• Published 7th Dec 2012
  • 3,798 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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Electric Feel


Electric Feel.


Standing in front of the solid oak door with the numbers ‘2-1-1-2’ in acrylic metal drilled into the woodwork, Stormy felt at home. Throwing caution to the wind, Stormy swung the door open and a sense of panic and discomfort struck him in return. The room was empty and rank with an unquestionable back alley ambience that caught Stormy off guard: There was evidence in the room of the abuse of every single recorded narcotic known to Ponykind since Princess Celestia had banished her sister Luna to the moon over a thousand years in the past.

Apple cores, honey dew rinds and crushed coconut husks rotted on the floors and floated in the puddle of rust coloured water that led back to the bathroom where the toilet had been taped shut and the sink was overflowing.

The halogen bulbs in the lamps and overhead lights of the room had been replaced with cheap, tacky Hearth’s Warming Eve themed ones. They flickered on off giving the room a sleazy feel; like the locker room of a strip club during the holidays.

Even in what little light was still left in the room, Stormy could tell that Jag had taken it upon himself to use and abuse Stormy’s personal space for his own nefarious purposes. His bed was the first of Jag’s victims; the sheets had been torn off, leaving a naked mattress peppered with black holes burned in from the thirty or forty cigarette butts, half smoked joints and the sole signal flare. The entire mess had spilled from the towering mound of tobacco, narcotics, paper and plastic that had apparently once been an ashtray.

The posters and framed pictures had all been torn off the walls and both mirrors were smashed. They were replaced with crude, hoof painted symbols that were of an indeterminable language; bright neon green circles crashed against light blue triangles. A series of mismatched and backwards letters that almost spelt the words ‘Help’, ‘Death’ and ‘Free Dumb’, stained the walls. Dried ketchup (or blood) and crusted mustard were smeared along the walls in places where paint wasn’t.

His roommate, however, was nowhere to be found. Jag, that foul and rotten bastard, had apparently been living elsewhere. Everything valuable of his was very much missing from the room, and all that remained of his roommate’s presence was a black duffel bag on his pristine, perfectly made bed. The bag was overflowing with miniature, single use bars of soap, shampoo, mouthwash and conditioner that all read ‘Hotel Hills-Ton’. Underneath what was clearly a raid by his roommate on a room service cart in the hotel he stayed in while on vacation, were plain whiet T-shirts and two distinct ziploc bags filled with pressed gel caps.

When he returned, Jag certainly had a lot to answer for.

There was an old saying in Equestrian Lore dating back longer than Luna’s banishment; ‘Speak of Discord and he shall appear.’.

This was certainly not true for Jagged Horn.

Confused, tired, angry (and mildly impressed,) Stormy took a seat on Jag’s bed and shook a single cigarette loose from a fresh pack. If the R.A. hadn’t lifted a hoof to stop Jag from turning the room into a study in the pitfalls of absurdity, he certainly wasn’t going to complain about Stormy’s smoking. Again.

Now all he had to do was wait for his roommate to show up.

***

Three hours later, Stormy was fishing the last cigarette out of the pack and looking between the clock--which showed six thirty seven in bright neon red--to the door. As if his life were some fantastically overrated sitcom, the door swung open and a blur of maroon and black stumbled through the open doorway, fell flat on his chest--while still somehow keeping the bottle of wine clutched in his right hoof over his head--and a pair of pleading puppy dog eyes stared up at Stormy.

Behold: The majestic Jagged Horn, in all his glory.

The next few moves Jag made were entirely silent and bordered on eerie; the brightest, most blissful smile formed on his face as he leapt to his hooves, then onto the bed. Wordlessly, with his left hoof--as he clutched in a stranglehold a bottle of cheap champagne in his right--Jag pulled himself into a hug with his roommate, nuzzling his chin, cheeks and mane into Stormy’s neck.

Laughing, Stormy pushed Jag off of him and he fell backwards onto the bed. He brought the bottle to his lips, cradling it like a child in his hooves. He bit hard into the cork and then tore it out with his teeth. The bottle exploded, coating him with foam and liquid. Jag just laughed, sipped from the bottle then slammed it onto the nightstand.

“I love you, Stormy!” He roared as leapt at Stormy and tackled him onto the bed and again nuzzled his roommate. “Welcome back.”

Again, Stormy pushed his roommate off of him.

“Jag, what the Hells?” He asked as Jag’s laughter died down. “This place looks like shit.”

Dopily, Jag stared around the room; his eyes scanned the destruction and he snorted a laugh.

“Oh, right. That.” He swallowed. “Yeah, I threw a party the night I got back, and then...I dunno, it just sorta happened. I’ve been staying with Rumblejack and Shadowflash the last few days. I was gonna clean the mess up before you got back, but...”

Jag shrugged and reached across Stormy’s lap, grabbing the pack of cigarettes and fishing the last cigarette out for himself. He lit it, super casual, then leaned against the wall and started trying to blow smoke clouds.

“I didn’t think you’d be coming home so early, Stormy.” He peered at Stormy, then his eyes dropped when they found the bruised cheek. The welted eye, and the look on his face that betrayed his feelings.

“Oh, geez. That bad?”

Solemnly, Stormy nodded and Jag hooked a hoof around his shoulder, pulling his roommate to him, letting him rest his head on his side.

“Your dad’s a dick...”

It was said with the best of intentions, but even Jag’s foalish innocence didn’t sugar coat the weight the words carried with them. Jag gave a soft smile and hugged his roommate a little closer.

