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A Wish Enough for Two (/nmp/)(WiP)

By TakeItEasy
Created: 15th November 2022 11:47:51 PM
1st December 2022 10:47:46 PM

  1. >"You're Anonymous, right? The new guy?"
  2. >Seems like taking the back alleys on your way home is no safer in Equestria than it was back on Earth.
  3. >If that wasn't already obvious by how much this city resembles the one you got harvested from.
  4. >You knew that one day your preferred shortcut through an alleyway next to the bakery will betray you but never expected it to be this soon.
  5. >Manehattan's dim street lights barely shine here and what light manages to get into this narrow passage between two buildings is now playing on the brims of the stranger's fedora.
  6. >The wideness of his long coat paints a well fed figure before you, and the wide bulky jeans that cover his modest black shoes that look like they were once a part of his school uniform, well...
  7. >Let's just say fashion isn't usually the strongest point of appeal of the kind of people Equestria smuggles here.
  8. >You are no exception, naturally. But so are the two extras this curious fellow has here along with him, keeping their distance at the far end of the darkened corridor that smells of danger and freshly baked bread. One of them looks a bit familiar, which makes it even weirder.
  9. >Maybe it's just the lighting of this place that makes this contrast of ominous ambience with corny attires feel so ridiculous.
  10. "Yeah," you answer, not really sure what to do. "What's going on?"
  11. >"Don't worry, we're just here to talk," the wide guy assures you. "Name's Josh."
  12. >You almost reply with your own name but have enough sense to stop before you open your mouth and embarrass yourself. That's definitely progress from your first days in Equestria.
  13. >"This here's Kyle," Josh nods to his left and you realize you do know this guy.
  14. >He's miss Rainbowberry's match, you see him in her jam shop from time to time. In fact, you were visiting that shop not just five minutes ago and the baked goods coupled with a jar of fresh berry jam you got there on your way home are still warm in your bag.
  15. >That place is like next door, which explains why the man is in his indoors clothes right now, nothing but a sweater and loose pants that still aren't long enough to reach his shoes.
  16. >Was he the one who prepared this ambush?
  17. >"And that's Sergey," the other goon is introduced, this time someone you haven't seen before.
  18. >From his looks you guess he's the polar opposite of Josh, being a twig in a weed patterned shirt and light shorts that are sure to be too cold right now.
  19. >So this lame names gang is here to do what exactly?..
  20. >As if reading your mind, Josh elaborates:
  21. >"I just want to ask a few questions. You do know about..."the show", right?"
  22. "Huh?"
  23. >This isn't something you were prepared to talk about in this world. Your opponent patiently awaits your answer.
  24. "Yeah, I mean, sure, but we're not supposed to..."
  25. >That's right, ponies can't be made aware of "the show", it's one of the most basic rules of the Initiative.
  26. >"Don't worry, there are no ponies here listening. In fact, we made sure nopony will overhear our conversation."
  27. >Somehow you don't feel so sure about this because the only proof of that is the two extras shuffling on their designated places a bit, as if to show they're ready to protect their leader if someone was to crash this gathering in the shadows.
  28. "Alright, w-what do you wanna know?"
  29. >"I just want to confirm that our memories are still intact," Josh points at his hat and the other two men nod in agreement.
  30. "Confirm?"
  31. >"You may have yet to notice it, but this world isn't exactly how we've imagined it. How we...remember it."
  32. >The finger he raises points up to the skies above and you feel a bit anxious.
  33. >Partially because there is one obvious discrepancy you yourself have noticed already. But this man speaks in a tone that doesn't suggest he's joking.
  34. >It might be that this anxious feeling is something you two share, and if he knows why...
  35.  
  36. "Ugh, where is he?!"
  37. >You stomp your hooves against the balcony's railing and it responds with a timid clank reminding you of its decorative, fragile nature.
  38. >Calm down, Moonluck. Anonymous is just half an hour late. He might've met some friends on his way back or one of the shopkeepers is borrowing his ear.
  39. >Surely, positively he didn't ditch you and he's definitely not running away from you. And clearly not with some other mare.
  40. >Fine, you'll admit that things are not going as great as you wanted them to but you were working on it, honest.
  41. >Trusting others doesn't come easily to either of you so you figured this is why the Initiative has matched you. Working both your insecurities out together! Y-yeah!
  42. >Lukewarm autumn evening wind strikes at your pale-mint unkempt mane, bearing a reminder of the season change with it, and your horn lights up with a quick silver spark to throw the stray strands aside so you don't miss Anon's return just because your stupid long bangs got in the way.
  43. >If he's coming back at all.
  44. >Your pleading gaze finds the Moon and you remember how mom used to say it's supposed to help you and keep you safe because of your name.
  45. >Never a believer in such superstitions, you now hope it's real. Five more minutes and you're gonna go out there and start searching.
  46. >Should've done that right away. Maybe if he's really running away it'd make all the difference.
  47. >You'd stop him at the train stop and make a loud scene where you speak your mind plainly and confess to him and he'd yell at you too but he'd stay here in the end because he loves you too and been hiding it just like you...
  48. >This seems preferable to this agonizing wait.
  49. >Which is about to end, to your immense relief - down there on the mostly empty street now walks a familiar man, comfy clothes and a bag of whatever you asked him to buy today giving you all the hints you need.
  50. >You almost jump in excitement, but not before giving the Moon its due and thanking it under your breath.
  51. >It sounds stupid now but its help was your best hope just a minute ago.
  52. >The Mare on the Moon, eternally engraved on the benevolent disk, accepts your gratitude - at least that's what you'd like to believe.
  53. "Yes, finally, finally," you stroll around your room with a mere minute left until your man knocks on the door.
  54. >You hear his steps and follow the sound as it ascends all the way to the third floor, right to your apartment.
  55. >Thankfully you've managed to calm yourself down a little bit so he won't see your completely chaotic panicking self stomping your hooves around the place in anticipation.
  56. >You'd make him worry if that's the first thing he sees coming back home. So you do your best casual impression, as if his delayed return is of no concern to you.
  57. >Your magic opens the door exactly ten seconds after he knocks. A respectable pause of a mare whose heart certainly isn't beating extraordinary fast.
  58. "Oh, Anon, it's you!" you exclaim with modest excitement in your voice.
  59. >With the elegance of a real town's pony you are situated on a sofa in the living room, barely concealed from his glance but you get up just for him. No panic here. Just casual things you do every evening after Anon returns from work. Just being ready to take his puffy light-blue coat when he takes it off.
  60. >"Hey, Moonluck."
  61. >You repeat his words in your head a few times trying to guess if he's tired or annoyed, or...
  62. >"Sorry I'm late, just had a little chat on the way back."
  63. "I see," you keep up the attitude. "A friendly chat I hope?"
  64. >"I guess, some guys stopped me on the street and we had a... Moonluck?"
  65. >Your heart caves in under pressure and all your worries suddenly get displayed on your face.
  66. >When somepony stops somepony on the streets it usually doesn't mean anything good.
  67. >Did he get into a fight? Was it because of you? Is he okay?
  68. >"It's fine," the man chuckles seeing your reaction. "It really was just a chat, nothing bad happened."
  69. >You're standing before him all shocked and you completely forgot about taking his bag and coat as you usually do, so when he walks past you to the kitchen you can only watch him go.
  70. >You should've hugged him, that was your chance!
  71. >"Were you worried about me?" you hear his voice, laced with just a tiny bit of sarcasm.
  72. "Y-yes? You were late, what's wrong with worrying about that?"
  73. >You're at least thankful that he doesn't see your face right now. Fighting back sudden stress tears only takes a moment but it's a moment you bet he'd tease you about forever if he were to bear witness to it.
  74. >Your relationship is so frustratingly complicated you sometimes wonder if it was a mistake for you to take the Crystal Empire's offer at all.
  75. >Humans are so hard to read.
  76. >It's no wonder the two weeks you've spent together thus far have been a rollercoaster of emotions for you.
  77. >If only the Initiative offered any sort of guidance beyond basic advice.
  78. >"Sorry, Moonluck. I swear it's nothing."
  79. >He shows his face and smiles at you; it makes you realize you're still standing at the front door for no reason.
  80. >There's his classic switch from treating you like some kind of pet to being gentle and knowing how to reassure you.
  81. >You don't get it at all!
  82. >Compared to your own emotions it's so confusing. But when you try to show him how you feel it always comes out wrong or doesn't come out at all and it's always his fault.
  83. >Sure, you're just making excuses for your own awkwardness but it doesn't make it any less true, he sometimes feels like he's just playing with you, with your heartstrings.
  84. >That's why you were worried that he might get tired of this game, but that isn't making it any easier for you to be direct with him.
  85. >You finally shake away the distracting thoughts and trot to the small kitchen of this one-pony apartment that never expected anypony but you living in it.
  86. "Dinner is ready, by the way!"
  87. >"Yeah, give me a minute."
  88. >Anonymous walks past you again, having to maneuver around you at the door, no doubt to get into his home clothes, but after he's done it's finally time to eat the half-cold meal.
  89. >Today it's pasta with small glazed carrots to go with it, half-an-hour late serving style.
  90. >While Anon was doing his human things you empty the bag he brought home. The pastries he got, all according to your list, will make for a great desert.
  91. >Still, the table is silent aside from your match noting how the food is great as always.
  92. >You're not that skillful when it comes to cooking but his compliments always warm your heart, you prefer to not doubt them.
  93. >Anonymous looks like he's fine but thin lines of doubt shade his face when he's not looking at you.
  94. >Instead of any physical damage maybe you should be worrying about his emotions?
  95. "Are you sure everything's good, Anon?"
  96. You sport your best calming smile, at least you think this is what you're doing, and the man nods, this time trying to match your calm demeanor.
  97. >"Absolutely. I was scared a bit too but it was just a bit surprising to have someone want to talk to me like that, I barely know anybody in this city. Though I can't imagine people who tend to harm others getting into Equestria in the first place."
  98. >He smiles at you the way he always does when he seeks your forgiveness.
  99. "I suppose that's true."
  100. >You're letting him go too easily but there's nothing else to be done if he's so adamant about hiding the subject of the conversation.
  101. >"Yeah, thank Celestia, otherwise it'd get ugly real soon in cities like this, right?"
  102. >Silence lingers in the air for a bit but this one you can't let slide.
  103. "Who's Celestia?"
  104. >Anon's smile is mareproof. You can't guess what is hidden behind it.
  105. >Sounds like a mare's name. Is this somepony you should be worrying about?
  106. >No, he wouldn't. Not like that in the open. Right?..
  107. >"It's just a saying, don't worry about it."
  108. >Even after dinner you can't shake the feeling that something was done to your Anon. He's thinking about something real hard even though he tries to pretend he's as airheaded as usual.
  109. >The rest of the evening goes by fast.
  110. >Preparing for tomorrow you notice your man staring at the Moon. At least this is something you have in common.
  111. >This incident might be a wake up call you can't afford to ignore. You can't spend all your time with him, sadly, as you have your own job at the local library and he is training to work at Manehattan's human embassy.
  112. >Technically he'd be a clerk there but they're understaffed, so he's doing basically everything that's needed to be done, stamping documents, sending and delivering mail, processing requests and naturally ends up coming home late. Which is how this whole incident happened.
  113. >You need to treasure the moments you have just for yourselves.
  114. >But here lies the problem. You can't just tell him what you really think.
  115. >Every time you try to open up nothing good comes out of it. You just end up looking silly because you hesitate too much and then the moment is lost or Anon turns it into a joke.
  116. >Such a joker he is. You wouldn't mind him hugging you more as a joke, just a little prank.
  117. >You even share a bed for pony's sake. Then why is it so hard to just lean in and...
  118. >Maybe you think it's too fast. Or that it isn't love at all. Who'd fall in love with somepony after just barely two weeks of knowing them?
  119. >That's just not possible. And if it's something else, it surely will hurt Anon once he learns the truth.
  120. >Doubts like these have been frequent visitors of your nightly abode on the same bed as your match.
  121. >You want to say so much to him. You need to do it now after the shock you've been through.
  122. "Anon..."
  123. >With dread in your heart you turn to him, holding the puffy pink-colored blanket with your magic so it doesn't get between you two in case some hugging will end up occurring.
  124. >"Wha?" you hear a faint voice of a sleepy man.
  125. >Of course you can't find any words right now. Ask him about his encounter again? That's annoying, he already told you everything he's willing to share.
  126. >You're being a needy marefriend, in a bad way.
  127. >"Moonluck?"
  128. >Anon turns to face you and for a moment you get lost in his eyes.
  129. >This is where you belong, in this...this...
  130. >"You're still worrying, aren't you?"
  131. "Yeah," you concede immediately.
  132. >His hand sneaks up on you beneath the blanket and you feel its warmth on your cheek. One blissful moment with your eyes closed is enough to make you feel better.
  133. >"I'll try to finish up my work faster today, alright? You know, actually, I'll come visit the library during lunch. How does that sound?"
  134. >Your poor heart flutters at the suggestion.
  135. "Yeah, that'd be... I mean, you don't have to if..."
  136. >Here comes the loss of words. What you want to say is that he might be feeling obligated to do this but it shouldn't be his worry.
  137. >"It's no problem, I was meaning to grab something to read on the job anyway."
  138. "Great!"
  139. >You almost sound too loud and seeing your muzzle scrunch up in embarrassment Anon gives you a soothing smile.
  140. >"Don't you worry about a thing, okay? Good night."
  141. "Good night, Anon."
  142. >You don't want to turn away and seeing how your mate remains close to you, albeit with his hand off your cheek now, you decide to stay like that as well.
  143. >Sleep takes you soon, but not before you sneak a few quick peeks at Anon's sleeping expression, calm and not worried at all.
  144.  
  145. >Morning brings nothing but dim colors and the cold of the autumn drizzle.
  146. >Nothing like a little bit of walking on the wet sidewalk to the library where you'll spend this day safe from the elements outside.
  147. >Anonymous shares your morning melancholy as he gets ready for his job as well. He promised to visit today so that's gonna be the highlight of your usual mild monotony.
  148. >Even though your destinations are far apart, you can afford to walk together for some time, something you've come to enjoy greatly.
  149. >First few days he spent here after being finally relocated from the Crystal Empire were sunny and welcoming. The big city was friendly to him and envious of you, a mare who by all rights shouldn't have expected anything special like this to happen to her.
  150. >And yet it happened. Despite you supporting the aforementioned statement.
  151. >The only thing about you that stands out is your name, Moonluck Wish. In contrast, your cutiemark is a boring circle with a line crossing it from top to bottom.
  152. >You'd like to think that you got it because you're good at math. Truth be told, the only thing you've done in school is daydream.
  153. >Secretly you think this zero symbolizes what you amount to, and the line crossing it out - that even that is too generous to have to your name.
  154. >At least that was before you got into this human mate program and moved to Manehattan.
  155. >Things have changed so much since then. Expecting to comfortably sit on your butt all your life taking things slow and then suddenly having another living being to take care of, that was a lot.
  156. >You never even had a pet because you were afraid of responsibility. How were you supposed to support a human?
  157. >One room with only basic necessities for one pony soon became a nest for two filled with all kind of things, but not as much as your heart filled up with worries.
  158. >You've never known affection before, not beyond silly school crushes. Little by little all your daydreams became centered around Anonymous.
  159. >Imagining so many situations with you and him, from casual, to adventurous, to raunchy and outright indecent, it's no wonder you feel like you've fallen for the man already. He's all you ever think about as soon as you are left to your own devices.
  160. >But right now the thoughts are scattered and barely of any substance.
  161. >It's the weather, definitely. Your coat, usually glossy and shining with very light creamy cyan tones on the sun, now looks simply gray. Such an inconsistent presentation of your color is an allegory for your whole life.
  162. >"Well, here we are," Anon brings you back to reality and you notice you're already at the crossing you usually part ways.
  163. "I'll see you at lunch then?" you remind him of his promise.
  164. >"Yep, have a nice day."
  165. >He takes a fast pace immediately so you are left with yelling at his back:
  166. "You too!"
