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Game Night 14: Celestia Game Night (Part 2)

By twilightgamenight
Created: 2021-07-16 21:31:33
Updated: 2021-01-31 22:11:44
Expiry: Never

  1. >You wake to timid knocking on the bedroom door. Twilight raises her head, peering over your shoulder and trying to blink the sleep from her eyes.
  2. >”Who is that…?” she whispers into your ear, still too asleep to panic fully – the best she can manage is to clutch you tightly.
  3. “Probably Apple Bloom… remember?”
  4. >A quick shake of her head convinces you that no, she does not.
  5. >The light streaming through the window is pale and weak, but enough to show Twilight in all her glory – the black and greys of the night before must have been a simple trick of the light, your princess’s coat is as vibrant as always.
  6. >”Anon…?” a voice calls from the other side of the door. “It’s almost six, Ah should be going now.”
  7. >Six? AM? A quick glance at the alarm clock confirms your worst nightmares.
  8. >Awake. Before the sun is even truly up.
  9. “Let me go talk to her…”
  10. >”What! No!” Twilight scrabbles over you, heading for the door before you can even turn. “Stay in bed – you’re still wearing boxers. No way am I letting a little filly see you like *that*!”
  11. >”Ah am *not* little!” the little Apple yells back, having heard your princess’s words. “Whatever it is, Ah wanna see!”
  12. >Twilight’s head swings back to face you – she rolls her eyes, shaking her head slightly. Silly fillies.
  13. >”’sides, I promised Pinkie Pie Ah’d talk to ‘em before Ah left!”
  14. “Just give me a sec to get dressed!”
  16. >Cutie Mark Crusader Voyeurs is NOT a go, repeat NOT a go.
  17. >Besides, she already has her cutie mark… now it’s just Scootaloo – you hope her parents are helping her cope.
  18. >”I’m going to slip out and get some breakfast going,” Twilight tells you with a smile. “Stay covered for a bit.”
  19. >You nod, burrowing beneath the blanket while she opens the door a hair and slides through.
  20. >”Apple Bloom, why don’t you come help me with breakfast, while…”
  21. >The rest is cut off by the door.
  22. >You hop out of bed, grabbing some items from the basket of clean clothes and pulling them on. But… no shirts – they’re all down the hall where you had hung them to dry in a guest room.
  23. >Carefully, you pop your head out the doorway, looking both ways. Coast is clear – you make a dash for the room and successfully retrieve a clean shirt.
  24. >Properly clothed, you make your way downstairs to the kitchen.
  25. “Anything I can do to help?”
  26. >Twilight stands at the doorway, watching the little Apple’s every movement.
  27. >”No, Ah got this!”
  28. >”Apple Bloom said she normally makes breakfast for AJ and Big Mac,” Twilight shrugs, “She won’t even let *me* help.”
  29. >”Well of *course* not!” the filly exclaims, smiling as she finds the kiwi you bought yesterday. “You’re a princess!”
  30. >Twilight huffs, looking up to you pleadingly. There’s a strange filly making strange breakfast things in her kitchen with strange non-breakfast ingredients – you can understand that feeling.
  31. >Why the hell does Apple Bloom have the peanut butter out…?
  32. “Hey, why don’t you leave that for Twilight and come talk with me?”
  33. >”But Ah’m almost –“
  34. “I thought you wanted to get home soon?”
  35. >The filly pauses, knife hovering above the open jar of peanut butter.
  36. “Well, Ah guess…” Apple Bloom hops off the stool she was standing on. “If you’re sure, princess…?”
  37. >Twilight nods eagerly, swapping places with the little Earth Pony and putting away the jar of peanut butter, preventing whatever heresy the filly had in mind.
  38. “Come on into the game room with me and chat.”
  39. >You gesture for Apple Bloom to follow you – she trots after you in that adorable filly walk, taking a seat at the other end of the sofa when you sit.
  40. “So, last night... can you explain anything?”
  41. >”Ah’m sorry, Ah made a mistake,” she answers, blushing slightly.
  42. “Breaking into Twilight’s castle…?”
  43. >”What!? No! Ah was here in case… in case you didn’t get back fast enough.”
  44. >That makes no sense – Pinkie Pie-ism must be contagious.
  45. “So what was your mistake?”
  46. >”My wish – Ah didn’t think it through,” she mumbles. “Ah’m sorry.”
  47. “What wish?”
  48. >You lean towards her, curious beyond words.
  49. >”Ah wished I could protect everypony,” she moans, slumping over. “*Everypony.*”
  50. “Okaaaaay, but –“
  51. >”But you ain’t a *pony*!”
  52. “But what wish!?”
  53. >Apple Bloom screams at your shout, pulling away from you quickly in surprise.
  54. >”Ah just told you!”
  55. >You bring one hand up to your temple, trying to massage away the growing headache.
  56. “Pretend I don’t know anything about this – when did you make this wish?”
  57. >”When Ah got my cutie mark,” she answers, narrowing her eyes. “Ah wished I could protect everypony and it just appeared!”
  58. “So it represents your determination to guard the ponies of Ponyville?”
  59. >”Ah-ah guess so…?”
  60. “And that’s it?”
  61. >”And then Ah got this book… it only shows up when Ah want it to…”
  62. >Pinkie Pie-ism confirmed for being contagious.
  63. “But you don’t read much, so…”
  64. >”Naw, but Ah do write some, and that’s how it works,” she explains, pulling a book from behind her –
  66. > – and opening it to show you some of what she had written. You recognize some of the words, some of the phrases. You saw them yesterday in the rain. Slowly, you reach over and close the book.
  67. “Apple Bloom, I think –“
  68. >”Ah know, I messed up!” she wails. “If Ah had thought about my wish, instead of makin’ it fast just to save Sweetie Belle, then maybe it would work right on you! But Ah didn’t and Ah’m sorry, but Ah couldn’t wait! You gotta understand –“
  69. “I *really* wish I could, but as far as I know, cutie marks don’t work that way.”
  70. >”They don’t,” Twilight growls, walking in with a bowl of fruit and plate of toast. “I don’t know what does, but suddenly I *really* want to find out.”
  71. “Oh. I was expecting waffles.”
  72. >You were expecting more time alone with Apple Bloom.
  73. >That sounds creepier than you intended.
  74. >”Waffles have to be earned, Anon,” Twilight grumbles, setting down the dishes on the gaming table. “Besides, I thought Apple Bloom was in a rush?”
  75. >The filly nods appreciatively, hopping off the sofa and shuffling over to grab a piece of toast. She frowns, looking at the bread from all sides.
  76. >”Could Ah get some peanut butter for this…?”
  77. >”Uh, sure… I’ll be right back,” Twilight answers, “but don’t you *dare* explain anything to Anon while I’m gone.”
  78. >Your marefriend canters out of the room – you have only seconds until she returns.
  80. >”Ah already did!”
  81. “No, you haven’t. You said you were here in case I didn’t get back in time or something like that – in time for what?”
  83. >Twilight dashes through the doorway, jar of peanut butter and a knife trailing behind wrapped in her magical purple aura. She slams the two items down on the table in front of the filly, breathing heavily.
  84. >”Okay,” she grunts. “Explain. Now.”
  85. >”Thanks you!” Apple Bloom smiles, slathering peanut butter onto her buttered toast. “Ah was here in case Anon didn’t get home in time to save you from the Nightmares. They’re drawn to ponies that… that…”
  86. >The filly’s face twists in uncertainty.
  87. “Go ahead, you can say it – it won’t hurt our feelings.”
  88. >”They’re drawn to ponies that are sad or lonely or angry or just not happy,” she answers before taking a bite of her defiled toast.
  89. >”And what do they do then…?” Twilight prompts.
  90. >”They make things *worse*.”
  91. >”Make things worse?” Twilight repeats back. “How?”
  92. >”They just *do*,” Apple Bloom moans.
  93. >The filly finishes off her heretical toast as you and Twilight exchange looks. Your marefriend slumps down on the sofa next to you, instinctively snuggling up against your hip.
  94. >”Hey Apple Bloom?” The filly’s ears perk up at your princess’s voice. “I forgot to get anything to drink. Think you can bring us some juice?”
  95. >”Shore!”
  96. >The tiny earth pony shuffles off into the kitchen, leaving the two of you alone.
  97. >”What the hell is going on, Anon?” Twilight whispers into your ear. “Is this for real or…?”
  98. “I don’t really know. *Something* going on, but…”
  99. >Twilight sighs, shaking her head gently.
  100. >”I’ve never heard of anything like this… ever. It *can’t* be real!”
  101. >Deep down, you agree with her. But… then again… that’s what you had thought about the ponies when you arrived in Equestria, despite the overwhelming proof otherwise.
  102. “I don’t know, Twilight - *something* shielded me from the rain last night…”
  103. >”You were *soaked* when you got here!”
  104. “Well, it – the spell… failed at the end. She said –“
  105. >Twilight huffs derisively.
  106. >”Illusions.”
  107. “But wouldn’t I still feel the –“
  108. >”Not if it was done right,” Twilight answers before you can even finish your question. “A good illusion spell affects more than just your sight, for a while at least.”
  109. >Okaaaaaaaay… that’s a little disturbing. You’re going to be worrying about everything forever now.
  110. “Do you think someone is intentionally messing with us? Or her? Who could even do that?”
  111. >”Maybe,” she answers slowly, pondering your question. “I guess Trixie could, though it really doesn’t seem her style. But it’s really not that hard…”
  112. “Look, I really doubt –“
  113. >”Doubt what…?” Twilight asks, snuggling against your left side.
  114. >”Yeah, doubt what…?” she also asks, shoving against your right. “Move over, I wanna sit down, too!”
  115. >Two Twilights. Holy shit. Nevermind. Illusions are awesome!
  116. >”The mind can only be tricked for so long,” the original – the real – Twilight tells you, “but if it’s changed up frequently…”
  117. >”Well, if you won’t move darling…” Rarity says, seating herself awkwardly in your lap. “… I’ll just have to sit here, won’t I…?”
  118. “You’ve made your point, Twi.”
  119. >”Good,” your marefriend grins as the phantom pony disappears. “High level illusions like that are used pretty frequently in LARPs – heck, for all we know that’s what she’s doing.”
  120. “I doubt it, she’s not acting like it was a game.”
  121. >”You know what children can be like…” your princess sighs. “Particularly those three…”
  122. “Besides, I know some grown mares that get pretty invested in their games.”
  123. >Twilight giggles as you kiss her forehead.
  124. >”Sorry it too me so long.” The little Apple Bloom trots back in, a tray of glasses balanced carefully on her head. “All Ah could find was apple juice…”
  125. >”I thought you’d prefer that?”
  126. >”Well, it’s alright Ah guess,” Apple Bloom sighs as she slides the tray from her head to the table. “But after a while, it just gets…”
  127. “Repetitive?”
  128. >”Yeah!”
  129. >The filly gulps down her glass quickly, while Twilight and you take time to savor yours.
  130. >”Didja have any more questions, or can Ah go now?” Apple Bloom hops from side to side energetically. “Ah gotta get back to Sweet Apple Acres for my books before school starts.”
  131. “Two – you said you did this to protect Sweetie Belle? From who?”
  132. >”The nightmares!” Apple Bloom exclaims, rolling her eyes. “She won’t fight ‘em no more, and Pinkie Pie doesn’t do it right!”
  133. “Second question – what exactly was your… ‘wish’? Exact words.”
  134. >”Ah wished… ah wished…” the little earth pony pauses for a second, trying to remember exactly what she said “… just what Ah told you earlier – Ah wished Ah could protect everypony.”
  135. >You nod sagely.
  136. “Thanks Apple Bloom. Why don’t you run off now? I’ll give your sister a call so she can meet you at the gate with your school stuff.”
  137. >”Oh, thanks!”
  138. >You leave Twilight deep in thought, escorting the filly downstairs. She’s slumped over in the sofa by the time you return, empty glass on the floor.
  139. >”Apple Bloom really screwed up didn’t she…?” your princess asks, slowly hauling herself upright.
  140. “The ‘everypony’ thing? Yeah, she noticed.”
  141. >”No – ‘could’,” Twilight sighs. “Taking her wish at face value, she *can* protect everypony…”
  142. “… but it doesn’t mean she will. Damn.”
  143. >”Yeah.” Twilight sighs again, flopping herself onto the side of sofa. “Capability is not everything.”
  144. “So… time to round up the usual suspects?”
  145. >Usual suspects meaning Discord, Pinkie Pie, Discord and/or Discord. Also… maybe Discord. But it can’t be – he’s with Celestia, surely that uptight bitch has him on an even shorter leash than she kept you.
  146. >”No, no…” Twilight clutches her head, moaning. “Either this is a game or… No, I need to do some research.”
  147. >Your princess heaves herself to her hooves.
  148. “What about your work for Celestia?”
  149. >”It will just have to wait,” she says reluctantly. “This seems more important.”
  150. “Is it something I could maybe help with…?”
  151. >Twilight grimaces, sucking in air through clinched teeth.
  152. “That’s a no, isn’t it…?”
  153. >”Unless you can read Old Equestrian…?”
  154. “No, I get it…”
  155. >You slump back into the sofa to finish your breakfast.
  156. “I’ll just try to find something else… maybe work on a new project or something.”
  157. >”Or your costume…?”
  158. “Yeah, that could work, too.”
  159. >Twilight walks over to you, laying her head in your lap.
  160. >”It’s nice to feel needed, and I’m sorry I can’t make you feel that way all the time, but…”
  161. “Yeah, I know.”
  162. >You pat her gently.
  163. >”I *do* have a task I would like you to do for me today, if you could,” she says hesitantly, “but you really need to…”
  164. >She drifts off, leaving the rest unspoken, but you know where she was going with it – you’ve been thinking about it yourself.
  165. “I was thinking about calling up AJ and seeing if maybe they could use some help getting their potato crop in before the con.”
  166. >It wouldn’t be permanent, but it would give your life some meaning beyond your princess.
  167. >”Are… are you sure…?”
  168. “No.”
  169. >”Think you could something for me…?”
  170. “Of course.”
  171. >”Could you swing by Scootaloo’s place today and have a talk with her parents?” Twilight asks, peering at you lovingly through her bangs. “See if it’s okay for us to take her to CanterCon with us?”
  172. >You nod in assent – you wanted to talk with the filly anyway to see if she could build on Apple Bloom’s hints. Maybe hit up Rarity’s place before they left – wish her well at least, try to talk to Sweetie Belle if you could. Help them to the station. Ask about this Coco person.
  173. >See if she was serious about not being interested in – you resist the urge to punch your brain for that sudden thought.
  174. >Maybe talk to Rainbow Dash about her character… oh… right…
  175. “I’m afraid Pinkie Pie *may* have set up a social engagement for us –“
  176. >Twilight’s head jerks up, her ears standing rigid.
  177. “– for Tuesday night – she invited Dash over her to watch a… cartoon.”
  178. >”Oh,” Twilight deflates. “Another one of her anime shows? Sure, we could probably all use a break. Which one?”
  179. “Gurren Lagaan.”
  180. >”Haven’t heard of it,” she shrugs. “Any good?”
  181. “You’ll cry the tears of a true man – one who doesn’t die, even if he is killed.”
  182. >”But… I’m not human… or male… and that makes no sense…”
  183. “Doesn’t matter.”
  184. >Twilight snorts, shaking her head at your you-ness.
  185. >”Fine, dork,” she laughs, putting a hoof on your leg. “I need to get to work now.”
  186. >She gives you one last smile before trotting upstairs. With a sigh, you throw yourself to your feet, gathering up the dishes. A few minutes of washing and you’re ready to go out… though…
  187. >Twilight grins appreciatively as you bring up a pitcher of water and fresh glass into her study, along with a plate of crackers.
  188. “Just in case.”
  189. >She laughs at your wink.
  190. “I’ll try to be back to make lunch, but no promises.”
  191. >”Thanks, Anon,” your princess beams at you.
  193. >You reach for your coat as you open the front door –
  194. >Fucksnuggets, it’s still at your place, tossed over the back of a chair. Probably still dripping. And who knows what mischief Pinkie got up to before she left. *If* she left. She seemed to be in an awful big hurry to get you out of your own house yesterday – probably so she could start hanging streamers for a surprise party.
  195. >A surprise party for what, you don’t know. That will be part of the surprise.
  196. >You’ll make Ponka wait and hit up Scoots and her parents first – they’ll probably be home. Their work keeps them in Cloudsdale for weeks on end, so they try to spend all of their free time with their daughter.
  197. >And yet, as you reach their house you begin to second-guess yourself, hesitant to interrupt what little time the family gets to spend together. Even worse, the house before you feels dead and hollow – it just give off the vibe of a building with no life, no spirit.
  198. >Well, it can’t hurt to knock on the door of an empty building, can it?
  199. >You rap your knuckles on the door twice, almost turning to leave without waiting.
  200. >Almost.
  201. >The click of the lock stops you.
  202. >”Hey, Anon,” Scootaloo greets you, pulling the door open just far enough for you to see her red-rimmed eyes.
  203. “Heya, Scoots.”
  204. >You stand in silence, at an impasse with the filly – neither of you want to speak the obvious.
  205. >”They said I could go,” she finally says, hedging the issue. “Dad even wrote a note if you don’t believe me.”
  206. “Nah, you’re coming. Even if they had said no.”
  207. >The little pegasus smiles timidly, not sure how to react – she loves her parents, you know this, but…
  208. >”I wish my pegasus magic worked…”
  209. >… would it be better if she didn’t have parents?
  210. >”… I wish I could fly, or walk on clouds… or just see Cloudsdale without risking my life…”
  211. >Or if her parents *had* allowed one of the Ponyville families to adopt her?
  212. >”… I wish I could live with my parents… or that they cared about me more than their fucking jobs…”
  213. >You kneel down, gathering the little filly in your arms. She crawls eagerly into your grip, the contact with another living soul comforting her more than any words you could say would.
  214. >”… I wish I still had friends, that I didn’t feel so *alone*.”
  215. “We all feel that way, Scootaloo.”
  216. >She looks up at you doubtfully, angrily, as if you were making light of her feelings.
  217. “Do you know how being with Twilight makes me feel?”
  218. >”Loved…?”
  219. “Worthless. If only I could actually help Twilight with her work, if only I wasn’t human, if only… if only… “
  220. >Gently, you scratch between Scootaloo’s ears.
  221. “We can’t be distracted by the what-ifs, should-haves, and if-onlys – we only get one shot at life, we shouldn’t waste it on wishes and regrets. We only get the once chance to do things right.”
  222. >”You say that like it’s easy…” the filly moans, fidgeting in your arms.
  223. “Of course it isn’t – I am *still* trying to get over mine, but I’m trying.”
  224. >The sight of a human comforting a distraught filly draws looks from some of passersby, but most of Ponyville is familiar with you – and even more familiar with Scootaloo.
  225. “I have things to do today – but you’re more than welcome to come along if you like.”
  226. >”No…” the little filly doesn’t even pause to consider it. “I have to get ready for school.”
  227. >She crawls free of you, striding back into her house.
  228. “Maybe I’ll see you after school…?”
  229. >Scootaloo pauses, one hoof raised to kick the door shut.
  230. >”Maybe,” she says quietly. “I doubt it – I need to get ahead on my homework if I’m going to CanterCon.”
  231. “Well, what about tomorrow night? Rainbow Dash is coming over to –“
  232. >”Yes.”
  233. “Yes, what?”
  234. >”I don’t know, but yes.”
  235. >She almost sounds hopeful. Almost.
  236. “What about your homework?”
  237. >The filly shrugs innocently.
  238. >”What time should I come over?”
  239. >Oh gods, is her tail wagging? You think her tail is wagging!
  240. “Dunno – either Aredee or Pinkie Pie will be by to pick you up, okay?”
  241. >”O-okay…” she looks back into her house, frowning at what she sees. “I have to get ready for school now, Anon.”
  242. “Okie dokie, Scoots. Have fun!”
  244. >Sweetie Belle streaks past you as you open the door to Rarity’s shop.
  246. “Hey, wait, I thought – you – were – nevermind… go ahead, run away from me. Everypony does.”
  247. >With an exaggerated huff, the monster known as you slumps into Carousel Boutique.
  248. “Rarity…!?”
  249. >”Oh, yes? Just one second, if you would, please!”
  250. >Her voice is coming from the rearmost room of the shop – her cosplay room. Today… today you side with your better judgment and stand the fuck still, waiting for her to come to you. It isn’t a long wait – Rarity trots out into the main room after only a few minute’s wait, head held high.
  251. >”Terribly sorry about the wait, Anon,” she says with a dip of her head, “I was *just* in the middle of packing several of my unfinished works for travel. They are *so* precarious in this state, I am sure you know how it is…”
  252. >From your days of tabletop wargaming, you surprisingly do know exactly what she means. There’s nothing worse than trying to transport a half-finished model.
  253. “No need to apologize. I was just swinging by to see if there was anything I could do to help – but…”
  254. >You swivel, pointing at the door in confusion.
  255. “… isn’t Sweetie Belle going with you…?”
  256. >”My, how *kind* of you to check on us, but don’t worry – we are taking a later train,” the unicorn says with a wave of a hoof and a bat of her eyelashes. “I would not want her to get behind on her schoolwork, so she is picking up the week’s assignments today.”
  257. “Cool. So. Help?”
  258. >”No, no… I couldn’t possibly let anypony else touch my work at this stage,” she tells you apologetically. “And Crafty Crate will be coming by to load the chests this afternoon.”
  259. “You hired a moving service…? Just how many do you have!?”
  260. >”Well,” Rarity pauses, smiling demurely, “after the Grand Galloping Gala, this *is* my busiest season. I have thirty-four finished costumes, and another seven left to finish up – including yours.”
  261. “Sure there’s nothing I can do to help?”
  262. >”Well… there is *one* thing.” She grins slyly, turning away from you. “Wait right here.”
  263. >This better not lead where you think it’s leading.
  264. >Rarity trots away elegantly with a bounce in her step. Things must be getting better – gone is the exhausted Rarity of the previous days. This Coco pony must be quite the miracle worker.
  265. >Despite of – or perhaps in defiance of – Rarity’s words, you find yourself pacing back and forth nervously. If a horny latex-clad unicorn charges at you… well… you might just have to use your kung fu, and that’s never pretty. Awkward and embarrassing, yes, but never pretty.
  266. >“Okay!” Rarity sings out to you. “Everything is ready – come on back!”
  267. >Cautiously, you walk to the back of the shop, pushing open the half-closed door.
  268. >”I thought you might like a… sneak preview…” you friend grins widely, standing next to… oh.
  269. “Is that… is that …?”
  270. >”Paladin?” Rarity asks with a smile, gesturing to the metal plates covering the only human mannequin in Equestria. “Most of the armor is done – all that remains is the tabard and your robes. Is it to your… satisfaction?”
  271. “Yes! This is amazing!”
  272. >”Any requests for the robes?”
  273. “Whatever is easiest, I guess…?”
  274. >Rarity tuts softly, shaking her head. She sighs and walks away, looking at some of the other costumes she still needs to pack up.
  275. >”Oh, Anonymous, that’s no help at all! Whatever shall I do?”
  276. >She sways unsteadily on her hooves, as if about to swoon.
  277. >”What if I make something not to your liking? I will not have time to make another!”
  278. “Um… ragged?”
  279. >”That *is* a help – what color?”
  280. “Uhhhh… whatever you have extra of?”
  281. >”Neon pink it is!” Rarity declares, grabbing a swatch off a nearby table and holding it up your armor. “Well, it is not ideal, but if it is what you want…”
  282. “Brown. Drab, dull, dirty brown. Ragged. Something that’s been worn constantly, every single day, since the second moon rose.”
  283. >”Perfect!”
  284. >She rears up, planting her forehooves on your chest.
  285. >”And the tabard?”
  286. “Blue, with a pair of crescent moons on it.”
  287. >”Length?”
  288. “That I leave to you.”
  289. >Rarity pouts slightly, giving you a gentle shove.
  290. “No, really. I was thinking floor length –“
  291. >”That. Is. Absurd!” she sneers, dropping to the floor. “*Far* too impractical, not to mention unstylish…”
  292. “And that’s why I’m leaving it to the expert.”
  293. >You give her an innocent shrug, mixing in a shit-eating grin for maximum confusion.
  294. “Well, if you don’t need my help…”
  295. >”One more thing, darling.”
  296. “Yes?”
  297. >”Accessories.”
  298. “Like?”
  299. >”A sword. You will need a sword,” Rarity says with concern. “I’m afraid I don’t *do* swords.”
  300. >Oh, right.
  301. >”Real weapons are banned from CanterCon, of course, but LARPing weapons are acceptable. I suggest you speak with Big Mac and see if he has anything you can borrow.”
  302. >Wait… is this…
  303. >You drop to your knees, screaming into the sky.
  305. >Rarity huffs loudly, spinning away from you.
  306. >”That was neither called for not amusing,” your friend complains as she starts preparing another outfit for travel, “and while I understand your frustration, sometimes that is just how life is.”
  307. “Twilight would have thought it was funny…“
  308. >”Perhaps she would have,” Rarity concedes, still hard at work undressing the mannequin and folding the clothing for travel, “but sometimes, I just do *not* understand what the princess sees in you.”
  309. >You’re already in trouble already, right? What the hell…
  310. “Sooooo… sometimes you do?”
  311. >Rarity pauses, carefully laying down the short red dress she had just stripped off the largest mannequin.
  312. >”Of course I do,” she says bluntly, not looking back to you. “Nopony wants to be alone. Now, do you see the red cape over there?”
  313. >She points to a mannequin wearing your princess’s high-collared cape.
  314. “You mean Twilight’s outfit?”
  315. >”Yes,” Rarity snips, “I finished it last night. Make yourself useful for once and take it with you.”
  316. >For once?
  317. >For once!?
  318. “Yeah, sure thing.”
  319. >You spit the words out, pouting as you make your way to the mannequin and undo the clasp holding the cape on. Carefully, you drape it over a bent arm, trying not to crease the fabric.
  320. >”Oh, no need to be overly cautious,” Rarity chides lightly. “I used fabrics suitable for… for hard wear and travel. It will not wrinkle easily.”
  321. >You pause, sighing.
  322. “I can’t do anything right, can I?”
  323. >”What! No – I mean, no that’s not what I meant,” Rarity panics, tripping over her words. “It’s just… it’s been a r – I’m not in the mood for your –“
  324. >She cuts herself short with a grimace.
  325. “I’m depressed and you’re stressed – neither of us are really at our best right now.”
  326. >”Indeed,” she agrees with a smile, “don’t let the bounce in my step fool you – I am just happy to not be sewing right now.”
  327. “But you love sewing!”
  328. >”I also love ice cream, but too much of that…”
  329. >She lets the sentence drift off.
  330. “Thanks for everything, Rarity.”
  331. >”And you as well, Anon,” she responds. You expect a curtsey or dip of her head – her sudden hug catches you completely off guard. “I truly *do* appreciate your repeated attempts to assist, even if I *have* turned you away every time. If only you could be less…”
  332. “Asshole-ish?”
  333. >Well…” she dips her head apologetically “… I suppose that word works.”
  334. “I prolly won’t see Sweetie Belle before you leave… wish her well for me.”
  335. >”Of course.”
  337. >Despite Rarity’s assurances, you’re worried about hauling your princess’s cape all over town. Too easy it would be damaged or dirtied – instead of traveling back to her place, you head to the Anonshack. It’s abandoned – of course it is. You don’t know why you thought Pinkie Pie would be lying in wait – she would have to be at Sugarcube Corner before the sun rose to get the ovens going and the morning’s pastries started.
  338. >If you didn’t know better, you might suspect the ditzy, flaky Ponka everypony sees is just an act – but no, that bundle of nervous energy really is one of the most productive and responsible citizen of Ponyville, isn’t she…?
  339. >Your coat is dry – properly strung up, not flopped over a chair.
  340. >More impressively, your failed suit of armor is standing in the center of your shack – assembled and… improved upon. Can it really be the same suit…? Even ignoring the new cosmetic details – the scrollwork and filigree and eagle reliefs – it looks larger. Far larger.
  341. >Standing next to it, it looks like the right size to fit you perfectly and yet… and yet… it looks larger than possible, cyclopean in build, yet still sized to fit… you.
  342. >And that clawed gauntlet – that’s new.
  343. “Just what the hell did Pinkie Pie do…?”
  344. >You’re almost afraid to find out – you’re almost afraid to put it on
  345. >Strike that – you *are* afraid to put it on.
  346. >You walk away, laying out Twilight’s cape on your bed – the only flat surface large enough. Even your table would be – well – you look over to it, suddenly unsure. It’s too small, isn’t it?
  347. >A quick glance reassures you that it is – it’s been too long since you’ve really *been* in your own home. You are starting to forget what it’s like – not that you ever really cared.
  348. >It was just a place to pass the time.
  349. >Not too unlike your apartment back in the other world, though it had more… crap. More unfinished projects, more toys to help you pretend you were happy. More gizmos to help you speed through the days to your eventual death.
  350. >You’re not sure which abode is sadder of the two.
  351. >Suddenly exhausted, you slump into one of your chairs. Reluctantly, you look to the pile of junk Pinkie had been playing with the night before, considering tossing it all out like the trash it is.
  352. >Wait… why is your armor still scattered on the ground…?
  353. >You go to stand, bracing your hand on the table – it brushes something, something you hadn’t noticed before in your fugue. A sheet of paper, covered in Pinkie Pie’s oddly neat – though bubbly – writing.
  354. >”Sorry! I couldn’t fix it! Hopefully this works instead!”
  355. “Oh, Ponka… what did you *do*?”
  356. >What can’t she do…?
  357. >In her own way, she’s more terrifying than anything else in this world. At least the villains know limits, even if the rail against them.
  358. >You try to force yourself to your feet, to go on, to do… something, but you have eyes only for the pile of junk. Your failures to so accurately sum up your life.
  359. >Your life to this point.
  360. >A man is no more shackled by his past than he is by the expectations of others, for is that not what your past is? The expectations of a different you? A younger, more foolish you?
  361. >Just like you told Scootaloo, there’s no point going at life full of regret. You only get the once shot at life – making it count is all that matters.
  362. >With a fierce grin, you cast off the shadows of your doubt, of your fear – and stand.
  363. >The room seems brighter somehow, as if you had pulled back the curtains to let the light stream in.
  364. >If you only get one shot – you pat the golden armor’s pauldron – best save it for later. For when it really counts.
  365. >As tempting as it would be to slip into your new armor – new armor that for all you know it could be fully functional power armor – and terrorize the tiny adorable xenos of this world, you resolve to save that little pleasure for later. Like when you’re in Canterlot. Maybe for an audience with Celestia. You laugh your terrible laugh, your semi-villainous chuckle, and leave your home in search of new realms to conquer.
  367. >The road to Sweet Apple Acres is empty – most ponies being at work or tending to their homes – but for once you don’t mind being alone with your thoughts. What is Twilight going to say when she sees that armor? Hell… what will Rarity say…? Pinkie Pie hinted that two other ponies would be dressing as primarchs or something similar – you hope their outfits can come close in quality to what Ponka has provided.
  368. >Even Sweet Apple Acres seems deserted – not an Apple in sight. Of course, there’s only the four of ‘em and the farm *is* a big place – you follow the path up to the farmhouse, figuring it’s your best chance of finding either Applejack or her brother. A slim chance, but still the best.
  369. >You knock on the front door loudly, not feeling particularly hopeful.
  370. >The feeling gets worse when the door is jerked open by Granny Smith. She squints up at you – gods, you hope that’s a squint and she’s not having a stroke.
  371. >”Heya, ‘Non.”
  372. “You know who I am?”
  373. >”Of course Ah do!” she growls, stomping the floor. “My memory’s perfect – how old do you think Ah am!”
  374. “Older than dirt…?”
  375. >”WHAT! No! Ah’m only… only...” Granny Smith grimaces. “Ah’m old ‘nuff that you should be showin’ me some RESPECT, young’un!”
  376. “I was!”
  377. >The oldest Apple scowls at you so hard you start to worry she might explode. Or you might.
  378. >One way or another, spontaneous explosion seems imminent.
  379. >You sure picked a shitty day to not wear power armor.
  380. >”Uh-huh…”
  381. “Sooo… any chance I could talk with Big Mac…?”
  382. >”There’s always a chance.”
  383. “Can you tell me where he is…?”
  384. >”Could.”
  385. “Will you?”
  386. >”Maybe.”
  387. “What if I promise not to poop on any tables…?”
  388. >”You ain’t a minotaur – I ain’t worried ‘bout that none.”
  389. “You know I’m friends with AJ, right?”
