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Getting Shy - Part 2 (SPG)

By awf
Created: 2nd March 2021 07:17:20 PM
Modified: 17th April 2021 06:05:37 PM

  1. Previous part: ponepaste.org/752
  2.  
  3. > If Mason cared that Anon was giving 'Shy presents for Christmas he didn't show it. In fact, the guy spent most of January deeply engrossed in his work and out of the house most days, leaving Anon and 'Shy to do mostly as they pleased.
  4. > She was able to visit quite a lot and even made Anon come over to Mason's place a few times for a meal. Perhaps she was trying to make herself feel more at home in that house, but it didn't work and their lunches were awkward, overly-cautious affairs.
  5. > It felt to Anon as if Mason was a constant, oppressive presence in his house even when the man was at work. They'd even tried making love in the small room where Fluttershy lived, but constantly worrying that Mason might come home unexpectedly put Anon off and they hurried back to his place to finish the job.
  6. > Life settled into a kind of routine and at times Anon almost forgot Fluttershy didn't belong to him. The pair spent a lot of time simply sitting on the couch and watching movies, or playing some game or other.
  7. > Occasionally 'Shy couldn't stand to sit still anymore and she dragged him out to play in the snow.
  8. > By then she'd acquainted herself with all the neighborhood children and the novelty of a talking pony had faded enough so 'Shy could sometimes join their games. She urged Anon to partake in the fun, but he felt too old. If any of their parents saw him playing with their kids it would undoubtedly look creepy.
  9. > Anon contented himself with waiting nearby and keeping an eye on things while Fluttershy had her share of the fun. There were chases, hide-and-go-seek, several ball games with rules Anon couldn't quite grasp even after observing whole matches.
  10. > A few times they'd even had a good, old-fashioned snowball fight which left 'Shy covered in snow, her mane frozen together in lumps and shivering, but ever so happy. Her flush of excitement was simply too adorable and Anon snapped a lot of pictures of the mare in that disheveled state.
  11. > Each time he hurried her home and put her in a hot shower, which would result in a very passionate bout of lovemaking as 'Shy worked out her leftover excitement from the game.
  12. > All in all, it was the happiest time of his life Anon could remember. The only shadow hanging above them was the fact that 'Shy belonged to Mason and she was completely at the whims of that man. The one thing Anon feared above all others was Mason realizing how sexy 'Shy was and ordering her to his bed.
  13. > He didn't want to share that part of the mare, but if she said no he had no doubt Mason would simply make her. If she persisted in denying him, he might get rid of her which would be the ultimate blow.
  14. > Many nights, when 'Shy couldn't come over, Anon lied in bed and stared at the ceiling, wondering how he could make Mason give or sell him Fluttershy. He always ended up in the same place: blackmail the man with his suspicions of financial fraud.
  15. > The problem was that he needed more proof and Fluttershy was utterly unwilling to spy. Despite him bringing it up repeatedly she remained resolute that she wouldn't do anything quite that dishonest, regardless of how wrong it was for Mason to own her.
  16. > "Two wrongs don't make a right," she'd quote. Or: "That may be wrong, but I'm not gonna stoop to his level!"
  17. > Surely it was only a matter of time, though. Anon could see how being a slave was affecting 'Shy and she spent some nights simply weeping on his shoulder over the life she'd lost.
  18. > Sometimes she opened up about her friends, or her time in Equestria, but it usually ended up in tears.
  19. >...
  20. > Anon's mind flashed through memories of their good times as he held the crying mare in his lap. It was already past midnight and she was still inconsolable. He wanted to get some sleep before his job in the morning, but despite her keeping him up he wouldn't have said no to her visit and the resulting sex.
  21. > He ran his hand through her mane, careful not to tug when he snagged a tangle or a patch damp from her sweat. 'Shy was trying to stop, choking back her sobs and failing, only making herself feel worse in the process.
  22. > Maybe he shouldn't have asked a follow-up question when she mentioned one of her friends, but curiosity had gotten the best of him and Anon felt like getting these things off her chest was better in the long run.
  23. > Her outbursts had gotten worse as she began to trust him more, but sometime in the past month she'd plateaued out and now he felt it was a little less bad each time.
  24. > Anon was sitting on the edge of the bed but his legs were getting cold so he carefully rolled on his back, pulling 'Shy down with him. She didn't seem to notice with her muzzle pressed against his bare chest.
  25. "Here, let me cover us up so we don't catch a cold or something," Anon murmured.
  26. > He laid her on her side and she grasped for him with her hooves when he pulled away. He wasn't going anywhere, but he couldn't reach the blanket without letting her go for a moment.
  27. > "Don't leave me!" 'Shy squeaked when she lost his warmth. "I co-couldn't stand it!"
  28. > In another instant Anon was back and gathered up the grateful mare in his arms once more. She clung to him with her forelegs and even wrapped her hind hooves around one of his legs.
  29. "It's okay, I'm not going anywhere."
  30. > Anon placed a gentle kiss on Fluttershy's cheek and took one hand away from her side so he could brush the fur on her muzzle.
  31. "Just let it all out. You'll feel better after."
  32. > His soft words encouraged 'Shy to speak what was in her mind. She pressed her nose against Anon's chest once more, a point of chilly wetness which he ignored. "I did- didn't really like our Spa visits!" she mumbled. "I'm so sorry, Rarity, but I mo-mostly just went to make you happy!"
  33. > Anon patted the back of her head, then slipped his hand under her mane and took her ear between his fingers. She let out a breath she had been holding which was confirmation enough that she liked it.
  34. > "I loved spending time together and I never told her that I'd rather go- go for a nice meal or a walk! She just loved that Spa and I couldn't say no to her!"
  35. > 'Shy sniffled and plunged right on with her story: "I always went along, but I felt so guilty because Rarity always paid for it. I mean, she was the Element of Generosity, but it still felt wrong to take advantage of it. I meant to tell her but I never did!"
  36. "It's okay, Buttershy," Anon whispered in the lull which followed. "I'm sure she enjoyed spending time with you and didn't mind paying for the Spa. Rarity sounds like a good friend."
  37. > These words made 'Shy nod vigorously, smearing her tears more evenly across Anon's skin. "She was! I mean, she was a bit prissy and she worried about her coat and mane too much, but when it mattered she didn't mind getting dirty! Oh, Anon, I miss her so!"
  38. > Talking it out was helping and her sobbing had nearly subsided. Anon began to hope he might get to sleep sometime soon and placed another kiss on the side of her muzzle.
  39. "I know, sweetheart. Don't lose hope, maybe you'll get to go back someday."
  40. > This was the wrong thing to say and 'Shy froze in his arms. Her ears folded down and she slowly let out her breath. "No I won't," she said quietly. "I'm stuck here. I'm stuck with Mr. Mason and even if he sells me I'll just be stuck with someone else."
  41. > A hoof slid up between them to touch the collar on her neck. "I have this and it won't let me go more than a few dozen hoofsteps away before it starts beeping. There's no escape."
  42. > The talk about another owner was painful and Anon drew back in shock.
  43. "There won't be another owner, 'Shy. I told you, I'll get you somehow and then it'll be just us. You know I won't really be your owner, right?"
  44. > She closed her eyes and shook her head, but didn't speak. Anon wanted to interpret it as a confirmation of his words, but though deep down he knew 'Shy didn't want to belong to him. This lack of trust rankled and he heaved a sigh.
  45. "I already promised, what more do you want me to do? Buttershy, I *swear* you won't be my slave, okay? You'll be free to go wherever you want. I'll set your collar so it never stops you."
  46. > He gave her his best sad, hurt look he could muster in the dark.
  47. "I trust you completely."
  48. > She still wasn't having any of it and kept shaking her head. At length she put a hoof against his cheek to stop him from talking. "I know you trust me, Anon," she whispered back, "and I trust you too. I just-"
  49. > Anon waited for a few moments to see where she was going with this, but 'Shy didn't continue.
  50. "You just what?"
  51. > Her head lowered and she pressed her forehead against his chest. "I don't think I could love my owner, even if it is just on paper."
  52. > This was a very low blow and Anon jerked in surprise. For a few moments he didn't know what to even say to that. The words themselves had felt like a sliver of ice stabbing right through his heart.
  53. "You don't mean that?" he finally managed. "'Shy, I promised I'll never see you as a slave. What more can I do?"
  54. > She was silent for long seconds while Anon waited with bated breath. At last her tentative voice returned: "You promise you'll let me go if there's a way for me to go home?"
  55. > He'd already promised her that, but Anon still secretly hoped the moment would never come. He knew he could keep 'Shy happy for the rest of her life if she stayed with him, all he needed was time to prove it to her.
  56. > If she saw that, she wouldn't want to go home.
  57. "I promise!"
  58. > She watched him in the darkness for a long while, then shook her head. "You promise, but I don't think you really mean it."
  59. > The accusation wrenched Anon's stomach despite, or perhaps *because of*, how true it was.
  60. "You don't mean that, 'Shy! I promised, didn't I? Do you think I'm a liar?"
  61. > He tried to imagine Fluttershy leaving when a way home appeared. She'd be sad, but also happy. She'd leave him alone without a second glance. He had already promised her everything, was going to sacrifice so much to spend his life with her. He'd have to do it in secret, but he was fine with that.
  62. > To be so easily discarded...
  63. > "No, I'm not saying that," 'Shy said with an even, measured tone of voice, "but I don't think you realize what you're promising. Anon, if I get a chance to go home and see my friends again- my *family*. My *home*! I'm going to take it, even if it means I'll never see you again."
  64. > She heaved a sigh and pressed her hoof more firmly against his cheek. "I love you, but I can't just leave everything I know if I get a chance to go back. I need you to understand that!"
  65. > This slap in the face made Anon grunt and move away from 'Shy. He regretted the loss of her warmth, but he needed her to accept his promise and at least open herself to the possibility of staying with him in the long term. It was supposed to be a compromise, after all.
  66. "I get it, 'Shy. I really do, but now I need you to believe me when I promise I'll let you go if it ever comes to that! Can you do that for me?! And I need you to give me- us a chance! You can't just keep talking about leaving and expect me to just take it!"
  67. > His tone was a tad too sharp and 'Shy drew back, ears flattening. She shuffled to the edge and the slid out of the bed.
  68. "Where are you going?"
  69. > She glanced back at the door, then at Anon. "H-Home," she said quietly. "I need to think."
  70. > Anon was instantly sorry for his tone and lifted up the blanket.
  71. "Come on, get back in bed. We'll talk tomorrow and somehow I'll convince you I really mean it, okay?"
  72. > She took a step back and unsuccessfully tried to hold back a sniffle. "I promise I'll visit tomorrow so we can talk, but right now I think I want to be alone. I need to think," she repeated.
  73. "'Shy..."
  74. > She didn't answer. Fluttershy turned around and walked resolutely out the door. A few moments later Anon heard her open and shut his front door, then the diminishing clop of her hooves down the concrete steps.
  75. > He sighed and buried his face in the pillow. It didn't help that her scent soaked all his bedclothes. He shouldn't have snapped at her.
  76. > Obviously she didn't believe his promise to let her go. More importantly, she was fixated on getting back home, but could Anon blame her? After all, she had lost everything so suddenly. Besides, he didn't really believe his own promise himself. Would he really be able to just let her go?
  77. > He'd never keep her on Earth by force, but what if he saw a way for her to go home and she didn't. Would he tell her? Wouldn't that be just as bad as chaining her up?
  78. > No, Anon was certain he'd do the right thing, even if was painful. All he wanted in return was for 'Shy to seriously give him a chance, to try and have a life together.
  79. > Somehow he had to come up with a way to prove it to her the next day. She promised she would visit, so he would get his chance.
  80. > Unless she decided it wasn't worth trying and just broke it off. She was emotional enough to come up with something like that.
  81. > Hopefully not, though. They had something good and 'Shy would want to keep it.
  82. > They'd be fine. He'd apologize and they'd make up and that was that.
  83. > He still had to get through his job before that, so Anon forcibly relaxed his tense muscles and tried to sleep. It was probably a useless attempt, especially without Fluttershy's soft, warm body to hold in his arms, but he still had to try.
  84. > Tomorrow would be hell with regret and self-recrimination and lack of sleep would just make it worse.
  85. "Damnit, why can't you just believe me?!"
  86.  
  87. > ~~~~
  88.  
  89. > It was about as bad a day as Anon had expected. His mostly sleepless night finally became morning and he dragged himself to work. Several cups of coffee and a cigarette before his shift made it almost tolerable and allowed him to deal with the never-ending stupidity of customers.
  90. > His coworkers noticed his foul temper and simply ignored him, content to focus on their own work. Well, all except for Paul, who came around to Anon's desk within minutes of him sitting down.
  91. > "I know that look," he commented as he pointed at Anon's face.
  92. "I'm not in the mood."
  93. > "Fine, fine," Paul added, already backing away, but before he returned to his own chair he asked: "You up for lunch later?"
  94. > It wasn't an unusual request, but with how tired Anon's mind was he scrutinized it for hidden meaning. What was Paul after?
  95. > Maybe he was just being paranoid because of lack of sleep, Anon decided. Going to lunch with coworkers wasn't something nefarious, after all. Furthermore, maybe some inane chatter would take his mind off Fluttershy, which would be an added bonus.
  96. "Fine."
  97. > Anon glanced at the clock and suppressed a groan. It wasn't even ten in the morning yet. It would be forever until he could see 'Shy and clear the air between them. He just hoped she wasn't stewing on their argument. Actually, had it been an argument?
  98. > The whole thing had been so stupid.
  99. >...
  100. > "So, what's up?"
  101. > Paul had waited with the million dollar question until they were seated in the burger place and had placed their orders. Despite having expected it, Anon still flinched at his coworker's nosy, yet sympathetic expression.
  102. > "Come on, Anonymous, it's girl problems, I can tell."
  103. "What?! How do you know that?"
  104. > Paul just chuckled to himself. "You think you're the first guy to moon over a chick? Lemme guess, one of you said something stupid but you didn't realize that until it was too late?"
  105. > Anon didn't have to answer as his expression did the work for him. He lowered his gaze to the menu, printed on the table mat, and sighed.
  106. > "So, what was it about? Come on, I've been through it all."
  107. > Maybe he could get some useful advice, Anon realized. Sure, his relationship with 'Shy was unconventional, but Paul was right: he'd been through a lot during his marriage and maybe some of it would translate to the mare.
  108. > The only problem was how to phrase it. He didn't want to discuss slave ownership with Paul, at least not in the same context as his girlfriend. It'd raise too many questions. He tried to think of an analogue.
  109. "Well, I- kinda asked her to move in with me and she doesn't want to," Anon explained.
  110. > It was close enough to the truth, anyway.
  111. > The statement made Paul blink in surprise, then burst out laughing. He held up a hand in apology as he wheezed. "Sorry, sorry," he managed to choke out. "Sorry, Anon, but that's a first for me."
  112. "Why?"
  113. > "Usually it's the other way around. Ladies are the ones who prefer some kind of commitment pretty early on. Well, usually they do. So, what exactly did she say?"
  114. > This was another problem which needed some translating. Just saying 'Fluttershy wants to go home to her family and friends' would sound like a non-issue if she wasn't a slave. Or stranded in a different world. Anon remembered something vague he'd seen in a movie or a show and decided it was close enough.
  115. "As far as I understand, she's not sure she wants to stay with me. Y'know, long-term."
  116. > "Do you?"
  117. > The question came out rapidly and caught Anon off-guard. He blinked in surprise then nodded when he had a few seconds for the words to register.
  118. "Yeah."
  119. > "Tough," Paul commented. They fell silent as the waitress brought their food, but then the older man continued his thought before getting started on his burger: "Way I see it, you've got two options," he began.
  120. > Anon's hand paused on the paper wrapper and he looked up with sudden hope. It sounded as if Paul knew what to do!
  121. > Paul's gestures were fully automatic as he lifted the top bun and reached for the salt while he continued to talk. "One: you break it up now. If you have different ideas about the future, it's just gonna be harder and harder as times goes on. It sounds like this girl will get tired of you before you get tired of her, so- yeah. Not pleasant."
  122. > Even before he'd finished Anon was already shaking his head. He would not give up on 'Shy, no matter what came. They were in love, he was sure of it! All he needed to do was make her realize that and decide they were more important than her old life.
  123. > It'd be easier and easier as those memories faded into the past, just the opposite of what Paul had said. Or the same as the man said. Anon tried to make his tired, sleepy mind work. It'd be harder to break up as the time went on, but that would work on both of them.
  124. > "Well, in that case, it leaves you with two," Paul went on. "You keep going, but you gotta accept someday she'll wanna leave. Don't make it too serious."
  125. > He paused, then replaced the bun on his burger and picked it up with both hands. Before biting in he asked: "She said there's definitely no chance? Like, is she a 100% that this is just a temporary fling?"
  126. > Once again Anon had to translate between Fluttershy's situation and his fake scenario for Paul.
  127. "Not... exactly," he said, brightening up. "It's like- if something better comes along she'll take it. She pretty much said that."
  128. > "Oof," Paul mumbled with his mouth full. He chewed, eyes scanning the ceiling in deep thought. Anon took the chance to take a bite out of his own burger as well.
  129. > At length his coworker swallowed and heaved a sigh. "Sounds like you're some kind of a rebound or something. Tough break, Anonymous. It doesn't change my advice. Either quit it now while you're ahead, or be prepared to be dumped later."
  130. > This wasn't what Anon wanted to hear, but he told himself the scenario he'd told Paul was different from what was actually happening between himself and 'Shy. He shook his head.
  131. "What if that 'something better' never comes?"
  132. > "If you're good to her, sure. I guess it's possible. However, it sounds to me like she's already made up her mind to wait for it. You'll always be the second fiddle while she waits for a Prince Charming. I wouldn't be surprised if she starts sleeping around once she gets a bit bored of you. Is that really want you want?"
  133. "I guess not."
  134. > Fluttershy wouldn't do that, would she? A pang of jealousy made Anon's stomach clench before he could disabuse himself of the notion. He had to remember that the example for Paul was different from reality. 'Shy hadn't *really* said she doesn't want to be with him for the long term, it's just that she would take a chance to go home if it came along.
  135. > The two ate their burgers quietly for a while, until the silence became uncomfortable for Anon and he tried to break it up.
  136. "I'll think about it. Maybe we can talk it out or something."
  137. > Paul shrugged to forestall his reply while he finished his current mouthful, then he wiped his chin on the back of his hand and went on: "Sure, you can try. Good luck with that."
  138. > Again the silence stretched until Paul spoke up again: "You really got it bad for this chick. What'd you say her name was?"
  139. > Anon nearly panicked as he tried to remember, but luckily his coworker remembered soon after. "Felicity, right? Got a picture for me to see?"
  140. > This was easier, because Anon had prepared for just such a request after the last time he'd talked about 'Shy with his coworkers. He pulled out his phone and went to the pictures folder.
  141. > It'd taken some browsing but he found an average-looking girl with her blond hair dyed partially pink, photographed against believable living-room background.
  142. "Here."
  143. > Paul inspected the image on the phone for a bit, then shrugged. "Not bad, not bad. I still think vegan chicks who dye their hair are crazy, but I can see the appeal."
  144. > Anon just shrugged, not much interested in what the girl on the picture actually looked like. His mind was set on 'Shy and he suspected she'd ruined him for Earth women forever. There was just something about her wings and her soft coat.
  145. > Hopefully their spat the previous night wouldn't prove fatal to their relationship. Anon sighed and put his burger down, not very hungry anymore. He waited patiently while Paul finished his, then fished out his wallet to pay.
  146. "It's on me," he said.
  147. > This earned him a grateful grin and Anon waved to the waitress while Paul cleaned himself off with a napkin. The burgers were good, but they always left a mess on face and hands. On clothes too, if you weren't careful.
  148. > Pretty soon after that the two were outside and walking slowly back to the office. Seeing Paul light a cigarette reminded Anon to the same and he hoped it would calm his nerves at least a little. He was ready for the day to end so he could talk with 'Shy and see where they stood.
  149. > The uncertainty was killing him.
  150. "Anyway, we'll talk. I think we can sort it out somehow," he commented.
  151. > It took Paul a few seconds to connect his words to their previous topic, but then he shrugged. "Give it a shot, just be careful you don't burn yourself. If it's over, it's over. No sense trying to force it."
  152. "Yeah, I get it. Thanks."
  153. > There was nothing else to say and the two focused on finishing their cigarettes before they came back to the office. The day was half over and Anon hoped if he focused on work the second half would pass quickly.
  154. >...
  155. > Anonymous tried to sit down for the umpteenth time, but he couldn't stay on the couch for more than a minute before jumping up again and going to his kitchen window to look into Mason's house.
  156. > The man was sitting in his living room with a tray on his knees and apparently watching some TV show. Once again Anon tried to will him to eat faster.
  157. > He knew Fluttershy wouldn't be able to come over until Mason's dinner was done and the dishes washed. Today of all days he really wanted to see her so he could apologize.
  158. > That had been another piece of advice from Paul when they had reached the office, and it sounded like a good one. Start with an apology and take it from there. It certainly couldn't hurt.
  159. > Anon's nervous pacing brought him around his couch and back to the kitchen. The situation in the neighbor's house was unchanged and he groaned in frustration.
  160. "Hurry the fuck up!"
  161. > For a split second he thought about going over to Mason's and asking to see 'Shy, but he absolutely did not want the man to start thinking too much about Anon and his pony. As far as the man knew, they were just casual friends.
  162. > With luck he wouldn't find out anything more by the time Anon managed to get 'Shy away from him and their relationship would remain a secret forever.
  163. > This evening, not even thoughts of Mason finding out distracted Anon. He was far more afraid of Fluttershy dumping him than getting found out.
  164. > He was about to go and try the TV again when he saw 'Shy walk into view in Mason's living room. She talked for a moment and flashed her owner a small smile. Mason responded and punctuated his words with his fork.
  165. > If only he could guess what they were talking about! Anon briefly considered a crazy scheme of planting one of those spy microphones in Mr. Mason's living room, but thought better of it. Even if he ordered one from Amazon he'd probably install it wrong, or the man would notice it, or something.
  166. > Fluttershy spoke again and looked at Anon's window. Their eyes met and she blinked in surprise, but didn't otherwise betray anything on her face. She focused once more on Mason's reply, then inclined her head and walked off.
  167. > Only then did Anon let his breath out. He stayed at the window for a bit longer, but 'Shy didn't come back into view and Mason kept slowly eating his meal. By the look of the thing, it would take him at least twenty more minutes to finish, which meant 'Shy wouldn't be able to come in the next half hour, at least.
  168. > Maybe he could play something, or go look at some memes on the Internet. Anon wandered back to the couch and picked up his laptop from the coffee table.
  169. > A sudden noise from the front door made him sit up. A moment later he heard a distinct hoofstep and shot up, nearly tossing the computer to the floor.
  170. "Buttershy?"
  171. > The sight of that beautiful yellow face in the living room door had never been so welcome. "Um, am I disturbing?"
  172. "No, please come in!"
  173. > While she made her way over Anon returned the laptop to the coffee table and patted the cushion next to him. Despite his invitation, 'Shy remained standing and lifted up a foreleg to explain: "Wet hooves."
  174. "Oh. Okay."
  175. > It didn't feel right talking to her about something important while sitting above and looking down on her. Anon simply slid from the couch and sat on the floor so they could speak eye to eye. After a moment 'Shy also plonked down on her haunches.
  176. "'Shy, I'm sorry," he began.
  177. > At the same time she also spoke up: "I'm sorry for leaving so suddenly-"
  178. > They both shut up and waited for the other to continue. Anon was the first to react.
  179. "You first."
  180. > Her gaze lowered to her forehooves and 'Shy repeated: "I'm sorry for leaving so suddenly yesterday. I-" She swallowed a lump and tried again: "I've done some thinking."
  181. > This was the moment of truth. Was she sad? Was this is? Anon held his breath as he waited for the verdict.
  182. "And?"
  183. > 'Shy sighed and looked up, right into his eyes. "Anon, I need you to understand: If I get a chance to go home, I'll take it."
  184. > Her gaze slid aside and she shrugged a little with her wings. "I love you, but I have friends and family in Equestria. It's my home."
  185. > She was probably going to break it off and Anon's heart sank. She was going to end it now in order to save herself greater pain later. His vision blurred and he blurted out the first thing that popped into his mind.
  186. "I'll come with you! Please..."
  187. > This shut her up and made her look back, frowning slightly when she saw his expression. "Are- are you okay?"
  188. > Sudden realization widened her eyes and 'Shy gave a small gasp. "No, Anon, I'm not saying we should break up. I just-"
  189. > The rest of her response was muffled as Anon surged forward in sudden relief and wrapped her up in a hug. He buried his nose in her mane and drew in her scent. A hoof carefully patted his back, leaving a chilly wet spot on his shirt. "There, there," 'Shy whispered in his ear. "I didn't mean to make you think that."
  190. > She pushed away and watched him with a small, gentle smile. "I just wanted you to understand that I will go home if I get a chance, okay? I- I thought it was best we both knew now."
  191. > Suddenly that part of it felt like the smallest of issues. The thought of losing 'Shy this suddenly and the relief that it wouldn't happen overshadowed every other concern, even one of losing her at some undefined future date. Anon reached out and picked up one of Fluttershy's forehooves with both hands.
  192. > It was chilly from the walk she took outside and wet from the slush on the pavement, but he didn't care. He had to slide himself a little closer until he could place a kiss right on her hoof.
  193. "Yes, I understand," he said, words spilling out almost on top of one another. "And I promise I won't stop you if that chance comes, okay? Do you think I could go with you?"
  194. > This was a new idea and 'Shy looked around the room as she thought it over. Anon could see how she turned the problem around in her mind. Eventually she shrugged. "I'm not sure. I'd have to ask Twilight. Um, maybe?"
  195. > Would he actually do it? The chance was remote, Anon thought. If Fluttershy's friends had been able to come and get her, they would undoubtedly have done so by now. Pretty soon they'd decide she was lost to them forever and stop trying, if they hadn't already.
  196. > Anon idly stroked her hoof with his fingers, then let it go and leaned closer to offer her a kiss instead. She accepted and their lips met for a short while. It was a chaste thing, arising not from their lust, but from a simple need to to be together and have the other know that.
  197. "I'll get a towel. We'll be more comfortable on the couch."
  198. > 'Shy shook her head and stood up. "Actually I have to go right back. I told Mr. Mason I'd only be a minute to say hello."
  199. "Oh."
  200. > He was sad to miss out on some kissing, especially since they'd only just made up, but Anon could look forward to next time now that he knew there would be a next time.
  201. > "I'll try and visit on the weekend, okay?" 'Shy murmured and darted back to steal another kiss. "Um, bye."
  202. "Bye, Buttershy."
  203. > Anon watched her walk away and pause in the door to look back at him. She flashed him a smile, blushed at a sudden thought, then flicked her tail from side to side a few times to tease him with short glimpses of the treasure she was hiding there.
  204. > Even that split second view was enough to get Anon instantly hard and he wondered how much trouble 'Shy would be in if he rushed after her and delayed her for just a few minutes. Of course she'd also need a shower, because going back to Mason with his spunk dripping out of her wouldn't be the best of ideas.
  205. > Then, after the shower she'd need to dry up, and the best way would be to wrap herself up in a big towel and cuddle with Anon on the couch for a while. The few minutes would probably turn into an hour, if not more.
  206. > Mason would be furious and he might start asking questions which 'Shy had no way of answering, so Anon thought better of it and heaved a forlorn sigh. It was going to be just his hand for this evening.
  207. > The weekend should be fun, though, if 'Shy was able to make good on her promise. She clearly wanted him. Anon wondered if she would touch herself late that night as well. The thought was incredibly hot and he resolved to ask her to do it once in front of him.
  208. > He suddenly realized he could have asked her to call once she was alone and they could listen to each other doing it. Maybe if he ringed her phone, she would notice it and call back. Anon hurried to find his phone.
  209.  
  210. > ~~~~
  211.  
  212. > Fluttershy was weeping. Again.
  213. > Maybe it was because of the cold and dreary weather, or maybe she just trusted him more, but she'd been using Anon's shoulder to cry on a lot lately.
  214. > He didn't mind. He kept telling himself that, reminding himself that he loved 'Shy and if she needed someone to confide in, he could be that.
  215. > Right at the moment it was a bit inconvenient, though. They were both naked, wrapped up in each other and about to...
  216. > 'Shy had sneaked over in the middle of the night and woke Anon up with a very pleasant kiss.
  217. > Things have just been getting interesting when Fluttershy sighed and her head slumped down on Anon's chest. "I can't do this right now," she said. "Sorry. I thought I wanted it. To- to take my mind off... things."
  218. > Anon tried to get her back in the mood with a kiss, but 'Shy turned her face away. She would have slipped off him, but he held her in place with his hands and so far she didn't seem to want to struggle free.
  219. "What's wrong?"
  220. > She drew a long breath and let it out, the air tickling the hairs on Anon's chest. "Just- not right now. You can go ahead and... um, do it. I don't mind."
  221. > For a moment he was tempted, but it sounded awful when he thought about it for more than a second. Anon definitely didn't want to just use 'Shy like a toy while her mind was somewhere else, probably in a dark and lonely place.
  222. > That was a surefire way to get her to despise him.
  223. "I don't want to unless you're enjoying it too, Buttershy."
  224. > She opened her mouth, doubtless to lie and claim she would enjoy it, but then shook her head. "I'm sorry."
  225. > Their position was making it hard for Anon to think, so he carefully turned to his side and let her slide down beside him. She tried to curl up into a ball right away, but he wrapped his arms around her barrel and firmly held her against him.
  226. > Her face pressed against his chest and 'Shy let out a shuddering breath she had been holding, while Anon reached for the blanket and covered them both to keep them warm now that the passion was fading.
  227. "Want to talk to me about it?" Anon prompted.
