“You're completely bucking insane. You know that, right?” I flopped onto the couch, thoroughly worn and exhausted. And sore. Oh, so very sore. My eyes hurt, my ears hurt, my legs hurt. My everything hurt.
And that damned insufferable unicorn just stood in the doorway, grinning that same stupid grin from behind her violet shades. That same stupid grin that hadn't left her face through all the dancing, the partying, the drinking, the running, the brawling, the drinking again, the running again, the fire...
My memory halted for a second on that last recollection, somehow convinced that it was fabricated. The smell still clinging to my clothes argued otherwise.
“Sweet Celestia, Scratch, please tell me you didn't actually burn that bar down.” She kicked the door shut behind her and plopped into the seat across from me. And stared at me. With that same. Damn. Grin.
Her eyes, veiled behind her ever-present shades, locked on mine. Undaunted, I stared back. She grinned. I stared.
“Sooo...” she said, finally breaking the silence. “Didja have fun?”
I couldn't take it anymore. I broke down, laughing. Tears welled in my eyes as my body shook, every tense, sore muscle giving way to the waves of sheer idiotic mirth. Her own laughter echoed with mine, and for several minutes the excitement, the chaos, and the civic damage of the night were washed away in raucous laughter.
Finally, coughing, I gasped out the words “completely... bucking.... insane.”
Her horn glowed, and a stereo set against the wall lit up, dials and sliders spinning as a pumping bass line filled in over our dying laughter. “So that's a 'yes', then?” I took a few long, steadying breaths before sitting up straight on the couch to regard her. Of course, the grin was still there. It would have frustrated me more if my own traitorous lips weren't mirroring it.
“I swear, Scratch, if Celestia holds me responsible for even half of what happened tonight, I'll be lucky if she even bothers to kick me back to my side of the gate before sealing it forever, and that is going to lead to a lot of unhappy fans.”
“Hey, she appointed me personally to be your guide tonight and 'share with you the scope of Equestrian culture and Canterlot's thrilling nightlife'. I'd say I performed my royally-appointed duty with gusto.”
“You burned a bar to the ground!” She laughed at my outburst, her horn fiddling with the stereo again. I was pretty sure she wasn't going to get anymore bass out of the high quality, but relatively small stereo set. Compared to the thundering bass that I had felt at the venues Vinyl Scratch had taken us to earlier, she may as well have been playing a lullaby now. Still, she seemed not to have had enough yet, and was milking what I was fairly sure was one of her own songs for everything she could while still keeping us from having to shout to each other. Celestia knows, we'd done enough of that tonight already.
“Ah, old Sparky's place has survived worse than tonight. Besides, you still haven't answered my question. It was my official, royally-appointed duty to make sure you had fun tonight. So didja?” I couldn't help but laugh again, shaking my head.
“I hardly think getting me drunk, beating up three bouncers, and lighting somepony's bar on fire, even if he does have an importunate name like 'Sparky', is quite what Celestia had in mind. But,” I conceded, “yes, I did. This was a night I'll never forget.” Her grin broke into a full-fledged smile as she levitated her shades off of her head to rest on the table.
“Sweet. But don't sell yourself short; I hardly took those bouncers alone. For such a gangly thing, you fight pretty well.” Her ruby eyes sparkled as she looked me over. I smirked as I wiggled my fingers.
“Opposable thumbs are wondrous things.”
“Creepy.” She corrected. “They are creepy things. Seriously, I can't imagine having bits of my hoof flopping all around like that.”
“Well sure, but you cheat,” I stated, spreading my worn and aching body out across as much of her plush couch as possible. “Unicorns can lift and manipulate anything they need to, so you wouldn't see the value. Bet some earth ponies wouldn't so much mind 'em.”
She made herself equally comfortable in a large faux-leather recliner before, with a teasing wink, lighting her horn to pull a large bottle and two lowball glasses from the nearby cabinet. She ignored my protesting groans, likely because she could tell how half-hearted they were, and levitated one of the freshly filled glasses over to me. She brought her shades back to her face along with a deep draft from her drink and sighed happily, squirming in her seat to a state of perfect comfort.
We both sat in silence for a while, letting the rich, smoky whiskey and throbbing bass melt away the pain and excitement of the night.
“So, uh,” I coughed nervously, finally breaking the silence. “On the subject of unicorn anatomy, I've always been curious. Are unicorn's horns... sensitive?” She quirked an eyebrow at me and considered the question for a moment.
“Well, they're more than a hunk of bone sticking out. We can feel with 'em, and we can feel when we run magic through 'em.” She cocked her head, waiting for me to elaborate.
“So, uh...” I paused to toss back the rest of my drink. “But they're not... well. Is it, uh, rude to touch somepony's horn?”
“Is it rude to touch somehuman's forehead?” She shot back without missing a beat. Damn her inscrutable glasses, I couldn't tell whether she was messing with me or not.
“I, uh. That's not exactly what I meant. And it's 'somebody', not 'some'...” I stumbled to a halt as she rose and swayed alluringly towards me, gently levitating her glasses away.
Staring deep into my eyes and placing a hoof on my chest, she whispered, “Wanna touch my horn, big boy?”
My alcohol-glazed mind leapt in about four different directions before snapping back into the middle and shutting down altogether. I was vaguely aware of unintelligible sputtering escaping my lips.
Then I was acutely aware of raucous laughter erupting from the white unicorn, now rolling on the floor at my feet. I stammered for a few seconds more as my brain coughed and spun back to life. I regained higher brain function about the same time she regained her breath, standing back up and wiping a tear from her eye.
