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/bootleg/ Jacky Part Seven

By BlondieAnon
Created: 9th November 2020 02:22:45 AM
Jacky Sparking Shine Faint Prism Anonymous Bootleg

  1. >You've never really felt like you had a home
  2. >Even when you were too young to do anything, the place where you lived didn't feel like a home
  3. >Homes were happy
  4. >Homes were a place you felt secure
  5. >Homes had people that were happy to see you
  6. >You lean back in your car
  7. >For a while, on and off, you've been sitting in your car for a few minutes longer than you should
  8. >Not because you don't like being... there
  9. >With everyone
  10. >But because you're having a hard time adjusting
  11. >You believe that you have a home
  12. >And you're worried that you could lose it
  13. >You recognize the irony of the situation
  14. >You check your phone again
  15. >You ordered a little something but it's taking longer than you wanted
  16. "God dammit..."
  17. >You can't let it be late
  18. >You have a few days left, but still
  19. "Alright... time to head in."
  20. >You slip out of your car and shake yourself awake
  21. >You don't think you need to go shopping for anything anytime soon
  22. >You've gotten a wider variety of foods, now that you're paying more attention to everyone's wants
  23. >Even down the hallway, you can smell them
  24. >It's kinda like when you realized that your first girlfriend had a unique, distinct scent to her
  25. >You can tell them all apart
  26. >You're really not sure if your neighbors have noticed or cared that your apartment has become a constant party house of sorts
  27. >You don't particularly care, to be honest
  28. >You're outside your door
  29. >You can hear some music going on and some bickering
  30. >You're so used to being alone
  31. >Of having a silent place, outside of what little sounds your computers make
  32. >You would be lying if you said you didn't miss it
  33. >But
  34. >All of these sounds make this hole in the wall your home
  35. >With another hard shake, you open the door
  36. >You recognize that song
  37. >"Come on, Sparky, you're being silly!"
  38. >"Oh can it already! We've been at it since lunch!"
  39. >"You too! You've just been watching us!"
  40. >"Not all of us have your energy, Jacky. Besides, isn't that dance sort of... much?"
  41. >"Is it?"
  42. >"Don't listen to her, Jacky... it's gonna work out really well."
  43. >Oh boy
  44. >You're not sure if you should or shouldn't intrude on that
  45. >To be conveniently present, you clear your throat like an overly-enthusiastic trumpet player
  46. "Boy, I sure hope nothing weird is going on here!"
  47. >You can hear Jacky sputtering
  48. >Shine clearing her throat
  49. >Nothing from Dashie
  50. >You take a few steps into the hallway and poke your head around the corner, looking into the living room
  51. >All of them are sitting on a pillow
  52. >Jacky gives you her best, innocent smile
  53. >It's a little too wide to be normal
  54. >Shine rolls her eyes and gives you a smirk
  55. >Dashie just gives you a shrug with a blank expression
  56. >She's always been a bit spacey, you think
  57. >You take note of how messy Jacky's mane is
  58. "You should definitely get a haircut one of these days."
  59. >You give her a squint and an accusatory finger point
  60. >Her smile widens
  61. >You cross the hallway intersection, your squint fixed on her
  62. >Until you whip away
  63. >You kneel and fall onto your mattress
  64. >It feels nice to finally lay down
  65. >You should at least kick off your boots but you aren't worried too much
  66. >After a few moments, you feel a pony leap onto your back
  67. >With a practiced tempo, said pony pushes down on your shoulders and back, slowly trotting and kneading in place
  68. >With a long, low groan you drag your hand up and give a thumbs up
  69. >"Heh, getting better?"
  70. >You rotate your head, resting on the left side of your face
  71. "Oh yeah... thanks Jack."
  72. >"Heheh, don't worry about it. Were you serious about a haircut?"
  73. "Sure. We have your twin tail style."
  74. >"And that's a crowd pleaser."
  75. "Definitely."
  76. >"How short were you thinking?"
  77. "Short enough so we have one less source clogging the tub drain."
  78. >The slow stepping and massaging melts
  79. >She lays on your back, kicking out her legs
  80. >"True enough... you know, I don't really remember how I cut my mane before. I think Sparky just had a knife or something."
  81. "Yeah?"
  82. >"Iunno. Probably. That excuse makes sense though, right?"
  83. "Sure."
  84. >Over the last while, you've learned a lot about the girls
  85. >About Jacky
  86. >It seems like there really aren't that many more secrets or revelations to discover
  87. >Which is fine
  88. >At least you know that she wasn't some sort of serial killer or something in her past life
  89. >Just a petty criminal that occasionally got into dangerous situations
  90. >And who could honestly say they didn't have that sort of situation in their life at one point or another?
  91. >You can feel her shaking on top of you
  92. >She had let out a long, tired yawn and stretches
  93. >"So... Anon...?"
  94. "What's up?"
  95. >"...are you doing ok?"
  96. >You reply without thinking about it
  97. "Well sure."
  98. >"Really?"
  99. >This time you wait before answering
  100. >Well, of course it's hard to say
  101. >You're losing someone
  102. >You've seen them and just how far it's gone
  103. >But work is going well
  104. >But you're feeling a little awkward about coming back into your own apartment
  105. >But you've never really felt happier, because of what and who you return to every day
  106. "Yeah... I am, Jack. I'm doing ok, thanks to you and the other dorks. I'm doing a lot better than if I were by myself. What's that song... 'I'd rather be with you than be alone'?"
  107. >"I've never heard that song before."
  108. "Yeah, me neither. I think."
  109. >She lays her head right below your left shoulder and nods
  110. >"You really like your weird songs."
  111. "Oh, you don't know the half of it."
  112. >You both lay in silence for a few moments
  113. >The bed smells like her
  114. >Like Shine too
  115. >And you can tell that Dashie's been sleeping here recently, probably when you're at work
  116. >But it smells like Jacky
  117. >It brings you comfort
  118. >"Gonna go to sleep already?"
  119. "Mmm?"
  120. >"I recognize that exhale."
  121. "Is that right?"
  122. >"Mmhmm."
  123. >She rubs her face against your shoulder again
  124. "I'm blaming you."
  125. >"Hey Anon?"
  126. "Mmm?"
  127. >"How long has it been since I've been here?"
  128. "Almost a year."
  129. >"...wanna do something to celebrate it?"
  130. >You've already been planning a way to celebrate it
  131. >You've been planning out some things for almost a month now
  132. >Not that you'd ever tell her
  133. >Or Shine
  134. >Or Dashie
  135. "Well, I was thinking about it... how about this Saturday?"
  136. >"Aw... at the end of the entire week?"
  137. "Yup."
  138. >"It's gonna be forever before Saturday."
  139. "Only three quarters of forever. Sunday would be legit forever."
  140. >She giggles and sighs
  141. >"I don't know where I'd be without you, Anon."
  142. "Me too, Jack. I don't know where I would be right now if I didn't have you. I don't know what I'd be doing. I'm sure both of us would be still breathing."
  143. >"Probably."
  144. "Yeah, probably. But I wouldn't be happy if I didn't have you. Especially with... well, you know."
  145. >"Yeah... you've lost a lot."
  146. >You don't feel particularly inclined to answer that
  147. >You have lost a lot
  148. >And you're in the process of losing more too
  149. >It just isn't happening in front of you
  150. "I've gained a lot."
  151. >"Oh you... I ain't much."
  152. "I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about Shine and Dash."
  153. >You hear a shocked gasp and feel a hoof press into your head
  154. >It's hard enough to push your head into the bed but not so much so that it actually hurts
  155. >"You wanna run that again by me, pardner?"
  156. >Here comes the Applejack southern twang
  157. >She's gotten almost perfect when it comes to imitating her ma
  158. "I said..."
  159. >Your head gets squished into the mattress, your face covered by part of a blanket
  160. >You repeat yourself as well as you can, given the circumstances
  161. >She pulls her hoof away from your head
  162. >And instead puts her head on yours
  163. >Despite her being a fraction of your size, her noggin is pretty sizable
  164. >She blows air through her lips in a hard huff
  165. >"You got some cheek, talking to me like that."
  166. "Yeah, catch me on my back and you'll see me do more than talk."
  167. >Both of you stay quiet and enjoy the new positioning
  168. "Do you really enjoy being here? Do you have any thoughts of wanting to branch out and live on your own or something?"
  169. >"Me?"
  170. "Yeah. Or all of you, as a group or something."
  171. >"Nope."
  172. >That answer was quick
  173. >"This is our home, Anon... you make this a home for us."
  174. >You're not surprised
  175. >But you are happy
  176. >And relieved
  177. "Bold of you to speak for everyone."
  178. >"It's not bold, just honest."
  179. "I'm glad. You make this place a home for me too. Shine, too. Dashie, too. All of you little weirdos."
  180. >"What are you two doing?"
  181. >That's Shine's voice
  182. "I've got a monkey on my back. Send help."
  183. >"Oook ook?"
  184. >Shine scoffs
  185. >"Right... what are we doing for dinner?"
  186. >You feel additional weight on you
  187. >You try to look out of the corner of your eye
  188. >She's laying down on Jacky
  189. >Who's laying down on you
  190. "No clue."
  191. >"Why are you laying on me, Sparky?"
  192. >"Because you can't stop me."
  193. >"Anon, Sparkler's bullying me."
  194. "Good."
  195. >Shine scoffs again
  196. >"Dashie, get in here! Help!"
  197. "Aw crap..."
  198. >"Why do I know where this is heading..."
  199. >You hear light, quiet steps
  200. >"...well this is a weird pyramid."
  201. >"Get on Sparky, quick!"
  202. >"Don't you dare, Prism."
  203. "Yeah, Prism. Don't you not dare."
  204. >"Who's side are you on!?"
  205. "I'm on my front side because you two nerds won't get off of me!"
  206. >You feel the bed yield from yet another intruder
  207. >And more weight landing resting on your torso
  208. >"Freaking unreal..."
  209. >"Oh my... it's quite comfortable up here."
  210. >"Ha ha! How's them apples, Spark?"
  211. >"I'm still laying on top of you at least."
  212. >"Tch..."
  213. "Didn't think that one through, did you."
  214. >"Jacky isn't the best for thinking, you know that..."
  215. >The playful, condescending tone of Dashie leads to Jacky trying, and failing, to thrash about
  216. >"D-don't you say that?!"
  217. >"It's true, Jacky."
  218. >"Dreadfully true, dear..."
  219. >You can hear her flap once
  220. >You can't see the pony pile on you, but you can see that her wings have finally been let out, acting as a sort of blanket
  221. >Those really are some big chicken wings
  222. "...so is everyone just gonna lay here now?"
  223. >"Yeah."
  224. >"Yup."
  225. >"It seems that way."
  226. >All of them reply at once
  227. "...well alrighty then."
