a steel trap!"
  1995. >So nothing in, nothing out?
  1996. >The three of you wait for them to get over their own little interactions
  1997. >So this is what it feels like to watch a person and a pony almost flirt in front of you
  1998. >You glance over to Jacky
  1999. >She glances back at you
  2000. >Same wavelength and same expression of 'are we like that?'
  2001. >Nona ends it with another ruffle of her pony's hair, sighing
  2002. >"Ahh... well, I guess you guys do have a good reason. Anon, you remember when you got Jacky, right?"
  2003. "Sure, what about it?"
  2004. >"Five times."
  2005. >You furrow your brow
  2006. "Come again?"
  2007. >"Five times Jacky's price and you're set."
  2008. >You feel the color drain from your face
  2009. >You DO have that much
  2010. >But you're going to lose your entire nest egg too
  2011. >"Anon, how much is--"
  2012. "Alright, you got it."
  2013. >Despite the pit in your stomach, you force a grin
  2014. "Mind if I run a portion on credit card then the rest on debit?"
  2015. >Nona looks visibly surprised
  2016. >"Wow, you weren't kidding were you."
  2017. "I said she's important to us. My friends and I. I do owe you for Sparks, regardless of what you said, and I think it's more than fair in your favor."
  2018. >Your little ponies watch you
  2019. >You never did mention how much Jacky cost you
  2020. >It wasn't a small amount
  2021. >It wasn't overly massive, like 'new car' massive
  2022. >But it wasn't small
  2023. >Five times as much may be pushing it to that line though
  2024. >"Hanz, can you get the credit card reader? Over near the kitichen, the paperweight on top of all of those other papers?"
  2025. >It takes the lad a few seconds to digest the information before he nods
  2026. >"Jawohl! I will return shortly!"
  2027. >He jumps off of the chair
  2028. >Only for the chair to kick back under him, causing him to unceremoniously bellyflop onto the floor
  2029. >No one laughs, which makes his pratfall that much more painful
  2030. >"Gottverdammt stück scheiße ich hasse stühle..."
  2031. >He angrily grumbles to himself as he limps out the door
  2032. >Due to how the handles are, and his size, he's able to get on his hind legs and put his weight down, opening it enough for him to fit his head through and push his body after
  2033. >What a guy
  2034. >Everyone left in the room, you included, remain silent
  2035. >The way Nona watches you and Sparks is really setting off some sort of sixth sense shit
  2036. >Jacky's paying close attention but she doesn't seem to fully get it
  2037. >"So Sparks. You can use magic, can't you?"
  2038. >The question makes her flinch
  2039. >The corners of her mouth twitch
  2040. >"N-not really... I need... vitamins."
  2041. >"Is that true? That's a shame..."
  2042. >Something's going on that you aren't able to see
  2043. >"So, you like being with Anon and Jacky?"
  2044. >Sparks doesn't answer but instead just nods
  2045. >"Good... good. You know, if you ever get bored of being there..."
  2046. >Sparks speaks up, her tone anything but steady
  2047. >"N-no thank you. I like it with Anon and Jacky. I won't get bored."
  2048. "I like to think I keep the boredom levels down."
  2049. >You interject to help deflect the attention off of your unicorn
  2050. >"Oh, I hope so! Such an expensive hobby, keeping ponies around. Especially now that you have a third. Can't imagine what your home must look like..."
  2051. >This time Jacky speaks up
  2052. >"Hey, our place looks great! We're the loudest things there so you know it's a good neighborhood!"
  2053. >Butter smooth Jacko
  2054. >Nona laughs and nods
  2055. >"Alright, I'll take your words for it then. I'm glad that you guys are all on the same page. I really didn't expect it, I gotta say."
  2056. >You jump slightly from a series of hard knocks on the door
  2057. "Mind if I...?"
  2058. >Nona nods
  2059. >"Please, thank you."
  2060. >You stand up and stretch out a few steps to open the door
  2061. >Hanz trots in, still muttering something under his breath
  2062. >Holding a rather new looking credit card reader in his mouth too
  2063. >You've seen something like that once or twice before
  2064. >He 'hands' it to Nona before sitting at her side
  2065. >"I don't even like these stupid chairs, I'm fine right here, I can still see..."
  2066. >You can barely see his eyes from how you're sitting
  2067. >Poor guy
  2068. >Nona stands and leans forward, plugging the card reader into an outlet
  2069. >"Alright... so credit card first you said?"
  2070. >You end up sliding your cards through after she punches in the numbers and asks you to confirm them
  2071. >You've lost a lot of money before but this is going to hurt
  2072. >Lot of years' worth of meager saving up
  2073. >You are going to be very happy to see everyone be happy, though
  2074. >Nothing about this is anything you would regret
  2075. >But you hope nothing else pops up in the next few months too
  2076. >Once it's all said and done, you have a pair of receipts that you tuck into your wallet
  2077. "Alrighty then... not a problem. Like before, mind if...?"
  2078. >"Oh, yeah, of course! Hanz, can you go get 'Dashie'? Anon and his friends will wait out front. I'm gonna get back to where I was before. Can I trust you to get it settled?"
  2079. >"JAWOHL!"
  2080. >Hanz shouts out, his voice reverberating against the underside of the table
  2081. >So it's settled now
  2082. >You can't help but feel relieved
  2083. >But
  2084. >You also feel a bit sick at knowing you've basically put yourself back to having less than a hundred bucks for funds
  2085. >At least your place is as stocked as can be
  2086. >You grab hold of the two chairs your ponies are in, having learned from Hanz
  2087. >They manage to hop off without issue and immediately stack up behind you
  2088. >You open the door and let Hanz out first before you take your leave
  2089. >"Pleasure seeing you again, guys!"
  2090. >Nona just seems happy to wave, not moving from her seat
  2091. >You follow Hanz back to the entrance, glad that it's almost over now
  2092. >"If you please, I will return herr Anon!"
  2093. >Hanz gives you a salute
  2094. >You return one in kind, making him grin before he runs off
  2095. >After a few moments of silence, you feel Sparks nudge the back of your leg with her head
  2096. "Anon... please give me the keys. I want to go to the car now."
  2097. >Uh oh
  2098. >That downright meek tone of hers bother you far more than anything else
  2099. "Yeah... sure. Front seat so you can chill once we get going and turn on the AC or heat or whichever."
  2100. >You fish them out of your pocket and hold them out
  2101. >The magical red aura immediately envelopes them
  2102. >You hurry ahead of her and open the front door
  2103. >You watch her leave and open your front passenger door
  2104. "Jack, she has the right idea... how about you go out to the car with her and keep her company, yeah?"
  2105. >Jacky nods
  2106. >"She's not like this normally... hurry back with Dashie, alright?"
  2107. "You got it."
  2108. >You open the door again for her, turning so it will close behind you
  2109. >Now it's just you in here
  2110. >You feel a lot less safe in here
  2111. >You hear your car start up and you whip your head back
  2112. >It's just Sparks, with Jacky in the back seat
  2113. >How the hell did she figure out how to start your car?
  2114. >You wait for a painfully long time before you hear something like a cart being pushed along with more grumbling
  2115. >"These blasted things... what I would give for some of ze magic..."
  2116. >Hanz stops pushing once the cart, and the box on top of it, is in front of you
  2117. >"And there is is, herr Anon! An impossible feat for a pony of lesser skill and stature!"
  2118. >Sure enough, a pale white pegasus is in the box
  2119. >It looks exactly like Jacky's box
  2120. >The brand name
  2121. >The weird, out of place looking accessories
  2122. >Just instead of hats it's a mix of brushes, combs, and empty bottles that claim to be filled with magical substances
  2123. >There's even little wire ties around her torso, neck, and around her torso, keeping her wings in place
  2124. >Jesus Christ
  2125. >Have they been getting prepped up to look like toys?
  2126. >"Herr Anon, you are stunned by her beauty too, ja? Sly dog, when you already have two!"
  2127. "Wait, what?"
  2128. >You shake your head, your eyes going to her face
  2129. >Her slimmer, rounder face is different from Jacky or Sparks
  2130. >It is definitely... unique
  2131. >You can see why she was the face of their operations
  2132. "Alrighty then... wanna help me like old times buddy?"
  2133. >"Jawohl! Let the ladies see what true strength looks like!"
  2134. >With Hanz getting the door, you grab hold of Dashie in her box
  2135. >Moving a little awkwardly, your face is mere inches from hers
  2136. "H-hey there. Jack an' Sparks sent me. Let's get the hell out of here, huh?"
  2137. >You whisper to her between steps
  2138. >Whether or not you're sure, you can almost see her smile
  2139. >The back passanger door is already open, courtesy of Sparks and with a little help from Hanzel, you manage to squeeze the box in without banging any corners into the car frame
  2140. >You close the door, sighing
  2141. >Good weekend workout
  2142. >"Ah... herr Anon, you were barely here! And I was hoping we would be able to do more..."
  2143. "Yeah... trust me, I wish I could stay longer too. But with this... well, us guys have obligations to those we love, don't we?"
  2144. >"Ja, we--"
  2145. >His expression changes from confusion, to shock, to unabashed glee
  2146. >"Ahaha! I knew you were that sort of man! Ha ha! Next time you will tell me all the details, yes? Spare no thought from me!"
  2147. >You can't help but laugh with him
  2148. >If anyone would enjoy the stories you had to tell, it'd be him
  2149. "Not while we're sober you dog!"
  2150. >You both nod
  2151. "Well... you take care, yeah? I don't know if we'll have a reason to come back here, but--"
  2152. >"But this is not good bye!"
  2153. "Exactly."
  2154. >You turn to face the door to the building and flinch
  2155. >Nona is there
  2156. >Not really smiling or frowning
  2157. >Just staring
  2158. "Any...way... I'm gonna go ahead and split. You keep things safe on your end too, yeah?"
  2159. >Trying to avoid the woman's gaze, you swooce into your seat
  2160. >You move to turn the keys and realize that, of course, the car's already on
  2161. >"Drive."
  2162. >That was Sparks
  2163. "Eh?
