• 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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Deep Purple.


Deep Purple.


“You're home late.” The first words out of his father's mouth as Stormy entered, or more appropriately, stumbled through the front door to his home.

Picking himself up from the floor, he was met with the familiar sight of his father, sitting in his favourite chair-the coffee black recliner which was probably a decade or so older than Stormy himself-with a freshly lit cigarette clenched tight between his pursed lips. His face obscured by a cloud of ghostly white smoke, he uttered a gruff, arresting, order to his son.

“Sit down.”

“Hey... Pop.” Stormy slurred, not bothering to make eye contact with his father. Instead he found himself gazing at a freshly hung portrait; A pony in business attire: a white collared shirt and a red and black striped tie. His mane slicked back, framed glasses covering his eyes and his hooves pulled midway through his mane in anguish. It was odd to see this particular picture hanging, because, for almost an entire decade before today, it had been hiding away along with a library of books, a closet worth of clothes and an earnest fortune in jewelry, in one of almost a dozen boxes marked “Mom.” that had been stowed away in the farthest reaches of the old home's attic. Stormy didn't bother questioning why his father had bothered to hang it. He didn't even care. It was just curious to him, was all.

“Why don't I save you the trouble and slap myself around tonight?” Stormy glanced back, casually, at his father.

“I said sit down, shitbird.” His father repeated.

Stormy didn't have to be told twice. It was easier, and wiser, for him to sit down then to make his father get up and, hesitantly, he took a spot beside his father-in the more modern green and black rocking chair-and drew a cigarette from the pack that sat on the coffee table in front of them. His father pushed a half melted wax candle towards him, and Stormy with the cigarette clenched between his teeth, used the lit wick to light it.

He took a long drag and felt the familiar comfort of that wonderful little slice of cancer tickling his lungs, followed a few moments after by the slow, deliberate exhale of a thick cloud of carcinogenic smoke through his nostrils; like some kind of dragon.

With a headrush and a forced cheeky grin he sank deep into the chair and prepared himself for a verbal lashing.

“What are you about?” His father asked, his tone drenched in disappointment. “You've been here for almost a week and all I've seen you do is piss away your inheritance on booze like some kind of bucking peasant. If you don't like it here why don't you just go back to Camden?”

“It's not that I don't like it here.” Stormy countered, cheekily grinning at his father. “The homeless ponies on the street are all really kind, you know? And, the fact that you can never really hear yourself think over the sound of all the bloody tourists, it’s so lovely.” He took a dramatic pause to stare his father dead in the eyes while he finished his thought. “No wonder you wanted to move to Ponyville to die. I bet that place is so boring it makes you wanna kill yourse-”

Before he could even finish his sentence he was cut off by a practiced punch; a right hoofed jab that caught him in the centre of his face, rocking his head sideways and leaving his mind a fuzzy mess. Still, Stormy recovered quickly. He rubbed a hoof against his swelling cheek, then smirked.

“Geez, Pop. I haven't had a love tap like that since I was a little foal. You're getting soft in your old age.”

He braced himself for a stronger repeat....

...but it never came.

“What is wrong with you, son?” His father asked, defeated. “When you were younger I used to see the world in your eyes. Just like your brother. You were smart. Smarter than most of the other foals your age. That's why I sent you to Harrow. But you bucked that up, didn't you? Just like you buck everything else in your life up. And you want to know why; Because you're a loser. You're a screw up. A reject, and a queeny faggot to boot! You could have done something with your life. I mean something real. Not some Arts Degree 'I Wanna Be A Writer' bullshit, but something that matters. But instead you just ended up......like this.”

His father gave a heavy sigh and Stormy felt his eyes grow damp. An emotion familiar to him but nameless built up in the pit of his stomach. What was it; Resentment? Contempt? Depression? Desperation?

“You remember when I was younger?” Stormy began and turned to his father, who was staring quizzically back at him. He nodded slowly before Stormy continued “Yeah, before mom got sick? When you, Blue, Mom and I used to be closer? When I used to run into your bedroom during thunderstorms and hide under the covers? Or, how you used to make pancakes for breakfast every Sunday morning?”

If his father did he hid it well. Stoic and stern faced he simply gave an exhausted sigh and stomping his cigarette out in the crystal ashtray on the coffee table, got up from his chair. With deliberately drawn out steps, he trotted towards an impressive mahogany cabinet where a bottle of Glengoolie Blue, and a collection of glass tumblers sat. Fixing Stormy, and then himself a drink, he set them both on the table and sat back in his chair. All without saying a word.

“That was before you started drinking, you know?” Stormy finished. He lifted the glass. In the light of the overhanging lamp; the murky brown liquid that reflected his image seemed almost taunting. Still, he took a modest sip, then a second, set it down and lit another cigarette.

