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Twilight Halloween special 2019 (SPG)

By awf
Created: 29th October 2020 06:22:44 PM
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  1. > Twilight Sparkle blinked her eyes which felt like they were full of sand. She tried to focus on the Pony Society paperwork, but the neat columns of numbers devolved into a meaningless jumble.
  2. > She levitated up a cup of coffee and grimaced when she tasted it. Cold.
  3. > How long had she been at this? The pony looked at the clock on the wall in front of her and groaned a little. Was it even worth going home at this point? She'd barely get to sleep an hour before having to get up again.
  4. > Another interview - one for which she had to look presentable. These were becoming more and more difficult lately.
  5. "One hour is better than zero," she murmured to herself and stood up.
  6. > The paperwork wouldn't go anywhere, Twilight knew this very well. In fact, there would probably be even more of it waiting on her desk tomorrow. Except that she had promised Anon to help him with some algorithms, so Pony Society would have to wait until Friday.
  7. > As she ambled through the dark, quiet building, Twilight tried to plan out her day differently. Who knew, maybe she'd magically find a few more hours of time in there somewhere?
  8. > Maybe, if she got through the interview before lunch, then grabbed a smoothie or something on her way to the car and drank it while driving home, she could help Anon in the afternoon.
  9. > If she got lucky, she might get the code in order and then she and Anon could have dinner together.
  10. > The mare smiled at the thought. Just the two of them, on the couch, eating - well, whatever was easy to eat out of your hoof - nuzzling. Perhaps a kiss or two.
  11. > In fact, Twilight decided, even if she was done sooner than expected with Anon's software problem, she wouldn't come back to the Pony Society tomorrow. Things could look after themselves for one evening. She'd check her emails from home and then turn in early.
  12. > Lack of sleep was slowly killing her and that was impossible, because she was an alicorn. In any case, it certainly wasn't pleasant.
  13. > She made it all the way to her car and climbed up into the driver's seat with some difficulty. She sat still for a moment and rested her eyes.
  14. > A moment later she jerked upright with a small gasp. She'd nearly dozed off in the car again! She'd never heard the end of it from Anon if he found her in the Pony Society parking lot, sleeping on the wheel again!
  15. > Out of desperation the pony hoofed herself right on the muzzle. It stung, but it also woke her up enough to drive.
  16. "Just a couple of minutes. The streets are empty anyway, so I'll be home real soon."
  17. >...
  18. > Of course it never went according to plan, Twilight thought bitterly as she rode the elevator up.
  19. > Every. Single. Damned. Semaphore had conspired to turn red just as she was approaching it. A five minute commute had turned into a half-hour struggle to stay awake.
  20. > Her head, her ears, her tail - it was all hanging limply. If her wings were big enough yet, they'd be dragging on the floor.
  21. "Buck this..." the pony sighed sadly.
  22. > She would have to do something - make some changes in her life. Juggling a full-time job at the Pony Society with another full time job at her and Anon's company, and a budding diplomatic career was quickly becoming impossible for one single pony.
  23. > A pony who had to sleep.
  24. > An old idea surfaced again, but this time Twilight considered it rather than simply shooting it down. She'd read something completely bonkers in one of the old magic journals in the Canterlot spellbook library.
  25. > Supposedly there was a book on sleep magic. Supposedly there was a spell.
  26. > It was crazy dangerous, but it wouldn't be for long. She was training her replacement for the Pony Society, so her involvement in that should be reduced to near zero, soon.
  27. > She had a very good feeling about this particular young lady. Fresh out of college, but incredibly smart. Majored in political science, but her minor was philosophy. Curious and eager to learn.
  28. > Twilight was paying her about twice what she'd get anywhere else and training her in running the world's biggest pony rights organization. Where did you get a better deal than that?
  29. > It was an unspoken agreement between Twilight and her that the girl would take over day to day business, at least for a few years while she figured out her goals in life.
  30. > That'd give her about six to ten hours every day. She just had to slog through the next few months. It was worth it!
  31. > The mare shook her head as the elevator dinged up on the top floor. She wasn't seriously considering doing some advanced, tricky, *dangerous* magic just so she could find a bit more time for paperwork, was she?
  32. > The door slid open and thoughts of dusty old spells flew from her mind when her eyes alighted on Anon. Despite how bone-weary she was, Twilight smiled.
  33. > He was sitting against the wall on the floor near the elevator door. There was a rose which had slipped from his fingers when he had fallen asleep. His cell phone was beside his hand.
  34. > The ding didn't wake him up, so Twilight crept forward as quietly as she could until she was standing as near as possible without actually touching.
  35. > She leaned her head in and pressed her muzzle gently against Anon's cheek. Almost automatically his arms came out to wrap around her withers.
  36. > He had apparently been waiting up for her and fell asleep. He even had a rose! It was at the same time incredibly sweet and quite foolish. He should have gone to bed.
  37. > Heh... *she* should have been to bed hours ago!
  38. > She gave her human a gentle lick on his face.
  39. "Come on, let's go to bed. I'm sorry I'm so late."
  40. > The human didn't entirely wake up, but his fingers found her ears and started massaging. "Mmm, hi Tw'lig'," he mumbled.
  41. > His skillful technique, perfected over the years of them living together, quickly melted her brain into a warm, pink mess. The alicorn had barely enough self-control to nudge her lover with a hoof.
  42. "Come on. Up on your feet. Bed. Now."
  43. > It worked and Anon slowly lifted himself. He put a hand on her back for support and she stiffened her legs to take his weight. She was quite used to it and Anon knew how strong she was, so the motion was probably automatic.
  44. > She levitated up his phone, but it took an incredible effort of will, so she just put it on the shoe cabinet. This way at least she wouldn't step on it when she had to leave.
  45. > That reminded her and she brought out her own phone. Oh, her saddlebags! Now that she had her phone, nothing else in them was important so she just unbuckled the strap and let them slip off.
  46. > She looked at the screen and almost groaned. The interview was at ten, which meant she'd have to get up at eight to shower and get ready. These days that included makeup, so better make that seven thirty.
  47. > Hardly any time left for warm Anon-snuggles. The mare quickened her steps and brought Anon to the bedroom. She tugged at his pants and he began clumsily unbuckling them.
  48. > There was the faintest of tickles down between her legs, but she was far too tired for anything tonight. It'd have to wait for tomorrow, the pony thought sadly. This time, the human was only undressing so he'd sleep more comfortably.
  49. > As soon as his pants were down Anon started on his sweatshirt and Twilight poked him with a snout in his stomach to get him to sit on the bed. Time was of the essence here, so she lifted his legs and - with a skill born of practice - yanked off his socks.
  50. > The shirt landed on her head and she inhaled deeply, relishing the scent that was pure Anon.
  51. > Maybe she could delay sleep for ten more minutes?
  52. > The human broke the spell by yawning, which quickly infected her as well. No, she wasn't getting enough sleep and she needed every minute she could grab.
  53. "Scooch over, let me up," she whispered.
  54. > Anon obediently made room and she climbed right into his lap. The human pulled the blanket around them both and Twilight wiggled her back as close against the warm human belly as she could.
  55. "Mmm. Warm human. Love... human..."
  56. > The last thing she was dimly aware were arms snaking around her barrel and a very gentle kiss on her ear.
  57. > Stupid paperwork, keeping her away from this...
  58.  
  59. > ~~~~
  60.  
  61. > The smoothie-car idea worked like a charm and Twilight made excellent time coming back to the apartment. Well, she *might* have broken a few speed limits, but hey, who didn't these days?
  62. > Her minuscule amount of sleep had nevertheless been enough to refresh her and the interview for national TV went really well. It also rejuvenated her magic and it was a snap to control the car and hold the smoothie cup at the same time.
  63. > Alicorn did have its perks, after all.
  64. > The pony parked in her usual spot in the garage and impatiently rode the elevator up. She was already imagining the problem she'd be solving shortly.
  65. > Hopefully Anon could be convinced to make her a sandwich or something while she worked. Even better would be if she was done really quickly and they could cook together.
  66. > Celestia, when was the last time they cooked together? Twilight gave a wistful sigh at the happy memory of that one time Anon tried making her chocolate pudding and it ended up all over the stove and the floor.
  67. > Of course she had helped him clean it up. Naturally, when he wasn't looking, she had a taste or two.
  68. > Well, actually, more like several dozen tastes. She had probably eaten more than she mopped up.
  69. > Only the stuff on the stove, of course. She wasn't some kind of a dog to lick the floor.
  70. > Well, except for a quick taste.
  71. > Anon had to brush his teeth like five times when he found out - after they'd been kissing for a while, of course.
  72. > Little Piggy Sparkle he'd called her for a while and she pretended to be upset with him. She only got him to stop after she started snorting like a pig during sex, making the poor human laugh so hard it put him off his stroke.
  73. > She was smiling widely by the time she made it up to the flat. This time there was no Anon sitting on the floor, but the rose from the previous night was on the shoe cabinet in a vase.
  74. > Twilight sniffed the crimson petals, then ate the rosebud in a single bite. It was delicious. Anon knew her favorite flower, which made it taste even better.
  75. "Hey honey!" she called out.
  76. > The couch creaked a little as the human shifted and she headed that way, completely forgetting she still had her bags around her waist.
  77. > "How'd it go?" he asked, putting whatever he was watching on pause.
  78. "Actually, quite well. I'm pleased with it. The reporter stuck to the script, which is always nice."
  79. > She put her forehooves on the edge of the cushion so she could reach up high enough for a light kiss. When she was about to pull away, the human put his hand around her head and held her in place for a few seconds longer. It never failed to make her smile some more.
  80. > He grinned back and left a final little peck on the tip of her nose. "Good!"
  81. > She sighed and nuzzled his chest for a moment before lowering herself back to the floor. "I'm gonna go look at that bug you told me about. Hopefully I can fix it quickly."
  82. > Anon's face fell a little, even though he tried to conceal it. "You going back to the Pony Society again?"
  83. > Twilight's ears perked up and she smiled widely.
  84. "Not today!" she exclaimed. "Gonna take the day off, get some sleep in."
  85. > "Just sleep?" the human asked cautiously.
  86. > The mare shrugged a little. "Sleep and other bedroom-related activities, I was thinking."
  87. > It made him chuckle. "I like the way you think," he commented. "This means you can take time for a proper lunch, right?"
  88. > Before she could even think about the question Anon leaned forward and kissed her again, much more forcefully and passionately this time. His tongue prodded and she allowed him in, briefly.
  89. > It didn't fail to send a tingle from her hooves, up her spine and ending at her horn, where it made a weak, involuntary spark. Yeah, this kind of kisses were the best.
  90. > Then the cheeky human smacked his lips a little. "I'm sure we can do better than kale smoothie and rose petals, love."
  91. > Twilight leaned her head to the side, thinking. Her tail swished as she tried to plan out her day yet again. A finger bopping her nose distracted her.
  92. > "Hey, it's gonna be fine, okay? You're working yourself too hard, Twilight."
  93. > She shook her head, but Anon caught her chin in his hand and she fell still. "Listen to me, sweetheart," he went on, "you're not doing anyone any favors. In fact, I'll handle the bug tonight, let's just have a nice afternoon. You really look like you could use one."
  94. > She knew that for a fact, but she also knew Anon needed her help.
  95. "You need me. If you or any of the guys could fix that bug you would have by now. It's in my code."
  96. > He pursed his lips but didn't argue. He was incredibly good at what he did, but she was a genius. It didn't take a genius to know that, which was why Anon understood that he needed her. Simple logic.
  97. > "Fine, fine," he gave in. "Lunch now, bug later, then a movie and - well, I guess we'll see where it goes."
  98. > It really did sound like it would do her a world of good. Twilight gave in and put her head in Anon's lap again. She inhaled his scent and closed her eyes. She hardly even noticed when the human unbuckled her bags and they slipped to the floor.
  99. "You spoil me..."
  100. > "Ditto. Now up with you."
  101. > The mare opened one eye and lifted up one ear.
  102. "I thought you said lunch first."
  103. > "Yeah. *I'm* making lunch, *you* take a quick nap. Don't think I don't remember when you came in last night. You really have got to stop pulling all-nighters at the Society, Twilight."
  104. > There was a touch of concern in her voice and it warmed her heart.
  105. "I know, but there's just-"
  106. > "-so much to do," Anon finished. "Yeah, I've heard that one. Let Clarissa handle it."
  107. > Twilight shook her head as best she could.
  108. "She still needs training. There was a- well, a complication with the pegasus rescue and we had to engage that French surgeon and Clarissa didn't know how to budget for him."
  109. > "Don't you have people to do that?"
  110. > Twilight shook her head again.
  111. "I don't. That's why I'm training her. Believe it or not, Suri Polomare was good at this sort of thing. I was actually sorry to see her go."
  112. > "Up!" Anon suddenly commanded again. "Or do I have to pick you up and lift you to the couch? I can do it, too! I carried you all the way up from the garage, remember?"
  113. "Pfft, I was a lot skinnier back then!" she countered.
  114. > Rather than replying, Anon slipped from under her muzzle and manually picked her up. He grunted a bit as he lifted, but he did deposit her on her side on the couch. The sudden motion made the mare eep, but it ended up in a giggle.
  115. > "Now stay!" the human ordered. "Staaay!" he repeated, as he would to a disobedient dog. He even held up a figer! She just stuck her tongue out at him.
  116. > They both laughed and Anon reached down to pat her side. "I'll make us some lunch."
  117. "Okay-" Twilight began, but a yawn interrupted her. "Just- wake me up when you're done, okay? I don't wanna miss too much of this."
  118. > She was already getting incredibly sleepy now that she was lying down. The sun was just hitting the perfect angle to shine on her rump and the warmth was quickly making her fade into dreamland.
  119. "Love... 'ooo..."
  120. > "You too, Princess."
  121. > She tried to poke her tongue out at him again, but it probably failed as sleep claimed her.
  122.  
  123. > ~~~~
  124.  
  125. > It was weekend, but that wasn't as fun as it used to be. Twilight did sleep in until nearly nine o'clock, but then it was straight to her laptop to catch up on Pony Society monthly reports and plan.
  126. > In particular, Clarissa had prepared the next month's plan and the alicorn was just going to check it and correct where appropriate.
  127. > Heck, she might even be done before lunch, so Anon and she would get to do something. The thought made her smile. That movie night on Thursday had been absolutely delightful and the sex after it was outta this world.
  128. > It made a certain kind of sense, though. The mare wasn't from Earth.
  129. > Just thinking about it made her tail flag a little, but Twilight ruthlessly pushed the thought down and focused again on her spreadsheet.
  130. > Useful invention, that. When her work on Earth was done she'd have to think up a way to bring laptops to Equestria. They were just so handy for organizing lists and numbers!
  131. > There was a faint clink and the mare turned an ear towards the kitchen. Anon was making them coffee and it sounded like he was almost done. She listened to the sound of him stirring in some coffee into her bowl of sugar and milk.
  132. > It made her smile in an absentminded kind of way.
  133. > Not long after, the human walked into the living room with both cups and she smoothly accepted hers with a delicately controlled levitation spell.
  134. > Her horn was almost completely back to normal! A very encouraging thought.
  135. > "Any luck?" the human asked as he sat on the cushion behind her. Her ears had followed him, but without Twilight's conscious control.
  136. "Almost. Gotta finish reading this report, then it's just the budget plan for November."
  137. > The name of the month reminded her human and he put a hand on her rump to play with her fur. "Oh, that's right! What are we gonna do for Halloween?"
  138. > This was too important and Twilight looked away from her document as she thought.
  139. "Hmm..." she murmured.
  140. > "Don't tell me you're going as that Starswirl guy again!" Anon chided gently. "You know no one on Earth knows about him, right?"
  141. "*Almost* no one."
  142. > The mare shook her head anyway.
  143. "You're right, though. I was thinking something different this year. Like- maybe... Steve Jobs?"
  144. > Anon seemed thoughtful, but he quickly brightened up. "That's actually not a bad idea. How are you going to pull it off?"
  145. "Fake glasses and a turtleneck with Apple logo," the mare answered quickly.
  146. > "Might be too subtle, though," the human pointed out. "Not that it matters, really, as long as you're having fun."
  147. "Mhm. You're still going as Sherlock Holmes?"
  148. > Anon grinned and gave her back a pat. "Yep! The original one, though, not Cumberbatch," he clarified in case she forgot.
  149. "What's wrong with Cumberbatch? I thought he was hot! You should go as the Cumberbatch one instead! You know what they say: hot guys get all the best mares!"
  150. > They laughed at this, but then Twilight turned back to her screen. She wanted to finish her work so that maybe - if no emergency came up - she'd have Sunday entirely free.
  151. > Next week would start again with those 22-hour days, so the alicorn needed as much sleep and relaxation as she could get.
  152. > Before she found her place again, though, there was a flash of light above the living room table and a heavy package thudded down. Despite it being a relatively common occurrence it still made both of them jump.
  153. > This time they at least didn't spill their coffee. "Holy crap, you gotta tell Celestia to send you mail somewhere else, Twiley!"
  154. > The mare shook her head.
  155. "She does, usually to the office at Pony Society. This one is special."
  156. > Even while she was explaining the mare picked up the tightly wrapped parcel in her magic and floated it over. She tore the paper up to reveal a very old, very foxed book.
  157. "It's here! I can't believe she sent me this! I thought I'll have to beg *forever* to get it!"
  158. > Anon was leaning over to see better, but there was no title on the cover, just a stylized image of the sun inlaid with a crescent moon. "What is it?" the human asked.
  159. "Sleeping Magic, by Night Breeze," the mare explained curtly as she started leafing through the pages.
  160. > "Sleeping magic?! Why the hell do you need something like that. You're not having trouble sleeping," Anon exclaimed. "You're having trouble because you don't get *enough* sleep!"
  161. > Twilight shook her head.
  162. "No, it's not for that. Well, actually, there's spells for that, too. What I'm really looking for is this!"
  163. > She held up the book open at the correct page for Anon to read. He took one look at the neat rows of magical writing and shook his head. "You know I can't read that!" he complained.
  164. "It's a very special spell. It makes it so you don't have to sleep."
  165. > Now the human looked worried. "Why the hell would you need something like that?"
  166. > His strange reaction worried the alicorn a little bit, but she pursed her lips and pulled the book away, as if afraid he might try to snatch it away from her.
  167. "I can't go on like this, Anon! I'm working two jobs - three, if you count all this diplomacy! - and I hardly get time to sleep. This way, I get extra couple of hours each night and I won't feel completely wrecked all the time. It's a win-win."
  168. > Anon put one hand under her chin and brushed her cheek with a thumb while his other slid up to her withers. "Twilight, you don't solve that problem by stopping sleeping. Sheesh."
  169. "Well, what do you suggest?"
  170. > She tried getting annoyed at him, but couldn't, not with those magical fingers massaging two very sensitive spots.
  171. > Anon sighed. "You solve it by not working as much. I told you, the company is doing well, you can take some time off. And with Clarissa in the Pony Society you can stop pushing yourself that hard. Take some *you* time."
  172. > The pony was already shaking her head.
  173. "I *wanna* help at the company, Anon. It's my company too. I'm the competitive edge, remember?"
  174. > It was true and Anon knew it. He frowned just a tiny bit as he sought for a way to deny it and couldn't find anything. She laid a hoof gently on his knee.
  175. "Look, it's just for a couple of months, okay? You're right, Clarissa will take over at the Pony Society and then I'll remove the spell and everything will go back to normal. I just need to get through the next couple of months."
  176. > The human was still doubtful, but Twilight knew she had won. Well, not exactly won - she had convinced him not to object to her plan.
  177. > "Well, I'm still not sure. That stuff sounds really dangerous."
  178. > His concern was heartwarming and Twilight smiled at her human.
  179. "I know, and I'd agree. But I'm *me*, Anon. You know? Magical prodigy and so on? That's how I got these, remember?"
  180. > She wiggled her still-growing wings a little to prove her point. Anon glanced at them, then smiled and gave her withers another pat. "Okay. I guess if anyone knows what they're doing when it comes to dangerous magic, it's you. Just be careful okay? Any weird side effects and you take the spell off."
  181. "Of course! I'm not stupid, Anon!"
  182. > The matter resolved, the human put his arms around her barrel, lay down across her back and laid his cheek against her neck. "How about you trust Clarissa with the budget and we go for a drive?" he suggested. "It's been ages since I took my girl in my fancy car to the park for ice cream."
  183. > Twilight's expression was filled with longing as she glanced at the window and the beautiful sunny day outside. It was autumn, but the Saturday was absolutely cloudless and completely gorgeous. It *would* be a shame to miss it.
  184. > She looked at the screen a little doubtfully. Maybe she really could trust the girl to have handled it. Even if there were problems, they'd just solve them when they came up.
  185. > The pony opened her mouth to say yes, but Anon misinterpreted her expression and his hug tightened. "Pleeease?" he whined. "Chocolate chip *and* mint ice cream!"
  186. > She damn near started drooling right there!
  187. "Oof, low blow. Really low. How can a mare say no to that?"
  188. > Anon grinned at her beatifically and gave her a quick kiss on the tip of her nose. "Gotta take every advantage I can find to keep you from overworking yourself!"
  189. > She just gave his face a lick and then closed the lid on her laptop so it'd go to sleep and conserve battery.
  190. "Okay, fine, but I'm driving your fancy car!"
  191. > "Deal!"
  192.  
  193. > ~~~~
  194.  
  195. > Twilight cast the spell the next morning. The book specifically said that her tiredness and wakefulness would persist from the moment the magic happened, so she wanted her sleepless months to feel as good as possible.
  196. > She got up late, feeling only a tad guilty when she saw it was nearly nine in the morning. Beside her, the human didn't even wake up when she stirred.
  197. > The mare crept quietly out of the room and very gently shut the door behind her, so any extravagant magical effects wouldn't wake Anon. Some old wizards simply loved to put in sparks and mystic lights into their spells because that made them somehow more impressive.
  198. > She could remove these superfluous things, yes, but only after studying the spell for a while and knowing it inside and out, and the mare simply didn't have that kind of time.
  199. > She shut herself in the bathroom, book held in her magical grip and looked in the mirror.
  200. "Here goes, Twilight. Say hello to a month of not sleeping!"
  201. > Of course she would still catch some cuddles with Anon when she had time. Those were always nice!
  202. > There was no sense in further delay, so the mare read through her spell a few times to fix it in her mind. It wasn't too complicated, but it was beyond the skill of your average unicorn. Good thing she was anything *but* average, Twilight thought smugly.
  203. > A moment later her horn began to glow. It still wasn't completely healed and the very tip was still a bit flat from where it had been sawed off - she winced as the memory crept back and tried to push it out of her mind.
  204. > She had thought she would die just from the pain. That those were her last moments.
  205. > A shudder ran through her and Twilight wrenched her mind to the job at hoof. The magic had begun wobbling uncontrollably and it was a bit of a struggle to get it back under control.
  206. > Twilight grunted with effort and concentration, but she managed to save the spell. A slow smile played across her muzzle. There was a reason she was the best, even with a busted horn.
  207. > She forced her mind to stillness she had trained over years and years. No more stray thoughts, the mare told herself.
  208. > From there it was a simple thing to finish the binding. She had been right and the spell was kind of flashy. It was a good thing she'd closed herself behind two doors from Anon, or she would surely wake him up.
  209. > The magical symbols floated in the air around her for a moment, then slowly and gently settled onto her body. They tingled as the passed through her fur, but after that she didn't feel them anymore.
  210. > One by one the sigils settled until the air no longer sparkled with light. The final symbol floated down atop her head and bound all the others in place.
  211. > She could feel them working, but she didn't have any other feeling to compare it to. The closest thing she could think of was the sensation of warm sunlight on her fur, except it was *on the inside*!
  212. > Not unpleasant, though. If she'd done it all correctly - and Twilight *knew* she had - this meant she wouldn't have to sleep until she removed the spell.
  213. > She turned the page in the book and examined the undoing magic.