  228. > She shook her head, but he knew it was a lie. 'Shy always claimed she didn't want to talk about her problems, but each time when he'd coaxed it out of her she felt better afterwards.
  229. "Well, wanna go home and think about it by yourself some more?"
  230. > This proved her previous statement a lie because Fluttershy's wing unfolded under the blanket and wrapped around his waist to keep him in place.
  231. "It's okay, we can just cuddle, Buttershy. I wish you'd talk to me though."
  232. > It worked and she took another, deeper breath. "Ha-Have you ever thought about, um, foals?"
  233. > The question was entirely unexpected and it made Anon stiffen in shock. She wanted kids?! It'd make everything so complicated! Where would they even live? With Mason? At Anon's place?
  234. > Would they belong to Mason along with 'Shy, or how would that work? Not to mention the bigger problem of letting people know he was together with the mare.
  235. > Anon's mind seized on a very comforting fact: their biological incompatibility.
  236. "I don't think we really can, 'Shy. We're different species."
  237. > She was already shaking her head even before he'd finished speaking. "No, that's not what I meant," she admonished and pulled her face away from his chest long enough to give him a tiny glare. "You're not listening to me."
  238. "Okay, so tell me what you mean."
  239. > "I always knew I'd want foals *someday*," 'Shy explained. "With you- I dunno, maybe there's a spell, or maybe we could adopt. Ex-Except we can't. Not while I'm like this-"
  240. > At the words she lifted a hoof and tapped on the collar she still wore. Recently Anon had realized there might be an alarm so he was afraid to take it off, especially at night.
  241. > Mason hadn't noticed so far, or maybe he wasn't using that feature, which might suddenly change. During that one week she'd spent with him it had been fine, but these night visits were supposed to stay a secret. He really didn't want Mason to barge into Fluttershy's room because his phone alerted him that she'd removed her collar, only to find her gone.
  242. "Another reason to get you away from Mason," Anon pointed out.
  243. > She was silent for a long while, then put her face against Anon's chest once more. "Maybe."
  244. "What prompted all of this?"
  245. > Fluttershy's breath hitched and Anon felt her ears fold down at the question. He shifted one hand from her back up to her head and sought out one ear with his fingers. That always helped her calm down.
  246. > It took a bit longer, but Anon was patient and 'Shy finally spoke up: "There was this documentary. A-About horses."
  247. > Anon waited for her to say more, all the while idly massaging her ear. He felt her move her head a fraction closer to his touch. "Anon, I don't want to be... b-bred. They take their foals away from those poor mares and- and usually they don't get to see their children ever again!"
  248. > 'Shy sniffled and held her breath as she tried to prevent a sob from escaping. She almost succeeded, but her shoulders jerked up even if no noise came out of her mouth. "I'd rather never have any foals than have that happen to them!"
  249. "Don't worry, I won't let it, Buttershy. We'll run away if we have to, deal?"
  250. > She didn't seam to hear, lost in her own world apparently. "They'd breed me, Anon. E-Either with a stud, or- or just with a syringe, and I don't know which would be worse!"
  251. > Since his words weren't getting through, Anon used more direct means and released his hold on 'Shy so he could bring both hands to her muzzle. He cupped her face and gently lifted it up until she had no choice but to look in his eyes.
  252. > Then he bent down and kissed the tip of her nose, just briefly. He followed it with more tiny kisses, peppering her entire muzzle.
  253. > After the first couple 'Shy closed her eyes and relaxed, began to breathe more easily.
  254. > "Thanks," she said after a while. "I think I needed that."
  255. "Well, it changes nothing. We have to get you away from Mason and I swear nothing like that will ever happen to you. If you'll want to adopt someday, we can do that."
  256. > It'd mean getting a bigger place, maybe somewhere out of the city, Anon thought. He'd need money for that, which would probably involve a better job. There was also the question of *what* to adopt. He didn't expect there to be any Equestrian orphans any time soon, and 'Shy adopting a human child would just be weird.
  257. > If it would even be allowed. In the eyes of the human bureaucracy, it'd just be Anon adopting as a single parent.
  258. > He'd deal with it when the time came, Anon decided. For now he could promise a 'some day'.
  259. > Their life together was a more pleasant topic, though. He found himself looking forward to it. Maybe this would be the kick in the pants he needed to make something out of himself? It sounded right in his head: him and 'Shy, making each other's lives better.
  260. > He held his breath when he realized she wasn't immediately refusing. Her ears folded down once more, but she didn't try to break free from his gentle hold of her muzzle. "Maybe it would be worth it... for that."
  261. > Her eyes unfocused as she looked at whatever future she was imagining. "Maybe I could be your- your slave to avoid being bred."
  262. > The words nearly made Anon groan in exasperation, but he held it in check. She simply wouldn't let go of her stupid idea that she'd be his property just because he technically happened to own her. He had run out of ways he could think of to explain, so he tried another tract.
  263. "Well, I'd love you just as much and I'd give you everything you wanted. Including if you wanted to leave. Would it really be that bad?"
  264. > "I g-guess not..."
  265. "Buttershy, I never saw you as a slave, okay? Can you understand that? To me, you were just, um..."
  266. > What was a good way to put it?
  267. "You were just a girl I met. Remember that first week you came because Mason was out of town? You had your own room. You still can, by the way. If you just want a place to sleep out of Mason's house, you can totally have that room. You already have the key anyway, so it's yours whenever you want it."
  268. > Looking at it from this perspective got Fluttershy thinking and she didn't immediately dismiss the idea out of hand. It gave Anon a slight hope that maybe, this time, she'd understand.
  269. "If I bought you from Mason or something- well, it'd just be to free you from him, not to own you."
  270. > "You still would," 'Shy began, but lifted a hoof and put it on his lips to forestall his exasperated groan. "Let me finish," she chided. "You would technically own me, b-but maybe that's okay. I'm just not sure we could still love each other. Not really. I just don't know."
  271. > Anon had his own thoughts on that. If anything, he would probably love 'Shy more if she was his and wouldn't have to sneak around all the time. Spending more time with her around would just be better all around. He could almost see himself coming home from work, only for Fluttershy to meet him in the hallway, maybe with her mane tied back because she'd been doing dishes and didn't want to get it wet.
  272. > She walk forward while he was untying his shoes and give him a friendly nuzzle. He'd respond with a kiss, then follow her to the kitchen where he'd have a good dinner already waiting on the table.
  273. > Well, only if 'Shy felt like cooking that day, of course. Sometimes he'd pick up pizza on the way, and sometimes they'd just cook together when he came back.
  274. > It was an exceedingly lovely image and Anon's heart ached for it. He gave 'Shy another little kiss on her nose.
  275. "Okay, good. So you don't know," he told her. "I know it can work, so- let's just try, okay? If it doesn't work we'll still be friends."
  276. > He tried to read Fluttershy's expression, but those large, dark, cyan-rimmed pupils didn't seem to hold any answers. At length she looked away and let out her breath. "I want to try," she said, her voice filled with hope and longing.
  277. "Good. I'll keep working on a way to get Mason to sell. Keep your eyes open in case you find anything, okay?"
  278. > "I will."
  279. > The comfortable position and the murmured conversation had done its magic and Anon realized he wasn't hard anymore. Unfortunately the thought was enough to get him going once more. He still had 'Shy in his bed, they were both naked and he hadn't seen her in several days.
  280. > He let her muzzle go and ran his hand down her side, ending with his fingers resting on her cutie mark.
  281. "Buttershy?"
  282. > She blinked and came back from whatever dream she'd slipped into. Her eyes focused on his face.
  283. > Rather than ask with words, Anon brought his lips to hers and pressed his fingers into her flank both at once. Fluttershy's hips jerked forward reflexively, grinding her hot teats against Anon's belly. At the same time a low, involuntary moan escaped her and her warm breath washed across his cheek.
  284. > He broke the kiss for a moment so he could look at her face.
  285. > Her mouth was left slightly agape and her eyes were half-lidded. Her ears splayed, not quite folded down like when she was worried, nor upright like when she was alert.
  286. > Anon inched his hand lower and closer to the treasure he sought.
  287. "Wanna pick up where we left off?"
  288. > She had been slightly flushed before, but now Anon could clearly see her blush even in the dim light from the street lamp.
  289. > "Will, uh, will you do that- that thing. Um, with your tongue?" she asked, haltingly and nervously.
  290. > Even after the months they'd been together, she was still shy about sex. For some reason that just made it that much hotter.
  291. "For you, always. Lie back."
  292. > She rolled on her back quickly, the jerkiness of her motions betraying how eager she was. She must have been just as excited as him before her thoughts had been distracted by that breeding thing, Anon guessed.
  293. > He didn't know how late it was and he had a job the next morning, but in that moment as he ran his hand down her belly and touched her teats, Anon decided he'd take his time with her.
  294. > Fluttershy needed to forget her worries and he knew exactly how to make her.
  295. > Coffee would fill any lack of sleep.
  296. > Even as he lingered on her teats, circling each fleshy nub in turn with his finger, Anon shuffled closer and began kissing Fluttershy's neck. He made sure to press his tongue against her each time, to make her feel the heat of it.
  297. > She responded with low, throaty moans and feeble kicks of her hind hooves each time he touched one of her sensitive nipples. Anon smiled to himself and increased the pressure just slightly. Her hoof came down, searching for her winking marehood, eager to relieve the pressure herself, but he pushed it aside.
  298. > There would be no cheating tonight.
  299. > In response 'Shy let out a disappointed mewl, but she didn't keep trying to pleasure herself.
  300. > Her restraint merited a reward and Anon moved a little lower. His hand strayed to the inside of her thigh and he trailed his kisses down to her chest fluff. Fluttershy's wing kept bumping against him and she shifted her rear to try and get him to touch her *there*, but Anon smoothly moved with her and didn't allow his hand more than a slight graze.
  301. > Even that made 'Shy tense up and hold her breath for a moment before she slumped back and began to plead: "Pleas- Please..."
  302. "You like this," Anon murmured in a husky tone of voice.
  303. > He laid his cheek on her rapidly rising and falling chest and locked eyes with her. "Yes!" she breathed. "More!"
  304. > A pushy, demanding Buttershy was just about the hottest sight Anon could imagine and he rewarded her by inching his fingers closer. He began to rub her lower lips, feeling how hot and moist she was already. The flesh under his touch spasmed as she winked and Anon's dick twitched in response.
  305. > He kept fondling her, teetering just on the edge of slipping his finger inside while he moved lower still and got his knees under him to give him a better position.
  306. > This way he could put his mouth on Fluttershy's bellybutton while he kept exploring her flower with his hand. He stuck his tongue into the slight depression and pried the fur aside so he could feel the skin inside. His gentle touch made her giggle and squirm, but Anon just increased his pressure against her entrance and 'Shy subsided with a small gasp.
  307. > Out of pure desperation she grabbed his free hand and brought it to her muzzle. She began to lick his fingers and nuzzle his palm, unable to keep herself from reciprocating in *some* way at least.
  308. > Anon didn't mind, even if her tongue tickled and distracted him a little. He moved once more and quickly caught one of her nipples between his lips. At the same time he pushed his fingers inside 'Shy, earning a deep, throaty moan.
  309. > It was an octave he wouldn't have guessed the little mare possessed, as it only came out during moments such as this. She took his index finger into her mouth and sucked on it for a moment.
  310. > When he slid his fingers deeper into her moist folds she applied some teeth and whimpered around the digit in her mouth. Her grip on his wrist tightened and her hips bucked.
  311. > In the momentary silence Anon could distinctly hear the wet, slick sound of her marehood twitch against him. Warm liquid flowed between his fingers, further lubricating the passage.
  312. > He pushed further and pretty soon had two fingers as deep as he could inside 'Shy. He marvelled for a moment how her insides hugged and squeezed him. He withdrew and took a few moments to explore her in greater detail.
  313. > After a few moments of gentle tugging 'Shy released his hand, though not without a whimpered complaint. She was squirming under him and trying to buck, to win more stimulation, but Anon wasn't in such a hurry.
  314. > He repositioned himself between Fluttershy's legs and brought both hands up to feel what she was like. His fingers hooked under a fold and Anon spread her lower lips, trying to see. It was just shadows in the dim streetlight, so Anon resolved to have a closer look during daytime someday.
  315. > For now, he traced the fleshy fold around with a finger until he came to a nub. Her clit was hiding under there. He massaged it very gently in little circles and was rewarded by a wink.
  316. > It had been something completely alien to him until he met 'Shy, but now it was one of the sexiest things he could imagine. It meant she really wanted him, that she was aroused and her body was begging for penetration.
  317. > The wink made her love button flick against his finger, which made 'Shy squeak in surprise and delight. It looked like it felt amazing and Anon was jealous for a moment.
  318. > He traced his thoroughly soaked fingers around the edge again to the opposite side, where the lips of her marehood seemed to seamlessly mold into her ponut. Anon felt around the rubbery rim, conscious of how 'Shy sucked down a breath and held it.
  319. > This was completely unfamiliar territory for her and she was focusing on the experience.
  320. > Anon wanted to make it a pleasurable one, but he wanted to be sure she was ready.
  321. "You like that?"
  322. > At first her voice broke and the word was unintelligible. 'Shy cleared her throat and repeated: "Y-Yes."
  323. > It sounded uncertain, so he took it slow. His finger was slick with her own fluids and he prodded at her back door very gently. He kept an ear to 'Shy, but she was quiet, focused entirely on the new sensation.
  324. > For now he only worked the tip of his finger inside, marvelling at how tight the fleshy ring felt around his digit. Someday he hoped to put his dick in there, but it would take practice, time and patience. 'Shy had to want it.
  325. > The main treasure was just in front of his nose anyway and Anon remembered to pay it due homage. He leaned forward just a bit and laid his tongue against her lips. They parted easily and he tasted the searing hot flesh inside.
  326. > His sudden, unexpected intrusion was nevertheless welcome and 'Shy let out a moan before she could stop it with a hoof. She winked again, her clit flicking Anon's nose.
  327. > He licked upwards, working his tongue between her folds until he had her button cupped. Again and again it twitched against his lips.
  328. > This was apparently Fluttershy's favourite thing - the "tongue thing" as she called it. Anon simply held his tongue in place and the mare rubbed and winked herself off against him.
  329. > She was super sensitive and more than once she had to bat his hands away and admonish him to be gentle, but his tongue was smooth enough and she was in control of just how hard she was pressing against it.
  330. > Her hips jerked a little and she began to breathe more deeply while Anon explored what he could reach of her depths with his tongue.
  331. > In the meantime he remembered that he had the tip of his index finger in her ponut. He gave it an experimental wiggle and Fluttershy's moan suddenly rose in pitch.
  332. > She obviously liked the combined sensation. Anon pushed a little further, just to his knuckle. There was plenty of lubrication flowing from her pussy down and coating his hand.
  333. > "Mmmm-ph!" 'Shy tried to say, but seemed to be having problems forming actual words. "Yessss!" she went on. "Please... yes!"
  334. > It was a mixture of pleading and ecstasy, familiar to Anon by this point. She didn't want to talk dirty, so this was her only outlet.
  335. > "M-More, harder," she begged, squirming and bucking wildly. Anon realized he had let her push his face away and she was straining to keep the pressure against his tongue. He obliged by pushing down and was rewarded by renewed moans as she ground her winking marehood in his face.
  336. > All gentleness went out the window as the little mare chased her orgasm. Her ponut clenched around Anon's finger and he wiggled it a bit deeper inside. He couldn't be sure if 'Shy even noticed as her breathing became urgent panting and any semblance of words was lost from her guttural moans and gasps.
  337. > She managed a last bit of coherence: "Anon- A- Anon! I- I'm-"
  338. > Then she was lost in her own world of bliss as she pushed her clit against his tongue with a mighty heave and held it there, frozen for an instant.
  339. > The dam broke and 'Shy hardly moved, all muscles locked rigidly in place as she came, her passage grasping and tightening around the tip of his tongue. Her breath came out in a prolonged moan of pleasure while she rode out her climax.
  340. > More fluids gushed out, coating his chin with a new layer and dribbling down around his finger still inside her back door.
  341. > Her ponut tightened until it felt like a vice and Anon was both impressed and worried about what might happen if he had his dick in there when she came.
  342. > After a few moments all of Fluttershy's muscles seemed to relax at once and she slumped down. That took her pussy away from Anon's lips and drew a moan of despair from the mare.
  343. > He quickly followed her down and put his lips back on the fleshy nub where her clit was hiding. The sad sigh changed to a satisfied groan.
  344. > Even now she kept twitching gently as she rode out the final few waves of pleasure. Anon waited it out with her, unmoving, breathing through his nose and feeling himself twitch in response.
  345. > He carefully pulled his finger out, earning himself a few more spasms against his tongue and a renewed moan from Fluttershy's lips.
  346. > She was felt breathing deeply and staring at the ceiling.
  347. > "That- That..." she was trying to talk and Anon slowly lifted his face, breaking the contact between them. This time there was no disappointed growl. "That was amazing," 'Shy finally managed.
  348. > Her hoof came down to pat Anon gently on his head, conveying her thanks and affection. She brushed his hair from his forehead and smiled when their eyes met.
  349. > "Wow," she went on, "that was- wow. Y-Your finger... um..."
  350. > She looked away and even in the dim light Anon could see a deeper blush on her muzzle. "I l-liked that. Um, a *lot*."
  351. "I'll remember it."
  352. > He got a quick flash of a grateful smile in return, then her eyes slid away once more. "Uh, w-want to keep going?" she asked.
  353. > The thought was enough to make her wink, showing her pink button in all its glory for a moment.
  354. "As my lady commands," Anon replied and inclined his head in mock bow.
  355. > Her hoof batted his cheek in annoyance, but 'Shy was being very careful not to actually slap him. It was just in mock annoyance.
  356. > She sighed and spread her forelegs apart. "Oh, come here and give me a kiss!" she said impatiently.
  357. > He didn't need to be told twice. After her performance Anon was absolute diamonds and couldn't wait to slip himself into that warm, wet embrace.
  358. > Yeah, Fluttershy's pony body was infinitely more interesting than any woman. He hadn't even come to playing with her wings, after all! He'd have to try that someday, see how sensitive they were!
  359. > For now, Anon lost himself in her needy kiss and allowed 'Shy to ruin him for women a little more.
  360.  
  361. > ~~~~
  362.  
  363. > Anonymous was in the process of finishing a banana which was on the verge of going bad. He would have preferred something less healthy and more tasty, but 'Shy had insisted he get some fresh fruit in his home and she made a point of eating a piece each time she visited.
  364. > It was probably good for him, so Anon didn't complain, even if he had to hurry sometimes to beat spoilage. If he had to toss anything 'Shy might never find out, but if she did there'd be Hell to pay.
  365. > He glanced at the clock but then shrugged to himself. He wasn't expecting Fluttershy to visit that night. She'd said she had something with Mason and would be busy the whole evening.
  366. > His mouth was full of soft, over-sweet banana when someone hammered on his front door. Anon jumped up out of pure reflex, dropping the half-eaten fruit on the coffee table as he hurried to see who it was. Maybe Anton needed something. That was probably it.
  367. > Just as he was leaving the room his phone started to ring and Anon swore under his breath. Of course it would ring *exactly* at the same time something else was happening. It wasn't as if the thing had had a whole afternoon of time during which to ring!
  368. > The phone would have to wait, he decided. He could always call them back later. He hurried to get the door, where the fierce knocking continued. He wondered who it could be in such a hurry.
  369. > Anon couldn't imagine any other visitors and he knew Fluttershy would have just let herself in. He left the door unlocked specifically for her.
  370. > He remembered to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand just before grabbing the door knob and opening.
  371. > Mr. Mason was very red in the face and had a wild, crazed look in his eye which almost sent Anon reeling backwards. A moment of pure shock prevented him from speaking just before the man punched him right in the face.
  372. > The sight of his infuriated neighbor and the ringing blow were enough to push him over and Anon fell on the carpet with a painful grunt. He covered his head with his arms while he tried to make sense of the situation.
  373. > "You sick fuck!" Mason shouted, advancing into the hallway with his fists bunched up and a snarl on his face. "Degenerate piece of trash!"
  374. > He kicked, savagely, and Anon cried out from the sudden pain in his shin. It felt as if the bone was broken, but there was no time to check before Mason tried to grab at his clothes. Anon rolled out of the way as much as he was able.
  375. > "Admit it you little shit! You are fucking my horse!" Mason yelled, his assault momentarily forgotten so he could shout at Anon.
  376. "How did-"
  377. > Anon immediately clamped his mouth shut, but it was too late. Maybe - *maybe* - Mason hadn't been completely sure before, but he knew now. He kicked again just as Anon was crawling away on his back. "How did I find out?! I'll tell you how I found out!" Mason kept shouting as he advanced over the prone figure.
  378. > "My fucking vet told me, that's how I fucking found out! I take Flutter for her checkup and they accuse me of being a god-damned animal fucker! Animal fucker, you piece of shit! ME!" He tried to kick again, as if to punctuate his words, but the blow glanced off Anon's arm.
  379. > He had taken her to a vet. The thoughts felt sluggish and unfocused in Anon's mind. He still couldn't think clearly from the sudden shock. He'd taken Fluttershy to a vet.
  380. "It wasn't-"
  381. > "Don't give me that crap," the man interrupted. He extended a trembling hand and pointed an accusatory finger. "Who else?! I checked the GPS and she's been sneaking over here at night! You've been taking her collar off, you sick bastard!"
  382. > It was a secondary thought but Anon suddenly went cold. Of course a smart, GPS- and SIM-enabled collar would have an alarm if it was removed. Maybe Mason just hadn't been checking it, or else he'd have figured it out a lot sooner.
  383. > Mason tried to kick him again, but the initial explosion of his anger was over and the blow was weaker. Anon crawled further back, but his infuriated neighbor easily kept pace. He was still pissed and there was spittle running down his chin, but Anon thought he wouldn't beat him to a pulp, at least.
  384. > "You've been fucking my horse- You piece of shit have been fucking my animal every night! What the hell is wrong with you?!"
  385. > It wasn't true about every night, but Mason didn't seem like he'd listen to reason. Perhaps it was a sign of shock that Anon fixated on that little fact. It wasn't really important and it wouldn't make a lick of difference even if Mason believed him.
  386. > Luckily Anon's back hit the door frame to his bedroom and he was able to pull himself upright. His leg throbbed where Mason's stiff shoe had connected, but at least the bone wasn't broken.
  387. > "You'll pay for this!" Mason went on, voice suddenly growing calmer and quieter. He no longer looked like he wanted to kill Anon, but his hands still shook and his eyes were wide with rage. He nearly snarled his words: "I'll sue you so hard your fucking grandkids will still be paying me off! Not that you'll have any, you fucking degenerate!"
  388. > He was still reeling, despite being upright, and Anon desperately needed to get away. He had to think and he couldn't do that with Mason yelling in his face. He needed time, at least a few seconds, to process this.
  389. "Get out of my house."
  390. > "What did you say?!"
  391. > Anon's hands bunched up into fists and he straightened up. He was taller than Mason and less fat. He would kick his ass if he had to and the consequences be damned. The sudden pain of loss flooded in and Anon clung to anger so he wouldn't have to think about never seeing Fluttershy.
  392. "Get the fuck out!"
  393. > "Everything okay in there?"
  394. > The voice was the most welcome thing Anon had ever heard. Mr. Petrinov had heard all the noise and had come to investigate. Mason spun around and almost growled when he saw the owner. "No!" he spat. "Your tenant has been fucking my horse!"
  395. > Anon winced at the accusation and was about to deny it again, if only for Anton's benefit, but his landlord lifted up both hands and shrugged. He seemed calm, but one of his hands was still holding the door handle in a white-knuckled grip and he'd stuck the other in his pocket. Maybe he had a weapon in there, Anon thought.
  396. > "Don't know about your horse, Mr. Mason. None of my business so you'll have to discuss it with him, but I will not be having you yelling in my house and assaulting my tenant, understand?"
  397. > His voice was a mixture of calm and threatening, and Anon dared hope Anton would somehow fix everything. It didn't make sense, but he was still reeling from the unwelcome realization that Mason knew about him and 'Shy.
  398. > For a moment it looked like Mason would strike Petrinov next, but he somehow brought himself under control, maybe frightened by Anton's calm demeanor. His nostrils flared as he took deep breaths, but he didn't say anything more.
  399. > "Now," Anton continued, "I suggest you leave before I am forced to call the police. If you have a problem with my tenant, solve it somewhere else."
  400. > The angry neighbor spun around and Anon flinched, expecting another hit, but the man just pointed a finger again. "You haven't heard the last of this, Anon, believe me! I'll see you in court!"
  401. > He stalked away and Mr. Petrinov shut the door behind him. That left him alone with Anon and he observed the young man with a slight frown of worry.
  402. > "So it is true? I suspected, but this is not something you accuse another man, you know?"
  403. > It was pointless trying to hide it, so Anon just sighed and lowered his gaze.
  404. > "I am not the one to judge what it is you do when you are alone, but this is a big pile of shit. I hope you know that."
  405. "What should I do?"
  406. > That sudden, irrational hope that Anton would be able to help died when the man shook his head. "Like I said, it's none of my business. I just didn't want him smashing up my house, right?"
  407. > No help.
  408. > If Anton caught Anon's disappointed look, he didn't show it. He sighed and opened the door. "Good luck, Anon. Something is telling me you're going to need it."
  409. > With that he was gone.
  410. > Anon stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame for long minutes as the incident replayed in his mind. He'd always been afraid something like this would happen, but he'd never expected Mason to react this violently.
  411. > Whenever he dared think of it, his imagination painted the other man as outraged, disgusted, but at least willing to listen. Anon could have explain that 'Shy was a person. That they were in love.
  412. > He hadn't expected the man to just walk over and start beating him. Mason had said he was going to sue him. He'd probably win and- Anon almost barked a laugh. Whom was he kidding? There was no 'probably' about it. Even if bestiality hadn't been against the law, Mason could afford the best damned lawyer in the country. It was unfair and it sucked, but both the law  and money were on Mason's side, Anon knew.
  413. "Fuck!" he swore.
  414. > It didn't help, but it was just about all he could do. There was no way out of it. He'd probably go to jail or something. The worst part was that all his friends and family would think that he was a horsefucker. They would never understand that 'Shy wasn't an animal.
  415. > What about Fluttershy?! What would happen to her?
  416. > He'd been trying, unconsciously, not to think about her, but he suddenly knew that their relationship was over. No more of those soft, warm nights with her cuddled up against him. The icy realization clenched around his gut like a frozen fist.
  417. > He loved her, he really did, but now he'd be lucky if he ever saw her again at all. He desperately wanted to see 'Shy, but she wouldn't thank him for putting her in the middle of this mess. Mason probably had her locked down tightly. Did he-
  418. > The thought was chilling and made Anon tremble in sudden worry. Surely he wouldn't have killed her?! Even for this?
  419. > He stood up on jerky, uncoordinated legs and stumbled his way to the kitchen. He leaned on his counter and looked out the window to his neighbor's house. The lights were on, but he didn't see neither 'Shy nor Mason.
  420. > Maybe he was hurting her right now?!
  421. > Anon nearly ran out and barged into his neighbor's house, but movement caught his eye and he saw the man pacing up and down the living room. He had his cell phone pressed against his head and was gesticulating wildly.
  422. > Probably already talking with his lawyer.
  423. > Everything had gone to shit and it would be even worse tomorrow. Anon pushed away from the counter and sat heavily in the kitchen chair. The place was getting dark, but he didn't really need the light. At some point he remembered the half-eaten banana, but he didn't want it anymore. It didn't matter anyway.
  424. > All he could think of was the immediate future.
  425. > Would the police come for him? Could he escape into a different state? That'd mean abandoning 'Shy to her fate. She'd be heartbroken, but maybe she'd understand.
  426. > It was a completely messed-up situation and he couldn't see any way out of it.
  427. > The phone began to ring again and it sparked Anon's anger. Whatever jerk wanted him in the late afternoon could have waited to get a call back. There was no need to harangue him like this, not when he had this new pile of shit on his plate!
  428. > He stomped over to the coffee table and grabbed his phone, intending to switch it off. He froze when he saw who was calling.
  429. > Fluttershy.
  430. > In his haste to answer Anon missed the button a few times, then he didn't drag it far enough to pick up with how hard his hands were shaking. He succeeded on his fourth try and fumbled the phone to his ear.
  431. "Hello?!"
  432. > There was a sniffle, followed by an exhale of breath before 'Shy spoke up. "Are you t-there?"
  433. > She sounded about as bad as Anon felt. The thoughts about the trouble he was in quickly sank under pure worry for her. Had Mason beaten her?
  434. "Yeah."
  435. > "T-They-" she fell silent again and Anon didn't know what to say, so he waited. There was another sigh. "I didn't- the doctor-"
  436. > She sounded afraid and heartbroken and all Anon wanted to do was hold her and comfort this poor, miserable creature. Of all people in the world, 'Shy deserved this crap the least.
  437. "What happened?" he asked and tried to keep his voice steady.
  438. > "She- She put her fingers-" Fluttershy began and she didn't have to go on, Anon could imagine. He suddenly didn't want to hear about it.
  439. "I know. It's not your fault."
  440. > That finally broke the dam and 'Shy began sobbing. The speaker crackled as she breathed right into the microphone. "I'm sorry, Anon! I didn't know they would do that! I di-didn't tell them! I wouldn't! B-But Mr. Mason-" she paused so she could suck down a lungful of air. "He just knew!"
  441. > More than ever Anon wanted to take her into his arms and comfort her, but it wasn't possible, not over the phone. It might never happen again and the realization made his stomach clench up with the sudden, hollow realization of loss.
  442. "It's not your fault."
  443. > "I called you as soon as we came home, b-but you didn't pick up," 'Shy went on, talking in rapid, clipped tones as if she was trying to occupy herself with something, anything, or else she would start crying again. "Mr- Mr. Mason came back and I think he's even angrier than be- than before. I c-can hear him cursing."
