• Published 29th May 2019
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And when the darkness comes around - Cackling Moron



Local human encounters nocturnal pony, provides sustenance

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All of the same blood

Author's Note:

Feel like this is building to something.

Back home, Eric decided to put off the unexpectedly thorny issue of socks by drinking tea and reading the book instead. It wasn’t going that well. Or at least the reading part wasn’t. The drinking tea was going fine.

Eric didn’t want to think disparagingly of someone else’s hard work but he couldn’t brush away the impression that the authors of this particular work might have spun more than few of their assertions out of whole cloth.

For example, the stated fact - fact! - that all batponies regardless of age had exactly six hundred and eighty four teeth. Exactly.

Now, Eric had never taken the time to actually count Lamia’s teeth but he did find this number to be a little bit on the generous side, and it irreversibly damaged his faith in anything else the book might have had to tell him.

Like the batpony habit of turning invisible when under moonlight.

He’d seen Lamia under moonlight, which kind of undercut the invisibility angle. Maybe she’d just chosen not to go invisible? It seemed unlikely.

“I’m not going to have to write my own book, am I?” He sighed.

Flicking through to a couple of random points he also learnt that batponies fed on blood not for sustenance but rather because their own blood ran as sand in their veins, courtship involved a brutal form of trial by combat, mating resulted in one (or both, somehow?) parties being devoured and often a thousand or more eggs could be laid in a single clutch.

After this Eric put the book down.

“Can rather see why there was concern over Lamia now, if this was what they were working off - phwoorf. Questionable. Perhaps needs an update.”

A project for someone of sharper intellect and greater academic rigour than Eric, he imagined. Perhaps he’d tell Twilight that her book wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, let her off the chain. It’d keep her out of trouble, at least…

Then, from upstairs, a bang, and a loud one at that. Eric looked up.

“What on earth…”

It had sounded like someone had fallen over, but the only person in the house other than him was Lamia - who had not snuck out or anything, clearly, because she was asleep and so couldn’t be sneaking anywhere, don’t be silly - and she was in bed.

Ergo, therefore, she must have fallen out of bed. Eric dashed upstairs at full speed, vaulting up tiny pony steps before skidding to a halt outside the door to her room - his box room, rather - and knocking gently on it.

“Lamia? Are you alright?” He asked through the door, ear pressed against it. Inside he heard what might have been a woozy groan. Concern blossoming, he inched the door open.

He saw the bed, which was messy, but no sign of Lamia in it. Opening the door wider he then spotted her about halfway between the window and the bed, on the floor, apparently having got caught up and tangled in his hoody.

For whatever reason the thought that Lamia might have been sleeping while wearing that old hoody of his gave him a warm jolt and brought a smile to his face, at least until he remembered that she’d fallen out of bed.

Some fall at that, too, to have landed so far from the bed. But stranger things had happened.

“Eric! I-” she started, trying desperately to free her hooves from the hoody and only succeeding in somehow making her situation worse, rolling around on the floor. Eric was on her before she could free herself, sweeping her up in his arms.

“Did you fall out of bed?” He asked.

Lamia had been halfway through cooking up something she’d hoped would be a plausible excuse for her being on the floor but found that this one delivered right into her lap was much better, so took it.

“...yes,” she said.

“Are you alright?”

“...I think I hit my head,” she said, pointing to her head, dumbly, feeling heat rising in her cheeks from the look of absolute concern coming at her from Eric. Eric, on hearing this, very gently pulled back the hood to have a better look, causing Lamia’s ever-messy mane - which had taken some tucking away - to floomph out all at once.

Had it ever been tidy? Could it ever be tidy? Who knew? Eric rather liked it the way it was, were anyone in the mood to ask him.

Lamia, her hooves held in front of her, could do little else but stay still and try not to squeak as Eric carefully gave her the once over, feeling about her head with his fingers.

“Hmm, think you’ve got a little bump here, yes. Oh, poor girl! Let’s get you some ice, eh?”



And before Lamia could protest this Eric was heading out of the room, pausing only when he stepped on his sunglasses and crushed them. He looked down and raised his foot.

“Huh, don’t remember leaving those in here. Oh well, serves me right for not looking where I was walking!”

He then resumed carrying her downstairs, moving swiftly to the kitchen.

