A wonderful dream. Flitter and Cloudchaser are snuggled next to me. Cloudchaser has a bottle of wine. She's pouring it onto my neck and lapping it off, nipping and sucking as she goes. Flitter is massaging my hoof with her tongue.
Sweetie Belle is splayed out in front of me. She's moaning lewdly as Ruby Pinch nuzzles and licks her songbird cutie-mark. Apple Bloom's big brother is behind me, his strong forelegs wrapped around my shoulders. He nips at my ear and I melt into him, whimpering-
I wake to the click of a camera and the sound of two ponies snickering. I open my eyes and see a slim, baby-faced cream pegasus with a deliberately geeky bowl-cut mane pointing a camera at me. That's Featherweight, my best mate. Next to him is a grey mountain of a pony. Tall, heavily built, more than a little chubby, and sporting a crossed knife and fork cutie mark is Chowder, my other best mate. They're in my bedroom at some stupidly early hour.
“You should really sleep under the sheets Pip,” says Feathers, “Now I'm gonna have to sell a picture of your morning glory to Lickety-Split. And tell him that you don't lock your doors at night.” It's been seven years since he gained notoriety for taking compromising photos of everypony around him, and the novelty still hasn't worn off.
I look down at the offending part, throw the sheets over it and glare at my friends. “You'd get a better price off your mum, Feathers. Celestia knows she wants it.”
“Oh, a mom joke, that's funny and clever and original. Your parents must be proud of raising such a funny and clever and original foal with such a funny and clever and original sense of humour.”
“I work with what you give me,” I say, “How did you get in here anyway? I thought we had a lock to keep riff-raff like you out.”
Feathers shoves a pile of dirty laundry off my chair and sits himself down. “Told you dude, front door was unlocked. You getting up or what?”
“What? I locked the door last night, I got up to- Oh. Pina. Of course.”
Pina Colada is our lodger, because apparently the asylums were full. She's lost four housekeys over five months; and now leaves the door on latch at all times because getting another would eat into her valuable binge-drinking time.
“That sounds like her,” says Chowder, “Now get up, we're hungry!”
“Yeah, get up quickly, or the whole school is going to see Pipsqueak's Pipsqueak.”
I groan. “Fine, just shoo while I get ready.”
“Sweet. We'll be in the kitchen.”
They leave the room. I stretch, yawn and tumble out of bed. Then I open the curtains. It's a blindingly sunny Friday morning. Teacher training day too, so I'd planned on having a lie in; though that obviously wasn't going to happen with a bored Featherweight and a hungry Chowder living in the same town as me.
I head to the bathroom, wash my face, clean my teeth and mess with my hair so it looks tousled and coltish and all that lark. It's a trick to get right, but I take my sexy self seriously.
Up and awake, I go into the kitchen. Chowder has already started cooking, and Featherweight is playing sous-chef. Chowder and Featherweight come over in the mornings and eat my parents' food. In return I get big breakfasts cooked for me by the best cook in Ponyville. It's a good arrangement for everyone involved, I love big breakfasts but don't like cooking in the mornings, Featherweight is a high-energy pegasus who needs his carbs, and if Chowder doesn't eat a proper breakfast he tends to snack on sugary things. Before we started this little deal he ate so many pastries he was legally pudding.
I sit down at the kitchen table and crack open the Ponyville Gazette while they cook. It's a slow news day. There's a story about a potato with an uncanny resemblance to Sapphire Shores. On the front page.
Soon enough the food is cooked, plated up and set down in front of me. Hash browns, scrambled eggs, baked beans, hay cakes and sloppy porridge with apple jam. We all tuck in right away. As I've said, Chowder is a fantastic cook and a pony can't go wrong with hash browns slathered in brown sauce and butter-drenched scrambled eggs on toast. After scarfing down the last spoonful of porridge, I ask Featherweight if he's busy with the photography club today. He shakes his head.
“We've set our Friday meeting back to Sunday, it's easier on everypony's schedule. The old pony's home is on a weekend coach trip to Baltimare so I'm not volunteering there, no weather team training today, nothing going on with the Ponyville Artists Society until next week, the town hall renovations aren't happening until the carpenters get their work done and Twilight doesn't need me at the library today. I've got a clear schedule bros, it's your job to stop me from being bored out of my-”
The noise is coming from inside the house, furious knocking on one of the doors.
“PIP! PIPSQUEAK! HEEELLLP MEEE!”
That's Pina Colada. Last time she sounded this panicked was when she'd tried to warm up an adult massager in the oven and melted it. Explaining to mum why the oven was sealed shut with burnt latex wasn't easy or fun. I'd best go check what she's yelling about.
We go into the hallway and hear *BANG*BANG*BANG* coming from the bathroom door.
“What's the matter, Pina?”
“PIP! I'VE LOCKED MYSELF IN THE BATHROOM! Help! PIP! PIIIP!!”
One day, long ago, I'd have laughed at this. I'd have been giggling like a little schoolfilly, or at the very least I'd have been grinning like a twat. Now I just sigh. Of all the things Pina Colada has done, from infecting the entire town with cowpox, to using my Grignr the Barbarian paperbacks for roach paper, to screaming rows over the relative hours of housework we've done, to knocking on my bedroom door every thirty seconds when I'm lucky enough to have a filly around; this is the worst: She has killed my ability to feel schadenfreude.
Featherweight does not have this problem; he's doubled over with great snorting laughter and sounds like a bull trying to eat custard through his nostrils. By the time Pina starts hammering on the door again, he's got his tape recorder out and running.
“Hey Pina! Why are you yelling?” he asks gleefully.
“I'M LOCKED IN THE BATHROOM I CAN'T GET OUT!”
“Did you lock yourself in the bathroom?”
“That's a bit stupid, isn't it Pina?”
“Are you a dumbass, Pina?”
“YES! HELP MEEE!”
I head off to the kitchen to find a knife to unlock the door from the outside. The lock on that door can get a bit stiff and can need a bit of jiggling to open. I don't feel like explaining exactly how to do that to a screaming Pina Colada for the next half an hour. I find what I'm looking for, go back and open the door and out pops Pina Colada, calm as cupcakes. It took me a while to get used to how her mood swings. I know part of it is her being mental and part of it is her playing silly buggers, but it'll always be a mystery which one it is at any given moment.
She bursts out and hugs me, and I stiffen up. She hasn't showered yet and smells like all slovenly preppy fillies do: Expensive perfume with a hint of raw liver.
“Thanks Pippie, I thought I'd be stuck in there forever-”
Featherweight's head whips around to look at the laundry basket in the corner of the hallway.
“What's up?” I ask him.
“Huh? Oh, I got that feeling something was going to happen. Nevermind.”
Pina releases the hug and starts towards her bedroom, but then stops and turns to me. “Oh yes, I've got friends coming round later for pre-drinks before we go to Diamond Tiara's, the three of you are welcome to join us.” She has an odd sort of accent, the sort that comes from growing up in a rural area but going to a prep school for a few years. She sounds like a Canterlot or Trottingham toff when she's usually speaking, but the veneer peels off and you can hear the yokel underneath when she's drunk or panicking.
“Thanks for the offer, but we're good. We'll see you at Diamond Tiara's,” I say.
She smiles and heads off into her room. If we stay in the house, we have maybe twenty minutes before something else comes up. Pina Colada is a pink-on-pink pony, eldest foal of a local brewing family, about three years my senior. She enjoys binge drinking, dubtrot, competitive passive aggression, screaming rows and infidelity. Her parents are family friends and they couldn't handle her at home any longer, so they pay for her to lodge here where there are less antiques and better spaces for entertaining. She's very extroverted, mentally negligible, and claims to have never read a book. She has broken the lock on my bedroom door twice because apparently privacy isn't a thing, and vacuums the walls so she can say she does more housework than me during rows. The first time I brought my (extremely, obviously, cripplingly gay) friend Lickety-Split round, she dry humped him because he looked nervous and she thought it would be funny.
I lost my virginity to her a week after she moved in. I regret nothing.
We go back into my room. I flop down on the bed, Featherweight and Chowder take the chairs, and we start planning out the day.
“Right-ho, there's Diamond Tiara's bash tonight, Dinky won't be up 'til noon and we can't stay here. We've got a few hours to kill, any ideas?”
Featherweight sits up and stretches his wings out. “It's a hot day and we've got clear schedules, I say we go to the lake!”
“Cracking. Chowder, lake sound good?”
“Yeah, lake sounds good, but can we stop off at the market first? Snips and Snails said to meet them there, they've got something they want to show me. They said it's gonna be huge.”
Featherweight nods. “Sure bro, sounds like a plan.”
“Snails is a faecal abortion.”
Chowder frowns. “Dude, what have you got against Snips and Snails? They're not that bad.”
“Chowder, you don't understand. Snips can be an all-right sort, even if he's a little dim. Snails is not an all-right sort.”
Chowder is giving me a quizzical sort of look. He doesn't understand.
“I'll explain. The other week, Feathers, Spike and myself were having a game of cards round mine; we got hungry so we go to pick up some noodles from the Qi-rin place near Sugarcube Corner. Snips and Snails are there, so we say what-ho and have a chat. We end up inviting them round to join our game, since Snips is a decent chap and I want to take Snails' money.
“Now, we're chatting and waiting for our order and who walks in but Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo and Twist. We start talking and it's all going splendidly, we're telling jokes, Sweetie Belle is a riot, everyone but Snails is flirting, even Snips is awkwardly flirting with Twist and having a good time.
“I'm about to invite them round to play some cards and have some drinks followed by snuggling with Sweetie Belle under a comforter and burying my muzzle under her tail; then Feathers makes some crap joke about how the Manican place that used to be there shut down because everything tasted like food poisoning-”
“Hey, that was a good joke!” interrupts Featherweight, “They were all over the place laughing.”
“Exactly, they were laughing at your crap jokes, which is what fillies do when they want you to eat their vadge like a three-course meal and give them stallion custard for dessert. But I digress. Feathers makes his bad joke about food poisoning; and that's when Snails decides that he hasn't said enough and that this, this, is his opportunity to shine.
“Snails starts talking about salmonella. Snails knows something about salmonella, Snails knows a lot about salmonella, and he's not going to stop talking about salmonella until he's satisfied that he's added his valuable input on salmonella. He starts talking about the symptoms. The headaches. Cramps. Diarrhoea. Bloody diarrhoea, which means you need to be hospitalised. How it gets into food. The impossibly foul conditions in kitchens where customers get food poisoning. How you'd never know whether a restaurant's food is infected until you're hunched over the loo chucking up your lungs.
“So Sweetie and Twist are turning green, Scoots is trying to hold back giggles, Snips' face is a mask of disappointment as he sees his chance of getting a hoof-job from Twist disappear, Applebloom is looking at Snails with pity, and Spike and Feathers are staring at him with naked, undisguised contempt.
“Snails realises something's wrong but he can't figure out what it is, so he soldiers onwards. He keeps on talking about food poisoning to stone silence, until the fillies get their orders and awkwardly leave. Even Snips is giving him a death glare, but he's totally oblivious. He's like a dog who ate a bunch of crayons, crapped a rainbow onto the carpet and can't understand why master locked him outside all of a sudden.”
Chowder looks nonplussed. He's rather good at that particular look. “...so, you don't want to go to the market?”
“No, the market sounds fine. It won't kill me to see Snips and we can pick up some food for the lake. Besides, the sooner we're out of the house the better.”
“Why rush?” asks Chowder. “Give breakfast time to settle, dude.”
The knocking is on the outside of my bedroom door. Pina Colada's voice in three, two, one-
“Pip! YOU CHANGED THE RADIO PRESETS! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT PIP WHY DO YOU HATE ME?! PIP!”
I sigh. “It's too late, we can only survive now if we eat each other's ears.”
“What? Hay no, I've got a good feeling about this one, I'm gonna record it,” says Feathers, taking out his recorder again.
“PIPSQUEAK GET OUT HERE! GIVE ME YOUR SPLEEN!”
“Oh, that's an instant classic right there. I gotta make a soundboard one day or something.” Featherweight is enjoying this far too much.
We're spared from further yelling and threats of organ theft by a knock at the door, which Pina canters off to answer. It's one of her friends, and her mood goes all fuzzy pink once more. We take this chance to pack up what we need and head on out.
It's a sweltering day outside, and stepping out of the door feels like walking in front of a space heater. The sky is clear, there's no breeze and we're sweating after ten minutes walking from my house. The lake is looking like an increasingly wonderful idea. My parents' house is on the outskirts of Ponyville, about a quarter-mile past the train station. It's convenient since mum and dad are always on the road, but it's a right trek into town. Featherweight is chattering about the last Foal Free Press meeting, which in his words involved “idiots talking for ages about the minutiae of stuff that doesn't fucking matter.” That's a good thing about Feathers, even if it's too damn hot and early to form a coherent thought, he'll keep a conversation going. We're discussing the relative merits of starting a mid-meeting food fight over arguing just to make them angry when we get to Sugarcube Corner.
Sugarcube Corner is a lovely sight on a day like this. There's tables set up outside, ponies sitting round drinking milkshakes and chilled smoothies, and the splendidly curvy Pinkie Pie bringing out food and drinks for customers. The scent of vanilla, melted chocolate and baked goods is wafting out of the door. It makes me want to bite into a soft, warm doughnut, let the jam spill into my mouth and lick sweet sugar from my lips. That's when I remember I've some business with Mrs Cake.
“Wait up chaps, we need to drop into Sugarcube Corner,” I say. Feathers and Chowder just shrug and follow me inside. The delicious smells are even stronger inside the bakery. It's like huffing diabetes. There's only a short queue, and soon we're at the counter being blasted across the face by one of the several refreshingly cool fans perched around the store. I see an elaborate, curly, pale crimson mane poking up behind the counter.
“Good morning, Mrs Cake,” I say.
She pops right up with a tray of bear claws in her mouth, places them on the counter and beams at me. Her face is full of warmth and light, and the crows feet that crinkle with her smile do nothing to detract from her beauty. They speak only of tenderness, maturity and experience. Years of wonderful experience. She glances over at her husband who is busying himself with the smoothie machine, then winks at me. My services are required.
“Pipsqueak dearie, my cutest customer,” she says, loud enough for her husband to hear, “What can I get you today?”
“Oh you flatter me, Cup, you know I pale in comparison to your loveliness.” Mister Cake turns and looks at me, eyes narrowed, before going back to the smoothies. Just as planned. “I'm not sure, everything looks so good. What do you recommend?”
“How about,” she says, bending to reach something below the counter and giving me a view of her soft, bouncy rump, “one of my special muffins?” Her rose eyes lock with mine as she places a tray of banana and chocolate chip muffins onto the counter. I've already had a big breakfast, but those muffins are too good to turn down.
She smiles even wider, that wonderful smile that lifts my heart and stirs my loins. “They're a new recipe. Tell me what you think, and the first one's free.”
She pushes a muffin towards me. I pick it up and take a bite, my eyes never leaving Mrs Cake's. When I taste it, my eyes shut and I moan from pure reflex. This muffin is the pinnacle of food. It's the avatar of joyful decadence. This muffin is what Discord feels when he's getting head from a pair of succubi. I scarf the rest of it down, and it's over far too quickly.
“Oh Celestia, that was – they're so warm, and soft, and moist. How do you do it?”
“Would you like to know what the secret ingredient is?” she asks, batting her eyelids at me. Mister Cake shoots me another irritated glare. We're nearly done here.
I nod and she leans over the counter, her muzzle only a foot from mine.
I put on my biggest pair of puppy dog eyes and say “Mrs Cake, I would do horrible, terrible things to end up with a mare half as talented and attractive as you. Unforgivable things.”
“Oh Pipsqueak, when did you grow up into such a charming young stallion?” she asks, giggling and blushing. “And so handsome too.”
That's it, Mister Cake is now severely peeved and walking towards us. I give Mrs Cake a tiny nod.
“You'll have to find a mare like me I'm afraid, Pip. I only have eyes for one stallion,” she says, turning towards her husband and stopping him in his tracks with a gentle peck on the cheek. “My gentle,” she kisses him on the other cheek, “strong,” *kiss* “lovely,” *kiss* “hubby,” *kiss* “wubby,” *kiss* “bunnykins.”
They gaze, half-lidded, into each others eyes and sink into a kiss. It's a simple kiss, not a long kiss or a sloppy snog, but there's decades of love and passion packed into it. It makes me a little jealous, and more than a little horny.
When they break the kiss, Mister Cake looks at me. He's grinning but there's a dangerous look in his eyes. “Were you just hitting on my wife, kid?” he asks, the tiniest of edges behind his jokey tone. I play my part well, hemming and hawing and blushing like an embarrassed little schoolcolt caught with a dirty magazine. You can never ham it up too much trying to soothe a bruised ego. Well, perhaps you can, but I'm a smooth criminal.
It does the job, and his face visibly relaxes. “Heh. Can't blame you for trying, son,” he says, smirking and draping his foreleg over his wife's back. She nuzzles him appreciatively.
“We've been doing very well today honey-boo. Can I take my gorgeous,” *kiss* “lovely,” *kiss* “talented” *kiss* “and oh so very sexy,” *kiss* “wife out to Chez Hay tomorrow night?”
Mrs Cake looks up at her husband and bites her bottom lip. “Could we get Pinkie Pie to look after the foals, have the whole evening to ourselves?”
“Did somepony say foalsitting?” Pinkie Pie just appeared behind the counter. I've lived in Ponyville for half my life and it's still dead rummy when she does that.
“That sounds lovely, bunnykins,” says Mrs Cake, “Do you want to go sort it out with Pinkie while I serve the customers?”
Mister Cake gives his wife a peck on the lips before heading into the kitchen to deal with more orders and hash out the foalsitting details with Pinkie. He's got a bit of swagger in his step as he goes. Mrs Cake turns to me and rolls her eyes.
“Thanks for that, dearie. Honestly, the things I have to do for Carrot to sit up and take notice sometimes...”
“It's my pleasure, Mrs Cake,” I say, “Those muffins were absolutely topping by the way, I wasn't embellishing one bit. How much for three?”
She smiles warmly and pushes three muffins towards us. “For you, Pip, on the house.”
I collect the muffins, say my farewells and trot out of the shop with Featherweight and Chowder, passing them a muffin each as we go. Chowder devours his in a second and moans with pleasure as he does. Featherweight is giving me an odd look, like he can't quite figure out what went on but he won't approve when he does.
“Pip, what was that about? Just watching you made me feel unclean, and I don't know if I should eat something you've touched.”
“It's this thing I do for Mrs Cake,” I say, lowering my mouth to her muffin. I give it a tiny lick before nibbling at it. The last one went far too quickly, I must savour this one. “I flirt with her in front of her husband, he comes over and showers her with affection and kisses, I get all tongue tied and run off with my tail between my legs. Mister Cake gets an ego boost for slapping down the young challenger, his wife gets a good rutting and I get the odd free pastry thrown my way.”
Featherweight looks deeply bemused by this. “They've been married for years, can't she just say to him 'Dearie, please dip your spoon in my honeypot?'”
“It's a bit odd, I'll admit. I think she grew up with a bunch of Cosmarepolitans and dating guides that say sex and relationships only work if you never discuss the sex or the relationship with your special somepony.”
“What? Was Cosmare written for mute ponies back then?”
I shrug. “Dunno, but I never look a gift muffin in the teeth and I'm not going to stand around while someone as lovely as Mrs Cake isn't getting any love. Not when I can help her with flirting.”
“That was flirting? Shit, I thought that was group therapy for your Oedipus complex.”
“Hey – Oh, fuck you Feathers. Don't pretend like you know things because you read a book on Pegasopolian mythology. I just have an appreciation for the female form, even when it's twice my age,” I say. Featherweight shakes his head and takes a bite of muffin, and we all set off to the market, chattering about many different things of little consequence. Chowder's new recipe for clover brownies gets a good airing.
We're just about at the market when we see a green and purple drake on two legs, standing just a bit taller than me. That's Spike, Ponyville's resident dragon. I like the guy. He's cultured and well educated, he's an out-of-towner city kid like me, and I love the whole 'turning into a three-hundred foot greed monster' thing he's got going on. He spots us before we can call out to him, and canters over to us. He's giggling madly.
“Come over here, you guys have gotta see this!” I haven't seen Spike this excited since sapphire cupcakes became a regular thing at Sugarcube Corner.
“What's going on?”
“It's Snips and Snails, they- ah, no time, I'll explain when we're there. Come on!” He turns and beckons us to follow. When we get to the market Snips and Snails wave to us and come over. Spike tries and fails to suppress his laughter. I'm having a hard time not bursting out in giggles myself..
Snips and Snails are standing in front of us, bright as sunshine, in the most ridiculous getup I've seen outside Nightmare Night. Snails has a lime-green feather boa around his neck, a pair of welding goggles perched on his forehead, and glitter in his mane and tail. Snips is wearing a bright puce velvet top hat, black leather saddlebags, and is propped up on black platform hoof-boots. Also I think he's-
“Snips, are you wearing mascara?” Featherweight looks equal parts bemused, curious and apprehensive; like he just stumbled across his father's porn collection.
“Yup! Me and Snails are PUAs!”
“Peayuase?” I ask. Snips and Snails' newest insanity has me curious, everything else can wait.
“I think Whooves said that's what's in our stomachs that breaks down proteins,” says Chowder.
“Nah, that's protease.” Always trust Spike when it comes to anything academic. He picks up a lot, living with a librarian. “Snips, Snails, I think you should *snrk* -tell these guys what you're doing.”
Snails flashes that smug idiot grin that makes me want to slap him across the muzzle. “We're PUAs- pick-up artists.”
“Yeah! It's guaranteed to get us hot fillies to bang.”
For a moment my brain stops as I process that statement. When it starts working again, I look at Feathers, Chowder and Spike. Feathers and Chowder look dubious. Spike is biting his lip to stop laughing, nearly hard enough to break the scales.
“Snips my good colt,” I say, “You're going to have to, erm, elaborate a tad.”
“Well, me and Snails were tired of being AFCs – that's average frustrated colts for those in the know – so we asked Shady Daze for help. He gave us this awesome book, 'Speedy Seduction' by this total mare's stallion called Enigma.” He lifts a book out of his saddlebags and floats it over to Featherweight, who takes it.
“We're trying out some of the more basic stuff and feeling pretty good about it,” says Snails in his sludgy voice.
“We're peacocking, keeping an eye out for IOIs, putting out DHVs, being cocky-funny; just running standard game. Have you guys seen the market today? There's a lotta hot fillies about today, I've seen like, five HF eights or nines since we got here,” says Snips. He looks like a foal before Hearth Warming's Eve.
Featherweight has a sly look on his face. “I see. Hey, can we borrow this book for a minute? It looks really interesting and I'd like to learn more.”
“Sure dude that's cool, just give it back at the party tonight. You're going right?”
“Totally. We'll see you there.”
“Awesome. I don't want to be a dick or nothing, but me and Snails gotta split. There's a lot of tail to chase around here, so we're going to go throw some negs and try some more advanced game. Gotta practice the approach y'know? Anyway, smell ya later dudes!” Snips trots off uneasily on his platform boots with Snails in tow. As soon as they're out of earshot, Spike falls to the floor laughing.
“Well, that was... interesting,” I say.
“You guys haven't seen anything yet,” says Spike, still snickering on the floor, “I've seen them in action and I've looked at that book. It's priceless, look at the contents page.”
Feathers cracks the book open and we take a peek. It's a chunky thing with a detailed contents page, with subheadings under chapter titles like 'How to Stop Being a Beta,' 'Mares and their Four Uses,' and 'Basics of Breaking the Bitch-Shield.' When something horrifying or especially bizarre catches our eye, we turn to that page and have a skim. It's a freakish mixture of horror and surreal comedy, apparently written by somepony whose only knowledge of mares came from watching gratuitously bad romantic comedies and interviews with convicted sex offenders.
I take a step away from the unholy tome. “Bloody hay, that's not a dating guide, that's how you turn desperation into restraining orders.”
Featherweight and Chowder are sat down happily leafing through the book, reading particularly egregious parts aloud.
“'Sociological studies show that twenty percent of stallions are alpha males and the other eighty percent are beta males,'” says Featherweight “'All mares want alpha males and will reject or friend-zone any beta males (also known as 'Nice Guys') who try to attract them. Beta males are lucky to have sex in their lifetime and many will never see a vagina.'”
Spike turns the page and picks out another bit. “'Mares love to friend-zone males, especially Nice Guys. Friend-zoning is the process of extracting cuddling, emotional intimacy and other services from males, and then refusing to put out on the basis that they are 'too good friends.' Friend-zoning is the cruellest thing a mare can do to a stallion without a dull knife and rubber band.' Are there really ponies that think like this?”
“I was talking to Sweetie Belle a while back,” says Featherweight, not looking up from the book, “She was mentioning some of the things a dragon named Spike said and did around a pony named Rarity, so...”
Spike's cheeks turn pink and he slaps Featherweight on the foreleg. “Aw horsefeathers, the only thing that means is that I was into mares before you guys knew what your genitals were for. Anyway, what – oh, guys, check it out!”
Spike taps me on the withers and points across the market to the food and drink stands. There's lots of fillies, in pairs and in groups, sitting around in the sun, chatting, eating fruit and drinking smoothies. Flitter and Cloudchaser, the two proper fit weather team fillies are there; I recognize some of Pina Colada's older mates, and there's a couple of fillies from school. Snips and Snails are moving towards them, stalking towards their prey like spastic ferrets hunting a pack of antelope. Spike gets that excited look again.
“You ponies can't miss this, we have to get over there. Follow me!”
We stealthily slink to the food stalls and sit down at the side of the Sweet Apple Acres stall, near a bemused Applejack. I buy three gala apples. She asks no questions. We're close enough to see and hear the newly-minted pick-up artists, but tucked away where they won't notice us.
They approach a pair of Pina Colada's friends, a pink-on-blue unicorn with a paintbrush cutie-mark and a cornskilk-maned peach unicorn with a still on her flank. Peach Schnapps, I think her name was. Snips tries to put on a confident and seductive face. He looks like a Charades player whose word is 'rapist.' There's some pushing and arguing, before Snips trots up to Peach Schnapps first.
“Uh, hey, is that a strawberry you're eating? They're great, don't you just love sucking a juicy strawberry in your mouth-”
Schnapps cuts him off. “Kid, we both know what's going on here so I'm going to skip to the part where I blow real hard on this rape whistle.”
With that healthy dose of fear, they scamper away to find a different target. They approach somepony different, a chocolate unicorn with a spanner for a cutie mark, at least a few years older than them. It's Snails' turn.
“Nice horn, bitch.”
Now, this Speedy Seduction book keeps banging on about something called 'negging,' which is a remark that's vaguely insulting and confusing and is supposedly meant to lower a mare's self-esteem so that she'll want to prove herself to you. It looks a bit like flirting, but it's not fun and there's no sex afterwards. It's meant to be a sort of backhooved compliment that isn't obviously an insult but will hurt their feelings nonetheless.
I don't quite think Snails has it nailed down.
“Ouch.” I almost feel bad for him.
