• 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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Bright Lights


Bright Lights.


Top floor of The Cart-Lyle; His Father’s penthouse. Staring idly at the bright lights of the big city and blowing smoke cloud after smoke cloud against the fibreglass window. He’d watch as the little white death clouds crashed against the glass, flattened, then spread. Sometimes the smoke clouds would cling to the vapor trail his breath on the faux-glass left behind. But, mostly, they didn’t.

Stormy had been doing this, wasting time in his life for a good three hours and a half pack of cigarettes now. Somewhere behind him His Father was sitting in the faux-leather couch, bouncing back and forth between discussing his plans for his upcoming retirement and lamenting Stormy’s decision to go to Camden, as, opposed to Coltlumbia. Like he had and like his brother had.

“Honestly, Stormy.” His Father began, again, “You must really want to flip bean-burgers at McDolands for the rest of your life.”

His Father, quite sunken into the leather couch, gave an unreciprocated laugh and continued.

“I’ll bet, with your BA you would make a great assistant manager.” Emphasis on the word ‘Ass’ in assistant; As in ‘I wasn’t disappointed enough in you to begin with so let’s drag that out in the open and take it from there.’

Another smoke cloud against the window. Stomp the cigarette out in the crystal ashtray and... light another cigarette.

“Do you really think you’re posed to become some Shakes Spearian writer, Stormy?” His Father started, then continued “Because, I remember those little Daring Do adventures you used to write when you were younger, and they would have been a lot more impressive if you’d been born with an entirely different debilitating mental illness. Say, an extra chromosome perhaps?”

Heavy drag from the cigarette. Feel the burn of nicotine as it gently spread more black filth, tar, cancer, whatever, to the lungs.

This feels good.

Coming home was a great decision.

“Well, at least you’re in good company at Camden. I bet you’ve already had your way with a decent size of the art fag crowd? I assume that is... *cough* a great source of pride for you?”

Maybe Gentle Strokes was thinking about him? Maybe he wasn’t? Maybe he should have stayed on campus for the break? Maybe he should have gone with Jag to Baltimare? Or with Brawny Brawler and his friends to Trottingham? Or... no, Strokes wouldn’t have wanted him in Dodge Junction anyway.

“Can I at least pretend to think you’re passing all your classes, Stormy? I’d really love to find out I pulled all those strings to get you into Camden for you to just buck it up. But, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it if you did.”

Plan out the rest of the night; If Blue got off work in an hour, and in the off chance that Sapphire was half way ready by the time Blue got home from P.& P. , he could meet them at Horsia’s for dinner, by, maybe six-thirty? Maybe seven? Or, seven-ten? (The reservation was for Seven but fashionably late was more his style) Plus, dinner couldn’t be longer than an hour or so. Maybe if they had a few drinks afterwards it’d be a little past eight by the time he was done and then he just had to find a way to kill the rest of his night.

What new clubs were there in Manehattan? What old clubs did he used to like? Who were his friends back then? Did they still know who he was? Did Gentle Strokes miss him? Did he care? Did Stormy care?

“You know that once you graduate you’ll just move back home. It’ll be Harrow all over again. Only, this time I won’t have to find out you got kicked out of Manehattan’s most prestigious boarding school because you decided that being molested by your english teacher was something that would greatly improve the social standing of your family,”

Assuming dinner ended at eight, or eight thirty and he had the energy in him to continue on with his night and not just take an elevator to the roof of the Equestrian State Building and jump off of it -- giving some poor street cleaner a shitty start to his day -- he would have enough time to grab some cheap drinks at some East End pub, make a few friends and then find out where the real action was happening in Manehattan.

“... and that wasn’t enough, for you, though? Do you know that I still have friends... Hells, work associates... who talk about you and him? I mean, it’s like you do this to hurt me?" His Father paused and sighed. "I can’t see a reason why somepony like you would go out of his way to want to be a sodomite? It doesn't make sense! Is it because I never hugged you growing up? Or, are you looking for a father figure in your life? Because, that’s something I’m sure you could talk to about with a therapist.. if you don't already? I bet you just lay on his sofa with a box of tissues, and cry about how I locked you out of the house all weekend that one winter? Oh poor little you.”

Running a hoof through his mane, over the thick patchwork of indented flesh, where skin had once existed -- Now, a physically unappealing scar, almost invisible to the eye, but apparent on closer inspection -- it reminded him that his opinion on anything his father had to say was entirely unnecessary.

