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Soarin's Silver Lining pt.3

By blossomanon
Created: 14th November 2020 01:37:44 AM

  1. **** BOOK 3 ****
  2. **** CHAPTER 9 ****
  3.  
  4. >You are Soarin and you're not sure how exactly this came to be.
  5. >In the cafeteria, that part you understand, but being berated by a girl half your size?
  6. >For trying to do the right thing!?
  7. >Nah.
  8. >That's the part you can't quite wrap your head around.
  9. >"You can really be a dick sometimes," Pinkie repeats, pointing her fork at you. "Seriously, you need to apologize."
  10. "For *what*?"
  11. >"For being a dick," she sighs, rolling her eyes. "He's basically your piebrother, and -"
  12. "And I still have no idea what that means."
  13. >She reaches for her backpack, but you quickly shake your head.
  14. >You don't need to see that binder again. It still won't make any sense.
  15. "How did you even hear about that anyway?"
  16. >"I have my ways."
  17. >You can believe that.
  18. >It's hard not to, since she's pretty much magic.
  19. >That's the only way to explain half the shit she does. And knows. And survives.
  20. >"Caramel's not a bad guy, Soarin," Pinkie continues, running roughshod over your memories of a particular escalator, a certain classmate, and a tray of cookies that managed to do the impossible. "Really, he's pretty nice."
  21. "You think everyone is nice."
  22. >"Most people are!" she beams, with infinite innocence. "I think he really was trying to help Diamond Tiara."
  23. "So I'm the bad guy?
  24. >"Woah, woah, no! Not saying that!"
  25. >She waves her hands frantically, little bits of frosting from the cupcake freshly-impaled on her fork splatting everywhere.
  26. >"You overreacted, Soarin. You *do* that sometimes."
  27. "Maybe."
  28. >Yes, you do. But last night -
  29. >"Yes, you do," she says firmly, waving that cupcaked scepter your direction. "Like... remember that guy that hit Fleetfoot? What was his name again?"
  30. >Pinkie sticks out her tongue, trying to pull the name out of her memory, but you shake your head.
  31. "You don't need to bring that up."
  32. >"Welllll..." she murmurs, shrugging, "... I'm not saying he didn't deserve it, but -"
  33. "*Really* don't need to bring that up."
  34. >Not again. Not twice in two days.
  35. >Seeing Diamond like that was enough.
  36. >"Yeah, but Soarin, you know you kinda went a little -"
  37. "I know. I was there."
  38. >"Where you? 'Cause you seemed a liiiiiittle -"
  39. "Yeah, Pinkie. I was there."
  40. >"If you say so!"
  41. >Not sarcastic - is she *ever* really? - just enthusiastically accepting.
  42. >"Honestly..."
  43. >A little *too* enthusiastically accepting.
  44. >"I was kinda hoping I could set you two up -"
  45. "I'm not gay, Pinkie. You... uh... you *know* that."
  46. >"Yeah," she giggles, "but you could be bi!"
  47. "I'm not."
  48. >"Don't knock it until you've tried it! I mean, until -"
  49. "Spitfire?"
  50. >Pinkie nods. And you sigh.
  51. "I don't need to hear this."
  52. >"Okay!"
  53. >She nods, but waves her cupcake - minus a chunk that's currently in her mouth - at you again.
  54. >"But, do you know -"
  55. "Swallow first."
  56. >"I *always* swallow," she teases with a wink - and a mouth still full of cupcake mush. "But do you know how hard it is to find two people who like rhubarb? I've got like..."
  57. >Again with the outstretched tongue, a dollop of white frosting stuck on the tip.
  58. "Pink-"
  59. >"... liiiike, *four* people that aren't total crack ships for him, and three of those are guys!"
  60. "Pinkie. Stop."
  61. >She stares, that tongue still caught between her lips.
  62. "Those are crack ships."
  63. >"No they're not! You just need to learn to relax and love the D!"
  64. "Seriously?"
  65. >"Seriously," she answers immediately, nodding solemnly. "If you don't relax, it's *REALLY* gonna hurt."
  66. "Wait - are you..."
  67. >"Hmmmmm?"
  68. >She tilts her head fractionally to the right.
  69. "Why am I the bottom!?"
  70. >"Iono," she answers with a shrug. "It just worked out that way."
  71. "But -!"
  72. >"Don't question the book, Soarin. Never question the book."
  73.  
  74. >You are Diamond Tiara and your head hurts.
  75. >Surprise.
  76. >"Miss Tiara, are you paying attention!?"
  77. "No."
  78. >It's been hurting all day.
  79. >You don't even remember whose class you're in right now.
  80. >"Miss Tiara! If you don't want to -"
  81. >You had some pills that helped, but Silver took those away.
  82. >"Um, excuse me, but -"
  83. >"Miss Spoon, do *you* have something you want to say?"
  84. >"Di was in an... an accident yesterday. I... um... I think... she needs to take some medicine. Can we go to the nurse's office?"
  85. >That bitch.
  86. >"Very well," Mister Boring-as-fuck sighs. "Don't dawdle."
  87. >Fine.
  88. >Whatever.
  89. >You grab your bag anyway - and you see Silver does the same.
  90.  
  91. >You are Soarin and you are gratefully Pinkie has taken your quiet nodding to mean you're going to apologize to Caramel.
  92. >She's moved on to more pleasant conversation now.
  93. >"So, did you hear about what happened with Spitfire and -"
  94. "I told you I didn't need to know."
  95. >You could live quite comfortably never knowing your best friend was collecting your sloppy seconds like a creep.
  96. >" - and Button Mash," Pinkie finishes anyway, grinning like an idiot.
  97. "Oh."
  98. >"Uh-huh! Yeah!"
  99. "She beat the crap out of him, didn't she?"
  100. >"Weeeeeelllllll, mhm, but that's not the funny part!"
  101. >Her eyes are sparkling like - wait, are they literally sparkling?
  102. >"They got hauled in to Principal Celestia!"
  103. "And Spitfire got suspended again?"
  104. >You immediately regret your choice of words.
  105. >That makes it sound like something that happens regularly.
  106. >This is only the sec - uh, *third* time.
  107. >"Nope!"
  108. >But -
  109. "But..."
  110. >"I know what you're thinking. Zero tolerance policy, right?" Pinkie asks, nodding because she already knows that's exactly what you were going to say. Hell, she just said as much. "Yeah, well, Spitfire pointed out that this school is founded on love and tolerance, soooo..."
  111. "Seriously?"
  112. >"Seriously!"
  113. >She leans close, across the table. So close she has to actually stand up, the collar of her blouse hanging loose and - nope, you're not single. Not going to look.
  114. >You're a good boyfriend.
  115. >"Plus," Pinkie stage whispers comically loud, "it doesn't hurt half the soccer team was outside the office protesting that little shit and threatening to hold a tolerance rally."
  116. "That'll do it."
  117. >"Mhm! I guess Zero Tolerance only applies to heteros, so... about that bi thing..."
  118. "Nope, not going to do it."
  119. >Keep looking firmly to the left.
  120. >"You can't blame a girl for trying. So -"
  121. >Keep looking away.
  122. >She giggles.
  123. >Don't look.
  124. >They're jiggling, but DON'T LOOK.
  125. >" - who're you dating these days?"
  126. "What makes you think I'm dating anyone?"
  127. >"Because..."
  128. >Shit, you can *hear* the jiggle.
  129. >"... you aren't looking," Pinkie giggles. "You would if you weren't dating anyone."
  130. >Shit.
  131. >"Sorry, Soarin. Your 'good guy' habits gave you away."
  132. >Shit.
  133. "If you already knew, why'd you ask?"
  134. >"Because you're so much fun to tease! By the way, you can look again."
  135. >She sits down with a little flounce. Her skirt billows up for a second as it catches the air, but not *too* far.
  136. >"So, who is it?"
  137. >Her eyes *are* literally sparkling.
  138. >Must be the lights in here.
  139. "It's... um..."
  140. >You can't say.
  141. >Silver doesn't want anyone to know.
  142. "... uh..."
  143. >Never mind the half a dozen people that are already aware - that doesn't matter.
  144. >She doesn't want you to tell anyway.
  145. "... well..."
  146. >"Hmmmm? It's not Blossomforth, right? Because she told everyone that you weren't and that would be just *nasty* to lie like that and -"
  147. "It's not her. It's... um... she goes to another school."
  148. >"Hmmm."
  149. >She whips out that damn book and starts flipping through the pages.
  150. >"No, don't tell me... I can tell you don't want to. I can figure this out!"
  151. >Scary thing is that she just might.
  152. "I promised not to say. We don't want it public yet."
  153. >"Uh-huh, yeah, got it," she mumbles, nose buried in that damn book. "Probably a nerdy girl, right? You're due for a nerdy girl."
  154. >Shit.
  155. >Silver counts, doesn't she?
  156. >"Does she wears glasses?"
  157. "I can't say. Please. Stop."
  158. >"Yeah, yeah, you promised not to say. I heard you. If I had to guess, she's... um... kindaaaaaa awkward around people."
  159. "Pinkie..."
  160. >"Hmm, okay! This might work!"
  161. >Shit.
  162. "Pinkie. Stop."
  163. >She slams the book shut with a bang and smiles.
  164. >"Don't worry, Soarin, I won't tell anyone you're dating Moondancer! Pinkie promise!"
  165. "Huh...?"
  166. >Who's Moondancer...?
  167. >"Don't be so surprised," Pinkie giggles. "It's pretty obvious, now that I think about it. The only weird part is I thought she was dating someone... hmm..."
  168. >The bell rings before she can get any further.
  169. >Pinkie looks up at the noise and sighs. She shrugs violently as the last of the clamor fades away.
  170. >"Oh well, I guess this time Spitfire got to the girl first! See you around, Soarin!"
  171.  
  172. >You are Si-
  173.  
  174. >"Oh, and Soarin!" Pinkie adds as she shoves the remainder (most) of her lunch into her mouth and sprints for the door. "Don't forget to tell Caramel you're sorry!"
  175.  
  176. >You are Silver Spoon and that was weird.
  177. >Not being Silver Spoon. That's to be expected.
  178. >No, definitely not that.
  179. >"Silver?"
  180. "Hmm? Oh, sorry, Di. I just totally blanked."
  181. >"Shouldn't be surprised," your friend grumble. "Actually, I should be surprised you ever remember anything at all."
  182. "Sorry..."
  183. >It's not her talking. It's the pain.
  184. >Wise move, bringing your bag.
  185. >The two of you have been waiting most of the period to see the nurse.
  186. >She's been oddly busy the entire time, leaving you and Di waiting.
  187. >After a few minutes Di had taken a seat - and you had followed.
  188. >Half a second after she was bent over, her head clutched in her hands.
  189. >She's been curled up like that ever since.
  190. >"I can't believe you actually gave my pills to her."
  191. >You look at her out of the corner of your eye; she's too busy being miserable to notice your expression.
  192. "I can't believe you had those in the first place."
  193. >The doctor hadn't written any prescriptions.
  194. >He hadn't offered and you hadn't asked.
  195. >Neither of you wanted a paper trail.
  196. >"It was easy," Di giggles, mistaking disapproval for admiration. "They're my mothers."
  197. >She tilts her head, just far enough to glance up and flash you a smile.
  198. >Perhaps it comes too easily now, coving up your annoyance.
  199. >"I doubt she'll ever notice they're missing."
  200. >She's still smiling.
  201. >Perhaps she's actually trying to reassure you.
  202. >Your eyes flicker over towards Nurse Redheart. If she had heard anything... no, there's no change in her expression, nor is she finished with the boy who had come in moments before you.
  203. >"Why'd you give them to her?" Di whines softly.
  204. "Because..."
  205. >"Everything *hurts*, Sil."
  206. "Because I'm worried about you."
  207. >"Why?"
  208. "Lately... you've done some stuff that kinda... um... scares me."
  209. >"Why do you *care*?
  210. "You're my friend, Di."
  211. >That means something, doesn't it?
  212.  
  213. >You are Pinkie Pie and you've never been Pinkie Pie before!
  214. >This is new!
  215. >Well, you've also *always* been Pinkie Pie, for... like... your *entire* life, so it's not *that* new. But it's still kinda new?
  216. "Um... hi?"
  217. >A few people look your way, so you wave!
  218. "Hi!"
  219. >But then they realize you aren't talking to them, so they go back to whatever boring stuff it is that they're doing.
  220. >That's okay.
  221. >You have new friends to play with!
  222. "So, I get this is weird and everything, but I guess you're stuck with me for a bit."
  223. >You shrug.
  224. "But it's not so bad, right? We can have fun without... um... I'm don't think I'm supposed to tell anyone that!"
  225. >You lean closer to... something...?
  226. >Yourself..? How did you manage that!?
  227. "Actually..."
  228. >You giggle, because it's kinda funny, isn't it?
  229. "...I'm not even supposed to know!"
  230. >So you're going to pretend you don't!
  231. >As far as you know, Soarin is dating Moondancer and Moondancer is dating Spitfire!
  232. >That's weird.
  233. >You hope that doesn't set up some kind of weird love triangle or anything.
  234. >That could get violent!
  235. >You hope it doesn't get violent!
  236. >Not that there's anything wrong with a little violence.
  237. >Slapstick is best stick, but Soarin just does it *wrong* and Spitfire's not much better.
  238. "So, I bet you're wondering why you're me now, aren't you?"
  239. >You nod.
  240. "It's probably because a certain *someone* remembered how much fun I am!"
  241. >You look out a window at nothing.
  242. >The nothing nods.
  243. "Mhm, thought so!"
  244. >You smile and skip onward towards your next class.
  245. >School is fun. Sometimes.
  246. >Usually.
  247. >All the time.
  248. >You *make* it fun!
  249. >For everyone, not just yourself.
  250. >It's important to think about other people.
  251. >You nod, agreeing with yourself, because it would be *really* weird if you *didn't* agree with yourself.
  252. >But you're not just doing it to get along and not cause conflict or anything!
  253. >No, you actually agree!
  254. >It's important to think about other people!
  255. >But - it's just as important to think about yourself, isn't it?
  256. >Otherwise you end up like poor Caramel!
  257. >And that's not fun for anyone!
  258. >As for those people who think it *is*...
  259. >You mentally shake a fist at the girls that like to lead on guys like that. And guys that lead on girls like that. And girls that -
  260. >You know what?
  261. >You're not one to judge, and it would be really awkward and time consuming to list out every possible variation.
  262. >People that intentionally take advantage of others like that are *DICKS*.
  263. >There.
  264. >All inclusive!
  265. >Hopefully Moondancer isn't doing that to Soarin.
  266. >He's a good guy and she can get a little pushy.
  267. >Eh... it'll all work out!
  268. >Spitfire will look out for him!
  269. >You nod firmly, sending your curly hair bouncing around like a jumpy little pony with springs for legs who had had nothing to eat ALL DAY except candy and sodas!
  270. >Sodas with EXTRA CAFFEINE.
  271. >Oh, the bell is ringing!
  272. >That's weird!
  273. >Class is over!
  274. >Why is class over?
  275. >You look at the textbook on your desk and... shrug.
  276. >Well, class is over.
  277. >Apparently.
  278. >That's weird.
  279. >Timeskips are *weird.*
  280.  
  281. >You are Silver Spoon and you wave shyly at Cloudy.
  282. >Final period ended just a few minutes ago and she's already dressed in her uniform.
  283. >"Hey, Silver!" she calls out, breaking into a slow jog. "What are you doing out here? Going to watch us practice?"
  284. "N-no... I was just... um... passing by."
  285. >You try to ignore Di's exaggerated sigh.
  286. >Try
  287. >Not successfully.
  288. "We're going -"
  289. >"Stay," Di interrupts. "I don't care."
  290. >She doesn't mean it.
  291. >You know she doesn't.
  292. >Tempting, though.
  293. >It's been several days since you've been able to spend time with Soarin.
  294. >Di needed you.
  295. >"I'm going home," she says suddenly. "*Don't* follow me. I'm tired of you hanging around all the time."
  296. "O..."
  297. >"Don't you have anything *better* to do?"
  298. "... okay."
  299. >She hesitates a moment - oh, right.
  300. >You reach into your bag for her pills - you've been holding on to them for her, when the nurse isn't - but she snarls and turns away before you can find them.
  301. >"*Try* to have some fun without me."
  302. >She walks away without them, bringing a slight smile to your face.
  303. >After that first day, she hasn't complained once about that.
  304. >"Kind of a bitch, isn't she?" Cloudy whispers once Di is out of earshot - and it probably killed her to wait that long.
  305. "She's feeling vulnerable and hurting. It's how she copes."
  306. >"Still, she doesn't have to be a bitch about it."
  307. "I think she's forgotten how to be nice."
  308. >"Not really a good excuse for being a raging cunt."
  309. "That's my fault, Cloudy."
  310. >"How the fuck can you say that?"
  311. >You shrug.
  312. "I let her treat me this way. She's gotten away with it so long, she never learned it wasn't acceptable. Besides..."
  313. >You sigh, turn away from Di, and begin walking slowly towards the bleachers overlooking the practice field.
  314. >Cloudy sticks by your side. It's on the way, after all.
  315. >"Anything to get rid of her, right?" she asks with a slight grin. "That's what you mean, isn't it?"
  316. "No. That was all just her way of giving me permission."
  317. >Your friend - it feels so *weird* to think of someone other than Di that way - her face drops into a severe frown.
  318. >"You don't need her permission, Silvy."
  319. >That's your nickname, apparently.
  320. >Not so bad.
  321. >Cuter than 'Sil'.
  322. "No, I don't, but I appreciate it."
  323. >"Uh... huh."
  324. >Several steps pass in awkward silence.
  325. >You left Cloudy wordless!
  326. >It's rather undignified, but you mentally air-pump at that little victory.
  327. >Up until now, you'd been wondering if such a thing was impossible without Soarin's presence.
  328. "Think of it as encouragement instead of permission."
  329. >You can't help but giggle as understanding visibly strikes the girl like a truck.
  330. >"Oh! Yeah! That makes more sense."
  331. >She nods quickly, her smile restored.
  332. >"Diamond's still a bitch, though."
  333. "Some people say the same about you, you know."
  334. >"Yeaaaah," Cloudy hums, stopping in her tracks and theatrically tapping a finger against her chin. "You should really stop making friends with bitches."
  335. >You try not to smile.
  336. >It's instinct.
  337. >If Di had said the same thing...
  338. >But she's not Di.
  339. >You smile.
  340. >"Fucking shame, you know?" your friend continues, still staring thoughtfully into the clear sky. "Spitfire's throwing a party at her place tonight and I was gonna ask if you wanted to come. Too bad we can't be -"
  341. "I'll come!"
  342. >"Really? Are you sure? Don't you need to sit alone in a room by yourself and reread a book or something."
  343. "Cloudy..."
  344. >She snaps back to reality with wide eyes.
  345. >"Shitshit! Too far? Sorry, I -"
  346. "You were being redundant, Cloudy. If I'm already alone, of course I'm by myself."
  347. >"Oh. Right."
  348. "Besides..."
  349. >Your eyes drift across the open field, to the pack of boys jogging their way up to the practice field.
  350. "... he's going to be there, right?"
  351. >"If you are, definitely. I don't know how you got him *so* whipped, but you've got to teach me."
  352. "It's a secret."
  353. >Kind of.
  354. >Surely everyone knows you're some kind of crazy.
  355. >"So, you going to come?"
  356. "Mhm! We won't be alone, but it's better than waiting until tomorrow."
  357. >"What happens tomorrow?"
  358. "Soarin's taking us to the mall."
  359. >"Us?" Cloudy asks, flopping her head to the left in that weird, broken-neck gesture she uses that makes *your* spine hurt. "Oh, you and Diamond?"
  360. "Mhm."
  361. >"Well, I guess you're *still* at that age where that's fun."
  362. "Ye- wait, what's *that* mean?"
  363. >"Nothing," she answers, her face as flat and emotionless as a mannequins. "You're adorable."
  364. "Wha-"
  365. >WAIT.
  366. >NO!
  367. >It's too late to escape.
  368. "Stop petting meeeeeeee!"
  369. >"Never!"
  370. >Your flailing is completely ineffective.
  371. "S-"
  372. >You can hear the laughter of others.
  373. >Their amusement at your suffering.
  374. "So-"
  375. >You can't call out to him, not with others watching.
  376. >She's ruffling your hair!
  377. "S-spitfiiiiiire! Heeeeelp!"
  378. >It's the only name you can think of.
  379. >She's Soarin's friend.
  380. >That makes her your... if not friend, then at least *something*.
  381. >Right?
  382. >You can barely hear yourself over the laughter - over the people laughing *at* you.
  383. >Isn't she your friend!?
  384. >Why is she-
  385. >"That's enough, Cloudy!" a commanding voice rises above. "Let the girl go!"
  386. >"But she's -"
  387. >There's a sharp, hollow roar, akin to a volleyball being spiked - or - or -
  388. >Cloudy abruptly jerks away from you as the soccer ball - it couldn't be anything else - strikes her head, leaving her neck bent at a 90 degree angle.
  389. >"Owwwwww..."
  390. >"That's what you get for messing with her," Spitfire shouts as she vaults the fence around the field and comes your way. "Though... that *did* look kinda fun. I can see what... uh..."
  391. >An awkward silence descends as both girls quietly judge each other.
  392. >Cloudy breaks first, her eyes flickering over to the cluster of boys nearing the bleachers, Soarin among them.
  393. >You aren't the only one to notice; when she looks back to Spitfire, the captain nods.
  394. >"Now say you're sorry."
  395. >"Sorry," Cloudy sighs, straightening out her neck with a painful pop. "You were giggling like an idiot, Silver, so I thought - I mean, not that I think you're an idiot! I just thought you... you know... *liked* it."
  396. "I..."
  397. >You look around.
  398. >There's no one else but the team. A few students slowly making their way towards the bleachers from the school, but not close enough for you to hear their chatter.
  399. >No one else was laughing.
  400. >That was you. Only you.
  401. "M-maybe..."
  402. >Maybe you did like it. Maybe you do.
  403. >"Sorry," Cloudy repeats. "I won't do it again."
  404. "But -"
  405. >You *do* like it, don't you?
  406. >"*In public*," the girl adds with a wink.
  407. >"Good enough for me," Spitfire says with a nod. "Assuming it's..."
  408. >You nod quickly.
  409. >"Then that's settled. Cloudy, get on the field and start warming up."
  410. >She turns her eyes on you as soon as Cloudy sprints off.
  411. "Um... thank you..."
  412. >"Not a problem," Spitfire mumbles, nodding faintly. "So... you're... uh... okay then."
  413. >She's not at all like you expected.
  414. >Almost shy and -
  415. >"Sorry, I *really* want to pat your head."
  416. >You prepare yourself to run for your life, but the girl violently shakes her head.
  417. >To drive out the unwholesome desires, presumably.
  418. >"So, are you and... uh..."
  419. >One student walks past to take a seat on the bleachers, followed by another as the slow trickle begins to reach its destination.
  420. >"Tonight?" Spitfire quickly amends. "Party? My place?"
  421. >You nod.
  422. >"Good. It won't be too big. Or last too long."
  423. >A sly smile puts the lie to that.
  424. >"Well, most people won't stay too long," she corrects. "Probably."
  425. "Oh...?"
  426. >"Yep! Well, I'll see you then, Silver!"
  427. >That's how your first conversation with your fiance's best friend ends, with her loudly shouting to you as she runs back to the field.
  428. >You look around, worried - but about what, exactly?
  429. >His name hadn't come up.
  430. >He wasn't the one who had been... doing... *that*... to you.
  431. >A few people look away as your eyes sweep their way, but most seem to have never even noticed the exchange.
  432. >No one even looks your way as you make your way to the bleachers.
  433. >You laugh silently, on the inside.
  434. >What had you been so afraid of?
  435. >Saying Soarin's name?
  436. >No one would have heard.
  437. >Waving to him?
  438. >People are blind.
  439. >It's amazing what can happen without anyone ever noticing.
  440. >He could be sitting beside you right now, and no one would see.
  441. >He could hold you tight, and no one would comment.
  442. >He could -
  443. >"Hey, Silver?"
  444. >You nearly jump out of your own skin.
  445. "Uh... hi..."
  446. >Why would she be talking to you!?
  447. "... Pinkie Pie...?"
  448. >"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you," the girl sitting behind you apologizes with an insane giggle. "I guess we don't talk much."
  449. >More like ever.
  450. >"So, you're friends with Spitfire and Cloudy?" she asks. "Is that why you've been coming to watch them practice every day?"
  451. "Um... yes!"
  452. >It's the perfect reason!
  453. >The girl sticks out her tongue one way, her eyes drift the other.
  454. >"Hmmm..."
  455. >Is she having a stroke?
  456. >You think she might be having a stroke.
  457. >"You're not exactly straight, are you...?" Pinkie mumbles.
  458. "Wait, why would you say that!? What -"
  459. >"Like... *obviously* not," she continues, oblivious to any protest you might bother to make, "but... hmmm... TIME TO UPDATE THE CHARTS!"
  460. >The sudden outburst makes you jump. Makes half the crowd and possibly the bleachers themselves jump too.
  461. >It rocks and shudders for a moment, but the older girl doesn't seem to notice or care; she's flipping through a massive book filled with hand-scrawled notes and figures.
  462. >If it weren't for the rainbow of colors filling each page, it wouldn't look too different from any other student's notebook.
  463. >Honestly, it doesn't look much different from your own notes. Not math, you barely jot down anything because it's all so simple, but things like history? Where memorizing facts instead of understanding *how* something works is what counts?
  464. >It almost looks just like what Pinkie is flipping through, save you limit yourself to a far smaller selection of colors.
  465. >And no glitter.
  466. >Surprisingly, the writing is much neater than you would have anticipated. Bubbly and cramped, but distinct enough that when the pages fall still, you can clearly read your name written at the top.
  467. >She's... taking notes on... *you*?
  468. "Why are you here...?"
  469. >"Because *someone*..."
  470. >The girl pauses and stares off into the distance."
  471. >"... thinks I'm fun to be around."
  472. "Oooookay."
  473. >You're crazy. You *know* crazy.
  474. >So when you think she might be crazy, that's not just random guesswork or an uninformed opinion.
  475. >It's as close to fact as it can be without coming from the mouth of a psychiatrist.
  476. >You're pretty sure she's crazy.
  477. >The girl smiles at the distant clouds.
  478. >She's completely, utterly insane.
  479. >"And because I was curious," she says suddenly, snapping back to something akin to reality and fishing in her backpack - successfully - for a pen.
  480. >Well, three pens.
  481. >Neon green, black, and ice blue.
  482. >She has the cap off of the blue one in a flash, scribbling away at the bottom of the page - of *your* page - without another word of explanation.
  483. "Wait. What -"
  484. >"Adding names."
  485. "What does -"
  486. >"Possible ships."
  487. "Huh...?"
  488. >"Hmm."
  489. >She does the thing with her tongue again.
  490. >"Cloudy...? Maaaaaybe."
  491. "Wait -"
  492. >"Probably not," she says firmly to herself, "though..."
  493. "Ships...? Wait. Are you... are you *shipping* me!?"
  494. >You read enough to be... 'familiar'... with the term.
  495. >It just took a minute to click.
  496. >Because that's silly.
  497. >Impossible.
  498. >*Insane*.
  499. >With fiction characters, sure!
  500. >You have a few favorites of your own!
  501. >But with real people?
  502. >No!
  503. >That's crazy!
  504. >Then again, so is she.
  505. >"Mhm," Pinkie hums without looking up. "It's a hobby. I like to help people. Couldn't be Spitfire. Pie preferences match up but... *other* preferences..."
  506. "Huh?"
  507. >"Could be a one-sided crush..."
  508. >The girl frowns suddenly and locks her eyes on you, actually acknowledging your existence for the first time since she began rambling.
  509. >"Don't do that," she says firmly. "One-sided crushes aren't *any* good."
  510. "I'm... I'm not interested in Spitfire..."
  511. >"Oh, okay then! Good. How about Angel Wings?"
  512. "Who?"
  513. >"Sophmore, a little taller than you, has red streaks in herrrrrrrrrr doesn't matter because if you don't know who she is then I *really* doubt you're here because of her."
  514. >She sighs, her shoulders drooping.
  515. >"Maybe you really *are* just here because they're you're friends," she whines softly. "No one on the team matches up, boys *or* girls. Though..."
  516. >The insane giggle that leaks out of her mouth makes your spine shiver.
  517. >"You're a smart girl. And shy! *Really* shy. Maybe you're actually watching the gymnastics team. Blossomforth..."
  518. >Pinkie flips towards the front of her book, examines a page, and nods.
  519. >"Yep!"
  520. >She uncaps her green pen and writes something down on the page.
  521. "Um..."
  522. >"Just adding your name to her list."
  523. >She flips back towards the end, to your page.
  524. >"Aaaaand her name to yours."
  525. "List...?"
  526. >Please, you pray silently, don't let it be what you think it -
  527. >"List of potential matches."
  528. >It's exactly what you think it is.
  529. >"I think you'd be prefer someone a *leeeeetle* bit more aggressive, though she *can* be when she's drunk."
  530. "I... uh... I wouldn't know..."
  531. >"Cloudy really *would* be perfect, except for... hmm..."
  532. >She flips back - to Cloudy's page, you presume - and nods.
  533. >"Complete pie uncompatibility."
  534. "You... uh..."
  535. >Pie?
  536. >What.
  537. >Soarin had mentioned that before, hadn't he?
  538. >You look out towards the field.
  539. >That's right.
  540. >You need to bake Soarin a pie.
  541. >You said you would.
  542. >Or buy one.
  543. >It doesn't matter, does it?
  544. >He's a pieslut.
  545. >Shouldn't matter where it comes from.
  546. >Still...
  547. >Maybe you should make it.
  548. >It won't matter to him, but it still matters.
  549. >Maybe.
  550. >"Anyway, you don't have anything in common with her."
  551. "Who...?"
  552. >What's she talking about?
  553. >You should make it.
  554. >Maybe...
  555. >"Cloudy," Pinkie Pie mumbles, paying about as much attention to you as you are to her. Apple pie, maybe? That should be easy to do. Hopefully. Maybe. "Oh, I have an idea!"
  556. >The girl ducks down, digging into her backpack just as a soccer ball sails through the air, precisely where her head was seconds earlier.
  557. >"Huh, talk about lucky!" the girl giggles, glancing back to see it bounce off the bleachers with a sharp boom. "*Someone* up there must like me."
  558. >You have no idea why she winks at a distant cloud when she says that.
  559. >You don't think you want to know.
  560. >"Ah, there it is!"
  561. >She brandishes a bright pink pen - wait, a *glitter* pen - and smiles.
  562. >"Hmm... shame about your... uhhhh... ummmmm..."
  563. >You raise an eyebrow.
  564. >She cups her hands and pantomimes.
  565. >Ah.
  566. >"Yeaaaaah."
  567. "I'm... satisfied with my body."
  568. >"Oh, good! But it's still a shame, because Spitfire seems *really* oddly protective for some reason and... uh... SHIT!"
  569. >She throws herself directly behind you.
  570. >"Okay, stay perfectly still. Pleaaaase?"
  571. "Um..."
  572. >"I'm not being annoying, am I? I'm not, right!?"
  573. "Well..."
  574. >"Please say I'm not, or Spitfire's going to kill me!"
  575. >She... would *kill* for you...?
  576. >You glance out at the field again.
  577. >And smile.
  578. >Spitfire is glaring death in your direction.
  579. >No, she wouldn't kill for you, but she might for Soarin. And... therefore...
  580. "You're not annoying me."
  581. >No more than Cloudy.
  582. >She's paying attention to you.
  583. >"SHE'S SAYS IT'S FINE, SPITFIRE!" Pinkie screams. "I'M NOT BUGGING HER!"
  584. >You have to duck your head to hide your lunatic grin.
  585. >This isn't something to be happy about.
  586. >An insane girl is keeping notes on you.
  587. >Pestering you while you're trying to watch your boyfriend.
  588. >Rambling on about people you would never date or meet.
  589. >Talking about you in public for all to hear.
  590. >This is nothing to smile about, not for anyone sane.
  591. >You aren't sane.
  592. >You aren't normal.
  593. >"Oh, you like that, do you?" a bubbly voice laughs in your ear.
  594. >You shouldn't be smiling, but you are.
  595. >"Well, that's good to know," Pinkie murmurs. "More aggressive is better than less."
  596. "Why would you say that...?"
  597. >"Because Spitfire trying to take my head off made you smile."
  598. "Maaaaybe..."
  599. >"Aww, you know it's true!"
  600. >GAH! SHE'S -!
  601. >She's...
  602. >This is okay.
  603. >You're getting used to having your hair ruffled.
  604. >That doesn't mean you have to like it.
  605. >Well.
  606. >That doesn't mean you have to let it show.
  607. >You scowl your frowniest scowl at her.
  608. >It's not very effective.
  609. >"Besides," Pinkie adds, completely and totally undaunted, "you're too shy to ever make the first move, right?"
  610. "Nooooooooo?"
  611. >"Too bad all we don't have any aggressive, nerdy girls -"
  612. "I... um... prefer...
  613. >" - or guys," she quickly amends with a questioning shrug, "at this school."
  614. >There's a blink.
  615. >Just one.
  616. >You're not entirely if it's hers or yours, but the next moment Pinkie's eyes are growing impossibly large.
  617. >"At *this* school!"
  618. "Um..."
  619. >"*This* school!" she repeats. "Moondancer!"
  620. "Who...?"
  621. >"You can have her once Soarin is through with her!"
  622. "Soarin?"
  623. >She's crazy.
  624. >"Yeah, he's a total doormat, like you!"
  625. >Pinkie nods her head and beams in satisfaction.
  626. >Then her eyes grow even wider.
  627. >"NOT THAT I MEAN THAT IN A BAD WAY!"
  628. "No, I... uh..."
  629. >You still can't keep that smile off your face.
  630. >Right now, you feel it must mirror the older girl's eyes.
  631. "I understand what you mean."
  632. >You do.
  633. >Completely.
  634. >"Oh. GOOD!"
  635. >Pinkie sighs, unambiguously relieved and reassured by your smile.
  636. >She shouldn't be. You aren't.
  637. >This is like smiling at a funeral. Or a trial. Your trial.
  638. >Only an absolute madwoman would sport a grin stretching from ear to ear as the court listed off her sins for the whole world to know.
  639. >"You know..." the girl murmurs, leaning in over your shoulder to whisper confidentially, "if either of you would grow just an itsy-bitsy bit of a spine, that might actually make a good relationship."
  640. >You've never claimed to be sane.
  641. >Quite the opposite.
  642. "Really?"
  643. >You slowly turn your head to face hers, only an inch, maybe two, separating you.
  644. >"Uhhhh...huh. But... ummm... why are you... uh...?"
  645. >Only an absolute madwoman would rejoice in hearing her secrets exposed.
  646. "Why do you think Soarin and I would be perfect for each other?"
  647. >"I... uh... I didn't *exactly* say that," she mumbles, her eyes locked slightly south of yours. "You'd... uh... make a horrible couple."
  648. "Oh?"
  649. >"Yeaaaah... ummm..."
  650. "Why do you say that?"
  651. >The girl blinks; when her eyes reopen, she's finally meeting yours.
  652. >"Look, I know this is going to sound *really* weird, particularly from me, because I mean, *I'm* about to say it and even *I'm* surprised, because believe me, I *never* thought I'd ever say *anything* like this, but could you *stop* smiling? Please?"
  653. "I don't think I can."
  654. >"Uhhhhhhh..."
  655. >Great.
  656. >You broke her.
  657. >That's... beautiful.
  658. >"...hhhhhhhhhhhhh..."
  659. >With nothing but a genuine, honest smile.
  660. >It probably isn't a good thing that you outcrazied the lunatic, but there's still a spark of pride burning deep down in - oh, hell, there's no spark.
  661. >It's a raging fire, wild and dangerous.
  662. >"...hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."
  663. >You shouldn't feel this way.
  664. >Calm down.
  665. >"...hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."
  666. >How does she still have any air left in her lungs!?
  667. >"...hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."
  668. >She's turning blue!
  669. >Even her hair!
  670. "Okay, okay! You win!"
  671. >"I... win...? Win what? Were we playing a game?"
  672. >This is impossible. *She* is impossible.
  673. "Look, if I admit that Soarin and I would make a horrible couple, will you leave me alone?"
  674. >"But I'm *preeeeeeetty* sure I didn't say that either," Pinkie whines, like you had done her some manner of grievous injury. "Just... you know... at first. Until one of you stops being such a pushover.
  675. >"Or, you know, *both*. Get a couple of trial relationships under your belt, or you'll just end up hurting each other and he's too nice a guy to deserve that."
  676. "More of a one-and-done kind of person."
  677. >"Yeah," Pinkie smirks. "I know."
  678. >She ruffles your hair faster than you can duck away.
  679. >"Oh, but I forgot something. Genital compatibility."
  680. "What...?"
  681. >"Yeah..." she mumbles, her eyes drifting off unfocused and dull. "That might hurt. A lot."
  682. >You stifle the urge to giggle.
  683. "Oh?"
  684. >You almost deliver it with a deadpan tone. Almost.
  685. >She has no idea.
  686. >"Just... uh... you're not as... uh... well... he's... um..."
  687. "What do you mean by genital compatibility?"
  688. >"He's kinda..."
  689. >Pinkie holds her hands out, much like Cloudy had days ago.
  690. >"And you're kinda..."
  691. >She slaps her hands together.
  692. >"Am I right or am I right?"
  693. >Apparently a blank face is a sufficient answer, because she doesn't wait for you to respond.
  694. >"So... I kinda never... uh..."
  695. >She looks up suddenly - staring off into the distance again - and winces.
  696. >"I gotta go," she murmurs quickly, stuffing her book back into her bag.
  697. >A rainbow's worth of pens follows.
  698. >Only half of them make it in on the first attempt.
  699. "How do you know how big -"
  700. >"Everyone hates me," she unhelpfully doesn't explain. "Well, not the person that matters, but... I gotta go."
  701. >She leaps to her feet, nearly spilling everything all over again.
  702. "Wait -"
  703. >"Lube."
  704. "What...?"
  705. >She squeezes your shoulder.
  706. >"Lube is your friend."
  707. >And then she's gone.
  708. >Suddenly.
  709. >That was weird.
  710.  
  711. >Practice has ended, the team filing off - or shuffling in a few cases - and... well, *shambling* in Cloudy's.
  712. >The bleachers have emptied, not that they were ever all that full to begin with.
  713. >It's not particularly exciting watching the team practice.
  714. >Even you have to admit that.
  715. >The only thing worse than running laps is watching others do it instead, and the only thing worse than that is doing so without a book.
  716. >Or a friend, you suppose. Someone to talk to.
  717. >That's what most seemed to be doing. Using this as background for their conversations.
  718. >"Hey."
  719. >You look up from your book.
  720. >Eagerly even, where just weeks ago you would have felt nothing but annoyance.
  721. >In truth, you hadn't been reading it so much as staring at the words while your mind rambled.
  722. >So it is that the approaching figures bring a smile to your face.
  723. >Hopefully not a creepy one.
  724. >You don't *think* it's a creepy one.
  725. "Feeling better?"
  726. >"Nah," Cloudy grumbles. "Hip still fucking hurts."
  727. "I'm not surprised."
  728. >"Pretty sure Spits wiped me out on purpose."
  729. >"Pretty sure you deserved it," the captain snarls. "Get better at dodging."
  730. >The third figure just shakes his head.
  731. >"Oh come on, Soarin!" Cloudy whines. "Don't tell me you're taking her side!"
  732. >Silently, you have to agree with Spitfire.
  733. >Cloudy does need to get better at dodging.
  734. >Even you could have avoided Soarin's punch.
  735. >"Dammit! Owwww! Fucker!"
  736. >She didn't even see it coming.
  737. >"So, about that party tonight," your boyfriend asks, ignoring the cursing girl doubled over beside him, "Cloudy says you want to go?"
  738. >"No, she doesn't, she hates you and thinks you're an asshole and -"
  739. "Mhm."
  740. >"- now she knows you like beating up girls, which on the bright side meant I didn't have to get a back alley abortion -"
  741. "It sounds like fun."
  742. >"- and by that I mean he kicked the baby right out of -"
  743. "Don't you think so, Soarin?"
  744. >"- hey, is anyone listening to me?"
  745. "Yes, Cloudy, but I don't have to worry about that. My house has lots of stairs."
  746. >"Huh?"
  747. "To conveniently fall down."
  748. >You grin at the horrified expression on her face.
  749. >Spitfire and Soarin share a look and both take a step back.
  750. >"I'm pretty sure your girlfriend's joking, but I'm not positive," Spitfire mumbles. "Is it too late to uninvite them both?"
  751. >"Yes."
  752.  
  753. >Soarin raises an eyebrow as you reach for the car door.
  754. >"You sure you want to ride with me?" he asks for what must be the fifth time. "People might see us coming together and..."
  755. "Yep, I'm sure."
  756. >It's amazing what can happen without anyone actually *seeing*.
  757. >He hesitates another second, his door half open, but nods before getting in.
  758. >"I don't know if this is good or not," Soarin mumbles as you buckle your seatbelt. "Just a few weeks ago, you were completely terrified that someone would find out, but now it's like you don't care."
  759. "I... I wouldn't say that."
  760. >"You're not worried about your parents finding out?"
  761. "I wouldn't say that either."
  762. >He sighs, the sound almost but not quite hidden by the roar of the engine sparking to life.
  763. "It'll be fine."
  764. >How can it not be, when you're with him?
  765. "I want to meet more of your friends, Soarin."
  766. >He puts the car into reverse - but it doesn't move.
  767. >"Even though they're all assholes?"
  768. "Even so."
  769. >Soarin snorts and lets his foot off the brake.
  770. "They aren't so bad. Mostly."
  771. >He slowly nods.
  772. >"No, they aren't," he sighs, his eyes flickering off the road to study your expression. "Even if some of them try their best. Cloudy was just mouthing off, you know. She wasn't pregnant."
  773. "Most people would lead with 'I don't enjoy beating up women.'"
  774. >"Most people don't know you."
  775. "Well, that's true."
  776. >There's about one block's worth of silence before he adds, "but I don't enjoy beating up women, either."
  777. >As if you didn't know that.
  778. >As if it mattered.
  779. >"Though..."
  780. "Hmm?"
  781. >"I guess it wouldn't be the worst hobby," he laughs. "Considering my friends, I mean."
  782. "Soarin..."
  783. >"I hope Pinkie didn't bug you too much."
  784. >Ah.
  785. "No, I... I didn't mind."
  786. >Much.
  787. "It was more weird than annoying."
  788. >"Yeah," Soarin agrees with a brief nod. "She is."
  789. "Particularly her... uh... *shipping* book."
  790. >"Ah."
  791. >More of a full stop than he does at the stop sign.
  792. >"Yeah."
  793. "She's weird."
  794. >"The weirdest."
  795. "The pie thing isn't hard to understand. She's always baking pies and bringing them into school."
  796. >"The compatibility thing?"
  797. "Mhm. That's easy. Not the *why*, but at least the *how*, but..."
  798. >"But?"
  799. "That bothers me less than her genital compatibility."
  800. >He doesn't say it, not out loud, but you can see the word 'shit' run through Soarin's mind.
  801. "And... and I understand how she knows about the size of your... um..."
  802. >It shouldn't be hard to say, but it is.
  803. "Well, you've... the two of you..."
  804. >He frowns, but doesn't speak.
  805. >Does he understand what you're saying?
  806. >You don't know.
  807. "You've... I mean..."
  808. >Do it all at once. All in one go.
  809. "You've slept with her! Right?"
  810. >"Oh," he sighs, frowning hard. "That... uh..."
  811. "I'm not mad."
  812. >You're not.
  813. >How could you be?
  814. "I know I'm not your first."
  815. >It's not his fault.
  816. >It's... it's not yours. Not in any rational way.
  817. >"How did you find out?" Soarin sighs.
  818. "I'm also not deaf."
  819. >He glances away from the road, studying you for a second.
  820. >Trying to read your face?
  821. >Judge your mood by your expression?
  822. "At Blossom's house."
  823. >"Oh. But -"
  824. "Cloudy didn't *say* it, but..."
  825. >"Basically she said it."
  826. "Basically."
  827. >His knuckles are pale.
  828. "Don't hit her."
  829. >"I won't," he responds, trying to give you a reassuring smile.
  830. >If it has been anyone but him, it wouldn't have worked.
  831. >Or if you were anyone but you.
  832. "So, anyway."
  833. >His smile falls away.
  834. "I get that she'd know how big you are, but..."
  835. >"But?" he asks, glancing over at your hesitation to see you pointing at your lap.
  836. "HOW DOES SHE KNOW ABOUT *ME*!?"
  837.  
  838. >You aren't the first to arrive to the party. Almost, but not quite.
  839. >That's surprising. It's still early. Soarin barely took any time at all showering and changing.
  840. >His parents had been home.
  841. >You had waited outside in his car, head down, face buried in a book you weren't reading.
  842. >He probably rushed for you.
  843. >Practice hadn't been over for more than an hour before Soarin is parking in front of Spitfire's house.
  844. >Neither are you the last to come. Almost, but again not quite.
  845. >A scant handful wander by within fifteen minutes or so.
  846. >There aren't very many people here.
  847. >Really. Not even by your standards.
  848. >A few people from the soccer team beyond Soarin, Cloudy, and Spitfire. A couple of the other popular crowd. One or two you think are from your grade, but not that you share any classes with.
  849. >Some of the people you don't recognize at all.
  850. >You don't even think they go to CHS.
  851. >Far less crowded than the last time you were here. Perhaps thirty people altogether, but never anywhere near that all at once.
  852. >The attendees rotate frequently, arriving when they feel like it. Leaving when they feel like it.
  853. >Must be nice, not having to worry about hurting your friend by leaving like that.
  854. >Or worrying about what petty revenge she will have in store.
  855. >You have a good view of the door from the chair you've claimed and fortified.
  856. >Most people seem content to ignore you.
  857. >There's only about ten or fifteen here at any one time and you see as each one comes and goes.
  858. >And then there's Pinkie Pie.
  859. >She must have been here before you - or come in through the back.
  860. >You never see her enter. You only catch a glimpse of her - and she of you - before she drops her armload of pies on a mostly empty sofa and stiffly walks out the front door.
  861. >If you didn't know better, you would say she was goose stepping.
  862. >"Fucking off now!"
  863. >Or so she says, but her body does a surprisingly smooth pirouette to follow a latecomer back inside.
  864. >Well.
  865. >That purple and red streaked hair certainly is striking.
  866. >"Gotta see this," she whispers loudly. To whom, you're not entirely sure, nor what she's even talking about.
  867. >You return to your book.
  868. >Not that you aren't having fun.
  869. >It's just quiet. Subdued. Content.
  870. >Spitfire seems preoccupied talking with Soarin - at least until the girl with the *unique* hair arrives. She latches onto Spitfire, dragging her away from your boyfriend and leaving him free to hover awkwardly around you.
