• Published 19th Nov 2018
  • 14,886 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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A chain unbreakable

Author's Note:

As a meditative exercise, while I'm stripping wallpaper, I think about this story.

So if it feels meandering sometimes, that's why. I'm very zen.

“What’s next on our exciting day out, then?” I asked.

Breakfast was done.

Just before it had finished Twilight had popped out to get something to keep me from falling over, despite my insistence that it was totally fine. She returned not long after looking decidedly sheepish and apologising profusely for its lacklustre quality, promising me up and down that she’d find something more suitable and that it was just the best she could come up with in time.

“Ah posh, Twilight, it’s better than nothing,” I said, fighting back the urge to pat her on the head and taking the stick. “Thanks a heap.”

Technically speaking it was better than nothing, in that it was something, and I was reasonably certainty that it was better to exist than not to exist.

It appeared to be two broomsticks, denuded of the broom part and then tied together with string. I did not have confidence in the structural integrity of this walking aid. If I did end up needing its support, stacking it again seemed likely.

Still, the thought was nice.

I did my best to keep my weight off of it as we continued on our way. This Ponyville place really picked up after breakfast. A lot more ponies to gawp and stare at me and refuse to wave back. Was it annoying? Yes. Did I care? Yes. Did I care enough to do anything about it? No.

Twilight, too, was eyeing me, but at least she had the courtesy to do it surreptitiously.

Not so much I didn’t notice, obviously, but still. The thought was nice. Again.

“Something on your mind?” I asked. Twilight flinched, then blushed. She did that a lot.

“Just wondering - if your leg was that bad why didn’t you say anything?”

Not this again. Why even mention it!

“Oh it’s fine!” I said, giving the leg in question a slap and wobbling. “Probably just slept on it funny, like I said. And they did only just start working again, remember. This one is probably just lagging a little behind, that’s all. It’s fine.”

I believed it, but I had a suspicion that Twilight did not.

“Things don’t go away just because you ignore them, you know,” she said, her eyebrows a flat line.

“They might though,” I countered.

She did not deign to respond to this, which kind of said it all, really.

“Rarity’s not far from here, seeing her next could work,” Twilight said, pointing off down the street. She could have been pointing at anything for all I knew. “She might faint, but it should be fine.”

“She do that a lot?” I asked.

Twilight rubbed the back of her head.

“More often than you’d expect.”

How often did someone have to faint to gain a reputation for it? The mind reels.

“Well there’s that to look forward to, then.”

“And afterwards I’m taking you to Ponyville General and having you checked out,” Twilight muttered. I heard her say this, but I knew it was expected of me not to have done. And I was nothing if not a slave to convention. So I said:

“Sorry what was that?”

And she said:

“Nothing.”

Ah. Comedy. Classic.

By then we appeared to be heading towards one building in particular. Again, it was gaudy, but what was I to expect? Ponyville seemed to be made up of rustic houses with thatched roofs, sprinkled liberally throughout with variously architecturally unlikely and eye-catching buildings. No bad thing, I supposed.

This one looked like a roundabout. Stranger things have happened.

“Your friend into funfairs?”

“What?”

“S’roundabout,” I said, nodding to the roundabout-shaped building. Twilight continued to look blank. I searched for synonyms. “Or it kind of looks like a, uh, what’s the word - carousel?”

That got a result. Twilight’s face lit up.

“Carousel Boutique, yes! No funfairs though. Rarity is a fashion designer. ‘Fashionista’ I believe is the term she’ll probably use when you ask her yourself.”

Was I going to get introduced to each and every one of Twilight’s friends in turn? Did they all have their own small-businesses? Wait, did Pinkie own that place? No, no I think Twilight mentioned not. But still, how many more could she have?!

“Ponies wear clothes?” I asked dumbly, speaking without thinking.

“Mostly for special occasions,” Twilight said.

Dumb question. Dumb me.

I’d seen ponies wearing clothes before. The doctor and nurses. The staff who’d brought breakfast had had clothes too, though they’d always been moving too quickly for me to really see much detail.

Since leaving the palace though pretty much all the ponies had been in the buff. It just seemed to be how they rolled. Either that or Ponyville was packed to the gunwales with perverts. Seemed unlikely.

I mean, hell, other than her jewelry and stuff even Celestia was basically nude. And she was a princess! That had to count for something.