  167. >He's in a hurry today. Maybe he wants to start early to finish earlier. You expect him to remember last night's conversation.
  168. >Last night... Things didn't go as well as you wanted. Another opportunity missed.
  169. >Your own workplace is silent. Checking in, you find no customers waiting for you. Your head is swarming with doubts anyway, so this is your opportunity to go over the ways you could've done things right.
  170. >So many ways and you have followed none of them. You can be such a brave mare in your own fantasies, but instead you always choose the path of least resistance, which is usually the one of silence.
  171. >Today is awfully dark, the weather isn't clearing at all. The busywork you always do responsibly keeps you on your hooves at the very least, you feel like you could just fall asleep if you were to sit down.
  172. >But the work you're doing doesn't require too much brain power either, it's hard to focus on it. Somehow you feel like it's getting darker by the minute, despite the outside being just dim with autumn apathy.
  173. >To make things worse, it feels like your thoughts are out of control. You can't grasp any of them, they slip right through your hooves.
  174. >You are so out of it even your regular bookshelf arrangements can't keep you focused. It's like each corner is so dark you can almost feel shadows moving there.
  175. >Shadows, yeah, that's gonna make a great story for Anon. He has his secret and you have this, perfect. He'll be so impressed with you making this stuff up.
  176. >That realization somehow leads to an unexpected result - one that makes you stop on your path to the next shelf.
  177. >A clear thought, so clear you're not even sure it's your own, passes through your head.
  178. >'He doesn't need to be impressed, having her at his side already feels like some kind of magic.'
  179. "Whoa..."
  180. >You're so astonished by your revelation you almost fall over your own hooves with books still in your magic hold.
  181. >So this is how it feels, to actually think and not be bound by your foggy dreams all the time.
  182. >How did you even come to that conclusion on your own?
  183. >The thought was so clear that it even banished the darkness around you together with those imaginary shadows.
  184. >You are such a silly pony. A stupid and a silly pony.
  185. >But...how can you be so sure in that statement? As if you actually know anything about him beyond some surface level stuff.
  186. >Never bothered getting too personal. Some mate you are.
  187. >'But she knows him well enough to realize he's bothered by something, hiding something.'
  188. >You turn around quickly at the feeling of another thought crossing your mind like that. Two in a row? By golly, Moonluck, you are giving your brain a workout this morning.
  189. >But now you notice that something is definitely strange about these thoughts being so...clear.
  190. >The shadows you thought imagined are still in the corner, dissipating quickly as your eyes find them.
  191. >They didn't look like a pony was producing them. You even decided to check, but found not a single hint of intruders.
  192. "What in the world is going on here?"
  193. >Your questions remain unanswered but you swear you'll be more aware of your surroundings from now on.
  194. >But nothing of this sort happens again. You just do your job and sit down until it’s lunch time. Some ponies return some books, school lunch break brings a few foals here, just the usual.
  195. >Anonymous comes in right on time with his own food - that you've packed this morning, but still. Your own employee corner of the library serves as the perfect place for your modest feast.
  196. >You've put fresh jam to good use so today you're both having some strawberry-peanut butter sandwiches, tea provided by your local reserves.
  197. >There's not much to talk about so you just exchange some basic work-related remarks.
  198. >Things only get wild when you feel the uneasy presence of what you can only assume is what you felt earlier in the morning.
  199. >You see nothing peculiar but you feel like you're being watched.
  200. >"You mind if I stay for a bit? Just wanna check a few books."
  201. "Sure," you try to sound as unbothered as possible.
  202. >The nagging feeling isn't going away. You need to drown it out so you decide to keep the conversation going.
  203. "Is it related to yesterday?"
  204. >"No, why?"
  205. >Anon doesn't sound too sure but you're not certain you're focused enough to pick up on his behavior.
  206. "Nothing, just wondering why you're suddenly interested in reading something from here, I mean we've got books at home too."
  207. >Keep yourself going, you can't let it get into your head, not now that you're with Anon.
  208. >"No reason, it's just things are quiet in the embassy and it's better than sleeping on the job."
  209. "It sure is," you chuckle nervously. "Just remember to check the books with me when you take them."
  210. >"Huh?"
  211. >He sounds like he wasn't counting on that at all.
  212. "It's a library, silly, that's how things work."
  213. >"Sure, sure."
  214. >As soon as you two fall silent you hear it. It doesn't even come from anywhere anymore, it's as if someone is whispering in your ear, but from the inside.
  215. >'He looks confused and she should offer to pick him up after work.'
  216. "Hey, if you finish work early today, wanna come pick me up?"
  217. >Wait, that was supposed to be the other way around!
  218. >Anon chuckles and looks you in the eyes.
  219. >"Sure, I'll drop by."
  220. >That still worked?!
  221. >You have zero idea what just happened. It all transpired so fast, you just said whatever came to your mind.
  222. >But it made him smile and now you're smiling too.
  223. >Unbelievable.
  224. >Is this what being a real couple feels like? Why, if you keep this up you've got this whole man-mare thing in the bag.
  225.  
  226. >While Anon is picking his books you try to rationalize whatever has managed to push you to being so forward with him.
  227. >Are you finally going mad? Getting a split personality from all the daydreaming?
  228. >It's not rare for you to imagine full conversations in your head, what if you have made that into some sort of separate entity that has a will of its own now?!
  229. >The possibilities terrify you. It's not enough that you're too shy with your man, the man you want to love, now you're turning into some dangerous psychopath!
  230. >You don't even notice the books Anon keeps with him, you just go through the motions of your job.
  231. >Even his smile and farewell don't bring forth your consciousness. What does is what you see outside when you decide to watch him go, for no reason in particular, just curiosity. Just a little bit of it.
  232. >Anon stops on his way before making a turn that'd conceal him fully. You can barely see it so you move closer to the front window, squeezing your cheek against it to see better.
  233. >Next to him there's another human. They are standing fairly close and you notice the stranger's formal attire, some kind of fancy hat, a long coat and tube-like pants.
  234. >He looks fairly intimidating, certainly reminds you of pony special agents you've seen in comic books here at the library. If the rain was still going this attire would've been in a sorry state.
  235. >He's also more, how do they call it, big boned than your human.
  236. >What surprises you more is that Anon looks around him, not noticing you, obviously, and shows the stranger the books he brought from here.
  237. >The man nods and starts explaining something to Anon, to which he agrees with nodding of his own.
  238. >Finally, after a very short conversation, they part ways and you manage to jump away from the window just fast enough for the mysterious man to miss you - and he was looking straight where you were a moment ago, probably suspecting something.
  239. >After he is gone, assured he wasn't being watched, you finally let out a sigh of relief.
  240. >Only then you notice that the receptionist, Sturdy Quill, was watching the whole charade silently.
  241. >She doesn't even give you a scolding glance of hers, the usual treatment you receive for being half asleep on your job.
  242. >Maybe she just assumes humans make ponies irrational.
  243. >Maybe she's right. At the very least you feel like missing exactly what books Anon took was pretty irrational on your part.
  244. >Lucky for you, the records exist for this very reason.
  245. "What are you up to," you mumble quietly as you reach for the newest one.
  246. >Three books. "Modern History: Canterlot, Manehattan, Crystal Empire"; "Magic and Sorcery in Personalities" (newest revision); "Equestrian Royalty from Horns to Wings: Tome III".
  247. >You feel like these are all connected but besides being basic things about history you can't figure out why Anon would be interested in these ones specifically.
  248. >Curious beyond self-control, you wander between shelves, trying to retrace Anon's steps and see if he looked up anything else here, something he didn't take with him.
  249. >No such luck for you. Maybe next time.
  250. >You are almost certain this isn't going to end with just this one visit.
  251. >Well, as far as his visits are concerned, you do hope that Anon will keep his word and come for you.
  252. >And at the end of your uneventful shift he does, smiling at you as always.
  253. "You are right on time," you commend him. "I was just about to wrap things up here."
  254. >He is prepared to be patient but you don't take long at all. No scary shadows to distract you and you've been fairly awake this whole time, so keeping things in check was no problem through your work day.
  255. >Leaving things until the last moment was usually your style but today was just too different.
  256. >Anonymous looks like he's in a fairly good mood. And now that you're with him there will be no incidents that will make him frown like yesterday.
  257. >Unless, of course, you're both ambushed...
  258. >No, no need to think about this right now. The thought before that was much more pleasant.
  259. >You are not surprised that Anon's incident bothers you so much. It is direct proof that your feelings for him are real. At least you assume that this is what it means.
  260. >You'll take any confirmation you can get, to be frank.
  261. >"What?"
  262. >You notice that you've been walking a bit behind Anon and watching him this whole time. Now that he has taken notice, he stopped to wait for you.
  263. "Oh, it's nothing, I'm just...thinking."
  264. >"Something on your mind?"
  265. >Maybe being forward with him will work again?
  266. "I'm glad that you won't be late home today, that's all."
  267. >Your human smirks, hiding his smile in his light scarf. No comment follows but you think he appreciates the notion.
  268. >After some silent walking he finally speaks up:
  269. >"You're still thinking about yesterday, aren't you?"
  270. "A bit. You did give me a scare."
  271. >You are surprised to find that your heart is suddenly accelerating, eagerly awaiting Anon's reply.
  272. >"No need, really," he keeps insisting, but then adds. "But...thanks for, you know. Caring."
  273. >You almost blush at that and realize that, in a way, being more direct is working for you so far.
  274. >What's going on, are you finally solving this love issue? Certainly it wasn't without a little help of some hallucinations but you are satisfied with a bit of progress.
  275. >You take a step towards him and he takes one towards you too. Is that the secret?
  276. >Then you'll take another one right now.
  277. "Well, I am your match, it's only natural that I care," you boast playfully.
  278. >Your human nods and you hear a muffled shy "thanks" coming from the safety of his scarf.
  279. >That's right, even though both of you still can't figure anything out, you are together. He was dropped on you so suddenly you couldn't have possibly handled it well.
  280. >It's like your whole life was crossed out in a moment, like that zero on your flank, and now you're living someone else's.
  281. >You can barely even remember what you life was before you met him. It'd surely be weird to you if this wasn't something you're used to; you always had a good excuse for your faulty memory in the form of your constant daydreaming.
  282. >Vaguely you recall contacting your sisters, Moonchild and Ardent Gem, for advice. Naturally the former, being your partner in clumsiness, had no match of her own yet, while the latter met up with you in person and had given you more advice than you could remember.
  283. >Only she and her human were all...normal. She had a home for him back in Canterlot, real home, not just a flimsy apartment. He became her apprentice right away so they've spent all the time together during work and as she said they had plans to confess to one another on the same day, only she managed to do it earlier.
  284. >Three weeks from when they met. They're now married and your sister is expecting. And here you are on the second week of being tortured by doubts starting from not even believing you deserve this at all.
  285. >Gem told you there was no doubt in her mind, as soon as she felt something towards her human, she knew it had to be love. And what about you?
  286. >How can you become certain?
  287. >You gaze at him, now walking right by your side and all deep in thought just like you. Just imagining confessing to him makes you dizzy.
  288. >No, you'll ruin everything that way. You're being given an opportunity to love but you can't tell what love even is.
  289. >Would being honest help here?
  290. >Just saying "Anon, you know, I kinda love you."
  291. >No, that's... That's not a lie but it's not the truth either. "I love you but I'm not sure it's-"
  292. >That's even worse!
  293. >Your muzzle crumples up as if squeezed by your own thoughts and you hope Anon isn't seeing this. He'll assume worrisome things again.
  294.  
  295. >Things are quiet when you get back home. Making small talk is nice and you and your human manage to avoid any bothersome topics.
  296. >You even have an absolutely normal dinner together, both smiling a lot, talking about Manehattan's life and your jobs like a completely normal couple - at least you assume that's what normal couples do.
  297. >Both of you enjoy city life. While you like to just get lost in the background noise of busy ponies, carriages, shops and businesses, Anon is more of an event enjoyer. There's always something happening in this city.
  298. >Celebrities, concerts, theater, cinema, art exhibitions, fashion shows. Anything you'd ever need to have a special evening.
  299. >Being a Canterlot pony you're not exactly poor, but definitely not rich enough to sustain a lifestyle of following popular entertainment. Nevertheless, you've taken Anon to a gallery and a play already. Once a week seems fair to both of you.
  300. >So this is one of the things you can bond over. City happenings, news, gossip, things you've picked up on at work. That is normal.
  301. >Just like now Anon is telling you about his day and such a mundane topic makes you feel safe.
  302. >"And there's a new arrival checking in with his match soon," he informs you. "Not far away from the embassy, actually. Gonna check in on them later."
  303. "Check in on them?"
  304. >"Yeah, might as well. It's right next to Rarity For You."
  305. "The what for you?"
  306. >Anon takes a moment to look you in the eyes and then he smiles.
  307. >"The place Mr. Stripes owns?" he sees you shrug and continues. "Anyway, there are still some documents they need to sign so I thought it's better to just do it myself than to bother our new courier."
  308. "That's nice of you."
  309. >His smile looks almost apologetic, just like yesterday when he was telling you things are fine. But you can't even tell what's the matter right now and he doesn't give you time to imagine anything.
  310. >"That's what I should be doing anyway as someone who helps people settle in, right? Just wanna...confirm things."
  311. "Confirm?"
  312. >"See it for myself," he adds in a more serious tone.
  313. >What exactly does he want to see for himself and what exactly needs confirmation remains a secret to you.
  314. >You also don't remember Mr. Stripes lending anypony his property. Maybe Anon is misremembering something, last you heard about that pony his daughter was moving to Canterlot to manage some fashion boutique with that lanky unicorn.
  315. >In fact, you're surprised Anon even knows such an unremarkable stallion - or assumes that you know him too.
  316. >You admit that it is a bit weird.
  317. >And just like that your illusion of normality fades away. Gone with your hopes of closing the day the right way, the ordinary way.
  318. >Your evening comes to an end and Anonymous is the first to take a shower while you are left alone with your thoughts.
  319. >If there ever was a good opportunity to tell him something about your feelings, it was ruined by him acting all cryptic again.
  320. >See, it's all his fault again. Being more straightforward was on your mind the whole day and he's just...he's just the opposite.
  321. >Fine, then you won't try being honest either! Maybe you'll try being mysterious for no reason too and see how he likes that.
  322. >Oh Moonluck, what's for breakfast? - I wish I knew Anon... No, don't worry, everything this fine, I just...don't know...
  323. >Stupid human, that'll show him. He wouldn't be able to handle you being weird even for one day, he'd crumble and beg you to tell him what's bothering you.
  324. >You jump face-first on the bed, frustrated with yourself and Anon, and for a moment nothing in the world exists other than cold sheets and the sound of running water.
  325. >The vacuum in your head is very unnatural. And so it begins to fill soon.
  326. >Only the thoughts are not your own.
  327. >'How can she tell she's in love?'
  328. "Huh?" you look around the room swiftly. "You again?!"
  329. >Nobody is here. Not even the shadows.
  330. >'Maybe it's just a passing thought. Or force of habit, or childish infatuation. Maybe she wants to believe she's in love just to stop doubting.'
  331. >'Maybe he's nice to her and that's all it takes, can she really trust these kind of feelings to last?'
  332. >You are feeling dizzy, like someone is spinning the bed. Hooves find the floor but your legs are suddenly wobbly and weak.
  333. >Anon isn't here to help. You need to do something.
  334. >Even your own shadow is scaring you now.
  335. >'But whatever it is, she doesn't realize that it's exactly what he's thinking about too. Is she forced to love him, he thinks, is he being a burden? Is he preventing her from finding her own feelings, forcing her to accept him?'
  336. >You can't tell if you're touching something that shouldn't be made known to you. All you know is that it frightens you.
  337. >Every corner of your room is brightly lit, even the one with the assortment of human clothing. Nothing out of the ordinary on the wall where a single photo of you with your sisters is framed, contrasting mundane seashell-patterned wallpaper with its muted colors.
  338. >Lamp near the bed, night stand, old sofa, potted plants that haven't been dusty ever since you got matched, bookshelf holding more housekeep items than books - nothing.