“I-I’m okay Eric, really,” she mumbled as he kept her cradled in one arm, squatting down by his magical fridge-freezer to ferret out some ice, which he then put in a tea towel.

“Nonsense,” he said, standing again and now heading to the lounge, ice in hand, Lamia in arm. “I heard that fall. Come on, it won’t be for long then you can get back to bed.”

Lamia yawned, so couldn’t argue, and Eric sat down on the sofa. Shifting her around so she was resting in the crook of his arm, resting against his body, he put the ice onto what was now a semi-visible bump and held it there. Lamia just took it, being too tired and too flustered to do anything else.

“There you go,” Eric said, quietly, smiling down at her.

Lamia yawned again. She really was bushed. Even with the ice pressed to her head it would have been very easy to just fall asleep on top of Eric. He was warm, after all, and soft. And safe. She really did want to.

But she forced herself to stay awake. Twilight had said to just talk, to talk normally. So while she still had even the tiniest scrap of the nerve to do so, why not try it now?

“Why are you so nice to me?” She asked.

“I’m not doing anything anyone else wouldn’t,” he said. Lamia had seen that sort of answer coming, but even so actually hearing it still annoyed her.

Wriggling in his grip she reached up to take hold of his wrist, pulling his hand down to her chest and holding it there. Doing this made the ice slip out of his hand, but he was too taken aback by the gesture to really notice.

“You are. You’re - you’re amazing and you’re just so nice to me and…” Lamia felt her courage to keep talking ebb away under Eric’s eyes and she had to look away, reduced to absent-mindedly running a hoof over his hand until she noticed she was doing it, at which point she stopped.

Eric swallowed.

“Amazing might be overselling it a bit…” He said.

“No, you are. I think so. You’re amazing to me. We - you - you’re-”

Lamia’s nerve was not holding. She was sure a normal pony in her position wouldn’t be having these problems. They’d know exactly what to say. Hell, they’d know exactly what it was they wanted, for a start. She didn’t. She just knew that she was a writhing bundle of things she didn’t know, and being in Eric’s arms was making it even harder to pin down.

So she copped out.

“You’re my friend. My best friend. Y-you’re my amazing. O-okay?” She asked, trying to sound sure but coming off as anything but, not helped by having gone very red indeed. Eric thought about taking his hand back, but decided against it.

“Friends, always. I’m very fond of you, you know.”

“Fond?”

Eric wondered why he’d had to pick that word. Then realised the word was fine and innocuous and he would have used it for anyone, so why did it matter that he’d used it here? Again he felt the unusual pressure of something trying to get his attention but he pushed it down - now wasn’t the time.

“I am glad that you showed up on my doorstep,” he said.

And then they both went quiet without really thinking about it, also not really thinking about the fact that this time both of them were holding eye contact.

Eric had been aware before that Lamia had had nice eyes - most ponies did, in his experience, kind of a feature - but never had he actually seen how pretty they were. Really quite striking. One of her best features. Out of many good features. Lots of very good features.

Then he caught on to where it was his mind was wandering, and he managed to tear his attention away. Think friendly thoughts! She said he was her best friend! Think friendly thoughts!

“I dropped the ice,” he said.

“You did.”

This didn’t seem to go anywhere. Eric glanced down at Lamia again, briefly, asking:

“How’s your head?”

“Better.”

“Good, good…”

Lamia tried to keep this next yawn in, but failed. She was starting to crash now. Knowing she was inches from just nodding off on top of Eric she stirred, forcing herself upright, wiggling out of his grip and standing up in his lap before silently hugging him.

She got in close, tucking her head in under his chin, right against his neck, even putting her wings around him, or at least as much as she could. Eric didn’t even think before hugging back. It just happened.

Being so close to his neck always made her a little agitated, for want of a better word. Flustered. Over-excited. Hot under the collar.

Being wrapped around his neck when she was on his shoulders was one thing, that was just sort of comforting. This close? This position? Fangs so near to that pulse? Kind of difficult to concentrate.

Especially with the smell - his scent! It was unavoidable, everywhere!

But she liked being close. She liked having him close. Even if it made her feel confusing feelings. She nuzzled against him and felt his heart rate pick up. She was good at noticing that sort of thing.

I just…

“Hmm?”

“Didn’t say anything.”

The hug lasted until Lamia yawned, again, which was apparently the final straw.