Wait, hold up. Did that mean that that time Celestia had insisted on bathing me and also ended up hugging me we had both been completely naked? She’d even taken the jewels off for that one! She had been completely naked! How had you not noticed at the time, man?

Oh yeah, because I’d been scalding half to death and too concerned over my own nudity. Those are reasonable excuses. That and the novelty of the situation. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and all that.

Still, kind of casts that particular memory in a new light. Oh dear. Friends who hug naked.

I wasn’t sure how I was meant to feel about that.

But - but! - it was probably different for ponies. They were naked all the time, after all, except for when they had to wear hilarious outfits appropriate to their profession. It was probably normal for them. So it probably wasn’t that big of a deal. Just a cross-cultural thing. Probably.

She’d been doing me a kindness, that was all. That’s all she’d ever done for me, really.

I wondered what Celestia was doing.

“You okay there? Kind of spacing out a little,” Twilight said, leaning up to try and wave a hoof in front of my face. I blinked, shook my head.

“Hmm? Sorry, miles away.”

Twilight giggled, dropping back to all-fours.

“I noticed. I’ll get the door,” she said, moving to do so before I could stop her and open the door for her. I grumbled. Can’t win all the time.

Still! Magical horse, roundabout-shaped clothing shop. Neat! I followed behind Twilight, humming a tune that just seemed to come to me out of nowhere. Magical roundabout, hmm. That did seem familiar. And why was I thinking about a Scottish dog?

Oh brain. What are you like?

A bell tinkled on our entry. I looked. Pony-shaped mannequins stood here and there and it was immediately obvious that none of this was day-to-day wear. All dresses too, I saw, in various states of swaggery. All very luxuriant, nothing done by half. Subtlety was dead anyway, I’d heard.

“Just a minute~!” Came a sing-song voice from a back room. I stuck close to Twilight, waiting.

“So Pinkie climbed me like a tree and Rarity here could well collapse on seeing me - do all your friends react to new things like this?”

“Well Pinkie is Pinkie and Rarity can be a little overdramatic, but the others should be totally fine. Well, Fluttershy might hide, but she’ll get over it once she sees how nice you are.”

Reassuring.

A white unicorn entered. Her mane was arranged with obvious and meticulous care and was also a colour. Purple? Blue? Looked blue to me, but my eyes were hardly to be trusted. She had glasses on, too, which was cute as shit.

Rarity, I assumed.

She looked to Twilight and beamed, then she looked to me and recoiled visibly. If I could have hid behind Twilight I would have, but it just wasn’t happening. I waved. Why break the habit?

“Uh, Twilight…” Rarity hissed, edging around the room, keeping facing me. “You seem to have a, uh, thing, following you.”

She pointed, but subtle-like. As though Twilight might have not noticed me shadowing her and as though if I noticed her pointing I might take offence. I did not. It was just funny. And at least she hadn’t fainted on the spot.

“Rarity, this is, uh, well, he can’t remember his name but he’s a human and he’s a guest of Princess Celestia. He’s here in town for a little while to recover and I was just showing him around,” Twilight said, doing sterling work being my hype man.

The ‘guest of Princess Celestia’ part was the bit that really seemed to cement me in Rarity’s good books, and she visibly relaxed after hearing it. Guess it was a pretty good character reference.

“I’ve never heard of a human before,” she said, delicately coming a little close, blinking up at me. She had alarmingly long eyelashes. Like, scary long. Looked like they took work.

I also had a feeling that I’d be hearing a lot of ‘never heard of them before’.

“Not a huge surprise. I’m not from round here,” I said. “But yes, hello. I have a name but I don’t know what it is. Hello, good day.”

Greetings are hard. At least Rarity took my bumbling with apparent good grace.

“Charmed, I’m sure,” she said, smiling and extending a hoof in my direction. I stared at it.

“This’ll probably colour your perception of me but I’m at a loss here. Uh, am I supposed to...shake your hoof or…?”

I looked to Twilight, my lifeline and fixed point. She looked lost.

“I think formally speaking a stallion is supposed to bend and kiss a mare’s hoof?” She suggested. I blanched.

“That’s a bit much, I only just met the poor girl,” I said. No-one deserved that from me! Who was I to inflict that on someone?