  339. >Nothing under the bed, even though it was scary to check it. That leaves...
  340. >Wind nearly blinds you when you open the balcony. Curtains are getting sucked out of the room and your mane will need some serious styling after this.
  341. >The city lights are too dim even for this weather and everything is murky and cold.
  342. >To your horror, you notice that Manehattan is covered in fog. No, more like a shadow.
  343. >Once again, a gaze to the Moon is the only thing that can help you. The full disk is behind the clouds but as soon as your eyes find it, the silver light shines down, coloring your coat and playing in your mane.
  344. >And it reveals the culprit immediately. Tendrils of shadows that yet linger, right under your balcony.
  345. >You barely notice them but they are there, sinister slimy vines trying to sneak up on you from the sides, forming a cradle for your mind that you are about to lose, faced with such a terrifying sight straight out of a spooky story.
  346. >The voice fills your head as the shadows grow, whispers scratching on the brain from inside your skull.
  347. >'She wasn't ready for him, he doesn't feel it's fair to expect to be loved, and yet he is feeling it too, how close they are getting and it is driving him mad every day.'
  348. >'The longer they wait, the longer-'
  349. "EEEK!"
  350. >Finally you snap out of it and your body, as if on its own, jumps back as far as your cotton legs allow it to.
  351. >With a loud bang your magic smashes the balcony door shut.
  352. >Your breath is out of control and your head is filling up with your own thoughts, swiftly weaving a web of complete confusion.
  353. >How do they know? Why are they telling you? What do they want from you? What are you supposed to do?
  354. >By the grace of everything sacred in this world you are saved from your thumping heart's threats to deafen you by a familiar voice.
  355. >"Moonluck?"
  356. >Anonymous nearly runs into the room, still half-naked in his preparations to take a shower.
  357. >No time is wasted as he puts two and two together and nearly rips out the balcony door, ready for the fight of his life.
  358. >But nothing is there. The Moon is silent, consumed once again by the sea of clouds hiding its full form adorned with a sacred engraving from careless eyes daring to call for its aid.
  359. >The human checks corners just in case but still finds nothing unusual. The most worrying thing now is located inside the room and he tends to that next.
  360. >"Moonluck, are you okay? Are you hurt?"
  361. >You are awake yet again, brought back to this realm by the voice of your mate. You shake your head but that makes it hurt and tears start forming in your eyes without you noticing.
  362. >All of a sudden you are picked up. You are against Anon's naked chest, held tightly but gently.
  363. >"You poor thing, did something scare you? What happened?"
  364. >There's no answer you can form to explain this with your trembling lip. You just shake your head again, this time with him on its way so your muzzle touches him as you do so.
  365. >"It's okay now," he gets the hint.
  366. "Sorry," you finally push out of yourself.
  367. >The sound of your voice scares you a bit but Anon is having none of that.
  368. >Fingers run through your mane down from your horn, passing right next to your ear, sorting the chaos of your wind-swept disaster most hair stylists would have nightmares about if exposed to.
  369. >It must be the magic of the human touch. The panic subsides as he keeps assuring you things are fine now.
  370. >Most of all you think it's because his voice leaves no space for anything else inside your head.
  371. >Now you wonder why you even got so jumpy in the first place. It wasn't anything that scary, you just made Anon worry for nothing.
  372. >You close your eyes and discover, to your relief, that your tears have dried up before even leaving your eyes.
  373. >Even after you calm down Anon understands that you'd prefer to not stay alone at the moment, so taking shower is postponed until the morning.
  374. >You don't even feel disappointed enough when Anon finally gets his warm pajama's top over his bare torso that was so comforting to you.
  375. >Honestly, you just want to forget about this.
  376. >You are very aware that you'll have time to think about all of this tomorrow. Just not now.
  377. >Anonymous even suggests leaving a candle burning for the night but you refuse and confirm that everything is fine now.
  378. >You're even too lazy to ask yourself why he assumes that you are scared of the dark. He couldn't have seen those shadows, could he? He dropped asking you about what happened almost immediately.
  379. >Yes, you are not touching this right now. You are touching Anon's arm that goes right over your shoulder as the man joins you in bed, protecting your back that is turned to him as usual, with his chest pressed against it.
  380. >It's not unexpected, but...
  381. "You don't have to," you assure him.
  382. >"I know," he admits in return. "Just wanna be safe, alright?"
  383. >One has to wonder if it's for your safety or his. It feels like he's taking this more seriously than even you.
  384. >With how close he's keeping you if almost feels like he needs it more than you. To make sure he won't wake up alone in the morning.
  385. >And you get the hug you wanted, so you of all ponies can't complain.
  386. >You are too tired to think about the way Anon has shown you a side of him you weren't aware of, but not too tired to be aware of the pleasant sensation of warmth around you.
  387. >Maybe you can still count this as a win for yourself.
  388.  
  389. >"You were right, Josh," the voice of your human sounds strange to you right now.
  390. >"You confirmed it, Anon?" the other human sounds excited.
  391. >"With the pony himself. He has never heard of Rarity."
  392. >Silence befalls the two men standing next to each other, back to back as if they are trying to hide that they're talking right now.
  393. >Even though it makes it even more obvious this way.
  394. >There's no reason to pretend they're ignoring one another when there's nopony else they could be talking to right now.
  395. >Of course, being so into their detective game they don't even notice your muzzle sticking out of the nearest corner. Indeed, it is you, Moonluck, who's doing the real detective work right now.
  396. >And this is exactly what you were expecting to find. It was so clear to you once you've visited the embassy after your shift was over, only to find out that Anon has already left it.
  397. >You were prepared for something like this. After all, he told you all about his plans yesterday.
  398. >Trailing him was no problem even if you were distracted by the discomfort the day's thoughts brought to you. But that was then. Now you're really cracking this case. Finding out the root of Anon's problem.
  399. >To your dismay, you don't understand a single thing they're talking about.
  400. >"Plaid Stripes is still around her canon age," Anonymous reports. "But it's like the episode never happened."
  401. >"I suspected as much. It's like they never existed."
  402. >"That's not the strangest part."
  403. >The intrigue you have no chance of comprehending is making you freeze in place, hooves barely keeping you on their tips just so you can hear better.
  404. >"Plaid Stripes moved to Canterlot to be an apprentice of Sassy Saddles."
  405. >The other human hesitates for a moment and you can practically feel how tense he is.
  406. >"Let me guess, who is the manager of-" he finally speaks up.
  407. >"Not manager, owner and chief designer of Canterlot Boutique."
  408. >Once again, Anon's information leaves silence after its reveal.
  409. >"Huh..."
  410. >"It's as if everything got scrambled and then re-written," Anon concludes.
  411. >"To make the world work without them at all? But why?"
  412. >"That's what I wanted to ask you."
  413. >In response, the other human simply grunts with dissatisfaction. It's clear they are both unhappy with whatever Anonymous has brought up.
  414. >"I should’ve rewatched the whole thing before coming… Keep digging for info on them. We need to know who else is missing, anyone you can remember, got it?"
  415. >"Sure thing. I'll think of something. Maybe borrow a few more books," Anon assures his partner in crime.
  416. >"Good, then let's meet up the day after tomorrow, same place, same time. Sergey will probably be done with the new timeline by then, take this for now. Kyle will continue watching the mare."
  417. >You nearly lost all concentration because you realize that "the mare" is probably you.
  418. >Ms. Rainbowberry's human? You remember seeing him in the store more frequently as of recent. Is he really "watching" you, and with your human's approval no less?!
  419. >Shocked by this realization you nearly tip over on your hooves, ready to smack your face against the unwelcoming autumn pavement.
  420. >Quick to pull your own tail with magic to regain balance, you make sure you're not seen by the humans who are now done talking.
  421. >It's all you wanted to know anyway, so you make your retreat down the street which corner you've been hugging this whole time.
  422. >You've gathered enough info to fill your head for the day. Even got the mysterious stranger's name.
  423. >You don't suppose you'll ever need it though - you plan to keep this little eavesdropping session a secret from Anon. Even though you sure wish to know what that sudden mention of you meant.
  424. >There's a lot of questions to ask but something tells you that your human won't give you a lot of answers and it will only make him more suspicious.
  425. >Now that you've gained some distance you can finally attempt to pick up Anon after work. It'll only require taking a long way around the block.
  426. >Your clever calculations of "waiting for just a minute" made it easy to find your man once again, walking down the same street as before. Only now that you approach him from behind you can't help but keep your distance.
  427. >Something feels wrong about just walking up to him and saying "Hi, how's your day been?" now that you've heard him supporting some sort of conspiracy he wants to hide from you.
  428. >So you tail him again, unwillingly, until the man stops in his tracks as if pinched by somepony.
  429. >His head turns back and your eyes find his.
  430. >Anon smiles. Behind that smile, at the nearest alley, you spot an already familiar shadowy silhouette disappearing quickly, as if to leave the premises in haste.
  431. >And so Anon's smile is met with your frown, against your better judgement.
  432. >"Hi, Moonluck!" your human greets you.
  433. "Anon?"
  434. >You sound like you never expected to meet him here even though he's been the target of your pursuit this whole time.
  435. >"Aw man, don't tell me you were coming to get me, I thought for sure I was safe to leave now that the work day is over..."
  436. >The guilt in his voice doesn't sound fake, which is concerning to you, because it'd make things really easy for you if you could easily tell if your human is lying.
  437. "Don't worry, it's my fault, I was late and I thought I'd catch you on my way home instead."
  438. >You try to match his genuine tone but you don't feel like Anon believes you. Maybe it's you who's the worse liar here.
  439. >"I don't usually take this road back home," Anon confesses, still playing the airhead. "Lucky that you've managed to find me all the way here."
  440. "Sure is!"
  441. >This subject has to be dropped right now lest Anon realizes some things don't add up. Your own work place isn't even anywhere near this path.
  442. "Hey, you wanna get some Rainbowberry's cupcakes for tonight?"
  443. >"What's the occasion?"
  444. >You're gonna break into a cold sweat here in a moment. Anon is such a monument of equanimity you're about to crumble as if you're being interrogated.
  445. >Anon would probably make an excellent spy or a special agent. Just gotta get him that ridiculous attire like the other human was sporting today and-
  446. >"Moonluck?"
  447. >Brought back to Equestria, you get back on track.
  448. "Nothing special, I just...wanted to thank you for yesterday."
  449. >Now this isn't far from the truth at all. You did want to do something special for your protector. And as anything more daring is out of question for now...
  450. >"If you want to," Anon agrees without further questions.
  451. >He probably suspects a lot of things right now. Maybe a little shadow told him, in which case he's gonna be suspecting things all day long.
  452. >But little does he know that two are playing this game.
  453. >That's right, unbeknownst to Anonymous those shadows have visited you again, at your library. But you were so ready to face them, still feeling like you're protected by the remaining warmth of your man's embrace, that you've managed to stay calm.
  454. >It was strange that you couldn't even pinpoint their form, as if the shadows belonged to neither ponies nor humans. They were like drops of ink hanging from a quill but upside down, and when they moved along the surfaces of the objects around, they were like clouds of steam until they assumed a still position again.
  455. >It is doubtful that there's an object or a creature that's casting those strange looking shadows. They are on their own. Reminds you of some divination spells of evil witches in foals books that you've read back in school.
  456. >And it was fitting for such a spell that the mysterious figures in the dark never attempted anything. You were so certain they were after your hooves and coat, but they're just...watching. Spying on you.
  457. >And whispering.
  458. >That alone is uncanny but they aren't trying to scare you. And if the things you've heard are true...
  459. >Maybe you'll actually test some of it tonight.
  460. >The detour to the bakery doesn't take you long. Buying a set of baked goods you try to notice if you're being watched by a human who is supposed to keeping tabs on you, but there's nopony here other than the owner herself.
  461. >That can mean that only your scheduled arrivals count towards this. Or maybe the human just not aware of this plan just yet.
  462. >Anonymous is throwing quick glances around and you figure he's pondering the same thing you are. Too bad his shady human friend didn't show up and you're onto him now.
  463. >The food doesn't cost you much but Anon still reminds you that your little impromptu dessert wasn't necessary when you get to it after your usual dinner together.
  464. >But you insist on it:
  465. "You really helped me last night. Besides, I don't need a reason to spoil you a bit, you know.
  466. >"Heh, I guess you're right."
  467. >Going this way you'll make him blush at this rate. Maybe he deserves it.
  468. "You were so quick to comfort me, like a hero of some sort."
  469. >That definitely does it. Your hero, Anonymous, is avoiding meeting your gaze but his smile says it all.
  470. >"Aw, come on. I just thought it was some intruder or something. I guess I'm in my world's mindset still."
  471. "We're on the third floor," you remind him.
  472. >"It could've been a pegasus."
  473. >He makes a good point and now it's you who's feeling dumb.
  474. >"Equestria is a nice place, but you never know. It's a city after all," he shrugs.
  475. "Then I'm lucky I have somep- someone like you to protect me."
  476. >This time your eyes meet and you realize that without even meaning it you've used the information you've been whispered.
  477. >Something about his validation, knowing he's making a difference in your life. Maybe that was it?
  478. >"Don't worry, Moonluck. I'm no fighter, but I won't let anyone hurt you."
  479. >Just when you think he's being overly dramatic you feel his hand touching your hoof and in that moment his words echo profoundly in your heart.
  480. >It's not just a cheesy drama for him. His eyes hide worries enough for two behind them.
  481. "Thanks... I..."
  482. >I want to be protected, Anon. Please hold me right now, Anon. Kiss me and cuddle with me all night long, Anon.
  483. >This is what you want to say, right?
  484. >No, you're not brave enough yet.
  485. >At that moment the memory of being held by him returns to you. Last night the stress made you block out these sensations but now you recall it vividly, his fingers, his gentle motions caressing you.
  486. >If only, if only every night was like this but without the scary shadows. But the shadows aren't even scary anymore so the chance to experience this again is gone.
  487. >Unless you somehow force yourself to convey this desire to Anon and you skip the shock part and go straight to comforting.
  488. >Too late you shake off your daydreams once again, and what makes you wake up is a cold feeling right behind your back. As if there's some presence there despite nobody being in this room aside from you and Anon.
  489. >At least nobody tangible. And that could only mean one thing.
  490. >Anon's eyes look way past you. And for a moment, for just a second, you hear a very faint, far away whisper.
  491. >It's not directed at you.
  492. >And reacting to it, Anon's hand travels along your foreleg, up to your neck and onto your cheek.
  493. >You practically feel those cheeks starting to pulsate with heat in response to that, previously only slightly warm at the feeling of your hoof being held.
  494. >No, right now the hand is right next to your eyes and...well, it'd take just one motion for him to bring you closer for a-
  495. >"It's okay, Moonluck," Anonymous instead reassures you.
  496. >You almost felt this is gonna be it, it almost happened.
  497. >"You don't have to tell me what happened back there."
  498. >Anon's hand moves a bit further and you allow him this motion, leaning a bit to the side.
  499. >His fingers now trace your ear, a whole bouquet of unknown sensations being presented to you.
  500. >You close your eyes and smile.
  501. >Your ear twitches just a bit, taking in the unfamiliar feeling of being caressed by someone you want to never stop doing this.
  502. >"I'm here for you, alright?"
  503. >Yes, you are. Yes, you are. Imagine just saying these three words, just like that. Just spit them out, you dummy.
  504. >Still you resist, and for what? Who are you making happy with this?
  505. >Afraid you'll hurt him and yourself if it's all a lie but still hurting him and yourself by not telling anything.
  506. >It's just like those whispers said.
  507. >And now you realize that you're not alone in this anymore. There's no room for doubt in your mind, Anonymous hears it too.
  508. >Maybe you hear different things, see different shadows, but it all lines up. And if that's the case...
  509. "And I'm here for you too."
  510. >Blindsiding even your own expectations you are stunned by the boldness of that move. And to add to that, your hoof moves up, as if on its own, and touches his hand, keeping it close to your face!
  511. >That is so out of character for the Moonluck you know, the coward, the blind pony, and yet it's not any whispers that compel you to do this, it's just a simple notion of him going through the same kind of confusion you are.
