• 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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Out


Out


The time between crawling into bed, staring up at the ceiling, and when the sun broke the night’s sky and roosters croaked good morning to the small town of Dodge Junction passed so quickly for Gentle Strokes he almost didn’t believe it.

Almost.

Dawn light hit his eyes through the cracks in his blinds, and when the roosters woke Duke from his slumber, the fat bow-legged mess of a creature that he was crushed Gentle Strokes’s waist as he leapt from the bed to the floor. Duke bolted out the open door and down the hall. The sounds of the house shaking and the wooden planks of the floor creaking beneath his paws followed Duke all the way down the stairs, through the living room and finally out onto the back porch.

Gentle Strokes hadn’t slept at all.

There were things he realized now that existed despite his best efforts to pretend they didn’t. There were going to be many ideas, concepts, truths and hardships to face that day. At the forefront of his anguish was knowing that Stormy lay in a sterilized hospital bed a twenty five minute walk away from the home that he’d spent the night was. The other was that his cousin Huck, the pony responsible, was either in the hold of a cushy jail cell in town, or, more likely, halfway to Celestia-Only-Knew in Equestria. Regardless of where he was in the physical realm, mentally, Huck would be entirely unaccountable for his actions. That much Gentle Strokes was sure of. He wished he wasn’t, but, Gentle Strokes was a pony too smart to be ignorant in this case. Huck saw what he wanted to see, and knew what he wanted to know and, it only seemed natural that after the events of last night he saw a victory in knowing that he’d put a nosy little faggot into a hospital bed.

It bothered Gentle Strokes, yes, but it was nothing on the third realization he had been playing around with in his head all night; His family knew that, just like Stormy, he himself was also very much a faggot. A homo. A queer. A cock-sucker. A colt cuddler. A stallion stuffer.

Gay.

His family knew he was gay.

Gentle Strokes blinked and the world around him didn’t disappear. He tried, again, and the ceiling tiles with the tiny dotted holes, and the walls with the posters for all the bands he didn’t really listen too, and the shag-carpet with it’s uninteresting shade of grey, and all the trophies on the walls, and the medals earned, and the photos of him, and his mom, and dad, Clem and the twins, all stared back at him.

“Shit.”

It was a selfish desire to want to shrink down in size and slip through a crack in the wall. To disappear. To hide away from all the shame, and embarrassment, and, the truth. It was the latter that he really wanted to avoid. The truth. Then again, avoiding the things in his life that meant the most really hadn’t done him too many favors in the past little while.

“Shit-snacks.”

Floorboards in the room next to his own cracked, then the house shook, and Gentle Strokes understood this to mean that his father was up. More creaks from the opposite side of the bed and his mother was up too. A few moments of silent passed, then, something different happened. He heard muffled whispering, the kind even a glass pressed up against the wall wouldn’t let him eavesdrop on — which is why he didn’t bother. Instead he tried to imagine the conversation;

“But, darling, he’s still our son.” his mother would be saying, no doubt smiling, “Even if he’s an indecent sodomite with an unnatural lust for, well, if I’m being honest, a brutally deceitful little liar such as that ‘Stormy’ character… Who, I think, might be on ‘The Drugs.’, also. Well, surely we can’t disown him for such offensive behavior?”

“But we must, dear,” his father might have been saying, “As you know, his kind are not welcome in our lives. Nor are they in our perfect town. They’re corrupt, and disgusting. Sinful. That’s the word! Homosexuals are sinful, disgusting and corrupt creatures, and, so is our son! You know this, honey.”

“Of course, dear.” said his mother in his head. “We’ll have Sheriff Steel tighten up the gallows first thing when we get into town. That will cure our ailing son of all his troubles. Such a shame, he was such a good boy…”

Was.” his father might, perhaps, have responded with.

He was sure that after this a round of polite and curt head nods back and forth between his mother and father happened, because the whispering stopped. With them, so did Gentle Strokes’ heart for a few seconds. That was until more creaks came from the left side of his room, soft, feminine, hoof beats against the ground sounded from Clem’s room until they reached his door, which spun open slowly.

His sister’s head poked itself into the room, “Gent?”

He blinked, then nodded to her. “Mhmm?”

She invited herself inside and kicked the door closed behind her. In a few short steps she cleared the distance between the door and his bed, then, when she stood by the side of his bed, she once more made a judgement call that he wouldn’t protest against and raised herself up, crawled over the bed sheets and lay flat on her stomach beside him. She pressed her forehead against his cheek, nestled her face against his and sighed.

“Are you okay?”

