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/bootleg/ Jacky Part Four

By BlondieAnon
Created: 2020-10-22 21:31:33
Updated: 2021-01-09 17:41:58
Expiry: Never

  1. >"Alright, how are we doing today Mr. Anonymous?"
  2. "Just call me Anon."
  3. >"Sure, Anon. We want you to feel like you can be safe and happy here."
  4. "Sure."
  5. >"Now we're still getting a few things settled so for now... why don't you take a few minutes to acclimate?"
  6. "Sure."
  7. >The nurse gives you her best smile and walks out of the room
  8. >The bed you're sitting on is not only a bit too tall for you to easily climb into but it's only one deviation softer than the hard floor
  9. >It's just as cold
  10. >Your eyes glance up to the small semi-sphere of a security camera
  11. >You really don't have anything resembling privacy while here
  12. >Which makes sense, some of the other people here just look... unwell
  13. >But you're really not doing so bad
  14. >You just had an accident is all
  15. >You watch the wall
  16. >The nurse comes back in
  17. >Along with... something else
  18. >A plastic looking... pony?
  19. >Except it's moving on it's own
  20. >The way jostles when it moves, it sounds almost like a knight in a suit of tin armor
  21. >You don't let it show but you recognize the pony
  22. >Kinda
  23. >It looks like a plastic, moving Pinkie Pie
  24. >Except it's so faded that it's translucent faint pink
  25. >Her eyes lock onto you
  26. >You flinch
  27. >Her eyes look real, not some cheap sort of thing
  28. >They dilate and constrict while focused on you
  29. >"This here is Missy Pie! She isn't made of pie but she sure loves to help out our newest friends and patients! Would you be ok with her helping you out? I know you're a boy but pink is in style with everyone these days."
  30. >Of course you don't mind
  31. >But your poker face is strong
  32. "Sure, I guess."
  33. >"Great! Now she'll help keep track of your medicine times and also act as your companion while you're here and feeling better. You don't gotta worry about charging her, she's a smart little pony and can do it all."
  34. >Missy Pie stands still once she's in front of you
  35. "Sure. Thank you."
  36. >The nurse smiles and walks out
  37. >"And remember, don't close the door!"
  38. >Of course
  39. >Missy Pie smiles at you, as if she likes what she's looking at
  40. >In some feat of profound acrobatics, she jumps up onto the tall bed without difficulty
  41. >She sits next to you, facing your side
  42. >You don't really say anything
  43. >You aren't sure what to say, even
  44. >"Anon, hiya! Are we playing a quiet game?"
  45. >You don't want to be rude to the plastic pony
  46. >She, or it, is hospital property but you can't just shirk it away
  47. "Not really. I kinda just don't know what to do here."
  48. >She smiles at you
  49. >As much as she clicks and clacks around, she's able to give you a real smile
  50. >"Are you just visiting or are you a patient here?"
  51. "Me? No... no, I'm a patient."
  52. >You get to wear your normal clothing but the plastic bracelet on your wrist is pretty hard to overlook
  53. >The edges kinda irritate your skin but you can't do much about it
  54. >"Whatever happened? You look healthy as a horse!"
  55. >She laughs, the sound having an uncanny echo inside her own plastic shell
  56. "I... uh, I guess I haven't done anything."
  57. >The plastic pone tilts her head, eyes shifting size at you
  58. >"Well that's silly, what happened?"
  59. "I guess I almost did something. And I was found. So I'm here now."
  60. >You feel Missy Pie sidle up to you
  61. >She feels warm
  62. >Plastic, but not hard plastic
  63. >And warm
  64. >"Please don't."
  65. >That's all she says
  66. >That's all it takes, really
  67. >You wrap your arm around her and your built up emotions pour out
  68. >You're here for at least a month
  69. >You aren't alone, at least
  70. >You're not sure what will happen but in that moment, you feel like the pony might actually be the first real friend you've had
  72. >Missy Pie sticks to your side all day and evening
  73. >For dinner time, you sit in a small seating area
  74. >It's all in the same wing of the hospital so you don't walk further than down the hall and around a glass wall
  75. >Everyone else that's a patient is also seated, paired up with their own funky looking pony
  76. >Some look a little worse for wear
  77. >Some of them don't look nearly as happy or as positive as Missy
  78. >They all look familiar to you but there are enough obvious changes and alterations that they seem just vaguely familiar
  79. >"Yay, dinner time! Rub a rub dub, here comes the grub!"
  80. >She watches one of the nurses give you a small tray that holds a plate and a set of plasticware
  81. >Just a fork and spoon
  82. >Of course
  83. >All of the other patients seem... odd
  84. >Most look normal enough, if a little older than you
  85. >Some are younger
  86. >One of the younger patients looks completely far gone
  87. >But you know you aren't far gone
  88. >You just wanted out
  89. >You weren't being crazy or anything
  90. >You knew it wasn't a good thing
  91. >But you just wanted to be done
  92. >You don't do anything but stare at your food
  93. >The pony bot notices
  94. >"You look like you're really tired... sleeping can be done later but you should really eat up for our next adventure!"
  95. >You never really had any adventures
  96. >No positive ones anyway
  97. >By the end of dinner time, you haven't touched a single thing
  98. >One of the nurses comes up to you and Missy Pie silently shakes her head
  99. >You aren't looking at her but you can see her out of your peripheral vision
  100. >The nurse takes your food away
  101. >"Alright, just don't complain if you're hungry later! Last chance!"
  102. >You're largely unresponsive
  103. >"Alright... looks good though. Someone worked hard for this."
  104. >The nurse walks off
  105. >You only feel worse for being stuck here
  106. >Sorry, whoever made the food
  107. >It really should've gone to someone more worth it
  108. >You don't react but the pony's pink body begins to flash between pink and blue
  109. >"Anon, it looks like your body is reacting to something... what are you thinking? Are you ok?"
  110. >You shrug, your eyes glued to the now-empty table
  111. "I suppose, sure."
  112. >She lifts up one of her hooves and puts it on one of your hands
  113. >"You can't have fun if you aren't honest... you can tell me, you know."
  114. >She says that
  115. >But you know that at least two nurses are watching you
  116. >Evidently her flashing lights act as a warning system of some sort
  117. "Yeah... I know. I'm sorry."
  118. >"Aw, don't apologize... it'll be ok."
  119. >It's nice to hear but you don't believe it
  120. >After a little bit longer of just watching and sitting, you're led back to your room
  121. >Climbing the unusually tall bed isn't the greatest
  122. >Especially since Missy Pie can get to the top of it in one hop
  123. >At least her alert colors subsided
  124. >You sit on the bed, looking down at the paper-thin sheets on it
  125. >It's really as hard as sitting on the floor
  126. >Missy Pie watches you, always smiling
  127. >Maybe not a big, cartoonish smile
  128. >But it's a sign of positivity
  129. >"Wanna play a game?"
  130. "I'm not really good at games."
  131. >"Hm... how about Donkey Kong! You can hop around the room and I'll pretend to throw barrels at you!"
  132. "No, that's ok. I wouldn't want to break anything."
  133. >The medical pony giggles
  134. >"You wouldn't break anything! I know you like video games! You got a whole lot of creativity, to like those!"
  135. "I guess."
  136. >You really don't mean to be so difficult
  137. >But you just don't have the will to move
  138. >Your will won't, technically
  139. >The pink pony watches you, studying you
  140. >Who knows what she's thinking about you or how you're bothering her
  141. >"You know, you really aren't a harm to me. I enjoy helping. I can understand how it is to feel so lost. I've gotten lost dozens of times here!"
  142. >You see why she's trying to be funny
  143. >But you just aren't feeling it
  144. >You close your eyes and begin to lean back until you're laying on your back
  145. >Almost immediately you can hear her lights start to flash
  146. >There's a small whining coming from her
  147. >Probably an alarm
  148. >"Anon, you can't sleep just yet! We still have the entire evening! And you haven't even introduced yourself to your friends!"
  149. >The whining from her starts to increase in volume
  150. >You really do lack the energy to move
  151. >You can feel yourself drifting off, leading you into a different world entirely.
  152. >"Anon, wake up! Now isn't the time to sleep! It's not how you play any games either!"
  153. >Sorry, pink horse
  154. >You really don't have the will to stay in this waking world
  155. >"Anon... Anon! Help, I need a hand!"
  156. >You don't know what she's worrying over
  157. >You aren't going to do anything
  158. >You just want to go to sleep
  159. >The last thing you hear is a nurse running in the room, asking what's going on
  160. >Anything else is pure blank
  162. >"Anon, good morning! Good morning, Anon! Bright and shiny day!"
  163. >You can hear an excited, gleeful voice
  164. >That pony again
  165. >You somehow managed to sleep despite how hard the bed was
  166. >You felt warm too
  167. >That doesn't make too much sense given how thin the sheets are
  168. >You try to move but your left arm is stiff and hurts
  169. "...ow."
  170. >Missy Pie is sitting to the right of your head, her tone faltering a little
  171. >"We... had to draw some blood. I hope you don't mind! Starting today, you'll be taking some medicine, yay! And due to how hard you slept and how we couldn't wake you up, we thought you might be dangerously low when it comes to blood sugar levels so we just gotta make sure!"
  172. >Great
  173. >No, really, you love being stabbed in your sleep and left with an arm that might snap off at the elbow
  174. >"And... well, I hope you don't mind... but we also maybe gotta draw blood every night for the next week. We gotta make sure you take your medicine and that's the easiest way to confirm!"
  175. >Nice
  176. >You finally manage to sit up
  177. >You're still in your normal clothing
  178. >Everyone else you saw were dressed normally
  179. >You were expecting to be stuck in a gown or something equally degrading
  180. >Missy Pie flashes green for a single pulse and smiles
  181. >"Yay, morning circle time!"
  182. >She bounds off the bed and clops onto the hard floor, taking a few steps before turning to watch you
  183. >"Up and at 'em, Atom Anon!"
  184. >You probably don't have an option to lay in bed all day
  185. >You wish you were home
  186. >Except because you were at home you were tricked to being stuck here
  187. >You follow the medical pony into the hallway
  188. >Seems like you're late
  189. >At the end of the hallway it opens up
  190. >The entrance is there
  191. >And heavily monitored
  192. >And locked
  193. >But remember, it isn't a prison
  194. >Just feels like one
  195. >"Well now, good morning. Anonymous, right? Every morning, we introduce ourselves and we talk a little more about why we're here. Since I'm sure you're still shy, why don't we let you go last?"
  196. >You're offered an empty chair and take it
  197. >As if you have a choice
  198. >Everyone who's too young to be staff is sitting down
  199. >Each have their own pony
  200. >All of them have the same frizzy, curly mane and hair
  201. >But each one is a different color or has a vaguely different face
  202. >Yours seems like the closest to the true Pinkie Pie
  203. >By a loose definition of "closest"
  204. >One by one, they seemingly go down a list
  205. >Their names
  206. >Why they're there
  207. >How they're doing
  208. >What their goal is for today
  209. >Everything you don't want to talk about
  210. >Until it's your turn
  211. >You just sit there
  212. >A trio of older girls, all of them in for anorexia, just watch you
  213. >As does another group
  214. >Seems you're number seven
  215. >Lucky day
  216. >After enough silent staring, you finally speak up
  217. "I'm... Anonymous. I'm here for depression and..."
  218. >You aren't being completely truthful but you've never said anything more detailed, so they wouldn't know
  219. "... thoughts of suicide."
  220. >You feel so warped out of your own head due to the situation that you swear you can see behind you
  221. "I... don't feel happy to be here. My goal is to go home."
  222. >That's all you say
  223. >You don't mention anything like hobbies or interests
  224. >Missy doesn't speak up either, but she is looking right up at you
  225. >Probably scanning everything and anything about you to learn how to game you better
  226. >"Hi Anonymous."
  227. >Almost everyone says in their own way
  228. >"Very good. Now we can't promise that you get to go home today... but you get better and get a few things done and you'll be out of here before you know it!"
  229. >You doubt it
  230. >But you really aren't in a position to do anything about it
  231. >The rest of the day is a complete blur
  232. >School's out so there's no real requirement for enforced learning
  233. >Someone's in the TV room, a room that's surrounded by giant glass panes for walls and even has a window leading outside, watching a movie
  234. >So you can't get in there
  235. >A glance at the window tells you that you have to be at least six floors up
  236. >One of the more rowdy, unstable kids ended up in the 'safety room'
  237. >A literal fucking padded room just yards away from the eating area
  238. >This place is a mad house
  239. >You really don't belong here
  240. >You just wanted to be done
  241. >That's nowhere near the level of crazy you're hearing, bashing against the walls and screeching
  242. >The kid's Missy Pie is more green and looks depressed
  243. >"Wow, he's energetic today huh... you could sure use some of that energy slowpoke!"
  244. >Your Missy Pie gave you a small tour of the wing, though it's maybe a grant total of five areas
  245. >One of which being your room
  246. >Since it's 'free time' for a few hours, you just go back to your bed
  247. >"Anon, it's not sleeping time yet! Are you still hungry? If so, dinner's in a few hours!"
  248. >You did have breakfast
  249. >A tiny plastic container of cereal and skim milk
  250. >You normally have 2%
  251. >But they only had whole and skim
  252. >And you don't like whole
  253. >You evidently don't like skim milk either
  254. "Yeah... alright."
  255. >You just sit there or an hour or longer
  256. >Most likely longer
  257. >Missy Pie just watches you, visibly anticipating you getting up and wanting to play
  258. >But you don't
  259. >As young as you are, you haven't felt like a kid in a long time
  260. >Besides, you don't have anything with you
  261. >No games
  262. >No books
  263. >You don't even have an extra set of clothing
  264. >Eventually, Missy Pie makes another leap of faith onto the bed from the floor down below
  265. >"You know Anon... your mom should be here soon to drop off your stuff. She loves you, you know. I do too."
  266. >You don't say anything
  267. >You're stoic
  268. >You want to be strong
  269. >But your eyes water and soon you can't even see
  270. >But you aren't weak
  271. >The loud, sudden 'hic' doesn't count
  272. >Missy Pie sits near you, nuzzling your side
  273. >"I understand... being alone is ok sometimes. We all need our time to decompress, don't we?"
  274. >She doesn't sound like she's lecturing you or something
  275. >She sounds like she's asking you
  276. >You don't have an answer for her
  277. >For all of your swirling thoughts words don't once come up
  279. >The day goes by quickly, given you've kept zoned out
  280. >Missy Pie did her very best to get you to smile, even once, but you just didn't have it in you
  281. >By the time dinner rolls around again, you eat maybe a fourth of it before stopping
  282. >Mostly because you were also given medicine
  283. >Pro-something and something-quil
  284. >You can't swallow pills so the best you can do is chomp them down and try to not retch from the bitter, lingering taste
  285. >One's a solid pill while the other is a capsule containing the most vile of white powder
  286. >The sheer taste of it knocks the sense of reality back into your head
  287. >Missy Pie watches in stunned silence as you stubbornly devour the medicine despite how violently it assaults you in retaliation
  288. >What little you do eat, doesn't eliminate the taste
  289. >When you finish, you grimace at the plastic pony
  290. >She goes out of her way to try to smile at you but it looks as terrible as you feel
  291. >"That's... ok... wow, that's a first. You sure are... brave, Anon!"
  292. >You grimace
  293. >This bitter taste in your mouth is what's real, no matter what you're being told about how you could be out in a week, or that you're stuck here
  294. >No matter that you were brought here on a lie
  295. "I've been told that it takes more muscles to frown than smile."
  296. >Your words catch Missie Pie off guard
  297. >"That's... yeah, that's right! It's super easy to be happy, a lot easier than being sad all the time!"
  298. >The bitter taste in your mouth isn't going away
  299. >Most of the pill and powder is gone
  300. >But the taste remains
  301. "I don't want to be happy."
  302. >You look at her directly for the first time
  303. >Since you're with your pony, none of the nurses really pay you much mind
  304. "I want to be strong. And I'm too weak. I'm too weak to help at home. I'm too weak at school. I'm too weak to even..."
  305. >You sigh, shaking your head
  306. "I can't be happy and weak."
  307. >Your words cause an unusual effect on her
  308. >She isn't smiling
  309. >She looks at you like she's meeting you for the first time
  310. >"Anon... honey... you don't need to be strong. You're a kid. Adults should be strong for you!"
  311. >If only they were
  312. >Not a single adult you knew stopped you from being bullied and tortured
  313. >At home or at school, none of them did anything, but you were in trouble if you fought back
  314. >You were weak
  315. >You are still weak
  316. "I need to be stronger."
  317. >That's all you say to her
  318. >You want to mention all of that to her
  319. >But she wouldn't get it
  320. >She really wouldn't understand you
  321. >None of the nurses here would
  322. >No one here would, regardless of age, they're all stuck because they don't eat or they puke after eating, or they think they're best friends with Phil Collins
  323. >"Well... how about this! When I need help, I'll ask you for it! There's nothing wrong with helping someone, right? Friends help each other all the time!"
  324. >For some reason that makes the corner of your mouth twitch
  325. >She seems to pick up on it, smiling again
  326. >"You know, we are friends! I promise I'll help only as much as you want, and if I need it, I'll come to you!"
  327. >After a few minutes of watching her, you finally nod
  328. "Yeah... alright."
  329. >The next few days go by quick
  330. >A little too quick to tell
  331. >You have a schedule but you absolutely lose track of time, relying on the nurses and Missy Pie to tell you where to head next and what needs to be done
  332. >Your mom visits
  333. >A few relatives visit
  334. >You've gotten used to thinks to the point that you've even been cutting up and joking around a little
  335. >Whenever your family visits, they laugh like it's the best stuff they've heard
  336. >You even joke about being some sort of freak because you're stuck in the hospital
  337. >Not even a half hour away from home, which helps a bit
  338. >You do feel nice because they laugh
  339. >But you know they're doing it for your sake
  340. >Missy Pie helps you out, learning to be a great comic foil for you
  341. >A lot of the anorexic girls there think you're weird, but "in a good way"
  342. >More days pass
  343. >Weeks, even
  344. >You've kinda stopped caring about the state of your life
  345. >Every morning, you repeat the same things in the circle
  346. >Effectively admitting that you're a failure
  347. >They may phrase it differently but it's true
  348. >You couldn't do it so you're stuck
  349. >Worse, you have to deal with having failed at even that
  350. >Though, in your defense, you didn't attempt it
  351. >You knew there were risks of it not working
  352. >So you just planned it out as much as you could
  353. >And evidently you were caught, either planning or something else came up
  354. >Whatever it was, all that mattered was that you failed
  355. >You're still here
  356. >After enough time, some of the older girls start to cycle out
  357. >Every one of them gets a little booklet of sketches and writings
  358. >You don't really know what to put down since you don't socialize with any of them
  359. >So you just write your name down
  360. >When it's finally your turn to leave, even you get a little booklet
  361. >Evidently Missy Pie started it up, proud and happy that you're paired up with her
  362. >The green one that you recalled, that looked depressed, went away when that nutty kid did
  363. >The anorexic girl that left had a blue one that looked like Fluttershy
  364. >You haven't seen her anywhere either
  365. >With your meager belongings packed up and your mom in some other place signing paperwork, you're alone in your room again with Missy Pie
  366. >"Well, today's your last day! Aren't you excited?"
  367. >You try to smile but you can't
  368. "Not really... why can't you come with me?"
  369. >If it weren't for her, it would have remained a hell to be here
  370. >It still was
  371. >But it was manageable and almost even fun, with her
  372. >She offers you an apologetic smile
  373. >"Well... you know how you've helped me? It's my calling to help others!"
  374. >Her calling meaning her job
  375. >Of course you knew that it was her job
  376. >But it still sucks
  377. "Then... how about I visit here again?"
  378. >She stops smiling
  379. >"No, Anon... honey, please. You don't wanna be here again or for longer!"
  380. "I know but..."
  381. >You can't spit your words out
  382. >You're still too weak
  383. "Alright..."
  384. >You eventually leave the hospital
  385. >You end up home again
  386. >But it doesn't feel like home
  387. >Once more, you're without a friend
  388. >The following six months are outpatient visits
  389. >A therapist too
  390. >It doubles as your 'school', but it doesn't help much
  391. >You've lost your motivation to focus on grades
  392. >You even lost your motivation to stay at school
  393. >You're still too weak
  394. >Or maybe, this is the beginning of your strength
  395. >Rather than being told to stay at school, you just leave after your favorite classes
  396. >Rather than be told to deal with bad classmates, you just stop going to school
  397. >You've wanted to ask about what ever happened to Missy Pie
  398. >But you could never bring it up
  399. >Your mom always looked at you funny when you brought her up
  400. >So you learned to stop talking about her
  401. >But you never forgot
  402. >The stoicism
  403. >The inability to rely on others to make the effort to understand or connect to you
  404. >It became your strength
  405. >Your lonely
  406. >Cold
  407. >Stone-faced strength
  408. >You learned a lot about computers during those years
  409. >You wanted to find her, but you couldn't
  410. >You didn't have a clue of what to do
  411. >Your friends could never relate
  412. >Eventually, that time you spent with Missy Pie
  413. >In the hospital
  414. >It became something only you knew about
  415. >Something you'd never tell anyone
  416. >Why would you?
  417. >They wouldn't understand
  418. >Until you figured out that bootleg, unusual ponies were available to buy
  419. >Kinda like Missy Pie
  420. >By that point, it had been almost fifteen years since then
  421. >She'll never see how strong you've become
  422. >As much as it hurt
  423. >And as much as you wished you had succeeded back then
  424. >You wanted her to see how strong you were
  425. >One day
  426. >After having spent years meandering
  427. >You got a pony of your own
  428. >You finally did it
  429. >You would have a friend again, at your lowest point
  430. >You were willing to overlook the details
  431. >You wanted that type of friendship again
  432. >Like before
  433. >Except...
  434. >"What'd'ya think yer doin' lad?"
  435. >What the hell
  436. "What the hell."
  437. >A yellow pony with an orange mane and some bad picture of tomatoes on her butt stumbles out of the box she came in, spilling out packing peanuts that kept her case safe
  438. >"An'a right g'marnin' t'y'too. Talkin' 'bout hell when y'should be greetin' me. D'ya know jus how long I've been cooped up in t'damned box? Thought I'd have me a new friend and what doth my shiny eyes find? Some slackjawed ninny about to pluck them out!"
  439. >The way she moves
  440. >The way she talks
  441. >The way she looks
  442. >It's completely different from Missy Pie
  443. >Or any pony you've physically seen
  444. "Let's... let's restart. I'm Anon."
  446. >For once, you don't wake up first
  447. >You feel a pair of hooves on your chest, shaking you back and forth
  448. "What... what? I'm up."
  449. >You just barely manage to mumble out something
  450. >"Anon, you were having a really bad dream... Sparks told me, uh..."
  451. >"That it was like a hot needle you were poking my head with."
  452. >"...right... you got any clue what she's on about? Are you ok?"
  453. >You attempt to open your eyes but think otherwise as soon as you realize you can't see out of them
  454. >Tears were in the way, enough to obscure your vision
  455. "Me? Yeah, I'm fine..."
  456. >You immediately move to wipe your eyes, failing to hide a sniffle
  457. "Gah, morning allergies, huh..."
  458. >You struggle to sit up, composing yourself in record time
  459. "Alright... alright alright alright... what's up, what time is it?"
