• Published 7th Dec 2012
  • 3,774 Views, 273 Comments

Different Strokes - Guy_Incognito



Gentle Strokes is a cynical drunk from Dodge Junction. Stormy is the proud black sheep of a wealthy Manehattan family. College is a place for 'experimenting'.

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Anyone Can Buy Me A Drink


"Anyone Can Buy Me A Drink."


He kept telling himself it was time for a change. Time to leave the past behind; to bury it alive, or hide it away like a dirty magazine and start over. And, where was the harm in wanting to start fresh? After a lifetime of living out everypony else's dreams, wasn't it time to follow one of his own? Didn't he get a chance to move on?

Yes. Absolutely.

That's what Camden was supposed to be: a fresh start. A chance to gather his bearings, and show the world what he could do with an opportunity. He wasn't going to take it for granted, Never look a gift pony in the mouth, right? It was a stupid expression that he never fully understood but, it seemed relevant to his cause.

Camden. He thought about it as if he were trying to reassure himself that it was, indeed, really happening. Camden was the first step on the long road ahead of him. Granted, that road had an uncertain end but, at least it was a road that led in the right direction.

Right?

All things considered, it wasn't that bad. It was... well, it was interesting. It was new. Exciting.

No, really. It was.

He liked it here. It was different sure but, in a good way. The whole place was a beehive of activity, buzzing with life at all times of the day. You couldn't say that about Dodge Junction and, you certainly couldn't say that about home either.

Then again, things had never been easy for him back home. After all, he was raised on a farm.

The smell of sweat that stung his nostrils after a day of working a field. The summer's heat beating down on his body. The feel of hot tears dampening the coat around his eyes. Winter's chill taking bites out of his lips, his nostrils, anything unprotected. The pain of an empty stomach. The copper taste of blood.

That was life on a farm. More importantly, that was his life on a farm.

Call him crazy, but when all your memories of a lifetime spent in a place had a dark, unwelcoming tint to them and you had to really wrack your brain to find one that didn't, it was something resembling a problem. And so, the decision to flee came naturally; He had a gift and, he wasn't going to squander it in Dodge Junction. Hells, all that he had going on for him back home was a career with a one hundred percent mortality rate.

Farm Ponies. They didn't just retire and live quiet lives with their families when they got too old to work their trade. They weren't lawyers, bankers, or even royal guards for that matter. There was no 401 K to be earned working out in a field. You didn't get sick days, or vacation pay and, there was no gold watch and gift card wrapped up in a pretty wicker basket waiting for you after your time was up. Farm Ponies. They worked themselves to death, one way or the other.

His grandfather, the poor bastard, threw his back out trying to plough a field well past his prime and, in doing so, just sort of accepted fate. He died the week after, alone in his bed. Tragic as it was, it wasn't unheard of; It just sort of happened. Now, it was going to just sort of happen to his father and, as good fortune would have it, when it happened to his father, he himself stood to inherit that responsibility: Fatality and all.

How wonderful.

His family called it his legacy. Somehow, it felt more like a curse to be honest.

Regardless, he'd made a choice and now he had to live with it. It was just that the living with it part wasn't really going his way.

Maybe that's why he was here, now; Sitting in a safe haven off of campus and, trying to solve his problems the only way he knew how.

***

He'd been sitting in the bar for the past three hours. Or, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the past two months; depending on how you looked at it. Right now, he was looking at it through the bottom of a nearly empty pint-glass. The vision it presented was unsavory but, at least he could be pessimistic about it.

The last swig of Buckweiser in his glass had gone warm and flat about a half hour ago, and he quietly contemplated ordering another, until his mind drifted off; The knowledge that somewhere, back on campus his roommate Au Revoir, was probably having the time of his life at The Freaks and Geeks Party clouded over him. If he knew his roommate like he thought he did, he was already drunk and, more than likely doing body shots of whipped cream flavoured vodka off of some mare's flank. He'd be getting loud cheers and ruckus encouragement from the types of ponies who had unconsciously driven he himself away from the flashy, loud and extravagant drinking orgies Camden's student body seemed to host nightly and, into the welcoming hooves of the quiet hole-in-the-wall ambience that 'Saltee's Tavern' offered on a Friday night.