No. No he was not ‘okay’. The world was trying to teach him a lesson in karmic payback by punishing the ponies he loved the most. Stormy was a victim of one of his many, many, mistakes. So was Huck, and Drought, and all the other ponies who’d had a night of their lives ruined because he was too weak willed and cowardly to own up to a mistake he never made.

“I guess,” he ended up saying into the back of her mane, “All of this feels… weird.”

She brushed his cheek with the backside of her mane, until her head shot up right and she was staring down at him. There was no burning judgement in her eyes. No sense of wanting to learn a truth about him he’d kept hidden from her. Clem wasn’t like that. She never had been, and, he could only hope, she never would be.

She leaned her face down to his and then kissed him on the forehead.

“I love you, Gent.” she said when she pulled back, “I don’t care what you think you’ve done. You’re still my brother, and I’ll always love you for of that.”

His smile to her was soft and probably didn’t do much to ease her tensions.

“Thanks,” he muttered.

She nustled her head back against him, then, when her head was next to his, she whispered. “Gent?”

He didn’t bother to turn to face her. “Yeah?”

“Is… Oh geez. Is that stuff... What Draught, and what Huck said… about Stormy…”

Her train of thought was interrupted, much to Gentle Strokes relief, when a hoof beat against the door.

Through the door that, only now, seemed much too thin to be made of the strong wood that had kept his moment alone with Stormy only a day earlier entirely private, came a masculine voice belonging to his father. “You up?”

“Shit,” Gentle Strokes groaned. “Y-yeah?”

“Come downstairs.” commanded his father’s voice, “Your mother and I… We’d like to have a few words ‘fore the others are up.”

“Shit!” Gentle Strokes snapped.

He ignored the concerned look on Clem’s face, shot upright in bed, then, just as quickly, bounced off his box frame mattress and landed with the grace of a rock into water on the hardwood floor, which shook and creaked, once more, beneath his hooves.

“You gonna be alright, Gent?”

Gentle Strokes turned to his sister, tried to smile and ended up giving her a look he was sure didn’t help ease her burden. He shrugged his shoulders, kicked a path into the carpet and tried not to look at the worry running ragged across Clem’s face.

“Dunno.” he said, and, for the first time in the last twenty plus hours of his life, felt confident in the truthfulness of an answer that he’d given to a member of his family.

For better, or, most likely — as he imagined — for worse, his parents were both waiting for him somewhere downstairs. What they said, how they said it and the lasting impact it would have on his life were just as much a mystery to him as anything else, but, at least he could count on the moral support of his sister Clementine to keep him in good faith on his trip down the stairs.

Without another word, he left his room and descended the staircase.

***

The first and only thing he was aware of when he woke up that gave him any comfort was that the pain in his head, legs, chest, face, hooves and back were all very much real. His first thought was that, maybe, he’d had too many drinks the night before — the taste of stale beer and whiskey in his spit certainly led him towards that assumption — and, that, maybe this was all part of the worst hangover he’d ever had in his life.

Then, when he opened his eyes, he saw the eggshell-white walls of the room he was in, and the plaster casts — unsigned — wrapped around the legs that stuck up in the air and were supported by some kind of hanging contraption he didn’t know the proper name of.

Then, memory kicked in and a wave of terrible, nasty, experiences from — he could only imagine — the night before came rolling back. Gentle Strokes. Huck. The bar. The fight — if one could even call it that?. A kick to his crotch. Another to the face...

Suddenly the pain started to make sense to him.

Stormy tried to turn his head to catch any sort of familiar site to understand where he’d woken up, but the stiff feeling and the sudden ‘snap’ that accompanied the slightest gyration of his head stopped him and made him throw the most foul curse he could conjure as loud as he could at the world around him.

He’d woken up in some truly wretched places in his life, and also in terrible states of mental condition. Nights of drinking early in his freshman year of Camden had landed him in some odd places, and, sometimes with the strong desire to beat the line at the nearest medical facility to demand, loudly, a blood test. Waking up that day beat out any number of questionable one night stands at Camden as the worst feeling in the world to Stormy.

Everything down to the fibre of his being hurt. He couldn't turn his neck. Two of his legs — upper right and lower left — were suspended in the air and wrapped tight in casts. Worstly, staring down, he realized now that there was also a thin translucent line of plastic tubing running up his left thigh, to far beneath the line of sight that the drab green hospital gown he wore provided. He rotated his pelvis as best he could, then his heart skipped at the uncomfortable feeling it provided...

There was a tube in his cock.

Stormy wanted to cry, and, trying to do so, was when he realized he’d never fully opened his left eye. He tried again but nothing happened, and he sighed then rolled his face over. Here he was, in a hospital bed, medically assisted like all the ponies at a retirement home, and now, he couldn’t even open his left eye.