“... just like your brother.” Slight pause. “Are you even listening to me you twinkle hooves? Or, are you off in fairy land?”

Stormy turned to face His Father and smiled, softly.

“Yeah. Of course.”

“Mmhmm.” His Father groaned. “And, do you have any thoughts about any of this? Or, would you just like to keep staring at me like a retarded slack jawed yokel all night?”

Running a hoof this time on a different scar -- Opposite the side of the first one, behind his right ear and slightly past his shoulder. Invisible under his coat unless you knew what you were looking for, or gently ran a hoof over it -- Stormy was reminded, again, that it was better to play stupid than be stupid.

For whatever reason, he slighted.

“Duh? Wuzzat, now?” He offered back, doing his best bucking slack jawed yokel.

His father furrowed his brows. His body clenched. Muscles bulging. Nostrils flaring. Stormy felt himself flinch. His father smiled, leaned forward, and poured himself another drink.

Stormy felt something but wasn't sure what it was. Defeat? Upset? Drunk?

Who cared?

Maybe Gentle Strokes was thinking about him? Maybe he wasn’t? Maybe Strokes missed him? Maybe Stormy missed him? Maybe Stormy wanted to be with him? Maybe he wanted that right now? Maybe he wanted to be curled up beside him? In Strokes’ bed? In Stormy’s Bed. It didn’t matter.

He felt lonely.

He stared at the clock; If he stayed here any longer he’d have to physically test the durability of the shatterproof windows. But, Horsia’s was only a half hour’s walk away, and chances were that his name didn’t hold enough sway in this town to convince the Maitre’D that he was in any way related to Blue Skies, who held the reservation. Which meant he couldn’t even get into the lounge.

Hmmm.

Even a few more glasses of Johnnie Trotter Blue wouldn’t make this exchange any more pleasant -- Or maintainable -- and then, before you knew it some street vendor’s cart would have a Stormy sized dent in it.

But, what could he do?

The walk to Blue Skies’ apartment at The Roslyn was almost an hour, and, even if he waited to ambush his brother in the lobby, there was still the chance that Blue would just skip going home after work and instead head to Sapphire Stone’s condo. Or his mistress’s place. Or just pick up an escort and take her back to a work associate’s place in case Sapphire Stones was waiting for him at his place.

Maybe Blue was just running up and down the streets outside P. & P., belittling homeless ponies by dropping change in front of them and then picking it up and complaining about being clumsy? Maybe, he was embarrassing some hipster couple on their first date by cutting them in line at an ATM and withdrawing ten times what either would earn in a month just to spend it on Imported gryphon cigars, a new Rolex and a pair of Oatley sunglasses.

All the hypotheticals going through his mind must have taken more time than he’d intended it to, because, staring at the clock now; it was only an hour and a half until their reservation at Horsia’s.

Just grin and bare it.

By this point in his life that was pretty much a mantra: Just. Grin. And. Bare. It.

Rinse, dry, and repeat.

***

Horsia’s; Seven Forty Five. He was fashionably late, but, what could they expect? He was a motherless child.

Then again, so was Blue Skies by that logic.

He entered the restaurant to odd stares and gawks and felt underdressed in a loosely worn three-piece. He’d made the purposeful decision to wear a vest, and a tie; the whole works. But, maybe it was because he was an arts student that all these lawyers, stock traders, bankers, politicians, celebrities and colts of power could smell the fear and loathing on him.

Stormy approached the Maitre’D; some uptight, snobbish looking older colt with a pencil thin moustache who probably shared the same accent as Gentle Stroke’s roommate and who was probably so uptight his stool samples were noodle thin; like strands of hair.

Gross. Why had he gone there all of a sudden?

“Your name, sir?”

“Stormy. Table of three?”

The Maitre’D glanced up from, what he could assume was the guest list he’d been intently focusing on and stared curiously at Stormy.

“Something wrong?”

“Well... a simple mix up, perhaps?” The Maitre’D replied with a curious glare “I have you down as a Ms. Stormy. My humblest apologies.”

So it was going to be that kind of dinner with his brother.

Terrific.

***

Blue Skies was already seated, and drinking, at the fanciest table in the entire restaurant -- quite naturally -- and beside him was Sapphire Stones, his fiance. When her eyes fell on Stormy she smiled sweetly and blinked towards him when as he approached.

Blue Skies gave a knowing wink and nothing else.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Placeholder introduction. He had nothing to say to Blue Skies. Blue Skies had nothing to say to him. This was familiar obligation that forced them together tonight. Nothing more.