For an arts school, Camden sure was filled with more than it's fair share of brain dead morons. How one single place could exist, solely to hold as many pretentious, spoiled, trust fund babies, without causing some kind of universal chasm or economic collapse, was beyond his understanding.

It seemed, Camden was an excuse for places like Manehattan, Las Pegasus, Canterlot and Cloudsdale to round up all of their empty, shallow, socialites in the making and dump them in a consequence free playground. It wasn't much more than a social experiment in that sense; The brainchild of some demented mind doing a study on how many failed adults chasing a Bachelor of Arts could produce. Throw in mares with questionable standards, colts who liked to take advantage of that personality flaw, enough booze to drown a sovereign nation and you had the majority of Camden's student body.

Defeated, he sighed quietly to himself.

Hadn't he come here to escape these kind of thoughts?

He waved a hoof towards the bar mare--a portly looking Earth Pony who he could only imagine was either Saltee's wife, lover, sister, or, as luck would have it, all of the above--and when he'd caught her attention, he tapped his hoof lightly on the bar in an age old code shared between bartender and patron: I need a drink.

She smiled politely, then reached for another cold Buckweiser.

As he waited for her to return, he found his eyes wandering across the room; drinking in his company for the night. The bar was mostly empty now, like it usually was during the weeks and on every other weekend. Of the nearly thirty seats in the entire place, only about a half dozen or so were filled and the bodies that filled them were all much older earth ponies than himself. These ponies also happened to not be from Camden (Townies was the word everyone on campus called ponies from the neighbouring small town of Barstow.) This crowd of sad old drunken townies sat in the furthest booths and tables of the bar. Hidden away from the illumination of the outside street light through the stained glass windows.

He'd seen this same crowd before. Maybe not the same exact faces as tonight, but certainly this same crowd. He didn't know any of their names, and, he could only imagine the same could be said for them of him. Yet, still, the faces that stared solemnly back at him tonight were uncomfortably familiar to him; Like staring at poorly painted portraits of broken lives.

Another heavy groan.

When had he let himself become so charmingly bitter?

The bar mare (Whoever she was to Saltee) returned with his glass of liquid relief, and he felt a momentary calmness wash over him. He generously slid her a few extra bits along with the cost of the drink. (Any little thing he could do to make her night seem better than his, he figured) and she smiled graciously as she pocketed the tip, before trotting off towards the back of the bar where one of the townies was waving a hoof in her direction.

Now, sitting alone with a fresh pint of courage, sunshine and happiness, it was time to get back to the basics.

Quiet sip. Stone faced glance around the bar. Quiet sip. Stare at the same broken faces who stared, with a neutral sense of understanding back at his. Quiet Sip. Perplexity; something was different now. Something had changed. But what? Quiet Sip. Realization dawned on him; A strange newcomer had entered the bar.

He quietly observed this newcomer. The stranger was an earth pony, like himself; He looked to be about a year, two at the most, younger and, was about a head shorter. He wore a generous black mane, rustled by the slight breeze outside. His smaller frame was hidden behind a smoked grey coat.

This strange newcomer took a seat no more than three barstools away from him. Their eyes met for a brief second and, he saw the newcomer smile warmly with recognition; like he'd just spotted an old friend or a long lost drinking buddy. This seemed odd because, as far as he could tell, he'd never met this stranger in his life. Although, he certainly looked like a Camden student. He was fresh faced. All smiles and no regrets. Just another face grinning idiot from an arts school.

The underlying question came to mind: Where exactly might he know this happy go lucky bastard from? Maybe they'd been to one of the same parties together? Who could say?