  390. >”That girl’s got some mighty *interesting* taste in friends, table-shitter.”
  391. “But! You just said –“
  392. >”Ah know what Ah said.”
  393. “Just how long are you going to haze me?”
  394. >”Until it stops bein’ funny,” Granny Smith says with a crooked smirk. “Now get your ass over to the East Fields afore Ah go get my white robes!”
  395. “It’s been a year!”
  396. >”AND IT’S STILL FUNNY!” she cackles.
  397. >Well, at least she didn’t ask you to –
  398. >”Oh, and bring me back some potatoes for lunch!”
  400. >With a sigh, you point questioningly to your left – Granny Smith shakes her head.
  401. >You point to the right – she nods.
  402. “Thanks.”
  403. >”Oh, no need to thank me,” she responds, still laughing. “It was *my* pleasure!”
  404. >She’s still laughing as you trudge away down the worn path to the East Fields – assuming this *is* the path to the East Fields and Granny wasn’t just fucking with you. Apparently not, since it’s not long before you see Applejack and Big Mac in the distance – AJ sees you and waves.
  405. “Hey there, AJ, heya Big Mac!”
  406. >The stallion dips his head in welcome, still loading up a batch of potatoes into his cart.
  407. “Having fun with your dirt-apples?”
  408. >”Oh, so you *did* ask the princess?” Big Mac drawls as he dumps the last bucket in.
  409. >Or not – that slipped your mind. Oops.
  410. “Yep!”
  411. >”Heya, Anon,” Applejack smiles, rearing up to pat you on the back, “Ah wanna thank you and Twilight for letting Apple Bloom stay at your place when she got caught in the storm. I *told* that filly to be back before –“
  412. “Don’t worry about it.”
  413. >You wave off whatever else the mare was going to say about her sister.
  414. “It caught me by surprise too. Didn’t think it would be *that* heavy.”
  415. >”Still…” she adjusts her hat down to cover her face under the pretense of blocking the sun, but you can still see her blush. “Couldn’t have been ideal for the two of you, a young filly sharin’ your place.”
  416. >Your place – she’s calling it your place – like you and Twi are married or something.
  417. “Don’t worry about it…”
  418. >The words come out hesitantly.
  419. “… there are plenty of empty rooms in *Twilight’s* castle.”
  420. >She frowns, misinterpreting your meaning.
  421. >”Things not going so well…?”
  422. “Everything’s perfect.”
  423. >”Really, sugarcube?” Applejack asks, raising an eyebrow doubtfully.
  424. “Well, as perfect as could be expected.”
  425. >You shrug.
  426. “A little rocky from time to time, but that’s to be expected considering how fast things seem to be going. You know how that is –“
  427. >”Careful there, Anon,” she growls playfully. “Are you implyin’ Ah’m fast?”
  428. >”He’s implyin’ you’ve had coltfriends,” Big Mac chuckles. “Take the compliment, little-miss-work-oriented.”
  429. >”Hey! Ah’ve had coltfriends before!” she retorts angrily. ”Just not since… well… none lately, but I’ve had ‘em!”
  430. >”And *that* is why folks think we’re inbred hicks,” the stallion shakes his head sadly.
  431. >”Well, if you’d just make things official with Cheerilee –“
  432. “Cheerilee!?”
  433. >”We’re movin’ at our own pace,” he answers with a shrug, making the whole wagon shake. “So, Anon – was there a reason you came over – or didja just wanna talk relationship stuff?”
  434. >Oh good, you were worried this was going to get awkward.
  435. “I’m on a fetch quest chain…”
  436. >”Ouch,” the Apples say in unison.
  437. “And right now I need… to take potatoes to Granny Smith and see if I can borrow one of your… one of your…
  438. >”Say it Anon,” Big Mac prompts with a shit-eating grin. “Saaaaay it.”
  439. “One of your boffer swords for the con.”
  440. >”Now that wasn’t so painful, was it?”
  441. “I think I’m dying.”
  442. >”Remember,” Applejack cuts in, “Ah need to borrow your shortsword and one of the daggers for my costume.”
  443. >”Don’t worry, lil’sis, Ah remember,” Big Mac answers with a nod, “Gotta take this load up that way anyhow. Anon, if you’d follow me…?”
  444. >You easily keep pace with the stallion – despite his size and strength he *is* hauling a pretty big cart uphill.
  445. >”Now I just wanna warn you – Ah don’t have many swords.”
  446. “Prefer hammers? You seem like a hammer kinda guy”
  447. >”Naw, neither one o’ those is really the pony way,” he drawls. “Our bodies aren’t made for it. You ever seen a pony fight?”
  448. “Thankfully, no.”
  449. >”It’s mostly kickin’ – a rear up and thrust motion. So most o’ our melee weapons are meant to follow suit. Knives, short swords – things like that, stabbin’ weapons.”
  450. “What about spears? That’s all the royal guard seem to use.”
  451. >”Mhm, spears work too – though they’re used different than you’d think. Rear up and then bring it down with your entire weight. Only weapons we have longer n’ your arm are polearms. Nothin’ else works with our legs.”
  452. “That’ll be just fine – Paladin used an ordinary broadsword – nothing too long.”
  453. >”Paladin?” his body rolls with his heavy chuckle. “Applejack told me about him. Good, Ah think Ah have one you’ll like.”
  454. >Big Mac trods on in content silence. You… you’re not so content. This is weird –
  455. “I think this is the most you’ve ever talked to me.”
  456. >”More n’ Ah’ve talked to anypony this month.”
  457. “Weapons are kinda your thing, aren’t they?”
  458. >”Eeyup.”
  459. >That’s more like it.
  460. >He unshackles himself from the cart outside the farmhouse, leading you inside.
  461. “How did you get into this anyway?”
  462. >”Through AJ. Long ago.”
  463. “That sounds like an… interesting tale.”
  464. >”Eeyup.”
  465. >You hold your mouth, waiting for him to continue. He doesn’t – of course – as he takes you upstairs to his “armory.”
  466. >And what an armory it is – foam weapons line the walls. No… not all of those are foam.
  467. “For such a peaceful zen monk pacifist, you have a shitton of stabby in here.”
  468. >”Eeyup,” he says proudly as you stare in awe.
  469. >He trots in, heading immediately for a blade – one particular blade. It’s foam, you can tell that from the doorway, from the thickness of the blade and the dullness of the color. It was obviously made for the Burrows and Basilisks world - the sword’s guard is a perfect crescent moon, the pommel a cratered full moon.
  470. “You have to tell me where you got that made.”
  471. >”This one?” he asks, lifting the foam weapon from its stand, “or *that* one?”
  472. >He flips his head towards the other wall, where a real sword stands fashioned in the same style.
  473. “Is that real? Or a display piece?”
  474. >”Ah don’t waste my money on junk.”
  475. “I can see that.”
  476. >Big Mac passes the foam sword to you and heads back to the wagon without another word.
  477. >Well, not until Granny Smith jumps out of a linen closet covered in a white bedsheet.
  478. >”Granny!”
  479. >She pauses mid-leap, breaking physics almost as badly as Pinkie Pie.
  480. >”Ah was just havin’ some fun with him is all,” she grumbles, pulling the sheet off.
  481. >”By pretendin’ to be a ghost!?” He shakes his head in irritation – perhaps the closest you’ve ever seen him to having emotions. “Please tell me you didn’t cut eye holes in those…”
  482. >”What! In my good linens! Celestia no!” Granny Smith barks as she folds the sheet up. “And I weren’t no ghost!”
  483. >With a snort, your impromptu bodyguard escorts you free of the house safe from further tomfoolery.
  484. “I was wondering… any chance you could use an extra pair of hands with the harvest?”
  485. >”Ah guess,” Big Mac responds after a second’s thought, “since none of us *have* hands.”
  486. “You know what I meant.”
  487. >He tilts his head in a half-nod.
  488. >“You don’t gotta, you know. You’re welcome to borrow the sword –“
  489. “No, it’s not that. I just want…”
  490. >You sigh, shrugging apologetically as your words fail you.
  491. >”You just wanna do somethin’ different?”
  492. “I want to do *something* that actually matters.”
  493. >Another half-nod.
  494. >“Ah reckon we can find something for you to do.”
  496. >You draw more curious looks than normal, strutting down the street to Twilight’s castle with a boffer sword resting on your shoulder and Twi’s red cape fastened around your neck. The cape is too narrow and too short to fit you properly, and the collar kills your peripheral vision like blinders on a horse, but… hey… it works.
  497. >”Got something fun planned?” one of the random background ponies calls out to you curiously.
  498. “Nope!”
  499. >That just confuses everypony even more, but at least none of them are giving you the oh-shit-he-finally-snapped look.
  500. >Waaaait. There it is.
  502. >You wave Big Mac’s bofferblade in the green stallion’s direction.
  503. >”Oh shit, Anonadouch, did you finally snap!?”
  505. >You play it cool, totally not jumping two feet to the left and raising your mighty blade to strike. It’s spontaneous yoga, that’s all.
  506. >”Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.” Aredee circles around so you can finally see her. Damn collar. “Did you snap? Is this the end?”
  507. “Nah, in my infinite mercy I’ve decided to let everyone live today.”
  508. >”Dude, no. That’s not –“
  509. >She facehoofs angrily, growling at the road.
  510. >”You’ve become one of *them* haven’t you!?”
  511. “A vampire? Um… if you haven’t noticed, it’s broad daylight –“
  512. >”A BOFFER!”
  513. “Oh.”
  514. >You hold out the sword to Dash.
  515. “You mean this?”
  516. >”YES!”
  517. “It’s for one of my costumes – doesn’t it look like the kind of sword Paladin would use?”
  518. >Rainbow Dash takes three… four steps back in rapid succession.
  519. >”Sounds reasonable, but that’s how they get you! And how do you explain the cape!”
  520. “The cape?”
  521. >”TAKE IT OFF!” she yells, timidly reaching for Twi’s cape with her forehooves, as if she were afraid it would steal – “TAKE IT OFF BEFORE IT STEALS YOUR SOUL!”
  522. >Ah, yeah, that. As if she was afraid it would steal her soul.
  523. >It’s your turn to retreat – trying to keep the cloth from your friend’s reach.
  524. “You’re telling me that waaaaay too frequently, Aredee.”
  525. >With a shuddering squawk her cheeks grow as red as the streak in her mane.
  526. >”Only… only twice…” she stutters belligerently. “And that’s not what I meant!”
  527. “Uh-huh… do you have a cruuuuuuuuuuuush?”
  528. >”I HAVE WORK TO DO!” Rainbow Dash roars, rocketing herself into the sky.
  530. >“Y-YEAH!”
  532. >Twilight catches you by surprise – you had expected her to be at work in the study, not lounging on her belly in the game room sofa. She doesn’t notice you, too absorbed by whatever she is reading from your iPad, her body and legs stretched out along the full length of the cushions.
  533. >You unclasp her cape from your shoulders, tossing it onto the table along with the foam sword – even the noise and movement of that doesn’t pull her from her reading, nor does your shadow as you lean over her to see what she’s reading.
  534. >You recognize that line –
  535. “Ave Dominus Nox.”
  536. >She looks up, breathing in sharply in surprise.
  537. >”Oh, welcome back,” Twilight says once she had recovered, not bothering to hide what she was reading – the moment for that was long past, the damage already done.
  538. “Now I see why you didn’t need my help.”
  539. >You lean down further to give your princess a light peck – she meets you halfway.
  540. >”No, just taking a break,” Twilight tells you after reluctantly breaking your embrace, shaking her head just enough to make her mane bounce. “Even princesses are allowed to take breaks.”
  541. “Oh really…?”
  542. >”Mhm! Celestia told me so herself!”
  543. >She scootches back on the sofa, giving you room to sit. You do, legs tired after all the walking you’ve done in the past few hours. The sofa is warm – Twilight was laying here long then she will admit, though the warmth could just be from her belly pressing against your rear.
  544. “When did she say that?”
  545. >”When she caught me reading B&B novels instead of studying.”
  546. >Twilight sticks her tongue out at you, giggling softly.
  547. >”Besides…” she continues after a moment “… I couldn’t find anything. Myths and legends but nothing… nothing even remotely concrete. There are dozens of wish-granting stories, half of which are true! I thought Apple Bloom had learned her lesson from the Heart’s Desire incident, but…”
  548. >Twilight drifts off into a wordless sigh.
  549. “You just don’t have enough to go on, do you?”
  550. >”Truthfully, I was being about as productive reading Blood Reaver.”
  551. >Your princess stretches, yawning loudly.
  552. “No – no! Don’t fall asleep now. Sleepiness is weakness of character, ask anyone!”
  553. >”What!?” Twilight curls around you, wrapping her legs around your midsection. “No it’s not! Besides, I’m not tired.”
  554. >Another yawn shows that for the lie it is.
  555. >”I can’t be tired,” she complains. “I still have… I still have so much to do.”
  556. >She pulls her legs from you, gently massaging her temple.
  557. “Here, let me do that…”
  558. >A happy groan escapes her lips as you gently rub her head, working your way down her neck. Once your hand hits her shoulders, you start over from the top again.
  559. >After the fourth cycle, Twilight gently pats your leg.
  560. >”Up,” she says, giving you another nudge. “Up – I need to get back to work.”
  561. “Really…?”
  562. >”Yeah. Between wasting today and – and last night, I am *really* behind.”
  563. >She sighs and tries to pry herself free – failing, of course.
  564. >It doesn’t help that you lean back, trapping her between you and the sofa.
  565. >”Please…?” she whines. “I need to get at least *one* thing done!”
  566. >Twilight tumbles forward as you stand abruptly, almost falling off the sofa.
  567. “S-sure… I’ll just… something.”
  568. >”Make lunch?” she asks pleadingly. “I’m hungry, but… I wasted too much time. Any chance you could…?”
  569. >You give her a quick nod, assuaging her wariness. She’s not trying to say her time is more important than yours – you understand that.
  570. “Don’t worry, Twi – I get it. It’s just teamwork.”
  571. >”Right,” Twilight hesitantly gives you a smile, “and teamwork is vital to any adventuring party!”
  572. “Or relationship.”
  573. >”Oh… right.”
  574. >You shoo her upstairs and quickly throw together a meal. Nothing fancy, just some asparagus with sautéed mushrooms and onions. Something warm and fast.
  575. >Twi is already smiling when you bring the plates into her study – she could smell it before you even reached the doorway.
  576. “So – what are you working on now?”
  577. >The book she was reading floats up, allowing you to read the title on its spine. Bah, another book on Equestrian law.
  578. >Your princess reads the disappointment on your face clear as day.
  579. >”Sorry,” she sighs. “I know it’s boring – imagine how I feel – but I just don’t have the books I need here for anything else.”
  580. “For researching the wacky wish stuff or for humans?”
  581. >”Either.”
  582. >She waves a foreleg at the books lining the walls.
  583. >”This is all ‘princess stuff’ –” YES, SHE’S USING YOUR TERM! “– and most of the books in the library are fiction. Anything else will have to wait until we’re in Canterlot.”
  584. “And *that* will have to wait until after the con.”
  585. >Her chest heaves with another sigh.
  586. >”I miss my library.” She doesn’t mean the one down the hallway. “I miss all the books – all that knowledge that was lost.”
  587. >Twilight’s head drops to the table, narrowly missing her plate of food.
  588. >”Without it – without being able to look up the answers – is *this* all I’m good for…? Administrata…?”
  589. “You’re also pretty good at eating my cooking.”
  590. >You give her plate a nudge, bumping it into her muzzle.
  591. “Eat up before it gets cold.”
  592. >You begin picking at your own food. Without lifting her head, Twi goes for a limp stalk of asparagus that overhangs the plate – her tongue is just long enough to drag the stalk into her mouth.
  593. “So what if you can’t solve every problem every time? Let somepony else do it from time to time.”
  594. >”But… if I can’t help, what good am I…?”
  595. >You pause, food falling from your fork back to the plate. This conversation is starting to feel like talking to a mirror. Well, not quite – mirrors don’t talk. Usually. There was that one… but it’s not important now. Not when Twilight is feeling like this, not when she’s overlooking something so vital – the big difference between the two of you.
  596. “Twi –“
  597. >You lean forward, resting your elbows on the table.
  598. “– how many times have you saved Equestria?”
  599. >Her head doesn’t exactly leave the table, but she does at least turn it upright – you have her attention now. Even if she is still eating from her plate, one piece at a time, whatever she can reach without moving.
  600. >”That doesn’t mean I can just – just not care,” she finally answers. “I can’t sit around waiting for others to do everything. I mean…”
  601. >She reaches across the table, putting a hoof over your hand.
  602. >“… you don’t. Even if you don’t know what to do, you still *try*. Why else would you be so persistent in trying to help me with my work?”
  603. “It’s not the same – I’ve never saved Equestria.”
  604. >”Not *yet*.”
  605. >You almost choke on the onion in your mouth, spitting it back onto your plate.
  606. “I’m glad you have faith in me.”
  607. >Twilight smiles, though the expression seems… off. It’s genuine, but not quite right. She pulls her hoof back, focusing on her plate.
  608. >”Why wouldn’t I?” she says lovingly, eyes flicking up to peer at you through her bangs. “You’re my Paladin.”
  609. “Except I can’t min/max my way into being useful in real life.”
  610. >”You weren’t particularly useful on the bridge, remember?” she giggles. “All you did there was botch multiple healing spells and then barely survive a few rounds of combat, but at the end of the adventure it was you who saved the day.”
  611. >You stuff your face with food, giving you an excuse to not respond.
  612. >”Durararog was a better fighter, Mercury Flare a better leader, and Mint Julep a *far* better healer.” She pauses, taking another bite of food. “And Spike is a better research assistant, but he’s not my hero – you are.”
  613. >You ponder her words for a while, the two of you finishing your meal in silence. Somehow this conversation started with her insecurities, and ended up focusing on yours – but at least you and she have faith in each other.
  614. >You may not be able to believe in yourself, however you can believe in the Twilight that believes in you.
  615. “Okay my little princess, message received.”
  616. >She smiles as she slurps down the last of her meal.
  617. >”Any plans for the rest of the day?” Twilight asks timidly. “I’m going to be stuck here forEVER trying to get caught up with this…”
  618. >You gather her plate, stacking it on your own empty dish.
  619. “I’ve got a few ideas.”
  620. >”Good!” your princess smiles. “Going to work on your armor?”
  621. “No, Pinkie Pie ‘finished’ it for me.”
  622. >”Oh,” Twilight hisses, scrunching up her muzzle. “I hope she didn’t… use the glitter…”
  623. >You don’t know the story, but you can imagine. You don’t want to imagine, but you can.
  624. “No, actually…”
  625. >You shrug.
  626. “… it’s perfect. As far as I can tell, it’s a real suit of power armor.”
  627. >Twilight groans, facehoofing.
  628. >”This is the Glitter Incident all over again.”
  629. “Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been that bad.”
  630. >She looks up harshly.
  631. >”That’s what we thought at the time. Just – just don’t touch it until I’ve had a chance to look at it, okay?”
  632. “I’ll try, but no promises.”
  633. >An eyebrow raises menacingly.
  634. “It *is* power armor.”
  635. >Your princess sighs, the trail end turning into a chuckle.
  636. >”I can’t blame you, not really,” she says with a slight smile. “If it fit me, I might do the same.”
  637. >She leans back into her chair, taking the opportunity for one more moment of relaxation.
  638. >”What are you going to do instead, since that’s already done?”
  639. “I was thinking of hanging out with Aredee – even monsters are allowed to take breaks once-in-a-while.”
  640. >”That sounds like a good idea,” Twilight concedes reluctantly. “Should I be worried about you spending time with another mare…?”
  641. >She giggles nervously, pulling her book back to where her plate had so recently been.
  642. “You’re concerned about me and Rainbow Dash? Really?”
  643. >”Well… not really,” your marefriend answers, covering her face in embarrassment, “but you two *do* have that horrible tendency to… to...”
  644. “Be stupid?”
  645. >She grins, tilting her head to one side.
  646. >”I didn’t say it.”
  647. >But she thought it, not that you mind – it’s part of the reason you like hanging out with Aredee.
  648. “You could join us, you know – we could all be stupid together!”
  649. >Not sure exactly what Twilight’s snort is supposed to mean, but you *are* pretty sure it’s a no. The laughter and head-shaking confirms it.
  650. >Well now, that uncontrolled giggling is just damn undignified, totally unbecoming of a princess.
  651. >”I think I’ll pass on that,” Twilight tells you once she’s managed to compose herself. “Mistake of a lifetime, I know, but *somehow* I’ll just have to find a way to live with it.”
  653. >It’s Monday – you know where to find your friend. Monday is when the Draft Horse Pub changes out their selection.
  654. >Some ponies think drinking before five is gauche. Some ponies don’t think a stupid clock should tell them when they can or can’t have fun. Aredee… well… she *hates* clocks almost as much as the good Cap’n.
  655. >The weather bulletin doesn’t have any more changes listed for today, so your friend is probably off the clock now, already trying out the first of the new craft beers. If not, she’ll be there soon. The two of you have spent more than one Monday night going through the pub’s new selections until… well…
  656. >You suddenly realize why you and Dash have a reputation for being stupid.
  657. >It’s not like the two of you drink to excess… usually, but sometimes Blue Ribbon brings in a hefty variety and they’re like goddamn pokemon – gotta try ‘em all! That basil beer from last month… damn. Just damn.
  658. >For a pony named Blue Ribbon, he’s got some surprisingly good taste.
  659. >The bar is on the outskirts of town – like damn near everything of interest – on the east side, not too far from Fluttershy’s cottage. Or the Everfree Forest – aka reason #2 you and Aredee have a reputation.
  660. >Even considering the time, the pub is emptier than you expect, making it easy to see the blue pegasus sitting at the bar with her back to you.
  661. >”Howdy, Anon!” Blue Ribbon waves to you from behind the bar. “Want what your friend has?”
  662. >Aredee turns in surprise, almost spilling the mug in her hoof.
  663. >”Why are *you* here!?”
  664. “Is that your first of the day?”
  665. >Blue Ribbon helpfully nods when the pegasus doesn’t answer.
  666. “Yeah, I’ll have one of those, and go ahead and line up the next round – wouldn’t want to fall behind.”
  667. >”Sure thing!”
  668. >The stallion busies himself behind the bar doing… bar stuff, dropping a mug in front of the seat next to your friend and filling two more from a different cask. Rainbow Dash glowers as you seat yourself next to her, taking a sip of the bitter drink.
  669. “Not bad. How many new beers did you get in?”
  670. >”Only seven,” he answers ruefully.
  671. >Seven? Well, you aren’t getting out of here tonight sober, are you?
  672. >”Why are you here?” Rainbow Dash asks again when Blue Ribbon wanders off to serve other ponies. “I was starting to think you were too busy with your new marefriend to hang out.”
  673. “Jealous?”
  674. >She rolls her eyes, giving a slight shake of her head.
  675. >”I don’t have a crush on you,” your friend grumbles, taking another sip.
  676. “Yeah, I know. You just have a tendency to speak before you think. And when you do that – I have to tease you. It’s the law.”
  677. >Dashie angrily scrunches her face as you poke her nose. Ohshit, did you go too far?
  678. >”Well, *yeah*. OBVIOUSLY!” she shouts, loud enough to draw looks from some of the bar’s other patrons. “You don’t have to explain that to *me*.”
  679. >She drains the last of her first mug, setting it aside and going for the second.
  680. “Hey, take it slow, we’ve got six more to go.”
  681. >”Or… we could hurry this up and go do something fun,” she leers.
  682. >You chuckle at her choice of words, eliciting a look akin to The Stare.
  683. “Well, it’s funny because –“
  684. >”Damn, you’re getting to be almost as bad as Fluttershy,” she grumbles, staring you in the eyes as she finishes her beer. “Ugh, that one was shit, just drink it in one go.”
  685. >Gingerly, you take a sip of your second mug. Oh gods – she’s right. What manner of devil would put cumin in beer!? Adding herbs and spices was an okay fad, until now. Now those bastards have gone too far.
  686. >You take her advice, chugging the mug and going back to nursing the first.
  687. >Blue Ribbon grimaces from the far end of the bar – he knows you well enough to know when you didn’t like one of his selections. You don’t blame him, however – not everything can be a winner.
  688. “So, Aredee, what kind of fun did you have in mind?”
  689. >”Iono,” she grunts, waving over Blue Ribbon for the next round. “We could… iono.”
  690. >Dash shrugs as the barpony drops another pair of mugs in front of you.
  691. >”Sorry about that last one,” he whispers. “My uncle suggested it, I shoulda known…”
  692. >He leaves the rest unsaid.
  693. >The two of you sip from your drinks, nodding to each other when you both find this one more to your liking.
  694. >”So… I checked through the core book…”
  695. “Figured out what I’m running?”
  696. >”Fuck no,” she growls, frowning into her drink.
  697. “Wanna know what Twi is running…?”
  698. >Aredee raises an eyebrow in curiosity and twists to face you, leaning sideways against the bar.
  699. >”What…?”
  700. “Artillerist.”
  701. >”Oh, Celestia – I was *worried* we were hosed, but you – you –“ she breaks down laughing, pounding the bar with her hoof. “We’re going to beat you! Artillerists SUCK!”
  702. “Unless they’re funded.”
  703. >She freezes, looking up at you curiously.
  704. >”W-what are you playing…?”
  705. >Is that fear in her voice?
  706. >”Is it a merchant?” Dash moans. “It’s a merchant, isn’t it?”
  707. >You give her your smuggest of smiles.
  708. “Let’s just say that when rocks fall and everyone dies, it wasn’t the DM that did it.”
  709. >”You wouldn’t!” the pegasus hisses, looking at you in awe despite herself. “You wouldn’t *dare*!”
  710. “Not if everypony plays along.”
  711. >Dash scowls – you must look like a pair of theater masks. Really asshole-ish theater masks.
  712. >”Maybe we’ll all just gang up on you,” she grumbles into her beer.
  713. “I doubt it – wanna know the kicker?”
  714. >Aredee grunts softly, raising her mug for another sip. You lean forward, setting aside your mug to cup your hands, whispering into her ear.
  715. “My character is also a representative of the Adventurer’s Union.”
  716. >You sit back, reclaiming your mug for a victory sip.
  717. >”What the hell is that…?” the mare asks suspiciously. “Is that from some obscure splat?”
  718. “Nah, made it up.”
  719. >Rainbow Dash snorts, shaking her head in disbelief as she twists back to face the bar. She hunches over, both forelegs resting on the plank of wood, gripping her mug with both hooves.
  720. >”So who are they supposed to be?”
  721. “Well, you know Mercury Flare’s health insurance…?”
  722. >Your friend cocks her head, tilting it just enough to stare at you.
  723. >”She an adventurer,” Aredee says flatly. “She doesn’t have health insurance.”
  724. “She does now.”
  725. >The pegasus raises one eyebrow, telling you wordlessly to continue this bullshit – it intrigues her.
  726. “It’s also kinda unfair that the party didn’t get any loot, isn’t it…?”
  727. >”Well, that’s kinda your fault, buddy,” she sighs, “are you trying to *buy* Mercury Flare’s loyalty?”
  728. >You fake an insulted gasp.
  729. “I would NEVER. But members of the Union do get certain… perks.”
  730. >She chuckles as you wiggle your eyebrows.
  731. >”Fine, fuck it!” She finishes off her third drink before continuing. “Get my wings back *and* gear? Why not.”
  732. “Whoa, slow down there! Take some time to *enjoy* that beer, why don’t you?”
  733. >Blue Ribbon is already dropping off a fresh pair of mugs – damn attentive barpony and his excellent service.
  734. >”Nah, we don’t have time to waste,” she tells you as you slowly take your next sip.
  735. >Rainbow Dash reaches up with one forehoof, like she’s gesturing to –
  736. >GAH!
  739. >You sputter and cough at the rush of beer – and not all of it made it down your throat. Very little you suspect, from the wetness of your shirt and the dirty look Blue Ribbon is giving Dash.
  740. >”I have to mop the floor far too often on account of you,” he grumbles, heading off to serve a unicorn down the bar.
  741. “Dammit Dash, was that really necessary?”
  742. >”Well, *yeah*,” she shrugs at you, starting on her fourth mug. “You weren’t drinking it fast enough!”
  743. “And now my shirt is soaked!”
  744. >”Darn, it would be a shame if you had to…” she leers at you drunkenly “… take if off.”
  745. “Is that why you did it!?”
  746. >Rainbow Dash nods guiltily, biting her lower lip – you almost fall from your stool in surprise as she leans forward, puckering her lips.
  747. “What the hell, Aredee!?”
  748. >”I just thought…” she mutters, pulling back with downcast eyes. She bites her lip again, harder this time – it looks painful.
  749. “Thought what? That I would cheat on Twi!?”
  750. >”Well, we did…”
  751. “Look, that was a long time ago and I don’t remember any of it! I’m sure it was great –“
  752. >Dash can’t hold it back any longer – she cracks –
  753. > – laughing in your face. In. Your. Face.
  754. >ASSHOLE.
  755. “You pranked me…? You pranked me!”
  756. >”I sure did!” she chuckles, going back to her drink.
  757. “You bitch! You filthy, crusty cunt!”
  758. >”Yep!” She shoves you playfully, almost knocking you from the stool. “And for the record, it wasn’t great. Fun, sure, but not great.”
  759. >You shove her back with one hand.
  760. “I’ll never know if you’re telling the truth about that night, am I? You’re just playing the long game with another one of your pranks.”
  761. >You sigh loudly, giving her another shove for good measure.
  762. >”And what if that *is* the prank…?” your friend asks, chuckling again.
  763. >You slump over, clutching at your head.
  764. “Oh fuck me…”
  765. >”Nah,” Dash answers cruelly. “Like I said, it wasn’t *great*. Size and stamina aren’t everything, you know!”
  766. “One of these days, I’m going to beat the truth out of you.”
  767. >”Ooooh! Kinky!”
  768. “I’m not going to win this, am I?”
  769. >”Beat the prankmaster!?” She happily drains her fourth drink. “Never! You can’t even match me drink-for-drink, *loser*.”
  770. >And there’s her competitive spirit shining through the drunken haze.
  771. “I bet I never even touched you, did I? We finished off our thirteen rounds, stumbled back to my place, passed out – and you just LUCKILY woke first and decided to stage things, didn’t you!”
  772. >”You’ll never know,” Aredee answers smugly, giving you a wink.
  773. “Dammit, I can’t have you pulling this all the time. What if it gets back to Twi?”
  774. >For the first time, Dash stops to think about what she’s doing – you can see the little sparks in her eyes as she realizes the implications. And then she grins.
  775. >Oh fuck.
  776. >You just turned this into a competition with Twilight.
  777. >”Tell you what,” she begins, leaning close to you, “if you can finish your drinks before me, I’ll tell you what really happened.”
  778. “And if you win?”
  779. >”I tell *Twi* what really happened.”
  780. >You look at the nearly full mug in your hand – Dash is ahead by one, can you risk it? She leans closer, grinning wildly, but almost loses her balance, almost falls from the stool – only a frantic flap of her wings keeps her upright. You can feel her breath on your chest – through your shirt, your beer-soaked shirt – she’s that close.
  781. >Hell yeah, you can win this.
  782. >She may be ahead by one, but she’s also had more to drink. With your added size… well…
  783. >Dash is almost at her limit, but you aren’t anywhere close.
  784. >You can win this.
  787. >”You *really* thought I was *that* drunk, Anon?” Rainbow Dash laughter bellows as you carry her out of the Draft Horse Pub slung over your shoulder.
  788. “Yes, yes I did.”
  789. >”WHY!?” she roars in your ear.
  790. “Because I’m pretty sure you *were* that drunk. You certainly are now.”
  791. >”Ehh…” she grunts, shrugging hard enough to smack your head twice – with shoulder AND wing. “May – maybe.”
  792. >The Everfree Forest *is* right there… you wouldn’t even have to walk far.
  793. >Tempting…
  794. “Aredee?”
  795. >You give her a light shake when she fails to respond.
  796. “Aredee!?”
  797. >”WHAT!?”
  798. >At least you have her attention now.
  799. “You know you can’t tell her, right?”
  800. >”Why not?” she yelps as you give her another shake. “I won!”
  801. “Only because of your years of practice on the competitive cum-guzzling circuit.”
  802. >”That and my lack of a gag reflex!” she says with far too much pride.
  803. >She hadn’t even bothered to TASTE it, just poured down three mugs in a row. Disgraceful.
  804. “Really… I don’t care what the truth is – you can’t tell her. Even if nothing happened.”