  871. >He can't quite bring himself to openly be with you, not while so many people are around and he has no idea who might arrive at any moment.
  872. >It makes perfect sense and you don't begrudge it one bit.
  873. >The door isn't locked - it's not even *closed* half the time.
  874. >Anyone could come in at any moment.
  875. >Neither can he abandon you.
  876. >That's what makes it okay.
  877. >He may be talking with one of his friends, but he's looking at you out of the corner of his eye.
  878. >He may duck out of the room for a moment, but he always comes back.
  879. >He's thinking about you the whole time, and that's what makes it okay.
  880. >Besides, you're not totally alone.
  881. >Cloudy chats with you from time to time, topping off your drink every once in a while.
  882. >Nothing alcoholic. It's just soda.
  883. >After an hour passes, maybe a bit longer, she asks if "you're feeling awkward or lonely or something?" and offers to drive you home.
  884. >You shake your head.
  885. >You aren't lonely.
  886. >Even Spitfire comes by to check on you, the colorful girl in tow - and Pinkie following behind, her hands clapped to her cheeks and her mouth open in a silent scream.
  887. "Has she been doing that all night?"
  888. >"Following us?"
  889. >You nod.
  890. >"Yeah," the unknown girl sneers. "It's getting kind of old."
  891. >"Don't be mean," Spitfire quietly chides her. "*Too* mean. She brought pie."
  892. >Pinkie nods frantically, maintaining the same shocked expression the entire time.
  893. >"I brought your favorite!"
  894. >"How do you know what my favorite kind of pie is?"
  895. >You're more curious about how she spoke so clearly without her mouth moving.
  896. >Spitfire rolls her eyes and tugs the other girl away.
  897. >"Pinkie just knows these kinds of things," she explains unhelpfully. "Want some pie?"
  898. >The girl sighs and nods.
  899. >"Silver?"
  900. "Oh. Yes, please."
  901. >"Be right back."
  902. >The other girl doesn't follow after Spitfire. She's staring. At... you?
  903. >Pinkie Pie's head jerks back and forth between her two quarries, lost and conflicted.
  904. >"Follow *Spitfire*" the girl suggests - commands? - pointing over her shoulder, her eyes never leaving the book in your hands. "She probably needs help carrying all of those into the kitchen."
  905. >Pinkie nods and skips away, hands still on her cheeks, mouth still open in shock.
  906. >Alone, save for the ever circulating crowd, your new companion smirks and drops down into a crouch beside your chair.
  907. >One red, bushy eyebrow pops up, looking practically like some poisonous caterpillar crawling along the rim of her thick glasses.
  908. "Um..."
  909. >"Liking the book?"
  910. >You cover it up with your hands. Kinda. You stop yourself when you realize what you're doing.
  911. "Yes."
  912. >"It's one of my favorites," the girl says with a lopsided smile. "I've lost track of how many times I've read it."
  913. "This is... um... my second time."
  914. >You bury the book between your thigh and the arm of the chair.
  915. >Soarin bought it for you, and you don't like the way she's staring at it.
  916. >It's... weird.
  917. >Like she knows something she's not saying.
  918. >"Any chance your boyfriend bought that for you?"
  919. "Um..."
  920. >"Because I work in a bookstore," the girl continues. "Mostly to pay for my habit, you know?"
  921. "Um."
  922. >You *think* that's a joke. If it wasn't, she wouldn't be smiling, right?
  923. >Probably?
  924. >"Books. I mean books."
  925. "Oh."
  926. >You weren't *entirely* sure.
  927. >"Anyway, your copy has a price sticker from the place I work. I sold a copy of that book to some dumb jock a week ago or something, and just, you know..."
  928. >She shrugs.
  929. >You shrug, feigning confusion because it's easier than actually talking to someone.
  930. >"It'd be amusing if that was the book, you know? He was about six feet tall... I think...? Kinda intentionally messy hair, you know, like... uh..."
  931. >She points to her own hair, mostly pulled into a sloppy ponytail. Mostly.
  932. >Some of it has escaped, or never made it into the bundle in the first place.
  933. >"You know, not messy like mine, but messy in the way that looks kinda hot? He was... um... well, shit. He's over there."
  934.  
  935. >You are Soarin and you have pie.
  936. >Today is a good day.
  937. >Yep.
  938. >Preeeetty fucking awesome.
  939.  
  940. >You are Silver Spoon and your hand meets your face as Soarin walks into the room.
  941. >Both of his hands hold paper plates with pie.
  942. >Yes. Plural. Two in each hand.
  943. >"Yeah, that's the guy," the girl affirms. "You know him?"
  944. >You hesitate, unsure what to say.
  945. >"That would be one hell of a..."
  946. >"Here you go, Silver," Soarin says, holding out a -
  947. "Hey."
  948. >"What? Don't you like cherry? Pinkie said you -"
  949. "Yes, I like cherry pie, but where's the rest of it?"
  950. >"Yeaaaaah," the girl at your side smirks, "that's not a coincidence."
  951. >Soarin jumps - perhaps he was in a piedaze?
  952. >"You," he grunts. "Hey. Thanks for the book suggestions."
  953. >"Yes. Me. Fuck you for not reporting me to the manager."
  954. >Soarin shrugs.
  955. >The girl shrugs.
  956. >You... uh... shrug?
  957. >To fit in?
  958. >"Spitfire asked me to bring you this," he says to the girl, holding out a non-mangled slice of pie to her. "She also said you two might get along and to... uh... books... and... so... yeah..."
  959. >She takes the pie and waves her hand dismissively.
  960. >"Go away, jock. We talk books now."
  961. >Her eyes slide toward your plate and she smiles again.
  962. >"Well, as soon as I stop trying to think of something snarky to say about you stealing her cherry."
  963. "WE CAN TALK BOOKS NOW."
  964.  
  965. >You talk books with the girl.
  966. >For a long time.
  967. >Seems parties aren't really her thing either.
  968. >By the time Spitfire calls her by name, you understand why Pinkie wrote Moondancer down on your list of possible ships.
  969. >It wouldn't work, of course, but you can see *why* she would think it would be possible.
  970. >That doesn't justify the shrill "squeeeeeeeeee" that erupts from the girl when she sees the two of you talking, but aside from two pairs of rolled eyes, nothing else comes from it.
  971. >Not until later, as the party is wrapping up, when Spitfire marches up with her arms crossed.
  972. >"So Pinkie was right. You *are* breaking up with me."
  973. >"She's not serious," Moondancer helpfully explains to you, rolling her eyes - which you've come to learn is her default reaction to nearly everything - and sighing - again, a fairly common default reaction. "But if she *was* serious, it'd be because... because... come back to me in five minutes. I'll have something then that's not *too* vulgar."
  974. >"That's not like you," Spitfire smirks. "Usually you always have a comeback ready. Or care about how you sound."
  975. >Your new friend shrugs.
  976. >"Fine, get me some more pie and I won't break up with you."
  977. >"Noooooot gonna be good enough."
  978. >"Fine, get me some more pie and I'll eat you out later."
  979. >"Weren't you going to do that anyway?"
  980. >"Yes. Pie?"
  981. >"Shit," Spitfire hisses. "Are you turning into a pieslut like Soarin?"
  982. >Moondancer's forehead furrows, her eyebrows coming together like two fuzzy little catepillers sumo wrestling.
  983. >"What? No. I'm just trying to get you to go away. I want to talk with her a little longer."
  984. >yay
  985. >You haven't had a good talk about books in... ever...?
  986. >This was exactly the kind of experience you had hoped your book club would become, not an empty room where you can read alone.
  987. >You have friends now, but not like this.
  988. >Blossom was good for unburdening your soul, but she's not a reader. Cloudy is a friend more for listening to than talking to. Soarin... he tries. He really does.
  989. >Di... doesn't.
  990. >"You could always give her your number," Spitfire grumbles, giving the girl a nudge with her knee. "That's a thing. You know that."
  991. >"I know a *lot* of things. *That*... had slipped my mind. But pie anyway?"
  992. >Spitfire's mouth tightens.
  993. >"Haven't you had enough? You're going to get fat if you keep eating sweets all the time."
  994. >"These are mostly fat," Moondancer answers in a dull monotone, cupping her hands under her... uh... wow.
  995. >The baggy grey sweater she's wearing hides her cup size admirably.
  996. >"You make a convincing argument," Spitfire concedes with a smirk. "I'll be right back."
  997. >"Not *too* quickly."
  998. >"I'll take my time. You want anything, Silver?"
  999. >"Nope!" Moondancer interrupts before you can even decide, let alone answer. "You leave her and her delicious flat chest alone. No grooming the freshmen."
  1000. "I'm..."
  1001. >"She's fine, Spitfire."
  1002. "I'm fine. Thank you, but I've had enough."
  1003. >"You sure? Everyone else is gone... EVEN PINKIE PIE!"
  1004. >"FUCKING OFF RIGHT NOW!"
  1005. >Spitfire nods as a door slams somewhere.
  1006. >"So," she continues, "this is probably your last chance to get any before Soarin... uh... declares them free game and... piemaggedon?"
  1007. >"That's shit," Moondancer sneers.
  1008. >"Well, let's hear *your* clever pun."
  1009. >"Apiecalypse."
  1010. >Not even a moment's hesitation.
  1011. >Spitfire's mouth tightens into a thin line.
  1012. >"That *is* better," she concedes after a moment. "Well, Silver? Last chance?"
  1013. "Really. I'm fine."
  1014. >He'll enjoy it more than you would.
  1015. >Spitfire shrugs and cups her hands around her mouth.
  1016. >"PIESLUT!"
  1017. >"WHAT!?" Soarin answers from some distant corner of the house.
  1018. >"SAVE A SLICE OF..."
  1019. >"Apple?" Moondancer offers.
  1020. >"APPLE FOR MOONDANCER! THE REST IS YOURS!"
  1021. >"FUCK YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
  1022. >"Kay," the girl grunts. "I'm just gonna do a sweep of the house to make sure PINKIE PIE is gone."
  1023. >She waits - everyone waits.
  1024. >The *other* insane girl doesn't answer.
  1025. >"Well, I'm still going to do a sweep anyway," Spitfire mumbles after a minute passes in silence. "Might as well clean up a bit. I'll bring your pie when I'm done. Will that give you enough time?"
  1026. >"Mhm."
  1027. >The girl is already walking off, leaving you alone with a smirking Moondancer.
  1028. >"So," your companion murmurs. "You're dating the pieslut, huh?"
  1029. "Um... yes."
  1030. >She already knows. Everyone here knows. There's no harm in saying it, is there?
  1031. >Moondancer nods knowingly.
  1032. >"Then I bet you're as happy to have someone to talk with as I am. Spits is good for fucking and maybe a relationship, I guess, but we don't talk much about stuff like this. We're dating, but we aren't exactly friends, if that makes sense to you. Not exactly any shared interests beyond the obvious."
  1033. "Well..."
  1034. >You've enjoyed the conversation and it's not one that you could've had with Soarin. But still...
  1035. >"I'm sure it does," Moondancer continues with a snort. "You're dating the guy, so yo-"
  1036. "Actually, Soarin tries."
  1037. >She comes to a full stop mid-word.
  1038. >That fuzzy caterpillar eyebrow of hers jumps about an inch up her forehead.
  1039. >"Seriously?"
  1040. "He tries. Really hard."
  1041. >"I'm surprised. He seems like an... uh... look, I'm trying to not be insulting, but... meh."
  1042. >She shrugs.
  1043. >"I guess if it makes you happy..." she mumbles. "It *does* make you happy, right?"
  1044. "Of course."
  1045. >He's paying attention to you.
  1046. >There's no way it wouldn't make you happy.
  1047. >It wouldn't even matter what he was doing, so long as his attention is on *you*.
  1048. >"If you say so," Moondancer mutters.
  1049. "Well, wouldn't it make you happy?"
  1050. >She shrugs, the noncommittal gesture clearly a 'no' she's too considerate to articulate, leaving you stumbling to explain.
  1051. "He... he buys me books an- and reads with me."
  1052. >The girl nods; she knows this. She helped him pick out the one you had been reading earlier.
  1053. "We swap books sometimes. We... *try* to spend as much time together as we can."
  1054. >That's about the end of it, isn't it?
  1055. >You haven't really had much time together.
  1056. >But he tries. He *really* tries.
  1057. "Soarin even asked me to join the soccer team."
  1058. >Your companion's face scrunches up and she sticks out her tongue.
  1059. >"Bleh. Sounds stifling. Don't you need space to yourself?"
  1060. "No."
  1061. >You're tired of being alone.
  1062. >"... huh."
  1063. >She doesn't get it.
  1064. >She *has* to.
  1065. >She's understood everything else you've said tonight. Known every author you brought up. Agreed with every opinion you've had on them.
  1066. "I mean -"
  1067. >"You can stop trying to explain," Moondancer interrupts with a shake of her head. "I just don't see things the same way, but I get that it makes you happy and that's good enough, right?"
  1068. "I... I guess...?"
  1069. >Maybe?
  1070. >"Don't worry. I'm not going to tell you you're having badwrongfun with your boyfriend."
  1071. >The term is unfamiliar, but easily understood, particularly with the way Moondancer rolls her eyes when she says it.
  1072. >"It's what works for you," she continues with a shrug. "Different people can enjoy different things without it being wrong. Unless it's something stupid. Then it's wrong and they're idiots for liking it and should just go die in a fire."
  1073. >She smiles kindly, the expression coming slowly to her face, as if the muscles themselves are unsure how to actually *make* it.
  1074. >"Not you, I mean. It works for you, right?"
  1075. >That's a good question.
  1076. >It lingers in your head, sticking with you through the rest of your conversation with Moondancer.
  1077. >You try not to let it bother you.
  1078. >*Try*.
  1079. >She didn't mean it like that.
  1080. >It's *not* like that.
  1081. >She wasn't actually questioning your relationship with Soarin.
  1082. >And yet, now you are.
  1083. >Is this working?
  1084. >Are you, to use Moondancer's term, stifling him?
  1085. >You're trying not to.
  1086. >You made him rejoin the soccer team.
  1087. >You're trying to let him do the things he wants to do.
  1088. >You're -
  1089. >You're being picked up.
  1090. >Now is not the time for worrying.
  1091. >Now is the time for panicking and flailing and wordless shrieking and -
  1092. >"Thanks, Spitfire," Soarin smirks, as you dangle from his friend's hands.
  1093. >"Not a problem," she answers with a shrug that momentarily lifts you several inches higher. "It was easier than trying to carry those pies for you."
  1094. >His arms *are* loaded down with plates. And pie tins. And the mangled remains of the pies they once contained.
  1095. >"True," he responds, slipping into -
  1096. "Hey! I was sitting there!"
  1097. >That was *your* throne - um, chair. Your *chair*.
  1098. >Soarin looks as confused as you probably were a second earlier.
  1099. >"Um... you still can."
  1100. >One of his hands twitches. If it wasn't holding the shattered remains of a pecan pie, he might have been gesturing towards his lap.
  1101. "Oh..."
  1102. >Right.
  1103. >Spitfire waits patiently.
  1104. >She has... uh... a surprisingly strong upper body, holding you aloft easily.
  1105. >"Well?"
  1106. >You nod and she gently sets you down on his lap.
  1107. >"You know, *pieslut*..." Moondancer grumbles as you snuggle into the perfect comfortableness, "we *were* talking."
  1108. >"And you still can. Mostly. Oh, yeah, here's your piece of apple."
  1109. >She doesn't thank him, but takes the plate - and inspects it suspiciously.
  1110. >"It's all there," Soarin reassures her. "I've got plenty to keep me busy."
  1111. >"So you say, but you ate her -"
  1112. >"More than enough," Soarin interrupts. "Silver, mind helping me out?"
  1113. >Spitfire laughs sarcastically and shakes her head.
  1114. >"Bullshit. I've seen you eat more than that."
  1115. >He's offering. Being polite. Kind and caring.
  1116. >You should let him eat it.
  1117. >He wants it.
  1118. >You shouldn't get in his way.
  1119. "I've had enough. You can..."
  1120. >There's a fork in front of your face, the chunks impaled on its tines glistening and red.
  1121. >"Don't you *dare* force feed Silver -"
  1122. >It's not.
  1123. >He wants to share.
  1124. >You want to make him happy.
  1125. >He's reading your books. He's sharing your interests.
  1126. >You can do the same. And if feeding you does that, it's not force feeding.
  1127. >"But... delicious flat chest..."
  1128. >"Overrated," Spitfire snaps at Moondancer as Soarin pulls the fork from your mouth. "Seriously overrated."
  1129. >"You have no idea what you're talking about," the other girl scoffs, thrust out her chest. "You only say that because you don't have to deal with *these*."
  1130. >Spitfire might be drooling, but she's not impressed. Not in the way that counts.
  1131. >"I do pretty often," she responds casually, flexing her fingers suggestively.
  1132. >"You know what I mean," Moondancer grumbles. With a weary sigh, she resumes her usual hunched pose. "You don't have to carry them around."
  1133. >"Do that sometimes, too."
  1134. >"Doesn't count!"
  1135. >You can't quite figure out the logistics of that.
  1136. >Would it be impolite to ask?
  1137. >It'd probably be impolite to ask.
  1138. >You shouldn't ask.
  1139. >"So, wait... Spitfire. I'm confused. You walk around holding her boobs? How the fuck...?"
  1140. >You didn't have to ask.
  1141. >Thank you, Soarin.
  1142. >Not that you had a chance to speak.
  1143. >Soarin's still feeding you, one forkful for every two or three he consumes and yet it barely gives you a chance to chew and swallow before the next is at your lips.
  1144. >"I don't ask about *your* sex life," Spitfire answers, flashing her girlfriend a smirk. "I don't want to be charged as an accessory."
  1145. >"Yeah, yeah... very funny. But... how...?"
  1146. >You're not sure if you're entirely comfortable with how long he's pondering this, but just as you open your mouth to object, there's yet another fork waiting for you to empty it.
  1147. >Strawberry.
  1148. >The smell reminds you of pancakes.
  1149. >You hesitate, caught between the two urges.
  1150. >His left arm tightens about your waist.
  1151. >"Full, Silver?" Soarin murmurs in your ear. "Sorry, I should have started with..."
  1152. >You shake your head frantically and lunge for the fork.
  1153. >It tastes as good as it smells.
  1154. >You don't moan happily. That would be undignified.
  1155. >That sound must be coming from one of the others.
  1156. >"Wow," Moondancer chuckles. "Maybe we *should* ask about their sex life."
  1157. >"Moony, don't -"
  1158. >"So, Soarin! Have you -"
  1159. >"I don't want to hear this!"
  1160. >"- well, fine! I guess I just won't - SILVERHOWBIGISHISDICK."
  1161. >He pauses.
  1162. >The fork hangs just out of reach.
  1163. >Looking back, you'll eventually realize it must have been shock that made him freeze like that. Right now, you think it's him prompting you to answer.
  1164. "Um..."
  1165. >You'd rather not.
  1166. >But if he wants you to...
  1167. >"Silver," Spitfire growls, "you don't have to answer that."
  1168. "It's... um..."
  1169. >Everyone else seems to know.
  1170. >Between Pinkie and Cloudy, it can't be a secret.
  1171. >You raise your hands.
  1172. >No, not quite...
  1173. >You spread them further apart.
  1174. >Yeah.
  1175. >That looks right.
  1176. >"You're shitting me."
  1177. >You shake your head.
  1178. >Seems right.
  1179. >Moondancer's mouth drops open.
  1180. >"How are you still alive?"
  1181. "Well..."
  1182. >Spitfire grabs for the girl's sleeve, but comes away with a handful of nothing.
  1183. >You don't want to anger her, so you let the rest go unsaid.
  1184. >She's Soarin's closest friend, after all.
  1185. >That makes her almost your friend.
  1186. >"Aww, come on, Silver," Moondancer whines. "Don't be like that."
  1187. >Spitfire screams and claws at her face in mock - yet somewhat real - horror.
  1188. >"I *can't* know this!"
  1189. >Her girlfriend just shrugs.
  1190. >"Then cover your ears because I could stand to hear a little more."
  1191. >Your seat shifts underneath you - and then it's gone and you're left dangling from Soarin's arm.
  1192. >Just the one, wrapped tightly about your waist.
  1193. >The other is still holding pie.
  1194. >"Nope."
  1195. >Not *all* the pie; a few scraps remain.
  1196. >"But Soariiiiin..."
  1197. >"Nope."
  1198. >Your boyfriend casually begins carrying you toward the door.
  1199. "I... uh..."
  1200. >If he put you down, he could carry more pie.
  1201. >You're more valuable to him than pie?
  1202. >Squee.
  1203. "I think we're leaving now."
  1204. >"Yep."
  1205. >"Wait, noooooo!" Moondancer groans, the tone at odds with the huge grin she's sporting. "You can't!"
  1206. >You half expect Spitfire to hit her or something, given the way she - and Soarin - handle their other friends, but the girl has her face buried in her hands.
  1207. >A whispered trickle of embarrassed murmuring leaks out from between her fingers.
  1208. >And Soarin's hands are full.
  1209. >No punching for Moony.
  1210. >Huh.
  1211. >"Nope," your boyfriend grunts at Moondancer. "Leaving before you suggest an orgy or something."
  1212. >The girl gasps in mock horror and puts her hand to her mouth.
  1213. >"I would never!"
  1214. >You're almost ashamed for feeling almost surprised at the lack of good-natured punching.
  1215. >"Good, because -"
  1216. >"The correct word would be foursome or, for a more generalized term, groupsex," she says. She's getting punched. "A proper orgy requires six or more people and -"
  1217. >"Nope."
  1218. >"Yes," she insists. "Do I need to provide citation, because -"
  1219. >"Leaving."
  1220. >Moondancer sighs and her shoulder's slum - not in surrender or disappointment, but in relief, judging from her sarcastic smile.
  1221. >"Good, because as cute as Silver is, I don't want to end up on a list of registered sex offenders or anything."
  1222. >"Plus he's my best friend," Spitfire adds quickly, "so that's a double hell no."
  1223. >"What, you never fuck friends?"
  1224. >"Never."
  1225. >Moondancer's eyes roll behind those impossibly thick lenses.
  1226. >"Uh-huh. Yeah. What about -"
  1227. >"Okay, there's exceptions, but not him!"
  1228. >"And not her," Soarin agrees. "It'd be like banging my sister."
  1229. >Moondancer blinks, slowly and exaggerated.
  1230. >"What now?" Spitfire groans, eyeing the girl suspiciously.
  1231. >"Incest is hot."
  1232. >Soarin has stopped moving and started watching, not that he had started walking all that quickly to begin with.
  1233. >He's not angry; he never was.
  1234. >You know when he is.
  1235. >*Everyone* knows when he is.
  1236. >But something has just shifted from making him uncomfortable to making him amused.
  1237. >If he weren't trying to play the angry boyfriend card, he might even be laughing.
  1238. "It's true, you know."
  1239. >"What. Silver. Please don't tell me -"
  1240. "At least, that's what the principal says."
  1241. >No laughter.
  1242. >Silence.
  1243. >Crap.
  1244. >You broke your boyfriend.
  1245. >"Crap. You broke my girlfriend."
  1246. >Moondancer sighs and gives the other girl a shove.
  1247. >Spitfire sways. No attempt to avoid it or steady herself.
  1248. "Whoops."
  1249. >He was supposed to laugh.
  1250. >"Um... Silver...?" he mumbles into your ear. "Did she really say that?"
  1251. "N-no..."
  1252. >"Oh. Okay."
  1253. >He falls silent again.
  1254. >You and Moondancer share a sigh.
  1255. >"We should dump them."
  1256. "N-no. I don't... "
  1257. >You *do* mind.
  1258. >It's your fault, but you mind.
  1259. >Like, a *lot*.
  1260. >So you kick his shin with your heel.
  1261.  
  1262. >You are Soarin and you deserved that.
  1263. >NOT THAT YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT OLDER BUT STILL ATTRACTIVE LADIES DOING OLDER BUT SEXY AS FUCK THINGS WITH EACH OTHER.
  1264. >Mostly trying NOT to think about it.
  1265. >Not like Spitfire.
  1266. >She's drooling.
  1267. >Still, you deserved it.
  1268. >Silver's getting better - hitting you instead of moping is proof of that - but she's not over her insecurities.
  1269. >Hitting you is proof of that as well.
  1270. >Spitfire's girlfriend is laughing.
  1271. >Yours is... yours really should join the team.
  1272. >She can kick pretty hard.
  1273. >You're just lucky she didn't have a knife.
  1274. >...
  1275. >No.
  1276. >Bad Soarin.
  1277. >You shouldn't think like that, even as a joke.
  1278. >Unless she *does* have one.
  1279. >Then maybe -
  1280. >"Hey, hey Soarin," Moondancer calls, waving you to come closer. "Bring her over here!"
  1281. "Why?"
  1282. >She points at Spitfire's rear.
  1283. >"Come on! You owe me!"
  1284. "For what?"
  1285. >You haven't wronged her, have you? Didn't even tell her manager that -
  1286. >"Because you didn't tell my manager I suck and to keep me in the backroom, you dick!"
  1287. >Oh. Right. You were supposed to.
  1288. >Still... eh... Spits is still staring into the distance with a lewd grin.
  1289. >As your friend, she's making you look bad by association.
  1290. "Okie dokie!"
  1291. >If Silver objects, she doesn't say so - or hold back.
  1292. >She might even be giggling as her foot makes contact with Spits' ass.
  1293. >Might be. You're not sure.
  1294. >It would be hard to hear over yours and Moondancer's, but you're relatively sure it's not just *your* body shaking with laughter as Spitfire faceplants on the living room floor.
  1295.  
  1296. >You are Silver Spoon and you shouldn't have kicked him.
  1297. >But somehow, in your twisted mind, kicking his best friend absolves you of any guilt.
  1298. >It shouldn't, but it does.
  1299. >You're crazy like that.
  1300. >The absurdity of it makes you giggle wildly.
  1301. >Not particularly dignified or proper, but you can at least take comfort in the fact it isn't deranged cackling.
  1302. >You're a good few years off from that. Decades. Hopefully.
  1303. >The cackling part.
  1304. >Not the deranged.
  1305. >You've got that down pat.
  1306. >What kind of girlfriend teases her boyfriend like that and then gets angry at him?
  1307. >If this all wasn't so funny, you would still feel bad.
  1308. >"Shit," Spitfire groans, rolling over onto what could roughly be called a sitting position.
  1309. >Roughly.
  1310. >It looks like the girl stopped halfway during a sit-up and then yoga happened. Or maybe the other way around.
  1311. >"You know," she says, waving a finger at you or Soarin or both, "either I'm drunk or..."
  1312. >Moondancer answers the unasked question with a shake of her head.
  1313. >"Cool. Didn't think I'd had any alcohol tonight. So that only leaves why the fuck isn't she on the team, Soarin? That was a good kick."
  1314. >"Because she's an indoor girl."
  1315. >He remembered!
  1316. >You nod, to Spitfire's obvious disappointment. She frowns and stares, examining you thoroughly.
  1317. >"Daaaaamn," she mumbles softly after her eyes have completed the circuit twice. "Those are some thick legs."
  1318. >You... don't know how to feel about that.
  1319. >And it must show, because she almost trips over her own words a second later.
  1320. >"Not that I mean that in a bad way or anything! They aren't *that* thick."
  1321. >Moondancer silences the girl with a swat to the back of her head.
  1322. >"Don't be a dick," she growls. "Silver's legs are within the normally acceptable range given her age."
  1323. >"Yeah, well, that's not baby fat," Spitfire mumbles back. "That's muscle."
  1324. "My... um... my house has a lot of stairs..."
  1325. >It does. It really does.
  1326. >Moondancer rolls her eyes and swats her girlfriend again.
  1327. >"Well, whatever. Shit, you didn't even notice until you looked."
  1328. >"Yeah, but -"
  1329. >"You're a breast girl," Moondancer sighs. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, it's not surprising. She's still growing. And... and you're still looking. So. Foursome?"
  1330. >"No! Why are you even bringing that up!?"
  1331. >"Because... delicious flat chest?" Soarin suggests with a chuckle.
  1332. >You wish he wouldn't refer to it like that.
  1333. >Makes it sound like he prefers it, but... what if he does?
  1334. >What if you grow up and it... *isn't*?
  1335. >"Tempting," Moondancer concedes, "but like I said, I don't want to end up on a sex offender registry."
  1336. >"I wasn't talking about Silver."
  1337. >Moondancer's eyes widen.
  1338. >They narrow suspiciously.
  1339. >Widen again.
  1340. >"Shit. I hadn't thought of that."
  1341. >You're lost.
  1342. >If he's not talking about you and definitely not Moondancer... and probably not Spitfire...
  1343. "Um... Soarin...?"
  1344. >You don't think Di would be up for something like that.
  1345. >She's shy.
  1346. >She doesn't act it, but she is.
  1347. >She doesn't know these people.
  1348. >"I'm not actually offering, you know," your boyfriend chuckles.
  1349. >She's not his to offer.
  1350. >"Too late. You consented!"
  1351. >She's y-what?
  1352. >"Nope," Soarin laughs, shaking his head. You can feel the gentle breeze stirred up by his movements, tickling the hairs on the top of your head. "We're outta here. Have good lesbianing."
  1353. >"Whoah, no. No way. I'm bi."
  1354. >Spitfire's expression probably matches your own, though without the glasses and general contentment. But the confusion? Yeah.
  1355. >She's confused. You're confused.
  1356. >"Moony," the girl slowly says, drawing out the nickname as though it's wholly unfamiliar to her. "Since when are you bi...?"
  1357. >"Ever since that asshole pointed out he was even flatter than his girlfriend."
  1358. >"But... he has a dick...?"
  1359. >"Yeah, but he doesn't have tits."
  1360. >"Huh."
  1361. >"Yep, flat chest.
  1362. >"Huuuuuuh."
  1363. >Spitfire eyes drift away to stare into nothingness.
  1364. >"Soo..."
  1365. >"ANYWAY," Moondancer barks, crossing her arms angrily, her movements stiff and sudden. "He has to stay and take responsibility."
  1366. >"Nope."
  1367. >"Yep. You have to stay and fuck us senseless."
  1368. >Oh.
  1369. "Soarin...?'
  1370. >"Hmm?"
  1371. "Should I be getting angry now?"
  1372. >She's... she's a friend now, right? Like Di?
  1373. >But she's hitting on him, isn't she?
  1374. >And you haven't even known her a day.
  1375. >She's not *really* your friend, not yet. Not like that.
  1376. >Not like Di.
  1377. "I think... I think I should be getting angry now."
  1378. >The furious expression on Moondancer's face falters and drops away, replaced by one expression after another, from worried to confused to amused.
  1379. >"It was just a joke," the girl smirks. "Seriously. You couldn't follow that?"
  1380. >Oh.
  1381. >Really?
  1382. >You tilt your head back until you can see Soarin's face, peering down at you.
  1383. >He nods.
  1384. >"I was just being stupid and she played along."
  1385. >Oh.
  1386. "Well... some things shouldn't be joked about."
  1387. >Soarin smiles apologetically.
  1388. >"Sorry, Silver."
  1389. >He puts his free arm around you, just below your collar bone.
  1390. >It's coiled tight around your upper arms, effectively pinning them in place.
  1391. >You don't mind.
  1392. >It's warm. Comforting.
  1393. >"Okay, okay," Moondancer chuckles. "I won't joke about his delicious flat chest again."
  1394. >"Good, because it's probably not a good idea to get her jealous."
  1395. >Soarin's arms squeeze you tightly.
  1396. >It's just a few inches below your chin.
  1397. >If you dip your head down, you could nuzzle it.
  1398. >They're still joking, right?
  1399. >Maybe?
  1400. >You're not sure, but there is *one* think you know.
  1401. >He's right.
  1402. >It's *not* a good idea to get your jealous.
  1403. >His arm is in reach.
  1404. >You bite.
  1405. >Lightly.
  1406. >Just hard enough to leave a mark that will fade in moments, but you stay latched on.
  1407. "Mine. Back off."
  1408. >The words come out garbled, but the intent must have been clear.
  1409. >Even if they do think you're just playing around.
  1410. >Are you?
  1411. >Maybe?
  1412. >Kind of?
  1413. >"I think she's laying claim to you."
  1414. >You nod - as best you can with his arm still clamped between your teeth.
  1415. >"Yeah," Soarin agrees calmly. "We better go."
  1416. >"Probably a good idea," Moondancer chuckles. "She's getting a little feisty and... yeah... I don't want to see that. Besides..."
  1417. >She ruffles Spitfire's hair.
  1418. >"... I've got to look after this dumbass."
  1419. >"Uh-huh," Soarin hums. "What you *really* mean -"
  1420. >"Yep, you know what I mean. If I let her stay in fantasyland, she might start getting ideas and I am *not* going home to get my -"
  1421. >"DON'T NEED TO KNOW. BYE."
  1422. >He all but sprints for the door.
  1423. >You would giggle if your mouth wasn't full of arm.
  1424. >Why were you ever worried about Soarin being friends with Spitfire?
  1425. >Completely. Unfounded.
  1426. >You don't let go, though.
  1427. >Still yours.
  1428. >"Sooooooo..." you can hear Spitfire mumbling as you reach the front door, "chicks with dicks...?"
  1429. >"Fuck!" Moondancer barks. "Yes. That's a thing."
  1430. >"Like... real chicks? But with dicks? Huh. Never thought of that before."
  1431. >Soarin is through that door and out the other side in a flash.
  1432. >"It's called futa," Moondancer sighs, "and if you can fucking wait until tomorrow -"
  1433. >Thankfully, the door closes before you can hear any more.
  1434.  
  1435. >You are Soarin and you got out just in the nick of time.
  1436. >Moony was going to get murdered if you stayed any longer.
  1437. >Mostly her fault, though. Partially yours.
  1438. >She's a good match for Spitfire.
  1439. >Brings out the stupid in you.
  1440. >Tiny kitten teeth saw at your arm as you bounce down the lawn towards your car.
  1441. "We're gone. You can stop that now."
  1442. >"Nuh."
  1443. "It... uh... it kinda hurts, Silver."
  1444. >Almost. Barely.
  1445. >Shes' being gentle.
  1446. >You've had worse.
  1447. >"Deahl wiff it. Your turn to hurt."
  1448. "My turn?"
  1449. >"Uh-huh."
  1450. >It's hard to take her seriously.
  1451. >It's hard not to.
  1452. >Everything she says seems to be so somber, even when she's playing around like this.
  1453. >Maybe she isn't.
  1454. >Maybe you're holding her too tight.
  1455. >Maybe that's it.
  1456. >You loosen your grip slightly, but Silver's teeth clamp down the instant she feels the pressure around her torso give.
  1457. "Shit!"
  1458. >This no longer kinda hurts.
  1459. >It *hurts*.
  1460. >You react as anyone would to pain.
  1461. >Instinctively and without thought.
  1462. >There's no need to think, just to avoid.
  1463. >You tear your arm away from the pain.
  1464. >Silver nearly tumbles from your grip.
  1465. >Because she held on tight.
  1466. >Because you weren't holding her tight enough.
  1467. >Only by quickly tightening your hold on her waist do you keep her from falling.
  1468. "What the hell, Silver!?"
  1469. >She didn't break the skin, but the mark of her teeth stands out on your arm.
  1470. >You can still feel them digging into your flesh, and the duller pain of them scrapping across your skin.
  1471. >It hurts.
  1472. >You're used to pain, but not like this. From practice, from playing, from your friends. Not from her.
  1473. >"I'm... I'm sorry..." she mumbles through clenched teeth.
  1474. >You thought you two were past this.
  1475. "Look, it's fine..."
  1476. >Fuck! That stings!
  1477. "I know you're just playing around, Silver, but that was a little too much."
  1478. >Her body tenses up, tight and taut as a bow string.
  1479.  
  1480. >You are Silver Spoon and you don't know why you did that.
  1481. >Neither do you understand what you did wrong.
  1482. >You never held it against *him* when *he* hurt you!
  1483. >Not when he left a bruise that lasted for days. Not when you could barely raise yourself from the bathroom floor.
  1484. >He hits his friends all the time!
  1485. >And they hits him!
  1486. >Aren't you closer to him than they are!?
  1487. >So why is he acting like this is some big deal!?
  1488. >It isn't!
  1489. >You bit him!
  1490. >So what!?
  1491.  
  1492. >You are Soarin and her silence is starting to worry you.
  1493. "Silver?"
  1494. >She remains quiet, frozen stiff in your grip.
  1495. "Silver, what's wrong?"
  1496. >It's not like you yelled at her or anything, even if she did just go a little psycho on you.
  1497. "Silver -"
  1498. >She shakes her head.
  1499. >If she could just answer, you could drop it.
  1500. >If she would just try to help you understand, you would.
  1501. >Maybe you should.
  1502. >You would.
  1503. >It's not a big deal.
  1504. >So your arm hurts. So what?
  1505. >Except... you've had that conversation before. Not too long ago.
  1506. "Silver..."
  1507. >You whisper her name gently into her ear.
  1508. "... weren't we going to try to be more open with each other?"
  1509. >She nods slightly.
  1510. "Did I do something wrong?"
  1511. >Silver doesn't respond.
  1512. >No nod.
  1513. >No shake of her head.
  1514. >No hesitant tremble.
  1515. >Nothing.
  1516. >She just hangs stiff and lifeless in your grip.
  1517. "I'm... I'm trying to understand what I did wrong, Silver. Why did you bite me like that?"
  1518. >She shakes her head again, a tiny gesture. Almost imperceptible.
  1519. "Were you scared of falling or -?"
  1520. >Her answer is brusque and lifeless.
  1521. >"I don't know."
  1522. "Hey."
  1523. >Tentatively, you raise your hand up to stroke her cheek.
  1524. >She doesn't lean into your hand like she usually does.
  1525. >Doesn't even acknowledge your touch.
  1526. "I'm just trying to understand, Silver. If I did something wrong -"
  1527. >"I don't know. I need to think about it."
  1528. >You draw in a deep breath, Silver's body rocking along with the swell of your chest.
  1529. >You hold it.
  1530. >You release.
  1531. >Not just the air in your lungs, but the worries and concerns.
  1532. >Nothing important happened.
  1533. >You were mistaken thinking it had.
  1534. >You nearly dropped your girlfriend and she was startled. That's all.
  1535. >You can almost convince yourself, for now at least.
  1536. >Enough to put a smile on your face and push the stinging in your arm to the back of your mind.
  1537. "Nevermind, Silver."
  1538. >It's not as important as keeping her happy.
  1539.  
  1540. >You are Silver Spoon and you think you are scared.
  1541. >You *hurt* him.
  1542. >You kicked him and you bit him. Just one wild scream short of a childish tantrum.
  1543. >That's not why you're scared.
  1544. >Not because you hurt him.
  1545. >Soarin wouldn't hurt you. Not intentionally, certainly not as revenge.
  1546. >He wouldn't let something as petty as that - and it *was* petty, his friends do worse to him every day! - get between the two of you.
  1547. >He loves you.
  1548. >He does.
  1549. >He's still hugging you tight.
  1550. >You aren't scared because he shouted.
  1551. >It's understandable. Predictable, even.
  1552. >Unexpected pain has that effect.
  1553. >"It's fine, it doesn't matter," Soarin murmurs softly into your ear as he reaches his car.
  1554. >He shifts his weight - and yours - so he can reach his keys.
  1555. >"Really, it doesn't," he continues, tucking you to one side like a bag of groceries and unlocking the passenger door. "Unless... unless you say it does. Unless I screwed up somehow. If that's the case..."
  1556. >You shake your head.
  1557. >He didn't.
  1558. >You're pretty sure he didn't.
  1559. >It was you.
  1560. >Your insecurities and awkwardness.
  1561. >You trying to fit in.
  1562. >You think.
  1563. >Maybe.
  1564. >But that's not answer enough for him.
  1565. >"... I'd like to know what it was. So I don't do it again."
  1566. >That's what has you scared.
  1567. >His utter willingness to take all the blame on himself.
  1568. >That, and the part of you that agrees.
  1569. >Unfairly, you know, but still...
  1570. >Aren't you two supposed to be over this?
  1571. >Why can't you just... fucking get over it!?
  1572. >And if not that, then why can't he just be angry at you!?
  1573. >You don't want him to be angry at you.
  1574. >He should be, but he won't.
  1575. >He never will.
  1576. >Always treating you with kid gloves.
  1577. >No, always treating you like you *are* a kid.
  1578. >Never yelling. Never striking.
  1579. >Never deliberately.
  1580. >Maybe... maybe that's because...
  1581.  
  1582. >You are Soarin and you are trying your best.
  1583. >Something's wrong, but she won't say what. She won't say *anything*.
  1584. >Silver hasn't spoken since you set her down.
  1585. >You've been sitting in the car in silence for ten minutes. Maybe longer.
  1586. "Well..."
  1587. >She won't even look at you, prefering to stare out at the dark sky.
  1588. "... anywhere you want to go?"
  1589. >You're flat broke, but she can pay, right...?
  1590. >Well, it doesn't *feel* right, but if that's what it takes to turn the evening around, you'll allow it.
  1591. >You'll feel shitty, but you'll allow it.
  1592. >She shakes her head... or the air ruffles her hair.
  1593. >The movement is so minute, it could be either.
  1594. "Book store? Or... uh... the park?"
  1595. >Apparently neither of those can compare with the dull sky above.
  1596. >She can't even see the stars, thanks to all the street lights, and yet it seems to hold more interest than your voice.
  1597. >Or your touch.
  1598. >She doesn't so much as flinch when you put your hand on her shoulder.
  1599. "We can go for ice cream, if you'd like that."
  1600. >Not even the promise of ice cream can pull her away.
  1601. >You don't know what's so interesting about that sky.
  1602. >... you also know she's not looking at the sky. She's facing away, but you know her eyes are flat and lifeless and unseeing.
  1603. >She's not looking at anything at all.
  1604. "Silver -"
  1605. >"Home."
  1606. >That's... tempting.
  1607. >You would be lying if you said you hadn't hoped tonight might end that way.
  1608. >No more than if you said you thought it was a good idea, though.
  1609. >It's not. It never is, even at the best of times.
  1610. >Now isn't the best of times.
  1611. >And yet it's tempting.
  1612. >Anything to make her happy, you tell yourself. If that's what gets her out of this sudden funk, then you'll do it.
  1613. >It has nothing to do with your own desires.
  1614. >It's pure coincidence that you put your hand on her shoulder.
  1615. >Pure chance you can feel the strap of her bra under her shirt.
  1616. >A fluke that you can feel it slide down a fraction as she lets out a tiny sigh, the left side of her body slumping as if the weight of your hand is too much for her to bear.
  1617. >Nothing to get excited about.
  1618. >Nothing untoward need happen.
  1619. >It's been a while since the two of you had time alone together, the barest chance to speak freely in private.
  1620. >Or to not speak.
  1621. >To simply hold each other.
  1622. >Share a bed.
  1623. >Sleep in each others' arms.
  1624. >It's not a good idea. It's never a good idea.
  1625. >But if it makes her happy...
  1626. >That's the only reason you would agree.
  1627. >Definitely.
  1628. >Not for yourself, but for her.
  1629. >A lie, but a pleasant one.
  1630. "We'll have to be careful. My parent's might be -"
  1631. >"My home. I want to go home."
  1632. "... oh..."
  1633. >You might not have said anything. It might have just been in your mind.
  1634. >She continues to stare out the window.
  1635. >No explanation.
  1636. >Not even the barest acknowledgement that you spoke.
  1637. >That you even exist.
  1638. >It's too much to ignore.
  1639. >Too much to pretend that everything is fine.
  1640. >For something so little, so non-existant, it's too much.
  1641. "Did I... did I do something wrong?"
  1642. >A faint shrug is her answer.
  1643. >At least you *got* an answer, if barely.
  1644. "Silver -"
  1645. >"I don't know, okay?" she mumbles.
  1646. >You're trying.
  1647. >To ignore it. To address it.
  1648. >To be better.
  1649. >For her.
  1650. >For *you*.
  1651. >For both of you.
  1652. "Please..."
  1653. >"Just take me home."
  1654. >It's too much.
  1655. >You're supposed to be over this.
  1656. >Why is it so hard?
  1657. >It shouldn't be.
  1658. >You sigh and let your hand drop from Silver's shoulder.
  1659. >That draws the tiniest of gestures from her - a minuscule flinch as your fingers slide away.
  1660. >A brief arc of her back, as if trying to reach for your touch even as she pushes you away.
  1661. >You turn your eyes towards the road and let out another sigh.
  1662. >No answer. No response.
  1663. "You're being childish."
  1664. >"Maybe that's because I *am*."
  1665. >You hadn't expected an answer.
  1666. >Certainly not *that* answer.
  1667. >An apology or explanation was probably too much to hope for.
  1668. >A smile would have been nice.
  1669. >You could have lived with silence. A shrug. Maybe a sigh.
  1670. >Any of those, sure.
  1671. >You'd drive her hope. Worry all night. Pretend everything was fine in the morning.
  1672. >And she, hopefully, would do the same.
  1673. >You could have lived with that, but not this.
  1674. >Not her falling back into self-doubt.
  1675. "You're..."
  1676. >And there's the sigh.
  1677. "... you're usually more mature than this, Silver."
  1678. >The tiny shrug.
  1679. "Just talk to me. Tell me what's going on. Don't give me the silent treatment."
  1680. >"I'm not."
  1681. "You are."
  1682. >Her head wobbles from side to side, the first distinct gesture she's made in what feels like forever.
  1683. "No?"
  1684. >The movement repeats, stronger this time.
  1685. "Then what's going on?"
  1686. >Silver shakes her head again.
  1687. >"I don't know."
  1688. "Well, neither do I."
  1689. >The words come out harsher than you intend and Silver flinches.
  1690. "I mean... this is kind of out of nowhere."
  1691. >"It's... it's not."
  1692. "Well, I didn't see anything leading up to it. I thought you were having fun talking with Moondancer."
  1693. >"I was."
  1694. "Then is it because... because... I wasn't paying attention to you?"
  1695. >"No."
  1696. >That's a minor relief; you thought you had been giving her space to talk and make new friends.
  1697. >At least that worked out.
  1698. "Then..."
  1699. >Perhaps that's what's going on.
  1700. "... did you want to stay? Is that it?"
  1701. >She shakes her head vigorously.
  1702. >Turned away in the dark, you can't see her face, but you can *hear* the embarassed blush in the way she answers.
  1703. >"No. Definitely. No."
  1704. "Then...?"
  1705. >"I don't know."
  1706. >She sighs and lets her forehead fall against the window.
  1707. >"I don't know, Soarin."
  1708. "Well, something's obviously wrong."
  1709. >"Yes."
  1710. >Fleeting puffs of fog on the window mark every one of her words.
  1711. >"Something's wrong and I don't know what. Everything just feels... kind of... off."