“Blue's going to make The Equestrian Five Hundred this year.” It wasn't uncommon for his father to change the subject like this, especially when emotional subject matter got brought up. If Stormy had been any more invested in studying psychology, he would note that this was a classic form of misdirection (Which had the loose definition of; changing the subject to suit one’s personal disinterest or dissatisfaction with the current conversation.) “Why don't you do that, Stormy? Get out there and find an honest job? Instead of acting like a prissy little fruitcake all day?”

An uncomfortable silence followed his father’s speech. First, Stormy took a purposefully annoying slurp of his Scotch, then his father took a quiet, contemplative one, and then nothing else was said between them. They sat like that for a while; drinking in uncomfortable silence. The only sound in the room coming from the clinking of ice on glass and the occasional crackling burn of tobacco and paper followed by an exhausted exhale of smoke.

Stormy finished his drink faster than his father and felt disappointed when he realized it did nothing to quell these feelings building inside of him. For a minute he contemplated pouring himself another drink, to see what, if anything, it would do for him, but the idea of sitting with his father any longer was entirely unappealing and the thought quickly dashed out of his mind. Instead, he set the empty tumbler down on the coffee table, stomped out his latest cigarette and quietly left the room.

Half way into the hallway, he dared to stare back at his father-who hadn’t even bothered to glance up at his retreating form as he trotted out of the room-and then felt empty inside.

The pit in his stomach grew. Suddenly his legs felt weak, like they could give out any second. The wetness in his eyes was threatening to....leak, and didn't show any sign of stopping. This emotion was running wild inside him, waging war with his finely tuned self defences. Stormy, for the first time in a long time was feeling.

And, it bothered him.

This 'feeling' was trying to dictate his actions. It was telling him to do things. To drag himself upstairs, lock himself in his room, crawl underneath his covers and then, to let go: To let the wetness out. To leak. To break down. To kick, thrash and cry; Until someone heard him. Until someone responded. Until someone cared.

Laying naked in his bed, the sheets pulled to his waist and staring blankly at the ceiling tiles--counting the infinite amount of dots and holes that lay before him--he felt his eyes grow heavy. His mind started to drift, filled first with the wonder of what a silly farm pony in a town called Dodge Junction was doing, and then somewhere else. Somewhere far darker...

***

The next thing he knew he was running down the foreign and alien looking streets of Manehattan. He was a foal again. His coat was damp. It was raining. His left eye was shut tight and throbbing. He didn't know where he was, or where he was going. He only knew two things: His mom was gone. Not gone away on a trip to Canterlop or Fillydelphia, like she did from time to time. But Gone gone. The kind of gone you don't come back from.

That was thing number one.

The second was that his father was gone too. Not in the same way mom was gone, but, just that...his father was gone, and now some strange and angry colt was wearing his coat and mane and pretending poorly to be him.

His father had never shouted at him before. Not like that. His father had never said so many nasty, horrible things about him before. His father had never laughed in his face about how he didn't love him. How he’d never loved him. How he was a mistake. Riff Raff. Rubbish. Garbage. Trash.

His father had never raised a hoof to him in his life. His father was better than that.....wasn't he?

Stormy was less than a block from home when he stopped and realized that no one was coming for him. He’d expected his father to come rushing out the front door mournful, with an apology on his tongue and a warm hug. But that didn’t happen. Not for the entire hour that Stormy sat waiting in the rain, staring hopefully at the door and dying a little inside each time a pony who was not a member of his family exited The Cart-Lyle.

By the second hour, Stormy gave up hope that anyone even noticed he was gone.

Things were different now and Stormy wasn’t stupid enough to ignore this. His mom was gone and his dad was angry about it. That seemed pretty clear. In fact, his dad was angry enough about it to throw a hoof at his youngest son over something as stupid as a dropped glass of grape juice and how it would stain the carpet. Stormy realized all of this when he saw the fire burning in the eyes of his father, that same fire in his eyes burned when he loomed over him, his hoof drawn back, coated in crimson that reflected in the light. Blue, leaning forward in his seat, peering at Stormy on the floor and laughing like some kind of maniac.

Stormy tried getting to his hooves and felt resistance in the form of a hoof pressing against his chest. His father was pushing him down, snickering with that half smile on his face. His father mouthed something, but, whatever it was Stormy couldn’t hear it over the sound of Blue slamming his hoof against the table and his howling laughter.

Anger, and shame, coursed through his veins and Stormy tried harder to get to his hooves, but again felt himself getting pushed down by his father--then that throaty chuckle. Stormy turned his head to see Blue almost wetting himself, holding his sides and that obnoxious, twisted cackle drowning all other sounds in the room.