  460. >You glance at both ponies at your sides, clearing your throat with a rumbling grumble
  461. >Neither of them are convinced of your act
  462. >"Anon... what's up?"
  463. >Jacky's as worried as can be, looking at you like the time you more or less decided to spend an evening laying on the floor
  464. "I, uh..."
  465. >You see that Dashie isn't around
  466. >Not that you particularly care
  467. "I... yeah, I, I. I guess I had a dream from... a long while ago."
  468. >"You should tell her abo-"
  469. >Sparks begins to pipe up but she cuts herself short
  470. >"About what? What don't I know about?"
  471. >The rising concern in your little pony's voice is heart rending
  472. >You aren't surprised that Sparks would have known about it
  473. >If you weren't woken up, who knew how much worse it would have gotten
  474. "So... a long while back I was... weak. And that led to me being in a pretty bad place. I kinda only made it out because of it, her."
  475. >"Her...?"
  476. >Jacky's eyebrow raises at you
  477. >More surprised than anything accusatory or concerning
  478. "A... pony, that was in the hospital. A robotic one, really. Was made of some sort of soft plastic, helped me keep track of medicine intake and... well, yeah. I was a stupid kid. So I ended up in a stupid situation."
  479. >At the mention of you having another friend, a pony even, Jacky smiles
  480. >"Hey, that's awesome! Where is she?"
  481. >You avoid her gaze
  482. >You have only heard or read rumors
  483. >But supposedly her line of medical aid ponies ended up self-terminating
  484. >Ironically, putting ponies that were created to spread joy and cheer and pairing them with suicidal or mentally unwell children would lead more often than not lead to depressed ponies
  485. >Even if they were synthetic made with digital minds, that destroyed you
  486. >Like a bomb going off under a mountain
  487. >No visible damage but a lot of what's under the crust was destroyed or left gaping, empty, and hidden by darkness
  488. "Jacky, I... I don't know. It was a very long time ago and I..."
  489. >You don't want to finish that sentence
  490. >You really can't
  491. >It still feels like talking about the recent death of a relative or a loved one
  492. >Worse, it's still recent and you weren't allowed at the funeral
  493. >"She's... probably gone, Jacky."
  494. >Sparks covers for you
  495. >But hearing that
  496. >Man that stings
  497. >Jacky looks to you for some form of confirmation
  498. >The only thing you can do is turn your face away from her and nod
  499. "Yeah... yup. It, uh, yeah."
  500. >The rumors and supposed information was less than five years old
  501. >Which means that if you were smarter, quicker, or cared more, you might have still had time
  502. "Anway, what're we doing? Where's Prism?"
  503. >Whether or not a defense mechanism or a quick way to change the topic, you focus on the obvious
  504. >"Anon..."
  505. >Sparks trots off the bed and out of the room
  506. >"She's on the patio, talking about her wings or something stupid. I'll fix breakfast this time so you can take your sweet time waking up."
  507. >She sounds a bit caustic but the inflection of her words at the end hint that she's just teasing you
  508. >Now that it's you and Jacky, she pushes her face against her side
  509. >"It's ok... you don't gotta say any more about it."
  510. "Yeah... I know."
  511. >You wanted to say that you 'were fine'
  512. >But that'd be a lie
  513. >And you just can't or won't lie to her
  514. "Hey Jack..."
  515. >The strongest effort is going into sounding like you aren't broken up over it
  516. >"What's up, Anon...?"
  517. >You should tell her
  518. >But is this really the time or place
  519. >What is the proper time and place?
  520. "I... uh."
  521. >There's no way you can really work your way up to talking about this
  522. >You look down at the bed, choosing to not look her in the eyes
  523. >You usually do pretty well when it comes to eye contact
  524. >An old habit, avoiding eye contact, feels like it never left
  525. "When I was a kid I was pretty sad all around. And I just wanted things to end so... well, I didn't succeed at that. And some people noticed. So I kinda spent seven or eight months with a lot of people watching over me pretty closely like it was their job-and it was."
  526. >There are no brakes on this emotional train
  527. "And the pony I had as my sort of... professional friend and well-being monitor. I worry that a lot of my negative thoughts and urges might have had a hand in something bad. I remember this green plastic pony and it... she, whatever, whoever. She looked like she was ready and willing to just shut down for good. And the one that watched over me, I wasn't always good. And I said some really bad stuff that even then I could tell hurt. I was really good at that, saying just the right thing to hurt someone."
  528. >It feels like all of some incoherent rambling that is only barely connected together
  529. "And if I fucked so bad that it affected someone else, even if it was some... program. I don't know, Jack. I'd be perfectly fine with sacrificing the worthless little shit that I was if I didn't leave such negative impacts."
  530. >Somehow, it was the long and short of it
  531. >Except not really
  532. >A lot of it was just bottled up thoughts and self-stabbing regrets that just never really went away
  533. >No matter how hard you insisted it was gone
  534. >She watches you throughout the entire spiel, eyes focused on you without once leaving
  535. >As it progresses, you can see her expression change
  536. >From supportive, to neutral
  537. >To finally despair
  538. >She hugs your side with all her might
  539. >Which isn't a tiny amount, your fridge can attest to
  540. >"Anon... if you did that, you wouldn't be here. We wouldn't be here. You've done a ton of good..."
  541. "Yeah... yeah. But it isn't enough. You know?"
  542. >"Sure it is, Anon... I'm happy. Sparky's happy. Dashie's warming up to you just fine and she's happy."
  543. "Sure..."
  544. >You would never shoot her down
  545. >You know how to do that
  546. >You know how to make it sting too
  547. >Being more a listener than talker has its perks
  548. "Thanks. I didn't really mean to have that pop up."
  549. >As if you had a choice in the matter
  550. >"It's alright, trust me! You gotta listen to all of us screw up and you see how it's gone, right? It's more than fine!"
  551. >She sounds like she's trying to convince you hard
  552. >Hearing the tone in her voice is more than enough to remind you that you gotta be better for her
  553. >Not for yourself
  554. >Sometimes, fuck yourself
  555. >But for who genuinely cares for you
  556. >That's enough of a reason
  557. "Yeah... I get you."
  558. >You grab your discarded shirt from last night and blow your nose in it
  559. >You needed that
  560. >"Remind me to not sleep on that one for future reference..."
  561. >You scoff
  562. "That's hardly the worst thing out of me that you've slept on."
  563. >"Sure but at least you weren't fully awake for it."
  564. >And just like that, you're back to goofing off
  565. >Your mood isn't all that lifted
  566. >But you are focusing on something other than yourself
  567. >It's better that way
  568. >You lay back down
  569. >Jacky jumps onto you as soon as it's able
  570. >She immediately circles around once, and lays down on your chest
  571. >Her face near yours
  572. >"Y'tired...? It is still early..."
  573. >You sigh
  574. "The sun's already up, isn't it?"
  575. >"Well I guess you could describe it as that..."
  576. >You nod, exhaling
  577. >For a split second, the bed feels so hard it may as well be concrete
  578. "Yeah... let me keep going for a few more minutes. When Sparks makes breakfast..."
  579. >You give out a long, fatigued yawn
  580. >That sleep and dream left you more tired than you were last night
  581. >And it wasn't even all that sociable or active
  582. >"I will... I'll be your protecting angel."
  583. >That's right
  584. >'People with ropes around their necks don't always hang' was the quote
  585. >You've been swaying in the wind
  586. >But you do seem to have an orange haired pony that's looking after you
  588. >You feel like you slept an entire night's worth, with Jacky on your chest
  589. >It almost feels like it was just a bad dream, telling her all that you did
  590. >You didn't regret telling her all of that
  591. >But part of you worries
  592. >Not a big part
  593. >But more than nothing
  594. >With your senses at ease, you react quickly to a pony-sized face rubbing against yours
  595. >"Hey Anon... Sparky said she fixed some stuff. She's doing really good with magic now, ain't she?"
  596. >You absentmindedly nod
  597. "Yeah... she's great. Both of you are..."
  598. >You yawn, your arms stretching out to pop and re-adjust
  599. "Really something."
  600. >You still feel like you're in a deep, claustrophobic pit
  601. >But with her there, it feels like it's just a cave that's perpetually climate controlled
  602. >You're worried about how she may see you now
  603. >But you've introduced more personal, weirder things
  604. >You struggle in vain a few times to sit up
  605. >She's still on your chest and she doesn't seem to want to budge
  606. >"Anon... are you sure you're ok? You can sleep in today. No one will mind, we can keep the volume down."
  607. >You wipe the corners of your eyes, some thoughts still lingering
  608. "Sure... yeah, I'll be alright. I guess I just needed to get that out there. In case push came to shove and you had to make a decision or something."
  609. >Thinking on your daily life and how things are, there's really no chance of any serious situations popping up
  610. >Jacky kisses the front of your throat
  611. >"Come on... what are you even saying? I think you're almost sleep talking at this point. Nothing's changed. You're still you, I'm still me... and we're still us. There's no reason to think anything has changed. I just wish I could tell you more about my past and stuff, to kinda make it a little more even."
  612. "Yeah... I know. I appreciate it, darling."
  613. >You want to get up but you feel fatigue weighing you down five times beyond your limit
  614. >Everything feels loose, like most everything has given up or shut down
  615. >A good mirror to your mental state
  616. "Hey Jack..."
  617. >"Anything, Anon."
  618. >She didn't even pause in replying with that
  619. >Where were all of the girls like her before?
  620. >Did they even exist in human form?
  621. "I... I kinda forgot, honestly."
  622. >She giggles and kisses your throat again
  623. >"You're so silly when you're sleepy."
  624. "Yeah..."
  625. >You thought you were ready to get up but no dice
  626. >You bring up your hand, clasping onto one of her hooves
  627. "Jackolantern... if/when I doze off again. Don't let go, ok?"
  628. >You can feel Jacky's head lean against your hand
  629. >"Of course I won't. You could be on a cliff side and I would still dive in and grab onto you."
  630. >How?
  631. "How? You don't have hands?"
  632. >"You just leave the thinking to me... I'll have a plan."
  633. >Leave the thinking to her?
  634. >You must really be out of your mind
  635. >You chuckle at that thought, without any external context
  636. "That's my Jack."
  637. >You feel everything fade away again
  638. >Except for the silhouette of her
  639. >You've found yourself getting closer and closer to her still, despite all of the logistics and questions between man and mare
  640. >Then the thought hits you
  641. >A blinding white knife of light in the darkness, cutting out a path
  642. >A necklace
  643. >Or something
  644. >You should get her something like that
  645. >She deserves that much as is
  646. >But what about money?
  647. >You're pretty much broke again
  648. >Fuck it
  649. >You really are not in a coherent mindset
  650. >But you want to give her something
  651. >As if you haven't already spent five digits for and on her all around
  652. >Jacky can't hear you think
  653. >But you wish she could have even more
  654. >You don't need much anyway, so you can use it toward her
  655. >That sounds like a plan
  656. >You shut down once more, sleeping just enough to feel like you're floating
  657. >You gotta find her favorite type of food before making it too
  658. >A big feast all for her
  659. >And the others too
  660. >That sounds good
  662. >Be Sparking Shine
  663. >After enough time with everyone, you've found your... thought processes changing
  664. >You really aren't all that eager to leave anymore
  665. >You never really were
  666. >But especially now you don't want to
  667. >You can still hear Anon mumbling in a half-delirious state
  668. >He must really be tired to go into that mushy word salad crap
  669. >It kinda burns you up that you have to be the responsible one
  670. >But it shouldn't because he wouldn't be able to trust Jacky with breakfast and actual, real responsibilities
  671. >Jacky's able to do her part for him
  672. >You can too
  673. >After trotting into the kitchen you see Prism laying out on the patio, with the door still open
  674. >Something about her really bothers you
  675. >Anon didn't say how much he spent to get her, but you know
  676. >You know what some would say is too much
  677. >And it makes you very angry that he has no intention of telling her
  678. >He deserves to have his action be recognized
  679. >That stress was part of the reason why he had that nightmare again
  680. >Why you jolted awake before anyone else
  681. >Why you kicked Jacky awake and told her to help you get Anon to wake up
  682. >That entire nightmare was like watching a horror movie, with no way to stop or skip it
  683. >Entire months skipping by in what was probably hours, searing your mind with his thoughts, urges and regrets
  684. >You wanted to cry
  685. >But maybe some of Anon's strength rubbed off on you too
  686. >Even if it didn't, you couldn't be the weakest link
  687. >Without really thinking about it, five things happen at once all around you
  688. >You still take vitamins every now and again, telling Anon that it's because you're still learning
  689. >But when you really want to, you can almost be as magically attuned as Twilight
  690. >She annoys you too
  691. >You glare at Prism with a growing sense of hatred
  692. >She's so ungrateful and she hasn't even been worth it
  693. >Friend of Jacky or not, she's interrupted everything
  694. >Whether or not the nightmare's lingering emotions are the cause of your shaking, you stop out to the patio, closing the door behind you
  695. >You don't worry about the kitchen
  696. >Jacky isn't going to leave Anon's side and Anon isn't going to see that you have at least seven things moving all at once
  697. "Prism. You useless layabout..."
  698. >The pure venom in your voice is paired with a furious quivering of your lips
  699. >Prism, seemingly oblivious to what's ailing you, curls her head back until she sees you
  700. >"And a good morning to you, Sparking. Is something the matter?"
  701. >Her polite, fabricated air of sophistication is maddening
  702. >She's as much as a worthless street filly as you are
  703. >Were
  704. >She tried putting on airs without ever actually trying to be useful
  705. >Her looks were her only skill
  706. >Her femininity and 'oh please help a poor girl like me' act
  707. "Anon's in there having nightmares, he's stressed, and he's all... all over the place. Because you're here!"
  708. >Her eyebrow quirks at the mention of Anon
  709. >"Oh? This is the first time I've heard of this. Jacky tells me only the best of the man. You'd think he walks on water."
  710. >The faintest flavor of condescension stokes your fire only further
  711. "Get off your ass and look at me directly! Do you know what he's given up to get you out of that death trap?!"
  712. >Prism waits a few moments before getting up from her half-laying position, only to lay down again
  713. >Facing you at least
  714. >"Jacky told me it was a lot... should I feel guilt if he chose something of his own free will?"
  715. >Without pausing to mull over the answer, you burst out
  716. "YES! Show gratitude or... something!"
  717. >You're at a loss for words but she's the most acceptable target for your outrage
  718. "You don't know him at all. Jacky doesn't either! Only I do!"
  719. >You start to lose focus, fuming over everything all at once
  720. "You're... useless! You're as useless as you were when we were kids! It's always been me and Jacky getting shit done and getting what we need! All you did was stand there and look pretty and when there were consequences you were always conveniently off and..."
  721. >You can't even string your words together
  722. >Maybe this is something that's been bottled up for a long time now
  723. >Not only are you remembering more by the day, but Anon's nightmare put everything under so much more of a strain
  724. >Prism looks at you
  725. >Almost like she's looking through you
  726. >"Sparking Shine... have you ever wondered why we weren't all arrested despite us always being the same three filthy ponies scamming anyone and everyone that would give us the time of day?"
  727. >Because you always outran them, obviously
  728. "No, tell me."
  729. >You scoff at her, as if she could honestly have an excuse
  730. >"Even guards are only stallions."
  731. >She doesn't sound sad
  732. >Or even mad
  733. >She just states it like it's a fact
  734. >You wanted that sentence to fly over your head
  735. >But it hit you harder than anything you could imagine
  736. "That's... but you weren't even a part of..."
  737. >"If I've been... unfair or ungrateful to Anon. Or, I should say, if you think I have been, then I'm sorry you see it that way."
  738. >She smiles and glances off to the distant treeline
  739. >It doesn't go into a forest but it is a good distance before it goes into someone's back yard
  740. >"Jacky's as happy as she's ever been, you know. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen her so happy. Her belly's full, her heart is full of lovely fluff and sunshine, her head is full of violent movies and she talks about what she would do if she were the hero in all of them."
  741. >She glances back to you
  742. >The way she's staring at you makes you take a step back
  743. >She isn't angry
  744. >But you get the feeling that she's not afraid to hurt you
  745. >"Do I owe Anonymous for making my Jacky the happiest mare in the world? I do. Do I owe him for getting me? No. Not for my own sake."
  746. >She blinks only once
  747. >"But I do owe him for 'saving' me, on behalf of Jacky. More so, if it's because of all of us being together, you owe Anon even more than I do because without him, you wouldn't even remember as much as you do now."
  748. "That's..."
  749. >You try to find a hole or two in her argument
  750. >You know there's a lot
  751. >She isn't smarter than you
  752. >But she's calmer
  753. "Then... then do something about it..."
  754. >All of that fire led up to only hot air
  755. >"And what can I do? Jacky would regretfully sacrifice you and I for his sake, I think. We may be her friends... but he's more than a friend. And I think we need to accept that before we get any..."
  756. >She stares at you, as if she's appraising something flawed
  757. >"...ideas."
  758. >And what does she mean by that?
  759. >Anon wouldn't sacrifice anyone if push came to shove
  760. >He'd sacrifice himself with a smile
  761. >"He has you, and he trusts you. It's obvious what you've been doing. But either both of them are too oblivious or they don't really care. But you shouldn't lay the way you do."
  762. >Your face flares up as much as your mood
  763. "You shut up! I..."
  764. >Where does she get off, addressing you so blatantly?
  765. >When was she ever the type to do that?
  766. "I sleep better with my legs elevated!"
  767. >Prism nods sympathetically
  768. >"Oh, of course you do, darling... you just also want to hope that he gets an eyeful so he'll be tempted. Right?"
  769. >The disgust on your face has slowly melted away
  770. >But now it has completely transformed into astonishment
  771. >"You're not as smart as you think, Sparky."
  772. >She spreads out, her wings spreading before they retract again
  773. >"I really don't know why you're wasting time talking to me anyway... I'm a useless lump, right? You're the real MVP here. I think you should go back to being useful so you can earn your keep."
  774. >She doesn't sound like she's mocking her
  775. >But you know she is
  776. "This isn't over, Prism."
  777. >"I know. And I'm ever so happy to talk to my good friend who calls me useless. Just not in front of those two, ok? They're happy and that's more than what either of us could ask for. Isn't it?"
  778. >She turns her head away from you, content to nap in the morning's sunlight
  779. >Without another comment, you open the patio door and trot back in
  780. >You finish up breakfast, because you said you'd make it
  781. >She's wrong
  782. >She's wrong about a lot of things
  783. >You'll show her that she's wrong
  784. >But maybe you did want him to notice you like he notices Jacky
  786. >Anon spent the day in bed, even after breakfast
  787. >You left him and Jacky alone, taking one of his handheld consoles to the living room so you'd have something to do
  788. >Magic has almost become natural to you now
  789. >But you still hide it from Anon
  790. >You like how he compliments your efforts
  791. >So you... maybe under perform a little
  792. >You're not really proud of it
  793. >But you enjoy the feedback
  794. >Of course Dashie knows that you downplay yourself
  795. >Jacky probably doesn't
  796. >From what you've seen, she's only gotten happier and bubblier and more carefree
  797. >You're happy for her
  798. >Really
  799. >Honestly
  800. >But you want to be that way too...
  801. >Dashie finally comes in, but only due to rain starting to come down from outside
  802. >She sits next to you, watching you play
  803. >It's just an RPG
  804. >You do your best to ignore you, huffing in frustration
  805. >"Sparking."
  806. >You don't answer
  807. >"I'm sorry."
  808. >The corner of your mouth twitches
  809. >But you don't say anything
  810. >"Whatever we were before... that's who we aren't now. If we have anything to believe in, it's that things are going to be different."
  811. "...I know."
  812. >You don't have any interest in talking to her
  813. >"This is a new start. For you, for I, and for Jacky. And we've already seen just how much Jacky has changed."
  814. "...yeah she has."
  815. >"So maybe we need to change too. I need to."
  816. "Sure."
  817. >She sounds genuine but you just want to focus on your game
  818. >You feel a hoof on your shoulder
  819. >The corner of your mouth twitches again
  820. >"You said that I owe Anon... we owe Anon. I don't know how often he spends all day in bed but maybe we need to do something to help him. You're close to him, far more than I am. What do you think he would like?"
  821. >Once again, she blindsides you
  822. >She has a point
  823. >You finally look away from the game to Dashie
  824. >She looks sad
  825. >You just do not understand this pony
  826. >You always remembered her to be cold and sorta detached
  827. >She was by far the most 'professional', whereas you and Jacky were bums with empty bellies
  828. >Of course, she was the exact same
  829. >But she looked like a normal pony, just a bit more thin
  830. "So... you really care?"
  831. >"Because of... no, not because of how he affects Jacky. Because we're all together again, I do care. Whether or not I fit with you three or not, I can't let myself be the reason things go wrong."
  832. >You look at her like she's stupid
  833. >How could she be the outsider?
  834. >It's always been...
  835. >Well
  836. >Actually it's always been Anon and Jacky
  837. >And then you came in
  838. >And now then Dashie came into play
  839. >Is this some sort of trick going on?
  840. "I don't... I don't get you, Prism."
  841. >The way she talks circles around you is tiring
  842. >You shake your head at her, huffing
  843. "You aren't the odd one out... Anon doesn't want you to be that at all. He just wants us all together and to..."
  844. >You sigh and roll your head on your shoulders
  845. >"Be happy and silly like Jacky?"
  846. "...yeah."
  847. >Dashie smiles at you
  848. >Her silky white mane looks like it's as meticulously brushed as ever
  849. >She just looks so proper
  850. >Who is she putting on airs for?
  851. >"Is that so bad to be?"
  852. >Is it?
  853. >What would be so bad about being happy?
  854. >The more you think on it, the more annoyed you are
  855. "Shut up..."
  856. >You just want Anon to feel better
  857. >And you want to be happier too
  858. >That's where it hits you
  859. "Wait."
  860. >You stand up, your eyes going wide
  861. "Shut up!"
  862. >Dashie cocks her head at you
  863. >"I am?"
  864. "No! No no no, hold on! I got it!"
  865. >Without waiting to explain it to her, you gallop to Anon's room to get the second laptop
  866. >He's dead asleep on the bed
  867. >Jacky's draped over his right shoulder
  868. >Her twintails are undone
  869. >You can't even see his face due to it being covered with her mane
  870. >You're not jealous
  871. >You just wish she was somewhere else so you could be there
  872. >But that's not important right now
  873. >You have the idea and you're going to make it happen
  874. >The laptop levitates off the corner of the bed, and over your head
  875. >You trot back, thinking of some of the more... unusual things that Anon likes
  876. >This is going to take a lot of work
  877. >And it's going to really be sorta embarrassing
  878. >But you're going to make it happen, whether or not Dashie wants to be a part of it
  879. >After getting on and accessing the wonderful world of the internet, you show Dashie a specific page
  880. >A specific video
  881. >And tell her your plan
  882. >"Oh... oh my..."
  883. >Dashie looks at you, aghast
  884. >"You're... goodness, Sparking. You're serious."
  885. >You grimace, lips twitching into a dark smile
  886. "I'm as serious as a heart attack, Prism. We're going to surprise Anon with this once he comes back from work tomorrow, or I'm going to roast you alive."
  887. >Now that you have a proper goal, you're hyped up to eleven
  888. >Now that you've managed to surprise Dashie, you feel in control of the pace of things again
  889. >This is far better
  890. "Now you have five minutes to prepare your throat."
