• Published 29th Jun 2012
  • 3,206 Views, 375 Comments

Fallout: Equestria - Wasteland Bouquet - Cascadejackal



There's a lot of stories in the Equestrian Wasteland, and they all need to be told.

  • ...
17
 375
 3,206

Chapter 5: Shuffling the Cards

---CHAPTER 5: Shuffling the Cards---
"Sometimes it's just really fun to be scared."

Rose scooped up her winnings, much to Ibis' annoyance.

"There's no way you're that lucky. Let me see your cards! Oh, what the hell?! You were bluffing?!" He facehoofed... Faceclawed? "I don't believe this. Mom, spot me some more caps. This time, I'm gonna beat her."

The older griffin shook her head and grinned. "No way. That girl could take us to the cleaners if she wanted to, and I'm not helping her."


We were late into the second week of our journey north, into the shattered ruins of the city. A dark smudge on the horizon was our destination; it was still a few days away though. The journey had been smoother than we'd all expected (aside from Rose throwing Ibis out of the wagon once or twice. He'd been flirting with her the whole trip, and didn't seem to get the message), so the pair of griffins had taught me and Rose how to play poker over the first few days.

Most of it went over my head, but Rose was a natural. Being an empath (and having the best poker face in the world, according to Magpie), she had won so often that Magpie refused to play anymore. Her son, though...


"Fine. I'll put this up, instead. It's worth a few caps, at least." Ibis reached into his bag and pulled out a comic book: Sword Mare! Rose blinked at him, shuffled the cards (with her hooves! I was starting to wonder if she was more like an Earth Pony with a horn than a Unicorn), and dealt.


A few minutes later, Rose was reading her new comic, I was happily counting caps (Rose split her winnings between us) and Ibis was flying ahead, sulking.

Magpie shook her head, smirking. "I told him to give up. There's no way he could beat you, girl." Rose nodded without looking up and the elder griffin turned to my parents, discussing the details of the job. We were looking for some kind of prewar gizmo that, apparently, did something important at some point.


Hey, we were getting payed so much to find the thing, I didn't care what it was!

What? Why're you looking at me like that?

Ugh, fine. Even after listening in, I had no idea what we were looking for, just that it was valuable. Happy now?


"98, 99, 100. You really cleaned up, Rose!" I stuffed my share away and reached over to start counting Rose's pile. It was smaller than mine, but she was the one who split it up! The comic was more interesting than caps, I guess. Some ponies are just wierd like that.

"49, 50. You sure this is enough for you?" She nodded, and brushed her mane out of her eyes. That crimson mess was getting a little out of hoof, so I decided to cut it for her next time we made camp. Not that I'd tell her until I was about to do it, of course.

Satisfied we were now rich, I rummaged through Rose's saddlebags until I found the beauty magazine I'd been looking for, and settled down to read it, muttering to myself. "Ooh, maybe this..." Those old magazines had some really nice clothes in them, but I was interested in the hairstyles. "No, this one! Wait, this would look even better on her!"

Have you ever been stared at so intently you can feel it? It's not fun. I turned my head and saw Rose watching me, suspicious. "Um, Rose? Can you, y'know, blink? That's creepy." She winked one eye, then the other, very slowly, sending shudders up my spine. "Quit it. I'm not kidding!"

"Whatever you're planning, Lily, leave me out of it." She turned back to her comic and I growled.

"Who said I'm planning anything?"

"You are. And it involves me."

"How did you know? Can you read my mind now?"

"No. You're just easy to understand." ARGH! She made me so mad sometimes! I leaned over, bit her tail, and yanked. She gasped and glared at me, her cheeks bright red. "Lily! D-don't do that!" I couldn't believe it, she was actually trembling!


"Wow... I think your sister likes having her tail pulled." Ibis landed next to me with a small thud and I stared at him in confusion.

"Huh?"

"Look at her face, Lily!" I still didn't get it. "You don't look like that unless you really, really like something."

Oh... I blushed, finally understanding. Whoops. "Sorry, Rose."

"You're cute when you blush, Rose. Did you know that? Maybe I should try." He grinned, but didn't actually try grabbing her; Ibis may have been a total flirt, but he wouldn't do anything like that without Rose's permission.


That restraint (I wouldn't call it respect) probably saved his life. We still had to make camp and wait for him to regain conciousness, though.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Speaking of making camp...

"C'mon, Rose, just stay still!" I had a pair of scissors and a brush floating beside me, and Rose was keeping as far away as she could get.

"No."

My parents and Magpie were making dinner and laughing at us while Ibis lounged around, saying he was too sore to help. The bruises weren't that bad, Rose had only used her hooves!


Right, Rose!


"If you let me cut your hair, I've got some gum in my bag." That brought her to a stop (and got me a glare from mum). "A whole packet, all for you!"

One ear twitched as she studied me. "You won't cut too much?"

"Just a little, I promise. You won't even notice."

"Alright. But just a little." She trotted over and sat in front of me. What a mess! There was dirt and gun oil all through her hair! How do you get gun oil in your mane?

---------------------------------------------------------------

Sitting back, I studied my handiwork. Yep, she was damn cute. I'd straightened, cut, brushed and trimmed until she looked like a mare instead of a mop. I was feeling pretty proud of myself, and Rose actually smiled a little when I floated a small mirror out of my bag so she could see herself. "See? You look much better." I smiled as she shook her head, messing it up again. She was so predictable.

"Yeah, she's a real knockout! Even prettier than you, Lily!" Ibis smirked. "Oomph!" That was Rose jumping on him. "Crazy mare! Help!" He was laughing and trying to defend himself as Rose beat him up. "Attack of the killer beauty! Hahah-FUCK!" Rose trotted away with a mouthful of feathers, leaving Ibis clutching the back of his head in pain.


Magpie and my dad collapsed, laughing their heads off, while mum started scolding Rose. I know! It shocked me, too! My sister was getting told off and I wasn't! "Rose! Behave yourself, young lady!"

Rose spat out the feathers, looking very pleased with herself. "He said Lily wasn't pretty."

Dad and Magpie were clutching each other now, tears running down their faces. "You... You keep getting beaten up by a pony! What kind of griffin are you?!"

Ibis glared at his mother, rubbing the back of his head. "The kind of griffin that won't beat up a defenceless girl."

Even my mum started laughing at that one. Whiskey Rose? Defenceless?

"Whatever helps your ego, son. Hey, Rose! Wanna be my daughter? I need a kid I can be proud of!"

"MOM!"

Rose deadpanned: "No, thank you. I'd look strange with a beak."

That set us all laughing again, even Ibis. Rose was more interested in finding the packet of gum I'd promised her.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Oh. My. Goddesses." We were entering the city, and I was in awe. The outskirts had been small buildings, houses and the like, mostly rubble. The further we went, though, the bigger and more complete the buildings got. When we entered the city proper, they towered over us.

"How the hay is this place still standing? I thought all the cities got wiped out by the bombs!" That was me speaking.

Dad answered. "Solid construction, I expect."

"I always heard that not all the bombs went off, leaving some places almost untouched." Magpie chimed in.