  1712. "That doesn't explain anything. You're going to have to try a little harder for your dumb jock boyfriend, okay?"
  1713. >"You're not dumb, Soarin. You know way more about this kind of stuff than I do."
  1714. >She turns slightly, rolling her body so she can look at you over her shoulder.
  1715. >"Really. I don't know what else to say. I don't know what's going on or how I feel or why I feel this way."
  1716. >You can see a hint of a smile on her face.
  1717. >Not a forced smile. Not a joyous one. Not exactly sad, either.
  1718. >Bittersweet.
  1719. >"Maybe relationships come easy to you," she murmurs, "but remember... I haven't experienced everything you have, Soarin. I can't always tell why I get jealous or angry... and I'm not either of those things right now, but sometimes... sometimes I don't even know how I feel."
  1720. >She sighs.
  1721. >A slender hand reaches out for yours, seeking comfort that only contact can provide.
  1722. >Only a jackass would ignore it.
  1723. >Her hand is cold. Weak.
  1724. >"I don't understand how this all works. Not just us, but... *me*. I don't know who I am. I don't want to be the clingy girlfriend that takes you away from all your friends."
  1725. >She squeezes your hand, though you barely feel it.
  1726. >"And I don't want you to ever so much as look at anyone else but me, or talk to them, or laugh at their jokes. You should only laugh at my jokes."
  1727. "I... I can try."
  1728. >"I don't *want* you to," she hisses. "I want you to have fun with your friends, but... you and Spitfire have all kinds of inside jokes and history together. Same with Cloudy."
  1729. "Well, yeah. I've known them both for a long time."
  1730. >"But you just met Moondancer and... and you didn't miss a beat. You get along with *everyone* and I'm... I'm... I'm still learning to get along with myself. I'm... I'm... still..."
  1731. >She giggles, short and bitter.
  1732. >"I'm still a child, Soarin. I don't have a clue what I'm doing.
  1733. >"Please, just give me some time. Take me home."
  1734.  
  1735. >You are Diamond Tiara and you are sitting on the edge of your bed, hesitantly run your hand through your hair.
  1736. >Slowly, almost teasingly, until the tip of your finger makes contact with the gash.
  1737. >Fucking. Ow.
  1738. >You jerk your hand back and the pain subsides to a dull throbbing.
  1739. >Stupid.
  1740. >What did you expect?
  1741. >That fucking magically you didn't fucking split your fucking head open a few days ago?
  1742. >You throw yourself onto the mattress with a sigh.
  1743. >Fuck.
  1744. >This hurts.
  1745. >The bottle of pills you'd stolen from your mother is on your nightstand.
  1746. >Like... right fucking there.
  1747. >You're practically staring at it.
  1748. >And not, like, because you're a druggie or anything, but because it's right *fucking* there in your face.
  1749. >Just right fucking there.
  1750. >Happy little bottle.
  1751. >Just RIGHT. FUCKING. THERE.
  1752. >Like it's fucking begging you to pop the lid and swallow it down.
  1753. >Fucking annoying.
  1754. >You only have to take one.
  1755. >Yeah, uh-huh.
  1756. >That's just like a boy saying "just the tip."
  1757. >Not from personal experience, but you can fucking well assume that it's never just the fucking tip.
  1758. >And it would never be just one pill.
  1759. >*That* you know.
  1760. >No one could ever say your mom wasn't an example for you.
  1761. >Not a *good* example. No one could ever say that.
  1762. >Try as you might, you can't seem to wish the pills away, so you roll over to stare at the wall instead.
  1763. >It doesn't hurt *that* much.
  1764. >You can ignore it.
  1765. >Or could, if you weren't so bored.
  1766. >There's nothing to do in here, but you don't dare go downstairs.
  1767. >You don't care to see your mother getting fucked.
  1768. >You don't care about her at all.
  1769. >Not like Silver.
  1770. >Maybe you could stay with her and Soarin tonight.
  1771. >He's enough of a white knight he'd probably let you.
  1772. >Fuck, he *owes* you, doesn't he?
  1773. >Does he...?
  1774. >He... saved you...? Right...?
  1775. >You still don't really remember much about that night.
  1776. >That guy. The one giving you all the free drinks.
  1777. >Soarin saved you from him.
  1778. >That's about all you remember, and even that doesn't seem right.
  1779. >It didn't seem all that bad at the time. You think.
  1780. >You don't know.
  1781. >Trying to remember makes the head hurt worse.
  1782. >Fuck it.
  1783. >You need something to keep you occupied.
  1784. >Anything to keep you from focusing on the pain.
  1785. >He'll give in. You know he will.
  1786. >You reach for you phone, blindly fumbling behind you on the nightstand.
  1787. >You find the bottle first.
  1788.  
  1789. >You are Soarin and you don't want to let her go.
  1790. >Silver is confused. She's hurting inside.
  1791. >You want to fix it for her.
  1792. >The urge is almost overwhelming.
  1793. >It's what you're supposed to do.
  1794. >That's what you tell yourself as you watch her disappear in your rearview mirror, but the moment she's out of sight - the instant you can't see that smile - you reach for your phone.
  1795. >"Hmmmmuhhhhh...?"
  1796. "Hey, are you free?"
  1797. >No, she's fucking not free.
  1798. >You woke her up.
  1799. >"Wait... uh..."
  1800. >You can hear the sleepiness in her voice.
  1801. >Of course she's not fucking free.
  1802. >Apparently today is the day you leave everyone miserable.
  1803. >"... Soarin...?"
  1804. "Yeah. Look... nevermind. Sorry I woke you up. Go back to -"
  1805. >"Nuuuuh, wait. Wait. Uh... sure... I'm free...?"
  1806. >You don't want to do this.
  1807. >You don't want to do anything but spin the car around and go back to Silver.
  1808.  
  1809. >Her parents are home.
  1810. >That would have been weird.
  1811. >*Weirder*.
  1812. >The diner is the only place you know that's still open.
  1813. >Luckily it's practically empty.
  1814. >Short Stack gives you a wave as you enter. Besides her, there's a drunk in a corner booth and...
  1815. >You look around.
  1816. >... ah, yep. She beat you here.
  1817. >Greasy Spoon is probably in the kitchen.
  1818. >And that's all. No one else in the place.
  1819. >Good.
  1820. >Way Silver is now, the last thing you need is for someone to see you two and for word to trickle back to her.
  1821. >It's nothing and she'd *know* it's nothing, but that wouldn't stop her from stressing out.
  1822. >She doesn't need that and neither do you.
  1823. >Your friend looks up from her coffee as you approach.
  1824. >"Wow," Blossom smirks, "somehow you look even sadder than normal."
  1825. >You only half-hear her words.
  1826. >Your mind is on other things.
  1827. "I always look sad."
  1828. >"Uh... yeah. That's why I said sadder than normal. Look, which one of us is still half asleep?"
  1829. "Sorry. I'm... yeah. Stuff."
  1830. >Blossom watches you expectantly, her eyes following along as you slide into the seat opposite her.
  1831. >"Well?" she asks once you've gotten yourself settled. "Going to tell me what's going on?"
  1832. >You open your mouth, but no words come out.
  1833. >You don't know what to say. How to even begin.
  1834. >"Need a minute to organize your thoughts?"
  1835. >You nod.
  1836. >"Take your time."
  1837. >No forced smile.
  1838. >No stress in her voice.
  1839. >"I've got coffee."
  1840. >Why is she so easy to talk to?
  1841. >Why does every conversation with Silver a struggle?
  1842. >You slump forward leaning on the table with your arms crossed.
  1843. >You never quite seem to stop; before long your head is resting on those crossed arms.
  1844. >She doesn't say a word, not to hurry you, not to help.
  1845. >She just waits silently, giving you all the time you need.
  1846. >You take that time and relax.
  1847. >Breathe in.
  1848. >Hold it.
  1849. >Let it out slowly.
  1850. >Just like you had taught Silver.
  1851. >Minutes pass.
  1852. >You don't know how long it is before you raise your head.
  1853. >You have no idea when that glass of water was set next to your elbow.
  1854. >Blossom grins at you over the lip of her mug.
  1855. >"Ready?"
  1856. >You shake your head.
  1857. >"No biggie. I've got my coffee."
  1858. "Sorry. I'm wasting your time."
  1859. >"It's fine. My turn to be here for you."
  1860. >You let your head drop back down.
  1861. >"I'm starting to get a bit hungry, though. Anything you recommend?"
  1862. "How about the strawberry pancakes?"
  1863.  
  1864. **** Chapter 10 ****
  1865.  
  1866. >You are Chapter 9.5 and you... wait, what?
  1867.  
  1868. **** Chapter 9.5 ****
  1869.  
  1870. >You are Pinkie Pie and you probably shouldn't be here right now.
  1871. >Like... if this was a story, you would probably totally be wrecking the pacing.
  1872. >Soarin and Silver Spoon were sooooooooo mopey and you're just not qualified to follow up on that.
  1873. >Trying to be sad is *hard*, though some people make it look easy.
  1874. >Like them.
  1875. >That was a mean thought.
  1876. >You should feel bad.
  1877. >Soarin *always* looks sad and Silver Spoon *always* looks lonely, but this was a special brand of down-ness.
  1878. >You'd chase after them to try to cheer them up, but you don't think you're supposed to know they're dating.
  1879. >Besides, this is pretty interesting.
  1880. >Spitfire keeps glancing at her phone like she expects it to ring.
  1881. >Silly girl. She should know better!
  1882. >Soarin's too considerate to call her.
  1883. >He knows she's... okay, he probably doesn't know the *exact* details, but he's smart enough he can safely assume sexy times are happening and he's too nice of a guy to interrupt that.
  1884. >Spits isn't in any position to answer it anyway if it *does* ring.
  1885. >"Am I boring you?" Moondancer growls suddenly.
  1886. >Whoopsie! She noticed!
  1887. >You stifle your giggles, because you don't want them finding out you're in the closet.
  1888. >That would make you seem like a total creeper and you're totally not.
  1889. >This is for science and as Twilight says, anything is excusable when it's for science!
  1890. >"Because if you aren't into this, I can -"
  1891. >"Oh, shut up, Moony."
  1892. >You can't quite stifle *THESE* giggles, but you're *pretty* sure they won't hear.
  1893. >Mooooony's a mooooooaner.
  1894. >That's going in the notebook.
  1895. >A whole lot is going to go in the notebook!
  1896. >Not as much as is going into Moony, but still a lot!
  1897. >Also, you maaaaay have misjudged her capacity.
  1898. >Maybe.
  1899. >Maybe not?
  1900. >You look down at your forearm and try to remember how big it is compared to two other very specific things.
  1901. >One of 'em isn't here.
  1902. >The other you can't exactly see.
  1903. >Not all of it, anyway.
  1904. >Wow.
  1905. >Yeaaaaah. Wow.
  1906. >She got that in pretty far.
  1907. >Wow.
  1908. >But you *think* Spitfire's arm isn't much bigger around than yours.
  1909. >It's her legs that are most impressive, but you've definitely got her beat there.
  1910. >Her muscly thighs are no match for you!
  1911. >Chub for the win!
  1912. >But arms? Yeah, those are *probably* about the same size.
  1913. >You look down at your forearm again.
  1914. >Ball up your fist.
  1915. >Think it over.
  1916. >"OKAY, OKAY, THAT'S ENOUGH!"
  1917. >"Nah, we just need more lu- uuuuuh... I can't reach it."
  1918. >Peek out the narrow slit between the closet doors.
  1919. >Yep! Nope! Your original estimate was spot on.
  1920. >You should never doubt yourself!
  1921. >Moony'd make a *great* girlfriend for Soarin.
  1922. >They even got along pretty great, too!
  1923. >(No one ever found you hiding under Silver Spoon's chair!)
  1924. >The two had a natural chemistry.
  1925. >She'd probably be waaaaaaay better for him than that little girl.
  1926. >First of all, because he wouldn't be going to the *special* hell. That'll be sad.
  1927. >Secondly, because you're not sure she'd survive sex with Soarin! According to that chart from the Factual Actual Textbook About Love, she'd die!
  1928. >And that wouldn't be nice!
  1929. >(Not that you can't think of a few girls who would be into that.... You should add him to their ship lists.)
  1930. >Reason three - and four - are currently bouncing like something out of an anime.
  1931. >Okay, not anymore, but they *were* until Spitfire bit down on one.
  1932. >Now it's just reason three waving around, all glistening and shiny with sweat.
  1933. >And kinda big enough that it still counts as two reasons.
  1934. >But not like gross floppy sausage tiddy. It's still big and round and pale like the moon. With a little party hat!
  1935. >Nipples are party hats!
  1936. >That's a nice boob.
  1937. >Almost makes you feel inadequate.
  1938. >You would pout, if you had a pouty bone in your body. Or any bone in your body.
  1939. >You *wish* you had a bone in your body.
  1940. >Like right now.
  1941. >What were you thinking about earlier...?
  1942. >Oh. Right!
  1943. >Soarin's dick.
  1944. >Soarin has natural chemistry with almost everyone.
  1945. >It's probably his dick.
  1946. >Like a... uh... friendship/fuckbuddy magnet or something... something...
  1947. >Ooooh.
  1948. >You should have sent a poet.
  1949. >Because... because... uh...
  1950. "No, don't do that..."
  1951. >Moony's gonna kill Spitfire!
  1952. >There's no way she can breath like...!
  1953. >Uh... okay.
  1954. >Well.
  1955. >Apparently she likes it.
  1956. >Better add it to her list.
  1957. >Important info, that.
  1958. >Like, you *really* wish you'd known about that a couple weeks ago.
  1959. >[INTERNAL GRUMBLING]
  1960. >[SYMPATHETIC INTERNAL GRUMBLING FROM LADYPARTS]
  1961. >Well, maybe next week.
  1962. >Earlier, if Soarin breaks up with Silver and Moondancer goes for him.
  1963. >That's a horrible thought.
  1964. >You hope he doesn't.
  1965. >He gets along with everyone.
  1966. >Basically. Pretty much. Not raging *assholes*, but pretty much ooooh, speaking of assholes...
  1967. >"Why do you even *own* a buttplug? I thought you weren't into anal?"
  1968. >"I got it for you."
  1969. >Dawww. You hope they kiss.
  1970. >They kiss!
  1971. >But they're kissing wrong!
  1972. >Those aren't the right lips!
  1973. >Disappointed as you are, all you can do is shrug.
  1974. >Or burst out the closet, let her know she's doing it wrong, and get *your* butt kicked in.
  1975. >But not, like, in the fun way.
  1976. >Your thighs are bigger, but in the plumper and softer way, and hers are solid muscle and that wouldn't be very awesome on your end.
  1977. >Besides, who are you to complain anyway? Moony seems happy enough.
  1978. >Just... you know... it's not romantic.
  1979. >Spitfire should have started with the mouth and worked her way down as she worked that plug in.
  1980. >Mhm!
  1981. >That's how you'd want her to do it to you.
  1982. >And... it's not like they'd have to break up or anything. Spitfire's pretty poly (which is the polite term for slutty these days, you think).
  1983. >And she's not *really* slutty, just man-type slutty.
  1984. >Not quite Soarin-levels of fidelity, but she wouldn't cheat on someone she was *seriously* dating.
  1985. >(Dude's got some issues, but that's okay, it makes him a good guy.)
  1986. >Aww, now you gave yourself the sads.
  1987. >You hope they don't break up.
  1988. >Not Moony and Spitfire (but them too, you guess).
  1989. >Soarin and Silver Spoon.
  1990. >They aren't right for each other.
  1991. >Seeing them together today (NOT THAT YOU SAW ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU WENT HOME WHEN YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING HOME EACH AND EVERY TIME AND YOU NEVER CAME BACK), you know that now.
  1992. >For certains.
  1993. >They might be, sometime in the future, but not right now.
  1994. >And not *just* because she's a kid and he's not a pedo (you hope, because it would be *really* super sad if they finally worked their issues out only for her to age out of his range of interest).
  1995. >They just aren't right for each other right now.
  1996. >Poor girl doesn't know what she's doing.
  1997. >Kind of like Spitfire.
  1998. >That is NOT how you use that.
  1999. >"Um..."
  2000. >"What?"
  2001. >"That... uh... doesn't feel good."
  2002. >"Oh. More lube?"
  2003. >"No, just... go a little slower."
  2004. >They should be more like that!
  2005. >Openly communicating!
  2006. >And knowing what they're talking about!
  2007. >That's the problem, you think.
  2008. >They're trying, because Soarin always tries. He's a good guy and Silver's a smart girl, but she just doesn't know *what* to communicate.
  2009. >She can't tell Soarin to go slower if she doesn't know that he needs to go slower!
  2010. >(But hopefully he's not putting anything in her butt because that would hurt and probably kill her.)
  2011. >She can't know things if she hasn't made the mistakes necessary to learn them yet.
  2012. >(And some of those mistakes might KILL HER!)
  2013. >They're just so wrong for each other right now.
  2014. >It'd be a real shame if they ruined their chances at something beautiful because they didn't wait for her to grow up.
  2015. >You gave yourself the sads.
  2016. >Seriously bad sads.
  2017. >Even watching lesbians lesbianing it up can't get rid of them.
  2018. >You sigh, push open the closet door, and begin the sad, saddity sad shuffle home, ignoring the indignant screaming of furious lesbians.
  2019. >It's just too sad.
  2020. >They're both trying so hard.
  2021. >Hopefully they don't break up.
  2022. >You don't think your little girl heart could take it.
  2023. >It must be true love.
  2024. >Otherwise they wouldn't try so hard when nothing's going right for them.
  2025. >They must truly love each other.
  2026. >At least, that's what you think.
  2027. >And maybe that's what *they* think.
  2028. >You sigh.
  2029. >You hope they aren't mistaking trying hard for true love, because they're both the type to do that.
  2030. >Maybe you should -
  2031. KLONK.
  2032. Oh. Weird.
  2033. Everything just went black.
  2034.  
  2035. **** Chapter 10 (for real this time) ****
  2036.  
  2037. >You are Soarin and you're not sure about today.
  2038. >Maybe you should call up Silver and cancel.
  2039. >She'd might take it pretty hard, but it also might be what she needs.
  2040. >Also might be what you need.
  2041. >You'd been out pretty late with Blossom.
  2042. >It's been a while since you've stayed up until sunrise.
  2043. >Even if you weren't completely exhausted, you're still thinking over what she'd said.
  2044. >None of it seems wrong, even if it doesn't feel right.
  2045. >Even if it did, you're in no position to make any decisions right now, not on three hours of shitty sleep.
  2046. >You'd hardly fallen into your bed when you got a panicked call from a number you didn't recognize. Something about helping hide a body.
  2047. >They'd hung up before you were even fully awake. Apparently she - whoever she was - woke up.
  2048. >You hadn't even set the phone down before your head hit your pillow.
  2049. >If you were smart, you would cancel on Silver. Do this tomorrow, instead.
  2050. >If you were smart, you wouldn't be dating an insecure child who would blame herself and think you didn't like her anymore.
  2051. >You also wouldn't have burnt through what little you had in your wallet paying for Blossom's meal.
  2052. >She said you didn't have to, but you did.
  2053. >Was the least you could do to make up for her time.
  2054. >Besides, it let you feel like you had some control over things again, instead of relying on others for everything.
  2055. >Blossom probably understood. You think that's why she didn't argue and you appreciate that.
  2056. >Either that, or... or stuff.
  2057. >It's fine.
  2058. >You're going to take Silver and Diamond out today and try to have some fun.
  2059. >Things will just be a little tight. That's all.
  2060. >You have to get some gas, but if you don't top up the tank, you should have enough left for some smoothies or something. Maybe a little present.
  2061. >Or... maybe you should call Silver and cancel.
  2062. >You're standing by your car, keys in your right hand. You have been for a few minutes now.
  2063. >In your other hand is your phone.
  2064. >You were going to call them anyway. Let them know you're on your way.
  2065. >But... you could cancel.
  2066. >Wait until tomorrow. Or next weekend when you have a bit more money to spend.
  2067. >You couldn't even take them to a movie today.
  2068. >Maybe the museum. It's free on Saturdays.
  2069. >Silver might enjoy it.
  2070. >Might.
  2071. >Probably not.
  2072. >Just because a girl likes to read, that doesn't automatically make her a total nerd.
  2073. >She's not like Twilight Sparkle, with her nose in a damn textbook every second of every day. A normal book, maybe. There's a difference.
  2074. >Diamond wouldn't like it. That's for damn sure.
  2075. >You don't know why you let Silver talk you into letting her tag along.
  2076. >She's just going to drag everything down and make today miserable.
  2077. >Next weekend would be better. She might not be available.
  2078. >You should...
  2079. >... stop making excuses.
  2080. >You're going to the mall.
  2081. >Whatever else you may be, you're a man of your word.
  2082. >For better or worse.
  2083.  
  2084. >You are Silver Spoon and you're nervously checking your watch for something like the third time this minute.
  2085. >Yes, you're wearing a watch. In *this* day and age.
  2086. >Diamond has already pointed out how silly it is. Twice.
  2087. >It was the first thing she said when you got her out of bed and into her shower.
  2088. >She doesn't understand and you haven't bothered to explain. She wouldn't get it even if you tried.
  2089. >The girl is still half asleep, even after her shower and getting dressed.
  2090. >She must have had a late night, though you can hardly imagine what or with who.
  2091. >She can hardly keep her eyes open, so you had let her fall back into bed to doze once she was ready.
  2092. >You'd even picked out her clothes with that in mind. They won't wrinkle.
  2093. >Now you're just waiting on Soarin - and checking your watch over and over.
  2094. >That's why you wore it.
  2095. >It's not about knowing the time. It's about giving you something to fiddle with.
  2096. >You spent too long on your hair to mess it up like you always do when you're nervous, and right now you are very nervous.
  2097. >He shouldn't be this late.
  2098. >True, you had never set an exact time, but you expected him to arrive before now.
  2099. >Maybe he's not late.
  2100. >Maybe he's not coming.
  2101. >You screwed up last night.
  2102. >You should have put on a smile and pretended everything was okay.
  2103. >You should have pretended you aren't insane.
  2104. >You should have pushed aside your issues and uncertainty and tried to be more adult.
  2105. >You screwed up.
  2106. >You *are* a screw up.
  2107. >He's not coming.
  2108. >It's been 46 seconds since you checked your watch last, and he still hasn't arrived.
  2109. >You don't blame him.
  2110. >You should have stayed with him.
  2111. >You should have slept with him.
  2112. >You should have spread your legs and let him do what he wanted.
  2113. >You screwed up.
  2114. >Twelve more seconds have passed.
  2115. >You can't blame him for not coming.
  2116. >You're the one who pushed *him* away last night, and all because you felt awkward and weird.
  2117. >You never even figured out why.
  2118. >You're such a stupid child.
  2119. >He shouldn't waste his time on you.
  2120. >Even if he loves you, he shouldn't.
  2121. >Even if he comes, you should -
  2122. >Your phone rings.
  2123. >You're so focused on your watch that you barely answer it before it goes to voicemail.
  2124. >"Hey, Silver. I'm on my way."
  2125. "Oh. Hi. Good. I'm... um..."
  2126. >"Gotta go. Traffic's pretty bad."
  2127. "Oh."
  2128. >"See you in a bit."
  2129. "O-"
  2130. >He's already hung up.
  2131. >That's fine.
  2132. >You wouldn't want to talk to yourself either, after what you did last night.
  2133. >And... and... it's not like he's the safest driver.
  2134. >Yeah.
  2135. >He should focus on his driving.
  2136. >That thought doesn't exactly cheer you up, but it does divert you off your prior train of thought.
  2137. >Better to worry about him than -
  2138. >A pair of arms suddenly embrace you from behind.
  2139. >"Don't worry," Di mumbles, her voice slurred slightly from sleepiness and her breasts pressing heavily against your back as she squeezes you close. "Stop worrying."
  2140. "I'm... I'm not."
  2141. >"You are, an' I care 'bout you, Sil. I want you t'be happy."
  2142. >She crushes you even tighter, almost as tight as Soarin can.
  2143. >"Iono what's wrong, Sil, but everything'll be fine."
  2144. >You want to melt in her arms, but the instant your body begins to relax Di starts to drag you down.
  2145. >She can't even stand.
  2146. >You're surprised she was able to wash herself this morning, even more so that she had insisted.
  2147. >Probably trying to wake herself up, because she must have taken a shower the night before.
  2148. >She hadn't reeked of night sweat and her towel had still been damp.
  2149. >You'd noticed that much before she kicked you out of the bathroom.
  2150. >"Everything'll be fine," Di repeats, whispering sensuously into your ear. "I care 'bout you, Sil. Promise me it'll all be fine."
  2151. "Y-yeah... It'll..."
  2152. >You take a deep breath, just as Soarin had taught you.
  2153. >Relax.
  2154. >You have to relax.
  2155. >It's impossible.
  2156. >All you can do is replace one insecurity with another.
  2157. >Di doesn't release you as you draw in air, her chest digging into your back.
  2158. >Not uncomfortably.
  2159. >You could... *understand*... how some people could enjoy such a feeling.
  2160. >Perhaps even how you could.
  2161. >If you weren't so worried.
  2162. >If you weren't so insecure.
  2163. >If you weren't so insane.
  2164. >You could never do the same for Soarin.
  2165. >He would hardly notice.
  2166. >He would notice *her*.
  2167. >You're glad she only watched.
  2168. >That she seems to *prefer* watching.
  2169. >You could never compete.
  2170. "It'll..."
  2171. >"He cares 'bout you, Sil."
  2172. >Is it you shuddering as you slowly emptying your lungs, or is it her?
  2173. "I... I know."
  2174. >You force yourself to stand straight. Rigid. Firm. Shoulders squared as best as your frame can allow.
  2175. >You have to, or she'll drag you down.
  2176. "Everything will be fine."
  2177. >"Good."
  2178. >She doesn't fight you as you drag her back towards her bed, doesn't struggle as you pull her arms from around you and slowly let her down into her bed.
  2179. >Normally she would. To prove a point, if nothing else.
  2180. >Di must be exhausted.
  2181. >Stayed up too late rea... uh, no. That would be you. Never her.
  2182. >You don't know *what* she does the nights you don't stay with her. Whatever it is leaves her like this, sometimes.
  2183. >Usually it's no problem to deal with.
  2184. >Just fall into bed with her.
  2185. >Simply do what she wants.
  2186. >This is the first time you haven't simply been following her lead.
  2187. >"Is he coming?" she mumbles as her head hits her pillow. "Wake m'up when he gets here."
  2188. "Yeah, but..."
  2189. >You need her to tell you what to do.
  2190. >Last night proved you can't manage on your own.
  2191. >At the same time, your new fears rise ominously at the thought.
  2192. "... you can stay here. If you want, I mean. You don't *have* to -"
  2193. >She shakes her head with more energy than you've seen all day.
  2194. >"No. I wanna go."
  2195. "You... um... you seem a little out of it today."
  2196. >Merely an excuse, but also the truth.
  2197. >And that truth is a convenient excuse.
  2198. >Funny how things work out like that sometimes.
  2199. >It's silly, but you can't help but want Soarin purely to yourself today.
  2200. >You don't have anything to worry about, and yet you worry.
  2201. >After sharing his attention last night, after seeing how well he gets along with random people he's never met before, you don't want to share him again.
  2202. >Not today, not so soon.
  2203. >"M'fine," Di sighs after a moment. "Just wanna spend today... with..."
  2204. >The last word or words are barely mouthed, let alone mumbled, but you know what she means.
  2205. "I... I could call him and cancel."
  2206. >It's silly, so silly.
  2207. >You shouldn't be worrying about the two of them being together.
  2208. >They don't get along. And you'll be there. And he loves you, right?
  2209. >Right?
  2210. >It's silly.
  2211. "Really, Di."
  2212. >You're silly.
  2213. "I can spend the day with you instead. I don't mind."
  2214. >She shakes her head limply.
  2215. >"No. I wanna get out've the house."
  2216. >You sigh and look at your phone.
  2217. >He's probably halfway here.
  2218. >What would his reaction be if you pushed him away *again*?
  2219. >You wouldn't blame him if he took it the wrong way.
  2220. >Or would it be the right way...?
  2221. >You can't cancel on Soarin.
  2222. >You can't risk pushing him further and further from you, until he finally realizes you aren't worth the trouble.
  2223. >If Di won't stay away...
  2224. >No.
  2225. >It's okay.
  2226. >She's... she's your friend.
  2227. >It should be okay. It should be more than okay. You'll *make* it be -
  2228. >Your phone buzzes in your hand, shaking those thoughts out of your mind.
  2229. >He's here.
  2230. >It's too late now to do anything but hope you don't mess up again.
  2231. "Di..."
  2232. >She looks up at you, blinking drowsily.
  2233. "... he's here. Are you sure you don't want to stay -"
  2234. >Di shakes her head and limply holds out her hand.
  2235. >The way she is now, she... she *might* not be able to get herself to her feet.
  2236. >You could...
  2237. >She's your friend.
  2238. >You help her up.
  2239. >That's not enough, though. Di can barely stand.
  2240. >With a sigh, you pull her arm across your shoulders.
  2241. >You weren't lying to Soarin that night; you've had to help her up to her room often enough.
  2242. >You can carry her weight.
  2243. >Not that you *want* to, but you can.
  2244. >"Thanks."
  2245. "I hope you wake up soon."
  2246. >"M'too."
  2247. "Because I'm not going to do this all day. Once we get to the mall -"
  2248. >"L'be fine, Sil. Promise."
  2249. >You start to walk, but she resists. Not just limply hanging on you, but actually pulling you back.
  2250. >"Wait. Sil. Wait."
  2251. "What?"
  2252. >"Pills."
  2253. >Her fingers reach out, searching for the bottle tipped over on her nightstand.
  2254. >There are noticeably fewer pills than there were last time you saw it.
  2255. >But... it's been a few days.
  2256. >She's been responsible. You think.
  2257. "Di..."
  2258. >"Need'em."
  2259. "Are you sure?"
  2260. >She nods - and winces.
  2261. "How're you feeling?"
  2262. >"It hurts."
  2263. "Then..."
  2264. >She should stay here. If she's hurting, she should stay home.
  2265. >You can't trust her alone with the medicine.
  2266. >They're high strength opioids.
  2267. >You recognize the shape and color.
  2268. >You know firsthand what an overdose can do.
  2269. "... I'll tell Soarin we can't go out to-"
  2270. >"We're goin' out," Di snarls, stretching the final inch to snatch the bottle off of the table. "Don't wanna be here."
  2271. >She lurches forward, but her knee buckles under her.
  2272. >"Please, Sil," she mumbles, dragging down on you. "I just wanna go out."
  2273. >You can't leave her alone.
  2274. >You can't push Soarin away.
  2275. >You can't do anything but go along with events.
  2276. "Fine."
  2277. >You jerk the bottle from her hand and drop it into your purse.
  2278. "But *I* am going to keep hold of these."
  2279. >"... fine."
  2280. >For all her eagerness, you practically have to drag her down the stairs.
  2281. >Di's feet hit each step loudly as she shambles down the wide staircase, her shoes smacking against each wooden panel like... like a child stomping her feet in a pointless tantrum.
  2282. >She's not, though!
  2283. >Your friend simply lacks the strength - or caring - to stop her feet from falling heavily.
  2284. >"Diamond!? Is that you making that racket?"
  2285. >Di shudder at the sound of her mother's voice echoing one or two rooms removed, but answers. Weakly, reluctantly, and with a roll of her eyes.
  2286. >"Yes." And then a second later, even softer, "Who else would it be?"
  2287. >"Are you going out?"
  2288. >You can hear Spoiled Rich's heels clicking on the wooden floor, growing louder with every step.
  2289. >"Diamond. Tiara. I don't *think* -"
  2290. >"YES! I'M GOING!"
  2291. >You roll your own eyes at that.
  2292. >It never helps.
  2293. "Yes, ma'am! We're going to the mall!"
  2294. >Spoiled Rich freezes the moment she comes into view, the moment you shout out.
  2295. >"Oh," she grunts. "You're here."
  2296. >You have seen many fake smiles in your life, many in your mirror. Sometimes on Di's face. Sometimes your parents'.
  2297. >Hers is always the fakest, like she's not even *trying* to pretend, merely going through the motions.
  2298. >"Well, as long as you're with her -"
  2299. >Always! Always so deferential towards you!
  2300. >"- Silver Spoon."
  2301. >And the way she says your name!
  2302. >It makes you feel dirty.
  2303. >She's so stupid.
  2304. >As if you *really* had any impact on your parents' business dealings.
  2305. >You don't know what you were thinking earlier.
  2306. >There's no way you could have left your friend alone with *her*.
  2307. >Right now, Di needs to be with someone who will actually look out for her well being, not someone who will only pay attention to her daughter when company is over.
  2308. "Don't worry, ma'am. I'll be with her the whole time."
  2309. >All weekend.
  2310. >She's your friend.
  2311. >She's in trouble.
  2312. >She's a convenient new thing to worry about, something to take your mind off the chaotic roil of your emotions.
  2313. >How hopeless you are at love.
  2314. >"Of course you will," Spoiled Rich hums, putting an overly-manicured nail to her lips, "but Diamond?"
  2315. >"What."
  2316. >"Don't push yourself. Do you have your painkillers?"
  2317. >Neither of them so much as notice your gasp of surprise, let alone react to it.
  2318. >For a second, you might as well not exist.
  2319. >(A thought you've frequently had.)
  2320. >"What does it matter to you?" Di growls, trying to draw herself to her full height, failing, and reminding you why you *do* matter.
  2321. >To hold her up.
  2322. >She's your friend.
  2323. >Someone to worry about besides yourself.
  2324. >She's important to you.
  2325. >In a selfish, greedy fashion, but she's important to you.
  2326. >You can't feel *too* guilty about that. It's not like she doesn't take advantage of you just as often.
  2327. You're important to her.
  2328. >There may be a hint of honesty in Spoiled Rich's expression as she smiles down at her daughter.
  2329. >Maybe.
  2330. >Possibly.
  2331. >"Because I care about you, Diamond. Let me know if you need more."
  2332.  
  2333. >Di remains quiet from that moment until you're at the end of the drive.
  2334. >You cheerfully let the awkward silence linger.
  2335. >The longer it is before she explains, the longer you can worry about things that aren't you or Soarin or how much he hates you.
  2336. >You would giggle about how insane that is, if it wasn't also so true.
  2337. >Spoiled Rich knows Di stole her pills but doesn't *seem* to mind, though that may have just been an act since you were there.
  2338. >Probably not.
  2339. >She only puts on a thin veneer of civility, saying all the right words, but so hollow that you would have known.
  2340. >So she must also know about Di's injury.
  2341. >You can't imagine any parent, even one as negligent as Spoiled Rich, simply shrugging it off otherwise.
  2342. >Not that you don't try.
  2343. >Imagining keeps your brain busy as you carry her along the sidewalk towards Soarin's idling car.
  2344. >He'd parked half a block away, not right in front of Di's house, but you spot it right away.
  2345. >You have to carry her all that distance, so you're happy for any little distraction that can stop you from overthinking your own problems.
  2346. >Still... you sigh.
  2347. >You have to drag Di that whole way.
  2348. >It's your own fault, though.
  2349. >Your idea. Your fault.
  2350. >When you'd first suggested this little outing, you thought his car would stand out far too much.
  2351. >It's the middle of the day, not the middle of the night! And on a weekend, no less!
  2352. >People are home. They're around to see.
  2353. >It's. Bright. Yellow!
  2354. >It's also surprisingly at home in Di's neighborhood.
  2355. >A little worn and a far older model than most, but the coloring isn't as out of place as you had expected.
  2356. >Plenty of nouveau riche here, all assuming that a flashier car means something beyond squandering their wealth.
  2357. >Not like Soarin.
  2358. >He has a valid reason for owning something so bright and loud.
  2359. >You smile faintly as you remember what he said.
  2360. >It makes it easy for him to find if he forgets where he parked.
  2361. >Not that he ever would.
  2362. >Now you have something else to worry about.
  2363. >Maybe you *can* imagine Spoiled Rich being that negligent.
  2364. >Unless someone is around to notice, she barely pays attention to her daughter.
  2365. >She didn't even *try* to buy Di's way into Crystal Prep when she failed the entrance exam.
  2366. >When Di got the rejection letter, Spoiled Rich had simply shrugged and thrown it in the trash before pantomiming a cheap facsimile of sympathy.
  2367. >No, maybe she *would* be this negligent.
  2368.  
  2369. >You are Diamond Tiara and you wish *you* had someone to look down on.
  2370. >The way Silver is smiling thoughtfully makes you want to slap her.
  2371. >You *know* what's running through her head.
  2372. >If you could, you would slap that smile off her face in a heartbeat.
  2373. >Not as much as you want to slap your mother, though. Or more than slap.
  2374. >When she's not ignoring you, she's *always* embarrassing you in front of others.
  2375. >Almost makes you want to ask Silver for your mother's pills and the pleasant haze they bring, but that would only make things worse, wouldn't it?
  2376. >You already know what she thinks, that you're abusing the meds.
  2377. >It's not like you can deny it; that's what a junkie would do.
  2378. >She wouldn't believe you.
  2379. >You head throbs with every shuffled step, but that's nothing compared to the pain of your shame.
  2380. >It's not true! You aren't!
  2381. >That doesn't matter.
  2382. >All that matters is what people believe.
  2383. >Things don't really happen if they happen behind closed doors.
  2384. >That's one of the few things your mother taught you.
  2385. >Silver stops walking a moment before you notice.
  2386. >You try to drag yourself forward another step, but she holds you back.
  2387. >"We're here, Di."
  2388. >Next thing you know, Silver's pushing you into the backseat of some... oh, it's Soarin.
  2389. "Hi, Soarin."
  2390. >"Uh, heya," he grunts like an idiot, bent around to stare at you from the driver's seat.
  2391. >Fuck him.
  2392. >"Are you okay?"
  2393. >"She's... fine," Silver mumbles, trying to untangle her arm from yours, but you don't wanna.
  2394. >You're tired.
  2395. >She's soft.
  2396. >You don't really remember where you're going, but you're supposed to be going somewhere.
  2397. >You can sleep on the way there.
  2398. >"Di..."
  2399. >"Go ahead and sit with her, Silver. She... uh... are you *sure* she's okay?"
  2400. "M'fine."
  2401. >"We can cancel if you need to. For her, I mean."
  2402. >Another fucker that's looking down on you. He's *always* looking down on you.
  2403. >Even when he's trying to be nice.
  2404. >Even when you're hurt and on your back and he's crouched down by your side and that's still all you fucking remember from that fucking night!
  2405. "I *said* I'm *fine*."
  2406. >"Oh," that stupid fucker chuckles nervously. "Just a late night or something?"
  2407. >You shrug.
  2408. >"Do anything fun?"
  2409. >"She, uh, took some painkillers," Silver says quickly, like you can't answer for yourself.
  2410. >"Ah..."
  2411. >You shake your head and regret it.
  2412. >That hurts.
  2413. "Nothin' fun. Jus' fell in bed an' lay there. Tha's'it. Didn't do anything but lay there 'til I fell 'sleep."
  2414. >"Took a while, huh?"
  2415. >Fuck him.
  2416. >Why won't he just leave you alone, but no! He just *has* to try to fucking get along with everyone!
  2417. "Yeah."
  2418.  
  2419. >You are Silver Spoon and you helping Di with her seatbelt.
  2420. >Well, not really helping. Doing it yourself while she gets in your way and stares angrily in Soarin's way.
  2421. >At least there are *some* people he doesn't naturally get along with.
  2422. >Just... you know... the girls that are around his age and probably interested in stealing him away.
  2423. >Some that aren't, too, but they might. Accidentally.
  2424. >You don't think Blossom would do that on purpose.
  2425. >She's your... your *friend*.
  2426. >So is Di.
  2427. >It's a shame it has to be her, but it's still a bit of a relief to you that he can't quite seem to get along with her, no matter what.
  2428. >You're horrible for thinking that, but the cheer it brings your heart is greater than the guilt.
  2429. >Because if there's one, there may be others, but you only have to feel bad about the one.
  2430. >She's the only one who is your friend.
  2431. >"Well... uh..."
  2432. >And he never can recover, can he?
  2433. >Once he's off balance, he never can recover.
  2434. >He never gets over it.
  2435. >Never turns an enemy into a friend.
  2436. >"... I've got to stop and get gas, so... uh... why don't you go ahead and sleep."
  2437. >Too bad you put him off balance last night.
  2438. >Maybe you could buy him a new car. A fancier one.
  2439. >He'd have to keep loving you then, right?
  2440. >Soarin has hardly left the curb before Di's head is on your shoulder.
  2441. >The ride to the gas station is silent, neither you nor Soarin daring to speak.
  2442. >You don't want to imagine what is running through his head.
  2443. >You can - and do - but you don't *want* to.
  2444.  
  2445. >You are Soarin and you are troubled.
  2446. >Diamond is probably just tired, but Silver?
  2447. >She seems too worried about her friend to enjoy today.
  2448. >Or maybe she's still messed up from last night.
  2449. >You try to push that thought away.
  2450. >Focus on today, not last night.
  2451. >What Blossom said and how it all made sense.
  2452. >What you said and how it didn't.
  2453. >There's still a little cash in your wallet.
  2454. >You can try to make today as good for Silver - for both of them. That's all you can do.
  2455. >Won't have much to work with once you've gotten gas, but you're basically running on fumes.
  2456. >Any other car, and you'd worry you wouldn't make it to the station.
  2457. >She'll make it, though.
  2458. >You know her limits
  2459. >The cars.
  2460. >You wish you knew Silver's.
  2461. >All you can do is try.
  2462. >At least Diamond is looking better.
  2463. >Happier, at least.
  2464. >You can see her tiny, content smile every time you look in the rearview mirror.
  2465. >Would be nice if Silver had the same expression, but right now you'll take what you can get.
  2466. >Minor victories.
  2467.  
  2468. >You pull up to the only empty pump and quickly try to juggle your needs versus your wallet.
  2469. >Five be enough? Should you go with ten?
  2470. >Fifteen?
  2471. >You'd feel more comfortable filling up completely, but that's not really an option today.
  2472. >Besides, you and Cloudy had plenty of fun times without spending anything.
  2473. >You can do this.
  2474. >Falling back on your past experiences hasn't always worked out with Silver, but you can do this.
  2475. >Ice cream isn't *that* expensive and wandering around the mall holding her hand is free.
  2476. >So is snuggling in the park or heading down to the river to swim.
  2477. >You can do this.
  2478. >Diamond groans groggily as you get out, the swaying of the car bringing her to the brink of wakefulness, but no further.
  2479. >You should probably look into replacing the suspension.
  2480. >If you do the work yourself - and why wouldn't you, considering you've done everything else on it - *and* can find the parts from a scrapyard, it shouldn't be *too* -
  2481. >"Soarin?"
  2482. >You look up from the ground to see Silver stretching out her arm as far as she can without disturbing her friend.
  2483. >"Here," she says, trying to hand you her debit card. "I'll pay for this."
  2484. >There's a brief moment where you want to say no.
  2485. >That's a lie.
  2486. >It's not brief.
  2487. >You still want to turn her down, even as you lean through the open window to take the card from Silver.
  2488. >It's stupid, but it's how you feel.
  2489. >Didn't Silver say practically the same thing not too long ago?
  2490. >You still want to turn her down, but you also don't think she could handle that.
  2491. >There's a gleam of manic desperation in the smile she gives you as she rattles off her pin.
  2492. >With a quiet sigh, you turn to the pump and insert Silver's card.
  2493. >Later. You'll talk to her about it later.
  2494. >You almost cut off the gas when it hits 10. The urge is stronger when it hits 15.
  2495. >It feels like you're taking advantage of Silver.
  2496. >But... she *wants* you to, so it's okay, right?
  2497. >Right?
  2498. >You top off the tank.
  2499. >Never know where today might lead.
  2500. >Would be a shame if you ran out of gas halfway to the border during the inevitable car chase.
  2501. >You've got faith you can outrun the cops, so long as you have gas in your tank.
  2502. >The worst part is, you find the thought somewhat reassuring as you slide back behind the wheel of your car.
  2503. >'Outrun the cops' should never be a best case scenario, but this is all going to fall apart at some point.
  2504. >Hopefully not today.
  2505. "Thanks, Silver."
  2506. >She blushes as she takes her card back from you.
  2507. >You smile.
  2508. >It's almost a touching moment, until Diamond snores, still fast asleep on Silver's shoulder.
  2509. "She's not doing any better, is she?"
  2510. >"Maybe... um... maybe if we get her something to eat?"
  2511.  
  2512. >You are Silver Spoon and you haven't eaten at all today.
  2513. >At first you had been too rushed trying to get ready.
  2514. >Then too nervous.
  2515. >And now, your stomach is roiling.
  2516. >A little food might help it - and your mind - settle.
  2517. >Di probably hasn't eaten anything either.
  2518. >It might help her and it would certainly help *you*.
  2519. "How about... um... how about the diner?"
  2520. >Yes. Definitely.
  2521. >Food might settle your stomach.
  2522. >Strawberry pancakes might settle your mind.
  2523. >"Diner?"
  2524. "Yeah, you know. The one you -"
  2525.  
  2526. >The waitress seems familiar.
  2527. >Oh. Right!
  2528. >She was the one that served you that night!
  2529. >Maybe?
  2530. >She looks tired.
  2531. >"Hey, Short Stack," Soarin greets her.
  2532. >Aren't they friends?
  2533. >Why's he frowning?
  2534. >"Hey, Soarin," the waitress yawns. "Sorry, sorry, my replacement called in. Been a long night. Day? What time is it?"
  2535. >She squints out the nearby window.
  2536. >"Ah. Day. I hope one of the other girls gets here soon. Anyway..."
  2537. >She pulls out her pad and a pen while trying to stifle another yawn.
  2538. >"... twice in one day, huh? What brings you back again so soon?"
  2539.  
  2540. >It's nothing to worry about.
  2541. >It's nothing to worry about.
  2542. >She's your friend. He's your boyfriend.
  2543. >It's nothing to worry about.
  2544. >He just needed someone to talk to.
  2545. >It's nothing to worry about.
  2546. >He would never hurt you.
  2547. >It's -
  2548. >Something - some*one* - strikes the back of your seat.
  2549. >"Hey."
  2550. >"What, Di?"
  2551. >Why did she have to get better?
  2552. >Why couldn't she have gotten worse?
  2553. >Why isn't she being your friend and giving you something else to worry about!?
  2554. >Because you *shouldn't* be worrying about this!
  2555. >It's nothing!
  2556. >He... he just needed someone to talk to.
  2557. >"We're here," Di answers in a singsong voice. "Didn't you *want* to go to the mall? Because we're here! Get out!"
  2558.  
  2559. >You are Diamond Tiara and you kick her seat again.
  2560. "Let's go do something *fun*!"
  2561. >You need something fun.
  2562. >Something worth remembering.
  2563. >Either that, or you need something to dull the pain.
  2564. >You'd rather have the memories.
