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Letters for Gray Garden

By Castafae
Created: 2022-08-30 09:22:54
Updated: 2023-04-28 11:57:01
Expiry: Never
oc

  1. >Autumn leaves fall gracefully from their treetop abodes, doing a lazy waltz as they descend to the ground.
  2. >Somewhere above, you hear the honking of geese, most likely bound for warmer skies.
  3. >You wish to sit here forever, staring vacantly out your window, bundled up in a heavy blanket.
  4. >But if anything, you're just trying to cope with Anon’s absence, and what that might mean.
  5. >He’s been gone for a while now, which isn’t something new, but this time there's something wrong.
  6. >He usually isn’t this quiet about it, he didn’t even tell you where he was going.
  7. >And it’s been way longer than usual, and it’s starting to worry you.
  8. >You rock back and forth, trying to focus on the outside, trying your hardest not to panic.
  9. >The bell of the front door breaks you out of your stupor, you throw your blanket off and scramble out your door.
  10. >You go down the stairs as quickly as you can and head for the dining room, where the front door is.
  11. >You stand in front of the door, anticipating something to happen.
  12. >An envelope has been slipped into the mail slot of the door.
  13. >Your ears droop, It probably was just the mailman.
  14. >You approach the envelope, and pick it up.
  15. >It seems rather mundane, until you flip it around to its front.
  16. >A green wax seal adorned with a question mark greets you, much to your dismay.
  17. >You remember helping Anon pick out a signet ring once with this etched into it, but you never expected it to get used.
  18. >You examine the rest of the envelope’s front, it has a stamp and is addressed to you.
  19. >It has to be Anon, right? But why would he send you a letter of all things?
  20. >You pop open the seal, careful not to break the wax too much.
  21. >You slide out the letter, an uneasiness starts to well up inside you as you begin to read.
  22. “Dear Gray, Hi! It’s me. I know your probably worried sick, but some things came up, and I'm going to be gone for a while, and I really do mean A WHILE. So, I’ve set some things up to make sure you’re all situated for the next year or so.”
  23. >You blink, trying to comprehend all this. A year?! He has to be joking, right? He doesn’t seem worried at all and it’s kind of getting on your nerves! Regardless... you continue reading.
  24. “You’ll be getting a letter sent to you each day, watch out for that seal! (You like it? You picked it out after all!) If you need anything, just do what you usually do, money’s no issue, so don’t be frugal!
  25. >Oh how lovely, you won't starve. Despite your disdain, you carry on, which is a good thing, as it seems the tone of the letter changes as you read the latter half.
  26. “Okay, I tried being all happy-go-lucky, but I feel like you're not going to appreciate that. So I'll give it to you straight. You're a big girl Gray, I know you’ll be fine, I just want you to know that things will be okay, It breaks my heart to do this, but I’ll be back, it’s just going to take some time, I wish I could tell you more, but you know the drill already with my job. Today I’m sending over a cleaner to the house, let them in, okay? I’ve known these guys from way back, so I know you’ll probably end up with another pony showing up. Don’t get weird! You need the socialization more than you think. I’ll be back as soon as I can, I promise. -Anon.”
  27. >You place the letter on the dining room table and stare at the envelope still in your hoof.
  28. >He’s really going to be gone then, huh?
  29. >That… Sucks.
  30. >He didn't even give you a proper goodbye, just some dumb letter! And he's going to be gone for a YEAR?!
  31. >So much for friendship...
  32. >'Gee Gray, you're my bestest bud, I'd never leave you!'
  33. >Ugh.
  34. >But it’s fine! You’re fine! E-everything's fine, just stop thinking about it...
  35. “I-I'm…”
  36. >What little composure you have starts to wane and you begin to shake, you feel like crying.
  37. “He said he’d come back. J-just focus on that, it’s alright… you're alright…”
  38. >You try to calm yourself, though it’s not working that well.
  39. >By the time you stop shaking, you’ve ended up laying on the floor, huddled next to the couch, not your proudest moment, you're sure.
  40. >You look up at the clock on the wall, it’s about 9:32 a.m.
  41. >Probably should make sure you're presentable for whoever shows up, right? As if they'll care.
  42. >You make your way to the bathroom, grabbing blindly at the copious amounts of toothpaste tubes that sit on a shelf near the door. Anon had a tendency for changing what toothpaste he used on the fly, at least it gave you a variety.
  43. >After some unenthusiastic teeth brushing, you check yourself in the mirror.
  44. >A gray mare stares back at you, Deep violet eyes greet you, and her hair is unkempt and long, a dark gray mane contrasting a light gray coat.
  45. “You look *stunning* today, dear.”
  46. >You jest, but it helps your morale a tad, as you feel slightly less awful than before.
  47. >You rummage around the drawer you think has your brush, which you admittedly don’t use as often as you should.
  48. >After a moment, you find it, and proceed to brush your mane, or at least try to, anyway. It’s something between straight and curly, and you don’t exactly have one of those specialty brushes, but regardless, you make due.
  49. >Satisfied with your attempt at grooming, you leave the bathroom and sit in the living room for a while, not really sure when these cleaners are supposed to show up. You'd think Anon would tell you something as important as that!
  50. >You're used to being home alone, but with the knowledge that you're ‘alone alone’, it seems to be getting to you, after all, Anon would always show up by the time you start getting lonely, but now you don’t have that comfort, not for the foreseeable future anyway.
  51. >Wow Gray how independent of you!
  52. >In the midst of picking between ‘cry’ and ‘watch tv’ you hear the doorbell ring once more.
  53. >You guess you’ll do a two for one special later on tonight.
  54. >When you make it to the door, you stand on your hindlegs and check the peephole, which doesn’t seem to help, as you don’t really see anything outside.
  55. >With a sigh, you open that door.
  56. >A mare with a uniform of some sort greets you, a small red wagon filled with cleaning supplies next to her.
  57. >”Good afternoon ma’am! I’m your cleaner for today! Sorry I'm late, I ran into some trouble getting my trolley up those stairs.”
  58. >You assume she means the wagon, which makes you feel a bit bad, since you know the stairs to Anon’s house are a bit of a trek. She probably could have used the grass, you doubt Anon would care.
  59. “That’s fine, uh, come in!”
  60. >You gesture her in, which she obliges, wheeling her ‘trolley’ in with her.
  61. >She looks around a bit, before turning to you.
  62. >”It doesn’t look like it’ll be much trouble, don’t you worry, I’ll be done lickety-split!”
  63. >She smiles before grabbing some things from her trolley.
  64. >You take this as the sign that you can go sit down, so you decide to sit on the couch.
  65. >In all honesty, you’ve never encountered another pony, so this is sort of new for you. It'd be rude to stare, right?
  66. >Despite your best efforts not to, you end up watching her do her work, dusting and cleaning the house which, from your knowledge, wasn’t all that dirty. Maybe Anon felt like it needed some more attention?
  67. >Her mane was a bright green, similar to her eyes, although they seem to give off a glow of some kind. With a coat of pale yellow to round it all out. She kind of reminded you of one of the green apples that are on the kitchen counter.
  68. >After about an hour she stops cleaning and trots up to you.
  69. >“That seems to be about everything, do you want me t– Oh!”
  70. >She stops mid sentence, you realize her right eye seems to have… gone out?
  71. >”I-I uhm, give me a second… Oh dear.”
  72. >She turns away from you and hits the side of her head with a forehoof a few times.
  73. >”C’mon… Just gotta... Almost... There!"
  74. >She turns back to you, with an uneasy smile, now that you notice it, her right eye seems to be constantly flickering.
  75. “Are you… Alright?”
  76. >”Yep! S-sorry about that, it just kinda happens sometimes, I promise it won’t affect my work!”
  77. >She shifts in place a bit, eyes looking at the ground, before she looks up to you again, there's a weariness in her expression.
  78. >”Sorry to bother you again, but do you mind if I… plug myself in somewhere? I’m getting kind of low, I promise it won’t take long!”
  79. “Sure, it’s fine, there's an open socket by the tv.”
  80. >You try to be nonchalant, she clearly seems tired.
  81. >She nods and then goes and sits by the socket, you decide to sit next to her.
  82. >She moves aside a bit of her uniform, until you can see the side of her flank, where her mark would be, there’s a black rectangle, which she opens with a prod of her hoof.
  83. >Inside is a three prong plug, which she takes and sticks in the wall socket.
  84. >She lets out a sigh of relief, and turns to you. You notice her eyes seem to be a bit brighter now.
  85. >”Sorry for the trouble Miss… um.. Gosh, I never asked for your name, did I? Sorry…”
  86. “No need to be sorry, you're doing a great job! Better than I can do anyway.
  87. >You squirm in place a bit, realizing that you didn't answer her question. Good one Gray.
  88. “I’m Gray Garden.”
  89. >You never get to use your full name often, it feels nice.
  90. >”Thank you, Miss Gray Garden, for letting me recharge.” She turns away from you, her face reddened. “I really should have made sure I was properly prepared before coming here.”
  91. >Her tail has curled around to her front, she pets it a bit, you assume to help calm her nerves, since you have a tendency to do that as well.
  92. >”It would have been wise to send for somepony less… dependent.”
  93. “I think you might be worrying too much, but I guess I'm not one to talk…”
  94. >You pause, trying to think of something else to say.
  95. "After all the good work you've done, you deserve to rest up!
  96. >That seems to lighten her mood a bit, though she doesn’t let go of her tail.
  97. “So, what’s your name?”
  98. >The mare rubs the back of her neck with a forehoof.
  99. >“I… don’t have one yet. I guess I'm sort of still figuring things out..."
  100. >You ponder something for a moment.
  101. “Green Apple.”
  102. >”What?”
  103. >You didn’t realize you had blurted that out until you saw her confused expression.
  104. “I mean… your green like an apple, a green apple, and your coat kinda looks like the inside of an apple that's been out for a little bit… uh, let me show you!”
  105. >You get up and walk to one of the kitchen counters, a bowl of green apples sits atop it.
  106. >You grab one and take a bite, the tart taste taking you off guard.
  107. >You feel it’s more of an acquired taste, Anon certainly likes them.
  108. >You bring it over to the mare and show her the apple with the bite taken out of it.
  109. “You look kinda like this!”
  110. >Yeah this probably wasn’t a great idea.
  111. “Everyone could call you, like, ‘Greenie’ or something…”
  112. >Good thinking, Gray! Call the green maned mare ‘Greenie’! How inventive.
  113. >She stares at you for a moment, then at the apple.
  114. >”Greenie? Greenie…”
  115. >She mumbles ‘Greenie’ under her breath a few more times, each time a little bit louder.
  116. >She jumps up, startling you, her cord still plugged in.
  117. >”I’m gonna be Green Apple!”
  118. >Oh, she actually liked that?
  119. >Greenie trots in place a bit, repeating her name with enthusiasm.
  120. >”Thank you! Thank you! Tha-Oof!”
  121. >In Greenie’s excitement, she forgets she’s plugged in, resulting in her tripping and falling.
  122. >You go to her side, concerned she might have hurt herself, but she laughs and rolls over so she’s facing you again.
  123. >"I’m fine! Just wasn't paying attention. silly me!” She takes her plug out and puts it back in its proper place, then gets up.
  124. “That’s good! Didn’t want you to b-huh?”
  125. >You're interrupted by a hug from Greenie, which seems to be what she was trying to do before falling.
  126. >”Thanks Gray.”
  127. “Y-your welcome?”
  128. >You hesitantly return the hug. You feel… nice? Certainly haven’t been hugged in a while that’s for sure.
  129. >After a moment she lets go, and you follow suit, though you kind of wish it lasted longer.
  130. >”I probably should get going, but we’ll see each other soon!”
  131. “We will?”
  132. >Greenie nods before rummaging around in one of her uniform pockets, which now that you get a good look at it, has a patch on it labeled ‘Foremen’s Repair Shop’ with a stylized wrench under the words.
  133. >You assume that’s where she came from?
  134. >”Here!”
  135. >She offers a slip of paper, which you take.
  136. >Huh, it seems she’s scheduled to come back every other day, which seems a bit excessive for a cleaner, can you even make enough of a mess for that to be worthwhile?
  137. ”Who put you up to this anyway?”
  138. >”Mr. Foreman! He’s my boss.” Greenie starts putting her things back into her trolley.
  139. >”He said ‘I’m doing a favor for an old friend! So go keep ‘is house clean, ya hear?’”
  140. >Greenie gives an accent to her boss's words, though you're unsure where it comes from.
  141. >”He’s really nice, and really good at fixing machines.” She pauses for a moment, looking a little bit down. “He’s tried real hard to fix my eye, but it seems that he can’t get the right parts for it right now. Them being kind of expensive and all.”
  142. >She perks up after a bit. “I said I'd try to pitch in, and since I'm good at cleaning stuff, he said I could try being a cleaner!” She finishes filling her trolley and brushes off the front of her uniform.
  143. >”This is kinda my first job as a cleaner, so uh, thanks for being my first client!” Greenie’s eyes narrow. “clients’ the right word, right?”
  144. >You shrug, not really sure yourself.
  145. >”Anyway, You’re kinda the only client I got so far, so I'll be seeing a lot of you, I uhm, hope you don't mind.”
  146. “Of course not, clean away my friend! The grime shall be thy enemy!”
  147. >You try your best to be theatrical, to make her feel better, which seems to work as it gets a giggle out of her.
  148. >Greenie picks up her trolley’s handle and starts for the door, which you beat her to so you can open it.
  149. >”I’ll see you later, and thank you for your patronage!”
  150. >Greenie bows, then does a wave, before walking towards the stairs.
  151. “Hey, you can walk on the grass if you want, it’d be quicker! (And a bit safer…)”
  152. >”Are you sure?” You nod, which gets Greenie to smile again. As she starting her way towards the grass, she turns around and shouts: “Bye Gray!”
  153. "Bye Greenie!"
  154. >You yell back, something your not used to doing, by the strain it put on your throat.
  155. >You watch her walk across the grass and go down the sidewalk, you start to feel bad that she has to haul that thing to wherever she’s going.
  156. >You close the door and sigh, this was a lot more interesting than you thought it’d be.
  157. >You look around the house, she did a pretty good job, everything looks shiny and new, which is saying something, considering most of it seemed to be antiques that Anon’s been hoarding for heaven knows how long.
  158. >You watch the leaves fall outside through a window in the living room, you feel less invested than before, maybe it’s all the thoughts running through your mind.
  159. >Things are going to be different from now one it seems, but on the bright side, you seem to have made the acquaintance of another pony! Which is kind of a first for you, as pathetic as it might sound.
  160. >Ugh you're not really feeling up to self-deprecating yourself right now. C’mon Gray, you're better than that!
  161. >After a few moments of contemplation you realize that the apple you bit into before is on the coffee table next to where Greenie and you sat.
  162. >It seems a bit browner, but you’d rather not waste food, even if it kind of sucks, so you grab it.
  163. >You gaze at the apple in your hoof, silently thanking it for its service, seeing that Greenie got her name from it and all.
  164. >You take another bite of the apple, funny, it almost tastes sweet.
  165.  
  166. >After an hour's worth of idling around, you decide to try to do something with what time you have left in the day.
  167. >It seems Greenie’s visit has been more beneficial than you first thought, you feel kinda eager to do something, anything really.
  168. >You settle on trying to cook dinner, which is something you… don’t do often.
  169. >It’s delivery or bust, most of the time, though maybe it’s about time you break that habit, seeing that you’ll have the kitchen for yourself for a while.
  170. >You trot to the kitchen, guided by your empty stomach.
  171. >How does one… cook? Like you know you use pans and stuff, but how do you even begin?
  172. >Let’s start simple.
  173. >You take a skillet from the cabinet, and place it on one of the stovetops.
  174. >Well, that’s step one, but what to make?
  175. >You ponder this for a moment, then come to a realization.
  176. “Grilled cheese!”
  177. >Your voice echoes in the sparsely decorated kitchen, which gets you to chuckle a bit.
  178. >Yeah, you can totally make that, Anon showed you how once!
  179. >You take some bread from the breadbox, luckily it’s still kinda fresh.
  180. >After that, you scour the fridge for any cheese.
  181. >Aha! You thought you could hide, you processed slice of cheesy goodness!
  182. >You grab a pair of cheese slices from the back of the fridge, and put them next to the bread.
  183. >Alright, combination time!
  184. >You unwrap the cheese, then stick them between the slices of bread.
  185. >You turn on the stovetop, letting the skillet heat up while you hunt down the butter.
  186. >It doesn’t take long, but you find half a stick in the fridge, you guess you’ll have to get some more later.
  187. >Now, how much butter is too much butter?
  188. >You end up just taking a scoop out of the stick with a spoon, and hope for the best, lobbing it into the pan, where it melts almost immediately.
  189. >Time for the moment of truth! Let’s do this.
  190. >You place the not-so grilled cheese into the pan.
  191. >After a couple minutes on both sides, it’s done! If a bit burnt…
  192. >But that’s fine, you like it this way anyhow.
  193. >You finish things off by slicing it diagonally in two. It tastes better this way, at least you think so.
  194. >You place it on a paper plate and admire your handiwork.
  195. >You’re having more fun with this than you’d thought, maybe this cooking thing is your calling!
  196. >Before you forget, you turn off the burner, and go sit down to eat your sandwich.
  197. >You take a bite, it’s about how you remember it.
  198. >As you eat, you start wondering what you're gonna do from now on.
  199. >Greenie will be back every other day, so tomorrow you’ll be by yourself.
  200. >Well, you might need to go grocery shopping, despite you not really wanting to leave the house, but you do have another motivator in the back of your mind.
  201. >The comic store down the road! You hadn’t been there for awhile, and seeing that Anon didn’t say you *couldn’t* spend some money on comics, so you think it’s fair game.
  202. >You briefly muse going to the dog park as well, maybe do some dog watching, the sophisticated version of people watching.
  203. >Wait, is it weird to go to a dog park without a dog? Can you get, like, kicked out for that?
  204. >Maybe you could just walk by the entrance a bunch of times, and not actually go in.
  205. >No, that’d be even worse, that’s total weirdo behavior Gray!
  206. >You’re not a weirdo!
  207. >You shake your head, you’ll just skip the dog park, it’d take too long anyway.
  208. >You throw your plate away and check the time.
  209. >Huh, it’s only 5 p.m.
  210. >Despite it being too early, you decide to go to bed, in the hopes of waking up early enough to get home before dark tomorrow, seeing that you’ll probably take your sweet time at the comic shop.
  211. >You walk upstairs and beeline towards your room, though you pause in front of Anon’s door.
  212. “Goodnight Anon.”
  213. >You stare at the door, maybe expecting an answer.
  214. >After what feels like an eternity, you pull yourself away, making it to your room.
  215. >You're feeling better right now, so it’s for the best that you don’t think about your situation too much.
  216. >Your room was cozy, at least you thought so, although it doesn’t have much on the walls, mostly due to you not having found anything you’d like to hang up yet.
  217. >Maybe the comic store will have some neat posters?
  218. >You crawl in your bed, which takes up about a fourth of the room.
  219. >It was situated next to the window, since you liked looking out at it, especially around this time of year.
  220. >Outside was a canopy of maple trees, clumped into a small forest.
  221. >You’d like to go explore it one day, maybe when Anon comes back.
  222. >You slide your blanket back on the bed, seeing that you flung it off when you first hear the doorbell.
  223. >It was weighted and comfortable, a gift Anon gave you when you first moved in with him.
  224. >You drape it over yourself, like a cloak, only your head popping out of it.
  225. >Gray Garden, the royal shut-in!
  226. >The thought amuses you.
  227. >It doesn’t take long for you to start to drift. Even if you weren't tired before, the blanket always seemed to get this reaction from you.
  228. >You watch the leaves fall through half-lidded eyes before you finally succumb to sleep, keeling over onto your pillow.
  229.  
  230. >You awake to the sound of the front doorbell, groggy and barely able to lift your head.
  231. >You end up rolling yourself off your bed, and crawl on your belly until you get into the center of your room, which you then proceed to lay on your side for a few minutes, fighting the urge to fall back asleep.
  232. >After you manage to get into an upright position, you yawn and stretch as best you can.
  233. >Once you get up finally, you start your way down the stairs, slowly making your way to the front door.
  234. >Oh boy, another letter! I wonder what Anon’s gonna say this time? Surely something great and wise!
  235. >You try to use your morning sarcasm to keep yourself level headed, can’t freak out each time you get a letter.
  236. >You pop the seal of the envelope and pull out the letter, trying to curb your enthusiasm.
  237. >Huh.
  238. >Is he just… ranting about popcorn in this?
  239. >That’s the entire letter.
  240. >Well, he does tell you he loves you in the beginning, which is nice. But then starts on a tirade about how he can’t get a decent bag of popcorn ‘down here’.
  241. >Where is ‘down here?’
  242. >It goes on like that for about the whole letter, until the end:
  243. “Alright Gray, enough about that, so for today you're pretty much on your own, nothing planned and all that, so have fun! Live a little, can’t keep yourself cooped up there forever, right? I’ll see you next time! -Anon.”
  244. >Well that’s what you planned anyway, beat you to it, Anon!
  245. >In a way, you're happy that he seems… Himself? Certainly doesn’t seem like he’s not being honest with you, even if all he did was whine about popcorn for three fourths of a letter.
  246. >You're just sort of guessing wherever he is, he’s maybe using the letters to vent, or maybe to keep himself entertained?
  247. >You don’t mind, you’re just… confused.
  248. >At least you don’t have to fret over Anon’s wellbeing, if all he can think about is popcorn.
  249. >…
  250. >You know what?
  251. >You hope his popcorn burns! How about that?!
  252. >…
  253. >Okay that was mean, you didn’t mean it, you're just… peeved right now. But you guess that's better than being mopey.
  254. >After putting the letter on the dining room table with the previous day’s letter, you go back to your room to get dressed.
  255. >You rummage around your closet, trying to find something warm to wear.
  256. >Maybe… Hmm…
  257. >Aha!
  258. >You pull out a hoodie that matches your eyes, a nice dark purple.
  259. >You wiggle into it, until your head pops out the hole on the top, guiding your forelegs into their proper places as well.
  260. >All done!
  261. >You grab your wallet from the clutches of a protective stuffed dog you keep by your door, his loyalty to the cause is commendable!
  262. >You stuff it into the mid pocket of your hoodie, which has some velcro to make sure nothing falls out, which is nice since it’s mostly upside down most of the time, seeing that you have to walk with it on.
  263. >You weren't thinking about it before, but now it’s kind of sinking in that you're going out in public by yourself, which is something of a rarity for you.
  264. >You’ve gone to the comic store by yourself before, but it was kind of an awkward experience, even if you were really excited. That being said, you're confident enough that you’ll be able to make a better impression this time.
  265. >You’re not too worried about the grocery store though, self-checkout is a blessing.
  266. >You make your way downstairs once more and stand in front of the front door.
  267. >This is it, just focus, and be calm.
  268. >You take a deep breath, then open the door.
  269.  
  270. >The cold air feels nice, which is something you didn’t think you’d feel, but it helps clear your head and focus on getting to the stores.
  271. >You walk down the stairs and head for the sidewalk, turning left once you get to them.
  272. >The way to the comic shop isn’t all that eventful, and it’s close enough that you feel okay bringing your haul back home before going grocery shopping.
  273. >You listen to your own hoofsteps as you go, focusing on the destination more than the journey.
  274. >There it is, ‘Phoebe's Comix’, you never could remember the name, so it’s nice to have a refresher.
  275. >You hesitate opening the door for a moment, taking a look at the display in the window, which has one of those obligatory neon ‘open’ signs, with a few posters with some muscular superheroes next to it.
  276. >Alright alright alright, let's do this!
  277. >A chime rings out as you open the door. As you walk in, you are once again in awe at all the books around you.
  278. >You wander aimlessly through the store, it doesn’t seem like anyone else is in here at the moment, which seems odd.
  279. >You spot some interesting comics near the register, they seem to depict a man wearing knight’s armor wielding a machinegun of some sort, his face twisted in a manic expression.
  280. >’Lancelot's Daring Escapade into: THE BREACH!’ How… cheesy.
  281. >But it’s *your* kind of cheesy, so you decide to check out the first issue.
  282. >”Find anything you like?”
  283. “BWUH!”
  284. >You almost drop the comic on the floor, but a blue glow holds it in the air.
  285. >You turn to face the noise that startled you, and are greeted by a glasses-clad unicorn's face.
  286. >Her mane is white, short, and uniform, the only long bit seems to cover her left eye.
  287. >Her coat is verging on black, but not quite, speckles of white dot her body.
  288. >Her only visible eye seems to be blue, and is fixated on your face.
  289. “I-I was just trying to look at this comic...”
  290. >You try your best not to sound panicky, but your voice seems to squeak a bit despite your efforts.
  291. >The mare laughs, it’s light and bubbly.
  292. >”I know, just wanted to see if I could spook you!”
  293. “That's… n-not nice.”
  294. >You didn’t mean to say that out loud, but your nerves seemed to have gotten the better of you.
  295. >She sighs, and levitates the comic towards you. A somewhat disappointed look on her face.
  296. >”My apologies, I didn’t mean to frighten you as much as I did.”
  297. >You take the comic from her magic’s grasp and set it next to you.
  298. “It’s fine, really! I just scare easily...”
  299. >You take a bow, in an attempt to lift her spirits.
  300. ”All is well.”
  301. >The mare stares at you for a moment before smiling once more, with an extended hoof.
  302. >”I’m Phosphene, but most prefer to call me Phoebe.”
  303. >You meet her hoof with your own, and together you shake hooves, which is something you’ve never really done before.
  304. “I’m Gray Garden, it’s nice to meet you, Phoebe.”
  305. >You assume she’s the owner.
  306. “So uhm… any recommendations?”
  307. >Phoebe taps her hoof on the counter next to her for a moment, before nodding to herself.
  308. >”If you find that comic enticing, you might find ‘King Arthur’s Killer Quest! Holy Grail War!’ to be interesting.”
  309. >You look at the cover, it depicts another man in knights armor, but this time he has a rpg strapped to his back and his sword that he wields has a shotgun built into it. His expression is as equally manic as Lancelot’s.
  310. >Yeah that’s pretty weird, you’d read it.
  311. >You nod to Phoebe, who stacks it atop your other comic.
  312. “Thanks, I guess I just kinda like knights… and guns.”
  313. >It sounds weird to say out loud but dumb comics like these always get a kick out of you, even if the story is kind of bad.
  314. >Phoebe nods, then gestures to a set of racks over on the other side of the store.
  315. >”I understand completely, there is a particularly odd type of comic that I find rather amusing to page through.”
  316. “That’s neat, what are they?”
  317. >She adjusts her glasses and grins.
  318. >”Manga.”
  319.  
  320. >You and Phoebe end up talking about comics for half an hour or so, by the time you feel about ready to leave, you have a sizable stack of comics procured, with a few ‘manga’ mixed in, Phoebe certainly knows her way around a customer.
  321. >”Well then, I suppose that’s about everything, yes?
