"Oh, it must have been just dreadful there..."
"Well, we're so sorry for you—Pinkie, get out of that batter!"
"Mister, I thought only bad ponies went to jail. Are you a bad pony?"
"Ah just hope it wasn't too bad for ya in there, sonny. Ah remember one time back in the day..."
"Pfft, what's with that story? He really saw it? Ugh...hey, Romana, what was that one joke you had about that one pony..."
I stood in a corner near the back of the room with a plate full of food, the party still going strong. Everypony was living it up, talking about their latest goings-on; even Lyra was still chatting away with the twins. But as for me, the esteemed guest of honour, I was just exhausted. Every single time somepony had approached me to talk, it was always jail this, and jail that. It was to be expected, with the topic literally over everypony's head, but one pony can only accept so much pity. I must've told that stupid story ten times. And unfortunately for me, the embarrassment didn't subside at all with each subsequent telling. I was biting my lip and looking off in random directions for almost the entirety of my conversations.
I'd decided that I'd had enough after my last one, so, I had loaded up my plate with goodies and walked over to the corner. I wasn't really even all that hungry; I just figured having a plate full of food and eating something every once in a while would make it look like I'm actually doing something. So far, though, that plan didn't seem to be working; I still felt many ponies casting glances my way, their eyes looking at me like I was a starving puppy with a broken leg. I hoped against hope that those glances meant, "Aww, look at Sly. He's had to talk about jail all night and he's tired of it. I'm going to go over there and cheer him up," but really, I knew it was just going to be more of the same.
As I scanned the crowd, my gaze fell on Doctor Whooves, who by chance happened to be walking right towards me. A few positive thoughts began to invade my otherwise negative attitude: the Doctor is a pretty big joker and he already knows all about last night, considering he was a part of it. Maybe he would say something to cheer me up.
"Hey Sly, what's up?" he began.
"Oh, I got bored of the party. Too many ponies were asking me stupid questions. I'm content to just sit here and munch on these divine cupcakes, though. Pinkie sure cooks a mean batch." I tossed a cupcake into my mouth, savouring its sweet icing, rich chocolate and—ugh, papery wrapper. I spit it out quickly, prompting Whooves to take a step backwards.
"Yeah, those things sure are, uh, amazing. Y'gonna pick that up?"
I looked down at the wad of wrapper that I had soiled the floor with, and saw that Pinkie's abnormally ambivalent alligator Gummy was now beside it. He blinked his eyes, one after the other.
"Nah, Gummy'll eat it," I said, though I was sure this was a preposterous notion. I just foalishly did not want to pick up that spitball.
The Doctor squinted at Gummy, who made no move to eat anything. Whooves shrugged. "Whatever you say, Sly. So, meet any interesting ponies?"
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, plenty. I'd rather not talk about it, though."
"Aw, why not?" whined Whooves. "I'm so fucking boooored!"
I groaned. "And I don't give a fuck."
"Oh fine, have it your way! You shouldn't swear, though, there are foals at this party." The hypocrite's eyes then wandered to my collection of confectioneries, which boasted several bite-sized chocolate-chip cookies, a few assorted gummies, and one delectable-looking cupcake, which I'd have to remind myself to take the wrapper off of.
Whooves licked his lips. "Say, Sly, can you spare me that cupcake?"
"Uh...well, those are kind of my favourite—"
"Ah, whatever, you've had enough already." With that, Whooves grabbed the cupcake off the plate and shoved it down his greedy throat. He did this so suddenly, it upset my plate's balance, causing the rest of my treats to cascade to the floor below. I gasped and glared at the Doctor, expecting an apology.
"Oh, sorry about that, Sly," said Whooves, talking with his mouth full. "But really, Gummy needs more nutrition than your spitball." (Gummy had showed no signs of even realizing the cascade had happened.) "Y'know, this is an amazing cupcake. Just the right mix of structure and fluff. And the icing's impeccable. Makes me want to gobble down like, five more." Whooves swallowed his cupcake, its deliciousness making him completely forget about the wrapper. "Ah, yep, that hit the spot. Mind fetching me those five cupcakes, Sly?"