During his time at Camden, he'd been to so many pointless parties and seen so many easily forgettable faces that the notion that this one stuck out from the crowd and captured his attention seemed odd. Mathematically speaking, Camden had something like thirty five thousand registered students living on campus and the odds that he knew this pony seemed improbably low, but, here he was; sitting in his bar stool, silently observing him and asking himself how he knew him, and why he cared?

He couldn't place a hoof on why exactly, but something about this particular pony rubbed him the wrong way. The more he thought about it, the more he realized some of the symptoms of his curious hatred. He was an outsider here. He didn't look at all like he'd been broken by life and it's turbulent twists and turns. By the very virtue of the uplifting smile plastered across his stupidly optimistic face he easily set himself apart from the sad old drunks that filled the bar stools.

His presence here was almost offending.

Whoever this pony was, one thing was clear: The stupid bastard had no idea what he was getting himself into.

“Hey, Cultural Studies?”

A voice, not his own, derailed his train of thoughts and brought him back to reality. The voice's owner Mr. Happy Go Lucky now stood beside him and stared inquisitively at him.

“'Beg pardon?”

“You're in my Cultural Studies class, right?” The pony asked again. He gave a soft smile and took an uninvited seat beside him. “I, uh, usually sit in the back, on the days that I do go. But, you're always up in the front. You must really like that class?”

“Oh... yeah. Right.”

“Stormy.” He offered, extending a hoof towards him.

Reluctant, but never one to seem impolite in the face of a stranger turned fellow scholar with similar academic interests, he accepted the hoof with his own.

“Gentle Strokes.”

Stormy politely waved over the bar mare and placed his order: A double Buck Daniels. On the rocks. The bar mare offered her same inviting smile, then went about fixing him his drink.

“So, it's a Friday night on a big campus. There's got to be literally hundreds of better things to do and, you're just sitting here all alone?” Stormy inquired.

“Mhmmm.” Gentle Strokes groaned out in response.

“And how's that working out for you, chief?” Stormy's response came with an attached shit-eating-grin that provoked an indescribable emotion in Gentle Strokes: as mad as he wanted to be at this pony and his presumptions, he faltered to admit that he was right; It wasn't doing him any favours being alone on a Friday night.

In spite of this Gentle Strokes felt it necessary to defend himself.

“Is there something I can help you with, Stormy?” He wasn't sure what Stormy was shooting for, but he knew from experience that he didn't want to get caught up in the middle of it. Camden students were ruthless and without mercy when it came to toying with simple folk like himself. Their tactics to break a pony's psyche went outside of the boundaries of a pony's Mareanda Rights. It was like they all got off on making a pony feel as miserable and broken as they could.

To that extent, he suddenly felt caught in Stormy's crosshairs. If there was one thing he didn't like above anything else, it was being a target. He may have been simple, sure, but, he wasn't going to be some eccentric debutante’s verbal chew-toy for the night. At least, not if he could help it.

“Well, honestly; I come here sometimes to get away from all the 'razzle dazzle' of campus life.” Stormy said with a genuine smile “I've seen you sitting, alone, for like, three weeks. I just figured you could use a friend, or something?”

“Much obliged.” Gentle Strokes, sarcasm heavy in his tone, gave in solemn response.

The truth was that he was more than looking forward to a night of judgement free drinking, self pity and, more than that, quiet dignity but, here entered Stormy like some higher power sent by Celestia herself to test the limits of his psyche. He was an unruly force of nature who aimed to bring Gentle Stokes out of his funk and into the real world he wanted so desperately to escape from.

What an inconsiderate jerk.

Gentle Strokes was never a pony to stand for--let alone sit beside the living embodiment of--these kind of things. In that moment he made it a personal mission to defend, to his very last breath, his right to self imposed exile. He didn't need some self righteously optimistic pony to tell him how to live his life. He had two overly concerned parents who wrote him letters three or four times a week to do that for him.

“And how come you aren't back on Campus? I figure'd a pony like yourself would be at Brawny Brawler's?”

If all else fails, why not fall back on misdirection?

