• Published 19th Nov 2018
  • 14,902 Views, 1,500 Comments

Bedbound (And Beyond) - Cackling Moron



Freshly-arrived human in a state of some disrepair is tended to by local deity.

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Always watch your back

Author's Note:

I hope you like talking.

I also hope that what I intended to convey here is conveyed. I imagined that I have fluffed it, however.

Oh well. What's done is done. This is what has happened.

Luna wasn’t so much angry as she was disappointed. I could tell. It came off her in waves.

“What have you and my sister been doing?” She asked and could do nothing but shrug and not look her in the face while I fiddled with the bedclothes. I couldn’t immediately think of what it might be that Luna was upset about so my brain decided that it had to be everything.

“Nothing. Friend stuff. You know, normal stuff,” I said.

That’ll do the trick.

Luna did not appear convinced.

“And how is it her scent is on you in such abundance?”

What a way to put it! What could you even say to that?

“Uh, well she has been looking after me, I guess that’s how?” I ventured, risking a glance up. Luna looked much as she had before. Which is to say, unhappy.

“She must have been taking particular care in looking after you,” she said.

Felt I was missing something there.

“Yes?”

Maybe not the right answer. Luna’s expression told me this may not have been the right answer. I shrank further beneath the safety of the covers.

“I’m sorry, did I do something wrong?”

Luna sighed, shaking her head. Her mane sparkled. Pretty, yeah, but I had no time to appreciate that. Things were far too tense.

“No, no you did not do anything wrong. My sister may have been letting her excitement get the better of her judgement, that is all.”

Heaping all the responsibility onto Celestia was nice and all in that it let me off the hook, but it did kind of suggest I had no agency. Like I hadn’t really been involved in any of this. And I had been, if you think about it.

And I did have agency, damnit! A little bit. Okay, maybe not much at all right now but still, I wasn’t just here to sit and look pretty and get talked about.

“If you say so,” I said. “Would have thought at least some of this was my fault.”

“Are a head of state who found a dying creature from another world and secretly nursed it back to health before proceeding to look after it on your own and would you also have most-likely continued looking after said creature on your own had you not been discovered, restricting the creature’s contact with others so as to be able to spend more time with them yourself to the exclusion of anyone else? And would you, on discovering that the creature could talk and understand you and somehow seemed to share your bizarre sense of humour, proceed to become exceptionally, almost intimately friendly with them over the course of scarcely less than three days?”

“...no?”

“Then your share of the blame is minimal”.

Is that how that works? I think I’d kind of lost the thread of what Luna had been saying somewhere in the middle of all that. I messed around with the bed covers some more and succeeded only in pulling them off my feet.

“I’m getting the impression that this isn’t something you’re just going to shrug off?” I asked, entertaining the merest sliver of hope. A sliver dashed to pieces immediately before Luna even needed to speak.

“No, it is not,” she said, flatly.

Great.

“What’ll happen, then?”

She opened her mouth to speak, stopped, closed it, thought, and then said:

“I shall consider what the best course of action is to be.”

Because that wasn’t ominous or anything.

“But before that I have duties to attend to. Do you have enough to keep yourself occupied?” She asked, looking me over, getting momentarily alarmed and distracted by the sight of my feet. Guess she’d never really noticed them before. Feet aren’t the best.

“Well, you left the book and there’s probably going to be dinner at some point and Celestia said she, uh said she might...come...see me later...?”

Given the topic of conversation I could probably have picked a better way of ending that sentence. Instead it just sort of died in my mouth as I spoke the words and saw again how Luna’s expression soured. Go me.

“Thanks for the book, by the way. Did I say thank you already? I don’t think I did. So thank you,” I said. Good save.

For possibly the first time since she’d first appeared Luna smiled. It wasn’t especially uplifting though. More of the rather wan, sad sort of smile. The opposite of the kind I would have wanted.

“The book is very old, as I say. Do take care of it.”

“I will I will. Uh, Luna?”

“Yes?”

“I didn’t get Celestia in trouble or anything, did I?” I asked. She pondered, then:

“No. It is merely something better dealt with sooner.”

And then she was gone, walking off without a backward glance.

I’d really like a meeting or conversation with Luna to go well for me one of these days. Maybe I’d try asking her about the weather next time. Even I couldn’t possibly fuck that up.

Too late now though. No use crying over spilt milk. Best to just buckle down and await the inevitable consequences of my blundering actions. Sigh.

I tried lifting Luna’s book off of the side table but I had neither the leverage nor the strength in my arms to manage it. Emasculating. At least no-one had been around to see me fail or read about me fail. That would be have been the worst.