  805. >Your friend moans loudly, her entire body collapsing into a dead weight on your shoulder.
  806. >”Yeah, I know,” Rainbow Dash sighs piteously. “Well, maaaaaaaaaaaybe I know. Probably. Once I’m sober.”
  807. >The mare grins evilly in your face.
  808. >”But until then, it sounds like fun!”
  809. >You jostle her roughly, bouncing her stomach on your shoulder.
  810. >She moans again, the sound more visceral this time. More painful, even to hear.
  811. >”Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up,” she whispers to herself.
  812. “If you vomit on me, I will tie you up and dump you in the forest.”
  813. >Dash’s hushed chant grows more desperate.
  814. >”Wait – wait!” she calls out after a few more steps. “WAIT!”
  815. >She flops off of your shoulder, landing on her back with all the grace of a drunk, dead crippled kitten. Aaaaaaaand off she goes into the bushes, making noises not worth thinking about.
  816. “I knew it!”
  817. >”I’M NOT THROWING UP!”
  818. “Oh, really? What are you doing then!?”
  819. >”Ummmm… taking a piss…?”
  820. “I don’t hear peeing sounds!”
  821. >Gods, you are so happy you’re basically two steps from the forest – it would be awfully embarrassing to have this conversation if anypony else was around to hear. Even Aredee would… oh… hey now…
  823. >The bush rustles in panic.
  828. >”No, no! I’m fine!” Rainbow Dash screams, bursting from her cover. “Don’t look in there! Everything’s fine!”
  829. >She looks around in a panicked frenzy, head jerking left and right.
  830. >”Fluttershy’s not here,” she snorts, standing a little straighter now. Maybe not sober, but… closer.
  831. “And you’ve got vomit on your muzzle.”
  832. >The two of you stare each other down.
  833. >”Enough pranking for today…?” Dash eventually offers, though she doesn’t look away.
  834. >Perhaps it is time for a truce, you think, but…
  835. “No, not yet.”
  836. >She growls angrily.
  837. “How do you feel about taking a trip to Sweet Apple Acres?”
  838. >”Why?” she asks suspiciously. “What do you have planned?”
  839. “REVENGE!”
  840. >Your outburst startles her – she almost falls back into the bush, into her own – well… you hope it’s only vomit.
  841. “But first, we need to swing by the market and pick up some prunes.”
  842. >”W-what do you have planned!?”
  843. “Don’t worry, it’s not for you.”
  845. >Aredee giggles as she crawls out of the kitchen window, ducking down to join you crouched below the sill.
  846. >”She’s coming!” the mare hisses into your ear with a chuckle. “She’s going to be –“
  847. >The sound of shattering crockery cuts her off.
  848. >“OH CELESTIA DAMN IT!” Granny Smith screeches. “WHO LET SOME MINOTAURS IN HERE!?”
  850. >The sun is just starting to dip when you stumble out of Minty Fresh’s Pizza Palace, box in hand. Your little blue buddy split off in a different direction a while back, but not after further (mis)adventures.
  851. >From now on, it will *always* be the Everpee Forest to you.
  852. >You wouldn’t consider yourself *drunk* as such, not anymore, but your steps home have a certain sotted shamble to them – a sound that Twi apparently picks up on as you tromp your way up the stairs and down the hall to her study. She has already begun clearing the table, anticipating food.
  853. >Glorious food.
  854. >You marefriend rolls her eyes as you drop the box onto the table on only your second attempt, though she does smile.
  855. >Whoooo! She loves you!
  856. >Or she’s happy you brought pizza, but you’re okay with the idea of buying affection with pizza.
  857. >Okay, you might still be a little buzzed. Just a little. Maybe not okay-to-drive buzzed, but that’s fine – there’s nothing for you to drive anyway.
  858. >You flip open the box with a flourish, exposing the half-cheese, half –
  859. >Crap. You ordered that?
  860. >Twi snorts, shaking her head at your stupidity, and then takes one of YOUR slices.
  861. “But… but… but…”
  862. >You can’t seem to sputter any further than that as she begins chowing down, gobbling the pepperoni with a guilty smirk.
  863. >”Ponies *can* eat meat,” she laughs, “it’s just not… the best thing.”
  864. “Yeah, I know.”
  865. >You slump into the empty chair opposite your princess, nabbing a slice from the cheese side.
  866. >REVENGE!
  867. “I just haven’t ever seen *you* do it.”
  868. >Twilight shrugs sheepishly, reaching her next slice – cheese this time.
  869. >”Did you have fun being stupid with Rainbow Dash?”
  870. “UHK YUH!”
  871. >”Swallow first,” she laughs. “Don’t talk with your mouth full!”
  872. >You do.
  873. “Yeah, we had fun.”
  874. >”Good,” your marefriend smiles. “What did you do?”
  875. “Well, I guess you could say we… bit the hand that feeds us.”
  876. >It’s not like you can tell her what REALLY happened.
  877. >”Oh.” She sits back, pulling your iPad from behind a pile of books. “Did you… bite off more than you can chew…?”
  878. “So you found that song, too?”
  879. >Twilight giggles at her own cleverness – you’d almost suspect she’d been at the sauce too if you didn’t know better. Huh, drunk Twi might make for some interesting laws…
  880. >”Well, it certainly seems like the perfect theme song for the two of you,” your marefriend sighs. “She’s told me about some of your… exploits.”
  881. “Don’t listen to Aredee’s lies – I rescued *her* from that deer!”
  882. >”I don’t believe ANY of them!” she barks, chest heaving with laughter. “But they’re quite… amusing. Like that time she – she – nevermind, I don’t think you’re supposed to know about that.”
  883. >Twilight smiles coyly and steals a pepperoni off of the slice of pizza in your hand.
  884. “You seem surprisingly happy with all this.”
  885. >You tried to growl the words angrily, but you’re pretty sure you failed considering Twilight’s reaction is to laugh.
  886. >”Of course it makes me happy,” she giggles, “it makes you happy!”
  887. >She reaches for another slice – her fourth, you think. This is possibly the most you’ve seen her eat in a long time, and you’re certainly doing your part too. Might not be any leftovers tonight.
  888. >”Besides, it’s one of the things I love about you.”
  889. >That you’re stupid? Well, that’s… insulting? Is that the right word? Is it insulting?”
  890. >”You just… just… I don’t know,” Twilight sighs. “Sometimes you just *do* things, you don’t overthink everything like me. It’s like you don’t care about the consequences of your actions.”
  891. “And isn’t that bad…?”
  892. >”No! You do what’s right – even if the results are painful.”
  893. >What you and Aredee did to Granny earlier today was the right thing! Twilight says so!
  894. >”How you act… it looks… fun.”
  895. “W-would you like to be stupid together sometime?”
  896. >She shakes her head reluctantly, happy for the invitation, but...
  897. >”I don’t think I could, it’s just not me,” Twilight says, reaching across the table to grab your hand. “Besides, I don’t need to – hearing the stories is enough.”
  898. >Well, that’s sweet.
  899. >”Like the time you two went ‘adventuring’ in the Everfree Forest…”
  900. “Which time?”
  901. >”When you and she found that carnivorous plant.”
  902. “Eh, I prefer the time when we stopped the zombie apocalypse.”
  903. >”Zombie apocalypse…?” Twilight sighs heavily. “Was that when – ?”
  904. “All those barricades, yeah, sorry. That was us.”
  905. >She laughs quietly, shaking her head in disbelief.
  906. >”Still, my favorite has to be when you pranked Granny Smith by –“
  907. “Wait! That happened today!”
  908. >Twilight raises an eyebrow.
  909. >”Well, Rainbow Dash came by earlier,” she explains, “not long before you came home.”
  910. >Damn, that’s where she went when you ducked into Minty’s!
  911. “Did – did she tell you anything else…?”
  912. >Your marefriend – is she still your marefriend? – smirks evilly.
  913. >”She told me you lost a bet…”
  914. >Fuck.
  915. >”… and that you begged her not to do it...”
  916. >Oh fuck oh fuck.
  917. >”… but a bet is a bet, and you *did* lose…”
  918. >Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.
  919. >”… so she told me…”
  921. >”… that you’re a pussy.”
  922. >FU-whaaaaaa?
  923. “Please tell me that’s all she said…?”
  924. >”I think there may have been some other vulgarities, but I choose not to believe them,” Twilight says with a shrug. “Or… do you mean about the bet?”
  925. >Your marefriend – she has to still be your marefriend, right? Otherwise you’d probably be a loose collection of body parts by now – leans forward, over the table.
  926. >”Don’t worry, Rainbow Dash was bluffing,” she says with a smile – a smile you don’t believe for a second. “She *loves* telling that story – the first time she outpranked a human. I heard about it the day after.”
  927. >Twilight knew – she already knew! She’s known for six months!
  928. “I need to go kill a pony now.”
  929. >”No, you don’t,” Twilight laughs. “Six months ago I would have agreed with you, but…“
  930. “What changed?”
  931. >”I didn’t have a right to be angry – that’s what I told myself over and over. Even if I did, I didn’t know who to be angry at, or why I was angry.”
  932. >She reaches across with her other foreleg, gripping your hand between both hooves.
  933. >”I’m – I’m not saying you don’t have a right to be angry, but why *are* you angry now? Obviously, you don’t care about what really happened or you would have gone to Zecora for help sometime in the past six months, so why now? Is it just because she tricked you?”
  934. “No, we mess with each other all the time – it’s because she involved *you* in this.”
  935. >”Even though I already know?” your marefriend asks incredulously. “Well, I know *something* happened. With Rainbow Dash, who knows that the truth really is?”
  936. “Why didn’t *you* go to Zecora?”
  937. >Twilight’s the only pony in town that could actually use the zebra’s wacky see-the-past potion anyway.
  938. >”What makes you think I want to know what really happened?”
  939. >That’s… a good point. She’s never asked you about any of your prior relationships, never asked how many others you’ve been with, seemingly content knowing that you are with her now. You’d just assumed she was too innocent to think you’d been with anyone previously, but maybe… maybe she doesn’t mind?
  940. >”Besides…” her previously serious expression turns into something that reminds you of Ponka “… if you *had* slept with her, I’m pretty sure you would have caught something.”
  941. “Oh. Good to know.”
  943. >Aaaaaaaaaand you were right – not a slice left.
  944. >You stumble out of Twi’s study with the empty box feeling… well… if not better, then at least better about yourself. And Twilight.
  945. >As you pass the library, you hear… is the phone ringing? The phone is ringing! You swing into the library and reach for the phone, somewhat puzzled by the empty pizza box in your hand. Right – drunk. Cool. You toss the box onto the sidetable and grab the phone. Dammit, who were you going to call? It can’t be Minty’s –
  946. >”Hay princess, you there?”
  947. >Oh, right, the phone was *ringing*.
  948. “I’m a princess, AJ? Nifty, I always wanted to be a princess.”
  949. >Even drunk – no, you’re not drunk, just tired – you’ve got your patented Anon snark! It’s not like you ever really wanted to be a princess. Not really. Not deep down.
  950. >”Oh, Anon – you’ll work, too. Better, actually”
  951. >You throw yourself into your chair, cradling the phone between your shoulder and head.
  952. >”Look, we got a – a problem here. Granny’s ravin’ about minotaurs and insists one of us has to stay up to guard the kitchen.”
  953. >VICTORY!
  954. >”And if Ah stay up all night, there’s no way I can help Big Mac tomorrow. He said you asked about helpin’ out – is that still –“
  955. “Sure.”
  956. >Why not?
  957. ”When?”
  958. >”If you could get here afore sun-up, that’d be nice…?” she pleads.
  959. >You’re fairly certain you can hear Granny Smith in the background. Damn, it’s been hours and she’s still going on about that? All you did was… well… heh. Worth it.
  960. “Okie doke!”
  961. >”And all you’ll have to do is help Big Mac dig up and store the rest of the potatoes, and Ah’ll join ya’ll after a little nap, okay?
  962. “Sounds easy.”
  963. >Sounds backbreaking, but you knew what you were getting into.
  964. >”You sure you can make it here by then?” Applejack asks doubtfully. “Ah know you like to sleep in, and it can’t be easy crawlin’ outta bed these days.”
  965. “I’ll manage – I’m not that old.”
  966. >”Not what Ah meant, sugarcube, but Ah’ll take it. See ya tomorrow?”
  967. “Yeppers!”
  968. >You hang up the phone and stand, stumbling over the – oh, yeaaaaaaaah – that’s right. The empty pizza box. Hrm.
  969. >After an appropriate amount of time debating the issue with yourself, you decide to leave the box there – you’ll deal with it in the morning. Or afternoon. Whichever. Now is the time for sleep. You shuffle back to the study, popping your head in through the open doorway.
  970. “AJ called – she asked me to help out on the farm tomorrow.”
  971. >”That’s nice,” Twilight answers, hunched over yet another book of boring princess stuff. She barely glances up, giving you the slightest of smiles.
  972. “Something about a rampant minotaur infestation.”
  973. >”Again?”
  974. “I need to be there at sunrise.”
  975. >”Well that’s no fun.”
  976. “Any chance you could ask Celestia to put it off for another three or four hours?”
  977. >”Not a chance.”
  978. >The good news is she was listening. The bad news is she was listening.
  979. “That’s a shame. Well, I’ll have to go to bed now then.”
  980. >Twilight looks up with a groan.
  981. >”Sounds good,” she comments. “I’ll be there soon. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
  982. >Twilight smiles wearily – enviously – as you leave.
  983. >In minutes, you are stripped down and in bed, nodding off before you even realize what’s happening. Almost asleep – the only thing keeping you away is the addition of a purple mare at just the wrong – or right – moment. Twilight crawls into bed, climbing over you to nestle in your arms, breaking you out of your near-sleep trance.
  984. >She keeps her back to you, staring out the open window, out at the stars, at the moon just beginning to peek above the horizon.
  985. >”It was Cadance,” she says softly. To your sleep-addled mind, the words make no sense.
  986. “Cadance?”
  987. >”Six months ago. I didn’t know what to do.”
  988. >Your princess flexes and twists, snuggling deep into your chest.
  989. >”It was one thing if you weren’t interested in me because I’m a pony, I could understand that – I really could,” Twilight tries to explain. “I’m not… your kind, not human. But if you were interested in somepony else…? That meant you didn’t like *me*.”
  990. “I like you.”
  991. >”I hoped you did, and that made it worse. I thought you liked me, but not enough. Not even enough for a one-night stand. You seemed to have so much fun with Rainbow Dash – going out and being…”
  992. “Stupid?”
  993. >”That’s when I started drinking more – did you notice…?”
  994. “To dull the pain?”
  995. >”Or make you like me,” she corrects. “Either would have worked – it was win-win.”
  996. “But it didn’t work, did it?”
  997. >”It worked enough – you started hanging out with me more.”
  998. “Because I was worried about you.”
  999. >”You were with me. That was enough.”
  1000. “So… Cadance… how does she play into this? If she told you to do that...”
  1001. >You let the words hang ominously – Princess Pinko might be your third favorite princess, but that won’t save her from a tongue lashing if… if…
  1002. >”No,” Twilight answers with a little laugh. “No, she told me the past doesn’t matter – it’s for regrets and memories. Only the future is important, only hope. I couldn’t spend my life lamenting I didn’t get to you first, not when it doesn’t really matter.”
  1003. >She twists her head sideways to look at you.
  1004. >”It actually doesn’t matter, does it?”
  1005. >Despite her previous claims, she almost sounds surprised at the realization.
  1006. “No – that’s why I never really tried to find out what happened.”
  1007. >Your little princess sighs in relief, her body shrinking in your arms as she lets her worries escape.
  1008. >”But... the truth…” she argues – for form’s sake only.
  1009. “There’s only one truth – the one truth we choose for ourselves. What’s your one truth, Twilight?”
  1010. >”I – I’m happy,” she answers, turning back to face the night sky. “I’m finally happy.”
  1011. “Then does anything else matter?”
  1012. >”I guess not.”
  1013. >Twilight stares into the distance, watching the moon rise, and you watch with her in silence.
  1014. >”Sometimes I worry that Luna might visit my dreams,” she speaks quietly, “that she might see just how selfish my desires truly are.”
  1015. “Wouldn’t she – of all ponies – understand…?”
  1016. >”That worries me more.”
  1017. “Why?”
  1018. >Twilight doesn’t answer immediately – hesitating long enough you begin to think she never will.
  1019. >“Luna knows better than any of us what can happen when we give in.”
  1020. “It’s okay to be selfish sometimes –”
  1021. >”What if I go too far?”
  1022. “That will never happen – I won’t let it.”
  1023. >You gently stroke a hand down the side of her face, but she pulls your arm away, clutching it tightly around her chest.
  1024. “We’ll always be together from now on – I promised, remember?”
  1025. >”I know – I was waiting so long for this,” she sighs happily, “for somepony who could love me.”
  1026. >Your princess wraps her leg around your arm, pulling it tighter, tight enough it must be painful for her.
  1027. “Twilight…? Is something wrong?”
  1028. >”No,” she answers. “I finally have you – that’s all that matters.”
  1030. >Your “gift” kicks in like usual – you snap awake before the alarm can sound. It takes some work, but you manage to free your arm from Twilight’s tangled grip, turning off the alarm before it can wake her.
  1031. >Now you realize what Applejack meant last night – now, just as you catch yourself sliding your arm back around your marefriend, reluctant to leave her warm body. She moans unhappily in her sleep as you slide out of bed, further tempting you to stay, but Applejack is relying on you. And it is your fault.
  1032. >Totally worth it, though.
  1033. >Twilight coos softly as you tuck her back in, planting your pillow firmly against her back. She snuggles into it, pawing feebly for its non-existent arms.
  1034. >You contemplate leaving without letting her know – that *is* why you turned the alarm off, to let your princess get a full night’s sleep – but you can’t bring yourself to do it.
  1035. “Heya, Twi…?”
  1036. >You reach down, giving her shoulder a light shake. A mistake – she catches your hand with her hoof, trying to drag you back in. Twi wakes when you resist, groaning lightly as she tries to blink away the sleepiness in her eyes?
  1037. “Hey Twi –“
  1038. >You let her take your hand then, pulling you down to hug her.
  1039. >”Time to go?” she asks sadly.
  1040. “Afraid so, but I’ll be back.”
  1041. >”I know,” Twilight mumbles sleepily. “You’ll always be back.”
  1042. “Always.”
  1043. >She pats your hand gently before releasing your arm. You stand, but wait for her breathing to become deep and regular again before dressing – it’s… something… to watch your marefriend sleep. Peaceful. You don’t know why, but it is.
  1044. >You’ve wasted too much time – no, wasted isn’t the right word – spent, you’ve spent too much time already and the alarm had already been set as late as you could. You throw on some clothes as quickly as you can, tumbling downstairs as quietly as possible. That is too say, as quietly as someone half asleep and with an inexplicable headache possibly can. You like to think you did pretty well.
  1045. >With a satisfied smile, you head out into the dark.
  1047. >Apple Bloom is waiting for you at the gates to Sweet Apple Acres with an irritated – or worried – frown.
  1048. >“Good morning, Anon!” she squeaks cheerfully – at least she wasn’t annoyed with you, if that’s what you saw on her face.
  1049. ”Morning? Is it really morning….?”
  1050. >”Well, yeah. What else would it be?”
  1051. “Whatever it is, it’s too early…”
  1052. >”Too early?” Big Mac asks in his characteristic lazy drawl. Oh hey, he’s here too. “Aww, hell, if you wanna come back later when the sun is up –“
  1053. >You nod your head eagerly.
  1054. >” – and it’s too hot to think, well, I reckon that’d be fine too,” he grins threateningly. “Just don’t be surprised if all that nekkid skin of yours burns like a witch.”
  1055. >You stop nodding.
  1056. “On second thought, this seems like the ideal time to get started. Never did like the sun much anyway. Evil daystar and all that.”
  1057. >Bane of gamers everywhere, even without that cunt of a princess controlling it.
  1058. >”Thought you’d see it that way,” he chuckles. “Thanks for comin’ to help.”
  1059. “My pleasure. I hope.”
  1061. >The work isn’t too hard – not at first. Your life here has helped in that regard – you wouldn’t call yourself fit, but… fit enough. At first.
  1062. >Big Mac chuckles at the sweat pouring off of you as the sky grows light.
  1063. >”Go sit n’ take a break,” he suggests, attaching himself to the wagon. “I gotta take this load up anyhow.”
  1064. >You wordlessly nod, wiping your face with a handkerchief Apple Bloom had given you before she darted back up to the house to make breakfast. You really hadn’t thought this through, having to use her spare hanky, and one of Granny’s wide-brimmed hats sits over out of the way, for when the sun gets high. You flop down next to it, grimacing as you imagine Rarity’s reaction if she saw you treating the clothes she made for you. Sitting in *dirt*, of all things. Why she never!
  1065. >And your back aches. It’s one thing to walk everywhere – that’s made you relatively thin. Relatively. It’s an altogether different thing to dig potatoes out of the ground before the sun is even peaking over the tops of the nearby apple trees.
  1066. >Perhaps being a productive member of society isn’t worth it after all.
  1067. >You hear the creak of the wagon as Big Mac heads off, leaving you alone with the rising sun.
  1068. >It’s been a while since you’ve actually watched it come up – you used to do it all the time, but that was another life, another world. Not here, where it’s some trick done by the tyrant queen to keep her vassals in line.
  1069. >Still… the colors it’s casting on the clouds are beautiful.
  1070. >And it is night to take a break.
  1071. >But even better to feel productive for once.
  1072. >It’s a novel feeling, one you could enjoy getting used to.
  1073. >If only it wasn’t so much work.
  1074. >You’re still sitting uselessly on your ass when Apple Bloom comes by with breakfast – some juice and bread.
  1075. >No peanut butter! She remembered! Bless her little heretic heart.
  1076. >”Where’d mah brother go?”
  1077. “He’s dumping a load. Stop laughing! A load of potatoes!”
  1078. >Still giggling, the filly turns to leave but you call her back.
  1079. “Gotta get ready for school?”
  1080. >”Nah, Ah already packed my bags.”
  1081. “Sit and watch the sunrise with me?”
  1082. >”Why?” she demands. “It’s just the sun.”
  1083. “Because it’s the start of a new day, and that means a new you.”
  1084. >”Ah guess so.”
  1085. >The filly shrugs, flopping down next to you. She fidgets with endless energy – and exhausted patience – of children everywhere, eyes darting this way and that as things of more interest draw her attention.
  1086. “I’m wasting your time, aren’t I? You must see this every day.”
  1087. >”Naw, Ah don’t usually, because what’s the point?” she grumbles “It’ll just happen again tomorrow.”
  1088. “Let’s hope it continues to do so.”
  1089. >She huffs at your words, climbing back to her hooves.
  1090. >”Ah gotta get on to school Anon. Have fun.”
  1091. “You too.”
  1092. >Her loss.
  1093. >Apple Bloom shuffles off as you continue to watch the sun, nibbling on your breakfast. It has just cleared the trees when Big Mac returns – you’ve rested long enough, time to get back to work.
  1094. >You wouldn’t mind some conversation while you toil, but Big Mac isn’t one for talking much. More importantly, you don’t have the breath to spare.
  1095. >Feeling productive *is* nice, but this is a bit much. You decide that next time you’ll start small. Like data entry or… or… management. Something easy, that doesn’t require so much physical labor.
  1096. >Applejack joins you after three or four days – possibly weeks, honestly it’s hard to keep track of time – the bags under her eyes testament to the night’s vigil.
  1097. “Any minotaurs show up?”
  1098. >The mare shakes her head and yawns.
  1099. >”Naaaaaw, and Ah told her there wouldn’t be,” Applejack sighs, getting straight to work. “Thanks for your help. You can leave if you want – I’m awake so everything –“
  1100. >Another yawn.
  1101. >” – everything should be fine.”
  1102. “I’ll stay, I’ve got nothing better to do.”
  1103. >Also, you’re not sure you can actually make it home – your legs seem pretty close to attempting a coup, and it would be mighty embarrassing to pass out in the middle of Ponyville. That would probably dilute your heroic human status.
  1104. “Might just need to take a break every so often…”
  1105. >The last few words come out as more of a wheeze than any kind of coherent sound, but AJ and her brother get the gist.
  1106. >”Well, with three of us this shouldn’t take too long,” the mare says as cheerfully as possible, stifling yet another yawn. “Wouldn’t mind gettin’ back to bed. Hopefully Granny won’t insist on someone staying up tonight, too.”
  1107. “Hopefully.”
  1108. >Maybe revenge was not totally worth it after all…? You didn’t mean for AJ to suffer, but… oh well. Gotta break some eggs to make an omelet, gotta murder a few puppies if you want Chinese.
  1109. >”And Ah hear you got plans for tonight,” she says after a moment’s pause. “Pinkie Pie’s bringing over some movie or something…?”
  1110. “Yep. Going to join us?”
  1111. >”Ah wanna say no,” she says hesitantly, looking back at the farmhouse, “but last time Ah did that, ya’ll played Space Marines without me.”
  1112. >Applejack sighs, dumping a load of potatoes into the wagon.
  1113. >”Maybe. *If* we finish early enough, *if* Ah get to take a nap first, and *if* Ah don’t have to stay up tonight, then yeah, prolly.”
  1114. “Big Mac?”
  1115. >”Naw, can’t leave Granny alone.”
  1117. >Surprisingly, you manage to stumble back to Twilight’s castle on your own power. You consider just throwing yourself straight into the shower, but it’s been two or three years since you’ve seen your marefriend. You’re quite proud of yourself that in that entire time, you never looked at another mare once. Admittedly, the only mare around was AJ, and you were far too busy to get any looking in, so that’s not much of an accomplishment.
  1118. “Twi!?”
  1119. >”In here!” she yells from the study.
  1120. >Of course that’s where she would be – you blame the exhaustion for not figuring that out on your own.
  1121. >You pop your head in, leaning against the doorframe with both hands to hold you up.
  1122. “Hey, I’m back.”
  1123. >”I guessed that.”
  1124. >Even though a decade has past, Twilight’s just as beautiful as you remembered. Hasn’t aged a day – maybe eight or nine hours, but that’s it. A dirty plate is shoved to the far corner of the table – at least Twilight fed herself while you were at Sweet Apple Acres.
  1125. “I’m… filthy. Going to go shower. Do you know when everypony is showing up?”
  1126. >”Not a clue. You’re the one that set it up, remember?”
  1127. “Well, Pinkie Pie actually –“
  1128. >”Nope – remember the rule!” she shouts gleefully, smirking at you.
  1129. “Yeah, yeah – ‘the pony who lets her do it is the pony whose fault it is.’ I remember.”
  1130. >As if there’s ever any stopping Ponka.
  1131. >With a sigh, you push yourself back into the hallway and give Twilight one last shrug.
  1132. “Guess I better get cleaned up fast, then.”
  1133. >”Guess so.” She sticks her tongue out at you and slides a bookmark into her current volume to mark her place. ”I’ll start setting everything up while you’re in the shower.”
  1134. “Spiffy – I’ll try to be out soon to help, but no promises. It’s a miracle my legs have held me up this long.”
  1135. >”Don’t tell me Earth Ponies are stronger than the mighty human?” she gasps in mock-terror. “What happened to your vaunted human dominance?”
  1136. “Eh, we’re only really better at killin’ and breedin’. Also bombs. We’re GREAT with bombs.”
  1137. >Your marefriend frowns at you, setting aside her book and rising to her hooves.
  1138. >”I think that falls under killing, Anon.”
  1139. >You shrug again, almost falling over – you have to reach out to the wall to steady yourself.
  1140. “Eh, maybe. Gonna go shower now.”
  1141. >Twilight comes out of her study as you stumble off, watching you leave.
  1142. >”You know, I haven’t really seen any evidence of either one,” she calls after you.
  1143. >You pause, leaning heavily against the wall.
  1144. “Give it time – “
  1145. >”What if I don’t want to wait?”
  1146. >You shrug without turning.
  1147. “We’ll see.”
  1148. >Well, at least you have a gun now. Should make it easy enough to kill whoever Twi wants dead.
  1149. >You shuffle into the bedroom, shucking off your sweat-stained clothes and tossing them in –
  1150. >Still no hamper in here. Forgot to do that. Damn.
  1151. >On the floor they go, like you’re some filthy savage.
  1152. >Tomorrow. You’ll do that tomorrow.
  1153. >You walk into the adjoining bathroom and turn on the water – the pipes scream with their customary shriek. You contemplate a nice, long soak, but you really don’t know when Pinkie and everypony will show up. Probably should have coordinated things better – you know Ponka didn’t do it.
  1154. >Twi was right – the one that lets her do it *is* responsible – someone has to curtail the insanity. Eh, whatever. You’ll just send Rainbow Dash out to collect Scootaloo whenever she shows up. You’d like to come up with a more vindictive punishment for her cuntery, but you’re too tired to think of anything reasonable.
  1155. >It lacks the poetic justice of pranking her back, but it will just have to do.
  1156. >You make your shower as quick as you can, not that it’s all that short. Lathering yourself up with Twi’s shampoo still feels silly – you need to get some bar soap or something over here soon. Something that doesn’t make you smell like her.
  1157. >It ruins the effect when you smell it all the time.
  1158. >Your mind wanders as you rinse off, standing in the warm spray. Dimly, you hope it comes back from wherever it’s going, but you don’t expect it. It’s a miracle you remain standing, instead of slumping to the bottom of the tub.
  1159. >”Better get out soon!” your brain cautions from distant lands. “It would be a shame if you fell and cracked your head open!”
  1160. “Thanks brain, I owe you.”
  1161. >Little fucker *is* good for something after all! Who knew?
  1162. >Still, you don’t flip off the water immediately – it takes a few more minutes of turning and stretching and rinsing areas that have already been rinsed three times before you’re ready to get out.
  1163. >As you towel yourself dry, everything seems to snap back into focus.
  1164. “Oh, hey there brain, you’re back.”
  1165. >You can hear loud noises downstairs – either Twi is rearranging the furniture in the game room or… no, there’s no or. Twi’s rearranging furniture in the game room. Probably dragging some extra seating in from another room. The floor is comfortable enough for gaming, but that’s about it. You quickly pull on some clothes and rush downstairs to help, fully aware that Twilight can easily magic around everything, but determined to help anyway.
  1166. >It’s the boyfriend’s duty to do all the heavy lifting and reaching high shelves, right? Even if his marefriend *is* a nigh-omnipotent magical demi-goddess.
  1167. >”WAIT – WAIT – OVER THERE!”
  1168. >Good thing you got fully dressed – Ponka is here.
  1169. >You reach the foot of the stairs in time to see the game room sofa float across the room, surrounded in Twilight’s purple aura. Panko reclines on it, looking seriously at the projection screen somepony set up.
  1170. >”Yeah, here!” she yells at your princess, nodding her head eagerly. “Perfect!”
  1171. >With a tiny grunt, Twilight lets the sofa drop, Pinkie Pie squeaking at the sudden fall.
  1172. >”All ready, ‘Nonny?” the Earth Pony asks. You grunt as she starts eyeing the other two sofas Twi had brought in. “Maaaaaybe a little to the –“
  1173. >”Nope, all done,” your marefriend answers, shoving her friend off of the seat and crawling on. “New law. No furniture can be moved in the homes of royalty after…”
  1174. >She glances to the clock.
  1175. >”… six-thirty. New law. Just made it.”
  1176. >”Awwwwwww,” your friend groans from her place on the floor, lying on her back. “We have a few seconds, maybe you could! – nope, too late. Too late. Nevermind, it’s six-thirty.”
  1177. >You look over the rearranged room – three sofas are now arranged around the round gaming table, facing the screen. Behind them is a projector – a smaller thing than you were expecting. And connected to it is… a laptop…? You shouldn’t be surprised – how else were you expecting to watch an anime from your homeworld? With a crystal ball?
  1178. >With a shrug, you address the more important question, the one that actually matters, the one you’ll actually get a straight answer to.
  1179. “Three sofas…? Who else are we expecting?”
  1180. >”Trixie and Fluttershy,” your marefriend sighs, patting the sofa with her hoof to indicate you should sit. Now. Before she passes another law.
  1181. >All this power is going to her head.
  1182. “Someone needs to go get Scootaloo, too. I invited her this morning. Applejack might… *might* –“
  1183. >”Nope,” Twilight cuts you off with a shake of her head. “She called while you were cleaning up. Gotta stand guard again, and Apple Bloom has too much homework to come over – she’s apparently locked herself in her room.”
  1184. >Your princess pats the sofa cushion again – you’d best get your ass over there before she drags you over.
  1185. “Dang, so Scootaloo might not be able to make it either.”