His father’s hoof pressed deeper against his chest and he began grinding it into the flesh of Stormy’s body like he were putting out a cigarette. Stormy, for the first time in his life felt comfort in Blue’s twisted laugh beause it drowned out the sound of his father telling him he was nothing. That he meant nothing. That he’d always meant nothing, and that Colts like him never mean anything to anyone.

The crackle of a log burning in the living room drew his father’s attention, and the second his foot left Stormy’s chest, the young foal grabbed the opportunity for an escape. He could have broken records with how fast he was on his hooves, dashing through the halls, then out the door and away from the laughter and abuse. He ran down hallways and stairwells, through back exits and fire escapes until he was three houses down and stood staring back at The Cart-Lyle, soaking in the rain.

He hung his head and kept his eyes to the floor so he didn’t have to meet the curious gazes of anypony else in the building, he just shuffled quietly into the elevator, pressed a hoof the the button labeled ‘P.’ and for a quiet moment enjoyed the sound of Muzak playing softly from the speakers.

When the elevator reached the top floor, the first thing Stormy noticed when entering the penthouse was his father; laying almost dead in a recliner in the living room, his eyes shut tight and with both hooves rested on the hoof wrests.

Stormy fought every impulse in his body that screamed ‘Let it be.’ and carried out a long standing gut reaction to the situation he found himself in.

He grabbed a blanket from the linen closet and slowly approached his father. By this time of night his father was far too gone to ever even do much more than snore obnoxiously loud anyway. Gently and delicately, Stormy wrapped the blanket around his body, tucking it underneath his waist, chest, shoulders.

Stormy smiled softly at his father, who curled into the blanket snug and safe, then trotted out of the room.

He passed Blue in the hallway to his room; he was still grinning, and when the two locked eyes, he muttered something that sounded like “Nice eye, queer.” under his breath.

Climbing into bed, alone, Stormy pulled the covers over his head and tried to count sheep.

***

Now, back in his present, laying in the same bed almost fifteen years later, Stormy untucked himself from the bed and wandered out into the hall; his jaw was still sore, and the swelling on his face had grown.

Just like when he was a foal, his father had passed out drunk in the armchair and, just like when he was a foal, he crept to the closet, grabbed a blanket and wrapped it gently around his father’s waist, only, this time his father stirred. Panic crept up his spine and, his heart almost stopped when his father gripped his hoof and pulled him towards him; his eyes popped to life, his emotionally dead face followed and a look of resentment and contempt wore strong.

“Don’t touch me.” He slurred, angry. Stormy just sighed and drew his hoof back. His father huffed something obscene about him under his breath when he turned away, and, in the moment of hesitation that came with it, he felt his father kick a hoof into his rear, catching him off guard and knocking him off balance. He fell face first to the floor with a loud thud.

Picking himself up, he ignored his father chuckling as he left the room.

***

Stormy woke up around noon with a headache and a kink in his neck. Crawling out of bed, he cracked his neck, gave a soft yawn and cringed at the sore and stretched feeling in his face that came attached with it.

Making his way slowly to the bathroom, he paused to stare at the visage of his wounded reflection in the mirror. His father’s hoof had left an impressionable lump on the side of his face; his cheek was swollen like some kind of over prepared squirrel in winter, and there was a thick, deep, purple ring underneath his half squinted eye.

Stormy just sighed, splashed his wounded features with cold water, and after gently toweling his face dry fought the urge to slam a hoof into the face of his broken reflection.

A half hour later, after a cold shower where he scrubbed himself clean of any physical signs of last night’s shame and embarrassment, he was back in his room and dressing to hide the eggplant coloured bruise on his face. He dug some baggy black hoodie out of the closet and pulled it over his body, tossing the hood over his head. Absentmindedly searching the pockets he found a packet of sugar, a few Wonderbolts trading cards tied together with an elastic band and realized it must have been a long time ago that he’d worn this hoodie.

He cracked a soft smile while he rifled through the old roster of The Wonderbolts Starting Team; Soarin grinned at him, then Rapidfire, Spitfire and a few faces of trainees who apparently hadn’t made the cut because he didn’t recognize their names; Rainbow Dash? Lightning Dust? Thunderlane? He chuckled and threw the cards on a desk, replaced them in his pocket with a pack of cigarettes and left the room.

His father’s penthouse seemed delightfully void of his father’s looming presence and he felt comfortable enough to enter the kitchen to fix himself a snack--A Waldorf Salad if there were any apples in the fridge and Walnuts in the pantry, if not he’d settle for a nice Sweet Apple Acres apple. There was a note on the fridge from his father that said he was now half an hour late for a lunch appointment with Saul Goodmane; the family’s estate manager and attorney, at Arcadia.

