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The Long and Short of It (RGRE) Part 6

By SQA-non
Created: 31st January 2022 06:26:29 AM
23rd January 2023 12:33:32 AM

  1. AKA A Guardsmare Of Half Height And Double Spirit Finds Love Twice As Tall And Thrice As Strong: A Reverse Gender Roles Equestria Story of Epic Proportions And Minuscule Stature
  2. Special thanks to Comfy, Uh-hmmm, Ephemeral, ScribblesAnon, APA, HotKinkajou, LaP, Rot, Editfag, QoC, Bobbles, and Shu for prereading/editing help.
  3. And and super special thanks to NigNogs for the top tier fan art, and de facto cover art, which can be viewed here: ponybooru.org/images/33009?q=artist%3Anignogs
  4.  
  5. >You are the one, the only, Cut N. Paste.
  6. >You audibly grumble as the sunlight streaming through the window lands perfectly on your face, rousing you from your comfortable slumber.
  7. >The first thing you notice upon waking though, is you seem to have pressed your face into somepony’s decadently soft tuft.
  8. >In no rush to get up, you snuggle further into the pony and take a deep breath.
  9. >That... smells nothing like Anon.
  10. >Suddenly a pair of small but strong hooves wraps around your head, pressing you further into the tuft.
  11. >As you’re pushed further and further into the fuzz, an unmistakably feminine voice rings out.
  12. >”Oh, you like that don’t you, slut?”
  13. >Okay, you did not like how that made you feel!
  14. >You should probably pull away... but...
  15. >Pike’s tuft is so soft and voluptuous...
  16. >You can’t look down at your own, pathetic tuft from your current position, but you can feel it.
  17. >Her’s is so much bigger, so much softer...
  18. >You sigh, wistfully.
  19. >Why must your genes be so accursed!?
  20. >Confronted with a paragon of femininity, how can a lowly beta like you not be filled with /totally platonic/ attraction?
  21. >How could you not want to completely drown in your herdsister’s tuft?
  22. >There’s nothing dyke about that!
  23. >But you know what’s even less dyke?
  24. >Dreaming about your coltfriend shoving your face into that same tuft with every thrust as he rails you!
  25. >Nothing homosexual about that!
  26. >Not to imply you have dreamed that, of course.
  27. >...More than three times.
  28. >....Consecutively.
  29. >Suddenly, you feel a familiar weight fall onto you, bringing you back to reality.
  30. >>”Babe, didn’t anyone ever teach you that sharing is caring?”
  31. >Pulling your face back just enough that you can look up, you see that Anon has draped himself over you AND Pike.
  32. >Sometimes it's easy to forget just how big he is, but times like this make it easy to remember.
  33. >H-Hot...
  34. >Shoving his face right next to yours, the both of you enjoy bathing your snoots in Pike’s lovely tuft.
  35. >Now Anon’s in here with you, that DEFINITELY means it's not dyke! Right? RIGHT!?
  36.  
  37.  
  38. “Okay, it’s fucked how much longer your years are here.”
  39. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and as the three of you go through your morning routines, you can’t help but notice how long this winter has felt.
  40. >Mostly because seasons here are actually longer than they are back on Earth.
  41. >”No,” Pike pipes up as she follows you into the bathroom, “what’s bucked is that your Earth months are complete nonsense! Twelve months, each with thirty-five days, makes so much more sense!”
  42. >>”Yeah,” Cut adds through a mouthful of toothpaste. “What were the humans thinking!?”
  43. >Cranking the valve on the shower you resist the urge to sassily roll your eyes.
  44. “Sor~ry humans can’t, you know, control the weather!”
  45. >Pike scoffs as she takes a place at the twin sinks next to Cut, searching for something.
  46. >”Sounds like an excuse to me!”
  47. >You chuckle as you test the water with your hoof.
  48. >Ahhh, nice and warm already.
  49. >Pony water heaters really are magic!
  50. >Without further ado, you cross the threshold and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of a morning shower.
  51. >”Move over, stud!”
  52. >But before you could even think about closing the curtain, Pike zips into the shower with you.
  53. >She cheekily comes to a stop right under you, taking advantage of all the water running off you, and now on to her.
  54. >Blushing a little at the lewd positioning, you briefly consider asking Cut to join you as well.
  55. >However, that thought is immediately snuffed out by the memory of the last time the three of you all tried to squeeze into the shower together.
  56. >Talk about a disaster!
  57. >Pony showers really aren’t meant to have two ponies in them, but THREE!?
  58. >Frankly, you were lucky no one broke anything.
  59. >Pike, meanwhile, is contently humming below you, and you can feel her hips bump your hocks as she lazily sways them side to side.
  60. >”Mmmm, Thanks for volunteering to help me scrub all those hard to reach places.”
  61. >Giving in to the banter you summon your hands...
  62. >...and give Pike’s cute little nips a tweak!
  63. >You can tell her guard was down by how she stiffens under you.
  64. >And by the adorable little shriek she makes!
  65. >”EEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
  66. >After getting ahold of herself again, she glowers up at you, gone is the smugness she entered the shower with.
  67. >”Don’t do that.”
  68. >You blow her a raspberry.
  69. “Fine fine, your nips aren’t as tweakable as Cut’s anyway.”
  70. >The moment those words leave your mouth you hear the sound of a surprised and flustered Cut knocking something over at the sink.
  71. >She must have been listening in, just as you hoped.
  72. >>”Oh jeez!”
  73. >SCORE! That’s two for two, baby!
  74. >With a victorious smile on your face, you get to work scrubbing yourself, and Pike.
  75. >Looking down at her, you have a front row seat to the sight of her glower melting away under the power of your semi-skilled ministrations.
  76. >Today’s going to be a great day, you can already tell!
  77. >Splashing some fresh lather into your hands, you set to work /really/ working it into Pike’s flanks.
  78. >Which she appreciates of course.
  79. >”Mmmmmm.”
  80. >The more you work the suds in, the more she leans into your hands.
  81. >Which, considering they’re not actually attached to anything, is an odd sensation.
  82. >It's almost like you’re both standing above her and standing behind her at the same time.
  83. >Schrödinger's fondle.
  84. >”Don’t think this makes up for twisting my gals.”
  85. >Oh, now you're so, SO very tempted to grab them again, but you resist.
  86. >There’ll be plenty of time for more of that later.
  87. “I know deep down a part of you likes it. And that part can’t hide from me forever!”
  88. >She pleadingly looks up at you, a touch of genuine desperation in her eyes.
  89. >”Isn’t it enough that you’ve got Cut’s to play with?”
  90. >But of course, you are unmoved.
  91. “No.”
  92. >She drops her head into her hoof.
  93. >”Their balls are always fatter when the full moon’s out, just a day or so more,” she mutters under her breath.
  94. >That’s not the reaction you expected.
  95. >A pony saying maybe?
  96. >You make a note to ask her about that later.
  97. “Consider it a small price you’ll pay so we can spend our first Christmas with your parents instead of just as a herd.”
  98. >That makes her stiffen up more than tweaking her nips did!
  99. >Did... you say something wrong?
  100. “Hey, hon, I was kidding about—”
  101. >”It’s not that,” she cuts you off, “it’s... nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
  102. >That’s weird, is there something about going to her parents that’s got her worried?
  103. >What could that possibly be? She’s always spoken so highly of them.
  104. >Another topic to broach when you’re not about to start the day you suppose.
  105. “Hey, speaking of your parents’, have we got Cut in on that plan yet?”
  106. >”Of course we have! We told her...”
  107. >Pike’s statement trails off as Pike searches her memory.
  108. >After more than a few moments of clearly drawing a blank, she calls out beyond the shower in a last ditch effort.
  109. >”We told you about that, right, Cut?”
  110. >>”Um, well, no,” Cut weakly answers.
  111. >Pike looks down at her hooves for a moment, before something dawns on her.
  112. >She turns to you, confusion mixing with dawning horror.
  113. >”Oh Luna, we haven’t planned the trip out there at all, have we?”
  114. >Her realization makes your stomach drop.
  115. >Oh FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!
  116.  
  117. >Unfortunately, you were forced to leave that situation more or less unresolved.
  118. >You and Pike at least got Cut on board, but seeing as you all had to go to work, you were forced to put planning the trip on hold until at least tonight.
  119. >Which left you sitting at your desk, worrying and lamenting.
  120. “Oh God, it's so much closer to the holidays now! Tickets are probably so much more expensive!”
  121. >Cut stops in the middle of her work, looking up and squinting for a bit before turning to you.
  122. >”Why would train tickets get more expensive?”
  123. >>”ANONYMOUS!” a voice yells out from across the office.
  124. >Both you and Cut’s heads swivel to the source of the voice, Jargon’s office.
  125. >>”GET IN HERE!”
  126. >Jargon’s tone, as always, demands immediate attention, so with a shrug towards Cut, you stand up from your desk and head out.
  127. >Seeing as Jargon’s office is on nearly the other side of the office floor, you’ve got quite a little trek ahead of you!
  128. >As usual, you opt to walk around the outside of the cube farm as opposed to through it.
  129. >You prefer the snide comments coming from one direction as opposed to all sides, thank you very much.
  130. >Although, after you started dating Cut, you can’t help but appreciate the direction those comments have taken.
  131. >>>”How did that loser manage to hit THAT?” one mare cries.
  132. >>>>”He must have a fetish,” another chimes in. “You saw the hangers between her legs when she walked in! She didn’t even try to hide them!”
  133. >Their comments turn your canter into distinctly more of a strut, and all the while taunting them in your head.
  134. >Oh yeah, Cut gets a piece of this and you don’t!
  135. >So if you think she’s a loser, what does that say about you, /bitch/?
  136. >The thoughts put a devilishly smug smile on your face.
  137. >But, not wanting to waste more energy on your cringe coworkers than strictly necessary, you turn your attention away from them and towards the office itself.
  138. >You’d never really appreciated it before, but ponies really do their damnedest to liven everything up, even cube farms.
  139. >Despite being an office building, the interior makes you think of a cottage more than anything else.
  140. >The parts of the walls that aren’t dedicated to windows are all extravagantly painted too, full of color and life.
  141. >Even the cubes have some color on them!
  142. >They’re all made of polished wood with white trim, and low walls so you can easily talk to your neighbor!
  143. >You know, they kind of look like—
  144. >Wait a minute, oh my God.
  145. >They’re just stalls, from a barn!
  146. >Pony cubicles are /STALLS/.
  147. >You’ve been working in a STALL this whole time!?
  148. >What the fuck!?
  149. >This revelation disturbed you so deeply you didn’t even notice you’d Jargon’s office.
  150. >This, of course, causes you to run face first right into the door.
  151. “Ah! Fuck.”
  152. >Pausing to rub a hoof on your now sore muzzle, you just barely catch Jargon chuckling to herself and saying something about how ‘stallions walk around with their heads in the clouds’.
  153. >Okay, let’s get this over with then.
  154. >Pushing open Jargon’s door with a /little/ more force than you meant to, you step into her office.
  155. “You called, boss?”
  156. >Very annoyingly, she does not get right to the point.
  157. >>”Ahh, I remember what my husband was like after we first met. It was months later and he was still knocking things off the counter!”
  158. >You sure he wasn’t just scrambling to escape you, Jargon?
  159. >>”I’ll have to set aside some PTO for the two of you come spring. You won’t be able to keep your hooves off each other!”
  160. >You balk a little.
  161. >You’re really not a fan of the implications of her trying to predict your sex life.
  162. >Nor was that even close to one of the things you expected to hear when you walked in today.
  163. >>”I’m sure you’re thinking you don’t want foals now, but no stallion can escape the power of an Earth mare’s fertility!”
  164. >Okay, what the fuck!?
  165. >The vitriol in your head definitely leaks into your response.
  166. “Boss, is this /really/ what you called me over for?”
  167. >She looks at you like you’re insane.
  168. >You certainly /feel/ like you’re going insane, at least.
  169. >>”Of course not! Here, this showed up at the office for you.”
  170. >She taps a gilded envelope on her desk.
  171. >Closing the distance to it, you see ‘gilded’ doesn’t actually do it justice.
  172. >This whole thing is wreathed in an ornate gold pattern depicting two majestic unicorns.
  173. >And written in gold ink is your name, front and center.
  174. >You suppose it must be fan mail or something, otherwise they would have just sent it to Pike’s apartment.
  175. >Curiosity piqued, you pop the envelope open and slide the contents into your magic hands.
  176. >It's, predictably, a letter.
  177. >Surprisingly however, a small gold medallion also falls out.
  178. >Much like what was on the envelope, it depicts a unicorn, this time standing in front of a blazing sun.
  179. >What the hell?
  180. >Turning your attention to the letter, you give it a read.
  181.  
  182. Dear Anonymous,
  183. I’ve been a fan of your articles for quite some time, and recently I came into possession of some very interesting information. As my favorite gossip writer in the city, I can think of no better pony to share it with! So please, come by the castle this evening at seven sharp, and we can discuss this juicy development. Just show this medallion to the guards and they’ll take you right to me!
  184. Hope to see you soon,
  185. A fan
  186.  
  187. “Hm.”
  188. >Looking up from the letter, the look Jargon’s giving you makes it intuitively obvious that she expects you to tell her what it says.
  189. >Wow, rude.
  190. “It's a fan. Says they want to meet, that they’ve got a scoop for me.”
  191. >Jargon smiles like a wolf eyeing a fresh piece of meat.
  192. >>”Well, what are you waiting for then? Get going!”
  193.  
  194.  
  195.  
  196. >You are Anonymous, and with a newsie cap on your head and a saddlebag full of supplies, you’re approaching the castle now.
  197. >Frankly, you were rather iffy about answering the letter’s summons, but your normal fonts of information had been running dry.
  198. >Plus, crazy things always seem to happen when the castle is involved, and that usually means more sales, plus a fat bonus for you!
  199. >Even better, you don’t need to sneak in this time.
  200. >All you’ve got to do is show that weird medallion to the mare on front gate duty and she'll take care of the rest.
  201. >Much less of a hassle.
  202. >Hopefully that’s a sign it’ll be much less of a hassle /in/ the castle, too.
  203. >The ponies of Canterlot all but sing hymns about how patient Celestia is, but even she’d start getting testy at two diplomatic incidents in a row.
  204. >You’re almost there now, and you can’t help but notice you’re making pretty good time!
  205. >Not that you hadn’t believed her, but Pike really was spot on when she called unicorns, “the tribe of the mountaintops”.
  206. >Even with the foot of snow on the streets left by the recent fall earlier today, you’re having no trouble at all keeping your footing.
  207. >Or would it be hoofing?
  208. >Regardless, you’re navigating the would-be difficult terrain with ease!
  209. >It's like your hooves are natural snowshoes.
  210. >That, combined with your relatively long legs, makes trotting through the snow on this sunny winter day feel like the most natural thing in the world.
  211. >Makes you want to start prancing around, kick up some snow, and neigh!
  212. >...
  213. >As soon as the thought hits your mind, you stop dead in your tracks.
  214. >Okay, that’s a little /too/ native for your liking.
  215. >Let’s tone that back a bit, thoughts.
  216. >You feel like you ought to think of something American to balance it out.
  217. >Something like a... fourth of July Barbeque!
  218. >Ah, now those are some good memories.
  219. >If only vegetables benefited from slow cooking...
  220. >Feeling your natural zen restored, you set off once more.
  221. >It only takes a few more minutes of walking, and definitely not prancing, before you arrive at a familiar set of gates.
  222. >But the gates aren’t the only familiar thing, there’s a familiar face as well.
  223. >”Well, well, well,” a sly voice calls out. “I thought you were banned.”
  224. >With a smile to match Astral Blade’s own, you correct her.
  225. “Temporarily.”
  226.  
  227.  
  228. >Not long after, the mare herself was leading you through the bustling halls of Canterlot castle.
  229. >Today it seems like everywhere you look the halls are packed with ponies cleaning, guarding, and rushing about their day.
  230. >A far cry from the nearly empty halls back when the orders were to keep the place locked down for visitors.
  231. >And a much more welcoming sight, you might add.
  232. >”Hey, don’t space out too hard there, Anon. Pike would /kill/ me if she heard I’d lost you in here,” Astral prods.
  233. >You make a show of rolling your eyes at her; she, of all ponies, knows you know your way around here.
  234. >She even already told you the destination!
  235. >It’s just ‘in one of the Castle’s nice lounge rooms’, that’d be easy to find!
  236. >Probably.
  237. >Unfortunately though, while Astral knew where to go, her orders hadn’t included who sent them.
  238. >But, if they’re using official channels like that it's probably not that shady, right?
  239. >Plus, if they’ve got clearance to use one of those lounges, they’ve got to be on pretty good terms with the crown if nothing else.
  240. >But, either way, you’re glad it's Astral escorting you.
  241. >It's nice to both see a familiar face and know that if something is up she and Pike would be on it in an instant.
  242. >”Speaking of Pike,” Astral starts, “did she ever mention she was going to set up a chance for the two of us to meet ‘n greet?”
  243. >You think back to the past couple of months and nothing comes to mind.
  244. “No, I don’t think so.”
  245. >”I figured,” Astral grumbles.
  246. >She abruptly takes a corner, and you follow her.
  247. >”She said she’d set something up /forever/ ago and she never followed through.”
  248. >Astral looks back over her shoulder at you.
  249. >”But I’m not letting her off the hook, /we’re/ hanging out. Especially now that you’ve got that new mare with you.”
  250. >Without even looking away from you, she smoothly maneuvers around a fallen bust that some maid is cleaning up.
  251. >Man, bat echolocation is kind of freaky sometimes.
  252. >”How is she, by the way?”
  253. “Cut? She’s great.”
  254. >Astral looks like that is /not/ what she was expecting to hear.
  255. >”Really?”
  256. >You playfully scoff at her.
  257. “Why do you sound so surprised?”
  258. >She laughs back and fully commits to the bit.
  259. >”Probably because I am.”
  260. “Come on,” you bristle. “What she did wasn’t /that/ bad.”
  261. >Astral stops dead, fully turning to face you with a very surprised look on her face.
  262. >Giving you a confused once over, she keeps searching your face for something in particular...
  263. >Oh, did she think you were joking?
  264. >After a few more moments of not finding what she’s looking for, she barks out a single “Ha!”
  265. >”Mare, I knew a lot of gals growing up who’d have killed for a coltfriend /half/ as forgiving.”
  266. >Turning on a dime, she resumes leading you down the hallway.
  267. >As she does, you notice that this particular hallway actually dead-ends in a large, gold-trimmed door.
  268. >Guess that must be your destination.
  269. >”Did the Princesses ever establish a line to your homeland? It’d be nice to import some /stallions/ for once.”
  270. >You laugh at the mental image.
  271. >Trains and trains of stallions pulling up to the station, all eager for a tomboy.
  272. >Guess the influx of Kirin must be hitting the single mares hard.
  273. >A part of you feels for her, but the rest of you is reveling in her misery.
  274. “Oh? And here a little batty had told me you weren’t into janefillies.”
  275. >The description of Pike as a ‘little batty’ nearly knocks Astral off her hooves.
  276. >”HA! Surely you’ve got at least a few /normal/ stallions.”
  277. >The particular emphasis she puts on ‘normal’ tells you it's a joke, but you still play along.
  278. >After all, it's not every day you get to crush someone’s dreams.
  279. “Well, there’s a major emphasis on /few/.”
  280. >Astral sighs, with a look of despair on her face that might be a touch genuine.
  281. >”Damn..”
  282. >Finally, the two of you reach the door.
  283. >As you do, her mood immediately one-eighty’s, dropping the (mostly) faux-despair.
  284. >”Well, here we are!”
  285. >Without a moment’s hesitation she unceremoniously shoves the door open.
  286. >”Try not to cause /too/ big of a diplomatic incident this time,” she wryly says.
  287. >Stepping past her, you roll your eyes.
  288. “Hey, you helped!”
  289. >Just as you’re stepping across the threshold however, Astral stops you with a hoof on your withers.
  290. “Hm?”
  291. >You're surprised to see she looks genuinely concerned about something.
  292. >”Hey, before you go, has Pike mentioned anything about something bothering her?”
  293. >Your mind immediately flashes back to this morning, and the reaction she had when you asked about her parents.
  294. >That’s not really worth bringing up though, at least not yet.
  295. “Nothing in particular. Why?”
  296. >She glances back the way you came, almost as if to check that Pike’s not there.
  297. >”She just seems... off. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe to somepony who hasn’t worked with her for years.”
  298. >Well that’s not very helpful.
  299. >At least now you know /something’s/ up. Probably.
  300. “I’ll keep an eye out.”
  301. >Astral gives you an appreciative nod.
  302. >”Thanks. Good luck in there.”
  303. >You nod back, and step forward.
  304. >Entering the chamber proper, you take in just what sort of spider’s parlor you’ve wandered into.
  305. >Gotta say, if this really is just some elaborate ruse to kidnap you or something, they’re sure rolling out the red carpet for it.
  306. >Set before you is nothing less than a fancy lounge taken straight out of a Victorian drama.
  307. >Any wall space that isn’t dedicated to a window with a view of the gardens is taken up by either massive pieces of artwork, or bookshelves.
  308. >Taking a quick gander at the art, the unifying theme seems to be unicorns doing important things.
  309. >Fitting considering the accents on the envelope the fan sent you.
  310. >There are unicorns climbing mountains, weaving spells, there’s even a painting of a group of unicorns that looks eerily similar to the one of the Founding Fathers signing the Constitution!
  311. >Really, similar in fact.
  312. >Really, /really/ similar.
  313. >...How did that get here?
  314. >Tearing your eyes away from the dimension-shattering painting, you take a look at what dominates the center of this room.
  315. >Namely a collection of lounge sofas set around a large table.
  316. >A table filled with silver platters and bottles of wine!
  317. >You must have been duped into attending some sort of fancy get-together, there’s seating for at least five and more than enough wine to go around.
  318. >No one’s here yet though, not even the host.
  319. >You were admittedly expecting them to be here waiting for you. Where could they be?
  320. >As if on cue, you become cognizant of the one feature of the room you hadn’t noticed yet.
  321. >There’s a door directly across from you, muffling the sound of running water behind it.
  322. >No sooner had you set your eyes upon it than the door flew open, sending a cloud of steam spilling into the lounge.