  2565. >And she needs something to get her out of her little mopey sorry pit.
  2566. "Do I *have* to undo your seatbelt for you or something? Because -"
  2567. >"Diamond," Soarin growls, undoing his own seatbelt because - surprise! - you aren't the only person in the car who isn't *totally* helpless, "leave her alone. And don't kick my car again."
  2568. "Or what?"
  2569. >"No 'or.' Just don't do it."
  2570. >You aren't afraid of him.
  2571. >Soarin can't do anything to you that you would still feel after a few pills, or even care about.
  2572. >Whatever.
  2573. >There's only one thing worth caring about here, and you *do*.
  2574. >While he's being a pissy shit, you get out anyway, because it's hard to drag Silver out of a car when you're still in it.
  2575. >And yes, you *do* have to undo her seatbelt for her.
  2576. >At least she was thinking straight enough earlier.
  2577. >Those strawberry pancakes were *amazing*.
  2578. >You don't know why she didn't eat hers, but hey. More for you.
  2579. >Almost made life worth living again, so you don't know why she can't just get over shit.
  2580. >Well, you do.
  2581. "Come on, Silver!"
  2582. >Her brain's too busy being stupid, so you basically have to lift her out of the car on your own.
  2583. "Where do you want to go first?"
  2584. >She needs a distraction.
  2585. >Silly girl should have brought a book or something.
  2586. "How about -"
  2587. >"How about we let her decide?" Soarin interrupts.
  2588. >Faggot.
  2589. >As soon as he sees a helpless girl, he just *has* to rush to her rescue.
  2590. >Well, she doesn't fucking need rescuing!
  2591. >If anyone does, it's you.
  2592. >Fuck.
  2593. >Your head hurts.
  2594. >And his attitude isn't fucking helping.
  2595. >You'd like to have a little fun, too, for once in your fucking life.
  2596. >So you fucking stare that fucking fucker right in his fucking eyes.
  2597. "Silver, how about that bookstore on the first floor?"
  2598.  
  2599. >You are Soarin and you don't want to admit it, but that sounds like a good idea.
  2600. >Silver always does seem more comfortable with a book in her hands, even if she's not reading it.
  2601. >Finally, you nod in agreement, but the pair is already dashing off through the parking lot.
  2602. >Well, mostly Diamond. Silver is just being dragged along.
  2603. >You lock up the car and follow.
  2604. >The three of you are inside the mall before you realize you don't remember exactly where you parked.
  2605. >Meh.
  2606. >You'll deal with that later.
  2607. >Diamond only briefly paused at a map - and as soon as you'd caught up she dashed off to the left.
  2608. >If you don't follow immediately, you'll lose them in the crowd.
  2609. >The mall isn't packed, but it's busy enough, and those girls aren't as easy to spot as your car.
  2610. >Well, there's an idea.
  2611. >Maybe you should swing by a clothing store and buy Silver a bright, yellow hat.
  2612.  
  2613. >You don't, though.
  2614. >That would have been stupid.
  2615. >Almost as stupid as wandering around the mall with girls five years younger than you.
  2616. >Being *more* visible would only make thing worse.
  2617. >Luckily, Silver can't run as quickly when she's got her nose buried in a book.
  2618. "I'm glad you found something you like."
  2619. >She hums some noncommittal response and keeps shuffling forward, dragged onward by Diamond.
  2620. "Was a little worried you wouldn't when I saw how small that place was."
  2621. >Honestly, it seemed like she had just grabbed the first thing off the shelf that stood out to her.
  2622. >She hadn't even made it to the fiction section, so it's not even a novel, but a self-help book or something.
  2623. >You had no idea Silver was into target shooting.
  2624. >Maybe she isn't. Maybe it was just the first thing she saw.
  2625. >Either way, it's a book and it seems to be working.
  2626. >She's been less jittery from the very moment she began reading.
  2627. >"Could you *please* put that away?"
  2628. >Diamond too, though she's still a bitch.
  2629. >"I thought you wanted to come here to have *fun*," she continues, hissing at Silver pointlessly. "What was even the point if you're just going to read all day?"
  2630. >Your girlfriend shrugs slightly, never even looking up from the book.
  2631. "Hey, don't blame her. It was your idea."
  2632. >The girl stops, sighs, and rolls her eyes in such a stereotypical fashion that it *has* to be staged.
  2633. >Stopping by the diner was a mistake. You know this already.
  2634. >Silver seemed to understand your rushed explanation back then, but it still bothers her. You can tell.
  2635. >But now you're wondering if it was a bigger mistake than you thought.
  2636. >You liked Diamond better when she was comatose.
  2637. >Feeding her was a mistake.
  2638. >... even if Silver had been the one to pay.
  2639.  
  2640. >You are Diamond Tiara and you aren't having any fun.
  2641. >What's the point of all this if you're not having fun?
  2642. >You might as well have stayed in bed!
  2643. >Not like she's having any fun either.
  2644. >Silver just grabbed the first book she saw, not something she *actually* wanted to read. She doesn't even *have* any guns.
  2645. "Well, fine. So it was my idea."
  2646. >You shrug.
  2647. "I guess I can't do anything right."
  2648. >"I didn't say -"
  2649. "At least I'm doing better than *you.*"
  2650. >Soarin's mouth tightens in a sharp grimace.
  2651. >He probably wants to hurt you again.
  2652. >That's what he does when he gets angry.
  2653. >Hurts little girls.
  2654. >Asshole.
  2655. >"What does that mean?"
  2656. >You shrug again and put on your most innocent expression.
  2657. "I'm not seeing other girls behind Silver's back."
  2658. >*That* hit a nerve!
  2659. >His face turns beet red - or should that be *beat* red?
  2660. >You don't care!
  2661. >Not about him, anyway.
  2662. "Hey, I have an idea!"
  2663. >You quickly point to a nearby petstore.
  2664. >Don't even have to look.
  2665. >You know exactly where it is... even if your parents would never let you keep any of the pets you brought home.
  2666. >Fuck them.
  2667. "Let's buy you a leash, Soarin, so Silver can keep you from straying on her again."
  2668. >You were basically just joking, but she starts shuffling that direction before Soarin can snap.
  2669. >Must have been a good idea.
  2670. >Well, she's probably just going that way because of the kitties, but he'd actually look good on a leash.
  2671. >She'd look better, but...
  2672. >"Fine," Soarin growls. "Great idea."
  2673. >He's going to snap.
  2674. >"Can't think of a better place for a bitch like you."
  2675. >You are Silver Spoon and you don't want to hear them argue.
  2676. >That's too much to deal with.
  2677. >Besides... it makes it hard to concentrate on your book.
  2678. >You put it away as you walk.
  2679. >It barely fits into your purse.
  2680. >You don't know why you'd grabbed such a large one, but you're glad you did.
  2681. >It leaves both of your hands free to pet the little kitten that calls out to you as you push open the door.
  2682. >So much cuter than a bell or chime.
  2683. >The door swings shut *almost* fast enough.
  2684. >Just a little quicker, and you wouldn't have heard Soarin call Di a bitch.
  2685. >Not that he's wrong.
  2686. >... not that she isn't...
  2687. >Di is just worried about you.
  2688. >She *cares* about you.
  2689. >You flinch when the door slams open, expecting to hear their continued bickering.
  2690. >Eyes closed tight, you kneel down to let the kittens play with your hand.
  2691. >A heartbeat later, all you hear is a single set of feet shuffling in.
  2692. >Was it Di?
  2693. >Soarin?
  2694. >Which one stayed outside?
  2695. >You risk a look... and you don't recognize the man you see shuffling past you.
  2696. >Both of them stayed.
  2697. >Somehow, that feels even worse.
  2698. >Several of the kittens abandon batting at you to chase after the man, at least as far as their tiny enclosure allows.
  2699. >Fine.
  2700. >The whining as you pull your hand back doesn't stop you from walking away.
  2701. >Maybe the fish...
  2702. >The employee behind the counter glances your way, but he's seen you before.
  2703. >He knows you won't buy anything.
  2704. >The new customer is more important.
  2705. >"Hey, mister! Looking for a new pet?"
  2706. >The man barely lifts his head at the employee's question, grunts in his general direction, then staggers towards the back of the store.
  2707. >"Well, okay then."
  2708.  
  2709. >It takes them five minutes, give or take.
  2710. >You weren't checking your watch *that* closely.
  2711. >They find you watching a pair of... you don't know what kind of fish they are, but they're swimming lazy circles around each other.
  2712. >"Hey," Di shouts obnoxiously loud as she bounds up behind you, "your boyfriend is going to buy me this collar, okay?"
  2713. >She waves the spiked collar in front of your face. Like you couldn't see it.
  2714. >"Ignore her," Soarin growls, a step or two behind your friend. "I'm not buying her anything. She's a bitch."
  2715. >"Fuck you, it looks cute."
  2716. >"But you're a bitch."
  2717. >"Uh - *yeah*. I thought that was already established. So buy me this."
  2718. >They're still bickering.
  2719. >It's been five minutes, and they. Are. Still. Bickering.
  2720. >"I'm not -"
  2721. >You grab for the collar.
  2722. "I'll buy it, Di."
  2723. >"Huh?" she grunts, jerking the collar away before you can lay a finger on it. "But I want *him* -"
  2724. "I'll buy it for you. You've earned it."
  2725. >Di stares at you with a blank face, not catching your meaning until Soarin snickers.
  2726. >"Hey!"
  2727. "And maybe we'll come back for that leash."
  2728. >"I don't -"
  2729. "For Soarin."
  2730. >"Oh. Yeah."
  2731.  
  2732. >You are Soarin and you shake your head.
  2733. "I don't need one."
  2734. >Silver looks up at you over the rim of her glasses and sighs.
  2735. >"We'll see."
  2736. "It was nothing. We were just -"
  2737. >"Just talking," she interrupts. "I know. And... and..."
  2738. >Her eyes drop, followed a moment later by her head.
  2739. >"... and she's my... my *friend*. I trust you both."
  2740. "Doesn't seem like it."
  2741. >"We've been over this before," Silver sighs. "I trust you. I'm just crazy."
  2742. >She sighs again and grabs for the collar again.
  2743. >"Let's just go," your girlfriend mutters, dragging Diamond towards the register by the collar neither of them are willing to release.
  2744. "Where?"
  2745. >"Somewhere else."
  2746. >You follow behind -
  2747. >No, you're not going to do that. You're not Silver's pet.
  2748. >Another quick step brings you level with her.
  2749. "Anywhere?"
  2750. >"Doesn't matter. You two aren't going to get along anywhere."
  2751.  
  2752. >You are Silver Spoon and you found that so reassuring earlier.
  2753. >But not now.
  2754. >The dull spikes of the collar dig into your palm.
  2755. >You try to focus on that.
  2756. >Squeeze harder.
  2757. >Make it hurt.
  2758. >It's not enough.
  2759. >You can't help but be distracted by everything.
  2760. >"Sil," Di whines, distraction number one, "don't. I was just -"
  2761. "It'll fit you, right?"
  2762. >"Wha...?"
  2763. "Is this the right size?"
  2764. >"I... I don't know!"
  2765. >On your left, Soarin sighs and waves a hand at the collar.
  2766. >Distraction number two.
  2767. >Why won't he just hold you until you stop being crazy?
  2768. >"She was just being stupid, Silver," he says. "You don't have to waste your money on that."
  2769. >You shrug.
  2770. "I have money to waste. And it won't be, if she wears it."
  2771. >"Silver -"
  2772. "But if you both agree..."
  2773. >That's important, isn't it?
  2774. >For them to get along.
  2775. >Isn't that what you want?
  2776. >Maybe.
  2777. >You don't know.
  2778. >Not that.
  2779. >You don't know what you want, just that it's not this. You don't want them fighting.
  2780. >You let go of the collar suddenly.
  2781. "... that's... that's fine."
  2782. >Is it?
  2783. "Let's go."
  2784. >It wouldn't have fit her anyway.
  2785. >Besides, there's a better store on the fourth floor for that kind of stuff.
  2786. >"It was just a joke."
  2787. >The voice sounds so distant, you're not sure who it belongs to.
  2788. >Maybe even you, the rational side of you trying to convince the rest not to be so emotional over something so petty.
  2789. >But if that's all it is, why can't it be a joke you're in on, too?
  2790. >No, you're going to the fourth floor.
  2791. >There's some other interesting shops there anyway.
  2792. >You always knew today would lead there; now you have a reason.
  2793. >A *valid* reason.
  2794. >One beyond yourself and your own desires.
  2795. >It's for her.
  2796. >Yes.
  2797. >For her.
  2798. >And Soarin.
  2799. >Your feet carry you down the aisle, past the counter and clerk arguing with someone about... about Sprite...?
  2800. >It's so ludicrous that it catches your attention, if only for an instant.
  2801. >No, he's not arguing with the clerk, but with the dog he has tucked under his arm, while the clerk looks on in disbelief.
  2802. >Probably drunk.
  2803. >You've seen Di do worse when she'd had too much.
  2804. >A hand grabs your shoulder and pulls you away.
  2805. >You shouldn't have stopped to watch.
  2806. >He caught up.
  2807. >Soarin steps protectively between you and the man.
  2808. >It would warm your heart if it didn't feel so... so...
  2809. >... it *does* warm your heart, even as it makes you feel like nothing more than a doll or pet.
  2810. >"You're right," Soarin quietly murmurs, squeezing your shoulder so tight it hurts. "Let's get out of here."
  2811. >He doesn't relax until he's steered you out through the door, keeping himself between you and the man every step of the way.
  2812. >Di is right on your heals - literally.
  2813. >Soarin might not have been holding on to her, but he herded her nonetheless.
  2814. >Protected her, even though they can't stop fighting.
  2815. >But he held *you*.
  2816. >Not her.
  2817. >"Sorry," Soarin murmurs softly, glancing back at the pet shop. "That guy was acting strange."
  2818. "I noticed."
  2819. >His eyes drift over to you.
  2820. >"Yeah... I -"
  2821. >He jerks his hand away suddenly, but his touch lingers.
  2822. >You can feel his fingers digging into your flesh.
  2823. >By tomorrow, your shoulder might be a mottled purple.
  2824. >Yours, not hers.
  2825. >It shouldn't make you happy, but it does.
  2826. >"I didn't hurt you, did I?"
  2827. "Not... not really."
  2828. >Soarin hesitantly smiles.
  2829. >"Good. Sorry. Well... I wonder what his problem is..."
  2830. >"Probably just drunk," Di answers with a shrug.
  2831. >"In the middle of the day?"
  2832. "Does it really matter?"
  2833. >"I guess not," Soarin sighs. "Well, where to now?"
  2834. "I don't -"
  2835. >You jump as the pet shop's door slams open and the man staggers out, the dog still tucked under his arm.
  2836. >"- and YOU!" he shouts, pointing directly at Soarin. "Yes, you. Get those bitches some emergency chocolate. Depressed bitches love emergency chocolate!"
  2837. >And then he turns and sprints away, followed moments later by the clerk shouting "Sir? Sir! Stop!" every step of the way. "I can't sell you that dog if I know you're going to feed it chocolate!"
  2838. >"It's not a dog! And she has a name, you cumguzzling shitlord!"
  2839. >"Crazy," Soarin and Di mumble in unison as the pair dash off.
  2840. >You're not sure if you agree, but who are you to judge?
  2841. >Besides, the dog seemed happy.
  2842. >That's really what's most important.
  2843. >"Well," Soarin sighs, turning back to face you and Di. "That happened. So how about it, Diamond? Want some chocolate?"
  2844. >"Yeah. That sounds good."
  2845. >He doesn't ask you.
  2846. >You know what he's implying by asking her, and because of that you can understand why he wouldn't ask you.
  2847. >It makes sense.
  2848. >Soarin doesn't think you're a bitch.
  2849. >It makes sense.
  2850. >You understand.
  2851. >Almost.
  2852. >You still wish he would ask, no matter what it implied.
  2853. >"I think there's a candy store right down there," Soarin mumbles, pointing off to the left. "If it's still there. Been a while, so..."
  2854. >He shrugs - and grabs your hand. Gently.
  2855. >"I'll get you some, too."
  2856. >He doesn't ask.
  2857. >That's even better.
  2858. >Soarin firmly pulls you onward, his grip firm and unyielding.
  2859. >But not painful.
  2860. >He doesn't squeeze your hand, grinding the bones together.
  2861. >He doesn't jerk your arm suddenly, or pull you faster than you can follow at a comfortable, yet purposeful, pace.
  2862. >"I hope they're still there."
  2863. >You hope so too.
  2864. >Then again, if they're not...
  2865. >He might get angry.
  2866. >He might hurt you.
  2867. >He's always nicer after he's hurt you.
  2868. >He's a good person.
  2869.  
  2870. >You are Soarin and you should be more careful.
  2871. >You could have hurt her.
  2872. >Sure, your mind was on that weird guy and, yeah, you were only trying to protect her, but that's no excuse.
  2873. >You need to be more mindful of what you're doing.
  2874. >Grabbing her shoulder like that... seeing Blossom...
  2875. >You can't keep doing things like that.
  2876. >At least something good came of it, assuming the candy store is still open.
  2877. >You'd forgotten about it until that man started screaming about 'emergency chocolate'.
  2878. >That shouldn't have even been possible, but you can't even remember its name.
  2879. >Just how good it was.
  2880. >And expensive.
  2881. >That's probably why its name still eludes you; you'd only ever been in there once.
  2882. >You hope this is the right way.
  2883. >It seems to take forever.
  2884. >Silver's footsteps echo loud in your ears.
  2885. >A quick look reassures you - and worries you in equal measure.
  2886. >She's not angry. She's not stomping her feet like a petulant child.
  2887. >She's just wearing heels.
  2888. >You hadn't noticed until now, though the extra few inches they give her should have been a dead giveaway.
  2889. >You haven't held her enough, or you would have noticed.
  2890. >You haven't held her at all, not in any way that counts.
  2891. >Well, you *are* in public...
  2892. >With a mental sigh, you try to remember some of the other shops in the mall.
  2893. >It's been a while, but you can think of a few which might be empty or offer some privacy, even on the weekend.
  2894. >The place tends to be emptier the higher up you go.
  2895. >Maybe some place on the third floor.
  2896. >Of course, there's always the fitting -
  2897. >"Is that it?"
  2898. >Shit.
  2899. >You would have walked right past it if Silver hadn't stopped you.
  2900. "Yeah, this's it, alright."
  2901. >It took you by surprise last time, too.
  2902. >The low glass display cases make the shop look more like a jewelry store than anything else.
  2903. >There's no bright colors, no giant gummy bears, no candy-by-the-pound display, just glass and wood and thin rows of widely spaced chocolates.
  2904. >It's really more Silver's type of place than yours.
  2905. >Too much class.
  2906. >Far too fancy, but the understated, stoic kind of fancy.
  2907. >Like the way she does her hair or the bracelet she wore that one time.
  2908. >You glance at the closest display as you lead Silver inside - little bonbons set against crinkles of golden paper - and wince at how apt that last comparisson is.
  2909. >This place practically *is* a jewelry store.
  2910. >The only difference is these candies aren't disasterously expensive, only painfully so. And they won't last half as long.
  2911. >Still, even with only the cash in your wallet, you could afford a handful. Could.
  2912. >It's not impossible, just more than you want to spend on something so small that's gone so fast.
  2913. >A plain candy bar at a quarter of the cost always seemed good enough for you.
  2914. >You'll... you'll let Silver cover it and save your money for something more meaningful.
  2915. >Maybe a nice surprise. That hat you had been thinking about. Or... or...
  2916. >"Oh, huh," Diamond groans from a few paces behind, leaning back to look at the sign hanging over the shop's entrance. "This place."
  2917. >You still owe her money.
  2918. >"Have you been here before?" Silver asks, looking around in what you hope is happiness. "When?"
  2919. >"No. One of mom's... someone brought me something from here once. A stupid little gift box."
  2920. >"How was it?"
  2921. >Diamond shrugs dismissively.
  2922. >"I don't really remember. Fine, I guess."
  2923. "It's better than that."
  2924. >Or at least you hope it is.
  2925. >From what you remember, it was the best chocolate you've ever had. It better be, for these prices.
  2926. >For example, the display case you're looking at now seems to have a misplaced decimal.
  2927. >Surely that should be *before* the 5.
  2928. >Maybe -
  2929. >Silver's hand jerks you back suddenly.
  2930. >"Careful," she murmurs, nodding towards the chubby woman you had almost walked straight into.
  2931. "Crap, sorry, I didn't -"
  2932. >As soon as you speak, she looks up from the box in her hands with a wide-eyed, startled expression.
  2933. >Apparently just as surprised as you.
  2934. >"Oh, dear, I'm sorry! I wasn't watching where I was going."
  2935. "I wasn't..."
  2936. >She's not listening.
  2937. >She's merrily trotting away.
  2938. >Well.
  2939. >The other customers certainly seem to be pretty happy.
  2940. >So happy that they aren't paying attention to where they're walking.
  2941. >Unfortunately, neither are you.
  2942. >Then again, fat people and candy... well, she's probably an expert on it, right?
  2943. >You make sure to step around the next person as you walk up to the main counter instead of trying to barrel straight through.
  2944. >After all, this isn't one of Rainbow Dash's no-such-thing-as-a-foul matches.
  2945. >You should be more careful.
  2946. >Maybe actually pay attention to where you're going and who's around you.
  2947. >Here you are, holding Silver's hand in public, and you weren't even thinking about anyone noticing.
  2948. >Shit.
  2949. >You hope you don't run into anyone who knows you.
  2950. >Or that you haven't already and never noticed.
  2951. >There's only one man left at the counter, so you push on forward, weaving through the other customers.
  2952. >Looks like he's about finished.
  2953. >The clerk is almost -
  2954. >Silver stops abruptly.
  2955. >"Oh, Soarin! Can I look at those over there?"
  2956. >Right.
  2957. >Shopping.
  2958. >Girls like to do that thing.
  2959. >*Actually* do it. Not just charge forward and buy the first thing that might work.
  2960. "Sure. Yeah, might as -"
  2961. >Something soft runs into you from behind, followed by an angry squeak.
  2962. >Something significantly softer lands a second later as Diamond slams her hand against your back.
  2963. >"What the hell did you do that for?" she snarls, hitting you again. "Seriously! What the fuck?"
  2964. >You turn on her, glaring over your shoulder.
  2965. >She glares back.
  2966. "You ran into me."
  2967. >"Yeah, well, you... you stopped suddenly for like no reason!"
  2968.  
  2969. >You are Silver Spoon and you're about to scream in frustration.
  2970. >Why can't they just... just...
  2971. >Di's face goes completely blank.
  2972. >"Why, if it isn't Diamond Tiara," a cultured voice murmurs at just the right volume to cut through everything.
  2973.  
  2974. >You are Soarin and your first question is why the man at the counter is standing in front of you right now.
  2975. >Clearly he finished his purchase and was drawn by Diamond's outburst.
  2976. >The second is how he knows her.
  2977. >He's wearing a nice suit. Probably rich. That's how he knows her.
  2978. >The third is if you should panic.
  2979. >Yes, yes you should.
  2980. >Fifth is how hard you should slug him before sprinting for your car and making a run for the border.
  2981. >The fourth one you've already forgotten.
  2982. >You're still trying to figure out the answer to the fifth when he smiles.
  2983. >"Is everything alright, Diamond?"
  2984. >"Yes."
  2985. >He pauses a moment, clearly expecting something more.
  2986. >You should punch him now. Right now. While he's not expecting it.
  2987. >Grab Silver and run before he calls the police or draws any more attention to you.
  2988. >He doesn't give you the time.
  2989. >"Well," he smirks, "aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?"
  2990. >"No."
  2991. >He frowns slightly before nodding towards you.
  2992. >"So, is this the kind of man your mother prefers these days?"
  2993. >"I don't know."
  2994. "Wait, what?"
  2995. >What was merely a quick glance becomes a thorough examination, the man looking you up and down like... like...
  2996. >You should punch him now.
  2997. >Quickly.
  2998. >Before -
  2999. >He nods again, his head tilting to one side the way dudes do when they acknowledge someone is getting some, don't begrudge them in the least, and in fact have a new measure of respect for the other party.
  3000. >It's a subtle nod.
  3001. >You refrain from punching him for now.
  3002. >What he's thinking is fucking disgusting, but it's better than the truth.
  3003. >"Very well," the man sighs. "Enjoy your shopping, Diamond. I do hope you and your friends have a pleasant day, and that your mother sleeps off whatever... well... enough said."
  3004. >He dips his head again.
  3005. >"Good day."
  3006. >Silver politely mutters something. Diamond says nothing. And you...
  3007. >You should have been paying attention.
  3008. >If you had, Diamond wouldn't have run into you.
  3009. >Luckily, it doesn't look like the conversation attracted any interest from the other customers.
  3010. "So... uh... Diamond? Who was that guy?"
  3011. >"Just some guy."
  3012. "He... uh..."
  3013. >What's the polite way to ask if he fucked her mom?
  3014. >Because while it's obvious as fuck that she's sleeping around, that's not exactly an assumption you want to make or the kind of question you just up and ask a girl.
  3015. >Not unless you're Cloudy, that is.
  3016. >You're also pretty sure there's no way to ask that politely.
  3017. >Not unless you're Silver.
  3018. >"Was he the one who gave you the candy?" your girlfriend asks softly.
  3019. >You don't know if it's good or bad that she can read your mind.
  3020. >"Yeah," Di answers with a shrug. "I don't remember his name."
  3021. >He fucked her mom.
  3022. >Okay then.
  3023. >That was not something you really needed to know.
  3024. >Silver's hand slips from yours.
  3025. >"Hey, let's go look at the candy," she says, grabbing onto her friend and guiding her towards one of the display cases. "Oh, doesn't that one look good?"
  3026. >It's a good thing your Silver is a mind reader, even if it's not particularly impressive in this case.
  3027. >Even you can tell how torn up Diamond is that her mom is a raging slut.
  3028.  
  3029. >The benches you and Silver found aren't exactly secluded, but they *are* in a little side passage out of the flow of traffic.
  3030. >A few potted plants offer a bit of privacy, but not enough to actually hide you or the girls from anyone walking by.
  3031. >It's good enough for now.
  3032. >You're just eating some chocolate, not doing anything improper. Well, *about* to eat some chocolate.
  3033. >Silver plants herself in the middle of one of the benches, her back to the main corridor.
  3034. >The box of chocolates sits on her lap, almost as elegently displayed on her purple skirt as the individual candies had been in the store.
  3035. >The lid comes free with the sigh of cardboard-on-cardboard, revealing the eight little chocolates she and Diamond had picked out.
  3036. >In contrast to the store's sleek and restrained look, each of the chocolates is decorated with the kind of frills you've never seen outside girl's underwear.
  3037. >You don't know *how* they managed to get the tiny strands of frosting so fine, just that you're pretty sure it's impossible.
  3038. >Doesn't matter that it's right there in front of you or that you've seen it before, you still don't believe it.
  3039. >"Here, Soarin," Silver all but whispers, patting the empty space on her left.
  3040. >Diamond frowns quickly, until Silver grabs her by the wrist and pulls her towards the space on her right.
  3041. >It's a tight fit with all three of you, but not unreasonably so. Not even uncomfortably, though Silver must be feeling squished with both you and Diamond squeezed up against her.
  3042. >She doesn't seem to mind.
  3043. >In fact, from her content purr, you'd say she seems pretty happy this way.
  3044. "So..."
  3045. >"This one's for you," Silver murmurs, plucking a piece of dark chocolate decorated with red lace from the box.
  3046. >You hadn't picked it out at the shop, she had.
  3047. >Apparently for you, though you'd told them not to bother.
  3048. >Chocolate is chocolate and a decent king sized slab has always been enough for you.
  3049. "Silver -"
  3050. >She holds it up for you to take.
  3051. >Not with your hand, but with your mouth.
  3052. >You glance over your shoulder, towards the people walking by.
  3053. >No one is watching.
  3054. " - thanks."
  3055. >It is the best chocolate you have ever eaten.
  3056. >Better than last time, though you hadn't thought that possible.
  3057. >Whether that's because of the company you're keeping, the hand it came from, or that Silver knows your tastes better than you do is anyone's guess.
  3058. >Probably all three.
  3059. >You let it melt slowly on your tongue, savoring each new flavor that every layer brings. With it melts away the tension twisting up your whole body.
  3060. >Chocolate can do that, and really good chocolate can do it really well..
  3061. >"And...?" Silver murmurs, an expectant half-smile on her face.
  3062. "It's wonderful."
  3063. >"I guess you needed some emergency chocolate too."
  3064. "Yeah."
  3065. >You glance at the box - there's five pieces left.
  3066. >Di is noisily munching away on her first - or second, judging by how quickly the current piece is lasting.
  3067. >Something with nuts, to make that kind of noise.
  3068. "You haven't had any yet, Silver?"
  3069. >"Not yet."
  3070. >Oh. You *are* an idiot.
  3071. >You reach for a piece - and check.
  3072. >She shakes her head.
  3073. >You move your hand to the next one - and she nods.
  3074. >A little ball of green and white with little red flower all over, set in petals of white chocolate.
  3075. >It doesn't look like her at all.
  3076. >Then again, you don't know what would.
  3077. >Well, this is how you learn, isn't it?
  3078. >Silver likes delicate little candies that look like works of art. And white chocolate.
  3079. >Though each piece is different and unique, one is dark chocolate, one is milk chocolate, and three... you'd bet those three are hers.
  3080. >You carefully pull the first one free, trying not to break off any of the fragile filigre or petals with your crude hands, and hold it up for Silver.
  3081. >She doesn't lunge forward and tear it from your fingers, but waits patiently, mouth open, tongue extended, until you set the tiny white flower in its place.
  3082. >Silver pulls it inside her mouth and - a moment later - purrs happily.
  3083. "Good?"
  3084. >"Mhm!"
  3085. >You reach for the next piece, but she shakes her head.
  3086. "Oh... uh..."
  3087. >Her fingers come up to her lips, demurly covering her mouth.
  3088. "Oh, right."
  3089. >You forgot for a minute there: your current girlfriend has manners.
  3090. >It's a pleasant change.
  3091. "Just going to take your time and enjoy it?
  3092. >Silver nods.
  3093. >You lean forward slightly, just enough to see past her.
  3094. "So, Diamond? What do you think?"
  3095. >"It's fine," she grumbles. "I *guess*."
  3096. >And yet she snatches the remaining milk chocolate from the box and pops it in her mouth.
  3097. "Sure seems like you're enjoying it."
  3098. >She shrugs.
  3099. >"Like I said, it's fine."
  3100. "I know you're a raging bitch who can never be satisfied, but even you have to admit this stuff is good."
  3101. >Diamond shrugs again.
  3102.  
  3103. >You are Silver Spoon and you want to scream.
  3104. >The only reason you don't is the calming sweetness of the milk chocolate melting on your tongue.
  3105. >That, and the completely casual way Soarin said it - and the apathetic manner with which Diamond shrugged it off.
  3106. >He just chuckles at her dismissive attitude and points at the remaining dark chocolate.
  3107. >"Is that one mine, too?"
  3108. >You nod quickly.
  3109. >"Then you can have it, Diamond," Soarin tells her.
  3110. >But - but -
  3111. > - you picked it for *him*!
  3112. >You -
  3113. >He must see the panic overtaking you, because Soarin's massive hand engulfs both of yours and squeezes comfortingly.
  3114. >"It's not that I *don't* want it," he murmurs, "but Silver can go back later and get me a whole box to have to myself without you around making sad puppydog eyes."
  3115. >He picks up the piece of chocolate with his other hand.
  3116. >"So, yeah, you can have it if you want it. Unless Silver wants it. In that case, you can go fuck yourself."
  3117. >Di... Di *laughs*.
  3118. >Oh.
  3119. >*Oh*.
  3120. >They *are* getting along.
  3121. >"Let's see," Di hums, theatrically tapping her chin with one finger. "Masturbate or have some bitter-ass, shitty chocolate?"
  3122. >Their sniping is no different than Soarin trading punches with Cloudy or Spitfire.
  3123. >He gets along with *everyone*.
  3124. >One way or another.
  3125. >"Yeah, I think I'm going to go with masturbation on this one."
  3126.  
  3127. >You are Soarin and you don't think Di was *that* funny.
  3128. >A little, yeah, but Silver can't stop laughing, so hard that little tears trickle from the corners of her eyes.
  3129. >Well.
  3130. >Maybe there's some context you're missing.
  3131. >"I'm... I'm not sure I'd make the same choice," she croaks between hiccups and giggles.
  3132. "Oh?"
  3133. >Another burst of uncontrollable laughter interrupts whatever Silver was about to say.
  3134. >It takes another moment before she manages to compose herself, and even then...
  3135. >"This chocolate..." she whispers, a mischievous smile spreading across her face.
  3136. >You don't know if you've ever seen her like this and you're not entirely sure how to feel about it.
  3137. >Suddenly, she sticks her tongue out at Diamond.
  3138. >"... it's better than sex."
  3139. >She didn't say that.
  3140. >There's no way she said that.
  3141. >Silver's too polite to ever say something like that.
  3142. >She couldn't -
  3143. >"Well, you'd know better than me," Diamond sighs, rolling her eyes.
  3144. >"Yeah, I would."
  3145. >Nope, nope, you couldn't have heard her right.
  3146. >Your little Silver is pure and innocent, if a bit... unbalanced.
  3147. >"So trust me when I say that," Silver giggles. "Or... you know... find some guy to take your first time."
  3148. >NOPE.
  3149. >SHE'S NOT SAYING THAT.
  3150. >YOU NEED TO GET YOUR HEARING CHECKED.
  3151. >WEIRD HOW YOU CAN HEAR DIAMOND'S SIGH PERFECTLY.
  3152. >MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE SILVER'S VOICE STILL KIND OF HAS THAT SQUEAKY HIGH-PITCH TO IT AT TIMES.
  3153. >YEAH. THAT'S IT.
  3154. >"Fine," Diamond grumbles, "I guess the chocolates *are* better than I remember. But, like, just barely."
  3155. >She lets her frown linger a moment before sighing.
  3156. >The expression flies away with her breath.
  3157. "Sooooo..."
  3158. >"Yeah, you're right, Sil. It is better than sex."
  3159. >And now you're mishearing her, too!
  3160. >While you can believe that bitch saying stuff like that, you're still pretty sure Silver didn't say those things.
  3161. >Because 1) that's just not like her and 2) sex with you is pretty awesome, or so you've heard.
  3162. >You certainly haven't had any complaints.
  3163. >Well, there was that one time, but it's not like *you* asked Cloudy if you could stick it in her butt.
  3164. >That was all her idea.
  3165. >"I know I'm right," Silver giggles, sticking out her tongue at Diamond one last time before looking back to you and smiling innocently. "More, please."
  3166. >Yeah, your little Silver could never have said anything like that.
  3167. >You hold up the dark chocolate, but she shakes her head.
  3168. >Okay, then!
  3169. >You pop it into your mouth and reach for one of Silver's pieces of white chocolate.
  3170. >Silver eagerly opens her mouth for the treat.
  3171. >You feel bad for thinking it, but at this very moment she reminds you of a puppy.
  3172. >The next thought is even worse, but ethics alone can't stop you from wondering how she would look in a collar.
  3173. >She would probably do it, too.
  3174. >Silver would do anything for you and wouldn't understand until too late why she shouldn't have agreed, if she ever did.
  3175. >That's why you can't.
  3176. >Maybe later, if -
  3177. >Silver whines softly, just like a puppy begging for a treat.
  3178. >You can't say no to that face.
  3179. >Not that you ever had any intention of that in the first place.
  3180. >You've waited too long, though, and the candy has started to melt in your hand, ruining the fragile, decorative scrollwork covering it.
  3181. "Sorry."
  3182. >You hold it out to her between your thumb and index finger.
  3183. "I -"
  3184. >She doesn't just take the chocolate, but the fingers, too.
  3185. >Her tiny tongue strips them bare of every trace of the candy.
  3186. >You laugh nervously - and - because - well, that tickles.
  3187. "Really... uh... really like that chocolate, huh?"
  3188. >Silver smiles and sits back, your fingers coming free from her lips with a pop.
  3189. >She shrugs, that kind of casual shrug that says she won't admit it, but she knows *you* know what she was doing.
  3190. >Only a total idiot wouldn't.
  3191. >A sharp sigh draws your eyes beyond your girlfriend.
  3192. >"Could you two be any more disgusting?" Diamond mumbles, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm right here, you know."
  3193. >Okay, even a total idiot might understand.
  3194. >That shouldn't be a surprise. After all, you got it.
  3195. >"Don't listen to her," Silver whispers, "she's just grumpy because she's never had a boyfriend."
  3196. >"Am not. You two are just being fucking disgusting."
  3197. >Her face is flushed, her posture tense and rigid.
  3198. >Too bad you're all out of emergency chocolate.
  3199. >Well.
  3200. >It's not like that's the only thing that cheers up grumpy puppies.
  3201. >Silver is between you and her, but this bench isn't that long.
  3202. >You lean over - and Silver doesn't.
  3203. >She pushes back with a self-satisfied smirk, nuzzling up against you as you reach for Diamond.
  3204. >You don't mind, nor does it actually stop you from patting that bitch on the head.
  3205. >Bitches love headpats.
  3206. >Usually.
  3207. >Sometimes.
  3208. >Okay, usually it's a bad idea, but this turns out better than you *should have* expected.
  3209. >Diamond glares grumpily at you instead of trying to bite your hand off.
  3210. >So you ruffle her hair a bit.
  3211. >Because poking the angry dog is smart and so are you.
  3212. "We can stop on the way out and get you some more chocolate."
  3213. >"Or a boy," Silver adds, squirming with laughter and rubbing her cheek up against yours.
  3214. >That totally isn't why you're still ruffling Diamond's hair.
  3215. >Nope, certainly not.
  3216. >Not even though you know that she's going to give in to her bitch tendencies and bite you any second now.
  3217. >It'll only be a few stitches at worst.
  3218. >"Fine," Diamond growls. "I'll take the chocolate. *Just* the chocolate. But you better not forget!"
  3219. >"Don't worry," Silver murmurs. "I won't."
  3220. >She twists away to peer up at you though her lashes.
  3221. >Just a fraction of an inch, that's all the room she has, caught between you and her friend.
  3222. >Your faces are so close together that you can't see her biting her lower lip - but you know she is.
  3223. >Oh... you are going to the special hell.
  3224. >You kiss her.
  3225. >Damn whoever might be watching, you kiss your girlfriend.
  3226. >And taste the faint, lingering flavor of chocolate on her lips.
  3227. >Odd how that one thing seems so much more important than the other.
  3228. >One could get you in trouble, the other is something you should know.
  3229. >It's... milk chocolate?
  3230. >But -
  3231.  
  3232. >You are Silver Spoon and you want to laugh at Soarin's confusion.
  3233. >Not as much as you want him to keep kissing you, though.
  3234. >Everything is... maybe, for the first time in your life, *ever*... everything is going *right*.
  3235. >"Wait, is that -"
  3236. >You put a finger to his lips.
  3237. >It works.
  3238. >It *always* works, and so well at that.
  3239. >You pull the last chocolate from the box and offer it to your silent boyfriend.
  3240. >Hesitantly, Soarin takes it in his mouth.
  3241. >He lets it sit there, each layer melting away in turn.
  3242. >You giggle as he reaches the milk chocolate core and lets out a muffled grunt.
  3243. >White chocolate isn't your thing, but you don't dislike it.
  3244. >Not as much as Di, anyway.
  3245. >She *hates* it.
  3246. >This is the only way you can get regular chocolate around her.
  3247. >You used to love chocolate ice cream, but she stole it every time.
  3248. >Chocolate shakes.
  3249. >Candy bars.
  3250. >Little gifts you would find in your stocking.
  3251. >Nothing was safe.
  3252. >This is better.
  3253. >If only it wasn't so rare.
  3254. >You're going to have to get a box for yourself when you leave.
  3255. >And Soarin.
  3256. >He liked it.
  3257. >*Likes* it.
  3258. >He's smiling softly as the last of the chocolate melts on his tongue, his face still inches from yours.
  3259. >"So..." he murmurs, "is that -"
  3260. >You put your finger to his lips again.
  3261. >It would be a shame if Di found out.
  3262. "Thank you for the chocolate, Soarin."
  3263. >"I didn't do anything."
  3264. >"Yeah," Di grumbles from your right. "You're the one that paid for everything, Sil. All he did was... what is it that he actually does around here?"
  3265. >This couldn't be better.
  3266. >They're getting along, but still fighting!
  3267. >He sees her the way he sees Spitfire and all the others - *at best!*
  3268. >It's the answer you had never even thought to look for.
  3269. >He's yours.
  3270.  
  3271. >You are Diamond Tiara and your head hurts.
  3272. >Bastard asshole faggot is basically clawing at your stitches.
  3273. >"Well..." Silver mumbles, probably because she's busy stuffing her tongue in his mouth in fucking public like a slut, "... he makes me happy."
  3274. "A shitty book makes you happy."
  3275. >Fucking *shit*!
  3276. >How long is he going to keep fucking with your fucking hair!?
  3277. >"It's different."
  3278. "Yeah? How?"
  3279. >"Mmmm... well... you'll understand when you're older," Silver laughs.
  3280. >She *knows* you're older than her.
  3281. >There's no point in even saying it.
  3282. >Fucking shitlord finally takes his hand away.
  3283. >And then he sighs!
  3284. >Like he was getting bored of you or something!
  3285. >FUCK HIM.
  3286. >"Hey, Diamond?"
  3287. "Fucking what."
  3288. >"Where do you want to go next?"
  3289.  
  3290. >You are Soarin and you're an inconsiderate ass.
  3291. >"What does it fucking matter?" Diamond sneers. "I thought Silver got to pick."
  3292. >Trapped between the two of you, your girlfriend's head keeps jerking back and forth, her smile fading a little more each time.
  3293. "Because we're being jerks."
  3294. >"Even... even me...?"
  3295. "No, not you Silver."
  3296. >It's your fault for paying so much attention to her.
  3297. "Just me, but we shouldn't be excluding Diamond after hauling her along like this."
  3298. >You shouldn't have let yourself be tempted.
  3299. >"Oh... oh! Right. Sorry, Di, I -"
  3300. >"It's *fine*," Diamond growls, rising to her feet and trying to comb her hair back into place with just her fingers. "Let's just... whatever. How about that music store over there?"
  3301.  
  3302. >You are Silver Spoon and you shouldn't be giggling at Di's frustrated grunts and groans.
  3303. >So you do it quietly.
  3304. >Soarin can probably feel your body shaking, but he gets it, right?
  3305. >Di definitely took to being petted better than you do.
  3306. >You should definitely get her a collar.
  3307. >She'd make a good pet.
  3308. >And it's not like she didn't enjoy it, deep down.
  3309. >If she hadn't, she would've done something earlier, but no. She only stood up once Soarin took his hand away.
  3310. >She *liked* it, even if she won't admit it.
  3311. >Kind of like you, only with less flailing and screaming for help.
  3312. >So long as someone's paying attention to her.
  3313. >That's all that matters.
  3314. "Sorry, Di."
  3315. >"I said it's fine," she huffs. "Let's just go."
  3316. >Soarin gives you a gentle squeeze before standing; you follow a moment later, after carefully replacing the lid on the empty chocolate box and slipping it into your purse.
  3317. >There's a trashcan only a few feet away, but you want to keep it.
  3318. >A memonto of when everything finally went *right*.
  3319. >Di waits for you.
  3320. >She wouldn't if she wasn't enjoying herself.
  3321. >She would have stormed off the moment Soarin stopped petting her, or earlier.
  3322. >Soarin grabs your hand.
  3323. >"Anything you're looking for?"
  3324. >You shake your head a second before realizing he's not talking to you.
  3325. >That's okay.
  3326. >Just one more thing to admire about him: the ease with which he can juggle multiple people.
  3327. >Not avoiding them like you. You deal with individuals, when you deal with people at all.
  3328. >Not oppressing them like Diamond. She can handle a crowd, but not each person in it.
  3329. >Not like kind and caring Soarin.
  3330. >You squeeze his hand.
  3331. >He returns it.
  3332. >A subtle, public hug.
  3333. >More than you *should* be risking, but less than you want.
  3334. >You love him so much.
  3335. >This entire day is a risk.
  3336. >Every moment with Soarin is.
  3337. >And it's worth it.
  3338. >Every moment with him is.
  3339.  
  3340. >You are Soarin and you're a little surprised that music shops still exist.
  3341. >Aren't CDs going extinct?
  3342. >Apparently not or you wouldn't be walking into one right now.
  3343. >Though... maybe the industry is just too stubborn to die.
  3344. >The only other customers are a pair of hipsters arguing over by the vinyls and the guy behind the register can't be assed to so much as look up from his phone.
  3345. "So... anything we should look for?"
  3346. >Diamond shrugs.
  3347. >Well, that's more of an answer than you got the first time you asked.
  3348. >Silver is smiling, content just to be with you.
  3349. >Well...
  3350. "Just looking?"
  3351. >Diamond shrugs again.
  3352. "What do you like?"
  3353. >Shrug.
  3354. "Fuck off and leave you alone?"
  3355. >SHRUG.
  3356. >Well, you tried.
  3357. "Silver?"
  3358. >This could be good. You don't even know what kind of music she likes.
  3359. >"I'm just along for the ride."
  3360. >That went nowhere.
  3361. >Fuck it.
  3362. >You know how to deal with this - just like you do with Spitfire.
  3363. >Only more gently.
  3364. >You boop Diamond's nose.
  3365. >"Hey!"
  3366. >You bat away her feeble punch, let out a theatrical gasp, and point at a nearby display.
  3367. "Is that a Joustin' Neighbor CD in the bargain bin!?"
  3368. >Silver has to cover her mouth to keep from laughing.
  3369. >It doesn't work.
  3370. "Oh my wooooooord, Diamond, girl, isn't he your faaaavorite?"
  3371. >See?
  3372. >Far more gentle.
  3373. >Just a boop, no slugging.
  3374. >Just a silly accent, no string of profanity that would wilt a flower.
  3375. >Certainly nothing to justify the deathglare Diamond shoots your way - the the lead she probably wants to shoot your way instead of just a look.
  3376. "No? Are you sure? Alright fine, sourpuss."
  3377. >"G-going to fucking kill you."
  3378. "Hmm? Okay, I'll keep an eye out for In Sync instead."
  3379. >It works.
  3380. >She's angry, but it works, because Diamond spins on her heels and stiffly marches over towards the... jazz section?
  3381. >No, she hesitates a moment, but looks back at you and Silver, and keeps walking.
  3382. >Ah. Classical.
  3383. >Bullshit. No one actually enjoys classical music.
  3384. >You lean down slightly to whisper into Silver's ear, because the shop is dead quiet.
  3385. >Shouldn't a music store at least have some music playing or something?
  3386. "So..."
  3387. >"Hmm?"
  3388. "Jazz?"
