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Pet Suns (Complete)

By Lurkernon
Created: 19th December 2020 11:49:51 PM

  1. Originally published January 2015
  2.  
  3. > Waking up.
  4. > Never the most fun part of the day.
  5. > Especially when you wake up with a heavy weight stretched across your legs.
  6. "God damn it, she got in again..."
  7. > Cracking open one eye, you peer down the length of your bed at the large, lumpen form curled beneath the covers.
  8. > Yep, definitely got in to your room again.
  9. > That 'pick-proof' lock had lasted all of three days against her.
  10. > At least it kept your legs warm when she did this.
  11. > Still, you did need to get up.
  12. "Hey."
  13. > Twitching one leg slightly, you try to gently nudge the sleeping form awake.
  14. "I need to get up."
  15. > Another nudge of your leg yields only an unhappy groan from somewhere around your knees.
  16. "Seriously, let me up or I'm dumping you out of bed. I need to get to work."
  17. > The only result was that she rolled over, shifting her weight somewhat further up your legs.
  18. > Now it is your turn to groan.
  19. "...okay, you win."
  20. > Leaning forward, you speak one of the few words you're absolutely sure she understands.
  21. "Pancakes. I'll make pancakes if you let me up."
  22. > Almost instantly your vision is filled with an enormous pair of expectant magenta eyes atop a white-coated muzzle.
  23. > The enthusiastic look is met with a flat one of your own.
  24. "You know, for a horse with a picture of a sun on her butt, you are by far the laziest thing in the morning I have ever seen, you know thaaaaaack!"
  25. > Wiping your nose off, you shoot her a small glare.
  26. "Hey! No licking! Bad!"
  27. > Your scolding is only met by a smirk as she hops from the bed and stretches luxuriously.
  28. > Dodging one extending wing, you push yourself upright.
  29. "Alright, alright... I did promise pancakes. C'mon, Suns. Let's go get breakfast."
  30.  
  31. --------
  32.  
  33. > Trudging up the steps from your work, you fumble tiredly for your keys.
  34. > Oh, the joys of being a corporate drone.
  35. > The door slides open and you've barely bent down to pick up your backpack when the rapid thud-thud of hooves on wood warn you of what is to come.
  36. "No, Suns! No, no, no-"
  37. > Barely have you stood up when a wide, white-feathered wing wraps around your torso while her head nuzzles into your chest.
  38. > Phew, no 'welcome home tackle' that time.
  39. > Reaching up, you grin and run your fingers through the fuzz around her cheeks.
  40. > Head twisting around to nudge her ears towards your hand, Suns makes a sort of gentle humming noise you've come to associate with immediate, pleasurable happiness.
  41. > Like a purr, if a hundred-and-fifty-pound miniature horse could purr.
  42. "...yeah, I'm happy to see you too."
  43. > Giving her her ears one last scratch, you turn for the kitchen.
  44. "What do you say about eggplant parm tonight, hmm?"
  45. > That was one of the other weird things about her, you'd discovered.
  46. > Whoever owned her previously - if Suns even had an owner previously - must have spoiled her horribly, because her diet was firmly set somewhere halfway between 'full horse' and 'people food'.
  47. > Utterly refusing anything but real food once she had discovered your own food in the house, she still took mouthfuls of hay with every meal - sometimes even sprinkling them over her own plate.
  48. > Well, whatever.
  49. > It kept her happy, and didn't seem to be having any negative effects.
  50. > Your thoughts are interrupted by light tapping on the back door.
  51. "...want to go outside, huh Suns?"
  52. > The tapping only increases in tempo.
  53. "Okay, I'm coming - don't break the door down."
  54. > The front and rear entrances were the only doors you'd managed to train her not to open on her own.
  55. > A hefty freak out the first time you'd caught her sticking her head onto the front lawn had done the trick.
  56. > Twisting the knob, you hold the door aside and usher her out into the back yard.
  57. "...go on, then. Just tap when you want to get back in."
  58. > Thank God for living in the suburbs, where the back yards were bigger and a six-foot-tall fence around the edge wouldn't raise any eyebrows.
  59. > Retreating back into the kitchen, your mind begins to wander as you mix up dinner.
  60. > Clearly there was absolutely nothing normal about Suns.
  61. > I mean, miniature horses you knew about - and the mane, maybe that was some funky genetics work like those glow-in-the-dark rabbits.
  62. > But the horn and wings?
  63. > And then there was the matter of her intelligence.
  64. > Suns was clearly on the level of the smartest dogs - maybe even a monkey or something.
  65. > Definitely miles beyond any other horses.
  66. > And yet, there wasn't anything out there.
  67. > No billionaires posting want ads - 'Lost, one incredibly smart miniature horse with horn and wings. Has a sense of humor, likes pancakes and cuddles.'
  68. > Nor any reports about government labs loosing track of their secret experiments - and that shit would have been leaked to the media in a second if one did.
  69. > Besides, 'lazy, soft miniature horse' didn't seem like something the government would spend billions on.
  70. > Pausing by the window over the sink, you glance out into your back yard again.
  71. > What you saw drew a chuckle from your lips.
  72. > There she lay, on her back, legs in the air and wiggling wildly as she squirmed back and forth.
  73. > Even as you stood watching, another squirm brought Suns back to face you... and she froze.
  74. > The chuckle turns into a snort as the most aggrieved and embarrassed look grows on her space, as if you'd caught her doing something terribly undignified and humiliating.
  75. > ...okay, in fairness it was rather amusing on account of how funny it looked, but still.
  76. > With another laugh, you turn from the window and shove dinner into the over.
  77. > Yeah, you might not know exactly where Suns had come from, and there was a lot weird about her.
  78. > But she was yours for now, and damn if you didn't enjoy having her around.
  79.  
  80. --------
  81.  
  82. "Where is she?"
  83. > Stomping through the house, you peer into another room and look around for delinquent pony.
  84. > For a creature of her size, she had a penchant for hiding in the most surprising places.
  85. "Hey! Suns! C'mon, I need to go to bed soon."
  86. > The bathtub curtain is pulled aside, just in case she'd pressed herself down beneath the edge of the tub's rim again.
  87. > Nope, still not there.
  88. > Turning one last corner, your answer comes in a split-second glance into the darkened living room.
  89. > Of course she'd be in there.
  90. > Strange that she wasn't responding to you, though.
  91. > Just sitting in the darkness, the direction of her horn suggesting she was looking out the window and up a little ways-
  92. > Oh.
  93. > This was one of those nights.
  94. > Another one of Suns' wierd little quirks:
  95. > Every full moon, she got... quiet.
  96. > The first time it happened you half expected her to start howling at the top of her lungs or something.
  97. > Or go full were-horse.
  98. > But no, she just looked up at the little dime-sized circle in the sky and... went quiet.
  99. > Wouldn't really respond to anything unless you really bugged her, and returned to staring any chance she had.
  100. > After the first time you just kind of left her alone.
  101. > She obviously wasn't interested in you right now, and wasn't doing anything wrong.
  102. > Tonight, though...
  103. > Eh. You had a few minutes to spare.
  104. > Why not.
  105. > Quietly padding over, you slide into the sofa and wait.
  106. > Eventually she seems to notice that you're there, her head twisting slightly to fix you with one large, lavender eye.
  107. > With the only light coming from moon- and streetlight filtering in from outside, you couldn't really see her eyes, of course.
  108. > But you could feel her gaze on you.
  109. "...hey there, Suns. Hope I'm not interrupting or anything."
  110. > As if that acknowledgement was what she was waiting for, her gaze again shifts back skyward.
  111. > In the silent minutes that follow, broken only by the distant ticking of a clock, your eyes never leave her.
  112.  
  113. > What was going through her head, exactly?
  114. > Some repressed instinctual memory from whatever wild species she was descended from?
  115. > A mere curiosity in the larger-than-average object in the sky?
  116. > Or something to do with those suns on her flanks?
  117. "What's on your mind, Suns?"
  118. > As if in answer, she turns - rising up and taking a few steps over towards you.
  119. > To your surprise, her head comes to rest in your lap.
  120. > It wasn't really all that uncommon - Suns was often up for physical affection - but there was something different about it this time.
  121. "Something the matter?"
  122. > The rhetorical question is only met by a low murmuring noise from her.
  123. > One of her repertoire of sounds, you'd found it to be an unhappy noise.
  124. > Reaching around you press your hand to her cheek, ready to stroke them - but to your surprise, you find it wet.
  125. > Lifting her head slightly, if you squint you can barely see the twin streaks on either side of her face, glinting in the moonlight.
  126. "...you crying, Suns?"
  127. > You didn't even know she could cry.
  128. > Her only reaction is to nudge her head back against you.
  129. > This time, your hand does rub - through wet tears and soft fur and warm beneath both.
  130. "I don't get you, Suns... demand people food, cry at the moon, but roll on your back like every other horse I've seen."
  131. > She doesn't react, apparently either enjoying your touch to much or to lost in her own thoughts.
  132. > After a moment her head rises again, again peering up through the window.
  133. "The moon important to you somehow, Suns?"
  134. > Another unhappy noise.
  135. > You sigh.
  136. > What did you expect, talking to a pony?
  137. > Even a pony like Suns.
  138. > There you sit in the darkness, though, gently rubbing her cheek until you realize more time had passed than you had meant to spend.
  139. "...sorry, Suns, I've got to go sleep."
  140. > She doesn't protest when you stand, nor when you head back over to your bedroom.
  141. > But you can feel her eyes on your back the whole way.
  142.  
  143. > You go through your evening routine without much thought.
  144. > Not until you are climbing into bed does Suns return.
  145. > Just as you are about to pull the covers up, she appears in your doorway.
  146. > In her mouth hangs a pillow from her own bed - an extra-large thing, the kind advertised for St. Bernards and other ridiculously huge dogs.
  147. "...no, Suns, you can't sleep in here. Even if you can pick the lock open."
  148. > A muffled unhappy noise causes you to look up.
  149. > Only then do you notice the sheer unhappiness on her face.
  150. > You're no expert in equine emotions, but that was not a happy look.
  151. > Hell, her unusually expressive face made it downright painful to look at.
  152. "...alright, damn it. C'mon, Suns. Just for tonigh-gaaaah!"
  153. > Again you wipe your nose clean.
  154. "No licking! Or I will through you out again."
  155. > With another amused look she stretches out on the opposite side of the bed.
  156. "It's a good thing there's nobody else here. If a picture of this got on the internet, I'd never live it down - you know that, Suns?"
  157. > She just flicks one ear at you, eyes already closed.
  158. "...didn't think so."
  159. > At least she was warm.
  160.  
  161. --------
  162.  
  163. > Sometimes Suns was an enigmatic creature that cried at the moon.
  164. > Sometimes, she was just a horse in miniature.
  165. > And like any horse that had to stay inside for to long, she absolutely loved going outside and really getting to stretch her legs.
  166. > Or, in this case, wings.
  167. "Flying, Suns? Want to go flying?"
  168. > Oh, she knew that word too.
  169. > Another advantage of a bit away from a city:
  170. > It was only about an hour and half's drive to some nicely parks.
  171. > There was a certain level of caution involved in every trip.
  172. > Your google history was a long train of searches like 'aromach state park flying horse', 'aromach flying horse', 'aromach park ufo', 'aromach park strange sighting' and similar.
  173. > So far, if anyone had seen her they hadn't bothered to mention it.
  174. > And hey, guns were forbidden within the park - so at least you could be certain nobody was going to shoot Suns if she was spotted.
  175. > Still, if Suns was aware of the danger it was overridden by the desire to get out - and up - again.
  176. > She did this adorable little trot-in-place thing when really excited, her eyes all lit up and happy.
  177. > And so, lunch and other supplies packed, you set off.
  178. > Getting Suns into the car, that was always amusing - while her body would have easily fit, you sometimes considered just adding a hole to the roof to accommodate her horn.
  179. > Maybe you could have passed it off as some kind of novelty antenna or something?
  180. > Instead you settled for carefully curling her up in the rear cargo area, a false wall of taped-together moving boxes hiding her from any passing drivers.
  181. > Thankfully Suns had gotten used to the car after her first trip.
  182. > The idea about poking a hole through the roof?
  183. > Yeah, she nearly did it on her own when the engine started the first time.
  184. > You'd smashed the rear window and reported it as vandalism damage.
  185. > Once you'd gotten into the park, it never took long to find a nice quiet spot to park the car.
  186.  
  187. > A quick sweep with your binoculars to make sure you were alone, and up goes the rear door.
  188. > Instantly you are met by a blur of white fur, feathers, and multicolored mane as Suns launches herself from the car and prances out into the field.
  189. > The look on her face... somewhere between 'joyous' and 'euphoric'.
  190. > Circling back around to you, she leans her neck down, allowing you to fix a temporary collar about her throat.
  191. > A cheap, ancient cell phone carefully bound to the fabric strip combined with repeated training in the back yard had taught her that specific ring meant to return to you.
  192. "Alright, there you go."
  193. > Trilling happily, Suns took a step out into the clearing before fixing you with one last questioning look.
  194. > You just grin, waving her off.
  195. "Go on, then. Have some fun."
  196. > There was something amazing about how quickly Suns could launch herself skyward.
  197. > Sure, her wingspan was huge and you had first-hand proof of how powerful those wings were.
  198. > But still, they didn't seem quite large enough to propel something of Suns size quite that fast.
