• Published 27th Mar 2019
  • 1,327 Views, 195 Comments

Five Score – A Prench Tale Vol.1 - Alsey



Getting a cutie mark for my birthday was already strange enough, but what will I do now that my body has suddenly decided to take a Prench leave..?

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7 – Picking Up New Pieces

– —— –

I push through the oneiric veil, tearing the dreamscape apart as I furiously claw back toward tangible reality. I hold on to the feels and the pains, and the screams of my mental self only draw the faintest echoes from my physical throat as, finally, I find myself back into my vessel of flesh and bone, and I wake up.

I crack my eyes open, though I can only see through the left one. There's light, but everything is so hazy..!

I don't know where I am... It's warm, and soft...

Am I dead..?

No, I can feel the beat of my heart, and my own breathing...

Maybe a very life-like zombie then..? Though I guess at this point it's really... not...

Uh..?

Okay, please reboot, Brain – and now let's try again...

I need an embarrassingly long time to understand I'm laying in a bed, and that I'm probably alive, somehow. My vision is still blurry from sleep, and is strangely truncated.

And it hurts..! All over..!

Yet I guess I prefer this painful waking world to the nightmares...

Oh, and of course I'm still in this bucking blue body..!

Great...

A large portion of the right side of my head seems to be covered by something, eye included. Bandages I guess – or rather, I hope. I look around me slowly without moving my stiff neck, and the first thing I can spot with any degree of confidence is the brown and gold shape of Amber, curled on the bed right next to me.

Is she hurt too? What happened? Did they not make it?

Did I fail again?

As my perceptions clear, I can see we're in a little cozy bedroom. Sunlight filters through the curtains. Amber seems fine, just dozing off. Her presence puts a slight smile on my face, and it deepens as I notice Séb, sitting on a chair against the wall and looking morosely at his phone. It hurts, in my body and in my heart, but my friends are still with me...

“... Status report, please..?”, I croak through my dry lips.

Amber's ears shoot up and she turns to me with a wide grin: “You're awake!!”

“... Not so loud plea—”

I'm cut off as she glomps me, her snout nuzzling at my neck, and is she actually nickering..?

But as much as I could appreciate her enthusiasm... “... Ouch..!

“Oh no I'm so sorry!!”, she blurts out as she lets go of me, ears folding back. “I'm gonna go fetch the doc, you stay right here!”

As if I were in any shape to move…

Amber vanishes through the door, and I'm left with Séb, who is now standing next to me. He's on my right, so I'm forced to shift my head a little to see him fully:

“... Hey.”, I whisper.

“Hey...”, he smiles back.

I can barely hear him, why is he so quiet..? “You okay..?”

“As okay as any guy whose best friend looks like she's gone through a meat grinder... And you?”

I snort, a bit painfully. “Like I've gone through a meat grinder. Crazy coincidence, huh..?”

He crouches against the bed, and after helping me take a much-appreciated gulp of water from a nearby glass, he holds of my right wrist in his hands, massaging gently. Now that he's closer, I can see how bloodshot is eyes are. Has he been crying for me..?

I wasn't supposed to hurt him again...

“Where are we, exactly..?”, I ask.

“On the outskirts of Prades, it's a village some way from the city. Crispy's friend turned out to be a veterinarian – she's the one who treated you, and this is her home.”

“So the plan worked...”, I sigh in satisfaction. They followed my instructions, and they're all okay...

“Yeah...”, Séb mutters, and...

Is... Is he crying..?

No..! No, please don't..!

“Except you almost died, and now... Now you're..!”

“Séb, I... I'm sorry, I never wanted to—”

“It's okay, it's okay...”, he sniffs. “You did what you had to do, I'm sure...”

I...

I don't want to lie to you...

But fortunately I won't have to as Amber is back, followed by a middle-aged woman in casual clothes. She displays this mix of seriousness and kindness that I associate with good teachers, though I guess I'll have to extend that to helpful veterinarians now.

“Well good morning!”, she greets me. “Laurence, was it?”

I put on a grateful smile: “Yes... Pleased to meet you, and thank you for helping my friends...”

She comes closer, smirking: “I wasn't about to close my door on the first non-human intelligent beings I've ever met, especially with two of them wounded. Speaking of, how are you feeling?”

“... Exhausted, mentally and physically. My whole body feels sore, and... And it hurts...”

“That's not surprising, I'm afraid... Here, this should help.”

She presents a little white pill. It's a bit demeaning, but I let her put the pill directly into my mouth, and Séb provides the water to get it down.

“This would work for both humans and horses, so tell me if it doesn't do anything for you, or if there's any unexpected side effects.”

I do a little nod.

“Now try to get some rest, or sleep a little more, your body needs—”

“I don't want to sleep.”, I state.

She looks a bit taken aback by my abruptness. “... Well, as you wish, I'm sure your friends will be delighted to keep you company, but please do not overexert yourself, you're still very weak after everything you went through.”

What I went through...

“... What happened to me, exactly..?”

“You... don't remember?”

“I remember the circumstances, more or less... But I tried to keep the details out of mind at the time... So what's the situation..?”