He shoved a braeburn apple into his pocket, just incase Saul only wanted to meet for drinks grabbed a lighter off the kitchen counter and headed downtown.

***

Stormy had finished a cigarette, given his apple to a hungry looking beggar on the street and safely trotted through two back alleys without incident (Which was a new personal record for him) by the time he got to Arcadia. He found Saul waiting in a private booth, a half finished Mojito in front of him and two empty highball glasses with slowly melting ice cubes, and soaked mint leaves beside it.

Saul, like everypony associated with his father, brother and by extension, Stormy himself’s family fortune, was every bit the definition of a true Manehattan character; he wore loud and expensive suits that matched his colourful personality; today it was a navy blue blazer from Perseus, lime green tie and a plain white collared shirt underneath. His ginger mane was combed tight against his yellow coat.

He bounced out of his seat and onto his lower hooves when he spotted Stormy. Extending his upper hooves outwards, waiting for some kind of awkward embrace--a tight hug that would last a little too long and leave Stormy mildly uncomfortable--from his youngest client.

“Hey, there’s the kid!” He rang ecstatically, tossing his hooves around Stormy’s waist and pulling him against his chest. Like Stormy had expected, the hug lasted a little too long and the pungent aroma of spiced rum that wafted from his accountant/attorney’s breath stung Stormy’s nostrils.

“Drinking on the job?” Stomy mused lightheartedly as he broke off the lingering hug and took his seat. “Can’t you get disbarred for that these days?”

“Hey, it’s Five O’Clock somewhere in Equestria right?” Saul chuckled, finishing the last few gulps from his current mojito, then tossed back a mouthful of ice cubes. He crunched them obnoxiously loud, swallowed, and winked at Stormy. “Besides, this is a total tax write off; I’m putting this lunch down as a business expense. So, feel free to order the most expensive thing on the menu. I recommend the carrot bisque.”

Stormy grinned and melted back into his seat, when a the rush of black sheep uncomfortability washed over him. He stared around at the other bodies filling chairs in Arcadia; the entire place looked like some kind of bird sanctuary; the colts in their black blazers, sports coats and dinner jackets were the Hawks, sharp eyes darting from ‘Hawk’ to ‘Hawk’; judging the brands of designer clothes they wore. The trophy wives, girlfriends and mistresses of these ‘Hawks’ were the Peacocks; wearing impressively coloured cocktail dresses and sipping Bellinis and Manehattan’s out of Champagne Flutes and forcing laughs.

He felt uncomfortable, and when he counted the tenth pair of eyes stare judgmentally at him, Stormy removed his hoodie and exposed the previous night’s shame to a restaurant filled with Manehattan’s finest.

“Geez, Stormy. That’s some shiner you got there.” Saul mused with an honest sort of worry carried in his tone. He offered a soft smile and Stormy felt little comfort drawn from it. Saul grinned, then finished his thought. “I’d hate to see the other guy.”

“Yeah... gay bars.” Stormy lied with a grin. “What can you do?”

“Yeah, I hear the slap fights can get a little out-of-hoof.” Saul chuckled back. This; making light cracks at Stormy’s expense was all in good nature and just one of the many other facets of ‘charm’ that Saul offered along with his legal expertise. “And, here I was thinking that you colts were supposed to cuddle?”

They shared a little chuckle; just a quick quiet laugh between the roughest definition of ‘friends’ that the dictionary held; they were close, or as close as a client/attorney privileges let either get, still, Saul cared about Stormy (or so it seemed) and Stormy counted the older colt among a short list of ponies in Manehattan who actually cared about his well being.

“So, how the Hells are you, kiddo?” Saul asked, shooting a hoof into the air and trying to grab the attention of a nearby server. “You know it’s been six months since you sent me a letter? When your pops told me you were in town I set up a little meet and greet so I could see how my favorite client was doing.”

“I’m doing alright.” Stormy gave back in honest reply. It was true, he certainly was doing the textbook definition of ‘Alright’. He was passing all his classes--even if that was through the intervention of a seedy professor on Campus who owed him a lifetime of favours for keeping quiet about his malicious intentions with certain students on Campus--he hadn’t been kicked out or--as far as he knew--failed a class all semester, all that, and, he was in a quite comfortable accommodation with a colt as well.

“That’s good to hear, Stormy.” Saul smiled softly. He finally managed to catch the attention of a server, a Pegasus colt with a thin gold moustache and a bit of a lisp, and ordered for Stormy; Vinaigrette Salad with sliced baby carrots and crushed feta cheese.