  444. > For a moment Anon considered telling 'Shy to hang up and hide the phone. If Mason found out about that he'd take it away. This way at least Anon had some way to talk to her.
  445. > It wasn't much and she couldn't help him, but she was the only other person in the world who knew and would be sympathetic right now.
  446. > He couldn't bring himself to tell her to hang up, though. She sounded like she was in shock. More than that, he needed the lifeline of her voice right then. He didn't have to think about never seeing her again while they were talking.
  447. "It's going to be okay."
  448. > "It's not," she replied flatly, her monologue about Mason momentarily interrupted. "An- Anon, he said he'd beat me for doing this."
  449. "If he does-"
  450. > "I don't care about that!" she interrupted him with some force, but then fell silent.
  451. > Anon waited for what would come next. He was a little bit grateful because he really didn't know what he could do. Bust into Mason's house, knock him down and take 'Shy? Like some kind of damned hero in a stupid story?
  452. > They'd have to run away and it'd have to be pretty far, Anon thought. He probably wouldn't be able to find a job after that. They'd be homeless and broke, living under some bridge or in some dump, eating from garbage. Everything would suck.
  453. > "He-" Fluttershy finally broke the silence. "He s-s-said-"
  454. "What did he say," Anon prompted after waiting for a while longer.
  455. > "That if I- if I r-really wanted to fuck hu-humans he'd sell me to a whorehouse..."
  456. > It was like a knife in Anon's gut. He stood up, determined to get the poor mare out of that place, consequences be damned.
  457. "That's not going to happen! I'm coming to get you out."
  458. > Her reply didn't come right away, and when it did it was quiet. "Don't," she said. "It was just- just a threat."
  459. > Maybe she was trying to convince herself, or maybe it was just for Anon's benefit. "If you come he'll call the police and they'll p-put you in prison, Anon."
  460. "But-"
  461. > Anon sat down with a heavy sigh, his free hand going to his hair just for something to grip.
  462. "I'm not gonna let him put you in a- in a place like that."
  463. > "He w-won't," 'Shy reassured him again. She sounded more certain this time and Anon chose to believe her.
  464. "If he does- Call me. Scream or something. We'll run away together."
  465. > The spike of adrenaline faded and Anon put his head on the table. It was all he could do to hold the phone up. His face hurt where Mason had hit him and his shin ached, but he didn't even care about those.
  466. > It was a small blessing that it wasn't really broken, but the loss of 'Shy was the real pain.
  467. > He wanted to fight back against the injustice. He needed something. Physical violence wouldn't work against Mason. He would need something more. Anon clutched at straws in desperation.
  468. "The papers!"
  469. > It was sufficiently unexpected that it jerked 'Shy out of the dark place in her mind. She had been quiet, but now she asked: "What?"
  470. "Those papers. Mason was laundering money, or dodging taxes or something for his company, I'm sure of it! You said you can get into his safe!"
  471. > So far 'Shy had refused to even hear about that option, but now her life might be on the line, so she didn't immediately reject it. She didn't agree, either, Anon couldn't help noticing.
  472. "Please, Fluttershy. We're both completely fucked, it's the only way! M-Maybe if I have those documents I can make Mason back off. Please!"
  473. > "I'll- He's coming, I have to go!"
  474. > There was a sudden beep in Anon's ear and the line went dead. The timing was way too convenient and he was afraid 'Shy was lying about Mason coming to her room so she didn't have to answer.
  475. > Maybe she just needed some time to think. That was probably it.
  476. > She'd call him back later. He'd make her understand, somehow. It was his only chance.
  477. > If he got some incriminating evidence about Mason and taxes, he could get the man to leave him alone. He'd take Fluttershy and move. As long as Mason didn't try anything stupid, Anon would never send the papers to the IRS.
  478. > It had to work! It had to!
  479.  
  480. > ~~~~
  481.  
  482. > The evening passed in a daze and Anonymous only noticed when it was too dark to see inside his apartment. He was still sitting at the table and his thoughts had been going in circles for the past several hours.
  483. > Surely he wouldn't go to prison for this, would he? He wouldn't survive prison, Anon thought. Did people go to prison for bestiality?
  484. > He could have checked on the Internet, but he didn't dare. As long as he didn't know for sure, he could hope for the best. Maybe it'd just be a fine or something. Probably whatever Mason won in damages would hurt a lot more, and the shame from his family and friends.
  485. > For a few moments here and there he managed to convince himself that it wouldn't happen, that 'Shy would come through and get some incriminating dirt on Mason.
  486. > Then, as the phone continued to be silent despite Anon checking it every few seconds, he became depressed, thinking she didn't call because she didn't want to talk about betraying her precious Master.
  487. > He immediately felt guilty for assuming that about Fluttershy and quickly told himself that she simply wasn't able. Maybe Mason was watching her too closely. Perhaps he'd found her phone and taken it away, which meant she would never be able to call.
  488. > It was nearly enough to make Anon cry out of frustration. If only he had a plan other than waiting for 'Shy to save them both!
  489. > The phone told him it was nearly midnight and its battery was running low, doubtless from him checking it so often. He didn't want it to run out just when 'Shy was able to call, so Anon stood up and dragged his feet to the bedroom.
  490. > The charger was permanently plugged in beside his bedside table and the cable had slipped behind once more. He fished it out, shoved it into the phone and dropped the thing. He thought about eating something, but his appetite was gone. Then he thought about sleep, but immediately knew he wouldn't be able to.
  491. > Was it even worth trying?
  492. > Anon sat down heavily on the bed and heaved a sigh as he buried his face in  his hands. It had all gone to shit within a single afternoon. Damn Mason and damn his vet and the whole world which didn't understand that he and 'Shy had something beautiful.
  493. > It sucked that she was a slave, but it sucked even more that Anon couldn't see any real way of getting her, unless she came through with those papers.
  494. > Anon groaned and fell on his back, feeling utterly helpless. If only he knew what Fluttershy would decide. At least then he could plan or something.
  495. > Maybe she would call once Mason had gone to bed. Anon settled down for the long wait.
  496. >...
  497. > It had to be nearing morning already and still no sleep had come. Not that Anon had expected any better, but he had been hoping for Fluttershy's call. Just a few words and she could have put his fears to rest.
  498. > Well, some of his fears, at least. In the quiet hours of the night Anon began to worry about her future as well. Even if Mason didn't beat her, he was liable to sell her off. Who knew what kind of an owner would she get next?
  499. > Maybe some rich fucker who'd want a taste of that horse pussy. Someone who wouldn't listen to her 'no'.
  500. > Even thinking about- Anon swallowed a lump and mentally changed the next word. Even thinking about the 'R-word' and Fluttershy in the same sentence was making him physically ill. His hands gripped the sheets and he still couldn't get them to stop shaking.
  501. > He simply had to talk to her. Maybe she could lay his wild imagination at rest. Maybe she knew Mason well enough and would be able to gauge just how pissed he was. She might already know if she'd stay with the man.
  502. > Anon couldn't stay still. He had to try something. It was probably a bad idea and if Mason caught him it would make everything worse.
  503. > He barked a laugh. How much worse could it end up? The bastard was going to drag him through the courts anyway, what's one more charge of trespassing beside the mountain of horse- besides that?
  504. > Anon groaned as he stood up and made his way to the front door. He stopped with his hand on the door handle and tried to talk himself into trying to sleep. What he was doing was completely stupid and it'd serve no real purpose.
  505. > Closing his eyes he leaned his forehead against the cold wood. He had to at least see that she was alive. With luck, she would see him as well through the window. She'd know he hadn't abandoned her.
  506. > Each other was pretty much all they had at that point.
  507. > Anon resolutely drew in a fresh lungful of air and let himself out. The night air was chilly and his breath misted in the light of the street lamp, but he ignored it. He thought about going back for a coat or something, but Anon told himself there was no time. It had to be near morning already.
  508. > The sky was still dark, but maybe that was a hint of gray in the East? He wasn't sure, but he still hastened his pace.
  509. > He hurried down the steps and gratefully stepped out of the circle of light and on the grass between their two houses. He walked rapidly, but tried to make as little noise as possible. In the still air, each footstep made a squelch and the rustle of dry grass could surely be heard from the other side of the street!
  510. > Unfortunately there was no holding back now. Anon sped up until he was nearly jogging, eager for the thicker darkness away from the lamps. He paused at the fence to inspect Mason's house, holding his breath and listening intently for any sounds coming from within.
  511. > Once he was certain all was quiet, Anon clambered over the fence and bit back the swear as the rough wood caught on his pants. He tried to lift himself up, but could not get off. In the end, he tugged wildly, desperately. His hand on the pointy stake slipped and he pitched into Mason's yard. The fabric ripped with a deafening noise and the wood scraped his leg, but he was free.
  512. > Anon barely caught himself on his hands, gasping as the freezing mud smeared his hands. He fumbled a few more steps but managed to get his legs under him. He nearly slipped once more until he finally stopped and straightened up, breathing heavily.
  513. > He was there, anyway. Except that he was looking into Mason's dark living room. Fluttershy's bedroom was on the other side, past the master bedroom window. Anon stopped just before turning the corner and waited until he got his breathing under control again.
  514. > Then he crouched down and hurried under Mason's window. He kept the crouching run for a few more steps, just to be sure, then straightened up when his legs felt like they would fold up. Crouch-running was a lot harder than it looked in the movies.
  515. > Then again, he was probably out of shape.
  516. > Nothing to be done about that now. Anon waited a little longer and listened intently, trying to decide if he'd woken his neighbor up.
  517. > After a few seconds he thought he heard a snore and relaxed a little. Only a little further to go. Anon turned the final corner and came to the correct window.
  518. > The inside of the room was completely dark, but by then his eyes had adapted to the dim light and he thought he saw a lump on the bed. His heart leapt and he wanted to call out to her, but fear clamped his mouth shut.
  519. > He couldn't leave without knowing she'd seen him too and Anon bit his lip in thought. How to get her attention?
  520. > His fingers found themselves on the glass and he gave it an experimental tap. It had three layers or something, because the thud was almost too faint to hear even outside.
  521. > He tried again, this time with a little more force. The tapping was clearly audible this time, but nothing changed inside.
  522. "Come on, 'Shy. Wake up!"
  523. > Anon couldn't believe she was able to sleep, not after what had happened, but what other explanation could there be? In desperation, he smacked his entire palm against the window, then made a fist. He was about to try for a stronger knock, but finally the mare in the bed shifted.
  524. > She sat up and Anon saw she had been facing away from the window. When she turned around he could clearly see her face, staring out in a mixture of fear and shock.
  525. > It only lasted a few seconds before she slid to the edge of the bed and hurried over to him. He had to wait for her to move a chair from the desk in her room so she could reach, but then she was pushing the handle and a moment later swung the window inwards.
  526. "Fluttershy!"
  527. > Anon reached for her, but 'Shy drew back and folded her ears down. "Shush," she said.
  528. > He obediently became quiet and then Anon heard a low, dull buzzing.
  529. "What is-" he began.
  530. > "My collar," she answered and took another step back. The buzzing stopped. "It's that," she pointed with a hoof.
  531. > Anon followed it and saw a discreet plastic box above the window.
  532. "That's just Wi-Fi."
  533. > Fluttershy shook her head. "You're not listening to me," she whispered and flicked her ears in annoyance. "They put that there about a week after I got here. Mr. Mason said- um... it was a bit complicated. Something to do with proximity or something."
  534. > She turned around and stretched out a hoof. "There's another above the door and a few more in the kitchen and living room. Mr. Mason said he-"
  535. > When she faced him again, her ears were hanging down once more. "He said he didn't think he'd have to use them, but now he has to. This," she tapped the collar, "starts to vibrate when I get too near them and he said there will be an alarm if I try to leave."
  536. > Anon tried to remember if he'd spotted those devices when he visited 'Shy in Mason's house, but he couldn't recall. Maybe he simply dismissed them as Wi-Fi.
  537. "B-But I thought your collar has GPS tracking!" he bleated, voice getting desperate.
  538. > Perhaps he hadn't even thought about it yet, at least not consciously, but simply grabbing 'Shy and running for it had always been a last-resort plan. He knew the alarm would sound as soon as she got too far away, but with how imprecise GPS was, Anon had been hoping they could at least get to the car before Mason realized what was happening.
  539. > He could take her collar off, but that alarm would sound immediately. Now it seemed that this one would as well!
  540. > "It has that too."
  541. "Oh, 'Shy..."
  542. > She finally stepped close enough for him to touch, but the collar began its low, rumbling buzz once again, so she stopped. It was barely enough to brush the fur on her muzzle with his fingers, but at least it was some contact.
  543. > "Can you climb over?" she finally asked.
  544. "Can't. I'll track mud everywhere and Mason will know I've been here."
  545. > Fluttershy closed her eyes and pressed against his hand, her breath warm in his palm, and Anon leaned forward as much as he could without falling over. She had her wings extended to keep her balance on the chair and Anon thought he could lose himself in the soft rustle of her feathers.
  546. > "Your hand smells of of it. Dirt," she told him.
  547. "Oh. Yeah, I fell."
  548. > "I don't mind."
  549. > They stood there, enjoying each other's physical presence for a while before 'Shy pulled away. "Uh, so what happens now? He-" she gulped and looked at the far wall, in the direction of Mason's bedroom. "He said he would beat me, but he hasn't and I don't think he will. W-What if he sells me?"
  550. "I don't know, 'Shy."
  551. > Anon held his arm out for a few more seconds, hoping she would come back to nuzzling it, but the moment was over so he dropped it to the window frame to balance himself.
  552. > "I'm afraid. If he really sells me to- to *that* place..."
  553. > She fell silent and Anon's breath caught at the unwelcome mental image. He pushed it aside and remembered the reason he'd come there.
  554. "You have to get me those papers, 'Shy. It's our only hope."
  555. > Fluttershy watched him in silence and her ears slowly lowered as she considered it. After a few seconds she dropped her gaze to the floor. "I-" she began, but clamped her mouth shut. She looked up at Anon and swished her tail in agitation.
  556. "Please. I can't think of anything else. Please, Buttershy!"
  557. > This was the moment on which hinged their future, Anon realized. If she still refused, even now, he probably wouldn't be able to see her any more. After Mason told everyone that he was a horse- that he and 'Shy have been together, he probably wouldn't have a job. He'd have to move, most likely back in with his parents.
  558. > They'd be disgusted and disappointed and that would be his life from then on.
  559. > The other way- if she got the papers and they turned out to be genuine-
  560. > It was a big unknown, but it was also the only hope Anon had left. He'd threaten to send the documents to IRS and maybe Mason would back down. Maybe he'd give him 'Shy rather than risk prison or something.
  561. > Anon was pretty sure tax fraud had a prison sentence. In any case, Mason would be ruined, so however much he'd paid for 'Shy would be a preferable loss. At least that's what Anon hoped.
  562. > At long last 'Shy let out the breath she had been holding. The cloud of mist drifted around Anon and he realized her room had gotten as chilly as the outside.
  563. > They probably didn't have a lot of time left. Mason might feel the cold and decide to come check if his slave had found a way to escape.
  564. > "Okay," 'Shy said quietly. She had still been looking at the floor, but now she lifted her face and stared directly at him. Her cyan eyes seemed to glow in the faint pre-dawn light. "Promise me you'll let me go if I can return home."
  565. > That one was easy.
  566. "I promise," Anon said smoothly.
  567. > 'Shy was shaking her head. "No, give me a real promise. Pinkie swear!"
  568. > He remembered something about that. Supposedly it was an absolutely unbreakable oath in Equestria, although Anon had thought Pinkie was just one of Fluttershy's friends and didn't understand why a promise to her would be anything special.
  569. "Um, how does it go again? Something about a cupcake?"
  570. > "Cross my heart," Fluttershy began, still staring directly in his face. Her eyes seemed to expand until they filled Anon's vision and he felt small, insignificant in front of her.
  571. "Cross my heart..."
  572. > "-and hope to fly. Stick a cupcake..."
  573. "Oh, right. Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."
  574. > The feeling suddenly vanished and Anon felt dizzy for a moment. His grip on the window frame tightened in an effort to keep him upright.
  575. "What just happened?"
  576. > "You gave me a Pinkie promise. You can't break that."
  577. "I won't."
  578. > They looked at teach other for a while and Anon suddenly thought that Fluttershy's expression looked a lot more fierce than usual. He only got that impression after her face softened from the intense, focused stare she had been giving him.
  579. > He felt as if he needed to say something.
  580. "I love you, Buttershy."
  581. > She blushed a little and there was suddenly a smile on her muzzle. "Um, I love you t-too," she mumbled back. It was cute as all Hell and for a moment Anon's heart lightened. He really would give this little horsey everything she wanted, he realized. Even if it meant letting her go.
  582. > Hopefully it would never come to that.
  583. > Once again 'Shy glanced in the general direction of Mason's bedroom. "I'll try and get the papers tomorrow when he's at work. Or maybe the next day. If- if he lets me out of the room. He's gotta let me use the toilet."
  584. "Okay, I'll wait. Just- just don't take too long. I don't know how quickly he'll act on his threat, but I'm afraid we don't have a whole lot of time, 'Shy."
  585. > She turned back and gave Anon a single, firm nod. "I'll get the papers. I'll call you when I do."
  586. > That seemed to be it. Nothing left to do but sneak back home, shower, change, and try to go to work. The day would be Hell, but he needed the money, perhaps now more than ever.
  587. "Thanks. Um... bye?"
  588. > 'Shy lightly shook her head. "I want a kiss before you go."
  589. > Anon pointed at the box above the window.
  590. "What about the alarm?"
  591. > Fluttershy's mouth tightened, her tail flicked, and then she shook her head, as if disagreeing with some internal debate. "Screw the alarm! I want a kiss and I'll just tell Mr. Mason I needed some fresh air!"
  592. > It would work, but Anon would have to hurry away right after. He leaned as far inside as he could while still keeping his balance. 'Shy put her hooves on the windowsill with two faint clicks and came closer. The collar's buzzing intensified as their lips met.
  593. > The kiss was pretty chaste, but all the more meaningful for the implied warmth and love 'Shy managed to convey. Anon brought a hand up to caress her face and 'Shy let out a breath in a long, relieved sigh.
  594. > "It's gonna be okay," she whispered when they parted. "Go."
  595. > The incessant buzz of her collar reminded Anon of the danger and he settled back down just outside the window.
  596. "I'll- we'll talk," he mumbled, not sure what to say.
  597. > She gave him a wave and a smile, then he was off.
  598. > Anon remembered that he didn't have to go all the way around the back of Mason's house and sighed to himself a little for his earlier stupidity. He could just get to the street on this side and then take the sidewalk back home.
  599. > All he'd have to do was make sure no one was watching before he jumped the fence.
  600. > This time it went a lot better and he didn't scrape himself. The street lamp was uncomfortably bright and Anon kept listening for that indignant shout behind him, but it never came and he made it back home.
  601. > It had worked, though. He'd gotten to see 'Shy and laid both their fears to rest, at least somewhat. They had a plan and she would help him. Help them both.
  602. > Maybe, somehow, it would all turn out alright.
  603.  
  604. > ~~~~
  605.  
  606. > Work passed in a kind of haze for Anonymous. He was aware of answering calls and filling out paperwork, but couldn't remember the actual content of either.
  607. > The silver lining was that his coworkers seemed to have sensed his mood and didn't bother him. An added bonus was that they didn't even invite him to have lunch with them. It was just as well, Anon wasn't hungry anyway.
  608. > He took a cola from the vending machine for the sugar and sat in the tiny kitchen in the empty office.
  609. > 'Shy had still not called and he was starting to worry about her. She had promised she would let him know when she got Mason's papers. That shouldn't take this long, should it? She said she knew the combination to his safe, so it was just a matter of walking over there and taking them.
  610. > Maybe Mason didn't allow her to leave the room, but Anon was sure 'Shy would have called him and said something. The silence was unnerving.
  611. > His will broke and he dialled her a few minutes before his lunch break was over, but there was no answer. It just made him worry more.
  612. > Had Mason found Fluttershy's phone? Was he watching it ring? The caller ID would tell him it was Anonymous calling and undoubtedly piss him off.
  613. > The thought was thoroughly unpleasant and Anon dropped the call and hurried back to his desk.
  614. > Paul and Alex were already there, but they fell silent when he entered the office. Anon had the feeling they had been talking about him, especially by the way they avoided looking in his direction.
  615. > He didn't care about their gossip and he had bigger problems. He just had to get through the second half of his shift and then-
  616. > Then he'd go home. Nothing much could change, but at least he wouldn't have to act normal. Maybe he would see 'Shy through the window or something. If she didn't call by midnight, Anon decided, he would go to the house just like that morning and try to talk with her.
  617. > Unless - the idea chilled his spine - Mason had already gotten rid of her.
  618. > Surely he wouldn't act that quickly, would he? It'd take him a few days to find the buyer and get the paperwork in order.
  619. > Anon had to rush back to the kitchen and grab a glass of water. The thought that she was gone and he'd never see or hear 'Shy again was turning his stomach.
  620. > He ran into Harris on his way back.
  621. > "Jeez, you look like crap, Anon."
  622. "Yeah- uh. Sorry. It's..."
  623. > The boss took a preemptive step back and held up his hand for Anon to keep his distance. "If you got the flu or something you should've stayed home. Don't need you spreading it to everyone."
  624. > Anon blinked a few times in confusion. Flu? Did he look bad enough for people to assume he was sick? It was a good excuse and he latched onto it.
  625. "Yeah, flu. I'm not feeling too well."
  626. > Harris looked annoyed, but there was a glimmer of sympathy there. "You know the rules, Anon. Take a sick day or two. You shouldn't have even come in."
  627. "You're right. Sorry. I didn't think it was this bad..."
  628. > He was only half-paying-attention to his boss, but the thought of being able to go home and maybe see 'Shy before Mason returned from work was suddenly very attractive.
  629. "I think I'll head home. Um, I'll call tomorrow."
  630. > "Don't forget to get a doctor's note. Now git!"
  631. > Anon hurried back to his desk. Having something concrete to do was helping his stomach, but his hands still shook with fear for 'Shy.
  632. > Paul finally looked his way and raised an eyebrow when Anon started packing his things.
  633. "Flu," Anon explained. "I don't feel good."
  634. > He wasn't sure if his coworker bought the excuse, but it looked like he wasn't going to challenge it. Paul gave him a single nod. "Hope you feel better, Anon. Take care."
  635. "Yeah. Thanks."
  636. > He hurried out of the building, practically ran to his car in the parking lot, and headed home.
  637. >...
  638. > The afternoon wasn't much better, but at least Anon didn't have to work. For a while he had stared at Mason's living room, hoping to see 'Shy until his eyes watered, and he'd walked down the sidewalk past the house several times when he couldn't sit still anymore.
  639. > It looked deserted.
  640. > Anon kept telling himself the pony was just confined to her bedroom, despite the other, less pleasant theories which kept creeping back in.
  641. > He wanted to go and look through her window, but there was a lot of traffic in the street, both cars and pedestrians and he couldn't risk it. Any one of his conscientious neighbors might tell Mason that Anon had been sneaking around his house.
  642. > It'd have to wait for the night again.
  643. > Of course, by the time that rolled around Anonymous might lose what little sanity he had left, he thought.
  644. > He was standing on his balcony and nervously smoking his fourth cigarette when he saw his neighbor's car pull up. Anon ducked behind the railing, unwilling to let Mason see him, and looked through the crack between two of the planks in the railing.
  645. > The vehicle parked in front of the house and after a moment his bastard of a neighbor climbed out. Anon was expecting him to go into the house, but the man headed the other way.
  646. > Probably needed to fetch his suitcase from the trunk or something.
  647. > Strangely, Mason continued going until he was on the opposite side, where he pulled open the back door and leaned inside.
  648. > He straightened back a moment later with a rope, or a strip of something in his hand. Anon's stomach dropped and, sure enough, when Mason gave it a tug 'Shy jumped out of the back seat.
  649. > She was being led around like an animal on a leash! Anon's fists bunched up but of course he could do absolutely nothing about it.
  650. > The little mare looked around, stretched, then smoothly followed Mason back to the house. Anon didn't dare straighten up until they'd gone from sight and closed the door behind them.
  651. > Well, that explained why the house was deserted and why 'Shy hadn't called. Of course she wouldn't risk bringing her phone if Mason took her away.
  652. > The problem was that it raised further questions. Where did the man take her and why? Surely it wasn't- Anon's throat seized up at the thought- Surely Mason wasn't taking her to see potential buyers?!
  653. > He was still trying to put that idea out of his mind a few minutes later. The cigarette was slowly burning down, unheeded between his fingers, forgotten. A noise from his pocket woke Anon up.
  654. > His phone was ringing and he took it out with a trembling hand. It was Fluttershy.
  655. > Anon dropped the cigarette butt and hurried inside even while he pressed the button to answer.
  656. "Yes? 'Shy?"
  657. > "I couldn't get it," she said, straight to the point. "Um, Mr. Mason took me to work with him. H-He said it was to keep- keep me out of trouble."
  658. > He wasn't trying to sell her, or at least not yet! Anon practically sagged with relief and caught himself on the hallway wall with a hand.
  659. > "I'm sorry... I'll try tomorrow."
  660. > Another day of waiting and worrying without any news sounded like absolute Hell and Anon was already shaking his head even before 'Shy had stopped speaking.
  661. "Can you do it tonight? Please?"
  662. > There was silence, or nearly so. Anon imagined he could hear the mare's soft breathing. He saw her uncertain, ears-splayed, muzzle-scrunched expression so clearly in his mind that she might have been standing right in front of him.
  663. > "I'm not allowed to leave my room at night anymore, Anon."
  664. "What if you tell him you need to use the bathroom? If you do it a few times he'll get tired of getting up and maybe he'll set your collar to..."
  665. > He didn't have to finish, they both understood.
  666. > More nothing from his phone.
  667. "Please. Buttershy? We really don't have a lot of time!"
  668. > This time, when she exhaled, Anon clearly heard her sigh. "Fine, I'll- I'll try."
  669. > Anonymous nearly sagged with relief. He suddenly realized that basically the whole of his plan of getting out of this predicament hinged on Fluttershy. He hadn't even thought about getting a lawyer to defend him in court if it came to that.
  670. > He hadn't even considered the costs, nor where he would get the money if, or rather *when*, he was found guilty. Everything depended solely on 'Shy.
  671. "Look, I know I'm asking for a lot, but it's about you as well, right?" Anon explained. "Things will be better when it's just us, and- and..."
  672. > This next bit was still hard to say, but he forced himself to continue.
  673. "-and I'll let you go if... when your friends come for you. I promised, remember? You won't be my slave, okay?"
  674. > Making it seem more possible than it actually was couldn't hurt.
  675. > "I know all that," 'Shy replied, but there was a note of longing in her voice. "I don't want to talk about it right now. Can we talk about something else?"
  676. > Anon wanted more assurances that she would get him those critical papers on which everything depended, but he didn't want to push her.
  677. "Um, s-sure! What do you want to talk about?"
  678. > She hummed a little as she considered. "Umm, I don't know how long I have. Mr. Mason is in the shower, so I might have to leave suddenly when he comes out. Um, how is work? Are you coming home soon?"
  679. > For a moment Anon wondered if he should tell her that he'd been sent home on account of looking ill, but decided against it. Fluttershy sounded like she desperately needed at least a semblance of normalcy.
  680. "It's fine so far, but I'm not looking forward to the commute. Sometimes I think the night shift is better, because there's no traffic to and from work, you know?"
  681. > "Oh yes, traffic on Earth is just awful," 'Shy agreed, her voice lighter and a definite smile behind her words, Anon could imagine it clearly. "Traffic was never a problem in Equestria, you know? I guess unicorns who could teleport and pegasi, and our flying carriages, kinda helped."
  682. "Oh, you bet it helps. We have aircraft too, but they're like- organized transport. You can't just get a small airplane or chopper for yourself, although they've been promising something like that for ages. I wonder if it will ever happen..."
  683.  
  684. > ~~~~
  685.  
  686. > Ever since Fluttershy had opened up to Anon about her past life, as one of what sounded almost like superheroes of Equestria he'd been quite skeptical of her claims. It sounded far-fetched, even for a magical talking pony.
  687. > He had never told her that, though, unwilling to offend her by accusing her of making stuff up. Anon was glad he hadn't, now that he saw 'Shy in action. Once she'd agreed to help him, she simply took charge.
  688. > The uncertain, timid pegasus was gone and a sort of 'in-charge-persona' replaced it, one which was confident and bossy, and knew how to plan and act.
  689. > In a way it was a relief, although Anon felt slightly guilty that he was letting 'Shy take charge of what was mostly his problem. She'd all but ordered him to report to her window once again and she didn't have to say it twice.
  690. > It was dark and overcast, which was perfect for concealment and this time Anon didn't rip his clothes and dirty himself on the way to Fluttershy's room. The last time he checked it was well past midnight, so Mason was fast asleep.
  691. > 'Shy had assured him of that and told him she could hear the man snoring. It still felt incredibly sketchy sneaking into her bedroom at night, but Anon pushed that thought aside and focused on the positive. He'd get to hug and kiss her for a while.
  692. > "There. Step on the towel and then take your shoes off," 'Shy commanded.
  693. > Anon did as instructed and lowered himself from the window sill carefully onto the brighter patch on the floor.
  694. > "Good, close the window so it doesn't get too cold."
  695. > He obeyed that as well. By the time he turned back, 'Shy basically lunged at him and wrapped her forelegs around his waist. He still had to bend down a little, but he gladly obliged so they could kiss.
  696. > It went on for a while and Fluttershy shoved her tongue into his mouth with a lot more force than he was used to. His hands strayed down her sides and under her incredibly warm wings, which were folded against her.
  697. > She couldn't hold back a quiet moan as he dug his fingers into her fur and her hind hooves danced on the carpet as she tried to push herself higher. She stepped on Anon's foot but he ignored it, welcoming yet another physical reminder that she was there.