  1186. >”No, she did!” Ponka chimes in, throwing herself back onto the sofa and snuggling up to your marefriend. She whines as Twi picks her up with her magic and flings her onto the sofa to the left. “Whaaaaaat? *He* wasn’t doing it! Somepony had to!”
  1187. >Both mares stare at you expectantly – it’s not quite The Look, but close enough that you walk your goddamn ass over and sit down next to Twilight.
  1188. “Better?”
  1189. >You loop an arm around Twi’s neck and pull her over to you, smooshing her frowning face into your side.
  1190. >”MHM!” Pinkie Pie answers for your princess, bobbing her head up-and-down.
  1191. >Twilight mumbles something into your chest, wrapping her forelegs around your torso.
  1192. “Good.”
  1193. >You pat her head gently, running your fingers through her mane.
  1194. “Ponka, think you can take care of snacks? I think I’ve been caught in a cuddletrap.”
  1195. >”Sure thing!” she cheers, hopping off her seat and heading towards the kitchen. “I’ll go help Scootaloo!”
  1196. “She’s already here?”
  1197. >Twi pulls away from you slighting – just slightly, taking advantage of your loosened grip to roll her eyes at you.
  1198. >”Weren’t you listening?” your marefriend asks. “Pinkie said Scootaloo made it. I guess she didn’t have as much homework as Apple Bloom.”
  1199. “Yeah, but why is she here? I told her to wait for Pinkie or Rainbow Dash to pick her up.”
  1200. >Besides, if Apple Bloom has too much homework, shouldn’t Scoots be in the same boat? Maybe Scoots got everything finished up early – or she decided to do it in the morning, that’s polly the more likely of the two.
  1201. >”She did wait,” Ponka grins. “I got her on my way here.”
  1202. “But I didn’t tell you I invited her – how did you know?”
  1203. >”I guess we just think alike, ‘Nonny!” she giggles. “I thought Scootaloo would really, really like this show!”
  1204. >Can’t argue with that – it’s one of the reasons you invited her in the first place.
  1205. >You recline back in the sofa, pulling your princess with you, and suddenly remember that these things were not designed with you in mind. Comfortable enough at first, almost at the right angle… but not quite.
  1206. “Wait, Pinkie!”
  1207. >The mare turns back to you, cocking her head to one side questioningly.
  1208. “Toss me that pillow, would you?”
  1209. >”Sure!”
  1210. >She grabs a nearby throw pillow in her teeth and flings it to you with a jerk of her head. You fumble for it with your free arm, but it’s not so easy when you have a mare pressing down on your side. Kinda limits your range of motion a bit. Luckily, it lands within easy reach and you grab it, putting it against the sofa’s side. A few moments of fumbling and lifting and… yeah. This is much more comfortable with a pillow behind you. Why didn’t you do it sooner?
  1211. >”You said this show is good,” Twilight murmurs once you’ve stopped moving around, “but what’s it about?”
  1212. >That’s a good question.
  1213. “It’s about never giving up, about believing in yourself, about rejecting common sense to make the impossible possible.”
  1214. >”OR DRILLS AND RAP!” Pinkie shouts from the kitchen.
  1215. “Or drills and rap. Also giant robots and sunglasses.”
  1217. “Yeah, mostly that.”
  1218. >”Sooo… it’s a show about mammals?” Twi asks skeptically. “Well doesn’t that just sound so *very* exciting.”
  1219. “Twilight, I love you – I really do, but –“
  1220. >”I’m talking heresy again?”
  1221. “Yep.”
  1222. >”I guess I need to find something else to put in my mouth besides my hoof,” Twilight sighs, pushing herself away from you.
  1223. >She sees your raised eyebrow and shoves a forehoof over your mouth before you can speak.
  1224. >”Food, I meant food.”
  1225. “Weren’t satisfied with your lunch?”
  1226. >Twilight looks away, abashed.
  1227. >”I honestly don’t remember what I ate. Just reached into the refrigerator and pulled out something.”
  1228. >Despite your weariness, despite Scootaloo and Pinkie Pie whipping up some snacks, you almost jump up to get something for your princess. The only thing stopping you is… well… her.
  1229. >”No, I’ll get it,” Twi says, pulling you back into the sofa and standing herself. “You’re exhausted. Besides, I need to get up and stretch a little – I’ve spent too much time hunched over a book these past few days.”
  1230. “I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
  1231. >”I never thought I’d say it,” she responds with a frown. “I don’t know how she expects me to get this done in time.”
  1232. >Twilight sighs and flexes her back. After a careful look to make sure you’re safe, she extends her wings so far it looks painful.
  1233. >You think you hear a pop – a very painful pop – but your princess smiles in satisfaction.
  1234. “Feeling better?”
  1235. >”A little.”
  1236. “Want me to steal some food from the kitchen?”
  1237. >You try to rise again, only to be pushed back into your seat yet again.
  1238. >”Stay,” Twi tells you authoritatively – damn near in a Royal Canterlot Voice. “I’ll check on them.”
  1239. >And eat half the snacks on the way back. Hell, you haven’t really eaten all day either – you wouldn’t be surprised if the food ran out before Aredee arrives.
  1240. >Darn. You’d just have to send her out to get more.
  1241. >You take advantage of the time alone to get more comfortable on the sofa – long years of practicing doing nothing worthwhile finally comes in handy, helping you find the most comfortable position. By coincidence, that happens to be lying on your back, stretched out the length of the sofa. You still have a great view of the screen, almost as if Pinkie had been planning it.
  1242. >She probably was, in a roundabout way. With your head propped up on a pillow, it’s only slightly lower than a pony’s would be sitting normally.
  1243. >Hell, you can even reach the table from here.
  1244. >Perfect.
  1245. >Except it doesn’t leave room for Twi.
  1246. >Eh, you’ll burn that bridge when you come to it.
  1247. >Scootaloo comes out of the kitchen only a minute or two after your momentous victory over proper posture, gripping the rim of a large bowl of popcorn with her mouth. It’s almost bigger than she is, certainly big enough to keep you satisfied for the first few episodes.
  1248. >So of course she drags it to the sofa on your right and starts munching away without offering you any.
  1249. >Oh well, who needs empty calories anyway?
  1250. >You, that’s who.
  1251. >”Heya, Anon,” the filly spits out between mouthfuls.
  1252. “Glad to see you’re here, Scoots. Didn’t have too much homework?”
  1253. >”Nah,” she answers with a shrug. “I think Miss Cheerilee it taking it light on us this week. She probably doesn’t want to have any stuff to grade over the weekend.”
  1254. >She throws another hoofful of popcorn into her mouth.
  1255. >If you stretch… you *might* be able to reach the bowl with your foot. Maybe grab it with your toes and… spill it everywhere. You decide to be patient.
  1256. “Twi and Ponka kick you out of the kitchen?”
  1257. >”Not a lot of room in there,” she says with a shrug, her little wings rising feebly. “So, how long until we start this, whatever it is?”
  1258. “Whenever Dash and Flutterbutter and Trixie show up, I guess.”
  1259. >The little filly groans as she fumbles around searching for –
  1260. >”DID YOU FORGET YOUR DRINK?” Pinkie screeches from the kitchen. “I THINK YOU FORGOT YOUR DRINK!”
  1261. >”I GUESS SO!”
  1263. >”SURE!”
  1264. >Gee, it sure would be nice if somepony brought *you* something a drink.
  1265. >And some popcorn.
  1266. >Maybe a three-tier chocolate ice cream rum cake.
  1267. >That’s right, Anon – dream big. Dream the impossible dream.
  1268. >”Do we *have* to wait for them?” Scootaloo whines, drawing you out of your pleasant thoughts of supercake.
  1269. “Yeah, but if you’re bored, you can go grab one of Twi’s board games.”
  1270. >”With only two players?” the filly grimaces, pulling herself up and propping her head on the back of the sofa to take a look. “I don’t know…”
  1272. >Scootaloo crawls over the back of the sofa, flopping ungracefully to the floor – her wings flail and try to slow her decent, but without much effect. Still, she lands on her hooves and scampers off to the shelves full of games. Many noises are made as she examines her options – you would love to see the accompanying facial expression, but unfortunately she’s no longer in your line of sight.
  1273. >”What about this one?”
  1274. “Which one? I can’t see it.”
  1275. >”Come here, then!” the filly barks.
  1276. >And leave your perfect spot? Hell no!
  1277. “Just grab Monopoly – that’ll be fine.”
  1278. >There’s a disturbing amount of silence before Scootaloo responds.
  1279. >”I may be a filly, but I can kick your ass if I have to.”
  1280. “Fine, we’ll go with whatever you’re holding!”
  1281. >”But… I’m not holding anything!”
  1282. “The game you asked about – we’ll play it!”
  1285. >”ONLY IN A TIE!”
  1286. “Scoots, whatever you’re looking at, we’ll play it. As long as it isn’t Chaos Marauder.”
  1287. >Ponka always shoots for a tie. Always.
  1288. >”Okay!”
  1289. >She shuffles back to the table, carrying – oh fuck your laziness – Munchkin in her mouth. The filly gently sets it on the table, nudging the box over towards you.
  1290. >”Well?”
  1291. “Are you asking for my approval?”
  1292. >”I’m asking you to shuffle, dork!” She holds up her forehooves. “Kinda hard to shuffle with these things, ya know?”
  1293. “Do I have to sit up?”
  1294. >Scootaloo looks at you dubiously.
  1295. >”Can you shuffle lying on your back like that?”
  1296. “I can try.”
  1297. >The little pegasus opens up the box and passes the decks to you.
  1298. “Played this before?”
  1299. >”Of course! Sometimes Miss Cheerilee brings it to school for us to play during recess.”
  1300. >Best teacher ever.
  1301. >You split the first deck and… and…
  1302. >Okay, this was a mistake.
  1303. >Cards everywhere.
  1304. >Scootaloo rolls her eyes and sighs.
  1305. >”Nevermind.”
  1306. >She starts gathering up the cards, shuffling the stack once she’s recovered them all.
  1307. “See? I knew you could do it if you just put your heart into it!”
  1308. >”Princess!? Your coltfriend is being stupid again!”
  1310. >Scootaloo’s eyes perk up, but one glance at you convinced her that it’s not worth it. Probably the completely apathetic look in your eyes that did it – no amount of booping can stop you now. Her face scrunches in fettered infinite rage as she shuffles the second deck and deals out four sets of cards. She peaks at hers and frowns.
  1311. >”Trial deal,” she grunts, gathering the cards back up and shuffling again.
  1312. >A new set of cards gets dealt – this time she seems a little happier. A little.
  1313. >Much happier after she swaps her cards for someone else’s.
  1314. >She raises an eyebrow at your blank expression – apparently she had expected some kind of reaction from you.
  1315. “What? It’s Munchkin. Seems fair to me.”
  1316. >Scoots smiles at your approval and settles back with her bowl of popcorn, waiting on the two mares to return.
  1317. >While you wait patiently for your popcorn, you reach over and grab the closest set of cards.
  1318. >Not bad – not bad at all. You always did love the Cheat! card, plus you managed to get a pair of mediocre one-use treasures. Should be enough to give you a good start.
  1319. >Still… it’s Munchkin. Good thing you finally found a way to get comfortable in this sofa – you have a feeling you might be sleeping on it tonight.
  1320. >Not through any fault of your own – except your laziness in picking a game. It’s just what Munchkin does – ruins friendships.
  1321. >Ruins lives.
  1322. >Twilight loves the game.
  1323. >You have no clue why.
  1324. >She *is* the Princess of Friendship, so why…?
  1325. >Well, she is also the most socially awkward pony you know who hasn’t *officially* been diagnosed with anything, and that doesn’t scream Princess of Friendship either.
  1326. >”What’s this show really about?” Scootaloo asks, fidgeting with her cards. “It can’t *really* be about sunglasses and drill.”
  1327. “It’s the greatest love story ever told.”
  1328. >”Sounds boring,” the filly sighs.
  1329. “There’s a ton of explosions.”
  1330. >”I’ll try to stay awake.”
  1331. >After a few moments of silence, the filly glances at the decks several times. Eventually, she looks to you questioningly, but you shake your head. No sense mucking things up more than necessary with this game.
  1332. >Scootaloo sinks back down to the cushions, bored out of her mind.
  1333. >And a good thing, too, since Twi and Pinkie come bouncing in seconds later with heaping bowls of popcorn and a tray of… well… they have to be mixed drinks of some kind. No plain fruit juice ever matched those colors.
  1334. >”Here you go!” Pinkie shouts, dropping a pale green drink in front of Scootaloo.
  1335. >Twi starts to hand you a red glass, but pauses, narrowing her eyes and scrunching her face.
  1336. >”Where am I going to sit?”
  1337. “Right here - you lay down behind me all the time. We’re just swapping our usual places.”
  1338. >”Yeah, but I’m a lot…” she looks up and down the length of your body. “A lot *narrower*.”
  1339. “Are you calling me *fat*?”
  1340. >”Don’t listen to her, ‘Nonny!” The words are your only warning before Pinkie jumps onto the sofa, glomping you in her softest deathgrip. ”You’re perfect just the way you are!”
  1341. >Damn, you were just subjected to PFA – Ponk From Above.
  1342. >The mare rests her head on your chest with a happy sigh.
  1343. “Feeling a little cuddly today?”
  1344. >”Maaaaaaaaybe!”
  1345. >”Off. Mine.”
  1346. >Twilight pulls Ponka away from you with her forehooves, casting the earth pony to the floor – the mare keeps rolling with the momentum, coming to a stop at the foot of the empty sofa. She quickly crawls onto the cushions and grabs the closest cards.
  1347. >”Who’s first?” she asks, completely unphased. “Aww nuts, this hand sucks!”
  1348. >Your marefriend looks at the table – at the game set up – and then back to you with a slight smile.
  1349. >”It would be hard to play from there, but I’ll be back,” she leans down and whispers to you. “Keep my spot warm.”
  1350. “Okie dokie!”
  1351. >Twilight flops down next to Scootaloo and grabs the last hand – the first hand the filly had picked up, then abandoned.
  1352. >Are they even called hands? Should they be hooves of cards? Meh, either way you get your meaning across to yourself.
  1353. >At least, you hope so.
  1354. >You’re still trying to figure out what they call the fucking armrests on the sofas. It’s not like you could ask – that’d just make you look stupid.
  1355. >”Soooooo…” Ponka squints, looking around at the other players, “I go first?”
  1356. “Sure.”
  1357. >”Okay.”
  1358. >”Whatever.”
  1359. >She casually drops two cards – ooooh, Ponka is a Pegasus with a Short Stabby Stick, and then –
  1360. >”I KICK DOWN THE DOOR!”
  1362. >Eight rounds, three arguments and one popcorn refill later, Twi is tied with you at level nine, Scootaloo right behind at eight, and Ponka trailing at five.
  1363. >Well, that’s what she gets for pulling ahead early – she was ASKING for all three of you to gang up on her. Maybe not with her words as such, but basically she asked for it.
  1364. “Dammit, should we just go get Rainbow Dash? It’s been an hour?”
  1365. >”Afraid you’re going to lose?” Scootaloo grins, leaning forward to draw her card. Aaaaaaaaand –
  1366. >Cursed! Scootaloo on Your Head.
  1367. >The card used to say chicken, but someone got to it with a marker and made a few… alterations.
  1368. >The filly grimaces at the card – for a second there, you think she’s going to ball it up and throw it away, but she eventually drops it in front of her with the rest of her face-up cards. A glance at your princess confirms your suspicions – she’s doing her best not to giggle.
  1369. >Damn, friendship sure can be cruel sometimes.
  1370. >”Who told you?” Scootaloo asks Twilight, rounding on her. “Was it Apple Bloom? Sweetie Belle?”
  1371. >”It… was… was…” Your marefriend looks away, studying the ceiling. “It was Luna…?”
  1372. >”Uh-huh, sure it was…”
  1373. “My turn now?”
  1374. >”What? No!” The filly turns back to you, her anger lost to the distraction of your question. “I still get to loot the room!”
  1375. “Loot away.”
  1376. >You wave a hand in roughly the direction of the right deck – Scootaloo grabs the top card and looks at it, then nods to you.
  1377. >”Your go.”
  1378. >You grin.
  1379. “Ready to lose, Twi? I’m about to win this.”
  1380. >”We’ll see,” she grumbles into her fanned out cards, peering over them at you. “Give it your best shot…”
  1381. “Oh, I will. Ponka, if you would please…?”
  1382. >The Earth Pony grabs the top card of the dungeon deck, holding it aloft.
  1383. “Thank you. I now… KICK OPEN THE DOOR!”
  1384. >She slams the card into the table – a monster, exactly what you were hoping for.
  1385. >Well, not exactly – it looks kind of intimidating.
  1386. >As intimidating as a card named “The Moon Mare” can be.
  1387. >All you can really say is that’s a really high level and a heck of a lot of plot showing.
  1388. >But, hey – you can take it. It even grants two levels if you beat it, and you only need one.
  1389. “Anypony feel like helping me with this monster…? I’ll give you aaaaall the treasuuuure!”
  1390. >”NO!” the three shout in unison.
  1391. >That’s fine, you don’t need them.
  1392. >You can win this.
  1395. >Actually, that’s kind of obvious – Twi, Scoots, and Ponk dropped every single-use item they could against you, cursed your gear, boosted the monster, and generally dicked you over in ways even *you* thought were cruel.
  1396. >But you still have your ace in the hole.
  1397. >You still have your Cheat! card.
  1398. “Well, if that’s how you want to play things…”
  1399. >You slam the card into the table.
  1400. “I play Cheat!”
  1401. >”To use which item?” Twilight asks with a laugh. “It lets you use something you normally couldn’t, but you don’t have *any* left!”
  1402. “Scootaloo… could you read this card aloud for everypony?”
  1403. >You slide the card over to the filly.
  1404. >“Sure… ‘You may have and use any one item that would otherwise be against the rules. Put this card with that item. Discard it when you lose that item.’” She looks at you curiously. “So…?”
  1405. “So hand me the treasure deck – cuz daddy needs a new pair of kneepads!”
  1406. >”What!? No!” Twilight shouts, bringing a hoof down on the deck. “You can’t do that!”
  1407. “Card sure seems to say I can.”
  1408. >”No, you can’t use an item that hasn’t even been drawn yet! It’s against the rules!”
  1409. “Bingo.”
  1410. >She dips her head, reading the card again silently.
  1411. >”Fine…” she moans, shoving the deck over to you. “Get your item.”
  1412. >You grab the deck from the edge of the table and sift through them until… perfect. You throw your ill-gotten treasure onto the table.
  1413. “Kneepads of Allure. When I ask for another player’s help, they can’t refuse.”
  1414. >Your princess facehoofs.
  1415. “Twilight? With all your gear, you can easily defeat this, so you’ll be helping me, okay?”
  1416. >”It’s not like I really have a choice…” she grumbles. “Fine… since I still have all my gear we easily beat it. Any objections?
  1417. >Pinkie Pie holds up her empty hooves. The mare doesn’t even have any cards left to throw at you – she’s already played everything she possibly could to stop you.
  1418. >Scootaloo looks down at the last card in her hand and shrugs.
  1419. >”Wouldn’t make enough of a difference,” she sighs. “You win, Anon.”
  1420. >”No, he doesn’t,” Twilight corrects with a vicious grin.
  1421. “I’m pretty sure I did. I was at level nine and just gained two levels. And first to ten wins, so –“
  1422. >”Right. First to TEN wins,” your soon-to-be ex-marefriend laughs, “and you gained TWO levels. So what does that make you?”
  1423. “Level eleven? Oh, BALLS.”
  1424. >”Bingo!” she laughs again. “Now you have to find a way to LOSE a level before you can win!”
  1425. >“I don’t think that’s how this is supposed to work…” Pinkie Pie says dubiously, digging into the box for the game’s rules pamphlet.
  1426. >”I don’t think that’s how Cheat! is supposed to work,” Twilight answers with a disturbingly wide grin. “But hey, we’re just following the rules, right?”
  1427. >She throws a hoofful of popcorn at you, causing Scootaloo to flinch away from her sudden movement.
  1428. >”Riiiiiiight?” Twilight asks, throwing another hoofful.
  1429. >Scootaloo’s eyes dart between the two of you as she huddles in the corner of her sofa, her mouth trembling like she wants to speak, but…
  1430. “Damn straight!”
  1431. >You return Twilight’s smile with a smirk of your own.
  1432. “I’ll just have to find a way to lose a level. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
  1433. >The filly relaxes, smiling timidly, as you point to your left – to Pinkie.
  1434. “Your turn, Ponka! KICK! OPEN! THAT! DOOR!”
  1435. >The mare smiles earnestly as she lunges forward, flicking the top card of the dungeon deck over.
  1436. >”Oooooooh! Warrior!” The Earth Pony flings her current class card at the discard pile, replacing it with her new shiny.
  1437. >That’s the trick to Munchkin – act like an asshole, but don’t *be* an asshole about it. Take it all in stride.
  1438. >Not everyone can do it – there’s a reason this game has a reputation for ruining friendships. Someponies take it too seriously, too competitively.
  1439. >There’s a reason you don’t play it with Aredee.
  1441. >With you effectively out of the running, barring a lucky curse draw or just the right monster that can actually defeat you and make you lose a level, everypony gangs up on Twi. Your little princess keeps smiling through the deluge of shit you all throw at her.
  1442. >She asked for it and she knows it.
  1443. >Five rounds later, you’re level sixteen and she’s at two.
  1444. >Twilight is drawing the treasure cards from her latest conquest when there is a light knocking at the door – followed by a much louder, much more assertive hammering.
  1445. >”That’s probably Fluttershy and Trixie!” Ponka jumps up, standing on the sofa. “I’ll go –“
  1446. >“No, Anon should,” Twilight suggests, eyes narrowing with mischief.
  1447. “No way – I’m the only one who can catch you at your ‘tricks.’”
  1448. >”Why do I have a feeling you put quote marks around that word?” she stares angrily at you, though the corners of her lips are curled.
  1449. >Twilight is enjoying this – she doesn’t often get an opportunity to be a… well… a bitch.
  1450. “I’ll go,” Scootaloo offers, moving to climb off the sofa, but your princess pulls her back gently.
  1451. >”No, it’s your turn now!” she exclaims. “You can’t go!”
  1452. >”We can just call the game…?” the filly offers, moving to scoop up her cards.
  1453. “Naaaah, you’re so close to winning! Twi should go – her turn is the furthest away, plus she’s out of cards, so she couldn’t interfere with your turn anyway.”
  1454. >”I’ll go!” Ponka shouts again.
  1455. >”No,” Twilight sighs, “Anon’s right. I’ll go – keep playing without me.”
  1456. >Your marefriend slumps off the sofa, trotting quickly downstairs, her steps high and light.
  1457. >She’s enjoying this.
  1458. >Scootaloo watches her careful, speaking only once the princess has left.
  1459. >”We can just call the game. Just tell her I won. Tell her *you* won,” she pleads.
  1460. >”Why!?” Ponka questions, raising an eyebrow. "Getting bored?”
  1461. >The filly looks at you timidly before answering.
  1462. >“I just want them to stop fighting,” she says, eyes downcast.
  1463. “Don’t worry, Scoots. It’ll take more than a game of Munchkin to come between the two of us.”
  1464. >Like a string of failed B&B campaigns.
  1465. >Hell, Munchkin used to be the only game that was safe for the two of you to play – everything else usually ended up breaking down in tears and swearing. But this game? The rules encourage being an asshole.
  1466. >Your little egghead loves it.
  1467. >”But –“
  1468. >”You’re at level nine!” Ponka panics. “We can’t just stop now!”
  1469. >You nod in agreement.
  1470. “She’s right. We can’t just quit and lie about it...”
  1471. >You grin at the little filly.
  1472. “… but we *can* stack the deck.”
  1473. >Ponka smiles as you stretch forward, quickly shuffling through the dungeon deck and sticking a low-level monster on top.
  1474. >Perfect.
  1475. >And perfect timing – Twi comes up the stairs, followed closely by Fluttershy. Trixie trails further behind, oddly without her characteristic hat and cape. The absence makes her look naked.
  1476. >Well, she *is* naked, but that’s not the point.
  1477. >“Whose turn is it?” Twi asks, settling down next to Scootaloo.
  1478. “Still Scootaloo’s. We decided to wait for you.”
  1479. >You pull yourself up off the sofa slightly, just enough to look at the newly arrived ponies.
  1480. “Wanna join in? We were just killing time until everypony arrives, and the game is almost over, but –“
  1481. >”Oh, no!” Fluttershy protests, shaking her head. “We can wait.”
  1482. >”Speaking of waiting,” Trixie grumbles as she looks around the room, “who else is coming?”
  1483. >”Just Rainbow Dash,” Pinkie Pie answers, nudging the dungeon deck towards Scootaloo. “Come on, Scootaloo, kick open the door!”
  1484. >The filly leans forward and hesitates, her hoof hovering over the deck. With a nod from you, she flips over the top card.
  1485. >”Well, a level one monster – that’ll be hard to beat,” Twilight grumbles. “Well, I can’t stop her. Anon? Pinkie Pie?”
  1486. “Nope, just have a handful of monsters.”
  1487. >You tip your cards for your marefriend to see. It’s true – you had already used up everything trying to lower your own level.
  1488. >Panko examines her cards, then shrugs.
  1489. >”I got nuttin.”
  1490. >”Isn’t it time for one of your trademark tricks now, Anon?” Twilight asks with a sigh.
  1491. “Nope.”
  1492. >It’s true – you pulled the trick a minute ago.
  1493. >”Well, that’s it then – game over,” your marefriend says with a smile. “Congratulations, Scootaloo! You win.”
  1494. >She scoops up her cards, dumping them back into the box. The rest of you follow suit, with Pinkie Pie hopping off her seat to put the now full box back on the shelf.
  1495. ”Might as well claim your seat while you can.”
  1496. >You wave your hand towards the now empty sofa.
  1497. >”But what about Pinkie Pie…?” Fluttershy asks, looking around timidly. “Maybe we need more seats? Or not – I can lay on the floor, that would be fine with –“
  1498. >”Come on,” Trixie cuts her off, dragging the protesting pegasus to the sofa.
  1499. >”Don’t worry about it!” Pinkie laughs, looming over Twilight from behind and booping the alicorn’s nose.
  1500. >”Yeah, yeah, I get it,” your princess grumbles, tumbling off to make room for her friend. “It’s not fair to claim two seats.”
  1501. >Pooky crawls over the back of the sofa, losing her grip – probably intentionally – and summersaulting onto the cushions. She lands in a position that looks at once both extremely awkward and probably comfortable, legs bending in weird directions like someone had left her out in the sun too long.
  1502. >Twi looks over her shoulder and rolls her eyes.
  1503. >”I guess SINCE I’M THE ONLY ONE STANDING is there anything I can get you two?” she asks Flutters and Trixie. “Anything to drink? Some popcorn?”
  1504. >”Oh, well… maybe. Something to drink would be nice,” Fluttershy answers with a hopeful smile.
  1505. >”Don’t worry about popcorn,” Trixie smirks. “This bowl looks suitable.”
  1506. >She telekentically grabs the untouched bowl laying on the floor in front of you, jerking it away from your grasping hands. Twi must have put it there for you, but you hadn’t noticed… not until too late.
  1507. >You almost cry manly tears. Almost.
  1508. >But real men don’t cry. Not when their probably-omnipotent marefriends can see them.
  1509. >”Got it,” Twilight snorts, shaking her head sadly at your pained expression. “And I’ll bring some more back for you, Anon, so stop giving me that look.”
  1510. “Yay!”
  1511. >”yay”
  1512. >Fluttershy buries her snout in the bowl with such gusto that even Trixie is taken aback, gasping at her companion’s lack of decorum.
  1513. “So, Ponka… are we watching the movies or the series?”
  1514. >”The movies are just a clipshow,” she snorts. “We’re gonna watch the seeeeerieeeees!”
  1515. “Subbed or Dubbed?”
  1516. >”Do I look like a pleb?” Panko scoffs. “We’re watching it subbed!”
  1517. >She thrusts a hoof accusingly at Fluttershy, causing the pegasus to squeak in surprise.
  1518. >”So stay sober, Fluttershy!” the mare warns with a growl. “You can’t follow a plot – let alone read – when drunk!”
  1519. >The little yellow pony nods rapidly.
  1520. “I’m pretty sure she can follow a plot. At least her eyes can…”
  1521. >She tries to hide her blush by shoving her face into the popcorn bowl again.
  1522. “Anyway, dubs aren’t *always* bad, but I have to agree with you here. Kamina just doesn’t sound right.”
  1523. >”Name ONE time the dubbing was better!” Ponka challenges. “Just one! You can’t, it’s imposs –”
  1524. “Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt.”
  1526. “Cowboy Bebop.”
  1527. >”THREE!”
  1528. “FLCL.”
  1529. >”FOUR!”
  1530. “R.O.D.”
  1531. >”Series or O.V.A.?”
  1532. “Both.”
  1533. >Ponka slumps – quite a feat considering her already relaxed posture – letting her head roll off the cushions, dangling only an inch or so from the floor.
  1534. >”Point taken,” she admits reluctantly. “But in *this* case –“
  1535. “Oh yeah, absolutely. Subbed all the way.”
  1536. >”Do I even want to know what you’re talking about?” Scootaloo asks, eying the exponentially-relaxing pony beside her with directionally-proportional concern. “Also… do I need to get a doctor…?”
  1537. >”Just nerd stuff, I assume,” Trixie answers from across the table. “And yes, I would appreciate a doctor – that’s painful just to *look* at.”
  1538. >”Ooooooooh!” Pinkie reaches out to the unicorn with both forehooves, as if she were trying to hug the other mare. “You used a first-person pronoun! Did Fluttershy fix you!?”
  1540. >”Fine, dodge the question, but don’t pretend you aren’t a nerd, too!” Ponka scoffs in her adorably aggressive whine. “We saw that Slayers outfit you were making!”
  1541. “Another good dub.”
  1543. >”Well, yes, I have seen *some*, but that doesn’t make *me* a nerd,” Trixie objects. “I – TRIXIE doesn’t even recognize half of those names Anonymous rattled off!”
  1544. “Well, you probably wouldn’t. Most of them aren’t from… *here*.”
  1545. >”ACTUALLY –“ Pinkie’s face undergoes tectonic plateshifts as she thinks it over. “Actually we have all of those.”
  1546. “But not Gurren Lagann? REALLY!? Next you’ll tell me you have Berserk!”
  1547. >”Oh!” Trixie’s ears perk up. “Trixie has seen that one!”
  1548. “You’re shitting me.”
  1549. >”Trixie most certainly is not! It was wonderful! Particularly all those battle-scenes –“
  1550. >”That one sounds more interesting!” Scootaloo clamors, pulling herself up the side of the sofa and standing on her hindlegs to look you in the eye. “Can we watch that instead!?”
  1551. >”NO!”
  1552. >The resounding refusal from everypony in the room stuns the little filly. She teeters – only a steadying hoof from the pudding pony keeps Scootaloo from falling off.
  1553. >”Well, fine,” she huffs, flopping back safely onto the cushions. “I was only asking.”
  1554. >“Maybe when you’re older,” Twilight qualifies, coming back into the room with a fresh bowl of popcorn and another tray of drinks floating before her.
  1555. >It must be handy, having magic like that.
  1556. >Fluttershy pulls herself away from her popcorn and leans over towards you – her mouth not quite at your ear, but close enough.
  1557. >”Sit up, Anon!” she hisses. “Twilight Sparkle doesn’t have a place to sit!”
  1558. ”Sure she does.”
  1559. >You pat the yellow pony’s cheek as your marefriend hands off the drinks to Trixie.
  1560. >”You aren’t going to make her lay on the floor, are you!?”
  1561. >”He can try,” Twi snips, having heard Fluttershy’s question, “but he won’t, will he?”
  1562. “Of course not.”
  1563. >”Didn’t think so,” she murmurs, placing the popcorn bowl on the floor beside you. “Anything else we need?”
  1564. >”Just Rainbow Dash,” Ponko grumbles. “She better get here soon.”
  1565. “Yeaaaah. Otherwise we’ll be up all night.”
  1566. >”All night!” Scootaloo clucks, crawling back over the sofa to stare at you. “Whadya mean all night!? How long is this?!”
  1567. >”Um… twelve hours…?” Pinkie guesses. “About.”
  1568. >The filly swivels in place, eyes wide in panic.
  1569. >”But I have school in the morning! I can’t stay up that late!”
  1570. “Sure you can – it’s educational. I’m sure Twi can write you a note or something to give Cheerilee.”