  322. >You nod, and take the stack and put it on the register’s counter.
  323. “Thanks for the recommendations, I haven’t read something new for a while now.”
  324. >Phoebe starts ringing up the comics. “I’m glad you found everything to your liking! Things have been rather slow as of late.”
  325. >Once she finishes, you take out your card and slide it across the reader.
  326. >You probably could have checked how much was on it, but in all honesty, you don’t want to know how overboard Anon might have gone.
  327. >Phoebe bags everything up and proceeds to float the bag next to you.
  328. >”Thank you for your patronage, Miss Gray.”
  329. “And thank you for being an excellent business mare!”
  330. >The two of you exchange goodbyes and you head out the door.
  331. >With a bag in mouth, you head home, feeling rather giddy.
  332. >It’s nice getting to talk to someone about your hobbies.
  333. >Not that you have a lot of hobbies to begin with, but regardless, it helps get your mind off things.
  334. >You do the usual ritual regarding unlocking the door, which is kind of hard with hooves, but you manage.
  335. >You set your bag on the dining room table and slump yourself on the couch with a sigh.
  336. >Apparently social interaction is a lot more tiring than you thought it’d be.
  337. >But, you know you have other things to do today, so you get up and go to the bathroom to freshen up.
  338. >After a quick bathroom break (and an attempt at tidying your unruly mane.) you start for the door again, making sure you have everything like before.
  339. >And you're off! This time you go right when you get to the sidewalk, the local grocery store isn’t that far, if anything, it’s quicker to get there than the comic shop.
  340. >There's more people out and about this time around, which seems to heighten your urgency to finish this quickly.
  341. >It doesn’t help that you notice a few eyes following you from time to time, ponies by themselves aren't a new thing, but you know you kinda stick out like a sore hoof… thumb? Sore something. What you mean is that it’s mostly humans mulling around these parts.
  342. >These parts? Gray, this isn’t the wild west, this is completely normal, so get over it!
  343. >Once inside the store, you sort of go on autopilot, it helps that the store has baskets with little wheels, it certainly beats lugging around one of those big carts.
  344. >By the time you finish gathering everything you need (with a few impulse buys thrown in of course!) you head toward the self-checkout.
  345. >It’s a long and grueling procedure, but it’s this or a clerk, and you’d rather avoid that if you can.
  346. >With your bags all finished and everything paid for, you start your way back home, but are interrupted.
  347. >”Hi there! Found everything you needed?”
  348. >A greeter seemed to catch you off guard, but you keep calm for the most part.
  349. “Yep! J-just… leaving now.”
  350. >You exchange a wave with the tall human, trying not to freak out as you dart out the store.
  351. >Things worked out fine at the comic store, why’d you have to get weird now?
  352. >Maybe talking to another pony made things easier? Humans feel so unpredictable in comparison.
  353. >Not that you don’t like them, Anon’s one after all, but for the most part they seem so… distant?
  354. >It could be the height difference, having to look up at them all the time, and having them look down at you.
  355. >You shake your head. You wish you could just stop thinking about this. It’s not helping your anxious brain.
  356. >Instead you try focusing on getting home, which seems to help, although you do end up almost galloping the last stretch.
  357. >Luckily you didn’t buy anything that would get messed up from that… Well except for the soda.
  358. >Once inside your abode, you start putting things away, most of it was various tv dinners, as much as you’d like to cook more, it’s probably more practical to have these lying around.
  359. >After everything is said and done, you end up laying on the couch, fatigue setting in.
  360. >You fight this by taking a swig from that soda you bought, which to your surprise, didn’t get as shaken up as you thought it would.
  361. >Now what? There’s still daylight, so maybe you should do something else?
  362. >Guess you could read those comics, seeing that your mind is drawing a blank on anything else.
  363. >You go grab the bag of comics and start laying them out on the coffee table by the tv.
  364. >When you finish, you have about eight comics strewn about, along with a manga that Phoebe had recommended you check out as well, so you bought about nine things.
  365. >You suddenly realize you never bought those posters you were eyeballing, which is a shame, but you can always get them next, if they're still there that is.
  366. >You’re hoping Phoebe has better luck with customers soon, you’d hate for her store to go out of business. She seems nice, and having a fellow nerd to talk to about comics would be a boon.
  367. >…
  368. >Wow, did you really just call yourself a nerd? How low we’ve fallen!
  369. >Oh hush, brain.
  370. >You decide to page through that manga she seemed excited to share with you, the first volume of ‘Two Piece’.
  371. >It’s certainly interesting, very pirate-y, although you're not sure what’s going on.
  372. >Wait.
  373. >Your reading the wrong way!
  374. >You flip the book around until the cover is facing the right way. Apparently you need to read these manga right to left, instead of the usual left to right.
  375. >Ok, now things are making more sense, yeah, you get why she liked this one.
  376. >After reading a chunk of the book, you stick your receipt in it as a temporary bookmark, which reminds you that you need to get some bookmarks, or just make one with some scrap paper.
  377. >It’s about 7 p.m. by the time you finish binging comics. You save the rest of the manga for later.
  378. >You end up lazily munching on a bag of baby carrots in an attempt at dinner, before flopping on your bed and conking out for the night.
  379.  
  380. >You usually don’t end up dreaming, but tonight is different.
  381. >You find yourself in a moonlit field, the stars above seem so close, almost like you could touch them.
  382. >Coils of an unknown metal writhe in the distance, snake-like in nature.
  383. >You want to walk up to them, but you seem stuck in place, instead you simply observe.
  384. >The field ebbs and flows like water, flowers occasionally pop up to the surface, only to dip below again before you can make out what kind they are.
  385. >You watch the coils start to come together in unison, mashing their metallic forms into the vague shape of a hand, it claws at the field, tearing the surface, which reveals an ocean of flowers underneath, their petals iridescent in the moonlight.
  386. >Once the hand finishes, it turns to you, slowly reaching forward, in what you can only assume is a vain attempt at grabbing you.
  387. >But it simply cannot, there is a void between you and it, which it cannot pass. You can almost feel its frustration.
  388. >The scene around you begins to melt, the hand seemingly gives up, as it lays motionless in the ocean of flowers that once was the field. The last thing you see is the sky above slowly descending closer to the ground, almost as if it could crush you at any moment.
  389.  
  390. >And then you woke up, half your body on the floor, and the other half barely wrapped in your blanket.
  391. >Your head hurts.
  392. >You decide not to think too hard about that dream, it never does you any favors.
  393. >Anon mentioned once that it’d be a good idea to keep a dream journal, but you felt too self-conscious to do that, most of them are too weird or abstract to describe in a way that makes sense.
  394. >You never took off that hoodie, so you just decided to roll with it for now, it’s cold outside anyways.
  395. >After you make your bed, you start downstairs. From the looks of it, it’s barely morning, as it’s still dark outside.
  396. >You glance at the front door, to your surprise, an envelope is there once more, despite how early it is. Guess you slept through the doorbell.
  397. >You don’t spend much time on the theatrics of opening the envelope, mostly just wanting to get to the letter as quickly as you can.
  398. “Howsit Gray! I’ve been pretty busy at work, so I can’t write a long letter this time, so sorry about that. Remember that calendar you had with the word of the day on them? There’s one here at work, thought I’d share that with you. Oh, and the word of the day is ‘Ville’ because I ‘Ville’ be keeping in touch! Ciao! -Anon”
  399. >You're torn between loving and hating the pun.
  400. >Well, You guess you shouldn’t expect super in-depth letters to begin with, but at least he’s thinking of you, and that’s good enough in your book.
  401. >Todays the day Greenie shows up again, so you do some light housework so things are more presentable, which is a little funny considering her job.
  402. >After cleaning up what little mess there was, you finish up that bag of carrots for breakfast.
  403. >You're not sure when she’s supposed to show up, but you remember it being before noon, so you use that as a vague timeframe of when to be ready.
  404. >You have the sudden urge to make Greenie a thank you gift of some sort, maybe a cake or something?
  405. >Wait, you’re not even sure if she can eat, so it’s probably not a good idea to do that without consulting her.
  406. >You think you’ll just make her a card for now.
  407. >With a new found purpose, you start grabbing what you’d need to make a thank you card.
  408. >It’s a bit tricky with hooves and all that, but with some trial and error, you end up with a little heart shaped card with Greenie’s face on the front, or at least as close to her face as your dumb hooves could manage.
  409. >You’re uh, not much of an artist, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
  410. >By the time you finish cleaning up the various scraps of paper on the dining room table, the doorbell rings.
  411. >You hide the card under a stray comic book you forgot to put away, and head to open the door.
  412. >Greenie is about how she was last time, although now she has a baseball cap that matches her uniform's tan color. Her mane is done up in a ponytail as well.
  413. >”Hey Gray! I hope you don’t mind, but I got a plus one today!”
  414. >As she says that, a tall mare pokes her head out from behind Greenie, you're surprised you didn’t notice her until now.
  415. >The mare is a unicorn with a bright red mane that covers the majority of her face, though you can make out that her eyes seem to be orange. Her coat is white, though it seems to be somewhat faded, less vibrant than her mane. She wears about the same uniform as Greenie, if a bit longer, due to her height.
  416. >”Hullo, um… Miss Gray Garden.”
  417. >She has an accent of some kind; it’s mild enough that you don’t recognize its origin.
  418. >Greenie moves to the side, letting you see her more clearly, though the mare seems uncomfortable about that.
  419. >”This is Reign! She’s going to help me do the outside of the house today.
  420. >Reign nods though she avoids eye contact. “Mr. Foreman said I should try helping Green Apple with her cleaning.” She pauses, looking up at some of the vines growing up on the roof. “It doesn’t look too bad though, so it’ll be a quick job.”
  421. >She turns to Greenie. “And then we go home, right?” A pleading whine to her voice.
  422. >Greenie pats her on the shoulder, or at least attempts to, as she’s not tall enough to reach it fully. “It’s alright, you’ll do fine, Rei!” Reign mumbles something under her breath, though her expression seems less tense now.
  423. “It’s a pleasure meeting you, Reign.” You extend a hoof, mimicking what Phoebe did with you.
  424. >Reign turns to you, eyeing your hoof for a moment, before meeting it with her own, completing the hoofshake.
  425. >Awkward situation averted! You feel like Reign might not be the most social of butterflies, which you sympathize with.
  426. >Reign grabs a few things from Greenie’s trolley, one of which is a hedge trimmer. Before heading down the grass and toward the bushes on the side of the house.
  427. >Greenie turns to you, with an excited look. “Rei’s real good at yard work, you should see the kind of stuff she can whip up, it’d knock your socks off!” Greenie blinks. “I mean, like figuratively, you uh, don’t have socks on.”
  428. >Duly noted, Greenie.
  429. “So, how’s things been on your end? Been busy I suppose?”
  430. >Greenie shakes her head as she moves the trolley inside the house.
  431. >”Things have been fine, if a bit hectic. Been helping the others fix up an old toolshed, as a surprise for Mr. Foreman.”
  432. “Others like Reign?”
  433. >Greenie nods. “Mr. Foreman helps a lot of bots out, fixing up those who can’t get more official help.” Greenie gestures towards Reign through a window, who is clipping a hedge in the front yard. “Rei used to do this all the time, but she uh, had an accident… She’s been trying to get back in the groove of things for a while now, so I convinced Foreman to let me bring her along!”
  434. “What’s the non-pony bots like? I don’t really think I've ever met one.”
  435. >Greenie starts grabbing some things from her trolley. “About the same as you or me, just more human-like in terms of appearance.” She pauses for a moment and looks at you. “What’s it like, anyhow?”
  436. “Whaddya mean?”
  437. >”I have a hunch you might be a biopony, seeing that you ate an apple and all.”
  438. “A what? Why would you think that?”
  439. >Greenie shugs with a smile on her face. “Roboponies can’t eat, simple as that.” She adjusts a feather duster's size for a moment before continuing. “It’s pretty rare, but I'm pretty sure all signs point to you being, ya know, real.”
  440. >You pout, not all that happy with the implications of this.
  441. “Greenie, you're real too! Who’s to say you're not? Besides, it doesn’t matter, we’re all ponies after all.”
  442. >Greenie nods. “True that, sorry for the weird question, I was just curious.”
  443. >You feel odd thinking about it, but you guess you could at least answer her question.
  444. “W-well, I guess it’s probably similar to a human, biologically speaking… I’m not really sure myself though, I try not to think about that sort of thing.”
  445. >Greenie rubs her chin, with an inquisitive look on her face.
  446. >”I understand, it’s probably similar to a horse, like you know, a real horse.”
  447. “I think it’d be nice to meet a horse, they seems so calm.”
  448. >”Humans ride horses, you know.”
  449. “Yeah! Like western movies with cowboys and stuff!”
  450. >”Do you think it’d be possible for a pony to ride a horse?”
  451. >You ponder this, it’s certainly a valid question, but would it be practical?
  452. >Well, it’s not practical for humans either, right? So it’d be about the same in that case, practicality wise. Would a horse be okay with a pony riding it? Would it even be comfortable? Would there be a moral conundrum that comes about with the rise of sentient ponies riding their non-sentient brethren?!
  453. >Okay you’re thinking about this too much. Gray, cool it, no more horse thoughts!
  454. >Greenie is in the middle of her cleaning as you snap out of your horse hypotheticals.
  455. “Sorry, I kinda blanked there…”
  456. >Greenie laughs a little. “I thought I broke you for a moment there!”
  457. >Greenie gestures once more toward Reign, who seems to be taking a break at the foot of the stairs outside.
  458. >”Do you mind checking on her? Just tell her I’ll be done soon enough.”
  459. >You give Greenie a ‘Sure!’ Then make your way outside toward Reign.
  460.  
  461. >She doesn’t seem to notice you at first, as she’s staring off into the distance.
  462. >In the interest of not scaring her, you noisily make your way towards her, which alerts her of your presence.
  463. >”Oh, Miss Gray, It’s nice to see you…” Her voice is a bit shaky as it trails off.
  464. “Are you alright?”
  465. >You sit yourself next to her, though you do your best to give her some space.
  466. >Rei shuffles in place for a moment before turning to you. “D-did I do a good job?”
  467. >You take a look around the yard, which looks way better than it did, the hedges especially look nice, you weren't even aware a hedge could look so cleanly cut.
  468. “I’d say you did a wonderful job, Rei!”
  469. >You do your best to sound enthusiastic, though you do mean it, you're just not used to voicing it out loud.
  470. >This seems to get Rei to smile, though she hides her face once she notices you looking at her.
  471. >”I’m glad to hear that!” She pauses for a moment, her expression becomes mildly serious. “P-please remember to water the flowers out front, they’re wilting!”
  472. >You look over to the flowers in the pots in front of the house, lo and behold, they don’t look like they're doing so hot.
  473. >”I watered them this time, but they need more attention, I recommend looking up a water guide for each type.”
  474. >You nod, happy to see her with a bit more confidence, even if she’s scolding you for Anon’s flowers.
  475. >Reign nods a few times to herself, apparently happy with her amount of assertiveness.
  476. >”Is the green one done?” She puts a hoof to her face, which has now reddened considerably. “I-i mean, Greenie! Sorry I’m not used to her having a name yet.”
  477. “Did she not have one for a long time?”
  478. >Rei nods. “She was rather indecisive for a while, about what to call herself I mean. That is until the other day, she was really happy! Jumping around, gabbing about her name and such.”
  479. >You smile, happy that Greenie has been so enthusiastic.
  480. “How’d you get your name?”
  481. >The question came up suddenly in your mind, Reign was an interesting name, that’s for sure.
  482. >”Um… It was what my…” She looks down for a moment, eyes seemingly searching the ground. “My sister liked it.” She brings her head up once more, a pained expression on her face.
  483. >You decide not to press forward.
  484. “I think Green Apple is almost done, want to come inside for a bit?”
  485. >Rei’s mood changes a bit, seemingly wanting to move on as well. “I’d like that.”
  486. >You and Reign walk inside, Greenie is finishing up the dusting.
  487. >Reign takes a seat on the couch, though she takes up quite a bit of it, if she layed down, she’d probably fill it.
  488. >”Thank you for inviting me in, Gray Garden.”
  489. “No problem! You’re here anyway, it’d be rude not to let you inside.”
  490. >Greenie trots over, she looks a bit dusty.
  491. >”All done! There wasn’t too much to do this time, so I went ahead and did some more thorough dusting!” She takes a moment to look at the dust all over herself. “I’ll uh, make sure to brush off outside…”
  492. >Rei giggles, much to your surprise. “You look like a dust bunny!”
  493. >”Some of my best friends are dust bunnies! I’d be *honored* to be half as dusty as they are!” Greenie feigns being offended, which gets a laugh out of Rei.
  494. >You're glad she’s in a better mood.
  495. “Oh, I got something for you, Greenie!”
  496. >You go to the comic left on the table and slide the card from under it, picking it up and handing it over to Green Apple.
  497. “I made you a thank you card! You know, for doing this and all.”
  498. >Greenie reads the card and smiles, much to your delight.
  499. >“Thanks Gray!” Reign peeks over from the couch, which Greenie sees, as she shows the card to her, earning Greenie a nod of approval, before Rei starts getting up.
  500. >”I suppose that's our time! It was nice meeting you, Gray Garden.” Rei says with a bow, before going out the front door, to grab her tools she left out.
  501. >Greenie turns back to you and grins. “Rei seems pretty happy, compared to before at least.”
  502. “Why was she so glum anyhow?”
  503. >Greenie winces. “It’s probably best I don’t share too much without her permission, being kind of a fresh wound and all…”
  504. >You have a hunch it has to do with her sister, in some way or another.
  505. >”I’ll just say she’s had it rough as of late, so she’s a bit guarded, and paired with her general unease around others, it’s an uphill battle.”
  506. >Greenie’s ears droop. “Wish I knew how to help her. Other than this, I couldn’t think of anything that’d make her feel better.” She perks up a bit. “But she *is* feeling better! Even if it’s just a little bit, it’s still a big step!”
  507. >Greenie gathers up her things in her trolley. “I’ll see you soon Gray, and I'm sure Rei wouldn’t mind coming back to help out with the garden. She was yammering about how unkempt it was when we were walking up to the house.”
  508. >Well, you certainly wouldn’t mind it, you’ve always avoided dealing with the garden before, so maybe it’s about time you get that situated.
  509. >”I won’t complain, it sounds fun even!”
  510. >”That’s great to hear! I’ll relay that to Reign.” Greenie gives you a wave and begins to leave, grabbing the trolley’s handle in the process.
  511. >“Bye Gray! Thanks for the card, it was really sweet of you!”
  512. >You wave Greenie out and watch her meet up with Rei, who was glaring at an anthill out front.
  513. >You're just going to assume she has strong feelings about landscaping.
  514. >You close the door and proceed to slump on the couch. As much as you like these guys, your social battery isn’t all that big. You doubt you’ll do much else today, although you might try to continue reading that manga.
  515.  
  516. >While you lounge on the couch you start to feel… content?
  517. >You’re used to things being somewhat aimless, you mostly just drift from day to day.
  518. >Well, that’s what it was like before, but now you have more things to ground you, Greenie’s visits, and maybe having to go shopping every once in a while.
  519. >From the sound of it, you might even get the chance to take up gardening!
  520. >Huh, look at you, being all responsible and stuff, Anon would be proud!
  521. >You position yourself so you're facing the ceiling.
  522. >It wasn’t a very interesting ceiling, but one thing that was unique about it was the subtle star-like constellations that were dotted across it.
  523. >Anon could never see it, but you saw them clearly. You even named some!
  524. >You stretch your right forehoof out toward the ceiling and trace the constellation above the couch.
  525. “Equis Majoris…”
  526. >You called it that because it reminded you of a horse, but like a big horse, not like you.
  527. >Your mind briefly wanders to your horse hypotheticals from earlier, but you shake that off in favor of something else.
  528. “Reign’s a big horse… kinda.”
  529. >She was bigger than you or Greenie, but not enough that she was towering over you.
  530. >You vaguely remember reading a robotics magazine that talks about robopony sizes once, but you can’t remember what the details were… something to do with princesses?
  531. >Roboponies…
  532. >Most of the other ponies you’ve met are roboponies You’ve never really seen the difference though, you're all ponies, so why does it matter?
  533. >It never really sunk in before that you weren’t like them, being more… biological.
  534. >You stuff your hooves in your hoodie pocket, a feeling of insecurity wells up inside you, but you try to stifle it.
  535. >It’s not that big of a deal really, You're sure they think you're normal!
  536. >Er, well, mostly normal anyway.
  537. >Well... actually you’re kinda pathetic, you doubt you're as good at stuff as other ponies.
  538. >You roll over to your side, now facing the tv, you see yourself in the tv screen’s reflection.
  539. >In an attempt at getting your mind off this self-defeating train of thought, you turn on the tv.
  540. >It seems to be on the evening news, the news anchor jabbers about the weather or something, you're not really paying attention, more so you're just thankful for the noise.
  541. >Now that your thoughts are thoroughly drowned out, you decide to take a nap, seeing that it’s not late enough to justify going to bed proper.
  542. >It takes a while but you finally fall asleep.
  543.  
  544. >An electric hum fills your ears, everywhere you look, there are just more white walls that stretch off into the horizon, you are in a box, a really big box.
  545. >This time you seem to be able to move, so you pick a direction and start to walk.
  546. >It seems the more you walk, the darker things get, as if you were leaving the light of a streetlamp.
  547. >Shapes begin to move in the dark outskirts of what little whitespace is left, the constant humming becomes almost unbearable.
  548. >You stop walking, maybe if you don't move, the shapes will stay at bay.
  549. >But the whitespace slowly dries up, even without your input.
  550. >You start to panic.
  551. >You gallop as fast as you can, but your legs give out after a few meters.
  552. >You watch helplessly as the shapes make their way towards you, despite your best efforts, you don’t seem to be able to move anymore.
  553. >It envelops you much quicker than you anticipate. Almost like a dark tide.
  554. >You desperately attempt to stay afloat, but you can’t swim, so you start sinking.
  555. >The dark consumes you, but despite this, you don't drown, instead, you find yourself in soul crushing darkness.
  556. >There is nothing.
  557. >Absolutely Nothing.
  558. >You feel yourself begin to wane, wanting nothing more than for this to end.
  559. >But then you feel something tug you out of the dark, your head once again above the dark waters.
  560. >The sky is still dark, but there is a vastness to it, not like the walls of before.
  561. >Stars hang low, pinpricks of light that pierce the veil.
  562. >You seem to be able to stay afloat now, you search around for what pulled you from the water, but all you find are more stars.
  563. >On the breeze you hear the humming once more, but it’s more organic now, less like electricity and more like the constant droning of bugs in the night.
  564. >You feel at ease, and begin drifting with the current, letting the waters take you to wherever they desire.
  565. >On the horizon, you see an isle, filled with gray flowers. You want to go to it, but you feel yourself begin to awake, thus putting an end to your journey.
  566. >You wonder if you’ll ever see it again.
  567. >That isle on an ink dark sea.
  568.  
  569. >When you finally wake up, the tv is still spouting news of some kind, in the corner of the screen you see the time, 11 p.m.
  570. >Well, looks like you're probably not getting any sleep tonight, luckily Greenie won’t be here tomorrow, so you can nightowl all you want!
  571. >You try to ignore the weird dream you just had, despite it ending okay, the rest of it kind of puts you on edge.
  572. >Not like you’ll remember it in ten or so minutes… But still! Ignoring things is what keeps you sane, Gray!
  573. >You know, maybe that’s an unhealthy way of dealing with things…
  574. >You end up doing a few stretches once you get up from the couch, if you don’t you might get ‘couch-back’ as Anon so lovingly put it.
  575. >He knows what he’s talking about as he had it himself. It wasn’t fun watching him go about the house all crinkled like a crushed soda can, so you’d like to avoid that.
  576. >You try to think of something productive to do, which is hard, seeing that you are… you.
  577. >Honestly all you’ve done so far since Anon’s been gone has been completely self-indulgent.
  578. >Like seriously, you spent like twenty-five bucks on some dumb comics! Who *does* that?!
  579. >You're probably eating Anon out of house and home…
  580. >And…
  581. >And…
  582. >Wait a minute, let’s just… calm down.
  583. >Why are you getting like this, Gray? Who benefits from this stupid melodrama?
  584. >Just… Ground yourself!
  585. >No! Not like a little kid!
  586. >Like, stay cool and collected and stuff!
  587. >Yeah, that’s better.
  588. >After psyching yourself out of being an utter stress ball for no good reason, you go to the kitchen to make something to eat.
  589. >’Make’
  590. >Heh, good one!
  591. >You grab a tv dinner at random, ending up with peas, carrots, and chunks of what you can only assume is potatoes. If it’s not, well, it’s not like you haven’t eaten meat before.
  592. >Anon has a tendency of taking the dinners out the box, to save room in the freezer, though that sort of makes it a gamble if it’s something you’ll be ok eating or not.
  593. >And you kind of picked up that habit too, which means all those dinners you bought are kinda mixed with the not-so pony friendly ones.
  594. >Well, you only live once!
  595. >You take your dinner and microwave it to high heaven.
  596. >After your meal is finished being wave’d, you take it out and pull off the plastic wrap on top of it.
  597. >You decide to eat at the dining table, with all the letters.
  598. >Well, time for the moment of truth.
  599. >You take a bite of the mystery solid.
  600. >…
  601. >Oh sweet, it’s potato!
  602. >After that, your feast goes off without a hitch.
  603. >Once done you linger at the table for a moment, staring at the stack of letters.
  604. “So um… Anon. I hope you're having a nice night, I hope wherever you are, you get some rest since you probably need it, I-i love you A-and miss you a-and…”
  605. >Your voice trails off, and you feel your face flush.
  606. >Yeah, that was pretty embarrassing.
  607. >But, you mean it.
  608.  
  609. >You spend the rest of the night listening to music on the tv, somewhere along the way, you fall asleep again, though this time it’s a dreamless sleep, which you're grateful for.
  610.  
  611. >You wake up with little problem, it seems your nap from earlier had helped you get a more proper amount of sleep, resulting in you being able to get up no issue.
  612. >Though you did end up sleeping on the couch for a second time, which ended up giving you a slight crick in the neck, but with some stretching, you sort that out.
  613. >Yeah, that couch isn’t very good for sleeping, it’s probably better to drag yourself into your bed next time around.
  614. >You glance over at the front door from the couch, like usual, an envelope sits in front of the door.
  615. >You grab the envelope like usual and take it to the dining room table, where you proceed to open it up.
  616. “Rise and shine Gray! It’s a new day, and with new days come new opportunities! I hope you got some plans for the day, seeing how you're free and all, how’d things go with the cleaners? You probably noticed that it’s more on the unofficial side, kinda like a lemonade stand! A buddy of mine helped set this up, so I know the house is in good hands, or in this case, hooves!”
  617. >You sorta deduced that it wasn’t an actual cleaning company, but the confirmation is nice. Somewhere in the back of your mind you feel that maybe Anon doesn’t think you can keep the house clean by yourself, which stings a little, but you know you weren't exactly the best housemate before, so it's a fair assumption.