  698. > He lowered himself down on the carpet until he was sitting and 'Shy was in his lap. She still hadn't opened her eyes and was continuing her assault on the inside of his mouth.
  699. > Eventually she broke it off and had to focus on her breathing. Her nostrils flared wide to get as much air as possible with as little noise as she could make and her ears folded down when she caught Anon's gaze.
  700. > "I ju-just missed you, okay?" she whispered.
  701. "I missed you too."
  702. > "I should get those papers..."
  703. "He let you leave the room?"
  704. > "I said I need to pee sometimes in the night. Well, it's true."
  705. > She was slipping out of his grasp and Anon was sorry to let her gentle warmth go, but he remembered the reason for his midnight visit and released the mare.
  706. > Fluttershy hesitated for a while longer, then motioned to her bed. "Hide behind that, just in case. Oh, and put your shoes out of sight."
  707. > Anon quickly obeyed. The shoes, wrapped up in the towel, went under her writing desk and then he slid himself across the floor until he was behind the bed. She was right. His hiding spot wouldn't offer any real protection, but at least Mason wouldn't spot him immediately if he happened to be standing in the hallway and peeked inside.
  708. > 'Shy paused in the door to make sure he was hidden as best he could, then nodded to herself and turned around. She took her steps slowly and carefully, obviously from long practice. Her bedroom had a thick carpet, but the hall was hardwood and her hoofsteps would ring loudly if she didn't take care.
  709. > As it was, each clop sounded entirely too loud in the still house and Anon winced to himself, hoping like Hell Mason wouldn't wake up and come check on her.
  710. > He kept listening to Fluttershy's progress and frowned a little to himself. She was heading in the wrong direction!
  711. > She should have turned right, toward Mason's study, but she went left instead! Anon was about to crawl to the door and try to call her back when a sudden fear gripped him.
  712. > Surely she wouldn't go fetch Mason on him, would she? If she told the man Anon had broken into her bedroom and was forcing himself on her-
  713. > Maybe she'd told him something like that already to make him go easier on her?
  714. > She wouldn't!
  715. > Anon trusted her. She'd said she loved him and Anon fully believed her.
  716. > He breathed a sigh of relief when he hear the distinctive click of the bathroom light. The next few clops sounded on tiles and then the door shut. He imagined he could hear a tinkle of water.
  717. > It made sense - 'Shy would want to have an actual alibi in case Mason heard her walking around and came to check.
  718. > Anon waited patiently until she finished, flushed, washed her hooves and came back out. This time her hoofsteps passed her room and she headed in the correct direction. She slowed down and even Anon had to strain to hear her careful steps.
  719. > It felt like forever, with very little audible clues of what she was doing, but eventually Anon recognized that she was coming back.
  720. > Her face poking into her room was the most welcome sight in years and when he saw she was holding a sheaf of papers in her mouth Anon couldn't stop himself from smiling.
  721. >This was it. With luck, one of those documents would have something incriminating which he could use to make Mason relent.
  722. "Thank you! Thank you 'Shy!"
  723. > She let the papers drop on the floor beside him and nuzzled her way back into his lap. "I'm afraid we might get caught. You should go."
  724. > Before Anon could move, though, she grasped him around the chest. "Except... I don't want you to go yet. Can you sit with me for a while?"
  725. > Anon put his arms around her as well and returned her nuzzle. The fluff on her muzzle was as soft as he remembered and the scent of her shampoo made him feel at home.
  726. "For as long as you want me."
  727. > "He'll probably beat me when finds out, you know?"
  728. "What?" Anon tensed up.
  729. > "The papers I s-stole," 'Shy explained. "He'll figure out it was me and he'll try to make me give them back. I think he might beat me."
  730. "Fluttershy, I-"
  731. > She silenced him with a kiss. "I don't mind. I decided-" she began and swallowed. "I decided you were right. Slavery is wrong, so it's not like it's really stealing, okay? I don't mind if he beats me, as long as it all works out in the end!"
  732. > The little pony was braver than himself, Anon thought. He hadn't thought about this until now, but 'Shy was right. Mason would go crazy once he discovered the papers missing, especially if it really was something incriminating.
  733. > He swallowed and considered having 'Shy take them back. Would the man go far enough to beat her to death? Did Anon dare risk it?
  734. > Fluttershy seemed to have noticed his dilemma and she lifted Anon's face with a careful hoof so he was forced to look at her. "I said I don't mind. Just- just call him tomorrow morning. He probably won't notice they are gone in the morning before we leave for work."
  735. "I will, I promise."
  736. > Anon decided he would build upon Harris' incorrect impression about him being ill and call in sick the next day. That'd give him the morning free to examine the documents and decide if they were useful to him.
  737. > Maybe there wouldn't be anything incriminating on them, but they were still financial documents for a large, multinational company which Mason was keeping in a safe. Maybe he could threaten him that he'd release his company's finances or something.
  738. > He shouldn't tell 'Shy, though. She had her doubts about the whole thing as it was and thinking that Mason was doing something illegal helped.
  739. "You think he'll make you go to work with him again?"
  740. > "Yes," she replied. "I don't mind, really. The lady at the desk gave me one of her books to read and I just sat in the lobby the whole day. It wasn't that bad."
  741. > Obviously the man didn't trust leaving her home alone, even with the alarm he'd put in place.
  742. "Okay."
  743. > "Um, Anon?"
  744. "Yes?"
  745. > The mare nuzzled against him and tightened her grip. "Tell me what it's going to be like when we're... um, together. You know, living together. Are we gonna move away from here?"
  746. > It was further than Anon had thought, but now that 'Shy had mentioned it, he really didn't like the idea of staying Mason's neighbor after all of this.
  747. "I guess, yeah. We'll find a place somewhere else."
  748. > "That's good," 'Shy said as she closed her eyes and leaned against Anon's chest. "I'd like to move away. I don't like this place. I don't want to stay near it."
  749. "We'll figure something out, I promise."
  750. > "Tell me what it will be like," she repeated.
  751. "Okay, okay. I guess we'll have an apartment. It'll probably be smaller than I have now, but that's okay. We just need one room and a kitchen, really. Oh, and a bathroom."
  752.  
  753. > ~~~~
  754.  
  755. > Anonymous slept well and even woke up feeling slightly optimistic. He'd taken a cursory glance at Mason's papers before bed and although he couldn't quite understand what they were about, he was certain they represented significant payments going to very sketchy places.
  756. > He was sure the guy wouldn't want the things released and would give him 'Shy in exchange for those documents. All he had to do was call him and tell him he had all this incriminating evidence.
  757. > For a moment Anon worried Mason might get violent, but he told himself that Mason wasn't some kind of a mafia boss. He still worried a little, but it was probably because he'd watched too many movies.
  758. > The important thing was to figure out how to pack up his stuff and find an apartment somewhere else in the city. Maybe a little closer to his job. That reminded him that he'd need money, so Anon decided to go to work.
  759. > He could tell Harris that he was feeling better, that it hadn't really been an illness. It'd be hard enough to square up his previous half-day and he didn't want to add another full one. He obviously wouldn't get a doctor's note since he wasn't really sick, so the previous day's episode would probably cost him some vacation time.
  760. > On his way out Anon wondered briefly why Mason's car was still parked in front of his neighbor's house, but dismissed it. It wasn't like the man never worked from home and with having to keep an eye on Fluttershy he might be more inclined to stay put.
  761. > It wouldn't be very comfortable for the mare, but Anon told himself it wouldn't be too much longer. He'd call Mason during his lunch break, get him to agree to hand 'Shy over, papers and all. With luck, she'd be with him, and legally his, before the day was over!
  762. > Then he'd give Mason his papers back-
  763. > Anon froze in the process of unlocking his car and repeated the thought to himself. As soon as Mason had the papers back he'd go right back to the lawsuit. Maybe all that knowledge from movies wasn't completely useless.
  764. > He ran back in his flat, gathered the documents from his kitchen table and returned to the car. He'd have to make copies and leave a set in a safe place. Mason would just have to believe him when Anon promised not to show them to anyone.
  765. > A little bit of insurance was important in cases like this.
  766. > He glanced over at the man's house and saw that the living room was well-lit. Probably having breakfast. Most likely 'Shy had prepared it.
  767. > Knowing that the bastard was using her as a maid and a cook left a sour taste in Anon's mouth, but he told himself it wouldn't last for too much longer.
  768. "Just hold on through today, 'Shy. I'm coming for you!"
  769. > Anon felt as if the weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he drove to work and he even whistled along in tune with the radio.
  770. > It was going to be another, endless day at the office, but the thought of coming home to 'Shy - permanently with him - made it worth it.
  771. > They'd have to start arranging his move right after and he'd have to hunt for apartments, but that was a small price to pay. A little place of their own, away from Mason. Just them.
  772. > He and 'Shy would spend a lot more time together. They'd talk, and go out for walks. Maybe they'd even find a restaurant or two which would be willing to serve ponies and they could have actual, proper dates.
  773. > Fluttershy would soon realize she wasn't really a slave, except on paper. Anon was certain she would stop talking about going home once she got a taste of what their life would be like.
  774. > The rest of his drive passed in a hazy blur of imagination. Anon remembered their week together and tried to visualise something like that, except 'Shy would never have to leave.
  775. > Sleeping in the same bed every night, waking up together every morning. It was going to be awesome!
  776. >...
  777. > The day dragged on, but despite the drudgery Anon felt okay. The papers were under the floor mat in his car and he had a solid plan of what to do next. He waved to catch Paul's attention.
  778. "Hey. Lunch? It's on me."
  779. > His coworker gave him a doubtful look, but then shrugged. "Sure. Alex?"
  780. "Just us. I got a favor to ask you."
  781. > This made Paul rise his eyebrows, but he didn't press any further. "When?" he asked simply.
  782. "Actually, I'm done with this fucking spreadsheet. Wanna go now?"
  783. > Paul glanced at the clock on the nearby wall and shrugged a little to himself. He turned around on his office chair and signalled to Alex. "Hey, gonna take lunch with Anon. I think he's going to tell me a secret. See you later."
  784. > They both laughed and Anon joined in with a nervous chuckle. It was uncanny how close to the mark Paul had guessed.
  785. > He stood and put on his hoodie. It was still technically winter, but the days were getting too warm for coats. A moment later Paul did the same and they left, pausing only briefly at Harris' office to say they were going out to eat.
  786. > Once outside Paul turned toward their favourite burger place, but Anon stopped.
  787. "Just gotta grab something from the car, I'll be right back."
  788. > He hurried off to the car park, but slowed down when he saw Paul was coming with him. "So, everything alright? Yesterday you looked like someone died and today you're all chipper and shit."
  789. "Yeah. I guess it was a stomach bug or maybe I ate something. Felt like crap. Heh, spent half the night in the crapper, but it's fine now."
  790. > "As long as it isn't something catching."
  791. "Nah, nothing to worry about. Here, let me grab this."
  792. > Anon unlocked the car and fetched Mason's papers from under the mat. He caught a glimpse of his coworker's surprised look, but Paul didn't ask. He was waiting for Anon to explain.
  793. "Look, I need a really big favor, okay? I don't know who I can trust," he explained hurriedly.
  794. > "Okay?"
  795. "You gotta promise me. I need to make copies of these and you'll take one copy, okay?"
  796. > Paul tried to read the papers, but Anon pulled them away. He needed Paul's word before he let him see what it was about.
  797. "Promise?"
  798. > The older man rolled his eyes, but he sighed and said: "Fine, fine. I promise. Now that's this about?"
  799. "Okay, so there's this guy- um, threatening me. Saying he'll sue me or something..."
  800. > "Sue you?!" Paul blinked in a surprise and had to do a double take. "What the fuck, Anon? Why would some guy want to sue you?"
  801. "Look, we got into a fight, it doesn't really matter. It's just- he's got money and lawyers and crap, so I'm basically screwed."
  802. > Paul snapped his fingers. "Oh, was that why you had that black eye the other day?"
  803. "Y-Yeah..."
  804. > He reached out and plucked the documents from Anon's nerveless fingers. "Okay, so what's this then?"
  805. "Look... I got a hold of some of his papers. He's like... CFO of that."
  806. > One look at the logo made Paul whistle through his teeth. "Jeez, dude. I wanna ask how you got these, but I don't think I want to know. I don't think it's a good idea."
  807. "Please. All I need is for you to hold on to these and... well, if anything happens send them to the IRS, or the newspapers or some shit."
  808. > "Fucking Hell, Anonymous. What kind of shit are you playing with here?!"
  809. > The man was holding the papers away from himself and it looked like he would walk away, but Anon pushed his hand back.
  810. "Please, it's the only thing I can do. If I can't make this dude back off I'm basically ruined. He's gonna put me in prison and that's it. I'm not gonna release his papers, I just want him off my back, okay?"
  811. > Seeing that Anon wasn't taking the papers back, Paul dropped them on his car seat and took a step away. "Look man, whatever crap you got mixed up in, I can't afford to be a part of it. Now, I like you so I'm not gonna say anything about this, but..."
  812. > He sighed and turned back to the office. "If you want my advice, give these back and beg for forgiveness. Settle out of court if you can, it'll go better for you. You don't play around with shit like this, Anon."
  813. "So you think these are incriminating?" Anon asked hopefully.
  814. > "I don't know shit, but a big multinational like that? They'll destroy you before you can do anything to them." He heaved another sigh and began walking away.
  815. > Anon grabbed the papers and shut his car door before hurrying after Paul. He folded the documents up and put them in his pocket.
  816. > This flat-out refusal had never been a part of his plan. He'd never imagined Paul would do something like this.
  817. "It's my only choice. Please, all I'm asking is you hold on to them for a while. Don't shaft me like this. Who else am I gonna ask?!"
  818. > His coworker shrugged. "I'd say try Alex, but I don't want any of us mixed up in this. Sorry Anon, this isn't a movie. This is serious shit and people go to prison for it."
  819. > He walked away without another word and Anon was left standing there, dumbly watching after his coworker.
  820. "Fuck..."
  821. > Perhaps the only bit of good news was that Paul had promised not to tell anyone. He might have just called the police or something and then both Anon and 'Shy would be thoroughly screwed.
  822. > It'd just have to be up to him, Anon told himself. He could hide the papers somewhere. Maybe he could get one of those safe deposit boxes at a bank or something and leave the documents in there. The last thing he wanted was to lose them or something equally stupid.
  823. > Suddenly he wasn't feeling hungry anymore, so Anon headed to the bank a couple of blocks away. Maybe he could sort it out sooner rather than later.
  824.  
  825. > ~~~~
  826.  
  827. > Anonymous was just coming back from the bank and feeling good about the world when he got a ring. It was Fluttershy, which made him smile involuntarily.
  828. > Maybe Mason hadn't taken her to work with him after all!
  829. "Hey Buttershy!"
  830. > "You little fucking bastard!" Mason's voice growled from the speaker and nearly made Anon drop his phone from suddenly nerveless fingers. "I knew you two were somehow speaking!"
  831. "Uh..."
  832. > There was a loud bang as Mason slammed his fist down on the table. "Listen to me you degenerate. You're going to bring my papers back right this minute. Or else!"
  833. > He knew! How he knew Anon couldn't say at the moment. He swallowed a lump and tried to remember the words he'd thought up during the morning.
  834. "No."
  835. > "What did you say to me? Do you even know what you're dealing with?"
  836. "Something illegal, looked l-like," Anon tossed back with only the slightest hitch in his voice.
  837. > "You don't know shit-"
  838. "I know enough to know you're worried!"
  839. > He'd finally found his voice and at least a part of his courage. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the most eloquent of statements, but it was the best Anon could do at short notice.
  840. "You're gonna give me 'Shy or I'm sending those papers straight to the IRS!"
  841. > The man laughed, his breath making the speaker crackle because he was holding it too close to his mouth. "Oh yeah?! And what do you think they're going to do? You'll go to jail for this, you little shit!"
  842. "IRS and all the newspapers I can think of!"
  843. > There was silence this time and Anon dared hope he'd hit the mark. He tried pushing further:
  844. "Give me 'Shy and I'll destroy the papers. It's as simple as that."
  845. > This made Mason chuckle some more and Anon imagined there was a manic edge to his voice. "Tough shit, you dickhead. She's gone."
  846. "W-What?!"
  847. > Suddenly his legs threatened to collapse under him and Anon staggered to a nearby park bench. His grip on the phone was making his hand cramp up, but he didn't care. His ear hurt from how tightly he was pressing the device against it, but Anon didn't dare miss a single word Mason said.
  848. > "Yea, you heard me. I'm not gonna have a stealing, lying *whore* under my roof. She's back where I bought her from and I even got most of my money back!"
  849. > Everything was coming down. It couldn't have happened so fast! Anon's last few minutes with 'Shy that night couldn't have been the last time he ever saw her, could they?
  850. "N-No... no! You're lying!"
  851. > Tears were streaming unheeded down his face and he could hardly see the ground in front of him through the blur. It felt as if his stomach was doing somersaults and Anon felt like he was going to throw up.
  852. > There was nothing from the phone for a while. "So here's what you're going to do," Mason said slowly and carefully. "You're gonna bring those papers to me and you're gonna give them to me. Maybe if you say you're sorry, I'll forget about the lawsuit."
  853. > He was obviously very worried about what was in those documents, but Anon didn't care anymore. Fluttershy was gone, beyond his grasp.
  854. > Unless.
  855. "Where?!" he suddenly barked.
  856. > "Huh? You know where I live, you dipshit-"
  857. "No, where's 'Shy? Where's the place?!"
  858. > There was no answer.
  859. "Tell me!"
  860. > "Bring me the papers."
  861. > Anon rubbed his forehead in a futile effort to stop his brain from racing to all the darkest places. 'Shy had said she'd probably end up in a breeding facility. It made sense. People would want more of these ponies and as a mare, she'd be a prime investment.
  862. "No. If you tell me where 'Shy is, I'll promise I won't show them to anyone, but I'm keeping them."
  863. > He remembered what he had wanted Paul to do.
  864. "Oh, and if anything happens to me, or 'Shy, the papers will get out."
  865. > Once again he was met with silence.
  866. "Well?!"
  867. > There was another thump, as if Mason had hit something else, but the man's voice was calm, if a little strained. "Do you think this is some sort of bullshit movie or something? You're completely stupid, aren't you? I'll say it once again: Bring me my documents or I'll make you regret it, okay?"
  868. > Anon realized he couldn't do a whole lot, not shaken as he was and not with Mason fixated on the papers.
  869. "Fuck you! If I don't get 'Shy back I'm sending those papers to everyone I can think of! You can shove your threats up your ass!"
  870. > Mason started to say something else, but Anon cut it off with a jab of his finger. He watched the screen where Fluttershy's name still showed until it turned off.
  871. > That damned jerk wasn't supposed to sell her this quickly! He wasn't supposed to figure out his documents were missing that soon!
  872. > Everything was falling apart faster than Anon could ever have believed. For all he knew, 'Shy was already being tied up and-
  873. > He forcibly stopped that line of thought before he made himself physically ill. His hands still shook and Anon realized he couldn't go back to the office. Not like this. He tapped the phone again and called Harris.
  874. > "Huh?"
  875. "Uh... it's back. I thought I felt better, but I guess it was just the meds working. I really don't feel well."
  876. > "Oh. So you're ill again?"
  877. > Anon had a feeling his boss didn't believe him, but at that point he didn't care.
  878. "Look, I need to take another half day. Uh, and maybe tomorrow. That OK?"
  879. > Harris exhaled in a sigh, then went on in a noncommittal tone of voice. "Fine by me, Anon. Just make sure you get something from your doctor."
  880. "Ugh, what if I take vacation days? I don't think I wanna leave the house until I feel better."
  881. > "Fine. Fine. See you Monday, I guess?"
  882. "Yeah, I hope I'll be better by then."
  883. > Either he'd have 'Shy back and all would be well, or she would be lost to him and it would never be okay again. Funny, Anon thought to himself, how he could consider both alternatives so dispassionately. It was probably just shock.
  884. > Fluttershy was gone.
  885. > He hung up on Harris and looked at his phone for long minutes, wondering if he wanted to call Mason back. He needed the address of wherever he'd taken 'Shy and other than threatening him over those documents Anon had no real leverage.
  886. > Somehow he had to show the man he was serious.
  887. > An idea occurred and Anon stood up suddenly. Mason didn't believe he'd publish his precious tax fraud?! Well, there were ways to get the information out without really publishing it.
  888. > Maybe if Mason saw the documents with some careful redacting on a web page he'd believe him. All it'd take was photo editing software to put in some black boxes.
  889. > He'd send Mason the link and threaten he'd publish the uncensored version if the guy didn't tell what Anon wanted. Heh, he could even have the papers back once Anon had digital copies.
  890. > Anonymous still felt sick to his stomach when he thought about 'Shy, but at least now he had *some* sort of a plan. He headed back to the bank to retrieve the contents of his safety deposit box less than twenty minutes after putting them in.
  891.  
  892. > ~~~~
  893.  
  894. "You get Fluttershy back or I'm putting them all online and sending the links to everyone!"
  895. > Anonymous was doing his best to sound cool and determined, but his heart was hammering and he was holding his lighter in a death grip. He'd just had a cigarette before calling Mason and he already wanted another one.
  896. > His asshole of a neighbor didn't reply.
  897. "That's the deal. You can have your papers back, but I scanned them all!"
  898. > "You fucking-"
  899. "Shut the fuck up!"
  900. > He was tired of listening to Mason swear and it was getting them nowhere. Anon dropped his lighter on the kitchen table and ran his hand through his hair as he sighed.
  901. "Look. If I put those financials out you'll sue me, I get it. I'm not gonna do it unless you make me."
  902. > This time Mason made what could loosely be called a laugh. "You'd go to prison for a fucking pet?!"
  903. "You wouldn't understand," Anon said, trying to keep the defeat from his voice.
  904. > What had they called this back in college before he flunked out? Mutually-assured destruction?
  905. "Give me 'Shy and we're done. You'll never hear from me again."
  906. > This was the third time he'd called Mason in as many days and each time it had ended in a shouting match, a lot of swearing and one of them throwing the phone down in anger. The fact that they hadn't started yelling yet this time was giving Anon some hope.
  907. > Hope was something he had in short supply. Who knew what Fluttershy was going through and Anon was no closer to finding her as he had been at the start.
  908. > "Your word is worth jack shit," Mason began but Anon interrupted him.
  909. "It's the best you'll get! Look, at least tell me where she is or I'm going right to my computer and sending those scans to everyone, okay?!"
  910. > Anon was no longer trying to hide the manic edge in his voice.
  911. > More silence.
  912. > "8861 Theatre Street," the man finally mumbled. Anon almost couldn't believe his ears.
  913. "What?"
  914. > There was another sigh. "The fucking address! Take it and fucking leave me alone you piece of shit!"
  915. > Anon rushed over to his 'everything drawer' and rummaged for a pen. He wrote the street and the number down before he'd forget it.
  916. > Mason kept talking in the meantime: "Listen, if so much as a word from my documents gets out I'll fucking destroy you, get it? I'll ruin you, and your parents, and your friends, and your barrista and the fucking girl on the counter in the supermarket! Everyone you so much as looked at in your entire life!"
  917. > Maybe he should give the man a promise or something, but he obviously wouldn't believe it. Anon just hung up the phone.
  918. > He hurried to the coffee table and fumbled his laptop open. He tapped the floor nervously as he waited for it to boot up, then grumbled a few curses when it took a long, fucking time to start the browser.
  919. > Less than a minute later he was looking at the street photos. The address looked like some kind of a warehouse in an industrial area on the other side of the city.
  920. > Surely it wasn't some kind of a trap, was it? Anon panned around the image, but of course it wouldn't be able to show him if anyone would be waiting there for him.
  921. "Fuck, you better appreciate this, 'Shy..."
  922. > He couldn't wait a single minute longer. It was almost nine P.M. but Anon simply had to find out. He slammed the laptop shut and got his phone out to put in the address.
  923. > It was more than an hour's drive, but he didn't care. He'd have to stop for gas on the way there, but that was just another minor detail.
  924. > Anon almost ran out of his house and barely remembered to lock the door before going for his car. He remembered to glance at Mason's house, but aside from a light in the living room window he didn't see anything out of place.
  925. > It was a relief that the man hadn't come outside to watch him run off, though.
  926. > In moments Anon was buckled in, turned the car on and drove away.
  927. >...
  928. > Anonymous arrived at the place in the middle of the night and the area seemed deserted. There were no houses or apartments on that street and the factories and warehouses seemed to dominate.
  929. > Everything was still and quiet. Aside from the street lamps and an occasional sign, there was no illumination.
  930. > His heart sank. How was he supposed to find 'Shy in this?
  931. > He parked by the side of the road and got out with his phone in hand. He walked around a little to make sure the GPS was accurate, then headed for the pin exactly where Mason's address was shown.
  932. > There was a ramp and a small guard hut, but it looked deserted and lifeless so Anon approached. If anyone asked, he could always say he was lost and ask for directions.
  933. > Luckily no one showed up and soon he was looking into the empty shack. Beyond the ramp there was a large space with a few parked trucks, and further on was a wide warehouse building.
  934. > It didn't make sense, but it was the best lead Anon had. If it turned out Mason had sent him on a wild goose chase, he'd make him pay.
  935. > Perhaps he could remove a few of the black boxes on one of his documents and post it again. It was highly unlikely anyone would see it, not unless Anon specifically sent the link to newspapers and social media, but it would show the bastard he was being serious.
  936. > There didn't seem anything else to do, so Anon glanced around to see if anyone was coming then ducked under the ramp into the parking lot. He pushed down the strong feeling of wrongness and kept walking.
  937. > The trucks were dark and quiet, but their drivers might be sleeping inside, Anon remembered, so he made sure to walk behind where he would have less chance of being seen. There was no outcry or sudden spotlights, but Anon didn't relax even when he reached the warehouse.
  938. > It looked abandoned and all the doors seemed tightly shut. Just as an experiment Anon walked over to the nearest human-sized door in the wall and tried the handle. Locked.
  939. > He didn't know what to do next. Maybe he could break in somehow, but that would require knowing how to pick locks or smash down doors. Not to mention that there would probably be an alarm.
  940. > Anon groaned in frustration and began walking along the wall, intending to fully circumnavigate the building. Maybe there would be a window or something and he could see inside. All he needed was a sign that 'Shy was really here!
  941. > He could work out a plan for getting her out after that.
  942. > It was slow going because he tried every door he came across, even the large ones for trucks. They didn't have handles, but Anon tried pushing them up in the hopes that one of their mechanisms was faulty and didn't lock properly.
  943. > Everything seemed well maintained and soon he turned a corner without a single opportunity to get inside. The side wall was completely bare, so Anon just hurried on to reach the back. Maybe they would be less diligent on the side which didn't face the road.
  944. > The pavement only extended a few feet from the wall and then changed to grass, so Anon moved there and hastened his pace. It was easier to walk quietly on the softer surface.
  945. > He kept his gaze on the ground before him so he wouldn't step on something noisy and that turned out to be his lucky break. He spotted a patch of mud and hurriedly took out his phone. The little light it provided wasn't much, but it was enough to reveal a clear hoofprint.
  946. > This nearly made Anon smile. There really were ponies around this place and here was proof. Maybe they let them out for exercise or something. He scanned the ground for more, but the grass didn't show anything and Anon didn't have the first idea how you went about tracking something.
  947. > The patch of mud was a stroke of luck, it seemed.
  948. > He hurried on, hoping to see something specifically pertaining to Fluttershy, but Anon was pretty convinced she was there. The fact that Mason had broken down and told him the address, and that there actually were ponies there, told him that the man was probably really worried about those documents getting out.
  949. > In a few minutes, and with his heart hammering in excitement, Anon rounded the next corner. There were more truck-gates, but the parking lot was a lot smaller and no vehicles were standing on it. He hurried along the wall, once again pausing to try each gate and door he came across.
  950. > No luck, but by the time Anon had made it almost to the other side he began to smell a powerful stink. It was out of place for an industrial area and reminded him more of a farm or something.
  951. > He'd kept his phone out and began to shine it further ahead to try and find the source of the stink.
  952. > Once he spotted a low, walled pit Anon knew. He couldn't guess what the thing had been used for before, but now it was half-full of manure.
  953. > Of course, if they had any number of ponies they'd have to do something about their bodily functions. Anon grimaced in distaste. He knew for a fact that ponies could use the toilets without issue, but here it looked like they were being treated as farm animals. Probably kept in stalls or cages and their crap shovelled out every day.
  954. > His blood burned and Anon eyed the nearest door, wondering if he could knock it down after all. Fluttershy deserved to get out of this place. He hated the thought of her being stuck in there a minute longer than necessary.
  955. > After a few moments Anon subsided. He wouldn't do either of them any good if he got caught breaking into the place. He needed a plan.
  956. > He kicked at the wall of the pit, doing nothing except hurting his foot, then stalked off around the final corner.
  957. > The side wall was pretty much the same as the other one, so Anon just hurried along it, not paying much attention to the ground. He had what he'd come for, but now he was faced with a new problem.
  958. > How to get 'Shy out of there?
  959. > Breaking in would have to be a last resort, he decided. Maybe he could bargain for her or something. Maybe if he got Mason to call and tell them to sell her cheap Anon could afford the price.
  960. > He'd have to get a loan, there was no doubt about that. He had some savings, but nothing nearly sufficient. He'd have to get one of those barbaric, overpriced, dickish 'general-purpose' loans and simply swallow the large overpayment the bank would extract in return.
  961. > It was for 'Shy and Anon was willing to do anything.
  962. > However, he could only do that if the people who owned the ponies came. There was nothing to do but wait.
  963. > Anon went back to his car, completely forgetting to check for traffic until he was ducking under the ramp. He froze and looked both ways, but the street remained deserted so he let out the breath which had caught in his throat.
  964. > He walked to his car and sat inside. He could drive home and get some sleep, but Anon didn't want to leave. 'Shy had slipped through his grasp once already and he didn't want to leave now that he had a pretty good idea where she was.