  891. >"But what about Jacky?"
  892. "She's sleeping. It's just going to be you and me doing this."
  893. >"I don't know about this, Sparking... this really is not you or me. This is really something that she would be a natural at. Maybe we could-"
  894. "No! She can watch, we're doing this and that's that!"
  895. >Just wait until tomorrow, Anon!
  896. >If this won't make him happy, nothing will
  898. >Be a tired, workhouse Anon
  899. >You've been pretty stressed lately, truth be told
  900. >The nightmare that plagued you all of yesterday didn't help either
  901. >You kinda hoped that no one saw you speaking lovey crap to Jacky whenever you were awake for a few minutes
  902. >You even think that she fed you breakfast
  903. >This morning, it was just you and her in bed
  904. >You saw Sparks and Dashie sleeping with YouTube playing so maybe they've been hanging out
  905. >Good for them
  906. >You were concerned about how everyone would gel together but it seems like Dashie just isn't all that social
  907. >Worn down, you drag yourself from your car to your apartment door
  908. >Alright Anon
  909. >Get out your cool guy face
  910. >No, not that one
  911. >With a heavy sigh and a hard shake all around, you head in
  912. "Alright, who's ready fo--"
  913. >As soon as the door closes behind you, Jacky runs up to you, beaming as widely as she can
  915. >You hear Sparks screaming from the living room
  916. >"YOU SHUT UP OR ELSE!"
  917. >Jacky 'eeeee's and stamps her hooves down on the floor
  918. >Either the neighbor has learned to live with the noise or they've left
  919. >"Come on, quick! Hurry!"
  920. "Yeah, yup, alright."
  921. >You kick off your boots and follow Jacky into the
  922. >Living room
  923. >Possibly?
  924. >The speakers from your TV in your room is set up on a small tower of boxes
  925. >Some of your thinnest bed sheets are
  926. >Oh shit
  927. >Someone somehow pinned them to the ceiling
  928. >It doesn't even reach the carpet, but it does leave the other side of the room pretty obscured, minus a foot or two to see four pairs of hooves behind it
  929. "Am I just in time for something?"
  931. >You shrug and sit down
  932. >Jacky sits down next to you, of course
  933. >She leans in, giggling
  934. >"I know there's a Chinese place a few streets away from the online maps so that ain't far at all."
  935. "True enough but they eat everything there."
  936. >"Including pony?"
  937. "Especially pony."
  938. >"Well that's not so bad..."
  939. "As in cannibal eating."
  940. >"...oh."
  941. >As you derp around with Jacky, you can hear frantic whispering from behind the strung up blankets
  942. >Sparks sure sounds nervous
  943. >Or agitated
  944. >It's hard to tell the two apart
  945. >Even Dashie sounds a little hesitant
  946. >What is this supposed to be, a play or a comedy act?
  947. >The two go at it until Sparks stamps down her hoof
  948. >"NO, IT'S THE OTHER ONE."
  949. >Jacky guffaws at the anticipation
  950. >Whatever's going on, she must've had a front row seat to it
  951. >So that's why she didn't get a chance to return any of your messages
  952. "Should I grab some popcorn for this? Should I come back until...?"
  953. >"N-no need, Anonymous, we're just about ready."
  954. >You hear a hushed whisper
  955. >"We are ready, aren't we?"
  957. >That borderline frantic tone in her voice tells you that it's a big deal
  958. >She must've been focused to find a way to somehow stick your sheets to the ceiling
  959. >You lean back, getting comfortable
  960. >Whatever this is, you really can't excuse yourself to get up for even a drink
  961. >But they keep talking behind the blankets
  962. "If you guys are gonna need a minute, I can-"
  964. >wat
  965. >Your speakers kick to life, absolutely blasting a... familiar song
  966. >But you're too blasted away by the volume to recognize the first few seconds
  967. >"SHIT SHIT"
  968. >You can almost make out Sparks screaming something
  969. >The volume tanks down to maybe 10% of that to where it's above a whisper
  970. >"Sparking, just..."
  972. >The volume levels out to something that fills the room but not so much so that it's at ear raping levels
  973. >Wait a second
  974. >You absolutely know this song! [Embed]
  975. >The intro begins to play
  976. >Jacky's head bobs back and forth to the tune
  977. >She must've been listening to it all day if what they were preparing involves it
  978. >On a practiced cue, Sparks jumps out while Dashie struts from behind her side like a model
  979. >"Home, is where I want to be~"
  980. >They're singing in unison
  981. >"Pick me up and turn me 'round~"
  982. >They both rear up on their hind legs and turn around, back to back
  983. >"I feel numb, born with a weak heart, I guess I must be having fun!"
  984. >Dashie's smile seems serene, while Sparks can't help but grin
  985. >But you can tell that the lyrics are affecting her far more
  986. >"The less we say it about it the better! Make it up as we go along."
  987. >"Feet on the ground, head in the sky~"
  988. >They get back on four legs with their heads held high
  989. >"It's ok, I know nothing's wrong, nothing"
  990. >"Oh! I got plenty of time!"
  991. >Even Jacky's joining in for the chorus!
  992. >But you think that's more just her being excited to be in it rather than her being part of the act
  993. >"Oh! You got light in your eyes!"
  994. >Due to their choreography, they step in unison until they're side by side
  995. >"And you're standing here beside me! I love the passing of time!"
  996. >"Never for money!"
  997. >They shake their heads the same way
  998. >"Always for love!"
  999. >They nod with smooth opposing timing
  1000. >"Cover up and say goodnight! Say good night..."
  1001. >With a bit of a musical interlude, Sparks does her best to avoid the gaze of her audience
  1002. >Dashie seems like she's having fun with it, though her wings haven't really moved from their stowed away position
  1003. >Jacky sways to the music but she's...
  1004. >More than a little off beat
  1005. >You're surprised those two are doing so well together
  1006. >"Home, is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there!"
  1007. >The two show ponies walk toward one another, Sparks head hanging low
  1008. >"I come home, she lifted up her wings, I guess that this must be the place!"
  1009. >Dashie's wings spread out just as the lyric comes up
  1010. >Even though she hits one of the hanging blankets
  1011. >Those are some seriously sizable wings
  1012. >"I can tell one from another! Did I find you, or you find me?"
  1013. >Jacky nudges you while singing along
  1014. >Feeling a little put on the spot you can't help but smile
  1015. >All of them put in a ton of effort just for you
  1016. >"There was a time, before we were born! If someone asks, this is where I'll be, where I'll be~"
  1017. >Both of them twirl about face, facing away from each other again
  1018. >"Oh! We drift in and out!"
  1019. >They spin again, face to face
  1020. >Maybe a little too close together since Dashie's neck is a little longer than Sparky's
  1021. >"Oh! Sing into my mouth!"
  1022. >They turn to you and Jack
  1023. >"Out of all those kind of people? You got a face with a view!"
  1024. >They start to step forward
  1025. >Jacky's singing along, hugging onto your arm tight enough to cut off the circulation
  1026. >You're too mesmerized by it all to even react
  1027. >"I'm just an animal looking for a home and, share the same space for a minute or two!"
  1028. >All three of them sing out, loud and proud
  1029. >Sparky by far has the deepest or heaviest voice out of the three
  1030. >Dashie's the complete opposite, light and serene
  1031. >Jacky's somewhere in the middle, where the passion outweighs the practiced precision
  1032. >"And you live me till my heart stops! Love me till I'm dead!"
  1033. >They trot to the tune until they're sitting at your sides
  1034. >Everyone's swaying to the tune
  1035. >You included
  1036. "Eyes that light up, Eyes that look through you! Cover up the blank spots, hit me on the head I got oooooooo-ooo-oo-oooh!"
  1037. >You join in for the last lines, hitting the high note like a skilled howler monkey
  1038. >You did enjoy singing while alone
  1039. >And you were alone a lot
  1040. >But not anymore
  1041. >You're not alone
  1042. >And none of them are, either
  1043. >Everyone's where they should be
  1044. >This apartment, that you considered as mere storage for your crap and a place to sleep
  1045. >It's home
  1046. >All four of you sit there while the outro plays
  1047. >The song ends and the speakers die down
  1048. >Two of the three are giggling
  1049. >Sparky isn't
  1050. >Her face couldn't be more red
  1051. "That was... holy shit, girls. How long have you been practicing this?"
  1052. >"Well you see, Anon, Sparks came to me and..."
  1053. >Dashie purposely trails off, giving her best shit eating grin
  1054. >"And it's none of your business how or why it happened!"
  1055. >"It was awesome, Anon! You should've seen the practicing! Sparky was a total drama queen!"
  1056. >"It's true. Every single misstep was an earful from her. I'm surprised her voice didn't give out..."
  1057. >"Well you know, she's always been the screamer."
  1058. >"It's true. Half of her threatening aura is just how loud she can be."
  1059. >The two rib on the poor unicorn who's just not able to deal with it
  1060. >You lean over and pat her on the back
  1061. >She jumps at the attention and looks at you
  1062. >She doesn't say anything but her eyes say enough
  1063. "You did great. Thank you."
  1064. >Her lips tremble and she whips her head away again
  1065. >You chuckle and wrap your arm around Dashie, since she's closer
  1066. "And you too! How the hell did you manage to get this going? I didn't know you guys were so theatrical!"
  1067. >The pegasus smiles and tilts her head
  1068. >"Well... I guess anything is possible if you're motivated enough, right?"
  1069. >Jacky climbs over your lap to hug onto Dashie
  1070. >"She's awesome, right? Dashie can do almost anything!"
  1071. >You notice that Sparks is on your other side, alone
  1072. >She stands up, as if to walk up
  1073. >Before she can leave your range, you scoop your arm under her belly and drag her into your lap
  1074. >She lets out a frantic cry but doesn't exactly stop you
  1075. >You don't relent until she's sitting on her butt, with her back to your stomach and your hand on her chest to keep her propped up
  1076. "Both of these weirdos are! Can you imagine our little mastermind concocting up something so great?"
  1077. >Jacky flops over your leg, nuzzling against Sparky's belly
  1078. >"It's true, I've never seen her more focused!"
  1079. >Dashie circles around to the other side of you, assaulting Sparks with nuzzling from another angle
  1080. >The unicorn is completely trapped between one man and two mares
  1081. >You can hear her squeal out something that attempts to sound angry
  1082. >"G... get off me! I'll cook all of you! I swear it!"
  1083. >All three of you let out a collective 'awww' and intensify the attention
  1084. "What, not used to being the center of attention?"
  1085. >"She's so awesome!"
  1086. >"I think someone's in need of more love, poor thing!"
  1087. >Sparks tries to fight against the three-pronged assault but her motions get weaker and weaker until she's whimpering death threats and insults
  1088. >You get the feeling she really isn't used to all of the positive reinforcement
  1089. >It's not teasing
  1090. >Well it is
  1091. >But you mean it
  1092. >You know that the other two mean it as well
  1093. >Once everyone runs out of things to say, it all becomes one pile of aftermath
  1094. "You girls did great. All of you."
  1095. >Sparks shrugs, trying her best to sound rock solid
  1096. >But she sounds about as soft as a melted chocolate
  1097. >"Jacky was keeping an eye on you so she didn't have enough time to actually join in on the practicing..."
  1098. >Dashie nods
  1099. >"And it was hard enough for two. Three would've required a more energetic song."
  1100. >Jacky shrugs
  1101. >"And honestly I'm pretty sure I'd have more fun watching it than actually doing it."
  1102. "Was this... because of yesterday?"
  1103. >You didn't want to worry them about that, as impossible an ask as that would've been
  1104. >"Not really. We wanted to do something for you for a while now. And... you like the song so we rolled with it."
  1105. >Jacky chimes in
  1106. >"And it's kinda spooky how well the lyrics match up so well with how things really are, right?"
  1107. "Yeah... songs are kinda timeless like that. Music can be pretty amazing motivators."
  1108. >For some reason the speakers kick to life again
  1110. >Everyone jumps at the rapid fire rap that comes out of nowhere
  1111. " the Autoplay still on?"
  1112. >Sparks, renewed and taking advantage of the distraction, leaps out from your collective clutches and runs to behind the laptop
  1114. >The song cuts off
  1115. >She pokes her head out from behind the hanging blanket
  1116. >"I... uh... I forgot the autoplay was on."
  1118. >Another week come and gone
  1119. >Ever since the little music and pony show, spirits with everyone have been high
  1120. >The "stage" area has been kept up
  1121. >Even from down the hallway you can just barely hear music coming from your door
  1122. >Given the music, TV and other crap people play, you certainly aren't the odd one out for producing aural shrapnel
  1123. >As soon as you sneak in, you hear one of the girls going at it
  1125. >Quietly slipping off your boots, you bellow out
  1126. "Metal, blood, noise, and fire! Tell me what you most desire!"
  1127. >"A-ack?!"
  1128. >"Hey, Anon's back!"
  1129. >Jacky's the first to greet you
  1130. >"Hey Anon! Did you hear Sparky going at it? She's becoming a big star with how much she's singing now!"
  1131. >Sparks trots like a madmare from behind, panic on her face
  1132. >"Y-you shut up! I am not! I'm just killing time!"
  1133. >"You've certainly killed a lot of it then. Care to join us, Anon?"
  1134. >Dashie's head pokes out from around the corner
  1135. "Sure, I wanna chill with you guys."
  1136. >Jacky bumps Sparks out of the way, trotting back to her spot
  1137. >Sparks, likewise, gives her a dirty look before following
  1138. >She's been doing a lot better this week
  1139. >She still occupies your left side when you sleep
  1140. >But she hasn't really been intrusive with her magical mind melding crap
  1141. >As far as you're aware
  1142. >The living room looks completely transformed from what you remember it being
  1143. >Rather than being sparse and borderline empty, it seems like a new campground for ponies
  1144. >The blankets are still stuck to the ceiling
  1145. >The speakers are still in place
  1146. >There are a ton of blankets and pillows splayed out everywhere
  1147. >Most of them were just sitting in your closet so you're happy to see them getting used
  1148. >You sit down next to the biggest mass of pillows
  1149. >Jacky bellyflops onto your lap, bending and twirling in place until she manages to lay on her side, back to your stomach
  1150. >Sparks watches her flail around without shame until she's comfy
  1151. >"You're such an animal sometimes, you do know that."
  1152. >"Oui oui, je suis une cheval!"
  1153. >She poses with a proud smile
  1154. >She glances up at you
  1155. >"I've been practicing, you know."
  1156. >You chuckle and nod, patting her ribs
  1157. "J'ai faim et soif."
  1158. >Jacky beams
  1159. >"It's almost four, thank you!"
  1160. >Your smile grows wider
  1161. >You look at Sparky
  1162. >She returns the smile
  1163. >"Yeah, I know."
  1164. >Your smile returns to Jacky
  1165. "You know, I still remember some of my old stuff from high school. Maybe we can find some movies that I recall from my school days? It's all in French; it's about some guy that romances his cousin or something."
  1166. >"Ew, his cousin?"
  1167. >Sparks doesn't seem all too enticed
  1168. >You shrug
  1169. "It's... well, it's French. That's kinda how it is with them. It's all family wreaths rather than trees."
  1170. >Jacky snickers
  1171. >"If I were your sister, we could be a French couple."
  1172. >You raise your index finger to object
  1173. >But it wouldn't be incorrect
  1174. >Wouldn't not be wrong
  1175. >But it would be apt
  1176. "...ok, fair point."
  1177. >"You sure are more than you appear, aren't you Anon?"
  1178. >Dashie seems content to spectate in your shenanigans rather than to join in
  1179. "Well sure. Isn't everyone? You're only as strong as your weakest point. Jack of all trades, master of one."
  1180. >"How do you even learn all of that, though? Where can you pick it up?"
  1181. >Sparks seems interested in it, and she's surely poked around enough to have a deeper understanding of your shallow breadth of knowledge
  1182. "Well I guess the internet helps. It's gotta be something you're interested in. Or maybe something you just want to figure out."
  1183. >Jacky huffs and arches her side, wiggling against your hand so it covers more of an area
  1184. >Out of every pony, she definitely has the least amount of fluff or fur, but her longer mane and tail more than makes up for it
  1185. >You didn't want to mention it but it seems like Dashie's pretty tufty and fluffy
  1186. >You aren't exactly close enough to her to start poking around
  1187. >Sparky's fur seems to be growing out a little compared to the first time you noticed her differences
  1188. >Maybe you should look into grooming them or something
  1189. >Is that something you should even attempt to do?
  1190. >"What good is knowledge that you can't use?"
  1191. >Jacky pipes up
  1192. >"I mean, it's neat and all, but if it just makes you more stressed or worried then... well, I don't know."
  1193. "Ignorance is bliss?"
  1194. >"Haven't you heard, a fish is worth a thousand words!"
  1195. >You nod to yourself
  1196. "Gal's got a point."
  1197. >Sparks seems unconvinced to say the very least
  1198. >Dashie simply smiles and nods
  1199. >"You two certainly seem like two minds of a same kind."
  1200. >"Thank you."
  1201. "Same. I think that's a compliment, anyway."
  1202. >You keep patting Jacko's chest, playing her ribcage like a steel drum
  1203. "So. I got a bit of a thing going on, and in a few weeks I'm gonna work a little differently."
  1204. >Dashie and Sparks tilt their heads at you
  1205. >Jacky doesn't really seem to care less with you tenderly brutalizing her side
  1206. "I found a new place. And... when it comes to work, it's gonna be a little different. But it is gonna pay more. So my savings and all of that will come back a lot quicker. And it means we'll be able to do more stuff, once the ball gets rolling. It's also... marginally safer work. So that's a thing."
  1207. >"Oh, congratulations Anon. How did that happen?"
  1208. >"Yeah, when did this start?"
  1209. >You shrug
  1210. "Well, I guess it's been going on for a while. I've been looking around for stuff that's better and I suppose I found it."
  1211. >Sparks gives you a queer look
  1212. >"When I was..."
  1213. >She cuts herself off, pursing her lips
  1214. "Hey, I got a mind like a steel trap, lady. Nothing goes in, nothing comes out."
  1215. >You squint at her and stop patting Jacky to tap the side of your head
  1216. "Nothing in... and nothing out."
  1217. >You say as if the off-brand comment is supposed to be impressive
  1218. >Pleased, Jacky shivers on your lap and shrugs
  1219. >"So... what even are you gonna do?"
  1220. "You remember that gun shop Tuco went to?"
  1221. >"Yeah?"
  1222. "Kinda that, except far more guns, far less banditos, and more computer work."
  1223. >"Whoa... cool..."
  1224. >Jacky's eyes widen, impressed at the mental imagery only she could produce
  1225. >"I didn't know you could do that."
  1226. >You shrug
  1227. "Neither did I. But I guess we'll find out."
  1228. >"So what, exactly, does that mean for us, Anon?"
  1229. >Dashie, ever the responsible one, doesn't seem to mind cutting to the chase
  1230. "Well I guess I'll be working later. Which means I'll get to sleep in more. But that means I leave later and show up later."
  1231. >"How late?"
  1232. >Sparks seems dubious, which is fair
  1233. "Late enough where I'll probably miss dinner."
  1234. >No one likes that answer
  1235. >"Well screw that, I'll just make dinner later!"
  1236. >"We get to sleep in together every day?!"
  1237. >"Making dinner later won't be an issue. It's not exactly like we have any schedules to follow, ourselves."
  1238. >Everyone has their own points and opinions on the matter
  1239. >It'll certainly help you recover on your bank account side, which kinda led to you making the change
  1240. >You'll be missing out on comfortable familiarity and goofing off but you can't let yourself get too complacent either
  1241. "So... yeah. I guess that'll be a thing."
  1242. >"Well... should we celebrate?"
  1243. >Sparks looks around, as if suddenly aware that nothing looks all that special
  1244. >"I mean, we should, shouldn't we?"
  1245. >"With what?"
  1246. >Dashie's new to the Anon household celebratory fashion
  1247. "Jacker?"
  1248. >"Anononon?"
  1249. >Jacky meets your gaze
  1250. "Get the Japanese bottle."
  1251. >Jack's eyes widen and she flops off of you going at full sprint to your room
  1252. >Sparks rolls her eyes at the sight of the bottle
  1253. >The first one you had has long since passed, but his son hasn't even been opened yet
  1254. >The bottles are definitely expensive but it's worth it
  1255. >Dashie has a blank look on her face, as if she's expecting an explanation
  1256. >"Am I missing something?"
  1257. "Oh, yeah. Whiskey?"
  1258. >"Who?"
  1259. >Sparks lets out an aggravated 'ugh'
  1260. >"It's crap... I would avoid it."
  1261. "You just can't hold it, you flounder-weight."
  1262. >The unicorn's eyebrow twitches
  1263. >"Is that an insult?"
  1264. "It's me calling you a wimp."
  1265. >She stare turns more intense
  1266. >"Alcohol's flammable you know."
  1267. "And with it I'm gonna burn brighter than you could imagine."
  1268. >Dashie's head pivots back and forth like she's watching a ping pong match
  1269. >"So is it good?"
  1270. >"No way."
  1271. "Absolutely."
  1272. >You and Sparks speak at the same time
  1273. >Her bitter glare combats your smug grin
  1274. >Jacky gallops back into the room, whinnying with the full bottle hanging out of her mouth
  1275. >You pop the neck of it out of her mouth
  1276. >Sure enough, the seal is still there
  1277. >With a flick of the wrist it is undone, as is the cap
  1278. "To it being a Friday night in which I say 'fuck it', and celebrate a new beginning."
  1279. >Jacky beams at the bottle, eager for her turn
  1280. >You don't drink often and as much as she enjoys it, she doesn't feel the urge to drink by herself
  1281. >Except that one time...
  1282. >You take two solid gulps and immediately convulse
  1283. "Yo ho that's good brain killer."
  1284. >"Gimmegimme!"
  1285. >You tilt the bottle and Jacky's lips wrap around it
  1286. >She gulps
  1287. >Again
  1288. >Again
  1289. >God damn girl
  1290. >You tug the bottle away after the fourth gulp
  1291. "You're under watch, that's expensive drink. Gotta savor it."
  1292. >"I'll savor you in a few minutes, watch me."
  1293. >"Jacky!"
  1294. >Dashie seems utterly shocked
  1295. >The conflicting stories on the booze, paired with Jacky guzzling it down, doesn't sit well with her
  1296. >"It's fiiiiiiiine! I hardly ever even get into the stuff. You should try it!"
  1297. >You nod approvingly and move your arm to the pegasus
  1298. "Just a sippy sippy?"
  1300. >"Sippy sippy!"
  1301. "Sipperoo."
  1302. >Dashie looks at the both of you, perplexed as to if she should cave to peer pressure
  1303. "Sippy Longstockings?"
  1304. >"Siptanic?"
  1305. "The Good, The Bad, and The Sip?"
  1306. >"Sipbusters!"
  1307. "Just the sip."
  1308. >"Just the sip?"
  1309. "Just the sip of the sip."
  1310. >You can see the confusion clear as you and Jacky go back and forth
  1311. >"I... if it's safe for Jacky..."
  1312. >You and your party pony let out a triumphant 'yeah!'
  1313. >Sparks sighs
  1314. >"I'm going to watch this trainwreck unfold this time. At least one of us has to be responsible."
  1315. >"I don't see a reason not to so..."