“Yeah,” Was all Stormy said.

He turned to Jag and smiled, genuinely.

“How was Baltimare?”

At this, Jag’s mood brightened and he shook with anticipation on the bed.

“Oh, fantastic, dude!” He exclaimed cheerfully. “I met this total smokeshow zebra at this bar at the train station. We had a few drinks, did a few bumps in the bathroom,” He paused to poke at his nostril to accentuate the point “, then we went back to her place for a bit of the old slip ‘n’ slide.”

“Was she any good?” Stormy inquired, peaking a curious eyebrow. His own experiences with zebras, at least sexually, was limited to an experimental one night stand back in Manehattan, but, Z had a charm about him that certainly spoke volumes about zebras males.

How their female counterparts stacked up was still up in the air.

“Oh, hoofs down the best blowjob I’ve ever had.” Jag said, beating his chest in pride. “And...she let me put it in her pooper, too.”

“Well, that’s...something?” Stormy mumbled.

“Yessir.” Jag grinned. “Anyway, after sex we were lying in her bed, and she’s going on and on about her family, how she has a cousin in some forest near Ponyville. How her cousin only speaks in rhymes cause she comes from ‘The Old Country’, or whatever. Then, she tells me about her drug dealer brother and how he got picked up by the guards for assault, right? She tells me he was keeping his stash at her place while he’s on trial, so the guards can’t pick it up and use it as evidence, but, get this...”

Jag paused here to fish one of the two fat ziploc bags with the multi colored pressed gel caps inside. He opened it with his teeth and shook loose two dragon tooth sized pills.

“...I stole it, Stormy. I stole the dude’s entire stash!”

Stormy stared down at the bag. There looked to be hundreds of these little pills in the first bag, and the second bag didn’t look any lighter.

“Holy shit,” Stormy breathed realizing what he’d just heard; here was Jagged Horn’s tremendous return to Camden; ripping a drug dealer off of thousands of bits worth of potentially dangerous narcotics and not batting an eye about it.

At least Jag hadn’t changed much during his time away from higher education.

“I know, right?” Jag’s grin grew, he gripped one of the pills in his hooves and twisted it open. “I got on the train and headed back to Camden before she could realize what I did.”

“You don’t think she’ll find you?”

“Nah, probably not.” Jag shrugged. “I told her my name was ‘Miguel’ and that I went to Coltlumbia. I think that’s why she slept with me?”

“Classy.” Stormy chuckled, then peered down at one of the pills and the gold powder inside it. “What is it?”

“This is Candy Dust.” Jag answered. “It comes from some kind of old school zebra voodoo, or something. ”

“What does it do?”

A gleam built in Jag’s eye.

He grabbed a plate from the night stand and poured a small pile of the gold powder out of the pill, then straightened it into a line using the edge of his hoof. “This shit makes pure sniffing salt seem like ginger beer, dude.”

Jag leaned his head down and pressed at the base of the golden powder. In a flash, the bulk of the line disappeared as he dragged his nose along the plate. Trace amounts of gold powder remained on the plate and Jag lapped it up using his tongue.

Rubbing his nose violently, he grinned at Stormy.

“You can smoke it, snort it, pop it in a pill or even shoot it up your veins...if you’re stupid, I guess...”

“Talk about easily approachable marketing design.” Stormy drawled.

“Yeppers.” Jag nodded. “You get this, totally kickass euphoria for about three hours if you pop the pills. It only lasts about forty, forty five if you snort it, though.”

Excitedly, Jag licked his lips and clenched his teeth tight. His eyes popped, eyebrows raised and it occurred to Stormy that his roommate was now fully under the effects of some new miracle designer drug. He faced Stormy, still licking his lips, then moved slowly towards him.

For a brief second Stormy feared his roommate was about to do something that he’d have to console him about for the rest of the semester, but, then he just pressed his face into Stormy’s chest and started nuzzling himself into the fur.

“Your fur is soooo soft.” He purred. “No wonder Strokes spends so much time here cuddling with you.”

It was unintentional, but that came as something of a low blow to Stormy. He hadn’t been back at Camden for more than twelve hours and already the longing for the gentle caress of a silly farm pony’s hoof on his body was overwhelming.

Good one, Jag.

“Have...you seen him?” Stormy asked down to the straight colt nuzzling his face into his chest.

Jag peered up at Stormy and shook his head ‘No.’ quietly, then went right back to running his face against Stormy’s body. Upset, but trying not to ruin his roommate’s seemingly unbreakable spirits, he gently pushed Jag away from him and got off the bed.

“I’m gonna catch a breath of fresh air, I think,” He was lying. “This place is kinda...hazy.”

“Cool, cool.” Jag mumbled almost incoherently.

***

Standing outside Gentle Strokes’ door was a familiar thing for Stormy. Usually, his nights with the older colt followed a similar trend of inviting himself inside his boyfriend’s room, one of them throwing the other onto a soft bed and then the private, intimate dance the two did between, on top, and occasionally not at all involving, the sheets.

This was different. Today, he was knocking on the door curious to see if Gentle Strokes was even at Camden or lost a million miles away in a town called Dodge Junction. Insecurities aside, Stormy realized pining wasn’t going to get him any closer to finding out the answer to his quarry and so he knocked on the door and a minute of anticipation later, it swung open to reveal Au Revoir.

Stormy had never really been too close with Au Revoir. Before he’d started seeing Strokes, Stormy had run into him at a few of the same parties, and eaten breakfast hungover in the same cafeteria. They might have exchanged a few words between them, but, if they had, Stormy couldn’t remember if they were pleasant or not.

