And when the darkness comes around

by Cackling Moron

In blood we trust

From the moment that Eric and Mac had sat down in their usual spot right at the end of the bar, not a word had passed between them. Indeed, neither of them had said a word since entering - the drinks had been ordered with nothing but a nod. The place knew them well enough for that to happen.

All this was perfectly normal.

They sat, not making eye contact, occasionally sipping, soaking up silence.

Eventually though the silence had to break.

“You know Mac, I do love these chats of ours,” Eric said, nursing his glass. About half full, by his estimation.

A solid minute passed.

“E’yup,” said Mac, nodding.

SIlence resumed.

How this particular recurring event had started was not especially edifying, or even especially logical. At first it had simply been a coincidental twist of timing and bar occupancy that had seen both Eric and Big Mac sat beside one another and drinking - just an accident.

However, the accident later repeated, quite by accident, and this time the two of them acknowledged one another’s presence. This was the catalyst - the key! It had all clicked into place from there, and without a word being spoken that time, in that place, on that day of the week had been A Thing.

Sometimes life just worked out that way.

Since then, the two of them had maybe had a single conversation, and even then only if you were to scrape together all the words they’d exchanged during that time and combined them. And were you to have done that, you still wouldn’t have come up with anything you might find useful.

Everything Eric knew about Mac he’d learnt second-hand via outside sources, and not intentionally. Everything Mac knew about Eric was, well, he’d never mentioned knowing anything, but that was hardly conclusive. He might have just been keeping quiet about it.

They both found the whole arrangement utterly priceless, though were both equally aware that were they forced to explain why they would come up short. It was just one of those things. You either got it and didn’t need it explaining, or you didn’t and no amount of explaining would ever clear it up.
Neither of them paid much attention when the dim atmosphere of the was briefly interrupted by the door opening, allowing the tentative entry of some cautious sunlight and a single, hat-wearing pony, who approached.

Neither of them paid much more attention to this, either, assuming that whoever it was was here for someone else. Even when the sound of hooves stopped just behind them they kept up in assuming this, at least until a throat was cleared, at which point they reluctantly looked back to see who it was.

It was Applejack. Obviously.

“Howdy,” she said brightly, said brightness clashing horribly with the dimness, but this sort of place was not Applejack’s sort of place, and she did not get the etiquette.

Eric recognised Applejack from having done one or two things up at the farm in his time. Painting fences, mostly. Perhaps a waste of his more particular talents but an oddly meditative experience all the same.

Anything to do with paint, he was all over it. He wasn’t fussy. That was kind of his thing.

“Hello there,” he said, twisting about properly on his stool and giving a small wave. “Not keeping your brother from doing something important, am I? Tsch, skiving again?”

This last he directed to Mac, who affected a slightly annoyed look at the mere suggestion, making it all worthwhile for Eric.

“Naw, he’s alright - I just finished up early is all. Getting some things together,” she said, briefly lifting her hat up to show that she had stashed a shopping list under it. The list was all ticked off, Eric saw in what scant time he was able to see it before the hat went back down again.

“Farming both looks and sounds exhausting,” Eric said.

“Oh this ain’t for farming. Well, most of it ain’t…” she said, turning aside on realising that she couldn’t in all honesty say it wasn’t all not for farming.

“That so? Don’t keep me in suspense!”

“We’re having kinda a shindig!”

News to Eric, and delightful news at that.

“A shindig? Sounds very nice!” He said.

Applejack and co had always struck Eric as ‘work hard, play hard’ types.

“You’re invited! S’kind of a family affair but, well, friends are family too, I reckon, and Big Mac seems to like you. Won’t shut up about you half the time!”

Hyperbole, of course, for humorous effect.

Eric gave Big Mac a nudge.

“You salty rogue, knew you had a soft spot for me,” he said, then returning his attention to Applejack. “I’d be honoured! Very kind of you. I’ve been to parties, never been to a shindig! Do I have to wear anything special for it?”

“Whatever you like,” Applejack said.

“You may come to regret giving me such freedom. Uh, when? When’s a good time to show up?”

“You can show up anytime tomorrow - shindig runs all day and all night!”

It was kind of a big deal.

Eric accepted this news with a nod and a sip of his drink - happily planning already to roll up just whenever - but then one particular detail actually caught his awareness and he paused, gears clicking in his head. An idea!

“All night, you say? I couldn’t bring a plus one, could I?” He asked.

“Sure! You-” Applejack said, only then perhaps realising where it was that Eric was coming from. “Uh, you’re, ah, talkin’ ‘bout that new friend of yours, ain’t ya? That lives with ya?”