"These buildings... They are monuments to a fallen past, dreaming giants filled with forgotten memories."

We all stared at Rose in shock. She looked back, confused.

"What?"

"Erm, that was... awfully... poetic of you, Rose." That may be, dad, but I was still trying to figure out what the hell she'd just said!

She shrugged. "It felt like the right thing to say."


We kept our eyes open, watching windows and shadows for movement as we travelled, following Magpie's whispered directions to our goal. The deeper into the city we went, the creepier things got. The wind echoed hauntingly, almost sounding like voices at times. The sun must have been getting low, because everything was covered in this deep orange hue, like what autumn looks like in those old books. The buildings were so tall I could barely see the sky and I was starting to feel trapped, like I was being suffocated.


If you've never had a panic attack, try to avoid it. I was starting to hyperventilate, feeling the buildings close in around us, slowly blocking out the sky, when Rose pressed her glowing horn to my forehead, and the panic subsided.

"Better?"

I hugged her, tears in my eyes. "Thanks, Rose... How can you do it? Take my fear or my pain away, and never let it get to you?"

She shrugged and kissed the top of my head. "Making sure you're happy is all that matters."

"You two, keep your eyes open!" Dad chided us.

"There's nothing here, uncle. Just small animals and ghosts." Did she just say ghosts? My skin started crawling, and a sudden noise made me jump,

"You sure about that?" Magpie pointed to where some crumbling concrete had just fallen. "Cause something did that, and I don't think it was a ghost."

"It was a lizard. Her nest is up there."

Magpie and Ibis exchanged a look, and the male griffin flew up to check it out. He came back with a (pretty big) dead lizard in his beak. Spitting it out, he confirmed what Rose had said. "Just this thing and a nest."

"I told you."

"Fine. But you don't seriously expect me to believe there are ghosts here, do you?"

Rose just looked at him for a moment, and went back to watching the buildings.

"Dude, that's just creepy." Ibis shuddered and tore a chunk from the lizard, chewing noisily. Gross. Even I like some meat now and then, but at least chew with your beak closed!

---------------------------------------------------------------

Night was falling properly as Magpie, Rose and Ibis worked at opening the rusted steel doors of the Robronco building. It was a broad, tall, featureless structure, dull gray-green, with no windows anywhere that I could see, just the faded sign identifying it out front and some pillars supporting a cracked roof over the entrance. My parents looked uneasy and trust me, that was miles better than I was doing. Try scared shitless, and you'd be getting close.

With a low screech that echoed up and down the desolate streets, the doors were unsealed and pushed open wide enough to get not only ourselves through, but the brahmin and wagon, too. We stood there for a long minute, the fading light only penetrating a few feet into the building before fading completely, leaving a darkness so deep that I was afraid to move, in case it sucked me in.


"Hehe... Ladies first?" Ibis forced a chuckle and grinned nervously, offering Rose the honor of going first.

She took a portable light from our gear and walked in without hesitating, snapping her tail at the grey griffin as she passed him, her light barely visible in the blackness, then vanishing. A few moments of silence, then. "It's clear. Come on." Her voice doubled on itself, then tripled, the darkness and echoes making it come from everywhere at once, giving it an unearthly quality; At that point, I started wishing she'd let some emotion into her voice. That dead sound was not the sort of thing you want to hear in a decaying city.


We filed in, using our own lights, and found Rose quickly enough. She was sitting on a chair behind the receptionist's desk, pale eyes catching the glow from our lights and shining eerily. "Power's dead."

"Can you use a better term next time?" Ibis was looking over his shoulder; there was almost no light outside now, and pretty soon our small lamps would be the only thing keeping the darkness at bay.

Rose nodded, her mane falling over one eye, and I shuddered; Sitting there like that, she looked like a ghost with blood dripping down it's face.

"Blink, damn it! You're freaking me out!" Ibis seemed to agree.

She tilted her head to the side, closed her eyes and opened them again. Very slowly. Ibis decided it would be less creepy to help my parents bring in the wagon and brahmin, and I followed him.

---------------------------------------------------------------

We got some proper spotlights set up, and their light chased the darkness away, forcing it to hide in corners and gaps, lurking there like it just waiting for us to turn our backs...

I never appreciated how amazing portable magic-based lighting was before that moment. Expensive and hard to find, sure, but amazing. Especially since my puny light spell was barely enough to read by.

Magpie and Ibis were helping my parents set up our bedrolls and some extra lighting, so I wandered over to where Rose was still sitting. "Creepy, isn't it?"

"Not really."

"You're not scared? Not even a little?" She shook her head, and I walked around to her side of the counter. "What about ghosts and thi-" My voice caught in my throat. Rose was sitting beside a unicorn skeleton. "W-what's t-that?"

She petted the grinning skull. "Tequila Sunrise. She was the receptionist."

"How-"

Rose used her magic to lift a small nameplate up from the pile of bones. "Her badge."


Tequila Sunrise. Receptionist. That's what it said, alright.


"Rose, please don't play with skeletons." I got the feeling those empty eye sockets were staring at me. "Just, don't."

Rose sighed and put the badge back as I walked away. "Sorry, Miss Tequila. Lily is funny sometimes. So, you were planning an after work party when the bombs fell?"


My fur stood on end, my flesh started crawling, and I walked back to my parents, pretending I hadn't heard anything. I floated out a bottle of sparkle cola and sat on my bedroll, taking a long drink and wishing it was something stronger.

"Lily, you okay?" Dad sat beside me. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

I pointed to where Rose was sitting and took another long drink. "No, but Rose is talking to one."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Dad approached her slowly, Magpie, Ibis and mum watching from a distance. I was trying to soothe my nerves with another bottle of cola. It wasn't working.

"Rose, who are you talking to?"

"Miss Tequila. She's nice."

"Um, Rose, I can't see anypony there."

"Of course not. She's a ghost."


OOOKAAY! I started looking for looking for some whiskey in Rose's bags, only to be disappointed. There was a bottle, but it was empty.


"Of course she is, honey. Now, do you think you could help us for a little while?" He spoke softly, like Rose was crazy.

"Okay, uncle. I could probably get the power back on, if the generator isn't too broken." She tilted her head, like she was listening to something. "Miss Tequila says she'll show me the way downstairs."

"Alright, Rose. But take Lily and Ibis with you, okay? Just to be safe." He waited for her to nod before coming back over to us and whispering "Keep an eye on her, you two. I don't like this place." Ibis nodded; I chugged the last of my cola, then we grabbed some lights (I floated mine along. Ibis carried his in one claw) and a toolkit, jogging over to Rose.


"So, you're... talking to a ghost?" Ibis laughed nervously, but Rose just nodded.

"Yep. Miss Tequila is telling me all about her niece." She turned to the air next to her. "Do I really look like her? Oh, she was an Earth Pony? That's nice."

"Rose? Shouldn't we be... fixing something?"

"Hm? Oh, right. Miss Tequila, please lead the way." Rose picked up her light in her mouth (at least she couldn't talk like that) and trotted ahead of us.