  323. >You can’t see anything through the haze, but you can hear someone’s hoofsteps moving through it.
  324. >Anticipation and trepidation are currently having a no-rules cage throwdown inside you, and it's only getting worse the closer the mystery pony comes to being in view.
  325. >Finally, a white hoof steps before you, revealing the pony to be...
  326. “Oh come on, you /again/!?”
  327. >The beaming smile that was on Blueblood’s face is gone in a flash.
  328. >”Wha- what’s that supposed to mean!?”
  329. >Oh you said that /out loud/.
  330. >That’s a little awkward.
  331. “You just, ya’ know, got me hyped for the mystery! I was expecting some new mystery patron! Not someone I’d seen just a few days ago.”
  332. >Seems you managed to worm your way out of that, because Blueblood’s smile comes right back.
  333. >Although now it's much more smug.
  334. >”I knew there was some stallion in there somewhere!”
  335. >Happily trotting past you, he continues, “Sorry Anon, but you’re not living in some tantalizing serial, as exhilarating as that would be.”
  336. >Says the guy who invited you via mysterious medallion and unsigned letter!
  337. >Guess that’s just how this world’s nobles get their sick kicks.
  338. >Could be a lot worse honestly.
  339. >The Prince, oblivious to your internal monologue, comes to a stop at the table and starts giving its contents a once-over.
  340. >”But I’m glad I was right! I figured this was the best way to get you to my bi-weekly wine and cheese hour, and here you are!”
  341. >Oh! Well, that explains all the wine.
  342. “So uh, why the sudden interest in having me around again?”
  343. >Blueblood pauses, with what you hope is an /embarrassed/ blush on his face.
  344. >”Well, it's a little embarrassing to admit...”
  345. >Oh thank God.
  346. >”...but you’re here to settle a wager for me.”
  347. “What kind of wager?”
  348. >Turning around to look at you, waves his hoof dismissively.
  349. >”Oh, just a friendly one of course. One of my newer acquaintances believes ‘Anonymous’ to be a group of stallions who publish their articles anonymous/ly/.”
  350. >Interesting.
  351. >You suppose you can see where that mix-up could come from, but Jargon made it pretty clear it was /you/ writing them when you first started.
  352. >Guess she wasn’t exaggerating, most stallions really didn’t read newspapers before you started writing in earnest.
  353. >Including the one that featured a major article about your hiring!
  354. “I better get a cut of those winnings.”
  355. >He smiles at you, with the most shit-eating grin you’ve ever seen on a pony.
  356. >”Of course, though I doubt you’ve the required interest in foreign cosmetics to claim it.”
  357. >THAT’S what they’re betting with!?
  358. >Lame! Where’s the cash?
  359. “What is it, eyeliner made of gold?”
  360. >”Well if I win, Golden has to give me a case of the Prench Morceau de Merde foundation that he got from his most recent trip to Prance. If you really wa—”
  361. “No, that's okay, I’m good.”
  362. >You can see his face scrunch in annoyance at being cut off, but instead of lashing out he turns away and busies himself inspecting the bottles of wine.
  363. >”Suit yourself.”
  364. >Indeed you will!
  365. >But damn, that leaves this whole venture at a net loss.
  366. >Blueblood doesn’t seem to actually have a scoop for you, and you can’t even make money off that bet!
  367. >You’ll probably just dip out after Blueblood’s friends see you’re real.
  368. >No reason to stick around and listen to a bunch of rich socialites yammer drunkenly about the recent gossip.
  369. >...
  370. >Wait a second.
  371. “Hey, Blueblood, your friends won’t mind if I take some notes about our conversations, will they?”
  372. >Your question catches him in the middle of grimacing at a wine bottle like it insulted his family.
  373. >”Hm? Oh, of course. Fancy would undoubtedly /love/ the opportunity to gush about his upcoming spring fashion line to another member of high society. Especially to one as knowledgeable as you.”
  374. >Alright! Now that’s something you can... report on...
  375. >After the initial excitement at having such a scoop fades, the implications of Blueblood’s words puts a deep, deep pit in your gut.
  376. >The ponies at this little get together will be your readers personified.
  377. >Almost literally.
  378. >If you make a joke of yourself here, not only will you not get the scoop, but your reputation could be toasted.
  379. >No one will read your stupid articles about fashion if a group of major socialites start spreading around to everyone that you don’t actually know anything about fashion!
  380. >You’d be fucked!
  381. >Is it really worth it to stick around and risk it for the metaphorical biscuit?
  382. >Well, as far as you know no pony’s complained thus far.
  383. >/AND/ you really could use the story...
  384. >Aw what the heck, how hard could it be?
  385. >Ponies seem incapable of assuming anything but the best in others, so you’re sure it will turn out totally fine!
  386.  
  387.  
  388.  
  389. >Unfortunately your conversation with Blueblood did not peter out after that.
  390. >He wanted to know ALL about what you’ve been up to.
  391. >Seems that Celestia gave him the impression that you’re a noblestallion yourself, albeit from a far away land.
  392. >Another prank you suppose.
  393. >That’s probably why he wanted to hang out with you so badly when you first arrived.
  394. >No reason to correct him now, you guess.
  395. >”Oh, it must be so jarring to live amongst the gentry now. I can’t believe Auntie didn’t set aside a fiefdom for you!”
  396. >The two of you are currently lounging on some of the couches, waiting for the other guests to arrive.
  397. >You wanted to get into the wine already, but Blueblood annoyingly /insisted/ you wait.
  398. “It's fine, really.”
  399. >He shudders at your words.
  400. >”I can’t imagine what it must have been like to grow... /accustomed/ to that life.”
  401. >Jesus, this guy really is a living stereotype.
  402. >Thank God you know who he’s dating, otherwise you’d be terrified that you’d soon see a horse Habsburg with your very own eyes.
  403. “Says the guy who’s also dating a guardsmare.”
  404. >”Oh pish posh,” he says, “it's only natural that one becomes /intimately/ familiar with the one guarding his life.”
  405. >Hold on, was that an innuendo?
  406. >You didn’t think he had it in him!
  407. >What’s even more shocking is that for the briefest of moments, gone is the pompous prince, and in his place is the spitting image of a human teenage girl.
  408. >”Besides, she really /gets/ me. You know?”
  409. >You’re tempted to laugh at the stereotype but honestly... you DO know what he means.
  410. >If you had a glass, you’d toast it.
  411. “Amen to that, brother.”
  412. >”...Amen?”
  413. >Thankfully, before you were forced to explain what ‘amen’ means, a knock on the door interrupted your conversation.
  414. >Finally! Goddamn did he tell you to show up an hour early or something?
  415. >In a shocking show of speed, Blueblood’s already on his hooves and at the door.
  416. >You sit up in attention yourself, curious to see the first of whatever menagerie he invited.
  417. >And as Blueblood pulls the door open, you’re greeted with the sight of a white coat with a familiar blue ‘stash and stuffed looking saddlebag.
  418. >”Fancy!”
  419. >The mustachioed unicorn strides into the room, and man does he look peeved off.
  420. >>”Well, Blueblood, I made it. Despite your directions.”
  421. >”Oh come now! This week’s wasn’t /that/ hard.”
  422. >>>”For you, maybe,” a new voice chimes in.
  423. >Following Fancy in is a new unicorn you don’t recognize.
  424. >He’s pretty plain as far as ponies go, with a tan coat and a swept back blond mane.
  425. >He’s got a pretty snazzy looking suit coat on though!
  426. >>>”After all, you’re the only one here with a compass rose cutie mark,” the new guy observes.
  427. >Hm, seems like you weren’t the only one who received a wonky invitation.
  428. >Blueblood looks back at his own rump, like he’s surprised his own cutie mark is there.
  429. >”Hm, I suppose I hadn’t considered that.”
  430. >Nearly as soon as they appeared, the minuscule traces of doubt in Blueblood’s face disappeared.
  431. >”Ah well, you two arrived just fine, if a bit late! And Anonymous seemed to have no trouble at all with this week’s riddle-map!”
  432. >A riddle-map? Jeez, no wonder they sounded so annoyed.
  433. >But wait, why’s Blueblood talking like you got one of them too?
  434. >Seemingly trying to answer your silent question, you catch him giving you a sly little wink.
  435. >Ah, he must be trying to get you to cover for him and save some face.
  436. >Hmm, now here’s a conundrum.
  437. >Leave Blueblood high and dry, or mess with Fancy Pants and the new guy?
  438. >Well, two ponies messed with is better than one...
  439. “Yeah, it wasn’t that hard.”
  440. >Both Fancy and the new guy evidently hadn’t noticed you and were caught off guard by your interjection.
  441. >But with wildly different reactions!
  442. >>”Anonymous, my colt!” Fancy bellows, “I feared I’d never see you around these parts again!”
  443. >>>”Wait, that’s Anonymous!?”
  444. >Fancy shrugs at his friend.
  445. >>”I tried to tell you not to take the bet, Golden.”
  446. >The pony, who you suppose is Golden, wastes no time galloping over to you.
  447. >Stopping on a dime, he runs his gaze up and down your body, taking in your every detail and making you feel more than a little uncomfortable.
  448. >>>”Hmmm, he certainly dresses the part...” he mutters.
  449. >You self-consciously adjust your newsie cap with your magic, trying to draw the pony’s attention to it and hopefully end this uncomfortable moment.
  450. >>>””Hmmm.”
  451. >Finally getting the hint that you’re the real deal, he stands up straight and offers his hoof.
  452. >>>”My name is Golden Gavel, and do you swear on your noble house you are Anonymous of the Canterlot Canterer?”
  453. >Man, this dude must /really/ not want to lose this bet.
  454. >You bump his hoof, albeit a little uneasily.
  455. >His words are another reminder of what you’re putting on the line here.
  456. >These ponies really think you’re one of them!
  457. >“Um, yeah.”
  458. >He lets out a heaving sigh as his face falls, and he slumps forward with resignation.
  459. >>>”Drat.”
  460. >As he turns back towards Blueblood, you catch sight of something shuffling around in his suit pocket as he lights his horn.
  461. >>>”Take it!” He shouts, whipping some across the room toward the Prince.
  462. >Blueblood, surprisingly, catches the object with ease, stopping the projectile dead in his golden magic.
  463. >It's a little case of makeup, his reward.
  464. >>>”It's last season’s shade anyway.”
  465. >Wow, /that’s/ the level of banter these guys have?
  466. >That’s pretty pathetic.
  467. >Although not as pathetic as the fact it makes Blueblood start moaning and groaning like a kid that just got told Santa wasn’t real.
  468. >You can practically hear Pike’s voice in your ear scornfully saying, “/Stallions/.”
  469. >Desperately hoping for something to look at besides the sordid scene, by chance, your eyes fall on the door just as someone new walks in.
  470. >An Earth pony of all ponies, no less!
  471. >An Earth pony you think you vaguely recognize from the Marg Monday you went to so long ago.
  472. >Gray coat, bluish silver mane, golden laurel cutie mark...
  473. >Yeah, you’ve definitely seen this guy before. Count something, you think.
  474. >”Ah, Caesar! Good to see you,” Blueblood greets him.
  475. >It's a good thing Blueblood didn’t let you into the wine after all, you have just spit it all over yourself.
  476. >He’s Count /Caesar/.
  477. >Honestly, how the hell did you forget a name like that?
  478. >Golden immediately leaves your side to go greet the stallion himself, and it occurs to you that if you want to pass as some high society putz, you should probably start acting like.
  479. >So, without further ado, you hop off the couch and make your way over to the gathered stallions.
  480. >Caesar sees your approach, and surprisingly sends a friendly smile your way.
  481. >>>>”Ah, Anonymous,” he says, extending his hoof, “I always knew you’d come around eventually.”
  482. >He did?
  483. >Deciding against jumping down whatever rabbit hole that comment entails, you simply return his hoof bump.
  484. “Good to see you again Caesar...”
  485. >As your hoof makes contact, you hesitate for the briefest of moments.
  486. >Are you about to risk looking like a weirdo for a joke that’ll only make you laugh?
  487. >Yeah, you are.
  488. “...a shame, what happened to Julius.”
  489. >Much to your shock, Caesar does not ask who you’re talking about.
  490. >Instead, he just sadly shakes his head.
  491. >>>>”Indeed. Nobody anticipated that the senate would react that poorly, but I suppose you cannot win them all.”
  492. >It takes every ounce of willpower you’ve got not to cry out in alarm.
  493. >It's okay, Anon, it's just like the painting. Don’t think about it too hard.
  494. >Just accept it and move on.
  495. >>”Seems like that’s just about everypony,” Fancy interjects to Blueblood. “Shall we get started my friend?”
  496. >”Preposterous!” Blueblood cries. “We’re still missing one!”
  497. >>>”Yes, one who probably won’t arrive for another hour if last time was any indication,” moans Golden.
  498. >Blueblood’s face scrunches in annoyance in a way that’s becoming increasingly familiar to you.
  499. >”Oh fine! He won’t mind if we open a bottle or two. Come!”
  500.  
  501.  
  502. >In hindsight, it was now obvious why Blueblood insisted on waiting to open the wine.
  503. >He’d only said he’d open “a bottle or two” but as soon as he downed that first glass it became obvious there was no stopping what had been started.
  504. >It's been only half an hour but almost every bottle had been opened by this point.
  505. >You thought the whole point of these was to try a little of each wine, but the guys keep filling the glasses like they’re trying to get sloshed.
  506. >And the peer pressure is HIGH!
  507. >Mares openly trying to get you drunk have been less pushy.
  508. >”Anonymous, dear colt! You simply must try this Frausberg with the Marelot!” is your only warning before Blueblood shoves a new glass and a piece of cheese in your face,
  509. >Thankfully, Golden immediately intercedes on your behalf and magically pushes the foodstuffs away.
  510. >>>”Let the stallion breathe, Blue, he hasn’t even finished the glass he’s got!”
  511. >Blueblood’s eyes flick to the partially-full glass you’ve already got floating in your hand before he sighs.
  512. >”If I must.”
  513. >You shoot Golden a thankful look.
  514. >After all, the more you drink, the more likely you are to say something stupid.
  515. >Better to take it nice and slow while you observe.
  516. >>>>”Say, Anonymous,” Caesar draws your attention to him, “Your coat has quite the sheen to it. What’s your coat care routine?”
  517. >That’s an unexpected thing to ask out the gate.
  518. “Just Dr. Alkaline’s Castile Soap. Why?”
  519. >>”No no no, old colt,” Fancy cuts in, “He means your entire routine!”
  520. >Oh. Uh oh.
  521. >You didn’t think about that.
  522. >How are you going to tell these guys you use an 18-in-1 soap created by a stallion that believes the worship of the sun can make you immune to the tricks of changelings?
  523. >It's not like you know the names of any other products to bullshit with!
  524. >Wait! You just had an idea.
  525. >Hope this works...
  526. “W-Well, I’m not really comfortable giving away /all/ my handsom-y secrets. Especially since I don’t know any of yours!”
  527. >You let the statement hang for a moment, searching the faces of the gathered stallions.
  528. >As the silence slowly becomes more and more awkward, you send up a silent prayer that your shot in the dark was correct.
  529. >Thankfully, your prayers are answered as the sweet sound of acquiescence hits your ears.
  530. >>”I suppose that’s only fair.”
  531. >>>”I’m certainly loath to give up some of my best kept secrets.”
  532. >Phew, bullet dodged.
  533. >Now you’d better come up with a new conversation path, fast.
  534. >”Alright alright,” Blueblood ends the murmuring, “I’ll share first, then.”
  535. >Wait, what? No!
  536. >The white stallion clears his throat, and sits up a little straighter, like he’s about to give a speech.
  537. >You didn’t think they’d start monologuing about what they do!
  538. >This isn’t what you wanted!
  539. >”Well, to start, in the morning I’ll put on an ice pack if my face is a little puffy.”
  540. >His statement makes you curiously prod your face with your hoof.
  541. >How can he even tell under all the fur?
  542. >”After I remove the ice pack, I quickly apply a deep-pore cleanser lotion. Then, once that’s absorbed, I get in the shower and use both a water-activated gel cleanser and a honey-almond coat scrub.”
  543. >Okay, seems a little excessive, but—
  544. >”For my face, I break out my favorite exfoliating gel-scrub. Oh, and for my mane and tail I use a tea tree oil extract shampoo, followed by one of the finest Prench conditioners!”
  545. >>>”Oh!” Caesar interrupts. “Do you still use that herbal mask you were telling us about last time?”
  546. >For once, Blueblood doesn’t look pissed about being interrupted.
  547. >”I do, actually. It's an herbal mint facial masque. I put it on the moment I get out of the shower. I definitely recommend it.”
  548. >Without missing a beat, the Prince immediately slides back into his monologue.
  549. >”After rinsing that off, I shave any unsightly whiskers and dab on a splash of aftershave. Without alcohol of course.”
  550. >Your confusion at his need to clarify that must have been written on your face, because Golden leans into your ear and whispers, “Alcohol dries out your skin and coat. Makes you look older.”
  551. >”Then on goes my moisturizer, an anti-aging eye balm, and last but not least, a final moisturizing protective lotion!”
  552. >”Then voilà!” He finishes with a smile and a flourish, “I’m ready to start my day!”
  553. >Almost immediately the gathered stallions all start clopping their hooves together.
  554. >>>”I never get tired of hearing that,” says Golden.
  555. >>”My colt, such dedication is what all true stallions strive for,” adds Fancy.
  556. >You, meanwhile, are stunned.
  557. >You feel like you’ve once again fallen into a brand new universe.
  558. >What is wrong with these guys!?
  559. >>>”Shall I go next?” Golden cries excitedly.
  560. >You want to cry out for them to take a recess, you’re still thrown for a loop!
  561. >You can’t take another, not now!
  562. >”By all means.”
  563. >No, please NO!
  564. >>>”Well, mine’s admittedly modeled after Blue’s. Except, a key difference is I don't use an ice pack at the start. You see, those odd, fluffy, Earth ponies in the North have been exporting this thing called ‘liquid nitrogen’...”
  565.  
  566.  
  567. >You feel broken.
  568. >The insane assault of the elaborate beauty routines these stallions go through every morning has mentally broken you.
  569. >You didn’t even know there were that many ways to moisturize!
  570. >That spa day kit really undersold what the average stallion does to himself.
  571. >>>>”Impressive, very nice.” Caesar says to the recently finished Fancy, “Let’s hear Anonymous’ routine.”
  572. >Your mind spins for a few moments, but the gears are too worn down to produce anything worthwhile.
  573. >You don’t even have it in you to lie now.
  574. “I just use Dr. Alkaline’s 18-in-1 Peppermint Castile Soap.”
  575. >The stallions all share a worried look.
  576. >>>”You, uh, already mentioned that.”
  577. >You shrug.
  578. “Cause that’s all I use.”
  579. >>”For /everything/?” Fancy asks, clearly disturbed.
  580. “Everything.”
  581. >Now you’ve managed to stun the stallions into silence.
  582. >Almost all their faces frozen in shock, the only sound in the room is the sound of Blueblood taking a sip from his wine glass.
  583. >Which he immediately proceeds to spit back out.
  584. >”BY MY LESSOR AUNT’S MILLENNIA OLD UNTRIMMED LEGBEARD!”
  585. >With that, the dam is broken, and the wailing begins.
  586. >>”I simply can’t imagine using the /same/ product for both my coat and mane!”
  587. >>>”How has all your fur not fallen out!?”
  588. >You suppose this is to be expected.
  589. >Oh well, if this is how it all falls apart then this is how it all falls apart.
  590. >Although, just as you’re about to give up hope, you notice one of the stallions isn’t freaking out.
  591. >The one who originally asked you the question, Caesar.
  592. >Instead, he’s intently leaned towards you.
  593. >>>>”How can one product manage to do 18 things at once?” he asks.
  594. “Well, you don’t just use the concentrated soap,” you weakly answer. “You mix it with stuff you’d find in your kitchen.”
  595. >You slowly start to tune out the sound of wailing stallions in favor of the one pony actually interested in what you’re saying.
  596. >>>>”Like what?”
  597. “Well, apple cider vinegar makes it into a great shampoo. Coconut butter makes it an excellent conditioner. Diluting it makes it a pretty great coatwash. Oh, and baking soda makes it into a decent toothpaste.”
  598. >>>”You can really do all that with it?”
  599. >The sudden interruption makes you nearly jump out of your seat.
  600. >It seems that you’ve somehow managed to re-entice all the previously horrified stallions.
  601. >Blueblood, Fancy, and Golden, who were previously all but rolling around on the floor in agony, now mirror Caesar.
  602. >Leaning in, intensely focusing on what you’re saying.
  603. >Feeling somehow even more put on the spot, your answer comes out shaky.
  604. “Well, uh, yeah. You can even use this as a makeup remover too. It's way better than that Original Oakley A’s crap. That stuff’s basically just cheap coatwash.”
  605. >”That’s amazing!” Blueblood shouts, “You sound like one of the stalchemists of old!”
  606. >Did... did he seriously just portmanteau ‘stallion’ and ‘alchemist’ to make ‘stalchemist’?
  607. >>”Like the old stories of Starswirl in his lab!” Fancy adds.
  608. >Jesus Christ. He fucking did, didn’t he?
  609. >The sheer indignation you feel at such a disgusting phrase puts the wind back under your metaphorical wings.
  610. “Still too /scary/ for you?”
  611. >Blueblood huffs and puffs as stallions do.
  612. >”I think I can speak for ALL of us when I say you had us a little worried at first. But, it sounds like a quality product. This, Dr. Alkaline, must know what he’s doing.”
  613. >Your mind’s eye drifts back to the wall of text that is the soap’s label.
  614. >Yeah, the dude either knows exactly what he’s doing or is completely insane.
  615. >Feeling a little cocky, you turn up the snide.
  616. “Maybe you should give it a try? It's nice to not need to buy /45/ different things.”
  617. >Blue scoffs at you.
  618. >”Ha! Preposterous. I simply couldn’t live without my herbal mask.”
  619. “You only started using it recently, right? Seems like you were getting along just fine before it.”
  620. >He starts blushing furiously as the gathered stallions all burst into laughter.
  621. >Puts a feeling in your heart you haven’t felt for quite some time.