Feathers looks confused. “Why is she carrying all those wrenches? Who needs that many wrenches? Is she- ohh, she's summoning them. That's pretty cool.”
Spike is wincing. “That one must have hurt. And that one. And those two. And that – oh Celestia, he's gonna feel that one in the morning.”
The unicorn stops her beating and chews Snails out, before turning to Snips.
She gives him a long, hard stare, huffs and trots away. Snips lets out a sigh of relief and helps his dazed friend up.
“Spike, dude,” says Featherweight, nudging the drake, “We're heading to the lake and going round Dinky's later. She's got some more clover and we're gonna get higher than Rainbow Dash. You in, bro?”
“Ehh, I've got some things to do with Twilight first, when are you heading to Dinky's?”
“She won't be up for a few hours yet,” I say, “We'll probably head to hers at two.”
“Cool, I'll see you guys there. I should go find Twilight, save me a teenth if I'm late.”
“Yo, she's right there,” says Chowder, pointing towards the food stalls. Twilight Sparkle is trotting past Blendy's smoothie stand, saddlebags bulging. Snips and Snails see her, and-
No they're not.
-they walk right up to her-
Oh no they're not.
“Oh yes they are,” says Featherweight.
“How did you-”
“You're easy to read.”
Spike starts towards Twilight and the colts looking majorly peeved. Chowder sticks a foreleg out to stop him.
“No, Spike. Have faith in her,” he says.
The four of us are shock still, crouched by the Sweet Apple Acres stall. It's a Manican standoff for a few tense seconds, Twilight facing down the two colts, waiting for them to make a move. Snails is still dazed from the beating. Snips opens his mouth once, twice and then speaks:
“You have the most interestingly pretentious hooves I've ever seen.”
Twilight looks genuinely perplexed. “Pardon me, Snips?”
“Um... you have the most interestingly pretentious hooves I've ever seen?”
“Sorry, I really don't know what you're trying to say. What do you mean by interestingly pretentious hooves?”
The panic is obvious in Snips' face. He hasn't thought this far ahead. “They're hooves that are, uh, interestingly pretentious. Yeah, that.”
Twilight is still confused, but there's a hint of concern in her voice. “Yes, those are words but they don't work when you use them like that. How can hooves be pretentious, and why would they be interesting?”
I feel bad for Snips, bless his little cotton socks. Thinking on his hooves was never really his thing.
“Because... they're hooves that pretend to be something... else? And they're interesting because they – they're supposed to be hooves! Haha!”
“What could my hooves pretend to be?!” The last time I'd seen anyone look as confused as Twilight was when Pinkie Pie was everywhere at once.
“That's the bit between the pastern and the cannon,” she says slowly, “Snips, you look really peaky, are you okay? Why are you wearing rave clothes at ten in the morning? And what's wrong with Snails?”
Snails is rocking from side to side, still punch drunk. “...there's been too many hits and my brain feels squidgy...”
Twilight doesn't look confused any more, she's looking at the pair with something like motherly concern. “Too many hits? You poor colts, you're having a 'bad trip!' Oh, we need to get you right to a hospital-”
“NO, uh, no Miss Sparkle we're fine we're just-”
“-I know you might not want to tell your parents but it would be a really good idea to talk to someone about this, Miss Cheerilee can get you the support you need-”
“-no please it's totally fine me and Snails are just going right Snails come on we've got to go-”
“-it's natural to experiment at your age but you really need to get some help before it becomes a problem-”
“-no really we're going now it's fine thanks anyway! Bye Miss Twilight!” Snips steals away, dragging Snails along with him. Twilight almost moves to follow after them, but Spike calls to her.
“Oh! Hey Spike!,” she says, trotting towards us, “Who's that you're- Oh, hello Featherweight!”
I should probably explain the deal with Featherweight and Twilight Sparkle. See, Featherweight doesn't have the same... drive, lets say, when it comes to matters of intimacy that I do. He thinks me something of a hedonistic pervert, an unfairly accurate characterization. Instead of appreciating all the beauty of the female form (and rather a lot of the male form too) like I do, he swings between total disinterest in all things romantic; and sudden, wild infatuations that never go anywhere before quietly dissipating. Featherweight is now six weeks into a crush on Twilight, the utterly adorable former child prodigy, local librarian and national hero.
I'm not going to say he's punching above his weight, because I'm a colt who wants nothing more than a foursome with the former Cutie Mark Crusaders, so that would be hypocritical of me. In fact, he's doing better than he usually does. He's not pining at her from a distance; he's started volunteering at the library and organising their new multimedia collection. He's built up a decent rapport with her, for all the stick I give him he's a rather cultured fellow and can hold a conversation on a wide range of intellectual topics from literature to hard sciences. Still, I'm expecting this crush to go roughly the same way as the last four.
“Good morning Twilight, how are you? What's the matter with Snips and Snails?” asks Featherweight, with fake concern.
Twilight looks conflicted. “Oh. I'm not sure it's really my place to say...”
“They've been acting awfully strange lately, Miss Sparkle,” I say, “We're really worried about them, they're nice chaps and we'd feel ever so bad if something rotten were happening and we couldn't do anything to help them.”
“Aww, you colts have grown up into some of the sweetest young stallions I've ever met,” she says, beaming at us. “If you think you can convince them to get help, I'll tell you, but you mustn't go telling everypony, okay?”
“We wouldn't dream of it, Twilight,” says Feathers.
“Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye,” we say, doing the motions. Twilight beckons us to a table near the Sweet Apple Acres stalls where there are fewer ponies around to overhear us. She leans over the table, and whispers:
“I think they're on...” She pauses and looks from side to side, “The drugs.”
“The drugs, Twilight?” says Featherweight, eyes wide with shock.
“I think so, guys,” she says sadly, “I don't see anything wrong with clover or even a little bit of salt at parties, but I think they're into something worse. It could be super-strains of clover, concentrated salts, locoweed, slab, cake, magical designer substances, or drugs that don't even have names! If you could convince them to talk to Nurse Redheart...”
“As soon as we get a chance, Twilight.” Featherweight pats her on the shoulder with a wing.
“You don't have a problem with clover or salt?” I ask. I never thought she'd be the type to try either. The Greater Ponyville Area is a smokeless and unsalted county, the closest place you can buy or sell them legally is Fillydelphia.
She grins at us sheepishly. “You don't spend nearly a decade partying with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie without trying a few new things. I've had some pretty wild times since I moved to Ponyville, even without monsters trying to end the world.”
“I'd love to hear about Twilight's wild times,” says Featherweight, “We should swap stories sometime.”
“I think I'd like that, Featherweight.”
“Did you stop at the used book stall?” asks Spike, pointing to Twilight's bulging saddlebags.
She blushes, and I see why Featherweight is smitten with her. Those blushes are so cute that each one cancels out five migraines.
Spike gives her a flat look.
“Oh but Spiiike, they had books! Books! My one weakness!” Spike just rolls his eyes and shakes his head.
“What did you get?” asks Feathers.
“A few things, I got Daydream Glare's book on griffon society, a copy of Do Golems Dream of Thaumatic Sheep, and two Con Mane stories. They're not high literature, but they're well-told stories that grab you by the mane and don't let go.”
“That's a coincidence, I just finished From Tarandroland with Love a few days ago,” says Feathers. The two of them are glowing with the kind of excitement and wonder that only fans of a series who have just found another fan can experience.
“Oh yeah? What did you think?”
“Utter filth,” he says, grinning, “So, the plot is that Con Mane has to go to Sarvikk, because there's a reindeer defector who's seen his file, has fallen for him, and wants him to pick her up, take her back to Equestria and screw her in exchange for a magic codebreaking device. He gets sent because he's the only EIS agent good enough in bed to tell if a mare is faking an orgasm, but oh no! She's a double agent who's been trained by the reindeer in the ancient art of being good in bed!”
“I know, right?” says Twilight, shaking her head, “If somepony made a pornographic parody of From Tarandroland with Love it would read exactly like From Tarandroland with Love and it would be called From Tarandroland with Love.” That gets a small laugh from everypony.
“Anyway, Spike and I should probably head off, the girls are coming over for movies tonight and he's being a wonderful, amazing assistant and helping me prepare the library for that. It's been nice seeing you colts, are you still coming to help with the new collection tomorrow Featherweight?”
“Wouldn't miss it for the world, Twilight.”
I suddenly think of something. “Oh, Miss Sparkle, one of our friends is having a little get-together tonight, can Spike come?”
“Hm? Sure, if he wants to I don't see why not. Spike?”
“Uh yeah, sure. Tell me at Dinky's, I'll see you guys later!”
The pair trot off towards the library, Featherweight gazing longingly after Twilight. I think Chowder's doing the same, but it turns out he's just listless. It's too damn hot.
“It's too damn hot, chaps. Let's head to the lake.”
As soon as Feathers snaps out of his yearning daze for Twilight Sparkle's luscious, curvy mind, we turn and head towards the lake. That's when I realise that Chowder isn't next to us anymore. He was right there, less than ten seconds ago. I look around and see him at one of the stalls, buying the barbecue stuff that we'd entirely forgotten about. Rather good of him I say, though it's disconcerting when he disappears like that. Nopony that bulky should move that quietly. Soon he's back with a disposable barbecue, mushrooms, bell peppers and tomatoes.
We set off towards the lake, and so hot that we're drenched in sweat and panting fifty metres out of the market. I really feel for Chowder on days like this, he's sweating bullets and guzzling down water. Being twice the size in height and girth to most ponies has it's downsides. The only pony I know who's taller than him is Apple Bloom's older brother, and he's a fair bit slimmer than Chowder even then.
Fifteen minutes past Fluttershy's Animal Sanctuary, the sounds of Ponyville fade out and are replaced by the distant sounds of the lake. The place must be packed to sod. Don't even care. Featherweight is still talking, but most of it is variations of "It's hot," "Have you guys noticed how hot it is," and "It's too damn hot."
We're on the hill next to the lake, and it's the last turn on the path before the slope down to the beach. I see a group of six or seven colts heading towards us. I recognise them, but only know a couple by name. Shady Daze is one. He's a muscular, pale blue colt with a gel-spiked gray mane, wearing wrap-around sunglasses. They're all wearing wrap-around sunglasses. As they get closer, Shady calls out to us.
He trots up to us, brohoofs me and Chowder, then wraps up Featherweight in half-hug, half-headlock. Shady used to be in the Foal Free Press with Feathers until a year or two back. He was a little less mental back then.
Now, I'll just come out and say it: I do not care for these chaps. It's not something specific that they've done, but they're just not at all my type of pony. I'm struggling for the right words here, but simply put they're too... laddish. You got the same sorts back in Trottingham; they're a little different over in Central Equestria, but still the same at heart. You know the type. Cheeky, cheery chaps who only have time for hoofball, beer and fillies. They're lads' lads who love a bit of banter, but they're still ladies' stallions. Those kind of colts.
You know the type. They're the type of colts who never shy away from a good scrap but do it in a cheeky, cheery way. One of them might be up against some sod doing a crazy qi-rin chuan warm up, so he'll just start windmilling on him until the martial artist is on his arse, then he'll make a sly face and all his mates will have a laugh. Afterwards, when they're having a pint, they'll banter about it.
They're the kind of colts where one's always called Spud, and he's cheeky and cheery too but a little bit dim at the same time. He'll be cheeky and cheery in a simple-minded way, like one of the lads will tell a joke about Canterlot nobles and a monkey butler, and the punchline is that the noble's spouse is cheating on her but Spud is laughing because everypony knows that monkeys can't talk. They'll banter about it in the pub afterwards and it'll go over his head, but he won't mind because he's cheeky and cheery and really he's just happy to be out the house.
They love big fights after the hoofball match with the other team's fans, especially if they're from out of town, because getting in scraps like that is real, and not toned-down button-down shit that your bosses and teachers are always telling you to do, and it's very important to be real and not a toned-down button-down type. Society wants you to be a toned-down button-down type, and letting society emasculate you like that is a short step away from becoming a metrosexual who uses conditioner.
Still, there's usually one who does use conditioner and is a tad better groomed than the rest, and they'll give him a right ribbing for it in a cheeky cheery way throwing about words like 'coltcuddler' and 'poofter.' When he's not out with his mates, he's inside their marefriends.
This isn't to say they don't groom at all. They use mane gel. They love mane gel. They order it in crates. When these colts go to the beach, their manes trigger a hagfish orgy. They also wear expensive aftershave, lots of expensive aftershave, enough to smell them from ten meters upwind. It's painfully strong and always expensive. I assume someone told them it wards off testicle-theiving warlocks and they've been too scared of being left cheerless, cheekless husks to dare think otherwise. They love protein shakes and working out, because the only thing cheekier and cheerier than a drunken idiot on a Friday night is a drunken idiot on a friday night who doesn't know his own strength.
You know the type of ponies I'm talking about. Ones who love chasing mares and when they're not chatting about beer or hoofball they're rating mares on an entirely objective one to ten scale. Only certain types of mare however, ones between fifteen and thirty with toned flanks who've read every single issue of Cosmarepolitan thinking 'yeah, that makes sense' on every single page. Fillies who prefer Equestrian Scientist or prefer stompy hoofboots to heels are strange and unnerving. Fat mares or mares over thirty-five are terrible things. To these colts, a fat mare is like a walking centipede colony: disgusting, bewildering and probably a testicle warlock in disguise. They fear that if they talk too long with a fat mare, she will shift into an eldritch raven and prophesy their firstborn's death.
That type of colt. Cheeky. Cheery. Love hoofball, beer and Cosmare fillies. Hate fatties, reading and mane-gel tariffs. But even then, it's not simply those things I've mentioned. It's the absence of all other things, a personality built entirely around laddishness with no deeper interests or subtleties. Things that do not involve hoofball, hairgel, scrapping, expensive aftershave, banter, Cosmare fillies or beer are deeply suspect to them. I'm talking about those sorts of colts.
Don't get me wrong, this is mostly a personal taste thing on my part. I don't openly voice my distaste for them, and according to Feathers they just think I'm rather aloof and almost certainly gay. I can be a tad judgemental, and I'm sure most of them are perfectly nice in their own way, except Shady Daze. I find he's a bit unbalanced, like somepony took a normal colt and replaced his thoughts with scorpions.
"You guys just been at the lake?" asks Featherweight after Shady releases him.
"Yeah bro, it's fuckin' good. You three heading down there? That place is poontang central, there's more hot flank than you can shake a dick at, and Celestia knows we tried, right? There's enough pussy down there to even turn homos like you straight!" says Shady, grinning and jabbing Feathers in the ribs.
"Hey, I'm saving myself for marriage," says Featherweight, grinning back, "How come you guys are tearing yourselves away from all the babes?"
Shady Daze shrugs. "It's Diamond Tiara's party tonight dude, it's gonna be an all-you-can-eat pussy buffet. We've got shit to do first."
"Yeah, we gotta go work out before the party, pound out some bench presses, do some squats, drink some shakes," says another colt, a sandy-coated blue maned pony with a bowling ball cutie mark. Lucky Strike, that's him. He looks worryingly strong. "Gym, tan, laundry, dudes. Gotta stay fresh, y'know."
Let's be clear: my feelings towards these ponies have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they're all measurably stronger, bigger and more aggressive than me. There's also definitely no healthy amount of fear playing into the don't-openly-show-contempt for these ponies I've got going on.
"Yeah, that, and also I gotta sneak some rubbers from Legal Advice and Marital Aids for the party," says Shady, "I swear if they give me shit for shoplifting or some bullshit like that one more time, I'm gonna burn that shop to the ground."
Everypony laughs, except Shady himself, who just looks bemused. "Why are you guys laughing? That's not a joke. I'm seriously, unironically planning to commit arson if those guys annoy me," he says. That gets another round of laughs, and I'm smart enough to fake a chuckle.
"Oh mare, Shady, you kill me," laughs Lucky Strike, who then turns to Feathers. "Featherweight, bro, you're still running that paper, right? We've got this money-making idea, how much does it cost to take out an ad?"
"I'm sure we can work something out," says Feathers nonchalantly, "What's the details, Lucky?"
While they hash out their business, a thought crosses my mind. I turn to Shady Daze.
"Shady," I say, "Did you give Snips and Snails a book of some sort?"
He turns to me, still smiling. I don't trust his smile. It's the kind of smile you find on ponies who don't know why beating small animals is wrong.
"What, Speedy Seduction? Oh yeah, those retards were bitching about how they can't get any poontang, so I thought I'd give them a little Shady Daze magic," he says, "That book taught me a lot about picking up mares."
"Really? Some of the stuff in that book seems a tad... strange."
"Oh yeah, I mean I don't use everything from it. I figure all the crazy dressing up stuff is for dorks, I make fun of hoes to their faces anyway, and I didn't read all of it 'cause I don't like reading," he says, "But there's a lot of good stuff in there."
"Dare I ask what?"
"Y'know, like separating hot mares from their bitch friends, getting them really drunk, ignoring the first two times they say no to anything-"
"That- that sounds rather dark, Shady," I say, one eyebrow raised.
"Oh it's not like that," he says, waving my words off with a hoof, "You're just helping mares get over their social conditioning not to blow you behind some bushes, so you both get what you want."
"But it sounds like they don't want to do it..."
"Oh Pipsqueak. I had a friend who thought like that once."
He holds eye contact for a long moment, still sporting that cheeky, cheery grin of his. I see something behind those eyes of his, and I really don't like the look of it.
After a second I start laughing. He joins in, and soon we're both nearly doubled over with laughter.
"Shady, you're a proper lad, you know that?" I say.
"Hey, I try." he says, the look gone.
Featherweight is still talking about the ad. "-and I'm pretty sure that's a pyramid scheme, dudes. They're kinda illegal, I can't take out an ad for one."
Lucky Strike looks rather put out by that. "What, like go to jail illegal?"
Featherweight nods. "'Fraid so, dude."
"Aw fuck, that would have made us so much money! Couldn't we put a disclaimer thing on it or some shit?"
"I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think that would work," says Feathers, shrugging.
"Oh mare, that's a downer," says Lucky Strike, frowning. "Anyway, we gotta cut this short, it's time to go work out. See you guys tonight!"
With that, they all set off, bantering about beer and fillies and hoofball as they go. We set straight off to the lake, scamper down the slope to the lake (or lumber down, in Chowder's case) and we're there.
It's busy but not completely packed. There are dozens of ponies swimming in the water, pegasi flying about overhead, and dozens more laying out on the beach. There's still enough space for us to lay down or take a swim without bumping into somepony. We look around and see if we can spot anypony we know. It's mostly teenagers on their day off, but there's a whole bunch of weather team pegasi flying about too. We walk onto the beach, say hi to Rumble and his big brother, stop to chat with Archer about the new Ponyville archery club we're helping organise, see High Score and Apple Bytes schooling Hot Wheels and Grace Lightning at volleyball.
That's when I see them.
The former Cutie Mark Crusaders. They are three of the most beautiful ponies I have laid eyes on, rivalling even the dark beauty of Princess Luna herself.
Apple Bloom is lying on a picnic blanket, sketching in a notepad. She's already been in the lake. Her red mane is dripping and the sunshine is glistening off her butter-yellow coat. She has supple curves over thick muscle, from a foalhood of farmer's work and farmer's food. She got her cutie mark a few years back, a crossed hammer and painter's brush. It's fitting, since I want to hammer that flank with one thing and paint it with another. She sweeps her wet mane from her face and keeps on doodling.
Sweetie Belle is next to her, lying on her back and soaking up the sun. She's madly, impossibly adorable. There's a bit of fat on her flanks and belly, the sort that makes glorious *thwup-thwup-thwup* sounds as you thrust up from the bottom. She's got a lush, curly mane that you want to chew and nuzzle into, and deep green eyes that almost make you want to forget the shagging and just snuggle up to her forever. Almost.
She sits her self up, levitates a juice box to her muzzle and sips at it. Bloody hay that's cute.
I can't see Scoots for a moment, then an orange shape bursts out from below the lake surface and loops-the-loop in the air. She shakes off a mist of droplets in mid-air and then lands next to her friends.
I'd go on about her taut, athletic frame, her cocky, rakish grin or her splendidly dark sense of humour but... wings! By Celestia's nipples, her wings! They've grown since we were foals, they used to be tiny little things that couldn't get her airborne, but they're now huge. They almost look too big for her body, but she's got thews of iron supporting them, and she's still growing into them. She's preened them with special waterproofing oil for swimming and diving and- I mean, they're gleaming. They look slick and soft and strong and sleek all at once, and I want them in my mouth.
I beckon Featherweight and Chowder to follow, and head over to my future wives.
Apple Bloom looks up from her sketching, and gives us a big, country mare smile. "Well howdy there colts. Y'all enjoying the sunshine?"
"It's definitely 'doss around at the lake' weather, I'll say that. How long have you fillies been here?"
"I dragged these lazy bitches out of bed a few hours ago so they could check out my amazing cloud-diving skills," says a dripping-wet Scootaloo, swaggering up behind Apple Bloom and giving her a damp noogie.
Apple Bloom nips under her friend and pushes her onto her back with a lazy, powerful foreleg swipe. "Bunch of horseapples! Ah was hollerin' for a half-hour tryin' to wake your lazy flank up!"
Scootaloo shrimps out from underneath her friend, gets to her hooves and flicks her spiky purple mane out from her eyes. "Hey, it ain't my fault clouds are so comfy and it ain't my fault that you're up at crazy farmer hours. My point is, it's a nice day and there's no school so we came to hang out by the lake. You guys gonna join us or what?"
We set ourselves up next to them, laying out a blanket on the ground and unpacking the food and barbecue.
"How you fillies been?" asks Featherweight, "We haven't seen you since Sweetie's gig at the Knife and Apple."
"You came to see me singing on Wednesday?" asks a beaming Sweetie Belle.
"We heard your singing from outside so we popped in to listen," I say, "It was lovely, you do wonderful things with Bill Withers songs."
"Damn straight," says Featherweight, "I could listen to that stuff all night." Chowder nods in agreement.
Sweetie Belle blushes and grins. "Aww, thanks guys! I saw so nervous though, it was my first ever paid gig! It was really sweet of you guys to come."
Scoots looks at us, eyebrows raised. "Hard Cider let you colts into the Knife and Apple?"
I give her a look of mock-indignation. "I'm an apprentice liquor distributor, I'm well networked," I say.
"And I have a press pass," says Featherweight.
"You don't have a press pass," says Scootaloo.
"Oh yeah? What's this then?" Featherweight takes out a piece of paper from his saddlebags and shows it to Scootaloo.
"...that's a receipt from Quills and Sofas with 'JOURNAMALIST 4 FFP' scribbled on the back."
"We're on a budget, okay? And it gets me into the Knife and Apple and that's good enough for me."
Scootaloo rolls her eyes. "Whatever. How'd he get in?" she asks, pointing to Chowder.
Sweetie Belle gazes at Featherweight, giving him the cutest doe-eyed look possible. "So, Featherweight, if you were there for the Foal Free Press, does that mean I'm going to get a nice review in the paper?" she asks, batting her eyelids at him.
"Well Sweetie," I say, "While your performance was delightful and deserves a good write-up, I should tell you as an external advisor to the Foal Free Press that we all like money."
Featherweight concurs. "That's true, we do like money."
"I also like money," rumbles Chowder.
Sweetie Belle pouts at us. It's a sight to behold, and I'm suddenly imagining her deep green eyes staring right into my soul, her thick, bee-stung lips ever-so-slightly parted, inches away from a throbbing microphone.
"Fine, no bribery," says Featherweight, "Try flattery instead."
Sweetie Belle strokes her chin with a hoof, eyes up in thought. "Well, Featherweight, you're a really good writer, the Foal Free Press is the best paper in town, and you have great taste in music, art and writing."
"Go on..." says Featherweight, grinning.
"And you're especially attractive to purple librarians. They just want to eat you up."
"Very nice, now do Pip," he says, a satisfied smirk on his face.
"I'm vain and I think I'm funnier than I am, just for reference," I say.
"Ah think we all knew that, hun," says a grinning Apple Bloom. I wave her off with a hoof.
Sweetie Belle looks me straight in the eye. "Pipsqueak, you're devilishly handsome, witty and very charming. Your Trottingham accent is impossibly sexy."
"And who am I especially attractive to?"
"Every mare with a pulse, Pip," she says sweetly.
"Ah, you're a darling, Sweetie," I say, "Chowder's turn. Tell him who the best cook in Ponyville is."
Chowder is splayed back on his towel, resting his head on his forehooves. He looks in Sweetie's direction, a languid smile on his face.
Sweetie Belle scrunches up her face in mock thought. "...is it Mrs Cake?"
"Not including bakers," I say.
"Um, is it Bon-Bon?"
"She's a confectioner, doesn't count."
"Blendy at the smoothie stand?"
"Don't be facetious."
She rolls her eyes and laughs before looking over at Chowder. "Chowder, you're the best cook in Ponyville by a mile. And those things you make with stuffed bell peppers and rice and cheese are amazing."
Chowder looks up at us, grins and claps his hooves together in approval.
"Yeah, I think you can get a review in the Press," says Featherweight brightly.
"A good review?" asks Sweetie Belle, eyebrows raised.
"Best review," grunts Chowder.
"We'll use words and everything," I say, "Words like 'soulful,' 'note-perfect' and 'can next be seen performing at.' Wonderful words."
"You'll have your picture in it and everything," says Featherweight, taking out his camera and pointing it at Sweetie Belle. "Pose for a publicity photo?"
Sweetie sits up, peers over her sunglasses at the camera with a sultry smile on her face, a stray lock of curly pink hair falling over her forehead. The camera clicks, she gives the cutest little giggle, and then flops back down on the blanket.
I would do terrible things to see this mare's post-sex face. I'd unplug the speakers at a heavy metal concert and plug them into a phonograph filled with elevator music to see that face.
"Hey, all this talking and chilling is cool and all, but it's been more than a minute since I've done something awesome and I'm starting to get twitchy," says Scootaloo, hovering a metre off the ground, bouncing a beach ball under her hooves "You guys, come play some water polo!"
I stretch out my hooves and glance up at her. "Sounds like a laugh, fillies versus colts?"
"Sure. Don't cry too hard when you lose."
"No promises. Don't spend too long sobbing into Rainbow Dash's chest if you lose though, she needs her space."
"Pfft, suck my ovaries Squeaky, Dash ain't all that anyway-"
"What's that you're saying about me, squirt?" comes the voice of a certain rainbow-maned Element of Harmony.
Scootaloo whips round, eyes wide in panic. "WHAT?! Oh no, I didn't mean-"
She turns face to face with Sweetie Belle, grinning from ear to ear, her horn glowing. Apple Bloom is next to her, barely holding in laughter. "Aww, did you get fooled by a little voice spell?" says Sweetie, in a perfect Rainbow Dash voice.
Scootaloo gives her a flat look. "You're the worst friends ever. That was worse than the whole chicken thing. We gonna play water polo or not?"