  2165. >Sparks starts to repeat herself, her panic building until she's in a full hysteric scream
  2166. >Every time she repeats herself you can hear her voice her entire lungs empty to the point that she's almost hyperventilating
  2167. >You glance to where Sparks is staring and it's Nona
  2168. >She's staring at Sparks
  2169. >Again, with no particular expression on her face
  2170. >Her eyes focus on (You)
  2171. >(You) feel something go down your spine
  2173. >Without a second thought you shift gears, reverse, and nearly peel out of there and onto the road back home
  2175. >The car is almost deathly silent for almost a half hour
  2176. >Jacky's been in a silent panic since Sparks screamed
  2177. >You've been unable to stop from shivering every now and again
  2178. >Sparky's breathing more normally but she was hyperventilating for almost ten minutes
  2179. >You kept a close eye on her in your peripheral during the entire duration
  2180. >You're pretty sure she made herself pass out for a moment or two, which would explain how she managed to calm herself down
  2181. >No one is saying anything, and with no music going on, you have no real choice
  2182. "Is everyone alright?"
  2183. >A silly question
  2184. >Jacky nods, stammering just enough to sound shaken
  2185. >"Y... yeah. I'm ok. What happened?"
  2186. "Sparky?"
  2187. >Sparks doesn't say anything but she nods
  2188. "Atta girls."
  2189. >Something about Nona didn't sit well with you, this?
  2190. >This was something else
  2191. >Sparks was by and far the most cautious out of you
  2192. >Was it for good reason?
  2193. >Why was Nona just staring so hard at her?
  2194. >And at you?
  2195. >At you?
  2196. >At you?
  2197. >At (You)?
  2198. >You shake your head, grimacing
  2199. >That was just... not right
  2200. "Alright..."
  2201. >Your knuckles turn white at how hard you've been holding onto the steering wheel
  2202. >Evidently you've been at a steady 90mph
  2203. >To give yourself a bit better mileage you turn on cruise control and slow down to 80
  2204. "Alright... hey, we did it! Right? Jack, how's Dashie doing?"
  2205. >Jacky looks over the box, you watch her from your rearview mirror
  2206. >"Yeah, she looks fine! But... her name isn't even on here either. Our names weren't on our boxes, were they?"
  2207. "I don't think so, no. Not that I recall, anyway."
  2208. >Used to driving with your left hand, your right hand ends up on Sparking's mane
  2209. >She flinches and looks at you with wide eyes
  2210. "You did good, firefly. You did real good."
  2211. >She nods and leans into your hand
  2212. >You continue the drive without any music or banter
  2213. >Your hand never leaves Sparks
  2214. >Jacky never leaves Dashie's box
  2215. >You get the feeling that none of you really knew what happened
  2216. >Was it just instinct?
  2217. >Some sort of primal warning?
  2218. >Sparks didn't even act normally during the conversation
  2219. >Did she have some sort of sixth sense?
  2220. >Obviously, she had magic, but how would that give her such a freak out?
  2221. >Why was she just staring?
  2222. >She didn't look happy or sad
  2223. >She didn't look irritated or angry
  2224. >Hanz seemed alright, which made it all the more jarring
  2225. >He probably is alright
  2226. >You hope
  2227. >You make it back to your apartment garage quicker than you thought, able to park away from most types of prying eyes
  2228. >Both Jack and Sparks ended up sleeping after the first hour
  2229. >You kinda wished that you could retrieve your hand but the panicked unicorn needed it more than you
  2230. >When you park, you let out a loud, bestial yawn
  2231. "Man was that good! I slept through the entire trip!"
  2232. >Sparks is the first to bolt upright
  2233. >She looked all over before resting her eyes on you
  2234. >She's not impressed
  2235. >"Don't tell us you actually fell asleep..."
  2236. >You shrug, scoffing
  2237. "Maybe I did... maybe I didn't. We're here anyway, aren't we?"
  2238. >Sparks rolls her eyes and looks behind her seat
  2239. >Jacky is still out, breathing through her mouth
  2240. >Sparks looks at you, unable to help but smile
  2241. >"Anon... thank you. I don't know what would have happened if you weren't there."
  2242. >She sounds so genuine
  2243. >"Yeah... thank Jacky too. We all did this together."
  2244. >She shakes her head
  2245. >"Don't kid yourself. You're the only reason we're all together now. You're the only one I can rely on with this type of thing..."
  2246. "What, driving?"
  2247. >Your thickheaded angle seems to exhaust her
  2248. >"...sure. Let's wake her up and get back in, I need some fresh air..."
  2249. >Ironic, given you're going from outside to inside
  2250. >Behind a locked door
  2251. >While she undoes her seatbelt and hops out of seat, you lean back to nudge Jacky
  2252. "Hey. Jackolantern. We're home."
  2253. >She lifts her head off of Dashie's prison, yawning
  2254. >"Yeah-huh, I heard you. I'm up. I'm uuuuaaaaaaahhh..."
  2255. >She yawns in mid-sentence, her eyes squinty
  2256. "Tell me about it. Come on, let's go."
  2257. >Carrying Dashie, the four of you go from garage, to elevator, and finally back to your apartment
  2258. >Home sweet, quiet, chaotic home
  2259. >Except it's actually pretty quiet now
  2260. >Everyone's drained in one way or another
  2261. >Sparks immediately goes to your bed, hunkering up against one of your pillows
  2262. >Jacky flops onto your bed, spreading out without much care
  2263. >You swear that it's their bed, you merely rented it until they claimed ownership
  2264. >Deciding that your room is the place to be, you set Dashie down in the corner
  2265. >Knowing the trick to it by now, you set her down with the plastic front window of the box facing the ceiling
  2266. >You slide out the cardboard rack that is tied to the white pegasus and grab your pair of safety shears
  2267. >You snip away at the wire ties, taking extra care around her wings
  2268. >You haven't really teased Sparks about her horn or... touched it
  2269. >But you presume it's like actual bone or something
  2270. >The wings are another game entirely
  2271. >With her free, you shake the bed, alerting your little ponies
  2272. >Both of them flank your sides, all eyes on the sleeping pony
  2273. "Hey... Dashie. Are you alright?"
  2274. >"Dashie, it's me, Jacky! You're home now!"
  2275. >"Dashie, it's Sparks. She's not lying, it's home. It really is."
  2276. >Slowly, her eyes open
  2277. >Purple eyes
  2278. >Without a word, she at the three of you
  2279. >And smiles
  2280. >"Good morning."
  2281. >It's technically past noon now but sure
  2282. >The two are silent
  2283. "Yeah... how're you feeling? Do you recognize these two?"
  2284. >Dashie looks from one to the other, but her eyes rest on you
  2285. >"Did you save me?"
  2286. >She sounds so mellow
  2287. "I... uh... I guess we did, sure."
  2288. >"I knew you would... I am Faint Prism. But Jacky and Sparking Shine know me as Dashie."
  2289. >Jacky stomps her hoof down
  2290. "T-that's it! Your name is Prism! Dashie, it seriously is you!"
  2291. >Sparks is less impressed
  2292. >"Wait... really?"
  2293. >You're more focused surprised at how she doesn't have a really weird accent
  2294. >She sounds very proper, and her rhetoric speed is slow
  2295. >Jacky had her weird accents
  2296. >Sparks had her little outburst
  2297. >Dashie... just wakes up normally?
  2298. >The pegasus slowly works her way up to her hooves but fails
  2299. >Instead, she sits on her side, half-laying on the box
  2300. >Her mane is as white as the rest of her body
  2301. >Her hair isn't like any of the mane six that you're aware of
  2302. >Compared to her name, she seems very much different from Rainbow Dash
  2303. >Wait a second
  2304. >You glance over her flank
  2305. >Sure enough, a cutie mark
  2306. >A rainbow that twists into a white ribbon
  2307. >She notices where you look and giggles
  2308. >"My, I can't stop you from looking, can I?"
  2309. >You purse your lips and immediately shake your head
  2310. "Wait, hold on now. That cutie mark... you didn't have that before, did you?"
  2311. >She looks over herself
  2312. >"Would you look at that... who do you think put that there?"
  2313. >She doesn't even really seem to care
  2314. >The two ponies at your side dog pile Dashie, suffocating her with a dual hug
  2315. >"I missed you, I didn't think I'd ever see you again!"
  2316. >"It was terrifying, you would never believe what Anon did!"
  2317. >"I love you Dashie, never go away again!"
  2318. >"You're gonna love it here, we have everything now!"
  2319. >They speak over each other, surely having a million things to say in the span of seconds
  2320. >"Oh my! I didn't think either of you would miss me that much..."
  2321. >She looks at you
  2322. >She looks downright serene
  2323. >"I really thought that I was dead. If I'm not, this is very lucky!"
  2324. >Can she really say that so easily?
  2325. "No, you're very much alive, Dash. Let's keep it that way, huh?"
  2326. >"Yes, let's!"
  2328. >Dashie really lives up to her name
  2329. >While Sparks and Jacky were quick to move from the slightly crowded bedroom into the living room, the newly freed pegasus took her time, examining her surroundings with every step
  2330. >Not that there was all too much to look at
  2331. >"So... where exactly are we, again?"
  2332. >You keep behind her, bringing up the rear of the unorganized pony train
  2333. "Well... home, I suppose. An apartment complex in a small-ish city, specifically."
  2334. >"I see... how unusual."
  2335. >What's unusual is how she's acting
  2336. >Sparks and Jack are acting like kids seeing their best friend again after a summer break
  2337. >But she's keeping up some sort of poise, like she doesn't want to get excited
  2338. >Or maybe she is excited but is just too mellow to go bouncing off the walls
  2339. >When everyone finally gets into the living room, the trio sit in a triangle, facing each other
  2340. >If they're going to summon some sort of demon you're jumping out the window
  2341. >Jacky's by far the most relaxed one, smiling like it's nothing
  2342. >With her keeping her main in a twin tail style, she's really does stick out the most
  2343. >Sparks sits with a straight back
  2344. >Her hair is a mess but her eyes are alert
  2345. >Dashie sits on her side, her hind legs splayed out on the floor
  2346. >"So... what have I missed?"
  2347. >Sparks and Jacky look at each other
  2348. >Jack speaks up first
  2349. >"Well... I came here first. Anon got me and... well, we're really close. Like, really close."
  2350. >She lets out a dorky chuckle, much to Spark's dismay
  2351. >You shrug and decide to sit behind Jacky, wrapping your arms and legs around her
  2352. >Fully embraced, she lays against your side
  2353. >"See?"
  2354. >You nod, looking down at the yellow pony
  2355. "That's right. I got Jacky... I suppose on a whim. It's pure chance that we ended up together. And from day one, she didn't know a whole ton but she knew that she had her two best friends. 'Sparks an' Dashie' or something like that, in a goofy accent."
  2356. >Jacky gives Dashie an embarrassed smile
  2357. >"To be fair, it was a good one!"
  2358. >"Not really."