  214. > It looked way more complicated than the binding, for some reason, and she gave up after a few lines. She could still do it, of course, but it was strange why the reversal spell would be harder to cast than the original one. It didn't even fit on the single page. She snapped the book shut, confident in her ability to cast the spell when she needed it.
  215. > Shrugging a little to herself, the mare left the bathroom, floated the book to a nearby table and went back to bed. She had her eye on a few more spells in there, but only as curiosities.
  216. > Of course, now that she wouldn't sleep she also wouldn't dream, but after this stressful period of her life was over she wanted to try some of those lucid dreaming ones.
  217. > One of them even allowed her to bring a 'guest'. She could give Anon a pony body and have him feel what it was like to fly around Equestria!
  218. > Having that to look forward to was a good thing, Twilight decided. It would give her motivation to get her work in order soon so she could revert the no-sleep spell and try the lucid-dream one with Anon.
  219. > She giggled faintly in excitement as she crawled back under the blankets. The human murmured: "mmm, 'ove 'oo," but didn't wake up.
  220. "I love you too," she whispered back and gave the tip of his nose a gentle kiss.
  221. > Anon's arms encircled her and she snuggled down. Of course she was fully awake, but she could close her eyes to rest them and simply enjoy Anon's presence.
  222. > The notes before the spell said it was important to keep her eyes closed for at least thirty minutes in every twelve hour period, otherwise the strain would risk permanent damage.
  223. > That probably didn't apply to alicorns, but Twilight had decided to play it safe anyway. She snuggled closer to her warm human and listened to his breathing.
  224. > It would only be about forty more minutes anyway! Anon rarely slept longer than about ten in the morning, even on weekends.
  225.  
  226. > ~~~~
  227.  
  228. "Hey. Wake up," Twilight said with an impatient smile.
  229. > She was sitting in the bed with the blanket only loosely draped around her withers. There was a gap between the fabric and the bed which was letting in cold air.
  230. > It was making the human shiver and huddle, but he still didn't wake up.
  231. "Come on!" she whined, prodding the sleeping human with a hoof.
  232. > Finally his eyes opened. "What time izzit?" he asked before stretching his arms above him and yawning.
  233. > Weird how it wasn't the slightest bit contagious this time, Twilight noted.
  234. "Nine thirty. Time to be up and doing!"
  235. > "Oh, it's still early."
  236. "Come on!"
  237. > "Fine, fine. What's gotten into you?" Anon asked as he examined her brightly smiling face.
  238. "I cast the spell. Can't sleep. It's great!"
  239. > The man frowned a little. "You what?"
  240. "Cast the spell. It's fine, I can take it off anytime I want."
  241. > The mare felt like she had to give some concession, so she leaned down and gave Anon a nuzzle before promising:
  242. "I'll take it off if anything feels odd, okay? Anyway, it's only for a month or two until things settle down at the Pony Society. I promise."
  243. > That relaxed him a little. "The minute something doesn't feel right, okay?"
  244. "I promise."
  245. > One of Anon's hands went to her head and she leaned into the touch. That man knew exactly where to scratch her ears and he wasn't stingy. When they watched a movie or something he kept it up for hours!
  246. > "So, breakfast?" Anon asked hopefully.
  247. "Nah, this first!" Twilight countered and plunged down to press her lips against Anon's.
  248. > Morning breath, but it wasn't as bad as some days. Twilight powered through it because the pleasure it brought was far greater than the discomfort.
  249. > "Mmmpf!" the human tried to say, but she shut him up by sticking her tongue as deeply into his mouth as it would go. It worked and his eyes closed.
  250. > A moment later he put his hands on her barrel, where one of them immediately began questing down her belly.
  251. > It was exactly what she needed after the stressful and overworked week. She could indulge today.
  252. > It was Sunday and she'd spend the entire day with Anon, relaxing and maybe helping him with the software a little. Then she'd have the entire night to get through Pony Society business and she'd still be fresh as a daisy to go to work in the morning.
  253. > This spell was exactly what she needed until Clarissa could handle the Society entirely on her own.
  254. > Twilight's next thought dissolved in a red haze when Anon pinched a nipple with those wonderful fingers.
  255. "Mmm, ohhhyessss!" she moaned, pulling away from the kiss for long enough to say it.
  256. > Her tail was already flagging up and the first wink sent a delightful shiver up her spine.
  257. "Yes, please!" she begged.
  258. > Anon's hand traveled a little further and found another nub to roll between the fingers. His other hand held her in place.
  259. > The man had a small smile on his lips as he watched her reaction. Twilight knew that expression well. She slid a hoof under the blanket and felt around until she found him.
  260. > Like an iron rod already. She'd been neglecting him lately, that was probably why he had stayed up with that rose the other day. She gave him a very gentle rub with the frog of her hoof and now it was Anon's turn to shudder and moan.
  261. > She liked the sounds he made, but Twilight also liked taking it slow on these long, weekend mornings. She planted a hot kiss right on his collarbone and then one just under the first.
  262. > Each one got a little grunt and a twitch of his member. Anon was concentrating on what she was doing so hard that he'd forgotten to play with her nipples, but Twilight didn't mind.
  263. > She traced a line of kisses down his belly until she was right next to... well, *him*. She opened her mouth to take him in, but a hand clamped over her muzzle.
  264. > "No," the human panted. "It'll be over too fast."
  265. "Okay?"
  266. > He tapped her flank. "You. Inside," he gasped.
  267. > She didn't need to be asked twice. The mare smoothly lifted herself and straddled the human's very warm body. She hardly even had to think about positioning herself and Anon was quickly poking at her entrance.
  268. "Ready?" she asked him.
  269. > All she got was an urgent, desperate nod. He lined himself up and she gently slid down, both of them letting out a deep, throaty moan.
  270. > She couldn't reach quite low enough, so Twilight put her forehooves on Anon's chest and pushed herself further. The last inch slid inside her.
  271. > Maybe it didn't go as deep as a pony stallion would, but Anon knew exactly how to hit all the sensitive spots. Pleasure nearly blanked her mind as she pressed her belly against Anon's.
  272. > In an instant her thoughts of taking it slow evaporated and all that was left was her need.
  273. > "God, I love you," her human whispered with his eyes closed and his back arched.
  274. "Me too," was all she could say back.
  275. > Anon's hands were already gently pushing her up and she lifted herself. By now she knew exactly how far to go so he didn't fall back out. His re-emergence was accompanied by a small spurt of her liquids, but neither of them cared.
  276. > Sheets were easy to wash and cheap to replace. It didn't matter.
  277. > Twilight waited until she winked against Anon's tip and the sensation it created made him gasp in pleasure.
  278. > She immediately slammed herself back down, then clenched at his entire length, as if trying to milk the human.
  279. > The sounds he made were delightful. There were no more words, Anon was far beyond that point now. The mare herself was nearly overcome, but she hung on to the last threads of her mind.
  280. > Pressing herself against Anon, Twilight leaned down for a quick but passionate kiss before lifting up again. This time she wasn't allowed to wait for a wink because Anon's hands pushed her back down.
  281. > She obeyed, letting the man set the rhythm. He would make sure it lasted long enough for her to finish.
  282. > Of course, as soon as she came and her insides gripped him urgently, Anon would let loose too. He said it was something about the way she squeezed rhythmically that always sent him over the edge.
  283. > Their bellies slapped together as the mare worked, up and down in smooth, steady strokes. Anon guided her speed with his hands and she obeyed. There was something thrilling about having the power to disobey, yet choosing to go exactly as fast as the human wanted.
  284. > She was on top, so she could set the pace, after all.
  285. "Almost..." she gasped.
  286. > Anon opened his eyes and nodded. His lips split in a smile and his fingers dug into her waist. He shifted a little as he helped her thrust, unable to lie still under her assault.
  287. > She knew he wouldn't last much longer because the human was letting out small moans with each stroke.
  288. > Perfect timing. Once, twice more and she lost it. She let out a small cry and slammed down, hard.
  289. > Even then she couldn't stay still but ground against Anon's belly and groin as she came. Each spasm was like a jolt of electricity through her entire body, making her hyper-aware of Anon's length in her.
  290. > Seconds later she felt the hot splash of Anon's seed reaching deep inside. She felt each twitch as the man pumped and pumped, with no end in sight.
  291. > She replied by milking him for every single drop. It just wasn't enough!
  292. > Her hooves scrabbled to feel more of his chest and her mouth sought out his. She needed more contact. She needed to share more of herself with him.
  293. > She extended her wings, but they weren't yet large enough to wrap up Anon. Shame - she really wanted to feel him on her feathers.
  294. "Fuck... yes," she gasped as her orgasm slowed.
  295. > A few more faint twitches and it was over, their combined fluids dribbling out of her, down Anon's balls and on the sheet. The feeling of escaping liquid made her shudder a little.
  296. "I love you so much..."
  297. > His first try failed and Anon opened his mouth without any words making it out. He tried again: "I love you too."
  298. > She leaned down and kissed him.
  299. "How's that for waking up?"
  300. > They both giggled. "Love it," came the reply. "Could do that every morning."
  301. > She nodded emphatically. Now that she wouldn't be comatose until the blaring of her alarm clock tossed her out of the bed they would! The mare swore it to herself.
  302. > Anon relaxed his death grip on her thighs and sagged. She hadn't even realized how tense he had been during his orgasm. As they shifted she felt herself wink one last time.
  303. > The sudden pressure made them both gasp in pleasure once more.
  304. > "We made a mess, didn't we?" Anon asked, completely unnecessarily.
  305. > Twilight smiled and lit up her horn.
  306. "Hold on," she said and put a hoof on his chest to keep him still.
  307. > A moment later a tower floated from the bathroom, wrapped in her lavender magical glow. She pressed it against herself and tried to cover as much surface as possible.
  308. "Ready?"
  309. > Anon gave a nod and she smoothly lifted herself off him. Most of the fluid that gushed out was caught in the towel. She bunched it up between her hind legs and carefully crawled out of the bed.
  310. > The floor was hardwood, so it would be easy to mop up anyway.
  311. "I think I need a shower," she mock-complained.
  312. > "Jeez, I wonder why?"
  313. > They both laughed.
  314. "Oh, let me get you a towel too!"
  315. > She floated another one through the door and Anon gave her a grateful smile as he began wiping himself. "I'll join you in the shower," he offered.
  316. > Immediately the mare winked again. Something about both of them being naked in a stream of hot water was, well *hot*. She knew Anon felt the same.
  317. > They'd do it again in there, there was no doubt. Her smile grew wider and she hurried to the bathroom.
  318. > On the plus side, this time their need wouldn't burn so brightly. She could have her slow, gentle lovemaking session after all!
  319. > In fact...
  320. "Actually, let's have a bath! It's been ages!"
  321.  
  322. > ~~~~
  323.  
  324. > It was unusual, at first. Twilight felt like she *should* be tired by Monday evening, but she wasn't. At that point she'd been awake for thirty-six hours and still feeling like she'd just gotten out of bed after a restful sleep.
  325. > The feeling was completely uncanny, but not unpleasant. She was able to get an incredible amount of work done! Not to mention that she felt cheerful and well-rested throughout the day.
  326. > This sleep magic certainly had its advantages, the mare thought.
  327. > She walked out of the lift into hers and Anon's apartment and went to look for her human.
  328. "Hi! I'm home!" she called out.
  329. > "Evenin'," came a faint answer from the direction of the living room. Twilight went to look and found the terrace door slid open and a slightly chilly wind blowing in.
  330. > Anon was sitting out on a lawn chair and looking into the distance. She didn't spot his laptop at first glance, which was quite interesting. The human liked working outside sometimes, but usually in the summer and always with his laptop.
  331. > She slipped her bags off and went to check.
  332. "Enjoying the fresh air?"
  333. > "Oh. No, just the sunset," came the reply. Anon smiled at her and patted his lap.
  334. > He didn't need to ask twice. Twilight jumped up and sat on him before he could change his mind. His arms encircled her, but it wasn't enough.
  335. "Nuh-huh, coat!"
  336. > She was glad to see he had bundled up well. The days were still deceptively warm, but the evening brought out winter's emerging fangs. Anon obediently unzipped his jacket and Twilight pressed herself against that warm chest.
  337. "Mmmm, better," she sighed as the hands and the jacket came around her barrel again.
  338. > The poor human shivered a little at her cold fur, but that was his own fault for offering. If he didn't like it, he could complain.
  339. > Not that it'd change anything, though.
  340. > "Good day?" he asked. For some reason, his breath smelled sweet and slightly familiar. Twilight tried to put a hoof on what it was.
  341. "Mhm! This no sleep thing is amazing. I feel fresh and full of energy."
  342. > His face fell. "So you're not coming to bed?"
  343. > This was probably the only downside of the whole arrangement, Twilight thought. Luckily, she had the perfect solution.
  344. "I am, I am. I don't wanna miss our cuddles, or... other things."
  345. > She still couldn't always say 'sex' out loud, despite all the years and how well they knew each other. As always, Anon found her tiny blush and lowered ears incredibly cute and he couldn't resist gently kissing the tip of her nose.
  346. > "I also like... other things," he chuckled, making the mare sigh in exasperation.
  347. "Funny. Anyway, I should rest my eyes and in bed with you is the best way to do that. I'll get up after you're asleep and go through some of those tricky bugs in the issue tracker."
  348. > He still wasn't convinced that the magic worked as well as Twilight had said it did, but he didn't forbid her or anything. Which was good, because she wouldn't have listened.
  349. > Instead, the human gave her a slightly worried smile. "If you're sure. Make sure you don't overwork. Stress is still a thing, you know?"
  350. > She nuzzled him, grateful for his concern, even if his faith in her ability was a bit lacking.
  351. "I will, don't worry."
  352. > They sat for a while, embraced and watching the last minutes of sunset. "Here," Anon suddenly said and reached down beside his chair. He brought up a thermos.
  353. "What is it?"
  354. > Rather than telling her, Anon simply unscrewed the top and let the aroma speak for itself. Hot chocolate. She smelled plenty of hot, chocolate and sugar. Her favorite ingredients in this particular drink.
  355. "Oooh!"
  356. > She grabbed it in her magic and brought it to her muzzle. There was about a third left, which explained his scent earlier. The pony took a careful sip so she wouldn't burn herself, but by now the drink was merely warm, rather than scalding.
  357. "Thanks. You spoil me, you know?"
  358. > The human had the audacity to nod! "I know," he said, but the corners of his mouth quirked up, which clearly showed he was joking.
  359. > They sat in silence for another minute, while Twilight slowly emptied the flask. When she had drained the last of it and stuck her tongue in the opening to get the final drop, Anon poked her in the ribs with a finger.
  360. > "I might have wanted some of that, you know? Selfish horse!" he said in mock annoyance.
  361. > The mare carefully withdrew the bottle from the muzzle, but left her tongue hanging out. She gave him a pointed look, which made the human laugh. After she'd swallowed, she joined in.
  362. "You can still have a taste, you know?" she offered.
  363. > Anon didn't waste time and brought his lips to hers. The pony closed her eyes and let him taste the last bits of chocolate on her tongue. It was strangely exciting, more than just plain kissing, for some reason.
  364. > After a minute they pulled apart and Twilight was already almost out of breath. She looked down, thinking about simply pulling Anon's pants away and taking her... 'fun' right there and then.
  365. > Or maybe it would be more comfortable inside, where they wouldn't freeze to death.
  366. > She looked at the terrace door and opened her mouth to tell him, but something caught her eye. There was a glimmer of color in the corner of her vision, but it was on the wrong side and she couldn't turn her neck any more.
  367. "Huh?"
  368. > She twirled the other way to look at it, but there was nothing. She could have sworn something bright and shiny had been floating over the terrace railing.
  369. > "What is it?" Anon asked, following her stare.
  370. > The mare shrugged a little.
  371. "I thought I saw something."
  372. > "What?"
  373. > She tried to identify it from her memory. She'd only caught a glimpse.
  374. "Dunno. Maybe a weird reflection off that building. Someone closed a window or something?"
  375. > Another idea occurred and the pony looked around suspiciously.
  376. "Or maybe a drone or something?"
  377. > Anon shook his head. "If it was a drone, we'd have heard it. Those things are loud," he explained.
  378. > Twilight tended to agree, but perhaps there was some kind of a new, silent drone. Or - the thought chilled her for some reason - maybe it had been magic?
  379. > She gave the human a quick nuzzle and then disentangled herself from his arms.
  380. "Hold on, I'll go look."
  381. > She walked to the spot where she remembered the weird object and looked over the railing. No drone, no balloon, nothing which would explain a flash of color. There was no one on the street below, either.
  382. > With practiced ease the alicorn lit up her horn and felt around the air.
  383. > "Anything?" Anon asked.
  384. "No, not really. Could've been a drone, or a balloon or just my imagination. I could swear I saw something, though."
  385. > She took another look around, then shrugged to herself and went back to the sitting human, who was already shivering without her warm fur pressed against his chest.
  386. "Come on, let's get inside. I could go for another hot chocolate..."
  387. > Anon obeyed and stood up, grabbing the empty flask. "Okay, but you're making it this time," he agreed.
  388. "Fine. Wanna watch a movie?"
  389. > The way his face lit up was beautiful. They never watched movies on weekdays!
  390. > Well, that - and some other things - were going to change now, Twilight decided. She had the whole night to work for the company and she'd have tomorrow's night too. No reason she couldn't take some personal time and just enjoy Anon's company for a bit.
  391. > It didn't even matter which movie. The movie wasn't the important bit! What really mattered was what the human would do with his hands once they were on the couch in the darkness.
  392. > That, and what she'd do with her magic.
  393. > One of these days they'll really have to watch a movie *all* the way through...
  394.  
  395. > ~~~~
  396.  
  397. > It was Tuesday evening and she still hadn't felt the least need to sleep. It was uncanny and Twilight felt a little weird as she waited for the lift to take her down.
  398. > She'd spent most of the day at the company and the afternoon on a photo shoot for one of the big magazines who were publishing an interview with her. Now it was time to go check on things at the Pony Society.
  399. > The pony wanted to get that done, preferably by one or two in the morning, so she could come back and cuddle with a sleeping Anon for a few hours. In particular, she wanted to be in bed with him when he woke up.
  400. > Morning sex was even better if you weren't sleepy! Then she'd join him at the company again.
  401. > It looked like that would be her routine: mornings in the office then afternoons either helping out at the Pony Society or her diplomatic work. Nights were reserved for complicated programming or paperwork.
  402. > No one bothered her much during the night, which was just as well.
  403. > She had also meticulously scheduled four breaks during the day, each an hour long, where she just sat or lay somewhere with her eyes closed. That seemed to keep her comfortable enough, but the mare was paying close attention to her body.
  404. > According to the book she still needed to let her muscles rest, despite how fresh and energetic she felt all the time. Despite how confident Twilight acted to Anon, she was very aware how dangerous magic like this could be.
  405. > Not because of the spell itself, but because it masked or changed some perceptions about her own body, which could lead to herself wearing it out.
  406. > Her being an alicorn lessened some of those concerns, but she still didn't relish the idea of being blind for a few months because she'd let her eyes dry out completely.
  407. > She had it all in hoof. It helped to have such a precise, organized mind as her.
  408. > The elevator dinged as it arrived, but at the same time Twilight heard a clink of a cup on the coffee table. She had a few minutes to spare so she hurried back.
  409. "I'll just do some paperwork and then maybe grab some fast food on the way back. Do you want anything?"
  410. > The human looked at her blankly. "At one in the morning? No, I don't think I do."
  411. "What if I'm done sooner and come back before midnight?"
  412. > Now he was thoughtful. There was a measure of doubt in his face, which made Twilight grin wryly and stick her tongue out at the man. Shame he didn't seem to see it.
  413. > "Call me, okay? If you're done before midnight call me and we can have a date."
  414. "Deal!"
  415. > She reared up, put her hooves on Anon's knees and got her face close enough for a quick kiss. When it was done she leaned further to nuzzle against Anon's neck.
  416. "Love you."
  417. > "You too!"
  418. > The alicorn was almost sad to go, but she'd put off this paperwork for a day already and it had to be done. Funny how there didn't seem to be enough time despite not having to sleep.
  419. > She'd have to check her schedules again to figure out where it all went.
  420. > Twilight was about to leave, but there was a flash of light from the terrace which made her spin around.
  421. "Huh?!"
  422. > Anon looked at the sliding door. "What? Did you see something? Hear something?"
  423. > She walked over to the glass, but couldn't see anything outside. The light in the living room, even if it was dimmed, made the terrace door reflect too much. All she could see was her own confused expression.
  424. "Turn off the light for a minute." she asked Anon.
  425. > The human stood up and reached over the couch for the switch on the wall there. The light went out and Twilight saw the dark, quiet terrace outside. There was the pool, the chairs, the railing.
  426. > Beyond it were the other buildings. Most windows had lights.
  427. "Maybe someone took a photo or something. Across the street."
  428. > She didn't quite believe it. If that had really been the case, she would have seen the same thing before today. The chances that nobody took a photo until now in any of the apartments in the other buildings were basically zero.
  429. > Shrugging a little to herself, Twilight turned around and gave Anon a faint smile.
  430. "Dunno, maybe it was some joker with a laser or a flashlight."
  431. > She was about to walk away, but there was something she half-saw out the corner of her eye. Again it was like a faint flash of light, but this time it seemed much closer.
  432. > It looked as if it was sitting on the railing - exactly where she'd seen it the other day.
  433. > By the time she turned around again, it was gone.
  434. "Weird."
  435. > The pony hurriedly slid the door open and ran outside to the spot, horn already lighting up to feel for any magic.
  436. "Tell me you saw that too!" she demanded from the human, who was following her.
  437. > "Saw what? You were just looking outside, then you jumped and rushed out. What was I supposed to see?"
  438. > Twilight tried to remember the shape, but having seen it from the corner of her eye only she didn't really know what it was.
  439. "Like a blob. Mostly white and blue."
  440. > The human joined her at the railing and looked over it at the street below. "Sorry, nothing like that."
  441. > She didn't feel any magic in the air. It was still possible that it had been a drone or something like that, but Twilight couldn't make herself believe it.
  442. > When she followed Anon back to the apartment she was thoughtful. Once would have been a fluke, but twice, in the same spot, was a pattern.
  443. > She decided to go through the sleep book again, in detail, when she was back. Her Anon-cuddles would just have to wait.
  444. > Maybe it was a side-effect of the spell. She forced herself to admit it, even if she didn't want to. It was probably something simple, like her not getting enough shut-eye time and her eyes playing tricks on her.
  445. > It would have been too much of a coincidence for something like this to start happening so shortly after casting that spell.
  446. > Still, the mare didn't tell Anon any of this. He'd just worry needlessly and make her remove the spell. She felt fine despite it.
  447. > Twilight wasn't the best at healing magic, but she had checked herself out a few times and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. If occasional hallucinations were the entirety of the side effects, she could deal with them for a month. Her work was too important.
  448. > Especially if the things were going to be this obvious - she'd just learn to ignore them.
  449. > "Penny for your thoughts?" Anon asked and Twilight realized he'd followed her to the lift. She pressed the button before answering.
  450. "Oh- uh, nothing," the mare lied, "just thinking about the paperwork I have to finish."
  451. > He bought it and smiled at her. It made her feel a little bad for the white lie, but Twilight really didn't want him to worry. She'd tell him if it became any worse, she promised herself.
  452. "I'll try and finish by midnight, then I'll grab us a slice of pizza each at that corner place. They close at midnight."
  453. > "Oh, I remember that place," the human said, "they are good! Okay, I'll try and stay awake till midnight at least."
  454. > Twilight half-sat on her haunches and splayed her ears. Anon instantly understood the signal and held out his arms. That allowed her to rear up and hook her forelegs on his wrists, which balanced her and gave her enough height to give the human a kiss.
  455. > Before pulling back she leaned her muzzle against his cheek for a few seconds. Then Anon kissed the tip of her nose.
  456. > "Hope the paperwork goes smoothly," he wished her. "Bye, Twiley."
  457. "Yeah, thanks. Bye!"