  965. > If they tried to move her in one of those trucks there was nothing Anon could do. Very likely he wouldn't even know they were moving her, but Anon still couldn't bring himself to leave. There was a chance, however slim, that he'd see her.
  966. > Maybe he could park at a place where he could see that grassy bit at the side through the chain link fence. Just a glimpse would do! He had to know if she was alive!
  967. > Anon wrapped himself more tightly in his coat and prepared to wait out the night in his car. It'd be chilly, but he'd be fine. He'd endure any discomfort for that sweet, yellow mare.
  968.  
  969. > ~~~~
  970.  
  971. > He must have nodded off at some point in the night because Anon woke up when it became too bright to ignore. He was stiff and cold and somehow felt more tired than the previous night. It really hadn't been quality sleep.
  972. > He forgot the discomfort when he looked at the street. Several other cars were parked at the entrance to that warehouse and he could see a couple of trucks waiting to go inside. The guy in a guard's uniform was examining the papers from one of the truck drivers.
  973. > At first glance it looked like a regular warehouse, but Anon knew for a fact they had ponies in there. Surely they didn't need that much food, did they? Maybe whoever owned it didn't want to give the whole place over to keeping ponies and still used it for its intended purpose in part?
  974. > It would explain the number of trucks.
  975. > In any case, now was his chance to find out more. Anon got out of his car and walked down the sidewalk to the little guard hut. The man was just finishing with the last truck driver and sauntered over when he spotted him.
  976. > "Whatddya want?"
  977. > Anon hadn't given much forethought to his words which was just as well. He was better at improvising anyway.
  978. "Hey, I heard I might be able to buy one of those maid ponies over here."
  979. > The guard scrutinized him up and down, doubt plainly evident on his face. Anon didn't look rich enough to afford a technicolor alien horse. There was nothing he could do except wait and hope the man decided to believe him.
  980. > Finally he stirred and shrugged a little to himself. "You want Nigel Patterson," the guard said and pointed at where a group of men were leaning against a couple of forklifts. "Big guy, black hair and beard."
  981. "Yeah, I see him. Thanks."
  982. > Anon walked in through the small pedestrian gate by the hut, which was open now that it was day. He glanced back after a few steps, but there was a new truck waiting to get in and the guard was heading over, apparently having already forgotten about the unexpected visitor.
  983. > It was just as well. Anon made his way to Nigel and his friends, who fell silent when they noticed him approach. They didn't seem hostile or resentful, but neither did they look too curious about why he was there.
  984. > Anon decided to start the conversation so he'd appear more confident, more in control.
  985. "Hey, you Nigel?" he prompted.
  986. > The big man gave him a single nod.
  987. "The name's Anon."
  988. > They briefly shook and then Anon decided to cut straight to the chase.
  989. "I'm looking to buy one of those maid ponies."
  990. > This got him a chuckle from Nigel. "I don't think you can afford one, pal."
  991. > He was right, but Anon was trying hard not to show it.
  992. "You never know. So you selling or what?"
  993. > Nigel looking him over once more then seemed to decide it wasn't his problem. "You'll have to talk with the boss. I just take care of them."
  994. > This proved too much and Anon couldn't hold his mouth shut.
  995. "I'm looking for a specific one. Yellow, pink hair. Pegasus," he described.
  996. > Nigel blinked in surprise and straightened up. "Huh..." he murmured to himself. Then he pointed at the other men around. "You guys, back to work. I need to talk with Anon here."
  997. > There were one or two grumbles that their smoking break was cut short, but the men obeyed and drove away with the forklifts.
  998. > They probably weren't supposed to ride on the forks in front, but Anon wasn't about to go complain to OSHA. He followed Nigel to one of the smaller doors and Anon's heart began to race faster. Maybe he'd get to see 'Shy at least.
  999. > "I should've recognized the name straight away. The horse talks about you."
  1000. "S-She's here!"
  1001. > He couldn't keep the tremble out of his voice and Nigel smirked when he looked back. "Yeah, that's basically all it talks about. Is it true you fucked it?"
  1002. > The word 'it' irked, but Anon did his best not to show it on his face. He needed Nigel friendly and willing to bargain.
  1003. "How much for her?"
  1004. > They reached the door and Anon was poised to follow Nigel inside, but the other man stopped and leaned against the wall. He wasn't taking him anywhere, Anon realized, he just wanted to clear the parking lot so they wouldn't get run over by something.
  1005. > Anon didn't know what to do with his hands, so he stuck them in his pockets as he waited for the verdict.
  1006. > "Dunno. That one probably isn't for sale. Boss said to send it to retraining," the man explained and the word 'retraining' made Anon's blood run cold. Fluttershy still hadn't talked about what had happened to her after she was captured, but he felt it was probably awful.
  1007. "I can take her off your hands, save you the trouble. I can train her myself," he said, trying to appear as nonchalant as he possibly could.
  1008. > Nigel didn't say anything, so Anon went on.
  1009. "Come on. How much?"
  1010. > "They normally go for a hundred large," he said. The word 'normally' there made Anon hold his breath with sudden hope. "Female ones used to be a hundred and fifty, but we're not selling them any more."
  1011. > Anon resisted the urge to start begging. Something told him there was a 'but' coming up.
  1012. > Nigel chewed the inside of his lip for a moment, then sighed. "Look, I'll level with you. The yellow one is- Well, I was going to tell the boss we should cut our losses."
  1013. "What?! Why?"
  1014. > At least the man had the decency to look uncomfortable as he went on. "Well, it's moping around all the time and refusing to eat. The pegasus ones don't have that much spare flesh to begin with. I doubt retraining would have helped either. I've seen this kind of thing before. Sometimes they just give up, you know?"
  1015. > He shrugged a little and spat on the ground, narrowly missing Anon's shoe. "I can't be assed to force feed them. They don't pay me enough."
  1016. "Well, so just sell her to me. You don't care if she dies after that, right?" Anon tried.
  1017. > Saying that left a stone in his belly, but it was just an act. He knew 'Shy would be right as rain as soon as they were reunited.
  1018. > It was unsettling that they'd give up on a pony after less than a week, but Anon reminded themselves that these people sold living, thinking beings as slaves or worse, so maybe it wasn't too unusual.
  1019. > His best hope right then was if Nigel believed 'Shy would be more work than she is worth, so he'd prefer to sell her for a fast profit.
  1020. > The guy still looked a little doubtful. "Well, sometimes they get better after a while."
  1021. "If she didn't by now she probably isn't going to. Look, I'm offering cash. Today. Just tell your boss she died or something and you can keep it all. I'm not gonna tell anyone!"
  1022. > "How much?"
  1023. > This gave Anon real hope that he might get 'Shy after all. He paused to thank human greed and think about a good number.
  1024. > He did a fast mental calculation about what kind of a loan he might get away with.
  1025. "Ten thousand?"
  1026. > Nigel grimaced, obviously weighing the prospect of personal profit against the possibility of getting caught. "Fifteen," he countered.
  1027. "Deal."
  1028. > "Not a word to anyone, get it? Anyone asks, the horse refused to eat and died. I don't wanna see you around here again, or it."
  1029. "I swear! I'll go get the money right away-"
  1030. > The man held up a hand to forestall him. "Don't be stupid. Come back after midnight. Let's say one or so. I'll wait for you at the ramp."
  1031. "I'll be there!"
  1032. > Anon reached out his hand to shake on it, but Nigel just grunted and went inside the warehouse.
  1033. > So that was it. All his savings plus a significant loan, but for 'Shy it would be worth it. The living would be tough for a while until he paid the bank back.
  1034. > With Fluttershy there it would be bearable, even if they had to eat nothing but bread and water for a while.
  1035. > He hurried back to his car. Hopefully the bank could give him the loan quickly. It was still early in the day.
  1036.  
  1037. > ~~~~
  1038.  
  1039. > It was total bullshit and Anon had a hard time keeping a tight rein on his temper as he stalked out of the bank. Their ad was a complete lie!
  1040. > 'Instant loan' it said, except that in this case 'Instant' meant something like two or three days! Not to mention that he hadn't been able to get as much as he needed.
  1041. > The way things were going he might be able to pay off Nigel, but it'd leave him almost nothing to live on. He'd have to stay in Anton's flat for at least another month, no way he could afford to move before he got a paycheck or two.
  1042. > Perhaps the only blessing in disguise had been that he wouldn't have to start paying the loan back for a couple of months which gave him some breathing room. If he could get his security deposit back from Anton and if he and 'Shy didn't mind living very frugally, they could move next month.
  1043. > It'd mean they'd both be very near Mason for a while longer which wasn't a situation Anon particularly liked.
  1044. > The worst part of it was that there was no way he could get money to Nigel that night. He'd withdrawn a couple hundred bucks, hoping he could put it down as a deposit or something with a promise that he'd bring the rest and get 'Shy on Friday.
  1045. > Anon somehow made it to his car and sat, staring out at the road in frustration. Things just kept getting worse and worse at every turn. What irked him most of all was that it was 'Shy who paid the price.
  1046. > She was the one stuck in a cage or something!
  1047. "Fuck!"
  1048. > Swearing didn't help in the slightest and Anon slumped back in his seat. It was still early and he'd have to wait the whole day before he could try talking with Nigel.
  1049. > It was a distasteful idea, but the only thing Anon could think of was to go to work. It wasn't far, he had some deodorant in the car and if he swallowed enough coffee he'd make it through the day.
  1050. > He would really need the money. He'd even have to start picking up more overtime so that he and 'Shy wouldn't starve while he was paying back the damned loan shark bank!
  1051. > With luck he'd be able to focus on his job at least enough that Harris wouldn't fire him for incompetence.
  1052. > Anon put the key in the ignition and seriously considered going home. At least there he wouldn't have to deal with people, or look at his coworkers.
  1053. > Except...
  1054. > He imagined sitting in front of the TV and waiting for the hours to pass. It would drag on and on, each mindless show more inane than the last. Maybe having something concrete to do would be slightly better, especially if it resulted in more money at the end of the month.
  1055. > Maybe his luck would change and Paul wouldn't ask about the documents he'd seen. Anon really couldn't handle coming up with a believable explanation, not on this day.
  1056. > He looked at piece of paper in his hand once more, just to make sure he had everything correct. Ten thousand. That was all the bank was willing to give him, based on his salary, spending, and the fact that Anon didn't want to say what the loan was for.
  1057. > Ten thousand. Still five short from what he needed.
  1058. > If he emptied his account and maxed out his credit cards it'd get him there, but it wouldn't leave much room for error.
  1059. > He tried to think back to his flat, remember what he had in the fridge and the freezer. He wouldn't be buying any significant groceries until the next paycheck, which wouldn't come for at least the next two weeks.
  1060. > Hopefully 'Shy had stocked more food at his place, Anon hoped. With her cooking they might be able to get through it.
  1061. > Maybe he could do odd jobs or something for a bit of quick cash. They were always looking for Uber drivers, weren't they?
  1062. > There was no denying it and the knowledge felt like a physical weight, sitting on his lungs and making it harder to breathe. Getting 'Shy out of this mess would basically bankrupt him.
  1063. > The critical intersection was coming up and Anon grimaced to himself as he took the left lane. That road led to the office. He'd really need the money and he had time to kill.
  1064.  
  1065. > ~~~~
  1066.  
  1067. > "Go on, get out of here Anon," Harris was saying as he passed his desk. He had his coat and suitcase, obviously on his way out, but Anon was still flipping through the report sheets on his computer.
  1068. > He glanced at the clock and almost groaned. Barely past six. Seven more hours until he could try and do something about Fluttershy. Almost a whole shift.
  1069. "Just gonna finish this paperwork."
  1070. > His boss stopped and examined his screen. "It can wait until tomorrow. Come on, you probably have better things to do."
  1071. "I really don't. I'll wrap it up in a minute."
  1072. > Harris gave up and shrugged. "Well, suit yourself. This isn't overtime, by the way. If you wanna do overtime, you have to tell me in advance so I can run it past HR. They've been getting strict on it."
  1073. > This was important news and Anon looked up from his work so he could pay attention.
  1074. "Okay, I wanna do more overtime. I need the money," he told the man.
  1075. > "You're not developing a drug habit, are you?" Harris asked, but then immediately chuckled to show it was a joke.
  1076. > Anon laughed as well, but it was a bit forced. His heart wasn't really in it.
  1077. "No, just wanna move closer to work so I need a bit of extra cash for a while."
  1078. > "Well, come by my office tomorrow and we'll see if we can move some people around. A few of them in Complaints have been yammering about reducing their hours."
  1079. > It was one of the least pleasant jobs in the whole department, but Anon kept his face neutral. He really needed the money.
  1080. "Sure. I could do that for a while, give them a breather at least."
  1081. > Harris patted his shoulder and then picked up his suitcase again. "Keep it up and you'll get yourself a promotion, Anon."
  1082. > That would be even better paycheck-wise and Anon perked up. He hadn't really thought about striving for a better position because he'd always known he would be moving on to a better job soon.
  1083. > Except that 'soon' had lasted for over two years now. Maybe 'up' was an easier way out of the call center?
  1084. "I'll try. Um, sorry about yesterday. And the day before. It was just one of those things..."
  1085. > By this time Harris was getting impatient to leave so he waved it away. "Don't worry about it. It happens. Bye!"
  1086. > Anon didn't reply as he turned back to his screen. He had nowhere else to be until eleven. The drive to the warehouse was about an hour and he wanted to get there a little sooner so he wouldn't miss Nigel.
  1087. > That meant he still had a lot of time and might as well do some of his paperwork so he wouldn't have to do it the next day.
  1088. > He hadn't lied to Harris, it would just take a few more minutes and then he'd leave. Anon got another idea and stared at the far wall in deep thought. He had to visit home for a short while and speak with Anton.
  1089. > In fact, having something concrete to do - something directly related to him and 'Shy - was infinitely preferable to Excel. Anon jabbed his finger at the monitor to turn it off, then stood and hurried out of the building.
  1090. > With luck his landlord would be home this evening.
  1091. >...
  1092. > It took a bit of knocking on the door and some waiting, but eventually Anton made his way to his front door. He opened it a crack and peered out suspiciously until he spotted who it was.
  1093. > "Anon? Why are you banging on my door at this hour?"
  1094. "It's seven, Mr. Petrinov."
  1095. > "Hold on," the man said and closed the door fully so he could unlatch it. Then he opened it and stepped aside in an invitation.
  1096. > Strange, Anon reflected as he stepped inside, how it felt weird to walk into an apartment less than six feet away from his. Everything was eerily familiar, yet strangely different.
  1097. > Whatever architect had designed the house, they hadn't changed the floor layout much between upstairs and downstairs.
  1098. > Anton led his unannounced guest to the kitchen table and motioned to a chair. He didn't sit himself but went to rummage in one of the cabinets.
  1099. > It was full of bottles, every imaginable shape and color. Anon remembered once again that the man worked in a bar. It would make sense his home was quite well stocked.
  1100. > He also couldn't help noticing that the sink was full, there were dirty dishes on the table and items of clothing on the couch. It reminded Anon strongly of what his own flat had looked like before Fluttershy had become a more permanent visitor.
  1101. > A bachelor's pad, almost straight out of the textbook.
  1102. > He only realized that Anton had sat down when the man slid a glass to Anon. It had the smell of strong spirits, but he couldn't recognize what exactly at first glance. Maybe some kind of gin?
  1103. > It was only polite to take it and wet his lips, but Anon didn't want to drink, especially tonight.
  1104. > "So, what brings you around, Anon?" his landlord asked. "Mason still giving you trouble?"
  1105. > Anon blinked in surprise. He'd hardly even thought about his other neighbor that day. All his energy was focused on getting 'Shy out of that warehouse and seeing them through the immediate future.
  1106. "Actually no. We sorted it out," he said truthfully.
  1107. > Anton raised his glass and inclined his head. "Good, good," he commented before taking a sip himself. "So, what can I do for you? Everything okay with the flat?"
  1108. > This was a hard topic to broach but Anon swallowed the lump and gave it a try:
  1109. "A-Actually, I'm thinking of moving out..."
  1110. > Petrinov's mouth quirked up in a knowing half-smile for a moment. "I see. Because of Mason?"
  1111. "Yeah. Um, partly. I also wanna be closer to work, I can't keep driving an hour each way."
  1112. > Unfortunately Anton didn't buy it and chuckled. He paused only long enough to take a gulp from his glass, then went right back at laughing.
  1113. > "You wanna live somewhere everyone doesn't know about you and that little horse of yours, yes?"
  1114. > This hit too close to the mark and Anon couldn't stop his face from growing hot. Seeing that, Anton just chuckled harder. "Listen, Anon," he finally went on, "I am not the one to judge. Back where I come from? Every other house there is a goat-fucker, or a sheep-fucker."
  1115. > He sighed and got a faraway look in his eyes, missing his homeland despite his disparaging remark. "Sometimes I am thinking the only reason we aren't having more horse-fuckers is because we don't have many horses."
  1116. > He started to chuckle again and Anon felt obliged to join in, as if the man had told a joke. He didn't know what to do with his hands, so he took his glass once again. Anton noticed that and raised his as well.
  1117. > They clinked, then drank a little. "So, how can I help you achieve this American dream?"
  1118. > Anon relaxed a little. He'd known Anton was mostly fine with him and Fluttershy, even if he laughed.
  1119. "Well, I was wondering... can you take my next rent out of my security deposit? The flat is fine, so I don't think you'll need it. I'm thinking I'll move out next month. Um, could you give me back what's left over after rent and utilities?"
  1120. > Mr. Petrinov worked his mouth as he regarded Anon, but then he shrugged a little. "Fine. Fine. I'll come up tomorrow and we will check on things. If everything is alright I am not seeing a problem."
  1121. > This was good news and Anon managed a small, relieved smile.
  1122. "Thanks. Really. It means a lot."
  1123. > "So where is that little horse of yours? Mason keeping her in the house?" Anton asked, pouring himself another shot of liquor. He downed about a half of it in one go, then pointed at Anon with the glass. "He looked pretty mad the other day."
  1124. > Anon wondered how much he could tell Anton.
  1125. "Nah, he got rid of her," he said at last.
  1126. > His landlord was fine with them, but there was no real reason to push it.
  1127. > Anton shrugged and emptied his glass with his next gulp. "Shame. She was a pretty little thing. Yellow, like butter. I am never seeing a yellow horse before, but I'm thinking it looked good."
  1128. "Yeah..."
  1129. > Anon settled back and fingered his glass some more. The fact that he wouldn't have to pay rent next month *and* get some money back from Petrinov was a load off his chest.
  1130. > It'd make moving significantly easier.
  1131. > The only hurdle was whether he could convince Nigel to wait a couple of days. Hopefully the bargaining skills he'd picked up working in a call center would come in handy.
  1132. > A glance at the clock showed him he still had four hours or so. Maybe he should shower and change his clothes. He should probably also eat something.
  1133. > He became aware that he other man was talking.
  1134. > "So what do you say?" Anton finished.
  1135. "Huh? Sorry, I was thinking about work."
  1136. > Anton grinned and repeated: "I am saying: wanna stay for dinner? I have a nice link of kielbasa ready to be fried and you can tell me more about your horse."
  1137. "She wasn't really mine."
  1138. > That statement made the old man bark a laugh. "Ha! Maybe not on paper, Anon, but that horse was yours. Trust me!"
  1139. "Well... okay," Anon conceded. "For starters she really doesn't like being called a horse..."
  1140.  
  1141. > ~~~~
  1142.  
  1143. > The agreed time was almost there and Anon felt more and more nervous by the minute. He really hoped Nigel wouldn't just dismiss him out of hand because he couldn't get the money in time.
  1144. > He sat in his car next to the ramp outside the warehouse and waited for the other guy to show up. It was already past one in the morning, so Anon was starting to fidget a little.
  1145. > To his relief there was a sudden car driving down the street. All he could see were the headlights, but no one else seemed to come near the area so maybe it was Nigel.
  1146. > His hunch was confirmed when the other car stopped next to Anon's. He waited in his seat until he saw Nigel get out and then quickly followed.
  1147. > The man didn't greet him and went straight to the point: "You got the money?"
  1148. > It was the question Anon had been dreading, but he gathered his resolve and tried to make his voice as matter-of-fact as possible.
  1149. "Bank's gonna need a few days. That's not a problem, is it?"
  1150. > Nigel looked doubtful and turned to get back in his car, but Anon went on with a touch more urgency than he would have liked.
  1151. "Listen, I'm gonna get it. The deal is still on, I'm just asking you to wait a few days. I'll have it Friday latest."
  1152. > The other guy was already sitting down and he shrugged. "Okay, it might still be here on Friday. It's not eating so I can't say when it'll fall over. I can't promise anything if that happens, I'll have to call a vet."
  1153. "Okay, okay. How about if you let me see her for a minute? I'll talk her into eating and you can keep her around until Friday?"
  1154. > Nigel was about to laugh, but Anon pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket.
  1155. "Here! Let's call it a down payment, okay? I got five hundred right now, you let me see Fluttershy and I tell her to behave until Friday, how's that?"
  1156. > The mention of money instantly changed the atmosphere and Nigel put his car key back into his front shirt pocket. It was an encouraging sign. Anon held out the wad of cash and Nigel took it.
  1157. > "I'm not giving you the money back if it's gone by Friday."
  1158. > His continued use of 'it' for Fluttershy was starting to really bug Anon, but he clamped his mouth shut and didn't say anything. With luck, he'd only have to deal with the jerk for a few more days and then never see him again.
  1159. "Just try your best to keep her here. I'll have the rest of the money."
  1160. > Nigel gave a shrug as he took a cigarette out and lit it. "Friday," he confirmed. "Come on..."
  1161. > He walked over to the guard's hut and pulled a different keyring out of his pants pocket. It jingled as he searched for the right key so he could unlock the flimsy-looking building.
  1162. > Anon didn't understand why he needed to get in there, but didn't comment as long as he'd get to see 'Shy shortly.
  1163. > A minute later Nigel came back and closed the door, but didn't lock it. Seeing Anon's silent, questioning look, he explained: "Had to turn down the security cameras and motion sensors. I'll put them back when we're done."
  1164. > That made sense and Anon was suddenly grateful he hadn't tried breaking in the other night. A fresh worry popped up, though.
  1165. "Um, the cameras. Are they just inside or around the building as well?" he asked.
  1166. > "Inside. Truckers sometimes sleep in the parking lot so there's been too many false alarms."
  1167. > Relief flooded through him and Anon followed the tall, bearded man through the passenger gate. It looked like it wasn't locked and he felt a little stupid for climbing under the ramp the other night.
  1168. > They crossed the parking space in silence and Nigel didn't seem at all concerned about the parked trucks. Maybe the drivers weren't sleeping in them this particular night. Nigel would, of course, know about that if he worked there.
  1169. > Pretty soon they were at the human-sized entrance Anon had first tried the other day. This time it went better because Nigel had the keycard for the scanner next to the door.
  1170. > It was finally the moment when he'd get to see 'Shy again, but against all reason Anon was suddenly nervous. Would she blame him for her situation? What if she was upset that she'd ended up in this place and thought it was all his fault?
  1171. > Maybe she wouldn't even want him to rescue her.
  1172. > Anon shook his head in denial. No, Fluttershy would want to get out and be with him, surely.
  1173. > The other man flipping his cigarette on the ground woke Anon from his thoughts and he followed Nigel into the building, where he was immediately hit by a strong scent of manure. The smell reminded him of a farm and he could see scattered hay on the floor.
  1174. > It was weird to think that part of the warehouse was still being used for its original purpose and this part had been converted into a makeshift stable.
  1175. > The floor was partitioned into small stalls with what looked like wooden walls. The front was made of iron bars and hinged so it could be opened, and there were pipes running above the whole thing to deliver drinking water.
  1176. > Anon could only see the nearest cage and a gray lump lying in the middle. He recognized the unmistakable shape of a pony and his heart sped up when he thought he saw wings, but Nigel flicked a switch and the stalls were instantly bathed in a harsh, white light.
  1177. > It wasn't 'Shy. It was a light pink pony with a mane even more garishly pink than Fluttershy's. She - Anon had a feeling it was a girl - was facing away so he could see her cutie mark. It was a pink and blue cupcake.
  1178. > The sudden light made the mare wake up and blink at him, before scrunching up her muzzle in distaste and laying back down, intent on ignoring him.
  1179. > "This way," Nigel urged.
  1180. > Anon followed, but couldn't stop himself from glancing in each stall, or cage, whatever they were. The second pony was pink again, but her mane and tail were mint-green. She was smiling and staring right at him with big, hopeful eyes.
  1181. > "Hi mister!" she chirped as soon as she caught his gaze. "Are you looking for a pony?"
  1182. > Anon blushed and looked away, suddenly feeling sorry for himself for having to crush this young pony's dreams. She obviously wanted to leave this place, unlike the last one.
  1183. "S-Sorry, m-maybe some other time," he mumbled.
  1184. > Up ahead Nigel glanced back and laughed. "Don't look at them," he advised. "They'll say anything to get out of here." He banged on the wood next to him and raised his voice: "No begging, you lot. Back to sleep!"
  1185. > Anon kept walking, but couldn't keep himself from sneaking a few more glances. The ponies remained standing for the most part, but they stole nervous glances at Nigel and kept quiet. They didn't spare their big, soulful, longing eyes for Anon, though.
  1186. > The next pony had to be male, Anon decided. Brown, but with a dark red mane and tail. He quickly moved on, seeing a larger mare, purple and with three flowers as a cutie mark. She wasn't begging to be taken, but she was sitting upright to see the newcomer.
  1187. > If Anon had to name her expression, it was resigned. She looked older than the three before her. The next one, a little more optimistic but not meeting his gaze was a violet mare with a blonde mane.
  1188. > None of them were unicorns, Anon couldn't help but notice. Maybe those were too valuable, or maybe they were kept elsewhere because of their magic. These simple cages surely wouldn't present an obstacle to someone who could do actual magic.
  1189. > For that matter, he hadn't seen any pegasi either. Anon hurried on to where Nigel was waiting for him in front of one of the cages. His stomach felt tight when he realized it was probably Fluttershy's.
  1190. > He came to a stop next to the other man and looked inside. The sight was heartbreaking. Despite the light and the commotion, 'Shy was still curled up into a tight little ball. She'd never been fat, but now he could clearly see each rib and her legs looked even thinner than before. He could also see her hips starting to protrude a little in contrast to her gaunt belly.
  1191. "H-Hey, um Fluttershy," he said softly.
  1192. > He thought, just for a second, that it would be easier if she didn't wake up. Except, if he left her without hope, she might not even make it to Friday. Was she even drinking water?
  1193. > At the sound of his voice one of her ears flicked and focused on him. 'Shy stirred and dragged herself up into a sitting position. When she turned around and blinked in the strong light, Anon could see how red her eyes were and he had to struggle not to tear up himself.
  1194. > "Is- is it really you?" she asked in a small, tired voice.
  1195. "Yes! I'll get you out of here, I promise. You gotta trust me, okay?"
  1196. > She glanced at Nigel, then back at Anon with fresh hope in her eyes. "Really?"
  1197. > Her voice was barely above a whisper and Anon had to strain to hear it. He turned to the other man.
  1198. "Can you open the cage for a minute?"
  1199. > Nigel thought it over, then shook his head. "Sorry. Bring money Friday and you can take it home and fuck it all you want, but it stays locked today."
  1200. > Anon sighed heavily and turned back to 'Shy, trying to put the obnoxious guy out of his mind.
  1201. "Look, 'Shy, I'm putting together the money to get you out. I'll have it on Friday, okay? That's just three more days. I need you to eat and drink so you don't fall over by then, okay?"
  1202. > She leaned her head to the side, disappointment almost washing out the hope from a moment earlier. "So you're not taking me out?"
  1203. "Just two more days. I'm sorry, I really am. I can't get it any faster, okay?"
  1204. > She hung her head for a moment, but when she looked up there was a brave little smile on her muzzle. "It's okay. I'll wait... f-for you."
  1205. "You'll eat?"
  1206. > Once again she looked down in thought, then shrugged a little to herself. "Okay."
  1207. > It was a relief and Anon allowed himself to breathe a little easier. He stepped closer and crouched down so he could be closer to her. The bars were barely wide enough for his hand, but he still reached inside.
  1208. > "Careful, they sometimes bite," Nigel warned, but Anon ignored him.
  1209. > He couldn't quite reach Fluttershy and she stared at  his hand dumbly, as if not understanding what he wanted. At last she stood up on shaky legs and came a little closer. Only then did Anon spot a heavy-looking chain connecting her collar to a ring in the floor.
  1210. > It rattled as she moved. "Anon- I'm- they..."
  1211. "Hush. It's okay. Just a couple more days and you'll be out of here."
  1212. > She looked around, but the walls of her stall blocked her sight on all sides. "Can you take my friends out as well?" she asked.
  1213. > Her expression said she already knew what the answer would be, but it still broke Anon's heart to have to tell her.
  1214. "I'm really sorry, 'Shy, but I can hardly afford to get you out of here. I- I just can't."
  1215. > She nodded, but it was absentminded and meant only for herself. Maybe she was silently answering her own question in the privacy of her thoughts. Anon strained to bring his hand closer, but his elbow was too big to fit through the bars.
  1216. > Fluttershy noticed and came a little closer still, enough so she could sniff his fingers.
  1217. "Just a few more days, okay? I'll come get you and we'll go away. No more Mason, just us, okay?" Anon said.
  1218. > It took her a few more moments, but then she nodded, even if her mouth was pressed firmly together in a line. She would probably be sad about her friends for a long time, but right then Anon's main concern was to get her out. The others could wait.
  1219. > Finally she closed the last bit of distance and nuzzled his palm, closing her eyes and sighing in comfort.
  1220. > Anon kept his hand still and let her rub her muzzle against it as much as she wanted. He hooked his fingers in case she wanted a scratch, but she just kept pushing her nose between his fingers and inhaling as deeply as she could.
