by Korenav


Pastel shut the car door behind her, glancing out the window at the mammoth mare before her smile dropped.

“Just who in Tartarus is that?” She motioned to the tall mare outside the car with a gesture of her head.

The mare outside had turned her attention toward Paperweight, who promptly reacted with a cringe at the sight of the red-eyed, beat up mare, before scooting off into her van.

“Oh, that’s Emi.”

“...And that tells me what?”

“Okay okay, she’s a debt collector. Hired muscle I assume. I owe some money, like the lady said.” He shrugged before wincing, the welt on his back searing at the motion.

“So, she roughed you up a bit?” She raised her chin and leaned in to look at his injuries.

“No, that was the drones. She helped with those if anything.” He leaned in her direction, keeping his weight off the other bruise on his flank. “...But not before she reminded me I owe her.”

“So...she’s...a friend?”

The window squeaked as Emi pressed her nose up against it, her hooves trying to shield the reflection as her bloodshot eyes peered in.

“Not exactly…” He rolled his eyes at the face in the window before turning his back away from her. “So, the payment?”

Pastel forced her eyes away from Emi and focused on Jovin. “You send me the data. I’ll send the money.”

“Its a bit large. I kinda took all of it while I was in there. Some camera footage too.”

Oh.” Pastel gave him a pleased smile. “That should be quite the find.”

“So...maybe a bonus?” Jovin beamed.

Maybe.” Pastel returned a mischievous smile.

“So yeh the nerd of the group? I coulda sworn it was the little flapper girl.”

Paperweight leaned her head out of the van cautiously, looking at Emi, who was leaning over the trunk of a nearby car, peering back at her.

“Uh...Umm...Y-you mean Jovin? He has a lot more—”

“Oi, come on. Ye know what I mean. You can’t seriously not notice—”

The car door opened up, Jovin leaning out of the vehicle as he waved Pastel’s phone out at Emi, despite her protests from inside the car.

“Hey! Big scary lady! Look! I got paid! I’ll send you a check in a couple minutes but you can stop being a bitch now!”

Emi slid herself off the car trunk grinning at the smaller pegasus deviously. “Jovin, I’ll always be a bitch until it's all paid off.”

Jovin was tempted to say something back, something that would probably land him in even more trouble, but a cough from behind him got his attention. The momentary stare-off coming to an end.

“You’ll have it soon enough.” Jovin said with a grumble.

“I’ll be right here until I see it hit my employer.” She looked down at him with a smirk.

Jovin frowned, then stared off into the distance, a twinkle in his eyes as his vision focused on a display in his digital eyes, hoof gesturing in the air a few times as it interacted with a glowing interface invisible to all others. “There. I sent a payment. More to come in the future.”

Wordlessly, Emi reached into her jacket with a wing, refusing to break eye contact with him for a moment, until she had her mobile in front of her. After paging through it for a few seconds, she smiled, and an audible ding emitting from the device.

“Good. That will save you a few broken bones, or whatever you have. I’ll be seeing yeh next time.” She backed away slowly, the wicked smile on her face staying with Jovin, ensuring he wouldn’t ever forget it, until finally she turned around and marched off with as much pep in her as she did when she arrived.

“Yeah... thanks.” He sighed, before throwing himself back into a seat in the car, shutting the door behind him.

“Ahem.” Pastel held her hoof out to Jovin, looking rather annoyed. He passed the phone back to her before leaning against the door.

“Please don’t take that from me ever again.” Her words were icey. “Unlike some others, I don’t have mine built into my arm or skull.”

“Surprised you don’t. But I guess you and Buck are that way for a reason, other than the jobs.”

“Well, that,” she pointed off in the direction of his recently departed debt collector, “is one of the reasons. Just what do you owe it for?”

“That’s my business.” He turned his eyes out the window, painfully readjusting himself in his seat.

Silence fell over the two of them, one watching the other’s avoidant gaze. Pastel was the first to break it, tearing her eyes away from Jovin before tapping away on her mobile. “Chauffeur, return.”

The car silently pulled from its parking spot, the automated driving guiding it through the parking garage and onto the streets like it were gliding. The towering structures around them passed by, neon lights littering the walkways as much as the pedestrians did. Despite how illuminating and colorful it all was, Jovin always felt like it was ‘cleaner’ from a distance. Everything always did from the sky, further away, alone in his own reality. He sure wished he could go for a flight on his own right now.

“I could use someone of your talents. I have more jobs coming up. I want you on them.” Pastel inspected her fetlocks, a comb refining the edges and curls.