“What, the 'Freaks and Geeks' thing?” Stormy began with a laugh, “Hey, If I wanted to hang around with a bunch of self centred, drunk, homophobes, I would have just visited my family for the weekend.”

The sentence ran through Gentle Strokes brain twice. The first time it was met with his usual sense of disinterested resentment: Ignore this colt and everything he had to say until he shied away in defeat. That way, he won and Stormy lost, and that mattered, somehow.

The second time however, one phrase in particular stood out Homophobe. He hadn't read the dictionary before, but he also wasn't ignorant enough not to understand the proper definition of the word; Homophobe: The act of disliking, disapproving, condemning or shaming a colt's abnormal sexual orientation.

The cogs in his head working overtime, Gentle Strokes was hit with a very sudden realization.

“You're a... er...”

He had trouble finding the right words. It was, in truth, the first time he'd ever met one of them; A Colt Cuddler. That's what they called themselves: Colt Cuddlers. As in colts who didn't like mares. They were colts who liked other colts.

He was a long way from Dodge Junction.

“Gay?” Stormy offered in nonchalant response.

“Um... yeah.” Suddenly Gentle Strokes felt silly. Best to think of a quick response and not run the risk of seeming like another ignorant hick. “I'm sorry. It's just you seem so...”

Normal

He didn't have to say the word for both parties to understand that it was the one that he meant.

He couldn't get a good read off of the look on Stormy's face, it was too neutral to really tell if he'd taken extreme offence or not. Then, he slighted for a brief second. His face turned upside down with panic and he desperately patted his cheeks, moving down towards his chest.

“Oh, Celestia!” he groaned, faking a lisp on the 'C' and 'S' in 'Celestia'. “I must have left my fairy wand and all my glitter at my other boyfriend's house.”

“Hardy, har, har.” Gentle Strokes droned out as one note as he could. He didn't want to properly admit it, but he did feel a tinge of guilt about the situation. He hadn't meant to offend Stormy but, clearly that ship had sailed for long forgotten coasts and he was now stuck with the baggage.

“Hey, I'm sorry. It's just...well, I've never met a...uh...” He paused momentarily to clear the tickle in his throat “A...colt cuddler before.”

The word felt uncomfortable on his tongue.

Despite all the trials and turmoil he imagined landing himself in, Gentle Strokes seemed to come out of this ordeal clean when Stormy gave a kind, understanding smile and a whole hearted chuckle.

“Seriously? You've never met a stallion stuffer before?” Stormy chuckled, staring earnestly at Gentle Strokes as if he were some kind of circus sideshow.

Come see The Ignorant Hick. He's a pony trapped outside of contemporary society. Virtually lost in a sea of scholars, artists and political correctness. Watch him fumble his way through a conversation out of his comfort zone. Laugh at him as he makes one social faux pas, after another.

“I'm sorry but were you raised on a farm or something?”

Gentle Strokes gave a heavy, guttural, groan in response.

Was it really that obvious?

“Oh, sweet Celestia!” Stormy laughed. “Don't tell me you were?”

Something about Stormy's tone of voice rubbed Gentle Strokes the wrong way. Here he was, becoming the target of yet another pretentious, too-smart-to-know-when-to-shut-up, art student at Camden. If he had a bit for every time in the past three months he'd been in this same situation, well, he wouldn't even have to be at Camden.

A surge of anger and contempt ran through his nerves. He felt defensive, aggressive and standoffish. It was a rare feeling in him, one that hadn't been unearthed in some time. Regardless, he found himself acting along with the impulses in his body.

“What if I was?”

He could feel himself straighten his spine. His shoulders popped forwards and the rest of his larger farm pony body followed suit. He wasn't ever one to pride himself on it but, he could look intimidating when he wanted too.

Apparently, this was one of those times.

Seeing Gentle Stroke's grow, the intimidating look in his eyes and the furrow in his brows, Stormy's face fell flat and he suddenly stopped laughing.

