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Midnight [Part 4]

By Autopony
Created: 12th January 2022 12:19:26 PM
19th April 2022 11:06:45 AM

  1. > It's been a few days since your midnight heart-to-heart.
  2. >Honestly, things haven't changed too much.
  3. >Not to say that's a bad thing - quite the opposite, in fact.
  4. >But there really hasn't been any further discussions about it.
  5. >Though Midnight has occasionally used your shoulder or leg to rest her head.
  6. >And on one occasion, you fucked with her mane when she was being particularly fussy about something.
  7. >You got a glare for that one that could have cut through steel.
  8. >... she didn't yell or say anything, so maybe that's part of the game?
  9. >Nevertheless, you didn't want things to be turned upside down overnight, so the constants remain nice.
  10. >But the few changes are nice, such as waking up next to her.
  11. >Well, not *right* next to her.
  12. >That would just be weird, wouldn't it?
  13. >Her words, not yours.
  14. >Though wasn't that the point of the whole breakthrough?
  15. >Being closer?
  16. >Ah well.
  17. >Wait...
  18. >Midnight actually is next to you this morning.
  19. >What.
  20. >She's sprawled out on her side facing you, with one hoof laying on your arm.
  21. >You twist just enough to get a look at her face...
  22. >She's still soundly asleep.
  23. >God damn is she cute.
  24. >As soon as she wakes up, you know you'll hear an excuse for why this happened.
  25. >That's alright.
  26. >Being able to gaze upon her and marvel at her up close is worth it.
  27. >As much as she's been through and all the tests and experiments, she still looks gorgeous, with no hint that some of her features are synthetic.
  28. >But just her features she was born with...
  29. >How the hell did they get those colors?
  30. >As much as you enjoy looking into her eyes, her mane is quite something in itself.
  31. >After all, blue with violet streaks is not a particularly common hair color...
  32. >Well, other than crazy people.
  33. >You've only messed with it twice, and honestly, you could easily lose your hands in it without realizing it.
  34. >It's that silky smooth.
  35. >And she's got quite the bed head this morning.
  36. >The wildly mussed hair only makes the sight even more adorable.
  37. >Whether it be by chance or a slight movement you made, you spy Midnight's eyelids slowly fluttering open to let the morning light in.
  38. >Still somewhat glazed over with sleep, her eyes lazily peek around, before honing in on your own eyes.
  39. >At that point, they get a little wider.
  40. >"What are you doing?" she mumbles, trying to put a bit of gruff in her voice.
  41. >It falls rather flat.
  42. "Laying in my bed. What are you doing?"
  43. >"Wondering why you're laying so close to me."
  44. "I'm not, though."
  45. >"Bullshit you aren't," she says, retracting her hoof away from your arm and using it to poke you in the side.
  46. "Do I need to put down tape lines to mark boundaries and prove you wrong?"
  47. >Midnight raises her head sluggishly, looking over you to your side of the bed.
  48. >She has to straighten her body to gander behind to her own side of the bed.
  49. >Then her focus returns to you.
  50. >"What the fuck?"
  51. "Told you."
  52. >She scooches over to put space between the two of you again.
  53. "What, you're afraid I'm gonna bite now?" you joke. "You seemed content enough to be beside me while you were sleeping..."
  54. >"...I must have gotten a bit cold last night," she muses quietly.
  55. "Probably. It did get down to a chilly seventy degrees last night," you comment with a shit-eating grin crossing your face.
  56. >Midnight's face twists as you catch her out, while you practically hear the gears twirling in her head as she comes up with the next best excuse.
  57. >Yeah, not gonna happen.
  58. "You know I'm not judging you, right?"
  59. >"Why would you be judging me for a mere coincidence?" she suggests.
  60. "Midnight."
  61. >"What?"
  62. "Relax. Isn't shit like this the reason we talked a few nights ago?"
  63. >Midnight mulls that question for a moment while you take the opportunity to comb some of her mane with your fingers.
  64. >Initially, she tenses up at your gesture...
  65. >But the hesitance fades quickly enough.
  66. >"I don't like feeling... weak," she says slowly.
  67. >You have to hold yourself back from scoffing at that, reminding yourself this is a genuine issue for her.
  68. >Even after months, she's fighting with the idea of letting someone else in.
  69. >Rather than reply with some sort of inane comment about understanding, you continue your ministrations with her hair.
  70. >"What time is it, anyway?" she asks after a short spell.
  71. "Early enough to not worry about getting up yet. Just think, another week or two, and our focus is spending the day pulling parts, rather than stand around."
  72. >"How will you cope with having to actually work all day?"
  73. "You're right - you might have to do most of it," you jokingly threaten.
  74. >"I figured you were going to answer with something like that."
  75. "Hey, I'm just doing my part."
  76. >"Oh, being my personal hairdresser?" Midnight quips, finally alluding to your fascination.
  77. "You got it all fucked up, Middie," you say, sarcastically scolding her. "Were you just rolling around on the bed all night? Is that why I woke up before you did?"
  78. >"Yeah, well..." Midnight trails off, trying to think of a comeback.
  79. >Or anything in response.
  80. "Remember what you told me about how you overthink things and it ends up riling you up?"
  81. >"...I need to stop rationalizing everything."
  82. "Yep."
  83. >While she answered the question for herself, Midnight's face still scrunches up in mild irritation.
  84. >"I don't think you realize how difficult that is for me."
  85. "I have a vague idea. But when it comes down to it, what's really bad about this? What are you trying to rationalize?"
  86. >You feel the mattress shift underneath you just a bit as Midnight merely offers a shrug to you.
  87. "Don't be coy. I'm trying to help you."
  88. >"Playing twenty questions is your way of helping me?" she responds, raising an eyebrow.
  89. >You stop fiddling with her hair, pulling your hand back far enough to hone in on her snout, booping her right between the nostrils.
  90. >She snorts and recoils a bit at that.
  91. >"Hey!"
  92. "I'm trying to help us both understand why you're so... well, uptight."
  93. >"You want me to be your concubine?" Midnight retorts, an edge to her voice.
  94. "No. I want you to not be so adamant in keeping to yourself. Lean on me - metaphorically and literally."
  95. >"Ugh, you keep pushing that," she grumbles, rolling her eyes as she pushes away from you a bit.
  96. "I am. But I'm curious - do you feel better or worse about life since the day we first met?"
  97. >"Do I even need to answer that?"
  98. "No, but that proves my point, doesn't it?"
  99. >Silence.
  100. >Midnight studies you for a moment, before shuffling back to a position closer to you.
  101. >"I hate you," she mutters.
  102. >You can practically feel the heat radiating from her face as she blushes underneath that midnight blue fur.
  103. >Rather than respond with a snappy comment, you reach over her form with your left arm and gingerly rest it upon her side, your hand itself finding an area of her back between her wings to tend.
  104. "I know you do."
  105. >"...you don't take me seriously anymore, do you?"
  106. "I do. But I refuse to hate you."
  107. >"I meant my threats."
  108. "Oh. Not really, no."
  109. >"I feel like you're making me lose my edge."
  110. >There it is.
  111. >The pinch of worry in her voice combined with the frown of uncertainty chiseled into her muzzle makes it clear this is a major sticking point for her.
  112. "Midnight, you know we've been around each other for a while now, right?"
  113. >"Yeah, I can't get rid of your clingy ass. I don't want you rubbing off on me."
  114. "I'm serious, Midnight."
  115. >Midnight shuts down any other remarks she has in store.
  116. "Midnight, I've been around you long enough to feel comfortable around you. So no, I don't have this fear you're going to harm me or you're dangerous because I know you give a shit about my well-being, as I care about yours. But that's me we are talking about - you scared the shit out of that stoner a few days ago."
  117. >She doesn't seem particularly convinced by what you've told her thus far, but she remains quiet, sensing you aren't done explaining.
  118. "Midnight, you don't need to act like a hardass all the time. I understand that's how you've managed to come this far to where you are now, but... well, is that all you want out of life? An image?"
  119. >"You really know how to say that in a demeaning and shallow way," she huffs.
  120. "All I'm saying is I know you well and you know me. There's no shame in letting that tough mare relax a bit in private. While I realize that night we went out you got drunk, it let another side of you come out that I've never seen. The macho mare is still renowned in the public eye and as much as I love the snappy back-and-forth interactions we have, I want to get to know the mare behind that. Does that make sense?"
  121. >"...maybe."
  122. >As she agrees with your reasoning, you feel the taut muscles in her back practically melt away.
  123. "Consider this a new chapter in your life, Middie. You got a home, you got someone to talk to and cares - you don't have to fight 24/7. Just like how I can act like a retard, I can be serious and display a fair amount of intelligence. I'm still the same person, just different facets of me and different moods for different situations. You said you couldn't deny that what you said that night - what about how you acted? All alcohol does is wash away inhibitions, Middie."
  124. >"You can act retarded and you can be serious, but I'm going to call bullshit on the last one," she remarks with a smirk.
  125. >While you would normally go along with it, this conversation has become heavy for you.
  126. >You bite your tongue, keeping a stoic face to show this conversation is serious business.
  127. >You don't want her hiding behind shallow jokes to avoid this.
  128. >You want to see her be able to relax.
  129. >To have fun.
  130. >To feel love.
  131. >"I'm not going to just sit back and be this happy-go-lucky bubbly mare, either," she warns before her hardened face softens up a bit. "But I don't know. I do have more than I expected to have at any point in my life. It's an actual life now, not just... living. But it's hard to just... let go of that mindset too, you know?"
  132. "You'll get there. I'm not asking you to change yourself. I'm trying to help you find yourself," you explain, moving your hand back to her hair. "The fact that you're willing to acknowledge what I'm saying means a lot."
  133. >"Maybe you aren't as stupid as you seem sometimes," she says quietly. "But now what? Are we gonna get up, or just lay here all morning?"
  134. "We can get up. You're gonna have to pull me up, though."
  135. >"I gotta do everything around here."
  136. "Because you're good at getting shit done."
  137. >"I suppose you're good at being a sap."
  138. "And someday, you'll learn to be sappy, too."
  139. >"I think you just need to stop talking now."
  140. >Interesting...
  141. >That wasn't a no.
  142. >For now, you enjoy this morning's small victory.
  143.  
  144.  
  145.  
  146.  
  147.  
  148. >"Done."
  149. "Done?"
  150. >"Done."
  151. "As in..."
  152. >"Finished. Completed one hundred percent, ready for your viewing and use."
  153. >Midnight plops the laptop onto your lap, already on the spreadsheet screen.
  154. >After weeks of fiddling with layouts, entering in information, and piecing everything together, Midnight has finished compiling all the cars your yard has, and where they are in the yard in one neat file.
  155. >And holy shit, is it a piece of work.
  156. >You haven't gotten to see much of what she was doing, as Midnight was dead determined to keep her work under wraps until the very end.
  157. >Sure, you managed a few glances - but it seemed like it was always an inopportune time.
  158. >Usually you were greeted by a page of gibberish or a wall of text - or at least that was all you could make out.
  159. >But as you hover the cursor over various squares, another window pops up with information on what car is located there, along with VIN and other information.
  160. > It's one thing to hear about this being planned out in words.
  161. >But to actually see it is astounding.
  162. >You can say that you know your own junkyard by the back of your hand - but this will make sure that what you say is back there really is available for parts.
  163. "Midnight, this is amazing."
  164. >"Oh, I know," she replies in an attempt to reclaim her arrogant, nonchalant visage.
  165. >It doesn't work, as she is turning almost violet with how deeply she is blushing.
  166. "I'm serious, Middie. I could have finger-fucked this keyboard for two years straight and still wouldn't have come up with anything like this. Take the compliment - you did a hell of a job."
  167. >"I appreciate it. That was a lot of learning as I progressed with the whole spreadsheet. You probably could have done it - give or take ten years."
  168. "Give me more credit than that, damn."
  169. >"Anon, you're technologically retarded. That's the cold hard facts."
  170. >Well, you can't really argue with that.
  171. >But you also don't really put forth an effort when it comes to shit with computers, either.
  172. "You're feeling savage tonight, huh?"
  173. >"I haven't really roasted you in a while. I have to make up for that, don't I?" she says with a devious grin.
  174. "I can kick you out of my bed if you hurt my feelings too much."
  175. >That cocky grin fades quickly as she narrows her eyes.
  176. >"You wouldn't."
  177. "I dunno, you can keep trying your luck..."
  178. >"You don't have feelings anyway."
  179. "Well, no - feelings are gay. But if I did, and you hurt them, then I'd kick you out."
  180. >"Interesting way to save face," she comments, laying down up against you.
  181. "Kinda like you insulting me before snuggling up close to me, huh?"
  182. >"Shut up."
  183. "I thought so."
  184. >"You wanted this, didn't you?" she asks in a wry manner.
  185. "It's still fun to point out and make you squirm," you say, petting her side. "I'm surprised you took the plunge this deep already."
  186. >"I'm not going to say no to a servant dedicated to keeping me happy."
  187. "Oh, in that case..."
  188. >You pull your hand away from her coat and set it on your lap.
  189. >"Fucker."
  190. "Life's tough."
  191. >Midnight shifts around on the couch, laying on her belly now.
  192. "You know, we should try to do something more than our own separate things in the evening."
  193. >"What do you mean?"
  194. "Like how I'm usually flipping through the channels on the tube or fiddling with my phone, while your eyes are glued to that computer screen," you explain, gesturing to each piece of technology.
  195. >"Okay, humor me - what do you have in mind?" she inquires, her attention piqued.
  196. >Shit.
  197. >Maybe suggesting that now wasn't the best idea.
  198. >You actually don't have any ideas...
  199. >"You don't have any ideas, do you?"
  200. "I do, I'm just thinking which one would be best to offer up first."
  201. >"Holy shit, do you think I'm retarded enough to believe that lie?"
  202. "Miracles happen," you say with a shrug and a sheepish grin.
  203. >Midnight possesses a distinct lack of enthusiasm with your answer.
  204. >"You could have just said that you were open to suggestions."
  205. "Well, I *am* open to suggestions."
  206. >"Alright... what do people normally do?"
  207. "I dunno... cards maybe? I mean, I don't know how to play, but we could probably figure it out. Maybe board games or something?"
  208. >Neither option really connects with Midnight, who looks at you with skepticism.
  209. >"Honestly, what's wrong with what we're doing now? It isn't like we're ignoring each other - we're just... we're just living in harmony, aren't we? And then at some point, you or I find something to mention and discuss or bicker about like children."
  210. "There's nothing wrong with it. I just feel like sometimes, we're just sorta..."
  211. >Midnight places a hoof upon your leg.
  212. >"You need to stop thinking - it isn't your strong suit," she says in a slightly smarmy tone.
  213. "Fine," you say, crossing your arms and pouting in an exaggerated fashion.
  214. >"Very attractive look there, Anon."
  215. "Aw, thanks."
  216. >Midnight snatches up her laptop again, sitting up and positioning herself so she is side by side with you.
  217. >"This better? A more togetherness feeling?" she asks, laying her head on your shoulder.
  218. >Her hair splays out over your right side, making you acutely aware of how easily she could entangle you in it.
  219. "I feel like I have a mop hanging on my shoulder now," you joke.
  220. >For your efforts, you get a light blow from a hoof on your leg, dangerously close to your no-no square.
  221. "It was a little funny."
  222. >"Not really."
  223. "I thought it was funny."
  224. >"You have poor taste in humor, among many other things."
  225. "What about in ponies?"
  226. >"... that's one of your few bright spots. You have impeccable taste in that category."
  227. "I'll agree with that," you reply with a chuckle, throwing an arm around her.
  228. >She's become more used to that gesture as you've done it more and more.
  229. >You don't feel her tense up for even a moment.
  230. "We could always have a small fire out back on a cooler evening. That might be nice."
  231. >"Why?" she asks.
  232. >It's not a disappointed or skeptical question - her voice makes it clear this idea and the reasoning are completely foreign to her.
  233. "Honestly, it's something that is hard to put into words," you admit. "There's just something being around a fire ring with others, listening to the crackle and the smell, the warmth it gives off... I'll see if I can't get some firewood to burn, we're going to do that one of these nights. Maybe try to cook on it, too - definitely brings a different flavor out that the stovetop or gas grill won't do."
  234. >"Alright. I'm game for that, I suppose."
  235. "I'll just need to get a bare rim from out back, that way I'm not burning the whole junkyard down."
  236. >"What, afraid that sand is flammable?"
  237. "With the number of crapwagons that have been hauled in and out of here and the leaks they possess, I wouldn't be totally shocked, Middie."
  238. >She clearly didn't expect that answer, but nods regardless.
  239. "Maybe someday we'll do a double date with Teddy and Starla."
  240. >"Okay, *now* you're getting too far ahead of yourself," Midnight scolds.
  241. "I said someday, not tomorrow," you reiterate. "Though it's good to know you're not opposed to actively dating in the public eye."
  242. >You are teasing her.
  243. >Sort of.
  244. >"We're testing the waters right now. You're also testing your luck."
  245. "Maybe," you say, reaching over with your left hand and ruffling her hair up even more than it already is at this point. "But it's fun seeing you all worked up, little wisps of steam coming out of your ears..."
  246. >"Oh, shut up," she says quietly, doing her best to hide her head from you while she undoubtedly fights off embarrassment.
  247. > It's funny to see her like this.
  248. >"You know, if you're looking for shit that we can both do together, you still haven't really considered my suggestion from before."
  249. "Midnight, it's very early in this relationship to be thinking about the horizontal bop."
  250. >"What?" she asks, confused enough to raise her head off of your shoulder and flip her hair back to look at you.
  251. >You really don't want to explain that one to her...
  252. "Nothing. What were you talking about?" you ask innocently.
  253. >She keeps silent for a spell, her eyes practically piercing through you as if searching for a proper answer.
  254. "Pictures last longer, you know."
  255. >"How do you know I can't do that with these?" she asks with a smirk.
  256. >Her sky blue eyes that always subtly glow seem to get just a bit brighter after that statement.
  257. >...you don't know if that's a joke or not.
  258. >Even after all this time, you don't know what she's capable of doing.
  259. "Can you actually do that?"
  260. >"No, but I at least made you ask like a dumbass. Anyway, I'm talking about building a car. Kinda like Teddy's, you know?"
  261. "I remember you mentioning that before... would you really want to work on that after a day of pulling parts?"
  262. >"I don't see why not. It's just a suggestion."
  263. "Shit costs money, too. You really want to spend that on a shitbox after only recently making a profit?"
  264. >That inquiry oddly elicits a smile from Midnight.
  265. >"Well look at you being responsible and thinking fiscally," she gushes. "But you know, there's plenty of cars to pull out of the yard..."
  266. "Maybe. But that reminds me, you wanted to go to a car show at some point. We ought to do that soon."
  267. >Her eyes light up at that - in the figurative sense this time.
  268. >"Yeah? Know of any shows soon?"
  269. "Small ones, which are probably best suited for us. I know Sunday morning once a month, there's a little gathering at a coffee shop in town. Want to go to that next time?"
  270. >"Trust me to be well behaved?"
  271. "Just don't bite anyone, I think you'll be good. Maybe a bit of alcohol will help you out."
  272. >"Yeah, let's not bother with that last suggestion," she says, sticking her tongue out in disgust.
  273. "Fiiiine. Gonna have to do it sooner or later, so I can hear that singing voice draw me in like a siren again."
  274. >With a smirk and a blush, Midnight lightly bodychecks you.
  275. >"How about we just do our normal thing tonight. I'll even let you share my laptop."
  276. "You mean my laptop?"
  277. >"Same thing."
  278. >One again, Midnight rests her head upon your shoulder, while the computer screen scrolls under the work of Midnight's 'magic.'
  279. >This is a situation miles beyond anything you could have anticipated months ago.
  280. >But for whatever reason, fate has led you down this path.
  281. >And with Middie's receptiveness, you're more than happy to cruise the path laid before you.
  282.  
  283.  
  284.  
  285.  
  286.  
  287. "Well, it looks like a decent turnout."
  288. >That was your best attempt at being optimistic as you turn into a parking spot in the lot behind the local coffee joint.
  289. >Now, to be fair, you only got a cursory glance of the attendees as you drove past, deciding to park elsewhere rather than deal with what would be a frustrating exit when it came time to leave.
  290. >But what you saw was not what you had really hoped.
  291. >It was more newer cars than anything - and of those, there were more than a few rice rockets.
  292. >You don't hate em, but after the second or third Civic with a poorly fitted body kit... yeah, it gets old.
  293. >Dorito-powered Mazdas are pretty damn cool though.
  294. >Perhaps a tad bit fragile, and oil-thirsty...
  295. >Okay, maybe a better toy than anything.
  296. >But that sound.
  297. >Nonetheless, you had decided this Sunday morning, you and Middie would head out and take a gander at what the local cars and coffee gathering had to show off.
  298. >As you look over at your passenger, her face betrays a fair amount of disappointment as she scans your destination.
  299. "Too far for you to walk, huh?"
  300. >"Wow, I forgot how funny you were," she drones before shaking her head. "I guess I was expecting something - this is a little underwhelming."
  301. "Yeah, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it is what it is. Shall we?"
  302. >Midnight hops out of her side, joining you as you circle around the front of the Trailduster.
  303. >It's a decent enough day - a little cloudy and a little on the cool side, but nothing extreme.
  304. >The slight breeze is enough to carry the murmurs of idle conversation to the pair of you as you make your way across the worn, cracked pavement of the old parking lot.
  305. >There's at least a few older cars here.
  306. >You don't recognize them from past customers of shows, though.
  307. >Then again, it has been years since the last time you had visited a car show.
  308. >Many times, you never see the car in question that is needing parts.
  309. >But, the first car at the back of the coffee shop lot isn't something you would be providing parts for anyway.
  310. >"What the hell is that thing?" Midnight mutters quietly to you.
  311. "I think it *was* a Hyundai Tiburon," you reply, noting - as expected from this kind of car - the piss-poor fitting of the body kit.
  312. >"It looks... why the hell are the wheels so tucked back in the wheel wells?"
  313. "Needs wheel spacers. Or better yet, not a body kit on the lower half."
  314. >At least the whole car is painted in a decent coat of silver metallic.
  315. >But if they hadn't bothered with purchasing and installing wheel spacers, it's likely this thing is all show and no go.
  316. >You move on to something more palatable.
  317. >Fortunately, there's an old stalwart in banana yellow nearby.
  318. >Sure, it's malaise-era, meaning it likely has little than two hundred horses under the hood if it's stock...
  319. >But what possesses the presence of a '70s Corvette C3?
  320. >"Smogger 'Vette?"
  321. >You look over at Midnight, impressed with the callout.
  322. "Yeah, how did you know?"
  323. >"How did *you* know?" she answers back, her lips pursed into a tight, sly grin.
  324. "Front and rear bumpers are body-colored and extended outward to cover up the five-mile-per-hour bumper bullshit the government forced on everyone."
  325. >"Funny, that was the telltale sign for me."
  326. "I guess I should have expected you to know with all the reading you do - but I certainly didn't expect you to know that offhanded term for this era."
  327. >"I saw it a couple of times - not a bad look, though."
  328. "I always thought they looked good - certainly one of the best integrations of the new bumpers in any car of that era. I've heard the build quality on some of em were horrendous though - certainly not something you would expect from an expensive homegrown sports car."
  329. >"Well, they gave us the Vega and the Citation, as you so eloquently pointed out once," she reminds you.
  330. "Hm. Point taken. Still, I wouldn't mind owning one. Obviously, it's easy to tune these things to a performance level at or beyond anything that was available during the golden age. And aside from the possible leaks they could have, the T-top is nice."
  331. >"Oh, are you trying to sell me on this for a project car?" she asks, smirking with a raised eyebrow.
  332. "Nope, just making small talk."
  333. >As you walk along, there are only a few passing glances from other attendees.
  334. >Midnight is too busy looking at the steel on display to care.
  335. >Or maybe she really doesn't mind.
  336. >Doesn't matter too much either way, really.
  337. >"That's.... something," Midnight comments, pointing a hoof just a few cars ahead.
  338. >The deep magenta color certainly stands out in a crowd - even amongst this hot-hued group.
  339. >Or maybe it's the body...
  340. >Midnight leads the way as you pass a couple of third and fourth-gen Camaros.
  341. "Ah yes, the forgotten orphans of the American auto scene - AMC."
  342. >"Now that you mention that, I think I remember seeing this now... Javelin?"
