GREEN   421   0
   50252 272.65 KB    5452

/bootleg/ Jacky Part Eleven

By BlondieAnon
Created: 2022-03-06 06:17:25
Updated: 2022-04-22 23:28:41
Expiry: Never

  1. >A deliciously mild Saturday night
  2. >Snow has come and gone, retreating to a mere impotent drizzle at best and a moderately bothersome shower at worst
  3. >Prism is knocked out cold
  4. >Jack is at your side, as always
  5. >Shine is at your other side
  6. >Your continued habit of drinking on certain nights has led to your particularly precocious unicorn gaining something resembling a tolerance
  7. >Jack, as always, is able to hold her own with the constitution of an adult human male
  8. >You base this purely off of your own drinking habits and capacity
  9. "It's finally Spring... it's hard to imagine so much time has passed out of nowhere."
  10. >Does that make sense by itself?
  11. >Does it particularly matter?
  12. >With all three of you sitting on the borderline aerial patio of your apartment, no one is around to listen in
  13. >No one around is even awake, most likely
  14. >"Tell me about it... it looks so nice out."
  15. >Jack nuzzles into your side
  16. >Of course, it is still dreadfully dull outside
  17. >The grass is still hibernating and dreaming of warmer days
  18. >All that there is consists of mud and clumps of snow-turned-ice that refuse to get with the times
  19. >"I guess. I can't believe you guys could drink so much so quickly..."
  20. >Your bottle was full
  21. >It is now less than a half in capacity
  22. >You lean over to pick up said bottle
  23. >True, you seemed to have drunken more than a quarter of it
  24. >Jack has matched you gulp for gulp
  25. >Shiner has hardly touched it in comparision
  26. "Fear now, red mare. Sometimes, you drink to celebrate. Sometimes you drink to not worry. Sometimes, you just drink because you're in good company and you really want to feel something for once."
  27. >"Mmmhmm... what he said."
  28. >Jack nuzzles you twice as hard
  29. >"That... was a bit of a weird thing to say. You alright Anon?"
  30. "I'm as alright as I can be. Here, with this drink, with you two and our fourth sleeping with the intensity of a bear in mid-January, I feel... content. At peace with myself, and my position in life. Such as it is."
  31. >Shine doesn't sound all that convinced
  32. >" don't normally try to sound smart."
  33. "I know! It is an accomplishment to let on less than I truly know."
  34. >"It's true."
  35. >Jack, your cheerleader to the end, practically gives your leg friction burn with how fiercely she rubs her face against you
  36. >You pat her shoulder far too long, partially because you forgot you had control of your arm
  37. >Your hand had effectively just turned into a petting paddle of sorts
  38. >"So... does this mean that if I ask you something now, you're kinda supposed to answer me directly and not remember later so it's convenient?"
  39. "Don't be so genre-savvy, Shiner. I'll remember. And I'll still probably answer."
  40. >The unicorn doesn't seem to sit well with your self-awareness
  41. >But she's still laying against you and far more gently nuzzling your other side
  42. >"So does it mean that it's ok if I start asking you things?"
  43. >"Totally."
  44. "See? Mare's on board, let me have it."
  46. >Your slow, gentle rocking of your head back and forth is giving you an internal metronome to focus on, keeping you from losing focus or sight
  47. >Or focus of your sight, specifically
  48. >You just keep focusing on that one star in the sky
  49. >Or rather, since you do live in some sort of smaller city, what is most likely a satellite
  50. >Something children will grow up seeing, falsely believing that they are able to spy the stars without understanding the true beauty that only comes from the night in a true wilderness setting
  51. >"Alright. So..."
  52. >The red mare pauses
  53. >As if she doesn't know what to ask me, now that she has the keys to the candy store and she's no longer on her "I swear this year will be different" diet
  54. >Of course, she's far too scrawny for such a diet
  55. >You can lift her like it's nothing
  56. >And you have
  57. >And outside of the split-second surprise that she shows, you can tell that she gains such a powerful sense of comfort from being held by you
  58. >You say nothing about it
  59. >Neither does she
  60. >Probable deniability is what that is called, isn't it?
  61. >You're not sober, why would you know?
  62. >"How... are you feeling?"
  63. >You chortle at such a basic question
  64. >Of course it is a tip to a wedge of greater questioning
  65. >Or maybe she just genuinely wants to know, given how rarely you and Jacky drink nowadays
  66. >It used to be far more... common
  67. >Putting it lightly
  68. >As if both of you had memories you wished to ignore
  69. >Or more specifically, that you wanted to make the night even more memorable, at the cost of worrying that it might have all been a feeble dream so easily destroyed by the harsh scrutiny of daily life and the sorrow that followed
  70. "I'm..."
  71. >That is a helluva question, isn't it?
  72. >It's something people so often ask but so rarely listen to, when the time comes for an answer
  73. "I'm good, Sparking. I have you. I have Jackenstein. I also even have Prismatic Rabbit over there on her little nest of pillows. I honestly can't see myself wanting for much more. Not really. More money would be nice. Obviously. But to an extent, what do I care?"
  74. >You look at your bottle
  75. >Not only does rotating your head less than 90 degrees send your vision swirling but you don't feel the need to punctuate such a statement with a drink
  76. >Or such complacency, you should say
  77. >Not that you're saying any of that
  78. "I wish I could give all of you more. Mayhaps it's in my nature of a man. Or because it's my love for all of you that I wish to just... give more."
  79. >Shine seems completely taken off guard by your answer
  80. >Indeed, you would be surprised by your answer too
  81. >Perhaps alcohol has started to bring out the thoughts and ideas you tend to suppress in your daily life
  82. >"Alright, are you sure you're drunk? I mean I saw you gulp all of that crap down but you actually sound smarter."
  83. "Ballmer's Point."
  84. >Shine snorts
  85. >"What?"
  86. "Yeah, it's a thing. Supposedly if you take in just enough alcohol it sharpens the senses far more than it dulls them."
  88. >"It's true."
  89. >Jack mumbles out, her mouth pressed against your knee
  90. >She is as tired as she is sloshed
  91. >The adorable little dork
  92. >"...ok, just because Jacky says it is true doesn't mean anything to me."
  93. >You shrug
  94. "Well if you believe me or not, I'm not particularly concerned."
  95. >You glance at your bottle again
  96. >You reach out to touch the smooth, cold glass
  97. >You look at Shine and decide against it
  98. "I... would rather not spoil the point I'm at. Not for anything. Not for anyone."
  99. >"It's true."
  100. >Your Evil-Lyn of sorts agrees
  101. >You're pretty sure you could say anything and she would corroborate it
  102. >"Well that's good to know. At least I know you won't puke on me."
  103. "And thankfully I won't ever."
  104. >"Geeze, let's hope so... you good for another question? Your eyes are..."
  105. "Hm?"
  106. >You look down at her
  107. >She's staring pretty hard
  108. >"Have your... eyes changed color?"
  109. "Eh?"
  110. >"It's true."
  111. >Oh shush, Jacknut
  112. >"Seriously. Do they look more... green?"
  113. >It could be
  114. >The benefit of having eyes that allegedly fluxgate between brown and green
  115. >You've never looked into your own eyes so you can only truly go off of commentary from others
  116. "Maybe. I guess anything happens. What's your next question?"
  117. >Before you can react
  118. >Or perhaps, you choose to not react
  119. >She pushes herself up as hard as she can, going from a half-laying position to kiss you
  120. >It lasts for entire minutes
  121. >In your mind
  122. >In reality, it lasts no longer than five full seconds of lips pressed to another pair
  123. >She pulls herself away from you and sinks back down to her position
  124. >"Technically, since you're drunk... that's more a bad deed on me than you, right?"
  125. >You aren't speechless
  126. >But you are surprised
  127. >You look down to Jack
  128. >She's curled up and probably incapable of moving even if you shook her awake
  129. >You really should be feeling something about this that would be negative
  130. >But to be honest you don't really care
  131. >At least, not right now
  132. >You reach over for the bottle of vodka
  133. >Super smooth stuff
  134. >Whether or not it was an excuse or not, you would never say
  135. >You lick your lips a few times before taking in a pitiful amount of vodka
  136. >Not even enough to fill your mouth, but enough to give a familiar, almost playful burn to both your tongue and your throat
  137. >It tastes good
  138. >You're willing to play dumb and presume your gut instinct referred to the liquid
  139. "Yes. Yes it does."
  140. >You shouldn't be that surprised
  141. >Between her hearing things and how she always pushes barriers, something like this was going to happen sooner or later
  142. >You aren't so genre-blind, yourself
  143. >But you strongly dislike the idea of doing anything that might cause a rift between you and your dear Jaqueline
  144. >Or...
  145. >What did she say her name was?
  146. >Lemon Pepper?
  147. >The name suits her, to be honest
  148. >You could see her adopting that name in a more meaningful capacity
  149. >A stage name, perhaps
  150. >"You... don't look mad."
  151. "I'm not."
  152. >As simple as it is, it's the truth
  153. >You can't even pretend to be mad
  155. >It's not fair to her to act like she had somehow crossed some sort of mythical line
  156. >It isn't as if you've made that many efforts to push her away or set up anything more well-defined
  157. >As if you haven't done enough already by the most obvious, genuine affections you share with your goofy mare
  158. >""
  159. >She starts to slide upward against you again
  160. >She thinks she can obviously swooce her way on in and get another kiss?
  161. >You openly laugh at the notion and slide your Shine-sided hand over her face
  162. >It puts a hard stop to her physical ascension, much to your amusement and her only minorly inconvenienced visage
  163. >"...hey. Don't fight it."
  164. >The way she says that
  165. >The genuine, almost combative tone of hers
  166. >It's hilarious
  167. >It truly is
  168. >Does she think that she is so easily capable of overwhelming your most base of urges and instincts?
  169. >If only you could be stripped of such inhibitions in such a state
  170. >If only you could lose yourself for even a moment and truly become a blameless mass that has no recollection, no morality and no memory
  171. >You've never once been able to drink enough to reach that point
  172. >No matter how much you used to try
  173. "I'm not fighting it. I'm just having fun messing with you."
  174. >You pat her head, roughly enough where her head gets batted down again
  175. >"It's true."
  176. >That one is far more a sleepy mumble than anything else
  177. >The adorable gal you've had in your life for over two years and a quarter just has that instinctual need to remain in the conversation, regardless of context
  178. >Perhaps it's for the best that she isn't awake or coherent
  179. >Shine might not do so well with a broken nose
  180. >Again
  181. >" can I ask another question since that didn't work?"
  182. "Go for it, man. I'm an open book and I'm as open as I could be, given circumstances."
  183. >She looks over you, presumably to study your features and any possible emotional tells or signs that she could take advantage of
  184. >You don't think negatively of her for having such thoughts or goals
  185. >It is who she is
  186. >Perhaps that is why you did not mind the kiss to begin with
  187. >...
  188. >You truly are a reprehensible human at times, aren't you?
  189. >"Be honest."
  190. "Always."
  191. >A quick interjection
  192. >"...right. Is..."
  193. >She trails off
  194. >That isn't like her
  195. >She's usually so bold with herself
  196. >Is it perhaps that she has imbibed enough alcohol to put her off of her A-game?
  197. >Or is it that she's seeing you in such a sorry state, open to suggestion and throwing consequences away like weathered "help wanted" flyers?
  198. >"Is it really ok that we get to live like this?"
  199. "Absolutely."
  200. >You answer almost to the microsecond after you perceive her voice ends
  201. >She is a little surprised at your sharp response time
  202. >"I mean it."
  203. "I do too."
  204. >"But your savings-"
  205. "Are meant to be spent my crimson so-and-so. You can tell I'm in a bit of a weird position if I can't think of a funny-sounding nickname to call you."
  206. >You chuckle to yourself
  207. >She must not be on her game
  209. >Rather than having a quick response, she nuzzles your thigh in a mirror move of what Jacklicious did not even an hour ago when the alcohol turned her from mostly mild-mannered to something suspiciously affectionate
  210. "I'll be honest with you, Shiner. I don't care about money. I really don't."
  211. >As you begin to speak, you can feel your vision fixate
  212. >You aren't losing focus
  213. >Nay
  214. >You're focusing very keenly on the wood fencing of a far away neighbor
  215. >One that always has friends over, a bonfire going and some sort of party music going on
  216. "Because at the end of the day, no matter how much I get, it will never be enough to afford anything more than this God-forsaken apartment. And because of that, it doesn't mean anything to me. I have the rent paid. The bills taken care of. I've gotten far more of a variety when it comes to food when it comes to myself and all of you. What do I need money for? It is the means to an end, and nothing more."
  217. >The surprisingly sober-sounding speech supposedly sparks something inside of you resembling sobriety
  218. >But it fizzles
  219. >Sparky seems...
  220. >Not surprised?
  221. >But incredulous
  222. >"Oh shut up... you say that as if we're important to you."
  223. "You are. And I'll headbutt you if you think otherwise."
  224. >"God damn it, ENOUGH WITH THE HEADBUTTING!"
  225. >A few weeks ago Jacky headbutted Shine again due to a D&D argument
  226. >Thankfully it wasn't full-force but it was still enough to make her bleed
  227. >Her poor little snoot
  228. >Despite the fresh memory of her pain and tears, you can't help but giggle at the petty situation
  229. "I will say, though... you are all important to me. Without you, I probably wouldn't have gotten to where I am now. I probably would have given up in life. After Missy, and... everything else. I do not think I would think it impossible to do something drastic in order to ensure the wellbeing of any of you. Put me in front of a trial and I would be incapable of feeling guilt."
  230. >As if that is somehow a cue on her side, she tries to slink her way up again for a kiss
  231. >You can tell because the way she's licking her lips
  232. >Far too much for any idle movement
  233. >Your peripheral vision is fucking godly tonight, isn't it?
  234. >Deciding that your arms are a little too heavy, you lean your face down
  235. >She ends up kissing your cheek on accident
  236. >Accident because her ears flatten and she adopts a highly embarrassed pout
  237. >"You're supposed to be easier to take advantage of."
  238. "And you're supposed to be a better sister."
  239. >"...yeah well she deserves it."
  240. >A long exhale of a snort is your first answer
  241. "Pray tell, why."
  242. >"Because she flaunts what I'll never have like it's going out of style and she does it on purpose."
  243. "Does she though?"
  244. >"Remember that time you came out of the shower?"
  245. "Yeah, every single day."
  246. >She shakes her head and rolls her eyes
  247. >"No, dumb ass. The one time you came out in the towel."
  248. "Really narrowing it down for me, aren't you?"
  250. >"She sat on your lap."
  251. "As she often does, yes."
  252. >"And she made eye contact with me."
  253. "Did she now?"
  254. >"And... then you connected."
  255. >Your stomach doesn't drop
  256. >You honestly don't feel that embarrassed
  257. >Maybe you should have, in the moment
  258. >Or maybe you weren't paying attention to the world around you
  259. "I... suppose that may have happened once or thrice."
  260. >"It happens whenever I'm in your room, at that time."
  261. "That's a little presumptuous, isn't it?
  262. >She gives you a more bitter frown
  263. >"Shut up and take another drink, human."
  264. "Human? Am I just 'human' now?"
  265. >You roll your head to either side and gleefully take the bottle for another sip
  266. "Don't mind me, just Hugh Mann filling up my tank. Whatever you say, boss."
  267. >You drink just a little more than you thought you should
  268. >Not quite a mouthful
  269. >But maybe halfway through
  270. >You keep it in your mouth and let it go down your throat, bit by bit
  271. >It's better than sipping in a cup because it's in your mouth and now you're committed to it
  272. >And you wouldn't possibly dare spit out any of this precious poison society says is a past time beverage
  273. >You let out a satisfied "ahhhh"
  274. "There. Now I'm even more intoxicated. Better?"
  275. >"Not until you get to the point you can't stop me."
  276. "Aren't we the most adorable little offender."
  277. >You aren't concerned in the least
  278. >But you're pretty sure you're pushing what could be your mortal limitsm
  279. >As long as you maintain your focused vision you'll be fine
  280. >"She does it all the time... she makes me know that you're hers. Like it's gloating."
  281. "Is it gloating or just... perhaps a little too much comfort when we should probably be more strategic?"
  282. >"It's gloating, shut up."
  283. >That's how it's gonna be, huh?
  284. >You roll your head and give a solid salute
  285. "You got it boss."
  286. >Jacky isn't responding anymore
  287. >She's probably long past the point of chipping in
  288. >"It's... it's annoying. Do you need to be intoxicated for me to say that I'm openly jealous and that I'm starting to have enough of it?"
  289. >You chortle
  290. "And what are you going to do if she doesn't stop, threaten to cook her goose?"
  291. >"No, I'm going to push her over and take her spot."
  292. >You were going to laugh at that
  293. >But that tone
  294. >The feeling of eyes boring into the side of your head
  295. >You decide to not look her in the eye
  296. " probably would, wouldn't you."
  297. >"You're fucking right I would."
  298. >That tone
  299. >That's the cold tone of someone who truly is serious
  300. "...I guess I'll have to have a talk with her about that then. I guess... I'm sorry. That isn't a guess. I am sorry. I suppose I just didn't think you would care."
  301. >"Yeah well I do."
  302. >...Silence
  303. >For the first time that night, genuine silence
  304. >But it's that sort of artificial silence
  305. >Like the birds and insects have all left, as if even they are awaiting for the next line in this sordid stage play
  306. >"...and you probably shouldn't talk to her about it. It may be the only chance I get."
  307. >Your strongest instinct tells you to shut up and not make light of this
  309. >The time for drunken revelry has passed, apparently
  310. >"That may be the only sort of chance I get. And I get the feeling that, in the moment, she might not mind as much as she otherwise would."
  311. >Your vision focuses on the sleeping Jack
  312. >Even moving your eyes is enough to make the world spin
  313. >As long as you don't move, you're perfectly lucid
  314. >Painfully so, given current company
  315. >" last question."
  316. "Shoot."
  317. >You reply before you have time to think
  318. >As if you could even humor any coherent thought or appraisal given your current condition
  319. >Don't lie to yourself, Anonymous
  320. >You wouldn't be able to walk down the hallway straight, much less drive down a block
  321. >Much less talk down a mare such as her
  322. >"...can you not bring that up to her? Because maybe I want that chance."
  323. >Were you a lesser man, that might cause a bodily reaction of sorts
  324. >To be quite honest, said reactions tend to be tended to in short order these days
  325. >As impossible as it may sound to anyone with a clear head, you almost hope that Jack might end up with some semblance of morning sickness
  326. >A reason why you so rarely bring out alcohol even now
  327. >Because you never know until it happens
  328. >You lick your lips
  329. >They are quite dry
  330. >You do not like the position you're in
  331. "I'm pretty drunk. You're asking a lot for a drunk man, you know."
  332. >You like the position you're in even less now
  333. >Are you truly so intoxicated that you are no longer in control of your own mind
  334. >You may not be able to reliably move all that well but you are certainly master of your own voice and thoughts
  335. >Aren't you?
  336. >Perhaps that is a sign that you may indeed be a little over your own head
  337. >"I know... maybe you just should forget I said anything. And make sure her next headbutt doesn't hurt so much."
  338. >She openly nuzzles against you
  339. >You can hear her giggle
  340. >That giggle...
  341. >It sounds...
  342. >Evil?
  343. >Would that be the most appropriate term?
  344. >Perhaps
  345. >It isn't like you're shocked
  346. "Make sure next headbutt doesn't give you brain damage... got it."
  347. >You nod
  348. >You keep nodding
  349. >It turns to a slow head bobbing
  350. >What first threw you off your equilibrium became your main way to maintain it
  351. >"Good. You should drink more, Anon. And make me drink with you."
  352. >You swallow
  353. "I can't immediately say that would be a good idea, given circumstances."
  354. >Another giggle
  355. >"That's ok. You only have to sit there.I know how much hit takes for you to get like this."
  356. "How generous of you."
  357. >You close your eyes
  358. >Everything feels like it is swirling around so much
  359. >You're making sure you aren't moving but it still feels like things are teetering or outright dipping
  360. >You feel a pair of lips against yours
  361. >But it persists
  362. >It isn't Jack
  363. >You know because she's far more confident
  364. >Not forceful
  365. >But sure of what she's doing
  366. >Your eyes are closed, you are willingly choosing the path of least resistance by avoiding the apparently forbidden knowledge
  367. >And in that, you are weak
  368. >You can't even hide behind the alcohol
  369. >You are sober enough
  370. >You think
  371. >Maybe...
  374. >Another Sunday means another movie night
  375. >Your recovery took a little over half of the day, just because you didn't drink enough water to flush and rehydrate your system
  376. >Jack guzzled nearly as much water
  377. >Tonight's choice?
  378. >The Wild Bunch
  379. >Before that was Indiana Jones
  380. >"So why did that guy take Pike's revolver?"
  381. >With your back to the wall, the yellow mare occupies your lap
  382. >She went from laying upside down, to laying against your side, to sitting on your lap like a little human
  383. >She's deemed it so that her final position is yours: back to the wall, sitting on her butt with her shoulder to your side
  384. >One of these days you really need to give her something to help with that Restless Mare Syndrome
  385. "Who knows? A keepsake of the old days. Not a trophy, he wasn't too proud of everything."
  386. >You remember the first time you showed this movie to her, way back when
  387. >It's violent
  388. >It's harsh
  389. >It's the end of an era
  390. >She doesn't react so strongly anymore to violence
  391. >To death
  392. >Sometimes, you feel bad for having shown her so much
  393. >"...and in the end, he just rides off, huh."
  394. "Yeah..."
  395. >It's a somber ending
  396. "Life goes on, you know? And having a place in it matters a lot."
  397. >Neither of you speak until the music finishes and the media player stops
  398. >"... did those guys deserve that, Anon?"
  399. "I don't know, Jack."
  400. >Since last night, you've been perhaps more thoughtful than normal
  401. "But they were loyal."
  402. >"To a guy they ratted out?"
  403. "Sure. It didn't sit well with them, otherwise they would have just gone off."
  404. >You watch your mare
  405. >The expression on her face tells you that she's in deep thought
  406. >"Loyalty..."
  407. >That is a big theme in the movie
  408. >In that world, it was the only thing that kept you save, alive
  409. >"I can't think of any of us that would sell out the other."
  410. >That's good, isn't it?
  411. >You're all only four, and the bonds you all share is pretty hard to top or cut off
  412. >The look on her face sours further
  413. >"Not anymore, anyway..."
  414. >While you don't plan on disrupting her, you end up deciding that you want to mess with her
  415. >So you do
  416. >You scoop one hand under her butt and lift her up
  417. >Your other hand goes to her back
  418. >Rotating at your waist you half-drag and half-carry her to your lap
  419. >Her focus doesn't actually change
  420. >Even if you can spy a little bit of a suppressed smile
  421. >You begin to just... massage her
  422. >Her lower legs
  423. >Her chest
  424. >Her shoulders
  425. >Neck too
  426. >Such casual massaging and molestation comes naturally and you've long passed the point of caring
  427. >She doesn't really care either
  428. >"We should do some sort of group thing."
  429. "Group thing?"
  430. >"Yeah."
  431. >Masterfully elaborated idea
  432. "Doesn't the D&D thing count?"
  433. >"Nah. Kinda like when we went to the fair, I want to see something... real."
  434. "Well what sounds good? We don't exactly live in any sort of real environment that has risk."