“Oh, it’s absolutely fine, dear.” Sapphire Stones spoke, killing an air of uncomfortable silence before it had a chance at life.

Celestia bless her good heart. How Blue Skies managed to convince her he was a decent creature, and, not, a disgusting wolf in sheep’s clothing -- Cloaked in a six thousand bit H’Armoni suit, an eight hundred bit rolex and a pair of two-hundred and fifty bit oatley sunglasses -- was beyond him.

Tonight, Blue Skies entire ensemble -- dinner jacket with matching pants from Perseus, a white H’Armani dress shirt, a plain red tie from Nygard -- cost more than most ponies would ever make in a month. Some, a year.

But, that was just Blue being Blue.

“We’re just so delighted you decided to have dinner with us. I was just telling your brother that it has been absolutely too long since I last saw you. Wasn’t I, dear?”

Stormy took a seat opposite Blue Skies and Sapphire Stones, and smiled at her, then returned a stone faced glare with his brother; Blue’s resolve slipped slightly and he grinned, predatorily, at Stormy, who just rolled his eyes.

“My, my, Blue. Hasn’t your brother gotten so much more handsome since the last time we saw him? Oh, you must work out Stormy? Please tell me you don’t get a body like that without working out? I’d simply die.”

A smirk on Blue Skies face formed at the mention of the word ‘die’, as it usually did when morbid or disturbed words or phrases came into discussion.

“And where are my manners? Blue, be a darling and grab our server. You poor thing. You must be absolutely parched?”

Blue Skies tossed his hoof up in the air and towards a server. A total hardbody. Pretty face. Tight, attractive body. The kind of server who worked weekends and evenings and ived in a one bedroom flat in the West Side she could barely afford and spent her days auditioning for plays and musicals on Broadway she'd never get a part in.

If Sapphire Stones hadn’t been there that night chances were that Blue would try, and succeed, in getting her number. Then, most likely, buck her at a later date.

“How may I help you, sir?” The server asked. Her tone was flirty and, like her intent focus, was aimed at Blue Skies and nopony else present at the table.

“We will absolutely perish......if you don’t bring us some refreshments.” Sapphire Stones demanded, stealing Blue Skies’ thunder though he seemed unphased by this and simply smiled and grinned at another morbid word tossed into casual conversation.

“Let me guess, Stormy; you’ll be having a glass of Vagrant’s Choice, or some other gut rot bourbon?”

The first sentence his brother had spoken all night and Stormy was wholly reminded why he’d found the silence so comforting.

“Oh, bourbon sounds absolutely attractive tonight. I think I’ll have something with bourbon in it. Cocktails are very in right now, after all." Sapphire smiled at the waitress. "Do you make a Crystal Island Iced Tea?”

“Dear, a Crystal Island Iced Tea is made with everything but, bourbon, whiskey, rye or scotch.”

“It most certainly is not!”

“No, dear. It-most-certainly-is.” This correction was forced roughly, through gritted teeth. “I assure you.”

“You are being absolutely difficult tonight, Blue Skies. A Crystal Island Iced Tea is gin, rum, vodka and tequila... and bourbon.”

This unpleasant back and forth between his brother and future sister-in-law could go on -- quite literally -- for hours and, as much joy as Stormy enjoyed watching Blue squirm in his seat, and be so humiliated in front of not only himself but also their server, Sapphire Stones had been right: he certainly was parched.

“I’ll have a double Johnnie Trotter Blue.” Stormy paused to glare daggers into his brother's eyes, and grinned. “On ice.”

Blue Skies bit his lower lip. A nerve in his forehead sprung to life for a millisecond and his left eye twitched so subtly that if Stormy hadn’t been looking for it, no one would have ever known it had happened.

Adding ice to a glass of Scotch that cost eighty bits was almost as unprofessional as if he’d asked for it mixed with cola -- which, he’d been tempted to do, but, it also lost much of it’s flavor that way.

Blue bit his lower lip hard enough to draw blood, then forced a smiled, turned his attention to the server and spoke. “Just... bring the bottle," he sighed. " Two tumblers and ice.” He turned to his fiance. “And, a Manehattan for my lovely fiance.”

It would take years of therapy for the server to ever understood the display she’d just been witness too and knowing - -or, in spite of this -- she offered a warm smile, took down their drinks and trotted towards the bar.