  343. "Yep."
  344. >Both you and Midnight come to a stop before crossing in front of it, getting a better view of the side as well as the front end.
  345. "Second-gen, '71 to '74 I know that much. Not an AMX - those all had the same grille through those years."
  346. >"And the fenders are normal?"
  347. >It is pretty hard to miss those massive humps on the front fenders...
  348. "Makes it easier to fit massive race tires for Trans-Am racing. There was a lot about this car that was made or designed with racing in mind. Actually pretty neat cars, when you take a closer look."
  349. >"Definitely out of the ordinary."
  350. >You let out another bit of laughter.
  351. "I don't know how true it is, but I also heard that when they were designing that generation, the look the designers were going for was the winner of a wet t-shirt contest."
  352. >Midnight turns to look at you, then back at the car, before once again locking eyes with you.
  353. >Utterly lost.
  354. "I'll explain when you're older."
  355. >"Hey, I'm..."
  356. >Midnight pauses, thinking as her gaze falls to the pavement momentarily.
  357. >"I'm an adult, I know that much."
  358. "As if I'm going to just trust the word of someone trying to convince me they aren't underage."
  359. >"Wait..."
  360. >Midnight looks at the Javelin one more time.
  361. >"I get it now. Fucking horny bastard," she mutters, shaking her head.
  362. "Hey, don't shoot the messenger."
  363. > There are a few more imports ahead of you in the line, and sadly, not many more cars to go after that.
  364. "I hope you aren't too disappointed with this morning's turnout. I really expected something decent out of it."
  365. >"You act like it's your fault. Stop that," Midnight scolds you.
  366. "No, I just said we were going to a car show and-"
  367. >"-and that's where we are, isn't it? It's not a big deal - at least it gets me used to being around other people without being overwhelmed."
  368. "So you are still a little leery being out in public? I didn't notice."
  369. >Midnight shrugs as she winces just a bit.
  370. >"I wouldn't really use that term," she says hesitantly. "I'm aware that there are people here, more than normal - such as that restaurant when you got me drunk."
  371. "I bet you will never down a glass of water that's served to you again," you tease her.
  372. >"Sure as hell gonna be more careful," she says before stopping at a red convertible. "That's a nice car."
  373. >You can't help but chuckle at her eye being caught by this one.
  374. "Is it because of the horse badge?" you joke, pointing to the emblem in the grille.
  375. >"Shut the fuck up," she sharply replies. "What's wrong with the first generation of Mustang?"
  376. "Nothing, just giving you shit," you say, easing up a bit. "It's why pony cars are called pony cars. That Javelin was part of the class. Funny thing is, the Barracuda came before the Mustang - it just wasn't attractive or popular."
  377. >"I'm going to admit, when I first heard the term 'pony car,' I was expecting... something else."
  378. >As much as you try, you can't help but smirk in amusement.
  379. "Pictured a car specifically for ponies like yourself to drive around in?"
  380. >"Maybe."
  381. "So yes."
  382. >"Fuck you."
  383. >You run your hand backward through Middie's hair, from back to front in a swift motion.
  384. >It leaves the violet-highlighted blue sea a wild mess atop her head.
  385. >Midnight nips at your arm, though mindful of the real damage she could deal to you.
  386. >"Fix it," she demands, her face mirroring her almost pouting voice, even as you feel one of her wings whap you on the back.
  387. >You're more than happy to do that though - and you do so, giving you an opportunity to pet her without risk of making her conscious of being in public.
  388. "How do you know I didn't make it worse?" you propose in a jestful tone.
  389. >"You would be giggling like a retard in a room full of bouncy balls," she replies.
  390. >Well, she's probably not wrong...
  391. >"Why does that truck look like the suspension is fucked up?"
  392. >This time, Midnight uses her wing to point out the lifted white Chevy truck.
  393. >Well, lifted in the front.
  394. >Fucking Carolina squat.
  395. "That's a trend among the yee-yee fucktards that feel the need to stand out, I guess. It's great if you don't want to see what's directly in front of you."
  396. >"It looks like a dog trying to take a shit."
  397. "Yeah. How ironic that it is a turd."
  398. >Midnight snorts but quickly silences herself as you both walk past the truck, whose owner stands beside it in a tanktop.
  399. >Other than a set of godawful chrome wheels, there have been no other sins committed upon the truck externally.
  400. >"Honestly, I'd take that first car over that monstrosity any day of the week," Midnight mumbles once out of range.
  401. "You and me both. Shows like these are a mixed bag - you get good stuff, meh stuff, and straight-up what-the-fuckery."
  402. >"I see this now. I suppose having learned basically nothing other than vintage American cars, I prefer looking at them."
  403. "It is nice to have variety, though," you reply. "There are other things I wouldn't mind owning that don't fit in the vintage American category. You should try expanding a little bit for shits and giggles."
  404. >"I might. Just please tell me you don't want me looking at stupid trends like that."
  405. "Middie, if you start liking trucks like that, I will beat the stupid out of you."
  406. >"Deal."
  407. >You scratch your head, ogling the last few cars left.
  408. "Well, after those, did you want to head inside and maybe get a little something to eat?" you ask. "They have phenomenal doughnuts."
  409. >"What are those?" she asks, cocking her head.
  410. >You gasp in an exaggerated fashion, putting your hand over your mouth in shock.
  411. "Well, that settles it. Come along, you poor deprived thing."
  412. >"Only if you promise to never act that gay again."
  413. "I make no promises."
  414.  
  415.  
  416.  
  417.  
  418.  
  419. >"Well this looks like some seriously primitive shit."
  420. "Maybe an open mind will help with your perception?"
  421. >"I never said I hated it."
  422. >You poke at the firepit that sits in front of you with a scrap length of rusted steel, moving the crackling wood chunks around to perk up the flames a bit.
  423. >It isn't really that cold out, but as the sun sets, the warmth and light the fire provides is a welcome comfort.
  424. >It may not be particularly classy, considering the wood is arranged in a battered and weathered steel truck rim, which was a fortunate find over a tiny fourteen-inch car steelie.
  425. >As well as a worn and torn vinyl bench seat from a Biscayne to serve as a shared lawn chair for you and Midnight.
  426. >"I don't hate this, by the way," Midnight clarifies. "I just didn't know what to say."
  427. "I know, you don't have to apologize," you reassure her. "We aren't fancy around here - otherwise, we wouldn't even be outside."
  428. >"Well, sort of like old times for me," Midnight says, a bit of a laugh following the comment.
  429. >It's a rather strained laugh, though.
  430. >Of course, Midnight spent quite some time roughing it out in the junkyard before you found her.
  431. "It doesn't bring up bad memories, does it?"
  432. >"Hm?"
  433. "The early days? Living out here?"
  434. >"Oh - no, not really," she replies, waving a hoof. "You have to remember, other than the fear of getting caught, this was like paradise compared to the lab. Sure, I was provided for in there, climate control, all that... but there was no free will. It was just asking how high to jump when instructed, so to speak."
  435. >Midnight looks beyond the rows of cars, to the horizon where the sun is barely hanging on.
  436. >"I never saw the 'outside' until I was dumped here," she mumbles. "We had sunrises, sunsets, and night - but nothing like reality."
  437. "That something that really can't be replicated."
  438. >"They really didn't try. Of course, everyone was complacent, took it all at face value. I probably did before they started fucking with my head. After that - I guess I just saw through the whole charade. I don't know how, but I could just tell everything was... artificial."
  439. >She turns back to look at you.
  440. >"Getting away from what this is supposed to be about though, aren't we?"
  441. >You can't help but shrug.
  442. "There's not really a right or wrong way to enjoy a campfire, Middie. You don't seem upset discussing this."
  443. >"No, not really," she says, shaking her head. "I feel like I've been able to sort it out. I'm not just blindly angered or upset by what I've been through. Ive dealt with it, I guess."
  444. >You toss another chunk of wood on the fire, watching as the flames hungrily envelop the newest morsel.
  445. >"I thought you said you were going to try cooking over a fire - what happened to that idea?"
  446. "Laziness. Also, this is a really short fire ring - I would want something that I don't have to practically get on my knees to flip and check how food is cooking."
  447. >"You could have stopped at laziness."
  448. "That doesn't mean I won't ever do it - just not with this setup," you say, leaning over and booping her on the nose.
  449. >As usual, she playfully gnashes at the presence of your finger as it departs.
  450. >"So you basically need to come up with something that sits higher."
  451. "That would be ideal," you say with a nod. "Heck, I could probably stack a couple of rims on top of one another and tack weld em. I bet that would work well enough, assuming I can find some more of these. Probably have more somewhere..."
  452. >"That wasn't hard, now was it?" she chides with a smirk.
  453. "You have no idea. Took all three of my brain cells lining up and connecting together in a short circuit to do that."
  454. >"Careful, that's actually a believable story."
  455. >From there, things fall quiet for a bit.
  456. >Only the snap and pop of the fire and the distant sound of a passing car out front dares to intrude.
  457. >"What is the... end goal? With me, I mean."
  458. "I don't follow," you respond, turning to her.
  459. >Midnight has shrunk herself down just a bit, apparently feeling a bit exposed.
  460. >"Well, I don't really understand this whole - you and me. A relationship, I suppose. What is the end goal?"
  461. >That's a...
  462. >Hell, how do you even answer that?
  463. >You're stumped.
  464. >Midnight seems to sense your befuddlement.
  465. >"That might just be the 'electronic' side of my brain, but I feel this nagging sense of what it all means. In an objective, black and white sense. You have to understand, I've never had anything like this."
  466. "I get it, Midnight," you say, hooking your arm around her and pulling her up next to you.
  467. >She's surprisingly yielding tonight.
  468. "I guess I don't have an answer to that. Relationships are... they're just a closer friendship, I suppose? Don't get me wrong, I don't have much experience, and it's been some time since my last attempt. But I like being around you, and you seem to be a bit more tolerable of me. So stuff like this, just talking, being close, enjoying each other's company... I guess that's what it's about."
  469. >You look over at her.
  470. >Midnight's scrunched face tells you she's hesitant to reply.
  471. "That wasn't very much help, was it?"
  472. >"Maybe a little bit."
  473. "You could have just said no."
  474. >"You tried, though."
  475. "And now you're worried about my feelings? What are you, gay?"
  476. >Midnight pokes you in the ribs with her hoof.
  477. "Ow," you announce monotonously.
  478. >"Puss."
  479. >She leans her weight onto you, sighing contently.
  480. "You know, for someone so full of hellfire and rage when we first met, you can be surprisingly mellow when you want to be. It's nice to see."
  481. >"You can actually be pleasant to be around sometimes when you stop trying to be funny all the time."
  482. "Or picking at you for my own amusement."
  483. >"That too."
  484. "I suppose life is a work in progress. Never fully completed. To be fair, I didn't really know how to act around you. You didn't want much to do with me, and the only way I felt I could dispel the tension was by being a purposeful dumbass. And you are kind of cute when you're spitting fire."
  485. >"Cute, huh? You didn't seem to think so the first time you made me mad."
  486. "...okay, so you can be a little frightening."
  487. >Midnight gets a snicker from that.
  488. >"I'm starting to understand the 'relaxing' thing more. It's easier when you don't have to worry about your situation or planning far into the future."
  489. >You understand the first part.
  490. >The second is... murky.
  491. "Planning? You mean getting the junkyard to make a profit?"
  492. >Midnight remains mum, her eyes focused on the fire as it glows, the only light afforded now that the sun has completely vanished.
  493. >Maybe there's something more.
  494. "You good?"
  495. >"I really did see you as nothing more than a means to an end at one time, Anon," she says, sounding rather bitter.
  496. "I know."
  497. >"That's why I started trying to learn about cars - well, part of the reason. I really do like reading, and that's what was available," she says, turning her head back to you. "I knew I couldn't hide out forever."
  498. >Holy shit.
  499. "So, you meant for me to find you?"
  500. >"Maybe earlier than I wanted - but yeah. I knew I was going to have to be useful to someone in order to have a chance at staying under the radar. It was either make some sort of connection here or risk trying to find somewhere else to hide."
  501. "And you took a chance on me."
  502. >"I took a chance on you."
  503. >With no warning, Midnight quickly leans back and toward you at an angle, planting a light kiss on your cheek that you would have missed had you blinked.
  504. >But you didn't.
  505. >As if ashamed or unsure of her actions, her ears pin back as her gaze goes straight into the flames once again.
  506. >Well that was...
  507. >Unexpected.
  508. >That's all your mind can come up with right now.
  509. >Nothing in your brain wants to connect to say, do, think...
  510. >That was a thing.
  511. >A very surprising thing.
  512. >"Sorry," Midnight mumbles.
  513. > It's clear she's wondering if she actually did something wrong.
  514. >You dumbass.
  515. >Do something.
  516. >The only thing you can think of is to lean toward her.
  517. >Kiss the mare.
  518. >As you get closer to her, Midnight's eyes dart to you, spying the movement out of the corner of her eye.
  519. >She turns to face you head-on, her face stained with uncertainty.
  520. "Hi."
  521. >That was the first thing that came to mind?
  522. >Holy shit, dude...
  523. >"Hi," she repeats back quietly.
  524. >Yet somehow, that simple awkward exchange is enough.
  525. >Midnight meets you in the middle, this time sure of herself as you and her gently lock lips.
  526. >There's no aggression.
  527. >No heated, lustful passion behind it.
  528. >It's an overwhelming sense of unity.
  529. >You both took a chance upon each other.
  530. >You both needed each other, without realizing it.
  531. >In many ways.
  532. >Even despite lamenting the initial situation and arrangements.
  533. >Somehow...
  534. >It's all led here.
  535. >Already having one arm around her back, you sling the other one around her and fully embrace her.
  536. >Likewise, you feel her forelegs fumble around your midriff before finding a suitable location.
  537. >Even her wings are eager to join in the hug as the feathers brush past and nestle up over your back.
  538. >As she backs up a bit, you feel another exhale of content tickle your face, as the serene smile that greets your vision is a wonderful sight.
  539. >"Thanks for giving me a shot, Anon."
  540. "Likewise, Middie."
  541. >Neither of you is ready to let go of each other.
  542. >After all, it can get cold at night in the desert...
  543.  
  544.  
  545.  
  546.  
  547.  
  548. >Before any of your senses become aware of anything else, you feel something prodding at your back.
  549. >It takes a lot of effort just to reach back with your arm and shoo away whatever is trying to disturb you.
  550. >"Get up, you lazy shit," you hear Midnight mumble quietly.
  551. "No."
  552. >The intruding limb returns, this time between your shoulder blades for a few seconds.
  553. >Still too slow to catch it - not to mention in an awkward position to reach.
  554. "Twenty more minutes."
  555. >"You said 'five more minutes' about ten minutes ago."
  556. "Changed my mind. Goodnight."
  557. >This time, you feel Midnight's hoof on the back of your head.
  558. >Gentle, but firmly goading you to get out of bed.
  559. >With no warning, you whip around to face her.
  560. >Midnight hasn't gotten out of bed either.
  561. >She lays about a foot from you, sporting her traditional bedhead style.
  562. "You shouldn't be throwing stones if you live in a glass house."
  563. >"Why am I going to get out of bed if you're going to just lay here?"
  564. "What if I started poking you while you were trying to sleep?"
  565. >"You would go to sleep and never wake up again."
  566. "Well, that's not sleep, now is it?"
  567. >"You're awake now. Shut up and get out of bed."
  568. "You first."
  569. >"No, I've been waiting on you."
  570. "Sucks to suck, I guess."
  571. >Midnight frowns as she raises her head off of her pillow.
  572. >In a swift movement, she grabs it with her teeth and throws it atop your head, transforming the sunlit bedroom back into a pitch-black abyss.
  573. "Aww, thanks, dear. Much easier to sleep this way."
  574. >You hear her snort as the bed shifts under her movements.
  575. >"You're about fucking insufferable when it comes to the mornings," she chides, followed by a thump as hooves meet the thin carpeting that covers the floor.
  576. "Blame the person that invented mornings, not me," you groan, tossing aside the pillow over your head to reluctantly greet a new day.
  577. >Okay, it isn't really that bad.
  578. >But it's more fun to fuck around with Midnight.
  579. >"I don't think anyone invented mornings, Anon," she laments, whipping her head back and forth in a half-assed attempt to fix her hair.
  580. >It improves marginally.
  581. >Sorta.
  582. "So you mean to tell me mornings were just... always mornings? That doesn't make sense."
  583. >You strain to keep a serious face.
  584. >"You're going to make the next few days a pain in the ass, aren't you?"
  585. "Now why would you say such a thing?"
  586. >She can't help but smirk as she goes wide-eyed.
  587. >"Well, gee, I dunno," she says in a mocking tone. "Maybe because at the end of the week, we're closing the doors to walk-ins and self-service. Does that ring a bell?"
  588. "I could do without the attitude."
  589. >"I think you would rather have it."
  590. >Midnight takes a look at herself in the mirror on the bedroom door.
  591. >"Holy shit - why do I always look like hell in the morning? I never had this problem on the couch, out in the van..."
  592. "You probably roll around, snuggle in, relax - sleeping okay?"
  593. >You get on your feet and shuffle over to her, helping her out with her hair.
  594. >Midnight's power levitates a brush purchased just for her off of the top of your dresser while you make do with your fingers, straightening out some of the tangles.
  595. >"You should consider getting another brush."
  596. "This is more satisfying for me," you reply with a grin.
  597. >Even Midnight is sporting a smile, despite her recommendations.
  598. >While you won't get it as smooth as a brush, it at least speeds things along.
  599. >Even though she really doesn't take that long to begin with.
  600. >"You just like playing with my hair, don't you?"
  601. "No, I'm trying to help," you whine in protest.
  602. >"Maybe *you're* the reason my hair gets all fucked up," she accuses, pouting at you through the mirror.
  603. >You really aren't - but part of you wants to see where leading her on and teasing her will lead.
  604. >Maybe another day.
  605. "You never did answer my question, Middie - you sleeping okay?"
  606. >"I think so. Sleeping more than I traditionally have in the past."
  607. "Probably because you're sleeping on something comfortable and not having to worry about coyotes."
  608. >That gets a glare out of her as she turns away from the mirror.
  609. >"Bitch, please. I never feared coyotes out in the yard - those flea-bitten fucks feared *me!*"
  610. "Not even in the beginning?"
  611. >Her gaze softens as she returns to the mirror, finishing up the last few strokes that lead all the way down her mane
  612. >"I was cautious in the beginning. Never scared, Anon," she huffs. "May I remind you, I had no idea what they were or what they were capable of - but they're pussies."
  613. "Actually, they're canines."
  614. >Midnight turns to you, with a look of utter disdain.
  615. >"That's enough out of you this morning, chucklefuck," she says, rapping you on the head with the back of her hairbrush before it gets tossed back onto your dresser.
  616. "Oh, alright. I'm going to assume you want me to make breakfast."
  617. >"Honestly, I'm not that hungry - knock yourself out, I'll just do some jerky."
  618. "Hell, if you're gonna make it a quick meal, I guess I will, too," you concede, opening the bedroom door and following Midnight into the kitchen.
  619. >"You getting dressed at some point, or are you wearing boxer shorts and a wife-beater all day?" she asks, pausing to turn and face you.
  620. >You look down at your aforementioned attire, then back at Midnight.
  621. "I do look pretty damn fine, don't I?"
  622. >"You look like someone planning to put a really stupid suspension setup on a 4x4."
  623. >The comparison makes you instantly head back into your room.
  624. "You win."
  625. >"I thought you might see things my way," she calls after you with an air of cockiness.
  626. "Shut up and eat your damn jerky!" you holler back while rummaging through your dresser for clothes.
  627. >"Aww, someone sounds like a bitter little baby."
  628. >By the time you get some proper clothes on and head out to the kitchen, Midnight is already mowing down a bag of peppered beef jerky.
  629. >Meanwhile, the space opposite her on the table already has a bowl sat out, as well as some off-brand peanut butter crunch cereal.
  630. "Well look at you go. Thanks."
  631. >"I figure you're at least attempting to look more presentable, I could at least put forth a token effort. Jerky?"
  632. >The bag hovers over to you.
  633. "Uh, I'll pass. Jerky isn't breakfast food, you weirdo."
  634. >"Oh, but pizza is?" she sasses.
  635. "Yeah. Now I kinda wish I had cold pizza for breakfast - thanks for that," you dish back to her.
  636. >"Just eat your damn cereal."
  637. >You oblige her command, pouring yourself a bowl and digging the milk out of the fridge.
  638. "I don't suppose you already took a gander at any new orders, have you?" you ask, pointing your spoon at the laptop set aside on the counter.
  639. >Midnight shakes her head.
  640. >"Those orders will still be there in an hour."
  641. "Starting to sound like me, Middie. Careful - that's a slippery slope."
  642. >"The difference between me and you is I will check it in an hour," she taunts, sticking her tongue out at you in defiance.
  643. >While you like giving her shit, the fact that she's not so anal about checking every little detail every minute of the day is a surprising change.
  644. >Maybe she's finally figuring out how to calm her mind.
  645. >"By the way, you know we should put up a sign somewhere out front or on the building that we don't do walk-ins or self-serve anymore after this week. Also, we need to finish pulling that transmission crossmember off of that Malibu that you had a hissy fit with and gave up on."
  646. >Alright, maybe it's calmed a little bit.
  647. "We'll get it. Promise. But I'm thinking we ought to set you up with a toolbag."
  648. >"I wouldn't be opposed to that," she says, her eyes betraying the excitement she is attempting to hide. "Two of us with separate lists could cover more ground."
  649. >"My thoughts exactly - at least when it's a bunch of simple little shit. Otherwise, it's you and me together."
  650. >"That sounds a lot nicer than it did a month ago," she muses.
  651. "Oh, what part?" you ask knowingly.
  652. >"Your cereal is going to get mushy if you don't eat it," she replies, pointing at your bowl.
  653. "Fine, mom. Geez."
  654. >Both of you finish up breakfast in relative silence, merely exchanging glances once in a while.
  655. >"You wanna do another fire out back tonight?" she asks as you finish up.
  656. >The inquiry gets a bit of laughter out of you as you go to rinse out your bowl.
  657. "Sounds good to me."
  658.  
  659.  
  660.  
  661.  
  662. >"Stop dragging your feet."
  663. "I'll go slower if you're going to whine how about that?"
  664. >You feel Midnight press her snout into your back between the shoulder blades, earnestly pushing you forward.
  665. >in addition, you feel the tip of her horn graze the back of your neck as she leans into you.
  666. "Hey, be careful there, rhino. I like my spinal cord. It does vital... spinal cord things."
  667. >"That's not my problem. Perhaps that's extra incentive to get a move on, hm?"
  668. "I will be your problem if I'm paralyzed from the neck down. Then you will have to do all the work."
  669. >"I already assume I'm going to be quicker than you and get more done."
  670. "Oh-ho, is that a challenge?"
  671. >"Nope, just speaking facts," she replies innocently.
  672. >With Midnight's assistance, you reach the junkyard gate, pulling one closed while Midnight gets the other half and meeting in the middle.
  673. >The clang and clatter of metal chain on chain link fence sends a message.
  674. >Closing time.
  675. >For the last time.
  676. >Well, for self-serve customers anyway.
  677. >With a click, you ceremoniously snap the weathered padlock closed within the links of the chain.
  678. >The sound is like a trigger for Midnight to let loose.
  679. >"Haha, that's it!" she shouts, trotting in place with excitement. "No more boring days of standing around doing nothing, no more being cooped up in the shop all day! Free roam over the whole yard and actually getting things done!"
  680. "Okay, that's not normal to actually *want* to work," you remind her.
  681. >"It's not normal to have the hots for someone outside your species, either," she retorts with a devious grin. "But here you are, fucking that up."
  682. "You know that comment puts you under the same blanket, right?"
  683. >Midnight halts her celebratory prancing.
  684. >"...just shut up and let me have my moment."
  685. >You smirk, but acquiesce with a nod and cross your arms, watching her prance around just a bit more before she calls it good.
  686. "Now, I have to give you your due - this is possible because of all the effort you put into turning this place around and shifting it into a more productive direction. So you do deserve to brag, at least a little. But thank you for the little show, as well."
  687. >"Well, you didn't have to go and make it all awkward now," she replies, averting her gaze. "Remember, I basically did it for myself."
  688. "Stop it, Middie. Take the compliment," you say, leaning over and smacking a kiss right on her nose.