  458. > She slipped from his grasp just as the lift dinged and opened. Her saddlebags were ready on the floor beside her, so Twilight just levitated them across her back. She didn't bother with the straps since she'd be tossing them in the car a few minutes later anyway.
  459. > She gave her human a quick wave as the door slid closed, then she heaved a sigh.
  460. "Just flashes of light. Maybe that's normal, but it's not a big deal even if it isn't. You can handle it, Twilight. You got too much work to do."
  461. > Saying it out loud, even just to herself, helped and the mare relaxed.
  462. > Whatever it was, she'd figure it out. If it came to the worst, she'd just lift the spell and be done with it.
  463.  
  464. > ~~~~
  465.  
  466. > The day had been disconcertingly weird. Twilight hurried home, driving only a bit above the speed limit. That was probably fine, wasn't it?
  467. > She had seen more weird lights at the Pony Society. They were always in the corner of her vision they were never there when she looked at them directly. Now the pony was certain it was because of her sleep spell.
  468. > The book might hold more clues that she missed when she read it the first time. Hopefully there was a way to fix this, because she rather liked all the extra time and energy that came from not sleeping.
  469. > Maybe, Twilight thought, she could get used to an occasional flash of light. It wasn't *that* bad, just unexpected.
  470. > If it didn't get any worse, she could live with this. It'd only be a month or two, after all.
  471. > She was deep in thought when she saw a glimpse of the jaywalking pedestrian. The mare reacted without thought and her magic slammed down on the brakes, hard.
  472. > The tires squealed for just a moment and then the car's anti-blocking tech kicked in, rattling her teeth. She didn't see what had happened to the human, but there hadn't been an impact, which was a good sign.
  473. > Twilight was lifted from her seat by the force of deceleration, but the belt kept her mostly in place. Despite being jostled, she kept the pressure on the pedal until the car was stopped completely.
  474. > Then, after taking a second or two to catch her breath, she threw the door open and half-fell, half-scrambled out of the seat. She ran back the way she'd come, hoping there wouldn't be a human lying on the ground.
  475. "Please no, please no, please no," she muttered to herself.
  476. > There was no one, except a few people on the sidewalk looking at her strangely. The car behind her stopped and a man stepped out.
  477. > "Um, you okay... miss?" the driver quavered. He probably hadn't expected to see a pony get out of that car, but he handled it admirably.
  478. > Twilight was still looking around. The person - she hadn't seen them clearly - should be *right there*! This wasn't a flash of light, she was certain of it.
  479. > This had been an actual human in fancy, colorful clothes!
  480. "Did you s-see anyone? Jaywalking, just as I was passing?"
  481. > The man also looked around, but shrugged. "Sorry, I didn't see anyone."
  482. > That didn't prove anything. If she almost missed them, it was conceivable that the car behind her also failed to spot the jaywalker.
  483. > There wasn't a body, which was a huge relief and Twilight sagged a little. Her legs began trembling as the adrenaline drained away.
  484. "Huh. M-Maybe they ran away or something."
  485. > It was the most logical explanation, anyway. The person was crossing the street and didn't see her coming. She barely missed them and then slammed on the brakes, it might have scared whoever it was. Maybe they thought they were in trouble or something.
  486. > Jaywalking *was* technically illegal in this town, but all Twilight had in her mind when she ran out of the car was to make sure the person was alright and apologize for nearly hitting them.
  487. > The driver behind her was going back to his car, because several others were already honking. He paused with his hand on the door. "D-Do you need some help? We can pull over at that bus stop up ahead."
  488. > Twilight shook her head and gave the kind human a nervous smile.
  489. "No, no, I'm okay. I was just worried I hit someone. I think they ran away. Thanks!"
  490. > There were a number of narrow, dark alleys along the road, so maybe the jaywalker had gone in one of those. She wasn't about to search, so the mare went back to her car before someone lost their patience.
  491. > She gave the friendly driver behind her a quick wave, then jumped up into the seat, made sure her seat belt was securely fastened and drove away.
  492. > At least now she understood why the driving instructor had trained her to *really* slam on the breaks. That instinct might have saved someone's life today, both alerting them to her car and giving them time to jump out of the way.
  493. > Twilight hoped they'd look closer the next time or, better yet, use a crossing. For her part, she drove a bit slower and paid closer attention to pedestrians. She didn't want blood on her hooves!
  494. >...
  495. > The pony was still trembling a little when she came home. Careless, that's what she had been. Flashes of light or not, weird spell or not, it was her duty while operating a vehicle to pay attention to the road and the other participants in traffic.
  496. > Hadn't it been the most important rule in the driver's ed books? She knew why. Twilight vowed to herself to be more careful in the future.
  497. > In all the excitement she completely forgot to go check the book for answers. Instead, she went to the kitchen, poured herself a shot of fine, aged whiskey and took it to the living room. She flopped down on the couch and tossed it back, almost in a single gulp.
  498. > It burned her tongue and throat, but it was a welcome, familiar pain. In a few more moments it would dull her thoughts and help her relax.
  499. > She considered pouring another, but it didn't seem like a smart idea. One for her nerves was fine, especially since she didn't intend to go out again that day.
  500. > Anon must have heard her come in, because the human emerged from his work room and sat beside her on the couch.
  501. > "Tough day?" he asked, spotting the glass floating in the air before her.
  502. "Huh?"
  503. > The human rolled his eyes. "I said: 'tough day?'"
  504. "Oh. No, it was fun. It's just the-" she started to answer, but fell silent in the middle of that.
  505. > Now Anon's face was one of concern. "You okay Twiley? You look like you've seen a ghost."
  506. > That woke her up and the pony smiled.
  507. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Nearly ran someone over on the way back. I wasn't paying attention..."
  508. > Anon, bless him, saw her worry and quickly put his arms around her barrel. He gave her nose a kiss. "You were paying enough attention not to run him over, right? Or was it her?"
  509. "Dunno.  Didn't see clearly."
  510. > "Okay, 'them'. How close was it?"
  511. > Twilight gave the man a weak smile.
  512. "Too close," she said, "might need to check the paintwork..."
  513. > "Ouch," Anon said, wisely not trying to dismiss it out of hoof. "Well, maybe a close call like this was a good thing. It'll remind you to keep an eye out. Didn't you see the crossing signs or something?"
  514. > The mare shook her head.
  515. "They were jaywalking."
  516. > Anon visibly relaxed. "Oh, that's different. Of course you weren't expecting someone to jump under your car. You did fine, Twilight - just, um, take it a bit slower and keep an eye out. You're a fine driver, trust me. I've seen a lot worse."
  517. > He gave her nose another peck and lowered his voice: "Some people I know are only still alive through dumb luck."
  518. > Actually it did make her feel better to have her thoughts confirmed. Nothing bad had happened, after all. The mare relaxed a little and lifted her muzzle up for a proper kiss.
  519. "Thanks. That helps."
  520. > She remembered the other thing that was on her mind.
  521. "Oh, I also saw a few more of those lights today. Always from the corner of my eye and they weren't there when I looked. It was kinda weird."
  522. > Anon looked a little troubled. "I don't like the sound of that. Do you think it's because of your spell?"
  523. > Twilight wanted to downplay it, but she couldn't really lie to Anon, not when he asked her directly like this.
  524. "Possibly," she answered, bending the truth just a little. "I'll check the book if there's any clues. Maybe it's just my eyes being tired. I'll do more shut-eye, maybe that will help."
  525. > "And if it doesn't?"
  526. "Then, if it's just an occasional flash of light I can deal with them for a month or so. I'll be fine. If it gets any worse, I'll lift the spell, promise."
  527. > The man relaxed a little. He trusted her judgement in this, which really did warm her heart. Twilight smiled, then started licking his face. Anon's scent and taste was familiar. It was home. The pony closed her eyes and simply anchored herself in the place and presence around her.
  528. > Her tongue must have tickled, because Anon giggled and put his hand over her muzzle to stop it. "Okay, okay, that's enough. Relax. What's the plan for tonight?"
  529. > Twilight gave his fingers a quick, last lick, then leaned her head to the side as she thought back on the schedule she'd made up that morning.
  530. "I got an hour to rest my eyes, then I'll take a look at those two bug reports you sent me yesterday. Then an hour to cuddle until you fall asleep and then I have to do some character research for that reporter who's interviewing me Friday."
  531. > "Yikes, busy night," Anon commented, but he was smiling. Twilight knew he was proud of her, even if he was a bit worried about her using magic to accomplish all that.
  532. > "Here, lie down," the human said and pushed against her barrel to roll the mare to her back. "I can help you relax while you rest your eyes. Least I can do."
  533. > She didn't resist and just let Anon push her down on the couch. Her legs were sticking up in the air, but she pulled them close to her body so her human would have easier access for whatever he was planning.
  534. > He put his hands on her chestfluff and his fingers dug in.
  535. "Ooohhh... okay, yeah," the mare moaned.
  536. > A nice belly rub. She could never say no to that and just closed her eyes, both to rest them and to focus entirely on Anon's hands.
  537. > He had gotten *so* good at this. The fingers played out over her barrel and down her belly, applying a light touch here, pushing firmly there, gripping and squeezing in a soothing symphony of touch.
  538. > Twilight found her tongue lolling out of her mouth, but she didn't much care. All she could get out was a series of grunts, moans and sighs as Anon worked his seductive magic. She noted, dimly, that he was staying away from her 'naughty' areas.
  539. > He was being so sweet and focusing only on relaxing her without undue stimulation. A real gentlecolt.
  540. > The hands vanished and Twilight almost opened her eyes to see what was wrong, but then Anon gripped her hind legs near the thigh and pressed against her muscles.
  541. > Her hard, knotted muscles she hadn't even been aware of tensing. The limb, and her soul, seemed to melt under that touch.
  542. "Mmmmmmmm..."
  543. > The fingers really dug in. Anon knew exactly how much pressure to use to loosen her up but without it actually hurting. He moved up her hind leg, extending it slowly, until he reached the hoof.
  544. > He cupped it with his fingers and Twilight tried to prepare herself for what was coming. It hadn't worked in the past, but maybe this time she could-
  545. "Ffffffuuuuuuuck..."
  546. > The universe shrunk to herself, the frog of her hoof and Anon's fingers pressing in. If she relaxed any more, the mare would be in danger of choking on her tongue.
  547. > It took a supreme effort of will and an eternity in that black-and-pink hoof-massage oblivion, but Twilight managed to assemble a string of words. Now she pushed them through her lips.
  548. "I love you s-soo... mmmm- mmmuch..."
  549. > The human chuckled to himself, but he never stopped his ministrations.
  550. > Yeah, *this* was the life!
  551.  
  552. > ~~~~
  553.  
  554. > Twilight stood in her fancy, high-rise office, nose all but pressed to the glass as she sipped from a coffee cup. It wasn't that she needed it, but it had become a habit and she'd grown to like the taste of this mochaccino and the way Darlene from the front desk made it.
  555. > The pony was taking a moment to rest her eyes. She'd been staring at the screen for most of the day and now she was looking into the distance, just like she'd read in some of the articles on workplace health.
  556. > One of them was even published internally in the company. Twilight didn't even know the person who wrote it, not personally. She'd probably seen the name on the pay list, but she didn't think she'd ever met them.
  557. > The business was taking off and it was scary how big it had gotten. She had to give credit to Anon for being able to run it all.
  558. > Well, he didn't so much run it as surround himself with people he could trust who did it for him. Even Twilight had come to depend on the business expertise of some of their C-levels.
  559. > Anyway, that was neither here nor there. She wanted to finish the work she'd planned for herself for the day and then she would go and check up on things at the Pony Society, preferably before they closed.
  560. > She wanted to meet with Clarissa and make sure the girl understood the fine points of scheduling for some of the more... unique staff.
  561. > That would come later. For now, Twilight was enjoying her coffee and watching the people on the street far below, going about their business.
  562. > It was fun to try and imagine what kind of errands they had. A few of them were easy: she followed the path of a jogger, who weaved deftly between other pedestrians, completely engrossed in his headphones.
  563. > Across the street there were two ladies, one of them pushing a baby carriage. They were probably just enjoying the pleasant weather before winter set in fully.
  564. > A number of people had suits and briefcases. Maybe some of them even worked for her, Twilight thought. It was a weird feeling.
  565. > The rest - it was anypony's guess, but she still liked to imagine. A rather heavyset man in faded jeans was given some berth. He wasn't moving too fast, but there were damp patches on his shirt under his arms. Feeling a bit ashamed of herself, Twilight thought he was heading towards a nearby fast food place.
  566. > Some distance behind him was another curious-looking human. Twilight stared in mild surprise.
  567. > The suit he was wearing was very unusual. She couldn't place it at first, but then realized it was something long out of fashion. He even had a top hat and a monocle! Even from this distance there was no mistaking the glint of gold in one eye and the chain connecting it to his pocket.
  568. > Maybe someone was trying out their Halloween dress early, the mare thought?
  569. > She floated the cup closer and sipped, but kept her eyes on the strange human. He looked as if he'd stepped across time from the previous century. Or maybe the one before that.
  570. > A gentleman of means, she mentally named him. Out to close a very important business deal with other gentlemen of means.
  571. > Uh-oh! The jogger hadn't seemed to notice the well-dressed businessman and was running straight for him. They were going to collide!
  572. > Despite feeling a tiny bit ashamed, Twilight smiled in expectation of some harmless physical comedy.
  573. > Here it came! She took another quick sip out of sheer excitement.
  574. > The mare blinked, then coughed as some coffee went down the wrong way. It sprayed against the glass and she sputtered for a few minutes before she could clear her esophagus.
  575. > The jogger had run *straight through* the business man! Neither of them reacted. For that matter, no one else on the street had seen it.
  576. > Twilight moved to the next pane of glass and sought out the two guys again. There was the jogger, patiently continuing his run and nearly out of sight. He avoided people, sometimes slowing so he wouldn't run into anyone.
  577. > The pony looked for the other person - the man in the old-fashioned suit - but she couldn't find him anywhere. Had he gone inside a building this quickly? Maybe there was a near miss and it had unnerved him.
  578. > Except that wasn't right. She had clearly seen them occupy the exact same space for a moment. They just passed through one another as if they were ghosts!
  579. > She stared some more, even after the jogger was gone around the corner, but she couldn't find the well-dressed businessman anywhere.
  580. > Maybe her eyes were more tired than she thought and they were playing tricks on her? Or, perhaps it was a weird effect of light and reflection.
  581. > It had certainly been very strange. Twilight looked guiltily at the window, which was dripping mochaccino on the carpet. Yeah, she should do something about that.
  582. > She lifted up some paper from the laser printer and put it on the floor to soak up at least some of it. Then she pressed a button on her phone.
  583. > "Yes ma'am?" came the voice of Darlene from the front desk.
  584. > Twilight cleared her throat and tried to make her voice steady. The incident had shaken her a little, but there was no reason to worry other people.
  585. "Uh, yes, Darlene? Can you send someone up with a mop. I tried to inhale my coffee..."
  586. > The woman giggled, then quickly apologized: "Sorry, Miss Twilight. I'll send someone up right away!"
  587. "They will need to clean a window and a bit of carpet," the mare clarified.
  588. > "No problem, Miss Twilight! Happy to help!"
  589. > The pony thanked the woman and disconnected the call. Having underlings was actually pretty useful. This way she could focus on her work rather than cleaning up her mess.
  590. > Still a bit weirded out, the alicorn went around her desk and sat down. Both the surface and the chair were a bit lower to the floor to allow her easier access, but there was a button to make the desk rise up.
  591. > It wouldn't do for her visitors to sit higher and look down on her. It felt impolite, so she raised both the desk and the chair if she had an interview or a meeting.
  592. > This time she kept it lowered - the assistants and receptionists knew her well and wouldn't read anything into it. They also wouldn't be sitting in front of her table, so that was all okay.
  593. > Twilight heaved a sigh, forced the unusual occurrence from her mind and looked at the screen. She had finished one function, but now she had to write another to fix the problems with the first. It never ended.
  594. > At least it was interesting, she thought. Most of the time.
  595. > The pony glanced at the wall clock and made a mental calculation. She could take it slow. Almost an hour before she had to leave the office and head over to the Society.
  596. > The spell certainly made her days a lot more manageable. Even leisurely, Twilight thought. She loved having enough time to do her work properly.
  597. > There was a knock at the door and she looked up.
  598. "Come in!"
  599. > A nervous-looking lad whose name the mare couldn't right at the moment remember poked his head in. He held a spray-bottle of window cleaner in front of him as if in defense. "Um, your window, ma'am?"
  600. > Twilight pointed, smiling apologetically and lowering her ears.
  601. "Over there. Sorry about that - coffee went down the wrong way," she explained.
  602. > The youth hurried over, inspected the damage for a moment, then began squirting the fluid right on the glass. He had a piece of cloth in his other hand.
  603. > Twilight went back to her work.
  604. > "Um, ma'am?" the call brought her back out of thought.
  605. "Mm?"
  606. > She looked around and saw that the boy had finished with the window. The paper from the carpet was gone and in its place was a mop.
  607. > "I'll bring in the steam cleaner later. It should all come out."
  608. > The mare gave him a brilliant smile.
  609. "Thank you very much, um-"
  610. > He caught her unspoken question. "Jeremy, ma'am."
  611. "Please, call me Twilight. We don't stand on ceremony here, Jeremy. Thanks again!"
  612. > The boy just nodded, flashed another nervous grin and left. He walked a few paces before remembering his cleaning bottle and returning, red-faced, to fetch it.
  613. > Twilight chuckled a little to herself when she was alone again. Some of these fresh interns were so nervous around their bosses. Hopefully the lad would come to their Halloween party, where she could mingle a bit more informally.
  614. > That ought to put him at his ease.
  615. > Now, if only she could find a way to make Darlene stop calling her 'Miss'. It was too formal for Twilight's taste.
  616. > Maybe if she got the woman a little tipsy at the party and share a few secrets.
  617. > Of course it was impossible to really be friends with all her employees, but Twilight still wanted to try. The people felt better and did a better job if they were happy.
  618. > She put those particular problems aside for another day and focused on her code again.
  619.  
  620. > ~~~~
  621.  
  622. > The day still kept getting weirder for Twilight. When she came in the Pony Society reception there was another strangely dressed human.
  623. > Was it the 'old-fashioned-suits-day' or something? She still made herself smile at the man, who was apparently ignoring her.
  624. > The receptionist wasn't paying the visitor any attention either. They had probably already arranged what they had to and now they were both waiting on something. It looked like everything was in hoof, so Twilight didn't waste time by getting involved.
  625. > She was just used to a bit more of a reaction when new people saw her for the first time. Her diplomacy and publicity work, as well as her unique position in the company had made her somewhat recognizable.
  626. > This person - in a black and white suit ironed so sharply you could probably cut bread with his trousers - didn't seem to even notice her. He kept standing and looking at a nearby wall.
  627. > Twilight surreptitiously glanced there, but it was just a poster about calling the Society if you see pony abuse. It wasn't all that interesting.
  628. > She looked at the man's face. He had those round spectacles with an incredibly thin frame and, of all things, a bowler hat.
  629. > Maybe people were trying out their costumes early? He looked so professional, though. Twilight wondered what he wanted, but not enough to ask him.
  630. > She shrugged a little to herself and went to her office after giving the receptionist a friendly wave.
  631. > There was some paperwork to check and some things to go over with Clarissa. It would be a busy evening, but with luck she'd be done with all that at a normal hour and go home to spend some more time with Anon.
  632. > She could finish the boring part of the work at night, when everything was quiet and her phone didn't bother her.
  633. > Funny how indispensable and at the same time infuriating those little devices could be. It was just one of those Earth things, the mare guessed.
  634. > There was a knock at her door and she looked up from her screen.
  635. "Come in?"
  636. > It was the girl, waving and flashing her a smile. "Hi Twilight!"
  637. > The mare rolled her eyes a bit, but she was also grinning.
  638. "I already told you, Clarissa. You of all people don't need to knock. Just come in anytime, okay? It's gonna be your office soon enough anyway!"
  639. > The young lady shrugged and came to sit on the chair facing the mare. "I know, I know. It just feels polite, I guess."
  640. "Well, that's very commendable," Twilight praised.
  641. > Clarissa had just barely sat down, but she tensed and gripped the armrest. "Want me to get you a coffee?" she offered, pausing before she stood.
  642. "Oh, that would be lovely. Wait, I'll go with you."
  643. > The girl politely opened the door for Twilight, then they turned left. The pony saw that the weird human was now standing at the reception, apparently waiting for the young man to do something on the computer. Hopefully they would be able to handle it without her. Any delay would mean less chance to catch Anon awake.
  644. > She could gossip a little bit while Clarissa fiddled with the pot. There was an espresso machine, but she made the best Turkish coffee, even if it took a tad longer.
  645. "So, what's with that gentleman in the lobby? Do you know what he came in for?"
  646. > The girl frowned a bit. "What gentleman?"
  647. "The one in the bowler hat," Twilight explained.
  648. > Had they had more well-dressed men in there that day?
  649. > Again, Clarissa seemed confused. "I don't remember anyone with a bowler hat. Did he come in with you?"
  650. > Now it was starting to get weird, but maybe Clarissa had just been in her office and hadn't noticed the newcomer. For that matter, why should she?
  651. > If her help had been needed, the receptionist knew to call her on the phone.
  652. "No, but never mind. I guess they have it handled. It's just weird - this is the second guy I saw today with an old suit."
  653. > "Oh, now I'm curious. Keep an eye on the pot if it boils, okay?"
  654. > The girl ducked out and Twilight looked at the pot. It was starting to make some 'heating water' noises, but it didn't seem about to go critical. The mare went to the office fridge and opened it.
  655. > The permanent employees each had part of a shelf with a small name tag. Twilight almost never put anything in there, except when she brought a yogurt or something like that in the morning and stored it until lunch.
  656. > Despite that, other people sometimes left little somethings when they knew the mare would be coming in. This time there was a mango, which she took out and quickly washed in the sink. Most people peeled those, but Twilight kinda liked the taste of it whole.
  657. > She just bit into it, careful to avoid the pit, and chewed.
  658. > Not too long after that Clarissa returned. "He must have left," she explained. "I didn't see him."
  659. > That was curious, but not too important. It was just an unusual suit and hat, when it came right down to it.
  660. "Oh well. I just noticed cause it was the second one today. Anyway, good work on those budget spreadsheets. I didn't have to correct a single thing!"
  661. > Twilight's praise was making the girl smile widely. "Thanks!"
  662. "I think you're basically ready to run this place on your own! Good job!"
  663. > Despite that, they both knew that even when Clarissa was officially in charge, the mare would stay around to supervise for a while. Even after she was satisfied that the girl could handle anything that got thrown her way, Twilight would still stay in close touch.
  664. > After all, they both knew that the job wasn't for life. With luck, Clarissa would keep doing it long enough to train her successor.
  665. > The water began to boil and her trainee had to deal with all that, so Twilight just went back to silently eating her mango. She thought back over the week she had.
  666. > It was really weird staying awake just- constantly. It felt like this entire time had just been one incredibly long day. She wasn't tired, but it would still take some time to get used to.
  667. > With her luck, she'd get accustomed to it just before she had to stop. Such was life.
  668. > "So, did you look at that report for that pony out on the East Coast? I've got an email drafted to send to the town's police department, do you think you could look it over?"
  669. "Of course," Twilight said, swallowing quickly, "I'll be happy to."
  670. > She remembered some of her own escapades and almost cringed.
  671. "It's a good idea to try the authorities, first. Nine times out of ten they'll help."
  672. > The girl nodded, but didn't look around. Stirring in the powdered coffee took most of her concentration. "It's easier now that some laws have been passed. Back when you were just starting out there was nothing."
  673. "Well, we still did some pretty stupid stuff. I'm just glad we never got arrested for harassment, or breaking and entering or stuff like that."
  674. > "Arrest you? Pfft, I'd like to see them try!" Clarissa laughed.
  675. > Twilight chuckled as well, but she knew better.
  676. "I didn't always have my magic, you know? It took some time before it was really reliable."
  677. > The girl waved her hand dismissively. "Pah, you don't need magic to mess some shit up!"