We all get up, stretch out and head into the water. It's still cold, but feels perfect on a day as hot as this. For a minute we all just splash about, getting our water legs and enjoying the shivers and gooseflesh from the cool water. Sweetie Belle sets up little magical glow-spots for the goalposts before taking her place as goalkeeper. Chowder gets into our goal. Me and Feathers get in position, mirrored by Apple Bloom and Scoots on the other side. Feathers and Scootaloo play rock-paper-scissors with their wings for possession, Scootaloo wins.
"You colts ready to get your flanks kicked?" she yells.
"Nice quip, I'll stick it in the funny pages when you lose ten-none," answers Feathers. Scootaloo laughs, makes a rude gesture with her hooves, and the game kicks off.
I want to say that we put up a good show but are eventually outclassed by the crusaders. I want to say it's close, that the crusaders get a solid lead that we just can't make up in time. But those things would be filthy lies. They whip us like we're paying for it. Apple Bloom smacks that ball like it mouthed off about her family, always straight into Scoots' hooves. Featherweight is flighty, but Scootaloo is where she needs to be before she even knows she's there; and she plays dirty as anything. She feints strikes and bumps so much that I think she's playing taekwondo. The crusaders are re-enacting the day that scientists discovered the least efficient way to drown howler monkeys. Only Chowder's panther-like reflexes and manatee-like size in goal stop the score getting worse than eight-to-one in the first fifteen minutes.
We score two goals in quick succession out of pure luck more than anything else, and as I almost spike a third in, Apple Bloom jumps up, knocks it to Scoots and they score their ninth goal. It's first to ten, and the fillies are looking about as confident as you'd expect. Featherweight passes to me, gets in position to receive-
-Scootaloo slams right into my face, sending me flying back into the water. When I surface with my vision swimming and ears ringing, she's looking bashful and Apple Bloom is calling a foul against her. This is our chance. If we get this penalty, and score one more goal, it won't be a completely humiliating loss, just mostly humiliating. Like only having to buy numbing performance condoms, rather than extra-snug-fit numbing performance condoms (two things I've never had to worry about, by the way).
Scoots is just outside the fillies' penalty area with the ball in her hooves, treading water. I swim up to her, she offers the ball up to me, then pulls it back as I reach out for it. I pull my hoof back, and she brings the ball back forwards. She's grinning at me.
"Do you want the ball?" she asks.
"I do want the ball."
"Do you want me to give you the ball?"
"I would, now you mention it."
She puts on her cockiest smile. "Nah, I think you should come and take it."
I reach out to the left, and she passes it to the right hoof. I reach for the right hoof, she passes it to the left.
"Drop the ball, Loo-Loo."
"Not yet, Squeaky."
She spins it on a hoof, and I lunge for it. I splash down in the water as she jumps up, and when I surface we're face to face. Her forelegs are going past my shoulders, and she's holding the ball behind my head. Our muzzles are inches apart.
"You're looking the wrong way, Pip. Ball's behind you," she whispers.
"So I see. Now all you have to do is drop it, Scoots."
"Nah, I'm not feelin' it. Try begging for it."
"Fat chance," I say, and poke her in the stomach. She yelps, fumbles the ball for a second before recovering and stares at me in mock-shock. Then she boops me on the nose with the ball.
"That's just mean-spirited," I say.
"You started it." *Boop*
"You were being unreasonable. A gentlecolt never begs."
"You just made that up." *Boop*
"Maybe. You going to give me the ball?"
She rolls her eyes and tosses the ball backwards, balancing it behind her between her large orange wings. "Sheesh, if you can't take one little ball off a filly like me, how are you going to win a whole game of water polo?"
"I'm not taking the ball, I'm distracting you."
Before the "Huh?" even leaves her mouth, Featherweight jumps up and snatches the ball from her wings. He pumps himself just above the surface of the water and rears back to shoot. Time stops as all eyes are on the ball.
He smacks it straight towards the goal-
-Sweetie lunges and bumps it with the tip of her hoof-
-it bounces over to Apple Bloom-
Spirits of the earth and mountains scream into Apple Bloom's ear, and her eyes flash with sudden understanding.
She smacks the ball so hard it sounds out like a war drum, and crashes into our goal with a resounding splash. Chowder barely had a chance to blink.
"Now, ah hate to sound like ah'm braggin' and whatnot," says Apple Bloom, "but yeaaaahhhh, THAT'S HOW WE DO IT DOWN ON THE FAAARRM, UNNHH!" She gets a double brohoof from her teammates and we head back to the shore.
"Good game though, fellas," says Apple Bloom, "Don't feel too bad or nothin', we nearly ended up Cutie Mark Water Polo Champions back in the day."
"Hey, it's all good," says Featherweight. "Barbecue time then, guys?"
We all voice our approval. Cooking gets under way, with Featherweight and myself being commis for Chowder, chopping up the peppers and mushrooms and rubbing in the blend of herbs and spices he carries in his saddlebags at all times. He starts the fire up, skewers the food and gets to cooking. The crusaders are sprawled out in a pile on the blankets, basking in the glow of victory. Ten minutes later, we're doling out the skewers onto the paper plates. We go towards the fillies, and Scoots sits up and strikes a pose.
"Bring your conquerors food, wenches, for we have glutted ourselves on sporting victory and must fill our bellies with kebab!" she cries. It's not quite Broadmane standard, but it gets a grin from me.
"Please, those two are serving wenches, I'm a courtesan," I say.
"What's that?" she asks, picking up a skewer.
"I think they're ponies who sit in other ponies' laps and giggle demurely," says Sweetie Belle, levitating her own skewer and blowing gently on a piece of pepper.
"Hmm. Anything else?" asks Scoots. I can't place her expression.
"...I can give massages?" I say.
"You. Here. Now," orders Apple Bloom, laying face down on the blanket.
"Yes ma'am," I say dryly.
I take a bite of kebab and trot up to Apple Bloom. I swing a back leg over her and tuck my tail between my legs, sitting upright on her withers facing her fail. Her coat is damp, but quickly I can feel the warmth of her body on the backs of my legs and flank.
"Lil' close and personal, huh Pip?" she mumbles.
"It's for leverage, would you like me to switch position?"
"...nah, I'm just messin'. Get to work."
I run my front hooves down her back, testing the ground and trying to feel out how much pressure I need. I feel a very stiff bit on her upper back, and dig my hooves in a little. It gets a tiny murmur from Apple Bloom, but the knot barely budges. I dig in harder. It's like kneading plywood.
"Bloody hay, Apple Bloom, what do you sleep on, bricks and strychnine needles?" I say, bearing down on this spot.
"Nopony asked you to talk, colt. Just keep at that, that spot right therrr..." She trails off into a low groan that turns into something between a purr and a growl. It's equal parts intimidating and arousing. I think of pricing strategies for high-end clear liquors. I enjoy an erection as much as any other stallion, but sometimes they're inconsiderate. Besides, I have work to do.
And hard work it is. Apple Bloom has tough, thick muscles from years of farm and building work, and she's long overdue a hot bath followed by a good massage. Usually I can't apply this much pressure without getting squeaks of pain, but all it gets from her is a relaxed, guttural moan. By the time I've teased out the biggest knots in her I'm sweating lightly and breathing hard.
She sighs as I gently work out the smaller kinks, though I'm still putting on much more pressure than usual. My forelegs are burning and I'm grunting with effort when I get to her flanks and legs, which are a little less tense but still take a lot of work. When I finish off on her neck and forelegs, she's giggling contentedly with a blissful expression on her face, and I flop down next to her. The others have finished their food, and are all staring at us.
"Hey, can we get in on that?" asks Scootaloo.
"Give me a minute ladies, I'm spent."
I get a soft nudge from Apple Bloom. I don't react. "Ya should have thought ah that before you went and offered free massages."
"Featherweight and Chowder can give massages just fine, y'know."
Everypony considers this for a second, and soon the blankets are a massage free-for-all. Chowder lightly works out the few kinks in Sweetie Belle's back and neck, Featherweight digs his hooves into Scootaloo's wing joints, and everything sounds of grunts of effort and relaxed sighs. Apple Bloom steps on top of me and starts working her hooves into my back.
"Ah figure ah'd return the favour," she says when I glance up. It feels divine. She's not a trained masseuse, but she's not clumsy and her strong, powerful hooves make short work of every knot in my back. When she starts to crack my spine, I think I might pass out from the sensation. As she kneads out a big knot of pressure under my cutie marks, I'm suddenly rather glad to be laying on my stomach.
"How's that?" asks Apple Bloom ten minutes later, giving my back a final slap. Scootaloo finished up on Featherweight a few minutes ago and is now helping Sweetie Belle with Chowder. They're working on the backs of his legs.
"...mmph. Too relaxed. Never moving again. Your fault."
She rolls her eyes and gives me a poke. Five minutes later we're all sprawled out in a very relaxed pile of pony.
"That was fun," says Featherweight, sounding dazed, "We should do this again sometime."
A blissed-out looking Scootaloo raises her head. "Totally. You guys coming to DT's tonight?"
"Hay yeah. You?" asks Featherweight.
"Oh yeah. We're gonna party hard."
"I thought you had a thing about Diamond Tiara?" I say.
"Nah, all that's in the past, mostly," says Apple Bloom. "Can't say ah always see eye-to-eye with Tiara, but we're business minded sorts and we ain't gonna risk eithers our family business over some school-foal crap."
"She mellowed out a bit," agrees Sweetie Belle, "and Silver Spoon mellowed out a lot, especially after she started apprenticing with my sis."
"Meh, I still think they're both dickheads, but they're better than they used to be," says Scootaloo, "Plus they throw the best parties with Apple Bloom's booze, and they haven't given me a good reason to kick their flanks from here to Appleloosa yet."
Apple Bloom glances around, and looks at where the sun is in the sky. "Speakin' ah cider, ah better git. Ah need to stick a load more scrumpy apples into the scratcher, pour out a keg for tonight and make some repairs to the press ah told Applejack I'd do."
Sweetie Belle sits up too. "I need to go practice for a few hours, so I'm off too. It was really nice seeing you, and thanks for the food guys!"
"Yo AB, you want a hoof at the farm?" asks Scootaloo.
"That'd be real kind ah you, Scoots. Well, we'll see y'all tonight. Thanks again for the food, fellas!"
"Pleasure's all ours," I say. Featherweight and Chowder say their farewells, they pack up their stuff and then they're off, chatting as they go. We stay there for a little longer on the beach, laid out on a blanket, well-fed and utterly relaxed. Chowder is the next one to speak.
"We gonna go get baked or what?"
Half an hour later, we're just round the corner from Dinky's when a pony barrels into me, wraps me in a tight hug and nuzzles my withers.
He releases the hug and takes a step back, beaming at me. Brown coat, floppy blond mane, shining blue eyes, ice-cream cutie mark. It's Lickety-Split, cheerful, expressive and gay in both senses of the word. That, and crushingly lonely. There are a few other stallions in town who swing that way, but they're all twice his age - and just for good measure, taken.
Looking back, it was bad of me to fool around with him and then tell him I was more into mares. In my defence he's rather cute and I was rather drunk, and all we did was kiss and feel each other up; but it was still horrid of me to lead him on like that. He's in serious need of a good shag, which is why I'm always on the lookout for any colts coming out in Ponyville. No luck so far, unfortunately.
He gives two equally-peppy-but-less-nuzzly hugs to Featherweight and Chowder, and then says:
"Are you guys going to Diamond Tiara's tonight?"
"We are, but we're stopping off at Dinky's for some clover first. Would you like to join us?" I ask.
He shakes his head, smiling, hair falling across his eyes. "Sorry buddy, I'm helping Bon-Bon at the shop for the afternoon. I wanted to ask though, is it okay if I bum round yours after the party?"
I pause and raise my eyebrows. "...you mean stay over at mine tonight, right?"
"Yeah, sure, that. Would that be okay? My parents will be mad if I wake them up at four in the morning," he says, eyes wide and pleading.
"That's not a problem, but Pina and her friends will be up until sunrise drinking and being their charming selves. I was going to stay round Diamond Tiara's, Celestia knows she's got the room."
"Oh cool! Could we share a sleeping bag? I'll be the little spoon..." he says, winking at me. "Hah, just kidding!"
He's not kidding.
"Nah, Pip's definitely the little spoon, check out his hips," says Featherweight, "Those are not the hips of a big spoon."
Lickety Split giggles and Featherweight grins. I am not going to humour them. My hips are just fine.
"Well that sounds fine, I'll bring my sleeping bag," says Lickety, "I gotta get to the shop, I'll see you cuties tonight. I'm bringing brandy and ice cream."
"We'll see you there, dude," says Featherweight.
He canters off the way we came, tail swishing as he goes.
"Dude needs to get laid," observes Chowder.
"Yeah, and we need to get baked, let's head on to Dinky's," says Featherweight.
We're soon on the pavement outside Dinky's house, a cottage just down the street from Quills and Sofas. She lives there with her mother and sister, and does most of her business from her bedroom or front door. Across the unmown lawn, Dinky is in the doorway doing just that. She's haggling with Peach Schnapps over a small plastic pouch.
"-and eleven bits for this is like, insane! Half of it's just stalks and seeds, Dinky!"
Dinky rolls her eyes and huffs in her nasal voice: "Peachy, Peachy, you're breaking my ovaries here! This is some of the strongest clover ever grown in Equestria, it'll get you high just sniffing it. This'll put you into a haze for days and days, it'll cut straight to your brain like razor blades. Have you even smelled it? Just smell it." She levitates the pouch over to Peach's muzzle and opens it up. Peach gives it a sniff, and is mollified a little by it.
"Peach babe," she continues, "If Princess Celestia and Princess Luna themselves came to my abode and said to me 'Dinky, fetch us a bowl of your dankest shit possible so we may both get as high as our respective celestial bodies,' this would be the stuff I'd serve them. Smoking this stuff is like being sat down on the most comfortable chair ever made and then being shot in the face with an electric orgasm cannon. Look, how long have we known each other?"
"About two weeks."
"Really? Shit, seems like longer," Dinky mutters, "Look, my point is I don't fuck around when it comes to clover. It's my bread and butter, I have the best quality stuff available, and when I don't the price reflects that. I want to do business with you more than once, I'm not about to rip off a first-time customer!"
"...all I have is nine bits."
Dinky sighs and gives her a long, dark stare. "Fine, since you're a new customer, just this once. We've got a deal?"
She makes the sale, Peach stuffs the pouch into her saddlebags and then trots off, smiling at us as she walks past.
"Sup, Dinky!" says Featherweight.
"Dudes! You're here!"
Dinky looks the same as ever. Big, bulgy eyes, almost too big for her head, tangled cornsilk mane that she can't stop ruffling, three blue triangles with outward-bulging sides for a cutie mark. She earned it when she showed Cheerilee that she could make a triangle with straight edges where the angles added to more than one-eighty degrees, using a basketball and a length of string. She's a rather sharp lass, it must be said.
"Yeah, come in guys, we're all in my room," she says, leading us inside and upstairs, "Mom's out but Sparkler is working on her thesis downstairs, so don't be crazy loud."
Dinky's room is a strange hybrid of bedroom, study and laboratory. There are two desks, one littered in academic texts, mostly chemistry, maths and applied probability, blackjack and poker guides and strategy tables, an abacus and a slide rule, half a dozen Fill-Up K Penis sci-fi novels and a few scattered notebooks. Under the table there's a box of goods she's bought cheap or otherwise acquired and plans to sell on.
The other table is a gigantic chemistry set, like the school lab on a smaller scale. Burettes, test tubes, jars of too many chemicals to name, an electric heater, conical flasks, the works.
"Is that a new condenser with your toys? I recognise the make, it's got a Synder column right? Twilight got one just like it last week." says Featherweight.
"Yeah, the school is getting some new equipment in, and they're selling off the cast offs at cost, Professor Whooves gave me first pick of the bunch! He's so awesome!" she says, blushing, "He's really nice, he knows so much about science and explains it so well, he's got the sexiest accent ever like Pip's but less pretentious no offence, he's straightforward and he's- oh my Celestia he's so fucking dreamy." She's gazing up, cheeks glowing, eyes glazed.
Dinky has had a crush on Whooves for a while now. She's as bad as Featherweight when she starts to obsess over a pony. At least in Featherweight's case the relationship wouldn't be a gross, firing-worthy breach of professional ethics.
I notice a jar of pale pink powder next to the chemistry equipment.
"Dinky, are you brewing your own salts?"
She turns to me. "Yeah, I've been going over amine synthesis with Professor Whooves for a while and I thought I might as well start on some homebrew. I love the shit but I hate going out of town to get it. Last time I went to get some, the fucker tried to cut it with table salt. Table salt! Like I wouldn't fuckin' know!"
"Nice little sideline you've got there..."
"Hey, it ain't nothing like that!" she snaps, "That stuff is strictly for personal use and for giving away in small amounts to personal friends for no financial sums whatsoever and I won't have you slandering my name with insinuations otherwise. Just because I get money from ponies doesn't mean I'm selling them salts Pip, I've got a lot of things going on and-"
"My apologies, Dinky, I didn't mean to imply anything untoward. I just meant you like salts and it's nice to make them cheaply like this."
She pauses for a second and looks sheepish. "Ah, didn't mean to go off on you or nothing, I'm just a little sensitive about people acting like I'm some kind of bit-ante crook because I make a few deals and come from a working family. Sorry."
I should probably explain a few things here. Salts have nothing to do with table salts as you might have gathered. It's the colloquial term for a pink powder with a name as long as my foreleg that I can never remember-
"Dextroamphetamine saccharate," says Featherweight.
"You're still easy to read."
-dextroamphetamine saccharate then. It keeps you awake, alert and full of energy and only occasionally causes paranoid delusions. Dinky loves the stuff. Like clover, it's legal in Equestria.
Local law in the Greater Ponyville Area is a bit stickier. Shops can only sell a small amount of clover every month before they have to pay a prohibitively expensive tariff and pay for regular inspections of storage and quality. It's more trouble than it's worth to stock, so no businesses bother stocking it. If you want it, you go out of town or you buy it in small amounts from a non-commercial entity, like Dinky Doo. Salts on the other hoof are entirely illegal for sale, with a hefty fine for anyone caught selling, hence why Dinky will never admit that she deals to half the teenagers in town.
These rules are ostensibly for health and safety reasons, but half the ponies in this town are involved in the liquor business, and salts and clover are two of their biggest competitors. This is a booze town.
In fairness, health and safety aren't terrible reasons for limiting the availability of salts and clover. Over the years Ponyville has been a gigantic magnet for most of the utterly mental shit to happen in Equestria, so the citizens need at least one mind-altering substance to deal with it, ideally one that gives you a sloppy sense of fatalism and higher pain tolerance. Clover takes away the urge to fight or run which isn't the best idea around these parts; and although salts make you more alert, we're very close to the Everfree. You don't want a drug that makes you feel imaginary insects under your coat when you might have plain-old non-imaginary insects under your coat.
The other side of the room is a small single bed and a space on the floor covered in pillows and bean bags, with a shisha in the middle. Spike, Twist and Ruby Pinch are all sitting around it. They finally notice us.
Twist brushes her big bushy orange mane away from her glasses, and grins at us with impossibly straight and white teeth. She has a baggy Voltage/Wattage t-shirt draped over her lanky frame and looks adorable. Twist is one of the loveliest ponies I've ever met, and she tastes great.
Ruby Pinch just glances up at us, lifts her can of Winkle's Old Peculiar and grunts. Not in an unfriendly manner, just in the manner of a pony who started pre-drinking at noon and is chasing her drinks with good clover.
Spike squints at us, scratches the spines on his head and breathes smoke out of his draconic snout. "...wanna hit?" he croaks.
"Gimme the 'piece, fool," says Chowder, crashing his rump down next to Spike. We join him and the seven of us are sat in a circle around the water pipe.
Lungs full of smoke, Chowder passes me the mouthpiece and I put it to my lips. It's smooth and not strong clover, but that's no bad thing, I hardly want to pull a whitey before the party tonight. It hits me a few seconds later, like that ever-so-slightly tipsy feeling after a single slug of whisky. Everything feels a tiny bit more relaxed. I take another hit and pass to Featherweight, who takes two hits and passes to Dinky, and around the circle.
Two rotations later, a sensation of alert relaxation sets over me, like half a cup of strong coffee on a sluggish summer morning. Soon, all the colours in the room are a little brighter and the edges are a little fuzzier. Featherweight is slumped back and and his bowl-cut is falling over his eyes. It looks adorable, and I give a little giggle. Chowder is talking with Twist about her new work as a patissier, and she's gushing about the griffon chef in town she's apprenticing under.
Getting baked is an odd sensation next to getting drunk. It's not better or worse I'd say, just different. It's like imaginary numbers-
"What about imaginary numbers?" asks Dinky.
Shit, am I saying things out loud again?
"Well, I was thinking of the number line," I say, "Say that the number line, from infinity to minus infinity, represents being drunk or sober. Because getting high is a different sensation, it's like imaginary numbers, running at a thingy angle-"
"Yeah Dinky, that, an orthogonal angle to the number line. You could represent how drunk and high you are as a complex number."
"Huh. How would complex multiplication work?" she asks.
"...shit, my mind can't handle that. How would that even work? You become instantly anti-drunk?"
"Twilight could probably figure out a way, if anypony could magically reverse drugs it'd be her. Twilight..." says Feathers, a lazy grin on his face.
"Twilight once taught me about a philosopher called Sam-mule Vimes," says Spike, "He came up with the concept of 'knurd,' the anti-drunk. At the infinite state of knurd, you see everything in the universe, your perception becomes total, your body dissolves and your mind becomes a concept as ethereal as the souls of the stars."
"Huh. What's the infinite state of anti-high?" asks Twist.
"You become an accountant."
“...what would happen if you were infinitely anti-high and infinitely knurd?” she asks.
“Couldn't happen. If you could see everything, you wouldn't go into accountancy. QED.”
Dinky rustles around under her bed and brings out some corn chips and salsa dip, and we start nibbling away. We go through a few more rotations. Dinky has superhero posters all over her walls, and they just look... just great.
Some time later Twist sits up, excited, gesticulating with her hooves as she searches for words.
"Guys guys guys, me and Spike have got tickets to UNIcon, y'know, Ultimate Nerd Invasion convention in Manehattan next month, and we can get more tickets at discount rates. Are you guys up for that?"
Dinky, Ruby and Chowder all nod in assent.
"I'm totally up for that."
"I'm in too."
"S'good, I'm in."
"Pipsqueak, Featherweight, are you guys interested?" asks Twist.
"We're already set to go, we're there on business," says Featherweight through a mouth full of smoke. "I'm writing an article *cughh* -writing an article for the Press, and I want to pick up some Wasp Jericho comics."
"You're a Transcosmopolitan fan too?" asks Spike, grinning, "Figures."
"Hey bro, it's about a drug-crazed freelance future journalist who stops corrupt politicians with laxative beams, what's not to love?"
"What are you doing there, Pip?" asks Twist.
"Me and mum are going there, we're trying to set up some more product placement and advertising stuff, there's a lot of lonely problem drinkers in the nerd market. That and there's a big My Little Ape thing going on and, well, I'm all over that to say the least."
"Wait, you're a MLA fan? No way, me too!"
"Same here, I love that show," says Dinky
"I can't get the songs out of my head and I never want to," says Ruby.
"Featherweight and I are fans also," rumbles Chowder.
Spike needs no mention, he got pretty much every fan in town into the show in the first place. There is a look a nerd gets when they have introduced several ponies to something awesome, and they are all gushing about it. It's like a grin but more so. Spike is the platonic ideal of that look.
"Some ponies get too into the show though," says Dinky, "Like ones who write romantic stories for fanzines or draw fappy pictures. That's kinda weird, I mean, they're apes y'know?" Everypony nods and murmurs in agreement.
"Yeah, it's a bit odd," I say.
"They give fans a freaky image, like we all clop to monkeys or something," says Featherweight.
"It's not my thing," says Twist, shaking her head. "I can get a few romances that they mention offhoof in the show, like Tony Stark and Ada Lovelace, though."
There's a long, nervous pause. Everypony looks around at one another cautiously. Ruby Pinch speaks next:
"...Starklace is cute, I guess. Or Sinbad and Teddy Roosevelt, I mean, it's not really my thing, but I can see the appeal."
Everypony quietly agrees, and silence returns. It's rather awkward. Clover does not lend itself to good poker faces.
Spike coughs. "'kay, I'm just going to throw this out here: I fucking love My Little Ape shipping. All of it. Every single ship."
I sigh with relief. "Stars above, finally. I didn't want to be the first pony to say it. I love Nicola Murray shipped with Rachel Maddow more than I love my family."
"Do you guys get the local fanzine?" asks Ruby Pinch.
"I'm the editor," replies Featherweight, managing to look smug and sheepish at the same time.
"No way! There was an amazing fanfic in it last month, where Bertie Wooster falls in love with Dorothy Parker, and Jeeves has to stop Mark Twain breaking it-"
"That was me!" squeals Twist, "That was my story!"
"You wrote that?" I ask, flabbergasted, "I mean, you wrote that? That was the sweetest, most adorable thing I've read in my life! The bit where Dotty realises she's falling for him? It was like the first time I tried spooning."
Twist glows from the praise, and the next length of time is spent going over everything anypony could ever discuss about romance and My Little Ape. It's bloody wonderful. Dork friends are the best friends. Eventually the topic shifts, and sometime after an argument about whether Mark Twain or Norman Borlaug would win in a fight, we sink back into our seats and start hitting the shisha again. The clover runs dry, so Dinky opens up the pipe and adds some more.
As she's fiddling, a strange thought slithers into my head. It's entirely odd, and I say nothing about it for several minutes, but as I pass the pipe to Feathers my curiosity gets the better of me. I look straight across at everypony's favourite drake.
"Hey, *cuhh* Spike... do you have two dicks?"
A few crumbs of corn chips spill out from his lips and roll down his muzzle.
"I heard somewhere that dragons have two dicks. Like, one over the other."
Ruby Pinch lifts her head off the beanbag she's splayed over, and looks around, glassy-eyed. "Wait what are we talking about now?"
"Spike's two dicks," says Featherweight.
Twist sits straight up, looking upset. "Spike has two dicks? Why am I always the last pony to know these things?"
Spike puts a claw over his face and shakes his head, exasperated and bemused. "No Pip, I don't have two dicks. Just one. That's all."
I'm a little put out by the news. "Really? Damn, I was sure I'd heard dragons have two dicks somewhere..."
"I'm pretty sure that's snakes, Pip," he says matter-of-factly, "Besides, that'd be totally annoying unless every mare you did was really into taking it in the backdoor. Otherwise you'd always have one dick left in the cold."
I take another hit and inhale too quickly, choking and coughing out smoke. "...yeah, but imagine the possibilities for threesomes. Tell me you haven't thought of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, chests pressed together, moaning into each other's muzzles, as they both grind into your lap at the same time?"
Spike looks deeply contemplative. "Actually, no, I hadn't thought of that."
"Maybe you should get Twilight to magic you up a second one. Dragons are pretty similar to snakes, probably wouldn't be too tricky."