There was a certain joy Stormy found in making his brother order a bottle of scotch marketed at roughly three-hundred and fifty bits, but, accounting for the inflation common to restaurants -- and especially Manehattan’s most prestigious and, infamously overpriced restaurant -- the bottle would most likely come out to be double -- if not triple -- the price of all three of their meals tonight.

This brought a new kind of smile to Stormy’s face and, he could only imagine the inner strength it took Blue Skies not to excuse himself and scream into a stack of towels in the bathroom.

***

Twenty minutes into their meals, and, thankfully, the majority of the conversation came from Sapphire Stones. Every five or six, name dropping and brand listing information dumps either Blue Skies would get annoyed and correct -- or just flatly belittle her -- or Stormy would answer as neutrally as he could, a question about his time at Camden.

Now was one of those times.

“So, dear... ” Sapphire Stones’ turn to talk, once again. “ do you have a fillyfriend back at Camden? It’s so unfortunate to see you so handsome and so... alone.”

Blue Skies could hardly contain himself and gave a snicker, then a loud, dramatic “Ha-ha-ha.”

Stormy felt himself grow uncomfortable.

“It’s... complicated?”

“‘Complicated’ because you like to, oh, I don’t know; take it up the flank?” Blue Skies -- shit eating grin and all -- pondered.

“Blue! How can you say such awful things about your own brother!” Sapphire Stones shouted. Offended, she still had the good sense to take more pacifistic actions than Stormy would have -- In that moment the salad fork that came with his Waldorf Salad looked like it might be more comfortable off the table, and, perhaps, resting deep into Blue Skies’ right eye.

“Because, dear. My little brother is a shameless, tasteless colt cuddler.” Blue Skies offered back. He turned to Stormy and did a gag-take, then downed another tumbler of Johnnie Trotter, neat.

“Honestly, Blue. I know there’s sibling rivalry -- Believe me, I have it in spades with Ruby -- but, that is just a truly dreadful accusation.”

“Oh, please! I have had the uncomfortable misfortune of walking in on my brother, ” Blue paused, took a drink, swallowed back his discomfort, and continued “ riding a horribly young looking colt who I think used to work at Perseus.”

“For Celestia’s sake, Blue! We are in a public place. Can you not let your silly little rivalry go and be civil?” Sapphire Stones, horrified -- more likely from the prospect of having some pony of pmportance overhear her being party to a conversation about sodomy, colt cuddlers and riding than the actual conversation itself -- shouted.

“I’d say it was absolutely uncivil of him to use my apartment to host some... revolting display of sexual depravity.” Blue Skies paused to down another tumbler of Johnnie Trotter, then continued. “But, I suppose that’s what I get for taking you to The Gryphon Kingdom for two weeks, leaving my younger brother a key to my apartment instead of somepony with more taste and coming home a day early because ‘We had to catch the early boat to Equestria or you’d miss your session with Dr. Floyd.’ and, Celestia knows a session with him you book years in advance, before your problems even exist.”

“Blue Skies! If you are going to keep talking so... uncivilly, I. Will. Just. Leave.”

She was probably serious but, more than likely she imagined that her thinly veiled threat would get Blue Skies to stop taking jabs at Stormy.

It wouldn’t.

“I’d be so lucky.” Blue grinned. He turned to her, looked her dead in the eye, and with a smirk began again. “Dear, I do apologize. I shouldn’t have said that MY BROTHER,’” He announced, waving his hooves around and drawing attention to himself, Sapphire and Stormy, both, who looked entirely uncomfortable. “ IS A PILLOW BITING, STALLION STUFFING, COLT CUDDLER!”

Not surprisingly, all eyes in the restaurant were drawn on them. Sapphire Stones looked like she was about to cry. Stormy, just took a sip of his drink and bowed his head.

Blue Skies with a genuine smile plastered across his face, glared daggers at Sapphire. Then Stormy. Then Sapphire again before returning to his drink.

“I. AM. LEAVING!” Sapphire announced. She stood up, almost knocking the table over in the process and made way for the door. She stopped at the door to see if Blue Skies had followed her but he simply remained in his seat, smiling at her. He waved mockingly while with an overly melodramatic ‘huff’ she exited.

Blue's gaze returned to Stormy, his smile widened and he perched his head on his elbows.

“She’s absolutely mortified.” He said with delight. “I would thank you but, I feel a colt of your disposition might consider that a come on. And, there are some barriers I’d rather not cross with you, Stormy." He paused to stroke a hoof under his chin, smiled, then spoke again. "Though the thought of me choking you, not sexually, but perhaps to death? Well, it just fills my heart with glee.”