  689. >"God, you're so sappy," she grumbles - albeit after returning with her own quick kiss to your lips.
  690. "It's either that or I turn up the stupid. I think that would be out of place."
  691. >"Well I'll be damned - you actually considered what would be most appropriate for the occasion?"
  692. >You shrug.
  693. "Even a retarded squirrel finds a nut every now and then."
  694. >Midnight freezes, considering your comment for a moment.
  695. >"Isn't it 'even a blind squirrel finds a-'"
  696. "Nope, we're sticking with retarded squirrel. Unless you're suddenly afraid of offending someone."
  697. >"I still call you retarded - what do you think?"
  698. "Crass and crude - it's why I like you," you reply, heading back toward the shop and beckoning Midnight to follow you with a wave. "Come on, we still gotta get shit done tonight."
  699. >"No procrastination because pulling parts will be our daily job? I'm legitimately surprised," Midnight says with a straight face. "Hell, I would not have been opposed to the idea, personally."
  700. >Well...
  701. >Normally you would have said fuck it, but there's something else to be accomplished tonight.
  702. >She trots to your side while you amble along toward the Trailduster.
  703. >It's a quiet walk - but you can practically feel Midnight studying you while you keep your gaze straight ahead.
  704. >Yeah, she knows something's up.
  705. "What did you want for dinner once we get done with orders? Something here, or done out?" you ask while opening the driver's door.
  706. >"I dunno. You seem like you already have a plan," she replies without hesitation.
  707. "Not for dinner, I don't."
  708. >You take a glance at her while she circles around to the other side of the SUV.
  709. >She's nerved up now.
  710. >That wasn't meant to happen.
  711. "You would rather I don't do surprises, huh?"
  712. >"I'm fine."
  713. "Liar."
  714. >"It scares me to think what your brain could come up with when left unoccupied," she retorts - a disguised confession.
  715. "You're fine. Come on, hop in."
  716. >You slide into your seat while Midnight opens her door and stares at her seat.
  717. >Well, what's *on* her seat.
  718. >A plain cardboard box greets her, an almost perfect cube a little more than a foot long on each side.
  719. >"The fuck is this?"
  720. "You can either ask me or open it, Middie. One option will be more satisfying than the other."
  721. >"Alright, what's in the box?" she snidely inquires with a grin.
  722. >You can't help but laugh at her remark, even though you want to see her reaction to the gift inside.
  723. >It's not much, but you know she will get a lot of use out of it.
  724. "Okay, wiseass. Get in here and open up the damn box before I throw it at you," you jokingly threaten while picking it up off of her seat.
  725. >"No you wouldn't," she says calmly, hopping up and closing the door behind her.
  726. "Because I'd be afraid of you tearing me limb from limb?"
  727. >"No - you wouldn't dare hurt this pretty face," she quickly replies, flicking her hair back with a quick motion of her head.
  728. "...I mean, I could just avoid your head and throw it at your body."
  729. >"Oh, shut up," she replies with a giggle as you hold the box between your seats.
  730. >While you pull open the flaps on either side, Midnight's electromagnetic ability lifts a large black bag out of the box by the metal grips affixed to the straps.
  731. >"What is-" Midnight sputters, her eyes fixated on the object - and you know the one specific point she's found.
  732. "Time to put your money where your mouth is. If you're gonna show me up by pulling more parts any given day, you're gonna need your own tools and toolbag, right?"
  733. >"And you thought this would be a good surprise?" she asks you in a flat tone.
  734. >You thought it was...
  735. >Maybe you made a mist-
  736. >Midnight practically leaps over the gap between the two of you, the movement making you drop the empty box before she crushes it.
  737. >Her forelegs snake their way around your body and squeeze you into a hug.
  738. >"How? Where?" she asks gleefully, hovering the bag to your line of vision where you can spy "Midnight" embroidered in subtle yet striking blue and violet threads.
  739. "Found a place online that did custom work, was able to arrange to buy this and have it shipped to em to get the threads done. I take it you actually approve of the gift?"
  740. >"I love it! But don't tell me you spent a fortune on all of this," she says somewhat concerned as she gently shakes it.
  741. >The light metallic clink of tools within reassures her it's already set up for use.
  742. "Which part? The bag or the tools?"
  743. >You get a stern look in response.
  744. >"Yes."
  745. "I gave you some good hand-me-down tools rather than buy some brand new Chinese crap that will break after the first use. Went through all of my shit between what's in here and what I had in the shop - you're set for virtually any hand tool you need to fetch shit when I'm working on something else. The bag was reasonable."
  746. >"Thank you, Anon," she mumbles, sounding almost as if she's on the verge of tears.
  747. >Happy tears, but nonetheless, you can't bear to see such a pretty mare cry.
  748. "Think nothing of it, Middie," you reply, putting your arms around her and kissing her on the head, minding her horn. "But do you still want to blow off tonight and get after it starting bright and early Monday morning?"
  749. >"Are you high? After surprising me with this?!" she cries in exasperation, returning to her seat quickly to show her wide-eyed, incredulous expression.
  750. "I thought you might end up seeing things my way," you reply with a chuckle, starting up the truck.
  751. >"When did you do all of this?"
  752. >You shrug
  753. "I've been sitting on the bag for a few days. Sorting through my tools has been an on-and-off project when I have had time and you've been preoccupied. I don't want you thinking I'm trying to be productive after all. You might start expecting that from me."
  754. >Midnight gives you a playful shove at that last line.
  755. >"Now I know you can do things like this when you set your mind to em, so you dug your own grave."
  756. "Ah fuck. Here, give that back," you demand, frantically grabbing for the toolbag.
  757. >"Nope, fuck you," she says with a blep of her tongue.
  758. "Fiiine," you give in with a sigh as you crank over the engine of the Trailduster. "In all seriousness - what did you want for dinner tonight?"
  759. >"Well, it's sort of a special occasion, isn't it?" she asks, batting her eyes at you. "You've teased me long enough with the idea of barbeque over an open fire - time for *you* to put your money where your mouth is."
  760. "Now, are you saying that because that's what you want, or you spied the chicken breasts I already prepared in the back of the fridge?"
  761. >"Both."
  762. "Fair enough."
  763. >Whether it's her excitement or yours, you eagerly set off into the yard with a quick shot at the throttle.
  764.  
  765.  
  766.  
  767.  
  768.  
  769. >The blank screen of your laptop suddenly flashes into color, showing a quaint room whose walls are splashed in a rich burgundy hue, this wood paneling on the lower half of what you can see.
  770. >Front and center, a familiar creamy-white unicorn with an eager and welcoming smile is the real focus.
  771. >"Hi Midnight!" Starla cheerfully greets you, waving a hoof.
  772. >It's the first time you've seen her since your initial meeting.
  773. >Too long, you have to admit.
  774. >It was Anon's idea with Teddy's help to get you two connected via video chat on the computer.
  775. >You didn't know such a thing was possible.
  776. >Initially, you were a bit aversive to the idea.
  777. >Why?
  778. >...
  779. >You don't really have a reason.
  780. >Nerves, maybe.
  781. >Nonetheless, you're glad he actually went through with it, after putting some thought behind it.
  782. >She certainly was helpful to sort out your feelings regarding Anon, even though you put her in an uncomfortable situation
  783. >And it is nice to have someone to relate to.
  784. "Hi, Starla. Been a little while, huh?"
  785. >Starla nods her head, her gold and orange braid bobbing off of her right side.
  786. >"Too long! I've been asking Teddy about you, wondering how you are," she replies with an exuberance that is much more than you're used to experiencing. " But you look like you're doing well - and I see you have your hair braided again!"
  787. "Yeah, I did it a day or two ago," you reply, flipping it with a quick motion of your head.
  788. >"Any special occasion?"
  789. "No, just kinda... wanted to change it up a bit, you know?"
  790. >"I'm happy to hear you're trying different styles. What does Anon think of it?"
  791. >It seems like an innocent enough question...
  792. >But at the same time, it feels like she's looking at a deeper meaning.
  793. "He doesn't get a say in it, I do what I want."
  794. >Starla snorts at the sharp remark.
  795. >"Of course - it was more of curiosity than anything. Don't take it to heart," she says. "But what's going on with you?"
  796. "Not too much. We finally got the junkyard squared away and everything set up to switch to online and part pickup only. So that's a relief."
  797. >"How so?"
  798. "Well, it means roaming free for me during the days and actually working, rather than sit around and share stares with Anon for eight hours," you calmly explain. "I don't like sitting idle, and there is something..."
  799. >You pause a moment, trying to think while Starla sits patiently.
  800. "I sort of miss spending time out there, I suppose. It was the first place that felt like home to me. I knew certain areas and little paths through piles of scrap like the back of my hoof."
  801. >"Was it because you actually liked it out there, or you finally felt like you had control over your life?"
  802. >You give the question a moment of thought - though the reason is painfully obvious.
  803. "Probably the latter."
  804. >"But you really do enjoy working on that kind of stuff, huh? I know Teddy enjoys it too."
  805. "Yeah, there's a comfort in being around cars. I'm trying to convince Anon to adopt a project car for us to work on, now that we will likely have more free time with the shift in the business."
  806. >Already rather perky, Starla's interest is further piqued by the proposal.
  807. >"Oh, that would be really nice for you two! Something to bond over!" she cheerfully replies.
  808. "Yeah, maybe..."
  809. >Maybe you should have been a bit more assertive in your response.
  810. >Starla's enthusiasm fades.
  811. >"Something on your mind?" she asks. "I would have at least expected a snappy response out of that comment."
  812. "No, I just... I'm sort of agreeing with you."
  813. >"Oh," Starla replies, sounding quite dumbfounded for a moment. "Wait, really?"
  814. "It is more about the car though," you affirm, feeling a bit vulnerable.
  815. >She doesn't need to know what's going on.
  816. >Though she did sort of set you on this path...
  817. >"It sounds like things between you and Anon are a lot better now. Teddy told me about the little excursion you two had a few weeks ago."
  818. "Nothing happened!" you blurt out instinctively.
  819. >You dumbass.
  820. >That sounded desperate.
  821. >The outburst certainly gets a brow raise from your friend on the other side of the screen.
  822. >"I... didn't say anything happened, Midnight. But with that much enthusiasm behind that - what's going on with you two?"
  823. >Is her knowing about you and Anon being a thing really a big deal?
  824. >Who is she gonna tell aside from Teddy?
  825. >Again, you already know your hangups without someone else explaining it.
  826. >Vulnerability.
  827. >It's an awful feeling.
  828. >But does it have to be?
  829. >You're sure at some point, Anon is going to blab about it to Teddy.
  830. >Why not be in control?
  831. "It's... complicated, Starla," you start hesitantly, keeping your eyes focused away from her. "I guess I sort of... I said things. And I didn't really know what I said at the time. But later, when I heard what I had said - things made a bit more sense to me?"
  832. >"...what?"
  833. >You sigh.
  834. "Anon and I are... enjoying each other's company."
  835. >"You're dating?!"
  836. "No, that's not-"
  837. >Starla lets out a giggle of excitement, clapping her front hooves together.
  838. >"Midnight, that's great!" she cheers in a bubbly voice, hardly able to contain herself. "Why are you acting so ashamed?"
  839. "It's kinda embarrassing, Starla," you admit.
  840. >She cocks her head at that, eyeing you expectantly.
  841. >"Why? Because big tough mares can't have a heart?" she says in a playfully gruff voice.
  842. "It feels weird. I don't feel like I'm... well, me."
  843. >That utterance causes Starla to drop her silly act, leaning closer to the screen.
  844. >The abrupt shift in attention unnerves you as your ears fold flat against your head.
  845. >"Who are you?"
  846. "What kind of a question is that? Have you lost your marbles?" you snap, feeling insulted by such a stupid question.
  847. >But Starla calmly shakes her head, undeterred by your attitude.
  848. >"Midnight, are you really the iron-hearted and bitter mare you try to come off as?"
  849. "You think I'm just an act?"
  850. >"I think you did what you had to do in order to deal with everything you've been through. I didn't have it anywhere near as hard as you did, and I still have nightmares from time to time being back where I came from - without Teddy. So I really can't imagine the hell you experienced. But you're out of there now."
  851. >...
  852. "I don't follow."
  853. >"You say that experiencing a relationship feels weird like you aren't you - what exactly do *you* mean by that?"
  854. "I'm just not used to being open with someone else. Being more... close with someone? That isn't me."
  855. >Starla frowns a bit at that response.
  856. >What if that is the real you - and you've just buried it for so long, you've forgotten?"
  857. "To my knowledge, I've *never* been close to anyone," you bitterly comment.
  858. >"Exactly. I'm not suggesting you completely reinvent yourself - but stray out of your comfort zone, Midnight. By the sounds of it, you do kind of like this closeness, even though it feels strange."
  859. "It is quite a foreign sensation having someone else play with your hair or hug you..."
  860. >"See? And I figured you did your hair up for Anon," she answers back with a rather mischievous giggle and accompanying grin.
  861. "Shut up - I did my hair, not him. And I like keeping it out of the way when I work, too."
  862. >"I'm just teasing. Really, it looks good," she compliments. "Though I might be a bit partial to braids."
  863. >Starla bats at her own braid with a hoof in demonstration.
  864. >"But, maybe I should change it up a bit" she continues, putting a hoof to her chin. "Of course, I'll need Teddy's help to do that, but he enjoys it."
  865. "Glad I can do it on my own, to be honest with you. I don't know if I would trust Anon's styling abilities."
  866. >"No?"
  867. "I've already been a guinea pig once in my life - I don't want to do it again."
  868. >"You might be surprised what Anon could do. It took Teddy a few tries to get my hair right - though I didn't have the heart to tell him it was anything other than perfect."
  869. "Not to be an ass, but you don't seem like the kind to worry about perfection."
  870. >"No, I'm not - merely making a point I was thankful for what he could do. We enjoy each other's company - it's really the thought that counts."
  871. "I think I understand that a bit more now," you reply, unable to prevent a chuckle from escaping. "A few days ago, Anon tried cooking chicken over an open firepit - it came out rather charred. It wasn't too bad though."
  872. >"Well, I can't say I was a natural when it came to cooking or baking either. Not at first," Starla replies with a laugh.
  873. >That reminds you...
  874. "I understand that you can't do your hair - but how do you do other stuff? Like cooking?"
  875. >"In a way, I suppose I am just a teensy bit envious of your *ahem* 'magic.' But I have a few tools Teddy has made. And may I ask, how do you pick up items that aren't magnetic?"
  876. >Of course.
  877. "... really? You just grab and use utensils and other tools with your mouth?"
  878. >"Mhm. Obviously, you get better at manipulating things the more you do it. If you don't mind me bragging, I have to say I'm pretty handy in the kitchen. But it's because I enjoy it so much that I have gotten a knack for it."
  879. "You aren't as stupid as I thought you were."
  880. >Whoops.
  881. >Starla is taken aback by your offhanded comment, grimacing and recoiling from the screen just a bit.
  882. "Sorry, sorry!" you frantically backtrack, waving your hooves in desperation. "I meant that you're smarter than I gave you credit for, being a real pony and whatnot. The few I remember being around... I was probably being judgmental then, too. Again, I didn't mean that."
  883. >"You're okay, Midnight. Apology accepted," she says, breaking into a smile and nodding in reassurance.
  884. >You sigh with relief.
  885. "I need to work on my social graces," you lament.
  886. >"You've improved just since the first day we met - but it takes time. Maybe sometime, we should all get together for a day out. Or a night out - whatever works. Like a double date."
  887. "Oh stop - you're sounding like Anon now," you joke.
  888. >"He sounds like he's full of good ideas."
  889. "He's full of something, alright."
  890. >Laughter rings out from the speakers of the laptop, before getting cut short by a buzzer in the background.
  891. >Starla instantly perks up, her ears swiveling in response to the stimulus.
  892. >"Oh, I forgot I had a pie in the oven - apple cinnamon, a new recipe I found," she explains, letting excitement creep into her voice as she slips out of her chair and onto all four hooves. "Sorry to cut this short Midnight - we should do this again soon!"
  893. "You bet. Thanks, Starla. Take care."
  894. >"You too - buh bye for now!"
  895. >Waving a hoof in response to her wave - the video feed goes to black as your chat disconnects.
  896. >As you close your laptop, you hear footsteps trudging up the stairs on the other side of the door out in the kitchen.
  897. >Slowly, the door cracks open as you turn your head to look.
  898. >Anon pokes his head in, scanning around tepidly before focusing on you.
  899. "It's not that big of a deal, you know," you tell him.
  900. >It gets a smirk out of him before the door swings open, his right arm cradling a bag of groceries.
  901. >"Yeah well, I figured I shouldn't listen in on girl talk. You two giggling about boys and stuff?"
  902. "Oh, shut up. I'd chuck something at you if you weren't holding food."
  903. >"I find it surprising that you would be that reserved," he answers with a laugh, setting down the brown bags on the counter and opening the fridge door. "But you know I'm kidding - I did want to give you privacy. And I'm glad that you decided to reach out to Starla."
  904. "Me too," you agree, unable to prevent a grin from spreading onto your face. "I think this is something I need."
  905.  
  906.  
  907.  
  908.  
  909.  
  910. >Slowly ambling along the path, you keep a sharp eye out for movement.
  911. >It's an ocean of Mercurys as far as the eye can see down this row, but you're looking for one in particular.
  912. >You rumble past groups of Cougars, Montegos, Montereys...
  913. >There we go - Comets.
  914. >Suddenly, everything gets smaller, the path just a little wider now with a lining of compacts.
  915. >Well, compacts for '70s America.
  916. >Though they had intermediate Comets before the Ford Maverick clone, which is what you're looking for...
  917. >Yet the Comet name was used on a Falcon - another compact before then...
  918. >Fucking FoMoCo.
  919. >You finally spy Midnight ahead on the left, practically sprawled over the engine bay of a '66 Comet.
  920. >Evidently, she's gotten a part pull job from hell.
  921. >At least it's likely the last one for the day.
  922. >Hard to believe you can say that - but five o'clock is close at hand.
  923. >It's certainly an adjustment to get used to working out in the sun all day.
  924. >And well - actually working all day.
  925. >But it isn't too tiring.
  926. >You come to a stop in front of the car, though Midnight has not moved or otherwise made note of your presence.
  927. >As she fights with whatever parts are being trouble, her tail swishes back and forth idly.
  928. >Hm.
  929. >One hell of a view, if you do say so yourself.
  930. >...maybe you should stop being a pervert.
  931. "What's cookin, good lookin?" you comment as you lean out the window.
  932. >"Ah, there it is, the retarded comment I was waiting for," you hear Midnight muse, barely audible over the engine of your truck and her focus still being on the work at hand.
  933. >You throw the shifter into park and step out of the truck.
  934. "Did I live up to your expectations?"
  935. >Midnight doesn't answer you until you wander over to the passenger side fender to get a look at what's going on.
  936. "It was wittier than I expected. So you kind of failed," she says, glancing over at you.
  937. "Damn," you sigh expressively. "Everything going okay?"
  938. >"Getting there. I'm assuming you didn't purposely give this job to me knowing how awful it was going to be. Or did you?"
  939. >You quickly shake your head to dissuade any notion of asshattery on your part.
  940. "Wiper motor, right?" you ask to be sure.
  941. >Midnight nods as her attention is directed back to the area of work - the cowl.
  942. >"The mounting bolts were rusted to fuck - this car definitely didn't come from around here," she explains. "Took forever to get those damn things out - I've been fighting getting the nut and the linkage off of the shaft."
  943. "Yeah, sometimes you really gotta work the shaft before you get a release," you reply, tongue-in-cheek.
  944. >Midnight does her damndest to scowl at the comment, but there's still the hint of an upturn at the corner of her mouth.
  945. >"That was fucking stupid. You should apologize for that," she says after a moment and a clatter of metal within the cowl.
  946. >The wiper motor comes free of the firewall and levitates over to you, into your hands.
  947. "See? It helped."
  948. >"No."
  949. >Midnight gathers up her tools while you head around back of the Trailduster and put the motor in the back amongst the pile of other pieces collected today.
  950. >The housing is pretty rusted and weathered - hopefully, a test will show it still works...
  951. >Certainly does need the output shaft cleaned up, though.
  952. >You're proud of Midnight showing patience with it - that's certainly been a learning curve for her.
  953. >Walking back to the open driver's door, you hop in just as Midnight climbs in and sets her bag behind the seat.
  954. "That was good work, Middie. Sorry the last job of the day had to be a shit one."
  955. >"Yeah, that wasn't fun - but I got it," she exhales.
  956. >After you get moving, you glance over at her.
  957. >She looks tired.
  958. >Aside from her hair being out of sorts from toiling in the nitty-gritty of ancient automobiles all day and the dust and grease that entails, she's rather slumped forward in her seat, while her eyes are lazy and unfocused.
  959. >Without a word, you reach over and stroke her back, in between her wings.
  960. >She arches her back a bit as you do so, not unlike a cat.
  961. >"What?" she asks, turning to you.
  962. "I'm not poking fun at you when I say this - you look worn out."
  963. >For a moment, you don't get any sort of response.
  964. >Not really unexpected.
  965. >"Truth be told... I didn't expect to actually feel like it was work," she states slowly. " Not saying I don't like doing it, it's just-"
  966. "A lot of work."
  967. >"Yeah."
  968. >To be fair, she has been absolutely killing it when it comes to getting parts quickly.
  969. >But in the back of your mind, you were wondering if it would catch up with her.
  970. "I was joking when I told you to put your money where your mouth was in regards to pulling more parts than me - you know that, right?"
  971. >"Of course - it's a matter of personal pride," she says while sitting up straight, her chest thrust out just a bit.
  972. "You don't need to kill yourself over it, though."
  973. >"I might be going at it a bit too hard," Midnight acknowledges, relaxing back to her previous state. "How the hell are you not tired?"
  974. "I am a little bit - but remember, I did all of this shit by myself before you came along. In the shop for eight hours, then out back for three or four hours. So with eight hours and the two of us - yeah, I suppose I'm going at a slower pace. Let's be honest, I'm also using the truck, while your stubborn ass walks all the way to the other side of the junkyard every time you decide to fetch a part without me."
  975. >"Yeah, and if I take the Trailduster, what are you gonna do for tools?"
  976. >You shake your head.
  977. "That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying be smarter about it because I know you can look at what we need and determine what is close by. You're trying to prove something to me that I already know you can do."
  978. >Midnight scowls at you with that remark.
  979. >Seems about right...
  980. >But surprisingly, that angry face softens up.
  981. >"You have a point. It really isn't a competition, is it?"
  982. "No, no it's not," you reply, trying to hide the astonishment from your voice.
  983. >A failed attempt, seeing as how Midnight stares back in utter confusion.
  984. >"What's the matter?"
  985. "Nothing's wrong, I just didn't anticipate you agreeing with me," you admit.
  986. >"Oh. It was a good point, I have to admit that."
  987. >That's almost like being called intelligent.
  988. >By Midnight.
  989. "I try to say smart things."
  990. >"You do, you've gotten better at actually using what little you possess."
  991. "Is that an insult, or a compliment?"
  992. >"Yes," she replies, clearing her throat. "But there was something else that you said that I've sort of been mulling for a little bit."
  993. "What's that?"
  994. >"Well... maybe doing a night out, or a night here with Starla and Teddy... like a date, I suppose - maybe that's not such a bad idea."
  995. >You look back over to see her expression.
  996. >She looks a bit sheepish after that uncomfortable proposal but is otherwise dead serious.
  997. "You know I'm not opposed to that - what made you consider it?" you inquire.
  998. >"Starla suggested the same thing a couple of days ago when we were talking."
  999. "Man, she's got a hold on you, doesn't she?"
  1000. >"Bite me," Midnight growls.
  1001. "My bad, I didn't mean it quite as crude as that," you apologize. "I just meant you really do take what she has to say to heart, yeah?"
  1002. >"Yeah - she's been through a similar situation, the same sort of background. That sort of means something, you know? It isn't that I don't trust you - I do. But... it's a different perspective from someone like me. It's a connection that differs from what we have, and in some instances - it just resonates a bit better. Or maybe it was hearing it from someone else, I don't know."
  1003. "I think I get it - but it also sounds like you're apologizing to me," you suggest.
  1004. >"I don't want you thinking that I'm only going to listen to her advice."
  1005. "You already proved to me at the start of this conversation you have an ear for my suggestions," you calmly remind her.
