• 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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World painted blood

Author's Note:

I wouldn't think too deeply on the socks thing, if I were you.

It's just a means to an end.

Perhaps a week prior, Lamia had found one of Eric’s hoodies just lying around.

These were old items of his, his tastes having moved more now onto jackets, and they mainly hung around for him to wear when he was feeling lazy or had an inkling he was going to get messy. This one he’d left around because he’d still been feeling lazy once he’d taken it off.

Without thinking much about it Lamia had picked it up and wriggled it on over her head. It fitted pretty well, being as how it had been made for someone bigger, and she found it warm and comfortable. And it also smelt of Eric - a definite plus for her.

It was only after Eric had found her wearing it that she remembered that she probably should have asked his permission first so, sheepishly, she’d asked for it after the fact.

Eric had obviously said yes, entirely comfortable with this fait accompli, and indeed he did her one better - carefully cutting out some slits in the back of the thing so that her wings could more comfortably fit through and out.

She was horrified that he’d done this, but he shrugged her horror off.

“Looks good on you,” he’d said with a wink, and she had been too busy blushing to press her argument that he hadn’t needed to, and that had been that.

Now, it came in handy, because now Lamia was planning on sneaking out during the daytime, and the hoody would be excellent to hide in while she did it.

Daylight was not harmful to batponies. They just disliked brightness, and it tended to give them a headache. Lamia knew this from experience.

Unusually, it was a somewhat cloudy day - set to rain later - which meant it wasn’t as bright as it typically was, but still far brighter than Lamia was used to or comfortable with. She ended up also borrowing a pair of Eric’s sunglasses, which inexplicably fitted her, much to her surprise.

These, combined with having the hood pulled up, proved adequate.

Waiting until she heard Eric leave to go and do whatever it was he was doing on that particular day Lamia hung around until she felt sure he was properly gone then exited via the window, as she usually did.

Her plan was a fairly simple one, but then she didn’t really know what other options she had available. She was going to go to the big crystal castle thing and ask Princess Twilight for advice.

The reasons for this were, well, fairly simple.

For one, Lamia had learnt that Twilight was a Princess and the Princess of Friendship at that, so it stood to reason that Twilight would be a good person to ask about this particular issue, being as how Eric and her were friends and all that. That much was obvious.

For another, Lamia had at least met Twilight once. Mostly. Kind of. And she’d seemed nice enough and not especially threatening or likely to yell at her. Definite positives.

For a third, the big crystal place was big and easy to find. So the plan should be easy. Look for big crystal place. Go to big crystal place. Knock on door. Go inside. Ask questions. Find solutions. Missing step. Success.

Or something like that.

It was the best she had been able to come up with in the time available.

Keeping her head down barring - the times she had to look up to find out where she was - Lamia went straight there, trying to ignore anyone who might have been looking her way, which wasn’t a whole lot of ponies.

On arrival she knocked at the doors, waited, knocked again, waited some more, cautiously opened one door and then crept inside as quietly as she could, timorously calling out:

“Hello?” To no response.

Spike, incidentally, was out that day.

Not really sure that she was meant to be inside, Lamia wandered around constantly expecting to be caught and thrown out. This did not happen. Instead what happened was that, before too long, she heard the distant sound of humming and started homing in on that. In this way, she found Twilight, who was bollock-deep in books.

“Um...hello?

Twilight’s ears pricked and swivelled, the rest of her turning as well a second later. She saw Lamia, hoody and all. This she had not expected. This, she wasn’t entirely sure how to deal with.

Her best bet? Friendlyly.

“Oh, hello Lamia, this is, ah, a surprise! I didn’t think you’d be around during the day,” she said with a smile. Lamia was rubbing a leg, as was custom.

“I stayed up. Wanted to talk to you. Most ponies are asleep at night,” she said, unable to really look Twilight direct in the face. She had not taken the sunglasses off yet, either.

That most ponies were asleep at night was generally a safe assumption.

“Talk to me? Come in!”

-

Meanwhile, out in town, Eric also had a plan. His was a little different though.

Very quickly - very, very quickly - he had worked out that knitting simply was not for him. He’d started, but that was about it. The dream of socks as presents was still alive though. It was merely how they were going to happen that had changed.

So, he was heading towards that yonder roundabout shop to ask a horse about some socks. And also to spy, cunningly.