After being with Strokes, Stormy’s relationship with Au Revoir hadn’t exactly blossomed into the same kind of kinship he shared with Jag. They shared a few more words that still only barely touched the definition of ‘sentences’, but, that was really it. They were no more or no less on the same scale of friendship they had been before Stormy had started sleeping with his roommate.

Personally, he didn’t count the colt as the same curse that Gentle Strokes seemed too. He just seemed like a regular, boring, old hedonistic heterosexual with a talent for picking mares on campus with loose morals and a lower sense of self esteem. Sort of like...Jagged Horn, only, Jag would never be caught dead wearing a beret or smoking a clove cigarette.

“Hi?” Au Revoir stared at him quizically.

“Uh...is Strokes around?” Stormy pondered, trying to play down the desperation betrayed in by his quivering stance and the almost pathetic tone to his voice.

Au Revoir’s face fell a bit. He stared down at the floor, exhaled a sharp breath of air, then stared back up at Stormy.

This didn’t bode well.

“Maybe you should come in?” Au cleared a path for Stormy’s entrance.

This didn’t bode well at all.

Stormy sat on Gentle Strokes bed and felt comfortable for the slightest second. This washed when Au Revoir turned to him, a letter, opened, but folded, clutched in his teeth and an uncharacteristic frown on his face.

“He... sent me this a few days ago. You might want to read it for yourself?”

He passed the scroll to Stormy, who didn’t have to even read it to know it wasn’t bearing good news. He didn’t want to read it. Really. Hypothetical situations were brewing in his head and none of them were optimistic.

Reluctant, Stormy stared down at the rolled scroll when curiosity got the better of him. He unrolled the parchment and read along with the words;

***

Sent to: Au Revoir. Centerfield Building. Room 2452.

From: 43 McDowell, Dodge Junction.

Dear Au,

I’m writing to let you know that I won’t be coming back to Camden this semester. Something came up here, and my family needs me to be here more than I need to be out there. It’s shitty, I know, but it has to be done.

I’ve already sent letters to all of my profs letting them know, and they’ve V.W.’d me from all my courses. I’m hoping that once things settle down here I’ll be able to come back and finish my year, maybe this summer, but until then I’ll be back here in Dodge Junction.

I know we weren’t exactly the best of friends, but I’d hate to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth about me. So, if I ever did anything that pissed you off, I’m sorry. (I’m especially sorry you walked in on me and Stormy that night after The Dress To Get Bucked party. I still swear that I hung a sock on the door but that’s neither here nor there, is it?)

Take care of yourself, Au.

P.S. Please, don’t tell Stormy I sent you this, okay? I promise I’ll write to him when I know what to say, but I just can’t figure out how to tell him right now. I just don’t want to hurt him.

***

This...had to be wrong? It had to. There was no way this letter was anything but some kind of cruel prank by Au Revoir to get back at him for walking in on them after The Dressed To Get Bucked party. That, or, maybe there was some kind of miscommunication in the letter? Could it be code? Maybe it meant he was in trouble in Dodge Junction?

Or? Or? Or?

Stormy fell back on the bed and closed his eyes.

Or, maybe Gentle Strokes was actually staying in Dodge Junction and didn’t have the balls to tell him?

“How long ago did he send that?” The words sort of just fell clumsily out of his mouth, like someone else was speaking for him, or something.

“...I’d say, a week?” Au Revoir stated simply. “He had a few colts come and ship most of his stuff back a few days ago. I thought he would have written to you by now?”

Stormy shook his head.

He’d been smart enough to know that letters left in his mailbox at Camden during his absence wouldn’t likely still be there upon his return. To remedy this, he’d had all of his mail forwarded to his father’s place in Manehattan. Judging by the time frame between when Au Revoir got his letter, and when Stormy should have gotten his, it clearly hadn’t been sent.

For all Stormy knew it hadn’t been.

This was his life: His father used him as a verbal and physical punching bag. His brother considered him and his entire life a waste. His mother was dead and buried. His room in the only place he felt comfortable calling home was trashed and his roommate was too stoned or just stupid to account for his responsibility in the matter.

He’d planned on seeking comfort in the hooves of the only colt for whom Stormy had any resemblance of feelings for, and instead he’d found an empty bed. It seemed pretty clear that Gentle Strokes had taken the easy way out and saved Stormy the heartache of a face to face break up.

And, what a kind and generous soul he was for doing that.

Without a word, Stormy got up from his seat on Gentle Strokes’s long vacant bed. He didn’t need to look at Au Revoir as he walked out of the room, his eyes stayed with the floor and watched one hoof fall in front of another.

***

This was Stormy’s afternoon; he wasn’t able to muster the strength to brave the crime scene that was his room, and other than Strokes’s place, there was hardly a hole at Camden that he felt comfortable seeking solace in. Which was what he figured he needed. That, and a drink.

So, after stopping for a few too many at Nell’s, he’d dragged himself to Rumblejack and Shadowflash’s place to find Jag. Which was where he was now; sitting on a couch, sharing the reason for the frown on his face with Jag, Shadowflash and Rumblejack.

“Dude, that’s so gay...”

Rumblejack shared his opinion with wanton disregard for present company; which included a very much gay Stormy, the straight Jagged Horn and, according to who you asked; potentially bi (or at the least bit curious) Shadowflash.

Noticing his poor choice in words, Rumblejack slighted then stared as kindly and apologetically as he could muster, at Stormy then frowned.