  1006. >"...oh yeah," she laments, mocking a slap to her own forehead with a hoof.
  1007. "You really are burned out from today - don't sweat it," you console, momentarily leaning and putting an arm around her in a hug.
  1008. >"Oh, speaking of ideas - Starla also agreed a project car would be something neat to tackle together," Midnight pipes up.
  1009. "What, you and her?"
  1010. >"You and me, dum-dum."
  1011. "Welp, my turn to feel stupid now. Glad I'm used to it," you wisecrack.
  1012. > Midnight's disappointment is palpable.
  1013. >"Really? You couldn't let me hit that pitch?" she whines.
  1014. "Nope, too easy," you respond, smirking.
  1015. >"Fiiine. But that's two opinions now that think a project car would be neat," she protests.
  1016. >It's cute - she practically looks like she's begging with her ears folded back and a slight pout.
  1017. "There's three of us with the same opinion - it's about timing and the price," you answer.
  1018. >"And the car."
  1019. "You think you can afford to be picky?"
  1020. >"If we pull something from out back, yeah. Probably be more work but... hell, I'm for it."
  1021. "Well, I suppose - if something tickles your fancy, and it's not completely roasted, I'll consider it."
  1022. >That gets an ear-to-ear grin from her, supplemented by the presence of fangs.
  1023. >"And I get to pick."
  1024. "You get to pick. Pending final approval that it's something doable with parts availability."
  1025. >It's only a couple more minutes before you arrive back in the shop, but Midnight has perked up a bit, her attention now directed toward the rows of cars that pass by.
  1026. >Both of you quickly offload parts to end the workday, leaving the Trailduster sitting in the first bay of the garage.
  1027. >"Food and rest now," Midnight affirms.
  1028. "Nope. Shower first - you look like you were rolling around in the dirt," you tease her.
  1029. >"Shower isn't a bad idea. You probably need one, too."
  1030. >You both need showers.
  1031. >...should you suggest it?
  1032. >You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take...
  1033. "Should we just knock out a shower together?" you suggest casually.
  1034. >A look of incredulity spreads across Midnight's weary face, her eyes widening.
  1035. >That'd be a no.
  1036. >"I think you can handle a shower on your own, perv," she sasses, returning to normal. "You got a view earlier, that's enough for one day."
  1037. >...
  1038. >Wait.
  1039. >Midnight doesn't wait for any sort of expression from you as she turns and saunters to the bathroom, slipping through the door without another word.
  1040. >Just a glance back at you before the door shuts - only visible thanks to the light from her eyes, apparently preferring instead to leave the lights off.
  1041. >Any expression from her otherwise is left in a mystery.
  1042. >It leaves you to wonder whether the 'view' earlier was incidental or something more.
  1043. >Just when you feel like you've figured her out, Midnight shows another layer underneath.
  1044.  
  1045.  
  1046.  
  1047.  
  1048.  
  1049. >Today was shared weariness.
  1050. >There are days that, for whatever reason, just suck from morning until quitting time.
  1051. >This was one of those days.
  1052. >Dropped tools, broken bolts, seized up parts.
  1053. >And the wind.
  1054. >Oh god, the wind.
  1055. >The wind by itself was bad enough, making it a bit of a fight to walk or even stand.
  1056. >But then you add the sand all around you...
  1057. >That was horrible.
  1058. >You don't remember ever experiencing a day with weather like that.
  1059. >Midnight didn't have much fun, either.
  1060. >Neither of you had to say it when trudging up the steps and walking into the kitchen.
  1061. >It's gonna be a lazy night.
  1062. >And that's why you find yourself as is.
  1063. >Laying on the couch.
  1064. >Just to hear Midnight protest when she gets back from a shower.
  1065. >"Up, you greedy jerk."
  1066. >There she is.
  1067. >You tear your gaze from the ceiling to the mare standing beside you.
  1068. "Hi."
  1069. >You give her a big smile.
  1070. >She doesn't return the gesture.
  1071. >"Are we really gonna do this?"
  1072. "I just wanted to see you pout for your seat."
  1073. >Midnight looks to mull that answer for a moment.
  1074. >But without warning, she leaps up on top of you, laying down.
  1075. "Hey, what-"
  1076. >"You're the couch now, I guess," she interrupts. "Sucks to be you."
  1077. >It still surprises you that for her size, she really doesn't feel that heavy.
  1078. >Certainly not causing you discomfort.
  1079. >It's actually pretty nice and cozy...
  1080. >Maybe too much...
  1081. >Down, Anon.
  1082. >Midnight sighs away the troubles and fatigues of the day away, stretching out on top of you and relaxing, her head laying on your chest to where you can look down and see her.
  1083. >You're having a hard time discerning whether Midnight is trying to tease you or if it's just your mind.
  1084. >Things weren't bad after the 'water-saving shower' idea a couple of days ago, but it did leave a trace of awkwardness the rest of that night.
  1085. >You don't want to do that again.
  1086. >But she knows that you got an eye for her, right?
  1087. >So...
  1088. >Fuck, just focus on something else, dude.
  1089. >Enjoy this for what it is right now.
  1090. >"Now what?" Midnight asks, breaking you free of your mental battle.
  1091. "TV, I guess."
  1092. >"You mean flipping through channels and bitching about how nothing good is on?"
  1093. "Yeah, probably. You not computering tonight?"
  1094. >"Sounds like work," she mumbles, turning her head to face the TV. "Entertain me."
  1095. "Fine. You're needy," you jab at her. "And if I didn't know any better, I'd say you're using my greediness as an excuse to cuddle with me."
  1096. >"I'd argue, but you're going to believe what you want anyway," she replies nonchalantly while you start to flip through the channels with your remote. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were hogging the couch in the hopes I might do something like this."
  1097. "Guess we're at an impasse, then."
  1098. >"Yep."
  1099. >Focus now turns on the television.
  1100. >Why is everyone so damn obsessed with stupid reality shows?
  1101. >Or is that just what the networks fart out and people just learn to like it?
  1102. >You don't get it.
  1103. >Probably never will.
  1104. >As you keep flipping through the slideshow of programming mundanity, the startup of an engine through the speakers makes you stop on a black screen.
  1105. >What's this...
  1106. >A golden vee badge appears on the screen as the engine revs up.
  1107. >Oh.
  1108. >You haven't seen this in ages.
  1109. >There's the title.
  1110. >"'Christine'? We really gonna watch a chick flick?"
  1111. >You look down at Midnight while the opening credits flash on screen to the tune of a vintage V8.
  1112. >Midnight eyes you with a hearty helping of skepticism.
  1113. "Who said it was a chick flick?"
  1114. >"... the name? Just give me a break, I'm tired."
  1115. "So am I."
  1116. >"You've probably heard of this before or something."
  1117. "Seen it. Just not in a while."
  1118. >"Exactly - pound sand."
  1119. "Alright, just this once."
  1120. >As your light-hearted bickering winds down, the music suddenly kicks in, seconds before a factory floor pans onto the screen.
  1121. >Then, the assembly line of cars appears.
  1122. >You feel Midnight stir to attention at the scene.
  1123. >"I can't say I've done too much reading on cars from the fifties..." she says aloud.
  1124. "Plymouths. '58 Plymouth Fury, to be exact," you note, knowing that was Midnight's reason for the comment.
  1125. >"They all look the same, though. Color-wise, anyway."
  1126. >For now...
  1127. "Yep, that's the only way they came. Cream white with gold trim. Gold interior."
  1128. >"Huh. Not a bad combination."
  1129. "I always liked em, but then there's-"
  1130. >'She' suddenly makes an appearance on screen.
  1131. >Blood red with aluminum anodized side trim, red interior.
  1132. >"All the same, huh?"
  1133. "In reality, yes. This one's actually a Belvedere - one trim level lower than the Fury, and they did come in this color combo. The movie just badged one as a Fury. You'll see why."
  1134. >Both of you remain mum as the camera takes focus on various attributes, up until the assembly line stops.
  1135. >You already know what comes next as a man opens the hood for inspection.
  1136. >Probably not a good idea, bud...
  1137. >You feel Midnight twitch just a bit at the ensuing 'malfunction' of the hood hinge springs.
  1138. "Haha, you jumped," you tease her.
  1139. >"Shut up, asshole. What kind of movie is this?"
  1140. >This poor bastard getting in the car to relax with a smoke should be a good explanation...
  1141. >A few moments later and a fellow worker frantically opens the door.
  1142. >And out spills the smoker.
  1143. "Proof that smoking kills," you wryly quip.
  1144. >"Horror movie, I take it?"
  1145. "Yep. Hell hath no fury like a Plymouth Fury."
  1146. >No response.
  1147. >Once again, you look to Midnight, who is clearly unenthused by that comment.
  1148. "Don't blame me, that was a tagline of the movie or book - something like that," you calmly protest.
  1149. >"You repeated the lame line - I'm holding you partially accountable."
  1150. "I'm not gonna win this argument, so okay."
  1151. >"Good boy."
  1152. >There's not much chatter over the ensuing entrance of the characters and minor conflicts of their lives.
  1153. >The nerdy high schooler being picked on.
  1154. >His only friend - a jock.
  1155. >A group of bullies picking a fight.
  1156. >And the new girl in school - who everyone salivates over.
  1157. >Some mildly amusing comments or banter, but both of you sort of tune into the movie itself as it progresses.
  1158. >Particularly once Christine enters the fray.
  1159. >To think - in her initial state that she's purchased in would be considered a fairly decent project nowadays.
  1160. >"Are most of the cars in that era so... flashy?"
  1161. "Yeah. It was all part of the times and what was going on in the world at the time," you reply, idly petting Midnight from her head to her neck. "I can't really say I know a hell of a lot about those era cars, but they are quite unique, to say the least."
  1162. >"Certainly stand out - can't miss em."
  1163. "Nope."
  1164. >The nerd's attitude and personality slowly shift as he rebuilds the car.
  1165. >Starts dressing differently, has confidence - and a bit of a mean streak.
  1166. >But he gets the girl everyone wants.
  1167. >Happy ending, right?
  1168. >It's never that easy.
  1169. >While you can only speak for yourself, Midnight looks about as nauseous as you feel watching Christine get vandalized after all that hard work of restoration.
  1170. >The same goes for the sudden outburst of the nerd, who is really beginning to broadcast a rather sinister aura.
  1171. >But then the fun really begins.
  1172. >The character infatuated with his car turns his back while trying to resurrect Christine one piece at a time.
  1173. >In moments, the sounds of metalwork can be heard - and the engine is suddenly looking like new in all of its black, gold, and chrome glory.
  1174. >"What engine is that? It looks like a dual-quad carb setup."
  1175. "350."
  1176. >They put a Chevy engine in it? And those came as dual quads?"
  1177. >You shake your head as Christine's headlights flash on, restoring herself in mere moments as the camera focuses on multiple areas during the scene.
  1178. "Chrysler had a 350 engine for a little bit - I think it was only during the fifties," you clarify for Midnight. "I really don't know a lot about em, just bits and pieces. 'Golden Commando 350' is what they called it if I remember right."
  1179. >"Huh. I guess I found a whole new era of shit to go through," she comments.
  1180. "The fifties is when performance in terms of horsepower really started to become of interest in terms of selling points."
  1181. >Again, things get quiet as Christine begins to enact her revenge upon those who destroyed her.
  1182. >The first one is always worth a little chuckle as Christine basically toys with her prey, cornering the poor bastard who suddenly feels he has the upper hand, being in a narrow loading dock and seemingly out of reach.
  1183. >The Plymouth has other ideas.
  1184. >Then you get to see the rest of the posse cruising late at night in a Camaro, before again, Christine makes an appearance.
  1185. >You always liked this whole set of scenes as the encounter goes from mild annoyance to a life and death struggle.
  1186. > Bye-bye, Camaro.
  1187. >And what a sendoff for it and the gas station.
  1188. >"That escalated quickly."
  1189. "Shut up. I'm supposed to make the stupid comments."
  1190. >"Hm. No."
  1191. >Midnight closes her eyes and sticks her nose up at you.
  1192. "You're gonna miss the next bit if you do that."
  1193. >On cue, the sound of tires squealing from the fire and flames pulls both of you back in, as a ride that now looks as if its straight from hell stalks the final victim.
  1194. >"Why the hell doesn't he just get out of the road? Why would you just run straight down the centerline?" Midnight scoffs.
  1195. "Movie logic. Don't question it," you reply, waiting for the right moment...
  1196. >Closer...
  1197. >Christine is almost there...
  1198. "Boop!" you comment, touching your index finger to Midnight's nose just as Christine finishes off the last guy.
  1199. >"Faggot," Midnight grumbles, unamused.
  1200. "I was hoping you would jump."
  1201. >"Nah, I'm used to your bullshit now."
  1202. "I'll have to change it up then."
  1203. >"You don't *have* to."
  1204. >Meanwhile, Jackhole McFatass meets his end as well in a stupid way.
  1205. >And now the nerd is under suspicion for the murders.
  1206. >Or would it be better to say greaser now, with his hair and clothes harkening back to another time?
  1207. >But he's changed - and his girl and jock friend have been pushed away.
  1208. >"This guy does realize being a dick to everyone isn't helping him at all, right?"
  1209. >You have to just stare at Midnight for a comment that is soaked in irony.
  1210. >"What?" she asks, completely unaware of the situation.
  1211. "Pot, meet Kettle," you say.
  1212. >"I don't... oh."
  1213. >You don't say anything, merely smile and rub one of her ears between your thumb and forefinger.
  1214. >She leans into it while the final pieces in this movie fall into place.
  1215. >Both the jock and the ex-girlfriend want to save their friend.
  1216. >But Christine is in the way.
  1217. >Getting close to the final showdown, boys.
  1218. >The would-be heroes hatch a plan and set up their trap in the old garage Christine calls home.
  1219. >But the Fury has other ideas.
  1220. >The car springs its own trap and catches the girl out in the open.
  1221. >The final battle begins.
  1222. >Bulldozer versus Plymouth.
  1223. >It seems one-sided when you think about it...
  1224. >But when you can unfuck any damage you cause to yourself - well, that's a bit of an equalizer.
  1225. >Christine repeatedly lunges at the girl, only to be thwarted by the blade of the bulldozer acting as a guard.
  1226. >A short breather to repair herself draws the dozer away - but leaving the gal exposed.
  1227. >You feel Midnight tense up a bit as the bulldozer stalls, while Christine starts to make her move.
  1228. >But all too soon, after missed chances, you see the importance of seatbelts as Christine and her owner make a lunge for the former girlfriend, who takes shelter in a divided internal office.
  1229. >Like that, the former friend of the heroes dies.
  1230. >It's over.
  1231. >Christine goes quiet.
  1232. >"That's it?"
  1233. >You can't help but smirk at Midnight's comment of mild disappointment.
  1234. >But you keep your mouth shut.
  1235. >The radio in the car comes on with another song from the fifties, signaling the start of round three.
  1236. >This time, Christine is reckless in her pursuit, her owner now dead and wanting an eye for an eye.
  1237. >The brutish bulldozer lands a wallop, eventually dragging the car to a stop while practically riding atop it.
  1238. >Now, it's...
  1239. >Still not over yet.
  1240. >The radio comes on one more time as the Fury repairs itself, with the heroes resorting to repeatedly running the hot rod over and over.
  1241. >The car gives a last gasp as the radiator bursts before collapsing.
  1242. >"Jesus. Is that all it took to kill the car?" Midnight snidely comments.
  1243. >You laugh.
  1244. "Yeah. It was that easy."
  1245. >Christine is now a cube as the final few lines are exchanged between the remaining characters.
  1246. >And yet...
  1247. >Part of the grille moves ever so slightly before the music cues in and the credits roll.
  1248. >"Wait - is there a sequel?" Midnight hesitantly asks.
  1249. "No. I don't think there were ever plans for one. That's just the way they decided to end it, I guess."
  1250. >Midnight looks a little disappointed with that.
  1251. "That movie teaches a strong lesson, though."
  1252. >"Yeah, what's that?"
  1253. "Don't name your car."
  1254. >You get a thump on the chest from Midnight's hoof for that inane comment.
  1255. "Fine - don't blame me if you don't heed the warning and whatever shitbox we start to work on begins terrorizing everyone."
  1256. >"On the plus side, we would have to do less work if the car can fix and restore itself."
  1257. "Hm. That's a tough choice. But isn't fixing it up part of the fun?"
  1258. >"I dunno. I guess we will find out at some point."
  1259. >Without any warning, Midnight opens her mouth and lets out a big yawn.
  1260. "Yeah, someday - but not tonight. I think it's time for bed," you reply, catching the infectious yawning virus and mirroring Midnight's sentiments.
  1261. >Rather than get up, Midnight lays her head back down onto your chest.
  1262. >"Meh. That sounds like work," she murmurs, closing her eyes.
  1263. "We have to turn the lights off anyway, Middie," you remind her, motioning to the kitchen light still streaming from the ceiling out there.
  1264. >Without a word, Midnight raises her head and turns it, looking out toward the cursed fixture.
  1265. >You see something out in the kitchen float toward the light switch, flipping it down and throwing everything into darkness aside from what little moonlight outside trickles in through the window behind you.
  1266. >Not to mention the muted blue glow from Midnight's eyes as she turns her head back toward you and resumes her prior position on your chest.
  1267. >"Done."
  1268. "Alright, you put up a decent argument," you yield, putting your arms around her.
  1269. "Goodnight."
  1270. >You feel her shift higher up on your chest and feel her breath just under your chin.
  1271. >"That's not a proper good night," she coos.
  1272. >Holy shit, where has this part of Midnight come from?
  1273. >More importantly -why are you questioning it?
  1274. "No? What is a proper goodnight?"
  1275. >Her lips gently press to yours, and you happily share a kiss with her for a few fleeting moments.
  1276. >"Goodnight."
  1277. "G'night, Middie."
  1278.  
  1279.  
  1280.  
  1281.  
  1282.  
  1283. >It's been almost a week since you gave the go-ahead for a project car of Midnight's choosing.
  1284. >The idea has become a source of excitement for you, looking forward to the future.
  1285. >But...
  1286. >Almost a week has gone by, and Midnight has been mum on the subject.
  1287. >Not a single suggestion.
  1288. >Now, she has continued to peer out the passenger window while both of you drive around the yard and pull parts.
  1289. >But again - no signs of interest from her.
  1290. > It's honestly starting to bother you a bit.
  1291. >Less about the car, and more about Midnight.
  1292. >If only because you saw how excited she was when you agreed.
  1293. >Where did that excitement go?
  1294. >Saturday morning feels like the right time to start asking questions and pick her brain to sate your own curiosity.
  1295. >Today is that day.
  1296. >While both of you are being lazy on the couch.
  1297. >Because why not?
  1298. "Whatcha doin?" you ask as you glance over to Midnight.
  1299. >"Listening to you ask me what I'm doing," she drones, her face buried in the laptop as usual.
  1300. "What were you doing before that?"
  1301. >"Checking orders."
  1302. >You lean over so you're resting on her barrel.
  1303. "It's Saturday."
  1304. >"Very astute observation, dumbshit."
  1305. "Aww, now I have to come up with a cute pet name for you too."
  1306. >Midnight doesn't say anything, but she's trying hard not to smirk at that.
  1307. >Before she fails, her wing abruptly opens and swats you back.
  1308. >You yield for the time being - though as soon as her appendage is neatly folded back, you're up against her again.
  1309. >"You don't learn, do you?"
  1310. "No, I don't. Hit me again, mistress."
  1311. >Midnight slowly turns her head, looking at you with disgust and concern.
  1312. "Too far?"
  1313. >"What is wrong with you?"
  1314. "Well it is Saturday, so if you want me to spend the time, I can tell you everything."
  1315. >"I'll pass, Anon."
  1316. "No one ever wants to hear my problems," you pout.
  1317. >You give it a few moments of Midnight reading through items on her screen before you speak up again.
  1318. "Anything of interest car-wise or part-wise?" you ask, hopeful to hear a reaction from something she lists.
  1319. >"Not too much. Taillight housings for a '63 Galaxie, tail panel trim for a '68 Dart GTS... a hood tachometer housing for a '70 Rebel Machine?" she finishes, turning to you for clarification.
  1320. "AMC Rebel Machine. One year only car - patriotic as hell, and rare as hell. I doubt I have that."
  1321. >"Anyway - bumpers for a Buick Wildcat, door window glass for a Pontiac Lemans, et cetera, et cetera."
  1322. >Nothing other than the single instance of further clarity from you - no real excitement.
  1323. >Damn.
  1324. >"What's your issue all of a sudden?" she asks calmly, looking you up and down.
  1325. >Maybe you made a face.
  1326. >Or some reflexive movement that she sensed.
  1327. >Who knows.
  1328. "I guess I'm just sort of shocked you haven't settled on a project car, Midnight," you admit reluctantly. "By no means am I pressuring you to decide, but with how excited you were with the prospect - haven't heard anything since."
  1329. >"Well color me surprised," Midnight answers, closing her laptop with a hoof to focus squarely upon you. "Do you take me for someone that rash when it comes to decisions?"
  1330. "Not really, I guess. I don't know - never gave it a thought."
  1331. >"Okay - I'm not, not about something like this," she replies. "You gave me the stipulations of something we can find parts for and something that isn't a basket case. My biggest decision amongst that is finding something... right."
  1332. "Right?"
  1333. >Midnight purses her lips as she sits and ponders an explanation.
  1334. >As the lightbulb in her head lights up, so to do her eyes - in a figurative sense.
  1335. >"What's your favorite car of all time?"
  1336. >That question is like getting hammered in the gut.
  1337. "Whoa whoa whoa - you can't spring a question like that and expect an answer right away, Middie," you caution her.
  1338. >"Oh? Why not?" she retorts with a lick of sarcasm and innocence dashed in her voice.
  1339. "That is something that requires a lot of soul-searching and thought to answer - if it is even possible at all," you wax with a flair of drama.
  1340. >"Alright, dramatics aside - I'm doing the same thing. I don't know what I want for sure. But I want something that fits me in a sense."
  1341. "And you haven't found that particular something that just vibes with you," you add, beginning to understand her predicament.
  1342. >"Yes, exactly."
  1343. >You have your answer now, but you still don't feel very satisfied.
  1344. "Is there a certain kind of car you're looking for? Some sort of attribute that I can sort of work with to help, or is it just having to see it to know?"
  1345. >Midnight's face contorts once again as she mulls what you've thrown out there for her.
  1346. >In the meantime, you sit up and pet her side, fixing the errant fur where you were leaning against her.
  1347. >"Well first off, it's gotta have some guts to it," she states matter-of-factly.
  1348. "Of course - I'm not putting something together that's all show and no go," you comment in agreement. "But let's not go overkill, either."
  1349. >"What's 'overkill' in your definition?" she inquires, her mischievous grin growing wide enough to display her fangs.
  1350. "It should be something streetable. I don't want something that is miserable to drive around town or idles like shit because of a hot cam."
  1351. >"Psh. Pussy."
  1352. "Believe me when I say you'll thank me for that boundary - been around enough to know unless you're drag racing or trying to win a dick-measuring contest, you can't completely sacrifice drivability. But that's stuff we can hammer out later in any car - either aftermarket parts or an engine swap. We got plenty of engines laying around."
  1353. >"All right, point taken. That doesn't do much narrowing down then," she concedes reluctantly.
  1354. >As you wait for her next thought, you start fucking around with her hair - twisting it and twirling it around.
  1355. >"You're going to fix that later."
  1356. "Maybe. I want to see how stupid I can make your hair look. You have so much of it."
  1357. >"You suggesting I should cut it?"
  1358. >You can only offer a shrug.
  1359. "I wouldn't go overboard. I like your long hair. Maybe a trim? That's up to you."
  1360. >"Hm. Maybe."
  1361. "What else are you looking for in a car?"
  1362. >"Something good-looking. And at least a little comfortable. I don't want to feel cramped inside of it."
  1363. "Like a full-size car - a land yacht?"
  1364. >"Ehhh... maybe not that big," she backs off.
  1365. "But you don't want a Dart or a Nova."
  1366. >"Nope. Add any pony car to that list."
  1367. "Aww, but then I can't make any lame 'pony in your pony car' jokes."
  1368. >"Even better," Midnight cheerfully responds.
  1369. "So basically midsize and up, comfortable, and something that offers a good kick when you mash it."
  1370. >"Yes. And something stylish, something as good looking as me," she crows with cockiness.