"Okay, first we're nothing like snakes, snakes are stupid coils of wasted protein and can blow all dragons everywhere forever," he snaps, "Second, I'm not asking my older sister to give me another dick, Pip. That's warped. You're warped."
I protest, but Featherweight turns to me. "He's got a point, Pip, you're pretty twisted. I've seen your porn collection. It's... eclectic."
Dinky is giggling at me. "I gotta say, it's weird how Ponyville's most pinchable-cheeked innocent little foal ended up growing up into Ponyville's biggest sexual deviant."
"I've been like this as long as you lot have known me, you just only noticed it recently," I say, shrugging.
That gets a skeptical look from Dinky, Spike and Twist. "We've known you for like, seven years."
"Yup. I turned this way on that first Nightmare Night with you guys, the year after Princess Luna returned."
"You were eleven!"
"That I was. I started the day as a normal colt, but then the princess struck such terror into me that when the adrenaline faded and my wits returned, something deep within me had changed. When she allowed us to keep Nightmare Night and joined the celebrations, it was like I saw her all over again. The curves on her flank, every hair on her sleek, midnight coat, her flowing mane of infinite stars. I looked in her eyes and saw the fire and joy of a pony trapped away from her world for aeons, discovering every strange little change from her absence.
"Later in the evening when the scares were over and the party boiled over across the streets, I thanked the princess for coming and she held me tight to her bosom. It was-" I take a hit and flop backwards onto the beanbag, then exhale.
"Blood-streaked fucks on a bed of thorns, it was everything. Her softness, that triumphant grin, her- her scent, it was- heavens above, I can't even try to describe it. No description would do it justice and it would shame me to even attempt it.
"I was but eleven years old and had no earthly idea what a facial was, but I knew that all I wished for in the goodness of my heart was to give her one."
"Well, that- that's pretty much exactly what I'd expect from you, Pip," says Spike.
"Wow." Twist is giving me a 'yeah, that explains a lot' look.
"Wow is right," says Dinky, "Hey, pass the shisha will you?"
We smoke some more and slip into a deep haze, chattering about a dozen topics of great interest and no importance. A time later, the shisha runs out again, and Dinky switches the sticky clover for some apple tobacco. Then she gets up, trots off to the kitchen and comes back some more time later with a jug of strong, cold coffee. It's time to start sobering up a spot.
It's a little later when someone mentions Shady Daze and his friends, the tossers.
"What's wrong with Lucky Strike and Shady?" asks Dinky, looking right at me.
Bloody hell, I'm still talking.
"Yeah, you need to work on that. Answer the question."
"Well, they're a bunch of tosspots, and here's why:" I lay out my expert case for why they are aesthetically, morally and intellectually terrible ponies.
Dinky looks unimpressed. "They're bad ponies because they use mane gel? Pip, I've watched you getting ready for a night out. You preen more than a moulting pegasus."
"Please, I'm stylish, refined and like to look my best. They are tacky. There is a difference," I scoff.
"Dinky's got a point, dude," says Feathers, "I mean, what's that 'cheeky cheery' stuff even about? You hate them because they're cocky roguish colts or something?"
"What? Heavens no, Feathers, we're cocky roguish colts. They're dickheads. We're not dickheads, Featherweight, I'm bloody certain of it."
Featherweight and Dinky both give me a flat look. Dinky levitates a magazine over from her study table.
"Hey, there was something in last month's Equestrian Scientist in the psychology section about the narcissism of small differences-"
"That was the issue with the review on conflict and cooperation in groups, wasn't it?" interrupts Featherweight, "That was a good one, I see where you're going with it."
"I preferred the article on the evolutionary development of genitalia later in the issue. It was more interesting and more relevant to this conversation." I'm scowling now. Dinky and Featherweight are being right fools about this and it's vexing me.
"Pip, look," says Dinky in a conciliatory voice, "They're not a pack of renaissance ponies and sure they can be tasteless as fuck, but they're not a bunch of evil fuckers. They just want to have some good times with their friends and get drunk and high. They're solid, paying customers. They're my paying customers."
I remain unimpressed. "Some of them might be all right, but Shady Daze is a fucking nutter and his friends don't exactly shepherd him into the right and light. He said he would fill Ponyville Retirement Home with fire ants after Mister Waddle called him a whippersnapper."
"Ah, he's just kidding," says Feathers, waving me off with a hoof.
"He fucking wasn't Feathers, that's exactly what he did! They had to fumigate the place! You were volunteering there!"
"Nah, that doesn't sound like Shady," says Dinky, shaking her head.
"Oh come on! Shady is mental and all of them are creepy and weird around fillies, and I know creepy and weird around fillies. Feathers, back me up, you saw that book he gave to Snips and Snails, it's the fucked-uppest thing I've ever seen. It had a chapter called 'Rohypnol and You!'"
Featherweight looks conflicted and Dinky just shrugs. "Just a book, they didn't write it. Doesn't mean they think it's all good advice."
Ruby passes the shisha along and speaks up. "I dunno, those guys can be really creepy. You ever walked into a room that they're already in? They stare at you like you can't see them looking. Also I'm pretty sure I saw that one with the bumpy head jerking off behind some bushes once."
"Spud," I say.
"Pip, his name isn't Spud," sighs Feathers.
"Of course his name is Spud."
"Pip's right about the aftershave too," continues Pinch, "It's really strong, they smell like mom's basement."
"You ponies are making a big fuss over nothing," says Dinky, impatient, "Shady can get a little out of hoof and they can be obnoxious sometimes, but Lucky Strike and Cufflinks and those ones are stand-up colts. Spike, back me up here?"
Spike looks up, still in a clover haze, "Dude, I don't even have an opinion." His voice is almost a growl. It sounds... dominating.
Ruby looks over at Twist. "Twist, you've seen them acting weird, back me and Pip up on this."
Twist is next to Chowder, cavorting on his side, rubbing the back of her head into his soft belly. "Wait, what's this? I've been busy using Chowder as a pillow. Seriously, he's so comfy, he's more sofa than pony." Chowder looks vaguely amused by the attention.
I raise my eyebrows. "That good?"
"Pip, just come over here and lay on Chowder." She's now turned over, nuzzling her muzzle into his coat, her voice muffled. "It's sooo good, he's a giant teddy bear and he feels like cocoa and safety."
Ruby takes another pull from the shisha and then moves over to Chowder. "Okay Twist, what are you going on ab- oh sweet Luna above, Chowder, you're like a duvet made of hugs."
"Huh, lets see what the fuss is- Oh. Wow," I say, laying my head on his stomach. It really is all that. "You lot have to get in on this."
Dinky, Spike and Featherweight shuffle over, and soon we're all splayed across Chowder's midsection, sighing in contentment.
"This is the most relaxed I've ever been, and I've had opium suppositories..." murmurs Dinky.
"Chowder bro, if you ever need some extra scratch I'm sure the spa twins would rent you out as a pillow." Spike is nestled between Chowder's chest and front leg, his snout down on his chest, eyes closed.
"You'd certainly make a welcome addition to my bed." I pause when I realise what I said. "Not in that way of course. I mean, not that I wouldn't, I don't mean to say that in an offensive way, you're a tall, strong fellow with gentle eyes. It's just we've known each other for too long - or at least the way we've known each other, you know, it would just feel a tad awkward. Not friendship-ending no-more-eye-contact awkward or anything, but not the kind of thing that makes for a relaxed and enjoyable-"
A great grey hoof pats me on the head. "Pip. Dude."
We lay there, relaxed as can be, drinking coffee and smoking sweet apple tobacco. I glance at the bedroom window and I realize it's no longer early afternoon. The sun is still out, but shadows fall long from the trees and buildings, giving the town a golden glow as if seen through a glass of cider.
"Dinky, what's the time?" I ask. There's a clock on the other wall, but looking at it would mean moving my head off Chowder. Sod that.
"Hmm? Oh, it's quarter to seven dude."
"Hmh. We best be off to get things sorted for the party then," I say. It takes a while, but eventually we all get up from Chowder and start squaring our things away. All of us take out a few bits to cover the clover and snacks. When I go to give my share to Dinky, she pushes it back to me.
"Actually Pip, I thought you could do me a favour maybe. See, I got this fuckin' awesome cocktail that I really wanna try out at the party, but it needs bourbon. You've still got all those crates of Wild Pegasus, right? Bring a couple of bottles along tonight and don't worry nothing about the clover."
"...you'll forgive four bits worth of clover for forty bits of whiskey?"
She rolls her eyes. "Well, you're getting some of the cocktail tonight and I'm bringing the other ingredients, so - Oh fine, no charge for the next few sessions, happy?"
"Very. Why bourbon, though? Not that I don't like it, but the stuff is riot juice. You know everything will get well out of hoof, right?"
"Don't fuckin' worry 'bout it, Pip," she says, a massive grin scrawled across her face, "That's what the cocktail is for. You bring the bourbon, I'll bring the science."
Well. Fair enough.
We all say our farewells and plan to meet each other just before the party at quarter to nine.
"Ahh, that was awesome," says Featherweight, shaking out his limbs as we step outside. "I'm so relaxed, I needed that."
"Stay sharp, bro," says Chowder, his face dark, "Shit's about to get real."
I turn to Featherweight, a grim look on my face. "Because we need to head back to mine for the bourbon. Pina Colada and her friends will be there.
"And she'll be drunk off her tits."
At the front gate to my house, I stop and turn to Chowder and Featherweight.
"You two know the ground rules. Don't feed the nutters. Don't linger. If they attack us, sacrifice yourself to save me." Chowder rolls his eyes, and Feathers scowls at me.
"Her friends better not try to shove my face in their flanks again. I don't need that, Pip. I'm not a piece of meat."
We walk to the front door and open it up. The house sounds like chaos, there can't be less than fifteen ponies inside, all in the living room and kitchen. I hear drunken shouting and screams of laughter, sounds of spilled drinks and hooves scrambling across wooden floors. When I pause, Featherweight pushes me inside.
"You're on point, dude."
This should be okay. At the far end of the hallway, past the coat racks and unused chest of drawers, are the stairs. The doors to the kitchen and living room are halfway down the hall on either side. We slink towards the stairs, and the kitchen and living room doors are mercifully only open a crack. I walk past them and-
-Two utterly plastered mares burst through the door, grab hold of Featherweight and drag him into the living room. Chowder and I hurry on after to get him back. There are a dozen drunken fillies running around and a few smirking colts. The room is a wreck. There's a patch of vomit on one of the sofas, and ponies are just sitting either side of it. The dining table is covered in food, literally covered, no plates or anything. Somepony just took tubs of salsa and guacamole and dumped them straight onto the table, along with corn chips, pizza slices and oven chips. Peach Schnapps is there, just shoving her muzzle into the mess as a smug colt rubs her flanks from behind.
Pina Colada is standing on the coffee table, a broken Voltage/Wattage CD case under her hooves, chugging a bottle of sparkling wine. She belches loudly, and spots Featherweight having bottles of beer shoved at his muzzle by two fillies.
"FEATHERWEIGHT!" she screams, "SHOW US YOUR DICK!"
I nudge Chowder. "Chowder darling, you're the strongest and most patient of us. Can you distract them while me and Feathers get sorted?"
He nods, and I trot over to Featherweight and drag him from the hooves of the fillies. They protest, but Chowder comes between them and distracts them with something shiny. Well, I assume he does, I'm too busy hurrying Featherweight into the hallway to look and we are not followed.
As soon as we're in my room we both quickly get ready for the party. I go into the en-suite to wash my face and clean my teeth, pick out a light blue cotton hoodie from my wardrobe, stick my hip-flask in the pocket, comb my tail-
-dab a bit of wax in my mane, give myself a bedhead look, dab on just enough aftershave for a filly to pick up a hint of cinnamon and wood and sex as I whisper something filthy into her ear, trim my fetlocks-
-spritz on a little manespray, set it in place with a manedryer, file down the rough edges on my hooves-
"Pip for fucks sake you've been getting ready for forty minutes, I was done half an hour ago!"
"I'm nearly done I've just got one last nick on-"
"Hurry up so we can go already, Chowder's trapped in the living room with a bunch of crazy ponies," he snaps. I love Featherweight to bits but he has no appreciation for good grooming.
"I'm nearly done nearly done - okay, I'm done," I say, turning to my wardrobe, "We'll get the bourbon and be on our way."
Next to my wardrobe is a large cardboard box with books spilling out the top. The books are a mere ruse, I move them aside to reveal several 2' by 1' wooden crates with 'Wild Pegasus' stamped on the front. Six crates, twelve bottles each, seventy-two bottles of bourbon total. The crates were a gift from Mulekick Brewing Industries to my mother after she spearheaded their Wild Pegasus marketing campaign. She's the reason it's what Blackjack drinks in the Fallout: Equestria television spinoff Project Horizons. I was mixing the drinks for everpony in the room when the deal was made. Everypony praised her for being so innovative, but mother and I were quite frankly shocked that nopony had thought of it before. When you think about it, bourbon and the apocalypse is possibly the most natural match-up in marketing history.
"Your mom lets you keep that stuff in your room?" asks Feathers.
"Hm? Oh, she gave it to me. Father doesn't let her drink it, it makes her rowdy. We're a gin family, really." I lift a crate from the box and pop the top off-
Ah. The crates are nailed shut and need a crowbar. A crowbar in the depths of a cluttered shed, after sundown.
"Wait, the lids are nailed on? Why would they do that?"
"Marketing gimmick, it's supposed to give them a wild-west-slash-post-apocalypse look," I sigh. Featherweight takes out a multitool and tries to pry the nails out. I stop him.
"No point doing that here, it'll take an age and a half. I've never not known Dinky to have tools of some sort on her, the two of you will get it done much quicker. We'll take the crate."
Featherweight looks wary. "You sure that's a good idea? Twelve bottles is a lot of liquor. That's a Rägtäg Bünch afterparty quantity of liquor."
"It'll be fine, we'll take two bottles out and hide the crate under a bed," I say, shoving the crate into a large backpack. Feathers shrugs, and we head out. Chowder is still in the bustling living room, sipping a bottle of beer and talking to a rather pretty and very drunk filly about her new hairdressing job. We take him and leave the house. Featherweight only gets groped by a few ponies on the way out.
Diamond Tiara's house is on the same side of town as mine, about twenty minutes away. Five minutes away is Beanburger Palace, and we set off towards it. The Ponyville Beanburger Palace looks like every other Beanburger Palace in Equestria. The lights are too bright, the food is greasier than Apple Bloom's workshop and the mascot looks like something an ancient society of clowns used to ward off foal molesters. None of that matters because the food is cheap, grease is delicious, they don't kick you out for loitering and they welcome drunk ponies with open forelegs.
We reach Beanburger Palace, and just before we walk in a voice calls out from behind us.
"Featherweight! Dudes!" It's Dinky and the rest of the smoking circle. She's wearing a battered grey saddle, covered in pouches bulging with Discord-knows-what. Spike is at her side, wearing a dark purple silk shirt - Carousel Boutique, one of Rarity's newer, more minimalist designs. Ruby Pinch, and surprisingly Twist, are both wearing rather nice-looking cocktail dresses. We greet each other, order some hay fries and a few beanburgers, and sit down to line our stomachs before the party. Spike pokes at my backpack.
"What's with the rucksack?" he asks.
"That's the bourbon. We couldn't get the crate open at home," I say as his jaw drops, "Don't worry, we're not planning to drink it all. Alcohol poisoning is nopony's friend. Dinky, you've got tools on you right?"
Dinky grins at me. "Hey, when don't I have tools on me? 'Sides, Spike here has crazy-sharp claws, he could probably just tear the thing off." At that, Spike poses and kisses his biceps.
We munch on the fries and burgers, which taste like grease and salt. Clearly we're too sober to appreciate them properly. When we're done, we set straight off to the party.
Diamond Tiara and her lot are proper minted chaps and Luna knows she acts like it, so it's always a bit odd seeing her house. Don't get me wrong, it's twice the size of the average house in Ponyville, inspired by neo-Pegasopolician architecture and has an expansive and well-manicured lawn leading up to it; but it's hardly the manor with the iron family crest above the front gates and servants at the door you would expect from the way Diamond Tiara walks around.
It's almost the perfect house for throwing parties- spacious enough to entertain a lot of guests and well-furnished enough to feel luxurious, but neither so large that gatecrashers could set a room on fire without you realising nor too full of the 'dignified' sort of furnishings that are painful to replace.
As we walk down her garden path, we can see ponies milling about in the darkened living room through the windows and hear the bass line thumping from the speakers. Dinky is first to the door, she buzzes the doorbell thrice and batters on the door hard enough to be heard over the din. Thirty seconds later, we see two figures through the frosted glass of the door, stumbling down the hallway towards us. The door swings open and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are standing in the doorway.
"Dinky Doo! My bitch!" Diamond Tiara is utterly, embarassingly sozzed. She nearly trips over herself bumping hooves with Dinky. There's a lazy, drunken grin spread across her face, and a wicked gleam in her eyes. "Pinchy, c'mere and gimme some love! Twist!" she squeals, "What the fuck are you doing here?" She throws her head back laughing and stumbles, falling back on her haunches.
Silver Spoon is next to her, half-amused half-weary, steadying her best friend from falling over completely. "Ignore her, she's drunk," she says warmly, "Twist, it's great to see you, I love your dress by the way. Come on in, the living room is the first door on the right."
Twist blushes and compliments her in return, and she goes on inside with Dinky and Ruby, Silver Spoon trailing behind. Spike and I start to follow, but Diamond Tiara stops us with a sharp jab to each of our chests.
"And where do you think you're going?" She's leering at us evily, a playful hint in her drunken slurring.
Spike smiles at her, wide eyed and innocent. "We heard there was a party here, miss. May we come in?"
"Maaaybe. Maybe not." She turns her head, her nose in the air. "Maybe I want a kiss from you and Pipsqueak before I let you colts in."
"No love for Feathers and Chowder?" I ask.
She pouts. "They're both from Ponyville, and that's boring, and besides Featherweight's still a virgin-"
"I prefer 'pure of soul,'" says Featherweight nonchalantly.
"-but you guys are like, from Canterlot and Trottingham, and Pipsqueak has that accent and Spike, you're a dragon, but not in a scary dragon way, you're like... a sexy dragon." Her eyes go lidded and she whispers: "A sexy dragon who's going to kiss me if he wants to come in."
They lean in for a rather asymmetrical kiss, with Spike trying to tastefully push their lips together and Diamond Tiara trying to swallow his face. Spike walks around her, still joined at the muzzles, and brings a front claw down hard on her cutie mark. She squeals and breaks the kiss, and Spike scampers off to the living room.
"Spiiike! I'll get you for that!" She 'hmphs' and turns to me. "Your turn, Pip."
I move in and open my mouth the moment our lips touch, giving her the sloppy snog she's looking for. Her tongue slips straight into my mouth, I taste well-made bolognaise and cheap red wine. I run a hoof through her hair and stroke the side of her neck, making her shiver a little and sigh into the kiss. I think she's about to break the kiss, but then she bites my bottom lip and drags me backwards down the hall like a terrier with a rope in its mouth.
"Ahhh! My hlip! Had touch had touch!" I yell. She trips over her own hooves and falls on her back, cackling madly but thankfully releasing me. She doesn't move to get up, she just rolls about giggling. I look back at Featherweight and Chowder, shrug, and then gingerly step over the writhing, laughing hostess. I beckon my friends to follow and we head to the living room.
The living room is three times the size of mine, and has ceilings high enough for Featherweight to loop-the-loop under. In the left corner of the room, away from the windows, there's a set of decks and lights with a unicorn behind them, probably Tootsie Flute. She's playing the start of a track, a low, thudding bass-line, and the multicolored, scintillating rays of light from her horn are the only illumination in the room.
The party is well underway but not yet thronging, all four sofas have ponies sitting on them joking and chatting, there's Twist, Ruby and a dozen ponies dancing in front of the decks, a few colts playing pool at the billiards table, and of course, a muddle of ponies slurping down punch, beer and wine at the drinks table. I recognise most of the ponies here, though not all by name. Rumble is joking with a few pegasus friends by the drinks table, his older brother is splayed out on a sofa with Flitter and Cloudchaser either side of him, Noi is sharing a spliff with Dinky and Spike, and Chip Mint is hoof-wrestling with Potato Chip.
I stow my backpack behind the curtains and head to the impromptu dance floor with Chowder. You can't just turn up to a dance floor without a friend, it's like going to a dinner party without a bottle of wine. The filly you're dancing with has friends, after all. Tootsie Flute sticks a new track on, something fast paced and lighter on the bass. I don't know the song but I vaguely know the genre, probably Hoofington progressive disco. The bass drops, everyone sticks their hooves in the air and I start dancing.
Now, I can't dance of course, but that's just fine because neither can anypony else. Besides, I'm well sexy which is half of dancing anyway. Nopony is bumping and grinding yet but who cares, right? There's a bunch of cute fillies and colts shaking their flanks and that's all I ask for. Chowder is macking on Ruby Pinch and some random plain-looking filly, and I see Twist nervously shifting from hoof to hoof, not yet into it. That simply won't do.
I take her hooves in mine and start dancing with her, going up on two hooves, spinning her round, dipping her down and nearly dropping, all that lark until she takes control and starts throwing me about the floor. I love dancing with Twist. I wouldn't say she's a good dancer (because like everypony else, she isn't), but there's nopony more fun to have a spin with. We drop back to four hooves, giggling like foals. She ruffles my hair and yelps as Chowder grabs her and starts dancing.
The song changes and I suddenly feel thirsty, so I head over to the drinks table and pour myself some punch. It's not insanely strong, just sangria, juice and spice, and that's the way I like it. I can spike my own damn punch, thank you very much. I down the cup, and hear a pony calling my name. "Pip, duude!"
It's Snips and Snails, still dressed in the same garish getup from earlier. They haven't even changed their accessories, for Luna's sake! "Hello chaps, how's the sexy magic working?"
"Pretty damn good," says Snips, smirking, "I got a kiss on the cheek from Diamond Tiara on the way in. Like a pimp dude, brohoof!" He bumps hooves with Snails.
"Very nice. Anypony else?"
He shakes his head and looks downcast. "Nah. We tried a few times after we saw you at the market today, but we didn't get anywhere with it. Hey, I've got a great idea!" he says, looking worryingly excited, "You're good with fillies, we could hang with you all night! That'd be awesome, we'd get so much poontang!"
"Yeah! We'd be like those guys, like, wing... wing-something..." Snails brow furrows as he thinks, "We'd be your wingboners!"
Oh. Oh no. No no no no no. No, no, no, no, nooo. Noooooo. I came out tonight to get drunk, have fun with friends, and maybe do some unspeakably pleasurable things with one or more licentious ponies. I did not come out to babysit a pair of lustful imbeciles who learned everything they know about mares from a professional misogynist. No.
"I, ah, don't think that would work," I say slowly, "The three of us flirting all at the same time might be a bit much, it might scare mares off." They look disappointed, and I see Snips trying to think of a way around it. "But I did see you doing your thing at the market earlier," I say, cutting off Snips before he can speak, "I saw you were having some problems, and I asked Shady Daze about it. He didn't explicitly tell me to pass advice on to you, but he hinted at a few things that could be useful..."
The duo lean towards me, eager to hear Shady's Secrets of the Clunge. "Like what?"
"Well... he said it's very important to be oblique," I say, desperately making up advice, "The moment a filly understands what you're talking about, that's an obvious beta signal and she'll play with you then turn you down."
Snips frowns. "I tried that earlier today, it didn't work very well."
"Ah, you tried it on Twilight Sparkle, it didn't work because she knows what words mean," I say, like I'm explaining a counter-intuitive bit of mathematics, "You want mares with smaller vocabularies. They're not here right now, but Pina Colada and her friends will be here later. You should try it on them, it'll work perfectly."
Snips and Snails almost look shocked as they take it in. "That- that makes a lot of sense, dude," says Snips, "Thanks, that's really useful. You're awesome, bro! Was there anything else? Anything at all?"
Something evil whispers words into my brain. "Yeah. You should be... Louder."
"Louder. Say things louder, say them at a volume which is higher than you would normally say them."
Snips and Snails look at each other and speak as one. "Louder. Huh."
"Louder," I say firmly, "Not screaming loud, and maybe not quite yelling loud. Try just under shouting loud."
Snips thinks about this for a minute. "Louder... Thanks man, this is really awesome advice. We'll get right on it!" he says, smiling happily.
"Not a problem," I say, "Now run along and work your magic!"
"Will do, bro! Smell you later!" The two trot off in search of love.
I have done a good thing for ponykind.
Suddenly, the music goes way down and somepony taps the microphone. Diamond Tiara is behind the decks, being steadied by Tootsie.
"*bink* *bink* -this thing's working right? Hey everypony!" she yells into the microphone, "PARTY BITCHES LISTEN UP! GIVE A WARM PARTY WELCOME TO THE FUCKING KEG, COURTESY OF SWEET APPLE ACRES!" The living room door opens up, silhouetting Apple Bloom in the doorway, leaning on a barrel of hard cider twice her width. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle come on in behind her. With a cheer, the rest of the partygoers help set up the keg behind the sofas, tap it and start chugging down the cloudy nectar.
The party is back in full swing, the mood both euphoric and drunker than a pickled stoat. More guests are trickling in, the music is so loud that you feel the bass in your chest, and half the ponies are on the dance floor. I end up dancing in a circle with Ruby Pinch, Featherweight, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle.
I don't think dancing is the end-all-be-all of a night out, but tonight it's bloody good fun. Pinch is more moshing than dancing, floating a mug of cider one side of her head and a can of bitter the other, stomping about and slamming into Feathers and Scoots. Feathers is swaying about, oddly graceful. Sweetie Belle obviously took dance lessons from her sister at some point, and I have to stop myself from openly staring at her jiggling flanks. Scoots, though... that thing I said about nopony being able to dance? Does not apply here. Scootaloo can fucking dance. At one point she grabs me and takes me for a spin, having fun with my comparative flat-hoofedness, leading me into a trip before gracefully rescuing me with a devilishly impressive manoeuvre she just made up.
Some songs, some pints, and a few additions to the circle later, everypony bar Scootaloo and Apple Bloom is slowing down and dripping with sweat. By now the party is packed, the dance floor is crushing with ponies, and our circle is crunched into a small, sweaty squish. I can hear Pina Colada and her friends over the music, and I've seen a few of Shady Daze's lot about. One of them groped me by accident. Probably by accident.
Dinky appears from nowhere and starts yelling into the ears of the circle, one by one. A few confused nods and 'what?!'s later, she reaches me. "Pip, it's too crowded, we're going to a bedroom, get the bourbon and meet us there!" With that, she's off, taking the rest of the group with her.
Getting the crate is a task and a half. Moving through the crowd is like trudging through treacle. Getting to the door with a backpack full of spirits is no easier, and it's a relief when I finally reach the hallway. A few ponies are milling about out here, and down the hall I can see a group of ponies hanging out in the kitchen, downing shots and eating Diamond Tiara's food. The bass is still thudding through the walls, ceilings, foundations and probably most of the town, but the spacious hallway with the plush, burgundy carpet underhoof, warm cream walls wrapped with the fancy gold print, and prints of Cubist artwork is a welcome respite from the cramped living room.