  1316. >Dashie's head leans down, tilting upward
  1317. >You put the bottle to her lips and tilt it upward
  1318. >After a second, you pull the bottle away
  1319. >Dashie gives you a queer look, mouth full of whiskey
  1320. "Now you gotta swallow."
  1321. >"Gulp it down!"
  1322. "The sooner the better, honestly."
  1323. >Dashie, deciding that she's already in too deep to stop now, gulps
  1324. >And shivers hard, snorting through her nose
  1325. "Almost!"
  1326. >"Yeah!"
  1327. >She gulps hard again and sputters out, bringing her hoof up to her mouth
  1328. >"What did I just drink?! How could either of you stand that?"
  1329. "It's the good shit, that's how."
  1330. >"And come on, it tastes good too!"
  1331. >Dashie looks at Sparks for some form of confirmation
  1332. >"Are they serious?"
  1333. >The unicorn bitterly frowns
  1334. >"Deathly."
  1335. "Ahh... man, what I would give for a projector. Do you know how awesome it'd be to watch a movie that's as big as your wall?"
  1336. >You and Jack chat about the utility of having a home theater while Sparks and Dashie listen
  1337. >A lot of it probably goes over their heads
  1338. >Then it hits you
  1339. "Hey Prismus."
  1340. >"Wha?"
  1341. >Though it hasn't been too long, you can see that the drink is starting to have an effect on her
  1342. >She looks more relaxed and more than a little less alert
  1343. "Have you ever seen our favorite movie?"
  1344. >Sparks furrows her brow
  1345. >"Wait... have you seen it yet?"
  1346. >The unicorn slowly shakes her head, trying to clear the fog building in her head
  1347. >"I... I don't know? I don't recall."
  1348. "In that case... to the bedroom!"
  1349. >"To the... hey, wait a second."
  1350. >Jacky gets up to move with you but plops back down
  1351. >"... the speakers are out here... and the TV is in there."
  1352. "That's true, isn't it..."
  1353. >"Yeah..."
  1354. "Sparks."
  1355. >"Sparky!"
  1356. >The red pony puts her hoof to her forehead
  1357. >"Dear lord they're becoming the same person...yes, what is it?"
  1358. "Can you unhook stuff and bring the TV out here?"
  1359. >"Or undo the speakers and set them back up in the room?"
  1360. "Either or."
  1361. >"You're awesome, you can do that."
  1362. "And you aren't drinking, so you can be trusted."
  1363. >Dashie giggles at the antics that seem to only intensify once alcohol comes into the picture
  1364. >"And we'll be far more comfy on the bed."
  1365. "There we go!"
  1366. >"She gets it!"
  1367. "Set us up, Franz Ferdinand?"
  1368. >"Who?"
  1369. "Guy sings about fire."
  1370. "Oh!"
  1371. >Every back and forth leads to a greater and greater sense of frustration for her
  1373. >Dashie giggles further
  1374. >"You really are the best."
  1376. >You get to your feet and stretch
  1377. >It'll take more than one solid gulp to do you in but you're excited for the night
  1378. >Jacky, on the other hand, is hitting it hard
  1379. >You have no clue how she can hold her booze despite being so much smaller
  1380. "Onward, troop!"
  1381. >Jacky gallops ahead of you
  1382. >Dashie brings up the rear
  1383. >She is walking in a straight line but you can see that she's being very deliberate in her steps
  1384. >Just as you round the corner toward your room, you see Jacky pounce from the ground to your mattress!
  1385. >She soars
  1386. >Like a freshly intoxicated bird
  1387. >And half lands on the bed with a muffled 'oof'
  1388. "Y'alright?"
  1389. >"She really is energetic, isn't she."
  1390. "When she's happy and on the inbound train to be drunk? Yes."
  1391. >Dashie sighs
  1392. >It's a sigh like she's finally letting off weight from her shoulders
  1393. >"You really are special to her."
  1394. "Well she has you too. And she has our dear little Sparkplug. Anyone would be happy, wouldn't they?"
  1395. >You confidently stride toward the bed, only to lean forward and bellyflop onto the bed, mimicking Jacky's finesse
  1396. >You can hear Dashie trot into the room
  1397. >"Should I... jump onto the bed too?"
  1398. >You raise up your hand with a thumbs up gesture
  1399. >"Well... alright!"
  1400. >You hear a 'fwoof' of wings spreading and hear her let out a loud noise
  1401. >Somehow, she jumped so well that she lands on your back
  1402. >The less than graceful landing leads to her chin hitting your shoulder and her hooves landing close to your head
  1403. >"That was great! Are you ok?"
  1404. >You mumble something resembling an 'ow' sound
  1405. >Jacky propels herself forward with her hind legs like a ferret until she's against your side
  1406. >"Impact! Boosh."
  1407. >She swings her head into your side
  1408. >You say something to her but it all comes out muffled
  1409. >"Sparks...Spaaaaaaaaarks! Speakers!"
  1410. >"Sparking, I want to watch a movie with them!"
  1411. >You let out a prolonged, muffled scream that is only barely audible
  1412. >"Sparky!"
  1413. >"Sparking!"
  1414. >Another long, muffled screech
  1415. ...
  1416. >Nothing
  1417. >"I think she's ignoring us..."
  1418. >"Loser... hey Anon, did you bring the bottle?"
  1419. >You didn't
  1420. >But you don't say so
  1421. >Whether or not you really intend to, you find yourself just being far too comfortable to carry on shenanigans
  1422. >It feels nice having Dashie lay on you
  1423. >You have no clue if her wings are out or not but it's just cool enough in the room to warrant a light horse blanket
  1424. >Or a light horse acting as a blanket
  1425. >Without realizing it, you're out like a light
  1428. >Be me
  1429. >I've gotten more used to drinking
  1430. >Anon usually keeps me going, when it comes to momentum
  1431. >Anon doesn't answer me
  1432. "Hey Anon... kaboom."
  1433. >I drag my head against him again, going from a side headbutt to a nuzzle
  1434. >Maybe it was because I didn't have dinner or water but my head feels that much more fuzzy than usual
  1435. "Anon... you didn't die, did you?"
  1436. >"Jacky... this is some fun stuff."
  1437. >Dashie sounds like she's affected
  1438. >She's not slurring her words but she sounds abnormal
  1439. "Right? When I first met Anon and I was naught but a wee lassy talki' aboot ma box, I had a strong thirst if ye believe."
  1440. >I naturally slip into my Irish/Scottish accent
  1441. >The more time that has gone on, the less I recall about it
  1442. >Anon likes the French accent the most so I just haven't bothered to keep up practice on the other ones
  1443. >She laughs at my weird voice
  1444. >"You are both so fun. I'm so happy that it's like this."
  1445. >I nod, inhaling the scent of bed
  1446. "I am too."
  1447. >I clear my throat
  1448. "Dashie... you know how we used to talk about sharing everything?"
  1449. >"Like it was all yesterday."
  1450. >That makes me smile
  1451. "I want Anon to love all of us and I want us all to be happy."
  1452. >I bury my face against Anon's side, as if Dashie could see my face anyway
  1453. "But... I don't want to share him when it comes to being especially his. What we're like... what we do when we're alone..."
  1454. >"Like drink and act silly?"
  1455. >I nod
  1456. "And... more."
  1457. >"I understand. You really don't need to explain any further."
  1458. "Thank you... but can we still talk about stuff like we did before?"
  1459. >"When he caught us talking and embarrassed you?"
  1460. "Y... yeah."
  1461. >Dashie lets out a surprisingly loud bark of a laugh
  1462. >I had never heard her laugh like that
  1463. >"My Jacky... you really do love this creature of a man."
  1464. >I don't reply
  1465. >"Remember when that bakery colt gave us bread whenever you'd talk to him or I'd flash a smile at him?"
  1466. >I nod, my face rubbing against Anon's side
  1467. >"I was worried that we would both be left to scraps and the charity of strangers. But you escaped that. I couldn't be happier for you, sister."
  1468. >For the longest time I really did think it would be like that too
  1469. >Not once did I imagine I would get a chance like this
  1470. >Not even once
  1471. >Maybe that's why I'm so happy to confront everything head on
  1472. >He believes in himself and in me
  1473. >In an 'us', frankly
  1474. >I want to believe too
  1475. "You aren't alone either Dashie... but... I don't know if I could live with myself if I shared him. I know he and Sparky has got some bond. I'm jealous."
  1476. >Dashie snorts, yawning loudly
  1477. >She's rather unladylike after her drink
  1478. >"Whatever she has to offer, you can blow out of the water, darling."
  1479. >"Yeah... I can't compete with you alright..."
  1480. >A bitter Sparks speaks up
  1481. >The pair of hefty speakers are floating above her
  1482. >"Don't worry about me..."
  1483. >My vision turns from Anon's side to Sparks, though my eyes just can't focus on her
  1484. "Sparky... you know I don't mean anything by it.."
  1485. >"Whatever. Anon and I are friends, same as he is with everyone else. I can't compete with you on what you do and we both know that."
  1486. >She begins to set the speakers up again, without even looking at them
  1487. >When did she get so good at magic?
  1488. "Dang you're getting good. Anon likes you too, Sparky. You know that!"
  1489. >"Whatever... you two do whatever you want."
  1490. >She gets onto the bed and rests at Anon's side, right behind you
  1491. >"I'm not stopping what I'm already doing.."
  1492. >What does that mean?
  1493. >I laugh, feeling my head spin ever so slightly
  1494. "That's so silly. What is there to stop and not worry about?"
  1495. >I try to talk more to Dashie about Anon but she soon stops answering
  1496. >Sparky isn't answering me about anything at all but she still sounds awake
  1497. >Unable to really figure out m y thoughts, I retire at Anon's side
  1498. >I was looking forward to seeing Tuco shoot those banditos again
  1499. >The first thing I feel is a hoof pressing against the back of my head
  1500. >I try to lift my head up but said hoof keeps pushing me down
  1501. "Git... git off'a me dangit!"
  1502. >I channel my inner Ma and shake my head
  1503. >"Jacky..."
  1504. >A pathetic whimper of voice calls out
  1505. >"Jaaacky... Anon's dead..."
  1506. >What?!
  1507. >I jerk my head up
  1508. >And immediately fall over again
  1509. >It must not have been that long since I fell asleep, I can still feel the alcohol
  1510. >A little more now than I did before
  1511. >I raise myself, my head lolling along
  1512. >Dashie's still spread out over Anon's back
  1513. >But she looks like she's been crying
  1514. >"Anon's deaaaaaad Jacky!"
  1515. >True, Anon isn't moving
  1516. >I land my head on his side
  1517. >And rotate to where my ear is up against the side of his ribs
  1518. >And...
  1519. >He's breathing
  1520. "He ain't dead, Dashie. He's just sleeping."
  1521. >"Ooh noooooo! Anon, come back to us!"
  1522. >I haven't heard her sound so sorrowful in so long
  1523. >Given how droopy her face looks and how her wings are splayed out and loose, the drink hit her hard
  1524. >To be fair Anon doesn't ever have beer so it must be a bit of a system shock to her
  1525. >If the room energy were higher I know I wouldn't feel so affected
  1526. >Some food would help too
  1527. "Dashie you washie, Anon ain't dead!"
  1528. >I punch Anon's side with my front hoof
  1529. >Though delayed, he lets out a long, low groan
  1530. >Dashie throws back her head as if her one wish in life was granted
  1532. >Her head falls back onto his back, her entire body going limp
  1533. >"Thank goodness..."
  1534. >I sputter a laugh at her
  1535. >Why would she be so theatrical?
  1536. >At least he is ok and isn't dead
  1537. >I awkwardly roll back and forth until my back is against Anon
  1538. >Feels weird to sit like a person
  1539. >I lean over and nudge the curled up Sparky
  1540. >She can't be out of it, she didn't even have a snooze
  1541. "Hey. Heeey magic mare. Don't make me touch your butt."
  1542. >You poke her flank with your hoof
  1543. "Boop. Heheh."
  1544. >Sparks brings her head up
  1545. >Is her horn glowing?
  1546. >How long has that thing been glowing?
  1547. >She has got to lay off those vitamins
  1548. "Hey Sparky..."
  1549. >I hear a sigh
  1550. >"Yeah?"
  1551. >Though my muscles are a little too loose to be dexterous I give her a lopsided smile
  1552. "You know we'll always be friends, don't you?"
  1553. >I don't get an answer
  1554. "I'm the happiest pony in the world, Sparky. And I wanna make sure everyone important to me is the happiest they can be too. I don't want you to hate me."
  1555. >The glow on Sparks' horn fades
  1556. >"...Of course I know that."
  1557. "I don't want us to be like Anon and his friends."
  1558. >While he used to talk about them a lot when it was just him and I, he never talks about them anymore
  1559. >And I did hear a good chunk of the conversation he had with Sparks about his friends not contacting him
  1560. >He really does not get a lot of time to be completely alone
  1561. >So I know he never has to answer his phone for messages or anything
  1562. >Except for emails of things on sale
  1563. >"...We won't be, Jacky."
  1564. >I smile more, even though she isn't looking at me
  1565. "If we had a big fire... ignoring any pony who would start it, I would save you as quickly as I would save Anon or Dashie. If I could only save one of you I'd try to save all of you or die trying. That's my choice."
  1566. >I keep poking her flank with my hoof every other word
  1567. >She's kinda bony
  1568. >But poking her feels fun
  1569. >Sparks sighs again and sits up, scooting out of reach
  1570. >"I'm glad you say so..."
  1571. "We're in this together, Sparky spoon."
  1572. >I nod as I speak
  1573. >And even after I speak
  1574. >"You're a lush, Jacky."
  1575. "Thank you."
  1576. >I nod and accept the compliment with authority
  1577. >She looks over at Anon and Dashie
  1578. >"He's stressed."
  1579. >I could tell
  1580. >But I didn't want to say anything
  1581. >If I did, it might just make him more stressed
  1582. "He's just... you know. Tired."
  1583. >I try to smile again
  1584. "And I know. I do what I can. What little I can."
  1585. >"Hey Jacky."
  1586. "What's up?"
  1587. >I abandon my previous train of thought and focus on her
  1588. >"How about I go grab that bottle... we're at half strength. But how about we watch that movie?"
  1589. >After dodging a drunken lunch of a hug, she backs away from me
  1590. >"I'll... take that as a 'yes'."
  1591. >She returns with the bottle of Japanese whiskey and glares at it
  1592. >Then me
  1593. >She pops off the top
  1594. >Gives a heavy sigh
  1595. >And takes the smallest sip
  1596. >I'm not even sure she did anything but taste it
  1597. "Alright Sparky! One of us! One of us!"
  1598. >I swish from side to side, cheering for her
  1599. >It's usually more effective if others were joining in
  1600. >"Oh shut up... I don't see what any of you like in this... something tells me Dashie's gonna drink more of this in the future too."
  1601. >I giggle
  1602. "Yeah, Dashie's a super lush."
  1603. >Sparks just stares at me
  1604. >"You're an idiot."
  1605. "And you love it!"
  1606. >Sparks frowns at me
  1607. >But shakes her head and chuckles
  1608. >"Yeah, I do."
  1609. >Due to how good her magic is, she sets up the movie without fumbling around once
  1610. >With the speakers reinstalled, everything is set up perfectly
  1611. >The whistling
  1612. >The 'aaah ahh ahh ahhh ahhhh'
  1613. >The gunshots
  1614. >The opening is awesome, no matter how many times I see it
  1615. "Anon! Dashie! Get up! Get UP!"
  1616. >I nearly scream, though it's only fitting given how loud the movie is
  1617. >Anon, hearing the proud, thumping music, screams a muffled 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh ahhh ahhh aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah'
  1618. "Waaa wa wa waaa!"
  1619. >He drags his face up
  1620. >Poor thing looks tired
  1621. >Until he sees the sights and sounds of the opening
  1622. >He tries to move but Dashie's limp body stops him
  1623. >"Quick... get her off me! Dashie!"
  1624. "DASHIE!"
  1625. >"Dashie, get up and watch this with us!"
  1626. >Dashie can only barely move, but she does rub her head against Anon's shoulder
  1627. >"Anon, you're so nice to come back to us. Jacky thought you were dead."
  1628. >I can barely hear her but I heard enough
  1629. "That's a lie! Wake up, we're gonna watch the movie!"
  1630. >Anon shakes back and forth until she practically falls off of him
  1631. >On screen, the three bounty hunters at the beginning are starting their walk of death to capture a certain ugly guy
  1632. >Not a good guy
  1633. >Or a bad guy
  1634. >But an ugly guy
  1635. >Squashed between Anon and the wall, Dashie whinnies and flaps one of her wings
  1636. >"Don't crush me, I'm alive too!"
  1637. >Anon notices the bottle of whiskey and nabs it, taking a short swig
  1638. >"Good on ya, girls. I was wanting to see this again."
  1639. >It's amazing how many times we could watch the same exact thing and never get bored
  1640. >Every time we watch it, it's a truly unique experience
  1641. >Now we get to watch it with our friends
  1642. >Dashie, her feathers ruffled and hair less than ideal, drags herself to a sitting position, on Anon's right
  1643. >I'm to Anon's left
  1644. >And Sparky's to my left
  1645. >We all watch the scene of Angel Eyes walking into the man's home
  1646. >"Why do they live in that awfully old home?"
  1647. >"It takes place in the past."
  1648. >"Oooh..."
  1649. "Back then shirts were really messy too."
  1650. >"Ew."
  1651. >Sparks gives one of her trademark 'ugh's
  1652. >"Are all of you going to be talking all throughout this?"
  1653. "Yes."
  1654. >"Yup."
  1655. >"Well I would like to know more."
  1656. >I hear a flustered growl to my left
  1657. >" why's his hat shaped like that anyway?"
  1658. >I knew she wasn't so above it all
  1660. >Be Anon
  1661. >Be a very... contemplative Anon
  1662. >You haven't started the new job yet, but you're already eager to start the new work schedule
  1663. >You kinda missed working late evenings
  1664. >You've been sitting in your car for the last half hour
  1665. >You're right outside the apartment, and you're sure everyone is having fun
  1666. >But you've found yourself starting to worry
  1667. >It's been fantastic to have Jacky, and to even have Sparks
  1668. >Of course, you wanted to grab Dashie too, before she was gone or something happened to her
  1669. >But
  1670. >It's led to your quiet, lonely apartment to become full of life, energy
  1671. >And noise
  1672. >You would never want them to quiet down or feel like they have to restrict themselves
  1673. >It's their home too
  1674. >But you just can't help but feel..
  1675. >Lonely?
  1676. >Tired?
  1677. >You don't know what to call it
  1678. >Especially when you realize just how little you've actively done
  1679. >You loved taking Jacky out on your date but you haven't even thought of it due to getting Sparks and Dashie up to date and socialized and through whatever their stuff is
  1680. >You're happy to be there
  1681. >You really are
  1682. >But you kinda wish you could just go out with her again and enjoy each other
  1683. >Going so low on your savings hasn't helped either
  1684. >And you're getting close to needing to stock up on stuff again
  1685. >There's so much that has escalated so quickly and you don't know if you've been able to accurately adjust
  1686. >You're happy to have your girls
  1687. >Your ponies
  1688. >Your friends
  1689. >But you just want some breathing room too
  1690. >Some time to recoup
  1691. >But you can't really do that right now
  1692. >You head up to your door, cheesecake in hands
  1693. >You couldn't really decide on a reason for it
  1694. >But you kinda wanted to treat them
  1695. >Both for kicks and almost for an apology
  1696. >You slip through the front door and immediately hear Jacky and Sparks singing "I Did It My Way"
  1697. >You gotta admit that the little stage they set up has done wonders for bonding together
  1698. >You sneak through the kitchen and peek your head out
  1700. >"For what is a mare, what she has got, if not herself then she has not!"
  1701. >Sparks is really giving it her all
  1702. >Jacky follows up, stamping her hoof down
  1703. >You're pretty sure the apartment below you in condemned now with how much noise everyone causes to them
  1704. >"To say all things she truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels! The record shows, I took the blows!"
  1705. >She puffs out her chest to finish off the song strong
  1706. >Except she sees you
  1707. >Her serious expression melts into that of familiar love and glee
  1708. >"But Anon did me hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis wayyyy!"
  1709. >Dashie, the captive audience, peeks over her shoulder to see you and smiles
  1710. >"So he did! Welcome back!"
  1711. >Sparks mumbles something to herself, blushing at the radical change in lyrics
  1712. >She's the last to notice you've returned and her blush burns all the brighter
  1713. "Had fun, I see. Well, I got cheesecake when you're all ready."
  1714. >Dashie's the first one to get up
  1715. >From the surprise on her face, it seems like that's a direct hit for her
  1716. >"Wait, real cheesecake? For what reason?"
  1717. >You shrug
  1718. "Because... why not? I kinda worry that I don't do enough for you guys so... I guess it's a bit of a special something cool to snack on."
  1719. >You don't see the big point of it
  1720. >Jacky and Sparks don't seem all that impressed
  1721. >"Is cake with cheese supposed to taste good?"
  1722. >Dashie smirks at Jacky
  1723. >"Of course it is! Remember the rich kitchens we used to borrow from? Cheesecake is fit for an aristocrat!"
  1724. >Well it used to be a bit more fancy, sure
  1725. >Jacky, excited to try it, immediately gallops to the kitchen
  1726. >Sparks looks less impressed
  1727. >"Do we have to eat it by nibbles too or are we allowed to eat it like regular ponies?"
  1728. >You set everyone up with a slice, though you opt out of one
  1729. >With everyone eating at their own pace, Jacky smiles at you
  1730. >"Now why do you gotta worry that you don't do enough for us or anything silly like that? You've done a ton!"
  1731. >Sparks nods, silently eating
  1732. "Well..."
  1734. >It feels a bit awkward but you've said or done more awkward things before
  1735. "We don't really go out... we haven't really gone out in a while. Here it's Spring and we haven't done much. Time's gone by, we've all been focused on other things, but..."
  1736. >Sparks speaks up, a levitating fork dangling back and forth
  1737. >She's really been getting better with her magic you've noticed
  1738. >She doesn't seem to struggle at all anymore
  1739. >"Now don't go giving us that. We've all been busy with..."
  1740. >"Me."
  1741. >Dashie speaks
  1742. >Sparky nods
  1743. >"Exactly, with her. And with me... and with Jacky. To be honest, it feels almost like yesterday that I first got here. But I know it's been a long time. And I know we've all done a lot of stuff too."
  1744. >Jacky, ever the eloquent speaker, is stuck licking her place
  1745. >It'd be hard to imagine her acting froufrou in any capacity
  1746. >She brings up her face, content with herself
  1747. >"That really is good stuff... and they're right, you know! We haven't been missing out on stuff!"
  1748. >She sighs and rolls onto her back
  1749. >"It's nice having air conditioning and heating and fans and stuff... I've spent so much of my life outside I'd be fine with never stepping hoof outside again. This is really like we're rich now. Cheese cake, beds, movies and stuff. I mean what have you been depriving us of?"
  1750. >Now you feel guilty and stupid
  1751. "Well... I guess I'd want to go out. Have everyone goof around. I don't want you guys to feel like you're cooped up. You know? You guys aren't prisoners or anything."
  1752. >To your surprise, the pegasus speaks up the loudest
  1753. >"Excuse me but if any of us are prisoners, I would love to see what condemnation looks like."