  622. >The warm feeling of a group of guys, laughing their asses off at what you said.
  623. >”I just didn’t know what I was missing, is all!”
  624.  
  625.  
  626. >You are the unflappable Count Caesar, and you’d say you’re about an hour into the wine and cheese ‘hour’, and it shows no signs of stopping.
  627. >But that’s no surprise.
  628. >The idea of a wine and cheese hour was always just a formality, an excuse.
  629. >Fittingly then, at this point the facade has more or less been completely discarded.
  630. >The stallions have all abandoned the idea of tasting wines and cheeses, and have instead opted toward simply drinking from the bottles.
  631. >All except for you of course.
  632. >A proper stallion must be measured in all things, especially his drinking.
  633. >You’ll forgive your friends for falling short of that lofty ideal though.
  634. >Especially Mr. Anonymous, who’s currently engaged in quite the titillating conversation!
  635. >”Say, Blue, how’s it feel to be a part of unshorn gang?”
  636. >Blueblood, understandably, looks at the stallion with abject confusion.
  637. >>”Unshorn? Oh! You mean my fetlocks?”
  638. >Anonymous nods enthusiastically.
  639. >In response, Blueblood looks down at his hoof, as if he hadn’t considered anyone would notice.
  640. >You take the moment to briefly check on yours as well.
  641. >As expected, your gray hooves are as finely shorn as ever.
  642. >Prim and proper, a far cry from those two shaggy miscreants.
  643. >>”I’m not sure. Rook certainly seems to like them, but I’ve nearly knocked myself out tripping over them!”
  644. >Anonymous grimaces and sucks in his breath through his teeth.
  645. >”Yeeeeeeeeeeah. But it sure does drive the gals wild. I’ve been growing them out since the tournament and they seem to really dig that rugged look.”
  646. >Anon, seemingly at nothing, suddenly barks out a laugh.
  647. >”Ha! Hey wait a minute, if they like the look of a working stallion so much, why do they hate it so much when we get a job?”
  648. >Both stallions fall into hysterics at your revelation, and you chuckle yourself, before a tap on your withers calls your attention.
  649. >Turning toward the culprit, you ask, “What is it, Golden?”
  650. >Your old friend gives you a jolly smile.
  651. >>>”You did good keeping your cool back there.”
  652. >Ah, he must mean when Anonymous started talking about his soap.
  653. “Just because I was as shocked as all of you doesn’t mean I needed to express it. Honestly, you all could learn a thing or two about being more discreet.”
  654. >In a rare sign of humility, Golden cannot meet your gaze.
  655. >>>”Yeah, I guess you’ve got us on that one.”
  656. >Clearly eager to shift the subject he points to a still laughing Anonymous.
  657. >>>”But, seriously, look how much he’s loosened up since. Before he was hardly drinking at all! I think it's safe to say you being in his corner saved his evening.”
  658. >Hm, you honestly hadn’t noticed.
  659. >But that’s what makes you and Golden such a good team.
  660. “Perhaps we’ll be able to get some gossip out of him now.”
  661. >Golden smiles, positively deviously.
  662. >>>”That’s my stallion!”
  663.  
  664.  
  665. “And that’s why I’m thinking of trimming them down again. It's just, so uncomfortable to have long fetlocks in socks, ya know?”
  666. >You are Anonymous the Unicorn and things are going great!
  667. >You’re feelin' good, got a little wine in you, and these guys haven’t asked you about work once!
  668. >”By my Aunt!” Blueblood cried, “Long fetlocks IN socks!? Have a little self-respect, stallion!”
  669. “Are you kidding?! Listen, Blue, any “shame” I’d feel from “”””debasing”””” myself like that, is nothing compared to what I can get Pike and Cut to do so they can see me like that.”
  670. >The Prince looks utterly stupefied.
  671. >”I never thought about it that way...”
  672. >You feel a pony take a seat next to you on the couch, and your bet is its Fancy, returning from the restroom.
  673. >>”My, my, did I hear that right? Mr. Independent went and got himself a herd?” comes Fancy’s cheeky voice.
  674. >You shift your posture so you can address either stallion equally, unintentionally leaving you sitting like a human.
  675. >You’re pretty sure he’s joking, so you don’t lay on the indignation. Yet.
  676. “Heeeey, what’s that supposed to mean?”
  677. >Fancy chuckles into his hoof, confirming your suspicions.
  678. >>”Nothing, nothing. It's just that last time we met, you gave off the impression you were the kind of stallion who’d prefer to play the eternal bachelor.”
  679. >Hmm, you guess to an outsider you do seem to fit the stereotypical strong independent stereotype to a T.
  680. >You know, you and the gals could probably make a pretty good bit out of that...
  681. “I just hadn’t really found the right mares yet,” you respond with a shrug.
  682. >The sound of laughter heralds Golden and Caesar moving to a couch closer to you, and joining the conversation.
  683. >>>”Oh I know some guys who’d /hate/ you for saying that!”
  684. >You’re about to question why, when suddenly several mostly suppressed memories of Jargon rise to the surface.
  685. >Memories of her repeatedly saying something about how you’d quit your job once you found the right mares to settle down with.
  686. “Oooh, uh, yeah. Poor choice of words.”
  687. >That just makes Golden laugh harder.
  688. >>>>Caesar himself chuckles before asking, “On the topic of your refusal to settle down, how’s being one of the most influential writers in Canterlot?”
  689. >What? Bologna.
  690. >Was that some sad attempt at buttering you up?
  691. >With a peeved hoof pointed at Golden, your reply is pretty indignant.
  692. “How exactly does that work when someo-pony, /in this room/ didn’t even know who I was?”
  693. >If Caesar was fazed by your jab though, not an inch of it shows on his face.
  694. >>>>”Debates about your identity not-withstanding, nopony can deny your influence.”
  695. >>>”He’s right,” Golden chimes in, “I may have been wrong about who you were, but I’ve still been an avid reader!”
  696. >>”At this rate, most stallions in Canterlot are, I’d wager,” Fancy finishes.
  697. >With every statement you felt yourself sinking further and further into the couch.
  698. >Jesus, no pressure you guess.
  699. >This must be what it feels like to be Cut.
  700. >To make matters worse, you can tell where this line of conversation is going.
  701. >>”And that’s why,” Fancy continues, “I’d like you to have a look at these.”
  702. >He turns around to look over the back of the couch, and the familiar sound of TK activating preludes the sound of shuffling saddlebags.
  703. >Oh God, he’s gonna ask your /opinion/ on something!
  704. >Shit!
  705. >Based on some unspoken understanding, Blueblood wastes no time clearing a spot on the table, pushing aside everything from plates, to glasses, to bottles.
  706. >Everyone at the table is positively giddy with excitement as Fancy waits for Blueblood to finish, giggling like highschool girls.
  707. >Not wanting to stand out, you smile and hope it doesn’t look as forced as it feels.
  708. >Eventually Fancy decides the space cleared is large enough, and his saddlebags drift over the couch and settle on the table.
  709. >Looking at the gathered ponies, and grinning ear to ear, he addresses them with gravitas unfitting for a room of five guys.
  710. >>”What I have brought today is something very special. Working prototypes for TWO of my upcoming Spring line!”
  711. >An auspicious murmur rises up amongst the stallions, and for once you genuinely participate.
  712. >Fancy’s fashions are kind of a big deal, especially if those rumors about him collaborating with one of the Elements of Harmony are real.
  713. >This is almost too good to be true!
  714. >>>”So /that’s/ what you were hiding in those saddlebags! Can we try them on!?” Golden practically shouts in excitement.
  715. >Fancy grimaces in a way that reminds you of a Mom telling her daughter she cannot in fact have a pony for Christmas.
  716. >>”Well, you /could/. They would just hardly fit.”
  717. >>>>”Why not?” Caesar asks as everyone exchanges confused looks, “We’re of standard build. Well, except Anonymous.”
  718. >>”That’s just it, Anonymous is the only one who they’ll fit!”
  719. >You feel like your eyes are about to bug out of your skull.
  720. >There is no fucking way this dude’s about to ask you to try that shit on.
  721. >>>”How did /that/ happen?” Golden asks with what you feel is an appropriate amount of disbelief.
  722. >Fancy unbuckles the straps of his saddlebags and starts sliding the garments out as he gives one of the deepest sighs you’ve ever heard.
  723. >>”Ah, it was this whole mess. Rarity—”
  724. >You catch Blueblood’s groan at the mention of Rarity, but it seems the others either didn’t hear it or didn’t visibly care.
  725. >>”—was commissioned to make something for some big lad in Ponyville, and somehow his measurements got mixed up with measurements for our prototypes!”
  726. >By now he’s fully slid the first outfit out of the bags, and it certainly looks like there’s a whole lot of outfit there.
  727. >It really is probably around your size.
  728. >>”Unfortunately neither of us realized this until most of the fabric had already been cut. By then she decided we should try and finish these projects that none of my mannequins would fit, ‘for the challenge’.”
  729. >He sets the outfit in front of you while he goes to unpack the other one.
  730. >Seems this one has a leafy, floral theme.
  731. >>”And I’m sure you all know how mares can get when they feel like they’ve got something to prove,” he adds with an eye roll.
  732. >You’d probably have mumbled something in agreement if every neuron in your brain wasn’t currently occupied trying to come up with a convincing excuse to not do this.
  733. >”*Cough*I told you so *cough*,” interjects Blueblood.
  734. >You’re allergic to every kind of fabric known to ponykind? No, that's way too obvious.
  735. >You’re so in your own head that you hardly notice Fancy scornfully scoffing back at Blue.
  736. >>”Blue, you need to end this foalish feud already. Ms. Rarity is a wonderful mare!”
  737. >You don’t feel comfortable being the only one so dressed up? No, if the whole soap debacle was any indication, they’d just take the chance to dress up in their own stuff.
  738. >Fancy’s got the second outfit unpacked by now.
  739. >Out of the corner of your eye, you spot a lot of colors on sky blue and, strangely, a lot less clothing to it than the previous ensemble.
  740. >”Bah! I’ve met mares like her dozens of times! The only reason she approached me was for my princeliness. She probably just wanted me to /stud/!”
  741. >>”Oh come, now you’re just being irrational. That’s been taboo since before we were born!”
  742. >Shit, if only ponies had cell phones, you could just call Pike to come and get you!
  743. >Actually, the trade off of giving ponies cell phones probably isn’t worth it.
  744. >*SLAM! SLAM! SLAM!*
  745. >The loud sound demolishes both your train of thought and the stallions’ argument.
  746. >Confusion present on every face, everyone tries to shake off the shock and start blearily looking around for the source.
  747. >*SLAM! SLAM!*
  748. >Goddamn, it sounds like someone’s trying to tear one of the windows off its hinges.
  749. >*SLAM! SLAM!*
  750. >It /really/ sounds like that, actually.
  751. >Which makes this your perfect chance to totally detail what Fancy was trying to do!
  752. >You’ve only got one shot, time to make it count!
  753. >Feeling the power of Tricky Dick flowing through you, you shout.
  754. “Sounds like someone’s breaking in!”
  755.  
  756.  
  757. >The declaration shouted by you, Anonymous, hangs tensely in the air.
  758. >Or, you suppose you /wish/ it hung tensely.
  759. >Despite the continued racket, it only took a few moments for the stallions to go from startled to nonchalant.
  760. >Seems like you’re the only one even remotely concerned.
  761. >”Must he come in through the /window/?” Blueblood whines.
  762. >With one last slam, something in the fenestration finally gives way and you’re hit with a sudden blast of cold air from the outside world.
  763. >Makes you appreciate having a coat, you can hardly feel it!
  764. >Although, it doesn’t seem to be helping your fellow unicorns, considering how they’ve all started moaning and groaning about the chilly air.
  765. >Stallions really are just prissy bitches you suppose.
  766. >Following the sudden rush of cold air, your eyes are led to the window that was the source of the racket, and the stallion who just entered through it.
  767. >What’s immediately apparent is he’s a Pegasus, and an old one at that.
  768. >Whatever color his mane once was, now it's a steely gray.
  769. >Which does not go great with his dark orange coat, but you’ve got to give him props for not caving in and dying it.
  770. >What’s far more noticeable however, is the brown flight jacket he’s wearing.
  771. >Specifically, the massive collection of patches and pins adorning that jacket.
  772. >You’d need to be high as a kite not to notice those!
  773. >Just looking at a few of them and you know everything you need to know about this guy.
  774. >This dude was a Wonderbolt, and proud of it.
  775. >As he steps into the parlor proper, you realize he’s already been grumbling to himself.
  776. >>”Fifty-five thirty. That’s a whole five minutes slower than last time,” he mutters.
  777. >The stallions have all started comically shivering.
  778. >”Design, I /asked/ you to please come in the front door this time!” Blueblood cries in full whine mode.
  779. >The now-named Design trots over to the seats and plops down without a care.
  780. >>”And I /told/ you that it's much faster if I come in through the window instead of wasting all that time!”
  781. >He throws an accusatory hoof toward you.
  782. >>”Besides, he seems to be doing just fine.”
  783. >With borderline comedic timing, the moment this newcomer is settled in his seat, all the other stallions stand up.
  784. >Blueblood lets out one of his customary huffs and says, ”Anonymous should never be used as a litmus test for anything.”
  785. >HEY hold on there!
  786. >Sure you’re not exactly the ‘average stallion’, but that’s just uncalled for!
  787. >Resisting the urge to cross your forehooves, you angle your searing gaze toward him.
  788. >”No offense,” he weakly adds.
  789. >Feeling a bit huffy yourself, you don't hesitate to snark back.
  790. “Where are you all even going? Gonna go sit in the hallway?”
  791. >Before Blueblood can continue the cycle of snark however, Golden cuts in.
  792. >>>”The sauna of course!”
  793. >Oh shit, that must have been what Blueblood stepped out of when you got here!
  794. >That perks you right up.
  795. >Any sauna in this place is probably swanky as hell!
  796. >Plus, there’s no way in hell Fancy wants you wearing those fancy outfits in there.
  797. >Channeling your newfound enthusiasm you throw yourself off the couch and onto your hooves.
  798. >You’re not even going to wait for the others to make a move, you are making a beeline for that door!
  799.  
  800.  
  801. >You were right of course, this bathhouse was something out of a Roman fantasy.
  802. >Wall to wall marble, and a giant communal bath to boot.
  803. >A communal bath that is at juuuust the perfect temperature to make you forget you were ever cold.
  804. >Unfortunately, you’re currently in no position to take it in and enjoy it.
  805. >”GO, GO, GO, GO!” the other stallions chant.
  806. >You’d never chugged wine before, but it's honestly not that bad.
  807. >Smooth at least, but like all things pony, it's very sugary.
  808. >But before you know it, the bottle has been emptied and you’ve let it float away from you.
  809. >The stallions all give you a little “well done” cheer, bringing how bizarre all this is back to the front of your mind.
  810. >You hadn’t taken these guys to be the chugging type, but you suppose they really are no different than a bunch of sorority girls with a high society sheen.
  811. >And just like sorority girls, they clearly love getting fucked up!
  812. >They’re getting you pretty fucked up too at this rate.
  813. >You’re still trying to pace yourself, but they’re making it so very difficult.
  814. >They’ve kept the wine flowing like water and everytime they take a drink themselves, it just makes you thirstier.
  815. >It's the same sort of feeling as when someone yawns and it makes you want to yawn too.
  816. >Except with drinking, obviously.
  817. >...is drinking contagious for ponies?
  818. >You feel like you read that one time.
  819. >Maybe... maybe you should just ask Blue for a glass of water then.
  820. >Doing a quick check towards him, you see he’s already shouting at two poolside guards.
  821. >Probably trying to get that window fixed, you’d guess.
  822. >Hmmm, better leave him be for now.
  823. >Letting yourself drift, you peruse your other options for entertainment in the meantime.
  824. >Floating past Fancy, Golden, and Caesar, you see that in true drunk party fashion they’re already knee deep in a new conversation.
  825. >Eh, pass.
  826. >Continuing on, you spy the new guy resting by himself a little ways away from Blueblood.
  827. >Perfect! He’s clearly some kind of sports guy, maybe he’ll be a little more your speed?
  828. >You start horsey paddling his way, although your path is hardly ‘straight’ to him.
  829. >It's just because you’re not used to swimming in this body, surely.
  830. >Absolutely nothing to do with the alcohol.
  831. >Just think about it like rowing a boat!
  832. >You’re veering a little to the right, so just paddle harder with your right!
  833. >There you go, now you're back on tra—aaaaand you can’t see that guy anymore.
  834. >Wait, your /left/. Paddle with your left.
  835. >Alright, that’s better. Now he’s back in view AND you’re heading towards him.
  836. >And he’s chuckling!?
  837. >”...never would have survived Wonderbolts initiation,” he mutters to himself.
  838. >Pl~eeeeeease! You’d have been fine.
  839. >What could they have done, butt chug wine?
  840. >”So,” he says as you grow closer, “you’re that reporter, right?”
  841. >Aha! Your reputation once again preceeds you!
  842. >Shit, you should probably make some attempt to live up to it, then.
  843. >You are /technically/ still on the clock after all.
  844. >Scrambling, just a little, your hooves thankfully find purchase on the bottom of the pool.
  845. >Pretty quickly too, almost like this whole pool is only about a foot or two deep.
  846. >Choosing to believe you /couldn’t/ have stood up the whole time and /didn’t/ just make a massive fool of yourself, you stretch out your hoof.
  847. “Yes sir. Anonymous of the Canterlot Canterer, at your service!”
  848. >A smile almost two feet wide breaks out on the old Pegasus’ face.
  849. >Boy is this guy glad to see you!
  850. >/Really/ glad.
  851. >”Dubois Design,” he says with a firm bump back, “/Ex/-Wonderbolt.”
  852. >Ooo, there was more than a little venom in that ‘ex’.
  853. >Perhaps there’s a bit of a story there?
  854. >As if sensing your curiosity, he follows up.
  855. >”Came here hoping for a big scoop, eh?”
  856. >Well, he’s right, but you feel like you shouldn’t say it.
  857. >Although ‘retired athlete’ might be the one type of guy in this wacky world that’d prefer you be frank.
  858. >Might as well take the chance, see what happens.
  859. “Yeah. More or less.”
  860. >The pony’s grin only grows.
  861. >”Oh do I have the story for you, then!”
  862. >Yes! Mom was right!
  863. >Honesty really IS the best policy. Sometimes.
  864. >He leans towards you, in a way you’d almost describe as conspiratorial.
  865. >”What if I told you one of my dearest friends was /wrongfully/ discharged from the Wonderbolts some years ago? AND the scandal involved an Element of Harmony?”
  866. >Wait, an Element of Harmony?
  867. >As in, one of those big national heroes, THE Elements of Harmony?
  868. >Holy shit.
  869. >This might be an actual story!
  870. >With unrestrained glee, you lean in yourself like a true co-conspirator.
  871. “I’d say that I was very interested to hear more.”
  872. >You look like you’ve just made this dude’s day!
  873. >He’s grinning ear to ear, and then some.
  874. >Guess he’s really eager to get this out!
  875. >But it is kind of odd that nothing about this has crossed your desk yet.
  876. >Seems like the kind of thing your sources would have brought right to—
  877. >”And before you ask,” he cuts off your musing, “Yes I’ve tried breaking this story for years, but no one’s ever willing to listen to me! And you know why?”
  878. >Despite it obviously being a rhetorical question, he lets it hang for dramatic effect.
  879. >Normally you’d be rolling your eyes, but you’ve got to admit, you're a little hooked!
  880. >You’ve got a small inkling of what that reason might be, and oh boy do you hope you’re right!
  881. >That magic word that sells papers like hotcakes.
  882. >You’re practically vibrating with excitement at the mere thought of it!
  883. >”The same reason Wind Rider was discharged in the first place! SEXISM! Plain and simple.”
  884. >JACKPOT!
  885.  
  886.  
  887. >Holy shit you just hit the motherlode!
  888. >Dubois just got done spilling the beans to you, and what beans they were.
  889. >Wind Rider was a pretty big deal in the Wonderbolts back in the day.
  890. >His big accomplishment being everything he did to prove that stallions deserved to be on the A-team with the mares.
  891. >But they’ve apparently been trying to phase him out, doing away with everything that referenced him.
  892. >And to cap it all off, he found out they intended to /give/ his long-distance speed record away to a mare!
  893. >Then when he protested, of course, they dishonorably discharged him!
  894. >A living legend, cast out for standing up for himself.
  895. >This is great, this story is everything you could have wanted out of this little get-together!
  896. >Taking another celebratory swig (when did that wine bottle end up next to you?) you express what might be genuine indignation for the first time in your professional career.
  897. “That’s fucking unbelievable.”
  898. >Because honestly, you actually feel a little bad for this Rider guy.
  899. >Sure, you stand to make a shit ton of cash off his story, but blowing this thing open might actually be helpful to somebody!
  900. >This is the exact kind of stuff you /wanted/ to report on!
  901. >Dubois clearly shares your enthusiasm; the stallion is just as amped as you.
  902. >”That’s what I said! It was bad enough they gave a /mare/ his record. So I told them if Wind Rider’s not a Wonderbolt, I’m not either!”
  903. >Hell yeah, you tell them dude!
  904. >Oh you can already see the headline.
  905. >’Sleezy Sky Scandal Saps Stallion’s… something!”
  906. >Okay maybe you can’t quite see the headline.
  907. >Yet!
  908. >Although, it is very odd that nobody has broken this story yet.
  909. >This place is sexist, sure, but surely /someone/ else would have cared enough to talk about this obvious injustice...
  910. >>”*Ahem*.”
  911. >The sudden sound behind you has you whipping around!
  912. >...and that has you nearly hurling from the vertigo.
  913. >”Ah, Caesar! I was just telling Anonymous here about Wind’s horrible encounter with that Element of Loyalty. How /did/ mares like that even end up as our national icons?”
  914. >Once the room has stopped spinning, you do indeed see Caesar.
  915. >How’d he get behind you without you noticing?
  916. >Caesar’s grimacing, like he’s smelled something foul.
  917. >>“Ah, yes. It's interesting that both Blue and yourself have managed to run afoul of one of the elements. A rarity, or so I’m told.”
  918. >Oooh, you detect a hint of spice there!