  228. >You exhale, feeling parts of your back pop
  229. >The weight feels nice
  230. >The warmth
  231. >The company
  232. >You really believe that you're home
  233. >And you believe that they're home too
  234. >Nothing could ruin this
  235.  
  236. >It's Christmas season
  237. >Technically
  238. >You ordered something and have been keeping it in your car to be safe
  239. >It's not that you don't believe that it wouldn't be safe in your home
  240. >You just don't want Jacky to see it
  241. >You don't think anyone has caught onto it
  242. >You don't even know if Jacky's aware of what today is
  243. >They were all surprised when snow first came down, though it wasn't until this week that there were enough layers to turn the atmosphere grey and bleak
  244. >What's noteworthy is that unlike last year, everyone's actually pretty happy and content
  245. >You know you are
  246. >Despite everything bad that has happened
  247. >Whether or not you'd like to admit it, your apartment has become a home
  248. >You don't think you've ever had such a home
  249. >You aren't ever apprehensive
  250. >Scared
  251. >Angry
  252. >The few issues that have popped up ultimately weren't the worst things in the world
  253. >And everyone got through them
  254. "Alright... alright alright alright."
  255. >Are you nervous?
  256. >Nah, that doesn't make sense
  257. >You definitely aren't nervous
  258. >You just hope she likes it
  259. >She has no reason to not like it
  260. "You're not nervous."
  261. >You repeat to yourself, shifting back and forth in the elevator
  262. >You also have some groceries
  263. >You still aren't a master chef
  264. >Compared to last year, you really haven't cooked that many quality dinners
  265. >365 days have passed and while you can say that your life is better, you haven't grown in the ways you necessarily wanted
  266. >That's ok
  267. >You've still grown in other ways
  268. >"You're not nervous. You're just worried."
  269. >You mumble to yourself as you enter your apartment
  270. >What used to be a cold, quiet, vaguely messy place is now a warm, comfortable, certainly messy den
  271. >You're not nervous
  272. >You say your 'hi's and get them in return
  273. >Jacky and Dashie are goofing around in the living room
  274. >After filling the fridge with tonight's planned dishes, you shake off your coat and boots
  275. >And maybe shake off some of your nerves
  276. >You head to your room and plop down onto the mattress
  277. >Shine is playing another game
  278. >It involves a girl hunting giant robots with normal bows and arrows
  279. >And something about technology
  280. >You stopped caring about the plot of it
  281. "Hey Shine."
  282. >"Hey."
  283. >You're not nervous
  284. "Hey, uh... listen. Today's an important day."
  285. >"Yeah? What's today?"
  286. "It's Jacky's... birthday I think."
  287. >"Birthday? Since when did she get a birthday?"
  288. "I don't know. But it's been a year since she's been here. And I want to celebrate it."
  289. >"Oooh... well aren't you caring."
  290. >She leers at you out of the corner of her eye with a smile
  291. "Alright, you can officially can it."
  292. >She gives you a mocking gasp
  293. >"Did you buy her roses too?
  294. >...
  295. >You glare at her
  296. "God damn it... I knew I was forgetting something."
  297. >You sigh and shake your head
  298. >"Oh... oh wow. You mean it."
  299. >She looks surprised
  300. >"I didn't think you would keep track of something like that."
  301. "Well... why wouldn't I?"
  302. >"Fair enough I guess."
  303. "So... when you can, can you find a way to lure her into here?"
  304. >She lets out an elongated sigh
  305. >It isn't a real one but she's enjoying the minor inconvenience she's causing
  306. >"You want an audience?"
  307. "Later, sure."
  308. >"Sure. When?"
  309. >Right now
  310. >You wouldn't say
  311. >You're really not sure if you want to do this right now
  312. >You're really not sure if she would like it
  313. >You're really not sure you would like it
  314. >Obviously you would
  315. >But maybe it's a little much
  316. >Is it appropriate?
  317. >It wasn't exactly expensive
  318. >But it wasn't cheap either
  319. "In a few min...ah..."
  320. >You visibly deflate
  321. "Not right now. But later tonight."
  322. >Without turning away from her game, she nods and smiles wider
  323. >"Don't worry about it, ok? You could've bought her a shiny plastic spoon and she would treasure it."
  324. "It's no spoon, alright..."
  325. >"Yeah... I bet. What are you gonna get me for my birthday?"
  326. >She sounds hopeful
  327. "Oh don't worry, I'm planning something for you too. And boy, you're gonna get it."
  328. >She finally pauses
  329. >After a second, she starts going through menus, as if to purposefully look for something
  330. >"...that's cool."
  331. "And don't you worry. Everyone is going to see it happen. Jacky's going to see and you're not going to know how to possibly respond to her reactions."
  332. >She shifts on the bed, clearing her throat
  333. >"...well alright then."
  334. >You can return the teasing at least
  335. >What she doesn't know is that you actually have been Christmas shopping
  336. >The first time you've done so in you don't even remember how many years
  337. >What you have in your pocket is for Jacky
  338. >But you also have other things on the way for all of them
  339. >Hopefully all of it will turn out well
  340.  
  341. >You've been watching Shine play her save file for...
  342. >Too long
  343. >She doesn't seem to mind it, though she looks back at you every now and again to make sure you're still awake
  344. >After another successful side mission done, she lays down on her side and kicks her hind legs out
  345. >"Sun's already gone down..."
  346. "Yeah... winters up here are pretty harsh sometimes."
  347. >"It's still warm in here though."
  348. "Free heating, gotta enjoy it you know?"
  349. >"Definitely."
  350. "..."
  351. >"..."
  352. "..."
  353. >"I'm gonna get Jacky in here."
  354. "...thanks, Shine."
  355. >"Don't worry about it."
  356. >She goes through the motions to save and closes out of it, putting the console into sleep mode
  357. >You personally don't understand why you wouldn't just put it in sleep rather than always shutting it down
  358. >She stretches once more and yawns
  359. >"Getting sleepy earlier too... you better be getting us some blankets and stuff."
  360. "Don't worry, I'll add it to the list."
  361. >She still sometimes does certain things that might not be the best but she's gotten a lot better
  362. >More helpful, certainly
  363. >Hopefully she'll continue to improve
  364. >You slip your gift out from your pocket and put it to your side, under a blanket
  365. >You really should have some sort of words prepared but it would just be too silly if you did that
  366. >After what sounds like some joking around, you hear Jacky trotting toward you
  367. >More so, you see her speeding toward you!
  368. "EN GARDE, FUCCPONE!"
  369. >She squints and pushes down on the ground, leaping into the air like only she can
  370. >Good lord are her legs strong
  371. >Still sitting, you prepare your reaction
  372. >One arm goes around her neck, like a hug
  373. >The other goes to her belly
  374. >Letting her momentum carry you, you fall sideways
  375. >Effectively suplexing her
  376. "AS GOD AS MY WITNESS SHE IS BROKEN IN HALF!"
  377. >Jacky gives some sort of autistic screech that sounds like a buzzard getting hit with a tennis racket before exhaling with a gurgle
  378. >You lay on your side, your hand petting her belly
  379. >She lays there, her head against your chest
  380. >Your head against her shoulder
  381. >What counts for a pony shoulder, anyway
  382. "Hey Jack."
  383. >"What's up?"
  384. >Say it
  385. >Come on, you've said goofier things before
  386. >What makes this so different?
  387. >You give her belly drum a few more pats before sitting back up
  388. "Listen... do you know how long you've been here?"
  389. >Rather than get up, she just looks at you
  390. >"Not really. A pretty long while, I guess."
  391. "Yeah... it feels like it's been no time at all."
  392. >That look in her eye
  393. >She looks completely content
  394. >Content with her live
  395. >Content with this place
  396. >Content with her friends
  397. >Content with you
  398. "I... uh, well. I've been counting the days. And today marks a full year since you've been here. So I got you something. Not really for any huge reason, but I just thought that I should. It'd go well with your hat, you know?"
  399. >You reach under the blanket, which thankfully avoided the suplex, and pull out a little black box
  400. >Catching that this is something important, she flips onto her stomach
  401. >Her ears twitch at the sight of it
  402. >It's certainly not a big box at all
  403. >"I... you're serious? You've been keeping track of all of this time?"
  404. "Not counting the seconds or anything, but... yeah. I guess it's a sort of custom here."
  405. >"Well, I mean... I guess it's a custom back there too..."
  406. >She tries to focus on both your hand and your face
  407. >From the twitch of her tail and her ears, you can tell she's a little nervous
  408. >"...should it be opened here, or...?"
  409. "Well... no reason not to, right?"
  410. >You open the box and reveal what looks like a round, oval silver coin
  411. >With another, smaller, oval stone in it
  412. >"W... what is that?"
  413. "Well, Jackeroo..."
  414. >You set down the box and pry it out
  415. >The silver oval is connected to a cord, which is capped with silver lengths that end in little bell shapes
  416. "It... well, it's a bolo tie."
  417. >"A what tie?"
  418. "Bolo tie. Like your hat, it's a big of ol' west fashion. Kinda what your standard Texan would wear at a formal gathering."
  419. >You rotate the pendant over to show her the front and back
  420. "The end studs and the pendant itself is silver. The little stone there is... uh..."
  421. >This is going to sound stupid, now that you have to explain it
  422. "It's apple coral. It's called that due to the color. And, you know, I thought it's something that your ma would wear. So I think it's something you'd enjoy wearing as well. The orange goes well with your hair, even if it's a little darker. And next time we go out... you know, with that and the hat included..."
  423. >You trail off
  424. >She keenly focuses on it, a certain expression on her face
  425. >She isn't ready to pounce on you and say that she loves it
  426. >She isn't going to go into some death match staredown
  427. >She looks...
  428. >Maybe it's your imagination, but she looks a little sad?
  429. >Without saying anything, she moves up to your side and hugs her face against your chest
  430. >"Oh, Anon..."
  431. "I know, Jack..."
  432. >"I don't know what to say. You've done so much already over this year."
  433. "I know."
  434. >"And you have your family stuff going on too..."
  435. "I know."
  436. >"And..."
  437. >You bring your arms up to hug her, pulling her a little into your lap
  438. >"...you know Applejack isn't my mom. I know it too. I just want to think that it's true..."
  439. "I know... but does that really matter?"
  440. >"Well. You wanted her."
  441. "Sure. But, thankfully for me, I got you instead."
  442. >"You know, we never got around to that sort of gardening stuff... not really."
  443. "Nope... and we never really went camping either."
  444. >"You don't mind?"
  445. "You kidding me? I wouldn't trade the time I've spent with you for anything in the world. You've kept me going through the worst of things. You've made me want to excel and improve. You've made me want to be better, so I can give you better."