“I mean like ‘lame’ gay not, uh, like ‘you’ gay.”

Stormy rolled his eyes and lit a cigarette.

“Come on, ‘Jack.” Shadowflash, quick to take the defensive, slapped his roommate on the shoulder. “Try not to be such an ass, eh?”

“What? How am I being an ass?” Rumblejack, revolted, defended punching his roommate harder on his shoulder in revenge. “It sucks for Stormy. I mean, Camden has a million queer artists, but he had to fall for the one who shit on his heart. If anyone’s an asshole, it’s him!”

Powerful insight, Rumblejack. Riveting even. That psychology degree couldn’t be too far from his grasp now.

“Hey, come on now...” Jag, this time, interrupted with a soft smile aimed at Stormy. “Stormy didn’t come here to have you two jackoffs bring him down, right?”

He wiggled his eyebrows at Stormy then grinned.

“No...” Stormy offered back half heartedly.

“So, what’s the plan, then?” Rumblejack pondered. “If we’re not having a ‘Cheer up, Stormy.’ circle jerk, what are we doing?”

“Well, Brawny’s having that ‘Get On Your Knees and Glow Me.’ party over at Bel Air.” Shadowflash tossed into the mix. “And, Jag does have all those fun little party pills, remember?”

It didn’t take a genius to piece this puzzle together.

“Whaddya say, Stormy?” Jag asked, nudging Stormy’s chest with his elbow. “You down to have a little fun tonight?”

Stormy bit his lower lip; as a Camden student, who’d grown up in Manehattan and with a unicorn like Jagged Horn as his roommate, he wasn’t a stranger to narcotics. Quite the opposite; Stormy was as much a seasoned veteran of the psychic warzone that was drug use as Jagged Horn himself, he just didn’t like to make a lifestyle out of it.

Though, the sneaking suspicion that a night of illicit drug abuse would kill his foul mood and help him forget about stupid farm ponies in Dodge Junction who didn’t have the backbone to piss on his heart face to face.

With a grin and a mischievous little gleam in his eyes, Stormy nodded.

“Buckin’ aye.” Jag grinned back. He leaned his head towards a black and white saddle bag and grabbed one of the two fat zip-loc bags in his teeth. The pills, a sea of multicoloured gel caps, shook and rattled in the bag until, with his teeth, Jag opened the bag. Pressing his hooves together, Jag scooped out a rainbow coloured bundle of pills; nearly thirty. He let them slide out and fall to the table one after another, until his hooves were empty and the Ikea coffee table looked like someone had spilled a bag of skittles on it.

“Celestia, Jag,” Rumblejack breathed out, excited by the sight. “You weren’t kidding when you said you had enough to supply Camden for the rest of the semester.”

“Here’s the plan,” Jag started as he stared into the eyes of soon to be eager young pill popping fiends. “Each of us takes a bag with as many as we can fit into it, we go around Brawny’s and sell to whoever looks cool. If you see a mare, and she’s hot, you can give it to her for free if she offers you something in return.” He paused to offer a sly wink, then continued. “Otherwise, everyone pays ten bits a pop. At the end of the night, we split the take. I keep half of whatever you guys make, cause, why wouldn’t I? And you guys get to keep everything after that. Comprende?”

Rumblejack nodded, but Shadowflash and even Stormy seemed a little off put by the idea of peddling drugs which no pony present but Jag had heard of, let alone tried, and the quality assurance only he could attest too.

“We’re peddling drugs now, Jag?” Stormy asked, rolling his eyes at his roommate.

“You make it sound like I’m a drug dealer, Stormy. I’m just trying to make a few extra bits. You know, ‘Times are hard’, and all that...”

“Don’t you have like...a scholarship?” Shadowflash mused. “With a dining card and lodging paid for?”

“Hey...” Jag defended back, then paused and brought a hoof to under his chin. “Actually, buck it! So what, ‘Flash? All I care about is if you’re in, or out?”

“Yeah, you can count me out.” Shadowflash drew back and reclined in his seat. “I’m only here to get an arts degree, dude. Not spend the next ten to fifteen years of my life getting pounded by some zebra in a four by four cell.”

“Pussy,” Rumblejack grumbled, glaring daggers at this roommate.

“Stormy?” Jag asked. He stared at Stormy with faux sorrow in his eyes, but Stormy only offered protest in the form of a slow, steady headshake and a sigh under his breath.

“Pass.”

Jag shrugged his haunches, then pulled two smaller zip loc bags out the saddlebag. He shoveled cupped hooves of pills into the bags until they were as filled and fat as the original bag, then tossed one to Rumblejack, who gripped it with his teeth and shoved it into a pocket on his shirt.

“Well then, kiddies,” Jag roared in excitement as he stared at present company with a childish gleam in his eyes, he rolled his hooves over the pills. “Let’s get lifted.”

***

Thumping bass from the pony sized speakers on the impromptu stage in the living room shook the house and knocked picture frames off of the walls. A DJ--who looked like Jagged Horn’s drug dealer Sweet Deals--spun remixes of old Vinyl Scratch tracks with a looped Octavia album. Ponies, Zebras, even Gryphon, bodies covered with reflective body paint, drunk and high on a new miracle designer drug supplied by a team of well trained junkies.

In the centre of all the madness was Stormy, with lime green and sky blue stripes around his legs and a pair of red faux wings painted on his back. Tonight, all inhibition had been swept under the proverbial rug and replaced with the same careless attitude that kept Jagged Horn blissfully satisfied from day to day. This was most likely from the drugs, however.