  1371. "So why are we even trying then?"
  1372. >The comment causes Midnight to snap directly to you with a glare.
  1373. >"What?"
  1374. "We sure as shit ain't finding something as good looking as you. Chill."
  1375. >Midnight opens her mouth to respond before her jolt of anger subsides as the comment finally registers.
  1376. "I think that's the first time you ever referred to yourself as good looking, rather than disparaging," you say with a grin, reaching over and scratching an ear.
  1377. >Midnight's muzzle scrunches up, unable to figure out any sort of reply.
  1378. >"We're talking about cars, Anon."
  1379. >You sigh.
  1380. "Fine, be that way."
  1381. >With both hands, you quickly ruffle up her hair and mane, making it worse than the traditional bedhead she wakes up with every morning.
  1382. >"Seriously?" she asks, mildly annoyed.
  1383. "You look crazy now."
  1384. >"I *am* crazy to deal with you every day."
  1385. "Is that really so bad?"
  1386. >"... it's tolerable."
  1387. "So you like it."
  1388. >Midnight's wing opens up again, this time reaching up to your head with the tip of her primary feathers.
  1389. >She swirls it around, apparently hoping to mess up your hair as bad as hers.
  1390. >It doesn't really work, considering your short cut.
  1391. >But damn, it feels relaxing feeling the soft plumage graze your head.
  1392. >>You let out an exaggerated content sigh, complete with a dumb smile.
  1393. >"Bastard," she grumbles.
  1394. "That was a nice scalp massage, though. I could get used to this."
  1395. >Midnight's wing whaps you in the face before retracting.
  1396. "That's abuse."
  1397. >"Shaddup, stupid."
  1398. "Alright. So what do you want to do today?"
  1399. >Midnight lazily shrugs.
  1400. >"It's been a long week. Do we need to do anything?"
  1401. "No, not really. You just want to lounge around on the couch all day?"
  1402. >"Why not?"
  1403. "...eh, screw it. You talked me into it. I'm surprised you're learning to be a lazy ass."
  1404. >"I'm full of surprises. But it's not being a lazy ass if I busted my ass all week."
  1405. "I can go with that argument. Now, entertain me," you demand, laying over on your side, using Midnight as a pillow again.
  1406.  
  1407.  
  1408.  
  1409.  
  1410.  
  1411. >"Anon, you got a moment?"
  1412. >Squinting as you pull your head out of the dim engine bay to brace for the bright desert sun, Midnight stand off to your right, directing in front of the car you're wrenching on.
  1413. "I can make time. What's up?"
  1414. >"...I'm having issues, and before I end up ruining something or lose my temper, I figured I should ask you."
  1415. >Despite her hesitance, Midnight's honesty gets a smile out of you.
  1416. >It wasn't that long ago she would have let her temper and impatience take over rather than seek advice.
  1417. "Lead the way."
  1418. >Midnight sets off at a decent trot, making you take steps at a rather brisk pace to keep up with her.
  1419. >Okay, so her impatience isn't completely gone...
  1420. >Or maybe it's excitement.
  1421. >Nonetheless, it's only a dozen cars down the row and across the aisle before she stops and circles around back of a low-slung blue coupe.
  1422. >Well, well, well.
  1423. >It's a Chevy Corvair - second gen.
  1424. >You join Midnight at the rear of the car - where the engine is.
  1425. >"Am I crazy, or is the intake on this thing part of the cylinder head?" she asks, pointing a hoof down into the dirty, dingy engine bay.
  1426. >You honestly don't know the answer offhand - meaning you poke your head in and get a closer look.
  1427. >You know these flat-six boxer engines are air-cooled, so the head should be aluminum...
  1428. >And it is.
  1429. >You also see where she's unbolted the top set of fasteners that hold the head to the cylinders themselves.
  1430. >But that has nothing to do with the intake...
  1431. >You don't see any sort of seam where the stained aluminum runner separates from the head.
  1432. >And no other bolt heads or holes, aside from where the carburetor mounts.
  1433. "You are crazy, but that's a solid piece, Middie," you say as you rise back up out of the rather cramped space.
  1434. >Midnight shakes her head as she snorts.
  1435. >"So do we chalk that order up to someone that doesn't have a fuck what they're doing?" she responds with mild frustration. "The order specifically said the intake - no head or anything else."
  1436. "Well, if you really feel adventurous, you can try taking the head off now. But yeah, we're gonna have to ask for clarification on that one."
  1437. >"If I'm feeling adventurous, huh?"
  1438. >You shrug, looking around at the engine again.
  1439. >Knowing little to jack squat, you're more or less trying to gauge how much work it would be to pull it and have it handy in the shop.
  1440. >Well, there's not much room side to side - might have to come out of the bottom.
  1441. >The exhaust is underneath, too...
  1442. >And you aren't seeing any timing covers up front, either.
  1443. >It may not even be an overhead cam.
  1444. "I think it's more trouble than it would be worth right now - I think it's a pushrod engine," you announce, turning to her.
  1445. >Midnight's nose instantly wrinkles at that revelation.
  1446. >"In other words, take the valve cover off to take off the rocker arms and pushrods as well as your standard fare of bullshit. I'll pass."
  1447. "I figured as much, but who am I to judge if you had a wild hair up your ass?"
  1448. >"What was the point of this, anyway - a cheap sports car, I assume?"
  1449. >You scratch your head as Midnight gathers up her tools and closes the rear decklid.
  1450. "I don't think that was the original intention, believe it or not. When Chevy first came out with the Corvair, it was touted as a compact economy car - like the Volkswagen Beetle. And that's what the engineering and design teams leaned toward - something that would stand out, rather than just a normal small car like Ford and Chrysler did."
  1451. >"By the sounds of it, you like them."
  1452. "They have a certain charm, particularly the second generation," you reply, patting the weather-beaten fender of the car in question. "I don't know exactly when or why, but at some point, Chevy came out with the Nova - well, Chevy II when it first came out - and that was their economy car, and moved this to something more sport-oriented as far as advertising. But there were wagons and light pickups based on this chassis design, too."
  1453. >Midnight glances around at different aspects and angles of the car with uncertainty.
  1454. "Thinking about this as a project?" you ask with a grin.
  1455. >In reality, it's in relatively good shape, and at a glance, looks quite complete.
  1456. >Certainly would be interesting to work on.
  1457. >But Midnight shakes her head, extinguishing any excitement that had begun to build.
  1458. >"I'm not a fan - I think it's fuck ugly. And if it's air-cooled, probably not a lot of power. So much for having any balls."
  1459. "Really? The Porsche 911 would like to disagree with you."
  1460. >"Point, but no," she reiterates. "If this was such a good car, why don't they make anything like this nowadays?"
  1461. "Same as most failed GM products - bad press and questionable decisions."
  1462. >You leave it at that and start to walk away, knowing full well what you're doing.
  1463. >"Asshole, that doesn't explain anything!" Midnight barks at you from behind.
  1464. >You whirl back around, having only made it a few steps.
  1465. "Well, that's the truth of it. What else should I say?" you reply, unable to prevent a shit-eating grin from crossing your face.
  1466. >"I want the full rundown."
  1467. "You mean another storytime about shitbox cars? Albeit not a shitbox this time?"
  1468. >"Stop being a queer," she laments with a roll of her eyes.
  1469. "Only a kiss from you can save me from the clutches of faggotry, Middie."
  1470. >"I doubt that," she retorts as she trots up to you, meeting with a pucker of her lips as you bend down and smooch her.
  1471. "Anyway, the second generation didn't have an issue, but the damage was done by what happened with the first-gen. Having an engine in the ass end like that makes for much different handling qualities than your run-of-the-mill front-engined car."
  1472. >"So people didn't know what to expect, or what?"
  1473. "A little bit of that. The issue is the first gen's rear suspension - swing axles. It's the same thing the Beetle uses, but we're talking about a heavier car here. And the thing with that kind of axle is it has massive amounts of camber change because the drive axle itself is only jointed where it goes into the trans, not the wheel. So you lose contact patch of the tire in situations where you're turning or hitting the brakes - or even bumps in the road. Makes the ass end want to come around when weight starts shifting."
  1474. >"And you're telling me the chucklefucks in charge of designing that didn't know?"
  1475. >You can't help but let a small laugh escape.
  1476. "Oh, they did, and the simple solution would be a front sway bar to counteract the issue. But the bean counters said that would not be cost-effective, so it was eliminated in favor of tire pressure differences between front and rear - which works, if people paid attention to the owner's manual."
  1477. >"Why is this one different, then?" Midnight inquires, pointing a hoof to the old blue coupe.
  1478. >"Second generation went to fully independent rear suspension, similar to the Corvette's setup. Before that, GM made the front sway bar standard at some point in the first-gen."
  1479. >You pause a moment as you decide how best to continue.
  1480. >"But, to be honest, the problems were kinda exaggerated by some dick that wanted to sell a book. Guy was right about the omission of the front sway bar for cost reasons, but these things weren't out on the road endangering everyone's lives."
  1481. >"In other words, there really isn't anything wrong with them."
  1482. "Not really, no. They weren't much worse than any other car, even taking those handling quirks into account."
  1483. >Midnight shakes her head, trudging forward to the car you had previously been working on with you right beside her.
  1484. >"Humans have to be some of the dumbest fucking creatures on earth," she mutters as you follow her.
  1485. "Yeah, in some ways. But let me remind you that I fall into the category of human."
  1486. >"Oh, I'm *well* aware of that fact, Anon," she replies with a grin.
  1487. "I figured as much."
  1488. >"Anyway, what are you working on?" she asks as you resume your earlier position under the hood of a Buick.
  1489. "Taking a stubborn intake manifold off of this car. Let me reiterate that I don't give you shit jobs," you say, pointing the end of a ratchet to two bolt heads snapped clean off, now lying on the radiator support.
  1490. >"Well, I picked my own out today, so I can't blame you if I wanted to," Midnight calmly replies.
  1491. "Oh yeah. I honestly forgot about that."
  1492. >There's a pause in the conversation as you strain on the next intake bolt - which eases itself loose, bit by bit.
  1493. >"All things considered, do you really think a car like that Corvair would have made it far in terms of production beyond... well, whenever they stopped?"
  1494. "It's an interesting question to consider. But honestly - probably not," you admit. "There's a lot that's unique just to that car, and once the seventies rolled around and everyone was struggling for sales - hell, you see how much badge-engineered crap GM made in the eighties. I think it would have been axed sooner or later. But it's a neat little footnote in history."
  1495. >"Fair enough. But another question for you."
  1496. "Shoot."
  1497. >"Are you going to pester me with the notion of every car I have questions about being a possible project car?"
  1498. >You look up, finding Midnight staring at you knowingly.
  1499. "Sorry. Really not trying to be annoying, but you're also taking more time than I expected," you admit.
  1500. >"Well, there is a little bit of fun watching you squirm over this," she cackles.
  1501. "Midnight, you already do that to me every time I watch you walk away."
  1502. >"...what?"
  1503. "Hm?"
  1504. >Midnight looks confounded by your remark, her brow raised while you go back to working on the intake.
  1505. >"You're awful," she sputters after a time. "I'm going to get something else done and leave you with your sick mind."
  1506. "Okay, lemme know if you need anything."
  1507. >"I hope not."
  1508. >As Midnight walks away, you look up to see a more pronounced sway of her hips than normal.
  1509. >Huh...
  1510. >At that moment, she turns her head and narrows her eyes at you.
  1511. >"It's gonna be hard to get shit done when you aren't watching what you're doing, dumbass!" she taunts.
  1512. >Is... she teasing you?
  1513. >It seems like it.
  1514. >You might have just created a monster.
  1515. "Gonna be hard for you to get parts pulled when you're lollygagging!"
  1516. >With that, Midnight gallops off down the path, leaving you to wonder where things exactly stand between you two...
  1517. >Goddammit.
  1518. >Leaning over the fender just got difficult and uncomfortable.
  1519. >Stupid sexy Midnight.
  1520.  
  1521.  
  1522.  
  1523.  
  1524. "I'd say that went pretty smooth, how about you?"
  1525. >"There weren't any frightened kids or arguments in the parking lot, so I'll agree with that."
  1526. >You set off for home after an uneventful trip to the grocery store this morning.
  1527. >Midnight wanted to give it another go, having finally put to rest the sour taste left in her mouth by the first trip once upon a time.
  1528. "I still can't get over that old lady commenting how cute you were in the deli section," you remind Midnight with a shit-eating grin.
  1529. >"Yeah, she must have been blind, because I don't do cute," Midnight huffs, the relaxed smile she's been sporting all morning diminishing just a bit with your comment.
  1530. "You're just so cute when you're grumpy!" you babble, reaching over and pinching her cheek.
  1531. >"Hey - watch the road, you retard!" she snaps, flailing a foreleg to knock your arm away.
  1532. "Midnight, I can drive home blindfolded. It's muscle memory at this point."
  1533. >"Really?" she asks, eyes widening.
  1534. "Well, not really. But close."
  1535. >"Not close enough, because you just missed our turn."
  1536. >You look in the mirror to see the familiar dilapidated shanty at the intersection getting smaller in the distance.
  1537. "Fuck."
  1538. >"I don't feel sorry for you," Midnight interjects, turning her nose up at you.
  1539. "You're screwed out here if we get lost in the desert if I am, Middie."
  1540. >"If you get lost when all we have to do is turn around or use your phone, I'll be impressed," she answers back, lowering her sightline back to you. "Besides the fact, I can leave your ass and just fly home."
  1541. "You know, I haven't seen you actually fly yet - can you really do it?" you ask, genuinely curious.
  1542. >There was that day after Midnight got smashed that she used her wings to glide from the top of the stairs down to the shop floor, but that's it.
  1543. >"Just as any bot with wings can, yes," she calmly asserts. "Now, to be fair, it's been a while since I've done it, but you don't forget something like that. As I've said before - it takes a lot of energy - and it's counterintuitive when you're trying to lay low and not be seen."
  1544. "You don't have to lay low anymore - at least not at home."
  1545. >"True - I may just decide to prove it to you sometime soon," she says, looking quite smug.
  1546. >She raises a hoof, pointing ahead to the right as her eyes are drawn to the road.
  1547. >"There's another turn right here."
  1548. >You see the sign denoting the road and start slowing down, only visually spotting the asphalt amidst the flat landscape of copper sand when you're practically turning onto it.
  1549. "Sure hope you know what you're doing, captain," you say, staring forward and saluting.
  1550. >"What's the worst that can happen?"
  1551. "The Hills Have Eyes."
  1552. >"...what?"
  1553. "Don't worry about it."
  1554. >The road is little more than a cracked run of pavement over an old cow path, making you basically run in the middle of the road.
  1555. >In reality, you aren't concerned for your well-being - but you don't know if you've ever bothered to go down this road.
  1556. >More than likely, you'll end up turning off to the right again and end up on the road you meant to turn on in the first place - it's just a matter of how far you gotta go.
  1557. >... you could just hang a u-turn, but what's the fun in that?
  1558. >Backtracking is admitting defeat.
  1559. >But neither of you say much as cacti and scrub brush pass by on either side, both of you keeping a lookout for the next road.
  1560. >"Think that house is abandoned?" Midnight asks as a tired old shack pops up from the horizon in the distance, on the right side of the road.
  1561. "I dunno. Might be a hermit - you feeling social?"
  1562. >"Not particularly."
  1563. >When you get closer to the property, you see junk scattered around the house and an old garage that looks to be on its last legs in the desert sun.
  1564. >Closer to the road, a few cars and a tractor sit in the sand.
  1565. >You slow down just a bit in curiosity as you get ready to drive by.
  1566. >Either the individual that lives here is a crazy packrat, or this is an abandoned property used for dumping shit no one wants.
  1567. >Weird.
  1568. >"Anon, wait."
  1569. "What?"
  1570. >"I want to look at that."
  1571. "Midnight, we got frozen food and other cold shit in the back, I'm already kinda pushing my luck taking the long way home," you remind her. "It's probably all junk anyway."
  1572. >"It will be fine - just stop," she instructs, pointing to the row of vehicles.
  1573. >With a sigh, you do so, unsure whether this is a good idea.
  1574. >If someone lives here, they could legit be crazy - and there's no 'for sale' signs out.
  1575. >As you put the truck in park, Midnight practically bolts from the passenger seat, running over to a...
  1576. >Actually, what is that?
  1577. >Your own curiosity now driving your motions, you step out of the truck and wander to where Midnight is circling around.
  1578. >It's something from the fifties, you know that much, just by the panoramic windshield and the general shape.
  1579. >As you get closer to the dust-covered car, you can finally make out the letters spaced out along the hood's leading edge.
  1580. >They offer a glint of chrome upon a dark blue-gray paint - more than likely a severely weather-faded black.
  1581. >It's an old Chrysler.
  1582. >Oddly, the windows are opaque, the glass backed by something yellowed white on every corner.
  1583. >Also, there's no chrome on the sides - very atypical for something from the era of glitz and glamour.
  1584. "It's interesting Midnight, but let's get going."
  1585. >"This is it," she says, staring at the trapezoidal grille.
  1586. "What is?"
  1587. >She looks at you as if you just said something incredibly stupid.
  1588. >"This car! The project car!"
  1589. >You think she's joking...
  1590. >But the look of anticipation and wonder on her face says otherwise.
  1591. >Why would she want this?
  1592. "Midnight, do you see a 'For Sale' sign anywhere?" you hint.
  1593. >"Why else would it be near the road?"
  1594. "Midnight, that doesn't mean an-"
  1595. >The sound of a screen door slamming shut breaks your focus from Midnight to the house.
  1596. >What looks to be a frail old man steps off of the porch, ambling along with a cane through the yard.
  1597. >"Hang on, sonny! I'm a-comin!" he calls out in a rather hoarse voice.
  1598. >Well, at least he doesn't seem like the serial killer kind...
  1599. >The liver-spotted bronze skin combined with his hunched-forward posture and bald head makes you more concerned for his well-being at this point.
  1600. >"Why would he be coming out here if it wasn't for sale?" Midnight whispers to you.
  1601. "To beat your ass with that cane for trespassing, stupid."
  1602. >The old man finally reaches you and Midnight, straightening up a bit to at least stand at eye level with Midnight.
  1603. >His gold-rimmed circular glasses on his deeply wrinkled face apparently having been made with Coke-bottle glass make his eyes look enormous as he looks at Midnight, then you.
  1604. >"Good morning!" he says, a little louder than necessary for those of normal hearing.
  1605. >"Good morning," Midnight offers back with a nod and a smile.
  1606. "Yeah, it is a nice morning. Didn't mean to bother you," you say apologetically.
  1607. >"Oh, pish-posh," he replies with a laugh and a wave of his free hand. "It's a good thing for me to be getting out and about. And better yet, to have someone looking at what I got for sale."
  1608. >"See?" Midnight says, looking over at you with a cocky grin.
  1609. >"I suppose I'm a little out of the way for most folk, and I don't do that newfangled technology all the kids use - been a while since I had someone stop and take a gander," the old man continues, pausing as he turns to Midnight. "Oh, and no offense with the technology comment. Just not for me."
  1610. >Midnight has the same amount of confusion you feel for a moment, before realizing the guy thinks she's a pony bot.
  1611. >Derp.
  1612. >"None taken," Midnight says, shaking her head as the realization hits her as well.
  1613. >Good girl.
  1614. >"Anyway - figured I'd head on out and greet you two. Like the look of the old Chrysler, eh?"
  1615. "It caught her eye," reply, pointing to Midnight. "I'm having a hard time putting my finger on it - what is it?"
  1616. >Looking at the grille, the old man motions to it for a moment, right before noting the empty circular socket at the top.
  1617. >He waddles to the driver's side of the car, pointing to the rear quarter.
  1618. >"Well, it says right here on the si-"
  1619. >He stops and adjusts his glasses again, while you look at the empty panel dotted only by minute holes punched in the sheetmetal.
  1620. >"Well, it would say right here on the side. I must have put them inside the car," he finishes, reaching for the door handle.
  1621. >The latch opens with a healthy mechanical clunk, allowing the door to swing open and you and Midnight to look inside the car - and get hit with a wave of stale air.
  1622. >First off, it appears that it's old newspapers taped to the inside of the windows - so faded from the outside as to make that indiscernible, but the ink is just barely visible inside.
  1623. >But it means that the tan interior, while showing wear and tear from years of use and desert heat hasn't been completely fried by the sun's rays.
  1624. >Moreover, the chrome side spear trim from the sides lay on the front bench seat leather, with the red white, and blue medallions shining in the glare of the morning sun, along with the name.
  1625. >300C
  1626. >You feel ashamed for not recognizing the grille - even if it's missing the emblem.
  1627. >"Chrysler 300C. Bought it brand new in the spring of '57," the old man explains. "Boy, what a car."
  1628. >"You kept this for that long?" Midnight gasps.
  1629. >"Well sure I did - there were a lot of memories with this car," the man answers back. "Saved up a lot of money to buy it, and the honeys loved it, too."
  1630. >He laughs again, a raspy noise that carries into a short cough.
  1631. >"Sorry about that. But it wasn't long after getting this car I met my love, Mildred. A lot of date nights in this car - drove it home from the wedding, too. Lord above, so many good memories - until I spun a bearing or something in it."
  1632. "You never looked into it?"
  1633. >He shakes his head.
  1634. >"When you got a loving wife and two children to provide for and take care of, spend time with - cars don't mean too much, sonny," he replies. "I always thought someday I'd get back to it, once the kids grew up and started their own lives. But never did, I'm afraid. Truth be told, I sort of got into collecting all sorts of things after Mildred passed about - oh dear, probably thirty or so years ago. Something to distract the mind aside from the kids and the grandkids, when they couldn't be around."
  1635. >Towards the end of his rambling, you hear emotions and pain creep into his voice - but a clearing of his throat makes it evaporate.
  1636. >"But enough about me - you didn't stop by just to hear an old coot share his life story, eh?"
  1637. >"How much is it?" Midnight practically blurts out.
  1638. >Dammit, Midnight...
  1639. >You don't know a ton about these, but you know they were expensive when new, and ended up quite rare.
  1640. >With as complete as this looks, there's no way it's going to fit into a budget no matter how much you stretch it.
  1641. "What she means to say is we were just passing by and were curious about it. Also, I'm sorry to hear about your wife."
  1642. >"Oh, it's alright sonny. I appreciate it, but I'm fine. The kids come by pretty frequently, the grandkids too - that's how I still live out here without a license."
  1643. >He pauses a moment, looking at you and Midnight.
  1644. >"Well, it's been out here for some time now, and heaven knows I don't have the body or mind to take care of it - you ain't gonna scrap it, are ya?"
  1645. >"Absolutely not!" Midnight shouts, aghast by the suggestion.
  1646. >It brings a smile to the old man's face.
  1647. >"I didn't think so, but better safe than sorry! I just want it to go to a good home
  1648. ... honestly, since it doesn't even run, I'll take fifteen hundred."
  1649. >Fifteen hundred...
  1650. >This guy has to be fucking with you.
  1651. "Fifteen hundred, or fifteen thousand?" you cautiously ask.
  1652. >"One thousand five hundred dollars. Might be worth more than that, but I'm getting old, boy. I don't need to be bringing in big bucks that I'll never do anything with."
  1653. >'Might' be worth more than that...
  1654. >You feel guilty.
  1655. >"Sold!"
  1656. >You look over at Midnight in shock, seeing her practically bouncing up and down with joy.
  1657. "Hey, I'm the one with the finances here, Middie," you remind her.
  1658. >"And I'm the one that got us there," she replies, sticking her tongue out at you.
  1659. >You look over at the seller, who seems perfectly content listening to you two banter.
  1660. "Just a moment, mister..."
  1661. >"Ah, there's no need for formalities. Art's the name."
  1662. "Well Art, I'm Anon, and this is Midnight - and I think we need just a moment to discuss something," you reply, patting Midnight on the back of her neck to urge her away.
  1663. >"Of course, take your time," he says with a nod.
  1664. >After ten or so paces, you stop.
  1665. >Midnight turns to face you, looking mildly irritated.
  1666. >"What?"
  1667. "Is that really what you want?"
  1668. >"You think this is just an elaborate joke on my part?" she warily answers back.
  1669. "It's..."
  1670. >You rub the back of your head, looking back at the old Chrysler.
  1671. "I didn't expect a project from the fifties. We gonna cruise to the malt shop, me with a greaser haircut and you sporting a beehive, too?"