This left me in exactly the same position I’d been in earlier and it was a trial not to grind my teeth in frustration. I thought about spaceships because lasers are cool. I tried to remember something concrete about my life back on Earth but only managed to give myself another headache. I then felt grumpy about how the act of trying to remember shouldn’t give me a headache.

I was grumpy for a while.

Dinner arrived, I thanked the fleeting ponies as ineffectually as I had the last time and I ate. Later, the plates were removed. I hadn’t been especially hungry.

I sat and stared into space. Outside, it got dark. Celestia did not reappear.

Eventually I was forced into using the bathroom, which at least broke the monotony. While I was in the I briefly considered trying to have a bath on my own, but then I imagined that that was the sort of thing that would put the doctor into a froth, so thought better of it and got back into bed instead.

At some point I must have nodded off while watching the door.

No dreams, which was probably just as well, but I again managed to wake up just as the sun was starting to make itself known. This might have had something to do with the fact that no-one ever closed the bloody curtains in my room, now that I come to think of it, but a bit too late.

Seeing no reason not to I heaved out of bed to go and watch the sun again. Strolling casually was getting a lot easier now, though I seemed to be favouring my left leg more than I might have expected. Probably slept on my right funny or something. Or something else. Bodies are weird.

Still, getting across the room was now not even a big deal, and this was a good thing. I’d be tap dancing around the place in no-time. Presumably. Until then pretty happy to just stand, listing to the side and watching the sun come up.

“You’re an early riser,” said a voice in my ear.

I leapt and yelped and whirled and found Celestia less than a foot from me,

“Jesus Christ! Celestia! How! Why! You - oh - you did it again - agh…”

Clutching at my chest and leaning on the windowsill for support I tried to glare at her but she was just grinning so fiercely that I couldn’t even be mad at her.

“You can move real quiet when you want to, you know that?” I said, pulse slowly steadying.

“I do, yes,” she said with intense pride, standing up straight. This made her maybe about my height, though the horn took her maybe an inch or two over. But that’s cheating. I’m taller. This is important.

“Smug horse. I’ll put a bell on you.”

“Where?” She asked, earnestly, taking me off-guard. I hadn’t actually thought of answer. I’d just been throwing things out there. I thought furiously for a second or two.

“...around your neck?”

Celestia cocked her head as she considered this.

“I suppose that’d work.”

Glad that was settled.

I then turned back to face the window and Celestia came in to stand beside me, the two of just watching the sun. Another lovely day from the looks of things. In my head it made perfect sense that magical flying horse land would have nice weather. It just wouldn’t have made as much sense otherwise. Had it been overcast, it would have just been odd looking.

Home had been overcast a lot. This, at least, I could remember. A very grey place.

“I’ve seen maybe two sunrises here properly so far and both have been gorgeous,” I said, and somehow this was enough to prompt more nuzzling, Celestia Goddamn burrowing into the crook of my neck as one wing went around me.

“Thank you,” she said.

Was she taking credit for the quality of the sunrises? That seemed a little much. What was she, some kind of god princess? She did have a sun kind of painted or whatever onto her hip but still, come on. That’s going a bit far.

Not like I was going to call her out or anything, of course.

The nuzzling continued, her wing exerting enough consistent though gentle pressure to slowly-but-surely press me against her side. I was helpless to resist any of this, of course, but it did start me thinking.

“H-hey, Celestia, I got a question.”

“Hmm?” She hummed and I felt as much as heard the hum and I could smell her and she was so warm and I really needed to focus and actually ask the question.

“All this touchy-feely stuff - I’m not objecting to it, don’t get me wrong - but, uh, it is normal, right? This is a cultural thing? Would happen to anyone?”

She paused the nuzzling, if only for a second, and then resumed.

“Yes,” she said.

“Oh. Oh okay, that’s good.”

Colour me reassured.

Another pause from Celestia.

“Why?”

“Just, ah, something Luna said is all. Well, more implied than said. Probably nothing.”

That got her attention. While her wing stayed where it was - keeping me where I was - her face pulled back enough so she could look properly into mine.

“What?” She asked.

“Probably nothing, like I say. Forget I said anything. Can’t trust a word that comes out of my mouth,” I blurted.

Celestia didn’t so much as move a muscle but something about her changed and all at once I felt very small, very exposed and entirely unable to move. She also may have got a touch warmer, almost to the point of being uncomfortably warm. That was probably just my imagination, though.

“What?” She said again, and though her tone hadn’t changed much it had at least changed enough to leave me nowhere to go.