Great.

Through his very much undamaged right, he made out the appearance of two electric switches attached by black cables to two separate machines. The first was a tall I.V. stand with two plastic sacks filled with translucent liquid, both of them were hooked to veins in shaved patches of fur on his right leg.

Just great.

He flipped the nozzle of one of the switches, hoping that maybe some nurse would rush into the room and explain A) where in the world of Equestria he was currently, B) Who he owed for saving him from the firing squad of Huck and all his cronies, and, C) How badly damaged his fragile little body was.

Instead, a feeling of calm surrender began to rush through him. All the hurt washed away, and so did the hate filled memories. He felt… okay. Stormy felt alright. Not great, or fantastic, but he was getting there. He pressed the button again, a wave of something nice and pleasant washed over him and then he realized what this was.

Morphine. The good kind. The same kind of stuff that Jag would rifle through medical cupboards and steal prescription pads to get his greedy little hooves on. Only now, it was helping him come to terms with himself.

Jag would have loved it.

Stormy laid his stiff neck and bandaged head back as best he could against the soft pillow, he wiggled his waist until he felt comfortable enough with his position, and shut his right eye. Maybe it was the morphine, or maybe it was something else, but he didn’t feel so bad right now. Things were bad, no doubt, but they could have always been worse.

He drew his dopey gaze from his chest towards the far side of the room where a curious site stood; a solid oak dresser — finely crafted if he were being honest — with a full body mirror hanging overtop of it. He stared at it, tilted his head and opened up his good eye as best he could to catch sight of his reflection.

Stormy felt sick to his stomach at what he saw.

The thing lying in bed — which he hated to try to fathom as being himself — looked frail and borderline lifeless. His grey fur was matted, with some of it twisted up into ugly lumps with spots where there was no fur at all, only his pinkish skin and thick, black, train track markings that he knew to be patchwork done by the hooves of a clearly skilled surgeon. A large part of his upper head was bald, scarred and ugly. Spots across his chest too, and, from what he could tell, there were most likely more along his legs and back.

His stomach turned and, even with the morphine, he felt sick again. He wanted a bucket, a vestibule, something to be sick into. He looked ugly, weak and disgusting. He looked worse than any homeless pony he’d ever stepped over in the streets and back alleys of Manehattan. Worse than Jag did after a weekend of feeding his impulses. Worse than his mother looked when she’d been laying in a hospital bed and dying.

Laying his head back, he swallowed hard, shut his good eye tight and waited for what came next. If he was lucky — and, so far all signs pointed the other way on that end — maybe he could pump some more legally allowed drugs into his veins, doze off and wake up for real in a world where he wasn’t an ugly, mutilated, borderline-cripple who’d just suffered the beating of a lifetime.

He waited.

And waited...

Little sheep with fur like clouds leapt over a gate in his mind, one after another, but nothing much came of it. A calm came over him. Left. Panic, then, nothing but an empty feeling. He counted more sheep, tried not to think about Gentle Strokes, his cousin Hucklebuck, all the hooves crashing into him, and all the decisions he’d made last night that had led him to this moment.

He couldn’t stop thinking. Gentle Strokes was out there in the wide world of Equestria, doing something. Probably beating himself up, doting on all his failures, feeling shitty about the situation. Hucklebuck, and all the other ponies with him, were probably cackling evilly, twirling the tips of the fur around their mouths like moustachioed villains in terrible silent films about putting the boots to a little queer.

Did anyone even know he was in the hospital? Did Strokes? Did Jag? Did Blue, or his dad, or Saul, or Mocha, or that kid White Mane, and his friend Piper, and all their queer friends? Did any of his professors back at Camden hold a minute of silence for his condition?

Did it matter?

How long had he been in the hospital? That was another good question. Also, what were the permanent and non-permanent terms of his condition? The bandages wrapped around his head and eye made him wonder if there could be severe brain damage he wasn’t aware of? The casts on his legs made him worry he’d never dance again. The plastic tube in his johnson made him worry about the health of his ‘Lil’ Stormy’ downstairs.

He opened his eye again and scanned the medical equipment. Somewhere, in the field of tangled cords, blinking green and red lights and beeping machinery, was a switch that would bring someone with a little more medical knowledge than himself into the room. Anyone would have been nice. A fresh faced nurse who’d gawk at the sight of him and the idea of having to — most likely — give him a sponge bath and change his pissing pot later on in their lives, or, perhaps a doctor who graduated from Coltlumbia who he could lament his problems with.