  446. >You give her a tight hug
  447. >She inhales as you exhale
  448. "You are exactly what I wanted, and what I needed."
  449. >You hear something snap, to your left
  450. >Both of you turn to the left
  451. >Shine's holding up your phone
  452. >Dashie's sitting nearby
  453. >"Aaaaaaaaand that's a wrap."
  454. >"Such a touching moment... I've misjudged you, Anon. May I see the bolo tie?"
  455. >You
  456. >Are very irritated with them
  457. >"What'd'ya think yer doin' lass?"
  458. >Oh God
  459. >That's an accent you haven't heard in a while
  460. >You look down at her
  461. >She has a crazed look in her eyes
  462. >"I try'an have a special moment with my bes' man an' you two come and spoil it."
  463. >"To be fair... what I recorded is really sweet. And the picture is really one of a kind."
  464. >Shine gives her a wide, shit eating grin
  465. >Her eyes go to yours
  466. >She knows exactly what she did
  467. "Jacky."
  468. >"Aye lad."
  469. "Kick her ass."
  470. >"Aye."
  471. >You point at Dashie
  472. >Her ears flatten
  473. "I'm gonna cook your goose, chicken wing."
  474. >You don't remember how the rest of the night went
  475. >After an all-out brawl that must have leveled the city block, you all called a cease-fire
  476. >Fatigue and vaguely bruised joints healed quicker when there were distractions to focus on
  477. >Which meant a very specific trilogy of movies
  478. >You still love those movies
  479. >But there's no topping the trio that is The Dashing, The Sparking, and The Jacky
  480.  
  481. >Though it's still cold outside at night, you found yourself out on your patio
  482. >You brushed off all of the snow from the little bench you have, so it's not like you're going to have a wet butt when you get up
  483. >You've been keeping track of things on your phone, regarding your family event
  484. >With how positive everything has been, you wouldn't want to spoil it
  485. >Especially since Jacky's been flaunting her stuff with her hat and bolo tie
  486. >She's been experimenting with new hair styles too, thanks to Shine working her... magic
  487. >Actual magic
  488. >She has no higher capacity for hair-themed fashion, it's all been Jack giving her instructions and coming up with ideas
  489. >You return a text regarding a recent medical turn and sigh
  490. "Ah... God damn it..."
  491. >It's something you say so often it may as well be a catchphrase
  492. >It kinda used to be, before Jack
  493. >Old habits die hard when things get rough
  494. >"Excuse me. Mind if I join you?"
  495. >Speaking of rough
  496. >It's Dashie
  497. >You haven't actually socialized with her all that much
  498. >Not since that little stealing stint she and Shine pulled
  499. "Eh? Yeah, sure, I don't mind."
  500. >She nudges open the screen and steps out
  501. >It's not the coldest out currently, so you didn't see the immediate need in closing the door
  502. >Besides, you get free heating and the two boneheads are either in your room or the bathroom
  503. >You sigh and put away your phone, wiping the wide of your face
  504. >"Did I interrupt something?"
  505. "Nah. Nah, no, it's... uh."
  506. >You exhale, failing to enunciate with your hands
  507. "Well I'm sure you know what's going on. There just isn't a ton I can do about it. I got some updates and some other things."
  508. >"Good news then?"
  509. >She fluffs out her chest, doing her best to smile
  510. >Her optimism is admirable
  511. >You scoff
  512. "If only. No, it's going worse. How much worse, I genuinely can't say. Could quickly go to the worst case scenario. Or could keep at it's current level."
  513. >Her smile drops like it was a well-trained mask
  514. >"Oh... I'm sorry Anon."
  515. "Nah, don't be. It would've happened regardless, you know?"
  516. >She doesn't look like the topic is affecting her all that strongly
  517. "Hey, D. How much have you hid from Jacky, when you two were growing up?"
  518. >She doesn't look at you
  519. >She looks like she's focusing on something else, out in the trees
  520. >You don't really hear any birds though
  521. >"A lot. To this day there are things that I never want her to know."
  522. >That doesn't sound too good
  523. "That's fair, I understand that."
  524. >"Have you been telling her about these updates?"
  525. "Nah... she has her own things to worry about."
  526. >"Like her latest hair style?"
  527. >You chuckle
  528. >That makes you smile
  529. "Like her latest hair style, yeah. And the best way for her to wear her hat and tie."
  530. >"I'm proud of you."
  531. "You're proud of me?
  532. >"Yes. I've had my doubts about you. I really did. I had my doubts about you bringing me here. And I thought you were manipulating Sparking."
  533. "You know what? That's fair. If I were you, I think I'd be paranoid too. Did you think I was some monster playing Hide The Hands with Jacky?"
  534. >She looks at you
  535. >Sort of a blank stare
  536. "...on second thought, don't answer."
  537. >"For the best."
  538. >You rub your eyes with your thumb and index finger
  539. "So."
  540. >You're really not sure what to talk to her about
  541. >You've been losing a lot of your focus lately due to everything
  542. "There something you particularly want to talk about?"
  543. >Her wings ruffle and shake once
  544. >"No... just that I want to apologize."
  545. "Eh, don't worry about it. I think at this point you're pretty set on your opinion of me so no reason to overthink it."
  546. >An uncomfortable look grows on her face
  547. >"You don't hate me, do you?"
  548. "Me? No, of course I don't. Without you, she wouldn't be here."
  549. >"Without you she wouldn't be here."
  550. "And neither would you be here. Which means I wouldn't be able to thank you for doing what you've had to do for her sake so she'd... remain her. Save me the semantics."
  551. >Your attention focuses to the living room
  552. "I would enjoy it a fair bit if we could be more... friendly to each other."
  553. >"Like how Prism wants to be friendly to you?"
  554. "Hopefully no. I kinda don't like that you'd default to that."
  555. >"Then how do you mean friendly?"
  556. "Friendly as in 'hey, let's not get that ozone smell when we need to talk'."
  557. >You can catch a smile out of the corner of your eye
  558. >"We can work on that."
  559. "Preferably with a third party present."
  560. >"Why a third party?"
  561. "Because if it's just you and me, I get the feeling I'd say something a little too mean-spirited."
  562. >It's not that you don't like her
  563. >But you understand that there are a few rough spots
  564. >"We may not be friends, Anon... not as much as you are with them."
  565. "But we're not enemies either. Here's hoping you remember that."
  566. >"I will."
  567. "Good... now kindly go away for a bit. A lot's on my mind."
  568. >You don't feel good about the bitter tone you stuck to
  569. >"Anything you'd like to discuss with me?"
  570. >She sounds... hopeful
  571. >This really would be a good chance to have a sort of real discussion with her
  572. >Maybe a chance for her to understand you better directly, rather than through the rose-tinted glasses of someone's interpretation
  573. "...no. Not with you. Not with Jack or Shine either. Just leave me alone for a bit."
  574. >"Oh... ok."
  575. >She sounds dejected
  576. >She gets up and nods
  577. >"I hope you don't talk to her like this."
  578. >Whether it was a warning or a stray comment, you don't know
  579. >You don't really care
  580. "Good night, Prism."
  581. >It's going to take a while for things to improve with her
  582. >At least she did ask
  583.  
  584. >It's Thanksgiving
  585. >A lot of families are together, even if they only see each other once a year
  586. >Your Thanksgiving...
  587. >So far has included you just sleeping throughout the day
  588. >You wake up every now and again, either to answer a question or to check your phone
  589. >Given the job change, you don't have an extended weekend
  590. >It's actually maybe today and just that until next weekend
  591. >You haven't told the girls yet
  592. >There's a number of things you haven't told them lately
  593. >Not for any particular reason, of course
  594. >It's a lot of little reasons
  595. >Not only is this another Thanksgiving without your relatives
  596. >It's the last possible Thanksgiving you could have with one
  597. >And you're here, while they're in a hospital
  598. >Once the sun set, you finally woke up for good
  599. >Your laptop isn't in sight, so it was probably shifted out into the living room
  600. >Stumbling out of bed let you know that your body wasn't ready move around
  601. >Something smells good
  602. >"How's the oven going?"
  603. >"Another twenty minutes, I think."
  604. >Sounds like D and Shine
  605. "Got some oven stuff going?"
  606. >D gives you a glance and walks off without answer
  607. >Guess you don't blame her
  608. >It's been a while since the last time you spoke with her
  609. >You haven't felt any better about it
  610. >"Oh, Anon! Happy Thanksgiving!"
  611. >Eh?
  612. "Thanksgiving?"
  613. >You don't recall telling her about the holiday
  614. >"Yeah. You celebrate it, right?"
  615. >You used to
  616. "Eh... I guess so. Last year..."
  617. >"Yeah, Jacky told me you guys just cuddled up and did questionable stuff."
  618. "It was nice, for sure... where is she, anyway?"
  619. >"She's in the garage downstairs. Since she hasn't been able to really wake you up, she's been off trotting around."
  620. "Oh... guess I should go check her out then."
  621. >"Well don't take all night. Turkey's gonna be done soon. Sorta."
  622. "Yeah, you know, I was kinda... wondering about that. You guys go to the store?"
  623. >"Yup."
  624. >She flashes you a quick smile that doesn't go up to her relaxed eyes
  625. "...did you at least use my card this time?"
  626. >"Yup."
  627. "Groovy. Well, I'll be back."
  628. >"Sure."
  629. >You did have a few questions, but you weren't all that energetic enough to ask
  630. >Ignoring that you were only in boxers and a slightly stretched out shirt, you go down the stairwell that is right next to your apartment door
  631. >At the bottom of the stairwell you can hear galloping
  632. >Guess it makes sense
  633. >You haven't seen her since Tuesday
  634. >Literally
  635. >You're not sure why but whenever you've tried looking for her, she's always been out of sight or doing something that required lack of visibility
  636. >You're hoping that you didn't screw up something
  637. >You open the door a crack and swooce right in
  638. >You really don't like how cold the concrete floor is but it's whatever
  639. >You hear her coming
  640. >To your left and behind a wall
  641. >You crouch down
  642. >Extend your arms
  643. >She's coming
  644. >The second you see the tip of her face poke out from around the corner, you swing yourself to the left as hard as you can
  645. >You scoop her up and squeeze her as hard as you can
  646. >You expected it to turn out better
  647. >Except she's screaming
  648. "GOTCHA, I'M THE-"
  649. >You see her
  650. >Her twin tails are gone
  651. >What her mane consists of makes you scream
  652. >She screams again when she realizes it's you
  653. >The both of you make rather unflattering noises until you stop and shake her
  654. "STOP IT I GET IT ALREADY."
  655. >Her screaming stops, leaving her looking at you like she's expecting big news
  656. "That's..."
  657. >Her mane has been cut considerably into a sort of bobcut
  658. >Except it looks more like a sort of hair helmet
  659. >Her ears popping out from the top of the mane looks cute though
  660. "..."