  2359. >Sparks adds in a quip, grinning
  2360. >"You shush... it was good."
  2361. >You nod, as if their quibbling is a point proven
  2362. "So... after a few months, I think it was, we decided to look for you two. Sparks came first because... I guess that's just how it turned out. We got her and after a while, it seems like Jacky started to remember more."
  2363. >Jack nods
  2364. >"That's right. I hardly remembered anything about how things were back home. I didn't even really feel like myself either. But Anon stuck with me through it all. Once Sparky came back to us, I started to remember... well, not everything, but a lot."
  2365. >Her smile turns sad
  2366. >"And... I felt terrible because we were missing you. So we weren't complete. Memory-wise, I started to not care about what I forgot. But I couldn't forget you."
  2367. >You ruffle her mane, nodding
  2368. "Yeah..."
  2369. >Sparks clears her throat, scooting over next to you until she's sitting right against your leg
  2370. >"And don't forget me. Obviously, they wouldn't have gotten anything done without me."
  2371. >You shrug
  2372. "She helped out a tiny bit."
  2373. >"Really she kinda hurt more than help."
  2374. "I mean, let's not get wild now."
  2375. >"She burnt food once when she was learning how to cook."
  2376. "But yeah, she can cook."
  2377. >The dual attack leads to the unicorn's horn igniting like a lighter
  2378. >" you see what I deal with every day with these morons?"
  2379. >Dashie brings her hoof up to her mouth and laughs
  2380. >"Oh my! Well, it sure seems like every day is an adventure!"
  2381. >Jacky nods, beaming
  2382. >"But it sure ain't the same without you!"
  2383. >Dashie nods, glancing over the gang
  2384. >You're part of said gang, of course
  2385. >Feels nice
  2386. >"Well... if you really want me to, I would love to be a part of the group again."
  2387. >She smiles
  2388. >But something bugs you about the way she's smiling
  2389. >It's her eyes
  2390. >She's not really smiling with her eyes
  2391. "We did miss you. Well, they did. I really wanted to get to know you since you've kinda been Jacky's big sister for so long."
  2392. >You've heard enough to know that without her, Jacky would've ended up far more worse for wear
  2393. "And you see how these two knuckleheads are. I'm gonna need some help herding them around, you know?"
  2394. >Both Jack and Sparks retort with a 'hey!'
  2395. >That takes the pegasus by surprise
  2396. >The smile begins to reach her eyes
  2397. "See what I mean? I gotta have a second pair of eyes with these two."
  2398. >"Well, if you insist..."
  2399. >She sounds convinced
  2400. >She's visibly relaxing too, you can see it in her form and how her wings aren't hugging so closely to her
  2401. >"He does!"
  2402. >"I don't think we NEED someone to look out for us when we're home..."
  2403. >"You need a marshmallow stuck to your horn so you don't get any funny ideas..."
  2404. >"You need my horn up your ass!"
  2405. >"Is that a euphemism for my butt being a marshmallow?"
  2406. >"UGH, YOU'RE UNREAL!"
  2407. >You look down at the two bickering mares and glance at Dashie
  2408. >Surely she knows what you mean
  2409. >She nods, sharing your sentiment
  2410. >You hold out your left hand
  2411. "You're home, Dash. Your friends are here, and I'll do whatever I can so you can adjust. It'll be very different from where you came from, if even half of what Jack said is true, but I think we've been doing good so far and we're only getting better."
  2412. >After some consideration and quiet contemplation, she reaches out and puts her hoof in your hand
  2413. >"I'm happy to be home. If you're really such good friends with those two, then I know we'll be great friends too!"
  2415. >Once all the introductions were done and out of the way, you and Sparks retreated to the kitchen
  2416. >Now that there were four mouths to feed, and there was a chance to celebrate, a feast was required!
  2417. >Kielbasa, red potatoes, grits, some blueberry bread mix to make some bread
  2418. >Kinda goofy mix to have, but you didn't really prepare for anything else
  2419. >While Sparks takes to peeling potatoes on her stool, you've gone to mixing the bread mix
  2420. >"Anon... you know she might not just let us be."
  2421. >She speaks almost too quietly for you to hear
  2422. >With Prism and Jacky out on the patio, you nod
  2423. "Yeah well, she got more than enough coin to handle everything. Transaction's done."
  2424. >It sounds like they're catching up pretty well
  2425. >You haven't seen Jacky be sad in a long time now but she looks downright ecstatic now
  2426. >"Anon... should you really have done that? Won't you need the money for anything else?"
  2427. "That's not for you to worry about."
  2428. >"But it is! I can't just expect it to be fine and normal, can I?"
  2429. "Absolutely."
  2430. >"But that's stupid."
  2431. "Not really. It's just not something for you to worry about. We'll be fine. We have one more pair of eyes to all watch out for each other, and if we waited, we may have never found her."
  2432. >"That's true... but..."
  2433. "No buts, Sparks. What I'd do for Jack, I'd do for you. What I'd do for you, I'd do for Prism."
  2434. >Prism sounds a bit better than Dashie, you think
  2435. >You don't really see her being the sort to joke around all that much
  2436. >Maybe it's just because you don't know her much
  2437. >"You say that..."
  2438. "Do you think I don't mean it?"
  2439. >She huffs, scraping at the potatoes
  2440. >Given how you can hear the peeling slice from where you are, you're glad she doesn't have fingers to worry about
  2441. >"No, but... shouldn't you be more careful? You couldn't work out a payment plan or try to talk her down? Who's looking out for you if something happens?"
  2442. "You mean you'd rather deal with Nona for longer? And I try to strike a deal, she's gonna think it's not important. I could afford it, so I took it and that's that. And when it comes to looking out for me, I got you three."
  2443. >"We can't even go to the store and get you medicine..."
  2444. "That's fine. You know how to use the internet, you can order some online."
  2445. >"Let me worry about you."
  2446. "Why?"
  2447. >"Because Jacky won't, dammit!"
  2448. >You pause before answering
  2449. >They seem stuck in their conversation outside so they probably aren't listening
  2450. "That's mean to say."
  2451. >"No it's not. Nona was staring us down that entire conversation and she just didn't pick up on any of it. She didn't see what was going on in the car."
  2452. >Now was a good a time as any
  2453. "Spark, what did you even see that made you freak out like that?"
  2454. >She doesn't answer
  2455. >But you can hear her peeling the fuck out of those potatoes
  2456. "You know you can tell me."
  2457. >"I know I can..."
  2458. "So what was it?"
  2459. >"Anon... you know how we had a life supposedly before here, right? That's how we all know each other?"
  2460. "Sure. It's really weird but... well shit, everything else is weird so nothing is anymore."
  2461. >"Right... what would you tell me if I said that Nona was in our world before?"
  2462. >What?
  2463. >"...I'm not saying she was. But let's pretend."
  2464. "I... am not sure... I guess my first question is if she was still.. a human?"
  2465. >"Well no, she wasn't. Obviously."
  2466. >Right, obviously
  2467. >"But... those eyes. That stare. She knew I knew. She knew!"
  2468. "I'm not saying I don't believe you but... there's gotta be more to it than that, right?"
  2469. >"Yeah... you know how I kinda... maybe dip into your mind for reasons?"
  2470. "Yeah. It's why I'm pretty comfortable with trusting you with important matters, you know exactly what my plan is."
  2471. >"And other things..."
  2472. >You barely get that
  2473. "Come again?"
  2474. >"I said, I kinda dipped into hers... and she told me to cut it out."
  2475. >That's... spooky
  2476. "Well... if that's true... what else do we got for proof that she's really the one who you met before?"
  2477. >"Well, when we were in the car... she said she was angry. She said she was really angry. She didn't want you making off with Dashie. That's why she gave you that high cost, she didn't think you could afford it."
  2478. "Why would she be angry, though? A pony gone and out of her hair is a pony gone and out of her hair, right?"
  2479. >"I don't know... again. Let's pretend. We're pretending right now."
  2480. "Fair enough."
  2481. >"If she was angry... it might have been because you have us all together. Because we remember where we came from, and we remember each other. I mean, that's pretty important information to keep secret, right?"
  2482. "Maybe. Who'd ever believe a trio of ponies though?"
  2483. >Sparks sighs
  2484. >"I guess. But if I can use magic, that has to make you wonder."
  2485. "Don't worry, it does."
  2486. >She laughs at how nonchalantly you say that
  2487. >"Well... then I guess that's kinda that. Then..."
  2488. "Good thing I can trust you to keep an eye on things here, right?"
  2489. >She sighs
  2490. >But you can see her smile
  2491. >"Right. You can count on me."
  2492. "I'm glad. Jacky's strong but you're her eyes. Together, you two can knock anything out of the park."
  2493. >Out of the blue, another thought hits you
  2494. "Hey Sparks."
  2495. >"Yeah?"
  2496. "How far do you think that mind reading trick can work... you think you can talk to me through it?"
  2498. >With dinner finished, everyone funneled back to your room
  2499. >There was only one movie that would fit the evening
  2500. >"And look, there's Tuco! He's so cool!"
  2501. >"Wow, he... did he kill those men?"
  2502. >"Well one of them yeah but he didn't die, he's just knocked out!"
  2503. >With your back to the wall, you get to watch Prism and Jacky talk all throughout the movie in front of you
  2504. >Sparks stuck to your side like glue
  2505. >She's been spending a lot of time next to you, you've noticed
  2506. >She's been sleeping near you like Jacky
  2507. >Even now, she's letting them goof off when she's laying against you
  2508. >Is she even really watching the movie?
  2509. >'I can hear you.'
  2510. >You jump with a start
  2511. >You look down at Sparks and her horn is glowing
  2512. >Not the brilliant red as it was before, but you can tell she's doing something
  2513. >You thought you heard her voice
  2514. >'You did.'
  2515. >This is... weird
  2516. >Well, if she was doing it on purpose, she'd look at you and do something
  2517. >As quickly as you finish that thought, Sparks twists herself to lay on her side
  2518. >She looks at you and winks
  2519. >She can read you right now, can't she
  2520. >The unicorn nods
  2521. >Spooky
  2522. >Neat
  2523. >Speat
  2524. >'It's because I'm touching you but I can read you. You can read me too, otherwise you wouldn't have stopped yourself from thinking about why I've been so close to you lately.'
  2525. >She says that but you can't get into what she's thinking, you can just hear her
  2526. >'Well shyeah, you think I want you in my head?'