I growled at him, but I got the cupcakes anyways, since they were within hoof's reach. I gave them to Whooves in a calm manner, but I had half a mind to just throw them. "Thanks!" he said. "Y'know, I've already had, like, ten cupcakes. Some old buds of mine and I were having a great time a bit earlier; I shoved half of those cupcakes in my mouth at once! Like this!" He opened his gaping maw and threw them all in. "Mmm!" he said with difficulty, gagging on the wrappers. He hastily spit them out, but unfortunately, my face was in the middle of their trajectory, and I soon found five slimy balls plastered onto my face.
I gave Whooves another throaty growl, but didn't reply beyond that. Oh, I could've said many things, but Whooves had been right when he said there were foals at this party.
The Doctor swallowed and cocked his head before gave me a quick once-over. "Something wrong?"
Gee, Whooves, thanks for noticing. You really showed some care and appreciation when you ruined all my food. What was with that, you couldn't resist a cupcake? And yes, I've been having a great time, just like you and all your buds, laughing it up and getting high on sugar. What are you, five years old? And thanks man, this conversation really cheered me up, it was just peachy. Why don't you go and get in somepony else's face, not to mention their relationship! Lyra and I were really hitting it off, but you just had to go and plop your big fat ass right in between us, and fuck it all up, didn't you? You should really just—Wait, why is everypony staring at me all of a sudden. Wait, don't tell me...I just said all of that out loud, didn't I? Well...fuck.
Yes, everypony in the entire room was now staring at me, shock across most of their faces, with malice dotting a few. Lyra had brought a hoof to her mouth in an attempt to hide her jaw, which had almost dropped to the floor. I looked back to the Doctor, and my mood went even further south when I saw tears forming at the corners of his eyes.
I tried to protest my actions, though I knew from the start that it was a worthless. "No, Whooves, I—you know I didn't mean any of that, really..."
Whooves was having none of it. As my sentence trailed off, he began just full-on bawling his eyes out. As you can imagine, I felt like a total douche. This guy was almost my age, and I made him cry like a five year old...as if my words had turned him into the kid I accused him of being. Agh, why am I so boneheaded?
I tried to reach out a comforting hoof to Whooves, to tell him I was sorry again, but he swatted it away. He galloped out of Sugarcube Corner, his tears almost forming a river behind him. Everypony's eyes were on him as he ran out, but as soon as he was out of our sight, they all turned to me. Most of them glared at me like I'd just killed the starving puppy with a broken leg. Even Lyra began to submit to the mob's mentality, her face beginning to look like one of a bull ready to charge.
I was certainly in the hot seat, and for once, I couldn't think of a single thing to say. Regardless, I tried my best. "I...I'm...I'm...sorry. I can't come up with anything better..."
With that, I exited the party out the same door Whooves did, the eyes of the masses still unwaveringly judging me and my wrongdoings.
I ran. I didn't intend to go anywhere specific, I just wanted to get away from anypony who saw what I did. Pretty soon, I found myself in Ponyville's park, the same place where I'd waited for Lyra on our first date, only for that sonuvabitch Eros to lure her in with his trashy music. But really, I had no right to be calling someone else names right now. A guidance counselor would tell me that now was the time to reflect on my actions and resolve to be more sensitive, or at least keep my mouth shut.
I climbed up onto a bench, feeling its unforgiving wood beneath me. I sighed. What have I done? I just lost a friend, villainized myself in front of everyone I knew, and now Lyra sees me as the asshole I am. Why do I have to be so fucking unlucky?
I decided that now would be an opportune time to cry. It then fittingly began to rain, the clouds of the night thundering as they released a torrent of water down on me. With my luck, I'd be struck by a bolt of lightning.
I laid on that bench, getting drenched and wallowing in my sorrow for some time. Eventually, I heard hoofsteps behind me that steadily grew closer. I only began to pay attention, though, when the mare approaching nudged my mane out of my eyes with her chartreuse nose.