  199. > Nonetheless, there she was - rapidly shrinking into the sky until she merely resembled a very oddly-proportioned bird.
  200. > You pass the time on your laptop, occasionally looking up just to make sure she was still there.
  201. > She always was - sometimes diving and banking, racing back and forth, sometimes sedately circling in the sky.
  202. > Some time around one in the afternoon Suns came back to earth, touching down gracefully on all her hind legs.
  203. > Nickering softly, she trots over and promptly nuzzles your shoulder appreciatively.
  204. "Hey there, Suns."
  205. > Reaching up, you give her a scratch beneath the chin and elicit another happy little noise from her.
  206. "Want lunch?"
  207. > Her answer is to jam her muzzle into the car, searching around for any sign of the bag you had packed your lunches in.
  208.  
  209. > Unlike with a normal horse, you actually trusted her with those bags - she would never run off with them, only bring them to you to actually open.
  210. > What she did do, though, was down copious amounts of water; clearly flying was every bit as strenuous to her as running would be to a normal horse.
  211. > As soon as she was done, though, she was back off again - once again tearing skyward with strong beats of her wide, white wings.
  212. > This time you moved out into the clearing to watch her, laying down a blanket and resting back on your elbows as she wheeled about in the skies above.
  213. > When you finally dialed her number - listed simply as 'Suns' - it was late into the afternoon and light was beginning to fade.
  214. > It was to your surprise, then, that she landed within seconds.
  215. > The ringtone still playing and phone vibrating against her throat, she trotted straight to the car and hopped into the back without question or even glancing at you.
  216. "...what's up, Suns? Something spook you?"
  217. > Moving to give her a comforting rub across the withers, it takes you several more seconds to hear the distant thrum of the helicopter.
  218. > Damn, had she been seen?
  219. > Quickly packing the rest of your things, you break the speed limit several times before forcing yourself to remember that being pulled over would be just as bad.
  220. > But there are no pursuing black vans or helicopters, no men in black suits descending on you.
  221. > A furious round of googleing when you get home yields no more information either.
  222. > At last you breathe a sigh of relief - if she had been seen, clearly it wasn't connected to you yet.
  223. > Standing behind you, Suns makes a gentle noise and rests her chin on your shoulder.
  224. > Reaching up, you stroke her muzzle comfortingly.
  225. "It's okay, Suns. I was worried, but it seems we're alright."
  226. > Sniffing slightly, you pause.
  227. "...though, really, Suns. You're kind of rank after all that flying. I'm going to have to give you a bath."
  228. > She makes another little sound and wanders off.
  229.  
  230. > It's not until you are up to your elbows in soapy water that you realize something.
  231. > You'd never taught Suns to be afraid of helicopters.
  232. > An instinct to avoid collision, that was one thing.
  233. > But fear of them from a distance...?
  234. > Was it something else in her past, or did she somehow understand that people rode in helicopters?
  235. > Sure, she'd probably caught a video on your computer of people hopping in or out of one from a movie or something else you'd been watching.
  236. > But that was an awfully big leap of logic, even for something as smart as her.
  237. > Just another secret about your strange little Suns, you suppose.
  238. > ...along with why she took so much pleasure in deliberately splashing you.
  239. "Gah! Quit that, or I'm brushing your coat backwards again!"
  240.  
  241. --------
  242.  
  243. > It's only at the top-most step as you arrive home from work that your ears finally recognize the noise as being out-of-place.
  244. > A melodic, warbling sound, it held you in place for some time as you listened carefully to it.
  245. > Only as you listened did you begin to realize that it was not merely a tune, but that you could hear actual words being spoken along with the melody.
  246. > Or, at least you thought you could - it wasn't in any language you understood.
  247. > For a second your thoughts flick to the older couple next door.
  248. > She sometimes like to put on Italian opera at maximum volume when he went off fishing (or wherever old people go for hours on end).
  249. > But one, you knew what Italian sounds like by now, and what you are hearing is not it.
  250. > And two, this is coming from in your house.
  251. > The longer you listen, the more convinced you are it sounds like actual singing too.
  252. > Still not in any language you recognized, but as you listened you could pick out distinct phrases being repeated to specific points in the melody.
  253. > The second your key is inserted into the lock, however, it stops.
  254. > Not fades away, not is turned down a second later.
  255. > Just stops.
  256. > ...that's odd.
  257. > Turning the key, you wonder if one of your friends or coworkers was deciding to play a huge prank on you or something.
  258. > Opening the door, you're just in time to hear a sort of a hollow popping sound from somewhere in the house - and then, again, nothing.
  259. "Hey, anyone here?"
  260. > Stepping in, you lock the door behind you and again twist to face the otherwise-empty house.
  261. "Seriously, if this is a prank party or something I'm going probably to punch someone when they jump out at me."
  262. > Still no people sheepishly emerging from behind bits of furniture.
  263. > Someone else does appear, though - Suns carefully steps from her room, yawning as she does.
  264. > Wandering over, she sniffs inquisitively at your bag - nostrils flaring and closing as they seek out any interesting smells.
  265. "...you singing, Suns?"
  266.  
  267. > Inquisitive, alert, bright-lavender eyes turn to peer back up at you - as if hanging hanging on every word for some sign of a treat or attention.
  268. "I dunno what you would sing about, but... sure sounded like someone in here was."
  269. > Instead of answering, she lifts her head and gives your chin a great big lick.
  270. "...don't know what I expected."
  271. > Wiping your chin dry, you give her a grin and a scratch around the ears.
  272. > You really are doing an awful job of breaking her of that behavior, really...
  273. "And how's your day been going?"
  274. > Her answer is to head for the sofa, looking back halfway there to check that you are following.
  275. "...lonely, apparently."
  276. > Circling around her, you settle on the couch and pat the adjacent spot.
  277. > Moments later, Suns collapses on her side next you, occupying both remaining seats on the couch, and settles her head onto your leg.
  278. > Reaching out, you start to stroke - first her head, around that unusual horn, then back to her ears.
  279. > At some point while you are lightly scratching at the velvety fur covering her ears Suns' eyes slide shut all the way.
  280. > Though you can tell she's still quite awake from the way she squirms and gently presses herself into your hand whenever you hit a particularly pleasant spot.
  281. > Continuing on downwards, you let your fingertips dig in a bit more as you work into her back.
  282. > It's more like a backscratch than stroking at a certain point, but Suns accepts it just as happily.
  283. > Placing your hand on her ribs for just a moment, you can feel her heart thudding away beneath the skin and bone.
  284. > When you don't continue stroking, Suns lifts her head and nudges your hand curiously.
  285. "...yeah, yeah. I get it."
  286. > You chuckle, resuming rubbing.
  287. "But I have to go make dinner at some point, you know.
  288. > Of course she doesn't respond, but when you stand a few minutes later she doesn't stop you either.
  289. > Instead she just remains waiting while you prepare dinner.
  290. > Dinner...
  291.  
  292. > Eating was always a moderately amusing affair, as while Suns' height meant eating at the table was necessary her preferred method of eating was to simply lower her muzzle to the plate and... well, eat.
  293. > For a horse you figured she was a remarkably tidy eater, but she was still a horse.
  294. > At a certain point, Suns would be inevitably be reduced to twisting her head awkwardly to try and get the last few bites from the plate.
  295. > Of course, this also meant her muzzle would always end up inevitably spattered of remnants with dinner.
  296. > The strangest thing was that the first few times, she acted downright embarrassed when you tried to clean her up.
  297. > These days Suns just tolerates it, though she still raises her head and closes her eyes in what looks for all the world like an effort to remain dignified through the process.
  298. > Of course, there were some fun things that came with dinner.
  299. "Hey Suns, apple?"
  300. > Her head whips around to face you, eyes wide and waiting.
  301. "Catch!"
  302. > The half-apple is easily snatched from midair and devoured, a second half being similarly consumed moments later.
  303. > Now sated, Suns returns to the couch and curls up, waiting for your return.
  304. > You'll join her later, you think.
  305. > Once everything else is done.
  306. > She seemed to enjoy your company even if you weren't paying direct attention to you.
  307. > Maybe you'd mesmerize her with a movie again; she seemed to like those.
  308.  
  309. --------
  310.  
  311. "Suns? What are you - hey, no! That was supposed to be for later! Get out of there!"
  312. > She pulls her head from the grocery bag, two apple turnovers firmly held in her jaws.
  313. "Oh, come on! That box was tied - how did you even... urgh. Nevermind..."
  314. > With a flick of her tail Suns trots off, head held high and proud with her prizes on full display.
  315. "...well I hope you enjoy not having desert for a couple nights, because that was your half!"
  316. > Grumbling, you return to putting groceries away - and, when that is done, whipping up a quick dinner.
  317. > Halfway through you're interrupted by a gentle nudge at your back.
  318. > Turning around, you see Suns standing in the kitchen doorway - something inscrutable on her face.
  319. "What now, Suns - I'm kind of busy and oh God damn it."
  320. > She was giving you what you'd come to think of as her 'demand forgiveness' face.
  321. > 'Demand', because a face like that could never be used to merely request.
  322. > The painfully sad eyes, the way her ears flopped down... it just wasn't fair.
  323. > Reaching out, you run your hand around her horn to scratch between the ears, both of which rapidly rise as you do.
  324. "...yeah, I'm not upset with you, Suns. Just wish you could hold off on sweets any time I bring some into the house."
  325. > She waits just long enough for you to set the pod onto the stove before nudging her muzzle against you again.
  326. "Yeah, yeah, I get it. You want to know that you're forgiven."
  327. > And forgiven she is - as if any but the evilest of the evil could resist that look she gave you.
  328. > Of course, forgiveness comes with the demand of much attention - something that you are all too willing to give.
  329. > Stretched out on the sofa beside you, she seems content to let you watch TV and relax so long as you keep one hand scratching lightly.
  330. > At least, up until you unexpectedly find a fan of long, white feathers being spread out of over your lap.
  331.  
  332. > She'd positioned herself to drop the middle of her wing just over the center of your lap, the remainder divided equally on either side.
  333. "Huh? Whatcha want, girl?"
  334. > Suns leans over, nudging her muzzle along the wing.
  335. > Seeing you apparently don't want understand, she runs her muzzle along the length of the wing a few times, in each case pausing to adjust or remove a feather or two.
  336. > It takes a few more repetitions before it finally clicks in your head:
  337. > She was demonstrating for you what she wanted you to do?
  338. > Cautiously you reach out, lightly running your fingers down the wing from its 'shoulder' to the last, elongated primaries on the end.
  339. > Much like her coat, you figured, the downy feathers that covered her wing's leading edge were probably only supposed to be stroked in one direction... but what lead her to occasionally stop and poke at others?
  340. > Apparently seeing your confusion, Suns leans in to nudge your hand with her muzzle towards one particular cluster of feathers.
  341. > The anxiousness in her eyes isn't hard to spot, but she keeps pushing your fingers towards that cluster any time you seem ready to pull them back.
  342. > Trying to keep from drawing your hand away anyhow - that face-fuzz tickled! - you run your fingers along the top of each feather, feeling them give ever so slightly beneath your touch.
  343. > Except for one that moves entirely - looser, compared to the rest.
  344. > Taking a careful look at Suns' face, you give the loose feather a soft tug.
  345. > She grimaces sharply, but when you don't proceed further again nuzzles you hand.
  346. > Another soft tug and the feather comes free - a moderately sized thing from halfway up her wing, probably six or eight inches long.
  347. > Setting it aside, you turn to the next row of feathers - fingers running over them as well.
  348.  
  349. > You know there is a hefty amount of strength hidden in that wing beneath the white, downy covering, and Suns' feathers were surprisingly strong
  350. even despite their flexibility.
  351. > More than once you'd seen her use one wing or the other to push aside a lighter obstacle.
  352. > Yet, despite the obvious discomfort removing some of the looser feathers produces, Suns doesn't pull her wing back or knock away your hands.
  353. > Never once before had she allowed you before to actually handle her wings, even while washing her.
  354. > Perhaps this was her way of apologizing for the theft?
  355. > A quick glance up at her face tells you that, however unpleasant removing individual feathers is, the process as a whole must be quite welcome.
  356. > Her face is the very image of contentment compared to the earlier apprehensiveness.
  357. > Almost as though she had taken a risk with giving you this opportunity, and was glad it had paid off.
  358. > A smile works its way onto your own face as you decide to experiment a bit.
  359. > Again running your hand from shoulder to wingtip, you squeeze a little more tightly this time.
  360. > Just enough to feel the bands of corded muscle laying hidden beneath that soft outer covering.
  361. > With a careful eye for any negative reactions, you begin to rub along those muscles - squeezing ever so gently so as to work any tension out from them.
  362. > Instead of rejecting your touch Suns lays head down, eyes sliding shut.
  363. > After a few minutes she begins to produce the contented hum, the signal that she was truly relaxed and happy.
  364. > Wordlessly you turn back to the television, still stroking.
  365. > The only break, when Suns rises to turn herself around and present the other wing to you.
  366. > Again the entire process is repeated - searching for loose feathers, removing them, stroking the rest flat, and massaging at the muscles beneath.
  367. > At a certain point, you stop and just lay a hand on her withers.
  368. > Suns doesn't react, and it takes you a moment to realize she has fallen asleep.
  369.  
  370. "Heh. Didn't realize you were that tire-"
  371. > The buzzing of a timer interrupts you.
  372. > Damn, dinner!