  618. >You hope by the time he gets home, you're able to keep up the house about as good as Greenie, that’ll make him super happy! You continue reading after that that thought.
  619. “Now, I don’t have much else to write about this time, but I did sneak in a little souvenir! Check the inside of the envelope when you get a chance, it’s not much, but I know you like collecting little knickknacks from time to time, so maybe it’s something you’ll appreciate! Love ya Gray! -Anon.”
  620. >In the envelope? Guess you need to pay more attention to them from now on.
  621. >You grab the envelope and look inside, a smaller envelope is taped to the inside, you peel it off and look inside.
  622. >Wait, is that…?
  623. >You find yourself looking at a postcard from a place you're not sure exists, Arcadian Foundry. A small medallion is stuck to the postcard, which you take off to get a closer look at it.
  624. >It’s silvery in color and round, with an image of gray flowers adorning its front, when you flip it over, you see the other side has a pin with a back to it, it’s a lapel pin.
  625. >After excitedly pinning it to your hoodie, you take a moment to look at the postcard.
  626. >The image is heavily stylized, depicting a subterranean complex of sorts, metallic spires dot the landscape and globules of light are scattered about, highlighting the various buildings in resplendent color. A caption on the bottom reads “Arcadian Foundry! Where the minds of today build a better tomorrow!”
  627. >It seems too strange to be real, maybe Anon found some cool novelty postcard that he thought you’d like? You do like it, it’s pretty. Weirdly familiar too.
  628. >You stack the letter with the rest on the dining room table and stand the postcard on a shelf by the tv, it’ll be fine there until you think of someplace better.
  629. >After that, you do some cleaning once more, although your mind is elsewhere, once you finish you decide to go outside for a bit and take a look at the garden, well it's more of a field of planters and pots than an actual garden, but everyone else seems to call it a garden, so your not gonna argue.
  630. >It’s cold as usual, though things have begun feeling more winter-like as of late, you might even have to put on an actual jacket sooner or later.
  631. >Speaking of cold, the garden looks about as friendly as you expected, it’s on its last legs and with the weather being as it is, you feel it might not survive the winter.
  632. >You suppose you could try moving all the pots into that rickety greenhouse out back, Anon never uses it, but you could certainly give it a try.
  633. >Maybe you could get Reign to help you? She seems to know some stuff about plants.
  634. >Hopefully she ends up coming with Greenie tomorrow, it’d be better if you get to ask her before the weather gets worse.
  635. >You end up pacing about the backyard for a while, lost in thought, trying to muster up a game plan of what to do next.
  636. >Though you stop once you hear some barking.
  637. >You turn to see what made it, and to your delight you see the neighbor's dog is out in its yard.
  638. >You're pretty sure it’s a retriever of some kind, though it might be a mutt, either way, you can’t help but get close to the fence and check out that dog.
  639. >The dog continues barking at you for a bit, its collar jingles somewhat, as it’s got some metal tags on it.
  640. “Hiya little fella! Everything going okay? Yeah I know it’s cold! Hope you get lots of time inside, getting all toasty and such!”
  641. >You’ve always liked dogs. If you could ever have a pet, you’d probably have a dog, but a small one, like a dachshund, or maybe a chihuahua or something.
  642. >You like dogs of all sizes but the small ones are your favorite, big dogs make you feel small. That being said, you wouldn’t be against having one.
  643. >Like seriously, have you *seen* a saint bernard? They’re huge!
  644. >You spend a few minutes cooing at the neighbor’s dog, though you start getting self-conscious about how weird you might seem, so you end up going back inside.
  645. >After getting inside you think about what to do today, and have an idea.
  646. “The dog park!”
  647. >Yeah! That’d be fun! Although you're still kind of hesitant to go since you don’t exactly have a dog…
  648. >Well, you do have Fido, your stuffed guard dog who tends to your wallet, but it would be pretty embarrassing to show up to the dog park with a plushy in tow.
  649. >Anon would take you dog watching every once in a while, mostly due to your unwillingness to go by yourself.
  650. >He always wanted you to be more independent, and you felt bad for being so clingy sometimes…
  651. >But now, you feel you have just enough confidence to go alone!
  652. >Maybe you could bring some treats? You do have a little bowl of milk bones that you keep around for any strays that show up, which isn’t often unfortunately.
  653. >You end up daydreaming about the dog park for a few minutes before snapping yourself out of it, mostly due to hunger.
  654. >You're not really feeling like whipping something up, so you sneak an energy bar from Anon’s secret stash, which isn’t really all that secret, he’s got to get a better place to hide his goodies.
  655. >Hey, it’s his fault for being gone so long! You doubt he’ll miss a bar or two.
  656. >Or three.
  657. >Okay that’s enough, you might overload yourself, these things aren’t made for gobbling down like this!
  658. >After munching down those bars, you get your stuff together, mostly just your keys and a hoof-full of dog bones.
  659. >Once everything is situated in your hoodie pocket, you head for the door after waving to Anon’s letter pile.
  660. >The dog park isn’t far, you just have to cross the street and keep going forward, eventually you’ll hit it.
  661. >The way there goes rather smoothly, though you do end up in a slight snag as you have to go around a small bit of construction, but overall you make it to the dog park without much of a problem.
  662. >There it is! Wilkins Dog Park!
  663. >You go through the entrance and take a look around. It's a pretty slow day, and being as cold as it is, not a lot of people are walking their dogs, but there are a few joggers with their dogs, which is about what you expected.
  664. >You decide to go lay by a large oak tree, letting the shade keep you out of sight. Despite your general happiness to be here, you're still very much a wallflower.
  665. >For the most part you end up observing the various dogs that walk on by, most ignore you, but once in a while, one looks your way, though usually their owners end up guiding them to keep moving, which is unfortunate.
  666. >You know, being so passive probably won’t help you pet a dog, maybe you shou-
  667. “Oof!”
  668. >You end up tumbling over, hit by something fuzzy, by the time you get your bearings you see it.
  669. >A huge mastiff’s face is looking you in the eyes, and it licks your face, you laugh a little and pet it.
  670. >You hear some yelling come closer, from under the mastiff’s fluffy face you see a pink blur shoot towards you.
  671. >”Gaia, no! We don’t do that!”
  672. >The dog is pulled off you, which is a little disappointing, but you are just happy to have gotten to pet it a bit at least.
  673. >A pink pegasus with a frizzy mane holds back the big dog, on closer inspection the pegasus seems to be a stallion, if a bit on the skinny side.
  674. >”Sorry about that! She’s -ugh- really excitable around ponies!”
  675. >The pegasus mumbles some things in the dog’s ear, which get’s her to calm down, she lays down next to him, then he turns to you.
  676. >”So uh, sorry again about that…”
  677. “Oh, no broplem! I-i mean no problem…”
  678. >Huh, guess the mastiff knocked your marbles a bit more than you thought.
  679. “That’s a nice dog, what’s her name?”
  680. >”Her name’s Gaia, I walk her for her owner.” The stallion rubs his face with a hoof, seeming a bit exasperated. “She does this way more than I'd like to admit.”
  681. “Not to reward unwanted behavior but uh, do you mind if I give her a treat?”
  682. >The stallion shrugs. “Go ahead, she’s spoiled anyway, not gonna change that anytime soon.”
  683. >You take a treat from your hoodie and wiggle it above your head, getting Gaia’s attention.
  684. >With a deft toss, you launch the treat, and Gaia snaps it up midair.
  685. >This earns you a round of applause from the stallion, you do a little bow, trying to be extra theatrical.
  686. >”Good job! I don’t think I've ever got her to grab a treat quite like that, usually she’s pretty lazy.”
  687. “Really? She looks pretty energetic to me.”
  688. >The stallion laughs. “Like I said, she’s spoiled, but I guess maybe meeting a pony seemed to give her a boost.”
  689. >You nod, though now you're more curious about the stallion.
  690. “What’s your name?”
  691. >”Vole.”
  692. “Vole?”
  693. >Vole nods. “The little miss thought it was a pretty good name at the time, how about you, you gotta name?”
  694. “I’m Gray Garden, I uh, don’t have any interesting tidbits about my name.”
  695. >Not that you’d like to share anyway.
  696. >Gaia watches a dog in the distance, wagging her tail.
  697. >Vole pats her on the back and Gaia sprints off into the middle of the park.
  698. “Was that a good idea?”
  699. >”It gives her exercise. That, and I kinda want a break.” Vole sits on the outskirts of the oak tree’s shade, watching Gaia.
  700. >He turns to you. “You got a dog?”
  701. “No, but I like dogs, that’s why I decided to come here today, although it’s rather sparsely packed right now.”
  702. >Vole stretches his wings out a bit. “Have you ever considered doing some dog walking? That’s why I’m here with Gaia in the first place.”
  703. “Isn’t that pretty intense? Like, with bunches of leads and dogs and stuff?”
  704. >”Eh, most of the time it’s pretty calm. If you get really swamped, that’s when that sort of thing happens, but usually it’s fine.”
  705. >Well it’s certainly a thing to consider, and you don’t really need money right now, so maybe you could do it just to interact with some dogs?”
  706. “Maybe I’ll look into that.”
  707. >Vole raises a wing and pulls out a card from somewhere within its fluff, you try not to dwell on that.
  708. >”Here, I work with a guild, maybe it’d interest you?”
  709. >When you hear ‘guild’ you think warriors and that sort of thing, but you're assuming he means like a community of dog walkers or something to that degree.
  710. >You take the card from him and look at it, it’s about what you assumed, apparently it’s made up mostly of ponies, which is pretty interesting, it even deals with pet sitting.
  711. “Looks neat! I’ll look it up later.” You take a second to glance where Gaia is. “Hey, is she supposed to be all the way over there?
  712. >”Huh?” Vole looks where she is as well and his eyes widen. “Oh no, uh, seeya Gray, I gotta sort that out, have a nice day!” He gets up pretty quickly and starts galloping to where Gaia is.
  713. >You wave him off, though you doubt he notices.
  714. >After a half or so hour more, you decide to head home, the day is picking up and as much as you like dogs, you're pretty sure you don’t want to stick around for the inevitable frenzy that’ll happen sooner or later, seeing that most dogs aren’t exactly used to ponies.
  715.  
  716. >Usually you keep your head down as you go about the city, more focusing on the destination than the journey, but you’ve been more attentive of what’s around you as of late.
  717. >The city wasn’t all that big, if anything, it was more of a town, most places were within walking distance and you usually recognized the faces of the people around you despite your unwillingness to talk to them.
  718. >Everything was pretty jam packed, there was a denseness to it all even if there weren't a lot of people out and about.
  719. >Population wise, things were rather diverse, you could take a tour of the world with just a visit to your local grocery store.
  720. >Huh, now you kinda want a calzone. Does that Italian joint on 7th street deliver?
  721. >Your thoughts are interrupted by you getting home, once inside you stick what dog treats you had left back where you got them.
  722. >You try to think of something to do, maybe a load of laundry or something?
  723. >Do… Do you even know how to use the washer?
  724. >Wait, yeah, Anon showed you a couple times, though you haven’t tried since.
  725. >What would you even wash? It’s not like you wear clothes often.
  726. >You look down, sorta just realizing you’ve worn the same hoodie for several days.
  727. “I guess that’s one thing, but what else?”
  728. >You look around the house for clothes to wash, your best bet might be to check Anon’s room but you’ve been avoiding going in there since you're pretty sure you’ll have a meltdown if you do.
  729. >But, you don’t have much else of a choice, it’s either that, or you waste water cleaning a single hoodie.
  730. >You reluctantly go upstairs and stand in front of Anon’s door, trying to muster up the strength to open it.
  731. >It’ll be quick, just in and out, no more, no less!
  732. >You open the door, and timidly enter.
  733. >It’s pretty standard all things considered, the room is for the most part clean. Like you, Anon doesn’t have a lot of personal items sitting around, except for some books on a shelf that seem pretty boring.
  734. >He doesn't spend as much time in his room compared to you in yours, mostly doing his work or whatever in the dining room.
  735. >Let’s just get this over with.
  736. >You scour the room for any clothes that could be washed, though for the most part you come up empty hooved.
  737. >Apparently Anon is pretty diligent about washing his clothes, which makes sense since he wears them all the time.
  738. >You try thinking of some sort of alternative. Maybe washing some already clean things with the hoodie?
  739. >At this point, you're better off just waiting until you exhaust your other clothes.
  740. >You decide you’ll just change your hoodie and take a shower, that seems like that's a decent enough idea.
  741. >You glance over at Anon’s bed, feeling somewhat nostalgic.
  742. >You used to sleep in it pretty often when you first came home with him, you're pretty sure it gave you a complex of some sort, seeing that its very presence soothes you in some way.
  743. >Most of you life before was pretty dull, mostly just solving dumb little puzzles that where given to you by unenthusiastic humans in big coats, they never really gave you a reason why you did those puzzles, they just told you to do them. Not like you had much of a choice.
  744. >You're pretty sure if you have to solve another puzzle you’d be sick. Well, except for maybe crossword puzzles, those are still pretty fun.
  745. >You briefly remember what you were like as a filly, although the memories are somewhat fuzzy you remember almost never talking.
  746. >That is until you encountered Anon. You got pretty chatty after that.
  747. >He was the kid of one of those big coats and was one of the only ones to actually talk to you.
  748. >It probably is what kept you sane, he even snuck you sweets!
  749. >After a few years the big coats seemed to give up on you, which you didn’t understand, not that they’d tell you what they wanted anyway.
  750. >Anon seemed to convince them to let him take you with him, and you’ve lived with him ever since.
  751. >It was terrifying, since you never had so many doors open for you, in a way it made you… Indecisive.
  752. >You ended up being a shut-in afraid of what was outside.
  753. >Of course, Anon encouraged you to step out of your comfort zone and over time you got better.
  754. >You're still pretty bad at everything, but you're getting better, right?
  755. >Maybe the reason why you got so scared when Anon was gone was because you thought you’d lose the only thing that kept you going.
  756. >You wonder if Anon’s reason for being gone is related, seeing that he had family that worked with the big coats.
  757. >You don’t hate the men in coats, they never hurt you, but they never loved you either, if anything, all they gave was apathy.
  758. >But Anon loves you, and you love him.
  759. >Even if you never know why he went, you’ll just be glad to see him again someday.
  760. >And the letters help keep you going, even if you get frustrated sometimes.
  761. >You end up blankly staring at one of the walls of Anon’s room for a while, deep in thought, though you snap out of it once you remember how hungry you were.
  762. >Apparently hunger is great at keeping you from being too sentimental.
  763. >You leave Anon’s room empty hooved, intent on getting something to eat.
  764.  
  765. >You decide on getting a calzone, like you thought about earlier.
  766. >Though you realize you’ve never ordered something over the phone without Anon guiding you.
  767. >It probably won’t be that bad, just gotta be clear and concise!
  768. >You *do* know how to be clear and concise, right?
  769. >You trot in place in front of the house phone, trying to rotate the perfect calzone in your head, mushrooms and lotsa cheese, nothing more, nothing less! Oh, oh! And get a cannoli!
  770. >Your excitement bubbles, apparently food is a good enough motivator to get over your social ineptitude.
  771. >You swipe the phone off the receiver and dial the number, listening to it ring with bated breath.
  772. >”Hi, you’ve reached Pied Piperoni, whatcha need?”
  773. “H-hi can I get a mushroom calzone with extra cheese, p-please? And uhm, a cannoli too…”
  774. >”You want whip cream with that cannoli?”
  775. “Yes please!”
  776. >After confirming the payment and a few more things, the call ends, and you stand triumphantly in front of the phone.
  777. “Haha! See that? I did that all by myself! Who’s the best? This mare!”
  778. >You do a little dance around the couch, which is probably too much, but you're trying to boost your ego sufficiently so you can answer the door without embarrassing yourself.
  779. >You end up watching tv while waiting for your food, nothing interesting is on, unless you count the competitive sudoku tourney that’s on channel 10, you never knew sudoku could be so harrowing!
  780. >You fidget with the money you grabbed from your piggybank to use as a tip, as you look outside, you notice that it’s dusk, which prompts you to turn the outside light on for whoever ends up delivering your food.
  781. >It doesn’t take much longer for you to hear the ring of the doorbell.
  782. >You pause at the front door, psyching yourself up to answer it, with a deep breath, you open the door.
  783. >A delivery guy stands in the doorway, his tallness freaks you out a bit, but nevertheless you hold out the tip with a shaky hoof, your face glued to the floor.
  784. >”Thanks! Here’s your stuff.”
  785. >His tone is cheerful as he hands you the two boxes he carries.
  786. >”Enjoy your meal!”
  787. “Y-you too…”
  788. >You close the door quickly once you realize your mistake. Every inch of your body seems to scream.
  789. >Well, you really screwed that one up, Gray…
  790. >You take a moment to check the peephole to see if he’s gone, which he is.
  791. >You sigh and go sit down at the dining room table, trying not to beat yourself up over your blunder.
  792. >You open the box on top, which seems to be the cannoli, lovingly adrift in a whip cream sea.
  793. >You feel like sugar will help you calm down, but dinner is always first!
  794. >You slide the cannoli aside and check your calzone, which seems fine.
  795. >As you begin eating, the calzone reminds you of that time Anon took you out to eat at the restaurant.
  796. >It probably was the first time you were in a place like that, and you remember it being nice, even if you totally embarrassed yourself, mostly due to you accidentally spilling your spaghetti all over the floor when you tried to get up from the booth. It wasn’t a very pony friendly booth.
  797. >You, uh, probably would have gotten yelled at if Anon didn’t step in, he seemed to always have a way with people, and by the time he finished, he had gotten you some new food, a mushroom calzone.
  798. >The calzone wasn’t all that special, but it kind of kickstarted your attempts at being less of a wuss.
  799. >Although you're still not that great at it, at least you can order food without crying, which you uh, kinda did more than you’d like to admit.
  800. >After finishing your calzone you eat the cannoli, which helps keep your mind off the past. Your recent nostalgic tangents seem to be rather intense as of late.
  801. >But you guess maybe facing the past isn’t that bad, even if it just makes you really uncomfortable.
  802. >Not that you have much of a past to face, just a bunch of really awkward stuff that you’d like to forget.
  803. >Well, at least you have the future to look forward to, things are looking up for Ol’ Gray!
  804. >By the time Anon comes back, you’ll be a new mare!
  805. >Maybe?
  806. >You’re not really sure, but you know you have friends now, so that’s pretty great!
  807. >Would you call them your friends? You never really had friends, not casually anyway, Anon more so counts as your ‘best friend’ so that’s different.
  808. >Yeah, you’d call Greenie your friend, Rei too! Well, you’ve only known them for a day or so, but you still are grateful for them.
  809. >After a few more minutes of idle thoughts, you clean up after yourself and head toward the bathroom, about ready for that shower.
  810. >You set your pin in a safe place and then wriggle out your hoodie, your body now once more by its lonesome.
  811. >Wow, that was a weird way to put it… maybe just… naked is better?
  812. >Wait, no, that sounds wrong too!
  813. >Oh whatever! Just take that dang shower!
  814. >You slide the shower door open and step inside, it’s rather spacious, with a rack of soups and a few sponges hanging from some hooks.
  815. >It was cozy, you know, for a little cube that dispenses water!
  816. >You ponder momentarily what to use, and settle for the old reliable ‘Mane and Tail’.
  817. >Anon always seems to find that one funny for some reason.
  818. >You end up sitting in the shower, letting the warm water flow over you, not really worried about using the soap just yet.
  819. >You mind wanders for a while, not really settling on any one topic, by the time anything surfaces, it gets washed away with the water.
  820. >It’s nice not having to think for once, just being here is enough.
  821. >Of course, you probably should start cleaning up.
  822. >You suds up and clean as best you can, hooves make some things more difficult than others, but in the end it all gets done.
  823. >You linger in the shower for a bit, the constant warmth seems to comfort you.
  824. >It’s kinda like a hug, but all wet and stuff!
  825. >…
  826. >Great, now you really want a hug right now, which is dampening your water-based serenity.
  827. >Okay Gray, that’s enough.
  828. >You turn off the water and proceed to shake the water off as best you can before needing to get a towel.
  829. >It takes some time, but once everything is said and done, you are dry and fresher than ever!
  830. >Your mane ends up being a bit poofy, which you handle with your trusty brush.
  831. >You try to brush your tail, but it’s kind of hard, doable, but hard.
  832. >You lament over not having Anon to help you, not that you *need* help, but your tail always is kind of a pain.
  833. >That, and you kinda like having it brushed.
  834. >Not that you’d admit it out loud or anything.
  835. >After sufficient de-poofing, your mane is now long and slightly curly once more.
  836. >You glance over at the hoodie you were wearing, which you didn’t really realize how much of a beating it took until now, seeing that you got tackled by a dog earlier.
  837. >It’s pretty hairy, though you guess that’s the price to pay for getting to pet a dog.
  838. >You briefly wonder if you’ll meet Vole again, you didn’t really get to talk to him as much as you’d like. He did give you that card though. So there’s a slight chance you will.
  839. >You’re not sure if you’ll actually consider becoming a dog walker. As much as you love dogs, it seems like a pretty good way to get people to be disappointed in you.
  840. >Well, that’s mostly the quitter in you talking.
  841. >You’ll give it some genuine thought.
  842.  
  843. >You end up taking your hoodie and start a pile next to the washer and dryer, hopefully soon you’ll be able to do some laundry!
  844. >Once that’s done, you head off to bed.
  845. >You stick your new pin in a scarf you have hanging near your door, close to your guard dog Fido, who’s watch will surely keep it safe.
  846. >With a stretch and a yawn, you bundle up in your blanket, cocooning yourself in an attempt at emulating a hug, which seems to work out somewhat, as you fall asleep soon after.
  847.  
  848. >You wake up without much fuss, using today’s visit as a motivator to leave bed.
  849. >After a few minutes of watching the trees outside your window, you go to your closet in search of something to wear.
  850. >You didn’t have tons of clothes, despite the fact that pony clothing wasn’t that hard to find these days.
  851. >It was mostly due to you liking clothes that can hold things, like hoodies and shirts with pockets and such.
  852. >You pick out another hoodie, this time it’s a darker gray, which matches your mane.
  853. >On the front is a small graphic of a duck’s silhouette.
  854. >You’re more a fan of solid colors, but the duck is cute, so you let it slide.
  855. >After pinning your lapel pin to your hoodie, you head downstairs.
  856. >You’ve gotten used to the letter by now, so its presence in front of the door wasn’t much of a surprise.
  857. >After your usual ritual of bringing the envelope to the dining room table, you open it up and start reading.
  858. “Heya Gray! Things have been picking up over here, so I've got less time to spend on these letters. That being said, I want to mention that you might want to look out for something other than a letter soon, since I was able to find something that you might like! No spoilers though! You’ll see for yourself. Hope you liked the pin! I was pretty surprised when I found it, and seeing how it reminded me of you, I’d thought maybe you’d find it neat. Well, that’s about it for now, Wish I could give some more context on what it’s like over here, but you know how it is. Seeya later alligator! -Anon.”
  859. >Ah yes, the old ‘I’m gonna distract you with stuff so you don’t panic’ technique.
  860. >Not that it doesn’t work on you. You're kinda predictable in that way.
  861. “After a while, crocodile…”
  862. >You mumble that while putting the letter in with the rest of the pile.
  863.  
  864. >It doesn’t take long for your morning routine to be interrupted by the doorbell.
  865. >You're surprised, mostly due to it being pretty early all things considered, you didn’t even finish your breakfast yet.
  866. > With a few more hasty bites of a bagel, you get up and open the door.
  867. >Outside is Reign, though it looks like Greenie isn’t with her this time.
  868. >She looks about as she did the other day, though this time she has a dark green scarf around her neck.
  869. >”Hullo again miss Gray Garden, um, you might be able to tell that Greenie isn’t here today.
  870. “Is she alright?”
  871. >Rei nods, though her face seems to give away her concern. “She is fine… for the most part, just a bit under the weather as of late.”
  872. “Why's that?”
  873. >Rei sighs, a hint of frustration in her voice. “She overworked herself and ended up losing power because she didn’t keep herself charged.”
  874. >You remember Greenie having less of an issue last time, so you didn’t think things were that bad.
  875. >”She’s fine now, like I said, but she’s going to be out of commission until Mr. Foreman can get her a new battery, her old one can’t keep a charge without being plugged in anymore…”
  876. >Reign sounds increasingly frustrated, though you can tell it’s because she cares. Your glad Greenie is alright, hopefully she gets some rest, and a new battery from the sound of it.
  877. >Reign’s mood changes quickly as she gazes over the lawn out front. “Things out here are about how I left it, so there isn’t much to do in that department.
  878. >Rei places a hoof on a wheelbarrow you were unaware of until now. “I’d like your help doing some gardening, if you’d be up for it that is.”
  879. “You know, it’s not really a garden, it’s just a bunch of pots and such.”
  880. >”Gardens can be many things, it’d be silly not to count yours.”
  881. >Well, it isn’t exactly *your* garden, but you do want to see it keep being, ya know, alive.
  882. >You gesture towards the back of the house.
  883. “There’s a greenhouse out back, It might be a good idea to move things in there, yeah?”
  884. >Rei nods. “Yes, that would be ideal, don’t worry about moving the pots, I can deal with them.”
  885. >Rei seems a little more enthusiastic today, albeit her mood seems hampered by Greenie’s absence.
  886. >You end up following Reign out back, along the way she picks up a few flowerpots with her magic.
  887. >You know, you never really question how unicorns could do that, it usually just makes sense in your head to call it magic, seeing that you doubt you’d get a coherent answer if you asked how they do it.
  888. >You open the greenhouse door without much ceremony, as old as it is, it still seems to be as sturdy as ever.
  889. >Inside there isn’t much, just a few rows of empty shelves. The warmth is much more intense than you expected.
  890. >The glass is a bit murky, but you have no doubts that with a few good scrub downs, it’ll be as good as new.
  891. >Rei sets down the pots in various places throughout the greenhouse, once she’s done she sighs, a slightly tired look on her face.
  892. >”I sometimes forget how straining that can be, but, nevertheless, I press on!” You assume she’s talking to herself, since she doesn’t seem to be addressing you.
  893. “So Rei, why do you like plants so much anyhow?”
  894. >You try to be as general as possible, since you're unsure what her passion is specifically.
  895. >Rei adjusts the angle of a few pots before answering. “My job used to be working in a botanical garden, it was… nice.” Reign parts the hair in front of her face, revealing her eyes a bit more. “I did that with my sister, things went well for a time, that is, until the garden was shut down.”
  896. >She ponders something for a moment, then turns to you.
  897. >”Why do you think that was? It seems so… unfair.” Her question seems genuine, though you're unsure what to say to it.
  898. “I don’t know, you're right though, it does seem unfair, gardens aren’t meant to be tossed out like that... I think?
  899. >This earns you a nod of approval from Rei. “I know it was an odd question, one that you can’t really answer for, but I appreciate the attempt, I… I guess I'm still not over it.”