Lyra, to anyone else, looked terrible. She was sopping wet, the water from the rainstorm having matted down her fur. Her mane also hung down in front of her face, and was dripping with rainwater. Her smile graced my eyes, and sunshine began to return to my body, despite the still dismal mood of the weather.
The first words out of her mouth sounded very familiar. "Why the long face?"
I'm pretty sure that was unintentional, but nevertheless, it still brought me back to why I was lying here in the first place. I turned my head away, deeming myself not worthy of those angelic eyes. "Heh, you know damned well why."
Lyra sighed. "I guess I do. What I don't know, though, is what brought you to say all those things in the first place. Whooves can be a little obnoxious sometimes, but he's a great guy. I thought you two were supposed to be best friends."
I made no move to answer her; I still couldn't figure out why I said many of those things myself. Lyra assumed I was giving her the cold shoulder. "You don't have to give me an answer, Sly, but I would like one."
I groaned, and turned my head back to my questioner. "I don't know why I said any of those things, okay? I guess the party was getting to me, or something."
Lyra gave me a quizzical look. "The party? I thought Pinkie threw a wonderful party."
"She did, she did," I said dismissively. "It's not really her fault, she didn't know any better. Regardless, though, y'know that banner? The one hanging over our heads, announcing my release from jail? Yeah, imagine what the most popular topic was with me tonight. Obviously, none of the ponies I talked to knew why I'd gone to jail in the first place, so I had to tell that stupid story over and over again. And you know how embarrassed I was when I first told you.
"Now, imagine what it's like to have to tell that story ten more times, but without any of the feelings I relayed to you. It takes a lot shorter of a time, sure, and in some ways, it makes more sense to them, but it also makes me sound fucking crazy! At the end of each of my conversations, everypony came out worse than they had coming in, and with more questions than answers. I got more and more angry with each meeting, and began caring about the ponies I was talking to less and less.
"I grew tired of it in the end, and went over to that corner just to have a little peace and quiet, but the Doctor didn't take a hint, and came right over and told me all about how much fun he was having. How him and all his old buds were just having a gay old time. Imagine how I felt, Lyra. Now, that still doesn't really give me any justification for what I did, but at least you know the whole story. Oh, and he ate my food. Like, all of it. Just shoved the entire fucking thing down his gullet, or should I say gulley, that maw of his is so vast..."
I trailed off at the end of my speech, not really sure of what else I could say. I looked to Lyra to see what she thought of it all. Her face now wore a frown, but her eyes had more sympathy in them than any of the last frowns I'd seen.
"I can kinda see where you're coming from, Sly," she said as she motioned for me to scooch over. I complied, and she sat down in her strange posture, her eyes now staring straight up at the sky, despite the rainwater still falling from it. "And you're right, it still doesn't give you any reason to say all those things, but really, nothing would. I get that you were fed up, though. Everypony messes up sometimes. Heck, even I might've done something boneheaded like that. You just slipped up. It happens to the best of us."
I turned my head away from Lyra. "Psh, I'm far from 'the best of us'. I'm just some dirty lowlife living in a back alley. I bet that deep down, I wanted this to happen, it does so often. I'm just some perverted masochist who relishes in the thought of life cracking its proverbial whip at his soft flesh. When I die, the only companion I have will be that blasted whip."
Lyra lay a hoof on the back of my head. "C'mon, Sly, give yourself some credit. If you were such a self-hating and disgusting lecher, why would anypony ever like you, much less fall in love? And why would you allow yourself to do likewise? You know you've snagged a real catch with me, and you sure aren't letting me go. You know I'm the best thing that's ever happened to you."
The smugness Lyra put on in her last sentence was almost laughable. I turned back to her, and I was rewarded with her playfully booping my nose. "Hey, don't do that!" I protested, a laugh at the back of my throat.