  678. > It was a bit flattering, but not the kind of thoughts Twilight wanted to encourage in what was essentially her replacement manager for the Pony Society. She accepted the cup Clarissa offered and led them both back to her office.
  679. "So, let's take a look at that email. Oh, did you get the pony's name?"
  680. > The girl shook her head. "Nah, I just know it's a stallion, earth pony, about twenty years old. I can't follow up since it was posted anonymously on the web page."
  681. > Twilight could probably get more information - the Internet couldn't keep many secrets from her. The only thing holding her back was knowing that doing that would be highly unethical. She'd only resort to hacking when other means failed and a pony life was at stake.
  682. > Whoever sent them the information had also attached some photos and the case didn't look *too* urgent.
  683. > Of course they'd get whoever it was out of that situation as quickly as possible, but if they could do so legally it would help her arguments for more pony rights.
  684. > It had all gotten so complicated and Twilight sighed.
  685. "Sometimes I miss back when it was just me and Anon, looking for our friends. Ugh, does that make me a horrible person? My friends were- still prisoners."
  686. > She didn't say 'in a brothel', but Clarissa knew and her expression softened. "Well, it was a bad situation," the girl volunteered, reaching over to lay her hand on Twilight's withers. "That doesn't mean it was *all* bad. From what you told me, Anon is a sweet guy."
  687. > The mare was smiling now.
  688. "Yeah. Nearly blew it a few years back. We both did. Good thing Dash came to visit or I'd probably already be back in Equestria."
  689. > They spent a few moments in silence, sipping coffee and reminiscing. Twilight about her early days on Earth and Clarissa about whatever it was she had been doing at the time. School, probably.
  690. > It was the trainee manager who spoke first. "So anyway, I don't wanna keep you too long. Let me send you that draft," she said and took her phone from a pocket.
  691. "Yeah. Good idea."
  692.  
  693. > ~~~~
  694.  
  695. > Her second week into her sleepless experiment and Twilight was still feeling fine. After a while she no longer found it strange how days blended into one another and with a bit of effort she could easily keep track of which weekday it was.
  696. > It was working and, what was better, the flashes of light she had seen the first few days were gone. It was probably just a temporary side effect as her brain adjusted to no sleep.
  697. > Nothing to worry about! In fact, the pony was feeling rather pleased with herself as she sprawled across Anon's lap on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Thanks to all the extra time, she had done everything she wanted to by now, which meant the entirety of Sunday was just *hers*.
  698. "We're doing something tomorrow. I don't know what yet, but we're doing it!" she announced.
  699. > "Okay, get back to me when you know," Anon quickly agreed.
  700. "I know! Let's drive over to the seaside. You know, that place we took Silver Spoon and Rainbow Dash?"
  701. > The human laughed at the idea. "Christ, Twiley, The water must be freezing!"
  702. > She growled irritably at the conclusion-jumping human.
  703. "Ugh, no, Anon. I don't wanna swim! Jeez. I just wanna sit on the beach and watch the waves for a bit."
  704. > "Okay?" the human said expectantly, waiting for more. He knew her well enough to know that there would be more.
  705. "Then we grab a pizza from that place on the docks, I forget the name. You know, we went the last time too. They make good pizza."
  706. > This finally got him thinking. "Okay, lunch at the seaside, I like, I like."
  707. > He still wasn't completely convinced, so Twilight brought out the ace under her wing.
  708. "If we dress warmly, we could go roofless, you know? It's a nice, sunny day out. It's very pleasant in the sun."
  709. > "Ooof, the wind chill will murder us, you crazy horse! Well, murder me, at least, no matter how much I dress warmly. We don't all have fur and feathers, you know?"
  710. > The mare laughed at the image of a furry-and-feathery human.
  711. "You're not listening to me, Anon," she complained, "I was thinking of taking the country road. Not gonna drive roofless on the highway in this weather! No amount of fur and feathers would help."
  712. > She shivered just thinking about it. Yes the sun was nice and warm if the air was still, but going eighty miles per hour would probably kill them in this temperature. She didn't even need to look at the weather report to know it was chilly.
  713. > Anyway, it looked like Anon was essentially convinced, so she just gave him a bit of the old 'big-wet-eyes' routine to push him over the edge. She knew she had won when his fingers dug into her belly again.
  714. > "Okay, yeah, that does sound nice. Start about ten or something? That gives us time for a nice breakfast."
  715. "Yeah, sounds good. So, let's say one hour watching the waves, two hours for lunch, driving on the old road, I guess we'll be home at about four?"
  716. > Rather than answering, Anon leaned down for a quick kiss. She knew it as the 'yes' it was.
  717. "Good, good. Then, since I have the day off, which hasn't happened in like *ever*, I think I'll cook us dinner."
  718. > "Ooooh!" Anon almost sang out. "Now *that's* a special occasion!"
  719. > She just smiled and tried to keep her hooves from twitching as Anon scratched her belly. It didn't work, but she thought it looked undignified, so she tried anyway.
  720. > The pleasure far outweighed the indignity, though.
  721. > "I'm gonna make us some pancakes for today, whatddya say?" the human offered. It instantly got Twilight drooling.
  722. "I say I love you."
  723. > He laughed and gently slid from under her. The pony was sad to lose the belly-scratching, but she got the warm spot he left in the couch, so that was something. She stretched all four legs out and took a deep breath, since she couldn't yawn.
  724. > It was getting dark and she looked out to the terrace to see how low the sun was. Twilight didn't need the exact time and this was easier than looking for her phone.
  725. > Her breath caught and she froze.
  726. > There was a woman standing outside, looking at her through the sliding door.
  727. "What the-?!" Twilight yelped and jumped upright.
  728. > She misjudged where she was on the couch and her hoof landed on thin air, rather than cushion, which sent the mare tumbling to the floor. A painful bonk on her muzzle later, she managed to get her hooves under her and shot up.
  729. "ANON!" she yelled, oblivious to the pain.
  730. > There was a clatter in the kitchen as the human dropped his pan and rushed over. He heard the fear and urgency in her voice and was running to come help.
  731. > Twilight preemptively pointed a hoof at the terrace, but-
  732. > The lady was gone.
  733. > She had probably ducked behind the wall when she saw the mare had spotted her! Twilight rushed over and yanked the door open with her magic just in time so she didn't smack in the glass.
  734. > She jumped out and looked wildly around.
  735. > "What is it?!" Anon called, hurrying across the living room to follow the mare outside.
  736. "Where are you?! Where did you go?" the mare demanded angrily.
  737. > She wouldn't tolerate people peering in on her. The woman was probably some reporter or something, looking for a juicy story on the Equestrian diplomat and pony rights activist!
  738. > Twilight would make it very clear that such behavior would not be tolerated in the slightest, just as soon as she found her.
  739. > Except - there was no one out there, just her and Anon.
  740. > "What?!" the human demanded again.
  741. "I saw someone! A woman! She was looking in through the terrace door!"
  742. > Hearing that, Anon frowned in worry and started looking around as well. "Where could she have gone?!"
  743. > Twilight was frustrated. She ran to the railing at the edge and looked over. There were no balconies on that side, so if the woman jumped she would have to be on the street, probably dead.
  744. > It was a minor relief that there was no body, but the mare ran along the edge, pausing every now and then to look. Maybe there was a rope or a ladder or something.
  745. > Anon quickly understood what Twilight was thinking and started on the other side, peering over the iron railing and looking for any clues.
  746. > They met in the middle, both panting and worried.
  747. "Where the fuck did she go?" Twilight demanded.
  748. > She looked back to the house - maybe the woman had shimmied up onto their roof. There were no obvious foot- or handholds and no one in sight. Despite that, Twilight focused her magic and teleported up there.
  749. > Other than a few chimneys and several air conditioning units, the roof was bare.
  750. > Growling a little under her breath, Twilight came to the edge so Anon wouldn't worry and called to him:
  751. "Anon! She's not up here!"
  752. > "Then I just don't know. She couldn't have gotten away in the five seconds it took you to come outside."
  753. > He fell silent, then looked at the mare with fresh worry etched on his face. "Are you sure you didn't just imagine it?"
  754. "I know what I saw!"
  755. > "Well, maybe it was like those lights? Maybe it just seemed like a woman? You were still upside down, weren't you?"
  756. > She was about to yell at the human for not believing her, but stopped herself just in time. Thinking about it, Anon made a certain kind of sense.
  757. > The alicorn deflated and hung her head while Anon walked over to stand directly below her.
  758. "I dunno," she admitted. "Maybe."
  759. > "If you want, I can get a few cameras set up here just to make sure," the human suggested.
  760. > It wasn't a bad idea, come to think of it. Especially since she might really start getting paparazzi.
  761. "Actually, that's a good idea. Would you?"
  762. > Anon smiled in relief and held out his arms. "No problem. Jump, I'll catch you."
  763. > Twilight leaned her head to the side in confusion and barked a laugh.
  764. "I'll break your arms. I'll just teleport down."
  765. > "Nah, nah, it'll be fine. Come on."
  766. > Teleportation wasn't beyond her, even twice in a row, even on magic-deprived Earth, but Twilight guessed he meant it as a gesture. She turned around and hooked her forelegs on the roof, so she could lower herself a little. That brought her waist in reach for Anon to grab her and lower her the rest of the way.
  767. > A compromise which worked well for both of them.
  768. "I could have just teleported, you know? It's not hard."
  769. > He patted her mane and walked back inside, the mare following right on his heels. "I know, but this way I got to feel you up a little."
  770. > It made Twilight smile, because it was cute. When had she ever denied Anon a chance to 'feel her up'?
  771. "If you wanna feel me up some more, you can give me another massage later," she prompted.
  772. > The man snapped his fingers. "Perfect! I'll stuff you full of pancakes so you can't resist, then I'll carry you to the bathroom, stick you in a tub of hot water and grope you until you're begging me to stop."
  773. > The alicorn giggled in excited expectation. It sounded fun! She had to keep the joke going, though.
  774. "Ha! Like you'll even live long enough. It takes a lot of groping for me to not want any more!"
  775. > "We'll see," the human promised. "Let me get those pancakes done. Shout out if more scary ladies try to watch you, okay?"
  776. > She just stuck her tongue out at him and went back to the couch.
  777. > Maybe it was just another of those weird flashes of light, Twilight thought. She hadn't seen them since the first couple of days, but maybe this was the evolution of that particular side effect.
  778. > She had been *so* certain it was a woman, but Anon had a point. She was upside down and not paying particular attention. She only glimpsed the shape for a second before she fell off the couch. It could have been some misshapen blob which the mare had made into a woman inside her head.
  779. > Brains worked in mysterious ways, sometimes.
  780. > She decided she would keep her eye out for more unexplained visuals. In addition, she would go and finally read through the reversal spell, just in case. She would need it anyway, it couldn't hurt to read it a few times beforehoof.
  781. > Plan made, Twilight flopped down on the pillow once again and relaxed.
  782. > She wondered if Anon could be persuaded to feed her, so she didn't have to move. He had already promised to carry her to the bath, after all.
  783.  
  784. > ~~~~
  785.  
  786. > Anon sat on the edge of the bathtub, completely ignoring that his shorts were getting wet. Twilight would have preferred him without, but this was fine, too. Especially because of what the human was doing with his hands.
  787. > "Remember this from the first time we met?" Anon asked.
  788. > The memory hadn't been pleasant originally, but Twilight had since labeled it as the 'start of her freedom', so she didn't mind remembering.
  789. "Mmm, I was so scared what you were going to do."
  790. > "I know. I hope it wasn't too forward of me, but I didn't want to just toss you in a bed smelling of- well."
  791. > The mare was floating on her back, eyes closed and a faint, nostalgic smile playing across her muzzle.
  792. "You already apologized. About-" she concentrated in quiet calculation, "hundred and forty-seven times."
  793. > "Did you keep count?!"
  794. "Yeah, kinda. It's not absolutely correct because I only thought to start counting after number ten or so, but it's pretty exact."
  795. > "Nerd."
  796. > She just poked her tongue out at him.
  797. "Talk about yourself, you- mmmmmmh."
  798. > The final half of her sentence was cut short when anon found a spot on the inside of her hind leg.
  799. > Twilight's mind resurfaced a few moments later, but her original thought was gone.
  800. "Anyway, that wasn't the first time we met, remember?" she clarified.
  801. > "Well. Okay. Yeah. But it's the first time we met *properly*. In decent circumstances."
  802. > The pony nodded, aware that Anon had let go of her leg and was shifting to the other side of the tub. She knew what he wanted and she let him pull her upright. It meant she had to sit on her haunches, but that wasn't a whole lot of effort when she was submerged almost to her muzzle.
  803. > Her new position brought her mane up in the air so the human could shampoo it. By the squirting sounds the bottle was nearly empty. She'd have to order more, soon.
  804. "You know, what really convinced me you weren't just some pervert, was the way you treated Rarity. Have I ever told you this?"
  805. > The man froze for a moment, but then applied his hands to the back of her head, lathering her up nice and thoroughly.
  806. > Finger were just so damned useful for things like this! Once Anon had settled in the rhythm, he answered her: "You haven't."
  807. "Oh. Well, you gave us a bath, which was super weird. Rarity later told me she was sure you were going to- you know. Since you didn't get to in the brothel."
  808. > "I wouldn't-"
  809. "Hush! I know that now. At the time - I *hoped* you wouldn't. You seemed like a nice guy, which was weird because you came to that place."
  810. > The man sighed sadly. "I regretted that the moment I set foot into the place."
  811. "Don't. You wouldn't have found us and you wouldn't have saved all my friends and I wouldn't be here now, getting the most exquisite mane-wash."
  812. > "So, how did you decide I wasn't bad if you and Rares thought I was going to have my way with you?" Anon asked.
  813. "I was getting to that. I think I understood it for the first time when we asked you to just leave us alone, and you did. Even though it was your place and your room. You didn't even argue."
  814. > She opened her eyes for a moment and they smiled at each other. Then she shut them again because Anon was starting to lather the front part of her mane. Even after all these years, he was still so careful around the horn.
  815. > For an instant Twilight entertained the idea of lighting it up, just to give him a bit of a scare, but she decided against it. This was a comfy moment and she wanted to enjoy the rest of the bath in company.
  816. > Anon's hands encircled her muzzle as he lathered up the fur on her face and she kept it firmly clamped. The shampoo smelled nice, but it tasted foul.
  817. > "Hold on, let me wash it off," Anon said and grabbed the shower head. He turned on a trickle of hot water and played it over her with one hand while massaging the lather away with his other.
  818. "Thanks," Twilight said when he had moved on to her mane. "You're a real gentlecolt."
  819. > "So," the human said, changing the topic. "Got your costume ready?"
  820. > The mare opened her eyes and grinned, even if she did accidentally pull her mane out of Anon's grasp.
  821. "Yes! I got it all ready! I'll show you after we're done. How about yours?"
  822. > The human chuckled a little at her eagerness. "The coat and hat are here, but I'm still waiting for the pipe. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a period-appropriate tobacco pipe!"
  823. "You're not going to actually smoke it, right?"
  824. > "No, of course not."
  825. "Good."
  826. > It felt as if her mane was done, but Anon kept brushing her coat with his hands under water. She knew he liked touching her and she enjoyed these impromptu massages immensely, so she didn't move and just let him get on with it.
  827. > In a moment she would return the favor in her own, unique way, but for now Twilight was happy to luxuriate in the hot bath some more.
  828. "Are you going to take a bath as well?" she asked.
  829. > "Yeah, in a minute. Just relax, we got all night."
  830. > She shook her head, spraying the human with water a little.
  831. "No we don't. I want you in bed in- mmmm, an hour."
  832. > He laughed. "Yes ma'am."
  833. > Anon's hands traveled further down, exploring, grabbing, squeezing all the right places. It made Twilight moan in pleasure and the human grin at the expressions she was making.
  834. > At long last, he placed a kiss at the tip of her nose and let her go. "Okay, my turn," he said.
  835. > The mare was a tiny bit sad it was over, but she couldn't begrudge the human some pampering, not after the treatment she got herself. She levitated a sponge in her magic and looked for his favorite shampoo bottle on a nearby shelf.
  836. > This is where her magic had an advantage, and she could lift up the shower head as well to get the human wet first.
  837. > His shorts fell on the tiles, forgotten, and Anon slipped into the water right beside her. Of course she sneaked a peek, which made her wink and shudder pleasantly.
  838. > A part of her wanted to ask Anon to keep massaging while she washed his hair in turn, but she knew that would make it hard to concentrate on the magic and she would probably fumble something.
  839. > It was a great sacrifice - possibly the greatest sacrifice in the world - but she would make it. For love.
  840. "Okay, bend down a little. I wanna see what I'm doing."
  841.  
  842. > ~~~~
  843.  
  844. > It was a very relaxed, very happy Twilight Sparkle sitting outside at a cafe next door from the office and sipping some green tea. The day was, once again, beautiful and sunny and kept her nice and warm even in the weak October chill.
  845. > She had a pair of custom-made pony sunglasses to keep off the harsh glare of the sun and also to give her that 'cool mare' look.
  846. > That last was Anon's comment, which she kinda liked. It always made her smile when she remembered.
  847. > The place made average tea, but they did an amazing omelette with veggies. Darlene from the reception said they over-salted it, but that was just what Twilight liked about the food here.
  848. > Most human food was too bland by half for her taste.
  849. > Right now, the pony was finishing the last bite and dabbing at her muzzle with a napkin. Excellent as always, but it was time to get back to work. She brought out some money from the light, pony-adapted purse and left it on the table.
  850. > The purse was a small gift from Suri which had arrived, quite unexpectedly, in the mail several months prior.
  851. > It was just so much more convenient than saddlebags for the modern, on-the-go businessmare.
  852. > Suri was doing well for herself, from what Twilight could gather. Good for her. She hadn't liked that mare too much in the past, but it looked like she was turning a new leaf on Earth.
  853. > Musing on the ways Earth had changed them all, the alicorn stood up and made her way back to the street. She was pleasantly full, well rested - thanks to the spell - and kept nice and warm by the combination of the autumn sun and the tea inside her belly.
  854. > Not to mention relaxed after Anon's bath-massage and subsequent lovemaking.
  855. > A flash of pink caught her eye and she looked across the street, where a young girl was playing hopscotch on the sidewalk.
  856. > It wasn't a usual sight, at least on this street. There hadn't been residential buildings here in the past fifty or so years.
  857. > Maybe the girl's mother was in one of the shops, but that was really irresponsible to just leave a young child out on the street like that, alone.
  858. > The pony looked both ways for the cars, then quickly crossed, just to make sure everything was alright.
  859. > She stopped just outside the crude chalk drawing and watched for a moment. The child was wearing a very frilly dress, complete with stockings and a bonnet. It looked a bit over-elaborate, but Twilight wasn't about to judge.
  860. > Some people liked to over-dress their children and it didn't look as if the girl minded. Her lips were pursed in concentration as she hopped up and down, following the complex rules of the game.
  861. "Um, excuse me, little girl?" Twilight called out.
  862. > It was strange that the child hadn't noticed her on her own. Ponies were usually a very interesting sight for most people. Maybe she had been brought up to be polite?
  863. > That would be a welcome change from some Twilight remembered.
  864. > The girl didn't seem to have heard and just kept jumping from square to square. Twilight tried to follow the game for a while, but couldn't quite make sense of it.
  865. "Hello?"
  866. > At long last the child heard and looked over. If she thought it interesting to find herself speaking to a pony, she didn't show it. Probably she had seen her on TV, Twilight thought.
  867. > It still wasn't the reaction she'd been expecting and something about the girl made her slightly uneasy. Despite that, Twilight gave her best, friendliest smile.
  868. "Hi there! Are you alone out here? Do you know where your mother is?"
  869. > Wordlessly, the girl extended an arm and pointed at a nearby building. As far as Twilight knew, those were just offices. Not even shops.
  870. "Your mother works in there?" the pony guessed.
  871. > The girl said nothing and just turned to her game. A very quiet child.
  872. > Maybe she couldn't speak? That would explain her strange attitude and the unsettled feeling Twilight got from her.
  873. > Well, strange or not, it still wasn't acceptable to just leave a child on a busy sidewalk in the middle of the business district, unsupervised! The mare wanted to go over and look for the mother and then give her a piece of her mind!
  874. > Could she leave the child alone for a bit longer? She had been alright so far and the street wasn't too busy.
  875. "Okay, sweetie, I'll go and look for your mother, do you understand? Please don't go anywhere and don't walk on the road, okay?"
  876. > The girl gave her a blank look, but then nodded after a few moments.
  877. "What's your name?"
  878. > Again, the empty stare. I was really starting to get to Twilight and she took an involuntary step back.
  879. "Okay, that's okay. You don't have to tell me. Your parents probably told you not to talk to strangers, that's okay. I'll be back very soon!"
  880. > She was a bit relieved when she trotted towards the building the girl had indicated, even if made Twilight feel a bit guilty.
  881. > Not as guilty as she would make the mother feel, though!
  882. > The pony reached the lobby door and looked up at the sign. It was an accounting firm. Definitely not the kind of place where you go briefly inside and leave a young child to wait for you!
  883. > Looking back to make sure the girl was still okay, Twilight gasped. She was lying on the ground! She must have fallen!
  884. > All thought of looking for the mother was momentarily forgotten as the mare galloped back. Her heart was racing and her face was scrunched up in worry.
  885. > Please let it be just a minor bruise, she thought.
  886. > She reached the child and froze in terror. The girl was sitting up and put a hand to her face, where a trickle of blood was flowing freely.
  887. "Oh no no no, this is bad, this is bad!" Twilight gasped.
  888. > She fumbled in her purse for the phone and looked around for any help. The sidewalk was completely deserted.
  889. > She dialed the three most important digits and shuffled her hooves anxiously as it rang. A tired-sounding lady picked up.
  890. > "Nine one one, how may I help you?"
  891. "Quick! I need an ambulance. This little girl fell and she's bleeding!"
  892. > A hand landed on her shoulder and Twilight squeaked in fright. She twirled around.
  893. > It was a very concerned-looking Samuel Oswin. Accounts Payable department, Twilight had a few meetings with the man in the recent months.
  894. > A wave of relief flushed though her. She had help.
  895. "Sam! Quick, the girl needs help. I'm calling 911, go to the reception and grab the med kit under the desk! Hurry!"
  896. > He looked around in confusion. "What are you talking about Twilight? What girl?!"
  897. > The pony turned around and her mouth fell open.
  898. > There was nothing on the sidewalk. No chalk drawing of the hopscotch game. No girl. No blood.
  899. "S-She was right h-here!" the mare gasped.
  900. > There were a few people standing and staring at her strangely.
  901. > The mare couldn't quite process what was going on. A voice in her ear reminded her that she had the emergency services on the line. "Ma'am? Is everything okay, ma'am? What's your address so I can send an ambulance."
  902. > What could she say? It *had* happened! I couldn't have just been in her imagination!
  903. "She was there. She was bleeding!"
  904. > "Ma'am, I'm gonna need you to calm down and tell me your address," the voice on the phone said.
  905. > Twilight forced herself to calm down and took a deep breath. First thing first.
  906. "Sorry," she told the emergency lady. "There's been a mistake. I'm sorry to have bothered you."
  907. > She didn't wait for the reply and hung up. Then she looked at Samuel.
  908. "I could *swear* there was a girl in a frilly pink dress playing hopscotch! I *talked* with her!"
  909. > The man looked blank. "Sorry, Twilight. There was no one there. I saw you running from across the street and I came to check. Then you were yelling in your phone. You didn't hear me!"
  910. > The mare shook her head, then rubbed it with a hoof. It didn't make sense. Had she been seeing things?
  911. > Things that weren't real? Why a girl in an old-fashioned dress playing hopscotch?
  912. > "Are you okay, Twilight? I think you better come inside. Should we call an ambulance or something?"
  913. "N-No, no, I'm fine. It's just- it was so weird! It looked so real!"
  914. > "Come on, I'll have Darlene call Anon. Let's get you off the street."