  435. >"I know..."
  436. >Your hands go to both sides of her neck
  437. >You aren't a natural masseuse but you just can't not keep your hands on her
  439. >"I kinda wanna have Sparky lead it too... she's smart with stuff. I bet she would do good."
  440. >Your hands don't stop but they slow
  441. >You haven't spoken to her since last night
  442. >Just as you were concerned, you were certainly drunk but nowhere near enough to feel absolved of all morality and responsibility
  443. "Yeah... I don't know. It's just gonna give her another power trip."
  444. >Jack giggles
  445. >"Totally. But it's kinda... nice. To see her so happy. She's her most creative when under pressure, don't you think?"
  446. >She is
  447. >Most of her spells tend to be used in weird ways
  448. >Which is pretty smart
  449. >The times the dice are on her side, it leads to a lot of unconventional successes and evasion
  450. "Yeah..."
  451. >You can't help but feel a little awkward about things
  452. >She can pick up on it
  453. >The number of times the two of you go days without speaking to one another but still pick up on cues and general vibes
  454. >"What'd she do this time?"
  455. >The bitter pill
  456. "She... ah. Kissed me a few times."
  457. >"Really?"
  458. "Yeah. When we were outside. You already dozed off it seemed and we were talking."
  459. >"About what?"
  460. >She doesn't sound all that mad
  461. >Or feel that tense
  462. >Your hands haven't stopped petting her either
  463. "She said you were gloating."
  464. >"Gloating."
  465. "Gloating."
  466. >Her lack of questioning makes you think Shine might be onto something
  467. >"What else?"
  468. "She asked about money. If it was really ok for all of you to live the way you do. I don't really care about that sort of thing and I told her outright that I didn't. We all eat well. We do whatever we want. That's really good enough for me."
  469. >"Anything else?"
  470. >She can probably tell there's more to it
  471. >She can read your mind better than Shine, at this point
  472. "She does not, in fact, admire the headbutting."
  473. >She giggles in response
  474. >Quite a dark little giggle, isn't it?
  475. >"That's fine."
  476. "That's fine?"
  477. >"That's fine. She does enough stuff to deserve it."
  478. "That's quite a dark streak, Jack."
  479. >"Well, apparently that sort of thing works on you. So maybe... I gotta learn a little to stay on top."
  480. >You aren't sure if your pride is hurt more than your heart
  481. "That sort of thing didn't work on me."
  482. >"No, but..."
  483. >She trails off
  484. >You can feel her body tense just enough to let you know that she's in deep thought
  485. >"...I guess we drank a lot, huh..."
  486. "Yeah..."
  487. >That's right
  488. >A very convenient excuse is how much you drank
  489. >The proof is in how much of the bottle is now empty
  490. >It isn't satisfactory but it is true
  491. >"I'm going to headbutt her."
  492. "Jack, don't."
  493. >"Why shouldn't I?"
  494. "Because... to be honest, I can't think of a reason right now."
  495. >It's true
  496. >She kinda does deserve it
  497. >You really can't defend that sort of thing, even if it only happened to you
  498. >As if it happening to you makes it less of an offense
  499. >"I guess that's a good enough reason... for now."
  500. "You aren't gonna headbutt her then?"
  501. >"No. I will. I just have to think of a new reason."
  502. "Didn't take you for a violent sort."
  503. >"I guess call me territorial?"
  505. "Thankfully headbutting is all you do to mark your territory."
  506. >"For now."
  507. >...oh boy
  508. >You clear your throat and fail to realize the extra strength you put into your fingers
  509. "Are you mad?"
  510. >"Define "mad"."
  511. "Use whatever definition you want."
  512. >Jackenstein tilts her head to the side
  513. >You react appropriately by rubbing the base and back of her ear
  514. >"...I guess I can't be. I want to be. I kinda am gloating. But it's not like... it's malicious."
  515. "There's such a thing as non-malicious gloating?"
  516. >"I hope so."
  517. "So she was right... you remember that one time I got out of the shower with just a towel?"
  518. >"I remember the last time..."
  519. "Heh..."
  520. >It was nice
  521. >Very nice
  522. "Did you... do any weird gestures or eye contact then? Was she around to see?"
  523. >"I don't know. Maybe."
  524. "Maybe?"
  525. >"I don't remember, I guess."
  526. "Now you're just being obtuse."
  527. >Silence
  528. >Your hands have ventured down to her belly
  529. >You don't particularly mind if she's not being completely honest at the moment
  530. >But you don't really care either
  531. >The tone shows
  532. >For both of you
  533. >This is something worth talking over
  534. >And it is certainly important
  535. >But it doesn't matter
  536. >Neither of you are going to give up the other without a bloody fight
  537. >Literally, if so required
  538. >"I guess I might have taunted her or something."
  539. "See? That didn't take much."
  540. >It isn't unrealistic that you might not have noticed
  541. >It's downright not surprising that your focus was far more local
  542. >You can blame her for that
  543. >"Can you blame me? She has magic. And I have... my own magic."
  544. >Your petting and touching evolves into a hug
  545. >A tight hug
  546. "I guess so..."
  547. >She truly does not sound bothered by this at all
  548. >You really can't imagine doing all of this to Shine
  549. >They both just feel so differently
  550. "Mind if next time we drink, it's not around her?"
  551. >"Worried she might kiss you again?"
  552. "I'm worried she might do more next time."
  553. >"Wouldn't you be able to stop her?"
  554. >Would you?
  555. >It would take a severe amount for you to drink to the point you lack any bodily autonomy
  556. >No matter how you look at it, you are still responsible for yourself, even when you aren't at your best
  557. >You hesitate to answer
  558. >But not for the reason anyone might think
  559. >She doesn't seem to react
  560. "If I'm at that level of drunk again... if I did, I would probably end up headbutting her, myself. Or worse."
  561. >"Then do what you need to. She can create stuff out of nothing with just a thought... why do we have to be afraid of that? Or act like it doesn't put the rest of us at a handicap?"
  562. "You're mad."
  563. >"I'm not mad."
  564. >She has been doing her best to hide it but you can hear a small sharp edge of anger in her tone
  565. >You tighten her hug
  566. "I'll do better."
  567. >"It's not about you doing better, Anon..."
  568. >She throws her head back, puckering her lips for a kiss
  569. >You oblige
  570. >That is a feel and taste you are far more familiar with
  571. >"Let's just think of a way to block her. If it gets worse... then we can make a huge deal out of it and get everyone involved and be loud. But for now...?"
  573. "For now?"
  574. >"I don't care. She's my sister... but you're mine. And I'm yours. Besides, I want to talk about something."
  575. >"What's on your mind?
  576. >"I want to relax, while it's just the two of us. And I want to think of names for the family.... just in case."
  577. "The family...?"
  578. >Does this mean...?
  579. >Of course not
  580. >It's just idle talk
  581. >Same as everything else you talk about that hasn't yet happened
  582. "You got it, Pepperjack."
  583. >Not even five sentences into the conversation, your eyes start to droop
  584. >You can't help but feel tired when you have this mare in your arms
  585. >Her scent
  586. >Her feel
  587. >Certainly her taste when applicable
  588. >It is a deep sense of comfort that leads to you getting so soul weary
  589. >You feel rested after but it has to be something
  590. >There has to be a reason for it
  591. >You just can't put your hands on it
  594. "Alright, ready?"
  595. >"Born ready."
  596. >You decided on having another date night with Jack
  597. >Rather than go out or do anything fancy, it was decided that some delicious fast food and a drive would be best
  598. >A new layer of snow coated everything so it is... at least a little more picturesque and romantic
  599. >A little
  600. >While ordering, you voiced your own desires while Jacky did her own options
  601. >By chance or some other force, you ordered nearly the same thing
  602. >Four baked potatoes between the two of you, each one with different toppings
  603. >You can already imagine that it'll be a little bit of a share fest
  604. >Baked potato with cheese and bacon does sound good though...
  605. >And because you ordered one, she didn't
  606. >Oh well
  607. >You roll up to the window, both of you having let out all of the evil giggles beforehand
  608. >Despite the sun having long set, you fit your shades on her head
  609. >They're a little awkward but they absolutely do the job
  610. >"Order for Mr. and Mrs. Anon, right?"
  611. "Yup, that's us."
  612. >"Alright! So here are your..."
  613. >The hapless service industry employee finally looks at what must surely be his most interesting customer of the night
  614. >"...drinks...?"
  615. >You and Jack stare at him with a blank expression
  616. >The fact that her expression is blank, jaw slightly lowered and eyebrows raised ever so just points that she isn't merely any yellow pony
  617. >She even has her seatbelt on
  618. "Groovy."
  619. >The humble fry merchant doesn't know what to say
  620. >"A... ah... y-yeah."
  621. >Already visibly confused, he hands you both drinks
  622. >One is some lemonade-tea mixture
  623. >The other is some sort of lemonade-and-pineapple-juice blend
  624. >As with the potatoes, it will probably be a fair trade of who wants to drink what
  625. >"Hey, fly boy don't forget the straws!"
  626. >Jacky barks out as soon as the poor lad turns his back to you
  627. >He spins around, already on edge
  628. >"S-sir?"
  629. "What's up?"
  630. >You furrow your brow as if you didn't hear her
  631. >By God her poker face is amazing
  632. >"Uh... s-straws. Yeah, they'll be in your bag. Do you want any extra condiments?"
  633. "Sure, yeah, I'll take some extra pepper and a few extra butters if that's alright."
  634. >"Yeah, right on, that's not a problem."
  635. >"Can you add some salt too? My husband forgot to bring that up, AGAIN."
  636. >For added flavor, she added a little saltiness to her tone
  637. >Like he's trying to catch us in the act of... something, he spins so hard he doesn't have the immediate reflex to stop himself from almost tipping over
  638. >"Ma'am?"
  639. "What's up?"
  640. >As if you're just as perplexed as he is, you look back at Jack
  641. >And your back seats
  642. >Of course, it's as empty as can be except for a pillow and a neatly folded up blanket
  643. >Rather than poke the proverbial bear, he shakes his head and gets to the bags
  644. >After both are given over, he squints at the shade-wearing pony
  645. >"Hey, uh... sir? Were you making those noises? Or was that pony talking?"
  646. "Me? Nooo...? I don't think so."
  647. >You look over at Jack
  648. "How about you, dear? Did you say something?"
  649. >You lean over just enough and lift off her shades
  651. >With the shades gone, the lad gets an eyeful of Jacky's well-practiced death squint
  652. >"Does it look like I can talk to you?"
  653. >The stone cold dead serious tone in her voice is enough to make you drool
  654. >You look back at the employee
  655. >Who is either in the middle of shitting his pants or may have taken a few tokes too many before his shift
  656. "Nah, she didn't say anything."
  657. >The uniformed sap doesn't have the capacity to speak
  658. "Anyway, thanks! Have a good one."
  659. >With that, you push down on the gas and lurch forward without giving him a chance to further process the event
  660. >Once you're back on the road, both of you let out with the most righteous of laughter
  661. >You aren't particularly a sadist
  662. >Not outside of certain playful circumstances, anyhow
  663. >You're willing to make an exception for this
  664. >"Did you see his face?!"
  665. "You absolute nightmare! I was expecting you go to "nah, that wasn't me", but that's even better. That's such a bold route to go."
  666. >Jack beams with the smell of success and baked potatoes
  667. >You could almost argue those are the healthiest you can eat at a fast food place, since the salads are all drenched in sauces
  668. >You don't care to eat what your food eats, anyway
  669. "Ahh... that was great."
  670. >"Next time we should get the others to join in. Really ramp it up."
  671. "Ha! Yeah, with a bit of magic, we'll cause more than just a few heart palpitations."
  672. >You ruffle her mane with your free hand and she leans into it
  673. >For the date night she had her mane styled into a set of twin tails
  674. >It really fits her well
  675. "That was really nice. And I have a decent place where we can enjoy these too. There's a sort of hill up here near a hiking trail."
  676. >"We aren't gonna have to walk around in the dark, are we?"
  677. "Hell no, bonita caballo. We're gonna stay in where it's safe and, more importantly, warm."
  678. >Speaking of, the roads are pretty sparse so it's easy driving
  679. "But what's cool is that the trail itself dips down into a pretty decent-sized lake. We might not be able to see all of it but nothing's stopping us from parking just right so we get the best view."
  680. >"Awesome! Have you ever gone on the trail?"
  681. >You shrug
  682. >It's an awkward one, since obviously you haven't ever gone on a trail ever since Jack popped up
  683. "Once? It was one of those really flaccid attempts at me trying to live a normal life. It was alright but my legs were kinda sore, the ground was uneven all over, and it actually didn't do a good job at helping me relax my mind."
  684. >"Oh yeah... I can see that. You tend to kinda wanna just turn into a statue and look at me, right?"
  685. "...well, you're not wrong?"
  686. >You'd grumble more if it wasn't true
  687. >But it is
  688. >You don't particularly leer at her or anything weird
  689. >She's just...
  690. >Really pleasing on the eyes
  691. "But yeah. It's kinda just one of those things. You try out, see if you truly do like it... and it just seems kinda silly to do on your own. A lot does, you know?"
  692. >"Yeah. I can't see myself wanting to wander around in the wilderness with no one around me."
  694. "Exactly. Maybe if I had earbuds in or something, or prepared better in having water with me or something but... I don't know. I used to be such an outdoorsman."
  695. >"When was that?"
  696. "Eh, when I was a kid. Back when I had family to do things with."
  697. >"Little Anon... you know, I bet we would have been able to go out a lot if we knew each other back then."
  698. "You think so?"
  699. >"Absolutely. We've always been like two peas in a pod, right? Well I was outdoors for almost all of my life. And I would have really liked having a boyfriend, even if I never thought about it."
  700. "Ha... think Prism would've allowed it to get that far?"
  701. >"Oh yeah..."
  702. >That seemed to have sucked the air out of her, given her admission came out like a deflating balloon
  703. >"Well... if you were little Anon and I were still me, now, I'd take you for a few trips out. Kinda like walking a dog! Walking my pet guy."
  704. "Could I ride you?"
  705. >"Which way?"
  706. >That snap, instant answer causes you to smile
  707. >It takes a few moments of silence for her to clear her throat and fish for one of the straws in the bag
  708. >In between of chewing away the paper and blowing the rest off, she headbutts one of the cups like a furry mosquito and gulps down what has to be a quarter of the already-sizable containers
  709. >Only after finishing does she clear her throat again
  710. >"...didn't mean it like that, by the way."
  711. "Sure you did."
  712. >"Did not."
  713. "I am very confident in your subtext, Jackonomicon."
  714. >"You're very confident in driving for being in bucking distance, mister."
  715. "Yeah? What kind?"
  716. >Your jovial tone is too much for her
  717. >"The kind that leads to you wishing I skipped leg day."
  718. >The interstate you were on eventually tapers off to an exit
  719. >With no one on the road, most of your attention is on the conversation
  720. "Leg day? Almost any given day, you're a lap mare, pillow pony or otherwise move a whopping fifty steps throughout the entire day. And that includes any random pacing around while talking."
  721. >"Yeah, and I'm all leg! Besides, I still practice."
  722. "You practice what, headbutting unicorns and bucking guys?"
  723. >"Unicorn, singnular. And guy, singular. And also flattening your pillows."
  724. >So that explains why your usually fluffy pillows end up smelling like intimate Jack and flat as a pancake
  725. >That... is quite scary, if true
  726. "Well I'll have you know that if you keep doing that, I will prefer to rest my head on those instead of you."
  727. >"I'm supposed to complain if that happens?"
  728. "Probably. Otherwise I got no leverage to tease you over."
  729. >"Yeah well maybe I should start doing the teasing now."
  730. "That's very un-Ma-like, you know."
  731. >"Don't you remember? She's all for playful teasing and ribbing."
  732. "I don't think I would call it 'ribbing', with what you tend to do..."
  733. >When's the last time the two of you have been able to talk so freely and openly?
  734. >You do so at home but you and she are always used to having other listeners
  735. >Sometimes that stops you
  736. >But only sometimes
  737. >Conscientiousness comes and goes in waves
  739. >After a few more turns, you start to slow
  740. >Sure enough, an entire parking lot is covered in a few inches of snow
  741. >With no other cars around
  742. "There we go. Now if I park over... here..."
  743. >Going more off of memory than the surprisingly well-luminated night, you find the right angle
  744. >It still astonishes you to this day that a snowscape is so easy to see in at night
  745. >It really is uncanny
  746. >There is too thick a wall of trees to properly see through but there are slivers of frozen lake at the bottom
  747. >Of course, due to the car seats, it isn't like Jack can reliably see forward and down that far
  748. "And vee-ola, date spot secured."
  749. >Jack giggles and unbuckles her seatbelt
  750. >Her hooves are more dexterous than you give her credit for
  751. >It's good that she can find a way to manage with things meant for human hands
  752. >"And date food hot and ready!"
  753. "Hell yeah, let's get to it."
  754. >You pull your seat back and undo your own belt
  755. >Though it's hardly the ideal vehicle for man and mare eating, you make do
  756. >As fun as it was to talk, both of you are hungry and treat the potatoes like a mobile feast
  757. >Whatever you chomp away at, Jack goes for something else
  758. >Neither of you eat more than half of any one potato
  759. >If Jack finishes her half fast enough, she'll watch you and wait for you to hand feed her
  760. >Rather than some ravenous mess, it's a sort of... mutual event
  761. >You don't particularly mind that she doesn't use any utensils
  762. >Or that a tiny bit of bacon bit was stuck to her lips
  763. >She doesn't mind you occasionally you pulling your fork away at the last second
  764. >Up until the third of fourth time, anyway
  765. >The way she opens her mouth and sticks out her tongue is more than enough to defeat you
  766. >Doubly so if she lets out a "good boy" between chews
  767. >Sometimes it is a horse-rides-man sort of world
  768. >Like a tail wagging the dog
  769. >But less weird sounding
  770. >Maybe
  771. >With three of the four potatoes appropriately done and dusted in record time, you both relax into the seats
  772. >"That was nice... thanks for taking me out, Anon. It really does feel special to go out. But... I also now recognize that the farther out we go, the longer it takes to get back home..."
  773. "Yeah... that's for true. Do you already miss it?"
  774. >"Kinda, actually. Never had a solid home before, so whenever we go out... I'm not afraid of never going back? But I'm excited to see the building Even if we're just in the hallways, I know that I'm so close to your bed. My bed. OUR bed. And our other stuff. And our dorks."
  775. "Our dorks?"
  776. >"Yeah."
  777. "You're one of said dorks, you know. You're one of the dorkiest that exist."
  778. >"Be lucky I'm full or I would get on top of you and show you what a dork does when she's mad."
  779. >You chortle
  780. "You're mad?"
  781. >"No. But I could really act it. And then you'd be sorry."
  782. "You'd have to try really hard for me to be sorry. Dork."
  784. >"Bahhhh..."
  785. >She twists as if to humor the thought of climbing over to your side
  786. >But the twin drinks are in the way
  787. >"...dammit."
  788. >Picking up on her boggle, you grab both drinks and raise them up
  789. >With your legs open and your seat leaned back, you make for a rather decent makeshift mattress
  790. >Taking her chance, she hops over to you
  791. >Thankfully the first hooves to touch down go between your legs and her weight goes to the seat rather than you
  792. >In a less than smooth motion, she crashes onto you, sitting on your lap and kicking out her hind legs so they go to either side of you
  793. "There we go. Better?"
  794. >"Better."
  795. >You drink out of one cup and offer her the other
  796. >She shakes her head and you set down the neglected drink
  797. >Only after do you finish your drink does she decide she wants your drink
  798. >So you let her drain the rest
  799. >With the other cup set down, your hands go down to hold her by the flanks
  800. "You know, you aren't exactly looking at the lake."
  801. >"And what do I need to look at a lake for?"
  802. "Just sayin', it looks nice. And you don't get to see that sort of thing every day."
  803. >"Sparky's been playing that new game with the horse riding, I see a lot of lakes in that already."
  804. >She stretches and brings her front hooves up to your shoulders
  805. >To be perfectly fair, you aren't looking at the lake either
  806. "That... is a fair point."
  807. >"Mmmm...hmmm..."
  808. >The look on her face tells you that she feels absolutely sublime
  809. >Outside of using the GPS on your phone, you've kept it completely silent
  810. >Though the only ones likely to contact you would be the other two
  811. "So... heads up. If we happen to get too tired, we may end up napping out here."
  812. >Looking you square in the eye, her smile widens
  813. >"Then you better keep me warm. Right?"
  814. "Well I have that blanket back there too and..."
  815. >She decides to cut you off with a kiss
  816. >You quite happily return the gesture
  817. >The night isn't that cold, but even with the engine turned off the windows end up fogging over
  818. >If you end up too tired and require too much rest, you can just call in tomorrow
  819. >As long as some yeti or car-busting bear doesn't pop up
  821. "Ahh... crap."
  822. >"You died."
  823. "Shut it."
  824. >New night
  825. >New game
  826. >New territory to explore
  827. >You aren't sure if you've changed, or if your gaming habits have
  828. >You focus far more on exploring
  829. >Finding a target
  830. >Bashing your head against it until you quit for the night
  831. >You retry another day
  832. >And win
  833. >You're currently at the "quit for the night" stage
  834. >You and Shine switch places, so she's sitting in front of the TV and you're closer to the laptop
  835. >You feel drained
  836. >Physically, at least
  837. >As trifling as it is, you enjoy the accomplishment from games
  838. >You're drained enough to not mind that she drags yourself across your lap rather than go behind you
  839. >She really is something else sometimes
  840. >"Well, I'm going to get into my character then. I think I've made more progress than you... but I haven't been exploring that much."
  841. "Yeah well you're focusing on sorceries. I can't imagine armor or any new type of sword matters to you."
  842. >She did good at making a character
  843. >Took her over an hour to do too
  844. >Even better, she refuses to use any sort of headgear that obscures her face
  845. >You noisily yawn and move to lay down
  846. >You grab a pillow and set that up as a headrest... and propped up at an angle against the unicorn to act a bit as a barrier
  847. >"Are you tired already?"
  848. "Yeah, man. Working does that to a guy."
  849. >"Jacky should be in here to help you relax."
  850. "Nah, it's alright. She's watching ponies with Prism."
  851. >You let out another melodic yawn
  852. >It is that sort of yawn where you exhale too sharply and cause your chest to sting
  853. >"Any real reason?"
  854. "Yeah. She wants us to have some sort of group adventures, like they do."
  855. >"Is she still hung up on... what is it, impressions?"
  856. "Not more than usual, and don't diss her attempts to sound like Harley Quinn."
  857. >"Is that what you call a loud, yappy bimbo?"
  858. >You inhale and smile
  859. "Oh hell yeah I do. She has talent, I hope she continues to improve it."
  860. >"Ya-all better... knot... try to be lamer than... a dick that ain't a swimmer no more?"
  861. >You roll your head up
  862. >She's embarrassed but she's focusing on the game well enough
  863. "...alright, points for effort."
  864. >"Hell yeah."
  865. "Like... two point. Out of a hundred."
  866. >"You exist to torture me on the physical, mental and emotional level. I hope you know this."
  867. "Yeah, I do. You're welcome."
  868. >"Asshat."
  869. "I have yet to willingly do that, as of now."
  870. >You close your eyes
  871. >Everything feels nice
  872. >Sounds of video games going on
  873. >The further off tune of two dorks singing about winter wrapping up
  874. >This really is the sort of good life, isn't it?