"Is she crazy or something?" Ibis hissed to me, just as I thought I saw something flickering ahead of Rose in the darkness.

"I'm not so sure..." I muttered, and we followed her.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Down one passage, then another, through a door and into yet another hall. Rose never faltered, walking like she knew where to go. Or was being led by someone... I banished that thought from my head and ignored the flickering shapes that danced just outside my lamp's circle of light, vanishing when I looked straight at them. Every now and then, we'd find a skeleton laying on the floor; Rose always said "Excuse me" when we passed them, and sometimes the flickering shapes seemed to follow us.


"Miss Tequila, the power's out. Getting a keycard won't help us." We'd stopped in a security room, and Rose was talking to... her 'friend'. Blank screens covered one wall, throwing our light back at us. It was strangely clean if you ignored the thick layer of dust, just like the rest of the building; I guess being sealed up tight for almost 200 years kept out the weather. A couple of skeletons (probably guards) were sprawled out in front of the screens, but I didn't look too closely at them.

"Oh, we'll need it to go upstairs when we fix the generator? It should be in one of the filing cabinets? Thank you." She trotted over to some cabinets and started looking through them. Ibis went to help, and I started to go over, only to see something interesting... A box marked Lost & Found sat on a shelf on the other side of the room, so I went there instead and opened it up.


I was in a prewar building that had never been looted. You would have done the same thing.


"Junk. Junk. Shiny. Ooh, this is a nice manebrush. A bracelet? And it's real gold!" I felt a hoof on my left shoulder. "One second, Rose. Hey, look what I found for you!" Rose (with Ibis close behind) came trotting up on my right side to see what I'd found, a plastic keycard hanging from her mouth. Wait, my right side? As I turned to my left, I felt the hoof on my shoulder pull away.

There was nothing there.


The book I'd just pulled from the box with my magic dropped to the ground.

Rose spat out the keycard. "Miss Tequila wants to know if you found her bracelet. She lost it the week before she died."

"Um, yes?" I heard somepony whisper in my ear, and that was it for me; "GHOST!" I slammed into Ibis, knocking him over, and hid behind him. Rose stared at me in disbelief.

"You don't have to yell. Miss Tequila knows she's a ghost. She was just looking for her bracelet, that's all."

---------------------------------------------------------------

It took almost 15 minutes for me to stop shaking, and we started walking again. I looked over my shoulder every few seconds and stayed between Rose and Ibis, who was rubbing his wing where I'd crashed into him.


"Did you have to slam into me like that?"

"Shut up! There was a fucking ghost there!"

"You sound like your sister."

"There was a fucking. Ghost. Touching. Me."

"Yeah, right."

I would've hit him, but I was too busy making sure nothing was sneaking up on me.


"Lily, Ibis, we're here!"

'Here' turned out to be a wooden door leading to a set of stairs. Stairs that went down. As in, into a very dark basement. Where I thought I could hear things moving. Oh, joy.

"Do we have to go down there?"

"Miss Tequila says the generator is down there, so yes, we do."

"Fine, but I'm keeping my gun out." I looked in my bag for the revolver, only to realise...

"You left it with my rifle, remember?"

"Fuck."

"It's just dark, come on."

Rose picked her lamp up again and started down the stairs like it was no big deal.

"Come on, chicken." Ibis snickered and followed her.

"You're the chicken, Ibis. Hey, wait up!" I almost fell down the stairs in my haste. Actually, I would've preferred being unconscious to being in that basement. If the darkness above was deep, then this was absolute, the glow from my lamp pitiful and weak in comparison to that endless abyss... I could feel the weight of the building above bearing down on me, the air stale and thick, almost alive after two centuries of being undisturbed...


CLANK!

I almost wet myself and ran, but I noticed (just in time) that Rose had her upper half stuck under a large generator.

"Broken transfer line, stripped gear, and this looks corroded. Lily, can you pass me a shifter, the spool of copper wire and the black insulated cable?"

I stared blankly into the toolbox. "Copper wire is the orange stuff, right?"

Rose sighed and squirmed out, getting the stuff herself. "Lily, please, don't touch anything. Talk to Miss Tequila or something."

Yeah, that was going to happed. She vanished into the machinery again, and I sat down next to Ibis.

"So..."

"So what?" He stared at me.

"Seen any ghosts yet?"

"Nope." Something moved in front of us and he lifted his lamp. Nothing there but some old crates. "Well, none I'll admit to seeing, anyway."

We sat there, making small talk and listening to Rose banging around doing Luna-knows-what, until:

"Done." Rose crawled free of the generator and stretched. "Lily, there should be a big red button. You can press it."


Big red button? The kind that does stuff? Finally, something I could handle! I found it and raised my hoof dramatically. "Here goes nothing!" Push it and... Lights came on, flickering at first, but going steady after a second. They were so bright it hurt my eyes; I had to shield them so they could adjust. Somewhere in the distance, I heard machinery start up, a pulsing, grinding vibration travelling through the floor and making my head hurt. But at least I could see. And what a sight!

"Rose, mum is gonna kill you!" She was filthy. Grease everywhere! She looked like a zebra!

She just shrugged. "I got the lights back on. Let's head back." With that, Rose led the way up the stairs, Ibis behind, me in the back.

"I can see one spot that doesn't have grease." The griffin snickered, staring at Rose's backside; I stepped to one side, knowing what was about to happen.

Sure enough; THWACK! Rose kicked him in the face and he went head-over-tailfeathers down the stairs


On the way back, I made sure to stop in the security room and get the bracelet. When we arrived in the lobby, I put it on the foreleg of Tequila Sunrise's skeleton, much to Rose's delight.

"Miss Tequila says thanks." My messy friend smiled at me.

"Uh, your welcome?" Something touched me and I shuddered. "Please don't do that again, Miss Tequila." I whispered.

---------------------------------------------------------------

We explained what had taken so long (Magpie wouldn't let Ibis use a healing potion, saying that a black eye wasn't serious enough to waste one), and how the keycard Rose found (dad looked uneasy when he heard about Tequila helping us) would get us upstairs and make our search easier. Mum insisted we all get a good night's sleep (before hauling Rose into one of the bathrooms to scrub her coat clean. It was quite a chore, since she had to use a sink and Rose wouldn't stop squirming), so that's what we did. My parents on their bedroll, Magpie with Ibis in the wagon, and I bunked down with Rose on her duster. Not that I got much sleep; I kept hearing ponies walking around or speaking, but I didn't see anything.

Fucking ghosts. I was starting to hate them more than bugs.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Morning was a huge relief. Just knowing it was daylight outside was enough to brighten my spirits (bad choice of words), but I still went outside for a while. After being stuck in a dark building full of... things... I wanted some proper light, fresh air and my familiar clouds above my head.


Breathing deeply (and trying not to look at the tall buildings all around me), I stretched out on the cool concrete and watched the clouds. Yeah, I liked being outside a lot more I liked being in some dark, dingy, prewar building.

From time to time a griffin would cross my view; hard to tell which one, they both looked the same up there. The pair were doing recono... reconass... They were searching the area. More for potential salvage than looking for threats, since Rose had already told us there wasn't anything threatening nearby.