  661. >"..."
  662. >Adjusting her so your arm is around her back while her hooves press against your torso, you part her hair a little to the side
  663. >Shine did a pretty good job
  664. "..."
  665. >"..."
  666. >You're so close to saying something, but you aren't able to get the words out
  667. >She looks like she's expecting something
  668. >Good or bad, who knows
  669. "...looks good on you."
  670. >You can see her eyes dilate
  671. >"You like this?!"
  672. >She sounds in disbelief
  673. "Yeah."
  674. >"Oh."
  675. >You hold her
  676. >You can feel how relaxed she is, only keeping strength in her legs so she doesn't slide off of you
  677. "...when'd you get this done?"
  678. >"I... finally got it done yesterday."
  679. "...how's the downstairs look?"
  680. >You admit, you were thinking it, but you didn't think you'd actually say it
  681. >The look on her face more or less confirms that she wasn't expecting it
  682. >"You mean my-"
  683. "Your tail, yes."
  684. >"Well it's not as long as it was..."
  685. "..."
  686. >"..."
  687. "Lemme see it."
  688. >"W-wha, no!"
  689. >She laughs and squirms out of your grip, landing on concrete ground
  690. >Because you have the self control of a spoiled child, your eyes immediately travel to her flank
  691. >Her tail's length has been cut in half it looks like it's been braided
  692. >Decent change from how long and unkempt it was before
  693. >You enjoyed brushing it when you had a bad case of the idle hands but it looks nice too
  694. >She catches you gawking and smirks
  695. >"Really couldn't help yourself, could you."
  696. "Is that a real question?"
  697. >Without really considering the consequences, you lean back and sit down on the concrete, sighing
  698. >Jacky winces
  699. >"Should you really be sitting there?"
  700. "No. Because now my butt's cold and I think a little wet."
  701. >She stands in front of you, looking you over
  702. >Appraising you, it feels like
  703. >"How're you feeling?"
  704. "Well... I got work for tomorrow and probably the weekend."
  705. >"Seriously?"
  706. "As serious as a bad joke, Jack."
  707. >"That's not good..."
  708. "Not really."
  709. >You've come a long way to getting used to pony facial expressions
  710. >She looks like she wants to ask a big question
  711. "I see you guys went to the store."
  712. >"Oh, that... yeah."
  713. >She looks embarrassed
  714. "I'm glad you guys got everything without much issue."
  715. >"Well a lot of people stared. And without Sparks we couldn't have actually... gotten most things."
  716. "Sure, that does suck. But I'm glad that if something ever happened to me, you guys would be able to get along."
  717. >"Y... yeah..."
  718. >You just look at each other
  719. >"Have things... gotten better?"
  720. >That's really the only question that matters, isn't it?
  721. "I... I don't think so, Jack. I think it's a slow slide down an icy hill. Stopping isn't really in the cards."
  722. >"Oh..."
  723. >The cold floor doesn't feel good but it isn't the worst source of numbness
  724. >"Is it really something that can't be stopped?"
  725. "Yeah."
  726. >You had the urge to say more about it, but you feel drained from just thinking about it
  727. "So what were you running from?"
  728. >The question catches her off guard
  729. >"Huh?"
  730. "Why the running around?"
  731. >"Oh."
  732. >She gives a half-hearted shrug
  733. >"I can't have big, meaningful talks like you. And I can't play games as much as Sparks can. And Dashie is kinda spending more time with Sparky so it's not like I can butt in and..."
  734. >She shrugs again
  735. >It's a defeated sort of shrug
  736. >"I don't know how to deal with these things... I kinda miss how it was back then. I kinda miss when it was just you and me. I miss seeing you be so happy and... well, without worry."
  737. >You extend your arms
  738. >She trots into your lap and leans against you
  739. >"I'm powerless to stop it. And I'm powerless to change anything."
  740. "You're not powerless to make me feel better. Things suck. They really suck. And I think by the time this is all done, it'll change me into a different person entirely. But you'll still be around. And I'll still be around."
  741. >You want to hug her tighter but you feel what little strength you gained by sleeping for so long drain
  742. "I just hope that I'll be able to bounce back. I hope things improve."
  743. >"They have to... as bad as things were for me, they eventually got better. Even when I believed they never would."
  744. "Yeah..."
  745. >Your eyes close
  746. >As cold as the garage is, Jacky's warm
  747. >That warmth is enough
  748. >"You know, they've been cooking that dinner up there..."
  749. "I know."
  750. >"Think having a real Thanksgiving dinner would be good? You wouldn't be around your relatives... but you'll be near us."
  751. "Yeah..."
  752. >"Will it make you feel better?"
  753. "I hope so."
  754. >You feel more at home with ponies than you do with other people, at this point
  755. >You thought it was so weird, a year ago
  756. >Even thinking back to... when you were a lot younger, you thought having Missy Pie nearby was weird
  757. >You almost feel the same warmth from then, now
  758. "You know the gimmick about Thanksgiving?"
  759. >"What?"
  760. "It's all about giving thanks for stuff. Kind of a highly sentimental sort of holiday."
  761. >"Where does the turkey fit in?"
  762. "I have absolutely no clue. Some people stick with ham."
  763. >"...but... ham isn't anything like turkey."
  764. "I know."
  765. >"I'm thankful for you, Anon."
  766. "And I'm thankful for you, Jack."
  767. >"And I'm thankful for Sparky."
  768. "And the job she did with your mane."
  769. >"And I'm thankful for Dashie."
  770. "I do need to apologize to her."
  771. >"Wanna head up yet?"
  772. "No... not yet. You're warm. I just want to feel warm for a while longer."
  773. >It is close to winter, if it isn't already classified as winter
  774. >It's getting harder and harder to stay warm
  775. >The numb cold that you've been feeling lately has all been on the inside
  776. >Soup, tea, blankets and showers don't do a thing to stop that chill
  777. >But this hug
  778. >This warmth from Jacky
  779. >It helps
  780. >It allows you to feel again
  781.  
  782. "Alright... how about now."
  783. >"No."
  784. >Both Jack and Shine answer at the same time
  785. "Seriously?"
  786. >"Yes."
  787. "...alright. Shut it down again."
  788. >You've spent an hour trying to get an upgrade to work right
  789. >After long enough, you resign to the fact that the new hard drive is just crap
  790. "Ah... damn it. Well, time to start the RMA process."
  791. >"The what?"
  792. >Since you gave your approval of Jacky's mane cut, she's been less skittish about it
  793. >But it still is a little surprising to look at her every now and again
  794. >It's sorta like something an actress or supermodel would have
  795. >You think so, anyway
  796. >You've never seen anyone all that normal sport the specific style
  797. "Well, RMA stands for... return... something something."
  798. >You give her a stern look with a small nod
  799. >She nods in turn, narrowing her eyes into a squint
  800. >"Does this happen a lot?"
  801. >Shine paid more attention to the process, though it really wasn't more complex than connecting and reconnecting two cords to a little metal lump
  802. "Not really. Last time I had this issue, it was because I was trying to change my operating system to a solid state drive but I still had my hard disk drive and the original instance of my operating system on it. And I just didn't unplug the old one. So I made my own error."
  803. >Jacky looks like she understands all, and comprehends the greater perils of computer hardware maintenance
  804. >Shine looks at you like you're an idiot
  805. >"What."
  806. "Exactly."
  807. >"Obviously."
  808. >You and Jack nod with a content smile
  809. "See, she gets it."
  810. >"I..."
  811. >The unicorn looks like she's going to say something
  812. >She shakes her head, rolling her eyes upward
  813. >"Nevermind. So what happens, now that you started the process?"
  814. "Ship it back out, they look at it, and then they give me a refund. And I suppose I'll buy a different type of hard drive."
  815. >You pry the faulty drive out, grumbling at how much it cost
  816. >"So... do you do these sort of things with laptops too?"
  817. "Not really. The newer one, I put in a solid state drive... and conveniently enough, the hard drive it originally came with died pretty quickly. So good timing for that."
  818. >"A... solid state?"
  819. >She sighs and shakes her head, hard enough to ruffle her hair
  820. >"You know what? I don't want to know."
  821. "Exactly. But no, most laptops don't have room for that sort of customization."
  822. >"Kinda like a revolver versus a cannon?"
  823. >You didn't expect that from Jack
  824. "Kinda... yeah, actually."
  825. >You give her an incredulous look but it makes sense
  826. "You can swap out the cylinder, barrel, trigger, hammer, whatever. But the cannon's... a cannon."
  827. >"So the laptop is as cannon, even though a cannon is stronger than a revolver and you're calling the desktop a revolver."
  828. >You contemplate the irony for a moment
  829. "Yes. The desktop is a forty pound revolver and the laptop is... what, a four pound cannon."
  830. >Jacky smirks at Shine with a leer
  831. >"Guess you need to study up on your stuff... you ain't the smartest one now."
  832. >Those words cause a very specific sort of reaction to Shine
  833. >She looks...
  834. >Aghast
  835. >Like it was the forbidden insult
  836. >Without saying anything, she gets up and walks off the bed
  837. >Every other step is a bit of a wobble on account of the mattress squishing under her
  838. >She almost trips on the last step down onto the floor
  839. >Jack scoffs at the sight
  840. >Shine holds in some sort of obvious intent to murder because she tried to speak but her first word was some sort of angrish pony noise
  841. >Only when she walks away does your attention focus elsewhere
  842. "Nice analogy there."
  843. >"Thanks."
  844. "What made you think of cannons and revolvers?"
  845. >Her answer is a telltale whistle
  846. "...oh yeah. There was a cannon at the end, wasn't there."
  847. >"There were a lot of cannons."
  848. "Yeah... damn, those things must be loud."
  849. >You finish putting everything back to way it should be, grumbling at the state of dust
  850. >Thankfully any pony-length hairs have been caught by the cases
  851. >The desktop case, the laptops, even the consoles
  852. >You're surprised the normal fans you have don't have little weird bundles of pone hair on them
  853. "Wonder when the other mane cuts will happen..."
  854. >"Huh?"
  855. >You take the little bundle of hair and push it into a nearby empty mail envelope
  856. >You're so happy most of your mail is digital these days
  857. "I noticed that you gals are leaving evidence behind. Lotta long hairs."
  858. >"Seriously? How?"
  859. "I'm guessing it's just stuff that happens."
  860. >"Oh... sorry."
  861. "Nah, it's nothing to apologize about. It's why I keep my hair short-ish too."
  862. >You scoot backward, still in your sitting position, until you awkwardly fidget your way back onto the mattress
  863. "I get my hair cut maybe twice a year. But I suppose I'm getting close to due, myself..."
  864. >It doesn't grow the fastest, but it's still something
  865. >"What do you think Sparky should get her mane cut like?"