  875. >"So what's her plan?"
  876. >Your first answer is another yawn
  877. >You're losing a lot of strength
  878. "She wants us to go on some quests, each relating to the elements of harmony. She said that D&D is to blame, but she also said that she wants to do stuff so we all continue to grow."
  879. >"Seriously?"
  880. "Don't look at me, man. You're the one who keeps bragging about improvement whenever you level up."
  882. >"Don't get snarky with me, Anon. How am I not supposed to get excited when I gain access to a new level of spells?"
  883. "It's not that."
  884. >"Yeah it is."
  885. "No, I remember you distinctly going "ha ha ha, dumb barbarian, I'm going to steal your boyfriend now". And I can only presume you're talking about that border patrol leader guy who's become an official part of the party."
  886. >Dammit, you're yawning far too much
  887. "And he isn't even that. It's literally just a guy I added to your team so you have something of a guide. And so combat will be easier since two of you are pretty squishy."
  888. >"But you do voice him."
  889. "Bruh, I voice everyone, including those goblins you basically napalmed while they were inside of their own cave."
  890. >A dark giggle dances to your ears from above
  891. >"I guess you can blame the alcohol."
  892. >She's pretty sneaky
  893. >Jack is happy to just roll dice and keeps going for aimed shots
  894. >Prism prefers to focus on positioning and takes advantage of the related rules as much as she can
  895. >But Shiner?
  896. >Alcohol is a convenient fire booster
  897. >Candles are more favored than lanterns because open flame
  898. >Bottles of acid are used opportunistically when Jacky is locked or grappled with an enemy to melt weapons and armor
  899. >She's...
  900. >Creative
  901. >You'll give her that
  902. "Whatever, man. Are you just gonna throw down your summon sign all night?"
  903. >"Yeah. It's the quickest way to get to where I can level up more."
  904. "There are a few better ways to grind."
  905. >"What?! Liar."
  906. >She sounds almost offended that you would mention a better way
  907. "It's true. Twenty thousand without having to kill anything, renewed by the bonfire."
  908. >"Tell me."
  909. "No way."
  910. >There we go
  911. >You hear that loud, aggressive sigh
  912. >You haven't heard her that angry in a long while
  913. >Presuming she's actually angry and not just hoping that will trigger some sort of instinct for you to apologize
  914. >All the same, you don't reply to it
  915. >Maybe yet another yawn, but nothing to acknowledge it
  916. >She lets out the sigh, but even louder
  917. >Nope
  918. >You aren't taking that uniquely female bait
  919. >Ponies or humans, they both know that little trick
  920. >"I said..."
  921. >You can hear her whispering near your ear
  922. >Here we go
  923. >You brace yourself
  924. >"Uuuhhhh~"
  925. >...
  926. >....
  927. >Your stone face prevails but you are not fond of how off guard that got you
  928. >"...yup, you're still awake. That wouldn't have happened if you were really asleep."
  929. "Shut up."
  930. >God damn it
  931. "What's up? What do you want?"
  932. >"Well when you put it like that..."
  933. >Here we go
  934. >You fully expect her to say "nothing"
  935. >With how she's been acting, you fully expect that
  936. >She's been in one of those "I want to be a pain, so I will" moods
  937. >"Silly question-"
  938. "Silly answer."
  939. >"Silence."
  940. >You chortle at the authority in her voice
  941. >"You know, you don't need to lay on a pillow when I'm right here."
  942. "Nah, that's alright."
  943. >"You do it with Jack."
  944. "I know."
  945. >"So is it really that big a deal?"
  946. "Not to me."
  947. >"So why don't you want to give it a shot?"
  949. "Because you're playing a game we both are having difficulties with and outside of your angry yet comical outbursts, you're probably going to be all jittery and twitchy meaning that my head could drop and that would probably wake me up and I would prefer to not have that."
  950. >"...oh."
  951. >She doesn't sound like she was expecting a thoughtful answer like that
  952. >"Well... I guess sorry to disappoint you but progress trumps you."
  953. "I'm heartbroken. Truly."
  954. >"I'll make it up to you."
  955. "I suppose so..."
  956. >You can feel yourself slipping further
  957. >"You know, I've noticed that sometimes... if you're tired enough, you kinda act drunk."
  958. "Imagine if I were both."
  959. >You flinch at the feeling of someone leaning over you
  960. >"It would be really easy.... you know."
  961. >You refuse to reply
  962. >"...nah. You look tired."
  963. >Stunning deduction, Ms. Holmes
  964. >"Next time, though... muah~"
  965. >She puckers her lips and smooches the air
  966. "Yeah... I'll make sure to redirect it to Jack. At that point..."
  967. >One last yawn to cap off your mounting fatigue
  968. >"At that point what?"
  969. >You feel at peace
  970. >Comfy
  971. >A little thirsty but you'll drink something later
  972. >"Hey... at that point, what?"
  973. >You can feel yourself easing into your spot in bed
  974. >"Hey, dumbass. Tell me or I'll burn you."
  975. "I guess that'll suck for me. Rev up the dry, flavorless Anon jerky that I am to become."
  976. >No further words or comments from her
  977. >"Hey, Anon!"
  978. >Jack?
  979. >It sounds like her
  980. >You hear her voice again after countless hours that comes from exploring alien realms where time is convoluted
  981. >"I wanna lay on you while I do something. Y'ain't gonna mind, right?"
  982. >Y'ain't?
  983. >You've heard that as a meme but not so much as a genuine word to use
  984. "Go for it."
  985. >You feel a mare-shaped weight rest on your body
  986. >It doesn't feel like Jack
  987. >You must have been doing really well at work, to be so strong that her weight no longer feels as dense
  988. >"Heh. Thanks. Now get some rest. Don't mind me none, alright?"
  989. "Mmm."
  990. >Sure
  991. >You have no reason to deny your Jack to rest on you
  992. >Good thing she'll keep an eye on Sparkler
  994. >Jacktober called a meeting for the night
  995. >It's a first but it isn't like you have anything better to do
  996. >Everyone's in the living room, sitting or laying on a pillow or blanket
  997. >It's such a... organized mess
  998. >Apparently everyone has their own favorite textures and colors because there are a few distinct piles
  999. >"Alright, I got a plan!"
  1000. >Apparently she made some headway with those harmony quests
  1001. >Prism nods with pride
  1002. >"And I helped refine her ideas to be the best. I think we'll all enjoy them."
  1003. >Shine doesn't seem to care either way
  1004. >You had to tug her away from the computer since she valued grinding for levels more valuable than group quests to master the elements of harmony
  1005. >Except not really
  1006. "So there are six, right? Is there a specific order we're going to stick with?"
  1007. >Jacky points at you as if you asked The Question
  1008. >"No! But great answer, Anon. Since they're all six of them and we're only three."
  1009. "Three?"
  1010. >"Sorry but you don't count since you're not a pony."
  1011. >Just the slightest of hints of southern twang
  1012. >Apparently she's channeling Ma
  1013. "...that's brutal. Am I still included?"
  1014. >"Well of course! But you're gonna get a special role."
  1015. >That's comforting
  1016. "That's nice at least. so what's the plan?"
  1017. >Jacky looks down at a piece of paper that has... what you can only presume are notes
  1018. >You hope that you can't read them just because it's upside down and not because it's hurried pen scratches
  1019. >"...hold on..."
  1020. >"Can I opt out on some of them?"
  1021. >"No, Sparking. You're a part of us and magic won't save you from most of these."
  1022. >"Wait, it won't?"
  1023. >"No."
  1024. >"Crap..."
  1025. "If I can't opt out, you certainly can't Sparkler."
  1026. >"I remember now!"
  1027. >Jacky blurts out, causing all of the small talk to wither away
  1028. >"So, we have six elements, right? So we're gonna have six different days of stuff! They ain't gonna all be one after another but they're gonna be big deals. So maybe one a week?"
  1029. >Oh boy
  1030. >That's ambitious
  1031. "What are we gonna do for them?"
  1032. >"Well that's the fun part, near everything! For honesty, we're gonna have truth or dare. You can't get more honest than that, it's a part of the rules."
  1033. >Prism respectfully nods to that
  1034. >She must have been the one to pick out that particular challenge
  1035. >"For kindness, we're... uh..."
  1036. >The mare looks down at her paper
  1037. >...
  1038. >And squints at it
  1039. >"The heck? That wasn't the final idea..."
  1040. >The mumbling may as well be room volume since there's nothing to hide behind
  1041. >"Wait, no, there's it! For Kindness we're gonna split that up into a few chunks of the day where everyone does what one wants for... like six hours? So it's gonna be a full day, boot up for that."
  1042. >That sounds... impractical
  1043. >Shine groans at that
  1044. >"So what, are we not even allowed to sleep? How can we do what you want if we're dead tired?"
  1045. >That one question causes Jack's ears to go flat against her head
  1046. >"...oh... that is true, ain't it..."
  1048. "Why not have it be seven hours each, over two days? That way that's fourteen hours used up, ten to relax, sleep, do whatever."
  1049. >"Alright, yup, we're going with that one instead. Good call."
  1050. "Thank you."
  1051. >Ever the foil, Shine deflates with an annoyed "ugh"
  1052. >"Two days?"
  1053. "Oh shush, you'll be fine. You're basically a NEET anyway."
  1054. >"What did you call me?"
  1055. >"Hey, I'm not done yet!"
  1056. >Jack gives both of us a death squint
  1057. >It works on even Shine
  1058. >This time
  1059. >"...alright. Two days, fine."
  1060. >Like night and day she beams with pride
  1061. >"Yeah! So that's two. Three is laughter! And for that we're... uh... gonna try to make each other laugh?"
  1062. >A few glances down to the paper confirms that is really all she had in mind with it
  1063. >"It's hard to get specific with that."
  1064. >Prism chips in
  1065. >She was probably just as stumped
  1066. "So what, like an open mic night? Or just watching goofy movies until we find something we all like?"
  1067. >"Yeah, that's what I meant! You were reading my mind, thanks sugarcube!"
  1068. >Was that really her idea?
  1069. >That twang is starting to come out that much harder
  1070. >"So next is generosity, so obviously that means that we share."
  1071. >...
  1072. >...
  1073. >...
  1074. >Crickets
  1075. >"I forgot about that one... Jacky, what exactly are we sharing...?"
  1076. >Prism speaks low, apparently ashamed to have forgotten
  1077. >There's no immediate reply
  1078. >As if the answer just popped into her head, she stomped her hoof down on one of her pillows
  1079. >"By whatever there is to share! Time, hobbies, sleeping pillow..."
  1080. "You'd want to share sleeping pillows?"
  1081. >"Anything!"
  1082. >That doesn't get a lot of reactions
  1083. >For the gravitas of a "group meeting", you get the feeling that Jack just wants to make this something fancy sounding
  1084. >Only Prism is really trying to act like it was a decision by committee
  1085. "For how long?"
  1086. >Jack looks over you and the other two
  1087. >After a stern expression she just shrugs
  1088. >"Iunno."
  1089. >Somehow you aren't that surprised
  1090. >"Anywho, next is loyalty!"
  1091. >The only faces you see that is into that idea is Jacky herself
  1092. "What's that gonna be like?"
  1093. >"We tell one another a really personal secret that we ain't never told anyone else, and then we're gonna try to guess what it is! Bribing is allowed but if you accept, you fail."
  1094. >"And why wouldn't we just take the bribe?"
  1095. >Spark asks the obvious with an exasperated tone
  1096. >"Because if you do, we ALL tell the secrets you told so we all know them, and you don't get to tell any secrets."
  1097. >For some reason, that makes Prism relax
  1098. >But it makes Shine more... uncomfortable
  1099. "That's pretty harsh. I like it."
  1100. >You really can't be bribed so you don't mind that promise of consequence
  1101. >"Sounds awesome so far, right? Well the last one is magic!"
  1102. >All eyes instinctually go to Shine
  1103. >She gives a sour frown and shrugs
  1104. >"And? Why are you all looking at me? I'm not some shiny, perfect main character that can conveniently control everything."
  1105. >Prism and Jack look away like they were half expecting that to actually be the case
  1106. >"... I ain't gonna say that was it but..."
  1108. >Poor Jack sounds downtrodden
  1109. "Why not... a talent show or something?"
  1110. >That seems to lift the mood
  1111. >"What does that have to do with magic, Anon?"
  1112. >Jack doesn't seem to catch on
  1113. "Well, think about it this way. Street magic is magic, right? And street magic is a skill. Rather than a skill show, we have a talent show. Which means we all try to show off a neat skill and we vote on who wins? That's technically finding magic. In a romantic sense."
  1114. >It sounds goofy
  1115. >But it makes sense to you
  1116. >Plus the idea of using magic and street magic specifically made you think of the hobo unicorn that spoke in the third person
  1117. >You wouldn't say that to Jack but that is a cute mare too
  1118. >"Honestly... I like that idea. Only one of us can use true magic. But what's wrong with some sleight of hoof? That is basically magic if you can't figure out how something was done."
  1119. >Prism sounds dubious, but on board
  1120. >Enough on board where the idea is picking up traction
  1121. >"If Dashie's ok with that, well then I am too!"
  1122. >"So if I just use normal magic, can I win?"
  1123. >The three of you immediately answer with a solid "no"
  1124. "Absolutely not. You use magic on a daily basis, it's more like a natural ability than a special talent. Like how I don't have a talent for driving a car, it's just a daily thing I do."
  1125. >Little more is said on that
  1126. >"So... which one did you say was first, Jacky?"
  1127. >Prism tries to nudge the presenter along
  1128. >She must have stopped using the paper, every glance down is met with a worried grimace
  1129. >You don't think you can blame her
  1130. >Especially if she got so loud
  1131. >"That's a good one... how about we do something easy this weekend and do honesty? Truth and dare for a few rounds sounds fun."
  1132. "Works for me."
  1133. >"Then it's settled!"
  1134. >Jack stops her hoof down again like it's a gavel
  1135. >Apparently all she needed was you approval
  1136. >Makes sense, given you're the only one with responsibilities tied to the outside world
  1137. >Prism stands and bows
  1138. >"Thank you for the meeting. Jacky will be taking questions now."
  1139. >...
  1140. >...
  1141. >...
  1142. >You let out a loud yawn
  1143. >For some reason all of the socializing takes place at night
  1144. >Makes sense, given your work schedule
  1145. >"No? Good. Anon, come on, I gotta grind out more levels."
  1146. >Like nothing of value was gained or lost, Shine stands up, flicks her tail up and trots off back to your room
  1147. "Well, I'm looking forward to it."
  1148. >"Thanks! I'm still wanting to play out more specific. Prism said she would help me and when we finish we're gonna be so cool!"
  1149. "In that case..."
  1150. >You lay down and set your head on the unoccupied pile of fabrics and pillows
  1151. >It does indeed smell strongly of Sparking Shine
  1152. "Let me listen on in until I fall asleep."
  1153. >"Deal! So Dashie, about the talent show, I was thinking..."
  1154. >You listen to them brainstorm
  1155. >Even though this is all equal mares giving it their own shot, they certainly make it sound like they have some sort of complex joint operation planned out
  1157. >You try to listen to it more but you end up drifting off too hard
  1158. >You have the talent show in the bag
  1159. >You know a ton of cool things that would probably get up in at least the top three places
  1160. >Maybe you'll pick up a few showtime secrets
  1161. >Or something
  1162. >For as long as you remained up, you couldn't recall a single detail about what happens after all of the elements are gathered
  1163. >It must be something pretty good
  1164. >Maybe there's a seventh challenge...
  1165. >If so, you don't want to act like Discord or some sort of villain
  1166. >Not unless Jack is the princess you get to capture
  1171. >"DO IT."
  1172. "FUCK."
  1173. >"JUMP IT YOU ASS."
  1175. >"FUCK IT RAW!"
  1176. >Everything in your world has narrowed down to your monitor
  1177. >You've spent all day playing your game of the month
  1178. >In the last five hours, you've completely eclipsed Shine's progress and she doesn't even have a job
  1179. >Due to the gravity of the situation, and to help boost morale and hype points, Shine started playing music on your laptop
  1180. >The Anon household tends to be very energy consuming, given all of the electronics on at almost all hours
  1181. >What started as mellow background music somehow turned into Welcome To The Jungle
  1182. >It was too loud for your tastes after a while, so you decided to turn up the game volume
  1183. >That led to Shine turning up the music volume
  1184. >That went back and forth until the entire apartment shook with thunderous roars of a lava-borne dragon with a stone cleaver and of your own character's anguished screams...
  1185. >And the blasting music that ranged from power metal, to old rock, to dubstep
  1186. "LAST ONE. EAT IT!"
  1187. >"CHOKE ON IT!"
  1188. >slash
  1189. >The chunky, metallic sound that comes from landing the killing blow leads to the symphonic harmony of a man and a mare screaming a bloody, victory cry
  1191. >Shine joins you in a low, guttural HOAH
  1192. >The wyrm's body turns to dust on the last riff of the guitar
  1193. >With that, you lean back completely
  1194. >You're done
  1195. >Nearly a full day of playing this has led to at least a tenth of your hair turning grey
  1196. >Your nerves are so completely fried that you couldn't write your name on a piece of paper if you were paid to
  1197. >"Holy hell Anon, I'm pretty sure you were going to die again."
  1198. "I'm pretty sure I did just now... gah."
  1199. >Now that you've had a chance to breathe... the apartment is absolutely mad with sound
  1200. >You've already gotten one noise complaint for the month
  1201. >Not that is anything particularly new, but still
  1202. >Drunk on accomplishment and lack of hydration, you use the last of your strength to pause the music
  1203. >Shine sighs at the audio blasting having come to an end and taps her hoof down on the speaker remote until the volume isn't ear-piercingly loud
  1204. "Holy shit... I haven't had that intense a sweat while sitting in one spot since I was pulled over for speeding when I was smuggling guns but he just gave me a warning on my registration being a year out of date."
  1205. >Shine looks at you like you just told her that you used to choke your pet chicken
  1206. >"...what?"
  1207. "Exactly. I'm fucking wiped, where's my drink."
  1208. >Your favorite vodka bottle, coated in red magic, floats toward you
  1209. >Not what you were talking about
  1210. >But you take a swig from it
  1211. >Perhaps is now a good time to mention that throughout the day you had gotten progressively more tipsy with small, manageable amounts of alcohol
  1212. >It refines the reflexes, hones the senses and brings out the warrior in every red-blooded man
  1214. >And as of now?
  1215. >It dulls the growing migraine that came from such tension and focusing so hard on a screen
  1216. "Jack. Jack! JAAAAA-HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAACK..."
  1217. >No reply
  1218. >If only she saw your victory
  1219. >Victories plural, going by what all was done today alone
  1220. >"She's out on the patio with Prism. I think we kinda chased them out with the noise."
  1221. "Fuuuuuck... crap. I blame her for this. Where is that little dork, I want to poke her face."
  1222. >You were ready for your first harmony quest
  1223. >But only you were the only one
  1224. >Prism was neutral on it
  1225. >Shiner didn't care for it to begin with
  1226. >And Jack not only didn't know where to start, but she said she wanted to "give everyone a week" because she didn't know how to tackle a lot of them either
  1227. >But you aren't going to let her slip by this
  1228. >The helements of armory will be yours
  1229. >Even if it's really just some group activities
  1230. >That shit is rad
  1231. "My Jack... my wyrm-slaying sword for my Jack."
  1232. >"Oh, don't you even say that. Do you know how much effort it took for you to get that thing up to +16 status?"
  1233. "Meh. I can swing Jack around just as much and she's +69 at the very least."
  1234. >"Whatever, I'm gonna send you back to a bonfire and log out."
  1235. "You do that."
  1236. >Against your better judgement, you start to crawl off the bed
  1237. "Hey, hold this for me real quick."
  1238. >Red magic starts to envelope the alcohol bottle
  1239. "H-hey, no, not yet. Damn lady."
  1240. >You sneak a quick swig from it before letting the magic whisk it awa
  1241. >"Where do you think you're going?"
  1242. "I am going to my bonfire."
  1243. >Your beautiful orange and yellow bonfire
  1244. >It is a proven fact that yellow and orange fire is hotter than red, after all
  1245. >But blue is hotter still...
  1246. >Thankfully none of them are blue or that might bring up a complication you can't talk your way out of with a humorous, almost-related comment
  1247. >Since your knees do not particularly appreciate the carpet, you drag yourself to your feet
  1248. >Holy hell do you feel exhausted
  1249. >You have not kept track of your alcohol intake nearly as much either, so you think you may be just a little bit under the influence
  1250. >Sure enough, after your arduous journey to the living room do you see Jack and Prism on the patio
  1251. >With the sliding glass door closed
  1252. >Poor gals probably hate you for drowning them in the sounds of battle
  1253. >They both look at you when you open the door
  1254. >Prism looks a little surprised
  1255. >Jack looks relieved
  1256. >"Hey, you're alive!"
  1257. "Hell yeah, my yellow mellow mare. I came, I saw, I died, I came again, I died, I came enough times to see triple, and I won!"
  1258. >You plop yourself down onto the patio
  1259. >Since the two dragged out a few pillows too many for just them, you decide for the one closest to Jack
  1260. "So what's up? What did I miss out on?"
  1261. >Jack looks a little...
  1262. >Awkward?
  1263. >"I... was kinda talking to Dashie about the quests."
  1264. "Yeah man, I was all ready to get into it. Are you planning out the rules or something?"
  1265. >She mumbles something too quiet for you to hear
  1266. >Or maybe you're deaf
  1267. >It is probably both
  1269. >"I'm... not the best at planning. And I thought about doing the talent show first since that would be the hardest."
  1270. >Would that really be so difficult?
  1271. "Would it? You could always go with trivia or singing or something."
  1272. >Jack gives your chest a gentle headbutt
  1273. >"No, it can't be something I've already done. I have to have a better, bigger talent to use."
  1274. >A newly seen talent?
  1275. >Well that's easy, she could...
  1276. >She could...
  1277. >...
  1278. >...what would she be able to do?
  1279. >No
  1280. >Bad Anon
  1281. >That's a terrible way to think that
  1282. >You wrap your arm around her and give her a tight squeeze
  1283. "Oh come on, I know you got something planned. Both of you do."
  1284. >When you say "both" and watch Prism, she averts her eyes
  1285. >Her lips curl downward just enough to be the proof you need
  1286. " gals ain't worried, are you?"
  1287. >They share a look
  1288. >"Yes."
  1289. >They reply in unison
  1290. >Thankfully they aren't in stereo due to positioning
  1291. "Oh come on, what's to worry about? You'll only have an audience of three, and I'm sure neither of you are giving yourselves the credit you deserve."
  1292. >No matter the situation, you feel too elated and happy to dig deeper into what woe may be woven into the fabrics of their ego
  1293. >Egotistical Jack...
  1294. >That would be quite a thing indeed
  1295. >You blink enough times to both clear your head and to give you a new hint of migraine
  1296. "Listen, it isn't about mastery as much as it is proof of another faucet of your life. It's not like we're gonna have some sort of overly fancy gift for the show."
  1297. >Prism's expression sours further
  1298. >"Actually... we were hoping you might be able to help us set up a reward. That way we would all have something to strive for. A competition with no reward is hardly worth doing."
  1299. >She has a point
  1300. "Alright... so what about a dinner night out for the winner? We all go to the winner's choice."