As for the ghosts... Rose said they'd all left just before morning; going wherever ghosts go, I guess. I'll spare you the explanation she gave us (or Tequila Sunrise gave us, through Rose) about why they couldn't leave before. Something about sealed graves and laughing stars; I really, really didn't want anything to do with the whole spooky undead thing, and just blocked as much of it out as I could. So did my dad, actually.

Mum told us that, when they were travelling with Rose's parents, dad had gotten himself lost in some old factory for a few hours and when they found him, he was curled up in a corner and gibbering about things coming out of a glowing rock.

I couldn't believe it! Not only had my dad, the wasteland wonder, the buck with a perfect sense of direction, gotten himself lost in a factory, but he was terrified of ghosts because of it!

We all had a good laugh at that! Until Ibis poked me in the side and whispered "Boo!" in my ear. Then they were laughing at me hiding in the wagon, as Rose tried stomping the grey griffin into paste.


So, there I was. Cool concrete beneath me, clouds above. Not quite an open road, but it was the best I was going to get while in the city, so I savored every minute of it.

"Lily, time to start searching."

Right, the thingy we were here for. "When the griffins land, I'll get up." No rush. I waved a hoof towards the sky, and Rose plonked herself down next to me.

"Okay, but if we get in trouble it's your fault." She started tracing patterns in the fur on my chest.

"Fine by me." I closed my eyes and smiled, trying to work out what she was drawing. First a star, then a happy face, followed by a big squiggly mess and now she was drawing a big loveheart. After that she started writing something.

Lily. Is. A. Lazyhead.

I opened one eye and stared at her. "Really?"

She eeped and blushed, rubbing her hoof across my chest to try and get rid of it.

"You're such a foal, Rose." I sat up and messed her mane up, making her giggle.

"At least I'm not a lazyhead."

"Be nice or I'll pull your tail again."

Her face turned the same color as her hair and she scooted away, hugging her tail protectively. "Leave my tail alone, Lily." She looked away, embarrassed.

"Okay, I won't pull it." She relaxed a little. "But I will tickle you!" I pounced and she squealed, thrashing her legs to try and escape, but I didn't let up until she admitted defeat. Worn out, I slumped on top of her. We lay there together, the cool concrete soothing against our warm bodies, without speaking, for several minutes.


"Rose, can I ask you something?"

"What?"

"Is your tail really that sensitive?"

She blushed again and refused to answer, looking away.

"Come on, Rose. It's me, your big sister. You can tell me anything, you know that."

"Well... It's... Lily, this is embarrassing."

"Nobody can hear us, you know."

"Fine. I like having my tail pulled, okay? It feels really good. Just... Don't tell anyone? Please?"

"I promise."

"Pinkie Pie promise?"

"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." I wasn't sure that was completely right, but it satisfied her.

"Is it.. normal... to like my tail being pulled?"

"I dunno. Wanna find out?" I sat up and swished my tail in her face. Carefully she got it in her teeth and gave it a small tug. "You can pull harder, you know." She yanked and I screamed.

"Sorry! I'm sorry Lily!"

I jumped up, rubbing my butt. "It's okay, I guess I'm just different, that's all. I'm sure you're normal." No chance wanting your tail pulled was normal; that bucking hurt! Still, I wasn't about to make my little sister feel like she was wierd.

"C'mere, you!" I pulled her into a huge hug. "As long as you like it, there's nothing wrong it. Okay?"

She hugged me back. "Okay."


We had a nice long talk about girl stuff after that. I'm not going into detail. No. Forget it.

It was little eye-opening, to be honest. Despite being able to sense emotions and feel other ponies physical sensations, she was really naive about a lot of things, so I did my best to answer her questions. After all, I was the big sister.


By the time the griffins landed, we were both giggling and I'd gotten Rose to open up to me more than she ever had before. "You two look happy." Ibis stalked up to us, a little blood on his beak (guess they'd been hunting, too). "Find anything cool while we were out?"

"We were waiting for you, featherhead." Rose grinned at him. That's right: Rose grinned at a boy. Our little talk had made her open up a lot... At least for a little while.

"Yeah, what took so long? You get lost or something?" I piped up.

"There was a lot of ground to cover. Couldn't see anything valuable from the air, though, and mom wouldn't let me search any buildings."

The three of us started walking back to the building.

"So, what were you two talking about?"

"Boys, of course." I smirked.

"Really? Was I brought up at all?"

"Yeah, Rose told me how she really feels about you."

"Whoa, really? C'mon, let me in on the secret!"

Rose motioned him close, took a deep breath, and yelled "I hate you!" right in his ear!

While he was busy reeling, we ran through the open doors and into my parents waiting arms, giggling like a pair of schoolfillies.

---------------------------------------------------------------

We split up into groups so we could search faster. My parents took the ground floor east side, Magpie took the whole west wing, while me, Rose and Ibis got the top floor, since we had the only keycard. This time I made sure to bring my gun, just in case. No need for our lights, since the generator was working now. There was an elevator at the back of the lobby, and we managed to ride it up one floor before Rose demanded we get out and take the stairs instead, much to Ibis' displeasure.


"Why the hell would we do that? Do you know how many floors there are?"

"Fine, you take the elevator. Lily and I will use the stairs."

I sighed. "Rose, what's the problem? It's just an elevator."

She shuddered. "I don't like it. My stomach goes all wierd."

"Baby." Ibis managed to dart out of reach before Rose could get hold of him.

"Fine. But only because Lily doesn't want to walk."


The whole ride up, she had her face buried in my mane and she was breathing hard. When we reached the top floor (swiping the card through a reader to leave the elevator), I took her aside and made her sit down. She was actually sweating.


"Are you okay?"

She nodded. "I think I'm gonna be sick, though."

I wrapped my hooves around her while Ibis went off to search the nearby rooms. "Just breathe, Rose. Relax and breathe."

"Feels like I left my stomach on the ground floor..."

"You'll be okay. Do you want a minute?"

Another nod, and I waited until she was ready before calling Ibis over. "You search that way, I'll take Rose and we'll look over there. Meet back here in half an hour." The griffin agreed, and we split up.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Ugh... What stupid pony came up with elevators anyway?" We were in a big, open room marked 'Executive Cafeteria'. There were some uncomfortable looking tables set up (several skeletons still sat there), and a pretty fancy kitchen off to one side. One wall was made almost entirely of glass, with metal behind it. Who makes a glass wall and covers it in metal anyway? Seemed stupid to me.

"It beats walking up all those stairs. Here, this'll take your mind off it!" While Rose hid under a table, I was rummaging around in the kitchen (my bag was quickly filled with preserved food), and had found a control panel on the wall. There were some labels above the buttons and switches, but they were too faded to read. I tried pushing and flicking everything anyway. No luck. "Fix it for me?" I gave Rose a hopeful grin and she sighed.