“Well...The walls of all four hooves are cracked at least once, multiple lacerations and ecchymoses, two wounds that I suppose are from gunshots… Major blood loss, of course, and it was a really good thing you had your friends with you. The stallion proposed himself for a transfusion, but we had to switch to the unicorn here when we saw that there was agglutination...”

“Sorry I couldn't give that much of it...”, peeps Amber.

“It was quite sufficient, don't worry.” She turns back to me, with a curious expression: “Did you... Did you already receive a transfusion in the past, from another of... well, whatever kind of pony you are now? From what they said you were all humans not so long ago?”

“To my knowledge she never had to get a transfusion in her life, period...”, Séb answers.

“Then I suppose her immune system isn't the same as a horse's, usually a first transfusion doesn't necessitate cross-matching... Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, some burn marks, bits of metal embedded in the skin...”

I keep on listening sedately, the words jumbling a bit in my mind. Actually I'm feeling kind of sluggish all over... The painkillers? So soon? If so, damn them, 'cause they sure aren't helping me thinking straight, and they're not even doing their job properly...

I need some time to concentrate on the detail that's bugging me the most, one she conspicuously avoided – my reduced field of vision:

“... What about my face?”

The woman hesitates, looking at me apologetically: “I'm afraid the cornea and a large part of the retina of the right eye were extensively damaged, and the ocular globe had to be removed to prevent further infections. The optic nerve itself appears to be intact, but...”

She struggles to keep her clinical demeanor. I guess that, as a vet, she's not used to have full conversations with her patients, huh..?

“H– how did you end up like this, anyway?”, she finally asks.

My memories of that night are a bit hazy...

... Yet my brain's making sure I could never forget that I took a life, however unwittingly, in the most gruesome way I could ever imagine..!

I retch at the image imposed on my mind's eye, the jerking motion reviving the pain, and worrying the three persons around me.

“You don't have to think about it, don't worry...”, assures the vet.

“No it's okay, it's okay...”, I mumble. “I can do it...”

Let's see... If I remember correctly, that unfortunate soul was tossing something my way, followed by a blinding light, a deafening sound...

Maybe... “It must've been some sort of explosive, a grenade, I think...”

“A– a grenade!?” squawks Amber.

Séb looks baffled: “These guys had military-grade stuff!?”

The woman looks pensive, then comes to my right. I can't see what she's doing, but I hear a very faint sound, a bit like someone snapping fingers.

“What are you doing..?”

“Testing your hearing. Could you hear that?”

“Barely...”

“You may have a ruptured eardrum, if you were so close to an explosion. That'd also explain the shrapnel... We'll look it up properly later, in any case. For now, like I said, you have to rest. I did my best to patch you up, but to be honest I don't have the first idea of how you talking ponies are supposed to work... I mean, how does your wings even attach to the rest of your skeletal system?”

“No idea... I don't really care, as long as they stay attached... Thank you for saving me...”

“And really, thank you from all of us, for this, and everything else.”, Séb tells her.

Wait...

Did I really say what I think I just said..?

I don't want these damn wings, they're a menace! Why would I say that!? Damn painkillers dulling my mind!!

Séb and the woman continue talking, but I don't pay attention. This curse... It's... It's getting worse than I thought..! I don't care what She said, I can't let it have its way with me, I need to do something, anything! I can't give up!!

“Laurence..?”

I force myself to look at Amber despite my inner turmoil: “Yes..?”

“It's gonna be okay, all right? Whatever happens next, we'll make it work, don't worry!”

Her silly optimism still manages to make me smile, at least reflexively.

If only she knew...

I hear the door closing – the vet must've left while I was freaking out. Séb sits at the foot of the bed, rather than staying on my compromised right side: “Do you want anything Laurence? Something to eat, a book to read..?”

I have an idea...

But I know it's a bad idea.

It's a terrible idea.

She really doesn't need to get mixed up with all this, just because of me... After trying to keep Séb out of this mess it sounds so hypocritical, but right now...

Right now I really need my sister...

“Séb, could you get me a phone please? I need to make a call...”

“A call..? To whom?”

“To Mélanie...”

“Oh... Okay, right away.”

“Who's Mélanie..?”, Amber whispers to me.

“She's my big sister.”, I answer.

“Ah, I see... Well I... I'll leave you to it, then. See you later!”

As the unicorn trots out of the room, Séb presents me my own phone, Mél's number ready to be dialed. I nod in confirmation, and he presses the screen, putting the phone on my chest. He too leaves me alone...

With the ringing phone...

...

Oh god why am I doing this!?

My anxiety jumps higher with each little shrill sound!

I can't even hang up with these damn hooves!!

Allô? Laurence..?

Ack no, too late!! I have to say something! “Uh hey Mél, uh... Sorry to bother you, I hope you're not too busy..?”

Laurence, is that you..? Are you okay? You sound strange...

“I, uh, sorry, I'm just a little... Uh, I've got a cough, that's all!”

I fake-cough for good measure, though it hurts a bit.

... Did you take drugs..?

Do those damn painkillers make me slur or something..? I'm not sure, I can't focus!

“Oh, uh, yes, yes I did!” Wait wait wait, maybe she was talking about the other kind of drugs!? “But no, not like this! I mean the medical kind of drug, for injuries and stuff!”

'Injuries'..? Did something happen? Are you in the hospital?