  900. “Do you want to talk about it? It might help clear your head.”
  901. >Reign pauses, her eyes still fixated on the flowers she’s currently pruning.
  902. >”She was like me, if a bit taller.” Rei chuckles a little, though there is an uneasiness to it.
  903. >”We were built for that garden, well I guess maybe a better word is… commissioned?”
  904. >”I tended the plants, she greeted the visitors, it was a simple arrangement.”
  905. >Rei sets down a hoof-ful of stray petals in an empty pot next to her. “We were happy, even when the visitation started to trickle to a crawl.”
  906. >Rei’s eyes stare at the greenhouse's ceiling. “One day I couldn’t find her… She was gone and I didn’t know why. I asked the higher ups where she went and all they said was that they ‘cut costs’.
  907. >Reign takes a deep breath, her body is visibly shaking. “I-i could barely work after that, even if I was afraid to go too, I just… I couldn’t do it without her.”
  908. >She takes a moment to calm down, then turns to you, her eyes seem watery. “Somewhere along the line the garden shutdown. I was still there, and yet they didn’t even bother to tell me.”
  909. >”I ended up staying in the garden for a while, waiting for something to happen.” Rei seems to brighten up a bit, though she still seems uneasy.
  910. >“There was this brick wall that was never finished, most of them were loose.”
  911. >She points to her back. “One day while wandering around, I must have lost power, since I ended up hitting the wall and… The bricks fell on top of me.”
  912. >To your surprise she doesn’t seem all that cut up about it.
  913. >”When I woke up again, I was in a repair shop, I didn’t know how I got there, but I guess it didn't really matter.”
  914. >”My back was somewhat… snapped or something to that degree, I’m not sure myself. All I know is that I couldn’t move for the longest time.”
  915. >”Mr. Foreman had done an excellent job, It didn’t even feel like it was broken to begin with once I started walking again.”
  916. >Rei rubs the back of her neck. “I guess that’s why I’m not too worried about Greenie being out of things for a while, she’s in good hands. If anything, I’d say I’m a bit peeved that she pushed herself too hard, seeing that she already had problems with her vision.”
  917. >Rei sighs, a relieved look on her face. “I guess you're right, talking seemed to help me get out of my… funk?” She giggles for a moment. “I’m a bit better now is what I mean.”
  918. >That certainly was a lot! You're glad she seems to be a bit better now though.
  919. “Have you known Greenie for a long time?”
  920. >Rei shakes her head. “I’ve known her for a little while, but most of the time that I knew her, she couldn’t see. She was the most recent pony to come into Foreman’s shop, before, she was completely blind, her eyes were pretty much shot. After some trial and error regarding what kind of replacements to put in her, Foreman was able to get her able to see again, albeit a bit on the finicky side of things.”
  921. “So, this Foreman fella, do you guys work for him or something?”
  922. >Reign shrugs. “In a way, yes. But it’s a bit more nuanced than that. He fixed us up without asking for anything in return, despite how bad for business it might be. So I guess some of us stuck around to sorta repay a debt, even if it isn’t needed.” Rei looks down, a bit sad. “Most of us that stayed don’t have anywhere else to go, so they try to be as useful as they can, I guess in a way so that they feel like they're not just taking up space.” Rei looks up again.
  923. >“Foreman seems to like the extra help though, and even said it boosted his productivity, so I guess it’s a win/win situation.”
  924. >You help Rei move a rather large pot to a shelf.
  925. “Have you known him for a long time?”
  926. >Rei pauses for a moment, then answers. “Not long, maybe a few months at most, funnily enough I had gotten repaired by him while I still was working at the garden, I guess it was fate that he’d help me back up on my hooves.”
  927. >You kind of want to meet this Foreman guy, he certainly sounds like he has a lot of history… or something?
  928. >Honestly all the new information you’ve acquired is kinda melting your brain, so you think you’ll see if Rei wants to take a break.
  929. “Do you want to take a break, Reign?”
  930. >Rei sets down another pot, before nodding. “It would be nice I suppose.”
  931. >The two of you exit the green house, which is now filled with pots. Surprisingly, you two made more progress than you thought you would, especially since Rei was relaying her story to you.
  932. >Once inside, Rei sits on the couch like before, you guess she’s comfortable there.
  933. “Do you, uhm, want anything? Like maybe some water for something.”
  934. >Reign taps her hoof on the bit of couch next to her, seemingly a bit lost in thought.
  935. >”I’m… unsure if that would be wise, my apologies. “
  936. ”No problem! I’m still not sure what you guys can and can’t do still.”
  937. >Reign gestures towards the dining room table. “What’s with all the letters?”
  938. >You didn’t really think about how someone would mention them sooner or later.
  939. “I-i… They’re from my friend, he’s going to be gone for a while.”
  940. >Rei nods, still staring at them, which makes you feel a little self-conscious, for one reason or another.
  941. “Hey! D-do you want to play a game or something?”
  942. >You blurt that out a little too loud, but Rei doesn’t seem to notice.
  943. >”That’d be nice, do you have anything in mind?”
  944. >You trot over to a closet by the front door, inside are a few half-forgotten board games.
  945. “Maybe… Connect Four?”
  946. >”Never played it, what’s it like?”
  947. “Well you… try to connect four…”
  948. >That’s not the best explanation, but it certainly isn’t wrong.
  949. >Rei gets up and comes to the dining room table, where you’ve set up the game.
  950. >You're doing your best to ignore the letters on the opposite side of the table, mostly so Rei doesn’t bring attention to it.
  951. >”So, you win by connecting four of the chips?”
  952. “Yep! In any order really, as long as they make a line, you're golden!”
  953. >You kind of stopped playing board games after the first few days in the house, Anon really only used them as an icebreaker to get you used to the place.
  954. >You still enjoyed them, but after a while you and Anon got into a routine that didn’t really include them, which is slightly disappointing when you think about it.
  955. >You flip a red piece a few times, and then chuck it towards Rei… who gets bopped on the muzzle by it, a slightly confused expression on her face.
  956. “S-sorry! Force of habit…”
  957. >You always threw the pieces like that toward Anon, since he was able to catch them pretty easily. In all honesty, you kinda did that more than play the actual game.
  958. >”It’s alright! Next time I'll be ready.”
  959. >After a few minutes of preparation and rule talk, you slide the first piece in, you're playing yellow this time.
  960. “So, um… does your sister have a name?”
  961. >Rei plays a piece, and then you play a piece, it goes like this a little bit before she answers.
  962. >“Rush, she was rather energetic.” Her voice has little emotion, though you chalk that up to her focusing on the game. “She did a good job at what she did… I still wish I knew what happened to her.”
  963. >After a moment of silence she continues. “I like to think that she's in a better place, maybe she just got assigned somewhere else, and didn’t have the time to tell me… it's… difficult, but I've tried to move on.”
  964. >She looks you in the eye. “I’m sorry for hauling all this emotional baggage unto you, I know you mean well, but it’s… a lot.”
  965. >You shake your head.
  966. “It's fine, I just want you to have an outlet, you uhm, seem a bit pent up.”
  967. >Reign chuckles uneasily. “I suppose so, I didn’t say much to Greenie, despite knowing her longer, simply because she seemed so… happy. I don’t want to burden her.”
  968. “Oh, do I not look happy?” You say, with mock offense, which gets Reign to laugh more lightly.
  969. >”Well, you certainly have a cloud over your head, so to speak, but you seem to be handling things better than I might have expected.” She punctuates this by placing a piece in, with a grin on her face.
  970. >”I win.”
  971. “Ugh. I should have known… Beginners luck, I say!”
  972. >Well, it’s not like you played this that much either, but still!
  973. >”Another round? Maybe with less gabbing?”
  974. “Huh, and here I thought you might have liked getting to spill your heart out!”
  975. >”Oh trust me, I do, but you seem like you might get extra depressed on my behalf, so how about we lighten things up?”
  976. “You took *my* line, Reign.”
  977. >”It’s a very common line, you might need to get a rarer line, Gray.”
  978. >You both go back and forth for a bit, and play another round, after all is said and done, you both end up back outside, clearing up that last of the pots that need to go inside the green house.
  979. >”For now, all we’ll do is get these inside, but next time, I think I’ll give you a lesson on keeping the green house in top shape!”
  980. “Thanks for the help Reign, it’s certainly easier with a unicorn.”
  981. >Rei puts a pot in her wheelbarrow. “I feel bad that you're somewhat ill equipped to move these by yourself, they certainly are very big plants!”
  982. “Their old, apparently Anon got them from a relative, so they’ve been around the block a few times, which makes me eager to *not* have them die on my watch.”
  983. >”That's a noble cause, it would be a shame for such old plants to die out of neglect.”
  984. “Hey, do you know what kind they are? I’ve got no clue.”
  985. >Rei takes a moment to look at the big plants, though she looks confused. “I… Have no idea. They’re pretty though!”
  986. >Well, if Rei doesn’t know, then you guess you're out of luck.
  987. >You sort of remember something.
  988. “Hey, Reign, do you need to charge up or something?”
  989. >”If you're wondering if I function similarly to Greenie, the answer is no, but I do charge.”
  990. >She points to her horn with a hoof. “I’m solar powered, as long as I have sun, I’m fine.”
  991. “Just through the horn? Not like any panels or whatever?”
  992. >”Precisely, it’s rather rare for me to lose charge, except for when my horn becomes damaged....”
  993. >Rei winces. “The reason I powered down that one time is because it had been incredibly finicky for several weeks, I simply couldn’t keep up.”
  994. “Wouldn’t it be wise to have a backup of some sorts?”
  995. >”Ever since, I’ve had an emergency cable installed, in case I can’t recharge normally, it’s been quite the lifesaver, especially during the night.”
  996. “So you *do* function kinda like Greenie.”
  997. >Rei sticks her tongue out at you. “How very observant, but it’s not my primary method of charging.”
  998. >You mimic her, which gets her to chuckle a bit.
  999. >”I suppose it’s about time for me to leave. It was a pleasure as always, Miss Gray Garden.
  1000. “You know, I always wondered why everyone keeps adding ‘miss’ to my name, do I look like a miss?”
  1001. >Rei shrugs. “You seem rather young, if anything It might be a term of endearment? I certainly see it as such.”
  1002. “Huh, that’s nice to hear, but I guess that means you're aware of my… nature.”
  1003. >”Do you really see that as a big deal? Gray, I think you might be overthinking things!”
  1004. “I-i guess I just don’t want to be…different.”
  1005. >”You simply *function* differently. It really doesn’t matter if you get your energy from food or from a charging cable, you’re still just another pony.”
  1006. “I-I know, I just… I just…
  1007. >Your thoughts are interrupted by Rei bringing you into a hug, which is rather all consuming because of her size.
  1008. “H-hey! You don’t need to do that…”
  1009. >”Yes, I do.”
  1010. >You wriggle in her grasp, but she doesn’t let go.
  1011. >After a moment, you stop struggling, simply letting her hold you.
  1012. >Reign doesn’t say anything else, instead she just hums a bit.
  1013. >You're trying to process what’s happening, but your mind is reeling.
  1014. >You didn’t feel like this when Greenie hugged you, maybe because you still hadn’t processed everything that had happened.
  1015. >But now, it seems to break you, whatever thoughts you had seem to melt away.
  1016. >Despite all the emotions you’ve felt since Anon’s been gone, you’ve tried your best not to cry, you’ve gotten close, but could never quite make it.
  1017. >Though that seems to change now, what little defense you had against it seemed to have disappeared, and tears welled up in your eyes.
  1018. >You end up sobbing into Rei’s chest for a while, occasionally mumbling apologies to people you feel that you’ve wronged.
  1019. >By the time you calm yourself down to speak coherently, Reign has shepherded you closer to the house, away from being in the middle of the backyard, which, looking back on it, was a tad embarrassing, breaking down like that and all.
  1020. >You sit on the grass in the shadow of the house, the green house in the distance.
  1021. “I’m s-sorry… I shouldn’t have done that…”
  1022. >Despite your attempt at controlling your voice, you're still rather shaky.
  1023. >Reign is sitting next to you, a calm smile on her face. “It’s alright, You didn’t do anything wrong, I suppose you remember what you said to me before? Wanting to be my outlet? I feel like I could do the same for you.” She chuckles a little. “And so far, I feel like it’s working.”
  1024. >You’re grateful that she’d do that, but you didn’t expect this to happen, maybe you didn’t realize how much you’ve been repressing.
  1025. >Rei sighs. “I feel like you don’t understand that you're still just a filly, you may be older, but your heart is still just as big.” She gives you another hug, though it’s much more brief. “And it can break just as easily as before… No amount of growth can change that, so, just take things slow, and let it out if you need to…It’s okay.”
  1026. >You return the hug, fresh tears streaming down your face, you don’t feel the need to stop yourself right now, and maybe it’s for the best.
  1027. >You both let go of each other and you rock back and forth a bit, trying to ground yourself.
  1028. “Can we… talk about plants for a while?”
  1029. >Reign nods before scooting herself closer to you, resulting in you leaning on her.
  1030. >”So, have you ever heard of chrysanthemums? They’re really neat and I think you’d like to hear about a few fun facts I have about them…”
  1031.  
  1032. >You end up listening to Reign for what feels like hours, occasionally trying to interject your now recovering sense of humor into the mix. By the time she exhausts her plant-based wisdom, it’s dusk.
  1033. >You never really knew your parents, you're not even sure if you had any to begin with, most of your development years are a complete blank to you, though you always remember having a strong need for family, and you feel like Reign had sparked something in you once more.
  1034. >When you first met her. She seems so shy and guarded, but after talking to her and what you went through, her demeanor seemed to change almost immediately. She almost seems… motherly.
  1035. >You’ve always wanted to be loved, but who doesn’t? It never really occurred to you how starved you were of affection. Anon helped you greatly, but he’s just one piece to the puzzle of your life, and now you feel like you might know how to find the others.
  1036.  
  1037. >You end up going inside after hugging Reign goodbye, which seems to be a thing you're more susceptible to doing now.
  1038. >After getting inside you mostly just clean up what little mess there was, which wasn’t a lot.
  1039. >You end up unceremoniously making dinner after that, which ends up being another tv dinner, which goes fine, if you don’t count the dubious brownie that came with it.
  1040. >Seriously, who expects you to eat that? It’s like sad molten dough! There’s *nothing* brownie about it!
  1041. >After dinner you end up splashing water onto your face as an attempt to reset your nerves for tomorrow, since you're still pretty vulnerable right now.
  1042. >You say goodnight to the ‘Anon pile’, which in retrospect, is kind of silly, but it helps keep you going.
  1043. >Today was draining, but you feel like you came out the other side a better pony… somehow.
  1044. >Apparently crying makes you feel better, which is a weird lesson to learn from all this, but hey, you’ll take what you can get.
  1045. >In your room, you pile on the softest objects you can find and throw them on your bed, resulting in a nest of sorts that you end up falling asleep in.
  1046.  
  1047. >You awake the next morning in your makeshift nest, from the looks of it, it’s pretty early, as it’s still somewhat dark out.
  1048. >You feel lighter somehow, much less weighed down than before.
  1049. >There's a spring in your step that hasn’t really surfaced since Anon’s been gone, you could even say you feel somewhat energetic.
  1050. >You feel the need to do something worthwhile, though you're unsure what.
  1051. >You end up going downstairs to deal with Anon’s letter before anything else, seeing that it’s usually how you start your day.
  1052. >When you get to the front door, to your surprise, you don’t see anything.
  1053. >Maybe the letter hasn’t come yet?
  1054. >You open the door, just in case they left it outside.
  1055. >And find a box.
  1056. >It’s pretty big, all things considered, but it’s light enough that you're able to get it inside without much problem.
  1057. >With the box now safely in the house, you stare at it for a while, unsure what to do next.
  1058. >Is this what Anon was going to send?
  1059. >You shake the box back and forth lightly, to see if it’s loose, though you don’t hear anything.
  1060. >With a sigh, you go grab a knife from the kitchen and cut the tape on top of the box.
  1061. >Well, It’s now or never.
  1062. >You hesitantly open the flaps, which reveals another box with a piece of paper on top.
  1063. >It’s… a letter?
  1064. >You take the paper off, and start to read it.
  1065. ”Hey Gray! I know we usually just celebrate it on whatever holiday you're most excited for each year, but I thought since I’m gone, you might want to do it properly this time, so, happy birthday!”
  1066. >You blink. Your… birthday? You don’t really know when you were born, so usually you just picked a day once a year to celebrate, usually Christmas. After your confusion, you continue reading.
  1067. “I know it sucks having to celebrate it alone, I'm sorry I couldn’t be there. Hope this makes it a little better though. Also, you're probably wondering how I know your real birthday, well it’s kind of a long story, but I figured it out not that long ago, but never knew how to bring it up. You always loved autumn, so in a way, it makes sense you’d be born around this time of year!”
  1068. >After that, Anon goes into a slight tangent about autumnal potpourri, which helps you keep your mind off the confusion brought on by this letter. If only a little.
  1069. >Once you finish, you set the letter on the ever growing letter pile, turning your focus on the box inside a box.
  1070. >It’s a plain box with some decorative patterns on it, which seem hand drawn, you assume Anon drew it himself, since it seems like his usually wobbly patterns that he has a tendency to doodle on scraps of paper.
  1071. >You take the box out of the bigger box, and set it in front of the couch.
  1072. >You use the knife to cut the tape on this one as well, then open it up.
  1073. >Huh.
  1074. >What even is this?
  1075. >You find yourself looking at a even smaller box, though this time, it has more official looking writing on it, so you assume this is *the* box.
  1076. “Jamboree’s Dessert-Inna-Box…”
  1077. >The box fits in your hoof, and has a pull string on the side of it. It’s rather colorful, with green, blue, and purple patterns strewn about its surface.
  1078. >You read the warning on the back, which seems to state that you need to keep it away from small children, and that you need at least five square feet to ‘deploy’ it.
  1079. >Deploy? What in the world did Anon just give you?
  1080. >You place the box on the kitchen floor, which is big enough that you can ‘deploy’ it without any problems… hopefully.
  1081. >You hesitate momentarily at the thought of accidentally blowing up the kitchen.
  1082. >That... that won't happen! You're just being paranoid! Just open the dang box, Gray!
  1083. >You pull the string and quickly trot toward the couch, so you're not in its general vicinity.
  1084. >The box opens rather suddenly, a shiny cube sits in the middle, which is raised a few feet in the air by a small appendage underneath it.
  1085. >Well, that's certainly... something.
  1086. >A dinky jingle plays, which you recognize as being a variation of the happy birthday song.
  1087. >You’re somewhat entranced by the spectacle, slowly making your way toward the cube.
  1088. >The cube shakes a bit, which prompts you to back away again, afraid that it might confirm your explosive worries.
  1089. >Instead, it simply opens up like the box it came from, revealing a cupcake with gray frosting and purple sprinkles. From the looks of it, the cake part is red velvet.
  1090. >A small candle is dangling from the box, wrapped in another piece of paper.
  1091. >You take the candle from its perch, and unwrap it, revealing a note.
  1092. “Surprise! Yeah, I know food isn’t the best gift, but I thought you'd like something sweet, so I grabbed one of these neat little ‘cake-o-grams’. It’s not exactly on the market yet, but after pulling a few strings, I got a little custom one for you! I think there's a lighter by the fridge, so you can light the candle if you want, but be careful! Anyway, Hope you have a nice day, and I’ll see you next time! -Anon.”
  1093. >Huh, well, you're not gonna turn your nose up at sweets. It does look pretty tasty too.
  1094. >You take the cupcake off of its pedestal, which prompts the cube to slowly descend back into its box, which then shuts.
  1095. >A whole lotta ceremony for a dumb cupcake…
  1096. >But it’s *your* dumb cupcake!
  1097. >You take the stick lighter by the fridge and try lighting the candle that you’ve plopped on top of the cupcake.
  1098. >It takes a few tries, even though the lighter is pretty pony friendly, but you finally manage to get it to light.
  1099. >With your cupcake ablaze, you ponder singing the usual song.
  1100. >Even though you’re alone, you don’t feel confident enough to do that, so instead you just blow out the candle and take a bite of the cupcake.
  1101. >It’s sweet but mild, the cake is fluffy and moist, and the frosting seems to be dyed white chocolate. Overall it’s a pleasant experience.
  1102. > Despite your sweet tooth, you’ve always favored things that were ‘sweet enough’ rather than something overwhelmingly rich.
  1103. >You finish the cupcake slowly, trying to savor it as best you can.
  1104. >Once done, you turn your attention to the box it came in, unsure what to do with it.
  1105. >You settle on storing them over by the washer and dryer, until you can think of something other than simply throwing them out.
  1106. >If this would have come a few days ago, you’d probably be incredibly upset, but right now, you’re content, simply happy Anon went through the trouble of doing this for you.
  1107. >Though this doesn’t help you’re ever increasing confusion on what Anon’s job is.
  1108. >You've overheard Anon talk of a 'confections department' before, but you never got the chance to talk to Anon about it, although you ponder if he'd even tell you if you did.
  1109. >You make a mental note to pester Anon about his job more when he gets home, he'll crack sooner or later, right?
  1110.  
  1111. >After you go have a proper breakfast, you end up brainstorming what to do today.
  1112. >You kind of want to go to the comic shop again, since you’ve exhausted your previous haul.
  1113. >It’d be nice to pick up the next issue of those cheesy knight comics, and maybe that one manga Phoebe recommended.
  1114. >And you’d like to talk to Phoebe some more, if she’s not too busy with customers, of course!
  1115. >You take a look outside, it seems that the day is in full swing now, but you're unsure when her comic shop opens, so you might want to go later.
  1116. >You have a sudden urge to try to visit Greenie, although you have no clue where Foreman’s repair shop is.
  1117. >Well, the town’s not that big, so you’d figure it out eventually, maybe you could ask Phoebe? You’re sure a robopony would know where a repair shop would be, right?
  1118. >After taking a mental note to ask Phoebe about that, you start getting ready to leave.
  1119. >It was pretty cold out yesterday, so you end up grabbing your scarf.
  1120. >It’s a rather plain scarf, simply having a purple and blue alternating pattern adorning it.
  1121. >Despite it's modest appearance, you always held it high in sentimental value.
  1122. >It reminds you of snowmen and hot chocolate!
  1123. >You put on another hoodie and wrap your scarf around your neck.
  1124. >You clip your pin to your scarf and gather your wallet, making sure to give Fido a salute on your way out.
  1125. >Now properly prepared and bundled up, you leave the house, getting blasted with cool air as you do.
  1126. >It’s not exactly winter yet, and it’s cold enough to make you shiver.
  1127. >Frost coats the grass, sparkling in the sun, the chirping of birds is ever present, you even hear a few geese above, flying off to greener pastures you suppose.
  1128. >You walk down the sidewalk, head buried in your scarf, half wondering if you should actually use your hoodie for its intended purpose.
  1129. >Your walking is interrupted by a train crossing, which is currently full of, you know, train.
  1130. >It’s pretty slow and stops frequently, so you end up sitting down on the cold sidewalk, if only to save your legs from the strain of idle standing.
  1131. >A few others are waiting as well, watching the train go by.
  1132. >You try to ignore the little girl taking pictures of you, who you assume is trying to be sneaky, but her phone’s flash is on, and you're pretty sure she doesn’t realize.
  1133. >Once the train finishes up, you continue walking, if a bit more briskly, so your body heats up a bit.
  1134. >It doesn’t take much longer to get to Phoebe’s shop as the rest of the way is smooth sailing.
  1135. >The shop looks about the same, though the posters have been changed, now sporting a few retro sci-fi looking humans with laser pistols.
  1136. >Once inside you notice a few humans, not many though, maybe three at max.
  1137. >You're glad, since you got a bit worried about Phoebe’s business, but it seems she’s doing fine right now.
  1138. >You end up picking a corner of the shop to browse, due to the cramped nature of it, you're still pretty close to the humans, but you're far enough that you can ignore their presence without much problem.
  1139. >What did Anon say? ‘You need the social interaction more than you think?’
  1140. >He’s probably right, but humans always make you nervous, even if you don’t mean to be.
  1141. >They're probably just some comic enthusiasts, so maybe you could talk to them? Seeing that you like comics too, well, maybe not as intensely, but it’s an option!
  1142. >By the time you psych yourself up for some social interaction, the store has mostly thinned out, which bums you out a bit.
  1143. >It’s not like people come to comic stores for idle chatter anyway…
  1144. >After getting yourself together, you walk around the store, looking for anything of interest.
  1145. >You find issue two of that one Lancelot comic, and it gives you a chuckle.
  1146. >On the cover is the aforementioned Lancelot, who is wearing business attire that is patterned after chainmail, sitting in a courtroom with his machine gun resting against a chair nearby. His expression is much more subdued this time around.
  1147. “Lancelot’s Daring Escapades Into: The Divorce.”
  1148. >It makes sense since Lancelot’s marriage was going downhill the entire first issue, he simply had it coming!
  1149. >You grab the comic, intent on seeing this trainwreck through.
  1150. >Just then, you see something in the corner of your eye, which gets you to quickly turn towards it, taking a mock defensive stance.
  1151. “Aha! I knew you’d try that!”
  1152. >You’re met with Phoebe, who seemed to be trying to sneak up on you again, a grin on her face.
  1153. >”Aw, I almost had it that time!”
  1154. >She adjusts her glasses and clears her throat, seemingly trying to put on a more professional air.
  1155. >”It’s nice to see you again, Miss Gray Garden.”
  1156. “And you yourself, Phosphene.”
  1157. >Phoebe giggles a bit. “I see you remembered that, hmm?”
  1158. >You nod a few times in succession, your excitement somewhat boiling over.
  1159. “I’d never forget a name! Funnily enough, it’s kinda one of the few things I'm good at.”
  1160. >You shuffle in place a bit, realizing that you're being a bit childish.
  1161. “So uhm, how’s business going?”
  1162. >Phoebe sighs, though it seems to be more out of relief than anything else.
  1163. >”Much better now, I was getting a bit anxious around the time you first showed up, but since then, things have evened out a tad.”
  1164. “That’s great to hear! I’ll be honest, I was kind of scared you might be having problems.”
  1165. >”That’s sweet of you Gray, but I'm quite the shrewd business mare, so even after a rough patch such as that, I'd have made it out fine.”
  1166. >She brushes a bit of dust off her foreleg. “That being said, it was relieving to have customers start pouring in again, I'd rather not dip into my savings to keep this little hovel afloat.”
  1167. >She looks at the comic you're holding and nods. “I see you picked up the second issue, you certainly have quite the interesting taste in comics.”
  1168. “I guess I liked it, even if it’s kinda weird.” You bring the cover into full view, which gets Phoebe to laugh a little.
  1169. >”Oh dear, that’s rather quite the turn of events, seems rather sudden, doesn’t it?”
  1170. “It actually makes sense, if you read the comic.”
  1171. >”Really now? I guess I didn’t pay much attention to that one, seeing that I never picked up the second issue.”