He found a switch attached to a simple box shaped device that hung from the side of his bed like an unattached testicle. He didn’t hesitate to grab at it with his one good upper leg, flip the switch twice — if only to be absolutely sure that he’d be heard — and wait a few minutes to see who answered his beckoning call.

The soft pitter patter of hooves stepping against floorboards filled his ears, then, a minute after, the door to the room swung open, lights were flipped on and a scrappy, elder looking Unicorn decked out in medical garb stood in the doorway. He had a forced and clearly faux smile spread across his muzzle as he stared at Stromy, as if, somehow, the sight didn’t repulse him quite like it should have. Stormy appreciated the effort on his part.

“Hello.” he said.

Stormy nodded back, then shuffled in the bed.

“How are we feeling this morning?”

What a stupid question. Honestly. Bedside manner certainly wasn’t this doctor’s specialty. If he’d cared to answer Stormy would have told him to shove it, but, the notion that his life might be later placed into the careful hold of this pony’s hooves and that this offense might encourage a decision to, perhaps, accidentally slip up and take his life overcame him and instead of giving a mean glare or curt comment, he put on a smile.

“Peachy.” said Stormy to the doctor. “Really peachy.”

It was the first time he’d heard himself speak all day and he hated the sound; it was raspier than usual, as if he not only smoked cigarettes but ate them and chased them with a nice glass of razorblades and jagged metal shrapnel. Raspy, crackling and ugly.

The doctor opened his mouth to speak, took another look at Stormy and then quickly closed it. He took a few steps into the room, pulled a chair across the floor so that it squealed, stopped it just before the bed and took his seat. He stared blankly at Stormy, trying hard not to make eye contact, while he flipped through the pages of a clipboard he held using his magic.

“Your bedside manner sucks.” Stormy grunted. “Seriously.”

The doctor’s lips lifted upwards in a smile. “I’ve been told.” He set the clipboard down on Stormy’s lap, lifted a pen from it and then floated it before his face, “It’s nice to see you awake. Sincerely. I wasn’t expecting you to be up for some time.”

“Great,” Stormy said, “Really, I’m just glad to be here.”

The doctor sighed. “I suppose you must be feeling a little… overwhelmed. I should introduce myself.”

“It couldn’t hurt.”

“I’m Doctor Toboggan.” he said, putting on a jovial smile where pride shone across his face. “I’m the local physician here in Dodge Junction.”

Stormy huffed a breath between his pursed lips and shook his head. “Riveting.”

The doctor’s smile fell down his face.

Stormy ignored any sense of concern he had for the doctor. For all he knew, considering how small Dodge Junction was, there was a likelihood that he knew, or was closely related, to one of the ponies who put him in the bed in the first place. “How long have I been… out of it?”

“Twelve hours or so,” said Doctor Toboggan. “I suppose you’d probably care to hear the full story?”

He thought about it for a second; did he really need a technical breakdown of events he’d lived through. Afterall, he’d experienced the entire ordeal first-hoof. He, and he alone, had suffered every blow, every kick, jab, stomp, thrashing and then the blackout.

“No… not really,” Stormy answered, “just… uh... is Strokes...er, um… this guy named Gentle Strokes? Is he doing okay?”

At this, the doctor’s friendly smile picked up his cheeks. If Stormy’s words had offended him earlier, he didn’t show it now. The slate was wiped clean. He looked, happy, which, was surprising since he was alone in a room with a pony as bitter and jaded as Stormy was in that moment.

“Yes, he’s quite fine.” The doctor assured, “Actually, he spent some time visiting you last night. He was quite insistent that your condition was stable before he left.”

Stormy’s heart fluttered and he felt his cheeks grow hot. He tried to hide this from Doctor Toboggan by turning his head. He didn’t know which side of the great political divide Toboggan’s door swung. From his most recent encounter with Dodge Junction’s residents, it wouldn’t surprise him in the least if he thought that he might have queerer yearnings than other ponies and take offense.

“T-thanks,” Stormy mumbled, finding the strength to turn to the doctor, “I’m sorry about being such a dick.”

“It’s understandable,” said Doctor Toboggan, “You’ve suffered well beyond the realm I’ve seen in some time, and I’d have been more than livid if I were in your place.”

Stormy’s right leg twitched and brought a grimaced look across his face. Pain shot up his leg, to his neck, then to his head and he tried hard not to show it, but faltered and gave a whimper. Doctor Toboggan’s features softened.

“How bad is it?” Stormy asked the doctor. “I feel like shit. The morphine’s helping a bit, but…”

He wasn’t entirely sure how to finish his thought, so he didn’t.