“I think someone needs to go back to bed, hmm?” Eric asked, peeling her off. Lamia couldn’t argue. She was finding it difficult keeping her eyes open by then, her head bobbing as she fought to stay awake.

Keeping her held against him Eric rose and carried her up to her room - definitely her room - and put her back to bed. By the time he pulled the blanket around her she was already sound asleep.

As softly as he could he left the room, shut the door, and then took a moment. Standing on the landing he held perfectly still and attempted to organise his thoughts. He didn’t even know where to start.

So instead - or because, he wasn’t sure - he went to his room and opened the door enough to see the bag from Rarity’s, sat on his bed where he’d left it.

“‘How special she is to you’...what does that even mean…just some socks...when did this get so complicated...” he grumbled.

His tea was probably cold by now, too.

-

And speaking of socks, when Eric had abandoned his efforts at knitting them himself, he had also abandoned the not-even-close-to-half-finished articles on his coffee table along with all the supplies, equipment (such as it was) and literature he had acquired on the subject. Eric could often be untidy.

So there the socks sat, needles and wool present also, book open on the page telling him what he should have done. They sat there all through the day and into the night, forgotten. All of this caught Lamia’s eye.

A special gift…

The planned rain had arrived by the time Lamia eventually woke up again, and the prospect of going out did not appeal. Besides, she’d already gone out once anyway. Stuck inside and with Eric asleep she hadn’t had a whole lot else to do.

And so, on the spur of the moment, she had whisked all of the stuff up to her room, there to try and carry on and complete them with an eye to giving the completed articles to Eric as her own gift. It seemed a good idea at the time.

Sitting on her bed, legs splayed, she found that knitting wasn’t actually all that difficult, once you got into it. She made some mistakes, sure, she was beginner, but she learned from them and progress remained steady. Lamia was amazed!

She’d never thought she could have been good at anything, really.

It was actually pretty fun, knitting. In a meditative sort of a way. That, and thinking ahead to what she could do once she’d finished. She kept on knitting so long she failed to notice it starting to get light out, and it wasn’t until she heard Eric moving around and waking up that she figured it might be time to turn in.

Eric, for his part, entirely failed to notice the disappearance of his knitting stuff. He had other things to pay attention to.

-

After this things more-or-less resumed the sort of rhythm that had already existed. Which is to say, they went back to what had become normal for them.

During the day Eric went out to do this or that, sometimes painting stuff, sometimes not. Lamia woke up in the evening - earlier now, just because that’s what the pattern had become - and they hung out. There were a few more practise dance sessions, at least one very informal board game interlude and lots of unspecified lounging about.

So far, so normal.

Little things had changed though, without either of them noticing when. One such difference was that sometimes one or the other of them would catch themselves staring or be caught staring and very quickly look away, usually while going just the tiniest bit pink. For just one example.

For another there were also now those times that, when they were engaged in the unspecified lounging or even just generalised hugging or friendly, entirely platonic cuddling, they would suddenly be very aware of just how they were to one another, particularly if their faces were close.

More pinkness usually followed this awareness.

It went without saying that everyone - everyone - in town noticed this. Even if they weren’t around to see the particulars, they saw enough and they saw enough of it in Eric for it to be blindingly, glaringly obvious that something was going on, even if no-one could confirm what.

That, and Rarity had of course mentioned Eric’s purchase of socks just in the course of perfectly innocent nattering, and this mention had been passed along and overheard and repeated and in the process lost some of the important contextual details, such as the rather vital point that Eric had absolutely no idea what the purchase of socks for another implied. Or at least, hadn’t when he’d bought them.

He’d since learnt, of course, and the knowledge had been stewing him alive for days. Did Lamia know what they meant? Did it matter if she knew? Did it matter if he knew? What was he even worrying about? How special was she to him again, exactly? And what did that even mean anyway?

Eric did what he usually did confronted by intractable, complex emotional problems and just tried to think happier thoughts and focus on other things. This worked fairly well, but the worry kept coming back, and the socks just kept on sitting in their bag, waiting.

On the weekend he went up to Fluttershy’s as arranged, expecting a nice, leisurely, friendly time as he might have come to expect from her company only instead to find the atmosphere curiously subdued. Like something bad had happened.