I mean hell, sure, ponies were touchy-feely and I was fairly certain some folks back home had some greetings like this but no, not for me. A handshake is as good as a hug, that’s what mother always said. Presumably.

Not even Celestia had tried to kiss me, and she’d had the greatest amount of opportunity out of anyone.

Wait, no, don’t think of that. Don’t even think of thinking of that! A) Friend B) Horse! C) No! None of that! Focus!

I made a fist and bumped it against Rarity’s hoof. Seemed to do the job. She looked a little taken aback, sure, but it worked. Kind of.

“Quite,” she said, rubbing the hoof against her leg. “You say he’s a guest of the princess?”

There followed some rather boilerplate exposition. Not from here (as mentioned), injured on arrival, rest and recuperation in the country etcetera etcetera. Twilight did most of the verbal heavy lifting for this, and I was grateful as it meant I just got to stand there and look pretty.

Did keep noticing one or two little things in the story Twilight had got that stuck out to me. Well, mainly the fact that it neatly avoided all mention of Celestia taking personal care of me. The way Twilight told it, Celestia found me, kept me alive and then immediately passed me into the care of others.

I knew that this was not true. What was I meant to do with this information that Twilight had been given a carefully edited version of events? Was something sinister at work? Oh no!

I was too tired to have an opinion. I’m surrounded by talking ponies that come up to my hip. I was behind caring.

Besides, there’s probably a perfectly good reason. I just don’t know what it is.

Story of my life.

Rarity cleared her throat and snapped me back to the moment.

“Forgive me for asking this but I simply cannot hold myself back any longer: what is that you’re wearing?” She asked, jabbing an accusatory hoof in my direction. I looked down. I don’t know why I needed to.

“This? I’ve been kind of assuming it’s a modified tablecloth but really I could be wrong.”

As I said this I ran the material between my fingers. This told me nothing.

“Do - do humans often wear tablecloths?”

“As a rule no, we generally just wear actual clothes. From what I understand I didn’t have any when I got here and since - taking a wild guess here - there weren’t any human clothes lying around I got this.”

I thought about this.

“Why did I get this? Why aren’t I just naked? You guys are mostly naked.”

“Celestia examined you and determined that your species wore clothes, or were at least likely to, and so that some measure of modesty and protection from the elements while in the palace would be wise. This was a stopgap. Didn’t you read that part?”

Ah, the notes.

Still! That’s a hell of an assumption to make just from looking at an unconscious, dying person. The right assumption yeah but come on! What are the odds of that? What clued her in? My amusingly exposed genitals? My hairless body? What could have given it away!

“Must have missed that part. She’s a smart lady!”

And nice. And warm. And soft. And agh, no, shush.

“The Princess knew you wore clothes and gave you that?” Rarity asked, obviously appalled.

“Hey, given she knocked it out herself in five minutes or so with whatever she had to hand I think she did alright,” I said.

Of course, I had no idea of the timeframe Celestia had been working under when she’d made the thing but I’d just felt an urge to defend her for reasons I did not particularly want to look into too deeply.

“Of course of course, and I don’t mean to besmirch our beloved ruler’s abilities but I would certainly venture that, given five minutes, I might be able to produce something a little less...barebones,” Rarity said.

“...is that an offer?” I asked.

She brightened, standing up straighter, hair somehow falling more into perfect place.

“It is, yes.”

She was keen! But still, wouldn’t do to continue taking advantage of people here. I’d already got breakfast for free, and that was on top of everything else! I doubted very much I’d come to this Equestria place to just sponge around.

“Oh you don’t need to do that, this is fine. Covers the necessaries. Most of the time.”

I should have been more concerned about who’d seen what at this point but eh, they should keep their eyes up top.

Rarity though seemed to have taken my tablecloth as a professional and personal slight.

“I insist,” she said, sternly. “I couldn’t abide the thought of you still being out there in...that...when I know I could do so much better. It’d be barely any effort at all, I assure you! The work of a moment! Well, maybe the first half of the afternoon. And then if the results are to your liking I could maybe whip up a few more, more involved items?” She asked, lashes fluttering. I had to pick apart what she’d said.

“Wait, you’re offering to give me something for free and then on top of that saying that you could - as a reward for me letting you give me that free stuff - give me more, better free stuff?”