  1754. >She smiles at you
  1755. >She looks completely satisfied
  1756. >But she's only eaten a third of her slice
  1757. >"You've done a noble thing by doing right by all of us. Don't act like you need to give us everything we want and even more without us even asking for it."
  1758. "I guess. I just want to make sure that everyone's happy."
  1760. >"Don't you worry, bucko, we're great!"
  1761. >Jacky trots in the air, her back wiggling against the carpet
  1762. >"But you're doing ok too, right?"
  1763. >Though it seems like an off-hand question more than anything else, you hesitate
  1764. >Her legs slow down while waiting for an answer
  1765. >"I mean... you are ok, right?"
  1766. "Yeah, of course I am. I just... well."
  1767. >Your floundering to speak concisely leads to her rolling back onto her side so she can focus on you better
  1768. "I guess I'd like to go out... grab some soil for the plants. Maybe go out once as a group. Another date would be nice too. Maybe do some other stuff..."
  1769. >At the word 'date', Jacky perks up into a full standing position
  1770. >Sparks rolls her eyes so hard you'd think they might pop out of her head
  1771. >That'd be a spooky thought
  1772. >"Well why didn't you say so?! It's been a super long time since we went out to that international place!"
  1773. "Ihop."
  1774. >"Yeah! Wait, that was the name of the place?"
  1775. >She seems unsure and brings her hoof up to her chin
  1776. >Sparks butts in
  1777. >"ANYWAY, what other things would you want to do? It's more than fair that we do things you want too. Didn't you mention camping once before or something?"
  1778. >You probably did but you...
  1779. >Wait
  1780. "Was this when you were talking about killing wolves?"
  1781. >Sparky grins
  1782. >"Free experience points, Anon."
  1783. "We're not going to kill wild animals that could tear our throats out!"
  1784. >Dashie, in thought, raises her hoof to speak
  1785. >"Are you telling me that you take care of all of these plants?"
  1786. >They aren't a lot
  1787. >You've had to prune one
  1788. >You're pretty sure another needs to be transplanted because some of the leaves are starting to droop
  1789. >At least your cacti is standing strong after ten years
  1790. >Too much water led to a huge growth spurt over the span of only a few months
  1791. "Well... they don't take much effort. But it's something to do. Keeps me from being too isolated from nature, you know?"
  1792. >None of them seem to follow you
  1793. >"When can we do our date?"
  1794. >Points for Jacky being so excited
  1796. "I don't know. When are you free?"
  1797. >A dumb question but you've been so used to asking that for pretty much doing anything with anyone
  1798. >Even your friends, when you still had them, seemed to have to juggle their busy schedules of borderline NEETdom to hang out with you
  1799. >Jacky seems surprised
  1800. >But that surprise turns to confident smugness
  1801. >She cocks her head to the side and giggles
  1802. >"Well... you know just how popular I am... I got friends all over the place, and we got movies to watch..."
  1803. >She sidles up to you as subtly as she can
  1804. >Which isn't much since everyone watches her in mutual silence as she takes one big side step after another until she's right up against you
  1805. >She overestimated just how many steps it'd take
  1806. >Baby smooth, Casanova Jack
  1807. >"How about... whenever you feel like it?"
  1808. "Tomorrow evening?"
  1809. >"Deal!"
  1810. >She glomps onto you with full force
  1811. >Sparks doesn't look impressed
  1812. >"You two dorks really do fit together, don't you."
  1813. >Dashie seems to be a bit more proud
  1814. >In the way that a parent might be proud of their child getting a task mostly right
  1815. >"Well... she's learning, and that is what's important."
  1816. >The twintailed chunkhead doesn't seem to mind their vocal judgement of her
  1817. >You don't mind, either
  1818. >She's a really goofy pony
  1819. >You knew this pretty quick
  1820. >You wrap your arm around her and nod
  1821. "Don't wait up for us. You know how things turn out."
  1822. >Dashie laughs with a grin
  1823. >"Oh don't worry. You do something bad and I know where you live."
  1825. >Today's the day
  1826. >Work went by at a snail's pace, but it made you that much more excited
  1827. >Though you probably should've done it far sooner, you had a second date with Jacky planned!
  1828. >You... didn't know where would be good
  1829. >Ihop again?
  1830. >She liked it
  1831. >You could bring back a lot of stuff for the other two nerds
  1832. >But is it good to go to the same place once?
  1833. >You don't know how this normal 'dating' shit goes
  1834. >You've had anything but normal experiences
  1835. >She'll enjoy it
  1836. >And it is just an excuse to go out together anyway
  1837. >But you want to make it memorable too
  1838. >Fuck it
  1839. >You'll blunder through it like you've done with everything else
  1840. >You open your front door and
  1841. >It doesn't open
  1842. >Defaq
  1843. >The knob twists but the door itself is jammed
  1844. >You knock on it a few times
  1845. >After a few seconds you hear something shift around
  1846. >The door opens
  1847. >Sparks and Dashie block the way, stopping you from entering your apartment
  1848. >"Oh, hello Anon. What brings you here?"
  1849. >Dashie seems as cool as usual
  1850. "What bring me h-I live here, equine Einstein."
  1851. >Dashie turns her head to look at Sparks
  1852. >Sparky seems just as cool, with a judging expression on her face
  1853. >Both of them look at you again
  1854. "Whatever you're doing, it can wait. I gotta talk to Jacky so we can-"
  1855. >"Oh! You're the Anon we've heard about!"
  1856. >Dashie gives a mock gasp, covering her mouth with her hoof
  1857. >"Well why didn't you say so! She speaks about you all the time!"
  1858. >"She says she's got a date with you."
  1859. >Sparks finally speaks up
  1860. >What's with that crazy southern drawl?
  1861. "...ok, what type of shtick is this. Is she alright?"
  1862. >Dashie seems to ignore you
  1863. >"Now Mister Anon, Jacky is very important to us you know. We would be terribly upset if we found out you weren't the right sort of man for her."
  1864. >Sparky glares at you
  1865. >"She's aint fixin' to be sad, right?"
  1866. >"I mean, it would be terrible if something happened if you didn't make her happy."
  1867. >"You look like you burn good, mister."
  1868. >Dashie continues before you get a chance to butt in
  1869. >"And, knowing her, she would let you hurt her."
  1870. >"Yew like fire, mister?"
  1871. >Sparky's southern hick is becoming less hillbilly and more sentient banjo
  1872. >"If she ends up hurt, Mister Anon..."
  1873. >"You look hot already, Anon."
  1874. >That causes you to give Sparks a double take
  1875. >Dashie looks at Sparks too, as if that wasn't part of the act
  1876. >Only when the two of you look at her does her face change from a rural golem to an embarrassed mess
  1877. >"I... that came out wrong."
  1878. >Without waiting to hear any commentary, she walks off shaking her head
  1879. >You can hear her muttering something
  1880. >Soon it's only you and Dashie
  1881. "...did you watch that Mystery Science Theater sketch again?"
  1882. >"...well we wanted to give it a shot. This is the first time we've seen her go out on a date and family cares about who their relatives date, right?"
  1883. "I..."
  1884. >Well, they're supposed to
  1885. "Alright, fair point. That stare Sparky was giving me was kinda creepy, good chops on her."
  1886. >"Yes, she is a little on the naturally crazy side, isn't she..."
  1887. >"I HEARD THAT."
  1888. "Don't worry, you're naturally crazy awesome!"
  1889. >"YOU LIE!"
  1890. >You had your fun with Sparks for the day
  1891. "So... Jacky? Can I finally enter my own place again?"
  1892. >"Oh! Oh, certainly. Sorry there."
  1893. >After backing up, you enter
  1894. >You aren't exactly dirty but if you're going on the official route, you'd like to have a bit of something different than work attire
  1895. >At least a better shirt
  1896. >Kicking off your boots, you rush to your room to find something better to wear
  1897. >You didn't really plan to go now but... well, it's the middle of the week
  1898. >No matter where you go, it'll be more empty than not
  1899. >You hear some pleasant humming from the bathroom
  1900. >That's probably where Jacky is
  1901. >You decide on an orange button up shirt
  1902. >It has a bit of a checker pattern but you think it'll work fine
  1903. >Almost the same color as her hair too
  1904. >After your labor-intensive wardrobe change, you head to the living room
  1905. >You may as well wait for her to present herself, especially if she's going with the whole thing
  1906. >Dashie looks over your change in attire and slowly nods
  1907. >Sparks avoids eye contact, focusing on the pseudo-stage sheets that have since become show curtains
  1908. >You still don't know how those are stuck to the ceiling
  1909. "So... what... is next in part of this shenanigan before we go out?"
  1910. >The pegasus glances over her shoulder to Sparks, as if waiting for her to continue the charade
  1911. >"Well... we were going to threaten you some more. And then ask you things like your family, your intentions with her, which body part you'd hate to lose the most..."
  1912. >Jesus
  1913. "Is this really what you'd ask someone who'd want to date Jacky?"
  1914. >Dashie smiles at you with a leer
  1915. >"No, we'd just do something to chase him off. Or worse. Depends on how much she would miss him if he were to just vanish."
  1916. >God damn
  1917. "God damn. You're serious too, aren't you."
  1918. >Dashie shrugs, rolling her eyes in a coy fashion
  1919. >"All that matters is that you pass so far. Isn't that right, Sparking?"
  1920. >She finally speaks up
  1921. >"Y-you got matches for Sparky?"
  1922. >She tries the stare again but it lasts for maybe a second at most
  1923. >She frowns and sighs
  1924. >"Oh damn it, I lost it... you know, I was practicing that for you."
  1925. "Yeah, you were doing good."
  1926. >"Can we start again?"
  1927. "No."
  1928. >"Damn it..."
  1929. >She harshly whispers to herself
  1930. >Who knew she was so theatrical
  1931. >The ever-protective Prism returns her attention keenly on you
  1932. >"So... where are you going with her?"
  1933. "I have no clue. I was thinking of talking to her and figuring out if we should go to where we were before or... a burger joint or..."
  1934. >"Are those fancy places?"
  1935. "Well... they're good places."
  1936. >You'd sooner go for a place that's good than fancy
  1937. >"I see... you know, I still don't see you two as... an item."
  1938. "Should I be offended?"
  1939. >"Oh no, not at all. You two seem more like a pair. The sort that would..."
  1940. >She pauses, glancing you over with a smile
  1941. >"Watch movies or spend all day together and not once care about something as official a date."
  1942. "Thanks. I think."
  1943. >You didn't really want to come across as that sort
  1944. >If that's even a bad sort to be
  1945. >You aren't sure
  1946. >You're just glad you've had your time with her, as much as you've had, no matter how you had it
  1947. >"Something you want to say, Anon?"
  1948. >From the look on her face, she seems aware of your thoughts
  1949. "Yeah, sure. When will she be ready?"
  1950. >"Oh, she's been ready for a little over an hour now. We just told her to go into the bathroom and to goof around until we called her."
  1951. "And she went along with it?"
  1952. >"Are you surprised?"
  1953. " And I'm not sure if I should be."
  1954. >Dashie inhales and calls out
  1955. >"Jacky, we have a suitor!"
  1956. >In the span of seconds you can hear a bonk against the bathroom door, then vigorous trotting
  1957. >Jacky dashes into the room, bright-eyed and excited
  1958. >Her mane, normally done in loose twin tails, is now a pair of braided tails
  1959. >Her tail has been braided too
  1960. >Rather than wearing the cowboy hat you got her, she has one of your bandannas wrapped around her head
  1961. >Lime green
  1962. >Kinda looks nice on her
  1963. >"Well if it ain't mah Anon, come to pick me up an-"
  1964. >Despite her having a variety of accents to call upon, she sounds like she's trying the Southern Bell one too hard
  1965. >"Jacky, it's... it's ok. We stopped doing the bit."
  1966. >Jacky, about to say her next line, stops
  1967. >"Wait... we are?"
  1968. >"Yes."
  1969. >"Oh..."
  1970. >She sighs
  1971. >"We weren't even halfway through!"
  1972. >Just what the hell were they doing all day?
  1973. "So... aside from this... uh..."
  1974. >You're not sure where you should step in with this
  1975. "Wanna head on out?"
  1976. >Jacky squints and tilts her head, as if she's contemplating it
  1977. >"Well, since you asked..."
  1978. >She rears up on her hind legs
  1979. >"Let's go, partner! The town awaits!"
  1980. "Right on!"
  1981. >"Tubular!"
  1982. "Radical!"
  1983. >"Twisted!"
  1984. "Reaganomics!"
  1985. >"Tu-what?"
  1986. >You shrug
  1987. "I don't know, it sounds funny and the more I look at you the more you look like a hippy."
  1988. >She looks over herself
  1989. >"Is it the bandanna?"
  1990. "Yes."
  1991. >"Oh..."
  1992. >"Well I thought it looked nice..."
  1993. >Dashie speaks up as if to defend the fashion choice
  1994. "On that note... come with me if you want to live."
  1995. >You lean down and scoop up Jacky in your arms
  1996. >"Eeek! I'm being foalnapped!"
  1997. "You know you can say 'kidnapped', right?"
  1998. >"Sure but wouldn't that sound silly, coming from me?"
  1999. "Everything you say sounds silly coming from you."
  2000. >"And yet you get it!"
  2001. >You waltz out of the apartment as you and her go back and forth, officially and effectively blocking out the rest of the world from your interactions
  2002. >You have everything you need in your pockets or in your arms so you know you're ready to have a good time
  2004. >With Jacky in your arms, you walk down the hallway to your elevator
  2005. >For some reason you get an uneasy pain in your heart
  2006. >It reminds you of a rough time
  2007. >You never forgot about it
  2008. >But you certainly recall it now
  2009. >You squeeze Jacky while walking
  2010. >"You alright?"
  2011. "Yeah, why?"
  2012. >"Because you're looking dead ahead and you kinda look like you saw a ghost or something..."
  2013. >You blink a few times and look down at her
  2014. >She is
  2015. >Adorable
  2016. >More than adorable
  2017. >No matter how bad things were then
  2018. >Or how long the bad times lasted
  2019. >She's here with you now
  2020. >That gives you strength
  2021. >That makes you happy
  2022. >But not just happy
  2023. >A strawberry ice cream and sugar cookie sandwich can make you happy
  2024. >She makes you feel
  2025. >Content
  2026. >Proud
  2027. "Yeah... yeah, sorry. I guess every now and again I gotta remember..."
  2028. >How lucky you are?
  2029. >There's more to it than that
  2030. >"How to walk and speak at the same time?"
  2031. >You stop and look down at her
  2032. "Yes."
  2033. >After getting settled into the car, Jacky shifts around until she's sitting on her butt like a human
  2034. >"So... where we going?"
  2035. "I... well. I don't think I decided. So why don't we decide?"
  2036. >Jacky glances around
  2037. >Purses her lips
  2038. >Blows air out from her mouth
  2039. >And shrugs
  2040. >"Anywhere's good with me. Where can we go that offers a lot of stuff to go? We can grab stuff to go for everyone!"
  2041. >That makes a light go off in your head
  2042. "Hey... how about this. Wanna to see a movie and then hit a fast food place so we can all eat together?"
  2043. >"Yeah! That sounds awesome! What are we gonna watch?"
  2044. "I... I have no clue..."
  2045. >You haven't paid attention to recent movies in so long
  2046. "We really didn't plan this out all that much."
  2047. >Jacky shrugs
  2048. >"I don't mind. We get to go out and we'll figure out... hey, I got an idea now!"
  2049. "Shoot."
  2050. >"Why don't we go to the park, walk around and watch a movie on your phone? The weather looks great and you get to show me off!"
  2051. >The beam she gives you is pure gold
  2052. "Yeah... that sounds like a plan to me!"
  2053. >You have no clue what movie will work but you'll find something
  2054. >Though you have a game plan, you don't yet start your car
  2055. >You feel like you still have more to say that you can't just ignore
  2056. "Jack... Whether or not you hear it enough, I'm very, incredibly grateful for you being around. I've never been more grateful for anyone being in my life. Without you, I don't know where I'd be, or what would be going through my head for the most part. I owe a lot to you. And regardless of what I have or haven't done for you... I know that I should do more. Because I want to, for you."
  2057. >You turn from staring at the steering wheel to sort of looking at her as you speak
  2058. >As confident as you normally are, you can't help but feel a little
  2059. >Embarrassed
  2060. >Just a little
  2061. >"Oh Anon..."
  2062. >She brings her hooves up to one of her twin tails, doing a pony's best impression to play with her hair
  2063. >"I... I can't even start. You know how it was before..."
  2064. "Yeah..."
  2065. >There isn't tension in the air
  2066. >But a sense of mutual awkwardness
  2067. >Everything has been far more natural and fun without needing to discuss or talk everything over
  2068. >When it comes to sitting alone and sticking to words, it feels like it's an entirely new world
  2069. >"I'm with you to the end, Anon. No matter where that leads us or what happens."
  2070. >She gives you a sly smirk
  2071. >"Or who catches us. We're like Sully and Drake!"
  2072. "Damn straight... I'm the Sully, right?"
  2073. >"Well sh'yeah. I think you'd rather look at me wearing a wetsuit."
  2074. "And I'd rather pilot a seaplane."
  2075. >"And I scream good."
  2076. "Ye..."
  2077. >Her smirk evolves into a real grin
  2078. "Yeah... I'm gonna start the car now, and you're gonna keep that mouth of yours under control."
  2079. >"At least until the park, right?"
  2080. >This pony, man
  2081. "That goes without saying."
  2082. >"Onward!"
  2083. >She points a hoof forward
  2084. >Only for your car to actually back up
  2085. >"Oh, er... backward!"
  2086. >She twists to point her leg back
  2087. >After pulling out from your spot, you drive off
  2088. >"Oh for the love of... onward again!"
  2090. >Driving outside is nice now, compared to the winter
  2091. >Jacky's visibly in awe at the countless trees and occasional pond or glimpse of a lake
  2092. >Given how nice it is, you've even rolled down the windows
  2093. >"Man... it sure is different now, ain't it? People are out walking and on bikes, you got birds, you can see the ground too! Is the park we're going to nice?"
  2094. "Well... I think so, yeah."
  2095. >Jacky keeps watching out the window, waving at a now-confused couple
  2096. >"What, you don't remember it?"
  2097. "Well, I saw it from Google Maps once or twice before... I wanted to go but I guess I never got around to it. I never saw much of a point to go out and do stuff on my own when I could wait and experience that with someone else. You know?"
  2098. >It was a sad excuse but it was true
  2099. >As much as you've wanted to do since you moved up here, you simply haven't
  2100. >You'd rather play vidya or watch or listen to things rather than go out, burn up gas, spend money, be social
  2101. >Having no friends or really anyone was a good way to turn you into what was effectively a working hermit
  2102. >Despite the less than positive thoughts, you don't stop yourself from smiling at Jacky waving to everyone she sees
  2103. >Most don't seem to notice her but some do
  2104. >"Well that means we get to explore it together! Ain't nothing wrong with that!"
  2105. >As jovial as she is, she sounds like she's starting to channel her Ma a bit
  2106. >Only a few streets away, you stop at a barely occupied parking lot
  2107. >The concrete walkway really only connects to a covered pair of vending machines, and a branching path that goes into the trees
  2108. "Well, up for adventure? It's sort of a trail that circles around a decently sized lake. Or pond. It's one of the two, I don't really know for sure what the differences are."
  2109. >As soon as you get out of your seat, Jacky bounces from hers to yours, and then onto the ground
  2110. >Trotting in place, her head bobs from side to side
  2111. >Is she muttering something?
  2112. "Casting a spell or something?"
  2113. >Her head bobs a few more times before realizing you asked her
  2114. >"Wha? Oh, no, no it's not that. Ever since Sparks'n'Dashie set up that stage, we've been singing a ton of stuff!"
  2115. "Yeah? Did you guys set up the speakers again or something? I wasn't paying attention."
  2116. >"You know it, hombre! Sparks is super great with magic, I don't even think she needs those vitamins anymore!"
  2117. >That's good news to hear
  2118. >You haven't really caught up on her in a while about how she's getting along with that sort of thing but with how often she 'speaks' to you, you aren't surprised
  2119. >Rather than head to the path, you make your way to the vending machines
  2120. "Hey, wanna drink and snack?"
  2121. >"Oh! Date snacks!"
  2122. >In an unshakably positive mood, Jacky bounds and hops over to you
  2123. >With how often she's looking around, you half expect her to run off and chase something
  2124. >At least no one will get the drop on you
  2125. "So, what'll you have my happy lassy?"
  2126. >She looks at both of the machines
  2127. >Rears back onto her hind legs
  2128. >And slams her hooves into them
  2129. >"This one and that!"
  2130. >You feel a cold wave go from your jaw down to your gut when you hear her hoof landing on the glass barrier of the snack machine
  2131. >You thought you heard a crack
  2132. >She doesn't seem to notice
  2133. "...right on, twin tailed mama. But I gotta slip my card in first."
  2134. >Jacky, watching your hand holding your wallet, rotates her head like a swivel until she sees the card readers for the machines
  2135. >The spiderweb crack from her hoof catcher her eye too because she immediately stumbles back and sputters out an apologetic giggle
  2136. >"S-silly me... I... I knew that."
  2137. >You sorta feel awkward that as long as she's been around, you really haven't explained a ton of the world to her
  2139. >You really haven't treated her as well as you should
  2140. >You're not sure if this means that you've been selfish or busy before
  2141. >Or that maybe you think more of her to the point that you want her to fit in better
  2142. >Whatever the reason, you want to slow things down a bit and help her get used to actually having a life
  2143. >Whatever that looks like
  2144. >Or maybe you just feel like you should do more
  2145. >Whatever the reason, you hold your bottle of water and can of root beer in one hand and a twin pair of milky ways in the other
  2146. "Alright... these..."
  2147. >Jacky watches your hands like a hawk, only to frown when you dip the bars into your pocket
  2148. "Are for when we're halfway. Don't wanna have them too quick, right?"
  2149. >"Yeah, I guess..."
  2150. >She pouts now but you may be saving her stomach if she devours it now
  2151. >Helps that it at least isn't a full carton of chocolate eggs
  2152. >"So, can we head off into the unknown and go get chased down by an ax murderer?"
  2153. "Jacky..."
  2154. >You frown at her implication
  2155. "We're surrounded by yankees. They're far more likely to have hunting rifles. Or empty beer cans. Honestly it could go either way."
  2156. >You both start to walk to the start of the trail
  2157. "But if we find one of those log cabins... then yes, we'll find an ax murderer."
  2158. >Though none of the trees old over to give you a canopy, you do quickly find yourself unable to see your car
  2159. >Or even hear traffic for that matter
  2160. >You can hear a lot of birds at least
  2161. >Jacky keeps with your pace, occasionally slowing down or trotting off to the side to inspect whatever is nearby
  2162. >You don't think she's gotten much, if any, outside exercise or activity since you got her
  2163. >You do feel guilty but you're also willing to argue that there were other circumstances behind neither you or her going out
  2164. >Slipping your water bottle into your free pocket, you switch hands with her soda can
  2165. "So Jack... how are you doing with everything?"
  2166. >Jacky eventually trots back to your side, chest puffed out
  2167. >"Well I'm on a date with my man, I think I saw a squirrel humping another one, and I'm pretty sure that we're gonna have an awesome time once we get back because we gotta have the room to ourselves."