  3389. >"Mhm. Di likes jazz, but she'd never admit it to anyone."
  3390. >You straighten and - well, it's not goose stepping because you're not a fascist, but close enough - over to the jazz section, arm in arm with Silver.
  3391. "Gee, Silver, I sure do love me some of that *jazz* music!"
  3392. >She giggles and wraps her whole arm around yours, followed by her other.
  3393. >Yep, that got to Diamond.
  3394. >Return of the deathglare.
  3395. >It's a shame you don't know anything about jazz, or you could push this further.
  3396. >Or... maybe... that actually works in your favor.
  3397. "Too bad I don't know anything about it or I could pick out something good. How about you, Silver?"
  3398. >"Not a clue," she giggles. "I mostly listen to whatever Di has on."
  3399. "Dang. My taste in music sure is shit and I could use some help picking something out."
  3400. >Nope. Not enough.
  3401. >She's still pretending to browse through the classical CDs.
  3402. "Isn't that jazz just the bee's knees?"
  3403. >Diamond groans and spins around.
  3404. >Yep, that worked.
  3405. >"Stop it," she growls, stomping back to you. "You're embarrassing yourself."
  3406. "Nope. Just you."
  3407. >Her cheeks are almost as red as the small purse she has slung over her shoulder.
  3408. "So, how'bout it?"
  3409. >You fan a selection of CDs in front of her.
  3410. "Help a brother out?"
  3411. >She stares at you long enough you're starting to wonder if you -
  3412. >"Fine."
  3413. >Nope, you didn't misread things.
  3414. >"Just... shut up. And put those down."
  3415. "Why?"
  3416. >"They're shit."
  3417.  
  3418. >She doesn't warm up to you, not unless you count going from 'vacuum of space' to 'frozen tundra' as warming up.
  3419. >You don't.
  3420. >Trying to dance the Charleston probably didn't help.
  3421. >And it helped even less that you don't know what the heck it is besides a dance.
  3422. >Still, you must have been doing something right, because Silver keeps giggling and hugging your arm and - eventually, at some point - Diamond stops rolling her eyes at every word you say.
  3423. >She's still a grumpy bitch, but by the time you walk out - with a pair of CDs tucked into Silver's purse - the two girls are merrily chatting about where to go next.
  3424. >You don't really have an opinion, so all you do is shrug when Silver asks - and nearly lift her off her feet in the process.
  3425. >Wherever it is, Silver will pay for it. Same as the chocolate and Diamond's CDs.
  3426. >She doesn't seem to mind.
  3427. >Heck, she's having fun.
  3428. >That's what's important, right?
  3429. >And from the laughter coming from teenage girl dangling from your arm with her legs curled up... yeah, she's really having fun.
  3430. >A little back strain is totally worth it, though you wouldn't mind if she'd put her feet back on the ground soonish.
  3431. >She's not *that* light*.
  3432. >"Wow," Diamond scoffs. "Can't even stand on your own two feet?"
  3433. >"You're just jealous you don't have anyone to carry you!" Silver snaps back, sticking out her tongue at her friend.
  3434. >Okay, you can do this a little bit longer.
  3435.  
  3436. >You are Silver Spoon and you missed this.
  3437. >The whole having-fun-with-friends thing.
  3438. >It's been a while.
  3439. >Too long.
  3440. >Not just being with your friend, but *having fun* with her.
  3441. >Di smirks and rolls her eyes at you - in anyone else it would be a sneer, but no. You know her.
  3442. >She's having fun too, in her own way.
  3443. >"Whatever," your friend laughs. "Fine. Let's see how he does carrying you up stairs."
  3444. >She jerks her head towards the nearest, conveniently skipping over the elevator just a few feet away from where you're... well, not *you*, but where Soarin and Di are currently standing.
  3445. >"Umm... can't we take the -"
  3446. "He'll do it!"
  3447. >"Silv-"
  3448. >You giggle and set your feet down, nuzzling up against his arm for a moment before letting go and skipping forward.
  3449. "Come on! Let's see what's up there!"
  3450. >His arm had to be getting tired, and a sore, strained arm can't rub your back later.
  3451. >Then again...
  3452. >You glance back at Soarin and see his happy grin.
  3453. >This is good too.
  3454. >"Sure," he laughs. "Why not?"
  3455. >Di shrugs and - with a poorly-stifled grin - bounds up beside you, bouncing like... like...
  3456. >You lean over close - there's teasing and then there's poor taste, and letting anyone overhear, even Soarin, would be in poor taste.
  3457. "Di...? Did you forget to put on a bra or something?"
  3458. >"I don't think so," she simply responds, taking the first step at a jump - and a bounce you only wish you could emulate. "Did you lay one out for me?"
  3459. >Oh.
  3460. >No, you hadn't.
  3461. >All of her other clothing, but not that.
  3462. "It must have slipped my mind."
  3463. >That she actually needs one, unlike...
  3464. >... well...
  3465. >It wouldn't be the first time you'd forgotten.
  3466. >Shrieking laughter from the top of the stairs catches you just as Soarin grabs your hand and helps you up the first step.
  3467. >"Hey, Sil!" Di cackles. "This must be my lucky day!"
  3468. >Soarin and you exchange worried looks.
  3469. >Heh.
  3470. >You both know that tone doesn't bode well.
  3471. >"We could just leave her...?"
  3472. >He doesn't mean it, though. He couldn't, not after what he said earlier.
  3473. "That would be rude."
  3474. >Soarin smiles - and so do you, as you both bound up the stairs side-by-side.
  3475. >Neither grin is as wide as the one that greets you when you reach the next level.
  3476. >Di stands with her feet far apart, hands on her hips, framed perfectly by the opening some distance behind her.
  3477. >A bright neon sign shines above the entry.
  3478. >Fredrick's of Applewood.
  3479. >"So," she smirks, "How about that? Lucky, huh?"
  3480. >Soarin's face hits his palm hard enough you can feel it.
  3481. >"How about it, Soarin?" Di laughs shrilly. "Want to buy me something sexy to wear?"
  3482. >"Nope."
  3483. >But he's not leaving.
  3484. >You're pretty sure it's not your hand in his anchoring him in place.
  3485. >He could let go. Drag you along. Pick you up and carry you.
  3486. >He doesn't *have* to stay here.
  3487. >He doesn't have to put up with her.
  3488. >"Oh, come on," Di whines mischievously, the corners of her mouth curling up and her eyes alight. "Don't you want to watch me try on lingerie?"
  3489. >"If I wanted that, I'd take you back to the pet store."
  3490. >On some level, he's *enjoying* this.
  3491. >Like a pair of bear cubs wrestling in the woods.
  3492. >"So..." Di murmurs, sauntering closer, swishing her hips with every step, "... you want to see me wearing nothing but -"
  3493. >"I didn't -"
  3494. >It's... *good* they're getting along.
  3495. >That they having fun.
  3496. >So are you, listening to their playful back-and-forth.
  3497. >Even if you are little more than a spectator.
  3498. >He doesn't do this with *you*.
  3499. >He treats you differently.
  3500. >He... he needs this.
  3501. >That's why he surrounds himself with friends just like her.
  3502. >Ones he argues with.
  3503. >Insults.
  3504. >Punches.
  3505. >And yet, somehow, are fun to hang out with.
  3506. >You look up at Soarin.
  3507. >He's saying something. You don't hear the words.
  3508. >Rolling his eyes. At what, you don't know.
  3509. >All you can think is how you could never be that kind of person for him.
  3510. >Too eager to please.
  3511. >You don't even question it when Soarin pulls you to one side, just follow.
  3512. >Oh.
  3513. >You were blocking the stairs.
  3514. >The pair of girls walk past barely look your direction.
  3515. >No, not even *your* direction.
  3516. >At *him*.
  3517. >They *smile*.
  3518. >They're older than you.
  3519. >Fuller figured.
  3520. >One has piercings.
  3521. >Neon blue hair.
  3522. >You can easily imagine her personality.
  3523. >Argumentative.
  3524. >Passionate.
  3525. >The kind of girl you would expect Soarin to be with.
  3526. >The kind that can give him everything he wants.
  3527. >The kind you wish was *dead*.
  3528. >She says a few words... and Soarin squeezes your hand.
  3529. >He doesn't acknowledge them at all, beyond pulling you aside.
  3530. >He's a good boyfriend.
  3531. >The best.
  3532. >And he loves you, even if you can't give him everything.
  3533. >You don't need to.
  3534. >That's why he has friends.
  3535. >It's... okay.
  3536. >He's allowed to have friends.
  3537. >He can be friends with Di.
  3538. >You *want* him to be friends with Di.
  3539. >That way, you never have to fight with him.
  3540. >She can do that for you.
  3541.  
  3542. >You are Soarin and your girlfriend's sudden nuzzling catches you completely by surprise.
  3543. >One minute she's pressed up against your arm, the next she's rubbing her face against it like a kitten.
  3544. >"And just *how* did you know they closed all of their stores?" Di needles, grinning viciously. "I mean, *obviously* you're wrong, but..."
  3545. >The two front offensive is too much.
  3546. >Time to surrender.
  3547. "Look, I was wrong, okay. I admit it."
  3548. >"Well, *yeah*, but why would you even know about Fredrick's in the first place?"
  3549. "It doesn't -"
  3550. >"Ah, I got it!" Diamond cackles, snapping her fingers. "You bought something from them before, haven't you! Let me guess... was it for that girl you knocked up?"
  3551. "What!? I - uh -"
  3552. >Silver's deathlock tightens; her entire body is wrapped around your arm.
  3553. >There's no escape.
  3554. "I didn't."
  3555. >She's purring.
  3556. >She knows about this.
  3557. >It doesn't bother her.
  3558. >Or, at least, she's pretending it doesn't bother her.
  3559. "I didn't knock her up, but... yes..."
  3560. >Nothing fancy, just a simple nighty.
  3561. >It was still too flouncy for Cloudy.
  3562. >Hadn't survived the night.
  3563. >You risk a glance, knowing you'll regret it.
  3564. >Knowing those big, purple eyes will be staring up at you.
  3565. >They are.
  3566. "I'll... um... I'll get you something too, Silver. Something better."
  3567. >It would actually suit her.
  3568. >No, no it wouldn't. Nothing here would be good enough, but she'd love it anyway.
  3569. "I promise, Silver. Something like -"
  3570. >She shakes her head - or nuzzles your arm.
  3571. >Shit.
  3572. >Of course not.
  3573. >What girl wants the exact same thing the last got?
  3574. >Not that Cloudy was the last, but...
  3575. >You're an idiot.
  3576. "Wait, no, I mean -"
  3577. >She shakes her head again; there's no mistaking the gesture this time.
  3578. >"Anything bought here would be a present for you," Silver whispers. "Not for me."
  3579. >She's right.
  3580. >You're an idiot.
  3581. >Buying her something just so she can use it to make you happy?
  3582. >Yeah. No.
  3583. >That... that... well, actually... that sounds *exactly* like something she would enjoy.
  3584. >She shouldn't, but...
  3585. >Silver is smiling as she breaks away, somehow sliding the length of your arm along the shallow valley of her chest.
  3586. >"We'll be right back," she murmurs, spinning towards the shop with a flourish that sends the hem of her skirt flying dangerously high.
  3587. "Wait, I -"
  3588. >She turns back and lays her hand on your chest.
  3589. >"Go sit down over there," she says softly, nodding towards a lone bench halfway down the walkway. "We'll be right back."
  3590. "Shouldn't I... um..."
  3591. >"Go in with us?"
  3592. >You nod.
  3593. "I thought you wanted to... you know... spend the day together?"
  3594. >"I do, but how do you think it would look if you sauntered into a lingerie store with us?"
  3595. "Um..."
  3596. >You know *exactly* how that would turn out.
  3597. >Car chase to the border.
  3598. >Hopefully culminating in sipping margaritas on a tropical beach, but that part's not so likely.
  3599. >Silver giggles, probably at the expression on your face.
  3600. >"Maybe you were hoping to slip into the dressing room with us?"
  3601. >Oh.
  3602. >OH.
  3603. >Right!
  3604. >Yeah.
  3605. >That too.
  3606. >Good idea.
  3607. >You shake your head quickly, but you're not fooling anyone.
  3608. >Silver steps back, murmuring something so softly you only catch the trail end.
  3609. >"... little fantasies..." she ends with a giggle. "But let's not push our luck. We won't be long."
  3610. >Well.
  3611. >Okay then.
  3612. >You have a pressing need to sit down, and that's not the only thing that's pressing.
  3613. >Actually, one's kinda causing the other.
  3614. >You *really* need to sit down.
  3615. >Yep.
  3616. >You nod, but Silver has already danced away and grabbed Diamond's hand.
  3617. >"Hey, didn't you hear what I said?" the little bitch asks, following a step behind your girlfriend. "He knocked up -"
  3618. >"He didn't," Silver answers, so calm and nonchalant you can't even believe it's her speaking, "and it's fine, I know all about it."
  3619. >"But -"
  3620. >Yep.
  3621. >You're going to go sit down now.
  3622. >Going in with them would end poorly.
  3623. >But being seen in your current situation watching a pair of young girls like a creeper? Yeaaaah. No.
  3624. >Honestly just as bad.
  3625. >You know you'd deck someone for that, so... yeah...
  3626. >Sitting down now.
  3627. >You stiffly march over to the bench, praying every step of the way that no one is watching.
  3628. >So *of course* that means you run into someone you know.
  3629. >Not literally, but close enough.
  3630. >And by close enough, you would have been much happier if Wave Chill was on the other side of the mall instead of just on the other side of the walkway, talking with an older lady.
  3631. >Ah. Yeah. His mom.
  3632. >From the bags on her arm, you can guess she's hauled him out here to pick out new clothes.
  3633. >Well.
  3634. >You both look away quickly, a silent promise from both of you to never mention this and pretend it never happened.
  3635. >It's a little thing, over in thirty seconds or less, but close enough.
  3636. >Silver was right.
  3637. >Being here with her is pressing your luck.
  3638. >If he'd come by just a minute or two earlier...
  3639. >Nah, he probably wouldn't have said anything.
  3640. >He's pretty chill. Shit, it's literally in his name.
  3641. >But he might have.
  3642. >Or his mom.
  3643. >Or any one of the dozens of other people out and about at any moment.
  3644. >Shit.
  3645. >Silver was so right.
  3646. >As you carefully settle yourself down on the bench and cross your legs just so, you give thanks to whatever impulse made you top up your tank.
  3647. >Today is probably going to end in a race for the border.
  3648. >You know yourself well enough to admit that.
  3649. >Probably.
  3650. >But you'll try to put it off for as long as possible.
  3651. >Silver is having fun and you don't want that to end prematurely.
  3652. >Or at all.
  3653. >So you try to relax. Lean back.
  3654. >Just sit. Stare at nothing. Pretend your underage girlfriend isn't trying on lingere about fifty feet from where you're sitting.
  3655. >Maybe a hundred.
  3656. >Nope.
  3657. >Try to act like you aren't doing anything wrong.
  3658. >Or that you don't *know* you're doing anything wrong.
  3659. >Pretend that everything is normal.
  3660. >Just sit facing the shoe store opposite you and try to adopt the expression of all men everywhere when they're forced to wait on their girlfriend or wife to try on every article of clothing in an entire store.
  3661. >You're not entirely sure if the last part is successful or not.
  3662. >Keeping your fears and worries from showing feels impossible.
  3663.  
  3664. >Impossible or not, no police approach you.
  3665. >No one starts yelling.
  3666. >Not even so much as a funny look.
  3667. >Nothing happens.
  3668. >Nothing happens so much that you nearly jump out of your skin when a small hand grabs your shoulder.
  3669. >"Hey," Silver giggles, leaning so far over the bench that you can nearly - *nearly*, but not quite - see straight down the high collar of her shirt. "We're done, Soarin."
  3670. "It's... uh... it's only been..."
  3671. >You have no idea how long it's been.
  3672. >"It's *only* been fifteen minutes," Diamond finishes, smiling smugly until Silver straightens and raises an eyebrow at her. "Okay, *fine*. Maybe thirty."
  3673. >The look continues.
  3674. >"Shit, okay! Forty-five? I don't know."
  3675. >So long.
  3676. >You had no idea you'd been sitting on this bench for so very long.
  3677. >And for what...?
  3678. >Neither of the girls are holding any bags -
  3679. >"So..." Silver hums softly. "Aren't you curious what we got?"
  3680. > - buuuut that doesn't mean anything.
  3681. >Silver knows discretion. She could have stuffed whatever she had purchased into her purse.
  3682. >It's big enough, and whatever she got could be skimpy enough...
  3683. >Silver steps back with a little smile, but before she can do anything else Diamond steps between you and her.
  3684. >It's so tempting to slap that ridiculous smirk off her face, not that you would, but the thought is there, if fleeting.
  3685. >Besides, Silver is still smiling.
  3686. >"Well?" Diamond pressures, leaning over you. "Aren't you?"
  3687. "Well.. yeah... but..."
  3688. >Just a bit.
  3689. >"Oh come on," she laughs. "Don't even pretend. You *know* you want to see it."
  3690.  
  3691. >You are Silver Spoon and you feel for Soarin, even though this is all your doing.
  3692. >He'll like it. You *know* he will.
  3693. >Just... you know that expression. The way he looks aside.
  3694. >You're done the same often enough, but it's not the same.
  3695. >He's not *just* embarrassed - and he is, you *know* he is - he's also eyeing the crowd.
  3696. >Maybe trying to think of a quiet, private place.
  3697. >"Well?" Di pushes. "Don't you?"
  3698. >Or maybe you're just imagining it.
  3699. >Soarin isn't you. He doesn't get awkward and embarrassed and feel like a horrible person all the time.
  3700. >He's not crazy or antisocial or needy like you are.
  3701. >No, he's going to enjoy this.
  3702. >You know he is.
  3703. >*Hope* he is.
  3704. >He looks back at you - at you and not at Di - and sighs.
  3705. >"Yes," he finally answers. "I do."
  3706. >Di laughs and - without even bothering to look to see who's watching - grabs the bottom of her shirt and lifts.
  3707. >Not too high, and not too long, but enough of both for Soarin's eyes to go wide.
  3708. >You could never.
  3709. >You *would*, if he asked, but you could never.
  3710. >Di has no such inhibitions or shame.
  3711. >She can do it for you.
  3712. >You knew she would, without even saying a word to her.
  3713. >That's why you stepped back, to block her from view as best you could.
  3714. >This is a gift for Soarin and no one else.
  3715. >"So, what do you think?" Di asks, smoothing out her shirt with a satisfied grin. "Isn't that color just so me?"
  3716. >"Uhhhh..."
  3717. >"Well?"
  3718.  
  3719. >You are Soarin and you have no idea what just happened.
  3720. "I... uh... I had no idea they even sold regular bras."
  3721. >Not that you would really call anything that lacy and frilly regular.
  3722. >She's right, though.
  3723. >That pale purple does suit her well.
  3724. >You can't say that, though, not with Silver right here.
  3725. >She's too insecure, too... too...
  3726. >She's smiling.
  3727. >She's *happy*.
  3728. >Something's wrong.
  3729. >*Many* things are wrong.
  3730. >You look around frantically.
  3731. >No police.
  3732. >No sirens.
  3733. >No screams or outraged shouts.
  3734. >No one... no one noticed?
  3735. >No one noticed.
  3736. >No one at all.
  3737. >Someone should have seen something, *said* something, but not a single pair of eyes is looking your direction.
  3738. >"Shit, calm down," you dimly register Di laughing. "It's like you've never seen tits before. Or maybe you haven't?"
  3739. >"Of course he -"
  3740. >"I'm saying you're *flat*, Sil."
  3741. >"Oh," she giggles nervously.
  3742. >No one *cares*.
  3743. >"Great. I think I broke your boyfriend."
  3744. >A hand grabs your shoulder.
  3745. >Diamond's hand.
  3746. >Shit.
  3747. >Silver is going to kill her.
  3748. >First she flashes you and now she *touches* you?
  3749. >She's not going to make it through the hour.
  3750. >That's why Silver is smiling.
  3751. >You should have seen the signs sooner.
  3752. >There've been so many.
  3753. >You *knew* today was going to involve a run for the border, but not like this.
  3754. >Or... or maybe not.
  3755. >Maybe no one will notice.
  3756. >No one will care.
  3757. >It's scary what can happen without anyone noticing.
  3758. >Even in broad daylight. Even in public.
  3759. >A teenage girl just flashed you in the middle of a busy mall and not one person saw. And those that did, if anyone, don't care enough to say anything.
  3760. >What else would they simply ignore?
  3761. >"Hey," Diamond barks. "The fuck is wrong with you?"
  3762. >Everything.
  3763. >No, *nothing.*
  3764. >You could do anything you wanted, and no one would care.
  3765. >Huh.
  3766. >"Shit, I really did break him. No surprise, really. I always knew I had great tits."
  3767.  
  3768. >You are Silver Spoon and you're starting to think this might have been a bad idea.
  3769. >Soarin isn't reacting like you thought he would.
  3770. >He's stopping looking around like he was scared, at least, but -
  3771. >He shrugs.
  3772. >"Not really," Soarin sighs, pushing Di back and grabbing your hand. "I've seen better."
  3773. >"Like *who*?"
  3774. >"Well..."
  3775. >He squeezes gently.
  3776. >Oh.
  3777. >He's grinning.
  3778. >He's messing with her.
  3779. >Yes.
  3780. >This is okay.
  3781. "Moondancer?"
  3782. >Soarin hesitates, but nods when he sees your smile.
  3783. >"Yep. Not that we saw her topless, but..."
  3784. >"Then it doesn't count," Di snaps, angrily crossing her arms under her breasts.
  3785. >If she was trying to make them look bigger, it works.
  3786. >All that happens when you try is the opposite.
  3787. >There's nothing to work with and all it does is accentuate how small they really are.
  3788. >Not that it bothers you.
  3789. >Not... usually.
  3790. >"Well, then Cloudy."
  3791. >Di snorts and rolls her eyes.
  3792. >They pause on you for just an instant, looking for any kind of reaction, before continuing upward.
  3793. >You smile for her.
  3794. "I can imagine so."
  3795. >Anything that Soarin liked can't be bad.
  3796. >"Bullshit."
  3797. >Diamond is about to pout. You know the signs.
  3798. >You would feel bad, but she made fun of your chest. She deserves this.
  3799. >Even if she did... do *that* for you.
  3800. >She didn't do it intentionally.
  3801. >Like Moondancer, it doesn't count.
  3802. >"And Pinkie," Soarin adds. "Oh heck yeah, Pinkie..."
  3803. >The way he trails off is not okay.
  3804. >No.
  3805. >Not okay.
  3806. >You're not okay.
  3807. >You shouldn't be -
  3808. >"And of course Silver."
  3809. >All is forgiven.
  3810. >"Double bullshit."
  3811. >"No, really," Soarin adds, reaching a hand up towards -
  3812. >No.
  3813. >No!
  3814. >Seriously!?
  3815. >Is he going to *grope* you?
  3816. >Right now!?
  3817. >In public!?
  3818. >People could see!
  3819. >And... and... you're just going to let him?
  3820. >No, you aren't.
  3821. >You're not *just* going to let him, you're going to *enjoy* it.
  3822. >Because you're broken and crazy and he loves you and it doesn't matter what he does.
  3823. >But his hand stops short.
  3824. >"There's... um... there's room for growth."
  3825.  
  3826. >You are Soarin and you are a monster.
  3827. >How could you even think of doing that to her?
  3828. >Particularly here, particularly now.
  3829. >Silver's face is bright red, flushed and worried, her eyes trembling with fear.
  3830. >Or... maybe... excitement?
  3831. >No.
  3832. >You shouldn't question that, because it doesn't matter.
  3833. >Just because you *can* do something, doesn't mean you should.
  3834. >Just because she wants it, doesn't mean it's appropriate.
  3835. >Not like this.
  3836. >You let your hand fall.
  3837. >The apathy and blindness of others doesn't make something right.
  3838. "But... yeah..."
  3839. >You look aside, pretending to stare down the length of the mall, because you don't want to see Silver's face. You can't.
  3840. >It would be too much to know what she's feeling: relief or disappointment.
  3841. >Either way, you failed her.
  3842. "... where to next?"
  3843. >And you failed yourself.
  3844. >You wanted to be better than this.
  3845. >Out of the corner of your eye, you can still see Diamond, her cheeks glowing rosy pink.
  3846. >You went too far if it was enough to make even her blush.
  3847. >You should be better than this.
  3848. >They were having fun, and so were you, until just now.
  3849. >You have to fix this.
  3850. >Take things back to how they were.
  3851. >For her sake, if nothing else.
  3852. >Hers and Diamond's.
  3853. "So... um..."
  3854. >You stand quickly, still staring off into the distance.
  3855. >Stupid.
  3856. >Silver's standing too close, but you don't even know until she squeaks.
  3857. >And then your body hits hers.
  3858. >You nearly knock her over; only a quick grab keeps her from falling.
  3859. >And then... well... your arm is already around her shoulders.
  3860. >You hug her.
  3861. >Squeeze her tight against you.
  3862. >Feel her body pressed against yours.
  3863. >Her happy purr that gently rumbles your body.
  3864. >"Hey!" Diamond interrupts - thankfully, or you don't know how long you would have stood there holding your girlfriend. "How about that place over there?"
  3865.  
  3866. >By the time you all had reached the storefront, she'd already lost interest.
  3867. >Not that you blame her.
  3868. >In fact, you're grateful.
  3869. >From a distance it looks interesting, but up close... candles. Just candles.
  3870. >So many candles.
  3871. >None of you so much as pop your heads into the next one. Diamond is clearly interested in some of the shirts on the mannequins in the windows, but the blaring music is just too much.
  3872. >It's three more stores, and back down to the first level, before you finally go into one.
  3873. >Sure, it's not how you shop, but you're a guy.
  3874. >You go in, buy something, get the fuck out.
  3875. >Maybe shoot the shit if you're friends with one of the employees.
  3876. >But girls?
  3877. >Girls like to window shop, which is why you're surprised when Diamond grabs your sleeve and jerks you back.
  3878. >"Wait," she hisses. "What's *that*?"
  3879. >It's just a toy store, but you follow her in. Not that you have much choice in the matter unless you're willing to let your sleeve get stretched out from Diamond's tight grip.
  3880. >And Silver... she's holding more than just your sleeve.
  3881. >The girls damn near try to tear you in two, Diamond making a beeline for a wall of plushies while your girlfriend tries to go the opposite direction, but before you can shake her friend off, she spins around.
  3882. >The two of them end up dragging you towards the plushies together.
  3883. >You never do find out what had caught Silver's attention.
  3884. >She claims to have forgotten, but you're sure she's just trying to keep the peace.
  3885. >Silver's a good actress, but not that good.
  3886. >There's a tightness to her mouth, a harsh set to her jaw.
  3887. >Her eyes keep flickering towards her friend, and they are not kind, but the expression is gone by the time Diamond leads your little troupe out of the store, her purse weighing a little heavier than before.
  3888. >The pony plush she'd picked out is honestly too big to fit, it's little pink head poking out like one of those tiny dogs rich ladies carry around.
  3889. >The day isn't all about Diamond, though. More than one shop catches Silver's eyes.
  3890. >Between the two girls, you get in more walking than you've done all week, up stairs, down stairs, from one end to the mall to the other.
  3891. >You can't even remember where you are when Silver's steps slow.
  3892. >Maybe the third floor?
  3893. >Definitely not the first.
  3894. "See something you like?"
  3895. >"Besides you?" she sighs breathlessly.
  3896. >Diamond isn't the only one to roll her eyes at that, but you do so with a smile.
  3897. "Yeah, besides me."
  3898. >Silver smiles back and shakes her head.
  3899. >"No, but I'm... um... I'm starting to get a little hungry."
  3900. >"Well, duh," Diamond snaps and grabs Silver's free hand. "You barely even touched your pancakes this morning! Come on, let's go to the food court."
  3901. >Ah.
  3902. >Second floor.
  3903. >You're on the second floor.
  3904. >That's right.
  3905. >You can see the food court off in the distance.
  3906. >Diamond pulls Silver forward, and Silver drags you along.
  3907. >Well, apparently this is happening.
  3908. >You don't seem to have any input in this decision, but that's fine.
  3909. >Really.
  3910. >You could go for a bite to eat.
  3911. >Diamond leads your little chain past kiosks and stores without even looking aside.
  3912. >She barely even steps around the photo booth set on the outskirts of the food court - and goes straight through the playscape in the center.
  3913. >Apparently you and Silver aren't the only hungry ones.
  3914. >When your band comes to a sudden halt, it isn't from any mere obstacle.
  3915. >"Wait," Silver says, stopping her friend in her tracks - after skidding a few feet across the tiled floor. "Can I sit down?"
  3916. >If Silver didn't have such a tight grip on your arm, you don't think she could have stopped Diamond.
  3917. >"Huh? Why?"
  3918. >"I'm a little tired, Di. Would you mind getting our food for us?"
  3919. >The other girl raises an eyebrow.
  3920. >"So?"
  3921. "I can go, Silver."
  3922. >Your girlfriend silently concedes and lets go of your arm.
  3923. >"Yeah, see? Soarin can... can..."
  3924. >Diamond trails off as Silver pulls her debt card from her purse and holds it out.
  3925. >"Please?"
  3926. >She stares at the card a little too eagerly as Silver waves it over towards a table slightly obscured from sight by a few trees and a low, decorative wall.
  3927. >"We'll just be sitting over there," your girlfriend says, bringing her card close enough for Diamond to snatch it out of her hand.
  3928. >"Well... uh... *fine*," she hisses, "but you *owe* me."
  3929. >"I know."
  3930. >Diamond doesn't see Silver's sweet smile; she's already stomping away, feigning anger.
  3931. >At least, you *think* it's all just an act.
  3932. >You've only really started to get Diamond these last few hours, so... maybe you're wrong.
  3933. "So..."
  3934. >"It'll be fine," Silver smiles up at you. "She'll buy a bunch of stuff we don't want and get cash back at every place, but that's all."
  3935. >She giggles and grabs your arm again.
  3936. >"Don't worry, she's not going to spit in your drink or anything!"
  3937. >Silver practically skips over to the table; for once you're taking a stride-and-a-half for every one of hers and not the other way around.
  3938. >She sits down with a relieved, happy sigh, throwing her purse onto the table and pulling you down into a seat right beside hers.
  3939. "You... um... don't mind?"
  3940. >"What?" she asks so innocently. "Mind what?"
  3941. "Diamond... um..."
  3942. >"Oh? Wasting my money? No. Of course not."
  3943. >She leans over and rests her head against your shoulder.
  3944. >"Honestly," she sighs, "it's just nice to have a moment without her."
  3945. >That's not disturbing at all.
  3946. >Not that you disagree, but...
  3947. >You're still running through all the possible implications when Silver releases your arm and kicks free her shoes.
  3948. >If you hadn't seen it yourself, you would have said it was impossible.
  3949. >Too many buckles and straps for that kind of thing, not enough beaten-in-tennis-shoe.
  3950. >A moment later, her bare legs are stretched out in your lap.
  3951. >"That's better," she sighs, smiling happily. "So much better. I almost hope she doesn't come back."
  3952. >Yeah... there's too many ways to interpret that.
  3953. "So... Silver?"
  3954. >"Hmm?"
  3955. >There's no polite way to say it, so you just go for it.
  3956. "You're not going to kill her or anything, right?"
  3957. >"Di?" she responds nonchalantly. "No. Why would you ask that?"
  3958. "Well... um..."
  3959. >That she's taking it so calmly is just as troubling as the thought itself.
  3960. "You bought a book on guns and you've been giving her angry looks practically ever since I picked you up... and... well... she flashed me..."
  3961. >Mostly that last part.
  3962. "After all... you're... uh... *kinda* possessive. Sometimes, I mean."
  3963. >Silver tilts her head slightly and stares up at the leaves overhead.
  3964. "We can totally ditch her if you want."
  3965. >It's better than making that run for the border because your underage girlfriend threw her friend over a railing.
  3966. >"I can see why you'd say that..." Silver answers slowly, thoughtfully, "but no. She's my friend."
  3967. "Ooookaaaaaay..."
  3968. >"I mean, if it was anyone else... yeah. *Probably*."
  3969. >She's smiling, so you *hope* she's just joking.
  3970. >Really is hard to tell sometimes.
  3971. >"But Di? She's my friend. I *wanted* her to flash you..."
  3972. >She pauses a moment, her lower lip caught between her teeth, her eyes flickering towards you and then away.
  3973. >"... because... you know... I..."
  3974. >Silver's voice drops with each word - and with each word, her cheeks grow redder and redder.
  3975. >"... I... um... I didn't have the courage to do it myself."
  3976. "You *asked* her to flash me?"
  3977. >"No," Silver answers, "but I knew she would."
  3978. >Her lips twitch, a half-hearted and aborted smile.
  3979. "She does like to show off, doesn't she?"
  3980. >Silver nods.
  3981. >"I'm sorry I wasn't able to do it myself, but..."
  3982. >She glances towards the trees, the short wall, the food court beyond.
  3983. >You're not exactly hidden, but there's no chance anyone will see you.
  3984. >Not by accident anyway, not unless they were trying to.
  3985. >It's certainly more private than a bench set to the side of a walkway.
  3986. >You can see her eyes darting back and forth as people pass by, watching... *waiting*.
  3987. >Oh.
  3988. >You should have realized she picked this spot for a reason.
  3989. "Did you... um... did you get anything for yourself while you were in there?"
  3990. >She looks back to you and smiles sadly.
  3991. >"No, just for you," Silver sighs. "Just the one present. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it."
  3992. >Oh!
  3993. >Oh.
  3994. "Sorry..."
  3995. >"It's not your fault," she mumbles, her head dropping until her chin is resting against her collarbone. "I should have done it myself."
  3996. >She probably would have, too.
  3997. >She still might, and... and you're not sure how to feel about that.
  3998. >You want to hug her, but with her legs stretched out like this you'd basically have to pull her onto your lap.
  3999. >So that's what you do.
  4000. >All you're doing is holding her.
  4001. >Nothing more.
  4002. >Nothing bad.
  4003. >Silver doesn't seem to mind.
  4004. >Maybe this is why she picked such a secluded spot, not for... not for *other* reasons.
  4005. "It's fine."
  4006. >She nods silently.
  4007. "I... I might have enjoyed it...? But it was just too surprising, you know?"
  4008. >"Oh," she murmurs.
  4009. >Just the one word.
  4010. >The rest you can read in her tone, and there is much to read.
  4011. >"You don't like surprises," it says. "I won't try it again," it promises.
  4012. >"I won't ever do it myself," it threatens. "Not for you."
  4013. >That's the last thing you want her thinking, for many reasons.
  4014. "I *like* surprises, Silver, but that... that just came out of nowhere."
  4015. >"I know," Silver sighs. "I basically tricked her into doing her."
  4016. >She falls silent.
  4017. >Probably thinking she's a horrible girlfriend, or crazy, or -
  4018. >"Should I have her do it again?"
  4019. >Or that.
  4020. >"Would that be better? You'll be expecting it this time."
  4021. "I... uh..."
  4022. >You don't know if there's a right answer to that.
  4023. >"I can make her, you know. She won't even have a clue."
  4024. "Sometimes... sometimes you can be a scary girl."
  4025. >Silver abruptly tilts her head back, a manic grin stretched from side to side of her face.
  4026. >"Did you forget, Soarin? I'm crazy."
  4027. "No, I didn't forget."
  4028. >Her eyes grow as wide as her smile as you kiss her.
  4029. >It's brief and fleeting, but enough to leave her squirming happily in your lap.
  4030. "I didn't forget, Silver. I just think you're wrong."
  4031. >She gapes up at you, shocked and awed and grateful.
  4032. >This girl is too hard on herself.
  4033. >It makes you wonder just how messed up her parents are that she hates them more.
  4034. >"I can... I can go back?" she whispers uncertainly. "I can find you a another present, one you'd like. One for... one for me...?"
  4035. >Her eyes are trembling as she offers herself, but you don't see any excitement in them.
  4036. >Only fear.
  4037. >She doesn't want to fail you again.
  4038. "No, Silver, you don't have to do that."
  4039. >You kiss her again, softly and longer than before.
  4040. "Maybe some other time."
  4041. >Like in a few years.
  4042. >"Maybe..." she giggles.
  4043. >Or tomorrow. Tomorrow works too.
  4044. >After all, you really had thought Fredrick's had gone online only.
  4045. >Never know how long these last few stores will last.
  4046. >They might not be around in a few years.
  4047. >That there are similar stores selling similar things is a thought you push to the back of your head and conveniently forget about.
  4048. >A tiny finger boops your nose.
  4049. >"Hey. What are you thinking about?"
  4050. "Nothing important."
  4051. >"Oh," Silver moans. "So... *not* me?"
  4052. >You know a trap when you see it - and intentional or not, that's a trap.
  4053. "The thoughts were... Silver *adjacent*."
  4054. >"So... *not* how I'd look in that bra I bought Di?"
  4055. "More like trying to justify... yeah... that."
  4056. >Basically.
  4057. >But something a little smaller.
  4058. >Maybe in more ways than one.
  4059. >You may be a monster, but not one horrible enough to say that.
  4060. >Not to her.
  4061. >You sigh.
  4062. "Want to know what I was really thinking?"
  4063. >Just trying to change the topic before you go too far.
  4064. >Silver nods.
  4065. "I really thought they'd closed all of their stores."
  4066. >Change the topic subtlely.
  4067. >For you, it almost is.
  4068. >"Fredrick's?" Silver asks, taking the bait, "they did, but there are still a handful of franchies open."
  4069. >Taking the bait and taking it too far, because now it's your turn to wonder how she knows these kinds of things.
  4070. >"I've *occasionally* fantasized about opening one. Because, well, it wouldn't be much work... and... yeah..."
  4071. "Wait. What?"
  4072. >"I never would, of course, but I've fantasized."
  4073. "But... you're *fourteen*."
  4074. >"That's probably why my fantasies used to be so mild," she answers with a lewd grin. "*Used* to be."
  4075. >If her point wasn't clear - and BOY IT SURE IS CLEAR - there's no avoiding it, willfully or otherwise, once she bites down on her lower lip.
  4076. "Not... uh... not what I meant."
  4077. >"A girl can dream, right?"
  4078. "No - yes, sure, but not... not *that*."
  4079. >"And why not?"
  4080. "You're *fourteen*. Just how rich are you that you can even think about opening a store?"
  4081. >You are not prepared - or comfortable - with the amount of giggling and squirming girl on your lap.
  4082. >Admittedly it's not a lot of girl - but there *is* more than enough giggling and squirming to take up the slack.
  4083. >"You know those stories..." Silver starts while your mind is on other things than what she's saying, "You know, the ones where the protagonist gets everything he wants and never has any trouble finding or buying anything unless magically dictated by the plot?"
  4084. "Uh..."
  4085. >"And they can totally get away with anything up to including murder, because money can get them out of anything?"
  4086. "Ummm..."
  4087. >You're not really following.
  4088. >Not that, anyway. Whatever she's saying.
  4089. >The girl stops fidgeting and plants a kiss on your lips.
  4090. >"About that rich."
  4091. Silver kisses you again.
  4092. >"Yes," she sighs as her lips separate from yours, "I am a scary girl."
  4093. >No, no she isn't.
  4094. >You squeeze her tight.
  4095. "That wasn't what I was thinking."
  4096. >"Oh? Then what?"
  4097. "Well... um..."
  4098. >"It's obvious what he's thinking," an unwelcome voice cuts in.
  4099. >Not that any voice would be welcome right now, but particularly not Diamond.
  4100. >Not that another person would be any better.
  4101. >Not that anyone else wouldn't be worse.
  4102. >You're in no state for that car chase right now.
  4103. >Probably wouldn't even make it to your car.
  4104. >Plus... you're hungry, and the tray of food she's carrying in looks tasty.
  4105. >For mall food, that is.
  4106. >"Hmm?" Silver purrs, turning in your lap to face her friend. "What's he thinking?"
  4107. >"That you're a slut."
  4108. "NO."
  4109. >That is very much NOT what you're thinking.
  4110. >"I mean, right here in public?" Diamond snarls. "I swear, this is the library all over again, so -"
  4111. >Then again, she's not *entirely* wrong.
  4112. >Just mostly.
  4113. >" - if you're fucking him -"
  4114. >Silver slides off your lap and back into her own chair.
  4115. >But... you were... holding her?
  4116. >You have no idea how she managed that, but she's no longer in your arms or on your lap and her face is redder than a fire engine, even buried in her hands.
  4117. >"Oh, well... whatever..." Diamond shrugs, dropping the tray on the table and herself in one of the empty chairs. "I *was* going to say I'd just watch, but whatever. Here's your stupid food."
  4118. >There certainly is a variety to choose from, from fries to Szechuan chicken to... there's a lot.
  4119. >Diamond had to have stopped at half a dozen different places.
  4120. >"Well?" she sighs angrily. "Aren't you hungry? You made me go to all these places and you aren't even going to eat?"
  4121. >There's a brief flicker, an instinctive push to snap back.
  4122. >Protect Silver.
  4123. >You would, too.
  4124. >Yell at this girl, snark back, something.
  4125. >You would, too, if she wasn't - somehow - okay with all this - okay with being used by her friend and putting up with her abuse.
  4126. "Yeah, sure."
  4127. >You reach for... for...
  4128. >There's a lot, and yet something is missing.
  4129. "What about drinks?"
  4130. >"If you're trying to get rid of me so you two can finish up, go ahead."
  4131. >Diamond leans forward and leers.
  4132. >"Seriously," she giggles, "feel free. I don't mind."
  4133. "I'll just get it myself. Silver -"
  4134. >"Tea, please," your girlfriend mumbles softly, her face still buried in her hands. "Di, can you give him my -"
  4135. >"Yeah, yeah, fine."
  4136. >It's only a couple of drinks, three if you're feeling kind, but you take the card anyway when Diamond finally fishes it out of her purse and thrusts it at you.
  4137. >"Hey, wait!" she calls out as you start to walk away. "Aren't you going to ask what I want?"
  4138. "Nope."
  4139. >You're back quickly - and with a drink for Diamond.
  4140. >She *did* go get all of the food, after all, and Silver *is* paying for it... so...
  4141. >You would have gotten one for her anyway.
  4142. >"Shiiit," she sneers when she sees you. "Fuck, do you need some help or something?"
  4143. "Huh?"
  4144. >"Nevermind."
  4145. >She rolls her eyes - and swings her body around to turn her back to you.
  4146. >"Oh, wow," Silver murmurs as you set her tea in front of her. "You didn't even use a tray or..."
  4147. "What?"
  4148. >She timidly points to her tea.
  4149. "I'm still not following."
  4150. >"Well, I mean, you carried all three at once."
  4151. "Is carrying three cups really that impressive?"
  4152. >"Kinda...?"
  4153. "Really?"
  4154. >"Your hands are big, but you still only have two."
  4155. >Maybe you've been to too many parties and done too much drinking.
  4156. >It really doesn't seem noteworthy.
  4157. >"It's nothing special," Diamond shrugs, still keeping her back to you. "Stop fucking around and eat so we can... whatever it is we're going to do."
  4158. "Yeah, sure."
  4159. >You set down her drink and take your seat.
  4160. "So, just what is next?"
  4161. >She shrugs.
  4162. >Silver shrugs.
  4163. >You shrug.
  4164. >The table remains resolutely still.
  4165. "Guess we'll figure that out as we eat."
  4166. >The girls nod - well, the one does. The other makes a noncommittal bitchy noise you're starting to recognize as acceptance or - possibly - approval.
  4167. >That settles that, so you reach for some fries and - pause.
  4168. "Hey, Diamond?"
  4169. >"What."
  4170. "What's... um... *yours*?"
  4171. >There's a lot of food on the tray, all jumbled up.
  4172. >You and Silver won't have any problem sharing, or at least you assume, but Diamond -
  4173. >"I'm not hungry."
  4174. >And *that* solves *that*.
  4175. "Cool."
  4176. >You grab a handful of fries and cram them in your mouth with all the grace and decorum of someone totally unsuited for the delicate girl seated beside you.
  4177. >Yeah, you've got to work on that.
  4178. >Silver's still smoothing out a napkin across her skirt - and her next move isn't to grab some food but to tear open the wrapping on a plastic fork and knife.
  4179. >Even with fast food, even here, in a mall food court, she shows more class than...
  4180. >... than the girl stealing your damn fries.
  4181. "I thought you weren't hungry."
  4182. >"Not," Diamond answers, popping tasty, tasty potatobits into her mouth anyway.
  4183. "Sooo..."
  4184. >"Shit, stop spazzing. You can always get more."
  4185. >Bitch.
  4186. >Shoving fries up her nose wouldn't be appropriate.
  4187. >Funny, and the kind of stupid shit you do with your friends, but not appropriate.
  4188. >Not with Silver already making you look like a retarded barbarian.
  4189. "Yeah, you're right."
  4190. >Diamond freezes as you raise your hand - and stays that way until you've finished patting her head.
  4191. >Her lips curl in a belated snarl the second you pull away - and you laugh.
  4192. "Did you think I was going to hit you?"
  4193. >"Wouldn't put it past you."
  4194. >Aaaaaand then she grabs more fries.
  4195. >Meh.
  4196. >There's other stuff to eat.
  4197. >Diamond almost looks disappointed when you push the rest of the bag her way and grab a small box of popcorn shrimp for yourself.
  4198. >"Whatever," she sighs and casually brushes the bag aside. "Where are we going next?"
  4199. "Well..."
  4200. >Silver has to be getting tired by now.
  4201. "... how about a movie?"
  4202. >"Boring."
  4203. >You don't really give a shit about Diamond's opinion, but when you look Silver's way she holds her hand over her mouth and, a second later, shrugs.
  4204. >Right.
  4205. >She's eating.
  4206. >And she really doesn't seem to interested in the idea.
  4207. >Eager enough, but she always is.
  4208. "We could... uh..."
  4209. >"Get some vodka and go back to your place?"
  4210. "Um... no."
  4211. >"You're no fun."
  4212. >It's your turn to shrug.
  4213. >You still don't give a shit about her opinion.
  4214. "Well, I'm basically all out of ideas."
  4215. >You sigh and wait until Silver swallows the bit of chicken she'd just put in her mouth.
  4216.  
  4217. >You are Silver Spoon and you know what you want to do next.
  4218. >What you don't know is how to bring it up.
  4219. >It's not as if the fourth floor is full of porn theaters and gun stores, but it *does* have a reputation.
  4220. >A couple smoke shops, a small liquor store, a few that specialize in specific goods, one that sells those cheap, imported knives and swords for idiots...
  4221. >Between common sense and the law, most card anyone trying to enter.
  4222. >Of course, between Diamond's headstrong idiocy and your money, you've still been in them all.
  4223. >Almost.
  4224. >Most of them.
  4225. >Soarin is politely waiting for you to swallow, but you don't have an answer for the question you know he's going to ask.
  4226. >You draw it out, chewing the chicken long past the point of necessity.