  1221. > Finally she give his palm a warm lick and pulled away. "I'll wait. I promise," she said.
  1222. "Thanks. I'm sorry. I'll come get you, I promise."
  1223. > Above him Nigel cleared his throat and Anon withdrew his hand with some regret.
  1224. > "Cute," the guy said. "You've seen it, now let's go. I can't leave the cameras off for too long or someone might get suspicious."
  1225. > Anon gave him a nod as he followed, but he kept looking back at the cage where Fluttershy had sat down again and was staring out at him.
  1226. > Soon he lost sight of her and Anon focused on the ground in front of his feet. Seeing 'Shy, that she was alive and mostly well was good, but it had drained him. All he wanted to do was sleep.
  1227. > He still had work and by the time he made it home it would be extremely late. At best he could hope for a couple of hours of sleep before he had to get up.
  1228. > Hopefully he wouldn't nod off behind the wheel on his way back, Anon thought to himself as he followed Nigel back into the chilly night air.
  1229.  
  1230. > ~~~~
  1231.  
  1232. > This was finally the big moment. Perhaps the most important one in Anon's life so far. He was sitting in his car in front of that stupid warehouse, waiting for Nigel to bring 'Shy out.
  1233. > The man hadn't wanted him to come with and that was fine with Anon. He'd flashed his wad of cash to show Nigel he really had it, now he was watching all around in case the other guy had some clever plan to get a few of his buddies and rob him.
  1234. > Maybe he'd watched too many movies, Anon thought. He felt the envelope with cash through his jacket and sighed. Nearly fifteen thousand dollars and it made a depressingly small wad.
  1235. > Just minutes now and they'd be home free. Fluttershy would need to hide at his flat for a few weeks, but once they moved they could enjoy their new life to the fullest. No more sneaking around at night and they could do more things together.
  1236. > Anon nearly got lost in the reverie, but snapped back to the present when he heard a distinctive hoofstep. He twisted around on the driver's seat to try and see, but the little guard house was in the way.
  1237. > The next clop was unmistakable and once he caught it Anon clearly heard the quiet, rhythmic steps of a pony. It was an unmistakable sound, especially on tarmac or concrete.
  1238. > Soon enough Nigel's phone flashlight shone and Anon reflexively closed his eyes. He held up a hand to shield himself from the too-bright glare and squinted to see that butter-yellow coat. She hadn't spotted him yet because her eyes were on the ground and she seemed resigned to whatever fate Nigel was dragging her off to.
  1239. > Maybe she'd forgotten that Anon would get her out, or perhaps she hadn't believed him. 'Shy had been very aware of how expensive ponies were and she must have thought Anon would never be able to afford the price.
  1240. "Fluttershy!"
  1241. > Her ears snapped to attention and as she looked for the source of the voice her muzzle scrunched up in incomprehension. "Anon?"
  1242. > She sounded surprised and looked at Nigel, then back at the car. A thick rope was looped around her neck and the man was firmly holding the end of it in his hand. He had to pull to get 'Shy moving again and she never took her eyes off Anon, perhaps worried he might vanish if she did.
  1243. > Nigel dragged her around the front of the car and opened the passenger door. "Up!" he commanded and gave the rope a sharp yank.
  1244. > Fluttershy carefully placed her forelegs on the floor of the car and tried to jump up. She fumbled it and hit her face on the seat. She flapped her wings to keep her balance, but it didn't help and she folded down beside the car.
  1245. > "Dammit," Nigel grumbled and yanked the rope again. "I said UP!" he commanded again.
  1246. "Hey, take it easy!"
  1247. > Fluttershy got back on unsteady hooves and put her forelegs in the car again, but by this time Anon was already leaning over and had his hands under her barrel. He winced at how sharp her ribs felt, but he pushed the thought away and helped her up mostly by gripping her fur between his fingers.
  1248. > She didn't complain and pushed with her hind legs. She wouldn't have made it on her own, but with Anon supporting her the little mare flopped across the seat and just focused on breathing after that little exertion.
  1249. > "Money," Nigel commanded.
  1250. > Anon was only too glad to be rid of the man and away from the place, so he took out the envelope and gave it to him. He was about to start the car, but Nigel kept the door open while he counted.
  1251. > It was the exact amount, Anon had made triple sure.
  1252. > When he was done, the man rustled around his front pocket a little and took out some paper of his own. Anon didn't understand what that was about, but he took it when Nigel held it out to him.
  1253. > "Her papers. I had to fudge it a little but you own it legally now. Have fun!"
  1254. > He didn't wait for a reply, or even said so much as a thank you, before closing the car door and heading over to the guard hut. Anon remembered he still had to turn the cameras and alarms back on. It didn't matter. He wanted to get away from the place as soon as possible in case Nigel changed his mind at the last moment.
  1255. > He had Fluttershy in the car and that was what mattered. She was trying to reach the seat belt, but even in the best of times her hooves weren't quite suited to the task.
  1256. "It's okay, you don't need it," Anon assured her.
  1257. > The engine turned over and he drove away. As soon as they were moving, he put his right hand on Fluttershy's withers and began rubbing little circles, hoping she would take some comfort from the touch.
  1258. > "Is- Is it real?" she finally asked. "I dreamed about this. Maybe this is another dream."
  1259. "It's not, Buttershy. It's really real. You're out of that place."
  1260. > He glanced at her and was encouraged to see that she was looking out at the dark, quiet buildings passing by in the night. She seemed alert, which meant she probably wasn't too traumatized.
  1261. > "I t-thought-" she began, but a hiccup racked her body. "I thought he- he was taking me- the man..." Her breath hitched and 'Shy drew another through her nose, sharply. "I t-thought they were going to..."
  1262. > She fell silent and Anon felt her move as she collapsed in on herself. Her muzzle was quickly hidden under her wing and she began shaking in great, powerful sobs. So much about not being traumatized, Anon thought to himself grimly.
  1263. > He made a decision and parked the car at an empty bus stop. He thought about leaving the engine idling, but that'd just prove that he didn't take Fluttershy's mood seriously. She looked like she would need some time and it didn't make sense to waste fuel, or draw unwelcome attention.
  1264. > He shut the engine down and unbuckled himself.
  1265. "C'mere. Let me hold you."
  1266. > She didn't move on her own, but when Anon put his hands around her barrel 'Shy unwrapped herself and let him move her over to his lap. It was a little tight with the steering wheel, but Anon reached down beside himself and pulled the lever to slide his seat all the way back. That gave them enough room.
  1267. > 'Shy wanted to fold down again, but he sat her in his lap and held her against his chest so that her muzzle ended up resting on his shoulder.
  1268. "It's okay. I've got you now. It's over," he murmured.
  1269. > The dam burst and Fluttershy began sobbing miserably. "T-They looked up to me!" she wailed. "M-My friends! They- they begged me to save them!"
  1270. > Anon began to understand what it was about, but he didn't know what to say to make it better so he just waited and let 'Shy cry herself out in peace. They had the whole night.
  1271. > "I couldn't," she went on. "I'm supposed to be an Element of Harmony, but I couldn't do anything!" Fluttershy whispered. If she weren't speaking almost directly into Anon's ear, he wouldn't have heard it at all. She suddenly put her forehooves on his chest and pushed herself away so she could stare at his face.
  1272. > Her eyes blinked away tears, trying to focus on Anon, but she gave up and squeezed them shut. "They put us in stalls, Anon! Like animals! We- we had to poop right there! Like animals, Anon! I hated it!"
  1273. > That last came out in a low growl. "I hate them and I hate what they're doing to us!"
  1274. "Shh, it's okay now. I got you out. I don't think you're an animal, okay?"
  1275. > He didn't know if 'Shy heard it or not, because she didn't reply. She pressed her face back in his shirt and sobbed, but her hind hooves went around his waist and Anon felt infinitely better. She was turning to him for comfort which meant she wasn't shut off completely.
  1276. > Anon slid his hand up to her mane and felt around until he found an ear. He took it between thumb and forefinger and rubbed it, careful not to pinch too hard. Maybe her sobbing decreased, or maybe it was just his imagination, but he kept it up.
  1277. > He waited in relative silence for the tiny, shivering pony to cry herself out. He kept ministering to her fuzzy ear, only stopping occasionally to wipe the tears from her muzzle with his fingers.
  1278. > Eventually the sobs subsided and 'Shy shook her head to free it. Her eyes opened again and the nearby street lamp made the twin trails down her muzzle glisten, but Anon didn't have much time to observe. 'Shy lunged forward and pressed her lips against his even as her forehooves gripped his shoulders to keep him in place.
  1279. > Anon didn't fight and allowed 'Shy to pry open his lips so she could shove her tongue inside his mouth. The taste of no toothbrush for a week, combined with whatever they were feeding the ponies was bad, but he ignored it, happy simply to have her with him again.
  1280. > She almost flailed her tongue around in her mad rush for something even she probably didn't understand and Anon lifted his hand to put against her cheek to try and calm her down. Before he could, though, 'Shy pulled away as suddenly as she had begun the kiss. A small dribble of her saliva ran down Anon's chin, but he paid it no mind.
  1281. > "I love you," she said in a breathless whisper. "You came back like you said! I'm sorry I didn't believe you..."
  1282. "It's okay, I understand. I love you too. It's gonna be better now, I promise."
  1283. > "You're taking me away? I'll- I'll live with you?"
  1284. > She still felt fragile and Anon remembered her misgivings. He took a second or two to find the best way to put it.
  1285. "As long as you want."
  1286. > It was the right thing to say and Fluttershy suddenly smiled. She darter forward again to leave a small peck on his lips, then lowered herself back into his lap with a sigh. Anon hadn't even noticed that she had stood up for her kiss. He could feel her trembling.
  1287. "Are you cold? I can turn the heat up."
  1288. > She shook her head and rubbed her muzzle against his chest. "I'm just... I'm tired. I didn't want to eat. Anon, I wanted to die in that place..."
  1289. > Her voice was suddenly filled with horror and her ears folded down. He tightened his hug around her.
  1290. "Hush, I understand. You're safe now. Do you want something to eat?"
  1291. > "Fries!" 'Shy suddenly burst out and pushed herself away yet again to stare at Anon's face. "Fries and, um, pizza! And something sweet. Milkshake?"
  1292. > It'd eat a bit of their grocery budget, but he couldn't say no, even if he had to call his parents and borrow some money to make it to the next paycheck.
  1293. > Anon still had some cash in his wallet and it'd be enough for a meal. He remembered how her ribs had felt and nodded to himself. It was time to feed his pony.
  1294. > The thought had come unbidden and his breath halted for a moment when Anon recognized it. His pony.
  1295. > He had the papers. Fluttershy was his, legally. Not that he wanted a slave, but at least now she wasn't at the whims of some jerk of a master. He cared for her, he really did, and he'd make sure she was well.
  1296. "Okay, let's get you some food then. You must be starving."
  1297. > She nodded, but didn't show any inclination of wanting to leave his lap. "Hay and raw oats. That's all they fed us..."
  1298. > Her ears lowered and 'Shy looked away. "Um, did you really visit me the other day? It's all a bit of a blur."
  1299. "I did. I had to see you and make sure you were okay. I'm sorry it took so long."
  1300. > "I- I know I promised I would eat..." she began, hesitating as she sought for words. She added hurriedly: "And I did! It just- wasn't a lot. I didn't know if it had just been a dream."
  1301. "That's okay. The important thing is we're together and now we're getting some decent food, okay?"
  1302. > A smile flashed across her muzzle, but was gone almost before Anon could see it. Still, it was a good sign. "Yeah. I think I'd like that."
  1303. "Here, I can't drive with you like this. Can you move over?"
  1304. > For a moment 'Shy looked like she would start crying again, but then she lifted herself on shaky legs and more stumbled than stepped into the passenger seat. Anon kept a hold around her barrel the whole way or else she would have fallen. Once there, 'Shy started to curl up into a ball again, but Anon put a hand on her back.
  1305. "Wait," he said."
  1306. > He quickly shrugged out of his jacket and then draped it around her. As soon as 'Shy understood what he was doing, she lifted up her forelegs to put them in the sleeves. They were far too long for her, but she didn't seem to care and almost... immersed herself into the fabric.
  1307. > "It's got your smell," she said as she wrapped the cloth more tightly around herself. "Thanks."
  1308. "I'll turn up the heat too, if you don't mind. It's a bit chilly still."
  1309. > She gave a nod and settled back. Anon was relieved to see she was sitting upright this time. He considered putting on her seatbelt, but decided against it. The roads were empty, he'd drive carefully and there should be no police. Even if there were, the novelty of seeing a pony in a car would outweigh the fact that she wasn't buckled in.
  1310. "I know just the place. They have pizza 24 hours."
  1311.  
  1312. > ~~~~
  1313.  
  1314. > Despite their tight budget Anon also became hungry when he entered the place. It was basically a shack just off the highway and he'd picked it because it offered delivery so it was mostly deserted this time of night.
  1315. > He got two simple cheese pizzas, large fries with ketchup, and a bottled water. They didn't have milkshakes, but there was a freezer with some Popsicles, which might be a good alternative.
  1316. > 'Shy had agreed to wait in the car, snuggled up tightly in his jacket. It was a bit chilly to be walking around in just a tee, but Anon didn't mind.
  1317. > The cooks were fast and he got back to the car scant minutes after he'd left. He pushed the seat all the way back once more and put the boxes in his lap. The carton with fries he offered to 'Shy, since there was no room for it elsewhere.
  1318. > She sat up and patted the seat between her legs, where she could easily keep the fries upright.
  1319. > "I m-missed you," she admitted with her eyes lowering and ears splaying in embarrassment.
  1320. "I'm back now. Let's eat!"
  1321. > Anon tore off a slice of pizza and 'Shy balanced it on a hoof. Her other one strayed to the fries and she deftly scooped up some into her mouth.
  1322. > It was good seeing her eat and he could have watched it for a while, but the smell right under his nose was impossible to ignore and Anon bit into the pizza himself.
  1323. > Fast food somehow tasted better in car, he thought to himself. Curious how that happened. This same pizza at home and on a plate wouldn't be nearly as good.
  1324. > For a while they didn't speak and the air was filled only with noises of chewing, swallowing and an occasional hiss of air as they both tried to cool the scalding food already on their tongues.
  1325. > Pretty soon the first pizza was demolished and Anon simply moved the empty box to the back seat and opened the next one. Fluttershy's eyes lit up when she noticed there was more and held out a hoof for another slice.
  1326. > She had eaten more than half of the last one and that was perfectly fine with Anon. He gave her a big piece and grinned.
  1327. "Nice to see you so hungry, Buttershy."
  1328. > She froze mid-chew and her ears flattened. "No. No, don't call me that. Please."
  1329. > Her eyes seemed on the brink of filling up with tears once more.
  1330. "Huh? Why not?"
  1331. > The little mare shook her head. "It reminds- reminds me of- I-" she sighed and the hoof with the pizza slice lowered somewhat. "I just don't like it anymore."
  1332. "That's okay. Anything else you want me to call you?" Anon offered.
  1333. > This took some thought but finally she shrugged. "I guess 'Fluttershy' is fine. It's my name, after all..."
  1334. > She still didn't begin eating again and instead kept her eyes somewhere on the floor. One of her ears lifted up and she looked at Anon. "Um, Anon? There's something I have to tell you..."
  1335. > Of all things she sounded afraid.
  1336. "Sure. Anything, 'Shy. Oh, is 'Shy okay?"
  1337. > Fluttershy waved a dismissive hoof. "It's fine. Um, back in that place? They-"
  1338. > Mere memory was enough to make her wince and Anon started to worry. It didn't look like she'd be able to go on, so he tried to guess?
  1339. "Did they beat you?"
  1340. > She started to shake her head, but then paused and shrugged. "A little. When I didn't want to eat, but that's not important."
  1341. > It didn't sound unimportant and Anon reached over to grip her free hoof with a hand.
  1342. "I'm sorry."
  1343. > 'Shy shook her head again. She didn't say anything more, but she also didn't resume eating, so Anon tried again.
  1344. "Did they- uh, did they, y'know. Um, force you to..."
  1345. > She looked at him strangely, but then realized what he was referring to and her ears instantly snapped down. She seemed to fold in on herself and her breath hitched for a few moments before she forced it out through her mouth.
  1346. > "No, no no!" she hurriedly explained, but she wrenched her hoof out of Anon's gentle grasp and put it on her belly. "Nothing like that, d-don't worry. They didn't rape me..."
  1347. > Her behaviour didn't quite match her words and Anon felt the sting of boiling anger which took some effort to keep in check.
  1348. "It's okay, you can tell me. I won't be mad at you."
  1349. > "They didn't rape me, Anon!" 'Shy repeated more firmly and glared at him. "You need to believe me! It's just..."
  1350. "What then?!"
  1351. > His voice might have been a bit too forceful and Anon was sorry, but before he could apologize 'Shy spoke up again: "They treated us like animals. Me and my friends from Equestria. I- I hated it."
  1352. > She heaved a heavy-sounding sigh and lifted her half-eaten slice of pizza again. She looked at it as if surprised to find it in her hoof, but then bit into it.
  1353. "It's not right," Anon commented. "What they're doing."
  1354. > Even before 'Shy swallowed she shook her head in agreement. "No, it's not. Anon, I have to go back. I have to find a way back home and I have to tell the Princesses! They'll know what to do!"
  1355. > Doing that would be pretty much impossible, Anon suspected, but this wasn't the time to crush Fluttershy's hopes and dreams. He put his hand back around her hoof.
  1356. "We'll try. I promise we'll look for a way, okay?"
  1357. > This earned him a smile, albeit a small and fleeting one. She leaned closer and nuzzled the back of his hand, leaving a greasy pizza stain. As soon as she noticed, she flashed him another grin and apologized: "Sorry!"
  1358. > She began trying to lick it clean, but since she'd eaten a lot of it, all that she managed to do was spread the grease around.
  1359. "It's fine, don't worry! I have paper towels somewhere."
  1360. > That did the trick and 'Shy stopped trying to obsessively clean his hand. She looked up at Anon and even in the dim light from a street lamp he could see her tiny blush. He chuckled at the sight and a moment later 'Shy followed.
  1361. > It was a huge relief to hear her laughing.
  1362. "Finish your piece, there's more where that came from. Oh, and they didn't have milkshakes, but I can get you some ice cream if you'd like."
  1363. > Her eyes circled the interior of the car as 'Shy thought it over, then nodded. "Sure! I'd like that."
  1364. > Another idea intruded upon Anon's mind and he decided to bring it up. He'd rather have 'Shy ready for it than have to face it as a surprise later on.
  1365. "Oh, just so you know: You'll have to hide for a few weeks back at my place, okay? The money I paid to get you out was a lot, so we can't move right away. Don't worry, it'll just be a month, maybe two, okay?"
  1366. > Her ears went back down and 'Shy shuddered. "We r-really can't move?"
  1367. "Sorry. You were really expensive, you know?"
  1368. > As soon as it was out Anon realized that it sounded completely wrong. It was confirmed when 'Shy began to drawing in on herself once more and her eyes began filling up with tears again.
  1369. > He quickly shifted his hand from her hoof to her cheek, where he cupped her chin and stroked the tears away with his thumb.
  1370. "I don't mind, really. I don't care about the money, 'Shy, I just care about you. I'll earn it back and then we'll move, I promise."
  1371. > She blinked a few times to clear her vision, then let out a long sigh through her nose. The rushing air tickled the hairs on Anon's wrist. "I don't like being your property, Anon."
  1372. "You're not."
  1373. > To punctuate his claim Anon leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose. He remembered a funny, Equestrian word she'd used herself in the past.
  1374. "You're either my special somepony, or my roommate, whichever you'd prefer."
  1375. > Her mouth did quirk up in a smile and Fluttershy lifted both ears as if to hear better. "You'd prefer the former, wouldn't you?" she asked.
  1376. "Mhm!"
  1377. > "Okay. I guess that's okay," she said, but her eyes slid aside and her muzzle scrunched up in distaste. Anon decided to drop the topic for now. She'd get around the idea in time, once she saw what it would really be like.
  1378. "Okay, let me get you some ice cream. What flavor? They only have vanilla and chocolate."
  1379. > "Chocolate please!"
  1380. "Coming right up!"
  1381.  
  1382. > ~~~~
  1383.  
  1384. > Anon got a strong feeling of deja-vu when he parked in front of his flat. Once again he had gotten home late, with a sleeping Fluttershy in the passenger seat and he'd probably have to carry her inside.
  1385. > It was just like that time they'd gone to the zoo. Except that had been a happier time, without this horrible experience she'd just been through.
  1386. > Although, their time together had been limited then, but it wasn't now. 'Shy was coming to live with him permanently.
  1387. > Anonymous unbuckled himself and leaned over to put a hand against the mare's cheek.
  1388. "We're here. Want me to carry you inside?"
  1389. > She shifted her hooves, but only to wrap Anon's coat more tightly around herself. "Carry," she replied, but it was heavily slurred.
  1390. > He was only too glad to obey and hurried around the car to the passenger side. 'Shy wasn't buckled in, so it was just a matter of wiggling his hands under her and lifting her up like he would an infant. She tried to help by putting her forelegs around his neck, but it was haphazard and uncoordinated.
  1391. > She was very light anyway, so Anon didn't have any trouble holding her up, even with one hand while he locked the car. Too light, he thought to himself.
  1392. > The first time he'd brought up her weight 'Shy had been upset because she thought he was trying to control her, but this time there was no denying it. She was emaciated, or damn near it anyway. At least that was what it felt like to him.
  1393. "Come on, let's get you inside..."
  1394. > It was extremely early in the morning, so there were no people around to see Anon carrying the half-sleeping pony up the stairs. That was just as well. He'd rather no one knew 'Shy was with him.
  1395. > This way Mason wouldn't find out either. The jerk probably couldn't do anything to them now, especially with how effective Anon's threat of publishing his precious financials had been, but there was no good reason to risk it.
  1396. > A minute later they were both inside and the front door was locked. Anon suddenly felt the last week of sleepless nights catch up to him and he felt ready to collapse.
  1397. > He turned directly into the bedroom and had 'Shy laid down on the covers in a few more seconds. She didn't want to let him go, but he gave her nose a kiss and promised he would be right back.
  1398. > All he needed was a piss and a very quick brushing of teeth and he'd be ready. He gave the mare a final pat on her head and pulled at his jacket to completely cover her up.
  1399. > He felt almost happy as he hurried away. No more having to wake up at some ungodly hour to see 'Shy leave. They'd sleep together until morning and then they'd have breakfast.
  1400. > No more lonely nights when she couldn't sneak over. They'd share a bed every day now.
  1401. > Anon couldn't wait to start and he rushed through his evening routine. He was almost done with brushing when a faint clop alerted him and he turned to see 'Shy standing in the doorway.
  1402. > "I need to pee," she explained. Her little nap in the car seemed to have rejuvenated her and her eyes were no longer half-lidded. She pushed her forehooves further and stretched out her back with a relieved grunt.
  1403. "Go head, I'm almost done," Anon said.
  1404. > He hurried to wash out his mouth and give her the room, but 'Shy twisted her neck and sniffed at herself. "Ugh, I stink..."
  1405. > Anon had noticed it too, in the car, but hadn't said anything. Fluttershy smelled strongly like a stable, no doubt from the filthy pen she had been kept in. He wasn't going to mention it, at least not until the following morning when they were a little more rested.
  1406. "It's okay, it can wait until the morning and then we'll shower and change the sheets. Don't worry about it."
  1407. > She was already shaking her head. "No, not soon enough," she almost growled. "I need a bath right now."
  1408. "Now? It's the middle of the night."
  1409. > When 'Shy turned back there were fresh tears in her eyes and Anon nearly backed away from her expression. "I want to be clean, Anon!" she spoke. "I *need* to be clean right now!"
  1410. > There was no arguing that tone and if he tried, Anon had no doubt 'Shy would begin weeping again. He thought longingly about his bed, but shook his head. It could wait a little longer.
  1411. "Okay, I'll help you. Use the toilet and call when you're done, I'll be just outside," he promised.
  1412. > 'Shy gave a single nod and already began climbing up to the toilet. She was alert, but still weak from her ordeal. Normally she'd flap her wings a few times and be sitting, but this time she had to do it the slow way.
  1413. "Need any help?"
  1414. > "No," the little mare replied in a tight voice. "I have to do this myself."
  1415. "But you'll take my help with the bath?"
  1416. > It was a bit of a contradiction and Fluttershy heaved a sigh, although that might just have been the relief once she was sitting on the toilet seat. "Yes. Anon, I've been- doing my business in front of other ponies and humans for a week. I want to do it alone this time, okay?"
  1417. > She suddenly smiled and glanced at the bath tub for a second before returning her gaze to him. "I'm not gonna say no to you helping me bathe. It'll be a lot faster and, mmm, more pleasant."
  1418. > Her gaze flicked down to his hands and her smile widened a little.
  1419. > It made him instantly hard, but she was probably in no condition for sex, both physically and mentally. He'd have to control himself.
  1420. > Anon was fine with this. There'd be plenty of time, the important thing was that they were together; permanently this time.
  1421. "Okay, call me when you need me!"
  1422. > He didn't want to waste any more time, so Anon ducked out of the bathroom and closed it behind himself. 'Shy didn't wait and he heard water dribbling almost before the door was fully shut.
  1423. > It didn't take long before she flushed. There were a few moments of silence, then 'Shy raised her voice: "Okay, you can come back."
  1424. > Anon wondered for a moment why she hadn't washed her hooves, but then he realized she was about to have a bath anyway. Not to mention that the sink was high and Fluttershy was probably too tired to stand on her hind legs.
  1425. "Okay. Do you want it hot?"
  1426. > She nodded with what could almost be an eager expression. She was already clambering over the edge of the tub, trying to keep the clattering of her hooves on the plastic to a minimum while anon took off most of his clothes.
  1427. > He paused for a bit when he came to his boxers, but decided to keep them on for now. Less temptation that way.
  1428. > Memories came rushing back as Anon sat on the edge.
  1429. "Well, this seems familiar," he commented.
  1430. > Fluttershy plopped her rump down in the tub and blinked at him in confusion. She looked around the room, but then brightened up. "Oh. When I was drunk!"
  1431. "Yeah!"
  1432. > She shrugged a little, probably not remembering a whole lot. In the end she gave Anon an uncertain smile. "I'm glad I'm not drunk this time, though."
  1433. "Me too."
  1434. > Anon reached for the shower head and opened the tap to what should be pretty hot water. It took a minute for it to warm up, then he plugged the drain and held the stream out in front of 'Shy so she could try it.
  1435. > "Mhm. That's good." Almost before the words were fully out of her mouth Fluttershy slid forward and put her head under the water. She lifted up her muzzle into the stream and a luxurious sigh escaped her as the heat began to soak in.
  1436. > Now that her fur was getting wet the smell intensified, but Anon ignored it. It'd wash out. He focused instead on getting the mare as uniformly soaked as possible. The runoff pooling around her hooves was stained and there were flecks of dirt which had come loose from her coat.
  1437. > A few moments later she opened her mouth to fill it with water and swish it around in lieu of brushing her teeth. When she spat she noticed that she was sitting in dirty water and stretched forward to pull the plug back out.
  1438. "Sorry. I was thinking we'd make it into a bath, but I didn't realize how- well, how-"
  1439. > "How dirty I was," 'Shy finished the statement. "It's okay. We can have a bath tomorrow, okay?"
  1440. "Sure."
  1441. > "Um, here, stay still," she commanded and turned so she was facing away from Anon. She slid back until she was sitting mostly between his legs, then straightened up to rest almost completely on her haunches.
  1442. > Anon was about to ask what she was doing, but 'Shy lost her balance and would have toppled over if she weren't leaning against him. This freed up her forehooves which she ran down her belly to try and scrub the filth out.
  1443. > After a few seconds of this she froze and twisted her neck to look at Anon. "Um, mind doing my mane and back?"
  1444. "Oh! Right, sorry!"
  1445. > He could easily hold the shower head with one hand, leaving his other free to run his fingers through the fur on her back. She didn't seem to be as dirty there, but Anon didn't mind giving her this impromptu massage, especially when he felt her relax with a low, drawn-out groan.
  1446. > She unfolded her wings as much as they would go between Anon's legs. "Just water, please. I'll preen tomorrow. I'm too tired now."
  1447. "Can I help?"
  1448. > So far all he'd been allowed to do was play with her feathers a little bit here and there, mostly after lovemaking when they were both tired and mellow. He wanted to do more, but Fluttershy had been really... well, *shy* about her wings.
  1449. > This time didn't seem any different and she shook her head. "I'm too tired to guide you. Tomorrow, okay?"
  1450. "Sure thing. Shampoo?" he proposed and shut the water off even before hearing her reply.
  1451. > Luckily there was still her bottle on the edge of the tub and Anon squirted a generous amount on her back. The floral scent nicely covered the other stink. He had both hands free and was able to lather her mane thoroughly.
  1452. > 'Shy worked on her front, but it was slow going with hooves. She didn't mind in the slightest when Anon leaned down and wrapped his arms around her barrel to reach her soft belly. She lifted her head to give him a foamy nuzzle. "Mmm, thanks. You don't know how much I needed this."
  1453. "I can imagine."
  1454. > He played with her belly longer than strictly necessary, but 'Shy didn't comment or pull away. The few glances he sneaked of her face proved she was smiling at his ministrations.
  1455. > Eventually, though, she held out a foreleg in what was clearly a sign to move on. Anon let her go and moved his hands around the offered limb. With her still facing away and pressing back into his belly, it was easy to lather it up, though it did make him wince when he felt how thin and bony her leg had gotten.
  1456. > He kept his mouth shut, though, unwilling to make her upset by mentioning her weight again. Pretty soon he had finished lathering at her hoof and 'Shy let her foreleg fall. She held up the other one and Anon simply repeated the process.