For, here and there, Eric had also been working on Rarity’s secret birthday present portrait. His practise with Lamia had really helped him out and he’d banged out a couple of preliminary bits and pieces using all the material Twilight had lent him, and he’d even tentatively started.

So he figured that only could be obtain socks he could also - surreptitiously - have a gander at his unwitting, oblivious subject! See perhaps how things were matching up, catch some details that pictures simply couldn’t convey. It’d be like spying, only with shopping mixed in.

Mostly for socks though.

Pushing open the door announcing his entrance with a bell, and got Rarity to look up from whatever it was she’d been doing. Eric was easy to spot.

“Eric! What a pleasant surprise!” She said, trotting over happy as anything. He gave a small bow.

“Hello beautiful, doing well?”

That got a giggle. It always did.

“Oh you! Flatterer. I’m doing wonderfully. And to what do I owe the pleasure of this unexpected visit?”

“Shopping, darling!” Eric said, getting a little carried away. “Ahem, shopping, yes. I’m in the market for something.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes indeed. Was rather hoping you might have some socks available. Pony ones, I should say. This isn’t for me.”

“Ooh, socks? Who-” She then went rigid, eyes wide. “Uh, aha, heh - um, w-who might these socks be for, dear?”

Her immediate excitement had blinded her to the implications. Meanwhile, Eric was entirely unaware that there even were implications he could be blind to, and cheerfully carried on:

“My friend Lamia. She tried one of mine on the other day and I think it was a good look, so I reckon this would be a good present. But shh! It’s a surprise,” he said, tapping his nose.

Rarity just blinked at him.

“You’re getting her socks?”

“Yes! Not the most amazing present I know but, well, small things.”

Again, Rarity blinked at him, trying to work out if he was pulling her leg. Did he know? Did he not? Should she tell him? Would it be rude to tell him? Presumptuous? She simply had no idea.

For his part Eric was feeling pretty smug being right there, getting a proper idea of some of the subtler things he might not yet have been able to properly capture about Rarity, with her being none the wiser! So very cunning, he thought, though the way she was staring silently was starting to get a bit unnerving.

“Rarity? You doing okay there?” He asked, snapping his fingers. Rarity shook it off and put a smile back on,

“Aha, ahaha yes, yes I’m fine dear it’s just - ah - Lamia would be the batpony who is living with you presently, yes?”

Eric’s continued hale and hearty health while in the lengthy presence of Lamia had done much around town to dispel some of the unease that had come from imagining a batpony in their midst, though here and there some doubts lingered. Such was life.

This wasn’t really what Rarity was nervous about here, though. In fact, she wasn’t nervous at all, she was just approaching the situation with the delicacy she felt it warranted.

“Wonderful girl, yes. Not living with me though, just staying with me.”

“Of course, of course. And you are planning on giving her socks as a present?”

Rarity rather hoped that with the proper emphasis she might be able to wheedle out of Eric what his intentions were with this, or at least gain some hint. But nothing, sandbagged. Being as how they were coming at the issue from two wildly different sides, the possibility of crossover simply was not there. Eric noticed the emphasis she’d put in, thought it a little odd, but gave no thought as to why it might be there.

After all, what could the problem be? It was just socks. What was wrong with socks?

“Yes. No reason, just thought it’d be a nice thing to do,” Eric said, gaily ramming his hands into his pockets and rocking on his heels, at which point Rarity finally realised that he honestly had absolutely no idea what such a gift could be perceived as.

She hardly had the heart to tell him, either.

“Right, well, follow me if you please, I’m sure I have something…” she said, turning away to lead him off, wondering if she was being party to a great misunderstanding.

-

Back in the castle, Lamia was sitting just a tiny bit awkwardly in a chair in the room in which she’d found Twilight. Twilight was also sitting. Sitting was conducive to informal conversations. Apparently.

“So what did you want to talk about?” Twilight asked, brightly.

Lamia continued to keep her head down, now mainly fiddling with the drawstrings of the hoody, shifting in her seat and feeling very put on the spot. But the plan had to go ahead.

“Are you...friends with Eric?” She asked, eyes on her hooves as they fiddled.

“Eric is friends with everypony,” Twilight said. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. It would be more accurate to say that he was friends with everyone he’d ever met, or at least considered himself to be.

These distinctions are important.

Lamia chewed on her lip and glanced up at Twilight.