  919. >That’s the most you’ve seen out of Caesar all night!
  920. >That pegasus must have done something to really piss him off.
  921. >Dubois seems unbothered though, waving it off with a, ”Hmf, most stallions are just too starstruck to see through them!”
  922. >You have no horse in this race, so you simply sit by.
  923. >Sadly, Caesar capitulates first, and takes a deep breath.
  924. >>”*Sigh* Regardless, may I speak to Anonymous pri—”
  925. >>>”Hold on, DID SOMEPONY SAY SOMETHING ABOUT RARITY JUST NOW?”
  926. >At that, Caesar is immediately forgotten, and you turn your attention to Blueblood speeding over to the three of you with all the glee of a schoolgirl.
  927. >Jesus, he must be really hung up on whatever happened between him and that mare.
  928. >The moment for that had clearly passed, yet he dragged it back there anyway.
  929. >Ironic considering you vaguely recall hearing that that whole debacle was mostly his fault...
  930. >Caesar speaks up again, sounding even more worn out.
  931. >>“Blue, please do—”
  932. >Only to be cut off /again/, this time by Dubois.
  933. >”Oh you remember what happened to my poor friend, don’t you Blue?”
  934. >A true gossip in every sense of the word, Blueblood’s smile looks like it's about to split his face.
  935. >>>”Oh, of course... Want to trade stories again anyway?”
  936. >”With pleasure!”
  937. >And just like that, the two of them are off in their own little world.
  938. >You suppose it's just as well, you’d better write those juicy, juicy details down before you forget ‘em!
  939. >You left your pad back in the other room better just hop out and—
  940. “Erk!”
  941. >You let out the cry involuntarily as a foreleg suddenly hooks itself around you.
  942. >It seems whatever Caesar wanted couldn’t wait, as you’re now being pulled away from the other two stallions at a frankly shocking speed.
  943. >It seems even Earth Pony stallions are not to be trifled with.
  944. >Sure, you could struggle, but you also don’t really feel like it.
  945. “Hey Caeee~zah. While we’re out and about, could you take me by my pad?”
  946. >He largely ignores your question, just grimacing a little as he continues to drag you.
  947. >You barely noticed, but he seems to be trying to put as much distance between you and Dubois as possible.
  948. >This sets off your internal snoop alarm, and it's with no small amount of disgust you realize how finely tuned that alarm has become.
  949. >On the upside, if it's right, you’re about to get even more material!
  950. >Eventually, the two of you reach an edge of this oversized tub and Caesar lays you upon it.
  951. >Seeing no reason to right yourself, you leave your head resting on the side of the pool.
  952. >From there, you have a perfect view of Caesar looking back toward the others.
  953. >Ooooh, something he doesn’t want them to hear?
  954. >>”Listen, Anonymous, I must strongly advise against writing about anything Dubious told you.”
  955. >Dubious? He said his name was Dubois!
  956. >Bah. You’ll file that under ‘things to figure out later’.
  957. “Why th’ heck not?” You slur, “Wind Rider didn’t deserve that! HELL no!”
  958. >Hm, Caesar looks awfully disgusted at what you just said.
  959. >Odd considering how much of a champion for stallions Winder Rider was.
  960. >Although, that look does fall off his face almost as fast as it appeared.
  961. >>”Ah, I suppose you wouldn’t have heard. You’re no sports correspondent.”
  962. >His words have a bad memory cued up in short order.
  963. >One from all the way back when you first got hired!
  964. >Now /you’re/ the one looking like someone shit in your coffee.
  965. “Bah! Don’t remind me. All they’d’ve let me report on was shit like minor league softball. Who gives a fuck about that!?”
  966. >Twice in a row now you’ve said something that’s clearly shocked and disgusted Caesar.
  967. >This time he’s leaning more towards shock at least.
  968. >”What stallion doesn’t like minor league softball?” he whispers in horror.
  969. >You refuse to even humor the idea that minor league softball is popular on a wide scale, so you retreat further into your thoughts.
  970. >In hindsight, would that really have been such a bad gig?
  971. >Maybe not, but at least with your current title you occasionally get to break actual stories.
  972. >Who could forget the time you indirectly caused an international incident!
  973. >Good times.
  974. >Oh fuck Caesar was talking this entire time.
  975. >”Furthermore, I think we can both agree that was fairly out of line. Right?”
  976. >Fuck.
  977. >There’s no polite way to say ‘I wasn’t listening’, is there?
  978. “Caez, I won’t lie, Imma need you to take it from the top again.”
  979. >He seems understanding at least, no indignant anger or pouting.
  980. >However he doesn’t restart his tirade either.
  981. >He looks at you how you’d imagine a fraternity brother would at a pledge who’s bitten off more than he could chew.
  982. >”Anonymous,” he says as he places a comforting hoof on your withers, “have you been getting your spacers? You only need to ask.”
  983. >Spacer? Now that’s a phrase you haven’t heard since college.
  984. >Presumably it still means a glass of water.
  985. >”And don’t feel like you need to keep with us bottle for bottle. We /were/ the reigning champions whenever Jet Set hosted at his vineyard!” he says with no small amount of pride.
  986. >Jesus, no wonder you’re falling apart at the seams.
  987. >You’ve been unintentionally matching some bona-fide wine-o’s this whole time!
  988. >It's just like the time you were after your friend with horrible chronic pain in the blunt rotation.
  989.  
  990. >Except with alcohol this time, obviously.
  991. >Better slow down before this also ends with you throwing up everywhere.
  992. “I-I could really go for one, sure,” you stammer.
  993. >Not even wasting a moment, Caesar hoists himself out of the pool.
  994. >”Alright, wait here and I’ll be right back. And don’t listen to Dubious! I’ll bring you up to speed when I’m back.”
  995. >You simply grunt in affirmation as the stallion turns tail and heads back the way you all came.
  996. >You don’t bother watching him go, you’re content to simply stare off aimlessly as you marinate in your thoughts.
  997. >Wonder what Pike and Cut are up to right now...?
  998. >>”Ooooooh stallions!” Blueblood calls out.
  999. >You, and everyone else in the pool, shift your attention toward him.
  1000. >>”I’m told our little draft problem has been fixed! Now, I do believe we were promised a bit of a fashion show?”
  1001. >With that, all eyes turn to you, and you’re left with a choice.
  1002. >You could just call it quits now that you’ve got the Wind Rider story, it’d be more than enough for the paper.
  1003. >But... but... you could go two for two.
  1004. >Wind Rider AND Fancy’s new line?
  1005. >That’d be quite a niiiiiiiice Christmas bonus.
  1006. >Shooting yourself upright, you shout.
  1007. “Fuck it, let’s do it."
  1008.  
  1009.  
  1010. >Now this is luxury.
  1011. >When you wanted to dry off back at the apartment you’d just use a towel.
  1012. >But here? They went crazy.
  1013. >Blueblood had a warm front physically imported from Cloudsdale, and stuck it in an aptly named ‘drying room’.
  1014. >Now all you and the other stallions have to do is stand around and let the air do all the work.
  1015. >It's like being in an airfryer!
  1016. >And it's good that it's here because standing is really all you’re capable of at the moment.
  1017. >Caesar’s still off getting you that glass of water after all, so the path to sobriety remains long and treacherous.
  1018. >The others are more or less dry by now, and starting to put their ensembles back on.
  1019. >Blueblood his little bowtie, Fancy his monocle... and all of them their ball bras.
  1020. >Ugh.
  1021. >Casting a dirty sidelong look at yours, you ask yourself ‘are you drunk enough to broach this subject?’
  1022. >The answer is yes, of course.
  1023. >Picking up the garment like you would a soiled tissue, you allow it to lazily drift over to you.
  1024. “Hey uh, guys?”
  1025. >Once again all eyes turn to you.
  1026. “Is it cool if I... ditch this? I mean it's just so tight and weird and...”
  1027. >The longer they don’t respond the more awkward your speech becomes.
  1028. >The fear of breaching a major social taboo is rapidly setting in and you really don’t like it!
  1029. “A-Actually just forget I asked an—”
  1030. >”Why /Anonymous/,” Blueblood cuts you off, “I didn’t take you for /that/ kind of partier.”
  1031. >Uh, you’re really not sure how you feel about his borderline sultry tone.
  1032. >>”Now now lads,” pipes up Fancy, “I’m sure we all remember promising Caesar that we wouldn’t let things get too out of hoof this time.”
  1033. >You feel like you’re in danger.
  1034. >There’s a sort of energy building in the room now, like the pressure before a volcano blows.
  1035. >>>”Ah, but Fancy,” adds Golden, “Caesar isn’t here right now.”
  1036. Hoping to stop whatever you’ve intentionally started, you weakly add, “He’s uhm he’s just getting me a glass of water.”
  1037. >”And by the time he gets back, it’ll be too late.”
  1038. >The tension only ratchet's higher with Blueblood’s words feeling like nothing less than a threat, and the silence following them hangs ominously.
  1039. >Then, suddenly...
  1040. >>>Golden shouts, ”WoooooooooooooHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
  1041. >And with that, all hell breaks loose.
  1042. >In what you’d describe as nothing less than a frenzy, the stallions all tear off their ball bras.
  1043. >Blueblood’s practically frothing at the mouth as his is flung over his withers and sails to a far corner of the room.
  1044. >Golden spins it over his head a few times before letting it fly off in a random direction.
  1045. >Even the old pegasus starts pumping his hoof!
  1046. >Their energy is contagious, in no time at all you’re feeling it yourself.
  1047. >Spiking your bra, you charge back into the parlor with wild abandon.
  1048. >Hell yeah, fuck that stupid thing!
  1049.  
  1050.  
  1051. >You are Cut N. Paste, and you find yourself alone in the apartment.
  1052. >Which is not unexpected.
  1053. >Pike’s still got a lot of time left in her shift, and Anon’s off to see what the writer of that weird letter wanted from him.
  1054. >So you’ve got more than enough alone time to do something you’d never do in front of them.
  1055. >Ice your sore teats.
  1056. “Oooooooooooooooh.”
  1057. >You tried to stop it, but the moan came out nonetheless.
  1058. >Glad nopony was there to hear it.
  1059. >The coolness of the ice pack seeping into your tender nips just feels so good!
  1060. >You’re currently lying on the couch, belly down, with an ice pack under each tit.
  1061. >And filly did they need it.
  1062. “*Sigh* Even when you’re helping me out, you just can’t stop causing me trouble. Can you?”
  1063. >Most ponies would consider talking with your teats weird, but frankly you couldn’t care less right now.
  1064. >Those bitches just won’t cut you a break!
  1065. >...Even if they’ve hoofed you the best thing in your life in a decade.
  1066. >But you really can’t /blame/ them, they’re just not used to all this stimulation!
  1067. >Ever since they came in you’ve tried to avoid even looking at them, much less ever really played with them.
  1068. >Even during your hyper-horny teenage years!
  1069. [spoiler]>For long anyway.[/spoiler]
  1070. >But now Anon puts them through the proverbial wringer practically every night!
  1071. >No wonder your poor nips are so sore.
  1072. >You let out another sigh and rest your head against a pillow.
  1073. >Content to simply sit, you ruminate about how much has changed in your life recently.
  1074. >You’re no stranger to being alone, but it's become rarer and rarer recently.
  1075. >There’s almost never a moment where at least one other pony isn’t around with you.
  1076. >It's a little exhausting but... in a good way.
  1077. >Anon’s always there to brighten your day, and Pike’s such an inspiration!
  1078. >You really couldn’t have asked for a better herd.
  1079. >Of course it's always a plus that Anon doesn’t mind resting his balls on your muzzle.
  1080. >Hm, makes you wonder, do his nuts ever get sore too?
  1081. >You and Pike sure do give them a lot of attention.
  1082. >You’re glad she’s a fellow ball-trixie; flankmares just don’t understand.
  1083. >Mmmf, you still remember the first time you and her took Anon by surprise.
  1084. >You ambushed him, each picked a ball, and indulged to your heart's content...
  1085. >A sudden spike in discomfort from your teats makes you roll your eyes.
  1086. >Great, now you’ve gone and done it.
  1087. >The cold already made your nipples hard, but thinking about balls has got them diamonds.
  1088. >Better step away to cool off.
  1089. >Ha! Ironic.
  1090. >Sitting up, you hop yourself off the couch without another thought.
  1091. >Hm, better swap out the towels you’ve got under the ice packs while you’re up.
  1092. >Don’t want to ruin the couch!
  1093. >Grabbing ‘em with your teeth, you ferry them back toward whence they came.
  1094. >The bathroom.
  1095. >On your way, you take a brief moment to reminisce.
  1096. >So many memories in this apartment already...
  1097. >On the kitchen table over there was where Anon let you and Pike try the fabled cumshot!
  1098. >One part cream liqueur, one part butterscotch beer, and one part stallion cream ‘fresh from the tap’.
  1099. >Honestly, it was better than you were expecting.
  1100. >You’ll probably never bother to make it again, but it wasn’t /bad/ per say.
  1101. >The texture was certainly a little thick for a shot, but that might be more Anon’s fault than the recipe’s.
  1102. >It sure was nice to try out another locker room rumor for real though!
  1103. >Most stallions would have made you sleep on the couch for even asking.
  1104. >Reaching the doorway to the bedroom, you spy some of the boxes of cards that you won from the Cyber tournament stacked against the door frame.
  1105. >Anon stacked them there because he wanted to see how many boxes tall Pike was (she was a little over seven and did not appreciate that).
  1106. >Now you’re in the bedroom, what memories you’ve made here!
  1107. >Spooning... hugging... k-kissing...
  1108. >There’s a special place in your heart reserved for the time Anon rolled onto you in his sleep.
  1109. >Who would have thought having the air slowly squeezed out of you by a gigantic stallion would be so comfortable?
  1110. >And then there was that time Pike grabbed you and shoved you into her tu—
  1111. >OKAY! Moving on from that thought.
  1112. >With a new, faster pace, it's only a brief moment more before you’re at your destination.
  1113. >You lazily toss the hooftowels you’ve been carrying onto the towel rod, knowing the others won’t bother to question it.
  1114. >Hm, you know, seeing the towels made you think of something.
  1115. >When's the last time any of you washed them?
  1116. >In fact, when’s the last time this bathroom was cleaned /at all/?
  1117. >You’d never really thought about it until now honestly.
  1118. >Back when you were growing up it would be obvious when you needed to clean the bathroom, your brothers always left it a mess of spilled powders and lipstick.
  1119. >But with the three of you, nopony ever really leaves a particularly big mess, so you never thought about it.
  1120. >And now that you’re taking a closer look, it seems Anon and Pike never thought about it either.
  1121. >The towels could use a wash, there’s soap scum all over the sink, and somepony even left some fur in it!
  1122. >Well, on the upside, this provides a unique opportunity for you.
  1123. >You wanted to start pulling your weight around the house more, and it seems like life has hoofed you the perfect opportunity.
  1124. >Pike and Anon will come home tonight to the cleanest bathroom they’ve ever seen!
  1125. >Your teats are feeling better now anyway, so might as well get to work.
  1126. >Feeling it's best to start with the most immediate problem, you focus your attention towards getting the fur out of the sink.
  1127. >Leaning over it, you take stock of how much fur is in there and just what kind it is.
  1128. >In hindsight it should have been obvious.
  1129. >Pike mentioned she was running late this morning, so really it should be no surprise that it's filled to the brim with her tuft hair.
  1130. >You stare daggers at the discarded fur before tearing your eyes away.
  1131. >Come on, Cut, don’t do anything weird here.
  1132. >It's just some of Pike’s luscious tuft fur, alone and unprotected.
  1133. >Don’t. Act. Weird.
  1134.  
  1135.  
  1136. >”I cannot bucking believe he’s got me beat!”
  1137. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, standing behind a privacy screen and grinning like a madman.
  1138. >Of course the first thing the stallions wanted to do after discarding your bras was compare ball sizes.
  1139. >You tried not to encourage it, but that rat Golden went and grabbed your bra from the steam room while you weren’t looking.
  1140. >But, you’d be remiss to hold it against him considering what the stallions discovered.
  1141. >/You’ve/ got the biggest balls here, something Blueblood is NOT happy about.
  1142. >After the verdict was reached, Fancy put up a privacy screen for you to change behind.
  1143. >Which took about ten minutes give or take.
  1144. >And Blueblood did not stop complaining the entire time.
  1145. >”I inherited these from the line of Celestia HERSELF! How can this be!?”
  1146. >>”As you’ve made us well aware, Blue,” Fancy’s monotone voice drifts over the screen.
  1147. >Oh so are /so/ gloating about this to the girls tonight, and tomorrow.
  1148. >Deciding you’ve had enough of that ego boost, you turn your attention toward the dresser before you.
  1149. >Or, more specifically, the articles within.
  1150. >Fancy did indeed bring two outfits, one he mentioned was his own, and one he designed as a collaboration with Rarity.
  1151. >He encouraged you to start with his and that you’d ‘know it when you see it’.
  1152. >And looking at the two of them, you’re pretty sure you /do/ know.
  1153. >The first one is barely an outfit in your book.
  1154. >It's indisputably flower themed, as it's almost entirely made out of chained fabric leaves.
  1155. >It's more or less just a collar, a pair of lapels (with no suit to go with it), a fabric corsage, and a trail that drapes over your back.
  1156. >You won’t lie, it probably wouldn’t look too bad.
  1157. >Especially on you: the dark green of the leaves would probably look pretty nice on your light green coat.
  1158. >But considering how much skin it shows? There’s no way this wasn’t codesigned by the opposite sex.
  1159. >Waaaaaaaaaay too slutty not to be.
  1160. >Hold on.
  1161. >The moment that thought graces your head, a certain feeling hits you.
  1162. >You’re forgetting something.
  1163. >You are forgetting something major about Equestrian customs right now.
  1164. >...
  1165. >Eh, whatever. You’re too drunk to care.
  1166. >Moving on to the other outfit you see it’s— HOLY FUCK!
  1167. >It's a two piece suit, for a pony!
  1168. >It’s a straight up two piece suit designed to be worn by a pony!
  1169. >This is awesome!
  1170. >You can’t quite tell the theme, something to do with the sky and rainbows, but frankly you couldn’t care less.
  1171. >Dapper city, here you come!
  1172. >Pulling the outfit off its hanger, you take a closer look at how you’re supposed to put this thing on.
  1173. >It comes in two pieces, although upon closer inspection you wouldn’t necessarily call it a two-piece suit.
  1174. >The first piece is clearly an outer layer, and it covers most of your body.
  1175. >You’d describe it almost like Fancy combined a human suit jacket and pants into one garment.
  1176. >It covers the entirety of your back and sides, with the front and back tapering off into four sleeves, one for each hoof.
  1177. >It’ll leave your chest and underside totally exposed, but that’s where the second piece comes in.
  1178. >It's a shirt that goes under the jacket, almost identical to a dress shirt from back home.
  1179. >Although, it's obviously fitted for a horse.
  1180. >Thankfully, it being so similar, even /your/ drunk ass is able to open it up and slide it on.
  1181. >It's a surprisingly nice feeling; familiar.
  1182. >Back on Earth you’d wear stuff like this all the time, but since coming to Equestria, you hardly even wear clothes, period.
  1183. >Well, excluding that jacket Pike got you, but you don’t even really wear that anymore.
  1184. >Which makes putting on this dress shirt an oddly comfortable sensation, like you’re reaching out and touching your nostalgia.
  1185. >It's as comforting and comfortable as a blanket, even if it's just a shirt.
  1186. >As you fasten that last button, there’s a warmth in your chest and a content smile on your face.
  1187. >However, feeling good is all well and good, but you’re trying to /look/ good here, too!
  1188. >Thankfully, the dresser Fancy stashed these in has a mirror in the door for you to use.
  1189. >Taking a gander at it, you must admit it doesn’t look bad!
  1190. >The first thing you notice is that it was definitely sized for someone a little beefier than you, but it’s a pretty close fit none the less.
  1191. >Frankly, without that little wiggle room afforded by your thinner build the shirt would almost be constricting.
  1192. >Hm, a safety feature to keep you from tripping, or to show off your pecs?
  1193. >You’re leaning towards the latter as it certainly shows off your chest, without even needing to show any skin. Figuratively speaking.
  1194. >A fact furthered by the shirt’s pattern.
  1195. >The majority of it is sky-blue with little cloud-like patches of white, but the majority of that will be hidden under the jacket.
  1196. >The parts that’ll be left exposed—, your chest and your underside—, have something completely different.
  1197. >Starting somewhere on your underside, a series of rainbow pinstripes are projected outwards.
  1198. >These stretch out and terminate along the collar of the shirt, and along where the jacket would start to cover it.
  1199. >Which makes your chest look even broader in the already tight shirt.
  1200. >Curious, you follow the pinstripes down your chest to see exactly where they converge.
  1201. >Leaning down to follow them along your underside, you see they converice right where the shirt stops covering your barrel.
  1202. >Directly in front of your cock.
  1203. >Ah, that’s... interesting.
  1204. >You did not expect /this/ from Fancy.
  1205. >Taking a second look just confirms it: the shirt itself is doing its damndest to naturally lead the sight of any onlookers right to your cock and balls.
  1206. >Did he not notice this?
  1207. >No, that seems unlikely.
  1208. >Maybe it looks different with the jacket on?
  1209. >Better to see before you judge.
  1210. >You get no fuzzy feelings from putting on the second piece, since it's very different from the experience of putting on a suit back home.
  1211. >Frankly, you hope this was designed for a unicorn because putting this on without magic would be a major pain in the ass.
  1212. >The back sleeves are easy enough to slip into, it's the front where the problems would start to arise.
  1213. >You guess you’d have to pull the thing up with your mouth. Ew.
  1214. >Thankfully your magic pulls up the jacket handily, and you’re able to slip your forehooves without any of the issues an Earth Pony would have.
  1215. >Alright! With that you’ve successfully dressed yourself, go you.
  1216. >Turning toward the mirror, you waste no time checking out the final product.
  1217. >HA! You look like that image of the horse in the suit that circulated the internet however many years ago.
  1218. >Just obviously more colorful.
  1219. >The theme seems to be the spring sky and rainbow poles?
  1220. >You’re not sure of the significance; you’ll have to ask Fancy about that later.