  1457. > "Thanks," she murmured. "Ju- aahh," she yawned, then smacked her lips and tried again: "Just help me rinse, um, and then towel and- and bed."
  1458. "Yeah."
  1459. > Anon reached over to the tap once more and opened the water. He nudged it a little more to the hot side and carefully tested the stream with his fingers. It felt good, but he still offered it to 'Shy so she could test it herself.
  1460. > "Perfect."
  1461. > He began at the top of her head, carefully shielding her eyes with a hand while he rinsed out her mane. The water ran down her neck and back, where it wrapped around her body and made her positively moan with pleasure.
  1462. > It drew all the air from her lungs, after which 'Shy paused for a few seconds before inhaling through her nose. "Buuuuck, meee," she sighed.
  1463. > Anon couldn't help grinning at the reaction. It was as near to swearing as 'Shy usually came.
  1464. > Soon her mane was clean and he moved down to her face. It took some careful aiming and shielding with his hands, but 'Shy kept perfectly still and let him work. Except for when she parted her lips and let the water rinse out her mouth again.
  1465. > "I'll need a toothbrush," she said. She'd never stayed the whole night and Anon hadn't remembered to buy one for her. Of course he'd have to get one now.
  1466. "I'll go to the store tomorrow, for groceries. Um, we'll have to talk about that. We don't have a lot of money for the next couple of weeks and we have to make it last. Can you look in the fridge and see what we need so we don't starve?"
  1467. > 'Shy nodded, but Anon didn't think she fully heard or understood what he'd asked. That was okay, they were both more than half asleep and suddenly he wanted to hurry up the shower, however pleasant it was.
  1468. > Bed was calling for them both.
  1469. > He angled the stream down at her belly to rinse out the lather, then switched the shower head to his other hand to get her back. She was still keeping her wings slightly open and he ran some water down her feathers.
  1470. > They looked messy, even to his inexpert eye, but 'Shy had said she was too sleepy and it could wait until after they woke up the next day.
  1471. > Now that he was concentrating on his task the job was going much more quickly. Pretty soon 'Shy was as clean as she was going to get, except for her backside.
  1472. "Um, your tail?"
  1473. > She shrugged. "It's fine. I scrubbed it while you were doing my back. It's okay for now," the mare explained and tried to stand up, only to flop to her side. Anon had to support her with a hand under her belly before she could lift herself on shaky hooves.
  1474. "I meant, um, under your tail."
  1475. > "Oh. It- it's fine. It's fine," she said, but it didn't sound as if she was certain and she was staring fixedly away. Anon began to fear that something really might have happened, even if she had denied it before.
  1476. "'Shy, if someone-"
  1477. > She stomped a hoof to punctuate her words. "I said it's fine!"
  1478. > It'd have to wait. He wasn't thinking clearly and if he kept pushing now he'd probably do more damage than good. Anon bit back the demand for her to tell him and focused on washing her.
  1479. > He rinsed off her hindquarters as best he could through her tail, then shut the shower off and let 'Shy sit back down.
  1480. "Let me get you a towel," he offered.
  1481. > This time he hadn't been sitting for long enough to make his legs fall asleep and Anon was easily able to stand up and look for a fresh towel on the washing machine. He selected the largest one and simply draped it over the pony, who was starting to shiver a little.
  1482. > They were both quite exhausted and Anon didn't worry about drying her off too thoroughly. He figured he'd simply wrap 'Shy up in a fresh towel and put the entire bundle in bed.
  1483. > He rubbed her mane as dry as he could in a minute or two, then followed the contours of her body under the fabric.
  1484. > It was soon soaked through and he simply dropped it on the floor.
  1485. "Come on, let's get you out."
  1486. > 'Shy didn't complain or resist as he simply lifted her up, one hand under her barrel, the other around her rump. She managed to stand upright on the tiles and Anon quickly fetched another towel. He remembered just in time to wipe himself dry as well.
  1487. > While he was at it, he simply slipped out of his wet shorts and left them on the floor. Then he draped the towel across 'Shy, wrapped it under her belly, and picked her up again.
  1488. > He had to bump the light switch with his elbow and find his room mostly by memory in the dark. He shuffled carefully forward until his shin found the bed, then he laid the pony in his arms down.
  1489. > There was still his jacket 'Shy had worn when he brought her from the car, but Anon just tossed it on the floor. Meanwhile she shuffled to the far side of the bed and waited.
  1490. > In moments Anon had joined her and 'Shy gratefully scooched her rump back into his lap. She lifted her head to allow his arm to snake under it, then laid back down on his forearm. His other hand wrapped around her barrel and found her belly.
  1491. > Both of them sighed in comfort.
  1492. > "I ju-just thought of something, Anon," 'Shy whispered.
  1493. "Hmm?"
  1494. > "I don't have to get up and sneak back into Mr. Mason's house in the morning."
  1495. > The statement made Anon grin and he was sure Fluttershy was smiling as well.
  1496. "No, you don't. You can sleep in as long as you want and I'll be right here with you, okay?"
  1497. > "Good..."
  1498. > Maybe she wanted to say more, but there was nothing else. A minute later Anon briefly wondered if she was already asleep, but he was drifting off himself. The long, sleepless nights and all the worry and anguish had finally caught up with him and the warmth of Fluttershy's fuzzy body in his arms did the rest.
  1499.  
  1500. > ~~~~
  1501.  
  1502. > Anonymous woke up because he was very uncomfortable. Quite aside from a mess of pink hair tickling his nose, there was severe stiffness in his back and joints from having lain in the same position for hours and hours. There was also a slight pain in his hand, the one on Fluttershy's belly.
  1503. > He tried to roll over to his back so he could stretch his aching muscles, but something hard and sharp held his arm in place.
  1504. > Fluttershy was still resting her head on his forearm and she was probably still asleep, so Anon was extra careful when he lifted himself up. She'd curled her legs in and pressed her back to his belly, but the weird thing was the way she was holding on to his other arm.
  1505. > Anon remembered wrapping it around her as they fell asleep, letting his fingers rest lightly on her belly, but now 'Shy was keeping it pressed there with her forehooves. That was the source of something hard and sharp pressing down on the back of his hand.
  1506. > She was just afraid of losing him this soon after he found her again, Anon thought to himself and smiled. It was cute and he hoped the position had let her sleep without bad dreams.
  1507. > Anon inspected her face for a while, but it didn't look as if 'Shy was dreaming. She looked peaceful, except for the death grip on his hand.
  1508. > He wanted to let her sleep a little longer, but his hip was starting to really hurt so there wasn't any choice.
  1509. "Hey, beautiful," he murmured by her ear.
  1510. > Fluttershy opened her eyes and looked around without moving her head. She soon spotted him and noticeably relaxed.
  1511. > "Oh. Hi," she replied. The pressure against his hand faded and Anon tried to take it away. 'Shy quickly put her hoof back to hold him in place. "L-Leave it!" she pleaded. "Please?"
  1512. "I need to turn over. Stretch. Come on, let's switch positions."
  1513. > This seemed acceptable and 'Shy removed her hoof. Anon was finally able to roll on his back and stretch both legs and one arm. The other was still trapped as Fluttershy's pillow, but that was okay.
  1514. > He looked at the back of his free hand and saw a distinct imprint of a hoof. She'd really been holding onto it.
  1515. > There wasn't any more time to wonder if the hoofprint was permanent because 'Shy was already wiggling to turn around. She stuck her nose in the crook of his arm and put a foreleg and a back leg across his belly.
  1516. > Her touch reminded Anon that he was completely naked, but he ignored the thought for now. Fluttershy's reluctance to let him go even for a second was a bit worrying.
  1517. "You okay? How did you sleep?"
  1518. > All he could see from that angle was one eye and an ear. The former stared at the wall, past him, and the latter flicked. "I'm fine," came a muffled voice from his side.
  1519. "'Shy, you really need to talk to me about these things," Anon pointed out.
  1520. > Her ear folded down and she kept staring into the distance.
  1521. > After a few more seconds Anon decided he wasn't getting anywhere and opted to try something different. His arm was still mostly under 'Shy and it was a simple thing to lift her up on his chest. She didn't resist as she straddled him with both pairs of legs.
  1522. > That brought her face to face with him and forced her to look in his eyes. Already she was starting to breathe a bit faster and Anon grabbed her hind fetlocks, mainly to remind her he was there.
  1523. "Come on, you can trust me, okay?"
  1524. > She thought it over and eventually closed her eyes shut. "It's called 'survivor's guilt', Anon," she explained. "It means I feel awful that you took me out of that place and my friends are still there!"
  1525. "Okay, I get that. I'm sorry I couldn't do anything for them, 'Shy."
  1526. > There was no immediate answer and Anon tried to think up yet another way to apologize for something which wasn't really his fault.
  1527. "Look, if there was any way, I would-"
  1528. > "I know. I wanted you to take me."
  1529. "Maybe, like you said, if you can get word to-"
  1530. > "Hush," 'Shy said and pushed her nose against his mouth to shut him up. "I know all that. It's-" she began, then sighed. "It's not a nice place, Anon."
  1531. > He was a little confused. Mason had said he'd sold 'Shy back to where he bought her, so she should have remembered everything from the last time.
  1532. "Well, you already knew that, didn't you? What about when they first caught you and... well, trained you?"
  1533. > She still hadn't told him much about that, but from what he'd seen of the conditions they were forced to live in, it didn't look very nice. And that was probably the understatement of the year.
  1534. > Fluttershy shook her head, brushing his nose with her fluff. "It wasn't the same. It was different that time!"
  1535. "Oh?"
  1536. > "I guess they didn't know what we were, or what we could do, so they were being careful. Then- I don't know how it came to that, but the people started selling us, so they decided to train us... They didn't keep us in stalls, Anon!"
  1537. > 'Shy was staring into the distance again. "This time... I don't think they were going to sell us again, Anon."
  1538. "How do you know?"
  1539. > She looked back down and bit her lip. "Can we not talk about this?" she begged.
  1540. "We really should. Come on, you know I'm here for you, right?"
  1541. > "You wouldn't understand."
  1542. "Try me."
  1543. > 'Shy closed her eyes and almost immediately tears began to leak. They were hot where they dripped on Anon's chest. She opened her mouth a few times, but nothing came out, so Anon decided to try and guess.
  1544. > The sooner he got her to spill everything, the sooner she'd cry it out and get it over with. This slow prying it out of her was getting bothersome.
  1545. "Did they beat you?"
  1546. > She shrugged her shoulders, but didn't say anything. Anon guessed that was a "yes, but I don't care about that".
  1547. "I already know you had to live in your filth and that sounds horrible, but you're out of it now, 'Shy. I'm really sorry about your friends, okay?"
  1548. > Once again she shook her head in denial.
  1549. "Look, I promised I'd help you get back home, okay? I still will, as much as I can."
  1550. > It wasn't an easy thing to promise again, but if it lifted Fluttershy's mood then it was fine with Anon. Hopefully the day would never come, but if she really did want to go home- Well, she'd promised she'd ask her Princess Twilight if he could come too.
  1551. > Would he move to a completely new world just for 'Shy?
  1552. > Anon had absolutely no idea. Maybe he'd know by the time the moment came, if it ever did.
  1553. > Right now he had a distraught mare to console. He released her fetlocks and moved his hands up to cup her muzzle from both sides. He brushed her mane out of her eyes with his fingers and then rubbed them in little circles on her temples as an impromptu massage.
  1554. "Just remember I love you, okay?"
  1555. > 'Shy sniffed and then let her breath out through her mouth. She focused on a spot on Anon's nose and suddenly licked it. It tickled and he turned his face away, but that just resulted in his ear being slobbered next.
  1556. > He became aware of a new sound and realized that Fluttershy was whimpering urgently. She pushed herself higher and alternated between nuzzling his cheek and licking it. "I don't wanna go back there," she whispered when she paused for breath. "I'm a bad friend and a bad pony. I d-don't deserve the Element of Kindness, but, oh Celestia, I don't wanna go back there!"
  1557. "Hey, hey, you never have to, okay? You're mine now and I'll keep you safe!"
  1558. > Anon realized what he'd blurted out but it was already too late. Luckily 'Shy only paused for a second before starting to kiss his neck.
  1559. "'Shy, I'm-"
  1560. > "I understand!" she interrupted.
  1561. "You're not a bad pony, nor a bad friend."
  1562. > All the reply Anon got was another quiet whimper, but Fluttershy's assault didn't abate. Her hind hooves scrabbled for purchase against the fabric as she pushed herself closer so she could reach his mouth.
  1563. > She sought it out and began giving him small kisses until he relented and turned back to her. Then she fastened her lips against his and tried to pry his open.
  1564. > Her sudden eagerness was starting to remind Anon that he hadn't felt her touch in over a week. He wanted to taste her, in more ways than one.
  1565. > Anon let her in and was rewarded by a mouthful of pony tongue. It trembled against his and twirled around to explore.
  1566. > Already he was as hard as he could get from having 'Shy lie on him and wiggle around, and the new sensation made Anon buck his hips a little. His member brushed fur and he couldn't hold back a moan.
  1567. > 'Shy pulled away and stared right into his eyes with an expression he could only call 'hungry'. "I-I've been thinking about you," she whispered. "I've been wanting you."
  1568. > She slid a little lower and ground her hips, expertly catching his dick against her teats. Both of them grunted at that and the breath 'Shy let out made her shudder. She nuzzled his chin away so she could reach his neck, where she gave him a sudden, sharp nip.
  1569. "Ow!"
  1570. > Rather than apologize she ground herself against him again, taking his mind off the unexpected pain. His hands moved almost involuntarily as they came to rest on her buttocks.
  1571. > "Yes," 'Shy sighed. She pulled away for a moment to inspect Anon's face and her eyes filled with fresh tears. "I thought I'd never see you again," she whispered urgently.
  1572. "I wasn't gonna let you go."
  1573. > She went back to kissing him, as passionately as she knew how, but Anon was getting impatient and squeezed her rump with his hands again. Fluttershy knew what he wanted and lifted herself up enough so he could align himself.
  1574. > There was nothing hesitant or uncertain in the way she slammed down. A small cry burst out of her as Anon dug deep into her welcoming folds. For a moment she waited, trembling, but then she suddenly seemed to wake up and pushed herself upright.
  1575. > She began moving up and down rapidly, as if she wanted the whole thing to be over as quickly as possible.
  1576. > The way she was going would get her that, Anon realized. His unintentional abstinence had made him super sensitive and just about ready to blow.
  1577. "Slow down, you're gonna make me-"
  1578. > "Yes!" 'Shy interrupted him. She'd been doing that a lot this morning. "I want it!"
  1579. > There was no blush this time and she didn't avert her eyes. "Anon," she said softly, between quiet gasps, "I want you to fill me up! Breed me!"
  1580. > This was new and Anon worried for a moment. Was she suddenly back on the foal thing? The good news was that they couldn't do that, so he was happy to indulge her little fantasy.
  1581. "I'll do it. 'Shy, I'm almost there!"
  1582. > For some reason there were fresh tears dripping from her muzzle while 'Shy kept slamming down with reckless abandon. She was near orgasm herself and she wanted it, badly.
  1583. > "B-Buck them," she murmured. "I want this! I'm just a- a- whore and I don't care!"
  1584. > That word was so sudden and shocking out of Fluttershy's mouth that Anon lost his stroke for a moment. He'd been right on the edge but it receded in cold fear.
  1585. "What?!"
  1586. > The little mare couldn't answer because she was right on the verge of her climax. She increased her pace and slammed herself down with audible, wet plops. Her insides were already clenching around Anon's dick and her forehooves were scrabbling for purchase on his chest.
  1587. > She sat nearly straight upright and let out a relieved cry as she locked up for a moment. Her own weight pushed her down and made Anon hilt as deep as he would go.
  1588. > The stillness lasted only for a moment before more whimpers escaped Fluttershy's mouth and she began to rock her hips, grinding Anon in her pussy without letting him out as she sought out that extra bit of stimulation.
  1589. > Warm liquid ran down his balls and the inside of his thighs.
  1590. > It had just been the heat of the moment, Anon thought to himself as he pushed Fluttershy's strange behaviour aside and focused on her. He still had his arms around her midriff and he pushed her down to keep himself inside against her squirming.
  1591. > "Mmmmmph," she moaned and leaned down to catch an urgent, breathless kiss. She played with his tongue for a few seconds, then settled down fully against his belly, panting for air.
  1592. > Anon wanted more and bucked his hips a little to keep going, but Fluttershy seemed spent and just moved with him. He put one hand on her muzzle and pushed her away to get some breathing room.
  1593. "Turn around?" he suggested.
  1594. > Her eyes and cheeks were still wet, but 'Shy nodded and even managed a smile. "Yes. More! I want more!"
  1595. > They rolled around until Anon was lying on top of her, still hilted inside her depths. She was no longer massaging his member in the throes of her climax, but she was even wetter than before from her orgasmic squirting.
  1596. > Her limbs fell away from Anon and she lay there, akimbo, waiting for him to continue.
  1597. > Anon didn't need to be told and he began thrusting, slowly at first. He wanted it to last a little longer, simply to enjoy how soft and warm she was.
  1598. > Ponies had a slightly higher body temperature than humans, so her passage felt incredibly hot. Anon focused on that sensation, and on the way she seemed to squeeze him tightly and yet part easily when he pushed.
  1599. > After a few thrusts 'Shy began breathing deeply once more. She looked away and sniffed. "I'm- I'm sorry," she said. "About before. I didn't- I'm a bad pony!"
  1600. > It looked as if she was about to start crying again, which would certainly end their fun. Anon didn't think he could stay hard if 'Shy cried while they were having sex. It felt wrong.
  1601. > He slowed and stopped, still buried inside her but focusing on her face this time. He gently turned it back with a hand against her cheek.
  1602. "You're not a bad pony, 'Shy. I didn't mind you biting me, I was just surprised."
  1603. > Anon wasn't certain exactly what she was apologizing about, but he didn't feel like he needed any apology from her and went with the most likely thing.
  1604. "If anything, I'm sorry I put you in that situation with Mason. Um, we- we could have handled that better."
  1605. > 'Shy shrugged a little. "It's okay. It- It was my fault as well."
  1606. "It was no one's fault except Mason's. He didn't have to go crazy and sell you like that!"
  1607. > She blinked and opened her mouth to say something, but changed her mind. Anon waited and after a few moments she went on: "Well, I kinda understand it. We did steal from him, Anon."
  1608. "Only as a last resort. Without that, you'd still be in that stall right now!"
  1609. > The word was enough to bring back the memories and make her wince. Anon was immediately sorry.
  1610. "Do you wanna stop?"
  1611. > His dick almost hurt with the need to finish, but he could always do it with his hand. It wouldn't take more than a few strokes.
  1612. > 'Shy smiled up at him and put her forelegs against his arms. Her back legs weren't long enough to pull him closer, but she tried to wrap them around his ass anyway. "Keep going. You should finish," she said.
  1613. "Not if you're not enjoying it."
  1614. > Her ears folded down for a moment and then sprang back. A sly, knowing smile spread across her muzzle and she suddenly bucked her hips. The sudden motion on his cock made Anon gasp.
  1615. > "Shut up and finish inside me!" 'Shy commanded.
  1616. > It sounded more like her old self and Anon gladly bent down to share a kiss as he resumed his thrusting.
  1617. > With all the teasing and waiting it didn't take a whole lot longer before he felt that familiar, sweet pressure deep in his groin.
  1618. "Almost-" he warned.
  1619. > 'Shy reached up to his head with her forehooves and pulled him against her mouth once more. She tentatively touched his tongue with hers, but then withdrew, inviting him.
  1620. > She didn't have to beg and Anon pushed into her mouth just as his cock was pushing into her passage.
  1621. > Anon increased his pace and they both moaned together, their breath mingling. His thrusting was becoming erratic as he neared his peak.
  1622. > 'Shy broke her kiss just long enough to whisper: "Do it inside me!"
  1623. > It was the last straw and Anon tensed as the wave travelled from his balls, up his length and spurted into Fluttershy's waiting womb.
  1624. > He moaned into her mouth and hilted himself deeper inside her as spasm after spasm rocked him.
  1625. > After his second spurt he felt 'Shy stiffen as well and her whimpers joined his. The feeling of his seed inside her had been enough to push her over the edge one more time.
  1626. > They didn't dare to move, lest they somehow spoil this beautiful moment. Even as Anon's orgasm tapered off, he kept pushing into his lover to let her ride out her own climax.
  1627. > Eventually she let out a deep, final sigh and slumped down on the bed. Her legs fell away from Anon and she focused on her breathing.
  1628. > "I think-" she said, gasping for air, "I think I- I needed that."
  1629. "Yeah, me too."
  1630. > She was looking at him, intently, then bit her lip. Her ears folded down once more and fresh tears filled her eyes.
  1631. > Anon's gut nearly froze over at her expression. Had he just made a huge mistake?
  1632. > "Anon-" she began, but stopped to gulp and her eyes slid away from his. "Anon- At the stall-"
  1633. > She was about to tell him that she was raped, he knew it. Maybe he had just caused her irreversible damage.
  1634. > The realization made Anon's cock shrivel almost instantly and he slid out of her. He still held her, hoping it would give her some comfort.
  1635. "Please remember I love you."
  1636. > She shook her head and placed a careful hoof against his cheek. "Anon, I'm pregnant."
  1637. > It felt like a slap and all Anon could do was gape. It was a good thing he was lying down, or he would have fallen over.
  1638. "W-W-"
  1639. > "They didn't rape me," 'Shy said, guessing his thoughts. "It was with a syringe." She was talking faster and faster, trying to get it out before her resolve broke. "T-They gave me a shot when I came to make my estrus come quicker. It- It wasn't too far off anyway. T-Then they used a syringe and..."
  1640. > She didn't have to finish.
  1641. > Finally Anon was able to move and pushed himself upright. He belly was wet from her juices and the sheets were a mess, but all he could see was Fluttershy's belly. It looked normal, but suddenly he understood why she'd been holding his hand there so tightly.
  1642. "Are- Are you sure?"
  1643. > She nodded urgently and put a hoof on her midriff to run it in small circles. "I am. I'm a mare, Anon. I just- kinda know." Her expression turned to pure panic. "Please don't be mad!" 'Shy whimpered. "I couldn't stop it! They just did it! I didn't get a say in it!"
  1644. > She sniffled and wiped at her eyes with a fetlock. "I was so afraid! I thought they'd take my foal away from me! That's why I wanted to d-die! I wanted us to die together so we wouldn't have to feel that pain!"
  1645. > What else was there to do? Fluttershy needed him. Anon swallowed his own lump and pushed his own worries aside.
  1646. > "That's why I'm a bad pony," she whispered. "I'm a bad mother."
  1647. > Anon hardly heard her words, he was already lost in the terrifying future. How would they even care for a foal? What would it do to their lives?
  1648. > It didn't matter, not now. He shook his head and remembered the words she'd just said about herself. He reached out a hand to grasp her hoof.
  1649. "You're not and it's okay. We'll manage somehow. You're not a bad pony for giving in to despair, not when they- when that happened."
  1650. > One of her ears lifted slightly and 'Shy met his gaze. "You- you're not going to send me away? You're not disgusted?"
  1651. "No. I still love you," Anon began, searching for better words. He thought of some and smiled. "I still want you. We'll figure something out."
  1652. > Fluttershy's entire body shook as she tried to hold back the sob, but it burst out and she scrambled upright so she could throw herself in Anon's welcoming hug.
  1653. > "Thank you!" she wept, "thank you, thank you, thank you! I know you didn't want foals, but- thank you!"
  1654. > Anon just patted her back. The one good thought about it all was that the birth would be many months away, which gave him time to get into a better financial situation.
  1655. > There'd be a lot of complications, but that could wait for a while.
  1656. > First, he needed to get used to the idea.
  1657. > Strangely enough, it didn't change how he felt about 'Shy. He still wanted to spend his life with her and what the world said could be damned.
  1658. "We'll figure it out somehow. Come on, let's get you that bath... and some breakfast."
  1659.  
  1660. > ~~~~
  1661.  
  1662. > Things soon settled into a new equilibrium and Anon decided he kinda liked it. It wasn't perfect, especially with Fluttershy's rapidly changing moods, but it was still pretty good to have her at home.
  1663. > Who knew something as simple as her greeting him when he came from work would make such a big difference? It positively brightened his day and no matter how bad the customers had been, Anon forgot about them the moment 'Shy shared one of her soft, warm kisses with him.
  1664. > Of course, kissing usually led to other things and that was another welcome change in the mare. Maybe it was her hormones running wild, or maybe she had finally liberated herself from Mason's oppression, but she was insatiable!
  1665. > There were bad days, of course. A few times Anon came home to no greeting and found 'Shy sprawled on the couch with the TV off as she stared into some unknowable distance. She still had nightmares, though she wouldn't talk about them.
  1666. > "They're just dreams, it doesn't matter," she'd say, and if Anon kept digging she'd start to cry. The fear which was still bothering her, he knew, was that somehow people would take her baby away.
  1667. > All Anon could do was reassure her that it wouldn't happen, that he'd keep her safe and that no one was coming for her, or her foal.
  1668. > It usually worked, although upon hearing that 'Shy would burst into a fresh bout of tears as often as not, only those ones were gratitude. She clung to him, thanked him and lavished little kisses on any patch of skin she could reach.
  1669. > Anon was gratified by her trust in him, but also more than a little afraid. If he couldn't uphold her promise to keep her safe it would break her, and probably him by extension. If Mason decided to act upon his grudge, things could still go pretty sour, pretty quick.
  1670. > He couldn't bear the thought of losing 'Shy again. There was no denying it, he had fallen for that little horse through and through.
  1671. > Luckily no one in the neighborhood knew about the pony in his house, Anon was certain of it. He'd left her with strict instructions to stay away from windows during the day and keep the lights either on or off during the night. She told him she was being careful and he believed her.
  1672. > Anon had a sneaking suspicion Anton knew about 'Shy - after all, sometimes their passion got the best of them and they weren't all that quiet - but his landlord hadn't said anything and neither had Anon.
  1673. > In any case, they'd be out of the place pretty soon. Anon had good news this time and he smiled to himself as he parked the car and climbed the steps up to his place.
  1674. > The paycheck had come and it was even better than he'd hoped thanks to all the overtime. Since he didn't have to pay rent this month and Anton was just going to take it out of the security deposit, it meant he and 'Shy could go apartment hunting the next week.
  1675. > He'd already spoken with Harris and gotten the night shift, which left his days open to visiting potential flats and choosing a nice one. It'd be a very tiring week, but Anon was quietly hoping he'd find a good place quickly.
  1676. "Hey honey, I'm home!" he called.
  1677. > It was amazing how good that cliché little saying felt when it was coming from himself.
  1678. > Anonymous listened for the telltale clop of hooves, but there was nothing. One of her bad days, then. He suppressed a sigh and went forward into the living room. The sight before him was heart-wrenching.
  1679. > Fluttershy was lying on her back on the couch and staring at the ceiling. There was a bag of marshmallows open on the coffee table and some of the white, sugary cubes were strewn about. There were a few more on her chest and belly, but most of the bag's contents were gone.
  1680. > A few flecks of powdered sugar stained her muzzle as the proof of where the marshmallow had gone.
  1681. > She didn't react to his presence, so Anon simply went and sat on the couch beside 'Shy. He picked up a marshmallow cube from her belly and tossed it to the coffee table. That action finally made her stir, but only to grab two of the things and quickly stuff them into her mouth before Anon could take them away.
  1682. > Her eyes remained on the ceiling as she chewed.
  1683. "Feeling down?"
  1684. > Even as 'Shy swallowed the sugary goop she heaved a sigh, but her forehoof went to rest on his hand. Only for a moment, though, before she nudged it to a particular spot on her belly and pressed it down.
  1685. > She wanted his hand there while she slept and Anon guessed it made her feel safer about her foal.
  1686. > "We're gonna have a colt, Anon."
  1687. "Huh? How do you know?"
  1688. > Finally she lowered her gaze to meet his eyes and even flashed him a brief smile before shrugging. "I just do. It's a mare thing."
  1689. "Well, that's nice."
  1690. > Her gaze sharpened and her ears rose up and focused on Anon. "Will you love him?"
  1691. > The question was unexpected and Anon didn't know what to say. 'Shy waited for long seconds, then asked again: "Anon, will you love my foal?"
  1692. "Y-Yes."
  1693. > What else could he say? The child wasn't his, but he'd thrown his lot in with Fluttershy and her problems were now part of his world. What had happened to her in that stable was criminal, but it was done now and there was no undoing it.
  1694. > Besides, Anon realized, he'd meant it. He had promised 'Shy undying love and that was exactly what she was going to get. Her foal would be a part of that, because it was a part of her.
  1695. > "That's good," she said and relaxed her stare. "That's important to me."
  1696. > Her hoof reached for the coffee table, but she couldn't find any of the marshmallow cubes in reach. She flailed around for a bit, then Anon sighed, reached over and picked one up. 'Shy smiled at him and then closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide.
  1697. > Maybe she was snapping out of it? She had been weeping less and less over the past few days as the memories of Mason and the place he sent her receded from her mind. She was smiling more. There was hope for the future.
  1698. > "Aaah!" 'Shy intoned as she waited for her morsel.
  1699. > Anon stopped turning it around and around in his fingers and a wicked grin spread across his face as well. So she wanted to play?
  1700. > He put the cube in his own mouth and leaned down. He brushed it against her lips and 'Shy tried to wrap them around the marshmallow to take it in. Their tongues met and she snapped her eyes open in surprise. A moment later her ears splayed out and her face tinted pink.
  1701. > She didn't relinquish the morsel, but rather held it firmly between her lips even as she worked her tongue around to try and steal as much of it as she could. She flicked around it, prying into his mouth and trying to distract him enough to let go.
  1702. > Eventually the cube began to melt and Anon lost his grip, which allowed Fluttershy to wrap her dexterous tongue all the way around it and yank it away with a small squeak of triumph. She broke the kiss off while she chewed, but her muzzle was decidedly red by now and her nostrils flared as she breathed more quickly.
