• Published 29th May 2019
  • 9,311 Views, 408 Comments

And when the darkness comes around - Cackling Moron



Local human encounters nocturnal pony, provides sustenance

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Blood on the world's hands

Author's Note:

Whoops!

“And that, as they say, is that,” Eric said with satisfaction, sitting back on his haunches to check over what he’d done.

Painting furniture - specifically, painting the furniture put together by his semi-associate Mortis Gage and her various apprenti - was about as close to a regular gig as Eric got.

Ponies, it seemed preferred their household objects painted, in the main, and while Mortis could put them together she was not so great at the painting. Conversely, Eric’s efforts at woodwork were subpar at best, but his painting was exemplary.

It had not taken long for them to put two and two together on that one.

“Very nice. Very delicate. Very flowery,” Mortis said, moving on over to check over what he’d done as well. A lot of twisting patterns that made her eyes water if she looked at them too closely. She really didn’t have the stomach for this sort of frou-frou frippery, but the customers ate it up and her sainted mother - Mortis Joint - hadn’t raised no fool.

“I am inspired by nature,” Eric said, knowing that such artistic drivel always annoyed Mortis. He wasn’t wrong though - Spring had sprung and all about was bursting with life. Eric did so love this time of year.

“Yeah yeah, sure you are. I know you’re just trying to get a rise out of me,” Mortis growled and Eric gave her a wounded look.

“How little you think of me, Mortis. And after our successful partnership! I thought we had mutual respect!”

“Think you’re so funny…” She said, grumbling and mostly managing to keep the smirk off her face. Eric wiped his hands on his overall and then shifted around so that he was sitting cross-legged rather than kneeling, which had been doing a number on his knees.

“But yes, you got anything else ready for me today?” He asked, looking around just in case he’d missed something obvious. He had not. Mortis shook her head.

“Nah not today, boys been slacking,” she said shaking her head sadly, at which point something which had been bothering her caught her eye again.

“Your neck ain’t looking so hot there, Eric,” she said, looking at him sideways.

“Hmm? Oh, am I bleeding again?” He asked, raising a hand but finding nothing.

“No, you’re just starting to look a little chewed up. You alright?” She asked. He waved her off.

“Ah it’s fine, it’s not that bad.”

Last time he’d looked in a mirror it hadn’t looked that bad, at least. The marks of older feedings now just fading dots, the most recent still scabbed, but hardly anything to write home about, and that’d be gone in a few days anyway.

Turned out that, yes, batpony spit did happen to have all sorts of curious effects, one of the better ones being the speeding in recovery of puncture wounds. This Lamia had confirmed as a fact. She had been unable to confirm Eric’s followup question of whether it worked on other types of wounds, too, and she had refused to let him experiment.

This was fair enough, he supposed. Still! Convenience itself!

Seeing as how there wasn’t anything else needing painting today Eric started cleaning up his brushes. Mortis continued hanging around him, picking her next words.

“So…” she said, scratching her own neck now, still just starting at his. “I heard that she, uh, she was living with you now, huh?”

Previously the conversations between Mortis and Eric had not really ranged into the personal, because there hadn’t been a whole lot of personal Eric had to talk about. Now though, things were a touch different.

“On and off,” Eric said.

Mostly on, though. Almost entirely on. In Eric’s head it wasn’t that she’d moved in - he didn’t see it like that - it was just that he had left her with an open offer to use his spare room anytime she felt like it and she had then felt like doing it every day since, coming up on perhaps a little over a month now.

To Eric these distinctions were important.

To those around him, not so much.

“Uh, right, right. How’s that working out for you?”

Eric paused in his brush cleaning to consider the question. Honestly, it had been working out pretty great by his standards.

Owing to their different schedules the bulk of interaction between him and Lamia happened in the evenings, and mostly consisted of just lounging around on his sofa not doing much of anything at all. Sometimes he’d read, sometimes she’d ask him to read to her, sometimes she’d just flap around behind his shoulder as he made dinner - nothing too strenuous or exciting, but all consistently pleasant.

Nice just having someone around.

“S’pretty good,” he said, summing up his feelings and resuming the cleaning.