  2527. >You shrug
  2528. >You watch Jacky practically walk Prism through the movie, scene by scene
  2529. >You know
  2530. >It really doesn't feel right to have this sort of thing going on
  2531. >What would Jacky think about it?
  2532. >'This is an important matter, so what if she doesn't understand it yet? We have a connection and we should strengthen it in case Nona comes for us.'
  2533. >That's not a good thought to have
  2534. >It really does rain on your parade a little
  2535. >You want to celebrate but it seems like you're kinda left out of the loop on this one
  2536. >'Well I'm left out of it too, right? They go back super far. As far as they care, I'm a neat background ornament'
  2537. >Oh come off it
  2538. >You would never believe that
  2539. >If they really came from some other world, it would have to be important how connected they are to each other, it doesn't make sense otherwise
  2540. >'I guess. But for now they wouldn't notice anything short of an explosion.'
  2541. >You are happy to see Jacky so happy like that
  2542. >She's still the same pony you knew from day one, but she seems different now
  2543. >Compared to being alone, to being with Sparks, to having even Prism back, you've seen her evolve and round out things
  2544. >'You sure think about Jacky a lot Anon.'
  2545. >Maybe she should stop poking around in your head regarding matters that don't concern her
  2546. >'Why do you like her so much, Anonymous? Isn't she loud and rowdy?'
  2547. >As much as Sparks is
  2548. >'Hey, I am not!'
  2549. >You watch Tuco leading Blondie into the desert, shooting his canteen
  2550. >'Do you like her more than me because she came first?'
  2551. >You aren't going to have this conversation
  2552. >'We're closer right now than you've ever been with her, you know that.'
  2553. >You really don't like her pushing
  2554. >If she can read your mind, she can see everything you've gone through with her to make her so close to you
  2555. >'Ew, I don't want to see those things. It's not like I would go through every thought and memory you have.'
  2556. >But she'll argue with you, in your own head
  2557. >She isn't even speaking but you can hear the jealousy
  2558. >'I'm not jealous!'
  2559. >She sure is super jealous
  2560. >Sparks flails a little and rotates to lay with her back against you, conveniently hiding her face
  2561. >'I'm not jealous of Jacky of all ponies. I just think she doesn't fit you.'
  2562. >So who does fit you?
  2563. >'Somepony smarter.'
  2564. >Well you can't think of anyone who fits that description, except maybe Dashie if she's as collected as she looks
  2565. >You can hear Sparks growl and grumble something
  2566. >You can also hear the scene between Tuco and his brother play out
  2567. >You can tell that speaking through magic like this really kinda messes with your sense of time
  2568. >'Are you that dense, Anon?'
  2569. >You are
  2570. >But you also don't want to broach the possibility that Jacky's friend is jealous and you don't even finish that thought
  2571. >'I'm not jealous.'
  2572. >Super jealous
  2573. >But she has a point
  2574. >Whether you like it or not, you need to be able to communicate nonverbally in the event of any dangerous situation
  2575. >'If you found me first, I bet you'd think about me like how you think about Jacky.'
  2576. >Now hold on a damned minute, she can't just-
  2577. >You glance down at Sparks and her horn stopped glowing
  2578. >You can see her stomach rise, only to flatten in a loud huff
  2579. >Jacky finally notices and twists around, nudging Sparks
  2580. >"Hey, Sparky... get up, you're missing the movie!"
  2581. >"Not now Jacky... I'm stuffed and tired. And I've seen this movie like a dozen times now because you keep rewatching it!"
  2582. >"Duh, because it's awesome?!"
  2583. >She points her hoof at you
  2584. >"Right? Anon agrees!"
  2585. >Rather than answer, your eyes narrow into a killer squint
  2586. >Jacky immediately returns the squint
  2587. >Your head lowers to get more level with hers
  2588. >She raises her head up for the same effect
  2589. >She brings her hoof up and nudges and pushes against Dashie, to show off the staredown
  2590. >"I couldn't imagine wanting to--what's wrong?"
  2591. >The pegasus watches the staredown
  2592. >"...did I miss something?"
  2593. >You raise your eyebrow and adjust your squinting deathglare to Dashie
  2594. >Almost as if she can read your mind, Jacky does the same
  2595. >"W...what? Did I do something?"
  2596. >Jacky waggles her left front hoof
  2597. >The fingers on your right hand dance and twitch
  2598. "POW!"
  2599. >"BANG!"
  2600. >In unison, you point your appendages at Dashie, who just looks like she's at a complete loss
  2601. >"W... ok? Is it my turn to do that now?"
  2602. >Jacky stops her squint and leans in
  2603. >"We shot you, you're dead now."
  2604. >Silently gasping, Dashie nods and smirks
  2605. >Jacky returns to her previous position, re-aligning her stare
  2606. "Oh my, oh... oh!"
  2607. >Even in a series of overly-dramatic death throes, Dashie seems like such a girl
  2608. >She throws herself over, the impact leading her to bounce once on the bed
  2609. >You and Jacky glance at each other
  2610. >You widen your mouth and frown, shrugging
  2611. >She shrugs and nods
  2612. >So she's always been that theatrical
  2613. >"Aim for the heart..."
  2614. >She growls as hard as she can
  2615. >She's gotten a lot better at practicing that
  2616. >It almost sounds threatening now
  2617. >If you were a pony and didn't have the obvious size advantage
  2618. >You both watch her just... lay there
  2619. >"Hey... Dashie. You can come back now, we still got a lot of movie left."
  2620. >She reaches out to poke the pegasus and as soon as she does, her wings erupt, spreading hard and majestically
  2621. >Her wings are actually pretty big
  2622. >"Waah?!"
  2623. >Jacky stumbles back, caught off guard
  2624. >Dashie giggles, opening one of her eyes
  2625. >"Didn't expect a wing shield to save me, did you?"
  2626. >"Wh...what?! You can't do that!"
  2627. >Dashie sits back up, smirking
  2628. >"Looks like I just did..."
  2629. >Jacky looks at you with a defeated expression on her face
  2630. >"She... she can't do that!"
  2631. You tilt your head toward her and scratch your nose with your finger
  2632. "Yeah well... I got one better."
  2633. >"What?"
  2634. >They reply in unison
  2635. >You reach down and act like you're bringing up a tube
  2636. >A very large tube
  2637. >A very heavy tube
  2638. "Rawk-it lawn chair!"
  2639. >"Oh shit."
  2640. >"What chair?"
  2641. "BUAH!"
  2642. >You fire off your missile and the impact sends you bouncing off the the wall behind you
  2644. >Dashie's a little slow on the uptake
  2645. >"Wait, is that better than a gun?"
  2646. >"Dashie a rocket launcher is like where guns come from! It's the gun of guns! It's a gun that kills guns!"
  2647. >Jack goes off the deep end, explaining away all sorts of guns that she's seen in action movies and video games
  2648. >The movie, for once, is ignored for banter and imaginary gunfights
  2649. >Pegasi are freaking OP though, they seem to be able to withstand everything
  2650. >You're pretty sure you and Jack threw more at her than you've thrown at the Nemesis too
  2651. >By the end the movie, Jacky demands that you put on True Lies next
  2652. >Among other things, it has a lot of scenes with a lot of types of guns
  2653. >It's fun to listen to her nerd out about guns
  2654. >She even goes into detail about how she would personally load and use them, despite having no hands and no real accurate way to fire them off outside of being so cool she just does whatever and it works anyway
  2655. >You don't mind, you like the goofy action movies as is
  2656. >The evening turns into a Schwarzenthon, playing goofy action movie after goofy action movie
  2657. >Even Sparks comes out of her moody funk to watch by the time you get to Commando
  2658. >Watching Jack and Dashie together, you can get why they meld so well
  2659. >Jack's full of piss and vinegar, quick to overact and take the lead
  2660. >Dashie's far more... well, feminine and reserved
  2661. >You can only imagine the trouble they got up to
  2662. >It also kinda makes sense now, when Jacky mentioned that their initial plans were to double team a guy
  2663. >Dashie isn't necessarily more attractive than Jack
  2664. >But she isn't really... a bootleg of Rainbow Dash, no matter how you look at her
  2665. >Her face is really different
  2666. >She's roughly the same size as the other two girls
  2667. >And she has wings
  2668. >Who from the show has wings and that longer, more narrow face?
  2669. >You put the mind on the backburner
  2670. >You can worry about that later
  2671. >If what Sparks said is true, the connections they have to the show could be completely nebulous and coincidental
  2672. >But that doesn't sound like that fits either
  2673. >"Anon!"
  2674. >You snap out of your head
  2675. >It's Dashie
  2676. "What's up?"
  2677. >"Jacky said that you have a gun... may we see it?"
  2678. >Oh shit
  2679. "No. If Jacky ever tries to find it, you stop her."
  2680. >"Wh-what?! Come on, you can trust me! I don't even have fingers, I'd never even get to load it! Come on, you trust me right Dash!?"
  2681. >Dashie looks at Jack
  2682. >Then at you
  2683. >You slowly shake your head
  2684. >"I'll trust Anon on this one..."
  2685. >Betrayal looks like a shocked Jacky
  2686. >" could yo..."
  2687. >She sputters and tries to emulate your actions of pulling out a rocket launcher
  2689. >She aims it at you instead of Dashie
  2690. "Oh shit."
  2691. >Before you know what's what, a pegasus wing blocks your face
  2692. >"Pegashield!"
  2693. >You peek over the shield to look at the two
  2694. >Dashie smiles at you
  2695. >Jacky looks like a movie villain that just realized that her evil plans were foiled
  2696. >She deflates into a puddle of herself
  2697. >"Man... I wanna go shooting real guns..."
  2698. >She will
  2699. >One of these days
  2700. >Once you figure out how you can put your hearing protection on her
  2701. >And find pony-sized eye protection
  2702. >It almost sounds silly once you start to think about the details required
  2704. >Morning
  2705. >Late morning, anyway
  2706. >You don't fully recall last night but you do remember creating a form of Rock-Paper-Scissors that involved nineteen weapon types and the OP Pegashield
  2707. >The sinister meta came from there being two weapons that could overturn Pegashield, but one beat the other, so a careful player would gravitate toward the Pegashield slayer
  2708. >You move to stretch but can't
  2709. >Jacky is cuddled up hard on your right side, her face against yours
  2710. >Sparks is cuddled up to your left side, her flank on your upper arm and her head under the covers
  2711. >Dashie, not so above it at all, has now claimed your lap for herself, her wings relaxed and spread out fully
  2712. >They're really not small
  2713. >You kinda wonder if she can fly
  2714. >You don't ever recall hearing that she can
  2715. >But now you're in a pickle
  2716. >You're surrounded, crucified, on all sides
  2717. >And you are thirsty
  2718. >Now that you think about it, your nose is starting to itch
  2719. >You might need to go to the bathroom too
  2720. >Oh god
  2721. >Now you have the urge to cough and sneeze
  2722. >Panic
  2723. >PANIC
  2724. >Before you explode into an autistic flail, you rotate your face to Jacky, your nose against hers
  2725. "Psst... pssst. Hey. Hey."