  1301. >Your mouth moves faster than your mind
  1302. "And that means wherever works, no cost ceiling. But it has to be... let's say, two hours away at the max for distance. Because that means that's a four hour drive roundtrip."
  1303. >"Yeah but who's gonna judge?"
  1304. >Jack still isn't convinced that all is well, despite your hugging
  1305. "We all do. We're gonna be fair and figure out who..."
  1306. >Who, what?
  1307. >Has the most outlandish skill?
  1308. >Or the most proficient attempt at something new?
  1309. >'re not sober enough to tackle this appropriately
  1310. "...who cares, we'll figure out something by this time next week, right?"
  1311. >"Yeah... hey, lemme go Anon."
  1312. "Eh?"
  1313. >"I gotta go."
  1314. "Oh."
  1315. >You uncurl your arm around her and slide open the door
  1316. "Get to it, Jackenine."
  1317. >You watch her go
  1318. >...
  1319. >It's just you and Prism now
  1320. "So let me in on the thing, chicken wing. What's up with Jack?"
  1321. >Your first reaction is a wry smirk
  1322. >"Chicken wing?"
  1323. "I'm running on empty here, that'll have to do."
  1324. >"Well... she's scared."
  1325. >Despite your first instinct to do so, you do not laugh at what you think is a silly worry
  1326. "Of what? She'll do great. I'm looking forward to what she'll concoct."
  1327. >"You really don't know, do you?"
  1329. "Can't say I do, but do keep in mind my current state."
  1330. >"Oh no, I'm quite aware of how much you've been drinking. You must have spilt some, I can smell it on you."
  1331. "Oh, thank you."
  1332. >"That wasn't a compliment."
  1333. >You don't see the issue
  1334. >She knocks them back as well as you do
  1335. >Granted, it's not that often that one of you will drink and the other won't join in sooner or later
  1336. "Alright... so what's the deal? Is she... what, worried about being not having a good talent? Or is she worried about Shiner showing her up and finding something to brag about?"
  1337. >"Yes, but no."
  1338. "Good flocking answer, Gruntilda."
  1339. >The pegasister rolls her eyes
  1340. "...listen, dumb it down for me enough so I can actually manage to do something about it and not just flail around as I often do."
  1341. >You add on something that is part ego stroking, part show that you do not want this issue to last
  1342. >The thought of Jack being in trouble is enough to shock your system toward sobriety
  1343. "Come on, Faint. Please."
  1344. >"Better."
  1345. >Half the battle is saying "please"
  1346. >The other half is not saying "screw you"
  1347. >"She wants everyone to have fun. But none of us have ever done that sort of thing... and we both share the worry that neither of us are actually all that good at anything."
  1348. "So why not use this as a chance to learn more things?"
  1349. >"Because... it is..."
  1350. >She trails off
  1351. >You get the vibe she was going to say more words
  1352. "What? I mean, take this to it's logical conclusion, right? The elements required all of the mane six to grow and really get comfortable with themselves. It also meant them combating their own weaknesses and shortcomings."
  1353. >"Jacky had a feeling you say that."
  1354. >That is such a response that you somehow get a second wave of inebriated just by trying to understand it
  1355. >You shake your head in disbelief
  1356. "Oh? Ok then. So where's the problem?"
  1357. >"She just wants to have fun with everyone, Anon. Not everything has to have some deeper meaning. I know how you are but she doesn't want to always run from one challenge to another. She wants to relax and take things easy. Not..."
  1358. >She leans toward you and sniffs
  1359. >"Reek of sweet, alcohol, and spend hours swearing and stressing."
  1360. >You weren't swearing that much
  1361. "Sure, but it's the accomplishment that makes it all memorable and fun."
  1362. >"She doesn't want the struggle anymore, Anonymous. She wants to just relax and have fun. That's all."
  1363. >You hear a tap on the sliding door
  1364. >It's Jack
  1365. "Oh yeah, not a lot of great opportunities for her to open the door..."
  1366. >"Remember what I said."
  1367. >Her comment comes quick
  1368. >With the door open, Jack makes her debut into the open air
  1369. > it a debut if she only went inside for a few minutes?
  1370. >You're not drunk enough to know if you should ask such a dangerous thing but you are too sober to care
  1371. "Come here, Jackburger."
  1373. >"W-waah!"
  1374. >You scoop her up entirely in your arms and hug her as tight as you can
  1375. >You only stop when you hear her squeak
  1376. >"...what'd I miss? Dash, did you chastise him again?"
  1377. >"What? Me? Nooo... not tonight, anyway."
  1378. >Since Prism is effectively talking to Jack's raised flank, you wiggle and rotate until Jack's face is going less toward the trees and more toward her sister
  1379. >"Oh, there you are!"
  1380. "Yeah, we were talkin about you and how much of a dork you are."
  1381. >"I'm sorry to say.. but he's right. You are a dork, Jacky."
  1382. >"Nu-uh."
  1383. "Yeah so-huh."
  1384. >"I have to agree with him."
  1385. >"Wh-why? How am I a dork?"
  1386. "Because you play D&D, you dork."
  1387. >You start laughing three words in
  1388. >With every syllable you laugh harder
  1389. >She gives a futile attempt to free herself before arching her body toward you
  1390. >"That's not fair... we all play it, it's not just me."
  1391. "True, but you're the only one that will admit it."
  1392. >"He's got a point, dear... I would never admit that I play D&D."
  1393. >Despite it eventually descending into a half-hour long conversation that consists of "nu-uh" and "yeah-huh", it is pretty comfy
  1394. >So Jack just wants to enjoy a more simple life...
  1395. >You can help with that
  1396. >You think
  1397. >You'll find a way to make a difference for her
  1400. >Tonight is just you and Prism on the patio
  1401. >You look over your shoulder into the living room
  1402. >They're cuddled up together and sleeping
  1403. >Shiner was first, then Jack joined her
  1404. >As much as they're bickering, they're still side by side
  1405. "You know, you guys have a pretty goofy dynamic."
  1406. >"Oh don't be surprised. You've seen them do that before."
  1407. "Sure, but... after everything? I keep thinking that their latest fight will be the one to break the camel's back."
  1408. >You bring up your knee and idly massage it
  1409. "Sometimes I wonder if they start fights just so they can make up later."
  1410. >It sounds fantastical because you've never seen them make up, yourself
  1411. >"You know Jacky wouldn't do that."
  1412. "But Shiner would."
  1413. >"Yes... well, you can't confidently say she's doing what she does just for fun."
  1414. "I guess. I don't get you girls sometimes."
  1415. >They were complaining about something when you got home
  1416. >You didn't pay it that much mind and just went to take a shower
  1417. >By the time you got out, they were chatting about something else
  1418. >"So have you been planning what our quest will be this weekend?"
  1419. "Isn't that Jack's say?"
  1420. >"You know she would feel better with you deciding."
  1421. "You sure?"
  1422. >"Of course. She's worried about that talent show, I told you. The others... she has no real idea of how to plan it out."
  1423. "Well why don't we just do the honesty bit? A few rounds of truth and dare. That way we start off easy. That works fine, right?"
  1424. >"That should..."
  1425. >Her tone doesn't convince you that she's on board
  1426. "What's the worst that could happen?"
  1427. >"Outside of uncomfortable questioning?"
  1428. >Your instinctual reaction is a scoff
  1429. "Yeah, because we don't ever get uncomfortable."
  1430. >"I mean it. What happens if Sparking Shine demands something up front or crossing a line? Or she asks for something too intimate to share?"
  1431. "Well that's the point of the focus being honesty, isn't it?"
  1432. >The pegasus stands up from her half-laying position and looks out into the trees and houses below
  1433. >"Do you even care if you're asked anything? Or dared to do something dangerous?"
  1434. "Well of course we'll have some ground rules. You can't just dare someone to go murder the neighbors."
  1435. >You're glad you said that when it's dark out and most people are either inside and awake or inside and fast asleep
  1436. >"No but if she dares you to do something drastic..."
  1437. "Again, ground rules. It won't be a complete free-for-all. And how about everyone gets one veto?"
  1438. >The ever-scheming mare shakes her head, her right wing extending
  1439. >"What is the point of honesty if you can skate out of it?"
  1440. " I guess you're right on that."
  1441. >You shrug
  1442. "Is it really worth worrying over? The point of honesty is to see everything that's on the table. Both the pretty and the ugly."
  1443. >After a few moments of silence, the refined lady exhales in defeat
  1444. >"I guess so. We have probably had worse situations before anyway."
  1446. "Ha, that's the ticket. We could technically just treat it like a sleepover game. Set up some movies, videos of stallions and a crap ton of popcorn."
  1447. >Your reward is a wry, almost bitter smile
  1448. >"You really aren't worried about anything, are you."
  1449. "Oh lay off it. If you're so worried, why don't we go a few rounds?"
  1450. >Prism sits down again, almost as far from you as the patio railing allows
  1451. >"A few rounds."
  1452. "Yeah. You and me, truth and dare."
  1453. >She does not look like she particularly likes the idea
  1454. >"Why should I?"
  1455. "Because we could both use a little more honesty in our lives. Truth or dare?"
  1456. >Without giving her a chance to weasel her out, you start
  1457. >Near dead silence for what feels like an entire minute
  1458. >"...Truth."
  1459. "Tell me why you're still so God damned stiff around me."
  1460. >"Force of habit."
  1461. "Is that right?"
  1462. >"I answered truthfully so that's that. Truth or dare?"
  1463. >It isn't like she had to elaborate
  1464. "Alright. Truth."
  1465. >"Why do you put up with Sparking rubbing herself all over her when you know full well you're Jacky's?"
  1466. >The intensity in her glare is downright sharp
  1467. "Because I don't consider it anything to really worry about. It's a pain sometimes but we both know how she is. She could never replace Jack if that's what you're worried about."
  1468. >"Then why do y-"
  1469. "Ah! Same with you. I answered truthfully. So that's that. Right?"
  1470. >She does not like that you're playing the same card she did
  1471. "Truth or dare?"
  1472. >"Truth."
  1473. "What the hell do you do with your time? I know what Jack does on almost any given day. I can reliably guess what Shiner is up to. But if I don't see you with Jackenstein, you're just sitting in a corner, sleeping, or smoldering over something."
  1474. >"Smoldering."
  1475. "Yes, smoldering."
  1476. >"What even is... I sit and think."
  1477. >"About?"
  1478. >At least you get to see a more triumphant version of her grimace
  1479. "...right. You answered. It's like pulling teeth."
  1480. >"Truth or dare?"
  1481. "Dare, thrill me."
  1482. >"I dare you to skip your next turn."
  1483. "Wha... ok. Sure."
  1484. >"Truth or dare, Anon?"
  1485. "Dare."
  1486. >"I dare you to..."
  1487. >She trails off
  1488. >Her eyes go from you to the sleeping duo
  1489. >"...invite Sparking to a date night with Jack."
  1490. >Wat
  1491. "Wat."
  1492. >"Yes. Take her along and let her see how you treat Jacky."
  1493. "I'm not going to torture her by rubbing shit like that in her face."
  1494. >"It's a dare."
  1495. "Yeah and screw your dare, veto."
  1496. >"I thought you said that honesty was no good if there was a veto involved?"
  1497. "That isn't honesty, you just want me to hurt her."
  1498. >What is up with this growing sense of hostility from her?
  1499. "Truth or dare."
  1500. >"Dare."
  1501. "I dare you to apologize to Shine and give her a hug that lasts no less than two minutes."
  1502. >That catches her off-guard
  1503. >"W...what?"
  1504. "That's right. I dare you to just do that to her. While Jack or I are there to witness it."
  1506. >"Why do you want me to do that?"
  1507. "Because she deserves a break from you trying to always bust her balls."
  1508. >"I'm not telling her I love her or anything."
  1509. "Good thing I didn't include that in on the dare. You got twenty four hours to get it done."
  1510. >"Fine. Truth or dare?"
  1511. "Truth."
  1512. >"Tell me why you chose Jacky when you obviously have more fun with Sparking with your video games."
  1513. "Because it takes more than a hobby or two to want to be with someone."
  1514. >"And what have you possibly done with Jacky that is more than just "a hobby or two"?"
  1515. >That strikes a nerve
  1516. "If you've paid attention to the last however long, you'd see that. Truth or dare."
  1517. >"Truth."
  1518. "Tell me why the hell you have these extreme mood swings. Some nights you're fine, other nights you're an active pain in my ass to talk to. If Jack's up and around to listen, you're mellow and calm but you really aren't. What's your issue with me?"
  1519. >"You touched me."
  1520. >That flat response hits your mind like the tip of a whip cracking
  1521. "...what?"
  1522. >"That time you tried to pick me up."
  1523. >You don't remember when you've ever...
  1524. >Wait
  1525. " talking about when I tried to help you into the car?"
  1526. >"Is that what you call it?"
  1527. >What
  1528. "...yes! You dumbass. You absolute dork. What the hell did you think I was trying to do?"
  1529. >No reply
  1530. >You can't make heads or tails out of her expression
  1531. "Is that really something that you've held a grudge on for... what, well over a year now? Seriously?"
  1532. >No reply
  1533. >You weren't exactly expecting that sort of thing
  1534. >"Truth or dare."
  1535. "Truth me."
  1536. >"Do you consider me your friend?"
  1537. "Yeah, I thought so but apparently I'm wrong."
  1538. >That finally cracks her shell
  1539. >"...well you aren't wrong."
  1540. "Truth or dare."
  1541. >"Truth."
  1542. "You have an issue with guys I need to know about?"
  1543. >"Yes but you don't need to know about it. Truth or dare."
  1544. "Truth."
  1545. >"You haven't ever taken advantage of Jacky, have you?"
  1546. "A few times but nothing she hasn't done to me. Depends on who's more tired or inebriated."
  1547. >Your straight answer cracks her exterior more
  1548. >"...she is guilty of having done things like that I suppose..."
  1549. "Yeah. So don't get it twisted. Truth or dare?"
  1550. >"Dare."
  1551. "Tell me what your issue is."
  1552. >"I did what I had to, to survive and keep Jacky safe."
  1553. "I vaguely recall Jacky telling me something like that."
  1554. >"She doesn't know the extent of it."
  1555. "I'm guessing so if it's worse than what I've heard."
  1556. >"It is."
  1557. "You think I'm the same?"
  1558. >"No."
  1559. "You don't act like it."
  1560. >"I do."
  1561. "How?"
  1562. >"Truth or dare?"
  1563. "Dare."
  1564. >"I dare you to stop."
  1565. >So much for honesty
  1566. "Sure."
  1567. >You sigh
  1568. >Truth or dare has a habit of turning serious when you're involved
  1569. >Something makes you ask just the worst of questions
  1570. >What a miserable experience that was
  1571. >You shake your head and stand up
  1572. >You feel stiff all over
  1573. >Were you that tense?
  1574. "Well. Good night."
  1575. >You retire for your room to the night, leaving the pegasus to navel gaze and act like a gargoyle
  1576. >You really don't get her
  1577. >You almost don't want to
  1578. >At least your bed smells like mare
  1581. >Last night hasn't sat well with you at all
  1582. >The following morning she was acting like all was usual business
  1583. >You didn't see a reason to press it
  1584. "Oh yeah, I saw you cuddling Jackoma last night. Did you two kiss and make up?"
  1585. >You only have a light teasing tone to your question
  1586. >You've been focusing on a handheld game while Sparkler has spent the last hour dying while exploring
  1587. >"Yeah and she tasted like you so I got all in there."
  1588. "Oh!"
  1589. >Her dull retort was pretty much the perfect comeback
  1590. "For real though, I don't often see you two actually showing affection."
  1591. >"I guess. It's not like we're enemies. And of course I don't hate her."
  1592. "Well that's a bonus I suppose."
  1593. >Whatever happened must have been why Jacky was so thrilled throughout the day
  1594. "So do you know about the little element quest we're gonna do this weekend?"
  1595. >"Yup. Truth or dare, no vetos, no daring someone to play in traffic."
  1596. "Just about. What, did Prism tell you about it?"
  1597. >"Yeah. And she said you wanted to go a few rounds with me."
  1598. >Despite the ongoing conversation, both of you are focusing on your own screens
  1599. >Both you and her have a nice little throne of blankets to rest against or on
  1600. >Today was relatively pretty warm but it'll be difficult to want to put all of the winter gear away
  1601. "...well I guess that was gonna be a thing sooner or later. So yeah, I'm game if you are."
  1602. >"Sure. Do you care who starts?"
  1603. "Nope."
  1604. >"Alright. Truth or dare?"
  1605. >Given how you and her are, you really don't think it'll be so bad
  1606. >"Would you actually be ok with me kissing Jacky? That would be a weird thing for you to be ok with."
  1607. "Honestly, I'm not sure I'd care. I would like to know why that would happen but... I don't know. It'd be weird. Truth or dare?"
  1608. >"Truth."
  1609. "Silly question."
  1610. >"Silly answer."
  1611. >Jesus, you two really are in sync sometimes
  1612. "So, probably a dumb question but are you two ever going to actually come to blows? With how often I see you fighting, especially since that dream bullshit, it seems like one of these days I'm going to have to call an ambulance."
  1613. >"Nah. Probably not. I like messing with her."
  1614. "You like getting your schnoz pushed in?"
  1615. >"...not that, no. But I feel like we're actually starting to connect more. She doesn't look up or down at me."
  1616. "Did she used to?"
  1617. >"Because of magic? Obviously."
  1618. "I guess that would kinda make things awkward."
  1619. >"Very. But since she sees how she can win despite not having it... well, yay for her. Right?"
  1620. >That is rather thoughtful for her
  1621. >You're impressed
  1622. >You would be even more impressed if that was the only reason
  1623. >"Truth or dare?"
  1624. "Dare, let's mix it up a little."
  1625. >"I dare you to give me a hug."
  1626. >A hug?
  1627. "Yeah? Just a hug?"
  1628. >"Well... I mean I'm still playing. But I won't stop you from doing more if you really want to."
  1629. >You close your handheld
  1630. >The batteries will last where you can charge it later and get back to it after work
  1631. "Any sort of hug?"
  1632. >"Yeah. Like, a hug-hug. But if you want to get creative I won't stop it."
  1633. "Yeah, I bet."
  1635. >You lay down on your side and scoop Shine up
  1636. >With a little manhandling, you put her on her side and wrap you right arm across her chest from under her
  1637. >Your hand goes from under her front right leg and rests on her left shoulder above her left leg
  1638. >Your left arm wraps over the other way, forming a solid X
  1639. >With a pillow right where it should be, it feels rather natural
  1640. >She's smaller than Jack
  1641. >A bit more frail too, you're not hugging her nearly as tight
  1642. >...
  1643. >Her heart is beating a mile a minute
  1644. "Y'allright?"
  1645. >"Yeah."
  1646. "Yeah?"
  1647. >"Y-yup."
  1648. "Well alright."
  1649. >You give her a light squeeze
  1650. >She actually squeaks
  1651. "Alright, truth or dare?"
  1652. >"Truth. I'm kinda tied up for any dares."
  1653. "Sure. Are you ok? It feels like you're going to have a heart attack."
  1654. >"If I do, you know CPR don't you?"
  1655. "I don't think that has anything to do with heart attacks."
  1656. >"Oh well. Truth or dare?"
  1657. >You didn't get much of an answer there
  1658. "Truth. If I go for another dare you'll probably ask for something worse."
  1659. >"Mmm... yeah? Probably. Smart move."
  1660. >She's getting sloppy on her game
  1661. >"Do you often hug Jacky like this?"
  1662. "Yeah. Sometimes it's one arm lower than the other."
  1663. >"And she just lets you do it?"
  1664. "I don't think she could stop me if I tried."
  1665. >"Because you'd overpower her or because she always wants to be hugged?"
  1666. "Same thing. T or D?"
  1667. >Before she thinks long enough to properly analyze the question, she speaks
  1668. >"Gimme the D."
  1669. >You can't even try to stop yourself from laughing
  1670. >Shine's magic fizzles out, making the controller drop
  1671. >"I... did not mean that."
  1672. "Yeah huh."
  1673. >"Shut up."
  1674. "I dare you to hug Jack tomorrow and apologize."
  1675. >"I'm apologizing now? Who do you think I am?"
  1676. "Someone who's getting the D. And the air. Put them together and it's called a "dare"."
  1677. >You flex your arm over her for another squeeze of a hug
  1678. "And apologize for daring me to hug you."
  1679. >"Oh come on, I'm apologizing for that now?"
  1680. "Yeah."
  1681. >"Do I really have to?"
  1682. "No but I don't really know how she'll react to this."
  1683. >"You're so whipped. You do know that, don't you? T or D?"
  1684. "Let me sip on some nice ice T."
  1685. >"If Jacky was ok with hugging, could you hug me more?"
  1686. "Depends."
  1687. >"On?"
  1688. "Would you make it weird? Or try to escalate it?"
  1689. >"No."
  1690. >That was a quick answer.
  1691. "Then yeah. I don't mind hugging you."
  1692. >Her fur is kinda softer, and longer
  1693. >Her mane has a different smell to it too
  1694. >It isn't as fluffy as Jack's hair and has more split ends
  1695. >But it seems almost on purpose with how... messy it looks?
  1696. >She's never changed her style
  1697. >She must have an easy time styling and grooming herself thanks to magic
  1698. "Truth or dare?"
  1699. >"I'm kinda done for playing, if that's alright."
  1700. >You were expecting something else
  1702. "Really? No deep, dark secrets you want to learn? Sneaky schemes to put into motion? First steps into a multi-step plan?"
  1703. >Shine yawns and nuzzles into your arm
  1704. >Hard
  1705. >"Why would I care? Right now, I..."
  1706. >She yawns
  1707. >"Blah. I have everything I could want right here. I can see why Jacky's so happy all the time..."
  1708. >You can't help but notice that her game is still going
  1709. >You could mess with her
  1710. >"Could" being the key word
  1711. >But you shouldn't
  1712. >And you won't
  1713. "Make sure you close out of the game and at least set up something to watch."
  1714. >Her answer is a yawn
  1715. >And then a sigh
  1716. >Apparently she had plans to just doze off then and there
  1717. >"Alright, fine. Movie?"
  1718. "Sure. Dealer's choice."
  1719. >Her magic envelops the mouse, keyboard, and controller
  1720. >In record time the game is closed, the monitor's brightness is turned down and the mouse opens a certain folder and double clicks on a certain movie
  1721. >It's that movie
  1722. "I thought you didn't care for westerns?"
  1723. >"No, but Jacky does."
  1724. "And? She's in the living room with Prism. Smelled popcorn earlier so they're probably snacking it up."
  1725. >"Say I chose "truth"."
  1726. "Eh?"
  1727. >"If you asked me why I'm doing this... it's because I kinda get to be Jacky for a night."
  1728. >You're not sure you would go that far
  1729. >You're even less sure that you would be alright with the implications of that
  1730. "Thankfully I'd prefer you as you."
  1731. >"Obviously, I'm awesome. But tonight... I get to feel what she feels."
  1732. >It was hard to pick up on, but you only just now could tell that the longer she's been talking since you hugged her, the... lighter her voice has been?
  1733. >That normal sharp edge of her tongue has dulled
  1734. >That assertive tone in her voice has melted away
  1735. >She almost sounds happy
  1736. >You'll admit, it's cute
  1737. "Is that right..."