"You shouldn't shoo me off, Sly," she said playfully. "I might run along to some other stallion. Maybe even Whooves." She put one hoof out, and the other on her heart, as if begging to somepony. She threw her voice as she pleaded, "Doctor, doctor, I'm lovesick, and the only cure is you!"
I finally gave in to her antics, a hearty laugh escaping my throat, and her readily joining in. A renewed sense of vigour began to flow through my body. I'm not sure what came over me, but I began to do a terrible impression of Doctor Whooves' voice. "Okay, Lyra, but the only cure available" — I jumped up and pushed my front hooves into Lyra, making her fall over onto the bench, me right on top of her, our muzzles only inches away — "is an oral one."
I closed my eyes and began to lean in for the kiss; Lyra had definitely gotten my confidence back. So much so that I was actually surprised when a hoof was brought to my lips.
Lyra giggled. "Uh-uh, not yet. You still have some apologizing to do."
I opened my eyes, and blinked them a few times. Sighing, I got off of her and the bench. "I guess I do. Now, where did that bloke run off too?"
As if on cue, I heard the fast cloppity-clop of somepony galloping towards me. Turning my head, I expected to see the Doctor, but instead, it was Lyra's friend Bon Bon. She galloped right up to the two of us, and quickly began to speak. "Lyra...you've got—you've got to come quick," she panted. "We haven't...haven't seen eye-to-eye recently, but I need—your help." She paused, trying to catch her breath. "I was just walking by, and, oh Celestia—somepony's about to jump off the cliff."
Lyra jumped off the bench, her eyes wide with alarm. "The one at the edge of town? Is it anypony we know?"
Bon Bon was now beginning to catch her breath, and her speaking came more freely. "Yes, that one, and I don't know him, no. I wish I'd come across somepony sooner, but every single one of them seems to have dashed inside at this little bout of" — a thunderclap boomed, accenting the already loud storm — "um, rain...but still, thank goddess I ran into you. You might just be able to coax that poor stallion out of it with your silver tongue."
An errant thought crossed my mind, one which I hoped wasn't true. "What did he look like? Was he brown, with a spiked mane and an hourglass for a cutie mark?"
Bon Bon was taken aback. Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. "Why, yes. How did you know?"
A terrible feeling washed over me, one that made me just want to curl up in a puddle and rock back and forth. I'd do a great fetus impression. I looked to Lyra, asking with my eyes whether this was a good plan or not, but she wasn't paying attention to me. She had narrowed her eyes, and was now pawing the ground, getting ready to dash off. Seeing her like that reminded me of Rainbow Dash when Fluttershy fainted, right before she rocketed up into the sky, clutching the frail pegasus in her arms.
Rainbow Dash hadn't abandoned her friends then. And neither would I.
Lyra galloped away, with me following her lead as best I could. Bon Bon tried to call after us, but I barely heard her. There were more important things on the line right now. We were out of the park and on a beeline for the cliff at the edge of town as fast as our hooves could take us.
At one time, the street the cliff was on had been a residential one, but after a baby carriage, and later a bus barrelled down it, the mayor had decided that it was too dangerous to live there and she'd had the street fenced off, trying to avert any daredevils or out-of-control vehicles from going down it again. But it seems like Whooves didn't follow any of the warning signs.
Lyra and I got there at a blazing speed, our urgent galloping fuelled by a rush of adrenaline. I squinted into the darkness past the fence, trying to see the cliff in the distance. At first, I couldn't see anything, but right on cue, a bolt of lightning ripped through the sky, lighting up the cliff, and scaring the pony that was standing on the precipice of it.
I gritted my teeth, and slammed my hooves against the fence. "Don't do it, Doctor!" I screamed.
He heard me, his head swiveling back towards Ponyville as a deafening thunderclap filled the air around us. His gaze quickly turned into a scowl. He began to shout something up at us, but over the rain and the thunder, we had trouble hearing it. Lyra had a rather direct solution to this: she concentrated her magic into a single point and used it like a laser, cutting a pony-sized hole through the fence and quickly sprinting through it without missing a beat. One part of me wanted to tell her that there already was a slightly smaller hole that Whooves had probably gone through, but most of me just wanted to gush to her how awesome that just was. But after a moment, I realized that just running after her was a better plan.