  4227. >Eventually, one or the other will lose patience.
  4228. >Di, you suspect.
  4229.  
  4230. >You are Soarin and you know Silver is stalling.
  4231. >Probably because she doesn't want to suggest any 'wrong' ideas.
  4232. >That's a shame, because you know all of yours are.
  4233. >You're on the verge of giving up and asking Diamond when she cracks.
  4234. >"Is it really so hard for you to come up with something yourself?" the girl snarls. "Why do you even want to go anyway? We've only bought... like... a couple CDs and a plush toy."
  4235. "And chocolate and lunch."
  4236. >"Those don't count."
  4237. "Your... um..."
  4238. >"That doesn't count either," Diamond sighs. "It's not like we've *really* gone clothes shopping."
  4239. >She grins evilly and leans towards your girlfriend.
  4240. >"We should, you know. To punish him."
  4241. >"For...?"
  4242. >"I don't know," Diamond shrugs. "Does it matter?"
  4243. >Silver's eyes flicker towards you.
  4244. >"Come on," her friend pushes, scooting closer and closer to her, "you can think of something."
  4245. >"Not... really..."
  4246. "Why would that be a punishment anyway?"
  4247. >Diamond turns away from Silver to glare at you like you're the dumbest sack of shit ever.
  4248. >"Because we'd make you wait forever and you wouldn't even get to see anything."
  4249. "So? I've -"
  4250. >"Unless, you know, you *really* wanted to."
  4251. >Silver blushes, and you're fairly certain you do too, but where you're left a stammering mess, Silver spears another piece of Szechuan chicken with her fork and raises it to her lips.
  4252. >Just another stalling tactic, just a little distraction. Elegance and poise that leave you breathless.
  4253. >"I bet we can find a place with fitting rooms big enough for three."
  4254. >Silver's eyes dart back towards Diamond - and then quickly away.
  4255. >She puts all of her focus and concentration into nibbling on that scrap of chicken.
  4256. >Small bites, tiny bites, firmly paying no attention whatsoever to her friend or her suggestions and how appealing they may or may not be.
  4257. >You know because you're trying to do the same.
  4258. >Just without the chicken, or the pouting best friend.
  4259. >"Hey," Diamond barks. "Aren't you two paying any attention to what I'm saying?"
  4260. "We're trying not to."
  4261. >Probably shouldn't have said that.
  4262. >Too bad you didn't have any chicken to stuff in your mouth, because it leaves her fuming.
  4263. >Diamond stares utter death at you.
  4264. >If looks could kill... well... this would probably be the equivalent of a really hard punch in the arm, like when you *seriously* tick off Spitfire.
  4265. >Except you can't punch back in this case.
  4266. >Meh.
  4267. >Not *physically*, anyway.
  4268. "Honestly, if you could just shut -"
  4269. >"Sil! Are you going to let him talk to me like this?"
  4270. >Silver just shrugs and continues to nibble on her chicken.
  4271. >Yeah... she's a good girlfriend.
  4272. >Diamond starts to cross her arms over her chest - then *under*, then she awkwardly flails about.
  4273. >Not violently, not with big, wild gestures, but like a lost child unsure what to do.
  4274. >One second she's running her fingers through her hair, the next resting her hand on the table, and a fraction after that grasping for fries she never quite reaches.
  4275. >It's almost painful to watch.
  4276. "Look, it's fine. We can go clothes shopping."
  4277. >That doesn't help; Diamond's mouth curls into an angry sneer.
  4278. >Her hands finally come to rest on the very edge of the table and she leans to the side, towards Silver.
  4279. "Diamond, I said I give up. We can do whatever you want."
  4280. >She doesn't even look your way, but leans further, until her nose is almost touching your girlfriend's.
  4281. >All that separates them is a half-eaten piece of chicken speared on a plastic fork.
  4282. >Silver's face is pale - she tries to back away, but her chair hits the short wall behind her almost immediately.
  4283. >Nowhere to run and hiding behind her chicken is proving to be ineffective.
  4284. >You don't know what that damn bitch is playing at, but enough is enough.
  4285. "Stop it, Diamond. I said -"
  4286. >The last wall falls.
  4287. >She tears the chicken free and swallows it whole - and she doesn't stop there.
  4288. >Silver's eyes snap open in surprise as Diamond's lips touch hers.
  4289. >She tries to tell her to stop, but the words are lost as Diamond leans into her.
  4290. >She tries to scoot away, but there's nowhere to go.
  4291. >She tries to push Diamond back, but the other girl has her pinned.
  4292. >She starts to panic, but you're already there.
  4293. >Diamond tries to jerk her arm out of your grip, but you're stronger by far. Strong enough to pull her back into her seat without even rising from your own.
  4294. "What the hell, Diamond?"
  4295. >"What?" she spits back with a glare. "What's your problem? Silver doesn't mind, right?"
  4296. >That's not the impression you get from your girlfriend's trembling eyes.
  4297. >"*Right*, Silver?"
  4298. >"No... I... uh... I don't mind," she whispers. "It was just... too surprising."
  4299. >She smiles, as hollow and fake as ever.
  4300. >"You know, Soarin, like... *earlier*?"
  4301. "That was different."
  4302. >"Was it really?"
  4303. >Silver looks down before you can answer - though that doesn't mean much.
  4304. >You don't think you *can* answer, even if given all the time in the world.
  4305. >Though you know she's wrong, you're just not diplomatic enough to say what you want to say without making things worse.
  4306. >Better to sit quietly than that.
  4307. >Better to pretend nothing happened.
  4308. >After all, it works for Blossom.
  4309. >It works for Silver.
  4310. >She's already nibbling on another piece of chicken, her eyes staring nowhere in particular.
  4311. >"See? *She* doesn't need you to protect her," Diamond's harsh, bitter laughter fills the silence.
  4312. >She crosses her arms and leans back in her chair, rocking it gently.
  4313. >"It was just a kiss, dumbass. Stop being so fucking jealous."
  4314. >If it was just a kiss, she wouldn't be trying so damn hard to act relaxed.
  4315. >As for the other part...
  4316. "Fine. Let's go shopping."
  4317. >You thought giving in would make Diamond happy - and more importantly, Silver - but her mouth tightens.
  4318. >Her eyes dart aside and she stares at the same nothing as your girlfriend.
  4319. >"You are so fucking stupid."
  4320. "Why? Isn't that what you wanted to do?"
  4321. >Diamond shrugs, Silver continues to eat her chicken, and you... you have no idea what the fuck you just did wrong.
  4322. >In fact, you're pretty fucking certain you *didn't* do anything wrong.
  4323. >She's just a bitch.
  4324. >All the same, you find you've lost your appetite.
  4325. "Well, I honestly wouldn't mind going to some clothing stores, so... you girls done eating?"
  4326. >Diamond sneers, Silver doubles down on pretending to eat chicken, and you sigh.
  4327. "Seriously. I've been looking for a hat for Silver."
  4328. >"A... a hat?" your girlfriend stutters, looking up suddenly and abandoning all pretense at eating. "Why?"
  4329. "Because I think you'd look cute in one."
  4330. >Silver head dips until she's peering at you over the rim of her glasses.
  4331. >"What kind of hat?" she asks, the words rushed and clipped, short and tense.
  4332. >Maybe this isn't a good idea after all, but you're already in this far.
  4333. "Something bright, maybe yellow, with a large brim."
  4334. >At least you'll learn something new about your girlfriend.
  4335. >"That doesn't sound like me at all."
  4336. "Maybe, but I think you'd be cute in it."
  4337. >It's not a lie; she'd look cute in anything.
  4338. >Or nothing.
  4339. >That all goes unsaid, yet Silver blushes anyway.
  4340. >"That... um... that sounds nice."
  4341. >Her eyes twitch away.
  4342. >She doesn't like it.
  4343. >She's only pretending, and doing a poor job job of it.
  4344. "Buuuuut I haven't seen any I've liked so far, so clothes shopping sounds fine to me, and if you see something else -"
  4345. >"We... um... we haven't looked at any of the stores on the fourth floor."
  4346. >She smiles shyly as she raises her head.
  4347. >"Maybe... maybe we'll find one there?"
  4348. >You doubt that, but it's been a long time since you've been up there.
  4349. >Raiding the fourth floor stopped being cool when you were a sophomore.
  4350. "Maybe..."
  4351. >You never stepped inside, but there are - or were - a few high-end clothing stores on that floor. The kind of stuff too expensive to appeal to most kids your age.
  4352. >The rest - the smoke shops and others - were just small hole-in-the-wall places compared to those anchor stores.
  4353. >If Silver was just pretending to be interested, she's doing a much better job now.
  4354. >Her lower lip is caught between her teeth, her hands excitedly bunched up in her lap.
  4355. >Ah.
  4356. >Right.
  4357. >She's only a freshman.
  4358. >Still, you doubt her eagerness has anything to do with yours at her age.
  4359. >Diamond's, on the other hand...
  4360. >You can see that.
  4361. >She's still pouting, but she keeps trying to sneak glances when she thinks you aren't looking.
  4362. >Instead of balling her hands into angry fists, she's tapping a finger against her arm impatiently.
  4363. >Most importantly, she's not shouting down Silver's idea like a stupid bitch.
  4364. >If that's not a sure sign of her approval, you don't know what is.
  4365. "So, if you're done eating..."
  4366. >Silver nods eagerly and Diamond shrugs.
  4367. >"I wasn't hungry in the first place," she sneers, though she then stuffs another handful of cold fries into her bitch mouth.
  4368. >One of these days...
  4369. >But not today.
  4370. >Hopefully never.
  4371. >You stand and start to pile the trash back onto the tray.
  4372. >Silver helps, finishing off with her neatly folded napkin.
  4373. >Diamond doesn't.
  4374. >"What are you two waiting for?"
  4375. "Just cleaning up."
  4376. >"*Why?*"
  4377. "Because -"
  4378. >"Some idiot is *paid* to do that."
  4379. >One of these days, but not today.
  4380. >You hold back your sigh and pick up the tray.
  4381. "Maybe I'm just a nice guy."
  4382. >Silver giggles and nods, but Diamond groans and falls against the short wall.
  4383. >"So?" she moans. "It's their *job*, so why would you help *them*?"
  4384. >"Because he's a nice guy," Silver answers for you.
  4385. >Diamond opens her mouth, but thinks better of whatever she was going to say.
  4386. >A shake of her head sends her wavy hair bouncing about her shoulders.
  4387. >"Whatever. Let's just go to the fourth floor. Maybe there's something cool up there."
  4388. >She stomps on ahead, moving in a straight line for the nearest escalator.
  4389. >Silver's head swivels between you and Diamond.
  4390. "Go on."
  4391. >You would pat her head, but your hands are kind of full at the moment.
  4392. "I'm going to take care of this, then I'll catch up. Only be a minute."
  4393. >"Are you sure?"
  4394. "Yeah, someone's got to keep her out of trouble."
  4395. >Silver nods and chases after her friend - and you head the other way.
  4396. >The closest trash can you see is over near the photo booth and you just wouldn't feel right leaving the tray here.
  4397. >Like you told Diamond, you're a nice guy.
  4398. >Or, at least, you're trying to be.
  4399. >You're trying.
  4400. >Right now, it's hard to think nice guy thoughts and not about fitting rooms and Silver.
  4401. >Or just taking her home. To *your* home.
  4402. >Leave her bitch friend here.
  4403. >But you couldn't; that would make Silver unhappy.
  4404. >You swerve around the last table and glance toward the escalator.
  4405. >Silver caught up pretty quickly - she and Diamond are waiting for you at the foot of it.
  4406. >Both are chattering away and gesturing.
  4407. >They're excited and not even Diamond can pretend to hide it.
  4408. >If Silver weren't holding on to her, she'd probably take off on her own.
  4409. >In fact, only when Silver points towards you does her friend take a step back from the escalator.
  4410. >Best hurry.
  4411. >That dumb bitch doesn't know the meaning of the word patience.
  4412. >You're almost done - three more steps and you've dumped the trash and set the empty tray with the others stacked beside the can.
  4413. >Not quick enough.
  4414. >The girls are headed your direction before you can even start walking their way.
  4415. >Diamond tries to come straight through the food court, but you walk around.
  4416. >It's getting a little too crowded - looks like nearly every table is full - and you're just too nice to be her.
  4417. >That's right, you're a nice guy. That's why you're not charging ahead and shoving people out of your way.
  4418. >Making Diamond wait another thirty seconds or so is just a perk.
  4419. >You slowly amble along, trying to nonchalantly stare off into the distance.
  4420. >That'll piss her off.
  4421. >Pretend you didn't see them.
  4422. >Pay no mind to the chaos Diamond is leaving in her path.
  4423. >Ignore the crowds around you.
  4424. >The loud noises, they happy shouts, the dull roar of a hundred voices layered one on top of another.
  4425. >Laughter from the photo booth just ahead.
  4426. >Not even the flailing - dude, what?
  4427. >A thin strip of paper flutters through the air to land almost at your feet.
  4428. >Oh, from the photo booth.
  4429. >A nice guy would pick it up and hand it over.
  4430. >That's what you are, right?
  4431. >So you pick it up and -
  4432. >Oh.
  4433. >You're a good person.
  4434. >You really want to be.
  4435. >You shouldn't stare.
  4436. >You've got a girlfriend. You've -
  4437. >They're -
  4438. >She -
  4439. >No, you're a good person.
  4440. >You look up from the pictures, at Anon and the three girls clustered around him.
  4441. >Their shirts are down now.
  4442. >Good.
  4443. >His face is hard to read - it always is - but that doesn't save him this time.
  4444. >Dude's about to panic.
  4445. >"Wait, Soarin, this isn't what you think! I can explain!"
  4446. >Nah, dude's already panicking.
  4447. "It's alright, bro, I get it."
  4448. >You're in no position to judge, not after what you've done.
  4449. >Not after fucking up with Caramel.
  4450. >"Please don't call the, wait, what?"
  4451. >You calmly hand the photos over to him.
  4452. >These girls don't need rescuing from him. Maybe from each other, but not him.
  4453. >From the last pic on the strip, you'd say he's the one that needs rescuing.
  4454. >Guy looks like he expects a lynch mob to pop out of nowhere and string him up.
  4455. >Probably the same expression you've been wearing all day.
  4456. "Don't worry, bro, I'm not gonna say anything."
  4457. >Dude's face wasn't the first thing you saw on the pic, wasn't the thing you looked at the longest, and - as always - it was hard to read.
  4458. >But despite all that, you don't think he wanted them to do that, to lift their shirts.
  4459. >Dude looked about as outraged as his girlfriend.
  4460. >Or maybe you're just projecting, but it's not like you asked Diamond to flash you either.
  4461. >Girls can be crazy.
  4462. "I know your pain."
  4463. >No, you don't.
  4464. >Once you realized what you were looking at, you *tried* not to, but... Apple Bloom's bra may be plain, but she fills it far better than Diamond ever will.
  4465. >You're lucky you don't have to deal with that kind of temptation.
  4466. >Poor dude.
  4467. >He still looks like he's about to piss himself in fear.
  4468. >You want to help out, offer some sage advice or something... be a bro, but... you've got nothing.
  4469. >A speck of understanding lights in his eyes as a pair of hands grab your arms - one each.
  4470. >"Soarin, don't run off like that!" Diamond whines, tugging on you with all her might. "We still need to go to the fourth floor."
  4471. >Oh, shit.
  4472. >You did not need anyone hearing that.
  4473. >There's no chance to wave or say goodbye, or even wish him luck.
  4474. >No, you're pretty sure you've got the same expression on your face that Anon had moments ago, and you *let* Silver and Diamond drag you away.
  4475. >Willingly.
  4476. >Who knows what he's thinking?
  4477. >Probably that you're taking these two to one of the trashy porn stores.
  4478. >Shit.
  4479. >Fuck!
  4480. >You're just looking for a fucking hat!
  4481. >The last thing you need is some dude you barely know freaking out about you being a perv.
  4482. >It's not like Cloudy or Spitfire.
  4483. >He's not your friend, there's no guarantee he'll have your back.
  4484. >You want to go back and explain.
  4485. >Lately, you've wanted to do a *lot* of stupid things.
  4486. >Particularly today, and between all of your options, you know which stupid thing you'd rather choose.
  4487. >You let Diamond and Silver pull you onto the escalator.
  4488. >Even if Anon thinks the worst, dude's not going to cause you any problems.
  4489. >Hopefully.
  4490. >He's got enough of his own to deal with.
  4491. >From what you've seen at school, those Applejack's little sister and her friends can be a handful.
  4492. >Especially the little sister.
  4493. >It was probably *her* idea to flash their bras in the photo booth.
  4494. >She's more like *two* handfuls, even for hands as big as -
  4495. >NOPE.
  4496. >That train of thought stops there.
  4497. >You're a *good* boyfriend.
  4498. >"So what were you talking to *those* losers for?" Diamond asks as she guides you off the escalator and onto the next.
  4499. "Anon?"
  4500. >"Yeah, him too."
  4501. "He... uh... he dropped something. I was picking it up for him."
  4502. >Diamond hopping onto the escalator to the fourth floor - right in the center of the step so you and Silver have to stand below her.
  4503. >You try not to let it get to you.
  4504. >The escalator isn't wide enough for all three of you to stand side-by-side anyway, and you'd rather be standing with Silver anyway.
  4505. >Your girlfriend wraps herself around your arm, purring like a content kitten.
  4506. >That should be enough to make you forget about Diamond entirely, but you can't. Not with her looking down at you - or trying.
  4507. >She's so much shorter than you that even being one step higher only puts her at eye level.
  4508. >"Uh... huh," she hums, clearly pretending - or deciding - to not believe you because she's a bitch. "If you say so."
  4509. >You want to slap that smug grin off her face, but you wouldn't.
  4510. >Silver's holding onto your arm too tight.
  4511. >It doesn't matter anyway. Diamond lets the matter drop, thankf-
  4512. >"I bet you were staring at Appletit's rack."
  4513. >Silver's grip tightens.
  4514. "I was not!"
  4515. >"Suuuuure... I *told* you, Silver, jocks -"
  4516. "I wasn't!"
  4517. >"- jocks *cheat*," she finishes with a smug grin. "All the fucking time."
  4518. >"He wouldn't."
  4519. >Silver says it with such conviction, such casual certainty.
  4520. >She's not grabbing you to be possessive, but to stop you from... from being you, you guess.
  4521. >Not that you would, but you're sure thinking it a lot.
  4522. >"I doubt that, but if so it's only because he knows in a year her giant cow utters are going to be slapping her knees."
  4523. "Diamond -"
  4524.  
  4525. >You are Diamond Tiara and you roll your eyes at his little threat.
  4526. >They looked so happy - at least Appletits and Scootwat did - and it pisses you off, almost as much as Silver's happy little smile.
  4527. >She's ignoring you!
  4528. "Well... at least you don't have to worry about the other two."
  4529. >*That* gets her attention!
  4530. >As much as she tries to pretend, you *know* her!
  4531. >You *know* she wants to be reassured!
  4532. "I *almost* could have mistaken Scootaloo for a girl, the way she was dressed, but not quite - and besides, she's too old for your pedo boyfriend."
  4533. >Silver flinches and Soarin sneers.
  4534. >Hah!
  4535. "And Sweetie... she..."
  4536. >*She* didn't look happy.
  4537. >What the fuck was wrong with her?
  4538. >She takes *everything* way too personally.
  4539. >Ugh.
  4540. >Your head hurts.
  4541.  
  4542. >You are Soarin and you're getting more and more tempted by the second.
  4543. >"... she..."
  4544. >Diamond lets go of you and steps of the escalator onto the fourth floor.
  4545. >"... whatever," she mumbles with a dismissive shake of her head. "She's flatter than Silver, so... whatever."
  4546. >Bitch doesn't step aside for you and Silver and it's not like the elevator is going to stop just because she's too busy being a bitch, so you have to push her.
  4547. >Gently, of course, but she jerks away from your touch like you'd tried to...
  4548. >Well, like you tried to do what you were tempted to do just moments earlier.
  4549. >"Fuck her," Diamond mutters, "what does *she* have to be pissy about?"
  4550. >You've got your suspicions, but that's none of her business.
  4551. >Silver is still hanging from your arm, so a half-hearted shrug turns into a quick hug, because Diamond can go to hell.
  4552. >She was starting to be tolerable, too, in a 'don't want to hate my girlfriend's best friend' kind of way, but as soon as everything stopped going her way...
  4553. >... well...
  4554. >... maybe you were just feeling sorry for her and she's always been a bitch and always will be a bitch.
  4555. >You hug Silver again, because you've been wanting to all day and this floor seems pretty deserted and no one is watching and you'd rather do that than think about...
  4556. >"Are you two going to stand there all day?"
  4557. >Yeah. *That*.
  4558. >"Just waiting for you to decide where to go first," Silver answers softly as she slips free of your arm - of just one.
  4559. >She holds the other firmly - as firmly as she can - but you don't have a problem keeping your hand on her waist.
  4560. >It's too early in the day for this floor to be crowded; some of the stores aren't even open yet.
  4561. >Thankfully.
  4562. >It makes it a lot easier to keep Diamond from trying to drag you into the dildo emporium or whatever it's called these days.
  4563. >"Fine," she groans, turning in place to get a good look. "How about - fuck, it's closed."
  4564. >Ah.
  4565. >That's right, it's called Dildopolis - and it doesn't open for another hour.
  4566. >Diamond sighs and starts walking aimlessly down the row of storefronts.
  4567. >"Closed, closed, ew no, closed, boring -"
  4568. >Right past the first clothing store, though something in the window catches Silver's eye for a moment.
  4569. >You make a mental note to come back to it after she's done placating Diamond.
  4570. >"- boring, stupid -"
  4571. >Good, you wouldn't have taken them into a cigar shop anyway.
  4572. >"- closed, empty - ah-hah!"
  4573. >Diamond spins on her heel and jerks her thumb at the next place.
  4574. >"Hey, Silver," she smirks, "want to get your nipples pierced?"
  4575. >"Um..."
  4576. >"You know, for Soarin?"
  4577. >"May-"
  4578. "No."
  4579. >You don't even let yourself think about it.
  4580. >She's too young.
  4581. >"Boring," Diamond sighs, turning back and continuing meandering down the mall.
  4582. >Occasionally she stops to take a closer look at something in a window, but the running commentary never does.
  4583. >"-stupid, boring, closed, that *almost* looks good, except it's a knockoff, closed -"
  4584. >You simply shuffle along and try very hard not to think of Silver getting *anything* pierced or about some of your teammates or other people you've known and -
  4585. >Nope, not thinking about that.
  4586. >Even if they were -
  4587. >NOPE.
  4588. >Maybe later. Like in four years. Or ten.
  4589. >Somewhere around there.
  4590. >"You know..." Diamond hums, malicious intent *dripping* off her tongue "... we could go back there and get Soarin a Prince Albert."
  4591. >"NO."
  4592. >You're less shocked by her answer than by the simple fact she knows what that is.
  4593. "Um -"
  4594. >"No," Silver repeats, blinking up at you pleadingly. "Please? No?"
  4595. "Yeah, no."
  4596. >She smiles and that alone makes not getting your dick stabbed doubly worth it.
  4597. "Never. Nope."
  4598. >"Fuuuuuuck, you two are *boring*," Diamond huffs. "Fine. Fuck it. Let's go in there."
  4599. >She jerks her arm out, gesturing to a... a...
  4600. >You have no idea what to call it, just that there are far too many katanas and trading cards in the window.
  4601. >"Big Trouble in Little Canterlot?" Silver asks softly, proving she's smarter than you because she'll just call the store by the big, neon sign over the door instead of trying to figure out what kind of store it is, even if it is a *stupid* name.
  4602. >"Yeah."
  4603. "Nope, how about you try again?"
  4604. >But Silver stops and peers through the window.
  4605. >"Sure," she says. "Why not?"
  4606. "Because..."
  4607. >She doesn't plead, she doesn't beg.
  4608. >You let her lead you inside anyway.
  4609. >Diamond follows a half-step behind, like she was caught by surprise that you actually went in.
  4610. >The shop is so packed with cheap imported shit on tables and display stands that you can only shuffle through the stacks single file.
  4611. >Along one side of the shop is a register - complete with a oblivious fat nerd playing on his laptop. The rest of that space is taken up by a long glass counter filled with knives and trading cards.
  4612. >The wall behind is hung with swords - mostly katanas, but a few straight blades too.
  4613. >The air reeks of incense - thankfully, or it'd probably reek of nerd body odor.
  4614. >Silver doesn't pause to rethink her choice, but leads you deeper into the store.
  4615. >There aren't even aisles, just narrow trails that wander past locked glass cases full of plushies of characters from Chinese cartoons.
  4616. >Who would even want to steal this shit?
  4617. >Not everything is under lock and key, though. Sadly.
  4618. >Cloth posters of the same characters fill planters and barrels stuffed here and there.
  4619. >Carved wooden dragons and penguins stand on a tiered table - alongside overpriced, poorly made plush pandas.
  4620. >Occasionally Silver stops to examine something or check a price tag, but nothing seems to really interest her.
  4621. >Good.
  4622. >You're happy your little Silver has better taste.
  4623. >Diamond, on the other hand, collects a small hoard of plushies - and she *is* on the other hand. *Your* other hand.
  4624. >She grabbed hold of it before making it two steps into the store, probably when she saw the neckbeard behind the counter.
  4625. >She doesn't even release you when her horde of plushies grows too big for her to hold - she pauses, looks at the ones in her hand, and sets one down before grabbing a new friend.
  4626. >You let her hold on to you because... well, fuck it. You're a nice guy.
  4627. >Not nice enough to stop her from leaving random shit wherever, but that seems to be this place's style anyway.
  4628. >No harm, no foul.
  4629. >You just wish Silver was finding things too.
  4630. >Well, not really because everything here is stupid nerd junk, but she's starting to look disappointed.
  4631. >You can't have that.
  4632. "Are you ready to go? We can check out -"
  4633. >"No... no..." she mumbles, continuing to pull you onward through the maze of shit. "Just a bit longer."
  4634. >A bit longer seems like forever.
  4635. >You're about to lose hope when you suddenly break through to something *almost* like an aisle.
  4636. >There's about three to four feet of clear space between the random crap behind you and the glass counter.
  4637. >That shouldn't be there.
  4638. >You look around and realize that no, it's exactly where it should be. You'd just gotten so twisted around in the labyrinth that you'd lost any sense of where you were.
  4639. >Silver too, you guess, because she stares at the trading cards in the case with undisguised disinterest, not even with the little flickers of curiosity she showed earlier.
  4640. >"I thought..."
  4641. "What?"
  4642. >"Nothing," she sighs with a shake of her head. "Nevermind."
  4643. "Ready to go?"
  4644. >She shakes her head again and begins walking along the length of the display, towards the back.
  4645. >You follow, and Diamond behind you.
  4646. >Silver barely takes her eyes off of the glass, only occasionally looking up.
  4647. >Every time, she shakes her head again and continues walking.
  4648. >This place isn't a very large store - most on this level aren't - but she doesn't even reach the end before giving out a resigned sigh and turning around.
  4649. >"I must have been wrong," she mumbles impossibly softly as she squeezes past you. "We can go now."
  4650. "Wrong about what?"
  4651. >"Nothing. Don't worry about it."
  4652. >She tries to slide past Diamond, but the other girl blocks her path.
  4653. >Neither of them let go of your hands, leaving you all tied in an awkward knot.
  4654. >"Wait," Diamond practically shouts, waving a fistful of plushies in your girlfriend's face. "Wait, Soarin has to buy these for me."
  4655. >You... should have expected that, but this is the wrong time.
  4656. "Why?"
  4657. >"Why," Silver asks, flatter and more resigned.
  4658. >"He still owes me!"
  4659. >She's right, but...
  4660. >Silver gives the gathered plushies a quick appraisal and awkwardly reaches into her purse with her one free hand.
  4661. >"He's saving his money to buy something for me," she sighs. "Here."
  4662. >"But -"
  4663. "Sorry, Diamond. I'll have to pay you back later."
  4664. >The girl looks at the few bills Silver holds out to her with confusion.
  4665. >So do you.
  4666. >If Silver was right, and you have no reason to doubt her, Diamond already stole enough from her to cover everything she's holding.
  4667. >You don't understand why she would give her more.
  4668. "Sil-"
  4669. >Diamond continues to stare silently.
  4670. >Oh.
  4671. >Right.
  4672. >To shut her up.
  4673. >"My hands are full," she eventually mumbles, glancing away.
  4674. >"Then let go of Soarin."
  4675. >She doesn't.
  4676. >Her fingers tighten the very instant yours relax.
  4677. >"Well? Do you want them or not?"
  4678. >"Shit, fine," Diamond sneers, snatching the money between the knuckles of two fingers as she turns away. "You don't have to be a bitch about it, you know. He *owes* me money."
  4679. >"I know," Silver responds to her friend's back. "And he'll pay you back later."
  4680. "As soon as I can. I promise."
  4681. >You don't think you'll ever understand Silver's cavalier attitude towards money, but... it works.
  4682. >Diamond doesn't say another word and takes up the lead, guiding your little chain down the aisle towards the register.
  4683. >There's enough space between the counter and the clutter for Silver to walk beside you, but she quietly tails behind, further and further the closer you get to the front of the store.
  4684. >Yeah... the guy at the counter doesn't look like he should be allowed around children.
  4685. >Dude's a creep, sitting there staring at his computer, swearing unabashedly, totally oblivious.
  4686. >You can't really blame Diamond for wanting you to pay, or Silver for falling behind.
  4687. >And then she's gone.
  4688. >Her hand slides from yours before you realize she's even stopped.
  4689. >"Wait."
  4690. "What?"
  4691. >"Wait," Silver repeats, bent over and staring into the glass counter. "This. Soarin, I want this. Buy it for me. Please?"
  4692. "What is it?"
  4693. >You ask, even though you're already backpedaling to see.
  4694. >It just pops out.
  4695. >Stupid jock boyfriend sometimes needs things spelled out for him, after all.
  4696. >Silver glances up and steps to one side, giving you enough room to join her.
  4697. >Her answer, because she knows you know you're a dumb jock boyfriend.
  4698. >She keeps her hands clasped behind her back, too polite and proper to casually lean against the case or press her hands against it and drool like a little kid.
  4699. >Whatever she wants -
  4700. >Knives.
  4701. >They're knives.
  4702. >Under the glass counter is a display of overly (shittily) ornate, poorly made, shitty mall knives - including one just like the knife Treehugger had in the woods.
  4703. >Or close enough, anyway.
  4704. >You aren't surprised.
  4705. >You *knew* she had to have gotten it from some shitty mall shop.
  4706. >You're also incredibly surprised.
  4707. "What."
  4708. >"This one, right here," Silver says, pulling a hand from behind her back to point at a knife.
  4709. >*Not* that stoner cunt's knife, thankfully, but still...
  4710. "Wat."
  4711. >"Please?"
  4712. >Okay.
  4713. >No.
  4714. >Clearly you're missing something here.
  4715. >*Obviously*.
  4716. >There's no way Silver wants you to buy her a knife, particularly a total piece of shit like... like *anything* in this store.
  4717. >So she's *obviously* meaning something else and you're just too stupid to understand what.
  4718. >Perils of being super awesome sports star, right?
  4719. "What... uh... what are you pointing at?"
  4720. >"A knife."
  4721. "Why?"
  4722. >"Because I want it."
  4723. "Why... why *that* one?"
  4724. >"Because you can afford it."
  4725. >Okay.
  4726. >Okay.
  4727. >So she wants a knife.
  4728. >A shitty knife, with a shitty blade and a shitty curly handle that is probably really uncomfortable and shitty little fake shit gemstones - that are probably shitty glass or even shittier plastic - in the center of a shittily sculpted shit flower on the bottom.
  4729. >From a shitty shop.
  4730. >While her shitty friend stares on in confusion.
  4731. >Wait.
  4732. >Okay.
  4733. >You get it now.
  4734. "Silver..."
  4735. >"Hmm?"
  4736. "You... uh... I thought you said you weren't going to... uh..."
  4737. >You try - *subtly* - to gesture towards Diamond with just your eyes.
  4738. "You aren't, right? Because you said you weren't and -"
  4739. >"No," Silver giggles. "No... it's..."
  4740. >She sighs and straightens, until her eyes are staring up at the ceiling.
  4741. >Then she sighs again.
  4742. >"My parents will buy me a hat. They'll let *me* buy hats. They don't *care* if I buy hats, but something like this?"
  4743. "I'm guessing not...?"
  4744. >Maybe they aren't such bad parents after all.
  4745. >"Of course not," Diamond cuts in. "It's a piece of *shit*. What do you want any of those knives for, Silver? They don't even look cool."
  4746. >"I know."
  4747. >Another sigh.
  4748. >Another smile.
  4749. >A sad, pleading smile.
  4750. >"But buy it for me anyway, Soarin? Please?"
  4751. "I... um..."
  4752. >"Just buy it yourself," Diamond snorts.
  4753. >"I can't. You know they sometimes audit my purchases. They'd find out."
  4754. >"Well *obviously* you'd use cash. Seriously, how do you not get that? I know you have enough."
  4755. >"Because... because that would feel dishonest."
  4756. >"Ugh, *fine*, I'll buy it for you," Diamond groans and drops a plushie on the counter - and then a second, but Silver shakes her head.
  4757. >"That's still my money."
  4758. >"But you gave it to me!"
  4759. >"Fine, then it *was*," Silver sighs. "It still counts, but if Soarin buys it..."
  4760. >She doesn't flutter her eyelashes at you.
  4761. >She doesn't beg or threaten or make promises.
  4762. >She doesn't have to and she knows it.
  4763. "You're sure you really want this?"
  4764. >She nods.
  4765. "It'll make you happy?"
  4766. >She nods again.
  4767. "If you wait... well... I can get you something better. You know, something not..."
  4768. >You find it hard to outright call something that would please Silver as 'shitty', even if it is.
  4769. >Silver smiles and leans up against you.
  4770. >"I don't need something better," she murmurs. "It's not as if I'll ever use it."
  4771. "I... uh..."
  4772. >She's not crazy. Not really. You *know* she isn't, no matter what she says, and yet you still don't entirely feel comfortable handing her a knife and letting her run free - even one this worthless.
  4773. >You have no illusions about your ability to deny Silver something that would make her happy.
  4774. >She knows you're going to buy it for her.
  4775. >You *know* you're going to buy it for her.
  4776. >Frankly, that would be the least of your crimes.
  4777. >Still, you hesitate.
  4778. "Would you... uh..."
  4779. >"Hmm?" she purrs.
  4780.  
  4781. >You are Diamond Tiara and you roll your eyes so hard your head hurts.
  4782. >Fucking worthless fucking fuckity fuckers.
  4783. >Fuck them and their lovey dovey attitude.
  4784. >Soarin doesn't even notice - or care - when you drop his hand.
  4785. >Probably doesn't care.
  4786. >He only cares about Silver.
  4787. >Fuck it.
  4788. >You're done.
  4789. >You're out of here.
  4790. >You take your money and your plushies and head to the register on your own.
  4791.  
  4792. >You are Soarin and you're still not sure about this.
  4793. >Sure that you're going to, yes, but still not sure.
  4794. >That doesn't make any sense.
  4795. >Neither does buying your underage, emotionally unstable (but not crazy) girlfriend a knife, but you're doing that aren't you?
  4796. >Yes, yes you are.
  4797. >But not without conditions.
  4798. "... would you let me keep it at my place... or..."
  4799. >Okay, maybe without conditions.
  4800. >That sounds stupid.
  4801. >Buy her a thing and then take it away?
  4802. >Yeah. Stupid.
  4803. "... or... uh... something."
  4804. >"Of course."
  4805. >Of course -
  4806. >Wait.
  4807. "What?"
  4808. >"I was hoping I could leave it with you," Silver giggles. "If I took it home, someone would find it. I'm not going to carry a knife around everywhere, so..."
  4809. "Oh."
  4810. >Oh.
  4811. >This is good.
  4812. "Then you can have your knife."
  4813. >Silver giggles again as you kiss her forehead.
  4814.  
  4815. >You are Diamond Tiara and you're starting to have second thoughts about this.
  4816. >He's gross.
  4817. >All he's doing is sitting at - and swearing at - a computer, but he's still covered in sweat.
  4818. >Fucking gross.
  4819. >You're not sure these dolls are worth talking to him.
  4820. >He's not even paying attention, though, so... you could probably just take them.
  4821. >It's only like fifteen feet to the door and he wouldn't even -
  4822. >"Do you need something?"
  4823. >You nearly jump at the guy's voice.
  4824. >He's looking right at you.
  4825. >Gross.
  4826. >Just him looking at you makes you want to take a shower.
  4827. >You take a step back and sneer.
  4828. "Well, *yeah*. Aren't you even paying attention?"
  4829. >"Yes."
  4830. >Doesn't get off his fat ass, though. He just keeps staring at you.
  4831. "Well!? Don't you see we want to buy something? Isn't it like your *job* to help customers?"
  4832. >He shrugs.
  4833. >He. SHRUGS.
  4834. >It makes you want to scream.
  4835. "We want to buy one of those knives! What's your problem!?"
  4836. >"Oh," he grunts, like a stupid *pig*. "Show me which one."
  4837.  
  4838. >You are Soarin and you're starting to wonder where Diamond went when she scampers up to you and grabs your shirt.
  4839. >"I don't know," she snarls at the lumbering mountain following her. "Ask them."
  4840. >"Ask - oh," it - he - grunts, waddling up on the other side of the counter. "What are you even doing in here, Chad, shouldn't you be out 'smashing'?"
  4841. "What...?"
  4842. >You can't tell if that frown is for you, perpetual, or simply the creases of his fleshy jowls, but it sure as fuck is there, sure as fuck don't like it, and you sure as fuck like the look he gives Silver even less.
  4843. >"Why hello there, miss! I see you're interested in some of my wares! Mayhaps m'lady would care to see some of the stock I keep in the back?"
  4844. >"No, thank you."
  4845. "No."
  4846. >"Fuck no, you walking fuzzturd."
  4847. >He smirks and leans on the counter.
  4848. >You're surprised it doesn't collapse under his weight.
  4849. >"I shouldn't be surprised," he chuckles. "I should have known the girl with you is a deredere -"
  4850. "A what?"
  4851. >" - though I wouldn't put it past her to be a closet yandere."
  4852. "What."
  4853. >Those... don't *sound* like insults.
  4854. >They don't even sound like real words.
  4855. >"As for your other girlfriend -"
  4856. "She's not my -
  4857. >"Hey, you fat asshole, I'm not his girlfriend!"
  4858. >Good thing Silver doesn't have that knife yet.
  4859. >Good thing she's not trying to stab him anyway.
  4860. >That would make buying a knife for her far harder to rationalize.
  4861. >You'd do it anyway, though. You know that.
  4862. >But it would be harder.
  4863. >"Ah, you must be a tsundere. Classic loli archetype."
  4864. >Diamond squints. She sneers. She goes "Whaaaaa...?"
  4865. >"Here, have some chocolate pocky."
  4866. >For a fat fuck, dude's got some reach and speed.
  4867. >He manages to reach across the counter and shove something in Diamond's open mouth before you or she can react.
  4868. "What the f-"
  4869. >Loud, furious chewing cuts you off.
  4870. >No, really. It's loud enough that it stops you mid-word.
  4871. >As does the smirk from the dude behind the counter.
  4872. >"Lolis love chocolate."
  4873. "I... uh... I heard it was bitches."
  4874. >She doesn't seem to mind... so...
  4875.  
  4876. >You are Diamond Tiara and you hate Soarin.
  4877. >He just *let* that walking fuzzturd shove random shit in your mouth!
  4878. >Some hero he is.
  4879. >Fuck it. Fuck him.
  4880. >You're going to enjoy it just to piss him off.
  4881.  
  4882. >You are Soarin and you think this guy is insane.
  4883. >If he was normal, he'd have a real job at a real company.
  4884. >Not here, staring at you angrily, muttering something about "how dare you call these fine ladies bitches."
  4885. "Dude. What."
  4886. >"I was *saying*, Chad -"
  4887. "My name isn't Chad."
  4888. >You have no idea why he keeps calling you that.
  4889. >"Of course not, but you *are* -"
  4890. >Silver puts her hand on your arm and tugs gently, stopping you in your tracks.
  4891. >Until then, you hadn't realized you had gotten to the counter.
  4892. >Almost leaning over it.
  4893. >Practically in his face.
  4894. >About to raise your fist.
  4895. >"Is there someone else here who could help us?" she asks softly. "A manager, or..."
  4896. >"He's on lunch," fatass grumbles.
  4897. >"Then could you help us with the knife?"
  4898. >His jowls twitch, eventually settling in something like a smile.
  4899. >"Very well, m'lady. I shall *attempt* to restrain my closet white knight tendencies."
  4900. >He's clearly insane.
  4901. >You can't really hold him accountable for what he says, can you?
  4902. >Just like with Blue Streak and his Tourette’s, you shrug it off.
  4903. >If he was the dangerous type, he wouldn't be allowed around swords and shit, right?
  4904. "So, can we get the knife?"
  4905. >"Which of my fine blades do you desire?"
  4906. >"This one, please," Silver answers, pointing to the one with the flower, carefully not touching the case itself.
  4907. >So polite, so considerate.
  4908. >If you weren't always so in awe of her, you might start to feel bad about your own lack of manners.
  4909. >"Uh... huh..." the guy grunts as he bends down to see it clearly. "Very well. Let me get it from the... uh..."
  4910. >No, you were wrong.
  4911. >He wasn't grunting before.
  4912. >You didn't know what grunting really was until he kneels down to pull something from below the counter.
  4913. >Not from the display, but below it.
  4914. >Probably a cabinet underneath where the extras are stored.
  4915. >A minute - or maybe two, possibly three - later, he straightens up with a breathless moan and slaps a black box on the counter.
  4916. >"Kay... we... uh... we have... one..."
  4917. >Would it be poor manners to tell a dude to start doing some fucking cardio?
  4918. >Probably, because Silver isn't saying it.
  4919. >"Shit fatass, do some fucking cardio."
  4920. >Luckily you have Diamond to say it for you, not that he can hear it over his own wheezing.
  4921. "So... uh..."
  4922. >You gesture towards the register and the dude nods.
  4923. "Cool."
  4924. >This is too embarrassing to stick around and watch.
  4925. >He'll catch up.
  4926. >Hopefully.
  4927. >You herd Diamond to the front of the store; Silver comes along obediently, without a word or any of the gentle nudges it takes to get Diamond moving and stay moving.
  4928. >She can't seem to help but stop and look at every vaguely cute doll on the way.
  4929. >As you near the register, she sprints ahead and - with a quick look at you - throws the plushies in her hands onto the counter.
  4930. >Then the money.
  4931. >Then a red box of candy or something from a stack next to the till.
  4932. >"Take care of those for me," she barks before disappearing back into the maze of tables and display cases.
  4933. >Well.
  4934. >Okay then.
  4935. "At least she left the money...?"
  4936. >"Mhm."
  4937. >You lean up against the counter and examine her dolls.
  4938. >Idle curiosity, nothing more.
  4939. >A panda, something from a Chinese cartoon, a couple... a couple of things you have no clue what the fuck they are.
  4940. >One looks like a sheep with a really long neck, the other might be a cat...?
  4941. >"Do you think she ran off to get more?"
  4942. "I hope not, but... probably? You'd know better than me. Why else?"
  4943. >"She can be surprisingly shy at times," Silver explains with a burst of giggling. "That might be it."
  4944. "Shy?"
  4945. >"Mhm."
  4946. "Seriously?"
  4947. >"Mhmmmm."
  4948. "Are you sure she's not just a bitch?"
  4949. >Silver giggles again and reaches out to touch one of Diamond's dolls. The sheep.
  4950. >"I think that's her way of coping," your girlfriend sighs, stroking her hand along the plushie's neck. "This isn't a bad alpaca, you know."
  4951. >You did not know.
  4952. >Not the name or the quality of it or if it's a real animal or not.
  4953. >Or if Silver likes them, because apparently she does or she wouldn't know what it is.
  4954. "Did you... um... want me to go get one for you?"
  4955. >"No. Thanks, but no," she answers with a faint smile. "The knife is enough."
  4956. "Even though it won't really be yours, because..."
  4957. >"Even so."
  4958.  
  4959. >You are Diamond Tiara and you wonder if you should.
  4960. >If Sil can have a knife, you can too.
  4961. >Or a sword.
  4962. >No, a knife. Easier to hide from your mom.
  4963. >But none of *these*, you decide after looking over the display Silver had been crouched over earlier.
  4964. >Even from this distance, hidden between two piles of junk, you can tell they're shit.
  4965. >You already knew they were shit, but for some reason you decided to take another look anyway.
  4966. >Apparently that's good enough for Silver, but you have higher standards.
  4967. >It doesn't even have to be pretty.
  4968.  
  4969. >You are Soarin and you tap your wallet on the counter as fatdude finally finishes ringing you up for all of Diamond's crap.
  4970. >After spending a few more minutes with the guy, you can't really blame her for running off and leaving you to deal with her stuff.
  4971. >You've tuned out his pointless rambling, but Silver's still nodding along politely.
  4972. >And then she's reaching into her purse and pulling out -
  4973. "Oh, sorry, must have zoned out there for a bit. The total is...?"
  4974. >"We're not there yet," he answers brusquely. "I'm carding her for the knife."
  4975. "You're joking."
  4976. >"Uh... no."
  4977. >"It's fine, Soarin," Silver murmurs, putting a hand on your arm. "There's no legal restriction on purchasing knives."
  4978. "Then why -
  4979. >"It's fine."
  4980. "But I'm the one paying for it. What does he need to card *you*?"
  4981. >"Because you're obviously buying it for her," he answers.
  4982. >Between the fleshy creases of his jowls, you think he's trying to smile - and be smug about it.
  4983. >"It's *fine*," Silver repeats, squeezing your arm before pulling a card from her bag.
  4984. >It's not fine, not at fucking all, but you'll pretend for now. For her.
  4985. >Fatass takes a long look at Silver's ID before handing it back.
  4986. >"Kay," he smirks, "everything seems in order, so..."
  4987. >He hits a few buttons on the register and taps the screen facing you.
  4988. >You pay the man.
  4989. >You'd rather bury him in a shallow grave somewhere, but you'll have to put that on your To Do list.
  4990. >Fucker doesn't even bag the stuff for you, just drops a plastic bag on the pile and gets back on his computer.
  4991. >"I'll take care of this," Silver sighs, grabbing the bag and shoveling plushies inside. "Could you find Di?"
  4992. "Yeah, sure. Hey, Diamond!"
  4993. >You wave the sheep doll in the air to catch her attention - wherever she is.
  4994. "Time to go!"
  4995. >She's snatching the bag of plushies from Silver's hands - and the sheep from yours - before you're out the door.
  4996. >"Where next?"
  4997. "I don't know."
  4998. >"In *that* case -"
  4999. "Hold on."