  1672. >"Shut up, jackass - just look at it!" she cries, pointing back to the car. "It looks great, looks comfortable, and like you said, we can do an engine swap if it needs power."
  1673. >Well, if you can put the engine back together, power won't be an issue.
  1674. >Those Chryslers won races straight from the showroom floor.
  1675. >The transmission is pushbutton, which is neat, too.
  1676. >And it is pretty sharp, even in the rough.
  1677. >Would make for a nice cruiser, and it looks like most of the parts are there...
  1678. >Fuck it.
  1679. > It's what she wants.
  1680. >Badly.
  1681. >At first sight.
  1682. >Which brings to mind...
  1683. "Midnight, you are not naming that car, and the first time the radio comes on by itself playing fifties rock and roll - it's gone."
  1684. >"You need to stop watching movies," she replies, albeit with a smirk.
  1685. "I mean it, Arnie."
  1686. >"You look more like Cuntface than me."
  1687. "Anyway, if you're really serious about this and that's what you want-"
  1688. >"We have a deal!" Midnight sidesteps you and shouts.
  1689. "-I guess I'm in."
  1690.  
  1691.  
  1692.  
  1693.  
  1694. >You hear the ramps on the trailer rattle behind as you turn off the road and stop at the locked gate of your salvage yard.
  1695. >"I'll get it," Midnight quickly chimes in, hopping out of the passenger side and trotting over to the locked chain holding the path closed.
  1696. >Needless to say, Midnight is on cloud nine since this morning when spotting the old Chrysler.
  1697. >Not that you aren't happy or excited about the purchase.
  1698. >Midnight is just on a whole other level.
  1699. >And it was a good thing she had that extra burst of adrenaline - it wasn't easy to load the 300 onto the trailer.
  1700. >Two flat and dry rotted tires plus a froze-up brake - not to mention the two tons of weight this car hefts - meant the tired winch you had on the trailer wasn't quite enough to pull it up without some assistance.
  1701. >So you and Midnight had to strain and push while Art was kind enough to work the winch.
  1702. >Eventually, you got it there.
  1703. >Offloading should be easier...
  1704. >Fingers crossed.
  1705. >Midnight flings both halves of the gate open, moving aside to allow you access.
  1706. >After rolling through and past the shop, you reverse and line the trailer up with one of the garage doors of the shop.
  1707. >Midnight waits to see which one you choose before scampering in through the man door and opening up said garage door.
  1708. >She signals to you with a wing to hold once you get the end of the trailer over the concrete floor.
  1709. >You throw the truck in park and shut it off before meeting the excited mare by the trailer and its precious cargo.
  1710. "Ready for round two?" you ask, placing your hands on your hips and stretching your back.
  1711. >"Well, we won't have to worry about it rolling away," Midnight jokes with a half-hearted smile.
  1712. "Ain't that the truth."
  1713. >You circle round back of the trailer and unfasten the chains tying the rear axle to the trailer, before heading up front and undoing those wrapped around the K-member.
  1714. >Midnight watches intently the whole time - despite checking beforehand to see if the car is in park and unable to roll.
  1715. "You know I started at the back to be sure if it did roll, it would be away from me - right?"
  1716. >"It's not like I'm doing anything else right now," she says passively.
  1717. "I figured your mind would be full of ideas brewing about what to do with the car. No?"
  1718. >Surprisingly, she shakes her head.
  1719. > With as adamant and ecstatic to buy this car as she appeared earlier, you anticipated something had clicked in her mind in regards to the finished product.
  1720. >Of course, it isn't a bad thing she doesn't already have a plan, either.
  1721. "Alright, chain is undone, winch is still attached to the front so it will go slow - or at least not allow the car to take off without us," you announce, slinging the last rusted chain off to the side of the trailer, the clang of metal resonating for a moment.
  1722. >You hop up onto the front of the trailer, followed shortly by the clatter of hooves with Middie on the other side.
  1723. >With winch remote in hand, you both push on the sculpted front end in unison.
  1724. >There's a slight metallic grind accompanied by the squeegee-like sound of rubber as the Chrysler reluctantly starts rolling off of the trailer, before being halted by the winch cable.
  1725. >You feed the line out a little bit - and are pleasantly surprised as the same cacophony of the car moving on its own reaches your ears.
  1726. "Hell yeah," you cheer, feeding more cable off the reel as the car slowly heads down the ramp, coming to a stop once it reaches level concrete.
  1727. >"Well that went better than expected."
  1728. "Sometimes shit works out that way. Now, let's get it centered on the lift."
  1729. >"Oh? And here I was thinking you didn't have any enthusiasm over this car," Midnight chides mischievously.
  1730. "You sucked me in - and yeah, I suppose this is sorta a whole new experience for me. I've never had the pleasure of really doing a deep dive into a car like this."
  1731. >"Well in that case - perhaps you have a vision for it?"
  1732. "No, I don't want to intrude on your-"
  1733. >"*Our* project car," Midnight interrupts. "Humor me, Anon."
  1734. >You cross your arms as you look over the car, wandering around it at a leisurely pace.
  1735. "First off, if it were me - I'd get better tires for it."
  1736. >"Well no shit, Sherlock," Midnight replies, synchronized with a roll of her eyes.
  1737. "No, that wasn't me stating the obvious - I'm saying get rid of the skinny bias-ply tires they used back then. I don't have an issue with white walls- but more modern - and wider - rubber is going to be a hell of an improvement in ride and grip."
  1738. >"That seems simple enough."
  1739. >You grimace a little bit at that comment.
  1740. "It sounds like it, but it's a matter of how much clearance we have to work with and how it fits," you cautiously explain, patting the front fender near the wheel opening. "You don't want the tire sticking out of the fender, and you don't want to hit the inside fender well when turning the wheel. So that's going to take time to figure out."
  1741. >"Fair enough. What else?"
  1742. >You back up to take the whole car's profile in, trying to get a better picture of what you would do if it were purely your canvas.
  1743. "Honestly, most of the car I would keep the same. It's a clean design, chrome is already used conservatively. Maybe just a fresh coat of black paint. But I could see lowering the car just an inch or two - nothing crazy, and certainly not slammed to the ground."
  1744. >You shrug.
  1745. "Other than that, I don't really think it needs much in terms of personal touches as far as cosmetics. The car speaks for itself - I like the design."
  1746. >"That was my thoughts on it. But I'm still surprised that Anon, the man with the silly anecdotes on every car, doesn't know much about this one," she teases, nudging your side.
  1747. "I know a fair bit, I just didn't want to throw you into a hissy fit."
  1748. >"That sounds like an excuse, considering you had to ask what exactly it was..."
  1749. >That smug grin grows into a proper toothy smile, looking downright devious.
  1750. "I'm rusty on my knowledge and identification. That doesn't mean I don't know anything.
  1751. >"Excuuuses~" Midnight hums in response.
  1752. "The banker's hot rod."
  1753. >Your sudden utterance gets Midnight to halt her harassment.
  1754. >"What?"
  1755. "Affectionate name for the letter series cars from Chrysler - the banker's hot rod. Particularly the first few years, like this one."
  1756. >"Any particular reason? I get Chrysler was more premium or luxury, but as far as power - was there something noteworthy, or were they just sort of ahead of the curve in terms of performance?"
  1757. "Ahead of the curve, I suppose, and because of..."
  1758. >You trail off as you realize you made a major mistake.
  1759. >With Midnight's excitement and urge to buy the car this morning, you never took a look under the hood.
  1760. >You dumbass.
  1761. >There's an engine under the hood - you know that from being underneath the front end to get a chain hooked up to the k-member.
  1762. >But the top end and condition of the engine bay...
  1763. >Yes, this car was a good deal regardless, but what the fuck, dude?
  1764. >You feel sick as you quickly make your way over to the front of the car.
  1765. >"What's got you bent out of shape all of a sudden?" Midnight questions as you fumble your hand around the top of the grille for the hood release.
  1766. "We got so caught up in all the banter and excitement, we never looked under the hood, Middie," you snap, in a harsher tone than you meant.
  1767. >You finally find the mechanism, pulling the lever and swinging open the massive steel hood.
  1768. >The hinges creak and moan in protest after years of rest, but the springs hold the hood taut in the raised position.
  1769. >You can breathe a sigh of relief.
  1770. >Much like the rest of the car, the engine bay looks complete.
  1771. >The gold valve covers still have a nice sparkle to them despite the dust coating from years of sitting.
  1772. >Dual quad carburetors still sit atop the intake, capped further still by low-profile air cleaner housings, with the football-shaped filters themselves cast off to either side, a shade of gold also matching the valve covers.
  1773. >You turn to face Midnight - whose mood has soured a bit, judging by her ears folding flat against her head and the scowl staining her muzzle.
  1774. "Sorry. I wasn't blaming you, and I didn't mean to sound like a dick."
  1775. >"Well, I suppose you blamed both of us for that," she says, her hard-edged expression softening up with your apology.
  1776. "And to be fair, you were caught up in the moment."
  1777. >She struts over to you, brushing up against your side before peering in to see the new discovery.
  1778. "That's what put Chrysler and the letter series on the map," you announce, motioning to the silver and gold powerplant.
  1779. >"Why are the valve covers so damn big? Dual overhead cams?"
  1780. "No, but the shape should look vaguely familiar for another reason - this is the first generation of Chrysler's Hemi engine - the forefather of the sixties and early seventies Street Hemi."
  1781. >"So power won't be an issue, huh?"
  1782. "Probably not. These things sometimes went straight from the dealership to the dragstrip and dirt track - and won. They really were outstanding in their time - though the Tri-Five Chevrolets tend to overshadow that."
  1783. >"So what size is the engine?"
  1784. "392. This was the last year, I think. Maybe one more - but it started out as... I believe a 354 cubic inch when they introduced it, at least in the letter series. But Dodge and DeSoto had their own versions of the "Firepower," as Chrysler called it."
  1785. >"Oh, but you don't know jackshit about thes- hey!"
  1786. >As Midnight mocks you, you decide to cut her off by booping her nose.
  1787. "What was that? Care to try again?" you crow.
  1788. >Midnight hip checks you instead of replying - though she does offer a low growl as well.
  1789. "Oh stop that, you're much more sophisticated than a dog."
  1790. >"As I recall once upon a time, you referred to me as a guard-"
  1791. "Anyway, with all of that being said - hopefully, we can keep this engine," you quickly continue, avoiding the completion of Midnight's musing. "I can almost guarantee I don't have any parts for this out in the yard, and I honestly don't know how easy it is to get parts for these. All depends on if it really is a bad bearing in the bottom end or something worse - but we'll figure something out regardless of that outcome."
  1792. >"-dog."
  1793. >There's a short staring contest with straight faces before you finally speak up.
  1794. "You will never let me live that down, will you?"
  1795. >Midnight puts a hoof to her chin as her eyes dart upward as if pondering a physical manifestation of a thought above her head.
  1796. >"Hm. Nope."
  1797. >There's a hint of playfulness in her voice.
  1798. >You drop the hood back down on the car, letting it rest unlatched on the striker plate.
  1799. "It's gonna be a long road to getting it... well, back on the road," you remind her.
  1800. >"I know it will. But that's all part of the fun, isn't it?"
  1801. "Fun, frustrating, fulfilling..."
  1802. >"Probably some other words that start with 'F'."
  1803. >You have to give a slight chuckle as you nod in agreement.
  1804. "Step by step, we'll get there."
  1805. >"Yeah. But I get to be the first one to crank the engine when it's done."
  1806. >You quickly snap your eyes to her.
  1807. "The hell you will."
  1808. >Midnight puts on an exaggerated smile as her eyes light up.
  1809. >In the figurative sense.
  1810. >"Oh, I'm so glad you agree with me, Anon!" she cheers.
  1811. >It's your turn to act irritated with that sassy response.
  1812. "You are a pain in the ass."
  1813. >The comment doesn't dim Midnight's attitude in the slightest.
  1814. >"You wouldn't have me any other way."
  1815. >Throwing an arm around her, you aggressively pull Middie next to you, while you feel her wing brush against your back to wrap itself around your form.
  1816. "Yeah, you're probably right."
  1817.  
  1818.  
  1819.  
  1820.  
  1821.  
  1822. >Most of the afternoon had been spent poring over the 300C once you and Midnight had it set up on the lift.
  1823. >Any spots of rust that were found underneath proved to be surface rust at worst.
  1824. >It really is impeccable how clean it is.
  1825. >The car certainly hasn't strayed away from this climate its whole life.
  1826. >But with that came the need for documentation before even thinking about getting started.
  1827. >You took many, many pictures with your phone during the course of the deep dive.
  1828. >Some of it just to have 'before' photos of the car - but mainly to remind you how things fit, special bolts or fasteners, and other shit like that.
  1829. >It's miserable trying to fit something back together later without some sort of guide and leaving it straight to memory.
  1830. >This might be the first time you actually heeded that advice.
  1831. >Sure, everything looks fairly good...
  1832. >But it's going to likely all have to come apart.
  1833. >Letting things sit for so long causes issues - with the first thought turning to all of the suspension bushings.
  1834. >They're pushing seventy years in age - if they aren't completely rotted out at a glance, they're certainly hard as a rock, and virtually useless.
  1835. >Then comes all the fluid lines - be it fuel, transmission, or brake.
  1836. >Again, sitting for so long is a recipe for any moisture inside to eat away at the tubing.
  1837. >Perhaps they're good - but it will take further inspection to decide that.
  1838. >For her part, Midnight displayed a lot of patience helping you to look things over.
  1839. >It would be hard not to see she's chomping at the bit to start tearing the car down and getting started on the restoration.
  1840. >But she seems to understand well enough.
  1841. >Today's monumental event meant that the urge to celebrate in the evening was too much to resist.
  1842. >Hence before beginning to look over the car, prep started on dinner.
  1843. >Steaks in a red wine marinade.
  1844. >Admittedly, it's something you've never done before - you had to look up a recipe online.
  1845. >But happily, they turned out great - tender, succulent, and full of flavor.
  1846. >Even if the wine you had was starting to get just a bit skunky...
  1847. >You gambled with it anyway, and there was no hint of that in dinner.
  1848. >Midnight pounded down two of em, while you settled for one and some cheesy potatoes.
  1849. >Now...
  1850. >Well, you don't much care for wine.
  1851. >But letting it go to waste would be a shame.
  1852. >The little over quarter bottle that was left is slowly disappearing.
  1853. >Due to you and Midnight.
  1854. >You aren't smashed by any stretch of the mind, but your tolerance has gone down, being out of practice...
  1855. >Midnight has virtually no tolerance, of course - but she's not blitzed, either.
  1856. >Just some good relaxing vibes while Midnight piddles with the laptop and shows you stuff.
  1857. >Mostly go-fast parts.
  1858. >"You know, the taste sort of grows on you," she comments after another sip.
  1859. "Yeah, like a tumor."
  1860. >Midnight snorts with a burst of infectious laughter that you succumb to fairly quickly.
  1861. "Anyway, what are you trying to wrestle me into buying now?"
  1862. >"Nothing. Considering your credit card information is still on this site in the checkout, I can buy it on my own."
  1863. "I'm going to be broke, aren't I?"
  1864. >"That kind of screws me over, too. Count your blessings," she answers, sticking her tongue out at you.
  1865. >You peer over at the screen, still wanting an answer to what she's looking at.
  1866. >Exhaust systems.
  1867. "Glass packs sound nice for a while, but they get blown out after a time. I'd suggest looking at proper baffled mufflers, Middie."
  1868. >"Alright. What about headers?"
  1869. "Not necessary, but they look and sound nice. I'm assuming they don't make shorty headers?"
  1870. >Midnight goes through a few filters and pages with a flurry of clicks before turning back to you.
  1871. >"Just full length. That an issue?"
  1872. >You lazily shrug your shoulders.
  1873. "They can be a bit of a pain in the ass to install or work around. We can make do if that's what you want."
  1874. >"Well, I'm not buying it today anyway," she reassures you. "Maybe something will come up later."
  1875. "I'm going to doubt that, just because that is such an old motor with fewer and fewer available," you reply, reaching over and stroking her hair.
  1876. >She lets out a sigh of content when you scratch an ear.
  1877. >"Alright - what about shifters?"
  1878. >Your hand stops.
  1879. "Midnight, you're drunk."
  1880. >"I am NOT drunk," she protests with a huff. "I have a little bit of a buzz, but I know what I said."
  1881. "So you forgot that it's a pushbutton trans?"
  1882. >The hesitation from her makes you smile.
  1883. >"I forgot because I forgot, not because of booze, stupid."
  1884. "I feel like blaming alcohol would have been a better way to save face."
  1885. >"What do you know? You're properly drunk," she offers back in rebuttal.
  1886. >You can't help but laugh even before you can get the response out.
  1887. "I'm sober enough to know there's no shifter in the car!"
  1888. >"I - goddammit, I didn't think that through..."
  1889. >Once again, you erupt in laughter, resuming your petting of the abruptly broody mare.
  1890. >"We could make it a floor shifter though, right?"
  1891. "Maybe - but why would you want to do that?"
  1892. >"Reaching over and fingerfucking a few buttons just sounds lame."
  1893. "First off, you don't have fingers - so that phrase is exclusively mine."
  1894. >"I do what I want."
  1895. "I know you will. Second - the pushbutton is actually a pretty neat little feature, and it was actually pretty popular with drag racers. To a point, some racers engineered the pushbutton mechanism into their later race cars when Chrysler discontinued that feature. So it stays."
  1896. >"Okay, fine. I guess it might have been a little odd with the bench seat, anyway," she concedes.
  1897. >You scooch closer to Midnight, sinking down into the couch cushions.
  1898. "The bench seat stays too, before you get any ideas. You know why?"
  1899. >"Because it's comfortable?"
  1900. "Yeah. And it's easier to snuggle up with your passenger," you tease, leaning over and pecking her on the cheek.
  1901. >"Man, that was fucking lame," she replies flatly.
  1902. >However, her flattened ears and aversion to making eye contact with you tells you she's a bit embarrassed by the thought.
  1903. "It's true, though."
  1904. >"You're drunk."
  1905. "You're all flustered by it."
  1906. >"Because you're a faggot."
  1907. "I know what you are, but what am I?"
  1908. >"How old are you? Wait, don't answer that."
  1909. >You exaggerate a sigh of relief.
  1910. "Glad to hear that. I don't know anything beyond the number two."
  1911. >"I really wish you'd shut up sometimes," she mutters, shaking her head.
  1912. "Aww come on, I have a beautiful voice. You would miss it."
  1913. >"It never stops - how could I miss it?"
  1914. "Well, let me know if you figure out a way to silence me."
  1915. >Midnight turns to you, looking over your face.
  1916. >"I mean, there are ways to do it - just most are permanent."
  1917. "So you would miss me," you coo, plastering on a smug grin just for her. "Don't worry, I'll keep talking just so you can-"
  1918. >You're quickly cut off by Midnight as she instantly erases the distance between your face and hers and kisses you.
  1919. >Which isn't necessarily a shock.
  1920. >Until you feel her tongue make its way through for an exploration.
  1921. >Holy Jesus.
  1922. >As your mind wraps around what's happening, you meet her ministrations - but only for a moment as she pulls away.
  1923. >"That's one way to shut you up," she quietly gasps.
  1924. "Uh... huh?"
  1925. >This is...
  1926. >That was aggressive.
  1927. >You're in a haze.
  1928. >You already kind of were, but this is a different one as your shorts suddenly feel a bit more snug.
  1929. "That was a neat trick," you finally answer.
  1930. >In the back of your mind, you begin to worry.
  1931. >You think back to when Midnight got sloshed that one night.
  1932. >Is that what's happening now?
  1933. >But you feel like she's been being just a bit more... bold lately, outside of this moment.
  1934. >Even in this buzzed state of mind, while Midnight's eyes stare at you with a hunger...
  1935. >Maybe this isn't right.
  1936. "Midnight, you're drunk. Maybe we should call it a night."
  1937. >You stumble to your feet, feeling guilty over your teasing as you walk to the bedroom.
  1938. >"Hey!"
  1939. >Midnight's voice forces you to stop, and as you turn around, she drops to the floor.
  1940. >"I'm not drunk - I didn't have anywhere near as much as you, stupid," she reminds you, sounding frustrated.
  1941. "I get that, but that was... what was that?"
  1942. >"Knowing what I want," she says quietly, almost predatory as she slowly saunters toward you.
  1943. "And what is that?"
  1944. >"You really gonna be this coy now?"
  1945. >Carefully walking backward into your room, Midnight continues to stalk you.
  1946. "Are you sure?"
  1947. >"Drop your shorts, and you'll find out."
  1948. >The exchange has already left a damp spot at the peak of the tent you're currently pitching, and you're more than willing to oblige her request.
  1949. >"Good boy," she coos with a devious grin, before bolting over and shoving you.
  1950. >You fall back onto the mattress, while Midnight leaps up onto the bed.
  1951. >The scent of arousal begins to permeate the air almost as soon as she straddles your form, hooves on either side of you.
  1952. >"And the boxers..."
  1953. >While your thoughts are drowned out by hormones and instincts, you quickly do away with said garment, your raging erection springing free.
  1954. "I'm no stallion, by the way," you say sheepishly as she eyes your member.
  1955. >Her eyes dart up to you as she closes in on your face.
  1956. >"Good thing I don't know any better."
  1957. >Once again, Midnight presses her lips to yours, her tongue worming through and meeting with yours.
  1958. >You reach up and stroke her cheeks while orally doing battle with her.
  1959. >She breaks the kiss abruptly with a growl as she lowers her hindquarters down.
  1960. >You can practically feel the heat emanating from her on your crotch.
  1961. >"That was enough of an appetizer for me," she says, kissing your dick with her nethers.
  1962. >The lips are already drooling as she starts to grind on your stiff member.
  1963. >It gives you a chance to move your hands down to that pleasingly plush posterior to give it a squeeze.
  1964. >That lavender fur yields to your motions - but you feel the power that lays underneath that spankable padding.
  1965. >She could literally wreck your crotch.
  1966. >And with the determination driven by raw lust she appears to have - she might.
  1967. >You venture further still - your finger brushing past the plush donut between her cheeks.
  1968. >It elicits a gasp from her - as well as a wink from her clit as she continues to soak you in natural lube from her slit.
  1969. >"You've been wanting to do that for a while, haven't you?" she pants.
  1970. "Which part?"
  1971. >Without any warning, Midnight raises up and slowly starts to take you into her folds.
  1972. >You can't help but grunt while she takes her sweet time, just to make you suffer.
  1973. >Though she can't help but moan at the sensation as well, with her velvety walls massaging your member in a sweltering heat, inch by inch.
  1974. >But there comes a point where you feel a bit of resistance, until it gives way with a pop.
  1975. >Midnight's face coincides with that feeling as she winces in pain.
  1976. "Midnight, was that-"
  1977. >She looks down at you, perplexed.
  1978. >"You really are slow on the uptake when I say I wouldn't know, huh?"
  1979. "Shut up. Are you alright?"
  1980. >"I'm fine, just give me a moment."
  1981. >After a few seconds, and without warning, Midnight slams down atop you and hilts herself upon your rod.
  1982. >"Yesss~" she sighs, her eyes closed.
  1983. >She rises back up slowly while you involuntarily buck your hips at the sensation of her passage gliding around your dick.
  1984. "Goddamn, you gonna tease me all nig- FUCK!"
  1985. >She slams her rump back down upon you, with another drawn-out moan.
  1986. >The feeling of those muscles around your rod gripping you is driving you nuts as she continues at a slow methodical pace.
  1987. >As she rises, you spot a pair of teats down below that are deprived of attention.
  1988. >Without a word, you move your hands down and massage the ample mounds.
  1989. >"Ahn - fucker!"
  1990. >Midnight loses her focus and falls back down on your member.
  1991. "I - can't let you have all the fun, can I?"
  1992. >"You could have warned me."
  1993. "Nonsense - those looked lonely," you groan, tweaking one of the nipples to get a lustful cry from her.
  1994. >At this point, Midnight is done with any sort of pace as her motions become quicker and more frenzied as she rides you.
  1995. >It's been a while for you personally, feeling a strong tightness in your loins while doing your damnedest to fuck her by bucking your own hips.
  1996. >"Remember - remember when I said not to make things *ngh* - weird?" she pants.
  1997. "If this is weird, I'm good with it."
  1998. >"Maybe I - should have done this - sooner."