Fluttershy had been even more quiet and withdrawn than usual, which was saying something, and the quality and timbre of her quiet had changed, too. Something a little different to it, Eric noticed, though he couldn’t say what, and she’d insisted up and down that she was totally fine.

Eric had done what she told him needed donig and had then left, a tiny bit dazed by the experience.

He was reduced to wondering why everyone was acting so oddly. What had been up with Fluttershy? Why was everyone smiling at him now as though they knew something he didn’t? Why were the various ponies he was painting for all now suddenly interested in Lamia, how she was and how they were getting on together?

And why did people keep saying they lived together?!

“Did I miss something?” He asked himself more than once.

-

Not long after that, Lamia finished making the socks. She was actually pretty proud of what she’d achieved, and rightly so. Knitting them had been the easy part though, comparatively. Actually giving them? That made her gut twist in knots.

What if he didn’t like them? What if he said they weren’t good? What if he laughed at them?

That didn’t last long. This was Eric, after all. He wouldn’t do that.

So, buoyed by this thought, one evening she girded her loins, took the socks, went downstairs and dropped them into Eric’s lap. This caught him off-guard.

“Thank you, Lamia?” He asked, picking them up. They didn’t look like any pair he was aware of owning. Not that he kept particularly accurate track of these things.

“They’re a present,” she said. “I made them for you.”

“How sweet! Definitely thank you, then. I - made?”

Eric had been so taken with what a lovely thing this was for her to have done that he initially glossed over that particular detail. But then it slithered through to his brain and gave him pause.

He looked at her then, standing just in front of him, wearing that old hoody again, shuffling about nervously, watching his reaction.

“You made these, Lamia?” He asked.

“Yeah.”

Eric admired them a moment, then thought about it a bit more.

“Wait. Aren’t these the ones I was trying to make?”

“Y-yeah…”

He blinked, looked to the coffee table, saw that all the stuff he’d left there was missing.

“Huh. Well you did a far better job than I could have. Go Lamia, snaps for you.,” he said, returning his admiration to the socks. They really were very well done.

This was one hell of a coincidence. And surely it meant that Lamia was - just as he’d been - unaware of the significance here. She had to be, didn’t she? Otherwise why would she have done this? It would not make sense.

So there would be no harm in him giving her her gift now.

“Heh, funny you should give me these, actually,” he said, holding the socks up. Lamia cocked her head.

“Why?”

“Because, uh, well, I may have got some for you, too.”

She knew this, obviously, but had to pretend she didn’t.

“O-oh?”

“Yeah, got them the other day. Just been sort of, you know, waiting for the right moment. Now seems good, eh? Uh…wait right there. In fact, wait right here,” Eric said, reaching down and picking Lamia up and popping her down on the sofa where he’d been sitting, swapping her around. She squeaked, but that was about it, and stayed where he put her.

“Right here, okay?” He said, holding up a finger. She nodded, dumbly, and Eric dashed upstairs. He returned some moments later with the bag, and - sitting down beside Lamia - took out the socks.

“I couldn’t really make them myself - heh, as you noticed - so I just cheated and bought them. But still. Hope you like them,” he said, handing them over.

“I really like them,” she said, looking at them in her hooves as thought they were something quite precious. Which to her they were.

Both of them knew what socks given as a gift represented. Eric did not know that Lamia knew. Lamia, conversely, knew Eric knew. The practical upshot of this was a befuddling lack of clarity. Did he mean anything by it? Did he, thinking she didn’t know, not mean anything by it? Had this only made things even worse?

Was this, at any point, going to get any easier?

‘Not yet’, was the answer to that question. Indeed, in the short term, things might look to get even less easy, if the twisting branches of narrative reality and imposing conflict had anything to say about it. They often did in Ponyville, mysteriously.

For at that very moment, on the other side of Ponyville, off towards the forest, right at the very edge in a lovely, quaint cottage, one pegasus was giving advice to another pegasus...

-

“I don’t know…” Fluttershy said, nervously tapping her hooves together. Rainbow Dash groaned, throwing her forelegs up in exasperation.

“Come on!” She cried, frustration finally starting to wear away on her patience. They’d been at this for minutes now - minutes!

That Fluttershy had something of a modest crush on Eric was not widely known, mostly because how would anyone have found out? She hardly made a big deal out of it. This was part of the reason for it had never got anywhere either - Eric had had about as much of a clue about it as anyone else, which was to say none at all.