For a few minutes, there was the most uncomfortable silence never heard in Saltee's Tavern before that night. Not a single hushed whisper was uttered in that time, the place was dead silent. If a pin had dropped in that moment, it would have been smart enough not to make a sound at all.

Awkward didn't begin to describe the atmosphere, now.

Stormy swallowed back a lump in his throat and bowed his head, weakly. His dropped face fell further and he quietly kicked his lower hooves against each other, while his upper hooves gently cradled the glass tumbler his Buck Daniels came in, swirling the ice cubes. Out of the corner in his eye he glanced up at Gentle Strokes, then spoke.

“Hey... look, I'm really sorry.” He forced a smile on his face, then continued. “I really didn't mean to offend you. I... kinda run my mouth sometimes.”

Gentle Strokes remained quiet. There was a look on Stormy's face: browbeaten and earnestly imploring some kind of social reprieve from him. It made him feel uneasy. Maybe this colt was different from the rest? Maybe, he did feel bad about poking fun at the simple farm pony with no social grace or high class elegance?

Maybe Gentle Strokes was wrong about him?

“Can I buy you a drink?” Stormy offered, trying out an inviting smile that almost broke past the saddened eyes he had on. "As like a peace offering or something?"

Sometime, during their brief chat Stormy had downed his drink and Gentle Strokes, now staring at the bottom of an empty pint glass himself, realized he must have done the same.

All things considered, the hurt look on Stormy's face, and the modest attempt at a friendly smile he was offering looked genuine. For a brief second, Gentle Strokes thought about just saying 'no' to his proposal, then asking him to leave, but, that felt rude and unneighbourly. He felt like he owed Stormy this favour; to let him give him a second chance at a first impression.

Well that, and, Gentle Strokes was never a pony who could turn down a free drink.

“Yeah. Sure.” He said, smiling at Stormy. “Anyone can buy me a drink.”

Stormy flashed a warm relieved smile back at him. His ability to bounce back almost instantaneously almost astonished Gentle Strokes

“Ok. Alright!” Stormy was practically bouncing with renewed vigour and a foal like charm, now. “How about we make this interesting?”

"How's that?"

"Waddya say to something a little stronger than Buckweiser?"

Gentle Strokes grinned. Stormy was beginning to make a great second-first impression on him.

Stormy turned his attention to the bar-mare, who's interest must have been heavily invested in their conversation, and waved her over. When she approached he leant forward, his muzzle met her right ear and he gently cupped a hoof to cover his mouth as he whispered something into it. A short second later she leaned her head back with wide eyes and a look of disbelief on her face. Stormy nodded his head, with a smile. She just gave a loud 'huff' and shook her head before returning to the far end of the bar.

A minute later she reappeared with a pair of half glasses filled to the brim with a curious brown/gold liquid. Stormy smiled as she set them down before the two and slid her a hoof full of bits.

Gentle Strokes stared curious at the brown/gold shaded reflection of himself in the half glass of whatever it was. He knelt his head down and took a quick whiff. His nostrils found revolt at the smell and, his eyes watered slightly. Right off the hop, he could tell that whatever these shots were, he'd probably need more than salt and a lime to chase it with.

Gentle Strokes gripped his glass firmly and swallowed back his discomfort, fear and any reservations he might have had. Farm pony or not, there was nothing more foul and rotten to toss back like a shot of bottom shelf gut rot. Especially, when these 'shots' looked suspiciously like very generous doubles.

Stormy, on the other hoof, looked like he was more than willing to accept the challenge. A grin; like an asylum patient spread across his face and rose high up on his cheeks. He gripped the glass tight, and impatiently.

Gentle Strokes gave an inward groan; they'd come this far, and it seemed that there was no going back now.

“Salute.” Stormy offered, raising his glass in the air.

“Gesundheit.” Gentle Strokes smirked, following Stormy' lead.

The glasses met at the brim where a soft 'clink' was heard. Then the bottoms fell to the bar counter. And, in less time than he could ask himself 'Was this a good idea?' both colt's had tossed back their poison.