“Thanks.” Stormy quietly mumbled in response. The server, the kind of cute pegasus, gave him a flirtatious grin and Stormy offered a platonic one of his own in return. “Things are...pretty good. Yeah.”

“Well, I’m proud of you Stormy.” Saul chimed in. He gave a broad drunken smile and leaned forward in his seat, resting his head on his hooves. “You know...and, don’t tell your brother I said this, but I always thought you were your parents’ brightest son.”

Stormy felt a little warmth inside him start to burn and he actually cracked an earnest smile.

“So, kiddo, you still laying colts like your pop used to lay bricks?” Saul chuckled. “Goddess, if I had your good looks when I was your age I’d be doing the exact same thing...well, only with mares.”

Stormy took a pause. This was the first time anyone back home had even feigned interest in his relationship status in as long as he could remember, and, since Saul was certainly not his father or his brother, and had no intentions of using his answer as an insult against him, he felt comfortable enough to answer truthfully.

“Well, actually...” He began, staring into curious and concerned eyes. “I’m...kinda seeing a colt right now.”

It felt nice to admit. Saul wasn’t a member of his family--more of a family friend who showed a platonic interest in his well being--but he was as close to the kind of pony who could accept this information and be happy for him.

“Stormy that’s great!” Saul piped. “That’s fantastic, kiddo!”

Stormy, for the first time since he’d left Camden, felt himself filled with a certain sense of pride.

“Thanks...”

Their server, the same pegasus who’d taken their order, returned with Stormy’s salad, a fresh Mojito for Saul and a double of Buck Daniels--which Saul must have ordered in front of Stormy’s face and metaphorically behind his back--which he gently set before Stormy with a warm smile. Stormy ignored the fact that the cocktail napkin laid underneath his drink had a name and address written down on it.

“Goddess,” Saul croaked. “How long has it been since you’ve had a proper coltfriend? He’s gotta be something special, eh?”

Oh, if Saul only knew...

The desire not to be sitting across from Saul, and instead, laying naked in a bed, with a farm pony’s hoof trailing lines in the fur of his chest, lips and teeth gently nibbling his ear, overwhelmed him. Still, he smiled up at Saul and thought up an appropriate answer.

“It’s been awhile I guess..” He mused. Saul just smiled with him.

“Well, don’t forget to send me an invitation to the wedding.” Saul chuckled and took a sip of his latest Mojito. Stormy, slightly embarrassed, played around with his salad, impaling carrots on his fork and using the butter knife to decapitate the helpless vegetation.

“Celestia, kid! I haven’t seen you get red faced about a colt in...well...ever!” Saul’s throaty shout that was a few volumes above a proper ‘indoor’ voice and seemed to attract the attention of more than just Stormy--a couple at the next table actually peaked a curious eye towards them, which Stormy glared away. “You know you have to tell me about him now.”

What was there to say? Strokes was the polar opposite of all the kinds of colts Stormy had ever seduced, been seduced by, and/or slept with in the longest time. He was fun and joyful; with a specific type of character that was earned through years of repressed thoughts and quiet, simple mindedness. There was an intense fiery passion hidden in him that Stormy did his best to tease, flirt, kiss, croon, cuddle and screw out of him. And, on top of all that; he had the good fortune of thinking Stormy was quite possibly the best he could ever do.

Sitting here, thinking about Strokes and just what he meant to Stormy, he could only imagine that somewhere in Dodge Junction, no matter what he was doing; some kind of spiritual mysticism would cause Strokes to stop in place, pause and wonder why he’d suddenly been filled with the desire to toss a grey coated colt onto a bed, turn out all the lights, hang a sock on a door and lose himself to lust.

“I...really like him.” Stormy admitted softly. “I know how stupid this sounds, Saul, but I...kinda miss him. You know?”

Across from him, Saul grinned ear to ear and some stupid looking twinkle built in his eyes, which, for a slight second Stormy almost thought looked like some kind of tear building, but, that wasn’t likely to happen to a colt like Saul. It was probably just the low lighting. Or a reflection from his butter knife bouncing off his eyelids.

“Wow, Stormy....” Saul breathed, and without hesitation, continued. “I don’t know if you’re aware of that but that silly feeling inside you is what the kids these days are calling ‘love’.”

Love. That was a laugh and a half. Stormy didn’t love Strokes, they were just really, really, really great love...ers. Just because they shared a friendly, sexy and romantic bond that took precedence over the even more amazing sex they had; that didn’t mean it was ‘love’, it just meant they found something that worked and stuck with it. They hadn’t been...doing whatever it was they were doing long enough to call it ‘love’. Love was one of those things that old married couples who fed birds together at the park had. The kind of emotion shared between two ponies who’d been together forever shared with each other. Not two colts who’d known each other for the better part of five--almost six--months and, who really only started being intimate for about half of that time.