“Well, uh, it’s just that she, ah, well, she said she could smell...you...on me?”

Seemed as good a place to start as any.

There wasn’t exactly a lot for me to retell and I did my best. Likely I mangled a bit of it because Celestia looked increasingly grave the more she heard. Just after midway through her wing withdrew, leaving me bereft. I finished and again had the feeling I’d just dropped someone in it.

“I didn’t get Luna into trouble, did I?” I asked. I noticed then that I was clinging to the windowsill again, watching Celestia nervously. She looked agitated, certainly more so than I’d seen her before.

“No…” she said distantly before shaking her head and focusing on me properly. “No you didn’t. Don’t worry. She’s probably just overreacting. You know how protective little sisters can be.”

“Totally.”

I did not. Or maybe I did? Fucking memory loss.

Where we were supposed to go from here I had no idea so instead I just stood in silence like a sinking pudding, shuffling my weight from foot to foot and clinging desperately to the windowsill for physical and emotional support.

“So…” I said. “You got, uh, another busy day lined up?”

Celestia brightened up, and her radiant smile was almost enough to convince me that everything was totally peachy.

“Not too busy. If I can get it done quickly I should be able to come back and then we can do anything you’d like.”

“Anything?” I asked.

“Anything.”

There were far, far too many things that came to my mind for me to be easily able to pick one. So I panicked and grabbed at random.

“Uh, you guys have ice cream? Like, as a thing?”

She giggled, I leant more heavily on the windowsill.

“We do,” she said.

“We could get ice cream?” I suggested, testing the waters, ready to backpedal at a moment’s notice.

“That certainly falls under ‘anything’. I think I’d like that,” she said. I was relieved.

Personally, I wanted to see a horse eating an ice cream. Either a little tub or a cone, I didn’t mind. It’d be great. That and, you know, ice cream. There were no drawbacks to my plan.

“That’s good then. It’s a d- uh, it’s a thing we can do. That I look forward to. Doing. Yes.”

You jackass. Try thinking before speaking in future. And don’t even give me any of that about her smile. I know she’s smiling! I know it’s overwhelming! You think I don’t know that? That’s no excuse! You very nearly cocked things right good there!

Thankfully, Celestia had noticed neither my very near-miss or my subsequent internal argument. She was just there, smiling, lovely, magic hair flapping away.

“I’m looking forward to it as well. I’ll do my best to make sure we have time to enjoy ourselves,” she said.

Celestia then stepped forwards and I got another hug. A proper one. She plopped herself down right in front of me and wrapped her arms - forelegs, I guess? - around me and everything, along with the wings. So warm.

“I’ll see you later,” she said, again insisting on putting her mouth right by my ear and speaking far too softly. The shivering happened and she giggled. She was doing that on purpose!

“You…” I said, trying to sound firm and unyielding but with the residual twitches still coming I couldn’t really manage it. She broke the hug and backed off, grinning.

“Hmm? Me?”

“Yeah yeah, play coy. I see right through you, you know,” I said, flapping a hand at her, the other on my hip. I probably looked worse than I pictured I did. Wearing the tablecloth would really take the wind out of anything I felt like doing as far as dignity went.

“Oh I’m sure you do,” Celestia said, grinning wider still as she opened up the door, spared me a final look and trotted on back out.

And I stood there, smiling like a dopey tit, right up until the door closed.

With Celestia gone, gone too was the wonderfully soothing effect of her smile and her general presence and the weight of it all came back down on me. I had the distinct and unavoidable impression that things were all due to go downhill shortly, and that it was probably in some way my fault.

“Good job. No idea what you did but you’ve apparently made a hash of it. Cracking stuff,” I said, slumping over forward and letting my arms dangle limply.

Today was rubbish. I went and had an angry bath. Take that, world.

Later, breakfast. Then nothing.

I really, really had to see about getting out of the palace. Hell, getting out of the room would be good. Maybe go back to the gardens? Could ask if I was allowed to do that. Anything would have been welcome at this point. Solitary confinement wasn’t proving the quiet, peaceful experience I had initially considered it might have been. Turns out it sucked. Who knew?

Oh was I looking forward to ice cream. If it happened. I hoped it was a good long walk away. I hoped there were winding streets. Maybe Celestia and me would get lost! That’d be fun.

I mean, she could fly and teleport so it wouldn’t be properly lost, but still. I was sure she could play along for my benefit. It’d be a little adventure!

The thought at least buoyed me, for a little while. Maybe today wasn’t completely rubbish.