  1738. >"Yeah. Thanks, Anonymous. I'm gonna close my eyes. Wake me up before you let go, please. This feels warm in a good way."
  1739. >With that, you see her hind legs kick out and feel her chest expand in a deep breath
  1740. >Her chest is no longer pounding like a machine
  1741. >But she feels warmer
  1742. >Hot, almost
  1743. >Far more so than Jack ever got
  1744. >There really are just a lot of little differences between them, no matter how you feel it
  1745. "Yeah. Have a good sleep, Sparking Shine. I'll be right here when you wake up."
  1746. >And that's the truth
  1747. >Not even a half hour into the movie and you feel your eyelids getting heavy
  1748. >Your right arm has fallen asleep but you're happy to keep Shine in such a bear hug
  1749. >For all of her rough tendencies, this really is enough to make her melt, isn't it?
  1750. >You can't blame her, all things considered
  1751. >Jack always had Prism to give attention and closeness to
  1752. >Physical closeness, most of all
  1753. >...
  1754. >You tighten your hug and bring her in as close as you can
  1755. >You've hugged her before
  1756. >Obviously
  1757. >But this really is the first time you've given her a real hug like this
  1758. >You don't let your mind wander further into the darker recesses of her history
  1759. >For tonight, you're just hugging your dork of a best friend
  1760. >Who knows
  1761. >Maybe Saturday will just be an evening of hugging it out and everyone getting some minor gripes cleared up
  1764. >It has been an... interesting week
  1765. >When you woke up Wednesday, Shine was drooling and in such a deep slumber it took around ten minutes of squeezing her chest, poking her face with your chin or and otherwise speaking to her
  1766. >You had the idea that she was just playing with you at first
  1767. >By the time she woke up, she acted so sluggish you wondered if she had ever slept before
  1768. "Mm. I'm up. Been up. Yup."
  1769. >She had tried to lift her head, but couldn't stop herself from dozing off seconds after you let go
  1770. >That Wednesday night...
  1771. >And every other night this week
  1772. >She's insisted on another cross-hug to fall asleep to
  1773. >She regained some of her classic verbal edge, but she never pushed it beyond going "please"
  1774. >Saturday morning is no different
  1775. >Except you've had Jackula as your pillow
  1776. >She hooked her front legs over your shoulder and brought her body close to your back
  1777. >Your pillow was specifically her shoulder
  1778. >As soon as you woke up, you could feel her stir too
  1779. >And yawn
  1780. >It is starting to happen more often, that one will wake up the other
  1781. >"She still sleepin'?"
  1782. >Your first reply is a yawn just as long as hers
  1783. "Yeah, she's a pretty deep sleeper."
  1784. >Of course, you told her all about it
  1785. >Thursday, she walked in to see you clutching Shine and watching The Wild Bunch
  1786. >Who would have thought that a mare could go to such a peaceful sleep while listening to gunfire and death
  1787. >She didn't freak out at it, though she did give one of those hard squints
  1788. >I explained how it led to that and... after an extended, almost territorial kiss, she said that the group hellion had started to calm down
  1789. >Yesterday, Shine was supposedly singing
  1790. >Everyone sung and had their little practice sessions
  1791. >But apparently she was going full into it
  1792. >Rather than do the obvious and play with her and rub her nose in it, you just let her be
  1793. >Maybe this is helping
  1794. >Helping what, who knows
  1795. >All three of these mares are fucking nuttier than squirrel crap
  1796. >"Well wake her up. One of you gotta make breakfast if we're gonna have our harmony quest."
  1797. >And you wouldn't change that for anything
  1798. >She tightens around you, giving an awkward stretch-hug that lasts until here muscles give out
  1799. "On it. Lemme know what Prislambda wants."
  1800. >"Mm."
  1801. >Jack stumbles to her hooves and tentatively steps off the bed and onto the floor
  1802. >Her shoulder must still be asleep due to how awkward her movements are
  1803. >You shift your attention to the red mare in your arms
  1804. >Her hind legs are kicked out and limp
  1805. >Her front legs have a natural curl to them, like she's trying to return the cross-hug
  1806. >You can hear her breathing
  1807. >...she's drooling again too
  1808. >It dawns on you that you probably couldn't hug a human like this in the same... capacity
  1809. >Is it a platonic hug?
  1810. >Certainly not
  1811. >Is it a romantic hug?
  1812. >You don't think so
  1813. >You like that she's been so mellow
  1814. >To an extent, of course you want to protect her
  1815. >You want to protect all of them
  1816. >But you can't forget what she has done before
  1817. >She is an underhanded sort
  1818. >Was
  1819. >Still is..?
  1821. "Hey. Rise and Shine. I can't find rise so it's just you now."
  1822. >You give her chest a squeeze
  1823. >Her ribs yield just a little
  1824. >Her heartbeat is slow
  1825. >Ever since Thursday you've noticed that her chest doesn't thunder when you hug her
  1826. >You're not so naïve that you think it was purely due to her being some shy gal
  1827. >But you can't just isolate her from things either
  1828. >You're not sure what to make of this, still
  1829. >But Jack seems alright with it
  1830. >Or to better say, Jack has been keeping her eye on things
  1831. >She knows your scent well
  1832. >All of it
  1833. >You haven't ever asked but you'd have to guess that they have some sort of keener sense of smell
  1834. >That thought alone still puts a bit of a red tinge to your face
  1835. "..."
  1836. >This dork
  1837. >Is not moving
  1838. >At all
  1839. "Hey. Wake up. We got breakfast to make and then a quest to do."
  1840. >Nothing
  1841. >Alright
  1842. >You begin to slid your left arm away
  1843. >She's laying on your right so that will be more tricky
  1844. >You get maybe halfway through removing your arm before it feels stuck
  1845. >More than stuck
  1846. >You're thinking "stuck in cement" stuck
  1847. >The faint red glow on your hand is all the evidence you need
  1848. "So you are awake."
  1849. >No reply
  1850. >But her breathing changed, so she's certainly awake now
  1851. "I'm gonna need that hand back."
  1852. >Rather than moving away, your hand guides itself down to her belly
  1853. >It doesn't go any lower
  1854. "I'm really going to need that hand back."
  1855. >You keep your voice low
  1856. >You really don't want this to turn into a scene
  1857. >As hard as you're pulling, you can't win
  1858. >"I'm just showing you I'm hungry too..."
  1859. >Given how low your hand is, she could argue that
  1860. >But you could argue that your fingertips are dangerously close to something else
  1861. >Where once you were but a neophyte in pony anatomy, you are now the master
  1862. >And the commander
  1863. >...
  1864. >You still haven't seen that movie yet
  1865. "Well good show, I can tell you're hungry. Let's go."
  1866. >She lets out a sweet, demure "awww"
  1867. >"Alright... thank you for hugging me again, Anon."
  1868. >She hasn't let go of your hand yet
  1869. >She uses your other arm to pull herself along the bed
  1870. >You can feel
  1871. >Yup
  1872. >Yeah
  1873. " know, you kinda just pushed yourself past what I've been alright with."
  1874. >Only once she drags herself free, making sure your hand slides down her flank and leg, does she release your hand
  1875. >The smile she gives you is...
  1876. >You wouldn't call it "evil"
  1877. >But she looks like she's enthralled
  1878. >"Let's make some delicious breakfast together."
  1879. >The way she says it
  1880. >It just... bothers you
  1881. >"You're staring pretty hard."
  1882. >You shake your head and sigh
  1883. "This is going to be brought up later. I hope you know that."
  1884. >"I do. And telling the truth feels so good."
  1885. >She giggles and stands up
  1886. >She bonks your head with her flank while she steps past
  1887. >You are
  1888. >Absolutely not sure if you should have been playing along
  1889. "...well shit."
  1890. >You find yourself stuck in bed and just...
  1891. >Not sure what to think
  1892. >"Anon, breakfast!"
  1893. >"Yeah, Anon! Help me out!"
  1894. >Whatever
  1895. >You finally get up and rub your previously-enchanted hand
  1896. >She feels smaller than Jacky
  1898. >Fruits
  1899. >Pancakes
  1900. >Hot tea
  1901. >Orange juice
  1902. >Oatmeal
  1903. >Biscuits
  1904. >Sweet breakfasts are made of these
  1905. >You would never eat this fancy alone
  1906. >Mostly because you'd have stopped at pancakes and not leave so much left over
  1907. >Between you and three ponies, there will be enough for dinner but not much else
  1908. >Since it is a big event, everyone is in the living room
  1909. >Jack and Shiner on the patio, eating in the sun
  1910. >Prism eating while perched on top of a tri-pillow cushion
  1911. >With you eating near the living room laptop
  1912. >The laptop has seen better days, between hooves smacking and boopers booping the keys
  1913. >Thankfully it's good for browser use at the very least
  1914. >It wouldn't be getting any use otherwise
  1915. "So, ready for our harmony quest?"
  1916. >Prism continues to chew on her biscuit
  1917. >Very much like a proper lady, she swallows before speaking
  1918. >She's the only one who does that
  1919. >Still
  1920. >"I am. Are you prepared to be as open as can be?"
  1921. "Always. Aren't you?"
  1922. >Despite her biscuit being full of blueberry jam and coated in a light layer of butter, you'd think that she ate a bug with the look on her face
  1923. "Come on, you're not worried about what I'm going to ask, are you?"
  1924. >"You? No. I'm not against answering your questions."
  1925. "So who are you worried about?"
  1926. >Her sour expression doesn't change
  1927. >Her only answer is a slow lick of her lips
  1928. >"Thanks for the breakfast. Anon."
  1929. >Returning the vitriol, you do your best mocking smirk
  1930. "Why any time. Prism."
  1931. >You raise your mug and drink your tea, complete with extended pinky
  1932. >A loud slurp leads to you sucking in more air than you wanted and some of the tea going down the wrong pipe
  1933. >While you weren't expecting that, it does make her crack a smile, sadistic as it may be
  1934. "Red! Yellow! Whatever your names are, both of you ready?"
  1935. >You hear a pair of answers hat sound close enough to "yes"
  1936. >After a modest cleanup and piling all leftovers onto the biggest plates, everyone sits in...
  1937. >Well honestly, it's a square like it's a D&D night
  1938. >"Anon, set the stage!"
  1939. "...what?"
  1940. >Jack beams at you
  1941. >"Make it sound like a huge quest! We're going on a quest for the elements like Ma and the others!"
  1942. >Not once did she ever ask you to prepare a questline monologue
  1943. "...ah... yeah. Hold on."
  1944. >You squint and rub your chin
  1945. >Jack is happy and eager to start
  1946. >She's been looking forward to it since she brought it up
  1947. >Shine has the most feline shit-eating grin
  1948. >She really has no shame
  1949. >Prism looks...
  1950. >Like she's the same, and that none of this affects her
  1951. >She at least pays more attention during their campaign
  1952. "So. Many centuries ago, our Jackenstein's Ma-"
  1953. >"Ma's centuries old now?"
  1954. "Yes, spoiler to the history lesson but she's an alicorn now an-"
  1955. >"Yeah! I'm descended from magic royalty!"
  1956. >Red and white look at yellow
  1957. >She is pretty giddy about this, isn't she
  1958. "Shush or I'm turning this into Resident Evil"
  1959. >You have no clue what you mean by that
  1960. >No one does
  1961. >But it gets her to hush
  1963. "Anyway, centuries ago the elements of harmony were important to the world. And now they're needed now. Not only is it our duty to save the world, but it is our duty to test our bonds and grow closer through the virtues of honesty. Loyalty. Generosity. Ah...."
  1964. >Shit
  1965. >What were the other ones again
  1966. "...uh, magic, not being a dick and being funny."
  1967. >The three dorks give you their own confused look at your interpretations
  1968. >"I mean. You aren't wrong."
  1969. >"I can't wait to see how everything stalls when it gets to magic."
  1970. >"My, aren't you the wordsmith."
  1971. "Ah, yeah, nah, that's exactly how it goes. Princess Applejack told me so."
  1972. >If you had epic music, now would be the best time to rev it back up
  1973. "Anyway, we have a hint on the element of honesty! And that is through a series of rounds of Truth or Dare! Once enough is played, the element will reveal itself to us and we'll be one step closer to saving the world... and maybe even ourselves."
  1974. >Outside of some striking hand gestures... it's a pretty lame story, you won't lie
  1975. >You didn't even have music to try to hype it up
  1976. >"So how are we gonna do this?"
  1977. >Bless Jacqueline for her hype
  1978. "I was thinking that one starts and it revolves around for two cycles. Like for example, if I were to start. I'd ask you and then you'd ask me. Then I'd move onto the next so I ask six times, and get asked six times. Then someone else takes the reigns and they ask effectively six times and so on."
  1979. >You shrug, your creativity already spent with this
  1980. "And at the end, we all see how it turned out and... hopefully we'll all be alright."
  1981. >"What about the element, Anon?"
  1982. >Shine is having fun watching you fumble with this
  1983. "If we find it, we mark it off the list and look for the next one. Or Majora's Mask will cause the moon to crash on us or something. Anyway, who's gonna start this?"
  1984. >Every pony is either intimidated or amused by what you have to say next
  1985. "...alright. I guess I'm going first. Alright. Jack."
  1986. >She straightens at attention
  1987. >"Yessir!"
  1988. >Honestly, you haven't thought of too many things to ask her in particular
  1989. "How did you like your breakfast?"
  1990. >"Well I--"
  1991. "Wait. I forgot. Truth or Dare?"
  1992. >"Oh. Truth!"
  1993. "Then yeah, how'd you like it?"
  1994. >"I liked it! It felt good to eat outside, I'm glad the weather is clearing up."
  1995. "Very nice."
  1996. >No one is impressed by this so far
  1997. >At least Jack's happy to talk
  1998. >"So Truth or Dare?"
  1999. "Let's go with Truth."
  2000. >"Do you like hugging me or Sparky better?"
  2001. >"Now that is a question I want to know too."
  2002. >Prism's focus has officially been switched out
  2003. >"Yeah, Anon. Tell her."
  2004. >Shine is just as interested
  2005. "Well."
  2006. >Your eyes go between earth and magic pony
  2007. "I'll be honest. I like Shine's fur. It's longer. She also feels warmer, which can be a bonus. And I do like how her mane smells since my face is pretty close to it."
  2008. >The unicorn puffs out her chest as if that was the entire answer
  2009. >Jacky squints at her
  2010. "But."
  2011. >Their attention focuses to you
  2012. "Jack's mane goes everywhere and has my favorite scent. Plus I know she's pretty tough so I can squeeze her as much as I can."
  2013. >"And when you hug me from the front I kiss your neck! And your ear too."
  2014. >You clear your throat
  2015. >You didn't want her to expose that sort of info
  2016. "Yeah. That too. But while I like hugging both because it really does help me calm down and focus on more productive and positive thoughts... Jack wins. If there is any one main deciding factor, it's that I can hug her any way I want and it still feels natural. With her, I can try out whatever I like and we've never had any weird situations or awkward moments after the fact."
  2017. >"That's true. We even found out a few new favorite positions because of trying things out!"
  2018. "Yes. Hugging positions."
  2019. >You're doing your best to ignore the glare Prism is giving you
  2020. >And the look of betrayal Shiner is giving you
  2021. "Anyway."
  2022. >Who would be less brutal to talk to next?
  2024. "Shiner. Truth or Dare?"
  2025. >"Truth."
  2026. >Best keep things softball for the start
  2027. "What sort of cooking do you actually enjoy the most? I know you handle most of it but you're always kinda trying new ways out."
  2028. >That catches her off guard
  2029. >"Huh? Cooking? Well, I wouldn't... I don't know."
  2030. >Thankfully she seems to be giving this some thought
  2031. >"I would like to be able to cook something through magic directly, no appliances. But baking is easy and it works for almost everything. So yeah. Baking."
  2032. >The way her eyes are searching, she probably is giving it some real thought
  2033. >"So Anon, Truth or Dare?"
  2034. "Truth me, red."
  2035. >"Do you like that I cook for everyone?"
  2036. >She grins
  2037. >"For you?"
  2038. >And there we go
  2039. "Yeah. I really appreciate it. No matter how you look at it, Jack and I ate like chumps until you started taking over on that. I really wasn't taking care of myself. And I was kinda leading Jack down that road too. Thankfully she's filled out by then... I remember when I could really feel her ribs pretty easy. So yeah. Thanks, Shiner. We'd be screwed without you."
  2040. >You do mean it, one hundred percent
  2041. >But it also means that your honesty stops her from adding some sort of extra commentary
  2042. "Prisma, T-"
  2043. >"Truth. And yes, I liked breakfast."
  2044. "Oh."
  2045. >Well that kinda just
  2046. >Happened
  2047. >"I also have to say that I agree with your thoughts regarding Sparking Shine. None of us were all that... capable, when it came to creating anything. It was all finding things. Stealing things. Eating what was already made. But thanks to her, we're able to eat better than a lot of humans. And, because you work, we're able to keep eating what we like. We really are living the dream."
  2048. >Her smile and tone tells you that she means it
  2049. >"What about you?"
  2050. "I'll go with truth I suppose."
  2051. >"Why do you put up with Sparking's shenanigans? Even if it is just... hugging..."
  2052. >She squints at you when she says that
  2053. >"...why do you let her get away with things like that?"
  2054. >All eyes are on you
  2055. "Well I kinda..."
  2056. >Just how much do you say about all of this?
  2057. >You're stalling
  2058. "I guess I'm kinda just unable to stop it."
  2059. >Prism frowns at you
  2060. >"And what do you mean by that?"
  2061. "Exactly what I mean, I suppose. For Jack, things just kinda... happened."
  2062. >She perks up at the mention of herself
  2063. >"It's true, Dash! We were both kinda lost and just relied on each other. It wasn't until we got Sparky that I started to remember more things and that led to me thinking about things and that was when we-"
  2064. "Yeah, no need to go into key details like that."
  2065. >Shine rolls her eyes
  2066. >"Especially when I still remember those days too. You two were an embarrassment."
  2067. >Well this has gotten awkward
  2068. "You know what? I think we're too sober for this."
  2069. >"Yeah!"
  2070. >Jack is immediately on board
  2071. >"Only if I drink just a little."
  2072. >Shine can dig it
  2073. >"Do we have to?"
  2074. >You have to look into pegasus-alcohol tolerance one of these days
  2075. "Yup, it's official."
  2076. >You stand up, more than a little eager to disengage from the whirlwind of open, unabashed honesty
  2077. >This isn't uncomfortable
  2078. >It's just...
  2079. >Awkward
  2080. >Maybe the introduction of booze will somehow make this more of a mature interaction between an adult male and three female technicolor talking ponies
  2081. >One of which you have intimate relations with
  2082. >One of which you've recently been forced to feel up thanks to her magic which manifests itself in a red aura
  2083. >...
  2084. >This is your life
  2085. >Maybe you really do need that drink
  2087. >What started as a short stand up led to a few hours of break
  2088. >You think everyone was expecting things to get serious but your mention of adding in booze meant one thing, and one thing only
  2089. >Everyone's going to end up plastered
  2090. >To prepare, snacks and drinks were gathered
  2091. >Schedules and planned activities were canceled
  2092. >And bathroom breaks were had
  2093. >That was especially important when it came to alcohol, everyone learned
  2094. >The snacks ranged from the leftovers from breakfast, gummy worms and rings, and chips
  2095. >Drinks included a few sodas, plenty of tall and broad mugs of water
  2096. >And the jewel in the crown
  2097. >Delicious vodka
  2098. >As tempted as you are to mix it with soda, you'd rather not
  2099. >Even now, eying it gives you a sense of foreboding terror
  2100. >As soon as everyone starts to sip on it, there really will be nothing but honesty
  2101. >You still can not decide whether or not that is a good thing
  2102. >Shine is last to come back to the living room
  2103. >With... a towel draped around her
  2104. >"Alright, I showered. I'm ready now."
  2105. "Wait, you were taking a bath while we were sitting around?"
  2106. >"Well yeah. I gotta be prepared."
  2107. >You do not like even the shadow of an implication of that
  2108. >Her tail flickers to and fro when she trots past
  2109. >She's really putting on the best of her scented stuff
  2110. >Thankfully she isn't stealing Jack's aromatics
  2111. >But...
  2112. >It really does smell good, doesn't it?
  2113. >"Should I take a bath too?"
  2114. >Jack pips up to break your focus
  2115. >Thankfully
  2116. "Eh? Why? Didn't you take one last night before hopping into bed?"
  2117. >"Yeah."
  2118. >You tilt your head to the side and give your dork a quizzical look
  2119. ""
  2120. >That was odd
  2121. >"Can't blame her for asking when you made a face like that when Shining was walking by."
  2122. >Excellent commentary from the chicken-bird-pony of the group
  2123. "I did not, in fact, make a face."
  2124. >"Oh, you did. Remember, tonight's theme is honesty."
  2125. >Shine is the worst right now
  2126. "Alright. I see how it is. Everyone takes a drink. Prism, you're up next because you're the biggest lightweight and it's cheating if you drink too much to play after your round."
  2127. >You hold up the bottle
  2128. >Deliciously square with... maybe two thirds left?
  2129. >You pull it back as soon as Prism shows interest
  2130. "Nope, not yet. I get first drink."
  2131. >You grimace at the bottle
  2132. >You actually rather enjoy staying sober
  2133. >But you want some form of protection for this night more
  2134. >You twist off the cap and give it a sniff
  2135. >That
  2136. >Is the good stuff
  2137. >You could never be an alcoholic but sometimes you can see the appeal
  2138. >You slowly fill your mouth with the liquid and immediately remember why you couldn't actually be an alcoholic
  2139. >The fresh, vibrant burn that goes from your throat to your nostrils is almost enough to make you sputter
  2140. >But you persist in gulping down the socially acceptable poison
  2141. >You hold out the bottle for Prism while reaching for some gummy worms with your other hand
  2142. >It gives you something nice to chew on and a way to cleanse your mouth.
  2144. >A few worms later and everyone has had at least some potato-based truth juice
  2145. >Maybe Jack's Ma was into the cider business because it made all of her customers more honest?
  2146. >"Ok, that... that was certainly something. Jacky, want to go first with me?"
  2147. >Jack, who's far more receptive to the drink, nods with gusto
  2148. >"Lay it on me, sister!"
  2149. >"Alright then. Truth or Dare?"
  2150. >"Truth me!"
  2151. >"Just how much do you love Anon, since he's so prone to getting distracted by our resident hot head and why do you forgive such indecencies?"
  2152. >And we're off
  2153. >Rather than look mad or even bothered, Jack brings a hoof up to her face and taps at her chin
  2154. >Her tail is flicking and almost wagging
  2155. >"A whole ton. A lot more than I did yesterday. And so much more from the first night we spent watching movies. But even at that point, I think something kinda clicked with me."
  2156. >She looks at you
  2157. >Her eyes are actively appraising you
  2158. >"And I'll be honest?"
  2159. >That is the name of the game
  2160. >"I kinda... like... that he's a human. Because let's be honest, every pony, I kinda like this world. It's so much more advanced. It's cool. And Anon is huge and strong and his hands can do anything."
  2161. >If you had liquid in your mouth, you're sure you'd have done a spit take by now
  2162. >"Ain't that a fact."
  2163. >Shine joins in with a thoughtful nod
  2164. >Prism doesn't seem to know how to react to that
  2165. >Perhaps she was expecting something more dramatic?