After losing my way the second time, I find the rather grand spiral staircase and make my way upstairs. Rich ponies in Central Equestria have odd sorts of houses, aiming for imposing but tumbling mid-air towards ostentatious. Still, it's not as tacky as it could be. It's owned by ponies who named their first-born Diamond Tiara, after all.
The first door on the left upstairs is open, and my friends are already inside. It's a guest bedroom, oddly spartan - only half-again the size of mine. "Pip! Get inside and shut the door, bro!" says Featherweight, cheeks red, wearing a tipsy grin. He's sat on the floor, Dinky Doo sat on one side and Chowder on the other. The three former Crusaders are lazing on a pile of pillows, and Twist and Ruby Pinch are either side of Spike. Everyone is sat in a messy sort of circle.
I shut the door behind me, sit down, and take off the rucksack. "So what's the plan?" I ask.
"The plan is you guys try my new cocktail and then we chill and play Ring of Fire," says Dinky Doo, removing the rucksack from the crate. Between her magic, Featherweight's tools and Spike's claws, the crate pops open and three bottles are taken out. I move the crate to the side, and see Dinky shucking off her saddlebags before taking a few odds and ends from the pockets.
"What you ponies are about to witness is an advance in intoxication technology not seen since somepony first put morphine into needles." She lays out ten double-size shot glasses, cracks open a bottle of Wild Pegasus and passes everyone a shot. When Spike moves to down it, she stops him with magic. "Patience, dude," she says, taking out a smoking pipe and stuffing it with clover, "Ah, can you get this for me?" Spike snaps his fingers and a little flame appears between his claws, a neat trick he'll have got from Twilight. He lights her pipe. "Thanks Spike," she says, giving the pipe a little puff to get it smoking. "*fut* *fut* ...so this here's a Commander Hurricane. You take a hit from the pipe and hold it, stick a dose of salts on your tongue, take your shot, exhale. Watch and learn, kids."
She takes a long, slow pull from the pipe, then levitates a salts doser to her muzzle. It looks like a ceramic salt shaker with a button on the bottom. Press that button and it dispenses a single dose of salts from the top. With a *click* she drops a dose of pink powder onto her hoof, and then licks it off. She lifts her shot to her muzzle and downs it, and finishes by snorting a long stream of smoke from her nose.
She looks downwards and scrunches her eyes closed, then blinks a few times and looks up, a wry smile on her face. "That. That hit the fucking spot."
Ruby takes the pipe and doser and follows Dinky's instructions. Clover. Salts. Bourbon. She passes it on to Chowder, and the cocktail goes around the circle like the shisha earlier. Sweetie Belle doesn't smoke the pipe, but one by one everypony does a Commander Hurricane until it reaches me.
I take the pipe in hoof and suck down the strong, hot smoke, almost choking on it. Far hotter and rougher than the stuff from the water pipe earlier, it's a struggle to hold in. I push the button on the doser, drop a little pink powder on my hoof, then stick my tongue out and dab it on, cringing at the acrid taste. Dinky floats the double of Wild Pegasus to my muzzle and I gladly down it. It tastes like anger and bad ideas. Lungs burning, I finally exhale, coughing wildly as the hot smoke mixes with the whiskey fumes and sets my throat and mouth on fire.
The clover haze comes first, relaxed and giddy, followed by the thumping rush of the salts that play little trills on the strings of your fears and snap your eyelids wide as floodlights. After that, the bourbon drops a thudding mist over your thoughts and bursts into your skull, slapping your frontal lobes around, and bending your moral compass over and fucking it roughly until it gives in and squeals for more.
Then the cocktail kicks in. It's a veil dropping from my soul. My bourbon-fueled id dredges up every terrible, lustful and half-entertaining idea I can think of in this clover haze, and the salts give me the energy to act out every single one. I stop still, and realise why no one has spoken since the Hurricane. You can't help but soak it in.
Chowder brings a hoof down hard on the floor, snapping us to attention. "Another!"
So we do. I grab the second bottle of Wild Pegasus and we go round once more, anticlockwise this time. If anything, it's better than the first round, knowing exactly what you're getting. We can't help but have a third round, leaving us all twitching with energy and euphoria. Chowder had the presence of mind to nick some drinks from downstairs when we came up, and we're all sucking down orange juice. I'm gazing at Dinky Doo with newfound admiration.
"Holy toss, Dinks, how did you come up with this? This is - this is just – just good, it's very good. It's best," I say.
She's red in the face and grinning like a drunkard. "Read about some yuppies in, in, uh, Manehattan doing it with laughing gas and vodka instead of salt and bourbon. Gave it a twist, and when I read about Commander Hurricane in a medical textbook I just had to name it after him."
"You read about Commander Hurricane in a medical textbook?" asks Feathers, eyebrows raised. I think his eyebrows are raised. It might be his face.
"What? Yeah dude, Commander Hurricane was huge in medical history, he was a frickin' genius. You didn't know that?"
Feathers shakes his head. "I never knew he was into medicine."
"Oh yeah, total pioneer. There are entire volumes on healing injuries that he invented."
"Huh. I guess- Oh! Oh dudes! Dudes dudes dudes!" he says, fluttering off the ground excitedly. I yank him back down.
"S'matter?" I ask.
"I have the best fuckin' idea any's of us have ever had is fuckin' the matter, dude!"
"Spill," growls Spike, the whiskey fumes burning as they leave his muzzle. Giving dragons 50.5% spirits is both stupid and utterly brilliant.
"Okay okay okay," he says, catching his breath, "What we should do is we should make a movie."
An uncomfortable silence sets on the room. Brows furrow, eyes narrow and side glances are freely traded.
"Featherweight, that is-"
"-the best idea-"
"-I've ever heard."
"How did we not think of this before?"
"Well don't leave us hanging, Feathers, give us details!" says Dinky, nudging him.
Featherweight takes a second to shush everypony, pauses for a moment, and says: "Okay. We're going to make a romantic comedy about an orphanage. An orphanage for cats."
"Oh, this is good," says Spike, rubbing his claws together.
"Yeah, I'm liking where this is going," says Scoots.
"Hey, hey, not done here yet," says Featherweight impatiently, "Get this: The orphanage cats? They all have Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's cats. An orphanage of cats with Asperger's."
Jaws drop. Stunned silence.
"My best friend is a genius," I whisper.
Featherweight nods proudly. "I know. And you get to soak up the glory as my sidekick."
"Not even going to argue with that. Live action or animated?"
"Ah say both," says Apple Bloom, "We can have real actors and fancy cartoon cats. Ah can build sets like nopony's business an' ah'm sure y'all can figure out some unicorn illusion stuff for the rest of it."
"Hey, we've got the perfect team for making a movie!" says Sweetie Belle, "I can write songs, Twist can write the script, Spike does pyrotechnics-"
"Wait, pyrotechnics in a rom-com?" asks Featherweight, "Of course! The orphanage gets set on fire!"
Sweetie Belle grins and nods, "Oh you know it. Apple Bloom makes the sets, Pipsqueak does the advertising, Chowder caters, Featherweight directs, Dinky Doo, uh..."
"I make sure all the cast and crew are adequately cared for," says Dinky, licking a dose of salts off her frog.
"I can do the funding!" yells Ruby Pinch.
"Yeah! I'm gonna go downstairs right now and waterboard Diamond Tiara until she hoofs over the startup money! Come on ponies, you hold her legs and I'll do the yelling and dunking," she says, getting to her hooves and moving towards the door. Dinky's magic grabs her by the tail.
"Pinchy, we can't go running downstairs after three Hurricanes!" she snaps, "The party can't even handle us right now, we'd lay waste to the place! You've got to let it settle!"
"You're joking, right?" I say, "We've got more chemicals than a Beanburger Palace thickshake in our systems and we're just supposed so sit here doing nothing?"
Dinky shakes her head. "No. We need to temper the edge with alcohol, and not crazy bourbon that tastes like domestic violence feels. We're going to play Ring of Fire. Then we lay waste to the party."
She takes out a pack of cards and splays them out face-down in a circle. While she's doing that, I go to the pilfered drinks and make a bunch of vodka screwdrivers, for two reasons: First, I have a cocktail shaker on my flank, so it's sort of my thing. Second, Ring of Fire works better with drinks that are not bourbon. You can play Ring of Fire with bourbon but you will die.
I pass everypony the plastic cups and Scootaloo hashes out the rules with Dinky.
"So we're using standard rules, except fives and eights?"
"Yep. Eight is mates, you pick a pony, take a drink and they've got to drink double. Five is Fuckery Prime."
Scootaloo's face scrunches up in confusion. "What's that?"
"Fuckery Prime. The player to draw says 'six,' and every pony after has to count one higher, and say 'fuck you' if it's a prime number. First pony to get it wrong takes three drinks."
"Dinky my main bitch, there's a fine line between making a tricky drinking game and trying to get me wasted; and what you're doing right now is standing up, spreading your legs and pissing all over that line."
Dinky shrugs. "The alternative is Protect the Prince, and I don't want to get dogpiled by Chowder."
Scoots grudgingly agrees, and takes the first card. Three for me, she takes a drink. Scootaloo is next, she draws a nine and busts a rhyme. Knife, wife, life, strife; then Chowder slips up and takes a drink. Dinky draws six, Chowder, Spike, Featherweight and I drink. I draw two, and Twist drinks. Featherweight starts a waterfall. By the time it gets to Sweetie Belle, I have to top everypony up.
Sweetie slides a card from the circle, and turns it face up. A grinning griffon with a sword, a knave. Never-have-I-ever, Dinky's house rules: you can still say never-have-I-ever if you've done that thing, you can drink on your own turn, game ends when everypony has drank.
"I love this one! Um, never have I ever been caught masturbating." Sweetie, Spike and Twist all drink.
Featherweight turns to Spike, grinning. "Busted by Twilight, huh?"
"No. Celestia." Everypony winces at that.
Three down, seven to go. Apple Bloom goes next. "Never have ah ever fooled around outdoors." She drinks, as do Scootaloo, Chowder and Ruby.
"Never have I ever masturbated to a national hero," says Scootaloo. She drinks, I drink, and a pink-in-the-face Featherweight drinks, surprisingly early in the game.
"Never have I ever been spanked in the bedroom." Scootaloo, Twist and Ruby all drink, Ruby switching between her screwdriver and her can of Stoat's Stolid Stout.
"Never have I ever spanked somepony in the bedroom," I say, taking a drink along with Ruby.
"Never have I ever had a sixty-nine." Ruby Pinch and I drink.
"Never have I ever done it with a blindfold." Ruby Pinch and I drink.
"Never have I ever tried bondage." Ruby Pinch and I drink.
"Never have I ever done it with toys and another pony." Ruby Pinch and I drink.
"Never have I ever choked a pony or been choked in bed." Ruby Pinch and I drink.
"Never have I ever had a starfruit surprise." Ruby Pinch drinks.
"Never have I ever given a starfruit surprise."
"Look here, that was one night all-right?" I say, taking a drink, "One bloody night, that's all. Ruby, end this."
She looks at me, sips her stout and nods. "Never have I ever fooled around high." I drink, Chowder drinks, Ruby drinks and finally Dinky drinks, completing the circle and ending the game.
Sweetie Belle fumbles with her drink and nearly spills it. "Hey, do you guys want to try a game a little less drinky and a little more silly?"
"What you got in mind?" asks Dinky.
"Would you rather?"
"I fucking love that game!" says Ruby. "Me first! Dinks, would you rather have sex with Featherweight's dad or blow Snips and Snails?"
"Your father is pretty imposing, Feathers," I say, "He's mostly steroids."
"You take that back right now! He's been randomly tested a dozen times and nothing ever came up!"
"He ate the testers." Featherweight's nostrils flare and it looks like he's about to hit me. I put my hooves up in contrition and I'm about to apologize when Dinky speaks up.
"Snowflake, no doubt about it. I like big guys anyway, and Snips and Snails?" She shakes her head. "Not my type."
"Did any y'all see them downstairs?" says Apple Bloom, "They were dressed all funny and acting a mite odd, like they had some extra..."
"Chromosomes?" I say.
"Pipsqueak!" says Sweetie, looking rather cheesed off, "Don't say things like that, it's horrible to Snips and Snails and to ponies with Down's syndrome. They're not a punchline."
That stops me in my tracks. Usually I'd play it off, but she makes me feel more than a little guilty. "My apologies. That was crass of me."
She gives me a small smile. "Good, I don't want you turning into my dad or something."
"All right, enough of that, my turn," says Scoots. "AB, would you rather bang your brother or your sister?"
"Yer kiddin', right?"
Apple Bloom's brow furrows as she thinks. "Do ah set the pace or do they just start ruttin'?"
"You set the pace, it just has to be sex."
"Big Mac, then. Seriously, ew. You got problems, Scoots." Scootaloo just laughs.
The game continues, and we find out many interesting things. Dinky would rather pull a tooth without painkillers than give up clover for a year. Twist would prefer to walk in on her parents than vice versa. Spike would rather be a griffon than a pony. Featherweight would break both wings rather than lick one of Pina Colada's used tampons. Chowder would be the centrepiece of a bukkake rather than give up butter.
Scootaloo asks me my question.
"Would you rather get head from your mom, or never get head again?"
"What is it with you and incest tonight?"
She smirks. "It brings out the best in ponies."
"Fine, head from my mother. My turn. Scoots, would you fool around with Apple Bloom and marry Sweetie Belle, or marry Apple Bloom and fool around with Sweetie Belle?"
Scootaloo puts a hoof to her face and looks thoughtful for a moment. "Marry AB and mess with Sweetie. Me and Bloom wouldn't drive each other crazy living together, and Sweetie's a great kisser."
My eyebrows go up. "Is that from personal experience?"
"We've made out a few times at parties, ain't we Sweetie?" Sweetie nods happily in response, and Scoots grins at me. "Why, you wanna see?"
"Hm? Yes. Yes I do. It would be the hottest thing to happen, ever and it's the best idea I've heard tonight. You should do it. You should definitely do it."
"Pip's right. This is a good idea," says Spike. Featherweight and Chowder both concur.
She leans over to Sweetie Belle, and they whisper things that I'm too drunk to catch. Then they sit back up, and Scootaloo clears her throat.
"Well, Sweetie Belle is cute, and we all know I'm awesome, so it would be pretty hot. But we've got a problem," she says, pouting, "See, us fillies have never seen two colts make out, and we're torn up about it."
"Totally torn up about it," says Sweetie Belle.
"We're so torn up about it that we wouldn't be able to put our hearts into making out ourselves, and if we can't put our hearts into it, there's no point doing it at all..."
"Say no more," I say, "We can sort that problem. Featherweight?"
He shakes his head. "Nuh-uh, I'm sworn to chastity. Ask Chowder." I snort and turn towards Chowder-
...and find myself face to face with Lickety Split.
"Lickety!" I say with a frozen grin, "You weren't here five seconds ago."
I'll admit, he's cleaned up nicely. His floppy blond mane is brushed just out of his eyes, he's wearing a navy cardigan over a pure-cotton shirt and an adorable knitted tie the same colour as his eyes. He's looking at me with hope and anticipation, his clear blue eyes almost glowing, though that might be the salt and clover talking. He leans in close to me and whispers:
"I'm totally not sworn to chastity."
This is an awful idea. I'm drunk and he is rather cute; but he's needy and terribly lonely. He'll tell himself that he can keep his feelings detached from the kiss and he'll be wrong. He'll be pining for me for weeks. It's like feeding a stray cat...
I press my lips against his, and he lets out a tiny squeak before sinking into the kiss. He smells of cheap brandy and expensive chocolate. He runs a hoof down my side to my cutie mark, and slips his tongue into my mouth as I gasp. We've done this before, he knows what I like. It was a bad idea then, too.
I break the kiss, and open my eyes. Lickety is breathing hard and blushing bright red. For no reason other than drunken cruelty, I dive back in and give him a soft peck on the cheek.
I turn and see Scootaloo doing a little golf-clap. "Very nice."
"Hey, I'm just that good," I say, "You're not going to back out now or anything, Loo-Loo?"
"Wouldn't dream of it, Squeaky. C'mere, Sweetie!"
Scootaloo puts a hoof on the back of Sweetie Belle's neck and pulls her close. They gaze at each other for a second with lidded eyes and ever-so-slightly parted lips, mere inches between their muzzles. They oh-so-slowly move towards each other, close their eyes, and then Scootaloo nips forward and presses her lips to Sweetie's. The white filly tenses up, then quickly melts into her friend. For a moment they hold the kiss, then they start snogging in earnest.
Their chests press tight together, almost grinding into each other, and their hooves roam over withers and through manes. Scootaloo's wings flutter and twitch as she kisses her friend deeply. An orange hoof strokes a songbird cutie mark, and Sweetie Belle lets out a whimper that turns to a contented sigh.
They've been kissing for a minute when Scootaloo breaks away, dragging her teeth over her friend's bottom lip as she does. Sweetie Belle is breathing hard, her cheeks are flushed and her pupils the size of bits. Her eyes are half-lidded and she almost chases after Scootaloo's mouth when the kiss breaks. Scootaloo is grinning and shooting her friend the most smouldering look I have ever seen.
“Uh, Pip? Ya got a lil' something...” Apple Bloom is looking at me and gesturing at my face. I put a hoof to my muzzle and it comes back wet with a strand of saliva.
Good Goddesses. I was actually drooling. I'm saved from embarrassment when I look around and see two colts and a drake doing the exact same thing.
"Heh. Y'all look like we did after y'all were giving us massages earlier."
"Wait wait wait," says Ruby, "You guys were giving massages to those guys but didn't give any to us guys? That's not fair. That's totally not fair."
"Hey, I'm feeling pretty tense..." says Twist.
Dinky Doo levitates a bottle of massage oil from her saddlebags. "Problem, meet solution."
Salts and massage go together like salts and more salts. Strong stimulants make all your muscles tense up, and having somepony press their hooves into you and work out every little bit of that tension feels like intravenous heaven. So we rise to the occasion and start massaging. First me and Chowder work on Ruby and Twist, then it spreads over the room like a yawn until everypony is massaging everypony and the whole room smells of clover, musk and eucalyptus oil.
Ten minutes later I'm getting my back worked over by Lickety. He's just found out that my ears twitch when he presses just to the left of my spine by the bottom of my ribs, and he's happier than a souse in a wine-cellar about it. He's gentle, almost too gentle, but he knows where to put his hooves. I just lie there and give a happy sigh.
I give him a soft little kiss on the ear when he's done, then Chowder puts him face down and starts rubbing circles across his back. Lickety starts groaning straight away, and he hasn't even had any salts. You've got to hoof it to Chowder, a pony can't spend that much time making pizza dough without getting very good at kneading things.
"Guys, the floor sucks, help me grab some blankets and pillows already," says Scootaloo. We strip the bed and raid the closet for linens, then spread them out on the floor. We're soon chilling on lush duvets, goose-down pillows and sheets with intimidatingly high thread counts. I grab the oil and ask Scoots if she wants a turn.
"Sure." She lays down, wings spread out at the sides. I straddle her lower back, drizzle some oil between her neck and her withers, and work it in. Then I feel out the hard and tense spots, and push into them until they're gone. She doesn't moan or sigh, she lays there with a contented little smile on her face.
"Squeaky, do you know how to do wings?" she asks when I reach her wing joints, "Like preening and stuff?"
"I'm afraid not. Care to give me a crash course?"
"Nah, got a better idea," she says, "Yo AB! Put that drink down and come do my wings." Apple Bloom chuckles and comes over, taking a wing between her hooves, gently rubbing circles at the base. "Only thing better than getting one massage is getting two of them." Apple Bloom preens and strokes her wings as I work her body. Now she's sighing and groaning, muttering directions to me and Bloom.
I finally reach her sleek, toned flanks. I dump a silly amount of oil over her cutie mark, three purple shooting stars. I can tell just by looking that her flanks, thighs and haunches are very tense, and I'm really going to have to put my back into it. The moment I push my hooves into her flanks, Apple Bloom nibbles one of her primaries. There's no moment of tension, no little squeak or whine, she just soaks into the sheets like melted butter.
"Hah. Ya lucky Winona ain't here, Scoots, she loves boneless chicken."
"...fuck you AB."
Scootaloo isn't half as tense as Apple Bloom was at the lake, so we're done a few minutes later. Apple Bloom and I flop down and cuddle up next to her. We're all still buzzing from the Hurricanes, and it feels so soft and sensual. Scoots reaches over me with a wing, grabs a sheet and drapes it over us. We cuddle even closer and start nuzzling. I run my hooves up and down Scootaloo's tight, taut frame. She runs a hoof over my cutie mark and her head is tucked into my neck. Apple Bloom is snuggling me from behind, her legs wrapped around my barrel and her warm, boozy breath on my ear.
Somepony lifts the sheet and peeks under. It's Lickety Split.
"Hey there Pip - oh, hey Scoot, Bloom." His face falls a tad.
"Hey Lickety, care to join us?" I ask. I can't quite place the look he gives me.
"Oh, no, it's cool. I just wanted to say I'm heading downstairs, I want to get a few more dances in," he says with a little smile, "You never know, maybe I can chat up some cute colt while I'm at it."
"If you're sure." I dart up and peck him on the lips. He blushes, and trots out the room. I stick the sheets back over me and squeeze myself back between the two fillies.
I suddenly feel something move in behind us, and a claw runs over my flank. Craning my neck I see Spike, reaching over Apple Bloom and having his neck kissed by Sweetie Belle. I clear my throat, and there's a moment of awkward eye contact as Spike realises whose flank his claw is on. I just wink at him, he laughs, gives my cutie mark a squeeze and then cuddles into Apple Bloom.
Three ex-Crusaders and a dragon OH FUCKING SCORE!
Stroking and cuddling turns into kissing and groping. Apple Bloom presses her lips to mine hard, as sloppy as Diamond Tiara and far rougher than Lickety Split. I kiss her back hungrily, and then yelp and shiver as Scootaloo sticks her tongue in my ear.
I turn over to Scootaloo and we pepper each other's muzzles with kisses, until Apple Bloom growls then bites down and sucks hard on my neck. I try to turn back to her, but Scoots bites my mane and drags me back towards her. Before she can react, I slip a foreleg under her side, and roll over, taking her over my belly and dropping her between me and Apple Bloom.
The two mares cuddle into each other, snug between me and Spike. I lick the back of Scootaloo's neck and then nibble her orange coat just to see her shudder. She arches her neck back and I bury my face in her messy purple mane, inhaling deeply. She smells of cheap shampoo, sweat and mechanic's grease. It's wonderful.
I lift my head and look at the three lovely fillies and dragon I'm lying with. We're all bright red and panting, damp manes plastered over faces, coats slick with sweat. It's not just because this is the sexiest thing since Princess Luna had a harem. Scootaloo is the first to speak out:
"Oh mare I'm thirsty, it's boiling in here."
"Do you chaps want some drinks?" I ask.
"Oh, yes please."
"Good idea, Squeaky,"
"Mighty kind'a ya."
"You're the dude, dude."
I wriggle out from under the sheets, and then take a moment to stretch out in the cool air of the bedroom. There's a giggling, wriggling lump under the bedclothes where my two best friends, Dinky, Twist and Ruby are. The door to the room is open a crack; Lickety Split must have left it open.
I head over to the pile of drinks and see we've drank all the orange juice. Hmm. Bourbon and cola should do nicely. I take out five cups and then nudge the lid off the crate. A cold shiver runs down my spine. You see, there were nine bottles left in that crate. Nine bottles. Three used, nine left over. Simple maths.
Except there are no bottles of bourbon.
I'm staring at a bare crate.
A/N: If you love glorious world building and crazy Equestrian supervillians, go check out Roots, the secret history of the Apple Family! Written by my fantastic pre-reader, LittleSallyDigby.
The first thing that hits me when I get downstairs is the smell. There's a thick, biting stink that crawls into your nostrils and hates them for existing. The strongest chord is vomit, sharp and unsettling, layered under a melody of cheesy sweat with little trills of spilled beer, burnt hair and love fluids.
The hallway is what a landfill sees when it remembers its childhood. Somepony took a broken bottle and used it to scrape the gold print off the walls, which are stained with all sorts of muck. There's a puddle of urine, which I nearly step in. Chewing gum is trampled into the floor – a huge amount of it, like somepony chewed gum and spat it out just for the sake of ruining the lush burgundy carpet. A bin-bag has been split open and dragged across the floor, coating everything in litter.
Six ponies are in the hall. Two of them are snogging next to a pile of vomit, three are loudly discussing how fucking sweet this party is, and one is going along the hall drawing bulging cocks on the Cubist prints with a marker pen.
I nearly trip over a bottle at my hooves. It's an empty bottle of Wild Pegasus. My Wild Pegasus.
Oh, Discord's knackers.
I hear a pained, drunken groan coming from the kitchen. I'd recognise that groan anywhere. I've heard it every other morning for the last year or so.
The kitchen is why parents don't let their kids have house parties. Between the filthy floor covered in spilled cider and dark liquids, the broken cupboards with their contents tossed onto the work surfaces, and the beautiful mess on the ceiling where somepony jammed a bunch of fruit and spirits into the blender and didn't stick the lid on, the Riches' cleaner will be asking for hazard pay. She'll get it, too. The kitchen table is a more extravagant version of the slop table at my house. A dozen tins of black lentil caviar are spilled on the surface, forming little black islands in a sea of prosecco, next to continents of soggy margherita pizza and fleets of olives stuffed with garlic. Somepony had unplugged the fridge and freezer, smashed the plug with a rolling pin, and stuck chewing gum in the wall sockets.
This is some of the most artfully spiteful destruction I've ever seen. Twenty years from now, kitchen's rights organizations will still be holding nationwide candlelight vigils in memory of this tragedy. It wasn't just alcohol at work here. Somepony took a knife and punctured every single tin of food. That sort of malice takes bourbon.
"*grup* ...help meee..."
It's Pina Colada, in a total state, slumped over the breakfast bar. Next to her is a half-eaten white truffle sandwich and a near-empty bottle of bourbon. I try to rouse her but she groans and slumps back down. Fortunately, I'm from a drinking family. If I can't solve this problem, I don't deserve my cutie mark.
I slink around the kitchen, trying to avoid the worst of the muck, and see what I can salvage. A bottle of hot sauce and a bottle of Trottingham sauce, both covered in black lentils, a few black peppercorns picked out from the carnage on the workstations, three plastic cups, a salt-shaker, an egg, a mortar and pestle tucked away at the back of a broken cupboard, and a half-empty carton of tomato juice. I fill two cups with water, and add three tablespoons of salt to one. I grind the peppercorns and toss them in the third cup with a pinch of salt. I add a half measure of Trottingham and a half measure of hot, a measure of tomato juice and mix it with a mostly-clean knife. Finally, I crack the egg and drop it in.