Later still the doctor reappeared and I think it was a pretty good sign of how dire things had got that I was actually happy to see him. Certainly, he was surprised at the enthusiasm with which he was greeted.

There followed another exciting round of walking in circles around the room, bending, stretching and general dressage. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun, and by the end of it it was starting to become pretty obvious that something was actually wrong with my right leg. I was heavily favouring the left and had developed a fairly significant limp. The doctor said it was something he’d need to keep an eye on.

Great.

At least lunch was good. Hearty fare. I even licked the plate.

And then, again, nothing.

I went to take closer looks at the artwork. Up close they still meant nothing to me, but at least I was able to appreciate the detail. Pretty metal stuff, in some cases. Or at least as metal as anything involving brightly-coloured magic horses could be. Some of them had monsters.

Did monsters exist too? Why not? In for a penny, right?

I was trying to remember the exact difference between a gryphon and a hippogriff - I remembered both, go figure, I should really stop being surprised by what I can remember 0 when I got to experience a stereophonic, two-tone crack and flash which startled me so much I actually did fall over, leg giving out in shock and seeing me tumbling to the carpet, blinking the afterimages out of my eyes.

I saw what the problem was.

Standing there, either side of the room and either side of me, were Luna and Celestia. Neither looked particularly happy to be there.

There was something wrong with these two, I swear to God. If they weren’t waltzing into my dreamscapes or sneaking up behind me they were teleporting into the room and not using a perfectly good door.

“Oh you two are here wow I didn’t hear you come in...” I grumbled as I got back to my feet, something easier said than done these days.

They swapped inscrutable expressions and advanced, which was surprisingly menacing all things considered. Celestia ended up more-or-less alongside or behind me, with Luna therefore sort of facing us both. I just stood as straight as I could and tried not to move or breath too loudly.

“We need to talk,” Celestia said.

I know it’s cliche to point this out but come on, has anyone ever said that before anything good? Why even say it? Why not just slit my throat now?

“All three of us?” I asked.

“Yes,” Luna said.

Eep. Again.

“To be blunt, it concerns the nature of your relationship,” she said, looking between Celestia and me.

“We’re just friends!” We both said in perfect time and in exactly the same tone of righteous indignation.

Kind of undermined what we said, if I’m being honest, impressive as it was. Like we’d practised it.

Luna gave me another sniff, this one more for theatrical purposes.

“Very good friends, it seems,” she said.

Dramatical horse.

As an aside, how come Luna had smelt Celestia on me but not me on Celestia? That didn’t seem fair.

“What’s wrong with friends?” Celestia huffed.

“Nothing is wrong with friends, sister, I am merely concerned over the breakneck speed with which this friendship appears to have progressed.”

“Isn’t ‘fast friends’ an expression?” I offered. I got glared at by both of them. I decided to be quiet for a bit.

“Has Twilight Sparkle returned to Ponyville?” Luna asked, moving her attention back to her sister.

“Not yet, she told me she’s due to leave on the train later - why?” Celestia asked back. Then she gasped and grabbed me with her wings, yanking me over and pulling me close. I yelped. “No! He’s too delicate to be moved!”

I really don’t think that excuse was fooling anyone anymore, especially as I was literally standing there with the both of them. That, and Celestia had just manhandled me like a sack of flour

None of which was even getting into whatever the hell they were actually talking about. What was happening, exactly?

Also, sidebar: was Luna making these names up?

“Moved?” I asked, muffled, my face pressed into Celestia’s side. She’d kind of bent me over when she’d pulled me in and my arms were sticking out. I probably looked a tit. More so than usual.

“I think Luna wants to send you away to Ponyville,” Celestia said accusingly.

That didn’t sound great.

“Uh, how ‘away’ is away?”

Luna sighed.

“You are not being exiled - he is not being exiled,” she said, first to me and then to Celestia. “This is wouldn’t be permanent. You would know where he is and it would only be until he has more fully recovered. At the current rate that will be a few weeks, if that. Looking at him it could be days and he will be walking back on his own.”

Hyperbole, I assumed. Unless this place was close enough, then I guess it’d be worth a shot? Just because? I did like walking, even with a limp.

“Then why send him at all?” Celestia asked.

“To give the both of you some space. Space to perhaps better focus on duties that may have been attended to without due consideration and space to gain a better understanding of who you actually are.”

Again, to Celestia first and then to me.

I tried to gently extricate myself from Celestia’s grasp but she was crazy strong and I wasn’t going anywhere, so I gave up, face smooshed against her. At least she was soft.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” I said.

“Which rather proves my point,” Luna said, her eyes flicking down to me.

Oops.