  5000. >Maybe you said that a little too dismissively. Maybe you were too abrupt.
  5001. >Maybe that doesn't matter right now.
  5002. >You push those lesser worries out of your mind, even as Diamond begins to make little girl pouting noises, or moments later when she resorts to the same impossibly loud crunching as when fatfuck mcrapist shoved something in her mouth.
  5003. >So you may have hurt the bitch's feelings.
  5004. >You'll worry about that later.
  5005. "Silver..."
  5006. >She skips ahead a few steps - out of the shop and into the main walkway - and spins, sending her skirt swirling high.
  5007. >The long, narrow black box holding her knife is clasped tight to her chest with one hand, just like you've seen her holding books.
  5008. >A little wider and it would look almost identical, instead of nestling itself between her breasts.
  5009. >"Hmm? Oh! How about that store!?" Silver calls out, pointing further down the mall. "That place looks fun!"
  5010. >She grins as she says it, doesn't run off or even look where she's pointing.
  5011. >Winks.
  5012. >Oh.
  5013. >Stupid jock.
  5014. >She's being polite. Again. And smart.
  5015. >Putting some distance between you and the shop, because she knows what you're going to say.
  5016. >She waits patiently for you to catch up, and smiles gently.
  5017. >Waits for you to say what you're going to say.
  5018. "You didn't have to show him your ID."
  5019. >"I didn't want to cause a fuss," she counters.
  5020. "He didn't have any good reason to ask for it."
  5021. >"I know."
  5022. "He probably just wanted to find out where you lived. I've seen that before, you know, with some of the girls from the team and... and... even if that's not it, he now knows who you are, so he could tell someone about..."
  5023. >She's still smiling, still waiting patiently, without a concern in the world.
  5024. >You sigh and ruffle her hair... because... because you're at a loss.
  5025. "Look, we both know you're smarter than me, Silver. Just get to the point so I can stop worrying."
  5026. >She giggles.
  5027. >"It's fake."
  5028. >Maybe this once - just this once - you're the smart one in this relationship.
  5029. "Um..."
  5030. >And yet there's no smart way to tell your girlfriend that no matter what her ID says, she still looks like she's twelve.
  5031. >"Not my age," Silver smirks, reading the expression on your face - or just being smart enough to know what you're being stupid about now. "My name and address. They're fake."
  5032. >She holds it out to you - she's been holding it the whole time, cupped in the palm of her hand, *knowing* you'd be confused by the whole thing.
  5033. >She's a smart girl.
  5034. >"See?" she asks as you look it over. "Fake."
  5035. >Sure enough, that's not a name you know, nor an address you're familiar with.
  5036. "But... why...?"
  5037. >"A trick I learned from Di."
  5038. >As if on cue, the girl crunches her whatever *louder*.
  5039. >"No one would believe I was older," Silver continues over the noise, "but If I get in trouble, it won't be *me* getting in trouble."
  5040. "Oh."
  5041. >That... that makes sense.
  5042. >"Besides, what were you really worried about? That he'd track me down to my house and rape me in my sleep?"
  5043. "Well... yeah..."
  5044. >"Don't worry. My house has *stairs* and you saw how just bending over winded him."
  5045. "Oh."
  5046. >"I'm pretty sure I'm safe."
  5047. "Oh. Right. Yeah, I didn't think of that."
  5048. >Silver giggles again and stretches up on her tiptoes.
  5049. >"But thank you for worrying."
  5050. >She can't reach, but you know what she's going for.
  5051. >You kiss her. Brief and quick and meaningful all the same.
  5052. "It's my pleasure, Silver."
  5053. >"I know."
  5054. >She steps closer, pressing the side of her head against your collar and sighs happily.
  5055. >Silver seems content to stay like this forever.
  5056. >You would be too, if only -
  5057. >No, you'd probably be content to stay like this no matter what.
  5058. >You shouldn't, though.
  5059. >Most of these stores will be open soon.
  5060. >Silver purrs when you give her a tight hug, whimpers playfully as you then push her away.
  5061. >She sinks down and her heels hit the tiled floor with a sharp click.
  5062. >"Anything else you're curious about?" she asks as she puts her ID back into her bag. "Anything I can stop you from worrying about, so you can spend that time on something more... *fun*?"
  5063. "No, not really."
  5064. >Though...
  5065. "Except, how did you come up with Babs Seed? Just picked something at random or...?"
  5066. >"No," Silver chuckles, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "That was Di's idea."
  5067. >And that explains the eye roll.
  5068. >"But what if someone actually checks it? Better to use a real person, and having it be from someone in another city makes it harder to verify."
  5069. "Makes sense."
  5070. >You guess it does. Silver's a smart girl and probably knows what she's talking about.
  5071. "Who is she?"
  5072. >"Just someone," Silver shrugs, looking down the length of the mall. "So, where to now?"
  5073. >Meh, not really important who Babs is.
  5074. >You follow Silver's gaze and imitate her shrug.
  5075. "Didn't actually see something interesting, did you?"
  5076. >"I was just getting you out of the shop."
  5077. "I... thought as much."
  5078. >She nods and smiles and tilts her head towards the stores you haven't yet looked over.
  5079. >"But there's still so much to see..."
  5080. "Right."
  5081. >You take a step.
  5082. >Pause.
  5083. >Remember.
  5084. >Realize you haven't heard crunching in a while.
  5085. >Whoops.
  5086. "Hey, Diamond!?"
  5087. >Silver's eyes snap open.
  5088. >"We left her -!"
  5089. >And then instantly relax.
  5090. >Diamond is a little behind you, a little to the side.
  5091. >You barely have to turn your head to see her.
  5092. >"Oh, there you are," Silver sighs. "I thought maybe you'd gotten bored and -"
  5093. >"Well *yeah*," Diamond snaps back. "So if you're *finally* done, can we *do* something?"
  5094. "I'm shocked you waited for us."
  5095. >"Yeah. Me too. I don't know what I was thinking."
  5096. >She looks so... you would say sad, if you had to put a word to it.
  5097. >Down, maybe.
  5098. >She must have really wanted you to buy her those dolls, though you can't figure out why that would matter.
  5099. >You'll have to ask Silver later, when you're alone.
  5100. >But she looks so sad.
  5101. >Something's wrong, even though you don't know what it is - and you're sure as shit it's not *your* fault, whatever Diamond might think.
  5102. "Well..."
  5103. >Silver would know - or maybe not. She's playing with her braid, fidgeting nervously and looking around.
  5104. >Not reassuring or comforting her friend.
  5105. >That just leaves you.
  5106. "Where would you like to go now?"
  5107. >"Doesn't fucking matter, right?" Diamond snarls, hugging her sheep tight to her chest. "You'll just go wherever you want."
  5108. "Uh... you wanted to go into this last place, and we went there."
  5109. >"Only because you *wanted* to, dumbass."
  5110. "Why are you always -"
  5111. > - such a bitch, you were going to ask, but you already know.
  5112. >Or at least, have a theory.
  5113. >Because she's shy, Silver had said. Because she doesn't know any other way.
  5114. >So.
  5115. >Fuck it.
  5116. >You hug her.
  5117. >You don't know any other way either.
  5118. >It always comes down to physical action.
  5119. >Someone's being a cunt, you hit them.
  5120. >Someone is sad, you give them a hug.
  5121. >And when someone is both... and you can't hit her... that only leaves you one option, doesn't it?
  5122. >It doesn't mean anything.
  5123. >You don't hug her like you hug Silver, or like how you would hug a good friend you haven't seen in a long time.
  5124. >You hug her like you would a pet, like the bitch she is.
  5125. >At least that's how you hope it looks to Silver.
  5126. >No one is getting stabbed, so that's a good sign.
  5127. >...
  5128. >You really shouldn't joke about that, even in your head.
  5129. >She would never do something like that.
  5130. >She's a good girl.
  5131.  
  5132. >You are Diamond Tiara and you should have bought a knife.
  5133. >If that fat fuck hadn't carded Sil, you might have tried.
  5134. >You should have anyway.
  5135. >Even a shit one like those.
  5136. >She didn't have any trouble getting it.
  5137. >You should have.
  5138. >You hate this.
  5139.  
  5140. >You are Soarin and you think that's been long enough.
  5141. "So..."
  5142. >You let her go and step back quickly.
  5143. >She still looks sad.
  5144. >What does it take!?
  5145. >You give up.
  5146. "... think you can stop being a cunt now?"
  5147. >You didn't step back quick enough, nor far enough, but her punch is nothing.
  5148. >Even if she did aim for your gut and not something nice.
  5149. >Fuck.
  5150. >Ow.
  5151. >So you'll be a little sore for a bit. At least she's not looking sad anymore.
  5152. >Just angry.
  5153. >And Silver laughed.
  5154. >She's still laughing.
  5155. >Well.
  5156. >That worked.
  5157. >Sort of.
  5158. >At least you don't feel sorry for Diamond anymore.
  5159. >That was the real goal, wasn't it?
  5160.  
  5161. >You are Silver Spoon and you can't believe how pathetic Di is.
  5162. >It's so bad, you don't even mind Soarin being nice to her.
  5163. >You *shouldn't* anyway.
  5164. >Normally you would, though, because you're crazy.
  5165. >You know this.
  5166. >He knows this.
  5167. >He shouldn't have hugged her.
  5168. >Di was just being so worthless that he couldn't help himself.
  5169. >So miserable you can't bring yourself to feel slighted.
  5170. >And for what?
  5171. >She's like this because he bought *you* something?
  5172. >That's just sad.
  5173. >Too sad for words, but not too sad to laugh at.
  5174. >She's your best friend.
  5175. >You can spare a hug for her.
  5176. >She's your best friend.
  5177. >Maybe that's why you don't mind, even though you should.
  5178. >Even though if it where anyone else, anytime else, you know you'd be putting Soarin's gift to use.
  5179. >But not her, apparently.
  5180. >She's your best friend.
  5181. >That must be why you don't mind.
  5182.  
  5183. >You are Soarin and you're ready to move on.
  5184. >Many of the shops are raising their shutters and unlocking their doors.
  5185. >Won't be too much longer before this floor is as crowded as the ones below - or if not that, then at least too crowded for comfort.
  5186. "So... uh... where to now?"
  5187. >"There," Diamond snaps resolutely, pointing back the way you'd come.
  5188. >Awww, shit.
  5189. "Nope."
  5190. >"But it's open now!"
  5191. "Nope."
  5192. >"But -"
  5193. "Dildopolis is surprisingly boring."
  5194. >"I - wait. What?"
  5195. "Yeah. Boring."
  5196. >Silver raises one eyebrow above the rim of her glasses.
  5197. >She wants an explanation.
  5198. >You think.
  5199. >Maybe.
  5200. >It's hard to read.
  5201. >She's still laughing, though quietly.
  5202. >"You can't just say something like that and drop it, fucker!" Diamond snarls, aiming a... well, a poorly aimed kick at your shin.
  5203. >Misses by a mile.
  5204. >She would *never* make the team with a weakass game like that.
  5205. >"I bet you've never even been inside," she continues unfazed. "You just don't want to go there because I do and you're an asshole."
  5206. >Yep, you definitely don't feel sorry for her anymore.
  5207. >Not exactly how you intended for it to work out, but at least you don't want to save her from... *whatever* now.
  5208. "I'm being honest here, Diamond. It's boring."
  5209. >But not wanting to save her doesn't mean you don't care.
  5210. >Silver would be sad if her friend did something *too* stupid.
  5211. >Like go into Dildopolis.
  5212. >You just *know* that would not end well.
  5213. >Like run-for-the-border level not well.
  5214. >And for what?
  5215. >It's not even someplace exciting.
  5216. "Honestly. It's just wall-to-wall dildos. Nothing else."
  5217. >You don't know how the place stays in business.
  5218. >"So?"
  5219. "It's *just* dildos."
  5220. >"Sounds fun," Diamond snaps back. "You know, that thing you *apparently* hate?"
  5221. "Really?"
  5222. >She nods.
  5223. >You look to Silver - she shrugs.
  5224. >She has her knife, her best friend, and her boyfriend.
  5225. >She's happy enough to just let things run their course.
  5226. >Damn.
  5227. >You were hoping she would talk Diamond down.
  5228. >But nope.
  5229. >You sigh.
  5230. "Really? Fun?"
  5231. >"*Yes* you dumb piece of shit!"
  5232. "Huh."
  5233. >Maybe she really would think it's exciting.
  5234. >She's young enough, you guess.
  5235. >And that's why it's a bad idea.
  5236. >Besides...
  5237. "All they sell is dildos."
  5238. >"*Yes*. *Exactly*."
  5239. "I've never really seen the point, y'know?"
  5240. >"See!?" Diamond screeches. "I knew you've never been inside! Silver, I *knew* he'd never been inside! Make him buy you something from there too!"
  5241. >Your girlfriend shrugs and smiles coyly.
  5242. >"I'm not sure I see the point either."
  5243. >"*Well*, if he doesn't 'see the point' -"
  5244. >Diamond makes little air quotes with her plush-filled hands.
  5245. >"- then why would he even go at all? He's *lying* and -"
  5246. "I've been there, Diamond. Just to buy a gag gift, though, so..."
  5247. >Again Silver raises one eyebrow.
  5248. >It was a gag gift.
  5249. >The whole point is to make the receiver feel weird.
  5250. >The receiver. Not you.
  5251. >YOU REFUSE TO FEEL SHAME.
  5252. "Giant, floppy horse cock."
  5253. >Her eyebrow raises a fraction higher.
  5254. "For Spitfire. Eighteenth birthday. Whole team chipped in."
  5255. >"Oh."
  5256. >Diamond does something. Probably says something.
  5257. >You're too busy FEELING NO SHAME to really pay her any attention, though.
  5258. >That and Silver is looking confused.
  5259. "It was just a gag gift."
  5260. >"I get that," she mumbles. "But... um..."
  5261. "EVERYONE PITCHED IN."
  5262. >"... was it a strap on?"
  5263. "NO."
  5264. >You militantly and adamantly FEEL NO SHAME as you begin marching DIRECTLY AWAY from the shop that IN NO WAY is remotely embarrassing because of silly childhood things and is VERY BORING.
  5265. >You also do not think about Spitfire wearing such weird things, nor about Moondancer having them put in her, or the other way around.
  5266. >Nope, not at all.
  5267. >Drinking and dildo shopping. Never again.
  5268. >"But -"
  5269. "GEE THAT LOOKS INTERESTING."
  5270. >Silver follows - you can tell by the giggling and the sound of her heels hitting the floor.
  5271. >Presumably Diamond follows as well.
  5272. >Probably.
  5273. >It can be assumed.
  5274. >Far more likely than her magically teleporting ahead of you, which is only a possibility because you really aren't paying attention yet she still manages to be at your side when you run out of mall.
  5275. >Still angry, too, but quietly.
  5276. >So... that's good.
  5277. >Running out of mall is less good, because that means turning around or going in to this last store, whatever it - oh, it's clothing.
  5278. >Clothing is good.
  5279. >Hats are better.
  5280. >You can see hats from here.
  5281. "See? Hats! Interesting, right?"
  5282. >"Yes," Silver giggles. "Interesting."
  5283. "Let's go buy hats!"
  5284.  
  5285. >You don't buy hats.
  5286. >Silver does, because you're out of money.
  5287. >Also because the prices here are stupid high, so she would have had to anyway.
  5288. >But hats are still purchased, so that's what really matters.
  5289. >A cute, wide brimmed yellow hat, just like you where thinking of before.
  5290. >For Silver, of course.
  5291. >She lets Diamond pick out something too.
  5292. >And you... you kind of zone out.
  5293. >It's what you do in this kind of situation, what any smart to not so smart guy does when he's in a clothing store with girls.
  5294. >Just zone out and let nature take its course.
  5295. >Nod when Silver pops up in front of you with a new item, even if you could swear it was the exact same thing she had just been holding last time.
  5296. >Be noncommittal when she asks for your opinion.
  5297. >She knows better than you do what looks good.
  5298. >It's all just purses and scarves and hats.
  5299. >Nothing exciting.
  5300. >But that's for the best.
  5301. >This isn't like most of the places you've been to today.
  5302. >There isn't only one employee - and they aren't dicking around.
  5303. >A well-dressed woman approached Silver as soon as you all walked in and has been helping her ever since.
  5304. >Another showed up soon after to deal with Diamond.
  5305. >None of them have so much as talked to you.
  5306. >Not rude exactly - they smiled your way and aren't ignoring you - but they're professionals and know who they're selling to - and that it sure as fuck isn't you.
  5307. >They haven't given the girls a moment alone.
  5308. >Whatever fantasies you might have still be entertaining about sneaking off to a fitting room are abandoned after the first few minutes.
  5309. >This might be the first time you've found yourself disappointed by good customer service - and thankful at the same time.
  5310. >Silver seems to be having fun.
  5311. >Diamond too.
  5312. >And those fantasies should stay fantasies.
  5313. >You stay out of their way.
  5314. >It's better this way.
  5315. >You don't know what the women think you are to the girls, but you don't want them getting the wrong idea.
  5316. >A faint voice in the back of your head corrects you - the *right* idea.
  5317. >That voice is wrong, though.
  5318. >It shouldn't be, but it is.
  5319. >Silver is enjoying herself.
  5320. >That's all you really want: for a depressed, lonely girl to be happy.
  5321. >There shouldn't be anything wrong with that.
  5322. >And if there is...
  5323.  
  5324. >Diamond eventually finds a hat she likes.
  5325. >Also a purse, and a scarf that looks horrible on her, but what do you really know? It's probably the height of fashion.
  5326. >Silver pays - and to your horror twists her new hat like she's trying to tear it in half.
  5327. >Oh, it folds up. That's handy.
  5328. >Practical for something so large.
  5329. >Diamond's doesn't, but it's smaller. Not so small that it can be stuffed in her new purse, but enough that it fits into a large plastic bag one of the women brings out from somewhere.
  5330. >You're used to the way girls shop, so you're not surprised that they don't leave even after paying.
  5331. >No, this or that seems to distract one or the other of them every time they start to make their way towards the exit.
  5332. >It probably takes approximately forever for you to get out of there - and even then you half expect Silver to turn around and head back once Silver starts talking about the other hats she saw on the way out.
  5333. >You don't know why they don't have all of the hats in one place, and say as much.
  5334. >Silver, as always, has an answer.
  5335. >"Because it's... well, not *exactly* a consignment shop..." she responds, "they carry a number of items from local designers and local people who haven't yet made it big, so the store is organized by designer.
  5336. "Ah, gotcha."
  5337. >You don't really.
  5338. >You understand the words and - on a theoretical level - the reason.
  5339. >But on a practical level, wouldn't it be easier on customers to put like items together?
  5340. >Meh, maybe not. You're not their target customer.
  5341. >The girls are, and they don't seem to mind at all.
  5342. >In fact, Diamond is so happy, she doesn't throw another tantrum when the next shop she tries to enter turns her away at the door.
  5343. >Before the door, actually.
  5344. >She starts to head that way, still chatting with Silver, but veers back when she sees the 'We Card' sticker on the window.
  5345. >That's a pleasant surprise.
  5346. >Black curtains hang behind the windows, so you can't tell what's sold there, and the name - 'Chryssy's' doesn't give you a clue, but you feel safe assuming it's not appropriate for Silver.
  5347. >Anyplace that cards and has their windows blacked out like that can't be.
  5348. >Diamond, on the other hand...
  5349. >Nah, her too.
  5350. >Your relief is short lived; just a few stores down, Diamond grabs Silver's hand and steers her towards another shop - with another pair of blacked out windows.
  5351. >No sticker in the window this time, but the man leaning outside the door shakes his head as she approaches.
  5352. >"Nope," he chuckles. "Try waiting until you look like you're 18. Or 21. Or at least 16. Keep walking."
  5353. >She does.
  5354. >Huh.
  5355. >You don't think you've ever seen Diamond avoid an opportunity to start bitching and threatening someone.
  5356. >"Stuck babysitting?" the guy asks casually as you walk past him.
  5357. "Uh... yeah."
  5358. >"Well at least they're having fun."
  5359. "Yeah."
  5360. >They are, and that's what really matters, right?
  5361. >Dude nods.
  5362. >You nod.
  5363. >Pleasantries done, you keep walking, just a step or two further behind the girls.
  5364. >You catch up quickly, though.
  5365. >It's not just your longer stride, but they've taking their time to look over the stores.
  5366. >Diamond makes snide quips at some, Silver at others. And both towards the other shoppers.
  5367. >There are more of them now.
  5368. >The girls keep walking and talking between themselves, almost like they've forgotten you're there, except for Silver's occasional backwards glance.
  5369. >You smile for her, to show her it's okay.
  5370. >You leave a bit of space between you and them on purpose, to let them talk and be themselves.
  5371. >They're having fun.
  5372. >Besides, it's... informative.
  5373. >You hadn't known she could be so cruel.
  5374. >A particularly heartless comment about one woman's dress - and how poorly it fit her - makes you doubt you're even hearing Silver at all.
  5375. >It sounds more like something Diamond would say.
  5376. >If their voices weren't so different, you'd be sure it was her instead.
  5377. >Silver looks back at you again and smiles weakly.
  5378. >She's just following Diamond's lead.
  5379. >Your Silver could never be anything but sweet.
  5380. >That girl's a bad influence on her.
  5381. >But... she's having fun.
  5382. >You can understand that.
  5383. >Getting drunk with a bunch of your bros isn't exactly a smart thing to do, and yet that doesn't stop you, so... yeah. You can understand.
  5384. >Doesn't mean it's good, or bad, just that you're in no position to judge.
  5385. >The next little detour is Silver's.
  5386. >A small, vintage bookstore.
  5387. >She starts that way, but looks at Diamond, then at you.
  5388. >"You're probably ready to go, aren't you?"
  5389. >"Don't care," Diamond answers.
  5390. >No surprise she's not interested.
  5391. >You shrug.
  5392. >Could stay. Could go.
  5393. >You're all shopped out, but she's having fun and that's good enough.
  5394. >You don't say any of that, though.
  5395. >Silver's a smart girl; a shrug gets it all across and she nods.
  5396. >"Another day, then. There's someplace else I want to go, so..."
  5397. >"Where?"
  5398. >Silver hesitates.
  5399. >She's not *quite* sure that other place is better than an old bookstore; you can see her silently debating it in her mind.
  5400. >"Yeah," she murmurs after a quick moment - not even long enough for Diamond to get pissy. "I - we? - can come back another time...?"
  5401. "Sure."
  5402. >You don't have anything planned most weekends. Just some upcoming games. Maybe some practice.
  5403. >The parties can wait.
  5404. >Or include her.
  5405. >She's a smart girl, she knows all this.
  5406. >Diamond, on the other hand...
  5407. >"Where?" Diamond repeats harshly. "What'd you want to see that's more important to you than *books*?"
  5408. >"Oh, just... um..."
  5409. "That place you saw earlier? The... um..."
  5410. >You can't remember what it was now, just that she stopped to look at it. Another clothing store, maybe?
  5411. "... the one Diamond didn't like?"
  5412. >Silver nods.
  5413. >"Wha...?" Diamond grunts. "Oh, *those* stores."
  5414. "Yeah, you know, the ones you passed up in favor of that Chinese sword place."
  5415. >She sneers and rolls her eyes.
  5416. >"Fuck you, they had dolls too."
  5417. >"That's true," Silver agrees with a faint giggle.
  5418. >"Besides, all the other stores were *stupid* or *boring*. Seriously Sil, why would you want to go to any of *them*?"
  5419. >"Because -"
  5420. >Your girlfriend cuts herself short as the bookstore's door swings open.
  5421. >She quickly steps aside for the woman trying to leave the store - and tries to pull Diamond with her, but the girl has her feet firmly planted.
  5422. >"Why!?"
  5423. >"Because - because... could you...?"
  5424. >Silver's eyes dart towards the woman waiting patiently, her arms wrapped tightly around the bag she has clutched to her chest.
  5425. >Her rather *large* chest.
  5426. >Yep, those are some big tits.
  5427. >If she were less patient - and younger - and had red hair - she'd remind you of Moondancer.
  5428. >Guess she still does.
  5429. >"Um..." the woman mumbles softly, "... would you mind...?"
  5430. "Diamond, stop being a bitch and move out of her way."
  5431.  
  5432. >You are Silver Spoon and you can... you *think* you can forgive Soarin for staring.
  5433. >After all, *you* are staring.
  5434. >She doesn't seem to mind.
  5435. >You don't get it.
  5436. >It would be awkward if someone stared at your breasts, but she seems so... so *confident*.
  5437. >Maybe it's because she doesn't have anything to feel bad about.
  5438. >You think you hate her.
  5439.  
  5440. >You are Soarin and you are staring.
  5441. >Whoops.
  5442. "Sorry, um..."
  5443. >Diamond snarls as you put your hands on her and push her aside for the lady to get by.
  5444. "... there... uh... sorry."
  5445. >She smiles faintly and bounces - uh, walks - past.
  5446. >Your eyes follow on their own.
  5447. >There's a bit of chub on those hips, more than you'd usually like, but... uh...
  5448. >"Eww," Diamond snarls, breaking the hypnotic spell of that swaying ass. "Her sweater smells like moth balls, old books and nerd sweat."
  5449. >You hadn't noticed.
  5450. >"I... I know!" Silver giggles nervously. "Isn't it awesome? I hope I can find one in my size!"
  5451. >Her friend snorts loudly and rolls her eyes.
  5452. >"I don't think that comes in an extra-flat."
  5453. >It's not your place to step between them.
  5454. >You've been trying not to, to let them do what they want, to let them have fun their way.
  5455. >She crossed a line, though.
  5456. >Silver said things like that don't bother her, but you're her boyfriend.
  5457. >There are responsibilities that come with that.
  5458. >You still have your hands on Diamond's shoulders from pushing her. You remind her of that. Gently.
  5459. >Somewhat gently.
  5460. >Gently, by your standards.
  5461. >This isn't the soccer field. She didn't foul one of your team.
  5462. >It shouldn't bruise, she doesn't scream or even yelp.
  5463. >Or bite your hand.
  5464. >You kinda thought she might try that.
  5465. >She falls silent.
  5466. >That scares you almost as much as Silver's vicious smile.
  5467. >"Just one more place," your girlfriend says, her voice dripping saccharine-sweet. "Then we can leave."
  5468. >"I don't want to."
  5469. >"Too bad. We went where you wanted to. Now it's my turn."
  5470. >Diamond doesn't like it, but she doesn't have to.
  5471. >She just needs to stay silent and be patient.
  5472. >"Fine," she growls, so soft you feel it in your hands, more than actually hear it, "but you better get me more chocolate before we leave."
  5473. >"Of course."
  5474. "So where is this place? Back by the escalator, right?"
  5475. >"Mhm."
  5476. >You go to steer Diamond around, but she shakes herself free of your hands with a sneer and a murmur too quiet to actually hear.
  5477. >It's easy enough to read in her lips, though.
  5478. >"Don't fucking touch me."
  5479. "Wouldn't if I don't keep having to, but since you won't move on your own..."
  5480. >You shrug.
  5481. >Silver shrugs.
  5482. >Diamond looks away and grabs onto your girlfriend's hand.
  5483. >"Fine, let's go. Make it quick."
  5484. >"I will," Silver promises with a smile and a hug. "This won't take long."
  5485. >She leads you back down the mall, past the Chinese store, past the stores Diamond had rejected. Past the piercing and tattoo place.
  5486. >Ah, there it is - the clothing store Silver had paused to look at.
  5487. >She stops one door short.
  5488. >She reaches for the wrong handle.
  5489. >"Wait," Diamond snaps. "Wait, no."
  5490. >Yeaaaaah. Wrong place.
  5491. "Hey, wait, wrong door."
  5492. >"It is? No, no it's not...?"
  5493. "Wait, wasn't that..."
  5494. >You point towards the clothing store, just one over.
  5495. "... you didn't want to go over there? Weren't you looking at something in that window?"
  5496. >"No," Silver answers, her hand hovering over the handle as she turns to look at you with a confused expression. "Why would you think that?"
  5497. "Because... uh... because this is a pipe shop?"
  5498. >"Oh."
  5499. >She steps back, looks at them both, and giggles.
  5500. >"Well, it's right next door. I can see why you'd think that, but no, I want to go here."
  5501. >She tilts her head towards the door.
  5502. >"Soothing Smokes. I made sure to memorize the name in case I had to come back later."
  5503. >"No, don't," Diamond hisses. "This place is *stupid*."
  5504. >Silver sighs and slips her hand from Diamond's.
  5505. >"Wait outside if you want, but I'm going to look at some of their humidors."
  5506. "But... you don't smoke. Right?"
  5507. >She doesn't. You're pretty sure she doesn't.
  5508. "You don't smoke, do you?"
  5509. >Probably would have noticed, but you don't really have a fucking clue.
  5510. >You should know that.
  5511. >You should have already known a lot of things you've only just learned today.
  5512. >Silver smiles back at you, all sweetness and patience.
  5513. >"No, but they're essentially pretty boxes..."
  5514. >She puts a hand to the outside of her purse.
  5515. >"... and you've gotten me something I want to put in a pretty box."
  5516. "Oh, okay. That makes sense."
  5517. >It actually does. Kinda. Makes sense enough for you to not object, at least.
  5518. >"You... you don't mind, do you? It'll be at your place, so..."
  5519. "No. Nah. That's fine."
  5520. >Silver smiles and pushes open the door.
  5521. >"We won't be long, Di. Wait... wait wherever."
  5522.  
  5523. >You are Silver Spoon and you wonder why you're being so dismissive of Di.
  5524. >Being crazy has lead you to be rather introspective of your own actions; you *know* that you're being mean to her.
  5525. >You hadn't intended to stop here.
  5526. >Some of the humidors had caught your eye, but they were pretty. That's all.
  5527. >You hadn't wanted to buy any, not at the time.
  5528. >So why, when she's so reluctant?
  5529. >Asserting your dominance?
  5530. >Probably.
  5531. >That would make sense.
  5532. >A subconscious desire to remind her that Soarin is *yours*, not hers?
  5533. >Or reminding him?
  5534. >He *has* been nice to her, at times, but you're okay with that.
  5535. >You *should* be okay with that.
  5536. >The other girl? He *was* staring.
  5537. >Maybe.
  5538. >Do you need a reason?
  5539. >You're crazy.
  5540. >That makes more sense.
  5541.  
  5542. >You are Soarin and you wonder why Diamond isn't leaping at this.
  5543. >Honestly you hadn't thought anything was beneath her, yet the door slowly slides shut behind you, and she's still outside.
  5544. >Not what you had expected.
  5545. "Huh."
  5546. >"Hmm?"
  5547. "This might be the only vice I haven't seen her show any interest in. Smoking, I mean."
  5548. >"Oh. Well, she's always been like that, since... uh... since almost as long as I can remember. Mid-elementary, I guess."
  5549. >Silver spins in place, taking in the entire store and it's polished elegance.
  5550. >It doesn't take her long; the store is small, smaller than you expected. Most of the merchandise is behind the counter, and most of *that* is presumably behind a brown velvet curtain.
  5551. >"She always hated smoking," your girlfriend says softly, coming to a stop facing the wall on your left.
  5552. >Shelf after shelf of wooden boxes - some barely larger than your hand, to some as big as your head, from pale - nearly white - wood, to a rich purple.
  5553. >Silver was right: they *are* pretty.
  5554. >Or you think so, at least.
  5555. >They lack tits or cute little noses or all the curves *you* judge 'pretty' by, but for things that aren't women... you think they're probably pretty.
  5556. >Silver says so, after all, and she would know better than you.
  5557. "So -"
  5558. >Silver jumps as the curtain twitches aside and a man comes through.
  5559. >"Sorry, I was in the back," he says cheerfully. "Something I can - oh."
  5560. >His smokey blue eyes dart back and forth between you and Silver before settling on her.
  5561. >"I should probably card you..."
  5562. >Not that he needs to.
  5563. >"... not that I'd need to," he chuckles, "but..."
  5564. >He smiles.
  5565. >"... so long as you don't try to purchase anything you're too young for, we shouldn't have a problem."
  5566. >He leans on the counter and his shoulder-length hair falls forward, framing his face.
  5567. >"I'm Soothing Smokes. Let me know if there's anything I can help you with."
  5568. "I thought that was the name of the shop?"
  5569. >"That too," the man chuckles, glancing your way for a brief moment. "It's a good name, isn't it?"
  5570. "I guess so."
  5571. >You can't think of a better name for a cigar shop.
  5572. >Then again, you don't smoke, so...
  5573. >"And you are...?" Soothing Smokes asks, stretching out an arm across the counter.
  5574. >The front of the shop is small; you don't have to take more than two steps to shake his hand.
  5575. "Soarin."
  5576. >"Ah, I've heard of you. Canterlot's soccer star."
  5577. >That's not embarrassing at all.
  5578. >NOPE.
  5579. >You got used to it a few years back.
  5580. "Y-yeah."
  5581. >Then again, it's been a few years since anyone made a big deal of it.
  5582. >The man slumps into a relaxed stance, both elbows resting on the counter.
  5583. >"So, how's this year looking?"
  5584. "A little rough, but it's not too late to turn things around."
  5585. >"Good, good. I think we could use another big win."
  5586. >He glances away a few times, keeping an eye on his real customer, you guess, but keeps up the small talk.
  5587. >About the team, past years, stuff like that.
  5588. >You don't mind. It's been a while since you've gotten to really talk soccer.
  5589. >Silver wouldn't get any of it.
  5590. >She's not stupid, but neither are you - not *that* stupid, anyway.
  5591. >It just wouldn't interest her.
  5592. >A few minutes pass like that before the conversation falls into a natural lull and Mr. Smokes looks away again.
  5593. >"So," he says softly, "is that your sister... or ...?"
  5594. "What? No! No, she -"
  5595. >The way he asks is so casual, so disarmingly *routine* that you almost blurted out the truth before you catch yourself.
  5596. "- it's... complicated."
  5597. >"Ah."
  5598. >Mr. Smokes looks at her thoughtfully as Silver continues to browse the boxes on the wall. He taps a finger against his clean-shaven chin and hums.
  5599. >"Well..."
  5600. >The door slams open suddenly - both he and you jerk your heads around at the noise.
  5601. >In shuffles Diamond. Stiffly, awkwardly, and - after the first tentative steps - with her eyes firmly on the floor.
  5602. >"Oh," Mr. Smokes grunts. "Well."
  5603. "Sorry about that. She's..."
  5604. >It's not polite to tell a guy you barely know that she's a total bitch, is it?
  5605. >Nah, probably not.
  5606. >"It's okay," he chuckles. "I've known Diamond Tiara since she was... oh, how long has it been?"
  5607. >She shrugs without ever looking up, and then latches on to your sleeve.
  5608. "You *know* her?"
  5609. >You're starting to think *you* don't know her.
  5610. >But then again, you don't really, do you?
  5611. >"Used to be a friend of the family's," Mr. Smokes sighs with a faint smile.
  5612. "Used to be?"
  5613. >"Mostly her father, you know? He used to be in here every week, but since he's given up smoking... well... now it's just a game of golf every so often. Been a long time since I've seen the rest of the family."
  5614. >He stops and stares down at her for a long, silent moment.
  5615. >"Been too long," he sighs again. "Diamond, how old were you when I saw you last?"
  5616. >She doesn't answer.
  5617. >What a bitch.
  5618. >Mr. Smokes doesn't seem surprised though.
  5619. >Guess he *does* know her.
  5620. >He even starts laughing silently.
  5621. >"She's always so quiet, isn't she?"
  5622. >Or maybe he doesn't know her at all.
  5623. "I... guess? Sometimes."
  5624. >"Well, it *has* been a while," he responds, reading more than you intended from your little pause - not that he's wrong. "She's in... what? Middle school now?"
  5625. "High school. She's a freshman at Canterlot High."
  5626. >"Huh. I should've guessed. She's certainly -"
  5627. He pauses for the briefest of moments to look her over again.
  5628. >"- *grown*."
  5629. >The man leans back and looks over at Silver, still browsing the wall.
  5630. >Or pretending to.
  5631. >She standing rigid, at attention.
  5632. >Probably listening to every word.
  5633.  
  5634. >You are Silver Spoon and you are angry.
  5635. >By what right does she think she can come in here and steal away everyone's attention?
  5636. >You can't even look at her right now.
  5637. >Can't even think her name.
  5638. >It was bad enough Soarin had to chat with the stupid Smokey Whatever, but now they're talking about *her*.
  5639. >You think... you think you're perfectly justified feeling annoyed.
  5640. >Maybe not angry, certainly not furious, but annoyed seems reasonable.
  5641. >He's only paying attention to her because she's 'grown.'
  5642. >Because she's not *flat*.
  5643. >Because she's not like you.
  5644. >"Damn," he groans. "It's been so long. So... I guess... I guess that must be Silver Spoon looking at the humidors? The two of them used to be almost inseperable."
  5645.  
  5646. >You are Soarin and you see Silver shudder.
  5647. >"I hadn't realized how much younger she is," Mr. Smokes continues. "She must be -"
  5648. >"I'm not," she blurts out suddenly, without turning, still stoically looking over the boxes on the wall. "I'm fourteen."
  5649. >Mr. Smokes laughs, loud but short.
  5650. >"I'm *fourteen*."
  5651. >"I heard you," he chuckles. "You just don't look it."
  5652. >"I will soon.'
  5653. >Mr. Smokes nods - despite Silver resolutely staring over the boxes and *nothing* else - and sighs.
  5654. >"I'm sure you will."
  5655. >"*Nearly* fifteen. Di's not even a year older."
  5656. >"Okay, okay," he surrenders. "I give up. I was wrong."
  5657. >"I'll... I'll grow up soon!"
  5658. >Mr. Smokes laughs again, silently and to himself - *at* himself.
  5659. >Or... or at Silver.
  5660. "She's very mature for her age!"
  5661. >Even if she was insisting her age like a child.
  5662. >She is.
  5663. >She didn't do anything to be laughed at.
  5664. >Mr. Smokes stops - and stares - and studies.
  5665. >"Ah," he mumbles, "so that's how you fit in."
  5666. >He relaxes - you hadn't even realized he had been tensed up until his shoulders slump and he smiles a lopsided grin at you.
  5667. >"You're Silver Spoon's boyfriend, aren't you? Thank the stars, I was a bit worried."
  5668. "’Worried’?"
  5669. >You're the one who should be worried, not him.
  5670. "A-about?"
  5671. >About how quickly you can make it to the border.
  5672. "And why would you even think that? We're - we're..."
  5673. >"The way you leapt to her defense," Mr. Smokes explains. "Either you're dating her or you want to."
  5674.  
  5675. >You are Silver Spoon and you wonder if Soarin is going to say the right thing.
  5676. >He will.
  5677. >He always does.
  5678. >You're crazy, so it's always the right thing, so long as he says it.
  5679. >He's going to say it.
  5680. >He will.
  5681. >He will.
  5682. >You know he will.
  5683. >You hope he will.
  5684.  
  5685. >You are Soarin and you don't know what to say.
  5686. "She's... fourteen, but..."
  5687. >"Mature for her age?" Mr. Smokes quotes back. "Well, age is just a number. A man loves who he loves, and if she loves him back... that's what matters, isn't it?"
  5688. "I... uh..."
  5689. >Is he trying to trick you into saying something?
  5690. >You're not sure about that, but you know the truth, and you know what Silver needs to hear.
  5691. "We're engaged."
  5692. >You wish you could say you're telling him because you trust him, that on some deep, instinctual level you know he's someone who will understand.
  5693. >Like something out of a fairytale where the hero is never betrayed, never does anything wrong, never loses.
  5694. >You can't.
  5695. >Spitfire and Cloudy understood. Blossom even, even after everything she said about Anon, but they're different.
  5696. >They're your friends. You can trust them.
  5697. >You can't trust a stranger like that, but that isn't why you tell him.
  5698. >It's what Silver needs to hear.
  5699. >More than once today, you've felt that you didn't know her at all, but you know her well enough to understand this.
  5700. >She needs to hear it.
  5701. >She's on edge, worried.
  5702. >Probably because you're letting Diamond hold on to you, but you can't bring yourself to push the girl away. She's being too pathetic.
  5703. >That's why Silver has to hear it, why you have to say it.
  5704. "I gave her my championship ring. We're engaged."
  5705. >Plus, this guy's a smoker. Presumably.
  5706. >You're pretty sure you can outrun him, even with a little girl tucked under each arm.
  5707. >"Oh!"
  5708. >You should start running now.
  5709. >"That's... uh... that's not what I was expecting to hear."
  5710. >Sock him, grab a girl under each arm, and leg it like Dash is intent on getting a red card out of your ass.
  5711. >"Well then, congratulations!"
  5712. >Not - not what *you* were expecting to hear.
  5713. >"That's good. That's... that's really good. Falling in love when you're so young, it means you've got your whole lives to be happy together. I was worried that... that..."
  5714. >Mr. Smokes glances down at Diamond and quickly changes whatever it was he was about to say.
  5715. >"That you might be... well... Spoiled, you know, Diamond's mother..."
  5716. >His lips tighten up, only partly because he doesn't know what to say.
  5717. >There's anger there, clear as day.
  5718. >"I don't want to speak ill of her," Mr. Smokes says softly, "but because of that woman, Diamond's never gotten to feel loved. Filthy barely acknowledges he even *has* a family anymore, and I *tried*, but..."
  5719. >He looks down at the girl, compassionate and caring.
  5720. >"I'm sorry, Diamond. I just couldn't deal with that woman. What she's doing isn't wholesome. I... I get that people fall out of love, but...
  5721. >"Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but what she's doing isn't good for you. You're getting a twisted view of the world.
  5722. >"There's no love in what's happening."
  5723. "I can't really disagree with you."
  5724. >From what you know, he's right.
  5725. >Of course, you don't really know *anything*, just what Diamond or Silver have said - and that man in the chocolate shop, the one who obviously banged her mom.
  5726. >That's more than enough.
  5727. >If you were a less kind man, you'd say she was a raging slut.
  5728. >Instead, you'll just think it and nod.
  5729. >It's not as if Diamond is arguing against him; she's just holding on to your sleeve, tighter and tighter.
  5730. >This shirt's going to be stretched to fuck, but that's a small price to pay if it brings her any comfort.
  5731. >It's not her fault she's like this.
  5732. >"It's a shame," Mr. Smokes sighs. "She was such a beautiful little girl. Sorry -"
  5733. >He laughs at himself and reaches over the counter to pat Diamond's head - she freezes the moment his hand touches her hair.
  5734. >"- I suppose you still are. You keep an eye on these two. And *you* -"
  5735. >He locks eyes with you.
  5736. >"- you and your fiance be good role models for her. She needs some in her life."
  5737.  
  5738. >In the end, Silver didn't buy anything at all.
  5739. >He *gave* her a box. One with a lock, even.
  5740. >Not a very good humidor, he admitted, but it was a beautiful box.
  5741. >That's all that mattered to her. That, and grabbing hold of your free arm the moment you left the store.
  5742. >If Diamond wasn't her friend, she might not have stopped at just that.
  5743. >You can *feel* her jealousy - and not just because she's trying to crush your arm.
  5744. >You'll have to make it up to her.
  5745. >You *will*.
  5746. >Tonight.
  5747. >She's staying at your place, even if your parents are home.
  5748. >You won't give her a choice.
  5749. >Well, you will - you're not... you're not a monster. Not a *total* monster, anyway.
  5750. >You're not going to kidnap her or rape her or anything if she says no, you just don't think she will.
  5751. >Certainly not if you ask without any uncertainty.
  5752. >If she doesn't worry she's imposing, if she isn't scared you don't mean it, she won't refuse.
  5753. >She never would.
  5754. >Definitely not today.
  5755. >Silver needs some loving one-on-one time, even if all you do is hold her all night long.
  5756.  
  5757. >You are Diamond Tiara and you hate yourself.
  5758. >Almost as much as you hate him.
  5759. >Almost as much as you hate her.
  5760. >You're such a failure.
  5761.  
  5762. >You are Soarin and you try to pay no attention to the people watching you.
  5763. >This isn't the first time you've had a cute girl on each arm.
  5764. >You're used to the staring, though normally it's admiration or jealousy. Usually both.
  5765. >Sometimes it's just a guy - or a girl - enamored with one sweet thing or another and ignoring the dumb jock in the center.
  5766. >So you're used to the staring, just not... not because of how young they are.
  5767. >And Diamond isn't *really* cute. She's a bitch, and bitches can't be cute.
  5768. >You'll give her a pass for now, because she's being so sad.
  5769. >It almost makes up for how big of a cunt she usually is.
  5770. >You can't help but pity her.
  5771. >This isn't the first time you've had a cute girl on each arm, but it's the first time you've considered making a run for it.
  5772. >There's a small cafe right next to the escalator, closed when you'd come in, but now the tables set outside the storefront are, if not crowded, at least too crowded for comfort.
  5773. >Your comfort.
  5774. >Diamond's, too.
  5775. >She grips you tighter as a dozen pairs of eyes track you.
  5776. >You, in turn, grab Silver tighter, prepared to make that dash for the border at the first sign of trouble.
  5777. >It has to be your imagination, but could swear every head turns to follow your movement.
  5778. >Lips move, the patrons whispering quietly among themselves.
  5779. >Any moment now, one of the well-dressed men is going to reach into his pocket, or one of the women into her purse, and pull out a phone.
  5780. >Minutes later, you'll be running for your life.
  5781. >They don't.
  5782. >They fall totally silent as you pass by.
  5783. >Waiting for you to turn your back.
  5784. >"Lucky bastard."
  5785. >Giggles, chuckles, quiet affirmations.
  5786. >You look back, over your shoulder, over Diamond's head.
  5787. >No one is holding a phone.
  5788. >One winks.
  5789. >"That's right, son," another nods. "I meant you."
  5790. >If only they knew.
  5791. >You return the gesture - and you run.
  5792. >Not with a girl tucked under each arm, not with haste, but you retreat nonetheless.
  5793. >Like after you and Spitfire trashed Crystal Prep's locker room.
  5794. >Literally running draws attention.
  5795. >Would turn their mocking into shouting for security.
  5796. >So all you do is nod, and keep walking until you're on the escalator.
  5797. >For some reason, this one seems wider than the one you rode on the way up.
  5798. >All three of you can fit on a single step.
  5799. >Not comfortably, but it happens.
  5800. >The folks at the cafe get in one more jab before the escalator carries you out of earshot.
  5801. >"Those girls seemed a bit old, didn't they?" followed by more laughter.
  5802. >Assholes.
  5803. >The escalator to the second floor is narrower, or it could just be Diamond isn't hanging on to you quite so tight.
  5804. >She keeps a firm grip on you, though, and rides just one step behind you.
  5805. >The escalator to the first floor is on the other side of the food court; you decide to go around rather than cut through.
  5806. >Silver doesn't complain, content simply hanging on to you.
  5807. >Diamond... Diamond, too.
  5808. >That's a bit of a surprise.