Nope. This wasn’t love that he felt for Strokes. Saul was just being overdramatic.

“I don’t know if he feels that way about me.” He found the words fumble out of his mouth even if his brain hadn’t made him utter them. It must have been some subconscious slip of the tongue.

“Oh, kiddo...” Saul, again smiling and that stupid shimmer in his eye growing stronger with the change in conversation. “You’re like some kinda silly school girl for him, aren’t you? Let me ask you; When was the last time you felt like this? For anypony?”

Stormy thought about it and it honestly bothered him more than he’d like to admit that the warmth he was feeling inside hadn’t resonated in him for a long time; he tried putting faces to feelings; he’d picture the face of a colt--any colt he’d slept with in the past five years of his life--and not once did they draw any comparison to how he felt when he thought of Strokes. Strokes, with that proud, broad and stupid grin on his face. Strokes with that tousled blonde mane, rustled chocolate brown coat and that....magnificent body.

His cheeks felt hot and Stormy stared around desperate to see if anyone else noticed that the air conditioning at Arcadia suddenly seemed to stop working; No one seemed to notice if it had and suddenly he felt defeated.

“Stormy. This...thing you’re feeling. This little emotion in you that seems weird, and strange and foreign, it’s called ‘love’, kiddo. And you’ve got it bad for him!” Saul repeated the idea like a second time was going to make it stick with Stormy. “I’ve had enough ex-wives to know that this isn’t just a lust for a hot stallion, either. I mean, I don’t get that same ‘I can’t wait to get back to Camden to put my dick in him.’ sense you usually have when you talk about colts and....Wait.” Slight pause for Saul to cock an eyebrow “You are the one giving it to him, right?”

Embarassed, Stormy huffed and mumbled “It’s complicated.” under his breath. Saul just laughed.

“I kinda always wondered about that to be honest.” Saul started up again. “I guess...Well, you always seemed a little too masculine to be the mare, but I guess if it makes you happy? I mean, not that it’s any of my business...”

“Why did you call me here?” Stormy piped up in a desperate attempt to change the subject. Suddenly any topic in the world; even a lecture about proper spending, account balancing, tax loopholes, shelters and evasion, seemed like a nice change of pace.

“It’s nothing serious, really.” Saul began. “Your pops wanted me to have a few choice words with you about your account. There’s good news and bad, actually.”

“Let’s hear the bad news, first.”

“Well, your father decided to...uh, well, he’s going to cut you off, Stormy.” Saul sighed. “I tried telling him that wasn’t such a good idea, but, he figured since you’re graduating this year, that you’ll be more motivated to find a job or something if you have to work for it.”

That seemed a lot like his father; using harsh encouragement and the right--forced--motivation of a lack of external, unearned, funds to encourage his rebellious, hellraiser of a son to finally get off his metaphorical ass and do something with his life.

This idea wasn’t entirely mean, and it had a sort of...positive edge to it, it just seemed a little harsher than need be was all.

“The way I see it, your dad cares enough to try and encourage you. It’s not exactly the positive encouragement I’d use, but, it’s something. The good news is, er...it’s not exactly ‘happy’ good news, but you still have some money left from your mother’s inheritance. Unfortunately, your brother, who’s being a real mule about it, hired his own lawyer to try and take a bigger slice of the pie she left for you and him. It’s a shame really; your brother doesn’t need that kind of money nearly as much as you do and, honestly, I think he’s just doing it to piss you off.”

So, Blue wanted to steal his inheritance? That wasn’t surprising; even with his impressive salary, the quarterly bonuses and the under the table deals, his greed--or perhaps that inner desire to see Stormy suffer for no real reason--was so strong in his brother that he’d spend more money than he’d ever make trying to take whatever he could from him.

“So...what does this mean, for me?” Stormy asked, quietly aware of the answer himself.

“It means...once you graduate this year you’re on your own kid. I...I’ll help out in any way I can, I mean, I know a few ponies who’d be willing to offer you a great deal on a place here; and a few more colts who work at The Walls-Street Journal who could get you a job in the mailroom. You can work your way up, right? But...all the money you have in the world is whatever’s in your account and there’s not a whole lot of that left.”

This was disheartening, but, not too surprising.

“Why..don’t you go back to Camden, Stormy? Have as much fun as you can, while you can, and I’ll try and talk your brother’s lawyer out of this stupid cock-and-balls show he’s putting on: He’s a friend of a friend, so hopefully he’ll settle for some kind of out of court settlement and you’ll be able to keep more than a fair share for yourself, but, until I do...just...keep in mind that you might be left high and dry?”