“You’re twisted.”

Blue Skies just smiled.

“So, has dear old dad told you he plans to move?” Blue Skies asked, changing the subject -- which he was prone to do at the drop of a hat -- with a smile.

“He mentioned it a few times.”

“Hmm. I imagine that was somewhere in between the long winded rants about you, Camden, sodomy and how ‘Coltlumbia is still an option.’ ?”

“Something like that, yeah...”

“You’re so... drab tonight, Stormy." Blue sighed. "Seriously, lighten up baby brother. Let your mane down. Light a joint if you have too. It’s a dinner, not a funeral for bucks sake.”

Blue Skies paused, took a sip of his drink and Stormy followed his lead.

“Honestly though, I have no idea what goes through that colts head sometimes. He want’s to leave all this. Manehattan, sell his place at The Cart-Lyle and move to that stupid hick town where Twilight ended up.”

It was entirely unusual for him to bring up their cousin, in fact, it was entirely unusual for Blue to bring up either of their cousins.

“Twilight isn’t in Canterlot, anymore?”

“Where have you been?” He paused, smirked, then continued “Oh wait, that’s right; Stallion Stuffer Academy. No Stormy, Twilight isn't in Canterlot anymore. She moved to some really yokel town; Ponyton? Pony Village? Candyland?” He paused, stroked a hoof under his chin then mused “I suppose Celestia just got tired of her. Kind of like the rest of us did twenty two years ago.”

“Geez, I’m glad to hear there’s no love lost between you and them.” Stormy eye rolled.

“Oh, what? You think because Shining and I got into that little scrap when we were foals after he watched me drown that puppy in their bathtub that I hold a grudge against all of those conceited, self absorbed, horn-heads? ”

“And, this is you telling me, that you don’t?”

Blue didn’t respond; He’d lost his attention with the conversation some time ago, and was now stared around Horsia’s curiously. His eyes lit up when he caught the gaze of a pony, a colt, across the way, who smiled, excused himself from his table and approached their own.

“Blue Skies, you little cub scout!” The pony announced, slapping his hoof against Blue’s awaiting one “I didn’t think they’d let such a goody little two hooves like you in a place like this. What’d you do, suck off the Matire’d?”

“Careful now, Price.” Blue interjected. “You’ll give my little brother here some mental images to go home and clop to later.”

“I didn’t know you had a younger brother?” The colt asked. His attention peaked and he smiled warmly at Stormy. “I assume he’s Coltlumbia Alumni as well?”

There was a shine in the newcomers eye now; like he was about to be make an acquaintance with a member of a very exclusive club that he also belonged too.

Blue Skies gave a dramatic groan, plopped his head on the table and spoke.

“He wishes.” He paused, smiled, then lifted his head and continued. “Stormy is actually a Camden student.”

The shine in the other colt’s eye withered and died. He frowned, adjusted his tie and drew back a hoof he was halfway finished extending towards Stormy. He turned to Blue Skies, for, what? Acceptance? Acknowledgement? For something. Then back to Stormy. Back to Blue Skies. Cracked a smile, and spoke.

“Well,” He grinned. “I suppose Manehattan could always use a few more cultured dishwashers.”

He laughed. Blue Skies Laughed. They bro-hoofed again as he shook his head at Stormy. After a few more words about ‘Camden’, ‘dish washers’ and the 'lowest common denominator of the population’ he politely excused himself back to his table.

This was about as good time as any for a cigarette it seemed.

Stormy began lighting a cigarette with the wax candle at the centre of the table, but was stunted when Blue Skies reached into the pocket of his H’armoni coat. For a second he considered the idea that his brother was actually going to have the decency to light a cigarette for him, and it made him feel odd inside, but instead he withdrew a phallic shaped cylinder, unscrewed the lid and shook loose a single cigar; one from The Gryphon Kingdom if he had to place a bet on it.

Blue lit he tip of the cigar with a solid gold zippo, then obnoxiously blew a thick smoke cloud towards Stormy, smiled, placed the cigar in the crystal ashtray and smiled, again.

“Still a chain smoker?” He asked. “How... very artsy of you.”

“Still a few screws loose?” Stormy countered, “How delightfully eccentric of you.”

“So listen, what do you have planned? Tonight I mean? I don’t want you tagging along with me when I go attend this inane CD release party. I’m sure it’s more your scene, though. Some Mare: DJ Pon-4? Or, DJ Boastfully Dyke! She’s put out this new absolutely obnoxious album. I’m sure you already have a copy of it? It’s totally your kind of music: Loud for the sake of loud, and all that...”

