"Are you all ready to order?"
Rainbow glanced up from her menu and turned to the waitress, whose polite smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
"Yeah, I'd say so." She motioned towards Anon. "Gentlecolts first."
If Anon even heard her, he gave no indication. He was staring at his side plate, hand resting on his chin, and idly drumming his fork against the table. His face was blank, his eyes unfocused—the lights were on, but no one was home.
They all stewed in silence for a moment, waiting for the man to fall back to Earth, until Summer tapped him on the shoulder.
He lit up in realization.
"Oh, shit, sorry about that."
With a shake of the head to clear his thoughts, Anon held his menu out to the waitress, pointing a finger at one of the entrées.
"The fettuccine, that's wheat pasta, right, not hay or anything?"
"I think so, yes."
"And there’s no flowers or, uh ... I dunno, grass in it?"
The waitress hummed and stared at the ceiling, then jotted something down on her notepad.
"I'll check with the chef, but I believe it's just a pretty standard Alfredo."
He handed her the menu.
"Great, I'll have that, then."
Summer's gaze lingered on Anon, her brow furrowed in the first stages of worry. It didn't take a genius to tell that something was on his mind.
"Just a daffodil club, please."
"Right. And you?"
"Cobb salad. Extra eggs, if possible."
The waitresses made her way towards the kitchen, and Anon met Summer with a raised eyebrow.
"How can you stand eating this rabbit food?"
Summer gaped and sputtered, while Rainbow leaned in with a grin—she had talks like this with Gilda in the past, and they were always entertaining, at least from a distance.
"All your meals are just, like, lettuce and shit, there's nothing ... substantial, you know?"
"What in Tartarus are you talking about?"
Anon's chair gave a terrible screech as he turned it to face hers.
"Right, so, human meals, there's the meat, there's the bread, there's the veg. It's balanced, it's filling, etcetera etcetera. Pony meals are just like ... a pile of lawn trimmings with a bay leaf on top. What do you even get from that?"
Summer batted him with a wing.
"Enough. Remember, we're an entirely different species. Like, in terms of taxonpony, there's this giant gap between us, so of course we eat different things."
"Fair enough, but I still think that - taxonpony?"
Summer waved a hoof.
"Yeah, you know, kingdom, phylum ... "
Anon butted in.
"No, no, I get that, but us civilized beings say taxonomy. At least that has actual etymology, Greek roots and all that crap. Taxonpony doesn't even make sense, you just glued the word 'pony' to the end of an existing word. For Christ's sake, one of you called it a Cobb salad, not 'Colt' or something, so why even bother with ... " His spiel died in his throat, and he leaned back in his chair. "Fucking, whatever."
Rainbow and Summer shared a look.
"Look, Anon, I know it's been a while since we've seen each other, but I can tell that you're, um ... not feeling so great." Rainbow had half a mind to rest a comforting hoof over his hand, but held back for fear of pushing him away. "What's bothering you?
He tried to tell himself that a restaurant was no place for a talk like this, but he knew that he'd keep making excuses the longer he put it off, and his concerns would roil about his mind, unfettered and unresolved, until something snapped. Better to remove the bandage now, he thought, then to let it all fester.
"That deal with Haspone was all over the news. It's public knowledge, and people know who I am, where I live, what I like, and ... well, at this point, we can't just close our eyes and pretend everything's fine. Sure, it's not like I'm the second coming or anything, but it all worked so well because we were nobodies, and now that I'm somebody, that's all gonna change, and ... and not for the better. It won't just be humares, there’s gonna be an entire fucking parade of journalists and scientists and all the other parasites, and pardon the dramatics, but it'll only end when we're dead."
Having said his piece, Anon folded his hands in his lap with a sigh.
Summer loved Gottherd's Branch, she really did. She grew up there, after all, always called it home, and it was the sort of place where everyone knew everyone, where one's greatest concern was what they'd have for dinner that night. Her life there was comfortable, content, but there was always that niggling little feeling at the back of her mind that she could be doing so much more. Perhaps it came from her father, who moved there from Cloudsdale, or maybe her foalhood love of adventure stories, but that peculiar wanderlust so emblematic of the pegasus race—that same voice that drove her to marry a giant ape—told Summer to pack her things and go somewhere new.
If her whole life was irrevocably changed, if this human thing had thrust her into the limelight, then why not go all the way?
"We could always move."
Anon gave no response, and Summer took this as a sign to continue.
"We can't hide, you said that yourself, but if we march out and face it head-on, we'll at least be able to control it. It's not like money's an issue, and if anything serious comes up, I'm sure that Celestia would be more than willing to step in. I say we sell the house, turn in our resignations, and settle down somewhere that's a bit more, well, connected. Not some big city like Manehatten, that's the last thing I want, but somewhere where we have enough exposure that ponies will get bored of us, and eventually turn their focus to the next shiny object that comes along."
He mulled over these words before standing up and folding his napkin onto the table.
"Excuse me, I'm just gonna head to the restroom for a sec."
As he left, Rainbow turned to Summer, who was staring at his empty seat.
"Is there anything I can do to help, or ... ?"
"You're Loyalty, right?"
"That's my Element, yeah."
"Anon's ... well, I wouldn't say loyal, not necessarily, but he holds a certain attachment to what he considers his 'home'. You have to remember, he's a literal alien, and when he came here, he lost his family, his friends, everything, so there’s this big part of him that's absolutely terrified of losing it all again. He's happy in Gottherd's Branch, make no mistake, but I think he loves belonging somewhere more than he loves the town itself."
"He's a city colt, and though he'll never admit it, living out in the sticks bores him. That's why I wanted to go on this trip, you know?"
Rainbow tilted her head.
"What, to Ponyville?"
"More like the whole country, but sure. Ponyville ... honestly, this place is perfect. It's a few hours from two major cities, it's just the right size, it has that nice rustic Earth pony thing going on, and we already know some ponies here. This is where I want to live."
The silence between them was almost pleasant.
"Maybe this is a bit too forward, but we're looking to start a herd, and, well ... "
Her eyes widened.
"Woah, woah, woah, Summer, not that I ... uh, wow, I ... look, that totally came out of nowhere."
"Probably, yeah, but what did you tell me? 'Gotta sell yourself'? Your my friend, Rainbow, certainly one of my better ones, and I can see something between us working out pretty well."
"I ... would Anon be on board?"
"He's willing to try, and I think that's enough. Have you ever, like, been in a relationship, or ... ?"
Rainbow looked down at her plate.
"On and off, nothing serious."
"Then you know it's better to just go for it. Are you interested in Anon?"
"I mean, he's a good friend, and ... " She sighed. "I've liked what I've seen, I guess."
Summer jokingly raised an eyebrow.
"He is a looker, isn't he?"
"Not like that. I've seen you two together, and you're ... happy, that's what I'd call it, happy."
"Then go for it."
"And what if I mess it up, or end up ruining what you have with him?"
Summer rested a hoof on her back.
"You won't, you're a good pony, and I trust you. We can give it a try, and if it doesn't work, we can just go back to being friends."
"Why do you even want this? Monogamy seems to be working just fine with you."
"Anon and I are happy, but we can be so much happier. I grew up in a herd of four. We all loved each other, and while we fought, at the end of the day, we were a family. I want that, I want to come home to a bunch of foals and have them all run around and call us all 'mom', and then pile up on a giant bed together when it's time to go to sleep. I want to drown in love, and I can tell you want that too."
They looked into each other's eyes, and Rainbow nodded with a shaky smile.
"Buck it, why not?"