“Yeah...” Stormy mumbled quietly. Saul offered a sympathetic smile; a thin, soft, little thing that spread slowly across his lips.

“Listen, Stormy. This colt you’re seeing; he clearly means something to you, even if you don’t see it. You’ve only got about a month or so left at Camden, why not spend as much time with this guy as you can and don’t worry too much about any of this.”

Stormy pondered this; where was Strokes? Probably still back in Dodge Junction, visiting the family he rarely spoke about. Did he bother to tell them about him? Did he sit across from his dad, or his mom, or his whoever, and tell them he met a cute colt at Camden and have them embarrassingly describe their sexual friendship as some kind of love bug bitten relationship?

Maybe he did love Strokes, and, maybe he missed him enough to call this little vacation away from Camden quits, take the earliest train he could back home and hope to catch Strokes lounging casually in the art lounge, or the common room of his dorm, or the cafeteria, or wherever.

Maybe, that’s what Stormy was going to do.

A few more hours of sitting and casually conversing with Saul passed and with it came the decision to flee, immediately, from Manehattan and crawl back to Camden. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that visiting Manehattan was detrimental to his mental health, and the more he sat and talked with the only pony in Manehattan who he could tolerate, the more he realized his place was at Camden, and so was the colt he maybe, sorta, liked, a lot.

This was what inspired Stormy to leave on a train back to Camden that night.

***

He spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening, tracking down a one way ticket back to Camden. It was harder than the he would have thought to find the last item on his self-imposed personal quest but, he’d managed to scalp one from an off duty train conductor for a wickedly over inflated price. Afterwards he picked up a few keepsake items--a few bottles of cheap bourbon to go with a new double pouched saddlebag, a carton of Kamel Kools from Saddle Arabia at a corner store and some tacky Manehattan souvenirs; a snow globe of the island, and an ‘I Luv Manehattan’ shirt for Strokes. Then, returning to his father’s penthouse, he cracked a bottle of Gentlecolt Jack, poured a drink on the rocks, dragged the record player into the master bathroom and, half drunk, he slipped into a warm, comforting bath while White Rabbit played on repeat.

A banging on the door interrupted him, and he quickly hopped out of the tub; the filth of a day running errands in Manehattan mixed with the trail of water he purposefully let build small puddles on the marble floor before he made it to the door.

“For Celestia’s sake; turn that down, Stormy!” His father--quite naturally--shouted from the opposite side of the doorway; slamming his hoof against the door. Maybe it was the booze, the knowledge that he’d be back at Camden in less than a dozen hours, or, maybe he just wanted to piss of his father one last time while he could but, for whatever reason, Stormy just grinned and turned the volume up before slipping back into the bath.

There were going to be verbal--most likely physical also--reprocussions to his actions, sure, but in that moment he was proud of his minor accomplishment. One last ‘Screw you, dad’ before he left.

He felt like a kid for doing it.

After a few more ice cold glasses of bourbon; sometime between when he’d sank and almost drowned in the tub, and when he got tired of hearing lyrical allusions to Through The Looking Glass, Stormy got tired of his little stress easing soak and decided to get out of the tub and dry himself off. He was drunk now, but the kind of drunk that was more in the body--legs heavy and light at the same time, his eyes half lidded and the goofiest smile he’d felt in ages on his face--than in the brain. Right now, staring at himself again in the mirror, he didn’t even mind that the bruise had grown to almost double the size it had been earlier in the day; the purples darkened and his eye squinted almost shut now.

He just grinned.

His bags were in the hallway by the door and he’d been smart enough to triple check to make sure he didn’t have a reason for writing to his father about something stupid like his favorite jacket, his teddy bear (The Green Meanie), or his I.D.. Now, all he had to do was navigate the halls, body drunk and mind sober, and avoid his father.

What should have been an easy, accomplishable task was made a little more difficult with the knowledge that the divine forces of fate at work truly and dearly liked to see him suffer. There, standing in the doorway with the meanest, drunkest, scowl on his face and blocking his escape was his dear old dad; a glass of something strong and pungent clutched in one hoof, and a belt with a studded buckle wrapped firmly around the other.

The glass came first; Stormy didn’t even realize it, but it left his father’s hoof and whizzed a few inches from his head, then shattered against the wall, and in the time it took for Stormy to watch this, a belt buckle attached to a fist connected with the bruised side of his face; the pain wasn’t much worse than the feeling of disorientation that came when he was on the ground.

His father loomed over him with a truly menacing presence and Stormy almost worried that this time he’d pushed him too far? That this was the time he fell down and didn’t get up again.

This uncomfortable thought was corrected when he extended a hoof towards his son; imploring him to take it.

“Next time when I tell you to do something,” His father’s voice rang in his ears, “You do it.”