Jovin didn’t move from watching the walls of lights and skyscrapers pass by, wings hanging limply behind him. “Count me in, and don’t stop sending them.”

She furrowed her brow, looking over him, eyeing the metals of his legs, the accenting yellow lights on them that matched his eyes. Pastel considered him for a moment before leaning in toward him with a soft smile. “Something on your mind?”

“Eh…” Jovin turned away from the jungle of lights. “You know anything about finding ponies?”

“I might,” she said, gazing into his eyes, interest perked. “Depends. Is it someone who doesn’t want to be found? Or—”

“Just someone I lost touch with.” He looked back out the window again.

She firmed her brow, seeing his own eyes getting lost in the city lights and night sky. “Give me a name.”

Jovin glanced back into the car, turning over thoughts in his mind before relaxing and looking up at the stained ceiling. “Raven Quill.”

Pastel raised a brow at him, before taping out a note on her phone. “I’ll see what I can do, but you owe me a few jobs in the meantime. Or a favor or two.”

“Like I said, keep the work coming. I don’t have much else going on.”

“You haven’t even heard the risks or rewards. You sure you want to be my lackey?” She leaned in towards him, a smile pulling at one corner of her mouth.

“You are paying afterall. You give me money, I do job. Simple as that.” He turned to face her, though when he saw her, he couldn’t help but raise a brow and perk up his ears. ”Right?”.

“It's not always so simple.” She raised her chin, looking down over her nose to him with a wisened grin. “Not everything is going to be to our best interests. Sometimes it's a hunt, or setting a trap. Sometimes, we are the hunt, or the ones the trap is for.”

Jovin regarded her, the soft lovely mare before him in all her careful grooming and attractive shape speaking to him like she were fortelling a riddle to his doom. “What are you saying? You’ll sell me out?”

She brushed a few curls of her mane aside, her ear flicking and keeping it aside as her hoof played with the strands. “No. Like you, Jovin, I’m also looking for jobs and opportunities. I make the connections, transactions, and the deals that keep it all rolling. Not everything is going to be a simple job. There are going to be those that want to stop us, catch us, or set us up. It's a dog eat dog world, and if you’re going to stick around, well, I’d like to know you’ve got your head in the right place.”

His eyes watched her play with the curls of her mane, then drifted to the soft fur-like fetlocks that adorned the edges of her hoof with fluff he could only imagine upper class ponies could afford. “So, be careful and don’t trust anyone?”

She caught his eyes, following them back to her fetlocked hoof. Her smile softening, Pastel outstretched her hoof towards him, the white fur that adorned the end of her leg looking as inviting as a pillow. “And you build trust, just like you did when you took this job. I admire your determination.”

Jovin looked to her hoof, the thick white plushie-like surface, before training his gaze back to her. With a nod from Pastel, he reached out, his hoof hovering an inch from hers, before finally making contact and feeling that gentle press of fur against his hoof.

Pastel couldn’t help but smile, cheeks becoming a deeper pink. “You can feel with those legs of yours, right?”

He looked over the soft golden glow of his artificial limbs, his expression falling as he nodded. “Yeah, a little. Not like the actual thing though. Its like wearing socks... only metal.”

Her smile fell, also eyeing his cold metal extremities before looking back to him, her smile now larger than before. “Well, I don’t put all this effort into these just for them to feel like that.’

To his sudden surprise, Jovin almost immediately had his vision flooded with her fur, both of her forelegs on his shoulders now. Her fetlocks were pressed to his cheeks and neck, his spine shivering at the warm touch of soft pillows. She was one step away from embracing him, though with how much she enveloped his cheeks and neck he honestly felt he was well into a comfortable intimate touch.

“I-I….” He struggled to find words, his own cheeks turning a purple against his blue fur. “You’re…. impossibly soft.”

Pastel squirmed with a giggle, pulling him in a bit closer with a smile that he couldn’t bring himself to look away from.. “I’ve got a lot of softness to me.”

“Oh my. I wouldn’t mind getting to know that softness.” His grin grew as much as his blush did.

Pastel gazed into his eyes, her own only half open as she slowly began to move her hooves around behind him. “Maybe…It's about trust after all. You know, there are a few more things I admire about you.”

“Oh?” Jovin lifted his own forelegs, daring to place them on her shoulders delicately, his manufactured metal ones contrasting to her enough he was afraid to break her.

She leaned in closer, her warm breath on his face. “You’re not like other stallions. You’re different.”

He froze, taking a breath of her sweet scent before swallowing. “Y-yeah...I’m not exactly ‘traditional’ really.”

She grinned wide, leaning in toward him even more. “... I wouldn’t mind getting to know that ‘softness.’”