  866. "Me? I'm the wrong guy to ask."
  867. >"Sure, but you like what I got."
  868. "Sure, but you and her decided on that."
  869. >"Sure, but she said you'd probably like it."
  870. "Sure, but... wait, why?"
  871. >Jack gives you a shrug
  872. >"Iunno."
  873. "Well, she wasn't wrong."
  874. >You aren't sure what to do now
  875. >You planned on working on your computer but now it'll be put off for who knows how long
  876. >You feel a pair of hooves press against your back
  877. >"Massage?"
  878. "Sure."
  879. >Your inner shitposter wants to ask if she's using her front or hind hooves
  880. >But you're better off not asking
  881. >You're also worried that she may buck your spine into powder
  882. >After a few minutes, you sigh
  883. "Things are really rough."
  884. >"But we're helping out, aren't we?"
  885. "Yeah, of course. But it's hard to want to be helped."
  886. >"Is it pride?"
  887. "Not really. More I'm just used to dealing with my issues on my own. Or more or less having to deal with things on my own."
  888. >"Should we keep asking about things?"
  889. "Well... yeah. I like being shown that you care. And I should be better by not being so... blah."
  890. >"Blah?"
  891. "Blah."
  892. >"...blah..."
  893. "...Thanks Jack."
  894. >"Blah!"
  895.  
  896. >It's close to Saturday
  897. >The Day
  898. >You've been in your room, goofing around on your laptop
  899. >You asked to be alone for a bit so you've been shitposting and looking at things to torrent and probably never actually play
  900. >So much has changed in the last year
  901. >Where as you used to want to be selfish on your birthdays, this year you just want some semblance of...
  902. >Of what?
  903. >Objectively speaking, you've improved
  904. >Mostly
  905. >You miss your old friends
  906. >You still think about them
  907. >Maybe you've thought about them more, the longer it's been
  908. >Soon you'll be the last male of your family, too
  909. >It's impossible to describe what that's doing to you
  910. >It's made you visibly distant from the others
  911. >You already feel bad for being rude to Dashie
  912. >You wouldn't be able to abide by doing the same to either of the other two
  913. >This time last year... it was just you and Jack, wasn't it?
  914. >And this time last year, you recall her giving you some really goofy talk about wanting to know about such a day
  915. >You really didn't expect that
  916. >You didn't expect any of this year, from start to finish
  917. >You lean back, having made a quilt cocoon around yourself
  918. "I'll really be the last one..."
  919. >Every time your mind wanders, it goes back to how you'll be the last male of your line
  920. >What do you do with this knowledge?
  921. >What's the lifespan of the girls?
  922. >What's the rest of your lifespan?
  923. >Does it matter?
  924. >Do you just call it good when their time is up?
  925. >What else is left?
  926. >You feel downright frigid when you try to contemplate such extreme morbidities
  927. >Where will you be this time next year?
  928. >Will there be a next year?
  929. >You close your eyes, sighing
  930. >You've had The Outlaw Josey Wales playing as background noise
  931. >Maybe the end is closer than you realize
  932. >Could you be content, if that were the case?
  933. >After you had so much struggling to reach what low level of relative success that you have?
  934. >Part of what kept you going was your friends
  935. >You were like a big brother to them
  936. >You fancied yourself the sort, anyway
  937. >Maybe...
  938. >You feel someone climbing onto your lap
  939. >Probably Jack
  940. >"Hey, bro."
  941. >That's not Jack
  942. "Hey Shine."
  943. >She sounds unusually upbeat
  944. >"...you know. I know you and Jacky and a thing... and Prism is kinda like Jacky's older sister."
  945. >She plops down on your lap sideways
  946. >There's more than enough layers of quilt on you that you probably make a decent bed
  947. >"But... I don't know. I wish I had a mom. Obviously I wasn't close to them like they are with each other..."
  948. >You remain silent
  949. >It sounds like she's trying to push a mood of some sort
  950. >"...you're kinda the closest I've had to a big brother. I think."
  951. >You're not sure what to think of that
  952. >You don't think you can even really respond
  953. >"I mean... yeah... I... well. You know how I was."
  954. >Too true
  955. >"But I've seen what you've done. I guess I've seen more of your history and your past than Jacky ever has."
  956. >She inhales
  957. >"And I guess I was jealous."
  958. "Of her?"
  959. >Your response catches her off guard, since you can feel her flinch
  960. >"Didn't expect you to respond... and yeah. But also of your friends."
  961. "My friends, huh..."
  962. >"Remember our first game of Soul Caliber?"
  963. >That makes you smirk
  964. "That I do."
  965. >"You know the... thing I did? With looking into your mind?"
  966. "So you could cheat?"
  967. >"So I could play on equal footing as you, yes..."
  968. >That casual tone of annoyance makes you chuckle
  969. >One of your friends used to have that exact same tone
  970. >"I saw how you spent your birthdays with them. I felt what you felt."
  971. >To be honest you don't remember a ton about her little mind reading gimmicks
  972. >"...I know it's early for birthday presents. But I..."
  973. >She sounds audibly awkward
  974. >"Uh..."
  975. >She fidgets, her attention honing in on the movie
  976. >Half of your screen consisted of loading bars so there wasn't all too much to look at
  977. >"...mind if I see you as... my brother?"
  978. >Wat
  979. "Wat."
  980. >You tilt your head to the side and try to gauge Shine's face
  981. >She actively refuses to look at you
  982. "Where did this come from?"
  983. >"I know you're missing your friends... your bros."
  984. >You aren't really going to ask her why she thinks that
  985. >But she isn't wrong
  986. >"So... I want to be your friend. Like how you were with them."
  987. >Oh
  988. >A hard weight sinks on your chest
  989. >It has nothing to do with the pony laying on your cocooned torso
  990. "I don't know what you're going on about, Shine."
  991. >You sigh, shifting so the pillow against your back moved a few inches to the left
  992. >You hear her struggle to make a comeback but you cut her off
  993. "You're already a bro to me. With how much stuff we watch and play together... you remind me of my friends when we were kids."
  994. >You swallow hard
  995. >It's rough to think of the days back then
  996. "Way way, way back when... we used to watch a ton movies together. Really nothing much else, for a while. Just movies, anime, cartoons, games..."
  997. >You chuckle
  998. "We wasted our childhood playing games. Usually solo stuff, but we'd always compare notes, strategies, have dick waving contests about who's teams were better."
  999. >You see her
  1000. >And you see the movie
  1001. >But you're looking past them
  1002. >You can still remember a lot of it
  1003. >You remember a lot of it like it was yesterday
  1004. >Sometimes you remember those days better than you remember the previous weekend
  1005. >Maybe this is what it feels like to be getting old
  1006. >"-on?"
  1007. "Huh?"
  1008. >"I said, what's on your mind?"
  1009. >Shine's still watching the movie
  1010. >Which is preferable to her trying to give you some doe eye treatment
  1011. "Well... you know how it goes. Some memories you really can't stand. Other memories..."
  1012. >You really would give anything to be able to have another elongated phone call that really was just mutual ranting at each other about goofy RPGs or whether or not Kreia was really all that wrong
  1013. >"I guess so... do you think you'd be able to share those sorts of memories and stuff with us?"
  1014. >You think
  1015. >If Shine was a bit more selfish, she would've said 'me'
  1016. "Yeah... yeah, of course. I would love it if we all could be like that. I guess we just need to find out a better way for them to use controllers."
  1017. >That would be cool
  1018. >Even though you were really the only one who had such a diverse taste in games
  1019. >Everyone had their niche, but you liked playing a bit of everything
  1020. >Besides, you couldn't imagine spending thousands of hours in a single game when there was so much to try out and go through
  1021. >"Well, from what I saw... it was a lot of talking about games without everyone having had to play them. Right?"
  1022. "I guess you're not wrong there..."
  1023. >"...hey Anon."
  1024. "What's up?"
  1025. >"Do you think your old friends would have stuck around if they knew about us?"
  1026. >It's hard to even think of that
  1027. "I don't know. I like to think so. They got me into the show to begin with, all those years ago."
  1028. >You can feel her fidget
  1029. >"...did any have Twilight as their favorite?"
  1030. >You chuckle
  1031. "You know? I really don't recall."
  1032. >You chuckle again
  1033. >It doesn't feel good
  1034. "There's a lot of things I can't recall about them. I remember so many things we used to do, the things we've said and near-misses we had with danger."
  1035. >Your throat feels like it's trying to close up
  1036. "But I don't recall the last time we ever just... genuinely talked and enjoyed being around one another."
  1037. >You bury your head into the excess bundle of quilt near the side of your face
  1038. >You can feel something warm slide down your face
  1039. >You don't want to make a big deal about it
  1040. >What's done is done
  1041. >But
  1042. >You miss them
  1043. >And you know that you miss them more than they miss you
  1044.  
  1045. >You didn't really want to wake up
  1046. >You tried to, you set your alarm for a normal time
  1047. >But you just kept dozing back off
  1048. >Both then and now, you haven't seen anyone
  1049. >You grumble and sit up
  1050. >No Jack
  1051. >No Shine
  1052. >No D
  1053. >No one
  1054. >While you're completely aware of the fact that they're most likely in the living room
  1055. >You can't help but feel...
  1056. >Deflated
  1057. "Gah... slept like the dead."
  1058. >You speak out loud
  1059. >You wait
  1060. >For just a moment
  1061. >For some sort of response
  1062. >You watch the hallway out of the corner of your eye
  1063. >Nothing
  1064. >Damn...
  1065. >You're thirsty but you don't want to get up
  1066. >Some unexplainable worry sticks to your head
  1067. >You know it would never be the case but you worry that if you got up and went to the living room, that they'd be gone
  1068. >Or that they were never there
  1069. >It's one of the goofiest worries you could have
  1070. >But it's almost a possibility
  1071. >So, instead of getting up and getting a drink, you just get onto your laptop
  1072. >Some morning birthday shitposting will suffice for now
  1073. >It'll also give you a good chance to get out of your early morning funk
  1074. >Maybe the girls were just up late last night or something
  1075. >After a few hours of shitposting, you decided that... nothing much was going to happen
  1076. >So you went to the bottle you kept in your room
  1077. >A third-full bottle of vodka that you and Jack shared a month or two back
  1078. >After downing most of that last third, you devolved from shitposting, to listening to music
  1079. >Specifically the same few cycles on repeat
  1080. >It's been repeating to the point that your loosened up self control has led to you singing the lyrics
  1081. "YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, THE PRICE OF EVIL. AND IT HURTS TO KNOW, THAT YOU BELONG HERE.... YEAH!"