I take the cup of saltwater and press it to Pina's lips. "Drink." In a haze, she parts her lips and quickly drinks the water as I tip it into her mouth. Her eyes shoot open when she realizes what she's drinking. I get behind her, hold her hair up and prepare for the inevitable.
There's a lot of chunder. It's a soupy, horrible mess that reeks of spirits, bile and probably of whatever those little neon-pink bits are. Maybe she's been eating glow-sticks again.
I take a paper napkin to wipe her mouth, and she sicks up a little more on my hoof. Oh Pina, you are a charmer. Next, I put my little wake-up cocktail to her lips.
"Fuck you!" She purses her lips closed and scrunches her eyes shut. I clap a hoof over her nostrils.
"Drink or suffocate."
She couldn't have looked at me with more loathing if her eyes were pictures of me being stabbed in the kidneys. She opens her mouth.
"Now, down it in one before you taste it." She does as she's told and the mixture slides down her throat. She gags a little at the end.
"Ewww... It's like cold jizz that burns..."
"Charming. This one is just water, it will wash the taste out of your mouth." I place the third cup to her lips, and she slowly sips at it until there's only half left. She's staring into space, her eyes weary and unfocused, eyeliner running down her face and pink hair plastered across her forehead. Suddenly she rouses and looks at me.
"It smells like sick in here."
"Yes. Yes it does, Pina."
"Pip, I'm cooold. Gimme a hug. An' kiss," she says, wiping a stray patch of sick from her cheek.
"No. Pina, where did you get the Wild Pegasus from?"
"This," I say, lifting the bottle to her face.
"Oh, that," she says, blinking. "Yeah, all the liquor on the liquor table got drank, so Peachy Pie and Shady Daze went and raided some bedroom upstairs that had ponies under blankets, they must have been screwing or some shit, I dunno, and anyway they came back down and handed all the bottles out to everypony and hey have you seen my sandwich I had a sandwich..."
"It's right there, Pina," I sigh. She lifts it to her muzzle with wobbly telekinesis and nibbles at it. Luna damn everything. All that bourbon, gone to ponies too stupid and base to appreciate its wonders. There's no point fretting over it now, I'll just head back to the bedroom and snuggle with three delicious ponies and a dragon until the sun comes up...
But no. I go into the hallway, and see the bedroom has come to me. Dinky is already down the hall, and the others are coming down the stairs.
"Hey Dinks, what's up? How come you chaps are downstairs?"
"Ah, Snips and Snails burst into the room five minutes ago, Snails with an apple-size black eye, screaming at the top of their lungs about 'the unbearable churlishness of being equine,' Emily Nickerson poetry and some other crazy shit. Scared the tits off me and Featherweight, I'll tell you that."
I grin. "Hah. You guys get over your crushes for just long enough to hook up, then Snips and Snails stop you cold. Perfect."
Dinky looks at me with honest confusion. "They stopped what?"
"You two weren't fooling around under the covers?"
"What? No, we were talking about comic books and listening to Pina Colada call herself a dumbass." She narrows her eyes, "Wait, were you guys fooling around?"
"Yeah, it was pretty hot," says Scootaloo, walking up behind her, "Snips and Snails killed the mood, so we figured we'd come downstairs and party some more." She pauses, and looks around. "Place seems pretty fuckin' dead though."
I stop for a second and realise she's right. For all the mess and carnage, the party is oddly quiet. The music coming from the living room is muted, like the DJ went off to the loo and never came back. When we left the party, there were so many ponies that you could hear them moving and talking through two walls. Now, there's barely a peep apart from the few drunks and vandals we can see in the halls. It's like the death rattle of a party.
"Party ain't dead," says Chowder, his voice dark, "Just ain't here."
We go into the living room to see what happened to the party. It's nearly empty; there can't be more than a dozen ponies in the room – mostly couples fooling around or ponies too drunk to move. The room is a tip, but no more than you'd expect for the epicenter of a party that had nearly a hundred ponies bumping and grinding in it an hour or so ago. Tootsie Flute is nowhere to be seen, and the speakers are pumping out soft R&B.
A closer look reveals signs of bourbon use. Bookshelves tipped over and their contents spread out and trampled on. Vomit on the sofas. Cables yanked out of the television. Urine on the upholstery. Empty bottles of bourbon.
Apple Bloom lets out a long whistle. "Well ah'll be. All that bourbon and cider sure did a number on this place."
"It's not just the booze, look at the ceiling," I say, pointing upwards. The ceiling is a huge fresco of crudely-drawn cocks going into even more crudely-drawn flanks. "That's six metres off the ground, that sort of vandalism takes malice AND energy. Everypony here was hopped up on salts."
Everypony looks at Dinky. She stares right back. "What? What are you- Oh fuck you guys, I can't even believe you'd accuse me of dealing salts at a party like some fuckin' drug mule."
"Bit racist," says Featherweight.
"Sorry, that's my father talking," says Dinky, looking contrite, "But still, screw you guys for saying that!"
"Ain't nopony saying the 'D' word, Dinky," says Apple Bloom gently, "But ya did bring some salts to share with us friends, and we ain't the only friends ya got. Did ya bring any more salts?"
"Pardon?" I say.
She give me a sour look. "One ounce."
Nopony speaks. We all avoid each other's eyes.
"Well what was I supposed to do? I owe ponies favours, I've got a reputation to maintain, Diamond Tiara was just fine with it and took a baggie, and besides Pip brought the bourbon-"
"You requested it!"
Featherweight steps between us. "Guys! There's no point blaming each other. All we have to do is get rid of the empty bottles of bourbon and baggies of salts. That'll stop us getting in trouble with Tiara's parents, and if we stay and help her with the mess she'll have no problem with us. We've been acting better than her other guests after all. Besides, cleanup will be easy now the party's dead."
"Yeah, about that," says Ruby Pinch, taking a sip of her Griffhala Pale Ale, "Is it just me or does the party sound like it's bigger in here than it did in the hall?"
She's right. In the hall you could only hear the ponies hanging out in the hall and the muted music through the walls. In here, you can hear the shrieks, laughter and chaos of a party in full swing, but oddly quiet, like the ghost of a party.
"Uh, guys?" Twist is standing by the curtains, peering through the window. "I think you should see this."
As we approach, she pulls the curtains wide, and we see exactly where the party went. The street outside is a spiteful carnival. There are ponies carrying torches. Featherweight is first to speak.
"Cleanup might be less easy."
"I think that's Chip Mint and Potato Chip over in that garden, wrecking everything," says Sweetie Belle, "Hey, is that High Score with them? What's he doing? Wait, he's not... he's scoring them! They're having a vandalism competition."
"Heh, that's pretty sweet," says Scoots. Apple Bloom gives her a sharp look.
"Scoots, that ain't sweet, that's a misdemeanor."
"Yeah, a sweet misdemeanor."
"Is that a fire in the distance?" asks Spike, "Like, a full-blown burning building fire?"
"Yep. Building fire," says Dinky, "This party has turned into a riot, a riot with arson which is a pretty serious thing, and we're right in the middle of the party; the party that turned into a riot, with fire, and arson, and vandalism, which means I'm gonna get the fuck outta here before the fuzz show and I suggest you guys do the same."
I stop her with a hoof. "That's unwise, Dinks. There's little baggies of salts all over the place. When ponies start asking about the riot that destroyed Ponyville, they'll bloody well start figuring out who started that riot, and the ponies that provided all the salts and all the bourbon will be damn high on that list. Dealing or no dealing, everypony knows who always has salts in every pocket and who owns enough bourbon to pickle an ursa."
I need to hide the evidence just as much as Dinky. What I've done might be less illegal, but my mother and I are in the booze marketing business. She was contracted by Mulekick Brewing Industries to give Wild Pegasus a marketable image. In other words, we're supposed to make them look good. Now, while being known as The Drink That Destroys Towns could be an original and possibly successful marketing campaign, it would be unauthorized, unappreciated, unsolicited and doom our chances for repeat business and good references. If word gets out, mum will be furious, and I'll go from helping her with the jobs and crunching the numbers to shutting up, staying in the corner and making drinks for guests. I can't let that happen, so the bottles must disappear.
Featherweight quickly steps up and takes charge. "Okay guys, here's what we're going to do. There's a lot of ground to cover outside, and we should try to stop as much rioting as we can while we clean up the baggies and the bottles. Dinky, are you sober enough to cast a sensory enhancement spell combined with an attunement cantrip?"
"I'm gonna pretend you didn't ask that question. Just gimme the word."
"Attune me, Pip, Bloom, Sweetie and Scoots to bottles, and attune you, Spike, Twist and Ruby to baggies. We'll sweep the town; the more destruction there is, the quicker the whiskey and salts will have been used, so we shouldn't have far to go. Chowder, the house is mostly empty; can you give it a sweep?" Chowder nods in response. "Perfect. Dinky, do your thing."
She scrunches up her eyes, lights up her horn and casts a pale yellow beam over us. My eyes sting like I've got them open underwater, my mouth tastes like vinegar and there's a vague pull through my body, like a craving for sex or a stiff drink. When the shock wears off, I take a look around the room. My eyes go straight to the two empty bottles of bourbon on the floor. They stand out, like great oaks on a barren tundra. Chowder walks over and picks them up.
It's time to hide some evidence.
The damage to Diamond Tiara's lawn is less deliberate and more collateral. At some point the party moved here, keg and all, and most of the mess is the natural result of several ponies raving it up on the fescue. There's litter, and somepony has flung loo-roll everywhere, but there are no mangled lawnmowers, trenches of dug-up sod or punji sticks. Dinky and her group set about finding baggies straight away.
There's five ponies toasting marshmallows around a makeshift campfire, and one pony on his own just outside the circle. It's Lickety Split. I call out to him; he turns and gives me a funny little smile. His eyes are red like he's been smoking clover, and there's an odd note in his voice.
"Hey Pip, buddy. What's up?"
"Ah, we've just had a bit of- Are you all-right, mate? You look a bit rummy."
"I- I'm just a bit weirded-out about earlier, that's all. It's nothing really."
"Oh. Um, how so?"
Lickety lets out a long, slow sigh and looks me in the eye. "I just feel... I'm the only colt in Ponyville who likes other colts except for you, but you like mares more, and all I want is somepony to, y'know, be with, but all I've ever had is tiny bits of fooling around, and I know I'm being stupid..."
Heaven's sake, I feel for the lad but this could go on all night, and I'm buggered (and not in the ways I enjoy) if I don't get all these bottles swept up by the time Plod makes his morning rounds.
"Lickie, I need your help," I say, with drug-fueled urgency, "Some right tossers nicked our bourbon and Dinky's salts, and if there's a bunch of empty bottles and baggies about, everypony will blame us for starting a riot! They'll be after our knackers! Could you please help us look?" There's a reluctant look in his eyes that I don't fancy at all, so I continue: "I'm desperate here, and I'm begging you as a friend to help us."
"Okay... I-” He pauses for a second and looks down with a sullen expression, before looking back up at me with that odd little smile, “I can do that. Sure!"
"Oh thank you so much mate, you're a total darling," I say, pulling him close and planting a kiss on his ear. He mumbles something about finding the bottles, and heads off to search right away. Topping!
I turn around. My friends aren't collecting bottles. They are all staring at me. I'm geting uneasy looks from Feathers, Scoots, Spike and Apple Bloom, and a pissed-off glare from Sweetie Belle.
"That was low, Pip," she says.
"Pardon? Pardon?! Lickety was completely broken up, over you might I add, and instead of comforting him you toy with his feelings and send him off on some stupid errand. That's low. Real low."
She's honestly confusing me. "How am I toying with him? It's hardly my fault he's the only gay in the village, and all I did was ask him for a favour as a mate!"
Sweetie rolls her eyes and gives me a disgusted look. "Please. You're the only colt he knows who's into other colts, you've fooled around before, and what do you do? First you call him a friend, like you're being nice and letting him down gently, then, and then, the moment he says he'll help you kiss him! Even Rarity doesn't play with stallions' feelings like that, and I'm pretty sure mom and dad adopted her from a changeling colony. And hey, since we're on the subject of being a terrible pony and friend, what the hay did you tell Snips and Snails?"
"What on Earth are you talking about?"
Sweetie Belle does not give me a happy look. She looks at me like she wants to pull my testicles out through my penis. In a voice as cold as frozen vodka, she says: "Snips and Snails came up to the bedroom yelling weird things, and when I asked them what they were doing, they said you told them that shouting random stuff would make fillies like them."
"Oh bloody hay, that was a joke! They'd been going on about this protease-"
"That's the enzyme," says Spike.
"-pick-up artist rubbish that Shady Daze, the bell-end, gave them, and wouldn't stop asking me to help them pick up mares, so I said the first ridiculous thing that came into my head. I didn't think they'd go through with it because it's bloody mental!"
Sweetie scrunches her eyes together, puts a hoof to her nose and practically growls her next words. "This is Snips and Snails. They- They are easily influenced, and you know that, Pipsqueak. You got Snails punched in the face!"
"Oi, I'll stop you there. I did not get Snails punched in the face. Shady Daze filled his head with bollocks, Snails actually listened to said bollocks, and Snails' mum drank wood alcohol when she was pregnant. That's three ponies who deserve more blame for him getting socked than I do."
"Oh really? You couldn't have taken them aside, told them that stuff doesn't work and that maybe they should try actually talking to fillies or something? Snips was going on about you like you were Con Mane, they'd have hung on your every word!"
"Well, my way was funnier- Oh, don't give me that look, you know bloody well what dealing with those two is like. Talking to them is like cancer without the closure."
Big silence. Everypony just goggles. Sweetie's face shifts through a whole spectrum of emotions from rage to disappointment.
"Hey, Pip? I don't know what's worse, that you're a vain, arrogant dilettante who treats ponies like crap for no reason, or the way you act like you're the noble, put-upon defender of all things cultured and intellectual against ponies like Lucky Strike and Shady Daze just because you've skimmed an Equestrian Lit textbook, have that stupid, smarmy accent and use different mane products than the ponies you think are 'barbarians'
"You know what? I don't like being around ponies who are downright horrible to guys like Snips and Snails because they think they can get away with it. You're a preening choad, Pip, and you can find those fucking bottles on your own. Come on, girls, let's go."
With that, the three ex-Crusaders turn around and walk off. Spike looks anxiously between the girls and us. "Uh, I think I better go after them, try to patch things up, make sure they don't stab you in the kidneys or something, ha ha." With that, he runs off to follow them.
It's just me and Featherweight, glancing at each other but not quite meeting each other's eyes. We stand here awkwardly for a minute. I can't quite think of anything to say.
"I am not a dilettante," I finally settle on.
"No. No you're not."
"I- I'm very much into statistics. It's a big part of what I do, and I'd say I know as much about it as any pony in Ponyville apart from Whooves, Twilight or maybe Dinky. I just like to learn about other stuff, and that's- there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all."
"No, not at all."
"...I can be a bit insensitive at times, I suppose."
"Just a bit."
"And maybe I'm a little pretentious."
"Yeah, you're pretty pretentious."
There's a deeply uncomfortable, strung-out silence. That's when it hits me:
"Skies above, I'm a tosser! A huge tosser, and I've been a tosser for as long as I remember!"
Featherweight says nothing. The pained, pitying look in his eyes tells me everything I need to know. I feel the lowest I've felt in quite some time. I almost feel Luna gazing down on me, knocking my place down on the list of potential harem mates, below pretenders like Soarin and Big Mac and Fancy Pants.
Featherweight drapes a wing over my back. "Hey, hey now, no throwing a big fat pity party over the way that you can sometimes, occasionally, a little bit, be a huge douche," he says gently. "Half because, y'know, that's just giving you a bunch of attention and sympathy that you don't deserve, but also because hey, douchebag or not you're still my best friend. My best friend, who realizes he's been acting like a douche, and is now going to behave like less of a douche, yes?" He nudges my head with his wing so we're face to face. A second later I realise he's waiting for an answer.
"Yes. Yes! That's damn well exactly what I'm going to do!"
"Sweet, so for the next few weeks, I'll slap you across the lips when you act like a dick, that sound good?"
"Sounds wonderful, Feathers."
He lifts the wing off me and flutters into the air. "Awesome. Now come on, DBBFF, let's find those fuckin' bottles!"
"DBB- Ah, I get you. Funny. Yes, let's!"
Four glasses of punch. Two mugs of cider. Six measures of bourbon. Three doses of salts. Too much clover. Ponyville has become a twisted, riot-themed funhouse ready to close in on me the second I miss a bottle. I don't think the attunement spell mixes well with salts; I've picked eight bugs out of my coat since I left the house. Featherweight is crawling with them; I can see every little detail on their hairy, slimy bodies perfectly but he hasn't noticed them yet.
Chowder was right. In town, the party is alive and well. Partygoers dash through the streets in groups of four or five, cackling manically. They leave a trail of thorough, competent vandalism in their wake. The hardware store was broken into, and there is spray-painted graffiti over every storefront in sight. Chip Mint is pissing on the front door of Quills and Sofas. Toilet paper is draped over everything.
We find the first bottle at the marketplace, next to two fighting ponies, Peachy Pie and a blue filly I don't recognise. Featherweight and I get between them, and Feathers gets headbutted for his trouble. When they realise they're not fighting the same pony any more, they calm down just enough to walk to the other end of the market and start scrapping again.
"Gyahhh..." Featherweight rubs his ear, which is twisting spastically. "She headbutted me in the fuckin' ear! Who does that?"
"Peachy Pie, apparently," I say, picking up the bottle and stashing it in the rucksack. "Now let's go before somepony stops us. The minute they see our eyes, they'll know something's up and the whole thing will come crashing down!"
Featherweight gives me a funny look and doesn't notice the spidery thing crawling over his eyeball. "What are you even talking about?"
I blink, the spider is gone, and I can't quite remember what I was talking about. Something about...
"Bottles!" I yell. "We need to find the bottles; let's go!" I start cantering, then straight-up running towards Sugarcube Corner. I don't know why Sugarcube Corner, but it feels like the right direction. We find a second bottle of bourbon in a tree next to a tied-up Noi. We cut her down and she thanks us, but she's too drunk to notice all the insects crawling out of her mouth and nose, poor sod. I don't have the heart to tell her.
We smell smoke when we get to Mister Breezy's Fan Shop, and we see the source as we turn the corner. Legal Advice and Marital Aids is on fire. I feel something running through my coat, but it's not more bugs, just pouring rain. There's a gigantic raincloud overhead, not just over the fire but all over town. It's an early morning rainfall that I plum forgot about. The fire isn't spreading or raging, but it's crackling happily, spitting and licking through broken windows and cracks in the roof.
There are two bottles here, one smashed over the burning shop sign, which Featherweight darts over to collect, and another half-empty in the mouth of an alley opposite the burning store. The moment I stick it in my bag, my body catches up with me and I drop to my knees, dry heaving.
"Celestia, Pipsqueak," pants Featherweight, "Why did we have to run?"
A little lucidity returns. My coat is soaked, but the bugs are gone. "I- I'm not sure why, actually. Sorry about that, mate - I lost my head for a moment there."
He pats me on the head with a wing. "It's cool, dude. Anyway, if my math is right and it is, that's three bottles used up in the game, two in the living room, and four we've just found. Only three left."
"Two left. There was one in the kitchen with Pina. I mentioned it to Chowder before we left."
"Two left then. Even better, huh?" he says with a little grin. "Any idea where the last two are?"
"Sugarcube Corner. There's one there, I know it. Don't ask how, I think Pinkie Pie is involved. Once we've got that, it's one left. Nopony's going to give a rat's arse about one bottle."
"Right. Sugarcube Corner, then!" We set off at an uneasy trot, and reach it five minutes later.
Sugarcube Corner is an odd sight. The store itself is closed, but outside there are tables set out, lit by the outside spotlights. It's like a strange bubble, sealed off entirely from the vandalism, mania and chaos of the party. There are four ponies sitting at one table, sheltered from the rain by a large umbrella - Pinkie Pie, Pokey Pierce, Tootsie Flute and that unicorn DJ whose name I can never-
"Vinyl Scratch." Feathers doesn't even look at me as he says it.
"I wish you wouldn't do that, Feathers."
As we get closer, we see the bottle of bourbon. It's on their table, two-thirds full, and each of the ponies has a glass of it next to them. Tootsie Flute sees us and calls us over.
"Pip! Feathers! Come join us!" she yells. "Crazy night, huh?" We hurry over and sit down. The other three greet us.
"Hey there, sweet-cheeks." That last one was directed at me, by Pokey, and was followed by a wink. I smile back but don't flirt; I have more important things going on right now. It's a pity Lickety doesn't like older stallions. Or does he? I should really double check.
"Nice little set-up here," says Feathers, turning down the proffered whiskey, "How come it's all calm and stuff just here?"
The unicorn DJ grins. "Pinkie knows all about parties - like how to keep them at bay."
"That and we billy-club anypony who tries anything within a thirty-yard radius," says Tootsie, levitating a menacing black stick in the air.
"Oh yeah. Have you guys met my godmom?" she says, "Pipsqueak, Featherweight, meet Vinyl and vice versa."
"I've met you before," says the DJ, looking at Feathers. "You're new, though," she says to me. "Nice to meet ya, kiddo."
"Charmed," I say, shaking her hoof and smiling widely. "Your godkid is quite the DJ."
"Damn right she is," she says, ruffling Tootsie's mane, "and she always gets her godmom wasted so I don't rat her out to Bon-Bon for breaking curfew."
"Pfft, I ain't got no curfew," says Tootsie, rolling her eyes, "Thanks for the bottle of bourbon though, Pip, it was much appreciated."
Cheeky little bugger!
Pinkie Pie shoots me a sharp, dangerous look. "Wait, were you guys handing out bourbon at that party? That's absototally-"
"Oh no no no no no," says Tootsie, "Pipsqueak gave me this bottle a week ago, as a free gift, for no money, because he's such a good friend. I can't recall him bringing any bourbon to Diamond's place."
Cheeky little bugger who just saved my arse!
"Yes. Yes, that is exactly the case! Tootsie is a wonderful friend and pony, and I thought a bottle of bourbon would be just the thing for her."
Vinyl drains her glass, then slams it back down on the table. "See? It's like I always say. Good friends get you drunk!"
"Damn straight they do! Anyway, lovely seeing you ponies, but Featherweight and I must be off," I say, "Have a lovely evening!" They say their goodbyes, Tootsie winks at me, and we set off.
For a while, we just wander aimlessly through town. The library has a forcefield up around it and a good few stores and houses have suspicious eyes peeking out of windows, but the riots have wound down. Legal Advice and Marital Aids is now just smoking in the distance, nopony is daring to vandalise anything else, and the few partygoers left either scuttle from alley to alley, or putter around in a sort of daze. Featherweight and I are doing the latter.
Half an hour later, our legs feel like jelly and we sit down in an alley. My head is starting to throb with hangover, muscles ache from lack of salts, and the tug of the attunement spell is wearing off. I feel spent.
"Celestia, what a crazy fuckin' night." Featherweight rubs his temples and flutters his wings a little. "I gotta get some pictures. Can't let those dickholes at the Gazette scoop me on tonight."
"Sure, I'll be right with you. Just give me a sec while I have a quick drink," I say, reaching for my hip flask. It's not there. I check my other pocket. Not there either. "Feathers, you haven't seen my flask have you?"
He's patting himself down. "Nah, I haven't. Hey, have you seen my camera?"
I shake my head. "'Fraid not. Have you seen it since we... left the house..." Something horrible occurs to me, and suddenly I don't feel tired any more. "You haven't seen it since we left the house, have you? You haven't seen it since we were drinking in the spare bedroom!"
He nods. "Yeah, I think you're right. Why, what are you thinking?"
"We're being set up! You, me and Chowder are the only ponies who know that Shady Daze and his mates wanted to burn down Legal Advice and Marital Aids. Shady helped take the bourbon, and while he was there he nicked my hip flask, your camera and something of Chowder's. Giving the bourbon away was just a wild goose chase to send us off looking while he plants our things right on the scene of the fire! It'll look like we burned the place to the ground!"
"Wait, wait, hold up there. You're saying Shady Daze set fire to Legal Advice and Marital Aids?"
"YES THAT IS WHAT I AM SAYING, FEATHERTON STANLEY WEIGHT, HE TOLD US TO OUR FACES THAT HE WAS UNIRONICALLY PLANNING TO BURN IT TO THE GROUND NOT TWELVE HOURS AGO!"
Feathers looks thoughtful. "Well it does make sense when you put it like that..."
"Featherweight, focus! That's arson! If we get the blame we won't get grounded or cut out of the family business, we'll be sent to juvie! Look at my hips, do you know what they do to ponies with hips like mine in juvie?"
Three teenage stallions tower over my whimpering, beaten-but-not-broken body; all three looking rakish, thuggish and dirty. The biggest and most evil-looking one leans down to my face and breathes hot and fiery against my ear as he speaks. "The first thing you need to know if you're gonna survive in here is that I'm the daddy. The second thing you need to know is that you're the new fish." His hoof runs down my side, roughly squeezes my cutie mark, then smacks it hard and makes me yelp. "The third thing you need to know is that if a new fish wants to survive in here, he learns to please his daddy and his daddy's friends..."
"...no, it wouldn't be at all like that, sexual assault in prisons is horrific and besides they'd probably all have syphilis-"
"Sorry. Let's go."
We stop for breath outside the darkened Ponyville Retirement Home, which is about a third of the way from the alley to Legal Advice and Marital Aids. Featherweight turns to me. "What's the plan, dude?"
"You nip in 'round the back, that's where they'll probably have dropped our things, and I'll keep lookout. If anypony comes, I'll bark like a dying seal."
"Uh, I've got wings, shouldn't I be the watchpony?"
"True, but you spent years and years taking pictures of other ponies without being seen. You're far better at sneaking about than I'll ever be."
Featherweight considers this for a moment. "Good point."
"Also, you're quicker than me. We haven't seen the guards and the Neighborhood Watch Alliance out yet, but if they haven't started roaming across town by now they will bloody soon. The only thing worse than having our personal effects found on a crime scene is being caught on a crime scene."
Featherweight nods, and we head onwards through the pouring rain, sticking close to buildings. As we turn the corner, we slam right into a pony-shaped wall and tumble arse over tit. Featherweight is up a second before me.
"Hey, watch where- Chowder, that you bro?"
"Sup." The grey mountain of a pony grins at us. He's got a bag clinking with empty bottles slung over one side, and is being nuzzled by the tangerine mare who works as a hairdresser on the other.
Featherweight sighs with relief. "Thank Celestia we found you! Listen, Chowder, somepony stole something from you at the party, me and Pipsqueak had my camera and his hip flask taken-"
"Nah, they right here," says Chowder, looking bemused. He reaches into the clinking bag and pulls my flask and the camera from it. "You left them in the bedroom, silly fools, so I brought them with." He passes them to us, and we take them, shocked and dumbfounded. Chowder looks at us blankly, and his drunken companion is wordlessly rubbing her head against his neck.
It takes a few seconds for it to sink in, and as soon as it does Featherweight and I start laughing and giggling in joy. We aren't being framed! Everything is just fine!