“I have both good news, and bad,” explained the doctor, “Which would you prefer?”

“Surprise me.”

“As far as I can tell, your injuries are mostly treatable. As you can see, you’ve fractured two legs. The casts are aesthetic. They’re only there to keep them stiff and in place while they heal, but, I’m quite confident that you will walk… in time.”

Stormy swallowed.

“You had rather severe lacerations across your body. I did have to shave parts to get at the wounds. The scarring, now, is quite unattractive, but, once the fur grows back… well, they’ll be hidden and…”

Stormy’s eyes wandered to the mirror where he again made the mistake of staring at himself in the mirror. When he was four, or five, and things hadn’t been so awful for him, he caught a late night showing of Flankenstein with his mom, dad and Blue. When he’d finished drawing obvious parallels between himself and the prosthetic makeup put on Boris Coltloff — as Flankenstein’s Monster — he saw the bandages around his head again.

“The, uh… my eye?” he asked, quietly.

Doctor Toboggan cleared his throat, “Yes, well, there was severe damage to your optic nerves as well as your skull. I managed to treat both as best as I could, and... I’m only as skilled as I am, so, of course-”

The doctor stopped to clear his throat and Stormy thought that a bad sign. If this pony had a degree in the medical field, and he was hesitant to diagnose and discuss the injuries present on one of his patients, he was either A) A lackluster physician, or, B) Stormy was in much worse shape than he thought.

Neither option gave him much in the way of cool comfort.

“Is it really bad?” Stormy asked, searching the doctor’s eyes.

“Quite.” answered Doctor Toboggan.

Stormy didn’t try to imagine what he must have looked like under all the gauze and crimson soaked bandages.

“The good news,” Doctor Toboggan said, possibly trying to lighten the blow, or, possibly with legitimate good news, “Is that there doesn’t seem to be severe trauma to your skull. From what I can tell you’re showing no signs of major brain damage.”

“Fun,” said Stormy.

“It’s a start.” said Doctor Toboggan “Now. This is more touch and go, and quite honestly it’s something to worry for in the future, but, once the casts are off of your legs and you’re mobile again, well, there might well be some severe nerve damage to your upper left leg. Here, let me just-”

He levitated the pen with magic. It floated through the air, stopping just before Stormy’s left upper leg, then, shot towards the open fur and flesh not wrapped in a cast and prodded the fur and flesh.

Stormy felt none of it.

Doctor Toboggan sighed. “Oh, dear.”

Stormy swallowed hard.

This did not bode well. Not well at all…

“So…” Stormy sighed, “That’s not good?”

“No,” the good doctor said. He rolled his tongue under his upper lip, until it poked through his left cheek, then under his lower lip, the right cheek, then his mouth opened again. “Not at all.”

Great. Wonderful. Stupendous. Stormy could only imagine what came next.

“I have… one last thing.” said Doctor Toboggan, shaking his head as if he were unsure how to break the next heartache to Stormy. “It’s quite troubling. Please understand, there’s quite a bit of wiggle room for recovery here, and, it’s not written in stone. It could very well be that I’m wrong, again, only time can tell, but, well, you should brace yourself for it, and-”

“Just say it.”

“You received, at some point in your night, a quite severe blow to your… erm…”

He motioned with the pen towards the hose attached to Stormy’s crotch and Stormy suddenly found himself chewing his lower lip.

“A-and that means that?”

“It’s quite possible, and, again, I could be wrong, but there might be nerve damage to your… unmentionables which will most likely lead to complications in terms of… intimacy.”

The doctor said the word ‘intimacy’ with such an uncomfortable, robotic and and hushed tone of voice that Stormy almost felt like he could laugh off the notion that a kick to his cock and balls had been hard enough to render him — most likely from the doctor’s admittal — either infertile, or, most likely, dead, unresponsive, dangling weights. In no easy terms to admit to himself, it did appear that he was now to spend the rest of his life as a eunuch with the good parts still attached as a token to their former glory.

As if his day wasn’t bad enough.

Stormy’s good hoof grabbed for the release of medical grade painkiller under the stealth of the covers and he tapped as hard as he could the switch until he was sure he was going to be okay hearing this information. The second that feeling of warmth washed over him he reassesed his situation; His good looks were for the most part gone, and his often praised and never doubted sexual prowess seemed to be going with them, but at least he wasn’t retarded.

The doctor was still speaking. His mouth was moving but all that came out were strange noises that Stormy — or his drug addled brain — didn’t exactly feel like putting into properly formed sentences. Words he understood would slip in. ‘Erectile’ and ‘Dysfunction’ were words he got, so were ‘Pills’, ‘Surgery’, ‘Assisted’ and ‘Pumps’, but the rest of it was gibberish to him. He didn’t want to hear these silly words. Not anymore. He was tired, the room was spinning and he closed his better eye until blackness swallowed him up.