  1082. >You rock back and forth, belting out with the best of them
  1083. >You've been so into it that you haven't noticed a sleepy Jacky sitting in the doorway to your room
  1084. "PEACE OF MIND IS LESS THAN NE-"
  1085. >You stop in mid-screech, head bobbing just enough to the music to make her visage a little less than focused
  1086. "Hey Jack... I was worried you were gone."
  1087. >You hold up what little was left in the bottle
  1088. "Wanna join me?"
  1089. >She yawns and look at you
  1090. >She looks exhausted
  1091. >But, drawn to the bottle, she hops onto the mattress toward you
  1092. ...
  1093. ...
  1094. ...
  1095. >The funky Billy Joel tune starts to kick up again
  1096. >Only for some other guy's vocals to kick on
  1097. >"DRAGGED YA DOWN BELOW"
  1098. "DOWN TO THE DEVIL'S SHOW"
  1099. >"TO BE HIS GUEST FOREVER"
  1100. "PEACE OF MIND IS LESS THAN NEVER!"
  1101. >With Jacky in your lap, she ways left whenever you go right and right whenever you lean left
  1102. >Given the song's been on repeat for who knows how long now, it's something both of you are picking up on with ease
  1103. >"HATE TO TWIST YOUR MIND"
  1104. "BUT GOD AIN'T ON YOUR SIDE
  1105. >"AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE SEVERED"
  1106. "BURN THE WORLD YOUR LAST ENDEAVOR!"
  1107. >You grab Jacky's shoulders and violently shake her back and forth with that last line
  1108. >She really can't do any sort of threatening tone compared to you, but the alcohol-filled fervor is there
  1109. "FIGHT! NOT TO FAIL, NOT TO FALL, OR YOU'LL END UP LIKE THE OTHERS!"
  1110. >"DIE! DIE AGAIN! DRENCHED IN SIN! WITH NO RESPECT FOR ANOTHEEER!"
  1111. >The more the song replays and replays, the more in sync the both of you sing
  1112. >When you aren't shaking Jack, she's whipping her head back and forth, barking out the words
  1113. >Every new pass, the music becomes that much more groovy
  1114. >The lyrics become that much more angry and venomous
  1115. >After one final round of singing the song, all goes quiet
  1116. >You've been manually resetting the song's place but now, after the... who knows how many runs, it has ended
  1117. >Jack leans to the side and looks up at you
  1118. >While the singing and screaming has woken her up, she still looks visibly exhausted
  1119. >And a little loosened up from the bit of vodka that she had
  1120. >Neither of you have drunken so much that there's been a resistance built up
  1121. >"Well Happy Birthday to you, Anon."
  1122. >You nod, giving her a complete bear hug
  1123. >She's real
  1124. >And she's right here with you
  1125. >You worried over nothing
  1126. >Not that you were worried
  1127. "And a happy birthday it's been..."
  1128. >One hand shakes away from her and toward the mouse
  1129. >There's another song you want to go to
  1130. >"Sorry for the late awakening... we've been working on something for you and-"
  1131. "OH MY GOD! PLEASE HELP ME, KNEE DEEP IN THE RIVER TRYING TO GET CLEAN"
  1132. >"HE SAYS WASH YOUR HANDS, GET OUT THE STAINS"
  1133. >It's a song you've introduced her to before and she snaps back to attention
  1134. >In unison, you both continue without missing a beat
  1135. >"AND I'M ALL ALONE AND THE FIRE GROWS!"
  1136. >By the time you reach that line, you thought you heard a third voice
  1137. "AND I'M ALL ALONE AND THE FIRE GROWS!"
  1138. >You point to the newcomer, Shine
  1139. >She looks...
  1140. >Messy
  1141. >She has some sort of yarn or cord wrapped a few dozen times around her horn
  1142. >Looks almost like paracord
  1143. >During the last half minute of the song, she lets out the angriest yawn and awkwardly climbs onto the bed
  1144. >Both of them look like they've been up for who knows how long
  1145. >She goes behind you, sitting down on your right
  1146. >With a light sniff and another yawn, she gives a tired glare at Jacky
  1147. >"Could've woken us up."
  1148. >Jacky shrugs, content with keeping in your lap
  1149. "Alright... ready to hit it for real this time?"
  1150. >"Aye-aye!"
  1151. >"Sure."
  1152. >You restart the song and take the lead on singing
  1153. >Both of them follow up, shouting or barking whenever is required
  1154. "AND I SAW MYSELF STARIN' BACK AGAIN!"
  1155. >"AND I SAW MYSELF STARIN' BACK AGAIN!"
  1156. >The longer the song goes, the more angry Shine gets
  1157. >The louder you go, the more Jacky rocks and bangs her head
  1158. >The more the speakers are turned up, the more Shine's horn glows
  1159. "SWING SWEET SERAPHIM, TAKE ME BACK AGAIN, OR WATCH ME MAKE THE MESSES OF MEN!"
  1160. >The two ponies chant out alternating "la"s, combining relentless, infectious energy with smoldering, burning hot fury
  1161. >After yet another turn of the tune, you finally feel like a lot of your frustration has been vented out
  1162. >Jack and Shine yawn at the same time, still in sync
  1163. >You lean back, giving a heavy yawn
  1164. >You aren't tired but the booze and the singing did wear you down a little
  1165. "Where the hell were you two?"
  1166. >"Come into the living room and find out. I almost thought you left in the morning or something because you were too quiet."
  1167. >"But his boots were still here."
  1168. "And I'm not going to work or anything on my birthday."
  1169. >"Oh shut up, both of you."
  1170. >"Or else what?"
  1171. "Or else... you'll tie Jacky up with the cord on your horn?"
  1172. >"Wait, what?"
  1173. >"...deal."
  1174. "Sweet."
  1175. >"Wait, why me?!"
  1176. >"You asked."
  1177. "It's true."
  1178. >Shaking her head at the casual absurdity of the conversation, Shine stretches hard and stands up
  1179. >"Whatever. Follow me, both of you. We all worked on something for you."
  1180. "Must be true if even she said that, huh?"
  1181. >"Yeah! Come on, we worked hard on it!"
  1182. >Guess they really were doing stuff for you
  1183. >Made sense that they weren't around last night
  1184. >After a hard rub of your nose, you work yourself to your feet
  1185. >You do manage to drag yourself to the living room before you just plop back down on a pillow
  1186. >There's at least a dozen pillows out here now
  1187. >And half a dozen big blankets that used to be in your closet
  1188. >As messy as it looks, it looks like a really comfy nest of sorts
  1189. >D is still sleeping
  1190. >Or dead
  1191. >Her head is covered but you can see her wings that are splayed out
  1192. >"Dashie, we're finally back and all up!"
  1193. >You hear a light, wispy series of...
  1194. >Words?
  1195. >Coming from her
  1196. "She seems wiped as much as anyone else. What were you guys doing all night? What's with the cord?"
  1197. >Your answer is met with a floating quartet of... what looks like bracelets float up in front of your face
  1198. >One green
  1199. >One red
  1200. >One yellow
  1201. >One blue
  1202. >"I hate this cord you have, by the way."
  1203. >They look like a variety of handmade paracord bracelets
  1204. >What's particularly interesting is that each one has a different pattern to them
  1205. >The pattern isn't just how the paracord itself is woven, but each one has a different array of...
  1206. "Feathers?"
  1207. >"Dashie's feathers!"
  1208. >"Evidently she's been collecting them when she does her weird bird cleaning thing."
  1209. >You hear another muffled reply from the pegasus
  1210. "That's... huh. Wait, why are these all different sizes?"
  1211. >"Because the green one is yours. Red one is mine. Yellow is Jacky's, and blue is Prism's."
  1212. >You pick the green bracelet from the magical fog and slip it onto your left wrist without thinking of it
  1213. >The bracelet itself is at least a good two inches wide
  1214. >There are a half dozen feathers woven all along one side of it, like it's meant to be on the outside of your wrist
  1215. "These are neat..."
  1216. >The yellow one floats up and sits itself on Jacky's head
  1217. >After a rough shake of the head, it seems to fit into place better
  1218. >It looks like a headband with the same number of feathers poking up and back on her left side
  1219. >"Like the Indians wore! Pretty cool, right?"
  1220. >The red one stretches a bit
  1221. >Shine tries to keep a neutral expression but even she smiles when it slips down her neck
  1222. >Three feathers poke out to the back on each side
  1223. >The blue one seems to be the smallest
  1224. >Shine's magic lets it gently drop onto the pillow covering her head
  1225. >"So... we were thinking of what to get you."
  1226. >"Without grabbing your card and sneaking out."
  1227. >"Or stealing."
  1228. >Dashie pushes the very edge of her face out from under the pillow and joins in finally
  1229. >Though she sounds like it's taking all of her energy to just talk
  1230. >You fiddle with the bracelet and shift it back and forth
  1231. >You've never even worn a wrist watch, so this will be a big adjustment
  1232. >Something about the feathers seem kinda funny
  1233. >They're stark white, like the rest of D's wings
  1234. >But if you jostle your bracelet fast enough, you could almost swear that you see other colors
  1235. "This is... trippy..."
  1236. >"So we decided on... what's normal."
  1237. >"Turns out 'normal' means 'spending all night trying to figure out how to make these patterns."
  1238. >"Please don't let us do this again..."
  1239. >It's kinda neat how well the three can talk, with one picking up right where the last one left off
  1240. >It reminds you of how you used to aggravate one friend while the other two actively joined in and rebounded off of everything being said
  1241. >"They're friendship bracelets!"
  1242. >"Jacky had the idea, Prism had the spare feathers to add to it and I..."
  1243. >Dashie picks up
  1244. >You can see the smallest smirk
  1245. >"Sparking had the inability to stop when she knew it would be for you."
  1246. >A red-enveloped pillow slaps down on her
  1247. "Wow... so what's the things about the feathers?"
  1248. >You slip the bracelet off and wave the bracelet back and forth
  1249. >If it's fast enough, you can see a variety of colors
  1250. >Really like it is some sort of white prism that descends into colors, except it isn't reliant on what angle you look at them act
  1251. >It's not even like they leave a trail of color behind, but more they actively change colors themselves when moving fast enough
  1252. >By the time you stop gawking at it while flailing your arm around like a jackass, you get an answer
  1253. >"My wings are... different, in that way. If I fly, they tend to shift like what you see there."
  1254. >"It's super rare! We once tried to sell her feathers but..."
  1255. >"The less said about that, the better. Right?"
  1256. >Sounds like they have some sort of mutual history going on with that
  1257. >The blue band ends up slid up D's left hind leg
  1258. >It reminds you of a garter
  1259. >The feathers on that one are so woven in that they don't stick out at all
  1260. >That probably makes sense since she still has two wings full of them
  1261. >"So what do you think, Anon?"
  1262. >Jacky looks pleased as pie, hoping for a good answer
  1263. >Shine looks content with her work
  1264. >Dashie looks...