"Fine." In no time at all, she was ripping the guts out of the control panel and patching it together. Maybe she was focusing a little too much on it, but the elevator had freaked her out big time. And while she was distracted, I could scrounge up some more stuff! I cleaned out the kitchen and moved onto the tables. Cutlery (boring), food trays (still boring, and covered in 200 year old food. Yuck!), and a few briefcases that I managed to break open. Nothing more interesting than old papers that fell apart when I touched them, and some pencils. "Shouldn't there be piles of cool stuff? I mean, nopony's come in here for... Whoa." Rose yelped as the control panel sparked (singing her nose) and a rattling sound filled the room. The metal shutters behind the glass groaned as they started to raise, letting in sunlight and giving me the most amazing view I'd ever seen.


I pressed my face to the window and stared out. The city stretched out forever, far below us, like a puzzle with no end. A maze of rooftops lit by the midday sun, seperated by dark valleys that could only have been the streets between them. My beloved clouds seemed close enough to touch; I knew we were still way below them, but I put my hoof on the glass anyway, wishing I could fly, just so I could see this every day. "Rose... Look..." My voice was breathless as I called her over.

"What is it, Lily? Oh..." I saw her reflection in the window as she walked up next to me, rubbing her burned nose, and glanced out at the amazing view. She squeaked and turned, if it was possible, an even paler shade of white, walking very slowly backwards before turning and running through the door.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"Rose?" I was trotting around on my own, Rose having vanished. My hoofsteps echoed up and down the empty halls as I searched, poking my head into any rooms she might have hidden in. "C'mon, where are you?"


I found Ibis first. "Have you seen Rose?"

"Wasn't she with you?"

When I was done explaining, he looked surprised. "Sounds like she's scared of heights. Explains why she didn't like the elevator, too."

"Scared of heights? Rose isn't scared of anything!"

"Has she ever been this high up before?"

"Well, no..."

"Scared of heights. I'd bet my last cap on it."

He'd already lost his last cap to Rose, but I didn't say that. Instead I said: "Whatever. Let's just find her." I'll admit, the thought that Rose could be afraid of anything was pretty disconcerting. She'd always seemed so steady, never flinching or showing... emotion of any kind, actually. Her face always calm and blank, like a mask...

Oh, buck me up the backside... If I was right...

---------------------------------------------------------------

Eventually we found one door that had been kicked in (almost torn off it's hinges). The battered nameplate said 'CEO', with the name obscured by a big dent. "Too high... Way too high..."

I could hear muttering coming from the room and called out. "Rose, are you in here?" The muttering continued, so we walked in. It was empty... Nope, I could see a spot of white under the desk. I walked over and bent down; There she was, curled up into a ball and shaking. "Rose, it's okay to be afraid... Come out of there..." She just kept twitching.

"Too high, Lily."

"I know what'll help you feel better. Look, a terminal!" I banged my hoof on it, making her jump. That made me feel guilty. "I bet there's... stuff... on it! Computer stuff!" Okay, I knew next to nothing about terminals. I'm not an idiot, they just weren't interesting.

"Ah, leave the little chicken alone, Lily." Ibis banged on the desk, making Rose jump again. "If she wants to hide, then let her." He winked at me, letting me know he wasn't serious. "We can go find a nice, private room and make out. Sound like fun?" Before I could blink, Rose had shot out from under the desk and started beating Ibis while he screamed "JUST KIDDING! JUST KIDDING!"

When Rose came back over (leaving the griffin in pain on the floor) and hugged me tightly without speaking, I hugged her back as hard as I could.

"Fuck... You cracked my fucking ribs, Rose!" Ibis coughed, digging a healing potion from his belt and drinking it. "I'd never try anything like that with Lily, she's not my type."

"I know." Her voice was back to normal (for her), cold and passive.

"Then why'd you try and kill me?"

"I didn't. That's why you're still alive." She let me go and started typing at the terminal, pausing to look at the griffin. "Thanks for helping me."

"Uh, your welcome? Geez, you could give me a thank you kiss or something, instead of attacking me."

Rose ignored him, concentrating on breaking into the computer, her face back to being completely unreadable. Buck me at both ends, I was right. She was keeping everything inside, no matter what happened.

"Rose, can we talk? I'm worried about you." She ignored me.

"Seriously, look at me! ROSE!" I yelled at her. This time she sighed and looked me in the eye.

"Lily, I'm fine. Let's just find what we came for, and get back on the ground. Everything will be better then. Just... don't press the issue. Please?" She smiled at me (not a big smile, but her eyes weren't as dead as they'd been before, so that was something) and turned back to the terminal. I groaned and started looking around the room (ignoring the swearing Ibis, who had propped himself up against the wall). Filing cabinets, old pictures, nothing of value really... HELLO! There was a skeleton under the desk (Rose must have been laying on it before. EUGH!), but it's what was on the skeleton's foreleg that caught my eye: A Pipbuck!


I may have broken the skeleton's leg in my eagerness to get the Pipbuck, but that's because the damned thing wouldn't open. "HAH! I told you I'd find one!" I crowed, shoving it in Rose's face before trying to open it again.

"Well done. But you can't use it."

I'd resorted to chewing on it, and stopped. "Huh? Why not?"

"Becaue you need special tools to get them on and off. Tools I don't have."

"Oh..." I looked at the (now slobbery) Pipbuck. "You sure?"

"I'll have a look later, if it means that much to you. The radio should still work, even if it's not being worn."

"Good enough!" I was so proud; I'd promised myself I'd get one at some point, and I had!


SCRZZZK!!!! A burst of static from the terminal made me jump backwards, hitting Ibis, who'd finally climbed to his feet and joined us at the desk. Rose rolled her eyes while the griffin glared at me, rubbing his sore ribs. "I found some old audio logs, but they're pretty damaged. Figured we should listen anyway, see what we can learn."


A voice rose from the terminal, static-y, but clearly male.

Diary entry 233: My Pipbuck arrived today. As requested, it contains the coordinates for --static-- I really hope I never have to --static-- but the way this war is going, who --static--

Diary Entry 237: I've put in an order for the new --static-- and it should be arriving be the end of the month.

Diary Entry 242: Apparently, you can use these new --static-- in most systems. --static-- told me they use them in some Ministry mainframes, and even --static-- but I'm sure he was kidding. Who would make something that can --static--

Diary Entry 249: Someone was snooping around --static-- last night. The door was found unlocked, but the guards didn't report seeing anything on the cameras. I'm getting nervous, this --static--

Diary Entry 250: I've moved --static-- to a storage room in the west wing. It should be safe there. The passcode is --static-- 15.

Diary Entry 300: We've just got reports that --static-- was hit by a balefire bomb, and we could be next! I need to get the --static-- before I can leave, though! Fuck, I can't remember the code! Okay, calm down. My master keycard should get me in, I just need to find it, go down there, and then I can get to the Stable... Where is it? Where the fuck is it?! Right, calm! Think this through... Just breathe... Alright, there should be a spare card in the security office. Good... Wait, what's that noise? *distant rumbling* Oh, no... --static--

Diary Entry 303: --static-- three days. The generator went down when the bombs hit, and the entire building *coughing* went into lockdown. Most of the staff is already dead from radiation, a few killed themselves instead. Dammit, *coughing* my Pipbuck is driving me nuts with this clicking! Ah, fuck it all. I'm as good as dead, anyway. If anyone hears this... Tell my wife I love her... *coughing and retching* is.. is that blood?