  1221. >As it stands, your forelegs look like wooden poles wrapped in rainbow ribbons, which combined with the shirt, makes it look like the ribbons are trailing off your legs.
  1222. >And still going straight to your cock.
  1223. >Putting that thought aside for now, you see your back has a similar theme to the dress shirt’s.
  1224. >Beautiful blue sky, but one that progressively gets stormier the further back you go.
  1225. >Your back legs then start with true storm clouds on your rump, with faux-rain going down your legs to an embroidered flower pattern right above where the sleeve ends.
  1226. >The raindrops function a little similar to how vertical stripes do, slimming your back legs just a bit.
  1227. >You suppose that makes sense—mares like long, slim legs, right?
  1228. >Something about foal-chasing? You’re pretty sure you heard Pike say that once.
  1229. >All in all, you actually like how it looks!
  1230. >Dapper, but with a nice Spring theme.
  1231. >You do a couple quick poses in the mirror, stretch your legs, flex a foreleg and such.
  1232. >It puts one hell of a smile on your face.
  1233. >Lookin’ fiiii~iine!
  1234. >Weird penis emphasis or not, you’re actually really into this outfit!
  1235. >It looks good on you, you’d like to think.
  1236. >Welp, might as well stop wasting time and get this fashion show on the road!
  1237. >Making your move towards out from behind the screen, you tune back into the other stallions’ conversation.
  1238. >”So Fancy,” starts Blueblood with excellent timing, “You’ve brought two suits for us today, right?”
  1239. >>”Why yes! One designed by myself and one with the help of the /lovely/ Miss Rarity.”
  1240. >You can tell Fancy loves his job: he’s only just started and he’s already gushing.
  1241. >Or he’s just that happy to not be talking about balls anymore.
  1242. >>>”Oho!” Golden chimes in, “Do I detect thoughts of a proposition for her?”
  1243. >That makes you roll your eyes.
  1244. >You remember all that research you did!
  1245. >The last thing Fancy needs is MORE mares, and he knows it.
  1246. >So, to save him from the question, you step out from behind the privacy screen.
  1247. “Let’s get this show on the road!”
  1248. >Thankfully the alcohol is still strong in your veins, otherwise you might have stumbled when all heads instantly snapped to you.
  1249. >>”Oh, you started with that one?” Fancy remarks.
  1250. >That’s an odd question, considering this is the one he /told/ you to start with.
  1251. >Oh well. Ignoring it, you do your best attempt at a model’s strut as you walk across the room.
  1252. >You’re not greeted by the sounds of admiration for Fancy’s craftsmanship though.
  1253. >Everyone sounds kind of awkward and unsure.
  1254. >”Is that... oh my Aunt.”
  1255. >>>>”Colts really have no shame these days,” gripes the old stallion.
  1256. >That feeling you’ve forgotten something is hitting you at full force right now.
  1257. >>”It's not /that/ bad!” cries Fancy. “Look how the sheath was tastefully left uncovered, and Anon’s foregoing of a bra really leaves it far more chaste.”
  1258. >Unfortunately it left it far more drafty too.
  1259. >”Ah yes, a fact /that shirt/ is all too eager to remind us.”
  1260. >Oh God, it just hit you.
  1261. >And it took wind out of your sails like they just got hit by a haymaker.
  1262. >These ponies have opposite rules about clothing.
  1263. >That collar was probably the one Fancy made himself, this outfit was designed by a mare.
  1264. >And it shows.
  1265. >Shows in how you're dressed like a SLUT. FUCK!
  1266. >Fancy knows it too, judging by the desperation in his voice.
  1267. >>”It really... I think you’re all just over reacting!”
  1268. >It's obvious that you and Fancy are the ones in denial here, Caesar’s already trying to break Fancy out of it.
  1269. >God damn it. his world can’t even afford you the small pleasure of wearing a dress shirt without fucking with you in some way.
  1270. >>>>>”I’m sorry my friend, but you must admit it is awfully /concealing/.”
  1271. >God, you hate how Caesar said that word, concealing.
  1272. >Fancy looks genuinely a little hopeless, who knows how many other designs he and that mare have made that’ll probably garner the same reaction?
  1273. >>”No, no you see, it-it's based on a quaint Griffon tradition! They call them Maypoles! And the outfit itself is styled similarly—”
  1274. >>>>”Of course a /Griffon/ would wear something like that!”
  1275. >All those good looking outfits, probably never going to see the light of day.
  1276. >It makes you... it makes you...
  1277. >Mad.
  1278.  
  1279.  
  1280. >You are Nocturnal Pike.
  1281. >Today is one of the days Sepulcher is in charge of running joint drills, leaving you behind to do administrative tasks.
  1282. >So seated here in your office, that /should/ be exactly what you’re doing.
  1283. >However, you couldn’t focus on that right now if you tried.
  1284. >Recently, doubts have begun creeping in.
  1285. >They started small, but they’ve been coming more and more.
  1286. >It all started that night you completely blew it when Anon was hurting, your ironclad worldview blew up in your face.
  1287. >But it wasn’t ironclad, was it?
  1288. >You’d always pushed yourself to act as a mare should, how you were raised.
  1289. >But more and more you’ve been asking yourself, is that really how you want to live?
  1290. >And now that you’ve seen it objectively fail...
  1291. >Even more worries seep in when you think on how it's not just how you’ve lived your life, it's how you’ve led your mares, too.
  1292. >Have you been misleading them all this time?
  1293. >No, no, all the successes you’ve had? There’s no way that could be chance.
  1294. >That’s happened because of /your/ leadership.
  1295. >But your leadership has hinged upon that marely discipline, that standard you tried to live.
  1296. >If you discard that, can you still lead these mares?
  1297. >Should you?
  1298. >These questions, they’re starting to directly impact your ability to lead.
  1299. >You try to put them aside on the job but, all your inner circle has confided in you that something seems off.
  1300. >And if they’re concerned, there’s no way others aren’t too.
  1301. >You’re just not sure what to do.
  1302. >A part of you wants to discard your mother’s ideals entirely.
  1303. >Retire, and just live at home with Anon and Cut.
  1304. >I’d be... nice to be in charge of the home, have a nice meal waiting for them every night.
  1305. >Tend to your little garden when you keep everypony’s messes under control.
  1306. >I’d be easy.
  1307. >TOO easy.
  1308. >You don’t think you could live like that either, as tempting as it may be.
  1309. >How do you know what to keep and what to throw away?
  1310. >How do you marry the image you’ve spent your life cultivating, with what you’d rather be?
  1311. >You just don’t know.
  1312. >Right now though, you’d give anything for a distraction.
  1313. >*Knock knock knock*.
  1314. >Oh sweet merciful Luna, may you snuff out the solar tyrant’s unholy light!
  1315. >The knock on the door is exactly what you were hoping for.
  1316. >You throw yourself over your desk scrambling towards it.
  1317. >”Uh, Sarge?” Comes the uncertain voice of Rook, “Are you okay? It sounded like something fell over.”
  1318. >Your answer is to throw open the door with joyful abandon.
  1319. “ROOK!” You shout in your Sergeant voice, “Why aren’t you running drills right now?!”
  1320. >Surprised, she hurriedly snaps into a salute.
  1321. >”Uh, Ma’am Prince Blueblood requested our immediate presence, Ma’am!”
  1322. >What, Blueblood!?
  1323. >Great, that’s not the kind of distraction you were looking for.
  1324. >”He said he and Anonymous needed us to ‘settle an urgent matter’.”
  1325. >Your blood turns to ice in your veins.
  1326. >Oh no.
  1327. >Astral mentioned she saw Anonymous at the castle, but not that he was with Blueblood!
  1328. >This isn’t gonna be good.
  1329. >Despite your best efforts to remain impassive and professional, you know that at least some panic showed on your face as it hit you like a train.
  1330. “We need to go. NOW.”
  1331.  
  1332.  
  1333. >Thankfully Rook seemed to agree with you and the two of you took off without another word.
  1334. >She knew the way, and the two of you were wasting no time.
  1335. >Sprinting full-tilt through the halls of the castle may not be the smartest idea, but leaving the stallions alone with each other any longer than strictly necessary was even worse.
  1336. >You can tell you’re almost there now, the sounds of arguing can even be heard over the frantic sounds of your hooves on the floor.
  1337. >Both of you push yourselves to the limit, getting one last burst of speed.
  1338. >Desperate to diffuse whatever situation is brewing you practically shoulder check the door, and the two of you burst into the room.
  1339. >Putting your years of conflict de escalation experience to use, you immediately scan the room for— WOOOOOOOAH PAPA!
  1340. >What is Anon /wearing/!?
  1341. >Whatever you were just thinking is long gone as you gaze upon your stallion.
  1342. >He is wearing the hottest outfit you have ever bucking seen.
  1343. >You can hear him trying to talk to you, but he might as well be speaking underwater for how well you can hear him.
  1344. >There is not a corner of your mind currently unoccupied by the stallion standing before you.
  1345. >The mare that designed this outfit knew /exactly/ what she was doing.
  1346. >His chest... so broad.
  1347. >And his legs, so deliciously slender.
  1348. >Your eyes can’t help but be led on a whirlwind tour of his /finest/ assets.
  1349. >A tour that leaves so much to the imagination.
  1350. >Oooooh Luna, you think you just winked.
  1351. >”See, Anonymous! She’s dressing you with her eyes as we speak!”
  1352. >The Prince’s horrible, shrill voice is what finally breaks the spell and brings you back to reality.
  1353. >And it is with abject horror that you realize you just winked in front of no less than six stallions, AND your subordinate!
  1354. >Praise the stars your rear end was facing away from all of them.
  1355. >Basic was years ago and you haven’t been a teen for just as long, you need to get yourself under control NOW.
  1356. >But those bucking stripes on his shirt keep sucking you back in like a black hole!
  1357. >>”WRONG!” Anon fires back, “She’s just stunned by how goddamn good I look!”
  1358. >To punctuate his statement he flexes a foreleg AND his glutes.
  1359. >Hnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng! He’s not making this easy on you!
  1360. >A loud sigh (thankfully) drags your attention from Anon to the squad of stallions sitting on the couches opposite to him.
  1361. >Among them is a gray Earth Pony stallion, who’s the first to speak up.
  1362. >>>”Ms. Pike, Ms. Rook, can you please help talk some sense into Anonymous here? He refuses to admit that this outfit is... unbecoming.”
  1363. >While your attention is on them, you notice a familiar face.
  1364. >A certain mustachioed stallion whose picture Anon plastered all over your wall not too long ago: Fancy Pants.
  1365. >Despite the outfit clearly coming from a mare’s maverick mind, you wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hoof in this.
  1366. >Especially since he seems to be the only stallion who looks conflicted, and just a little bit guilty.
  1367. >How the heck did this lot manage to convince Anon to play dress-up for them?
  1368. >Oh wait, probably the same reason this argument is even happening.
  1369. >They’ve got him completely belligerent.
  1370. >From elsewhere on the couch, a wheat colored Unicorn chimes in.
  1371. >>>>”Yeah, we figured he’d finally give up if he heard it from a mare, too.”
  1372. >Ah, so the two of you were called in to talk the stallion out of his whimsy.
  1373. >Like /that’s/ worked for any mare ever.
  1374. >Besides, you doubt what’s running through Anon’s head right now really qualifies as whimsy.
  1375. >Whimsy typically has a fleetingness to it, here today, gone a few days from now.
  1376. >But the state of equine fashion is something Anon’s been privately complaining about to you for /months/.
  1377. >You’d have to be a complete idiot not to back him up here!
  1378. >But then again, that would just be lying to his face.
  1379. >Sure, it's a high class outfit, but sure as there are stars in the sky you wouldn’t be the only mare leering at it like a schoolfilly.
  1380. >If you tell him that though he probably won’t want to wear it anymore, and that would SUCK.
  1381. >Can you really lie to him though?
  1382. >Bold-facedly deceive the stallion you love?
  1383. >Especially over something so nearly inconsequential where you largely only stand to gain by lying!?
  1384. >...Yeah, you can.
  1385. “I think you’re all just being too sensitive.”
  1386. >”WHAT!?”
  1387. >Rook, the Prince, and even the stallion who made the dang thing all shouted at once.
  1388. >Quite literally the only pony who didn’t scream at your statement was Anon.
  1389. >It seems to Anon though, the outcome was never in question.
  1390. >>”OH YEAH! That’s my girl! I knew you’d see the drip! The SWAG!”
  1391. >At that, you can’t help but stare at him.
  1392. >Luna’s sakes, how much alcohol did they give him!?
  1393. >You’ve been living with him for months and even /you/ don’t have any idea what he’s saying right now.
  1394. >Anon starts doing some little victory dance, but your eyes by chance flit over to Rook.
  1395. >Her armor’s enchantment should leave her looking gray, but instead she’s white as a sheet.
  1396. >Oh... you did just accidently leave her in a pretty rough position.
  1397. >Either disagree with her boss and say her boss’ coltfriend looks slutty, or side against her coltfriend in an argument.
  1398. >That is not a choice you’d want to make!
  1399. >”ROOK!” cries Blueblood, “But /I’M/ right, RIGHT!?”
  1400. >Rook tries to do her best Cut impression, rapidly looking between you and Blueblood with mounting horror.
  1401. >Luckily your eyes meet, allowing you to nod your head and silently pass on a message.
  1402. ‘Do whatcha’ gotta do.’
  1403. >You can tell the message landed as her posture relaxes a little, but it's still far from being relaxed.
  1404. >>>>>”Well...” she begins uncertainly, “It's definitely a high class sort of... lewd.”
  1405. >She had to search for the word, still clearly trying to avoid offending you or Anon.
  1406. >>>>>”But it's still certainly lewd.”
  1407. >”AHA I’M RIGHT!” Blueblood practically screams in joy.
  1408. >The most powerful stallion in Equestria, everypony.
  1409. >Immediately the room descends into chaos, the gathered ponies now arguing about why you’d disagree as much as the merits of the outfit itself.
  1410. >Paying them no mind and not wasting a moment more, you hurry to Anon’s side.
  1411. >He’s visibly dumbfounded that your subordinate didn’t agree with you, so you reach up and put a supportive hoof on his shoulder (you can’t reach his withers).
  1412. >>”Pike!” he says breathlessly, “Get your subordinate under control! Tell her to stop SIMPing!”
  1413. >>>”MS. PIKE!”
  1414. >The scandalized voice of the gray stallion from before cuts through increasingly loud chatter with practiced finesse.
  1415. >There’s an accusation in his tone and it freezes your blood.
  1416. >>>“You’re just saying that because you want poor Anonymous to continue /debasing/ himself in that outfit for YOUR pleasure!”
  1417. >Every gathered stallion, and Rook, all gasp in unison.
  1418. >Dang nab it! How come they had you figured out so fast!?
  1419. >Despite gasping along with everypony else, Anon still jumps to your defense.
  1420. >>”How dare you! My beloved Pikey-wikey would never lie to me!”
  1421. >Aw, that’s so sweet of him!
  1422. >...Pikey-wikey?
  1423. >>”Especially about something stupid to make me feel better and also when its directly in her interests to! …Wait.”
  1424. >Uh oh.
  1425. >No sooner has he finished that thought than he turns on you.
  1426. >Literally in this case, as he pivots away from the stallions to directly loom over you.
  1427. >>”Oh my God you totally would.”
  1428. >Well buck, he’s got you there.
  1429. >With the jig officially up, you put on your best disarming smile and shrug.
  1430. >He doesn’t /seem/ that mad at least.
  1431. >Before you could voice any sort of justification, much less come up with one, he shouts.
  1432. >>”UNBELIEVABLE! Pike, we are leaving!”
  1433. >Hey WAIT! HE’S PICKING YOU UP!
  1434. >His grip is shaky, but still strong enough to hold you.
  1435. >Darn it he knows how much you hate this!
  1436. >You struggle valiantly but, like it or not, he’s got hoisted into the air by his magic like you're a hoofbag.
  1437. “Anon—”
  1438. >He instantly cuts you off by shoving a hoof in your mouth.
  1439. >>”No buts! You’ve earned this! And when we get home I am FUCKING you in this outfit as punishment!”
  1440. >That gets you to shut up better than the hoof ever would!
  1441. >All conversation in the room once again grinds to a halt, but honestly you don’t even care.
  1442. >You’ll just bear it for the sweet reward at the end of the tunnel.
  1443. >>”But YOU’VE got to wear that cute little apron again.”
  1444. >Nope! Back it up, start struggling again!
  1445. >Unfortunately your grunts of displeasure fall on deaf ears.
  1446. >>”In FRONT of Cut, too. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you don’t wear it when she’s home!”
  1447. >Your eyes frantically dart around the room, but thankfully nopony seems particularly perturbed by what Anon is saying.
  1448. >At worst Rook just looks a little confused, but you’ll deal with that later.
  1449. >Fancy Pants, meanwhile, looks like he wants to say something but Anon cuts him off too.
  1450. >>”Fancy! Can I keep this?” Anon says while gesturing to the suit.
  1451. >The stallion frowns, and for a moment you think he’ll protest.
  1452. >But for reasons you can scarcely fathom, he relents with a sigh.
  1453. >>>>>>”I suppose. I need to take that design back to the drawing board anyways.”
  1454. >>”Awesome! I’ll be sure to write you a great review. BLUEBLOOD!”
  1455. >The Prince jumps at being so suddenly addressed.
  1456. >Anon hoists you in front of his face, forcing Blueblood to look directly at you.
  1457. >You try not to look at him, or think about how embarrassing this all is.
  1458. >>”Give her the rest of the day off. I NEED her.”
  1459. >You feel like Blueblood’s going to protest too, but then he gets that scheming look on his face.
  1460. >”Only if the Sergeant gives Rook the day off too.”
  1461. >You’re pretty eager to get yourself the heck out of this situation so that’s fine with you.
  1462. >Rook’s run Sepulchure's drills enough that she’ll be fine anyway; missing the end of one day won’t kill her.
  1463. >Right before you can speak up however, Rook throws herself at your hooves.
  1464. >Or she would have if your hooves were planted on the ground at the moment.
  1465. >Either way, she’s staring up at you with the most desperate look on her face.
  1466. >>>>>”Please, Sarge, don’t! He’ll put me on eye candy duty!”
  1467. >You cock an eyebrow at her, but she doesn’t elaborate.
  1468. >She only looks between you and the gathered stallions in horror.
  1469. >>>>”Please,” she practically whispers.
  1470. >Unfortunately, you see no other way out of this situation in a pinch.
  1471. >You’re sure she’ll forgive you.
  1472. “Private Rook, you are relieved of duty.”
  1473. >>>>”NO! NO! NO!” she screams in panic as a golden glow envelops her tail.
  1474. >With surprising speed she’s dragged across the carpet toward Blueblood.
  1475. >”Oh don’t be such a foal, your flanks look wonderful in that gear!”
  1476. >Without missing a beat, Anon’s already making his way toward the exit, carrying you along with him.
  1477. >As he does, Blueblood continues to drag Rook toward a closed door on the opposite end of the room.
  1478. >Ha, parallels.
  1479. >Right as Rook reaches the other door, Anon crosses the threshold and exits the room.
  1480. >Immediately he pulls the door shut behind you, cutting you off from seeing whatever ‘eye candy duty’ is.
  1481. >You’d ask her about it tomorrow, but frankly you feel like the both of you would rather just put this behind you.
  1482. >>”Aw shit am I forgetting something?” He says under his breath. “Eh, it's fine. I’ll figure it out later.”
  1483. >You struggle a bit more, but you can’t get the leverage to escape his grip without actually hurting him.
  1484. >Geez, you’re surprised the Princess didn’t ask him to be a guard!
  1485. >Welp, it's going to be a long walk home, might as well start a conversation.
  1486. “So, how was it?”
  1487. >>”Not bad,” he says with a shrug, “Got kinda weird once we started comparing ball sizes though.”
  1488. >Oh sweet Luna what you would have given to see that.
  1489. >You’re almost afraid to ask but...
  1490. “So who was the biggest?”
  1491. >He grins ear to ear, telling you the answer before he even has to say a word.
  1492. >>”Are you kidding? Of course I’ve got the fattest nuts. Did you even need to ask?”
  1493.  
  1494.  
  1495. >It's morning time for you, Cut N. Paste.
  1496. >And typical of your mornings, you and your herd are scattered around the freshly cleaned bathroom, going through each of your morning routines.
  1497. >It’d been an interesting few days since Anon got back from his impromptu stallion’s night, and honestly you’ve still failed to process some of it.
  1498. >That night was crazy!
  1499. >He came home wearing /the/ hottest outfit you’d ever seen, and what does he do?
  1500. >He dressed up Pike in colty lingerie and bucked her!
  1501. >It was that same blue apron you saw her wear a while ago.
  1502. >Understandably, that was very shocking.
  1503. >Even more shocking was that once Pike got over the initial embarrassment, she seemed like she /liked/ it.
  1504. >At first she didn’t even want you to look at her!
  1505. >You’d never seen her like that, all bashful and embarrassed.
  1506. >But once the three of you got going...
  1507. >Phew! You’re feeling hot and heavy just thinking about it!
  1508. >Anon started talking about how he was going to pin her down and show her what a little mare she was, and she was totally into it!
  1509. >Pike! Nocturnal Pike, enjoying getting tossed around the bed like a ragdoll.
  1510. >It was a side of her you’d have never thought existed, much less ever saw before.
  1511. >You’re not judging though!
  1512. >Quite the opposite, really.
  1513. >When you look at somepony like Pike, it's easy to see a paragon for how mares act instead of an actual mare.
  1514. >It's obvious to anyone who meets her that she tries to act like one too.
  1515. >But sometimes you get to see the little ways Anon’s managed to bring those walls down.
  1516. >Like the plants she grows, the food she cooks, letting her indulge her (slightly) deviant sexual tastes...
  1517. >It's nice, even if she tries to explain them away every time you ask her about them.
  1518. >Maybe you should keep more of an eye out for things like that, help encourage her too.
  1519. >Oh! Kind of like she’s doing for you, except in reverse!
  1520. >She’ll help you be more marely and you’ll help her be less marely!
  1521. >Hm, mental note: that didn’t even sound good /in/ your head. Never, ever say that to Pike.
  1522. >”Uggghhhhh.”