Heart racing and breath flowing, Jovin smiled back to her in kind.

“Chauffeur... Take the long route.”

He awoke with a start. His legs chinked against the walls of the tub, sloshing the now luke warm water along the edges. Jovin stared into the ceiling that had been etched and marred by one too many cleaning solvents, his thoughts coming back together from his dreamscape. His body floated in the water and suds, while his limbs sank like anchors.

With a splash, he sat upright, scanning his surroundings with a mild confusion. He held a limb before him, looking over the hard edge, barely feeling the water beads roll off it. Exhaling, he lowered his foreleg, resignation on his face. The pain from earlier in the night immediately caught up with him, reminding him of the heavy bruises that marked his back and flank, though they hurt far less than they had before he drugged himself up and got into the tub at home.

His mane hung halfway down his back, resting flat around his head and shoulders. Daring to stretch his wings, he leaned forward, the water weight throwing him off balance. With a little shake he already felt pounds lighter, water freeing itself from his feathers. He reached for a brush that could scrub even the toughest hides raw, the bristles stiff and prickly. Jovin scrubbed his augmentations, the grind of abrasion filling his ears as he stared on, apathy on his face.

After draining the tub and drying himself a bit more with a towel, he left the bathroom, towel over his back, his mane a looking like a tumbleweed.

Buck was waiting for him.

He was sitting at the dining table, a bottle on the counter with two glasses. His roomate gestured for him to sit, leaning over his drink as one would over morning coffee.

“So... what happened?”

Jovin sighed, his ears drooping and wings lazily hanging. “I’m fine. Just a few bruises is all.”

“They look like gunshots.”

“You don’t have to be my mom.”

“Jovin.” He sighed and leaned his face into his hooves before looking back into his eyes. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

The pegasus grunted, looking at the other glass on the table, then to Buck with his tired shoulders, his roommate more tense than ever. Conflicted, he heaved his chest and hobbled his damp self over to take a seat. Buck wasted no time pouring him a glass, relaxing.

“Alright then.” Jovin grinned, leaning into the table on one elbow. “Lemme tell ya how I bagged and tagged this job.”

“You really are lucky, you know that? Luck you she was feeling charitable.” Buck glanced at the bottle, considering refilling his glass again. Jovin’s story had only encouraged him to drink more. “Maybe she’ll go easy on you now that you gave her a payment and didn’t leave her to take the fall. Still, she sounds a bit loose in the head. Not my kind of company.”

“Pfft. No kidding. She’d skin me for fun if she could catch me.” Jovin loudly put down his now-empty glass. “She won’t be touching me anytime soon. The wacko.”

They both laughed until they were both left staring into the air, silent. Buck regarded Jovin, hesitant. “You’re going to take more jobs from her you think?”

“Yeah.” Jovin said without skipping a beat. “I think she digs me, too.”

Buck momentarily paused, locking eyes with Jobin for a moment, before glancing off out the window. Exhaling slowly, he reached for the bottle to pour himself another. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. She was getting friendly... I mean, you two weren’t an item right?”

He took a sip of his freshly-poured drink, eyes regarding him carefully, expression nigh unreadable.. “No.”

“Oh, well, yeah, she’s a pretty cool gal and all.” Jovin averted his eyes and itched at the back of his neck, feeling the plug through his damp mane.

“Yeah, she is... Just don’t get too attached. She takes business pretty seriously.” He rose up out of his seat, finishing his drink in one go.

“Uh, what, uh, were you guys?” Jovin was tentative, eyeing Buck’s now-empty glass.

“Friends,” he said simply.

“She isn’t going to go psycho on me or anything is she?”

Buck let out a laugh, quickly lifting a hoof to dismiss the notion. “No no no. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound ominous. We just have a long history.”

Jovin tapped his glass, giving him a smile to with open gleaming eyes that could tickle some heart strings. “Share?”

He was met with a less than amused expression, Buck’s eyes narrowing at him. “...You don’t get to use that face on me.”

Jovin persisted, pouting his lips.

Buck groaned, turning away from him. “We did a lot of work together. She was like you, owing money, needing help, and even lower on the totem pole than you. I helped her out. Now she doesn’t need my help. That’s the short of it.”

Jovin watched him start to walk away, getting up from his own seat to follow after him. “You don’t care about her anymore?”

He went to the door of his room, taking pause before talking over his shoulder solumbly. “I do care. Just be careful... and take out the trash.”

Jovin sighed, rolling his eyes and muttered to himself. “After a shower? No thanks.”

Buck let out a pained groan, rolling his eyes into the back of his head before disappearing around the corner.