  1172. “I’ll fill you in when I get around to reading it! It’s actually really tragic.”
  1173. >The shop bell rings, which prompts Phoebe to go behind the counter again. After she gives a wave, she starts to deal with other costumers.
  1174. >You end up scouring the comic shop for some other comics, most of the ones you pick up are in the vein of Lancelot’s, being about the same amount of absurdity.
  1175. >You surprisingly find a few comics with ponies on the covers, most seem to be about the adventures of a group of friends who seem to represent various positive virtues.
  1176. >Is laughter a virtue? You didn’t really think it was, but maybe it is? You’re not sure.
  1177. >You pick up one of them out of curiosity, it seems made for kids, but you think you’ll give it a shot.
  1178. >As if you weren't pretty immature to begin with, but hey, it is what it is.
  1179. >You're glad you got over being afraid of going out by yourself, even if you're still pretty uncomfortable around humans beside Anon.
  1180. >You think you’ll try to talk to humans more, maybe you’ll be able to make some friends!
  1181. >You decide that you’ve gathered a sizable chunk of comics, so you end up going up to the register, or rather, you get in line for the register.
  1182. >There aren't a lot of people in line, but it’s enough that you end up in the middle of the store, brushing up against a standee of a starship of some sort.
  1183. >In front of you is a humanoid robot outfitted with a sweater and slacks.
  1184. >Once it gets to the register, he starts talking to Phoebe, who seems happy to see him.
  1185. >”Good to see you, Chops, I assume you’re not too busy these days, after being let go and all?”
  1186. >Phoebe seems to tease the bot, which gets him to sigh.
  1187. >”Been busier than I was, that’s for sure, but hey! You’re not one to talk, Pho.”
  1188. >Phoebe shrugs, a grin on her face. “I’ve been doing better as of late. You know… my offer still stands.”
  1189. >The robot taps his fingers on the counter before speaking. “I’ve got a pretty good gig going on with Ol’ Foreman, so I'd rather not mess that up, besides, what would you need a cook for, eh?”
  1190. >Phoebe pouts. “A cook? Chops, you're a wizard of negotiation! With you around, I’d no doubt be able to knock a few walls down… make the shop bigger? C’mon! You love this place!”
  1191. >’Chops’ wave’s a hand dismissively. “Look, I’ll give it some thought, but I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment, alright?"
  1192. >Phoebe sighs as she finishes ringing the robot up. “It's Alba, isn't it?"
  1193. >Chops takes the now bagged comics. “She's been... I gotta talk with her first, is all."
  1194. >Phoebe gives smile, although it doesn't seem her heart is in it. “I understand, Chopstick. Have a good day.
  1195. >The robot nods, before turning around to leave. he didn't seem to have noticed you standing behind him, as he accidentally bumps you off balance, resulting in you falling on your rump.
  1196. >"Woah! Sorry about that, little miss!”
  1197. >Chops grabs one of your forehooves, helping you back up on your hooves.
  1198. “I-it’s fine! I probably was being too quiet…”
  1199. >It’s head has a screen where it’s face would be, though all it displays is three dots in a pyramid formation that at occasion seem to blink. There is a beanie on its head that reminds you of those old pictures of fishermen.
  1200. >”No worries! If anything, I probably should have paid more attention!”
  1201. >He gives a wave as he leaves the shop.
  1202. >You walk up timidly to the counter, a little shaken by the encounter, even though it went pretty well all things considered.
  1203. >You’re starting to think you might be afraid of tall people…which is a weird thing to be afraid of.
  1204. >Phoebe sighs. “Sorry about that Gray, Kinda my fault for distracting him so much.”
  1205. >She laughs a little. “Chopstick’s his name, if you couldn’t tell from the conversation, I thought maybe I could recruit him to help with the shop’s well being.”
  1206. “Is the shop… too small?”
  1207. >”Kinda? I’m not too unhappy with it, but I know he’s got connections, so maybe I could get him onboard to get things a bit more… Proper.”
  1208. >She gestures around the shop, which brings attention to its…homeliness.
  1209. >”It scares off customers, since it seems a bit seedy, despite my best efforts to make it as inviting as possible.”
  1210. “I-i think it looks nice! I mean, sure, it’s a little cramped, but it’s got a vibe to it, ya know?”
  1211. >Phoebe shrugs. “I understand what you mean, but unfortunately, it’s not an opinion held by the greater public.”
  1212. >She turns away, with a sour expression on her face. “It might be me that’s the problem.”
  1213. “Why do you think that? You seem pretty good at this!”
  1214. >”I’m somewhat filling the shoes of its late owner… And he was rather well-liked.”
  1215. >Phoebe begins ringing up your comics. “Apparently, most of the old customers weren't very happy with me taking over, and for a time, I wasn’t very good at it as well.”
  1216. >She sets the now bagged comics on the counter, a somewhat defeated expression on her face. “I’ve tried my best to get them to come back, but even when I finally got things like how they used to be, they simply stayed away… Of course, I've made new customers, but their quantity is rather small in comparison to what it once was, which makes it a gamble if I’ll have enough cash to keep this rustbucket afloat.”
  1217. >She rests her head on the counter, seeming pretty down. “I…I’m sorry Gray, I know I'm oversharing, it’s just been… Difficult.”
  1218. >She's seems real sad... uhm... t-think of something, Gray!
  1219. >You raise a hoof and pat Phoebe’s head, which results in her ears perking up a bit.
  1220. “I understand that things are bad right now, but I know you’ll get through it! Y-you’re talented and good at your job and stuff! Just press on and be the best Phoebe you can be, y-ya hear?”
  1221. >You’re not sure how to make her feel better, but you decided that maybe a head pat and some kind words would help her calm down, it works for you, so why not her?
  1222. >Phoebe stares at you from her resting position, which is making you feel like you messed up...
  1223. >”Gray, you're quite odd, do you know that?”
  1224. >Her comment makes you realize how weird you might look right now, so you retract your hoof, and pull up your scarf, trying to hide your face.
  1225. “I-I’m sorry! I just thought th-that…”
  1226. >You trail off, your head swarming with a hundred different conflicting ways to proceed.
  1227. >Phoebe picks up her head and looks at you. “That was very kind of you, Miss Gray Garden, I feel a little more chipper now!”
  1228. >You glance at her, your scarf still somewhat covering your face and your mind much less hectic.
  1229. “You... You mean it?”
  1230. >Phoebe nods, a weary smile on her face. “It’s an uphill battle, but things *have* got better. I just need to press on, like you said.”
  1231. >She leaves the counter and trots up to you.
  1232. >She extends a hoof, which prompts you to hold out your own.
  1233. >After you two complete the hoofshake, you have an idea.
  1234. >A really dumb idea.
  1235. >You pull Phoebe into a hug, she gasps a little in surprise.
  1236. >You hold on for a while, but Phoebe doesn’t seem to react.
  1237. >You let go, thinking that it was a *really* dumb idea, but Phoebe then hugs you back, a little tighter than you hugged her.
  1238. >She lets go of you after a moment and wipes her eyes with a hoof.
  1239. >”T-thanks Gray, I… Needed that.”
  1240. >It doesn’t take long for Phoebe to regain her composure, smiling warmly at you once more, without much trace of her previous condition.
  1241. “I know that was sudden, I uhm, kinda learned recently that hugs are pretty good at lifting someone’s spirits…”
  1242. >Mostly due to you bawling your eyes out, but hey, you felt better afterwards, so maybe there’s a sorta magic to it?
  1243. >You start to realize that you're still in a store, so you glance around. Luckily, it seems that you're the last one here.
  1244. >”It’s usually like this, just me and the comics, you got pretty lucky, since you came in at the ‘rush hour’.”
  1245. >You turn back to her.
  1246. “Maybe you could do some advertising?”
  1247. >”I can’t exactly afford an ad, and seeing that newspapers are pretty scarce these days, I’m a bit out of luck.”
  1248. “Maybe… You could hand out fliers! I can help! I don’t really have lots to do anyway.”
  1249. >Phoebe taps the counter, an inquisitive look on her face. “I suppose that couldn’t hurt, not like I have many other options.”
  1250. >Phoebe nods to herself. “Yes, I think I’ll get a design ready and see if I can get a stack of print-outs.”
  1251. >She turns to you again. “I guess that’s settled! I’ll get in touch when everything is in order.”
  1252. “Aye aye, Phosphene!”
  1253. >You do a salute, trying your best not to sound too excited.
  1254. >As she giggles, you remember that you were going to ask her a question.
  1255. “Hey, do you know where Foreman’s Repair Shop is?
  1256. >”It’s not far from here, were you curious because Chops mentioned it?”
  1257. “Well, I’ve got a friend who’s being repaired there and wanted to visit her, but I don’t know where it is.”
  1258. >Phoebe adjusts her glasses. “If you want, I can show you.”
  1259. “R-really? That’d be great!”
  1260. >”Well, it’s the least I can do, seeing that you're so eager to help me and all.”
  1261. >Phoebe goes to turn off the ‘open’ sign, you realize that it’s getting later into the afternoon.
  1262. >”That, and I’d like to see if I can convince Foreman to let me use his printer, seeing that it’d save me money.”
  1263. “You know Mr. Foreman?”
  1264. >”Eh, it’s rare for a bot not to, he’s kinda the only robotics repair man this side of town that doesn’t need some fancy permits to work on you, he’s cheap too, surprisingly. Gotta good heart, that one.”
  1265. >That certainly sounds promising. With both Reign and Phoebe giving their good word on it, you have no doubts Greenie will be fine!
  1266. >Phoebe moves aside the bit of mane that covers her left eye, revealing that it’s green instead of blue.
  1267. >”He got me a new eye, after a little incident with some stray rebar.”
  1268. >You wince, feeling kinda queasy at the thought.
  1269. >Phoebe lets go of her mane, letting her other eye go back into hiding. “My remaining original eye doesn’t seem to sync properly with it though, so I gotta wear glasses.”
  1270. “Did it… hurt?”
  1271. >”Nah, I don’t have pain receptors, it was pretty scary though, being stuck on a piece of steel like that, luckily It didn’t hit anything important.”
  1272. >Phoebe stretches a bit. “Alrighty, are you ready to go?”
  1273. >You look down at your bag of comics.
  1274. “What do I do with these?”
  1275. >”Leave 'em here, We’ll stop by on the way back.”
  1276. >Phoebe leads you down the street, the walk is a bit longer than going from Anon’s house to the comic shop, so you assume the trip back home will take awhile.
  1277. >The weather was a bit cooler than it was when you left home, resulting in you being able to see your breath every once in a while, which seems to get Phoebe's attention.
  1278. >”Huh.”
  1279. “Something wrong?”
  1280. >”You alright? You're expelling a lot of excess heat from the look of it.”
  1281. “I’m... not a robopony.”
  1282. >You feel less weird about saying that now.
  1283. >”Really now? No wonder you're warm.”
  1284. >She took that better than you thought.
  1285. “I was kinda weird about it, in all honesty, but I've gotten past it, I think?”
  1286. >”I guess I understand, it’s probably a bit odd not having anyone similar to you around, bioponies being pretty new and such, how old are you anyway?”
  1287. “I… don’t really know? I mean, I know my birthday now, but that’s about it.”
  1288. >”You look pretty young, but not exactly a filly? You're a tad small for a mare.”
  1289. >You didn’t really think you were *that* small, but it seems that everyone else seems to think so.
  1290. >Greenie is about as big as you, but Phoebe is a bit bigger than you, so maybe Greenie is a smaller model?
  1291. >”When's your birthday?”
  1292. “Today, actually. It’s kinda funny, I didn’t even know about it until this morning.”
  1293. >”Oh! Well then, happy birthday, Gray! I’m surprised you're not that excited about it.”
  1294. “Thanks! It’s… Well, it’s not something I ever really cared about before, since I just sorta picked a day each year to celebrate it, usually holidays and such.”
  1295. >”Holidays, huh? ...Today's World Kindness Day, I think? So in a way, you're celebrating a holiday like usual!”
  1296. “How do you know that?”
  1297. >”I’ve got a calendar in the back of the store, so it sprung to mind, quite the happy coincidence, yeah?”
  1298. “I guess you're right, about celebrating a holiday I mean, I want to be nice to people, even if it makes me uncomfortable, so I guess from now on, I’ll try my best on doing that.”
  1299. >Phoebe nods. “I getcha Gray, I’d say you did a pretty decent job earlier, really earning that holiday status!”
  1300. >You stifle a laugh, it seems pretty silly when you think about it, being born on some dumb kindness day.
  1301. >One of those ponies in that comic represented kindness from what you gathered, maybe you could follow suit?
  1302. >Flutter... Flutternut Squash, right? Hm, maybe not. You'll figure it out once you get to read that comic.
  1303. >You and Phoebe walk in silence for a bit, she breaks it by pointing to a warehouse on the outskirts of town.
  1304. >”There it is, pretty sweet, eh?”
  1305. >The warehouse is huge, it reminds you of a barn but made of steel. It has graffiti and artwork splashed across its sides, the most prominent piece seems to be a mural of two twin ponies with wings and horns. Their expressions seem peaceful.
  1306. >From here you can hear a lot of commotion, though it seems to be simply the hustle and bustle of the busyness of the shop.
  1307. “Wow.”
  1308. >”Uh-huh, I had the same reaction. It’s kinda like a little town inside that thing, the actual repair shop is in the front, sorta like a welcome mat!”
  1309. >Phoebe gives you a grin and pats your shoulder. “Ol' Foremen even gave it a name, being the oh so dramatic old codger that he is! I'm pretty sure he called it... Wrenchwerks.”
  1310.  
  1311. >You and Phoebe end up making your way toward the repair shop part of ‘Wrenchwerks’, where Mr. Foreman is supposed to be.
  1312. >The air is heavy with an array of smells, you mostly recognized oil and petrol, but there are more floral scents as well, which seems to be due to the fields of flowers that line your path to the entrance. You glance into the backyard area of the warehouse, there seems to be a large greenhouse, similar to the one in Anon’s yard, but this one is well used in comparison.
  1313. >”It’s quite the sight! It’s almost a shame I don’t visit often.”
  1314. “I guess I kinda expected something way smaller, like maybe a dinky auto shop?”
  1315. >”You’d be surprised how much can get done when your clientele are mostly builders and such.”
  1316. “I suppose they wanted to give back?”
  1317. >Phoebe nods. “Foreman barely had to lift a finger!"
  1318. “Does he have anyone helping him? It seems like a tough job, with how big it’s gotten.”
  1319. >”Some human volunteers show up every once in a while, but from my knowledge, it’s mostly bots who want to help their fellows.”
  1320. >Phoebe stops near the entrance. “If anything, Foreman’s got way less work since everyone’s so eager to do their part, mostly he just focuses on the repairing part now.”
  1321. "It uhm... sounds like everything is running like a well oiled machine! Hehe... heh..."
  1322. >You shuffle in place, feeling somewhat ashamed.
  1323. "Sorry... That was dumb."
  1324. >"Well I mean, you aren't wrong! They're all a buncha busy bees, the whole lot of em'!"
  1325. >You look inside the shop entrance, it’s well lit and fairly clean, all things considered.
  1326. >”Ready to head in?”
  1327. “Don’t we need permission or something?”
  1328. >”Seeing that we didn’t get stopped, we’re fine.”
  1329. >She points up. Bringing your attention to the pegasus circling the two of you high above the warehouse.
  1330. >Even from here, their wings seem massive.
  1331. >”That’s Albatross, Wrenchwerks unofficial watchdog. She’s a bit of a pain, but she means well.”
  1332. “I-i see… Has she been doing this… the entire time we’ve been near the warehouse?”
  1333. >You feel uneasy, despite your best efforts to stay calm. Phoebe's nonchalant nature doesn't really help either.
  1334. >”Since we got close, yes. If she thought we meant trouble, she’d have confronted us by now.”
  1335. >Phoebe leans in closer to you. “Try not to be afraid, she can smell fear…” She ends that with a grin. Which is just making things worse.
  1336. “T-that’s not funny! H-how about we just go inside?” Your voice is much shakier than before.
  1337. >”Alright! I was wondering when you’d stop getting cold hooves.”
  1338. “Y-you're being unfair! I just asked a question, and now I’m aware of that pegasus circling us l-like a vulture!”
  1339. >”Like an *albatross*.” She corrects.
  1340. >You shuffle into the entrance with Phoebe in tow, who is currently having a giggle fit over your anxiety.
  1341.  
  1342. >After you calm yourself sufficiently, you lightly push Phoebe’s side for her crimes against you, which gets her to start snickering again.
  1343. >”Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any harm Gray! Also, you could just punch me, it’s fair!”
  1344. “I’m not gonna hit you! I simply wish for you to understand that it is *very* rude to rile somepony up like that!”
  1345. >Phoebe nods. “I understand, no more teasing. Well, not until we finish up here.”
  1346. >You stick your tongue out at her, which just gets her laugh again, albeit only for a moment.
  1347. >After a moment of reconciliation, you both walk into the shop proper.
  1348. >It’s just as bright, and there are tools and parts scattered about, though there seems to be a sort of method to the madness, as they all seem to be clumped together loosely in groups of sorts.
  1349. >There are a few different robots in various states of repair, though Greenie doesn’t seem to be among them.
  1350. >In the back of the room, A large man seems to be pouring over some blueprints.
  1351. >Phoebe gestures towards him, you assume she wants you to approach him.
  1352. >You make your way across the room, keeping yourself composed as best you can.
  1353. “E-excuse me, Mr. Foreman?”
  1354. >The man picks up his head, which has a bright green hardhat adorning it.
  1355. >He turns and you immediately recognize him.
  1356. >It's… Santa.
  1357. >Like, he looks *just* like Santa!
  1358. >If Santa was a mechanic, that is.
  1359. >He has a snow-white mustache and a big beard, despite his occupation, it seems pretty clean.
  1360. >Under the hardhat he seems to have hair, although you can’t get a good look at it as of now.
  1361. >He has a pair of overalls on, under it is what seems to be a t-shirt with a graphic of a motorcycle company’s logo, though you can’t make out the name, since it seems to be pretty faded.
  1362. >”Good evening, How can I help you, Miss?”
  1363. >You restrain yourself from asking if he’s Santa. Seriously, Gray, he *can’t* be!
  1364. “I’m Gray Garden and I… uhm, Wanted to see if Greenie is okay.”
  1365. >He gives you a nod and gets up with a stretch, which seems to result in several popping noises.
  1366. >He seems kinda old.
  1367. >”I see, by any chance, are you the same Gray that Green won’t stop talking about?”
  1368. “I-I'm not sure, are there any other Grays?”
  1369. >He chuckles and kneels next to you. “Thanks for helping her get her name, she had a hard time getting that sorted out.”
  1370. “Oh! No problem, I kinda wish I was more creative at the time though…”
  1371. >”She’s happy, and that’s all that matters, right?”
  1372. >He gets back up and turns to Phoebe. “Phosphene, it’s a pleasure as always, I assume you brought her here?”
  1373. >Phoebe nods, a smile on her face. “Yep! Hey, Foreman, you mind if we chat after you're all set with Gray?”
  1374. >”That’d be fine Pho, now, Miss Gray Garden, I presume you wish to see Green?”
  1375. >You nod, which prompts Foreman to clasp his hands together and start walking towards a side room across the shop.
  1376. >He gestures a hand toward the room, which seems equally as bright as everything else.
  1377. >Inside is Greenie, sitting on a pillow, plugged into a wall socket.
  1378. >The room has a row of sockets on one end of the room, the only other thing plugged in is a small vacuum. Greenie has various books and a music player next to her.
  1379. >He knocks on the side of the door, which gets Greenies attention, and she gets a big grin on her face.
  1380. >”Gray!”
  1381. “Hi Greenie!”
  1382. >Greenie’s eyes seem less bright than when she was plugged in at Anon’s house, if anything, they look dimmer.
  1383. >”I’m so glad to see you! How’d you figure out where the shop was?”
  1384. “Phoebe helped me!” You say this, only to realize Greenie probably doesn’t know who that is.
  1385. >In the doorway next to Mr. Foreman is Phoebe, who waves to Greenie, who then waves back.
  1386. >Foreman pipes up. “I’ll leave you two to mingle, I’m gonna talk to Pho.”
  1387. >The two of them walk back to the main part of the shop, Phoebe already talking about Foremen's printer, leaving you and Greenie in the room.
  1388. >”So, you made a friend!”
  1389. “Yeah, she runs the comic shop on 5th street! Phoebe’s Comix? Maybe you’ve heard of it?
  1390. >Greenie ponders something for a moment, before nodding. “I think I know the place! Haven’t went myself, but I know a bot who goes there often.”
  1391. “Chopstick?”
  1392. >”How’d you know?!”
  1393. “I sorta met him at the comic shop, or well, I kinda bumped into him, to be more accurate.”
  1394. >Greenie giggles a little. “Yeah, when I first met him, I ended up tripping over his charging cable, he’s like a walking disaster zone!
  1395. >Greenie’s eyes widened. “Oh, oh! You should go meet some of the others! Reign is in the back of the repair shop right now, so maybe you can get her to give you a tour!”
  1396. “That’d be nice, but… how are you feeling?”
  1397. >Greenie looks down at her cable, her troubled eye seems to be flickering much faster than what it used to.
  1398. >”I’m fine, really! I just need a new battery, it’s kinda hard since my model is discontinued…”
  1399. >She rubs her tail, seemingly a bit uneasy. “Mr. Foreman said he’d try *really* hard to get a new one! But, I'm… scared.”
  1400. “Why?”
  1401. >”Mr. Foreman was able to boot me backup last time I shut down, but my battery is too old that is sorta, *can’t* keep a charge anymore. So I need to stay plugged in. If I don’t, the next time it shuts down completely, it might take the rest of me… with it.”
  1402. “W-what?! Greenie, that's horrible!”
  1403. >Greenie smiles wearily. “I-i know, but I’ll make it! I know I will…”
  1404. >Greenie’s smile faded, and her ears flatten. She grips her tail in a hug against her chest.
  1405. >She’s shaking.
  1406. >You sit down next to Greenie and lean next to her, which seems to slow the intensity of her shaking.
  1407. >You don’t know what to say to her, but at least you can be there for her.
  1408. >It takes a while, but Greenie calms down.
  1409. >”I’m… sorry, I usually don’t let it get to me like that…”
  1410. >You guess she’s had a few fits like that.
  1411. “It’s okay to be scared, it’s completely natural, just don’t let it rule you, you have to be brave, if for anyone, be brave for yourself.”
  1412. >Apparently you're way better at motivating others than yourself.
  1413. "You're strong! So uhm... try to relax and things will run their course."
  1414. >Greenie hugs you, which you return. After a moment, you both let go.
  1415. >”Thank you Gray, I think… you should talk to Reign, I'll be fine now.”
  1416. "Are you sure? I can stay if you want!"
  1417. >She shakes her head. "No no, it's fine! I've actually been keeping myself busy with some reading. So it's not like i'm bored outta my mind or anything."
  1418. >You nod and get up, turning to look at Greenie once more.
  1419. “I’ll come back later then, do you... need me to get you anything?”
  1420. >”Maybe a new book from the library?”
  1421. “There’s a library?”
  1422. >”It’s like a little community in the Werks, so yeah, there’s a library.”
  1423. >She's pretty casual about it, though maybe she’s a bit emotionally drained at the moment.
  1424. “I’ll see you soon, Greenie! Do you, uhm, want something specific?”
  1425. >”Something super cheesy would be ideal, it’d be nice to laugh at a dumb book!”
  1426. “I’ll see what I can do!”
  1427. >You wave goodbye to Greenie and walk out to the main part of the shop.
  1428. >In all honesty, you have no clue where to go from here, but she said Reign’s in the repair shop, so maybe you should start looking around?
  1429. >Well Gray, it’s an adventure!
  1430.  
  1431. >You wander around the shop for a bit, taking in the sights as you look for Reign.
  1432. >There are a few robots around, who you can only assume are here to be repaired, although there seems to be one or two that look like they might be helping Foreman with his work, since they are checking up on some of the more damaged bots.
  1433. >Other than Greenie, it seems that most of the bots in the shop seem to be humanoid in appearance, aside from a drone sitting on a table, which you're unsure if it’s sentient or not.
  1434. >It's honestly a bit surreal, but despite all the hubbub, you don't feel all that anxious.
  1435. >You notice a few tiny trees in another sideroom, you're pretty sure they're called… bonsai?
  1436. >When you walk closer to get a good look, you notice a small pair of pruning shears floating up to one of the bonsai that you can see from outside the door.
  1437. “Reign?”
  1438. >Reign’s head pops out from behind the door, her eyes widened when she sees you.
  1439. >”Gray! I’m surprised you're here, how are things?”
  1440. >She leaves the room after putting down the shears and trots up to you with a smile.
  1441. “I’m fine, better from yesterday that’s for sure. Oh! I visited Greenie! I didn’t know how bad things were until now…”
  1442. >Rei’s ears droop slightly, a somber expression crossing her face. “She wasn’t this bad when I talked to you last, It's… gotten worse I'm afraid.”
  1443. “But how? I thought as long as she’s plugged in, she’ll be fine until she gets a new battery.”
  1444. >”I thought so too, but it seems that the old battery is sort of… waning.” She shakes her head. “That is to say, it might stop working completely if something isn’t done about it soon.”
  1445. “How hard is it to get a new battery for her?”
  1446. >”Apparently, Foreman is having a hard time getting one since the price for them has skyrocketed since her line was discontinued, and these batteries were made specifically for the line, so it's… a very unfortunate situation.”
  1447. “And there aren’t any alternatives?”
  1448. >Reign shakes her head once more. “Not that we know of, no. Her systems are incredibly resistant to tampering, so installing something else might not be in the cards until he's able to learn more about it.”
  1449. “Can… Is Foreman going to be able to get a new one?”
  1450. >“He’s had more luck as of recently, having a few more leads than before, but it’s still up in the air if he can snatch one up before…” She pauses and shakes her head. “Greenie will be fine, I’m sure of it, it’ll just take time.”
  1451. >You feel pretty useless in this situation, but there isn’t much you can do to help.
  1452. >Unless…?
  1453. “How much is the battery?”
  1454. >”I don’t know, Foreman hasn’t found anyone who’d give him a straight answer.”
  1455. >You look down. Maybe… you can help pay for the battery? Anon certainly would understand! And whatever his job is, it pays really well, so it’s not like you’d be burning through his money! If only you could get in contact with him, to see if he’d be okay with it…
  1456. >That might be all wishful thinking, though. Making promises you can't keep might not be a good idea...
  1457. >”Gray?”
  1458. “Huh? Oh, sorry! I was thinking about something. Uhm, Reign? Greenie said maybe you’d be able to show me around the warehouse?”
  1459. >You’ll try to talk to Mr. Foreman later. Even if you can't help monetarily, maybe you can help search around?
  1460. >Reign seems slightly confused, but shakes that off quickly before nodding.