  512. >No, even worse, considering he thinks this world is somehow wrong. You don't know how, but it's not what he was expecting and there are others that agree with him.
  513. >He's away from home and it still doesn't feel right to him.
  514. >Indeed, it is him, not you, who needs to be protected.
  515. >Anonymous understands what you mean and this alone is enough to solidify your impression, confirm those fears - his eyes are on you, mesmerized by this sudden confession, as if it was something he wanted to hear all along without even realizing it.
  516. >"Thanks, Moonluck," he exhales softly.
  517. >He sure likes saying your name. And you like the way he said it just now.
  518. >It needs to be whispered in your ear just like that.
  519. >But that's just a fantasy right now. He's still so close to you there's no reason to be greedy.
  520. >Whether or not it's going to lead to anything is unknown, but it's hard to deny that dealing with everything is easier when there's somepony out there to support you.
  521. >Things don't go far beyond that today. Anon still sleeps in the same bed but doesn't make a habit of holding you close. Well, maybe he'll be more open to sleeping facing towards you now at least. From there it's just an easy squeeze between his arms for you.
  522. >Nothing out of ordinary happens during the night and in the morning, however you do take one extra step in your investigation.
  523. >While Anon is in the shower, you carefully search his coat to find the clue his human friend slipped him back on their meeting.
  524. >As it turns out, this was a piece of paper with a dotted list on it. At least you assume that's what it is.
  525. >It somehow never occurred to you that you can't read human language. Anon learned yours really fast, but to you this hoof, no, handwriting looks nothing like the letters pony use.
  526. >So this one is out of the question. You return the paper back where it belongs, praying that this group of conspiring humans will use verbal communications as often as possible.
  527. >And so your duty of following Anon from the shadows begins.
  528.  
  529. >Shadows around you don't mind where you go. They give way as soon they see you looking at them.
  530. >Hiding, slithering around when your gaze finds one. Returning back when you look away. It's like they're all bound to you, still there when they're out of sight.
  531. >This doesn't scare you now that you're not idling anymore, you have a goal now. You can't get distracted.
  532. >You don't hear a lot of intrusive whispers despite being more aware of them. But the tendency is concerning you nonetheless.
  533. >Is it the same to him, you wonder. Whether or not Anon sees these shadows too and to what capacity is still not known to you. To be frank, you're not about to ask him about it.
  534. >'He doesn't notice what's right in front of him, chasing the bigger picture as if that will grant him peace of mind instead.'
  535. >This whispered comment could've been about the shadows, but the more you follow Anonymous, the more you understand that it might also apply to him and you.
  536. >With each day, he's becoming more and more dedicated to his cause of figuring out this world.
  537. >He is a frequent guest at the library and the history books list keeps growing. You have no idea if he has the time to read them all on his job because the amount of clients he gets gradually started increasing lately.
  538. >The embassy has been hiring all types of ponies and humans to fill in the list of immigration related jobs. If Anon was still doing everything around there on his own he'd burn out by now.
  539. >Humans are filling Manehattan with their fresh and exotic lifestyle, little by little.
  540. >More and more billboards seek out human attention with their depiction of goods made just for these loveable aliens.
  541. >Sidewalks are getting more crowded - most humans don't fit in pony carriages and have to walk. The sounds of human footsteps are just as frequent as horseshoes hitting the cobblestone.
  542. >At their side there are almost always the mares that were lucky enough to get them. Only you prefer not to look at the more...active couples. The ones occupying benches in parks, hugging (or worse) out in the open.
  543. >Yes, you got your own way before some mares here, doesn't mean you need to rush things with Anon. It's not a competition. At least that's what you keep telling yourself at the sight of another newly formed pair already kissing in some café like it's nobody's business.
  544. >And speaking of businesses, all kinds of them are booming now, the ones that get their sets of human-appropriate items and furniture get their investment returned in the first week. And you still remember some ponies pinching their bits thinking it's just a fad.
  545. >New arrivals means more work for Anon, who now focuses more and more on just helping out new humans with registering and settling in. Often he gives them advice and guidance as someone with experience.
  546. >Anon is fairly open about his job when you discuss it. However, his machinations with his suspicious friends are still kept secret. If you weren't already aware of them you'd probably have no idea where to even start looking for clues.
  547. >As much as you hate to admit it, the precautions these humans take do work in their favor.
  548. "Been a while since I've caught you right after your work."
  549. >You tease Anon as you walk down the street together, for the first time in what, a week? Two?
  550. >Things have been getting so busy for both of you. Pretty much ever since that incident with Anon and you panicking because of those silly shadows.
  551. >You can't imagine anything like this now. They're strange but they stay away.
  552. >Part of you wonders why you accept a phenomenon like this as something completely normal when it clearly isn't. But if Anon also sees them, he's keeping it a secret too.
  553. >...
  554. >That doesn't sound like a good excuse now that you think about it.
  555. >But it's not like you do anything about this either way. What's complaining about it gonna do, make them go away? Not like you can solve this even together with Anon.
  556. >"Yeah, feels like it's been forever," Anon sounds like he's lost in thoughts himself.
  557. "That's city life for you," you giggle trying to sound as carefree as you can. "World keeps on spinning and we can only try to keep up."
  558. >"We should go see some play on the weekend. Remember the last time we went? A week ago?"
  559. "More like two."
  560. >"Yeah. Or more."
  561. >Both of you fall silent. No denying it, Manehattan makes you lose your sense of time when things get busy.
  562. >This conversation puts Anon in a thoughtful state for the rest of the day. Even grabbing some snacks at Rainbowberry's (with her human keeping tabs on you, you bet) doesn't bring his good talkative mood back.
  563. >Maybe something in that conversation got under his skin because the next time you follow Anonymous, you discover that he now has means to counter your surveillance. A pocket mirror.
  564. >He pretends he's looking at himself but it focuses on something behind him.
  565. >How do you know that? Well, obviously because you've been using the same method of peeping at him from behind corners this whole time. No need to show your muzzle everywhere if that can be avoided.
  566. >But now that little trick might be obsolete. And from now on Anonymous is way more active with his old human pals.
  567. >You've seen him talk to the detective out in the open more than one time, something they've never done before. Maybe they think the crowd is enough to conceal them now. Maybe they're getting bold. Or desperate.
  568. >Desperate might be right because Anon's mood is rarely improved by their conversations. So you take it upon yourself to entertain him when you're with him. After you're done spying on him for the day, of course.
  569. >How dirty of you. You should be helping him instead, if only he'd allow it. Which is doubtful.
  570. >But even though he smiles, you can see it doesn't do him any good in the long run.
  571. >And the culmination of that manifests one of these murky days when you follow him around.
  572. >"What?"
  573. >You find him stopping on his way to your library. Of course he wouldn't find you there because you're trailing him from almost a building length away.
  574. >Yet he still notices you, the mirror in his hand a natural clue to his attentiveness.
  575. "Oh, I was just going back after my break..." you explain after you catch up to him.
  576. >"Do you have anything to say to me?"
  577. >His stern gaze makes you look away. Something tells you that the gig is up and what you're doing is not to his liking.
  578. >Not hearing a reply he turns around and continues walking, knowing full well you won't follow him further.
  579. >You feel guilty about this and for a good reason. How long has this been going? More importantly, how long has he been aware of it?
  580. >While the intentions might've been good... No, who are you kidding, no intentions beyond "I wanna know what's going on" were there in the first place.
  581. >Perhaps it's time to end this and come clean.
  582. >How long has it been since you started treating this like a game? This is important to Anon, yet for you it's nothing but an oddity.
  583. >'He delays the inevitable just because there's gonna be no way back once his heart is open.'
  584. >That's your lesson from the shadows for today. As usual, it can be interpreted in a convenient way or as something fundamental about his personality. All up to you.
  585. >As it stands, everything is up to you. You need to make this right.
  586. >Rushing up the stairs to your apartment you expect to find Anonymous angry with you, as he has every right to be. To your surprise it's nothing like that at all.
  587. >Although you wish it were.
  588. >In the silence of your room Anon is sitting on your bed, head resting on a knuckle, as if summoning aeons of philosophical wisdom to bless him by assuming an iconic pose you've seen in Initiative's booklets a few times.
  589. "Anon?"
  590. >You call out to him but he doesn't answer. The room is still well lit, but it feels like the man himself is becoming a shadow, his posture signifying defeat under the burden of his doubts, face darkened by the infinity of thought.
  591. >What you bring here isn't comfort or consolation but frightful images of betrayal.
  592. >Perhaps Anon is crushed by the realization that all this time the one he trusted the most was doubting him all along.
  593. >You sit on the floor right in front of him, watching closely in case he decides to look at you. But he remains the way he is.
  594. "Look, I'm sorry."
  595. >Remembering your exchange on the streets, you add:
  596. "And I do have something to say. First of all, the way-"
  597. >"Does this seem okay to you?"
  598. >You were about to spill the beans over everything that's been bothering you about Anon and his secrecy these last weeks, but you are cut off before you even start.
  599. >Without even hearing your reply, Anon continues:
  600. >"Is this your idea of a joke, Moonluck?"
  601. "N-nopony is joking here..."
  602. >"Am I the only one who finds this odd? All of it?"
  603. >You don't even know what he's talking about. A lot of things were odd, but-
  604. >"You see and hear them too, don't you?"
  605. >He finally looks up at you and he doesn't even need your answer, it is written on your face. His eyes squint in pain.
  606. >Your worst suspicions are confirmed but you wish they could remain just your silly assumptions forever.
  607. >"Why don't you say anything? Why do you stay quiet? Are you one of them?"
  608. "What?!"
  609. >You couldn't even imagine such a preposterous thought crossing Anon's mind.
  610. >"You never once brought it up. Not even when I helped you here in this room. How do I know this isn't another trick? Tell me."
  611. "This is ridiculous, do I look like one of...those things?"
  612. >Anon looks away and silently takes out his mirror as an answer to you. Still avoiding looking at you he puts it right in front of your muzzle.
  613. >The room grows cold the moment you notice them. A barely visible shadowy figure wavering somewhere behind your back.
  614. >Not right there but...there.
  615. >Everything around you grows dark and the whole room fills up with black smoke.
  616. >From behind that mystical veil more shadows join the first one until there's a whole congregation of them.
  617. >They are looking right at you through the mirror.
  618. "Ahh!"
  619. >You twirl around with a little bounce and immediately things go back to normal, light returning to your humble abode. You're startled but alive, only still cold.
  620. >"They're out there every day now," Anon finally turns his head to you. "As soon as I stop looking in their direction."
  621. >So it really is the same for him...
  622. >He nearly drops down from the bed on his knees but ends up sitting just on the very edge of it, pleading to you.
  623. >"Help me out here, Moonluck. You're still on my side, right?"
  624. >His words pinch your heart so hard for a moment you feel tears pooling in your throat. But the next moment he pulls himself back, returning to his position of a man doubting, but not yet crushed.
  625. >"No, forget it. I can solve this. Can you leave me for a moment?"
  626. "I can't."
  627. >Anonymous was not ready for a protest this firm, so when you return to sitting right in front of him he has no choice but to face you.
  628. "I told you I'll be there for you and here I am."
  629. >You're gonna make this right. He might be right to mistrust you, but that doesn't count as an excuse for you.
  630. >"Thanks, but I'd rather think on my own right now."
  631. "It's my room, I'm not going anywhere."
  632. >You jump up the bed to sit right next to your human, to his annoyance.
  633. >"Fine, I'll just go sit in-"
  634. "You're not going anywhere, it's your room too."
  635. >Magic lights up your horn and Anon is stopped by its grip around his hand.
  636. >This is gonna backfire horribly but you're beyond caring right now. Anything to push the image he has shown you out of your head, anything.
  637. >You'll force it out of his head too.
  638. >"This really isn't funny, let me go. I just need some time."
  639. "I don't think it's funny either. And you're right, I haven't been on my best behavior these days. But I am on your side, so I'm staying by your side."
  640. >What a heroic speech. Only Anon scoffs at it and rolls his eyes.
  641. >"Oh, now you- Yeah, great, whatever. Not like it matters, tomorrow you'll be back with them, hiding and watching."
  642. "Then let me help you."
  643. >"How? You don't know anything."
  644. "Then tell me."
  645. >"Moonluck, it's not that simple. And it doesn't concern you."
  646. "You concern me."
  647. >"Great, thanks. Okay, I believe you, can I go now?"
  648. "Not a chance!"
  649. >He sighs, looking down at his hands. Powerless to do anything.
  650. >"No matter what I tell you it doesn't change anything, does it?"
  651. >He sounds defeated so at this time you'll take this as your victory, he won't run away now.
  652. "I'm not letting you go no matter what."
  653. >"No, I mean... Even if I told you what's going on, it wouldn't change anything."
  654. "How do you know?"
  655. >"Because you've been following me. You know who I'm talking to and what about. You know what books I'm taking with me. And yet you’ve never tried to interfere."
  656. >This is getting on your nerves now.
  657. "Like you'd tell me, all you say is "it's alright" and smile."
  658. >"Watching me is funny, isn't it? It all must look so silly to you. Like we're playing a game."
  659. >You won't deny that this thought has crossed your mind a few times.
  660. >"What are you going to do tomorrow? Still stalk me like nothing happened?"
  661. "I don't know, what are you gonna do, try to catch me on the streets again?"
  662. >"I didn't try to catch you," Anon sounds insulted. "I was trying to see if those things are following me just like always. And I found you by accident."
  663. "What?"
  664. >"Turns out it wasn't their stare I should've been aware of all this time."
  665. >It burns, the bitter note of truth in his words. Worse than that, it makes you want to defend your faulty actions you'd condemn any other time.
  666. "I've done no harm to you. So what if I trailed you a bit out of curiosity?"
  667. >Both of you are getting annoyed with this conversation. You feel like if you continue down this path one of you will say something hurtful to the other. So you are preparing yourself to disregard any insults thrown your way.
  668. >"So you're just being a bystander in all this? Even now you just...sit here."
  669. "What else should I be doing?"
  670. >"Let me figure it out and I'll tell you."
  671. "What do you want me to do?!"
  672. >"I told you! If you have nothing more to say, go."
  673. >He motions you to leave with his hand and all of a sudden you feel like it's you who's about to do something you'll regret.
  674. "Oh, is that it!? You're gonna treat me like a p-pet in my own house?"
  675. >"If you can't understand human language what else am I supposed to do?"
  676. "Why don't you-"
  677. >"Go on now, shoo, shoo."
  678. >His mocking smirk is filling you with fury. But mostly with helplessness.
  679. >What ARE you going to do? Right now and tomorrow, what's your plan?
  680. >There is none.
  681. >But something has to change, he is right about that.
  682. >Only you can't think of anything else but to do everything against his wishes. That has to work, right? Reverse psychology?
  683. >And so...
  684. >"Hey, what are you-"
  685. "I'm not leaving!"
  686. >Your hooves push him. Your hindlegs give you enough force to overpower the human immediately. He is on his side now and you decide to secure your catch by following him down and holding him against the bed with your hooves, turning him on his back in the process.
  687. >"Are you nuts?"
  688. "Yes!"
  689. >Your human isn't amused in the slightest.
  690. >"Get off of me!"
  691. >Hold him closer? Of course you can do that.
  692. >You plop your body right on top of his torso, hooves pressing against his shoulders.
  693. >He isn't struggling too much so you assume you're not actually bothering him as much as he makes it seem.
  694. >"You want me to throw you off or something?"
  695. "Why don't you try, huh?"
  696. >"Because I don't want to hurt you."
  697. "I'm tougher than I look."
  698. >You still don't understand what's happening. This is not you. Not the shy Moonluck, not the gentle Moonluck. Who is this?
  699. >Your heart is beating too fast. Everything around you is a blur of colors. Only Anon is clear before you.
  700. >You're scared out of your mind. You are ruining everything you've been working towards, being stupid and making it worse on purpose, out of spite, like you want it destroyed.
  701. >The body you are supposed to command senses that your mind is no longer in control and just does its own thing.