  373. > And just when you were both so relaxed too.
  374. > Ah well; perhaps she would allow you to do it again some time.
  375. "Hey, Suns - move your wing? I need to get up."
  376. > Nudging said appendage slightly rouses her, but doesn't help you get up.
  377. "...come on, really - I need to go before that pot boils over."
  378. > Her only answer is to turn her head over - presenting the back of her multihued mane to you rather than her muzzle.
  379. "Alright, Suns. You asked for it."
  380. > Grabbing one of the recently-liberated feathers, you reach around her head to use it to tickle at the very tip of her nose.
  381. > The first few attempts only yield some discomforted head-shaking, but on the fourth try Suns begins to take sudden, deeper breaths.
  382. > Your arm quickly retracting, a snicker bursts from your lips as Suns works herself awake just in time to let loose with a powerful sneeze.
  383. > Laughter echoes through the house as you push yourself upright, Suns going slightly crosseyed as she works the last of the sneeze loose with a shake of her head.
  384. > Ignoring the terribly aggrieved look shot in your direction, you turn and head for the kitchen.
  385. "Next time don't fall asleep on top of me!"
  386.  
  387. --------
  388.  
  389. > The first time you catch Suns staring at the newspaper, you don't think much of it at all.
  390. > Random things catch her attention all the time, after all.
  391. > When she's still staring at it ten minutes later, though, you decide to wander on over and see what's grabbed her attention.
  392. > ...oh.
  393. > Well.
  394. > That sort of makes sense.
  395. > It was an article about the moon landing, some historical date related to the old Apollo missions.
  396. > Front and center, of course, was a huge high-resolution, blown-up picture of the moon from one of the unmanned things floating around up there now.
  397. > Right beneath it, a couple of pictures from one of the modern lunar orbiters - the moon's horizon, a little blue-green orb floating just above the 'horizon'.
  398. > Those were what held her attention - one white-coated hoof coming up to rest on the image of Earth sitting behind the moon.
  399. > For a long time you just stand there watching her, the hoof rising and falling repeatedly.
  400. > Something inscrutable in those oversized lavender eyes of hers.
  401. > Eventually you turn and leave, but the image sticks in your mind for a long time.
  402. > Obviously she was fascinated by the moon for some reason... but why the image of Earth as seen from the moon?
  403. > Eventually a new thought creeps into your mind.
  404. > You hadn't heard the sound of hooves on the floor for some time.
  405. > Was she still staring at that picture?
  406. > Sneaking back in to the living room, you're surprised to find a total lack of any miniature horses.
  407. "...Suns?"
  408. > She didn't normally hide very well - not much room for something of her size.
  409. > Hell, half the time you'd find her curled behind something, absolutely hidden except for the length of her alabaster horn obviously poking up from behind whatever cover she had assembled.
  410. > But she definitely wasn't here - and you hadn't heard her go by either...
  411. > Nonetheless, you begin to move to the other rooms - calling out softly.
  412. "Suns? You there, girl?"
  413.  
  414. > Still no response; except for the distant noise of the heater spooling up.
  415. "Where the hell did you go...?"
  416. > A brief moment of panic curls through you; on a whim, you check the front and back doors.
  417. > No, both still locked.
  418. > She wasn't outside, then.
  419. > One quick trip up to the basement later, you can confirm Suns hadn't slipped down there either.
  420. > Where, then?
  421. > A creature that size couldn't just vanish into thin air.
  422. > Had she managed to get herself stuck somewhere?
  423. > The attic... but that was reachable only by a drop-down ladder, which definitely was not down.
  424. > Was she stuck behind something, then?
  425. > Images flashing before your eyes, you push yourself back upstairs-
  426. > And freeze.
  427. > There she was, standing clear as day in the middle of the living room again.
  428. > Where she definitely had not been before.
  429. "God damn, Suns!"
  430. > You don't hesitate to sweep her straight up into a hug, arms squeezing her neck.
  431. "Crazy vanishing horse! I thought you'd run away or some shit like that..."
  432. > After a moment she nuzzles into your ear, making a quiet little noise.
  433. > Even though you obviously don't understand it, it isn't hard to interpret.
  434. > A noise of comfort.
  435. "...yeah, yeah. I'm just glad you're back, you great silly lump."
  436. > Running your hand through her mane, a soft sigh escapes your lips.
  437. "Now come on. And don't do that again!"
  438. > Even as you let her go and return to your work, questions linger in your head.
  439. > How had she managed to get around you?
  440. > One moment she was definitely not around... and then she was.
  441. > Maybe she was part cat or something?
  442. > And why had she just up and vanished... something about seeing that picture from a lunar orbiter?
  443. > Infatuation with seeing the moon was one thing, but a reaction like this from just seeing a picture of it?
  444. > Strange.
  445. > ...eh, whatever.
  446. > She's back, and that's good enough for you.
  447.  
  448. --------
  449.  
  450. > Fun fact.
  451. > Suns shed.
  452. > It wasn't a ton, but there was a lot of her to shed from so it sort of balanced out.
  453. > In general you didn't terribly mind it, though your vacuum cleaner might voiced some dissent could it talk.
  454. > That particular fact did have some implications regarding her other habits, however.
  455. "Suns! No! I just took those out of the drier!"
  456. > Like this one.
  457. > It had been quite the amount of laundry as well - four full loads, including sheets.
  458. > Unfortunately, a string of phone calls had interrupted efforts to sort them out, leaving multiple loads dumped into one enormous hamper.
  459. > Fresh, warm, crisp loads.
  460. > Frankly, it didn't look that much different when Suns was done with it: A mountainous pile of sheets, pants, socks, and more.
  461. > Except for one thing.
  462. > The long horn protruding from the direct center of the pile, like some sort of spear thrust into the top of a mountain to mark where a troop of brave climbers had made the ascent.
  463. > Nevermind how she had been able to climb inside there without toppling the whole thing over or spreading it across the floor.
  464. > The important thing was that she was getting shed fur all over your freshly-cleaned clothes.
  465. "Come on, Suns! I needed those!"
  466. > The pile shifts, almost like a volcano getting ready to erupt.
  467. > A little contented noise comes from within, no doubt a reflection of how good it felt to be buried beneath such a weight of warm, soft things.
  468. > Stepping forward, you note the multihued tail emerging from the far side of the mound - flicking back and forth with amusement.
  469. "Suns! Really!"
  470. > Finally her head emerges, eyes dancing with mirth.
  471. > As if that wasn't enough, she sticks her tongue out at you teasingly.
  472. "...har, har. Remember, you don't pay the power or water bills here."
  473. > A light swat around the ears finally manages to coax Suns from her warm cocoon.
  474. > As he stands and shakes the clothes free, you begin to sort out what would need to be re-washed.
  475.  
  476. > Pants, probably; especially the dark ones.
  477. > Socks, not so much.
  478. > Socks...
  479. > Glancing aside, you suppress a snort.
  480. "C'mere, Suns."
  481. > Surprisingly she obeys - allowing you to peel free a few garments clinging stubbornly clinging to her hindquarters.
  482. "I'm going to have to pay your back for this, you know. Somehow."
  483. > Another amused little noise is the only response you get.
  484. "Shush. You're terrible, you know that?"
  485. > There's a grin on your lips as you say that, though.
  486. > Again sticking her tongue out at you, Suns tosses her head up and struts from the room with every bit of grace and dignity she can muster.
  487. > You have to admit, it is a fairly impressive show.
  488. > Right up until you spot the pair of underwear still enmeshed in her tail.
  489.  
  490. --------
  491.  
  492. "Kick!"
  493. > The crunch of wood echoes through the back yard, the log splitting evenly into two chunks.
  494. > Suns glances over her shoulder as you substitute in the next log and position the maul.
  495. "Kick!"
  496. > The first time she'd seen you splitting wood, Suns had obviously been interested.
  497. > Well, interested in the 'watching you do something' kind of way.
  498. > Right up until she turned around and kicked a log.
  499. > It didn't do much except send a log tumbling a few feet, but it did give you ideas.
  500. > The splitting maul was nowhere near large enough a target for her, but a friend was willing to help you with securing a pair of 2x4s to the back of the maul with few questions asked.
  501. > More problematic had been finding a good horizontal block to chop the logs against.
  502. "Kick!"
  503. > But when you had, the results were... impressive, to say the least.
  504. > Suns may have been soft and lazy at times, but she had the strength of her equine heritage behind her.
  505. > With a better target to land her blows on, very rarely did a kick fail to split a log entirely.
  506. > And Suns even seemed to enjoy it - though perhaps that was just the 'idea of doing something' that helped.
  507. "Kick!"
  508. > The last log split under the force of her hoof and you stood up - setting the maul aside on a nearby pile and wiping your brow.
  509. "Alright, Suns. I think that's enough for now."
  510. > Suns turned around, watching as you piled up most of the logs and took a few indoors to fill the rack by the fireplace.
  511. > Glancing at her as you go past with another load of splittings beneath your arms, you give her a wry grin.
  512. "Keep standing there, Suns, I might be tempted to try an harness you to pull these in."
  513.  
  514. > Her only response is to try and nudge you along faster with her muzzle.
  515. "Yeah, yeah - keep doing that and I'll definitely harness you up."
  516. > Who knows if that would even work.
  517. > You're fairly sure Suns wasn't harness-trained, and that enormous mane of hers could be downright impossible to manage in one.
  518. "Okay! That's the last of them."
  519. > Stripping off your jacket, you turn to find Suns sprawled in front of the fireplace, looking at you expectantly.
  520. > Chuckling softly, you shake your head.
  521. "Nope. Not until the storm gets here."
  522. > Someone must've taught her where chopped wood goes.
  523. > By that evening, though, snow was falling hard and fast.
  524. > The upside?
  525. > No work the next day - not the way this was coming down.
  526. > The downside?
  527. > You weren't going anywhere else, either.
  528. "...well, Suns, guess you get your fire anyhow."
  529. > Glancing around, you realize that at some point she'd vanished from her spot beside your computer desk.
  530. > That's strange. Was she back by the firepl-
  531. "Suns! That's from my bed!"
  532. > She peeks out from beneath the blanket she'd somehow managed to pull over herself.
  533. > Her eyes sparkling as they seem to ask what you're going to do about it.
  534. > The answer, of course, is nothing.
  535. > Your blanket or not, it would be a sin to disturb something that comfortable-looking.
  536. "...just don't get to close to the fire, okay? Don't need my home to burn down on a night like this."
  537. > You'd read once that horses were afraid of fire, that firehouses dogs used to be needed to keep them calm while on duty.
  538. > If that was true, evidently nobody had bothered to inform Suns.
  539. > She watched calmly as you lit up the fireplace and got the first few logs in.
  540. "Stay here, alright?"
  541. > Suns does stay while you go and retrieve both your dinner trays.
  542. > Setting one in front of her, you place the other on your folded legs and begin to eat.
  543. > The meal goes in relative silence, broken only by the occasional snap-pop of wood as it burns.
  544.  
  545. >>21579874
  546.  
  547. > Long after dinner is done you remain, sometimes tossing in another log and reading to pass the time.
  548. > Suns remains beside you, napping briefly after dinner.
  549. > Her waking went entirely unnoticed, in fact, until darkness suddenly descends over your head.
  550. "Gah! Hey!"
  551. > Twisting to the side, you are ready to glare at Suns - right up until her head suddenly stretches out to rest across your lap.
  552. "...guess you want some attention now, huh?"
  553. > Chuckling softly, you pull the blanket down off our head to sweep it around you both.
  554. > Resting your book atop her head and holding it with one hand, the other hand comes to rest on her back.
  555. > Fingers run down Suns' back repeatedly, tracing along her spine -feeling the subtle ridges of bone and stronger crests of muscle beneath her coat.
  556. > She almost seems to shudder gently, wings half-extending to give you access to her whole back.
  557. "...yeah, guess we all like to be kept warm, huh?"
  558. > A contented-sounding little trill in her throat is you answer.
  559. "Me too, Suns."
  560.  
  561. --------
  562.  
  563. > While Suns had been quite content to stay by you so long as the fire burned that night, the next morning had been something else entirely.
  564. > Snow seemed to drive her into a wild, active state that demanded she be let out immediately and as often as possible.
  565. > Responding to the furious tapping on the door, you were nearly bowled over and Suns pranced in from her latest escapade.
  566. > Snow, half-melted and steaming, clung to her coat.
  567. > That didn't stop her from looking like she was having the time of her life.
  568. > In many ways, you could understand it - considering the limited area she usually got to play around in, any change to it - especially one she could play in - must have been mesmerizing.
  569. > Didn't stop you from being annoyed with her antics, though.
  570. "Come on, Suns - come back here! You're dripping all over the floor!"
  571. > She did come, at least - and stayed still long enough for you to towel her off before curling up in front of a warm air vent.
  572. > For all of ten minutes.
  573. > Apparently that was all it took for Suns to warm herself up again, because by the time you finished making your own lunch the insistent tapping was coming from the back door again.
  574. "..yeah, yeah. Hold on. God damn, need to get a doggy door for you or something."
  575. > If only doggy doors came in 'fuckoff huge dog' or 'small horse' sizes.
  576. > The second the door is open Suns is through, charging out onto the snow again.
  577. > Already the pristine, white blanket has been been severely disturbed - winding tracks mounds of snow showing exactly where she's been throwing herself about.
  578. > Snorting softly, you shiver as an icy breeze passes in through the open doorway.