This was the ‘Get On Your Knees and Glow Me Party’, a triumphant and extravagant celebration for all the seniors (and even some of the more popular freshmen), who had braved the face of the break and returned to Camden with renewed vigor and a hunger in their hearts for the wisdom and wonder that higher education offered. Though, to the untrained eye, what it looked like was close to two h

Around him, ponies thrashed and ground their bodies against each other almost violently, to the sound that erupted from the speakers. Two hours ago, when the drugs had been calling the shots, Stormy had been one of them; but now, the Candy Dust was running thin and he felt tired, drained and sluggish. His mouth was dry and somewhere in the kitchen was a duo of tapped kegs, a few dozen bottles of unmarked liquor, fresh ice and a plastic solo cups.

Pushing past bodies--and occasionally having a hoof brush against his thigh or pinch the cheeks of his flank--Stormy made it to the kitchen. Compared to the dance floor, it was relatively empty; in the corner of the room, Jag was wrapping up another business transaction. A small ziploc baggy of pills went into the hooves of two young--probably underaged--mares, and in return, a small satchel of bits went into Jagged Horn’s backpack. The girls, both pretty blondes with thin, raver bodies and their faces painted with neon ‘X’s’ and ‘O’s’, giggled when Jag asked them if they went to Camden, then shook their heads ‘No.’

The first mare; nearly identical to her opposite, popped the pill on her tongue, her partner followed suit. They shared a deep penetrating look into each others’ eyes until their faces drew closer and suddenly they were kissing, open mouthed and with hints of wild and violent tongues lashings that made small dimples in their cheeks.

Jag, naturally, smiled ear to ear as he watched this display unfold. When they finished, both girls drew away panting and blushing, and Jag asked if they wanted to come back to ‘his’ place for the afterparty. The girls giggled, again, and politely turned him down. Jag frowned briefly, then smiled again as he watched their bouncing cheeks as they trotted away.

His gaze moved past the empty doorway and fell onto Stormy, who he excitedly trotted towards with a sly grin. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of faux-designer sun glasses with orange rims and translucent red lenses. His mane, drenched with sweat, was held up by a tie tied tight around his head like a bandana and somehow, in the two hours since Stormy had last seen hide or tail of him since they’d went separate ways at the entrance to Bel-Air he’d managed to change his entire wardrobe; he’d come in wearing a sleeveless vintage Tee with ‘Freak Power’ written on it red ink and nothing else. Now, in it’s place, was a festive island themed button up; a silken red shirt with white peddaled flowers and bamboo buttons.

“Stormy!” Jag roared above the noise from the stereo and slapped his hoof across Stormy’s shoulder, pulling him into a hug and nuzzling himself into his roommate’s chest, his face pressing against Stormy’s cheek and his mouth inches from Stormy’s ear. “Dude, this is the greatest.” He whispered this into Stormy’s ear then quickly pushed Stormy away from him.

Stormy recovered to find Jag unslinging the backpack from his shoulder so that it fell to the floor. Just as quickly, Jag was on it; he leapt atop his bag and tore violently at the zipper, tugging hard with his teeth until the bag was open and then, with a nudge from his head, Jag shoved it towards Stormy.

Stormy peered inside the bag with a sedated curiosity. Countless gold coins shone bright from the overhanging U.V. lamp. By Stormy’s rough estimate, there were hundreds of the little circular bastards in Jag’s backpack; too many to count by hoof especially for a colt with a head full of designer drugs and a taste for strong drink on his tongue. Instead, Stormy zipped the bag closed and pushed it back towards Jag.

“Drink?” He pondered with a sly grin at Jag, who returned it.

They moved to the counter and Stormy fixed them a pair of drinks; a three second pour of Skynoff Vodka into a red solo cup, followed by a hoof full of ice and a full lime squeezed into each drink to kill the ache of shooting back what could easily be a six ounce ‘shot’. Touching the tips of their plastic cups, both colts slapped the cup to the table hard, then fired back as much as they could; Stormy, unlike Jag, managed to down his entire drink in two of the most foul and rank tasting mouth fulls of liquid he’d ever taken. Jag, on the other hoof, sipped until his mouth was full and vodka ran down his chin and dripped onto the floor. When he was finished, he refilled both cups--this time with Whiskey and Cola--then turned to face the crowd.

Stormy followed his lead.

“I’m rich.” Jag stated. It was simple, but effective. It got the point across and from the look of the plunder he’d amassed tonight, it certainly wasn’t a lie.

“Cheers,” Stormy chuckled and held his cup up to his roommate’s chest. Jag met it with his own, then both colts sipped, more cautiously, from their Whiskey-Colas.

“I’m rich. I’ve got a lifetime’s worth of drugs, I’ve slept with damn near every mare worth bucking at this school, but,” Jag paused and exhaled a sigh, then stared softly at Stormy. “I...I don’t have what I really want, you know?”

Curiously, Stormy stared back at his roommate, then offered an encouraging smile; inviting his roommate to share his thoughts. Jag having an intimate personal moment, was uncommon, and from experience Stormy could tell it came as a byproduct of the latest waves that came with drugs running wild through Jag’s system. Gone were the euphoric highs that Jag clung too, Stormy knew this because he’d had them come and go himself. Now, it was quiet, interpersonal connection time for Jag, and, also, probably Stormy. This was the time when both roommates would slink out of the party and spend an hour smoking cigarettes, drinking and just talking.