“I wouldn’t have put it so crudely but if that helps you then yes.”

Holy crap.

“Uh, that’s a bit much. I’d feel bad.”

“I do believe that I already insisted, darling,” Rarity said in tones of the most cast-iron politeness. The unyielding kind.

“Am I going to be able to get her to back down on this?” I hissed to Twilight, who looked pretty tickled by the whole scene. She shook her head.

“Nope,” she said.

Thanks, Twilight. You’re a pal.

“Alright fine,” I groused, only to whip a finger up. “But you can stop at anytime. In fact I insist that you stop at anytime. And don’t go out of your way. I don’t need much.”

“I shall have to see where the muse takes me, this is rather new!” Rarity said, practically squealing with what looked to be - for all intents and purposes - delight, tapping her hooves together. I was not sure what she was so excited about, given that she just seemed to be taking on more work. And weird, new work at that!

“I’ll take your word for it. You need my inside leg or anything like that?” I asked.

“Oh no, not for this. I sized you up the moment I saw you. For the more involved elements of your wardrobe I may need some measurements but for this, no. Just come back in an hour or two and I should have something for you.”

“An hour or two?!”

I don’t know why I was so amazed. Clothes could take five minutes to make for all I knew. An hour or two didn’t seem a lot of time to make something, to me. To me making something took longer. Maybe I was just untalented. Seemed likely.

I felt a bump and looked down, seeing that Twilight had hip-checked me. Odd, but how else was a tiny pony meant to get my attention?

“Come on. I can take you to Ponyville General. That should eat up the time,” she said.

Oh goody, I’d almost forgotten about that part.

“And do turn the sign around on your way out, Twilight, if you’d be so kind,” Rarity said as she headed again to the rear of the shop.

“She’s closing the shop because of me?!” I wailed, horrified, getting ready to turn and march after her and stop her only for Twilight to stop me first, puffing out of one stop and puffing back into existence in my way. I jumped.

Wished I could teleport...

“She said she wanted to do it, so let her,” she said.

“But - business! Other customers!”

I gesticulated as I said this, hoping to get my point across better. This failed.

“It’s her choice, and it’s something she wants to do for you.”

I would have pressed the issue but it wouldn’t have done anyway. Twilight wouldn’t budge and I got the feeling Rarity wouldn’t have either, had I gone back in. Defeated! That was me.

“Fine. Nice lady. You’re all such nice ladies!” I said, and this time I did pat Twilight on the head. I didn’t even think about it first which, again, is always a mistake. I kind of expected and immediate rebuke and flinched back as though I’d burnt my hand but none came. Instead all I got was another blush from her and a somewhat dopey little smile as we walked away.

The sign was turned, the door closed, and we headed off again in another direction. I was incredibly lost at this point. Ponyville had looked small from a distance but I could have sworn it got bigger and more complicated the deeper into it you got. Maybe I was just paranoid.

Again, maybe I was losing my mind.

I glanced back at the boutique. Still garish.

“That was kind of a whistle stop visit,” I said, reflecting on how little time we’d actually spent there before my clothing had been shocking enough to cut the whole thing short.

“We wouldn’t really want to hang around and distract her, she gets very involved when she’s working.”

“Admirable,” I said, frowning to myself as a sense of unease bubbled away beneath my skin.

“What’s wrong? Is your leg hurting?”

Not the leg thing again. We were already going to the damn hospital!

“No my leg is not hurting, thank you Twilight,” I said through gritted teeth. I glanced at her. She looked a smidgen hurt and I instantly felt awful. “Sorry. No, it’s not that. It’s just that people keep giving me things It’s making me feel a little uncomfortable,” I said.

“Why?” She asked.

“Because they’re so...nice…”

A lame reason but the truth. I had a gut feeling that I should be sliding through life disturbing as few people as possible. Here, I was doing the opposite, and no-one seemed upset about it! If anything, the ones I was being introduced to were happy to meet me! Madness! It didn’t make sense at all.

And what did I deserve being given things?

Celestia would probably not like me thinking like that. And neither would Twilight, come to that. So stop it. Objectively speaking let’s be real here:

Free breakfast? Free whatever Rarity was going to make? Ponyville was alright.

Sure, most of the locals would run a mile if I took a sudden move in their direction but hell!

Early days.