  1523. >Your attention is pulled toward the sound of Anon stepping out of the shower.
  1524. >Clearly, today will be a slow day for him.
  1525. >>”How are you still hungover?” Pike accuses through a mouthful of toothpaste, “It's been /three/ days!”
  1526. >”I’m /not/ hungover,” Anon whines back, “Jus gimmie some aspirin and a couple of minutes and I’ll be fine.”
  1527. >Pike rolls her eyes but does as he asks, popping open the drawer she’s standing in front of and retrieving the pills.
  1528. >>”Seriously, how much wine did you drink that you’ve been hungover for /three days/?”
  1529. >Anon throws back some aspirin and swallows them— without water!? What the heck?!
  1530. >”I’ll have you know I was only hung over /one/ day. And that was yesterday.”
  1531. >Still a little thrown off by his brazen aspirin consumption, your voice comes out shaky.
  1532. “Wh-What about the day before then? You were certainly /something/.”
  1533. >”Hehe, still drunk...heyooo....”
  1534. >That was, by far, the weakest heyo you’ve ever heard a pony mutter.
  1535. >>”Anon, that was pathetic.”
  1536. >Once again you Pike are in sync, as it seems you are increasingly often.
  1537. >Giving quite a bit of credence to the ‘hungover’ theory, that somehow manages to /actually/ fluster him.
  1538. >”Yeah well... the pills haven’t kicked in yet so it doesn’t count!”
  1539. >>”Oh? What was that Mr. I’m not hungo— mmmf!”
  1540. >Anon silenced Pike’s taunt by deftly slinging his towel right into her face.
  1541. >Wow, he gave it just enough spin that it wrapped around her head too!
  1542. >Caught off guard, she stumbles a bit as a hoof immediately goes to her face.
  1543. >Anon ignores her muffled cries though, instead turning over his shoulder to hit you with the unintentionally steamiest look.
  1544. >”Sorry for messing up the bathroom you just cleaned.”
  1545. >It's probably just the hangover, but his quieter voice combined with his half-lidded eyes...
  1546. >Oh mare! That’s the exact look the bad colt love interest gives the protagonist in ‘Sara o arawanakereba naranakatta toki, hon'nosukoshidake osoku natta watashi no chō sōdaina bōken’!
  1547. >Quick, you should do like the protagonist does and say something cool!
  1548. “Uh, well you can mess up my bathroom any time!”
  1549. >Oh Celestia.
  1550. >The sound of Pike’s struggling instantly ceases, and one of Anon’s eyebrows shoots way up.
  1551. >You already know what they’re going to say, might as well own up to it.
  1552. “You two don’t need to say anything, I-I know that was awful.”
  1553. >Pike finally pulls the towel off her face, revealing the exact same disappointed look you were expecting.
  1554. >Anon’s visibly disappointed in you too, but at least he puts a supportive hoof on your withers.
  1555. >”It's okay dear. We’ll just have to work on your one-liners before we have company.”
  1556. >Keeping his hoof on you, he rolls his head back to look at Pike.
  1557. >”Which will be /soon/, right honey?”
  1558. >Pike lets out the second loudest groan you’ve ever heard.
  1559. >>”It's bad enough Astral won’t stop bugging me about that while I’m on the job.”
  1560. >Unfortunately for Pike, it seems the prospect of teasing her has given him a second wind.
  1561. >”Well,” Anon's voice comes out completely devoid of sympathy, “We both agreed to keep bugging you until you set it up so, when’s she coming over? When’s the party?!”
  1562. >Pike rolls her eyes before finally tossing the soiled towel over her shoulder.
  1563. >>”Anon, having one pony over is /hardly/ a party.”
  1564. “About that...” you pipe up. “Anon and I were talking about inviting Silken over too. That way Astral doesn’t feel like a fourth wheel, you know?”
  1565. >You’ve been in that position a hoofful of times before and it's never been fun.
  1566. >It's always so unbearably awkward!
  1567. >Not to mention that crushing feeling that you’re witnessing something you’d never have yourself...
  1568. >Well, Pike’s friend probably doesn’t need to worry about that part.
  1569. >And now neither would you for that matter!
  1570. >>”That’s actually not a terrible idea.” Pike remarks. “But uh, what exactly are the five of us going to do? Just drink?”
  1571. >Oooh nuts, you hadn’t thought of that.
  1572. >You and Silken usually default to Cyber when you’re together, and who knows what she does with Anon.
  1573. >Probably not something Pike’s friend would be into, you’d bet.
  1574. >”Leave that to me!” Anon cuts in, “It's been waaaaay too long since I’ve gotten to play host.”
  1575. >Huh, you hadn’t expected that from him.
  1576. >Evidently Pike hadn’t either, she’s looking just as surprised as you feel!
  1577. >>”Alright,” says a bemused Pike, “I hadn’t taken you for a ‘host with the most’ type, Anon.”
  1578. >What an... incredibly odd thing to say.
  1579. >A 'host with the most' is a pretty stereotypically stalliony description.
  1580. >You don't really think that applies to Anon at all, even if he said he wa—
  1581. >Aha! Wait a second, you know what this is!
  1582. >This is banter!
  1583. >She called him that because she wants to gain back some ground after Anon ribbed her about Astral!
  1584. >Look at you, starting to pick up on these things.
  1585. >Now let’s see how Anon responds...
  1586. >”Well I just haven’t had the chance /to/ host! I hang out with like, three ponies and I live with two of ‘em.”
  1587. >He... took it completely sincerely.
  1588. >”You just worry about getting the word to Astral and I’ll handle everything else! Cut and I need to drop by Silken’s after work today anyway.”
  1589. >You do?
  1590. “We do?”
  1591. >”Of course,” he says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. “We can’t have you be the only one /without/ a special sex outfit!”
  1592. >Your shock at the sudden turn in conversation nearly knocks the wind out of you.
  1593. >You even let out an audible “ooooof”
  1594. >>”Guess he really /isn’t/ hungover,” you catch Pike musing under her breath.
  1595. >The only thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘sex outfits’ is every single one of your mom’s pornos that you’re regrettably aware of.
  1596. >Usually featuring a teat fetish themed outfit no less.
  1597. >So frankly, you’re not really sure you /want/ to be put in some kooky outfit just for sex.
  1598. >Unfortunately for you though, in situations like this your mind can only think of one response.
  1599. >Deflection.
  1600. “N-No, that’s okay. I’m fine.”
  1601. >”Nonsense!” He continues completely unabated, “I’ve got my suit now, and Pike has her apron—”
  1602. >In a rare show of bashfulness, Pike turns red and looks away from the two of you at the mention of her apron.
  1603. >”—so we’ve got to get you something too! I’m thinking something with cowprint would really knock it out of the park. What do you think, hon?”
  1604. >At first Pike looked visibly relieved that Anon didn’t linger on the topic of her apron, but then that relief shifts to annoyance.
  1605. >>”Anon,” she gripes, “don’t you think you’re milking this teat thing a littl— oh send me to the Moon.”
  1606.  
  1607.  
  1608.  
  1609. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, firmly planted at your desk.
  1610. >Surrounding you is the now somewhat comforting white noise of everyone in the office going about their day.
  1611. >Even Cut’s in the zone, physically cutting and pasting her edits into the articles that have come her way.
  1612. >Well then, no reason to keep dallying yourself.
  1613. >Turning your attention to the notebook lying in front of you, you dissect what you’ve learned over the past few days.
  1614. >It took a while, but you eventually realized what you’d forgotten a few days ago at the wine tasting.
  1615. >You both left your notebook there, /and/ you left before hearing what Caesar was so desperate to tell you.
  1616. >Thankfully, Caesar saw fit to remedy both these things.
  1617. >He had a courier drop off your notebook the next day, complete with his own personal annotations.
  1618. >And wow, was reading them a doozy.
  1619. >Caesar did not have many positive things about Wind Rider /or/ DuBois Design.
  1620. >In fact, you don’t think he had /any/ positives to say at all.
  1621. >Just more and more creative ways of insulting them, some of which you’ll have to use yourself at some point.
  1622. >And after doing a little research for yourself, you see why.
  1623. >The series of events DuBois fed you was dangerously close to being a complete fabrication.
  1624. >Nowhere in his retelling of events was the mention of his friend’s hairbrained scheme to destroy some poor mare’s career.
  1625. >Which, considering that mare also happens to be a national hero, was a pretty fucking egregious omission.
  1626. >If you’d been stupid and just wrote about his version of events whole cloth, you’d have basically shot your own career in the face.
  1627. >Thanks for that, Dubious.
  1628. >At least Caesar was looking out for you!
  1629. >But now you’ve got to ask yourself something.
  1630. >Do you just throw all this out and forget about it?
  1631. >On the surface, it looks like there’s absolutely no story for you here.
  1632. >Wind Rider was unambiguously in the wrong, and seemingly was punished accordingly.
  1633. >But nonetheless, you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more to it.
  1634. >Looking out over your desk, you grab the handful of related articles you’d picked up and lay them out in front of you.
  1635. >They all say more or less the same thing.
  1636. >Wind Rider was a stallion so obsessed with being the best he tried to snuff out a promising young mare’s career just to keep his record around.
  1637. >But you just can’t help but wonder, why?
  1638. >Sure, you could see that being someone’s motivation back on Earth, but you really don’t think you’ve ever seen a /pony/ ever act so unambiguously malicious before.
  1639. >And over something so seemingly minor too, just a speed record?
  1640. >No, there’s got to be more to this.
  1641. >And you’re going to find out what!
  1642. >The shit you’re writing about the outfits Fancy made will keep Jargon off your back for the foreseeable future.
  1643. >Which blessedly frees you up to play investigator on this to your heart’s desire!
  1644. >Reaching into one of your desk drawers you pull out a much smaller, secret notebook.
  1645. >It's a record of all your sources.
  1646. >A quick page through it shows that none of them will be of any help though.
  1647. >You need someone with a direct connection to the Wonderbolts, and ideally Wind Rider himself, if you want to get anywhere.
  1648. >Technically Dubious fits that description, but anything else he’d tell you very obviously wouldn’t be of any use.
  1649. >Hm, well, guess you’d better start figuring out if any other current or former Wonderbolts live in town.
  1650. >Or book yourself a daytrip to Cloudsdale.
  1651.  
  1652.  
  1653. >You are Nocturnal Pike, doing what every guardsmare should.
  1654. >Working out!
  1655. >Today’s a strength training day, so you and the mares are scattered about the Castle’s training gym.
  1656. >You typically keep these pretty free-form, allowing your subordinates to choose what they think needs the most work, and letting them focus on that.
  1657. >You, for example, are currently on your back doing some four-legged hoof presses on one of the new ‘weight machines’ the Princesses commissioned.
  1658. >It has you lying on your back, all four hooves working together to push a weighted platform.
  1659. >14... 15... 16...
  1660. >On your back like this, legs up, you can’t help but notice this workout has got you in a very similar position to the one Anon had you in a few nights ago.
  1661. >A less disciplined mare might have let that realization distract her, but not you.
  1662. >17.. 18... 19...
  1663. >The last thing you’d want is for an opponent to exploit your size like Anon does.
  1664. >He’s the /only one/ you'll allow.
  1665. >And Cut too you guess, if she asked.
  1666. >20!
  1667. >Letting out a breath of relief, you guide the weight platform back to its resting position and extract yourself from the contraption.
  1668. >You might be more of a fan of old fashioned workout techniques, but you can’t deny these new ‘machines’ have their uses.
  1669. >Normally an exercise like that requires a pretty serious spotter in case your legs give out, but the machine has a built-in safety!
  1670. >Doesn’t mean you still didn’t ask for a spot, though.
  1671. >”Lookin’ good!” Astral cheers. “Pretty sure you just beat your personal best on this thing.”
  1672. >To punctuate that, she gives the machine a smack.
  1673. >Only to immediately jump away from it as it makes the most horrific groan.
  1674. >You grimace, the Princesses’ earlier words coming to mind.
  1675. “The Princesses did ask us to be gentle with these things, remember?”
  1676. >”Yeah,” she weakly adds, “I do now.”
  1677. >You shake your head, very disappointed in your number one.
  1678. “Come on Astral, if I can’t even trust you around the Crown’s equipment, how am I supposed to trust you around /my/ stuff?”
  1679. >”Oh? So we’re on for tomorrow then after all?”
  1680. >A small part of you is tempted to say no.
  1681. >The more you think about it though, the more you realize you may just be over thinking things.
  1682. >Astral’s already met Anon, she knows what to expect.
  1683. >And it's not like you’re going to spend the party running around the kitchen or tending to your garden!
  1684. >Having her over isn’t going to shatter her idea of you and ruin your friendship, you’re just being dramatic.
  1685. “Yeah, of course. Anon and Cut are bringing one of their friends too.”
  1686. >She shrugs, expectedly nonchalant.
  1687. >”Cool, cool. Oh, speaking of, I did also tell Night Sky about this.”
  1688. >What?!
  1689. “What!?”
  1690. >”Oh come on Pike,” she chides, “You really think your number two doesn’t deserve to meet him /too/?”
  1691. >Well, she’s got you there.
  1692. >Night’s been your friend for about as long as you’ve been friends with Astral.
  1693. >Really, she /does/ deserve to also meet the stallion you’ve been spending so much time with.
  1694. >You doubt it’ll really change much anyway.
  1695. >Adding one more pony shouldn’t bring in too much chaos.
  1696. >Sure, the kind of relationship you and Anon have might come as more of a surprise to her, but she's pretty level headed.
  1697. >You doubt it’ll be a problem.
  1698. “Alright, alright. But nopony else! Our apartment isn’t that big.”
  1699. >Astral rolls her eyes, but you know she gets the picture.
  1700. >But, as if on cue, the hairs on the back of your neck start standing up.
  1701. >Your finely honed instincts tell you somepony is watching you, right at this very moment.
  1702. >And you don’t need a degree to know exactly who it is.
  1703. >You don’t even dignify her by turning around to face her before shouting.
  1704. “CLOAK! Quit creeping on us and give me twenty!”
  1705. >A satisfied smile creeps onto your face as you hear the sounds of a pony doing just that.
  1706. >Fantastic!
  1707. >Now you’d better go find Rook.
  1708. >You did promise to show her some exercises she could do despite her ‘bruised pelvis’.
  1709.  
  1710.  
  1711. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and tonight’s the night!
  1712. >Your first house party in... well, years really.
  1713. >So it's got you pretty psyched!
  1714. >Neither Pike nor Cut knew this, but back in the day, your parties used to draw quite the crowds.
  1715. >Back when all that was needed for fun was a good old-fashioned Halo 3 LAN party.
  1716. >Ah Fat Kid Escape, those were the days.
  1717. >Unfortunately, finding things for tonight’s guests required a bit more effort.
  1718. >There really isn’t a unifying thread between your guests, but that doesn’t mean the tried and true pastimes shouldn’t work!
  1719. >With some food, plenty of drinks, and Pike and Cut’s combined party game selection, you should have more than enough to keep everyone entertained!
  1720. >Speaking of the food, that’s what you find yourself preparing right now.
  1721. >Pike seemed a little on edge, so you took it upon yourself to make some stuff for tonight.
  1722. >You hadn’t meant for it to be anything crazy, just some classic party snack things.
  1723. >Honestly you had hoped to just buy most of it ready from the store, only to realize you’d forgotten how much ponies prefer to cook things.
  1724. >They’d invented a TV but not a dang TV dinner apparently!
  1725. >If you wanted ‘pretzel bites and beer cheese’ you either had to clean out a bakery or buy the dough and cook the bites yourself!
  1726. >At least a new Kirin shop was selling beer cheese by the block.
  1727. >A block that’s currently melting in a pot you’ve got on a backburner while the pretzels cook in the oven.
  1728. >You’ve also got some veggies from Pike’s garden that you plan to make salsa out of on the counter.
  1729. >Annnnd the ingredients for buffalo dip waiting in the refrigerator (which you should /really/ have already started by now).
  1730. >Maybe you overdid it, just a tad.
  1731. >Oh shit and you totally forgot about that block of nacho cheese!
  1732. >Fuuuuck, you meant to put that on at the same time as the beer cheese!
  1733. >Damn it!
  1734. >Yanking open a cabinet you send a mystic hand in to find a suitable pot.
  1735. >Hmm, not that one, too small... that one feels like a skillet...
  1736. >”OoooooOOOOOOooooOOOoooo~!”
  1737. >You stubbornly keep your attention focused on the stove, despite the voice from the couch’s best efforts to pull you away.
  1738. >”I cast a spell of... uh, Anon coming over to the cooo~ooouch!”
  1739. >You try your damndest to hold in the laughter.
  1740. >They haven’t quite gotten to you yet, but they’re close.
  1741. >>”Didn’t your Mom ever tell you? Never distract a stallion when he’s in the kitchen!”
  1742. >Now /that/ gets you.
  1743. >You bark out a laugh before abandoning your quest for a pot and turning toward the couch.
  1744. >The two mares have hung themselves over the back of the couch to watch you while you work.
  1745. >Cut’s still wearing the outfit you got from Silken’s it seems.
  1746. >The moment the two of you walked in Silken was off like a lightning bolt, claiming she knew exactly why you were there and that she had the perfect thing for it.
  1747. >Turns out it was a lovely dark blue sorceress robe complete with gold trim.
  1748. >A gold trim that if one looked at it hard enough, they’d notice it primarily consisted of dicks cumming magic sparkles and swirls.
  1749. >You give the girls a wry look.
  1750. “Did your Mom /actually/ tell you that?”
  1751. >Hold on, if you were facing away from them, does that mean they’ve just been watching your flanks and sack this whole time?
  1752. >>”Well, yeah,” Pike replies, “Yours did too, right, Cut?”
  1753. >”Once or twice,” Cut says from beneath the robe’s hood, “Dad always made a big stink when she did though.”
  1754. >The moment for whatever she had planned clearly passing, she follows up by pulling the hood off her head.
  1755. >It must be enchanted because when that hood is up all you can see of her face is her golden mane spilling out the front.
  1756. >Which she left down to compliment her sorceress look.
  1757. >It looks good on her, especially when you can actually see her whole head.
  1758. >It's longer than you thought, it comes down nearly midway down her shoulders.
  1759. >She must really pack it into that bun!
  1760. >>”Surely your Mom said it once too, Anon.”
  1761. >Like a true nerd, Cut adjusts her glasses before correcting Pike.
  1762. >”No, it would have been your... Dad, right?”
  1763. >The idea makes you snicker.
  1764. >You can tell by the little pause she’s struggling to even picture it.
  1765. >The best part is, she’d probably be right.
  1766. >If you’d been born a few decades earlier that is!
  1767. “I can honestly say neither of my parents /ever/ said that.”
  1768. >Having discussed your parents with them before, neither of them looks particularly surprised.
  1769. >Hell, Pike easily looked ten times more shocked at Cut’s answer than yours.
  1770. >>”I guess it was just Mom being weird,” she mutters under her breath.
  1771. >Hm, you’ve heard Pike defend stranger things when they’ve come from her Mom.
  1772. >Odd that she’d give up so easily for this one.
  1773. >You wonder, what’s changed?
  1774. >Before you can dwell on it any longer though, a pop from the stove pulls you back to it.
  1775. >You need to keep stirring the cheese, dang it!
  1776. >Seeing you retreat back to the kitchen makes Cut and Pike both sigh.
  1777. >”Come on, Anon,” Cut whines, “come hang out with us!”
  1778. >Deciding to use your eyes this time, you peek into the cabinet you left open to try and find that pot.
  1779. >Oh it was right there in the front, imagine that.
  1780. “No dice! I said I would have everything ready and I’m doin' it!”
  1781. >You pull the cheese out of the fridge and put it on a cutting board.
  1782. >It’ll melt faster if you chop it up, after all.
  1783. “Besides, waiting for people to show is always the worst part.”
  1784. >You give the beer cheese a couple of hard stirs to keep it from bubbling again.
  1785. “You’re just sitting there, waiting. Then you start wondering, what if no one shows up? Does anyone actually want to come?"
  1786. >Grabbing a second spoon you start doing the same to the nacho cheese.
  1787. "Did everyone just lie about coming so you wouldn't feel bad? And once you hit that point, it's just downhill ‘til somebody shows.”
  1788. >By chance, you catch a glimpse of Pike and Cut through the reflection on the pot.
  1789. >It's pretty distorted obviously, so distorted that they look comically concerned!
  1790. >>"Anon... Is there something you want to talk about?"
  1791. >*Ding Dong!*
  1792. >You let out a breath you hadn't realized was bated at the sound of the doorbell.
  1793. >Looks like the first guest has arrived!
  1794.  
  1795.  
  1796. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and you’re surrounded by ponies important to you.
  1797. >And also Silken.
  1798. >Anon’s little get-together has truly begun, and so far things are going decently well.
  1799. >Silken was the first to show, right on time too.
  1800. >You were surprised she beat Night, but then again Night wasn’t far behind at all.
  1801. >Unfortunately, the two of them showing up so fast only serves to highlight the present issue.
  1802. >It's been nearly forty-five minutes and still no Astral.
  1803. >Dang nab it!
  1804. >You’re tempted to cross your hooves and grumble.
  1805. >This whole thing is happening at /her/ behest, and she can’t even be bothered to show up on time!?
  1806. >Sure, she’s never been the most punctual, but this is ridiculous!
  1807. >Thankfully the lack of the de facto guest of honor doesn’t seem like it's bothering Anonymous too much.
  1808. >Which is extra surprising, considering how anxious he was earlier.
  1809. >In contrast, now he seems completely content, with only the occasional glance back toward the stove.
  1810. >It helps that Cut (who thankfully ditched her robe in a hurry) and you are on either side of him to pin him down if need be.
  1811. >Right now though, he's yammering away about something to Silken, who’s set a cushion on the other side of the coffee table.
  1812. >Night’s next to her, and her bewildered expression reminds you just how little time she's spent around him.
  1813. >In steep contrast to what you know Astral will be, the violet Thestral hasn’t quite shaken off the chain of command business.
  1814. >Even as she listens to your coltfriend yammer on about nonsense, she’s keeping her posture perfect and her attention focused.
  1815. >Which is why you and Astral are frequently very insistent that she comes out more, her serious demeanor is both her greatest asset and a bit of a weakness.