“No! Yes! I mean yes something happened, but—”

Okay calm down now Lolo – deep breaths, you hear me? Deep breaths, just focus on my voice... Deep breaths... Everything's going to be okay, you hear me..? I'm here, and everything's okay... Deep breaths...

I let myself be lulled by her voice...

Breathing in, breathing out, even if my chest stings...

Breathing in, breathing out, and I feel the anxiety receding a little, enough to be functional:

“There... There was something, Mél... It's important.”

... How 'important', exactly?

“'Important' as in life-changing...”

Okay... Is Sébastien with you?

“Yes, he is... He's a lot of help, but...”

Did you tell Mom and Dad?

“No, I... I don't want to tell them yet...”

Hell it'll already be hard enough to see you like this...

Okay. How can I help? Do you need anything?

“I need you.”

... It was easier to ask than I feared...

I see... I could be here tomorrow morning, is that okay?

I feel a weight lifted from my shoulders, and I sigh in relief. “Tomorrow, all right... What day are we tomorrow..?”

Saturday. Are you home?

“No, I'm, uh, at a friend's. I don't have the exact address here, I'll text it to you...”

Okay. Hey Laurence?

“Yes..?”

I love you.

I don't have the strength to hold back my tears. “I love you too Mél..!”

Take care of yourself okay, and see you tomorrow li'l sis.

She hangs up, and the tension evaporates from my aching body...

I did it... And she'll come..!

*sigh*

Tomorrow can't come soon enough...

I hear soft knocking at the door, and Séb enters. “I hope it went well? I did my best to not listen in.”, he winks.

“She'll come tomorrow...”, I smile.

“That's great! That's, uh, really great...”

Why does he look so unsure..? “You think I made a mistake..?”

“I...”, he hesitates, sitting on the edge of the bed. “It's just, I think it'll be... Well, it'll be a delicate reunion, you know? I don't think it's a mistake or a bad idea at all, let us be clear, but... You have to be prepared for the fact that, maybe, she could have trouble recognizing you, at first...”

I blink.

...

“It's okay,” I finally say, “this is what I would expect.”

“If you say so...”

“I know she'll recognize me though. I'm certain.” It's even one of the major reasons I need her in the first place...

He smiles, but I'm not sure he really shares my confidence... I guess we'll see tomorrow.

Oh, that reminds me! “Séb, it's Friday..!”

“Uh, yes, it is, so..?”

“Shouldn't you be at work?”

He looks surprised at first, then he just chuckles: “You seriously think I care about that right now..?”

I frown. “Please, you shouldn't have to sacrifice your own life for me..! Mine already went straight to hell, and I don't want yours to follow the same path!”

“That's why you didn't call for help, huh? Why you didn't want me around..?”, he frowns back.

“... You'll not make me feel guilty for that.”, I say with my stern face on.

“I don't want to make you feel guilty or scold you, Laurence! On the contrary, I want you to understand that you don't have to feel guilty for asking me to help you! It's my own choice to decide what I feel is worth making sacrifices for in the first place, and you're my friend! My best friend! So of course you're at the top of the list..!”

Of course I understand...

But at the same time I can't shake the fear that he'd hate me, and he'd leave me, if I asked for too much, after everything he always does for me... People say they would do anything for you, but you can never be sure if it's true or just the acceptable thing to say... And I'm so broken, of course everybody would leave me, sooner or later..!

“You're not broken. It's the anxiety talking...”, he says, placing his hand on my shoulder. “And before you ask, you always have the same series of expressions and nervous ticks when you're thinking about it.”

Oh Séb... You can't understand how happy you make me right now..!

We share a smile, and he starts scratching at my neck, in a zone that doesn't hurt. It feels good...

“Anyways...”, he resumes, “To be honest, with both you and Sarah out, Sensaz's sinking fast. The management was already dismal, it's only a question of time now. I'm trying to convince Kevin to go for a smaller, less bloated structure, we'll see what it leads to... Oh and Charles who got into a car accident Wednesday evening, so the activity is more or less at a stop right now. I suppose it wasn't a 'car accident' at all, though..?”

I try to focus through the delicious scratching: “He did have one, I think... I don't know if he... Well, if he was one of the guys who...” I sigh. “You know what I mean...”

“Yeah...”

He keeps on scratching me – I refuse to call it 'petting', that would be disgraceful – but my disorganized, treacherous thoughts bring me back to the horror that has been lurking in the back of my mind since I woke up...

Should I ask him..?

I don't want to think about this at all... If only I could hit my head hard enough to just forget about it completely! But I know the uncertainty will haunt me...

Come on Laurence. Be brave.

“Séb, I... I'd like to ask you a question...”

“Yeah, sure. What's your second question?”

His smirk recedes when he realizes how serious I am.

“That pony cartoon of yours... How does it end?”

I don't think he was expecting this kind of question, and in his confusion he stops the scratching.

“Well, uh... One of the heroes' former ally betrays them, and there's no follow-up on how they could save the day. It was really frustrating at the time... And kind of a downer.”, he shrugs.

I tense. “This former ally... What's his name?”

He must notice my reaction, but I doubt he could guess at the cause. “Uh, wouldn't you prefer to watch the show yourself? It's kind of a major twist. Sarah already insisted I tell her the other day... Or is it 'him' now? This is getting a bit complicated...”