  915. > She allowed herself to be led away by a gentle pressure on her withers. Samuel was leaning down to keep his hand there, for which the mare was very grateful.
  916. > Her mind was racing, trying to make connections.
  917. > Could it be related to her spell? How? Why?
  918. > She found it very hard to believe that she would suddenly start seeing things. Yes, there were those flashes of color, of course, but having them change from amorphous color blobs to actual people was a bit of a jump.
  919. > The girl had clearly reacted to her.
  920. > It was really uncanny and she had to think about it. Illusions like this could be really troubling. She might need to cast the counter-spell if this was starting to happen.
  921. > The book didn't mention any such side effects, though. Maybe this was something else. Perhaps she was over-working herself?
  922. > It could conceivably be a sign of stress.
  923. > Good thing she was handing over Pony Society to Clarissa, then. It was probably just in time!
  924. > They entered her office building and Darlene looked up with a smile, which froze, then melted away.
  925. > "Twilight?!" he woman called out and rushed around the front desk. "You look like you've seen a ghost! Did something happen?"
  926. > As if she wasn't even there, Samuel explained: "I found her panicking out on the sidewalk a couple of doors down. She said she saw a little girl get hurt, but there was nothing like that."
  927. "I'm fine, I'm fine," the mare said, a bit testily.
  928. > She hated it when people talked about her as if she wasn't there.
  929. "I think I just overworked myself. I'll take the rest of the day easy."
  930. > The receptionist agreed immediately. "Good idea! I'll give Anon a call and see if I can find someone to drive you home."
  931. "I can drive!"
  932. > The woman gave her an altogether too condescending smile. "Nonsense, if you're stressed enough to be seeing things you probably shouldn't drive."
  933. > Twilight was silent because the woman had a good point and she couldn't come up with a good rebuttal.
  934. > Darlene took it as acquiescence and went to her desk to pick up the phone. She pointed at Samuel. "Please take Miss Twilight up to her office, okay?"
  935. > Twilight just rolled her eyes in exasperation, but she didn't fight the man as he led her to the elevator.
  936. > Maybe a short rest would do her some good. She had been working practically non-stop for the past two weeks. The sleeping spell was good, but maybe it wasn't quite perfect.
  937. > She decided she'd take it easy from now on. No more than six hours of work in the night, the mare swore to herself. The rest of the time she could use to catch up on some books and movies she'd been meaning to read and watch, respectively.
  938. > There was also the counterspell. Despite her intentions, she hadn't had a chance to look at it yet. Now, more than before, Twilight felt like she should be ready with it.
  939. > If this all really was some side effect of her no-sleep spell, she wanted to be ready to undo it at a moment's notice.
  940. > The first thing she needed to think about, however, was what to tell Anonymous. She would tell him what had happened, that much was a no-brainer, but beyond that - should she tell him her fears that the spell was messing with her mind?
  941. > He would just worry and tell her to undo the sleep spell.
  942. > Maybe it was best to just tell him that it was because of stress. It was an equally likely guess, after all.
  943. > He was already waiting when the elevator reached their floor and the mare gave him a faint smile. She took a deep gulp of air.
  944. "First of all, I'm okay Anon. No need to worry..."
  945.  
  946. > ~~~~
  947.  
  948. > Twilight didn't do any further work that day. Even if she felt inclined, Anon probably wouldn't let her. He insisted she should rest, even though the pony kept assuring him she was feeling perfectly fine.
  949. > In the end she agreed to lie on the couch in his office with her eyes closed simply because it was easier than arguing. After her annoyance faded a little, Twilight had to admit that it wasn't bad.
  950. > The cushion was comfortable, the blanket Darlene had found somewhere was warm and the quiet susurration of the human working on his computer was incredibly soothing.
  951. > If she could, she would definitely have fallen asleep. As it was, Twilight still appreciated a chance to simply do nothing and rest her eyes. Maybe the human was right and she had been overdoing it.
  952. > There was no way a sleep spell would cause hallucinations, right? That's what she had decided they were.
  953. > First the lights, then the little girl. It didn't make much sense.
  954. > The pony wiggled against the couch and stretched out her legs. Normally that would have made her yawn, but not since the spell. Sometimes she missed yawning.
  955. > There was something incredibly relaxing about a good yawn. Funny, the things you notice only when you lose them.
  956. > It wasn't forever, the mare reminded herself.
  957. > "Almost done. I'll just wait for CI and then we're going home," the human announced.
  958. > Twilight turned her head to look at him, but Anon was staring fixedly at his screen.
  959. "You'll drop me off at the Society?"
  960. > "Nope," came the answer. "We're going straight home. You're taking the day off."
  961. "Anon, I-"
  962. > He stood up so quickly that it shut her up. "No buts!" Anon said forcefully. "A day off!"
  963. > Twilight rolled her eyes.
  964. "I took Sunday off already."
  965. > He wasn't mad, but he also wasn't taking 'no' for an answer. Anon walked over and put his hand on her belly, even if the blanket was in the way. "You took the day off then spent the whole night working. I still don't think that's good for you."
  966. > Twilight didn't have a counter for that, so she just remained silent. The truth was, now that she had gotten through some backlog, the work was suddenly a lot more manageable.
  967. > Maybe she wouldn't need to keep the spell up much longer? It frightened her a little just how vivid the little girl had looked. She was completely lifelike.
  968. > The bright red of the blood made the mare shudder a little.
  969. "Okay, a day off. So what am I supposed to do all night?"
  970. > "Movies until midnight, then an hour or two in bed, then something you enjoy which doesn't involve a computer screen!"
  971. "Ha! Who's gonna make me? You?"
  972. > Anon brought his face right up to hers and stared fixedly in her eyes until she squirmed uncomfortably. "Yes, I'll stay up all night to make sure you don't hurt yourself. Then I'll feel like shit the entire day and it'll be your fault. The guilt will be unbearable."
  973. > Twilight opened her mouth to refute this claim, but the human silenced her with a kiss and her argument evaporated from her thoughts.
  974. "O-Okay," she replied, breathlessly. "But only if you do that again."
  975. > He obliged and the sheer warmth and passion behind the kiss would have made her go weak at the knees, had the pony been standing. As it was, it left her with her eyes closed and smiling.
  976. > "Oh, sorry Darlene, I didn't see you there," Anon said and Twilight sat bolt upright in shock.
  977. "Eep!"
  978. > Twilight and Anon had agreed a long time ago that there would be no fooling around at the office. It was a place for work and rubbing their unconventional relationship in too many faces was bound to end badly.
  979. > They had broken their rule in small, inconsequential ways before - a pat on on the back, a brush of the flank, a lifting of a tail and showing of a glimpse - but not as blatantly as this.
  980. > Good thing her muzzle was violet, otherwise the blush would be really obvious. It was a piece of good luck that it was the receptionist who chanced upon them, and not someone else.
  981. > Darlene just smiled and waved dismissively. "Don't worry, Mr. Anonymous. It's kinda cute, actually. Mrs. Twilight? There's a call for you on hold."
  982. > The mare blinked. Her cell hadn't rung, so it must have been a call on her office phone. Who did that nowadays?
  983. "Uh, can you put it through to Anon's phone? I'll take it here."
  984. > The receptionist nodded. "Will do!"
  985. > Before the woman could leave, Twilight called out a question she'd barely remembered in time.
  986. "Did they say who they were?"
  987. > "It's Peterson, from the ad agency."
  988. "Oh. Yeah, I'll take it here. Thanks, Darlene!"
  989. > Anon was already frowning, but Twilight just gave him an innocent smile. "It's not *real* work. It's probably just some questions about the Internet ads. I promise I'll make it quick."
  990. > The man sighed, shrugged and went back to his computer.
  991.  
  992. > ~~~~
  993.  
  994. > Twilight Sparkle sat in the passenger seat for a change. She had insisted she was fine, but Anon put his foot down and was driving them home. Good thing he at least let her call Clarissa and explain.
  995. > The girl didn't mind handling things on her own for a day or two, until the alicorn could figure out this problem with seeing things, so that was good.
  996. > All that was left now was to have a pleasant evening with Anon and then do something relaxing over the night.
  997. > Oh, and it became really important to have the counterspell ready, so she would do that first.
  998. > The mare relaxed by watching the people and the shops stream past as they drove.
  999. > There wasn't much she wanted to talk about at the moment, so Anon had simply put on one of their playlists. He couldn't believe she was still somewhat of a fan of 'Coldplay', but he also didn't mind listening to them while driving.
  1000. > 'A Sky Full of Stars' was playing, which had become quite a nostalgic song for the mare. There wasn't much of what you might call lyrics, but it still reminded her of Princess Luna.
  1001. > She should arrange a visit, soon. She missed her friends, her mentor, her brother - everypony.
  1002. > It was sometimes hard to remember that Equestria still existed when she was so busy with things on Earth.
  1003. > The car rolled to a gentle stop at a red light and Twilight focused on a brightly lit pub sign across the road. It looked like one of those places from the seventies, when neon was the way to go.
  1004. > "Penny for your thoughts?"
  1005. > She didn't look around, but still smiled when Anon laid a hand on her withers.
  1006. "Just thinking of home," she admitted.
  1007. > "You miss your friends?" the man guessed.
  1008. "Mhm."
  1009. > There wasn't a whole lot more to say, so she didn't. Instead she watched a man step out of the seventies pub. He looked like a good fit for the place, honestly.
  1010. > Flared pants, a high-rise waistcoat, both in a garish blue color, and shoulder-length hair. The man was looking away from her, but Twilight wouldn't be surprised if he had star-shaped shades on his eyes as well.
  1011. "Huh. It isn't Halloween yet, is it?"
  1012. > "No, why do you ask?"
  1013. > She pointed a hoof.
  1014. "That guy. Looks, um... what's the word? 'Disco', I think."
  1015. > Anon glanced over and scanned the street for a few moments. "Where? I don't see him?"
  1016. > Twilight looked at her human to verify that he was turned in the correct direction.
  1017. "Just over there! He's crossing the street!"
  1018. > Her hoof flew to her mouth and she gasped. The man hadn't seen that old muscle car!
  1019. "NO! WATCH OUT!" she yelled, but of course he couldn't hear her across this distance and over traffic.
  1020. > All she could do was stare in horror as the Ford oldsmobile hit the disco-dressed man. He bounced from the hood in slow motion as Twilight hurriedly undid her belt with levitation.
  1021. > "What happened?! What's going on?" Anon yelled, also reaching for his seat belt.
  1022. > She didn't explain. The first minute was the most critical. It had looked like the car was going pretty fast and the man was sent flying. Twilight saw a flash of his cyan suit on the sidewalk where he had landed. She threw the door open and leapt out.
  1023. > Dimly she was aware of Anon following, but that wasn't as important right now.
  1024. > Horns honked at her and tires screeched from one side, but she ignored those too. Twilight ducked around a van and galloped for where she had seen the human.
  1025. > As she came near, her steps faltered.
  1026. > There was no blue-suited man. For that matter, there was no old car.
  1027. > Anon caught up to her and put a comforting hand on her head. "What's wrong? What did you see?"
  1028. > Still panting from panic and sudden exertion, the pony gave him a wide-eyed stare.
  1029. "He got run over! Disco-dressed man, he was just hit by an old Ford car. Mustang, I think!"
  1030. > Her human dutifully looked around, then shrugged with a faint, worried smile. "I don't see it anywhere."
  1031. "It must have drove away!" Twilight insisted.
  1032. > "Where? The crossroad is packed, Twilight!"
  1033. > She was forced to admit that this was true. Another car honked and Anon quickly led her to the sidewalk. There was no sign of the accident she had just witnessed. The people were hurrying on their business and aside from a few strange looks, no one was paying them much mind.
  1034. "He came out of that pub and-"
  1035. > Twilight let her voice trail off. There was no neon sign. She looked the other way on this street but still couldn't see one. There *had* been a neon sign, she was sure of it.
  1036. > "Are you seeing things again?" Anon asked, voice definitely tinged with worry.
  1037. > The mare was afraid as well. Her legs were trembling and it wasn't just from seeing someone get killed on the road.
  1038. "I- I'm... I dunno," she stammered.
  1039. > Anon leaned down so he could lay his hand against her neck. There was no anger in his voice, only concern. "Come on, let's get you back to the car and home as soon as possible. I'll call Dr. Hayes."
  1040. "I don't think-"
  1041. > "Hush. Come on."
  1042. > She walked as if in a daze as her human led her back across the road and to their car. The other drivers, Twilight noted, have simply driven around them. One of them honked as he passed.
  1043. "I'm s-sorry," she whimpered.
  1044. > "None of that now. Let's get you home and have Dr. Hayes look at you. Come on, up you go."
  1045. > Hands half-lifted her up in the passenger seat and Twilight didn't resist. She tried to help, but her mind was racing and she was still remembering the way that man had bounced off the hood.
  1046. > She was sure she saw a spray of blood. It had been a deadly accident, she had no doubt.
  1047. > Had it all been just in her mind? A hallucination? Why would she imagine something this strange? Why a car-death from the early seventies?!
  1048. > None of it made much sense. She couldn't understand why it was happening, which was scary for the alicorn. She hadn't come across a puzzle she couldn't eventually solve, yet.
  1049. > The car began moving again, but this time Twilight wasn't looking out anymore. She wasn't paying attention to the music, nor the soothing nothings Anon was saying.
  1050. > She just stared fixedly at the dashboard and went over the sleep-spell in her mind again and again, trying to understand how it could explain hallucinations.
  1051. > Or - the thought chilled her - were these more than hallucinations?
  1052. > It felt as if her heart skipped a beat. She could look on the Internet for car accidents on this road in the 1970s. She could also look for a little girl who was somehow struck on her head - Twilight shuddered as she remembered the blood.
  1053. > The question was, did she dare?
  1054. > What if these weren't hallucinations?
  1055. "W-What if I'm s-seeing how people d-died?" she whispered.
  1056. > Anon fell silent and didn't comment for a while. She looked at the human with terrified eyes.
  1057. > He placed his hand on her withers, for which Twilight was immensely grateful. That touch was her best chance to avoid outright panicking.
  1058. > "Whatever it is, you'll figure it out. Take the spell off, please? I'm worried about you, Twiley."
  1059. > She just nodded blankly.
  1060. "Y-Yes. I will."
  1061. > It was getting too weird and scary. Anon was right - the spell was the only possible explanation and undoing it suddenly sounded like a good idea.
  1062. > "Hey, relax," the human went on. "You nearly got run over in that crossroads, but you're fine. We're both fine."
  1063. > She nodded in relief. The sound of screeching tires suddenly played in her mind again. How close was she really to ending up like that unfortunate disco-man?
  1064. "T-Thanks..."
  1065.  
  1066. > ~~~~
  1067.  
  1068. > This was a problem. Twilight stared at the page with mounting horror. How could she have missed this?!
  1069. "The last part is gone!"
  1070. > Now that she looked really closely, there was a page missing from the book. It looked like it had been torn out!
  1071. > The missing page contained the last third of the counter for her no-sleep spell. She couldn't undo it without this critical piece!
  1072. > "I thought you said you looked it over!" Anon said, voice thick with worry. He was standing in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen, coffee pot in hand.
  1073. "I did! Well, I skimmed through it. Just enough to make sure I understood it."
  1074. > The human just gaped. "And you didn't spot that some of it was missing?"
  1075. > The pony felt like crying with frustration.
  1076. "No! I just read the first half, saw that I could cast it and that was it."
  1077. > She closed her eyes and pushed her muzzle into the couch armrest.
  1078. "I should have read it all the way through. How could I have been that stupid?!"
  1079. > In two steps her human was sitting beside her on the couch. He hurriedly put the tea pot on the coffee table so his hands were free to lay gently on her back.
  1080. > Anon sighed and when he spoke his voice was calm and measured. "Don't beat yourself up. There's bound to be another copy, right?"
  1081. > Twilight didn't remove her face from the cushion. Her horn was poking into the fabric and it was putting uncomfortable pressure on her forehead, but she didn't want to look at Anonymous right then.
  1082. "I don't know. This is a very rare spellbook."
  1083. > A few moments of thought later Anon had another idea: "Well, can't you finish the spell yourself? You did it with that Starswirl one. It's what got you these."
  1084. > He ran a finger down one of her wings, making the mare's breath catch. It was still very sensitive. She didn't complain, though.
  1085. "This is different," she muttered into the pillow.
  1086. > "How so?"
  1087. > It was like explaining calculus to an infant, but Twilight tried anyway.
  1088. "That was a short spell and it was only missing the last line *and* it tied into the Elements which I was already studying. This is a really complicated one and it's tied into the first spell. It'd take me *weeks* to figure out how it should go, and even then it's risky."
  1089. > The human was silent for a few seconds. Then his hands moved to her cheeks. "C'mere," Anon said and gently lifted her head from the couch.
  1090. > Twilight fought for a moment, but then went limp and let the human transfer her partially into his lap. Instead of the pillow, she was now pressing her face into his shirt. Her horn was no longer uncomfortable because it rested on Anon's shoulder.
  1091. > He knew exactly how to handle her for maximum comfort. On a distant level, Twilight was grateful for that, but the emotion was buried under self-pity.
  1092. > Her sleep spell was probably doing strange things to her mind. She was having hallucinations, or seeing ghost, or the past, or *something*, and now her last lifeline was gone.
  1093. > "Hey, hey," the human murmured right in her ear, mindful to keep the volume down. "It's okay. If anyone can figure it out, it's you."
  1094. > She almost shook her head and gave up, but Anon's arms around her were so warm and he used his free hand to brush away a tear.
  1095. > "We've been through worse, remember? This is just a minor problem."
  1096. > That much was true. If it were just hallucinations, all Twilight needed was to trust in her human. Whenever she saw something uncertain, she would ask him and if he didn't see it, she could safely ignore it. It wasn't like hallucinations could touch her.
  1097. > She had time to figure it out. The pony was about to ask, but somehow Anon sensed her question and patted her mane.
  1098. > "I'll call the office tomorrow and we'll take a few days off, both of us. It's not like we don't deserve it. When was the last time we took a vacation?"
  1099. "Sea this summer?" Twilight guessed.
  1100. > Anon chuckled. "Yeah, okay, that was nice. But it was just an extended weekend. We took Monday off and came back to work around noon on Tuesday. That's not a vacation."
  1101. > She was forced to reluctantly agree.
  1102. > "Clarissa has things handled for a week or so, right? You've taught her plenty and besides, the best way to learn is to jump in the deep end."
  1103. > Again, the mare nodded against his shoulder.
  1104. > There was more, however. Anon patted her back, then placed his free hand on her muzzle and carefully pushed her away, so he could look in her face.
  1105. > "Tell you what you'll do," he went on, all businesslike and self-assured. Maybe he was doing it on purpose, or from some gut feeling, but it was exactly what Twilight needed. Someone in charge.
  1106. > She listened intently. "You're going to write to Celestia and ask her to find you another copy of this spell, or this book. If anyone can do that, it'll be her. Then you're going to send a copy to that wizard friend of yours, what's his name - Sunburst something?"
  1107. "Yeah, that's him."
  1108. > "Yeah, him. Maybe he can help you finish it. He knows all about ancient spells, after all."
  1109. > The mare was cheering up. There were many options left to try, all she had to do was think of some. Anon was doing that for her.
  1110. > "Thirdly," the human went on, making the pony blink in surprise. "Thirdly, can you use your spell software you wrote when we first met to look for solutions to this? The way I understand, it's just like solving a really big linear equation system and you should be able to crunch through that in a few days on the company server farm."
  1111. > Twilight rolled her eyes.
  1112. "Every word in that sentence was wrong, Anon. Don't pretend you know anything about magic, okay?"
  1113. > She was smiling when she said it and the human grinned back. "Okay, okay, I admit it. But can you?"
  1114. > It got her thinking. If she made a few changes, maybe her program could at least point the way to the solution. Her smile widened.
  1115. "I can try," she said with finality.
  1116. > "Good! We'll find a way to fix this, okay? Just don't get depressed on me and give up, or I'll-"
  1117. > He didn't say what he would do, so Twilight supplied the first thing that came to her mind:
  1118. "Spank me?"
  1119. > It was funny the way Anon's eyes bulged. "Holy shit, Twiley, where did that come from?"
  1120. > She blushed a nice pink and looked away.
  1121. "I dunno. Sorry."
  1122. > "I mean, if you want to. In play, yeah. But that's neither here nor there."
  1123. > The pony nodded and filed the thought away for later. Maybe it could be fun to try it, once, in the bedroom. She couldn't work up any enthusiasm right now, but maybe someday.
  1124. > Where *had* the thought come from?
  1125. > "Good. So that's all settled?"
  1126. > Twilight gave the human a nod and a smile. A moment later she licked his face.
  1127. "Thanks. You wouldn't believe how much that helped," she said.
  1128. > "Good. Now, let's do something normal and fun, okay?" Anon suggested. "Show me your Jobs costume."
  1129. "You show me your Holmes costume."
  1130. > "Deal."
  1131. > It really did sound fun, but there was one lingering doubt.
  1132. "What if I can't fix this by Halloween?"
  1133. > Anon gave this some thought, then burst out laughing at the joke he thought up. Twilight recognized his expression and waited patiently until he was able to tell her.
  1134. > "Don't worry, on Halloween you'll be seeing ghosts everywhere anyway!"
  1135. > She didn't know why, but the observation was funny. The mare burst out laughing and had to lean her head against Anon's shoulder for support. It went on and on as the tension released.
  1136. > At the end of it, they both had tears in their eyes and were wheezing from the exertion.
  1137. "Holy crap, Anon, I needed that," Twilight admitted.
  1138. > She was already in the perfect position to lay her muzzle on his shoulder and gave his ear a good lick.
  1139. "Thanks..."
  1140.  
  1141. > ~~~~
  1142.  
  1143. > "Thanks again for coming this late," Anon was saying to the woman in the lift. Twilight Sparkle, who was standing behind the man, just smiled.
  1144. > The woman raised up a hand and waved back. "Sure, no problem! Anything for 'Twiley'!"
  1145. > The nickname made the mare blush a little. It was something only Anon and Shining Armor were allowed to use, but he had once called her that by mistake in the doctor's office and the woman had latched on to it.
  1146. > It had become their little joke over the years.
  1147. "Bye, Amanda!"
  1148. > The lift door slid shut and Anon turned around. Twilight shook her head and sighed.
  1149. "Told you she wouldn't find anything."
  1150. > "I still think it was a good idea. At least now we know it's not physical."
  1151. > That much was true and Twilight was never sad to see the good doctor.  She had tried to hire her for the Pony Society, but the woman had refused. Maybe it was time to try again. Dr. Bailey was good, but he was no Dr. Hayes when it came to bedside manner.
  1152. > It was painfully obvious that the former came from a veterinary background, where the patients didn't usually talk, and the latter from human medicine, where they did.
  1153. > "Movie now?" Anon suggested.
  1154. > It was an *almost* perfect idea.
  1155. "You making popcorn?"
  1156. > "Deal!"
  1157. > Twilight hurried to the living room and took the best spot on the couch. It wasn't really cold in the apartment, but she wrapped a blanket around herself anyway, just for the look of things.
  1158. > In the other room, she heard the hum of the microwave and the first few pops of corn. It wasn't as good as the real thing, but both she and Anon were too lazy to make actual popcorn.
  1159. > Now it was just a matter of picking out the movie and getting the human to cuddle her while they watched. No hanky-panky this time, Twilight promised herself! Not until the movie was over!
  1160. > Well, maybe just a little hanky, but certainly no panky!
  1161. > She giggled quietly to herself at the internal joke.
  1162. "How's it coming along?" she yelled to Anon.
  1163. > "Almost!"
  1164. "Good, what movie are we-"
  1165. > Twilight's muzzle clamped shut when she spotted the thing again. This time it didn't vanish. A woman was looking in the terrace window.
  1166. "An-Anon..." she called with a voice that was suddenly weak and hoarse.
  1167. > He didn't seem to hear above the popping and the whir of the microwave. Twilight swallowed, keeping her eyes on the apparition, and tried again.
  1168. "Anon!"