  2166. >"I... I see."
  2167. >"And! Don't even get me started on how often we get to hang out and do whatever, every day. I can't remember one day that I've spent without having him around me in some way. And I truly do love that. It's not like I need him around me every day to stay alive but I feel like everything is that much better because he's there. And I really do love that he never looks down on us. On me. Even if we're a fraction of the size, a different species and really have no way to compete with a human outside of what makes us unique."
  2168. >She gives an appraising look to Shine
  2169. >"And... I think Anon likes my orange and yellow better than red on red. And how I can make certain things flex whe-"
  2170. "Lemon Pepper, Jack, whoever you are, you don't gotta go that far!"
  2171. >Your face feels hot and you can even feel a bit of a runny nose trying to start
  2172. >You're perfectly fine with doing the deeds but hearing them out loud is another layer of self-aware that you aren't sure you want to be on quite yet
  2173. >Prism notices this and grins
  2174. >"I agree. I'm glad you let us know, all the same."
  2175. >"Truth or Dare, D?"
  2176. >"I'll take truth, Jacky."
  2177. >The three levels of entertained in front of you really do let you know that alcohol is the best and worst choice you've made all day
  2178. >And it's still day
  2179. >And no one has actually had enough to really mess with them
  2180. >Yet
  2181. >"Why don't you love Anon too? I mean, I get jealous. Sometimes. But he's shown me a lot of times that what I can do is really unique to only me. And he's... just really great like that."
  2182. >As if you've ever done anything to warrant such praise
  2183. >Prism shows some sign of discomfort but more because it means she has to articulate herself
  2184. >"It's not that I hate him... I suppose I'm weary of him. As you've said, he isn't one of us. And he never will be."
  2185. "Because I'm a guy?"
  2186. >"Because yo..."
  2187. >You couldn't have said something more stupid if you tried
  2188. >That is the message you're getting from her wry, narrow-eyed look
  2189. >"...actually, yes. It is partially because of that. And partially because you are a human. I can't just fawn over you."
  2190. >"I ain't asking you to do that, bird lady. I just want you to stop giving him a tough time."
  2191. >"And I'm not! I just don't want to be all that cuddly more than I have to."
  2192. "Wait, haven't you been cuddly at least once or twice before?"
  2193. >Jack joins in, giving her best pressure through a death squint
  2194. >"Yeaaaah.... and you did start that singing and dancing bit the first time. I don't think you even told me about that!"
  2195. >"Jacky, I did!"
  2196. >"Well I don't remember so it means you didn't!"
  2198. >"What sense does that make?"
  2199. >"It makes all the sense it has to, missy!"
  2200. >"Well whatever, I answered."
  2201. >She rolls her eyes and shifts by re-adjusting her position and looks at Shine
  2202. >"So..."
  2203. >"Dare."
  2204. >Our first dare of the night
  2205. >"I dare you to apologize to Jacky."
  2206. >"What? Why?"
  2207. >"Because you did something wrong today. You do something wrong almost every day."
  2208. >"You have no proof of that!"
  2209. >You're staying out of this one
  2210. >Jack is too, apparently
  2211. >"Your face is all the proof I need, Sparking Shine. Now apologize."
  2212. >With six pairs of eyes on Shiner, her ears flatten
  2213. >Could it be that she's feeling some form of shame
  2214. >Some semblance?
  2215. >A crumb, perchance?
  2216. >"Jacky..."
  2217. >The unicorn huffs like she was caught stealing a pack of gum by a state trooper
  2218. >"I'm sorry. I used my magic to make Anon hug me extra hard before I got up. Because I feel happy when he hugs me, and I've never felt that happy before. So I'm sorry I stole that from you."
  2219. >That is the most back-handed, or back-hoofed, apology you've ever heard
  2220. >But Jack buys it
  2221. >She lurches over and swings her front leg around Shine's neck and drags her close
  2222. >"Awww, don't worry about it! When you put it that way, it sounds downright cute!"
  2223. >You're almost positive Shine is trying to say something
  2224. >But it's coming out more and more strangled
  2225. >You can see Jack's leg tightening harder
  2226. >The smile on her face is...
  2227. >Kinda scary
  2228. >"It's ok. But I gotta have my hug time too so... do... not..."
  2229. >Good gracious she's going to pop this girl's head off
  2230. >"Be greedy!"
  2231. >She lets go of Shine, who's horn ignites like a mechanic's torch
  2232. >You are too intrigued by this to take cover but the red aura goes to her throat rather than taking the form of some blast of flame
  2233. >"Y... yeah. You too."
  2234. >Crisis averted
  2235. >You can feel a light layer of sweat that formed on your head from that tension
  2236. >At least Prism looks satisfied by this
  2237. >"Lucky guess."
  2238. >"Lucky I'm here to keep you honest, dear."
  2239. >"So spit it out."
  2240. >"Dare, Sparking Shine."
  2241. >Shine grins
  2242. >"I dare you. To let Anon give you a hug and not he can't let you go until after you two ask Truth or Dare."
  2243. >Though it isn't the most funny thing in the world, you can't help but startle every mare with a barking laugh
  2244. "Oh that's rich. Alright, bring it in."
  2245. >You chuckle and hold out your arms
  2246. >"... Veto?"
  2247. "Nope."
  2248. >"Nooo!"
  2249. >"Come on, not this early!"
  2250. >Three against one wins the day
  2251. "Come here, chicken wing. I'm gonna love and tolerate the shit out of you."
  2252. >"I really don't think this is needed, honestly."
  2253. "Come here, birdbrain. I'm gonna Kentucky fry the fuck out of you."
  2254. >That gets Jacky to burst out
  2255. >"Good lord Anonymous, is that how you talk to me?"
  2256. >"Do it, chicken!"
  2257. >All you do is flex your fingers to welcome her to your arms
  2258. "Let's do this, butterscotch."
  2259. >"What, no."
  2260. "Come on, cakecup."
  2261. >"Cakecup? Don't you mean cupcake?"
  2262. "Bring it here poundcake."
  2263. >"That better not mean what I think it means."
  2264. "Come tell Santa what you want for Christmas."
  2265. >The continued laughter from Jacky officially passes the point where she can't control her volume
  2266. >"Anon, you're making this worse than it needs to be."
  2267. "Come tell Papa John what you want on your pizza."
  2268. >"Now I know that's inappropriate!"
  2269. >That last comment got even Sparking to start giggling
  2270. >The creeping horror on her face contrasts against your wholesome smile and outstretched arms
  2271. "Don't struggle, let's snuggle."
  2272. >"Absolutely not!"
  2274. >"...Nothing disappoints me more than how both of you have betrayed me like this."
  2275. >Prism is firmly held in a hug
  2276. >Her side is pressed against your front, with her flank on your thigh
  2277. >Your arms are draped over her, with one hand holding the other wrist
  2278. >You stifle a chuckle
  2279. >You will admit, she smells...
  2280. >Different
  2281. >More natural?
  2282. >Perhaps it's due to how she tends to groom herself
  2283. >She doesn't know how to do any magic but apparently being a pegasus requires far more an intense grooming regimen
  2284. >You can feel that she's stiff as a board
  2285. >Normally you wouldn't press the issue
  2286. >But a dare's a dare
  2287. >"So Anonymous."
  2288. "Yes, Faint Prism."
  2289. >Her words are stiff and stilted, so you mimic her tone
  2290. >"Truth or dare?"
  2291. "Well that's a good question. Because I was thinki-"
  2292. >"TRUTH OR DARE?!"
  2293. >The other two giggle at her frantic cry
  2294. "Truth me."
  2295. >"Why did you want to torture me along with them?"
  2296. >A quick answer
  2297. >To be fair, if you did want to torture her...
  2298. "Because it's funny. Truth or dare?"
  2299. >You'd answer far more eloquently and be as thought provoking as everyone else
  2300. >"Truth."
  2301. "Are you genuinely this disturbed by this? I mean, this isn't some sort of attack on you, personally. We all know that I'm not going to stick you in the oven with an apple in the mouth or sell pictures of your hooves online."
  2302. >"Wait, what?"
  2303. "Shhh... shh shh..."
  2304. >You give her a gentle squeeze
  2305. "It ain't like that. Now I'm sorry for all of the... weird things I probably have done at some point. But can we both agree that was then and where we are right now... isn't so bad? Are you and I honestly so much like oil and water?"
  2306. >Contrary to your expectations, she doesn't answer with some singular word and hop off
  2307. >You can feel her body relax
  2308. >Enough that she does lean against you rather than lean away
  2309. >"...alright. I'm sorry."
  2310. "I'm not looking for an apology. Just that yesterday's enemies don't have to be today's too."
  2311. >"And you aren't an enemy."
  2312. "You're sure about that?"
  2313. >While she made a strong effort to avoid eye contact, she tilts her head upward
  2314. >Something got through to her
  2315. >You've never seen her face like this before
  2316. >"...I'm sure."
  2317. "Cool. Thanks, I'm glad you think so. I'm happy you're here, don't ever think otherwise. You're the most level-headed here, if something happened to me I would trust your decisions the most to be the right ones."
  2318. >Another crack in her shell
  2319. >Just as her expression changes further, she buries her head in your chest
  2320. >You are as surprised as Jack
  2321. >And almost as surprised as Shine
  2322. >You are being honest but you never considered this to be something of particular importance
  2323. >" know you can hop out of his hug now, right? D?"
  2324. >Jacky finally speaks up, her voice wavering
  2325. >"In a moment."
  2326. >Your eyebrows raise
  2327. >You weren't expecting that
  2328. >Neither was Jack but her broad smile says it all
  2329. >Only Shine is still surprised
  2330. >"...seriously? She's getting free hugs and you get to share a moment together? Where's my moment?"
  2331. >You want to tell her that she already had hers
  2332. >But you'd rather not ruin the pensive vibe that you can feel radiating off of the pegasus
  2334. >Halfway through the first round and already so much ground has been covered
  2335. >You think
  2336. >You're honestly been happy to let as much leak out of one ear as soon as it has entered the other
  2337. >Not for any lack of respect toward them
  2338. >But more because you're hoping it doesn't get weirder
  2339. >You contemplate this while glaring at the vodka bottle
  2340. >Prism finally got off of you and has silently resigned herself to sucking up gummy worms and chugging water
  2341. >She doesn't look defeated but...
  2342. >Maybe it's toothless?
  2343. >Who knows what's going on in her head
  2344. >You've never personally known
  2345. "Alright, Jack. You're up."
  2346. >You swipe the bottle and hold it up in her honor
  2347. >You don't fill your mouth to capacity like the first time but you still let it sit and swish and burn in your mouth before quietly letting it drip and flow down your throat in short streams
  2348. >It's hardly the proper way to drink since it goes burn even the inside of your lips and that spot you've been chewing on your cheek due to boredom at work
  2349. >But it's how you drink
  2350. >By the time all of it goes down to your stomach you let out a staggered cough and violently shiver
  2351. "Guah. That. Is supposed to be good stuff. But who knows at this point, at least it tastes decently."
  2352. >"Come give me a sip."
  2353. >Red magic envelops the bottle and floats over to Shine
  2354. >She does the same, though it's more a quick swish upward
  2355. >Of course, she's a pony
  2356. >Even a third of what you just had would be quite the shot for her
  2357. >"Next!"
  2358. >Shine watches you and lets her tongue drag outside of her mouth
  2359. >She licks her lips with intent while Jacky gives a solid, loud gulp
  2360. >Times like this, you're very happy she hasn't ever had any semblance of morning sickness
  2361. >You know it's probably an impossible thing
  2362. >But
  2363. >Part of you just hopes
  2364. >"Whew! Alright, momma's recharged and ready for more!"
  2365. >Sweet baby Celestia don't give her any evidence that her calling herself "Momma" does anything to you
  2366. >"Hey Da-sha, is it ok if I start with Anon?"
  2367. >"Of course, dear."
  2368. >She's the only one to turn down a drink
  2369. >She isn't particularly downtrodden by any extent but the way she's navel gazing makes you think she's contemplating the origin of gummy worms and why they come in two colors
  2370. >"Anon! Truth or dare?"
  2371. >This is a tough one
  2372. "Truth me, Jackinomics."
  2373. >"What do you like the most about me?"
  2374. "Where do I start?"
  2375. >"Good question. Tell me one thing that you like most about me!"
  2376. "Mmm... well that's a far better question."
  2377. >You could go sappy
  2378. >You could mention how just plain pleasant she is to be around
  2379. >How much you adore her
  2380. >The way she laughs when you're out in public
  2381. >How utterly comfortable she's gotten around you
  2382. >The little chase you have to finally be able to take a bath with her
  2383. "Dem thighs."
  2384. >Instead, you speak your mind
  2385. >Jack grins and leans back
  2386. >She kicks her hind legs forward
  2387. >Those are the legs that absolutely busted your fridge door some two years back
  2388. >Among other things
  2389. >Good God you could crush an engine block between those
  2390. >"...right?"
  2391. "Eh?"
  2392. >You hadn't even considered that she was speaking
  2393. >"These, right? Why do you like them so much?"
  2394. >She flexes the one visible while kicking out her other hind leg
  2395. "Mm."
  2396. >You pull your head back and shake it until you can see straight again
  2397. "What don't I like about them? They make for good pillows, they keep me where I should be when the situation calls for it-"
  2398. >"The situation?"
  2399. >You completely talk over Shine's question
  2400. "And when you really put your mind to it, you're pretty acrobatic too. But the pillow bit especially. The only way I sleep better than you laying on me is my head on those and your face next to mine."
  2401. >The looks Jacky gives you is positively saucy
  2402. >"What's so good about thighs anyway?"
  2403. >Another question that goes unanswered
  2404. "So yeah. That's where my mind went first."
  2406. >Jacky giggles and switches side
  2407. >But it's more of an obvious show than anything else
  2408. >Apparently you and her have enough alcohol to take full advantage of what it means to be "honest"
  2409. >"Oh God, no one needs to see that here Jacky."
  2410. "Veto."
  2411. >"Yup, Veto heard. Dashie?"
  2412. >"Do it if you have to, I'm not even looking at that."
  2413. "You heard it, two to one."
  2414. >"Oh come on!"
  2415. >Man and yellow mare share a moment with a smile that says, in no uncertain terms, that there is a true connection
  2416. >"So, Mr. Leg Man."
  2417. "Yup. Truth or dare?"
  2418. >"Dare."
  2419. >The grin on her face is more intoxicating than the triple distilled potato juice
  2420. >And you know it's triple because you checked the bottle earlier
  2421. >You still don't know what that means but fuck if you care right now
  2422. "I dare you."
  2423. >"Mmmyes?"
  2424. "To tell me what you plan to do with this recently gained knowledge."
  2425. >There are two witnesses but right now this is between you and her
  2426. >It is, in effect, the element of honest at work
  2427. >You can feel it
  2428. >And it isn't just the alcohol talking
  2429. >Alcohol can't even talk, so it can't say otherwise despite that being such a lame excuse
  2430. >"In Soviet Russia pillow lays on head."
  2431. >She speaks with a guttural, low accent
  2432. >You think it's more German than Russian but you'll take it
  2433. "I'm pretty sure I have a hat you'll be able to use too."
  2434. >"Ok, putting a stop to that here and now. Jacky, truth or dare!"
  2435. >All of this open flirting and overt inviting has apparently been the last straw for Shiner
  2436. >"Truth, Sparks."
  2437. >Jacky flexes and stretches once more before going back to a more normal and less... exposed sitting position
  2438. >You must remember that, at the core, all of this was her idea
  2439. >She must not have forgotten that tidbit since everything got started
  2440. >"Don't you think it's a little insensitive to just... do that sort of stuff while we're here and in the splash zone?"
  2441. >The two of you share a chortle
  2442. >Thankfully it has never gotten that dire
  2443. >"And you wouldn't do it if you had the chance?"
  2444. >The smirk Jack has is pure gold
  2445. >It's like she's learning Shine's habits and using them like a mirror
  2446. >"Truth or dare? If truth, that's my question."
  2447. >Cornered and trapped
  2448. >Shine's lips twitch into a frown
  2449. >"Fine. Dare."
  2450. >"I dare you to tell me I'm being excessive."
  2451. >Jack puffs out her chest, as if she had already won something
  2452. >"I dare you to tell me that I need to reel it back. Or that I'm acting so weird that you don't recognize me, when really I'm just really embracing my life. And I am, I'll have you know."
  2453. >Shine looks at me with disgust
  2454. >Of course, the disgust isn't aimed at me
  2455. >"Fiiine. You aren't. I'm just jealous. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
  2456. >"Yes."
  2457. >"Why? Don't you already get to gloat enough every day?"
  2458. >"No? You have magic. You have an entire world you can explore. You can do more in this life than I ever could, and even more than what Anon could do. But I have him. I'm his. And I don't see the reason to hide that anymore. Not from myself, not from the entire world. I've had two years to think about all of this and no matter how I twist it, I don't want things to change. I don't want to wander off into the world. I don't want to be a thief. I don't want to worry about food or how badly the world may be going. I want to focus on myself. And Anon."
  2459. >Shine still isn't happy
  2460. >For going on the offensive so often, her defenses really are severely lacking
  2461. >"And Dashie. And you."
  2462. >"Me? And what or who am I to you? Your chef?"
  2463. >"My sister, you dork."
  2464. >Who taught this yellow mare such an inflammatory insult?
  2465. >"No matter what, I can't stay mad at you. And I won't. I'm comfortable in life and I can't waste another two years questioning it or where things may go. And if things do change or get hard, then I'll have to do more to help out. And that really is all it takes, because that's all I care about."
  2466. >As much as Shine wants to argue, you can hear by the tone of her exhale that something must have rung true
  2468. >"Alright... yeah. That's fair. I guess I can't say I think any different."
  2469. >Shine rolls her eyes and lets her head wander to a plate of left over biscuits
  2470. >"Even if you are the dumb one of the group."
  2471. >"My head is full of love and that will always be better than dumb brains."
  2472. >Jack nods with confidence
  2473. >It takes every fiber of your being to not blurt out "to be fair both of you are pretty retarded"
  2474. >Let the sisters have their moment, Anon
  2475. >Not everything requires commentary
  2476. >No matter how true it is
  2477. >"Dashie! Truth or dare?"
  2478. >Prism raises up her head, idly chewing on a gummy worm
  2479. >You can tell because a tiny bit of green worm is on the edge of her lips
  2480. >"Mmm."
  2481. >She nods and swallows
  2482. >Maybe she could use some gum if she just wants something to chew on
  2483. >"Truth."
  2484. >"Are you embarrassed by us being weird?"
  2485. >A surprisingly benign yet powerful question
  2486. >Prism gives me a suspicious side leer
  2487. >And one to Shine
  2488. >"All three of you embarrass me to no end, and on almost a daily basis."
  2489. >She inhales
  2490. >Holds
  2491. >Exhales
  2492. >"But this is... what... you... might call family. Too. Isn't it?"
  2493. >Everyone nods
  2494. >You're a bit surprised even Unicornholio is nodding along
  2495. >But to be honest, it is the case
  2496. >"So yes. As my little sister, I could never live the way you do. But I also understand fully why you do and I support it. Far more than I could ever support anything we've done with ourselves."
  2497. >Her warm, almost maternal smile reflects off of Jacker's wide, excited beaming
  2498. >"Truth or dare?"
  2499. >"Keep the truth train moving!"
  2500. >Jacky bobs her head to a song you can almost hear
  2501. >"If you and Anon ended up as parents..."
  2502. >The energy drains from the room in an instant
  2503. >Where could she be going with this?
  2504. >Jack looks as uncomfortable as you feel
  2505. >"...would you name one of your daughters after me? I'm fine with taking a middle name spot."
  2506. >"Just the middle name spot?"
  2507. "Huh? "One of?""
  2508. >"Wait, what about me?!
  2509. >"Oh let's face it, Anonymous, neither of you will stop once it happens."
  2510. >"Of course! Would you prefer "Faint" or "Prism" as the name?"
  2511. >"That's going too far, they can't just start popping out foals!"
  2512. "How many do you think we're going to have? What's even the pregnancy duration?"
  2513. >"Oh I'm fine with either. You could even make it anything that begins with a D."
  2514. >"You got it, Auntie Dash!"
  2516. "You're like the same age as them, you little red runt!"
  2517. >The topic of motherhood causes the entire room to erupt
  2518. >As embarrassing as it is for Jacky, the longer it goes on the happier she gets
  2519. >Same with Prism, honestly
  2520. >She's speaking with the authority of someone who's already had child care
  2521. >Which is technically true from what you know about their past
  2522. >And Shine...
  2523. >Poor Sparking Shine
  2524. >Her attempts to detract and derail fall on deaf ears
  2525. >Until she starts mentioning that when she has foals, neither of them are getting any middle name slots
  2526. >You are pretty sure this is a woman's conversation and the best thing you can do for all intents and purposes is to not laugh too hard and to say "hello" to your dearest bottle of Polish potato surprise
  2527. >Honestly, you often forget that you're the only guy among these creatures known as women
  2529. >The baby talk leads for...
  2530. >Far too long
  2531. >Thankfully long enough that calls for another drink
  2532. >Who's left?
  2533. >Shine?
  2534. >You take another drink
  2535. >Maybe a drink and a half
  2536. >By the time everyone settles down, you've learned that you're probably going to have at least a dozen kids
  2537. >Foals?
  2538. >Centaurs?
  2539. >Who the hell knows
  2540. >But good to know that all of them are pretty open to the idea
  2541. >You're not that shocked but it is still a good thing to hear
  2542. >It means that if and when things escalate that far
  2543. >Or if nature finds a way
  2544. >They really will be with you and Jack every step of the way
  2545. >You've never felt that sort of support before
  2546. >Even if it's all theoretical
  2547. >"I guess it's my turn now."
  2548. >More drinking is passed around
  2549. >Prism and Jack are curled up against each other like a pair of cats
  2550. >The maternal talk must have really had an effect on them
  2551. >Prism is the only one who refuses another sip
  2552. >Shine looks at you, smiling
  2553. >"I guess you're up first. Truth or Dare?"
  2554. "Trust me."
  2555. >"Trust you?"
  2556. "Ah. Eh, truth."
  2557. >"Same thing."
  2558. "I guess so. What you got for me?"
  2559. >"Could I ever be a mom like Jack?"
  2560. >You know what she's asking
  2561. >But you also know what she's asking
  2562. "You do not that she isn't one, right?"
  2563. >Things have mellowed out enough that it seems like no one taking any sort of bait
  2564. >"I know... but still."
  2565. >You shrug
  2566. "I have no clue. Probably."
  2567. >That's enough for her to smile
  2568. >"Thanks. I wanted to ask something more... pressing. But I guess that just feels more important right now."
  2569. "Yeah. I suppose I get that. Truth or Dare?"
  2570. >"Truth."
  2571. >Shine closes her eyes and curls up tight into a ball
  2572. >Your eyes focus on the other two
  2573. >Are they still even awake?
  2574. "Hey dorks, you up?"
  2575. >Both nod
  2576. >Well that's good
  2577. >But now you kinda... feel a little embarrassed to ask
  2578. "You think... your magic could have anything to do with that? With helping out there."
  2579. >All mare heads rise up
  2580. >Shine looks more shocked than anything else
  2581. >"...can magic work like that?"
  2582. "Hell if I know. Did you know that you could turn fire to ice?"
  2583. >""
  2584. "Then there you go."