Yeah, yeah...Whatever.

Stormy batted the hoof away from him and got to his hooves on his own. He pushed past his father until a hoof gripped him by his shoulder, swung him to face his father and he felt himself get pushed hard and heavy against the wall.

“You wanna hit me pop? Well, go ahead!” Stormy choked out, starring in the cold, dead eyes of his father. “Get it all out. ‘Cause, I’ll be back at Camden in a few hours and then you’ll have to find another little faggot to push around.”

Then something completely different happened. His father had done a lifetime’s worth of truly awful things to him; he’d beaten, kicked, punched, spit on, lashed, lacerated, slapped, humiliated and brutalized his youngest son and, while none of that was entirely pleasant, Stormy was used to it.

This was different.

His father’s hoof found Stormy’s head, and he slowly brushed through the mess of his mane, past his ears and then trailed it along Stormy’s trembling spine. He moved a step closer to him, grinning like a wild animal all the while.

Fear and paralysis overtook Stormy and he stopped breathing; he felt a hoof touch his waist, grip the flesh of his side and squeeze tightly.

He cringed.

“You’ll come back.” His father breathed heavily as he leaned forwards. “You always do.”

The fear in Stormy was arresting. His limbs hung heavy, his back slacked and his lip quivered as he just stared into his father’s eyes, completely helpless.

“You keep telling me that you hate me and that you want to get as far away from me, and Manehattan as you can. But then...if that were true, why do you keep coming back?”

The cold hoof in his mane began to pet him, brushing past his skull, and down his neck. The hoof touching his chest dipped down to his waist, circled around his spine and gripped, tightly at the flesh of Stormy’s body.

All the inner strength Stormy had in the world suddenly slipped away, he swallowed hard and turned his face slowly away from his father’s.

“You keep coming back because you love it.” his father answered in a harsh whisper. “You keep hoping and praying that one of these days I’m going to have some kind of spiritual awakening and come begging for your forgiveness, and then we’ll have a little faggy circle jerk, where I hug you, and you cry into my shoulder and I tell you how sorry I am for being a bad father.”

Stormy glanced back at his father and choked up. His father’s face drifted towards his throat and he pressed himself closer; their bodies just inches from touching. The second Stormy’s mind told him that the next move his father pulled was going to become the most morbid display of abuse his father had put him through, he stopped moving. For the most intensely quiet minute of Stormy’s life his father just stared blankly at him, then, his lips spread into a smile and he laughed.

“You little queer, you were getting off on that, weren’t you?” He boomed, he grinned for a few minutes, still nearly touching against Stormy, and then his face fell flat.

“You’re pathetic...”

Stormy felt dirty, ashamed, embarrassed and disgusted with himself. He stared up at his father and with all the strength he could scrounge, he furrowed his brows and huffed angrily.

“Get off of me!” He screamed, only, it wasn’t just him screaming, it was the scared and angry foal inside him screaming too; the one who’d taken the brunt of fifteen years of abuse and needed to vent.

Trembling hooves pressed into his father’s chest and he pushed him away, hard. His father stumbled back for a step and Stormy darted towards the door. When his father recovered he didn’t move, just watched the fleeing form of his youngest son with a bemused curiosity.

“Why do you have to be such a bucking asshole!” Stormy shouted back at him as he slung the saddlebag that carried his luggage over his back. His question went unanswered, his father just shrugged nonchalantly, shook his head and watched him as he darted out of the door without looking back.

Alone in the building’s stairwell, Stormy fell against the wall and slumped onto his bottom. He ran a hoof long across his face and slammed the other as hard as he could against the wall at his back; once, twice, thrice--he stopped counting after the tenth time.

After a while it didn’t hurt anymore.

Pulling himself together, he checked his train ticket and realized he had a deadline to meet and that trains in Manehattan didn’t wait for the sad little sob stories of abused little foals who couldn’t reconcile with their fathers.

***

At the train station, he shared a cigarette with a wino who told him a story about waking up on park bench in Central Park with a hangover and a one way ticket to Las Pegasus. Comfortable with the idea that this wino was more safe, and less lucky, he helped him finish a bottle of Rabid Dog 40/40 hidden in a paper bag and, just drunk enough not to care, he gave him a pack of cigarettes for his generosity.

The ride back to Camden wasn’t very long, but Stormy was grateful that by this time of night the train was mostly deserted and he didn’t have to spend the entire ride ignoring advice from ponies who lived through the ‘Golden Age’ of Equestria and fake smiles when they showed him pictures of ugly grandkids in the infinite folds of a pleather wallet.

Sitting alone, with his drunk wearing off, he stared solemnly out the window and counted the hours before he’d be back at Camden.