  2726. >You whisper against her lips
  2727. "Jack...eeeeeeeeeeeee..."
  2728. >You exhale against her mouth, letting out the whining 'e' noise
  2729. >Her lips twitch a few times, like she's trying to say something
  2730. "Jack...hey Jack... I'm in trouble. You gotta save me."
  2731. >You whisper more to her
  2732. >Her lips twitch more, opening
  2733. >She barely pushes her face against you, initiating a lazy, sleepy kiss
  2734. >This doesn't exactly help you but you wouldn't turn yourself away from such an offer
  2735. >Every now and again you pull your face back, only for her to push forward
  2736. >A lot of your instant worries that came from being immobilized melt away, now that you're sufficiently distracted
  2737. "Hey Jack... Jacky Chan."
  2738. >She finally opens her eyes, a warm smile spreading on her lips
  2739. >"Hey... g'mornin'Non."
  2740. >She leans in to kiss you again
  2741. >And she would have connected if not for one quiet, hushed word
  2742. "Pegashield."
  2743. >That sufficiently cockblocks her
  2744. >She looks at you, her expression slowly morphing from glee to surprise to frustration
  2745. >" suck."
  2746. "Jack... I'm stuck. Help me out."
  2747. >She uses all of her power to lift her head a few inches
  2748. >"Heh... Sparky's mooning you."
  2749. "Be lucky you don't do that or else."
  2750. >"Or else what..."
  2751. >She isn't impressed with your threat
  2752. >She looks down at Dashie having claimed your lap for herself
  2753. >"Aw... she likes you too..."
  2754. "Until you do something wrong, then she'll be waking up! Come on, help me out!"
  2755. >Jacky yawned, mouth opening wide before pressing her face against yours
  2756. "Pegash--"
  2757. >She kisses you before you can finish that statement
  2758. >"Bmmsmm"
  2759. >She moans into your mouth
  2760. >How could she counter Pegashield with Bonesaw at a time like this?!
  2761. >You aren't happy
  2762. >But you aren't fighting her
  2763. >You aren't really resisting at all, even
  2764. >She reaches up with her upper legs, clamping onto your shoulders like a praying mantis
  2765. >One of her hooves slap down on Spark's flank
  2766. >Almost immediately, you hear something, or some pony, stir from underneath the blanket
  2767. >'So early, Anon...?'
  2768. >Oh God damn it
  2770. >At the speed of thought, Sparks starts to physically stir and move around
  2771. >You hope that stops her but the twintailed pony intensifies her kiss!
  2772. >But only until Sparks tries to circle around
  2773. >Before her head pokes out, Jacky finally pulls away with a soft 'buah'
  2774. >She quickly rubs her lips against your pillow and buries her head against your neck
  2775. >Sparks glares at the two of you
  2776. >"...Did I hear something...?"
  2777. >Jacky violently shakes her head, hiding from the unicorn
  2778. >"...alright then... good morning..."
  2779. >The slow way she speaks tells that she's very much aware of what was going on
  2780. "...can both of you get up..."
  2781. >Jacky shakes her head again
  2782. >Sparks frowns, glaring at her
  2783. >Then you
  2784. >Her horn glows faint, almost as if it's too faint to notice in the stray strands of sunlight
  2785. >'I'm not jealous.'
  2786. >She super is
  2787. >She glares at you harder
  2788. >"Jacky... if you don't get up, I'M going to have to kiss Anon. And we both know you don't want that...."
  2789. >Jacky finally lifts her head up
  2790. >Her face is still red
  2791. >"You ain't got the guts..."
  2792. >"Yeah? Watch me."
  2793. >You feel something slithering up your body, from your lap to your chest
  2794. >Sweet Jesus help, they're conspiring against you
  2795. >A white leg wraps around Spark's neck, making her yelp with a 'waaagh?!'
  2796. >"Good morning everyone... poor Sparky... if you really need a morning kiss, I could give you one..."
  2797. >Sparks flails, trying to break from by whipping her head around
  2798. >"G-get off me you flocking bird brain!"
  2799. >"Aw, don't be so mean to me Sparky! I've been cooped up for so long and we're such good friends..."
  2800. >"No we ain't, I'm not kissing a girl!?"
  2801. >It's not revenge
  2802. >But it's still sweet in a cathartic sense
  2803. >She finally releases the rabid unicorn, her mane left messy and displaced
  2804. >"Why are we all up so early? Is it something special?"
  2805. "No.. I normally wake up this early."
  2806. >"Oooh..."
  2807. >Dashie seems impressed
  2808. >"It was a normal morning thing, I don't know why everyone's panicking..."
  2809. >Jacky averts her eyes with her excuse, pushing her lips out to pout
  2810. >"My butt it wasn't, someone spanked me!"
  2811. >That was definitely Jack
  2812. "It wasn't me, my arms were pinned down."
  2813. >Sparks smirks at you
  2814. >"Yeah, as if you'd be brave enough to give me a good thwack..."
  2815. >"Well he hasn't thwacked me quite yet... but then again..."
  2816. >"Oh my, Anon... you're popular, aren't you."
  2818. >All three of them stare at you
  2819. >Jacky sighs
  2820. >"I miss being alone sometimes..."
  2821. >She rolls away from you, shaking as she stretches
  2822. >"Whatever..."
  2823. >Sparks ducks her head under the blanket again, rubbing her face against the side of your chest
  2824. >At least she's off your arm
  2825. >Dashie remains on top of you, smiling right at you
  2826. >"I could get you a drink if you like?"
  2828. >She giggles and slides off of you, allowing you to finally get up
  2829. >You pull some frantic acrobatics as if you were a Kingdom Hearts Nobody, sliding out of the bed and into the bathroom
  2830. >You're pretty sure that Jacky didn't want you to get up, Sparky was trying to swooce in, and that Dashie is just having fun teasing everyone involved
  2831. >You will have your revenge if it's the last thing you do
  2832. >And you seriously have to figure out how to get better sleeping arrangements for everyone
  2834. >After your morning routine, you have a little powwow with Sparks when it comes to breakfast
  2835. >You could skip by with yourself or with yourself and Jacky
  2836. >But with an official full house-apartment-home, you really can't afford to be heartless
  2837. >Wait
  2838. >You called your apartment your home
  2839. >You guess it kinda is your home
  2840. >Home is where the heart is, and your heart is with your girls
  2841. >Your friends
  2842. >Your Jacky
  2843. >"You know, you can trust me with making breakfast now."
  2844. "Yeah? Are you still taking the vitamins and all that?"
  2845. >Sparky puffs out her chest, cocking her head to the side
  2846. >"Well... you know what they say about muscles and using them."
  2847. "Easier to think they're strong when you're taking steroids?"
  2848. >She deflates, grimacing
  2849. >"No. I'm only taking half of what I did before!"
  2850. "Really? Well damn, congrats. Is it still challenging to do all of your voodoo or are you getting attuned to the feng shui of the atoms and all that?"
  2851. >She looks at you like you're a moron
  2852. >Lucky for you, you're immune to that look
  2853. >"I'm just... getting used to it is all."
  2854. >She sways back and forth, having learned to balance herself on the bar stool
  2855. >"You know... before we came here, I could hardly use magic at all. I was kinda... useless."
  2856. >She says that like it's nothing
  2857. >"Why useless?"
  2858. >"Because a unicorn that can't do magic is useless. It's like..."
  2859. >She glances to the living room, where Jacky and Dashie are goofing off
  2860. >"...A pegasus that can't fly."
  2861. "Well, everyone's capable of what they can do. Sometimes they just need the right motivation to, you know?"
  2862. >Jacky purses her lips and pauses in her swaying
  2863. >"You said that in a weird way but I get it."
  2864. "See? That's what you get for poking around in my head for too long."
  2865. >"I'm happy though. I'm getting to the point that I may not even need them anymore. I'm seeing successes. I'm seeing improvement. I have motivation to keep going. I can... kinda begin to overlook my failures, y'know?"
  2866. >To anyone more normal, you could see them treating her phrasing as negative
  2867. >But you get her completely
  2868. >It might sound negative but the message is positive
  2869. "So, in that case... what's on the menu for today, chef Spark?"
  2870. >"Iunno. What's... I guess filling and what do we have?"
  2871. "Well..."
  2872. >You lean over and pop open the fridge door
  2873. "Eggs are still good. A few more kielbasas. Got some leftovers, somehow. We still got a ton of grain-oriented stuff too. I guess we'll have to go to the store and grab whatever sounds good."
  2874. >The thought hits you
  2875. "Oh God... how will it be for a guy to show up with three talking ponies? It'll be like herding cats."
  2876. >Sparky nods
  2877. >"Me to the ow, Anon... but don't worry, I'll make sure you aren't left alone to grab too much candy."
  2878. "Hey, it was a perfectly fine amount of candy, thank you very much. Blame the two goobers that ate them in less than an hour and went 'oh a-bloo-hoo-hoo, my poor tumtums!'"
  2879. >You grab your stomach and whimper, mewling out your words
  2880. >The unicorn is not amused
  2881. >"Don't make me kick you."
  2882. "Please. Jacky told me how you slept, you're more likely pretend it's a kick and try to expose yourself or something."
  2883. >Your eyes widen at your own words
  2884. >Sparks looks at you as well, a bit surprised
  2885. >"So... you have been looking..."
  2886. "I said Jack, not I!"
  2887. >You should really have a talk with her one of these days about how she lays
  2888. >You choose to believe that it isn't on purpose
  2889. "Well... I guess lemme know if you need anything else. I'm gonna go grab ideas for what would be good to stock up on."
  2890. >"Yeah huh. No chocolate eggs!"
  2891. "They're out of stock anyway!"
  2892. >You shout behind your shoulder, catching the tail end of their conversation
  2893. >"...and my back was sticky."
  2894. >What had you just walked in on
  2895. >Dashie, blushing, shifts her eyes from Jacky, to you, back and forth a little too quickly to be natural
  2896. >Jacky finally looks behind her and jumps at how close you are to them
  2897. >"...oh. Hi there! I was... telling Dashie about... yeah..."