  702. >Without hesitation you lean in.
  703. >"Wh-"
  704. >You find his resistance to captivity very lacking.
  705. >He could've thrown you off a lot of times by now. Well, maybe not with his arms being held by your magic as they are right now, but-
  706. >Wait, what? You don't remember...
  707. >Too late you realize what you're leaning in for. Thinking is something you're just not doing anymore. It's time for acting instead.
  708. >And your actions are apparently focused on restraining Anon while you kiss him.
  709. >He freezes up as if paralyzed when he feels your mouth on his and you are no less overwhelmed by this sensation than him.
  710. >The softness and warmth of his lips you used to only dream about now belong to you.
  711. >"Mm!"
  712. >As much as you press in, Anon still finds a way to free himself from this forced kiss. His confused expression is soon replaced with disgust.
  713. >His lips curl up as if he wants to spit every bit of your taste out of his mouth.
  714. >"What the hell are you doing?"
  715. >This was it. That's your first kiss. What a romantic situation. What a nice predicament.
  716. >"Let me go."
  717. >He will never trust you again.
  718. >"Moonluck?"
  719. >He will hate you for mocking him this way. His real worries being a toy to you.
  720. >"Why are you crying?"
  721. "I-"
  722. >Crying? No you're not.
  723. >Yes, apparently you are.
  724. "No, I..."
  725. >You lean in for another kiss. It's the only thing left to do. Like hiding your head in the sand, you are only guided by fear of you and Anon talking any longer.
  726. >The human doesn't hurt you but he is demonstrably against this. You know why. You can't stop now.
  727. >He even fights your tongue at first. But when you position yourself at an angle and give more passion to it, his jaws relax and you are given one free ticket to the ride of your life.
  728. >Doing the unthinkable now you imagine that this is exactly the only way you'd make this happen, being already out of your mind helps you not lose it any more than you already have.
  729. >Even without him returning the kiss it feels like heaven. This is your human. His breath is on your muzzle. His lips, tongue, teeth and gums are all there for you to explore, to experience. The precious thing you wanted for so long.
  730. >How sweet and vivid it all tastes. Oh, how you want to just...just...
  731. >Against your better judgement you let out a weak moan. Anon must be so disgusted with you right now.
  732. >A reminder that he can't do anything about this but take it is quickly dismissed by your overwhelmed brain.
  733. >With a barely audible pop your lips let go of his and your panting lets him know just how fast your heart is beating.
  734. >"Moonluck?" you hear his call, barely registering with you.
  735. >You shake your head but he keeps talking.
  736. >"It's okay, I won't go. I'll stay, alright? I'm not leaving."
  737. >Little by little your senses return to you and with them the realization that was only looming on the horizon becomes close enough for you to finally grasp fully.
  738. "I- Oh-"
  739. >You don't even know what to do now. To your luck Anon does the thinking instead.
  740. >"Calm down. Breathe."
  741. >Breathe. That's right, you'll do that.
  742. >"Will you let me hold you tonight?"
  743. >You nod and your body goes all soft. Yes, that'd be good right now. It's hard to keep your balance and you lie down on your side, exhausted for some reason.
  744. >This is the worst. You now get what happened, but Anon doesn't even need your explanation, he somehow already figured it out and he has never even seen you having such a panic attack before.
  745. >Truth be told, you haven't either. Must be the stress. All the feelings at once, yes.
  746. >Naturally, your magic also loses its potency and your human finally goes free.
  747. >For a moment you fear that he'll throw you against the wall for humiliating him like that. Or maybe he'll start hitting you now that his hands are free.
  748. >It'd be fair because you are the worst mare. You'd take any beating if it's him and you probably wouldn't even cry in pain.
  749. >Anon's hands touch you and you get ready. But he just brings you closer to himself.
  750. >Unsure of how to handle it, you extend your hooves forward and they find Anon's body, not holding it down now but simply accepting it into a hug.
  751. >But it wasn't a hug to comfort just you. Anon positions himself so that his head is against your chest, pressed up to your chin.
  752. >Your forelegs find his shoulders and hold him closer. His deep sigh that tickles your coat sounds dejected when his hands find your back and caress it slowly.
  753. "I'm sorry."
  754. >That's all you can say.
  755. >"Yeah..."
  756. >That's all you get in response.
  757. >Despite the worst already passing, this fever dream is still going. You stroke Anon's hair and your nose is trying to inhale as much of his smell as you can manage, just to keep your head clear.
  758. >You give his head a few kisses. Your thigh touches his arm and you give it a little slow rub too.
  759. >All to keep yourself busy, moving. Imagining embracing your Anon in any other predicament would've made you drool but right now it's not a thing that you can focus on.
  760. >The passage of time is lost on you and you never notice falling asleep until you come to. The room is still dimly illuminated by that one lamp on the nightstand and you can see Anon sitting as he was before you came in earlier.
  761. >Your movements made him turn his head towards you and now he's watching you closely.
  762. "How...how long have I been out?"
  763. >"Around half an hour."
  764. >No wonder you feel so exhausted. But Anon doesn't look like he's ready to go to sleep.
  765. >When you ask him about it, he just shakes his head.
  766. >"A bit later. Try to fall asleep, I'll join you soon."
  767. "I'm sorry."
  768. >"It's okay, just relax for now."
  769. >Before you drift off to sleep, you hear his voice, whispering something to himself, but you can't make out any words.
  770. >You fall asleep shortly after and when you wake up it's not because of the alarm but Anon's footsteps somewhere in the kitchen.
  771. "Oh no, am I late for work? Anon?" you call your human.
  772. >"I'm gonna tell Ms. Quill you're sick on my way to the embassy. You're staying home today."
  773. "What?"
  774. >He walks into the room and you see he is already dressed for work.
  775. >"Please, it's for your own good."
  776. "But I'll- But you-"
  777. >"Stop thinking about this just for one day, will you?"
  778. "What about you?"
  779. >"I'll be fine."
  780. >He states it so matter-of-factly that you can't help but doubt it.
  781. >But he's right in one thing, some quiet would be good right now.
  782. >You feel horrible, both in body and soul. Even sleep doesn't come to you easily now that you're awake with memories of your pathetic display last night.
  783. >You were so arrogant to imagine this wasn't like you. Back then you couldn't believe it, but now it's clear your cowardice is second only to your ability to be annoyingly clingy.
  784. >Being straightforward, it wasn't supposed to result in...that. You thought you were really on the right track but everything got ruined for you again.
  785. >That's right, it wasn't your fault. Under normal circumstances you'd comfort him, remind him that he can always rely on you and then give him that soft, tender kiss you always thought would be your first.
  786. >It's a kiss you've been imagining ever since you got invited to the Initiative to get your match and moved here to Manehattan. And now it's ruined.
  787. >That was what, not even a month ago? Or maybe it was.
  788. >The romance of your life is turning into a nightmare. And speaking of nightmares, the image shown to you by Anon suddenly resurfaces in your head.
  789. >With a startled jump off the bed you begin your sprint to the bathroom's mirror. But you find nopony there aside from yourself.
  790. >But that means... Either that you were truly seeing things last night, hallucinating or worse, or that it was Anon who somehow summoned them, perhaps completely unwillingly.
  791. >The thought of him blaming himself for this, being under assumption that he's somehow the reason behind this, is very discouraging. You hope you're wrong just like you usually are.
  792. >You silly little airhead Moonluck, you. Always imagining things.
  793. >Anon will come back later tonight and you'll talk just like you usually do and nothing will be wrong.
  794. >Is this too much to hope for, you wonder. And also wonder if he really hated that kiss.
  795.  
  796. >He loves calling your name. And you love hearing him say it.
  797. >"Let's go to the park today, Moonluck, the weather is excellent."
  798. "Of course, Anon!"
  799. >Autumn in full swing brings color to your usually drab walks through the busy streets filled with man and mare couples in broad daylight.
  800. >You and your own human are relaxing on a bench on a lazy weekend day, nothing on your mind but the tranquility of being with one another.
  801. >It's cold but, more importantly, dry; the shades of yellow surrounding you on the trees and on the ground are calming and soft.
  802. >"I'm surprised, Moonluck, that opera really didn't put me to sleep just like you said. Maybe we should go see another one some time."
  803. "Of course, Anon!"
  804. >Another weekend spent in bliss after an uneventful week at the library. Barely anypony there but students this time of the year.
  805. >Anon's smile adorns his face when he's talking to you and knowing it belongs to you, even if unfairly, fills you with glee.
  806. >"Hey, Moonluck, wanna check out that Neighponese restaurant that just opened next to the embassy? I helped the chef pick the location when he was settling in with his mare."
  807. "Of course, Anon!"
  808. >Days fly by so fast. Once you stopped following Anon's secret investigation after that embarrassing outburst, you found a certain appreciation to just peacefully floating through life alongside him.
  809. >"Hey, Moonluck, did you know-"
  810. "Of course, Anon!"
  811. >It's like one day's conversation is finished on another. Events transpire without you moving through time.
  812. >"Moonluck, you know what we should do?"
  813. "Of course, Anon!"
  814. >It's like the calendar has lost its meaning. It's like a record being pushed to spin faster by somepony's impatient hoof. It's like...
  815. >"Moonluck, I can't take this anymore."
  816. "Of course, A-"
  817. >Candles are being lit one by one. All around the already brightly illuminated room more and more little lights are being brought forth, just like you have awakened from your slumber of one unending day while sitting on the bed in your room.
  818. >The foggy trance enveloping your life has ended in a moment - your human is bringing you back, as if saving you from a storming current you've fallen into.
  819. >That only leaves a question of what situation are you being dragged into now.
  820. "Anon?"
  821. >Instead of his answer you hear a sigh and the flame of the candle he has just lit trembles. The last one to complete his array of lights.
  822. >"No matter what I do they won't go away."
  823. >You don't need to ask him, you know he's talking about those shadows that have been avoiding you as of late. As you suspected, they never stopped following your man.
  824. >Now that the room is so bright they have almost nowhere to hide. And yet your silhouettes still throw their shades on the walls, on the floor, everywhere now that there's so many light sources around.
  825. >Perhaps it's Anon's way to confuse them. Thin them out. Blind them.
  826. >Wait, since when is Anon even treating them as something alive?
  827. >The man himself looks around to see if he's done a good job. The way he moves you'd say he's a bit on edge.
  828. "Are you okay?"
  829. >You know he's not but you can't just remain silent now. Mentally you're preparing to do the right thing unlike the last time you two had a confrontation.
  830. >This time it's gonna be different.
  831. >"No, I'm not okay. I'm completely lost."
  832. >That goes without saying, just looking at him was enough to understand that much. But you do appreciate the honesty.
  833. >And if he's lost, you should guide him. Trying to sound soft but determined, you call to him:
  834. "Come here."
  835. >Anonymous approaches with slight hesitation; whether or not he trusts you to not just restrain him once again will depend on how you allow him to approach.
  836. "Here," you move and make room on the bed.
  837. >He decides to take the seat and he's still looking at you with his eyes full of whatever hope he can muster right now.
  838. >That's right, you won't be stupid this time.
  839. "Come on, what's on your mind?"
  840. >"I don't think you'll believe me even if I tell you."
  841. "But all of this is just to talk to me without them interfering, right?"
  842. >You point at the candles and he nods, unsurprised by your understanding of his ritual. After a brief pause he finally explains:
  843. >"I'm out of options. Nothing about this place makes any sense. You noticed it too, right?"
  844. >You have noticed a lot of things lately but Anon doesn't need you to explain it.
  845. >Instead he turns to you and out of nowhere grabs your shoulders in one swift motion. You let out a little yelp but you can't move an inch now.
  846. >The way your Anon stares into your wide-opened eyes makes your back spasm with fear in his hold. Now would be a good time to tell him that he's scaring you but his pale face suggests he's not completely in his mind right now.
  847. >You'd recoil and attempt to keep your distance right now but he doesn't allow you the opportunity.
  848. >"There's so much wrong here I could write a book about it. Hell, we've already started."
  849. "W-we?"
  850. >"I'm not the only one who knows," Anon nods. "Every powerful pony is missing from this world. It's done on purpose."
  851. >You try to interject but Anon can't be stopped right now. It'd be as effective as throwing yourself against a moving train.
  852. >And the further this train of thought moves, the more terrified you become.
  853. >"Nightmare Moon is still up there, but there's no Celestia to raise the Sun. Who do you think is doing it instead?"
  854. "I- I have no idea," you plead innocent, once again not recognizing either of the names.
  855. >"Nobody does. Then there's no Twilight or even Cadance. Initiative has no records of her even though it'd be the perfect place for her."
  856. >Names fly straight through your head, into one ear and from another, because you swear this is the first time you're hearing any of them.
  857. >"Twilight and the Elements of Harmony are missing but every other pony is present, even Moondancer, everything is rearranged to adapt to this timeline. No Starlight, Sunburst, Starswirl, no Pillars, not a single unicorn who'd be able figure things out and interfere."
  858. >Your head is spinning so fast you think you're gonna get sick.
  859. >"But there's no trace of villains either, not even Discord. Nothing ever threatened this world. It's like there's a huge power vacuum here, or, I don’t even know what to call this..."
  860. "Slow down," you beg but Anon just squeezes your shoulders more.
  861. >"It could be one of Starlight's timelines but that doesn't explain the shadows. If Stygian is involved we found no trace of him or Pony of Shadows anywhere in history or the present. The whole chunks of history are missing."
  862. >He shakes you in his hands and his eyes once again focus on yours.
  863. >"Not just history, everything. I- I don't even remember my life before Equestria anymore. I did some...human things I guess, but I can't remember anything specific. Everything is a blur."
  864. "Maybe it's just-"
  865. >"What about you, do you remember everything? Or am I the only one?"
  866. >You try to recall something from your early life but it's always been hard for you since it was so insignificant and boring.
  867. >"I don't even remember my parents' names, Moonluck," he frowns. "Your name IS Moonluck, right?"
  868. "Y-yeah?"
  869. >By the slight wavering of his arms you know the man's on the precipice of breaking down. You're ready to take him in.
  870. >Trying to recall something from your life you might've forgotten proves to be an impossible task for obvious reasons. But there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with your memory.
  871. >"Now I don't even understand where one day ends and another begins, it's like everything is "today" and... I'm afraid I'll lose even more."
  872. >That was the last straw. Your hooves invite Anon to let his hands slide past your shoulders and the human falls into your embrace.
  873. >His fingers dig into your back as though his life depends on holding on to you. At this moment it might not be that far from the truth.
  874. >"I wish I could figure it out. Maybe I'm the fake one, not the world. Maybe I'm just another shadow."
  875. "No, you're my Anon."
  876. >With this immediate save you reach to his forehead with your lips and give him a reassuring kiss.
  877. >"How do I know if this isn't another illusion, I don't even know what this Initiative even is anymore, and I work for it. Orders come from above but I can't trace them once they go to Crystal Empire."
  878. "Then..."
  879. >A thought so brilliant crosses your mind for once, you just know it'll help Anon.
  880. "Then let's go to the Crystal Empire and see for ourselves."
  881. >"Huh?"
  882. >The man is so astonished by this daring proposition he leans back on his own, breaking the hug.
  883. >Somehow seeing him seated normally makes you feel relieved.
  884. "Yeah, let's just take a train there and visit them. They won't deny somepony like you a tour, right?"
  885. >"You...you'll do that for me?"
  886. "Of course, Anon!"
  887. >Seeing him finally smile again fills your heart with bliss. A faint hope still lingers in him. He is not surrendering just yet.
  888. "And it would be nice to take a break from this routine, right?"
  889. >"Yeah, this could work. I'll get us tickets as soon as I can."
  890. "That's my man."
  891. >Right now you're both smiling at each other and all is good. If there is a moment you wish for him to not forget, it's this.
  892. >This is the moment.
  893. >You need to say it right now.
  894. "I can't even imagine how you feel about all this."
  895. >And?
  896. "But I just want you to know that..."
  897. >Go on.
  898. >Even if you're blushing, even if your heart can't take it.
  899. "No matter what happens, I-"
  900. >...