We barreled down the steep hillside, each of our speeds on the verge of being out of control. We were almost upon Whooves when his eyes grew wide and he began sputtering. "Don't—don't come any closer!" he screamed at us, causing us to stop dead in our tracks—or at least as best we could.
The Doctor gritted his teeth at us. "This is my decision!"
I took a step towards him. "Yeah, well it's a damned stupid one!"
Lyra backed me up. "There's so much more to life! You've got a roof to live under, friends—"
"What roof?! What friends?!" said the Doctor, malice dripping from his voice. "Sly kicked me out of his place back there; my mom's basement really doesn't even qualify! And some friends you guys are! You want me out of your lives pronto, just so you can snog behind the counter! You two should be happy that I've made this decision!"
"But we aren't!" I said, stamping a hoof for emphasis. "Why do you think that is?"
"Cause you two can't tell a carrot from a stick when one hits you square in the face!"
"No, of course not! I was an idiot back there; I know that. I unleashed all the hate I'd gathered up in myself during the party right at you, and that was wrong of me. I was just fed up that nopony was giving me a break, it was jail this, and jail that."
"At least ponies were talking to you! I didn't talk to anyone besides you and your mare the entire night! No one wants anything to do with me!"
I raised an eyebrow. "Didn't you say you were hamming it up with your old buds?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "We've known each other a long time now, Sly. You should know I have no 'old buds'. I was just playing with you back there; I was bored and wanted to get a rise out of you. I thought you'd just tell me to shoo, and we'd have a good laugh about it later about me having a mouth the size of the Grand Canyon."
"But no, you had to make me realize what a burden I was being on you, how I was the bane of your existence. Well, I've taken that to heart, Sly, and I think you'll be happy when you see me splattered all over the ground!"
The Doctor began to step over the cliff. I couldn't believe this was happening. My mind was blank; nothing was coming to me. Would this really be the end of Whooves?
He was about to lose control of himself when the voice of my marefriend shot out of the darkness. "What about love?!"
The Doctor stopped himself from tumbling over, his curiosity getting the better of him. "What about love?"
I looked over at Lyra, wondering what possessed her to shout something so random. It was hard to tell with the rain, but just by looking at her eyes, you could tell she was crying profusely. "Have you ever cradled someone in your arms? Looked over the masterpiece you created? Or realized the focus of your life? The love of somepony, the love of your own creation, the love of yourself—what's to live for but that?"
The Doctor squinted at Lyra. "I don't follow."
I took a guess at what Lyra was trying to say. "What she's saying is that you've never experienced any of those things. What life of yours do you have to take without those experiences?"
The Doctor gasped, hurt. "I've done plenty of things during my life!"
Lyra responded this time. "Yes, but how many of those things really mattered? How many of those things made ponies remember you more than just as 'that guy'? Life is a story, and each one, if put to paper, should be worth reading. You could be 'Doctor Whooves, Caring Husband', 'Doctor Whooves, Brilliant Creator', or maybe even 'Doctor Whooves, Lord of" — Lyra quickly glanced at Whooves' cutie mark — "Time'! Why do you want to live for none of those things? I know what I live for: my music!...And maybe something else..."
Lyra looked at me with a heartfelt glance, and I blushed. My turn to continue. "I won't say I live for porn, but I can agree with Lyra on the latter. I'm still kinda working on it and, y'know, finding my place. I haven't experienced any of those things Lyra said yet, either, but I sure am damn well looking forward to accomplishing one. And just think of what life could be — a dream, Whooves, a dream. I've lived through it when it was a hellhole, just like you're doing so now, but I didn't kill myself, I plodded on through till I found something better.