  2898. >You sit down behind Jack, wrapping your arms around her
  2899. >You forcefully pull her against your front
  2900. >She doesn't resist one iota
  2901. "Hmm...."
  2902. >You begin to stroke her from her cheek down her chest and to her belly
  2903. >You can tell Jacky's trying to not make any noises but she squirms against you
  2904. "So... sticky backs? How did that wacky thing happen?"
  2905. >Dashie stifles a laugh
  2906. >You tilt your head down and lean to the side to look at the poor mare
  2907. >She has a deer in the headlights look
  2908. >"Well... I mean..."
  2909. "Mmm? Story time now, is it?"
  2910. >Dashie claps her hooves together
  2911. >"Yes, it was! Jacky was just telling me that one time you--"
  2912. >"D-Dash, chill!"
  2913. >You and the Pegashield abuser smile at each other
  2914. >Oh yes
  2915. >Revenge is, indeed, sweet
  2916. "You know, Dashie... Jacky told me something really surprising. About you, and her."
  2917. >Dashie pretends to gasp, bringing her hoof up to her mouth
  2918. >"Do tell! Did it involve... a stallion, too? Or, I should say, the thought of one?"
  2919. >You emulate her shocked expression, your face forming an o
  2920. "Oh ho... I believe it did!"
  2921. >Jacky starts to squirm against you harder, but your petting subdues her too much
  2922. >"S-stop, it ain't funny now!"
  2923. "Oh Jackeroo, it is very funny."
  2924. >You nod, waving your hand in a circle at Dashie
  2925. "Prism, if you may. Please continue."
  2926. >"Oh, of course I will! Jacky..."
  2927. >She leers at the subdued pony
  2928. >"And I have thought that... if we ever found a nice colt, we would... both strive to make him happy. Jacky would have her own ways, and I, of course, would have mine."
  2929. >Jacky's in full thrash mode
  2930. >But a second hand petting her subdues her once more
  2931. "And, pray tell, what was going to be Jacky's talents for attraction?"
  2932. >"Well... you see, she used to practice using he--"
  2934. >You aim to silence her with dual petting from her chest down to her lower belly
  2935. >Jacky shivers from your touch
  2936. >"GhOsTbUsTeRrRrRsSs!?"
  2937. >You and your fellow torturer share a laugh at her attempt to distract from the most interesting of story times
  2938. >She is fun, you'll give her that
  2939. >You give Jack another tight hug, letting your hands rest on her chest
  2940. "Interesting... but that reminded me of a good movie."
  2941. >Taking the initiative, Jacky speaks up
  2942. >"That's right! There's a hundred movies that you gotta see with us!"
  2943. >Jacky did find out the most about your world through movies... along with her sense of violence and locations to target for said violence
  2944. >"Well, why don't we make a day of it? I don't think I have much else to do. Anon, do you ever have any chores you require of us?"
  2945. "No, not really. I suppose I never thought about it until Sparks brought up ways to help get used to using magic. I suppose... no, you're fine."
  2946. >That makes her smile
  2947. >"You really are too kind. Once, Jacky and I..."
  2948. >She trails off, a little perplexed
  2949. >"That's... odd. Jacky, what was that one time we did normal chores for food?"
  2950. >Jacky shrugs, having slid back into a lazy laying position against you
  2951. >"I... Iunno. We did a lot of stuff to take food but I don't remember ever having... like a real job or chore."
  2952. >Dashie doesn't seem satisfied with the answer
  2953. >"I guess I did hear about memory loss. I'll be honest, I hardly even recognized Jacky! I know that I heard your voice, Anon, and... I guess I was here. It was kinda like waking up without realizing I went to sleep."
  2954. >She definitely seems a bit more articulated than either of the two dorks you've known for longer
  2955. >But then again she's had a head start by not being alone or by missing any pieces of the proverbial puzzle
  2956. "So... you didn't have any nightmares? Or dreams?"
  2957. >Seemingly at peace with it, she shook her head
  2958. >"No, not really. It kinda just... happened."
  2959. "Wiggy..."
  2960. >You give Jack another squeeze
  2961. >She pokes out her tongue as a response, happy to let you vaguely manhandle her
  2962. "So... you'd know better than anyone else. Do you think I'm good for Jacky?"
  2963. >Jack's tongue slips back into her mouth
  2964. >"Hey, what does her opinion matter?"
  2965. "Well you're biased as all, why would I listen to you?"
  2966. >"Wh-that's abusive!"
  2967. "Shaddap!"
  2968. >You slide your hand up to slap her but it's more your hand sliding up her chest, up the side of her neck, and patting her cheek a few times
  2969. "Abuse this, fair mare!"
  2970. >"Eeek! Ponice, I'm a nut being a-salted!"
  2971. "Salt this!"
  2972. >You pat her cheeks with both hands, nudging her face back and forth
  2973. >You kinda forgot that you asked Dashie until she cleared her throat
  2974. "Oh yeah. Can't do that when witnesses are watching."
  2975. >Dashie shrugs, still smiling
  2976. >"I don't know. I certainly don't know you, and it's possible she doesn't really know you. You could tire and get rid of her one day. You could decide you want a mare of your own species. You could even be using her for something else."
  2977. >The sweet, amicable way she says that is... it's something alright
  2978. >You aren't too fond of her implications but you do understand them
  2979. >You'd probably ask the same thing if you were her
  2980. >Jacky doesn't seem to like it though
  2981. >"Hey, he wouldn't do that!"
  2982. "No, hold on, she's right."
  2983. >Jacky sputters like it's the most inane nonsense
  2984. >"Since when?!"
  2985. "Well I'm not saying she's right about me. But she is right to not trust someone she just met. I mean... well, obviously, you're here out of nowhere. You see your two friends getting along, and some weird alien creature with monstrous worm appendages. I'd be a little weirded out too."
  2986. >Jacky's unconvinced
  2987. >But Dashie smiles
  2988. >Such a serene smile
  2989. >"See, you understand. Nothing against you personally... but I have no reason to trust or believe anything you say."
  2990. "Fair enough... well, I suppose it'll have to come down to time then, won't it?"
  2991. >"It most certainly will, Anon."
  2992. >Jacky doesn't seem all too happy with this conversation
  2993. >She squirms out of her position to go back to sitting
  2994. >"Dashie, you don't know what you're talking about... you don't even know Anon."
  2995. >She looks up at you
  2996. >"He's really saved us. He hasn't ever asked a single thing of me. All he wanted, when I first came here, the very first hour, was a friend. And I was that. Anything else that happened... just kinda happened."
  2997. >The way she looks at you, it's almost like she sees you as her hero
  2998. >It's pure adoration
  2999. >You can't help but wonder about how she really was before, to view you so positively
  3001. >Having a full house is weird
  3002. >Seriously, it's weird
  3003. >You can hear Jacky and Dashie goofing around in the living room
  3004. >Sparks is playing a game on your main TV
  3005. >You're just laying on your side, watching YouTube stuff
  3006. >It reminds you of when you used to hang out with your friends
  3007. >Four guys in a single room, either watching the same thing, playing a game, or splitting attention by playing multiple games with music going on, leading to an audible mosaic
  3008. >But the thing is that it was three guys
  3009. >Now it's three chicks
  3010. >Ponies
  3011. >But chicks
  3012. >You didn't really think about it before but now that Jacky's entire group is here, you're starting to get minor flashbacks to growing up and being the only guy around
  3013. >Not that you mind, really
  3014. >You switch from your laptop screen to what Sparky's playing
  3015. >God Hand, but a separate save file that's on Easy
  3016. >You'd normally make fun of her but it seems like she's trying to focus on making her own moveset for max style rather than consistent, quick damage
  3017. >She's also a girl
  3018. >But the look on her face is never one of... what you'd expect a girl to see
  3019. >Granted, you could hardly tell the expressions Jacky had at the start of everything but now you pick up on all of the minor details that go from face to body
  3020. >It's a little uncanny, you gotta admit
  3021. >Sparks finally notices you watching her and quirks an eyebrow
  3022. >"What?"
  3023. "Oh, nothing. I never went into the style side of things until NG+. Just because by then you get access to everything so you can have your selection."
  3024. >You hear the two other ponies giggling in the living room
  3025. >Sparks grimaces at them
  3026. >"Ugh... they're such girls."
  3027. "Yeah well... so are you. Last time you checked, presumably."
  3028. >She gives you only a minor death glare
  3029. >"You know... they're probably talking about you."
  3030. >You shrug
  3031. "Most likely. And they're probably talking about you too."
  3032. >The corner of her mouth raises and she shrugs
  3033. >"Somehow I doubt it. When we were stealing stuff, they really liked that I could... kinda use magic. They liked keeping me around. But I don't think I fit in."
  3034. >Your intuition kicks in
  3035. "Did you try to be social with them? You really weren't that happy when we first found you."
  3036. >She huffs and grimaces
  3037. >"No... but it's kinda... embarrassing, don't you think? Imagine being a trio of poor, hungry ponies in a sprawling city. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. It brings attention to you."
  3038. "What about your mom? Didn't she have a place that you could at least stay in?"
  3039. >Sparks flinches
  3040. >"...My mom... right..."
  3041. >She shrugs
  3042. >"As if she cared. She probably wouldn't have known that I existed unless my name was carved onto her headboard."
  3043. "That busy, huh."
  3044. >"I guess. I never..."
  3045. >She trails off, her face contorting in thought
  3046. >"I never..."
  3047. >She sighs, shaking her head
  3048. >The aura from her controller dissipates
  3049. >"I never knew my mom. You know that Jacky doesn't, and seems happy that a cartoon could be her 'ma'. I don't think Dashie knows her mom either. If she does, I've never heard her talk about it. She doesn't like talking about her self. Not to me, anyway."
  3050. >Somehow you get the idea that the mysterious Faint Prism wouldn't be so bold and open with herself from how she speaks
  3051. >Her words tend to be very deliberate
  3052. "What about your dad? Or siblings? Or... anything else? Families aren't just moms and their kids you know."
  3053. >She rolls her eyes
  3054. >"I know where babies come from, thanks Professor."
  3055. "Valid question though."
  3056. >"I know. No, none of us know any of relatives at all."
  3057. >Neither of you speak for a few minutes
  3058. >Compared to the jovial talk out there you can only barely make out, the tone in the room is a mite heavier
  3059. "It's rough, being alone."
  3060. >"Yeah it is."