  1571. >”But – but –“
  1572. >Twilight squints at you, tilting her head to one side.
  1573. >”Really?”
  1574. “Yeah, it’s educational! Teaches… um… life philosophy?”
  1575. >”FUCK YEAH IT DOES!” Ponka shouts, thrusting a hoof into the air. “NEVER DESPAIR, EVEN IN THE FACE OF THE IMPOSSIBLE!”
  1576. >”So…” Twilight looks thoughtfully at the ceiling, hoof to her chin, “what you’re saying is there’s a chance that Rainbow Dash might show up on time, even though we all know that’s impossible?”
  1577. >“Yeppers!”
  1578. >”Oh, where will *she* sit?” Fluttershy inquires, casting about the room as if she expected – or hoped – to find something she had missed. “There aren’t enough seats! I should go get one!”
  1579. >Only a restraining leg from Trixie on Flutter’s shoulder stops the pegasus from leaping up to find another chair.
  1580. >”I believe the… the princess –”
  1581. >Even now, trying her best to be polite, the word comes reluctantly from the unicorn’s mouth.
  1582. >” – set up the room appropriately, Fluttershy.”
  1583. >The yellow pony turns her head to look at her new friend – is… is she going to cry...?
  1584. >”Are you sure? Maybe she made a mistake!? Everypony makes mistakes!”
  1585. >”Just drink your juice, Fluttershy,” Twilight sighs, with a twinkle in her eye. “Everything is fine.”
  1586. >The pegasus blindly sips from the glass, eyes widening in surprise after a quarter of the liquid is gone.
  1587. >”This… this is spiked, isn’t it…?”
  1588. >”No…?”
  1589. >With a roll of her eyes, Trixie plucks the glass from Fluttershy’s hooves, swapping it with her own.
  1590. >”Actually…” Twilight smiles, trying her best to look as innocent as possible “…I didn’t know which one she’d take…”
  1591. >The unicorn sighs, pulling that one from her friend’s hooves as well, setting them both on table.
  1592. >And then nudging them further away from the pegasus’s outstretched hooves.
  1593. >And again.
  1594. >”Anyway, that should be *just* enough to take the edge off!” Twilight’s purple magical aura grabs both glasses as she trots out of the room with a bounce in her step. “I’ll be *right* back with something fresh!”
  1595. >Scootaloo’s eyes follow her more closely than yours, and for different reasons.
  1596. >”Uhhhhhh…”
  1597. “Aaaaaaaaand you should never do that, Scoots, but it was totally justified in this case.”
  1598. >”Um… okay… got it,” the filly stutters, nodding her head unconvincingly. She turns her head back to face you – you can see the conflict plain in her face. She’s not sure if she can trust y- “It’s never okay to drug your friends. Except for Fluttershy.”
  1599. >Oh, Scoots was just trying to decide is she should be a smartass or not. She made the right choice.
  1600. “Not the lesson I was shooting for, eh… good enough.”
  1601. >The filly laughs, smiling earnestly. She opens her mouth to speak and –
  1602. >BAM!
  1603. >That would be Rainbow Dash. Or a home – castle? – invasion.
  1604. >Either way, they *never* knock.
  1605. >“Well, I guess it’s about time to start.” Ponks slithers off the sofa – there’s really no other way to describe the movement – and fires up the little digital projector.
  1606. >Rapid hoofsteps pound the stairs in a staccato beat – to no one’s surprise a blue head comes into view before Pinkie Pie even has the show up and ready to start.
  1607. >”Oh, did I miss everything?” She asks – totally failing to hide the hope in her voice. “Darn, well, you’ll just have to show me next – OW!”
  1608. >Ponks gives the pegasus’s tail a second lighter tug, pointing to the now vacant space next to Scootaloo.
  1609. >”Sit. Now.”
  1610. >”Fiiiine,” Aredee grumbles, flapping her wings twice to clear the back of the sofa, settling in just as your princess returns – this time with a pitcher and three empty glasses, apparently having anticipated Dash’s arrival.
  1611. >”Are we all good to start finally?” she asks, looking around to see if anypony needs anything else.
  1612. >”Almost!” Pinkie darts off, yanking open one of the drawers at the base of the room’s bookcases and hauling free a heavy blanket with her mouth. “Hus teed a et ih uph.”
  1613. >She prances back to the seats, completely ignoring the sofas and burrowing under the table to build herself a little nest. After a few seconds of struggle – and more than one bump you fear would flip the table – a pink hoof, snakes out, latching onto her glass and drawing it below. It ventures forth again, flailing about as the pony’s frustrated whine grows higher and higher in pitch.
  1614. >”Popcorn?” your princess asks.
  1615. >”MHM!”
  1616. >Twi nudges a bowl closer to the table – it disappears below in a flash.
  1617. >”Thank you!”
  1618. >”Where are you going to sit…?” Fluttershy asks your princess, bringing up the issue from before. “If Anon won’t move –“
  1619. >”He *is* my seat,” Twi responds with a grin, crawling onto you. She lies down, stretched across your body, with her head tucked under your chin. “Okay Pinkie – everypony’s ready!
  1620. >”Woohooo!” the happiest pony in ponyville cheers as your princess magically turns off the lights.
  1621. >Long seconds pass in the darkness.
  1622. “Does someone need to press play or something on the computer…?”
  1623. >”Nha ah ab rehmp, uh iph ar –“
  1624. “What?”
  1625. >There’s a tiny clattering noise before Ponka responds.
  1626. >”I said, I *have* a remote – it’s just hard to use! My hooves are too big, and my mouth –”
  1627. “Want me to –“
  1628. >”Naaaaah, I doubt you’re any better with your tongue.”
  1629. >”Well, actually…”
  1631. >”I was just going to point out that you have fingers,” she teases. “It *was* designed for use by humans, I’m assuming.”
  1632. “Oh.”
  1633. >”But the other things is true, too!”
  1634. “Not a word, Fluttershy. Not one.”
  1635. >”I wasn’t going to say anything,” she moans in a hushed whisper, “not in front of Scootaloo…”
  1636. >”It’s okay,” the filly sighs from the other side of the table. “I know what the princess is getting at.”
  1637. “Oh, okay then.”
  1638. >You’re not sure if that makes things more embarrassing, or less, but from the way Twi’s body suddenly tenses up you can guess how she feels about it.
  1639. >”Wha-what do you think I meant…?” Twilight asks warily, not knowing she’s only making things worse.
  1640. >You can’t see the other ponies fidgeting uncomfortably, but you can hear them.
  1641. >”Well… I mean… *obviously* you’re saying your coltfriend is a great kisser, right…?”
  1643. >… before Twi can correct the filly in some misguided attempt at education.
  1644. >Music blares as the projector flickers to life – a pair of green eyes flare on the screen.
  1645. >”What? This show has *humans* in it?” Dash squawks in outrage as the open sequence flashes by. “Where are the *ponies*? Humans suck!”
  1646. “Gee, thanks.”
  1647. >”Well, not *you* of course.”
  1648. >”If you don’t stop talking…” your princess growls in a warning tone “… you’re going to go to the *special* hell. The one reserved for filly fondlers –“
  1649. >”I’m not even touching Scootaloo!”
  1650. >”– and ponies who talk in the theaters.”
  1651. >You squeeze your princess tightly – you don’t think you’ve ever loved anyone or anything as much as you love her right now.
  1652. >The group watches in silence – up until –
  1653. >”Oh, so *that* is where the glasses come from!”
  1654. >”Special hell, Dash!”
  1655. >The pegasus quiets again at your marefriend’s threat, but only for a while.
  1656. >”Okay, I know that’s just a human, but that’s kinda sexy…”
  1657. >”She’s called Yoko, yes she is, and shut up,” Ponka barks.
  1658. >Awesome fight scene – interrupted by –
  1659. >”Did that thing just turn into a unicorn!?”
  1660. >”Speciaaaal hell,” Flutternutter sings.
  1661. >Silence returns.
  1662. >”What the hell is *cleavage*? Ow! Dangit, Scoots, you didn’t have to hit me!”
  1663. >As the first episode’s credits roll, Twilight magically brings the lights back up – just enough for everypony to see each other.
  1664. >”What’s your problem, Dash?” your princess asks, twisting to look down her own back at the pegasus. “Are you even enjoying this?”
  1665. >”Well, yeah, of course I’m enjoying it,” she answers indignantly. “Those big face things and that fight scene and that tall guy with the glasses were pretty awesome!”
  1666. >Twilight sighs loudly, shaking her head in disbelief. You pat her neck, and feeling the stiffness of her muscles begin to massage them gently with your still-tired hands.
  1667. >”Then what the hell?” your princess snarls. “Why can’t you stop complaining about it?”
  1668. “Whoa there!”
  1669. >You pull Twi’s head back to your chest, looking her in the confused and angry eyes, around the same time Ponka manages to hit the pause button with her tongue, stopping Simon’s walk across the screen in mid-swagger.
  1670. “She’s not complaining, she commenting.”
  1671. >You try your best to not make a she-must-be-part-zigger comment, mostly because you doubt that stereotype even exists in Equestria.
  1672. ”Dash isn’t *trying* to be a jerk. I mean, she doesn’t *hate* humans –“
  1673. >”Of course I don’t!” Aredee interrupts, waving a hoof. “Humans are just boring – they’re all the same color, don’t have any magic, can’t fly. BORING!”
  1674. “Even me?”
  1675. >”What? No! Of course not - you’re pretty awesome.”
  1676. ”Dash, do you even think before you speak?”
  1677. >”Of course not!”
  1678. >You smirk at your princess, a smile that tells her the problem is solved.
  1679. “Well, could you just save your commentary for the credits? It’s bothering the others.”
  1680. >”Yeah, yeah. Sure,” she grunts, slightly annoyed yet compliant. “Won’t make any promises, but I’ll *try*.”
  1681. >“But… I *asked* her to do that!” your princess whispers into your ear.
  1682. “No, you threatened her, so she took it as a joke.”
  1683. >Understanding dawns on your princesses face.
  1684. >”Now if you FAGGOTS are done, can we PLEASE CONTINUE!?” Ponka demands, her chin propped up by the table’s edge.
  1685. >Gods, she’s so adorable when she’s angry.
  1686. >That scrunched up nose, furrowed brow, indignant glare…
  1687. “Yeah, I think we’re good here. We’re good here, right?”
  1688. >”If course we are,” Trixie agrees, probably simply because she hasn’t spoken in thirty minutes. “Resume the story!”
  1689. >After a glance to a nodding Rainbow Dash, the little pink pony burrows back into her nest and Simon continues his walk across the screen. Twi dims the lights again, casting the room into darkness. She purrs silently as you continue to rub her neck – you can’t hear it, but you can feel the vibrations in your chest and hand.
  1690. >The next episode passes in near silence – the crunching of popcorn and sipping of drinks the only distractions. It lasts up until Viral’s appearance. THAT draws a cheer, and not just from Dash. Two more episodes and The Ponks forcefully calls a break, pausing the show as the preview starts up and emerging from her lair with an empty bowl.
  1691. >”Popcorn is nice and all,” she growls, “but a pony cannot live on popcorn alone.”
  1692. >”Oh?” Twi responds, lifting her head from your chest and bringing the lights back up. “Is there something in particular you want?”
  1693. >”STEAK.”
  1694. >”Don’t have any,” your princess answers dully.
  1695. >”Damn.”
  1696. >”I didn’t want to say anything, but it *does* seem like a good time for a break…” Fluttershy mumbles as Twi brings the lights fully on. “I wouldn’t mind a… oh… dammit!”
  1697. >The little yellow pegasus bounds off her seat, chasing after Rainbow Dash.
  1698. >”There are other bathrooms, you know!” Dash yells back to her from down the hallway at her pursuer.
  1699. >”I know, but this one is the nicest!”
  1700. >Your marefriend groans, rolling off of you and landing on her hooves.
  1701. >”IF ONE OF YOU PEES THE SINK AGAIN, I SWEAR…” Twi trails off, the rest of the threat left unsaid as she sees Trixie’s look of confusion and horror. Your marefriend blushes, realizing what she has just said in front of her nemesis. “It was only once and we were all *really* drunk and –“
  1702. >”Could somepony point me to a restroom that *hasn’t* been desecrated…?” the unicorn asks, ignoring Twilight’s stuttered attempt at an explanation. “Preferably one I can use *alone*?”
  1703. “Sure, there’s one right downstairs, third door on the right.”
  1704. >Trixie nods her appreciation. It’s a slight movement, but it’s there.
  1705. “I’m going to get some food started, any preferences?”
  1706. >”Something raw and bloody!”
  1707. “Not you, Ponka.”
  1708. >”Something NOT that,” Trixie answers as she takes her first steps down the stairs.
  1709. “Can do.”
  1710. >You stand, though you have to gently nudge Twilight aside to make the necessary room.
  1711. >”Need any help…?” she asks, shuffling aside to let you past.
  1712. “Nah, but you could refresh everypony’s drinks if you want.”
  1713. >Your marefriend whisks up the pitcher in a brilliant purple aura and looks around the room – only Scootaloo and Pinkie are left.
  1714. >”Any requests?”
  1715. >”Something sweet?” the filly answers as she steps down from her sofa. “Is there a third…?”
  1716. >”What? Oh, right. Upstairs, between the library and the study.”
  1717. >Scootaloo shuffles off quickly, leaving you alone with Pinkie.
  1718. “Should we just bring you a bottle of hot sauce to drink?”
  1719. >”YES!”
  1720. >She wasn’t supposed to say that. She really wasn’t, but her giant pony eyes sparkle with such hope, her smile so wide… sure, why not.
  1721. >Twi follows you into the kitchen, watching curiously as you pull out some portobello mushrooms and the frying pan.
  1722. “I can’t make her a steak, but I think I can get close. This work for you?”
  1723. >”Mhm!”
  1724. >You little princess brushes past you to get to the refrigerator, shoving aside the assorted takeout boxes and other leftovers to get to the juices.
  1725. >”Lemonade… and a little prickly pear…?” you hear her murmur to herself as she looks through her options.
  1726. “Add some mango if you have any.”
  1727. >”What? Oh. Okay.”
  1728. >You hear more rummaging before Twi squeals in victory, pulling out a third bottle.
  1730. >The scattered ponies have reassembled when you start bringing out plates of food – Pinkie’s eyes simmer unhappily as you hand one to her. It’s just a portobello fried up in butter with some cheese on it, honestly pretty standard fair.
  1731. >”I *believe* I requested mine raw and bloody!” she barks, quickly smiling as you hold out a bottle of ketchup.
  1732. “Closest I could manage without dragging a passerby in off the street.”
  1733. >”This’ll do!”
  1734. >This time Twi stretches across the sofa, but she was right – she is much narrower than you, particularly when she’s laying on her side like this. Your marefriend grins as you sit, using her stomach as a pillow.
  1735. >”ARE YOU DORKS READY FOR EXCITEMENT!” Ponka screams from under the table.
  1736. >”YEAH!” Scoots and Dash cheer in response as Twi brings the lights back down, but not all the way, leaving just enough light for the ponies to eat by.
  1737. >A pair of green eyes flare on the screen for the sixth time tonight.
  1738. “We’ve seen this opening how many times? Think we can skip ‘em now?
  1739. >”NO!”
  1740. >Rainbow Dash shifts uncomfortably to your right, fidgeting nerviously until she unintentionally has everypony’s attention.
  1741. >”What?” she asks, eyeing you all through narrowed lids. “I don’t mind – there’s some good shots of Yoko…”
  1742. >You share a glance with your marefriend.
  1743. “I’m kinda surprised and yet…”
  1744. >”… and yet not really, right?”
  1745. “Yep.”
  1746. >With a vicious growl, Ponka’s head pops out from under the table like a turtle emerging from its shell – her muzzle streaked red.
  1747. >A really *nasty* turtle.
  1748. >The little pony’s head jerks left and right, giving all of you her version of The Look – one that promises more violence than is healthy.
  1749. >”It’s about to start,” she hisses through clenched teeth, then disappears back below.
  1750. “You’ll like this one, Dash. It’s a bathhouse episode!”
  1751. >Ponks growls again, just as the opening sequence comes to a close.
  1752. >>”This is the story of a man who is yet to realize –“
  1754. >As the seven of you watch Team Gurren enter the bathhouse, the silence is broken.
  1755. >”Well, *that’s* a lot of bouncing…”
  1756. “Dammit, Da…. Trixie!?”
  1757. >”What? Somepony had to say it!”
  1758. >”I’ll allow it!” Ponka surprisingly responds in a cheerful voice. “It *had* to be said.”
  1760. >>”It can’t be impossible to go to the moon!”
  1761. >”Just ask Luna,” Fluttershy comments with a tiny laugh. “Oh, that was mean, I should –“
  1763. >You *knew* Dash wasn’t straight.
  1764. >”Waaaaait, what’s that dangling between Kamina’s –“
  1766. >”And did that little kid just stick his finger up Simon’s –“
  1767. “I don’t remember this episode being so… explicit.”
  1768. >”This is the REAL episode six!” Ponka shouts. “I wasn’t going to show the CRAP version!”
  1769. >FWOOMP!
  1770. >You don’t even look at Dash – you know what that sound means.
  1772. >As the credits roll, you hop up to take away the empty plates. The one Ponka hands you is… terrifying.
  1773. >”So… this Spiral King they mentioned…” Flutternutter asks timidly “… is he the big bad guy…?”
  1774. “Maybe.”
  1775. >”These shows make it so hard to tell who the real villain is, don’t they?” Trixie complains, propping her head up on the cushioned arm of the sofa. “We’ll know for sure when we see him.”
  1776. >”Oh… are you sure?”
  1777. >”Of course I am, Fluttershy. If he’s really the villain, he’ll have a big, black moustache.”
  1778. “And I thought you said you’d seen Berserk.”
  1779. >”Well *obviously* there are exceptions!”
  1780. >With a chuckle, you leave the room and drop the dirty dishes into the sink. You consider taking in a plate of light snacks, but time is short and you know what’s coming up.
  1782. >>”Did Kamina die?”
  1783. >”What!?” Dash screams at the screen as Gurren Lagann faces off against Dai-Ganzan for the first time. “Those humans need to have a little faith! Kamina can’t die - there’s like twenty more episodes!”
  1784. >She pauses, looking around.
  1785. >”W-why isn’t anypony yelling at me…?”
  1786. >“S-shut up, Dash. This is a good part,” Pinkie Pie stutters from her nest. “A really, really good part.”
  1788. >”Whooooh! They kissed!” Twi cheers as Kamina and Yoko prepare for battle.
  1789. “Shipping characters already?”
  1790. >”It’s… a bit of a hobby of mine.”
  1792. >>”Believe in yourself. Believe in the Simon that I have faith in.”
  1793. >”That’s… different,” Twilight remarks in hushed whisper. “Something is going to happen, isn’t it…?”
  1795. >”It can’t be…” The words tumble out of Dash’s mouth, echoing those on screen. “It can’t – he’s still alive.”
  1796. >>”Can’t a guy get a little bit of sleep around here?”
  1797. >”I knew it! I knew he wasn’t dead!” the pegasus whoops. “They couldn’t kill off the main character!”
  1798. >>”Bro, you’re alive!”
  1800. >”We’ll use Gurran Lagann to finish up this last mission.”
  1801. >You expect somepony to make a comment, but nopony does – they either see it coming or don’t.
  1802. >>”Believe in yourself. Not in the Simon that I believe in. Not in the Kamina that you believe in. Have faith in the Simon that believes in you.”
  1803. >”Kamina is SO awesome!” Dash squeals.
  1805. >The credits are half over before the pegasus recovers.
  1806. >”But… but… he’s the main character!” she protests, waving her forehooves at the screen. “They can’t kill the main character!”
  1807. >”Who said he was the main character?” Ponka asks, pausing the show and popping out from below the table with a wide grin.
  1808. >”How can you smile at a time like this!?”
  1809. >”What makes you think I have a choice?” the little Earth Pony asks, skipping off to the bathroom before Dash can answer. “Break time!”
  1810. >Indeed it is – Twi knew it was coming – she’s read too many of your books to be surprised at a heroic sacrifice now, but even she’s clutching you tightly. Fluttershy has a river of tears flowing down her face – consoling her is probably the only thing letting Trixie keep it together. Scootaloo has you worried, though. She’s staring at the screen with a sad, lopsided grin.
  1811. >You hope she’s taking away the right message.
  1812. ”Hey Scoots, not too boring after all, is it?”
  1813. >”No, it’s alright,” she says, twisting her head to face you. “Not too bad. Just tell me, does this show have a happy ending?”
  1814. “I like to think so.”
  1815. >She snorts, and that bitter smirk reappears.
  1816. >”I knew it. Simon’s the real hero,” the filly’s forehoof disappears into a bag on the floor that you had overlooked. “I knew because Kamina’s glasses don’t match these.”
  1817. >She holds up something you hadn’t expected to see for another few hours – Simon’s five-pointed glasses.
  1818. >”Kamina’s not dead!” Dash insists from the filly’s right. “He’s just… just… on vacation! They got it wrong!”
  1819. >You feel Twilight nervously shift behind you.
  1820. “Need to get up?”
  1821. >”Yeah, I wouldn’t mind…”
  1822. >You stand, allowing your little princess to crawl off the sofa, heading upstairs. Probably a bathroom break. Hell, you could probably use one as well – you follow, figuring you could use the half-bath down the hall.
  1823. >”Does it really have a happy ending?” she turns to ask you. “Or is it another bittersweet ending?”
  1824. “If you see it coming, I think you’ll be happy with it. The main characters certainly are.”
  1825. >”But… could it be happier?”
  1826. “Everything could have a happier ending, but rarely would it be an honest one.”
  1827. >She pauses, looking away.
  1828. >”I came up here to get some tissues, because I’m going to cry… aren’t I?”
  1829. “I hope so.”
  1830. >”Why?” She looks confused, like she would never understand how that could be a good thing.
  1831. “Because it means you cared.”
  1832. >Twilight takes a deep breath and nods.
  1833. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
  1834. >You walk by, briefly scratching between her ears as you pass.
  1835. “… I need to go ‘drain the dragon,’ if you know what I mean.”
  1836. >She chuckles, leaving you to your task.
  1837. >It doesn’t take long, which is good, because if it did you might have to narrate it in your head to yourself, and that would just be weird.
  1838. >Like, really weird.
  1839. >Twi is already back on the sofa by the time you get downstairs, curled up on the right. Probably looking for more scratching – she knows that’s your dominant side.
  1840. >”You’re here?” Another Ponkruption. “Good, back to the show!”
  1841. >Lights dim and the credits finish off.
  1842. “Hey, Trixie?”
  1843. >”Yes?”
  1844. “On the scale of evil facial hair, where do sideburns fall?”
  1845. >”Why?”
  1846. “You’ll see.”
  1847. >When you sit, Twi puts her head in your lap with an expectant look. You were right – she wants head scratchies.
  1848. >The lights come down again with a flare of her horn, and with that Ponka unpauses the show.
  1849. >It’s not long before Trixie gives you get your answer.
  1850. >”Moderately evil, but mostly just macho,” Trixie tells you as the Spiral King – and his facial hair – gets his first on-screen appearance.
  1851. “Sounds about right.”
  1853. >The ponies watch the show quietly – gone are the cheers and eager questions. Even the appearance of a girl in a box brings about nothing, save for your marefriend squirming as Nia talks to her savior…
  1854. >>”Why are you the same as I am? You have no tail, nor fangs or scales. Your skin is soft as well.”
  1855. >>”Well, that’s only natural. I’m a human being.”
  1856. >”Let me guess,” Dash snorts, “she falls in love with Simon, probably just because he’s the first human she’s seen.”
  1857. >Twi’s muscles suddenly tense under your hand, but they relax quickly. Hopefully she realizes it’s not a slight aimed at her. Hopefully.
  1859. >”Is – is the Gunman trying to kill them a *pony*?” Fluttershy frets. “Oh dear, I don’t think –“
  1860. >The screen freezes, an equine face caught as it lunges forward.
  1861. >”Yep!” Ponka answers. “Well, a horse, but close enough right? We’re bad guys!”
  1862. >”Assuming the humans are actually the good guys,” Scootaloo snarks to your right.
  1863. >”Yep, assuming that!”
  1864. >The screen unfreezes, allowing Simon and Nia to flee for their lives.
  1866. >”And the princess saves the day,” Twilight says smugly as the ninth episode comes to a close. “When the hero loses all hope and his friends are powerless, it’s the helpless princess that saves the day.”
  1867. >”Yeah, too bad you aren’t a *helpless* princess,” Dash snarks. “We’ll have to find somepony else to save us when Anon snaps.”
  1868. >To your far left, Trixie sighs loudly.
  1869. >”It appears Trixie shall have to save the day once again, but please give her one week’s notice, Anonymous. She is a busy pony and her time is greatly in demand.”
  1870. “I’ll do my best.”
  1872. >>”… when next we meet, we’ll settle matters once and for all!”
  1873. >”He doesn’t realize Kamina’s dead, does he…?” your princess asks from your lap. “Is this going to turn into a long story about pointless revenge?”
  1874. >”No!” Dash answers from your right. “Viral just knows the truth! Kamina’s not dead!”
  1875. >She’s never going to believe it, is she? Good for her.
  1877. >>”My bro is dead. He’s gone! But he’s right there on my back, and here in my heart! He lives on as a part of me!”
  1878. >”See…?” Dash asks quietly, a tremble in her voice. “I told you he wasn’t dead. Nopony’s really dead so long as you remember them.”
  1880. >”Excuse me, but does Nia remind anypony else of Princess Celestia…?” Fluttershy asks as the credits for the eleventh episode roll by. “Her hair reminds me of the princess’s mane…”
  1881. “I guess, kind of. Pale skin, weird hair, lots of gold jewelry. But Nia isn’t a bitch.”
  1882. >”Anon!” the pegasus hisses in shock. “You can’t say that!”
  1883. “Sure I can – I’ve even said it to her face.”
  1884. >”MORE IMPORTANTLY,” Twi cuts in, “why does every episode end with ‘to be continued?’ I’ve only seen that before in two-part episodes and things like that.”
  1885. >”Because the story’s not done!” Ponka answers as the preview for the next episode starts. “Oh, and you’ll like this one, Dash – it’s a beach episode!”
  1886. >”What the hell is a beach episode?”
  1887. “One where everyone wears a swimsuit, no matter how sill –“
  1888. >FWOOMP!
  1889. >”You can stop explaining now,” the pegasus whispers timidly as Panky laughs her little heart out from under the table.
  1890. >”Oh Celestia!” She screams, pounding the floor with (presumably) a hoof. “Anon! Anon, could you imagine? Could you – if we showed her… showed her…”
  1891. “Cat Planet Cuties?”
  1892. >”YES!”
  1893. “Or Strike Witches?”
  1894. >”DOUBLE YES!”
  1895. >You feel Twilight twitch in your lap – she raises her head from your lap to look you in the eyes.
  1896. >”Do I want to know?”
  1898. “Probably not, and shut up, Ponks.”
  1899. >You don’t like the eager gleam in your marefriend’s eyes – this is going to end poorly. Her expression promises that this isn't over - she'll bring it up again – and odds are you won’t be getting out of it with your dignity intact.
  1901. >”Waaaaaaaaaait... everypony else is wearing less clothing than usual, but Yoko is wearing *more*?”
  1902. “Yeppers, Aredee. A little disappointing, isn’t –“
  1903. >FWOOMP!
  1905. >”Oars,” your princess comments flatly. “They’re crossing the sea in a giant boat-shaped robot, and it’s *paddling*?”
  1906. >”YEPPERS!”
  1907. >”This is getting ridiculous.”
  1908. “Getting?”
  1910. >>”Careful! Fire at that angle, and you’ll kill us both. Are humans that stupid?”
  1911. >>”I hate to break it to you, but –“
  1912. “– yeah. We are.”
  1913. >Twi’s head jerks as her body clenches up, trying to hold back a laugh.
  1914. >You couldn’t help but follow along – it’s your favorite line.
  1916. >”You know who Nia *really* reminds me of?” Twilight asks quietly as you watch the ex-princess stumble around on screen.
  1917. >>”I want to be put to work! Everyone else is toiling away at their tasks. I can’t bear to be the only one doing nothing! I want to do something! To make myself useful!”
  1918. >”Anon,” she finally says when nopony answers.
  1919. “But… I’m a guy…”
  1920. >”So? You’re both lost and looking for a place to belong in a world that isn’t yours.”
  1922. >”Oh, look! And you’re both cooking! See?”
  1923. >Your little princess smiles in victory.
  1925. >”Did Gurren Lagann just GROW WINGS!?” Scoots asks in awe. “You can do that!?”
  1926. “Well, more like they stole them.”
  1927. >”Cooooooooool.”
  1928. >”Kid, I like ya, I do, but stay on that side of the sofa, okay?”
  1929. >”Why, Dash?”
  1930. >”Just cuz.”
  1932. >”Um… is Yoko going to die, too…?” Fluttershy leans over and asks you in a hushed whisper as Simon cradles the injured woman on the screen. “Because if she dies I don’t know if I could deal with it…”
  1933. >>”Where is Kamina? Why is there only a woman and a child here? WHERE DID KAMINA GO?!”
  1934. >”Called it!” Twilight yells out. “I called it! Sub-plot about the futility of revenge!”
  1936. >”I’m sorry, I might have been wrong,” Twilight apologizes. “Your cooking has never put anypony in the hospital.”
  1937. >Probably should have shown her Nadesico instead – at least Akito is a *good* cook.
  1939. >>”These humans… what the hell are they?!”
  1940. >”That’s a damn good question, Viral,” you hear Poncho murmur in a lost and distant voice. “Damn good question.”
  1941. >Aaaaaaaand roll credits.
  1942. “Break time?”
  1943. >”Not yet,” you hear your princess answers amongst a sea of negative responses.
  1944. >Purple Smart needs answers badly.
  1946. >>”I must say, they’re a tenacious bunch. No matter how many times we stomp on them, they sprout again like weeds.”
  1947. >>”That is what makes them so terrifying. And this in spite of the fact that I sealed them in the depths of the earth so they would never again take root on the surface.”
  1948. “Hell yeah! Humans can outbreed anything!”
  1949. >”… still waiting to see proof of that…”
  1950. >what.
  1952. “Hey, Flutters! Those new arrivals just saved the day!”
  1953. >”Yes…?”
  1954. “So what does that make them?”
  1955. >”BIG DAMN HEROES!”
  1956. >You knew she wouldn’t let you down.
  1958. >”Did… did they just cockstab the enemy commander and his battleship…?” Even with the lights off, you can see Dash waving a forehoof wildly at the screen. “DID THAT JUST HAPPEN!?”
  1959. “Yes. Yes it did.”
  1960. >She doesn’t stop waving, like the shock of it shattered her brain, sticking her on a loop like a broken record.
  1962. >>”A huge face…?”
  1963. >”Oh crap…” Twilight facehoofs in your lap. “The city they’re attacking – it’s a massive robot, isn’t it…?”
  1964. >”MAAAAAAAYBEEEEEEE!” Ponks answers, pausing as the credits start up. “*Now* it’s break time!”
  1965. “Really? You couldn’t wait one more episode to give everypony some closure?”
  1966. >”Nope!” she giggles, dragging herself out of her lair next to your legs. “If I did that, they might want to leave and watch the rest another day!”
  1967. >That’s actually a good point.
  1968. >”And we’ve been at this for… oh…” the mare looks at the wall clock “… for approximately a really, REALLY long time! *I* need some caffeine!”
  1969. >She shoves her face into Twilight’s, nose to nose.
  1970. >”You look like you need caffeine, too!”
  1971. >”Hint taken, Pinkie,” your princess answers, pushing her hyperactive friend aside and rolling off your lap. “I’ll go make some coffee.”
  1972. >She pauses, looking over to Scootaloo.
  1973. >”Do you drink coffee…?” Twi asks the filly, suddenly uncertain. “I can make caffeinated tea if you’d prefer –“
  1974. >”Yes, please,” Scoots answers sliding off the sofa. “With honey?”
  1975. >”Sure,” you marefriend answers with a smile. “Everypony else…?”
  1976. >”Coffee is fine,” Trixie responds, watching Fluttershy careful as the pegasus eyes Rainbow Dash. “What are you –“
  1977. >The little yellow pony, vaults over the back of the sofa, charging down the hallways.
  1978. >”Oh Celestia dammit!” Aredee screams, chasing after her.
  1979. >The room quickly empties as ponies rush to toilets, leaving just you and Trixie.
  1980. >The unicorn is staring at the hallway Fluttershy and Dash disappeared down, a look of puzzlement written across her features.