“Séb. Tell me his name.”, I ask sternly. I don't want to know... But I need to know!

“It... It's Discord, the spirit of chaos. He was supposed to be definitely reformed at the end of the fourth season, but—”

“Discord...” No!! “Does he look like some sort of serpentine chimera?”

“Yes, he does, how—”

“How did he do it? How did he betray the ponies?”

“He, uh... It comes a bit from nowhere, and there was a lot of speculation, though the gist of it is that he goes to battle a monster along with Princess Celestia – you remember her?”

“Oh yes I remember the Princesses, trust me. Go on.”

“So, once there Discord betrays her, it was even his plan all along, playing the ally and all that. The Princess doesn't make it, and then he just attacks the protagonist, Twilight, with some kind of spell. It ends like this, with the villain winning...”

It's like I've taken a blow. I didn't notice when I started standing straighter, but now I can certainly feel how my body falls back against the bed.

“... I see...”, I whisper.

Séb looks at me with concern written all over his face: “Hey, you okay? Why the sudden interest..?”

“Just curious, that's all...”, I answer, looking away.

“... You won't tell me?”

“I... I...”

“Hey, hey, it's okay, don't cry... You don't have to tell me, all right?”

He hugs me gently, and stupid tears keep pouring from my stupid eye...

Sweetchard's View

As it turns out, TV programs on Friday mornings aren't much better than on Sundays... But fortunately, I have far better things to keep my mind occupied.

Crispy is laying against me on the plush rug, my neck resting on her withers, watching the telly with me. She now has a makeshift splint for her sprained pastern – and yes I'm still making good use of that book on equine anatomy – so the vet told her to stay put as much as possible. I still have this itch to go outside, even with the dull weather, but as long as I'm with her it's easy to forget.

It's a bit crazy how quickly we latched onto one another... Sure I've had one or two coups de foudre in the past, but it didn't feel like this. With Crispy there's this familiarity, this closeness that comes so easily, though of course we're still a little shy and awkward at times, when we remember that we literally met each other the day before yesterday!

Thinking back to that first time...

We'll withstand any weather...”, I croon...

'Cause we will be together...”, she croons back, cuddling closer...

I was so caught in the moment... Did we really sing..? I know ponies in the show do it, but I thought that was just artistic license! It felt natural at the time, effortless, to the point it didn't really register as different from a normal conversation, except for how powerful it was!

I guess we still don't know everything there is to know about being ponies...

“Good morning lovebirds!”, Ambre chirps as she joins us in the lounge, taking place on a sofa.

“Good morning.”, we both answer.

If she sounds so peppy, there can only be one reason: “How's Laurence?”, I ask.

“She finally woke up! She's tired, but she should be okay, I hope...”

Her wide grin falters a little, and I can understand it's not easy to stay optimistic. Even if Laurence did survive, she lost far more than a couple feathers. We were just leaving the rendezvous point when she dropped from the sky, half-dead and barely conscious. Seeing her like that... And all this blood...

Brrr, I shiver just thinking about it..!

“When you say 'Laurence', you're talking about the pegasus mare, yes?”, Crispy questions.

“Yes, of course.” Ambre replies. I guess we did pass on the formal introductions, with everything else happening...

“She doesn't have a name..?”

“Er, of course she does..? It's 'Laurence'.”

“I mean a pony name, like us?”

Ah, I see what she means. It's true that we haven't called each other by any other names than 'Crispy' and 'Sweetchard' since we've met, and this kind of name does feel more fitting. That's what comes naturally, anyway. “Wasn't that 'Sarge', Ambre? Or...” I rack my brain to remember... “Oh yes, 'Sergeant Rafale'!”

Ambre starts fidgeting: “I... I honestly have no idea why I would ever call her that, I must've been confused at the time, that's all! Her name's Laurence, I really don't see why we should look for another!”

We don't pay much attention to her protest, Crispy bending her neck to face me: “Is the 'Sergeant' part of the name, or just the military rank, in English?”

“So you think these names are in some kind of English, too? It does sound like it, but I wasn't completely sure.”

“Well 'Rafale' is definitely French, but yes, 'Crispy' is English for 'crispy', and 'Sweetchard' for 'sweet' or 'pleasant chard'. Oh, and 'Ambre' is French too, of course.”

“Or would it be 'Amber', actually? Rafale always calls her that, and Ambre is her birthname. 'Amber' is English for 'ambre', isn't it?”

“It is.”

“Please Sweetchard,” Amber interrupts, “don't use that name when you talk to her...”

I snort: “Why not..? As long as we look the part it feels right to use our pony names, whatever their origin.”

“Don't you remember how she reacted the first time I said that name!?”

“Oh come on, she reacted that way for pretty much everything pony that happened to her, she just doesn't know how to handle it...”

“Hmm, Sweety,” Crispy says, nosing lightly at my ear, “maybe it would still be best to avoid antagonizing her, if you can? If you don't call her by that name automatically, this shouldn't be an issue in the first place.”

I guess she's not wrong... It's true that I don't really care what name she prefers, in the end. Laurence or Rafale, it must be better to use the one that doesn't hurt her, and would not provoke her gratuitously...