  1461. >”Of course! I kind of assumed Greenie would want you to see the sights, so to speak.” Reign’s mood has improved a bit, which in turn is helping you feel better as well.
  1462. >You and Rei make your way to the back of the shop, towards a pair of double doors.
  1463. >”It can be rather overwhelming at first, so I recommend letting me lead.”
  1464. “I didn’t really intend to wander off. Have you *seen* me?”
  1465. >Reign laughs a bit, before opening one of the doors. “I see, well, welcome to the warehouse.”
  1466.  
  1467. >The inside of the warehouse is massive, it almost seems like a canopy of sheet metal that has been erected around Foreman’s shop. Floodlights dangle from high above, bathing the ground in light.
  1468. >The inside is just as colorful, maybe even more so, than the outside. Patterns and designs are strewn about, many of which depict robots in one way or another.
  1469. >A variety of shipping containers are scattered about, from the looks of it, those are where some of the more permanent residents live.
  1470. >In the middle of the warehouse is a building constructed of a few stacked containers, from the dangling metal book on the front, you assume that’s the library Greenie was talking about.
  1471. “Hey, why is it called Wrenchwerks, anyhow? That's uhm... kinda fancy.”
  1472. >It kinda reminds you of all those superhero lairs that have weird names, like Duckery's Domicile!
  1473. >Wait, domicile is an actually word, so that might not be an apt comparison...
  1474. >”Apparently it's an homage to a pair of late robot entertainers, although I've never heard of them myself.” Rei takes a moment to walk down the stairway until she hits the concrete floor of the warehouse. “It’s Wrench and Werks. They were comedians, and apparently Mr. Foreman found them pretty influential in his life, so when he was asked what to call it, he just mashed their names together, and I suppose it stuck.”
  1475. >Huh, you kind of expected something more grandiose, but you guess that's short and sweet.
  1476. >As you walk down the stairway to the ground, you see that pegasus from before fly into the warehouse through an open window, she then perches on top of the shipping container tower that is the library.
  1477. >You’re pretty sure she’s staring at you.
  1478. >Reign must have seen you looking, as she notices as well, then turns back to you. “Don’t worry about Alba, she’s a bit overprotective, but she means well.”
  1479. >You’re pretty sure that’s about what Phoebe said as well, so at best, you’ll just try to ignore her for now.
  1480. >You didn't expect this Alba mare to be so scary...
  1481. >”Alright, if you follow me, we’ll take a look at the library, well, if you can even call it a library…”
  1482. “It seems kinda small, at least for a library.”
  1483. >”It’s pretty new, and I think the librarian is trying to pester Foreman into letting him add onto it.”
  1484. ”More containers I presume?”
  1485. >”Precisely.”
  1486. “Hey, Does the library have… comics?”
  1487. >Reign pauses for a moment, then nods. “Not many I’m afraid, but there are a few, if there will be some that you’ll like, depends on you.”
  1488. “I’m not picky! It’d be nice to see if I can find something worthwhile.”
  1489. >As much as you like Phoebe’s shop, having some diversity in your ‘comic net’ is always a plus!
  1490. “Oh! Greenie asked me to look for a book for her to read, so if you see anything really silly or downright absurd, just say something.”
  1491. >”I’ll keep it in mind, Gray.”
  1492.  
  1493. >The entrance to the library is a bit low, resulting in Reign having to duck, but other than that, the inside is pretty spacious all things considered.
  1494. >There are shelves of books arranged in a semicircle, to your delight, you see a small rack of comics near the edge of the bookshelves.
  1495. >As you look around, you notice that most of the books are still in boxes, it looks like they might have not gotten everything unpacked yet.
  1496. “It seems… undercooked?”
  1497. >That’s not the right way to put it Gray…
  1498. >”Like I said, it’s pretty new…aha! And there’s our librarian now!”
  1499. >Reign points to a stallion with a long disheveled mane and a dark green poncho.
  1500. >This seems to get the stallion's attention, as he trots over.
  1501. >”Reign! I see you brought a visitor?”
  1502. >Reign nods, then prods you on the side, most likely wanting you to introduce yourself.
  1503. “Hi! I’m Gray Garden.”
  1504. >Hey, good job! Not a single stutter in sight!
  1505. >The stallion smiles. “I’m Novella, I guess I'm this… things, librarian.”
  1506. >Novella seems a bit uncertain.
  1507. >Rei pipes up. “Something the matter, Nova?”
  1508. >Novella shakes his head. “I guess I'm still not used to my current workspace, it’s rather unique.”
  1509. “Is it… because it’s in a shipping container, er, well, several of them, I mean?”
  1510. >Nova chuckles a bit. “I suppose so, it’s quite the change of pace, compared to what I'm used to.
  1511. >Reign takes a book off a nearby shelf and looks at the title. “Novella used to work in the public library, although the details are a bit fuzzy as to how he ended up here with a couple crates of literature.”
  1512. >Nova nods. “It was a messy process, I’d like not to get into details… That being said! I’m certain with time, this metal box will be home to the Werks finest minds! Uhm, hopefully…”
  1513. >”I assume you don’t mind us browsing for a bit, Nova?”
  1514. >Nova shrugs. “Not at all! Just remember to bring them back once you're done, I… Don’t have a system in place yet. So, uhm, just write your name on a piece of paper, and if you're late I'll just… I dunno, whine at you until you give up your book?
  1515. >Novella clears his throat. “Anyway… I’ll leave you two to your browsing, It was nice meeting you, Miss Gray!”
  1516. >He does a slight bow before going into an open container behind a small desk, which you assume is his workstation of sorts.
  1517. “He seems pleasant, if a bit… overwhelmed?”
  1518. >”The library is very much a work in progress, there's a lot of constant running around at the moment, so he might be a bit off-kilter.”
  1519. >With that, Reign starts scouring the currently available books.
  1520. >You decide to check up the comics, seeing that you’d have a better eye for those in regards to something that Greenie might like. That, and you want to look at them really really badly.
  1521. >You pick one up, out of curiosity.
  1522. >’Marble Comix Issue 74: Radical Wave’s Ultimatum’
  1523. >It looks like it’s about a surfer who gains water based powers, and then uses them to get back at his college professors… for some reason?
  1524. >It looks *slightly* interesting, so you set it aside, in case you can’t find anything else worthwhile.
  1525. >Oh! You think you know this one! ‘Opera of the Adversary’, Anon showed it to you and it sort of got you into comics. Actually, you can remember the plot pretty well! Not like you’d be able to describe it in detail or anything…
  1526. >...
  1527. >Okay, so it’s about this girl who grows up in a lab who's basically built to be the perfect singer, but she loses her voice and gets abandoned by the scientists that raised her, and *then* she meets a super cool magic snake that tells her that if she can defeat th-
  1528. >”Gray?”
  1529. “Bweh! W-what?!”
  1530. >”You were spacing out there, everything alright?”
  1531. “Y-yep! Just kinda remembering the plot of this comic I liked… I found it again, wanna see?”
  1532. >Reign looks at the comics cover then tilts her head a bit. “How odd, I guess I don’t really read comics much to understand it…”
  1533. “Well, you *should* read this one, it’s super good!
  1534. >Okay you lied, you *really* like this comic.
  1535. >Rei stares at it a little longer, you hope you're not being too pushy…
  1536. >”Alright then, I’ll give it a shot!”
  1537. >YES!
  1538. “Sure! It’s no big deal or anything, take your time!”
  1539. “(Andwhenyoufinishletstalkaboutittogetherorsomething…)”
  1540. >”What’d you say, Gray?”
  1541. “N-nothing!”
  1542. >Man, you really got to get better at sharing your hobbies…
  1543. >After pushing that comic onto Reign, you look for more comics that Greenie might like.
  1544. >Hmm… ‘Super cheesy’, maybe… you could take that literally?
  1545. >You grab a comic with a few mice on the cover, who seem to be running away from some wedges of living cheddar.
  1546. >’Munch Munch Madness: Chedda’ Isle’
  1547. >It seems to be part of a series of comics about weird food monsters that the protagonists need to fend off. This issue seems particularly…cheesy.
  1548. >You feel Greenie might enjoy a laugh relating to you taking her to literal, so you grab it.
  1549. >You also grab the surfer comic as well, since that’s probably more what she meant.
  1550. >After you finish up looking at the comics, you turn to Reign, who seemed to find a book she thought Greenie might like.
  1551. >Also she’s checking out the first few pages of that comic you showed her, much to your delight.
  1552. >”It’s not bad! I can see why you like it, I’ll page through it later though.”
  1553. >You nod, trying your best to be casual.
  1554. “So, should we bring these to Greenie?”
  1555. >”I suppose so, it’s getting late anyway, and I think you might want to go home soon.”
  1556. >You look up at the warehouse windows, it’s hard to see from here, but you can tell it’s basically night out now.
  1557. “I don’t think I've ever gone home in the dark alone before…”
  1558. >”I think… I know how I can help with that, but let’s get these to Greenie first.”
  1559. >You both walk out the library, you look back briefly to see if Novella was there, but he seems to be preoccupied with a crate of books, with an exasperated expression on his face.
  1560. >You're hoping he gets some rest.
  1561. >Wait, can roboponies sleep?
  1562. “Hey, Rei, can roboponies sleep?”
  1563. >”It all depends on how they recharge, for the most part.”
  1564. >She waves to someone as you both walk before continuing.
  1565. >”Some simulate sleep while they're offline, usually to make them seem more ‘life-like’. Although most I've encountered here seem to just take a break while they recharge and then go on with their day.”
  1566. >She chuckles lightly. "As for me, I enjoy the peace and quiet, so I've always done it myself."
  1567. “Huh, well that's neat, how about dreaming?”
  1568. >”I... don't think so, but, I think the experience would be rather interesting. What’s it like?”
  1569. “Well… I guess it’s kinda hard to explain, it just sorta happens.”
  1570. >”If you figure out an answer, I'd be happy to hear!"
  1571. "I'll make sure to let you know if I figure out a coherent answer."
  1572. >"Heh, even a incoherent answer would be swell in my book."
  1573. >The two of you idly chat as you continue onward, with you half-listening to the sound of some distant radio playing the blues.
  1574. >It was a rather cozy place, despite the hustle and bustle.
  1575. >"...And here we are!”
  1576. >The two of you stop outside the room Greenie is in.
  1577. >You didn’t realize how quick it’d be!
  1578. “So... you want me to take the book?”
  1579. >Reign nods. “I’ll go set up your escort, you might know her, and she’ll be waiting out front.” Reign has a slight smile on her face as she turns around and leaves.
  1580. >Well, that's… ominous?
  1581. >You take the book and comics and bring them to Greenie, who looks slightly better, with her eyes a little brighter than before.
  1582. >”Hey Gray! Things go okay?”
  1583. “Yeah! Reign found a book you might like, and I got you some comics, I uhm, hope you like them.”
  1584. >You give them to Greenie, who's pretty satisfied with the haul, which is a relief.
  1585. >”These look pretty neat! Thanks Gray, and tell Rei I said thanks as well!”
  1586. >You nod and sit next to her.
  1587. “I'll make sure I tell her. From the sound of it, I’ll probably be going home, so I'll see you soon Greenie.”
  1588. >Greenie smiles wearily. “I’ll be here, I promise.”
  1589. >You get up after giving Greenie a brief hug and head for the door.
  1590. >You would like to talk to Foreman, though you didn’t see him when you came through the shop.
  1591. >And it looks like Phoebe isn’t around either.
  1592. >You decide to cut your losses after a little more searching around and leave the shop, once more standing in the flower laden pathway.
  1593.  
  1594. >The stars shine clearly, not a trace of cloud can be found.
  1595. >A thin crescent moon can be seen, its light brings life to the flowers around you.
  1596. >The cool night breeze sways the field as you let out a sigh.
  1597. >It's a perfect night for some stargazing, but... you think you'll head straight to bed.
  1598. >You're pretty sleepy after all, so you might as well turn in for the night.
  1599. >It's been way more eventful than you anticipated, but you're glad things turned out the way they did.
  1600. >You look around you, somewhat puzzled.
  1601. >You wonder what Reign meant by ‘escort’?
  1602. >There isn't anyone here.
  1603. >Maybe you should go back in-
  1604. THUD
  1605. >You scramble to the ground, ducking from whatever made that impact in the field.
  1606. >You hear rustling in the flowers, and a pony pops out of them, trotting up to you until they’re in the middle of your path out of the shop.
  1607. >It’s a mare with a tannish coat and a short brown mane which is a bit on the messy side. Her eyes are teal, though there seems to be a hit of brown near the centers.
  1608. >And she has big wings.
  1609. >It’s Albatross.
  1610. >You get up and give a hesitant nod in her direction.
  1611. >”Good evening, Miss Gray Garden, it’s a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”
  1612. >Her voice is awfully formal, though there is a playfulness to it.
  1613. >She spreads her wings out fully, blotting out the moonlight that was previously illuminating you.
  1614. >”I am Albatross! Sky Guardian of the Wrench!” She giggles to herself after she says that, though she quickly regains her previous persona.
  1615. >"I have descended from on high to ferry thee to the safety of thy abode..."
  1616. >She folds her wings up once more, though before this, you realize she seems to have streaks of white on the inner bits of her wings.
  1617. >Albatross nods to herself with a smile. "The night is dark and without end, but even so... I will guide you justly.
  1618. >She’s um... actually not that scary at all, if anything, she seems kinda dorky.
  1619. >”I’ve watched your journey from the sky, and have deemed you… Alright.”
  1620. “Alright…?”
  1621. >”Yes! As in, you won’t cause mayhem with your very presence, so... you're alright.”
  1622. “Okay, uhm, so what now, are you just gonna follow me?”
  1623. >”Of course! I have been assigned to keep your wellbeing… erm… well.”
  1624. "I see..."
  1625. >She blinks a bit and clears her throat.
  1626. >"A-Anyhoo! Don't worry, we'll get you home in a jiff!"
  1627. >She scrunches up, clearly noticing her slip-up.
  1628. >"That's uh- I-I mean-"
  1629. >Her character is crumbling little by little as you tilt your head.
  1630. >She's blushing up a storm as she stomps a forehoof on the ground and mumbles a quiet 'D-darnit!'.
  1631. “You don’t get to do this often, do you?”
  1632. >She shuffles in place, rubbing the back of her neck. “N-not really, most of the time I just sorta daydream about uh... nevermind.”
  1633. >She glances up to you. "S-sorry for scaring you..."
  1634. >Scaring you...?
  1635. >Oh, she must have saw you on the ground...
  1636. "It's okay! I uh- I just wasn't expecting it."
  1637. >You're pretty sure Phoebe was just messing with you before, she seems pretty nice.
  1638. “So um… what do you *want* to be?”
  1639. >"H-huh?"
  1640. "Well, it sounded like you wanted to say something... You can talk about it if you want."
  1641. >"I wouldn't wanna bore you! It- It's nothing, r-really!"
  1642. "Aw c'mon! I don't mind!"
  1643. >You punctuate that with a warm smile.
  1644. >Albatross timidly side-eyes you for a moment before sitting down, her wings ruffle a bit.
  1645. >”Well… I wanna be good at keeping watch, since I can fly well. And then, I had the idea of maybe being the Werks guardian, like…” She squirms in place a bit. “L-like a comic book hero…”
  1646. >You sit down in the path as well.
  1647. “So, you like comics?” You try not to show your excitement too much.
  1648. >She mutters something under her breath and then sighs, once she looks at you, she seems to have dropped the persona completely.
  1649. >”Yeah! I uhm, really wanna be a superhero! Mr. Foreman said I could!”
  1650. >She looks down, her eyes tearing up a bit. “B-but...”
  1651. >Albatross sniffles. "I'm bad at it a-and I'm not brave or cool a-and my friend probably doesn't like me anymore a-and and what if no one a-actually likes m-me..."
  1652. >She continues stammering before breaking down completely and covering her face with her wings with a whimper.
  1653. >You sit in stunned silence as you watch her tremble.
  1654. >She really turned on a dime, what do you even...
  1655. >Uh- Um- Just... b-be nice, Gray!
  1656. >You scoot closer to her and put a hoof on top of one of her wings, it’s really soft.
  1657. >You pull it away from her face without much resistance, revealing that Alba has tears streaming down her face.
  1658. “Hey… I think that’s really brave! You're doing a pretty good job at being a guardian, you certainly seemed pretty cool!”
  1659. >You try to console her. You do mean it about her being pretty cool, you don’t have the confidence to do something like this, though from how easily she crumbled, maybe she’s pretty low of confidence as well.
  1660. >She wipes her eyes, sniffling a bit. “Y-you mean it?”
  1661. >You smile and nod, which helps her calm down a little.
  1662. >”I… I’m usually pretty good at the routine… At least in my head. I always mess it up when I actually try...”
  1663. "It's okay if it isn't perfect, maybe... you could make it work? Like um... a superhero who switches between being formal and casual a bunch! Like Shamrock!"
  1664. >You realize a little too late that she might not know who that is, but from her expression, you guess she does.
  1665. >"Yeah... H-he's pretty cool..."
  1666. >She shuffles in place. "Do you know Vivid?"
  1667. >You do a little triangle in the air with a hoof.
  1668. "Vividguy, the prismatic pain peddler! That one?"
  1669. >She giggles. "Yeah! But... I think I just want to be like his old appearances, back during his PSA days, you know?"
  1670. "I get it, I liked the old comics a bit better too."
  1671. >"Mmhm! Hey, do you remember the one with Bistro Bobbert?"
  1672. "Hah, that was a weird one..."
  1673. >You talk comics with her for a little longer and she slowly calms down.
  1674. "So... do you feel better, Albatross?"
  1675. >She sighs and gives you a little smile.
  1676. >"Sure do! You can call me Alba though."
  1677. "And you can call me Gray! No need for formalities."
  1678. >Wait a sec... Alba?
  1679. >You remember Chops and Phoebe’s conversation, You assume this is *that* Alba.
  1680. “Hey, do you know Phoebe?”
  1681. >She lowers her head a bit, ears flattened. “She wants to take my friend away...”
  1682. >Why does she seem kind of mad?
  1683. “Chopstick?”
  1684. >She looks surprised for a moment, then nods. “He’s really good at doing knife tricks!”
  1685. >That seems kind of unrelated.
  1686. “Why do you think that, about her wanting to take him away, I mean.”
  1687. >”He told me that she wants him to come work for her, b-but then he’d be gone, right? I don’t want him to go…”
  1688. >She looks pretty uncomfortable again.
  1689. >You understand her fear, you really do, but you're pretty sure she doesn’t understand Phoebe’s side of the story.
  1690. “Phoebe just wants Chops to help her expand her shop! I doubt she means any harm, I think you might have misinterpreted what he said…maybe?”
  1691. >You're honestly not sure, since you don’t know him, but it doesn’t seem like he wanted Albatross to be upset.
  1692. >Despite your doubt, Alba looks a little better now, with a more inquisitive look on her face now.
  1693. >”Maybe I got a little… paranoid.”
  1694. >She hides the lower half of her face with a wing. “I…I don’t have many friends. A-and I don’t want to lose one…”
  1695. “I don’t think you’d lose him, besides, he didn't seem all that interested anyway.”
  1696. >”He wasn't?” She moves a bit, getting into a more comfortable sitting position. “I was kinda pushy… when I first found out, he probably is pretty scared of me now…”
  1697. “You don’t seem very scary.”
  1698. >”I might have gotten really upset and yelled at him… I really shouldn’t have! He’s really nice.”
  1699. >She rubs the back of her neck with a hoof. “I… haven’t talked to him since. I don’t know how to make it up to him…"
  1700. >Alba lowers her head "I-I’m such a bad friend...”
  1701. “Maybe... I can help you guys smooth things over?"
  1702. >Alba's ears perk up and she beams. "Really?! Can... Can you help me now?"
  1703. "Tomorrow I mean! Not tonight, I'm, uhm, kinda sleepy and getting home would be nice.”
  1704. >"Home...?"
  1705. >Alba jumps up, a slightly panicked look on her face. “I-i totally forgot! I’m so sorry, let's hurry!”
  1706. “It’s alright we don’t ne– H-hey!”
  1707. >Albatross darts towards you without much time for you to react and picks you up by the midsection. You close your eyes out of surprise.
  1708. >And when you open them, you're a few feet in the air, the ground below moving alarmingly quickly.
  1709. “Alba! W-wait, I d-don’t like heights!”
  1710. >She doesn’t seem to hear you, as she’s focused on where she’s going.
  1711. >You shut your eyes again, praying that whatever divine being that watches over ponies keeps you safe.
  1712. >By the time you start having a meltdown, you are set down, which results in you promptly falling over, your entire body shaking.
  1713. >Albatross is looking down at you with concern on her face.
  1714. >”Oh gosh- You- You're n-not gonna die, right?”
  1715. >You dry heave a little before shakily moving yourself into an upright position.
  1716. “D-don't DO that!”
  1717. >”You said you needed to go home… So here you are!”
  1718. >She smiles nervously.
  1719. "Whu- I- I thought we’d just WALK?!”
  1720. >You're not used to yelling so it strains your voice a bit, resulting in you coughing, which doesn’t help your nausea.
  1721. >At least you had an empty stomach when you left the repair shop…
  1722. >Alba’s ears droop with a sad expression on her face. “I... I’m sorry, I messed up again, didn’t I?”
  1723. “Albatross, It's okay, I just didn’t expect that and.. And.. just give me some warning next time, okay?”
  1724. >Despite how awful it felt, you guess it wasn't the worst thing ever.
  1725. “We’ll get things sorted tomorrow, okay? I’m just gonna… Go lay down and try not to hurl…”
  1726. >You wobbly get up and open the front door. You then turn around and wave goodbye to Albatross, who waves back, still looking slightly worried.
  1727. >You close the door and stand in the doorway of the house, watching everything spin around you.
  1728. >How did she get here so fast? Well, it probably doesn’t matter right now.
  1729. >Just… get in bed Gray, and don’t look at the floor… it’s your enemy!
  1730. >You go up the stairs and flop into bed, forgetting to take off your scarf.
  1731. >Worst of all, you forgot to get your comics from Phoebes store, which is a bummer, but you’ll live… maybe? That’s still up for debate…
  1732. >It doesn't take long for you to fall asleep, but in all honesty, it’s more like you faint.
  1733. >Despite the experience you just had, you end up having another dreamless night.
  1734.  
  1735. >You awake in a sauna of your own making, apparently not taking off that scarf was a bad idea.
  1736. >It doesn’t help that your hoodie seems to add to the heat.
  1737. >After taking off your loathsome clothes, you sit in bed, only now realizing how much you have on your plate.
  1738. >You want to help Greenie as best you can. The only problem is that you don’t want to do anything drastic without permission. How would you even get in contact with Anon anyway? He was in between phones when he left, so you're pretty sure he doesn’t have one on him, and even if he did, you wouldn’t know his new number.
  1739. >Maybe you could send a letter to him? Well, if you knew where to send one, that is…
  1740. >You groan and stuff your face in your pillow.
  1741. >You also have to help Albatross with her friendship problem, or whatever it is.
  1742. >Why’d you even offer to help her? You're usually not one to butt into others' business.
  1743. >And you don’t even know Chopstick, so at best, you’d just be some weirdo stranger who is messing with other people's social life.
  1744. >Maybe… Alba reminds you of yourself, in a way. She seems pretty emotionally attached to Chops, so you assume they have a history, at least enough that she’d feel threatened by Phoebe’s offer… Which is weird. You have a hunch that she might be a bit clingy.
  1745. >Well, you guess you're kinda clingy as well, so you're not one to say.
  1746. >Speaking of Phoebe, you said you’d help her hand out fliers for her shop.
  1747. >Oh, and don’t forget to get your comics, It’d suck if you didn’t grab them.
  1748. >And apparently someone is going to show up today, so you have to deal with that…
  1749. >Well Gray, looks like you got a pretty packed schedule! Better than no schedule, at least.
  1750. >You’ll just take these on one at a time, not like everything will end up happening in a day.
  1751. >You crawl out of bed and stretch a bit. It doesn’t take long for your overall temperature to lower once more. You don’t even feel sick from your impromptu flight yesterday, which you're grateful for.
  1752. >You grab your clothes and stick them in the wash pile when you get downstairs.
  1753. >Breakfast goes about as well as usual, although you're getting sick of bagels, maybe you should mix things up next time, maybe pancakes?
  1754. >You ponder if you’d be able to make pancakes without them burning.
  1755. >Not that you’d be against that, you're not picky when it comes to the condition of your food, as long as it’s not like charcoal or anything.
  1756. >You take a note to try making pancakes sooner or later, but for now, you probably should clean the house up a bit.
  1757. >It’s not as bad as you’d expect. Since Greenie first showed up, you’ve been pretty vigilant when it comes to cleaning up your mess.
  1758. >You bet Anon would be proud!
  1759. >After a few minutes of general cleaning, you take a glance at the front door.
  1760. >Huh, the letter should be here by now.
  1761. >You start to feel a little worried, though you shake it off and instead focus on doing some dusting.
  1762. >Funnily enough, you didn’t even realize there was a feather duster in the house until Greenie pointed it out.
  1763. >You dust off some shelves, Greenie did a pretty good job last time, so they're not as dusty as they could be.
  1764. >After a minor sneezing fit, you grab a crossword puzzle booklet Anon gave you a while back. You don’t remember why you never finished it, but you're feeling bored enough to give it another shot.
  1765. >Oh… now you remember why you never finished it, it’s misprinted, well that sucks.
  1766. >Maybe you should write down somewhere to get a new booklet, you’re feeling extra puzzly recently… which is the first time in a while.
  1767. >Once you put the booklet back, you look at the front door again, your anxiety starting to creep up on you again.
  1768. >Relax Gray, It’s probably just late, that sort of thing happens all the time!
  1769. >You decide to check outside, since last time there was a box instead of a letter.
  1770. >You open the door and find… Albatross?
  1771.  
  1772. >You find yourself staring at a curled up Albatross laying in front of the door, a letter balanced perfectly on her head.
  1773. >Well, that’s one way to start the day. Guess you know what you’ll be dealing with first.
  1774. “Alba?”
  1775. >Albatross doesn’t stir, so you decide to take the letter from atop her head.
  1776. >Why’d the postman put the letter on her head? You may never know.
  1777. >You take another look at Alba, who you're assuming is doing that ‘simulated sleep’ thing that Reign mentioned. Which get’s you wondering if she hadn’t charged all night, which is a bit worrying.
  1778. >You close the door quietly and go sit at the dining room table like usual.
  1779. >You’ll deal with her after you see the letter.
  1780. “Hey Gray! It’s been about a week now, huh? Hope you’ve adjusted okay and aren’t too lonely! I know letters aren’t going to replace normal interaction, but maybe it’ll make things a little less hard. I’ve been looking into other ways to get in contact with you, maybe we can get a phone call going! It’ll be a bit though, apparently the higher ups get finicky with calls going out from here, so I'll probably have to make a special request, nothing some consistent pestering can’t fix, I’m sure! I’ll see what I can do about it, and I'll keep in touch, Oh! The word of the day is ‘petrichor’. I don’t have anything witty for that one, so don’t get all ‘misty’ eyed! -Anon.”