  1981. >”Just what’s so special about that restroom anyway…?” she asks quietly.
  1982. “No fucking clue.”
  1983. >Trixie flips herself around with a huff, sitting upright in the sofa with her forelegs crossed.
  1984. “Enjoying the show?”
  1985. >”It’s not bad.”
  1986. “I wasn’t sure – you aren’t commenting on it like the rest.”
  1987. >”That’s because *I* – unlike your other friends – know how to properly appreciate a performance.”
  1988. “Damn. Harsh. If I ever find a way back to my world, remind me to take you to the Drafthouse. Say two words and they’ll throw you out. Food’s not too bad either.”
  1989. >The mare gives you a lopsided smirk, raising one eyebrow.
  1990. >”Sounds interesting. Perhaps Trixie could take you up on that – if you made it worth her while.”
  1991. >The unicorn’s smile widens, showing her teeth.
  1992. “I figured taking you to a nice movie would be good enough, but if not…”
  1993. >You shrug, almost regretting the words as an expression of pain and humiliation flit across your friend’s face. But only almost – you *are* an asshole, after all.
  1994. >It helps that she twists away, presenting her back to you and hiding her face – you only had to harden your heart for a brief moment.
  1995. >”Of course it would be good enough,” your friend answers slowly. “Just getting a chance…”
  1996. >She drifts off as hoofbeats herald somepony’s return – she won’t risk anypony seeing her being weak. She can’t.
  1997. >”Why does she always think she can beat me?” Aredee whines, striking a pose as she enters the room. “Even with a headstart, that cheater never stood a chance!”
  1998. >The pegasus flinging herself across the room with just a few beats from her wings, soaring over the table to land on the distant sofa. She sits on her haunches, grinning like a fool.
  1999. “So… we were wondering –“
  2000. >”– just what is so special about that restroom anyway?” Trixie finishes, spinning around to face Aredee, her face hard again.
  2001. >Unphased by the unicorn’s glare, the blue pony raises an eyebrow and leans forward, scrutinizing the two of you.
  2002. >”Seriously?” she grunts, “Haven’t you tried it?”
  2003. “Of course I have. Even if I hadn’t before, I basically live here now and I just don’t see the appeal.”
  2004. >Dash groans, rolling her eyes with such force it throws her backwards, and clutches her head with her forehooves.
  2005. >”I don’t know if you’re not seeing it because you’re a guy or because you’re human, but that one’s just special, okay?”
  2006. >”At this point, I’m not sure I want to know,” Trixie grumbles. “Knowing this group, it’s probably something perverted.”
  2007. >”You’ve barely hung out with us,” Twilight remarks, bringing in a tray of mugs and two steaming pots, “so why would you think a thing like that?”
  2008. >You silently pray to any gods that are listening that she doesn –
  2009. >“From stories Anon has told me.”
  2010. >There are no gods.
  2011. >And if there are, you will kill them for their betrayal.
  2012. >Your princess shrugs and begins pouring the coffee.
  2013. >”I won’t say he was lying to you,” she comments, passing the first mug to the unicorn,” but I will say that’s rather like the pot calling the kettle black.”
  2014. >Trixie hesitates, holding the mug with both forehooves, then nods once.
  2015. >Your reputation hath been besmirched!
  2016. >The next minute is spent in deep contemplation, trying to figure out the best way to challenge your own marefriend to a duel of honour. Just slapping her in the face with a glove would either piss her off or –
  2017. >”Hey!” Twilight gives you a light nudge. “Coffee or tea?”
  2018. >Oh, hey. Everypony is back.
  2019. >Another bump.
  2020. >Right.
  2021. “Tea…?”
  2022. >”Sure thing!”
  2023. >Twi doesn’t even ask if you want anything in it – she’s probably tired of you telling her you like it black, just like the soulless void in your heart – she just pours the tea and shoves the mug in your direction.
  2024. >With your hands wrapped around its gentle warmth, you snuggle into the corner of the sofa, legs extended.
  2025. ”Not exactly the best way to greet this episode...”
  2026. >”Worried you’ll fall asleep?” Punky asks sarcastically, grabbing a mug of coffee off the table and gulping it down.
  2027. >Surprisingly, she doesn’t explode. You always worry that will happen with caffeine, or maybe that she’ll literally start bouncing off the walls. Maybe start vibrating so hard she actually changes color.
  2028. >But no, she just gets a little wider-eyed, which is terrifying in its own way.
  2029. >Drinks served, your little princess crawls onto the sofa, curling up on your legs like a cat – you’re going to regret this in an hour or so, but right now she’s too cute for you to move. And also *just* out of arm’s reach, the way you’re sitting.
  2030. >”Everypony ready!?”
  2031. “Yeppers!”
  2032. >”Lights, Twily?” Ponka reminds your princess as she resumes the show – Twilight complies instantly, bringing them down without a word.
  2033. >”No opening sequence, huh?” Dash comments as the new episode starts. “Things must be getting serious.”
  2034. >”A CITY just turned into a ROBOT!” your favorite pink pony screeches. “How many cities do you know that can do that!? NAME ONE!”
  2035. “Metrople –“
  2036. >”NOT YOU, ‘NONNY!”
  2038. >>”When a girl sets her mind to something, a good man is obliged to let her do it.”
  2039. >”SEE TWILIGHT!” Dash screams. “I TOLD YOU IT’S OKAY WHEN *WE* DO IT!”
  2040. >”No, I’m not changing the law,” your princess sighs. “It’s still rape.”
  2041. >”Damn.”
  2043. >”Did – did two flying battleships just engage in a fistfight? THEN EXPLODE?”
  2044. >Twilight’s eyes flick towards you for only a second, not wanting to miss any of the ludicrous action but still seeking confirmation.
  2045. “Yeppers!”
  2046. >”That’s… insane.”
  2047. “It gets better!”
  2049. >>”Oh, ignorance is a frightening thing. You might believe yourselves to be fighting on the side of righteousness, but I am the one who is protecting this world. It is I –“
  2050. >”Told you.” Trixie’s toothy grin flashes bright in the darkness.
  2051. >>”– who is the guardian of humanity.”
  2052. >”He’s not the real villain.”
  2054. >>”There can be no such thing as a guardian who kills his charges. Don’t you see that there is something wrong with this world?”
  2055. “Can we show this to Celestia next? Please?”
  2056. >”Why?” Pinko asks harshly. “She’s alre –“
  2057. >mumblemumblemumble
  2059. “Hey, Twi? You know how you thought the two battleships in a fistfight was weird?”
  2060. >”Yeah?”
  2061. “Watch this.”
  2063. “Hell yeah!”
  2064. >”WHY!?”
  2065. “Why is his head on fire?”
  2066. >”BECAUSE HE’S A BADASS!” Ponks answers both of you.
  2068. >>” I will leave you with this warning. When the land comes to overflow with a million apes, the moon shall become Hell’s messenger and destroy the world of the Spiral.”
  2069. >”Um… Anon…?”
  2070. “Yes, Flutters?”
  2071. >Your friend leans over, almost crawling from one sofa to the next to speak into your ear.
  2072. >”Please don’t have any children, okay?” she whispers. “Just in case. I’m just seeing a theme here and… well… I *like* the moon where it is, if you don’t mind…”
  2073. >There’s an uncomfortable – painful – pressure on your legs as Twilight crawls forward, bringing her head near the pegasus’s, the two of them almost nose to nose.
  2074. >”It’s just a story,” your princess hisses. “I thought *you* of all ponies would welcome a new life into this world!”
  2075. >”Well, yes, but…” Fluttershy pulls back slightly, casting about for somepony else to take up the fight for her – none intervene. “But if it means the end of the world… nevermind, I’m sorry.”
  2076. >She falls back fully onto her sofa, curling herself into a tight ball.
  2077. >”It’s okay,” she murmurs to herself. “I’ll get used to nothingness eventually…”
  2079. >”Waaaaaaaait… to be continued!? You mean this isn’t over?” Aredee pounds her hoof into the cushioned arm of the sofa in frustration. “How isn’t this over!?”
  2080. “You aren’t enjoying it?”
  2081. >”Hell yeah, I’m enjoying it, but they just killed the bad guy!” She waves a foreleg at the screen as the credits fly past. “Why wouldn’t it be over!?”
  2082. >”Because he’s not the bad guy,” Trixie sighs, massaging her forehead with a hoof. “Somepony else is. Why do you *always* assume anypony you don’t like is evil?”
  2083. >”Eh, usually it’s true,” the pegasus shrugs. “I’m just playing the odds!”
  2084. “It helps that as the Elements of Harmony they get to define evil.”
  2085. >”We’re not that –“ Twilight hesitates, looking back over her shoulder to Dash and correcting herself. “*Most* of us aren’t that bad. Anymore.”
  2086. >”Quiet!” Ponky barks, drowning out Trixie’s reply. “Show’s starting!”
  2087. “It’s been over eight hours – shouldn’t we stop for the night…?”
  2088. >”Nope!”
  2089. “The sun will be up before we finish!”
  2090. >To your right, Scootaloo whines softly, taking another sip of her tea.
  2091. >”No, it won’t,” Panka giggles, “don’t worry!”
  2092. >That worries you even more.
  2093. “Can we at least skip the recap episode…?”
  2094. >”Nope!”
  2096. >You find yourself nodding off during this episode, the long day finally catching up to you. Caffeinated though this tea is, its warmth calls you to sleep – as does the warm pony pressed against you. At first, it’s not too troubling – it *is* just a recap clip episode after all – but then suddenly four or five episodes have passed and the moon is on a collision course to destroy the world.
  2097. >”Have a nice nap?” your marefriend teases quietly, noticing the slight movements of your body.
  2098. “Not really.”
  2099. >”That’s a shame, you look exhausted,” she comments, crawling further up your body to lay her head on your chest. “You’ve seen this before – it’s okay if you fall asleep.”
  2100. >Even as you open your mouth to argue, your head involuntarily nods to one side as you almost lose consciousness.
  2101. >”Go to bed,” Twilight continues to whisper, trying not to disrupt the show. “Everypony will understand.”
  2102. >You shake your head – partially to clear your mind, partially to reject her offer. You’d rather sleep here, anyway, with your Twilight cuddled up to you.
  2103. >It’s good you feel that way, because either Ponka is skipping scenes or you keep blacking out.
  2104. >Probably you blacking out, considering she wouldn’t even skip the credits and previews.
  2105. >One minute, Twi is happily snuggling against your chest while Team Gurren launches into space to stop the falling moon, the next… nothing.
  2106. >No, not quite nothing – you exist even if nothing else does – the world is a blank dreamscape, possibly literally. It’s just you and… oh.
  2107. >”Greetings, Anonymous,” Luna welcomes you, gently tilting her head in a slight nod. “We have finally found you, though we do not think we have much time – you seem to be waking already.”
  2108. “Yeah, I never have slept easily, except when…”
  2109. >When you are holding Twilight, but you probably shouldn’t say that…
  2110. >”Indeed,” Luna agrees, smiling in amusement, “it has made it difficult for us to make a connection to you, but we have finally prevailed.”
  2111. “’We?’ There’s someone here with you? Oh, right, nevermind – the royal we.”
  2112. >Though there *are* vague shapes surrounding her, muddied and indistinct as if seen through sleep-blurred eyes. A smudge of pink, a cloud of white… and two darker ones you can’t quite make out.
  2113. >”No – WE,” the ethereal white form corrects, growing clearer and clearer as your focus on it.
  2114. “Oh. Hello, Celestia.”
  2115. >You cross your arms grumpily, bracing your feet firmly on… on whatever passes for the ground in the void.
  2116. >”We have not seen you for far too long,” the princess says, smiling timidly.
  2117. “Maybe.”
  2118. >Not long enough.
  2119. “You’ll see me again soon – Twilight is bringing me to CanterCon.”
  2120. >It’s hard to read their expressions as everything grows more muddied, but the princess appear surprised, then amused. Celestia even manages a short, polite laugh.
  2121. >”Indeed, with any luck,” she tells you as you wake, Twilight’s forelegs wrapped tight around your ribs – the sudden pain of her crushing grip shocking you from your sleep.
  2122. >>”Here, daddy.”
  2123. >Ah, this scene. This song. No wonder your shirt is wet – Twilight has been crying. She is still crying silently as Viral lifts his daughter up, spinning her around. Your marefriend squeezes even tighter as he looks up at the star streaking across the sky – the star of Team Dai-Gurren waking from the labyrinth of false dreams.
  2124. >>”Oh, now I get it. I was having a sappy dream, too.”
  2125. >Twilight whines quietly as Viral looks sadly to his imaginary family – to his wife and daughter – and leaves his perfect lie to join that star.
  2126. >Her body convulses with hushed sobbing as Simon – as the true hero of the story – bursts forth from nothingness to rescue his lost princess.
  2127. >>”I’ve here, Nia.”
  2128. >You look down at *your* little princess’s face – tears still run from her eyes, even as she is grins wildly at the insane heroism.
  2129. >”Just like he promised,” she whispers to no one.
  2130. >>”Just like I promised.”
  2131. >Twilight blinks in surprise as you pat her shoulder gently – she hadn’t noticed you wake, too caught up in the show.
  2132. >>”Don’t underestimate us! We don’t care about time or space or extradimensional whatevers. We don’t give a damn about that. Force your way down a path YOU chose to take, and do it YOUR way!”
  2133. >You reach over, wiping away her tears, and dip your head low.
  2134. “You shouldn’t cry…”
  2135. >She glances towards you questioningly at your whispered words.
  2136. “… this is a happy moment.”
  2137. >>”Even when trapped by the cycle of karma…”
  2138. >>”… the dreams we left behind will open the door!”
  2139. >>”Even if the infinite universe stands in our way…”
  2140. >>”… the seething of our blood will determine what will be!”
  2141. >>”We’ll break through time and space…”
  2142. >>”… to grab hold of our own path!”
  2143. >”I know,” she mouths voicelessly.
  2144. >You’re still exhausted, but you can’t sleep now, even if you wanted to. Not during the final battle. And certainly not when your princess is crying.
  2145. >You start to run your hands through her mane – something that always comforts her, but Twilight releases her grip on your torso, pulling your arms around her instead.
  2146. >You glance to your left and right – despite the silence of the peanut gallery, everypony is still awake. Everypony is watching. Good – this world needs more ponies that don’t let fate tell them what to do. Even Dash is too absorbed to so much as cheer at the heroes’ inevitable victory – you’d almost think she was bored, were it not for her outstretched wings and focused gaze.
  2147. >>”Let’s go home.”
  2148. >At those words, your princess begins to cry again, and not silently this time. Ponies from both sides look over in concern, not comprehending why – only Trixie’s glance has understanding in it – the others must have missed it, missed that key moment.
  2149. >>”I’ll never forget you. Even if the universe ends.”
  2150. >>”Don’t be silly. It won’t end.”
  2151. >The unicorn smiles sadly as the final episode’s credits begin to roll, AreDee screams in frustration. Fluttershy whines softly and Scootaloo…
  2152. >Scootaloo’s jaw is set in determination, her gaze hard.
  2153. >”How could you say that was a happy ending…?” Twilight whines, looking at you pleadingly, as if your words can change the ending – as if your words can make everything alright. You *did* promise to fix everything, but some things don’t need fixing.
  2154. >”Because the characters were happy,” Trixie answers for you.
  2155. >”But –!”
  2156. >“It’s not about us – it’s about *them,*” the unicorn sighs. “And they seemed hopeful, didn’t they?”
  2157. >”Well… yes… but…”
  2158. “But nothing, my little princess.”
  2159. >You gently pull her head back so she’s staring into your eyes.
  2160. “That’s how it ends – with hope, and hope is a good thing.”
  2161. >To your right, Scootaloo snorts, shaking her head.
  2162. >”If that’s hope, I don’t want any,” the filly says scornfully. “He should have found a way to save everypony. A *real* hero would have saved everypony.”
  2163. “But he –“
  2164. >”I heard what he said,” Scootaloo sneers. “And fine, let’s accept that – but he should have stopped it from happening in the first place. With that much power, why let bad things happen at all?”
  2165. “Because we learn from our failures – they make us who we are as much as our victories.”
  2166. >The little pegasus shakes her head, refusing to accept your argument.
  2167. >”I need to go home,” she says, looking at the clock. “I can maybe get a couple hours of sleep before school –“
  2168. >Your head spins to check the time – it’s only five in the morning.
  2169. “Impossible…”
  2170. >”No, ‘Nonny – I told you we’d finish before the sun came up,” Ponka grumbles, pulling herself out of her fortress of cuddly solitude. The mare looks over to the filly and sighs. “Come on, Scooty – I’ll take you home!”
  2171. “What about cleaning up…?”
  2172. >You wave your hand at the screen.
  2173. “I know this isn’t ours – hers, I mean. It’s not Twilight’s.”
  2174. >”Tomorrow,” your princess moans plaintively. “We’ll take care of it tomorrow.”
  2175. “It *is* tomorrow…”
  2176. >”No, tomorrow is after sleep,” she moans. “Today is still today.”
  2177. >Pinto grins and nods, Scootaloo already asleep on the mare’s back.
  2178. >”Are you sure…?” Fluttershy asks, leaning over to put a hoof on your shoulder. “Trixie and I can –“
  2179. >”I’m sure,” Twilight yawns, stretching in your arms. “Tired. Bed now. Carry me.”
  2180. >She lifts her head, just so she can thump it into your chest again.
  2181. >”Carry meeeeee.”
  2182. >Trixie rolls her eyes, pulling the little yellow pegasus away.
  2183. >”Time to go,” she snarls. “Let’s leave them to their fun.”
  2184. >”No fun,” Twilight mumbles. “Just sleep.”
  2185. “You’ve been laying on my legs for I don’t know how many hours – I’m not sure I can get myself up the stairs, let alone you.”
  2186. >Fluttershy opens her mouth to speak – probably to offer to help – but a sharp glare from Trixie forestalls her words.
  2187. >”WELL!” Rainbow Dash rears up on her hind legs, stretching her cramped muscles. “That was fun – we’ll have to do this again, but maybe not all at once, okay?”
  2188. “Yeah, that was a bit much…”
  2189. >”Pussies,” Ponka giggles. “I’ll see you all tomorrow!”
  2190. >Your so-called friends file out, leaving you trapped beneath the dead weight of your marefriend. Maybe you can just sleep here – she’s already asleep anyw –
  2191. >”Carry.”
  2192. >Or not.
  2193. “You’ll have to get off of me if you –“
  2194. >”No. Carry me.”
  2195. “Compromise?”
  2196. >Twilight flicks her ears, willing to hear your offer.
  2197. “Teleport?”
  2198. >BAMPFH.
  2199. >Without the side of the sofa to hold you up, you fall over backwards on the bed, your princess spilling from your arms at the sudden drop. She moans happily, burrowing beneath the covers and stealing your pillow. It takes several minutes to get your legs to work well enough for you to pull your pants off.
  2200. >”You really think that was happy…?”
  2201. >A glance over your shoulder reveals Twi has been watching you strip, though she lacks the lewd grin that usually adorns her face at times like this.
  2202. “Yeah, I do.”
  2203. >”Then I hate to imagine the ending of the Night Lords trilogy,” she sighs. “I bet everypony dies.”
  2204. >She squeezes her eyes shut.
  2205. >”Maybe that *would* be a happy ending, considering they’re evil…?”
  2206. >Your little princess groans wordlessly, fidgeting until you slip under the covers.
  2207. >”Do you know any stories with *real* happy endings…?” Twilight asks in a half-asleep mumble as she rolls onto her side, pressing her back against your chest.
  2208. “Ours?”
  2209. >”I hope not,” she murmurs, wrapping a foreleg around the arm you have draped over her body. “I hope our story never ends.”
  2210. “Everything ends.”
  2211. >”Not us. Not ever. You promised.”
  2212. >Twilight sighs sadly, putting her other forehoof on your arm.
  2213. >”Why didn’t Viral stay in his dream…?” she asks suddenly. “He was immortal – it would have lasted forever. Why did he leave his family?”
  2214. “Because they weren’t real, and his friends needed him.”
  2215. >”But… but… then why didn’t he go back after…?”
  2216. “To a lie he knows is a lie?”
  2217. >”Then why not make it real?”
  2218. “He couldn’t have children. You know that.”
  2219. >”But with that much power –“
  2220. >Your little princess’s thought cuts off mid-sentence in a most troubling way – she’s stopped talking because she is now thinking. Thinking of a way to solve the problem. You’ve seen this more than once, as she gets trapped in a labyrinth of logic all of her own making.
  2221. “I’m sorry, Twilight, but that’s how the story ends.”
  2222. >”Yeah,” she agrees, either having abandoned or solved the problem already, “that’s how their story ends.”
  2223. >She twists her head back to face you, smiling as you kiss her gently.
  2224. >”But not ours, okay?”
  2225. “Okay, my little princess.”
  2226. >She sighs happily, straightening out her neck and staring out the window at the pre-dawn sky.
  2228. >Twilight is gone when you wake – your arms somehow found her pillow instead, clutching it tight to your body. You reach over to turn off the alarm, but it’s already off. Of course it is – you never reset it and the day is already half-over.
  2229. >And of course Twilight is gone, she has too much work to do – too much work to waste time in bed.
  2230. >Your legs wobble slightly as you stumble out of bed, still not entirely recovered from your princess playing kitty cat last night. You consider pulling on some clothes, but your legs don’t seem to want to let you bend over, almost collapsing as you make the attempt – you can either be upright or flat on the floor, no middle ground. You choose upright as crawling into your marefriend’s study fully dressed would be even less dignified than walking in naked.
  2231. >Besides, it’s not like she’ll have any visitors, right?
  2232. >It’s a struggle, but you manage to stagger to the door. From there, you brace yourself against the wall, one hand pressed against it to hold yourself upright, and make your way down the hall. The door to Twilight’s study is closed, but you can tell she’s in there – the faint sound of pages turning betrays her presence. You fumble for the handle, managing to open it up on the first try, and poke your head around the door frame.
  2233. >Your princess doesn’t notice, engrossed in her work. Stacks of books surround her, different books than before – she must have gotten much finished done since you last were in here yesterday. These books are even older and dustier than the prior works, than anything else in this room. At least she doesn’t have the look of eternal boredom and despair that she had worn previously, instead her movements passionate, almost frantic.
  2234. “Hey.”
  2235. >She screams, looking up at you in shock.
  2236. “Sorry, didn’t mean to surprise you…”
  2237. >You smile reassuringly. Gods, you hope it looks reassuring – you’re so tired that you can’t be positive you’re making the right expression.
  2238. “… good morning.”
  2239. >”It’s three in the afternoon,” your princess corrects, keeping her eyes on you as she slams shut the book she was studying and slides it to one side, shoving it under a pile of papers.
  2240. “I just woke up. That makes it morning.”
  2241. >”Fair point,” Twilight concedes, continuing to shuffle around pages and books.
  2242. “Ready for a break?”
  2243. >”No.” Her eyes narrow as she examines you, at least the parts of you that are poking around the doorframe – the head and arm and shoulder she can see. “You’re naked, aren’t you?”
  2244. “And you weren’t revising Equestria’s laws.”
  2245. >”No.” Twilight ducks her head, trying to hide her blush and failing. She also fails to hide her grin, even though she holds up a hoof to cover her mouth.
  2246. “Want me to make breakfast…?”
  2247. >”You can barely stand,” your marefriend chuckles. “Go back to bed, I’ll make breakfast.”
  2248. >She rises, almost knocking over a pile of books in the process.
  2249. “But… shouldn’t you be working on that thing Celestia wanted you to do?”
  2250. >Twilight shakes her head firmly, smirking.
  2251. >”No,” your little princess says, stepping out from behind the table and approaching the door, “some things are more important than work. Besides, I think I’m almost done here.”
  2252. >She gives you a gentle nudge with her shoulder as she exits, pushing you back towards her – your – room.
  2253. >”Now go back to bed.”
  2254. >You really want to stay up, to get to work doing something productive, to make breakfast for your marefriend… but you can’t. Damn body, getting all tired and worn out after a simple day of backbreaking labor and a neverending night of anime.
  2255. >With a nod, you start shuffling back to bed, pausing halfway as your peripheral vision catches Twilight doing something you’ve never seen her do before. She closes the door to her study – understandable. But then she locks it.
  2256. >She’s never locked it.
  2257. >Your little princess admitted to goofing off, but damn. Whatever it is she *was* doing, she *really* doesn’t want to be caught.
  2258. >Probably smut. She was probably reading smut.
  2259. >…
  2260. >Twilight was right – you telling Trixie they were perverts was calling the kettle black.
  2261. >Well, at least you’re set up for some happy dreams as she cooks you breakfast.
  2263. >Or not.
  2264. >You’re back in the void again.
  2265. >”Welcome back, Anonymous,” your second favorite princess greets you, smiling slightly.
  2266. >Luna and Celestia are barely discernable, the other three blurs even less distinct than before – merely hints of color in the nothingness of this place.
  2267. >You sigh loudly, frowning at the two.
  2268. “I *had* a nice dream all planned out, but I can’t go through with it while you’re here.”
  2269. >Well, you *could*, but it would probably be a bad idea.
  2270. >Though… the look on Celestia’s face as you bang her favored pupil *might* make the awkwardness worth it.
  2271. >”Don’t worry,” the white mare speaks, taking a step forward. “We will be gone soon – you’re far too light a sleeper for us to ever stay long. I just wanted to say –“
  2272. “Whatever you want to tell me, you can tell me at CanterCon.”
  2273. >”Actually –“ Luna sighs, before being cut off by her sister’s raised hoof.
  2274. >Fucking Celestia.
  2275. >”Let him have this,” the white mare says. “We will leave soon, but let me ask you this – do you remember the costumes you –“
  2276. >She pauses for a second, her mind tripping over the words.
  2277. >” – the costumes you *will* wear?”
  2278. “Of course.”
  2279. >”And what are they?”
  2280. >You stare at her angrily for a second, before deciding to just play along – she won’t leave until you comply with whatever game she’s at. Your time in her dungeon taught you that.
  2281. “Paladin, Old Man Henderson, and the God-Emperor of Man.”
  2282. >Not that she knows who any of them are.
  2283. >”Strange, isn’t it?” Celestia sighs, smiling sadly at you, then at her sister. “Strange that you chose three men who gave their lives to achieve victory.”
  2284. “What the hell do you mean by that?”
  2285. >The princess shakes her head – she won’t say. Not that it surprises you.
  2286. >She never answers *your* questions.
  2287. >The shapes grow vague, Celestia and Luna turning into the same blur as the others, then blinking out of existence. The pink one is the last to go.
  2288. >”Have fun,” it tells you, somehow giving the impression of winking. And then it too is gone, leaving you alone with the smell of waffles.
  2289. >Waffles?
  2290. >Looks like time is up already, and you never got to have your pleasant little dream.
  2291. >Fucking Celestia.
  2293. >It doesn’t feel like an hour has passed, but that’s what the clock tells you as you crawl out of bed. And despite your unhappy and unwelcome dream, the time in bed seems to have done miracles for your body – you can walk again.
  2294. >As cute as it was, no more letting Twi play at being a kitten.
  2295. >The waffles still smell raw – you’re not sure how you can *smell* that, but you do – leaving you time enough to get dressed. You reach into Twilight’s dresser, into the drawer she had ceded to you, pulling out underwear and pants and the first shirt you find.
  2296. >Ugh, a button-down dress shirt – why did you even bring that over?
  2297. >Now is not the time for buttons, you’re more awake than before, but not *that* awake – you throw it onto the bed and reach back into the drawer. Victory – a simple t-shirt.
  2298. >Dressed, you thump down the stairs to the game room, though it looks… different…
  2299. >Right, of course. Last night.
  2300. The screen, laptop, and projector are gone, but the additional seating remains.
  2301. >”Pinkie Pie came by this morning to pick up her stuff,” Twilight calls to you from the kitchen, having heard your descent. “I told her to leave the sofas.”
  2302. “Decided to leave them here permanently?”
  2303. >”Maybe,” your marefriend answers, as if the thought hadn’t occurred to her until just now. “Mostly I told her that because she just gets in my way.”
  2304. “Right. Magic.”
  2305. >”Yep!”
  2306. >You settle back on the center sofa, feet propped up on the table. You could offer to help, but you know she would only turn it down. Besides, the food is smelling almost done.
  2307. >And bingo, here comes your princess with two plates of food, decked with fruit and syrup.
  2308. >”You *could* get drinks, you know,” she grumbles playfully, setting the plates down, “instead of making your marefriend do *all* the work.”
  2309. “Sure thing.”
  2310. >You jump to your feet and ruffle her mane playfully.
  2311. “Coffee, juice, water?”
  2312. >”Coffee. No, water,” Twilight answers. “Just water.”
  2313. >She frowns slightly.
  2314. “Not sure? I can bring both.”
  2315. >”Just water,” she repeats with a firm nod, sitting down.
  2316. >You grab the abandoned glasses and bowls from last night – might as well do a little cleanup on your way – and dump them into the kitchen sink, returning with two glasses of water.
  2317. >A straw in Twi’s, of course.
  2318. >”Thank you,” she beams as you set them down next to the places, then seat yourself beside her.
  2319. “So… what did we do to earn this feast?”
  2320. >”Oh… we haven’t done anything to earn them,” she smiles, stretching up to give you a peck on your cheek. “Not yet. These are pre-victory waffles.”
  2321. “For?”
  2322. >”You’ll see,” she says with a wink, then digs in to her stack.
  2323. >Messily, as always.
  2324. “Careful! Blueberries stain.”
  2325. >”Sohhy,” Twi mumbles with her mouth full.
  2326. >At times, you really can’t imagine a more unprincess-like princess, but it’s okay.
  2327. >You still love her anyway.
  2328. “Getting back to work after we eat…?”
  2329. >You can understand her taking a break, but you feel the need to play the devil’s advocate. She *did* want to get all that done before CanterCon, and it feels like she needs some prompting to get back on track.
  2330. >Slacking off should be a conscious choice, otherwise she might regret it.
  2331. >”No,” Twilight answers, careful to swallow before responding. “I need to…”
  2332. >She hesitates. Not sure of what she should say? Not sure of what she should do?
  2333. >Maybe she’s realizing she *does* need to resume her work.
  2334. >”… I need to visit Zecora. Pick up a couple of things.”
  2335. >She glances over to you and sets down her fork.
  2336. >That’s right, even ponies eat their waffles with forks.
  2337. >They’re not savages.
  2338. >”And you should probably start packing,” she says, leaning over to rub against your side. “For the con. Why don’t you head to your place and start getting everything packed up?”
  2339. “You’re just trying to get me out of the castle, aren’t you?”
  2340. >”Nooooooo. I’m not *just* trying to do that,” Twi answers with a giggle. “You really should get all your clothes and costumes ready. And remember to pack one of the suits Rarity made you!”
  2341. >You think over what you have to take… shouldn’t be too hard. Shouldn’t take too long. Except for that armor.
  2342. >Crap.
  2343. “I… uh… kind of have a lot. And some of it won’t fit in a suitcase.”
  2344. >”A ughw, haphs waa –“
  2345. “Swallow before you talk.”
  2346. >Twilight blushes, taking a few seconds to chew and swallow.
  2347. >”Sorry,” she smiles apologetically. “I know you have a lot, that’s why I arranged for Crafty Crate to pick everything up. All you have to do is box it up and wait for them to arrive.”
  2348. “And when will that be?”
  2349. >”Around eight,” she grins.
  2350. >So she doesn’t just need you out of the castle – she needs you out of the castle for several hours.
  2351. “I don’t know what you have planned, but I hope it’s worth it.”
  2352. >”I hope so, too.”
  2353. >Despite your best efforts, you’re unable to pry any more hints out of your marefriend, eventually giving up and finishing breakfast in cuddly silence. And then follow that with a few minutes of cuddly cuddling.
  2354. >But before anything else can happen, Twilight is sliding off of the sofa and heading downstairs, dragging you with her.
  2355. >”Come on,” she says impatiently. “We’ve both got a lot to do today.”
  2356. “But what about boxes or crates or whatever – I don’t have anything at my place to put the stuff in!”
  2357. >”Yes you do,” Twi counters, physically pushing you out the front door. “I had him drop some off earlier.”
  2358. “I’ll need help – some of it’s pretty heavy.”
  2359. >She gives you another shove, nudging you away from the door, just far enough for her exit, closing and locking the door behind herself.
  2360. >”I’m sure you’ll manage,” she tells you with a smirk. “You always do.”
  2361. >With a sigh, you give in to the inevitable, leaning down and kissing her forehead just below her horn.
  2362. “Try not to have too much fun without me.”