Hopefully, if he was lucky and the powers that be were smiling on him, when he woke up Strokes would be where Doctor Toboggan was sitting, with a box in his lap and Hucklebuck’s head inside of it.

After a few blinks of his eye, a turn of his head from one side to the other and a yawn, he dozed off and started to count sheep again.

***

The clock in the corner of the room chimed. The second hand ticked away while the minute hand and the hour hand stood motionless. It was too early for anyone in the room to want to discuss this, and yet, here they were; Gentle Strokes, his father and his mother.

His father cleared his throat and then his mother made it her mission to excuse herself and bring refreshments for the company in the room. Her departure forced an uneasy silence to become admitted by the company in the room. Father looked to son, who forced a smile, then hunched his shoulders and nestled himself further into the hold that the couch had over him.

His father took the opportunity to speak.

“Last night.” He said, uneasily. His voice took on a softer tone than usual.

Gentle Strokes cocked his head to the side and lifted up his eyebrows, “Mhmm?”

He couldn’t feel his leg shake but was made aware of it by the sound his hoof made beating against the hardwood floor. He was doing an interval of almost thirty taps a minute, and when he raised his hoof to touch his leg, he realized that too was shaking.

He thought about Stormy, swallowed, then tried to stop his trembling body.

“Last night.” his father repeated, “Was a hard time. For all of us.”

“Y-yeah.”

“But, your mother and I, we… discussed some… issues we had. Twice. Before we slept and again after we woke up, and…Oh, hells!” he stopped, rubbed his temples with his hooves then threw his face towards the kitchen, “Sweet, dear, could you put down the drinks and come talk to our son?”

Like a dog, his mother stepped into the room carrying a shaking tray with coffee mugs. She was smiling, wore an apron and set the tray down on the coffee table. She didn’t want to be here. His father didn’t want to be here. Gentle Strokes really didn’t want to be here.

And, yet, here they were…

His mother sat beside him on the couch and put her hooves on his lap. His father stared at him from his spot in the arm-chair across from him. Gentle Strokes swallowed a wad of saliva down his throat when he realized exactly what this specific conversation was going to be about, and, that he didn’t have anything but the truth left to give up to his parents.

“We… were all a bit fired up last night,” said his mother, lifting her hoof to his shoulder and rubbing his sore and tense muscles, “And, well, things were said… from and about certain ponies-”

“-Accusations.” Insisted his father.

“Yes,” said his mother, nodding, “Accusations were made… about… perhaps, other ponies, who were also in and out of our home, and, we’d just like to ask you about these accusations. Just so that we can all iron out some of the wrinkles?”

Gentle Strokes leaned forwards and grabbed a coffee mug from the table, brought it to his lips and hoped that the coffee might just be hot enough to burn his tongue so that when the sentence ‘It’s all true! I am a sodomite in a torrid love affair with another stallion who was beaten for his differing sexuality’ came out of his mouth, it might not make any sense to the room. He took a sip. No luck. The coffee was only lukewarm. Weighed down with too much cream and not enough sugar.

It was worth the effort at least.

“What your mother is saying,” his father began to explain, “Is that… some of these accusations were serious and, concerning, to your mother and I, and we’d really just like to-”

“Say it?”

Gentle Strokes drew back to reality and was surprised to find that it was himself saying these words. His parents looked at him, only, he didn’t bow his head or try to hide his shame.

His father raised an eyebrow, “What?”

“I know what you’re trying to say. What you want to ask me. Can we just… can we stop half assing this? Can we all just stop trotting over eggshells?”

His mothers eyes turned soft and wet. His father’s, hard as rocks. Gentle Strokes finished his coffee, set the glass down then leaned back in his seat and made an effort to look at both of his parents before he spoke again.

“Just ask me.”

“Son, I really think you should consider what-”

“Just say it,” Gentle Strokes grunted, “It’s what you both want to do.”

“Gent, dear, we just want you to be happy, and, absolutely certain that you’re doing the right thing, and-”

“Just. Ask. Me.” he forced out, then blinked his eyes and turned to his parents. There was a softness on his face, he was sure from the pleading look reflected back to him from his mother, and the attempt at one from his father, that he was giving his parents something akin to kindness and reprieve “Please...”