"Oh, holy hay bro, we thought we were getting set up for arson," says Feathers, a silly smile on his face. Chowder just gives a little grin, rolls his eyes and shakes his head.
"No juvie. This is a good thing. This is a very good thing," I say. "So what's the plan now then?"
Featherweight checks his camera over, and then looks up at me. "I still gotta take pictures, and I wouldn't mind some company?"
"Hey, can I still stay 'round yours tonight, Pip?" says Chowder. "I got a lil', uh..." he nods his head towards the tangerine mare using him as a strange sort of scratching post.
"Sure, if you want to head back now, you know where the key is," I say. "Oh, if you are going to head off, do you mind taking my rucksack? If anyone stops me and Feathers, this whole bag of empty bottles..." He nods and takes the rucksack.
"You stay outta trouble now." He grins at us and sets off towards my house, his hairdressing filly friend in tow. We wave him off, and then turn to each other.
"So, mister photographer, where to now?"
"Well, the important parts are Legal Advice and Marital Aids, the market, and Diamond Tiara's house. Legal Advice is the closest; we should cut through Ponyville Park and go there first," he says, setting off at a brisk pace and beckoning me to follow. We trot along wordlessly for a bit before I speak.
"Tonight's been bloody mental, eh?"
"Yeah, it was pretty awesome," he replies. Seeing my expression, he continues, "Oh yeah, it sucked that you got your whiskey stolen and that you got chewed out by Sweetie Belle, but everything before that was pretty sweet, right?"
"You're right, I guess..." We get to the end of a street and see the edge of Ponyville Park.
"Damn straight I'm right. Plus, now I'm getting to take pictures of all the rioting, scoop on the Gazette, and write an article from a first hand account! I'm totally gonna show it to Twilight over coffee. She'll think I'm intrepid," he says, a dreamy look on his face. I shake my head, and we both walk into the park. "Hey, is that Snips and Snails over there?" He points with a wing to two figures tottering about near the bandstand. In the gloom I can make out a feather boa.
"Yeah, that's them- You know, I should probably go over there and apologise for the advice I gave them. On account of this whole 'not acting like a tosser' thing I've got going on," I say. "I don't want to slow you down; if you want some snaps of Legal Advice then I'll catch you up at the marketplace. I know you want to get a few shots while it's still smouldering."
He frowns. "Pip, that's crass." I give him my flattest of looks, and his face breaks out in a silly grin. "Yeah, you're right, I totally want to do that. I'm a natural rubbernecker."
"Splendid. I'll meet you at the marketplace in half an hour." As soon as he's off, I turn and head toward the two figures. "Snips? Snails?" I call out.
"Huh? Hey, it's Pipsqueak! Duuuude!" Snips' drunken voice cracks a little as the pair stumble in my direction. As they get closer, something looks a little different about them. "Fuckin' radical party, right?"
"Hah. Yes. Yes it was," I say, "Listen, guys, I want to apologise for the advice I gave earlier; it wasn't very sound. I heard it got Snails assaulted."
Snips eyes go wide. "What? Oh no no no, it wasn't that at all, bro."
"Nahhh, we talked to Shady, he explained everything," says Snails. "Everything!" he adds for emphasis.
"Yeah, we told him about your advice and he said it was totally sound, we just had bad luck and ran into bitches! He even gave us some game stuff he had spare as a 'consolation prize,' like check out this neck thing!" He lifts his head to show off a black leather choker, clasped with two 'male' symbols.
"And I got a codpiece!" says Snails, cocking his leg.
It's not a codpiece.
"He also gave us these condoms, some lube, two books on game, kinky hoofcuffs-" It's then that something clicks.
"Snips, can I take a look at that stuff?" I interrupt. He nods and floats the items over around my head, giving me a halo of sexual paraphenalia. The bottle of lube still has a tag on.
Legal Advice and Marital Aids' Pro Boner range.
Oh Luna above. I had the right idea, but the wrong stooges!
"Listen, when did you talk to Shady?" I ask. "And did he take anything of yours?"
Snips looks nonplussed. "Like, half an hour ago bro, why? And yeah, he asked if he could borrow my hat for the night, he said his ears were freezing." I must look shocked, because Snips immediately continues, "Oh, he's not going to steal it or anything, it's got my name on the inside. Shady wouldn't do that anyway."
Shady Daze set it up perfectly. Snips and Snails aren't well-liked and just spent a day sexually harassing every mare in Ponyville, so nopony is going to spring to their defence when the fuzz find their clothing on the scene. It's not going to look great when they're found with looted goods, either.
I should let this one lie. I went mental tonight trying to safeguard my reputation and livelihood; putting myself at risk and pissing off Shady Daze in the process would be feckless of me. If I go with them then I risk being found planting evidence at a crime scene, and if I let them go alone they'll get caught and somehow let it lead back to me. And to be fair, I hate Snails and Snips just called every mare he hit on today, which is almost all of them, 'bitches,' so they've kinda got it coming.
It's not a hard call, really.
"Snips, Snails, you two need to listen very carefully. You're both being set up for arson by Shady Daze..."
As I dash madly through the streets of Ponyville at two in the morning, with Snips and Snails trailing twenty meters behind, I reflect on tonight's events and conclude they have taken a decidedly disappointing turn.
A few hours ago it looked like a fantastic evening. I was about to have a ménage à cinq with three gorgeous fillies and a rather dashing dragon. Everything before that was fun too. I'd spent a few hours playing drinking games and chatting with the best of friends, and a few hours before that drinking and dancing.
Then everything went to pot. My bourbon was stolen, the ex-Crusaders rightly decided that I am a tosser, I've had to run across town searching for empty bottles of bourbon, and now I'm running to the torched Legal Advice and Marital Aids store, trying to stop a pack of rabid arseholes led by Shady Daze from framing Snips and Snails for arson.
I'm a tad miffed with Snips and Snails for allowing this to happen in the first place, but I suppose I shouldn't be too harsh on them. One of the nicest things I can say about the minds of these two ponies is that they are not overly tainted by the cynical mistrustfulness of modern Equestria.
We turn the corner and arrive at the street. I see Featherweight fluttering about, taking pictures of the smouldering ruin, and sigh with relief. As soon as Snips and Snails catch me up, I call out to him.
"Hey Pipsqueak, how are - Oh, hey Snips, hey Snails," he replies. "You okay dudes? You look like you sprinted here."
"Feathers!" I pant, "It's - The thing with the arson and the Shady! Snips and - *wheeze* - Snails, patsies! He took the - took his hat!"
He flutters down to the ground. "Whoa, whoa, slow down. What's Shady done? What do Snips and Snails have to do with it? Whose hat? Why is Snails wearing a strap-on?"
I take a few deep breaths, fan myself with a hoof, and explain the situation to Featherweight as calmly as I can. He listens attentively, and quickly thinks of a plan. After a few moments thought, he speaks.
"Okay, I haven't seen any hat through the front of the shop, so Shady probably dumped it 'round the back. The back door or window they went through should still be open, so we'll take all the stuff they gave Snips and Snails and put it back in there. There's the alleyway right there, let's go."
The four of us hurry into the back alley behind Legal Advice and Marital Aids. The back door to the shop was bucked in. The fire seems to have burned out, but little wisps of smoke are still coming from inside. Snips and Snails quickly take off all their items and throw them inside the ruin. Featherweight then flutters in on his wings, and looks for Snips's hat.
A minute later, he comes back out shaking his head. He leans against one of the dumpsters in the alley, and says, "No sign of a hat anywhere. You sure they didn't just want a hat?"
I shrug. "Maybe. It seems odd-"
I shut up when I hear a voice from the street, and the sound of several ponies walking.
"Okay you fags, last stop of the night before we crash!"
It's Shady Daze.
I frantically gesture and whisper instructions to Featherweight and get him to hide in the dumpster, which is thankfully filled with mostly cardboard and paper. I dearly hope he understood my instructions.
Shady leads the way into the alley, trailed by seven of his friends. He stops in surprise when he sees me. He mutters something to a few of his friends in the back, and three of them turn and walk back out of the alley. They're going to circle round and block off the other end of the alley, I know it. This is my last chance to run and forget this ever happened. I don't get long to consider it; Shady's friends sprint and they're at the other end of the alley in seconds.
I become starkly aware that Shady Daze and all of his friends are measurably bigger than me. Every one of them has at least an inch on me, and they are not built like normal teenagers. They are built like teenagers who think the four food groups are steroids, weightlifting, anger and meat.
Lucky Strike leans close to Shady, whispers something into his ear, then sits back and lights a cigarette. Shady is staring right at me, with that smile that doesn't meet his eyes. He sweeps strands of his mane from his sweaty forehead, and laughs a quiet little laugh. "Hey, Pipsqueak. What are you doing here?"
"We've got an orgy planned. The fillies will be down here in a few minutes. Care to join us?"
He smirks at me and trots a little closer. "Heh, that's pretty funny. It's late, Pip. You should go home. Take those two with you, while you're at it."
"I don't think so, Shady. You're about to act very rashly, and I'd rather you didn't."
Shady looks at me like I've sprouted wings, then bursts out laughing. When he stops, he looks back up at me with his cheeky, cheery smirk. "Bro, I'm doing the exact same shit you'd do in my place."
"You really aren't."
He snorts with laughter. "Oh, fuckin' spare me! I know how you think, dipshit, we've got a lot in common! I mean, yeah, you talk like a fag and you're into some real boring bullshit, but hey, I've seen you drink, bro. You can pack that shit away! So we dress different and we're not into all the same shit, but at heart, dude?" He puts a hoof to his chest. "At heart, we're pretty much brothers, 'cause you and me, we're two colts who've got our priorities straight. We both know the only things worth worrying about are our buds, our booze and hot, sloppy pussy, and you know what else?
"We both know that when the shit goes down, you've gotta think real hard, figure out exactly what's gotta be done and fuckin' do it. We ain't in the same social circles, but we're both twenty-four hour party ponies so I've seen and heard what you get up to, Pipsqueak. You ain't really going to tell me you've never fucked somepony over cleaning one of your messes, are you? 'Cause I never took you for a filthy liar, dude."
"We're less alike than you think," I say flatly.
"Yes. I'm not stupid."
Shady laughs a silent little laugh, and waits for me to go on.
"You're turning something that would be passed off as a drunken accident into a full-blown arson investigation," I continue. "The moment Snips and Snails say they didn't do it and point a hoof at you, the guard will be all over it. Let me guess, you broke in through the back, all eight of you went in because you're thick like that, you took what you needed, then Lucky Strike-" I point a hoof at the smoking pony, "-took out the lighter fluid he uses to light those damn cigarettes, doused the place with it, then you all left and took a match to the place, right?"
Shady looks amused, and raises his eyebrows. His friends just smirk and edge a little closer.
"The guard will look through the ashes for hoofprints," I say. "They will take air and ash samples and send them straight to Twilight Sparkle, and after a few hours of lab work they'll know what you colts ate for dinner last night, and also, oh, that the fire was started with lighter fluid, that Snips and Snails don't smoke and don't have any fucking lighter fluid, and that you and your friends fucking well do!
"Right now it looks like it could have been an accident, and with everything else that's happened the guards will barely have time to go over it. By the time the insurance company gets around to investigating, it'll be too late to find anything useful. If you make this look like a deliberate arson, that won't be the case. When they find out you tried to frame two innocent ponies, you'll all end up with a nasty stretch in juvie. Be sensible. If you walk away-"
Shady cuts me off. "Pipsqueak, Pipsqueak, Pipsqueak," he says, trotting slowly towards me. "Whatever bullshit master detective crap you're trying to pull, just fuckin' drop it. We didn't stick any of Lucky Strike's lighter fluid in there or any shit like that. Legal Advice, Pip, it's full of paper! We just threw that shit about and put a torch to it, same kinda torch as every other rioter out tonight was carrying."
"Yeah, where did you get those things any-"
He claps a foreleg over my withers and leans into me. "Pip, baby, don't talk," he says, squeezing me close to him. "Here's how it's going to go down. See, everypony knows that those two useless retards-" He turns me around and points a hoof towards a confused Snails and a terrified Snips, "-are a pair of useless retards. When everypony hears that Snips and Snails robbed Legal Advice and Marital Aids because they thought the loot would help them pick up mares, then fucked up and burned the place to the ground, they'll believe it! They will eat that shit up, Pipsqueak, trust me.
"Everypony will pity them a bit because they're stupid, so they probably won't get more than a week in juvie each and a few months community service. I think it'll be good for them; a lil' stretch in the real world will straighten those two dipshits out, y'know? Sure, Snips and Snails are gonna say they didn't do it, but it's their word against ours and a massive conspiracy to frame them for a sex shop robbery is just the sort of stupid, harebrained bullshit you'd expect them to come up with in a panic.
He puts his muzzle to my ear, which twitches under his hot breath, and whispers, "Now, you could speak up for them and go around runnin' your mouth off that it was all me. You're believable enough, with that accent of yours and all. It'll take some convincing though, 'cause trust me, nopony wants to think I'm anything less than a total charmer; don't ask me why, they just don't. It'll take a few days to make your case and get anyone to actually ask me about it, let alone arrest me.
"I'll find you before that, Pipsqueak. You're no Con Mane, Pina says you don't even lock your doors at night, bro!" His stink of beer, sweat and aftershave makes my head swim, and as he pulls me tighter his whispers turn to a low growl.
"And if you try to hide like the gutless pussy you are, I'll go after your friends, one by one. Featherweight, Dinky, Chowder, Ruby.... Me and my colts will fuck them up so badly that you'll crawl to my front door and beg me to torture the shit out of you, so that I'll maybe forgive you and pull what's left of your friends from the lake of burning shit you dropped them in."
He pushes me back, and the cheeky, cheery mask drops back over his face. "I'd usually threaten something specific, like 'I'll shove my cock down your throat while I break each one of your legs,' but I figure you'd kinda like that, right, you fuckin' fairy faggot?" His friends all take a few steps forward. "Get the fuck outta here, I ain't asking again."
This is it. If Featherweight understood my frantic whispering and gesturing, if the equipment works, we might be all right. If not, we're all in a world of hurt. Featherweight and I are no scrappers after all, and Snails is probably a net negative in a fight. There's something caught in my throat, and I give a little cough.
"Yeah, I'm gonna say no. You've done something very silly," I say.
Nothing happens. Shady's grin is quickly turning into a death glare. Ponies step closer, clicking their necks and fetlocks.
"I said you've done something very silly!" There's a chord of desperation in my voice. A rustling sound comes from the dumpster, a few mutters, and then a click.
"...are you a dumbass, Pina?"
"YES! HELP MEEE!"
"Sorry, not that one!" comes Featherweight's muffled voice. Everypony is shock still. There are a few more clicks and mutters, and then:
"...just fuckin' drop it. We didn't stick any of Lucky Strike's lighter fluid in there or any shit like that. Legal Advice, Pip, it's full of paper! We just threw that shit about and put a torch to it..."
Featherweight bursts into the air out of the dumpster, phonocorder slung around his neck, then flutters down onto the dumpster's lid, like a guardian alicorn. He's got a million-bit grin on his face. "Now, I can't check this because you guys burned down the lawyer's shop, but I believe the legal term of art for that is a 'confession.'" he says triumphantly. "The guard love confessions, they make the job a lot easier."
None of the ponies move but Shady, who takes a step forward. He doesn't look enraged or worried, instead he looks offended. "Really, Featherweight? You're in on this stupid bullshit too?"
"Well, you did threaten to drop me into a lake of flaming shit. That hurt, bro." He shrugs a silly 'oh, whatever am I going to do with you' shrug. "Anyway, here's how it's going to go down. You're going to take Pipsqueak's advice, and not pin it on Snips and Snails. That way, the guard don't get this tape."
Two pegasus friends of Shady's hover into the air. Shady does not look impressed. "The guard don't get that tape if it's smashed to pieces."
Featherweight pops open a compartment on the side of the phonocorder, and takes three spare blank mini-cassettes from it. He tosses a cassette each to Snips, Snails and myself. "This wonderful machine lets me record four tapes at a time," he lies. "So wrecking them might be harder than you think."
"There's still more of us; it's two-to-one," Shady growls.
"Right, but only one tape needs to get through," I say. "And when the guard find you beat a bunch of ponies up to destroy the evidence, that won't land you in juvie, that'll land you in juvie followed by a year or two in the Fillydelphia dungeons at Her Majesty's pleasure." I'm still terrified, but I can't keep a wide grin off my face. "Shady, we've got a lot in common, mate. Neither of us would thrive in a dungeon-based environment, for instance. They'd use us as loofahs."
The atmosphere is somewhat tense. Shady Daze looks angry. Vein-bulgingly angry. "I will fuck you up so badly-"
I back up a little, but I still hold up my hoof, look him in the eye and say, "You won't, because you're like me. You're not going to put your supply of lads, lager and lady-foof in jeopardy. That's why you're going to walk away, hope the guards don't investigate, and claim you don't know anything if they do." He freezes up, face twisted with rage, as he processes this.
I look behind me, and meet eyes with Snails. He seems to have vaguely caught up with the situation, since his mouth is hanging open in shock and his eyes are wide with fear and panic.
I can't help but feel for him a little. Sure, he's thick, he's a pain in the arse and he reeks of crayons and idiocy, but he never asked to end up in this situation. He didn't exactly instigate this PUA business, after all. I've been gratuitously harsh to him on more than one occasion, and I'm not all sure he had it coming.
His mouth works a few times as he tries to speak. "Uh, Pip?"
He twists the blank tape nervously in the air with his telekinesis, and his bruised eye twitches a little. "Are - are these guys going to hurt us, Pip?"
Bless his cotton socks, he's like a ten year old foal who thinks it's his fault his parents are arguing. Okay, I can't help but feel a lot for him. He's been through a lot of crap that he doesn't deserve, and I've caused a fair bit of it.
I give him a reassuring smile. "No, Snails, these ponies are cowards."
"YOU'RE FUCKIN' DEAD!"
Shady crashes into me like a drug-addled doberman, and then the alley is chaos. I barely notice what anypony else is doing, because Shady is massive and moves faster than anypony that big should be able to. I throw a hoof right at his nose, hard enough that pain shoots through my fetlock and something crunches at his end. He barely notices, and we're suddenly grappling in a tangle of limbs.
I push against him for a few seconds before he does something devilishly complex with my forelegs, gets behind me and lifts me up bodily. I have no time to yell before he hurls me straight into the side of the dumpster. If I hadn't had a front leg up protecting my head, I'd have split my skull.
Before I can get up, he's on top of me. His eyes are popping out and his teeth are bared. I try to push him away with a front hoof, but he just grabs it and slams it into the dumpster until I squeal in pain. He drops a hoof on my face, and everything seizes up as my eyes cross from the pain.
He's punching me, he keeps punching me and I can't stop him he's just batting my hooves away oh Luna it hurts I can't see straight it's all blurred
His hooves are on my throat I can't breathe he's too big it's going black
My salvation is an angel of orange and purple; her sword a scooter.
"Now that's how you take down a motherfucker!"
My face is throbbing with pain and stars are still swimming through my vision, but I manage to pull myself to my haunches. Shady is curled in a ball next to me, barely conscious, clutching his head. Scootaloo is standing over me, and offers me a hoof up, which I take. The remains of her scooter are scattered around Shady.
She's got that wonderfully cocky grin. “You took a crazy-hard beating there, I'm impressed,” she says, slapping me on the back. “You're gonna look real pretty in the morning, Pip.”
I fall into her and hug her tightly. “Thanpf,” I say through her coat. “Thanks so much. Saved m'life.”
I feel her chuckle. “Hey, it's cool. Can you stand? Easy, easy – ah, there you go.” I manage to get to all four hooves, only swaying a little.
I take a look around. Spike is sitting on one colt and has two others in headlocks. The remaining four are crowded in a spot against the wall, stood still. They're all splattered with chunks of overripe apples, and the wall and floor around them is covered in missed shots. One tries to tip-hoof away, and with a forceful *PONK* an apple splatters where he was about to step.
Across from them stands Apple Bloom. She's wearing a hard-hat and welding goggles, and is handling some strange contraption that looks like the offspring of a firehose and a pneumatic drill, with a hose connecting the device to a large, lumpy sack on her back. My mind can barely process all this.
"Apple Bloom. What is that?" I ask.
"...you built an apple cannon."
She turns to look at me, a wry grin on her face. "Ah solve practical problems."
I put a hoof to my face, wincing at the pain. Featherweight is dusting himself off, unharmed. Snips is fretting over Snails, who has another black eye and is being treated by Sweetie Belle. "How did you guys get here so fast?" I ask.
"Sweetie saw Snips and Snails running in a panic," says Spike, still pinning three ponies. "We figured they might be in trouble, so we followed them. We saw them go into the alley next to a burning building, then we saw these dudes strut into the same alley all with serious faces. We got some backup, then came back as quickly as we could."
"We're here to do two things!" comes a loud, gravelly mare's voice. "Chew gum and enforce the law, and we're all outta gum!" It's Rainbow Dash at the end of the alley, flashing her deputy's badge, flanked by two police officers and Twilight Sparkle.
"Rainbow Dash!" Scootaloo squeals.
"You know it." Dash grins and winks at her.
“Spike, I got your message; we got here as fast as we could,” pants Twilight, “Actually, if I'd teleported everypony, we probably could have been here faster, but there's a good chance I would also be unconscious right now due to magical exhaustion given the number and overall mass of the individuals involved, and that's not accounting for the logistics of getting everyone in one place to start with... But that's not the point! Is everypony okay? What happened here?”
Featherweight steps up once more. "Shady and his friends looted and burned this store, then took personal effects from Snips and Snails to plant them on the scene. Pipsqueak, Snips, Snails and myself confronted them and asked them to reconsider, then they assaulted us." He takes out the phonocorder. "I have them on tape admitting to the arson and to attempting to frame Snips and Snails."
Much to the horror and protests of Shady's friends, he plays the tape. As soon as it finishes, Rainbow turns to the beaten colts. "All you idiots are under arrest. Book 'em, boys." Then she turns back to us. "Can you guys come down to the station and give statements?"
Now, usually I wouldn't be enthused about ending up in a police station while drunk and high, but considering the circumstances...
"Lead the way, Miss Dash."
It takes two hours, several pots of strong coffee, and far too long sitting on hard chairs, but eventually the police finish taking our statements. The whole thing comes off as more of a relief than an inconvenience. Call me a coward, but I feel rather more secure with Shady Daze on the other side of a cell door to me, and I'm happy to do my bit to keep it that way.
Snails is weak on his hooves and more than a little worse for wear, so Twilight and Featherweight agree to take him home. Featherweight tells me to meet him at the library in an hour. Snips sets off with them. Then I'm outside the Ponyville Police Station at three in the morning, alongside Spike, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom.
"So how come you and Feathers were in that alley with Snips and Snails?" asks Spike.
I tell them everything from running about town looking for my hip flask to finding Snips and Snails in the park. Sweetie Belle gives me a sharp look. "Oh, Mister 'Be a bastard to Snips and Snails 'cause it's funny' suddenly decides to help them out of the goodness of his heart? Really? What was in it for you, Pip?"
I slump a little under her gaze. "Well, to tell the truth, I felt pretty bad about how I'd treated them. If I'd told them earlier that the pick-up stuff was rubbish they might not have been framed in the first place," I say. "I'd be a real choad if I'd just left them in the muck, and I'm trying to be less of a choad." I shrug sheepishly.
"Huh. Well, I'll believe it when I see it," says Sweetie Belle, her face nonetheless softening.
I clear my throat awkwardly, and then say, "Thanks so much, all of you. You guys saved my skin tonight. I shudder to think what would have happened if you hadn't turned up when you did. You're all amazing friends; you're far more than I deserve."
Apple Bloom walks over and claps a hoof over my withers. "Don't fret none; you'd have done the same for us. Hey, did y'all get all the bottles in the end?"
"All but one," I reply. "I don't supppose you chaps found it?"
She shakes her head. "'Fraid not. It's only one, ah guess-"
She's cut off as a bottle falls from the air and smashes against Spike's head. He yells in pain and surprise. Attached to the shards is a Wild Pegasus label.
"Got you back for that!" comes Diamond Tiara's voice from the distance. Everypony is too stunned to do anything.
"What the fuck was that?" yells Spike.
Apple Bloom just shakes her head. "That mare is crazy. Anyways, ah'm gonna be in pieces tomorrow if ah don't get some sleep before dawn. Ah'll see y'all tomorrow, you folks go careful now."
Sweetie lets out a yawn. "Mmm. I'm sleepy. I'm going to head off too."
"Hey Sweetie, can I stay at your place tonight?" asks Spike. "Twilight's going to be bugging out about everything that's happened, and I can't handle that for another few hours."
Sweetie smiles, then darts forward and kisses Spike on the snout. "Sure, as long as you'll be my pillow."
Spike looks pleasantly surprised, and mutters, "Uh, sure, sounds good!"
"Well, I guess I'll see you chaps soon," I say. "Where's Scootaloo, by the way?"
Apple Bloom chuckles. "Heh, she's still in the station, talking to Rainbow Dash. She'll be done in an hour or eight. See you 'round, Pip!"
I say my farewells, and we all walk off. Sleep doesn't even occur to me, the cool night air seems to have sparked off the salts in my bloodstream, and I start walking aimlessly.
I think of Spike and the ex-Crusaders as I walk. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom are as stunning as ever, but I've now seen Spike and Scootaloo in a new light. Scootaloo swooped in and saved me from a pony who'd have had me eating through a straw for the next few year, and she didn't break a sweat. Spike took three ponies and pinned them like it was nothing. That kind of pure strength and skill...
My train of thought is derailed as somepony tackle-hugs me from the side, and I have a feeling of deja-vu. I'm released, and I see that the pony is Lickety Split.
I'm glad to see him. I've been a thoughtless clod to him tonight, and he's a thoroughly decent bloke who didn't deserve a bit of it. Apologies spill from my lips, "Lickie, mate! Hey, I've been a real arse tonight, what with leading you on, brushing you off, sending you to-" I stop mid-sentence when I see his expression.
He doesn't look upset, mopey or fed up in any way. He's smiling, beaming even. His head is held high, and he's almost bouncing on his hooves. He looks absolutely chuffed to bits. He's doing a Pinkie Pie. It's as if there's so much joy in his body that he's become utterly discombobulated, and he'll have to start warping the spacetime continuum to compensate.
"Did something happen?" I ask. "Is - is it good news? It looks like it's good news. I'm getting a good news sort of feel from you."
"I - Pipsqueak, I - He - Oh Pipsqueak! I got asked out by a boy!"
It takes a moment to sink in, then my eyebrows go up and I blurt, "Well that's fantastic! Who is it? How'd it happen?"
"It's Rumble! Grey pegasus, sporty, really cute? He was sitting by the fire on Tiara's lawn, and he heard me telling you I was lonely and that I was like, the only gay dude anywhere, ever, and the rest of it. When I walked away to find bottles, he followed me, told me he didn't know anypony else in Ponyville was into other colts, and then he asked me out!"
"I take it you said yes?"