  1816. >”You guys don’t know how good you have it. I mean, all you need is a cushion on the ground. Back home, we’d be shoving a chair into every nook just so everyone had a place to sit!”
  1817. >You love Anon, you really do, and you're happy that he’s so much more comfortable talking about his home.
  1818. >But sometimes he forgets that a lot of what he says sounds like complete nonsense to the average pony.
  1819. >Like Night Sky for instance.
  1820. >Silken may not know that his people actually sat upright, but she’s at least seen the nastiest of his culture shock.
  1821. >Nothing he said would probably surprise her at this point.
  1822. >Night Sky, however, looks like she’s slowly losing her mind trying to follow what he’s saying.
  1823. >You /could/ give her some fake context like ‘Oh, there were a lot of Diamond Dogs in A-mare-ica and they need to sit upright,’ but it's much funnier to leave her in the dark.
  1824. >"Oh, that reminds me! There was this one party back in college..."
  1825. >You hop off the couch and onto your carpet, wordlessly excusing yourself.
  1826. >You can tell where this story’s going, it's the one where Anon’s friend managed to drunkenly stumble through and break ten consecutive chairs in one fall.
  1827. > It's a funny story, but you don’t really need to hear it again.
  1828. >Tramping across the soft carpet, you make for the window in what is admittedly a probably futile effort.
  1829. >You could tell from the couch there wasn’t a cloud in the night sky, so if Astral is nearby you might be able to see her from the window.
  1830. >She probably isn’t, but hey, no harm in trying
  1831. >So after a peppy trot over toward the window, you gaze out over Canterlot’s nighttime skyline.
  1832. >Most of the buildings are still lit up, so their silhouettes create quite a picturesque contrast against the sky.
  1833. >...and the pony flying toward your window?
  1834. >Sure enough, even after a second look, that off-color splotch standing out against the skyline is very much a pony.
  1835. >A pony whose flight vector seems like it's headed /directly/ for your window.
  1836. >Pouring all your natural magic into your eyes, you focus on the approaching shape.
  1837. >And iiiiiiiits... just Astral.
  1838. >You suppose that should have been obvious.
  1839. >Why on Hearth isn't she just coming in the door?
  1840. >Unlatching the window, you take a step back so she'll have a place to land.
  1841. >A step that clues you in to just how much you'd been tensing your back legs.
  1842. >Seems your subconscious was prepping you for the old point-blank take-off and intercept, good on it!
  1843. >That would have been just the thing if it really was some crazy pony careening right toward your window.
  1844. >Instead of plowing through the window and into everypony, you could have easily knocked them off course and saved the day!
  1845. >Ooo, you kinda wish that would happen now...
  1846. >Well, honestly it might still happen if the reason Astral’s going for your window is she’s already drunk.
  1847. >She’s done it before.
  1848. >Last time she didn’t even give you a /chance/ to open it, she just blew straight through.
  1849. >Your landlady reinforced the glass after that one.
  1850. >/And/ charged you for it.
  1851. >On that thought, you decide not to even take the chance of that happening again and just preemptively pop the window open.
  1852. >The brief cold is worth not having to pay for a new window, or even worse, Astral just bouncing off and tumbling to the streets below.
  1853. >Even with the heat on blast you've still got to suppress a shiver as a chill rushes in.
  1854. >Of course Celestia would move the capital to the top of a mountain as soon as the REAL Princess was out of the picture.
  1855. >She knew how well the Thestrals do with cold, she was trying to keep your tribe out!
  1856. >"Hey, honey," Anon calls from the couch, "why'd you open the window? You'll let all the heat out."
  1857. >Tsk, of course, the first pony to complain would be the only one with natural cold resistance.
  1858. >Stallions.
  1859. >Before you have a chance to explain though, Astral's already zipping through the open window and right past you.
  1860. >She hits the floor hard, you could feel it from where you're standing, and immediately transitions into one of the shortstop rolls the unit has practiced countless times.
  1861. >It barely keeps her momentum from slamming her into the coffee table, but she manages to stop just short of it.
  1862. >She must have sped up when she saw you open the window, she closed that distance fast.
  1863. >Considering how close her head came to that table, a little /too/ fast you'd reckon.
  1864. >Not unexpectedly, the ponies still gathered around the table are all pretty speechless as the mare stumbles to her hooves.
  1865. >Well, except Night, she just rolls her eyes.
  1866. >”Astral,” she asks, “What the buck was that?”
  1867. >If her barely stumbling to her hooves hadn’t already clued you in, her slurring would have.
  1868. >She’s already drunk.
  1869. >Guess it's a testament to your regimen that she was able to pull a move like that while barely in control of herself enough to stand.
  1870. >”Oof, s-sorry but if I had to fly in th-*hic*-those winds for another minute I think my dang TEATS would have fallen off!”
  1871. >Anon sits forward a bit and asks, “So why didn’t you just walk?”
  1872. >Silken shifts her eyes between him and Astral before laughing.
  1873. >”You know, if you /really/ wanted to impress him I don’t think that’s the way to do it,” she says.
  1874. >”It's not /THAT/,” Astral shouts back. “I had to lose my tail!”
  1875. >You all look between each other around Astral, various forms of confusion on each of your faces.
  1876. >”Well uh, mission failed,” Anon snarks, “it’s still on your butt.”
  1877. >”No that kind of tail!” she slurs back, “somepony was following me!”
  1878. >That seems... highly unlikely to you.
  1879. >But drunk or not, Astral probably wouldn’t imagine something like that.
  1880. >Night ends up being the one to ask first, ”Why would somepony be following you?”
  1881. >*Knock knock*
  1882. >The sound on the door brings everything to a halt.
  1883. >You and everypony else hold your breath as your heads all slowly turn toward the door.
  1884. >*Knock*
  1885. >*Knock*
  1886.  
  1887.  
  1888. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and you just don’t know what went wrong.
  1889. >Cut and yourself are currently cowering behind the kitchen table.
  1890. >Well, cowering /symbolically/ at least.
  1891. >The mystery of Astral’s tail will sadly in all likelihood never be solved.
  1892. >Because to figure out who it was, you’d have to ask every one of the dozen or so ponies who were outside that door.
  1893. >And are now milling about your house, drinking and laughing.
  1894. >It went from a get-together to a real party so fast you were hardly able to react.
  1895. >Thankfully, you’re pretty sure none of these ponies are total strangers.
  1896. >Pike recognized more than half of them from her squad, and named most of them as you walked in.
  1897. >Some you recognized, like Blueblood’s fillyfriend Rook and Cut’s sister Cloak.
  1898. >Others you didn’t, like Mulberry Pie.
  1899. >Astral even called out to one of them too, some pegasus you think is from the Dayguard.
  1900. >And, wait, are those some mares from the office by the window?
  1901. >What the fuck!?
  1902. >How did any of these ponies get here? Did they all just stalk Astral?
  1903. >No, that doesn’t make sense.
  1904. >Of course, poor socially anxious Cut is handling all this the best she can.
  1905. >She’s putting on a brave face, but you can tell on the inside she’s freaking out.
  1906. >Hence why she’s back here with you.
  1907. >Thankfully, whoever told these weirdos to come also told them it was BYOB, so now your kitchen table’s got more booze on it than you’d ever need.
  1908. >So knowing Cut, and knowing parties, you reach out a hand and pluck a bottle off the table.
  1909. >Some cider, you’d bet.
  1910. >Using your telekinetic thumb, you flip the cap right off as you gently glide it over to her.
  1911. >Ha! Couldn’t have done /that/ if they were still meat hands.
  1912. >Catching sight of the beer, she looks at you, wide-eyed like a puppy.
  1913. “Don’t think about it too hard,” you say, pressing the cider into her chest, “Just go with the flow and let the conversations take you.”
  1914. >She wordlessly nods her head before grabbing the cider with a hoof and taking a shaky swig.
  1915. >You wish you could do that right now, but as the host, it's your job to stay (mostly) sober and make sure everyone has a good time.
  1916. >And make sure these fucks don’t steal anything.
  1917.  
  1918.  
  1919. >You are Cut N. Paste, and it took two whole ciders before you felt like you could leave the relative safety of the kitchen.
  1920. >Another, and you actually feel calm enough to mingle.
  1921. >To be honest, you really had no idea what Anon was talking about, so you just headed over toward Pike.
  1922. >She can at least introduce you to most of these strangers.
  1923. >As you get close to the guardsmares gathered around the coffee table, the conversation starts to fade in...
  1924. >”And I can’t believe you just /left/ me there, Sarge!” says the one you recognize as Rook.
  1925. >”Oh noooooooo!” slurs Astral, “Pike ABANDONED you to be ogled by a bunch of rich, hot, tigers? We need a court martialing, /now/!”
  1926. >Pike sees you coming and scoots over on the couch, giving you a place to sit.
  1927. >You gladly take it, of course, and silently let the argument play out.
  1928. >”Blue’s not a tiger!” Rook protests, “He’s only twenty-eight! B-Besides, you haven’t seen them! It's like swimming with sharks!”
  1929. >”Sharks that’ll *hic* blow your back out and pay your bills,” Astral snarks.
  1930. >”Don’t be so crude,” responds Night Sky, the mare you met earlier, “but Rook, surely you’re over-exaggerating.”
  1931. >”I’m not!” Rook shudders as she recalls the event, “They get this look in their eyes, like I’m just a piece of meat to them, an... object.”
  1932. >The horror on her face abruptly shifts to what you’d almost call guilt.
  1933. >”Is... Is that how we look to the stallion guards?”
  1934. >Suddenly you feel some sort of movement from the back of the couch.
  1935. >Looking over behind you, you’re shocked to see Cloak.
  1936. >She silently crept up and draped herself over the back of the couch and nearly onto you.
  1937. >You really wish she’d stop doing things like that...
  1938. >As she speaks, you notice she’s almost stage whispering.
  1939. > It's got the cadence of a whisper, but it's easily heard over the other ponies in the room.
  1940. >”Maybe it's because they’re /sharkponies/!”
  1941. >She looks left and right before continuing.
  1942. >”Their mares already come onto land to drag our stallions to their underwater acropolis, their stallions must mare-hunt on land too!”
  1943. >”OI!” Astral shouts with an accusatory point of her hoof, “Shut yer crap, Cloak! No one wants to hear your insane conspiracies, they want to hear mine!”
  1944. >With that, Astral scrambles forward, right into Rook’s face.
  1945. >”Everypony’s heard the rumors that those upper-class stallions made a /multi-stallion/ herd! Is it true? Did they ask you to join it while eyeing you up?”
  1946. >”Ugh,” groans a disgusted Night, “And what, they started kissing each other and let Rookie watch?”
  1947. >She follows up by reaching over and roughly shoving Astral back into her seat.
  1948. >”Grow up, Officer.”
  1949.  
  1950.  
  1951. >You are Anonymous, and you’ve noticed someone standing off to the side, alone.
  1952. >Someone you’d actually /wanted/ to be here no less, Silken.
  1953. >She’s over by the entertainment center, idly picking through your DVDs.
  1954. >Better go check on her.
  1955. >Thankfully, you remain (literally) unmolested on your journey through the sea of increasingly drunken mares.
  1956. >Most of them have congregated around the living room, but by now the party’s started spilling over into the kitchen.
  1957. >It'd /better/ not spill into your bedroom, you’ve already caught Cut’s sister eyeballing the door at least once.
  1958. >It's waaaay too early for shit like that.
  1959. >Come to think of it, that’s not the only thing she’s been eyeballing.
  1960. >Her and just about every other mare has been sneaking peeks at your rear end when they think you’re not looking.
  1961. >Hope /that/ doesn’t become a running theme tonight.
  1962. >But, putting those thoughts aside, you’re close enough now that you can sneak a peek at exactly what DVD Silken is looking at.
  1963. >Uncut Historical Royal Memoirs, 500 AHW (After Hearth’s Warming)?
  1964. >”You know, I’m surprised Pike lets you have these.”
  1965. >Wow, you’re surprised she heard you coming up behind her with all this noise.
  1966. >That’s some Pike-tier hearing right there.
  1967. >Speaking of Pike, you take the DVD yourself and laugh a little.
  1968. “Oh yeah, she only tolerates these because we let her shit-talk them the /whole/ time.”
  1969. >It's a series of historical reenactments, all narrated by Celestia herself.
  1970. >Expectedly, Pike had a lot to say about that.
  1971. “Last time we watched this she had us take a drink every time Celestia’s flanks were mentioned. It was... a lot more often than I’d expected.”
  1972. >Silken chuckles, before snatching the DVD back and sticking it back on the shelf.
  1973. >”I can’t blame her for that one. You know, the lead Fleur De Lis, a real slender-type unicorn, right?”
  1974. >You nod, apparently she was the only actress tall enough that the crew didn’t need their lead on stilts to make it look authentic.
  1975. >”Word is, the Princess wasn’t too happy about her build. So they had to hire an illusion mage to come out just to give poor De Lis a fake flank!”
  1976. >Pffffffft no way!
  1977. >You can’t decide what’s funnier, how absurd that sounds, or how believable it is that Celestia would go through that trouble.
  1978. >Either way, it has the two of you in stitches.
  1979. “Jeez, talk about an ego trip!”
  1980. >You’ll have to tell that one to Pike later, she’ll eat that up.
  1981. >The laughter keeps the two of you going for a while, but not forever.
  1982. >Which in the end, leaves you with naught but an awkward silence.
  1983. >”Heh, heh... yeah.”
  1984. >Shit, you have no idea what to talk about.
  1985. >The two of you just sort of stand there for a bit, the conversation awkwardly coming to a screeching halt, made worse by the ever-present noise of the party around you.
  1986. >Frankly, you feel pretty bad right now.
  1987. >You had Silken come under the pretense this was just going to be a friendly get-together, and now it's been horribly mutated beyond recognition.
  1988. >She’s clearly not enjoying herself too, considering she's just standing here off to the side.
  1989. >You’d better say something, apologize even.
  1990. “Hey, Silken, I’m really sorry tonight turned out like this. There really weren’t supposed to be this many people. I... I don’t even know where most of them came from and—”
  1991. >Thankfully, right as you were worried that sentence was getting away from you, she cuts you off.
  1992. >”Anon, it's fine. I can tell this is pretty far from the shindig you had planned.”
  1993. >As she continues she glances out across the room, grimacing ever so slightly.
  1994. >”And it's not /bad/ or anything, but I can’t say how long I’ll stick around. It's not really my scene, you know?”
  1995. >Oh, you do know.
  1996. >You definitely can’t fault her for that.
  1997. >You /could/ kick all these people out but that would be a huge pain.
  1998. >Plus you’re pretty sure none of them are total strangers.
  1999. >Whichever ones you don’t immediately recognize from the office, Pike seemed to recognize them from the guard.
  2000. >So kicking them out would probably just make things horribly awkward for all parties, better to just ride it out and try again another night.
  2001. >”But hey, at least I knew one of the ponies who showed up!”
  2002. >Suddenly Silken turns away from you and shouts across the room.
  2003. >”Eeey~yo?”
  2004. >Huh, the shout had an almost musical undertone to like, like a bird chirping.
  2005. >Fittingly, the response does too.
  2006. >”Eeeyoo~oo!”
  2007. >The voices’ source trots out of the crowd shortly after.
  2008. > It's a light blue colored Pegasus, with a cutie mark displaying a cloud in front of the sun.
  2009. >You don’t recognize her from the office, so with a nickname like “Sunny” you’d have to bet Dayguard.
  2010. >”Sunny,” Silken greets her, “I wanted you to meet our host, Anonymous.”
  2011. >Sunny smiles at you, it's the kind of sleazy smile a frat dude would give when he realizes he’s not at a sausage party.
  2012. >”Ahh our host with the most,” she says, sticking out her hoof. “Sunlit Vista, Wonderbolt.”
  2013. >A Wonderbolt? Well, isn’t that serendipitous.
  2014. >”Part-time,” Silken mockingly adds.
  2015. >”Hey! I’ve flown a whole two missions with them now, I might as well be on the A-team!”
  2016. >Oh, dang. Not so serendipitous then.
  2017. >She probably knows absolutely nothing about Winder Rider.
  2018. >That said, she might have some info you can use.
  2019. >You return her hoofbump.
  2020. “It's good to meet you, Sunlit. I was actually hoping to run into a Wonderbolt...”
  2021.  
  2022.  
  2023. >You are Nocturnal Pike, chillin’ with your sisses.
  2024. >You certainly weren’t expecting nearly the whole squad to roll up, but you aren’t complaining either.
  2025. > It's nice to do stuff as a group besides poker.
  2026. >Cut seems a little overwhelmed, but you’re sure she can handle it. She’s a big filly.
  2027. >”Okay, but he’s crazy in the shack though, right? I heard the bratty ones are the stallions who buck like ANIMALS!”
  2028. >Astral /must/ have a secret crush on Blueblood or something, she is not letting this go.
  2029. >”I-I dunno! I guess? Please, can we change the subj—”
  2030. >”Anon, is NOT bratty!” Cut drunkenly yells.
  2031. >You nearly facehoof as in an instant all eyes are completely focused on her.
  2032. >She, of course, handles this very well.
  2033. >Ducking behind her forehooves and letting out an, ”Eeep!”
  2034. >With Blueblood all but completely forgotten now, Astral bears down on Cut, grinning like a hyena.
  2035. >”But he /does/ buck like an animal, eh?”
  2036. >Cut futility tries to retreat further behind her hooves.
  2037. >”W-Well I uh, I don’t know if h-he’d be happy with me saying...”
  2038. >Luna’s sakes, Cut.
  2039. >Like Anon’s ever shied away from bragging.
  2040. >Chugging the rest of your drink, you know you’ll need it for what comes next, you answer for her.
  2041. “Yeah, he goes pretty hog wild.”
  2042. >Cut breathes a visible sigh of relief as once again all eyes shift, this time toward you.
  2043. >The mares unfamiliar with him have predictably neutral to impressed reactions, while the mares that know him are a little more varied.
  2044. >Astral herself starts laughing triumphantly, while Night and Rook both look a little shocked.
  2045. >”I hadn’t pegged him for the type...” Rook mumbles under her breath.
  2046. >”WOAHAHAHAH! That’s amazing!” Astral squeezed in between guffaws. “I knew he was a real firecracker!”
  2047. >Taking to the air, and spiking your anxiety as she does, she sort of drunkenly flops around in the air.
  2048. >She’s attempting to mime something, but you have no idea what until she speaks up again.
  2049. >”Ahehe, does he toss you around sometimes? Use that size he’s got to /pin/ you?”
  2050. “Yeah.”
  2051. >That... you didn’t mean to say that.
  2052. >It just sort of slipped out.
  2053. >Astral stops mid-air and hangs perfectly still.
  2054. >All the hairs on your neck start standing up as everypony seems to lean in toward you just a little bit.
  2055. >”Pike... are you into maledom?” she asks.
  2056. >Oh stars, poker face don’t fail you now!
  2057. “N-No.”
  2058. >You dare not open your mouth again, lest you spoil the lie.
  2059. >You even try to make eye contact with Astral to sell it, but unfortunately, that seems to backfire.
  2060. >She is your best friend after all.
  2061. >”YOU TOTALLY ARE!”
  2062. >It's an even split among the gathered ponies between surprise and laughter.
  2063. >The only exception is Cut, who’s blushing like a tomato and avoiding eye contact with anypony in the room.
  2064. >You feel that sister.
  2065. >Astrals started laughing so hard she actually fell out of the sky to land back on the chair she was sitting in.
  2066. >”Bwahaha! Pike, into maledom! To think I’ve known you for all these years and never knew!”
  2067. >You feel your heart start to sink.
  2068. >Calm down Pike, this isn’t the end of the world.
  2069. >Liking it rough from Anon is hardly the worst secret you’ve been keeping.
  2070. “S-So, *ahem* So what? He’s a big guy, I like it when he takes advantage of that.”
  2071. >Ooooh you don’t like that look on Night’s face.
  2072. > It's the face she makes whenever she’s solved a mystery before anypony else has.
  2073. >Smirking, with one eyebrow raised.
  2074. >”Noct, is /that/ why you’ve always had a thing for bigger colts?”
  2075. >EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
  2076. “Well no but...”
  2077. >”Come on, Night!” Astral comes to your rescue, “It's probably just natural. She’s like a midget, it’d be impossible for her /not/ to find colts bigger than her! Hahahaha!”
  2078. >Normally you’d protest that, and a large part of you wants to, but frankly, you’re much happier that the subject is changing than you are mad about being called short.
  2079. >At least for the moment.
  2080. >”What about you, Ms. Simp?” Astral abruptly turns on Cut. “Surely Mr. Anonymous must push your buttons in some special way.”
  2081. >”Yeah, tell us!”
  2082. >The voice nearly makes you jump.
  2083. >You’d forgotten that Cloak put herself behind the two of you, she’s been dead silent this whole time.
  2084. >Bucking NightStalkers.
  2085. >”We’ve got dirt on Pike, now we need yours too!” she continues.
  2086. >Luna, you wish she wouldn’t phrase it like that.
  2087. >It's clearly got Cut weirded out too, she’s just frantically looking around at everypony and stammering out half-formed syllables.
  2088. >Poor Cut.
  2089. >Wait, you just had an idea!
  2090. >She /could/ really use the ego boost...
  2091. “It's that Anon likes to suck her brains out through her tits.”
  2092. >Once again, all the conversations stop dead in its tracks.
  2093. >This time, shock is the universal expression.
  2094. >Everypony silently looks between you, and her.
  2095. >Her cheeks burn brighter than the sun as she tries to shift her back legs to hide her generous assets, but it's no use.
  2096. >All eyes are on them.
  2097. >”Really?” Astral asks.
  2098. “Yeah, he’s got a pretty massive fetish for them.”
  2099. >Everypony is silent for a moment more, before it's broken by something unexpected.
  2100. >Cloak... cheering.
  2101. >”AHA! I told you for years! YEARS! And you never believed me! Stallions who like teats DO exist!”
  2102. >She slaps Cut right on the back.
  2103. >”And look at you now, your dream colt is sucking you silly! You must be the luckiest bitch on the planet!”
  2104. >Of all the ponies to have infectious enthusiasm, you never would have expected Cloak to be able to move anypony.
  2105. >Yet, as she cheers her sister on...