  1169. > He caught the urgent tone and came to look in the living room. "Everything okay?"
  1170. > When he saw her expression, the human rushed over but Twilight put up a hoof to keep him from blocking her vision.
  1171. "She's there again!" the mare explained quietly.
  1172. > Her voice was a lot calmer than she was expecting.
  1173. > "Who?" Anon said, looking around. He glanced right at the terrace door, but didn't even pause. It proved that only she could see it.
  1174. "Woman in the window. I think it's the same one from last time."
  1175. > The human glanced at Twilight, then again at the sliding door. "Right now?!"
  1176. "Yes. Anon- she's not going away this time!"
  1177. > Twilight kept looking at the ghost, if that's what it was, and the thing was staring back at her. She was definitely looking directly at Twilight!
  1178. > The woman had a very light, white summer dress with short sleeves. If the pony had to guess, she'd say it was an older style of garment, but she couldn't be sure.
  1179. > Human fashion had been a brief and unmemorable interest, years ago.
  1180. > Anon stood up and walked over to the door, mindful that he didn't break Twilight's line of sight. He reached for the handle and looked back at the mare.
  1181. > She gave him a slight nod, aware of how her throat was constricting and her heart hammering. What would the woman do if the door was opened?
  1182. > The glass pane slid aside and Twilight held her breath.
  1183. > For a moment she and the woman kept staring at each other, then the ghost stepped aside and out of sight.
  1184. "Wait!" Twilight called out.
  1185. > She jumped from the couch, ignoring the blanket which went flying, and hurried to the terrace. Anon stepped out just behind her, quiet, but tense. Ready to- what? Twilight guessed he didn't even know himself, but he was trying to be ready for whatever she might need.
  1186. "She's go-" the mare began, but then turned around and found the woman again.
  1187. > She was leaning against the railing, looking down at the street. As the pony watched, the ghost or whatever it was, lifted one leg and placed a bare foot on the lower bar.
  1188. > Twilight's eyes widened and she gasped.
  1189. "No! Wait!"
  1190. > Anon stared at the spot the mare was watching, but of course he didn't see anything out of place. "What is it? What is she doing?"
  1191. > Twilight didn't answer. She walked forward to the woman and stopped just a step or two away.
  1192. "Please wait! Talk to me! Tell me what's happening! Why am I seeing you?!"
  1193. > The woman, still gripping the railing, turned her head to give Twilight a faint smile. Then, too quickly for the mare to do more than twitch, the lady lifted herself up.
  1194. "NO!"
  1195. > Twilight rushed forward and made a grab for the woman. Ghost or not, she couldn't let someone just throw themselves from a high building!
  1196. > Her hooves passed right through the vision and in her shocked surprise Twilight lost her balance and smacked right into the metal bar. The impact made her head ring, but she picked herself up and leaned over, dreading what she would see on the street below.
  1197. > Anon was immediately by her side and gripping around her barrel. Maybe he thought she was going to jump too?
  1198. > To her immense relief, there was nothing. The street, far below, was clear. There was no body, no blood.
  1199. "She's- she's gone," the mare said and sagged.
  1200. > Anon lifted her up from the railing and, arms trembling a little, carried her back to the apartment.
  1201. > "Come on, let's get you inside," he said.
  1202. > Twilight just hung there limply, mind burning with questions. She was *obviously* seeing how people died, but were they real people or just her imagination? The fact she couldn't touch them supported the latter explanation.
  1203. > Why would she imagine people dying?!
  1204. > She had to find out more!
  1205. "I- I need to check old newspapers..." the pony said, more to herself than to her human.
  1206. > She was hardly aware of being placed on the couch. She didn't see Anon go back to the door and slide it shut to keep out the chill. She did, however, feel his arms wrap around her and Twilight was grateful for that.
  1207. > "Don't ever scare me like that again!" Anon said.
  1208. > The mare suddenly noticed he was shaking, and not from exertion or cold. He was staring at her with wide, worried eyes.
  1209. "W-What's wrong?"
  1210. > She felt her muzzle, fearing something was wrong with her face now.
  1211. > "That's the exact spot Rarity tried to jump over. Don't you remember?!"
  1212. > It was!!
  1213. > Twilight whimpered and put her hoof over her mouth. Was there some significance?! Was she seeing places where ponies died - or almost died?
  1214. > Did the woman, somehow, represent Rarity?
  1215. > It still made no real sense, but that couldn't have just been a coincidence, could it?
  1216. "I wasn't going to jump," she said quickly. "I wasn't going to jump! I just saw the woman jump over and I went to see-"
  1217. > What had she expected? A mangled body on the sidewalk? The mere thought was enough to make Twilight shudder.
  1218. > Anon felt it and held her tighter. "Good. But maybe don't chase ghosts. This was the second time today!"
  1219. "Second time?"
  1220. > "You ran across a busy intersection, Twilight. You could have gotten yourself killed!"
  1221. > Were these hallucinations, or ghost, or apparitions, whatever they were, trying to get her killed?
  1222. > It was a chilling thought, especially if she considered it was her own mind doing it to her.
  1223. "I g-gotta write that letter to C-Celestia," the pony mumbled.
  1224. > The sooner she got the counterspell, the better.
  1225. "Can you look for, uh, for this?" Twilight asked, distracted. "I mean- if any woman jumped from this balcony? Her dress looked old, so maybe a few decades ago?"
  1226. > That made her pause.
  1227. "How old is this building anyway?"
  1228. > "I think it was originally built in the sixties, but it was since refurbished."
  1229. "That sounds about r-right," Twilight mumbled. "Could you look it up, please? A-And there was that disco-man at the intersection. I didn't look at the street name."
  1230. > "I think I remember where. I'll check it on Maps. Okay, anything else?"
  1231. > Twilight almost shook her head, but then she remembered the little girl.
  1232. "A little girl, across the street from our office. Head injury, I think. She also had an old fashioned dress..."
  1233. > Maybe she was seeing deaths of people from the past. The thought was thoroughly chilling and Twilight didn't like it one bit. She didn't want to see people die everywhere she looked!
  1234. > Knowing it - at least having some theories - was helping, though. This was just another problem for her to solve. She'd figure it out.
  1235. > The mare looked at the human, who was watching her with concern, and smiled at him. With Anon beside her, she would figure it out and solve it.
  1236. > It took some effort, but she wrenched her mind from the dark place for long enough to stand up on the couch and give the man a big, warm kiss.
  1237. "Thanks. I know how weird this is. I guess you were right."
  1238. > "Right about what?"
  1239. > She almost rolled her eyes in exasperation.
  1240. "Right about this spell being dangerous. I don't understand- the book didn't say anything about this, but I guess you were right."
  1241. > She had to give Anon credit, though. He didn't look even slightly smug, just worried for her. "Don't worry, we'll figure it out," he echoed her own thoughts.
  1242. "One more kiss," the pony pleaded, "then I'll go write that letter."
  1243. > "And I'll go do that research," Anon promised. He put his hands around her barrel and drew her in.
  1244. > It was amazing how therapeutic kisses were, Twilight thought as they parted. She was even smiling to herself faintly as she levitated over some paper and a pen.
  1245. > She thought for a moment, but the start of the letter came almost automatically: 'Dear Princess Celestia...'
  1246.  
  1247. > ~~~~
  1248.  
  1249. > "Cute," Anon was saying. "Not bad. I don't think Jobs ever wore a sweater with the Apple logo on the back, but it kinda works."
  1250. > Twilight twirled around a little to show off her complete costume. She had thought of the thing early enough that she was able to order in all the itmes. Suri had been more than happy for the business.
  1251. > The pullover was easy and the logo was just a bit of stitchwork. The jeans were a bit trickier for a pony, but they had somehow pulled it off.
  1252. > The hardest thing, Twilight had found, were the glasses. She contacted Greg - the guy who had been kind enough to make frames for Silver Spoon and he had obliged with something really close to what Jobs wore. He even got the circular 'lenses' right!
  1253. > They weren't actual lenses, just a bit of plexiglass, but the illusion was pretty good. Twilight was quite proud of the result.
  1254. "Thanks! Now it's your turn!"
  1255. > Anon didn't argue and went into the bedroom to change. Meanwhile, Twilight carefully removed the glasses and then proceeded to undress. She folded the clothes up and left them on the coffee table for now.
  1256. > While she waited for her human to come display his Sherlock Holmes costume, the mare picked up her laptop and woke it up. Anon's idea had *some* merit and she had been running a few analyses on the partial reversal spell.
  1257. > It would take a ton of hoofwork to finish, but she wanted to get started just in case Celestia wasn't able to find another copy of the book.
  1258. > A general shape of it was starting to form in her mind, but it was far from complete. Still, the progress was encouraging.
  1259. > At least this time she didn't have to run it on Amazon, so it didn't cost a whole lot.
  1260. "Hmm..."
  1261. > She was so engrossed in the work that she didn't hear Anon come in from the bedroom and stop behind the couch. The first she noticed him was when the man leaned on the backrest and put his hands around her withers.
  1262. > "I still can't make heads or tails of that stuff," he commented.
  1263. > He hadn't really tried to learn, thinking that a human simply wouldn't be capably of magic. Twilight would have liked to try, but they were both busy with their lives and the project had kind of taken the back seat.
  1264. > Maybe she should revive it one of these days? It would give them more time to spend together...
  1265. > For now, she just pointed out some critical bits with the mouse cursor.
  1266. "It's basically just a matter of reversing the effects of the original spell. *Normally* you do that by casting the same spell backwards, but most of this is mind magic and that's a bit more tricky."
  1267. > She switched the display to the original spell she had scanned, so that she didn't have to carry the book around all the time.
  1268. "See here? This is just a clever mix of other spells. That right there is a modified healing spell to keep my muscles rested, over there is the same thing, except targeting my hormones, and this over here-"
  1269. > The mare sighed and her ears lowered.
  1270. "I should have made the effort to understand it before using it. It's some kind of a trick with mind magic to convince my brain I don't need sleep. And then there's this..."
  1271. > "That looks... different."
  1272. > Despite the gravity of the situation Twilight felt proud of the human for spotting it.
  1273. "Good! I think this is because not sleeping means your brain doesn't process and categorize memory, so the spell has to change that process to happen while you're awake. But at the same time it shouldn't make you dream while you're awake. Until I understand how this part works I can't risk trying to undo it..."
  1274. > Anon leaned further down and gave her cheek a very pleasant kiss. "Is that why you're using the computers?"
  1275. > Twilight nodded.
  1276. "I'm having the algorithms change the spell up - hopefully in a different form it'll be easier to figure out."
  1277. > The kisses continued, along her cheek and down her muzzle. The mare leaned back to give the human easier access.
  1278. "Mmm, that's nice..."
  1279. > "I don't doubt you'll figure it out. Had any more... visions lately?"
  1280. > There Twilight had some good news. She shook her head.
  1281. "No. The lady outside hasn't appeared again. We haven't really gone anywhere, so maybe that's helping."
  1282. > "You can skip out the office party if you don't have it worked out. It's not really mandatory for us to be there. I can make an appearance, you know, for morale's sake, but I can tell them you're not feeling well."
  1283. > It would even be kinda true, but the proposition made Twilight frown.
  1284. "No, no. I worked too hard on this costume not to go! Besides, I wanna see what Legal is going to do. Darlene said they're doing a theme this year."
  1285. > She looked up at Anon's face, even if it was upside down from her perspective.
  1286. "I'm *going* Anon. If there's a vision or two at the party I'll just ignore it. I think I'm only seeing stuff form the past, so I'll know by the clothes."
  1287. > Something clicked and Twilight gasped.
  1288. "That's what happened with that guy the other day!"
  1289. > "Huh? What guy?"
  1290. > She blushed a little when she remembered she hadn't told Anon anything about that, but in her defense it hadn't seemed all that relevant.
  1291. "A few days ago I saw an old-fashioned guy on the street and someone just ran through him! I thought it was some kind of reflection or air lensing or something weird like that, but maybe it was one of these visions!"
  1292. > "Could be. So this has been happening longer than we thought. Is that important?"
  1293. > The mare shrugged.
  1294. "Probably not," she said, "but at least now I have an explanation for that. I spit out my coffee all over the window!"
  1295. > They both chuckled at that.
  1296. > "Well, what do you think of my costume then?" Anon asked and Twilight remembered why he had gone in the bedroom. She quickly floated the laptop back to the coffee table and twirled around on the couch to get a better look.
  1297. > The human walked around to give her a full view, placing the finishing touches - the signature deerstalker hat and the fake calabash tobacco pipe.
  1298. > The mare took it all in. The pants were unremarkable - just a pair of Anon's normal everyday pants, but the coat was period-appropriate, the hat was spot on and the magnifying glass in his coat pocket was a nice touch. She got a glimpse of that as Anon moved.
  1299. > It was a clever idea not to portray it so blatantly, but make people work to spot it. It went with the whole 'detective' theme.
  1300. "Not bad! I like it!"
  1301. > "Yeah? Anything I missed? Is it accurate, do you think?"
  1302. > The pony floated her laptop back and did a quick image search. She compared the results with Anon, ignoring the Cumberbatch ones, of course.
  1303. > Maybe she could talk him to do that next year. She did find that particular actor quite good-looking. Not to mention his accent!
  1304. > Twilight realized she was smiling more at her imagination than at the actual costume Anon was wearing. Good thing he couldn't tell.
  1305. > She had to think back to remember his question.
  1306. "Yeah, looks like you got it all. Nice job!"
  1307. > "Okay, I'm gonna go take all of this off. You coming to bed?"
  1308. > The pony was about to say no, but she changed her mind. The spell will still be waiting for her when Anon is asleep.
  1309. "Actually, yes. I could use some down time..."
  1310. > Snuggles should never be refused, the mare reminded herself.
  1311.  
  1312. > ~~~~
  1313.  
  1314. > Despite their intentions, Anon and Twilight had to visit the office for a rather important meeting. The human had insisted he would do it by himself, but the pony didn't really want to be alone in the apartment.
  1315. > Besides, they might need her. She was, after all, the CTO. It wouldn't look right for her to miss such an important kick-off meeting.
  1316. > They drove there in silence, except for some quiet music, and the mare took the chance to rest her eyes. That incidentally meant she didn't see anything upsetting outside, which was a plus.
  1317. > Hopefully the inside of the meeting room wouldn't offer any such distractions, either.
  1318. > She just had to get through a few more days. There hadn't been a reply from Celestia *or* Cadence yet, but Twilight was pretty certain she almost had the counterspell figured out.
  1319. > It was bound to work. It had to!
  1320. > She opened her eyes briefly to see where they were and saw the welcome sign of their building. They made it without a hallucination, or a ghost sighting or whatever it was.
  1321. > Twilight decided to call them 'visions' to save time.
  1322. > The pony turned and smiled at Anon.
  1323. "Maybe it's getting better on its own?" she proposed. "Maybe it was just stress?"
  1324. > "I guess it's possible?"
  1325. > His research into the deaths she had seen has, as of yet, yielded nothing concrete. You'd think it would be easy to look up news articles from a couple of decades ago, right?!
  1326. > Maybe that proved it was all just in her imagination? That would be the best outcome, the mare thought.
  1327. > They were about to drive into the underground garage when an all too familiar sight caught her gaze.
  1328. "Stop! Stop! Just a minute!"
  1329. > Anon obediently brought the vehicle to a rest on the sidewalk. Almost before they stopped moving Twilight was already unbuckling and opening the window.
  1330. "She's back," the mare said glumly.
  1331. > So much for it 'getting better'. The little girl from the other day was on the sidewalk again, jumping her hopscotch.
  1332. > "Twilight, this probably isn't-"
  1333. > She didn't hear what Anon thought because the pony had absentmindedly closed the car door behind her. She walked over to the girl.
  1334. "H-Hello again?"
  1335. > The child didn't look at her, concentrating on her delicate footwork. Twilight studied her intently. Again the same frilly dress and bonnet. She had expensive-looking shiny black shoes and white stockings that went up almost to her knees.
  1336. "Can you tell me your name?"
  1337. > This time the girl looked over, shrugged, then went back to her game. It was disappointing - a name might help Twilight find out if what she was seeing was real or not.
  1338. > She barely felt Anon's hand on her shoulder and it was a struggle to catch his words: "What is it? Tell me what you see."
  1339. > There was no time for that. If the vision was repeating, the girl would be injured, somehow. Twilight hadn't seen exactly what happened the last time, but she was looking now, despite the queasy feeling in her stomach.
  1340. > What happened would be another clue to make their search easier.
  1341. > "Twilight, talk to me!"
  1342. "Shh!" she hissed. "Let me watch."
  1343. > Her calm, confident tone helped and Anon fell silent. He stood beside the mare, but kept his hand on her withers and, no doubt, was ready to grab her if she did anything dangerous, like run into traffic again.
  1344. > Meanwhile, the child hopped and skipped through her chalk maze, completely unconcerned with Twilight's close scrutiny.
  1345. > The mare found herself holding her breath in expectation. Her heart was pounding and she heard the rush of blood in her ears as she waited. Something was going to happen, but she didn't know what. Not knowing what and when was the worst part.
  1346. > Her legs were trembling and for a moment she considered looking away.
  1347. > The last time she hadn't seen what happened, but just saw the end result. Little girl lying on the ground, then sitting up. Reaching a hand up to her bonnet. Her fingers coming away red with blood.
  1348. > A stream flowing down her face.
  1349. > Luckily that was when Samuel Oswin touched her and brought her out of the vision. This time, despite Anon's warm hand, she would have to see it all.
  1350. > It happened suddenly. Twilight didn't see where it came from, but a cinder block smacked into the pavement next to the hopscotch maze. With how fast it was going, it must have fallen right from the top floor of the building.
  1351. > A small piece chipped off and flew right at the girl, knocking her to the ground. The sudden violence of the event made Twilight jump and squeak in fright.
  1352. > "You okay?!" came Anon's voice from far away, but the pony ignored it. She rushed over to the child and stopped just short. She couldn't do anything, but it was still painful to watch.
  1353. > Once again, the girl sat up, looked around in confusion and lifted a hand up to her head. Once again the rivulet of vivid red stained her cheek and her clothes.
  1354. > It was both horrible and heartbreaking and Twilight's eyes were instantly filled with tears.
  1355. > Maybe it had been a construction accident or something, or a brick from the building's top floor had broken off.
  1356. > She extended a hoof towards the child, knowing she couldn't help her, nor comfort her.
  1357. > The girl also reached out and gripped her around the fetlock.
  1358. > It felt as if a bolt of electricity ran through the pony. She felt each individual finger dig into her flesh.
  1359. > "H-Help me," the girl whispered, but Twilight was stunned by her terror.
  1360. > The ghosts could touch her! They could speak!
  1361. > They were real!
  1362. > Softly, with a gentle sigh, the child fell back, the hoof slipping from her grasp. Twilight stood immobile, with her leg outstretched. She saw the blood stain on her fur, where the girl had gripped with her wet hand.
  1363. > More blood - now there was a big, vibrant, red stain spreading around the body.
  1364. "No..." she breathed out.
  1365. > "-wake up!"
  1366. > The voice reached her as if from far away, but then hands picked her up and Twilight looked into Anon's face. "Snap out of it!"
  1367. > She blinked, then looked around. The street was mostly empty. The chalk outline was gone, as was the fallen cinder block. There was no sign of the girl.
  1368. "W-What? Where am I? She d-died..."
  1369. > "You're safe, but we're going inside, *now*," Anon demanded. He wouldn't take no for an answer and simply pushed her back towards the car.
  1370. > Twilight, in her confused daze, let herself be led there, then climbed up on the seat. She watched her human close the door, then kept her eyes on him as he walked around and got in the driver's seat.
  1371. > The car moved forward and she looked back to to the sidewalk before it slipped out of sight. There was no sign of the girl, nor the blood.
  1372. > There had been so much blood!
  1373. > "We're going right back home," Anon said.
  1374. > That finally woke her out from her fugue state.
  1375. "No, n-no. I'm fine. I'm fine!" she assured the human.
  1376. > Twilight leaned back and took a long breath.
  1377. "I'll be fine. I just need a minute. I've seen this one already, it was just a shock seeing it up close."
  1378. > She decided not to tell him that the ghost had actually touched her. This meeting was important. She couldn't change what happened and she would think about it later.
  1379. > In either case, her counterspell was nearly ready. In another day or two she would be rid of this problem and that would be that.
  1380. > No sense in getting too worked up over it. She hadn't yet seen any visions at the office - maybe that meant that no one had died in the building.
  1381. > She could do a simple meeting - she was there mostly for show anyway. Put the fact that a pony helped run the company right out in front of investors and clients.
  1382. > "Are you sure?" Anon asked, his voice painfully undecided. He parked and turned to look at her more closely.
  1383. > Twilight made herself smile and laid a gentle hoof on his arm.
  1384. "Anon, I'm fine. I just got surprised, but I'm okay now. I told you I've seen this one again. I can do the meeting. Let's get it over it and *then* go home, okay?"
  1385. > He was swayed. The man sighed, then squeezed her leg. "Okay. You're right. We're already here anyway, might as well sit through this thing."
  1386. > She smiled in relief, but he held up a finger. "Tell me the instant you see something strange, okay? We'll just say you're not feeling well or something."
  1387. "Okay, I promise!"
  1388. > "Good. Need me to carry you to the lift?"
  1389. > His mischievous grin told her that he was joking. She returned the smile.
  1390. "Need me to buck you in the ass?"
  1391. > They both chuckled, mostly out of relief.
  1392. > She *had* to get rid of this spell!
  1393. > As they rode in the elevator she lifted up a hoof to scratch her nose and froze in terror.
  1394. > There was blood smeared in her fur around the fetlock, where the girl had grabbed her.
  1395. > Twilight quickly hid the leg. If Anon saw it he would freak out.
  1396. > For that matter, she was freaking out herself! Her stomach felt queasy and her legs didn't feel like they would support her much longer.
  1397. > As soon as they reached their floor and the door slid open, she hurried for the bathroom.
  1398. "Be right there," she called over her shoulder at the confused Anon.
  1399. > Maybe she could wash the blood off.
  1400. > What she couldn't wash off were the implications.
  1401. > It was all real. No more doubt.
  1402. > She burst into the ladies' bathroom. Thank goodness it was empty! Twilight locked the main door with a quick spell, just in case, then ran for the sinks.
  1403. > One of them was built lower to the floor, especially for her comfort and she quickly pushed her hooves in and turned on the water.
  1404. > It came away crimson-stained. There was the sharp, coppery tang in the air.
  1405. > The mare sobbed as she scrubbed. Pretty soon her leg hurt, but still she rubbed it. It took a concentrated effort of will to stop.
  1406. > The water was running off clear. Twilight shut the tap off and sat heavily on her rump, trying to control her breathing.
  1407. > She looked at her terrified expression in the mirror.
  1408. "Fuck! Pull yourself together, Twilight," she moaned.
  1409. > An idea struck her and she splashed some cold water on her hooves and then her muzzle. It helped a little.
  1410. > A ghost - if that was really what it was - had *bled* on her!
  1411. > This was no longer just a hallucinations. They could touch her, they could change things in the real world. Probably - the mare gulped in fear - they could hurt her.
  1412. > It drew a whimper from her throat.
  1413. > She was safe in the building! Twilight clung to that fact and closed her eyes. The ghosts didn't appear in the offices!
  1414. > There was no other choice. She needed to pull herself together and somehow get through the meeting. It would take some acting, but what else was there?
  1415. > If she told Anon what had happened he'd just freak out. Very much like she had just done. It wouldn't help anyone.
  1416. > She would find the counterspell soon and then it would be over! No reason to worry her human. He couldn't help.
  1417. > In fact, he was more useful to her if Anon was calm and collected. She needed him in control and unafraid, just in case she became lost in another vision.
  1418. > Twilight forced herself to take a deep breath. She would take a few minutes to gather her wits, then she would go do this meeting.
  1419. > After that she would keep her eyes shut on the ride home. At least the lady on the terrace didn't bleed. Also, so far, she had never come into the apartment.
  1420. > Twilight wished she hadn't thought the 'so far' part.