  2585. >As if it wasn't an ice breaker to just mention the possibility of starting a family, you go and ask for help to start one
  2586. >You aren't really sure of how else to put it
  2587. >After a long silence, she aims an intent stare at Jacky
  2588. >"Jacky, say Truth."
  2589. >"Truth?"
  2590. >"If it's possible...?"
  2591. >Jacky returns the stare
  2592. >The last horse to cross the finish line, she looks at you
  2593. >You already asked
  2594. >So it's a bit obvious of what you think on the matter
  2595. >"Yeah. Yes. Definitely. Say truth."
  2596. >"Truth."
  2597. >It seems like they're in sync on this
  2598. >"If it works, then..."
  2599. >"Yeah..."
  2600. >"...alright."
  2601. >Their deer-in-the-headlights look makes it a little awkward
  2602. >You have no clue what they're on about but it you're...
  2603. >Honestly?
  2604. >Not as concerned as you should be
  2605. >"Prism. Say truth."
  2606. >"Truth."
  2607. >Prism's mouth pops out the word like a bubble
  2608. >"You know what this means, right?"
  2609. >"Yes. Truth."
  2610. >"Yeah."
  2611. >"Are you ready for that responsibility? No getting jealous."
  2612. >"I don't know. But it means that it could happen, right?"
  2613. >"Maybe."
  2614. "Alright, can one of you female horses tell me what's going on?"
  2615. >"Don't worry about it."
  2616. >All three of them say that
  2617. >It's not just in stereo, but surround sound
  2618. >You feel like their triple-assurance blasted away what little focus still had
  2619. "Alright. So... harmony quest. Would you say that we figured out something about the element of honesty?"
  2620. >"Big time."
  2621. >"I suppose so."
  2622. >"If this works, I expect complete worship for a month straight."
  2623. "Nice. Well..."
  2624. >You want to say that things turned out well
  2625. >All of them have this serene feeling
  2626. >You really don't want to impede on it
  2627. "I'm gonna... go hang out in my room. Glad everyone had fun."
  2628. >Rather than the quest ending on a bang, it ended in a pretty mellow thing
  2629. >A lot of the leftovers were left half-eaten
  2630. >Most of the water was ignored
  2631. >Only Jack drank some soda
  2632. >Eh, it's not a big deal
  2633. >They'll eat and drink the rest tomorrow
  2635. >You retreat to your room and flop down onto your mattress
  2636. >There's enough alcohol in your system to help with blood flow
  2637. >And to calm a lot of your nerves
  2638. >But not nearly enough to cause any weird outbursts or substantial drop in linguistic skills
  2639. >This "quest" really worked
  2640. >A lot of apparent issues were quashed
  2641. >A lot of things were brought up
  2642. >You really aren't so sure of what to make of all of it
  2643. >If Jack could get pregnant...
  2644. >If
  2645. >Of course, you would be happy
  2646. >You might be a little more... conservative, with certain actions
  2647. >And to be honest
  2648. "To be honest..."
  2649. >You should be worried
  2650. >You really should be
  2651. >Imagine the costs
  2652. >Imagine trying to explain that to the apartment front office
  2653. >Could you still even live here?
  2654. >The societal implications too
  2655. >But
  2656. >To
  2657. >Be
  2658. >Honest
  2659. >You don't care about that
  2660. >You don't care about any of that
  2661. >If you can get that sort of thing with Jack, you more or less have to go for it
  2662. >You wouldn't be able to forgive yourself if you turned down an offer
  2663. >Your thoughts don't go any further than that
  2664. >You lay there for... who knows how long
  2665. >In a completely dark, quiet bedroom
  2666. >The apartment is far too small to start a family in
  2667. >But you grew up pretty poor too
  2668. >At the end of the day, you're either for it or against it
  2669. >And you're for it
  2670. >One thousand percent, you're for it
  2671. >You stare at the ceiling fan for far too long
  2672. >Your eyes have adjusted enough where you can see the blades spinning
  2673. >If you focus hard enough, you can track an individual blade going around and around
  2674. >You would never say
  2675. >But you still haven't built back up what it cost to get Prism from that warehouse and that weirdo chick
  2676. >If only you could have found a different way to get her, you could at least in theory get a down payment down for some sort of... something
  2677. >Maybe you could ask her
  2678. >If anyone would know, it would be her
  2679. >Would it really be worth it?
  2680. >You hear someone entering the room
  2681. >And laying on top of you
  2682. >The weight says it's Jack
  2683. >"Hey... Anon?"
  2684. >Yup, it's Jack
  2685. "Sup."
  2686. >"Thanks for helping out with this."
  2687. "Yeah. Don't mention it."
  2688. >She spreads her legs out all across your body
  2689. >Her upper hooves are on your shoulder
  2690. >"You think magic might... do something?"
  2691. "Maybe. But I think that Nona chick might be able to help too."
  2692. >Your arms seek her out and bring her into a tight hug
  2693. "Maybe we're missing something. Like medicine or something."
  2694. >" be honest, it's a pretty easy process. I'm not too sure there are so many things to do."
  2695. "Yeah. I know."
  2696. >The ceiling fan keeps spinning in the dark
  2697. "Hey Jack."
  2698. >"Yeah?"
  2699. "I'm gonna be honest with you."
  2700. >She sounds almost apprehensive
  2701. >"...yes?"
  2702. "Firstborn's name has to be Frederick or Winnifred."
  2703. >"Not Anon Junior?"
  2704. "Nah. I was never fond of the whole "Junior" thing. Just seemed weird."
  2705. >"What about Jacky Junior?"
  2706. "Do female names work that way?"
  2707. >"I don't know. If we go by conventional names, I'm still asserting that I'm named after a pepper. And Ma is named after an apple."
  2708. "That's a really good point."
  2709. >You sigh and decide to just turn off your brain
  2710. >Anything you're thinking, you can say instead
  2711. "What a day."
  2712. >"Really."
  2713. "I was expecting it to turn out a lot weirder."
  2714. >"Weirder than spontaneous baby talk?"
  2715. "Y... no, actually. That was weird, but in a completely different way. I forgot just how freaking goofy you chicks are."
  2716. >"I blame you for that."
  2717. >She nuzzles into your chest
  2718. "That's fine, I accept the blame."
  2719. >"...I don't have parents, Anon."
  2720. "Yeah..."
  2721. >"Do you think I can even handle it?"
  2722. "Absolutely."
  2723. >"How do you know?"
  2724. "Because you know how to be a mom. You know how you would have wanted to be treated and protected. Right?"
  2725. >While it would otherwise be a bit of a touchy subject, neither of you hide anything
  2726. >"Y... yeah."
  2727. "That can be enough to start on. And we still have those two dorks out there too, you know?"
  2728. >"Do you really think they would be able to help us?"
  2729. "Did you see all of that crap out there? I bet my life on it."
  2731. >"I do too. And our futures on them too."
  2732. "Just don't tell Shine that. Her ego is already getting inflated and who knows where it will be if it turns out her magic can actually do something."
  2733. >"...she doesn't want me to be the only mom, you know."
  2734. "...yeah, I know."
  2735. >" I stop her? I'm not sharing. Not that. Not ever. I can't."
  2736. "I don't know, Pepper. I really, truly don't."
  2737. >"...but what if it works."
  2738. "I don't know."
  2739. >"I wish I were human."
  2740. "I don't."
  2741. >You can feel her trembling
  2742. >"Why?"
  2743. "Because you wouldn't be you otherwise. We're in it for the long haul. That means we'll have to figure out our problems our way."
  2744. >You double the strength of the hug
  2745. "And we still have those elements to take care of, right?"
  2746. >"Right."
  2747. >Eventually, your hug ends
  2748. >You shift to petting her sides
  2749. >You've pet her so often that you can close your eyes and still see every part of her body clearly through your hands
  2750. >Her face
  2751. >Her mane
  2752. >Her legs
  2753. >Flank
  2754. >Other spots
  2755. >You treat her body almost like a stress ball
  2756. >By the time your hands get tired, which takes a lot of effort, you can hear her breathing
  2757. >You must have kneaded her to sleep
  2758. >Honestly now
  2759. >You could coax her to sleep in the middle of a tornado
  2760. >You inhale and exhale
  2761. >Controlled breathing to help you wind down
  2762. >You don't completely like the idea
  2763. >But you still have the email
  2764. >You can send one
  2765. >Ask a few questions
  2766. >Get an answer
  2767. >You only wonder if you should
  2768. >What if there is no way?
  2769. >What if there is a way but the cost is dire?
  2770. >What would you be willing to give up for that future?
  2771. >To be honest, you have no idea
  2772. >Maybe it's ok to not know yet
  2773. >You'll find the answer
  2774. >With her
  2776. >"You have work tomorrow, don't you?"
  2777. "Yeah... sadly."
  2778. >"Wanna call in sick and spend the day with me instead?"
  2779. "That's not a bad idea."
  2780. >Ever since the Honesty quest came and went, everyone has been in pretty high spirits
  2781. >You still need to get on Prism's case because she never did do that dare you put her up to
  2782. >But that's not the biggest deal in the world
  2783. >Jack has been sticking to you like glue
  2784. >Shine has been playing her character, and has officially eclipsed you in terms of progress and player level
  2785. "I wouldn't mind sleeping outside... but is Prism gonna make that a habit?"
  2786. >The two of you do have the living room to yourselves
  2787. >Prism is on the patio and made a little blanket nest for herself
  2788. >You can still hear the sound of combat and sorcery spamming from your room
  2789. >"She's always kinda loud, ain't she..."
  2790. "I like it. The noise."
  2791. >Jack looks up, relative to her
  2792. >Since it's starting to warm up, cuddling has been replaced with laying head to head
  2793. >"Really?"
  2794. "Yeah. You've seen it, I can sleep pretty comfortably with a movie or music on."
  2795. >"Sure but I didn't think you liked it. It took me a long while to get used to it. You petting me and doing other stuff made a difference."
  2796. "I didn't think I liked it either."
  2797. >You feel like you could leave it there
  2798. "You know how before you, I was living alone, right?"
  2799. >"Right."
  2800. "And you see how big the apartment is. It's a lot for just one guy who... doesn't have friends over. Or socialize. Or anything like that."
  2801. >You reach up with a hand to feel out Jack's face
  2802. >Just because you can, you poke her cheek a few times
  2803. >Ignoring her audible pouting, the poke turns to a stroke
  2804. "When I was growing up, my mom, grandma, uncle, friends. All of them always had something going. It was really rare when the entire house would be dead silent. Especially with my friends, if everyone was sleeping then you still had at least something going on in the background. Of course, that was initially because we were just lazy or would fall asleep right in the middle of things. But as we got older, we got a lot more lax in our ways and just stopped caring."
  2805. >You can hear Jack flop over onto her belly
  2806. >She shifts herself just enough so her neck is resting on yours
  2807. >"...keep going."
  2808. "Are you comfortable, Jacqueline?"
  2809. >She giggles
  2810. >You can feel the vibrations go from her throat to yours
  2811. >It feels better than you thought
  2812. >Not that you thought you would be able to feel anything at all
  2813. >"Very."
  2814. "Riiiiight..."
  2815. >You reply with a low, long croak that travels to her
  2816. >Another giggle and a little more weight on your neck is all you need, to know that she's enjoying this unorthodox intimacy
  2817. "Well. As tiny as that stuff is, or as annoying as people would see it. I enjoyed it. It let me know that I wasn't alone."
  2818. >The neck-to-neck action is a little warmer than you like
  2819. >But you aren't going to push her away
  2820. "When I started living on my own... I'll admit. I got spooked."
  2821. >"You got scared?"
  2822. "Yeah."
  2823. >"Because it was quiet?"
  2825. "Absolutely."
  2826. >"That's... kinda weird."
  2827. "Yeah well I'm a weird guy."
  2828. >"Seriously."
  2829. "Keep that up and I'll show you how weird I can be."
  2830. >And she knows first-hoof just how weird a man you are when you're comfortable
  2831. >"So what scared you? I mean, what about the quiet did it?"
  2832. "Well, outside of the usual like monsters in the dark and the idea of there being a zombie or doppelganger in the mirror that's going to reveal itself..."
  2833. >"Doppelwhatter?"
  2834. "Long story."
  2835. >You shiver from the mere mention of that particular thing
  2836. >It's why you still don't like looking yourself in the eye in mirrors
  2837. "Outside of all of that... I just couldn't handle it. It's depressing to be in a quiet little hole in the wall. It reminds me that I'm not home, I'm just in some sort of box where I sleep and keep my shit."
  2838. >Both you and Jack shift slightly at the sound of Shine screaming a bloody threat
  2839. >At what sounds like a dragon
  2840. "Yeah, and that? That makes me feel like I'm home."
  2841. >"It helps that we're here."
  2842. "It helps a ton that you're here, Jack."
  2843. >"I guess I never thought about that sort of stuff. Where we used to move to and sleep, noises were always a thing. Bridges had traffic. Caves had the wind and what sounded like monsters."
  2844. "You slept in caves?"
  2845. >"Like, we did once or twice."
  2846. "It probably did have something in there."
  2847. >"Probably. But we couldn't be choosey. When it comes to all of the stuff like the music that's playing, or Sparky shouting at a screen..."
  2848. >Her shoulder shrugs against yours
  2849. >"I mean it doesn't bother me. The music helps me relax a ton. You do too. I don't really feel like I have anything to be afraid of."
  2850. >You can't see everything from your current position but you can see that Jack's staring dead ahead
  2851. >"But to be alone... no music... no screaming. No friends or family."
  2852. >She blinks a few times, like she's trying her best to imagine what that would feel like
  2853. >"I don't think I could do it. I don't think I want to be alone. Least of all like that."
  2854. "Yeah... but I'm glad I was."
  2855. >"You're glad."
  2856. "Yup."
  2857. >"Why in the world would that make you glad?"
  2858. "Because it led to you, dorkus."
  2859. >You emphasize her latest name, eyebrows furrowing
  2860. "What's not to love?"
  2861. >"You got a point there."
  2862. >You can feel Jacky swallow
  2863. >"...if we do manage to figure out a way and stuff."
  2864. "If and when."
  2865. >The tone in your voice leads to some sort of shiver from her
  2866. >"...yeah. When we have a girl. Do you think it would be a bad idea if we called her Pie?"
  2867. >Her words turn deliberate
  2868. >It's such a little shift in inflection but you can tell when she does it
  2869. >"Because... if it wasn't for her. You wouldn't have thought to get me. Really, we have her to thank. And even though I might not ever get a chance to meet her, I want her to know that we haven't forgotten about her."
  2871. >This time it's your throat that tingles hers with a hard swallow
  2872. >You don't often talk about those days anymore
  2873. >Not since the first time
  2874. >And maybe a few other small times
  2875. >Part of you still wishes that those days were just a fever dream
  2876. >That it happened to some other kid that kicked off and left you in charge
  2877. >The you you know
  2878. "I'd like that. I think she would too."
  2879. >You force a weak chuckle
  2880. "Imagine that, huh... she's still out there, helping out and dealing with lazy nurses and kids that are just stuck in their life. And out of the blue she finds out that some loser she used to watch had a kid and named them after her. What a story that would make."
  2881. >Another hard swallow
  2882. >Another of yours, specifically
  2883. "I... I hope she would like that. I never even thought of that..."
  2884. >In a sense, it's insulting, isn't it?
  2885. >To not even have her in mind when it comes to such an important event
  2886. >If you were truly grateful, would you have ever let it slip your mind like that?
  2887. >"Lucky for you, while you may wear the pants I have the brains."
  2888. >You scoff
  2889. "I've seen goldfish with more effective brains."
  2890. >"That's just because they're fish and they're always thinking about swimming."
  2891. "Why do they have to think about swimming?"
  2892. >"What else are they gonna think about?"
  2893. >You can't tell if this is a touch of madness or just proof of why you consider Shine the brains of the trio
  2894. "...I guess so."
  2895. >"Heh. But even goldfish worry sometimes."
  2896. >They do?
  2897. "Should I not worry then?"
  2898. >"I don't think you have a reason to. She's like a school teacher. She's probably some big time hospital mare now and has helped out so many kids she barely remembers you."
  2899. >That is probably supposed to make you feel better
  2900. >Yet it inexplicably doesn't
  2901. >You probably were just another shit kid
  2902. >One of thousands over the years
  2903. >But
  2904. >It would be nice if she remembered you
  2905. "I'm not sure if you're trying to cheer me up."
  2906. >"I'm trying to pull a you so I'm still figuring it out."
  2907. >Your squint at the wanna-be mimic
  2908. "Pulling a me."
  2909. >"Yeah, like you know how you try to sound all serious but you say funny or weird things so you make me wonder if you did it on purpose?"
  2910. ""
  2911. >You can't let her know that you know
  2912. >"Well, I'm trying it out. Is it working?"
  2913. >At least she is trying
  2914. >Your answer is a powerful yawn
  2915. "Yeah. It is. Thanks, Jack."
  2916. >"Anytime."
  2917. >At least she sounds confident in her attempt
  2918. "If I'm gonna call in for tomorrow, let's at least get some sleep. That way if I wake up early enough I can pretend that I've been up for hours and say I've been sick."
  2919. >"Why would you do that?"
  2920. "To further give the impression that I'm telling the truth."
  2921. >Lying to get out of work is a skill that takes years to hone
  2922. >Thankfully you do it so infrequently and often have drawn out excuses to win over anyone questioning things
  2923. >It helps that you overexplain when it turns to a legit absence
  2924. >"Oh my. I didn't know you were a criminal."
  2925. "We're all thick as thieves, aren't we?"
  2926. >"Some thicker than others."
  2928. "Oof. Poor girl, she wouldn't recover if she heard that one."
  2929. >Jack shifts and lays on her side
  2930. >Still neck on neck
  2931. >"Good night, Anon. Let's do breakfast together. I'll help out."
  2932. "Sounds good to me, Jack. Have a good sleep."
  2933. >You close your eyes
  2934. >Despite listening to the music and trying to pick up on the exact situation Shine is in, you can't stop yourself from entering the comfortable, warm darkness that is sleep
  2937. >What was once hard is now easy
  2938. >Where you struggled even mere hours ago, you succeed with ease
  2939. >Where Shine surpassed you before, you absolutely blew her progress out of the water
  2940. >All it took was one respec
  2941. >And she wasn't around when you did that
  2942. >"...Did you just kill that thing without support?"
  2943. "Yup."
  2944. >"...How?"
  2945. "I got gud."
  2946. >"I was talking to Jacky for like ten minutes and you were eating dirt. And you were using a different weapon."
  2947. "I know."
  2948. >You exit to the main menu and hand her the controller
  2949. "You better get to it, you're lagging pretty hard now."
  2950. >"Stupid freaking... where did you find that sword, anyway?"
  2951. "I just found it."
  2952. >"Just pulled it out of your ass, huh."
  2953. "Nope, not mine."
  2954. >You'll probably tell her about the hidden questline that led to it later
  2955. >For now, you want to savor that taste of superiority
  2956. "So what did Jack want to talk about? Once we got back, she wanted to just veg and spread out."
  2957. >You were half-joking about it at the time but you ended up calling in at work to spend the day with her
  2958. >Breakfast biscuits
  2959. >A visit to a movie theater to see the worst movie in the building
  2960. >Neither of you cared about the movie but it was a lot of fun to have an entire theater to yourselves
  2961. >Lunch
  2962. >A walk around a park
  2963. >A detour on the way home
  2964. >It was such a blur that you swore it all happened in the span of minutes
  2965. >"She was going on about the next element of harmony quest she wants us to go on. Which means the one she wants you to design and run."
  2966. "DM's job is never done, eh?"
  2967. >"Just about. She wants to go for Loyalty next."
  2968. "Element of Loyalty?"
  2969. >Rather than trying to go for progress, she's just going back to her usual spot to grind for levels
  2970. >"Yeah. Her first idea was for us to tell each other secrets and guess them but... how are we gonna do that? If we tell three secrets each, it would take forever. Not much of a party game."
  2971. >It is a little insulting to consider the quests to discover the elements of harmony as mere party games
  2972. >But she's completely right
  2973. "That's a good question... I'm not really sure. I'm not tired. To be honest, I'm still a little worked up and wired. So I guess I should think about it."
  2974. >"Worked up, huh..."
  2975. >You half-expected her to lurch her way onto your lap but she's still sitting in her spot
  2976. >In arm's reach but not directly against you
  2977. "What can I say, it feels good to go out with her. You get used to people looking at you funny, you can really do anything."
  2978. >Maybe it's the lack of shame or the growth of confidence
  2979. >Let's be realistic, it's both
  2980. "How about something like charades?"
  2981. >"What's that?"
  2982. "Where you act out something, or give a sort of hint and act out the secret."
  2983. >Shine's character stops moving
  2984. >"..."
  2985. >It starts moving again
  2986. >"No thanks. I don't want to act out that sort of thing."
  2987. "That sort of thing?"
  2988. >"Come on, it's hardly a secret anymore."
  2989. >You choose to not guess at what that may be
  2991. >Personally, you think it might have something to do with her becoming a jedi
  2992. >Her use of magic has really grown
  2993. >Or maybe not the power, but her mastery of utility
  2994. "I guess that wouldn't be the smartest option then... how about Twenty Questions?"
  2995. >"Sounds like a party game."
  2996. "Yeah. So you start off by asking a question and then start narrowing it down. For example, question one."
  2997. >"We're doing this right now?"
  2998. "Yes. Does this secret focus on yourself?"
  2999. >"Yes."
  3000. "Now it helps to be honest. Is this secret relating to magic?"
  3001. >"Yes."
  3002. "Now we're getting somewhere. Does the secret relate to how you've used magic on another?"
  3003. >"...yes."
  3004. >It's interesting to see how she plays
  3005. >As soon as she got access to incantations, she focused almost purely on that
  3006. >She can actually fight with a weapon but it seems like a genuine last resort
  3007. >She's pretty decent with rapiers and thrusting weapons
  3008. >Knowing her, she's probably thinking of them as her horn
  3009. "Hm... is it about you used your magic on my hand?"
  3010. >Shine shakes her head with a frustrated sigh
  3011. >"How is that a secret? You were there when it happened. A secret would be me using magic on you when you're sleeping."
  3012. >That does sound like her
  3013. >...
  3014. >It sounds like something she would do
  3015. "...your secret isn't related to that. Is it?"
  3016. >"No. Sadly I respect you just enough to not do something like that."
  3017. "Oh, well I appreciate it. And here I thought you were some shameless chump."
  3018. >"No, I just have a shameless shadow."
  3019. "Well as long as you do your shadow ninjutsu shit not aimed at me, go for it."
  3020. >The questioning trails off in favor of just watching her play
  3021. >So her secret is something that involves her using magic on someone else...
  3022. "Did this secret happen before or after you came here?"
  3023. "Before."
  3024. >Oh?
  3025. >Now we're getting somewhere
  3026. >But how in the world do you guess that now?
  3027. "Was it for Jack's benefit?"
  3028. >"Yes. I see how you're narrowing things down. Are you even keeping count on your questions?"
  3029. "Not at all. This is just a practice round so it's whatever."
  3030. >"You're pumping me for only information and I'm playing along because it's just practice?"
  3031. "You got a problem with that?"
  3032. >The unicorn purses her lips
  3033. >Another sigh
  3034. >"Whatever."
  3035. "Come on, it's fun to probe you for info. It lets me know more about you."