“Balcony?” Stormy suggested. Jag nodded and the two left the kitchen.

***

They found themselves on the second floor balcony overlooking the Camden courtyard and the dozens of bodies that filled the lawn outside of Bel Air. This was a secret spot where Brawny took impressionable mares (or, if rumor had it, colts,) to seduce them by claiming false facts about Camden and pointing them out with his right hoof, while his left rubbed their chests.

In this case, the balcony was a private spot where Jagged Horn, reaching the enlightened stage of his latest drug binge, was about to divulge some personal information with his closest friend, roommate and one sided heterosexual life partner; Stormy.

They sat opposite each other with their backs turned up against the oak railing and their drinks at the foot of their hooves. An opened pack of cigarettes sat between them, with a lighter beside it. Jag was peering, dramatically, off into the distance while Stormy lit his cigarette though he sprang to life, suddenly and turned to face Stormy.

“What’s up, Jag?” Stormy asked, pushing the pack of Red Apples towards Jag with his hoof. Jag shook one loose, lit it, inhaled sharply then on his exhale gave an exhausted sigh.

“I’m in love, Stormy.” He groaned.

Stormy had to stifle a laugh.

Jagged Horn was in love? This was going somewhere good.

“Oh,” Stormy coughed to stop himself from grinning, then straightened his face out and cleared his throat. “Who’s the lucky lady, Jag?”

“The Barista, Stormy!” Jag, huffed angrily. “Mocha bucking Roast!”

This was really gearing up to be a good one.

“You...are?” Stormy gawked, raising a curious eyebrow towards his roommate.

“Yeah...” Jag droned on to a bemused Stormy. His eyes fell a bit, and his smile wavered until it became a frown.

Stormy had seen Jag make this claim a million times before, and a million more times under the effects of sniffing salt or a whiskey bender. It seemed different this time, though; there was emotional weight and an added desperation to it that tugged at Stormy’s heartstrings. This was Jagged Horn being real and raw. This was the Jagged Horn that hid behind the veil of narcotic assisteted stupidity.

“Stormy,” Jag quietly mumbled into his hooves, then tore his face from the floor and stared up at him. “I’m serious.”

Stormy’s heart skipped a beat and sunk a little in his chest. There was the slightest tinge of hurt and anguish in Jag’s tone. It was a pain that up until now Stormy could have sworn simply didn’t exsist inside him.

“I know she doesn’t feel the same way about me, and I know it’s my fault, but...I really like her, dude.”

Stormy scooted towards Jag until he sat beside him. He didn’t flinch when he felt Jag lay his head on Stormy’s shoulder and instead pet his mane gently.

“What am I doing wrong?”

Stormy, serious intent in his eyes, stared at Jag and spoke.

“Do you want the truth? Or, do you want to just want me to say what you want to hear?”

Jag paused for a minute, like he had to seriously ponder the question. After a moment, he shook that idea from his head and nodded.

“Truth.”

Stormy inhaled a sharp breath.

This wasn’t going to be something he enjoyed doing, but Jag did ask and Stormy did have an answer.

“You’re an asshole.” Stormy admitted softly. “I mean, that’s why most girls like you, because you just don’t care about them. But, Mocha’s not like most girls. You’re an asshole and that’s why Mocha Roast won’t like you back.”

Jag seemed to take this harder than Stormy had thought he would; for a few short minutes after the balcony grew deathly quiet while Jag sat looking pained with thought. He scratched at his chin with his hoof, craned his neck back, his head came with it, and he exhaled a slow breath of air. When his face came down he looked renewed, however.

“Oh, I knew that.” Jag admitted with a soft chuckle. “Dude, ever since I was sixteen I’ve known two things; one, I’m handsome as sin and two: girls like bad boys.” He took a second to take a long, slow, introspective drag from the cigarette, then exhaled the smoke through his nostrils and continued. “I meant, what about me doesn’t she like? Specifically?”

Stormy took a minute to ponder this; what could a mare with an I.Q. in the triple digits possibly find unattractive about a shameless drug addled, borderline narcissist with high functioning alcoholism and more than few screws loose in his noggin.

How Mocha Roast couldn't find him attractive was baffling.

“It’s...” He started, then watched Jag’s eyes grow in anticipation and realized the well thought out speech in his head about Jag and his (many) personality flaws would ruin his roommate’s mood and instead, sighed. “She’s just looking for a nice guy, Jag. Just a run of the mill colt to swoop her off her hooves and show her a good time, really.”

Jag’s smile widened to comic proportions. He got to his hooves and dusted himself off, then stared down at Stormy.

“Dude, that’s it?” He asked while he popped his shoulders back in then spit in his hoof and ran it through his wild mane, brushing the sweat drenched mess into a mock-pompadour. He adjusted his shirt, tightened the tie around his forehead then bowed towards Stormy. “I can do ‘nice guy.’ if that’s what she wants.”

“Jag, I really don’t think...” Stormy started only to be silenced when Jag pressed a hoof to his mouth.

“Say no more, Stormy.” He seemed almost proud. “I’m going to go back in there and woo the pants off of her. Yes sir! Just wait. In a few days I’ll be eating cherries off her flank and giving her the ol’ in and out.”

“Jag, seriously. I think you’re missing the point of what I was trying to...” Again, Stormy tried to curb his roommate’s enthusiasm, but, again, it came to no avail as Jag just grinned.

“I’ll catcha later, Stormy. I gotta go lay the groundwork with The Barista’.” And with that, Jag trotted with a proud and arrogant strut back into Bel-Air, leaving his roommate stunned, silent and alone on the balcony.