Eric had heard that line before. He gave Applejack some eyebrows, to highlight what he thought of this particular insinuation. When eyebrows failed to properly communicate his point of view he decided to try again, with words:

“She doesn’t live with me, why do people keep saying that? She’s just been staying with me for a couple of days,” he said, raising his glass for another drink.

Then on reflection he clarified:

“Okay, couple weeks maybe.”

Further reflection:

“Coming up on just under a month. Just over? Nearabouts. Still, she’s not living with me! That’s the main point here. I just said that if she wanted to stay over she could, and that’s what she’s been doing.”

“For a month?” Applejack asked, trying to work out if Eric was messing with her or not. He was not.

“Yeah,” he said.

“A whole month? Straight?”

Eric thought about that.

“Don’t think she’s been back to her cave yet, no. But so what? She’s just staying over, not living there. Important,” he said, holding a finger up to really underline how important this bit was.

Applejack shared a look with her brother. Neither of them needed to say anything, which suited Mac just fine.

“Right…uh, sure, don’t see why not,” she said, doing her best to smile reassuringly even if she had immediate misgivings. Eric finished off his drink and set the empty glass down on the bar, thoroughly satisfied.

“Cracking! Thanks for that. I think it’ll be good for her. Can make some other friends! Not really ideal her just having me, you know? That’s not sustainable or healthy. And she’s a lovely girl!” He said. Applejack’s forced smile remained, though now clearly straining.

“Sure she is, sure she is…”

Technically not dishonesty, though skirting close enough for the strain to be obvious on her face. Eric narrowed his eyes.

“I’m sensing something here.”

“It’s nothing, nothing! But, uh, well, it’s, uh-”

Applejack tried to coax assistance out of her brother by use of hard stares, but he defended himself by looking in a different direction. In the event it hardly mattered anyway. Eric figured it out.

“It’s the blood thing again, isn’t it?” He asked.

“Maybe. Kind of. Just a little bit,” Applejack said sheepishly, holding up a hoof. Just something about it really got under her skin.

There were some other issues and hangups but the blood thing was the main issue. Not much use in denying that. Eric sighed.

“There’s some very odd ideas floating around about batponies, I’ve noticed. Yes, Lamia’s dietary requirements might be fairly unique around here but that hardly matters - she’s not just that. Normal people, when they get hungry, don’t just grab whatever’s nearest and tuck in, do they? No-one’s slapping biscuits out of orphan’s mouths when they’re feeling peckish. Yet everyone’s acting like poor Lamia’s a fistful of razorblades sitting on a mousetrap!”

This was such an unusual turn of phrase that Applejack wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, and her already tenuous grip on what Eric’s point had been slipped, her understanding disappearing somewhere off over the horizon.

So to speak.


Eric realised that he’d rather lost the thread as well.

“Sorry, got a bit carried away there. Good image though, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Best to just roll with it, Applejack felt.

Eric continued:

“Sorry, again. Just seems like I’m the only one around here who even felt like giving Lamia a chance. Poor girl. She deserves better. If you’re not comfortable having her there that’s fine but-”

But what remained to be seen, as Applejack interrupted.

“Naw I’m sorry, she’s more than welcome. You both are. Lookin’ forward to have ya.”

“I’m sure a whale of a time shall be had by all. Does one have a whale of a time at a shindig? Suppose I’ll find out!”

Nods all round. Applejack then turned to Mac.

“I’m not sayin’ it’d be appreciated if you finished up and helped me haul this wagon back on account of you having pulled it down here in the first place and the collar bein’ too big for me to pull it back - though I could if I were forced to; I’m just heavily implyin’ it.”

Big Mac sighed and finished his drink without a word.


Later, Eric was folding his socks. It was the first time he’d ever done it.

“Really not sure what the point of this is, you know,” he said to himself, looking over his results so far. Then he shrugged and continued - started, so he’d finished.

The door to his bedroom creaked open by inches.

“Eric?” Came a quiet voice. Eric looked up.

“Evening Lamia! Still light out - to what do I owe this pleasure?” He asked, beaming. Lamia blushed furiously, unable to keep the smile off her face. Instead, she hid behind her hair again. It was a habit.

“Just woke up early,” she said, creeping in.

This was true, and it was true because she’d set an alarm to do it, borrowing one that Eric had had just lying around. He’d heard a ringing some minutes previously, but had thought nothing of it.

“Ah, one of those days, eh? Fair play, Lamia.”

Lamia circled around the room and hopped up onto the bed beside Eric. She’d already slept in it, so just coming on in and hopping up wasn’t that big of a deal, and it wasn’t the first time anyway.

“What are you doing?” She asked, tucking her hair back and peering over Eric’s arm as he continued folding socks.