The three of us stared at each other in shock from what we'd just heard. "Was that..." Ibis stopped, unable to say it.

"The day the world ended." Rose whispered, looking... Well, like she'd just heard the world end.

I was shaken to my very core. Knowing that Equestria had been wiped out was one thing; I'd always thought it happened instantly, and the only ponies to survive had been in Stables or so far from cities they weren't affected. It was something distant, vague, like hearing about some stranger that got killed; You feel bad for them, but it doesn't affect you on a personal level.

This was... We'd heard a bomb go off in this very city, just one of many across Equestria. We heard a pony survive, suffering for three days from radiation poisoning, and his last thoughts before dying were of his wife! Briefly, I wondered if Tequila Sunrise had died from radiation as well, or if she'd been one of the ponies that commited suicide, rather than face the slow, painful death ahead of them...

Something inside me twisted and died; Rose had called the city and it's buildings Monuments to a Fallen Past... I understood what she meant now...


"So, there's something important in the west wing, and we need the keycard to get it." Rose shook herself.

"Yeah... Mom's down there... I guess we should..." Ibis trailed off.

"Alright then, let's go." Rose led us out of the room. Since I went last, I closed the door respectfully. Didn't put the Pipbuck back, though. Something told me I might need it later. And, y'know, it was mine now...


Stop looking at me like that. I felt guilty for keeping it, but a dead pony doesn't need a Pipbuck. Tequila Sunrise and her bracelet? That was different! How? It just was! Know what, fuck you.


We'd decided there wasn't anything else of value on that floor (I suggested getting some more food from the cafeteria, but Rose grabbed me and didn't let go until we passed it), so we went back to the elevator. It took a couple of minutes to persuade Rose to get in, but we did. She lay down and turned a funny shade of green the instant it started moving, so I started talking to Ibis to try and distract her.

"So, I'm not your type, huh?" I jabbed him with my hoof.

"Nope. No offense, but you're kinda... Soft."

"Soft?" What was that meant to mean?

"Yeah. You're too lighthearted. I can tell you've never even been in a proper fight."

So I didn't get in fights. Big deal. "Oh really? What is your type then?"

He pointed at Rose. "Well, I wouldn't mind dating Rose."

She glared at him and he chuckled, giving her a wink. "How about it, Red?" Red? Oh, because of her mane. Duh. "We get back, I'll take you out on the town, show you the night of your life. Maybe we could even have a goodnight kiss." He laughed, only half-joking.

Rose stood, crossed the small space (moving her body seductively. I hadn't realised she knew how to do that!) and reared up on her hind legs, front hooves braced on Ibis chest. "I... uh..." He started stammering as Rose leaned close to his beak.

"Ibis..." Her voice was low and soft. It made me shiver, and in a good way!

"Uh, yes, Rose?" He was getting nervous; Rose had never acted like this around him before (or any boy for that matter)!

My sister looked deep into his eyes, pushed him back against the elevator wall, and...

"BLEAGH!" She threw up all over him.

"YOU FUCKING NUTCASE! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"

Rose just laughed and sat beside me. "I feel better now. Thanks, Ibis."

---------------------------------------------------------------

When we reached the ground floor and left the elevator, Ibis was still trying to get vomit out of his feathers (swearing the entire time) while me and Rose were having trouble breathing, we were laughing that hard. I managed to get a few steps into the lobby before collapsing, my chest killing me. Rose wasn't far behind, and she slumped on top of me. Magpie was waiting (My parents were still off searching), and stared at her son when he stepped out, covered in... Use your imagination. It wasn't pretty.

"What the fuck happened to you?"

"Rose threw up on me."

The look on her black and white face was priceless.

"She.. what?"

"She fucking puked on me!" He pointed at Rose, who had subsided into hiccups and giggles.

"I don't like elevators, and his flirting was making me sick." She grinned at Magpie. "So, I threw up on him."

The elder griffin faceclawed. "You're unbelievable. Ibis, clean that crap off. Rose, you and I are going to have a serious talk, young lady."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Rose was sitting in her chair at the front desk (I was standing beside her), with Magpie leaning on the desk and glaring at her. Ibis was still in the bathroom; we could hear the tap running and he was swearing more or less nonstop.

"Rose, honey, you need to learn some respect for other people. Just because you don't like him flirting doesn't mean you can attack him or throw up on him. He hits on almost every girl he sees, but it's not like he's serious."

"But he is serious."

"What? How do you... Oh, the empath thing. Are you sure?"

Rose nodded. "He likes me. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot." That was the first I'd heard of it. I'd always thought Ibis was just playing around.

"Then why do you keep doing stuff like this to him?"

"Because he's my friend and I enjoy fighting with him. And even though he's my friend, I'd rather kill him than let him touch me."

"Um, Magpie?" I butted in. "Rose isn't lying. She really doesn't like males touching her. She almost killed a a drunk buck that bumped into her once."

"Does she at least have a reason? Or is she just nuts?"

We both stared at Rose, and she stared right back. "You don't want to know."

"Spill it, Red. What's your problem?" Ibis had come out of the bathroom, his feathers dripping wet, but clean. He scowled at her.

"C'mon, tell your big sister!"

"I wanna know why you hate guys so much, too."

She stared at us. "Promise not to tell auntie and uncle, or even talk about it ever again?"

"I promise."

"I pinkie pie promise."

"Just tell us already!" She stared at Ibis until he gave in. "Fine, I promise.

Rose sighed and tapped her hooves on the desk, looking for the words. "Lily, remember the bad ponies that killed my parents?" I nodded. "They raped mama."


Oh, fuck me up the ass with a loaded shotgun. Now I understood why Rose never spoke about that night.


Magpie and Ibis seemed a little shocked, but I could tell they hadn't fully grasped it yet. "Well, that's pretty bad, but do you have to hate all guys?"

"Ibis, Rose can sense more than just emotions and feelings. She can feel everything other people feel. As in, every single physical thing we're feeling right now. If I've got an itch, she can feel it. If you cut your leg, she feels the pain. If your wings are sore from flying too much, then she can feel it like she had wings. And she's been like that almost her entire life."

Now they got it. I could tell from the look of horror they shared.

"I... I'm sorry, Rose... If I'd known, then I wouldn't have flirted with you like that..."

Rose shrugged and Magpie hugged her, stroking her mane. "Dammit, honey. You've been through a lot, haven't you? Don't worry, I won't let anything else happen to you."

I joined in the group hug. Ibis stood back, not sure what to do.

"I'll let you hug me. Just this once." Rose smiled at him, and he slowly put his arms around her.

"OW! What the fuck, Rose?!" She'd bitten him and wouldn't let go, his talon gripped tightly between her teeth. "You said I could hug you!"

She nodded.

"Can you let me go, then? OW!"

She shook her head, biting harder.