  2363. >”I’ll try,” she responds, nuzzling your face. “I’ll see you at eight.”
  2364. >With a grin, she trots away cheerfully, her plot swaying back and forth as she bounces along. You take the time to enjoy the view - it’s not like you need to be anywhere for a while – it’s only a fifteen minute walk to your place. You keep watching until your princess is out of sight, then turn and trudge towards your place, dragging your feet.
  2365. >Like Twilight said, there’s a large crate outside the Anonshack. Getting several hundred pounds of armor into it… well… it takes some time, but you manage. Just like Twilight said.
  2366. >You don’t bother with any padding – the deep gouges in your wooden floor and the crate stand in stark contrast to the unblemished golden surface of the armor. Fuck padding, this thing can take care of itself.
  2367. >As for clothing… you drag a never-used suitcase from your closet, filling it with enough clothing for four days – always pack for an extra day. Always. Accidents happen, and Twilight *is* a messy eater. Then your costumes – the floral shirt and cargo shorts, then the suit Twilight requested…
  2368. >… and then a hammer, because why not? You might need a sudden costume change mid-day.
  2369. >And of course Big Mac’s foam sword and your B&B books.
  2370. >Of course, Twilight will be taking all of hers, but years of experience have taught you that there can never be too many copies at a table. Seriously, there was that one time…
  2371. >Gods, that system was a *mess.* At no point in a game should you have to reference two tables that are on opposite ends of the book. Certainly not at the same time.
  2372. >And then you wait.
  2373. >There’s not much to do in the Anonshack – you *were* somewhat proud of your freedom from time-wasting devices, but right now you regret it.
  2374. >You *could* get your books back out – it was kind of silly to pack them when you knew you were going to have to kill time, but… but… you’ve already read them cover to cover. Every single one. What new secrets are left for you to discover? What new broken builds? Are there even any left?
  2375. >To hell with it – you’re going out. Maybe swing by Sugarcube Corner.
  2376. >Or not – there’s a huge brown stallion outside your door.
  2377. “Um. Hi?”
  2378. >”Can’t let you out yet,” Crafty Crate says apologetically, blocking your exit. “Got about… two hours left.”
  2379. >With a sigh, you close the door and tear open your suitcase to get to your B&B books.
  2381. >You’re rereading the rules for crafting magical weapons for the fourth time – specifically searching for limitations on what *kind* of weapons can be made – when there’s a knock at your door. You quickly shove the books back into your suitcase, zip it up, and drag it to the front door. You open it a crack, and peer through the gap.
  2382. “Issat you, warden? Issit time for mah turn in tha yard?”
  2383. >”Uh… I guess…?” Crafty Crate grunts. “It’s eight, so my crew is loadin’ up that big box and we’re getting ready to head out. Just wondered if there’s anything else you wanted us to take.”
  2384. “Yep!”
  2385. >He quickly backs up as you fling open the door and stride out, shoving the suitcase in his direction. Fucker is heavy with all your B&B books in it, might as well have them deal with it instead of lugging it around yourself. You lock the door behind you and begin walking – after two hours locked in your place, you’re feeling a little antsy, maybe a little hungry.
  2386. >A detour to Sugarcube Corner couldn’t hurt, right?
  2387. >It *is* her turn to wait.
  2388. >You turn left, towards the bakery. It’s only a few minutes out of the way, and Pinkie Pie must have the night off – you’re able to get in and out in less than three minutes, saying fewer than ten words the entire time.
  2389. >The box in your hand is light – just a pair of cupcakes. After all, if you’re going to make Twilight wait, you might as well bring home something for her as well.
  2390. >They are her favorites – the same kind Ponka brought you just two weeks ago. You got them as insurance, just in case your little distraction ruined everything. Hopeful they can placate your little princess if she is angry.
  2391. >You quicken your already brisk pace as the sun dips below the rooftops, walking with the speed of a man with places to be and nervous energy to burn. The ponies you pass look at you curiously – it’s odd for you to have anyplace you *need* to be.
  2392. >Also, you’re human.
  2393. >That’s kinda weird to them. Even though you’ve been in Ponyville for about a year, not everypony knows you. It’s a bigger town than it seems.
  2394. >You briefly wonder about what Twi was trying to hide from you – a surprise party…? Is it your birthday?
  2395. >It’s not your birthday.
  2396. >There are no big new game releases.
  2397. >Ponka wouldn’t have taken home her projector and screen if you were marathoning another movie tonight.
  2398. >Maybe she just needed some time alone.
  2399. >Some time without you around.
  2400. >It would be understandable – everyone needs some time to themselves every once in a while.
  2401. >Well, whatever it is, you’ll find out in just a few minutes – you can already see the castle. Not just the peak – you can see that from anywhere in Ponyville – you see the front door just down the street. Good thing, since the wind is starting to pick up again. Winter is practically over – officially, going by the calendar and the town’s mostly-successful Winter Wrap Up event. But sometimes a cold wind still blows in, and the days are still relatively short.
  2402. >You open the door and step inside, half-expecting Twilight to be waiting for you. But she isn’t, nor is she in the game room. You drop the box of cupcakes on the table, looking to the clock.
  2403. >Eight-thirty.
  2404. >Damn, later than you expected – apparently the days aren’t as short as you thought.
  2405. “Twilight?”
  2406. >No answer.
  2407. >Well, she’s not downstairs and you doubt she’s in the “public” part of the castle, the part used for official work and open ceremonies. Twilight doesn’t go there unless she has to. That just leaves upstairs.
  2408. >Or she’s not home – that’s always a possibility. As socially stunted as she is, Twilight is still no hikikomori.
  2409. >You climb the stairs and look up and down the hallway – the only light that’s on is in the bedroom – did she get tired of waiting?
  2410. >Your little princess *did* want to finish reading the Night Lords books before CanterCon – she’s probably in bed with your iPad.
  2411. “Twilight…?”
  2412. >”In – in here!” she stutters from the bedroom, as if you didn’t know where she was by the light. “I think – I think I may have made… made a mistake…”
  2413. “Are you okay?”
  2414. >Your words are tinged with panic and your feet quickly carry you to the open door. A shadow crosses the light just as you reach the doorway, slamming into your chest.
  2415. “Hey. Hey, calm down, Twi…”
  2416. >You gently pat the back of her head, stroking her purple mane.
  2417. “… are you okay…?”
  2418. >”M-maybe…?” she answers, her face buried in your chest. “B-but I made – made a mistake!”
  2419. >Twilight stands a little taller – using you to hold herself up – the top of her head just below your chin. But… Twilight isn’t that tall, her head barely clears your belly button when you’re standing. She moan as you grab her with both arms, and tilts her head back, looking up at you with her violet eyes.
  2420. >”I m-made a mistake,” she repeats through a human mouth, awkwardly putting her human arms around your waist.
  2421. “I’d say so. Human skin isn’t normally a pale lilac.”
  2422. >In the face of the impossible, be a smartass! It’s generally good life advice, but also your motto!
  2423. >”Sorry…” your mare – girl? – friend moans, “… I’ll do better next – next time.”
  2424. “But that isn’t what you’re talking about, is it…?”
  2425. >”Nooo,” Twilight grunts. “I – I thought…”
  2426. >She pauses, clenching her eyes shut.
  2427. >”I… cast the transformation spell an – an hour ago,” she explains, clutching at your shirt with fingers that barely know how to work. “I – I thought it would be enough time to learn how this body moves.”
  2428. >The aforementioned body is pressed tightly against yours, jerking with rapid, shallow breaths – you can feel her nipples rubbing against you with each breath, even through your shirt. Through *both* shirts – she’s wearing the button-down you had cast aside earlier today.
  2429. >”I didn’t know – didn’t know it would feel like this,” she moans happily – almost painfully – as she begins to move a little more and a little more. “I’m – I’m sorry…”
  2430. >She pulls back her head, and opens her eyes, looking at you mournfully, her lower lip caught in her teeth.
  2431. “Don’t worry, my little princess. This is Ponyville – I’ve seen weirder shit just stepping out the door to get the mail.”
  2432. >”No… I’m *sorry*,” she groans, shaking. “I – tried to do what you – you said. I tried –“
  2433. “What I said?”
  2434. >”You told… told me…”
  2435. >One of her arms slips free from your waist – you can feel it slithering between the two of you, reaching down towards your crotch.
  2436. >No, towards *her’s*.
  2437. >”You told me not to….” she grins an idiot’s grin “… not to have too much fun without you, but… but…”
  2438. “Turn back.”
  2439. >You can’t believe you said that, you fucking piece of shit. First woman – the first HUMAN WOMAN – you’ve seen in a year AND she’s the woman you love, with what feels like VERY nice figure, and you just told her to turn into a little technicolor pony!?
  2440. “Turn back!”
  2441. >Oh FUCK you, mouth. And you too, heart, for caring about her wellbeing.
  2442. >”Won’t help,” she grunts, her forehead coming back to crash against your chest. You can feel her arm moving as she – you can only assume – rubs herself. “This – this doesn’t help either.”
  2443. >And yet, her arm continues to flex.
  2444. >”I didn’t – didn’t think the potion would work quite… quite like this…”
  2445. “What potion!?”
  2446. >”One I got from…” a small gasp escapes her lips, interrupting her briefly “… from Zecora. To induce es –“
  2447. >She stops speaking, looking at you fearfully – even her hand stops rubbing back and forth for a brief moment.
  2448. “To do what!?”
  2449. >You’re proud of yourself for being so very calm – no windows shatter at your shout.
  2450. >”It’s… it’s an aphrodisiac,” she spits out, blushing for the first time. “I didn’t think it would be this – this strong on a human body. Thought I would be… be bigger.”
  2451. “Do I need to get help!?”
  2452. >”Only you can help me,” she groans, burying her hornless head in your chest again. “I – I didn’t think the effect would…”
  2453. >She whines wordlessly, shaking in your grip.
  2454. “Come on, let’s get you to somepony who can help! Zecora maybe? I’m sure she has a potion to counter this!”
  2455. >”NO!”
  2456. >BAMPFH!
  2457. >Even hornless, Twilight apparently still has her magic, teleporting the two of you from the doorway to the bed.
  2458. >”Only YOU can help,” she insists, pushing you away slightly, enough for you to see… to see she hadn’t buttoned that shirt – though it still covers most of her up, it jerks open a little more with each twitch of her hand, almost, but never quite falling aside.
  2459. “I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to be using magic while drugged out of your mind with an aphrodisiac.”
  2460. >”What aphro… disiac? I drank a – oh, right. Right!”
  2461. >You push yourself off of her, rolling aside.
  2462. “Look, this is all kinds of sexy… it really is…”
  2463. >Her arm jerks again, catching your attention – your eyes follow along it’s length, down to where it disappears into a pair of your boxers. A very wet pair of your boxers.
  2464. “… it really is…”
  2465. >Even your dick says so, pressing against your pants in a valiant effort to escape.
  2466. “… but this doesn’t seem… right.”
  2467. >”Fuck me,” she gasps as her shirt finally falls open, gravity dragging the cloth over her sensitive nipples. “It’s – it’s the only way.”
  2468. >She grins fearsomely as you lean over.
  2469. >”It’s the only way,” Twi repeats, her other hand coming up to grab your chin. “It won’t – won’t stop until you fuck me.”
  2470. “Seriously?”
  2471. >You pull back even further, sitting on the edge of the bed.
  2472. “You drugged yourself just so I would have to have sex with you?”
  2473. >”N-no…”
  2474. “Is that why you turned into a human, too?”
  2475. >”No!”
  2476. “Do you think I’d only care about you if you were human?”
  2477. >”NO!” she screams. “I didn’t do this for you! I did this for ME!”
  2478. “Oh.”
  2479. >That changes things.
  2480. >”I wanted to… wanted to…” she grimaces “… wanted to know what it felt like.”
  2481. >Thaaaaaaat’s a lie. Even with her hands down a pair of boxers, you can tell when she’s lying.
  2482. >You lean over, examining her now bare chest – her nipples only a slightly darker purple than the lilac that is the rest of her. You reach over and light poke one of them, causing your… marefriend? girlfriend?
  2483. >Your princess.
  2484. >… causing your princess to gasp.
  2485. >”Carefulllllll,” she warns. “Those are… are sensitive…”
  2486. “Of course they are. Because of what you took.”
  2487. >”Nooooo,” she moans. “Even before that.”
  2488. “Huh.”
  2489. >REVENGE.
  2490. >You poke it again, making her whine.
  2491. “You never seemed to enjoy me playing with them before.”
  2492. >Poke. Twist.
  2493. >”They’re basically… basically vest-vestigial on ponies,” Twilight grunts. “Our bodies work… work very differently.”
  2494. “And yet you decided to take a pony drug in a human body? Why!?”
  2495. >”I’m… I’m…” she grins, and this time it has nothing to do with what her hand is doing, “I’m stacking the deck.”
  2496. “You heard that…?”
  2497. >She nods.
  2498. >”I thought… if I could turn into a human…”
  2499. “… that I would never leave you for somepony else?”
  2500. >You sigh, trying to touch her reassuringly… apparently a hand on her thigh isn’t the right place. Or, well… it *is*, just for something else.
  2501. >”No, but close enough.”
  2502. “If that’s your reaction to me touching your thigh, I can’t imagine what you’d do if we actually had sex right now…”
  2503. >”Neither… can I,” Twilight grins, releasing you so she has that hand free for… other things. “Do it.”
  2504. “What if I don’t want to…?”
  2505. >You watch as she slowly – gingerly – begins to play with her breasts, almost – but never quite – touching her nipples. The closest she gets is to rub a finger gently around the areola once or twice, before spiraling off to massage other parts.
  2506. >”What kind of hero would… would let his princess s-suffer like this…?”
  2507. “The kind that thinks she’s enjoying herself immensely.”
  2508. >Twilight face becomes even more flushed and she looks away, biting her lip.
  2509. “More importantly…”
  2510. >She looks back to you as you lean over, meeting your kiss.
  2511. “… what kind of *man* would I be if I just sat here and watched the pony I love diddle herself without becoming too horny to think?”
  2512. >”Caref-aaaaaaaaa!“ Twilight shrieks as you sway over her body, briefly locking your lips around something new.
  2513. “Do we need a condom, or…?”
  2514. >She looks at you curiously.
  2515. “I mean… you’re human right now. Couldn’t you… couldn’t you get pregnant…?”
  2516. >”If… if I do…” Twilight turns her head aside, looking away from you, “if we – if you – don’t want it… I can just abort it…”
  2517. “I wouldn’t want to make you go through that.”
  2518. >”N-no,” she sighs. “Condoms – condoms don’t ex-exist here. Any m-mare can abort at… at will…”
  2519. >And of course, magic takes care of disease.
  2520. “You wouldn’t want to keep it?”
  2521. >Her eyes flick to you fearfully, for just a second.
  2522. >”It would be al… almost impossible, ev-even as a human,” she sighs, “and it – it probably wouldn’t – wouldn’t survive the trans… ition. You don’t – don’t have anything to worry about.”
  2523. “I’m not…”
  2524. >You slide further onto the bed, reaching over and hooking your fingers around the waistband of the boxers Twilight is wearing, slowly dragging them down.
  2525. “Bring your legs together…”
  2526. >She whines wordlessly as you pull the boxers off, tossing them on the floor. It takes more prompting – and a little help – to get the shirt off before it, too, is thrown aside.
  2527. >”Not fair,” Twilight mumbles, trying futilely to cover herself for some reason. You would ask why, if you could think that far ahead right now.
  2528. “I know.”
  2529. >”Strip.”
  2530. >You comply, pulling off your own clothes while she watches, enraptured. Her eyes sparkle as you climb onto her, pulling away her hands, revealing a small tuft of purple hair.
  2531. >Twilight whine’s piteously – or is it pleadingly – as you look down at her new body, her face blazing crimson as she bites her lip.
  2532. >Oh. Right. Oh course your princess is embarrassed – she’s facing you…
  2533. “Would you rather –“
  2534. >Her legs wrap around you, pulling you in.
  2535. >It’s a long night… not as long as the night before, but far more fun.
  2537. >A clanging alarm draws you from a deep sleep – your mutant powers of waking early have failed you in your time of need! There’s no way you’ll be able to get downstairs to make breakfast now – Twi is surely…
  2538. >Still in your arms…?
  2539. >Still asleep?
  2540. >Still human…?
  2541. >A quick squeeze confirms that yes, that *is* a breast you’re holding with your right hand – Twilight dragged your arm under her head and down her body, clasping a hand tightly around yours to hold it in place.
  2542. >Well, good then. You can make breakfast. Not waffles, of course – you couldn’t cook decent waffles to save your life – but breakfast is still breakfast.
  2543. >If only you could get free – between your princess’s deathgrip and your own body’s complete unwillingness to leave, you’re trapped. You *would* feel somewhat guilty about it, except it *is* her fault for being so damn cuddly.
  2544. >”Finally awake…?”
  2545. >Oh.
  2546. “How long have you been up?”
  2547. >”Haven’t slept yet,” she mumbles tiredly. “That stuff is one hell of a stimulant. Maybe I should take some next time I need to pull an all-nighter – it would be perfect –”
  2548. “Except for the insane horniness.”
  2549. >”Well, obviously,” Twilight groans. “Think you can turn that alarm off now? It’s kind of annoying…”
  2550. “Would love to, except my hand seems to be trapped…”
  2551. >You squeeze her breast again for emphasis.
  2552. >”You have a *second* one…”
  2553. “And somehow it has found a way to be wrapped around your waist.”
  2554. >With an amused giggle, Twilight picks up the clock with her magic, flinging it out the window with the tinkle of shattering glass.
  2555. >”Whoops!”
  2556. >The wail of the alarm grows fainter and fainter, eventually overcome by your princess’s guilty chuckle.
  2557. >”I shouldn’t have done that,” she sighs. “I blame the lack of sleep.”
  2558. “Why are you still…”
  2559. >”Human? I won’t turn back until I reverse the spell. And as you pointed out, I’m not really in any condition to be working magic…”
  2560. >Somehow you manage to release her waist, allowing you to wave a hand at the broken window.
  2561. “And just what do you call *that*?”
  2562. >”Ummm…”
  2563. >Twi twists her head back to face you – well, she tries, but human necks aren’t quite as long or flexible. The best she can manage in her current position is to look at you out of the corner of one eye.
  2564. >”… friendship…?”
  2565. >She smiles at your groan.
  2566. “Same thing.”
  2567. >”Noooooooooo, they’re *totally* different!”
  2568. “Bullshit.”
  2569. >”Really, ‘Nonny!”
  2570. “Bull. Shit.”
  2571. >”Not the same thing at all!”
  2572. “But friendship is…”
  2573. >”Magic!” Twilight answers instinctively, followed by a grimaced grunt. “Damn. Stupid mouth.”
  2574. “Now you know what it’s like to be me.”
  2575. >”Exhausted, drugged, and in desperate need of a shower?” your little princess snarks. “I’m surprised my hindlegs aren’t glued together…”
  2576. “No need to say hind – you only have the one pair now.”
  2577. >”Oh, right. Right!”
  2578. >A faint hint of a blush is almost visible, though you can’t really see it – more like the sun just before it peeks over the horizon.
  2579. >”I’m surprised my *legs* aren’t glued together,” she corrects herself, almost sounding proud – obviously she was more embarrassed at her mistake than what she had actually said.
  2580. “You should probably turn back as soon as you think it’s safe. You’re really not acting like yourself.”
  2581. >”I know,” she sighs happily, “isn’t it *great*?”
  2582. “And a little scary.”
  2583. >”I know!”
  2584. >With some struggle – quite a bit actually, Twilight turns her body to face you, slipping one of her legs between yours. Her eyes twinkle and she’s biting her lower lip in excitement.
  2585. >”Think of the power I wield in this body!”
  2586. “Um… *I* think it’s sexy… but…”
  2587. >”No!” Her eyes dart back and forth, filled with uncertainty. “Well, yes. But no!”
  2588. >She holds up one of her hands, fingers twisted in a rictus claw.
  2589. >”Now *I* give the ear scritchies!”
  2590. >She giggles as you plant a hand on her face, gently shoving Equestria’s latest tyrannical maniac away.
  2591. “Go shower. I’ll make breakfast.”
  2592. >”Um… I don’t know if I can get there on my own…”
  2594. >”I never did get the hang of walking on only two legs…”
  2596. >”… plus I’m too tired to even mooooove…”
  2597. >Still… counts…?
  2598. “I guess that means I need to bring breakfast up here, too?”
  2599. >”Mhm!” Twilight nods rapidly. “Stairs are dangerous, particularly to someone in my condition. Studies show that almost all stair-related accidents happen on or around stairs.”
  2600. “Sounds a bit tautological. I’m afraid the money spent to fund that study went to waste… I mean, you could say that about *anything*!”
  2601. >”I thought so, too, but no!” your little princess insists. “Only fifteen percent of knife-related murders occur within twenty meters of a knife!”
  2602. “That’s because eighty-five percent of the time, the killer takes the knife with him.”
  2603. >”What? Seriously!?” her eyes narrow in anger. “Those fuckers!”
  2604. “Stop… stop talking. Go shower.”
  2605. >”Carry me!” Twilight whines, trying to pout – the expression doesn’t work quite the same on a human’s face as it does on a pony’s, but she manages to get the point across. “Carry meeeeee!”
  2606. >Why the fuck not? You carry Ponka around all the time – it’s not like it’s hard or anything, particularly considering how little they weigh.
  2607. >With a flourish, you cast the covers away and roll off of the bed, kneeling at its side. The bed’s narrowness works to your advantage, making it easy for you to slide your arms under your princess to lift her in a bridal carry.
  2608. >Too bad you don’t bother to brace yourself – Twi is several inches off the bed before you lose your balance to her unexpected weight, dropping her back to the mattress.
  2609. >”Careful!” Twilight hisses, suddenly serious, if only for a second.
  2610. >Right. Not a pony currently.
  2611. >She weights as much as a human – should have expected that.
  2612. >For the second attempt, you actually brace yourself, pulling your princess up to your chest and standing with only a slight wobble in your knees.
  2613. >Fuck yeah! You’re a MAN!
  2614. >”Ah, this is nice,” Twilight murmurs, wrapping her arms around herself and snuggling her naked body up to your torso as if she is cold. Probably is, considering the lack of clothing and… well… normally Twi is far fuzzier than she is now.
  2615. >You carry her into the bathroom – careful to avoid smacking her head on the doorframe like you’ve seen in far too many romantic comedies – and set her down on her feet next to the bathtub. Overall, easier than you had thought it would be. You offer a hand, helping your princess step into the tub, watching her carefully – for safety’s sake, of course. Wouldn’t want her to slip.
  2616. >Also wouldn’t want to miss any details of this body that you had overlooked the night before… looks like Twi still has her cutie mark.
  2617. >Exactly where you thought it would be.
  2618. “Sit down.”
  2619. >”Why…?”
  2620. “Because almost all bathtub accidents happen in the tub.”
  2621. >”Good… good point…”
  2622. >Twilight lets you lower her to the bottom of the tub, smiling as you turn on the tap, letting the warm water rush over her body.
  2623. “Bath or shower?”
  2624. >”Shower.” Her face scrunches up in distaste. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to sit in a tub full of jizzwater either. “Definitely shower. Pass me the sha – thanks.”
  2625. >She clumsily takes the shampoo from you, her fingers fumbling gracelessly at the bottle.
  2626. >”How the hell do you *use* these scrawny things?” Twi grumbles, finally latching on to the bottle with both hands.
  2627. “Didn’t seem to have a problem with using them last night…”
  2628. >You give her your best shit-eating grin.
  2629. >”You’re lucky I *need* this.” Twilight hefts the bottle of shampoo like she is going to throw it – a move that would be far more intimidating if it didn’t immediately slip from her grasp, falling to the bottom of the top.
  2630. “I would offer to lather you up… but…”
  2631. >”I need the practice.”
  2632. “Well, yes. Let’s go with that.”
  2633. >Twilight sighs, reaching down for the bottle.
  2634. “Take your time – I’m going to take a quick shower in one of the other rooms before starting breakfast.”
  2635. >Your princess nods, popping open the shampoo bottle with a very self-satisfied grin.
  2636. >”I think I’m getting the hang of these hand-things!”
  2638. >The only other stocked full bath is the one downstairs – the one Dash and Flutters are always fighting over. There are a few guest rooms along there, and with ponies washing as infrequently as they do, the magic designing this castle probably figured there was no point putting a full bath in each room. Assuming it was sentient enough to think or… eh. It’s magic, you can’t explain it for shit.
  2639. >And Spike figures there’s no point filling every single full bath with shampoo and towels and everything else when only he and Twi live here.
  2640. >He and Twi and *you* now, though he doesn’t know that yet. Hopefully.
  2641. >You grab some clean clothes and head down – no point dragging your wet ass back upstairs to get dressed when you’d just have to come back to make breakfast.
  2642. >Maybe this time you’ll see what’s so special about it?
  2643. >Or maybe not – just the same old bathroom as always, with the same old crappy plumbing that makes the water stutter out of the showerhead in pulses.
  2644. >You *really* don’t see what’s so special about it. Hell, it’s practically broken, but Twilight refuses to have it fixed for some reason. Probably the lack of competent plumbers in Equestria. You had thought a simple mending spell would take care of it, but nope – it was even worse after Rarity took a stab at it, and there’s nopony around better at that kind of magic than her.
  2645. >”I guess this is just how it is meant to be,” she had told you with a shrug. “This spell cannot fix things that are not broken, even if they could be *better*.”
  2646. >A quick scrub and rinse… and a second rinse – the shampoo in here is even more obnoxiously scented than the stuff upstairs. It still smells like flowers, but the scent is so strong it’s almost sickening.
  2647. >Makes sense – this is the bathroom everypony uses during gaming marathons with the funk gets a little thick.
  2648. >You reach for the handle to turn off the water, but the stench is still overpowering.
  2649. >Better rinse once more…
  2651. >Spike has folding bed trays around here *somewhere*, you’re sure of it. The little dragon basically thinks of Twi as his mom – he *has* to have made her breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day once or twice.
  2652. >Do ponies even have a Mother’s Day…? Maybe you should have actually let Twilight teach you the basics of Equestrian culture after all. As of late, you have far too frequently needed to know more than “don’t piss off the big ones.”
  2653. >She is going to squee SO loud when you ask her to teach you about Equestria’s holidays.
  2654. >Eventually you give up looking – it’s possible they don’t even exist. They *are* sometimes called lap trays for a reason, and ponies don’t really have those. You’ll just clear off the nightstand and put everything there – that shouldn’t be hard, since there’s just a lamp and an alarm clock –
  2655. >Well, just a lamp now.
  2656. >You rush to prepare breakfast – a lot of time was wasted looking for those trays and Twilight is probably ready to get out and you should probably be there to help. Wet tub and new body and sleep deprivation do not a pretty combination make. You toss some fruit onto a serving tray, pour a couple of glasses of – no, you’re not all-that steady on your feet yourself. Instead, you put the bottle and a pair of empty glasses on the tray.
  2657. >Better safe than sorry, right?
  2658. >Toast would take too long, so you head up with just the fruit and juice since you can always come back for it if Twi wants some.
  2659. >Heh.
  2660. >Wants some.
  2661. >Dammit, she was right – you *are* a pervert.
  2662. >Sometimes.
  2663. >But even halfway up the stairs, you can tell you’re too late – it sounds like Twi is ransacking her own room. As you near the doorway, interspersed with the slamming of drawers and rustling of cloth is the muttering of an annoyed Twilight – but at least it’s not directed at you.
  2664. >”I’m a fucking dumbass… did *not* think this through…” you can hear her grumbling “…none of these clothes fit…”
  2665. >The door is still wide open, so you knock on the doorframe before you even think of poking your head around the corner. Twi may be your marefriend, but… well… she probably wouldn’t appreciate you walking in on her dressing. This whole situation is awkward enough already – no reason to make it any worse.
  2666. “Hey, Twilight…?”
  2667. >She squeaks loudly.
  2668. >Okay, that was cute – reason enough for you to risk making things worse.
  2669. >You spin around the corner, stepping through the doorway and –
  2670. >Oh.
  2671. >That *is* cute.
  2672. >Twi is standing by the dresser, clothing – both hers and yours – strewn about on the floor, but that isn’t what’s cute, not by itself. One of your t-shirts is draped over her wet body, hanging loosely from her shoulders, yet clinging in certain places –
  2673. >She’s not wearing a bra.
  2674. >Of course she’s not wearing a bra – she’s wearing *your* clothes! You don’t have any bras!
  2675. >She’s still not wearing a bra.
  2676. >But your princess *is* wearing a pair of your boxers, though she’s had to hike up the shirt to hold on to the waistband – even with those wide hips, they are far too large for her, the only thing holding them on is her hand.
  2677. >Her grip on the undergarment tightens, her knuckles turning white with the unnecessary strain.
  2678. “Just take them off.”
  2679. >”But…” Twi bites her lip for a second, looking down at her temporary body and blushing, “… I just showered… maybe later, we could…”
  2680. “How far down does that shirt hang on you?”
  2681. >Her head twists on her neck as she looks, trying to judge the distance.
  2682. >She cranes her neck forward, trying to see past her… well… her adequate-sized chest. Not too large, not too small – they fit your hand perfectly.
  2683. “You *can* bend at the waist, you know…”
  2684. >”Oh? Right, yeah, I know!”
  2685. >Twilight leans forward slightly, reaching out her free hand to brace herself on the dresser.
  2686. >”Almost to my… knees?” she answers questioningly. “Those are knees, right?”
  2687. “Yeah, human legs are pretty much the same as a pony’s forelegs.”
  2688. >She looks up from her body, smirking at you.
  2689. >”Except I’ve never seen you swordfight with your feet.”
  2690. “And I’ve never seen you penetrate yourself with a hoof.”
  2691. >Twilight squeaks in outrage, her face suddenly flushed. And in her surprise, the boxers slip from her unsteady grip, quickly falling to her ankles – you only have a moment’s view before the shirt follows suit, the hemline dropping to hang just above her knees.
  2692. >”Oh,” she murmurs, looking down at it. “I guess that *does* work. Sort of.”
  2693. “See? You’re still covered, and now you don’t have to hold everything up.”
  2694. >”But I don’t *feel* dressed,” Twilight frowns, her body giving a slight shiver. *You* never wear this little…”
  2695. >Twi looks up at you for confirmation, eyebrows raised.
  2696. “Don’t plan on going out, do you?”
  2697. >”No…”
  2698. “Planning to even leave this room?”
  2699. >”Probably not…” she answers, looking back to the bed. “I *should* try to sleep after we eat.”
  2700. “Then you’re dressed enough. Now, if you could move that lamp…”
  2701. >She turns hesitantly, making sure to carefully step out of the fallen boxers, and strides over to the nightstand, your shirt clinging to her wet body to give you quite a nice view as she bends over…
  2702. >Damn, ponies were right – wearing clothes *can* be sexy.
  2703. “Just put it on the floor.”
  2704. >Well, it *is* the only place to put it, but it helps that she’ll have to bend over further –
  2705. >Or, well, she can squat.
  2706. >Squatting is good, too. Not sexy, but practical for a pony in a human body who would probably have lost her balance doing anything else.
  2707. “Thanks, Twi.”
  2708. >She smiles shyly, straightening herself and turning to face you.
  2709. >”What… what now…?”
  2710. “Sit down, lay down. However you want to do it.”
  2711. >Twilight looks over her shoulder at the bed, biting her lip – not sexily, this time – well, it is, but you can easily tell it’s not intended to be. Must be the human version of Twi scrunching her muzzle.
  2712. >You quickly cross the room, placing the serving tray on the nightstand.
  2713. “Want me to change the sheets…? Is that why –”
  2714. >”No, don’t bother,” she sighs. “But can we at least throw something clean over the top…?
  2715. “Sure.”
  2716. >You grab a random blanket from the closet, unfurling the cloth as you drag it from the shelf, and throw it at the bed. A stupid idea, since Twi flinches away at the sudden movement, almost losing her balance as her head jerks back – only by planting a hand on the nightstand does she stay upright.
  2717. “Sorry…”
  2718. >”Just… just straighten the damn thing,” she growls, her legs wobbling slightly as she stares daggers at the rumpled heap of cloth you’ve just added to the rumpled heaps of cloth already on the bed. As usual, you just made things worse…
  2719. >With a sigh, you start flattening everything out, finishing with the fresh blanket on top.
  2720. “Ready, my princess…?”
  2721. >Twilight smiles delicately as you take her hands, helping her to sit on the edge of the bed – though she misjudges the distance, the last few inches catching her by surprise. You try to hold her up, but her still wet skin slides from your hands and she falls on her back with her lower legs dangling off the bed, you hovering over her concerned.