“Folding my socks,” he said, folding socks.


“I really don’t know. Just killing time, I think. Turns out this isn’t my idea of a good time. And now I know! See? Valuable experience.”

He grabbed a loose one and proffered it to her.

“Want a sock?”

She took it, mostly because she was caught off guard, and held it between both hooves. There it dangled, and she stared at it with wide eyes, unsure of how delicately she should treat this gift, assuming it was a gift.

Eric, for his part, was watching her, thinking thoughts.

“You should put it on,” he said, this being the culmination of those thoughts.


“Just try it, it’ll be a laugh.”


Having lived with Eric for a little while now - or, rather, having been staying over consistently, to be more accurate - Lamia was aware of how socks worked. Not that they were that big of a mystery in the first place, it was just that this was her first time encountering them. Putting one one, though, was another matter entirely, and something she had immediate problems with.

Eric watched her struggle for a minute or so before pity forced him to help. With his help she succeeded, ending up with a sock up to knee on one leg, and also ending up a bit red in the face.

“That’s adorable,” Eric said.

“I feel silly…”

“Of course you feel silly, you’ve only got one sock on! Still, thanks for being a good sport, I can just - there you go,” he said, tugging it off while making a mental note to either purchase or knit socks just for Lamia at some point, him imaging that a full set would really suit her.

Just at an outside guess.

His sock was a write-off, of course, stretched to buggery. But it had been worth it.

Lamia then yawned.

“Aww! Big yawn for a little pony. You sure you don’t want to go back to bed?” He asked, giving her a scratch, her head pushing up into his head at once.

“I’m fine,” she said, her yawn still trailing off.

“If you say so, Lammy,” Eric said, not really noticing what it was he’d said. Then he remembered something. “Oh yes, before it slips my mind again: I’ve got something short-notice to tell you.”

He was still scratching while saying this, Lamia’s eyes happily closed as she settled further across his lap.


“Yes! You and I have been invited to a party tomorrow. Big one, too. Runs all day and - this is the good bit - all night! We can both make it!”

Her eyes opened, and her sudden disquiet was sufficient enough to overcome the ecstasy of the scratching.

“...a party?” She asked. She’d heard of these.

“Yes! Eric said again, beaming. “Big one, like I say. Up at the Apple’s place. And, well, I say party but technically speaking it’s a shindig. How that’ll change things up I’m not sure, but I’m keen to find out!”

Lamia was not experiencing keeness.

“Will many ponies there?” She asked.

“A few, I expect. Kind of the point. I think it’d be good for you to make friends who aren’t me. Can’t just have me!” He said.

Lamia nudged his hand away and crawled more fully onto his lap, sitting up and resting against him. Again, this was fairly normal behaviour for her by this point, and Eric didn’t think much of it.

“But I like you…” She said.

“I know you do, Lamia, and I like you too! But what if something happened to me, eh?”

The thought plainly upset her, so Eric quickly carried on:

“Uh, not that it will, obviously, I just think it’d be good if you had maybe some more friends. Even just one more! Friends are great, Lamia. We’re friends, right?” He asked.


“See! Exactly. So more can only be a good thing.”

She did not answer this and just stayed quiet, head resting against him, one ear flicking. She was not exhibiting the level of enthusiasm that Eric might have hoped she would. Indeed, she seemed to be exhibiting quite the opposite.

He put an arm around her, gave her a squeeze.

“Hey,” he said. “No pressure, honestly. If you don’t want to go then I can just mosey on up during the day and then be back here in the evening to hang out with you, no harm done. Okay?”

Again no response. Eric gave her another gentle squeeze and managed to coax her to look up at him.

“Do you - d-do you think they’ll like me?” She asked.

“Of course they will! They’re lovely, you’re lovely - how could it not work? I think they just have some weird ideas about you, that’s all. Once they meet you? All blown away. Much better!”

In Eric’s head this outcome seemed obvious and inevitable. In Lamia’s head not so much. In reality? Could go either way. Or any way, really. Reality was unpredictable and owed nothing to anybody.

Lamia was again quiet, thinking more, one hoof rubbing over the other.

“O-okay…” she said, eventually.

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” she said, quickly adding: “You’ll stay with me? At the party?”

“Course! Not going to abandon you! You can even ride around on my shoulders again, if you want. Whatever works for you.”

He knew how much she liked doing that, even if he didn’t know why she liked doing that.

Lamia felt better about the prospect of going to the party. Not good - she was bricking it in her own quiet, subdued way at the very thought of being around so many ponies - but she felt better about it, which was something.

If Eric was with her she could do just about anything, she thought.