“Wow, you are just too much fun. And get your mind out of the gutter, gangly; unicorn horns are nothing like that. Do I even wanna know where you got that idea?”
“Probably not. Heh, last thing I need is to be responsible for introducing fetishes to ponies.”
Vinyl's glasses floated back to their perch above her customary grin and she sat back down. “Oh, trust me. Somepony, somewhere has tried it. It's just not common. Or safe. These suckers can be sharp,” she tapped her horntip with a hoof as she levitated her drink to her lips. I leaned back into the couch, staring wistfully at my empty glass. Not that I needed any more alcohol in me. Goddesses only knew what time it was, and it was probably a grave faux pas to appear before the princess still drunk from the night before.
A fresh splash poured into my glass.
I glared up at Vinyl as the bottle settled itself back on the table between us. Yep. Same damn grin beaming back at me.
I drank. It really was good whiskey. And I wasn't that drunk. Anymore.
More time passed in the relative quiet of Vinyl's stereo, and the last drops of our nightcap passed into the mare's glass. I simply lay back, letting soft cushions and hard alcohol ease my body and mind gently away from the aches of our far-too-exciting night.
The clink of an empty glass setting down and a gentle laugh brought me back to.
“Come on, gangly,” my hostess spoke up. “I've got an extra bed that'll...”
The apartment door banged open, cutting Vinyl off. The normally-refined form of a dark gray earth pony mare stood revealed, her breath short and mane unkempt as her eyes took in the apartment, the two of us, and the freshly-emptied bottle of whiskey. A small flicker of blue magic deftly silenced the music.
“Vinyl. Jennifer. Scratch,” the mare's words seethed, but her face remained still and cold.
“Tavi, baby!” Vinyl jumped to her hooves, her grin faltering somewhat. “You're, uh, you're here. Kinda late for you, isn't it babe?” The other mare glared back, advancing slowly but menacingly towards my host.
“Yes. Yes, it is late. Late for me to be awoken by the fireponies rushing to one Spark Lighter's bar not two blocks from my apartment. Late for that same Spark Lighter to come to my door, asking if a certain marefriend of mine and her alien companion were hiding there. Late for me to check two hospitals and three guard stations for you to make sure you were not injured or arrested, only to find you safe at home, laughing, and DRINKING MY JURA!”
Octavia's unrelenting rant had steadily backed Vinyl into the corner, and the unicorn's grin was teetering on the brink of collapse. Her gaze turned briefly to me for assistance, but I was too caught up in an internal struggle between fleeing in terror or laughing at the karmic retribution to offer any aid. Octavia, for her part, just stood staring down, the fires of hell themselves reflecting off the DJ's violet shades.
“Ehehehe... funny story, that,” Vinyl chuckled nervously, still scrambling for an exit. “By the way, have you met my alien?” She gestured a hoof in my direction.
Octavia's gaze, which had not broken or, I suspected, blinked since first locking on her doomed prey, flitted over to me in curiosity. The wailing inferno still raging behind her eyes fell on me for a brief, soul-chilling moment before her eyes snapped in a double-take at my, well, alien appearance.
That instant of distraction was all the imperiled unicorn needed. Before Octavia could even open her mouth, the nearest window flew open and a streak of white screamed out “nicetoseeyoutavigottarunloveyabye!” as it vanished into the Canterlot night.
Octavia blinked, staring stunned at the window. The echo of frenzied hooves on cobblestone faded gently into the night. As silence once more took hold, her violet eyes traced slowly across my form. I dared not move, barely even breathing, as if in my perfect stillness I could fade into the couch and avoid the impending doom standing before me. As her gaze moved higher, it paused on my hand, and the nearly empty glass therein.
Her eye twitched.
Sensing a last-ditch hope for diplomacy and survival, I held out the remains of the glass towards her. “Drink?”
She walked towards me in the same measured, steady gait as before. And straight past me. My gaze followed her as she stopped before the liquor cabinet, opened it, and pulled out the first bottle her hoof touched. I wasn't sure if she even bothered to look at the bottle before tipping it back and drinking deeply. I also wasn't sure that anything that particular shade of green was meant to enter the digestive system of any carbon-based life form.
Ten seconds later, the sound of heavy gulping ended, and the bottle clinked back into the cabinet. The mare turned back to face me, blowing out a long, heavy sigh. Seeing no reason to hold back, I raised my glass briefly to her before tossing back the remnants. She merely blinked at me again.
“I am going to bed,” she declared with an impressive amount of clarity considering the volume of unidentified hard alcohol she had just shotgunned. “I shall deal with you and Vinyl at an hour more befitting of proper ponies.” With that, she closed the front door, then entered what I assumed was Vinyl's bedroom, closing the door behind her.
I sighed, leaning back and bringing my glass to my lips again. Right. Empty. Setting it down on the table, I got as comfortable as I could on the couch and settled in for some long-overdue sleep.
My eyes had been closed for all of thirty seconds before they were stabbed with the searing agony of a thousand raging suns. No, scratch that; just the one sun. The one rising in the distance beyond the open window. Because it was now dawn. I was exhausted, unwashed, and reeking of smoke, sweat and alcohol. And fairly drunk. Again.
-UNK THUNK THUNK.
A voice called from beyond the door. “Royal guard unit Corona, wing three, here to escort the human visitor to his audience with Her Highness, Princess Celestia. Make haste, human. Her Highness awaits.”
I was doomed.