"And why did I do so? Because I knew there was more to life. Many ponies before, and many ponies who'll follow me will prove that. I didn't want to just leave; after all, my life couldn't get any worse. It could only get better from there. As Pinkie Pie said, every day's a new day with the rising of the sun. The same holds true for you, Doctor. Your life can only get better from here on out. Why quit now? Just think, what if you were a caring husband? What if you were a brilliant creator? What if you were a Time Lord? Don't those possibilities sound infinitely better than just being dead?"
Whooves sniffed. "But what if things don't get any better?"
I smiled at him. "I know they will, Whooves. I have a lot more experience with the world falling apart than I'd like to. My marefriend left me right when my pops died, leaving me with nothing except a stupid porn shop I suddenly had to run. Each night, I found myself wasting every bit I had on the Knife and Apple's whiskey. I was too much of a coward to try to kill myself any other way. And each day when I found I had woken up again, I took it as a curse, leading me back to the bar once the sun fell. My plan would probably have succeeded, in time.
"But the world forbid death from taking me. Hard Cider eventually realized what I was doing, and he tried to get me to lay off the drinks, but I was persistent and rowdy. It was somepony else that finally got me to put down the bottle. He didn't always say the right thing at the right time, and sometimes he could be just downright boneheaded, but he always knew how to get a good laugh out of me, how to tell a captivating joke. His situation wasn't even much better than mine, but he had taken everything in stride, and eventually, his attitude encouraged me to do the same."
I felt something on my cheek, and was surprised to find myself crying. "If it weren't for that pony, I wouldn't be alive...let alone talking to him."
I wiped my eyes with a hoof, and when my vision cleared, I saw Doctor Whooves the most pitiful I'd ever seen him. If my goal was to make him cry me a river, I had succeeded; the bloke was bawling his eyes out. He ran to me and we embraced, neither of us caring how sopping wet the other was.
We held each other until our eyes ran dry. I looked up, and saw the sky had done likewise; not a single drop was falling. We smiled at each other, Lyra coming over to give both of us a reassuring pat on the back.
"Come on guys, we've spent enough time in the mud," said Lyra in a motherly voice. "I think I hear DJ P0n-3 setting up her equipment. Wanna go back to the party?"
We nodded, and began walking up the hillside together. l had my arm around Whooves, ready to support him if he fell. What are friends for if not that?
We got back to the party right on time, a turntable having just been set up along one wall. I apologized to the partygoers about my outburst, and luckily, my apology was accepted. The bass was then cranked up, and club music started blasting across the room. I made my way through the crowd of dancers to get to Lyra on the other side. She smiled as I came up to meet her, her fur and mane now mostly dry.
"Great party, eh?" I said.
Lyra motioned to her ear, telling me how she didn't hear a thing I'd just said. There were a few too many wubs at the moment. Nodding, I motioned to the front door, and we both decided to exit the party, though in very different moods than before.
We began to aimlessly walk around with only each other as entertainment, as lovers oftentimes do. We discussed many a thing, most of them pretty unimportant. I really just wanted to hear the sound of her voice, and I imagine we were only going on so long because she wanted to hear the sound of mine. When we happened to wander into the park again, a full moon had already risen. The night had turned beautiful, the once-hidden sky a rich indigo. The stars shined on us, many constellations lighting our way as we came across the park bench we'd sat on before. I was reminded of what I'd done on that bench just before Bon Bon had come running up to us, and I guess Lyra was as well, as she suddenly ceased our conversation.
We each gave the other a look, and ungracefully made our way towards the bench, initially sitting down as far away from each other as possible. We each knew what was on the other's mind, but neither of us could really say it.
After a few awkward moments, Lyra decided to end the silence. "Hi."
I gave her a strange look. "Uh...hi."
She turned towards me, and inched a bit closer. "We should probably start heading back soon..."
I scooched towards her. "We could probably stay out a little longer..."
We each looked all around us, seeing if there was anypony in sight, but we couldn't spot anypony except each other.
I decided to venture. "Do you want to—"
And we kissed under that moonlight. Just straight up snogged. And it was fucking beautiful.
Go read the epilogue.