“And you don’t mind the, you know…?” She asked, pointing to her neck. Eric fought not to roll his eyes. People really did get hung on that, didn’t they?

He supposed he could see why. It wasn’t something most people had to deal with and, well, some people did get a bit squeamish about blood, which was fair. By this point he’d stopped thinking about it much, himself. It wasn’t doing him any harm and Lamia seemed to have finally settled into feeling less guilty for it. They were both happy, so there it was.

“Worse things have happened to me. I used to have to scoop vomit out of urinals, did I ever tell you that? And it’s not like it’s every day. It’s really not that big of a deal.”

Eric had mentioned the urinal thing before, but Mortis decided not to bring up that he was repeating himself. Again.

“I don’t think I could do it,” she said instead, quickly adding: “Not because of the blood. Blood’s fine. Cut myself to ribbons daily in this line of work. It’s just the whole...feeding...thing…”

She shivered.

“Skeeves me out. Sorry.”

Eric just shrugged, finished cleaning and then packed away, then standing up.

“Not sure what you’re sorry for, Mortis,” he said.

“Just don’t want you to think I’m knocking you. I wouldn’t do what you’re doing - most wouldn’t, I guess - but, uh, well…”

Mortis had not thought far enough ahead to actually have a point or conclusion to this sentence and was foundering. This Eric saw, and this Eric sympathised with.

“Ah, you worry too much,” he said, reaching down and giving her a scratch.

For maybe half a second she looked outraged at this but then his fingers found that spot on her head that he knew about from experience and outrage evaporated away, leaving only immediate and overwhelming contentment in its wake. Mortis smiled a dopey smile and pouted an annoyed pout once he stopped.

“One of these days I’m going to snap your hand off at the wrist when you do that,” she said, reasserting her previous level of gruffness.

“Is that day today?” Eric asked.

She glared at him.

“...no.”

Grinning, Eric gave her another scratch. Mortis growled, but her heart really wasn’t in it.

“Didn’t think so. Besides, this hand is too valuable to you!”

She tried to come up with a snappy response to this but his fingers found the spot for a second time and she lost her train of thought, nearly falling over forwards as he pulled his hand away, heading as he was towards the door and out of her workshop.

“Whenever you need me again come drop me a line! You know where I live!” He called out, waving as he walked off.

“You could learn to paint with your left hand! I wouldn’t let you off that easy!” Mortis shouted from the doorway. Eric just kept on waving.

-

There was about enough time for Eric to meet up with another pony across town who wanted to have a chat about some work they wanted done. This pony - Eric didn’t get their name, he rarely did, a failing on his part - wanted constellations across their bedroom ceiling.

Eric thought this was a marvellous idea, and both of them talked at length over the pony’s proposed design, luminescent paint and some of the finer details of what should be involved. Productive! Work would start once the paint arrived, Eric told the pony.

He then knocked off for the day.

All throughout the talk the pony had been very good at not staring too much at Eric’s neck. They’d noticed - most all of them did, now - but drew no attention to it, for which Eric was grateful.

It wasn’t a sore issue with him or anything like that, there were just only so many times he could say ‘It’s fine’ before the words started grating in his throat. Their concern for his welfare was nice and all but no, really, it was fine.

At the stall in the market with the nice lasses and the flowers - where he often liked to stop and just admire them and have a natter - they asked him about his neck. At that nice bakery with the energetic employee where he went for tea and sometimes cake, there they also asked him about his neck.

Even his laconic sometime drinking associate - the big red lad from the farm - had asked him about his neck, albeit not at great length and with the put-upon tone of someone asking for somebody else’s benefit.

Eric was actually meant to be drinking with him today, in fact, given that it was the normal day for the two of them to do it, but there was apparently apple-related farm business on the agenda today and so his buddy was busy. With that being the case, Eric just headed for home.

Home was quiet, as might be expected, and Eric kept it that way be by being delicate, Lamia being asleep and all that. With his painting apparatus put back into his outbuilding where it all lived he crept into the house proper and settled himself on the sofa with one of his books from home and a cold beverage.

In this way he spent a very pleasant three quarters of an hour or so, before the sound of hooves on the stairs caught his attention.