  579. > However chilly it was outside, Suns apparently wasn't affected by it except over a fair amount of time.
  580. > You however, still felt it distinctly.
  581. > Shutting the door, you shake your head and go back to your own lunch.
  582. > When Suns hasn't reappeared a couple of hours, though, you begin to get worried.
  583.  
  584. > Peeking your head through the open door, you find yourself presented with the incongruous sight of Suns laying flat in the snow, coat well camouflaged behind the white powder.
  585. > But not her mane, which still gives her clearly away.
  586. "Suns! Come on in."
  587. > She doesn't move.
  588. "Can't wait you forever, Suns. Get back in here."
  589. > Still she doesn't shift one bit, not even lifting her head to look at you.
  590. "...Suns?"
  591. > No response.
  592. > Fear dumps adrenaline into your veins; had she tripped and injured herself on something beneath the snow?
  593. > Had something attacked her?
  594. > Charging out into the snow with shoes barely on your feet and no jacket or gloves, you come to kneel by her side.
  595. "Suns, please look at m-"
  596. > Your world transforms into white.
  597. > Cold white at your back as you lay in the snow, and warm white in front as Suns crouches on top of you.
  598. > Eyes sparkling with amusement, she straddles your supine form and smirks down at you.
  599. "...not funny, you great fuzzy lump."
  600. > Despite your annoyance you hug her still, just glad is still her silly, playful self.
  601. > Suns climbs off you as soon as she realizes that you wish to stand again.
  602. > Shuddering as you knock the remaining snow from your shirt, you're suddenly assaulted by another wave of snow - this time kicked up by one wide, white wing.
  603. "Quit that!"
  604. > A cheeky display of Suns' tongue is all that you get in response.
  605. "...oh, now you've brought this on yourself."
  606. > What follows is a frantic snow fight across your entire back yard.
  607. > Suns may be a large target, but she's light on her hooves and dodges wildly to charge and knock you into the white powder over and over again.
  608. > You have the advantage of being able to throw, though, and throw you do - pelting handfuls of snow at her until your arms ache.
  609. > Adrenaline and pounding blood warm you despite the lack of any protection against the chill.
  610. > Whatever your strength is, though, her endurance is stronger.
  611.  
  612. > At last you find yourself once more collapsed into the soft, powder with Suns' forelegs triumphantly pinning you in place.
  613. "Whooof... ahahaha... okay! Okay, you win! Heeh! I give up!"
  614. > Pushing yourself up despite your aching legs, you again brush the snow from your clothes.
  615. > It's kind of pointless by now; sweat and heat have soaked your clothes regardless.
  616. "...come on, let's go indoors. I need to get changed."
  617. > This time, Suns is forced to wait to dry off while you change first.
  618. > She could live; she had a nice, dense coat.
  619. > You, on the other hand, had been toying with near-frostbite - a foolish choice to remain outside without protection.
  620. > ...but a fun one.
  621. > Ten minutes later you sit at the edge of the couch, next to a brightly-lit window.
  622. > Sunlight streams through to warm the blanket wrapped around you; a bowl of hot soup in your hands.
  623. > In front of you Suns' muzzle bobs in in the depths of another, resting on a coffee table.
  624. > She lifts her head and makes a concerned little noise, eyes settling on your swaddled form.
  625. "...I'm fine, Suns. Just need to get warmed up again."
  626. > You turn back to the window... which is why you don't notice Suns climbing onto the couch until she pushes her head beneath the blanket.
  627. "Woah, hey there!"
  628. > Up and up she goes, until her head suddenly reemerges from the blanket just in front of your chin - silky coat tickling your bare neck.
  629. > Huge, concerned pools of purple fill your vision, her warm breath washing across your face as her nostrils flare slightly to pick up your scent.
  630. > Reaching around beneath the blanket, you slide both arms around her neck and rub gently.
  631. "...yeah, I'm fine. Like I said, just need to get warm again."
  632. > Then again, warm was one thing Suns definitely was.
  633. > Seeming to understand your need, she pulls herself further up beneath the blanket and settles against you.
  634. "...thanks, Suns."
  635. > ...
  636.  
  637. > There was, of course, one other problematic result of this particular decision of yours.
  638. > One that didn't make itself known until the following day.
  639. > "Hwwwaaachoo!"
  640. "Gesundheit."
  641. > Suns wiggles her head, trying to shake the last of the sneeze free.
  642. > Already her breathing is going fast and shallow, the second sneeze in a row driving her slightly crosseyed as it builds.
  643. > You can't help but give a little chuckle as it breaks free.
  644. "You're cute even when you're sick, you know thaaaaaachooo!"
  645. > Grumbling, you rub at your own dripping nose.
  646. > Suns gives you a smug look, apparently aware you are in just as bad shape as she.
  647. "...yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, furball."
  648. > Now where had your kleenex box gone...?
  649. "...hey! Suns! Bring that back, I need that!"
  650.  
  651. --------
  652.  
  653. "Hey, Suns. How do you feel about a vacation?"
  654. > She doesn't answer, of course, but one ear flicks lightly as you speak so you figure she's at least aware that you're talking to her.
  655. > Or maybe that has more to do with the fingers you're running through the velvety fuzz on the opposite ear?
  656. > Either way, you continue scratching lightly as you scroll through the search results on your screen.
  657. > After a moment Suns produces a soft nickering noise, a slight note of hesitancy in it.
  658. "...yeah. I guess so."
  659. > The honest truth was that there wasn't many places you could go with Suns.
  660. > You were stuck in a paradox: To close, and people would inevitably flock form the city to join you.
  661. > To far, and travel would become inordinately difficult.
  662. > The idea of trying to get Suns onto an airplane draws a momentary grin to your lips.
  663. > But, somewhere between those two extremes, existed a narrow band of territory that was both distant enough to be safe and close enough to be reachable.
  664. > Of course, that still left relatively few choices.
  665. > National parks were right out; to many nosy park rangers and limitations on where you could pitch your tent.
  666. > Then, of course, the popular locations had to be discarded - you had to be alone as possible.
  667. > Finally you cleared any remotely close to any other typically popular destinations.
  668. > No risk for Suns to be seen while flying.
  669. > That still left a striking number of options to sort through, most of which would be discarded at some point.
  670. > But in the end, you still had options.
  671. > Wilderness was still possible to find if you knew how to find it.
  672. "So, what do you say, Suns? Spend three or four days away from it all?"
  673. > She lifts her head, purple eyes staring curiously into the screen.
  674. > Taking in the digital images of tall forests, rolling mountainsides, gorgeous sunsets.
  675. > Special attention paid to that last category, of course.
  676. > Figures she'd be interested in those.
  677.  
  678. > A questioning little noise escapes her lips, along with a single flap of her wings.
  679. > You get the idea of the question, even if no words were spoken.
  680. "Yes, Suns, there will be flying there."
  681. > A finger is jabbed at the images again, just to make sure she understands.
  682. "Flying, there."
  683. > It seems to get through; Suns is well aware that your suburban neighborhood is not anywhere near where she is allowed to fly.
  684. "So..."
  685. > Slipping your arm around her head to scratch just underneath her jawline, you seek out your phone with your other.
  686. > Time to see how many days you could get off from work.
  687.  
  688. -------
  689.  
  690. "Almost there, Suns. Calm down."
  691. > Car rides were normally something she kept relatively quiet and calm through.
  692. > This time, Suns was practically bouncing with anticipation.
  693. > Her head and long neck had emerged from the facade in back of the car she usually travelled in to loom over the rear seat, twisted slightly so as not to scrape the ceiling with her horn.
  694. > Ordinarily you'd have been far, far more upset as well, but this far into the wilderness the odds of anyone believing what they had seen were low to none.
  695. > At last you pull off the long-worn dirt path; Suns ducks her head back down as the already bumpy ride turns downright wince-inducing.
  696. > Nonetheless, fifteen minutes alter you pull to a halt at last and climb out.
  697. > Suns is out and cantering about as her door open, happily exploring this new place.
  698. > You, for one, don't quite have that luxury yet.
  699. > A tent still has to be set up, and several other things unless you cared to either eat cold food the entire time or accidentally burn the forest down.
  700. > Somehow that Suns was watching you haul various loads out of your truck didn't quite register.
  701. > Not until she grabbed the next bag by its handle, dug in her hooves.and dragged it across to where you were setting up, anyhow.
  702. > Palms resting on your knees, you give her a grateful nod as she arrives at the half-constructed tent.
  703.  
  704. "Heh... thanks, Suns... really... 'preciate that."
  705. > Instead of going back for the next lot she gives you a worried little nuzzle, eyes peering uncertainly up at you.
  706. "Nah, I'm fine."
  707. > You pat her back between the wings, shaking your head with a grin.
  708. "Thanks, though. I appreciate it."
  709. > Turns out, setting up your campsite goes a lot faster if there are two working on it rather than one.
  710. > Specifically, if you can do the setting up while a miniature (if still quite strong) horse drags your stuff over from your car for you.
  711. > In fact, by the time the sun has slid down beyond the horizon, you've got everything more or less ready.
  712. > Unrollable solar panel?
  713. > Check.
  714. > Animal repellent spray around the perimeter?
  715. > Check, though Suns seemed to hate it too.
  716. > Fire pit dug and ringed?
  717. > Check.
  718. > Getting to work on dinner before the exhaustion kicks in, you quickly get a fire started and throw a couple of pre-made foil-wrapped meals on to be warmed.
  719. > Warms you, too - the late spring night still has the faintest touch of cold in the night air.
  720. > Soon after eating you feel the day's work catching up with you.
  721. > Evidently Suns feels it too.
  722. > Either that, your yawns are unusually contagious; she seems to be going through a lot of them lately.
  723. "...alright, Suns. I think I'm going to turn in for the night you need to do anything before then?"
  724. > Her only answer is to give a satiated little burp and wander into the tent to curl up.
  725. > Guess she was feeling it too.
  726. > Making sure the fire is thoroughly doused, you do one last check of the campsite and crawl in after her.
  727. > The tent door is closed with a zip, leaving the two of you sealed within its confines.
  728. > You drag out one of the books you brought with you, starting to read.
  729. > Nothing heavy, but then you weren't exactly looking to do 'war and peace' before going to sleep.
  730. > Moments after you lay down to begin reading, though, the book is pushed aside by a white-furred muzzle coming to rest on your chest.
  731.  
  732. "...I was reading that, you know."
  733. > From the look on her face, Suns very much does know.
  734. "And I bet you don't even care that you've interrupted me."
  735. > Suns' only response to threateningly stick her tongue out.
  736. "Hey. I know that look. If you lick me, I swear I will throw you outside tonight."
  737. > Her response to the scolding is to find pull in her tongue and softly nuzzle the tip of her muzzle against your cheek.
  738. > Laughing - as much because of the unimaginably tickly sensation of the short fuzz that covers her nose against your cheek as anything else - you reach around and rub the back of her neck a little.
  739. "...no, I still care for you, Suns. Now, come on, here - I'll read to you if you want."
  740. > It is, of course, ridiculous to read to a horse - however intelligent.
  741. > But the sound of your voice, if nothing else, seems to calm her.
  742. > So there you lay - propped up in your bedroll, a book held open in one hand and the other wrapped around Suns' head, unconsciously running your fingers through her mane.
  743. > At some point you look down and discover that she'd fallen asleep, huge eyes shut against the dim electric light hung from the tent's roof.
  744. > Setting aside the book, you stand to shut the light off and crawl into the bedroll proper.
  745. > Moments later, something warm and heavy comes to rest across your legs - beneath the covers, of course.
  746. > Almost automatically your mouth opens to tell her to get off, you'll need to get up in the morning - and then you remember.
  747. > You're camping.
  748. > Away from all that.
  749. > Just you and your Suns, enjoying some time off.
  750. > So what if you don't get up early?
  751. > ...besides, the tent was kind of chilly and she was warm.
  752. > Smiling a little, you slide further down beneath the covers and slide into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
  753.  
  754. --------
  755.  
  756. "No - Suns! Come back here!"
  757. > Suns was normally very well behaved when it came to running off.
  758. > The one or two times you had truly freaked out when she had done so unexpectedly had been picked up on quite well by the unusually smart creature.
  759. > But this camping trip had infected her at some point with a ferocious desire to gallop, leap, and fly any chance she could.
  760. > Your exasperation was only a distant second thought.
  761. "Suns! Come on!"
  762. > Even with the deliberate remoteness of your campsite, the idea of Suns simply running away without any supervision filled you with a fair amount of trepidation.
  763. > You had no idea how good her abilities at locating and returning to your campsight from the ground were, after all.
  764. > Suns, however, seemed simply content to gallop along just barely at the edge of your line of vision, almost out of sight but not quite.
  765. > Of course, the whole thing was made mildly more annoying by the fact that you were hiking up the side of a hill at the time.
  766. > Not a mountain by any means - you were no climber - it was still fairly steep and left you having to carefully place each foot in the dense underbrush.
  767. > You knew what happened to horses that broke their legs; if Suns fell, you weren't sure you could even get her down the slope again.
  768. > And, naturally, there was the fact that you were probably trespassing and the thought of being arrested worried you deeply.
  769. 'Really, Suns - get back here!"
  770. > Seriously, how she had ever been able to survive before finding you was a mystery.
  771. > The coat might have been a natural thing, but that mane and tail... really.
  772. > Colors like that stood out.