He nods and blushes. "He got tongue-tied when he actually did the asking, started looking at the floor and stuttering and everything, so I just went right up and kissed him! He kissed back, oh Pipsqueak, it was amazing!" Lickety looks drunk on joy, and starts doing an odd little rump-shaking dance. "He li-ikes me, he wants to hu-ug me, oh he lo-oves me, he wants to smo-ooch me," he says in a singsong voice.
His happiness is infectious, and I can't help but grin along with him. "That's wonderful, Lickety, you don't know how happy I am for you. Where is he now?"
"Oh, we'd been walking and talking for a few hours and he flew off to Beanburger Palace twenty minutes ago to get us some food. I told him we'd meet up - Oh, here he is!"
A pegasus lands behind me with a gentle swoosh. It's Rumble, wearing a white track jacket, his hair swept back Wonderbolts-style. He trots up to Lickety, puts a greasy brown paper bag at his feet, and pecks him on the cheek. "Hey babe, sorry I took so long, huge line." He speaks with a warm, confident Cloudsdale accent.
Lickety nuzzles him back. "No problem. Oh, Rumble, you know Pipsqueak right?"
Rumble's eyebrows go up as he becomes suddenly aware of my presence. He gives me a guarded grin. "Yeah, we've met. Hey, Split, isn't this the dude who kept breaking your heart? You want me to kick his ass for-" He takes a good look at my face and looks even more surprised. "Whoa, I was only kidding. I didn't notice all the bruising and the bleeding and everything. Dude, are you okay?"
Lickety notices my injuries for the first time, and is suddenly fretful. " Oh my Celestia, did you get in a fight or something?"
I grin sheepishly. "Yeah, something like that. The other lad got the worst of it. He's in a cell at the station, and I think he broke a fetlock. It's only a few cuts and scrapes. I'm not concussed or anything, so I should be fine in a few days."
Lickety looks relieved. "Well, I'm glad you're okay. Thanks, Pipsqueak, really. If you hadn't come outside tonight and talked to me, I wouldn't have been seduced by this wonderful stallion," he says, draping a foreleg over his new boyfriend.
"Hey, I was being a heartless dick and I'm really sorry about the way I acted. I'm so glad it's worked out for you like this. You two deserve each other. You're both rather cute together to boot." Lickety blushes even more, and Rumble just grins. "Anyway, I shan't keep you lovebirds any longer, it was great seeing both of you. Give me a nudge when your one-month anniversary comes up; I'll sort you out a bottle of champers, no charge!"
"Thanks, Pip! Bye, buddy!"
"See you 'round, dude!"
I feel a pang of something as they walk off. I'm not sure if I'm jealous because I haven't ended the night paired up, or if I'm just sad because I no longer have Lickety to vainly flatter my ego with his unrequited longing for me. I instantly feel like a rotten bag of badger toss for thinking those things. Then, oddly, I feel better for feeling bad for feeling those things. I shake my head and start walking again. It's about time to see Featherweight at the library, I think.
The lights are on in the library. I knock on the door, and Featherweight opens it up. "Dude! Glad you made it here okay," he says, welcoming me inside.
"Did you get Snips and Snails home all right?" I ask as I walk in.
"Yeah, We went to Snails' house. His parents were there. His mom thanked us for bringing him back safely for twenty minutes straight, and his dad just seemed proud that his kid can take a punch. They asked if Snips wanted to spend the night, but he was feeling better so he went off and walked home himself." He looks away from me, and calls out, "Hey Twilight! Pipsqueak's here!"
Twilight is sitting at a table at the other end of the room. The table is covered in magazines and a few paperbacks, and there are two mugs on coasters.
"Oh, hello! Featherweight was just telling me how you stopped those colts from bullying Snips and Snails," she says as we sit down at the table. Her eyes look tired and her mane is a mess, but she's smiling widely. "That was really brave of you boys; I'm so proud of both of you."
"It was nothing, really," says Featherweight, trying for humble. "We just saw that something bad was about to go down, and we thought 'what would Twilight Sparkle and her friends do?'" He grins, and Twilight rolls her eyes and blushes.
"Flatterer," she says, poking him gently. "Honestly, you're worse than Spike when he wants a day off." She turns to me, looking concerned. "How are you holding up, Pipsqueak? You look like you really hurt yourself in that fight; we should probably head to Ponyville Hospital."
I wave her off. "I'm fine Miss Sparkle, really. There's nothing broken, I'm not concussed and they cleaned out the cuts at the police station; I just need a few days rest and I'll be back to my beautiful self."
She relaxes and smiles. "Well, if you're sure-" There is a knock at the door. Featherweight stands up and gets it. It's Dinky Doo and, unexpectedly, Professor Whooves. Featherweight welcomes them straight in, and they greet Twilight and I before sitting down at the table.
"Evening, professor," I say, cheerful as chips. "Been helping round up the ruffians of this fair town?"
"Ah, hello Pipsqueak!" He has the same tired, coffee-fueled smile as Twilight. "Actually, by the time I got out there the only ponies left were too drunk to stand, the poor things. Except Dinky and some of her friends," he says, ruffling her hair affectionately. "They weren't acting rowdy or being violently ill; they were going around and helping clean up the litter the others had left behind! Dinky, you're one of the smartest ponies I've ever taught and you're civic-minded too; I don't think I could be prouder of you."
Dinky practically starts floating at the praise. It's a wonder she doesn't let her tongue flop out and start drooling.
"Hey, would you guys like some cocoa?" asks Featherweight. "I'll go make some more!"
Dinky snaps out of her stupor. "Oh, I'll help."
"Me too," I say. We get up and head into the kitchen. Featherweight sticks the kettle on, and Dinky starts reaching for ingredients with her telekinesis. They both have wide, manic grins.
"Dinky, you feel it don't you?" says Featherweight.
"You're talking about what I think you're talking about?" she replies.
"Oh yeah. This is it. I'm gonna ask out Twilight, and you're gonna ask out Whooves. The timing is perfect; me and Twilight have been flirting since we got to the library and I can feel the energy between you and Whooves."
Dinky practically bounces. "I know, right? This is totally what we should do. They're gonna say yes; I just know they will."
"I don't want to jinx us or anything, but Dinky, I think we're all gonna get laid!"
Dinky's face splits in a huge grin. "You know it, Feathers, brohoof!"
"Brohoof!" says Feathers, bumping his hoof into Dinky's.
Dinky turns to me, still grinning. "Yo Pip, do you think - Hey, what happened to your face bro? Did you guys get in a fight or some shit?"
I give her a condensed account of the morning's events. By the end of it she looks suitably surprised.
"Wow. Seriously? I can't believe Shady Daze actually did all that shit," she says.
"It's crazy, right?" says Featherweight. "It just doesn't seem at all like him."
"Yes. Quite," I say, unimpressed.
"It's been a pretty crazy night all around, I guess," says Dinky, shrugging. "Like, the party and the riot? Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hoof fast."
Featherweight nods as he spoons out cocoa powder and sugar into several mugs. "It kicked up a notch."
There's a short silence, and I realise they're both looking at me. "Oh! It did, didn't it? There were the Hurricanes, and the fooling around, and then there was a building on fire!"
Featherweight flashes a cocky grin. "Still, I think this night is gonna end on a high note." Dinky agrees. I just scowl. High note my arse. The high note of the evening involved a Cutie-Mark Crusader sandwich with dragon meat filling.
Dinky levitates the boiled kettle over, and looks a tad worried. "Hey, Feathers? How are you going to do it? I mean, ask out Twilight?"
His eyes go wide and he looks just as nervous as Dinky. "I literally have no idea. How do you ask somepony out?"
"You mean you've never asked anypony out before?"
"Nope," he says, shaking his head.
"Shit, me either." There's a second's quiet, and they both look at me again. I sigh loudly.
"Oh, for Luna's sake," I say. "Go up to the pony, mention two or three things you find attractive about them and ask them out to an activity you will find mutually enjoyable. Watch:" I turn to Featherweight and clear my throat. "Hey Feathers, I love how you're so driven and energetic, and I think you're rather cute. Would you like to come to the cinema with me tomorrow evening? On a date?" I take a step back. "See? Done. Easy."
"Yeah, easy. Right!" says Featherweight, now more upbeat.
Dinky takes a deep breath. "Okay, I can do this. Should we both ask at the same time, or..."
"Nah, it might be awkward. We'll ask as soon as we're alone with them," says Feathers plainly.
"Right, now that's sorted, lets bring the drinks through before they get cold," I say.
We head back into the library proper and sit around the table with mugs of hot cocoa. It's a rather nice change of pace, and I can almost feel myself drifting off. For a while the five of us chat about various topics, from upcoming events in Ponyville to trashy literature to physics. I tune out a lot of it, not out of disinterest but from sheer fatigue.
Eventually, Whooves puts down his empty mug and looks at the clock on the wall. "Oh hay, it's almost four A.M.!" he says, standing up. "It's been lovely seeing you all, but I really must be off home."
Twilight stands too. "That's okay. Are we still on for tonight?"
Whooves smiles at her. "I'll see you at eight."
He takes a step towards Twilight, and kisses her on the lips. Their eyes close and their cheeks flush. It lasts a full ten seconds.
There may have been tongue involved.
Dinky and Featherweight are staring open-mouthed in horror. Featherweight is the first to speak.
"You... you kissed Whooves." His voice is quiet with shock.
Dinky sounds the same. "There were tongues."
Twilight and Whooves don't seem to notice their state of shock. Twilight giggles. "This handsome stallion asked me out on Tuesday. What was it you said to me?"
Whooves nuzzles Twilight gently. "I said I think you're the smartest, cutest and most adorable mare I've ever met, and I asked if you wanted to have dinner together."
They both nuzzle each other gently and sigh blissfully. Dinky Doo and Featherweight seem to have stopped functioning. They're just sitting there, staring off into space.
Whooves straightens himself out a little. "Well, I must be off. Dinky, will you be able to get home okay?"
She doesn't look up. "Yeah, I'll be fine," she says tonelessly.
“Good to hear. I'm proud of you, Dinky,” he says, “I'll see you on Monday.”
Twilight gives Whooves another peck, and I think I see Feathers and Dinky flinch in actual pain. Whooves walks out, and Twilight is still standing there, drunk on love.
After about a minute of painful - for me in any case - silence, I clear my throat. "Thank you very much for the cocoa and the hospitality this evening, Miss Sparkle, but I don't think we should keep you from your bed any longer. It sounds like you have a busy day tomorrow, after all!" Dinky and Feathers look at me with such rage and disgust you'd think I'd swapped their cocoa for chlamydia.
Twilight seems to snap out of a daze, and then yawns widely. She blushes. "I guess it is pretty late," she says, giggling. "It's been great seeing you all, and you ponies did good tonight." She trots over to Featherweight, who looks as if he's about to cry. "And Featherweight? You've been so brave tonight and I'm so proud of you. This might sound crazy, but I almost feel like you're a little brother to me, you know?"
She then leans down and kisses him on the ear.
To his credit, he manages to get a good ten metres away from the library before sitting down on his haunches and bawling his eyes out. A second later, Dinky Doo gives in and starts weeping on his shoulder.
"He was the one!" she wails.
Featherweight sobs uncontrollably. "I f-f-feel like someone pulled out my s-soul and – and they didn't put it ba-ah-ah-ah-ahhhck!"
"We're gonna be alone forever!" cries Dinky.
They sob and cry and hold each other tight, wetting each other's coats with their tears. Wails give way to heaving sobs, and after a few minutes it fades away to sad sighs and soft sniffles. Featherweight untangles himself slightly, and takes a pack of tissues from his saddlebags. He offers one to Dinky, and they both blow their noses.
I try to not ruin the moment by sighing impatiently, tapping my hoof or rolling my eyes. They're ever so close, and I'm almost jealous of what they're about to experience. They're about to have a perfect moment of...
You know, that blasted word is right on the tip of my bloody tongue-
"Retarded ejaculation," states Featherweight, looking at me through reddened eyes. Oh, that's why Lickety's eyes looked like that earlier, he'd been crying.
"You were thinking of the medical condition where a stallion can't orgasm during sex, right?"
"No. No I wasn't. I was thinking of serendipity."
"Oh. Sorry, it's kinda late and I just saw that–"
I wave him off. "I understand. Now, you two are going to say to each other exactly what you have to say to each other."
They have the gall to look confused for a moment, and I respond with the flattest of all looks. They turn to look at each other, still holding each other.
"Dinky?" Featherweights speech is skittish and tentative. "It's, uh – it's like four in the morning."
"Yeah? I mean, yeah, it is."
"You live, uh, your house is like, way across town."
Dinky nods and there's a short pause. "Yeah!" she blurts, and seems taken aback by her loudness. "Yeah, my house is – could I..."
"Do you wanna crash over mine tonight?" asks Featherweight. "I got some new Fifth Horseman comics in yesterday, if you wanted..."
"We could read comics together." Her voice is almost a whisper. "That – that'd be nice." A brief pause.
They fall to the ground and push their muzzles together and for a sloppy, enthusiastic snog. No teasing or subtlety; they stick their tongues right in like a pair of chameleons trying to trip each other's gag reflexes. Featherweight's feathers flutter with frantic forcefulness and their hooves grope up and down each other's bodies with wild abandon.
"O-oh Celestia, I can't believe I waited this long," cries Feathers as Dinky nips at his neck.
"Mmmm, oh Feathers the things I want to do to you!"
"I wanna rut you 'til we can't see straight!"
"I want your feathers in my mouth!"
"Oh baby yeah!"
"I want you to suck my horn like a cock!"
Dinky flinches back and goes bright red. "Well, I mean, only if you wanted to..." She doesn't meet his eyes.
"Oh no no I'm not saying it's weird I just didn't know it was a thing that's all!" He darts forward and peppers her mouth with little kisses, which she returns.
"Mhhmf, you mean you're okay with that? Oh, I've wanted somepony to do that for so long – NOT IN PUBLIC!"
Featherweight pulls back and mumbles, "Sorry." I clear my throat and they both suddenly look up at me, embarrassed.
"Well, you two clearly have a lot to talk about, so I think I'll leave you to it," I say with a grin. "I'll see you over the weekend, I'm sure."
Both of them give me a bashful smile. "O-okay Pip. I'll see you tomorrow!" says Feathers. He looks down at Dinky. "Maybe Sunday."
As I turn to walk off, Dinky calls out to me, "Hey, Pip!"
"Yes?" I reply.
She brushes her mane from her eyes and grins. "Thanks, Pip. For the nudge."
I grin back. "My pleasure. You two have a good evening, now!"
And with that, I set off for a wander.
I end up circling back to Ponyville park trying to exercise the salts jitters away. The park is empty, though half way up the path I see a lone figure on a bench. As I get closer, I see who it is. It's Snips, sitting alone, and looking thoroughly miserable. He's still wearing the puce hat, but the rest of his gear is gone. I walk up to him.
"Hey." He doesn't look up, and his tone is glum.
"You look a bit put out, mate."
"You look very put out, come to think of it. You look like somepony smegged all over your favourite pillow."
"I guess so." There's a long pause. He still doesn't look up, so I sit down next to him. I should probably start the apologies.
I clear my throat. "Listen, I owe you an apology, Snips, I've been a right rotten arsehole. earlier at the party I brushed you off with some ridiculous and counterproductive advice about mares. I sort of ruined your evening with it."
Snips looks right at me, his brow furrowed. "What? Dude, you didn't give us the wrong advice."
"...I'm pretty sure I did."
He shakes his head. "No, you didn't. Snails thought it was wrong after it didn't work a few times, so we took out Speedy Seduction and looked it up. It's in chapter three, Enigma's Statistical Arbitraged Evopsychosociology method."
"Oh. My mistake. Didn't it get Snails punched in the face?"
Snips lets out a sharp laugh. "Nah, that was just Snails. He got bored of it and tried just asking a filly if he could see her candy vag."
"That does sound like Snails."
Snips doesn't reply. He's got a depressed expression, with a hint of impotent frustration and anger. Sort of like a gelded minotaur. I decide to give him a verbal prod.
"So, you had a pretty decent night tonight," I say.
He looks at me like I've grown a second head, and that head just called him a twat. "Uh... no, I fucking didn't."
"Really? You went out with your best mate, got stinking drunk, got a kiss from Diamond Tiara-"
"I got a peck from Diamond Tiara. On the cheek."
"A peck is still a peck and she is rather pretty, and also you didn't go to jail, the ponies who tried to put you in jail are in jail, and you'll get a mention in the Press for helping catch a crazed gang of arsonists," I say. "There are worse ways to spend an evening."
"Dude, just fucking don't, all right? Tonight was shitty in every way." He rolls onto his back and stares straight up at the sky. There's another uncomfortable silence.
"Would you like to talk about it?" I ask.
He sighs sadly. "Yeah, actually, that'd be pretty good. It's the mares, dude. They just don't make any sense. It's killing me!"
I take a swig from my hip flask, and offer him a drink. He takes a pull, and only coughs a little. "So tell me all about it, Snips."
"I thought I had it figured out," he says bitterly. "I was a real dork last year and pretty much only hung out with Snails, but I thought I'd learned since then. I had some other friends and I wasn't so nervous and stupid. Even ponies like Shady started being cool with us.
"Then I get all this awesome advice about mares, then there's this really cool party coming up, and I'm thinking 'hey, this is it, this is the night, I'm going to talk to some hot filly and I'll make her my girlfriend, and I'll finally be one of the normal guys instead of that weird, pudgy dork who gets gum stuck on his ass and nearly wrecked the town that one time.'
"And I find out I'm wrong, again. I don't understand fillies, dude, I don't get what they want. It's like, I'm a nice guy, I'm not bad looking and I've lost weight since middle school, right? But fillies just pass me right over and go for jerks like Shady Daze, and well, like..."
"Well, yeah. Kinda. I mean, I feel like a freak! When I just act like a nice guy, I get turned down and everypony thinks I'm a loser. And when I act like a player, I still get turned down and everypony still thinks I'm a loser. I hate how, you know, you can just walk up to a mare and she's all over you, but no matter what I do they won't even look at me! I mean... it's not even the sex, really. I just want to feel wanted by somepony."
I give him a gentle pat on the side. "You're in luck, Snips, because it's far simpler than you think. You're treating sex and relationships like they're some twisted, hellish game of cards, where you'll either fail instantly or be swatting the mouths off your dick depending on knowing some rummy statistical strategy. That's not the case, and thank Celestia because I'd never have the patience for that." Snips says nothing, he just looks sceptical and waits for me to continue.
"Snips, mate," I say. "Out of me, Featherweight and Chowder, who do you think has slept with the most mares?"
"Oh. Featherweight, then."
I laugh. "Feathers is a virgin. You wouldn't know it, because he doesn't stake his entire worth as a pony on the number of fannies that have touched his tonker. I'm not sure he's even kissed a mare."
"Really? You mean-"
"Yes, Chowder is a total ladykiller. I've slept with five mares; Chowder is in the double digits. Low twenties, I think." I get off the bench and give my legs a stretch. Snips sits up straight, looking a fair bit less glum. "See, lots of colts think they're nice guys. Chowder actually is a nice guy. He's the best listener I've ever met. He might not talk much, but after a proper chat with him you'll feel like he understands you better than anypony in the world. He's friendly, he's confident, he's curious, he's funny but not attention-seeking. Chowder is safe. Fillies know he's not going to turn into a clingy, insecure limpet in the morning, and that he won't act like he can't hear them if they say 'no.'
"He makes friends with lots of mares and doesn't treat them like interchangeable clunge dispensaries. If they feel like they're compatible, one of them makes up some polite fiction about going upstairs for a private conversation or checking out a quiet area of the back garden, and then coitus ensues."
"Huh." He stares off for a moment, taking it in. "But what about that book, and all the pick-up stuff that that Shady Daze does?"
I cut him off. "Yeah, no. Everything in that book is wrong, stupid or both. Mares don't need to be tricked or bamboozled into shagging. They want it just as much as you do. And I don't mean to speak ill of Shady, but I'm quite sure he's a true, blue, dyed-in-the-wool rapist. Don't take dating advice from rapists. Snips, mares are ponies. Their minds work pretty much the same way ours do. Talk to mares. Treat them like normal equine beings. Ask them questions and listen to them."
That sceptical look returns. "Isn't that just a quick way to get friendzoned?"
I shake my head. "There's no such thing. If a friend doesn't want to shag you, it's not because you're a friend. It's because they don't want to shag you. And that's just fine! Lots of ponies don't want to have sex with certain ponies; that's how these things work. For example, do you want to have sex with me?"
Snips gives me a flat look. "No."
"Exactly. That doesn't reflect poorly on me; it's just your preference. I'll put it simply: make friends with fillies like you would anypony else, ask them out, and be ready to take no for an answer. This will not always work, and that is not your fault. But it has a far better success rate than anything in Speedy Seduction, and you don't look like a tosser doing it."
He contemplates this for a moment. "I dunno, bro. I still feel kinda..."
"I mean, it helps I guess, but I feel like there's so many weird details and I don't even know where to start . It's good advice, but it's like I've been given the axioms of probability theory and now I have to take a university-level statistics exam, y'know?"
"...are you asking for a statistics tutor?" He looks at me with a hopeful sort of expression. I sigh. "Very well then. Meet me at the market at lunchtime on Sunday. We'll have a chat about grooming, go round Carousel Boutique, and see if we can't turn you from 'not bad looking' to a colt who actually doesn't look bad. Next week we'll go over proper etiquette, attitude and suchlike. How does that sound?”
“Yeah, that - that sounds good. Thanks!”
“I'm warning you though, if you start yelling at random mares and trying to show them your bollocks, I'll drop you like a dirty sock. Clear?”
He nods rapidly. "Uh, yeah, uh, crystal." There's a pause. "So..."
"You've had a long night," I say, suppressing a yawn. "You should probably head home."
"Yeah, that's a good idea. Sunday then, dude?"
"I'll see you then."
I head off again, to walk some more.
It's just before dawn when the hangover and comedown really hits me. A splitting headache melds into the gut-wrenching nausea, until I can't tell which sensation is coming from where. My throat is dry and my legs wobble as I walk. All my joints ache, and I start to shiver like I'm coming down with flu. My face is thudding with pain, and my right eye is so swollen I can barely see from it.
It's not an altogether pleasant sensation.
I'd been wandering aimlessly, and ended up near Sugarcube Corner. I'd considered having a early morning cup of strong coffee there and just trying to power through into the day, but that's not going to happen. Even though their pre-dawn baking smells delicious, I don't think I could keep food or strong anything down right now.
I need sleep. I have to crawl back home, slink into my wonderful bed and hope Pina Colada hasn't done anything unmentionable to it. I turn on the spot, ready to go home, and nearly trip over my own hooves. My vision is swimming. Need bed.
Waking up won't be fun. This hangover is going to be champagne-hangover bad. My headache morphs into a strange tinnitus, like a low buzzing next to my eardrums. I take a step and the buzzing gets louder. Six steps later, I realise it's not coming from my head. Two steps after that, the buzzing stops, and Scootaloo skids to a stop at my side.
I look at her. She's leaning heavily - almost sagging - on the handlebars of her red scooter. Her purple bangs are pinned to her forehead by her helmet. There are heavy bags under her eyes, and she's got a dazed smile like she's struggling to stay awake.
"You look like shit, dude."
I wince. It hurts to wince. "That bad?"
"Oh yeah, majorly. It looks like a medical trial went wrong. It looks like lots of medical trials went wrong, and all reacted badly with each other. You ever seen a baboon?"
"A baboon? The apes with the weird faces, yes?"
"Yeah, that. You know how their butts swell up and go all crazy colours? That's your eye right now. A horny baboon butt."
"Heh, no problem, Pip. Still, it's pretty cool. It shows you can take one hay of a beating, and y'know, that's awesome."
I smile. It hurts as much as wincing. "Well, I was probably due a beating. I've been a bit of a tosser to more than a few ponies lately..."
"Pfft, you sound like you've been listening to Sweetie Belle. I love Sweetie, but she can be waaay uptight, y'know? She'll be all 'oh Scootaloo, that's mean,' 'Scootaloo, don't put lit firecrackers in Silver Spoon's saddlebags,' 'Scoots, stop reading Foalita in front of Mr. Cake,' shit like that. You can't take it too seriously; she acts madder than she is."
"Well, I did give Snips and Snails deliberately bad advice, and got Snails punched in the face."
"Yeah, that was pretty funny."
"Eh? You didn't look amused when you found out that I'd given them the advice. You looked like somepony had pissed on your fetlocks."
She rolls her eyes. "No shit, dumbass, you were talking back to Sweetie Belle when she was in a mood with you. You were wagging your dick at a hungry manticore like you were gonna get a pawjob out of it. I just had to watch in horror, y'know?"
"Makes sense,” I say, shrugging. “Where did you go after the police station?"
"I was still jumped up on salts so I went flying to burn it off. Then I tracked down my spare scooter." She taps the red handlebars of the scooter she's standing on. "I broke my last one saving your silly flank."
I grin sheepishly. "Heh. Thanks for that, Scoots. I owe you one."
She waves a hoof. "Don't worry about it, this sort of thing happens all the time when you're as awesome as me. How come you're still up?"
"I thought I could trick my body into not needing sleep. It's not working. I'm going to fall over soon."
"I know the feeling. You live on the other side of town, right?"
"We're two minutes from my doorstep, so do you wanna crash 'round mine? I could clean up your face up too." She gives me a cute, almost sheepish grin. "I've got a lot of experience fixing up scrapes, and you kinda need it right now."
"That sounds good. That sounds very good. Where do you live?"
She taps the handlebars of her scooter. "Get on the back, I'll take you there."
I approach the scooter, swaying on my hooves. "Uh, so how do I..."
"Put your back legs on the board and put your front hooves around me. Imagine you're mounting me, but don't actually mount me. That can wait," she says, with an unforgivably cheesy wink. I can't help but grin.
I climb onto the back of the scooter, and wrap my front hooves around her. She feels snug, soft and warm. I could fall asleep right here. She turns her head and says, "Ready for a ride, Squeaky?"
I kiss her lips. It's an awkward, side-on angle but she still presses into it.
"Too tired for witty innuendo. Take me to a bed. Please."
"Hah," she barks. "Don't worry, sleepyhead, you'll teach me some witty new cursewords when I clean out those cuts anyway. Hang on tight!" I brace myself as she flutters her wings.
Her wings buzz, the scooter jerks forward, and we ride off towards her house.
All in all, it's been a pretty good day.
A/N: Do not unfavorite if you want to find the sequels easily! I will add the links to them on here.
I would like to dearly thank my awesome pre-reader, LittleSallyDigby, without whom this work would not be half the quality it is now. Sally has been utterly fantastic every step of the way, and I cannot thank him enough.
The first sequel, Rumble Splits Lickety, is now up. FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY! Contains M/M cloppery.
Rumble Splits Lickety.
The second sequel, Scootaloo and Pipsqueak's Sunny Saturday Morning, is now up. FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY! Contains M/F cloppery, stimulant use, mild facial bleeding.
Scootaloo and Pipsqueak's Sunny Saturday Morning