  1781. >He never was all that good at puns, was he?
  1782. >Anyway, at least that gives you a bit of hope regarding getting in touch with Anon! Maybe you’ll be able to tell him about Greenie’s problem after all.
  1783. >After putting the letter on the ever growing letter pile, you go back to the front door and open it up.
  1784. >Yep, she’s still sleeping.
  1785. >Or at least you hope she’s sleeping, she’s not exactly moving from what you can see.
  1786. >You prod her side a bit, which thankfully gets a response. She ruffles her wings and shifts her weight to the other side.
  1787. “Albatross, c’mon, why are you still here?”
  1788. >You keep on the pressure until she ends up finally opening her eyes, she seems pretty sleepy.
  1789. >She yawns and sits up, wiping an eye with a hoof.
  1790. >”Oh hey Gray… Is it morning already?”
  1791. “Did you… really stay out here all night?”
  1792. >She nods slowly, a hint of red on her face.
  1793. >You open your mouth to say something else, but you notice a wheelbarrow coming up the sidewalk.
  1794. >Oh, it’s Reign! She’s pretty early.
  1795. >Reign uses her magic to plop the wheelbarrow on the grass and begins walking up to the door. From the grimace on Albatross’s face, you assume she didn’t expect her.
  1796. >”Good morning Gray Garden, I hope you didn’t have too much trouble with your unexpected *flight*.”
  1797. >Reign’s tone is mildly accusatory, and from the way Alba avoids eye contact with her, you assume she might have not gone home because she wanted to avoid this confrontation.
  1798. “How’d you know?”
  1799. >Reign levitates a trowel out of the wheelbarrow and sets it on the stairs.
  1800. >“I was going to wave you two off, but then I heard your conversation, so I waited until you finished. Unfortunately, Alba whisked you away before I could make my presence known.”
  1801. >Reign gives Albatross a stern look. “Please refrain from doing something so unexpected without permission, and at least come back so we can discuss it civilly instead of making me worry all night!”
  1802. >Alba lowers her head. “I’m sorry… I just… Didn’t want to cause a scene...”
  1803. >”A scene? Alba, at best, this was an inconvenience. Although I do hope Gray wasn’t too shaken up.” Reign turns to you, most likely to gain your input.
  1804. “It’s uh, not that big of a deal. I got over it pretty quickly, besides, I already discussed it with her after the fact.”
  1805. >Rei nods, then levitates a rake over to Albatross. “Seeing that you're already here, how about doing some yard work? It might clear your head.”
  1806. >Albatross grabs the rake and looks at it. She perks up a bit and turns to Reign. “I’ll… do my best!”
  1807. >Alba takes flight, and swoops into the backyard, leaving you with Reign.
  1808. >Reign sighs. “My apologies Gray, If I'd known she’d get like that, I'd have tagged along.”
  1809. “It’s fine, I think she just needed someone to talk to."
  1810. >Reign takes a few more things out the wheelbarrow. “You're right, she’s been distant since her little scuffle with Chopstick. Despite that, I was able to convince her to escort you back home quite easily. I suppose she was more lonely that she'd like to admit.”
  1811. >Reign narrows her eyes at a weed by the stairs and pulls it with her magic, mumbling something about ‘pesky dandelions’.
  1812. >”From the sound of it, she’s not taking things as well as I thought she was, I didn’t think she’d break down like that, I don’t even think I've seen her cry like that before.”
  1813. >Reign’s ears droop slightly. “Alba doesn't exactly like to share her feelings. Maybe I would have been able to help If I knew how badly she was hurting...”
  1814. "Well, at least now you know?"
  1815. >"I suppose... I'll certainly try my best to lift up her spirits to the best of my abilities."
  1816. "Hey, Rei?"
  1817. >"Yes Gray?"
  1818. “I uh- I might have told her I'd help her smooth things over with Chopstick… despite not knowing Chopstick.”
  1819. >”I know Chopstick quite well, not as well as Alba mind you, but I feel like I could introduce you.”
  1820. “You think Chops would be okay with all this? I feel kinda… Pushy.”
  1821. >Rei shrugs. “It’s certainly worth a shot, besides, I think Chopstick might understand Albatross enough to know she didn’t mean what she said.” Reign begins walking with her floating tools toward the backyard, and you follow suit.
  1822. >”Ponies are known for their strong emotions, so it’s not uncommon for them to get… Overdramatic.”
  1823. “What did she say?”
  1824. >”Not sure myself, but from what I've heard from Novella, it wasn’t as big of a deal as she might think it is.”
  1825. “So she’s unsure how to make an apology and is overthinking things?”
  1826. >Reign sets down her tools and focuses on another weed, this time near the greenhouse, pulling it by the root and chucking it into her wheelbarrow, a slight smile on her face.
  1827. >”It’s rather silly when you think about it, but that’s the gist of it. I feel bad that she’s starting to think the others are against her antics. From what I've heard, they find it endearing!”
  1828. “I get it though, I’d get pretty upset if I thought other people were unhappy with me.”
  1829. >”I think a like-minded pony such as yourself would be a good thing for Alba! ...Maybe you could go help her with the yard, I feel like she might need a friend.”
  1830. “Are you sure? I thought you’d want me to help with the greenhouse.”
  1831. >Reign clumps a few more weeds into the wheelbarrow. “I’ve got things covered, besides, it’d go a bit faster if I have free reign.”
  1832. ”Did you…? Never mind, anyway I’ll go with Albatross then, Seeya later Rei.”
  1833. >Reign nods, though she stops to stifle a laugh before entering the greenhouse with her tools.
  1834. >Huh, guess she *was* making a pun.
  1835.  
  1836. >You go to the opposite side of the house and look around for Albatross, although you don’t find her. You see a couple piles of leaves, so you know she’s been pretty busy.
  1837. “Albatross! Where’d you go?”
  1838. >”Up here.”
  1839. >You look up, and see Alba sitting on the roof of the house, rake resting beside her. She does a half-hearted wave.
  1840. “Good job on the piles! Certainly better than I could have done.”
  1841. >Alba nods before glancing at the greenhouse and then back to you. “Doesn’t Reign need your help?”
  1842. “Nope! C’mon down, let’s do some… yard work?”
  1843. >Now that you think of it, you're not sure what exactly to do now.
  1844. >Albatross gets up and jumps down to the ground, surprisingly she doesn’t make much sound on impact, compared to when she did that in the field, maybe that was for effect?
  1845. >”I uhm… Already did everything over here, so I just went up on the roof to…” She trials off, getting a bit uneasy.
  1846. “Reigns not mad at you, you know that, right? She was just worried.”
  1847. >”I know! I just… felt bad for not going home.”
  1848. “Why’d you stay anyway?”
  1849. >Albatross looks at the ground and circles a forehoof in the grass. “Well… You said you’d help me, so I got excited and couldn’t wait, so I just sat there until I got tired.”
  1850. “I’m glad you're excited about me helping, but isn’t that kind of dangerous? Not charging, I mean.”
  1851. >Albatross unfurls her wings and wiggles them a bit, you're assuming to bring attention to the subtle filaments that are strewn about it. “Solar charged!” She seems pretty happy with herself about that.
  1852. “Oh! That’s neat, Reign’s solar powered as well.”
  1853. >You look around the yard for a moment and then turn back to Alba.
  1854. "So Reign made it sound like you two know each other pretty well."
  1855. >Alba nods before closing her wings again. “Yeah! We go way back! Rei had this uh... thing and I helped her out and now we live in the same bungalow! Erm, well, it’s more of a… Studio apartment?” Albatross narrows her eyes a bit before looking at you again. “I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s cozy!”
  1856. >She seems to have a tendency to overshare, but at least that solves the mystery of Reign’s living situation. You wonder where Greenie lives, maybe around the same area as them?
  1857. “Do you know Greenie too?”
  1858. >Alba’s ears droop a little. “Yeah… I hope she gets better soon…”
  1859. “She’ll get better! I... I'm sure it'll be fine.”
  1860. >Thinking about Greenie makes you anxious, but you push that down in favor of focusing on Albatross for now.
  1861. >What would make her feel better…
  1862. >Hmm… How about…?
  1863. “Do you… Wanna look at some comics I have?”
  1864. >Albatross perks up, a wide smile on her face. “You got comics?”
  1865. >Aha! The allure of comics can sway even the mopiest of mares! Your theory is sound and completely unbiased.
  1866. “Yeah, we can go grab some if you want.”
  1867. >Alba trots in place a little. “Sure! I’d love that!”
  1868. >You gesture a hoof towards the front yard and start walking with Albatross in tow.
  1869. >She seems pretty excited, you didn’t really realize how much she liked them last time around since she was pretty down.
  1870. >You open the front door and motion Alba inside.
  1871. >”Woah! It’s pretty nice here.” Albatross points towards the dining room table. “What’s all the letters for?”
  1872. >Being casual is probably better than avoiding it, Gray.
  1873. “Just some letters from a friend, nothing much.”
  1874. >Albatross nods then starts looking around the house.
  1875. >Apparently Reign and Greenie were pretty passive about where they went in the house when they weren't cleaning, compared to Alba, who seems pretty content snooping around.
  1876. >Weirdly enough you’re not as anxious about it as you thought, but you probably should grab those comics posthaste regardless.
  1877. >You make your way upstairs and go into your room, only now noticing that your bed isn’t made, so you deal with that before going into your closet and searching for your stash.
  1878. >Ah yes, Gray Garden’s famous comic stash! A beacon of sophistication and class.
  1879. >Yeah right.
  1880. >Most of the comics you like are either super story intensive text fests that you adore with all your heart, or complete trash fires that didn't really deserve more issues, but despite that, they got them anyway. Which in a way you're grateful for.
  1881. >You vaguely remember trying to get Anon to read a comic about dogs who turn into humans during the full moon each month, which you thought was pretty cool since they had like, office jobs and stuff. He thought it was kinda campy and didn’t read past the first set, which was a bummer. The second set and onward were pretty cool though, it had like, vampires and vikings and stuff!
  1882. >…
  1883. >Now that you think of it, maybe your taste in comics is pretty lame.
  1884. >That, or Anon simply doesn’t understand the appeal of *fun*. Huh? How about that!
  1885. >Seeing that Anon isn’t here to debate you, you assume you win by default.
  1886. >Heh. Score one for Gray!
  1887. >It's… probably a good idea to start looking for a comic Alba might like.
  1888. >You slide your box of comics out into the open and dig around for something super hero-y.
  1889. >How about… ‘Jewel of the Jabberwock’? That’s got superheroes… kinda?
  1890. >Eh, you’ll try something else… Maybe ‘Doc Fandango: Wings of Wren’... Yeah, you’ll try that one, it’s a pretty safe bet on the whole ‘superhero’ thing.
  1891. >You lightly grab the comic with your mouth and walk back downstairs, finding Albatross sitting on the couch, seemingly enthralled by the newton’s cradle that is resting on a shelf nearby, apparently she must have started it up.
  1892. >”This thing’s pretty cool! How does it do that?”
  1893. “I uh, don’t know, but yeah, it’s pretty cool. Hey! Found a comic you might like! (Hopefully…)”
  1894. >You set the comic on the coffee table by the couch and Alba picks it up, looking at the cover.
  1895. >She stares at it blankly for a moment, before a smile creeps up on her face.
  1896. >“It’s Doc! And it’s an issue I haven’t read yet!” She hugs the comic briefly and then turns to you. “Doc Fandango is like, one of my top favorite superheroes! He beat Magna Carter with only a straight razor and some silly string!”
  1897. “Magna Carter…?”
  1898. >Alba blinks before waving her hooves toward you with a slight panicked expression on her face. “Ah! Sorry! That’s spoilers! I didn’t realize…”
  1899. “It’s alright! I haven’t found a lot of Doc Fandango comics, so I wouldn’t know who that was anyway, is the series better later on?”
  1900. >Alba turns the comic to its back and shows the advert for the comics continuations. “Absolutely! That’s because they changed writers after issue sixteen, Ernie is way better than Reginald! Well… At least in the dialogue department, the descriptions are a little shallow now…”
  1901. “Wait, really? I didn’t think Reggie was that bad at dialogue.”
  1902. >”To each their own, I suppose… Anyway! This one’s about the origin of the Wings of Wren, right? The organization is really important later on, and I hadn’t been able to get my hooves on their debut issue… until now! You uhm… Don’t mind if I read it?”
  1903. “Not at all! I think I'll go check on Reign quickly then come back, alright?”
  1904. >Alba raises a wing in salute. “I’ll guard this with my life, Gray! Oh, and uhm, tell Reign I said hi.”
  1905. >You head for the door while Albatross excitedly pages through the comic, humming a tune of some sort.
  1906. >She’s a lot more intense than you thought! But it’s nice to see how passionate she is.
  1907. >On a side note, you kinda want to ask her why her wings are so big, but you're unsure if that’d be rude or not.
  1908.  
  1909. >Once outside, you notice that the morning has progressed rather slowly, it’s probably not even noon.
  1910. >Across the way you notice a couple of your neighbors chatting, from the looks of it they’re focused on a newly installed sprinkler in one of their yards, they seem… proud?
  1911. >You briefly wonder if your neighbors are confused by all the other ponies showing up to the house as of late, or maybe they just don’t care. It’s probably the latter, seeing that they didn't really care about your presence either. Well, you'd probably prefer being ignored.
  1912. >You walk out back towards the greenhouse. Reign is outside of it now, eyeing a clump of weeds in her hoof before lobbing it into her wheelbarrow, which seems to have filled considerably with weeds. You honestly have no idea where she’s finding them, but she seems happy so you guess she’s been pretty successful.
  1913. “Hey Rei! Just checking if you're doing alright. How's your *glorious* crusade?”
  1914. >Reign chuckles lightly before clearing her throat. “I’ve eradicated a large amount of *pesky* weeds that have encroached on your property.” Her tone is somewhat playful.
  1915. “Ah, very good, I knew my kingdom was in good hooves! You are a boon as always. Perhaps I can lend a hoof next time around?”
  1916. >Reign shrugs. “I enjoy this, so it’s no bother, really. But, I know it’d be a good idea to teach you how to keep things up yourself.” She levitates a watering can towards you. “So, how about we go do some gardening?”
  1917. >Well, Albatross will probably be busy with that comic for a while, so you have time to kill…
  1918. >You grin, about ready to give it your all.
  1919. “Reign, consider me your faithful student!”
  1920. >Alright Gray, It’s garden time!
  1921.  
  1922. >You take the watering can from Rei, it’s lighter than you expected.
  1923. >”Well then, How about you water the plants on the bottom shelves while I do some pruning? Don’t worry about overwatering, the ones at the bottom can handle it. That being said… don’t go overboard.”
  1924. >You nod, can in mouth, which ends up sloshing a bit of water onto the grass, which gets Reign to giggle.
  1925. >”Careful now!”
  1926. >You enter the greenhouse and eye your adversaries.
  1927. >Several pots of flowers and ferns line the bottom row. The flowers are an array of colors ranging from bright red to dark purple. On the other hoof, the ferns look about identical, albeit fluctuating in size. The biggest one is closest to the entrance.
  1928. >Heh, this is gonna be a cinch!
  1929. >You cautiously tilt the can towards the first fern, and pour a stream of water on it.
  1930. >Once you feel that it’s been sufficiently watered you turn your attention to the next plant.
  1931. >You repeat the process a few more times, although you slip up half way and overwater one of the flowers. You feel bad about that, even if Reign said it would be okay.
  1932. >Speaking of which, Reign is pruning the plants at the top, taking the dead leaves and petals off and putting them all in an empty pot like before.
  1933. >Occasionally she would take out a small clipper and trim back a few outlier bits of plant.
  1934. >She stops a moment to look at her handiwork. The flowers are neat and symmetrical and the ferns are nice and bushy.
  1935. >Up until now you didn’t realize how many ferns Anon had… it certainly rivals the amount of flowers.
  1936. >You’d think he’d get tired of ferns by now, but no! He’s utterly ecstatic whenever he finds one...
  1937. >Weirdo.
  1938. >You're not very knowledgeable about plants, but you're pretty sure the flowers in the middle of the greenhouse are sunflowers, which makes you kinda hungry for sunflower seeds.
  1939. >You momentarily ponder the thought of nibbling on one of the sunflowers but realize that they don’t look very… ripe? Their seeds aren’t showing right now you mean, so maybe that’s not a good idea.
  1940. >Well, Anon probably wouldn’t want you eating his plants anyway, especially after last time.
  1941. >…
  1942. >Oh gosh, you're a weirdo too.
  1943. >You glance over to Reign again, who is currently attempting to carefully untangle a… philodendron? Yeah you're pretty sure that’s what it is.
  1944. >Hey, look at that, you remembered the name of a plant! You almost feel smart.
  1945. >In… a plant nerd kinda way.
  1946. >You go back to watering, making sure to not mess up this time.
  1947. >By the time you use up all the water in the watering can, Reign is outside, rummaging through her wheelbarrow, which is filled with weeds.
  1948. >”Hmm…”
  1949. “Something the matter?”
  1950. >”Ah, you're done, good. I’m just trying to find my shears, but apparently I didn’t bring them. It’s a shame, really...”
  1951. >Reign turns to you. “I suppose Alba is doing better?”
  1952. “Yeah, She finished the raking way quicker than I expected, So I ended up just showing her a comic, so she’s probably distracted right now.”
  1953. >”Well, maybe we could take a break? I suppose it’d be a good idea to have a chat with Alba.”
  1954. “So um, do you two live together? Albatross mentioned something along those lines.”
  1955. >Reign rests her tools on the wheelbarrows side. “I assume she made our arrangement sound rather confusing? We just share a common room, with our primary living quarters split by said common room.”
  1956. “That… I guess that makes sense?”
  1957. >Reign pouts. “That didn’t help, did it?”
  1958. >Reign huffs a bit. ”Regardless… I usually spend my time in the greenhouse behind the warehouse.”
  1959. “It seems pretty big, what have you got growing in there?”
  1960. >”Mostly vegetables, unfortunately. I’ve been focusing on making myself an income of sorts, and vegetables are an easy commodity to sell around here.”
  1961. “Huh, I guess you’d prefer flowers though?”
  1962. >Reign nods. “Of course! The flowers out front aren’t mine, as much as I wish they were. They’re the doings of a landscape company. I have no contempt for them… I just… I feel… Challenged.”
  1963. “You want to prove that you can do just as good?”
  1964. >Reign nods again, although a bit slower. “It’s silly, but the thought is somewhat invigorating. It keeps me going, I guess.”
  1965. >Reign rubs the back of her neck with a hoof, a redness seems to creep its way onto her face. “I… Might have agreed to help Greenie because she mentioned the flowers here…”
  1966. “Do you… get out much? I mean, I don’t either, but you seemed rather hesitant to be here before.”
  1967. >”Not really, Even at the garden I used to let Rush deal with all the people and focus on my job and only my job.”
  1968. >Reign sits down by her wheelbarrow and looks at the greenhouse. “I guess it’s easier with other ponies. Even with some of the bots I get anxious.”
  1969. “I get it, I probably couldn’t talk to a human face to face if I tried, not yet at least.”
  1970. >You pause for a moment then attempt to pat Reign’s head, it’s a stretch, but you manage.
  1971. “We can help each other out from now on, if you’d like. You certainly helped me a great deal. I uhm, hope I can return the favor.”
  1972. >Reign stares at the greenhouse unmoving for a moment before bringing you into a hug, though this time you're ready and hug her back.
  1973. >”Thanks Gray… I… I think we’ll be fine.”
  1974. >You both let go and Rei looks at you with a smile. “I also think we should check on Albatross.”
  1975. “That probably would be a good idea, heaven knows how long she’ll stay occupied with that comic.”
  1976. >Reign giggles a little. “Afraid she might start snooping around?”
  1977. “Heh, I got nothing to hide!”
  1978. “...”
  1979. “W-well, I’d rather her not rummage through the letters… But maybe that’s me being paranoid.”
  1980. >”Foreman never did say the exact reason why you were by yourself, other than that we’d be filling in for the absence of someone else.”
  1981. >Reign shrugs. “Greenie probably knows more than me, I've tried to keep my curiosity at bay.”
  1982. “It’s not that big of a deal! Not anymore that is. I… I feel less awful about him being gone now, so I'll manage, I’m just… maybe I'm just being defensive, I don’t even know why.”
  1983. >Why are you so weird about the letters anyway? Maybe… Maybe it’s because their *your* letters?
  1984. >Your thoughts are interrupted by Reign.
  1985. >”You don’t need to explain yourself, they're private, that's that. I’ll try not to pry, and I know Alba well enough to know she wouldn’t overstep that boundary.”
  1986. >You shake your head, trying to keep your anxiousness in check.
  1987. “Let’s go inside, maybe we can try playing another game?”
  1988. >Reign seems mildly concerned but that melts away into another smile. “Sure thing.”
  1989. >You and Reign head around the house and back inside.
  1990.  
  1991. >Albatross is still on the couch, though this time she’s laying on her back with the comic book extended into the sky by her forehooves. She’s got a pretty intense facial expression right now.
  1992. >”Reign leans in and starts whispering. “She gets like this all the time, She’s not going anywhere. How about we figure out what to play?”
  1993. >Yeah, it’s probably best just to cool it, Gray. Being a worrywart is never a good look.
  1994. >Not that you looked that good to begin with…
  1995. >Ugh, quiet brain!
  1996. >You trot over to the game closet while Reign takes a seat at the dining room table.
  1997. >What to do, what to do… Maybe…?
  1998. “How about Hint?”
  1999. >”What about it?”
  2000. “It’s… it’s like a detective game, you have to figure out who the killer is.”
  2001. >”I see… I think I know that one, I’ve played it with Greenie once, well, mostly we just messed around with the pieces… But it counts, right?”
  2002. “That's about what happened to me too, so I guess we’ll both do the game properly this time.”
  2003.  
  2004. >You set up the game, apparently a few pieces are missing. Which, now that you think of it, you probably have them sitting on your desk, but you're pretty sure you can still do the game without them.
  2005. >Hopefully.
  2006. >By the time you finish explaining the rules to Reign (and yourself), Albatross has finally noticed the two of you.
  2007. >”Whatcha doing?”
  2008. >”We’re playing ‘Hint’ It’s a detective game.”
  2009. “Yeah, wanna play?”
  2010. >Albatross is draped over the back of the couch, staring at the board. “Hmm… Sure!”
  2011. >Alba slides herself off the couch and comes over to the table.
  2012. >You fill her in on the rules, with Reign pitching in a bit every once in a while.
  2013. >It’s a team effort.
  2014. >You end up playing for a few minutes without much fanfare, occasionally attempting to piece together who the killer is.
  2015. >”I think…” Reign shuffles her cards around until she’s satisfied. “I think Madam Violet dunnit!”
  2016. >Alba whispers something in Rei’s ear, which get’s her to jolt.
  2017. >”Oops! I mean I…” Reign shuffles her cards more frantically. “I think Madam Violet committed the crime in the Foyer with the Wiffle Bat.”
  2018. >”(Wiffle Bat?)”
  2019. >You couldn’t find the nail bat piece, so you drew a little picture of a wiffle bat.
  2020. “Well, that’s a rather brave accusation, Miss Orange, but, I’ll have you know…”
  2021. >You set down the Living Room card.
  2022. “I was with Mister Green at the time, filling out a crossword puzzle.”
  2023. >You're uh, not sure how to play this correctly, but everyone else seems to be having fun.
  2024. >”Darnit! I uhm, Well… It was more of a *suggestion* than an accusation so I… Get to stay, right?”
  2025. >You wave a hoof in a posh manner.
  2026. ”Oh of course darling! The night is young, and the men, hotblooded.”
  2027. >You blink, unsure where you got that one.
  2028. >Maybe the crime movies on TV are getting to you…
  2029. >Albatross chuckles a bit, making you more aware of your odd response.
  2030. >”I see… Well, I suppose you don’t mind me making a suggestion, Miss Orange?”
  2031. >Albatross plants her cards smack dab on the board.
  2032. >”I accuse Miss Orange of the murder! She did it in the Lounge with the Frying Pan!”
  2033. >Reign gasps theatrically. “How *dare* you?! I am a model citizen and I-” Reign takes a glance at her cards and turns beet red. “O-oh… I guess I dunnit.”
  2034. >Alba leaps up from her chair. “Aha! No more wine and cigars for you Miss, it’s all gonna be hardtack and sadness from now on!”
  2035. >Reign hangs her head low and slides her piece towards Alba, who is making very quiet siren noises under her breath.
  2036. >You playfully bump your piece against the green one. “See? I told you she was a rotten orange.”
  2037.  
  2038. >You all end up playing a few more rounds, each one just as hectic. By the end of it, you all are evenly scored, even pieces without a player, since it’s more fun that way.
  2039. >Reign rolls the little metal rolling pin on the table a bit. “Quite the show, Was it not?”
  2040. >”Albatross nods, still on the high of a recent win. “Heh, I got you good, Gray!”
  2041. “Well, a lady such as myself always has secrets, it was bound to come out eventually…”
  2042. >Reign clears her throat and puts on a cheesy southern accent. “Ya messed up, miss, ain’t no comin’ back from that, I say I say!” Reign pauses momentarily before whispering something into Alba’s ear.
  2043. >”Eh, you kinda got it right… sorta.” Reign nods, seemingly pleased with herself.
  2044.  
  2045. >You take a moment to look out the window, it seems that the afternoon is picking up. Across the street you see someone walking their dog, which reminds you a bit of Vole.
  2046. “Hey, do you guys know any ponies who walk dogs?”
  2047. >Reign thinks for a moment before shaking her head. “I’m afraid not, I… I’m not a fan of dogs. Not that I dislike them or anything! I just… They’re loud.”
  2048. “It’s fine, Just curious, is all.”
  2049. >Alba pipes up. “I know a pink fella who’s kinda skinny.”
  2050. “Vole…?”
  2051. >Albatross nods excitedly. “Yeah! He walks the BIGGEST dogs. It’s really cool!”
  2052. “I met him the other day, He gave me a card for a dog walker group, or something to that degree.”
  2053. >”Thinking of joining?” Reign tilts her head, her eyes becoming much more visible.
  2054. “Maybe? Not sure yet, but I have to get better at talking to people before I can do something like that… So it’ll be a bit regardless.”
  2055. >Albatross puts her hoof around your neck and pulls you towards her a bit, you assume in some sort of hug?
  2056. >”You’ll get there eventually, Reign’s the same way.” She turns to Rei and gives her a grin. “Remember when we first met?”
  2057. >Reign sighs, her ears are pinker than before. “You tackled me to the ground… you know, that could have been *very* bad! I was still pretty wobbly at the time.”
  2058. >”But it worked out, right?”
  2059. >”I guess… I… Hold no grudge, besides, you’ve made it up several times over by now.”
  2060. >Reign folds her hooves up onto the table and stares at Albatross. “Speaking of making up… I think it’s about time we talk about Chopstick.”