Gentle Strokes fought back the urge to physically express his body's rebellion against the contents of the glass. He tried to take his mind off the battle being raged in his stomach by instead trying to figure out the chemical composition he'd just shot back; Was the burning in his tongue the product of a fine paint thinner? Did the uneasiness in his eyes account for a touch of lye?

The bottle it was poured out of itself was probably some stereotypically cliche thin at the top, round at the bottom jug with a perfectly mouth sized nozzle and three black 'x's' placed over top a crudely painted Skull and Bones on the side. Chances were Saltee and The Bar Made had probably even brewed it themselves in a bathtub in the back storeroom of the bar.

To his right, Stormy, who's eyes had been brought to a squint, knocked his head back, let out a quiet 'belch', which he'd politely muffled with a hoof, then threw that same hoof in the air, waving the Bar Mare over for another round.

Something in the 'not-so-subtle' region of his mind told Gentle Strokes that this was going to be one of those kind of nights.....

***

He wasn't sure when exactly he'd gotten locked into the drinking contest he was currently losing against Stormy, but it seemed, almost every four or five minutes over the past two hours, either Stormy or Gentle Strokes was throwing a hoof full of bits on the table and ordering something stronger and cheaper than what the other had ordered before him.

Now well into their second hour of the most melodramatic live display of How To Get Cirrhosis Of The Liver and neither pony could see straight (Gentle Strokes would have made a joke about how Stormy never really saw straight to begin with, but, it seemed redundant).

Stormy, lifting his head sluggishly from the table, tapped around at his waist. Reaching for a saddle bag that he must not have realized was on the back of his chair. A few minutes of helpless searching around the bar for it, and Gentle Strokes had squeezed all the fun he could from the situation. He reached into the saddle bag and gripped a small box, which he imagined was what Stormy was looking for, and tossed it gently on the table.

Stormy turned to look at Gentle Strokes and cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. He spotted the pack of cigarettes, lifted one out with his teeth and pushed the pack towards Gentle Strokes, who shook his head silently.

Stormy shrugged and lit his cigarette.

Watching Stormy light his cigarette, Gentle Strokes was hit with the ninth or tenth sudden realization of the night; He must not have been paying such close attention before, but now, for whichever reason, he noticed that Stormy was far from an ugly pony. In fact, at the risk of sounding like....well, he imagined how a colt like Stormy might make it sound, he'd go so far as to say he was in fact quite good looking. Not that it meant anything. Stormy was a Colt Cuddler. Gentle Strokes was as straight as an arrow.

Or a spear.

Or any other phallic object.

He tried to drown the thought out of his head with the last sip of their latest round and looked around the bar for some form of visual compliment in the way of a pretty mare. Someone that would take his mind, and vision, off of his companion. He was upset to learn his feminine company for the night was restricted to The Bar Mare, and on top of being Saltee's... concubine, she was hardly a looker.

He turned back to Stormy who, with the cigarette clenched tightly in his teeth, had found his attention drawn by a coaster that he was aimlessly spinning on it's edge.

Gentle Strokes felt an uncomfortable chill run up his spine. All impulses in his body firing away, he realized the longer he was company with Stormy the more likely it was he did something downright uncharacteristic of himself. He wasn't sure what that something would be, but it felt warm and soft to think about what the worst case scenario of himself enjoying the company of a drunk, gay, and apparently dastardly handsome colt for the evening could be.

Maybe now was a good time to call it a night?

With Stormy preoccupied twirling the same coaster on it's edge and trying to blow smoke rings, this moment was probably the best to sneak out unannounced. He pushed himself off of the bar stool.....and totally forgot the effects that mixing hard alcohol and, much harder lounging had on motor skills.

His lower hooves felt weightless and asleep, but it didn't matter, he had to leave now. His first step towards the door was fine. But, on the second step he somehow managed to catch a still very much asleep front right hoof on his awake back left hoof. He pulled forwards with his front hoof-which picked that exact moment to give out-and he felt himself stumble and fall face first to the floor.