“Yes you're right Crispy, you're right...”, I admit. “But now I wonder, why would we know each other's pony name, but not hers? Amber, did you see in your nightmares a pony who looked just like her?”

“... What do you mean?”

Crispy fields this one: “Well we both saw a pony version of the other in our dreams, that's how we know their names. It's probably why they come naturally now, as if subconsciously we're associating these equine bodies with these specific names.”

“You dreamed of each other..?”

“Not exactly us, no.”, I clarify. “It's more like a recording of what happened to somebody else. We just follow along like we're in the pony's head, and we can't control what happens.”

As it turns out, the dreams have become even more precise and complete since I've met Crispy. Now I have portions of Sweetchard arriving at the castle, finding other ponies hiding in the kitchens with Crispy, and...

Yeah no, I don't like to remember the stuff at the end...

“Yes, for example the Sweetchard of my dreams has a very distinctive accent, which isn't the case of my Sweetchard here.”

“And clearly they already knew each other, while of course we just met.”

“Though at times it feels like we do know each other, but again that's maybe the emotions of the dreams influencing us?”

“Eh. I like these emotions.” We touch snouts, nuzzling each other and sharing our scent. Don't think this'll ever stop making me smile, and I could stay like this for a good long while...

Amber brings us back to the present: “But you really think it's something inherent to these nightmares, to see each other? If I'm following you, you both saw the other before you ever met in real life?”

“Yup!”, I reply.

She looks thoughtful. “Then... Then that Sweetchard pony could be in my nightmares...”

“I'm in your dreams..? Why didn't you tell me about it!?”

“Well I wouldn't call them 'dreams' as easily as you do, they're pure nightmares to me, so I don't like thinking about them any more than absolutely necessary... And I only started to see that pony who looks like you after you finished changing, so I supposed it was just reality that influenced me!”

Was there a unicorn similar to Amber in my dreams..? Not really, no, but... “The end is a little hazy for me. I could maybe remember someone else talking to me, maybe that was your pony..?”

“I don't know... This makes no sense, and too much sense at the same time! And what about this horrible chant at the end? Do you have it too, this 'five score, divided by four' thing?”

We both shudder at hearing these words, the awful feeling of destructive whiteness still raw in my mind...

“I suppose that's a 'yes' then...”, Amber mutters. “I know a little English, but I don't think I've caught the meaning yet...”

Crispy frowns. “I don't have any idea what 'score' could mean in this context... Maybe it's an old or non-standard definition?”

“Meh... It's all Chinese to me.”, I quip, trying to lighten the mood without much success.

It's frustrating... This feels like trying to complete a puzzle with only half the pieces.

*sigh*

I guess the answers will reveal themselves in due time...

For now at least we can catch our breath here, after the intensity of the last few days. In addition to her office, the vet and her husband have turned this old farm into a bed and breakfast, but since it's not the holiday season yet we have as much space as we want.

I don't know if we'll be able to stay here for very long however, with these 'Brigade' guys still out there... Once Rafale is back on her hooves, we may have to move somewhere else.

Well, for now we can still apprecia—

All our ears turn towards the entrance of the large house as someone runs on the gravel outside. The front door slams open, and we scramble back to our hooves, putting myself between Crispy and the potential intruder.

It's just Olivier though, the vet's husband, but he looks downright panicked: “You three, come quick!”

We talked about what to do in this kind of situation; without hesitation we're already on our way to the kitchen.

Olivier is unlatching the hatch to the cellar when the vet joins us: “What's the matter?”

“Was coming back from the village on my bike, saw two larges cars turning for the road, and I'm pretty sure they're not clients!”

“Okay, I'll warn the others.”

My stress rises as we carefully go down the steep steps leading to the cellar. Beyond the part used as a pantry and for stocking wine there's one still in renovation, separated by wood panels. Olivier removes one of the panels so we can get to it, and we take place on the old blankets littering the floor. It's cramped, but it's still the best hiding place we could come up with.

Sébastien arrives at last, struggling to carry a grunting Rafale in his arms. The poor pegasus is still covered in bandages, I don't think moving her is what she needs right now, but what choice do we have? Olivier puts the panel back in place, leaving us in the dark, and he closes the hatch behind him.

I can almost feel the anxiety radiating from Crispy as she's pressing against me...

“Don't worry, it's gonna be okay...”, I whisper directly into her ear.

“You can't know that..!”, she whispers back. “I hate being at the mercy of humans like this..!”

“I thought she was your friend..?”

“She is... But we're not like them anymore..! What would they sacrifice first if they had to, themselves, or some strange talking ponies..?”

“Why would she sell us out now, after all the trouble of helping us..?”

“You never know...”, she mutters.

I hug her tight, even if it doesn't seem to help much.

Soon we can hear the distant and muffled sounds of cars, then the front door opening and people walking on the ground floor. Looking up, I see just a little light; we must be right under a small ventilation shaft.

“To what do I owe the displeasure, Alain?”, I can overhear the vet saying, her tone ice-cold.

Crispy tenses.

“This isn't a courtesy call, Solange.”

Oh no! That voice!! It's freakin' Leader-guy, Crispy's father!! What is he doing here!?