  5809. >She doesn't let go, not until you've passed the photobooth, not until her phone rings.
  5810. >It's a jaunty, happy tune, so out of place for her.
  5811. >Particularly now.
  5812. >"Hold up," she mumbles, dropping your sleeve and fishing through her tiny purse. "Hold the fuck up. Shit. Fuck!"
  5813. >Her face turns white as she looks at the display.
  5814. >"Shit. SHIT!"
  5815. >She jabs at the phone, while you and Silver wait patiently.
  5816. >You're being polite, but Silver's probably just happy to have you all to herself.
  5817. >"What?" Diamond snaps into the phone as she finally hits the right icon. "What do -"
  5818. >You hadn't thought it possible, but her face goes even paler.
  5819. >"Now!? But - ... now...? Mom - I - yes. *Fine*. *Yes*. I *said* -"
  5820. >She lets out her breath suddenly and lets the phone drop.
  5821. >Not her hand, her phone.
  5822. >Not to her side, to the floor.
  5823. >She looks over to you, stares up, pleading for... for something.
  5824. >For you to catch it?
  5825. >Too late.
  5826. >The phone slams into the tiles before you can dive for it, it's screen cracks and splinters.
  5827. "Shit, Diamond -!"
  5828. >Her face twists into a sneer.
  5829. "Look, it's okay. The damage isn't too bad -"
  5830. >The screen is still lit up.
  5831. >It doesn't go dark.
  5832. >Not until her heel smashes into it. Not the first time, but the second.
  5833. >By the fourth it's a total wreck.
  5834. "What the *fuck*!?"
  5835. >"I have to go home," she answers is a furious monotone, her shoulders trembling with rage. "Now."
  5836. "Why!? And why would you - you..."
  5837. >Words fail you, so you point to what used to be a phone.
  5838. >People stream around, not a one stopping to care about Diamond's sudden tantrum, not one surprised enough to stop and stare.
  5839. >Just you.
  5840. >Even Silver seems obliviously happy, nuzzling your arm while Diamond stomps on the shattered pieces.
  5841. >It's enough to make you doubt your own sanity, to question if it's even happening.
  5842. "Diamond, did... did that just happen...?"
  5843. >"What do you think?" she snaps back. "I have to go home."
  5844. "But. Why."
  5845. >"Someone saw us," she snaps.
  5846. "I meant the... uh..."
  5847. >Wait.
  5848. >One of these things is more important than the other.
  5849. >"Someone called my mom."
  5850. >It sure as shit isn't the phone.
  5851. >It's... okay.
  5852. >Everything's fine.
  5853. >You've been preparing mentally for this moment.
  5854. >All you have to do is grab the girls and sprint for your car.
  5855. >But Diamond jerks away when you reach for her, and Silver stands as rigid and firm as a lamp post.
  5856. >"What?" your girlfriend whispers. "What did you say?"
  5857. >"I *said* someone called my mom!"
  5858. "Who...?"
  5859. >"Does it matter?" Silver whispers. "If they called your mother -"
  5860. >She's starting to panic, her breath coming short and rapid, her fingers tightening more and more about your arm until it hurts.
  5861. >You don't mind the pain.
  5862. >It keeps you from panicking, knowing that she is.
  5863. >For her sake, you can't.
  5864. >It was a risk, coming out here like this.
  5865. >You knew it, you were anticipating problems.
  5866. >She wasn't.
  5867. >She wanted to believe everything would be fine.
  5868. >She's panicking.
  5869. "It'll be okay, Silver, we'll just... just run."
  5870. >"But - but - my parents -"
  5871. >Diamond scoffs loudly and crosses her arms over her chest.
  5872. >"What do *you* have to worry about?" she barks.
  5873. >"Because - my - my -"
  5874. >"They called *my* mom. She'll -"
  5875. >Diamond stops.
  5876. >Sighs.
  5877. >"She'll cover," she continues, her voice cracked and broken. "She'll cover for y- for us. She always does. *You*..."
  5878. >Diamond looks up and stares at her friend with dead eyes.
  5879. >"She always covers up everything."
  5880.  
  5881. >No one stops you from getting to your car.
  5882. >No one stops you from driving away with the two girls.
  5883. >Silver sits beside your, her phone clutched tightly with both hands, waiting for the worst.
  5884. >No call ever comes.
  5885. >Nor sirens.
  5886. >Not the entire ride to her friend's place.
  5887. >"I told you," Diamond sneers as you near her house. "She covered it up. Why do you think she wouldn't get me into Crystal Prep?"
  5888. >"I- I suppose. Wait, wh-"
  5889. >Silver falls silent as you pull up to the curb.
  5890. >Several houses down, same as when you picked the girls up.
  5891. >Diamond doesn't get out.
  5892. "Well...?"
  5893. >"Don't - don't leave me *here*."
  5894. "But earlier -
  5895. >You can see Diamond's eye's narrow in your mirror.
  5896. >"You - you... she... she already fucking knows, you dumb piece of shit!"
  5897. "Fine, I'll -"
  5898. >She kicks your seat.
  5899. >"So fucking drive!"
  5900. "I've warned you before -"
  5901. >It feels like months have passed since then, maybe years.
  5902. >You were dropping her off at her house.
  5903. >After... after that night at the diner.
  5904. >Your first day as Silver's boyfriend.
  5905. >It's been a while, but two things hold true. You still care about Silver, and -
  5906. "- don't fucking kick my car."
  5907. >She glares at you in the mirror, so hard and so furious you expect her to do it again purely to spite you.
  5908. >You certain don't expect her to look away without saying anything else.
  5909. >Well.
  5910. >Okay then.
  5911. >If she's going to be a good girl, you'll be nice back.
  5912. >You drive forward and come to a stop in front of her house.
  5913. >Only forty feet, maybe fifty, but not being a *total* bitch only earns her so much goodwill.
  5914. >She still doesn't get out, though.
  5915. "Did you expect me to walk you to the door?"
  5916. >It's... not *quite* an honest question.
  5917. >Not quite not, too.
  5918. >Diamond's clearly out of sorts.
  5919. >Driving forward a few feet didn't burn use up all of your goodwill, and What happened is basically kind of your fault.
  5920. >You're not entire sure *how*, but it wouldn't have happened if it weren't for you.
  5921. >Maybe you need to talk to her mom.
  5922. >Apologize for... for whatever.
  5923. >Try to explain.
  5924. >You're willing to, if it would make Diamond feel better.
  5925. >That's why it stings so much when she spits out her answer.
  5926. >"No. Fuck you."
  5927. >You tried.
  5928. >That's all you can really do.
  5929. >You tried.
  5930. "Then what are you waiting for?"
  5931. >"I... I just want my fucking pills," Diamond snarls, shoving her arm up between the front seats and holding out an expectant hand. "Silver! Stop fucking around with your phone and give them to me!"
  5932. >She's not wrong, in a way.
  5933. >Silver's still staring at her phone, completely oblivious to anything and everything but the call she expects any second now.
  5934. >Has been the entire drive.
  5935. >"SIL!"
  5936. >She jumps in her seat at the sound of her name.
  5937. >"W-what?"
  5938. >"My! Pills!"
  5939. >"Right, right, sorry... is your head hurting?" your girlfriend asks, forcing a smile onto her face and pretending to care about Diamond's problems.
  5940. >Or maybe she really does.
  5941. >"No. Yes. Whatever," Diamond snaps back. "I don't want to... to go through all this shit."
  5942. >"Oh, right."
  5943. >Maybe she does care.
  5944. >Maybe you should too.
  5945. >Her mom *is* covering up you and Silver, you guess, so...
  5946. >"It'll be better if I can't feel anything."
  5947. >Silver freezes, the bottle in her hand - and well out of Diamond's reach.
  5948. >"Um..."
  5949. >"I don't want to feel anything," Diamond says, even softer. "Give me my pills."
  5950. >That's not troubling at all.
  5951. >Nope.
  5952. >Definitely not.
  5953. "Is..."
  5954. >Okay. Of all the things you've had trouble finding a polite way to say today, this might be the hardest.
  5955. >Fuck it.
  5956. "... is your mom going to hurt you or something?"
  5957. >"Why?" Diamond glares. "What would you do anyway? Would you stop her?"
  5958. "Well... uh... *yeah*, but..."
  5959. >She waits, but you've got nothing.
  5960. >"Yeah, I thought so," she sneers at your hesitation, but what are you really supposed to do? "Don't fucking pretend you care."
  5961. >Does she expect you to kick in the door and beat the shit out of her mom for spanking her or whatever?
  5962. "It's not that I don't, I mean, you're Silver's best friend, so -"
  5963. >"Whatever. She's not going to do *anything* to me. Just give me my fucking pills."
  5964. "Really?"
  5965. >"YES. FUCK."
  5966. >Silver's eyes meet yours and she silently mouths "should I?"
  5967. >You're... you're not sure.
  5968. >"Sil! Give them to me!"
  5969. >"O-okay. But -"
  5970. >Silver pops open the bottle and pours out a handful of pills - and pours most of those back.
  5971. >" - here," she says, dropping the remainder into Diamond's waiting hand. "I'm -"
  5972. >"TWO!?"
  5973. >"I'm... I'm *worried* about you. After this morning, I don't -"
  5974. >Diamond throws them into her mouth and swallows.
  5975. >"Di..."
  5976. >The girl waits, expectantly.
  5977. >You do, too.
  5978. >But Silver doesn't know what to say. You don't think any of you do.
  5979. >But that's... fine.
  5980. >It's just another of Diamond's spoiled-ass tantrums.
  5981. >She's just being a bitch, like usual.
  5982. >She'll get over it.
  5983. >It's kind of a shame.
  5984. >She's almost cute when she's not like this.
  5985. "Hey, Diamond...?"
  5986. >"What."
  5987. "Sorry we, uh..."
  5988. >There was something that had slipped your mind, something you remembered only once your own panic subsided.
  5989. >Something for her, that you and Silver had completely ignored.
  5990. >Something she's probably pissed about.
  5991. "Sorry I forgot about the chocolate store. I just, you know, blanked on it. We'll hit it up next time, okay?"
  5992. >Maybe that will make her happy?
  5993. >Maybe?
  5994. >Maybe that crinkled nose is a sign of happiness?
  5995. >Maybe the furrowed brows are excitement?
  5996. >Maybe - maybe she looks sick to her stomach because -
  5997. >"Fuck you."
  5998. >Diamond slams open the door and stumbles out of your car.
  5999. >"Fuck! You!"
  6000.  
  6001. >You are Diamond Tiara and you hate them too.
  6002. >Almost as much as you hate yourself.
  6003. >Not as much as you hate *her*.
  6004. >She's waiting for you by the door, just inside.
  6005. >Silently judging you.
  6006. >Doesn't say a word even after you close the door behind you.
  6007. >Just stares silently.
  6008. "What."
  6009. >"That's not what I want to hear," she snaps back. "Try again."
  6010. >You don't really care what she wants to hear.
  6011. >It might be the pills kicking in or maybe you've just gotten used to this, but you don't really care about anything right now.
  6012. "So what's the big deal? *Another* new 'boyfriend'?"
  6013. >"Wrong answer. Try again."
  6014. >You shrug and start for the stairs.
  6015. >"Where do you think you're going?"
  6016. "To put my stuff away."
  6017. >Before it's too late.
  6018. >The pills are definitely working.
  6019. >You can't feel the bags you know are in your hands.
  6020. >"Wrong answer. Try again."
  6021. "I'm going to my room to get ready, okay!? Isn't that what you want?"
  6022. >"That and an apology would be nice."
  6023. "For what!?"
  6024. >"You know for what."
  6025. >Probably, but the drugs make it hard to think.
  6026. >You wouldn't give her an apology anyway.
  6027. >You hate her. More than anyone.
  6028. >Even when everything else has turned to nothing, when you can't feel anything, your hatred of your mother remains.
  6029. "What do you want me to say."
  6030. >But there's no use in fighting her.
  6031. >That's never worked.
  6032. >"Say you're sorry."
  6033. "I'm sorry."
  6034. >"For?"
  6035. "For?"
  6036. >There's a dull sense of satisfaction at her frustrated expression.
  6037. >She won't hit you, but even if she does... you won't feel it.
  6038. >And if you don't feel it, if there's no evidence, it didn't really happen.
  6039. >"I swear, Diamond, one of these days..."
  6040. >You shrug.
  6041. >Or maybe not.
  6042. >It's hard to tell.
  6043. >"... and *today* of all days..."
  6044. >She sighs loudly and massages her temple.
  6045. >"Don't *ever* go by Soothing Smokes again, got it?"
  6046. >Maybe.
  6047. >"I'm *serious*, Diamond! If anything happens to Silver Spoon and her parents find out, they will *crush* this family!"
  6048.  
  6049. >You are Soarin and you can't let yourself worry about Diamond's attitude.
  6050. >She's just a bitch. A bipolar, cuntacular alpha bitch of a bitch.
  6051. >You have someone else to worry about instead.
  6052. >Someone actually nice and caring and loving and cute all the time.
  6053. >Someone who needs you.
  6054. >You're glad she has something - someone - else to worry about.
  6055. >Now she can relax.
  6056. >Kinda.
  6057. >Almost.
  6058. >Close enough, anyway.
  6059. >You pull away from the curb and start slowly, meanderingly, making your way home.
  6060. >You're not sure exactly *which* home, though.
  6061. >Hers? Or yours?
  6062. >The route is about as jumbled as your thoughts on that matter.
  6063. >Maybe hers.
  6064. >Silver's had enough excitement today.
  6065. >All the more reason to take her into your bed and hold her tight all night.
  6066. "So..."
  6067. >"It had to be Soothing Smokes," she blurts out. "He called Mrs. Rich."
  6068. >It takes a second for your mind to switch tracks, but once it's there you're not sure you agree.
  6069. "You think so? He seemed nice."
  6070. >"Really?"
  6071. "Yeah."
  6072. >"Oh," Silver murmurs before falling silent.
  6073. "What is it?"
  6074. >"I thought he was a little creepy."
  6075. "Really?"
  6076. >"Yeah."
  6077. "Oh."
  6078. >You drive on another block in silence as you think it over - and come to the same conclusion as before.
  6079. "I still don't think it was him."
  6080. >"Maybe not. He just rubbed me the wrong way."
  6081. "Because you knew him when you were younger...?"
  6082. >"No. I don't remember him at all."
  6083. "Maybe it was someone at the cafe? Diamond seemed..."
  6084. >Thinking back, you think - *think* - that maybe she was scared of them.
  6085. >Maybe.
  6086. >Maybe him, too.
  6087. >But -
  6088. "It really seemed like he cared about Diamond. I don't think he'd try to get her in trouble with her parents."
  6089. >"Maybe," Silver concedes, "but just because he called Mrs. Rich doesn't mean he did it maliciously. You're right. You're always right. He *did* care. Maybe..."
  6090. >She sighs and looks down at the pill bottle still in her hands.
  6091.  
  6092. >You are Diamond Tiara and you think you've dropped your purse.
  6093. >Probably.
  6094. >A little, pink pony is staring up at you from the floor.
  6095. >You don't think it's a real pony.
  6096. >Probably the plush Sil bought you.
  6097. >It seems very small.
  6098. >Yeah.
  6099. >It's your little pony.
  6100. >"Or is that why you did it?" your mom asks. "Did you take Silver there on purpose?"
  6101. "Where...?"
  6102. >"Soothing Smokes! Are you trying to - trying to *destroy* this family!?"
  6103. >You... you never thought of that.
  6104. >Maybe.
  6105. >"It wouldn't just be me, you know. You'd also get hurt."
  6106. >Meh.
  6107. >Would still be worth it.
  6108. >Maybe.
  6109. >"Or... or are you starting to enjoy yourself? Is that why you went to see him?"
  6110. >You shrug.
  6111. >"Or maybe you'd like to be on the other side for once?"
  6112. >Bitch is smiling.
  6113. >You don't like her smiling at you.
  6114. "Like you'd care."
  6115. >"Of course I care. I know you think I don't, but I care about you, Diamond. I'm your mother. I have to."
  6116. >She usually saves that smile for when she has company.
  6117. >Sometimes Silver.
  6118. >Usually... others.
  6119. >"If you wanted to... 'experiment'," she murmurs, pausing to bite her lip, "I can find someone... just not her. And not *him*."
  6120. >Him?
  6121. >Oh. *Him*.
  6122. >Right now, you can't remember anything about the man.
  6123. >Just that he said nice things.
  6124. >It's more than your mother has ever done.
  6125. "At least he really cared about me."
  6126. >You think he meant what he said.
  6127. >"He was only pretending!"
  6128. >Maybe.
  6129. >You shrug.
  6130. "So are you."
  6131. >Her face tightens up in an instant.
  6132. >"Go upstairs and get ready."
  6133. >You shrug.
  6134. "That's what I was trying to do."
  6135. >"Be sure to take your pills!"
  6136. >But you already did?
  6137. >Yeah, you already did.
  6138. >"And *no*, it's not someone new."
  6139. "Oh."
  6140. >Like it really matters.
  6141. "'kay."
  6142. >"He brought you chocolate."
  6143.  
  6144. >You are Silver Spoon and you're glad to have a distraction.
  6145. >Diamond was right.
  6146. >Her mother will cover things up. She *always* does.
  6147. >You don't have anything to worry about, but you're you. You're crazy.
  6148. >If you didn't have a distraction, you wouldn't be able to help yourself.
  6149. >Di's such a good friend, always giving you someone else to worry about.
  6150. >You giggle silently at that cruel thought.
  6151. >You really shouldn't think that.
  6152. >Particularly now, when she's doing something like this for you.
  6153. >It's mean.
  6154. >Instead, you study the bottle in your hands, just to do *something*.
  6155. >It's only a regular pill bottle, the kind every pharmacy uses.
  6156. >Nothing special, until you start reading over the label.
  6157. "Oh."
  6158. >"What?"
  6159. "This is... odd."
  6160. >"What is it?"
  6161. >You raise the bottle for Soarin to see, but he's busy driving to look.
  6162. >Apparently driving in circles is hard.
  6163. >This is the third time you've passed through the same intersection.
  6164. "These pills, they're in Di's name."
  6165. >"What's weird about that? They're hers, aren't they?"
  6166. "No, she stole them from her mother. At least, that's what she told me."
  6167. >Wouldn't be the first time she hadn't told you the truth.
  6168. >It... makes sense. More than what she *had* said.
  6169. >You hadn't thought about it at the time, or at all until just now, but the nurse at school would have said something when you gave her the bottle if it hadn't been in her name.
  6170. >Probably.
  6171. >Right?
  6172. >"Oh, well, she *was* hurt," Soarin says slowly, still thinking it over in his head, "so it'd make sense for her parents to take her to the doctor, right?
  6173. >"Maybe her mom was holding on to them for her own good. You know... like you are now."
  6174. "But the date is from a few weeks ago."
  6175. >"Oh. Uh. Okay. I guess that's weird."
  6176. "Diamond didn't have any reason to have these then."
  6177. >You've certainly never seen her take them before.
  6178. >"Recreational use *is* a thing, you know and she... well..."
  6179. "Maybe."
  6180. >You've have your doubts, but it seems the only reasonable explanation.
  6181. >Still...
  6182. "Di couldn't have gotten these on her own, and her father never would. That means Mrs. Rich paid off a doctor to get Di the pills. I'm surprised she'd do that when she wouldn't pay for her own daughter to get into Crystal Prep."
  6183. >"Well, she's on the Canterlot school board, isn't she?"
  6184. "Yes."
  6185. >"Maybe she just wanted to keep her daughter close instead of sending her to a private school."
  6186. "I... suppose."
  6187. >You think back - it doesn't take long.
  6188. "You're probably right. Mrs. Rich's position has certainly come in handy to get us out of trouble."
  6189. >Frequently.
  6190. "But..."
  6191. >"What?"
  6192. "... why would Di lie *to me* about stealing the pills?"
  6193. >Soarin shrugs and lets out a deep sigh.
  6194. >"Who knows with that girl?"
  6195. >You should.
  6196. >She's your closest friend.
  6197. >You're her *only* friend.
  6198. >But you don't.
  6199. >You don't have a clue.
  6200. >Neither does Soarin, but you can see him racking his mind for one.
  6201. >He's still thinking about Di. Worrying about her.
  6202. >He should only be thinking about you.
  6203. >He's been thinking about her too much today.
  6204. >So have you.
  6205. >You're crazy. Obsessive to the point of lunacy. Possessive to the point it's offputting.
  6206. >There's only one person you should be thinking about right now.
  6207. "Soarin?"
  6208. >"Yeah?"
  6209. "Stop driving in circles. Let's go."
  6210. >"Where?" he asks hesitantly.
  6211. >You know why.
  6212. >It would make you laugh, if it wasn't so sweet. Instead, it just makes your heart ache for him even more.
  6213. "To your place."
  6214. >He should be holding you right now.
  6215. >"My... um... my parents might be home."
  6216. >So gentle. So caring.
  6217. >And yet - somehow - distant.
  6218. "Soarin..."
  6219. >He glances over at you and blushes.
  6220. >Good.
  6221. >"I *assume* your room still has a window."
  6222. >He nods eagerly.
  6223. >That's better.
  6224. >"What about your parents...?"
  6225. "I'll tell them I'm spending the night with Di. Her mother will cover for me.
  6226. "She always does."
  6227.  
  6228. >You are Diamond Tiara and you stare at the small box of chocolate on your bed.
  6229. >You don't know why.
  6230. >It'll probably taste just as bland and boring as it did the first time.
  6231. >... time...
  6232. >... you don't have much time...
  6233. >Right.
  6234. >Focus.
  6235. >You reach under your bed and blindly reach around until you find the old shoe box you keep there.
  6236. >Inside are dozens of pictures of you and Silver, taken in photobooths and from old cameras and stuff.
  6237. >Beneath those... tightly bound rolls of cash.
  6238. >Some of the rubber bands wrapped around the rolls are fresh, some old and brittle.
  6239. >You pull one more from your purse and add it to the box.
  6240. >There's thousands in there.
  6241. >At least - at least... you're not sure how much exactly.
  6242. >You've been keeping a running total in your head, but your head is all fuzzy.
  6243. >Better than dealing with the pain.
  6244. >You can always count it all again tomorrow - but there should be enough.
  6245. >You could run away now.
  6246. >The idea is as tempting as it is fleeting.
  6247. >No, no you couldn't.
  6248. >You wouldn't make it out the front door.
  6249. >Even if your head was clear, even if there was no one to stop you.
  6250. >You're a failure. A *coward*.
  6251. >You couldn't protect her Silver.
  6252. >She's *yours*. You should have protected her.
  6253. >Gotten her out of the shop.
  6254. >Stopped her from going in.
  6255. >You tried. Late, but you tried.
  6256. >You'd only gone in for that reason, but you spent the entire time holding on to Soarin.
  6257. >He's with her now. He kept her safe - and you.
  6258. >You wish he was here.
  6259. >It would bring you to tears... if you could still feel anything.
  6260. >You scatter the pictures of Silver over the money to hide it, and shove the box back into its hiding place.
  6261. >You should thank her someday.
  6262. >It's her money, after all.
  6263. >You leave your bags where they lay and fall on your bed.
  6264. >Nothing in them feels important right now.
  6265. >Just dolls, a hat, random *stuff*.
  6266. >It would be so much better if you had bought a knife.
  6267. >Even a cheap piece of shit like Silver got.
  6268. >It would do the job.
  6269. >But if you had the courage to do that, you wouldn't need it in the first place.
  6270. >You would have walked away long ago.
  6271. >When things started to feel wrong.
  6272. >Or at least when you *knew* they were.
  6273. >When you saw how Soarin defends Silver.
  6274. >Keeps her safe.
  6275. >Sometimes from you.
  6276. >You should call him.
  6277. >He can be brave for you.
  6278. >He'd *love* to do that.
  6279. >Stupid boy would come running at the chance to rescue a damsel in distress.
  6280. >You reach for your phone, all the while knowing that you'll never actually dial.
  6281. >You can't even find it.
  6282. >Maybe it's in your bags. Maybe you lost it at the mall.
  6283. >Doesn't matter.
  6284. >Either way, it's out of your reach.
  6285. >Either way, you'd never call him.
  6286. >If you had the courage to do that...
  6287.  
  6288. >You are Silver Spoon and you're waiting patiently by Soarin's window.
  6289. >Yes.
  6290. >Very patiently.
  6291. >It's been -
  6292. >You check your phone.
  6293. > - almost five minutes since he went inside.
  6294. >Eight and a half since he turned off his car.
  6295. >Almost sixteen since he had parked at the curb.
  6296. >Both of his parents' cars had been in the driveway.
  6297. >Sixteen minutes seems... reasonable.
  6298. >As hard as you try to convince yourself that, it doesn't quite take.
  6299. >About half of that was spent discussing what to do about his parents, and he probably would stop to talk to them for a few moments.
  6300. >Sixteen minutes seems very reasonable, even if you want to believe otherwise.
  6301. >Seventeen is unbearable.
  6302. >Checking the time can do only so much to prevent introspection.
  6303. >Honestly it's not a very good distraction.
  6304. >You know you're doing this because you felt jealous.
  6305. >It didn't take any introspection to uncover that.
  6306. >You also know you're doing this because you *want* to.
  6307. >Falling asleep in Di's arms used to be comforting.
  6308. >Now it can't possibly compare.
  6309. >Nothing can, you think, to being held tight against Soarin's naked body.
  6310. >Despite where his hands end up, it's more intimate, more *loving*, than anything Di has done.
  6311. >You giggle softly at the memories, at how you think of them.
  6312. >Like he always holds you the same way, like things never change.
  6313. >Like spending the night with him once was a enough to determine his normal sleeping habits.
  6314. >Hopefully.
  6315. >It'd be nice.
  6316. >Other things would be nice, too.
  6317. >Nicer, even.
  6318. >Maybe not *all* night long.
  6319. >An hour. Maybe two.
  6320. >Three?
  6321. >Maaaaybe.
  6322. >A girl can dream.
  6323. >And yes, you do.
  6324. >About how you'll chew him out for making you wait.
  6325. >How he'll apologize and pull you in through the window.
  6326. >How he won't let go of you.
  6327. >Maybe not even give you time to undress.
  6328. >Maybe...
  6329. >Checking the time isn't a very good distraction, but fantasizing sure is.
  6330. >The next time you look, it's been almost half an hour since he had pulled up to his house.
  6331. >Fourteen since he and you had parted ways.
  6332. >You're not sure if you can last fifteen.
  6333. >Fantasizing was also a *very bad* distraction, because you can't wait another minute.
  6334. >Trying to return to your fantasies is a mistake; they all turn dark.
  6335. >Reasons why he hasn't pulled you in yet.
  6336. >How you're going to snap at him and make him angry.
  6337. >Why he'll never want to see you again.
  6338. >You try not to let your mind wander down those twisted paths, but you can't stop it.
  6339. >You're not strong enough.
  6340. >All you can do is move from one festering trail to another, relishing the brief, happy moments before your imagination shows you how everything will go wrong.
  6341. >It feels like hours - *days* - pass before the window slides open and Soarin's hands reach out to you.
  6342. >Your mind flashes through all the ways you will ruin everything.
  6343. >It hesitates.
  6344. >It panics.
  6345. >Your body acts.
  6346. >It grabs his hands.
  6347. >Holds tight.
  6348. >Scrabbles against the bricks with shoes unsuited for anything more than making your legs and ass look nice.
  6349. >The window isn't high up, just high enough he has to help you.
  6350. >Just high enough he can't lift you up on his own.
  6351. >The angle is awkward.
  6352. >You're too heavy.
  6353. >You shouldn't have -
  6354. >You're inside.
  6355. >Holding him tight.
  6356. >Trying to calm your fears.
  6357. >"Sorry," Soarin murmurs softly, "I didn't mean to make you wait that long."
  6358. "It's... fine."
  6359. >It is. It should be. It's your fault. It was your idea.
  6360. >"Thanks," he smiles down at you, hugging you tight, pulling you against him. "I just... I was worried about Diamond."
  6361. >He should be worried about *you*!
  6362. >"I tried calling her, but -"
  6363. "She broke her phone. Did you forget that already?"
  6364. >"Yeah."
  6365. >He chuckles.
  6366. >And sighs.
  6367. >The deep breath he draws in makes his chest press against yours, so firm and unyielding that it drives out your own.
  6368. >"Yeah, sorry," he repeats. "Your boyfriend is a dumb jock. I hope you can forgive me."
  6369. "Maybe."
  6370. >Yes. Always. So long as he shows you even the tiniest shred of compassion, you know you will.
  6371. >You're broken, but that's okay.
  6372. >He loves you anyway.
  6373. >He does.
  6374. >You don't have to convince yourself it's true.
  6375. >You don't have to convince him to feel that way.
  6376. >You don't.
  6377. >He loves you.
  6378. >You don't have to do things for him.
  6379. >You want to.
  6380. >He'll love you anyway.
  6381. >You want to do it anyway.
  6382. >"She's fine," Soarin mumbles to himself. "I shouldn't be thinking about her."
  6383. "She's fine."
  6384. >He should be thinking about *you*.
  6385. >You slide your hands down the back of his pants.
  6386. >Not on the outside.
  6387. >Not in the pockets.
  6388. >Under waistband.
  6389. >The cloth is rough on your knuckles, cheap fabric with an even cheaper build.
  6390. >Tight.
  6391. >His belt isn't custom made to fit perfectly.
  6392. >Those aren't things you care about.
  6393. >His boxers are softer on your fingers.
  6394. >They're warm.
  6395. "I forgive you, Soarin."
  6396. >You will.
  6397. >You know you will.
  6398.  
  6399. >You are Diamond Tiara and you...
  6400. >... you wish Sil was here.
  6401. >Nothing ever happens when Sil is here.
  6402. >You wish Sil was here.
  6403. >You hold on to that thought, that last thought, like a lifeline.
  6404. >If you let it go, you know you won't have anything left.
  6405. >Only the dull embers of your hatred, and the numbed sensations of your own body.
  6406. >"Diamond?"
  6407. >You hate her.
  6408. >"Diamond? How many did you take?"
  6409. >You *hate* her.
  6410. "Two."
  6411. >Your mom nods and sits down beside you.
  6412. >She's changed.
  6413. >Her houserobe is loose.
  6414. >She leans over, smiling sweetly.
  6415. >For a brief moment, you can see everything.
  6416. >She's not wearing anything underneath.
  6417. >"You know I care about you, right?"
  6418. >You don't answer.
  6419. >"You didn't mean what you said."
  6420. >You did.
  6421. >"I forgive you, Diamond."
  6422. >You don't.
  6423. >She kisses you gently, on the forehead.
  6424. >Strokes your cheek.
  6425. >Kisses you again.
  6426.  
  6427. >You are Silver Spoon and you stretch as far as your tiny body can.
  6428. >It's not enough, not until Soarin chuckles and leans down to kiss you.
  6429. >Not on the forehead, like a child, but like your lover, full and deep.
  6430. >"So..." he whispers when your lips finally separate.
  6431. >There's nothing more to the question.
  6432. >Nothing more needs to be asked.
  6433. >You squeeze.
  6434. >Your hands are too small, and yet you couldn't get more than half of each palm down the back of his pants.
  6435. >It's enough of an answer.
  6436. >Soarin laughs.
  6437. >One hand slides down your back, fingers trailing along your spine and making it tingle with excitement.
  6438. >Fumbles with your skirt.
  6439. >Expertly. Quickly, but still fumbles with it.
  6440. >Gives you enough warning you know what he's going to do before he cups your ass.
  6441. >One cheek fits comfortably in his palm.
  6442. >Squeezes. Gently.
  6443. >"Was this what you were trying to do?" he chuckles.
  6444. >You nod. Whimper softly.
  6445. >Squeak as he does it again, harder this time.
  6446. >"Quiet," he laughs softly. "My parents are still awake. We wouldn't want them to come in, would we?"
  6447. "Absolutely not."
  6448.  
  6449. >You are Diamond Tiara and you close your eyes.
  6450. >Or stop holding them open.
  6451. >Basically the same thing.
  6452. >"She's ready."
  6453. >You hear the door open.
  6454. >It's soft.
  6455. >The hinges are well oiled. The jam isn't askew.
  6456. >You hear it because you know it's going to happen.
  6457. >"Hello again, Diamond."
  6458. >You almost recognize the voice.
  6459. >Footsteps.
  6460. >You're imagining them.
  6461. >They can't be so loud as you think.
  6462. >The carpeting in your room is thick. New. It was just replaced two months ago.
  6463. >After an incident.
  6464. >You're imagining the footsteps.
  6465. >You're imagining all of this.
  6466.  
  6467. >You are Silver Spoon and you close your eyes.
  6468. >Purr happily as Soarin undoes the three buttons on the side of your skirt.
  6469. >With only one hand.
  6470. >That can't be easy, but your skirt falls free in an instant.
  6471. >His fingers hook themselves around your panties.
  6472. >They cruelly wait there as he kisses you again.
  6473.  
  6474. >She kisses you again.
  6475. >"Well, Diamond?" your mom asks breathlessly. "Aren't you going to thank him for the chocolate?"
  6476. >Her hand plays with the buttons on your shirt.
  6477. >The first one comes loose.
  6478. >"Wasn't it kind of him to bring you those?"
  6479. >The second.
  6480. >It's hard to speak.
  6481. >Your mouth moves, your tongue follows, but the words can't seem to put themselves in the right order.
  6482. "Y-yes. Thank you."
  6483. >They don't sound right.
  6484. >"My pleasure," he responds.
  6485. >Your bed tilts as he sits down beside you.
  6486. >"Imagine my surprise, seeing you again after... oh, how long has it been, Spoiled?"
  6487. >"At least a year."
  6488. >"At least a year," he parrots with a laugh. "I thought... well..."
  6489. >His hand is on your cheek.
  6490. >Touching you gently.
  6491. >Stroking down your neck.
  6492. >Tracing little circles on your collarbone.
  6493. >You can almost feel it.
  6494. >"I wasn't sure this little... 'arrangement' was still on."
  6495. >It's not.
  6496. >It never was.
  6497. >None of this is real.
  6498. >"Particularly when I saw that boy you were with today -"
  6499. >You can imagine his hand on your breast.
  6500. >You can almost feel the weight of it, the way it plays with your nipple, his finger continuing the same circular pattern as before.
  6501. >Your shirt and bra do nothing to dull the sensation of it running itself around your areola, but they wouldn't.
  6502. >Not when this isn't real.
  6503. >Not when this isn't happening.
  6504. >It never is.
  6505. >"- but I should have known better. I *thought* he looked a little young for your mother."
  6506. >"You *know* I rarely care about the men. All I care about is my little Diamond."
  6507. >The imaginary man laughs.
  6508. >"That's not very flattering, Spoiled."
  6509. >"It's not meant to be."
  6510. >If there's no evidence, then nothing happened.
  6511. >Same as your mother getting you and Sil out of trouble.
  6512. >Same as Sil paying off that doctor.
  6513. >No paperwork. No evidence. No proof.
  6514. >Nothing happened.
  6515. >Nothing ever happens.
  6516. >You repeat that over and over in your mind, a frantic mantra.
  6517. >"It's been a while," the imaginary man says soothingly. "Let's see how you've changed."
  6518. >Hands grab at your shirt and arms.
  6519. >You could fight back, but you don't, because none of this is happening.
  6520. >Your shirt is pulled off over your head.
  6521.  
  6522. >Your bra hits the floor.
  6523. >You don't know why you bother to wear one.
  6524. >Soarin had it off in seconds.
  6525. >Aren't boys supposed to have trouble with them or something?
  6526. >Isn't half its purpose to tease teenage boys?
  6527. >To make them wait?
  6528. >And here he is, getting past it quicker than you could.
  6529. >You giggle at how silly and unrealistic all of those dramas must be.
  6530. >Pure fiction.
  6531. >Soarin scoops you up in his arms, one around your shoulders, another under your knees.
  6532. >He eyes you hungrily.
  6533. >Your breasts, your waist, your -
  6534. >"You're still wearing your panties."
  6535. "Maybe you should fix that."
  6536. >It's cheesy.
  6537. >No, it's worse than cheesy.
  6538. >What you said is just *stupid*, but Soarin doesn't seem to mind.
  6539. >And as he lays you down on his bed and slowly - *far* too slowly - does as you ask, you find you don't mind either.
  6540. >In fact, it's forgotten before your panties reach your knees.
  6541. >"Oh," Soarin stares, wide eyed and eager. "You shaved."
  6542.  
  6543. >"Oh, you're shaved?"
  6544. >"*Finally*," a voice too like your mother's laughs. "I've been asking her to do that for *months*."
  6545. >Something about those voices makes you try to cover yourself up, but larger, stronger hands pull yours aside.
  6546. >"Why?"
  6547. >"Some of the others prefer it. They say it makes her look younger. But..."
  6548. >A sigh.
  6549. >A deep, resigned sigh.
  6550. >You briefly open your eyes.
  6551. >Briefly.
  6552. >The lights are too bright.
  6553. >You have a headache.
  6554. >"... I wasn't going to *make* her. It's her choice, right?"
  6555. >"I... suppose so."
  6556. >Another sigh.
  6557. >A happy one.
  6558. >"She certainly has grown into a beautiful girl."
  6559. >"Yes, yes she has."
  6560. >Imaginary fingers stroke your naked body.
  6561. >A nonexistant mouth nibbles gently on your neck.
  6562. >You can feel a warm breath on your body, so out of place with the cold current of the AC chilling the rest of you.
  6563. >You'd reach for a blanket, if it wasn't too much effort. Probably kicked them off the bed.
  6564. >Still, you grope around blindly, hoping to find *something.*
  6565. >You do.
  6566. >It doesn't feel like a blanket.
  6567. >A dull sense of curiousity opens your eyes again.
  6568. >A houserobe?
  6569. >You don't remember getting one out.
  6570. >"I'll just get that out of the way..."
  6571. >Slender hands pull it from yours.
  6572. >But -
  6573. >Oh -
  6574. "M'cold..."
  6575. >"Well?" your mother giggles. "Why don't you warm her up?
  6576. >You shouldn't have said what you said.
  6577. >She cares about you, in her own way.
  6578. >You just forget. Sometimes.
  6579. >Or maybe it's just too hard to remember anything beyond the now.
  6580. >And right now, she cares.
  6581. >"Gladly. Any... *limitations*?"
  6582. >"None. She's all yours."
  6583. >"Oh...? I take it you won't be joining us?"
  6584. >"No, I think I'll just watch."
  6585. >"Still the same Spoiled, eh?"
  6586. >"I suppose. I'm starting to think I should take a more active role in my daughter's sex life... but not tonight."
  6587. >Never. She never does.
  6588. >She never touches you. Not like this.
  6589. >"You haven't changed one bit, Spoiled. Not at all."
  6590. >Hands spread your legs apart.
  6591.  
  6592. >Soft moans make your eyes snap open.
  6593. >You hadn't realized they were yours, until Soarin's fingers work their way inside you again.
  6594. >"Careful," he leers, as if you could stop yourself. "We don't want anyone to hear."
  6595. "It's you're fault!"
  6596. >"Why would you say that?"
  6597. >He's got the stupidest grin on his face.
  6598. >You love this man.
  6599. "Because..."
  6600. >His hand holds perfectly still.
  6601. >Two fingers inside, one digit each.
  6602. >They glisten faintly in the dim light that seeps in through the window.
  6603. >Waiting. Holding still.
  6604. >Getting revenge for you teasing him earlier.
  6605. >At the mall.
  6606. >Disproportional punishment most extreme.
  6607. >You wiggle your hips, but it's not enough.
  6608. >It's not good enough.
  6609. "... because you're doing this...?"
  6610. >"But you want me to."
  6611. >His grin is wider.
  6612. >*Stupider*.
  6613. >He's *enjoying* this!
  6614. >*Enjoying* torturing you!
  6615. >So are you.
  6616. "Because... you're not kissing me?"
  6617.  
  6618. >Soft lips touch yours.
  6619. >You can feel another, harsher pair on your breast.
  6620. >You need new nightgowns.
  6621. >They're so rough.
  6622. >This is why you've been sleeping naked.
  6623. >Teeth bite into your nipple.
  6624. >You're not sure which one.
  6625. >There's too much going on.
  6626. >You can't follow any of it.
  6627. >Not that it matters.
  6628. >None of it is happening.
  6629. >Fingers probe at your cleft, others at your mouth.
  6630. >They're wet.
  6631. >The lips kissing you are gone.
  6632. >"Mmm, let me taste that."
  6633. >"I thought you were only going to watch?
  6634. >"I am, but..."
  6635. >There's a happy groan.
  6636. >You don't think it's you.
  6637. >Maybe the door.
  6638. >"I'll get out of your way now," a voice whispers. "Have fun, Diamond. I certainly will."
  6639. >There's a brief pause.
  6640. >You hear nothing.
  6641. >You feel nothing.
  6642. >You see nothing.
  6643. >And then there are hands on your legs, spreading them further apart.
  6644. >"Wait. Use a condom."
  6645.  
  6646. >"Wait."
  6647. >You don't want to wait.
  6648. >"Wait," Soarin repeats. "Let me get..."
  6649. >He smirks and grabs your leg.
  6650. >You don't fight - much - as he pulls it away, as he frees himself.
  6651. >"I'm just getting a condom, Silver."
  6652. "Why?"
  6653. >You know why.
  6654. >You know his reason.
  6655. >You think it's wrong.
  6656. >Unnecessary.
  6657. >"Do you really want to risk it?"
  6658. "What if I said I do?"
  6659. >"Well, I don't."
  6660. >Neither do you.
  6661. >You think.
  6662. >You're not sure.
  6663. >Or maybe you just don't care.
  6664. >You don't stop him, though.
  6665. >Neither do you help him, like last time.
  6666. >That was embarrassing.
  6667. >You had no idea what you were doing.
  6668. >Still don't.
  6669. >Instead, you simply... *enjoy* the view.
  6670. >Watch as he puts it on himself.
  6671. >Stare hungrily as he crawls back on top of you.
  6672. >Bite your lip as he teases you one last time.
  6673. >And then -
  6674.  
  6675. >The room starts to sway.
  6676. >You can feel it.
  6677. >You can see it.
  6678. >Your eyes are closed, but the shadows the ceiling light casts seem to jerk back and forth.
  6679. >Or maybe it's you.
  6680. >You feel sick.
  6681. >Nauseous.
  6682. >About to throw up.
  6683. >Everything jerks and sways and you reach for the light's chain, but your hands never reach it.
  6684. >It's too far.
  6685. >Your hands are too heavy, almost like something is holding them down.
  6686. >Almost like -
  6687. >It doesn't matter.
  6688. >It doesn't hurt.
  6689. >It doesn't *anything*.
  6690.  
  6691. >He's rough. Eager.
  6692. >So are you.
  6693. >That first night - that first time - the first *real* time...
  6694. >Not the night of the party, not in the parking lot outside the diner, but the first time you had *really* had sex with Soarin, you hadn't known what you were doing.
  6695. >You still don't, but you pretend.
  6696. >You know enough to do that.
  6697. >What makes him move faster.
  6698. >What makes your body moan uncontrollably.
  6699. >This time, you know enough - just barely enough - to take a more active role.
  6700. >To thrust with your hips.
  6701. >To pull him in deeper with your legs.
  6702. >He likes it.
  6703. >So do you.
  6704. >He's rough.
  6705. >So are you
  6706. >It hurts.
  6707. >You love it.
  6708. >You love him.
  6709.  
  6710. >You are Diamond Tiara and you don't want to get up.
  6711. >Fragmented nightmares haunt your mind.
  6712. >Your entire body is sore.
  6713. >If Sil was here... you never have the nightmares when she's with you.
  6714. >You roll over and hug your spare pillow tightly.
  6715. >*Her* pillow.
  6716. >It still smells of her. Always does.
  6717. >Her scent and her shampoo.
  6718. >You pull it firm against your body.
  6719. >You wish she was here.
  6720. >You wish you were holding her.
  6721. >You wish you could hear her breathing.
  6722. >Feel her body shrink and expand with every passing moment.
  6723. >You can almost imagine it.
  6724. >You can almost let yourself fall back to sleep.
  6725. >You squeeze the pillow.
  6726. >Run your hands along the smooth -
  6727. >The pillowcase ruffles under your palms.
  6728. >No.
  6729. >It's not right.
  6730. >This isn't her.
  6731. >Silver never wears pajamas.
  6732. >You never let her.
  6733. >It's for her own good.
  6734. >Grownups don't wear pajamas.
  6735. >You shove the pillow away and sit up.
  6736. >The sheets fall from your bare body, pooling in a satiny pile on your lap.
  6737. >That was a mistake.
  6738. >The morning air is freezing.
  6739. >You reach for your pills.
  6740. >You feel cold. Alone. Everything hurts.
  6741. >If you can't feel her, you don't want to feel anything.
  6742. >You can't find the bottle.
  6743. >Then you reach for your phone.
  6744. >Nothing.
  6745. >And then you remember you don't have either one.
  6746. >All you can find is a box of chocolate on your nightstand.
  6747. >Shit, AWFUL, chocolate.
  6748. >You sweep it off the stand.
  6749. >Chocolates scatter everywhere.
  6750. "Fuck..."
  6751. >This is all her fault.
  6752. >Everything.
  6753. >Hopefully she didn't steal all the shit out of your closet, too.
  6754. >Your feet don't seem to work right.
  6755. >It's harder to get to the closet than it should be, but your housecoat is still there.
  6756. >You pull it free of its hanger - and let it fall.
  6757. >T-shirt.
  6758. >Yeah.
  6759. >That's better.
  6760. >You kick at the robe - and miss.
  6761. >Fuck it.
  6762. >Later.
  6763. >You'll throw it away later.
  6764. >You don't like it anymore.
  6765. >You *hate* it.
  6766. >You always have.
  6767. >Your mom is waiting for you when you get downstairs. Waiting for you in the kitchen.
  6768. >Fuck her.
  6769. >You hate her, too.
  6770. >Always will.
  6771. >She doesn't have any right to smile at you like she fucking *cares*.
  6772. >She *doesn't*.
  6773. >Not after how she treats you.
  6774. >Nevermind.
  6775. >You aren't that hungry.
  6776. >"Wait, Diamond!"
  6777. "What."
  6778. >Is she going to pretend she loves you?
  6779. >That you're anything more to her than a toy to be paraded out for others?
  6780. >"That man you were with..."
  6781. >Of course not.
  6782. >There's no one else here. No one to act for, no one for her to play the loving parent.
  6783. >Fuck this.
  6784. "Who."
  6785. >You can't remember. Either the man or his name. You can't -
  6786. >"The one you were at the mall with. Who is he?"
  6787. >It's never about you.
  6788. >She never cares about you.
  6789. >Only when others are watching.
  6790. "Just some guy from school."
  6791. >"I think I'd like to speak with him."
Soarin Silver Spoon Diamond Tiara underage coercion

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.4

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.3

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.2

by blossomanon

Soarin's Silver Lining pt.1

by blossomanon