  773. > Eventually you simply give up and resign yourself to the idea that your safety - and possibly Suns' life - is in the hands of fate right now.
  774. > Evidently fate is feeling kind that day, because you manage to arrive at the peak with no injuries, arrests, or other unpleasant surprises.
  775.  
  776. > Though that didn't keep you from feeling a slight twinge of indignity, again thanks to Suns.
  777. > While you are practically doubled over and panting heavily, she prances in slow circles about you.
  778. > Every motion seeming to scream, 'oh, you think this is hard?
  779. "Yes, in fact, I do you silly horse. I have half the legs you do and you're not carrying fifty damn pounds of stuff."
  780. > In retrospect, you should have tried to rig something to let Suns carry some.
  781. > She was a horse, wasn't she?
  782. "Yeah, you know what? Next time, you're carrying all this."
  783. > Your backpack thuds to the ground, allowing you to collapse beside it with a groan.
  784. > She definitely seemed to have an eye for a good view.
  785. > Maybe it was a result of being trapped in your home most of the time.
  786. > Did horses even appreciate good views?
  787. > You don't know, but Suns certainly seems to.
  788. > By the time you're ready to head back down, though, you can see the restiveness building up in her again.
  789. > She looks at you pleadingly.
  790. > Yeah, you know that look.
  791. > Making one last check of her collar - now fixed with a battery-powered radio, considering the total lack of cell service around here - you step back and give a nod.
  792. "Go ahead, Suns. You can go flying."
  793. > And off she goes, a single strong beat of her wings taking her skyward once more.
  794. > Shading your eyes against the late afternoon sun, you watch her vanish into the distance.
  795. > Chuckling, you start your own trip back down the hill towards your campsite.
  796. > A nicely-sized stream gives you a nice path to walk beside, and even the weight on your back doesn't seem as heavy.
  797. > Just as you are almost there, heavy wingbeats alert you to Suns' return.
  798. > Touching down ahead of you and turning about to join you, Suns flaps her wings a few times more to help cool herself off.
  799. > She's definitely been flying hard again, sweat lathering her coat.
  800. > Laughing, you shake your head at her state.
  801.  
  802. "You're going to need a bath, Suns - you know that?"
  803. > Evidently she does, because her gaze falls to the creek.
  804. > A mischievous look grows on her face.
  805. > Her eyes settle on you again, then back to the stream.
  806. "Suns, no."
  807. > To you again, back to the stream.
  808. "Do not do it, Suns."
  809. > Her wings extend once more, legs tensing as she crouches.
  810. "Absolutely do noooaaaaaugh-"
  811. > When you're done spitting out water your head rises to give her a stark glare.
  812. "You know, it's a really good thing this pack is waterproof."
  813.  
  814. --------
  815.  
  816. > Despite - or perhaps because of - the chill from your soaked clothes, you make it back to the campsite faster than you had expected.
  817. > Leaving Suns outside to dry in the light of her namesake star, you step into the tent and quickly change.
  818. > Emerging some time later, you settle down and begin pulling together a dinner - rifling through the icebox you had brought along.
  819. > Standing up, you glance over to find that Suns has rolled onto her side, wings to allow the last warm rays of the day to fall onto her side.
  820. > Her eyes fallen shut, you suspect she is at the very least dozing.
  821. > A suspicion that pans out as she completely fails to awaken whatsoever, not to the sounds of chopping nor your grumbles of annoyance.
  822. > Not even when you stir the coals of the fire up to start another, the cool of the evening starting to close in on your little campsite.
  823. > Not until the meal, wrapped in tinfoil, is tossed on the fire.
  824. > The rising scent of cooking food quickly reaches her, though, sending her muzzle twitching and nostrils flaring.
  825. > Less than a minute later she has risen - eyes blinking owlishly - and trotted over to your side.
  826. > Laying back down, she folds her legs beneath her to face the fire.
  827. "Feeling the chill as well, huh Suns?"
  828. > One ear twitches in your direction, but she doesn't really react.
  829. > Not until you reach out and run a finger over the backside of that ear, sending it flicking slightly and Suns' eye turning give you an annoyed little look.
  830. > Drawing your hand back, you raise one eyebrow.
  831. "...okay, something on your thoughts tonight for sure."
  832. > The meal is made in silence - yourself holding the tinfoil laden with a steaming, cheesy mass of pasta and vegetables beneath your chin and Suns pinning it to the ground to bury her muzzle in.
  833. > Yet, even so there's something distracted about her - ears never stop swiveling, and her tail gives more than a few nervous twitches.
  834.  
  835. > Even though she cannot speak, Suns is all but screaming her nervousness.
  836. > And you can't shake the feeling that there's something you feel you're forgetting as well.
  837. > A wild animal nearby?
  838. > No, you're dropped plenty of repellent and had noisemakers if it came to that - hell, you had just about everything short of a gun.
  839. > Since she can't exactly tell you what is on her mind though, you just leave Suns be.
  840. > Let her work out whatever the issue is on her own.
  841. > No use stressing yourself.
  842. > In fact, so focused on your own thoughts are you that you barely notice when - some hours later - Suns has vanished.
  843. > Instantly fear twists through you; never, ever had Suns simply left.
  844. > Gone to the edges of the campsite, to the distance of your vision when you were hiking with her...
  845. > But not once simply vanished entirely.
  846. "Shit... Suns!"
  847. > Your yell is swallowed up by the darkness, nothing coming in return.
  848. > A flashlight and noisemaker are retrieved even as you continue to yell.
  849. "Suns, get back here!"
  850. > Why had you pulled off her walkie-talkie collar when you'd gotten back from the hike?
  851. > Stupid, stupid - should have left it on so long as you were out here!
  852. > The thought of a wild animal getting to her again passes through your head, but the logical side of your mind squashes it a moment later.
  853. > If anything had gotten that close, you'd have heard the fight.
  854. > She must have left on her own.
  855. "Suns!"
  856. > The ground is soft and, while you are no expert tracker, her hooves have sunk in enough for you to follow them.
  857. > It takes you several circles of the campsite to find the set of hoofprints that isn't accompanied by those of your own boots.
  858. > Strange, she'd set off away from the creek - towards the down-slope.
  859. > Eyes and light focused on the ground, you don't realize you've come to a clearing until Suns' hoofprints vanish into the grasses.
  860.  
  861. > Lifting your gaze, you realize you know this place: A good-size, flattish clearing seventy, a hundred feet downslope from your chosen campsite.
  862. > You'd considered pitching your tent there, but the excellent view it commanded of the open valley before you was as much a liability of being spotted as a benefit.
  863. > But right now, none of that matters.
  864. > What you care about is that, sat right in the middle of the clearing and quite visible in the moonlight, is Suns.
  865. > Snapping off the flashlight - her white coat providing plenty of visibility even in the dim, pale wash provided by the moon - you march straight up to her.
  866. "Suns! Come back here now! What are you thinking, wandering off!"
  867. > There's something familiar about her still, almost statue-like pose: Head tilted back, forelegs gathered together beneath her barrel and multihued tail tossed around to encircle her.
  868. "Suns?"
  869. > Still she does not respond, eyes glittering in the muted moonli-
  870. > Your head twists at a sudden realization, eyes falling on the perfectly-circular body resting in the sky.
  871. > Ah.
  872. > That was what you'd forgotten.
  873. > There was going to be a full moon tonight.
  874. > You're interrupted by a soft bump against your chest.
  875. > Suns had leaned over slightly, her cheek resting against your jacket.
  876. > Surprised by the sudden affectionate display, you reach up to lightly scratch at the back of her head before turning away.
  877. "...alright, you silly horse. I forgive you. Can we go back no-"
  878. > A sharp grip on the rear of your shirt pulls you back.
  879. > Twisting, you see Suns holding the shirt in her mouth - an open, pleading look on her face.
  880. > Not her normal, time-practiced look of cute-powered demand, but an openly emotional look of need to stay here.
  881. > For entirely different reasons, you can't resist this one either.
  882. "Okay, if you insist."
  883. > Dropping to fold your legs together beside her, you slip an arm around Suns' withers as well.
  884.  
  885. > She quickly settles back down too, eyes returning skyward to rest on the moon hanging far above.
  886. "...what's it mean to you, Suns?"
  887. > For the first time since you found her she makes a noise - a pained little nicker that barely parts her lips.
  888. "That where you come from or something?"
  889. > Your joking tone must have been evident even if your words were not understood.
  890. > Suns doesn't grant it an answer except for an annoyed flick of her ear..
  891. > For time indeterminable the two of you sit there on the slope, watching the moon travel in its slow arc over the valley below.
  892. > Here and there a few lights flicker in the distance, and occasional the blinking signal of a distant aircraft floats across the sky.
  893. > But by and large the scene is undisturbed by for the distant rustling of wind through tree branches only now achieving their full summer coats of leaves.
  894. > At long last Suns shakes off your arm, rising with a stretch and flap of her wings - one that almost bowls you over.
  895. "Hey, there!"
  896. > Chuckling, you rise.
  897. "Ready to go back now?"
  898. > Whatever infection the moon spread to her that drove Suns to such solitude, it's apparently passed for now.
  899. > She takes the lead, even - her many-hued tail an excellent guide through the forest back to your campsite.
  900. > Her mood even seems to rise as the tent comes back into view, although you are mentally kicking yourself for leaving the guttering fire unattended.
  901. > Considering the time, you decide to allow the wood to finish burning out rather than rebuilding it.
  902. > And soon enough you are zipping the tent closed before climbing into your bedroll.
  903. > The weight of the day's activity coming crashing down on you now that the adrenaline rush you'd felt earlier had faded.
  904. > Barely do you stay awake long enough to see Suns curl up across the tent as well, her head resting atop crossed legs.
  905. > You dream that night.
  906. > Long and vividly.
  907.  
  908. > You dream the tent of the door is somehow unzipped.
  909. > You dream that beyond the open portal stands Suns, tall and proud with wings spread wide.
  910. > You dream of tears glittering on her cheek as her head tilts up towards the moon, peeking through the treetops.
  911. > You dream she sings in that strange, lilting tongue you'd heard on the doorstep once before.
  912. > But come morning, the tent-flap is shut once more and the only distance Suns has moved is over to your bedroll, her head resting upon your chest with one ear over your heart.
  913.  
  914. --------
  915.  
  916. "Give me something to work with here, Suns."
  917. > The only answer is a heavy snort from deep within the pile of blankets occupying her normal bed.
  918. "...seriously. You're starting to worry me."
  919. > This time she doesn't even deign you with a response.
  920. > You throw your hands up in the air and turn away.
  921. "You know what, forget it. I give up."
  922. > The door slams shut behind you.
  923. > Maybe it'd been whatever she'd seen in the moon that night, or maybe she'd caught some other bug out there.
  924. > Whatever it was, a sudden ill temper seemed to have crept up on Suns soon after you returned from the camping trip.
  925. > Her bed had become her favorite spot, steadily swathed in increasing numbers of blankets for her to hide beneath.
  926. > When the temperature had become unacceptable beneath them, you'd discovered that Suns knew how to open windows.
  927. > The first two times you hadn't figured out how she'd done it, but eventually you caught her leveraging her horn beneath the the handgrip and pushing it up.
  928. > You'd gone to put it back down, but the look she shot you put any of those ideas on hold.
  929. > Instead you settled for closing the door to keep the chill out.
  930. > Suns didn't seem sick - she'd tolerated your presence long enough to take her temperature, which didn't seem far off its norm.
  931. > But neither was she normal by any stretch of the imagination.
  932. > She was, for instance, barely eating.
  933. > Life was not going to halt itself to let you constantly keep an eye on Suns, however, and you needed to go to work.
  934. > So you had simply shut the door and hoped she would still be there when you got back home.
  935. > She always was, and that quickly stopped being your primary concern.
  936. > Instead, you started to become worried that she was sick in some way you couldn't tell.
  937. > There weren't any messes, so you were reasonably certain she was still using the bathroom - another mental prayer sent, this one a note of thanks to whoever had housebroken her.
  938.  
  939. > But with how little she was eating, you're not sure there'd have been much of a mess if she had skipped the bathroom entirely.
  940. > Worse yet, her temper was growing increasingly fouler.
  941. > While she had at first only hidden from and ignored you, Suns now made it abundantly clear that you simply weren't wanted.
  942. > A sharp look with those huge, expressive eyes of hers.
  943. > Angered snorting and stomping that left deep scuff marks on the floor.
  944. > Even a low growling noise that you hadn't even known a horse of any size could make.
  945. > But leaving her to her own devices could only work for so long.
  946. > Sooner or later, you were going to just have to take a long, hard look at her and figure out what was wrong
  947. > Today, though, might not be it.
  948. > Rain was coming down heavy, and your commute had stretched from normal to merely annoying and straight into downright frustrating.
  949. > By the time you get home it is long since dark and dinner quite late.
  950. > Something gives you pause as you pass through your home, however.
  951. > You aren't quite sure, but something just seems... off.
  952. > Changed.
  953. > The front door had still been locked, though, and as best you can tell everything is still there.
  954. > That meant the only one at home was Suns.
  955. > Hinges squeal as you crack the door to your room open, peering into darkness beyond.
  956. "Suns? Are you oka-"
  957. > You halt, boggling at the mess that had been made of your room.
  958. > Sheets and bedding had been torn from your mattress and cast around the room; drawers were pulled out and the clothes within tossed from spot to spot.