  1703. "We were supposed to make s'mores today, remember?"
  1704. > That bag of high-calorie sugar was supposed to be their entire dinner. Anon guessed they could still have the waffles, but he'd have to fill them with jam or something and he probably couldn't toast them without making a big mess.
  1705. > 'Shy shrugged and swallowed. "I had a craving," she explained. "I'm sorry."
  1706. > At those last words she lowered her gaze down to her belly and let her ears fall all the way in a perfect picture of contrite pony.
  1707. > Anon put his palm against her muzzle and guided her back up into a quick kiss on her nose.
  1708. "It's okay. I'm glad you enjoyed them."
  1709. > She glanced at the coffee table. "There's still some left," she pointed out. "We could still make a few s'mores."
  1710. "I guess you're right."
  1711. > "You can have them," she offered magnanimously in deference to the fact that it was her fault they were running low. It would be only just for her to have to go without and she was willing to make this heroic sacrifice.
  1712. > Her tongue darted out to lick at the few traces of sugar around her mouth, though, and her eyes remained fixed on the marshmallow cubes.
  1713. "Hey, hey," Anon said to break her fixation.
  1714. > She looked back and raised her eyebrows in question.
  1715. "What kind of a boy- um, coltfriend would I be if I didn't share? I think we can make, let's see, three s'mores. One and a half for each of us, right?"
  1716. > This statement made a new, beautiful smile blossom across her lips and 'Shy nodded happily. Her ears flicked forward, but went back almost immediately and her eyes slid aside. "Um, w-will you- Uh, will we share it like- like we did the marshmallow, j-just now?"
  1717. > It sounded like an interlude into something a lot hotter and more pleasant and Anon was only too happy to accept.
  1718. "Sure! I mean, it's the only fair way to share it, isn't it?"
  1719. > "Mhm!"
  1720. > 'Shy turned to her side and smoothly slid from the couch to her hooves. "Come on, let's go make s'mores!" she trilled as she hurried to the kitchen.
  1721. > Anon remembered just in time about his big news.
  1722. "Oh, by the way, I got my pay today!"
  1723. > She stopped in the middle of grabbing a chair and turned back with her ears attentively focused on him and a faint, uncertain smile on her face.
  1724. "It's good. Better than I thought, actually. I was thinking- we could go look for apartments on Monday."
  1725. > This was extremely good news and Fluttershy rushed back, jumped on the couch again, and threw her hooves around Anon. "That's great! I can't wait! Um- how will we sneak out without anypony seeing me?"
  1726. "We'll figure something out. Hopefully we can find a nice place soon and then we can move before the end of the week. No more hiding."
  1727. > She seemed thoughtful and her ears lowered slightly. "I'll have to wear a collar when I go out. I m-mean if I go out alone. Mr. Mason explained it to me. A collar with a tag- and, um... you'll need to get me a piece of paper saying I'm allowed to go out by myself."
  1728. "We'll figure it out. I'll get you whatever you need, okay? Of course I will."
  1729. > "One of those collars is expensive," she went on. "It has to be the- um..." 'Shy began, but scrunched her face up at the unfamiliar word. "Electronic one? It's supposed to be able to track me."
  1730. "Okay, so maybe the collar next month, but at least I'll be able to take you out to the park. It's okay if you're with me, right?"
  1731. > She gave it some thought then nodded and the smile returned. "I guess so!"
  1732. "Okay, let's get you those s'mores and then we can go on the Internet and look for a nice place."
  1733. > "Okay!"
  1734.  
  1735. > ~~~~
  1736.  
  1737. > "And here is the balcony, sir. It opens from the kitchen and the bedroom," the estate agent was saying as he demonstrated that the doors did indeed open. The balcony itself was small, wedged as it was in a fold in the building's facade, but it would allow Anonymous and Fluttershy to get some fresh air and sun without having to leave the building.
  1738. > So far the place seemed nice and it was within Anon's price range too. Although by this point he was ready to sign anything just to get it over with.
  1739. > The search had been long and, so far, fruitless. He and 'Shy had seen some almost usable apartments, though none nearly as large as Anton's. They ended up being too expensive, too far from Anon's work, or in such a poor condition that 'Shy didn't even want to consider living there.
  1740. > A few places had outright refused them once they saw Anon had a pony.
  1741. > Since those he'd started mentioning 'Shy before anything else, to save them these needless trips and spare her the insult of being called a 'pet'.
  1742. > For the most part landlords, or their real estate agents, didn't seem to care that Anon would be living with a pony, as long as he paid rent on time.
  1743. "Thanks. So, what do you-"
  1744. > He was about to ask 'Shy her opinion, but she had gone and Anon looked around in sudden fear.
  1745. "'Shy?"
  1746. > "In here!" came a slightly muffled reply and he hurried toward the sound of her voice. She was standing in the bathroom and staring at the sink with a speculative look on her face.
  1747. "Everything okay?"
  1748. > She blinked at his concern in confusion, then realized where she was. "Oh! No, I'm okay, don't worry."
  1749. > One of their tours had been early in the morning and it turned out that ponies, at least Equestrian ones, also suffered from morning sickness. Luckily they were already in the apartment and 'Shy made it to the toilet in time, but the landlord hadn't been enthused about housing a 'sick pet' in the place so nothing had come of it.
  1750. > "I'm thinking about how high the sink is. I'll need some sort of a stool or something," 'Shy explained.
  1751. "Okay, that shouldn't be a problem."
  1752. > She shook her head. "Except it will be. There's no room here to put a stool *and* move it out of the way for you."
  1753. > Now that Anon looked again, he saw that she was right. The bathroom was tiny, as if the architect had wanted to squeeze out every bit of space on the floor. If Anon and 'Shy brought any kind of stool or stepping-thing for her to reach the utilities they'd have nowhere to stow it.
  1754. "Huh..."
  1755. > "I d-do like the kitchen, though," 'Shy murmured and bit her lip in indecision. "You said we can afford this one?"
  1756. "Yeah, and it's closer to work so I won't spend as much time on the road. Hell, once we get that GPS collar, you could probably come meet me at the office from here."
  1757. > A moment later Anon regretted offering, because then he'd have to explain 'Shy to his coworkers, which meant he'd have to lie in front of her, or admit to them that she was actually the 'Felicity' they'd been hearing so much about.
  1758. > Cross that bridge...
  1759. > He was trying to imagine that conversation with Paul and Alex and completely forgot about the apartment for a few moments, while Fluttershy looked around some more. She walked into the shower and called out: "Oh, Anon, come look!"
  1760. > She was pointing at the faucet which had a spout as well as the shower head. For some reason it was mounted lower in the wall than customary and 'Shy had her hoof on the handle.
  1761. > "I can use this just fine," she said with a big smile, having found the solution to her sink problem. "Just get me one of those hoof-held mirrors and I guess this will do."
  1762. > Anon was doubtful and more than a little weirded out at the suggestion.
  1763. "You'd brush your teeth in the shower?!" he asked.
  1764. > Fluttershy opened the faucet and let a bit of water splash on the shower floor. "Why not?"
  1765. "Well, it feels... wrong. Not to mention you'll get wet each time."
  1766. > This put a damper in her enthusiasm and Fluttershy's ears drooped as she considered this new problem. Anon was right and she had to step away from the small puddle she'd created. "Hmm. Okay, how about if we put the stool over there?"
  1767. > She pointed a hoof through the bathroom door to a closet on the opposite wall. Anon guessed it was meant for winter coats and such, since it was in the hallway near the front door. He walked over and opened it. There was the metal bar for coat hangers and no drawers. He supposed he could put a small stool in the bottom and still leave enough room for clothes.
  1768. "I... guess?"
  1769. > "Besides, you'll help me with it if I need it, won't you?"
  1770. > That was something they had briefly talked about before. Fluttershy had told him she would get pretty big as her pregnancy progressed and she might have problems standing on her hind legs for the sink. She'd need some support, like a big, strong human to keep her steady while she washed.
  1771. "Of course!"
  1772. > She walked out of the bathroom and reared up with a hoof on the wall to support herself as she flicked the light switch. "Then I think it can work. What's the bedroom like?"
  1773. > Anon held out a hand in invitation and then followed 'Shy as she went to look. She gave a friendly nod to the agent, who blinked in surprise and couldn't keep from staring at the mare, despite having met her a few minutes before.
  1774. > "We would like to see the bedroom now, please," 'Shy asked with as friendly a smile as she could make.
  1775. > It worked and the man walked over to the last unopened door in the hallway. "Right this way. Um, there's room for- like a doggy bed or something..."
  1776. > Fluttershy leaned her head to one side in thought and her smile turned glassy as she tried to decipher what he meant.
  1777. "It's okay, we'll figure something out," Anon explained.
  1778. > Fluttershy stiffened once she understood. Anon could spot a bit of red in her cheeks, but she hid her annoyance pretty well. "Yes, we like to cuddle," she said in a quiet tone of voice and with a slightly suggestive smirk.
  1779. > This made the poor estate agent look from the mare to Anon and half-open his mouth to ask the obvious question. Luckily he thought better of it and just shook his head to himself.
  1780. > Anon couldn't help flushing a little at the implication, but 'Shy seemed completely unperturbed as she walked into the thickly carpeted room. She put a hoof on the bed and tested how stiff it was, then walked over to the nightstand to inspect the drawer.
  1781. > Trying to avoid further scrutiny Anon went to the window and pulled aside the full-wall curtain.
  1782. "Oh, you mentioned the door to the balcony, I guess this is it?"
  1783. > The agent was grateful of the distraction and almost rushed to join him. "Yes, here, let me open it for you."
  1784. "The curtains come with the place?"
  1785. > "Yes, and there is another set in that closet over there. That way you can change them and wash at your leisure."
  1786. "Oh, that's right. I saw a washing machine in the bathroom."
  1787. > The man nodded and jerked as if to go show Anon right away, but thought better of it. "Indeed, indeed. The previous tenant bought one of those collapsible stands to dry their laundry on the balcony."
  1788. > Fluttershy had joined them and Anon reached down to put his hand on her head. "That's a good idea," she agreed. "Um, Anon?"
  1789. > He crouched down so he could focus on what she was going to say, but he kept his fingers in her mane.
  1790. > "I kinda like it. I guess we'll need dishes and bedclothes and some other stuff, but I think it could work."
  1791. "Yeah?"
  1792. > She just gave him a nod and shook his hand free, but only so she could push her nose against his palm and close her eyes. "Let's take it," she whispered.
  1793. > The estate agent heard and was starting to tentatively smile at having nearly closed the deal. "Any other questions?" he asked in an effort to move them along.
  1794. "I guess not. You told us about the utilities, the rent is okay. I guess we'll take it."
  1795. > The guy inclined his head. "Very good. I'll let the landlord know and send you a contract in your email, that okay?"
  1796. "Sure."
  1797. > Fluttershy butted Anon's leg out of the way and walked out on the balcony while he exchanged the address with the estate agent. She peered through the bars with a frown, then reared up and put her forehooves on the railing.
  1798. > It was just low enough for her to look over it and she took in the view. Anon was watching and saw her wings twitch as a gust of wind ruffled the fur on her face. Her nose wiggled at a scent she caught and she lifted up her ears to focus on the street below.
  1799. > Seeing her like that nearly brought tears to Anon's eyes. She looked like she belonged on that balcony, like she was about to leap up and go for a flight to stretch her wings. She'd come back once she tired herself out, of course.
  1800. > Her tail swished and brought Anon's mind back to the present.
  1801. "Oh. Sorry. Yeah, I'll check the contract and send the money over tomorrow. When can we get the keys?"
  1802. > The agent followed Anon's gaze and watched 'Shy for a few seconds before shrugging to himself and focusing on the task at hand. "Once the transaction has cleared I'll call you and we can set a time. I'll meet you here with the keys and two copies of the lease to sign, and that should be it."
  1803. > He held out a hand to shake on the tentative deal they'd just made. "Congratulations, Mr. Anonymous. I'm sure you and- uh-"
  1804. "Fluttershy."
  1805. > "Yes, you and Miss Fluttershy will be quite happy here."
  1806. > So it was done. No more phoning around and driving all over the place to look at apartments. They could start packing the next day and move over the weekend.
  1807. > Anon went out to the balcony to stand beside 'Shy.
  1808. "What are you looking at?" he asked her.
  1809. > She glanced briefly at him, then shrugged. "Just- the view. It's nice to be up high."
  1810. > The flat was on something like the fourteenth floor, so it was above most of the city, at least if you didn't look at all the skyscrapers in the center, which was just visible off to the right.
  1811. > Fluttershy went on: "I guess it's a pegasus thing, but we like to be up high. I lived on the ground in Ponyville, but I liked to visit my parents..."
  1812. > She fell silent and heaved a sigh for the world which was probably lost to her forever.Her hoof moved over to rest on Anon's hand and she reached out with a wing to hug him.
  1813. > It only lasted a few seconds before she let go and fell back to all four hooves. "I guess we should go back now? You need sleep and I'm hungry. I'll make us dinner."
  1814. "Yeah. Thanks, 'Shy."
  1815. > They left the apartment and waited in the hallway while the agent closed all the doors and locked it behind them.
  1816. "Thanks again, Mr. Blaker," he told the guy.
  1817. > "Absolutely no problem. Have a good day and we'll talk soon."
  1818. > They didn't wait while he made some notes on his clipboard. Anon headed for the lifts but 'Shy put a hoof on his calf and pointed at the stairs. "Let's walk," she proposed. "I'd like the exercise and I don't like how cramped the elevator is."
  1819. > She splayed out her ears with that admission and Anon couldn't help chuckling.
  1820. "Well, you should have thought about that five minutes ago. We're committed now, so you'll just have to get used to it."
  1821. > He smiled as he said it and 'Shy grinned right back. "Nuh-uh, I can fly. I can go straight from the parking lot to the balcony, no problem. *You'll* have to get used to it!"
  1822. "I don't mind the elevator."
  1823. > She stuck her tongue out at him. "Well, that's good then!"
  1824. "Good!"
  1825. > "Good."
  1826.  
  1827. > ~~~~
  1828.  
  1829. > Anonymous put the cardboard box down on the mattress and began ripping it open to get at the items within. He was searching for a very specific thing and didn't care how he rumpled the clothes.
  1830. > It was getting pretty late and he needed to find the box with their bed stuff so he and 'Shy could even sleep in their new place.
  1831. > "Um, this one is plates and glasses," his marefriend announced from the hallway. There were sounds of crinkling paper as she dug deeper, then some rattling pottery when she moved it out of the way.
  1832. "That's fine. Look for sheets and pillows, they gotta be somewhere."
  1833. > A faint clop of hooves on the linoleum and then Fluttershy stuck her head in the bedroom. "Maybe it's still in the car?" she suggested.
  1834. "Good idea. I'll go check."
  1835. > "I'm coming with."
  1836. "It's fine you can stay here and-"
  1837. > Her ears flattened and she interrupted him: "I said I'm coming with. I can help you carry the boxes. Besides, you're not going to open them in the parking lot. Let's just bring everything up, okay?"
  1838. > She had insisted on helping with packing and taking the boxes from their apartment to the car, too, and she didn't care who saw her. It was their last day in the neighborhood anyway. The move had taken several trips to get everything to the new place and now the weekend was almost over and they still hadn't unpacked very much.
  1839. > At least she'd found the crockery, which meant they'd be able to have breakfast the next morning.
  1840. "Okay, let's go then."
  1841. > He followed the yellow pegasus out of the apartment and down the hall to the lifts. She still didn't like how cramped it was, but 'Shy bore it stoically and didn't complain. The only signs of her discomfort were the way she shuffled her hooves, swished her tail and kept her head down.
  1842. > She had also insisted on carrying the heavier boxes to and from the car. Anon had objected on the basis of her being a girl - not to mention pregnant - but 'Shy had assured him in no uncertain terms that she wasn't an invalid and the boxes weren't a burden at all.
  1843. "So, I guess this is it?" Anon murmured to break the silence as the lift clanked and rattled its way down.
  1844. > "Yep. I'm glad we're out of that place. It was too close to- well, I'm glad."
  1845. > Anon also felt relief to be away from Mason, although he knew he'd miss the flat. It had been far larger and more comfortable than this one, even if it was further from the office.
  1846. > This new place would be cozy, though, especially with Fluttershy there to share it. Anon let his hand slip from his pocket and brush against the mare's ear. She flicked it at the faint touch, but then took a half-step closer and leaned her head into his palm.
  1847. > "It's going to be fine," she said, perhaps aware of Anon's nostalgia for his old home.
  1848. > They reached the ground floor and the inner elevator door slid open. There was a faint click as the bolt retreated and Anon pushed the outer door open. 'Shy almost scurried out of the tight space, but managed to keep herself to a walk. It'd seem even smaller to her, walking on four legs as she was, Anon thought.
  1849. > They found the car in the dark and he unlocked it. There were two boxes left, one in the trunk and the other on the back seat. Fluttershy waited patiently while he pulled out the one from the seat and she turned her side to him so he could place it carefully on her back.
  1850. > She lifted up her wings, still mostly folded, to balance the burden, then shifted her hips to check how stable the package was. "I'm good," she told him so Anon could take his hands away. She was right, he had to admit. As a pony, she seemed very capable of carrying the burden.
  1851. > He shut the back door and went to the trunk to fetch the last box. He had to put it on the ground for a few moments so he could close and lock the car, then he picked it back up and followed 'Shy back to the building.
  1852. > So far they hadn't encountered any of their new neighbors and Anon was a bit glad of that. Moving this fast was tiring and he didn't really have the energy to explain about 'Shy.
  1853. > "One more trip," she murmured to herself as she waited for Anon to open the lift door. It took some balancing, but he held it for her, then swung it and stepped inside before it could close on him.
  1854. > With the boxes the small lift was even more cramped and 'Shy let out a slow breath. She closed her eyes, obviously trying to calm herself while Anon hit the button for their floor with his elbow.
  1855. "Just a few more minutes and we can go to bed," he told her.
  1856. > The statement did make 'Shy smile, but she kept her eyes closed. Anon wanted to scratch her ears again, but his hands were full and there was no room to put the box down. It'd be over soon, anyway.
  1857. > The lift stopped and Anon began juggling the package so he could push the door open, but it moved on its own and an old lady nearly walked right into them.
  1858. > "Oh my! Whoops, nearly- uh- nearly..."
  1859. > She trailed off when she spotted Fluttershy in the lift. A trembling hand came up to prod at her glasses, perhaps to make sure she still had them on. "Is that a- um, hi?"
  1860. "Oh, sorry. Name's Anonymous. I guess we're your new neighbors."
  1861. > He spotted the floor number painted on the wall behind the old lady.
  1862. "Upstairs neighbors, I guess."
  1863. > 'Shy shifted her hind leg and stepped on his foot, but didn't put all her weight down. It was enough to remind him, though.
  1864. "Oh, right. This is Fluttershy."
  1865. > Despite how tired and uncomfortable she was, 'Shy managed to offer the woman a pleasant smile. "Hi. It's nice to meet you!"
  1866. > Hearing the pony speak made the lady take a step back. "It can *talk*?!"
  1867. > Anon had the box in front of him so his vision was mostly blocked, but he saw Fluttershy's ears fold down out of the corner of his eye.
  1868. "Fluttershy's a 'she', ma'am. Of course she can talk," he clarified.
  1869. > The lady blinked and tore her gaze away from 'Shy to inspect Anon again. "Oh. Right, of course. I'm sorry. Um, nice to meet you?"
  1870. > That last had the inflection of a question, as if she wasn't sure herself.
  1871. > For a moment it looked like they were in a stalemate, but then Anon shrugged to himself and moved the conversation along.
  1872. "If you could let the door close, ma'am?"
  1873. > She got the hint and gasped again. "Oh, of course. Where are my manners! I- I guess I'll catch the lift on its way down!"
  1874. "Thanks. Um, Mrs?"
  1875. > "Oh, right. Mrs. Padgett."
  1876. "Nice to meet you. Bye now!"
  1877. > Anon kept his voice polite, but firm, a skill learned from his years on the phone. It brokered no argument and the woman finally let the outer lift door go. A few seconds later the inner one closed as well and the lift went up that last floor.
  1878. > The two hurried to their apartment, where Anon had to put the box down again so he could get his keys. He soon had it unlocked and they both went inside, grateful that they were done with the job of carrying boxes.
  1879. > As soon as the door was closed behind them Fluttershy started to giggle.
  1880. "What?"
  1881. > She shook her head and flexed her wings, silently telling Anon to remove the box from her back. He did so, and waited until she was able to speak once more.
  1882. > "Did you see her? She was looking up the stairs while you were unlocking the door."
  1883. "No, I didn't."
  1884. > The little pony chuckled some more. "I swear her eyes were as big as tea saucers. I'll bet before long everpony- um, everyone in the building will know about me."
  1885. "Well, hopefully they won't cause us trouble. Maybe you should stay inside for now, just to be sure?"
  1886. > 'Shy shrugged, but inclined her head in acquiescence. She was already running the edge of her hoof along the seam on the box to open it. "Yep, here they are," she confirmed and Anon saw it was full of white cloth.
  1887. > Their sheets and blankets.
  1888. "Cool. I'll just go and- Hey, I'll do it, you can rest a minute."
  1889. > 'Shy had begun dragging the package to the bedroom even while he was offering to do it. She had the piece of cardboard in her mouth but let it go so she could talk. "I've got it in hoof. I'll make the bed, *you* can go and make some tea! My stomach still isn't feeling right." Her hoof went to her midriff as she said that, but she didn't seem to be in significant discomfort.
  1890. > Anon shrugged to himself. If she really wanted to make the bed he wouldn't object.
  1891. "Where's the pot and cups?"
  1892. > 'Shy inspected the few opened boxes in the hallway and pointed a hoof. "That one. I already put the tea away, it's in the middle drawer by the sink."
  1893. > That sounded easy enough to find, except for-
  1894. "The kettle?"
  1895. > This made Fluttershy freeze and she scrunched up her muzzle in thought. Her eyes went through the boxes again, then shrugged. "Maybe the one you just brought up?"
  1896. "Okay, I'll check. Don't worry, I'll find it. Is it really bad? Your belly, I mean?"
  1897. > 'Shy shook her head and gave him a reassuring smile, though her ears remained splayed, putting at least a small lie to her words: "I'll be fine. Just a bit of a cramp."
  1898. "You should've waited up here and rested."
  1899. > This time she shook her head more forcefully and folded her ears all the way down. She had that look when she was about to dig in and maintain her position against everything Anon could say.
  1900. "Fine. Fine. Just saying."
  1901. > 'Shy relaxed and abandoned her box for a moment to come closer. Anon knew what she wanted and knelt down so they could embrace. "I wanted to help," she murmured near his ear. "We're in this together, okay? You're already working a job to pay for all this, it's the least I can do to help around the house."
  1902. > Even after a whole day of exertion, packing, car travel, and unpacking, 'Shy still smelled of her fresh, herbal shampoo. Anon couldn't help rubbing his nose against her ear even as he dug his fingers into her coat.
  1903. > He got a lick on his cheek as a reward before 'Shy extricated herself. "Go and see about that tea. I'll join you in the kitchen when I'm done."
  1904. "Sure. Yell if you need anything."
  1905.  
  1906. > ~~~~
  1907.  
  1908. > Anonymous would have liked to sleep in, especially since the strange bed had kept him awake most of the night, but Fluttershy had nudged him out of bed so they could have breakfast together.
  1909. > He didn't complain, especially once he was up and sitting on one of the lawn chairs on their balcony in the warmth of the early morning sun.
  1910. > They had been an impulse buy on a suggestion from 'Shy, but now he was glad they got them. One of these days he should also get the plastic table to go with them, Anon thought.
  1911. > There was still a bit of a chill in the air and 'Shy felt it too, judging from an occasional shiver, but despite how fresh the air was, the bowl of oatmeal in his hands warmed Anon nicely.
  1912. > He'd have to leave for work soon, but there was enough time to enjoy a meal together.
  1913. "Oatmeal, huh?"
  1914. > Fluttershy took it the wrong way and looked down as she blushed. Her nose twitched at the scent from her own bowl. "I- There's still a lot to unpack and put away, I didn't want to spend a lot of time searching for cooking things."
  1915. "I'm not saying it's bad, just that it's an interesting choice."
  1916. > She looked up and her spoon rattled as she gave a small shrug and bumped the bowl sitting between her hind legs. "I like oatmeal," 'Shy admitted. She deftly grabbed the utensil between forehooves and stuck it in her mouth. A moment later her ears wilted and let it clatter back into the bowl.
  1917. > Anon was about to ask if everything was alright, but kept silent when he saw that 'Shy was going for the sugar. The paper bag was on the seat of her chair as well and made a slight rustling sound as she sprinkled it in her food.
  1918. "You do like things sweet, don't you?" he asked, mostly for something to say.
  1919. > Another shrug while she stirred her oatmeal. "I'm just used to it from back home," she explained. She picked the spoon up, gave it a lick, then nodded to herself in satisfaction.
  1920. "Sounds like a very sweet place."
  1921. > The mare finished licking her spoon clean before replying, but she gave Anon a slightly nostalgic smile and stared off into the distance, lost in her memories. "Not really, unless you were friends with Pinkie Pie. Well, everypony was friends with Pinkie Pie, so I dunno. Maybe?"
  1922. > Her eyes focused on Anon and she put the spoon back in the bowl. "Do you think I eat too much sugar?"
  1923. "No, no," Anon replied quickly. "You should have exactly as much as you want to."
  1924. > That made her smile, partly in gratitude and partly in relief. "Oh. Okay..."
  1925. > As if to take advantage of the offer she reached for the bag again and sprinkled some more in her bowl. She offered it to Anon next, but he shook his head. He had put a small pinch in his and it was enough.
  1926. "Any plans for the day?"
  1927. > Fluttershy leaned her head to one side, trying to decide if he was joking. "I need to put everything away, remember? I'm not too sure about that bathroom either. There's a smell, I'm telling you."
  1928. "Yeah, your nose is a lot better than mine. I believe you."
  1929. > "I'll clean it again, just to make sure. We're not living in filth, Anon."
  1930. "Didn't you say you used to live in a cottage full of animals?" he pointed out.
  1931. > "Yes," 'Shy explained in a level, patient tone of voice, "but it wasn't dirty. Just because somepony says 'animals', that doesn't mean it's dirty. Most animals are quite clean, actually!"
  1932. "Sorry. You're right, I shouldn't judge without seeing first."
  1933. > "That's right. You shouldn't. Oh, speaking of cleaning, can you bring me some bleach from the store on your way back?"
  1934. > Anon nodded and committed the request to memory. He had to go fetch some groceries anyway.
  1935. "Sure. Anything else?"
  1936. > 'Shy leaned back and looked at the ceiling in deep thought. "Bananas," she finally decided and licked her lips in anticipation. "I'd like some bananas, please."
  1937. "You got it."
  1938. > "Now finish your breakfast before it gets cold!"
  1939. > There was no disobeying that almost motherly tone and Anon did as instructed. He washed it down with some chilled milk then glanced at his phone.
  1940. "I guess I have to go. I'll see you tonight."
  1941. > He stood up, empty bowl and glass in his hands, and headed inside to put them in the sink. Just as he was about to go back and give 'Shy a kiss goodbye, she walked into the kitchen as well. She hadn't yet finished her own breakfast and her bowl was tucked against her barrel with one foreleg.
  1942. > She walked a bit strangely on three legs, but she didn't seem too encumbered. She lifted it up to the table for the moment so she could spread her forehooves wide and accept the hug she knew Anon would give her.
  1943. > He went down on his knees to make it easier for her and they embraced. She kissed his cheek and murmured in his ear: "I'll miss you."
  1944. "Yeah, me too."
  1945. > They were silent for a bit, then 'Shy broke it with a hesitant admission: "Anon? I'm- um, I'm glad I'm yours."
  1946. > He wanted to repeat again that it was just on paper and she wasn't really a captive, but it had been said before and 'Shy knew it all. He'd just sound like a broken record. Instead, he thought of a different way to put it.
  1947. "Only for as long as you want, 'Shy."
  1948. > She pulled away and peered at him in surprise, but then a smile slowly spread across her muzzle. "That..." she began, but paused as she buried her face in his shirt. "That actually helps."
  1949. > He patted her back and waited for long moments until Fluttershy extricated herself from the hug. "You should probably go," she said and it was obvious she didn't want to. She was looking at the floor and her ears were completely flat. Even her wings were bunched up, as if she was considering flying after him.
  1950. > If he delayed it, Anon knew, his resolve would only weaken. Maybe he could have called Harris and taken the day off, but it would put the load on his coworkers and it'd mean a bit less money at the end of the month.
  1951. > He ran his fingers through the fluff on Fluttershy's cheek, then stood up.
  1952. > True, parting for the day was a bit sad - although why it should be worse now than in their old apartment Anon didn't know - but he'd come home to 'Shy in a couple of hours and they'd have the rest of the day, and the night, together.
  1953. > They'd face more hardship, he suspected, especially once the bank started taking back the money they'd loaned him. He'd have to work longer hours to make up for it.
  1954. > Then there was the fact that 'Shy was an alien in his world, with very few rights the her name. Things would complicate further once she gave birth and they had to deal with a child.
  1955. > Anon had absolutely no idea how they'd get through that, nor what their life would be like. For that matter, he hadn't told anyone about 'Shy and didn't even want to think how his parents would take it.
  1956. > Looking at her now, however, at her smile which was both melancholy and hopeful, the way she watched him attentively and how her ears followed Anon's every move- the sight made him believe it was all worth it.
  1957. > She was infinitely better off here than she'd been with Mason.
  1958. > They'd make it. Somehow they would.
  1959. > Anon gave 'Shy a little wave and turned to go to work.
  1960. > She'd be waiting for him to come home.
  1961.  
  1962. > END
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