  1265. >Well she looks like she's about to drop dead, since her mane is more than a mess and her wings are ruffled enough to look like she'd drop like a rock if she tried gliding
  1266. >But she looks happy too
  1267. "...hear me out... this is some mythical level shit: made with magic, has pegasus feathers in it..."
  1268. >You squint at the trio
  1269. "...will this give me magical powers?"
  1270. >Jacky looks completely surprised
  1271. >"COULD IT?!"
  1272. >Shine rolls her eyes
  1273. >"Get real."
  1274. >Dashie looks confused
  1275. >"What?"
  1276. "I'm serious. This is some Hercules-class stuff. Thanks. Thank you, everyone."
  1277. >"I do realize this kills the mood... but what time is it? It was dark when I went to sleep an-"
  1278. >"You mean passed out?"
  1279. >"...y-yes, thank you Jacky. It was dark when I... slept... why is it still dark out?"
  1280. "It's just the way of winter."
  1281. >You haven't really bothered to eat anything all day either
  1282. "Listen, how about this. I order us some pizza, we watch some movies... and then just call tonight a wash so we can just stay chill and relaxed?"
  1283. >The two supernatural ponies look more than fine with that
  1284. >Though Jacky seems distraught
  1285. >"But it's your birthday! Shouldn't we... celebrate? Or something?"
  1286. >You nod, stretching
  1287. "Eh, why worry about making it a big deal? We'll have food, we'll have movies... I'm around my best friends. What else could I want for a birthday?"
  1288. >Everyone seems happy with the answer
  1289. >Dashie seems so happy with it that she just falls back over and nuzzles her pillow
  1290. >"I agree. Let me know when the festivities start and I'll be... right there."
  1291. >The promise of pizza
  1292. >The movies
  1293. >The intense fatigue shared by everyone mirrored only by the eagerness to do things together
  1294. >You still miss your old friends
  1295. >But you're doing the exact same things now that you did with them
  1296. >This familiarity
  1297. >This unique sense of comfort
  1298. >This is really all you could want
  1299. >This is your real present
  1300. >And, of course, the possibly magical artifact that you were bestowed
  1301. >You never know, right?
  1302.  
  1303. >You've been paying a lot of attention to your bracelet since you got it
  1304. >Or maybe it's more keen to say it's an armlet
  1305. >Armlets are more manly
  1306. >And it's pretty thick to be a mere bracelet anyway
  1307. >Given everything you've been taught by video games and fantasy movies, you've tried everything to see if you've been bestowed any grand, wonderful powers or enchantments
  1308. >Sadly it's only paracord with pegasus feathers
  1309. >The feathers do shine in a really weird way though
  1310. >It's kinda like they go through colors whenever you wave your arm around fast enough
  1311. >You've been doing that for the last five minutes now, at the very least
  1312. >You're sure that there's something to it
  1313. >You just aren't sure what
  1314. >"Are you still wagging your arm around?"
  1315. >It's Shine
  1316. "Yeah? There could be some serious mojo to this, you know?"
  1317. >"What, do you think it's some... power bracelet or something?"
  1318. "Well unicorn magic with pegasus feathers."
  1319. >"And paracord."
  1320. "And the modern magic of paracord. Doesn't it sound like something that could have some fancy stuff attached to it?"
  1321. >"... not really."
  1322. >She climbs onto your mattress
  1323. >You've been stuck on a pause screen for a while, waving your arm like you just don't care
  1324. >Except you have cared
  1325. "Well... I think there's something fancy about it."
  1326. >"... you know it's not the biggest thing in the world."
  1327. "Sure, but who else has gone out of their way to make me something?"
  1328. >"I don't know?"
  1329. "Well neither do I. So there you go."
  1330. >She sits next to you, on your left
  1331. >"What you got playing this time?"
  1332. "Yakuza."
  1333. >"Who-za?"
  1334. "It's a series about criminals and gangsters. Some of them are really bad guys, to the core."
  1335. >"Sounds riveting."
  1336. >She doesn't sound that excited
  1337. "But some guys... a lot of the guys. They've had to deal with violence before. Some of them are really good at it. Sometimes it's the only way they can genuinely communicate what's important to them. Best of all? Even the hardest, stone cold-looking killer is really just a goofy guy. And he might not even be a killer."
  1338. >You wave your arm around a few more times and finally give it a rest
  1339. >You're able to see maybe three different colors in the feathers, at most
  1340. >"That sounds... kinda romantic."
  1341. "Yeah. Romanticized to hell and back, given criminals today."
  1342. >You unpause, giving her a view of a frizzy-haired looking guy and two others
  1343. "So here, you have your idiot who's good for nothing but has a good heart... and then another idiot that threw his life away for someone who didn't even really like him... and then a third idiot that couldn't do what his honor demanded... so he spend decades giving his money to someone to invest in them as an apology for his self-perceived incompetence."
  1344. >"...that's rather charitable of you."
  1345. "Hey, it's all true."
  1346. >You show off the characters
  1347. >"They're... old."
  1348. >That makes you laugh
  1349. "Tell me about it. The main character has had basically no life to live and he's in his 40s..."
  1350. >Shine frowns
  1351. >"You're telling me he's over forty?!"
  1352. "Yeah. That's kinda crazy, isn't it?"
  1353. >"...and how old are you again, Anon?"
  1354. >You go silent
  1355. >And clear your throat
  1356. >"...how old, Anon?"
  1357. >She glares at the side of your face
  1358. >You're doing everything you can to ignore it
  1359. "...sure as shit not even in my 30s yet..."
  1360. >You're not too sure of what you would do if you were in any of their situations
  1361. >You never thought that you were 'ambitious' but you've looked back on your past and you can tell that's what you've become
  1362. >You think
  1363. >If nothing else, you've become ambitious enough to have three ponies live with you
  1364. "Hey Shine."
  1365. >"Eh?"
  1366. "How old are you?"
  1367. >You turn your head to give her a full-faced look
  1368. >She... doesn't look insulted at least
  1369. >"...isn't it rude to ask a girl that?"
  1370. "Well you're a pony girl so it's ok."
  1371. >The squint she gives you could melt a glacier
  1372. >She inhales
  1373. >Holds
  1374. >Shrugs and exhales
  1375. >"Honestly? I do not know."
  1376. "How old is Jack?"
  1377. >"Don't know."
  1378. "Dashie?"
  1379. >"Older than both of us, but not by much."
  1380. "Oh.. that's brutal."
  1381. >You scratch the back of your head
  1382. "So... how many years do you think you spent on the streets?"
  1383. >Shine shrugs
  1384. >"Honestly? I don't know. Either I didn't ever care, or I stopped counting. It's hard to keep track of time when so much of it is worthless to you."
  1385. >You nod
  1386. >You know that feel all too well
  1387. "Yeah... well, it doesn't feel like it's been a year that Jack has been here, and it feels like yesterday that she popped up."
  1388. >"And?"
  1389. "Well that time wasn't worthless to me."
  1390. >"I didn't say it was."
  1391. >The conversation dies there
  1392. >She watches you play for a while
  1393. >You spend a lot of your time wandering around, helping out random people, and beating up thugs
  1394. >"That's a pretty lively city... and this guy's a criminal?"
  1395. "Well... not really. I mean, technically he was a thug, at one point."
  1396. >"But he isn't?"
  1397. "Not really. He's just a nerd."
  1398. >"Like you."
  1399. "Nah, he's a snappier dresser. But my hair's better."
  1400. >She looks up at you
  1401. >"...ok, true."
  1402. >She watches you goof around more
  1403. >"He's pretty cool, to help out so many people."
  1404. "Yeah he is."
  1405. >"Doesn't he have a job?"
  1406. "Not really, no."
  1407. >"Where's his home?"
  1408. "Doesn't have one. Guy's a hobo."
  1409. >"...a hobo with a bat, beating the stuffing out of thugs for pennies?"
  1410. "Yeah... gotta scrape by somehow, right?"
  1411. >Though she didn't say anything, you could tell that was starting to get her attention
  1412. >"How far are you in the story?"
  1413. "Not so far. If you want, I can start a new file, from the beginning."
  1414. >"You'd do that?"
  1415. "Sure. Want me to?"
  1416. >"Please."
  1417. >So you do
  1418. >You go through the first few hours of it with her
  1419. >She's silent for all of it
  1420. >No real quips
  1421. >Insults
  1422. >Some scoffs and laughs
  1423. >But nothing else
  1424. >By the time you enter into the main map, she looks worn down
  1425. >"Anon..."
  1426. "What's up?"
  1427. >"How can you face these stories with a straight face?"
  1428. "Well... life is pretty rough sometimes."
  1429. >"So why not focus on something like Final Fantasy?"
  1430. "Because the guys... the men in this game, and the others in the series. They're willing to fight and even die for their beliefs. Their codes of conduct, personal standards, and honor."
  1431. >"But what would you do if you gave away your life like that?"
  1432. "I'd be proud. Just as he is. Sometimes, all a guy can do is to find a cause to throw himself into. Body and soul. That way, every failure hits him the hardest, every success is the best, and if he dies? It's for a valuable cause. The most valuable cause."
  1433. >You don't know if she likes that answer
  1434. >It doesn't seem to sit well with her
  1435. >"If you had nothing but the cause, would you be happy with that? Could you be happy then?"
  1436. >You think that's not a rhetorical question
  1437. >It takes even you a moment to consider it
  1438. "You know. If I had feedback that I was doing the right thing, yeah. I think a lot of guys, when they were kids, had fantasies like I did. Of being a hero. Of standing up for justice, love, friendship."
  1439. >You gulp down some stray saliva
  1440. "Of... sacrificing yourself, for what could be considered a greater good."
  1441. >"Who dreams of sacrificing themselves for others?"
  1442. >You're starting to get that familiar feeling
  1443. >Like you're looking forward from the back of your head
  1444. >Or maybe that you're falling backward but still sitting up
  1445. "Kids that have nothing else to live for."
  1446. >By your tone, you aren't joking
  1447. >From the way her ears are down, and the...
  1448. >Shocked expression on her face
  1449. >Maybe that's not something she expected to hear from you
  1450. "But hey, the hero always sneaks out at the last second and lives on, right?"
  1451. >You give her an apathetic half-smirk
  1452. "That's usually a benefit of plans like that, anyway."
  1453. >She doesn't take the bait
  1454. "You know how it goes... gotta believe in something when you have nothing."
  1455. >She doesn't answer
  1456. >You've never really tried to analyze anyone's face while talking to them about this sort of thing
  1457. >Going off of Shine's one expression, you've felt enough heat well up in the back of your eyes to remind you why you don't
  1458. "But... look at him. He's focused. Given purpose. And from what you saw, he'll have some pretty goofy adventures going on soon."