  901. >Your mouth hangs open and you feel as if you're silently gasping for air.
  902. >The painful seconds you are given to stall your confession end with Anon's hand touching your mane and patting it lightly.
  903. >"I know," he says, trying to ease the tension. "You'll be there for me, won't you?"
  904. >Trying to hide the tears that are forming in the corner of your eyes, you shut them close and smile, nodding in agreement.
  905. >While you're fighting yourself and mentally kicking your stupid brain for freezing up for so long, you are apparently picked up by the human and are now travelling onto his lap.
  906. >Once you're there the eyes you were trying to keep shut open to face Anon...only to close the moment after, but not out of frustration.
  907. >His hand is embracing your back while the other cups your cheek, making sure to align your muzzle with his face to touch your lips with his.
  908. >This is how you wanted it. Even though his kiss is reserved and lacks the vulgar sloppiness you forced on him the first time you did it, it feels a lot better now that you both are into it, not just you.
  909. >Your lips touch again and again and you find it easy to lean on him and relax as his hand traces your neck, smoothly running through your mane.
  910. >When you finally break it off, all you can do is just look him in the eyes with your mouth still half-open, still longing for more. In the end, you're still a coward.
  911. >The magic didn't happen. Something is keeping your heart sealed. Your dumb head is afraid of some dumb words.
  912. >But you were so close. You'll get it right soon. You have to.
  913. >Even if it takes you hours to get out of yourself then so be it. You'll restrain Anon again and you're gonna keep kissing him until you can't take it anymore and just say it.
  914. >You just want it to be...special, yeah. Not like a comfort thing. Ponies will say anything just to reassure another in a dire situation, right? So you don't want to be misunderstood.
  915. >Yes, that's it. You need a different mood. It's all these circumstances again.
  916. >...
  917. >You are so lame.
  918.  
  919. >Getting tickets to a Saturday train posed no problem. Now that Anon has this promise of clarity dingling in front of him the mood you're both in improves quite a bit.
  920. >Not only that, your human seems to be getting a bit more open with displays of affection after your first (consensual) kiss.
  921. >You're just going to forget that other one ever happened. Seems like it was forever ago.
  922. >Looking at the calendar you clearly see it's been just a month. If only you had memories enough for it.
  923. >The stress you've been through made you accept the faults in this reality. The shadows, the flow of time, who cares at this point. You have Anon.
  924. >You can't fight the whole world. You can't even understand it. Anon's theories made no sense to you and if he can't get it, then you're not even going to try.
  925. >If there's a fundamental flaw in it you just have to make the best of your time here together. You don't know if Anon agrees with you but it doesn't feel like he can do anything about it even if he wanted.
  926. >You can't imagine him complaining about having your support in his adventure, that's for certain. It's something you think you've bonded over already.
  927. >And so the days before the expeditions are spent preparing for it, mostly mentally. Especially when you’re out in the depths of the busy city.
  928. "What do you think we'll find there?"
  929. >Your magic carefully picks up a massive slice of pizza and you concentrate on it for a moment, not ready to hear Anon's reply yet. Thankfully, he's equally as busy with his slice.
  930. >These human establishments that keep popping up all across Manehattan have left you with weekend outings plans for months ahead.
  931. >Most of them owe Anon in some way or another. From an errand boy to being one of the oldest consultants at the embassy, your human has risen to the top and is widely esteemed as the unifying force between human and pony businesses.
  932. >And for you it means lots of dates involving exotic food. Even human pizza tastes different from what you're used to.
  933. >You wonder if that's meat you're tasting, humans eat that all the time, right? Those red discs sure are juicy and spicy.
  934. >Chewing his portion, Anon shrugs.
  935. >"Something that doesn't fit into our theory about lack of strong magic here. Transporting people from our world is probably a massive undertaking. Unless Cadance is helping but has personally erased every mention of herself everywhere, which is..."
  936. >Anon laughs bitterly at a supposedly preposterous thought like that.
  937. "I still don't understand, if the princesses you told me about were ponies who commanded such general ideas like love and friendship, wouldn't it make everypony simply rely on them to deal with all the problems?"
  938. >Anon shakes his head, taking another slice.
  939. >"Basically, yeah, but it's not that easy. They mostly help others by guiding them to realizing the solution to their problems on their own."
  940. "Hmmm..."
  941. >You know one thing, you could surely use some advice from the authority on all love-related things.
  942. >She'd tell you exactly what to do. "Yes, Moonluck, to deal with this you just have to blah blah blah". And your struggles and doubts are all gone.
  943. >Part of you admits that this reminds you of what those shadows have been doing, as cryptic as their musings might've been. But it's hard to deny that it'd be easier to trust those wisdoms if a friendly looking pony was giving them to you, not scary unnatural phenomena.
  944. >"I wonder how different things would've been if this was just normal Equestria..."
  945. >For a moment you think about this too. Just a normal life without any interruptions.
  946. >Just like you had before the circumstances started messing with your ability to express yourself. Although, now that you think about it, these same circumstances forced you to make drastic moves you'd never bring yourself to make otherwise.
  947. >It might've been a catalyst to you being this close to Anon now. After all, it's hardships that make you stick close to each other.
  948. >Not your words, naturally, but if this wisdom and all others weren't yours now through those whispers, what chance you would've had to realize such important things on your own?
  949. >You'd probably still struggled to even hug your man...
  950. >"Well, hopefully we'll find out once we see how things really are. Last human who got here like a week ago said there's nothing unusual going on in the HQ, but we'll see."
  951. >Anon nods to himself, assured that his hope isn't for nothing.
  952. "You really think we can fix whatever is wrong with this place?"
  953. >Your cautious question gets a confident reply:
  954. >"Maybe not fix, but something surely can be done. I'll be fine with just shadows disappearing forever. Or maybe we can even get into the proper timeline, who knows?"
  955. >So many opportunities, it almost makes Anon too excited. He's eating with gusto, probably imagining how he'll personally punch the villain responsible for this in the muzzle once he figures it all out.
  956. >What about you then? Surely you'll follow him into whatever other "timeline" he discovers.
  957. >Not a lot of things that keep you here. No real friends, family is fairly distant, the job is peaceful but not exciting at all.
  958. >The realization makes you chew a bit slower. Nothing really keeps you here other than Anon.
  959. >What WAS your life before you met him then?
  960. >You can't really recall. Going to work, coming back, sleeping on repeat? This is dangerously similar to Anon's description of his memories.
  961. >Either you are becoming affected by his memory fog or you were always just this bore of a mare.
  962. >Nothing was going wrong but nothing was going right.
  963. >You had a whole lot of nothing and nothing was going on before you met Anon. Maybe that's why you got matched to him, so you wake up from your eternal daydream for once and face reality.
  964. >And now it turns you this reality isn't even the right one. What if you were right to daydream all this time?
  965. "You sure it's possible to do this?"
  966. >"Not really, but what choice do I have?"
  967. >Anon looks at your with a bit of pity in his eyes and adds:
  968. >"You're worried about what's going to happen to everything here, aren't you?"
  969. "I guess," you lower your gaze. "But.. I'd rather follow you."
  970. >If his presence is the only reason you even remember these days then you simply can't afford to lose him, lose sight of him even for a short time.
  971. >"Thanks, Moonluck. This means a lot to me."
  972. >When your eyes meet again you feel he means it. You are his anchor here just as well.
  973. >How did it all come to this? You're both lost without one another.
  974. >So if it were up to you, what would you choose, leaving everything as is or changing everything but with a chance of being separated from Anon?
  975. >No, it is definitely too early to think about this.
  976. >But what would Anon choose?
  977. >Stop that!
  978. >He hasn't made any advances on you despite you being closer than ever. You know you're a stupid and awkward mare but he's not like you at all, surely he'd find it in himself to confess to you - if he has feelings for you that is.
  979. >What if...
  980. >To clear your head of such thoughts you stuff your face with what remains of your part of the pizza, to Anon's amusement.
  981. >You're too close to finding something that's gonna change your life to start doubting everything you've come to rely on in it now!
  982. >"Guess that's a good enough rating for this place?" the man laughs and reaches your muzzle to pick some stray bit of food off of it.
  983. >Which you immediately snatch right out of his fingers with your magic, embarrassed by him laughing even more as he watches you do that.
  984. >Your blush remains all the way until you pay for your food and thank the owner, a tall looking guy with a twirly mustache who expresses his gratitude to Anon with an unfamiliar accent.
  985. >However, the weather outside cools you down immediately. Even this lively part of the city is still freezing over despite all the movement disturbing the air around you.
  986. >It feels especially crowded tonight. You make sure to not let Anon out of sight as you return home.
  987. >There were times when you wished your man was more proactive than you, but you're not too dumb to not get that he might just be matching your non-existent pace.
  988. >So in order to get cuddled tonight you'll have to initiate it. You hurry home just to bring that moment closer.
  989. >By the time Anon is done with his own preparations for the night, you finish packing two modest bags for tomorrow, one for yourself and one for him.
  990. >After having such horrible doubts at the restaurant you simply have to make sure he's still reciprocating your affection, however timid it is.
  991. >It doesn't take much for you to confirm it. You are embraced as soon as you turn to face him when you both get under the sheets.
  992. "Mh-mm..."
  993. >You know Anon is smiling at you unconsciously vocalizing your satisfaction and it makes you smile too. A gentle hand brings your head to your man's neck and your full frontal hug is now complete.
  994. >"Tomorrow..." he whispers. "It'll all be over tomorrow."
  995. >In any other situation you'd be restless over this kind of wording, but your brain is too mellow right now to comprehend the possible danger.
  996. >Anon means it in a good way, that's where you're leaving this at. Nothing strange is gonna happen and everything will be fine, fingers that scratch your ear assure you.
  997. >But something strange happens almost immediately, first of the many strange things that are surely going to happen.
  998. >The train you enter next morning is all but empty.
  999. >"Guess trips to the Crystal Empire aren't popular this season?" Anon tries to joke but he doesn't look too delighted about it.
  1000. >It's good that you'll have the entire cabin just for the two of you but...
  1001. >The mood just isn't good enough for pleasant, carefree on-the-road affection.
  1002. >That's going into your "circumstances that prevented you from enjoying yourself" list or whatever you call it.
  1003. >Any other time you'd probably be hugging. But both of you are tense, cautious, ready for more oddities to make themselves apparent.
  1004. >Gazing out the window it's hard to spot anything unusual until you leave Manehattan.
  1005. "Anon, look!"
  1006. >Just as you thought, it all changes once the countryside takes over stone buildings and the scenery becomes more open.
  1007. >Only it doesn't - everything looks foggy around you.
  1008. >It is early morning, sure, but to this extent?
  1009. >"Just as I suspected," Anon mumbles to himself and writes something down in his notebook.
  1010. >There's already a dozen pages worth of notes there, no doubt about the strange occurrences of this world.
  1011. >It's the first time you've seen him actually document them and today it's not gonna be the last.
  1012. >The fog soon begins to thicken. So much so that by the time you run past the third stop you should've taken - but didn't, another note being added to the journal - it becomes as thick and dark, like some sort of endless bog.
  1013. >No familiar tendrils of shadows arise from it but you feel as uncomfortable as you ever had when encountering them, so there's no doubt in your mind.
  1014. >The whole world might as well be covered in this horrifying swamp and you are running through it full steam ahead, cutting it in half to reach your destination.
  1015. >Your forelegs cling to Anon's arm when the sight becomes too much to bear. He's strong for both of you even though you can almost feel him shaking just a bit.
  1016. "What if... What if this is all there is outside our city?"
  1017. >"No, that's not possible," Anon sounds like he wants to reassure himself first and foremost. "I understand covering one city, but the whole Equestria aside from one place?"
  1018. "Moonchild..."
  1019. >The thought of Canterlot drowning in whatever this nightmare is now makes you look away and concentrate on not imagining what could've happened to your dear sisters.
  1020. >It has to be just like Anon said, it's not possible, it can't be possible.
  1021. >It startles him a little when your muzzle touches his arm to hide in it.
  1022. >His worst fears are coming to pass. This is why you're out here. To find a way to fix this, or maybe simply escape it.
  1023. >Even if you can't know for certain what you'll find at your destination, if you'll even find anything at all, you have to know.
  1024. >What are you even going to do if there's nothing strange there, just happy ponies in the Initiative Headquarters and a bit of bureaucracy to keep you away?
  1025. >But nothing is allowed to be this innocent out here in the dreary wilds of a darkness-covered world.
  1026. >The only thing that makes you feel like you're making progress is the fact that the train is not stopping at all. Like its entire journey is made just for you two. You're not even sure anypony is operating it anymore, or if it's going to stop where you need it.
  1027. >Anonymous isn't feeling too good. The hope he had for this plan is being depleted rapidly by the depressing lack of scenery to look at.
  1028. >At least he can face the frightening vistas outside at all. You, you're happy with keeping your face buried in Anon's jacket, hugging his arm like it's the only thing keeping you sane.
  1029. >You don't want to see this world ever again. If Anon is right and there is a way to get out of here, he better find one.
  1030. >Anything is better than here.
  1031. >What's worse, you are forced to leave your comforting shelter of Anon's clothing when you feel the train decelerate at a pace that nearly throws you off your seat.
  1032. "W-why are we stopping?" you meekly exhale when all movement comes to a halt.
  1033. >"This is it. The Crystal Empire."
  1034. >Your sight betrays you. You look out the window but you can't see anything to justify the word "Empire" before you.
  1035. >"What a joke... Come on, Moonluck."
  1036. >The train seethes loudly, the whole locomotive spewing thick steam around itself after such a heroic run through almost half the country, though you're not sure exactly how long it's been since you departed.
  1037. >All the steam covering the platform you step on can't hide the fact that it's empty.
  1038. >Completely lifeless. Just like the rest of the city as far as eyes can see when you finally reach it after a short walk in complete silence all around you.
  1039. >You are fairly certain the Crystal Empire should be protected from the treacherous colds outside by some sort of a magical dome, but...
  1040. >"Looks like there's nothing left to protect here anymore," Anon voices your worries.
  1041. >At least the ocean of shadows doesn't dare to drown this ancient city in its ugly ethereal dirt. You only see them at a distance here.
  1042. >But as Anonymous takes the first step into the town it becomes clear that it might not be all that pretty.
  1043. >It is abandoned, yet there are no signs of its buildings wearing down. Like everypony just packed up and left.
  1044. >Instead of ponies, you see those pesky dark figures looking at you through the windows, gathering and flocking in the comfort of their abodes to watch your progress.
  1045. >It's so unnerving you only wish to keep your head clear of any ideas about what has caused this.
  1046. >The thought that it could've been natives that got turned into these creatures makes your spine turn into a very stiff icicle.
  1047. >You wish your man would just carry you through all of this, you just want to curl up and wait this out until it's over. But Anon himself is taking this way worse.
  1048. >He's sweating and panting like he's been running laps around the city. This place is silent, to an unnatural degree, yet the human still jerks his head from side to side when he hears anything resembling activity - mostly your own steps echoing in the empty streets.
  1049. >Face to face with something he has grown to despise, Anon only finds solace in taking notes. There's a lot to document about this place.
  1050. >Like for example how you don't feel very cold despite lack of magical protection over the Empire. And you even packed an overcoat for yourself in case it's gonna be colder than in Manehattan.
  1051. >Things like that seem trivial compared to you being alone and surrounded by hungering darkness. But Anon, even though his legs are no doubt as weak as yours, continues on forward.
  1052. "Are you alright?" you cautiously ask.
  1053. >"No, not really," your man sounds distracted. "I just want this dealt with, we have to hurry."
  1054. >Every building looks the same here, every home with a lawn discolored in the northern air, and you'd probably be lost if not for your human, who apparently knows just where you need to be to solve this.
  1055. >Even the fog preventing you from peering in the distance soon shows hints of a massive structure towering over this deserted city.
  1056. >The plaza it governs over would've definitely put you in awe if you'd ever see it in its full glory. It's something you only know from the books, the magnificent center of the city.