  1421. > She looked at the mirror again.
  1422. "You got this. Just a bit of blood! You can handle it! Go out there and get this meeting over with!"
  1423. > Maybe the horror was receding from her mind, or maybe the pep talk worked. Twilight took another breath, stood up on shaking legs, and went out of the bathroom.
  1424. > Just before she opened the door she forced a smile to her muzzle. It wouldn't fool Anon, of course, but he would just think it was because of the vision down on the street. That was kind of true, anyway.
  1425. > She really hated lying to him like that...
  1426.  
  1427. > ~~~~
  1428.  
  1429. > There was always a silver lining, Twilight thought. In this case, the spell meant she didn't have to sleep at all, so she could work through the night and most of the next day on her counterspell.
  1430. > It was slowly coming together. A few more hours, she estimated as she leaned back in her chair to rest her eyes.
  1431. > A sound caught her ear, but she didn't have to look to recognize Anon's footsteps as he came into the room.
  1432. > "Any luck?" he asked.
  1433. > Twilight's nose picked up the welcome smell of coffee. She didn't need it, not physically, but it was an enjoyable habit and she smiled at the ceiling.
  1434. "Almost there."
  1435. > The footsteps came closer and there was a clink as the human put her mug on the table.
  1436. "Thanks."
  1437. > Putting his hands on her withers, Anon pressed his fingers into her muscles.
  1438. "Oooooh, nice..."
  1439. > "You should take a short break. I know you don't get tired, but it still can't be good for you concentrating this hard for this long."
  1440. "M'fine."
  1441. > The man sighed, but he didn't stop his massage for which the mare was eternally grateful. "Twilight, I said 'break'!"
  1442. > She stuck her tongue out at the air in front of her. Anon would understand it was meant for him.
  1443. > "I'll make you!" he threatened.
  1444. > She kept her tongue out, but didn't otherwise respond. The chair suddenly lurched and she squeaked in alarm, but it was just Anon spinning her to face him.
  1445. > For a moment she was worried he was angry, but there was that glint in his eye and that smile she'd come to both love and dread on his lips.
  1446. > Her ears folded down as she waited to see what he would do. Anon lowered himself, holding on to the chair armrests, until his face was at about barrel-high for her.
  1447. > Then, before she could really react, Anon darted forward and buried his face right in her soft bits.
  1448. > His nose was a tiny bit chilly on the warm, bare flesh there, which made Twilight giggle, but that was cut off when the human pressed his hot - incredibly hot! - tongue against her teats.
  1449. "Okay, okay, stop!" she squealed, putting her hooves on his head but not quite managing to push him away.
  1450. > She couldn't get free, even if she wanted to. Anon had shifted his grip form the armrests to her hind legs. He dragged his tongue up until it encountered fur, then pulled away and looked up.
  1451. > "Will you come quietly, or do I have to do it again?" he demanded in mock anger.
  1452. > The warmth, deep in her belly, was already spreading. Now Twilight wanted him, something he could probably see in the way her lips were slightly parted and her breathing was getting deeper and faster.
  1453. "Never!" she said quietly.
  1454. > Anon pushed his face in her soft bits again, but this time, rather than squealing, she used her hooves on his head to guide him further down.
  1455. "I like- gah!" she gasped as he caught a nipple between his lips. "I like this break!"
  1456. > She didn't resist when Anon moved up to kiss her properly. She also didn't fight him when he slipped his arms around her barrel and picked her up.
  1457. > Twilight didn't care where he was taking her, as long as she'd get good and properly *rutted* at the destination.
  1458.  
  1459. > ~~~~
  1460.  
  1461. > Twilight Sparkle lay in the bed, a slightly snoring Anon draped across her lower half with his face on her barrel. She didn't mind - the human wasn't that heavy and she appreciated the warmth.
  1462. > It had taken an incredibly long time for them both to get tired. She wished she could fall asleep too, but the spell kept her up, washing away the exhaustion from her muscles in a few minutes.
  1463. > She was staring at the ceiling, idly stroking Anon's hair with a hoof and trying to work out the last few details.
  1464. > As she had predicted, the parts that affected the mind were giving her some problems. She still didn't fully understand what that crazy old unicorn was doing in his spell, but maybe she had a close enough idea to remove the effect.
  1465. > It almost felt complete. Just a few more words in the right place and it should be done.
  1466. > Anon snorted and she leaned down to give him a gentle kiss on his cheek. He murmured something, but didn't wake up.
  1467. > There was a faint ding from the other room and Twilight cocked an ear. It had sounded like an email on her phone.
  1468. > It was late in the evening, so it probably wasn't work related. She still concentrated for a minute and levitated the phone carefully through the hallway and into the bedroom. She turned it on and looked at the message.
  1469. > Another analysis had finished running on the cluster in the office. She skimmed through the results quickly, then put the phone down.
  1470. > So far her program had been a hit and miss. Well, more a miss than a hit.
  1471. > Something tickled her memory and she lifted the phone up again.
  1472. > The software had managed to translate a particularly weird part of the spell into a different form. One which suddenly made sense to her.
  1473. "That's it!" Twilight said excitedly.
  1474. > Anon jerked and stopped snoring as she shifted. "Mmm? Tw'light?" he mumbled.
  1475. "I think I understand it now! I can finish the reverse spell!" she whispered back to him.
  1476. > "Tha's nice," he said. It was obvious he wasn't completely awake and his confused look made the mare giggle.
  1477. "Just go back to sleep. I'll go over the spell again and finish it. We'll do it in the morning, okay?"
  1478. > "'kay!"
  1479. > At least the human was conscious enough to lift himself up when she poked him with a hoof. Twilight slid from the warm bed with a regretful sigh.
  1480. > Soon she would have the pleasure of waking up next to Anon once more. It was incredible how much she missed that!
  1481. > Before walking away she pressed her muzzle against Anon's cheek and whispered:
  1482. "Love you. Sweet dreams!"
  1483. > He murmured something in reply which Twilight chose to interpret as 'I love you too', then began snoring again. She just smiled and left.
  1484. > She would have to look at the original spell once more, this time with the fresh insight her algorithms had given her. Then she'd have to pull all the different reverse spells together.
  1485. > After that, it was just a matter of casting it. She was excited.
  1486. > It was true that she had created this problem for herself, but being able to work throughout the night had been incredibly useful. She had done a lot of useful stuff, both for the Pony Society as well as for her and Anon's company.
  1487. > More importantly, she would now solve the problem she had created herself. She would even write the counterspell down and put it in the book before returning it to the Canterlot Library, so that other ponies, who might experiment with this spell, would have a way to remove it.
  1488. > Feeling rather proud of herself, Twilight jumped up on the chair and got to work.
  1489. > If she had looked in the mirror she might have laughed - her mane was a sticky mess, her tail was best not spoken off and she needed a shower badly.
  1490. > She felt none of it, however, as the excitement of magical study gripped her once again. With a goal in sight, the mare threw herself into her work with renewed vigor.
  1491.  
  1492. > ~~~~
  1493.  
  1494. "I guess that's it," Twilight said as the magic faded from her horn.
  1495. > Anon was watching her closely and she could see how white his knuckles were. It was heartwarming just how worried he was when she cast her hastily-adapted, unofficial, mind-altering magic.
  1496. > "How are you feeling?" he asked immediately.
  1497. > She gave it some thought. For now, it was about the same as before, but that was to be expected. The real change would come that night, after a full and busy day, when the mare was expecting to get tired for the first time in a month.
  1498. "Normal. What did you expect?"
  1499. > "Tired?" he suggested.
  1500. > She smiled and shook her head.
  1501. "Not until tonight. We'll see, but I think it worked."
  1502. > Her spell had gone off without a hitch and, if she had to guess, it had worked flawlessly.
  1503. > There was a reason she was the 'Element of Magic', after all.
  1504. > The human smiled in relief. "Well, no job today, so we can go out and do something fun."
  1505. > It sounded like a good plan.
  1506. "Cupcake place!"
  1507. > "Ugh, sugar overdose!" Anon complained.
  1508. > Twilight just jumped in place and fluttered her wings excitedly. They couldn't carry her yet, but it was about the effect.
  1509. "Cupcakes!"
  1510. > The man laughed. "You sound like Pinkie sometimes, you know?" He still stood up and went for the front door.
  1511. > Before following, Twilight took a glance out the terrace door. No ghost lady, which was a good sign.
  1512. > She had gotten rid of the spell just in time! Things were starting to get really creepy. The small girl had actually been able to touch her! She left blood stains in her coat!
  1513. > Good thing it was all over.
  1514. > Twilight followed her human to the lift, smiling.
  1515.  
  1516. > ~~~~
  1517.  
  1518. > Waking up as the small spoon with Anon was *amazing*! Twilight had no idea how much she missed it until it happened again.
  1519. > She was refreshed, optimistic and very, very happy. She twisted her head back so she could plant a simple kiss on her human's cheek.
  1520. > The spell had worked. She had been painfully aware of getting more and more tired - funny how you got used to not feeling that. By nine P.M. she had been ready to fall into bed. Luckily Anon obliged and they snuggled down properly for the first time that month.
  1521. > The pony shuffled onto her back so she could more easily look at her human's face as he slept. It felt like it was still early, so she opted to stay in bed and maybe nap a little before it was time to get up.
  1522. > It was Halloween, which meant no work. She could stay in the bed until noon, if she wanted. They probably wouldn't, but the option was there.
  1523. > Her shuffling roused Anon a tiny bit and he moved his arm until it found her leg to squeeze. "Mmm, g' back t' sleep, Twi," he mumbled. "'s early."
  1524. > She giggled at his slurred, sleepy words.
  1525. "Still having a nice dream? I hope you're dreaming about me!"
  1526. > "Mmm..."
  1527. > It seemed that was all she would get for now. The pony floated over her phone and took a look. No wonder, it was half past six. She turned all the way, so she was facing her human, and closed her eyes again.
  1528. > A few more hours of sleep sounded like an amazing idea! She gave Anon a kiss on the tip of his nose, making him wiggle a bit as she tickled him with her fur.
  1529. > "Five mo' minutes," he begged.
  1530. "It's okay, we have hours. Love you."
  1531. > His hand on her flank patted her a little and, to his credit, the human managed a reply: "'ove you too."
  1532. >...
  1533. > After a pleasant shower and a quick salad breakfast, Twilight decided she was feeling better than ever. She went out to the terrace, looking for the ghost lady, but of course she wasn't there.
  1534. > The sun was starting to peek out from behind the nearest buildings and it was pleasantly warm on her fur. There was no wind and it promised to be another very fine day in late October.
  1535. > Twilight was leaning against the railing, looking at the distant streets when Anon joined her, bundled up in his jacket and still shivering a little.
  1536. > "You aren't cold?" he asked, incredulous.
  1537. > The mare glanced down. All she was wearing was a simple bathrobe, but she didn't really mind the chill.
  1538. "Nah, love keeps me warm," she answered.
  1539. > "Cute."
  1540. > She giggled at the dry way he said it. Then Anon unzipped his jacket, stepped right up to her, and wrapped the garment around them both. Of course it didn't reach, but it cover her withers and Twilight gratefully pressed her neck and cheek against Anon's warm side.
  1541. "This is nice, too."
  1542. > Except that she felt the human tense up as the chill invaded the inside of the jacket. They couldn't stay there long, but a minute was plenty for her to enjoy the gesture.
  1543. "You really are a complete gentlecolt, you know that?"
  1544. > He reached down and bopped her nose with a finger. "The word is 'gentleman', Twilight."
  1545. > She shrugged.
  1546. "I like the Equestrian term better."
  1547. > "Fair enough. I'm making coffee, wanna go inside and get it?"
  1548. > She gave in and pushed away from the railing. Her hooves made two distinct clicks as they landed on the tiles.
  1549. "Sure. Before you freeze to death."
  1550. > The mare let Anon lead her back inside. She stopped just in the living room, enjoying the warmth for a moment while he slid the door shut.
  1551. > "Go relax on the couch and I'll grab the coffee. I guess we have brunch and then get dressed up around three or so? Office thing starts at five, but I'd like to be there a bit early."
  1552. "Why?"
  1553. > Anon shrugged. "Before everyone has had a chance to get at the canapes!"
  1554. > It was a good reason and Twilight giggled a little.
  1555. "Don't tell me you didn't order enough of them, *again*!"
  1556. > The human raised up his hands defensively. "Hey, it wasn't me! Darlene is in charge of catering for the office parties! I keep telling her, but she thinks she's saving money or something..."
  1557. > Twilight just kept chuckling. Saving a couple hundred bucks on a party now and then, versus their daily operating expenses which went into tens of thousands.
  1558. > The mare decided to have Darlene sit with her one time when she was doing budget, just to get things in perspective for the woman.
  1559. > Would that be too cruel? It came as a shock to anyone who wasn't an accountant. For that matter, it had come as a shock to Twilight as well, despite being used to Pony Society budget by the time she saw the company's.
  1560. > Anyway, they'd get there early, have their fill of delicious hors d'oeuvres, then watch as the rest of the staff came in with their costumes.
  1561. > Should be a good party, the mare thought. She was looking forward to it.
  1562. "What do you wanna do until three?" she asked Anon, who was busy pouring in the kitchen.
  1563. > "Huh? Oh, I dunno. Thoughts?"
  1564. > Twilight considered it. Since the scare with the sleeping spell was over, she didn't have any particular plans. It could just be a lazy day. Celestia knew next week would be difficult once again.
  1565. > Without the spell, she would feel tired and sleepy. She had to go check on Pony Society and make sure Clarissa had things handled. She also had to start preparing for a few more talk shows she was doing in December.
  1566. > At least most of her work for the company was done, so she could spend less time on that.
  1567. > It was something, at least.
  1568. > The mare pushed those unpleasant thoughts from her mind. The spell had worked well enough for a while and allowed her to get all her work in hoof once more. Now it was just a matter of proper prioritizing and time management.
  1569. > Clarissa had proven herself as capable during Twilight's little crisis, so maybe it was time to give her more responsibility.
  1570. > That settled, Twilight looked up as Anon held out a mug for her and accepted it in her magic.
  1571. "Thanks!"
  1572. > He didn't reply, just sat next to her and wrapped his arm around her barrel. Twilight nuzzled up against her human and took a sip.
  1573. > Sugary, milky, hardly tasting of coffee - just the way she liked it.
  1574. > "Any ideas yet?" Anon asked.
  1575. > It took the pony a second to remember what they were talking about.
  1576. "Oh, that. Hmm, how about we go for ice cream? On hoof this time. There's this nice place near the park, ten minutes trot away..."
  1577. > "Ice cream?! It's near freezing out there," Anon pointed out.
  1578. > His bewildered expression made Twilight chuckle.
  1579. "Yeah! This way it won't melt while we're eating it!"
  1580. > "Crazy horse!"
  1581. "Hey, I heard that!"
  1582. > They both laughed and Twilight knew it was decided. They would have brunch, then they would go for ice cream, and then it would be time for the office party.
  1583. > Later that night, when they came home, hopefully slightly tipsy -
  1584. > No, that wouldn't work. One of them would have to drive.
  1585. "Um, question: would you mind driving back so I can have a few drinks at the party?"
  1586. > The human gave this due consideration. "I guess I can make that sacrifice."
  1587. > She quickly kissed him on the cheek to seal the deal before he could change his mind.
  1588. "GreatthanksIoweyouone!"
  1589. > Then she buried her muzzle back in her coffee mug to hide her grin. Anyway, they'd come home, she would be slightly tipsy, and then they would *do* it. A long, messy, *hot* affair until they both fell asleep, exhausted.
  1590. > True, the sheets would need a thorough wash and they would both need a good, long bath the next morning, but one of those things wasn't a lot of hassle and the other was downright pleasurable.
  1591. > It was shaping up to be a really fine day, in fact! Twilight simply couldn't keep the smile off her muzzle and her surreptitious glances showed her that Anon was feeling the same.
  1592.  
  1593. > ~~~~
  1594.  
  1595. > The Halloween office party. Of all the other social occasions they sometimes organized in the company, this one was Twilight's absolute favorite.
  1596. > Masks and costumes, sometimes inspired, sometimes funny, made the whole thing so much more casual and relaxed that the mare was positively looking forward to it all year.
  1597. > This year was going to be extra special. She'd heard rumors that the Legal department was coming as a group with a theme. Despite surreptitious queries, Twilight hadn't been able to determine what the theme was.
  1598. > It was bound to be amazing, though! Well, either that, or incredibly funny, which was just as good.
  1599. > She nibbled on a bit of cracker with vegetable paste and then washed it down with champagne. Anon was chatting with a few people on the other side of the room with a tall glass in his hand which Twilight knew contained nothing more than apple juice.
  1600. > It really was a big sacrifice he was making and she'd have to repay him in kind, later.
  1601. > His costume was apparently a smash hit, which irked a little bit. Anon had ignored her advice to dress as the Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, which - in her opinion - would have been a ton better.
  1602. > He had no right to get all that praise for the old, less-attractive Sherlock Holmes!
  1603. > Her own Steve Jobs getup also earned some praise, which helped offset the annoyance at Anon's success.
  1604. > Darlene had kitty ears, elaborate makeup and a fake tail hanging from her backside. Predictable - she'd come as a cat the past several times.
  1605. > Her other coworkers have put in varying degrees of effort. Mostly they had some kind of a suit and several had plastic masks. There was one 'Superman' walking around somewhere, but Twilight hadn't seen yet who it was. She'd only glimpsed the blue and red from a distance.
  1606. > It looked like good turnout, too. These things were in no way mandatory, so the pony was happy to see it well-attended. It said she and Anon were doing something right.
  1607. > She slipped around a few people talking next to the coffee machine and exited the lounge to go check if the Legal department had come yet. Hopefully they would group up in their offices before making an entrance together. Maybe she could sneak a peek.
  1608. > It seemed like several other people had the same idea and were milling about in the hallway. Someone noticed her and waved her over.
  1609. > "Twilight! You won't believe what Legal did!" the man was saying with a huge, goofy grin on his face.
  1610. "Did you see them? What's the theme?!" the mare demanded, hurrying over.
  1611. > She reared up, placing her hooves against the wall, so she could see through the hallway window, which was a tiny bit too high for her. Unfortunately someone had taped some paper over it, so she couldn't get a glimpse.
  1612. > "Rob saw Alice when she came up with the lift. Something zombie-related!" the man explained.
  1613. > Someone else heard them and joined the discussion. "Yeah, I heard they were doing 'Walking Dead'. Those costumes must have cost a bunch, too! Alice looked like she'd been mauled by a bear!"
  1614. > Twilight gave a small gasp. TV show theme *and* special effects?! They really had gone all out.
  1615. > Maybe she'd have to think up a small award, perhaps a plaque or a simple trophy to give to the department as "Best Halloween Theme"? It could become an annual thing, if people liked the idea.
  1616. > She filed the thought away for later and tried to peer in the window again. Now she was insanely curious!
  1617. > "I think they're coming out!" someone called.
  1618. > It was true! The door opened and Boris, head of Legal, shambled into the hallway. The people made room in stunned silence.
  1619. > The makeup was *perfect*. Blood, gore, sickly green flesh, even the torn and dirty clothes.
  1620. > The only thing missing - a good thing, in Twilight's opinion - was rotting flesh smell. They could do without that.
  1621. "Holy shit..." the mare whispered, wide-eyed.
  1622. > The rest of the team followed and they all looked amazing. Even the walk was spot-on! They must have practiced!
  1623. > A reverential sort of silence spread in an ever-increasing bubble around the spectacle. More people rushed from the lounge to see.
  1624. > They really had outdone themselves! The makeup looked professional and very expensive, the clothes matched what was on the show - or at least that's what Twilight overheard someone whisper, and the vacant expressions with occasional grunts and groans nicely completed the image.
  1625. > The people shuffled into the lounge, followed by the crowd. Several people were already holding phones and recording the whole thing.
  1626. > Twilight squeezed between two people and rushed ahead, so she could see their entry.
  1627. > True to the characters they were playing, the group came to a stop in the middle of the lounge and stood, swaying lightly, looking straight ahead.
  1628. > The mare sat on her haunches and brought her hooves together. It wasn't comfortable for a pony to do - their way of showing appreciation was stomping, but this helped a few nearby humans to see what she was doing and start clapping.
  1629. > Pretty soon the applause spread around the room, with a few whoops and whistles thrown in for good measure. The whole crowd was cheering!
  1630. > Deservedly, too!
  1631. > The mare didn't see which of the Legal department was the first to crack a smile, but they all ended up laughing. Several exchanged high-fives with their coworkers and others went for the drinks and snacks bar.
  1632. > Twilight sought out Anon.
  1633. "Did you see that?!" she demanded.
  1634. > The human was grinning. "Yeah, it was cool!"
  1635. "I was thinking we have to make it some kind of plaque or trophy, you know? Maybe something like 'Best Group Costume'."
  1636. > "Good idea!" Anon praised and leaned down to pat her withers in approval. "We'll get right on that, Monday."
  1637. > She didn't mention her other idea to make it a regular thing. She wanted to think that through a bit more. It wouldn't do to make these parties something that required a lot of preparation and extra work.
  1638. > The pony sidestepped to brush her rump against Anon's leg, then headed back to the food. She wanted to ask a few people from the Legal department how they did it, especially without spoiling the surprise.
  1639. > It was proving to be a thoroughly memorable party!
  1640.  
  1641. > ~~~~
  1642.  
  1643. > Some hours later Twilight was already pleasantly buzzed and deep in conversation about Equestrian literature with Becky from QA. The woman was quite well-read, for Earth standards, so the mare was giving her advice.
  1644. "H-Hold, 'old on," the mare said, "lemme grab my phone. I took a- a picture last time I was in Canterlot, of the- of the library!"
  1645. > She levitated the device up and fumbled through to the image gallery. It was a good thing she wasn't showing Becky the screen yet, because the first few pictures were very compromising ones of Anon.
  1646. > The mare blushed, but hoped no one would notice. It was a tiny bit warm in the offices and the drink had been flowing freely.
  1647. > She quickly scrolled past those images and back to where she had visited her friends in Equestria.
  1648. "Here, here, look!"
  1649. > She held the phone out and Becky took it. "Wow, it looks huge!"
  1650. > Praise for the Canterlot library made Twilight grin widely.
  1651. "Some day I'ma take you there!" she promised.
  1652. > The girl just laughed at it. "Alright. I'll remind you Monday about those books, so don't worry about it over the holidays, okay?"
  1653. > Twilight just nodded happily.
  1654. "Yeah, yeah yeah! I'ma write to Celly- Celestia to send me them-"
  1655. > She froze and tried to remember the titles she'd promised Becky.
  1656. "What were they again? There was, um- Leghecies an' Propends... an', an'-"
  1657. > Becky laughed again and tousled her mane. "I wrote it down, I'll email you on Monday. Just have fun, Twilight."
  1658. > The mare planned to do exactly that. She gripped her glass with a levitation spell and weaved her way across the room. People were talking, there was upbeat music playing and the far corner already had a Wii set up for some games.
  1659. > It looked like a popular spot, so Twilight headed there, searching for Anon. She wanted an ear-scratch, bad.
  1660. > Well, she wanted other things just as badly, but those would have to wait until they came home. Or at least until they were alone in the car, some of them.
  1661. > She didn't even notice how her swishing tail smacked a few people in the legs, nor how they grinned to themselves. It wasn't every day they saw a pony, who was technically their boss, get sloshed.
  1662. > Twilight found her human in a crowd of spectators. Four others were playing some bowling, by the looks of it.
  1663. "Hey. Any- anyfink fun?" she asked.
  1664. > Anon spotted her and crouched down to be closer to her eye level. "A lot of games. Wanna give it a try?"
  1665. > She looked at her nearly empty glass, then shook her head.
  1666. "Don't think I'm in uh- I'm, what's the fing? Pissed. Yah. Go 'head, I'll, I'll watch."
  1667. > Hopefully her human would notice how she was leaning her head towards him. His hand was right *there*.
  1668. > Success! Anon wrapped his fingers around her ear and-
  1669. "Mmmm, niiiice..."