  1459. >You attempted to make it sound better than what it was
  1460. >More upbeat and comedic
  1461. >But at the end of the day, the main character sacrificed a lot
  1462. >Though his story hadn't even started yet, he had already lost so much
  1463. >The look on Shine's face
  1464. >If you could read minds, you could guess that maybe she was wondering how someone could live after sacrificing so much for apparently nothing
  1465. >You didn't expect to, but maybe this is the right sort of game for her
  1466.  
  1467. >It's been a Friday alright
  1468. >So much a Friday that you've had some vodka
  1469. >Because it's getting close to Christmas, you stuck a candy cane in it
  1470. >Shine has been playing more of Yakuza, sitting to your right
  1471. >Jack has been sitting in your lap, sharing the festive booze
  1472. > Dashie has been sitting to your left, going between watching Jack and the screen
  1473. >She's been stuck on it all day, apparently
  1474. >You had a feeling she might
  1475. >"So what classes are we?"
  1476. >Dashie seems like she's been deep in thought, since she spent the last half hour trying to bring up that question
  1477. >Jacky nods, more than a little loose from the drink
  1478. >She only really drinks as often as you do, and that isn't much these days
  1479. >"Buckin' Beautiful Bronco, I bet."
  1480. >Shine scoffs
  1481. >"Fire Elemental, obviously."
  1482. >Dashie herself looks unconvinced
  1483. >"...what would I be, Thief?"
  1484. >You nod
  1485. >Not necessarily to agree with her, but to think about what you would be
  1486. "...Weirdo?"
  1487. >Your skillset certainly isn't the norm, nor are your interests
  1488. "I'd say that two out of three of these names are fine... but Shine, you aren't made of fire."
  1489. >"I can use fire magic."
  1490. "Well, sure, but..."
  1491. >"You're a nerd."
  1492. >Jacky states, in no uncertain terms, with a pair of squinted eyes and an accusatory hoof point at the unicorn's back
  1493. >This shouldn't be shocking to anyone
  1494. >But it is
  1495. >For a second
  1496. "...gal's got a point."
  1497. >"It's true."
  1498. >You and Dashie reply at the same second
  1499. >Shine turns her head and gives you a dirty look out of the corner of her eye
  1500. >You smile at her
  1501. >And slowly raise a thumbs up until it's right up against your face
  1502. >"Guh... whatever..."
  1503. "It's fine. We're all a bunch of dorks anyway. So we have a..."
  1504. >You look down at Jack
  1505. >She beams at you
  1506. >"A dork. A thief. A nerd. And a weirdo."
  1507. >You nod and pet Jack's chest
  1508. >She wraps her front legs over your arm, like a cat
  1509. >Thankfully minus the claws
  1510. "Honestly? That's not the worst thing. Look at Ichiban's party."
  1511. >Depending on how far back you want to go, technically all three of them could count for the Homeless Guy class
  1512. >Or Homeless Pony, rather
  1513. >Thankfully none of them smell like the hobo in the game
  1514. >But there's a skill-less thug
  1515. >A hobo
  1516. >A long-retired cop
  1517. >And a barmaid
  1518. "I think we could take them if we were all even-leveled."
  1519. >"You think so?"
  1520. >Dashie definitely doesn't seem the combative sort
  1521. "Sure. You got wings, and you can always run distraction. Or fly and drop things on their head."
  1522. >You lean forward and poke Shine's flank
  1523. "Our resident nerd knows honest magic, so that's actually a legitimate skill they can't beat."
  1524. >You try to break your hand free from Jack's grip
  1525. >You fail
  1526. "And our bronco girly here can aim for the heart."
  1527. >As if to prove it, she lets out a loud POW and kicks out one of her hind legs
  1528. >You're worried that she could've clipped you and still done massive damage
  1529. "And... well, I have guns. I have tools. Though to be honest, I'd really like to not get hit in the face too..."
  1530. >The pegasus shifts her wings
  1531. >"...so who should take on who?"
  1532. "Well you take on the chick. Shine, you take on Namba. Jack takes Adachi. And... I guess I get my face pummeled in by Ichiban."
  1533. >You aren't looking forward to the theoretical beatdown
  1534. >Mostly because you don't think you could start and follow up on a fight with a guy like that and not feel regret
  1535. >"You know, they'll probably gang up on one of us to start with..."
  1536. >Shine has a good point
  1537. "Alright, so change tactics. Who do we start on first?"
  1538. >"Nanba. He can heal the others."
  1539. "Do you know any healing magic?"
  1540. >"Iunno."
  1541. >She's surprisingly attentive despite playing a game
  1542. >Though she's basically grinding for levels and money
  1543. "Alright... who next?"
  1544. >Dashie chimes in again
  1545. >"Adachi-san is pretty tanky. And he deals a lot of damage. So him next, right?"
  1546. "Adachi-san?"
  1547. >"It's what he's called."
  1548. >Shine scoffs
  1549. >"Nerd..."
  1550. "Well... sure. I guess she has a point. So that leaves Ichiban and the chick. Who's next?"
  1551. >Jacky kicks out again
  1552. >"DEFINITELY GO AFT-"
  1553. >You reach your hand up and smear your palm over her face, causing her to descend into vague gibberish
  1554. >You chuckle
  1555. >Revenge after her stealing your arm
  1556. >You finally stop
  1557. >She gives you a hard squint but she blows you a kiss soon after
  1558. >"Definitely Ichiban next. He's the hero, right? And... wait, no!"
  1559. >She stares straight up at the ceiling, like it's some massive revelation
  1560. >"We three take on the chick... and then it's one-on-one smashdown between Anon and Ichiban."
  1561. >Dashie leans back, impressed
  1562. >Shine looks over her shoulder, raising an eyebrow
  1563. >You aren't so sure this is so great
  1564. "...so no pressure, huh."
  1565. >You roll your shoulders, sighing
  1566. "Well... I suppose if he has his bat, I'm having my rifle. If he's bare-fisted, I suppose I am too."
  1567. >Your wrists and back is hurting just thinking about it
  1568. "What are my odds?"
  1569. >"Well... he's older. Leaner. Stronger, since he's fought for decades. Probably willing to risk it all."
  1570. >Shine sounds like she's actually enjoying listing off how screwed you are
  1571. "Sure... but I have the power of friends."
  1572. >"So does he."
  1573. >Fuck
  1574. "...I have the power of love."
  1575. >"He does too."
  1576. "Wait, how?"
  1577. >"Iunno, but it's probably something to do about justice?"
  1578. >Fuck
  1579. "...well I have a gun."
  1580. >"Getting shot doesn't seem to bother him that much to be honest."
  1581. "That's just RPG mechanics."
  1582. >"Well if RPG mechanics are in play, wouldn't a punch to your jaw just deal HP damage and not be worse?"
  1583. "...point."
  1584. >Leave it to the party nerd to logic away any risks and benefits
  1585. "So you guys are really just gonna watch and stand back?"
  1586. >"Well yeah."
  1587. >"We have to."
  1588. >"Like you need our help!"
  1589. >They all reply at once
  1590. "Ah... God damn it. I guess there's no helping it."
  1591. >Jacky gives you a cruel grin
  1592. >"You could suplex him like you suplexed me..."
  1593. >Dashie gives you a questionable look
  1594. >"Excuse me, you did what to Jacky?"
  1595. "...you know, that's true. I've watched some wrestling. Ichiban has too."
  1596. >Jack gasps and grapples for your arm again
  1597. >"Awesome, it'll be a wrestling match! Shirts off, bare-knuckled, no holds barred, no tapping out!"
  1598. >"I have no idea what half of that means."
  1599. >"Anon, what did you do to Jacky exactly?"
  1600. >You do the best and decide to focus on the most obvious detail of all of that
  1601. "First off... it's gonna be embarrassing going toe to toe against him with my shirt off. He looks cool and he has the tattoo. I don't."
  1602. >"Hairy chest though. Obviously that's more manly than a tattoo!"
  1603. >"Anon, will you answer me?"
  1604. >Jack still seems on task
  1605. "Secondly... if it's coming down to him versus me, do we really need some massive gang brawl? I don't want you guys getting hurt. And he wouldn't want his friends to get hurt."
  1606. >"And you're as huge a nerd as him when it comes to having friends."
  1607. >Shine sounds like she's enjoying these cheap shots too much
  1608. "You shush your mouth up, nerd. But I guess that may be a point too..."
  1609. >"You and Ichiban are kinda similar."
  1610. >Dashie says what you were worried about hearing
  1611. "I freaking hope not! Guy's a complete block head."
  1612. >"Well you-"
  1613. "Nope, not hearing it."
  1614. >"But you both-"
  1615. "Nah."
  1616. >She growls and ruffles her wings
  1617. >"Accept the compliment, Anon."
  1618. "No way fag."
  1619. >Jack snorts at your lightning quick retort
  1620. >"That's rude."
  1621. "You started it."
  1622. >"See, he's rude too."
  1623. >You sputter out some failure of a response
  1624. "Whatever... when I suplex him, I want everyone to cheer."
  1625. >"How?"
  1626. >Jack seemed to calm down and let go, leading to you rubbing and patting her belly
  1627. "Like... freaking out like a set of fangirls. He won't have that if he slap chops my shit to Okinawa."
  1628. >"You really think we would freak out?"
  1629. >Dashie doesn't sound convinced
  1630. "It's not about getting all that hyped up, but it's ego. It boosts my confidence, shaves away his. It allows me to fight harder. And it means that I could do a follow up."
  1631. >"I think I get it..."
  1632. >Shine sounds like she's trying to understand
  1633. >This really changed track pretty fast
  1634. >But at least it's no longer a full-on street fight
  1635. >Jacky looks up at you, pointing up at your mug
  1636. >You bring it down
  1637. >She gulps down... what's frankly a very fair share of vodka
  1638. >"So... does this mean you can't have your gun?"
  1639. >You frown
  1640. >And gulp down some of the booze, yourself
  1641. "That fight better have a two drink minimum."
  1642. >"You guys don't get to drink. We do."
  1643. >Jack's unsettlingly serious in tone about that
  1644. "Jesus... did I ever mention that you're a sadist?"
  1645. >She beams at you
  1646. >"Think about it this way, the more you get hurt, the more I get to take care of you!"
  1647. >"...Anon, what did you do to Jacky? What's a suplex?"
  1648. "Again with the suplex... God damn it."
  1649. >You still have so much to show them, after even a year

Angel Cake's Quest

by BlondieAnon

/yandere/ Mr. Pear Bear

by BlondieAnon

/yandere/ Your Night Mare

by BlondieAnon

/bootleg/ Jacky Part Nine

by BlondieAnon

/Jacky/ Themes n' Songs

by BlondieAnon