“I mean, do you know him? How to talk to him?” She asked.

Twilight furrowed her brow.

“He’s very easy to talk to.”

“I-I know. I talk to him a lot. More than anyone. I just - there’s something - something I want to tell him. I don’t know what. It’s difficult. He - he’s the first - he’s just nice to me and I…”

Words were failing Lamia at this point, which was kind of the issue she’d had to start with. There was something inside her. She could feel it. It sat like a weight whenever she was away from Eric and when she was with her it seemed to swell and fill her. She did not know what any of that meant, and did not know how to explain it.

Fortunately for Lamia, Twilight got where she was going with all that.

“Ah, uh, this isn’t really my area. Cadence would be a lot of help right now,” Twilight said, more to herself than to Lamia. “Um, you like Eric a lot, then?”

Lamia nodded, again chewing her lip and rubbing her hoof, nervousness building to severe levels given the sensitive nature of the topic under discussion.

“He’s - I really like him,” she said, again not really having the words available to properly get across what it was she was actually feeling inside, which was tumultuous.

“So what do you want to happen?” Twilight asked, feeling her way forward, trying to think what the right thing to ask might be. Lamia just shrugged. She hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“He’s nice to me, but I think he thinks we’re friends. And we are friends. But I…”

She trailed off, shifted more on her chair, looked Twilight in the eye over the rims of Eric’s sunglasses.

“D-do you know how I could...talk to him...about this…?” She asked, pleadingly, sounding lost. Twilight rubbed her neck.

“Ah, no. I wouldn’t know how to talk to, heh, anypony about this, really. And Eric’s different. And also human,” she said.

“Does human matter?”

“It might. I’ve tried talking to him to get some useful research material on humans and human customs but he is, ah, easily distracted.”

“Oh…”

Lamia’s plan wasn’t going to plan at all. Twilight, seeing the batpony look so suddenly, intensely downcast, sighed.

“Lamia, you should just talk to him. You don’t have to talk to him in any special way or anything like that, you just have to talk,” she said.

“But what if-” Lamia started out with an objection, only to pause, something catching her attention.

She sniffed, head raised in the air. She then went ramrod stiff, tail stood on end.

“Eric!” She squeaked before zipping straight up to the ceiling and sticking there, all so quickly Twilight barely had any time to react. She was just left there, looking at the spot where lamia had been moments previously, feeling a little confused.

“What?” Twilight asked, then hearing the unmistakable two-feet sound of approaching human. Then she got it.

“Door was open. Spike out for the day? Nice. Hey Twilight, I had something I wanted to ask you,” Eric said, sauntering into the room like he owned the place.

Today was clearly a day for asking Twilight things. Not that she minded. She did so enjoying helping ponies - and people, or person singular - out. Kind of her thing.

“Of course Eric! What is it?” She asked, just trying to ignore the fact that the last conversational partner she had had zipped vertical with no warning.

“I know you’re a girl who likes a book or two - was just wondering if you had one on batponies kicking around somewhere?”

“Batponies?” Twilight asked, ear flicking, fighting the urge to look up at Lamia who was still clinging onto the ceiling, eyes wide. Quite why she’d felt the need to hide was unclear to Twilight, but now wasn’t the time to ask.

Eric, oblivious - quite unlike him - just nodded.

“Yeah, yeah, just curious, you know? What with Lamia liv- staying with me and all. Just some things I was wondering,” he said.

“You could always just ask her?”

“I could, I could but, uh, I don’t know. I don’t want to look like I’m prying.”

“I don’t think she’d mind.”

“Well, heh, no. I’m sure she wouldn’t. Lovely girl, Lamia, really very lovely,” he said, losing the thread for a moment. “But I’d prefer not to interrogate her, you know? Barrage her with questions! That’s no fun for anyone.”

“If you’re sure.”

“Definitely. Needed something new to read anyway.”

Twilight nodded, already running through in her head what books might fit the bill and where they might be. Books that delved into useful detail on batponies were actually quite thin on the ground. Being as how they were fairly rare to start with they constituted a fairly obscure area of interest, and one in which there had not been many developments for some considerable time. That narrowed down Twilight’s choices a fair amount.

Which was handy.

“Be right back,” she said, trotting off. Eric took a seat and waited, whistling to himself and occasionally segueing into singing to himself as the mood took him.