  959. > Even your closet had been torn open, boxes of old magazines and your trading card collection spilled onto the floor.
  960. > At the center of the chaos lay Suns, stretched out on the floor half-covered in a nest of ruffled blankets.
  961. > It's like she'd gone through and moved every single thing in-
  962. > Moved.
  963. > Spinning back out, you slip back into the living room and confirm the suspicion that had taken hold in your mind.
  964. > Suns had moved everything.
  965.  
  966. > There hints were subtle but they all lined up.
  967. > Nothing was in the exact same place you had left it.
  968. > Even some of your modest collection of books had seemingly been reshelved.
  969. > How had she even managed to do that - with her mouth?
  970. > And more importantly, why?
  971. > Treading softly back to your darkened room, you step cautiously through the door and
  972. "...Suns?"
  973. > She doesn't shift, though you think one ear twitches towards the sound of your voice.
  974. "Suns, you're really starting to worry me..."
  975. > There's a gentle nicker from beneath the sheets, but she doesn't rise to answer you.
  976. "C'mon, Suns... This really isn't helpful."
  977. > Your shoes thudding softly against the wooden floor panels, you slip over to the side of her bed.
  978. "Seriously, Suns. I even got some of that pumpkin cake you love. Just give me something to let me know you're okay?"
  979. > Lifting one of the blankets gently, you're met by a giant lavender eye settling on your face.
  980. > Though she obviously sees you, Suns does nothing to suggest she recognizes your appearance.
  981. "...Suns...?"
  982. > You reach beneath her, placing a gentle hand against her chest.
  983. > The heartbeat that reaches your skin is strong as ever, and as best you can tell Suns isn't having any trouble breathing.
  984. > But there's no doubt in your mind now that something is seriously wrong with her.
  985. "Fucksake, you better not die on me or something, Suns..."
  986. > Leaning over, you put an ear to her back - trying to listen for something odd in her breathing.
  987. > You're no vet, but if something is wrong you should hear it, right...?
  988. > If something is, though, it's well beyond your ability to sense.
  989. > Maybe her stomach, then? She hadn't been eating well, after all.
  990. "Alright, Suns. Roll over?"
  991. > An ill-thought-out attempt to train her basic dog commands before you realized how intelligent Suns truly was had left her with a vocabulary of a couple dozen simple commands.
  992.  
  993. > She certainly should have recognized that one.
  994. > Which is why it worries you so much when Suns' only reaction was to again fix you with a sharp glare and make a low noise in her throat.
  995. "...is it hurting to do that or something, girl?"
  996. > A hand slipped beneath her stomach doesn't seem to reveal anything wrong - no unusual swollenness that you can feel.
  997. > Meaning, you're going to have to roll her to be sure.
  998. "Alright, girl. Just let me move you over; I promise it won't be for more than a minute or two."
  999. > You take two of her long, graceful legs in hand and begin to lift.
  1000. "Just long enough so I can-"
  1001. > The next thing you know, you are staring at the ceiling with the back of your head aching where it had impacted the floor.
  1002. > You'd honestly forgotten how fast Suns could move when she wanted to, and never seen it that close before.
  1003. > The fact that she now straddled you, glaring down with an angry light in her eyes and forehooves planted firmly to either side of your chest was also something of a surprise as well.
  1004. > In the blurry fraction of a second that had gotten you to this position, you aren't entirely sure what she'd managed
  1005. "...woah, Suns. Woooah. I'm not going to hurt you."
  1006. > Slowly you raise your hands above your head to show them empty and well away from her.
  1007. > She could probably still crush your chest with any one of those hooves - the same hooves that split logs easily with each kick - so your only hope was to calm her.
  1008. "Not going to hurt you, Suns. Just looking to make sure you're okay."
  1009. > Her nose wrinkles, a sharp puff of breath escaping from her nostrils.
  1010. > Eventually she steps back - removing her hooves and allowing you to prop yourself up on your elbows.
  1011. "See, girl? It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you."
  1012. > Leveraging yourself up to a crouch, you slowly extend your hands towards her.
  1013. > Even the calming gesture is met by a sharp swing of Suns' horn, nowhere near you but enough to warn against coming any closer.
  1014.  
  1015. > Now it is your turn to back away, hands again retreating to a defensive position between the two of you.
  1016. "...woah, Suns. Okay. I get it. You don't want me. Okay."
  1017. > Backing towards your door, you spin and retreat from the room entirely as soon as you could - the door being pulled shut tight behind you.
  1018. > Never.
  1019. > Never once before had Suns ever threatened you with her horn.
  1020. > She was well aware of the damage it could do, but even in the first, least trusting days between the two of you never had she actually threatened you with it.
  1021. > What the hell had gotten into her?
  1022. > For a moment you consider trying to stun her with something, but that doesn't seem like a good idea.
  1023. > Instead you turn to the making of dinner.
  1024. > There's something simple and distracting about the process - a island of familiarity among the sea of worry you drift in.
  1025. > So distracted are you that you fail to even realize you've made two portions - one for Suns.
  1026. > She hadn't been eating more than a nibble here and there lately, but...
  1027. > Why not?
  1028. > As you are spooning half the casserole out onto a plate, a box catches your eye.
  1029. > The cake you'd bought for her, still wrapped up in the box and paper it came in.
  1030. > Along with a cup of water - wide and short, to acommodate her muzzle - a slice of said confection soon joins the rest of the dinner tray you are assembling.
  1031. > Balancing it carefully between hand and shoulder, you crack the door to your room open ever so slightly to peer in.
  1032. "Hey, Suns...? I know we kind of... argued, but I've got dinner..."
  1033. > She doesn't react, having returned to her nest of blankets.
  1034. "...right."
  1035. > With a twinge of nervousness you proceed into the room, setting the tray down on the edge of your bed.
  1036. "If want it or anything... it's there, okay?"
  1037. > Something moves under the mounded covers, but you can't see what - and after earlier, don't particularly care to.
  1038. > Rapidly retreating from your room, slam the door shut before grabbing your own plate and returning to the living room.
  1039.  
  1040. > The quiet feels unusually heavy, even though Suns hadn't really stayed at dinner for several days now.
  1041. > Still, you eat.
  1042. > It's at least something to do that will get your mind off her state.
  1043. > As you are clearing the dishes away something catches your ear.
  1044. > Hooves, the wooden floor.
  1045. > Suns appears in the doorway, and the momentary flicker of panic that had taken hold in your mind is utterly banished.
  1046. > The transformation she has gone through is striking.
  1047. > Gone is the anger, the resentment, the tension in her muscles - though her ears still fall, it is with obvious sadness rather than aggression.
  1048. > And, clutched carefully in her muzzle so that her lips only touch the barest edge of the plate, is the slice of cake.
  1049. > You remain perfectly still as she haltingly walks to your side, setting the plate of cake on the table before you.
  1050. "...that's for you, girl."
  1051. > Suns' eyes flick back up to yours, pleadingly wide.
  1052. > Her graceful neck tentatively stretching out to put her head closer to you.
  1053. > Cautiously you stretch out one hand, reaching it forward until it rests in the slightly thicker hair over her cheek.
  1054. "Hey there, Suns. You coming back to me now?"
  1055. > A moment later, your world turns to white.
  1056. > Suns had reared up, throwing one foreleg and nearly another over your shoulders.
  1057. > Twin blankets of feathers were wrapped around your shoulders as her fear flicked against your cheek.
  1058. > You stagger back a step, but then wrap your arms around her as well.
  1059. "...yeah, I'm glad to see you back to being yourself too."
  1060. > Gently letting her down, you wander over to the sofa and slide into a seat on one end; Suns expertly hops up onto her normal beside you, resting her head in your lap.
  1061. > Even as you run a hand down her neck, her head nudges into your stomach while a sad little noise emanates from her throat.
  1062. "Hey, it's okay, Suns. I'm not upset with you; I'm just... worried."
  1063. > Worried.
  1064. > At the sound of that word she lifts her head, eyes settling on your face.
  1065.  
  1066. > A second later she starts to squirm away; for a moment you wonder if you've done something wrong, but then she starts into a familiar wriggle and you realize what Suns is trying.
  1067. "...really, Suns, you don't have to - well, nevermind."
  1068. > There she lays, on her back beside you, head resting upside-down but twisted slightly to accommodate her horn.
  1069. > When you don't immediately react, Suns reaches out with one hoof to nudge a hand towards her belly.
  1070. > Chuckling softly, you again sink your palm into the velvety hair covering her chest.
  1071. > Beneath that, beneath the muscles and bone laying just under the surface, her heart beats on.
  1072. > Giving one last look back to her face to make sure that you're allowed, you start to rub.
  1073. > It's certainly soft - perhaps not the softest thing you've ever touched, but close.
  1074. > And warm; it's as if all of the warmth that radiated from Suns was concentrated down here.
  1075. > To your surprise she doesn't seem even the slightest against it, despite her earlier reaction.
  1076. > Indeed, to say that Suns is enjoying it would be an understatement.
  1077. > Her head had rolled back, horn pointing straight down to the floor.
  1078. > As you begin to move downward along her belly, one hoof twitches slightly.- quivering with each downstroke your hand makes.
  1079. "Suns?"
  1080. > The sound she makes is halfhearted, as if she is only partially awake and cannot be bothered to come the rest of the way back up to consciousness.
  1081. > You chuckle softly, still rubbing.
  1082. "...yeah, I guess I can forgive you, Suns."
  1083. > A low, pleased humming fills the room, her eyes falling the rest of the way shut as you continue your ministrations.
  1084. > Any fears about Suns' state are banished.
  1085. > Whatever illness had infected her is banished.
  1086. > And you couldn't be happier.
  1087.  
  1088. --------
  1089.  
  1090. > If there was one upside to having Suns around - apart from how calming she could be sometimes - it was that you never overslept.
  1091. > Should you possibly sleep beyond the beeping of your alarm clock, you would soon find your face accosted by her muzzle.
  1092. > Today was just one such day.
  1093. "...god damn it, Suns! I said I was getting up!"
  1094. > Wiping your face dry, you look up at the smirking horse.
  1095. > She meets your gaze easily, eyes wide and expectant.
  1096. "One day, Suns. One day I'm going to catch that tongue of yours and then you're going to regret i- no."
  1097. > Her head halts its forward motion, but Suns' eyes still sparkle with mischief.
  1098. "Seriously. You do that again, I'm going tie something to your horn."
  1099. > Though your words may not understood, your tone is; she backs off.
  1100. > With a groan you rise up out of your bed, looking around.
  1101. > That's right, it's Sunday.
  1102. > Your alarm wasn't even set, was it?
  1103. > Then why...?
  1104. > ...oh.
  1105. > It's Sunday.
  1106. "Alright, Suns. C'mon, let's go make some breakfast."
  1107. > Those stories about dogs in the kitchen?
  1108. > How they stand beside you and just wait for something to head for the floor?
  1109. > Yeah, Suns did that.
  1110. > Except, she waited for you to be done.
  1111. > From how tense she is as the pancakes fry up, you half expect her to leap up and devour them right there in the pan.
  1112. > At one point you'd even managed to get an apron on her and taken pictures.
  1113. > Of course they couldn't really be shown to anyone else, but they were damn hilarious to look back at.
  1114. "...easy, Suns. Just about done."
  1115. > Three on a plate, and passed off for Suns to devour.
  1116. > Another three for you.
  1117. > Even if you'd started first, Suns would have finished long before you.
  1118. > She didn't just inhale them, she temporarily generated a black hole in the back of her throat and evaporated them.
  1119. > Amusingly, this leaves the side effect of covering her muzzle in a mix of crumbs and syrup.
  1120.  
  1121. > Not even this can be simply left to sit, however; Suns goes amusingly cross-eyed with determination as she tries to lick every last drop and fleck from her coat.
  1122. "...you keep doing that, you're going to give yourself a headache."
  1123. > Even if Suns could understand you, she probably wouldn't stop.
  1124. > Crazy horse loved her pancakes...
  1125. "...alright, Suns. Let's see what there's left to do around the house today."
  1126. > Flipping on the radio as you begin to sort the laundry, you start to tune out the rest of the world.
  1127. > Some sort of a doozy of a storm was making its way up the coast - three, maybe four days until it plowed in.
  1128. > Ah, well.
  1129. > A couple days off from work, probably.
  1130. > You glance off to the corner, where Suns lays quietly watching you work.
  1131. > Hopefully she didn't panic; she wasn't afraid of storms, but the way this one was being described it certainly wasn't anything like what she'd ever seen before.
  1132. > At least, not as long as she'd been with you.
  1133. > Who knew about before that?
  1134. "...hey, girl?"
  1135. > Suns makes a little noise in response.
  1136. "You scared of storms, girl?"
  1137. > 'Scared', another word she sort of understood.
  1138. > Mostly in the context of 'don't be scared, this won't hurt'.
  1139. > At your question, Suns pushes herself upright and wanders over to nuzzle your head comfortingly.
  1140. > Heh, sweet thing must've thought you meant you were scared yourself.
  1141. > Reaching up to scratch at her chin, you give her a warm little smile.
  1142. "Yeah, it's okay, girl. I know, you care for me."
  1143. > It's only once you get the clothes into the washer that you realize what Suns is about to do.
  1144. > Her longing stare at the dryer that gives warning to what is about to happen.
  1145. "...Suns, no. You aren't allowed in the dryer loads, you know that."
  1146. > The mournful look shot in your direction nearly melts your heart, but you hold your ground.