“Space would be good for both of you. Space and some time to perhaps better consider the nature of your relationship. You,” she said, pointing to Celestia. “Are lavishing considerable time and apparently a significant level of affection on a new arrival who can’t even remember his own name and who’s barely been awake a week and who is more-or-less utterly dependant on you. I do not want to bring up the birds again, sister, but-”

“This is completely different!”

Luna didn’t say ‘It’s not and you know it’s not’ but then again she didn’t have to. Great ability to speak with her face, Luna. It’s amazing she needed to ever say anything at all.

“The birds couldn’t talk to me,” Celestia said, unable to hold Luna’s eye. “I’ve missed having someone to talk to.”

“You had a rather lengthy and pleasant conversation with Twilight Sparkle last night, as I recall.”

Celestia gave Luna a dark look

“That’s not the same. That’s not the same and you know it isn’t.”

Luna powered on through the dark look, barely slowing.

“All the more reason to ensure rash action does not spoil or undermine something of value,” she said.

“What-” I started, but I didn’t finish.

“And you,” my turn to get pointed at. “Have developed a possibly unhealthy level of emotional dependence on a single individual, the only one you feel comfortable around in a world you do not come from, a world you know absolutely nothing about, and she has the kind of responsibilities that could quite unexpectedly take her away from you without a moment’s notice, leaving you bereft.”

Well she wasn’t wrong. But still! I was a big boy, damnit! I didn’t need emotional support! Could just internalise my anguish forever with no negative consequences whatsoever. Like a normal person! What could be healthier?

I still had only the flimsiest idea of what this was even about or where it was going. I’d put my mind somewhere else, somewhere it couldn’t do any harm. I let it all just wash over me.

“...haven’t developed an unhealthy of level of emotional dependence…” I mumbled, acutely aware of Celestia clinging onto me like I was a teddy bear.

“Last night you informed me that you thought my sister might visit you again. Did she?”

“No.”

“And what did you do for the rest of the night?”

“...waited for her…”

This is why no-one likes having serious conversations. They’re not fun. And sometimes they’re competitions and you always seem to be the one losing.

“That and you’re both a bad influence on each other to extent I fear for his physical wellbeing. He has a black eye, need I remind you, and do not attempt an excuse - I already know it was on account of the two of you egging one another on. I can see it.”

She had us there.

“When you went into my dreams did you read my mind or something?” I asked, cautiously.

“No, it was just not especially hard to work out,” she said.

“...I could have fallen down some stairs?” I ventured.

“Which would be better how?”

Had me there, too. She was pretty good.

“Further, while providing a peaceful and restive environment for recuperation and also providing greater opportunity to develop a wider social network, Twilight Sparkle is also a foremost magical authority - she may well be able to provide insight on how he came to be here and how best he might be returned home,” Luna said.

Oh yes. Home. That place I came from in a way no-one seems to have looked into and which I can’t remember a detail single of. Definitely a place I was keen to get back to. Yep. Ready, raring and eager, that was me. Definitely. Not low-key terrified of being thrown from the one place I was starting to get a vague level of familiarity with back into the place I’d come from and knew next to nothing about and couldn’t recall a single friendly person in.

Yep. Couldn’t wait. Sooner the better. Rip me up by the roots and toss me back. I love it.

Also can we just go back and really appreciate Luna’s sentence? I’d really have to sit down and have it read out again to fully take in all the words she’d thought were the right ones to use. She sounded like someone being paid by the hour. Holy crap.

That did appear to be end of Luna’s spiel as well, as she said nothing further. The ball was clearly in my and Celestia’s court, which meant I had to think about what to do and come up with an answer.

Or, better, defer to Celestia.

“What do you think?” I asked her.

She was a princess after all, right? Used to making big decisions. And this was hardly big! I was just an idiot. And - as had apparently been made clear - a mostly-helpless idiot. No shame in living down to that, eh?

She let me go at last and I stood while she thought to herself, chewing her lip.

“Luna may be right. We may be rushing into this,” she said, at length.

A depressingly sensible answer. I thought about her response. Something about it stuck out to me, but it took a moment to figure out what. Then I got it, so I asked:

“Rushing into what? What is this?”

The shocked look on Celestia’s face suggested she had not considered this question before now. In fairness, neither had I. I still wasn’t.

“...perhaps some time to think would be...sensible…”

I wished I was wearing something more substantial than the tablecloth. I wished I was back in the bed under enough duvets it was impossible to tell I was even there. I felt cold. I didn’t even really know why.

“You’re probably right,” I said. She usually was.