  1999. "So you have been fucking teasing me!"
  2000. >Even in her current state, Midnight is lucid enough to smirk and lean down to your ear.
  2001. >"Be a good boy and finish for me."
  2002. >You move your hands back to her hips and pull her down as you feel her internal muscles begin to spasm wildly.
  2003. >As she reaches her peak, Midnight's eyes glaze over, her wings abruptly splaying out as she howls in pleasure, raising her head up just a bit.
  2004. >But she quickly leans back down, her mouth agape at the overwhelming pleasure -
  2005. >And bites your shoulder.
  2006. >The endorphin rush of the pain from her pointed teeth and the pleasure of her pussy clenching down on your rod mixed in with her taunt sends you over the edge in a haze that overwhelms your vision.
  2007. >You feel your balls tense up hard enough to make your toes curls as you paint her insides with seed.
  2008. >A fresh batch of fluids erupts from her, making a mess of you and very likely, the bed.
  2009. >Not that you care.
  2010. >This mare atop you right now, coming to grips with the sensations she's experiencing is all that matters.
  2011. >At some point, while you come off your high, Midnight relaxes and lets go of your shoulder.
  2012. >The points of her teeth are stained with a bit of crimson as she stares at you in a daze.
  2013. >You can still feel your shoulder - it's probably intact.
  2014. >With a weary and content grin creeping onto her face, Midnight collapses onto your chest, still panting just a bit.
  2015. >"Mine," she whispers, poking your chest with a hoof.
  2016. >You put an arm around her while you get your own breathing and heart rate under control.
  2017. "No, mine."
  2018. >You give her a squeeze.
  2019. >At some point, her wings curl around you, gently embracing your form in a soft blanket of feathers.
  2020. >You would normally comment she should probably be careful.
  2021. >Feathers can't be easy to clean.
  2022. >But this moment now...
  2023. >No.
  2024. >Words aren't needed as you both bask in the afterglow.
  2025.  
  2026.  
  2027.  
  2028.  
  2029.  
  2030. >"Well, dinner's over - now what?"
  2031. >You have to emit an amused chuckle at the not-so-subtle attempt by Midnight to kick things off.
  2032. >The first two days of the week were a focus on work, with a little bit more digging into the Chrysler, and relaxation for the night.
  2033. >That wasn't going to last long, and you knew that.
  2034. "I dunno - now what?"
  2035. >"Well... we could always go downstairs into the shop, you know."
  2036. "And get a start on tomorrow's work?" you ask while scratching your head, eager to feed the flames.
  2037. >"...Do you want me to throw something at you?"
  2038. "Not particularly."
  2039. >"Then stop with the shenanigans, please."
  2040. >Wow, you got her to say please even after offering an idle threat.
  2041. >That's impressive.
  2042. "Alright, I suppose I'm game. What did you want to focus on tearing apart tonight?"
  2043. >You aren't sure whether it's your acquiescence to her suggestion or the overwhelming amount of areas to begin with, but Midnight gives you a deer-in-the-headlights look with an accompanying silence.
  2044. >"I - what would be best to start with?" she deflects.
  2045. "All depends on what you want to do. You could start with taking the interior apart. Or you could start tearing into the suspension. And the engine bay is gonna need attention - personally, I'd like to start looking through the guts of the engine."
  2046. >Midnight clops her front hooves together, breaking into the beginnings of a smile as she leaps off of her stool.
  2047. >"Then that's where we'll begin. Come on!"
  2048. >You don't get a response out before she practically gallops out of the living space, hoofsteps quickly disappearing just past the doorway.
  2049. >More than likely, that abrupt silence was a glide upon wings to the shop floor.
  2050. >Hooves must have been too slow.
  2051. >Midnight isn't likely to call it quits with some minor progress tonight - you can sense "work on the engine bay" for her is "pull the engine out and heave it onto an engine stand."
  2052. >You decide to just toss the dirty dishes from your meal into the sink, then amble down the steps to join Midnight.
  2053. >She's already pushed your toolbox over to the driver's side fender of the 300 and popped open the hood.
  2054. "Hell, it looks like you know what you're already doing," you idly comment as Midnight awaits your arrival.
  2055. >"I have a general idea, but your expertise is called for - so don't dawdle."
  2056. "I'm not dawdling - but I'm not going to run, either."
  2057. >You eventually reach her side - after shuffling at a much slower pace for the final few feet.
  2058. >If looks could kill, you'd have been a dead man by Midnight's piercing glare.
  2059. >"Dick."
  2060. "Yes - you know I have one now," you answer back, motioning to your crotch.
  2061. >"That's - no. Shut up," she snaps back, flustered by the reminder of just a few nights ago.
  2062. "Relax - there's no one here."
  2063. >"I know but - does it really need to be brought up?"
  2064. "Are you ashamed we... did it?"
  2065. >"No!"
  2066. >That answer was quick - and adamant.
  2067. >That's a relief.
  2068. "You spent a while teasing me leading up to that - so I'm going to do it verbally. Fair's fair."
  2069. >Midnight grumbles something underneath her breath, while you have to plaster on a cocky smile as a victory celebration.
  2070. >"...how is your arm doing, anyway?" she asks quietly, one of her wings opening to gently stroke the area in question.
  2071. "Less sore today. It's getting there."
  2072. >"Good. I still don't really know... I honestly don't really remember doing it. So I don't know why that happened."
  2073. "Heat of the moment, that odd sort of shit. At least you only made me into a fleshy pincushion rather than a meal."
  2074. >"Oh, that sounds so much better."
  2075. >You shrug.
  2076. "I'm fine. And if you apologize again, I'll bite *you.*"
  2077. >"Fine, fine - what all do I need to do to get the engine out?" Midnight asks, turning all attention away from an intimate subject and onto a mechanical one.
  2078. >You lean over the fender to take a look at the dusty time capsule.
  2079. "What do you think needs to be done? Because in all reality, I'm sure you have it covered."
  2080. >"Fuel lines disconnected from the pump, engine mount bolts, transmission to engine block bolts, flexplate to torque converter bolts, upper and lower radiator hoses off, exhaust, and any wires hooked up to the engine.
  2081. >You nod.
  2082. "Sounds about right to me. I'd recommend two other things - pull the radiator out for extra room, and remove the hood so we aren't limited to how high the engine can be lifted once it's ready to come out."
  2083. >"Alright. Then let's get started."
  2084. >Middie sifts through your toolbox for wrenches while you take some more pictures - focusing on wiring plugs and hookups.
  2085. >While she fights with the fuel lines, you start unhooking the wires and grounds to the engine.
  2086. >There really isn't a whole lot in that department - but you want to make sure anything that is disconnected is documented.
  2087. >Tracing down electrical gremlins caused by inattention to detail doesn't sound like much fun.
  2088. >But with the wiring being as old as it is - well, who knows what works and what doesn't right now?
  2089. >Fuck.
  2090. >Maybe you should have done some testing by throwing a battery in before unplugging stuff.
  2091. >Oh well, too late now.
  2092. >You really wouldn't have wanted to crank the engine anyway.
  2093. >And most of the other stuff will still work as far as lights are concerned.
  2094. >"You have an engine stand for this, right?"
  2095. "Yes I do - do you think we need it tonight?"
  2096. >"I was kind of hoping for that."
  2097. >Called that one.
  2098. "I promise if we need it, the stand will be on...standby."
  2099. >Midnight glances at you out of the corner of her eye.
  2100. "That pun was not intended."
  2101. >"Sure it wasn't."
  2102. "How goes the fuel lines?"
  2103. >"Almost got the last one - not too bad."
  2104. "They look like they're worth a shit?"
  2105. >"I dunno, I'm doing it mainly by feel," she grunts.
  2106. >While she fights with that last connection, you take off the hose clamp cinching down the top radiator hose, then use a knife to split the rubber over the thermostat housing neck it sits on.
  2107. >"Pissed you off that much?"
  2108. "It would have - we really don't want to save that ancient thing. Look at how hard the rubber is."
  2109. >You try bending the hose to demonstrate - but it's resilient far beyond the wire that shapes it internally.
  2110. >Satisfied with that display, Midnight resumes her work.
  2111. >After a few moments of concentration, the wrench she had been using rises from the bowels of the engine bay.
  2112. >"Done."
  2113. "Alright, go ahead and raise the car on the lift, Imma go get some chain."
  2114. >"What for?"
  2115. "Well, if you really want to pull the engine tonight, we're going to need something to hold the transmission in the front once it's been disconnected from the block."
  2116. >"Why not just pull that too?"
  2117. "One thing at a time - it can wait another day," you calmly explain. "Tearing everything apart at once is how shit gets lost."
  2118. >"Fair point."
  2119. "Yeah, I've learned a thing or two from experience," you comment while heading over to the storage room.
  2120. >The sound of the hydraulic lift rising up echoes out in the shop while you rummage through some chain lengths you keep around.
  2121. >Once you head back out, you see Midnight already peering up at the bottom of the engine.
  2122. "Probably be easier to see with a light of some sort."
  2123. >"Not when you have the eyes I do."
  2124. "Must be nice having night vision built in."
  2125. >"I suppose that's an upside to having your eyes scooped out for fun," she quips.
  2126. >Despite the seriousness of that statement, her tone is rather light-hearted.
  2127. >It catches you by surprise, halting your steps for just a moment.
  2128. >"What's with you all of a sudden?" she asks, turning her head to you.
  2129. "Nothing."
  2130. >"Forgot how to walk for a moment?"
  2131. "I'm not quite that retarded. I just didn't expect to hear you be so calm talking about - well, your past."
  2132. >Midnight lets out an amused hum while a wrench floats up to the undercarriage of the project car.
  2133. >"I suppose it's not as bad when you have someone that appreciates you for... you."
  2134. >Damn.
  2135. >That was pretty deep for her.
  2136. >But you keep your mouth shut and just nod with a heartfelt smile as you join her and start rigging up the chain to hold the transmission.
  2137. >"Nothing to say about that? I'm surprised," Midnight says
  2138. "I mean, I could have said that was really sweet and a wonderful thing to hear you say after all you've overcome, but I figured you didn't need that - and if I don't say anything to make you embarrassed, you might be willing to share more heartwarming little things like that."
  2139. >"Well, you managed to ruin it now," she says bashfully, focusing all her attention on the engine mounts above.
  2140. "Oh come on, I was only saying that as an example," you whine.
  2141. >"Nope. Ruined forever," she says - albeit with a wry grin creeping onto her face.
  2142. "Fiiine."
  2143. >You grab a couple of tools yourself in addition to a light and go to the opposite side of the engine block Midnight is working on, hoping to get the exhaust disconnected from the manifolds.
  2144. >Which of course is wishful thinking - taking one look tells you those either need to soak in penetrating oil, or snapped off.
  2145. >Feeling a bit disappointed, you trudge over to a shelf along the wall and fetch a can of said oil.
  2146. "Hang on a sec and watch your eyes," you caution Midnight.
  2147. >She takes a few steps back and you douse the threads of the bolts with a few seconds of spraying.
  2148. "I might try these bolts yet tonight, but I'm not feeling confident about the chances."
  2149. >"Certainly doesn't look promising when you use half a spray can of that shit."
  2150. "Gotta try something other than brute force - but I don't think the engine is coming out tonight anyway."
  2151. >"Aww, are you getting tired?" she teases.
  2152. "Yeah, this work can be pretty-"
  2153. >You reach up and rap your knuckles on one of the pipes.
  2154. "-exhausting."
  2155. >Midnight stares at you with a deadpan look while you waggle your eyebrows.
  2156. >"You're sleeping on the couch tonight."
  2157.  
  2158.  
  2159.  
  2160.  
  2161.  
  2162. "How are we looking right now?"
  2163. >"...I think we're good. I don't see anything."
  2164. "I'm going to take it slow, speak up if you find something."
  2165. >You start to slowly pump the handle of the engine hoist, watching the remaining slack in the chain joining the hook to the engine disappear.
  2166. >The next gradual pump begins to move the engine as you keep a watchful eye on the angle it's leaning - which right now, is tilted back toward the rear of the car just a bit.
  2167. >Midnight stands on the driver's side for now.
  2168. >*Thunk!*
  2169. >The engine abruptly shifts on the chain.
  2170. >"Transmission's loose."
  2171. "Duly noted."
  2172. >The evening had begun with the removal of the rusted exhaust bolts that prevented progress with last night's initial foray of the 300's teardown.
  2173. >Now is a time of bated breath - removing the engine, while making sure it doesn't get caught up on or hit anything.
  2174. >You continue your slow pace, watching Midnight as she scampers around to the other side of the Chrysler's engine bay for a look, all the while keeping the engine from swaying via her "telekinesis".
  2175. >"Hold," she calmly orders.
  2176. "What's up?" you ask while heeding her instructions.
  2177. >Rather than answer, Midnight's eyes dart over the engine, the block slowly swaying forward a little bit.
  2178. >"Wires were getting caught on the head. Up."
  2179. >While you figured Midnight would have a keen enough eye to spot trouble, you've also felt concerned in regards to her exuberance about this project, and really kicking this off.
  2180. >True, she's gotten so much better over the months...
  2181. >But pulling a motor like this already makes you anxious.
  2182. > It's probably more about you than her, to be quite honest.
  2183. >Anything that gets damaged can be fixed...
  2184. >Unless it can't.
  2185. >And then if you can't find a replacement...
  2186. >"Chill the hell out, Anon."
  2187. "What?"
  2188. >Midnight gives you a look that screams 'Really?'
  2189. "Alright, so I'm a little tense."
  2190. >"You suck at lying."
  2191. "Bite me - no wait, you might."
  2192. >"That doesn't change what I said," Midnight comments. "You look like you're straining on a fart."
  2193. "What if I am?"
  2194. >"Then I hope you shit your pants. Now keep going."
  2195. >You continue with the slow, methodical lifting of the engine, watching intently as it rises above the radiator support, then the tops of the fenders on either side.
  2196. "Still clear?"
  2197. >"Yep. I told you there was plenty of room."
  2198. "It didn't look like it to me," you admit.
  2199. >Midnight shrugs while you pick up the pace.
  2200. >Finally, you're clear of everything, allowing you to coax the hoist backward with your prize hanging from the hook.
  2201. >"You know I can take it from here, right?" Midnight suggests with a polite tone and accompanying smile.
  2202. "Midnight, that's a lot of weight to heft around with your abilities."
  2203. >"Yet I've proven to you before that I can do it," she reminds you.
  2204. "And then I recall you complaining how tired you were and the headache you had for the rest of the day," you add.
  2205. >You get a scowl in response.
  2206. >"Fine. But that was also after lifting about a dozen of them," she huffs with mild irritation.
  2207. >The nearby engine stand wheels its way toward you under the ministrations of Midnight's unseen force, while you turn the hoist to line up with it.
  2208. >"Down."
  2209. "You know what you're trying to do, right?"
  2210. >"It's like a shitty puzzle - I'm trying to get these arms to line up with the bolt holes where the transmission mounted by spinning em around, moving em up and down in the slots - simple enough," Midnight casually answers. "Give me a bit more credit than that, please."
  2211. "Okay, because you said please," you relent. "But being serious - just wanted to make sure we were on the same page here."
  2212. >Her head only bobs in understanding as her eyes focus on lining everything up once you lower the engine to the correct level.
  2213. >There's surface rust poking through the dingy silver paint of the engine block but is remarkably free of oil and grease.
  2214. >Before you retire for the night, you already have your mind set on pulling the oil pan off.
  2215. >You want to get a cursory look at the guts.
  2216. >The old man had evidently drained the oil long, long ago - meaning that you could not look at that for a clue as to what had gone wrong internally.
  2217. >At best, there probably would have been some silver speckles in the oil.
  2218. >Or worse - chunks.
  2219. >That would only be the tip of the iceberg, as there could be shit too big to fit through the drain hole.
  2220. >"Earth to Anon."
  2221. >You snap back to the physical realm, Midnight standing expectantly by your side, lightly tugging at the jack handle in your grasp.
  2222. "I'm here."
  2223. >"Hardly. What the hell?"
  2224. "It's just kinda the moment of truth now - I really hope this thing isn't a lost cause," you admit, releasing the hydraulics on the hoist at a leisurely pace.
  2225. >The chain falls slack, while the engine holds firm on the stand - from your view, looking as if it's floating in midair if you didn't see the legs jutting out underneath.
  2226. >"I looked into what Art thought had happened to the engine - a spun bearing doesn't sound too terrible."
  2227. "Depends on how long it was running like that - and at what RPM. The engine could literally tear itself apart if the bearing managed to seize the engine, Middie. I've seen destroyed engine blocks due to that shit."
  2228. >"And yet even if that's the case... wasn't this car still a good deal?"
  2229. "Well yeah."
  2230. >"So don't get your panties in a bunch."
  2231. "I'd just like to keep this engine."
  2232. >"Then I guess you need to get your ass in gear and see what we're working with, huh?" she ribs you.
  2233. "Alright - but you're going to put up with my sour mood if I find something I don't like," you joke.
  2234. >"Nah. You'll suck it up."
  2235. >With Midnight's aid, you rotate the engine, leaving it completely inverted with the oil pan on top.
  2236. >You methodically work your way around the perimeter of the part, cracking each bolt loose before actively taking the fasteners out one by one and tossing them in a coffee can Midnight carries over from the workbench.
  2237. >You carefully strike the sides of the pan with a rubber mallet until the ancient gaskets and years of pressure and corrosion give way.
  2238. "Drumroll, please."
  2239. >"I'm not indulging you."
  2240. "Spoilsport."
  2241. >"You know it."
  2242. >Mindful of the oil pickup and unsure of exactly how it's routed, you take off the freed oil pan with care, setting it on the ground once everything is clear.
  2243. >Now, looking into the abyss...
  2244. >Well, nothing is utterly obliterated, so that's a good sign.
  2245. >One by one, you focus on each connecting rod and the crankshaft journal it's bolted to.
  2246. >The front four of the V8 look to be in quite good shape, with no visible damage.
  2247. >The fifth cylinder is the problem child.
  2248. >You can see discoloration on the crank journal on either side of the rod end.
  2249. >Unlike the rest of the machined areas, which are silver tinged with a hint of gold by oil and a bit of normal heat, this has an ugly mix of brown and violet.
  2250. >It's signs that something was not gliding on a thin film of oil as it should be and generating a lot of heat.
  2251. >"Well?"
  2252. >Obviously your silent inspection is getting the best of Midnight now.
  2253. "It's not junk - at least the block isn't. But I'm going to get this rod cap off to get a better look at the crankshaft. I don't particularly like the looks of it."
  2254. >Switching to a proper breaker bar and socket, it takes a fair amount of effort to crack the two bolts loose.
  2255. >It takes further gentle prying to wrest the cap free from its mate, along with the accompanying bearing half.
  2256. >Well, it doesn't seem like the bearing has spun out of place...
  2257. >But with a free and unobstructed view, the deep score marks and dulled finish combined with the discoloration makes it clear that *something* managed to sneak its way between bearing and crank - and stayed there.
  2258. >"That doesn't look good..."
  2259. >You glance over to Midnight, who has snuck over to your right in order to get a view.
  2260. "Well, that depends."
  2261. >"On what?"
  2262. "That crank will make a nice mailbox post or a paperweight."
  2263. >"But as car as reusing it, forget it," she adds bitterly.
  2264. "I'm afraid she's totally fucked, mate. You can machine used cranks, but this one is pretty bad - probably not possible to make it work well if I wanted to do so."
  2265. >You shrug.
  2266. "But, just at a glance, everything else is good. Won't know for sure until it's completely apart - but I feel a lot better seeing that than a fucked main bearing or cracked block."
  2267. >"Alright... so now what?"
  2268. "Hm?"
  2269. >"What should we work on next?" she elaborates, looking hopeful.
  2270. "Dinner - I'm hungry," you say, patting your stomach.
  2271. >"Tch. You're no fun," Midnight grumbles.
  2272. >You reach over to pat her head - but stop yourself before touching her with your grubby hand.
  2273. "Patience, Midnight. Remember - this is a big project. And this is a work night - I'd like to relax a little bit before bed."
  2274. >"What's more relaxing than tearing into a project car?" she suggests.
  2275. >It's meant to be a joke.
  2276. >Sorta.
  2277. "Desperation is not a good look for you."
  2278. >"It was worth a try."
  2279.  
  2280.  
  2281.  
  2282.  
  2283.  
  2284. >The last few days have been comfortable outside - pleasant and warm.
  2285. >Not today.
  2286. >For some reason, Mother Nature has cranked up the thermostat, giving no fucks about the heating bill.
  2287. >It is blisteringly hot out, and no breeze to speak of.
  2288. >A perfect day for heatstroke if you throw caution to the wind.
  2289. >You filled three jugs with ice and water for the day to sit in the back of the Trailduster.
  2290. >After three hours, the ice was already melted in the smaller one.
  2291. >...it isn't a very well insulated jug, though.
  2292. >And as you take a swig to finish off the first jug, warm water reaches your palate.
  2293. >How refreshing.
  2294. >"I'll take that when you're done," Midnight announces at the same time a metal trim piece is tossed past you and into the back of the truck.
  2295. "Nope, this one's dead," you reply while turning to your right and shaking the vessel upside down in demonstration.
  2296. >"Are you part fucking camel or something?" Midnight asks, seemingly disturbed by your adamance of staying hydrated.
  2297. "I don't think so - but I'm certainly putting out a fair bit of water."
  2298. >You wipe the beads of sweat on your brow that endanger your eyes.
  2299. >"So am I, but I'm not drinking like it's going out of style," she mutters, turning her attention to the next jug in line.
  2300. >You planned ahead of time and already wound some steel wire around the handle and near the base for her to manipulate.
  2301. >Midnight doesn't even bat an eye despite not having mentioned the modifications.
  2302. >"Color me impressed. Good work planning ahead," she compliments before tipping it back and taking a drink.
  2303. "Yeah well, I try taking care of my best girl."
  2304. >The comment causes her to suddenly spit out the water in her mouth she hasn't yet swallowed.
  2305. "That bad, huh?"
  2306. >"Ought to be ashamed of yourself for that one," she chides.
  2307. "Oh. I was talking about the water."
  2308. >Midnight smirks as she thrusts the jug into your chest, which you quickly grab.
  2309. >"Try not to drink it all. Save some for the fish," she teases, turning and heading back out into the yard.
  2310. "What fish?" you holler after a moment, stretching an arm out and waving all along the landscape.
  2311. >She turns around, continuing to walk but in reverse.
  2312. >"Exactly. I'm so glad you put two and two together!"
  2313. "What about the number twenty-two? I don't get it."
  2314. >"Why don't you get something done? I'm going back to the B-bodies and pulling a striker plate and hood latch off of a Charger."
  2315. "Have fun!"
  2316. >Midnight resumes her forward-looking position and trots off down the lane, while you grab a few hand tools and set off the opposite way just a few cars down.
  2317. >It's a hunt for a glovebox door from a Plymouth Volare.
  2318. >You can't help but snicker to yourself with the idea of that part being the only thing not rotted out on the car.
  2319. >It didn't help they were rather bland and forgettable econoboxes following the death of the muscle car era, but the build quality left something to be desired.
  2320. >Ah well - every car has its fans.
  2321. >To be fair, they also had to pick up where the Plymouth Duster and Dodge Dart left off.
  2322. >And the kitbashed and short-lived Demon and Scamp.
  2323. >Fairly big shoes to fill
  2324. >But...
  2325. >Maybe this customer is building a Volare Roadrunner.
  2326. >Or a Petty Kit Car Volare.
  2327. >Not breathtaking power, but they at least looked more interesting...
  2328. >You finally arrive in front of the few F-body Chryslers you possess and wander around them for a view of the interior - specifically the dashboard.
  2329. >Either model, be it Dodge or Plymouth, should be the same...
  2330. >But the first one you come to - a Dodge Aspen wagon - has a tan interior.
  2331. >No good - customer explicitly stated black.
  2332. >The next Aspen coupe is missing a door, and while you tried to seal off the opening with a tarp, it's long gone, tattered by the wind and endless UV rays from the sun.
  2333. >Not even worth looking inside - that interior will be absolutely shot having been exposed to the elements.
  2334. >This is going well...
  2335. >But third time's the charm as you come up to a proper Volare coupe and find what you're looking for through the dusty passenger-side glass.
  2336. >You open up the passenger door, whose hinges groan with reluctance and fatigue.