  1670. > He chuckled softly, then put his other hand on her other ear. "Oh, you like that, don't you? Just like a kitty."
  1671. > The man was careful not to remove her fake glasses.
  1672. "Meow!"
  1673. > The pony drained her glass while having her ears scratched, then closed her eyes. Unfortunately it didn't last long enough.
  1674. > With only a faint sigh of disappointment, Twilight turned and headed for the drinks table again. A few steps in she remembered she didn't say bye to Anon, but turning around *again* would have been a hassle. He'd figure it out, probably.
  1675. > Before she made it to her intended target, though, Twilight paused. There was another stop she had to make first. The glass floated down on a nearby surface, then the pony headed for the restrooms.
  1676. > All that drink had to go *somewhere*, right?
  1677. > This part of the building was more or less deserted. She walked down the hallway, only staying upright thanks to having four legs, and turned a corner.
  1678. > Someone was sitting next to the toilet doors, leaning on the wall. Twilight blinked in surprise.
  1679. "Mm? Every- um, everyfink okay?"
  1680. > She went closer to inspect. Possibly someone had had too much to drink. Maybe it would be a good idea to get them back in the crowd, where a friend could drive them home.
  1681. > Or, failing that, call him a taxi.
  1682. "'ello?!"
  1683. > The person wasn't responding. She saw it was one of the Legal department, judging by that fancy zombie costume. That blood looked scary real and the mare's step faltered.
  1684. > She hadn't yet been able to appreciate just how lifelike the makeup was from up close. Or how *un-lifelike*.
  1685. > Who was it under all that red and gray paint? The face was hidden from her view and the hair looked like it was coming out in large clumps. A wig as well as makeup, then. Such dedication.
  1686. "Anyway, I kinda- um, I really like you guys' costumes."
  1687. > Still no response. By now the pony was starting to worry. Maybe whoever it was had just fallen asleep from all the booze?
  1688. > She was a few steps away when the smell hit her. Decaying flesh, rot, viscera. Twilight didn't know where she knew these from, but she was easily able to identify. The unexpected odor had a very sobering effect.
  1689. "Ew, yuck! You didn't have to do smell, you know?!" she complained, waving a hoof before her muzzle.
  1690. > Finally the person stirred and looked up at her. The stare made Twilight take a step backwards and swallow a sudden lump.
  1691. > The eyes were gray and lifeless. The mouth was parted and a bit of drool was hanging from his chin. It was a man, but not one Twilight recognized.
  1692. "W-Who are you?"
  1693. > All she got in reply was a grunt. The man was really dedicated to his role.
  1694. "Okay, y-you can stop now," the mare whined. "It's not funny anymore."
  1695. > Instead of the desired effect, the guy reached over and tried to grab her. She just barely dodged.
  1696. "Hey! Not cool!"
  1697. > She backed away, tail firmly pressed against her backside and ears laid flat.
  1698. "Stop it this minute or I'll make sure you get in trouble! A costume is one thing, b-but this is going too far."
  1699. > She wasn't afraid, not really. It was probably just an overenthusiastic prank on their boss. Despite telling herself that, Twilight's breathing quickened and her heart began to hammer in her ears.
  1700. > Whatever joke those Legal guys were playing, she was having none of it. Forgetting her original intention, Twilight turned and walked briskly back to the lounge. There were people and music and whatever this joker was trying to do wouldn't work.
  1701. > She was already smiling in relief when she stepped through the door, but then she froze.
  1702. > They were all dead.
  1703. > Well, dead, but standing. It didn't make sense! Only the Legal people were costumed as zombies!
  1704. "W-What's happening?!" she squeaked.
  1705. > One of them shuffled forward in that lurching, unsteady walk. There came a hoarse, guttural cry from somewhere in the room.
  1706. > A moment after that they all moved, coming for her.
  1707. "Guys, this is *not* funny!" she whimpered, backing away.
  1708. > They were all in on this?! How was it even possible?
  1709. > She became aware of the stink. Like a very bad compost pile, or the back of a slaughterhouse, or - she gulped - a bunch of dead, rotting people right under her nose.
  1710. > Surely you couldn't get those aromas in a store, could you?! Who'd want that?!
  1711. > Her rump hit the door frame and the pony jumped in surprise. It didn't look as if the people were slowing down. They were really committed to the act.
  1712. > She tried putting on her angry boss face.
  1713. "Knock it off! I've just about had it with all this! ANON!"
  1714. > Her human was nowhere to be found. If he was part of this, she'd show him later, but right then Twilight didn't want to be in the room anymore. She turned and almost ran back down the hallway, when she saw the guy from before.
  1715. > He was still crawling after her, leaving a long smear of blood and viscera from the open wound on his belly. Surely they hadn't bought special effects that good?!
  1716. > A raspy breath alerted her and she looked behind and up, just as one of the corpses loomed above her, hands outstretched.
  1717. > Time seemed to slow down and she looked up at the face that was half-missing. One cheek was just a loose flap of skin, showing the white of bone underneath it.
  1718. > This wasn't a mask!
  1719. > Something bad - something *magical* had happened and turned all her coworkers into these monsters!
  1720. > Twilight was only frozen for a second. A fear blossomed forth.
  1721. "Anon!"
  1722. > She ducked under the groping hand and between the legs of the people in front of her. More than one had broken limbs, pieces of bone sticking out from their flesh. She saw missing arms and open chests, sometimes with... things hanging out, but often just a mass of red viscera.
  1723. > It turned her stomach, but Twilight kept it down and moved. A hand grasped at her back, but she quickly bucked the zombie. Bones crunched and she was released.
  1724. > In moments she had scrambled past the crowd and was looking for Anon and any coworkers that weren't yet monsters.
  1725. > He was okay, right! He *had* to be!
  1726. > Tears streaming down her face, Twilight kept herself from outright crying as she ran around the room, searching.
  1727. > The Wii was still on, one controller on the floor and the other three missing. She looked back.
  1728. > There, one of the walking corpses still had a white rectangle dangling from their wrist.
  1729. > The people really had turned! How and why weren't important right at the moment, though. She had to find her lover and get him out of there.
  1730. > Except there was no sign of Anon and she couldn't recognize him in any of the dead, rotting faces.
  1731. > Maybe he had managed to run away. She should check the other offices!
  1732. > The only problem now was that the bodies had bunched up. She would never be able to run through them again.
  1733. > Finally she remembered she had magic. A quick spell later and she popped out of existence and appeared on the other side of the wall of zombies.
  1734. > They reacted with confusion, but one of them spotted her and groaned. Soon they were all turning, fighting with each other to get to her.
  1735. > It was surreal. Fear faded under the onslaught of adrenaline and the mare ran for it. The guy from the hallway was still on all fours in the door, but she just jumped over him before he could react. The first office on her left was Accounting and she threw the door open with her magic. It was empty-
  1736. > Well, mostly empty. A woman's corpse lay on the floor, bloated and misshapen. She couldn't even identify it!
  1737. > The eyes, shrunken like raisins stared at her, unseeing.
  1738. "How?! What?!" Twilight demanded.
  1739. > It didn't make any sense! The thing, whatever it was, had just started five minutes ago. How could the people look like they've been rotting for days, or even weeks?
  1740. > She backed out of the room and fled further down the hall. The mass of zombies from the lounge was still struggling to get through the door, which was still being blocked by the eviscerated guy. At least that part was good.
  1741. > Maybe she'd find some answers in the place where the whole thing had started. Twilight threw open the door to Legal and fearfully looked inside.
  1742. > There was a pile of guts on the floor just inside, crawling with insects.
  1743. > This time there was no holding it down. She puked the liquor and canapes she had earlier that day, and then, catching sight of the guts again, threw up some more.
  1744. > It burned like acid on her tongue. She didn't wait around to see any more and just fled onward. There had to be something still normal in the building, hadn't there?!
  1745. > The elevators! She rounded the corner and saw that both were open, square, black holes into nothing. She carefully approached and shone the light from her horn into the shaft.
  1746. > They looked completely empty, all the way down.
  1747. > What was happening? She tried the emergency stairs. The door opened easily, but one look inside changed her mind.
  1748. > More dead people, shambling up. The nearest one saw her, extended her arm and groaned. A few moments later some of the others grunted as well. Maybe it was just her imagination, but they were walking a bit faster, too.
  1749. > The mare slammed the door shut. Without the lifts and without the stairs, she was trapped on the floor, unless she could teleport all the way to the ground.
  1750. > That one was still tricky - her horn wasn't entirely back to its old self, yet, and magic on Earth was weaker. She didn't want to end up in the middle of a wall, so that would be a last resort, Twilight decided.
  1751. > While she considered her next move, undecided in the hallway, the creatures in the lounge had managed to fight their way through the blocked door. She heard them coming closer.
  1752. > The ones on the stairs were nearly there, too!
  1753. > There were no more places to run to!
  1754. > Lacking other good options, Twilight continued down the hall. It looped back around to the toilets. All her other ways were blocked, so Twilight went that way.
  1755. > She poked her head into a few more offices, but they had dead people inside them.
  1756. > At least these didn't seem inclined to get up and follow her.
  1757. > What would even happen if they caught her?
  1758. > The mare really didn't want to find out.
  1759. > More importantly, if none of the offices were empty, she had no real place to hide. Even if she did, how persistent would the monsters be? Could they hear or sense her somehow? Smell her?
  1760. > At best she could keep running away from them for a while, but that was not a long term solution.
  1761. > Twilight needed a minute to think. Unfortunately she didn't have one - already there were some of the faster corpses showing up around the corner.
  1762. > They lurched for her with the determined shamble of the restless, tireless undead.
  1763. "Fuck this!" she swore and sniffed. "Where are you Anon?! I fucking need you!"
  1764. > The thought that the human would be just as helpless as her didn't even enter her mind. Anon always knew what to do!
  1765. > She ran to the next corner and looked around it.
  1766. > Crap! Some of the lounge zombies were either slow, or crippled enough so they didn't move particularly fast. That meant there were probably zombies strewn all around the hallway by now. The fastest ones were catching up and the slowest ones were... waiting for her.
  1767. > Where to go?
  1768. > Twilight looked behind and squeaked in alarm. They were almost on top of her!
  1769. > She moved a few more paces, but her exclamation had alerted the ones at the lounge. They started crawling or shambling slowly towards her.
  1770. "Shit, shit, no no no!" she mumbled and looked for another exit.
  1771. > There was one office and she ran for it. The door was unlocked.
  1772. > This time she didn't inspect what was in it, just hurried inside and shut the door behind her. Then she locked it for good measure. It wouldn't stop them forever, but it would give her some time to think.
  1773. > She looked at the pair of people still sitting in the office and hurriedly turned her face away.
  1774. > They both had maggots crawling over their faces. She would have thrown up again, but there was nothing left, so she just dry-retched.
  1775. > She was beyond the point of trying to figure out what was happening and almost incapable of any thought at all!
  1776. > Her legs were trembling violently and she was gasping for air, panting. In a moment she would be jabbering and whimpering.
  1777. > There was a thud on the office door and Twilight jumped.
  1778. "EEK!"
  1779. > Several of the corpses were hammering on the wood by the sound of it. There were urgent groans as they tried to get to her.
  1780. > It wouldn't hold them for long. They didn't care if they broke their arms on the door.
  1781. > Another thump and again it made her twitch violently.
  1782. "Please no! Please!" she wept.
  1783. > Was this where she died? She could teleport again, but not seeing where would make it a gamble. The hallway was probably thoroughly infested by now anyway.
  1784. > She could try for the street, but any miscalculation would mean a very painful and unpleasant death.
  1785. > Earth wasn't Equestria, so full of magic which would guide her to a safe space. Here she had to see.
  1786. > There was a mighty crash at the door and the lock gave way. The door tore from the frame and several zombies landed in a pile inside the office. Others immediately began climbing over the fallen ones.
  1787. > She couldn't get out.
  1788. > The mare looked at the window and considered jumping. At least that way would be faster.
  1789. > She didn't have the guts to do it, though, so she just backed away into a corner as rotting husks approached.
  1790. "Please..." she whispered.
  1791. > Hands reached out for her and she felt a warm trickle down her hind leg. It barely even registered.
  1792. > The nearest corpse reached for her and she tried to rear up and kick it. This one was faster and ducked under her hooves to tackle her.
  1793. > They both slammed on the ground.
  1794. > Twilight whinnied and kicked for all she was worth, trying to dislodge the zombie and get free, but he was pinning her down and she couldn't shift him lying on her back like that.
  1795. > She screamed as the creature opened its mouth and lunged for her neck.
  1796. > She couldn't look. Twilight closed her eyes and waited to die a gruesome death.
  1797. >...
  1798. > Nothing happened.
  1799. > The corpse was pinning her down, but it wasn't biting her. She opened her eyes.
  1800. "A-An-Anon?!"
  1801. > It wasn't a zombie, it was just her beloved human.
  1802. > That was the point where her mind gave out. She couldn't understand what had happened or how, or why.
  1803. > All she knew was that Anon was there and she was safe with him.
  1804. > Urgently, she grabbed him with all four legs, and buried her muzzle in his coat.
  1805. > The tears finally had time and she began weeping uncontrollably. She didn't remember what happened after.
  1806.  
  1807. > ~~~~
  1808.  
  1809. > Twilight Sparkle woke up with a small gasp and shot bolt upright. She was on the couch in her office, but there was no one else.
  1810. > Almost no one - she became aware of Anon sitting beside her and watching with deep concern.
  1811. > "You're awake!" he said, voice dripping with relief. His hand found her leg and squeezed it.
  1812. "What h-happened?"
  1813. > The mare remembered the events of- today? Yesterday? It was dark outside, but that didn't necessarily tell her a whole lot.
  1814. > She was already starting to pant in fear as the memory flooded back in. The whole office infested by zombies.
  1815. > "Relax, relax, I got you," Anon said and brought his arms around her.
  1816. > It helped a lot and the pony got her breath under control.
  1817. "They were everywhere! Z-Zombies... dead people!"
  1818. > The human didn't say anything, but he patted her gently on her back.
  1819. "It stank! And- and the g-guts!"
  1820. > Her stomach lurched and she nearly threw up again, just from the memory. It took an effort of will not to spew all over Anon.
  1821. > "Was that what you saw?"
  1822. > She pushed herself away and stared at his face.
  1823. "Y-Yes? What did you see?"
  1824. > Anon looked gray in the face and now that she had gotten a good look at him, she could see deep lines of worry. "Twilight, you freaked out. You kicked Sam from Accounting and broke his leg. Then you ran around the hall mumbling and crying. You locked yourself in the QA office, whimpering. We had to break the door down!"
  1825. > Twilight just stared at her human.
  1826. "There w-weren't z-zombies?"
  1827. > "Just the guys from Legal. It was just costumes, Twilight! You had us scared half to death!"
  1828. > Her ears couldn't go any lower and the mare looked down.
  1829. "I didn't- didn't see t-that way..."
  1830. > Anon gathered her up in another hug. It felt good knowing he wasn't completely, utterly, *permanently* repulsed by her. Twilight took comfort in that knowledge.
  1831. > "I guess the spell is still somehow holding? Or something?"
  1832. > She nodded against the human's shoulder miserably. She was so sure she got rid of it! What if this was something else?
  1833. > She sniffled miserably and tried not to smear snot into Anon's shirt.
  1834. > "It's okay. It's okay. Sam is going to be okay. I told him you were having... episodes because of stress and he understands. The company insurance will pay his medical, of course, and I'll give him something extra, okay?"
  1835. "A l-lot extra," Twilight murmured.
  1836. > She was feeling incredibly guilty. She should have realized it was just another vision, but it had seemed so real!
  1837. > "Of course, a lot. We can afford it. We'll go see him at the hospital on Monday, okay? If you feel up for it."
  1838. "I don't know... It was just so real! Anon, it stank of rot. They were- their-"
  1839. > She sniffled again, unable to describe what she remembered.
  1840. "I thought I was going to die."
  1841. > The human held the weeping pony. "It's okay, you're safe. I got you now. We can stay here tonight, most of the others have gone home."
  1842. "I'm s-sorry ab-about the p-party!" she wailed miserably.
  1843. > "It's fine, it's fine. Just relax. We'll figure this out, Twilight."
  1844. > She had to know the full extent of her blunder.
  1845. "Did I- did... did I hurt anyone else?"
  1846. > Anon smiled gently. "No, just Sam Oswin. Good thing you didn't start blasting away with magic laser, right?"
  1847. > The way he put it actually got one chuckle out of her. She closed her eyes again and squeezed the precious human.
  1848. "I love you, Anon."
  1849. > "I love you too. Want to get some sleep?"
  1850. "I want to go home."
  1851. > The apartment was the only place where she felt safe. Yes, there was the ghost of the lady on the terrace, but she had never come inside. More importantly, she couldn't hurt anyone there.
  1852. > Except for Anon.
  1853. "M-Maybe you should take me home and come sleep here. I wouldn't wanna- wanna h-h-"
  1854. > He pressed a finger to her lips to shut her up. "Hush. You won't. I'm just sorry I couldn't get to you sooner. You realized it was me when I grabbed you, right?"
  1855. > Twilight remembered that this was true. When one of the creatures she imagined pinned her down she finally saw it for who it was - Anon.
  1856. "Don't let me go!"
  1857. > "Never."
  1858. "Please take me home," she whined.
  1859. > "Okay, okay," Anon said. He gathered up the blanket around her, grabbed her waist and lifted. Twilight hooked her forelegs on his shoulders to help him carry her.
  1860. > As they left the office she saw Becky and a few others talking quietly in one of the offices. The girl rushed forward.
  1861. > "Twilight, are you okay?"
  1862. > The mare turned her head away, too ashamed to look at her.
  1863. > Thankfully Anon replied instead of her: "She's fine, Becky. Go home, get some rest. I'll explain Monday. Twilight has had- a really tough month."
  1864. > Even with her ears pressed down firmly Twilight couldn't prevent herself from hearing.
  1865. > "Can you have Darlene send out an email, Becky?" her human went on as he carried Twilight to the lifts. "Just say Twilight has been under a lot of stress and she's sorry. We'll make it up to everyone for ruining the party and specially to Oswin."
  1866. > "Will do!" the girl said cheerfully. "Get well soon, Twilight!"
  1867. > All the mare could do was make an affirmative squeak.
  1868. > Thankfully they were soon in the elevator and going down. To his credit, Anon was still holding her strongly, although she was helping by gripping his shoulders.
  1869. > At long last she was back in the car. Anon had to let her go so he could walk around, but as soon as he was in the driver's seat, he reached over and gripped her foreleg.
  1870. > The contact helped, even though it made it harder for him to drive. Twilight silently hoped he wouldn't let go the whole way home.
  1871. > "Hang on, we'll be home soon. I'm calling Dr. Hayes," Anon explained as he took his hand away briefly to tap at the screen in the car.
  1872. > The mare would have preferred just the two of them, but the doctor was okay. She liked the doctor.
  1873. "O-Okay."
  1874.  
  1875. > ~~~~
  1876.  
  1877. > "Okay, this will sting just a bit. It's just a sedative," Dr. Hayes said and Twilight clenched her teeth. There was a prick on her leg, but it didn't even hurt.
  1878. > "There. Okay, so plenty of bed rest, tea and I'll come check on you in the morning, Twilight."
  1879. "Thanks, Dr. Hayes. Sorry for dragging you out here in the middle of the night."
  1880. > The woman scratched her under the chin, something the mare wouldn't allow anyone else to do. Well, except Anon. He could touch her anywhere.
  1881. > "No problem. Anything for my number one patient!"
  1882. > It made the pony blush a little, but luckily the woman was busy packing her bag.
  1883. > Anon added his thanks too: "Thanks again for coming on such short notice, Doctor. Have a good night!"
  1884. > He escorted the lady to the lift and Twilight listened for the door to slide shut and Anon's footsteps back. He sat on the bed beside her.
  1885. > "What kind of tea do you want?" he asked.
  1886. "Um, Chamomile, please?"
  1887. > "Coming right up. Yell if you need me, okay?"
  1888. > The mare gave him a nod and the human left.
  1889. > A minute later he rushed back in, something heavy and oblong clasped in his hands.
  1890. > "Twilight, look at this! Twilight!"
  1891. > She sat upright when Anon flicked the light on and placed something on the bed before her. It was a package, stamped by Celestia's personal seal.
  1892. "What is it?" she asked.
  1893. > It was a silly question, of course Anon wouldn't open mail for her from the Princess. Twilight ripped the paper apart and gasped.
  1894. "The book! She found another copy!!"
  1895. > The mare lit up her horn and quickly flipped the pages to the correct one.
  1896. "It has the missing page! The counterspell!"
  1897. > Anon smiled. "This is good, right? You can cast it and this will be over?"
  1898. > Heart already speeding up, the mare beamed.
  1899. "Yes!"
  1900. > Her smile vanished.
  1901. "If this is really what's causing it..."
  1902. > The human, his promise of tea forgotten, climbed up on the bed and sat beside her. "Try it anyway," he prompted.
  1903. > She was going to, but first Twilight turned to the other side of the missing page and read the passage after the spell.
  1904. "Be warned, how busy you might be, yet casting this spell must be done with a mind perfectly clear. What you think, will make your dreams manifest."
  1905. > A faint memory stirred and the mare put her face in her hooves.
  1906. "Damnit," she swore.
  1907. > "What?"
  1908. "When I was casting this for the first time I started thinking about- about the time me and my friends were first captured. I thought we were going to die."
  1909. > Anon blinked at her in confusion. "Is that why-"
  1910. "Yes. I've been seeing death because that was on my mind when I put the spell in place..."
  1911. > She examined the counterspell again.
  1912. "This is a lot more complicated than the one I did. Hopefully it will remove whatever's left in my mind from that..."
  1913. > Anon's hand gripped her fur without him even being aware of doing it. "If it doesn't?"
  1914. > She tried to give him a reassuring smile.
  1915. "It will. Night Breeze was a bit eccentric, but he was a genius when it came to mind and sleep magic. If this doesn't help, I'll go see Princess Luna. If anypony knows about this sort of thing, it will be her."
  1916. > "When will you cast it?"
  1917. > Twilight gave this some thought. She wanted to do it immediately, but that hadn't worked out too well for her the first time. Maybe she should be rested and have her mind perfectly clear.
  1918. > That risked her having another vision in the night, but with Anon holding her it shouldn't happen.
  1919. "Morning. I'm too tired..."
  1920. > She turned imploringly to her human.
  1921. "Don't leave me alone until then, okay?"
  1922. > He plopped down, still wearing his Sherlock Holmes costume and she in her Steve Jobs pullover. "Not going anywhere. Not after the fright you gave me earlier."
  1923. > Her ears lowered.
  1924. "Sorry."
  1925. > Rather than replying, Anon just leaned closer and kissed the tip of her nose. "Let's get undressed and then we I think we both need a good night's sleep."
  1926. "Thanks, Anon. F-For everything."
  1927. > She allowed him to pull the garment over her head. He dropped it to the floor beside the bed, which was perfectly fine by Twilight. As long as he didn't have to leave.
  1928. > After that he shrugged out of his own costume - it was sheer luck that neither of them had needed any makeup - and added those clothes to the same pile.
  1929. > They'd clean it up the next day.
  1930. > Twilight held up the blanket for Anon to slip under. His hands quickly sought her out and she shuffled closer until her muzzle was pressing into Anon's chest.
  1931. > Hearing his heartbeat helped. She knew he was alive. Maybe that would be enough to ward off dreams.
  1932. > "Good night, Twilight-" Anon began and stopped. "Damn, I forgot about your tea!"
  1933. > She just giggled softly.
  1934. "It's fine. We'll get it in the morning. I think Dr. Hayes' sedative is kicking in."
  1935. > As if to prove a point, she yawned hugely.
  1936. "Night, Anon."
  1937. > Everything would be fine after she cast the *correct* spell in the morning...
  1938.  
  1939. > Everything would be fine...
  1940.  
  1941. > END

Getting Shy - Part 2 (SPG)

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