"So I can hug you, but only while you're biting me?"

Another nod.

"Fine. Crazy mare." He hugged her tightly, accepting her terms. We all stayed like that for what felt like ages, only seperating when my parents came back.


"What's with all the hugging?" Dad asked, helping mum take off her saddlebags.

"Oh, uh... Rose is scared of elevators." Rose nodded, confirming what I said.

"Wow? Really?" Dad stared at her in disbelief. "Well, try to avoid them then. Any luck?"

I started explaining what we'd found (leaving out the final audio log; that could stay between the three of us) while Ibis leaned close to Rose, rubbing his sore talon, and whispered: "Can I still flirt with you? Because I really do like you."

"I know. And yes, you can." She smiled at him, and I barely saw her hooves move.

Ever seen a griffin get thrown halfway across a room? It's pretty impressive.

Magpie just groaned. "Beat him up if you have to, Rose, but try not to puke on him again. Please?" Rose nodded and walked, smiling, over to where Ibis had landed.

"Dead yet?" She started poking him.

"Ow! No, I'm not dead. Ow! Quit it! OW! ROSE! FUCKING QUIT IT!" They were both grinning, even when it turned into a wrestling match. Rose won, of course. Ibis was busy being unconscious again. I guess beating him to a pulp was how she showed she liked him. That's not what was important.

The important thing was, Rose now considered a guy her friend.

---------------------------------------------------------------

I stared at the thing Ibis was holding. It was about the size and thickness of a Daring Do book, had a screen, some buttons and a bunch of cables coming out of it, and I had no idea what it did. "That's what we came here for?"

"Yep."

"What is it?"

"Prewar computer thing. Do I look like I know anything about computers?"

Rose groaned, lifting her head out of a box of complicated looking bits and pieces to glare at us. "You two... We come all this way, and you don't know what we're here for?"

I shook my head, and so did the griffin.

Rose facehoofed. "Fine. I'll explain, and I'll be sure to use small words."


Her explanation took a few minutes, and left me just as confused as before. "So, it's like a key? That can make computers do... stuff..."

Rose facehoofed again. "Yes, Lily. It's a key that makes computers do stuff. Very important, and very dangerous, stuff. Ibis, if you ask me 'what kind of stuff?' one more time, I swear to Celestia, I'm stuffing you in a crate and leaving you here."

The griffin shut his beak, knowing Rose was being serious.

"Now, you two head back to the lobby. Your parents should be finished packing up by now. I'll meet you there in a little while." She stuffed her head back into the box of parts.


Me and Ibis took our time going back. The keycard let us into almost every room, and while most of the junk we found was just that, junk, there were a couple of neat things. Robot ponies in glass cases, diagrams pinned up on walls (they were pretty, so I shoved some in my bag), and a working Sparkle Cola machine! We broke it open and enjoyed our nice, cold drinks as we walked (We'd stuffed the rest of the bottles in my bag, too. It was getting kinda heavy, to be honest). The west wing was pretty big, and we were walking for ages, so we started talking. Mostly about Rose.

"You think she'd ever let me take her out?"

"What, on a date?"

"Yeah."

"Not a chance."

"I don't mean any time soon, more like in a few months."

"Pfft, as if you'd survive that long, even if, for whatever reason, my parents let you join us."

"Hey, you guys could use an extra guard. And I'm sure she'd relax eventually."

"When you're dead, maybe."

"She let me hug her, and she even called me her friend. A few months, we'll be a couple. You'll see."

"The day you and Rose start dating, I'll marry a hellhound."

"Thanks for your vote of confidence. You're a real peach, Caravan."

"That's Lily to you!" I hit him as hard as I could. The bastard just laughed.

"Ooh, scary! I think a fly just landed on me. Try a little harder, Caravan!" He dodged my next hit and flew down the corridor, laughing.

"You're fucking dead!" I managed to catch him when we reached the lobby, ramming into him with all my might. Long story short, I ended up squirming and cursing while he sat on me.

"Careful. Rose'll kill you if you hurt Lily." Dad warned Ibis.

"I don't hurt defenceless girls, remember?" Oh, I was so going to beat the shit out of him when I got free.

"Where is your sister, Lily?" Mum looked down the corridoor we'd just come from.

"Said she.. UMF! had something.. GAH! to do!" I was trying to shove Ibis off of me, but his big grey butt was too heavy. How the hell could Rose knock him around so easily?!


Silence... The sounds of machinery had vanished... "Ibis, get off!" He stood up and stared down the long, empty hall behind us; I kicked him as I got to my hooves, and followed his gaze. "Whoa..." One by one, the lights were going out, darkness creeping from every corner like a living thing...

"Sorry about the wait." I screamed and almost bolted when someone spoke behind me; Rose was so damn quiet when she moved! "I had to disable the generator again."

"You disabled the generator? Why?" Magpie scratched her head. "Think of all the salvage we haven't found yet!"

"This place wants us to leave so it can go back to sleep. It's already dreaming; Can't you tell?" Rose pointed at the slowly approaching darkness; it was creeping forwards as each light faded, reclaiming the building inch by inch.

"Um, I'm with Rose on this one. The thing is in my bag, so let's leave. Now?" I swear the darkness was looking right at me, and I could hear something whispering in the back of my mind.

"The girls are right, we should go." Dad looked like he was about to piss himself.

---------------------------------------------------------------

We made ourselves scarce, pausing only to close the doors behind us, and hurrying through the streets, trying to get as far away as we could before night fell.

The lengthening shadows reached out towards our wagon like the grasping tendrils of the city itself, every dark window and alley seemed full of watchful eyes as we passed, our group speaking in hushed tones if we spoke at all.

"Rose, are there other ghosts here?" I looked towards my sister; she was messing with my Pipbuck.

"Yep."

"How many?"

"Lots."

"Lots?"

"Yeah. A lot of ponies died here and can't leave. Remember what Miss Tequila said? There's a star watching them, and it's laughing because they're trapped."

I shuddered, making a promise to myself that I'd never come back here again. Ghosts, laughing stars and dreaming buildings. I fucking hated the city.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Two weeks there, two weeks back. The trip back had been slightly more eventful, but not exciting by any means. Rose had gotten the radio on my Pipbuck working pretty quickly, so we'd at least had some music (I couldn't help but wonder what the DJ looked like. He sounded cute!), Ibis had lost all his salvage trying to beat Rose at poker, and I'd managed to bring down a huge radhog with my revolver! What? Ugh, fine. It wasn't that big. Like half my size. But I wasn't expecting to be ambushed while I was taking a... You know what? Never mind.

---------------------------------------------------------------

"SWEET CELESTIA'S ORGASMIC SUNSPOTS!"

"LILY! Watch your language!"

"Sorry mum!" My mother shook her head, disgusted at my language. But sitting in front of me was more caps than I'd ever seen in my life, and it was just my share!

After collecting our pay from the mayor, we'd all gone to a bar to split the profits. Rose was sharing a bottle of whiskey with my dad (who was telling her about when he travelled with her father), Ibis was arguing with Magpie over something or other, and me? I was drooling over my pile of caps. No, not literally. Okay, fine. Maybe just a little. But that was a lot of caps!