  2106. >”Well I’ll be darned.”
  2107. >”What’s it like having your nipples sucked?”
  2108. >”I-I always thought mine were a little big, do you think he’d—?”
  2109. >The gathered ponies all start smiling.
  2110. >Cut herself looks like she has no idea how to react, this is probably the most positive attention she’s had at once in her whole life.
  2111. >Eventually though, she starts beaming like the sun.
  2112. >”W-Well,” she starts, “It's kind of like...”
  2113.  
  2114.  
  2115. >”It was cool meeting you, stal, now if you don’t mind Imma get myself some nachos.”
  2116. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and you bid Sunlit Vista adieu.
  2117. >She didn’t have any information about Wind Rider, unsurprisingly, but she did tell you Spitfire herself will be in town within the week.
  2118. > Apparently she’s the guest of honor at some foals’ charity thing.
  2119. >Score! She’ll be a goldmine, no doubt about that.
  2120. >You never expected to make progress on the case tonight, but you suppose the best things in life /are/ surprises.
  2121. >As she makes her way back to the snack table, you become dimly aware of the fact that with so many extra ponies, you’re running out of snacks much faster than you expected.
  2122. >Shit, you should probably get back to the kitchen and make more at some point.
  2123. >”Me and Sunny go way back. All the way back to flight school,” Silken unintentionally interrupts your train of thought.
  2124. >”She always wanted to be a Wonderbolt but she could never quite make the cut. I say her making the Dayguard is just as impressive, but what do I know?’
  2125. >You turn back to her and shrug.
  2126. “The heart wants what the heart wants, I guess.”
  2127. >She laughs, but it's got a hard edge to it.
  2128. >”Heh, don’t remind me.”
  2129. >”ANON!” a voice shouts across the party.
  2130. >Looking towards its source, you spy Astral calling you over.
  2131. >”Anon get over here!”
  2132. >You look at Silken and gesture your head toward the table.
  2133. “Come on, let’s see what this is about.”
  2134. >She follows without fuss, and the two of you join the group of mares all gathered around Pike and Cut.
  2135. >Your heart skips a beat at the way the two of them are literally surrounded, but Cut beaming like a sunflower sets your mind at ease.
  2136. >As you and Silken abroach, the circles opens up just a bit, allowing you and Silken to sit down and join them.
  2137. >The questions start the moment you do.
  2138. >”Did you /actually/ make the cumshot for them!?” Astral nearly shouts.
  2139. >Oh, that’s what this is about?
  2140. >Kind of a letdown honestly.
  2141. “Yeah.”
  2142. > Immediately the whole circle dissolves into a dozen other questions and side conversations.
  2143. >Some asking about other sex moves, some asking Pike what the shot tasted like, and some asking what the cumshot even was.
  2144. >It's chaos.
  2145. >Amid the chaos, you feel Silken elbow you from her place next to you.
  2146. >”Did you /really/?” she asks.
  2147. >You shrug once more.
  2148. “Yep, I don’t really know what the big deal about it is. The two of them said it wasn’t even that good.”
  2149. >She chuckles at you.
  2150. >”You know, most stallions’ would consider their fillyfirends asking them to cum inside a shot glass for them ‘debasing’ and ‘humiliating’.”
  2151. “Yeah well, most stallions are on some shit.”
  2152. >”Ha!” she chuckles again, “I guess so. Say that reminds me—”
  2153. >”WAIT!” This time Astral does shout, “Anon, listen this is important!”
  2154. >Not wanting to leave your friend hanging, you refuse to acknowledge Astral at first, instead giving Siken a chance to continue.
  2155. >She just nods toward Astral, so you turn towards the mare yourself.
  2156. “Hm?”
  2157. >Astral leans in and lowers her voice.
  2158. >She was shouting before though, so after lowering it she’s back to only ‘nearly shouting’.
  2159. >”Have the three of you done anal?”
  2160. >She sounds more excited by the prospect than she should.
  2161. >Especially since you’re about to let her down.
  2162. “God no, absolutely not.”
  2163. >”WHAT!?” every mare at the table shouts.
  2164. >You’re surprised to see that it included Pike and Cut.
  2165. >They’re never even asked you before!
  2166. >You guess they just hadn’t worked up the nerve.
  2167. >”Why not!?” shouts Astral.
  2168. “What do you mean, ‘why not'? It's /gross/ that’s why! I don’t want poop on my dick!”
  2169. >”Come on!” she continues, “That’s what /all/ stallions say! You did the freaking cumshot!”
  2170. “Yeah,” your annoyance starts creeping into your voice, “And all stallions are /right/ about that one. Why would you even want to do it?!”
  2171. >You throw up your hooves in exasperation.
  2172. “It's not like there are pleasure nerves IN your butthole!”
  2173. >Astral raises her hoof, already trying to fire back.
  2174. >”Actually—”
  2175. >Only to stop dead as your statement fully dawns on her.
  2176. >As she visibly tries to puzzle out a good response, her gaze slowly drops along with her hoof.
  2177. >All the way until her hoof is down and she’s staring right at the floor.
  2178. >The rest of the circle lapses into awkward silence with her, no one quite able to answer your question.
  2179. >Well, until Rook speaks up that is.
  2180. >”I dunno, I thought it felt pretty good.”
  2181. >This time, you join in as everyone shouts.
  2182. “BLUEBLOOD DOES ANAL!?”
  2183.  
  2184.  
  2185. >You are Silken Evening, and you’ve really got to respect Anon.
  2186. >A lot of stallions aren’t willing to speak half as candidly as he is.
  2187. >No double entendres, no hidden feelings.
  2188. >What you see is what you get.
  2189. >So while everypony is laughing about learning the Prince of Equestria likes to do mares in the butt, you’ve got something to ask him.
  2190. “Hey.”
  2191. >He’s still giggling when he turns away from the poor mare that just blew the Prince’s secret.
  2192. >”Heh, hehehe heehehe. What is it?”
  2193. “How would you like to make a couple extra bucks?”
  2194. >His face scrunches at your question.
  2195. >”Doing... what exactly?”
  2196. >Oh Celestia dang it Silken don’t phrase it like that!
  2197. >You just made it sound like you’re going to ask him to turn hugs downtown.
  2198. “My model just quit, and I need somepony I can trust not to be weird about it.”
  2199. >His eyebrow shoots up, you can tell he’s still on the fence.
  2200. >”Weird, how?”
  2201. >Ugh, you internally groan at the memory.
  2202. >It's happened dozens of times over your career at this point, but it's never stopped sucking.
  2203. >It always happens the same way too.
  2204. >You bring on a promising new model to model your outfits for you.
  2205. >You make it clear right from the start that this is strictly a business relationship, and they agree.
  2206. >But after a few months, it invariably falls apart.
  2207. “The stallions I hire always read too much into it. They model one too many outfits for me and suddenly it becomes, ‘Oh, I can’t stand this tension!’ Or ‘We need to stop playing with each other and admit how we feel!’”
  2208. >An HR department would have a field day with the impression you just did of your former employees.
  2209. >Anon eats it up though, bringing back the same laughter he only just managed to shake.
  2210. >”Bwah hahaha!”
  2211. >Which only further proves he’s the right stallion for the job.
  2212. “Then I say I don’t poop where I eat and if they don’t quit on the spot, they’ve quit about a week later.”
  2213. >Putting your hooves on his withers you look directly into your eyes and /plead/.
  2214. “/Please/ ‘Non. I think I’m going to run out of stallions in Canterlot at this rate.”
  2215. >If you sounded desperate, it's because you are.
  2216. > It's starting to wear on your nerves, especially after the last guy.
  2217. >He lasted longer than any of the others, you thought you’d finally found a true business partner.
  2218. >Then it all came crashing down /again/.
  2219. “You don’t even need to quit your job. Just swing by my place a couple of times a week and let me use you as a mannequin.”
  2220. >You’re practically begging at this point.
  2221. >He looks away from you to think, but he’s got a smile on his face that gives you a good feeling.
  2222. >”Hm, won’t I make a bad mannequin though? I’m not exactly of average build.”
  2223. >You don’t even need to think about the words before they come spilling out.
  2224. “A little extra work adjusting each outfit is more than worth not needed to find a new model every few months.”
  2225. >His smile grows as he meets your gaze once again.
  2226. >”Pay?”
  2227. “Twenty bits an hour plus a discount on anything you buy from me. I know how much you like dressing up your mares.”
  2228. >Out of the corner of your eye you notice that the creeper who was hanging out behind Cut just looked up at you.
  2229. >You were about to say something, but before you could she slides back over the backside of the couch and disappears.
  2230. >Wierdflank.
  2231. >”I’ll do it!” he says, much to your relief.
  2232. >Thank Celestia on high.
  2233. >You’re nearly crying with joy.
  2234. >What a relief.
  2235. “Then I’ve got some ideas I want to run by you. Let’s find a little privacy...”
  2236.  
  2237.  
  2238. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and it's been a wild night.
  2239. >So wild you’re not sure when it's going to end!
  2240. >Your squad’s little pow-wow eventually fell apart, scattering everypony across the party.
  2241. >So you’ve just been adrift in the sea of ponies.
  2242. >Drinking, chatting, and smiling.
  2243. >With a heavy emphasis on drinking.
  2244. >After talking to some mares from Anon’s office of all places, you’ve come to suspect the one who brought all these ponies here was Cloak.
  2245. >She overheard you talking to Astral, and she seemed to spread the word.
  2246. >Why though? That’s anypony’s guess.
  2247. >Spite? Trying to make her sister make some new friends?
  2248. >Beats you.
  2249. >You haven’t even seen her around in a while so you can’t even ask.
  2250. >The worst part is all the ponies she brought are eating up Anon’s snacks far faster than anypony anticipated! And you can’t have that.
  2251. >Luckily he left out all his recipe notes, so while he and Silken are off discussing... whatever they’ve been discussing for the past few hours, it falls to /you/ to finish preparing all the stuff he bought.
  2252. >For some reason you’ve got a very strong feeling you shouldn’t be doing this right now, but another sip of cider sends those feelings right down the drain!
  2253. >Weeeeeeeeee!
  2254. >Take another sip, put some hot sauce in the pot.
  2255. >Take another sip, add some cream cheese to the pot!
  2256. >Whatever this buffalo dip stuff is, it sure sounds good on paper.
  2257. >And, no offense to Anon, you're pretty sure it’ll be better now that /you’re/ making it.
  2258. >You are the princess of this kitchen after all.
  2259. >”Pike? What are you doing?”
  2260. >That voice, it's Astral.
  2261. >Which shouldn’t surprise you, half your squad is here tonight after all!
  2262. >Which is why you’re in here cooking... for them... in front of them...
  2263. >Oh no.
  2264. >”Has he seriously got you /cooking/?!” she nearly chokes on her own laughter as she says it.
  2265. >”Hahaha! First the maledom thing and now this! I’m learning so much about you tonight!”
  2266. >Adrenaline floods your veins, which unfortunately makes all that alcohol you’ve been drinking hit you even harder.
  2267. >Don’t panic, whatever you do, don’t panic.
  2268. >You can still get out of this, easily.
  2269. “Well, uh, yeah. It's a mare’s job to help out and—”
  2270. >Astral howls with laughter once again.
  2271. >”I cannot believe /the/ Nocturnal Pike is saying this to me right now. Oh mare, if the you of one year ago was hearing this, she’d /flip/!”
  2272. >Sure, you might act like you were flipping.
  2273. >But deep down...
  2274. >No, Pike, focus! Stay on track.
  2275. >”HEY!” comes a voice from the floor, “D-DON’T knock Pike’s cooking until you’ve tried it!”
  2276. > It's Cut, so sloppily drunk she’s one step away from being passed out.
  2277. >She’s even already lying on the floor.
  2278. >”Don’t tell my Dad,” she slurs, “But I think she might be even better than him.”
  2279. >Suddenly she looks panicked.
  2280. >”Wait, don’t tell Cloak I said that either!”
  2281. >Come on, Cut!
  2282. >That’s a really sweet compliment but REALLY not what you wanted Astral to hear right now!
  2283. >Your heart continues to sink as Astral predictably grins.
  2284. >”Hey, Night,” she shouts, “Come check this out!”
  2285. >Oh no no no no no!
  2286. >Not your number one AND your number two!
  2287. >Maybe Night didn’t hear her, the party’s pretty loud and—
  2288. >—aaaand here she comes.
  2289. >”What?” she asks before taking a swig.
  2290. >”Check this out!” Astral says, gleefully pointing toward you, “Pike COOKS!”
  2291. >”Wha?” Night asks before slowly turning her head towards you.
  2292. >Fast as you can, you put the pot you were holding back on the stove and turn the stovetop off.
  2293. >You’re /certain/ that by the time she actually looked at you, your wings were empty and nothing was out of the ordinary!
  2294. >...Aaaaand she just spit out her drink.
  2295. >”What the buck?” she asks, genuinely stunned.
  2296. >Okay, this is bad. This is really really bad.
  2297. >But it's not the worst! They just know you like cooking... and maledom.
  2298. >You can still salvage this!
  2299. >”Oh,” comes a fourth voice, “Is this /yours/ then, Sarge?”
  2300. >Time seems to slow down, as your body is frozen in horror.
  2301. >From between Night and Astral, come a third of your squadmates.
  2302. >Cloak N. Dagger.
  2303. >And she’s carrying your apron.
  2304. >Your colt’s lingerie you occasionally dance around the apartment with while you cook for Anon.
  2305. >Oh no. Oh no no no no. Oh no no no no no no.
  2306. >You didn’t even notice Astral started talking again.
  2307. >”Okay, that is /too/ far you bucking freak. Raiding her stallion’s drawers for his lingerie, what the actual buck is wrong with you?”
  2308. >There’s a feeling of tightness in your chest.
  2309. >You’re trying to keep a straight face but you can barely breathe.
  2310. >Cloak takes a horrified step back, but you don’t even really notice.
  2311. >”I-I just saw it with Anon’s stuff a-and thought it'd be funny...” she stammers.
  2312. >But you neither truly see nor hear her, all you can manage to focus on is the baby blue apron hanging on her wing.
  2313. >Why is that here, /why does she have it/?
  2314. >”She’s right, Dagger,” Night adds, “we’ve put up with a lot from you over the years, but that is too much. Do you know how many of our subordinates are here!?”
  2315. >You yourself are /keenly/ aware.
  2316. >”Besides, that wasn’t even a good joke. Just because she’s into maledom doesn’t mean she’d wear stallion’s lingerie! That’s just cruel!”
  2317. >She turns to you.
  2318. >”Right P— ... Pike?”
  2319. >You must have looked like a fish who’d jumped out of its tank.
  2320. >Every fiber of your being is focused on trying not to react, but it's impossible.
  2321. >Your poker face is cracking.
  2322. >Your chest is so tight you can barely breathe, you want to scream.
  2323. >You want to run out the door and keep running until this feeling stops.
  2324. >Never in your life have you had a panic attack, but your guard training has thoroughly familiarized you with the symptoms.
  2325. >And you’re about to have one, right here in front of your whole squad.
  2326. >A thought that makes it so much worse.
  2327. >Oh Luna, you’re going to scream, you’re going to—
  2328. >”YOU!”
  2329.  
  2330.  
  2331. >You are Anonymous, a couple of precious moments before.
  2332. >Silken and yourself have been discussing new ideas for the past hour, maybe longer.
  2333. >”And that’s what I want to do for my new O&O tie-in line. That just leaves...”
  2334. >Unexpectedly, she tails off mid-sentence, something behind you catching her eye.
  2335. >”What the buck?”
  2336. >Looking over your shoulder you ask, “What is it?” but she doesn’t need to answer.
  2337. >Standing there, in the kitchen, is Cut’s sister /holding Pike’s apron/.
  2338. >You whirl around to face the bedroom door, seeing it is wide open.
  2339. >God damn it, when did she get in there!?
  2340. >Whirling back to the kitchen you see a much more concerning point.
  2341. >Pike, she’s shaking horribly and gasping for air.
  2342. >Oh my God, is she about to have a panic attack?
  2343. >You frantically scan the room, thankfully seeing nopony else has noticed yet.
  2344. >Fuck, you’ve got to do something fast.
  2345. >If she actually has a full-blown panic attack right here, right now...
  2346. >To lose her composure like that in front of her squad...
  2347. >It’ll kill her.
  2348. >Cut’s on high alert too, you can see her scrambling to her hooves in order to try and do something.
  2349. >But it won’t be enough, especially since she can barely stand.
  2350. >Your mind races, you’ve got to find something that can get all attention off of her and keep it off of her.
  2351. >But what!? As long as there are ponies here then—
  2352. >Wait, that’s it!
  2353. >You’ve got to get them out of here!
  2354. >Stallions are known for being bitchy and your reputation is already that of a weirdo!
  2355. >You’ll make a bigger embarrassment of yourself right here, right now, than Pike ever could!
  2356. >You just need a reason! Some stupid reason!
  2357. >Your eyes tear the scenery apart, desperately hoping to find some faux pass you can use before it's too late.
  2358. >Then, you see it.
  2359. >On the couch there’s a mare from the office drinking from a bottle.
  2360. >And putting that bottle on your end table without a coaster.
  2361. “Sorry, gotta go!” you say to Silken before pouring magic into your horn.
  2362. >This shit has got to be big from start to finish, and you’ve got just the trick up your sleeve to do it.
  2363. >In a flash, you teleported across the room directly onto your coffee table and right in front of this mare.
  2364. >You appear in a burst of magic and brimstone, sending various cups and bottles flying.
  2365. >You don’t even give her a moment to process this before you start shouting.
  2366. “YOU!”
  2367. >The party goes silent.
  2368. “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!?”
  2369. >All eyes are on you and the poor mare.
  2370. >Perfect.
  2371. >She looks terrified too.
  2372. >The table only adds to your already unnatural height, letting you tower over her and the very low couch.
  2373. >”Uh, I’m drinking?” she weakly answers.
  2374. “And putting that drink down /where/ exactly?”
  2375. >She grows increasingly flustered as her eyes look to the end table.
  2376. >”O-On the table?”
  2377. “Without. A. Coaster?”
  2378. >Her eyes widen and she swallows.
  2379. >”*Gulp* W-Without a coaster.”
  2380. >You stand up to your full height, channeling all the anger you feel towards Cut’s sister for invading your privacy.
  2381. “And how many of you have been DRINKING without coasters?”
  2382. >You see a good portion of the party raise their hooves and you know you’ve hit the jackpot.
  2383. >So before you start smiling, you start shouting.
  2384. “GET OUT! ALL OF YOU, OUT!”
  2385. >You start pointing around the room at every mare who admitted to forgoing a coaster.
  2386. “YOU! OUT OF MY HOUSE! YOU, OUT! I WANT ALL OF YOU OUT OF MY FUCKING HOUSE!”
  2387. >For effect you launch out a few lightning bolts, not real ones of course, but that spellbook said they were so authentic they ‘might start a stampede'.
  2388. >And boy do they.
  2389. >All the mares you called out immediately charge for the door, usually leaving their drinks where they lie.
  2390. >Even the ones you didn’t call out have started nervously eyeballing it.
  2391. >You need more.
  2392. >Time to go even more unhinged.
  2393. >Without missing a beat, you point at one of the mares from your office.
  2394. “YOU! Your coat color is UGLY! UGLY UGLY UGLY! THE ONLY MARE THAT KEPT YOU FROM CLASHING WITH MY CARPET IS GONE! GET OUT!”
  2395. >She and a few others waste no time booking it, revealing something you hadn’t seen.
  2396. >There, on the living room carpet, some nacho cheese.
  2397. >Nacho cheese that had been there for hours and been stamped /INTO THE CARPET/.
  2398. >Instantly the rage stops being an act.
  2399. >Pointing right at the stain you scream your loudest scream yet.
  2400. “WERE ALL OF YOU RAISED IN A FUCKING BARN!? DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THAT’S GOING TO TAKE ME TO CLEAN!? GET THE FUCK OUT! GET THE FUCK OUT RIGHT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!”
  2401. >You hold your scream on that last word, all the while firing off lightning bolt after lightning bolt.
  2402. >Even Astral and Night are fleeing for their lives now, leaving only Cut, Pike, Silken, and yourself.
  2403. >The last one out the door is actually Cloak, and right as she’s crossing the threshold you send out a dozen hands to pick her up and toss her the rest of the way out.
  2404. >The last you hear of her is a painful-sounding thud as you slam the door behind her.
  2405. >Once the door is closed and you’re sure they’re gone, you relax.
  2406. >All the energy you had left you so fast you nearly tumble off the table.
  2407. >You catch yourself at the perfect moment though, and instead safely step down.
  2408. >Thank God for Pike’s low-ass furniture.
  2409. >Before you can address Pike, the sound of clapping distracts you.
  2410. >It's Silken, her jaw is nearly on the floor, but she’s clapping.
  2411. >”That was... wow,” she says.
  2412. >You trot over to her.
  2413. “Tha—”
  2414. >Holy shit, your voice is so horse (heh) /you/ could barely hear yourself.
  2415. “*Ahem ahem ahem* Thank you.”
  2416. >Damn you’re definitely losing your voice after that.
  2417. “I’m sorry Silken but I’m going to have to ask you to leave too.”
  2418. >She shrugs.
  2419. >” It's fine, I get it. Go make sure she’s okay.”
  2420. >And just like that, she takes off straight out the window Astral originally came in.
  2421. >You waste no time after that, sprinting back over to the kitchen where you find Cut wordlessly huddling over Pike, shielding her from the world.
  2422. >As you approach, she leans back so you can see.
  2423. >Pike totally passed out, but not before throwing up all over poor Cut’s underside.
  2424. >Looks like all the adrenaline and alcohol took their toll.
  2425. >You pat Cut on the shoulder for a job well done.
  2426. “Good going, Cut. Now let’s get you two cleaned up and all of us into bed.”
  2427. >You’ll have to chat with Pike about what happened, but not now.
  2428. >Now it is time for bed.
  2429. >And if there’s one upside to all of this, you’ve learned one thing for sure tonight.
  2430. >When it comes to making sure parties are wild, you’ve still got it.
  2431.  
  2432. Continued in Part 7 https://ponepaste.org/8551

The Long and Short of It (RGRE) Part 7

by SQA-non

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I D O L

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