  3061. >You had a feeling that she'd rag on you since you technically do have relatives you know of
  3062. >But the quality of said relationships really aren't anything worth bragging about
  3063. "So..."
  3064. >You stretch out on the bed
  3065. "What are your thoughts on all of this?"
  3066. >"Where, what do you mean?"
  3067. "Just... this. All of you guys being here. Alien world, with an alien guy, everything's pretty much new or gone and all fuckered up."
  3068. >She shrugs, letting out an apathetic 'eh'
  3069. >"What's to hate? Food, shelter, entertainment, security. Far better than what I'm sure any of us have had, so there's no reason to complain there."
  3070. "Sure but what's to love?"
  3071. >She smirks at you
  3072. >"Food, shelter, security, entertainment."
  3073. "Right. Silly question, I know."
  3074. >"No, I get what you mean. I'm the one closest to you, remember?"
  3075. "Well you are sitting right next to me so... yeah, right now you are."
  3076. >Neither of you laugh but it wasn't a bad joke
  3077. "So... what's with this mind reading shit? You did that when we first played some SC3. Can you just do that to anyone? That telepathy connected to it too?"
  3078. >Sparky shrugs, watching a strand of her mane get in front of her face
  3079. >She stopped meticulously combing herself over the last few weeks
  3080. >Despite there being faint streaks of a different shade of red, her hair seems to part almost down the middle due to her horn, giving her a bit more symmetry
  3081. >"I did it once or twice before... to people I really shouldn't have. Forbidden knowledge is a real thing, you know. Some people are extremely unsettling. Even a peek inside, and you find out a really gross amount of details."
  3082. >Well that's comforting
  3083. "So you know just how trash tier I am?"
  3084. >She smirks and locks her eyes on you
  3085. >"Oh. Oh yeah."
  3086. >She breaks visual contact, going to stare at her controller
  3087. >You bought one just for her so she can trash it and it wouldn't bother you specifically
  3088. >"But you're not the worst guy in the world. You haven't done anything worse than we have. I don't really care how you treat your own... kind? So... I guess that kinda separates things."
  3089. >She sighs, tilting her head to the side, back and forth
  3090. >"And I know exactly how you view all of us. Me, Dashie... Jacky. I can tell that you would do something drastic and put yourself in harm rather than see us hurt. Probably because you like animals more than humans. Probably because we're you're friends and you really are the type who should be more selfish."
  3091. "Hey, I'll have you know I'm plenty selfish. I get you to do the shit I don't want to do, right?"
  3092. >She raises her hoof to speak
  3093. >She puts her hoof back down
  3094. >"Ok that's fair but I also get something out of it too so... you know, it's whatever."
  3095. "That thing about seeing you as animals... I don't know. I mean, you aren't human. Obviously. But... well, I don't really mind that. But you also know that you could drop me into an alien world and I'd find a wife pretty easily."
  3096. >"As long as they aren't alien praying mantis."
  3097. "You really do know me well."
  3098. >But yeah. At the moment? I just wanted to kick your ass. But then you started singing and that... I guess forced a lot more of your memories into my head. It wasn't all coherent, of course, I had to kinda find the context for all of it. But connecting to you helped. Like looking at a picture versus really studying it."
  3099. "So you're telling me you're an art major on Anonymous Memories."
  3100. >"Kinda."
  3101. "Wiggy."
  3102. >You listen to the living room
  3103. >They're still talking out there but they aren't completely shouting or making weird horse noises
  3104. "So what's the deal with the telepathy again?"
  3105. >"Oh. Right. I don't know."
  3106. >You chuckle
  3107. "Yeah?"
  3108. >"Yeah. I'm not Twilight, remember? I don't know how magic works. I need stupid vitamins to use it."
  3109. "That's true."
  3110. >"I guess... it has to do with that mental connection? I guess think of it like trying to remember where you live. If you're ten feet away, you know where to go. If you're down the street, you can guess. If you're on the other side of town..."
  3111. "Google Maps."
  3112. >"Except you don't have that. So it's... I don't know. I guess the only thing I can say is that it's familiarity."
  3113. "So... why not poke into Jacky or Dashie's head?"
  3114. >Sparks shakes her head hard
  3115. >"No... no way. That type of thing makes or breaks a friendship hard. I know you thought I was some sort of psycho when I first popped up, or that you thought I really would harm you guys. And... I guess, yeah, I am really bad for having had that first reaction to things. But I've known them for a whole lot longer. We've had a lot more fights. And..."
  3116. >She smiles at you
  3117. >But you know that smile
  3118. >It's the bastard cousin of a smile
  3119. >"I'm afraid that if I did that, they wouldn't be my friends anymore. Then I really would be alone. More alone than them because they've known each other for far longer than either of them have known me. I'm the weakest relation link."
  3120. >You avert your eyes to your laptop's red glowing keyboard
  3121. "You know... just because you've known someone the longest doesn't immediately make you the most valuable one. Old friends can change a lot. Either you change or they do. And even if you don't mind, they might."
  3122. >She waits before speaking
  3123. >"Your old friends... they ever-"
  3124. "No, nothing yet. But, you know, any day now right?"
  3125. >"Sure..."
  3126. >You sigh and roll onto your back, closing your eyes
  3127. "Friends fucking suck, man."
  3128. >You feel Sparks flop onto her back as well, the length of her body against the outside of your left leg
  3129. >"Tell me about it... I shouldn't have a single worry, yet here I am."
  3130. "Here we are..."
  3131. >You're quite content with not saying anything more
  3132. >"Hey, Anon?"
  3133. "Yeah?"
  3134. >"You ever gonna tell Dashie how much you spent to get her out of that place?"
  3135. "Hell no. That's none of her concern. Or yours either."
  3136. >"It might be if you're in a pinch and she, or we, can't help enough to matter."
  3137. "If that's the case, I knew the risks."
  3138. >Silence, except for the music from the game
  3139. >"What happens if something bad does happen?"
  3140. "You already know."
  3141. >You hear her try to say something but she stifles it
  3142. "Hey, hornpone."
  3143. >"Longpig?"
  3144. "What d'you want from the store? I haven't made a list yet and Jacky's acting like a complete chick so she isn't able to tell me anything. And I'm still not sure how to talk to Dashie because she has her stupid pegashield up."
  3145. >Sparky snorts
  3146. >"I really don't care. There's food and drinks here already. I'd burn an entire city down for this sort of life."
  3147. "Sure but you're free to have more than what I consider to be the bare basic."
  3148. >"I know."
  3149. "Brainiac."
  3150. >You loudly yawn
  3151. >Today has really been a lazy day
  3152. >A lot of weekends are
  3153. >But especially this weekend
  3154. >Maybe because all of the socializing has left you exhausted
  3155. "Think I should get three small mattresses or something?"
  3156. >"Why?"
  3157. "Iunno. So everyone has their own sleeping space. Better to have the choice than not."
  3158. >"I guess. I really don't mind it."
  3159. "Sure. Jacky doesn't either. But say if we split off or if everyone's doing something or if we're playing stuff in here and someone's tired. We gotta make sure that they're able get a decent sleep, right?"
  3160. >"I guess you got a point..."
  3161. >You yawn again
  3162. "Remind me to check for mattress sales later."
  3163. >She yawns too, loud like you
  3164. >"Remind me to care."
  3166. >Another morning
  3167. >Another round of trouble because you can't move
  3168. >Except you can?
  3169. >You don't remember putting a blanket over you but you are covered
  3170. >A quick turn of the head over shows that Jacky isn't on your right
  3171. >Sparks is on your left arm again, head under the covers and hind legs close to your shoulder
  3172. >You lift your head and see that she's laying near the foot of your bed, with Dashie
  3173. >A large, white wing is covering her
  3174. >They really must have missed each other
  3175. >Why does Spark keep mooning you anyway?
  3176. >One of these mornings she's going to knock your head off by accident and that'll be the end of you
  3177. >You pat her back under the blanket, shifting and arching your back to make your shoulders pop
  3178. >It's spring but the mornings are still so chilly
  3179. >That game is still going too
  3180. >Must've been the perfect tune to sleep to, given it has a nice, smooth jazz sound
  3181. >'I keep laying like this because I like my face warm'
  3182. >Oh great she's in your head again
  3183. >'Good morning to you too. Don't worry, I wouldn't knock your head off. Not by accident.'
  3184. >How charitable
  3185. >What happened last night?
  3186. >'You didn't want to wake up so I covered you in your blanket and went to bed too. Jacky and Dashie must have come back in later.'
  3187. >They're sleeping huddled up to each other
  3188. >'Yeah, they always used to sleep like that. No room for Sparky.'
  3189. >You're sure that's probably how they used to sleep when they were alone in the world
  3190. >You can understand that
  3191. >'Sure. Tell that to a filly me who had to find her own place to sleep.'
  3192. >Filly Sparky was probably such a nice girl
  3193. >'I was.'
  3194. >And now look at her
  3195. >'Hey, screw you.'
  3196. >Love you too, Sparky-poo
  3197. >You just noticed that the sun had actually come up now, given the light entering your room
  3198. >Does this telepathy crap really take so much time to focus?
  3199. >'Iunno.'
  3200. >Since you're connected, shouldn't you be able to see into her thoughts and memories?
  3201. >'Iunno.'
  3202. >You could make fun of her for flying blind
  3203. >'You already do.'
  3204. >But instead you'll agree that she is quite the innovator
  3205. >'...thank you.'
  3206. >Now get your scrawny butt off or you'll have Jack slap it again
  3207. >'Whatever, your own arm is free...'
  3208. >She writhes and contracts, curling up into a ball under the blanket
  3209. >'If Nona comes back, we need to be ready.'
  3210. >Why is she so focused on that?
  3211. >'Because she's the first of possibly many dangers, going forward. And we need to stay connected like this and chisel out the ability to keep in contact.'
  3212. >You're pretty sure that she could operate a phone better than set up quasi-permanent residence in your head
  3213. >'Well I like this better,'
  3214. >Because it gives her more magical EXP to level up with?
  3215. >'Well that reason too.'
  3216. >A lot of your thoughts are starting to gravitate toward the same question
  3217. >Does Jacky know about this?
  3218. >Would she approve?
  3219. >'Who cares? This is for security reasons.'
  3220. >You care
  3221. >And you know that it's not for strictly professional reasons
  3222. >She doesn't say anything for a bit
  3223. >'Let me have this. Please.'