My poor Crispy starts to overbreathe, and I do my best to hold her against me, nuzzling at her neck to try and calm her down...

That bastard..! I was so focused on Crispy that night, I should've bucked the guy to kingdom come when I had the opportunity!!

“Search the house.”, he tells to someone, and at least three sets of steps start going around the floor.

“Olivier, please keep an eye on his lackeys, that they don't make a mess.”, the vet asks to her husband. “And they pay whatever they break...”

“Noted.”, Leader-guy acknowledges.

“... You look like shit.”, she tells him after the other humans have left.

“I had to spend a few hours at the hospital yesterday. I was attacked in my own house.”

“Well that was bound to happen sooner or later, considering your knack at pissing people off...”

“I couldn't help but notice that there are three cars parked here. Would they all be yours..?”

Darn it, we didn't think about Laurence's car!

“Mine, my husband's, and the one of this young couple who rented one of our rooms.”, the vet lies without any hesitation. “They decided to walk to the village. What do you have against them?”

“Solange... Have you seen Jean-Yves recently?”

Crispy is shivering in fear, and I don't think she's even aware of how much I'm squeezing her against me... Come on love, be strong, it'll pass..!

“I clearly remember you forbidding me from going anywhere near him... So no, I haven't seen him recently at all. Which is pretty much what you always wanted, no..?”

“This goes beyond our petty squabbles. Men died, many more injured. These are dangerous terrorists, and anybody helping them would be considered an accomplice...”

“Terrorists? What the hell are you talking about?”

“They are still on the run for now. Of course you wouldn't know anything about this..?”

“Sorry to disappoint you. And what would that have to do with Jean-Yves anyway? I've a hard time seeing him associating with these sorts. Or at least not the sorts that you would describe as 'terrorists'...”

“I sincerely hope you are right, because I can assure you that the police would prove far less understanding than I if you had suffered an unfortunate lapse in judgment...”

“... Always so nice chatting with you, Alain... Now could you call back your dogs? Some of us have work to do.”

“Once they have confirmed that these criminals are not here.”

The wait is grueling, we can hear each step coming from above as the men keep searching the house. One passes through the kitchen, but doesn't seem to notice the hatch...

Come on, what's taking them so long..!

Finally I can hear everyone coming back to the entrance. “So?”, Leader-guy asks.

“Nothing, sir.” It wasn't Scrawny's or Mustache's voice; guess I'd have fired them too after last time.

“Very well... Maybe your colleagues had better luck outside.”

The men file out of the house, and Leader-guy leaves without another word. The door slaps closed, and only then does Crispy start to relax a bit. I nuzzle at her jaw, trying to make her look at me, but she's still so tense...

“It's okay Laurence, they're gone, you should lay down now...”, I hear Sébastien whispering.

Glancing his way, I see him trying to calm Rafale down, who's standing shakily on her hindlegs and holding a large piece of wood like a club. I didn't even notice her, focused as I was on Crispy and the conversation upstairs.

Well... That was a really close call.

I hoped we could put all this behind us once we escaped from their clutches and were out of the city. Clearly it won't be that easy...

We're still fugitives... But at least we're all together.

Laurence's View

Ugh, the wait is killing me!! She said she would arrive this morning, and it's almost a quarter to ten!

It wasn't so intense yesterday, but since I woke up I've been unable to focus on anything else, even the physical pain shifted to the background! She could be here any minute now..!

Séb left last night to take care of poor Sainfoin but hasn't come back yet in case we're being watched. I've been forbidden from getting out of my bed again, so that leaves me to pass the time with Amber...

It's not so bad, she's so sweet and patient with me... We're on my phone right now, reading together.

Well, she's reading, while I'm stressing out of my skin.

She didn't know what fanfiction was – how sacrilegious! – so I've been corrupting her with a healthy dose of AO3. To her chagrin we only found four fics related to that book series she loves so much, and one was just a retelling of the plot with Naruto characters... But after that we did find a good hundred fics for a novel series set in the same universe, so that softened the blow.

“That one was short but pretty fun!”, she says, going back to the search results. “Though I must admit this still leaves me a little... I don't know, I suppose it's like watching a show with the actors being different from episode to episode..?”

Uh?

I replay her remark in my head, trying to divert at least a couple neurons toward verbal communication: “Well... It's also one of the draws, to play with slightly different versions of the characters... To put them in new situations... Explore the 'what ifs'.”

“If you say so... It's true that I wouldn't mind reading a version of Tamír that would focus a little more on her thoughts in the last books, if it were done well enough!”

“Well maybe you could try to write it yourself then?”

“What, me? Oh no no no, I'm not a writer, I wouldn't know how!”

“Everybody can write fanfiction, that's the beauty of it. There's a lot of writing gui—”

We hear the front door opening.

Dammit, I didn't even notice if a car parked outside or if there was knocking!

Is it her!?

Amber puts the phone down and slides to the floor, going for the door: “I'm gonna see who it is. Don't you move from this bed!”

I grumble a bit, but obey for now – I do not fancy bringing the veterinarian's wrath back on me. I still strain my ears, trying to catch any telltale sound coming from the rest of the house.

These hoofbeats must be Amber as she goes down the corridor...

There's talking further away, only feminine voices it seems...

An exclamation of surprise, then Amber's voice... I can't make out her words...