“Actually,” Stormy paused -- Not faltered. Paused -- In truth he hadn’t actually planned that far ahead; he’d considered a bar or two, but in the face of his brother he felt defensive and boastful “I’m going to... Tunnel?”

“Oh, of course you are.” Blue grinned “Now that it’s deader than that puppy you could most likely get in. Apparently some Zebra salt dealers got into a scuffle the other week and trampled each other to death. Not surprising from a race of barbaric warrior descendents.”

Racism notwithstanding, Blue Skies had a point: If Tunnel was dead like he said, and more than that, if Blue Skies wasn’t impressed with his obsessive name dropping of once popular nightclubs around Manehattan, what was he going to do tonight?

“There’s this new club, a friend of mine’s filly friend -- she loves to open clubs with her daddy’s money -- just opened a few months ago. It’s a little more your style. Very ‘colt friendly’, if you know what I mean?” Blue mused “I’ve never even stepped a hoof in there. But, I hear it’s... interesting.”

Stormy didn’t want to admit that it actually, sounded like a decent time. What better way to bring himself back up then by being admired by colt’s all night, He could at the very least swing a few free drinks, get a nice ego boost, then call it a night.

“Sounds... fun?”

“It’s called. Oh, Celetia, it has a really faggy name...” Blue paused and rubbed a hoof against his forehead; trying to find the strength to continue. “... The Crazy Horse. Honestly, as if your kind could draw any comparisons to Horses: Equestria’s ‘lost great civilization.’.”

He sounded like he was doing a bad imitation of the back of a museum pamphlet.

“So, The Crazy Horse?”

“Yeah. It’s... in.”

“Cool.” Stormy smirked. Super casual. Don’t let Blue Skies have the benefit of knowing he was right about this. “Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

***

The Crazy Horse left a lot to be desired. Since he’d left for Camden three -- almost four -- years ago the Colt Cuddler/Filly Fooler club scene in Manehattan had certainly gone downhill if tonight’s venue was the latest Manehattan had to offer.

Camden’s LGBT Student Mixers were more fun than this.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad time; Fifty to sixty sweaty, fit, attractive, bodies pressed up against each other on a dance floor. Grinding. Groping. Touching. Flirting. A hundred or so more bodies packed into the lounge/bar area. There was also a second floor, no dance floor, but with a balcony that overlooked it, with more bodies packed into that.

All in all. The Crazy Horse was nothing quite unusual for Manehattan. The crowd was the same. The bodies that bumped into him -- many less than accidently -- were the same. The bouncers -- thick, built, zebra’s and gryphons -- were the same. The music was the same deep thumping bass that droned out of two large cannons on the dance floor.

Nothing about The Crazy Horse was any different than any other Colt Cuddler/Filly Fooler or general ‘I’m Only Here To Get Laid’ Club in Manehattan. It just had the added benefit tonight of having Stormy in attendance.

Stormy sat far in the back, at the bar, idly playing with a coaster advertising a pack of cigarettes that he didn’t smoke. The last sip of his latest Buck Daniels on the rocks went un-drank and even though he was buzzed, he felt an emptiness grow inside him.

He just wanted to be back on campus. Back at Camden. Maybe back with Gentle Strokes? Ok, most definitely back with Gentle Strokes, and most definitely in his warm embrace. Laying beside him, his hoof absentmindedly playing around with his mane, his warm breath -- exhaled softly through his nose -- rustling the coat along his back.

Stormy still felt alone.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

His attention was drawn to an orange coated pegasus. He was a few years older; fit and attractive but, also very much desperate looking.

This pegasus was dressed nicely and, a lifetime ago Stormy would have said ‘yes’ based on his smile: Innocent, but still with a hidden agenda behind it -- the kind of smile that made Stormy want to earnestly explore the limits of this pony.

But that was a lifetime ago and this was now.

He thought about Gentle Strokes. He thought the two of them. Him and Gentle Strokes. Gentle Strokes and him.

Were they a couple?

They had slept together. They talked. They dated. They spent nights fueled by coffee and books, and passion... and love? Could you call what they had love? Were they even dating? Was Gentle Strokes in love with him? Was he in love with Gentle Strokes?

Staring into those eyes. Soft. Gentle. Baby Blues.

Stormy bit his lip and gave a reply.

“Sorry, I was just leaving.”