  1147. "No. Not allowed. I just have to wash it if you do that."
  1148.  
  1149. > With a huff Suns starts from the room.
  1150. > Just as she is passing you, though, you find yourself subject to a sudden, vicious ambush.
  1151. "Gah! Ack! Hey, I told you this morning! No more licki-"
  1152. > As if to just spite you, Suns gives your cheek another long, damp lick.
  1153. "...alright, that's it. C'mere, Suns."
  1154. > For ten minutes the house is filled with the sound of hooves and feet on the floor, your calls for her, and yes, laughter.
  1155. > There's something simply refreshing about it, since you know she is just being playful.
  1156. > In return, your punishment is equally playful.
  1157. > For the second time that day Suns goes crosseyed as she tries to focus on something directly in front of her.
  1158. > In this case, it is the feather you tied to dangle from her horn directly in front of her face.
  1159. > Just high up enough to lightly, ticklingly brush against her muzzle.
  1160. > To add insult to (amusing) injury, it is one of her own.
  1161. > Two failed attempts at dislodging the offending feather later, Suns looks pleadingly to you.
  1162. > You just smirk back.
  1163. "No licking."
  1164. > Not without retribution, anyway.
  1165.  
  1166. --------
  1167.  
  1168. > Though she couldn't know what was coming, Suns certainly seemed to sense your nervousness before the approaching storm.
  1169. > Maybe it was how you'd walked around the property, trimming any particularly low-hanging branches back.
  1170. > Or the way you'd gone out with her and chopped an extra load of wood.
  1171. > Winter was passed, but the nights could still gain a chill; if power were to be lost, you wanted to be ready.
  1172. > Or maybe it was just the vibe you gave off as you wandered around the house, checking off items on your list of preparations.
  1173. > Batteries, food, medical supplies - all were checked and prepared.
  1174. > Though some would have guessed it might turn away at the last second, you couldn't help but get a little prepared for the worst.
  1175. > Whatever the reason, though, Suns definitely picked up on it somehow.
  1176. > She seemed to follow you closely around the entire day, trailing at your heels and giving you nervous little glances every few moments.
  1177. > Maybe she could sense the storm too?
  1178. > It was still day or two off, but you'd heard that some animals sort of had a sixth sense for these things.
  1179. > After the umpteenth nudge at your leg, you finally decide to deal with it.
  1180. > Turning around, you're met by twin liquid-lavender orbs, staring upwards into your own eyes.
  1181. "...I get it, Suns. You're worried. It's okay, girl."
  1182. > Fingers settle on one ear, starting to scratch lightly.
  1183. > Suns rolls her head back into your hand, but you can still see the tension in her body.
  1184. > Her wings in particular are held ever-so-slightly spread, not quite enough to be immediately noticeable but loose enough that she seems nearly ready to leap into the air right there.
  1185. > As if that would help her outrun the storm.
  1186. "S'okay, Suns. We'll be fine."
  1187. > It seems to calm her just a little bit - enough to get Suns to back off from lurking just behind you to sitting at a distance, watching all that you do.
  1188. > But still concerned.
  1189. > Even when you go to bed that night, Suns' nervousness lingers.
  1190.  
  1191. > Not even ten minutes after you've drawn the covers up, you hear the bedroom door open.
  1192. > She's trying to be quiet, even to your sleepy ears the door sliding open is clearly audible.
  1193. "...Suns?"
  1194. > Quiet hoofsteps that had been approaching across the floor immediately halt.
  1195. > The urge to not break a rule - like entering your room at night - struggles against the desire to be close to you.
  1196. > And for once, you can't really blame her.
  1197. > Suns was, when you got down to it, a herd animal.
  1198. > And the only other living creature she socialized with - really a cruelty, that - was obviously scared.
  1199. > It'd be even more sadistic to deny her what comfort she must have instinctively desired.
  1200. "...c'mere, Suns."
  1201. > In the darkness her ivory muzzle looms out of the black, eyes glittering in what light filters in through the windows.
  1202. > Dragging a hand from beneath a blanket, you reach out to stroke her.
  1203. > You're clumsy in the dark, but it doesn't matter - you can tell Suns appreciates even the simplest contact.
  1204. "You want to sleep here tonight, Suns?"
  1205. > Air rushes along your arm as she blows a breath from her nostrils.
  1206. > That she doesn't depart serves as your answer.
  1207. > On the one hand, she was liable to trap you here in the morning if allowed, and tomorrow there simply wouldn't be time to coax her out of bed with a treat.
  1208. > On the other, though...
  1209. > To refuse would be a new cruelty laid on top of what you put down.
  1210. "Alright. Your spare bed is still in the corner; you can go to sleep there if you want."
  1211. > When she doesn't move you tear off the covers and rise, leading her to the oversized dog bed in the corner.
  1212. "Here, Suns. Go get some sleep."
  1213. > She doesn't, though.
  1214. > In what minimal light there is in the room, you can see her eyes still on you.
  1215. > Still worried.
  1216. "You're really upset by this, huh?"
  1217.  
  1218. > Settling down with a groan, you take a cross-legged seat beside Suns and gently press a hand into her withers until she finally lays down in the bed, ruffling her wings to make herself comfortable.
  1219. "It's just a storm... these things happen here, you know?"
  1220. > Silence greets you.
  1221. "...yeah, well of course you know. You've been in storms before.
  1222. > Though not like this one.
  1223. "Point is, they happen, and you just have to be ready for them, yeah?"
  1224. > Reaching out, you start to run a hand through her volumious mane.
  1225. > Suns coos gently, but you're quite certain she still hangs on your every word.
  1226. "It's not a thing to be terrified of. You don't run screaming from a storm. If you let the fear get the better of you, it can do more damage than the storm ever could."
  1227. > Abruptly, before you can continue, one enormous wing sweeps around you and all but drags you over against Suns' neck.
  1228. > Damn, sometimes you really did forget how strong she was.
  1229. > After a second, one of your arms slips around her neck as well.
  1230. > Wordlessly she holds you there until she allows you free, the wing retracting to fold against her side.
  1231. "Ready to sleep now, girl?"
  1232. > She doesn't nod, but when you pat the bed her head falls to rest on it.
  1233. > That, in your book, qualifies as a yes.
  1234. > After a minute or two more, you return to your own bed and crawl back beneath the covers.
  1235. > Morning arrives in due time.
  1236. > And with it, a new weight across your lower legs.
  1237. > Cracking open your eye, you find - surprise! - Suns laying across your legs, fast asleep.
  1238. > She's not huddled or curled against you, or even beneath the covers, as you would have expected her to do if scared.
  1239. > Rather, Suns had simply stretched out on the bed, neck and head crossing over your legs in an almost affectionate manner.
  1240. > As you sit up, one of her eyes barely opens to rest on you a moment before sliding shut again as her head nestles further in against your leg.
  1241.  
  1242. > The sight brings a smile to your lips and a warmth to your heart.
  1243. > Except for one thing.
  1244. "...Suns? I still have to get up, you know."
  1245.  
  1246. --------
  1247.  
  1248. > The storm is magnificent.
  1249. > It had rolled in late in the afternoon, creeping up with relatively little warning.
  1250. > One moment, the sky had been a relatively normal light-grey.
  1251. > The next a mottled, darker tone interspersed with even blacker bands, something like charred wood.
  1252. > Similarly, the rain did not come all slowly on but gusted in, changing in an instant from a light drizzle to a furious, pounding tempo.
  1253. > At least someone up the ladder at work had been smart enough to send you home early.
  1254. > Fretting at your desk all day long was unpleasant, but you couldn't deny your concern for how Suns would react to the storm's intensity.
  1255. > Yet, in the end, you shouldn't have worried.
  1256. > She noses up to a window as the tempest grows in ferocity, staring out into the driving sheets.
  1257. > You just chuckle softly, going to whip up some dinner before it gets any worse.
  1258. > It is because of this that you hear the tapping immediately when it begins.
  1259. '...you're kidding me, Suns. You want to go out in that?"
  1260. > Drying your hands and heading for the back door, you find her looking at you pleadingly from the back door.
  1261. "Fucksake, Suns. It's the rainpocalypse out there, and you want to go into that?"
  1262. > Seeming to sense your skepticism, she nudges the door handle with her muzzle before looking back to you.
  1263. > Smart thing that she is Suns could certainly have opened it on her own, but she knows not to go out without your knowledge.
  1264. > And there's no doubting the look in her face, but...
  1265. "God damn it, you crazy horse. Don't blame me when you're up to your belly in mud."
  1266. > As soon as the door opens even a crack the wind slams into you.
  1267. > Suns steps out onto the rear porch, nosing her head out beyond the protection of the overhanging roof.
  1268. > Her ears fly back, coat quickly growing damp with flying droplets and huge eyes narrowing against the maelstrom.
  1269.  
  1270. 'Well? Are you going out or not; I can't keep holding this forever."
  1271. > It takes a nudge to her hindquarters to get her moving, but despite your disbelief Suns canters out beyond the back deck and into the muddy yard.
  1272. > Squeezing the door closed behind her, you lean against your wall and rub your head in surprise.
  1273. > Returning to your duties, you're nearly done with dinner when a buzzing pop from down the street yields the end of your light and the house falling into silence.
  1274. > Maybe there had been something to Suns' concern after all.
  1275. > Pulling a battery-powered lantern to a counter, you quickly finish the cooking that needs to be done on the gas stovetop.
  1276. > What surprises you, is that even despite the loss in power Suns hasn't returned.
  1277. > If not for the fact that a flashlight shone into the backyard quickly reveals her calmly sitting in the grass, you'd be worried for Suns.
  1278. > As is, you don't call her back in until dinner is finished.
  1279. > It's a little cold and not the best you've ever done, but there's something innately comforting about quietly eating while a storm rages against the walls protecting you.
  1280. > ...or maybe it's the amusement of watching Suns with her muzzle buried deep in a bowl of stew happily making up for the cold rain she'd been soaked in before.
  1281. > Toweling her off had been... interesting.
  1282. > If not for the fact that it got her seriously upset, you'd long since have tried to cut Suns' mane.
  1283. > Afterward?
  1284. > Well, with the power out and going outside off the table, there's little to do but sit by lantern-light and read.
  1285. > Suns takes her typical spot on the couch, but instead of resting on you she faces the window - eyes and ears alike locked on the storm beyond.
  1286. > Though you reach out with one hand and stroke her withers, it's obvious that Suns' mind is elsewhere.
  1287. > Why would she-
  1288. > Compared to the utter silence of your home, the phone's vibration cuts through the night like a bullhorn.
  1289.  
  1290. > It is an intruder, an artificial invader into nature's siege on your home.
  1291. > But who was it?
  1292. > A friend?
  1293. > Someone looking for a favor, to use your truck?
  1294. > ...
  1295. > No.
  1296. > You didn't.
  1297. > Cursing yourself, the phone is all but slammed to the table again.
  1298. > How could you forget to charge it before a storm?
  1299. > You knew the power was going to go out!
  1300. > As if to spite you, the phone issues its invasive low-battery buzz again.
  1301. > ...
  1302. > Urgh.
  1303. > Well, there's only one thing to do now.
  1304. "Suns, stay here."
  1305. > Car keys are grabbed and a dizzying variety of protection against the weather strapped on.
  1306. "I'm going to go out and charge this stupid thing in the car for a bit."
  1307. > It'd be pricey, but better than running dead.
  1308. > Outside, if anything the fall of night has brought on new heights of the storm.
  1309. > Despite the hood over your head, you find a hand rising to hold your cap in place.
  1310. > Climbing into the driver's seat, yank the door shut - probably harder than necessary - and plug the phone in.
  1311. > The engine's comforting rumble soon fills your ears.
  1312. > Against all rational logic your eyes drift repeatedly to the rear-view mirrors, studying the low, pale glow illuminating your home's windows.
  1313. > Suns wouldn't be visible through the thick curtains you'd put in, but even so...
  1314. > Forcing the rising nervousness back down into your belly, you flick the radio on and lean back in your seat.
  1315. > Eyes slide half-shut and your mind begins to drift under the influence of the droning, generic music.
  1316. > Good.
  1317. > You hadn't planned on really listening.
  1318. > The cyclical, mindless lyrics are just enough to let your mind calm itself.
  1319. > They're also the reason you don't hear the creaking wood until too late.
  1320. > A flash of movement in the corner of your eye, and suddenly the windshield is filled with a rapidly-approaching wall of newly-budded leaf and branch.
  1321. > Exactly how long after that you come to again isn't clear.
  1322. > Head pounding, you start to take stock of the situation.
  1323.  
  1324. > One; your brain hurt and vision was swimming.
  1325. > Dimly it processes in your mind that you might very well have a concussion.
  1326. > Two; a lot of other stuff hurt as well.
  1327. > You were on your side, pushed halfway over and pinned in place.
  1328. > Judging by the weight on your side that makes itself apparent as you start trying to move, a significant tree limb must've come through the windshield and landed on it.
  1329. > Impossible to know directly, since you'd been shoved over onto the center console and your vision was a mess of leaves and branches.
  1330. > Without any experience to judge by, it feels bruised ribs at the least - cracked, maybe.
  1331. > Hard to tell, with your head feeling like it got caught between one of Suns' hooves and the chopping stump.
  1332. > Three: You're wet; soaking wet, in fact.
  1333. > Again, the windshield must be totally gone.
  1334. > And four, the engine and radio are silent.