  1057. >Now it looks like the castle's enormous pillars, pale without any sunlight caressing its mass of solid crystal, are about to give in and bury you under them. The bright shine you've seen on the photos is completely absent, instead what you encounter in the center you appales both you and your companion.
  1058. >Spewing shade all over the place, the brewery of all darkness, without a doubt - the Crystal Heart channels its corrupted will throughout the spire leading to the sky where it spreads it all over Equestria.
  1059. >Of course, only something as splending and pure could be used for villainy of this scale.
  1060. >"So it's true..."
  1061. >It is most likely what Anon was fearing to find the most.
  1062. >"God damn it."
  1063. >The man puts his notes away. There's nothing else to document here. The perversion of this place is so obvious even you can tell it has to be stopped.
  1064. >Now Anon's words of powerful magicians being removed from this world are starting to make sense to you.
  1065. >How can any regular pony even begin to approach this?
  1066. >Examining the Heart further, you notice that it is still intact, faint color holding its magic still, but viscous streaks of some sort of black goo form a net that binds it.
  1067. >The more you look at it, the more it feels like it's pulsating just a bit, its shine changing just a little as it pumps its spiritual oil upwards to the crystals of the castle, which also have those vein-like engravings in them.
  1068. >"It looks like a real heart now, creepy," Anon tries to joke but his voice is seeped in fear.
  1069. "Can we do anything about this?"
  1070. >"You're asking me?" Anon bitterly chuckles.
  1071. "You're the one who knows everything about how this should really work."
  1072. >That's right, he's the expert on the "real" Equestria. Somehow in all the overwhelming panic you both forgot all about it.
  1073. >"Hmm..."
  1074. “And what happened to the Initiative here?”
  1075. >Anon simply shakes his head. This is so surreal that you bet he won’t even consider thinking about his organization right now when there’s this giant problem in your way.
  1076. >He puts your bags on the dirty crystal floor and walks a full circle around the Heart. Doesn’t seem like it really cares about you being right here, at the core of the corruption.
  1077. >"You know, this substance reminds me a bit of the space I crossed from Earth to Equestria," he points upwards where the concentration of the oily substance is the thickest and it almost looks like it's sparkling in whatever light touches it. "Maybe it's a hint?"
  1078. "I've never seen it, sorry."
  1079. >Your meek reply doesn't affect Anon's thinking process. He's making another lap around the Heart, all in silence.
  1080. >The shadows could jump at you at any moment, but for some reason you are so used to them being passive observers that you don't expect to be attacked even now.
  1081. >A dangerous mindset to have, but Anonymous seems to share it, consumed by thought.
  1082. >"Well, the original Heart was captured by Sombra, but this doesn't look like his handiwork. But still, if this one still functions the normal way, it still can be healed."
  1083. >He just knew all this, just like that? So there is a way?
  1084. >Your eyes light up with this newfound hope.
  1085. "Alright, what do we need to do?"
  1086. >To your dismay Anon isn't that happy about the solution he's about to share with you. In fact, he takes a second to decide if he should even reveal it.
  1087. >"It is powered by love, it amplifies it and magic happens. There has to be a lot of it around to, you know, charge it. It spins around and..."
  1088. >Anon makes a circling motion with his finger and his embarrassed smile displays clearly just how deep in trouble you both are.
  1089. >Where are you going to find something powerful enough to dispel this?
  1090. >Although Anon did say it only needs love...
  1091. >The stare you're giving one another now only means that he has arrived at the same conclusion as you.
  1092. >You are a matched pair. A man and a mare supposedly picked to be with each other. To love each other.
  1093. >"Hey, Moonluck, do you think it's possible that... We could... I mean, in theory it's possible that..."
  1094. >The silly grin on your face barely keeps the terror inside you contained.
  1095. "Oh, I mean, you clearly said that, uh-m... This could be a part of the solution, so-"
  1096. >This is way too much for you!
  1097. >Are you hearing this right? Not only do you have to somehow channel the magic of love - your love to Anon?! - to even attempt to salvage the situation, but this time the fate of the whole world depends on it?
  1098. >"If only we knew how to make this work exactly, ha-ha."
  1099. "What if we, you know... What if you t-touch my hoof and then..."
  1100. >And then what?
  1101. >For a moment a faint image of you passionately kissing in front of a heart just to watch its reaction passes your head.
  1102. >And what if you need to do more than that? Right here?!
  1103. >Alright, you are about to lose it.
  1104. >"Yeah, let's start with that?"
  1105. >Did he just say start? What, is he reading your mind now?
  1106. >You shut your eyes to shield your thoughts from anypony's prying sight and extend your foreleg towards Anon, blindly trusting him to do his thing.
  1107. >After a few painful seconds he touches it with just the tips of his fingers.
  1108. >Curiosity gets the best of you and you steal a glance at the Heart, noticing that Anon is doing the same.
  1109. >As if chiseled marble, this composition of your bodies symbolizes the purest love between a man and a mare for the Heart to observe. What a sight to behold, right onto the Initiative's brochure cover it would go if there was any Initiative left in this desolate Empire.
  1110. >It's no use. Even if you were to get nasty right here in front of this love-powered mineral, it wouldn't mean a thing to it.
  1111. >What you need is to invoke a feeling. And both of you are too scared and confused to focus on it.
  1112. >"Alright, clearly this isn't what it wants," Anon finally breaks his gentle contact with your hoof.
  1113. "There has to be a way to convince it."
  1114. >Would professing your love before it work? Now is not the time to think about the mood but it still feels disappointing to think about it this way.
  1115. >Your confession, forced out of you by the circumstances yet again. That's not how it was supposed to be.
  1116. >"Maybe we don't need to do anything."
  1117. "What do you mean?"
  1118. >"Maybe just us being here together can heal it."
  1119. "I packed some sandwiches, but... How long do you think it's gonna take?"
  1120. >On the side note, is he just assuming you're fit to affect it? In which case him loving you and you loving him is just the default for him?
  1121. >Any other time you'd have a panic attack about such an assumption. Right now you simply need a solution.
  1122. >Anon is right, this world is wrong on so many levels. You'll get rid of all of it and start anew.
  1123. "Come here."
  1124. >Your man trusts you enough to get closer to you. He even squats down to be level with you.
  1125. >Hoof touching his shoulder you explain it to him:
  1126. "If you're so sure that we can do this in the first place then what more do we need?"
  1127. >Anon takes a second to think about what you said and gets it right away.
  1128. >"You're right, Moonluck. Maybe by trying to find a solution we already have what we need."
  1129. >Nodding, you invite him to take your hoof. This time his palm is open and your foreleg slides onto it, fetlock stopping in his tender hold.
  1130. >You wish this could be just a bad dream and you'd wake up with Anon on your bed. You so want to end this once and for all.
  1131. >And when you wake up, you're gonna kiss him for so long you're gonna miss work and stay cuddling in your warm bed all day long.
  1132. >He'll say all kinds of sweet things to you and you'll tease him a lot.
  1133. >There's nothing you want more right now than to wake up.
  1134. >Anon nods to you and you respond in kind.
  1135. >Whatever your love amounts to is going to be tested now.
  1136. >The other hoof and the other hand are now close to the Heart, but your eyes are still locked.
  1137. >For a moment you see it. A reflection of the Heart's light in Anon's eyes, sparkling as you both touch its cold, polished surface.
  1138. >"Moonluck..." Anon whispers and the smile you show him is surely filling him with warmth.
  1139. >You feel it in him. All the emotions swelling and storming in him, now that the Heart connects you. He surely feels yours as well.
  1140. >And then everything starts falling.
  1141. >Wet warmths starts enveloping your hoof, not from the crystal it's touching, but-
  1142. "Anon?!"
  1143. >You finally break your loving gaze and see that everything up to your knee is already covered in sticky pitch-black mud coming from the Heart.
  1144. >Anon tries to pull you away, but his hand is in the same trap. He tries to help you with his other arm, but even him dragging you off doesn't accomplish anything - like some sort of slime the darkness stretches, but doesn't let go.
  1145. >It starts contracting back the moment you stop pulling.
  1146. >A desperate attack of your magic seems to have no effect on the hungering all-consuming shadow either.
  1147. "Come on!.."
  1148. >Both your hindlegs press against the Heart's pedestal, but as soon as you feel yourself pulling away you realize that now there's three legs stuck in this horrid tar instead of just one.
  1149. >Anon's situation isn't much better. The more he struggles, the more he is sucked into the now fully darkened Heart. It is as if it's growing in size now, feeding off your energy.
  1150. >"Don't worry, Moonluck..." your human pants, still doing his best to keep distance. "I'll-"
  1151. >Your heart is captured in an ice prison the second you realize that this might be the last time you're seeing your man.
  1152. "Aaugh, please!"
  1153. >If only the Moon were here to grant you its blessing as it always does.
  1154. "I can't-"
  1155. >Anon is barely visible now that both of you are so deep into this sticky predicament.
  1156. >This isn't how this was supposed to be.
  1157. >Your only free hoof tries to find your man and for but a moment his fingers touch it.
  1158. "I can't lose you NOW!"
  1159. >Not now, not after all you've been through. There's so much left to say and do. You're not ready for such an inglorious end.
  1160. >Your ear gets so full of this sickeningly warm substance it loses hearing completely. Next to follow are your eyes and the last thing they see is Anon's face being drowned by the same goo.
  1161. >His eyes are burning with a promise of revenge, not fear or acceptance.
  1162. >"I'll find you," you hear in your only working ear. "I'll find you, Moonluck! Wherever-"
  1163. >Your eyes go blind and the rest of your body disappears into the suffocating deep. You can't breathe, you can't scream, you can't hear, you can't see, you can't move.
  1164. >There is nothing left for you.
  1165. >And then all your senses are returned to you at once. So forcefully that you scream.
  1166. >Only there is nobody to hear you. Yet still something takes notice of you. A dim light so far away in the depths of complete darkness surrounding you.
  1167. >And then more, more and more start appearing like eyes opening to your presence. Billions of them.
  1168. >Like stars on the night sky canvas they propagate through your sight looking for them.
  1169. >You are floating in this star soup and as soon as you realize that your hooves find a solid surface under them without anything to indicate such.
  1170. >It's like the world is forming anew all around you. Moonluck's world.
  1171. >You wonder what kind of realm that would be. Certainly one where Anon is still with you.
  1172. >Enchanted by these distant stars you wonder if he'd like this. Maybe wherever he is, he's seeing the same thing.
  1173. >No, you know it's not true. This is the end for you, as pretty as it is.
  1174. >At least your mind is free to wonder before your life eventually fades away.
  1175. >See how much wrong there is with this? It's not what fate had in store for you, surely.
  1176. >You, Moonluck? Finding an end like this?
  1177. >Cowards like you don't deserve a spectacle of these proportions.
  1178. >You...you couldn't even tell Anon you love him. Even as your last words.
  1179. >If you thought it was a lie before, what did it matter in the end? Now you've taken it to your cosmic grave and it will remain a lie forever, never to give him even the faintest of hopes.
  1180. >Maybe if you told him... What if that was it? What if that was the only right thing to do?
  1181. >You haven't made anypony happy in the end. Now this is Moonluck you remember. Indecisive, useless to the very end, making no difference.
  1182. >The only things that have ever made you kick your emotions into overdrive were horrors inflicted on you and your human.
  1183. >And now it doesn't even matter.
  1184. >You sit down and you tears filling your eyes. For the first time since Anon has arrived to change your life with his warmth you started crying for real.
  1185. >Letting it all out isn't helping. The more you realize that this is your end, the more you regret everything you've ever done. No consolation to be had.
  1186. >You've been a horrible mare to Anon. You didn't deserve a man like him, or anypony at all.
  1187. >This is your place now, your last home before fading away. Just an endless expanse of stars winking at you in their own hypnotizing motion.
  1188. "I've had enough of this, just take me," you solemnly request.
  1189. >But nothing happens. You realize you're not even crying anymore. What reason is there to pity yourself when even if you were given a second chance to right your wrongs, if you were suddenly flung out back to Anon, you wouldn't be any wiser for it?
  1190. >This mare doesn't learn. She's useless like that. Only daydreams and floats through her life.
  1191. >Wait, if you're not crying anymore, why do you still hear yourself crying?
  1192. >Startled and alert, you stand up. The voice is so close, you can almost-
  1193. >Right next to you, a pony's silhouette is slouched over the floor, threatening to fall over at any moment.
  1194. >Her muzzle is showing a grimace of utmost bitter pain and her tears nearly stream down from her cheeks, falling into the depths of this abyss to disappear in it.
  1195. "H-hello?"
  1196. >She is wrapped in it, this starry substance. You never notice it before she moves her head towards you, but now you see layers of the strange fabric slithering against each other, shining stars of their own at you.
  1197. >But under these blankets of unknowable witchcraft fully wrapping the pony you recognize a face. A face of your own.
  1198. "Gah!"
  1199. >Even your jump is softened by the carpet of unfeeling nebulas. It's all so soft, no wonder that pony is using it to comfort herself.
  1200. >'Go away.'
  1201. >Hearing your own voice coming from somepony else is terrifying, especially because she isn't moving her mouth to speak, just cries more and more. But you haven't been overcoming all the terror just to back out now, so you are determined to face her.
  1202. >'Can't you see?' she pleads again, right from inside your head, voice sounding just like those whispers you've been hearing. 'You did everything right, and yet...'
  1203. >Her blanket falls lower on her face so only her patchy, dirty mane still peeks out of it.
  1204. >'I can never be like you... I'm...'
  1205. >Step by step you approach the wailing mare, not repulsed by her deep, snotty cries.
  1206. >'I'm so useless.'
  1207. >Time stands still. Your hoof is touching hers and at that moment you finally understand. Your struggles and regrets didn't mean anything in the end.
  1208. >Merely a framed painting before its disheartened artist.
  1209. >Your horn lights up on its own, so brightly that you feel like it's going to blind you.
  1210. >The body you clearly feel as yours in one second, loses its form in another.
  1211. >The mind you thought you had is no longer your own.
  1212. >The last thing you see is a faint memory of Anon reaching out to you in his own last moments.
  1213. "Funny", you think to yourself as you lose control over everything that was once you. "Even knowing how it's going to end, I still couldn't tell him."
  1214. >You wonder if Anon would accept a coward like you back even if he never learned about your feelings.
  1215. >The spark of the magic fully extracted from your body, bright as a star, takes its place among all the others in the void, adding just one more to the endless myriad of lights that will never bring joy to anypony.
  1216. >The daydream has run its course. This manifestation of Moonluck is no more.
  1217. >...
  1218. >...
  1219. >...
  1220. >You are Moonluck Wish, unicorn recruit of the Mate Retrieval Initiative on her fifth mission. And you are in deep manure right now.
  1221. >At least you think your name is Moonluck Wish. This is what your flower badge says but you can't be sure any longer. You're starting to get delirious from exposure.
  1222. >How could you be so careless? Wait, don't answer that. You've been asking yourself that question for the whole two days now, or maybe even three days? Five?
  1223. >Time flows differently in the human world. Well, everything is different here. Usually you don't get to experience it fully because you always have a H.O.P.E tank on your side, fixed to your tightly fastened Special Risk Mission saddlebags.
  1224. >It was so well fixed, in fact, that you've lost it together with those saddlebags when you were trying to escape a sudden shootout and nearly got run over by a car.
  1225. >Back then you were so naive to assume that's the worst thing that could happen to you. That was before you found yourself completely stranded in this wretched realm of colorless debauchery.
  1226. >Of course, your emergency field teleporter was still on your foreleg, but guess what? It also runs on the magic stored in H.O.P.E.
  1227. >And where do you get magic to refill it now? That's right, from your own body.
  1228. >It should be standard protocol. The thing is, that standard protocol doesn't assume you'll be left behind completely. Somepony would extract you within a day, locating you by your unique magic imprint, and you'd get back a bit exhausted, but safe and sound.
  1229. >But nobody came.
  1230. "Celestia DAMN IT!"
  1231. >You kick the nearest trash can on your way through the park, your only source of food here.
  1232. >Eating grass from the ground just like that? So much for being a Canterlot upper class mare!