Now hoofbeats slowly coming back toward here, and footsteps just behind! It must be her!

Oh god what should I do!? She won't recognize me!! I haven't even taken a shower since I'm here, and I'm naked under these covers!

They're at the door!

Come on, open already!

No don't open!!

Aaaaaargh this is torture!!

The door opens, and I see Mélanie standing there. She's her usual self, smartly dressed even on a weekend, her black hair barely reaching the rim of her elegant glasses.

I turn my head, averting my gaze. I can't look at her...

... Not when I see all these expressions on her face that I can't be sure to understand...

I was so stupid to ask her to come... What did I expe—

“Hey Lolo...”, she says.

I sniff, and it quickly turns into sobs...

Dammit, I must look so ridiculous..!

She crosses the distance between door and bed to sit right next to me, but I can't—

“Laurence..?”

I fight to pull my head toward her, to overcome the freezing fear that would turn my muscles to stone and keep me motionless, and bit by bit I manage to face my big sister.

She's smiling.

It's not a big happy smile. It is small, and tinged by something other than joy or amusement, and her eyes show concern... But it still counts as a smile.

“Hey Mél...”, I force through my throat. It comes out strained, and so wrong, but I can't stop: “Ni– Nice to see you...”

Her smile deepens a little more. “It's nice to see you too... How long has it been? Almost six months I believe?”

“Approximately, yes...”

“And to think we live so close to each other... Next time it's your turn to come visiting, all right?”

“You know I don't like leaving home...”

“I know you like your routine, but sometimes it's good to shake things up a bit. Almost didn't recognize you with that snazzy new haircut for example... I've been telling you for ages, shorter hair is the way to go!”

I snort at the absurdity of it all. It's a distressingly equine sound, but I guess my whole life has become distressingly equine as of late...

“Thank you for coming..!”, I whisper as tears overwhelm me once again. She puts her forehead against mine, and I push into the comforting pressure...

“Shhh, I'm here now, I'm here... Deep breaths, li'l sis, deep breaths...”, she tells me, but she's crying as much as I am...

We stay like this for a while... Or at least as long as we have tears to shed...

It felt good.

“So,” she finally asks, straightening herself, “when did all this... stuff happen..?”

“It started on my birthday...”

“... You could've called earlier, you know.”

“I– I know, but it was just so hectic, everything happened so fast, and I didn't understand, and... I couldn't bother you with that, I'm supposed to do things by myself..!”

“Laurence, if this was of the same order of magnitude as this time you couldn't go to the theater class by yourself, I would agree, but seriously, this is exactly the kind of thing it's perfectly justifiable to call me for!”

“I'm sorry... I screwed up again...”

I look away, but she shifts around to keep eye contact.

“I'm not angry... And I certainly don't know how I would've reacted if I'd been in your situation! I understand how hard it must be for you, and I'm happy you called me.”

She strokes my left hand gently. She knows I've never been the huggy type – or the physical contact type really – but this simple, familiar gesture says it all...

Please help me, big sis..!

“Do you remember, Mél...”, I begin, “I'm not sure what year it was, but it was summer, it was hot, and we had this large ice-blue plastic tarp that we spread in the garden, you remember that..?”

“Yeah I do...”, she smiles fondly. “We sprayed water all over, and we played with these old Playmobils, like they were exploring an uncharted ice planet...”

“And we put flowerpots under the tarp to make mountain ranges and craters and lakes...”

“We did, yes...”

“And do you remember that time, when you showed me the first Alien movie, and you kept warning me I'd be afraid of the chestburster, so I closed my eyes for the whole movie...”

“And you were so afraid that something in the dark would attack you...”

“That I spent the whole night with you...”

“Oh yeah... And a week later you were watching Aliens without so much as a flinch!”

“Because that night you told me, that if it's in a movie or a book, then that means it was created by humans...”

“And if it was created by someone, it means that it doesn't exist in the first place.”

“Oh, and do you remember our visit at the perfume factory, with Mom and Dad?”

“I sure do, but are we going to review our entire childhood? Not that I mind, but is there a point..?”

“Of course there's one!”, I exclaim. “We need to cross-reference!”

This should be obvious! How can I even begin to explain!?

“Laurence, calm down! I don't know what you're talking about! What do you want me to say!?”

“Please tell me I'm still me!!”, I blurt out!

Mél looks baffled. Doesn't she understand!?

“Of course you're you! You're my little sister!”

“How can you be so sure!?”, I wail! “I probably don't even have the same DNA, we may not be blood relatives anymore!!”

She draws back from my outburst. I've grown so agitated, I fear I've reopened some of my wounds again, stupid me..!

Now it hurts, and sullenness is written all over Mél's face...

I must've sounded too aggressive... Or... Does she feel like I'm rejecting her..?

No! Please no! That's not what I meant!!

“S-sorry! I didn't mean t—”

She holds a hand, stopping me. Her morose looks fade away, replaced by what I would analyze as heartfelt determination:

“I don't need blood.”, she states plainly. “Because I see you, right here.” She points at my eye. “And I feel you, here.”, this time gesturing at her own heart.

I hope I understood exactly what she meant..! “So you're still my sister..?”