His mother looked to his father. Him back at her. His father lifted his hoof, stroked it under his chin and shook his head. He looked pained. As if, somehow, he couldn’t find the energy inside of him to ask his oldest son, heir to the family name, fortune and, up until this moment, the one who would carry on the legacy, if he was in fact a homosexual who stood only to oppose him and his desires.

“Is it true?” asked his mother from his left side, “What Huck said? About you and that boy Stormy?”

She said the name like she was saying a curse in a sacred place. Quietly and hushed, almost to the point where she worried it was cursed itself. Her eyes were wet and soft and leaked down her cheeks. He turned away to stare at his father and regretted it in an instant. His father looked hard. Mean almost. Any and all humor, or compassion for the situation seemed to be lost on him. This made Gentle Strokes uncomfortable.

It was now, or live the rest of his life continuously hurting himself and others.

“Yeah.” he said, finding the strength to smile at them. “It is.”

His father’s hooves hit the ground. Glasses, wine cups and the mugs on the coffee table all shook as he stood up in his seat. The look on his face was one that Gentle Strokes was unfamiliar with; it wasn’t resentment, or, acceptance. He knew those two looks. It wasn’t pride, or shame, it was blank. A face devoid of any clear emotion.

“I don’t believe it,” said his father, shaking his face without breaking the blank and stunned look, “I…,” He turned to his son, smiling back at him, and shook his head some more. “Gent, you realize what we’re asking you, right? And what you’re telling us?”

Gentle Strokes nodded his head with a practiced obedience. “I do.”

“You’re telling us, your mother and I, that you’ve had some kind of… relationship with that pony?”

“Yes.”

His father’s brow dropped down his face, and his lips curled back into a look of uncertain disgust. As if, somehow, his father was struggling with where exactly to place his contempt and anger; at Stormy, for converting his boy, at Gentle Strokes, for being dumb enough to be seduced by a stallion, or himself for not raising him well enough to learn to steer clear of gay advances.

“Look,” said Gentle Strokes, “I know this has gotta be hard to take in. Believe me. I wanted to tell you for months, and-”

“For months?” his father repeated, snarling, “You’ve been like... this for months and you didn’t try to get help? You didn’t talk to anyone? For Celestia’s sake, Gent, your tuition covered mental health! You could have seen a shrink about this!”

“Dad…”

His mother touched his shoulder and stopped him from getting up and making a scene. He hadn’t expected much from coming out, or, if he had, it hadn’t exactly been this moment he was living now.

“Gent,” his father sighed, “I don’t… I don’t know what to say to this.”

“To what?” he squeaked in a voice so soft and low he was hardly sure he’d said anything at all, until his father and mother looked on at him. “It’s not… Dad, this isn’t… There’s nothing wrong with any of this. There really isn’t. Stormy’s great! You’ll see! It’s not weird. It’s different, yeah, but, you’ll see it’s not that bad. It isn’t even bad! And-”

“I don’t think I want to hear this,” said his father, sighing and rubbing his temples. “I don’t think I can. Not today.”

“Dad, come on,” Gentle Strokes said, sniffing before he knew he’d done it. “I’m not… different. I’m really not. I just like a colt, and, so what? You met him. And, you liked him before you knew he was gay, right? So, what’s the big deal?”

His father sniffed the air and aimed his head towards his wife. Passively asking her through body language about her thoughts.

If anyone was going to speak to his defense on the matter, well, it was going to be Clementine he imagined. But, she was upstairs, and, so, his second best option presented herself as his mother.

“Grey, maybe you just need some time to think about this?”

His father nodded, rolled his tongue around in his mouth then stared impassively at his son, who was so shrunken into the couch it was practically gobbling him whole. He stared at his wife, met her soft, imploring eyes with his hard ones, then gave a sigh. Low and heavy.

“Gent,” he said, “I can’t say this is something I was expecting to hear in my life. Honestly. I’m… just not sure how I feel about it. I thought I knew you. I thought we knew each other...”

“We do!” Gentle Strokes pleaded, slamming his hooves onto the ground, “I’m the same! The exact same! I’m still your son! Why should it matter?”

“Kids,” his father answered, “Kids. Grandkids. The family name. I just… I really don’t know what to make of all this.”

Before Gentle Strokes had time to offer a suggestion in regards to the Equestrian Adoption process, or, how through magic anything was virtually possible, his father had turned on his hooves and now faced the doorway, away from his son. It would be a feeble grasp for straws to say much more, Gentle Strokes realized. Time was something his father needed. Time away from his gay son.

When his father left the room he didn’t utter a word. He walked through the open arches of the living room, down the hall, through the front door and then it slammed shut behind him. He was gone, leaving Gentle Strokes and his mother alone in a room with an air of uncomfortable tension between them.