  2722. >”Sorry… I’m okay… sorry…” she sighs, “I’m too tired for this…”
  2723. “Ready to turn back?”
  2724. >She shakes her head and rolls over – almost kicking you in the crotch in the process as her legs flail. Twi doesn’t apologize – she doesn’t know, you don’t tell her. Once successfully turned, your little princess drags herself fully onto the bed, all the way to the far side to make room for you to join her.
  2725. >Which of course you do, after pouring her a glass of orange juice. And then one for yourself.
  2726. >She drinks about half of it, still laying on her stomach, before she hands the glass back to you.
  2727. >”Food,” she grunts, her now empty hand flapping towards the tray.
  2728. “Can’t you use magic?”
  2729. >”Foooooood!”
  2730. >You snatch an apple off the tray and slap it into her hand.
  2731. >”Food!” she moans happily, turning on her side and propping herself up with her elbow before taking a bite. “Finally, one thing that’s basically the same!”
  2732. >The two of you eat in relative silence. Relative, because these apples are pretty crisp.
  2733. >”Juice.”
  2734. “Twi… you aren’t an invalid…”
  2735. >”Juice!”
  2736. >You sit up, passing her the glass you had set back on the tray earlier.
  2737. “Anything else you need?”
  2738. >”Thingy.”
  2739. >She hands the now empty glass back.
  2740. “Thingy?”
  2741. >”Thingy!”
  2742. “This is cute and all, but I’m really going to need more to go on…”
  2743. >”Your iPad,” she sighs. “I would like to finish reading those books…”
  2744. >Oh, so she *can* still use words. Good to know you didn’t literally fuck her brains out.
  2745. >That would have been bad.
  2746. >Yeah, it would probably have pissed off everyone if you had broken the newest princess. Celestia would *not* have taken that well, no matter how much she likes you.
  2747. “Where is it?”
  2748. >”In the drawer,” she answers, loosely waving a hand in the direction of the nightstand.
  2749. >Yep, there it is.
  2750. >Twi rolls around, trying to find a comfortable way to lie down as she’s reading, eventually scooting herself down the bed and propping her chin on her pillow, arms fully extended in front of her.
  2751. “Are you cold?”
  2752. >”A little…”
  2753. >She squeaks again as you reach back, pulling down the hem of the shirt to cover her rear again – she hadn’t noticed it riding up as she fidgeted and jostled around to find a good position.
  2754. >”Thank you,” she mumbles, burying her face in her pillow.
  2755. “Would you like another blanket?”
  2756. >Either she’s nodding, or trying to head-butting that pillow into submission. The second possibility seems unlikely, so you jump up to grab another blanket, though you take the time to watch her jiggle in all the right places as the mattress rebounds from your sudden movement.
  2757. >Not much of a selection left in the closet – all of the regular blankets are either filthy or covering up the mess, leaving only heavy winter comforters and thin summer blankets barely heavier than a standard sheet.
  2758. “Something heavy or something light…?”
  2759. >”Light, of course,” Twilight answers, “you’re going to stay here with me, right?”
  2760. >You look back at her – Twilight is facing away from you, trying to find her place in the story. From this angle, you can almost – *almost* – see the barest hint of her rounded bottom under the shirt. Doesn’t help that she’s kicking her legs, making the hem of the shirt bounce around and ride up again, until…
  2761. >”I’m cooooold…”
  2762. “Be right there.”
  2763. >You grab one of the thin summer blankets and return to the bed – the mattress tilts slightly as you sit on the edge, pulling the blanket over your princess.
  2764. >”Stay…?”
  2765. “Or course I’m staying. I *did* promise I would never leave.”
  2766. >”I know.” Even though she’s facing away, her smile is wide enough that you can see the corner of her mouth curl up in happiness. “Hold me?”
  2767. >You don’t waste time with words, slipping under the blanket and wrapping your left arm around her waist. Just like everything else about her, it fits perfectly – as if her body had been sculpted to fit perfectly in your hands.
  2768. >In a way, it had been.
  2769. >The thought is… troubling.
  2770. “You’re going to change back after you’ve gotten some sleep, right?”
  2771. >Her eyes flick away from the tablet, though she quickly jerks them back. Not quickly enough – you see the fear there.
  2772. >”Do – do you want me to stay like this…?” she asks, pretending to read. “It *is* much easier to use this thing with hands…”
  2773. “It’s… a little uncanny valley, honestly.”
  2774. >”I’m sorry,” Twilight mumbles, her head dropping to the pillow face-first, as if she lacks the strength to hold it up any longer. “Too human, but not human enough. I’m sorry, I know I got the color wrong, but next time –”
  2775. >She jerks her head up, looking at you pleadingly.
  2776. >”– next time –“
  2777. “No, you’re too much like my Twilight Sparkle, but not quite… Twilight Sparkly enough.”
  2778. >She giggles involuntarily.
  2779. “Yes, yes… you know what I meant. I say –“
  2780. >” – a lot of stupid.”
  2781. “Yeah…”
  2782. >You give her a squeeze with the arm looped around her waist, following up by slipping your left leg over her right.
  2783. “You’re cute in any body, but one of them is *yours*, and while this was fun and I would love to do it again at some point…”
  2784. >She actually looks away from the tablet – actually twisting her whole head to face you. She looks so hopeful.
  2785. “… I fell in love with a *pony*, not a human. Now…”
  2786. >You squeeze in a little closer, your shoulder overlapping hers.
  2787. “… where are you in the story…?”
  2788. >Twi turns back to the iPad, gently bumping the side of her head against yours.
  2789. >”They’ve just launched an attack on the Marines Errant’s fortress monastery.”
  2790. “Ooooooh, this is going to get *good*.”
  2791. >Twilight smiles contently, scrolling to the next page.
  2792. >”I don’t know how this can get any better,” she sighs. “It’s a shame we have to get up at some point.”
  2793. “Do we really have to?”
  2794. >”Yeah, we have a train to catch.
  2795. “That’s over twenty-four hours away –“
  2796. >”Yeah, a shame, isn’t it…?”
  2797. >Twilight twists her head to give you a quick peck on the cheek.
  2798. “You’re right – it’s a damn shame.”
  2799. >”But it’s okay, even if this can’t last forever,” she sighs happily. “Let’s just enjoy it while we can.”
  2801. >At some point, you must have fallen asleep.
  2802. >Luna can’t visit you this way when you’re awake.
  2803. >She doesn’t say anything – well, she *does*, but you can’t hear any of it.
  2804. >Honestly, you can’t be sure it’s really her – it could just be a dream. From time to time those *do* happen without magical interference. Hell, for all you know they’ve *all* been ordinary dreams. After all, Celestia was never that nice to you before, except –
  2805. >There’s an easy way to figure it out –you’ll just ask Luna tomorrow.
  2806. >Right now, you need to –
  2807. >Oh, isn’t that cute?
  2808. > – wake up.
  2809. >Twilight is asleep, arms still extended out grasping your tablet. The screen is black – without her magically recharging it constantly, the damn thing can never stay on for very long. You try to pull it from her hands, but she resists, gripping it tighter.
  2810. >”Noooo…” she whines softly. “I’m not done reading.”
  2811. “You’re asleep.”
  2812. >You whisper the words into her ear – you don’t know if she hears you, but she does let go of the tablet and you turn on your side to put the device back in the drawer. There’s a shuffling behind you –
  2813. >”Don’t leave…”
  2814. “I was just putting it up.”
  2815. >”… please don’t ever leave me alone…”
  2816. >Your princess has twisted to face you, arms curled up against her chest. She trembles slightly, like someone caught in a winter storm, someone doing their best – and failing – to keep their discomfort hidden.
  2817. “I’m still here, Twi.”
  2818. >”I can’t feel you,” she murmurs, twisting about slightly. One hand paws lightly at the air, the other gripping the fabric of her shirt in panic.
  2819. >You turn back, putting your arm around Twilight and pulling her tightly to your chest.
  2820. “It’s just a nightmare, my little princess. Everything is fine.”
  2821. >She quiets at your words, her body stops shivering at your touch.
  2822. >Hey, whatdya know? You fixed everything.
  2823. >Just like you promised.
  2824. >Twilight purrs softly and happily in your grasp.
  2825. >Sleep never did come easily to you back home, but here – with your Twilight in your arms – it comes all too easily, even when you don’t want it to.
  2826. >How could you ever fall asleep when your love is here? How could you let sleep deprive you of even a second of time with her?
  2827. >You struggle to stay awake, to savor the moment, but you lose the fight between one blink and the next.
  2828. >”Don’t ever leave me alone,” she whispers – the last words you hear before you drift off again, her hand on your back the last thing you feel before you feel nothing at all.
  2829. >Just a warm memory of happiness.
  2830. >And then she’s gone.
  2831. >You open your eyes and Twilight is gone.
  2832. >She’s… gone.
  2833. >In your panic, you flail about, throwing aside the covers in a desperate attempt to –
  2834. > – to –
  2835. > – well, you’re not quite sure. Twilight is smaller than you, but not *that* small. Not so small that you’d overlook her in such a tiny bed.
  2836. >She’s not here! She’s not –
  2837. >There’s another knock at the door.
  2838. >Another?
  2839. >You have a vague memory of… of…
  2840. >Somepony knocking…
  2841. >Of Twilight being scared of stairs and… and…
  2842. >Someone – possibly you – has made a horrible decision.
  2843. >You jump out of the bed, your feet slamming loudly on the wooden floor as you take off sprinting. You almost have an accident of your own as you bare feet slip on the polished wooden stairs, but luckily you don’t fall.
  2844. >Even luckier, Twilight isn’t sprawled and/or splattered on the floor.
  2845. >Another knock, more impatient this time.
  2846. >”Coming!”
  2847. >Twi is still alive – the Emperor protects.
  2848. >She’s going to answer the door – He also shits on us from up high.
  2849. >You reach the bottom of the next flight, rushing up to stop her – too late.
  2850. >Too late.
  2851. >Twi is looking at the door handle curiously.
  2852. >”Huh,” she grunts. “These look like they were actually designed for hands. Never thought of that until now.”
  2853. >Your princess grabs the handle, throwing the door open –
  2854. >”Hi, Derpy!” she greets the mailmare cheerfully, giving her a slight wave.
  2855. >”There’s two of you now?” you hear the pegasus ask with a sigh. “Well, fuck.”
  2856. >”We already –“
  2857. “Don’t tell her that!”
  2858. >Twi’s head jerks back in surprise, an expression between joy and annoyance flitting across her face.
  2859. >”Oh, I told you I’d get it…”
  2860. “Sorry, Twilight. I was asleep and –“
  2861. >You hear a deep sigh from beyond your princess – the sigh of somepony whose infinite patience has just run out – followed by a dull thud of a mailsack hitting the ground.
  2862. >”I’m taking the rest of today off,” Derpy groans. “Take care of this for me.”
  2863. >”Shouldn’t – shouldn’t you tell your boss that…?”
  2864. >”I just informed the highest level of local government, isn’t that enough?”
  2865. “I guess…?
  2866. >”Good, because my vacation started when you opened the door.”
  2867. >You see a streak of grey shoot up as your princess bends over to pick up the bag; it draws your eyes away, until you realize it was the just Derpy rocketing off.
  2868. >And that’s all it takes to miss heaven – a moment’s distraction.
  2869. >Twi has already stood and is straightening out her shirt by the time you look back.
  2870. >Seriously, fuck that pegasus.
  2871. >”What the hell do I do with *these*,” your princes s asks, the bag dangling from one hand.
  2872. “I guess we need to deliver them…?”
  2873. >”Oh,” she gasps. “Makes sense.”
  2874. >The bag disappears in a flash of purple light, bright enough to make your eyes sting.
  2875. >”Done!”
  2876. “Did you actually deliver it all?”
  2877. >”Of course I –“
  2878. “Or is this another alarm clock thingy?”
  2879. >Twilight holds up a hand to cover her mouth as she giggles.
  2880. >”No, they’ve been delivered.”
  2881. “So I’m guessing it’s safe for you to use magic again?”
  2882. >”Yep,” your princess answers as she closes the door.
  2883. “Are you ready to change back into an alicorn…?”
  2884. >Twilight sighs, her head drooping so far her chin is touching her collarbone.
  2885. >”I really should.”
  2886. >She shuffles over to you, bumping her head into your chest. “It’s starting to cause problems, and I can only imagine it will get worse.”
  2887. >Your princess bumps her head into you again.
  2888. >”Hold me, you jerk.”
  2889. >Right. You should have been doing that.
  2890. >You rectify your mistake, putting your arms around her shoulders.
  2891. “We knew it couldn’t last forever.”
  2892. >”Yeah,” she grunts, “I was just hoping for a bit longer…”
  2893. >Your princess shakes her head – as if to deny reality – and slides her arms around your waist. Her small hands press against your back – tightly, like she’s afraid you’re the one who will disappear.
  2894. >”One more night,” she murmurs. “Just give me that.”
  2895. >You can’t tell her no, even as Cadances warning echoes in your mind.
  2896. >”Twilight will do anything to keep you,” third-best princess had told you almost a week ago. “Please don't let her go too far."
  2897. >”Please…” your princess begs, looking up at you with pleading eyes.
  2898. “Of course.”
  2899. >Twilight smiles gently as you help her up the stairs, though in truth she hardly needs it. Her steps have grown more confident, less faltering after a little sleep.
  2900. >Something catches your eye as you enter the game room, something you should have remembered earlier.
  2901. “Are you hungry…?”
  2902. >”I… think so?” Twi answers, head turning to look towards the kitchen. “I’m not sure what –“
  2903. “I’ll bring you something, just sit.”
  2904. >Your princess looks down at the ground, still grasping onto your hands.
  2905. >”I’m… I’m not sure *how*…”
  2906. >She’s seen you sitting on the floor, of course, but that doesn’t translate into how to move these extra-long leg-sticks to achieve that position. Rather than risk any accidents, you help her over to the nearest sofa – she can figure out how to use that on her own. Of course, she leans against the arm, curling her legs up on the cushion instead of sitting normally, but it works.
  2907. >Only then does she see what you had seen – the box from Sugarcube Corner you had dropped on the table last night.
  2908. >A brief sadistic urge tells you to nudge the box further away from her – you push it towards her, instead.
  2909. “Go ahead.”
  2910. >Twilight hesitates, then reaches for the box, pulling off the lid.
  2911. “I made sure to get your favorites.”
  2912. >She reaches for one of the cupcakes, but stops and pushes the box away instead.
  2913. >”No… maybe…”
  2914. “After lunch? Or would it be supper now?”
  2915. >You both look to the clock – it’s almost four in the afternoon.
  2916. >And you’ve accomplished nothing – another day wasted.
  2917. >You look back to your princess…
  2918. >No, not wasted.
  2919. >”Sure,” she answers with a slight smile. “After we eat.”
  2920. “Anything you want in particular?”
  2921. >”Whatever you make,” she answers, flopping over the side of the sofa and letting her arms dangle. “I just want to go back to bed…”
  2922. “Still tired?”
  2923. >”Well, *you* try casting polymorph magic of this level and then drinking –“ she stops, looking at you carefully. “Actually, don’t. That probably wouldn’t end well.”
  2924. >Twilight sighs loudly.
  2925. >”Yes. I meant to say yes.”
  2926. “Okay then…”
  2927. >You reach down, ruffling her silky hair.
  2928. “… I’ll be right back.”
  2929. >And you are – it only takes you a few minutes to reheat some leftovers.
  2930. >You carry in the two plates – and two forks, she’ll probably need a fork for this.
  2931. >Twilight looks up at you guiltily as you enter, still licking her fingers.
  2932. >”Thank you,” she mumbles, taking her plate from you with both hands.
  2933. “No need to thank me. I couldn’t just let you starve.”
  2934. >”No, not for that –“
  2935. “Though… I do now regret not taking advantage of the situation…”
  2936. >Your princess looks up from the plate, whatever she was saying forgotten.
  2937. >”Oh…?”
  2938. “I mean, I regret not taking advantage of the situation to give you meat.”
  2939. >Twilight giggles, setting her plate down on the table.
  2940. >”Could you hand me one of those d20s?” she asks, waving her hand in the direction of a shelf with some loose dice scattered in front of the books.
  2941. “Um… sure.”
  2942. >You take a couple steps in that direction and reach for a clear blue d20.
  2943. “Why…?”
  2944. >”I think I need to take a Sense Motive test,” Twi laughs. “Or maybe just throw it at you.”
  2945. >Aaaaand back on the shelf it goes. Damn pervert.
  2946. >”I kind of regret it, too,” she teases, poking at her food with her fork. “I wouldn’t mind some nice thick meat right now…”
  2947. “Like a steak?”
  2948. >You throw yourself into the adjacent sofa – Twi is kind of… being you and stretching out across the entire length of hers.
  2949. >”Or some sausage…”
  2950. “That potion hasn’t completely worn off, has it?”
  2951. >”Not entirely…”
  2952. >Well, at least she has an excuse for it, though you’re not entirely sure if drugging herself is *really* a valid excuse.
  2953. >Twi shoves her empty plate onto the table, looking at the cupcake box with longing.
  2954. “Go ahead.”
  2955. >You nod towards the box when she gives you a questioning look.
  2956. >”No… I already had mine.”
  2957. “And I got two.”
  2958. >”And I already had mine,” Twilight responds with an exasperated sigh. “That one is yours.”
  2959. “To give to you.”
  2960. >Twilight looks at you doubtfully.
  2961. >”I couldn’t. I can’t,” she says reluctantly, reaching out and… and… and… stretching so far she almost falls off the sofa, finally manages to shove the box towards you. “Not after everything you’ve done for me today. That’s why I insisted you stay in bed and let *me* answer the door.”
  2962. >All you’ve done? What *have* you done besides hold her while she slept?
  2963. >”You took care of me after I did something *really* stupid,” she explains, seeing your confused expression. “And then put up with all my nonsense when you didn’t have to…”
  2964. “Fine.”
  2965. >You lean forward, flipping off the box’s lid and grabbing the cupcake.
  2966. “Last chance.”
  2967. >Twi bites her lip, shaking her head, so you raise the cupcake to your mouth and take a small bite.
  2968. “Here.”
  2969. >You hold it out to your princess.
  2970. “Would you like the rest of my cupcake?"
  2971. >"No... no..."
  2972. "Are you sure? You can have it if you -"
  2973. >She leans over, mouth open.
  2974. “I don’t know if you’ll be able to fit it all in…”
  2975. >Your princess snorts, most unprincess-like.
  2976. >”I haven’t had a problem so far,” she chuckles, then lunges forward and snatches the cupcake from your hand with her mouth.
  2977. “Yeah, well… I think your pony mouth was larger.”
  2978. >“Hyu mah beh wigh!”
  2979. >Of course you are – you’re *always* right.
  2980. >No need to taunt Twilight about that, though.
  2981. “I’m always right.”
  2982. >No need, but it sure is funny watching her choke and sputter indignantly at your claim.
  2983. >Except she doesn’t – which is good too, you guess. Twilight just nods in agreement, doing her best to lose as little of the cupcake as possible. It’s not working out well – crumbs coat the floor… and the sofa… and her shirt…
  2984. “We really are leaving one hell of a mess for Spike to clean up, aren’t we?”
  2985. >”What…?” Twilight asks after swallowing the last speck of her treat. She looks down, seeing the mess she has just made. “It’s just some crumbs. Nothing to worry about.”
  2986. “And what about all my dirty clothes thrown around the place?”
  2987. >”Spike thinks you’re awesome!” your princess laughs. “I don’t have a clue why, but I’m sure he’ll be happy you’re here now!”
  2988. >Twilight is laughing too hard for you to feel insulted, though your self-esteems feels like you *should* feel insulted.
  2989. “What about the bed? We can change those sheets, but no way we’ll be able to wash them before we have to leave!”
  2990. >”Meh.” Your princess shrugs. “We’ll just tell him it’s mayo.”
  2991. “That sounds like the kind of thing *I* would say.”
  2992. >”You did, remember?”
  2993. “And I never expected you to agree with me. It feels weird.”
  2994. >”Good, isn’t it?” she asks, with a satisfied smile. “It’s good to be somepony else for once, to not have to be *me*.”
  2995. >But… you fell in love with *her*…
  2996. “You’ll change back tomorrow?”
  2997. >Twilight reaches over and grabs your hand with both of hers.
  2998. >”Just give me tonight, okay?” she asks. “Tomorrow – sure, fine, whatever. But let me have tonight. Just one more night.”
  2999. >You can’t say no to her. You can’t say no to your princess.
  3000. “Fine, but you need to change your shirt – it’s filthy now.”
  3001. >”Why…?”
  3003. >Twilight was right – there was no point to changing those sheets earlier. Or the shirt.
  3004. >As you begin to drift off to sleep, she rolls over on her side, back pressed against you. She drags your arm with her, tucking your hand between her breasts.
  3005. >”Are you sure you want me to turn back?” she asks softly.
  3006. “Yeah.”
  3007. >Your princess sighs.
  3008. “But we can do this again, if you want. I *will* miss these…”
  3009. >She giggles as you give her chest a squeeze.
  3010. >”Yeah, me too.”
  3011. >There’s more to be said, but… Twi seems content. She finally seems like she’s ready to return to her normal body. And if she doesn’t… that’s a problem for the morning.
  3012. >You said she could have tonight. You let her have it.
  3014. >Luna smiles at you in your dream, the four accompanying shades even vaguer then before. Even second-best princess wavers slightly.
  3015. “Kind of a bad time, Woona.”
  3016. >”We apologize, but we needed to speak with you,” she tells you, smiling at your pet name for her. “Even though you will wake soon, it *is* important.”
  3017. >You sigh, trying not to think of Twi’s naked human body snuggled up to you in the waking world.
  3018. “What’s up, Moonbutt?”
  3019. >”Well, apparently…” she harrumphs loudly, looking away.
  3020. >Why?
  3021. >Oh hay, apparently it’s lil’ Anon!
  3022. >You take advantage of traditional dreamscape rules to wrap yourself up in a nice suit, though Luna still keeps her eyes locked at some point two feet to your left.
  3023. >”We would come back later, but there is no time.”
  3024. “Then spit it out.”
  3025. >”We have found a way for you to get home.”
  3026. “I –“
  3027. >”We thought you should know,” Luna tells you, swinging her head back to face you. She’s smiling – smiling! – as she continues. “We will not force you one way or the other, but it would only be fair to give you warning.”
  3028. “This ‘we’… does that include Celestia?”
  3029. >”She has… concerns,” the princess admits, “but we are in agreement –“
  3030. >Luna stops as you shake your head.
  3031. “You know what the problem is with meeting in dreams?”
  3032. >She tilts her head slightly to one side and raises and eyebrow.
  3033. >”Do tell.”
  3034. “I don’t even know if this is real. We’ll talk about this at CanterCon.”
  3035. >”Excellent,” she grins widely. “We look forward to that. All of us.”
  3036. >That smile is the last thing you see in the dreamscape, the memory of it following you to the waking world where Twi is currently struggling to escape your grasp.
  3037. >”Let! Go!” she grunts, twisting in your arms. “We need to get up or we’ll miss the train!”
  3038. “What…?”
  3039. >You try to blink away the sleepiness, finding it surprisingly difficult.
  3040. >”I still haven’t finished packing!”
  3041. “It can’t be that late. The alarm hasn’t –“
  3042. >”The alarm clock is gone!” Twilight wails, trying to pry your arm from her fuzzy chest…
  3043. >Fuzzy?
  3044. “Oh, you turned back…?”
  3045. >Surprise does what struggling can’t, weakening your deathgrip just enough for marefriend to slip free.
  3046. >“A few hours ago,” she answers, jumping over you to land on the floor, “before I realized just how late it is!”
  3047. “How late is it…?”
  3048. >”Shut up and get in the shower!”
  3049. “What about you?”
  3050. >”Shut up and get in the other shower!”
  3051. “Awww… you don’t want to shower together?”
  3052. >Her jaw drops as she pauses mid-canter to turn and stare at you.
  3053. >Oh shit, she’s pissed.
  3054. “Sorry… I was just joking. There’s no way we’d both fit in –“
  3056. “Don’t worry, we can do it some other time.”
  3057. >”Yeah, when we’re at the royal palace! Good idea!” she shouts, dashing into the bathroom and slamming on the water with the screech of rickety plumbing. “The tubs in the guest rooms are HUGE!”
  3058. “Um…”
  3059. >She’s too far gone for you to correct her, even if she *could* hear you over the pipes. Might as well get in a shower of your own – last night wasn’t as messy as the night before, but… damn. You now know what you want for your birthday.
  3060. >Like the morning before, you grab some clean clothes and stumble downstairs, glancing at the clock on the wall just to see how late it really –
  3061. >Fuck.
  3062. >It’s almost four.
  3063. >How did the two of you sleep in so late? That’s basically all you did all day yesterday! And today, too, apparently!
  3064. >You skip the second and third rinse today – there’s no time. The apocalyptic floral stench will just have to linger. You dress quickly and head downstairs to grab your bag – there’s still a few things you want to take. Some gaming supplies, some extra underwear, a book to read in case things get boring…
  3065. >…right… and that handgun, incase Celestia decides Equestria would be better off without any humans. You check the safety before dropping it in – you’re not *that* reckless.
  3066. >Reckless enough to have not bothered to do it until now, but it got done eventually and that’s good enough, right?
  3067. “Anything of yours I should –“
  3068. >”GO!” your princess shouts, barreling down the stairs. “Everypony will be waiting on us!”
  3069. >You stand still, watching her run in little circles, throwing seemingly random items into a bag.
  3070. >”Why are you still standing there!? We barely have time to make it to the station if we run!”
  3071. “I’m standing here because you can teleport…?”
  3072. >Twilight freezes.
  3073. >”I… thought we could use the exercise…?” she laughs nervously. “I mean, we *did* basically spend a whole day in bed…”
  3074. “Yeah, but we were still pretty active…”
  3075. >”Point made!” she snorts. “All packed?”
  3076. “Yep!”
  3077. >Four seconds and a purple flash later, you’re standing on the boarding platform for the train to Canterlot watching your marefriend dig into her saddlebags and pull out two tickets to hand to the conductor.
  3078. >Another blinding flash and you’re sitting between her and Applejack, with Ponka, Fluttershy, and Aredee across the table from you.
  3079. >”*Finally*!” Aredee groans, slamming a hoof on the table as the others blink and rub their eyes, trying to restore their vision. “I thought we were going to have to wait forever for you!”
  3080. >“We’re here, we’re here…” your marefriend moans, still half-asleep. “Wake me up when we get to Canterlot…”
  3081. >She leans forward, resting her head and forelegs on the table.
  3082. >”You can’t sleep now!” Panko protests, grabbing Twilight’s head with her hooves. “Cheerilee brought Cards against Equestria!”
  3083. >The mare points across the aisle to the other table, where the teacher sits with her gaming group.
  3084. >”Hello!” Lyra shouts, giving you a wave.
  3085. >”I told them they’d have to wait until you got here,” Cheerilee says, giving you a nod. “Shall I start dealing?“
  3086. >Twilight groans, shaking off Pinkie Pie’s hooves and digging into her bag and pulling out your iPad.
  3087. >”I’m out… too tired to anything,” she mumbles, powering it on.
  3088. “But not too tired to read?”
  3089. >”I’m *never* too tired to read.”
  3090. “Sure, deal me in.”
  3091. >”Wanna swap places then, Anon?” Applejack yawns. “Ah’m pretty much in the same boat as Twilight. Been up all night and the night before and the night before and the night before and the –“
  3092. >Panks leans over the table, lightly booping the farmer’s nose and cutting off the noise like she had just hit the off switch.
  3093. “Sure, we can do that.”
  3094. >Some shuffling of bodies later, and there seems to be an entire table of sleeping and exhausted ponies. Well, it just seems that way. Berry Punch skips the game – she had to work right up until an hour ago and is exhausted – but . Pinchie and Scoots join them, playing their own little game that Cheerilee had brought along – for some bizarre reason, the teacher didn’t want them playing Cards against Equestria.
  3095. >Surprisingly, Dash joins them – something about CaE being too arbitrary.
  3096. >Still, she sits on the aisle seat, where she can play the part of the peanut gallery.
  3097. >And so, roughly an hour after you woke up, Cheerilee is dealing out cards, with Ponka on your left and Trixie on your right.
  3098. “Who goes first?”
  3099. >”Me!” Fluttershy exclaims with glee from her seat directly opposite you. “I go first!”
  3100. >She reaches for a black card and flips it over.
  3101. >”BLANK!” she reads loudly. “That’s how I want to die!”
  3102. >The pegasus blinks twice, rereading the card silently.
  3103. >”Oh my,” she gasps. “That’s horrible.”
  3104. “You don’t really know what this game is, do you?”
  3105. >”Applejack said it was just like Apples to Apples,” Fluttershy murmurs. “Only for adults. I thought that meant bigger words…”
  3106. >Twilight thumps herself down at the foot of the table, magicking up a stool to sit on.
  3107. >”Deal me in,” she grunts.
  3108. >”Not too tired after all?” Cheerilee asks with a laugh, tossing the top ten white cards to your princess.
  3109. >”Not going to get *any* reading done with *them* playing whatever they’re playing,” she answers, jerking her hoof back at Dash and the two fillies. Three fillies – Applebloom is at the table now, having come back from wherever she was. “So, what’s the point of the game?”
  3110. >”We each take turns drawing a black card that describes a situation, and all other players play a white card. The pony that drew the black card then chooses the funniest as the winner,” Cheerilee explains, sorting through her cards. “The key is to know what the judge will pick.”
  3111. >”Ah.” Your princess nods, picking up her cards and looking through them. “Got it.”
  3112. >”Let’s see… the card is ‘______. That’s how I want to die,’” Fluttershy repeats, looking around nervously.
  3113. >You’ve already thrown a card down before she finishes rereading it, as have Trixie and Lyra. Cheerilee and Ponka take a little more time, with Twilight following close behind.
  3114. >”And our options are…” the pegasus teases, picking up and looking through the cards. “Oh my, these are all horrible. All of them. Except this one –“
  3115. >She throws “Sunshine and Rainbows” back onto the table.
  3116. >”Yes!” Lyra cheers, reaching for the black card.
  3117. >”I didn’t say it won,” Fluttershy chastises, blushing. “Our other entries are…
  3118. >”A brain tumor. Boring.
  3119. >”Science. Nice try, Twilight.
  3120. >”Funky fresh rhymes. I don’t even get that. Why is that even funny?
  3121. >”Destroying the evidence. Almost had it. But the winner is…”
  3122. >She facetables out of shame, flipping over the last card so everypony could see it.
  3123. >”Doin’ it in the butt,” she talks into the table. “I don’t know who played that, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”
  3124. >”Well, I’m not!” Cheerilee laughs, pulling the card over to herself. “Besides, you chose it as the winner!”
  3125. >”And I’m ashamed of myself!” Fluttershy whines, still not raising her face from the table surface even as she shoves the black deck over to Cheerile. “Draw.”
  3126. >The teacher reaches over.
  3127. >”What gets better with age?” she reads, revealing the card to everypony. “Besides whisky, of course.”
  3128. >You look through your hand – there’s a lot of pony-type things that maybe you’d understand if you had actually let Twi teach you about Equestria… and a lot of sick perverse stuff. Oh well. When in doubt, go with the option that makes the least sense. Your choice joins the pile.
  3129. >Cheerilee doesn’t bother to pick up the cards and look at them, instead flipping them over one at a time and reading them aloud.
  3130. >”What gets better with age? Is it…
  3131. >”Catapults.
  3132. >”Surprise sex!
  3133. >”Explosions.
  3134. >”Being on fire.
  3135. >”Civilian casualties.
  3136. >”A disappointing birthday party.”
  3137. >She looks up from the cards.
  3138. >”Strange,” she comments, eyeing everypony carefully. “I don’t remember *any* of you being at my last birthday party, let alone all of you. Got it pretty much all in the right order, too.”
  3139. >”It was a party, *silly*!” Ponka giggles behind her cards. “Of course I was there!”
  3140. >”Oh. Right,” the teacher sighs, holding her head. “I forgot, that’s where the catapult came from. Celestia, that was…”
  3141. >”Fun!?”
  3142. >”Weird,” Cheerilee corrects.
  3143. >”Weird is a *kind* of fun,” the little party pony grins, reaching slowly for the black card.
  3144. >”I guess?” the teacher shrugs. “You played ‘Catapults’ I’m assuming?”
  3145. >Ponka nods like a bobblehead on a dirt road.