  2168. >You're not dissatisfied that no one heard that
  2169. >But you're glad that no one really heard that
  2170. "Well... that is true I suppose. But how are you doing outside of that?"
  2171. >"Well, I think you know that I grew up in the city. Did I tell you that? I never really went out into the wilderness or anything like that, partially because there really ain't any nature trails or vending machines or cars to be driven around in. Unless I was working or other things, I kinda just stayed where Dashie and I lived."
  2172. >Wasn't she a thief?
  2173. "What kind of job did you have?"
  2174. >Jacky's confident withers by a degree
  2175. >"Well... jobs, multiple. I guess I tried a lot of stuff but it didn't stick with me. Or I didn't stick with it. Really hard stuff for so little pay I'd have to work an entire day just to eat... and if I was already hungry, what good did it do for me to do only just barely enough to keep going?"
  2176. >She had a point
  2177. "Yeah... I get you on that, no doubt. What about where you lived? Where was that?"
  2178. >"Under a bridge."
  2179. >She sounded so casual about it
  2180. >"Or in an old pipe system, when it was cold... it was clean, of course. Clean-ish, anyway..."
  2181. >She trots ahead of you, keeping her eyes ahead as if she's the one to lead you
  2182. >"We had a few places and.. we never really thought about it. We never talked about having a permanent home. We never talked about having a real place or a family outside of ourselves and certainly ain't no way we would've ever gotten to have stuff like what we've had recently..."
  2183. >You can hear her voice falter just a hair, some of her vowels sound off
  2184. >"But... you know? I'm really excited. This is like... like, you know."
  2185. >You are focusing on her words but the way she's trotting is a little different
  2186. >She has a sort of sway in her hips
  2187. >Time and place, Anon
  2188. >Time and place
  2189. "Yeah... I know, Jack."
  2190. >You aren't trying to 'save' her or anything
  2191. >Whether or not you did or didn't, she's here with you now and she has her friends
  2192. "So. What're your plans? Our biggest journey so far was getting the gang back together. What do you want to do next?"
  2193. >After a few moments to get her emotions under control, her pace slows until she's keeping to your side
  2194. >"Well, be with you and the gang, of course. I'd like to learn new things and do more but... I really don't have a clue what I can even do. Sparky has magic, Dashie has... well, her brains and wings. I kinda don't have skills like them."
  2195. "Sure but you have charisma."
  2196. >"Me?"
  2197. "Sure do. You got great friends and I can't resist you if my life depended on it."
  2198. >Maybe you could resist her in front of a crowd
  2199. >But only 'maybe'
  2200. "You know, you don't gotta rush stuff. We got... well, hell, we got the rest of our lives to help figure out things. Days, weeks, months, years will go by, but you'll still be right beside me, right?"
  2201. >Jacky gives you an awkward giggle, her pace audibly turning unsteady
  2202. >"Man, you got a way with words... big ol' romantic..."
  2203. "I can't not be with you. We're in it for the long haul, you and I. As much as you might want it, I'm not going to hold back on you."
  2204. >You know how silly you sound
  2205. >But you sure aren't going to try to stop yourself
  2206. >After a while of just walking and occasionally watching each other, you find an old smoothed out rubber and wood bench
  2207. >And a helpful sign that basically says 'you're a third of the way there!'
  2208. "Alright, wanna have a sit down for a bit?"
  2209. >Your answer is Jacky galloping up to the bench, jumping onto it, and immediately sitting down with a loud sigh
  2210. >"I think I've gone this far when running from people... but you really got stamina to go this far."
  2211. >You sit where there's space and pat her flank
  2212. "Well, you read the sign. We're a third of the way there."
  2213. >"Yeah... dang nature being so open..."
  2214. >Jacky shifts to the other side, sitting with her shoulder on your thigh
  2215. "Yeah... "
  2216. >You both watch the path
  2217. >Though you're tempted to, you keep your petting to her stomach and shoulder
  2218. >Without saying anything, she reacts every now and again with a shiver or a pleased sigh
  2219. >Listening to the birds is nice too
  2220. >Everything is nice
  2221. >"Hey, Anon?"
  2222. "What's up?"
  2223. >"I..."
  2224. >She trails off
  2225. >She sounds like she's trying to say something but she can't
  2226. >Or she's having difficulties
  2227. "Want your soda already?"
  2228. >"Y-yeah."
  2229. >You pop the lid and old it down to her mouth
  2230. >"T... thanks. Tilt back?"
  2231. >You watch her put her lips to the can and tilt her head back, nudging the can back
  2232. >You watch her gulp all of it down in record time
  2233. >She's a small mare but she has the big thirst
  2234. >She lets out a heavy, content sigh and lays her head across your lap
  2235. >"Oh Anon... I never had root beer back home... let me just stay here for a while..."
  2236. "Of course. We're in no rush."
  2237. >You stop paying attention to the world around you, eyes keenly focused on the pony
  2238. >You aren't here to admire the nature, after all
  2239. >You're here to spend time with your mare
  2240. >It still sounds awkward when you think of her as one rather than just a girl but you feel a little braver when you think of it that way
  2241. >It sounds a little more official
  2242. >You pet her from her ear, down her neck, to her ribs
  2243. "You and me, Jack. You and me..."
  2245. >You don't know how much time passed but after a while you stop petting her
  2246. >Is she sleeping?
  2247. "Psst... hey Jack."
  2248. >Nothing
  2249. >Guess she may be out then
  2250. >You don't mind
  2251. >You're happy to see her out and about
  2252. >You aren't worrying about the state of her friends or your financial status or much of anything else
  2253. >You wonder if this will become a normal thing
  2254. >If this'll give you reason to go out more
  2255. >Would she even want to go out more?
  2256. >As you think in circles, you hear a guy jogging down the path
  2257. >He slows when he sees you and the miniature pony napping on your lap
  2258. >He doesn't seem all that bothered but the sight does cause him to come to a stop
  2259. >Here we go
  2260. >"Hey... is that a horse?"
  2261. "Yeah."
  2262. >"That's kinda weird. Is she wearing a bandanna?"
  2263. "Yeah."
  2264. >"Why?"
  2265. "Listen, I'm from Texas ok?"
  2266. >For some reason, that seems to be enough of an answer to satisfy him
  2267. >He shrugs and starts back up
  2268. >"Well, have a good one."
  2269. "Sure."
  2270. >After a while, you can't hear him anymore
  2271. >It's still just you, Jacky, and the plentiful sounds of birds
  2272. >It's nice
  2273. >The weather's nice
  2274. >The sun's out but it isn't trying to kill you
  2275. >You twirl one of Jacky's twin tails around your fingers
  2276. >She really is knocked out
  2277. >Where would she be if you didn't pop up?
  2278. >Where would you be if she didn't pop up?
  2279. >Though it's a little awkward, you fish out your phone and check through your usual; messages, mail, weather
  2280. >No new spam, no messages, and clear day ahead
  2281. >You pass time reading stories and looking at memes
  2282. >Jacky occasionally twitches or mumbles something
  2283. >If all of her past was so bad, did she ever get such deep sleep before popping up?
  2284. >You kinda wanna get up and keep going
  2285. >Or do something
  2286. >But you really can't just wake her
  2287. >May as well make yourself comfortable
  2289. >Be Sparking
  2290. >Ever since Anon and Jacky left, you've been a little uneasy
  2291. >You aren't worried that they're going to get lost
  2292. >But what if they do
  2293. >What if they get robbed?
  2294. >What if they get caught doing things?
  2295. >You grimace at the idea of them doing things that would be bad to be caught at
  2296. >You've been stuck on a boss in one of those hard fantasy games Anon introduced to
  2297. >You know what you're doing wrong but you're just so... distracted
  2298. >"You know it's normal for them to go out on a date."
  2299. >And then you died again
  2300. "Damn it Prism... you made me die again."
  2301. >The controller falls to the floor, no longer in your red aura
  2302. >"This is good for them. Gives them some time away from us. And gives us some time away from them too."
  2303. >Given she's getting onto the bed and sitting down, you aren't going to be alone for a while now
  2304. "Oh shut up..."
  2305. >You can't help but have an audible edge to your words
  2306. >You aren't jealous
  2307. >You aren't
  2308. >You're just mad
  2309. "You always act like you have little nuggets of wisdom to dispense."
  2310. >Prism sighs
  2311. >"Well I do it to tease you sometimes. But... this does bother you, doesn't it."
  2312. >You stare at your human character
  2313. >You really don't want to talk about this
  2314. "It does."
  2315. >But you feel more frustrated by keeping it in
  2316. "I just... you know."
  2317. >"I know."
  2318. "...Are you not jealous?"
  2319. >"Of what?"
  2320. "Of Jacky."
  2321. >"Should I be?"
  2322. "Well yes! How could you not be?"
  2323. >You aren't looking at Prism
  2324. >You can see out of the corner of your eye that she's not looking at you either
  2325. >But neither of you are focusing on anything else
  2326. "Why do you act like nothing affects you? You aren't some untouchable monolith. You're a pony with wings. And I'm a pony with a horn. And Jacky's..."
  2327. >"A pony with a human?"
  2328. >You don't want to say anything to that
  2329. "What do you want to do?"
  2330. >"How do you mean?"
  2331. "Here. This place. Away from where we were."
  2332. >Prism sighs and shrugs
  2333. >"I have no clue. Jacky was always my top priority and now... she doesn't need me. I'm as happy as can be for her."
  2334. "But?"
  2335. >"But... nothing. She's happy. And I'm happy to be here for as long as she wants me around."
  2336. >You scoff
  2337. >As high and mighty as she acts, you can't help but feel good at poking at her
  2338. "Yeah well..."
  2339. >You want to poke a little hard
  2340. >But you're unable to
  2341. "...she really is happy because you're here."
  2342. >"You really think so?"
  2343. "Yeah. When it was just me, her, and Anon, she was all excited about finding you. We all were, really."
  2344. >You watch the pegasus from the corner of your eye
  2345. >Rather than looking cool, calm, collected, she looks surprised
  2346. >"Why?"
  2347. "What do you mean, 'why'? You know why?"
  2348. >"I guess I do."
  2349. >Neither of you say anything more
  2350. >How birdbrained would she have to be to not realize how important she was?
  2351. "Why don't you fly?"
  2352. >"Excuse me?"
  2353. "Why don't you fly, Prism?"
  2354. >"Why did you stop yourself from using magic until Anon started helping you out?"
  2355. "Shut up."
  2356. >That makes her laugh
  2357. >"You're a good friend to have, Sparking."
  2358. >Since when were you friends?
  2359. "Is there something you wanted to talk about or did you just come in here for kicks?"
  2360. >"No... I guess I'm just lonely is all. If we don't have each other, we don't have anything. It's because of our mutual friends that we lasted this long and made it this far."
  2361. "Oh..."
  2362. >Now you feel a little guilty
  2363. "What do we do?"
  2364. >"I don't know. Did you ever have any sort of life goals before?"
  2365. "You know, not really. You?"
  2366. >"None."
  2367. "Did Jacky?"
  2368. >Prism giggles
  2369. >"You know? She kinda did. Not a lot of things. But she kinda kept a positive attitude, like winning a lottery or being chosen for some sort of... thing."
  2370. "Thing?"
  2371. >"She wasn't exactly articulate about it
  2372. >You sputter out a laugh
  2373. "Yeah, she isn't exactly the smartest one in the world, is she."
  2374. >"No... no she is not."
  2375. "Maybe that's why he likes her?"
  2376. >"Maybe... but there's far more to it than just that."
  2377. "Like what?"
  2378. >"Well, have you seen just how well they... sync together?"
  2379. "Seen it? I've..."
  2380. >You stop yourself from saying that you've been seeing how he sees her through his thoughts
  2381. "I've... well, yeah."
  2382. >"It's ok to be jealous, Sparking. I'm jealous too."
  2383. >You both sigh
  2384. "What do you think they're doing right now?"
  2385. >"I don't know."
  2386. "Don't you want to know?"
  2387. >"Not really."
  2388. >You watch your avatar standing at a bony bonfire
  2389. "What if I got you a way to spend the day going out with Jacky? Can just be like old times with you two."
  2390. >"And do what?"
  2391. "I don't know. I guess we'll have to ask them what they're able to do when they get back."
  2392. >Prism lingers before answering
  2393. >"Why do you ask?"
  2394. "Well... if you're hanging out with Jacky and goofing around like usual. I get to hang out with Anon. By myself."
  2395. >The corner of your mouth twitches into a smile
  2396. >Everyone gets what they want that way, right?
  2397. >"...I don't think I appreciate what you're implying."
  2398. >That kills your smile and then some
  2399. "I'm not implying anything! I'm just talking about how you two can just do stuff like before! We're here, we're not going anywhere anytime soon, none of us aren't happy living here rather than in the trash! So what's wrong with just asking if we could get you and Jacky to hang out?"
  2400. >You shake your head and growl, getting back to your character
  2401. "Just... freaking forget it... you're such a pain sometimes..."
  2402. >You try to focus on your game but you watch her curl up on the bed
  2403. >"I know... I'm sorry, Sparking. You aren't my enemy. Anon isn't either. You're both my friends."
  2404. >Now you feel bad
  2405. >You didn't think you'd feel bad about anything with Prism
  2406. >But she really is your friend
  2407. >She's your family
  2408. >Same as those two morons that are surely sucking face somewhere
  2409. " are too. But... just think about it."
  2410. >It's not a crime to hang out with Anon alone
  2411. >Just like it isn't a crime for her to hang out with Jacky alone
  2412. >There's nothing wrong with it
  2413. >Nothing at all
  2415. >Be an Anon with a leg that's almost asleep
  2416. >You must've been sitting here for an hour or longer by now
  2417. >You don't know what Jacky's been up to for the day but she hasn't budged an inch
  2418. >You've kept petting her and just reading or watching things on your phone, which suits you fine
  2419. >This is your time together, after all
  2420. >If she wants to spend it sleeping on you and relaxing, you are perfectly fine with it
  2421. >But those pins and needles feeling is just bothering you to no end
  2422. >Like a cat kneading your leg for an hour straight
  2423. >Deciding that you won't end up finishing the route, you decide to take out your candy bar
  2424. >After opening the wrapper you get an idea
  2425. >You don't actually want to spend the rest of your evening here
  2426. >You lower the caramel and chocolate bar down to Jacky's mouth
  2427. "Jaaaack-eeeeee... candy baaaaaaaar..."
  2428. >You wave it back and forth in front of her mouth and nose
  2429. >Sure enough, her nose twitches
  2430. >As does her lips
  2431. >She opens her mouth a fraction, just in time for you to pull it away
  2432. >You can almost hear something like a whimper
  2433. "Gotta wake up if you want candy."
  2434. >She fidgets but her eyes don't open
  2435. "Alright... I guess I'll have to eat mine. And yours too."
  2436. >That does the trick
  2437. >She babbles something incoherent and opens her eyes
  2438. "Party all day or something? You've been out for a while."
  2439. >Jacky lets out a long, warbling yawn before lifting her head up
  2440. >"I'm... I'm sorry. This was kinda... like something in a movie, you know? Us hanging out in the wilderness, no one around for miles..."
  2441. >She gives you a warm, sleepy smile
  2442. >It's not true at all since at least one or two other people saw you since she dozed off
  2443. >But the forested areas up here are pretty pristine
  2444. "You're not wrong... but because you're up, I'm guessing you want your bar now?"
  2445. >"You're darn right!"
  2446. >Rather than going to devour your hand, she just waits and watches the bar
  2447. "What?"
  2448. >" that one yours or mine?"
  2449. "Hm... good question."
  2450. >You take a bite, chomping down a quarter of it
  2451. >She watches you with a great sense of anticipation
  2452. >While you have the urge to tease her about it, you hold out the bar for her to take a bite
  2453. >She watches it for a second and smiles, taking a quarter of it for herself
  2454. >You both polish off the rest of the bar, going back and forth until it's empty
  2455. >You wash it down with your bottled water
  2456. >Same with the candy, she watches your hand
  2457. "Could you a drink, too?"
  2458. >"Yeah yeah!"
  2459. "Sure, but I don't recall you sharing your soda..."
  2460. >"I'll share it next time, don't worry!"
  2461. >She drinks from your bottle, but thankfully not enough to empty it
  2462. >She licks her lips, looking at your face
  2463. "What?"
  2464. >"Anon."
  2465. "Eh?"
  2466. >Jacky smiles
  2467. >"We're still on a date, right?"
  2468. "Well sure. Still tired?"
  2469. >"No way."
  2470. >Her butt wags back and forth a little
  2471. "What's up?"
  2472. >"Aim for the heart."
  2473. "Wh-"
  2474. >Before you can answer her, she pounces you with enough force to knock you off your center
  2475. >Without fanfare, one-liner or a joke, she kisses you with a particularly strong sense of desire
  2476. >You lose track of time or yourself at that moment, and until the kiss ends
  2477. >Evidently you saw fit to grab her shoulders, but you didn't pull her away from you
  2478. >She huffs and gives you a sleepy smile
  2479. >"We should be alone more."
  2480. "Well, let me tell you something here, lady..."
  2481. >Your voice is stern, taking her by surprise
  2482. >You initiate another kiss, showing her aggression that she isn't able to compete with
  2483. >Nor does she fight it
  2484. >When you do end it, you pull her away
  2485. >She was prepared on the first round but the second left her dazed, for lack of a better word
  2486. "Now are we gonna keep walking or go grab dinner and head back home?"
  2487. >Jacky tries to think, squinting at the choice
  2488. >"I vote... we stay here, say we went on a walk and watched a movie, then get dinner and head home and all eat and watch a movie."
  2489. >She lunges for you and starts a third kiss
  2490. >She pulls away, her breath short and her eyes starting to glaze over
  2491. "In that order?"
  2492. >"Whatever, you know what I me-"
  2493. >You cut her off with a fearsome fourth round
  2494. >She ends it by squirming back, though a lot of her strength was siphoned off
  2495. >"I... am I tasting candy?"
  2496. >She looks so confused, like a half-asleep student trying to answer a test question
  2497. "Must explain the sweetness."
  2498. >You start a fifth bout
  2499. >Except
  2500. >You hear something resembling a gasp
  2501. >You both look to the source and see a middle aged woman in dated exercise gear in mid-power walk
  2502. >"What are you doing?!"
  2503. >You try to think of a valid excuse as to why it'd be fine to be seen making out with a pony but Jacky swoops in with a save
  2505. >Nice save Jackenstein
  2506. >She sounds furiously desperate
  2507. >The woman, taken aback by the talking pony and her tone, takes a few steps back and starts power walking away with the most mellow of quickness
  2508. >"Come on, some people! A mare can't enjoy her guy out on a date? What's the world coming to?! What next, it star-"
  2509. >You cut her off with the fifth round, causing her to finally melt
  2510. >You could call it pent up frustration
  2511. >Or the joy of liberation without being judged by friends nearby
  2512. >Whatever it is, it's what makes your date peak from a normal outing to an experience to remember
  2513. >In the back of your mind, you're thankful that there was only some random woman around to bear witness
  2514. >Hopefully that won't cause any stories to pop up
  2516. >You and Jacky eventually cool off
  2517. >Relatively speaking
  2518. >She's resigned to sit on your lap, right side laying against your front with her head pressed against your collar bone
  2519. >You haven't really watched any movies but she watched you fiddle on your phone all the same
  2520. >She or you would chuckle at a joke or something and read together
  2521. >She occasionally asks about what she's reading, or whatever you're looking at
  2522. >Mostly window shopping for computer hardware
  2523. >The occasional pony-sized thing with a stray comment on if she'd like it, or if it would fit well on her
  2524. >Neither of you speak above a whisper or grumble, just loud enough to be heard
  2525. >Whenever you speak, she presses her face into your chest
  2526. >You think she enjoys the rumble in your chest
  2527. >You haven't been paying attention but you do pick up that the sun is starting to go down
  2528. >The sky doesn't even really turn all that orange, like it does down south
  2529. "Hey Jack."
  2530. >"What's up?"
  2531. "Wanna grab dinner and head home?"
  2532. >"Mmm..."
  2533. >She doesn't particularly answer
  2534. >"Can we please do this again soon?"
  2535. "Absolutely.
  2536. >Another ten minutes pass with neither of you moving
  2537. >You've been hanging out and doing things since November
  2538. >But only now does it feel like it's all real
  2539. >You couldn't do this in the winter
  2540. >She doesn't even have any winter wear either
  2541. >Maybe you should get her some clothing
  2542. >Would that bring more allure to her, since she doesn't wear anything normally?
  2543. >She's not wearing anything at the moment, now you think on it
  2544. >Jacky perks up and smiles at you
  2545. >"Penny for your thoughts, Anon?"
  2546. >Your body betrays your stealthy thoughts
  2547. "Right... now, if something happens right now..."
  2548. >Don't do it, man
  2549. >Not here anyway
  2550. >Not yet
  2551. "...we won't be able to get dinner..."
  2552. >"Mmm....?"
  2553. >Jacky wiggles on your lap
  2554. >Dammit
  2555. "...and you may end up melting that other candy bar in my pocket."
  2556. >"But I know this isn't a candy bar."
  2557. "That is gonna make you melt if you keep it up."
  2558. >"That's ok, you can carry me."
  2559. >You give a long, slow exhale
  2560. "Alright...we're gonna get up now."
  2561. >You pat her flank a few times, shifting to stand up
  2562. >"Aw... you're no fun..."
  2563. >Jacky practically slides off of you, landing on her hooves on the ground
  2564. "You know I'm very fun, this is just being sensible."
  2565. >"It's teasing me..."
  2566. "That too. I won't say it isn't."
  2567. >She watches you adjust yourself while you walk back onto the trail
  2568. >"You're a weird man, Anon."
  2569. >She's grinning
  2570. "Yeah? How's that?"
  2571. >"Because... we're together. We're a thing."
  2572. "How's that weird?"
  2573. >She grins again, trotting a few steps in front of you
  2574. >Though it's still awkward, she's able to sway her hips back and forth in tune with her steps
  2575. >Her tail swishing in and out of the way of viewing doesn't help
  2576. >Or it does help
  2577. >"Because I'm a pony."
  2578. "A very attractive one."
  2579. >"And you're a guy."
  2580. "A hugh mann, even."
  2581. >"And you'd prefer me over anyone of your shape or size."
  2582. "Easily."
  2583. >She stops suddenly
  2584. >You stop with her
  2585. >She arches her back and bends down, stretching
  2586. >With her hind end raised and obviously presented to you
  2587. >You don't say anything to her
  2588. >But it is good
  2589. >After... what feels like entire minutes, she starts trotting again
  2590. >You follow, eyes focused far more on her and far less than anything else
  2591. >She's still on the path so that's all that really matters to you
  2592. >"What are we gonna do for dinner, anyway?"
  2593. "I was thinking... burgers and fries? Enough for all four of it."
  2594. >"Burgers?"
  2595. "Yeah."
  2596. >You never really got them for her, have you
  2597. >You haven't really done much for eating out at all, since she came about
  2598. >Did you ever even order pizza with her?
  2599. >You really shouldn't have deprived her of so much
  2600. >But at the time you didn't really know better
  2601. >You think
  2602. "Hey Jack."
  2603. >"Mmm?"
  2604. >Say it
  2605. >You feel it, say it
  2606. >Why aren't you saying it?
  2607. >Seconds have passed now and you aren't saying it
  2608. " know what I'm thinking."