Gentle Strokes felt her hoof on his leg and another wrap around his shoulder, until she pulled his body sideways against her. He sighed, his chest raised and lowered, then she pulled his head against her shoulder and let him take a rest against her.

“Give him some time,” she said, stroking his mane with the tip of her hoof, “You know how your father is. Set about his ways.”

“What about you?” Gentle Strokes asked, “Are you… okay with this?”

“Gent,” she said, “You’re my son. You always will be. If you killed a pony and were locked up for it you’d still be my son. I can’t say I fully understand this... side of you, and, I’m hurt that you didn’t feel comfortable coming to me and your father with it, but, well… you’re still my baby boy.”

How very vague of an answer.

He couldn’t imagine what came next. The hard part was over. He was no longer trapped deep enough in the metaphorical closet to find Hearth’s Warming Eve presents. He was out now. Free. His family — for the most part — knew about his sexual orientation and there was liberation in that. Still, something felt wrong about the scenario.

“I think I need to visit him,” said Gentle Strokes. “Just to see how he’s doing.”

His mother nodded her head. She understood. Even if she didn’t understand what Stormy meant to him, she still understood that the bond existed and there was nothing she could do or say to throw him off of the idea.

That was that.

***

His opiated nap ended far too quick for his liking. By the time he blinked his good eye awake Stormy came to realize that no amount of painkillers in Equestria would make him comfortable to the realization that he was still very much the victim of a hate crime. He was coated with a layer of dried sweat that stunk and matted his fur together. The drugs were wearing off now and with them leaving brought on a wave of angst, fear, hurt and disgust he hadn’t felt in a long time.

He didn’t want to admit that this was all real and that the things that had happened to him had lasting consequences beyond his control. Most of all, he didn’t want to be there, laying in a sanitized hospital bed feeling sorry for himself.

A knock came at the door and Stormy prayed for good news. Maybe Doctor Toboggan could ease the burden and share some of his sorrowful feelings?

A furry brown head with a golden wind swept mane and the most heart-meltingly sweet smile that Stormy had ever seen poked through the open doorway.

Or maybe it would be the colt he loved?

Gentle Strokes stepped into the room the way he would if he were walking across a glass floor. He took broad, soft and steps through the doorway all the way to the side of the bed that Stormy lay in. His smile picked up when he noticed the colt in the bed had been watching him the entire time.

“Hey,” said Gentle Strokes.

“Hey,” said Stormy.

From where he stood, Gentle Strokes reached a hoof sideways to grab a chair that sat just beside the hospital bed. He pulled it across the floor, it screeched, then he set it down and made himself comfortable. Not once, however, did he take his longing gaze off of the pony laying in the bed before him.

When he was sitting, he raised his upper legs up again and rested them flat against Stormy’s chest, then bowed his head to the bed until it sat just atop Stormy’s chest. Stormy raised his leg and ran a hoof across Gentle Strokes’s cheek.

“I think I know what you mean by that ‘Southern Hospitality’ stuff you were talking about?” Stormy said, craning his neck left until it made a soft ‘snap’ and he winced.

Gentle Strokes let out a quiet huff of air that brushed aside fur on Stormy’s chest up to his neck. “Stormy…”

Stormy brushed his hoof across Gentle Strokes’s cheek and rubbed him along the head. The colt purred, then sighed and huffed another breath of air across Stormy’s chest.

“I’m sorry, Stormy,” he cried, softly, “I’m so, so, sorry. I didn’t know... I didn’t think Huck, or any of those guys… I…”

The hoof in his mane ran down his back again.

“If I wasn’t such a coward!” Gent spat against Stormy’s chest, “If I had… If I just had a little more backbone! I could have stopped this! If I wasn’t such a spineless little shithead, I-”

Stormy gripped the base of his neck and gave him a firm tug against the flesh. Gentle Strokes yelped and Stormy was grinning again.

“Don’t be like that,” Stormy said, chuckling, “I’m not… I don’t hate you for this. I couldn’t if I wanted too.”

He dragged his hoof through the back of his mane until it sat beside his face then turned his face so they stood staring eye-to-eye. Gentle Strokes blinked the wetness out of his own eyes.

“I told my folks,” he said, blinking more drops out of his eyes.

Stormy lifted a brow. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” said Gentle Strokes, sniffing, “They…” he stopped to sigh and rubbed his face into Stormy’s chest. “I don’t think it went the way I wanted it to go.”

Stormy’s hoof brushed the underside of his chin and up against his cheek.

“You’re still here right?” Stormy asked.

“Yeah,” said Gentle Strokes, “I’m still here.”