After an embarrassingly loud 'thud', all eyes were suddenly drawn to him.

He felt a lot more than stupid at that moment.

He tried to pick himself up and dust himself off, but apparently, the floor had decided to change density. No longer was he walking on hardwood floors, but rainsoaked marble, apparently.

He lost his footing, and slipped again.

He tried to correct himself; Third time's the charm, right?

Wrong.

Again he slipped, fell, and, got up.

By his fourth attempt and failure he groaned and gave up.

He made a mental decision: Of all the places he'd slept in his life (In a barn in the dead of winter. In his Aunt and Uncle's house during mating season. Inside a Hen House.) the floor of the bar didn't seem so bad. It was warm enough and, if he were lucky, he could ignore the 'Barnyard' noises that Saltee and The Bar Mare would make later that night (Which, unfortunately he couldn't say about the time he'd slept at his Aunt and Uncle's.)

“Easy there, cowpoke.” He heard Stormy mutter with a chuckle as he felt a very soft hoof wrap around his chest and pull him to his hooves.

“M-must be something they put in the drinks?” He heard himself slur.

This was getting bad. Real bad. The kind of bad where after he ran away from Stormy as well as his own totally non-existent inner demons. He'd never be able to show his face in Saltee's tavern again. And, maybe even consider quitting drinking... but, that was getting a little ahead of himself.

“Yeah, it's this crazy new thing called 'alcohol'.” Stormy responded, sarcastically. Stormy probably didn't need to look around the bar to feel the curious, inquisitive stares bearing down on him. There seemed no better time to leave, than now. “Why don't you call it a night? You look like you could use a good nap.”

With one hoof ever-so-gently draped over his shoulder, Stormy began to lead Gentle Strokes through the exit.

“I can walk my self home!” Gentle Strokes shouted, incredulously. He broke off off the warm embrace and began trotting quickly ahead of Stormy, who stood behind watching Gentle Strokes's exit with bemused curiosity.

There was a certain rhythm to Gentle Strokes exit that Stormy picked up on, but that Gentle Strokes himself seemed unaware of. He'd take a few steps forward, make a quick dodge to the right (totally on purpose, of course), then straighten himself out. A few more steps forward. Slight slip backwards. Straighten up, again. Shamble a few more steps forward.

Gentle Strokes was getting nowhere fast, but, at least he was heading nowhere in the right direction.

“Campus is the other way, dude!” He heard Stormy shout out from behind him.

Gentle Strokes stopped dead in his tracks and, shamefully, gave a loud groan.

“Are you sure you can make it home?” He heard the stupid, persistent pony behind him ask.

He turned to face him.

The curiously amused look he'd worn on his face was now replaced with a genuinely concerned one.

Gentle Strokes almost felt bad, but, then he remembered who he was running away from, and why.

He lifted his head pridefully and spun around on his feet, tripped, fumbled around for a brief second, then straightened himself out and began walking the right way back to Campus.

“I'll be fine.” He grudgingly shouted over his shoulder.

***

From a distance, Stormy watched Gentle Strokes leave with a smile. He wasn't sure exactly why he did it, but, when he was sure Gentle Strokes was a proud distance ahead of Stormy, he took off after him.

After all, somepony had to make sure that this silly farm pony got home safe.

Author's Note:

I'd just like to thank all the great people who helped turn this story from an unreadable mess into the....well, 'readable' mess it is today. To Kao, Werewolf435, Golden Hoof, Shadowflash, Salvanas, Avorin, Butterscotch Cream, Doctor Dapples (In an extended 'you helped me a long time ago and you probably don't even know it' sort of way), Vimbert The Unimpressive, Stormsoul 22, Novel Idea and a lot of people I know I'm forgetting (And if I did and you're in any way shape or form offended please let me know so I can make it up to you somehow) thank you for all the time and effort you put into helping me with the story; all the editing, all the pre-reading, all the honest feedback, everything you guys did was a huge help and I really appreciate it.