Wait, how could I know that? I’ve known the lady less than a week! Her being right could be an unusual thing! And here was I assuming not? Assuming she had consistent and impeccable judgement?

Oh God, Luna really was right. I knew that I’d trust Celestia and I barely knew her.

Feck.

“I’ll - I will go and talk to Twilight,” Celestia said, leaving the room, despondent.

That left me and Luna.

“I imagine you must think ill of me for this,” Luna said, not looking at me. Always a good start that.

Honestly, I didn’t mind people not looking at me when they spoke to me. Some people get mad about that. It never ruffled me much. I just shrugged.

“You actually have a point.”

She started. Apparently she had expected some pushback.

“Oh?”

“Well, I’m not going to piss on your leg, Luna, I’ve got a soft spot for Celestia a mile wide. And she’s really warm. But, uh, wait, forget that part - I’ve got a huge soft spot for Celestia, I can recognise this. I think about her way too much and when she’s not around I’m mainly just waiting for her to show up. And I’ve known her for barely any time at all. And until I met her I’d never met anyone who wasn’t of my species. And she also kind of saved my life so I was well-disposed towards her to start with. And I really like her a lot. Maybe, uh, too much, So yeah. Maybe this is hasty.”

I paused.

“She’s very pleasant, though.”

And she smelt nice. And her eyes were nice to look at. And her laugh sounded lovely. Her voice did too, actually. And she laughed at my jokes! And it was quite nice when her wings went around me and-

Okay, I might have been developing something of an unhealthy infatuation. Again, Luna might have had a point.

Celestia was just so nice though! She’d looked after me! Kept me from dying!

“What was the name of that thing? Florence Nightingale effect? Probably not using it right…” I said to Luna, who just blinked at me.

“A bird?”

I don’t know why I expected this to work.

“Nevermind.”

I knew what I meant. I think?

Wait, was the Florence Nightingale effect the one where the person caring is the one who gets infatuated, or the other way around? I might have had this whole thing back-asswards.

You know what? Forget it.

“So how is this going to work, exactly? Me being palmed off?” I asked.

“You are not being ‘palmed off’, as you call it. You are being passed into the capable care of another until you are recovered. Twilight Sparkle was Celestia’s student and now she is a princess in her own right. A very intelligent young mare. She lives in a...moderately peaceful countryside town. It’ll be good for your recovery. And you will be able to contact Celestia if you wish, you’re not being denied that.”

“Sounds idyllic. Is she, uh, nice? Twilight? Or is it Sparkle? Oh God, if I use the wrong one she really won’t like me.”

Pony naming convention was a mystery to me.

“Technically I suppose she should be addressed as princess, though she prefers Twilight to the best of my knowledge. She is nice. You seem concerned?”

“I haven’t had the best luck in, ah, winning over the locals. Celestia’s the only one around here who likes me. Everyone else just puts up with me,” I said.

“The staff have spoken quite favourably of you, actually,” Luna said, which made me double-take.

“What? They have?”

“Yes. They say that you said thank you to them, and they also passed on your regards to the chef, who was very pleased.”

Well that’s a surprise.

“...wow, okay, didn’t expect that. They barely looked at me!”

“That would be because they are concentrating on doing their jobs,” said Luna.

“Oh. Well when you put it like that I guess that makes sense. Still, they’re about the only ones, then. Them and Celestia.”

“I also like you.”

I narrowed my eyes and bent a little to bring my head level with hers.

“Do you? Do you really, Luna?”

She rankled, frowning.

“Yes! Would it be easier for you to believe if I were to drape myself over you?”

“Uh, ah, no,” I said, straightening right back up again.

“Well then.”

Her tail flicked. It’s odd seeing something that’s always swishing flick. It’s like an extra big flick. I adjusted my tablecloth.

“Can we at least agree that the doctor doesn’t like me?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Luna said.

“He doesn’t. But that’s fine. Just so you know,” I said.

Was he being consulted about this? I got the notion that he wasn’t. I’d probably get blamed, somehow, and he’d like me less. Well whatever, son, I’m being shipped out somewhere so meh.

Luna looked me over and I had the distinct impression I was being scrutinised.

“You are a remarkably relaxed individual,” she said.

“Thanks?”

“I am not wholly sure I meant it as a compliment. I expected you to have reacted rather more forcefully to the prospect of being moved elsewhere and away from Celestia. Some protest would not have come as a surprise.”

“Oh. Okay? Just seems like I don’t have much to gain from getting in a tizz over anything. I mean, sure, I’m not thrilled but I am coming back, right? What am I going to do right now? Yell? Not sure how that’d help me,” I said, shrugging.