  2337. >A wave of eye-watering heat and the stink of stale air mixed with ancient upholstery hits you hard enough to make your breath catch in your throat.
  2338. >That never gets any better.
  2339. >Especially if a critter has managed to find a way inside and died.
  2340. >Thankfully, that's a very rare experience.
  2341. >You gingerly test the vinyl passenger seat with the back of your hand, expecting a sharp pain from the black material soaking in the heat and sun.
  2342. >Well, it's not *scorching* hot...
  2343. >Rather than pussyfoot around any longer, you plop down on the seat, the suspension of the car letting you know it isn't happy being disturbed and compressing under a newly introduced weight.
  2344. >Something skitters around underneath the car, startled by your sudden presence.
  2345. >Popping open the glovebox, you set to work pulling out all the screws in the hinge.
  2346. >But you only get about two of the fasteners extracted before you hear a growl to your right.
  2347. >You quickly snap your head in the direction to find a coyote wandering up toward the open passenger door.
  2348. >Maybe that's what you heard?
  2349. >But this is... not normal.
  2350. >Not only the mere fact it's willing to approach you despite the size difference - the canine is aggressive as it bares its teeth and threatens a little louder this time.
  2351. >Shit - maybe she's got pups underneath...
  2352. >Or...
  2353. >Its brown and gray fur is an absolute matted mess, even patchy and missing in some spots.
  2354. >The way its jaw continues to tremble as if preparing to bite as it gets to the door...
  2355. >And the strands of drool hanging from its jowls...
  2356. "Eat Phillips head, cocksucker!" you shout, throwing your tool at the coyote, who is close enough that you easily conk it in the head despite your quick and frenzied toss.
  2357. >It gives you time to slam the door with the coyote recoiling a bit in response, though you do still catch the animal with the edge of the swinging door.
  2358. >Now...
  2359. >Now what?
  2360. >You hear the vicious and likely rabid animal scrabbling at the door and snarling before it stands on its hind legs and leans up against the glass to get a look-see at you.
  2361. >Well, this isn't a Pinto, and that's not a Saint Bernard...
  2362. >But you really aren't enjoying this impromptu homage to the horror genre.
  2363. >Fuck.
  2364. >You roll down the window a little bit, instinctively flinching every time the crazed creature lunges at the glass, quickly smearing it with saliva as it repeatedly fails at taking a chomp out of the barrier.
  2365. "Make like a tree and fuck off already!"
  2366. >No change.
  2367. >Not that you expected it.
  2368. "Hey Midnight!" you shout through the gap between glass and steel. "I need your help at the moment!"
  2369. >You wait a few moments, trying to listen for a response above the continuing physical and verbal assault by the coyote.
  2370. >Nothing that you can discern.
  2371. >You sort of feel goofy shouting for assistance from Midnight, but what other option do you have?
  2372. >Clearly no scare tactics are going to work on this thing - its mind is gone.
  2373. >And your rifle is in the truck.
  2374. >Well, you could try at least getting out of this sweltering oven.
  2375. >Key word being 'try.'
  2376. >Inching your way along the bench seat to the driver's side, the coyote is either content with attacking the glass it's become familiar with, or too stupid to reason that you have gotten further away.
  2377. >Seeing an opportunity now, you quickly grab the door handle of the driver's door and fling it open, bolting out into the sand and up to the wagon parked right beside.
  2378. >You leap up on the roof while right behind, you hear Cujo has been able to figure his way around the Volare to chase you down.
  2379. >It continues to throw a snarling, spastic hissy fit in an attempt to get at you by throwing itself at the side of the vehicle.
  2380. >How is this bastard not tired yet?
  2381. "MIDNIGHT!"
  2382. >A keen eye spots the coyote just as it leaps onto the hood of the wagon you're standing on.
  2383. >Shitshitshit
  2384. >Rather than run right away, you quickly turn and position yourself, waiting for the miserable bastard to scramble up the length of the hood and the windshield.
  2385. >Once it reaches the roof, you pull your leg back and let loose a sharp kick to its head.
  2386. >You feel the solid connection to its snout, accompanied by a yelp of pain as the animal flops back down to the hood.
  2387. >Rather than waste any more time gawking, you leap from the roof back onto the scorching copper sand, surprising yourself by not missing a step or stumbling as you bolt for the safety of the Trailduster.
  2388. >You don't have to look to hear the coyote growling and panting again as it continues the pursuit.
  2389. >Its short legs will still probably beat you in a foot race.
  2390. >As you try to figure out your next option, a dark streak suddenly appears in your periphery from the air, darting behind you almost as soon as you take notice.
  2391. >Thefuckwasthat?
  2392. >A sickening thump and a yelp of pain make your turn your head.
  2393. >It's Midnight!
  2394. >Her face is contorted into an imposing sneer as she hovers above the animal, her wings beating with a rhythm to keep her head and fore hooves upright, while her hind legs hang down, as if readying a kick if need be.
  2395. >The coyote lays on its side, a small river of blood trickling out of its nose and into the dust while its mouth hangs open - its breathing rapid and shallow, accompanied by a faint whimper.
  2396. >Midnight turns her attention to you for just a moment as you turn and take a few steps toward her, before her eyes dart back to your wounded pursuer.
  2397. >"I thought you were fucking around the first time you yelled," she mutters somewhat reluctantly.
  2398. "Yeah, I suppose I could have been a bit more direct..."
  2399. >Midnight drops down to the ground, folding her wings back in as she eyes the coyote.
  2400. "I'll get my gun and put it the damn thing out of its misery," you say, thumbing back to the truck.
  2401. >"I finish what I start," Midnight replies, devoid of emotion.
  2402. "What are y-"
  2403. >Before you can finish, Midnight steps over the injured canine, raises a hoof, and stomps down hard on its neck.
  2404. >There is an awful crunch that makes your stomach turn violently as the animal convulses for a moment, then ceases.
  2405. "Jesus."
  2406. >"What?" Midnight asks as she circles around the fresh corpse. "I could have drawn its life out more, waited for you to get your gun... I ended it now."
  2407. "I guess that was just... I dunno, didn't know what to expect, I guess."
  2408. >Fully satisfied the animal is gone, Midnight steps over to you.
  2409. "You didn't get bit at all, did you?" you ask as the adrenaline in your veins dies down.
  2410. >She shakes her head.
  2411. >"I'm guessing you kicked it in the nose - that wasn't my doing," she replies. "I figure if the damn thing is that aggressive, there's probably something wrong with it. I aimed for the side. Right in the ribs."
  2412. >That makes you exhale a breath you hadn't realized you were holding.
  2413. >Midnight cocks her head, her eyes narrowed even as she smirks just a bit.
  2414. >"Come on, you have to give me more credit than that, Anon. *You* didn't get bit, did you?"
  2415. "No, I kicked the fucker with my shoe - that was the only contact I had with it."
  2416. >"Must have been a weak kick..."
  2417. "Haha. Fuck you," you retort.
  2418. >"Just saying."
  2419. >You run your hand through your hair as you gather your thoughts, while Midnight glances around the junkyard.
  2420. >"Adapt and survive..."
  2421. "Hm?"
  2422. >"That was my mantra out here. When this was my life," Midnight says, a hint of sadness in her voice. "It was all about patience, assessing the situation, and playing it cautiously - until the time was right."
  2423. "Where the hell was patience while tearing apart shit when we first met?" you chide.
  2424. >She shrugs while walking back in the direction of her project.
  2425. >"I don't have much patience for nuisances. Situations where life may depend upon my choice... that's a little different. But anyway I'm going back to my job."
  2426. "Alright, thank you," you call after her, before adding a quick thought as the realization strikes you.
  2427. "I actually got to see you fly today!"
  2428. >She doesn't turn back around, but you hear Midnight chuckle as her wings snap open briefly in a proud display of plumage.
  2429. >"Yeah, I still got it."
  2430.  
  2431.  
  2432.  
  2433.  
  2434.  
  2435.  
  2436. >You're almost done for the day - and almost finished off every last drop of water you brought along with you.
  2437. > It's been a successful day, albeit eventful with Midnight saving your bacon.
  2438. >You really don't know if you could have made it to the truck before the coyote had caught up with you and ripped your leg off.
  2439. >Or more likely just bit you.
  2440. >But that's still bad if rabies was involved.
  2441. >Fortunately, the debate of what is the lesser of two evils is only hypothetical.
  2442. >...It would be just getting bit though - assuming you were smart enough to go get a rabies shot right away.
  2443. >Now, all that's left for the day is an upper A-arm suspension piece for a Triumph Spitfire.
  2444. >...fuck.
  2445. >That's in the section made up of all foreign makes.
  2446. >An area you don't visit very often.
  2447. >And one Midnight is aversive to, seeing the trauma of being dumped here along with a bunch of scrap bots.
  2448. >All that shit has been buried in a pit, but that doesn't mean the sights and the emotions connected to them are buried.
  2449. >You lightly step on the brake pedal, bringing the truck to a halt.
  2450. >Despiter her looking as warm and weary as you feel, Midnight perks up at the unannounced stop.
  2451. >"This doesn't look like my stop," she comments, turning to you. "What gives?"
  2452. "I figured I should stop and mention what else we need to get today," you calmly reply, turning to her. "Need to get something from the import area."
  2453. >Her curiosity and playfulness disappear in an instant as the last words leave your lips.
  2454. >Instead, her face hardens, trying her damnedest to hide any sort of emotion.
  2455. >To appear tough.
  2456. >But you know better.
  2457. >You can see the faint hint of dread that lies behind those steely eyes.
  2458. "I'm not saying you can't handle it - and yes, that stuff is all gone and buried out of sight. But I'm putting it out there if you'd rather not - I can take care of it and you can head back to the shop."
  2459. >"Yes, but what about next time?"
  2460. "I... next time, what?" you ask, not quite understanding the question.
  2461. >"The next time we need to go back in that corner. It may be somewhat of a rarity to pull parts from those cars - but sooner or later, we will."
  2462. "You want to rip this off like a band-aid, now."
  2463. >She shrugs.
  2464. >"Staying away from it just makes it a problem, doesn't it? It might not even be that bad without the... reminders."
  2465. "I'm only giving you the option - whatever you want to do, I'm good with," you reassure her, patting her on the withers.
  2466. >"Then off we go," she replies quietly, turning to face straight ahead and urging you forward with a nod.
  2467. >Your foot slides off of the brake and blips the gas pedal, setting off toward the far back corner of the yard.
  2468. >"You really danced around that suggestion trying to hit all the bases, didn't you?" Midnight comments.
  2469. >You shrug.
  2470. "I was more concerned with trying to be neutral than catch your ire - didn't want to suggest you're a puss that can't handle this, but I also know you aren't an emotionless hardass."
  2471. >"Except when it comes to coyotes," she adds with a snicker.
  2472. >It makes you crack a grin as the neat rows of cars pass by on either side.
  2473. "Yes, except in that instance."
  2474. >Midnight emits an amused hum at your addendum.
  2475. >For a little while, both of you listen to the truck as it traverses the path laid ahead of you, the muted sounds of the radio adding just a bit of audible ambiance.
  2476. >"I appreciate you being... I guess thoughtful and yet at the same time, thinking I can deal with this."
  2477. "Well, it's like you said - have to face it sooner or later. Who knows, maybe it won't bother you too much. But you shouldn't be ashamed."
  2478. >"I know... but thanks."
  2479. "No problemo."
  2480. >As you turn off onto the final artery, the cars become more widely spaced.
  2481. >You don't keep many foreign makes, considering they're hard to come by, and frankly aren't requested enough to make good money.
  2482. >But there's still space out here...
  2483. "You know what a Triumph Spitfire looks like, don't you? That's what we're after," you mention to Midnight.
  2484. >"Mhm. Vaguely, but good enough to know it when I see it," she replies. "But if you had brought the laptop, we could look up exactly where it is."
  2485. "If *I* had brought the laptop? I hardly get to use the thing anymore," you remind her.
  2486. >"...shut up."
  2487. "That's what I thought."
  2488. >"I'm letting the next coyote make you a chew toy."
  2489. >It isn't until you get near the end of the trail before Triumph models begin to show up.
  2490. >Dolomites, TRs...
  2491. >And finally, some Spitfires - right alongside the old dumping grounds.
  2492. >The earth is still somewhat choppy and uneven with faint tractor tire marks that have yet to fully fade away even after almost two months.
  2493. >You glance around at all the potential candidates for cannibalization of parts, spying a yellow one already raised up in the air with a front tire already taken off and the spindle already missing.
  2494. "That one looks like our best bet. Just gotta get the bolts out of the frame and we're golden."
  2495. >Midnight nods, though her vision does not stray away from the mound of dirt just ahead.
  2496. >Rather than inquire where her mind lays, you pop open your door and climb out after killing the engine.
  2497. >Those motions are enough to snap Midnight out of her stupor as she shakes her head and follows suit, joining you at the tailgate to pick out tools.
  2498. "You good?"
  2499. >"Yeah," she answers, pausing for a deep inhale. " I'm good."
  2500. >You leave it at that while you walk out to the little sports car and focus on the task at hand.
  2501. >At least the bolts don't look corroded...
  2502. >But it still takes a lot of effort and a breaker bar to get the stubborn bastards loose of their resident nut.
  2503. >All the while, Midnight's attention repeatedly shifts between you and the surrounding area with an expression of unease.
  2504. "Bringing back some unpleasant memories, I'm guessing?" you finally speak up.
  2505. >"I guess this place is just sort of burned into my memory - it's as I remember, sans junkpile," she comments quietly. "I suppose some of that is just from... the shock of it all."
  2506. "Ending up here, you mean?"
  2507. >"Everything," she answers, splaying her wings wide as an added gesture. "I'd never seen the outdoors until that moment in time. I knew the lab *wasn't* what those people were making it out to be. But I didn't know what was outside the walls..."
  2508. "Scare you being surrounded by all these cars? At least until you knew what they were?"
  2509. >Midnight scoffs at the suggestion, vehemently shaking her head.
  2510. >"I knew what these were. Granted, I'd never seen or heard of automobiles, but - it's a lot like how I learned what anything else was - it was like a light switch. I just knew."
  2511. "I knew you learned quick but really? That fast?" you ask while finally pulling the first bolt out.
  2512. >"No, I mean how I knew what things are - the names of items I hadn't seen," she explains. "I think it has to do with the ponybot chips in my head."
  2513. "Like built-in memory of stuff."
  2514. >"Yes."
  2515. >You keep working the next stubborn bolt out of its bushing while something else bubbles up in your mind.
  2516. "I never did hear how you got out of there."
  2517. >"Not much to say, really," Midnight dismisses. "Give someone enough time and the means to manipulate it, one can figure out how to fuck with a lock - even an electronic one. I don't think anyone knew what I could really do with my electromagnetic abilities - I certainly didn't. But I learned in privacy, didn't show my hand, so to speak."
  2518. >You finally get the suspension part free and toss it out into the dirt for Midnight to see.
  2519. >But her eyes look outward to the landscape, her mind focused on a past memory.
  2520. >"I still can't help but wonder if someone actually took pity on me," she mumbles in a flat voice.
  2521. "Pity?"
  2522. >"Awfully odd for someone to drop a document in your room that details the termination of your project, among other coincidences."
  2523. "Maybe the guy that headed your - er, case? Project?"
  2524. >A bitter cackle greets your suggestion.
  2525. >"Hardly! That miserable asshole wanted nothing to do with me!" Midnight spits. "He was 'stuck' with me for - well, I don't know how long. He was in it for the money and accolades, neither of which I seemed to have offered."
  2526. >Midnight's posture noticeably sags, her shoulders suddenly too weak to keep her tall and proud.
  2527. >"Everything done to me was an attempt to get out of the project. Considering there was no way I would *ever* be set for 'production' or sale, or whatever - successful experiments didn't mean anything. Just hope for promotion, recognition, a bonus."
  2528. >A tear slowly trails down Midnight's cheek, while her face is scarred with a deep-seated hatred.
  2529. >"He made sure to voice his displeasure of being stuck as the head of my project."
  2530. "His loss, Midnight," you comment, leaning over to get an arm around her barrel and pull her up next to you.
  2531. >She doesn't fight it, willingly yielding to the motion.
  2532. >Whether it was that gesture or the words is trivial - the burden and the grudge that had taken hold of her seems to dissipate, the anger and the unhappiness fading away as she looks at you.
  2533. >"Yeah, I think you have a point."
  2534. "I know I have a point."
  2535. >Midnight hums with approval, and you sit with her like that for a bit.
  2536. >"I think I've held onto the past long enough," she says aloud, as if reassuring herself.
  2537. >You keep quiet as she rises up and struts over to the uneven burial pit.
  2538. >Meanwhile you wait a moment before getting up and joining her side.
  2539. >"I'm leaving this shit here. All of that... sickness I feel," she says. That bitterness, hatred... it kept me pushing on and figuring things out, dealing with life out here and what I had to endure. It doesn't do me any good to hold onto now, does it?"
  2540. "No, I don't think so. Not bad to remember your past but... it's the past. I think you want to move on."
  2541. >"I do."
  2542. >You watch as her hoof digs into the sand, plowing back a heap to leave a nice divot.
  2543. "What's that?"
  2544. >"Reassuring myself I'm burying this baggage," she exhales, before pushing the small mound back into the hole from whence it came. "I have a lot to be thankful for since the last time I was here."
  2545. >With a nod of finality, she turns to you, her eyes lingering upon your face for a moment in silence.
  2546. >Just since this discussion, she seems so much more...
  2547. >Lighter.
  2548. >Like her mind isn't fighting something back behind the curtain.
  2549. >Theres a sense of serenity even you sort of feel after watching that little ceremonial gesture.
  2550. >"Let's go home," Midnight says, flashing a heartfelt, relaxed smile.
  2551. "Music to my ears, Middie."
  2552. >You turn and head back to fetch the part and your tools - with Midnight matching your weary stride just off of your side up until climbing into your respective sides of the truck.
  2553. >You're ready to unwind now as you crank the engine and get going, while Midnight turns up the radio.
  2554. >What a day.
  2555.  
  2556.  
  2557.  
  2558.  
  2559.  
  2560. >Movement upon your chest draws your consciousness awake and forces you to crack your eyes open.
  2561. >It's still dark in your room.
  2562. >Midnight lays right next to you in bed - though is trying valiantly to slip out from under your arm draped over her form.
  2563. >Her faintly glowing eyes lock onto yours.
  2564. >"I gotta use the bathroom, sorry," she announces in a hushed tone.
  2565. "No worries," you sleepily mumble, lifting your arm off of her back to free her..
  2566. >Midnight gingerly picks herself up and slides off the bed, slinking out the door you can just barely make out in the dim light.
  2567. >You turn to your back and idly stare up at the ceiling and wait, trying to listen for the sound of her hooves upon the stairs.
  2568. >She can be uncannily silent when walking when the mood or situation strikes her - and that seems to be the case tonight.
  2569. >The only sound you hear is the air conditioner humming quietly out in the living room, accompanied by a distant rumble of thunder outside.
  2570. >It probably won't rain at all, but the sky wants to audibly broadcast the slight chance.
  2571. >You're too lazy and uncaring to actually check the time.
  2572. >It was understandably a short evening after the events of today - both of you were eager to find the comfort of sleep with each other.
  2573. >...
  2574. >How the hell did you get here?
  2575. >Just months ago, Midnight intruded upon your bland existence.
  2576. >She certainly wasn't happy about it, nor were you.
  2577. >You felt just enough pity and saw use in her knowledge and abilities to allow her to stay here - though she made it clear it would have probably been a fight to get rid of her.
  2578. >Both of you barely tolerated each other.
  2579. >She was vehemently opposed to having anything to do with you - but was forced into it.
  2580. >You found her arrogant and grating, hardly someone you would want to be around...
  2581. >Though you have a hard time tolerating anyone.
  2582. >Maybe stress made you that way.
  2583. >Maybe you've always been like that, and buying this place was what really made that ugliness come out of you.
  2584. >Now...
  2585. >You two are a thing.
  2586. >You enjoy each other's company.
  2587. >You couldn't imagine not having her by your side.
  2588. >Somehow, she's become somewhat of a cuddle slut at night - but you won't make mention of it, and she would deny it anyway.
  2589. >Too much pride on the line there.
  2590. >"You awake?"
  2591. "No."
  2592. >"Good."
  2593. >You hear Midnight's movements in the dark just enough to brace yourself, as she takes a running leap and lands atop you.
  2594. "Oof. You fatass."
  2595. >The comment gets a snicker and a flash of teeth from her as she pats your chest with a hoof, rolling to the side.
  2596. >"Pussy."
  2597. >You resume your side laying position again and place your arm over her as she relaxes with an exhale.
  2598. >"What's up with you?"
  2599. "Hm?"
  2600. >"Staring up at the ceiling, acting like there's a thought in your head."
  2601. "Nope, just trying to keep the air in there."
  2602. >"Haven't heard any whistling, so you're doing a fine job."
  2603. >You exhale through your nose in amusement and crack a smile, but silence pervades the room again.
  2604. >"What's really on your mind?" Midnight asks again after a short spell.
  2605. "How the hell did we get here?"
  2606. >A queer expression crosses Midnight's face as she tries to discern the admittedly vague question.
  2607. >"Well, I'm not entirely sure of the processes it took for me, but I'm sure with you, your mommy and daddy loved each other very much, and one night they-"
  2608. "Not what I meant, stop right there, you sick fuck."
  2609. >"Exactly that. They had gross old people sex and made you."
  2610. >You pull your arm off of Midnight and flick her nose.
  2611. >She doesn't get to respond to that with words - as she sneezes almost instantly on you.
  2612. >While it was nothing close to a shower, you still rub down the lower half of your face.
  2613. "How pleasant."
  2614. >"You started it," she lazily protests.
  2615. "Anyway, what I meant to say is - how did we end up like this? Sharing a bed, some... intimate moments. You ever think about where we've come from until now?"
  2616. >"Not... really," she replies hesitantly, wrinkling her nose.
  2617. "Let's face it - you hated me. And I wasn't particularly thrilled with you being here. Both of us were kinda miserable to each other."
  2618. >"You weren't *that* bad," Midnight chimes in. "After all, you did try to give me some sort of guidance when I was throwing hissy fits."
  2619. "Yeah."
  2620. >You really don't know why you had the patience to deal with her temperament.
  2621. >Traditionally, you've kept a short leash on anyone that you've had work for you in the past.
  2622. >Putting up with any sort of bullshit is unlike you.
  2623. >"I certainly wasn't personable for a while. I suppose I was just pissed at everything."
  2624. "You had your issues, it was kinda understandable once I pulled that out of you."
  2625. >"Same with you," she answers, poking your chest with a hoof. "You didn't want to face the music when it came to this business going down the shitter."
  2626. "So we're both kinda shitty."
  2627. >"Well, you are - I'd say I was... rough around the edges."
  2628. "There were no clear edges with you - it was all rough."
  2629. >"Sit on a dick," she retorts, accompanied by a quick blep of her tongue.
  2630. "Don't threaten me with a good time."
  2631. >"I wouldn't doubt that having a serious undertone."
  2632. >Both of you share an amused chuckle, before the bedroom goes quiet.
  2633. "Anyway... here we are," you muse.
  2634. >"Somehow putting up with each other," Midnight adds, scooting closer to you.
  2635. "Somehow making this place successful."
  2636. >"While working on our own project car on the side of pulling parts for other projects."
  2637. >You wait a moment for what invariably will come next.
  2638. >Not that you mind.
  2639. >...but you really are tired and ready to go back to sleep.
  2640. >"What's the next focus for the Chrysler?"
  2641. >You sort of cock your head and give her a bemused grin in silence.
  2642. >"Do you suddenly not understand English or something?"
  2643. "You have a very odd definition of pillow talk, Middie."
  2644. >She snorts, pushing against your chest lightly with a hoof.
  2645. >"Shut the hell up, stupid."
  2646. "Music to my ears. G'night!" you hurriedly reply, pulling her up tight to you and closing your eyes.
  2647. >"...well played."
  2648. >You crack an eye open as Midnight snuggles in with you.
  2649. >You'll answer her question tomorrow.
  2650. >You're suddenly too comfortable.

Midnight [Part 5]

by Autopony

Darkness [Midnightverse]

by Autopony

Midnight [Part 4]

by Autopony

Shadow [Midnightverse]

by Autopony

Midnight [Part 3]

by Autopony