  1233. >And yes, you ARE using those swear words like it's nothing, you're that deep in despair. It's only fitting you've fallen from grace this much.
  1234. >"I-is anyone there?"
  1235. >Sudden voice from the dark startles you and with no hesitation you run deeper into the park, diving right into the tree line.
  1236. >Albeit decorative, it can hide somepony as small as you well enough.
  1237. >That was a human, because who else would that be in this world, and you are not dealing with humans right now, or ever again.
  1238. >If you had your spells at the ready you'd probably try to attack too, but you have to conserve your innate pony magic while the teleporter is charging.
  1239. >Urgh, it's all humans' fault! All of it.
  1240. >You were briefed that your target could be armed but it wasn't the reason this whole thing happened. He was actually in a hurry to get out of here and not even five minutes after your team found him you've discovered why.
  1241. >It's what humans do, to your guess, drive up to one of their own in their shiny vehicles and start shooting guns at them.
  1242. >Your captain decided that this calls for the use of those smoke grenades she always had on her, and the confusion allowed them to gain enough distance to quickly open the emergency portal and shove the human in there.
  1243. >Problem is, you got on the other side of that confusion; as you were diving from the bullets, the car those murderers were speeding on grazed your side.
  1244. >And that hit that you thought you did your best to avoid was right on that canister with pressurized alicorn magic.
  1245. >You have no idea if any of the humans survived the explosion, you only know that your own magic shields got drained in a matter of a moment, faithfully protecting your frail pony body until the very last drop of magic, and you still got thrown so far away from the epicenter that by the time you came to in some ditch, other humans have already arrived on the scene.
  1246. >Black cars, black suits, no sirens, total silence aside from occasional radio chatter. These weren't the kind of human police forces you were briefed on.
  1247. >You watched them take what was left of your equipment with them. Soon, they started searching for you and you had to run, cursing your aching legs.
  1248. >Those legs never started feeling any better.
  1249. >But soon you'll get out of here and it won't matter. Just a horrible dream you’ll wake up from and try to forget.
  1250. "Come on, come on!"
  1251. >You give the device on your fetlock a small poke as that’d make it charge any faster.
  1252. >The worst thing about this situation - aside from eating grass, drinking dirty water, having no shelter and being really cold, hiding from humans and-
  1253. >Okay, it's not the worst thing about it, but still, one of the bad things about this situation is that you are left completely alone with your own thoughts.
  1254. >As if that wasn't bad enough as it is in your usual daily life.
  1255. >Guess that's the change of pace you’ve always wanted when you signed up for the Initiative’s lucrative recruitment offer, huh?
  1256. >You knew all along you weren't cut out for this and your only hope was that you'll avoid all the dangerous situations you were warned about. You aren't a guardsmare, you have no proper training in...well, anything.
  1257. >Now you have even more reasons to feel useless and you can spend days in this magicless prison world thinking just about that! Isn't that precious?
  1258. >Trying to stay away from any open spaces you make your way to the park's water fountain. No, not the drinking kind - those are here but utterly broken and vandalized seemingly ages ago.
  1259. >But a decorative one still works during most hours and you still have time to drink before it shuts down for the night.
  1260. >These moments of being exposed are the hardest for you so you make sure nopony is watching, approaching the target in a circle from within the tree line.
  1261. >It only takes you a minute. It's so utterly repulsive to drink this mud but your pounding heart doesn't allow you to concentrate on the taste.
  1262. >You fill a bottle you now always have with you for the night too, but only half-way; a bright flash interrupts you and you almost hit the ground expecting to hear deafening gun shots again, the newest trauma of your life.
  1263. >But there's no sound that follows that flash, and that could only mean...
  1264. >You gallop as fast as you can in the direction opposite of the suspected camera, seeing another flash aimed your way tear up the air.
  1265. >Why are you so stupid, why can't you do anything right, why are you making these kind of mistakes when your whole life is on the line?
  1266. >You collapse on the grass so far away from your usual area of operation you don't think you'll be able to ever find your way back.
  1267. >Your legs hurt, your side hurts, your stomach hurts, everything hurts, you're thirsty again and your chest is heaving with burning, labored breaths that bring no relief to your scrambled mush of a brain.
  1268. >This is so like you. Confused, scared, ditzy, inattentive - that's Moonluck.
  1269. >Is this what you wanted, some change to your lonely but comfortable life of daydreams? Here's something for a change, a reality check.
  1270. >Five missions without contributing much to the team, more like getting in the way of the determined mares who take this way more seriously than you.
  1271. >Every mare on the Extraction team seems to get her own match sooner rather than later, once the Initiative caught wind of that it became its main appeal point - and also the reason they've ran out of professionals so fast and ended up picking up anypony volunteering for the cause, even pegasi and unicorns who are mostly useless in the magic vacuum of this world.
  1272. >You figured you'd never get your match by waiting, so you've decided to take the matters into your own hooves.
  1273. >Now you know why you never got yours, an utter nuisance like you doesn't get to have one.
  1274. >Those mares on your team, they were happy to get rid of you. What an amazing opportunity to list you as a casualty and let you rot here. Captain Iris is probably laughing her flank off right about now, drinking carrot juice with her teammates.
  1275. >Who can blame them?
  1276. >No, this isn't right. This isn't how this is supposed to be.
  1277. "Please, I've had enough..."
  1278. >Your voice sounds so weak right now you're not sure why you even bothered saying anything, this doesn't prove you're still sane or even alive in any way.
  1279. >Won't somepony save you? Or wake you up from this horrible nightmare?
  1280. >Moonchild will certainly shake you when she hears the weird noises you're making in your sleep and you'll wake up right next to your dear sister in peace and quiet of regal Canterlot where you belong.
  1281. >Only you're not a filly anymore and you haven't met up with Moonchild for years now.
  1282. >No pony is there for you when you sleep, and certainly no human.
  1283. >No matter how much time you've spent daydreaming about a simple, quiet life with a simple man somewhere in a city like Manehattan, where you can get lost in peace and quiet at his side, even that is absolutely beyond your reach.
  1284. >You are alone.
  1285. >...
  1286. >You are ALONE.
  1287. >This thought makes your body move on the cold, dirty grass. All your remaining willpower is spent just standing up.
  1288. >You are on the edge of the park, completely unfamiliar to you and, thankfully, completely dark.
  1289. >Through the fence that reaches high above you see lights of the rest of the city. They bring no joy to you.
  1290. >The bars that separate you from the world outside aren't here to keep you in, they're to keep that abhorrent civilization out of your domain.
  1291. >Like a wide dead river, the road separates this safe corner from the movement on the other side.
  1292. >There are no colors other than grey of stone and sickeningly-cold yellow of electric tubes illuminating it.
  1293. >The more you stay here, the more this greyness seeps under your coat, which has lost its gloss long ago, right through your pores, filling your soul with its nauseating apathy.
  1294. >With each inhale of this alien air contaminated with human sins you become more desensitized to the toxic perversion of everything that makes you a pony.
  1295. >With each exhale you lose a part of you that belongs to Equestria.
  1296. >And now even the looming inevitability of becoming completely drained of pony magic is but a distant memory of a mare who was never too hopeful to begin with.
  1297. >You don't feel anything in your heart anymore. Body may ache but the soul is elsewhere, assured that none of this is real.
  1298. >That's right, it's too gruesome to be real. Those lights running left and right on the road are hypnotizing you and the buzz they produce makes you lose what's left of your focus.
  1299. >All of this was doomed to fail right from the start, from the moment you've realized the Initiative is months into its campaign and you're not among thousands of lonely mares getting a match.
  1300. >You were so lonely and yet you were never meant to be comforted. You are that insignificant.
  1301. >Walking along the massive fence you think about how many hours you have left.
  1302. >What will happen once you are completely discolored? Will you just lose your mind? Or your life?
  1303. >But you don't get to learn about it.
  1304. "Eek!"
  1305. >The buzzing of your teleporter amulet brings you back to Earth.
  1306. >With bated breath you look at it - its noise indicates it is either charged or it has no more power to charge from.
  1307. >Your eyes reflect the red dot on its side.
  1308. >It ran out of magic.
  1309. >At long last, for the first time on this miserable misadventure, tears start forming in your eyes.
  1310. >It was always inevitable but now it's your reality. There is no way back home.
  1311. "No!"
  1312. >Even now you choose to rebel, as the last desperate measure.
  1313. >Your vision is so blurry now that the cars in the distance are like a current of pallid light, so when you drop the device on the grass you can't even find it at first.
  1314. >Only a few seconds later the portal rips reality apart, fighting the magicless world for any scrap of supernatural power to sustain itself.
  1315. >You have no idea what is going to happen - the artifact got only half-charged at best. But if this can lead you home, if there's a slightest chance...
  1316. >You are done with the human world forever. You'd rather perish than spend even a second more on this poisoned ground.
  1317. >But the other side of the barely stable portal makes you regret those thoughts immediately.
  1318. "Hello? Anypony here?"
  1319. >It's all around you, the light produced by so many stars, that you get dizzy as soon as your gaze lies upon them. It doesn't get any easier finding your bearings around here no matter how many times you've traversed this space between worlds on your missions.
  1320. >There is no ground, there is no up or down, only the empty space with nothing by malevolent illumination all around you.
  1321. >The portal fizzles out right behind you. Good thing you were fast enough to get here.
  1322. >Or maybe it's really not that good of a thing, usually there's the other side of the portal in the distance, visible at all times. A direct tunnel punched through this place by a spell sustained on Equestria's side, not lacking in magic to continue existing as long as it is needed, and an unwavering light rail to concentrate on while you cross to the other side.
  1323. >Compared to the artificial lights of the city these stars feel even colder. Like you are staring at something that's been unchanged for ages.
  1324. >And usually you have your team's chatter to accompany you on the journey through this place. Now it's silent. You can't take it.
  1325. "Don't tell me I'm stuck here."
  1326. >It seems that even turning your head to the side slightly completely ruins your sense of direction. Nothing around here that your eyes can use as a reference point.
  1327. >It's possible that you are already lost.
  1328. >The tears that have dried up because of your panic return again. A crying mare is now walking through nothingness without any chance of leaving it.
  1329. "This isn't right. It just isn't."
  1330. >The more you try to dispel the silence around you by talking to yourself, the more it envelops you, like a snake tightening its coil around the victim with its every breath.
  1331. >Worse, the more you speak, the more it seems in your head like somepony is listening. You really don't like that. You're either going insane or...
  1332. "No, there can't be anypony here, that'd mean somepony actually cares about me. Haha!"
  1333. >Such a funny joke makes another batch of tears leave your eyes.
  1334. "It's just a dream. I'll wake up soon. This can't be happening, it's not right."
  1335. >You keep repeating it wishing it to be true.
  1336. >"It's not real. It's not..."
  1337. >Your muzzle meets the soft surface of nothingness below you when you fall. Even the pain in your legs that finally give in on you can't make you feel anything in your heart now that you're completely motionless on the unfeeling carpet of stars.
  1338. "This isn't happening."
  1339. >You just wanted to meet a human and live a normal life.
  1340. >No, that's not right. You were so afraid of meeting a human the way you were, ashamed of what little you could offer him, terrified of the prospect of being loved, that you've decided to become a new mare, brave, stoic, decisive just to be able to get matched.
  1341. >An Initiative operative Moonluck would know how to live a normal, healthy life as a good marefriend.
  1342. >An Initiative operative Moonluck would know how to talk to a human, how to make him feel at home, how to invite him to outings and later to your bed, how to hug and how to kiss.
  1343. >And how to say that she loves him.
  1344. >But you're just Moonluck Wish. A sheltered baby with no motivation to do anything with your life, no experience in anything remotely romantic.
  1345. >You don't know any of those things, they scare you, they mortify you, paralyze you, they make your heart feel like it's going to explode when you think about them.
  1346. >Instead of steeling your mind and soul like you hoped, the Initiative has utterly destroyed them and now you're a goner in the void that ponies are not even allowed to look at during the operations.
  1347. >This shouldn't be happening to you. If only you were somepony else.
  1348. "If only I weren't Moonluck."
  1349. >Somepony else might've found a way. Somepony else might've survived.
  1350. >Your eyes close, tears in them evaporating into the nothingness that is already blanketing your body, burying you alive under sheets of warm fabric of the darkened space.
  1351. >Moonluck Wish is now its property. She can't resist any longer. Her "self" is refused by her, discounted as a bad dream, as something that is not real. Only her waning desire to reject all of this is still pulsating in her heart.
  1352. >Her final thoughts are of an imaginary human she left her docile, perfectly uneventful life for, thinking she can become someone worthy of love.
  1353. "I must find him! This can't be how it ends! It just can't. I will find him and tell him I've been waiting for him all my life, and he'll hug me, and..."
  1354. >Now with her final breaths she is inhaling the thickness of the interdimensional Void itself.
  1355. >It weaves a cocoon of silent stars around her, ready to accept her with all her faults as a lover would.
  1356. >This makes her think of a human who is embracing her, a hallucination to interpret the sensation of the Void getting a hold of her.
  1357. >A human... In her dream, she reaches out to him, and the Void follows that motion, guided like a moth to the flame of the mare's last passion.
  1358. >It reaches out through space and time to reveal him, to make you, Moonluck Wish, see him, hoping that it will multiply the magic of your wish the Void hungers for.
  1359. >Your body shifts and twists. Your sight is cloudy and your thoughts can't penetrate the fog in your head.
  1360. >Visions of the human world blur past you with incredible speed, as if you're flying through their whole cities in a matter of seconds.
  1361. >Streetlights, cars, all are squashed together. But then you slow and descend to the ground.
  1362. >Below you stands a human - no, the human. Only... You can't tell him anything.
  1363. >It's not you, not Moonluck. Your wish, personified, is looking down at a blurry figure of a man and nothing is clear to you.
  1364. >But you also notice some other figure right next to him.
  1365. >It's what they call a woman. The way she hides behind the human's, YOUR human's back, paints a picture most humiliating in your mind.
  1366. >She is clearly with him, meaning your match has already found somepony else instead of you.
  1367. >Even now, when you have finally found him, you are being denied. Robbed of everything you have ever hoped for in your life.
  1368. "This is a joke, right?"
  1369. >Instead of tears flowing down, fire rises up from the very tips of your hooves to your head.
  1370. "So this is how it is, huh?"
  1371. >No words are produced by your silent fury; it would prefer to speak for itself if you allow it.
  1372. "Is this all that I'm worth to that damned Crystal Heart?! And the princess, she probably thought it'd be so funny to let me hope all for nothing when it's...when it's the only thing I-"
  1373. >The fire is streaming higher, right into your horn, and in its trail the Void claims the body burnt throughout.
  1374. >It's so clear now, everything was wrong right from the start. Crystal Heart deeming you unworthy of love. Princess Cadance setting you up with a taken man so even if you ever find him your happiness will be crushed. Your teammates abandoning you to die in the human world.
  1375. >They were all right. Only you are here right now and they are not.
  1376. "I don't need the Initiative. I'm not losing this chance. I'll make the Heart accept us!"
  1377. >You'll take him and drag him to that phony rock, shove him right at it and show it you've earned your match. And you'll hit that rock until it approves!
  1378. >THIS is the real change you hoped for all along. The power to deny the reality where you are just a useless daydreaming loner.
  1379. >If there’s no way for you to be together with him then you’ll simply create a world where you are, and you won’t let anypony else interfere.
  1380. >Your horn finally flares up, unleashing magic you've never felt before.
  1381. >The fog before your eyes thickens until you can't see anything anymore.
  1382. >Silky layers of warm void that cradle your whole body fall on your face from your head like a cloak and only strands of your dirty, ragged mane peek out of it.
  1383. >In the comforting cocoon of shining tarp of cosmos your struggles and regrets finally lose their meaning.

A Wish Enough for Two (/nmp/)(WiP)

by TakeItEasy

Honest Hearts

by TakeItEasy

Violet memory (wAIfu, WiP)

by TakeItEasy

Making Beginnings Meet (/nmp/)

by TakeItEasy

What Are You Thinking About?

by TakeItEasy