"You need to set a good example for Rose. You're the big sister, after all."

"Uh, mum?" I pointed to Rose and my dad; they'd started singing a very dirty song about Luna and the full moon. Rose had a nice singing voice, to be honest. I'd forgotten how she sounded when she was having fun. "I don't think I'm the one you need to worry about."

My mother facehoofed. "Dear! That is not a song for fillies!"

"Ah, Rose ain't a filly! She's almost a mare, fer Celestia's sake!" Dad messed up Rose's mane, making her squeal. "Hey Rose, wanna know how you got your name?"

She nodded eagerly. "Yes please, uncle!"

"Dear, maybe that's not such a good idea-" Mum tried to stop him, but it was too late. I perked up; this was a story I'd never heard before!


"Now, your dear old dad only had two loves in his entire life. Whiskey was the second, making it or drinking it. Your mother was the first, and I'd never seen such a pair. An earth pony and a unicorn! He was the toughest son-of-a-gun I'd ever met, and the nicest. We'd been friends since we were colts, and nothing could tear us apart. That buck... I couldn't have asked for a better friend. Not that he was perfect; Celestia's Sunny-side-up Flank, no! He spent almost as much time hungover as he did drunk! And the fighting! He once joked he was trying to get thrown out of every bar in the wasteland. Of course, he did have a concussion at the time, so I'm not sure how serious he was..."

Dad paused to swig some whiskey, then passed the bottle to Rose, who was listening intently. Magpie and Ibis had stopped their arguing to listen as well.

"Yeah, he was a scoundrel alright. But a good one. Always ready with a smile or a kind word, never held a grudge; that sort of thing. He made more friends in bar fights than he did enemies; 'Win or lose, it's how much fun you have', that's what he used to say, then he'd buy the other guy some drinks. He was good looking in his day, too. Right, dear?"

My mum snorted. "He was a mess. But yes, he was kind of attractive; You just had to get past the blood, bruises and alcohol first."

"Haha, that old rogue gave me hell when I married you. Remember what he said on our wedding day?"

"Ugh. I remember his black eye more, but yes. He said if I made you too respectable, he'd have to disown you."

"Ahahaha! I'd forgotten about his shiner! Yep, that's what he said alright. Celestia burn his butt, he could be a bastard at times. What was I... Yeah, he was a real looker back then. Mares would throw themselves at his hooves, and he turned 'em all down; Said he was trying to get up the courage to ask out the girl of his dreams: Your mother, Rose."

"She was an artist of many talents, always painting or drawing or singing... Hell, that mare just loved to create. O' course, the best thing she ever made was... Can you guess?"

Rose shook her head.

"It's you, kid! The day you were born, your parents were so proud!"

"Uncle, what about my name?"

"Oh, fine." Dad messed up her mane again. "Now, it's kind of a long story... It all started late one night, in this little dirt-hole of a town. We'd just finished trading and gone to the bar, where your parents were talking about having kids. Well, your dear old mother was talking about it. Your pop didn't think he'd be any good at being a parent; Look how wrong he was! Alright, I'll get on with the story, just stop poking me! Like I was saying, about then the sherrif walked in..."

---------------------------------------------------------------

"And that's how Rose got her name." Dad finished up both the story and the bottle of whiskey, leaving me staring at him in disbelief. Rose was under the table, weezing; She'd laughed so hard she'd fallen off her seat and was having trouble breathing. Mum had her face buried in her hooves, humiliated. Magpie and Ibis just looked dumbfounded. "Any questions?"

I raised my hoof. "Yeah. You're full of shit, dad."

"That's not a question, Lily." He peered into the bottle. "Why's the whiskey gone?"

"Because you and Rose drank it all, and I still reckon you're full of shit. Do you really expect me to believe that Rose's mother, the most gentle and caring unicorn in Equestria, was an uncontrollable pyromaniac?"

"Only if we let her near a flamethrower. And after that day, we never did."

"How about Rose's dad, the hellhound and the whiskey bottle?"

"One hundred percent true."

"I still say you're full of shit."

"Fine, don't believe me."

"Enough, you two!" Mum glared at us. "I think we should call it a night. Lily, take your sister outside, I think she's going to be sick. And you..." She rounded on my dad. "Did you have to go into so much detail?! You know what I went through back then!"

"It wasn't so bad! And besides, it made Rose laugh!"

"Not so bad? You didn't get your tail burned off! And stop laughing!" WHACK! She hit dad, and that made him laugh harder. I was guiding a wobbly Rose outside, Ibis and Magpie staring at my parents like they were insane. It was one hell of a story, even if it sounded fake... Ugh!

"Rose! Careful!" At least we'd gotten outside before she threw up.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Two days later, I was watching Magpie freak out.

"You. Did. WHAT?!"

Ibis cringed. "How was I meant to know she's better at poker when she's drunk?"

"You shouldn't have been playing poker with her at all! Six months salary. Six fucking months! I don't fucking believe you!" She turned to my dad, shaking her head in disbelief. "Are you sure you can't let him off?"

Dad shook his head. "It's not up to me. You'll have to ask Rose."

All eyes turned to the white mare, and Magpie groaned. "You're not gonna let him go, are you?"

Rose shrugged. "Nope. He owes me too much."

"I can't fucking believe this..." The elder griffin turned back to my dad. "Fine. Have you got room for an extra guard?"

Dad nodded with a grin. "Good company is always welcome; and since Ibis won't be getting paid, we can afford to hire you.'

Magpie faceclawed. "Rose, please kill my son. I'm begging you."

Rose smiled and pounced on Ibis ("OOF!"), not attacking him, just laying across his back. "You wanted to come with us; now you can." She poked the back of his head.

"I wanted to get paid, too."

"Then you shouldn't have lost." She poked him again.

"You shouldn't be so rutheless at cards."

"I wanted you to come anyway." More poking.

"Aww, I knew you liked me! FUCK!" Rose had bitten his wing and was twisting it. "Let me go! That fucking hurts! Fuck, I'm not kidding!" She let him go and he rolled over, dislodging her. "That's it, Rose, let's see how you like it!" He tried grabbing her and... A few seconds later, he was on his back groaning, with Rose sitting on his chest.

"You lose." She licked his cheek and they both smiled.

"Brat."

"Featherbrain."


FOOTNOTE: LEVEL UP
BARTER 50
New Perk: Fortune Finder -- The untold riches of the wasteland await! You find more bottle caps whenever you search containers.

Quest Perk Gained: Claustrophobia -- You need the open skies above you to feel safe. -1 Agility when indoors. In addition, dark, enclosed areas like tunnels are likely to cause panic attacks. But, you gain +1 Charisma when outside. You should have been a Pegasus.

Companion Gained: Ibis


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks to KKat for creating FO:E, a world so fun to play in it should be illegal! And a super huge thanks to everyone that's been reading so far!

By Luna's full moon! I think this chapter is twice as long as the rest of the story! No wonder I feel worn out! Ah, well. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. ^_^