Barring Rainbow Dash, of course, who had worked out after covertly observing one of Eric’s visits to Fluttershy’s cottage. This had started out as perfectly innocent spying - to gather material with which to crack jokes later - but had quickly turned into thoroughly involved snooping when it became obvious that anytime Eric turned his back to get on with what he was doing Fluttershy was there right behind him, pining hard, failing to say anything she clearly wanted to.

So, later, Rainbow Dash had cracked jokes about that, and Fluttershy had surprised her by immediately begging for help. Fluttershy’s logic had been that as Rainbow was the very picture and model of assertiveness and confidence she might have a clue what to do.

A reasonable assumption, unfortunately falling short owing to the fact that, while she was more than capable of kicking seven shades out of a monster should the situation call for it, Rainbow was less capable of handling ‘soppy stuff’, as she so called it.

Still, wasn’t like she was going to back out of a challenge.

“Felt like I was making good progress,” Fluttershy said, lamely, shoulders slumping.

Rainbow glared at her, unable to really fight off the suspicion that her friend was actively working against her in something she herself had asked help with.

“You were not making good progress. I saw you! You were giving him the eyes but only when he turned around! Why would you do that?” Rainbow asked, or more accurately accused. Fluttershy shrivelled up further.

“I didn’t want to come on too strong…”

“Well you didn’t come on anything. And now time’s running out! Windows closing!”

Here referring, of course, to Eric and Lamia, who were something of a local talking point of late. Not much else was happening.

“He seems happy. He bought her socks. What if they’re, you know, a...thing?”

Despite being a local talking point there was very little concrete actually known. No-one felt like asking Eric to his face, feeling it too blunt, and those that Lamia appeared to in the night usually forgot about asking her. This put the actual nature of their relationship entirely in the dark and open to rampant speculation. Something was going on, but what?

Rainbow rolled her eyes.

“If they were a thing everyone would know! It’d be obvious! The only thing that’s obvious now is that neither of them know! Eric at least, don’t know about the batpony, I haven’t even seen her. Twilight has and Twilight’s said nothing, even after I leaned on her a bit,” she said.

This was an exaggeration. She’d just asked the usual way, and Twilight had given a non-committal answer. Rainbow had felt uncomfortable being so upfront about something so potentially soppy and so had been satisfied with this, deciding to play it up for Fluttershy’s benefit later. Thus.

“Point is!” Rainbow said firmly, keeping control of the initiative. “They’re not a thing yet! At least not that anyone knows. And they don’t have to be! You were here first, Fluttershy. Now it was kind of lame that you just sort of quieted it out for so long sort of just hoping he’d get the hint - Eric doesn’t get hints, right? - but that doesn’t matter! Now you’ve got to get it done! You got to be direct!”

She punctuated this by pounding one hoof into the other. Fluttershy felt it sounded very intimidating, which was why she was hugging a cushion.

“Direct?” She asked.

“Yeah! He’s coming over this weekend, right?”

What he’d been over to do the previous weekend he was coming around to make good on, or at least see how it had settled. That, and he secretly wanted to see if Fluttershy was feeling any better compared to how she’d been the last time. But neither of the ponies knew this, obviously.

“Y-yeah?” Fluttershy said, nodding, unsure. There was the gleam of action in Rainbow’s eye.

“You should totally kiss him. That’ll work,” she said, grinning. In her head this perfect. It was decisive! Direct! Unequivocal! Even Eric wouldn’t be able to ignore that.

Fluttershy, fairly naturally, was horrified, and now hid behind the cushion as well as hugging it.

“Oh no, I couldn’t do that.”

Again Rainbow groaned, collapsing into a chair in despair.

“Well do something! Unless you want to just give up.”

An effective ultimatum. It cut to the core of the matter for Fluttershy, and laid it out. Waiting and hoping had clearly not worked, and now the time for waiting and hoping was very obviously at an end. The time for doing and hoping was now, or else the time for just, as Rainbow said, giving up.

And Fluttershy did not feel like giving up. In her own reserved way she did not want to.

So why not take a punt?

“Okay,” she said, quietly but sure, nodding to herself as she lowered the cushion. Rainbow looked up, surprised, and find Fluttershy smiling over at her. The smile of someone decided. “Okay I’ll do something.”