  1335. > Gone.
  1336. > Shit.
  1337. > The first instinct you have - to try and rise up out of the seat - proves to be a totally wrong one.
  1338. > Not only is something still pinning your chest to the seat, but one leg seems to be pretty badly twisted as well.
  1339. > White, lancing bolts of pain run through the limb, forcing you back down.
  1340. > ...okay, plan B.
  1341. > Where's your phone?
  1342. > After much searching, it reveals itself in the footwell of the passenger's seat.
  1343. > Operational, but not close enough to reach.
  1344. > And, of course, the cord had pulled free, probably when you were knocked over.
  1345. > ...plan C?
  1346. > Twisting the key in the ignition yields nothing, so any hopes of pulling free are dashed.
  1347. > Any thoughts of plan D are interrupted by something scrabbling against the side of the driver's door.
  1348. > Just as quickly there's a soft nicker in the darkness, then another one - louder, and worried.
  1349. "...Suns? That you?"
  1350. > A soft form brushes against your hip; she must be craning her neck into the driver's seat.
  1351. > There she is.
  1352. > Smarter than any dog, but just as loyal.
  1353. > Any worries about Suns being seen outside are brushed aside right now.
  1354.  
  1355. "Hey... hey there, Suns. I'm gonna be okay. I need..."
  1356. > What do you need?
  1357. > Forcing your brain back up to speed, you fumble through the mental fog to find the object in question.
  1358. "...phone! Suns, give me the phone!"
  1359. > She doesn't quite seem to get what you want, but more scrabbling follows.
  1360. > With a pop, the driver's door opens - allowing you at last to extend a leg into the rain.
  1361. > Forget worrying about getting wet, your clothes are already soaked.
  1362. "Right, hah... okay, that's one. Let me see if Ieeeeeooow."
  1363. > A second attempt at righting yourself has only yielded another burst of pain.
  1364. > Nope, that branch is still firmly on top of you.
  1365. > But now, with the leg no longer squeezed inside the car you can sit up.
  1366. > ...
  1367. > Yep.
  1368. > That's a fucking big branch.
  1369. > Suns' head appears over it, staring inward with a worried look.
  1370. "Hey there, girl... can you... can you get my phone?"
  1371. > No luck.
  1372. > Instead of helping she noses at the branch, as if to confirm that it truly is well and firmly atop you.
  1373. "Phone, girl. Here, it's on this side, I need it - hey!"
  1374. > Suns had turned, retreating back from the car.
  1375. > Watching her multihued mane pull away, you raise your voice despite the pain that blooms in your chest.
  1376. "Get back here, damn it!"
  1377. > She does halt her retreat - turning back around to face you.
  1378. > But not returning to your aid.
  1379. "Suns, c'mon. I need your help! C'mere, girl!"
  1380. > Spreading her legs as if to anchor herself, Suns crouches down and lowers her head.
  1381. > Oh, shit.
  1382. > Is she going to try and charge the car or something?
  1383. > What would-
  1384. > Something creaks.
  1385. > You frown, steadily becoming aware of a strange feeling.
  1386. > Metal groans.
  1387. > The feeling resolves itself into something familiar: Movement.
  1388. > Wood crunches as it is drawn back from the windshields.
  1389. > The fallen tree being pulled away?
  1390. > No.
  1391. > Your truck is the one moving, heel of your extended foot dragging along the pavement as it does.
  1392. > What-
  1393.  
  1394. > Twisting around, your gaze locks on Suns again.
  1395. > Wings half-spread and lips drawn back to reveal gritted teeth, she cuts an imposing sight.
  1396. > To say nothing of her mane, which is rolling and writhing as if caught in a hurricane - not merely a downpour.
  1397. > Now the tree is almost entirely gone from the windshield, and you tenderly lever yourself up.
  1398. > Eyes desperately searching for any sign of other people.
  1399. > Even having to explain Suns to them at that moment seems to be a better alternative than the only remaining conclusion.
  1400. > But there are none, no firefighters ready to whisk you onto a stretcher.
  1401. > Just Suns, her wings starting to flap as the truck is dragged inches back further.
  1402. > And then, without warning, dropped.
  1403. > Not even the crunch as the suspension again takes the truck's full weight can seize your attention now.
  1404. > Suns is panting, wings failing to fold themselves against her sides.
  1405. > Mane and tail have gone silent again, but there's no denying what you just saw.
  1406. > At last Suns meets your eyes-
  1407. > And freezes.
  1408. > Was it the panic, the uncomprehending look on your face that spooked her?
  1409. > Was there some hint of your panic in your body language?
  1410. > In fairness, you certainly were panicking.
  1411. > Facing down the fact that you had not just a smart-unicorn-pegasus in your home but a smart-unicorn-pegasus that could apparently defy physics?
  1412. > That is another thing entirely.
  1413. > Nervously, Suns takes a step back.
  1414. > Hell, what else could she do?
  1415. > You want to say something.
  1416. > Thank her?
  1417. > For breaking reality for you?
  1418. > But what else-
  1419. > Her retreat grows, hoofsteps picking up as she opens her wings to take flight again.
  1420. > What had you told her last night?
  1421. > 'If you let the fear get the better of you, it can do more damage than the storm ever could.'
  1422. > Forcing it down, you take a deep breath and call out.
  1423. "Suns... c'mere, girl. I... I need help."
  1424.  
  1425. --------
  1426.  
  1427. > You awaken in a comfortable blackness.
  1428. > Bed.
  1429. > Your bed.
  1430. > Your room.
  1431.  
  1432. > A room that Suns had all but dragged you back to.
  1433. > Not with that... whatever it was; telekinesis?
  1434. > With her mouth on your coat sleeve and wing around your body.
  1435. > ...sometimes you really did forget how strong she was.
  1436. > ...
  1437. > Your chest still aches.
  1438. > Definitely bruised ribs.
  1439. > But your head is clear, your clothes have dried, and there's a warm weight trapping one arm to the bed.
  1440. "Hey... hey, Suns."
  1441. > It seems almost wrong to whisper, to break the white noise of rain on walls and roof.
  1442. > Beside you, the mass shifts.
  1443. > Warm breath tickles against your ear.
  1444. > Not just a blanket crosses your chest, you realize, but a vast spread of white feathers as well.
  1445. "...good girl, Suns."
  1446. > She snorts gently, but otherwise doesn't respond.
  1447. > Head falling back to the pillow, you shift the arm beneath her to wrap around Suns' neck.
  1448. > Yes, she was strange.
  1449. > And apparently reality-breaking now.
  1450. > Or magic, or some freakishly-advanced technology humans hadn't gotten around to discovering yet.
  1451. > But you don't care.
  1452. > She's yours, and she cares enough to risk her safety and discovery to pull you free.
  1453. > You don't think you could ask for a better pet.
  1454.  
  1455. --------
  1456.  
  1457. > Though your master sleeps, you cannot.
  1458. > There's still something wrong with his breathing.
  1459. > His ears aren't sharp enough to hear it, but you can.
  1460. > Labored?
  1461. > No.
  1462. > Not in any danger.
  1463. > But pained.
  1464. > His chest still hurts him.
  1465. > Shifting slightly in the bed, your wing squeezes around him.
  1466. > Strange it may have been, but this one was all you had.
  1467. > Once, you remember, there had been more like you.
  1468. > Smaller than you, and none with your power.
  1469. > Except for one.
  1470. > Dark, beautiful - sister, you remember
  1471. > Her name?
  1472. > Despite racking your name for hours, days even, none comes.
  1473. > None but sister.
  1474. > Family.
  1475. > Lost to you.
  1476. > She had lived on the moon, you think - or been sent there?
  1477. > Somehow you know she had been connected to it.
  1478. > You do not remember, any more than you remember how you came to be here.
  1479. > Screams, flashes of light, magic wielded with desperate abandon.
  1480. > By you, against you - such details are lost.
  1481. > But one thing you were certain of.
  1482. > They were not here.
  1483. > Though you could not read the master's language, the pictures were clear enough.
  1484. > His kind had explored every inch of this globe and even made their way to the moon above.
  1485. > And found nothing.
  1486. > Not one more of your kind.
  1487. > If the total absence of any depictions of them wasn't hint enough, master's near-neurotic protecton of you was.
  1488. > You had naught but the full moon above to spark fleeting memories - calm and peaceful - of your true family.
  1489. > One ear flicks again towards the sleeping form beside you.
  1490. > Naught but the moon, and master.
  1491. > Master - for you had no other name for him - was in truth your only anchor here.
  1492. > Had you accidentally taken shelter in the home of another, would they have been your master?
  1493. > Maybe.
  1494. > In the moving pictures master watched, you saw they were not always so kind to each other.
  1495. > Would they have been any kinder to you?
  1496. > Maybe.
  1497. > But you cannot know for sure.
  1498. > And you do know that master was good to you.
  1499.  
  1500. > He cared for you, not just as a living creature but as an intelligent one.
  1501. > Almost as if he were your equal, though not always
  1502. > Without him, you would be adrift in a sea of uncertainty and fear.
  1503. > With him?
  1504. > Much remains uncertain and unknown in your mind, but he is a point of calm in your mind.
  1505. > An anchor that could be relied on in this uncertain world.
  1506. > ...to say nothing of what he does with those delightful hands.
  1507. > A gentle flush reaches your cheeks as you wonder what your sister would have thought of the way he treated you.
  1508. > Somewhat undignified, you think - though why you feel so is another mystery that eludes your mind.
  1509. > But so deeply pleasurable.
  1510. > Not merely physically, but the ability to simply let go and enjoy the treatment he gave you.
  1511. > To not have to worry about absent memories, where you had come from, or where you would go.
  1512. > Not to fear what would become of you, or think of your safety.
  1513. > Merely to enjoy.
  1514. > Those moments you valued above all.
  1515. > And in return for that safety, that treatment and kindness from him, you had risked it all to save him.
  1516. > Not merely to the danger that existed outside, but to the very real risk that he would not accept you should you use magic.
  1517. > He had feared, yes.
  1518. > You had seen it on his face - incomprehension, disbelief and distrust.
  1519. > But he had overcome all of that to call you back and welcomed you into his home still.
  1520. > And so you would overcome your fear of how he might still feel to stay with him.
  1521. > To watch over him.
  1522. > The least you could do, really.
  1523. > ...
  1524. > Light was seeping in through the windows.
  1525. > Had you slept?
  1526. > You aren't sure.
  1527. > Master's breathing is still pained, but he will surely be up soon.
  1528. > He always did one thing for you when he got up.
  1529. > Could you...?
  1530. > Reluctantly slipping from the bed, you stand - stretching sharply - and quietly step downstairs.
  1531.  
  1532. > Silencing your hooves against the floor, you turn into the kitchen and nose open the cold-box.
  1533. > This wasn't going to be easy; there was only so much you could do with your jaws.
  1534. > Using your magic would be a neccessity, even though using it felt like breathing through a thick, wet cloth wrapped about your muzzle.
  1535. > This world was starved of energy, the few scraps of power you could find carefully shephereded along until you could craft the magic to try and restore your fragmented memory.
  1536. > Last night had begun with a boon, the storm carrying with a wild energy in the driving rain that you could catch and cling to.
  1537. > A familiar fragment of what had once been your home, even if it came from a foreign sky.
  1538. > Yet, every spark of magic you'd sucked from the storm and more had been spent to pull the tree and metal cart trapping master apart.
  1539. > It would be weeks, if not months before you could regain what had lost.
  1540. > Even then, there would be no guarantee that the magic would truly return to you what had been lost.
  1541. > And even if it did, then you knew you would have to leave him and find your sister.
  1542. > No doubt existed in your mind that pulling him free had been the right thing to do, though.
  1543. > Those thoughts are put aside to focus on the meal.
  1544. > With careful precision, you repeat the process you'd watched him perform so many times before.
  1545. > ...
  1546. > He is awake when you return to your room.
  1547. > Eyes settling on the plate amid the still-dim light, then back to you.
  1548. > He knows.
  1549. > There's no way you could have completed this without using magic.
  1550. > No longer could he pass off what he had seen as a dream or product of injury, as fearful minds often to do.
  1551. > Yet he beckons you over still, sitting up with a wince and taking the plate.
  1552. > A bite is taken, and a hand reaches out to settle on your cheek, rubbing softly.
  1553. > Kindly.
  1554.  
  1555. > Tension evaporates from your mind as you press your head in to his shoulder, trilling happily in your throat.
  1556. > Yes, you would be here for some time longer.
  1557. > But that's fine with you.
  1558.  
  1559. --------
  1560.  
  1561. > As you take another bite of the pancakes, Suns visibly relaxes and leans into nuzzle you.
  1562. > Your hand automatically goes around to scratch at her ear.
  1563. > Despite the revelations of the past 24 hours - despite the fact that Suns had casually broken the laws of physics - you're surprisingly calm.
  1564. > Because even if she had, this was still Suns.
  1565. > Still the same crazy horse-thing she was before.
  1566. > And you could live with that, even if you would still wonder-
  1567. > A heavy weight lands across your legs as Suns curls up over them.
  1568. "You know, just because my chest hurts doesn't mean I'm not going to have to get up soon."
  1569. > One enormous purple eye cracks open and a tongue is briefly stuck out in your direction.
  1570. > You laugh softly.
  1571. > Yep, still same old Suns.
  1572.  
  1573. FIN
Celestia Princess Celestia hie

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