Stormy sat like that for a few minutes; alone and silent. The euphoria was waning now, but, something new was taking over; something harsher and more turbulent. A cold wind blew against his mane and a sudden, interrupting pain overtook his stomach. Bubbles of citric acid exploded in his gut, a sharp pain overtook his liver and he noticed he was starting to sweat.

He jumped to his hooves and leaned against the railing, and when the pain in him reached the breaking point he leaned over the railing and began wretching; with it came everything that had once been in his stomach. Stormy vomited, violently, over the balcony and onto the grass below until he felt empty and he sank back onto the floor, catching his breath.

Waves of isolation and discomfort overtook him. The drugs were doing terrible things to him now, his mind recoiled in horror to accommodate. A crash course in depression overtook his emotional spectrum. Gentle Strokes, His father, his brother, all the colts in his life who should have cared for him and couldn’t or wouldn’t.

With a heavy sigh, he dropped his body against the railing. A second, more powerful buildup of sick started to develop in the pit of his stomach and, again, he upchucked a potent mix of bile and alcohol.

Heaving, but recovering, he caught his breath just in time to hear the sound of the door to the balcony slide open. He turned his body to face who he assumed to be Jag, but was surpised to find the sight of a mare; a frown on her face and a serious, alarmed, look in her eyes. Standing before him on the balcony was Mocha Roast, and she looked upset.

“Wow,” she stated, moving towards him. “I actually came out here to punch you in the face for siccing your stupid roommate on me, but, you look like absolute shit.”

Again his stomach rumbled and, again, he threw up over the railing. Mocha looked sympathetic and moved closer.

“Oh Celestia, are you okay?” She asked as she stood beside him. Her hoof ran, comfortingly, along his mane. “You really look like you’re sick or something?”

“It’s...” Stormy grumbled, but instead of finishing his thought he fell to the floor and cradled himself into a tight ball. “...I’m bucked.”

Mocha sat beside him, still petting his mane.

“What’s going on, Stormy?” She asked, softly. Her hoof rubbing his neck felt so warm, so nice. He leaned against her, resting his face onto her shoulder and wrapping his hooves around her waist.

“He left me,” He stated, simply. “He went back to Dodge Junction to be with his family and left me here. Alone. He didn’t even tell me about it...”

The floodgates were open now. The feeling of letting it out, sharing his soul and the troubles that fogged his mind and strained his soul, all the pains that cut deep into him, was comforting; relieving almost. Knowing that there was someone to finally listen when he spoke was even better.

“I’m sorry, Stormy.” Mocha sighed. “Really, you two were good for each other.”

She said it comfortingly, but, somehow it seemed almost condescending. Stormy, however, gave a heavy sigh and grumbled.

“It’s not fair,” he stated. Mocha peaked an eyebrow curiously. “I finally found a colt who I liked. I mean really, really liked. I take a week off to spend time with the family I have who hate my bucking guts and treat me like shit, and I come back home and all I want to do is be with him and then he bucks off to the middle of nowhere.”

Mocha hugged him tighter and Stormy nuzzled himself into the warm comfort that her shoulder provided. He shivered, she ran a hoof down his back and he gave something that sounded a lot like a pitiful whimper, until he realized how stupid all of this was; here was him sitting on the rooftop of some frat house at Camden, sick to the stomach with a head full of drugs and a painful yearning for the warm comfort of a colt who’d left him.

When did he become such a drama queen?

“Maybe you should call it a night?” She asked. “Why don’t you just sleep it off, Stormy? You’ll probably feel better in the morning.”

“Can’t,” Stormy breathed into her shoulder. “Jag trashed our room and I don’t have anywhere else on campus to go.”

Mocha paused and stared down at him. Her smile picked up and she got a devious, playful look in her eye, almost as if she were scheming something quite serendipitous.

“I have a free bed,” she offered with a grin.

“Yeah?”

“Mmhmm.” She nodded, then her grin widened. “Plus, it would absolutely destroy my roommate if she thought I managed to ‘convert’ you.”

For the first time in the last hour, Stormy actually gave a whole hearted laugh. Mocha laughed with him, when the quiet laughter died down they both got up and left, together.

***

“Don’t forget to tie a sock around the door,” Mocha insisted to Stormy as she entered her dorm room. Stormy tore a nylon sock he couldn’t remember putting on himself, off of his hoof then tied it tight around the door handle.

“Check,” Stormy nodded back and trotted into the room. Mocha fell onto her bed. Stormy onto her roommate’s and both ponies lay in absolute silence for a few minutes, until Mocha broke it with a quandary towards her sleepover guest.

“Stormy, if you don’t mind me asking?” She urged. Stormy didn’t give a reply and she continued “You, um...you really like Strokes, don’t you?”

Stormy would have grumbled. He would have sighed, or groaned, or done a million and one things to avoid the question, but, he didn’t. He replied honestly and with as much integrity as he could muster.

“I’m in love with him.” He said and tried not to feel like it sounded too cheesy coming out of the mouth of a colt who had slept with more colts in his life than he could thankfully remember. But, it was certainly true; even if he hadn’t wanted to admit it before, it was probably true then and it was definitely true now. Absence making the heart grow fonder and all the cliches in the book had hit the nail on the head and now here he was, confessing to The Barista, of all ponies, that he was in love with a silly farm pony from Dodge Junction.