  3036. >"Anon, we've known each other for like two entire years now. And I couldn't escape from seeing you even once a day if I tried."
  3037. "And? It doesn't mean I know everything about you. And I want to know more."
  3038. >" better keep careful about how you say that."
  3039. "You're the one getting weird about it."
  3040. >Maybe it's due to the day's outing, but you feel confident and invincible
  3041. "Was it to protect her?"
  3042. >"No."
  3043. "To feed her?"
  3044. >No reply
  3045. >She isn't giving you a single glance
  3046. >Is this some sort of cold shoulder treatment?
  3047. >You don't really know why she would do that
  3048. >Rather, you have no clue what is up with her this time
  3050. "Did you magic up some food for her?"
  3051. >No answer
  3052. "Come on, you gotta answer."
  3053. >"Yeah."
  3054. >She's going a little overkill on the most powerful spells she has access to
  3055. >You really don't need to drop a moon on some random duo of soldiers to kill them
  3056. "Did I guess right?"
  3057. >"Just about."
  3058. "Didn't you always have issues with magic?"
  3059. >"Yeah."
  3060. "You gonna tell me about it?"
  3061. >"No."
  3062. >You get the feeling you won't be able to get anything more out of her
  3063. >You lay down, set up a pair of pillows to prop up your head, and reach out to grab her
  3064. >With some sort of squeak, you push her flank and tug on her chest to flop her onto her side
  3065. >With a practiced motion, you pull her close until your arm is under her head and wrapped around her chest
  3066. >You're going to stay laying on your back no matter how tempting it is to have an easier position to watch her play
  3067. "Thanks for helping out how you did back then. Even if they didn't appreciate it. Or know it. I'm thankful."
  3068. >"Yeah well... it's nothing."
  3069. >She sounds quiet
  3070. >Almost meek
  3071. "It's not nothing. Thanks to you, they got to live another day."
  3072. >She has so many weird moods
  3073. >Some days she's really pushy
  3074. >Other days she's a complete pain
  3075. >For tonight, she's downright quiet
  3076. >To be fair, you have no idea how she was while you were out
  3077. "Were you jealous that Jack and I went out?"
  3078. >"It's what couples do. Not friends."
  3079. "I guess. But friends do get to hang out and shit talk each other."
  3080. >"And sleep in the same bed together?"
  3081. "Yeah. My friends and I used to. Mostly because we didn't have many places we could sleep and sometimes we'd wake up after a dead nap and rejoin whatever was going on at the time."
  3082. >She nuzzles your arm
  3083. >It begins
  3084. >Out of some unknown reflex, your fingers tap against her chest
  3085. >"Hey Anon."
  3086. "What's up?"
  3087. >"Wanna learn a secret?"
  3088. "Do I have to ask twenty questions for it?"
  3089. >"No, this one's for free."
  3090. "Alright. I'll bite. What is it?"
  3091. >"Did you know that rubbing a pony's chest is equivalent to touching an erogenous zone?"
  3092. >That causes your fingers to freeze in their place
  3093. >You feel a cold...very cold... wave go down your spine
  3094. "...really?"
  3095. >Shine exhales with a dark giggle
  3096. >"...nah. I just wanted to see how you'd react. Maybe it is true for earth horses but it probably isn't true for us."
  3097. "Probably?"
  3098. >"Probably."
  3099. >You feel a little worse than awkward now
  3100. >"If you don't believe me, you don't have to. I'm probably wrong. I've never had my chest rubbed so what do I know?"
  3101. >What sparked this shift in mood?
  3102. >As well as you know her, you really don't know her as well as you know Jack
  3103. >Not a surprise, Jackentine has always been an open book
  3104. >"You can always try that out with Jacky..."
  3105. "And what are you wanting if you're right?"
  3106. >"Just more hugs like this. Friends hug, don't they?"
  3107. "Sure, but not really when they turn awkward. Unless being awkward is the plan."
  3108. >Is this just some form of way to screw with you?
  3110. >"Don't worry."
  3111. >She inhales and puffs out her chest
  3112. >"If I feel awkward about anything, I will let you know immediately."
  3113. "Great..."
  3114. >This does feel awkward to you, no matter how you slice it
  3115. >Just when you were getting comfortable with hugging her
  3116. >...should you be getting comfortable with even that much?
  3119. >Another night in with Jack
  3120. >As if there is any other sort of night you could want
  3121. >You've been checking your phone every so often, in between moving the main computer's mouse and petting her chest
  3122. >She hasn't let up on if that has any sort of effect on her
  3123. >But it feels nice there
  3124. >And it's fun to go from petting to patting her like she's a watermelon being presented to Steven Seagal
  3125. >"Something up, Anon?"
  3126. "Eh. Ah... geh."
  3127. >That's all you can reliably answer with
  3128. >"Uh oh."
  3129. >She goes from laying on her side to sitting up
  3130. >You've only just recently laid down with her so now you feel silly
  3131. >"Come on, spill it."
  3132. "Eh."
  3133. >A grunt and a short, quick shake of the head is all you're willing to disclose
  3134. >The yellow mare leans forward uncomfortably close until she's starting you in the eye with maybe an inch or two of distance
  3135. >"Spill."
  3136. "Eh."
  3137. >Bonk
  3138. >She leans forward and headbutts you at the slowest speed known to pone
  3139. >"Spill."
  3140. "Eh..."
  3141. >She rocks back and forth again, giving another almost-rub of foreheads together
  3142. >"Spill."
  3143. "Eh."
  3144. >You nudge your head forward, greeting her next lazy headbutt with one of your own
  3145. "Spill?"
  3146. >"Spill."
  3147. "Ah..."
  3148. >You avert her gaze
  3149. >You really don't want to say it to her
  3150. >You don't even want to bring it up to yourself
  3151. >This seems to bother her enough that she re-adjusts herself to sit right next to you
  3152. >Of course she isn't truly bothered, you knucklehead
  3153. >She's worried
  3154. >Of course she would be
  3155. >"Is it bad?"
  3156. >You refuse to say
  3157. >"You can tell me... you know?"
  3158. "Gah... I know."
  3159. >Finally, a straight answer
  3160. >What you're most famous for, surely
  3161. >"You almost never look at it. Is it work related?"
  3162. "No. Nothing goofy like that."
  3163. >"Oh hey, an answer! Now I am the Anon now and you are the pony. Speak to Jacky, my little human."
  3164. >She raises one of her legs to pet your head with her hoof
  3165. >It feels...
  3166. >Not that bad?
  3167. >She's more gentle than you thought
  3168. >But it does miss some of the benefits that come with fingers
  3169. >Maybe that's why you can pet her into a coma
  3170. >You lean your head into the petting anyway
  3171. "It's my mom."
  3172. >The petting stops immediately
  3173. >The look on Jack's face is one of shock and excitement
  3174. >"M-ma?! Your ma? Well heck, how's she goin'? Ain't she a right one, she ain't been contacting you since... ever! Why, I ain't even dang seen her!"
  3175. >Her sudden slip into her own ma's voice and accent is a little out of nowhere but it doesn't bother you
  3176. >You had a feeling she would get excited like this
  3177. >Like she did when you first mentioned your old friends to her
  3178. "It's... it's nothing."
  3179. >Jackenstein's face slides into a smooth grin
  3180. >"Ain't nothin', huh... what, did you tell her you found yourself a good girl and that you've been too busy to talk?"
  3181. "No, nothing like..."
  3182. >You can't help but look at your phone again
  3183. >No new messages
  3184. "I..."
  3185. >Face the music
  3186. >You can't hide this from her
  3187. >You haven't really hidden anything from her like this before anyway
  3188. "I spoke to her a bit today and..."
  3189. >"Yeah?"
  3191. >Some of the excitement already bleeds from her voice
  3192. "She's... she's doing alright. She just said that..."
  3193. >The words choke you
  3194. >You can't do anything to shake them loose from your throat
  3195. >Worse yet, the outer areas of your vision start to quickly go murky
  3196. "She just ah... she said she's starting to forget things."
  3197. >After a moment of silent registration, Jacky chuckles and nudges your shoulder with her hoof
  3198. >"Well that's alright! We all forget a ton of stuff here without even trying! Why, I even forgot what we did yesterday when you were at work and..."
  3199. >She can tell that her joyous attempt at cheering you up is not helping
  3200. >Not at all
  3201. >"...she ain't forgetting important things. Is she?"
  3202. >Your only answer is a shake of the head and half-assed shrug that involve your hands shifting upward maybe an inch before landing flat
  3203. >"...well that's not bad. Everyone has those sorts of days, right?"
  3204. >You can't even continue the topic with her
  3205. >Almost as if it's a nervous tick at this point, your eyes go from her to the phone
  3206. >Nothing
  3207. >Of course it would be nothing
  3208. >Especially in the middle of the night like this
  3209. >"...she ain't gonna forget about you, you know... no one could get that forgetful."
  3210. >And just like that, she said the one thing you can't stand the thought of
  3211. >The lump in your throat gets so bulbous that you would probably clear it out of you had a good puke
  3212. >But
  3213. >You can't
  3214. >Puking in bed would make far too much of a mess
  3215. >Not to mention too much of it would end up in her tail
  3216. >The strands are all spread out
  3217. >More than enough of your sheets have strands of stray orange and hues of red
  3218. >Same goes for your clothes
  3219. >"That ain't ever gonna happen... never in a thousand years."
  3220. >She leans low and rubs her face against yours
  3221. >You don't know if you just want to hide this from her, or if you just can't stand to talk about it
  3222. >Even the possibility
  3223. >The smallest of chances
  3224. >The eventual reality
  3225. >Even dreading over the concept is enough to warrant a shovel to the face
  3226. >"It won't, Anon..."
  3227. >Even by now, her own tone has been sapped
  3228. >Far from joy, it sounds like she's in disbelief
  3229. "Yeah."
  3230. >You're still not so weak that you can't muster one word
  3231. >A single croak to show her that you aren't so busted up over a mere sentence
  3232. >How silly would you have to be, anyway, to worry so drastically over something so benign?
  3233. >It isn't like...
  3234. >You had best not finish that thought
  3235. >If you had a Christmas card list, it would already only consist of one other human
  3236. >The dorks don't get a Christmas card
  3237. >They get lumps of coal
  3238. >The thought of them shrinking and a record scratch sounding in the background at the sight of three black rocks is enough to get you to smile
  3239. >If only a little
  3240. >A bitter, almost sadistic smile
  3241. >Schadenfreude in absence of optimism
  3242. >"...hey, I've been thinking more on our next quest."
  3243. "Yeah?"
  3244. >Finally
  3245. >A topic you can handle
  3246. >"Yeah. Sparky told me that we're gonna do something like ask someone twenty questions?"
  3247. "Yup."
  3248. >It doesn't hide your worry
  3250. >It helps as much as she thinks, which leads to her trying to give you another pet
  3251. >Her hoof comes in low and bonks your eyebrow
  3252. "Gah!"
  3253. >Your hand immediately goes up to cover your eye
  3254. >"Oh shioocrap. Are you ok? I didn't mean to..."
  3255. >Your only reaction is a laugh
  3256. >She really did draw out three words to try to pick her best option
  3257. "Ah... God damn it, Jack."
  3258. >You shake your head and bring down your head
  3259. >It was pure reflex
  3260. >Part of your eye does feel sore but you aren't so sure if that was from her or your own belly aching
  3261. "That... that was a close one. And yeah. Twenty Questions it is."
  3262. >Jack brings up her hoof again to try to pet your head
  3263. >....
  3264. >Her leg hesitates
  3265. >After a short glance from her hoof to your hands, she sets her leg down
  3266. >"...sorry."
  3267. "No, it's alright"
  3268. >You breathe deep
  3269. "I... uh. You know how I worry. You know? I'm..."
  3270. >You know
  3271. >That if it happens
  3272. >You really will be down to just yourself
  3273. >Maybe not physically
  3274. >Not yet
  3275. >But...
  3276. >You dare not even think it
  3277. "I'm just kinda... you know."
  3278. >"...yeah... like back then too."
  3279. >You don't even remember how you acted back then toward her
  3280. >It wasn't enough that you sunk your own life for a while during your loss
  3281. >You had to drag her down too
  3282. >Of course, a more level-headed you would know better than to think something so downright unrealistic
  3283. >And yet here you are
  3284. "...yeah, Jack. Like back then too."
  3285. >You try to clear your throat but you can't even do that
  3286. >So you swallow hard
  3287. >Hard enough to make you feel like someone fisted your wind pipe with razor wire
  3288. "I... uh, yeah. I thought it should be a group thing. That way rather than having three secrets and all that, it can just be one big one. Plus everyone can take a turn asking questions so you can learn more that way."
  3289. >There you go
  3290. >Distract yourself
  3291. >Focus on other things
  3292. >Continue to be the long-disconnected son you know you've been
  3293. >What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?
  3294. "Plus, you know."
  3295. >The raise in your volume finally pushes you to a normal speaking voice
  3296. >Maybe if you speak loud and often enough, you won't listen to yourself
  3297. >But why would you want to deprive yourself of such important criticism?
  3298. >You blink a few too many times to just clear your eyes
  3299. >Of course, you know
  3300. >You can't stop your thoughts
  3301. >They are the same thoughts you had since before you got Jacky
  3302. >They are the same thoughts you have even with her
  3303. >And they will be the same thoughts that will comfort you long after
  3304. "You know!"
  3305. >Her head bobs back at your sudden raise
  3306. "If everyone asks their own questions, they might guess it easier. Or make it harder. It's that sort of thing where you can find out a lot about someone without ever getting a true answer. You know, search for treasure and while X marks the spot, you can still find gold elsewhere."
  3307. >"That's true, isn't it..."
  3309. "Yeah. So... it won't be as fancy as Truth or Dare. But it's still technically a social party game. And I didn't realize that until now but maybe those might actually have some use."
  3310. >"That's right! And once we clear this one, we'll only have four left..."
  3311. "True. Say, what do you want to do once we finish, or find... whatever you want to consider it... what's your end game?"
  3312. >Jack puffs out her chest
  3313. >"Oh you leave that to me, Anon. I know just the thing."
  3314. "Are we going to re-stone Discord?"
  3315. >You can tell she wants to say "yes" but she stops at the last moment
  3316. >She squints and her gaze travels upward
  3317. >This mare
  3318. >Thinks on your words for too long
  3319. >" we have a Discord equivalent here?"
  3320. "The Internet?"
  3321. >She squints harder
  3322. >Her mouth opens just a fraction
  3323. >...
  3324. >By Jove she's actually considering stoning the internet
  3325. >Or somehow friendship-nuking it
  3326. >"...nah. Nah, no, too big."
  3327. "I, one day, wish I can go to wherever you just went."
  3328. >The astonishment in your voice makes her proud
  3329. >"Don't get too jealous, it only has you on a cowhide in front of a fireplace."
  3330. >You know what you're getting for Christmas then
  3331. >"I've been thinking of some stuff that we're gonna do, and we're gonna do them. I think you're gonna like it."
  3332. "Well you know, I probably will."
  3333. >You nod to yourself
  3334. >She's good at surprising you
  3335. >Not because you have something like low expectations
  3336. >But the answers and schemes those three have tend to blast you out of the water every single time
  3337. >"Oh, I know you will. I'll make sure of it."
  3338. "Yeah? You gonna threaten me into it?"
  3339. >You challenge her with a squint and poke her chest with two fingers
  3340. >A few seconds pass as her body melts into a stalwart stance
  3341. >She puffs her chest out even harder
  3342. >"You're dang right I am, pilgrim. And you're gonna love it."
  3343. "Yeah?"
  3344. >You poke her chest again
  3345. >"Yeah."
  3346. >She pushes out even further
  3347. >It's pretty apparent that she's trying to bolster herself up as much as she physically can
  3348. >You can't help but ask, at this point
  3349. " the way... are you digging the, uh..."
  3350. >"Chest rubs? Seriously. I think you might have found a new weakness."
  3351. >Score
  3352. "Nice."
  3353. >So maybe Shine wasn't so off...
  3354. >You will admit that you are disappointed that she doesn't give you a more visceral reaction
  3355. "Come on, lay."
  3356. >You pat the bed in front of you
  3357. >"Alright, you've talked me into it."
  3358. >She flops back onto her side, into place
  3359. >You manipulate her further until she's in the ideal position and go back to petting her from chest to lower belly
  3360. >This...
  3361. >Is better
  3362. >Maybe it will be good enough to truly distract you
  3363. >But is it?
  3364. >Can you lay so comfortably, knowing that you are doing nothing to help?
  3365. >Would Jack ever do that?
  3367. >It isn't often that you have your room to yourself
  3368. >Usually there's always something going on, be it a movie or game blasting off
  3369. >There is music in the living room playing but it isn't exactly loud enough to hear beyond knowing it exists
  3370. >The... events of last night are still with you
  3371. >You know a whole lot about them
  3372. >You think
  3373. >But you know that you're still probably a bit of a mysterious figure to them, if only because you are a native to this world
  3374. >For better or worse you had a family
  3375. >Friends
  3376. >School life
  3377. >You have an entire history that you've never really divulged to them
  3378. >It hasn't ever come up, true
  3379. >But you can't help but worry that they only see the part of you that you want them to see
  3380. >...
  3381. >That thought was so stupid you forgot what you were doing
  3382. >That must be the power of worrying over things, you forget yourself
  3383. >Realistically, obviously, there's so much you haven't been able to hide
  3384. >You haven't ever tried to hide things from them
  3385. "...gah..."
  3386. >You turned on your computer but you don't even know why
  3387. >You don't really want to play any sort of game
  3388. >You aren't so sure if you want to watch a movie either
  3389. >You feel restless but you can't compel yourself to move enough to even go to the kitchen for a drink
  3390. >You just wish it was Saturday
  3391. >You'd kick yourself into gear pretty hard if it were for them
  3392. >It... would help that it would also lead to a nice breakfast
  3393. >You have something of a committee-made shopping list at this point
  3394. >You sometimes add minor items that you enjoy, like rice pudding, or a type of soda
  3395. >Last time you did that, everyone spent an evening chomping on coconut popsicles
  3396. >The longer you think, the sillier it seems for you to worry
  3397. >And yet you do
  3398. >Worse, you s-
  3399. >"Hands above the covers, we're coming in."
  3400. >The dull voice of Shine causes you to jump
  3401. >"Hey, that ain't a thing."
  3402. >"Nooo... I'm pretty sure it is."
  3403. >Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Jack casually trot in like they own the place or something and hop onto your bed
  3404. "For your information, it..."
  3405. >Hold your horses, Anon
  3406. >This could be a trick question
  3407. " is not something I will be answering at this time? But you can go to my press spokesmare and she'll set you straight."
  3408. >A very balanced, professional politician's answer
  3409. >Taking her cue, said spokesmare grins at the unicorn
  3410. >"See? Told you."
  3411. >Well that certainly knocked your pebble loose
  3412. "Alright, I'm gonna pretend I don't know what you two are going on about. What's up?"
  3413. >You grab your controller without even having any clue if you're actually going to use it
  3414. >"We're gonna maressage you!"
  3415. >The cheerful tone paired with Jack's smile is almost enough to give you hope
  3416. "You kiss your Ma with that mouth?"
  3417. >"I kiss you with this mouth, yeah. You ain't complainin'."
  3418. >Bringing up the Power Word Ma is enough to give her a little bit of a southern twitch
  3419. >"Jacky said you were stressed. And I missed an ENTIRE day of playing games because of you. So you're gonna lay on your stomach and not complain."
  3421. "Ahh, moody, aren't we. Well, I was going to hop on an-"
  3422. >Red shimmers envelop your hands and the controller
  3423. >Shine grins at you
  3424. >"We both know you can't fight it. Get down like a good boy."
  3425. >Between that face and that tone, it is by and far the most dangerous thing she's done all month
  3426. >And that's saying something
  3427. "Jacky, I need an adult."
  3428. >"Well lucky you, we're all adults here. But do as the lady said, I'm with her on this one."
  3429. >This is how it ends, old boy
  3430. >They're going to make you the mare now
  3431. >Rather than headbutt the chunkhead and flick the nose of the nerd, you agree and settle down on your stomach
  3432. >You aren't sure what to expect, but you feel all of Jack's weight as she walks onto your back
  3433. >"So. Apparently this is a type of massage humans do to each other?"
  3434. >You shift your shoulder up and twist a little
  3435. >She resteps to find a better spot
  3436. >You feel something pop
  3437. "...oh damn."
  3438. >"Oh damn? Was... that supposed to pop?"
  3439. "...I."
  3440. >You didn't know you were sore there
  3441. "I don't know? But try a little higher, near where my ribs are."
  3442. >You can only presume that Shine is just watching as Jack takes little filly steps up until all four of her hooves are focused on the back of your ribcage
  3443. >Nothing more is popping
  3444. >"Huh..."
  3445. >She hops up
  3446. >This mare hops on your ribs
  3447. >You sputter out a cough after the second bounce and feel something within you give
  3448. "Lieutenant Dan ain't got no legs!"
  3449. >She's done it
  3450. >You're a cripple, Anon
  3451. >You're a
  3452. >...
  3453. >You can still clench your calf muscle
  3454. >Alright, so maybe you aren't crippled quite yet
  3455. >"You break his ribs, I'm not putting them back right."
  3456. "W-what?!"
  3457. >"Oh it'll be fine, she practiced on Prism earlier today."
  3458. >Oh God
  3459. >You haven't seen her anywhere since you got home
  3460. >"Yeah, it worked so well she had to crawl into bed! In hindsight maybe I should have put a few pillows on her before walking on her..."
  3461. "You two have killed Prism and I'm next. I knew it. I knew this was my ultimate fate."
  3462. >"To get stampeded in a casual manner by two ponies?"
  3463. "Well I..."
  3464. >Let's not get too hasty with answering
  3465. " be fair..."
  3466. >You push the left side of your face out, trying your best to find the right words
  3467. "...some guys pay good money for that?"
  3468. >"Good. Then consider this us paying our part of rent for the last few years. Jacky, you keep on his chest. I got the dangly parts."
  3469. >Dangly parts?!
  3470. "No, nope, I'm good I'm just gonn-"
  3471. >Your legs aren't moving
  3472. >Oh no
  3473. >You really are trapped here, aren't you
  3474. >Before you can muster the volume to cry out to the presumably shattered pegasus, you feel Shine manipulate and rotate your legs
  3475. >Jacky begins to gently step and almost knead in place, going inch by inch up toward your shoulders
  3476. >You can't stop your lungs from wanting to exhale
  3477. >Popping and crackling follows while magic forces your legs up, out, in, and down with enough twisting to make you contemplate your reaction if she were to somehow snap your feeble manimal bones in half
  3478. >Entire minutes of this pass
  3480. >Once Jack reaches your shoulders, she leans down and nuzzles her head against yours
  3481. >You return the gesture as well as you can until she spins around and works her way down
  3482. >With your legs released, she goes to your arms
  3483. >It bothers you how you can only feel an incredibly light tingle with your arms...
  3484. >They aren't imbued, per say
  3485. >Captured?
  3486. >Possessed?
  3487. >Slathered
  3488. >Whatever the correct term is, it leads to her bringing your arms up and out, causing every joint to pull and twist
  3489. >She brings your hands together in a slow clap
  3490. >And another clap
  3491. >And another
  3492. >You do The Rock justice by raising your eyebrow at her