  2609. >"I do..."
  2610. >You keep walking, unable to really tear your eyes away
  2611. >Compared to that first day you had her
  2612. >The first morning when she said she was still trying to figure out how she was supposed to sound
  2613. >The first night she slept at your side rather than as a pillow
  2614. >Even that first night, she was sleeping with you
  2615. >Just in a different context
  2616. >She's gotten so much happier now
  2617. >You love it
  2618. >And her
  2619. >"Hey, Anon?"
  2620. "What's up?"
  2621. >"I do too. A whole ton."
  2622. >You never did expect it to turn out like this
  2623. >But you're glad it did
  2624. >Though you haven't kept track of anything but Jacky moving, you do hear her sigh
  2625. >"Finally, your car... I gotta say, walking and nature seeing and all kinds of stuff is nice... but dang it, I like laying around like a lump better."
  2626. >You finally stop yourself from focusing on her and scoff
  2627. "Please. Could you imagine being in the US during the 1800s? You'd be carrying me, our clothing, supplies, ammo, tools, all sorts of stuff."
  2628. >Jacky returns your scoff
  2629. >"What am I, a horse? I'll make you carry me and we can just travel light."
  2630. "Why, can't handle me riding you for days at a time with only small rests and sleeping in between?"
  2631. >You use your fob to unlock your door
  2632. >"...ok, you make a good point. Maybe I could keep it up for a while. But having a farm or something would be better than wandering around, right?"
  2633. >You open the door for her
  2634. "Sure but I'll still have to hook you up to some farming equipment so you can work the land."
  2635. >She looks down, scrapes her hooves against the asphalt, and bounds up to your seat, bouncing over to the passenger side
  2636. >"Plow dirt so you can sow your wild oats?"
  2637. >You give your seat a quick wipe before taking your seat as the captain of this road roaming ship
  2638. "Of course."
  2639. >"Hey Anon."
  2640. "What's up?"
  2641. >You turn to face her
  2642. >She smiles at you
  2643. >"You know what I'm thinking..."
  2644. "I do."
  2645. >"Isn't that freaky?"
  2646. "Not really. Just goes to show that we're in sync, you know?"
  2647. >"Like a pair of clones?"
  2648. "Or cyber commandos."
  2649. >"Or a... uh..."
  2650. >She frowns
  2651. >"... dang it, start the car... you got me all distracted."
  2652. >You do, reaching over to set up her seat belt
  2653. "My poor little pony..."
  2654. >She snorts out a pout
  2655. >"You can just shush."
  2656. "And not be the Johnny Cage to your Sonya? Not a chance."
  2657. >She frowns more
  2658. >"It's your fault I couldn't think of something!"
  2659. "Nah, it's your fault."
  2660. >That level of nonchalant rebuttal trips her up
  2661. >"Wh-as if it's my fault?!"
  2662. "Don't deny, small fry."
  2663. >"Don't make me go all Sparky on you!"
  2664. "And do what?"
  2665. >"Make you feel all hot!"
  2666. >Unusual interpretation
  2667. >But you don't mind it
  2668. >With your own seatbelt up, you drive to the best burger place you know
  2669. >Well it's not the best, since your favorite burger place is down south, but it's the second best by far
  2670. >Compared to the time you spent together, you end up at the apartment almost instantly
  2671. >Jacky keeps eyeing the bags of noms you grabbed, sniffing above them
  2672. >Thankfully the moving vehicle and seatbelt is keeping her from stealing anything
  2673. >Four bags
  2674. >One for each of you
  2675. >"Hey Anon, why haven't we gotten this stuff before?"
  2676. "I guess I just never thought about it at the time. I was so focused on you... then I was so focused on you and Sparks. Then Dashie too. I guess I got so roped up in you gals I forgot about a lot of things that I used to do, or used to have."
  2677. >Carrying the bags are easy enough, and she is able to help with the doors
  2678. >Though the elevator up is still her bane since the buttons are too high up
  2679. >"Well I didn't want you to go without or anything..."
  2680. "I haven't. I haven't gone without anything of value or consequence since things started. If I went without them, then they weren't as important to me, right?"
  2681. >That insightful nugget leads to her reflecting
  2682. >You can tell since she just stands there for a second
  2683. >"...that's deep."
  2684. "You're just hungry."
  2685. >"Ok that too."
  2686. "Go get the door open, yeah?"
  2687. >"You got it!"
  2688. >As soon as the elevator doors open, she gallops off down the hallway
  2689. >Just like when you left with her, you get another familiar sting in your chest
  2690. >You've been living in this place for too long, you have a lot of old memories that still come out at you every now and again
  2691. >But it's not like you want to move either
  2692. >Not yet, anyway
  2693. >Jacky slaps her front hooves against the door, causing a decently sized racket
  2694. >"Hey open up we got dinner!"
  2695. >The door opens by the time you're halfway down the hallway
  2696. >You can already hear Sparks giving some sort of semi-scathing remark about why she has to be so loud
  2697. >You can hear Dashie too but that's about it
  2698. >By the time you make it to the open doorway you squint and hold up your hands
  2699. >Two bags in each hand
  2700. "Who's hungry?"
  2701. >While Sparks is leering with a grimace at Jacky, when she sees you she bursts into a wide smile
  2702. >You think it might be because you have food
  2703. >But she isn't really looking at the bags
  2704. >"Hey, why didn't you say so? Get in already! I practiced a little at Double Dragon, let's play it after we eat!"
  2705. "Hell yeah, red rider. Think you can handle the labs now?"
  2706. >"Well I upped my Desperation and powered up my Fire Ball, no way am I gonna get beaten off those platforms so easily!"
  2707. "I can dig it. But for now we got our stuff so let's--"
  2708. >You pick up on Jacky's voice
  2709. >"Hey Anon, Dashie brought up a good idea. Mind if her and I talk about stuff and eat in the living room? We'll join you after confidential debriefing."
  2710. >This can only go so well
  2711. >Not like you haven't caught them talking about other things as is
  2712. "Sure, go for it. Don't make too much of a mess, alright?"
  2713. >You lean down to offer two of the bags and the two ponies take one before going off to the living room turned stage
  2714. >"Come on, let's chow and talk strategy!"
  2715. >Sparky's pretty energetic today
  2716. >You would be too over some burgers and fries
  2717. >You sit together on your bed
  2718. >You fondle through the bag and pull out a burger
  2719. >Sparks uses her magic to make one unwrap itself and hang in the air
  2720. "I'll still never get used to that. Must be a neat trick though."
  2721. >"So how did your date go?"
  2722. >That was quick
  2724. "It was... it was nice. I got to be outside for a while and I'm really not outside that much."
  2725. >"How else did it go?"
  2726. >You're a bit surprised she cares
  2727. >You're also surprised that she isn't just reading your mind or something either for a quicker answer
  2728. "Jacky slept a lot."
  2729. >You chuckle between burger bites
  2730. "We found a nice bench a chunk into this path we were in and she just kinda... fell asleep on me."
  2731. >You nod with a warm smile
  2732. "It was nice. I mean, both of you share the bed and blankets and stuff. But there it just was nice."
  2733. >You stifle a snort
  2734. "And a few people noticed. I keep forgetting how... I guess rare it is to see ponies anywhere."
  2735. >Sparks eats, but the way she's watching you is a little odd
  2736. >"These are good."
  2737. "Glad you like them."
  2738. >"Can I come with next time?"
  2739. >The thought makes you laugh
  2740. "Like what, you tag along?"
  2741. >"Well I guess, or just you and me go next time?"
  2742. >That doesn't sound like a bad idea
  2743. >It's really not fair to take Jacky out but to leave the other two dorks alone and stuck inside
  2744. "Well sure, I don't see why not. What about all of us going out, make a field day of it all or something?"
  2745. >Sparks stops in mid-bite
  2746. >"...well sure. They can pair off, we can pair off, we can meet up wherever."
  2747. "I guess so. But how will we keep in contact if we get separated?"
  2748. >She huffs hard through her nostrils
  2749. >"Well I don't know, they can take care of themselves."
  2750. "I'm not taking that risk."
  2751. >"Ugh..."
  2752. >The unicorn wraps up her burger and drops it
  2753. >"Let's go out on a date, Anon."
  2754. >The world comes to a sudden stop
  2755. >Before you even contemplate it, your reflex speaks for you
  2756. "Not happening."
  2757. >Time doesn't freeze because you can hear your heart beat in your ear
  2758. >You face Sparks, who's doing her very best to keep a neutral expression
  2759. "You're one of my very few..."
  2760. >You sigh
  2761. "Real friends. Because... my old friends don't really seem to exist anymore. Or they don't think that I exist anymore."
  2762. >You recall that one conversation you had with her
  2763. >You're strong, of only because you have to be
  2764. "There's no way I'd want to endanger any of you."
  2765. >You really don't want to have this conversation
  2766. "And that means... well, that means that I'm not going to go behind anyone's back, or try to be sneaky or some underhanded shit."
  2767. >Her neutral expression isn't so neutral
  2768. >You smirk at her out of nowhere
  2769. "Besides. If I were so easily stolen away, would you really want someone so flimsy?"
  2770. >That takes her off guard
  2771. >She looks like she wants to say something
  2772. >Or scream at her, as she's often eager to do
  2773. >Instead, she laughs too
  2774. >"You know what? I knew you'd say that."
  2775. "You read me like a book, red."
  2776. >"Yeah..."
  2777. >A red aura-covered burger floats back up
  2778. >She goes back to eating
  2779. >"I'm sorry."
  2780. "Don't be. Aside from Jack, you're really the only person, pony, whoever, I can trust with anything. I can rely on you. Maybe more than I can rely on Jacky, due to your magic. We're a team. You and I. She and I. You and her."
  2781. >"I know... I get you."
  2782. >She doesn't really sound defeated
  2783. >She kinda sounds relieved
  2784. >"But why her?"
  2785. "Because it's because of her that you and Dashie are here. It's because of her that my life has improved so much. I wouldn't have you in my life if it weren't for her. That's a huge thing to give someone, wouldn't you say?"
  2786. >She spurts, tiny fragments of burger sputtering from her lips
  2787. >"Oh yeah, sure, I'm such a national treasure now."
  2788. "Well sure, I'd break into a top security place to steal you. Hopefully you'd do the same for her and I."
  2789. >And just like that, the mood had lifted again
  2790. "But I'd be fine with us going out to hang out on our own."
  2791. >Sparks' ears twitch
  2792. >"Wait, really?"
  2793. "Yeah. Winter's over and... to be honest, we've kinda had a lot of heavy shit pop up in the meantime when it comes to getting all of you together. Over the last few weeks all of you seem like you're... more than what you were before. I don't know what it is. Maybe everyone just had to get used to life. Get used to it being real, and not just a dream or a short fad or something. You girls are here to stay, I hope. I'm ready to do whatever I need to, to make sure no one goes away."
  2794. >Sparks shakes her head, hoovering up the mess she made with her magic
  2795. >"Man... you say all of that crap so easily."
  2796. "I know. You know I've said worse."
  2797. >"Yeah..."
  2798. >The both of you eat in silence for a while, to let things soak in
  2799. >"These are good."
  2800. "Oh yeah. I... didn't know how you guys were with meat and all that."
  2801. >"Why?"
  2802. "Well... I guess ponies and meat seems weird to me."
  2803. >"I've eaten meat before Anon."
  2804. "...well that's news to me, ok."
  2805. >The talking dies down again
  2806. >You can hear Jack and Dashie giggling about something in the living room
  2807. >"They're a happy pair."
  2808. "Yeah, they are."
  2809. >"Can you see why I didn't really fit in as well?"
  2810. "Kinda. Seems more like Dashie just... has her preferences."
  2811. >"And her dislikes."
  2812. "Be honest. Would you really have gone to such lengths to get them together with us, even if you didn't like either of them all that much?"
  2813. >Sparks doesn't answer for a while
  2814. >"Oh, these fries are salty..."
  2815. >At least she likes the fries
  2816. >"I probably would try, but not as hard. And after that crap with Nona... if I knew the risks? No. I'd keep you to myself and consider that just a chapter of my life ended."
  2817. "That's cold."
  2818. >"I don't even know my mom's face. My fondest memories before you involved me stealing stuff that didn't belong to me because it made me happy. I could stop being jealous of someone if I saw them lose things that mattered. Or if I had what they had."
  2819. >She says this rather easy, similarly to how easily you said your piece
  2820. >"I don't want to hurt Jacky... or even Dashie. Not really. But I see how happy she is... and I want to be her. I want to have what she has. That's really all there is to it."
  2821. >She doesn't have an edge to her voice
  2822. >She doesn't sound defeated
  2823. >She's just being honest
  2824. "And lose what you have now?"
  2825. >She watches her bag of half-eaten fries and second burger
  2826. >"I really do have it good now, don't I."
  2827. "I'd say so. You're my best friend. We get to hang out and play stuff that Jacky isn't really interested in. You see a side of me that you enjoy that she doesn't, to whatever extent of her not joining in on it."
  2828. >"I guess that's true."
  2829. "It is."
  2830. >"But I want more."
  2831. "Why?"
  2832. >"Because no matter what I have, I'll only ever still be just me."
  2833. "And I'd sacrifice as much as required for you."
  2834. >That makes her smile
  2835. >"If I were worth that much, I wou-"
  2836. "No matter what you were or weren't worth then, that's what you're worth now."
  2837. >That ends the conversation for a while
  2838. >She finishes her fries and takes her second burger out of her bag
  2839. >"I'll have this later."
  2840. >You finish everything
  2841. >She leans over and rests her head on your arm
  2842. >You don't stop her
  2843. >"Anon."
  2844. "What's up?"
  2845. >"Don't tell them I was weak."
  2846. "Who's weak? That horn isn't for show, not just anyone can speak up like you do."
  2847. >"Gee, where did I learn such a thing."
  2848. "I don't have a clue but you better watch what you learn, or else you'll turn out weird."
  2849. >You finish and start to clean your hands via conveniently plentiful napkins
  2850. >Sparks watches your hands
  2851. >"Can I lick your hand?"
  2852. "See what I said about turning out weird?"
  2853. >A short, single chuckle comes from her
  2854. >"Oh trust me, you think of worse things daily."
  2855. "You know what I'm thinking now?"
  2856. >"No. What?"
  2857. "You wanna get to licking, let's give Bimmy and Jammy a licking they won't forget."
  2859. "Grab that soda!"
  2860. >"No, I need low health for the damage boost."
  2861. "Grab that soda dammit, you're on your last life!"
  2862. >"Then just revive me if I die!"
  2863. "I can't, I got two of those bitches on me right now, grab the soda already!"
  2864. >Though the first two runs were fun, and gotten by with little risk, Double Dragon difficulty was something entirely new
  2865. >Most real fights were massacres, and every health pickup was the difference between victory or bitter defeat
  2866. >And Sparks comes in with the spinning kick, freeing you up!
  2867. >But immediately gets smacked in the back of the head and dies
  2868. >"Revive, you're free!"
  2869. "God damn it pony, if you're leaving me to solo the level again I'm going to slap your ghost."
  2870. >You mash button as fast as you can to bring her back
  2871. "Got it!"
  2872. >She rolls to the side to avoid another slap to the back of the skull
  2873. >You duck
  2874. >And reward the foe's whiff with a flying knee
  2875. >Sparky's character sets up for a high five
  2876. >You hit that shit
  2877. >You both shout with a true sense of accomplishment
  2878. "Gleam!"
  2879. >After every close call, it's celebrated by the two bro protagonists to high five
  2880. >Sometimes it's to split life and prepare for the next segment
  2881. >Sometimes it's just to show off
  2882. >It helps sync you both up too, neither of you are incapable of handling pressure but your stats are more focused on countering while hers is focused on higher damage at lower health
  2883. >Needless to say, she plays too close to the fire and gets downed quicker
  2884. >Bimmy and Jammy went down, with some difficulty
  2885. >The plant boss also went down with a little struggle
  2886. >Now there were only two levels left
  2887. >The graveyard
  2888. >And the final palace
  2889. >With the roadblock of progress cleared away, both of you sigh
  2890. >It's a little taxing on the nerves to focus so much on the highest difficulty
  2891. >You lean back and set down the controller, cracking your fingers
  2892. "So, did you max out any other special moves outside of fireball?"
  2893. >"Lightning strike is almost maxed out... and training wheels is my second highest style now, in case I need to tank. I can aggro if you want with that."
  2894. "Nice. What's your spin kick at?"
  2895. >"Maxed, same as yours."
  2896. >You close your eyes and nod
  2897. >You can hear music in the living room
  2898. >Jack and Dash must be tuning it up
  2899. >More and more of your spare blankets and pillows are being transferred out there, which is fine
  2900. >It looks like a perpetual sleepover out there
  2901. >You feel Sparks putting her head against your arm again
  2902. >She's really not holding back with this sort of thing
  2903. >"What do you wanna play next once we take down Skullmageddon one last time?
  2904. "That's a good question... ever play Resident Evil 5?"
  2905. >"I never played video games before coming here, Anon."
  2906. "...right, silly question. We gotta play that next then."
  2907. >"Is it hard?"
  2908. "There's a harder mode to it."
  2909. >She rubs the side of her face against your arm, either trying to pet you or pet herself with you
  2910. >"This is nice."
  2911. >You finally open your eyes
  2912. "Sparky... should I be concerned about how you're acting?"
  2913. >"No."
  2914. >You glance down at her and she's looking at the TV
  2915. "Should I think there's any ulterior motive to this?"
  2916. >"Nope."
  2917. "...does this have any connection to how you sleep and leave parts of yourself visible?"
  2918. >"Not at all. But you're welcome."
  2919. "It's really not a great idea to do that, by the way."
  2920. >"Jacky doesn't do it though."
  2921. "That doesn't matter."
  2922. >"Don't worry about it, you worry too much."
  2923. >You pull your arm away and stretch
  2924. "You're gonna need a talk with Jacky soon."
  2925. >She huffs and distances herself from you
  2926. >"Well, I'm ready for the next level when you are."
  2927. >This is a bit uncomfortable
  2928. "Sparking."
  2929. >She doesn't look at you
  2930. "This isn't something you need to try to steal or go after."
  2931. >No answer
  2932. "If this is going to be an issue we can hang out there with them until we've cooled off."
  2933. >"Ok, let's go see them."
  2934. >Sparks gets up and walks over your lap
  2935. >Except her back legs give out
  2936. >Making an effort to not look at you, dragging herself from her chest, to her stomach, and hind legs over your lap
  2937. >It looks incredibly awkward but it looks like she's doing it on purpose
  2938. >After crossing over you, she trots into the living room
  2939. >You're really not sure how to proceed with this sort of situation but hopefully this will be for the best
  2940. >You get out of the bed and head to the living room as well
  2941. >You see Jack and Dashie, both sprawled out, head to head and sharing a pillow
  2942. >Going off of the wrappers on the floor and the pleased, almost dazed look in their eyes, they must've entered a food coma
  2943. >Even Dashie looks... unflattering
  2944. >One of her wings is splayed out
  2945. >Sparks, containing some form of spiteful energy, sits herself down with a loud 'oof'
  2946. >Jacky only just now noticed that she was there
  2947. >Doesn't seem like she notices you quite yet
  2948. >"Oh hey... it's Sparky! Hey Sparky!"
  2949. >She slides her head to one side, and knocks it into Dashie's head
  2950. >The pegasus lets out a low moan, her mouth opening
  2951. >"Dashie, Sparky's here!"
  2952. >Dashie does not seem too interested in the situation
  2953. >"Please don't ask me to greet her too... I can't believe I ate all of that so quickly..."
  2954. >When you get closer to the gang, Jacky lets out an enthusiastic gasp
  2955. >"Hey, it's Anon too! We're all together!"
  2956. >Jacky, laying on her back, tries to trot to you with her front legs but stops after a few 'steps'
  2957. >"Anon... why were those burgers so good?"
  2958. >Given what's normally eaten around here, it must be a bit of a system shocker
  2959. "Hey there, Jack Attack. Did you guys like your stuff?"
  2960. >Jacky nods
  2961. >Dashie lets out a warbling 'eugh'
  2962. >Sparks looks at then, then you
  2963. >Her expression is less than friendly
  2964. >"Hey Jacky."
  2965. >"Eh?"
  2966. >Jacky squints and lifts her head just enough to rotate it before letting it fall again
  2967. >"Whassap?"
  2968. >Sparks looks like she's going to say something less than friendly
  2969. >She looks at you out of the corner of her eye
  2970. >You return the look
  2971. >The two are out of action like it's a full Thanksgiving dinner, now wouldn't be the appropriate time to start anything
  2972. >The unicorn sighs
  2973. >"You should really eat slower. I have a burger left over."
  2974. >"Gimme."
  2975. >Jacky reaches out with her legs and pulls them back, trying to grab
  2976. >Sparks frowns
  2977. >"What? No."
  2978. >"Gimme."
  2979. >The bandanna-clad dork repeats her gesture
  2980. >"No!"
  2981. >"I'm gonna take it from you."
  2982. >Jacky tries to wobble to lay on her stomach but it doesn't go
  2983. >Sparks sputters out something
  2984. >"Screw you, you aren't getting my burger!"
  2985. "Sparks."
  2986. >You finally interject
  2987. >She opens her mouth to speak but the look in her eye says that she might've realized something
  2988. >"...damn it."
  2989. >You finally sit down with them
  2990. >Specifically between Sparks and the other two
  2991. >"Anooooooon..."
  2992. >Jacky burbles out the singular word like it weighted a ton
  2993. "What's up?"
  2994. >"Rub my belly... it's full."
  2995. >You snort and place your hand on her stomach
  2996. >Just the contact alone causes her to deflate
  2997. >"Tha's nice... hey Dashie. You should get a belly rub."
  2998. >Compared to how... classy Dashie's always presented herself, you can see her eyes roll back into her head
  2999. >She tries to speak
  3000. >"E e e u g h . . ."
  3001. >You can see a tiny little bulge in her stomach
  3002. >You can feel a food baby in Jack's stomach too
  3003. >"Spaaaark-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee..."
  3004. >Jacky writhes on the floor, failing to move more than an inch in place
  3005. >Sparks, watching this, glares at you
  3006. >Rather than playing a game, she's watching this play out
  3007. >"Get your belly rubbing on. It makes everything feel so much better..."
  3008. >That makes her eyes widen
  3009. >"'re serious?"
  3010. >"Yeaaaaaahhhsss..."
  3011. >Sparks looks at you
  3012. >You just shrug
  3013. >You had no idea how so much food would affect them
  3014. >It's new type of food, too
  3015. >Maybe it was too much for their first time
  3016. >Before you can question their stomach capacity further, you see Sparks practically roll over like a dog
  3017. >"Oh... yeah. My stomach... totally hurts. Isn't that right Prism?"
  3018. >Dashie lets out another gurgle of a noise
  3019. >The unicorn looks at you expectantly
  3020. >"You heard her, Anon."
  3021. >"You heard me, Anooooooooon."
  3022. >God damn it
  3023. "Alright, sure, whatever."
  3024. >You scoot a bit to reposition and you set your hand on Spark's stomach
  3025. >You sigh and begin to stroke both of their bellies at the same time
  3026. >Gently, almost like trying to row a boat by hand
  3027. >Jacky lets out a heavy sigh, one of her eyes closing
  3028. >"Don't let me eat so much again... I'm seeing stars."