Of course I'm still your sister, you dumbass!” she scolds me, rolling her eyes “Don't you dare imagine that I would ever leave you! I've been your sister for twenty-five years, and that's not about to change, hooves or not!”

This isn't what I was really asking of her...

But... I guess that, in a way...

This is so much more important..!

“Thank you, big sis...”, I smile.

She smiles back, and for that briefest moment, I can forget the pain, and my body, and my fate, and all is right in the world.

“Now that this has been cleared out...”, Mél resumes, “Could you explain why on my way here I met a unicorn that could have came out of my old toybox..?”

“Uh..?” Her specific expression makes me raise an eyebrow. “A fantasy film maybe, but your toybox..?”

“Don't you remember my Little Pony toys? I know you never liked them, but I kept them a good long while.”

Oh! Forgot about the toy connection... Or that she ever had some of them...

“I mean, the proportions, the cutie marks... It's My Little Pony, right?”

“There... There is a connection, yes...”, I admit reluctantly.

“Haha!”, she squeals, clapping her hands!

... What!?

“I'm sorry, it's just... From all the fiction created by Humanity, the one to actually turn out to be real had to be My Little Pony! Like, is the Magic of Friendship really a thing? That would be the most amazingly un-cynical thing ever!”

I bite my lip, trying really really hard to keep my face neutral, but her sudden levity is grating. “... How should I know?”, I hiss.

“Well it has to come from somewhere, right? I mean, either it's magical, or it's the lamest and cutest mad scientist ploy I've ever heard of.”

“I've been robbed of my own body without any potential rational, scientific explanation to fall back on,” I state with all the gravity the subject requires, “so if this isn't 'magic' I really don't know what to call it...”

“Okay, but why a pink and blue pony with wings then?”

...

“Because the Universe wanted a good laugh at my expense..?”, I propose.

“... That's your best guess?”

“The best one I'll allow myself to entertain for now.”

... Technically true, but I can see she's not satisfied by my answer.

“Okay... So it just happened like that, without warning?”

“Yes and no. The marks did, but the other changes were gradual – I think it took about three days to reach the end...”

She looks pensive for a moment. “Mmh... When you say gradual, was it generalized, or bit by bit?”

“Bit by bit. Eyes and hair were the first to go, before the first equine characters.”

“I see... And... Do you have plans to change back..?”

Another dreaded question... “I will do whatever is necessary to get my body back.”, I reply with absolute conviction.

She must've noticed that the way I phrased my answer implied some uncomfortable truths. And I'm pretty sure she also knows I didn't tell her everything...

Didn't tell her about the nightmares...

About hurting myself...

About wanting to die...

About killing somebody...

About...

I'm not sure I can even tell this one to myself yet..!

But she knows how I work. Just need my time... She will not press. And I love her all the more for that.

Everything else may have changed... but I still have the most awesome big sister ever!

Ambre's View

Dusk is beautiful tonight, with white clouds blazed pink by the setting sun over the blue sky.

Makes me think of the trans flag, and of Laurence...

Eh... I almost thought 'Rafale', of course... It seems to be the default pathway my brain wants to use when thinking about her, but as long as I'm aware of it, it's getting easier to change its course to a more appropriate destination. I suppose learning new pronouns and names made me pretty good at this kind of mental gymnastics.

I'm a little sad to be forced to watch through the curtains, but it's still too dangerous to go outside. With the countryside all around, we can't know if someone's watching us from afar or not, and it'd be foolish to jeopardize our latest hiding place without good reason. These awful people, this 'Brigade', are clearly motivated enough to turn to violence if necessary. Worst comes to worst, we may have to defend ourselves...

After the visit from those men yesterday, Mrs. Prévost pulled out an old hunting rifle from somewhere, just in case. I don't like the idea of using it against another living being, or any weapon whatsoever, but if it's to protect my friends..?

This wouldn't be the kind of life I'd want to live, though I'm not sure I still have a choice in the matter...

I didn't choose to have my body transformed, to have my life so thoroughly derailed, just when it was starting to really improve... This wasn't a revolution I wished for, but in a way, understanding my transness wasn't one either. It was just something I had no choice but to deal with. This pony business is the same, just on a bigger... and much more frightening scale. There's still so many questions and uncertainties...

All the same, I can't help but feel hopeful. This time I'm not facing this ordeal alone.

It feels strange, to not be alone... I've got so used to only rely on myself, to never let others into my heart after it was crushed down by my own family. Now there's Laurence, Sweetchard, Crispy, Sébastien, Mr. and Mrs. Prévost, Laurence's sister too... The Dejeans would probably be on my side too, if I'd dare talk to them about this...

But I shouldn't rely on them more than necessary, either. I must always strive to do better, otherwise...

Otherwise we have situations like Laurence sacrificing herself, because I didn't do anything when she was falling into utter despair... Because I wasn't able to find a better way...

I can't let this kind of thing happen again!

Even if we don't know what the future will bring, there's this one certainty: I have to do better.

For myself. For them.

“Hey Amber!”, calls Sweetchard. “Dinner's served!”

“Coming!”

I give one last look to the darkening sky before turning back, and joining all my new friends.

Author's Note:

A Prench Tale Part 1 — End

Click here for some Part 1 behind-the-scenes tidbits!