Lamia, breathing as quietly as possible, stayed in position, willing Eric not to look up.

There were a couple reasons why she didn’t want him knowing she was there. First, she had good reason to believe that he would be overly concerned for her welfare on seeing she was up and about when he thought she was sleeping.

Second, on asking her why she was up and about - and hiding on the ceiling - she was fairly certain that she would be utterly incapable of lying to him about why. What followed from that hardly bore thinking about. So awful! Everything would fall apart!

Thus, hiding and keeping quiet.

Luckily for her Eric seemed to have very little interesting in looking up and she remained undetected. Some minutes later Twilight returned, levitating a dauntingly hefty book with her. The thing was significant - all thick binding and multiple, frayed-ribbon bookmarks. Looked like someone had tried to stop a sword with it at one point, too. As you did.

“Here you go. There’s others, but this is sort of the authority, really. It’s old, but every book that came after draws on this one,” she said. Eric took the whacking great book and tucked it under his arm.

“Much appreciated, Twilight. Do love a little light reading, me,” he said, smiling. Twilight smiled back. Then, her curiosity getting the better of her, she pointed a hoof at the bag he was carrying.

“What’s in the bag?” She asked.

“Oh, this? Socks!” He said, hefting it up proudly.

“Socks?”

“Yes! Present for Lamia, shh,” he said, smiling, tapping his nose again.

Twilight’s turn to go a bit rigid.

The issue here was one of culture. Socks were not in themselves a lewd item. Well, they could be, it was just that the lewdness was not inherent. It was complicated. There were layers of insinuation and compacted meaning. The sort of thing that had just built up over time, like plaque, or sedimentary layers. Or something.

The implications were immediately, glaringly obvious to Twilight, much as they had been to Rarity, too. Eric, not so much.

“You look like you’ve gone a bit rigid there Twilight, you alright?” He asked, experiencing mild concern.

“Um, no. I mean yes, it’s fine, I just - why socks, Eric?”

Putting the massive book down beside him and resting the bag on his lap, Eric lifted the socks out the bag to admire them. Fine things, they were.

“Well, she tried on one of mine the other day, you see, and I felt it rather suited her, so a pair of her own seemed a good idea. Is it a pair if there’s four? Double pair? Nevermind. That and, well, just thought it’d be nice to give her a present. Friends and all that.”

Personally speaking Eric really thought he was ahead of the game here, as far as being a nice chap was concerned. Socks were a classic. It was only Twilight’s continued silence that broke the mood, and when he finally looked from the socks to her he found her still rigid.

“You know, that’s the second time today I’ve got funny looks after mentioning socks. I feel like I’m missing something here,” Eric said. He often felt this way, but usually he didn’t mind.

Twilight swallowed.

“Socks are, ah, kind of a...special present. You get them for somepony special,” she said, putting all the right stress in all the right places. Even Eric caught on, raising an eyebrow.

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

He looked at the socks again, now regarding them a little differently.

“So not just a friendly gift, then?” He asked.

“No.”

This development was considered, then the socks put back into the bag.

“Hmm, fancy that. How unexpected. The welcome guide didn’t say anything about that,” Eric said.

“I didn’t think it would come up!” Twilight protested, but Eric was now looking off into space, tapping a finger against his chin.

“And Rarity just let me waltz on in and buy them without a word of warning! Crafty minx. Hmm. So...would it be a bad idea to give Lamia these?” He asked, tentatively.

“That would depend,” Twilight said.

“On what?”

“On how special she is you to.”

Dead silence.

“Ah. I see. Um. Okay. Lots to think about then. Okay. Right. I - I am going to go home now, yes. Book to read. Thank you for your input, Twilight, really helped me out,” Eric said, bending to retrieve the book before leaping to his feet. “I’ll - uh - see you later. At some point. Yes.”

And with that he left, stopping just outside the room to quickly nip back in and add:

“Sorry: goodbye.”

Then he left properly, at speed.

Twilight watched him go, hearing his step recede. In her opinion that could have gone worse. Then she jolted, remembering the batpony still hiding, wide-eyed, on the ceiling.

“It’s okay Lamia, he’s gone now. You can come back down,” she said.

In the even, it took rather more coaxing than that.

-

Outside, power-walking home as though the Devil himself was on his heels, Eric muttered to himself:

“Socks of all things…this place is a marvel...”