  3029. >The almost trippy easy listening being auto-played on the speakers probably isn't helping her
  3030. >Sparks silently shivers from the petting
  3031. >"...maybe it's a good thing I didn't eat that other burger."
  3032. >She sounds like she could almost be concerned
  3033. "Yeah... it's a learning curve."
  3034. >Good thing you only got everyone two singles
  3035. >You're not sure if this is supposed to make things more or less comfortable but you're sorta stuck here now anyway
  3036. >Compared to Jacky, who's properly KO'd, and Dashie, who's completely down for the count and may need smelling salts if she doesn't stop looking totaled, Sparks is just taking advantage of the situation
  3037. "Hey Jack."
  3038. >"Don't make me talk with my mouth..."
  3039. "...ok, fair enough. Keep your food in your stomach."
  3040. >Your hand moves to pat her stomach but it twitches to a stop
  3041. >Really better now
  3042. >You just decide to keep petting her
  3043. >You pat Spark's chest a few times
  3044. >Not hard
  3045. >But not soft
  3046. "Feeling better?"
  3047. >She looks victorious
  3048. >"So much better."
  3049. >You can hardly believe her
  3050. "Hey Jackolantern... Sparks and I are gonna play some vidya. Are you gonna be alright chilling here?"
  3051. >Jacky stretches, kicking out her legs hard
  3052. >Thankfully there's nothing in range of her
  3053. >Instead of speaking, she nods
  3054. >You glare at Sparks, who's milking this for all it's worth
  3055. "You ready to kick skeleton?"
  3056. >She smiles at you but refuses to answer
  3057. >"Ohhhh maaaan... my tum tums... super hurt. Super full."
  3058. "Oh come off it, nerd."
  3059. >You lift your hand off of her
  3060. >It's almost immediately enveloped in red magic
  3061. >Kinda tingles, actually
  3062. "...hey, leggo my hando."
  3063. >She shakes her head
  3064. >She isn't able to bring it to her, but you aren't able to pull away either
  3065. "Do it or I'll eat your burger."
  3066. >You can hear her voice in your head
  3067. >"She's asking you to do it."
  3068. >Shove off
  3069. >"Five more minutes."
  3070. >No
  3071. >"Five minutes and I'll stop."
  3072. >No
  3073. >"Five minutes and I promise I'll stop being a pain."
  3074. >She isn't being a pain but you aren't really ok with this
  3075. >"Just for the duration of the next song."
  3076. >The songs do seem to be pretty short, outside of the ads
  3077. >You blink hard and shake your head
  3078. >Alright
  3079. >She lets go of your hand and you resume petting her, as you've been doing with Jacky
  3080. >The current tune cuts off to something new
  3081. >You glare at Sparks
  3082. >She's doing something
  3083. >"This is the song that never ends! It just goes on and on my friends!"
  3084. "Really."
  3085. >Sparks smiles even wider than before, puffing out her chest
  3086. "Fucking really."
  3087. >The unicorn closes her eyes and exhales
  3088. >Thankfully you can lean back and look at the clock on your microwave
  3089. >You aren't going to let her cheat with this
  3091. >Saturday
  3092. >Starting Monday will be your new job
  3093. >It all feels normal but you know for sure that the shift in work hours will be a little rough
  3094. >You must've walked around your block twice now, with Jack and Dashie
  3095. >Sparks got into another game and she insisted that you leave her alone or else she'd melt your face
  3096. >You've taken to walking behind the two girls, partially because Dashie asked you for some 'privacy'
  3097. >It's not like you can't decipher what's been going on
  3098. >To an inaudible beat, the pegasus sways her hips as she walks for a few trots, then turns her head to Jack and says something
  3099. >Jacky tries to sway, but it isn't nearly as natural
  3100. >It isn't that she's too stiff about it
  3101. >More like her swaying is uneven, or too hard in one direction that threatens to trip her up
  3102. >You'd comment on that but evidently you're not allowed to speak on the matter
  3103. >But you can still judge
  3104. >And watch
  3105. >You're really not sure what else has been going on in the world outside of watching yellow hips sway
  3106. >It's not a bad thing
  3107. >If she was doing a bad job, you wouldn't be watching
  3108. >No, that'd be a lie
  3109. >You'd still watch, you'd just have more pointers
  3110. >After the fourth circle around the block, you shake your head hard enough to go dizzy for a step
  3111. "So!"
  3112. >You clear your throat to gather your thoughts
  3113. "How'd you two like to go grab some stuff?"
  3114. >The two stop
  3115. >Jacky's content with herself
  3116. >Dashie's glare tells you that she knows you've been staring at them
  3117. >Tough luck sister, you've only really been staring at one
  3118. >"To the store you mean? That'd be awesome! What are we gonna grab?"
  3119. "Buns."
  3120. >A beat passes before you speak more
  3121. >Dashie isn't impressed
  3122. >Jacky's expecting more of an answer
  3123. "I mean... I wanna grab some burger patties and buns. So we can try out our own, rather than do fast food. That'd be cool right? And it's the last time we went out to the store in general and... well, I'd like to see what you want. Gotta mix things up, right?"
  3124. >"We can make our own burgers?! Can we ma-"
  3125. "We aren't going to make so many burgers we pass out and later drag ourselves along the floor."
  3126. >Jacky looks embarrassed
  3127. "...Dash..."
  3128. >Your eyes go to not the earth pony, but the pegasus
  3129. >Her eyes widen for a moment before she politely coughs
  3130. "But... yeah. Eight or ten patties would be more than enough for everyone. Especially if we can do something like fix half today and then half tomorrow. Good way to enjoy the weekend, right? Add in some snacks, drinks, you know."
  3131. >You've never really been that good a shopper
  3132. >Frugality is a virtue but it stifles selection
  3133. >"Y'got your keys already?"
  3134. "Right here, Jackenstein."
  3135. >You pat your left chest pocket
  3136. >Your phone is in the right chest pocket
  3137. >Wallet left pocket
  3138. >You've kept the same things for so long you don't even think about it anymore
  3139. >But you check everything everywhere just to make sure
  3140. "Yeah, I got them."
  3141. >You point at Dashie
  3142. "You fine with sitting back seat?"
  3143. >"Back seat where?"
  3144. >"Anon's car! We aren't gonna walk, we're gonna ride!"
  3145. >She gallops, full force, to the parking lot and stops right behind your car
  3146. >"It's awesome, hurry up!"
  3147. "She's in a good mood."
  3148. >Dashie's response starts with a short scoff
  3149. >"She's always in a good mood."
  3150. "Sure but I can tell this is different."
  3151. >"And how is this different?"
  3152. >She looks you over while walking
  3153. "Well I can see the look in her eye. How much she smiles, or the way her smile's a little lopsided. Tone of her voice, how light or heavy her steps are."
  3154. >She doesn't look like she believes you
  3155. >"You can tell all of that by just glancing at her."
  3156. "Well sure. Can't you?"
  3157. >The conversation ends there
  3158. >Jacky bounds into her seat well enough, already used to the ritual
  3159. >After opening the rear driver door, the Dashie just looks at you
  3160. "Hop up?"
  3161. >"I'm not hopping."
  3162. >"Hop up, Dashie! I know you can do it!"
  3163. >"No!"
  3164. >She doesn't pout
  3165. >But it sure looks similar to one
  3166. "Really?"
  3167. >You're at a loss
  3168. "Want me to... lift you?"
  3169. >She doesn't answer
  3170. "...well alright then."
  3171. >You're not really sure why she's being weird but ok
  3172. >You crouch down and grab her both at chest and flank
  3173. >The grab leads to a shriek and the white horse leaping from the confines of your arms and onto the seat
  3174. >"How dare you?!"
  3175. >Her posh lady mode has been activated fully
  3176. "..what?"
  3177. >"You know well what!"
  3178. "What? I lifted you like how I used to lift my dog. He was a cool guy."
  3179. >"You think I'm a dog now?!"
  3180. >Jacky's confused face says enough
  3181. >She isn't making a scene for kicks
  3182. >She sounds actually angry
  3183. >"Dashie... what's up?"
  3184. >"This... beast of a man thinks he can just grab me!"
  3185. >What is this accent she's trying to pull
  3186. >It isn't some accent you've ever heard before in your life
  3187. >And you've listened to the Jojo dubbed episodes
  3188. "Alright, how should've I gotten you into the car? You weren't going to do it on your own."
  3189. >"You be quiet!"
  3190. >She starts to say something to you but you close the door in her face and mute whatever it is she had to say
  3191. >Ain't she just a bundle of joy
  3192. >You sit in your seat and turn the car on
  3193. >You didn't exactly know why she went off the deep end like that but it sure killed the mood
  3194. >Jacky watches you, and Dashie, but doesn't say anything
  3195. >Dashie doesn't say anything either
  3196. >Hopefully this doesn't last
  3197. >When you park, Jack hops out without much worry
  3198. >Despite your better judgement to leave her there, you open the rear door
  3199. "Coming out?"
  3200. >She looks at you
  3201. >Then at Jacky
  3202. >" me down."
  3203. >Really
  3204. "Really."
  3205. >"...really?"
  3206. >Even Jacky is concerned
  3207. "Why can't you just... jump?"
  3208. >"I do it all the time!"
  3209. >Dashie looks
  3210. >Well it's hard to tell how she looks
  3211. >She looks a little confused
  3212. "Allllright..."
  3213. >You sigh and crouch down, holding out your hands
  3214. "Hooves here."
  3215. >After a moment to contemplate her options, she does so
  3216. >You crouch down further and lean over until she's off-balanced
  3217. "Anytime you're ready."
  3218. >She awkwardly takes a step forward with her hind legs
  3219. >Her hind hooves nearly slide down the side of the seat until they're on the lower frame
  3220. >She looks almost concerned
  3221. >With a bit of a hobbled step, she lets herself onto the asphalt
  3222. >She takes her hooves off of your hands and sputters out something that sounds like a thanks
  3223. >You glance at Jacky with the corner of your eye
  3224. >She purses her lips and returns the glance with a shrug
  3225. >Well alright then
  3226. >You lead the way to the store, keeping a pace where the ponies are to your left
  3227. >Dashie looks like she's regained her poise but this is a very good reminder that you really don't have any clue about who she is
  3228. >Going off of Jacky's reactions, you're kinda wondering what she's thinking
  3229. >You grab a shopping cart and
  3230. >For some reason you get an idea
  3231. "Hey Jack."
  3232. >"Huh?"
  3233. >She looks at you, and the cart
  3234. "...wanna ride in it?"
  3235. >You can see
  3236. >In slow motion
  3237. >That her eyes dilate
  3238. >"...can we do that?"
  3239. "No one's gonna stop us."
  3240. >You crouch and swing down, taking her up in your arms
  3241. >On the continued swing, you stand back up
  3242. >She lets herself be carried by the momentum and kicks off of your arm at the last second
  3243. >She lands in the basket of the cart and sticks the landing!
  3244. >The cart itself doesn't seem pleased but other than it bouncing once or twice, it seems stable and solid
  3245. >"That was awesome! Dashie, you gott-"
  3246. >She looks down at Dashie before cutting herself off
  3247. >", nevermind..."
  3249. >People are getting used to seeing you stroll around with a pony in tow
  3250. >They are not, however, used to you having more than one with you
  3251. >Captain Jacky points to your next destination, wanting to check out everything that catches her eye
  3252. >She didn't really ever show any interest in snacks before, but you ended up getting a half dozen boxes of various snack cakes, a few four-packs of fancy sodas, four bags of chips, a bag of shredded cheese, a pack of flour tortillas, some ice cream and a bunch of bananas
  3253. >Dashie was largely silent, but did agree with most of the items
  3254. >Of course, you still got the hamburger patties and the buns for them
  3255. >With the cart being as full as it is, Jacky went from hopping in the cart to sitting while half-buried in food
  3256. >She seems happy with it though
  3257. >"Hey Dashie, what do you wanna have for dessert?"
  3258. >The pegasus idly glances up to her
  3259. >She looks like she's been on edge
  3260. >You decided against calling attention to it
  3261. >A lot of people have been watching her, just as she's been watching them
  3262. >You really haven't put any thought into her getting...
  3263. >Is 'socialized' the right word?
  3264. >Kinda
  3265. >She isn't some feral beast
  3266. >But other people
  3267. >Humans
  3268. >She's outgunned and outmuscled no matter how you look at it
  3269. "Hey Dashington."
  3270. >She glances at you for a second
  3271. >"Yes?"
  3272. "You're alright... you know that, right?"
  3273. >"I'm not worried about myself."
  3274. >She doesn't sound all that confident
  3275. >Well she surely isn't worried about you
  3276. >"Relax! The worst that could happen is that they ask us to stop taking all of the good stuff!"
  3277. >Jacky chirps out, nuzzling a bag of barbecue chips
  3278. >"Jacky, I'm serious."
  3279. >"I am too! Did you know that these are limited edition?"
  3280. >Dashie's wings twitch and flap once
  3281. >Those almost never move
  3282. >"...are we ready to go yet?"
  3283. >She sounds annoyed
  3284. >But something else too
  3285. "Sure... yeah, we got everything. Right Jack?"
  3286. >"Well, we could really go look at pasta and sauces for..."
  3287. "Yeah, we're done."
  3288. >"Aw..."
  3289. >If there's been one good thing, it's that some of the checkout people are used to seeing Jacky
  3290. >You really haven't gone out with her as much as you should've
  3291. >On the plus side, she's easy to remember
  3292. >How many yellow ponies pop up anyway?
  3293. >"Well hello there, Jenny!"
  3294. >"It's Jacky!"
  3295. >"Right! How we doing today, huh?"
  3296. >The yankee old timer is a pretty neat guy
  3297. >Evidently he grew up around horses
  3298. >Never had one that could speak though
  3299. >He doesn't at all seem to notice Dashie, who's far below eye level
  3300. >"So this is a lot. You guys throwing a party?"
  3301. >"No... but it's a good idea! Anon is gonna make burgers for everyone tonight!"
  3302. >He laughs and points to the wrapped up patties
  3303. >"I see that! Looks like you got enough to feed a dozen of you!"
  3304. >They're causing a bit of a scene with how loud they're being
  3305. >You suppose it's natural, she's pretty rare a sight
  3306. >Hopefully it helps ease the soul sucking burden of working in a grocery store
  3307. >"You know, you should really get a reward card! I see you eyeing the candy, some are free after enough points!"
  3308. >"No way?!"
  3309. >Oh God damn it
  3310. >You are not going to let her get talked into signing up for things
  3311. "Yeah, that's a solid 'no' bossman. I good to swipe?"
  3312. >"Or insert if you got the chip, chief!"
  3313. "Right on."
  3314. >With everything bagged up, including a spare paper bag for Jacky because she wanted one, you head out
  3315. >You double check to make sure that Dashie's with you
  3316. >She is
  3317. >But she really does not look comfortable
  3318. "Y'alright, Dasher?"
  3319. >She doesn't answer until you leave the store
  3320. >Once in the parking lot, her wings shake and flap
  3321. >"...There's a lot of people in there."
  3322. "Sure are."
  3323. >"How do you know they're safe?"
  3324. "What do you mean by that?"
  3325. >She huffs and shakes herself hard from nose to tail
  3326. >Well, whatever
  3327. "So Jack, you really think all of you guys can eat all of this before it goes bad?"
  3328. >"I bet your beard on it, bucko!"
  3329. "Don't bet that of all things."
  3330. >Jacky helps you load up the car
  3331. >Kinda
  3332. >You pass her bags and she sets them down in the trunk
  3333. >Though you have to reiterate that it wouldn't be safe for her to sit back there while driving
  3334. >She bounds out, hooves clopping on the asphalt
  3335. >"Alright, let's go home!"
  3336. >You open the driver side doors and push the cart into the back of a line of carts
  3337. >You see that Jack is fine
  3338. >But Dashie is still just... standing there
  3339. >Staring at the car like it's something out of her reach
  3340. >You stand behind her
  3341. >And watch
  3342. >After a moment too long, you clear your throat
  3343. "Something's up with you and this. The sooner you mention it, the sooner we can go home."
  3344. >She starts to say something
  3345. >But stops herself
  3346. >"...I can't just jump up into there."
  3347. "Why not? Jack's just fine. Sparky's a little... less... agile. But she's able to do it fine enough."
  3348. >"Yes well they're..."
  3349. >Again, she stops herself
  3350. >"Kneel down."
  3351. "What, really?"
  3352. >"Please."
  3353. "Alright, lady. Just don't make a scene again."
  3354. >You take a knee and hold out your palms, creating a three-step Anon ladder that goes from the ground to the seat
  3355. >Step by step, Dashie climbs the manmade stairs until she takes a seat
  3356. "You're welcome."
  3357. >You shut the door and sit yourself in the captain's chair
  3358. >Is Jacky the only normal pony out of the three?
  3359. >"Hey Anon."
  3360. "Ah?"
  3361. >"I think I ate some the plastic wrapped around one of those snack cakes..."
  3362. "How the hell did you sneak one of those?"
  3363. >Nevermind, none of them are normal
  3364. >The trip back home was blissfully short
  3365. >You decided to park in the garage, so it'd be easier to move everything up
  3366. >Jack hops out as soon as you get out of your seat
  3367. >She had been clearing her throat for minutes now, and finally managed to cough up the plastic
  3368. "Nice."
  3369. >"Don't you hate when that happens?"
  3370. "Jacky, I have never once done that!"
  3371. >"There's a first time for everything, Anon! I ain't some plastic manipulating mastermind!"
  3372. "You continue to impress and terrify me. Run upstairs, grab Sparks so she can help us get all of this in one trip."
  3373. >You wait until she kicks open the stairwell door and trots away
  3374. >You really need to teach her restraint
  3375. >With her out of earshot, you open the back door and purse your lips at Dashie
  3376. "Alright, we're gonna talk."
  3377. >"About what?"
  3378. >She's sitting in place
  3379. >She doesn't look like she knows what you're referring to
  3380. "Don't give me that. Why did you spaz out about me picking you up? What's your deal?"
  3381. >She looks uncomfortable
  3382. >She certainly isn't in any favorable position
  3383. >"Don't insult me."
  3384. "What?"
  3385. >"Don't talk to me like I don't know Jacky. I know her better than you ever could."
  3386. "Yeah? Did you know she'd scarf down a snack that's 90% sugar, plastic included?"
  3387. >She tries to answer
  3388. >But she can only really tilt her head
  3389. >"...she... is a mite carefree at times, isn't she."
  3390. "Sometimes. Why are you so bent if I know her in a way you don't?"
  3391. >"Because I'm her best friend. We've been friends our entire lives. And..."
  3392. >She finally looks at you directly
  3393. >"And then I see that she has... you! And she's more friendly with Sparking, to top it off!"
  3394. "Is that supposed to be a bad thing?"
  3395. >"YES!"
  3396. >Her face shifts to an angry snarl
  3397. >But only for the duration of her word
  3398. >She averts her gaze from you and sighs
  3399. >A mournful sigh
  3400. >"We were alone in the world except for each other. It was her and I against everyone else. And she just... moved on without me. She found someone without even asking for my opinion."
  3401. "That someone is right here in front of you."
  3402. >She doesn't answer you
  3403. >"We're supposed to be a team... and she just up and forgot."
  3404. "That doesn't explain your inability to enter or leave a car."
  3405. >"And worst of all, all she talks about is you. Or Sparking. We don't even talk about what we used to."
  3406. "And what sort of life did she lead before?"
  3407. >"One where we were sisters!"
  3408. "And she isn't your sister now, because she has other friends aside from you now? Grow up."
  3409. >You understand her
  3410. >You can almost see part of yourself in her
  3411. >But, because of that, you feel the need to react stronger than you normally would
  3412. "No one's perfect friends here. You haven't really tried being anyone's friend since you got here. Maybe you did when you first popped up but you don't really want to include yourself too much."
  3413. >"Because what you do isn't what we used to do."
  3414. "And what did you do? Steal shit, get caught, and revolve your days around finding more things just to subsist while you put on airs? Jack's happy and... borderline childish levels of happy because I don't remember ever once being so happy and carefree. I don't know why, maybe she wants to be happy, maybe she has everything s he wants. If you got beef with me or you don't like that I know her differently than how you know her, that's your problem. Talk it out with her."
  3415. >Neither you nor her say anything
  3416. "You haven't lost a friend. You never lost your friend. She's just gone through some stuff since you were gone. Maybe she's changed but she's still Jack."
  3417. >She doesn't reply
  3418. >She shakes her head and tries to get out of the car on her own
  3419. >She ends up landing wrong
  3420. >Her front right leg bends too much and the side of her face hits the concrete floor with a thud
  3421. >She really looks sorta frail
  3422. >Sparks is scrawny
  3423. >But looking at Dashie now
  3424. >Her fur must hide her physique
  3425. "I would've helped with that."
  3426. >"You've helped enough, Anon."
  3427. "No such thing, birdbrain. Next time you got an issue with me, let me know. No more of this... prissy temper tantrum shit."
  3428. >"Ugh... you sound like Sparking."
  3429. >She's a bit on the difficult side
  3430. >But you understand her
  3431. >How are you supposed to know if your friends have grown away from you?
  3432. >How could anyone deal with that when they've never had anything else?
  3434. >Sunday
  3435. >Finally
  3436. >More so, it's the start of your new job tomorrow
  3437. >This week felt like this has been going on forever
  3438. >Yesterday was nice at least
  3439. >The last of the burgers were eaten
  3440. >Soda was had
  3441. >As with snacks
  3442. >Thankfully you hid them out of reach and out of view
  3443. >Jacky is laying on your right side, her head on your chest
  3444. >Sparks is laying on your left side, her head on your shoulder
  3445. >Dashie is laying across your legs, her neck draped over your left knee
  3446. >"So Anon. What's it like working so much?"
  3447. >Jacky finally broke the silence
  3448. >She was first to lay with you, then the other two came in
  3449. >Sparks seems to just prefer your left side
  3450. >She's mellowed out, after you asked her about Dashie's temper tantrum
  3451. >Dashie didn't exactly apologize or anything but things calmed down with her
  3452. >There's some YouTube video playing in the living room but you can't hear enough of it to know what it is
  3453. "It's... fun, actually."
  3454. >"Really?"
  3455. "Yeah. If it's work you like, it can be neat. Coworkers can make it fun too."
  3456. >"Are they your friends?"
  3457. "Well not really. I suppose they're not bad guys. But I guess I wouldn't call them friends."
  3458. >Sparks scoffs
  3459. >"How boring."
  3460. "Well it can be boring too. But you learn stuff."
  3461. >"Is it anything worth knowing?"
  3462. "Sometimes. But it can also include learning stuff like... how to talk to people better. How to be a bit more productive and how to multi-task."
  3463. >Jacky lets out a loud 'hmmm'
  3464. >"Should we get jobs?"
  3465. >It would be nice if they could add a few bucks here and there
  3466. "Nah, you guys are fine. Besides, I don't want anything bad happening to you. To any of you."
  3467. >"Is it that dangerous for a pony to get a job?"
  3468. "Well... maybe not. But if something happened, you wouldn't be able to use a cell phone or anything. And while you are strong, you wouldn't be able to fight off someone who really wanted to hurt you."
  3469. >"Oh... well that's true... and it's not like we can just shoot them."
  3470. "Not really. This isn't the wild west anymore."
  3471. >"Boo."
  3472. >Sparks speaks up