A silence followed this statement, neither pony spoke for an uncomfortable amount of time until, from the closet emerged a small orange and white kitten. It crawled into bed beside Stormy and nuzzled it’s face against his chest, gave a weak yawn then collapsed beside him.

“That’s Bubastis.” Mocha said. “She’s my roommate’s sad attempt at filling the gap in her heart, I guess.”

“Cute.” Stormy said, picking the kitten up by the scruff of her neck and placing her gently on his lap. The cat pawed at his chest.

“Stormy, you really love Strokes, right?” Mocha asked. The cat gave a purr. Stormy just sighed.

“Yeah,” He replied.

“Why don’t you do something about it?” She pondered. Stormy rolled his head to stare at her, and she met his gaze with a soft, playful smile. “I mean, unless you’re not a stallion enough?”

“Hey, don’t start.” He urged. “What am I supposed to do, Mocha? He’s in Butt-Buck Nowhereseville and I’m here, at Camden.”

“There’s a train station right outside of Barstow that he took to get there, Stormy.”

“So, what? I just ditch Camden and leave for Dodge Junction on some fantastically cliched, passion driven little quest like my life is some tacky romance novel? That just screams Fifty Shades of Creepy, Mocha.”

“Listen, Stormy. I don’t know what happened with Strokes in Dodge Junction. That’s for you to find out. But, I do know that the day after The End Of The World Party, a nervous, jittery little farm pony came to me for advice on how to ask you out to dinner.”

“He...did?”

Stormy’s mind filled with the vision of Strokes; face red with blush, hooves trembling and scraping dust off the floor while he asked the resident psychology expert advice on how to ask out his first colt crush. Stormy smiled along with the vision.

“Yeah, it was painfully adorable.”

The cat on his stomach continued pawing at his fur. Mocha reached under her bed and pulled a heart shaped chest out. She dug out a small sack of Trottingham Hay and a pack of rolling papers.

“Do you mind?” She asked, Stormy shook his head ‘No.’ Bubastis gave a loud meow.

Mocha rolled herself a joint, a thin ‘l’ shaped little number, then lit it. She took slow, methodic, drags, then exhaled graceful little clouds. She passed it to Stormy who inhaled deep then exhaled little white circles out of his pursed lips. Mocha chuckled.

“You know,” Stormy started, passing her the joint. “, I think Jag really likes you?”

Mocha gave a low, pained, sigh then another drag.

“He’s pathetic.” She groaned back. “I’ve known a thousand and one colts exactly like him; he thinks he’s Celestia’s gift to mares, and the only reason he likes me is because I’m the only girl that’s ever said ‘No’ to him before.”

“Yeah, that’s all true.” Stormy admitted softly. He felt the need to defend what little remained of his roommate’s honor, and in doing so, at least trying to reach a mutual sense of understanding between Mocha and Jag. “But, his heart is in the right place. I’m not saying you two should do anything, just...you know, it’d make him feel like a million bits if you could try and treat him like an equal?”

“But he’s so...” She paused to run a hoof under her chin. “Stupid, Stormy. I think he might actually be mentally retarded.”

Hearing this, Stormy laughed harder and longer than he had all night and Mocha followed suite. The room filled with the sound of loud, unrestrained laughter that died down slowly.

“Granted, he’s a bit slow on the uptake,” Stormy chuckled. “But he really means well. Can’t you just try to try?”

Mocha sighed, again, then stared over at Stormy. The joint was done by now, put out in a clay ashtray that sat on her nightstand.

“Fine, I’ll treat Jagged Horn like a regular pony, if...” she paused here for dramatic effect, waiting for the tension to sink in with Stormy, then, when she was sure his curiosity had been peaked, she continued. “You go to Dodge Junction and win back your colt?”

“Why do you care so much?” Stormy asked. Mocha smiled and sat up in the bed, shuffling backwards into a bundle of pillows.

“I don’t know,” She sighed, then lowered her body onto the bed again. “You two are really good for each other. He’s a sweetheart and you...well, he needs you as much as you need him.”

“So that’s it, then?” Stormy asked. “I just hop on a train to Dodge Junction, and then everything is totally A-Okay between us? That doesn’t scream ‘Stalker’ to you at all?”

“Stormy, look. You really care about Gentle Strokes. You said it yourself. There are a million colts out there, but none of them are ever going to be him, and if there’s a chance you can sort this out why not take it?”

“Because it’s batshit crazy, that’s why!” Stormy grunted. “What about Camden? What about Jag? What about my education?”

“Oh, come on. You wouldn’t be here, in my room, arguing against it if you didn’t want to do it. You’re looking for excuses. Jag will understand, and I know for a fact that you’re seriously not going to let Camden hold you back. You haven’t ever before.”

Stormy grunted again. It really was a stupid idea; uproot himself from Camden, just after he got back and head to a town he’d never been to, all with the hopes of maybe winning back the colt he liked. The same colt who had dumped him through the grapevine and didn’t have the stones to tell him. But, if Stormy was anything he was a sucker for stupid ideas, especially when the reward was so very tempting.

“...Fine.” He grumbled as if he were trying to convince Mocha he was having serious issues with the idea.

“That’s more like it,” she replied and dimmed the lights to the room.

In the dark, with the covers drawn over their bodies and a kitten named Bubastis curled in Stormy’s lap, both ponies quickly found the Sandmare call for them. Stormy fell asleep with a smile knowing tomorrow was going to be the first step on a milestone, whirlwind adventure with an uncertain end and a prize every bit worth the risks he had to take.

Dodge Junction had a lot to look forward to in the coming days.