“Such passivity could be exploited.”

“Is it being exploited?”

“No.”

“Well then,” I said, doing my best to mimic her own intonation, which got at least a tiny smile out of her.

Again, even if it was being exploited what the hell was I meant to do about it? Punch a horse? In my state? Some of them had horns. Some of them had armour! I didn’t much fancy my chances.

Besides, shouting always gave me a headache. I was certain of this.

A few silent minutes after this Celestia came back. She was accompanied by a little purple pony who appeared to be an state of acute excitement. This spiked when she saw me. That’s unusual. I would have assumed I’d have the opposite effect on most people.

Celestia approached and the purple one dashed ahead, reaching me first.

“Hi! I’m Twilight Sparkle!” Said the purple pony.

Alicorn, actually. I remembered that. Wings and horn, different kind.

“Hello Twilight Sparkle. I might have a name but no-one knows what it is. You’re one of the little ones,” I said.

She came up to round about my waist, maybe a little higher, staring up at me with scarily gigantic eyes while I stared down at her with my perfectly normal sized ones. I seemed to have taken her off-guard with my opener as her look of delighted exuberance went over to one of confusion instead.

“Um, yes?”

“Sorry, my bad. Just Luna said ‘princess’ so I kind of figured you’d be, like, yeigh high,” I said, raising a hand to about Luna’s level. Twilight watched this - distracted by my hand for a moment - and blushed lightly.

“Oh, no. I’m not that tall.”

“I noticed. But that’s fine. Forget I said anything, I’ve sidetracked this whole thing. Let’s start over. Hi. I’m a guy, some human, hello.”

I bent slightly and held my hand out towards her and she regarded it again. Slowly, cautiously, she stuck out a hoof. The ensuing shake was awkward for all concerned.

“So Twilight, I hear that you’ll, ah, be putting up with me for a bit? Assuming you said yes?”

This seemed to put the spring back in her step and smiled again. It was fucking adorable. I think my heart stopped.

“Yes! Celestia explained everything! I think you’ll really like it in Ponyville.”

“I’m sure I will,” I said. What else could I say? I looked to Celestia maybe hoping she might somehow silently communicate something of value to me, but she was just smiling, a little strained. I learnt nothing.

Guess this was happening.

At least I’d be getting outside?

There followed some discussion about travel arrangements. I reverted back to just letting it all wash over me. I had no input to give and none was asked. Twilight pitched in with the other two every so often, usually helpfully. The rest of the time she gawked at me and did her best to hide the fact she was doing so. Her best was not very good in this regard.

The train was leaving sooner than I might have thought. That they even had trains was still a bit of a shock, but then why not? They had flying horses and vast palaces - why not trains, too? Go nuts why don’t you.

This left very little time for me to do anything. Not that I had much to do. Didn’t exactly need to pack. A carriage was organised - they had those too, apparently - and why they said this was because it was a fair distance to the station and they needed to make good time I had the nagging idea that it was to keep me out of sight on the way there.

“Can’t you teleport me? Or is that only a one-person kind of gig?” I asked.

“It is possible,” Celestia said warily, eyeing the other two. “But if I were to teleport you there would be a minor element of risk.”

“How minor?”

“About one in eighty million,” Twilight said, unprompted, blushing again when Luna and Celestia gave her a look. “More or less…” she said, quietly, shuffling her hooves.

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I said.

“That’s normally. With you though, I’d rather not take the risk. If you don’t mind,” Celestia said.

It had been worth a shot.

“Fair do’s,” I said.

And so a carriage it was. At least for me and Twilight. I don’t know why Twilight was the one who rode with me but I was kind of glad because the carriage wasn’t exactly roomy and if we’d all tried to pack in things would have got uncomfortably intimate uncomfortably fast.

Instead I just had to stoop while Twilight talked at me a lot. Chatty little thing, she was. I only caught about half of it. She seemed to be extolling the virtues of this Ponyville place and all her various friends who lived in it. When she finally stopped to catch her breath I felt the need to butt in, if only to keep her from passing out.

“Sounds like a lovely place, I must say. Uh, Twilight, what did Celestia tell you about this thing, anyway? This situation?”

She took a few more gulps of air before answering. I gave her the space to do so.

“She said that you arrived suddenly in the palace gardens without anyone noticing and that you were very close to death. No-one knows how you got here, not even you, you’ve lost most of your memory and you need someone quiet and out of Canterlot so you can get better. Um, I think that was about it.”

Kind of summed up the more important details, I guess.

“Why?” She asked.