  2061. >”I-It is?” Albatross shrinks down a little, her ears somewhat flattened.
  2062. >”Alba, it’s really not that big of a deal, you’ll feel better afterwards anyway!”
  2063. >You pat Albatross on the back, which gets her to sit up again, albeit somewhat flustered.
  2064. “Reign’s right, it’ll be fine! Besides, it sounded like you were getting pretty isolated for a while there, it’d be in your best interest to settle things so you can go back to having a clear conscience”.
  2065. >Alba nods slowly before patting the sides of her face with her hooves.
  2066. >”C’mon, c’mon, c’mon…” Albatross mumbled to herself a bit before unfolding her wings out rather suddenly. Luckily nothing got hit.
  2067. >”I’m gonna say sorry! A-and we’ll be friends again!”
  2068. >Did she still think he wasn’t going to be her friend?
  2069. >Reign tugs down one of Alba’s wings which gets her to fold them back up with a hushed ‘sorry’.
  2070. “So… why are your wings so big anyhow?”
  2071. >Albatross grins and ruffles her wings again. “Factory Error! I got the biggest wings by accident and nobody knew about it before it was too late!”
  2072. >Reign prods Alba’s left wing slightly. “She’s able to fly pretty well, even with mismatched parts. I suppose it was the best case scenario, yes?”
  2073. >Alba strikes an impromptu pose. “Fastest flier this side of the Werks!”
  2074. >”The *only* flier this side of the Werks.” Rei adds, which get’s Alba to redden.
  2075. >”Well… I guess there’s not a lot of pegasi around these parts, well, except for Vole, but he doesn’t really fly.”
  2076. “He can’t fly?”
  2077. >”Well, it’s more like he doesn’t want to, I think he said something about an…equilibrium? Whatever it is, it’s off and flying would be a bad idea until he can get that fixed, though he’s pretty content without it I guess.”
  2078. “He seemed kinda… small.”
  2079. >”Try not to mention it to him, he’d get pretty huffy.”
  2080. >Reign waves a hoof. “I suppose we’re all ready to finish the yard? Seeing that we’re getting off topic.”
  2081. >”We were on topic to begin with?” Reign glares at Albatross for a moment which gets Alba to snicker.
  2082. “I’m ready when you are! What do we even have left, anyway?”
  2083. >Reign taps her hoof on the table a moment before answering. “I’d say we just need to bag up those piles and then we’re home free.”
  2084. >Alba wiggles her wings once more and raises her hoof in the air. "Hold on a sec, I have an announcement!"
  2085. >Rei blinks. "An announcement?"
  2086. >"Well, I mean, it isn't exactly a secret or anything... But Gray doesn't know, so I thought I'd bring it up!"
  2087. >"What are you even... Oh! Carry on then, Alba."
  2088. >"Heh, gladly!"
  2089. >Albatross leans over to you with excitement in her eyes. “Foreman’s hosting a potluck on the north side of the warehouse! Apparently it’s a sorta community thing that happens every once in a while, wanna come? I hear the food is great, well, not that I could eat any of it, but I know Chopstick is helping out! He’s *really* good at being a chef!”
  2090. >”As long as he doesn’t do anything ‘fancy’ with his knives.”
  2091. >”Hush! It was *one* time!”
  2092. >”And it cost him his old job. I’m not saying that to his detriment, I just worry, that’s all.”
  2093. >”I know, I know…”
  2094. “I… don’t think I'd mind, but that sounds like a lot of people…”
  2095. >Reign shuffles a bit in her chair, seemingly uncomfortable too.
  2096. >”Both of you, huh? C’mon! It’s gonna be great! Especially because…” Albatross points to Reign. “You’re gonna host!”
  2097. >”H-huh?! I never agreed to that, I thought you were kidding!”
  2098. >Alba waves a hoof towards Reign. “It’d be good for you! Besides, I need a wing….”
  2099. >Alba ponders something for a moment then shakes her head. “I need a wingmare to back my apology up, and seeing that you’re gonna be hosting… You’d be a perfect fit!”
  2100. >Reign shakes her head quickly then covers her face. “I-I can’t! I said I couldn’t before… you heard me, R-right?!” Her voice is much more akin to when you first met her now.
  2101. “I can help! Well, I mean, we can work together! L-like peas in a pod!”
  2102. >Is that the right phrase?
  2103. >Reign uncovers her eyes and looks at you, she seems pretty flustered. “I suppose… It couldn’t hurt… B-but Alba… you’re not going to make me talk in front of all those people… right?”
  2104. >”It’s what Nova did last time! So expect things to go just as well!”
  2105. >Reign murmurs something about chamomile and sighs. “I… I can do this. I just wish you had told me sooner.”
  2106. >”I uh, might have forgot to because of my self induced funk…”
  2107. >Reign nods. “So I used that word correctly last time.”
  2108. >”Huh?”
  2109. >”Nothing to worry about, Alba. Anyway Gray, I hope you're okay with this, I don’t want to drag you down with me.”
  2110. “Hey, I said we’d stick together, and I intend to keep my promise. I’d also like to visit Greenie again, seeing that I’d be in the area.”
  2111. >Reign sits up more, her composure somewhat restored, albeit red-faced.
  2112. >”So I… get to write the speech myself?”
  2113. >Albatross shrugs. “I can ask Novella, he’d know better than me, seeing that he did it last time.”
  2114. “What’s the speech for, anyway?”
  2115. >”I guess to encourage the community, actually, Novella was able to get his little library propped up much faster after he addressed it in his speech, so maybe… Reign could have some influence, maybe make some sort of change?”
  2116. >”Huh, I can’t really think of anything off the top of my head… maybe some new flowerbeds?”
  2117. >”Rei, there are *a lot* of flowers already, maybe something more… substantial?”
  2118. >”(They’re not *my* flowers…)"
  2119. “How about Greenie? Maybe we can ask around if anyone has any leads for a battery?”
  2120. >Reign perks her ears up. “That's… a very good idea, a general sweep of the town like that would do wonders…” Reign nods to herself and smiles.
  2121. >Albatross grins. “Guess we figured it out?”
  2122. >”Seems so! Now, don’t forget about that apology, Alba. Despite it all… we’ll make sure things go smoothly.”
  2123. “Hopefully.”
  2124. >”Erm… Yeah, hopefully.”
  2125. >Albatross does another wing salute then looks outside through the window. “We probably should get moving, looks like it’ll rain soon, yeah?”
  2126. >You turn to the window and see how cloudy things have gotten. It still looks pretty decent out now, but by the time they leave, they might get caught in the rain.
  2127. “Are you guys… okay? Going home in the rain I mean.”
  2128. >”As long as nothing is exposed we should be fine."
  2129. >Albatross smirks and wriggles her wings again, which seems to be a thing she likes doing. “I can always fly us home, Rei.”
  2130. >Rei smiles warmly. “Absolutely. Not.”
  2131.  
  2132. >Albatross pesters Reign for a bit while you put away the game.
  2133. >Is this what it’s like to have friends? Other than Anon, you never really had fun with anyone else.
  2134. >You could get used to this.
  2135.  
  2136. >Once outside, you and Reign work on gathering the piles of leaves in bags while Albatross finishes raking.
  2137. >You mostly just held the bag while Reign siphons the leaves into it with her magic.
  2138. >Well, at least you're helping, right?
  2139. >”So, I read that comic you recommended.”
  2140. >Hehehe... Jackpot!
  2141. “You did?”
  2142. >Reign slows her leaf train to a crawl, until the leaves dance lightly into the bag.
  2143. >”I liked Ouroboros the most, he seemed rather knowledgeable.”
  2144. “Uh-huh, he knows lots of stuff! Like how the Collective was exploiting argent crystals to fuel their machinations, even Corporal didn’t even know that!”
  2145. >Reign nods. “Yes, but, how’d he know it to begin with? Maybe he saw it himself? Or had some sort of contact on the inside?”
  2146. “I’ve got some theories myself, I’d say it probably was an insider of some sort... maybe Cordial!”
  2147. >You sigh and glance over to Albatross, who is almost done with her raking.
  2148. “It’s a shame there wasn’t a continuation, I’d have loved to see what happened next.”
  2149. >”Oh, there wasn't? Huh, I guess all that set up was for naught.”
  2150. “Anon said something about a webcomic, but I don’t know what that is…”
  2151. >Why would a comic be made of webs, anyway?
  2152. >”Anon… Who is he anyway, if you mind me asking.”
  2153. “He’s my best friend! He… He’s got some important work stuff to do, so that’s why he’s gone right now. I… I’m over it now... I think?”
  2154. >You lower your head a bit, somewhat lost in thought, though Reign snaps you out of it with a pat on the shoulder.
  2155. >”I understand that it’d be hard. I’m glad you're doing better, just remember not to overwhelm yourself, okay?”
  2156. >You nods slowly, before taking a deep breath and smiling at Reign.
  2157. “Thanks Rei, but don’t you worry, I got this!”
  2158. >Do you?
  2159. >Well, you feel pretty good right now, all things considered. So maybe you *do* got this!
  2160. >You just gotta focus on the now, no more moping, Gray!
  2161. >Reign smiles a bit before resuming her previous speed of leaf stuffing.
  2162. >You’re glad Reign brought bags, you’re pretty sure there aren't any in the kitchen anymore… which means that’s another thing to add to the grocery list.
  2163. >”Hmm… It seems like it’s going to rain quicker than I thought.”
  2164. >You look up a bit to check the clouds, and a drop of water hits your nose, resulting in you sneezing a little.
  2165. >Reign giggles. “I guess we should get moving, yes?”
  2166. >Reign’s horn glows brighter as she increases her speed, which results in you having to frantically grab another bag before the old one overflows.
  2167. >It takes a few minutes, but you manage to finish everything up. A small hoard of bags stuffed with leaves now sit before you.
  2168. “Good job Rei! You did great.”
  2169. >Reign shakes her mane a bit, resulting in water droplets flying everywhere. Albatross raises a wing to keep herself from getting wet.
  2170. >”Don’t discredit yourself Gray, you make a fine assistant!”
  2171. “I’m sure my ability to hold a garbage bag was *very* useful.”
  2172. >Reign turns to Albatross and gives her a wave, which gets Alba to wave back as she walks closer to you two.
  2173. >You glance around, the rain is only a drizzle right now, but it’s starting to quicken.
  2174. ”I… Are you sure you’ll be fine going home?”
  2175. >Albatross narrows her eyes at the dark clouds above.
  2176. >”I mean… It’s not that bad.”
  2177. >Reign rubs her chin with a hoof for a moment than nods to herself, before whispering something into Albatross’s ear.
  2178. >”Huh? I mean, if you want?”
  2179. >”...”
  2180. >”Eh sure, why not, it’d be fun!”
  2181. >Both of them turn to you, Albatross’s grin is concerning.
  2182. >Reign pipes up. “So, I’ve discussed things with Alba… and I think, if you don’t mind, that is, we could have a sleepover!”
  2183. “A… sleepover?”
  2184. >”Reign thinks you could use some company, and I wouldn’t mind not going home in a storm.”
  2185. >You look down for a moment and smile to yourself. That… would actually be pretty nice.
  2186. >Are there extra blankets? You’d assume they’d want blankets.
  2187. >You’ll figure something out once you get inside.
  2188. >You look up and are startled by Albatross, who is standing way too close for comfort.
  2189. >”Oops! Sorry, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
  2190. “I-I’m okay! Just thinking, that’s all…”
  2191. >”Alba, I told you she was fine.”
  2192. >”Just checking!”
  2193. “Well... If your looking for an answer, I'd say yes! How about we head inside after we put everything away?”
  2194. >Reign gathers her things up and places her wheelbarrow in the greenhouse while Albatross flies the bags to the front yard.
  2195. >By the time you got inside the rain had intensified considerably, luckily everyone got in before they got soaked.
  2196.  
  2197. “That was a close one! You guys okay?”
  2198. >Albatross ruffles her wings slightly and nods. “I’m fine, it’ll dry in no time.”
  2199. >You look at Reign next, who’s mane is drooping more than usual. “I’m… also fine, but a towel would do wonders.”
  2200. >After getting Reign a towel, you try to figure out what in the world to do.
  2201. >Or rather, you ask Albatross.
  2202. “Alba, uhm… what’s the rules of a sleepover?”
  2203. >”Rules…?”
  2204. >You shift in place a bit as Albatross looks at you blankly.
  2205. >Alba trots up to you and then pats you on the head, which didn’t surprise you all that much given her previous behavior.
  2206. >”Just have fun! You know how to have fun, right?”
  2207. “I mean… we could… play another game?”
  2208. >”Is that what *you* want to do, or are you just saying that because you can’t think of anything else?”
  2209. “What else is there? I’m not exactly a great host.”
  2210. >”Neither am I…”
  2211. >”Hush, Rei! You’ll do fine, besides, you got a few days to prepare.”
  2212. >Reign mumbles to herself while she finishes drying off.
  2213. >”I know, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain!”
  2214. >”You’ll just worry yourself into a frenzy if you keep it up, just relax.”
  2215. >Albatross turns to you once more. “You too, Gray! We’re gonna just take it easy for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll hit things head on!”
  2216. >When’d she get so confident?
  2217. “Aren’t you worried about your apology?”
  2218. >”I’ll make sure to do it on the day of the potluck, so I have until then to regain my mojo!”
  2219. >Albatross stretches her wings and jogs a little in place, which gets Reign to roll her eyes.
  2220. >”Give her time, she’ll be back to her old self soon enough.” Reign stifles a laugh. “You’ll find her quite amusing.”
  2221. >Alba’s ear twitches slightly as she turns her nose up. “Humph! I’m more than amusing, I'm *entertaining*.”
  2222. >”See? She’s getting cockier by the moment.”
  2223. >You ponder what to do once more, as Albatross sticks her tongue out at Reign, who pulls it slightly with her magic, getting Alba to flail a bit. “Leh Guh!” Reign lets go of her grip with a smile.
  2224. >Maybe some comics? Rei liked that last one, so maybe you could get her acquainted with some of the other comics you like.
  2225. “I’ll go grab my comic box, I’ll be right back!”
  2226. >”No problem, I’ll keep this ‘ne'er-do-well’ at bay.”
  2227. >Alba says something equally as theatrical as you go up the stairs, though you don’t catch it, but whatever it is, it got Reign to chuckle a bit.
  2228. >You’re glad they’re acquainted with each other, it honestly seems like they're old friends!
  2229. >You grab a few extra blankets from your closet, most have patterns on them and from the smell of it, they’ve been in the closet for awhile.
  2230. >It’s kinda soothing, in a nostalgic sorta way.
  2231. >You scoot your comic stash out into the hall outside your room and pause for a moment to figure out how to get it down the stairs without them toppling over.
  2232. >Usually Anon would carry it whenever you two would go comic binging, so you’ve never had a problem before.
  2233. >It’d be a safe bet to ask Reign for help.
  2234. >You drape the various blankets over your back so you can carry them down the stairs.
  2235. >You feel like a lone drifter in the desert, all bundled up and mysterious.
  2236. >Hmm…
  2237. >You take one of the blankets and wrap it lightly around your head, until you are now cloaked.
  2238. >Heh, this is gonna be a great idea.
  2239.  
  2240. >You slowly make your way downstairs, to your surprise, you don’t hear them making much commotion like before.
  2241. >You peek from the bottom of the stairs towards their last known position, though neither of them are there.
  2242. >Where could they…?
  2243. >”Gotcha!”
  2244. >You feel your blanketed back get hugged on both sides but can’t see your assailant because of your covering.
  2245. >You wriggle around, luckily, the blankets make it easier to escape.
  2246. >You pop out of your blanket shell and tumble towards the couch, turning to see Albatross now triumphantly standing atop the pile of blankets that once protected you.
  2247. “Despite your best efforts, I escaped! Clearly you d- Bweh!”
  2248. >Your vision is obscured by a towel and you hear something come towards you.
  2249. >Oh dear.
  2250. >You get toppled over onto your back. After a moment you lift up the towel and look around.
  2251. >Reign is sitting with a smirk on her face in the kitchen, clearly hiding so she could throw that towel at you.
  2252. >Alba now has a hastily constructed ball of blankets balanced between her wings and is standing over you.
  2253. >”It’s over, Madam Violet!”
  2254. >Ah, you get it now.
  2255. “Heh, you think threats of violence will crack me, eh, Miss Teal? You’ll have to try harder than that!”
  2256. >”Oh really?”
  2257. >You notice Reign sneaking over until she’s behind Albatross, who doesn’t seem to notice her, as she is currently monologuing.
  2258. >”I’ll have you know I’m the ‘great detective’ Teal! And I know what you’ve done, so prepare for justice like you’ve nev- huh?”
  2259. >Alba’s blanket ball is snatched from her back by Reign’s magic, who is now dangling it over Albatross’s head.
  2260. >Alba looks up and then pouts towards Rei. “Traitor.”
  2261. >With a grin Reign lets go of the ball, letting it plop onto Alba’s head.
  2262. >The blankets burst and entomb Alba head to hoof in a fluffy prison.
  2263. >”I seem to be… incapacitated.”
  2264. >Reign snickers much more freely than you’d expect before turning to you with a more serious look. “Your life is now saved, dear Violet, go forth and tell of your mysterious savior, The Orange Night!”
  2265. >Albatross struggles to get out of the blankets while you sit up. “Uhm, a little help? Please?”
  2266. >Reign lifts the blankets up and lets Alba out of her predicament before letting them float gently to the floor.
  2267. “Huh, it didn't take you long to mutiny against me, I didn’t even bring the comics yet!”
  2268. >”Well, I’d say I was a double agent more than anything else, so, am I forgiven?”
  2269. >You can tell Reign is trying to do puppy dog eyes, but her mane is obscuring it quite a bit, which makes the display all the more amusing.
  2270. >”Hmm… I suppose so… IF! You help me bring the comics down to the living room.”
  2271. >Rei does a loose salute and smiles coyly. “Aye aye, Madam.”
  2272. >Albatross points to Reign as she walks past her and whispers ‘Traitooooor’, which gets another giggle from Rei.
  2273. >You watch Reign go up the stairs then turn to Albatross.
  2274. “But seriously, you guys really coordinated that pretty quickly, I wasn’t even gone for five minutes.”
  2275. >”I had a vague idea when we were playing that game. Didn’t take much to convince Rei, although *clearly* she had ulterior motives…”
  2276. “Her plan worked flawlessly, I'd say.”
  2277. >”You only think that because she saved you from getting a face full of blanket.”
  2278. >You shrug and glance over at the stairs. Reign is making her way down with the box levitating above her.
  2279. >She sets it down on the floor and you give her a bow, which she returns with a flourish.
  2280. >Albatross looks at you with a glint of excitement in her eye. “I suppose I get first pick, seeing that I was so *horrendously* assaulted?”
  2281. “Have at it, Alba. I’m gonna go make something to eat.”
  2282. >Albatross darts over to the comic box and hums a tune while she rummages through it.
  2283. >Reign sits down on the coach and stretches her forelegs out before turning to you. “Need help?”
  2284. ”Nah, though I feel kinda bad I can’t exactly offer anything to you guys.”
  2285. >”You opening your doors to us is enough, really.”
  2286. >You search Rei’s expression for some sort of answer to if she’s still being theatrical.
  2287. >Though you're interrupted by her pressing the tip of her hoof to your nose suddenly, resulting in you scrunching up a bit.
  2288. >”You left yourself open, Gray.”
  2289. >Huh, guess Anon isn’t the only one who knows that technique! You’ll remember this...
  2290. >With a dramatic gasp you point your nose into the air and strut into the kitchen without a word, which gets Rei to snicker.
  2291. >What to make this time, Gray?
  2292. >Hmm…
  2293. >You glance out the kitchen window, which is being rhythmically battered by rain. You’d say it’s probably a few hours from dusk. Though you’ll check the clock once you finish making something to eat.
  2294. >You think…
  2295. >That it’s about time to make those pancakes!
  2296. >You’re gonna show Anon that you can cook with the best of them!
  2297. >If he was here, he’d probably be cheering you on!
  2298. >You hype yourself up, and then grab the pancake mix box from a shelf.
  2299. >This is gonna be a piece of cake!
  2300. >Or better yet, a piece of *pan*cake!
  2301.  
  2302. >You strike up a tune as you glance over the instructions, mumbling misremembered lyrics about a town in Arizona.
  2303. >Or maybe it was Texas?
  2304. >After a slight hiccup regarding the whereabouts of the mixing bowl, you now have a generous amount of batter prepared.
  2305. >With skillet warming and spatula in hoof, you stifle a yawn.
  2306. >You wouldn’t mind a nap right about now, but now's not the time!
  2307. >With determination and careful flipping, you finish up without a hitch; And a few slices of banana and strawberry later, and you have a stack of pancakes happy to see you.
  2308. >It reminds you of something Anon would make on occasion, except the ones he made were less… amateur.
  2309. >Pancakes now finished and kitchen sufficiently cleaned, all that’s left is to enj-
  2310. >”Woohoo! Great job, Gray!”
  2311. >Your focus is broken by Albatross, who is sitting on the back of the couch giving you an enthusiastic smile.
  2312. “Oh! Uhm, t-thanks Alba… It wasn't that hard though, just water and mix…”
  2313. >”You did a lot more than that! It looks AWESOME!”
  2314. >Her adamant praise was a bit much, not to mention it’s making you blush, but you appreciate the enthusiasm.
  2315. “Mmhm…”
  2316. >Reign uses her magic to lightly bat Albatross on the head with a rolled up comic. “No need to yell.”
  2317. >”Hey, be careful with the comics! That’s a first edition Mulberry Maul you’re whacking me with!”
  2318. >Reign gives Alba a bewildered look. “What? You can’t even see the front!”
  2319. >Albatross rambles on about the trim and color of the comic while you go sit down to eat.
  2320. >”...And see that? The twisting bramble pattern with the golden thorn tips are *just* right! It has to be it!”
  2321. >You take a bite of a pancake as you watch Albatross fold her forehooves.
  2322. >”See for yourself! I’m not wrong.”
  2323. >Reign unfurls the comic and squints at the front before chuckling to herself. “Huh, I suppose you’re right.”
  2324. >”Hmph, Would I lie?”
  2325. >Alba and Rei keep talking but you end up zoning out, listlessly munching away.
  2326. >Maybe a little nap couldn’t hurt…
  2327. >Wait, no! Then the sleepover would be… well, over!
  2328. >It hasn’t even started yet! All you’ve done so far is goof around before making dinner.
  2329. >Press on, Gray! At least for a little longer.
  2330. >“Hey, Gray? Why isn’t this in a sleeve?”
  2331. >You rub your eyes with a hoof and turn to Albatross, who is holding up that comic she was fawning over.
  2332. “Sleeve…?”
  2333. >”You know, so it stays in good condition and doesn’t get MANHANDLED by a unicorn!”
  2334. >Rei rolls her eyes. “As if you weren't just flipping through it with reckless abandon.”
  2335. >Alba sighs dramatically. “I was tempted and I fell, what can I say?”
  2336. “I mean, as long as you aren’t rough with them, won’t they stay in decent enough condition?”
  2337. >Albatross shrugs. “I mean, yeah but… It’s got collector's value or whatever!”
  2338. >Rei prods the comic lightly. “Albatross, It has several marks on the back. I highly doubt it’s all that valuable.”
  2339. >Alba picks up the comic and stares at the back for a while. “Who’s Juan?”
  2340. “I dunno, maybe he’s the guy Anon got the comic from? He said he always just snagged them from local listings. I guess it’s kind of hard to tell what condition they’ll be in until you get them.”
  2341. >Especially when people have a tendency to exaggerate how good of condition they might be.
  2342. >You don’t mind, of course. You’re not that picky as long as the comic is legible.
  2343. >One of your favorites is an old copy of ‘Sham! The Running Gun’ that’s held together with duct tape and a dream, after all.
  2344. >Huh, that reminds you to give that a reread. You miss old Shamrock and his antics…
  2345. >Albatross chuckles a bit. “Yeah, I get that. Sorry for being a tad too excited.”
  2346. “It’s uh, fine? Nothing wrong with a little passion.”
  2347. >Heaven knows you relate.
  2348. >Rei rubs her chin while she looks over the box of comics. “It’s quite the collection you've procured…”
  2349. "Well, it's more like I inherited it... sorta. It's not all me, I mean."
  2350. >You stifle another yawn behind your hoof.
  2351. >Reign sets her gaze on you and tilts her head. “Are you feeling alright?”
  2352. >You sit up a little straighter, trying to seem less sleepy than you are.
  2353. “Yep! Just um… Trying to think of something to do.”
  2354. >Albatross pipes up before Reign can say anything else. “We can make a fort!”
  2355. >”Huh?”
  2356. “Huh?”
  2357. >Alba grins and points at the now neatly folded blankets.
  2358. >You guess Reign did that.
  2359. >”See all these? We can make a tent with a few chairs and the couch!”
  2360. >Albatross starts pulling chairs from the dining room table before you can react.
  2361. >You glance over to Reign, who smiles and gestures towards Alba.
  2362. >”I suppose we should go help her out?”
  2363. “Well it does sound fun… Sure! Gimme a sec, I need to put this away and then I’ll join you.”
  2364. >You take your plate into the kitchen and clean things up as Reign tries to figure out how to most efficiently make a blanket fort.
  2365. >”Alba, could you hold- Wait! No no, not that one, the *other* chair.”
  2366. >”They all look the same!”
  2367. >”The one I'm referring to has a blue cushion, not red.”
  2368. >”I don’t think we need to color coordinate, Rei.”
  2369. >”Would you rather this be a proper rainbow, or an unfortunate jumble?”
  2370. >”I dunno, maybe I *like* jumbles!”
  2371. >”Alba…”
  2372. >You think Reign might be a teensy bit of a perfectionist.
  2373. >By the time you make it back, a tent of sorts is erected using the back of the couch and a couple of chairs.
  2374. >Seeing that the blankets that make up the canopy are sorted by color, you guess Rei got her way.
  2375. >Albatross pops her head out from the fuzzy structure and gives a wave.
  2376. >”Ahoy Gray! Got any pillows?”
  2377. “A whole bunch! Want me to grab em?”
  2378. >Reign shimmies her way out of the fort, seeing that she’s too tall to stand up inside it.
  2379. >”I’d be happy to help, Gray.”
  2380. “That would certainly make it easier.”
  2381. >Rei turns to Albatross and floats a couple of blankets to her.
  2382. >”I’ll leave the inside to you.”
  2383. >”Qui qui capitan!”
  2384. >Alba ducks back into the fort with a salute and Reign chuckles.
  2385. >”Well then, just… give me a moment.”
  2386. >Rei gets up and stretches a little.
  2387. >After that, she motions to you with a hoof.
  2388. >”Alright alright, let’s hop to it!”

Testament

by Castafae

Letters for Gray Garden

by Castafae

Novel Pursuits with Radio Star

by Castafae

Fae Green Archive

by Castafae

Fae's Party Adventure

by Castafae