“Eric?” Came a quiet voice and he twisted about no the sofa, seeing just the barest hint of Lamia visible, halfway on the landing, one hoof on the first step down, uncertain.

“Yes?” He replied.

This was all Lamia needed to come down and down she came, a little unsteady from plainly having just woken up, but managing it all the same and coming to a sleepy halt in front of the sofa, mane a fuzzed mess, wings semi-limp.

She looked bedraggled, but Eric hardly looked better when he just woke up.

“Bit early for you, isn’t it? What you doing up?” He asked. Lamia swayed groggily and didn’t meet his eye.

“I had a nightmare…” she said. Eric frowned and put his bookmark in, popping the book down beside him.

“A nightmare? Tsch, that’s no good. Come on, come here, hop up,” he said, patting his lap.

Lamia needed very little prompting, shuffling over and obligingly hopping up and settling herself down as he put an arm around her, careful to tuck her wings in.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked. She shook her head. He pressed no further.

A few seconds following this she wriggled around enough for Eric to have bring in his second arm to better support her. For a little bit he thought that maybe she’d just gone back to sleep on top of him, which would have been fine, but instead she broke the silence:

“...could I sleep in your bed?” She asked, quietly, adding even more quietly: “It’ll smell like you…”

“Uh…”

Eric did a quick mental check. Friend in need? Yes. Friend asking politely to use bed? Yes. Would using bed help them feel better? According to them, yes, so assume yes. Am I using the bed? No. Conclusion: no reason not to let Lamia use bed.

“Sure,” he said, smiling down at her.

Lamia did not make any immediate moves to vacate his lap and take him up on this.

“Could - could you come up with me? Just until I go back to sleep?” She asked.

Not what Eric had expected. His brain fizzed.

“Uh…” he said again.

“I feel safer with you around…” She said, one hoof nervously rubbing the other. She had yet to break this habit, or even pick up on it. Eric had, though.

Another mental check. Friend in need? Yes, unchanged. Friend requesting presence on account of soothing effect of said presence? Yes, so it would seem. Am I doing anything important right now? No, not really. Is Lamia’s wellbeing important to me? Yes. Conclusion: no reason not to say yes.

“Alright, whatever works for you Lamia.”

Her head jerked up.

“Really?”

“Well I did say so, didn’t I?”

Lamia had clearly not expected success and was at a momentary loss for words.

“T-thank you,” she said, once words came back. Eric just gave her a squeeze.

“I know you’d help me out if I asked. Come on, let’s go.”

Rising from the sofa, Lamia still in his arms, Eric plodded up the stairs, using his foot to nudge open the door to his room.

Eric’s bed was actually two pony beds shoved together. It worked for him. He had been offered bigger - minotaur beds, for one - but had demurred. This worked for him.

Tucking Lamia in first he moved around the other side and climbed on in after her, not taking his clothes off. Even he had limits, and he had a fairly solid hunch that stripping off for something like this would cross a line from friendship into territory that he did not presently wish to approach. His poor friend was recovering from a nightmare and did not need that.

What she did need was cuddling, and this he provided.

“Thank you,” she said again, pressing back against him and curling up. Eric gave another squeeze.

“Think nothing of it. Now you go to sleep.”

“Okay…”

After that, quiet. At some point Lamia’s breathing slowed noticeably and Eric her fluffy little body relax. Not long after that, snoring. Adorable, adorable snoring.

It was a struggle for Eric not to fall asleep himself. As much as he might have liked a nap - and he really, really would have liked a nap - he did also want to make the most of his evening. That, and he was distantly worried about somehow maybe crushing poor Lamia in his sleep.

The idea hardly bore thinking about.

So, carefully, he disengaged himself from around her and slid back out of the bed. Lamia whined piteously in her sleep as he pulled away but did not wake up and moments later curled up tighter as he tucked the covers in around her a little better.

Even if the sun was on its way to setting Eric made sure the curtains of his bedroom were properly closed before he went downstairs, sparing one final look to the gently snoozing Lamia just to check she was alright.

From the looks of things she was, but it paid to be sure.

“Pleasant-er dreams, Lamia,” he said softly before creeping back down to the lounge.