“Just curious. I mean, you accepted me being sent to you pretty quick.”

“Oh well you know, it’s a favour for Celestia so it’s not a problem. That and, well - and don’t take this the wrong way - it’s an opportunity to talk to somepony from a whole other world!”

Her eyes lit up at this.

“You do remember that part where I’ve lost most of my memory, yeah?” I asked.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Again, because that’s not ominous or anything.

The station was twee, and the reaction of the handful of ponies there did kind of make me glad we’d taken a more covert way there. I was getting stared at something fierce. It didn’t bother me at first, but they just kept doing it. The only thing that finally got them to stop was the sudden, crack-bang arrival of Luna and Celestia.

“You guys are late,” I said.

“I was getting something,” Celestia said.

“You forgot the book,” Luna said, floating over the messenger bag I’d seen her with before, the book inside it. I took the bag and nearly fell over forwards, managing with some considerable effort to sling the bag over my shoulder.

“Thanks Luna,” I wheezed. “I’ll take super-good care of it, don’t you worry.”

“And this is from me,” Celestia then said, stepping forward.

Thankfully, her book was a much more reasonable size and - wonderfully - in paperback. I had about enough time to see the cover showed an ocean before Celestia yanked me in with her wings for a hug.

“One of my favourites,” she said.

“I’ll go in with impossibly high expectations,” I said. She giggled, and I was thankful, though it wasn’t the happiest one I’d heard.

The hug seemed to go on for a long time. Finally Luna coughed quietly and Celestia stepped back.

Those bloody ponies were still staring. Didn’t they have homes to go to?

“Well, we should probably board,” Twilight said, sidling up, having kept her distance up to this point. I looked around.

“Where train?” I said, clutching Celestia’s book and trying not to let Luna’s heave me off balance. Twilight blinked at me and pointed. I jumped.

The most painfully lurid train that could possibly exist was right next to me. How I hadn’t seen it right away was a mystery. The only explanation was that it was so visually offensive my brain had tried to block it out. At least once I was on it I wouldn’t have to look at it.

“Whoa, wow, huh. Look at that,” I said.

Twilight opened up a door and climbed onboard. I dawdled.

“I’ll - I will be coming back, right?” I asked, looking between Luna and Celestia.

“Yes,” Luna said.

“It won’t be long at all. You’ll have fun. You’ll make other friends. It’ll be good for you,” Celestia said.

“Yeah. Course I will. I’m notoriously friendly,” I said. I swallowed. “But I can come back, right? Once I’m better?”

“Yes,” Luna said again, somewhat more emphatically.

“You’ll be fine. I’ll miss you, and you’ll miss me, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Celestia asked, a hoof to my shoulder. I supposed it was. Sure didn’t feel like it, though.

“Yeah…” I said.

A pony with a hat and half a uniform blew a whistle. No trousers at work? Saucy.

Time to go.

I considered giving Celestia another hug, decided against it and then before I could make a further arse of myself promptly boarded the train. Keeping my head low to keep from cracking it on the ceiling of the carriage I shuffled up to sit opposite Twilight. Looking out the window I saw Luna and Celestia still standing there and looking back at me.

The train vibrated, chuffed, and then started chugging away. I waved. The princesses waved back. We kept this up until we couldn’t see one another any more and then I sank into the seat.

“Are you okay?” Twilight asked, adorably concerned.

“I’m fine,” I said.

I wasn’t, actually. I was actually hella fucking miserable.

Sure! Rationally speaking I could see the argument clearly! Now that I wasn’t wrapped in a lovely, soft embrace and being given shivers by giggles I could pretty clearly see how all of that was maybe happening just a touch too fast! Distance could only be a good thing. Was hardly like I was disappearing, right? I’d be going back. Just a little time to get our heads on straight. Could only be good!

None of that made me particularly happy about it, though. You can understand every step of a perfectly laid, impeccably logical plan but that doesn’t mean it’s a plan you like. I knew it was for the best, ultimately, but it would still have been far more fun to just be able to stay in bed and hang around with Celestia. It would have been easier!

Oh well, life. These things happen.

And I sure wasn’t going to tell anyone I was miserable, obviously, so all of that got shoved into a little cupboard in the back of my head. I could deal with it later.

Shrugging off the strap on Luna’s monstrously heavy bag I settled it more comfortably on the empty seat beside me and then I opened up the book Celestia had given me.

And it was all gibberish. Not a single line of it was intelligible to me, cover to cover.

I closed the book again and laid it on my lap, letting my head fall back and closing my eyes.

“Whelp,” I sighed.