  3224. >Ah... crap
  3225. >You aren't good at handling these sorts of situations
  3226. >'It's so if I can't use a stupid phone and if we're in danger, or if we can't talk and need to think of something fast, we can. It's a strategy that will help us win.'
  3227. >It almost sounds like she views it as a video game perk
  3228. >'Well it kinda is. Come on, you know this is cool. What do you care what I get out of it?'
  3229. >Because you want to be honest
  3230. >'So be honest. And say it's an ace up your sleeve.'
  3231. >You're really not so sure of this
  3232. >But she's already gleamed through almost everything, presumably
  3233. >You wait for an answer for what feels like hours
  3234. >But it's not because you couldn't just lay there for hours
  3235. >Maybe she left the group call
  3236. >Wait
  3237. >A group call
  3238. >What if Sparks could somehow connect everyone, get a sort of magical group chat?
  3239. >How neat would that be?
  3240. >Sparky?
  3241. >Oh great
  3242. >Anon, you're talking to yourself again
  3243. >Last time this happened, you...
  3244. >You sit up, grumbling about the lack of water nearby
  3245. >You should really refill that little camping canteen
  3246. >Water by the bed is never a bad thing
  3247. >The blanket slides with you and reveals a curled up Sparks
  3248. >She has a really red face
  3249. >"Turn the lights back off, just because you're awake doesn't mean I am..."
  3250. >Sounds as annoyed as always
  3251. >But is it just a verbal act?
  3252. "Go for it."
  3253. >You slide the blanket off of your body and pile it onto her
  3254. >You hear a muffled word and you're pretty sure she called you a dick or something
  3255. >But that's fine
  3256. >You scoot and lean forward, peering over at the Dashn'Jack formation
  3257. >Though they're the same size, roughly, Jacky seems to be the little spoon
  3258. >That wing is pretty big too, now that you see just how much of a pony's body it can cover
  3259. "Hey Jack. You comfy?"
  3260. >Jacky's head twitches at the sound of your voice
  3261. >"Eh? Whasat?"
  3262. >She lifts her head and squints at you
  3263. >"Anon is so late in the morning... ah can see the sun."
  3264. "Yeah... you comfy there?"
  3265. >She nods
  3266. >"Feels like home."
  3267. >You're glad for that
  3268. >Guess it makes sense, she now has the one person-pony-whoever that she's always had
  3269. >You kinda wanna spy on their conversations, just to see what it's like
  3270. >You reach out and poke Dashie's butt
  3271. "Hey. Heeeeeeeeey. You know we got blankets and stuff, right?"
  3272. >Dashie, evidently awake but pretending to still be asleep, yawns
  3273. >Even her yawns are dainty and quiet
  3274. >"And where would I find more blankets?"
  3275. >You look at the pair
  3276. "'re laying on one of them. It's not as big as the main one but it's there."
  3277. >Dashie's eyes open abruptly
  3278. >"...really?"
  3279. "Really."
  3280. >You tug the blanket under her to emphasize the point
  3281. >It's more to cover the bed but it's perfectly serviceable as an actual blanket too
  3282. >She looks ahead, still just a mite surprised
  3283. >"...Might I ask that you more properly introduce me to what you have here later today? I feel a little silly now."
  3284. >Her wing slides up, covering her face
  3285. >"Hey, I'm losing warmth over here!"
  3286. >Jacky's the first to complain about lack of coverage
  3287. >Pegasus wings can't be that warm anyway, can they?
  3288. >You shake your head
  3289. "Whatever. You three nerds can sleep in, I'm going to make some tea and fix a snack because I don't feel like putting in the effort to eat correctly."
  3290. >You slide off the side of the bed and head to the kitchen in a manner that only hints at minor inebriation
  3291. >Or you're more tired than you thought
  3292. >Or that mind melding bullshit actively effects you
  3294. >With a tea and snack, your morning was pretty good
  3295. >Since no one else was going to, you took a shower too
  3296. >Everyone else came to on their own, each having their own goals for the day
  3297. >What few goals one could have living the easy life, anyway
  3298. >One shower later and you find Dashie waiting for you
  3299. >How long was she waiting?
  3300. >Was she listening to the music you had your phone playing too?
  3301. >"Good morning Anon."
  3302. "Morning... something up?"
  3303. >"Yes. A moment?"
  3304. "Sure."
  3305. >Rather than talk to you then and there, she struts off
  3306. >You follow
  3307. >She and you stop in the living room
  3308. >"A seat please?"
  3309. >Though it's a little awkward, you sit down without flashing her
  3310. "So, what's on your mind?"
  3311. >"I think what matters is what's on yours."
  3312. >You tilt your head at her
  3313. "I'm not following."
  3314. >You're kinda used to your ponies getting to the point quicker
  3315. >She keeps a nice smile
  3316. >"What are your intentions with Jacky?"
  3317. >Oh God it's The Talk
  3318. >You're being Talked to
  3319. >Guess it's not the worst topic to have
  3320. "I... don't know. She's my friend. More than my friend."
  3321. >"Oh, I've heard..."
  3322. >She smirks at you
  3323. >"What sort of human goes for a pony...?"
  3324. >You purse your lips, shrugging
  3325. "I think.... a lot of guys would."
  3326. >She looks surprised
  3327. >"You're sure?"
  3328. "Sure I'm sure. Has Jacky shown you the cartoon yet?"
  3329. >She looks downright perplexed
  3330. >"No... but she has brought up her 'ma' a lot. And this is the first time I've ever seen her talk of her mother."
  3331. >She blinks
  3332. >"That... I remember."
  3333. "Well there you go. In this world, at this time... I suppose a lot of guys prefer fictional characters because they're better than the women we have access to."
  3334. >"Fictional characters... like Jacky, Sparky and I?"
  3335. >This feels kinda meta
  3336. "Well... yeah. We don't have talking horses in this world. I think she would've mentioned that already."
  3337. >"Well there might be, if we just aren't aware of them."
  3338. >She sounds dubious of her own claim
  3339. "If you find anymore outside of you three, and Hanz Gruber, you let me know."
  3340. >"Yes, the muscular pony... I don't know him."
  3341. "But intentions... I don't know. She's awesome. I'm proud and happy to have her in my life and I hope I've done the same for her. Nothing really happened on purpose. Which is to say that I didn't plan for anything in particular."
  3342. >"But you still got her."
  3343. "I did."
  3344. >"Why?"
  3345. "Because... look at the state of my life. If you don't know, I work and I come home and I play video games, watch shit on the internet and pretty much nothing else. Who wouldn't want a friend when you live such a monotonous life?"
  3346. >"She mentioned you have friends."
  3347. "Have, had, maybe. It's been years since they contacted me. The few times I contacted them I got pretty much nothing in return."
  3348. >"That doesn't sound particularly friendly."
  3349. "Tell me about it."
  3350. >"So where does Sparking play into this?"
  3351. "In what way?"
  3352. >She gives a polite laugh
  3353. >"Don't play coy, Anon, I see how she looks at you."
  3354. "She looks at me like I'm retarded."
  3355. >Another laugh
  3356. >"Maybe so, but she sees more in you than that."
  3357. "Am I supposed to help that?"
  3358. >"I guess not."
  3359. "They're both my friends. And I'd give what little I have left for them."
  3360. >"And how little left do you have to give, I wonder?"
  3361. >There's something about her tone that really bugs you
  3362. "I don't like your implications.I'm guessing you handled the diplomacy between their shenanigans."
  3363. >"Maybe."
  3364. "I suppose your next question is who I'd save in a burning building right?"
  3365. >"Sure, let's use that example."
  3366. "Well, I'm not a pony. So I'd save both, or slap them hard enough to make sure they help each other."
  3367. >"But then who saves you?"
  3368. >She is starting to annoy you
  3369. "Who fucking cares?"
  3370. >The sharp edge to your words catches her off guard to say the least
  3371. >Her nice smile fades
  3372. >"So, why did you get me?"
  3373. "What sort of question is that? You're the last corner to this triangle of dorks. You're Jacky and Sparky's friend, and if we didn't get you, there's no telling if we'd ever get another chance to find you again. Even if you don't like me for whatever reason, They need their friend and I'm no friend if I didn't help them with that. I was able to, so I did."
  3374. >She watches you with a neutral, almost sad face
  3375. >"Jacky said it was scary to get me. And that it cost you a lot."
  3376. "It was a bit spooky but I've handled worse. And it cost enough that I could afford."
  3377. >"How much was it?"
  3378. "What's it matter to you? You don't know how much money here is a lot."
  3379. >"I suppose you have a point."
  3380. >She changes gears yet again
  3381. >"If you need to choose between me and Jacky, you choose Jacky."
  3382. "If I need to choose, I'll choose both and trust both of you to not be so stupid that you make my choice invalid."
  3383. >That gets a laugh out of her
  3384. >"You must think really highly of us."
  3385. >You don't want to be anymore rude than you've already been, but you can't really stop yourself at this point
  3386. >"I see why Sparks likes you. You're hardheaded enough to fit right in."
  3387. "And I like her."
  3388. >Dashie's eyes widen
  3389. "But I love Jacky. And if you're going to ask me who I choose, it's not a choice. I may trust Sparky with more things. When push comes to shove, I may even prefer her with me in a real fight because I think she can do more and stay safe while at it."
  3390. >You
  3391. >In a fight
  3392. >With a fucking pony
  3393. >That's a bit of a laughable idea
  3394. "I trust them both, completely. I know they won't turn their back on me or sell me out."
  3395. >"For a human who's known them both for so long you sure go all in, don't you?"
  3396. "They make my life worth going forward. Of course I'd risk it for them."
  3397. >She looks amused
  3398. >Or apologetic
  3399. >It's an expression you can't pin down, and an expression you don't particularly like
  3400. >"I can see why Jacky likes you too... admirable traits to have, no matter how you look at it"
  3401. "We done here? I get you're worried but I can't say I exactly appreciate you giving me the third degree like I'm going to turn around and sell you guys to the circus or some shit."
  3402. >You can see that she wants to say something else but she doesn't
  3403. >You're aware of just how goofy you sound but this is more or less the one singular thing you care enough about to have convictions toward
  3404. >Not like you have much to give left at this point, thanks to her
  3405. >But you aren't going to think that way
  3406. >You have no reason to spite or dislike her
  3407. >You'd be just as annoying and scheming if you were her
  3408. >If not more so
  3409. >She's definitely looked out for everyone in the past
  3410. >Dashie looks past you, smiling
  3411. >"So, anything else you wanted me to ask him?"
  3412. >wat
  3413. >You turn and see both Jack and Sparks